Collateral damage – what happens after the divorce

I am divorced. It is not something I like to talk about. In fact in my mind that entire marriage never happened. The shame and embarrassment of that marriage still haunts me but for the sake of this post I will tell you a bit about it.

I met J when I was 23, we had only known each other for a few weeks when we decided to get married. Shortly after that I found out I was pregnant. It felt so surreal, like I was living in some romance novel. Then reality hit. I got to know who he really was and I wasn’t so sure that this marriage thing was a good idea but I was young and I thought I was in love and that we could over come whatever problems we had. Oh the naiveté of youth.

The day of the wedding I knew in my gut it wasn’t the right thing to do but I did it any way. On the way to the church my mom kept saying “you know you don’t have to do this”. I hate to admit it but she was right.

A year and a half after we met it was over. I asked him to move out. It was actually over long before that but I couldn’t bring myself to end it. I was so afraid of being alone. I didn’t want to be a struggling single mother. Taking that step to end my marriage was the scariest thing I have ever done but it was also one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My sweet Sofie was only ten months old when her father and I split up. She is obviously too young to remember her father and I ever living together. I believed that if I ended things early with her father then she would be spared a life of seeing her parents fight and growing to hate each other. I didn’t take into consideration how hard her life would be going back and forth between houses, how she would feel torn between her parents and how much hurt she would feel.

I would do anything to take away her pain

Any parent that is divorced with children knows that when your child leaves to go to the other parents house you feel totally crushed. Like a part of your heart is missing until they come back. I foolishly didn’t realise that children feel the same way.

Sofie has started a blog called thegirlwith2houses. It’s about how to deal with divorce from a 10 year olds perspective. Words can not begin to express how proud I am of her for starting this. She has gotten so much positive feedback. Parents have written saying that she has enabled them to start a dialogue with their children about how they are feeling. Others have commented on how brave she is to tackle such a difficult subject.

I asked Sofie why she wanted to start her blog. She said “because parents always think that the kids are okay with going back and forth, they think it is normal but it’s not and we are not okay.” Her words were so powerful that it brought me to tears.

She is so right. The kids are not okay.

Adults tend to think that kids adapt easily, they can just go with the flow, they are resilient.

They don’t adapt, they cope.

My parents split up when I was 16. It was hard but at least I understood what was happening and why. Most children don’t have that understanding. They don’t know why their family is being ripped apart. I have always tried to be as open and honest with Sofie about why her dad and I split up. She doesn’t know the whole truth, mainly I just tell her that I didn’t love her dad anymore, and that it wasn’t a healthy relationship. She knows we are not friends. She is fully aware that for the most part we can get along but that it is all superficial.  Of course she keeps asking questions and wants the full story of our break up. Maybe one day I will tell her but for now it is best that she only knows the bare minimum.

When she began her blog it opened my eyes to the internal struggle that she feels on a daily basis. She is tired of going back and forth. She is tired of having to be two different people and adjusting to two sets of rules. She is more than a little sick of how her dad and I fight over what we think is best for her.  I thought because Sofie seemed so happy on the outside that she was okay with her current living situation and that she had come to terms with the divorce. I could not have been more wrong. This will be an ongoing issue. She will always have questions and she will always feel torn but maybe we as parents can lessen the pain that our children feel if we have an open dialogue with them about their feelings. Let’s stop assuming that because they have a smile on their face that there isn’t sadness on the inside.

Divorce hurts everyone. It is never a joy to end a marriage even if it is best for everyone involved. As the person going through the divorce you can feel bitter, happy, full of shame or a variety of other emotions. We just need to remember that the little people in our lives are the collateral damage of a divorce. They are fought over through out the divorce proceedings and for a long time after that, and although we have our kids best interests at heart they end up being the ones that get hurt the most.

I can’t take away the confusion and pain that Sofie feels but I do know that I can be there to support her as she explores her feelings and comes to terms with everything that has gone on in her life. I hope that her blog helps her and other children to know that they are not alone and I hope that by writing this post other parents know that they are part of a large community of divorced parents and that we are all struggling to do the best we can to support our children.

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