What it’s like being a middle child in a separated family

I mean it’s not the best


With the percentage of marriage ending in divorce rising to now 42 per cent, being a child of divorced or separated parents is something that is common to a lot of people. Being middle child in the same situation is something entirely different however, the dynamic and relationship changes and you don’t really know what to do and how to fix it.

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My parents separated on mutual terms in the summer of 2013 and let’s just say that my sisters and I didn’t really take it in a realistic way. It’s difficult to experience your parents who have been married for 20+ years to then separate. You’re not that flexible to change any more, you’re more aware and actually understand what is going on. My experience as a middle child having their parents separate was eventful to say the least.

I don’t usually like talking about my parents, they’re a fragile subject as it comes with a lot of emotions that I honestly cannot be bothered to deal with. My sisters, however, are one of the things that make me happy and as a middle child you kind of want them to be happy also. One thing that I wanted after the spilt was to keep the family working when it clearly had been broken. I am stupid for admitting this and probably will get the shit ripped out of me later, but I search for my sisters’ approval as much as I do with my parents – they’re definitely going to take the piss, but it’s true.

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When our parents broke the news, it was just after my last A2 exam by the way which was wasn’t a great start to my summer, my sisters and I all dealt with it in different ways. My little sister, 16 at the time, was understanding as she had witnessed their unhappiness first hand. We’ve talked about it a lot after and we both kind of knew that it was going to happen, it was just shocking. My older sister who was at Leeds University, didn’t really get it and tried to run from it. But I didn’t know where to place myself, obviously I was upset but I wanted to help and really didn’t see how I could.

Let me just say something, middle child syndrome IS A THING. You can’t say it isn’t when you’ve never experienced it. But I suddenly wasn’t aware of my low self-esteem and social withdrawal as my family core was damaged. I tried to help my sisters and I forgot about myself, I wanted to be there for them and not feel as if they couldn’t talk to anyone, this was more for the case of my little sister as the older was 20 and incredibly stubborn/independent. I forgot to focus on myself, I kept a lot of things held up inside and it affected me emotionally. My sense of direction was off and my need for approval had been emphasised by a 1000. I wanted to take care of my family and for them to be happy as they clearly weren’t before.

It’s now three years on and I still do this, it has affected my grades at university, my beliefs, confidence and depression. My family can be very private, we’re typically British and we don’t really tell each other things when they don’t need to know. My father is a prime example of a person who feels as if it is better to keep secrets rather than making people unhappy. The divorce massively affected all of my family in ways which we still do not admit to this day.

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Don’t get me wrong, my parents deciding to not be together is a godsend in disguise. My sisters and I have a much stronger bond, I appreciate them more than I ever did before. My mother and father are content in their own worlds, and they are happy and can be around each other when they need too. No one likes their family breaking up, and no one deals with it in the best way, but it is the people that you surround yourself with that makes it bearable. It was the people I am surrounded by and my family who have unknowingly helped me. I have come to understand and see the world in a realistic yet hopeful light – it’s just sad that it wasn’t the happiest of means to achieve a revelation ending.