My parents were divorced. I know this is not saying much, since there are a lot of us who are children of divorce. I also know that this is a long-distance retrospective, since I’m now 67 years old. But I’m at a point in life when I can truly say from experience that divorce causes damage that sends ripples of pain through many decades and even all through all the decades of life for the children involved.
There’s a point here that needs to be seen and understood by all those policy makers and social scientists complacent about the increase in divorce, cohabitation, and gay marriage. What I see is that it is becoming easier and easier to make family life less secure for children. Having watched the stability of my own parents’ home crumble, and having been powerless to stop it, I cringe daily when I see households vaguely established and certain to be very temporary.
My husband is one of eight children. His parents taught good Mormon virtues in their home, but not all their children followed their lead or their teachings. Of the eight children only my husband and I have not been divorced. Among the other seven, there have been 13 divorces. My husband and I have been out of the country for 18 months serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church), and when we came back, we caught up on all the news of the family, which included the gay marriage of one niece, the cohabitation of one brother, the cohabitation of five nieces and nephews. I watched one of these nephews with his girlfriend and their new baby. She had a little boy from a previous relationship, now part of this fragile new “family.” I wondered how things would shape up for his future, and how often his family structure would morph until he reaches adulthood, and how he would feel about it.
The Unquenchable Yearning
My parents used to argue 24/7. Mostly my mother screaming at my father. My dad was psychologically battered by my mother, as were we all. I think I cried myself to sleep every night for the worst five years of it. To this day I can’t tolerate the sound of people arguing, not even on TV. I experienced an unquenchable yearning for happiness and peace in our home, and it almost consumed me. I was desperate for the answer that would make everything OK. As things got worse, my parents’ attention to me dwindled. A star student in junior high, I lost my drive in high school because I couldn’t get their attention. Not so bad. I was in the top 10% of my class, but I should have been in the top 2%. I experienced a role reversal as they each came to me with their grievances, something parents should never do to a child. That was really awful. By the time the papers were actually signed, I was nineteen, and I thought I was relieved that they were finally divorced. But the yearning didn’t go away. We were broken, all of us.
I experienced that yearning for decades, and it hurts me to think of the millions of other kids having the same experience. I have never met a child of divorce who wasn’t broken. What of those whose families dissolve and reform many times over? Where is the loving, stable foundation they so need? That anchoring identity and belonging? The safety of a permanent family?
It is the misguided selfishness of people to think that a household can be formed and dissolved as love waxes and wanes, and to think that mutual attraction is enough to found a household upon. It is unfathomable blindness for institutions, states, and governments to try to pass laws abetting temporary alliances not based on the solid attributes of traditional marriage. And it’s the kids who suffer.
I, myself, am OK now, thank you. My parents passed away some years ago. Because of the “priesthood” power held by the men of The Church of Jesus Christ, I have had healing blessings through the laying on of hands, and communications from my parents in myriad forms. From the other side they have reached into mortality and gotten Christ to heal me of my wounds. They are healing, too, and are together now, on the other side. This brings me great joy, and that yearning isn’t gnawing at me any more. But I am driven by pathos to share this, as I see laws passed that will enable more families to be temporary, and the easing of morality so as to watch it all with a yawn.