To Children Of Divorce: You Are Not The Victims Of Your Parents' Failure

by Alexandra Strickler

As many of us are already aware, divorce really isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. Half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the percentages grow with second and third marriages.

More interesting than the actual statistics are the effects that divorce can have when children are involved. Many people say children are often victims of the conflicts that arise when their parents get divorced.

While the percentages of divorced couples that have children ranks just a bit lower than that of childless marriages, the numbers are still pretty significant.

And if we go along with this notion that children are victims of their parents' divorce, then we’re saying that nearly half our country’s population is being victimized.

Let’s face it: We all face any number of our own personal struggles as we go about our daily lives, without taking our parents’ influences into account.

So, I want to take a stand on this issue and say, as a “victim” of divorce, I feel anything but victimized.

My parents got divorced when I was about 7 years old. Thirteen years later, I would never say that their divorce defines me as an individual. Rather, it is one of the many circumstances of my life that has lent itself to shaping who I am today, and whom I am still growing to become.

Believe me, there were some tough times growing up with my parents’ divorce looming in the background of everything. I was just old enough to start formulating authentic memories of my childhood, but I was also, quite obviously, too young to really understand what was going on.

Looking back, however, I am honestly thankful for having gone through such an experience. The lessons I learned are invaluable, and they were almost necessary in molding who I am today.

I learned early on about the ugly side of love.

In one aspect, as I now know my parents very well as individual people, I can confidently say that their divorce was for the best. I love them both, and they’re wonderful people; yet, they still possess their own flaws, as we all do.

It is simply clear to me that, as the saying goes, they were not meant to be together. I used to wonder, then, if my future love life was fated for the same outcome.

As difficult as it is to combat these pessimistic thoughts, try to remember just how different you are from your parents in all your other qualities. For instance, your patience is not nearly as short as your dad’s, or maybe you’re way more organized than your mom will ever be.

Just because we come from our parents does not make us carbon copies of them. We have every capability of forming our own identities.

I learned that families come in all shapes and sizes.

As a child, of course, it was heartbreaking to see first-hand that the nuclear family I learned about in school was just not applicable to my life. We weren’t a happy family sitting around the table every night for dinner.

My early memories of my family dynamic could best be described as patched, or spotty, though not in the sense of the memories themselves, but rather, in the actual identity of “my family.”

Rather than thinking of us all as a holistic entity, I used to and still currently think of my family as being comprised of individual units: my mom, my dad, me and my two brothers. And you know what? I love the sh*t out of them all the same.

And isn’t that really just a prep for the future? One of my brothers moved to England a few years ago. My dad splits his time between Jersey, Washington, DC, and NYC. My mom and my stepdad may very well be moving down south to retire sometime in the next several years. And who knows where I’ll end up? I have no idea.

But thankfully, just about everything in my life thus far has led up to this very fundamental challenge we all face as we get older: keeping in touch with our loved ones. I’d like to think I have a leg up on those suckers whose parents actually didn’t hate each other growing up.

I learned about the right (and the wrong) ways to handle conflict.

Perhaps my natural personality is predisposed to be this way, but I am a notoriously passive person. It really takes a lot to get me so heated about something to the point of verbal or physical fighting.

Like many families that went through divorce, I witnessed some pretty hardcore fights go down between my parents. Tensions were often brimming beneath the surface of everything, and all it would take is the two of them seeing each other when one came to pick me up to set off a fight.

I would be sitting in the backseat of one of my mom's or dad's car; the other parent would stand in the middle of the street screaming into the window about who-even-knows-what.

Let me tell you, when you spend your childhood witnessing fights that almost always go unresolved, you start to conjure up scenarios in which the fights could have gone better. Maybe I was a weird kid (alright, I was definitely a weird kid), but this would be the substance of my daydreams.

I would think of ways my parents’ fights might have ended differently in a more perfect, alternate reality. When I was young, those daydreams would often end in some completely unrealistic, rekindled declaration of love between my parents. Then, we’d all go out for ice cream and a movie like one big, happy family.

Of course, as I got older, I realized how silly those fantasies were, but started to take my parents’ arguments into account when I began to encounter my own relationships, both romantic and platonic.

Believe me, nothing truly screams, “Don’t end up like your parents” better than remembering the many ridiculous times they fought over the logistics of driving us kids back and forth between their two houses.

I learned not to be a victim.

...But it took me quite a while to get to that point.

As I grew up and entered my tweenie-bopper years (you know, when being emo was the trend), I embodied the very typical drama queen. I had the overly emotional persona that is all-too-common among 13-year-old girls who can’t deal with their raging hormones and mosquito-bite boobs.

Life is rough in middle school, man, and being a child of divorce did not make any of that easier.

I honestly thought being a victim of at-home struggles was different, edgy or just cool. It meant I had a tough exterior (when in reality, I was softer than light bulb packaging).

Thankfully, I eventually awoke from my emo coma around my high school years, and it occurred to me that being a victim wasn’t all that cool. Wallowing in self-pity and “enjoying” misery as my company wasn’t f*cking cool.

You know what’s way cooler than that? Rising above the struggles you’ve encountered in life, and being a better person because of them. What's cool is taking everything in stride and only extrapolating from it what can benefit you in the long-term.

Coming from a family of divorce has its hardships, but it doesn’t solidify your label as a victim, and the same goes for any traumatic experiences you may have in your life. Some of those experiences will undoubtedly require more time for recovery than just experiencing your parents' divorce.

Eventually, one day, it is absolutely vital for you and your wellbeing to move on. Peel off that “victim” label, light it up in flames and go live your life.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It