I came across an article in the Huffington Post yesterday and was struck by several things the author said about divorce and the "lessons" children of divorce learn:
It's okay to "fall out of love" with someone. It's not the end of the world if two people don't get along.
My take: Love is certainly complicated and it may be true that some people fall out of love with one another, but marriage should be forever. Love is an emotion that fluctuates from day to day. Choosing to end a family brings about serious repercussions that cause hurt and pain among all family members involved. I recognize there are certain circumstances that bring about a divorce, but it shouldn't be the first option.
You learn how to accept and love the new people who are suddenly a permanent part of your life.
My take: I'm sure there are ACODs who have embraced a parent's spouse wholeheartedly. And there may be some who took awhile to warm up to that individual. But I'd be willing to bet that most of us feel a sense of resentment about someone new entering the family, especially when we're older. We've had our family intact for a long time, so any change is jarring. Nothing can prepare an ACOD for the emotions he or she will experience when seeing a parent enter a romantic relationship with someone else. Remarriage is a whole other topic (one which I will address in a future blog post).
You get the chance to see the real personality and traits of your parents.
My take: For many ACODs, this is not a good thing. Divorce tends to bring out the worst in people and many of us have had to watch our parents fight with one another, say nasty things behind each other's backs, you name it. It's not easy to watch the two people who brought you into the world turn against each other. In time, we may start to see the positives in our parents' personalities as things level out and they find a new identity, but that often takes many years. Especially if our parents have been married a long time.
Bottom line: no one truly understands what it's like to be an ACOD - not even fellow ACODs.
It's not easy to watch your family fall apart and those who think ACODs have it easier than those who experienced a parents' divorce as a young child are very misguided. If anything, ACODs have it harder in some respects (not all) since parents rarely hold back from letting their dirty laundry air in front of adult children. We see and hear it all and are then told to suck it up and support our parents.
But you know what? It's okay to feel sad. It's okay to be angry. There is no rulebook for how to deal with a parents' divorce and our emotions are valid. Those who tell you any differently aren't people you should be listening to.
Have you dealt with people who just don't understand what you're going through? If so, how did you respond? Leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.