I was familiar with divorce before going through it myself. My paternal grandparents were divorced and my mother had been divorced before she married my father. However, my contact with divorced people did not prepare me for what a divorce would look like to me.
My grandparents divorced before I was born, but they were friendly. I remember visiting my grandmother and my grandfather sleeping on the couch in her house while our family visited her. I’ve never been to my grandmother’s that he wasn’t part of the picture either.
When he developed cancer, she took him home and looked after him until he died. They weren’t good at getting married, but they cared for and respected each other very much, and seeing as a child was a valuable lesson in unconditional love for me.
My mother’s first marriage produced a child, my older brother. My mother’s first husband was an integral part of our lives when we were young. He was at every birthday party we had for my brother. He never picked up my brother to visit because he didn’t come into the house and talk to my mother and father.
I can’t say that my mother liked her first husband, but they both did what they thought it was necessary for my brother to do. My brother has many, many photos of him and his parents together because they made sure that photos of them and their son were taken together when possible. They went above and beyond what most divorced parents would expect to ensure that my brother felt loved and safe in his relationship with both parents.
My brother had sisters from his two parents’ later marriages. I can remember playing with his other sisters at meetings and thinking they were my sisters too. The bottom line is that my divorce taught me that people get along if they try hard to get along.
And then my ex wanted a divorce. What followed his desire for a divorce shattered everything I had learned about divorce as a child. Not all parents put their children first, and not all ex-spouses feel that they will respect the other parent when necessary.
My ex taught me lessons I wish I never had to learn.
4 things my ex taught me about divorce:
1. You don’t know anyone until you divorce them.
Divorce brings out the ugly in some people. Even when they get what they want, they get angry and hold onto that anger. Coming to terms with someone who changes overnight, from someone who cares about them to someone who doesn’t care, is intellectually difficult to process. Especially if you have been taught differently through experience.
When you divorce someone like my ex, the divorce takes on a unique quality. One that is not healthy for anyone!
2. Not all people put the well-being of their children first.
Not putting my children first is a concept completely alien to me. It was something my ex and I had been doing since the day they were born and something I assumed would continue to do during and after our divorce.
I was wrong! His feelings and needs became his primary concern, much to the detriment of his children. If children do not have a second thought during such a traumatic event, expect harm to be done to them. And expect the children to remember how the damage was done.
3. You can give someone something they ask for and more and they still won’t be happy.
During a divorce, it’s not worth turning around and playing a nice pooch when negotiating with an angry person. Regardless of how fair and kind you try to be during and after the divorce, if someone tries to be angry, they will irrationally refuse to be rational. I could have refused child support since I had custody of our children and volunteered to hang me and he would not have been satisfied with what I offered.
Some people just don’t want to be happy.
4. A high-conflict divorce can teach children valuable lessons.
No child should experience one parent’s apparent hatred for the other. As children, they deserve courtesy and at least knowing that their parents can get along for their sake. For years I worried about how her father’s anger would affect me and his firing would affect my children as they grew and developed romantic relationships of their own.
While it’s a lesson I wish they hadn’t learned, it was valuable in unexpected ways. My two children have now grown up in dedicated relationships of their own. Her parents’ divorce in high conflict taught her to take the meaning of “commitment” more seriously. I watch how they come into contact with their relationship partners and am amazed at how willing they are to negotiate, compromise and set limits for the relationship.
They have seen the painful side of divorce, which I believe will keep them from leaving a marriage without leaving no stone unturned. They will work overtime never to do what was done to their children, and if they should ever get divorced, they will teach their children the same lessons about divorce that I learned as a child.
After all, our divorce taught our children not to have any doubt about their worth as human beings. They have worked hard to get past their father’s firing, learning to recognize others who are not treating them the way they deserve to be treated.
You cannot get a divorce without learning about yourself and life. Life isn’t always fair, and divorce is sometimes devastating. But it is always viable! My children and I can promise you that.