Friday, October 14, 2005

Children of Divorce

I never really talked much specifically about my parents divorce. I sort of mentioned it in an early post back in July called "Thinking About My Dad". I've probably referenced here or there in other posts about my attempted suicide which I've intended on posting more details about but never got around to it. (I will though, it's an interesting God-event in my life.) My parents divorced when I was about 11 years old and it was a huge contributor to my state of mind when I tried to kill myself a few years later.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is because I saw an interview on The Today Show yesterday with Matt Lauer (he's crazy cute, me thinks - sorry, i didn't mean to gross you out) speaking with Elizabeth Marquardt, author of "Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce." Thanks to my trusty TiVo Series 2, I was able to rewind the interview and jot down a few notes that I found interesting:

**For those interviewed in the nationwide study answering the question, "I felt like a different person with each of my parents," 43% were from divorced families; 21% were from intact families.

**Matt Lauer said in response to that statistic, "These children were forced to take on two different personalities almost to fit in to each household that they had to go to..."

**Elizabeth Marquardt responded, "Right, and when they grow up it really becomes difficult for them to know how to be their whole true self with another person."

I found this interesting because I can affirm this in my experience. I chose to move from Hawaii away from my dad to live with my mom here in Southern California. It was difficult relating with my dad after that and it really was like I was a different person when on the phone with him. Granted, much of that had to do with me trying to cope with the divorce itself, but in terms of my personality I was definitely different. How much of this did I carry with me into adulthood? (Her book actually infers that children of divorced parents take alot into adulthood.) This is the first time that I've heard the suggestion that I learned to adopt a dual-personality at that young of an age - when they got divorced. I easily applied this to my secret sexuality as well. In both contexts, both the divorce and me being gay, I can see how they were both coping mechanisms for me and at the same time contributed to me being confused about my identity.

Another interesting quote from the interview was:

**Matt asked her about what other people say that, "Children are resilient. They will bounce back from a divorce. The effect perhaps is short term but not long term."

**Elizabeth responded with, "Simply not true. Divorce shapes children in their inner lives in lasting ways that turn up in young adulthood."

I can affirm this as well in my life. After I tried to commit suicide and survived during my freshman year in high school, I kind of blocked out the whole divorce thing until late senior year. After that, I thought about it alot. Even through my early college years, I found myself bitter with both my parents. These feelings, combined with my same sex attractions and also my developing faith life, had me feeling pretty torn - between three worlds even.

I'm sure there are some out there that would presuppose my same sex attractions are connected to the way I was raised and my parents' divorce.


JJ said...

I'm in the middle of an 'email conversation' with my mother right now. My dad is coming up to visit, and my mother wanted to come over to my place at the same time, thinking that it is a good thing for me to see them together. I wrote her and told her something I hadn't told her before, which was that I don't really like it when they are together, it feels weird to me (my parents divorced when I was 5)... I didn't tell her I find it stressful and exhausting. Reading this idea about the 'dual personality' thing makes me wonder, is that why I find being around the 2 of them so tiring, because I know how to relate to them seperately, just not together... it's food for thought anyway.

Eric said...

"I didn't tell her I find it stressful and exhausting."

yeah, now that you mention it, that's how i felt. there was always that passive aggresiveness about both of them - a comment here or there to me about the other. i kind of always had to be different depending on who i was with.

as i grew up, i found that i was a different person around different pockets of friends too. i was the Eric around my high school friends, then i was the other Eric around my old junior high friends, there was the Eric around mom, and there was the Eric around dad, there was the Eric with my close friends, and there was the Eric with the church people, not to mention the Eric in my head who was paranoid about all of those different circles of people rejecting me (perhaps even "divorcing me") if they knew that i was gay inside. as you always say, JJ, - oy!

thank God for the long journey over the years that led me to where i'm at now. i still have insecurities but i feel more whole now than i've ever been. the funny thing about that is - when i was in the ex-gay ministry (which i will continue to say was a positive experience for me despite other people's horrible experiences) they said that i'd be more whole when i deny or "starve" my gay self.

John Howard said...

Very moving stuff. When you mention your friends divorcing you, and you mention how you felt like different people in different contexts, did you ever feel like one Eric was divorcing the other Erics?

John Howard said...

and btw, everyone has different sides to themselves that they don't share with other friends. My parents are still together (55 years!) but I still had my arty musician friends, my stoner friends, and my computer nerd friends that I kept very seperate, and, well, I ended up sort of not fitting in with any group at all, now that i think about it...maybe I had an intact self tied to my family, and that's why I couldn't pretend to belong to any of those groups.