I grew up in the church and have considered myself a Christian from a very young age; my family the “poster family” for Christianity. Our image was shiny. We loved God, each other and our lives were void of the “really bad” sins. Just like Superman, in my eyes, divorce always seemed impossible - something I would never experience.
Then, when I was in junior high, my parents sat my sister and I down to explain their decision to divorce each other.
Dramatic moments, like watching your parents choose to break a commitment - to live separately and stop loving each other in the way I had always witnessed - are difficult to forget. I can still hear the conversation in my head; the tone of their voices soft to “make it okay” but also strained, begging for understanding and forgiveness. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the emotions that would soon breach the surface, the tears stinging the corners of my eyes. It’s a conversation I’ve rewound so many times the tape in my head eventually broke.
It’s been years since their official divorce; years of me hiding a cold, hardened heart. I struggled to hold on to the little bit of a “normal” life I felt like I still had and rather accept I’d have a father who would never live at home anymore, I bottled up my thoughts and emotions and pretended as if my “poster family” still existed. Carrying on as if everything is okay never heals anything.
My attitude shifted and I began acting out in destructive ways.
Finally, after being forced into homeschooling during high school because I stopped caring about anything other than my social life, I decided to re-examine the condition of my heart and attempt to repair and rekindle relationships with each of my parents. It hasn’t been easy.
Ever since my parents explained to my sister and I how real the divorce was - how dad would move out because he cheated and eventually they’d both start seeing other people - I became scared to commit to anyone, much less fall in love with them. I struggle in dating relationships because commitment is terrifying. I don’t want to ever get divorced. I don’t want to do to my future children what my parents did to us. The woman I marry has to be the only one forever. And that's a lot of pressure to put on yourself.
My parents are intentionally involved in my life to this day and while I appreciate it and have grown to understand their importance to me – as separate people who are rarely on the same page about any of my decisions - I strive to avoid trials they couldn’t. Even though the divorce was my dad’s fault, that man is still my hero. I want him to be proud of me and I don’t want to disappoint him, but I don’t want to do what he did; he shifted my perspective on marriage and what it really means to make a commitment to another person for the rest of my life.
I bet the girls are lining up for me now, right?
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