I’ve been treated as an adult since I was young, so I’ve always felt involved and heard in all kinds of conversations, including when it came time for my parents to get divorced. For a couple of years I secretly hoped that they would get back together, but near the end of elementary school I started to understand that it would be harder for them to be together, it was better for us all for them to live authentically. And that meant being divorced.
I was 7 years old when my parents divorced. It went by really easily. Obviously, there was a shock but it was peaceful. I never felt there was fighting over me or using me as a tool. The three of us had discussions together and would talk it through a lot, it was focused on my choice on who I wanted to live with and how we would decide we would live together. I decide week on week off. At first, it was a sudden change. But it worked well.
Strange as it may sound, the most annoying part was hauling two bags to school on the transition day and trying to shove it all in my locker. I found it really easy, honestly. A major part of that was that I never had to go to court. I ultimately was able to leave it up to my parents because I trusted them to make a plan so I wouldn’t have to think about it. I never had to deal with conflict, never felt like I was missing out, it always felt even and fair. The first year was chaotic, but in that first year, we didn’t have a huge focus on me going back and forth so that helped. I barely noticed a difference. It just became my normal.
If I wanted to see the other parent or was missing them, I could easily go and see them. There wasn’t a fight, I knew that option was always available and there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.
It was really important to me to have knowledge of what was happening. That was something my parents did well: being open with me, regardless of my age. I didn’t have to feel confused or lost, and I never felt like resentment was building because they let me know that they both still loved me, change isn’t a bad thing, and that it was going to continue to get better going forward.
My grandmother was a wonderful support in the beginning. Her house was neutral, it was a middle place where I could be with either parent so I would go there after school most days. I never wanted to hurt my parent’s feelings, and because I spent pretty much equal time with each of them, I never felt like I had to. I knew it was even. But more importantly, I knew that they supported me in having a relationship with each of them.
I learned from my parents’ separation to always being true to myself and to know I never have to feel trapped. I always have a choice and can put myself as the priority. This has expanded to all my relationships, by putting myself first I can maintain both my mental and physical health. I know that I deserve to be happy, and I don’t have to change for others. My parents gave me the message: We will always accept you for who you are.
By having a good relationship with both my parents I feel I have developed a balanced outlook on life. They both always said to accept everyone, listen to both sides of every story, and be willing and able to have difficult discussions.
If I could share one thing with people going through a separation or divorce, I would drive home that it is ok that the relationship didn’t work. It’s ok things are going to change. Relationships change, people change, and you have to adapt. Even though it sucks sometimes, it’s not terrible. There will be brighter days ahead. You will come to an agreement and in the end, it will be better for everyone, including your kids.
There are two big things I learned about relationships and love from my parents’ divorce:
First, that you can love someone for a long time but it doesn’t necessarily last forever. They truly loved each other when they were first together but it lasted a set amount of time. And that is ok, love lasts for as long as it does and we can accept that.
And secondly, it is not a bad thing to separate if you’re not in love. Staying together when you don’t want to is worse than separating.
By having separate homes, I didn’t have to see them fighting in the household. It made me understand that staying together to protect your child doesn’t actually protect them or teach them skills about life. It isn’t a terrible thing to get a divorce, and in the end, it’s better than trying to stick it out.