Motherhood

The Parent Trap

Una LaMarche divorce essay

Our series of personal essays by contributing writers has, so far, delved into the topics of breasts and travel. The next few essays will center around a theme that, for better or worse, everyone can relate to: parents. Here is Una LaMarche, whose parents’ divorce did not go down as her Disney-loving kid self might have imagined…


Like so many kids of the analog 80s raised on repeated viewings of the same beat-up VHS tapes, the movies I owned as a child helped to shape my understanding of the world. Walt Disney’s original 1961 The Parent Trap was my favorite, and best, teacher. I knew most of the lines by heart and took its plot points as gospel (for instance that everyone in California travels on horseback, or that 12-year-old girls are naturally great at cutting hair). I didn’t care much about the parents themselves, because to my pre-pubescent eye they were unfathomably old and boring, but I took the film’s overall premise — that divorced people could fall back in love extremely quickly if presented with just the right series of delightful pranks — completely for granted.

I was able to swallow that fairy tale ending with conviction because I grew up with relatively stable parents. I say “relatively” because for a while my mom had a job making magic wands, and my dad wore a Speedo on family vacations, but other than that they were mostly normal, and very affectionate, both with me and my sister Zoe and — much to our horror — with each other.

Ew!” we would exclaim if they started kissing. They loved it.

“Don’t you want your parents to want to kiss?” they’d ask coyly, doubling down with a tight embrace.

“Not! In! Public!” I would hiss, my breath whistling through the rainbow-colored braces adorning my clenched teeth.

When they argued — which they did with about the same frequency as the kissing – it was a steady simmer rather than a full boil. Mom was possessed of a more volatile temper (having reportedly once thrown a full bowl of pasta at Dad’s head before I was born), but I never saw much worse than the exchange of curt sentences, heavy sighs and loaded pauses over the kitchen island. And so even as the years passed and I learned the hard way that some of The Parent Trap was a blatant sham — my long-lost twin was not awaiting my arrival at Quaker sleep-away camp in rural Pennsylvania, for example, and a pixie cut ended up making me look more like Velma from Scooby-Doo than Hayley Mills — the movie’s central hypothesis remained untested.

It happened the summer after I turned 25. Dad called a meeting with Zoe and me, just the three of us, which was suspicious and caused us to speculate as to whether he might secretly be dying. When we arrived at the house he had set out wine, even though Zoe was still underage, and an artful tray of pita wedges surrounding a mountain of baba ghanoush.

“Mom and I are separating,” he announced, filling our glasses. My sister looked at me; I looked at the pita wedges. It was better than dying, but worse than most other things. Dad sat stiffly and cleared his throat. “We just can’t do this anymore,” he said. The living room seemed to sag, heavy with silence, and I all I could do was gulp my wine. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be the Swiss Family Robinson.

Afterwards, Zoe and I went upstairs to her bedroom to tell each other meaningfully that Everything Was Still OK. We lay on the floor, listening to Neil Young on an endless loop.

“When one door closes…” I said, in a shell-shocked attempt at profundity.

“What?” Zoe asked.

“Another one opens,” I said, “Isn’t that the saying?”

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I guess.” Zoe was more weary than surprised; she had been the one living in the house for the past five years as their marriage unraveled, while I was off at college. “At least we’re grown up… kind of,” she said, frowning.

My parents had been married for 27 years, and we were all — technically, if not emotionally — adults. By that time, DVDs had replaced VHS tapes and Lindsay Lohan had taken over The Parent Trap franchise, anyway. Nothing would ever be the same.

It never occurred to us to try to get them back together. Because the thing about divorce that comes into focus when it happens is that it’s not a whimsical bad decision, like bleaching your eyebrows. You don’t make such a hard, life-altering choice unless you know it’s the right one. The only way in which my parents’ divorce even came close to the Disney version, ultimately, was that it felt for awhile after the split like all of our identities had been mistaken.

Dad rented an apartment, started playing tennis and bought a lot of sherbet-colored furniture. Mom poured herself into work and cleansing the house with a smudge stick. I moved in with my boyfriend; Zoe went to college. We were venturing out into the world as new people, setting off to find ourselves and a sense of belonging, at the exact same time. It would have made a great John Hughes script if not for the age difference.

There’s no tidy ending to any story in real life, no swell of music and closing credits. But ten years later, we’re all doing fine. I have channeled my neuroses into a writing career. Zoe is a NICU nurse. My parents are at least as happy apart as they were in their best times together, and have fostered a pleasant friendship that luckily didn’t require the setting of any traps. And even if I’d wanted to trick them into liking each other again, who has that kind of time?

Some of us have movies to watch.


Una LaMarche is the author of the memoir Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer, as well as three novels. You can find her on Instagram, or at unalamarche.com.

P.S. On lopsided breasts, and a romantic trip gone awry.

(Illustration by Kristen Solecki for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Meredith says...

    YAY!! I *love* Una Lamarche. I think she is kinda the second coming of Nora Ephron. So excited to see her on Cup of Jo!

  2. Molly Sarah says...

    Funny and touching.

  3. Vivian says...

    I just picked up and started reading Una’s Unabrow! She is such a talented writer, this was a pleasure to read.

  4. Jenn says...

    Such excellent writing! Thumbs up, and more like this please!

  5. Robin says...

    As a child of divorced parents, yes yes yes. Thank you for this.

  6. Yes to more personal essays, please! And I’ve had this writer’s book on my TBR forever; maybe it’s finally time to pick it up!

  7. Heidi says...

    My parents broke up when I was 18 and writing my German Abitur (which equals A-Levels in the UK or your high school diploma in the US) – so probably not the best time in my life.
    Still, I completely agreed with their decision as they were obviously not happy.
    I was actually really lucky as they never said mean things to or about each other, still supported each other and were able to remain friends. I never had to worry about family holidays, as we would still find a chance to spend them together (only my brother and I were fighting). But, I can see how much they lost financially and how my mom is struggling with her lower income from time to time as she stayed at home with me. Makes me think a lot about my future and how to make sure that I can provide for my self (especially now with a baby on the way).
    My mom once said: “You can love somebody but not be able to live with that person.” which I believe is true and gave me a lot of peace.
    I even mentioned my parents’ good relationship at my wedding when I pointed out that they are still helping each other and that my father does handy tasks like drilling holes in my mothers apartment… Haha! Everybody started giggling and my husband is still teasing me with the “dirty” joke I made. :D

    • Molly Sarah says...

      “You can love somebody but not be able to live with that person.”

      So. True.

  8. Jean says...

    I’m at a point in my life where most of my peers’ children are in high school and leaving for college. There’s been a sudden jump in divorce that can’t be ignored. Half of my friends are divorced now and a good portion remain in uncertain circumstances. What hasn’t been mentioned are the parents I see who are staying together until the kids leave for college. They are clearly miserable and depressed, enduring their current situation but putting on a brave and cheerful face for the love of their children. When they finally separate, the grown and adult children are often indignant. “How could you do this to me?” I wish I could say to them, “Your parents have been torturing themselves for your benefit for years, sometimes over a decade. They gave you your childhood. Please give them their lives back.”

    • Steph says...

      “torturing themselves for your benefit…” – I feel like we don’t give children and teenagers enough credit. Believe me, they KNOW when there are issues and tension in a marriage, so parents staying together “for the sake of the children” can actually do more harm than help.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, even very young children!

    • Jean says...

      Steph: I couldn’t agree more!! I’ve said that to many friends. But I was actually shocked at how many grown children continued to blame both or one of their parents even though they could see how much pain they were in. That threw me for a loop.

    • Robin says...

      My parents divorced when I was 13 and I’m so glad they did. My husband’s parents (who I’ve known since my teens) waited until he was in his twenties. Madness. It had been coming a long, long time. Such a mess.

  9. Tara says...

    I feel so fortunate to be the child of a loving divorce. My parents split up when I was 12 years old — not because they no longer wanted to be married to each other, but because my mom came out of the closet. My dad was heartbroken, and at the same time, he was my mom’s biggest supporter in embracing her authentic self. Ultimately, they let each other go so they could find the partners they each deserved. (And they did! They’re now both in relationships with amazing women who make them so happy.)

    My long term boyfriend had the opposite family divorce experience: when he was a young adult, his parents went through a bitter separation after an infidelity. It’s been interesting for me to both relate to his pain and loss while feeling like our experiences were emotional oceans apart. Ultimately, though, I think it’s strengthened our relationship to deeply understand the realities of the dissolution of a family unit — and helps us feel confident, not scared, about marrying each other someday. I’m so grateful for that.

    Lots of hugs to all adult children of divorce, however that family situation shook out for you. Our paths are all so different and so interconnected.

  10. Jessica says...

    I am living through my in-laws divorcing right now – they live upstairs from me – and the hardest part for me is the impact on my own children, who are so close to their grandparents. We haven’t yet found a way to tell the kids that their grandfather has moved out, as he still comes over a lot. The hardest part for my husband is being the emotional core of the family. He is already the one in the family with the strongest shoulders, and now he has people leaning on him from all directions. I’m trying to be his support, help manage the fragile emotions of both of my in-laws, and keep things steady for my small children, but it leaves me weary at the end of many days lately.

  11. Emily says...

    My parents have been divorced now for ten years and I find it interesting how it has started to play out in my own life and relationship as I get older. At different milestones such as getting married, finding out I was pregnant, just recently giving birth to my first child my hurt and insecurity plays out in my relationship with my husband until I realise “oh boy, I’m afraid of my parents relationship happening to me!”

    I remember the instant relationship role reversal that happened as an adult child of divorced parents as I became the parent to two broken adults and it has transformed who they are as people. However they are both definitely better apart from each other!

    Also, one more reflection, I remember the first time I felt truly hurt by the divorce, probably five years after it happened. I was shopping in a department store and I saw a woman maybe ten years older than me shopping with her parents on the weekend. I watched them and my heart broke and I became so angry at my dad, thinking “that, that is what you lost.” It was funny how it was something so mundane as shopping together as a family that triggered me!

  12. Emily says...

    Hey Jo!

    My sister emailed me this NYT article months ago and I actually said to her, “CoJ should do a series on divorces with adult kids.” Glad to see you have done that. Mine and my sister’s story resembles a lot of Una’s and so many of these other comments. On one hand it is so cliche and yet, that does not make it any less painful. For all of you adult children of divorced parents out there, you might want to give this article a glance. It has some interesting ideas and some I hope will become the norm in the years to come.

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/fashion/weddings/never-too-old-to-hurt-from-parents-divorce.html

  13. I love this article! It’s so refreshing to find a blog that has well-considered writing on it.
    Likely By Sea

  14. Katie says...

    i tell people that my parents’ divorce has been way more successful than their marriage ever was. they’ve now been divorced longer than they were actually married, and i wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. i was 9 when they separated, and honestly my biggest fear was becoming a social pariah in my class by having divorced parents (hi, catholic school).

    i have my wonderful parents to thank for always working to maintain a relationship for mine and my siblings’ sake. to this day (i am now 27), we spend every holiday and birthday together; growing up, all three of my parents sat together at all of our sporting events.

    without my parents’ divorce, i wouldn’t have two half-siblings from my dad and stepmom that i’m utterly obsessed with like they’re my own children– and the kicker is that my mom is just as equally obsessed with them, too. it is the most wonderful, crazy, “modern” family.

    • Kristina says...

      Katie, that sounds wonderful!! I always wished my parents could have been friends after their separation. But I am also very close to my half-sister, so that is something I wouldn’t change for the world. xx

    • Nina says...

      So good to know that it can be done well, Katie! My partner’s parents didn’t do any of that good work when they separated, and a quarter of a century later they can still hardly stand to be in the same room. They often say negative things about each other to my boyfriend, and are pettily competitive over him. His relationships with his two half-brothers (one older, one younger) are also fraught with difficulties which I’m sure must be traceable back to the various parents and step-parents. Your family sounds so much better! Well done to all of you!

  15. Linda says...

    Oh, man, divorce is so hard! I don’t know a single adult friend whose parents divorced that still does not experience hurt from it. It just tears at the heart like practically nothing else. Today actually happens to be the 62nd anniversary of my parents. They have made it through good times and tough times and I’m so proud of them. I am thankful for their example of enduring love and commitment to one another. On the other hand, I think my in-laws are married in name only. They are hard-hearted toward one another, they don’t operate as a team, there has been infidelity, financial insolvency, and they don’t even seem to enjoy each other’s company. Just out of curiosity, if people have parents in this type of situation, would you prefer that they stay together, or would you prefer for them to split up? Which would be more painful?

    • Divorce. I have no hurt from my parent’s divorcing. Now my mother disowning me because I fought to live with my dad- lifetime scars but them divorcing, none.

  16. Laura C says...

    My parents divorced when I was 15. Actually it was the best thing for all of us. My dad got married twice after my mom, and he passed away 4 years ago.
    He was the reason of the divorce but he never overcame it.
    I have to admit after all these years, it may sound weird or ridiculous, but I feel kind of envy when we go at my parents-in-laws house and my husband asks his mom, “where is Papa?” and he can get an answer. That is a question that I never asked again to my mom. And it make me feel sad. Of course, I’ve never told this to my mom or my siblings.

    • I totally get this. My parents divorced when I was 13 (they actually separated the week of 9/11 — it was such a bizarre time in my life) and I am 27 now and often struck by the intimacies I detect between other people’s parents. The one that stands out to me most is when I see two toothbrushes, side by side, in a bathroom. Isn’t it strange the things that brush against us?

  17. Cait says...

    My parents divorced when I was eight, my sister was 18 and my brother 16. I remember being the first kid in my class with divorced parents, and i was immediately labeled the black sheep of the bunch. Looking back now that was ridiculous, and terrible. I lucked out by having a wonderful sister that took me under her wing, and a great older brother. 20 years later my parents are Okay with being around each other, but still talk the talk when they cant be heard by the others. A lot of petty “it must me nice” happens.

    My fiance and i were just talking about picturing my parents together, and we both laughed because its too insane to think about. They have been apart longer than they were together. And created a much better happier family apart.

  18. jen says...

    My parents divorced when I was 22 after being separated for 4 years and married for 27 years. By that point it was just a relief for me to finally have something resolved and concrete instead of being in limbo. It’s been 13 years since their divorce – my dad has remarried twice and my mom once (and divorced and now hung up on my dad) – and if anything, it’s helped me figure out how I want my relationship with my husband to go; what to do/what not to do, etc.
    I would never want them to get back together without extensive couples and individual therapy, but mostly I just want my mom to move on and see that at 60 years old, she could realistically still find the “love of her life” and experience true happiness.

  19. This was written so beautifully. I am very blessed that my parents are still happily married, but I’ve seen many people end up divorced. My grandparents divorced and I never really processed how it affect my mom.

    http://www.thebeautydojo.com

  20. Hope says...

    My parents are going through a divorce as I type this, after 25 years of marriage. Growing up, my biggest fear was divorce (after all, that’s what everyone seemed to be doing!), and I was probably the only 8 year old who was utterly obsessed with making sure they were “okay” and on good terms, pleading with my parents to apologize to each other for any wrongdoings I happened to witness (of course, I know now that this is very characteristic of OCD). My entire identity was wrapped up in the stability of their marriage. Now that it’s *actually* happening, I’m finding that it’s more heartbreaking than I imagined, but not the end-of-the-world scenario I always thought it would be. The moments that get me the most are thinking of upcoming holidays and birthdays, and their relationships with my and my husband’s future kids. I’ve always heard that divorce is so hard on children, but it’s an entirely different thing being an adult “child” of divorce. It’s been incredibly difficult to not look back on 24 years of memories and wonder what was genuine and what was forced for the sake of keeping that picture perfect family image. I will say, though, that watching my parents go through this has made my husband and I talk ad nauseam about what kind of example we want to set for our future kids for what a healthy marriage looks like, such as not keeping *everything* a big secret from our children (which is what my parents did, and ultimately, I wished they had been more upfront and honest with us about their struggles and talked with us more).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a really interesting perspective, hope. thank you so much for sharing.

    • jen says...

      Yes! I never once saw my parents argue. i thought it meant they were so over-the-moon-happy, but now I realize it’s because they simply didn’t communicate with one another. They never dealt with any issue until it became too big for them to overcome.
      And once the dust settles on your parents divorce, it’s worth it to have an in-depth talk about their life and marriage. It was astonishing to me to chat with my dad and realize they really only had about 6 years happily together but ultimately stayed together for 27 years “for the kids”.

    • Rachel says...

      Thanks for sharing, Hope. My parents got divorced a few years ago when I was 26, and it’s helpful to hear other people’s experiences of being an adult child when their parents divorced because it isn’t really talked about a lot. That’s actually one of the things that was most difficult for me to deal with–since I was an adult, everyone (including my parents) thought it would be less painful and not really a big deal. It meant that my grandma (who never would have said this to me as a child) thought it was fine to say things like “your dad’s an a**hole” and my mom thought it was fine for her to talk to me like I am her therapist.

      People don’t realize that it is painful and difficult for completely different reasons: 1) my sister and I rather suddenly have the role of taking care of their health. For example, they have both had a surgery, and my dad had cancer, and we had to take care of them; 2) we are worried about their financial stability (which was never good but even more strained now that there are two households) and wondering how that’s going to affect our own finances as they age; 3) I hear it’s never easy to separate your own romantic relationships from your parent’s divorce, but my dad made it especially difficult by giving my mom (it was a surprise) the papers exactly one week after I got married. Thankfully I have a good relationship with my husband, but this definitely affected our marriage in really direct ways. How could it not?

    • Sara says...

      Hi Hope,
      My parents divorced when I was 28 after 32 years of marriage. I was pregnant at the time with my first child. It was the worst moment of my life. It is so hard to live through it as an adult and there really isn’t much written about it. A Grief Out of Season was a great book. It’s out of print but you can find used copies on Amazon. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Lots of love your way.

  21. So beautifully written! I feel so thankful that my parents have remained together and happy all these years. I enjoyed the way she ended this on a light, but not perfect note. Life doesn’t often have the fairytale endings, but it’s refreshing to hear an ending where everyone is just doing well!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  22. My parents divorced recently and even though me and my sister were technically adults it still was really rubbish. They’re not talking and it’s hard to reconcile everything at the moment. Hopefully in a few more years it’ll all feel a bit better

    Steph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

  23. I always thought so too, setting well placed traps would do it :) but sadly no

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  24. Samantha says...

    Sometimes a divorce is just a necessity. It’s just better for both parts and for the kids, to not fight and scream at each other and be unhappy all the time. I remember how depressed my mom was back when she was with my father. Looking back it’s hard to imagine how they ever got together in the first place. It kinda felt like a relieve knowing that they would get a divorce. But, to be honest, I’m completely terrified of divorce. I would never want that to happen to me. No one does, obviously! No one ever marries expecting to get divorced (well, maybe in some cases). But some people are more like “Well, if it happens, it happens”. I can’t even picture it. I feel like I would go insane.

  25. Laura says...

    Ugh. My parents divorced 6 years ago after 30 years of seemingly-perfect marriage for very ugly and somewhat dramatic reasons. My very “with-it” dad is now a shell of who he used to be. My mom who dropped out of college to be a picture perfect stay at home mother is constantly questioning her future without the stability of steady income. When i’m around either of them alone it’s such a weird feeling of everything not being *quite* right. My comfort comes from my faith – the knowledge that “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

  26. Colleen says...

    Beautifully written.

  27. Jean says...

    Joanna, I appreciate your comment on how your parents divorce was for you. I think a post on divorce with kids and, as usual, the awesome comments always follow would be very interesting and hopefully helpful for many.

    • Samantha says...

      I agree! Really appreciate that Joanna opened up about her parents divorce to us. It would be really nice to post something about divorce, since so many people get divorced or come from “divorced” households, and only (that I remember) one ‘Parenting around the world post’ featured a divorced/separated mother, the Iceland one.

      Also, you shared this article once, for the Articles Club (it be interesting to re-share):
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/fashion/02love.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
      I guess you can’t apply her tactics to every situation, but it really moved me and will always remember it.

  28. Laura says...

    So beautifully written. I have tears in my eyes because you described this so well. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Such a lovely little read! My parents are still together but I think one of the themes everyone can relate to here is that for children one of the great challenges of adulthood is seeing your parents as individuals. Learning that they exist in a place beyond Mom and Dad is so humbling in a way. We grow up believing that we are the center of their universe and learning that they need to find fulfilling lives outside of their family roles can be a little disorienting. In a funny way it mirrors parent’s struggle to let their children go as adults.

    • Katie says...

      My youngest sibling is 14 now, and watching my mother deal with her emptying nest and all that that means for her is troubling for me. She has to find a new identity for herself after being a SAHM of 6 for almost 30 years…I’m finding myself as a woman in my mid-twenties, and she’s going through a similar struggle in her 50s.

  30. this might off as insensitive but i have never viewed divorce as a life altering drama. as a kid, it just seemed reasonable , and preferable, when my aunt & uncle divorced (i lived with my gparents and a revolving door of aunts & uncles and cousins). i think i might be lacking some kind of sensitivity chip because i’ve never taken these kinds of things personally, or due to my upbringing and not having lived with my bio parents, but i’ve always been of the mindset, if you’re unhappy GTFO.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this, lan!

    • Amy says...

      This is great. My parents are married to each other, but as a kid I was TERRIFIED that they would divorce. I stayed up late praying that they’d stay together. They didn’t fight or do anything that would suggest they were headed toward divorce, but for whatever reason (I guess seeing kids’ go through it in school?) divorce was the scariest possible thing to me. It caused a lot of stress and stomachaches and terrible dreams. Perhaps if my parents had talked about it with my siblings and me, at least talked tried to make us understand what it is, why it happens, etc., I would have been better off.

    • Samantha says...

      I completely understand your point of view. My mom and dad moved in together when I was like 3, a couple years later they had my brother, and not even a year later they decided to separate for 8 months and then they got back together. When my brother was 2, they married, only to divorce a couple of years later. I saw them fighting all the time, and to me it was kind of a relief when my mom told me they were getting a divorce. My dad would come home so late from work that I didn’t feel the difference between him living with us and then just visiting. The harsh part was definitely the child support, that was a whole load of drama. But in the end, it was for the best. It’s like Jonathan said in a Stranger Things episode, “I guess my [my father] and my mother loved each at some point, but I wasn’t around for that part.”

    • Leah says...

      I’m right there with you, Lan. Life is too short to be miserable. I think a lot of the time people stay together for “the kids”, but to me, that is a huge mistake. My parents divorced when I was 13, in the late 70’s. It was terribly embarrassing in the small town where I grew up, but I knew without a doubt that it was the very best thing . We suffered financially, but I would not change a thing about my childhood. Maybe that’s what makes me a little dispassionate when it comes to marriage now.

  31. Kerry says...

    Going through divorce right now, as we speak, in brutally living color, after 24 years together (16 of those married). It is helpful to read something from the kids’ perspective, even if they were quite a bit older than our sons.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      my parents split up when my sister and i were in sixth grade, and my brother was in second grade. it was a hard adjustment at first (for example, i missed my dad waking me up every morning, and sitting next to me while i practiced piano; and he moved into a pretty depressing apartment at first with a mattress on the floor!) but overall it was SUCH a good positive thing for our family. my parents were much happier afterward, and they showed us by example how to live brave happy lives, instead of staying in a tense unhappy marriage. also, they went on to have really healthy, happy relationships with other people. i think divorce can be a really positive thing in the right circumstances. sending you a big hug, kerry, and best of luck as you navigate these next steps to a wonderful future. xoxoxoxoxo

    • Amanda says...

      I agree with Joanna! My parents separated when I was 12 and my siblings were 10, 8, and 4, and remained separated off and on until I was 16, when they finally got legally divorced. When I was 23 they actually got back together, remarried, and have been married ever since. Although their divorce was brutal and awful and completely un-Disney-like in every possible way, each of us emerged having learned powerful lessons that continue to shape our lives today. It was painful and hard and it evolved perspectives on the world in ways for which all of us are grateful. From the child’s perspective, I much preferred their years apart to the years where they were trying to stick it out together despite not getting along. It’s a devastating time regardless, and I wish you and your family much light and love. You’ve got this. xx

    • Marissa says...

      Since I was a pre-teen, I wished my parents would get a divorce. It was so obvious they didn’t love and even like each other, but they stayed together for way too long “for the kids.” I think it would have been better for us, the kids, not to live in a tense household with lots of fighting and too much drinking.

  32. Emilie says...

    “it felt for awhile after the split like all of our identities had been mistaken.”

    This essay resonates with me so very much. While grateful in many ways for the idyllic and sheltered childhood my parents created for my sister and I, their separation when I was 15 (nearly 16) left me in a place where I wasn’t quite sure how to imagine them, myself, or our family. I didn’t tell many of my friends for almost a year simply because I did not know how. I am not sure how I would have handled being more “in the know” about the disintegration of their marriage. I appreciate the fierceness with which both of my parents guarded the notion of our family unit, though the lack of any possible alternative meant that instead of sadness or anger or despair upon their break-up, I existed instead in some kind of void. When friends now ask how I think my parents’ marriage (20 years) and eventual split affected me, I am still not sure, because I still think I feel like part of my identity on the ‘understanding of relationships’ front is somewhat mistaken.

    Good food for thought. Thank-you, as always, for the content and discussion on wonderful Cup of Jo.

    • Hope says...

      “While grateful in many ways for the idyllic and sheltered childhood my parents created…their separation left me in a place where I wasn’t quite sure how to imagine them, myself, or our family…”

      Yes! 100 times yes to this. My parents kept their relationship entirely separate from me and my siblings, and even though more often than not I sensed that something was wrong, they still projected these picture perfect lives from the outside, which honestly made it all the more devastating for me when the truth slowly started coming to life. So while I’m grateful I didn’t have to witness ugly fights and screaming matches like I know so many do, I wish they hadn’t been so secretive because the secrecy turned my life upside down.

  33. Kristina says...

    Man this hits home. I’m a month away from turning 27 and my parents just decided to divorce…I was blindsided since I’ve been out of the house for years. It’s such a weird feeling. Still not sure I’ve become comfortable with the idea since we have always been such a tiny family (4…6 including all living grandparents). I’m hoping in a decade I’ll look back and see that things got a lot better for both of them and the rest of my family.
    :-(

  34. Natalie Brennan says...

    I love this. My parents got divorced and honestly it was like the best thing for our family by far. I’m a big believer in splitting up and moving on over staying together when you’re both unhappy. It was great to see both my parents happy again!

  35. Anna says...

    My parents got divorced after 25 years of marriage. It’s very strange having your parents split up when you’re an adult. Once they’ve been married that long, you just assume that’s the way it’ll always be. That was nearly five years ago and my dad is still heart broken while my mom has moved on to a (nice) guy who couldn’t be more different than my dad. We’re still trying to talk Dad into joining E-harmony.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, isn’t it funny when your parents date? i’m used to it now, but when we were in high school, it was so funny/weird/sweet/odd to hear my dad talk about going on a first date or get his heart broken!

    • Miriam says...

      Anna, so great that your Mom found such a nice guy. My dad actually passed away, but I’m thrilled my mom is brave enough to start dating again, and hope such finds someone sweet and fun to hang out with! I’m 30, my dad passed away a few years ago, and my mom’s trials and tribulations with dating are mostly hysterical – do I text him him or call him back? what do I wear to meet his friends? is it too early to invite him to the house for dinner? She’s learning how to date again after being married to my dad for 40(!!) years (albeit not always the happiest marriage). The last time she went on a date was in college. Mostly I end up responding to her questions with: NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY DATING IS SO HARD FOR ME AND MY SIBLINGS? So, weirdly, my mom dating has made our relationship even closer.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, miriam!