Are Adult Children of Divorce Doomed to Failing Relationships?

No. However, many issues work against our success that need to be addressed if we are to avoid the negative ACD statistics column. But what are the problem areas?  And how do we handle them?

Dreamstine

First, some issues—and from an unusual source.
Australian entertainment writer, Nigel Gladstone, asked a very unpopular question in the midst of the fluff and gush of the royal wedding. What are the odds Harry and Meghan will divorce?He listed the following negative factors:

  • She’s from America –which has high divorce rates
  • Both are celebrities—who, as a group, have notoriously high divorce rates
  • Both have divorced parents—which increases the odds of divorce 200% compared to those from intact families2
  • People who spend more than $20,000 on their wedding triple their chances of divorce—who would have thunk that?1,3 

Factors I’d add:

  • Interracial marriages can add significant social pressure to the marriage relationship
  • They’ve created a step family—due to her two sons—which often adds divisive internal pressure on the marriage relationship for, at least, the first five to seven years.4

Pixaby

Internal and external pressures
All relationships have internal and external pressures that work against them. Internal pressures include differences of opinion, family or origin differences, emotional baggage, different life goals, spiritual differences, and other things that can create sparks and hurt feelings. ACD add a of lack of trust, anger, the fear of doom, father hunger, and other flawed paradigms to the mix.

External pressures include extended family, children, in-laws, ex’s, social mores, cultural challenges for missionaries, and privacy challenges for celebrities. Unfortunately, few are trained to deal with external and internal pressures on relationships effectively. Consequently, the relationship of the two individuals—the Bible says two sinful individuals—can break under the pressure.

Lowering the odds of divorce
The new royal couple, and every couple around the world that include an adult child of divorce, need to:

  1. Learn about and identify external and internal pressures (particularly ACD related issues) that can negatively affect their relationship. Gary Neuman’s book, The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce is an excellent start.
  2. Stepfamilies (or stepfamilies-to-be) should read The Smart StepfaFamilyLife Blended logo (Smart Stepfamily)mily by Ron Deal and review the materials online at Family Life  blended.
  3. Couples considering marriage should pursue premarital counseling, but ACD and blended families especially need premarital counseling that includes marriage and parenting skills, blended marriage issues, and ACD issues.
  4. People who attend church regularly divorce less.3,5 One reason is God is the biggest champion for marriage and provided a textbook for a successful marriage. The Bible includes many guidelines for healthy marriages like, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her(Ephesians 5:25) and “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Followed in a humble and loving way, marriage can be the safe, nurturing, and loving bond ACD crave.

So “No” our relationships aren’t doomed. Because with God’s help, and our humble submission to His will for our lives, every obstacle can be managed, minimized, or overcome and the cycle of divorce can be broken—even for royalty.

 

1https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/what-are-the-odds-harry-and-meghan-will-divorce-20180519-p4zg94.html
2Wolfinger, N. H. (2005). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
3 Francis‐Tan, A., & Mialon, H. M. (2015). “A Diamond Is Forever” And Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. Economic Inquiry, 53(4), 1919-1930.
4 Deal, R. L. (2014). The smart stepfamily: Seven steps to a healthy family. Baker Books.
5 Feldhahn, S. (2014). The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. Multnomah.

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Woman and Bible – Prayer a Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000

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Primal Loss Through the Eyes of ACD

If you could ask adult children of divorce questions about the impact of their parents’ divorce, what would you ask? More important, how would they answer? Leila Miller found out by asking seventy ACD the same eight questions.  Her book Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak not only gives their answers, but except for the introduction, the entire book is their answers—no commentary, no “expert opinions,” no “it’s not a big deal” bravado.

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As a result, for me, reading Primal Loss was like drinking orange juice concentrate without the three cups of additional water. I’m used to reading ACD stories that are liberally separated by statistics, comments, etc, so you get a break from the intensity of the parental divorce experience. Miller gives us 100% ACD dialog and it’s a tough read at times. However,  two important things occur as you read: you realize your challenges aren’t unique, and you learn you aren’t crazy because of your challenges (for the most part!).

Miller’s eight questions were:

  1. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you (the longest chapter)?
  2. What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?
  3. Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?
  4. What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?
  5. What would you say directly to your parents about the divorce and how it affected your life than and now? Would you advise them to do things differently, and, if so, what?
  6. What do you want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?
  7. What role has your faith played in your healing?
  8. What would you want to say to any children facing their parents’ divorce today? What would you want to say to those parents considering divorce (leaving out cases of danger)?


How would YOU answer these questions? Does it even matter now with their divorce so long ago? YES! Because your answers (and the emotions surrounding them) are inside you and probably leaking out in various ways (anger, fears, troubled relationships). Also because, as the individuals in the book found, thinking through it helps.

Important recommendations
For those of you who are ACD, before you start reading Primal Loss, I encourage you to let your loved ones know what you’re reading. This is to prepare them for the up and down and all around moods you’ll experience.

I also recommend reading it with a friend or two. The Bible says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.1 As you read through the chapters, get together weekly and debrief. This will help keep you focused on the healing process God desires you to complete.

Lastly, please leave a comment about how the book affected you. I’m very interested in your thoughts!

 

1Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Images:
Thinking RFID by Jacob Botter
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Billy Graham and Overcoming the Impact of Parental Divorce

With Billy Graham’s passing at 99 years old, we have lost the Moses of our era. It’s difficult to name someone who has had a broader and more positive worldwide impact than Billy Graham. However, he would be the first to say it is not about him, nor has it ever been.

For nearly 60 years Billy Graham taught true healing starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Adult Children of Divorce Ministries is committed to helping those who struggle with the residue of parental divorce, and we agree. The video below shares how anyone can be freed from the fears, anger, unforgiveness, father hunger, and other issues common to adults with divorced parents.

Please grab a cup of coffee and watch this. These few minutes could change your life in a wonderful and eternal way.

A Gift to Help Marital Love Last

Adults with divorced parents often lack the template for what a healthy marriage looks like. During this season of love, why not give a gift that will help you and your spouse strengthen your relationship by learning what makes each other tick?

I encourage both husbands and wives to buy the set of books called, “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. (Ladies, you may want to get the audiobook or MP3 for your husband.)

These books do two things:

  • Help men be far less clueless as to how to keep their wives happy
  • Reveal to women just how clueless they are about what really makes their husbands happy.

Whether you want to make a good marriage better, a struggling marriage good, or you just want to decrease the hurt feelings and disrespect, make these books the love gift of choice this month!

“Let him Kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for your love is more delightful than wine”
~Song of Solomon 1:2

“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful”
~Song of Solomon 1:15

Thanks-giving to Parents Who Really Try

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. Furthermore, on this site I tend to focus on the fallout parental divorce produces—and rightfully so. If adults with divorced parents hope to break the divorce cycle, we need to identify some of the contributing factors.

However, there are countless divorced mothers and fathers and stepmothers and stepfathers who honestly try to minimize the ongoing impact. They accept that hybrid relationships can be difficult, awkward, or confusing for us, even as adults.

Some travel distances to stay involved with us.
Some sacrifice their own happiness because they believe it will help us.
Some refuse to badmouth their ex because that ex is our mother or father.
Some go above and beyond financially to help.
Many display grace when facing new husbands and wives.
Some pursue us even when we push them away.
Many lovingly do the stepparenthood dance of being a parent, yet not being the parent.
Some avoid family functions to decrease our discomfort.
And the list goes on..

If you’re blessed with a parent or stepparent who is described by the list above, first give thanks to God. Unfortunately, these wonderful individuals are not as common as we might hope. Second, give them a call, or a special hug to thank them. Tell them what you are thankful for. You may just give them the best gift they receive this entire holiday season!

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Father and daughter by Chany Crystal

When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

Images
Shutterstock
The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

Nuzzling in God’s Neck – A Sunday Snippet

Maybe you had onjoanna-sweenye of those conversations with your mom, dad, or stepparent.
Maybe your brother or sister is furious that you like your stepmother.
Maybe, even though everything went well, you’re exhausted from keeping parents and steps and assorted others happy at a family event.
Maybe you’re scared because arguments at home sound so similar to the pre-divorce skirmishes you heard as a child.
Maybe life is just hard.

During these times wouldn’t it be great if you could crawl onto God’s lap, let Him wrap His arms around you, and tuck your head into his neck like a little child? But can we do that? Should we do that?

First, can we do that?
Many people see God as ominous, fearful, and untouchable, but as Christians the Bible says, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.1 Abba Father can be translated “Daddy.” This is God’s perspective of our relationship with Him, but perhaps a picture can help.

One of my favorites is this picture of President Kennedy with his son, John, playing under the presidential desk.

John Jr. isn’t thinking about being with the leader of the free world. He is with his dad. Likewise, God wants us to curl up with Him, Abba Father, in spite of the fact he is the ruler of all creation.

Second, should we do that?
Countless scriptures declare, “Yes!!!

Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.2

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.3

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber.4Time for reflection by Hans G Backman

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.5

Third, how do we do that?
Preferences vary. Some literally crawl onto the couch or recliner and pretend they’re in God’s arms. Others pray. For some people, walking with God helps bring God’s reality in troubling situations.

How we embrace our Abba Father relationship doesn’t’ matter. God isn’t picky. He’s just waiting with open arms for us to come to him.

 

1Romans 8:15, NLT
2Hebrews 4:16, NLT
31 Peter 5:7, NLT
4Psalms 121: 2-3, NIV
5Psalms 103-13-14, NLT

Images
Joanna Sweeny
Time for reflection by Hans G Backman