How Did You Try to Save Your Parents’ Marriage?

Think about that for a moment. Research shows many adults with divorced parents secretly blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. However, we often skip the step of looking at how we tried to prevent the ship from sinking.

Were you the parent pleaser? You worked to keep the peace at all costs so they’d stay together. Unfortunately, trying to keep your brothers and sisters peaceful was like herding kittens.
Was being the problem kid your solution? Surely if they saw how badly you needed them, they’d stay together.
Maybe perfection was your answer. Be the perfect kid—good grades, clean room, no problems, and they wouldn’t split.

Dr. Judith Siegel writes, “Children are acutely sensitive to the unresolved conflicts between their parents and learn that by acting in a certain way they can prevent a conflict from surfacing and threatening the family as a whole.”1 Consequently, many of us tried to do something, but their divorce happened anyway. So why talk about this now?

Why do we need to know what we did?
Three primary reasons:
First, it’s likely that how you tried to save your parents’ marriage is how you’re trying to “save” your marriage or relationships today. Being the peacemaker, people pleasing, moping, getting into trouble, or trying to earn their love by being perfect is still how you approach situations. The problem is, it didn’t work then, and it’s probably not working now. In fact, it’s likely making things worse. (I.e. the “harder” you try, the more frustrated your mate gets.)

Second, we are putting our happiness in the hands of other people. We were crushed when our efforts to save our parents’ marriage failed. We respond in a similar way today. When our efforts to mend, heal or fix a relationship problem fail, we’re crushed. And we also fear the result we saw back then will repeat now—the demise of a cherished relationship.

Third, we believe a series of lies like:

  1. We have control over how others respond.
  2. When we fail it’s because we are inadequate or inferior.
  3. Failure is final.
  4. Our worth is dependent on how others react to us.

Clinging to the Truth
This last reason—believing lies—causes the most problems, but God’s truth can overcome the lies.

1. We learn from Adam and Eve that God created man with the freedom to choose. Thus, regardless of how perfect we feel we behave, people can still choose to respond negatively.

2. Failing is part of the human condition. The wisest man ever, King Solomon, wrote, “the righteous falls seven times and rises again.2 However, though we fail, God says we are not failures, we are precious3.
3. We always have worth because we’re created by God. God also confirmed our worth by sending Jesus here to die for us (Romans 5:8).

Whether from divorced families or not, we tend to respond the way we learned to respond as kids. This can be problematic for adults with divorced parents, but, thankfully, God’s truth can trounce the lies that mislead us.

 

1Siegel, Judith P. What Children Learn from Their Parents’ Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, but It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy. Harper Collins, 2010.
2 Proverbs 24:16, ESV.
3 Psalm 139:17

Images
Divorce by Tony Guyton
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

Advertisements

Support Group for Adults with Divorced Parents in Southeast Michigan

I am excited to announce that I will be co-leading a support group for adults with divorced parents starting in May.  Please contact Sycamore Counseling Services for more information.

Here is a video with a brief description of who this group is for.

The Gift of Hope (Pulling Back From Divorce)

Christmas has passed, but gift giving needs to continue. Start with the gift of hope. This month many adult children of divorce are contemplating what they swore they’d never do to their children—filing for divorce.

This is not a sudden whim. Months or years of feeling unloved, disrespected, or fearful they aren’t good enough to keep their spouse, or tired of arguments that raise fearful memories from childhood, have combined with the stresses of life to squeeze out any hope.

Satan whispers “things will never change” and they think, “Now I see why Mom divorced Dad.” “Now Dad’s leaving makes sense.” However, few want to ruin Christmas, so January comes, and the call is made.

These precious individuals need the gift of hope and you can help.

  1. Be a godly ear for them to talk to. You’d be surprised how many people file for divorce without talking to anybody.
  2. Watch their kids on a weekend night so the struggling couple can have time together.
  3. Buy them tickets to a marriage retreat. The Love and Respect conference and Weekend to Remember getaway weekends are excellent. For marriages in serious trouble, Retrouvaille and Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored Marriage Intensive Experience  are proven tools that can help.
  4. Review and have them review our Considering Divorce page. Even those with divorced parents rarely understand the gravity and lifelong consequences of this drastic action.
  5. PUSH! Now is not the time for timidity. Too often I hear, “Well, I don’t want to rock the boat by interfering.” THE BOAT IS SINKING! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by offering tools and hope to the hopeless.Praying woman hands by Long Thiên
  6. The Bible says, “pray without ceasing1 and that, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”Pray for your friend, family member, or coworker’s marriage. Pray for protection from Satan’s attacks of doubt, fear, hate, and selfishness. Pray works!

It’s the biggest month for divorce calls and the lawyers know it. Let’s work together to thwart more divorces by giving the gift of hope this new year.

 
11 Thessalonians, 5:17, ESV
2 James 5:16b, NLT

Images:
Praying woman hands by Long Thiên

Six Helps for Handling Your First Thanksgiving as a Divorced Family

Before the holidays many articles describe the challenges divorced parents face in making the holidays okay for their kids. Do you keep oldIMGP6979 by siti fatimah traditions or start new ones? Should you let them be with your ex, or have the kids at home?

But what about those who are approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas with divorced parents for the first time?
The emotional turmoil new adult children of divorce experience is great, and no one seems to understand. You don’t even understand, but that’s okay. Here are six steps that aren’t cure alls, but can lay the groundwork for holidays that aren’t horrible:

 1)  Acknowledge the pain. Let’s face it, most of you didn’t want this outcome. It’s important to fess up that you have sorrow, grief, frustration, anger, disappointment, fear, disgust, apprehension, and a host of other feelings because of your parents’ divorce—even if it was anticipated.

2)  Tell someone about the pain. First, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”1 Pray to God and tell Him what’s on your mind—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly. God can handle it, and He wants to help. Forgiveness by Tiffany ScantleburySecond, talk it out with your spouse or close trusted friend. Verbalizing your feelings can really help to ease your frustrations.

 3)  Go into the holiday with a plan. Where will you spend the holiday, with who, when, and why? Remember, this is your holiday too. In trying to please parents—which is now infinitely more complicated—we lose ourselves causing bitterness, anger, and resentment. Is this the year to stay at home or go to your spouse’s parents for Thanksgiving dinner? What is best for you? As the stewardesses say on the plane, when emergencies happen, put your oxygen mask on first.

4)  Remember everyone is hurting. Like a pebble in a lake, the divorce-ripples affect a lot of people. Siblings, grandparents, kids, even your spouse’s parents and siblings are all caught in this storm. Author and ACOD, Stephanie Staal, says it well, “everyone was comfortable with the extremely uncomfortable situation.”2 Tempers may be short, tears may flow, and tension may be high, but remember, everyone is hurting—even those with smiling faces. And most haven’t acknowledged or shared their pain.girl-talk-by-nathan-rupert

5)  Debrief after the holiday. Within a week, talk through how things went with your spouse or close friend. Grab a coffee somewhere and share your thoughts and emotions. If it was terrible, okay, or somewhere in-between, tell them how and why. Sharing greatly reduces bitterness, anger, and resentment that can taint us and our relationships.

6)  Keep the Thanks-giving in Thanksgiving. Even in this difficult time, you have much to be thankful for. Create a list of the ways God has blessed you this year. Keep it near,and read it regularly. It will remind you to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”3

Do you have something that worked for you? Please share it as a reply below. Thanks!

 

11 Peter 5:7, NLT
2 Stephanie Staal, The Love They Lost: Living with the legacy of Our Parent’s Divorce, (NY, NY: Delacorte Press, 2000)
31 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV

Images
IMGP6979 by siti fatimah
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Finding a Trustworthy Person to Share With (Confidant Part 2)

Have you ever experienced something like this?
I can’t believe you told them. That was a private conversation!” You’re furious because you voiced some concerns about your boss to a coworker and thanks to their loose lips, everyone, including your boss, know what you said.

Though many have experienced trust violations, one major casualty of coming from a broken home is a fear of trusting people. So it’s natural to flinch when thinking about sharing our parental-divorce related stuff. However, as I mentioned in the last blog, sharing is very important if we don’t want the anxiety, anger, and frustrations we experience to taint our relationships and marriage.

The good news is strong confidant candidates are out there, but we need to qualify them properly. Here are some desired qualities.
A confidant:

  • has your best interest at heart—by using biblical truth to judge what’s best for you
  • encourages and affirms your willingness to share your burden
  • maintains confidentiality, but doesn’t condone immoral or illegal activities
  • serves as a sounding board—mostly listening, asking a few questions, and offering biblical advice
  • remains objective—sees through any bias caused by your closeness to the situation
  • exhibits sensitivity, but doesn’t choose sides
  • challenges you to dig past the surface issues to the deeper emotions
  • is not a person of the opposite sex (unless it is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend)
  • should only be a family member if they meet the criteria above

Does this type of person exist? Yes!!!! Hopefully it is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, but if not, your confidant is out there if you keep searching.

Bible with Cross Shadow David Campbell FCC ( A, $, @) 337522540_8eb3c1f974_oThe Bible says, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.1 Seek God in prayer and write down some potential confidants. Pray over your list and approach the person you believe God is leading you to. Explain to them what you’re looking for and why. Gauge their interest and meet with them a couple of times as a test.

A good confidant is invaluable. Speaking with someone you trust greatly increases your ability to deal with family drama and situations that will come up this holiday season. Take a step of faith and reach out for that special friend today.

 

1Psalm 37:5, NKJV

Images
Thinkstock Photo
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

Good News for Adults with Divorced Parents

Though adults with divorced parents are up to 200% more likely to divorce than their peers from intact families,1 two books offer us good news.  One is The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn. The other is Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.

Ddaughters-of-divorce-bk-gaspardaughters of Divorce was written by researcher Terry Gaspard and her daughter, Tracy Clifford—both ACDs. It’s a bold, unpolitically correct look at the impact of divorce on daughters. Gaspard’s purpose was to “create a guide that helps daughters of any age overcome the unique legacy of divorce, so they can establish healthy, happy, and long-lasting relationships.”2

With ample research, stories from those she interviewed, and personal reflections from Gaspard and her daughter, Daughters of Divorce is a practical and hopeful book for any woman with divorced parents.

Their seven steps to a successful relationship begin with the sobering and daunting task of restoring our faith in love.3 After reading this goal I asked, “Do we even realize we’ve lost our faith in love?” Gaspard answers this with numerous examples of clients and others who have done just that. Some realizing they have killed Cupid. Others chasing, but never catching him.

A major strength of Gaspard’s work is how she peels back the layers of lies women with divorced parents believe and systematically leads them on a path toward overcoming those lies. While heartily recommending this powerful book, be advised that her views of self-esteem are not rooted in the fact that God created us, therefore our worth is intrinsic—regardless of how we may feel.

The other good news comes from The Good News About Marriage.4 good-news-about-marriage-bk-feldhahnFeldhahn soundly debunks the 50%-of-marriages-end-in-divorce myth, and offers new insights into marriage that have gone unreported by most media.

For example, did you know that nearly 80% of married couples report being happy in their marriages? Have you heard that attending church regularly can lower your chance of divorce by 25-50%?6 Probably not. The Good News About Marriage is full of marriage encouraging and marriage strengthening information like this.

It’s great news for adult children of divorce (who tend to be fearful of divorce) that things are much better on the marriage front than we’ve been led to believe. For those who desire solid relationships, but doubt it’s possible, Gaspard and Feldhahn declare, FULFILLING RELATIONSHIPS AND MARRIAGES ARE POSSIBLE…FOR EVERYONE!!

 

Could Our Parents’ Divorce Be a Good Thing?

A number of recent articles by adult children of divorce say “Yes,” their parents’ split was a good thing. I also received an email implying that there are adults with divorced parents who are quite happy with the break-up. This is true. But the answer to “Was the divorce a good thing?”, without sounding like a lawyer or politician, IMGP6979 by siti fatimahdepends on what the definition of “good” is.

What good means
If good is a parent separating themselves and the kids from ongoing physical or emotional abuse, then divorce is good. If good is getting kids away from the impact of an unhealthy environment of drug or alcohol abuse, then divorce is good. If a partner refuses to honor their wedding vows with repeated and unrepentant infidelity, then divorce is good. And there are other situations which would be detrimental to the physical and emotional health of the spouse and kids if they continued.

When the ‘No’ is actually a ‘Yes’
However, the problem with the “Is their divorce a good thing” question is when we answer “Yes” we automatically answer “No” to the follow-up question; “Are there still consequences when our parents break up?” “No” simply isn’t true, because parental divorce forever changes the landscape—admittedly to Divorce by Marc Hatot croppedvary degrees.

Choosing which parent sees you early Thanksgiving Day and who wins the coveted prime time slot might still earn a “yes, the divorce was a good thing” answer. However, I doubt anguishing over the decision whether to include your mother on the family picture board at your father’s funeral would elicit the same response.

The gap between “yes” and heal
Too often I’ve found we hide behind the “Yes” answer to avoid the pain. Partly because the path to healing usually leads through pain, but also because we don’t know where to turn with our pain. “I’m hurting. Now what?” That’s why this ministry is here.

Adult Children of Divorce Ministries isn’t here to blame or dishonor parents. The Bible is very clear we are to “honor our father and mother1 We exist to come along side adults with divorced parents and help them deal with the ongoing and perpetual fallout of parental divorce.

This includes internal fallout like anger, fear, and feelings of unworthiness. Your Word by abcdz2000It also includes external fallout like having to use boundaries in situations where parents, exes, steps, and assorted others show up for your child’s birthday party.

But most of all we’re here to help people crush the lies they’ve accepted with God’s truth. For example, it’s tough to believe the lie that we’re worthless when the Bible says we are God’s workmanship (individually created by Him) in Christ Jesus, (who is perfect.)

So, could our parents’ divorce be a good thing? I believe a better question is,  “Am I doing everything I can to prevent my kids from having to ask that question someday?”

 
1Ephesians 6:2
2Ephesians 2:10, ESV

Photos
IMGP6979 by siti fatimah
Divorce by Marc Hatot cropped
Your Word by abcdz2000