Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saying I Do.... or Don't.

Divorce is a funny thing.  It's a funny, awful, scary but sometimes necessary thing.  It isn't easy on the two parties, for certain.  But what is often overlooked is the long term ripple effect it has throughout the extended family.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's living with my biological parents and siblings.  I had one friend in elementary school, one or two friends in middle school and several friends in high school that were of divorced parents.  Honestly... I was jealous of them.  How cool it must be to get to "go to your Dad's house".  Extra presents everywhere, right?  Especially when the manipulation emotion was used correctly.

I knew all about that.  I could get my mom to give me what I wanted.  I used my dad against her.
I wasn't a very good daughter back then.

My junior year of high school my parents divorced after 34 years of marriage.  It wasn't as cool as I thought it would be.  I never saw my dad.  Sure, I was "invited" anytime I wanted to go to his house but we didn't have set visitation and I wasn't sure how to act around my dad without my mom.  It was awkward, uncomfortable and unsettling.  So I just didn't go.

It didn't help to watch my mom cry herself to sleep at night.  I grew up pretty damn fast after that.

Right after my first view of marriage dissolution I experienced the second - one of my siblings divorced.  He had a beautiful baby girl at the time.  It was devastating.

I was fairly lucky in that since I was still home, I got to see my niece quite a bit.  He and his wife shared custody and when his daughter came to visit him he brought her to my mom's house.  I loved those years with her.  As she continued to grow, I too became a mother and the kids had a chance to play together and be true cousins (not just the kind on the branch of the family tree).

This weekend I sat in my sister in law's house watching my niece open her bridal shower gifts.  I was in awe of her beauty and grace, her unbridled excitement.  Even a tad overwhelmed, she handled all of us guests with ease and comfort.  I sat with my second sister in law (of the same brother) and hugged on her granddaughter.

I took stock in the moment.

The divorces of my family has had many long term ramifications.  Wives (and husbands) have come and gone, new children have come (and gone).  I love my brothers, both of them.  But it gets tricky.

Case in point, my own failed first marriage.  I married a man with a family.  I had a son with him.  His family became my own... called me their sister, their daughter, their friend.  Then we divorced.

His family wanted to see my son.  Bigger life events started to come along (celebrations, sports, graduations, a wedding, a birth) and they wanted to be involved.  Not because of me, but because of my son.  So they were invited.  I hugged them and thanked them for loving my son, for being in his life. 

It didn't go over well with the ex.  Especially his next wives... they hated it.  To this day my ex's 4th wife thinks she "owns" his family and that they shouldn't even look my direction.  She's bright like that.

Truth be told, none of us want to co parent with an ex or god forbid an ex's new spouse.  It's uncomfortable and nerve racking.  It's not easy.  But if we TRULY cared enough about our children to give them the best possible upbringing, we would love them unselfishly.  We would allow others to love our children and care for them as well.  And we'd somehow learn to all get along.

I've never asked my brother if it bothers him that I love my sisters in law.  It's never struck me that I should ask him.  They are the mothers of my nieces, whom I adore.  They are a piece of my history.  He loved them at one point and invited me to love them as well.  I can't turn that off simply because they divorced one another.  And I wouldn't expect him to either (although it would probably be a cold day before he would speak to my ex).   

The best part?  My sisters in law really don't need to love me.  They don't really even have to like me.  They don't have to have anything to do with me.

Yet they do.  All of the above.  They care about me like true sisters... and I them.

We all win.

My beautiful niece is getting married this summer.  She has a date, a dress, a ring and a groom.  She's set.  I am one lucky Aunt to be a part of her celebration.

Her maid of honor asked us to write down a piece of advice for her as she embarks on her marital journey.  I had to think a LONG time.  I even asked my sister in law if we were qualified to offer advice.  We both giggled at that thought and began to write.

I dug deep.  Hubs and I have been married almost 20 years yet we still ask each other at least once a year for an annulment.  Truthfully, we are still trying to figure it all out most days.

And then it dawned on me.

"Be passionate.  Love passionately and fight passionately.  (Essentially - believe in yourselves and each other.)  As long as you have passion, you will have a long, loving marriage."

If there is one thing I know, it's passion.  I have it in spades - when I'm angry, when I'm happy, when I'm determined...  all of my emotions are fueled by my passion.

Oh- and don't go to bed mad, apparently.  That was a worn piece of advice given a lot. I'm pretty sure in 20 years I have failed that one many, many times.

Cheers to my beauty Jessica (Jess, Jecca, Jecca Bear, Jessie, Jessie Rie) Marie Taylor (soon to be Anderson).  I couldn't be more proud of the woman you have become and feel fortunate every single day of my life that I'm a part of yours.  I can't wait for your big day!

Lisa (my sister), Jessica (my niece) and Presley (my niece Kortni's daughter) and AWESOME Emily in the background!
All my love,
Aunt Jenny

(yes friends - my parents and sibs called me Jenny growing up so by extension all of my nieces and sisters in law do as well.  I wouldn't change it for the world (although I might cut anyone else that tries to call me that!)


  1. What a wonderful blog post! I so enjoyed spending Saturday night with you. Thanks for making sure we got home safe. Sorry I called you Jenny, what do you liked to be called these days? By the way, in my 29 years of marriage we have gone to bed mad plenty of times, sometimes you just need to sleep on it :). Thanks again for Saturday, you are so much fun!

  2. Audrey - you can ALWAYS call me Jenny! You're family! :) I am so glad we got to spend more time together. You and Emily are both so fun. What a great mom/daughter duo you two are! Can't wait for the next time we get together!