Now normally, I don't have a problem with making comments in class-- ask anyone with whom I went to junior high, they'll tell you the same thing with an exaggerated eye-roll. But as our class discussed different topics pertaining to marriage and family relations, I found myself tempering the comments I wanted to make. I mean, what did I know about healthy family relationships? At the time my parents were in the middle of what would be a two-and-a-half-year bloodbath. And aren't the kids of divorcees more likely to divorce themselves?! Whatever marriage I'd have would be doomed for sure! Why even bother?!
Everyone's experience with divorce is different. It is far more comforting to think that your parents' divorce (or maybe even you own) was somehow different or special. That you're somehow exempt from the associated label of "Broken Home." I really do think, however, the end of my parents' marriage belongs in its own special category. They didn't separate simply because of "irreconcilable differences"-- there was addiction, abuse, and mental health challenges at play that made home life more than complicated. At the end of it all, a divorce was what our family desperately needed.
But my parents' marriage wasn't cursed from the beginning, and it is important to remember that no marriage is. They were two incredibly intelligent people-- literally rocket scientists-- with a lot in common who got along great. In fact, growing up I admired a lot of things about their marriage. And in that class, those were the experiences with a healthy marriage I wanted to talk about. But as I'd go to make a comment, I felt like sharing a happy memory would be dishonest. It felt like false advertising to talk about the good parts while failing to mention the whole thing would eventually go up in smoke. So most days I kept my hand down and my thoughts to myself.
But I shouldn't have.
Confession: there are a lot of qualities I witnessed in my early years that I would love to emulate in my own marriage and that would have been valuable insights to share. There were also a lot of mistakes that I'd give anything in order to avoid, but (despite all of my sob-story-scholarship applications), it was not all bad.
For instance: my parents built incredible things together. You put two engineers together in the garage with a bunch of tools on a Saturday, and you get a treehouse with a drawbridge or an indestructible lemonade stand or a stinkin' 20-foot castle for the First Grade Opera. My parents were a creative force to be reckoned with and went above and beyond with all of their creations.
My parents also did an amazing job of sharing parental responsibilities. They took turns picking us up from and dropping us off at school, making dinners, checking homework, and doing household chores while they were both working. I can only think of three years where one of my parents didn't coach one of the sports teams I was on, and there were very few field trips where at least one of them didn't attend. Despite demanding careers, they were incredibly attentive and involved in our lives and worked really hard to ensure my brother and I ended up being well-rounded, healthy adults.
Most importantly, I first learned to love my Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ in that home. My dad made sure we took our catechism seriously, prayed as a family nightly, and dutifully dragged our little derrières to Mass by 7:45am every Sunday. Although my mom wasn't Catholic, she respected and facilitated our faith better than most of the other Catholic moms. It wasn't until later in life that I came to appreciate how much sacrifice and work this must have taken on their part.
I could go on and on about what was great about my parents' marriage, but the cruel reality is that even a good marriage can end badly if you don't take care of it. Even still, my parents tried really, really hard to make things work, until divorce really and truly was the only option. In that time period, without realizing it, I learned how much a strong marriage can withstand. Even on hard days I can't help but fall to my knees and thank my Father in Heaven profusely that the struggles I have in my marriage do not even come close to the struggles of my parents.
Not only that, but I realize more and more than in my marriage, I am so incredibly privelaged to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Simply by being a member, I have a multitude of resources and aide at my fingertips that weren't even an option for my parents. I have the promise of an eternal marriage following my sealing in the temple and the blessings of other temple ordinances, I have the council of modern-day prophets and apostles, and I have the earth-shatteringly powerful words of the scriptures, to name a few. As faithful members, we are armed with a plethora of resources to strengthen our homes and families, one of the most powerful being The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
Like many others, I had a really hard time studying the proclamation at first. In the midst of my parents' divorce, it just felt like I was reading a laundry list of blessings I couldn't have because my family didn't fit the mold. As I have matured, though, and through fervent prayer, I have been able to further study the proclamation, and it has brought so much joy into my life! My family is far from perfect, but I can still be sealed to them for eternity. I know that their pains and sufferings will be alleviated by the balm of the Atonement one day-- and what a joyous day for us all that will be! And I know that I have it within my own power to provide a happy, safe, godly home for my own children so long as I honor my temple covenants with my sweet husband.
In my 18-months of experience, I can say confidently that marriage is a sticky, messy, gum-in-hair disaster sometimes. It's a big commitment and it is justifiably pee-you-pants terrifying-- especially if you've seen a marriage close to you crash and burn. But there is SO. MUCH. JOY.
So to you child of divorce: you must know you still have a voice. You must know there is a beautiful promise of hope for you. Satan will try his very hardest to convince you that you don't know the first thing about having a successful marriage, and he will try to silence the legitimacy of your experiences like he did with me. My parents were together for over 25 years, so something must have gone right. Don't let the Adversary delegitimize every good memory you have simply because there wasn't a happy ending.
I may not have witnessed a happy marriage, but I have witnessed the miracles of God, and with that witness I testify that with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the teachings of living prophets, and with temple covenants, we can have truly eternal marriages.