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Lessons From an Adult Child of Divorce

14 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Lisa: Thank you for giving Liz a platform here.

    Liz: My parents divorced when I was 4. Then my mom and stepdad divorced after 20 years together when I was 28.

    The logistics of my parents divorce (they lived 500 miles apart) was harder when I was a kid.

    But the emotional and mental side? Infinitely harder to deal with at 28. Brutal, even.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is hard. It sounds like everyone’s moving toward tomorrow, though. I’m glad to hear that.

    Good luck, miss.

  2. Matt, thanks so much for your comment. You are so right — dealing with the effects of your parents’ divorce as an adult is brutal. I hope you’re feeling better as well! Thanks again.

  3. Ellen says:

    Thanks for sharing about divorce for the older child. When my ex and I divorced it was very difficult for my eldest daughter but a couple years of therapy helped. I know that early on I leaned on my older kids very much. That may have not been the right thing to do but I also felt they needed to know the truth about their dad, about marriage, honestly and commitment. Life and marriage are hard. It saddened me to read how your dad refused therapy and more or less put the blame on your mothers actions. What was he doing to help in the marriage? If you are unhappy then the first place to look is a mirror. For your dad to say he stayed in the marriage pretty much makes him look like a sad victim. No responsibility on him. These are the things I want to teach my children. There are always going to be ups and downs in life and marriage. Sure new relationships are exciting for awhile just like the previous marriage was. But then over time the same issues will arise.
    How will you feel if you were in your moms place?Instead of feeling caught between them, be glad that you can be there and listen.
    Lets stop the continual cycle of divorce and take responsibility for ones actions.

    • Ellen, thanks for your comment. I didn’t realize my article sounded so one sided, but let me be clear: both of my parents were equally at fault for their divorce. It was not completely my father’s fault, nor was it completely my mother’s.

      I am happy to be there for my mother. However, being there does not mean listening to her rail against the man who lovingly raised me. He’s a fantastic father, and I don’t want to hear anyone besmirch his character.

      For me, supporting my mother means spending time together doing the things that we love, and bonding as mother and daughter. If she needs to talk about her marriage, divorce, and my father, she has more appropriate outlets to seek conversation with.

      I love both of my parents dearly — that is what makes this such a difficult situation. By asking them to leave me out of their fight, I’m looking out for my own well-being. I can’t help others if I don’t help myself first.

  4. Lisa, I LOVE this. And Liz … You rock, girlfriend. You are wise and brave. Thanks so much for your perspective. I am divorced/remarried and am always looking for ways to help my kids through the process.

  5. Reblogged this on mama crossroads and commented:
    A unique and very useful perspective! Thanks Liz and Lisa!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is a great reflection of a very overlooked population of people dealing with divorce. My 20-something kids have struggled to watch their dad divorce me after 26 years of marriage, when, as they have often told me, they were oblivious that there were any problems.

    Many of our issues were the same as your parents. However, the one different thing my daughter is dealing with is seeing her father not be happy and carefree, as you saw in your father. She sees an angry and unhappy new dad she barely recognizes. It hurts her to see him. Add to that all the moral implications that aren’t mentioned in your post, and there’s a whole other layer of garbage for kids to deal with.

    More needs to be available for young adults dealing with the divorce of their parents since the over 50 demographic is the fastest growing and largest increase of those divorcing.

  7. kayjcee2014 says:

    I wish I had read this during my divorce. Thank you for the excellent insight.

  8. Jana says:

    It was interesting to read your perspective. While my husband at least made a show of coming to counseling, he admitted to the therapist that he had left the marriage mentally over ten years earlier. It’s a kick in the head to know that someone you loved has been basically living a lie for so long – not to mention the added slap of waiting to leave – basically wasting time that could have otherwise been spent by both of us to build a new life. I try to be as kind and compassionate towards my ex as I can – but yes, despite my best efforts, I still feel anger and sometimes I express that anger to my grown up kids (the two youngest are still living with me). When he first walked out (intending to send me an email to let me know it was over) they were also very angry at him – in fact, I sometimes had to defend him to them! But that support and solidarity gave me comfort. I had focused so much on my husband and our relationship over the 26 years we were together that I had not focused on myself – I had no other support, no real friends, and my parents and siblings were far away. My children (especially those at home) were a balm for my loneliness and grief.

    However, as time passed and he attempted to connect with them, it was hard. On one hand, I know that it is good for my kids to have a relationship with their dad and I want that for them. But on the other, it is hard to know that he wants to put time and effort into his relationship with his kids when he could not be bothered to do the same for our relationship – it makes me feel a bit jealous and sometimes (as much as I hate to admit it) betrayed that they could still love him after he destroyed our marriage in the most uncaring way. But after catching my daughter rolling her eyes when I was complaining about my ex not keeping his promises to help with the house maintenance and upkeep – I try not to talk about him at all when I’m around the kids. I’ve also taken steps to find other support – my therapist, of course, and also making new friends and doing things that I enjoy and was discouraged from doing when I was married.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that divorce is difficult for everyone involved – a parent’s place is not to pull their children into the quagmire and an adult child’s place is not to get involved or attempt to make things all better. But I also don’t think that someone who hasn’t gone through the betrayal or blindsiding of having a spouse leave when you thought it was a “rough patch” and that you were going to work through it and spend the rest of your life with that person, can even begin to know the depth and furiousness of that whirlpool of emotions or attempt to understand it. I’m not intending to invalidate your own grief and emotions – but just saying that its very different from what your mother went through. It’s a learning curve and long-time healing for anyone involved.

    • Jana, thank you for your amazing insight. I’m so sorry for what you went through — I can’t imagine how hard it was.

      I don’t consider your comment to be invalidating my emotions at all. You can definitely see things from a perspective that I can’t and I appreciate you taking the time to explain things from another perspective.

  9. That is a different perspective. A lot harder to work out the emotional stuff as an adult for sure. I can understand feeling stuck. Great post.

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