Ahh, control. A word many of us ACODs are familiar with. Simply because that's what we lose when our parents get divorced.
As I watched my parents' marriage disintegrate, I remember feeling an extreme sense of loss. A loss over the fact that my family of origin would never be the same. But my sense of loss was also attributed to the fact that something awful was happening to my family, something that would have a lasting impact on my life, and I had zero control.
I remember thinking, it would be so much easier if I had been the cause of these problems. Because then I could apologize and we could all move on. It's taken me years to realize that the problems existed from the beginning and there was nothing I could have done differently.
Yet for some reason, us ACODs feel a sense of guilt, don't we? It manifests itself in different ways, but it's there nonetheless. A guilt that we just can't shake, even though we know we're not in the wrong. I felt guilty for not wanting to be around my parents very much in the beginning. I felt guilty because they were hurting, rather than paying attention to my own pain and taking steps to heal from it.
Finally, it dawned on me: I can't control my parents or their actions.
I can only control how I choose to respond to them.
I had spent so much time trying to control what was happening, trying to talk sense into my parents, you name it. It didn't make a difference what I did and it only left me feeling more frustrated and in greater pain than before. When I learned to stay out of the situation and focus on what I could control, which was myself, I started to see positive differences.
But that doesn't mean it comes easily. I still have to force myself not to get worked up over something related to my parents' divorce. I have to force myself to focus on my own life with my husband. As a stereotypical type-A oldest child, it's extremely hard for me to give up that control. But what other choice do I have? The other road will only bring me greater pain.
To all you ACODs out there: I hope that you'll find the strength to give up control of your family's situation and focus on the things in life you do have control over. You'll never stop caring or worrying about your parents (after all, they did give you life), but you can set boundaries so that you don't get dragged into their problems. You can control how you respond (or not respond) to their actions.
I'll leave you with this:
Have you been able to give up control in your parents' divorce? If so, how did you get to that point?
If you want to chat about your experiences or need a listening ear, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.