As far back as I can remember, I’ve heard that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. I’m not sure that’s necessarily accurate.
Let me give you a little background on me. I come from a very functional, close-knit, loving family. My parents are happily married 55 years. You would swear they were newlyweds to look at them. They still have fun together, still joke around, still laugh, and are kind, caring and respectful to one another.
Growing up, I never heard them fight. In fact, I fell asleep many nights to the sound of hysterical laughter coming from their bedroom! Our house was always happy, filled with laughter, music, dancing, fun, family, friends and food. (See Family, Friends, Food And Fun)
I had a large extended family that I was very close with; loving grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Our house was always filled with people – neighborhood kids, friends from school, our parents’ friends, etc.
We had many pets; five dogs at one time, two cats, a bird and through the years we’ve had turtles, hamsters, and various wildlife that my mom cared for, including baby rabbits, squirrels and a bird. My St. Bernard had six puppies when I was in elementary school and the whole family helped care for them.
So as you can see, my household was sane, prosperous, fun and loving. My parents helped everyone, I mean everyone, and so, I learned kindness and I learned to try to help.
What I didn’t realize was, you can only help those who want to help themselves!
I was young when I married the first time. In my eyes, marriage and family were a beautiful thing, it’s all I knew and it was everything to me. I wanted to marry young, have children young and grow old together, travel as a family, have fun. That wasn’t to be. I came to the realization that not all people where like my parents and family, unfortunately.
The few times I traveled when I was married were a nightmare. Fun wasn’t how I would describe it. Fun… no. Fun was not had. I knew what fun was from my own family and later on I found a ton of fun with my significant other and now my current husband. I deserved to live a life filled with fun as did my kids. Never let anyone take away the fun.
Here’s some advice. You can’t help or save everyone and it’s not your job! While some stand sturdy, strong and put together, some people are just cracked, broken. If someone comes from crap, more than likely, they are crap. While there are exceptions to the rule, statistically, those who come from dysfunction are dysfunctional. Most don’t know it, but, they are. Don’t buy into the whole “that’s my family, it’s not me.” These people are scarred, and they have no clue how bad off they are.
I thought I was going to give someone the nice family they always wanted, make a happy home and go to Europe for our 50th wedding anniversary. I thought wrong.
Here are my observations through the years having gone through my own divorce and witnessed several divorces:
- People raised by alcoholics are scarred. Very often they either become an alcoholic or they don’t drink but have all the characteristics of the alcoholic they were raised by.
- People who live in a dysfunctional family have zero social skills. They can rarely be taught later on in life. Be prepared to be mortified by unacceptable and inappropriate behavior.
- Anger is about the only emotion some people know how to show.
- People who were abused very often abuse both physically and mentally.
- People who were sexually abused have serious issues and sometimes, also sexually abuse.
- People never taught logic, have none. Never taught compassion, have none. Never taught right from wrong, don’t know. Never taught social skills, have none. Never taught love, can’t love.
- Someone can despise what their parent(s) were like and actually act exactly like them!
- People who were raised in a household where cheating took place, will more than likely cheat.
- People raised by liars, will lie.
You get the idea. Children learn what they live, good and bad. That’s not to say that some who came from bad don’t turn out good and some who came from good don’t turn out bad! It happens. But statistically, bad breeds bad and good breeds good.
- Don’t try to fix someone – only they can fix themselves.
- The first time anyone lays a hand on you, LEAVE. If it’s a tap, a shove, a push, a slap, LEAVE AND LEAVE FAST.
- Be strong, have a backbone and never let someone manipulate you or put you down. They do it due to their own insecurity and feelings of inadequacy.
- If you see signs of jealousy, RUN. Any jealousy, even if it’s jealousy of your family.
- If they want to control all the money – GET OUT.
- If anyone ever says “my way or the highway” trust me, take the highway, it leads to a much happier place!!!!!!! If they want everything their way, they don’t understand what a real relationship is about. They have no clue how to love, only attempt to control.
- If they pick fights with you over stupid, meaningless crap – END IT. A baby bottle forgotten in the car is not the end of the world. When you are carrying a baby, a diaper bag, groceries, car keys, etc. you probably won’t notice a baby bottle on the floor of your car and really, why does it matter in the grand scheme of things! The car is to get me from point A to point B. It’s not to be put on display as if it were in a showroom. A real, live family uses it.
I never wanted to be divorced. However, I wound up divorced. I did everything in my power to make a happy life, but you can’t do it alone. Nor can you make a happy life with a person who is miserable. I was a happy person, always. Except for the nine and a half years I was married. Then I lived in misery which became worse with each passing year.
I had planned to leave in January of 1995. I was going to do the right thing and inform my then spouse that I wanted a divorce. I had made up a spare set of house keys and car keys and had them hidden, not my normal MO, but I was given no choice. I also started saving money, also hidden, again, through no choice of my own.
December 15, 1994 was a gorgeous winter day. I was excited about the upcoming holidays. I spent the morning puttering around the house, doing laundry, playing with the kids and caring for them. I was home alone with the kids, so there was PEACE and we were happy and having fun. And then… the door opened and bam, there went our peace and fun. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
I was DONE. As soon as he stormed off again, in yet another fit of anger, over NOTHING important at all, I grabbed my hidden spare car keys, my kids and we left, immediately, with only the clothes on our backs. I never looked back. I retrieved the hidden money and some things I wanted, like clothing, and personal items later on when he wasn’t there.
My main concern was my safety and my children’s safety. I didn’t give two hoots about money and chose to let the fact that we had money in the bank that was half mine slide. It wasn’t worth it to me.
Right after the holidays I filed for a legal separation telling the lawyer my only concern was my children.
How I handled things:
- I took my son aside after the holidays and explained to him that the three of us were going to be living with my parents from then on. He was only six.
- He actually said he liked it better at my parents’ house. Of course, he did, people were fun there, we were always laughing, playing, singing and dancing! No fighting.
- My daughter was too young; she was still in diapers, on a bottle and took a Nuk. All she’s ever known was the three of us and my extended family.
- I stayed with my parents for our safety and in order to save money.
- When my son would ask questions, I would give him honest answers.
- I never bashed anyone but if he remembered something, I didn’t sugarcoat it either. I explained right from wrong to him and just made it a lesson. I would often say, “And that’s why that behavior is unacceptable.”
- My lawyer wanted to start a war. I wasn’t into wars. I just wanted my kids to be ok, that was it. Nothing else mattered.
- I willingly gave up half his pension. I had 100% custody, which was my priority.
- I would have gladly kept half the pension and half the money in the bank and given half custody if I thought it would have benefited the kids, but I knew it wouldn’t.
- I was offered four years of maintenance money – my lawyer wanted to put that into the papers. I turned it down. Why stay home and get LESS money when I could go back to work full-time and not only earn more than I would get in maintenance, but also build up my own IRA and Social Security and keep up with my skills.
- I was lucky; I had my family to watch the kids while I worked, so I knew they were safe and happy.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Fight for what’s right, don’t let anyone take advantage. I fought for what was best for my kids; I gave up the money (half the pension, half the bank account). So many told me I should fight for it. You know what, I was free, the kids were ok, that’s all I wanted.
- Don’t try to control the kids or talk crap to them. I never believed in that. I had seen it done to kids and others adults. I’ve never been a manipulator and never will be.
- Trying to manipulate others always backfires on people. Kids grow up; they see, hear and come to realizations.
- I always told people I wanted my kids to form their own conclusions, have their own opinions, and make their own choices.
- The ONLY thing I ever said to my kids was – “If you invite your other parent to your wedding, please do not announce us together.” That’s IT. I will walk in with my significant other or spouse or a special friend, depending on the circumstances. Same for the other parent. Some people feel they can handle being announced together, I cannot. No how, no way will I do that. I want absolutely NOTHING to do with it.
- Do not make your children miserable. Do not make them choose, especially at their wedding.
- When they are little, you can do separate events and that was my choice. Parties cost a fortune, I wasn’t about to ruin a party having myself, my kids and my guests feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t going to have anyone there who liked to pretend they were joking but in reality they were starting trouble, making sarcastic comments and/or actions that offended. IF everyone can be sober, mature, and sociable, then hold special occasions together, otherwise, it’s best to keep them separate.
- Once the children are grown, then it’s their choice. If you have to be in the same place at the same time, simply ignore the other person.
- Think of others, don’t cause problems. It’s mean, it’s selfish, it’s immature and it will turn your own kids against you. When you start with a kid’s family, you create animosity.
- Try to keep the kids close with the other side of their family. I called my ex mother-in-law and told her she could come to my house to see the kids anytime she wanted. I even invited her several times. She never came.
- I stopped in at her house once with the kids. I got a phone call telling me not to just pop in anymore.
- To my ex’s credit, he attempted to take the kids many times to see her, she would cancel last minute. Finally, I put a stop to it for my children’s well-being. They would get all excited and then extremely disappointed. I wasn’t going to put my kids through that.
- Years later, when the kids were grown, she attempted to contact them. I told them it was their decision. It was completely up to them. They discussed it together and chose not to see her. Had I tried to influence them, which I don’t believe in and had no reason to attempt to begin with, they may have wound up angry at me, either for seeing her or for not seeing her.
- You don’t want your children to blame you in the future. Allow them to make their own choices.
- Never lie and scheme. I’ve seen people do it and it’s repulsive behavior. I know a woman who said her husband hit her just so she would get the house. That’s disgusting behavior. You lie for a house? Earn your own house. Too many women are really suffering abuse for someone to take it so casually and lie for a material possession.
Things to remember:
- Once a cheat, always a cheat. There’s no reason for it, NONE.
- Don’t fall for the old “I only cheated on so and so because I was so unhappy, but I’d never cheat on you.” BULLCRAP
- Once a liar, always a liar. Trust is the most important part of a relationship. If it starts off with lies, it will never work.
- If someone has it in them to cheat and lie, they will cheat and lie as long as they deem it justified.
Things to Watch Out For:
- If friends say they don’t like the person you are with, pay attention. If people stop inviting you places because they don’t want your partner there, pay attention. I’m not talking about one or two people, I’m talking about EVERYONE.
- Watch the behavior of animals. If they growl, ignore a person or seem scared, that’s a big sign. I can say that the very first time my current husband came to my house, my dog jumped on his lap and they are best buddies since. Animals know good people and bad people.
- If you separate from your spouse and the person starts a new relationship, watch out for signs that your former spouse is intentionally turning you against one another.
- Befriend the person your former spouse is serious with if possible. After all, that’s who your children will be around. Also… trust me, it’s an eye opener when you get to speak directly with them!
- If you are dating someone and their former spouse is trying to warn you, take it into consideration. Don’t think they are jealous, a bitch, a bastard, etc. Talk to them. A good friend of mine did that. She’s happily married to the man over 25 years, but she was smart to talk to his former wife.
- Watch out for people who can’t admit being wrong, say they are sorry, take blame or take responsibility. If they do something, you know they did it, you saw it, heard it, felt it, lived it and then they turn around and deny it, that’s a huge sign.
- Watch how their family acts.
How to get through it all:
- I didn’t consider my first marriage a failure. I know I was a good wife. I know I was/am a good mother. I wasn’t perfect, but I cared and gave it my all.
- I never lied, cheated, abused or hurt anyone ever.
- It will be hard sometimes, but, it will be worth it. (See My Article: A Single Parent Lesson)
- Life changes. Mine changed for the better.
- You will meet wonderful people, new friends, new coworkers, a whole new life.
- You will meet amazing romantic partners and have life experiences you never dreamed of.
- There are good people out there, good relationships and good families.
- I had the most amazing relationship with a wonderful man. We traveled the world together, sometimes we brought the kids.
- There are people out there who will treat your children the way they deserve, who care about them, who support them in many ways.
- My current husband is Mr. Wonderful. He’s fun, funny, loving, caring, honest, friendly, likeable and confident. He loves my children and they love him.
- My significant other and now my current husband both fit in with my family. They became close with them, got along fabulously and my family really liked/likes them! They both had wonderful families too which I and my children got/get along with great.
- My husband treats my children like gold. He’s there for them. He does the things a father should do even though they are not his biological children.
- Sometimes bad things happen to good people. I got sick. Shit happens. It has nothing to do with anything. I’m not being “paid back”, it’s not “karma” or any other nonsense. I did nothing wrong to anyone, there’s no payback required, no karma necessary.
- Divorce isn’t easy. But sometimes, it’s the best option and you will thank your lucky stars everyday that you made the choice to end it and move on. I sure do! Every year on December 15th, I celebrate my decision to end that horrific marriage and to make a life for myself, a good life, a life filled with fun, love, laughter, travel, dogs, friends and family and of course, my extraordinary children.
I’m so proud of my children. With all the stories you hear these days about kids overdosing, getting into trouble, etc., mine are hard-working, responsible, caring, fun, sociable and successful people. They both love to travel, which I instilled in them. My son is a sports fanatic and my daughter loves equestrian. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
My life is blessed with wonderful children, their significant others, my amazing husband, my spectacular parents, my loving sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews and various pets.
Divorce isn’t the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a new world, a better world, and a blessed life.
NEVER, EVER, EVER stay for the kids. You aren’t doing them any favor. You are also doing yourself a huge injustice. You deserve better. You deserve a valuable, happy, good life.
REMEMBER – you only live once. You can spend it happy and pleasantly or you could spend it in misery! I chose happy and pleasantly.
Leopards don’t change their spots. Once a schmuck, always a schmuck. What a person does to you, they will do to another. That becomes VERY EVIDENT when you speak with others who were involved with the person and realize, the issues were identical, the treatment identical, the ways identical and the MO right on target. You could finish one another’s sentences and you do. You know what they are going to say even before they say it!!!!
I was young, I was inexperienced. If I knew then what I know now I would have NEVER married the first time. I have no regrets, I don’t believe in regrets. Everything happens for a reason. My past led me to the present, the here and now.
I make decisions always with the best intentions in mind. At the time I make the decision, I feel it’s the right thing. So… I married and it didn’t work out. I missed the warning signs or was fooled into thinking it would be different than it was. I came from stability, normalcy, happiness, love, kindness and ethical behavior and accountability. When you are young, you see the world through rose-colored glasses and think you can save, help, teach and create and all will be fine.
Wrong. You can’t turn a donkey into a prize-winning stallion! If you want to have a life with a stallion, find yourself a stallion. I now have a stallion! (See I Can’t Believe It’s Been Six Years!!!!!)
Written by: Doreen Campisi from Teaching An Old Cook New Tricks Visit her blog!