How My Father’s Adultery and Parents Divorce Impacted My Siblings and I As Adults
It is pretty well known that parents getting a divorce negatively impacts children. What people don’t really discuss though is how a divorce can impact children into adulthood. My parents got divorced when I was one and my brothers were eight and eighteen. Now that I am in my 30s and my brothers are in their 40s I have reflected on how my parents divorce still effects us today.
A Bit About The Past
My parent’s divorce was something that was bound to happen eventually. My father was a repeated adulterer. He had cheated on mom with multiple women throughout their 20 years of marriage. There were at least 4 women that we know of now that he had been sleeping around with. My mom only discovered he had been cheating with a woman around the time she was pregnant and almost ready to give birth to me. A friend of hers had told her about seeing him in public with another woman. Mom investigated and caught him at the woman's house.
Needless to say it all spiraled downhill and my parents were divorced by the time I turned one. My mom got full custody and we visited my dad on every other weekend. A year later my dad got remarried to the woman he had cheated on my mom with.
So How Has This Impacted Us As Adults?
Because of our ages at the time of the divorce my brothers and I were all impacted differently. My oldest brother, my middle brother, and me the baby girl all had vastly different experiences because of the chaos of my parent’s relationship. Even into adulthood we all still show the mental scars our parents left on us.
The Oldest Child: The Angry Adult
My oldest brother was 18 by the time our parents divorced. I would say if the divorce ruined anyone’s life it would have been his. My brother had a bright future ahead of him. He was getting ready to start college the next year, had a part time job and cool car, and had lots of friends to hang out with. Finding out our dad was cheating ruined that though.
My oldest brother was my mom’s confidant at that time. He helped her find proof of her husband’s adultery and was the only person she had to rely on during the divorce. He was 18 and became the man of the household overnight. He went to college only for a semester then quit. My mom grew up in a time where women had babies and stayed home after marriage. She had never had a job before the divorce and the only jobs she was qualified for paid her less than $10,000 a year. Financially she struggled so my brother got a full time job and helped my mom pay the bills and care for us younger ones.
When he was 18 and gave up college and began working he stopped associating with his friends and would go to work then come home and would help care for me. He lost so much because he basically became a parent. My mom had relied so much on my dad that she was crippled and didn’t know how to do basic things like balance a checkbook. My oldest brother wasn’t only a parent to me but to my mother and spent many years taking care of her and raising her to survive in the world without my dad.
As an adult my oldest brother has only a high school education and has held minimum wage type jobs since he was 17. Because he was expected to take up the slack from my father abandoning us my brother sacrificed his bright future for one of hard work and a working class lifestyle. He has always struggled financially and has never married or had romantic relationships since his teen years. I honestly don't think he even knows how to have successful, healthy relationships anymore because of one bad thing he has developed over the years...a temper.
He is an extremely angry person. He hasn’t spoken to our dad since the divorce. He is also very angry with our mom. When he was young he was lovable but as he has gotten older and unhappier with his life he blames our father for everything. He has horrible temper and has been verbally abusive to my mom, brother, and myself. Sometimes he will yell at you for a simple question. He can be quite scary.There are times I can’t stand to be around him because he is so negative. He hates doing anything for our mother who is now in our 70s. If she needs something he will not help because as he says “he gave her enough of his time.” He is so angry that he hates being around people and barely talks to any of the family anymore.
He cannot forgive and move on. Every day he blames our parents for his lot in life and refuses to do anything to change his destiny. He just gets older and angrier as the years go by.
The Middle Brother: The Obsessive Worrier
My second oldest brother was impacted in a completely different ways than my oldest brother. He was 8 years old at the time. I don’t think he really understood the divorce or what adultery was at the time. He just knew his father who he loved was gone. Growing up he longed for my father’s attention and approval. He too was expected to act like an adult at a very young age even though he knew so little about the world.
I remember when I was around 5 my 12 year old brother acting like a parent on weekends we stayed at my dad’s. He would sometimes wake me up from sleeping because he was afraid I would suffocate in my pillows. I was at no risk of suffocating but my brother was an obsessive worrier afraid of bad things happening. I remember around this time my brother babysitting me while my mom and other brother were at work. On several occasions he grabbed me and we locked ourselves in the closet because he was afraid someone would break into the house. What child has to worry about things like that?
My middle brother too sacrificed his social relationships and early life to take care of the family. I grew up seeing my brothers as father figures. They did not play with me like normal siblings but acted as my parents. Both of my brothers worked and came home and did not have much of a life outside of that.
As an adult my middle brother definitely still suffers from issues caused by the divorce. He is an obsessive worrier. He has panic attacks about having health problems and constantly worries about small things. He cannot handle stressful situations. For example: He is in his 40s and is NOT allergic to bees. One day he got stung one time by one bee and he freaked out because he was convinced he would have a reaction. He hyperventilated and his faced turned blood red. It took an hour to calm him down and nothing happened. He isn’t allergic and was perfectly fine.
My oldest brother and I have to deal with any crisis. My mom has had to go into the hospital a few times recently and he falls apart with worry. I am completely calm and I have to be the one to deal with the doctors and nurses. My middle brother definitely became fragile emotionally from the divorce. He lost his father and he had the responsibility and worry of a parent placed on his shoulders. Like I said, my mom was like a child after the divorce and both of my brothers had to take care of her and me who was only a year old.
Even though he is an overly emotional adult and obsessively worries my second oldest brother did find love and got married. My mother lives with him and his wife and he still bares the burden of taking care of my mom. She is in her 70s and is almost bedridden. He has unfortunately never lived on his own. My mom has always lived with my middle brother. He has never been independent of her and felt like he should live with her to take care of her.
Me, The Youngest: Severe Social Anxiety With Mommy Issues But Doing Pretty Darn Good
I honestly think that even though I do have psychological issues I was the least disabled as an adult by my parents divorce. Because I was only one year old I never knew what life was like with married parents. After 5th grade I stopped going to my dads and I never saw him which actually added some stability to my life.
The worst thing that is wrong with me is that I have suffered from social anxiety. It was worse as a child but decreased as I got older. I remember when I was around 4 and 5 my dad and stepmother regularly questioning me for information about my mom to get dirt on her to start fights. Because I only saw them every other weekend they were strangers to me. I hated them and I felt bad for telling them anything so I stopped talking. I always had a lot of anxiety going over to their house and by not talking to them I protected myself from questioning. My dad would sometimes grow frustrated because I wouldn’t talk and would cry to go home. He would yell at me and spank me, which caused my anxiety about strangers to grow so bad that I stopped talking to everyone.
I refused to talk throughout elementary school. I eventually grew out of this behavior around middle school and began talking. As I got older my anxiety has decreased but it will always be something I will deal with. When I was a kid I use to get panic attacks when I had to meet new people or had to be on my own in a public place. I didn't have any real friends as a kid and was socially isolated. Elementary through high school was a nightmare because I was alone. I didn't have my first real friend until I was 18. Today I am 36 years old and while I have mild anxiety it really doesn't dehabilitate me like it did when I was a kid. I am married with kids of my own. I have traveled to all 50 states and have lived in 7 of them. I went to college and have a doctorate in anthropology and have worked as a college professor. I have done very well for myself.
Honestly, because I was only one year old at the time of the divorce I think I missed out on some of the worst impacts a divorce can have. I never suffered from any abandonment issues or anger. I have been able to make peace and forgive my dad for what he did. This is something my brothers have never been able to do. I think it is because I didn't witness the chaos of the divorce and because the burdens placed on my brothers did not exist for me.
Because I was not burdened like my brothers, I grew up, went to college, moved out at 18, and became financially independent at a young age. In a strange way my parents divorce had positive impacts on me in adulthood even though it required a lot of suffering during childhood. Because I was so introverted I spent a lot of time reading and was an excellent student. I have excelled in academia and have a great paying job.
One bad impact from the divorce I can name that actual helped me be driven to succeed is that growing up my mom and I did not have a good relationship at all and I can trace it all back to her being a single mom. Honestly, I couldn't stand my mom and as soon as I was 18 I was out of there. I grew up seeing my mom incapable of being independent of a man in her life even if the men were her sons. It was a very unhealthy relationship because she prevented my brothers from ever having normal lives of their own. My mom was a very unhappy person and was constantly yelling at me. She was convinced I would turn out like her and when I got to high school she was convinced at any moment I was going to get pregnant like she did (my dad got my mom pregnant before marriage) and that my life would be over. She even tried to stop me from moving out because she was convinced I'd either be raped by a stranger or would get in a relationship with a man. I got married when I was 30 and it took my mom years before she was okay with it.
Today I hold more bitterness towards my mom for not trying harder to learn to take care of herself. I blame her for holding my brothers back in life. My brothers on the other hand hold more anger for my father. Yes my dad is horrible for cheating and being a bad father and husband but my mother harmed us just as much by not being a good role model. I often feel like I raised myself because my mom pretty much left my brothers to raise me and they were children themselves. Sometimes I feel like I became an adult by junior high because mom worked all the time and I came home and fed and cared for myself. I am a good parent to my own kids though and am always there for them. I have a wonderful husband and a great life. My early life was horrible but for me at least I found a good life in the end.
A divorce can have long lasting impacts on kids. So long lasting that the impacts could follow someone their entire life and shape the person they grow up to be. A divorce is a sad and horrible thing to go through for both parents and kids. My parents divorce certainly hurt me and my brothers as adults. The age a kid goes through a parents divorce can certainly differentiate the results though. Older kids may be harmed more than young babies. The stress and strain still exist for all ages and I think more people should be aware how a parent's relationship can impact the people children grow up to be.