How I Explained To My Child That Her Grandparents Were Divorcing

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Granddaughter with grandparents

My husband and I have very few hard and fast rules in our marriage. I mean, yeah, there are the basics, like thou shalt not even think for a split second about ever cheating on me, but otherwise we pretty much just try to treat each other with respect and let that dictate how things play out.

One solid rule, however, that we absolutely never ever violate, is that we do not use the “D” word.

No matter how heated the argument, how annoyed the partner was, and how desperate the situation we were working through, we agreed early on that divorce was simply not an option.

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We don’t use it as a threat.

We don’t allow it on the table as an option.


So it isn’t ever an option. There isn’t an exit waiting for one of us to bolt through it, and we never have to wonder if the other person is going to use the escape clause, because there isn’t one.

The absolute forbiddance of divorce as an option allows us to both feel secure, and it forces us to evaluate the real options for improving whatever situation we’re dealing with. It also prevents our eavesdropping children from ever wondering whether this time one of us really means it.

While I know that there are many healthy families that have divorced parents raising amazing children, I never wanted to be one of them. My own parents have been together since they were 15, and despite the quirks of their relationship, I loved the kind of stability that their longevity made me feel.

This is why when they announced they were filing for an (amicable) divorce, I was stumped. I’d learned the "Never say divorce" law from them, and always imagined marriage should be the kind of hand-holding, slightly embarrassing PDA relationship they shared.

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At 30, yes, their divorce is shifting my perspective of reality, maybe to a more realistic one, but it isn’t rocking my world. My own marriage is still rock solid, and it isn’t like my parents’ split is going to turn my home life upside down. I’m okay with it, although still a bit shocked.

What was hard for me was trying to explain their divorce to my eight-year-old. Her grandparents have been a constant in her life; we spend holidays with them and she even has her own room and toys at their house. For them to live separately and function as individuals rather than her Grandparent Unit confused her.

She asked most of the questions that I think children ask when people they love go through a divorce, mainly why it was happening (Answer: "I don’t have a clue."), what it would look like ("Where is Papa going to live?"), and how it would affect her ("Can I still go see him?") Otherwise, though, she pretty much took the news in stride, something that relieved me to no end.

I’m having to set some uncomfortable boundaries now, though, boundaries I never expected to have to consider with my own parents. Things like not bringing casual dates around my children or bad-mouthing the other spouse to them. It’s weird, honestly.

But I think the worst part of the whole situation for me is that despite my and my husband’s commitment to keep the sad reality of divorces out of my children’s worlds, they’ve been thrust into it anyway.

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Other than us, their parents, one of the most stable examples of a successful marriage that they had to look to has been shattered. It makes me sad, and maybe a little bit resentful.

The world’s a tough place, and maybe my kids will end up divorcing themselves. I’m going to work hard to try to teach them to choose a partner for the right reasons, and to teach them that a marriage is work; work you don’t get to give up on until you’ve given it absolutely everything you’ve got.

But I can’t predict the future, no matter how much I peer into the crystal ball for reassurance that their lives will be blessed.

I’ve been telling myself that maybe I should be grateful for the lesson my kids are learning early, that maybe there’s a benefit in them having to see a couple close to them separate their lives and move on to new ones.

I haven’t quite convinced myself yet. I’m still adjusting to the slight shift in my own reality, and I’m not positive how I feel about it affecting theirs.

But what I do know is that in my house, in my marriage, divorce still isn’t an option. (Unless my husband turns out to be an undercover serial killer, of course, but I’m fairly certain I’m nosy enough about his activities that I would have found him out by now.)

I’m going to focus on keeping my own marriage as strong as possible, not just for the sake of setting a good example, but for the simple fact that I love my husband deeply and want to focus that love on creating a happy home for the family that we’ve created.

Our kids will have to venture beyond it someday, and they’ll have many role models other than us. All I can do is my best, and hope it’s enough.

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Colleen Meeks is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, family, and motherhood.