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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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!!

 

The Olympics, ACOD’s, and the Fear of Conflict

Kseniia Afanaseva on the floor by Jon ConnellEvery two years I fantasize about standing on the Olympic podium and collecting my medal. Though I break into a sweat walking to the mailbox, I still form imaginary tears as the Star Spangled Banner plays for me and my new world record. But as I was watching athletes go through the Gymnastics Floor routine, I noticed something.

In the floor routine, the gymnast runs really fast, flips, twists, twirls, flips again, then backwards, and lands on his or her feet. It’s truly amazing. But sometimes the announcer will sigh because at the end of the flip run the gymnast accidently lands with a foot on the out-of-bounds line. Suddenly—no gold, no silver, no bronze—just a long trip home.

The connection? Research shows this is how adult children of divorce (ACOD’s) treat conflict. One mess-up and we think we’re out. Consequently, we have huge fears and often overreact when we face conflict.

The end is here
For example, when my wife and I were dating we had a fight—in my eyes, a big fight. So big, I thought we were done. My close friends (all from intact families) said  it was a skirmish and not the end of the world, but in my mind, I had stepped over the line and was out of bounds—no gold, no silver, no, bronze, and no girlfriend anymore. I even threw away her pictures. You can imagine my surprise when two weeks later she called like nothing had happened. (We were in a long distance relationship and those were the pre-smartphone, PC, and internet days, so two weeks wasn’t like it is today.)

Looking back, I was petrified of conflict.  When it occurred, I made the assumption so many ACOD make, the end of the world has come. I’ve even heard of people who, in similar situations, left and never told the girl or boyfriend why. They assumed the worse and never checked to see if it was true. While this sounds extreme, it’s common for ACOD to filter life through a conflict-is-catastrophic grid.

Conflict is good?
This is due primarily to parental divorce being an example of conflict gone awry. But conflict shouldn’t be feared. It clears the air, builds intimacy, lowers stress in relationships, and increases your confidence when you share your real feelings without things blowing up. But how do we get to that point? By praying, presenting, and practicing.

  1. Pray to God about your fear. Pray for wisdom before a situation with potential conflict. talk to me my love by Indra GalboPray that the Holy Spirit will remind you of key scriptures that deal with fear. My favorite is “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”1
  2. Present your fears to your spouse or friend so they become aware of how you’re thinking. If they are from an intact family, it’s likely they don’t understand your fears, but are very willing to help.
  3. Practice facing conflict. Start with small things. It could be as simple as saying you don’t like going out on Friday nights because you’re tired from work. Small victories will build your confidence and lower the chances of conflict being catastrophic.

I hope this helps. I’d write more, but pole vaulting is on, and I have a medal to accept.

 

1Proverbs 29:25, NIV.

Images
Kseniia Afasnasevea on the floor by Jon Connell
Woman on Phone – thinkstock
talk to me my love by Indra Galbo

Do You Want to be Healed?

My last blog looked at four types of adult child of divorce. For those in the Deluded, Denied, and Determined camps the next question is: Do you want to be healed?

This seems like an odd thing to ask until you look at a situation a man faced when approached by Jesus. Jesus was walking through an area where many sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people gathered. He approached this man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years and asked him, “Would you like to get well?”1 This seems like a no-brainer question, but is it?

Exercise by Oregon State University croppedEvery New Year’s Day people make a commitment to change—lose weight, be more organized, quit smoking, argue less, etc. But days or perhaps weeks after they start, defeat comes. They quit and reboot next year on January 1st. We’ve all experienced this, but why? As blunt as this sounds, we have no resolve.

When we show resolve, “a definite and serious decision [is made] to do something.”2 In our context, when asked, “Do you want to be healed?” the real question is, have you resolved to overcome the issues your parents’ divorce created or are you content to dabble in healing?

Jesus is asking you,Do you want to enjoy your holidays and other family occasions? Do you want to stop hating your Mom or Dad? Do you want to stop sabotaging your relationships and not knowing why?” What’s your answer?

Divorce nightmare adultchildrenofdivorce.netThe wrong response is, “I’m tired of the anger. I’m tired of hating holidays. I’m tired of sitting in a room and watching my parents fight. I’m tired of feeling insecure at work and at home. I’m tired of failing in my relationships. I’m tired of seeing the hurt look in my spouse’s eyes when I blow it. I’m tired of never getting better.”

The right response is, “Heavenly Father, I’m willing to humble myself, admit that I can’t do this on my own, and submit to Your authority, power, guidance, and wisdom.” God can bring healing to your heart and mind—when you resolve to be healed.

But are there hidden reasons we don’t want to be healed?

  • Too much work involved.
  • Don’t want to face the pain.
  • We like hating and holding unforgiveness because we think it gives us power over those who hurt us.
  • We enjoy being a martyr since it absolves us have taking the responsibility to change.

Christian Cross 11 by Waiting For The Word croppedI realize I’m being a bit harsh, but aren’t you tired of dreading holidays, weddings, parties or any event where your folks, ex-folks, and step-folks show up? Aren’t you sick of fretting over parents’ new boyfriends, girlfriends or hurtful antics? God can help.

Believe me. I know how hard it is to hope, but God is faithful. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”Pray that He will strengthen your resolve and guide you into the Determined and Delivered camps today!

 

1John 5:6, NLT.
2http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resolve
3Proverbs 3:5, NLT

Photos:
Exercise by Oregon State University
Divorce Nightmare – Dreamstine
Christian Cross 11 by Waiting For The Word

Why Cohabitation Hurts Guys Long-term

From time to time there is a flurry of articles on cohabitation vs. marrying. The latest batch mostly claim there is little or no difference between the two. Furthermore, their logic suggests that people eventually marry anyway, so it’s no big deal. But is this the whole picture?living together tiled both

A recent article titled, “Is Marriage the Only answer to Happiness1 was unusual in that it showed both sides of the coin. The upside was “Cohabiting provides people with companionship, intimacy, and everyday assistance just like marriage.”1

Butthe report found that cohabiting relationships tend to be less stable than marriage and that couples would break up within two years.”1

More interesting was what came next. “It (the research) also indicated that the benefits of intimate residential relationships persisted indefinitely for men, but for women the benefits of living together, whether married or not, declined after the first year.” Plenty of research would not include married women in this statement, but I’ve addressed this in other blogs.

The question is, when a man lives with a woman without marrying her, does he do as well as his married peers? Though the experts might differ,  the Bible is clear he doesn’t. However, the reason may surprise you.Couple moving boxes with annoyed woman

Proverbs 27 17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” One way men are “sharpened” is by advice from their wife. Granted, no husband enjoys hearing “truth” from his spouse. (Well, maybe one—there’s always one.) But women were created to help men be better—dare I say—to be more Christ-like.

Now, before I lose all you guys look at Genesis 2. Man is roaming around the Adam and Eve by Lawrence OP 25Garden of Eden. Life is good: sleeping when he wants, burping whenever he wants, not cleaning up after himself, and naming the animals without being told he was doing it wrong. But God looks down and for the first time says, “It is not good.”2 Then God states, “I will make a helper suitable for him.”2 Eve shows up, and the rest is history.

God knew Adam would never be all God desired without guidance from his loving wife, Eve. And this is a big reason why cohabitation hurts men. When iron sharpens iron there are sparks. A woman who doesn’t have the security of a wedding ring is never going to push the envelope and tell the guy what he doesn’t want to hear. Not when there is the risk of him leaving because of “all the nagging.” And her fear increases when kids are added.

Consequently, the guy Sonnet 116 - Marriage of true minds by Robert Chealb 25doesn’t get sharpened the way God intended—never reaches his full God-potential. Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”I’ve been married for 32 years. God has used my wife to “sharpen” me countless times. Did I like it? No. Was it in my best interest? Yes.

So guys, be the man she knows you can be and “put a ring on it.” You’ll be taking the first steps toward receiving blessings from God you can’t imagine!

For more on this subject, click here for articles on myths people believe about living together.

 

1 Is marriage the only answer to happiness?, Han Nguyen, Jan 2, 2016,  http://www.smh.com.au/national/is-marriage-the-only-answer-to-happiness-20151230-glwsu2.html.
2Genesis 2:18
3NIV

Photos
-Couple with boxes – http-//www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/regulars/briefing/article820396.ece
-Adam and Eve by Lawrence OP
-Rings – Sonnet 116 – Marriage of true minds by Robert Chealb

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.

Battling the Fear of Commitment in Relationships

For those seeking a healthy permanent relationship, Elisabeth LaMottes’ book, Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce takes an insightful and hopeful look at a overcoming your parents' divorce bk LaMotte 50dating/relationship environment that is made even more complicated by our parents’ divorce. It’s strength lies in its almost exclusive focus on the fear of commitment—an issue many other books only give a passing mention.

Though enlightening for the single individual, the book is a worthy read for married adult children of divorce because it explains many of the challenges you probably experienced on your way to matrimony.

Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, an adult child of divorce and therapist in Washington DC, shares many stories from clients who struggled with committing to a relationship—as a direct result of their parents’ split. At times heartbreaking, but scarily applicational, her book always points us to the potential of a positive outcome. The overtone of the book reminded me of Psalm 61:2, “When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

TEngagement Rings by Valshak Suresh 40he book’s approach is summed up by her statement, “In spite of the multiple difficulties that flowed from growing up with divorced parents, it is worth noting some of the positive things that subjects say about their parents’ divorce.”

One of the ways she illustrates this is with generous glimpses from her own life that was fraught with relationship and life challenges brought on by her parents’ breakup. However, despite the rocky road, she has achieved a happy marriage and family.

The chapters in her book gently probe our own histories and faulty attitudes as we watch LaMotte interact with clients that could easily be us. In “Do You Choose Candy Bars Instead of Apples,” LaMotte explores the trap of choosing the sweet but non-nutritious partner versus the individual who is good for us. “Do You Prefer Renting Over Buying” challenges our unconscious tendency to treat our relationships as fleeting because its safer than taking the risk of having a stable relationship end.

Though my dating history is anemic, and I married my only real girlfriend, many of the fears and lies LaMotte reveals in chapter after chapter plagued me during high school, hearts red and white 50college—and well into my marriage. But,  ever hopeful, she has an interesting way of trudging through the muck to find the gold nuggets.

Since many adults with divorced parents are stuck in the fear-of-commitment muck,  LaMotte’s book is a strong tool for those who want a solid relationship, but are secretly afraid of it at the same time.

Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce is a secular book, but has minimal language and no graphic sexual discussions.

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Heart Image: Engagement Rings by Valshak Suresh