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True Life: My Parents Divorce Still Affects Me

This post is part of our True Life series where OKC moms are sharing real trials & tribulations they have gone through as mothers, as wives, and as women. 

True life- depression

It was garage sale prep day.  I love a good purge.  So I was deep into the depths of my closet, searching for someone’s future treasure.  I came across a blue folder and couldn’t remember what was in it.  Well, it wasn’t anyone else’s treasure, it was mine.  It was an envelope full of my baby book, certificates from my grade school days and pictures I had drawn.  I sat in the middle of my closet floor and began to comb through these things I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.  When I came across a large, thin brown paper that had written in the corner in black sharpie “family”, I studied it to see if I had drawn it before my parents divorce or after.  There were only 3 people in the picture and a dog, so I knew it was after.  The next large, thin brown paper had written in the corner “dad”.  I’m almost 40 and 35 years on the other side of my parent’s divorce, and I felt like the wind was knocked out of me.

I don’t know how old I was when I drew those pictures, most likely 4 or 5.  I was old enough to know that my dad was no longer a part of my “family” but young enough to draw a terrible portrait of my sister, my mom, and my dog.  And at age 40, it made me cry.  I felt sorry for that little girl. I remember being the minority in my classes at school, embarrassed that my mom had a different name than I did once she remarried.  Only having one parent at school functions.  All of the emotions were still there, they had just been hidden away for years. I wanted to tell that little girl who drew those pictures that she would be okay.  That the tears would eventually be sparse. That life would still go on and she would become a strong, independent young woman on the other side of her broken family.  She would have many blessings that outnumbered the negative. And that the growth she would find from it would be invaluable. And then I wanted to give her a big hug.

I dealt with my parents divorce towards the end of my teen years.  I took the hard step of forgiveness that set me free in so many ways.  But it still doesn’t change the fact that my parents divorce hurt.  And 35 years later, it still does.  As an adult I know the reasons.  But the truth is, it doesn’t ease my pain. I still wish my mom and dad were married.  I’d love to not split holidays.  I hate explaining to my kids, over and over how the family relations work.  And I wonder how my life would have been different.

Divorce = pain, any way you look at it.  Whether the reasons are valid or not, someone gets hurt.  And while time may heal the adults in the relationship, it won’t the children.  It’s a scar that will last forever.  I don’t always feel this way.  Random things will trigger the sadness.  My hope is that those who may be reading this, who are considering divorce, will think long and hard about the children involved.  Your reasons may be valid.  But they don’t come without consequence. Especially to those little ones you most likely love the most in this world.

Do everything you can to make the best choices for the life you give your children. Don’t take them lightly, or be flippant. The heritage of a broken family is one you may have a choice in giving. And if you don’t have a choice, love them, be there for them, and support them.  They will need you more than ever.

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30 Responses to True Life: My Parents Divorce Still Affects Me

  1. Darla Wright November 11, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    It is articles like this that kept me in a very toxic marriage for 14 years. I stayed for my children. I did not want them to grow up in a broken home. I did not want the astigmatism of being from a divorced home. I did not want to show them failure. But in the end, I allowed them to stay in poison. Sit in it everyday. Hear it, digest it and learn how to dish it out. I would never “guilt” anyone into staying in a marriage just for the children’s sake. During a documentary that we were required to watch in our county before our divorce could be finalized, they noted how a toxic relationship over many years was mentally equated to the mental anguish a child feels when molested. I get to live with that. My sons and daughters do, too. My oldest is 19 and has been in and out of many therapists office. He struggles with what he witnessed. Please, if someone is in an abusive relationship… physical or mental. Get out. For your kids’, don’t stay.

    • Amy
      Amy November 11, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

      Darla, My story is not everyone’s, but my pain is real, and a result of my parents divorce. My parent’s relationship was not abusive so a true comparison can not be made. My only hope in sharing my story is that those who are leaving for all the wrong reason’s will think before they do. I would never advocate staying in an abusive home with children. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristine November 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

      I feel your sentiments completely Darla. I pray my kids won’t label themselves children of divorce for their whole lives like a badge they are stuck wearing because of our failed marriage. It breaks my heart to go through this divorce but abuse isn’t always physical and kids need to see that people will treat you how you allow them too. I hope I empower my girls but also make a relationship with their dad a priority so they can still have a family.

    • Shari November 19, 2015 at 10:25 am #

      Amy.
      I love that you’re so transparent in a world that says to hide your feelings and act like everything is fine. We all have hurt in our past. It is a fact of life. We can’t journey through this world without failures and disappointments. Im sure it was difficult for you to re-live those feelings and come to terms with them again. I am so proud of you for choosing forgiveness. No where in YOUR story did I hear you suggest to stay in any situation that is unhealthy. I agree if it is abusive, you should find safety. What I did hear you say is that parents need to remember that all the decisions they make affect their children. I needed this reminder in so many ways. Like how I speak when I get angry or frustrated, how I model spending and saving money or where and who I spend my time with. It is as simple as taking the time to go the extra mile to listen to what is going on in their life and not just focused on my own to do list. I am sorry that you have pain in your heart over this, but it has turned you into a mother that is sensitive to what your kids are feeling and it has made you an encouragement to others. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

      • Amy
        Amy November 19, 2015 at 10:29 am #

        Thanks Shari for your kind words regarding my story – you definitely saw my vision for this post.

    • Cj September 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

      it has been 5 years in nov since my family broke up and today while finding out my dads girlfriend is planning his 60th birthday the wind has been knocked out of me. Reading this and knowing i will have days where i feel this pain when neither of my parents are even around in 30 years reminds me why this hurts so much. I did not want this, ask for this or give up on my family yet i am the one suffering. Thank you for sharing and reminding me i am not alone.

  2. Kristen November 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    I know your pain, I know the flashbacks, I know that time cannot heal all wounds. I still think about my mother and father and what life would be like as well. It’s almost daily, and they have been divorced for 19 years…your story is amazing and I wish the same for those who ponder the thought of divorce.

    • Amy
      Amy November 11, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Kristen.

  3. Hayley Clyburn
    Hayley Clyburn November 12, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Love this, thank you for sharing your heart Amy!

  4. Lori November 13, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    “And while time may heal the adults in the relationship, it won’t the children.” I’m not sure who told you that time heals the adults. It doesn’t. We live forever with the scar of that failed relationship and with the ongoing pain of knowing we hurt our children. While I am grateful to hear your perspective, since it gives me insight into what my children will experience… I’m not fond of the extra helping of guilt you added. I pray that you never come home one day to find that your whole life has suddenly changed and that you now have to try to make a difficult decision on which path will hurt your children the least.

    • Amy
      Amy November 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Lori. This is written simply from the perspective of a child of divorce. It does not insinuate there isn’t any pain for the adults. I watched my mom’s pain as well, as someone who didn’t have a choice. It is however, not the topic of my post. It is from the child in the middle’s perspective. My hope is to reach out to those who are making the choice.

  5. Carrie November 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this. It was beautifully written and I appreciate you opening up and sharing your heart. I do hope that people who are making this decision for reasons other than abuse or infidelity read this and think about the ripple effect of their decisions. I know it’s not an easy decision for anyone but maybe this will help someone decide to stay and work and see if the dreams they had for their life and their kids’ lives can be repaired. Thank you for sharing!

    • Amy
      Amy November 14, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks Carrie!

  6. Britnie Sims
    Britnie Sims November 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    This is such a powerful reminder of how hard divorce can be on children. Thank you for sharing your story so openly.

    • Amy
      Amy November 14, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks Britnie!

  7. Ali November 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Divorce can be hard on children but, equally, so can watching parents fight and endure a loveless marriage “for the sake of the kids.” As parents of a “broken home,” my ex and I know in our hearts that we did as best as we could for as long as we could, but in the end, it didn’t work.

    Parents don’t divorce for no reason. There’s a good chance that even if, as a child, your parents’ relationship appears perfect, odds are they are trying to protect you from seeing what is happening. I know, personally, that we tried to shield our kids from the fighting and misery that we were going through. My relationship wasn’t physically abusive (although, admittedly was verbally and emotionally abusive at times) but the love was gone and we were growing to resent each other.

    It was tough on all of us. But two years later, my ex and I are both in happy, healthy relationships and we all FOUR get along great and that is what I want my kids to see: divorce isn’t something to be ashamed of. We tried and we failed. And that’s ok because we tried.

    • Amy
      Amy November 14, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Ali

  8. Vanessa November 14, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I am also a child of divorce…my parents divorced when I was about 3.5 (I’m now 33) and it was not an abusive situation. Although our early years were similar, I just want to offer an alternate perspective and experience. i respect and understand your opinion, but I would be reluctant to categorize divorce as always resulting in neverending pain that will scar the children forever. That simply wasn’t my experience. I grew up with two loving engaged parents who happened to live separately. When they each remarried, I felt fortunate that I had extended families and additional people in my life who loved and cared for me. Sure, you have to adjust to having multiple celebrations for various holidays or events, but in all honesty, I usually felt fortunate that I got to draw out and extend all those fun and exciting holidays growing up. I was happy to have two turkey dinners, two Christmas mornings, etc., and now I have twice the memories. I understand not every child of divorce has an experience like mine, but I think it’s important to share. As some of the others have mentioned, there are a variety of reasons why someone might go through a divorce, all of which are stressful and extremely difficult, but it doesn’t always turn out to be a bad decision for the children. Sometimes it’s the right and best choice, and sometimes the children turn out to be fairly well adjusted and happy. Just like in any other family.

    • Jen November 21, 2015 at 10:03 am #

      I would agree with this statement. My parents have been divorced well over 20 years of my life and I don’t still feel pain when I think back at that child. I look back at that child through parent eyes, to see how brave it was for my mom to raise her two children alone with help bi-costal from my dad. My mom is my hero for going back to school in my teenage years to pursue a better life for herself. My dad is highly educated and I look at him to where my drive comes from as well.

      My kids get the experience of two sets of divorced grandparents. In the school district we live in, she is the odd one out with parents that are still married. She gets to understand that no neither sets of our parents could stay married, but her dad and I are able to be married. We work hard on healthy relationships due to the toxic ones our parents had and learning to walk in the way of understanding.

      Yes, back in the day, I was the only divorced kid with a single mom. My mom took back her maiden name, so most of my life we had different last names. It made me more empathic to others.

    • nicole November 24, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      Hi Vanessa. I will have agree with you 100%! I had the exact experience. More extended family and the holidays were more fun because I got to see more people and it was drawn out.

  9. Amy
    Amy November 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Vanessa. I would consider myself well adjusted and happy, for sure. My post was highlighting the feelings from the divorce, not my entire life.

  10. Jamie November 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you for the perspective from an adult of divorced parents. I know that for a few the damage that is done is less horrible. For majority though it brings terrible feelings that you did not know you had. And the feelings don’t leave when childhood is gone. But marriage between 2 regular people does tire out whether one has been married once or 5 times. Love is not always the feeling in the air. My ex spouse and I divorced for selfish reasons. We just didn’t love each other anymore. We never did truly consider how we hurt our kids. And today although happily remarried I am so sorry for hurting my kids the way I did. Thank you for writing this. I hope it speaks to those hearts out there who are thinking about divorce. Unless there is abuse I would encourage anyone to seek godly counsel to work on your marriage. Marriages get wounded and need repair. marriage is not perfect and the remarriage won’t be perfect either.

    • Amy
      Amy November 14, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Jamie. You saw my heart in writing this.

  11. Melissa November 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    My parents divorced with I was 26 years old (only 4 years ago). No matter how old you are, divorce hurts and does significant damage to everyone involved. While my mom would have worked to keep the relationship together, my dad chose to be with someone else. I respect my mom more than anything for fighting for our family in wanting to stay with my dad. But I definitely understand where you are coming from and know first-hand the hurt that comes with divorce, even as a “child” of 26 years old.

    • Amy
      Amy November 17, 2015 at 11:06 am #

      Thanks for your comment Melissa. Sounds like we had similar situations, just different times in our life. I wish you the best!

  12. Lynn November 21, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and starting a dialogue about the effects of divorce on children.

    My mother left my father when I was 22 and just out of college. We did not have the best home life growing up, but we didn’t have the worst either. I saw my parents marriage through the eyes of my mother, and grew to have a lot of discord with my father. Now that mother is in a different relationship, married and moved away from her family – I feel as ‘left behind and ditched’ as my father did when she left him. My mother is toxic, and accepts life in a toxic relationship with a physically and verbally abusive man. No – this man isn’t abusive towards her- he has been abusive toward my husband and me. Imagine a 30 year old woman and her husband in a physically and verbally abhsive relationship with a man my mother brought into our lives. I am so thankful that my parents didn’t divorce in my youthful years. I would have been a young toddler, or grade-schooler with no choice but to live with an array of terrible men that she would have inflicted on me. Now that I am an adult with my own family, I can make the choice to stay away from her and her husband. My relationship with my father has blossomed and we are there for one another now. And I feel like I really missed out on a great guy my entire life, because of my mother.

    So I urge all of you that are so down on Amy and her article, taking personal offense to it, to think about why. Why are you so defensive? She is giving a perspective from being the product of a divorce. She isn’t judging you. Her concerns are valid. Think about the feelings from the persoective of the child long and hard before you decide this just ‘isn’t what you want.’ The future situation you immerse your children into, may be far worse than the current one you’re in. Just some things to think about.

    Thank you again, Amy.

    • Amy
      Amy November 21, 2015 at 9:12 am #

      Lynn,
      Thanks so much for your perspective and sharing your story. I wish you the best!

  13. nicole November 24, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    My parents divorced when I was also about 4 or 5. That was 31 years ago. I never felt sad about it. My parents only lived 30 minutes from each other. I saw my dad and my dog Colt every other weekend and we had a blast! My dad would take me to my grandma’s and have cookouts and go swimming. Though my dad wasn’t present in the house, both of my parents made sure my needs were taken care of. My mom attended most of my functions but sometimes my dad would, too. The only thing that made me slightly upset was that my mom had to work while the other kids in my class at stay at home moms who got to attend more school functions and field trips. I got very lucky when I turned about 6 or 7. My dad met a woman (who is now my stepmom). She was and is a very caring and loving person. Not only that but she introduced me to her 3 nieces, who not only became my step cousins but we ended up growing up together and they were like sisters to me. To this day my mom, dad, step mom and step father all get along. In fact this past weekend my mom and step mom cohosted my baby shower and it turned out beautiful. I’m so sorry you had a tougher time. Please don’t take this comment as me judging you because I’m not. We are all different and we all react different to all kinds of situations.

  14. Alice August 19, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    This is a great post. I’ve learned a lot. I am currently going through my own divorce and I fear that my children will be disapointed in me or be haunted by bad memories when they grow up. I don’t think i’ll ever be able to completely satisfy what my children need, and as a parent, most of us will face failure more often than not. I do however have a question for you. As a child of divorce, I was wondering if it would be more of a smooth transition if i got an online divorce. I don’t want to go through the court system and I heard that you can get your divorce online nowadays. Thistoo ( http://www.thistoo.co for reference) seems ok but i don’t know if it’s trustworthy because I havent heard anything before. Any suggestions are appreciated, thank you!

  15. sasha June 28, 2017 at 3:18 am #

    I just came across you’re post tonight,2017. I couldn’t agree more with you! I am 31 years old and my parents divorced when i was 5, i am still affected every day by them divorcing, it was a nasty divorce ( father cheated ) and he was in and out of my life mostly out. I have a scar forever over this, and its affected who i am today in my marriage etc.

    My husband also comes from divorced parents and he is 35 he is still very affected as his parents cannot be at the same function ever, so everything is always negative and challenging and one side misses out, he feels forced to pick sides. There is double of all functions, this is not how its suppose to be!

    I can really relate to looking back at the little girl me, and i wish i could give her a big hug! I was tuff, its very sad to think back to what i went thru with divorced parents and not having a full time dad.

    xoxo sasha

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