By Kali Jaye
My parents divorced when I was six years old. Growing up, this was all I knew. I can’t really remember a time where I felt like I had a family that was whole. Their divorce wasn’t groundbreaking to me. I was so young. I couldn’t comprehend what divorce was, or what it does to a family, or why people suddenly don’t want to be together anymore. My simple mind at the time believed dad didn’t love mom anymore, and that was all there was to it.
The divorce changed everything I once knew. My dad tried to make my mom’s absence less prominent, but I didn’t mind that mom left to begin with. I wanted her to be happy. Even as a child, I could understand that mom was sad in a way that dad didn’t know how to fix, no matter how hard he tried. Mom didn’t like to be around me, because I reminded her of dad, which made her feel guilty. Mom’s heart was too big, and she loved too many people. By loving someone else, she broke dad. I don’t blame her, because I am the same way. We both have hearts that are too big for our own good. We fall in love too easily. We are reckless, in that way.
Dad and I created new traditions to fill the space mom left. Friday nights were dedicated to 70’s films and boxed macaroni and cheese. On Saturday mornings, we would wake up early and go for long drives through town until the sun came up. Dad would roll down the windows and turn up his music. I’d doze in the front seat, in and out of consciousness until the sun on my cheeks would wake me. We would always stop at our local deli on the way home to pick up bagels and coffee. One of my favorite memories is driving with dad, feeling crisp air on my cheeks and the warmth of my coffee cup in my hands.
It was just the two of us, Dad and I, for 7 years. He was everything I knew, and I was everything to him. We were best friends, but more than that too. I was his world, and him mine. We operated on the same wavelength. No one else understood what we did. Our dependency upon each other was unhealthy, but we were able to let down our walls with each other. We needed each other to get through each day. I felt an obligation to dad. He was always my first priority. When I eventually made friends, and they asked to play, dad came first. If playing with them meant leaving dad alone, I reject their requests. Dad and I were not homebodies by any means. We had plans nearly every day, whether they be seeing Arcade Fire perform (yes, my dad took a child to an Arcade Fire concert) or driving an hour to the nearest drive in movie theater. Although dad and I were hardly ever home, I think the problems I have today socializing with people my own age stem from our co-dependent relationship.
My thirteenth year upon the earth was the year the delicate world dad and I had sculpted for ourselves came crashing down. My mom returned to us, that year. She didn’t want to fix things with dad. I’d like to think they still loved each other, but dad had become hardened towards her because mom had hurt me. Mom wanted me back. She spoke words of love and missing “her baby”, but I found them hard to believe. I didn’t trust her. I didn’t want to be hurt again, so I fought hard about seeing her. Dad did too, but custody and its claws were the ultimate deciding factor. I began to see mom again.
I was a monster towards mom in the beginning, at least. We lived in a one room apartment together, every other week. I would scream so loud and cry so hard that the thin walls of the apartment would shake. I missed my other half. I didn’t really lose dad, but it felt that way. It felt like my heart had been ripped in half. My relationship with dad began to change. He was so alone when I was with mom. It hurt me to think about then. It still does.
Over time, I began to trust mom. I started to believe she wouldn’t leave me again. I came to the realization that I had been yearning for a feminine figure in my life. Mom was that figure. Dad and I began to drift apart as I became more dependent upon my mom and he figured out how to live life without me there every day. He made new friends, and got a girlfriend. Weeks with dad now felt foreign. Our bond had dissolved.
Mom and I quickly became codependent in the way dad and I had been. It was almost worse, because I had missed her so much. I wanted to be with her every minute of the day. We even slept in the same bed together. I was fourteen years old, and needed my mom to fall asleep at night.
I am almost eighteen years old now, and my codependent relationships with both parents have been broken. We now have hardly any relationship at all. Looking back on my childhood, though, I can recognize why I am unable to have healthy relationships. I am fearful of letting down my walls to let others in. I am afraid that those I end up loving will leave me. I am afraid to get into another codependent relationship, because they are so painful to end.
I wish I could have healthy relationships. At the age I currently am, it’s hard to not have any meaningful relationships. Being a teenage girl often revolves around relationships whether they be romantically centered or friendships. I have a couple acquaintances I talk to, but nothing more than that. I am very lonely. I am very frustrated. But codependency is my battle, and I am working to break it every day.