By David Dennis
My parents divorced when I was 11.
It would be a cliche to say I remember it like yesterday when they told me they’d be getting divorce – because I don’t. Actually, that day is a blur in my mind other than certain moments that flip through my head like the opening montage of a cheesy reality show, when the voiceover begins, “Previously on ….” I remember the day starting when my parents told me we’d have a family meeting that night. I also remember my father taking me to the movies and buying me a video game. Then I came home for the meeting. Two of my older sisters were there, along with my parents, of course. A close family friend and moderator led the meeting.
As soon as the family friend started talking, I knew what she was going to say. I don’t remember the speech, building up to the announcement. I just remember looking around the room and everyone was looking at me, the youngest. The only child of my parents, and the only one living in the house with them. The one who sobbed and stormed out of the room when it was finally said.
I went through all of the stages: anger, confusion and even one day falling asleep in my mom’s car on the way to pick up things at the old house, waking up and convincing myself that the divorce was a bad dream. It wasn’t. My parents weren’t getting back together.
I was one of the lucky kids, though. My parents still ran a business together after their split, went to my doctors’ appointments and parent-teacher conferences together and even helped me move into my dorm room when I went to college. Still, a divorce is a divorce, and I’m still working my way through it all 16 years later. The pain from their split simply manifests itself in different ways as I get older.
As the years pass, I’ve realized that going through my parents’ divorce has colored the way I approached my own marriage. It’s been hard to break out of the fear that this could all end horribly. I’ve been married for almost three years and constantly have to train myself to love my wife without fear. I have to approach our marriage with the promise of decades together, and not with the worry that one mistake could destroy a family.
In sports, coaches are criticized for “playing not to lose” as opposed to “playing to win”. When coaches play not to lose, they approach the game thinking about ways to avoid blowing the victory. They get conservative, tight and start second-guessing themselves – usually costing their teams the game. Confident, capable coaches take risks and aren’t crippled by the fear of blowing a lead.
Read More As the child of divorced parents, I’ve had to learn to treat my own marriage with love, not fear | David Dennis | Comment is free | theguardian.com.