Divorce Doesn’t Equal A “Broken Home”

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve heard a lot of interviews. I’ve seen too many Dateline NBC episodes over my life to count, and to my horror I’ve watched a few episodes of Intervention.

Without fail, when the host is referring to how someone overcame obstacles or turned to the dark side, their actions are either qualified or magnified by the fact that they came from “a broken home.”

Sometimes it refers to an absentee parent, or one who is absorbed by addiction or crime. Most times it refers to a divorce, somewhere along the line.

And that’s not fair.

No, divorce is not what people dream of. They dream of the wedding, a lasting romance and a family unit that doesn’t include hyphenated labels or “step-this or that.” I could be wrong, I just don’t think little girls dream of being a stepmom someday. It’s just not how our romantic imaginations work because it’s not how our society sets its norms, despite the fact that half of marriages end in divorce.

Our society is, hate to say this, in denial. About a lot of things, yes – this being one of them. And to compensate for that, it labels children of divorce as kids from “broken homes.” Because, according to everyone who doesn’t know you and is not involved in your relationship, avoiding that “divorce” label is best.

I know plenty of kids (and adults, sadly) from “unbroken homes” who have taken the wrong path in life. I also know a number of kids from “broken homes” who are holding their own – just fine. Thriving, right alongside the parents who chose an environment that would work better for them. That label is bullshit, and only serves our need to place blame on something.

People don’t divorce because things are great. Things are not great. Things are chaotic. And miserable. Not lining up, not functioning, totally stressful, and at times, abusive.

That is the broken part – the living with that.

By society’s definition, my kids are from a “broken home” because I chose to take a road away from a toxic, abusive, controlling environment. And by doing that, they don’t have to hear a man yell at me after they go to bed. They don’t have to see their mom cry. They never have to worry about what will happen next when they are with me. They don’t have to tiptoe around glass, that he broke intentionally.

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They don’t have to hear him crush cupboards at night in anger, and they don’t need to watch as their own mother is controlled, demeaned, strategically isolated and constantly trying to keep everything steady.

That’s all fixed. Divorce fixed that. They never have to see that again.

Same for the kids of other women I know – women who have taken a scary leap to independence in favor of a marriage that wasn’t working and was instead abusive, loveless, and soul-crushing.

And their kids got to see them navigate that, with grace, grit and strength. They continue to see it, because each victory breeds confidence and fosters further independence – and likely an internal promise to never compromise themselves for someone else again. It also gives these kids a chance to see the right kind of love, a healthy relationship model and understand that they – as adults – don’t have to stay in something that isn’t healthy for them.

An illustration of love, support, growth and strength is not a broken home. That’s a fixed one.