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Friday, March 19, 2010

A Different Sort of Marriage

I never really had a good model of marriage when I was a child.  My parents divorced when I was three or four years old.  Before that, my only memories are of them yelling at one another.  For years after, I would feel anxious from time to time and hear their loud, angry voices in my head.  My throat would close up and I would feel an irrational fear and insurmountable guilt.

I don't have any happy memories of my parents together.  None at all.  Even after they divorced, my father would accuse my mother of ruining his life and taking me away from him, and my mother would call my father names like "SH," which stood for Shit Head, behind his back.

When I got older, I learned that my father kidnapped me shortly after they separated.  I vaguely remember being in a strange bed and having police officers come to the house where I was.  I remember walking through the courthouse and seeing my mother sitting on a bench in front of a panel of windows.  She jumped up and ran to me.  That is all.

As I got older, I also heard other stories of married life between my parents, but none of it was pleasant.  I would look back through photo albums, but there weren't any pictures of the three of us together.  I suppose that may be because someone always had to be behind the camera, but I don't know.

My father didn't remarry until I was grown, but my mother found a new husband and got married shortly after my fifth birthday.  Steve was good to her and took care of me, but he had a mean streak, too.  I remember that they would argue about normal couples things.  Once, when I was about 12 years old, my mother threatened to send me to my fathers while she left my stepfather.  She said that we should all go our separate ways.  They did eventually get a divorce, and I did eventually go to live with my dad, but it took another two to three years before we got there.

In some ways, I can feel sympathy towards my mom.  I am now married with two children, one more than she ever had.  I understand the frustration of trying to make something work, of holding onto hope that I can have a normal life.  I understand the way that someone so close to you can use words that cut so deeply.  But, I'm not alone in this.  I'm sure my husband has experienced the same.

We don't fight like my parents did when I was young, at least I hope not.  When we argue, it is about typical family things.  Money, time, holidays, and the such.  It still hurts, and it is still hard for me not to go the same way that my mother did.  It is hard for me to know how to work through our problems, when I had no model for a good marriage.  Because of that, I not only feel sympathy towards my mother, I also feel anger.

Some days I feel like I don't know how to be a good wife and mother.  Some days I feel like I just can't do it.  I try, I really do, but I just can't get there.  I see myself repeating her mistakes.  I hear myself repeating her harsh words.  I worry that, I too, will wind up a bitter old woman with hardly any family left to care.

At the same time, my husband and I are committed to each other.  Regardless of what we may say or feel, I can't imagine that we will go the way of my parents.  I can't imagine that we really would go through divorce proceedings.  So, in that way, we are different from what has gone before.  We may struggle, but we'll make it.  We have to.

This post was inspired by Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, prompt number four, "Describe how your relationship with your spouse is different then the relationship your parents had while you were growing up."


  1. Hey there. My parents got divorced too when I was 21. It wasn't as bitter, but it was still life-changing. I think we are bound to work harder on our marriages as a result. We know how much is at stake.

  2. I completely understand where you're coming from. I feel differently about my marriage, but I worry all the time about being a good mom because my mom was...well, so NOT a good mom. It can be really hard! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. That was pretty heartbreaking, but I'm grateful that you have a determination to make it with your marriage. And I know, some days I just don't know how to be a wife and mother either, but the Bible says "love covers over a multitude of sins" and you definitely have a loving heart.

    And thanks for the visit to my blog!


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