“It’s not my fault you got a divorce!”
This statement by my 13 year old daughter last night struck me pretty hard. More than six years after our divorce – half her life – we are all still dealing with the consequences.
They all blame me for the divorce – my ex, his wife, both my kids. I was the one who wanted a divorce and so it is my fault. It will always be my fault. Even if he’s happier now (I don’t know that he is), I am still to blame.
Repeatedly since he received the divorce papers their dad has retaliated by telling them his view of what happened, blaming me. Maybe retaliated is too strong a word…no, I do believe that every time he talks to them about it his intention is to hurt me. What he does is hurt them and I am helpless to stop it.
They were 6 and 7 when this started, too young to understand the complexities of adult relationships. Even now that they’re 12 and 13 I don’t want to tell them. I don’t want to say bad things to them about their dad. I don’t want them to know the person either of us was back then. I just want us to all be happy now.
The girls remember happier days, times when we were all together in one house. They don’t know how over time his insults masked as “jokes” ate away at my self-esteem. They never heard his criticism if the house wasn’t clean when he returned from being away – even when the things not put away were his belongings that he didn’t pick up when he left. They don’t know how he blocked every attempt I made at doing something I was passionate about. They don’t understand that I wasn’t even allowed to read when he was home, because reading isn’t something he enjoys. They don’t know what it was like to have to ask permission to do the things I wanted to do, like a teenager who is afraid of being grounded.
I don’t know how our relationship got to that point. How did I become someone who was so intimidated that I completely stopped trying? I know I share the blame in the failure of our marriage but at this point does it matter who was at fault? This is where we ended up.
I know how difficult divorce is on children. I really do feel for them but I could not be the person I need to be in that relationship. As I learned, this isn’t just a selfish desire to be happy. I need to be a role model for my girls and I wasn’t. I would never want them to stay in a relationship like the one I was in. I want them to know they deserve better.
But I don’t want to tell them what they were too young to see. I don’t want them to know how things were, how I let them be.
Could we have fixed it? Maybe. If I had been stronger could I have stood up to him and told him life should be different? Could I have made him understand? Could he have changed?
These are questions we will never have answered. I wasn’t that person, and I couldn’t become that person in that relationship.
Our divorce is difficult on the girls; it will probably always be this way. It’s hard for them to live at two different houses. It’s worse because their schedule with him changes all the time. It would be better if they were consistently at one house on school nights. I understand the challenges they face but our situation isn’t easy. Their dad is a pilot and isn’t here all the time. If they stayed with me on school nights they would almost never see him because he’s typically only home during the week. And he’s not here for them to stay with him every school night.
This is just how it is.
Our divorce has been the most defining moment in all our lives, even more than our marriage. I am a better person, able to live life according to my values. He has a new family with someone who shares his values which are drastically different from mine. We should all be happy. It’s time to stop struggling.