15 'Habits' of People Who Witnessed 'Messy' Divorces Growing Up
Divorce can be difficult, complicated, and in a lot of cases, “messy.” In her book, “Yes Please,” comedian Amy Poehler used the following analogy to describe her divorce:
Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The process of divorce is about loading that blanket, throwing it up, and watching it all spin, and worrying what stuff will break when it lands.
When a divorce gets “messy,” it’s often not just the people separating who have to worry about what “stuff will break.” When there are children in the mix, divorce can have detrimental effects on their emotional well-being and mental health long into adulthood.
In a study evaluating over 30 years of research on the effect divorce has on children, researchers found children of divorce were less competent in multiple areas of life including family relationships, education and future earning power.
If you are a child of divorce, you might hear findings like this and feel instantly discouraged. Though it’s true that divorce can negatively impact children in the long-term, this is just one part of the story. The more important part is that recovery is possible, especially when you seek support from loved ones and professionals.
One of the most important ways we can move through grief and trauma is to talk about it. If you are struggling with the impact of a messy divorce you saw growing up, we want you to know you aren’t alone. We asked our Mighty community to share things they do now because they witnessed a messy divorce growing up. Below you can read what they had to say.
No matter what your experience growing up was, it is important to remember there is help available. If you need support right now, reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
- “I was 15 when my parents divorced. My sister had just left home for college so I felt really alone. Now that I have my own apartment and my own life, I still never fully unpack and keep a lot of my stuff in my car because I was constantly bounced around for the rest of my time living at home.” — Celeste Q.
- “I’m never getting married. My mom and dad’s divorce was so messy and took six whole years. I was thrown in the middle of it all that time. Then my dad and stepmom went through a messy divorce. My dad used me as a sounding board for the entire process and I am still feeling the aftermath from it. This happened two years ago. It took me a while to forgive him.” — Zoe S.
- “Avoid all confrontation. It was a basic symptom due to abuse that was worsened when my adoptive family went through a split. My dad became emotionally volatile so I avoided confrontation at all costs.” — Alyce R.
- “Constantly paranoid my marriage won’t work, my husband will cheat, my mental state will deteriorate, my husband will put his mistress before our kids, my kids will grow up confused and hurt, and the cycle will be forever. It’s scary when this cycle has been happening all the way back to my great grandparents.” — Tanna T.
- “I will subconsciously try to sabotage my relationships because I am terrified and paranoid the other person is going to cheat on me or leave me. I tell myself I’d rather push them away on my terms and be alone than live with the torment of having them leave me because they wanted to. Basically, my mindset is ‘reject them before they can reject you.’ I literally cannot cope with being hurt or abandoned, so this is how I try to protect myself.” — Camille J.
- “Perpetually seeking the feeling of being ‘at home.’ I never feel like I’m home.” — Tanya L.
- “I married three times trying to have a perfect life…. got divorced three times and now [I] don’t trust anyone.” — Jazmin H.
- “I never disrespect my children’s father to his face or behind his back.” — Angel P.
- “Suggest to everyone, joking or not, that they [should] divorce/break up at even the slightest conflicts. Better to be done with it than to drag it out forever.” — Corin P.
- “Apologize for everything. Never feel like I’m enough.” — Conor K.
- “My husband and I both witnessed messy divorces and dysfunction. We agreed that if we ever had issues we couldn’t work through that we would do therapy before ever considering divorce. Thankfully we’ve only had one really bad patch and we are doing amazing. We also avoid having big fights in front of the kids. Small arguments are fine because they need to see a healthy relationship. If it’s a bad fight, which is rare, we drop the kids off at grandma’s or wait until they are at school.” — Tiffany A.
- “Having been forced to watch parents fight and yell and [give the] ‘silent treatment.’ I am now super shy of arguments — even other people’s. I leave the room crying when there is an argument. If you hate each other that much… just divorce.” — Helen F.
- “I don’t always react appropriately to situations because of a messy divorce when I was a child. By that, I mean that I learned at a very young age that anger was always a go-to emotion because my parents were always angry and fighting. I had to learn as an adult that being angry all the time doesn’t ever resolve any issues. I may have overcorrected in handling my anger, and sometimes just don’t react at all. I don’t express any anger or upset until I’m bursting at the seams. Which is really rare. Maybe once every year or year and a half my fiancé sees a fit of rage from me.” — Shelby S.
- “I put everyone else before myself. I bottle everything up as I don’t want to push people away, especially my family. I’m also very self-sufficient as I learned to fend for myself.” — Katie S.
- “I keep my family together no matter what. When my partner and I go through issues I make sure we communicate as best we can so my daughter doesn’t have to go through what I went through.” — Parker M.
If you are still living with the impact of a messy divorce you witnessed growing up, you’re not alone. To connect with others who have been there, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #TraumaSurvivors.
For more from our Mighty community, check out the following stories:
Getty Images photo via z_wei