On Having Divorced Parents

My parents divorced about 9 years ago, when I was 8 and my sister was 11. We were told separately: me in a graveyard by my dad and my sister was told by my mum at home. I cried, asked where mum was going to live and then my dad got me a recorder as a present to cheer me up. I have no idea what my mum said to my sister but because I was 8, I didn’t really get it and just knew my mum was moving out: I didn’t know if I would go with her and for some reason, I thought I would never see her again.

I don’t remember much from that time. I don’t remember the arguments that came before their divorce – I knew there were some; I remember vaguely some shouting . It didn’t really come as a surprise to me, both then and now: my mum hadn’t lived full-time in the house since I was 6 because she’d been working abroad. Then again, I couldn’t tell you much about how I’d felt because I don’t remember it: I wish I did sometimes. I know I was sad, that there was a battle for custody and that they got joint custody of both me and my sister. Mum got a rental house and then a year later, got a proper one.

I’m lucky: my parents get on. They don’t fight; they don’t hate each other; they aren’t awkward around each other. My dad remarried and my mum now has a steady boyfriend and it’s all good from that standpoint. I don’t dislike either of them and because I don’t remember them screaming at each other, I don’t have a reason to. It’s not all like that and the divorce – however “amicable” I thought it was at the time – has affected me in ways I only realised recently because before, I thought that absolutely everything was fine.

There was one thing I’ll distinctly remember for a long time and that was when my mum kicked our bin in. Being carried by my dad, I had no idea what was happening because this was after they’d split. She got so angry: I only remember me yelling at her in my 8-year-old way. We had to replace that bin, although it wasn’t for a while and when people came in, we didn’t comment on the dent. I don’t blame my mum because her and my dad were having a massive row but when I think about it, it’s kind of fucked up and the worst part is that it didn’t phase me and I thought it was normal to do that.

As much as my parents get on, they live in two separate houses. That means I switch between them and not on a regular schedule either: at the time of organisation, I got so panicked when a week at a time at each house was suggested that this idea was scrapped. We never did implement it: I go to each house when I feel like it. Or, I don’t. I wish it was that damn simple because I’m so grateful that they don’t hate each other but it just makes switching between their houses much more difficult.

When I was younger, it didn’t bother me: it was exciting. I used to joke: “I have two rooms!” and “It just means that friends can come to two houses!” – forgetting the fact that I had two good friends in primary school – but as I got older, problems started to happen in my mind concerning the switch. After discussing it a lot with my dad – who is the only one I can really talk to about this – I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to guilt.

I feel like a package. I’m at dad’s right now but that’s because my mum is with her boyfriend; it just feels like my mum thinks that going to my dad’s is a necessary evil or something. Every time she says “And you can come back to mine tomorrow!” I feel miserable inside because I’m not brave enough to tell her that actually, I’d rather stay at dad’s today. I’m terrified I’ll hurt her feelings because my sister’s at university and she’d be alone at the house.

My mum does try and she’s a good parent but sometimes I feel trapped. My mood noticeably dropped when I go to hers: I become snappy, horrible, not myself and because I feel on edge most of the time, my self-esteem plummets. Then it’s fine; I settle back in; I go to my dad’s and feel relaxed. It’s the expectation: she thinks that I’m coming to hers and when I go to dad’s? “I need a break anyway haha!” It’s like I’m being passed from one to the other. When I spend a while at dad’s, mum asked WHEN I’m coming to hers and that makes me feel worse. I don’t want to upset people.

At least I get to see them though: I should stop complaining. There are so many people out there that can’t see one or both of their parents. However, when you’re treated like some sort of object occasionally, it affects how you feel about yourself and I don’t like that. Whether it’s because of this – whether it’s the root cause or this has just increased an existing feeling – recently, I’ve not felt worth much.

A superficial thing is that clothes get misplaced from one house to the other. I’ve honestly lost a bunch of my clothes because when I transfer, I bring some but not all: they get washed, put in a place where I can’t find them and then I get so stressed. It gets to the point where my parents communicate with each other to find out where the fuck my tops have gone because “They’re not at mine,” which consequently makes me panicky because it puts pressure on me to find my clothes. It’s another thing which I don’t have independence over and I feel like crying because I really hate being told “Okay, have you packed everything?” and having to organise when to get picked up, with my mum constantly asking “Can you say this-” when I’m on the phone.

I just sometimes hate it, you know? It’s so much better than if they were still married because they’re happier but I wish I had more freedom: it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I feel guilty about upsetting my mum especially. She wants me to spend most of my time round hers: I’m going shopping with her tomorrow so she can help me buy clothes and I don’t want to go. I want to stay home, revise and actually relax without becoming angry or defensive. I hate myself when I’m like that.

Knowing that people have it worse can be comforting but it sometimes makes me feel like my problems or feelings are stupid or worthless. Then, I shut them out or block them because I feel like I don’t deserve to feel them because both my parents are nice, don’t argue any more and ine happy now. I shouldn’t feel like that but I do because I am lucky.

I know that their divorce is all in the past but I never got to talk about it when I was younger. I didn’t really realise it needed to be talked upon because it seemed pointless: everything was okay; I wasn’t bothered. I haven’t spoken to my sister about it much at all because it’s too late now but I still feel panicked when I think about how they might both be lonely if I leave.

Opening up about this has taken a huge weight off my chest. I always feel like I can’t talk about it because it happened so long ago. It’s not like it’s serious but I know that at least some of my worry and excess clinginess and paranoia is due to feeling like I have to juggle houses and being at the whim of plans I have no control over. I don’t know. Even talking about this is making me feel guilty because I know my parents love me so much but the reality is, I couldn’t have gone through this unscathed.

I want you to know that you’re not alone. Going through a divorce is so hard for parents but it’s hard for us too. Even if it happened 5 years, 10 years or however many years ago, it can still affect you. Time doesn’t dictate whether you should be “over it”: I should know; you can talk about how you feel. If you don’t feel like its worth anything, remember that it’s your mental health. It’s not easy and if you need to speak to anyone, you can: my email’s always open because I know what it’s like, especially, to not realise that a part of the reason you get so angry now and in the past is because you weren’t aware you could express your feelings of panic and isolation before.

From Elm πŸ™‚

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38 thoughts on “On Having Divorced Parents

  1. Thank you for this post. My parents are divorced and I often feel guilty oo if I spend time with one more than the other. And its even worse when relatives make me take sides and

  2. My parents divorced around the same time too (wow, to be honest, I hadn’t realize it was so much time), the difference with you is that they do not get along at all… and well, i would always stay at my mom. It is so weird, you know? I don’t remember the things you don’t remember either, but I kind of remember other situations around that same time, it is like I blocked those memories or whatever. I feel guilty or bad kinda about loving both because both of them used to talk so much about each other, badly, and since I do not remember I cannot know what is true and what isn’t… it is so hard. And it’s not fair. But hey, you don’t have to conform yourself with the idea that some people have it worse, I used to do it all the time but then I realize that we would feel guilty for LIVING if we think that way, it isn’t just an advice. Everyone goes through something that feels like the end of the world, no matter how “dumb” it may sound to others, it is important to you πŸ™‚

  3. Its so sad how more and more parents seem to be getting divorced. My parents aren’t divorced – well, actually, they were never married (but thats another story). My parents don’t live together all the time, but thats because my dad still works at our old town, so he lives at the farm house a lot, but he still comes and visits and my parents never fight or anything – they act like completely normal, “married” parent. We still go to the beach, the movies, to lunch, and out to dinner as a family. My dad just isn’t there half the time because of work. Its kinda complicated, but I can see my parents still love each other.

  4. My parent were never married but they broke up when I was vey young, maybe 3, and I still find it hard to this day because they both have children with new partners now. I absoloutley adore them all but it can be hard to keep up with everyone, if you know what I mean? Xx

  5. ahh I understand this so much. My parents divorced when I was about 10 I think? Like yours, they do get along now but because of the nature of why they divorced, whenever I talk about my dad with my mum she’s always quite defensive against him or has a rant about him and sometimes I just feel so angry at my dad for what he did – I can’t see him in the same light anymore. but then I know that it could be worse – they’re both happy now so why can’t I let it go? it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around sometimes because at the time the reaction was to cry but you never really understood anything, whereas now it all makes sense. I hope you’re okay and if you ever want to talk about it I don’t mind listening seeing as we’re in similar positions x

  6. My parents argue and fight a LOT. I remember crying to sleep almost every night and feeling like so much of a burden when I was a kid. They conceived me very late and as I’m an only kid, divorcing would mean nit being there every time and they haven’t split because of that. Despite all the problems that would come with a divorce, I wish they had gotten one and split because it’s so hard not being able to go elsewhere when I don’t want to be around for another argument. Makes it worse that they’re both unhappy because of me. I actually even told my mum in 4th grade to just get a divorce and move on, and that was when she kind of explained it to me. Now that I’m an adult, I can manage it more and totally wouldn’t mind but… Yeah. Things are pretty shitty.
    I needed this post. To see the other side and get a feel of what could have happened. I love both my parents, but I’d honestly be so damn relieved if they put themselves ahead for once. I’m afraid of telling them I’d rather they did split because they might be hurt, after all these years of compromise.

    • But the thing is, it would be better for everybody. I’m sorry things are so shit 😦 I remember when I was little my parents weren’t really loving towards each other – or at least I don’t remember them being. Even though you’re an adult, it’s going to have affected you; you can talk about it whenever to anyone: I know I’ll listen. It’s so difficult but I hope you’re okay and I’m glad this post helped. Everyone fights their own little wars xx

  7. Elm this is such a thoughtful post and I’m sorry you feel the way you do. But you can complain all you want and your feelings are definitely not stupid of worthless. They’re very valid. I’m glad you felt better after writing this down, but don’t feel guilty about writing it! Honestly if I were in your position I’d feel the same way (my parents broke up when I was 11, but I live at my mom’s and never go to my father’s, though I do see him quite regularly).

    • And for that – I’m glad you understand. It can be so tricky but we get through it πŸ™‚ I just want people to know they’re not alone. It’s the most important thing xx

  8. My parents divorced when I was still in the pushchair and it was for a reason I don’t like to talk about, but at the time I didn’t know, and therefore when I did find out what happened I felt terrible but obviously I couldn’t do anything. Being a child of Divorce is never easy but you get through it πŸ™‚

    • You do πŸ™‚ The reason must have been horrible and I’m sorry you went through it. What happens in childhood can seriously affect adult life but the best thing to do is get through it, power through everything and smile to the best of your ability xx

  9. My parents aren’t divorced but there’s been countless times that I’ve thought they were going divorce. During arguments they sometimes yell at each other that they’re sick of each other and they’re going to divorce and they always complain about each other to me and my sister. I don’t know if they ever will properly divorce but my mum always tells me that when they retire she’s going to go and travel by herself. It’s difficult sometimes but I know whatever happens they’ll still love me as they always have and I’ll love them too. Only recently I realised how much it affected me after talking to my friends about it but I hope it doesn’t affect my future relationships.
    Hope you’re doing okay! Xx

    • I doubt it will because you’ve got a good head on your shoulders πŸ™‚ I’m sorry to hear about all of it but they won’t love you any less or you them, as you know. Just remember that you CAN talk about it xx

  10. Well done for expressing your feelings which are definitely very valid and important. So sorry to hear that you have to go through this. My parents aren’t divorced or separated but a lot of my friend’s parents are and I can indeed relate to the arguments that can go on at home between parents. Just wanted to say that you are an incredibly strong person and by even writing a post about this is certainly a step in the right direction. You will get through this. And it is totally okay to want to talk/express how you feel about stuff that bothers you. I’m always here if you want to talk about anything on twitter or email 😊

    • Honestly thank you – you’re lovely and I appreciate you reading and listening so much. It’s sometimes really hard to convince myself that talking is okay: I feel as if people have it way worse or that it’s just not worth speaking about. The responses to this post have shown me that people are MORE than willing to help and listen; it’s so comforting. Thank you again and your support and contact over the last month has been amazing for me.

      • You’re very welcome!
        Ah yeah I understand, you’ll get there gradually.
        Any time πŸ™‚

  11. Thank you for expressing your feelings in the mature way you did. I got divorced and in doing so I lost my whole family. Nothing I had done in the 45 years before my divorce counted for anything. I cry every day for my children, grown up when I left and have their own family I will never get to share now. I never realised how badly it would effect them, I counted on them always being able to love me for being a good mum to them. Its very sad, I wish I had left sooner and taken my children with me xx

    • I’m so, so sorry to hear that. Remember that it’s not your fault: you did the best you could and nobody can blame you for that xx

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