Hi, my name is Steven and I am NOT a victim of divorce. But the actions of a falling out of my parents HAS had an effect on me. My dad is now divorcing his second wife. What does this have to do with me? How does this pertain to my marriage? Why should I even be concerned? Isn’t a son to leave his father and go his own way? I care because I’m tired of the media, internet and the lack of examples of ordinalry married couples who stick by each other no matter what happens. (There is more details about this here)
I grew up wanting to get away from my dad. I felt that he was overbearing, hurtful, and not such a great guy. I picked that up not only from how he acted, but I became for my mom a sounding board. I remember her telling me how she was unhappy, how dad was holding her back, not being supportive. In my teen years,I had a fantasy that George wasn’t my dad, but some kind of alien that had taken the form of my dad. I hated him because of how he treated my mother. There were times though that I felt that my mom manipulated me into pushing my dad away. I ended up pushing them both away for a time. My parents divorced after I graduated High School. There was this idea that it would be better to do it then, staying together “for the kids”. I’m going to tell you right now that if you are staying together just for the kids, you are entering into a world of deciet, and lies.
I know my parents attempted to reconsile their differences. The last ditch effort was a family trip that we took the weekend after I graduated High School. I remember that one well. Car trip to Gold Beach OR. Jet boat ride up the Snake River. I was treated like a prince! Dad, who never really had deep conversations with me, wanted to know what I saw myself doing now that I was out of High School and seemed very interested in me. My mom was very quiet. I was totally oblivious to what was about to happen. We got back from the trip and what seemed to be only a few days later, my dad had moved out.
Looking back, I KNEW that my parents didn’t want to work at becoming one with each other. I hated both of them for staying in a relationship that wasn’t working. I grew even more hatred towards my dad. This didn’t help with my self esteem. I was still living with my mom and grandmother, Grams for short, and I ended up hiding in the basement a lot. I never turned to drugs or alcohol but I was very tempted to. I went through my mind and kept thinking , “What did I do wrong? How could I have helped them stay together? Is this MY fault? Did I MAKE them get a divorce just by wishing my dad wasn’t around?”
That’s when I realized that I loved my dad. Marriage is not supposed to be rejected. NO one is supposed to be rejected. I felt that my dad had rejected me too. He said that he only divorced my mom, not me. To a kid who wanted his parents to be perfect that comment did more damage to my soul than being spanked by my dad for telling him to “Fuck off”. It would take me nearly 20 years before I could tell my dad that I love him.
Guys, we need to be able to tell our dads that we love them. Even when they give up hope. Even when they see no other option. And especially when they make mistakes. Our older men need their sons to say that they love them. And we need to not fear what people think of that. I know that once I learned that men don’t “love each other as a man loves a woman” and I learned that homosexuality was defined as two men who love each other, I found that I couldn’t say to my dad “I love you” without it feeling strange. I have since learned that this idea is foolish and love doesn’t work that way in a father/son relationship built on unconditional love. I am not gay but have had friends who are. They helped me to understand that my limited definition of that culture was flawed. I had a strange definition then of what love is. I know now that “love” is not sex, or just an emotional reaction, but as a young man who was told that love is only between a man and a woman, it was very confusing to hear that God, who I saw as male, loves me. It has taken me many years to understand what love in the form of Agape is between men. I feel that this is not being taught and even a bit feared by the male half of the USA. There is fear in telling another guy I love you. Jesus said to his male disciples “Love one another as I have loved you”. I had to learn what Jesus means by that. I’m still working that out.
I have started to see my dad as loved child of God. I see him now as a person who is not just part of my DNA, but as a person who is in need of seeing unconditional love. I see a man who has put conditions on himself, and doesn’t really know HOW to love as God does. I believe that you are never really divorced from a person. You can separate but you will still think of that person from time to time. Love that binds the hearts is a gift from God. I find this to be true in my own marriage. And with my parents. I may have hated them and held a grudge for too many years, but I’m IN love with them again. I do not want them hurt or to stay in a relationship that really wasn’t built on God’s love to begin with.
My hope here is to illiminate some of the stigma and hurt that children, even as adult , feels when divorce is seen as the final option for a couple. My hope for you, the reader, can understand that your feelings about what happened between your parents if they divorced are real. NO one wants to see a divorce happen. It’s not your fault that your parents split. This is not always a comforting phrase, but it’s true.
I want to make one more thing clear. Marriage is NOT an institution. It is NOT a social contract. It is LIFE. Most of all, Marriage is NOT to be idolized. When the goal is to be married because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do and that it’s more important than God, it’s become an idol and must be destroyed, reformed and started over. If you think that marriage is the happily ever after promised by fairy tales, don’t get married and that will help make the divorce rate go down. Marriage is not for the timid. A good marriage I find to be like a well tuned piano. All the notes play in beautiful harmonies that even the the minor chords sound beautiful. If the strings are not at the right tension then it’s out of tune and hard to listen to. At that point there needs to be a person who is good at retuning who needs to come in and adjust it. Marriage should have a good tension to it.
Lets start with what I consider one of the biggest problems that leads married couples towards divorce:
Now if you haven’t grown up with parents who argue and fight from time to time about things, you are really, REALLY lucky. If you lived with parents who were like Mike and Carol Brady, DAMN you were lucky. That fantasy is what I wanted as a kid. I never saw the parents in those 70s and 80s family sit coms EVER blow up at each other. Oh there were a few progressive shows like Family Ties which had a few, but even those fights were resolved and in the shows I watched never ended in a divorce unless you were a neighbor. Married people on TV were in love with each other and somehow in those 30 mins could solve their problems. Sometimes Hollywood writers DO get a good vision.
I lived with yelling behind closed doors, and my grandmother constantly doing what she could to keep me oblibious to these fights. ( This is where either books and my headphones hooked up to my cassette player came into play or Grams would see if there was something on TV appropriate for me to watch. The other option was outside to play.) My parent’s room was across the hall from ours and I could hear every word and the two of them never SEEMED to pay any compliments, or words of support. I don’t ever remember hearing them say “I love you.” Yes, your read that right. I don’t ever remember hearing them say to each other “I love you.”
By my sophmore year of High School, I saw that my dad would spend more time in his man cave in the basement after coming home from his job as principal of a local middle school. He took the job because he had a family to support, even though his passion was to teach science. There were times I wish he had stayed doing that job, but I know he really wanted to be able to move out of his mother-in-law’s house. My dad would sit down in the basement man cave, watch sports, take care of his school homework at a desk that I wasn’t supposed to ever disturb and hide from the family. I think he was trying to avoid my mom so he wouldn’t have to fight. I don’t think they really knew how to argue fairly.
I remember my parents biggest arguments were about money. You can search the internet and find that the number one reason that is quoted for a divorce is money. It seems there is never enough. That’s part of the story I get from my dad’s point of view. I know that my dad wanted to buy a house for our family, so we wouldn’t have to live with Grandma. I know it disappointed him when that didn’t happen.
As a child and teen I really hated the yelling and screaming. I was unable to feel that it was safe to bring friends over to the house to play. I was also very embarassed by it all. I thought that my family was screwed up. I never saw my friends parents fighting or yelling at each other. I also wasn’t a stand up kid. I was told that “good boys” don’t fight or say mean things. I got picked on because I didn’t have the cool clothes, the big “nerd” glasses and I enjoyed big band music. As a kid this didn’t help when I’d go to a friend’s house and have no idea who Van Halen was. It wasn’t that the type of music wasn’t allowed in the house as a kid, we just didn’t listen to it. I did play basketball in grade school but found I wanted to play drums. Labeled early on as a band geek and nerd, I accepted what others were saying of me. It hurt. I’d go home and tell mom and dad about this. Mom just hugged me. I’m not sure if dad did anything or approach his fellow principal. What I do remember was that my dad did attempt to get me to fight back, but my heart just wasn’t in picking a fight because I heard my parents fights and I didn’t want to get hurt.
I was afraid that if my friends did come over while my parents were there, I would have to make an excuse for them. I’ve read books about children of alchololics who would provide excuses for their parents actions and behavior. Paul Coughlin, author of “No More Christian Nice Guy”, told a story like that in the book of the same name. My parents were NOT alcoholics, due to the rule at Grams (that was our nickname for Grandma), of no alcohol in her house, which to this day I’m grateful for. If my parents had been alcoholics, it could have been more than just yelling. Still I feel just like Paul when my parents fought. I didn’t want to make excuses for them, or take care of them. Were they not to take care of me?
What I learned from my parents when it came to fighting was yell until you get your way. In other words, BE A BRAT! Even in my own marriage this carried over. The first few years of Kathleen’s and my marriage became a shouting match. The only way it would stop would be with me ending up hitting her, threaten to leave her, only to back down and cry for her not to kick me out. I’m still embarrassed that I let my anger and distress of needing to KNOW that she loved me caused me to loose control over my emotions. I will go into deeper details on this in just a bit. It needs to be revealed. Guys, it’s gonna piss you off and I hope that you might just recognize yourself a bit in this.
As I have said, I don’t blame my parents for my actions, but when I would hear their fights, unwittingly they showed me the way NOT to fight and unknowinly taught me to always get my way. Though I think that neither of them ever really won.
I also learned from my dad that you keep the fight only in the house. You put on a mask and not talk to anyone else about what is happening. I have found this to be very destructive and dishonest to do. Hiding your fights from your friends and try to go it alone is not good at all. It brings on depression. “I want you to love me. You don’t love me. I hate you. I don’t I love you. Nobody loves me.” This would go through my head. As a kid it’s your parents who should be showing you unconditional love. Due to the yelling matches I saw what people who put conditions on their marriage and not built on Godly love, but on attraction only. I can testify to this because with the help of a good friend, a wife who has forgiven me for my past behavior and that I’ve come to forgive myself for my anger and letting God speak to me and guide me through prayer and insight.
Women value their friendships with other women. Guys, you need a buddy. There are some men who still believe that they have to go it alone, ala John Wayne cowboy. I find this to be a lie. You don’t have to have an accountability group guys. You need ONE good friend who you can tell everything to that you wouldn’t want to say to your spouse! Have that person to throw the mess around with so you don’t end up saying something that will be demeaning , not true and make your marriage suffer. I have a really good buddy named Mike Wright, who I met at the right time in my life. I can always text him now or call him and he is my sounding board and helps me get out of my head and back to reality.
Learn how to fight fare with words and not with anger. It’s alright to get heated but if you let that anger control you instead of you controlling the emotion, you will end up doing more that just saying things. It can lead to physical abuse. I know this because it did. I am not proud of that. When you get out of control and raise your hand against your spouse, you have crossed a line that can put you in jail.
Yes, I did hit my wife and I would do it in such a way that I could make it hurt and not leave a heavy mark. I did evil acts. I wish that I could go back in time and stop myself. I had a lack of self control. I let my emotional sate take over. There are times that I still think of that I’ve yet to forgive myself for doing. I’m very grateful that I never ended up in jail. I’m very grateful for one social worker who helped me get counseling to recognize my thought process that ended up getting to the point of love me or I’m gonna hurt you.
Kathleen has forgiven me.
You have NO idea what that does for one’s soul and how much that humbles you. How much forgiveness like this starts to change you. Moves you away from such evil and into pure love. That last part was very hard to write.
Self control is very important to learn early on. I wish I had learned how to do this before I got married. I was taught that if you are angry to go to your room and don’t come out til you calm down and can talk, not yell. Again it was “do as we say, don’t do as we do.”
Parents, be consistent. Hold yourself to the same things that you expect your children to do. I find that my children respect that. I do as I say. Have I done it every time? No, but I’m being more aware and stopping before I get into a yelling match. I’ve even told my kids that if I don’t calm down or walk away and they feel threatened by me, do not hesitate, call 911!
Having children really can change you, only if you are aware that they do see and hear everything you do. Remember what I said about the yelling matches about my parents. I learned that from them. I don’t blame them for my imitating it. I do believe that as parents you need to have self control in place before being married and having children. Otherwise, as I have learned, you have to learn self control very quickly and it causes some distress in your head as you are changed for the better. It’s not easy. Don’t go through this alone.
. You have to be in full control of yourself, which is a sign of love. Self control is something that we tend to not teach our children now. I have been lucky, really lucky that I’ve received grace and love to grow out of my childish way. I have learned how to walk away from an argument before it becomes a fight. To be humble enough to let my wife have the last say. Hey it feels great when you do get the last word, but only when it is earned through love. I don’t remember what that fight was about, but when the words “Yeah, your right sweetie. I’m sorry” came out, I was floored. I only remember I won and it didn’t feel like I forced the answer I wanted out of my wife.
. I don’t feel so angry about my parent’s divorce anymore. I feel that by my wife accepting me, forgiving me and the sense that she is in this till the day our bodies stop working, that this is God’s provision of His love. I’ve also learned that no matter what I’ve done, God loved me from the beginning. It’s been said that humans minds work on a fight or flight mentality. This is true when someone is attacking you. I feel though that this is a sickness that can be cured by letting go of fear and learning to live in God’s love. I really had to put God first in every matter in my life.
As Kathleen and I have grown more together through our years of wedded tension, I find my anger lessening. I have less room for such anger. Less of the me that I grew, and more of the me that God is making. Even the love I have received to give to my dad is unlimited.
I find now that when we do get into a fight, we are both usually tired, had a hard day at work, or stressed out about money. By recognizing what is upsetting us we now are able to talk things out.. I find that God doesn’t want me to blow up and say things that I wouldn’t say if I was calm. (It’s amazing that Kathleen likes this also ;-) ) I find that you also need to give your fights over to Him. You need to go to God within and show you HIS idea of fighting. Let Him take over and you will see a change as He teaches you to control your emotions.
I find when I just give what is bugging me about something Kathleen is doing, or not doing and instead of getting pissed off, I’m asking God what I should do about it, I do get a sense of calm. Sometimes it’s a urge to call or text Mike and get the frustration out. Other times it’s just this sense of drop it or go write in a journal or blog about it.
You can break the cycle of parents poor choices and not let it repeat. It does take a conscious choice, a forgiving spouse, and knowing that when those come together for the goodness of both people, it’s truly from the Peaceable Kingdom of the Heavens.
I find myself as I finish this post I find that I am moving past the fighting to get MY way in this life. That I really don’t need to do that anymore. I find that God has won the battle in my heart. I don’t need to beg to get love. Never needed to. I don’t have to give up on love. Love never gives up on us. I’m not afraid of a fight. But I don’t feel the need to start one. Love wins this round.