Because I’ve been incredibly blessed, my parents’ divorce when I was 4 was the worst thing to happen to me until my own divorce 30 years later.
I was a little kid who didn’t like that if I was at my mom’s house, I couldn’t see my dad, or my family and friends who lived near him, because they were hundreds of miles away.
I didn’t like that if I was at my dad’s house, I couldn’t see my mom or my family and friends living in faraway Ohio.
From the age of 4 onward, I’ve been emotionally calibrated to dread goodbyes while simultaneously looking forward to an overdue reunion. Have you ever felt the joy of hugging someone you love after having not seen them for several months, while also crying because you’re saying bye to someone else you love and now won’t see for several months?
It creates contradictions. Internal human ones that probably don’t make sense to anyone who has read the magical “These Are The Things That Make Sense” book, and are likely responsible for concocting the subset of people I call Good Men Who Are Shitty Husbands. Of which I was/am a member.
I have a unique ability to be disengaged with people I love for long periods of time, but pick up warmly right where we left off once I see or talk to them again. People accustomed to higher-functioning communication habits sometimes get upset with me, perhaps interpreting a lack of communication as me not caring about them. Which makes sense.
When the two people you love, trust, desire and count on more than anyone else (which were my parents throughout my childhood) live hundreds of miles apart, requiring months-long stretches of not seeing one of them (in a pre-FaceTime world), you develop a capacity for limited contact in ways most people might consider unhealthy, or at least uncomfortable.
I’ve been asked approximately 78 billion times: “Do you wish your mom and dad would have stayed married?”
I didn’t know what a quandary was for most of those, but surely that’s what this was.
I knew my mom. I knew my dad. And even though I didn’t know how to articulate important relationship concepts like Shared Values, or having Alignment, I felt reasonably sure a household including both of my parents would have been awkward in ways difficult to articulate.
I’m pretty good at pragmatism, and I’m pretty good at finding silver linings. My parents’ divorce was the epicenter of any negative experiences in my life and the thing that hurt me most while tearfully waving bye to my favorite people disappearing in the rear window.
And if my parents had stayed married, none of that would have been the case.
But also? I wouldn’t have had my wonderful stepparents, friends, school and life experiences and opportunities that I did.
Like everything else in Life, there are almost always tradeoffs. Few are the moments we get to feel: Ahhh. This is perfect.
This was my first experience with this important Life Thing in adulthood — it’s okay to miss things without wanting them back.
You’re Allowed to Do Both
When we first become “real adults” with jobs and responsibilities, many of us sometimes miss the carefree lifestyle we enjoyed as kids living at home. But, do we really want to move back in with our parents? With curfews and other restrictions? With the parameters of your adult life dictated for you?
It’s okay to miss things without wanting them back.
When we first get married, many of us miss the “freedom” and relative ease of the single life. Do we really want to be single again?
When we first have children, many of us miss the ability to go out with friends, sleep through the night and have sex whenever and wherever we want. Do we really wish our kids didn’t exist?
I miss college. All my friends. All the parties. All my youthful ignorance and innocence. Do I really wish I could be back there?
I miss my hometown. Family and friends and favorite restaurants. Do I really wish I lived back there?
People’s marriages and relationships end. It hurts because we miss them. Not hurt like getting kicked in the shin, but more like your childhood nemesis digging out your insides with an ice cream scoop.
Sometimes we can’t breathe.
Sometimes we want to die to make it stop.
Sometimes we feel stabbing pains waving bye to our children while they disappear in the rear window.
Sometimes we feel all kinds of things. Even if you could somehow read “These Are The Things That Make Sense,” maybe nothing ever will.
You can miss your freedom without wanting your marriage to end or your children to disappear.
You can miss your youth without wanting to trade in the hard-earned wisdom acquired on the Journey.
You can miss your failed relationship without wishing you were back in it.
Sometimes the answers aren’t always right or wrong. Because you love, want and miss whatever you love, want and miss.
That’s yours. That’s just for you.
Uncle Rico wanted desperately to go back to 1984 and win the state football championship.
Maybe you want to go back in time, too. Cool.
Like freezer burn, you’re allowed to feel two seemingly opposite things at the same time. Even if we weren’t allowed, I think we’d still feel them anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with us.
It’s okay to miss things without wanting them back.