This I Believe

Erin - Fountain, Colorado
Entered on May 15, 2007

I believe in the transformational power of exercising empathy.

At a young age in 1996, I became pregnant by a man I hardly knew. Impulsively, I married him. He was troubled, and we had a stormy relationship.

My lapse in judgment led to a series of painful discoveries. I learned that before committing to someone else, it is important from to conquer your own emotional baggage from your childhood–really know yourself and needs before making life decisions which will shape the rest of your life. It would have been worth the invested time learning about myself: my limitations and strengths, dreams and fears, emotional needs, and the root of all my values, beliefs and bias. I believe in the necessity of one’s self-discovery.

Like others, I believed societal myths about divorce. I clung onto the idea that my daughter would benefit from a divorce between her parents caught in an unhealthy marriage, so I ended the marriage. Seven months later, I became a non-residential, divorced mother of a young daughter who didn’t view it as beneficial. My divorce brought about unexpected misery and parenting complexities; it didn’t mitigate the existing problems but instead amplified them.

In October of 2001, I began my journey of post-divorce healing and growth when I started seeking answers for my anger from stepmothers on an internet message board. In retrospect, I can see that my initial motivation for registering on a stepmother board was to purge my anger. I couldn’t lash out at the stepmother in my daughter’s life without negative consequences, so why not those on the internet?

I discovered I had a lot to learn about my own culpability in my life circumstances. I learned how to be empathetic from those who offered it. I learned more about myself through the lens of someone holding a different perspective. Finally, I learned friendship can form in the most unlikely of places.

I believe in the power of being empathetic.

The best parent to a child of divorce is both parents. I’ve learned the court system cannot fix what is broken between two divorced parents unwilling to work together. I’ve learned fighting the other parent, even when justified, only makes the situation more unbearable for the child caught in the middle. I believe a child loves and needs both his parents, regardless of the parents’ feelings about each other.