Why Long Distance Relationships (With Your Parents) Rule
Divorce sucks. But if you’re ready to look at the bright side, having parents in two cities comes with a lot of advantages.
By Rebecca Friou, University of New Orleans
Though not all misfortunes come with a silver lining, some calamities do tend to get a little better in the long run, divorce being one of them.
With divorce at a rate of 40-50 percent in America, it’s fairly common to either befriend a child of divorce or be one yourself. In my experience, realizing your parents are no longer in love is disheartening. Their split leaves you with questions of where and what went wrong, and sometimes you wonder if you contributed to their separation.
Despite the confusing adjustments that result from a parent moving out, somewhere down the road there are blessings in disguise to be found. When my parents announced the end of their marriage to my sisters and me, they also told us that my father was relocating to another state. Double whammy. I pondered the hundreds of miles in between me and my loved one, but little did I know, his new life was going to impact me for the better.
When people ask me how I deal with my father living so far away, I always make it clear that it isn’t the absolute worst thing in the world. One huge advantage of having long distance parents is travel.
By the time I was eleven, I had flown on a plane by myself and learned airports inside and out. I was exposed to New Orleans—my birthplace—and was able to learn an entirely new culture other than the one I experienced with my mom. Cue Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, crawfish boils, Saints football games and an entire year-round calendar of events. While not everyone’s parents live in a city as culturally rich as New Orleans, I guarantee that wherever your parent lives has an entire identity of its own that is worth discovering.
Remember that time in high school you suddenly became annoyed with all your friends and wanted a whole new life? Yeah, me too.
In our youth we are constantly in a cycle of making new friends and distancing ourselves from old ones, for whatever reasons. With my father living in a different city, I was able to make a whole new group of pals who were nearly impossible to get irritated with because I only saw them certain times of the year. In fact, the friends I made out of town as a kid are still some of my closest and most cherished to this day. The excitement of being reunited with old friends remains one of my most appreciated feelings. Who doesn’t love to be popular in a city you don’t even live in? That’s what I thought.
Another silver lining of divorce is the addition of a step parent/family. While not everyone is lucky enough to have positive relationships with their stepfamily, when you do, it’s awesome.
First of all, consider Christmas: Double the gifts, double the excitement, double the family. When you’re a child, this shit is the best. Because you spend time with both parts of your family separately so no one’s feelings are hurt, you’re showered with love and presents. When you grow older, the holidays become prime time for sneaking drinks because your extended family is so big that no one notices.
Gaining step siblings can also be one of the best things you’ll ever experience. Growing up with two sisters led to a rude awakening when I realized that my lovely new step-brothers were also gross, smelly boys who left the toilet seat up.
Despite the times I had to touch the toilet seat, learning to love someone like family is an enriching, beautiful experience.
A silver lining for parents is the outpouring of love they receive when their children return home after being away. I always find myself valuing my parents’ role in my life every time I return to the other. Of course, it could have the opposite effect if you get along with one parent better than the other, but I’ve found that in most cases, each parent benefits their child in different aspects of their life.
The one-on-one time you gain from divorced parents is beneficial as well. Being able to enjoy the company of your family and learn from them without the distraction or favoritism almost always results in a better relationship with more trust.
As humans we make mistakes. We are flawed. Divorce is by no means a wonderful thing. It can have disastrous effects on both parents and their children, leading to mental disorders, emotional trauma and estranged relationships.
However, as a firm advocate for finding positivity in the worst of situations, I have learned to be appreciative of the subtly positive aspects of divorce. Being exposed to travel and new cities, making life long friends, Christmas overload, step families without the evil stepmother, and a heightened appreciation for your parents are all perks that accompany long distance divorce.
Realize silver linings don’t happen overnight though. I didn’t even notice all these advantages until I was 18, when one of my friends pointed them out to me. Next time you’re feeling blue about missing one of your parents and scheming to make them fall in love again, cheer yourself up by watching “The Parent Trap.”
Accept that although it is one of the best movies ever filmed, in real life, not even Lindsey Lohan could pull that off, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Take some time to revel in the ways divorce has impacted your life for the better. Hug your parents next time you see each of them. Whether you know it or not, they did what they thought was best for you.