I’ve come to envy young children going through a divorce. Everyone worries about them. They are sent to psychologists to get the help they need, but the adult child’s grief isn’t taken as seriously. Many of our parents stayed together because we’d be more mature once we headed off to college, walked down the aisle, or had our first baby.
Parents expect us to shrug off their split, as if the breakup of our family should no longer concern us because pieces of our adult life are in place. Even I felt I was overreacting. I’m an adult, I figured. I should be able to handle this. (Brook Lea Foster, who wrote the AARP Magazine article, “The Way We Were”)
Brook was talking about the difficulty of coming to terms with her parents divorce even though it happened when she was an adult.
Adult “Children” of Divorce Hurt Too
Even though you are an adult, it doesn’t mean that you don’t still feel immense pain. You realize, “things will never be the same.” As Brook said in the article:
“My life suddenly seemed a series of “lasts” —a final Christmas, an end to eggs together at the breakfast table. I’d never again find my parents standing side by side on the porch, waving to me as I pulled into the driveway.”
There are a lot of “lasts” adult children of divorce must go through in letting go of the past. And there are a lot of “firsts” to adjust to as you visit your parents one-by-one in different locations and often different states. There are also the “firsts” to adjust to as you meet new people they are each dating. This adjustment doesn’t necessarily come easy just because you are supposed to “be adult about it.”
Wrong Notions About Adult Children
In another article posted in the Washingtonian Magazine, Brook had additional thoughts to say on this subject. She wrote,
“When a younger couple gets a divorce, they worry about how it will affect the children. My Mom told me that’s partly why she and Dad stayed together for so long. Did it mean that what I saw as a perfect childhood was a lie?
“There’s a notion that an adult child won’t hurt as much as a youngster. People think a 26-year-old isn’t as likely to be affected by her parents’ breakup. That she’ll understand. It’s not true. Understanding what your parents are going through is even worse. I began obsessing about their growing old alone. I pictured them in separate houses without someone to make them tea if they had the flu. They could come live with me, but I’d have to choose one.
“My parents and I reversed roles. I became the worried one. And I was the one who wanted to make sure they had a good weekend, or that the birthday present I had sent was perfect. I told a friend after the holidays that my family felt dead to me. ‘I think you’re exaggerating,’ my friend said. But I wasn’t. I was in mourning. My family as I knew it was dying.”
As you can surmise, it’s not as easy for many adult children to adjust to their parents’ divorces even though many people may think they should. That’s why we want to lead you to some additional thoughts on this subject, hoping that they will help those who are dealing with this issue.
Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain Resources:
This first resource is a series of radio interviews conducted by the ministry of Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey. In these radio broadcasts Dennis interviewed Jen Abbas and Elizabeth Marquardt.
We encourage you to either listen to, or read the transcripts for each of 5 radio broadcasts. They are titled, Surviving the Aftermath of Divorce, The Emotional Hurdles of Living Through a Divorce; The Sleeper Effect of Divorce; Forgiving Our Parents, and Approaching Marriage) please click onto the links provided below:
• ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE: Healing Pain that Lives On – Days 1-3
• ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE: Healing Pain that Lives On – Days 4-5
You will find below another 3-part series of Family Life Today broadcasts. They deal with the subject of adult children and how their parents’ divorce has affected their lives. Dennis Rainey is interviewing Bill and Jesse Butterworth in these programs. We invite you to either listen to or read the transcripts for:
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions put together this article.
If you can share additional tips to help others in this area of marriage, please “Join the Discussion” below.
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Filed under: Separation and Divorce
77 responses to “Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain”
I should give you a backstory. I was born in a different country, an only child. All of our blood relatives are still in Romania outside my father and mother who reside in the states. My parents recently got a divorce, due to my fathers affair, which he will not deem the sole reason but instead blame my mothers bad behavior. The woman he is now with, is 15 years his junior, and has FIVE kids, ranging in age from 14-22. I cannot wrap my brain around why he would choose to take on a woman with so much baggage, when he never wanted more children of his own.
I hate her kids, I hate that now some strangers offspring spend more time with my dad than I do. I should note he was not a great father for most of my life, not emotionally. I am filled with so much rage over all of this I do not know what to do with myself. Her kids, three of them come to his house every other weekend, and at any given time one of her offspring seem to be around. All of this happened in a very short amount of time. I don’t know how to get over my anger, and I am almost certain I do not wish to ever accept her children into my life, nor do I want to. I have been an only child for 28 years, and now all of the sudden I feel like my father is creating his own “American” family.
Hi Andrew, after these 5 years my heart goes out to you and I am encouraging you that the Lord has given you himself to deal with the emotional pain that can come up even now after the suffering you went through.
When I consider the offenses that I was offended with I have a tendency to forget that my hands should be on the plow and I should look to the Horizon to the High Calling of Jesus and forgive. It is impossible for me to forgive and be healed unless I personally consider the joy of the Lord and the relationship that my Father has with me. That strength allows me to look at the sin of those who have offended me and forgive them.
I have to sometimes be the parent and deal with them as children who have not owned up to their sin who must lovingly be dealt with in the way that Jesus would. Number one is forgiving and then with his wisdom to look into their souls as a parent and encourage them in the way they have not loved. It’s the way God asked them that the Holy Spirit advises with Mercy with graciousness and with the strength of his love. I pray the Holy Spirit’s wisdom on you as you continue to deal with your loved ones and overcome by the word of God the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.
I listened to a broadcast with Jen and Elizabeth as guests nearly 10 years after it was made. I am 33 and was 16 when my parents divorced. I’ve just realised that I have been carrying around suppressed fear and anger for half of my life, which is affecting my marriage. I have had 2 abortions and I am scared to have children and think this may be the reason. With God’s help I am going to move forward and let go of the fear and pain that has been with me for so long.
Thank you for this, seriously. My parents are in the middle of the divorce. I’m 21 years old and I’m one of my parents 5 children. My three older siblings are married with kids and my younger sister and I are just now seriously entering adulthood. I was not exactly suprised by their decision, but it shook my world because I never actually thought they would go through with it.
I constantly feel like I have to choose sides and I feel shame and guilt that I cannot really explain. My dad is the one that left and I was a total daddy’s girl but now I just resent him for breaking up my family. I feel like I’m mourning my once large happy family. I’m confused, hurt and altogether just angry. My dad spent this last Christmas with his new girlfriend and her family in a different state. I feel replaceable. He even got her name tattoed on his arm. I just wish that things could have been different. I have begun to just lay in bed and cry and pray for some sort of comfort. Thank you for letting me know there are others that feel the way I do. No one takes me seriously when I say I’m hurting… thank you.
My parents recently have split too. As an adult you are expected to deal with it and move on. We need to grieve for our broken family. I also was a daddy’s girl and now I feel like when he spends time with me it feels like a chore. Haven’t exactly figured out how to deal with this but I’m sure in time I will.
Don’t let it consume you. It is difficult about taking sides even if you don’t mean to it can appear that you are. I have been leaning on my siblings and vice versa they are going through the same emotions, thoughts and worries. I hope you feel better soon. And I hope your hurt starts to heal.
I can’t seem to find the correct words to say to my husband, much less a counselor about wanting a divorce. We’ve been married for 30 years and 99% of the time happy. But retirement is killing me. He’s become bossy, critical, controlling, and I fear losing myself as I give in to his selfish demanding ways. Yikes.
Get out now, my husband became unbearable when he decided to “retire”. He went crazy and dragged me down as well. RUN
Dear Becky, I hope that since January, you and your Husband are coping better with the transition to his retirement. It is huge and life-changing for everyone. My book will be published early next year based on the lifespan and changes in thoughts, feelings, even values and beliefs. Many ‘professionals’ have begun telling older people to ‘re-invent’ themselves and this is their time, put themselves first and so much more that goes against the very grain of love.
I learned after 25 years of marriage where my husband began to change that first of all, we are souls. Our souls are unconditonal love and compassion. Our souls cannot die, nor can our love but more and more are burying their soul and burying their love under this ego age of me, me, me. Can I recommend something that feels quite counter-intuitive to our minds? Read and learn and share with your husband as much as you can about your vows in marriage and about Holy Union and how sacred our family is. The more you read, the more your love and your husband’s love will surface from all the stress and pressures of living in 21st Century society.
There is also a wonderful teacher named Mort Fertel on the internet who has many ideas for you and your Husband to re-connect. If I know one thing for certain it is that love doesn’t die and I know that giving up on love (as my husband eventually did -unhealed child of abuse/trauma) the price to be paid for the rest of life is not often spoken about in complete truth on the internet. People are bored, they are angry, they hate, they are sick and tired. And the truth is that we reach a point of actually being sick and tired. The answer is not to ‘re-invent’ ourselves at any age but to find our true self – to soul-search and people who do this, me included, have found such deep love and peace and contentment we never knew existed within us before.
I once thought after many years of marriage that I loved my Husband like a brother. I thought it was supposed to be more. We are being lied to today about what ‘love’ actually is and what ‘romance’ actually is and what intimacy actually is.Then when I learned more about genuine love, my genuine love grew. When I learned more about compassion, my compassion grew. When I learned more about giving, my giving grew. My husband returned to me fully and said our reunion was like Cloud 9. I learned to love unconditionally, finally. I learned a world of bliss I never knew existed. There is only one way and that is the way of genuine love and there is only one genuine love and that is the love from our deepest hearts and souls we forget about too much today. I hope you and your husband can learn more and feel more and find your souls love growing again. I wish you every genuine happiness, Regards, Hazel
The person who wanted the divorce from a good man should have thought of this. Since the spouse’s parents divorced when she was in her 20’s and it bothered her .
I was a happy single until I met and married someone whom I had only known for six months, ignoring the red flags, we got married. And For ten years my daughter and I dealt with the discord in our family.
I was married to an artificial showman who lived a double life, had other secret partners, including men. I ceased having any intimate contact with him, for safety sake.
My parents, 300 miles away, insisted I stay within the marrige until my daughter went to college…this was the worst advice I ever received. I stuck it out and I Lost everything…even the love of my daughter, who now excludes me from her life.
I’m 38 years old. My dad just told me last night that he asked my mom for a divorce. He told me that she doesn’t know that he’s telling me, and that my brother doesn’t know about this at all. I am expected to pretend that nothing has changed until both of my parents sit down with my brother and I to discuss this, which may not happen in the near future due to my mother’s health issues. I’m at a loss.
How am I supposed to process this if I am to keep it a secret? I have my husband, and he is supportive, but I can’t even ask my mom if she’s okay, or go to my friends for advice. This hurts, and I don’t know what to do.
Leah, what your dad has asked of you is not fair to anyone involved (apart from what he feels is fair for him). This is selfish. If he wants to break his wedding vows, then he can’t expect that his wishes will all be honored either. Pray about this and then if you feel you should, go to your mom and tell her what your dad told you, and then respond to your mom as you believe God would have you. If your dad is upset… oh well! Then he should stay in the marriage, supporting your mom who is in poor health –work on the marriage, not the divorce.
You need to reach out and get the support you need. You should not have to carry an extra burden just because your dad expects it. He is a grown man making decisions, which affect the whole family. He needs to man up and accept the consequences.
I don’t know the issues going on between him and your mom. They may be very difficult. But he promised in his wedding vows, “for better or for worse” that he would be faithful to his wife and to God. Just because he wants out it doesn’t mean he should get out. If there is abuse coming from your mom, he may need to separate, but if not, then he needs to persevere through the “worse” and not add extra burdens upon his daughter and the rest of the family. That is my humble, prayerful opinion. Ask God if what I am saying here is for you. I pray wisdom for you… strength for your family, and eye-opening, God moments for your dad to do the right thing, as God reveals them.
I am 23 years old. My parents divorced few months after my birth. I grew up with my father and stepmother. The pain of living a separate life has never been easy for me, especially the thought of my stepmother who was mother’s best friend. This has made me stay away from the outside world with pain and anger in my heart as I fear that it might happen to me too some day.
Chantal, How my heart breaks for you. I can well understand your fear because you have lived within this dysfunctional “reality” for so long. But please know that you are being held a prisoner to your fears and as a result, it is discoloring the joy you could experience in life with every passing day that these fears are given that kind of power. Please, please, please find a way to talk to a good counselor over this. It will be hard work and will take commitment, but it is SO worth it. Yes, you have been very hurt by the events pushed upon you, but no, you don’t have to allow it to victimize you for the rest of your life. You CAN work through this (with a good counselor) and eventually be able to break free from its pull.
We all have stuff that has happened to us. Some of it is horrible and some, not so much. This is tough stuff you’re dealing with. You need help –especially now while you’re still young enough to properly frame all of this, break free, and live the life, free of fear and anger, that you were created to live. I hope you will, Chantal. I had some horrible stuff happen to me when I was younger that affected me all of my growing up years (part of it was adultery issues with my dad), into adulthood. I’m SO GLAD I eventually got help because I am no longer a prisoner of those awful feelings and thoughts. I hope that will be true for you. I pray for you and encourage you to be brave enough to do this. It will be life changing –in a positive way if you do. :)
My husband of 39 years left me for another woman. I am devastated. I divorced him. My problem is I am hurt when my grown children make special time to be with him. My head tells me they need a father to love, but my heart tells me that they are rewarding their father’s behavior which almost killed their mother. Sometimes I feel myself pushing my own children away because I feel angry at them for what feels like a betrayal. What should I do?
Dear Claire, I am so sorry for your pain. I know exactly how it feels having two Sons who were 20 and 17 at the time of their Dad’s adultery after 25 years marriage and are now 23 and 20. I understand every word and feeling you express that it feels our children are condoning the worst betrayal to any adult there can be. My book will be published early next year described by specialists in Children and Marriage and Family as ‘powerful.’ I have been writing for three years to fully understand and evidence all that I have learned and want to share.
I would not ever tell someone else what they should do but I learned one thing about my beautiful children who I never imagined this happening to -not any one of us -I learned that no matter what my husband said or did or his family of origin or his new-found mates or his adulterous whores (two now known) and no matter what the government did to our family in ‘no fault’ divorce, I learned to love my children more, unconditionally. I am honest with them that I don’t believe in approving adultery or enabling adultery or condoning adultery. As I have continued to practice and perfect to the best of my ability kindness and patience and understanding for their shocks and losses too over our family, my sons have practiced speaking their truth to their Dad – that he is an adulterer and they do not approve. They love him but speak the truth to him. I said nothing but loved them more.
They have been through so much as we know all our faithful children and all faithful spouses have been through. Unless we are a manipulative person, we can’t ‘force’ our children to change their thoughts, feelings, values or beliefs but we can be the change -the loving, truthful, open, sincere change. We can set the example that as they continue to learn through life, they look to us or they look to adulterers. It takes as much patience as any relationship with any free-minded adult but the daily practise of loving them will see them opening their eyes more and more to your version of love and their faither’s version of love. I wish you peace and happiness I know will come from your soul – your genuine love for your Children. Hazel
My Dad cheated on my mom since before they married till they divorced. At around 5 years of age he started taking me along picking up many different women over the years. I started lying to my mom because I loved spending time with my dad. My mom found out when I was 16 and never forgave me; she blamed me. I started using drugs soon after and have used them off and on my whole life. I am a 56 year old man. I knew at 10 years old what I would do different and raised 4 beautiful successful children, but I have never really let anyone close. I have trust issues. Can you suggest some reading materials to help me heal from some of this? Thank you.
Hi Billy, There’s a book we highly recommend for you to read that could perhaps give you insight into your not letting anyone get close and what you can do about it. It’s a book written by Milan and Kay Yerkovich titled, How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. It’s published by Water Brook. The authors of this book “draw on the tool of an attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created an ‘intimacy imprint’ —an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage. They identify four types of injured imprints that combine in marriage to trap couples in a repetitive dance of pain. The principles and solution-focused tools in this book will equip you to… –identify the imprints disrupting your marriage –understand how your love style impacts your mate –break free of negative patterns that hinder your relationship –enhance your sexual intimacy, and –create a deeper, richer marriage.” We heard the Yerkovich’s talk about this subject and can see how it can absolutely change the lives of couples in positive ways as they better understood each other’s communication styles. It’s truly an enlightening book –revealing things we’d never realized before. We’re thinking it would do the same for you.
A good counselor could also direct you to some good resources. If you don’t know of one, contact the ministry of Focus on the Family on focusonthefamily.com. They have counselors on staff that can help you to start the healing process and then direct you to a counselor that can help you further. I hope this will help. Please do this… You’ve needed this for years. This is the year to start on the path to healing.
Steve, The book How We Love is an AWESOME resource and has been really useful in helping me to understand why I behave in certain ways in our marriage relationship. My wife has found it helpful in understanding me, too.
Hi, I’ve never reached out to an online discussion before but I am feeling alone and confused and could use some objective opinions and confirmation as to whether or not I am being unreasonable.
My mom announced 2 years ago that she was leaving my father after 39 years. I am the oldest of 2 kids. I am currently 39 and my brother is 36. I am happily married for the past 10 years to my husband and we live in a town about 3 hours from my home town where my father, mother and brother reside (all different homes now). To be honest, I was not surprised by my mother’s decision – her and my father were young when they met and both were living in families where emotions were not allowed and both were looking for a means of escape. I am sure they loved each other at the time but there was definitely a desire to escape their respective family lives that was a driving force. My father came from a home where physical abuse was the norm, first born children were favoured (he was the middle child) and where his parents could not settle down in one place for very long which significantly impacted my father’s ability to develop and maintain effective interpersonal relationships.
My mother came from a home where she was the middle child with an older and younger sister, it was overbearingly religious and her father passed away when she was 12. My mom was often referred to as the ‘spawn of satan’ growing up – despite never doing drugs, not ever being involved with the law and who put herself through nursing school via consistently working in part time jobs.
They had me and my brother in 1976 and in 1979 and we led the ‘picture perfect’ nuclear family life 500 0miles away from their respective families. Appearances were everything in my family and while my mom and dad tried to right the wrongs they experienced growing up, I had the benefit of being an exceptionally ‘sensitive child’ – I always had an uneasy sense that something was wrong. My father felt challenged by me and despite my honor roll achievements and various other accomplishments, he would often take me to task on small things and would ridicule and humiliate me often. My brother was the sports star and that pleased my father but he would still become unreasonably explosive with him as well. We learned to stay quiet and no speak our minds… I have since lost that ability after therapy and establishing validating relationships with friends and colleagues.
My mother wanted to be the mother she never had and treated me like a friend for the most part growing up – she was the cool mom; everyone liked her and all my friends raved about her. Looking back on it, I was often jealous of her and because feelings were not tolerated (expressed feelings were met with comments like – “stop being sensitive”; “what’s the matter with you?”; “you don’t need to feel like that”), I never felt safe to say anything. Even when I introduced my husband to my family, one of the first comments from my mother was “I really like how he handles you…”
Often I would turn my frustration inward – I was, and still am, an anxious person; I would over eat and hide evidence of my overeating in shame; and sometimes I would be mean to my brother – yelling at him for no reason, crying hysterically if he said something I thought was mean. But here’s the thing that gets me about this: despite all of that, I always felt loved by my mom and I always knew I could come home and ask my parents for help if I needed it. I struggle with this – the dichotomy of knowing my life wasn’t bad growing up but also feeling angry and sad at the same time. It’s hard to marry those two opposing views/feelings.
I saw my mom and dad’s relationship wax and wane in intensity over the years – they never fought in front of us but there was always subtle evidence of contempt. You could tell when my mother was unhappy because she would drink to the point of falling asleep at the dinner table during family functions and holidays – it was scary for me to see her this way. I felt sad and angry that she would behave in this manner. My brother and I would laugh at her and make jokes by asking her questions we knew she couldn’t answer – my dad would facilitate it with a grin. It was horrible when I think about it and look back on those times. My coping skill to this day is humor and I think I was coping through humor and in a way, maybe protecting my brother from feeling sad, scared and angry when my mom would get drunk. My dad would get sarcastic and snide when things were rocky, making lewd and uncomfortable comments about women, people of various races and religions, and our friends. He would target me the most. If I replied back or questioned his comments he would become enraged and advise me to keep my mouth shut, or say “that’s the problem with you…” sometimes my mom would jump in to defend and that never ended on a positive note – usually my poor brother would get up from the table and start clearing it while my mom called my dad out and I cried.
She left my dad once when I was 23, I was upset and shocked but also relieved. My dad took an interest in me as a person for the first time, trying to buy my allegiance. I saw through it. She went back to him and I was mad. Maybe I never stopped being mad.
I went to school with the aim of becoming a physician and I am now a practicing psychiatrist – my husband and I made a deliberate decision to stay in the town we are in partially because I needed to maintain the distance from my family. My training helped me understand so much about my upbringing and my family dynamics that it’s hard to turn my psychiatry brain off sometimes but I have to when it comes to them because I am not a psychiatrist, I am their daughter and sister. I think sometimes my family sees me as the one who can handle all of this because of what I do.
My mom also spent half her life telling me how much she envies my life and lives through me. This is not something I enjoy hearing.
When she left my dad this second time, I was proud of her for having the courage to want more for herself and have been supportive of her over the past 2 years. She would come to stay with my husband and I more often and for the first time, I had the true courage to sit down with my father and thank him for what he has taught me over the years plus what I felt was putting a wrench in our ability to have a meaningful, sincere and empathic relationship. What I was feeling for the first time was that I had my mother back – maybe I felt she could now be a mom, not a friend. I also felt like I was needed in her life. Again, the dichotomy of feelings – I always felt loved by my mother but I also felt at times like I was in competition with her and that I also had to do the things she felt she was never able to – be a doctor, experience life without being tied down, speak my mind, and travel. “You don’t need a man, you are an independent woman, don’t you forget it”. The fact that I allowed myself to commit to marriage is actually mind boggling when I think about it… Seriously, sometimes it’s so hard to sort out what is going on in my head.
In January of this year, my mom went on Match.com. I felt weird hearing her talk about the prospect of dating but I brushed it off. Then, she met a man. She turned into a teenager. Gushing about this new love of her life – he was everything she had ever dreamed of. Suddenly she was talking about going on big sailing trips in the ocean, splitting her time between her condo and his condo in the mountains and just as suddenly, the visits to our home diminished, significantly. She invited us (my brother, my husband and I) to meet this man over Easter. I was anxious but wanted to be supportive despite my anxiety. The night before we were to meet this man, I asked my mom about attending my 40th birthday, maybe in Vegas and her response was “Sure, I’m assuming Bill (name changed) will be welcomed as well?!”. I was shocked and speechless. I hadn’t even met this man and she was inviting him to my birthday?? I told her I did not know Bill yet but I wasn’t inclined to have him at my birthday and she was visibly upset – “In this family we welcome people, just like I welcomed Jack (name changed – my husband)”. I tried to tell her this wasn’t the same but she couldn’t understand- I finally said “He’s not coming to my birthday and that’s final”… I then acknowledged “I know I’m acting like a teenager and for right now we will all just have to deal with it”. I left the house feeling like I had drank crazy juice. The next morning I calmly approached my mom and apologized for my outburst but she still didn’t get it.
The meeting with Bill went fine – I was thankful for my husband and brother’s presence but he didn’t say much to me or ask me or my brother about ourselves. Perhaps we were sending signals not to… I’m not sure, it was clear though that he was there for my mother – they could not stop touching each other throughout the meal and that was incredibly uncomfortable and weird.
I have spoken with my mom one more time in person since that event and told her I felt abandoned and sad. I told her that I knew this was my issue and that I would need time to process, she appeared to get it at the time. I told her I felt inadequate – Bill’s adult children (who have had at least 7 years to adjust to their father’s dating habits) had children so she would potentially be a ‘step grandma’ and children were not something my husband and I have been able to have – in a weird way I felt like Bill’s family stole my chance to make my mother a grandmother. Even as I type this, I am crying about it.
Last week my mother asked about birthday celebrations and asked when I might be free. I advised of a weekend and stated that my brother would be in my town at that time so she should come too. I was met with “Will Bill be welcome?” I did some thinking and offered an invitation to Bill. I had prefaced the invitation with some fears but said that ultimately it was important and there would be limited opportunities between now and that time to meet him again on a non-emotionally laden day. She immediately said no and advised she was committed to spending the holiday with Bill. I again, said I would like to welcome him to our home.
My husband sent out invitations for my 40th birthday in the meantime – a small gathering of friends at a restaurant. He sent my mother an invitation, upon receipt, she texted him saying “I’m assuming this is just for me and not Bill”. Maybe Jack should not have showed the text to me but I felt completely sad, unheard and devalued.
This is where I am at now. I am turning 40 and I feel like I am 12. I don’t know what to do with these feelings- abandonment, hurt, anger, loss, worry that my mother will chose Bill over me. I also realistically acknowledge that she deserves to be happy and is a grown woman who should be able to date whomever she choses. But I think this is not really about her dating, it’s about our relationship. I don’t know what to do other than talk to her – which I will do but she doesn’t see at all where I am coming from and I am sure she thinks I can’t see her point of view either.
This is a long post. Thank you to those of you who persevered through this.
Dear Mel, In your comment, you ask if you are being “unreasonable” in your longings to have a closer relationship with your mother. From what you wrote I don’t think you are being unreasonable at all. This is the longing of most any daughter. It’s perfectly reasonable and understandable. It’s just that you need to know (and probably already do) that the reality of what you long for in your relationship with your mom probably won’t happen. I wish I could say it would… I’d love for that to happen for you. But I’m not sensing that your mom will let it happen. I’m not sure why that is… who knows really (other than God)? However, it really isn’t healthy to keep trying to park upon what we wish for, but rather upon what is and what most likely will be.
COULD this turn around? Sure! I’ve seen the messiest of relationships–ones that looked impossible that they could survive, turn around and grow and thrive. But that is more of the rare event, rather than what usually happens. The problem is that we can get ourselves so tied up in knots when we park a heavy load of our longings upon a person that simply is not inclined to embrace them and do what it takes to change these types of matters. We also have a tendency to push things in a negative direction when we exert (what they perceive to be) too much pressure upon them because of our unmet expectations.
Mel, I’m not a counselor, or someone who has credentials in this kind of thing, I just know what I see and perceive. I’ve also been around the block a few times in experience and insights I’ve gained from observing others, and in what I gain as I pray. You can take or leave what I am trying to say here. I’ve also had parents (both are deceased now) that never seemed to come through for me or my (3) siblings. My parents were so caught up in their own lives that we were more of side issues for them than anything else–particularly as it pertained to my dad. He was a really fun guy for everyone else to be around and could bring lots of laughs, but as far as being an involved parent… he wasn’t. He had narcissistic tendencies and just couldn’t be there for us, especially for me (and my sister). He threw me under the bus several times. And just when I’d think that maybe we could have a good father/daughter relationship, he’d turn his attention elsewhere and I was left just standing there with my longings.
As much as I wish things could have been different, they never were. He abandoned us “kids” in many ways over and over again, to his dying day. What I learned in all of this is to work with the situation as it is, rather than as it “should be or could be” if only the other person would get their act together. I put my hopes in God instead. He works with me to get to a healthier place within reality, and that, I can live with much, much better.
With your mom, I just don’t see her as being the type of person who will find satisfaction in growing her relationship with you, and THEN finding someone good to date and possibly marry someday. I perceive (and I may be wrong…) that she will continually skip over you (as my dad did with me and my siblings), and find a relationship outside of the family thinking you should just “get on board with it.” If you don’t, you won’t see much of your mom. It would be good if she focused to grow her relationship with you. But I just think she’s clueless as to how rich her life would be if she did this. It would be MUCH easier for you to embrace her new love, if she didn’t pass you by along the way. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. She can have both, but she just doesn’t get it.
I had to assess the situation with my dad in the face of reality and knew that I still wanted some type of a relationship with him. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. So I stayed in touch with him and did the best I could realizing my hopes would probably never be realized. They weren’t. I had to try to do the best I could with my step mom (who was a very, very difficult person–and yet, my dad didn’t care that she played the part of the “evil step mother”… to which, she even admitted). I know I did the best I could with my dad to his dying day. I can live with that. Do I wish things were different? Yes, but I just can’t park there. It’s a loss–a big one, but I can’t change what happened. I wasn’t given the opportunity to do anything else about it. So I’ve faced it all, and have moved along.
Mel, I encourage you to consider taking your relationship with your mom at face value. Invest what you can afford to lose, and if in the process you gain… you are ahead. Don’t park your hopes upon having a great relationship with her. If it’s not Bill, it will probably be someone else she will be trying to push onto you. It seems to be a sad reality. Take what you can get as far as being in relationship with her. Then invest more of your energies and thoughts upon other people and things that actually can come through in good and healthy ways for you. If your mom wakes up someday, then YAY!!! You both gain in a good way. If not, you are in a better place than you would be if you keep putting too much energy into longing and hoping for that, which she will probably never make happen. That’s just my opinion; I hope this helps. My heart goes out to you (I am also a highly sensitive person–so I know how difficult relationship problems can bring). I hope and pray things go better for you :)
My wife and I have been divorced 5 months now. It was her decision. She spends more time here than at her sisters and when she’s here there’s nothing wrong. When she’s there myself and daughter must just jump, we can do nothing right…although we both stil love her. What suggestions are there? Please help. She’s 50 and we were married 27 years.
Dear Martin, it’s been almost five years since your comment and I am sure you have had to delve more deeply spiritually and emotionally into the relationship that your ex had with her sister. I’m praying that the love of God and the joy that he promised you, and that he commanded you to take, gives you the strength to look at it with God’s eyes. Pray for her forgiveness and forgive her so that you can be healed and deal directly with each sin in a caring way. Do not let the pain of what anyone has done touch you but be covered by the love of Jesus so that you can pray with a whole heart for your ex and your family.
I am an adult child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was a toddler. My sister, who is 16 years older than me, married to get out of the house. She later divorced and remarried. She is an alcoholic and still plays the victim. My brother, who was nine years older than me, would stay with my mom and me and our dad. My mom was mentally ill and went to but barn several times, while I was growing up. I used to try to get her to play with me. She was always in her nightgown. I would get beaten and she would curse me out and tell me she wishes I’d never been born. When my father would come to get me, she would curse him out and call him names.
One time my father came to picking me up from school and the police pulled us over. We had to go to the police station. This was very traumatic for a small child. My mother told me years later, she thought I was going to get kidnapped. There was always division by putting me in the middle. I hated it. I also had an uncle who would molest me and a neighbor would molest me too. I had undiagnosed ADHD and I would get beaten, instead of helped. My father worked at General Motors but would not always pay child support. I remember my mother calling him and asking for it. I would go and rake leaves and collect coke cola bottles and try to give the money to my mother. I believe I was about 10 or 11.
When she would take me to the dentist, I would hear her tell the lady at the desk, “My ex husband is supposed to pay her bill.” This has set in my head, never to be dependent on a man. Twice growing up, my brother tried to commit suicide. My mother would send me to the neighbors. No one ever talked to me about this. Fast forwarded to me at 14. I was getting ready for something at school; my mother started in on my father, calling him names. I’d finally had enough. I bucked up against her and yelled at her, telling her to stop calling my father names. She called the police and called my sister and the next day. She dumped me out at my sister’s house. This was a big sign of my mother rejecting me.
I did accept Christ while I lived with my sister. Later at the end of the year, I moved to Florida to live with my dad and stepmom. I felt some sense of security. I played in the band and felt like a normal teenager. In my mind, I never wanted to get married. I was just going to have sex. I vowed to never let anyone hurt me again. My brother was in and out of my life but we did build some great memories together. He taught me how to swim, tie my shoes and most importantly, not to be afraid. With my high school graduation coming, all I could think about is having both my parents in the same room. Shortly after I graduated from high school, my brother died of AIDS related pneumonia. A few days later, I lost my virginity and became very promiscuous. I didn’t care. I had all this pain; I was numb. I didn’t use my scholarship. I just worked at this small restaurant and drank, smoked weed, and had sex. Yes, I did love sex.
After my sister told me I could live with her and go to college, I moved to Georgia. My sister had problems; she would come and take my check and go shopping, spending like crazy. I had a pickup truck but only had enough money to make payments, nothing else. I had no dreams or anything else. I made sure I got fired from my job. I moved back to Florida, went to work at a plant and started partying and having sex, a lot of sex. I couldn’t hear God’s voice. Later that fall, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Earlier. I asked my father what attracted him to my mother. His response, “She was a beautiful woman and went to church.” With that, I didn’t want anything to do with the church. I look a lot like her. I was 22 and angry, angry at God for the break up of my family, angry at Him for taking my brother. I knew nobody would ever love me or give me the love and tenderness from a husband. I was way too damaged.
As my father dealt with his cancer, my stepmom walked with him. This was a beautiful illustration of love being given sacrificially to another. I was so far away from God. I’d be gone for days, without telling my dad or step mom where I was. At my boring plant job, I went out on a date with a man several times; of course, we had sex. After, we stopped dating, if you call it dating, I discovered I was pregnant. I was in shock. I went to tell the man who impregnated me and he denied it and modeless rejected me. Mom rejected me… Is this a pattern of damaged goods? This time was a little fuzzy for me. I do remember walking past my father’s bedroom and saw him on his knees, praying for me. He had lost a son from a broken marriage and didn’t want to lose me too. Broken homes suck…
I later was laid off from my job. My father encouraged me to move back to Atlanta; I would have more opportunities there. For some reason, I think he knew something was off with me (pregnant). I moved back to Georgia to live with my mom. I was so depressed and with the mental illness in my family and being a child of divorce, I didn’t think I would make a very good mom or deserved to be a mother. I told my mother about my pregnancy; against her wishes, she drove me to an abortion clinic on 5.30.92 to terminate my pregnancy. What is supposed to be a beautiful time in a woman’s life, was a hellous nightmare for me. My kid was a fighter. Since I was almost too far along, I had to give birth, which is experiencing a miscarriage, except, I killed my baby. After I was given something to help my baby drop and begin the labor, my baby was fighting. I had to be taken to see the doctor and given a shot to my baby. The doctor wore glasses, and I tried not to look but I did and saw the sonogram with my baby. By now, his heart was starting to slow. A few hours later, I was sitting on the toilet, pushing the button for the nurse and finally I had given birth to my dead baby. He landed into a cold pan in the toilet. As I got up, I tried not to look, but I did. I saw a sweet baby, who will never grow up the way God intended. That image is seared into my brain forever.
I was 23; the oldest woman at the clinic; the rest, were just babies themselves. My mother walked with me during this time. We experienced a lot of forgiveness. She began telling me some good stories of my father. Most of all, she told me, she wanted me to love my father. I never heard her say anything kind about my father. She also told me she was praying for God to send me a good Christian husband. I do believe she had to forgive, not only my father but forgive herself. I had started attending college to earn my degree. Eight months later my father died of cancer. Shortly, after I lost my father, I broke up with a man I was seeing and told God I wouldn’t have sex again until I was married. 21 months later, my mother died of a heart attack in front of me. Way too many loses for a young adult. There was no way, I could have handled getting married.
I was so lonely and felt abandoned by both God and I was mad at Him for taking my folks before I really had a chance to know them. I drank a lot to numb the losses of my brother, my baby, and my parents. I was 26. As you can read, my 20s were horrible. On Mother’s day that same year, I placed a loaded gun to my head and was about to pull the trigger. There was no note, just a lot of pain. I wanted it to end. As my finger began to pull the trigger, I heard my mother yell my name, “Holly.” It was as loud as if she had called my name for me playing outside as a kid to come in the house. I put the safety on and grabbed my Bible. It opened to Psalm 34:18; “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.’
Fast forward a few years. God placed a few people in my life; a fine lady, who would serve as my mentor and encouraged me not to ever give up. God also placed a loving couple from my church to model a marriage to me. I lived in their basement for two years. That was so much needed as I moved forward with my life. I was active in church. Since I had some moderate ADHD, I thought this was the reason no man ever asked me out, or he could since I was damaged goods. I moved out of the couple’s basement and moved closer to the college, where I was attending. I was still involved in church and was having friends get married. I had shared a lot of my story to my mentor. She told me God will one day use it…
I dated one man since walking with God and desired to do things His way. The man, who was a widower, wasn’t a Christian. My heart’s desire was to get married and have a family. We cannot be unequally yoked. After much prayer, I broke it off him. I just went on with my life.
After I got my Bachelors degeee, I have tried to build a life, having both success and failures. I started really wanting to marry. Now I am 48 and past my childbearing years. I have been through so much pain and loss. God has been good to me. I am 48 and have lost any hope of ever having a husband. I have worked hard to overcome a hurtful childhood, where divorce and other dysfunctions grew on my family tree.
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. God gave me my skills and talents; I wanted to have a different legacy for my family, including giving my children the security of loving their father. I have been spared from having one failed relationship after another, truly wanting God’s best. I am still a woman with needs to be loved by a man, a good, imperfect Christian man. I am getting closer to God, the lover of my soul. I also desire to help other women grieve the lost of the baby(s).
Hi Holly, Oh, how I love your heart! Both my husband and I read your comment and were brought to tears. You are an extraordinary woman. You have had to overcome so many adversities, and yet you have kept persevering. I have no doubt that you have a very special mission that God is going to use you in to bless others and to bless you. We’re told in Proverbs 11:25 that “those who refresh, will be refreshed.” We’ve seen it in our own lives, and we see it in others. We have no doubt that as you reach out to help ease the pain and also comfort others, your life will be enriched all the more.
First off, let me tell you how very sorry I am that you had to suffer so much in your growing up years. But as I read what you wrote, I couldn’t help but think that, in partnership with God, you have worked to turn your pain into sweetness, which has resulted in a hunger to help others. Your pain has not been wasted. It matters and will actually help others (and you too as you reach out to help others who are down). You know what it is like to hurt so badly that you want to die. You know what it is like to go in a toxic direction with your life –trying to escape and medicate, by your lifestyle, the pain… only to come to the realization that it’s the wrong way to go. You know what it is like to go through doubtstorms and to persevere, none-the-less. You know what it is like to forgive others for the pain they caused you that you didn’t deserve. And you know what it is like to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get to a better place than you left behind. For these reasons and more, you have a voice that other women, who are going through tough times, will listen to. You can minister to women that others cannot.
I’m not sure exactly where you can go to help other women “grieve the loss of baby(s)”, as it is laid upon your heart. But the thought that comes to me is to go to a Crisis Pregnancy Center, located somewhere near you. They have WONDERFUL counselors there that may be able to direct you after you tell them your story. Who knows, maybe you can eventually become a counselor there, with some training? The one in our area is called “Hands of Hope” … so the one near you may be named something else, but look to find one. (A pastor of an evangelical church can help you find one, if you can’t find it without help.) All of their services are free. They “serve and support women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.” As they say, “We believe everyone should have access to the proper care and knowledge they need to make the best decision when unsure about continuing with a pregnancy.” They help them to either keep the baby or give the baby to someone to adopt who could better care for him or her. They don’t abort. It would seem to me that this might be something to explore. They would also know of other ministries that might be a better fit for you, if you don’t think they would be the ministry for you to be involved in. It’s a great starting point.
Again, Holly, I want you to know how very proud I am of you. I’m so glad you have found some healthy examples of marriage, and of God’s love to help you. God bless them. I’m also so proud of you that even though you have “moderate ADHD” you have persevered to get your Bachelors degree. Please don’t lose hope of “ever having a husband” … just don’t make it your focus. If you are to have one (a GOOD one), he will fall in love with you for your heart and the good he sees in you as you are going about your “normal” life. Those who are desperate for a spouse, don’t usually find good ones. Out of their desperation, they “settle” for less than they should. A good man, that would make a good spouse, will find you as you live out your life pursuing good, and pursuing God. If one doesn’t come along, you will have a richer life than you would have if you “settle.” I will pray for you that God will give you peace in all of this.
Thank you for sharing your life with us. Most people who are divorcing have no idea the hurt that many of them are causing. If there is abuse, that’s one thing, but otherwise… it can be so very painful for children who just don’t have the reasoning skills to understand what’s happening. It’s amazing how we can be so protective of our little ones in other areas of life, but we somehow think they will be resilient with this type of enormous event. I’m sad for you for the hurt you have experienced, but I am proud of you that you are taking the hurt and are walking forward, and helping others, as well. Take care Holly.
Please find the way to minister as it is on your heart. I believe you are going in a great direction. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
I’m so glad I stumbled onto this sight. Its nice to have people to relate to. For the last, oh, almost 2 years now, I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger from my parents divorce that took place when I was 12. I’m 22 now, and for the last couple years I haven’t been living at home because of school, and have had time to finally start processing the ugly events that rocked my world through middle and high school. The emotions that had been suppressed for years have finally hit me and I kind of don’t know what to do with them.
There’s a lot of pent up anger towards my mom in particular, both for the divorce and at who she’s become over the years. When dealing with my mom, its like dealing with two different people. There’s my mom that I grew up knowing, and then there’s “depression mom.” Depression mom is mean, jaded, selfish, controlling, unforgiving, manipulative and…different. I don’t know how to do deal with it. I want to forgive and start healing, but I don’t know how to start the forgiveness process, nor how to approach my mother about these things.
I never thought about expressing myself like this, but lets see how it goes. My parents just recently divorced after 26 years together. I am 25 and my two younger brothers are 19. The 4 of them have been together the entire time, however I lived across the country from them for a number of years until I decided to return 8 months ago. I have always been extremely close with my Mom, and she has shared things with me in the past that made this series of events not so shocking.
It was painful for me to be away from them, so that is why I chose to return. It is now incredibly painful because my Mom has left in order to move 3000 miles away, once again separating us. Before we continue, let me say that she is the one who decided to leave my Dad.
She started talking to an old boyfriend on the phone, which eventually turned into what could be considered cheating. My Dad caught her, and she did not seem to care very much. She agreed to stop talking to this old boyfriend and to try and work things out with my Dad. While all of this was happening, she went out and got a burner phone so she could continue conversing with this person (which we did not find out about until 2 months later). It was obvious at that point that she never had any intention of working things out.
I want her to be happy, but I can’t help but feel angry and betrayed over what she said she would do and what she ended up doing. She lied to me and my brothers about her intentions to try and fix her marriage. I tried discussing this with her many times, but she was not forthcoming. Now that she is gone, I don’t know how to move past the damage that has been done. I sincerely hope and wish for her happiness, but I do not think she handled this situation well. Thank you for listening.
Dear Christian, my wife also divorced me at the request of my daughter who could not understand our predicament. I pray that the love of God still abides in you that the hurt of an unfaithful mother is covered by the blood and the love of Jesus. I know it’s hard sometimes to be filled with the joy of the Lord in lieu of the important personal relationships that we must pray for and that have hurt us.
The Bible explains that the joy of the Lord is your strength. To me that means the joy of your relationship with your Heavenly Father overcomes all pain physical and emotional. The sooner that I commit myself to the loving relationship with my Heavenly Father each time the hurt comes to me, I have received the power to lovingly forgive and to go on as a Christian. We know that his love of us is the strongest thing in the universe as it is his very character.
May God bless you as you use his joyous strength and commit yourself to receiving that joy as we are commanded to be joyous always. I know it’s sometimes difficult to do that in the face of the past but we are commanded to put our hands on the plow and look forward. If we look back we are not worthy of the challenge. When our memory goes into effect we command our spirits and souls to use them to know how to pray for the other children of God even though they are our parents. May you continue to overcome by the word of God the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.