I slipped out of my bed, walked down the hallway and made the left turn into the living room and saw my babysitter sitting on the couch. “Where is my Mommy?”, I asked. “She’s at the hospital having a baby”, was her reply.

That is my earliest memory.

There are other memories from my early years. I don’t have many of them, but the ones I have are crystal clear. I remember getting to hold my baby sister as we left the hospital and walked to our car. I remember a laundry fire that was put out almost as soon as it began. I remember swinging on my swing set with friends and it tipping over and everyone but me knew how to jump off of the swings. I remember a Flintstones bottle that my uncle put on top of the cupboard in an attempt to “help” my Mom wean my baby sister from her bottle habit.

I remember sitting on our front step when I was three years old and watching my Daddy drive away. Forever.

I don’t remember my parents as a couple.

I went to visit my family back east in my early twenties and spent three nights at my grandparents’ house. My Nana handed me a photo album and said that it was mine to keep. It was full of photos of my parents from when they were courting and married and newlyweds and it was then that I realized that I had never seen my parents’ wedding photos. They looked so young and so beautiful and so happy. My Nana also gave my my Mom’s wedding band and that symbol that had meant to signify forever now stood for, well, I wasn’t even sure.

What happened?

Divorce happened, I know. How they went from in love and married to divorced and remarried (a few times over) is really up to speculation. They have chosen to be pretty open with me over the years and have shared stories that truthfully, should probably not have been shared with their daughter. They were trying to find their way and they have a daughter that has always been mature for her age, so I get that. And I don’t get that.

I have spent so much time being a parent to my parents. Listening to their grievances and their hurts and trying to play the peacekeeper and trying to acknowledge their issues and love them through it while also trying to see the other side and love the other parent and somehow not get in trouble for being in the middle and loving my parents equally.

Sometimes I get mad that they’ve put me in this position. They’re supposed to be the parents, you know?

I chose a different path than my parents did, not as a judgment of them, but as a hope to have a life less broken. For as much as the world tries to spin marriage as something outdated and divorce as something to be expected, I am a living testament to the fact that divorce does leave people broken. And that marriage is alive and well.

I have found a faith that my parents do not hold. I have married a man who not only shares that same faith, but lives it. We, together, have created these three beautiful children who blow us away daily with their faith and their love for each other and for others. The five of us, as ridiculous as it may sound, are completely enamored with each other. We’re not normal, I think, but we’re OK with that.

Despite my years of faith, of working through my feelings as a child of divorce, the repercussions are still there.

If my husband and I have a disagreement he cannot walk away, or I immediately feel abandoned. As much as I love my friends and will support them in any way I can, I have to admit that I keep myself at a distance – I can’t get hurt if I’m not vulnerable. I am often afraid to put myself out there in a new venture because I am surely set for failure.

I came from broken and there is nothing that I can do to change that. I have committed to keeping our marriage unbroken and our kids will be so much better for it. I’m constantly trying to heal my own broken so that I can be the wife/parent/friend that God intended me to be.

I am no longer broken and am striving for unbroken. I’m not there yet, but I’m close.

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  1. Kristabella February 21, 2011 8:48 am edit

    Good for you! We are similar, my friend. I too keep people at a distance because I have trust issues. I will let you in, but at the first sign of you hurting me, the wall goes up and it hardly ever will come down. It’s something I am still trying to work on, since I KNOW no one is perfect. But my poor little heart can’t take it, so I try to protect it as much as I can.

    Love you!

  2. Brittany February 21, 2011 8:53 am edit

    Bulls-eye, Angella. This post hits me square in the heart. I don’t remember my parents being a couple either (they divorced when I was preschool age), and I totally get that whole “parenting your parents” thing and all the frustration/hurt that goes along with it. Thank the Lord for men like our husbands, right? :) Before I got married, I read a book called “Breaking the Cycle of Divorce” that was instrumental in getting me to the point of believing I could have a good, strong marriage even though my parents didn’t.

    Thanks for sharing this, Angella. Makes me feel less alone in my own post-divorce-childhood brokenness.

  3. Mrs. Wilson February 21, 2011 9:21 am edit

    And you’re doing an INCREDIBLE job at it. I love the way you talk about your husband and your children, and seeing you five in real life together, I could see the love radiating.

    This: “I keep myself at a distance – I can’t get hurt if I’m not vulnerable.” THAT IS MY MOTTO. It kind of leaves for a cold existence sometimes, but it’s better than being hurt, right? I’m working on that too.

    I had the opposite experience growing up. My parents stayed together, but they were MISERABLE. They constantly complained about each other TO ME and were always wishing the other was different. When I saw Noah and me (I?) (myself?) moving in that direction (minus the complaining about each other to our children), I wanted out. I never wanted my children to experience what I did. (But, God worked a miracle, and, well, you know the rest of the story.)

    I think we all have scars from our parents, some have minor scars and some have major scars – and some still have open wounds. I think it shows incredible resilience (and an awesome faith in an awesome God) that you’ve come as far as you have, giving your children the family life you didn’t have. One day, in this life or the next, you’ll be completely unbroken. I know that for sure.

  4. Amanda Brown February 21, 2011 9:23 am edit

    I think it’s so worthwhile to fully understand the pasts we lived and how they affected us, but I am 100% certain that you and Matt are blazing a new legacy of commitment and love in your family. Everyone sees it and it’s so obvious that God has been healing your heart. Of course, all of life is a work in progress so we still fumble at times, but you are so on the right path. Love you.

  5. Danica February 21, 2011 11:30 am edit

    You know I love you, but I have to tell you how much I appreciate your commitment to your marriage and I especially appreciate that you blog about it, here and there, regularly. I appreciate it because it’s so rare. I appreciate it because you, and your daily presence in my google reader, force me to keep my marriage at the forefront of my attention.
    For the first seven years I was fully committed. Divorce was not even a word in my vocabulary. And I thought it never would be. But then the unthinkable happened, and I’ve been struggling to get back to that place for the last three years. It’s been a fight to stay together, and sometimes I honestly don’t think we’re going to make it. But so far we have. And for that I thank God. I want to get back to where we were before. It’s a daily fight. And it’s a worthy fight. And I continue to fight.
    And one of the reasons is because you remind me, all the time, how to fight the good fight, and because you remind me why I’m fighting and why it’s worth it.
    So thanks, friend.

  6. bethany actually February 21, 2011 1:25 pm edit

    I am so thankful that you know Christ was broken for you, so that you could be made unbroken. This is a good post, Angella. I’m proud of you for writing it!

  7. Hannah February 21, 2011 1:32 pm edit

    You are such a beautiful person. I feel blessed to call you my friend and my sister in Christ. Your life experiences have shaped you and may have caused you pain at times, but you have taken them and chosen a better way for your family. I admire that so much! Love you xx

  8. gorillabuns February 21, 2011 1:56 pm edit

    To grow up broken is a sure fire way to make sure you gingerly hold all together as to not break everything around your own children. You are good mother, wife and daughter. Selfless. I sure wish our parents knew what this term really meant.


  9. Carrie February 21, 2011 1:58 pm edit

    Very simply, because of this blog there is one thing Angella that I am sure of. You are of the very best of us and I wish I was more like you.

    hugs my cousin

  10. Momo Fali February 21, 2011 2:17 pm edit

    I have the same memory from when I was three years old. A different path, indeed.

  11. Sue February 21, 2011 3:51 pm edit

    This is beautiful. You are doing an amazing job.

  12. Janssen February 21, 2011 8:16 pm edit

    What a beautiful post. Having a husband who came from divorced parents has really opened my eyes to how far-reaching the effects of divorce are.

  13. Sizzle February 22, 2011 8:21 am edit

    I want to go back in time and give 3 year old Angella a big hug.

  14. Dawn K. February 22, 2011 9:46 am edit

    Absolutely stellar.

    I, too, am trying to learn from my parents’ mistakes and misdeeds (post past and current) to better my relationship with my spouse and provide the appropriate relationship modeling for my children. The stakes are even higher in our house as we are a blended family and I’m a stepmother to an absolutely amazing 8 year old girl.

    I think I too, struggle, with being attempting to be unbroken, and how that relates to my relationships not only with my spouse but everyone else. While my parents divorced when I was 24 ( 3 years ago) , the cracks and canyons of problems go quite far back over the years.

  15. Elaine February 22, 2011 10:40 am edit

    I love reading this so much. Not for what you went through but for the promise you intend to keep despite what you did go through.

    And if you’re not “normal”, well then I don’t want to be normal either! ;)

    You have a beautiful family in so many ways Angella…

  16. Madge February 22, 2011 11:00 am edit

    I come from an unbroken home. My parents are still happily together. Fish has not been as lucky. I think between my history and his history we both know just how much we want our marriage to work.

    Fish and I are together practically 24/7. When he first started working from home I had many friends tell me that I would be sick of him within a week and how could we do that to our marriage. Not even kidding! I’m happy to say that I’m thrilled to have all day every day with my husband and that my kids can see and share in the love we all have for each other.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  17. Amy February 22, 2011 11:00 am edit

    I grew up with parents who fought, but are still together after 34 years and I love them for it. It’s such an example to me. Unfortunately, I got married young and divorced young, and while there were no children involved, it’s something that will always break my heart.

    As for the vulnerability thing…just yes. It’s so hard to trust. I hear ya.

    This post is awesome.

  18. kag February 22, 2011 12:54 pm edit

    (sorry – not giving my usual name or URL on this… to searchable by family)
    I think it’s very interesting how our parent’s relationship affects us. My parents have been together 40+ years so you’d think they set a great example and set us up well by giving us an “unbroken” home. But I remember so many times growing up wishing for them to just get divorced already…not because they fought or because anyone was abusive or bad but because I thought my mom deserved better (still do!). Some might say they were strong or right to stick it out but I think that for many years my mom put up with the crap “for the kids” (and because her Catholic upbringing taught her divorce is a dirty word) and eventually got used to it until it was too late. Because how hard/scary/awful would it be to start over after 30-some years of marriage? Things seem kind of ok now but still – meh. It’s not a relationship I aspire to replicate. I’d rather have quality over quantity, you know?

    I think the important thing is that somewhere along the way that you learned how to carve your own path, even if it meant running in the opposite direction of what you experienced as a child. You make it very clear that having a passionate, trusting, and respectful marriage is a life-long priority; and you realize that it’s something that needs daily work and cultivation. That’s something that (sadly) I think many people fail to understand but you do a beautiful job of sharing it with others and setting a great example for your kids.

  19. hillary February 22, 2011 1:09 pm edit

    This is beautiful, Angella. I love the hope that radiates from your words. You and Matthew are working so hard for your kids – it’s awesome to see.
    Shawn’s parents divorced when he was young (4? maybe 5? years old) and there is still animosity between them almost 30 years later. Our wedding was stressful because it was the first time in over 10 years that they would have to interact. Turns out the wedding stress was nothing compared to the stress and pressure we feel now that their first grandchild is on his or her way.

  20. Sydney February 23, 2011 1:29 am edit

    Your post is inspiring. You are strong and you have accomplished many great things to be proud of!

    The plasticity of our brains is amazing. We can continue to grow and adapt rather than being stuck in old patterns of thinking or feeling.

    I am reading a book about fear right now that I am finding is very good – “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers

  21. Kerri Anne February 23, 2011 10:12 am edit

    You are beautiful, is what you are. And strong.

    And now I can’t stop thinking of this line, from Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms): “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

    I can’t really remember my parents as a couple either. I think I can sometimes, but that’s only because I’ve adopted photographs of them smiling and happy and in love and transformed them into memories-of-sorts.

    I too remember the night my dad left for presumably the last time. It was raining and he was on his motorcycle and my mom was crying, and we walked somewhere to use a phone booth (I don’t know why; I should probably ask my mom), and my grandparents came and picked us up.

    (Love you, babe.)

  22. Kriste February 23, 2011 11:01 am edit

    This touched me in ways I can’t quite explain.

  23. Meagan February 23, 2011 11:59 am edit

    Thank you for this beautiful post! Thank you for being so open and sharing. My husband and I both came from happy, loving families and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like were that different. But this gives me a
    little glimpse. (I saw this link on twitter – I’ve never been here before. )

  24. mamalang February 24, 2011 10:55 am edit

    Funny how similar our lives are…my parents divorced when I was 3, I am married with three kids….:)

    Your post was beautiful, and I nodded through it all with a fine mist over my eyes. Bethany’s comments made that mist flow down my face.

    Thank you both.

  25. Judy March 1, 2011 8:35 am edit

    I couldn’t help but come and see this sight I have read so much about. I think it is wonderful what you are doing. I am a Mom of three girls, I love them with all my heart. I have fallen, my abusive back ground has touched my family. All I ever tried to do is not be like what I came from and be the best Mom ever and I got where the abuse I endured is and is effecting my life. You sound ever strong, I will be back!

  26. Lady Jennie July 16, 2011 8:16 am edit

    This sounds a lot like me, including the late faith, except it was out of college that my parents separated.

  27. sue July 20, 2011 2:30 pm edit

    I commented on this back when I first read it, but I wanted to say congratulations on an amazing piece of writing. It gave me goosebumps again.

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