Teens: My Parents Are Divorcing
I thought I was okay with cutting my mentally ill mother out of my life (see "A Letter I'd Like to Give to My Mother" ) and that it would help my life settle down a lot more.
I'm just now admitting that my parents' divorce has left me with wounds. Maybe divorce is good in some cases, but in my case, it meant that I had no shelter from my mother's paranoia. I had to grow up with an emotionally distant/abusive, mentally ill mother because she kicked Dad out (probably because of her illness). The divorce also meant that I didn’t see Dad for over seven years.
I was seven when my mother started divorce proceedings. She filed for legal separation two days after my seventh birthday; in my fuzzy memory, it was because I'd been thrown into the wall after accidentally seeing unwrapped birthday presents. I just want to make one thing clear right now: my dad was not abusive. Frankly, I'm surprised he wasn't the one filing for divorce to get away from my paranoid and mentally ill mother.
I think he wanted to stay together because maybe he recognized the harm divorce does to kids. He'd been married before; I have two half-sisters, who were 19 and 23 when my parents divorced.
I started realizing that I'd been comparing my "normal" dad to Mom, and you can't compare sane to insane. So, comparing Dad to other fathers that I know - there's a discrepancy there. After the divorce, I saw Dad “every other weekend” for five years, off and on. (I just recently discovered a country song called “Every Other Weekend” - dammit, I hate that phrase!)
I’m not sure how consistent visitation actually was; I'm pretty sure there was a period of time when I didn't see him because - supposedly - he was traveling for work. Mom thinks he was in prison then; she could just be making this up, another part of her paranoid brain, or it could be true. I don't know who to trust, how much of her memory of that was her paranoia talking. I'm afraid to ask Dad for information, because he'll tell me not to drag myself down thinking about it, or something.
For a while visitation was supervised, so Grandpa had to come when Dad picked me up; I think because Dad had an anger management problem. There was a restraining order, too; I know this because I've looked up their court records. There's nothing quite like looking up your parents' court records online because you can't trust either of them to give you the truth. I vaguely remember waiting for Dad and him not showing up, especially for those Wednesday-night visitations, tennis games, gymnastics.
Then Mom and I moved to California when I was almost twelve. I flew back by myself to visit Daddy for my twelfth birthday. I guess Mom just ignored the court order that if the custodial parent moved out of state, she would have to send “the child” (aka me) to spend two weeks every summer with the non-custodial parent.
I talked to Dad generally every weekend for a while, except when one of them, generally Mom, didn't want to pay phone bills anymore. We emailed very irregularly, depending upon whether or not Mom had decided she wanted to pay for Internet. If I hadn't gone to college back on the East Coast, who knows when I would've seen Daddy again? Because that was the next time I saw him, during my freshman year of college.
I've been doing some reading about divorce; evidently a lot of kids seem fine until they hit college years, and then they realize they're wounded. I've realized that, and I don't like it. I want my nonchalant "I'm fine" attitude back. I don't want to admit I have scars. Nobody does.
I don't know what to do now. I don't want to dwell on it - moping isn't my style, and I despise self-pity - but I know I need to work through a lot of stuff. I just graduated college; my goals right now are to find a job and to keep my head above water while learning as much as I can about how to heal from my parents' divorce. I don't want to admit that I need healing; I don't want to admit I have a problem, but I do. Low self-esteem? Put my picture next to the dictionary definition.
Dad doesn't call when he says he will; I accepted that as "normal" until recently. After cutting Mom out of my life, I needed Dad so much more. Four times within two weeks he said he'd call and never did. Six months ago, I would've attributed it to old age (the man's 64), but now it's bothering the living daylights out of me.
I know I need to figure out how to communicate with him, but I’m a terrible communicator, especially over the phone. I’m afraid to tell him that I’m just now admitting that the divorce wounded me, because I don’t want him to bash Mom (although some of what he says is true). But the juvenile attitudes the both of them have about each other drive me crazy. I feel like I’m the adult, and they’re the children; they’re in their 50’s and 60’s, and I’m freakin’ 23, thank you very much!
I don't know what to do, Band. I'm moving soon in the hopes of finding a job. I'm terrified of this move because I have no one to depend on to give me consistent advice. The people I depended on in college are busy professors and don't have time for me; at least they haven't assured me otherwise when I've brought it up. Neither of my parents are dependable, and just living with that fact on a daily basis is shaking me up way too much. I don't want to burden my friends with all this, and I'm kind of afraid they'll tell me I've been thinking too much.
Another reason I need a job: to stop the freaking out and constant thinking.
I could try to establish some sort of communication with Dad, but that means taking a risk. And risks scare me. I don’t want to get hurt again. It was hard enough admitting that Mom’s mentally ill and cutting off all contact with her; and now I’m fighting tooth and nail against admitting that growing up without Dad around might possibly, maybe slightly, have left me with some problems.
We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser. Letters where actual contact is just not possible for whatever reason.
Do you have a letter you'd like to send but can't? If so, send it to us.
Please, The Band, keep in mind the mission of Band Back Together and the Guidelines for Submissions are very clear in that we are not a rant site - the purpose of our posts and our mission is to be able to share our stories in a safe manner while encouraging healing.
Hello Ex #1. You were wonderful. You were kind, thoughtful, loving, attentive. You were there for me through a very rough time when my parents were divorcing. You were loved by all of my family. You were an amazing first boyfriend and I loved you with all my heart. Thank you for being such a wonderful first.
Hello Ex #2. You were revenge on my parents for splitting up and "ruining everything". You were MANY years older than me. You were fun because you provided everything I needed to escape my shitty teenage reality. I drank and did drugs. You became a heroin addict. I became pregnant. I made an incredibly difficult decision to abort and then a really smart decision to leave you. Please stop trying to "friend" me on Facebook. I am never going to accept the request. You are in the past. Stay there.
Hello Ex #3. You were my self-punishment for the abortion. You were incredibly gorgeous and charming. Then you weren't. You picked fights over everything. I could never give you enough of my time and energy. I let you isolate me from my friends and family. I hated myself. You hit me. I only ended it because my friend would have killed me (figuratively speaking) if I went back to you. After all, she got a black eye when she stepped in front of me to protect me from your swing. You suck. I was stupid.
Hello Ex #4. You were very charming, sweet and funny. We had so much in common. Eventually I moved in with you. Then you stopped working. I supported us (and your friend) for two years. I kept giving you chance after chance to make something of yourself. How could I leave you high and dry? You had no job. You'd be kicked out of the apartment. Where would you go? What the hell was I thinking? When I finally left, I did it all wrong, but you were just fine. You found someone else to take care of you. I pity her. I was proud of me for thinking more of myself and wanting more for myself than what you were giving.
Hello Husband. It took these exes and so many more for me to grow up and learn self-respect; to learn how to love someone else correctly. And to learn to be loved the right way. Yes, sometimes we argue, but you know what? Those arguments are healthy. It took me a lot of years to learn how to argue healthily. We communicate, we share our feelings and our points (sometimes loudly, but always respectfully), we compromise where it's appropriate and give in sometimes, too. We work together to make us work. You always think of me, my needs and how things will affect me before you make decisions. I've learned to do that, too. You love me so much. I love you equally. We have a beautiful life and three beautiful girls. We have had some REALLY hard times in the nince years we've been married. But we work through them together and we are stronger for it. My love for you grows and my respect for you grows. You have my trust.
Thank you for growing with me.
This month, Band Back Together is bringing light to teens - an often-forgotten part of the population.
Are you a teen struggling with mental health issues?
Are you a parent of a teen who has struggled with any type of mental health issue?
Please, share with us your stories.
My son is 17 years old. The same age I was when I had him.
Being pregnant at 17, meant I had to grow up fast. I had a full-time job, continued schooling, while caring for my son. I was still living at home, but I supported the two of us. His biological father died before my son's birth, but he'd already told me he wanted nothing to do with the baby so I was a single mom right out of the gate.
My son was always mischievous, he got into some trouble in middle school. His behavior really escalated in high school. He will be a senior this year; a senior with a third of the credits he needs to graduate. He's skipped so much school that it will be almost impossible for him to catch up.
I've tried hard to do right by my kids - my son and my two daughters.
I remarried six years ago after my first marriage ended. My first marriage was not ideal; it was a rough time in my life. After much struggling I moved on and met a wonderful man.
When my ex decided to move in a new girlfriend after only weeks of separation, my kids struggled. My son, the kid not genetically related to my ex, was told by the girlfriend that he was "not welcome there."
My ex was the only dad he knew, and he was not wanted there. He then began to act out. First, it was little things, then fighting, followed by insubordination at school and home.
After the divorce, I got a good job, married a good man, and went back to college - all for my kids - to give them a better life. I wanted to show them that it's never too late to go back to school, to do something with your life; to change your circumstances.
We bought a nice home in a small, quiet town with a good school district. We did things as a family, even if it was just playing tag outside in the dark.
Apparently, it was not enough.
Last year, my son attacked both my husband and I. We were tired of him breaking things we bought for him. He tried to throw an iPod across the house in a fit of rage and when we tried to take it away, he shoved me into a counter, bruising my hand, then he tackled my husband.
We called 911. He was arrested. He didn't serve time in juvenile detention; instead he got a year on probation, some community service and a fine. Things got better after that - we started family counseling.
That is, until he learned that his probation was ending. When he learned of this, his behaviors at school began anew. He missed school, failed classes, and got into fights.
Last month, he assaulted another kid by throwing a water bottle at him. We've been told that the kid had x-rays, that I may be held responsible for the medical fees. Today, we went to court for the charges - my son was charged with assault in the fourth degree.
It was very hard to control my emotions while I sat there, watching his face, talking to the judge. He was sentenced to only two days in juvenile detention.
Watching my child; the child I had such high hopes for at birth, taken away in handcuffs was beyond hard. I cried all the way home.
What I've learned is this: don't let other people treat your kids like crap. Stop your children before it's too late; before they're hauled off in cuffs. Get them the help they need.
Remember that sometimes even if you're not hurting your child, you need to be there for them when they are hurting.
My Beautiful, Wonderful Daughters,
I love you more than you can ever imagine. You are my light, my joy, and you've inherited all the best things about me.
I am so, so sorry for what is about to happen today. It breaks my heart to think about it, and more than anything I want to save you from this pain, the confusion, and turmoil that you are about to go through. Today, Daddy and I are going to tell you that we are separating.
If you remember nothing else about today, remember this: Daddy and I love you, both of you, more than anything else on earth, no matter what. None of this is your fault. Never let anyone tell you differently.
Like our friends, you are going to be surprised by this. What's happened between me and Daddy is grown up stuff between us. I know you've seen us arguing a few times, but I think that we've been pretty good about keeping that away from you. No, we aren't going to go into details, not now, probably not ever. That's grown up stuff that I don't want you to worry about. Just know that although it hurts now, it's the right thing for us to do. Just like Grandma and Grandpa, we've decided that it is better for us to not be married anymore.
What is most important for both Daddy and I is to make sure that both of you are happy and healthy, and we're both committed to making sure that happens. You probably won't ever see us argue about what we think is right for you. In that, we have been and will always be a team. Even though we won't live together anymore, that won't change. We love you and will always work together to do what's right for both of you.
Things will be a little hectic for a while as we sell this house and move into something smaller that Mommy can afford. That new house will be YOUR house, and Mommy and Daddy will share it. It will be like Mommy's on a business trip part of every week when I'm not with you, and vice versa when Daddy's not there. We're committed to giving you a loving, stable home, and this arrangement is part of that.
I can't say this enough, and I'm going to repeat it everyday so that you know it for true: I love you with all my heart. Daddy loves you with all his heart. No matter what, that will never change.
I'm here for you. Daddy's here for you. We love you.
"How did you meet your husband?"
"We used to work together."
I don't tell them he used to be my boss. Or that we were both married.
Because then I have to explain. Explain that his ex-wife is a little nutty. Like hitting, screaming, throwing food nutty. Explain that I was tired of having what should have been simple conversations with my ex-husband, which ended with me standing in front of a recently slammed door thinking, "What in the HELL just happened?"
Most of all I feel like I should explain that the affair doesn't define who I am.
I want them to know that I am ashamed of how this started. That I KNOW we should have ended our marriages first. That I understand the betrayal, the pain, the disastrous aftermath that occurs from an affair. I understand it because I lived it. I watched my ex-husband's face as I came clean one Monday night. I saw the devastation on his face. Nothing in my life has ever come close to the soul-crushing pain I felt as I drove away from our house that night, my two small children asleep in the back seat. Knowing that I had made this decision. That all of this was no one's fault but my own.
But I also want them to know that years later, I know that where I am now is where I'm meant to be. My children are flourishing. No longer being forced to live with two miserably depressed parents has allowed them to blossom. I want to tell them how, after a few rocky months, that my children's father and I share true joint custody and do so in a manner we're both very proud of. That he and I are better friends now than we ever were before. I want them to know that my "new" husband and I support one another and love one another in a way that I never dreamed possible.
Falling in love with a married man is by far the most morally corrupt thing I've ever done. But it doesn't define me. The '"me" I am NOW.
"We used to work together."
That's all I say. And I let them tell us what a beautiful family we have and how they can see how much we love one another. Because if I tell them the whole truth, then I have to explain.
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