By Gillian Watts
Divorce isn’t a rare thing. In fact, statistics show that in your group of friends, you’re bound to have at least one “child of divorce.”
I am one of those children, but my situation is slightly unique.
My parents were planning their divorce before I was born.
Lots of people can relate to being born to unmarried parents, never meeting their fathers, or having their parents divorce during their childhood. All of these situations are painful, but common.
My story is a little different.
My parents got married in September 1993 and separated before the end of that year. I was born in July of 1994 and their divorce was finalized soon after. I lived with my mom and had weekend visits with my Dad.
I’ve never known what it would be like to grow up with both parents under one roof.
I’ve never know what it would be like to have close, open relationships with both my parents. I don’t know anything about living in a nuclear family or being “a typical family.”
Most of the time it didn’t really bother me. I guess because it was the only life I ever knew, I didn’t know a lot about what I was missing. But then I would visit my friends’ or I would watch movies and read books; it was here I knew my life was different.
I would hear about what a family could be and sometimes it would make me wonder. I think that anyone who hasn’t experienced a nuclear family feels like they have missed out somehow.
Overall, growing up in my circumstance had a large effect on the person I turned out to be. I think in some ways it helped and in other ways it put me at a disadvantage.
I felt really strongly about building a relationship and family that would last. I was more committed to my relationships because I understood everything I didn’t want.
But I also didn’t have many examples of healthy, happy relationships.
I had my grandparents, but outside of that I didn’t have anyone in my home showing me how a real relationship would be carried out.
I’ve always struggled with trying to ensure I wouldn’t “end up” like them while trying to blame them for the way negative aspects of my life turned out. But now that I am married, I understand it a little more.
I have experienced for myself how difficult marriage is and I think, in some ways, I am thankful. I am thankful that if their marriage had to end, it ended before I was older.
No, I didn’t get to grow up the way most children would like to, but I also didn’t have to go through the pain of my life being turned upside down by other people’s choices.
Being a “child of divorce” means that life looks a little different.
It means you get exposed to the fact that relationships and families don’t always work out a little sooner than others. It means you have to stretch your time between two parents, two homes, two families, and two selves.
It means you might rarely see both your parents in the same place at the same time. It means you’ll always have to explain why your dad doesn’t live with you to other children who haven’t had to deal with what you have.
It means you are much less likely to buy into the idea of fairy tales being real. But it also means that you have an opportunity to grow from it and face adversity. It means that even with all the knowledge of how wrong things can go, you can hope for more.
You get to choose for yourself whether you’re going to become cynical or whether you will make something different of it.
Being a child of divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
There are children who grow up with no parents or parents who don’t care for them the way they should. I still had two parents, our life together just looked a little different. No, things weren’t perfect but I knew that I was loved.
Divorce is hard on all children, even those who didn’t quite experience it happening. The consequences of a divorce never really end for those affected by it.
It’s important to remember that your parents didn’t divorce to spite you, so continue to love and show love no matter what.
There are a lot of questions to be answered and things to be overcome. I believe that I succeeded at that and that anyone else can do the same.
You didn’t get to choose your parent’s unhappy ending, but you do get to choose the path you will take and how you will face your obstacles.
Gillian Watts is an editor and writer for Unwritten who focuses on relationship, lifestyle, and self-love topics. Visit her author profile on Unwritten for more.
This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.