My parents divorced when I was fourteen. I was completely surprised – even though I lived in the house at the time. My younger sister had a little more awareness. I suspect it has something to do with entering the teenage years and the world revolving around me…
We didn’t know a lot of people who were divorced. There was a boy in my school who’s parents had gotten divorced. I remember the other kids didn’t know how to deal with it. There were a lot of whispers about him.
And really – I thought my parents were happy. It wasn’t until I divorced that I talked to my mom about it. She’d been unhappy for quite some time. Kept a suitcase in her car for months. And I had no idea. We lived together. And I had no idea.
It was a strange time for me. I had just entered high school, and was having enough issues dealing with that. Now my parents were fighting and there were lawyers and counsellors and all this extra “stuff” that I had to figure out. I had to change schools. When I was already having trouble socially. I was smart – I didn’t have any issues with my marks. But instead of working on making friends, I threw myself into my school work. Because I was sure that they were whispering about me too.
In the end, my mother got full custody. I’m still not clear why – possibly because my father was on a shift schedule like my ex – but my father ended up just seeing us every second weekend. I know now that he just accepted it. He didn’t fight it. And he was bitter. Very bitter.
My sister and I tried our best to have a relationship with him (me harder than her – she was angry too). Eventually, it just wasn’t working and my sister and I both cut off our relationship (she went first, with me following a couple of years later, by the time I was eighteen).
My sister resumed a relationship with him about ten years ago. He still spews bitterness. Over 25 years out – he still isn’t over it. She lives several hours away – and has set some pretty strong boundaries – but still gets a dose of it at times.
I still don’t speak with him. I have enough bitterness in my life already.
As the divorce progressed, I learned a lot from my mother. I learned that I needed to get my own credit. She had issues getting a mortgage even though they’d had a joint one because she wasn’t the primary, and hadn’t had any credit cards that weren’t merged with his. Which meant I was set by the time my divorce came. I got my first credit card while I was in University. I’d put items on it and pay it off immediately. Good credit comes with little debt.
For the most part, my mom tried to keep us out of it. There were times where we got drawn in. My dad always drank fairly heavily and drove us home after a holiday (might have been Christmas) when he wasn’t fit to drive. My sister and I were young – we’d never had to confront him before. When he was too drunk to drive, my mother would. When my mom found out, there was a blow up. The lawyers got involved. It was nasty.
Unlike my own divorce, my sister and I were fairly self-sufficient by the time the divorce happened. We didn’t need sitters any more. Any information that needed to be transferred between my parents could be done by us. E-mail, text messages – that wasn’t a method of communication. Phones were still the size of shoe boxes. The first “laptops” were being made, but they weighted as much as a car.
Luckily, there were still very few times the information needed to be transferred. My father left all the school and health related matters to my mom. Never even asked.
During the divorce, my mother kept a diary. I understand it now. The need to write down what’s happening so you can come to a better understanding of it, come to grips with it. But it was hers. She kept it to herself. And that was fine with me. She always tried to make sure that we knew that the divorce – that was between her and my father. It wasn’t something that we should be involved with. It’s part of the reason I’ve taken a similar view of my own divorce.
But she kept it. She kept it all. And she’s since offered me the opportunity to read it. The court papers, her diary – all of it.
As far as innoculating us from the divorce – I must say – I think mom did a really good job. Because I know it’s not about me. I don’t want to read it. I don’t need to know.
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If you want to read more about my own divorce, checkout the series on Since My Divorce.