A Friend for the Tough (and Easy) Times

James Taylor sang:
    You just call out my name, And you know wherever I amswings-girls-talk-by-thaeusalrang
     I’ll come running, to see you again
    Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call
    And I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend1

For adults with divorced parents, when parents still force you to choose sides, you need a friend. When family gatherings include stepparents, ex-steps, potential new steps, and assorted others, you need a friend. When you find out your parents are divorcing after decades of marriage, you need a friend. When stresses in your relationship or marriage send the cold fear of divorce through your soul, you need a friend

Unfortunately, it seems people would rather see the dentist than share about their parents’ divorce with a friend. Between the “dirty laundry” stigma and the fear of the potential pain, we just won’t go there. However, dealing with the years-long and ongoing aftermath of parental divorce is something we shouldn’t handle alone. But don’t share indiscriminately.

conversation-by-christ-blakeley

We need a confidant
A confidant keeps what you share confidential. Presidents have confidants. Pastors have confidants. Did you know even Jesus had confidants? The Bible records that Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”1 Jesus separated these three again in the Garden of Gethsemane.2

The person you choose must be one you can confide in, bounce ideas off, lean on, and receive biblical wisdom from. It’s not required that this special person be your best friend. Also, unless your spouse is the ideal candidate, your confidant should be of the same gender. This is because sharing personal things can lower our emotional defenses and cause us to form a bond with the individual. It’s best to avoid this unnecessary risk.

Learning to trust again

Using confidants can be challenging for adult children of divorce, because we must trust them. Unfortunately, earning our trust can be like taking a favorite toy from a toddler—it’s given grudgingly. But, the alternative—keeping the barriers up—means the stress and pain the post-parental-divorce-life can create has no constructive outlet. And this is where many ACD’s find themselves.

The upside of confidants
“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”3 In taking this step, you’ll find that God, you, and your confidant are a formidable team. Where you are weak, they are strong. Together, you can overcome the divorce-related fears and other issues that block the healthy relationships you desire.

But what are the qualities of a confidant? We’ll explore that next.

 

1King, Carole, “You’ve Got a Friend,” Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon, Warner Bros. Records Inc.’t. 1971. http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/James_Taylor:You%27ve_Got_A_Friend
2See Matthew 26:36-38
3Proverbs 18:24,NASB

Images
Swings, Girls talk by THaeuSalRang
talk to me my love by Indra Galbo\
man on phone – Thinkstock

 

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Four Types of Adult Children of Divorce

When people ask me what I do it goes like this: “I help adults with divorced parents overcome some of the lingering issues from the divorce, like anger and unforgiveness, so they can have healthy relationships and avoid divorce themselves.” After a polite “That sounds interesting” the conversation comes to a fork in the road.

Step out of yourself by Victoria Nevland croppedPeople from intact-families say the ministry is important and desperately needed. Many share stories of disastrous divorce situations they’ve seen. (It’s amazing how many people have these stories.)

However, individuals from broken homes often raise their defense shields and say very little. Or they’ll comment about how things are going well. Only a small percentage ask questions or touch on their struggles. I think this is due in large part to adults with divorced parents falling into four groups:

  • Delivered – those who really are doing well. Their parents’ break-up has been dealt with in a real, healthy, and ongoing way. They are standing on biblical truth and treating the lies they used to believe as pesky gnats rather than stumbling blocks.  This seems to be the smallest group of the four.
  • Deluded – those who believe they are doing well. A common expression from these folks is, “It was a long time ago and I’m over it.” This belief is fed by TV, movies, and popular internet sites. Unfortunately, they are blind (like I was) Talk to the hand by Matt Foster croppedto the various ways parental divorce can impact our thinking and negatively affect our relationships and marriages. I believe this is the largest group because, if most adult children of divorce really were ok, the divorce rate of those with divorced parents wouldn’t be as high. Also the fear of marriage wouldn’t drive so many to live together.
  • Denied – these know they’re not doing well. They have even connected their troubles to Mom and Dad’s split. But they lack information to overcome (for example) the trust and anger issues they struggle with.
  • Determined – these adult children of divorce are aware of their issues and are actively working to overcome them.

CCK - 'Gunks by G BNow take a moment and honestly assess which group you are in. Would your spouse, friends, or family agree with your answer? I pray you are moving toward the Determined or Delivered group. If the cycle of divorce is to be broken these two groups must grow. The good news is God seeks to help people who want to be delivered.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”1 I’m thankful God continues to work on me. (My wife is too!) However, God wants to work with you too. Will you let Him?

 

1Philippians 1:6, NLT

Photos:
Step out of yourself by Victoria Nevland
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
CCK – ‘Gunks by G B

The New Audio Series on Adult Children of Divorce Issues is Up

Earlier this year I recorded ten radio programs for the Champions Arise ministry of Trans World Radio (TWR). In this series, Foster Braun interviewed me on how parental divorce affects the children and the adults they become.Kent Darcie with Foster Braun 25% These fifteen-minute programs include an overview of the issues adults with divorced parents face and detailed discussions on anger, father hunger, forgiveness, and other topics.

This is a great introduction to why adults with divorced parents struggle with relationships and divorce at significantly higher rates. Click here to connect to the program list and audio links.

Divorce Now or Divorce Later: It Still Hurts the “Kids”

Divorce Sucks! by Addie Willams 50The combination of reading an article on a pair of eighty-year-olds who divorced, being in graduation season which creates empty nests and the temptation to bolt for unhappy spouses, and a recent conversation with an adult whose parents waited until he was grown to split, urged me to offer the article below that was posted this week. It describes the pain adult children feel when their parents divorce later in life (commonly called gray divorce.)

For those who have suffered parental divorce as an adult, this article will assure you that your feelings are normal. I also encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings with God. The Bible encourages us to cast all our cares on God, because He cares for us.

For those parents contemplating divorce, “because the kids are old enough now,” please be courageous enough to see the truth of how it will impact your children.

Click here for the article, “Think grown-up children can’t be hurt by their parents getting divorced? These haunting stories prove you’re WRONG”

 

Image: Divorce Sucks! By Addie Williams

Love Apparently Didn’t Keep Them Together; The Captain and Tennille – Part 1

By Kent Darcie

Say it’s not so. Two back-to-back Hollywood divorce stories in this blog? I’m sorry, but anyone over 45 is in mourning over this one. The Captain and Tennille are getting a divorce after 39 years.  For our younger readers, C&T’s biggest hit (which is bouncing through most of our heads right now) was Love will Keep us Together. There is some talk that the filing is health care related—it is more cost effective for them to live together than be married—but that is speculation.

Ironically, just this past week a non-Hollywood breakup came to my attention where the couple divorced…after 40 years. It is sad to write that this is not an isolated incident anymore. According to a study from Bowling Green State University, divorce among those over 50 has doubled between 1990 and 2009.1 In the case of the Captain and Tennille there were no kids, but this is uncommon. So how do adult children handle these situations?
 
When parental divorce comes in adulthood
The Way They Were book coverBroke Lea Foster penned a book on this very situation. The Way They Were chronicles her journey after her parents divorced. She was 26 when the marriage ended. The transparency of her manuscript draws the reader in. She works through situations and emotions that the divorce created with the diligence of a guide through a jungle forest. Foster adeptly proves that parental divorce later in life creates its own set of unique challenges within the adult child of divorce group.

“Should you try to be a “friend” to your parents? How do you stay out of the middle? How does their divorce affect your own romantic relationships? How do you deal with holidays, weddings, and other special occasions?”2 These and many other important questions are dealt with in her book.

For now, we’ll do two things: grieve another long term marriage that now adds to the dismal divorce statistics, and take the next two blogs to look at some of the problems that come when parents wait to divorce until later in our lives.

1Captain and Tennille, musical duo of the ’70s, divorcing after 39 years of marriage, DIANA REESE; January 23 at 6:52 am; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/01/23/captain-and-tennille-musical-duo-of-the-70s-divorcing-after-39-years-of-marriage/
2The Way They Were, Brooke Lea Foster, cover

Waiting for us to Grow up Before They Divorce; The Captain and Tennille – Part 2

By Kent Darcie

Parents often believe that if they wait until their kids are adults before they divorce, their breakup will have a minimal impact on them—just be a bump in the road. Unfortunately the “bump” quickly becomes an earthquake that fractures the foundation of their adult children. Instead of peace and the quiet acceptance the parents had hoped for, questions, doubts, anger, and fears grow like weeds in the garden of their adult child’s heart. Here is an example of why.

The perfect picture
For nearly 40 years the Captain and Tennille were the poster couple of two people who were in love. While Love Will Keep us Together was their staple song, these are some of the lyrics from another C&T hit called The Way I Want to Touch You.captain-tennille-love-will-keep-us-together-cover

I never wanted to touch a man, the way that I want to touch you
I never wanted to love a man, the way that I want to love you
Chorus: You are sunshine, you are shadows. You are morning, you are night
—You are hard times, you are good times. You are darkness, you are light

I never wanted to give a man, the things that I want to give you
I never wanted to live with a man, the way that I want to live with you1

How can this be?
The song’s original rendition drips with such passion, that the lovers found in the Bible’s Song of Solomon would be proud. But then, like a lightning bolt on a cloudless day, divorce shatters our picture. Jen Abbas speaks of this in her book Generation Ex, “After a lifetime of looking up to Mom and Dad and consciously or unconsciously viewing that marriage as a correct picture, they are overwhelmed by the thought that what they once knew as truth has been revealed as a lie.”2 And that is why the questions come.

How can such passion end in divorce after 39 years? Were those words really true? What happened? If their marriage couldn’t make it after all that time, how can mine survive?  Can I really trust my spouse?

Ask the questions
Did your parents break up after you left for college or later in your life? It is important to know that your questions are real, valid, and must be asked. Unasked questions can seep into your soul and poison you and your relationships with others, including God.

mind trigger sillowette pngWrite out the questions or thoughts you have regarding your parent’s divorce. At this point, they don’t have to be fair or rational. Just write. After you have written your list, put the letter F by the questions or statements that are fear-based. Then pray over those items with an F. Fears entangle us with distortions and “what ifs” that rarely occur and the truth of God’s word must be used to deal with them.

Then, once you are ready (but I strongly encourage you to take this step), share one or two of your items with your spouse or a good friend. Remember, divorce tends to hide issues in the shadows, but healing comes when God’s light reveals what is in the shadows so they can be dealt with.

1“The Way I Want to Touch You,” written by Toni Tennille
2Generation Ex, Jen Abbas, pg. 19

Trusting After a Parent’s Later in Life Divorce; The Captain and Tennille – Part 3

Adults with divorced parents have significant difficulties with their ability to trust.  Trust issues arise regardless of how old they were when their parents parted. However, when a parent’s breakup occurs in adulthood, cracks in the foundation of trust can run especially deep.

In part, this results from adult children of divorce trying to fight the fear of divorce in a world where divorce announcements smack us in the face every time we wait at a cash register.  Trust missing Piece_Of_PuzzleComments, like “I don’t know why she filed.  I gotta figure it out for myself first,”1 from Daryl Dragon of the Captain and Tennille, don’t help.

So when the D word flies from the tabloids and lands in our family tree, doubt and fear become the proverbial elephant in the room. And hanging around the elephant’s neck is a sign with the question “can I really trust my spouse, or can I really trust my boyfriend or girlfriend?”

Taking action to rebuild your trust
The first step to clearing the elephant is admitting it’s there—that you have a hard time trusting people. Interestingly, while trust issues tend to develop over time and lie below the surface for ACD, adults whose parents divorce later in life have the issue thrust upon them in the moments following the initial shock of the announcement.

Second, confess your fears to God in prayer and be brutally honest with your thoughts and concerns.

woman praying over BibleThird, share your thoughts with your spouse and/or a good friend. Guys, this is particularly important for you, because men tend to bury their feelings, but with destructive results.

Fourth, take steps to strengthen your marriage. The Love and Respect Ministry is a marriage changing and marriage saving vehicle that we highly recommend although there are many others.

So, can you trust your spouse? Absolutely, however, God’s truth must be the foundation for the process. The Bible says to take “every thought captive.”It is critical to crush the lies that Satan attempts to use against you and your relationships. This solid base, combined with your hard work, will enable you to leave a precious and sweet legacy for your kids and their marriages.

 
1http://www.tmz.com/2014/01/22/captain-and-tennille-divorce/
22 Corinthians 10:5 [ESV]