My divorce story…
I’m a co-author of the book Align Expand Succeed: Shifting the Paradigm of Entrepreneurial Success and it’s being released TODAY! Woo-hoo!!!
So why am I a little scared? Well, because my chapter is about how my parents’ divorce affected me and shaped my life. And it’s not all smiley faces and rainbows. Sure, I’ve shared this story many times with people and I’m not shy about it…except when it comes to putting it in print.
You see, I’ve spent many years mending the pain and hurt that occurred in my childhood and I now have a really good relationship with my parents and step-parent. But the truth is that I’ve never shared with them all of my feelings and experiences that I went through as a child. When I was in my late 20’s, we basically decided to start over from scratch with our relationship. So we’ve just focused on the present and moving forward, without rehashing the past.
So now I’m spilling the beans, so to speak, about my past, and I don’t want to hurt anyone or stir things up. But at the same time, I feel it’s time for me to share openly what my experience was, in the hope that it can help others who are going through divorce. Nothing I’ve written is intended to blame or hurt anyone. It is simply my perception of what happened in my life, as seen through a child’s eyes, and processed by a child’s brain.
Of course, as an adult and parent now, I can look back with greater understanding and compassion for my parents and for the child I was. But I know that all of my experiences led me to where I am right now and who I am right now, and for that I am truly grateful.
I’ve included the beginning of my chapter here…
By age ten I had made three vows to myself:
1. I would not depend on anyone for anything, especially money.
2. I would not show weakness or imperfection.
3. I would not get divorced, especially if I had kids.
Number 3 was the promise I did not keep, largely as a result of working so hard to keep numbers 1 and 2. I now look back at my childhood and have so much clarity and compassion for my parents, whose words and actions laid the path that ultimately led me to realize my life purpose.
I was six and my brother two when our parents divorced. My father remarried the following year, and as my stepmother took her place in our family, I felt my relationship with my father begin to slip away. My parents moved to different cities and my brother and I visited our dad every other weekend. My father often seemed frustrated and tense, and I quickly learned to dodge his anger and criticism by keeping quiet and staying out of the way. I loved to read so I kept my nose in my books as much as possible. Reading for me became not only a safety zone, but an escape from reality.
I learned to keep people at a safe distance.
I was naturally outspoken, confident, and active, but at my dad’s house, the meek and timid, perfectionist Marlene emerged, resulting in my dad’s belief that I was a very shy child. Because I didn’t share much with him about my everyday life, he was often surprised when I won leadership or citizenship awards, or participated in activities with friends. His reactions angered me because I felt that if he knew me at all, the last thing he would be was surprised. Looking back, I know my behavior helped create the distance between us and prevented him from knowing me. I was scared for him to know me because I was afraid of being close to him. I didn’t want to have feelings for him as I was terrified of getting hurt, afraid I could never please him, never get his approval, so I didn’t try. I made up my young mind that I didn’t care what he thought and that I didn’t need his approval. My brother took the opposite route. He tried desperately to win the approval of a man who was unable to give it, and when he didn’t, he tried to at least get his attention by misbehaving and getting into trouble. That worked, and I watched from behind my books as my brother’s spirit was broken by my father’s reactions and reproach.
I learned that being myself was not okay.
It seemed we were always walking on eggshells, attempting to avoid any explosions, until one day finally the bomb went off. My father and stepmother filed for full custody of my brother and me when I was nine. My mother was in graduate school full-time and we were living off of her modest savings. Now her nest egg went to an attorney in the hope of retaining custody. I was terrified that I would be taken from my mother, and remember lying in bed making plans to run away if I had to live with my father and stepmother. I thought surely if I ran away enough times, I would be allowed to go back to my mom. In court, my mom was made out to be an unfit mother, which was far from the truth. Somehow she still won the case, and our alternating weekend schedule continued. It was a relief, but it also seemed to cement the bitterness and conflict between my parents.
I learned that people could not be trusted.
I was too frightened of my father to talk to him openly about how I felt. I knew my mother was barely scraping by and always worried about money, so I didn’t want to make my father angry enough that he might withhold money from us. He had much more money than my mother, which gave him a lot of control over our lives. I watched my mom work so hard for little pay, doing everything she could to provide for my brother and me. I don’t recall her ever buying herself anything during my childhood. But I do remember my dad promising to buy us the clothes and toys we wanted if we would come live with him.
When I graduated from college and got a job with a top consulting firm, I didn’t have enough money to buy the suits I would need to wear, and timidly asked my father if I could borrow $400 to make the purchases. He agreed, then sent me a letter letting me know that this was the last time he would ever bail me out, and that I had to sign an agreement stating when I would pay him back. I bawled. When had I ever asked to be bailed out before? Me – the honors student, captain of the basketball and soccer teams, loved by all my teachers, working at least two jobs all through college, always trying to do what was “right” – why could I not escape his criticism and blame? I apologized for being such a burden and I paid the money back on schedule. I vowed I would never ask my father for anything again… ever.
I learned that asking for help was wrong.
My brother and I were often caught in the middle between our parents, playing peacemaker or messenger, or having to choose between them in a disagreement…
For the full story, you can get the book at http://aesbook.com
Get it today, October 19th, and you’ll also get access to over 100 free gifts you can download immediately!
It’s been quite a journey for me and I am grateful that I can share it with you.
Thanks for allowing me to be open and vulnerable.