I grew up part of a broken home – although not in the way you’d suspect. After a short bout with pancreatic cancer, my father passed away. My mother raised us, as comfortably as possible, as a single parent, although we missed out on an integral part of our family: our father. The glass that started out full became a quarter empty.
My own home contains a stereotypical, nuclear family: father, mother, sister, brother. However, I worry that this could irrevocably change with virtually no notice. A handful of friends are living through the dissolution of their marriages. I don’t know much about divorce except what I witness, but I try to listen about the pain and changes they’re experiencing.
When I first met my friend M, she struck me as confident, ballsy even. She talked tough, laughed loudly and voiced her opinion. She mowed the lawn and cooked dinner; raised the kids and changed the tires; she flawlessly manicured her nails and rode a motorcycle. And she even maintained a happy marriage with the requisite two kids, boy and girl.
We decided to meet weekly for coffee or lunch when the kids in our circle returned to school. The first day of school, we celebrated at a diner where she knew the owners. Then the following Monday she sent a cryptic e-mail, stating she couldn’t make our coffee date, that something had come up. The rest of us speculated what must have happened – a family member died, a sick child, car trouble. We couldn’t fully concentrate, wondering where she was and the nature of her e-mail.
That night, I received the shocking news that M’s husband cheated on her with a close friend and wanted a divorce. At first, I thought she was joking. No tears or anger, a matter-of-fact demeanor. I suppose she was shocked herself. We made plans to get together the next day when the tears appeared along with the whole sordid story.
Now I figured she’d kick him out, but she was stunned and momentarily unrecognizable. She wished to stay amicable and not stir up bitter feelings between them, partly for the kids, partly for herself. Friends and family surrounded her with advice, instructing her to reap revenge on his sorry ass. She couldn’t do it. As the rest of us huddled with her in the bookstore coffee lounge, wide-eyed, twisting our own wedding bands, the story grew more complex. We secretly thanked our own husbands for sticking it out and simultaneously worried about the chinks in our somewhat perfect married armor. Were we all next?
Lonely and nursing a bruised ego, she started applying to on-line dating sites. She needed approval and attention from men who could validate her as an attractive and exciting woman. She refused to end up alone and unhappy while her ex transgressed and found satisfaction. But with many encounters, she ended up confused and sad. Some men offered excuses why they slept in a hammock or never wanted contact with kids. Some smothered her with attention and unrealistic expectations or ignored her feelings and needs. Some carved his and her initials on his truck while she cringed, imagining the sound of a key scratching in metal. The volatile people and situations solidified her disgust with marriage. Maybe keeping things casual was the answer?
Throughout it all, I’ve felt guilty. Here I am living with a man I love who provides for me and my family and comes home each night. I worry about minor, petty issues like painting our kid’s room or when we can purchase a new car. Meanwhile, my soon-to-be divorced friends worry about custody issues; dating trepidations; uprooting their families and possibly moving back in with parents; working and relying solely on themselves; dividing up assets and possessions; explaining why daddy and mommy won’t live together anymore; losing a partner to a new love or the “swingles” lifestyle; discovering secrets that dismantled their former lives. All issues worthy of complaints.
Despite my experience in a broken family, I don’t understand how it feels to walk in their shoes. One friend told me she felt lost. I imagine comfortably walking on a sure and steady path, and then stumbling over rocks in the sudden dark and fog, not remembering where you are or how you arrived. I hope I’m showing enough support and encouragement. And I hope that they will find love, happiness and fulfillment, with or without companionship, and the glass will appear full in the future.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by M.B. Sanok, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Ocala Divorce Lawyer Blog.