The desire for happy endings

Here is a story from a child of divorce. I found it here. Because of it, I think I may have discovered another buttress to telling the truth: the desire for happy endings.

I am going to try something new. I’ll bold certain parts, and add my own commentary in red.

What I am about to say is a critique of the culture surrounding divorce, and not of the individual who wrote this story.

One summer afternoon, my mom called me to tell me that she and my dad were getting a divorce. I was blindsided. I knew that they had had their fair share of problems in the past, but I thought that they had worked it out. (Unlike what a lot of people seem to believe, kids don’t always know what’s coming.)

The change that followed brought the most gut-wrenching pain that I have ever experienced. I felt really angry (very common), but more surprising was how completely un-moored I felt, like someone had just ripped the safety net out of my life.  I couldn’t really express how I felt with a “feeling” word, just pictures—like being completely adrift at sea. (Evidence of the liminal space and ontological wound that was created; there is no accurate theoretical framework to express the feelings.)

I had been married for one year, and I lived far away. I resented that my kids would never get to experience Christmas morning at their grandparents’ house, or know my parents like I did growing up. (Grandparents don’t realize that divorce impacts several generations.) I resented them for making me look bad to my husband’s family. And I didn’t want people’s pity. I needed my friends to help me, but none of them knew what to say, and none of them called to check on me after the initial “hey, my parents are getting divorced” conversation. (My guess is that since she was grown, everybody assumed it would be no big deal.)

The only person who I could talk to and would call to check on me was my mother-in-law. She prayed through it with me six months later when I was ready to forgive. She prayed for me in person and on the phone, gave me advice, told me that I had to keep forgiving over and over when I felt the pain, and that part of forgiveness is accepting the consequences of other people’s choices. So I forgave, and I had to keep forgiving. (Forgiveness is good and necessary, and it’s an ongoing choice we must make.)

After my dad remarried and I was going to meet his new wife for the first time, I thought I would vomit in the car in front of their house. On the way there, I called my best friend, and she said that I didn’t have to pretend that everything was fine, but the truth was that I did have to. (Yes, we must pretend in order to keep the peace.) What was I going to do? Cause a scene with sobbing and barfing? (Why not? Because people would have thought she was crazy. But she wasn’t crazy, her situation was crazy.) No. I faced it with my siblings and my husband, and that made it easier. Forgive. Accept the consequences.

Time has passed, and it’s easier to accept now, but I still think about the past, especially when I’m home and things aren’t the same. There are two Christmases and Thanksgivings. I worry about hurting people’s feelings by not spending enough time with them because I have to be somewhere else. I feel the responsibility to take care of my mom, and sometimes to take care of everyone. (“Divorce is when the parents cast off their crosses, and hand them to the children.”)

What changed for the better in the midst of pain?

I got closer to my siblings through processing with them. (That’s great.) I love my mother-in-law for supporting me during the most difficult time of my life, and I will always be grateful to her for being God’s instrument of love and grace to me. (I’m mixed on this being “for the better.” Yes, it’s great that she did this, but it was also her duty as a Christian and as the mother-in-law.) My home is now with my husband and our family together instead of the home where I grew up. (?) My relationship with my dad is restored, and we are friends again. And we even go on vacation together. (I wouldn’t classify this as “for the better.” Imagine a number line. This is just going from something like negative ten to zero. The relationship is now what it should have always been.)


If things are really better, as she indicates at the end, how do we account for the person’s desire for anonymity? After all, if the divorce made things better, she would be thanking her parents for it and not at all afraid to have those other thoughts and feelings associated with her name, right?

I don’t believe things are better. In fact, they are worse. That’s why she remains anonymous. She cannot allow her true feelings and thoughts be revealed, cannot take a chance that her parents will read that post. It would further strain her now permanently strained relationship with them.

Notice that I am also anonymous. I mentioned at the outset, I am not criticizing this particular person or the choices she has made. She is doing the best she can in a culture that refuses to see our pain and has failed to provide an accurate framework for us to understand our issues.

Do we have a cultural commitment to happy endings? Might this be another reason the kids of divorce (and other non-triad arrangements) have a hard time speaking out?


Author: everybodysdaughter

I'm an adult child of divorce, having been raised in multiple divorce/remarriage situations. I'm writing in order to shed light on the problems of divorce from the perspective of the child. I will also discuss problems with other non-triad family structures, since there is a lot of overlap. People often think that better parenting skills will overcome problems in non-triad arrangements. While I agree that parenting skills are important, they cannot overcome the problems I discuss such as fractured ontology and perpetual liminality. I converted to the Catholic faith in 2012, and will discuss Catholic things from time to time as well.

4 thoughts on “The desire for happy endings”

  1. Thank you for writing this. My in-laws are going through a divorce right now, and a lot of this mirrors what my husband is going through. While my MIL is very apologetic, my FIL refuses to acknowledge that this is doing anything to their children. “You’re an adult, this shouldn’t affect you.”- his actual words to my husband as the world was ripped out from under him. Meanwhile he surprises us all by bringing his new -to-us but year-long girlfriend to a large family function without telling his children that he HAD a girlfriend in the first place, and insists they should all be adult about it.

    We DO have a cultural obsession with happy endings. Cultural pressure to accept that divorce is “for the better”. It’s all a lie. And it all comes from the father of lies himself. It’s horrible, it’s untrue, and it’s disgusting. I don’t know what’s worse- widespread divorce, or the lies that go along with it.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think there is anything that is personal. Believe me, I’ve heard COUNTLESS TIMES how utterly clueless parents are about how the new love-interest is so offensive to the kids. This not new or unique, unfortunately. I’ll copy and paste the whole thing into an upcoming post. Thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

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