The following article was written by my lovely wife Emily. She shares her perspective of her parents divorce as a child and how she eventually found happiness.
Emily’s Decent: A quest for happiness following divorce
Happiness after divorce seemed impossible to me. At ten years of age I witnessed my parents split, in that, they traded a verbally and physically abusive relationship for an even more confusing competition for my five siblings and my attentions. Christmas was a fairytale times two. Who could outshine who with more presents? Sadly it was lost on six lonely, confused children who just wanted the non-stop fighting to stop. For good.
I should be happy now, as, I have wished for this my entire childhood. But learning how to find happiness from divorce would take many years. I have no warm fuzzy memories tucked away of the love I am certain they once thought to be real. I planned for this and warned my younger brothers and sister of the impending divorce. How could I find happiness now that my father, whom was the “fun” part of growing up, was no longer a resident? I watched my Mother suffer her inability to find peace with her decision to end a treacherous marriage. My Father quickly found his soul-mate much to my Mothers dismay. I witnessed a lot of hand holding and laughter. My new Mother was so positive and beautiful. I longed to grasp onto their thread of contentment. All I found was the bitterness and loss my Mother fostered, like a small child’s worn, threadbare blanket. How would I get to a place where the sunshine brightened my face?
When we spent the weekends with our “new” family, we got to experience the longed for happiness, only to return back on Sunday evenings to a bitter frightened Mother whom dashed all hopes of finding the lasting peacefulness we all deserved. She did this unaware of the damage she caused the children whom would become her life’s work.
The weekends slowly became e/o weekend, until finally; it was whenever we could drive ourselves over. It was too painful to experience the joy my Father was living, when our Mother whom we were devoted was so miserable. Eventually the visits were only holiday related and then stopped entirely.
Ten years later the bottom fell out when our Mother’s life was tragically taken in a car accident. I remember the day well, as, my younger brother was visiting me in California. My Mothers final selfless act was to pack my car with everything I owned and sent him in it to bring them to me and my journey of making a new life. A life I was just sure was my ticket to the happiness I had been seeking my entire life.
Here I go again wallowing in self pity, first for being the only kid I knew whose parents were divorced, to being the only kid with a dead parent at 20.
It was then that I began to allow myself, yes allow myself, to enjoy the comfort of my Fathers arms for the first time in many years. I no longer had to placate my Mothers fears. I could learn to love again and be loved.
The lesson here is that as long as we attach ourselves to anther’s pain, for whatever reason, we will stay stuck and keep wondering how to be happy. Giving myself permission to be happy in no way diminishes my empathy for my Mother and her pain. My self loathing only served to intensify her guilt. I see now that I made it worse when I thought I was being loyal to her. I choose happiness. I sleep better. And so can you!