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4 Nov 2016

2+ Lessons From My Parents’ Divorce

My siblings and I lived a sheltered life but we were quick to spot that something was not right at the home front. At the age of 5, I saw my mum get scalded with boiling water and after news of my father’s new secret family reached us, I was sure that things were not going to be as perfect as before. We (my mother and us) experienced some financial crunch and had to move to a much smaller house, in an “ungated” community.

This was not a big deal for my siblings and I because we made friends immediately and we were not brought up to practice any form of classism. Also, we only saw our father twice or 3 times in a year, who thankfully chipped in for school fees. For the first twenty part of my 30 years, I went with the flow but I have regrettably, recently come to observe that this separation had (and probably still has) a negative rub off effect on me. Thankfully (but quite painfully), I came out of this self review experience with these lessons. When I get the chance, I like to share these lessons with single people, happily married people and people thinking of separating/newly divorced people.

You will gradually evolve from “team mum” or “team dad”, to team me.
Until about 6 years ago, I was team mum. But in all honesty, I do not miss those years of going back and forth. Mum always had a story of something terrible dad did and vice versa. Every single mistake we made was traced back to a trait we inherited from either of them. I woke up one day and realised how exhausting it was pretending to one parent that they were perfect. I was an innocent bystander who did not ask to be born into this vile negativity and I began to mentally separate myself from this “situation”. While I still have full empathy and love for my parents, I became very diplomatic and chose not to take sides whenever their ranting episodes started.

Communication is everything.
If you are not a great communicator, marriage is going to be extremely difficult for you and you are likely to pass on this trait to your children. Communication here is simply asking the right questions repeatedly and what i call listening patiently. This means listening as twice as you speak. How did I know my parents were not good communicators? I knew when my mother persistently asked me to ask our father what she did to him. Also, my father was a painfully shy man who replied with “when you grow up, you will understand”.

You must have what I call non-negotiable and make your partner stand by them before you commit.
This does not mean a long list of unrealistic expectations. I mean, things like your individual views on polygamy, number of children you want have, your philosophy on infidelity and money, etc. I know that these things look very simple but it might surprise you to know how many people overlook them.

Find you a man who is answerable to at least 3 people in his inner circle of friends and family.
People who are not only older but wealthier than he is. It was very difficult for people who got monthly allowance from my father, to chip in whenever there was a misunderstanding.

Do not form SuperWoman
Especially to your female children. Independence is an admirable virtue but a healthy dose of vulnerability is required to make a relationship flourish. Besides this, you will wear yourself out too quickly and this will make you bitter easily when things do not go the way you planned. If you have the money and time, buy yourself a few gifts and date (responsibly) again if you want to. I noticed that my friends from “broken homes” who’s mothers moved on are happier and have had more successful/ meaningful relationships than I have.

The sad reality about the relationship between abuse and an uncouth tongue.
I am always infuriated when I read people who ask what she said to make him hit her, on domestic violence stories. This is because usually, this has nothing to do with the woman and more with the abuser’s temperament. BUT.. I come from a family where I have heard my mother say it to us severally, how she regrets having us and has even on one occasion said something about one of us dying. If you are quite uncouth and you run away from an abusive man, you will continue to inflict pain on people in your circle and thereafter, destroy other meaningful relationships. It is always advisable to leave an abusive relationship without wasting time, but do a self assessment (after you flee of course) of your own deficiencies.

Your man’s abuse and infidelity has nothing to do with the fact that you are not; (a) sexy enough (b) not praying enough and (c) not submissive enough. My father, a serial monogamist, has been with women with the above attributes and he did not change.

This last point is an after thought but very important in my own opinion. I think that if you have intensely negative reservations at the beginning of your marriage, you should leave before you get pregnant/start having children. I recently stumbled on an anonymous Facebook page containing memoirs from women who felt trapped/stuck with their children. Children deserve to be born into love and peace of mind. You owe them this right and hanging on because you’re self conscious about societal expectations, is quite selfish.

In conclusion, I still love my parents and these lessons have not made me apathetic in any way towards how they feel. Having gone through a few heartbreaks myself, I understand how heavy the baggage of a broken home is for them. However, I would like to hear from others how going through something similar has changed them, either positively or negatively.

By Narnia

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