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.)

~Anonymous
#storyofchange

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?

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Acceptable losses

Non-triad family arrangements often exist for the benefit and convenience of adults. In order for the kids to conform to these arrangement, we have to embrace a lot of denial. We must pretend that there is nothing wrong with the arrangement, and even that we are happy with it.

We have a lot of help in keeping the denial intact. So far I’ve identified several buttresses that prop up our denial:

  • Honoring our fathers and mothers inappropriately, by pretending that nothing is wrong
  • Professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors and religious leaders giving us sacrosanct reasons why we can’t question the loss of our first families, the loss of our ontology, the loss of our cultural or genetic origins
  • Lack of a correct theoretical framework to think about our issues
  • Cultural rites of passage that must be maintained at our expense

Yesterday I may have discovered another buttress for the denial: guilt. Perhaps guilt is a manifestation of the first reason above. I’m not sure.

Below is a quote written by somebody who was conceived with anonymous sperm, somebody who will never know her father (or his family, his culture or origins):

Is it unethical or immoral for me to want to know where half of me comes from? Or is it better to just sit quiet knowing that your own mother intentionally hid half siblings from your reach, registering on sibling registries, viewing their information, letting accounts expire, and moving on silently as if it all never occurred? Am I not allowed to feel hurt or misplaced?

The first sentence just blows my mind. She is questioning if it is unethical or immoral to want to know where she came from. Knowledge that most of us take for granted, she wonders if it is unethical for her to know. I bet her mother knows both halves of where she came from.That’s a form of inequality between the generations, created by reproductive freedom.

Her mother’s reproductive freedom means that she could legally separate her child from the child’s father forever, and the government supports this freedom.

Now, her child lacks freedom. She does not have the freedom to ask her own mother where she came from.

Her love for her mother is being used against her. She feels guilty for even posing the question.

Money is used in these transactions. Kids of sperm/egg donation often feel like they were purchased.

As a society, we do not care about this person’s sadness.

Where are the anthropologists decrying these kids being sold away from their cultural origins? I took a cultural anthropology class recently and made this argument a number of times, about the role of profit in this industry, and kids being legally separated from their cultural and genetic origins on the whim of rich adults. The teacher was stunned. She said that she had never heard it presented this way. But she saw that I was right. We all had to give a five minute presentation as part of our final, on some topic that was discussed during the semester. We would be penalized for going over that time. But she let me give a 12 minute presentation, since she thought what I was saying was so important. 

Anthropologists are uniquely positioned to examine the role of profit in these arrangements, as well as applying equal standards to these kids as they do to kids in other cultures. I may talk more about the role of anthropologists in a future post because there is more I can say.

That class made me fall in love with anthropology, but let me be clear that I’m no left-leaning SJW (social justice warrior). I believe in business, the role of business in creating jobs for people, and the role of profit in not only making businesses attractive to investors but in providing good paying jobs to employees. I am proudly pro-life and pro-marriage.

But I am not a libertarian. I believe that there are some areas of life where the profit motive must be suppressed by legal means. Such as in the buying and selling of human beings, buying and selling the gametes to create them, and renting the wombs to gestate them.

For now, I just wanted to give another example of how the pain of the next generation is an acceptable loss in the advancement of sexual and reproductive freedom.

 

 

Blogging Network: ChildrenOfDivorce.Net

Here’s the first addition to the brand new children of divorce blogging network. Kent Darcie, an adult child of divorce, has a wonderful blog called Adult Children of Divorce.

He works to help people identify and overcome issues that are linked to their parents’ divorce. He has a lot of great posts there. Check it out.

 

 

If “two homes” is great, why not three?

We live in a “more is better” culture. So living in two homes for a large portion of your childhood may not seem like a big deal if you haven’t done it.

There are a number of children’s books on the subject, and from what I’ve seen, their thrust is “more is better.” Two of everything is better than one.

HA!

If it were only that simple.

Last time I wrote about “two homes,” I asked my readers to participate in a thought experiment.

Here is another one.

Our starting point is:

More is better.

Let’s exaggerate it. Since more is better…

Living in “three homes” will be better than living in two, right? Does that sound too far fetched?

It is not.

California, living up to its reputation as the land of fruits, nuts and flakes, now allows three or more legal parents for children. The “three parent bill” was inspired by an ugly lesbian-marriage custody dispute, and signed by Gov. Brown in October 2013. In 2012 he vetoed the same bill. Why he vetoed it in 2012 but signed it in 2013 remains unclear to me. Being the cynic that I have become, I wonder if he wanted to distance himself from the ugly circumstance that inspired the bill.

Anyway… remembering that more is better…

What about “five homes”? Five is better than three, right? Does that sound too radical? Not for some people.

Listen to the words of Masha Gessen, biographer of Vladimir Putin and LGBT activist:

“I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally. I don’t see why we should choose two of those parents and make them into a sanctioned couple. And because those five parents we have two groups with two different citizenships… [next she describes the family structure these kids have]. The five parents break down into two groups of three who have two different citizenships. And really I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality. And I don’t think that is compatible with the institution of marriage.”

“… five parents legally…”

Since the five legal parents won’t have to live under one roof, this means “five homes” for the children. And we have a large group of people cheering these ideas. No thought whatsoever as to what that means for those kids… but since “kids are resilient” this means we can do whatever we want with their family structures and it’s all good. Never mind that Ms. Gessen was raised by her own married parents and so never had her ontology muddied by the presence of step-parents and others who are not related. She takes far too much for granted and, literally, cannot even begin to relate to what she is making her children endure. I’m sure she imagines that “five parents legally” means five times the love. But she is wrong. It means alienation, loneliness, ontological wounds, liminality, and codependency.

The Cinderella Effect is real but who is changing their lives because of it? Do you know anyone who uses this as reason to stay together for the kids’ sake? As a reason to preserve (or even respect) their childs’ ontology? Maybe I’m just too jaded, but it seems that lots of kids could die like this boy before masses of people would begin to question their beliefs surrounding premarital sex (aka, having kids outside marriage), cohabitation, divorce, remarriage, the definition of marriage (aka gay marriage), and third-party reproduction (surrogacy).

“Five homes” is not even the last stop on this wild ride–it gets worse. But I’ll save that for another day.

What will divorce do to your relationship with your kids?

This essay encourages men to consider what divorce will do to their relationships with their kids. I’m surprised that HuffPost Divorce even published it. Normally they are full-on cheerleaders for divorce. It’s very different from what they normally publish.

This author does a good job describing what it’s like. If it helps even one person then I’ll be happy.

Have you met someone else? Are you tired of the fighting? Does she just not ‘get’ you? Could you be more of a cliché?

There are plenty of reasons you may want to get divorced and for all I know yours might even be valid, but I’m here today to tell you about something you don’t see right now. You can’t possibly unless you’ve lived it and by then, the damage is done.

I’m sure you’ve given the idea of divorce a lot of thought but I want to add some perspective here. This is the real stuff they don’t tell you about. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you’ll know I’m all about learning from other people’s mistakes and experiences.

It’s why coaches exist. You shorten the learning curve by benefiting from their hard earned experiences.

Let me coach you on this one.

Think it over, real hard. You’re giving up a lot. More than you can know.

The first time you say goodbye to your kids and watch them walk away with their mother is when you’ll fully realize what you’ve done. That’s your family walking away, son.

That’s when it will hit you. Did you just f—k up beyond all measure? What were you thinking?

Those are your kids and they are literally walking away and leaving you behind. Just like you did to them.

There is a certain pain you will have to live with when you realize you are not the influence in their lives that you had hoped you would be. This realization will slowly creep up on you.

What on earth made you think you could be any sort of real influence in shaping their lives?

Are you there to tuck them in at night? Do you give them a goodnight kiss each night, even if they are already sleeping?

Are you able to notice that something went wrong at school today and to get them to talk about it? Are you able to see that they are proud of something and want someone (you) to make a big deal of it?

Of course not. You aren’t there. Those are the subtle clues you’ll have the privilege to act upon when you’re there for them every day. That’s when you comfort them, build character and form the relationship and trust you’ll share.

It’s these little moments in life that you share with your children that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

So don’t be surprised about how your kids are growing up and who they become. Don’t you dare even have an opinion about it, you weren’t there.

Eventually you’ll find you’re happier to see them than they will be to see you. You’re just a stop in their busy schedules. You may even be an inconvenience. They’ve got school, homework, after school activities, tutoring and friends they want to hang out with.

Your mid week visit will likely be filled with getting homework done, getting some food into them and getting them home on time.

That’s a lot of getting. Welcome to feeling like more of a hired baby sitter than a dad with his kids.

There will be certain times you or they may have to cancel a weekend or mid week visitation and then a bigger block of time passes before you see them again.

Who cares? They don’t.

They hardly see you anyway. It does wonders for your relationship. Wake up friend, they’re slipping away.

Do you think they won’t resent you when you have to discipline them? In there eyes, you’re a part time figure in their lives and now you think you have the right to tell them what to do?

Had you stayed married, your values would likely be aligned. Apart, those values will diverge and now, “Mom let’s us do this all the time!”

When you drop your kids off and say goodbye, don’t be surprised if they don’t even turn around for that final wave and kiss as they walk in the front door. They’re too happy to be home.

You’ll know where you stand when they are busy making a handmade Mother’s Day gift on your weekend while you get nothing for Father’s Day.

Are you ready for this one? What about when your ex remarries? There will now be a new man in the house that will be with your children more than you are. Over time, he will have spent more time with them than you ever will.

Do you really think he is not going to instill his values in your children, even if just by osmosis?

Your kids will spend holidays and weekends with his family. What are they like? Are these the sort of people you want your kids to be around and learn from?

What happens if he’s more successful than you? Do you retreat? Do you overcompensate and make poor decisions?

Wake up friend, they have a new full time family now. They are together and they will build new memories as you fade even more.

At some point you may see your kids slipping away from you and turning into people you hardly recognize. You’ll wonder if maybe you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life – and theirs.

Look, I’m not pretending to know what your circumstances are. For all I know, you should be divorced and if that’s the case you can only focus on being the best dad you can be given your circumstances.

Staying together for the sake of the kids? I’m not a big fan of that move. Kids aren’t dumb. They’ll feel the stress.

Making your decision knowing all the possible outcomes? Count me in. If you can save your marriage, you benefit. All of you.

So, let me coach you on this one.

Do whatever you can to save your marriage and your relationship with your kids.

Think it over, real hard. You’re giving up on a lot. More than you can possibly know.

Al writes more on the things you’ve got to know about divorce on Divorce Candor

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-corona/to-the-dads-out-there-thi_b_9877796.html

Still picking up the pieces

I feel like there is something missing when I write about the cult, so maybe if I write about it more I’ll figure out what it is.

I first wrote about the cult here. Besides other things, I mentioned my brief affair with the cult leader in 1997, and how my ex-husband remains loyal to him, even to this day. The leader gets a pass on not only the affair with me, but with at least three other women. All the cult members know about the affairs. My ex is not the only husband to choose the leader over his own wife–another man did this as well.

I wonder how that works in their minds. The cult leader is so special that he gets to do whatever he wants… but your own wife, the mother of your children whom you claim to love unconditionally, remains unforgiven and an outcast. Plus now my ex is using a lot of alcohol, far more than he did while married. He is also involved with a woman whom my eldest daughter can’t stand and who is addicted to prescription pain meds. She has moved in and out, and is now maybe moving back in.

All this is done in the name of “real Christianity.”

That’s how the cult styles itself. It’s not “religion,” which they claim is a horrible, man-made thing. But it’s true spirituality, true Christianity.

What a farce.

Lots of misogyny there, a real hatred of women.

What is my own role in all this? Yes, I participated in a group that was extremely harmful to not only myself but others. Yes, I justified it through a strange brew of fear and pride. Yes, I regret ever being there. Yes, I see that my truly wonderful and beautiful children (and now grandchild) would not exist except for my involvement there. So that’s an unsolvable dichotomy. Making me choose between them is like holding a gun to my head. And I have no doubt that the cult leader has used that dichotomy as a way to justify his actions.

Maybe this is what is missing: I still love those people. I spent 22 years of my life there. There were some genuinely fun and even good times we had together, times we laughed, lots of funny inside jokes that developed over the years, the joy of our childbearing years and watching the children grow, many shared and delicious meals. We tried to create a tribe as a sort of shelter from this crazy world.

But it was built on sand, on the false notion that this leader was special, and that the normal rules of human engagement didn’t apply to us. I doubt any of us would have been friends outside of the cult. The arranged marriages would not have taken place either, since the partners would not have naturally picked one another. We thought we didn’t need our extended families, because they weren’t “spiritual” enough to understand what we were about. We often treated each other harshly, rudely, divisively, abusively… there was always a lot of gossip and backstabbing… all done in the name of telling the truth and being honest. But even that was a lie. We did those things to cover our own asses.

Towards the end of my time there, I wondered if I suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. Seems logical, right? But how is that diagnosed? If it’s true for me, is it true for others? Is it true of my ex-husband who is still there?

Children of Divorce Blogging Network

May 13, 2016

I want to start a blogging network for people who are blogging about what it was like to be a child of divorce. This way, we can join together to encourage each other and raise awareness about the problems we face.

If you are a child of divorce and want to be part of it, send me a link to your blog with a brief description. You can post it below or use the Contact form. I’ll post it here so that my readers can find your blog.

Then, consider setting up a page on your blog like this page so that you can tell your readers about the blogging network. It could have this title:

Children of Divorce Blogging Network

Ideas for your page: tell your readers why you believe a blogging network will be helpful. Ask them to send links to their blogs (assuming they are children of divorce). Ask them to set up pages on their blogs like this one.

We can slowly grow our blogging network. Yes, ours. Not mine. After all, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” My blog readers will find your blog, and vise versa. Plus we will educate people about how harmful divorce really is. More voices are always better, right?

I created a category called “children of divorce blogging network” so you can find other posts I’ve written on the subject.

===============================================================

Blogging Network:

Kent Darcie, an adult child of divorce, has a wonderful blog called Adult Children of Divorce. He works to help people identify and overcome issues that are linked to their parents’ divorce. He has a lot of great posts there. Check it out.

 

Half time family, full time hurt

I’m not new to blogging or writing online, but I am new to WordPress. So far I like it a lot. It’s way better than Blogger, that’s for sure.

One of my favorite things to do is to read other blogs with tags I use, such as divorce. While reading a few of those blog posts earlier today, I came across two new phrases that I’d not seen before:

  • Half family
  • Half-time kids

I gotta admit that it really hurt to read those words. Seeing the idea out there, that our children’s lives are fractured and we are completely OK with it. It is 100% normalized. It’s totally OK to do and to talk about, like walking the dog or mowing the lawn. There is no shame at all in sending your own children away from you and your daily life… for half their  young lives… to be with a multitude of people you had no say in vetting (aka, step-parents, cohabiting partners, dating partners). It’s been that way for a long time, I know, yes, I know all too well. But just seeing the fracture packaged so clinically like that, without any trace of doubt, remorse, regret…

I wanted to leave a comment but couldn’t figure out a way to broach the subject nicely. I wanted to say something like, “Your kid’s probably in a lot of pain but can’t talk about it.”

But I couldn’t say it. I have no relationship with those people so why should they listen to me? And even if I did, it would be hard, very hard. My anger gets the better of me too often and I get impatient or caustic. I know need to be compassionate to the adults who are tearing their kids’ souls into two pieces. I tell myself that they don’t see it… but on the other hand I can easily find evidence that they know what they are doing is wrong. They know.

There are too many barriers to telling the truth.

 

It is hard for children of divorce to speak out

I believe there are several reasons why it is hard for the children of divorce to speak out.

Honor our fathers and mothers

First, we still have to honor our fathers and mothers. It might seem like we will dishonor them if we speak out about how hard the divorce is. But let me turn this around: does it make sense that we honor them by pretending and suppressing ourselves? I don’t think so. And if I’m right, then this means we haven’t been honoring our parents properly when we pretend and suppress ourselves. I wrote more about this here.

Incorrect theoretical framework

Second, we have an entire professional class using an incorrect theoretical framework to understand our problem. Professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors, and religious leaders believe, “The kids will be fine if the adults are happy.” They seem to believe that divorce is a one time shock that subsides and eventually disappears. This false belief has become a sacrosanct reason for us to never explore the pain surrounding the loss of our first families. After all, if professionals with Ph.Ds say we’re supposed to be OK without ever even talking to us as individuals to understand how we actually feel, then we better be OK. And if we are not OK, it means that there is something else wrong with us. Who wants to be thought of as having issues? Nobody.

A better theoretical framework would view divorce as an ontological wound that does not heal on its own. Let’s take Cindy’s story as an example. Cindy was a 19 year old college student when she was told that her parents were divorcing. Years later, she classifies herself as a “product of divorce,” and still cries over how much it hurts.

Wait a minute: she spent her entire childhood in an intact home. Why does she think of herself as a product of divorce? A product of divorce would be somebody whose parents divorced when she was young, or even in the womb. In fact, “product of divorce” is a contradiction, isn’t it? Product is another way of saying that two things have come together to make one think, but divorce means separation. Her statement makes no sense under the “one time shock” framework. I bet there are people in her life that tell her just to “get over it,” and think that she “has issues” or “needs therapy.” It’s because they have the wrong framework. But consider her statement under the “ontological wound” framework. Now it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?

buttressCelebrating divorce as a positive good

Third, we have a culture that celebrates divorce as a positive good, and some who go so far as to view it as a necessary rite of passage. How can we feel heard or validated in such a culture?

Imagine a wall, with buttresses that reinforce it. The wall is our denial of the pain, and these reasons are buttresses that prop up our denial.

So that’s why I think it is hard for the children of divorce to speak out.

 

 

HuffPo is right: divorce never ends

This video is great. Cindy tells a bit of her story surrounding her parents’divorce. A few things are notable:

  • She was 19 when they split up. This means she spent all of her childhood in an intact home. Yet, she considers herself a “product of divorce.” This speaks to the ontological issues that divorce creates.
  • She uses an analogy of the divorce being like breaking her pinkie and it not healing quite right. The “not healing quite right” is an important part of that. She says that she keeps moving on with life, and of course this is great. But consider the other side of that coin: we live in a culture that is 100% fine with fracturing parts of its children so that adults can have freedom. We focus so much on “you’ll be OK,” and “stay positive,” and so forth that we never stop to think: could we have prevented this fracture in the first place? It is as if we value the parents’ autonomy more than we do preventing our children from permanently feeling fractured on the inside.
  • “The ripple effects are always there.” Divorce never ends for the kids. Why? I believe it is because their very ontology, their very sense of being, has been permanently split. Cindy tells us about how she always has “to work through the crooked finger.” It never healed back to how it was before.

Divorce is not a one time shock from which children recover. It is a permanent disfigurement of the child’s family. As HuffPost Divorce says, “Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.” I think they meant this a bit tongue in cheek, but for the kids it is spot on.