I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together. ― Warsan Shire.
I’ve struggled for a while to write about this, trying to find a way to write about the biggest heartbreak of my life. When your parents are together since you could remember, divorce is something unfathomable. I used to be proud and grateful that my parents were married growing up. I saw the hardship that my peers went through with single parent homes. Although my father was largely absent from my life in every sense of the word, he was my hero only second to my mother. As I had my fair share of heartbreaks as a woman, my father was the hope that good men existed in the world. My mother was always home with us and he provided a lot of the income but wasn’t around much because of the bodega life. She cooked and maintained the house, while looking after us. It was the quintessential Quisqueyano household. It was a bit of a fantasy in some ways, now that I reflect on my childhood and try to make sense of it.
My parents’ relationship started to deteriorate visibly towards the end of my college career and subsequently my immediate family started falling apart. I’ve been advocating for them to separate for the last 7 years so that the madness would end. It did, during the 1st quarter of midwifery school. It triggered a trauma response in me that sent me to therapy early last year because it interfered with my ability to practice. I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of it as quietly as I could while wondering why I’ve had writer’s block in terms of producing articles that used to come so easily to me.
A lot of us are familiar with the effects of divorce on younger children, but not enough is said about adult children of the divorce. Adult children of divorce have to deal with their inner children coming up to the surface, being expected to “handle this like an adult”, cope with having to reconstruct the perception they had of their parents’ marriage and possibly be asked to be a pillar of strength while they are falling apart. I find myself wishing this had happened decades ago because now I am trying to grapple with my perceptions of my childhood. I ask myself how much of what I thought I saw was true. I wonder how much pain was hidden behind smiles and absences. I am trying to understand what to make of it and know why this affects me so, as I mend the broken heart of my inner child and adult self.
The relationship you have with your parents (or lack thereof) is the most important one you will ever have. They are your first experience with the creation and continuation of relationships. The way one relates to both women and men has everything to do with how healthy or unhealthy one related to their parents. I’ve often in my life heard that I should watch and listen how a man regards his mother as an indication of how he will treat me and other women. More often than not, this has been true. The same can be said about the relationship between a man and his father, and how he will treat women. In my case, my relationship with my mother has certainly affected my friendships. As I healed that connection, I could see the ripple effects as some friendships with women strengthen while others crumbled. The same can be said about my father. It is no coincidence that I have sought and pursued completely unavailable men in every way. It make sense why I’d get caught up in the idea of someone and not the reality of them. The divorce has made me even more aware of what I was repeating in my life. I have made steadfast boundaries because of it.
In the aftermath, I’ve learned a lot about the painful parts of my parents’ relationship. I was privy to a lot of information over the years that I, quite frankly, had no business being told as their daughter. I feel that knowing what I do know is one reason my anxiety got increasingly worse in my twenties. I know I have a lot of anger towards my father. It is a large amount of indifference mixed with feelings of disgust and betrayal. Though, I’m very clear on not vilifying him because I understand it takes two to tango. I guess because I am a woman who has been profoundly hurt by men in different ways, I am biased. I am biased because of how much I love my mother and everything she’s done for my life. I can also hold her accountable for the downfall of their marriage.
I think about my brother and my sister a lot, wondering how they are holding up. I’ve enjoyed the luxury of not witnessing any of this in person because I left my house six years ago with short stays there, but they had to watch this whole thing happen from start to aftermath. Us three are having a shared experience and I assume we all are dealing with it as best as we can. I look forward to when this is behind us but it’s still here in our faces. It messes with our perception of reality and on my end, with relationships. It has added another layer of apprehension to my quest to remain open to meeting my life partner as I strive not to internalize this. It’s something I talk about in therapy – making sure I am aware not to let this interfere with my future relationship. The road to healing from the dismantling of my parents’ marriage and my home is a hard one. I believe it was for the best but that doesn’t erase the fact that it’s painful and has marked me forever.