Dear divorce

Dear divorce,

Thanks to you, I learned nothing on earth lasts as long as it should.

Dear divorce,

You spread the heinous lie that ‘happiness’ is on the other side of leaving, that it’s the only answer

You convinced them that ‘children are resilient;’ after all, we ‘want you to be happy.’

Dear divorce,

You taught me to trust no one, not even those who say ‘I love you’, not even myself.

Dear divorce,

You showed me how my world can come crashing down on me at any moment – so don’t get too comfortable.

Dear divorce,

You made nights slow torture as I tried to manage the pain in the darkness alone.

Stop crying

Stop crying

Stop crying.

Dear divorce,

You taught me to isolate myself, to keep my distance, to remain unattached, to fear instead of love.

Dear divorce,

You made me desperate for attention but wary of affection.

You convinced me to cling instead of trust, because they will leave.

They will.

Dear divorce,

You caused guilt to follow me every day of my life. Guilt that envelops me, though it wasn’t my fault.

It wasn’t my fault

It wasn’t my fault

It wasn’t my fault.

Dear divorce,

You made closeness feel impossible, love seem unattainable.

Dear divorce,

You made me feel unlovable – that I am not worthy and never good enough.

You told me that something is wrong with me – it must be.

Dear divorce,

You filled me with rage but gave me no way to express it. You told me to shove it down, deep deep deep.

I’m angry

I’m angry

I’m angry.

Dear divorce,

You left me with the heart of a broken child, a heart too weak to love, too hurt to be held.

It hurts.

Dear divorce,

You stole my haven, my comfort, my security. You just took it.

You bastard.

Dear divorce,

You’ll never know what it’s like to make a vow to someone and keep it until you die.

You’ll never grow old with the person you promised “till death do us part.”

You’ll never experience the unconditional love from one person all of your days.

You’ll never know what it’s like to come home to the same people, the same person, year after year.

Dear divorce,

You’ll never know what they mean: the words ‘love’ and ‘family’ and ‘stay’.

Dear divorce,

You will miss out on countless moments: Hugs and kisses, tears and breakthroughs, fights and grief, forgiveness and reconciliations, firsts and lasts. You lost them and you will never get them back.

The ghosts of memories will haunt you until your lonely death.

What could have been.

You’ll never know what could have been, what was on the other side of staying – the forgiveness, the grace, the love.

I pity you.

Dear divorce,

You thought you had me. You believed I would buy into the treacherous lies, but I won’t.

You have led many others astray, lured them with your siren’s call, but not me.

I will never be yours – I have seen too much.

The charm of ‘freedom’ is only loneliness. The happiness you promise is empty – a black hole of egotistical wishes.

I know the suffering, I know the fallout, I know the pain. I know.

I will never choose you – not as long as I live.

You are dark, sad and alone.

I pity you.

Dear divorce,

Thanks to you, I know that I will never be yours.

Dear Fathers: What I wish my dad had known before he left

Until recently I used to always roll my eyes when I heard the term ‘daddy issues.’

To me it was just an excuse girls used to wear dresses that are too short and sleep with men they knew didn’t care about them. After all, my dad moved out after my parents got divorced and I didn’t go around in skimpy dresses hooking up with guys I barely knew.

I was convinced that I had been unaffected; that ‘daddy issues’ was just a made up term by Hollywood or a misguided psychologist.

In fact, it wasn’t until over ten years afterward that I started to suspect that maybe, possibly I was wrong (there’s a first time for everything!).

I had always been anxious around men and very distrustful of them, something I never questioned. To me that was normal. Why would you think a guy was good? They might be cute, or funny, or charming, or talented…but not trustworthy. And I was more than okay with that. To me thinking any differently was just being naive.

I watched as my friends got hurt over the years while patting myself on the back for not making their same mistakes. I knew better than to try ‘putting myself out there.’ ‘Miss Independent’ was my theme song and I was proud of it (Kelly Clarkson’s version, not Ne-Yo’s).

Of course I did get hurt – heartbroken- in fact. I liked guys and was disappointed by them; but I mostly kept this to myself. It never got far enough that many others knew or that I was particularly invested. When it finally did go wrong, I felt oddly satisfied that I had been right about them all along. Guys couldn’t be trusted, not even the ‘good’ ones. Not even the ones that said ‘I love you.’

That is what I believed. Until I actually met and really liked a good guy, and then I was in trouble.

Big time.

The problem wasn’t him. The problem was that I treated him like every other guy I had known (or thought I had known). Suspicious, questioning, doubting, accusing, undeserving of my trust or the benefit of the doubt…not at first, obviously; but the more I got to known him the more I felt comfortable expressing anger toward him, even when he most definitely did not deserve it.

I became more and more frustrated with myself as I tried to trust and failed repeatedly. Why couldn’t I just have a little faith? Why was I sabotaging this relationship that was so precious to me? Why was I hurting the man I loved so much?

The answer that kept coming up and that I persistently dismissed was this: maybe it was because dad left.

Fathers teach their daughters how to be loved. They are meant to cherish and dote on us. They tell us we’re beautiful and smart and set the standard of how we are meant to be treated by men. They are our rock, a figure of strength and stability amidst the chaos that is growing up in today’s world.

But that’s not what I learned.

What I learned was that men leave, and that it might be my fault. Something about me could be innately unlovable. Because if I was lovable, he would have loved me; and if he loved me, he would have stayed.

Cognitively, at the age of 23 I understand that his leaving had little to nothing to do with me. I also understand that my dad had his own demons that were instrumental in his decision to leave, and that he did not mean to hurt me. But the damage was done. To undo 10 years of deep hurt that was pushed down and strong defenses that were built up is a monumental task. I had to become something unnatural to survive, tough and angry, something not compatible with my naturally sensitive demeanor.

Experience is the most powerful teacher and my parents’ divorce and my father moving back overseas afterward is probably the most defining moment of my life so far. As much as we try to tell ourselves it’s not, divorce is traumatizing and destroys families and the individuals within them.

I’m lucky enough that my dad calls me almost every day. He cares about me, certainly. But unfortunately, phone calls will never replace the presence of a strong, loving father, day in and day out.

‘Daddy issues’ are real (even though I still hate that term). I say all this, not to evoke sympathy, but as a plea to any men out there. If you are married, or thinking about marriage – especially if you are a father – understand that your role is irreplaceable and that you are needed more than you will ever truly know. Your marriage is not just about you, if you have children, regardless of whether or not they are aware of it, they want to be loved by you; and your leaving will affect them for the rest of their lives.

I suffered a lot at the age of 12 when my parents separated. 10 years later it continues to haunt me as I attempt to navigate my way back to trust with someone who actually deserves it. It has been immensely difficult for both of us and not something I would wish on my worst enemy. No one should have to deal with this, but I know many do. Two Christmases, Thanksgivings, weekends shuffling back and forth between houses, step-parents…it’s not normal. As a culture we’ve convinced ourselves that it is, and twelve-year-old girls everywhere are being completely heartbroken by the one man that is supposed to love them the most, by the one man that was supposed to know better.

I wish dad had known that before he left.

Why ‘I do’ is bigger than you

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Did you ever wonder what happened to Cinderella’s stepsisters after she married the prince and left to live happily ever after in the castle?

Yeah me either.

Love stories tend to focus only on the people inside them. Which makes sense…it’s a love story, not the Proud Family.

However, to say that relationships don’t affect people outside of them is just not true. This is especially important when it comes to marriage. The idea that marriage is supposed to last forever isn’t a silly fairy tale or a random rule an uptight monk decided would be a good idea; it’s the foundation for family life.

Love is meant to be eternal…not just to last as long as it feels good. The family unit depends on this. The security that comes from a couple that stays together provides their children with the opportunity to learn what it means to love and be loved. Love entails permanency; anything less is insufficient and breaks the most essential player in loving relationships: trust.

This isn’t just my opinion: we know that parental divorce leads to lower trust in future relationships of the children.

In other words, something that is already difficult (entrusting yourself completely to someone else) is made exponentially more challenging.

Trust is everything. Self-gift necessitates a surrender of control that can’t happen without faith in the other person.

When trust is broken in a vital relationship – the one that sets the example for all the relationships to come – we are left impaired for life. This may seem like an exaggeration, I thought so too until I experienced the ramifications in my own relationship.

Facing my trust issues has been one of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced thus far and not one I would wish on my worst enemy. The pain, confusion and helplessness that arises when you feel you can’t trust someone you care deeply about is overwhelming and has often threatened what I know to be a really good thing. When there is betrayal in a formative relationship (as what happens in divorce), our outlook on intimacy and relationships becomes skewed…unnatural.

Despite the normalcy of divorce, I know I’m not the only person suffering it’s severe consequences. The marriage rate in the U.S. is at an all time low. An important reason given for this is the fact  that millennials’ ‘don’t think it’s likely to last.’ (Deseret News, 2015). We are also getting married a lot later in life (at the age of 27 for women and 29 for men compared to the ages of 20 and 23 in 1960, according to Bentley.edu). We are experiencing a ‘cultural retreat’ from marriage…and it is no bueno.

What we’ve resorted to is cohabiting – or living together outside of marriage. We think that this kind of relationship is preferable to making a vow and then breaking it later. While understandable, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. This type of relationship is dramatically less stable and has a much lower rate of success than those of married couples (Deseret News, 2015). But, we think we’re smart so…here we are.

We also take part in what’s being called ‘serial dating’; where we go on multiple dates with multiple different people over a short span of time. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Happn and others are all out there to help us find dates quickly. The convenience of it makes us more detached from the outcome: ‘hey if it doesn’t work out with this person, there are 1,569 other matches I can reach out to.’

There’s nothing wrong with meeting someone over the internet; the problem arises when we treat dating like we’re flipping through TV channels as opposed to what it should be: a genuine effort to discover another person and find out if you can see yourself marrying them.

Marriage and family have been pushed aside in the name of practicality and as a result we’re becoming even more self-centered. The thing is, it’s not just about us. Love is necessarily other focused: the person we marry and the children we have have everything to gain from our unconditional love. We can’t afford to just look out for ourselves; there’s too much at stake.

It’s not glamorous or exciting to think about Cinderella and prince Charming’s children or how their relationship affected their community, but that’s really everything. After all, we can tell a tree by it’s fruit!

What we do in life matters, but nothing matters more than the close relationships we have with the people we love. Love (like trust) is learned and it can’t be learned if we’re focused on just our own needs and desires…it’s bigger than that.

We may say ‘I do’ at the altar, but really it is so much more than just about us; if we take this seriously we can love others fully and allow them to then do the same…and isn’t that quite the privilege?