What I’ve Learned From my Parents’ Divorce

By Maddi Dolan

maddilyn.dolan@spartans.ut.edu

I was only a toddler when divorce turned my two parent household into a single parent household. And although I was quite young and probably had no idea what “divorce” meant at the time, the years that followed their split are what shaped me. 

From supervised visitations with my dad to therapy sessions with a child psychologist, the journey had its ups and downs, times of sadness, frustration and anxiety. But I wouldn’t change it even if I could. It made me a stronger, wiser and more empathetic person. 

With that said, here are three life lessons I learned from my parents’ divorce that have made me the woman I am today. 

  1. Forgive.

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from my parents’ divorce is to forgive, not for someone else, but for yourself. While I could have remained angry about growing up with one less parent, I chose to let it go. 

Why would I want to hold on to resentment towards someone when I can choose to forgive them? Mistakes get made and people get hurt, but overtime we can heal and move on if we choose to forgive those who have wronged us. If we don’t forgive, we hold on to the past and let it haunt us. If we want to move forward and look towards the future, we need to learn the act of forgiveness. 

And to clarify, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone someone’s words or actions, it just means you will no longer allow it to affect you and your relationship with them. Yes, it may be hard to forget, but I believe there’s always room to forgive. Do it for yourself, not them. 

  1. Accept the things you cannot change. 

I believe that acceptance is what allows us to live a more fulfilling life. Instead of hyperfixating and stressing over things that are not in your control, focus on yourself and the things you can control.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, so instead of struggling with that harsh reality, embrace it and remember that everything happens for a reason. Even if we don’t understand what that reason is, we will always grow from it. 

Do I wish I grew up with a father present in my life? Sure. But that didn’t happen, and I can’t keep focusing on that loss and wishing I could change it, because I can’t. I had to learn to accept my reality and move on. Of course it’s not always easy, and sometimes I catch myself thinking about the past, but I have to remind myself that I can’t change it. I can only move forward, not backwards. 

  1. Be independent. 

My parents’ divorce taught me what independence looks like. I was raised by an independent woman who raised two kids on her own. She did it all by herself, never once asking for help. That led me to be the outgoing and determined person I am today. 

She taught me that you should never rely on others, especially significant others. Yes, it’s important to know you can lean on others in times of need, but you should be strong enough to rely on just yourself in the end. 

Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, relationships are only temporary. People leave. So at the end of the day, we can only truly depend on ourselves. 

Growing up with divorced parents isn’t easy. The journey has plenty of ups and downs. And if you’re like me, having grown up with just one parent, remember that you’re not alone. According to Pew Research Center, a study in 2019 found that nearly a quarter (23%) of children in America grow up with a single parent today. 

No matter if you’re a child of divorce or if you grew up with two parents at home, I think we can all benefit from the lessons I’ve learned from my parents’ divorce. Remember to forgive, to accept the things you cannot change, and to always be independent. I believe it will lead you to a happier and healthier life. 

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