When I was in college I was assigned a research project for an English class. I could pick the topic and so I chose the effects of divorce on adult children. In doing research for this (I got an A) project I discoverd the work of Judith Wallenstein Phd. She has been studying the effects of divorce on children since the early 70's and some of her findings mirrored my own life so closely that I felt slightly exposed handing that research over to my professor.
Dr. Wallerstein's work showed that adult children of divorce were gun shy, they had a hard time committing, they chose inappropriate partners, were more likely to divorce themselves and were prone to depression. As I read all this as a 21 year old college student fresh from a disasterous relationship with a highly inappropriate man I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me. Over and over the people she'd studied displayed the same poor judgement and and reckless behavior that I did. I know that most people at 21 make a sort of sport out of bad decisions but the people in the book and people like myself made those bad decisions, not out of a sense of fun or on a lark but rather out of a sense of need or fear.
We attached ourselves to people we knew would leave us because that is what is familiar. We stayed away from relationships that could become serious because we're afraid that we'd have to relive it all over again. We open ourselves up to only the most shallow interactions as a way of protecting the scared child inside.
Looking back now, it was in reading Dr. Wallersteins book "The Unknown Legacy of Divorce" (Hyperion) that got me thinking and making decisions about what I wanted in my life and what I didn't. In many ways, I have her work to thank for making me realize that all these bad decisions and poor judgments were within my control. I could choose to follow this legacy of failure and abuse or I could make better decisions than my parents had and give my children a safer and more comforting home.
None of this is meant as a judgment on my parents (my mom reads this blog, Hi Mom!). I understand why they made the decisions they did and I know that divorce was the best option available to my mom. I do not blame them for divorcing and in retrospect it the best thing for all concerned. I do occasionally blame them for getting married in the first place because that was (I'm sure they'd both agree on this one) a bad move on both their parts. But blaming them for this is silly because if they hadn't done that, my brothers and I wouldn't be the people we are so I'm not going to pass any blame around here.
What I am saying is that at the outset, I felt it was important to really think longterm and know what I wanted in a father for my children and in a husband for myself. If anything good has come from being the child of divorce it is that I've seen how wrong it can go when you don't look at a date as a potential partner. Instead you get lost in being in-love and stupid. I love my husband dearly, like the very air I breathe but when I looked at him across the table on our first date I wasn't thinking of a magical wedding at a villa in Tuscany or about how cute he was (though he is very cute). I was thinking about what he'd be like in the trenches. Would he be someone I could work along side with toward our common goals, in building a life, in raising a family. Would his be the face I'd want to see every morning for the rest of my life? Would he be the one I'd want to talk me through contractions while I birthed his children? Would he be the one I'd want to fight and compromise with on paint colors for the living room even though he knows I'm very artistic and his wardrobe before I met him looked like oatmeal? The answer to all these has obviously been yes and for five years we've been getting to know each other and building that life.
I grew to love him, I didn't fall in love. I liked him a lot but I didn't let myself fall in love because I knew where that leads. When I knew enough about him that I knew he wouldn't hurt me, I made the decision to love this man.
The best decision of my life.