I don’t really have much of a recollection of my childhood except for heartache and sadness. As a seven-year-old I watched my maternal grandfather, with whom I was very close, pass away. My mom was so devastated by that loss that she shut down. Not long after, things started to go downhill for my parents’ marriage. When I was in the fifth grade, they divorced.
I grew up self-conscious, insecure, oversensitive, and extremely emotional. I didn’t really feel love at home, but I craved it any way I could get it. It’s only natural.
I wasn’t what you would call promiscuous, but I found myself in some horrible situations where I had been taken advantage of, sexually as well as mentally.
I was too young to recognize how my parents’ divorce was affecting me … or to pay for therapy. (When I finally did see a therapist, she told me it was a miracle that I graduated high school, wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, didn’t have a child, or died before I turned eighteen. Gee, thanks! I suppose she meant it as a way of telling me that I was a strong person.)
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized the full impact my parents’ divorce had on me. And it wasn’t until quite recently that I realized that I don’t have to fall prey to the same fate. It is my choice, as well as my husband’s, to either let our relationship flourish, or to let it go to hell in a hand basket. It’s our choice whether we allow our son to have the kind of childhood we wanted to avoid.
My husband Jason went through similar trials growing up since his parents divorced when he was in the second grade. Because of that he has always been just as determined as I am to have a sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn marriage that won’t end in divorce.
Oh, you think I am exaggerating the sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn marriage idea? That’s because I am. Life doesn’t work that way.
Throughout the entire course of our relationship we have been beaten and battered emotionally in more ways that I could have ever imagined. We have had job losses, lost loved ones, suffered a miscarriage, faced health issues and devastating medical diagnoses, financial struggles—we even lost our first home that we lived in for seven years. The stress led to arguments, relationship concerns, and at times we thought we weren’t going to make it.
There were also times where we hurt each other because the past snuck up to kick us in the butt. We knew we didn’t want to divorce, but we had seen it happen to our parents and that made it feel like a scary possibility. Because of my past I felt that I didn’t deserve love and that I didn’t deserve my husband. And that if I kept myself at some sort of distance, whether I realized it or not, somehow I wouldn’t be as devastated when he ultimately realized I wasn’t worth the trouble and left me.
As we were preparing for Christmas last year I was struck with the realization that I needed to change this way of thinking. I sought therapy and realized so many things about how my parents’ divorce affected me even today. I also learned that I needed to use that realization as a starting point to fix what was wrong in me, instead of using it as a reason to be afraid and expect the worst in my marriage. I could let the experience of my parents’ divorce give me the resolve and motivation that I needed to make my own marriage work, because I knew what was at stake.
The truth is that we all have some kind of issue to work through. Having someone walk with you who accepts your flaws and makes you want to be better makes all the difference. I thank God every single day for sending me Jason to “do life” with in this way for the past fifteen years—and many more to come.