Turned Out All Right?
My mom denies how painful the divorce was for my brothers and I. Once we grew up, she openly mocked the statistics demonstrating poorer outcomes for children whose parents divorced, because we didn’t suffer any of the social pathologies to which we were statistically more susceptible:
• none of us ended up in jail
• all of us graduated from high school
• all of us went to college (two of us finished and even went to grad school: one became a lawyer, one became a veterinarian; the third stopped college but joined the Navy and became a nuclear technician on a fast-attack submarine)
• none of us developed a problem with drugs or alcohol
Now that we’ve all “turned out all right,” my mom continues to mock the above statistics, but what she cannot detect because it cannot be measured is the emotional pain, the psychological upheaval, and the gap in our upbringing and personal development due to the absence of our father.
There is one other “social pathology” to which children of divorce are more susceptible—one that my mom conveniently ignores: it is much more likely that our own marriages will end in divorce.
Mine already has. I’m in an interesting cohort: the first generation of kids affected by the new “no-fault” divorce laws. (My parents divorced in 1975, when I was 9). My children are in another interesting cohort: the kids of the kids of the first no-fault divorces.
I have looked at divorce “from both sides now,” and no matter how you look at it, it stinks. As I was descending the steps of the courthouse after my divorce (I was the respondent, my husband was the petitioner), my attorney, wet-behind-the-ears and unwise, said, “Congratulations. He’s out of your life forever.” I just shook my head and said to him, “If only that were true.” Earlier in the divorce proceedings, an older attorney at the firm had spoken more wisely: “In a way, divorce is almost worse than death, because the relationship ends badly and then you still have to deal with the person as an adversary, at least until all the children grow up. And even then, sometimes the conflict doesn’t end.”
That is my experience exactly. People get divorced because they think it will solve all their problems. In reality, all it does is exchange one terrible set of problems for a completely different but equally terrible set of problems. What a sad inheritance to pass on to one’s children. I'm 46 years old, my kids are 21, 20, and 16, and we're all still feeling it.