When Your Parents Divorce After You're All Grown Up

When Your Parents Divorce After You're All Grown Up

Miss H, who endured her parents divorce while she was in college, brings up what is likely the most difficult point for children experiencing their parents' "late life" divorce: the lack of a protective bubble.

My parents have since divorced (believe me parents divorcing when you are an adult is no easier than having them divorce when you are a child ... especially when there is 'another woman' involved. Because you are an adult you are not shielded form any of the sordid little secrets as you would have been if you were a child; you are not protected from the screaming matches or the crying or the utter despair, the hurt and the depression.  You are put in the middle of it all and made to take sides. My little brother was 6 years younger than me. He was protected. It sent me into a deep depression. I just wish my Dad would have had the guts to end it all sooner)

I want to place my hands over my ears and scream, "La la la, I can't hear you!" I grew up understanding that adults disagree and argue. It's another thing to suddenly be the sounding board for all my father's faults. Whatever they are, he is my dad and I love him. Similarly, whatever my mom's faults are, she is my mom and I love her. Being thrust into the middle of this is like being in a nightmare from which I cannot wake. It's exhausting and scary and generally unsettling.

I did find some encouragement in an article by Brooke Lea Foster, which is an adaptation of the book she wrote on the same topic, The Way They Were.

Nothing tested me more in my adult life than my parents' divorce. I can say that now without feeling embarrassed or weak. For a long time, that's all I felt. I was 26 years old at the time. I had moved out of my childhood home to attend college several years before. I had a great job, close friends, a relationship -— all of the things that should make you feel rooted. Yet when my parents announced they were separating, I felt as if the world had collapsed in on me.

Maybe that doesn't sound all that encouraging. It is, because she later explains that she's "over" her parents' divorce and has come to terms with the whole shebang. She also spoke of anger, sadness and confusion. Perhaps that means hope exists for the rest of us -- that our parents' divorces won't ruin us for all time. Of course, I am still holding on to the hope that my parents, currently in counseling, will work things out. I feel like I did as a child when they would argue, one threatening to leave or screaming at the other to do so. If I just pretend it's all okay, it will be. Right?

What is most encouraging is the fact that we live now, not before blogs existed. I'm not left feeling like it's just my family that is somehow inherently flawed. I'm not even all that worried that my parents' failure to go the distance will somehow rub off on me, thus dooming my marriage. I am similarly glad that, despite sharing my story here with you, I do not live in the same limelight as any of the Gores. While I can tell my story and seek support from others who have been through similar experiences, they are forced to live their next life chapter in a much more public way. As such, my thoughts and good wishes are with them as they begin this weird journey. Perhaps they could create un-identifying screen names and join the Adult Kids of Divorce (AKOD) forum. I bet they'd have some great insight to share with the rest of us.

Have you gone through your parents' divorce as an adult? Perhaps those who went through divorce as a child and have mastered the "being in the middle" and handling of schedules can encourage those of us trying to make sense of it all.


Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom), from Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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