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

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“Divorce is Not All That Devastating”

divorce-by-marc-hatot-croppedThese words appear in a Washington Post story by Crystal Ponti. The article was mostly tongue-in-cheek about how divorce might make parenting easier, but one quote caught my eye:
“Research also shows that divorce is not all that devastating for most children. Sure, it comes with some consequences and a huge adjustment period, but overall, kids bounce back.”1divorce-sucks-by-addie-williams
Because this mindset is so prevalent today, let’s take a closer look at what comes before the “kids bounce back.” 

Not all that devastating
The definition of devastating (and its root devastate) includes, to render desolate, overwhelm, to lay waste, and destruction.” 2 So, if totally devastating (on a 1 – 10 scale) is a ten, is a devastation level of six okay? of four? And would any level of devastating behavior be acceptable in an intact home?

For most children
More than 51% are not totally devastated.  This is good news?

Some consequences
For those with tears in your eyes from laughter, pull yourself together. For those with tears from painful unbelief, please know that even though this is the dominant view—including the belief of many parents, it’s normally not due to ill-will. Non children of divorce simply don’t get it.

Elizabeth Marquardt illustrates this well in her book, Between Two Worlds. There she reveals the double standard children of divorce face with a series of questions.

  • “How often do married [intact] parents send their child away from home for days, weeks, months, or years at time?
  • How often do married parents put their children on airplanes by themselves?
  • How often do married parents divide their financial responsibilities for their children down to the penny?
  • How often do married parents sleep with someone besides the child’s parent in the home when the child is present?”3

ACOD’s know this is the tip of the iceberg, but Marquardt goes on to say, “the needs of children of married parents and children of divorced parents are the same. So why are children of divorce considered so resilient? Because the adults need them to be that way.”3

Huge adjustment period
Truest statement in the quote, but most parents and experts doubt its validity. Divorce is a bump in the road and kids are resilient is their mantra.

But overall
This is the crux of the “good divorce” argument. Overall, since most children of divorce don’t become ax-murders or burdens on society, divorce is not bad for them.

The devastating truth
I had no idea that fears of inferiority, fears of inadequacy, a fear of doom, fear of marriage, unforgiveness, and a host of other issues clung to me like leeches well into my adulthood. ACOD are usually unaware of these repercussions. But though we may look normal on the outside, these issues act like termites in our relationships.its-all-about-love-by-candida-performa-cropped

A hopeful future
Parental divorce doesn’t have to be devastating. However, healing doesn’t come with denial, but working through the issues. Fortunately, there are resources here that can break your divorce-related chains. Review these and pray for God to heal your heart and your relationships.

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1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/03/02/parenting-would-be-so-much-easier-if-my-husband-and-i-got-divorced/?utm_term=.d5b4ce5e5708.
2Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1994, dilithium Press, Ltd.
3 Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds, (NY,NY: Crown Publishers, 2005), 181.

Images
Couple- Photo by Scott Stewart for splitsville.com
Divorce Sucks! by Addie Williams
It’s all about love by Candida.Performa

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Whose Valentine’s Day is it Anyway?

Inadequacy is a major fear among Adult Children of Divorce. And for guys (right or wrong) few things bring out the feeling of inadequacy more than dealing with females. Nine of Hearts by Randy Heinitz croppedAnyone who saw the movie Inside Out remembers the teenage boy at the end who bumps into the female main character and suffers a brain shutdown. It’s so funny, because it’s so true.

Cindy and Steve Wright’s weekly message from Marriage Missions International reminded me that Valentine’s Day can be a high stakes test of adequacy—not just for guys, but for gals as well. Cindy explains:

“I’ll never forget when God showed…an “ah hah” moment for me. We were sitting in a posh restaurant, and I was straining to see Steve and the food set before me. They had the lights turned down so low (to set a romantic mood) that even the lit candles on our table weren’t enough for me to see much. I’m struggling along, and then suddenly reality hit me. This was stupid. Heart Bible by HonorboundWhy were we struggling to eat a meal we couldn’t afford –that wasn’t that great anyway, straining to see our food & each other in a crowded, noisy place?

It’s because THAT’S the way the media and others presents that we should celebrate that day –going out to a nice restaurant, buying each other expensive gifts. And I/we went along with it.”

Cindy goes on to recommend that we need to mold Valentine’s Day to fit us, not a Hollywood created mold. But how can we do this?

Teen Romance by Oteo 70Guys, ask your wife what she’d like to do for the special day this year and then do it as a gift of love for her. (And wives, TELL HIM when he asks! Don’t make Him guess.)

Likewise, wives ask him what would make the day special for him. If he gives you the “of course that’s what he wants” look, then make that time extra special. Valentine’s Day should be a time of loving each other their way. Paul said it this way, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”1Ring and heart over Bible E.J. Richards

The beauty of making Valentine’s Day an open book test instead of a midterm exam is it builds important communication and can infuse your relationship with the love, security, and adequacy you both need. So go for it!

If you still want starter ideas for customizing your Valentine’s Day, check out Cindy and Steve Wright’s website at marriagemissions.com.

 

1Ephesians 5:33, NLT

Photos:
‘Nine of Hearts’ by Randy Heinitz
‘Heart Bible’  by Honorbound
‘Teen Romance’ by Oteo
‘Ring and heart over Bible’ by E.J. Richards

“I’m Over My Parents’ Divorce!”

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “What can I do with my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend who don’t think their speak to the handparents’ divorce is affecting them? It’s so obvious it’s impacting them, but they won’t go there.” Spouses hear this alot. Mine did. For years I denied that my parents’ breakup was having any affect on me. So if you who want to help your adult child of divorce, but have been stonewalled, here are a couple of helpful tools:

  1.  The Huffington Post has been running a series by adults with divorced parents on what it’s like to be an adult child of divorce. Very interesting insights from a variety of people. Click here to see that thread. Then share one of the articles with your loved one.
  2. Karen Klein created the Broken Circle Project. It is a series of photo-vignettes in which college students describe the impact of their parents’ divorce. Find a story that is closest to your loved one’s and show it to them. Or have them browse this site if they will.

Both of these resources give powerful, undeniable insights into the far reaching impact of our parents’ divorce and can break the logjam of denial. I wish I’d had info like this years ago. Thankfully it’s available now. But even with these great tools don’t overlook the most powerful thing you can do for your adult child of divorce; pray for them.praying woman 15

I’m a huge Star Wars fan. One of the key themes is, “Don’t underestimate the power of the force.” Important words, but Star Wars is fictionOn the other hand, James (the brother of Jesus) wrote, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.1 Basically, don’t underestimate the power of your prayers to change your loved one’s heart! This is not fiction. It’s true. I know. I’m the product of my wife’s countless prayers. Pray for them.  Also pray that God will reveal how He can use you to help. This will help you to do things God’s way and in His timing and not your own.

1James 5:16 [NLT]