When Mothers Leave – A Survey for Some of You

After completing a workshop on Father Hunger, which explains the long-term impact of the father’s absence after a divorce, I was asked, “What about when mothers leave?” I couldn’t answer. All the research I’d seen dealt with the impact on the kids after the fathers left. But I assured them I’d return with a wealth of helpful information.

That’s when I learned how little data was available on this topic. Even though authors like Jen Abbas (Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain) and Stephanie Staal (The Love They Lost) experienced their mother’s departure, neither addressed it directly–and the issue has gone largely unnoticed in the world of research. So, my Masters thesis explores the impact of a mother’s departure on the children at the time, and after they grow up.

This is where you come in. The survey link below is for those whose mother left after the divorce—she was the non-custodial parent. If this is you, please complete this survey. If it is someone you know (sibling, friend, relative, coworker), please share this and encourage them to complete it.

I will summarize the findings of my thesis and the survey here when it’s complete.

Thanks for your help.

Survey – ACOD Whose Mother Left After Divorce


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.

22 Corinthians 10:5 [ESV]

Encouraging Words for the Adult Child of Divorce

I have a family bush instead of a family tree.”  These words by Jen Abbas (Gen Ex. author) are shared during a powerful three-part program that discusses the issues that adults with divorced parents face.  Jen Abbas  and Elizabeth Marquardt (Between Two Worlds author) are interviewed and authors I greatly respect because they are adults with divorced parents themselves yet offer words that challenge in a real and encouraging way. Adults with divorced parents, relatives, Pastors, and friends will all benefit from this important look at an issue that is impacting millions of adults today. Click here to listen.

This interview took place before Jen Abbas was married. For an update on Jen, check out my 9/28 blog titled “Is Hope Realistic?

Is Hope Realistic? A Second Conversation with Jen Abbas; (part 1) by Kent Darcie

 Since this article was first printed, “Generation Ex” has been re-released as a kindle book on Amazon.


“By the time I was nineteen, I had learned to numb my feelings. It took nearly a decade to bring them back.”1  Like many adult children of divorce my feelings were still numb when I read this quote in Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain2 by Jen Abbas. I previewed an advance copy of the book while doing research for a seminar I was developing to help adults with divorced parents identify and deal with the issues their parents’ divorce created. I found the book very different from others I had read.Generation ex cover

Jen guides her readers through the bewildering and maddening maze of divorced parents, stepparents, and assorted siblings like a rescuer leading a group of disoriented hikers back to civilization. The stories and statistics Jen share often feel raw and unsettling. But, I found the book filled with hope and was anxious to meet the author to glean more from her own experiences and research.

Jen was cautiously hopeful in our first interview back in 2004. She had weathered her mom’s two divorces before finishing high school. The evidence was scant that a quality relationship or successful marriage was in Jen’s future. While passion drove Jen to share what she’d learned with others, her hope still seemed strained under the weight of unanswered questions, uncertainty, and fear.

The bits and pieces of Jen’s life I’d heard about after that interview were encouraging. Jen Abbas was now Jen Abbas de Jong and she was the happy mother of a 3½ year old son. But I was curious to know if she had truly cut through the haze of fear and uncertainty that distorted her vision of the future when we first spoke. Recently, we held another question and answer session.

Interview with an Adult Child of Divorce

Q: In your book you wrote “I’ve doubted that the guy I liked would ask me out, and if he did, I doubted that he’d still be interested enough to ask me out again.”4  It appears that you overcame those obstacles.

A: It was about ten months from the time we met to the time we got married. He knew that I had written this book, and he likes to joke that I came with an owner’s manual. I feel like I’m part of a team, and we should conquer the world together.

Q: There is a marvelous chapter on preparing for marriage. Did you use any of it?

A: (laughing) We did! There’s a bunch of questions in there that we discussed.

Q: Has your parents’ divorce had any impact on who or how you are as a wife?

A: When people come from a divorce situation your default is to repeat the patterns that you saw. I left home and was on my own from the time I was 18 to 35. I had all that time to try to figure out how you deal with conflict—how do I want my life to look—how do I want my attitude to be—how do I learn to cultivate an attitude of grace and forgiveness?  Either you take the time to figure out how to have a different default while you’re single or, as I’ve heard from a lot of my friends who come from families of divorce, those first couple of years of marriage are really hard, because that’s when you learn.

Q: Is being a mom been different than you anticipated?

A: (laughing) I underestimated the lack of sleep you get as a parent—[turning serious] but just the idea that Daniel’s view of God, or understanding of God is strongly shaped on how secure he feels in his relationship with us—that’s a really overwhelming, beautiful, massive idea that I still kind of struggle to get my mind around. 

Q: Because that’s not something you had…

A: No.

Q: Your parents’ divorce was years ago. Does it have any impact on you as a mom today?

A: When he’s at kindergarten its going to be a really emotional year for me, because that is the year my mom and dad broke up. [Daniel] shouldn’t be worrying about is daddy coming home or his mommy coming home.

Is Hope Realistic? A Second Conversation with Jen Abbas; (part 2) by Kent Darcie

Generation EXThis is the second part of an interview I conducted with Jen Abbas – author of Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of our pain. The interview took place a year ago. Her book has been recently released as a kindle book on Amazon.


Q: In our first interview, your relationship with your parents and step dad was not as solid as you would have liked. Has that changed now that you are married and they are grandparents?

A: My relationship with my mom has gotten a lot better. I think mom has really relished the roll of grandparent.  When I [travel to] see my step dad we visit for an hour or so.  [Theres] a couple of letters, a couple of emails and I think that’s pretty much all he can handle at this point. There’s no bad feelings, its just kind of where we’re at.  My dad makes a really good effort. He calls me. He sees pictures of Daniel and they’ve come out to visit a couple of times. My stepmom and I kind of had a falling out. Her parents are divorced and she comes from the perspective—she doesn’t want to get in mom’s way [of being a grandmother]. Her feelings of how she should interact with our son is very different than what I would prefer. 

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the years since you wrote your book?

A: God can take hearts of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh.  When I look back at where I was when I was writing that book I was really good at putting on the happy face, but now the joy just is.

Q: What would you say to the adults with divorced parents who are just discovering that they are still being impacted by their parents’ divorce?Jen Abbas

A: Don’t be afraid to face what’s making you hurt. Don’t be afraid to dig in and name that hurt and take the fear out of them so that you can choose how the future is going to be. You can’t choose the past, but you can choose the future and there’s hope in that.

Hope, for many adult children divorce, is like a vapor that dissipates as they try to grasp it. Jen’s faith and perseverance have solidified her fragile hope and it has become trust. Hope and trust are elusive and precious treasures in the world of adult children of divorce. Jen offers her treasure map called Generation Ex to all those from broken homes who fear that a successful relationship and marriage is beyond their reach.

1. Jen Abbas, Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of
    Our Pain (Colorado Springs, Co.: Waterbrook Press, 2004), 61.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid., 102