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.
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…
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.