7 Lessons I Would Have Never Learned Without My Parents' Divorce

by Julie Thames

My parents filed for divorce a month before my 15th birthday. I spent 15 years living with a “normal” family, then suddenly it was all ripped out from underneath me.

There's no denying that the year my parents divorced was probably one of the hardest years of my life. Besides being a freshman in high school (talk about already having enough insecurities), I turned into an emotional nightmare. For the first time in my life, I cried constantly.

I cried in front of my friends whom I never cried in front of before. I cried in the middle of basketball games because I was frustrated. I cried in the shower because I was supposed to be strong, and I wasn't supposed to be crying.

I grew up with a family that's medicated for depression, anger, bipolar disorder and anxiety. I was never the sad one, the one who freaked out or the emotionally unstable one.

I've known how to handle full-fledged panic attacks, mood swings, anger and depression my entire life. But none of this prepared me for how much my parents' divorce would hurt me. I always knew how to handle everyone else's emotions, but for the first time, I had to learn how to handle my own.

After their divorce, I was pissed at my parents. At times, I despised them. I disrespected them, and I blamed them for my own trust and relationship issues. I found myself in bad situations. I stayed in relationships I shouldn't have stayed in just because I was trying to prove that two people could make things work, regardless of the situation.

Like many kids who come from divorced parents, I was confused. Even though I was old enough to make my own decisions, no one asked for my opinion. It was always “you're going to live here,” and “you're going to do this.” For the first time, I felt like I didn't like or trust either of my parents.

Though I had some really great times in high school, there was always a dark cloud that lingered over me. It wasn't until I graduated and was able to move away from the situation that I felt any release.

It's been a very slow process, but I've learned how to look on the bright side of the situation. It's taken me seven years, but I finally see some light at the end of the very dark tunnel I've been living in.

Yes, the holidays will always be stressful. Yes, it will always be annoying to have to divide my “vacation” time between my two parents, but it's not all bad.

Here's what my parents' divorce taught me:

1. To Love My Parents As Individuals

My parents are two completely different people. Growing up, I tended to view them as one. It was always “my mom and dad.” Anytime we traveled, we traveled as a family and we were all together. I never spent much alone time with either of my parents because they were usually together. Spending time alone with them has taught me a lot more about them as individuals than it did when they were together.

I've learned through my own experience that sometimes in relationships, our significant other can mask certain traits in our personalities. That's not always a bad thing, but our true personalities tend to come out when we're alone. In a way, being around them separately has given me the opportunity to meet who my parents were before they were together.

2. To Truly Value Family And Friends

Nothing teaches you the value of family more than watching your family completely fall apart. For 15 years I lived with my family under one roof. When that disappeared, I had to learn that my family was still a family, even though we weren't all living together. My parents' divorce taught me to value my relationships.

It brought my sister and I closer. And for the first time, we started treating each other as adults and became friends instead of just siblings. I spent more time with my grandparents because I realized that, at any moment, they too, could be gone. And, I spent more time with my friends because I learned pretty quickly who my real friends were, and which ones of them were truly there for me when I needed them.

3. To Never Stay In A Bad Situation

When my parents first divorced, I was pissed that they couldn't work out their personal problems and that they had to get my sister and I involved. But now that I'm older and I've learned more about life and relationships, I actually respect my parents' decision.

They had been married for almost 20 years, and instead of continuing to stay stuck in a bad situation, they got out of it. I realize now how much courage that took, and that they easily could've kept pretending everything was fine and stayed together.

I've learned that would've made things at home even worse. Living in a house with parents who were pretending they were happy would've been 10 times worse than learning to live in two separate houses.

4. You Can Be Friends With Your Exes

It took my parents years before they willingly interacted with one another. At my high school graduation, I had to beg them to both be in the same picture with me. But now, seven years later, they can go to dinner with me when I come home to visit.

They can interact with each other on friendly terms. It doesn't mean they're best friends again, but they've learned how to be polite and respectful with one another.

5. To Not Be Selfish

For a long time, I was really selfish about my parents' divorce. I was always focusing on how their divorce effected me. As my parents started seeing other people, I tried to remain calm and respectful, but I'd be screaming inside. Each time one of their new relationships didn't work out, I was secretly happy.

I was selfishly happy because all I thought about was how their dating life negatively effected my life. Over time, however, I realized I wasn't the only one hurting. My parents were hurt; my sister was hurt. I learned I needed to stop focusing on myself.

6. My Parents' Failure Doesn't Determine My Success

As a child of divorced parents, I've always assumed I was doomed. It's always been easier to think, “I'm a crazy person. I don't trust anyone. My parents' marriage didn't work out, so why would mine?,” than it's been to actually put in effort to make a relationship work.

I've always wanted attention and commitment, but as soon as a guy commits to me, I run. I have a tendency to push people away and keep a safe distance.

My skin is thick, and my pride is shot. I hate talking about feelings, the words "I love you" and the idea of marriage. I'm constantly having to remind myself that just because I've never been around healthy, happy relationships, doesn't mean I don't deserve to be in one. In the grand scheme of things, my parents' failure doesn't determine my success.

7. Things Always Work Out

There were times I thought my entire world had ended, that my life was over and everything was ruined. Though my life will forever be effected by this, I've learned that things always work out. My parents will never be perfect and I will never be perfect, but life will always find a way to work itself out.