A Product of Divorce.

Written for The Everyday Magazine.

Divorce is a distressing word; whenever it is uttered sympathetic faces gaze and heads tilt in pity. Maybe it’s because as a product of divorce I’m now seen as damaged goods? According to self-proclaimed marriage expert Larry Bilotta, I’m much more likely to experience physical illness, I’m “less pleasant to be around”, I experience lingering emotional strain and I am subject to drug and alcohol use. Although I like a glass of rosé as much as the next girl, I have to say Mr Bilotta, I do not agree.

Although many of these statistics are over 40 years old, the stigma around individuals from a ‘broken home’ remain. There is no question that the experience of divorce is extremely painful for all parties involved, however, it is important to look beyond these labels. I am a product of divorce, but that does not define me.

My childhood was not filled with hatred and anger like the lives of many children with divorced parents. Quite the opposite actually. Although there were the occasional explosions, the dysfunction was omnipresent in the shadows many years prior to my parents’ separation. For the sake of my wellbeing, and possibly due to their own denial, they hid their issues pretty well. The cloak which disguised the gradual break down of their marriage was actually one of the main discomforts I experienced. Imagine this; a dark figure is lurking in your home, its presence is so damn obvious and yet no one seems to be addressing it so you continue to believe this sense of wrong is simply fuelled by imagination.

My parents finally revealed their separation after I completed my AS Levels. They hoped that disguising their divorce until after my exams would lessen the damage, and I am thankful for that. The announcement of divorce will be unique to each family, yet the emotions which follow will be relatively similar; a tangled experience of sadness, anger, insecurity, confusion and yet, complete relief. The shadow I had felt for so many years before had exposed itself. With that said, the news still hit me like a bolt of lightning. I escaped the tension by visiting my friend’s home, I cried a little and we watched some TV.

That was the end of that.

I was never one to rock the boat, and I wasn’t about to start so I carried on as if everything was normal. On the outside I appeared completely adequate, I was excelling in school, socialising and smiling amongst it all. Yet inside I was screaming out in agony. I was forced to grow up and fast. My relationship with my mother had suffered and I became the support system for my father.

Although both my parents love me indefinitely, I was confused as to why that love for me couldn’t keep them together. And then I grew up. I realised that a parent’s life is not solely for their children.

The societal pressure to fit into the traditional family structure is crippling, not only for the parents but for the children too. Much of the frustration I experienced during my parents’ divorce developed from the misinformation I was fed by society. I was shown the nuclear family and, as a young and impressionable adult, I didn’t understand why I didn’t conform into that structure. But I came to realise that you truly do not understand what is happening behind closed doors. Nor do you need to understand. Everyone argues, everyone shouts, everyone cries and some people divorce – it’s really that simple.

I finally saw my parents beyond their parental role which was a pivotal moment in each of our relationships. I also felt respected for the woman I was becoming, their view of me as a child has transformed too. In the dealing of this situation, I had become much more than a daughter to them.

After the initial shock and upset, every day, slowly, became easier.

For years I appeared unscathed by parents’ divorce, disregarding it as a trivial event in my life. I was so engrossed in ensuring everyone else was coping that I forgot I was even involved. This allowed me to repress my own discomfort, anger and upset.

Years later at the ripe old age of twenty-one it all came crashing down. I knew then, I needed help. I still didn’t realise that the whirlwind of emotions that came flooding in on one cold November night was in fact related to my parents’ divorce. And that’s when I decided to go to therapy.

I finally realised that sadness was not a weakness.

My parents’ divorce and subsequent relationships have shaped me as a person, so why had I disclosed this part of my life for so many years?

Through my parents’ divorce, I realised my mother was one of the strongest women I know. Fast forward some months after they had announced their legal separation and my mother and I were driving to the gym. She had been trying desperately to engage me in bonding activities and the gym was another to add to the list. As we pulled into the car park, she grasped my hand in between hers and, with tears forming in her eyes, whispered “please don’t hate me”. I paused, unsure how to respond and she continued “I’ve fallen in love…with a woman”.

I was flooded with misconstrued relief, similar to that I had experienced when my parents first announced their divorce. I finally realised what was holding such a distance between me and my mother. Her fear of revealing this truth had divided us. Since this moment, our relationship has flourished.

I also saw my father in an entirely different light. He started to become whole again after my parents split, despite his initial anguish. Relatively soon after their split, we went on a father-daughter holiday. This was first time I felt my dad and I had truly connected beyond the parent-child relationship. This holiday also provided me with my first experience of a night out, and yes, that was with my dad. We danced on table tops, sung until our lungs were empty of air and returned home well past 7:00am. It is still one of my favourite memories.

It was not easy to accept that my parents’ separation and focus on the positives. But there is no time in our short lives to dwell on what could have been. There will be heartache, but I suggest that you look to the light; you are the resilient product of divorce and you should be proud.

I am a loving, sympathetic, understanding and open-minded individual, many of these traits I feel were developed during my parent’s separation. So, Mr Bilotta, I kindly and respectfully tell you to go and f*ck yourself. I have a supportive mother, father and two amazing step-mothers, all of which love me unconditionally; maybe I’m the lucky one?

My experience of divorce, although harrowing to begin with, was a positive experience nonetheless. I am not trying to romanticise divorce, it is extremely difficult. I still sit and relive the challenging times of my past but they in no way shadow my present nor my future. The tangled threads that remain from your parent’s marriage will never fully resolve and you must make peace with that. When you do, it is a wholly satisfying experience.

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writer & visual artist