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Someday I’d understand: What my parents’ divorce taught me about love

HOST INTRO: In this piece from our commentary series Andrea Salcedo explores how her parents’ divorce as a teenager shaped her view of love.

When I was 15 years old my dad asked me to come to his office. It was full of building maps and plans on a glass table. He’s an architect. It was a weird request. It was the weekend and the office was empty. He looked me in the eyes and told me he and my mom were getting a divorce. I was shocked. They seemed fine. We had annual vacations to Disney, New Years at the beach and trips to the countryside of my home country, Panama. I still remember being in the middle seat of my dad’s car, peeking my head between him and my mother sitting in the front, my younger brother beside me on our way to school every day. We were a family of four and this made me proud. My parents had been married for 18 years and although their relationship was not perfect, I had always thought I was very lucky to have them together.

That day, my dad admitted he had cheated on my mom three times. He said my mom cheated once. My dad said he had tried everything he could, but that my mom would not change her mind. But even if my dad had cheated on my mom, on that day I took a side—my dad’s. From that day on, we were never a family of four again. A couple of months later, my parents sold our beautiful terracotta two-story house. I moved with my brother and mother to an okay apartment a couple of blocks away from school. My dad to a different apartment.

I knew my dad had cheated but in my mind he was the good guy. It was my mom who broke up our family. My parents being there for every birthday or holiday, to communicating only via email. I spent many Christmas and birthdays away from my dad. He refused to show up if my mother was present. They’d betrayed each other a somewhat even number of times, why couldn’t mom just forgive him?

We fought a lot. Sometimes, I went days without speaking to her. I’d skip dinner or lunch if she was at the table. I said very hurtful and mean things that I would later regret. I told her she was the worst mom ever. That she was selfish, and that she did not put her kids’ happiness before hers.

Three years later I had my first boyfriend. He was a bad boy. We dated for almost 8 months. But one night, when he drove me home, he parked his black Jeep in my building’s garage. Things had been weird. He would not text me as often and replied with dry sentences, sometimes a couple of words. When we were together, things felt awkward and distant. This time I did see it coming. He didn’t even look me in the eye. He said: “I’ve been seeing and texting my ex. I think we should end things here. You are not fun. You’re too boring for me. I don’t think this is going to work.” I still remember the red clock he gave me as a birthday present. It would jump and roll across my bedroom floor with loud music. I threw it down from my 19-floor window with all of my strength. Man your first breakup hurts, especially when the guy is a complete jerk. I cried myself to sleep listening to sad songs.

The next day over lunch, I told my mom what happened. No matter how many grudges I had, I still needed her. She looked me in the eyes and said she was sorry but that I deserved someone who would respect me and love me for who I was. Tears started to fall down my cheeks. When my parents first broke up, my mom didn’t really say much about it. She told me someday I’d understand. Finally, I did. My mom was setting an example for me. That’s love. It’s about self-respect and how to stand up for yourself and your family.  

HOST OUTRO: For a picture of Andrea’s family, go to


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