December 22, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s a different perspective on divorce (Divorce and Children, 12/18/16). It’s far from perfect and in many ways isn’t as grown-up as I’d prefer. Still, it offers some real issues to think about.
The piece is about divorce from the point of view of the adult or young adult children of the divorcing parents. The proverbial bottom line is that, even if the kids are out of the nest, they can still be hurt by their parents’ divorce, and hurt in unique ways.
That said, many of the points made reflect a point of view that’s not fully mature. They fairly scream “I may be an adult in years, but not in other ways.”
Imagine a couple who remained married “for the kids,” but, once they were off at college or beyond, divorced.
You may think because we’re older and out on our own, it will hurt less. It won’t.
Actually, it will hurt less. A fairly accurate rule of thumb is that, the older the child when the parents divorce, the easier it is and the fewer the deficits resulting from the split. Little kids whose parents divorce suffer worse, longer and act out more than do their older siblings. The writer’s notion that an 18-year-old undergoes the same trauma from divorce that his/her four-year-old sibling does is simply wrong. Divorce rocks the little one’s world in ways unknown to the older child.
Your marriage was a big part of our lives. It helped shape our ideas about marriage, relationships and family. We will question what was true about our childhood and what wasn’t. If we didn’t see this coming, we’ll ask ourselves if there was ever really love or was it all a lie?
We may even call our own relationships into question. Doubts might creep in about our own ability to have a happily ever after or even just a long-term commitment.
Help us to understand that we can make different choices and history doesn’t have to repeat itself. Reassure us that we can learn from your mistakes and have hope for our own futures.
This is heartfelt and entirely understandable, but juvenile at the same time. The fact is that no one, not your parents, not others, can guarantee you “happily ever after.” Indeed, the very concept is a juvenile one. The idea that we meet our soul mate, marry and live happily, without discord or discontent is one of children’s fairy stories. They serve adults poorly. The truth about marriage, like every other relationship, is that some of them fail and all of them require effort and often that effort is the kind we don’t want to give. “Happily ever after” is the false notion that relationships go on auto pilot from marriage to death. It’s not so, and the idea that it is comes from an immature understanding of human relationships.
What’s also true is that divorce is rarely the end of the world for anyone. It’s often traumatic for a wide variety of reasons, but the great majority of people live to love again and form new romantic attachments. So the writer’s assumption that parents must ensure in some way their children’s perfect marriage reflects once again an immature outlook. To be an adult, you have to behave in adult ways and have an adult’s grasp of the world. That includes not expecting others to take care of your problems, even when those “others” are your parents. The true mark of an adult is a person who’s come to understand that his/her parents aren’t supermen, but simply people, just like him/her.
While your intentions may have been good, the fact that you waited will also leaving us feeling really guilty. After all, who wants to be responsible for their parents being miserable?
Very true. This is one of those ways in which the impact of divorce is felt uniquely by older kids. The idea that they may have been responsible for keeping unhappy parents together can engender real guilt on their parts. The other side to the coin is that that’s unavoidable. In most situations, it’s better for the parents to remain together so that the kids can have a reasonable semblance of stability and the presence of both parents. Yes, they may feel some guilt when, later in life, the parents divorce, but the alternative would be for the adults to remain together unhappily ever after, a prospect that’s neither appealing nor necessary.
You may not realize it now but your divorce will also impact our future. When you were married you were a support system for each other. In our minds you would grow old together and help each other out. Now when you get sick or need someone to depend on, you won’t have each other. You will probably need us.
Again, very true. As long as a couple remains together, they can rely on each other for elder care, up to a point, of course. Divorce may well mean that each parent relies more on the children than would have otherwise been the case. It’s a real consequence of divorce, and the later it occurs, the lower the probability of remarriage. So yes, this is one real-world way in which divorce later in life impacts the children of the marriage.
All in all, the article is worth the read. The point of view can be a bit jejune, but still gives a worthwhile perspective.
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