Did Your Parents’ Divorce Change How You Feel about Marriage?

In my case, it wasn’t the worst thing

woman lying on a bed

I will never forget the moment that my mom pulled the four of us kids out on the front porch and told us, with little pomp or circumstance, that she and our father were divorcing. I’ll never forget it because each of us exhaled a long, slow breath of relief, and rapidly assured her that we were fine, happy even, and that we wished they had done it a lot sooner. Our home was not the most harmonious (or even the safest) for most of my childhood, and it was clear to each of us kids that it was just… time. Divorce, in our family’s experience, was not a bad thing.

In retrospect, it’s dawned on me that even though my mother’s marriage seemed rife with conflict, fear, and worry from the outside, that there’s still a lot that I, as her daughter, didn’t know about what was going on between the two of them. It’s possible that I’ll never actually know, because she doesn’t like to talk about any of it—the good, the bad, or the scary. But on my better days, I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume that the two of them must have had nice times in between all of the terrible ones… right? Because what makes you marry a person in the first place, assuming you’re entering into marriage with both eyes open and of your own accord?

I do sometimes wonder if the lack of stability in my childhood is why I was so incredibly picky when dating, why I often ended relationships two to four weeks in, at the first sight of anything that I might find potentially unsavory—either at the moment or down the road. I wonder if it’s part of the reason why I married my husband so quickly (after three months of knowing one another) and at such a young age (twenty-two). When I met him, it was immediately clear that he would be a kind, loving, gentle influence in my life, because those characteristics are so inherently part of who he is. He blatantly fills many perceived gaps that I’ve had in my life: he’s not quick to judge or anger, he’s incredibly giving, he’s stable, and he’s such a thoughtful, sweet, strong father to our kid. He’s many of the things that I didn’t realize I lived without, and he’s taught me so much about what actual equal partnership is, and he’s supported me while I’ve learned more about myself.

My parents’ divorce changed a lot of things in my life. Far from being a negative thing, I think the divorce was the best thing that happened to our family. And funnily, growing up in a home without a pair of positive marriage role models means that I spend a lot of time making up what a positive marriage is like with my husband—and I’m okay with that.

That said, I know that my experience with a parental divorce isn’t the same as everyone else’s. And I know that for many people, watching their parents go through a difficult divorce can haunt them as they ponder getting hitched themselves. So I wanted to allow some space to talk about how our parents’ divorces can affect our weddings and marriage—for good and for ill.

did your parents split up? How has your parents’ divorce changed your life—and what has it made you feel about marriage and relationships in general?

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  • ruth

    My parents are actually in the process of divorcing right now – after 45 years of marriage (I’m 34.) And it’s awful. Like you said, Stephanie, it hasn’t always been bad for them- there were a lot of good times, in fact, I’d say they were happily married for 20 maybe 30 years, but not for 40 or 45. (I think when your parents get divorced later in life it’s easy to start questioning whether all your happy childhood memories were a lie, but I don’t think mine were. I think things just really unraveled in the last 15 years, for a host of reasons.) I understand and support their reasons for splitting up, but I’m also really grieving the loss of the family I once had, which doesn’t exist anymore. And I’m trying to put up boundaries, which have to be re-put up again and again and again with my parents, who insist on oversharing and confiding in me about each other in ways that are massively inappropriate (I think this is the worst part of being an adult when your parents divorce; a good parent will at least attempt to shelter a young child from this sort of information, I think, but it’s as if at 34 they think it no longer affects me emotionally.) Plus, I think our society at least gives little kids a bit of a pass for being emotional during that time; whereas as a 30-something, I feel this pressure to be very “mature” about it all, and it’s still just as hard. I’m extremely lucky that I’ve had wonderful support from my husband, I can’t imagine going through this without him. And in terms of our own marriage, I think that he and I have a completely different relationship than my parents ever did, even when they were at their best. But it’s terrifying to think that you just don’t know where your relationship is ultimately headed. You can be great for 10, 20, 30 years – but not at 50.

    • Essssss

      Sympathies for that intensity as an adult dealing with parental relationships! My folks nearly split when I was already an adult. While they ultimately didn’t, the physical stress and sadness I felt was so heavy, nearly as heavy as some of my own break ups, and dealing with oversharing, undersharing, and everything in between was rough… I guess it was another hit-over-the-head reminder that grown ups don’t have it all figured out. And navigating the differences between parent-child relationship and friendship is weird as an adult.

      • K.

        As I mentioned in another comment, my parents also nearly split up when I was in my twenties, and I had a similar experience. It was devastating. I spent two weeks crying almost constantly. I was so worried about them, and sad about my family, and. . . Even as an adult, and even without an actual divorce, it was really, really hard.

      • Sherry

        I think it’s not just a matter that “grown ups don’t have it all figured out.” It’s also that no matter how old you are, life and relationships are still changing all the time. There’s just no place along life where we are static.

    • Lauren

      My parents divorced when I was 20 after almost 25 years of marriage… and they totally did the oversharing thing. I agree that I think they forget that although we aren’t children, we are still their children. I started firmly stating “I will not discuss Dad/Mom with you. I am still your child and they are still my parent” and if they persisted just ending the conversation. And I want to validate that it’s okay to be emotional about it, even as an adult.

      • tempy13

        I think stating those boundaries and actually following through with the consequences (ending the convo if they persisted in violating your extremely HEALTHY boundaries) is worth applauding!! And giving yourself the space and allowing yourself to grieve is such an amazingly healthy way to deal with any trauma/loss/change. I wish I could follow your example especially regarding boundaries with parents. Good for you!!

    • Anna

      “(I think when your parents get divorced later in life it’s easy to start questioning whether all your happy childhood memories were a lie, but I don’t think mine were. I think things just really unraveled in the last 15 years, for a host of reasons.) I understand and support their reasons for splitting up, but I’m also really grieving the loss of the family I once had, which doesn’t exist anymore.”

      My parents separated when I was fifteen and have spent the last now-really-quite-a-few years very, very slowly going through an amicable divorce which should FINALLY be official by the end of this year (lots of deeply entangled assets that they’re trying to divide up in occasionally weird ways, e.g., sharing “custody” of a really cool car they bought together, plus my dad not having any sense of urgency around making the divorce final until he recently started dating someone else), and these two thoughts really spoke to me.

      When they first told me and my sister that they were separating, it didn’t even occur to me to think that I’d misjudged anything about their relationship up to that point – they’d been happy and loving for years, then in about the year or so before that had started to argue regularly, so it seemed entirely plausible that everything really had been fine before that. I’ve since learned about some things that were going on that make it seem like maybe that wasn’t true, and actually the problems started four or five years earlier, but I don’t really know. I try to just take what I remember at face value; I don’t think I really stand to gain much by relitigating whether we were really the happy family I thought we were at the time.

      Recently, with planning my own wedding, I’ve started to miss the familial unit I grew up with: both my parents, my sister, and me. I still have great relationships with all three of them, but there’s no anymore. The divorce hasn’t changed how I feel about marriage (even with the worst possible timeline for the unraveling of my parents’ marriage, they still brought each other at least a decade of happiness, which seems like a pretty good deal), but it does mean that things like both my parents walking me down the aisle or posing for portraits with both parents and my sister are going to be in some sense in honor of the past rather than celebrating the present.

    • z

      +1. The social pressure is so awful, very silencing and invalidating. I get that nobody wants to listen to me whining, and that it’s triggering for divorced people or those who don’t want to acknowledge how hard being an adult child of divorce can get when your parents are older. But I hold my head high. It sucks and I hate it. I think people sometimes put a positive spin on divorce to spare the feelings of divorced people, but the world might be a better place in the long run with more room for realisticly negative views.

      • Em

        This. My parents separated about 18 months ago, a week after my birthday, in one of the most traumatic ways I could potentially imagine – eg hysterical crying phone calls in the middle of the night from both parents and two younger siblings, plus it quickly became abundantly clear exactly how messed up both my parents were and how deeply mental health issues ran on both sides (including concerns about self-harm, and revelations about exactly how much infidelity had happened on both sides, etc). On top of all of that was being told that I had a responsibility to try to fix things because I was the eldest child (WTF Dad, I’m still angry at you for that piece of rubbish).

        It was easily the worst thing that has ever happened to me by far and made me an anxious crying wreck basically all the time – but I really struggled to talk about it with anyone, including my partner (now fiance), friends and colleagues (in the sense of explaining why they kept finding me crying or why I got stressed in long meetings where I was away from my phone). I think part of it is that I couldn’t even begin to explain how hurtful it was – both in the sense of not wanting to air dirty laundry in public, but also in the sense of how much family history it affects and undermines and hurts.

        In terms of how it affects my view on marriage – 1) strengthening commitment to make sure that I could have an amicable divorce if ever necessary; 2) strengthening my appreciation of my FH who is nothing like either of my parents; and 3) giving me a whole new appreciation for my future in laws, who have their flaws, but are not the deeply messed up people that my parents are, and have raised four children of really sound character and values and w/the ability to have high quality relationships.

        • z

          Aww, I’m so sorry. Parental infidelity is so hard to deal with. If I could go back to the days when I trusted my mom to tell the truth and was blissfully ignorant of what nutty things she was capable of doing…. sigh. If it’s any consolation, you have a lot of company, and it might settle into sort of a new normal. Until then, BOUNDARIES.

        • Anony-mouse for this

          I’m really sorry. I feel your pain. I’ve gotten the screaming in the night calls, and had the crying at work because of family, and it sucks. I’m sorry about the drama this will cause for your wedding. Sounds like you and your partner are trying to make the best of it and learn something from the experience. Love to you.

    • Lawyerette510

      I agree that there isn’t a lot of space in society or discussion of the hurt for adult children during a divorce. The boundary drawing is difficult and constant, and it can be exhausting. Like you said, parents don’t always think about you still being their child even if you’re an adult. It does get better, even if it never entirely goes away. I was in my mid-20s when my parents divorced, and even though I agreed it was the right thing (and in their case likely way overdue) I still had to grieve the ending of that family unit, and navigate the emotional landmines they were each laying (unintentionally) for their relationships with me. Nearly a decade later I still have to assert boundaries and sometimes be so blunt as to be really blunt about how their actions (usually in speaking about the other parent) is hurtful to me and they need to stop.

      I love your point about not questioning or pulling apart good childhood memories. Even if, like in my case, the marriage you were raised with wasn’t good when you were a kid, it doesn’t mean there weren’t good or great things about the family, even with the flaws in the marriage of the parents. So it is something to grieve, but not something worth second-guessing.

    • gipsygrrl

      I had an incredibly similar experience on all levels, ruth. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      One thing I’ve been trying to reframe is the idea that my parents’ marriage was “a failure”. I mean, yeah, they’re not together anymore. But in ALL other ways, it was a success. They had a loving relationship for many years, were great parents, were models for me and in our community. So it’s sad to me that everyone sees this as a failed marriage. It actually begs the question for me “well, would I rather have 30 years of a great marriage or 50 years of a shittier marriage, just to say it lasted?” I think I’d go with the former.

      But then that’s kind of rough to think about too!

      • Violet

        Can I think of my parents’ marriage as a failure? Cause it pretty much was. It wasn’t like they had good times and then things went sour. They were two individuals who never should have married each other in the first place. I don’t think divorce makes a marriage a failure, but I think in their case, it was.

  • Samie

    I was an adult when my parents finally separated – and I was so very pleased for them, because it was evident throughout my childhood that they were unhappy with the way their marriage had worked out. It has been a few years since, and I still struggle with my relationship to them (how I can support them, how much I am obligated to bear their emotional labour as well as my own, etc.) I’m lucky that in the time that they’ve been navigating being single people, I’ve had a wonderful partner that has supported ME through every step of re-learning how my family works.

    That support has been invaluable, and I think it has made both me and my partner consider what we need from each other to make our relationship special. Perhaps this isn’t new, but I think sometimes seeing things come apart helps us see where we can fix things.

  • Ashlah

    My parents separated when I was a toddler, early enough that my experience is more like “My parents are divorced” than “My parents got divorced” because I hardly remember them being married. It’s hard to know how it’s affected me, since there was no sudden change or anything like that, but I suspect it’s made divorce less…scary, maybe? More of a normal thing that happens sometimes to good people? I’m not sure it’s appropriate or accurate to say that it’s necessarily normalized divorce because it’s still something I have no desire to repeat, but I honestly think it’s helpful and almost comforting to have such direct experience with it in a way that isn’t/wasn’t purely traumatic and negative. I’ve seen first-hand that life goes on and that sometimes it is the best option. It helps, too, that (although there was some custody-battle nastiness I learned about as an adult), my parents have remained friends and respectful co-parents and their extended families hold no animosity towards either party. In the same way children of (happily) married parents might appreciate having their example to look up to, I have an example of how to amicably divorce, should it ever come to that! (And vice versa, I know how important it is to focus on and strengthen our marriage so that it doesn’t come to that).

    • AmandaBee

      Same in that my parents also divorced when I was 2, and I don’t have many memories of them before that. Divorce was stigmatized at the time, but it was my norm.

      Though in my case their attempts at co-parenting were a train wreck, and they couldn’t be in the same room (or, like, state) together without there being a big fight. They were just really poorly matched, super competitive people with really different standards and expectations, so they never could get along. Plus my mom has a host of mental health problems that make it really difficult for anyone to maintain a relationship with her.

      What impacted me the most was not the divorce, it was their methods of parenting and having to adjust my behavior from one set of standards to another constantly. Looking back and comparing my experiences to those of friends whose parents did the co-parenting thing pretty well, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the divorce that counts but how they handle it. When both parents are invested in co-parenting and being there for their children, that gives them a shared set of values from which to act. When, as in my case, kids are used to hold power over one another, it becomes an emotional dumpster fire.

  • Frieda

    The way my now-divorced parents treated one another taught me that relationships were, at their core, adversarial. The one who got to say I told you so, or was able to prove him- or herself smarter and more wordly, was the winner. This was backed up by a lot of the sit-coms of the day, wherein the wife was the one who had it all together and the husband was the buffoon who needed to be managed. I don’t remember having an example of a relationship between two people who worked together and emotionally supported one another through the tough stuff; instead there was an undercurrent of resentment that boiled over into judgment and divisiveness as soon as an opportunity arose to prove oneself superior. My parents’ match itself was probably deeply off: a cautious, insecure person constantly engaging in one-up-manship married to a proud, impulsive person who often chose what felt right in the moment, consequences be damned.

    I approached my early relationships with the same guarded, adversarial attitude. My husband was the first one to ask me, in the gentlest way, to be his teammate rather than his opponent. And when I forgot and lashed out at him when he made mistakes, he would ask me, quietly, again. Over time I learned how toxic it is to ascribe behavior that annoys you (your spouse is late to a social engagement, or is watching TV loudly, or forgets something important to you) to that person deliberately trying to slight you or being a rude, callous, thoughtless person. It took actively training myself to think: he’s not trying to hurt me, he’s stressed with work or doesn’t realize the TV is too loud or is dealing with any number of other external influences that I deal with myself every day, too. I still sometimes catch myself slipping into that judgmental, resentful place my parents sat in too long and I’ve asked my husband to help me when he starts to see me acting that way. It’s a whole different way of loving.

    • Ashlah

      My husband grew up with similar parents, and he still recounts the awe he experienced when he lived with his principal and her husband in high school and realized that people who are married can actually like each other. And love each other. And treat each other with respect and kindness. I feel very fortunate (as does he) that he took the lessons/example of those few years to heart over the years of his childhood with a dysfunctional relationship at its core. It still affects him, of course, but he has another example to fall back on and try to emulate. I’m glad your husband is so understanding of how your background affects you, and it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job simply by being aware and doing your best to embrace a healthier relationship. It sounds like you’re both Doing It Right.

    • TrueGrit

      My parents do this to a lesser degree, but I see myself act the “opponent” sometimes in my relationship too because of it. My husband NEVER does it, so that was my wake-up call. Like, he never takes the bait when I lash out at him. I respect that a lot and have changed because of it. Also, viewing his parents’ relationship provided a good model – while his parents may seem “less loving” on the surface (they never kiss, never touch, etc.) than mine, they treat each other gently and kindly and EQUALLY and it blew my mind to see such an egalitarian, supportive relationship. Anyway, it’s great that you took these small, simple cues from your husband and turned that into a commitment to better the relationship.

  • Anon

    I remember sitting at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary dinner, watching this gorgeous slideshow of their lives and children and sweet posed photos of the two of them, feeling so guilty that all I could think was, “This is such a f*cking farce.”

    My grandparents’ theme song should be “No Children” by The Mountain Goats, except that they actually did have children. They barely conceal disdain for each other in public and are straight-up hateful to each other behind closed doors and around family. We celebrated 50 years of misery that also extended down to become emotional abuse towards their three children. They all jokingly talk about their “battle scars” from growing up in the shadow of their parents’ toxic marriage, like that’s an even semi-normal thing to joke about. Gallows humor, I guess.

    But yet, in about 6 months’ time, we’ll all gather again to celebrate their 60th anniversary, because in my Irish Catholic neck of the woods, longevity is what matters. Battle scars hidden under finery yet again.

    While I would never wish to get divorced (and feel that my grandparents are such an extreme example that I have no concerns about following their footsteps), I do now have an absolute philosophical belief that divorce is sometimes not just the right thing to do for the couple, but a moral imperative if you have kids who are affected by it.

    • Ellie Hamilton

      I definitely relate to this. My grandparents aren’t totally toxic, but they have no romance or friendship in their marriage, and from my understanding never really did. They bicker a lot and don’t seem to really like each other. They had 4 kids–two never married nor had any long term partners, and one (my dad) got divorced. Only one out of the four got married and stayed married, but it seems more so due to her husband’s family’s influence (though I could be wrong). My grandparents’ 60th anniversary is this summer and it’s strange to wonder if I would be so bored, mean, and cynical after 60 years of marriage. :(

  • Jessica

    I agree, my parent’s divorce shaped how I viewed marriage, and it was for the better. My parents both individually told me they went into their wedding day thinking “this may not work.” Even as a young adult I wrote in my journal that I would not get married unless I could go into marriage with full faith that this would work, and that this was the right partner for me.

    I spent a lot of my 20s not dating that much (because I was picky, and figured only “the one” was worth my time) and also focusing a lot on what kind of partner and relationship I wanted. I think all this grunt work (some of which involved therapy) ultimately made me ready for a relationship when I met my sweet husband.

  • Janet Hélène

    My parent’s divorce was not the aspect that shaped how I view relationships, but the way they acted after the divorce definitely defined family for me.

    Parents are both introverts, and married for 24 years and together for 30 (high school sweethearts) before divorcing when I was 8. Neither one remarried, although mom dated for a little while. However, they have probably the best divorce I have ever seen. Dad still comes over for holidays, helps out around my mom’s house, they get each other birthday gifts, etc. In fact, my mom sees my dad more often than I do since I moved out. It affected my concept of family a lot – I tended to view people who are around the house a lot, but not necessarily structurally related to my family as on the same level. For instance, my nanny/godmother growing up, my brother’s friends who spent summers at our home, etc. all hold equal footing in my mind in the family bubble. My husband comes from a very nuclear family and has much clearer distinctions between friends/family, which really shows in recent years as we navigate blending holidays, etc.

  • Janet Hélène

    Divorce will have the strongest legacy on my view of parenting I think. As a no-kids couple currently, I can’t say for sure, but in my current ambivalent attitude towards children my parents divorce has a huge influence.

    After divorce, Dad gave up full custody without argument in exchange for no child support payments. While there as been financial support through the years in various forms, it is not the same obviously. I have super strong feelings about being able to support children on one income (not that both shouldn’t work, but more so that there should be an abundance of financial resources just in case one parent is no longer in the picture). Also, both parents taking parental leave, and strong bonding between fathers/children as infants rank high on my mind as must-haves before kids come into the picture. My approach to my marriage was not highly influenced by my parents divorce, but my approach to parenting within my marriage is much more marked by skepticism and the need for strong involvement on a paternal figure’s portion.

  • K.

    My parents are still married and together, but they’ve talked seriously about separating sometimes–most seriously a couple of years ago, a few months before our wedding, which was in their yard. It wasn’t entirely a surprise; I’d known for a while that it might happen some day, and I definitely don’t blame my mom (I love my Dad, but I wouldn’t choose to live with him right now either). But it was still emotionally devastating for me for a couple of weeks. I think it was a combination of worry about what would happen to each of them, financially and otherwise, as single people; feeling sad and worried about the future of us (my parents and sibling) as a family, and wondering how I could celebrate my own marriage when the one that had previously been most important to me was falling apart (and not just the marriage, the house I grew up in too). I didn’t come to a lot of real resolutions to those feelings, mostly because I didn’t have to–Dad improved the situation enough, and they’re still together.

    The real, main take-away for me with regards to my own marriage was some clarification to me on how to be a partner to (and be parterned by) someone with a mental illness. My partner has the same mental illness that I really think was largely behind the reasons Mom couldn’t live with Dad any longer. That really, really freaked me out (I didn’t want that to be my future) until I started thinking about it. Dad refuses to acknowledge that this is a situation, and certainly hasn’t been open to getting treatment. My partner has been going to therapy regularly since right after we started dating, and is really active in managing her own health. And that’s what makes such a difference, and why my marriage isn’t going to turn into my parents’s. From that perspective, the near-divorce was actually helpful to me, in that it really forced me to acknowledge that being married to someone with mental illness was something I was actually worried about, but I realized that I didn’t need to be.

  • z

    Mostly it made me resolve to take care of my marriage. I loathe being an adult child of divorce! It is a giant pain in the ass. When I was younger, I said all those same things about how it was for the best, nothing to see here, I’m soooo “resilient”. But those statements were made in response to the intense social pressure I felt, or out of naivete about aging, money, and the bleak statistics for remarriage.

    Now that I have my own kids and have to go to great lengths to get them adequate grandparent time, now that I know the misery that is schlepping my toddlers from house to house, now that my parents’ subsequent relationships have foundered in unhappiness identical to their marriage, and now that both parents are beginning to lean on me financially and logistically the way married people lean on each other, I am no longer willing to pretend that this doesn’t suck.

    People will no doubt assert that something is wrong with me for thinking it sucks. As if any negative feelings are merely proof of my own shameful lack of “resilience,” and will inevitably be met with faux-concern shaming via recommendations of therapy and accusations of selfishness. But rest assured, those of you who have yet to experience aging divorced parents, it sucks. I believe it should be socially acceptable to say it out loud.

    • AP

      I just want to validate that yes, being an adult child of divorce completely sucks, and not a thing in the world is wrong with you. In my experience, childhood was worse because I wasn’t given the agency to choose how my time was split, or how much interaction I was allowed to have with my individual parents, and no say whatsoever in who my parents dated and eventually married and brought into my house. Now that I’m an adult, I get to have aaallllll the boundaries I wasn’t allowed to have as a kid, which makes a world of difference. But I know exactly what you mean about how hard it is to deal with aging parents, multiplied by divorce.

      And “both parents are beginning to lean on me financially and logistically the way married people lean on each other” is a truly awful place to be. Much sympathy.

      • z

        Thanks :) The only thing that makes it bearable is other people who understand.

    • Ashlah

      “and now that both parents are beginning to lean on me financially and logistically the way married people lean on each other, I am no longer willing to pretend that this doesn’t suck.”

      Can I also add emotionally to that list? I feel like such an asshole of a daughter sometimes, but I cannot act as a stand-in spouse for my mother when I have my own spouse, and I haven’t quite figured out those boundaries yet. I’m happy to provide some level of emotional support, of course, but it’s all falling on me right now (I’m also her only child) and it’s exhausting.

      • ruth

        Oh man, fellow only child here, and I feel you! My mom has been totally inappropriately trying to use me as her sole friend and confidant after her recent divorce, and it’s a role I absolutely cannot and should not play (I have my own complicated feelings about my parents divorce.) I think it’s sadly something that happens a lot to adult children and particularly only children. I feel like an asshole too a lot of the time, but for the sake of my own sanity I have had to say over and over again, “I can’t talk about this,” “you need to talk to a girlfriend about this” “you’re talking about my other parent, this is too painful for me to listen to.” It’s an ever evolving process, and it’s often 2 steps forward one step back, but ultimately it’s slowly helping. Started seeing a therapist for support in setting these boundaries, because it’s so hard! Good luck! And my sympathy!

        • gipsygrrl

          Yep, yep, yep – so right there with you both as an only child trying to deal with my mother going completely emotionally overboard. Therapy has helped me too, but still – it’s NOT EASY to set those boundaries! I feel like such a jerk sometimes…

          • z

            The boundaries (emotional, financial, and with tasks) help but it gets harder as they both become more needy with age. My parents are approaching their 80s so they need a lot, but both could live another 15 years or more.

            It is really, really hard to set boundaries with someone who is beginning to experience memory impairment.

          • gipsygrrl

            It sounds like you’re living my future… I think my Dad is headed down that path, but a few years behind yours. I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything I can do now to make some of these eventual transitions any easier?

            Reaching out to give you internet stranger strength!

          • z

            I recommend that you save as much money as you can. And any traveling you want to do, do it now, because you will have to be on site with no advance notice for god knows how long. If you can get your parents to live near each other or at least near airports, that will reduce the number of times you are forced to choose between them.

            Hire him a nosy cleaning person and make clear that intel will be rewarded.

            Hugs. It’s super har.ld.

          • gipsygrrl

            That seems like really sage advice. Thank you – and all the best to you as you navigate this season of life. Truly sending good thoughts your way.

      • AP

        I was a sophomore in college when my mom remarried, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I would no longer bear the responsibility of being her sole emotional support. I remember saying those exact words to my grandma at the time. That shit is no joke.

      • lottie

        I’ve experienced the (exhausting) child-as-pillar-of-support phenomenon for my mom after my dad died. It’s different, of course, as there was no choice in my dad dying and there’s no talking bad about my dad. But it’s still work and I feel bad when I shut my mom down — sometimes because she wants too much from me and sometimes because I have other things going on that I need to take care and can’t just listen to chatter (she really likes to just talk and never recognized how much she relied on being able to just talk my dad’s ear off). I cut her off on the phone last night as I had work to do and could hear the hurt in her “ok, bye” but have yet to find a better way to handle it. It’s hard.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          I’ve had to navigate the overly talkative mom thing. It mostly happened when I had moved out of the house, and she was stuck at home with my dad (who works a bajillion hours and then comes home and doesn’t want to talk), and my brother (who is an awful lot like my dad). She expected our phone calls to make up for the social interaction her home life was lacking. I employed the method you use with a disappointed toddler, where you acknowledge what they want, then use positive language to redirect. “I know you want to tell me more about the church function, and we can talk more later.” Sometimes it also helps to say something like, “Hey, I have about 20 minutes, and then I need to get out the door/someone is coming over/my roast is coming out of the oven.” Manage expectations, set a time limit at the beginning of the call, and give yourself a no-fault out from the conversation.

          • lottie

            Thank you for these techniques. Making note to implement them as needed …

        • Ella

          Heartily agree on the pillar of support thing. My parents divorced at age 8 and I’ve split the “mom support” job with my aunt and brother since then. She is pretty bad with money and she is also hesitant to let new people into her social world. In contrast, although my father was without a doubt the bad partner in their relationship, he has managed to stay more or less married in the 22 years since (he’s been married 4 times). The contrast in their lives is amazing – whenever she hits a bump in the road she has no one at all to help her out. My brother and I have definitely restructured our life choices because of our circumstances – he’s passing out on a great desire to be a hermit in a forest somewhere, and I’ve always played it super safe and hoarded cash like a leprechaun in preparation for the inevitable time when I’m responsible for her care during her decline.

      • L.

        Whoa, that is such a great way to put into words the way my mother-in-law acts toward my husband (also an only child). He is asked/expected to be her stand-in spouse in so many ways, that it’s now just the extended family expectation that he will be her +1.So much of her concerns about our wedding were how it would look that she didn’t have a date – because her go-to date was unavailable since he was the groom! I think she sees them as this really close duo (“it’s us against the world!”) and doesn’t see the toll it takes on him. It also breaks my heart to think that this has been the pattern for so long (the divorce happened 20 years ago).

      • AnonForThis

        This this this. I am also an only child to divorced parents and my mom has been leaning on me emotionally since I was a child. It’s exhausting. Emotionally boundaries are especially hard. It’s much easier for me to tell her “you can stay at our house up to X days” or “I will no longer be your personal Google” than “I’m tired of listening to how you’re lonely”.

        (My parents separated over 30 years ago when I was a child and divorced a few years later.)

      • Em

        This is absolutely what I hate the most. I lack the words to explain how much I hate it, and how horrible it makes me feel, but I do, and it’s exhausting and terrible.

      • Ellie Hamilton


    • ruth

      My parents are in the process of divorcing right now, after 45 years of marriage, both of them in their mid sixties, and I hear you – aging parents being divorced really, really sucks! On top of the emotional pain inherent to the divorce, as their only child I’ve felt the burden of managing life tasks for them, since they were together for so many years they never learned how to live on their own. I’ve been trying to put up boundaries for appropriate vs. inappropriate asks on their part, and am also really encouraging them to seek out community beyond the nuclear family so that they’ll have a broader base of support (and are not so dependent on my husband and I.) As they get older, I’m going to really encourage them, particularly my mom, to join one of those over 55 communities, assisted living, etc… because I think they’d be less lonely and also, I have my own demanding career and family, I can’t and shouldn’t be their sole support system. (We’re very fortunate in that my folks have the means to afford something like this.) So I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with calling a situation like it is: a pain in the ass for everyone involved. Good luck! It really sucks!

      • z

        It suuuuucks! I’ll meet you in the airport bathroom and we can cry as we try to choose which parental health crisis needs me most. Missing my kids and fighting with my husband over the time and money sucked into the black hole of their divorce.

        It’s hilarious when people think an amicable divorce will make everything manageable. Two assisted living apartments cost twice as much as one no matter how amicable you are.

        • Violet

          Even amicable divorces don’t address the fact that where there was once one household on $X, there must now be two households run on that same sum. Kids of divorce do experience a negative economic consequence, whether we like it or not. Everyone wants to say, “Well, kids are happier if their parents are happy,” and leave it at that. But you know who does not make a happy parent? A financially-stressed parent. Sometimes divorce is necessary, but let’s stop acting like it solves all problems and all kids need is happy parents. Kids need stability and security too, both of which divorce takes a sledgehammer to.

    • MC

      I 100% feel you. While I know my parent’s divorce was the best thing for them as individuals, it is really hard to have my married in-laws as comparison for how much easier logistically & financially my life would be if my parents were still happily married. For me the hardest thing right now is spending extra time & money traveling to see both my parents, who both live out-of-state and in different states, and trying to see each of them relatively equally so that there aren’t hurt feelings. And the emotional labor of communicating with each one, making sure I give them the same updates on my life, etc. I dread the day when elder care for them is something we have to figure out.

      What I end up wishing is not that my parents had stayed married (they would have had to be different people for that to work) but that our society & economic system wasn’t so set up for married couples to be the default.

      • MC

        Oh, and I loved the novel Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which deals a lot with children of divorce & blended families and how they come to terms with the needs & demands of those family structures. It was really helpful seeing my reality reflected in literature.

      • z

        Yes! So much emotional labor! The happily married in-laws really put the long-term benefits where they cannot be ignored. To really twist the knife, my in-laws actually came very close to divorce, but repaired their marriage.

        I do wish my parents had made better choices and been able to stay married. They chose to treat each other badly and my mother chose to cheat (and no, an affair with a messed up loser is not modeling a happy relationship, thank you mom). Different choices could have brought us all so much that is good. The impact on my own children is the hardest to bear.

    • Lawyerette510

      Nothing is wrong with you for thinking it sucks, because it does suck! Instead of having to balance life between your life, demands on your life from your spouse’s parents and one set of demands on your life from your parents, there are two separate (and I’d guess sometimes competing) sets of demands on your life.

      My parents divorced after 25 years when I was 24, and the past 9 years have been an exhausting emotional juggling act that I would not have had to deal with had they stayed married. I can hardly bare to think about how much stress would be added with a kid and balancing demands for the kid’s time in addition to my own.

      Certainly in some parent/child relationships there’s always the issue of the child having to support and partner the parent in some ways, but I do think that it is magnified when your parents are divorced.

    • Violet

      You know I’ll always back you up on this. Some people “get over” their parents’ divorce, and honestly, non-sarcastically, good for them. But once your parents are divorced, they’re divorced foreeeeeeveer. Every holiday is juggling, and aging makes it even more complicated. Ugh.

      • z

        Thank you. It’s logistical misery and it only gets worse. People recommend therapy as if that’s going to somehow make this all more affordable, ha ha ha. If only the saying were “children are wealthy, with ample vacation time”. But no, just preasure to be “resilient” i.e. to shut up already. That phrase is such a trigger for me!

        The icing on the cake is that because my parents are still soooo defensive about their life choices, I have to pretend it isn’t a struggle. So basically I’m going through something incredibly difficult with one parent or the other and the other parent won’t help or even listen. When my MIL got sick, my mom did a lot to help me and my husband, mainly watching our kids more often. But when my dad is sick, she won’t help me or even let me talk about it. Divorce shouldn’t mean this kind of denial and dumping of problems on children. I am not expecting her to actually care for my dad and change his colostomy bag herself. But she could at least care that I, her daughter, and her grandchildren, are struggling. It’s like a brick wall of denial.

    • rg223

      “As if any negative feelings are merely proof of my own shameful lack of “resilience,” and will inevitably be met with faux-concern shaming via recommendations of therapy and accusations of selfishness.” — I’m so sorry that people in your life have made you feel this way. FWIW, I think it completely sucks, and anyone who would judge you for saying so sucks too!

  • MC

    My parents got divorced when I was 12, and although it was upsetting at the time, in my adulthood I’ve realized it was definitely the right choice for both of them, and both are happier now than they would’ve been if they’d stayed married. I think the biggest thing I learned from them is that marriage is a choice, and you have to continue to put effort into it and to choose it even when things are hard. I saw how my parents’ communication with each other really broke down and so communication is a #1 relationship priority to me.

    I think it also made me more open to divorce as a hypothetical option. We didn’t put any “til death do us part” language in our vows because Husband & I both agreed that we didn’t want to try & keep our marriage together at the expense of one our both of us being unhappy long-term. It might sound cynical to say that, but it actually motivates us to put effort into our relationship and work toward a happy, healthy marriage, because we don’t take our marriage for granted.

    • H

      I absolutely agree and did the same thing re “til death do us part”

  • AP

    In a lot of conversations about divorce, I often see a common thread of marriages that started out fine but eventually unraveled over time. In my mom’s case, she divorced twice. And both times, it was because she chose partners who were not emotionally or mentally healthy and were unwilling to address their problems or change anything. It wasn’t until she did the necessary internal work to figure out how to change her patterns, that she learned to seek out and create stable, mutually supportive relationships. She’s now married to a wonderful man and they have a great marriage, going on 13 years.

    So, probably not surprising, this was my trajectory too. I married an unhealthy person, thinking that love and longevity was enough to make it all bearable. I’m not sure that I learned much from my parents’ relationships, except that I knew enough after my first marriage not to make the same mistake again. After my divorce, I was deadly serious about figuring my shit out. Therapy, living alone, solo travel, a “year of yes,” the works.

    So. I am here for second marriages. They don’t have to be the sad stats that people throw around. You just have to be willing to really do the work to figure out why your marriage went south, what you need to examine in your own heart, and be aware of old habits and patterns when they pop up. Some lucky ones learn it from their parents without having to go through it themselves, but I’m the hardheaded type:)

    • Lawyerette510

      I totally agree about second marriages having the potential to be great things. My sister was recently married for a second time, and I don’t know if she would have been open to even considering her now-husband as a boyfriend if not for the growth that resulted from her first marriage and it ending. There are so many different paths to learning about yourself and your needs, and sometimes you have to go through something like a divorce to learn those things.

      I just wish my dad would take the time to learn those things. He just proposed to his girlfriend, it is his 5 engagement (that I know of) and if it goes through will be his 4th marriage. He’s never fully checked out of one relationship before moving onto the next (at least not in my life, and the 18 months before I was born according to court records), so he’s a prime example of what happens when someone doesn’t do the work on themselves in between relationships.

      • AP

        Ugh, I’m sorry about your dad. That sounds rough. And it’s wild that we just play out the same patterns over and over unless we intentionally choose to break them. I just watched my uncle marry someone exactly like his ex-wife, except 20 years younger. He is really attached to the savior/princess dynamic and chooses women with a lot of drama and insecurity. Everyone sees it but him. (But isn’t that how it always is? The patterns everyone else can see…)

  • MommaCat

    I needed to feel that my partner would be able to have an amicable divorce with me, if it ever comes to that. My parents had an amicable divorce, even though it could have easily gone poorly (and it was rather dramatic there for a bit). Looking back, I’m so impressed by how adult they were able to be able out the whole thing. They did a good job at staying respectable for their kids’ sake.

  • Aubry

    I’m the child of a crazy relationship (my bio dad) and then divorce from my mom’s longest partner when I was ~12, then seeing a string of relationships with my mom over the years. I really hope the one she is currently in is her last, and so does she and he because they are lovely together. But I have seen a lot of conflict and a range from abusive to just duds.

    All of this has given me a very realistic view into marriage. I see it as two people, and that those two people can be compatible or not. That divorce is sometimes the best thing, and that it can be OK between the two people. I’ve seen incompatibility and compatibility. So, I try to take all this into account with my husband and my relationship. I try to be cognizant of the trials that come with a long relationship wile celebrating the great times and the calm/comfortable times. I feel like I have a vert realistic view of the whole thing.

    my friends with parents who are still together have a range of reactions. Some find their parent’s relationship one to emulate. Some find that they are not great together and struggle to sift through the fog of childhood to see where they went wrong. Some see their parents as some unattainable ideal and it has made them super commitment averse because they can never hope to live up. It’s complicated.

  • Engaged Chicago

    Oooh I think about this so much! My parents divorce didn’t change how I feel about marriage but watching my parents dating/remarriage did impact how I felt about dating and marriage.

    I didn’t notice the impact until 10 years after their divorce. My parents are both attracted to pretty 2-become-1, always together relationships and that meant I over compensated with seeking independence as I dated. I was annoyed at seeing how they both were always together with their spouses, didn’t foster many friendships and basically became one person. It made me fiercely independent and I kept my family and dating lives separate and I really built up a community of non romantic partners. it was only my fiancé who really broke down my barriers and told me to share my feelings and rely on him.

    Also it was a little transformative (not necessarily good) to observe my parents in the beginning, newlywed lovesick stages of love when I was an adolescent and young adult. Just impacts the parent-child relationship because you’re supposed to put your spouse first and that gets fuzzy when it’s a remarriage with kids. I’m really happy for both of them though and they are better for their remarriages.

  • Anony-mouse for this

    My parents have threatened to separate a few times. These are always awful times, especially since mental illness, which my mom and sister have, and total lack of empathy/limited emotional spectrum, which my dad has, seem to play a large role. I feel like if my parents (and sister, she is a huge source of tension for them) were very committed to counseling and treating mental health, they could make a lot of progress. Easier said than done, though, when one party (my dad) is emotionally unsupportive and mental health access is sub-ideal (they live in a rural area). I’ve almost wished my parents would divorce because they consistently fail to address their issues with each other (and my sister). Things come to a head in a crisis, people check into the psychiatric unit, people’s medications are upped, and then everyone acts like everything’s fine. I know most adult children want out of the details of their parents’ relationship, and I do too, but I feel like I HAVE TO check in sometimes that they are taking care of themselves – “Are you taking your medication? Are you pursuing counseling? You deserve happiness!” And while I love both my parents, I DO extend extra care and compassion to my mom. They are fundamentally mismatched in some ways (optimistic, emotionally sensitive/in-tune mom and pessimistic, callous dad) and have very different parenting approaches (which was confusing growing up) and I think she gets the raw end of the deal. My dad, while not abusive, is kind of a jerk in interpersonal interactions, and again, does not emotionally support her.

    There must be something that keeps them going together, but man, when there are meltdowns every couple of years and totally different attitudes/parenting philosophies/emotional needs/communication approaches the rest of the time, something needs to be fixed.

    TL;DR: I kinda wish my parents would divorce because they don’t address underlying issues and their drama sucks me in every couple of years.

    ** Also not saying divorce would fix everything, and it would probably bring its own set of drama.

    • Anony-mouse for this

      As for how it’s affected my view on marriage… I sure don’t have rose-colored glasses and I take comfort in knowing I’ve learned a lot about mental health, communication, expressing needs, and being proactive in relationships. I got married to someone unlike either of my parents who has rolled with the punches with me through their drama. I think he learned a few things too.

    • z

      Sorry for your troubles! There is a saying that divorce is just trading one set of problems for another, and I have to say I agree. Maybe it would be better, but the financial downside, and having one or both parents living in isolation, would be hard. My parents live rural too and it’s very, very difficult for a single older person to maintain a household, especially in the winter. At times when they had live-in partners, even in super dysfunctional second marriages, it was a comfort to know that if one of them fell down the stairs, someone would be there to call 911, you know?

      • Anony-mouse for this

        For sure. I definitely worry about that. My dad would be on fixed income and my mom’s income would not be very high and she’d have to find her own insurance. If they did divorce, I would probably move to be closer to them to help out with logistical and financial things. I worry though that they stay together BECAUSE of this, because living alone after 30+ years would be hard and money would be very tight. They’re in a good phase now, I think, or so it appears from the outside. I just hope the happiness is real.

        • z

          It may be real! Or, real enough. I used to not understand why older people stay in unhappy marriages when their children are grown. But now, having to help both my parents through the experience of being old, single, and broke, I definitely understand that it’s a gamble with a lot at risk. Your parents may have peers who are divorced (or just single) to explain this stuff. And even if they can just postpone divorce for a few years, they’ll be better off financially for having done so.

    • Jess

      This describes my parents relationship a fair bit, threatening to separate, the emotionally unsupportive dad (to my mom. He always had my back) and the mom with mental illness (untreated), although my mom was not emotionally in-tune.

      As a kid, I did a lot of emotionally supporting my mom, which was intensely unfair and has really messed that relationship for me. A part of me will always wonder if divorce would have given them the chance to start over, or if it would have brought about more issues.

      They still threaten to divorce periodically. The last time I just said, “That makes sense” and my mom looked like I’d slapped her. At this point, though, they probably just need somebody to be around.

      I agree with you that my views on marriage have really been affected – it’s very much a “this could go to hell if I let it” feeling, and it has been really hard to relax into trust and intimacy. I feel like I’m hyper vigilant that I express my needs fully and get a supportive response.

  • AnonymousThisTime

    Ooh boy, this one is a minefield for me. My parents divorced when I was in elementary school. There was still a lot of stigma around divorce and single parents where we lived. My parents had joint custody, which at the time meant a full custody year on, a year off. I really lived two different lives, but neither fully. Nowhere was “home”. Of course I can’t say that they should have just stayed together, found a way to make it work…I think there were no good options, but divorce at least offered them a chance to move forward instead of staying stuck.

    Both of my parents are pretty derisive about my having been diagnosed with anxiety as an adult. I think the resilience of children can be overestimated. I do think I’m childfree because of the circumstances around the divorce. Each parent used to hand me off to a stranger from the court who would shuttle me back to the other parent for “their” year. I never got used to it as a kid. I can’t imagine ever going through that from the other side.

    • z

      I am so sorry, that sounds like a miserable custody arrangement.

      I think “children are resilient” is what people say to reassure themselves that their choices aren’t causing permanent harm. But some children are more resilient that others, and it still sucks no matter how resilient you are. In my experience it is very hard for divorced people to acknowledge that divorce can have negative long-term consequences for children. There is a lot of cheerleading for divorce and divorced peope in our culture. Lots of promises of successful second marriages, thriving children who just want their parents to be happy (riiiiight). Not so much real talk about the negative impact and what happens when it doesn’t work out as well as the divorcing parents had hoped.

      • Violet

        It’s so true. I feel like we swung very far in the opposite direction: that in order to stop stigmatizing divorced people (which is good), we all have to start acting like divorce is no big deal (which is not accurate).

    • Violet

      Ugh, joint custody. Mine was one week with one parent, next week with the other. What a nightmare. Constantly shuttling back and forth with a duffel bag. Never feeling settled. I had a classmate who switched midway through the week. She practically lived out of the trunk of her car. It’s cruel what we do to kids just so each parent can keep having custody. I’m not saying one parent should never see their child, but current custody arrangements seem to be set up to minimize disruption to the parents (who make the choice to divorce or not) and maximize it for their children (who have no say). I’m not saying we should make divorces harder to obtain (goodness knows, some people need to get out, for sanity and/or safety), but it does seem like as many of the negative consequences should fall to those making the decision to divorce, and not those simply caught up in it.

    • Scalliwag

      I have to say, one year on/off switch seems really hard, and I hope they at least were within reasonable distance so you weren’t switching schools or anything crazy.

      My parents divorce I know was for the best, with reasoning being something that couldn’t be compromised on, so it really was the only answer. What was hard was the divorce itself was long (3 years, 6th-9th grade) and ugly. I really respect the effort my mom put in to making sure we had stability of keeping the house we grew up in. Monday/Wednesday was mom, Tuesday/Thursday was dad, Friday was part of weekend and that switched off every other. There’s no good answer with this but seeing the fighting and power plays was bigger part in terms of picking a partner who understands and values equal partnership as someone I could marry, but know if it went south, we’d both work to keep it from being ugly.

  • lindsay

    My parent’s marriage was actively falling apart during the period my brother was getting married. I flew home for the wedding and my mom broke down in tears at the airport picking me up. It was super stressful and looking at the pictures, I can see my dad’s depression. At the same time, I was an adult in my own relationships at the time (not nearly as long or complex as theirs). Rationally, I knew getting divorced was the best thing for them. Emotionally, it was still fucking awful.

    i got married two or three years later, and I didn’t vow to stay together until death do us part. We added pieces in our vows about changing together and trusting that we would both change compatibly. I also don’t view divorce as failure anymore. Sometimes it’s just the best of bad options. And that’s ok. Relationships end and we pick ourselves up and move on, both perhaps better apart than together.

    If anything, my parent’s divorce has made more of a realist than romantic in my relationship. During a difficult period, I flat out told my spouse that I couldn’t promise him I would stay with him forever. It sucked and he hated it and was mad at me, but I’m not making promises I can’t keep. And like I told him, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight to make our relationship work. That’s me, and I’m shaped by this experience of watching my parents divorce when I was an adult.

  • Sosuli

    I can’t believe I missed this discussion yesterday! My parents announced their divorce 3 months before I proposed to my now husband. In a weird way, seeing their marriage dissolve made me even more certain I wanted to marry my partner. 1) I could see how much better we are at communicating with each other than my parents and 2) I knew that my parents over 30 year marriage had many, many good times and I had a very happy childhood – their divorce doesn’t change that. So it made marriage, if anything, less scary. You can’t guarantee that things will work forever, cherishing life for what it is now is good enough.

  • Kaitlyn

    My parents accidentally got divorced when I was 21. They were going through a rough patch and had agreed to take a break for a month when I left to study abroad. Next thing I know, my mom said she filed for divorce. It a took a while to piece together why, but it involved custody around my then 8-year-old brother. Someone told my mom that she needed to file for divorce just to make sure there was a schedule around my brother. My mom didn’t communicate this to my dad (“hey, just want to legally set down a schedule for him”) and served him with divorce papers. He received the divorce papers and rather than being like “hey, you sure you want to get divorced” assumed she wanted to divorce him and never talked to her about it. They both maintain they didn’t want to actually get divorced, but were too hurt to communicate it.

    I’m not a great communicator, but this experience basically scared the shit out of me (if they both just said they didn’t want to get divorced, they wouldn’t be divorced). It forced me to become a communicator in my relationship because I don’t want this to happen to us. I might not have the words immediately (it might take me till the next day to address something), but I always address it. A lot of the time, we’re off because we’re having a miscommunication and we talk about it and we’re good to go. While my parents getting divorced was pretty traumatic, it think it taught me a hard lesson that I’m grateful for.

  • Anon

    My parents divorced when I was a teenager when my father came out as gay. I was angry at him for a solid 2 years because in my mind, he destroyed our family and forced my younger sisters and I to move between houses. Then when I was 16, he met his now-husband and I realized how happy he was and how I had never seen him happy like that before. They have now been together for 11 years, living together for 8 and married for 5. Their marriage teaches me that love is worth fighting for and that love is valid and fragile and if you find the right person they are worth everything. My parents marriage taught me you can pretend to be happy without actually being it until you reach the breaking point and that forgiveness is important. My mother was very angry with my father after the divorce and struggled with depression but she has recently forgave my father for the years of secrecy and they are now on good terms. She even dog-sat for them recently.

    My fiancé’s parents also divorced when he was a child but in much messier circumstances. His father cheated on his mother and left her with three young children when my fiancé was 6. He has no contact with his father and barely remembers him. His mother remarried when he was 11 and had 2 more kids. His stepfather is a wonderful man but he still grieves for the lack of a relationship with his father and says even if things do not work out in our marriage he will remain involved for the sake of any future children.

  • RNLindsay

    I’m sorry I missed this discussion yesterday! I’m a product of 2 divorces and both have affected me in different ways. My parents divorced when I was 8 but did so very amicably. They still remained friends, my dad helped my mom out a lot with yard work and things over the years, they never fought and all parties involved can get together peacefully for weddings and such. My mom remarried when I was 10 to an emotionally abusive man who literally ruined our lives for several years. She had my half-brother with him, so their lives were entwined even after they divorced when I was 13. My middle school and high school years were rough. My mom was constantly in court with her ex, as nothing (down to the minute my brother was to be dropped off at the other parent’s house) could be decided out of court. It disrupted our lives for a long time. I even refused to drive my little brother to his dad’s house because I did not want to be anywhere in the vicinity of that man.
    So I’ve basically seen the 2 spectrums of divorce. I am so so lucky that the amicable divorce was my own parents, and although the terrible divorce definitely scarred me and affected my daily life, it was not with my real father.
    Looking back, my mom will say that she didn’t try hard enough in her relationship with my dad. They married when she was 19, and she will admit that she jumped ship pretty quickly without even trying to work on it. I don’t think anyone should stay in a relationship that isn’t working, but it does make me realize the necessity of putting in the effort to maintain a solid relationship. And honestly, I am fine with my own parent’s divorce. I do not think they are right for each other and although they get along, my mom only squashes my dad’s personality. I don’t think he’d be the (amazing) person he is today had they stayed together. Oh and I love my step mom! I wouldn’t have her either if my parents were still married :)

  • z

    I think the main thing, overall, was not just to take care of my marriage and avoid divorce, but to marry someone who really understands the long-term negatives of divorce. My husband comes from a very undivorcey family, so it has been eye-opening for him to learn what it’s like to be an adult child of divorce. My parents have always been denial or refused to acknowledge the burdens their divorce places on me, my husband, and my own children. It was important to me to marry someone who doesn’t have rosy illusions about divorce being easier than it is, and if we ever divorced, would not perpetrate that secondary trauma of silencing and denial on our children.