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True Stories: Why My Parents Never Got Divorced
"Laziness" is only half the story.
by Daniel Addice
I'm now in my early twenties, and I've never once seen my parents kiss.
For as long as I can remember, they've never slept in the same bed. I've never seen them go out together or be affectionate in any way with one another. They don't even eat together unless it was a major holiday. Their only interactions are rare, and usually involve my mom yelling at my dad.
This is strange, because 1) my parents aren't divorced, and 2) my parents have no plans to get divorced. As the youngest child, I imagined that somehow, something had gone horribly wrong during my conception that led to this awkward relationship.
But while their mutual discontent is obvious, my parents somehow seem perfectly content staying in a marriage defined by general unawareness and willful ignorance. Growing up, I learned to accept it and just stop putting so much thought into their relationship.
My friend Alex and I were pretty much inseparable from second to eighth grade. His mom and dad were like second parents to me: they would take me out to dinner, and they took me to my first concert. Cheryl and Stan also did things that were weirdly foreign to me, like kiss each other randomly during the day.
One day, Alex and I were out mini-golfing with my dad. Alex, like he'd been thinking about it all day, turned to my dad and asked why he never kissed my mom. My dad's face turned bright red, and he mumbled a few things that I don't actually think were words. Then he turned to his fall-backs whenever I questioned him about his marriage: ice cream and Toys ‘R Us.
While their marriage often seems like a proprietary, symbiotic partnership for loners, I often wonder if they're both just too lazy to get divorced. My parents have had all the children they wanted (maybe even more). They're both done with romance, they're both over sex, they both have a roof over their heads, and they both have their own jobs, friends, etc. For them, the arrangement works. The question isn't, "What's stopping them from getting a divorce," but rather, "What's the point in putting in all that effort to get one?"
Growing up in your average New Jersey suburb, I was exposed to all kinds of fucked-up parents, and there were kids who had it way worse than I did. I have a friend whose parents forced him into twelve years of competitive tap-dancing against his will. I knew moms and dads who could battle their children for the title of "Orangest Family Member." Viewed through that lens, I had a sane mother who loved me and a sane father who loved me, so it felt a little greedy of me to ask for them to love each other as well.
Still, I ended up relating just as much to kids whose parents were divorced as to those whose parents were together. I was often the messenger between the two of them, but I never got two Christmases or two birthdays. I never had to experience that uncomfortable, post-divorce, parents-start-dating-again phase, but I never got to hear the story of them as high-school sweethearts either. (I actually have no idea how they met.) Traditional "mom" and "dad" roles didn't offer any stability: I had a brassy, dominating Italian mother who spoke her mind more often than necessary and a meek, frequently-bullied father with a hoarding problem.