Positive Effects of Divorce on Children; Voices of Adult Children of Divorce
In one of the parenting classes recently, a man asked why getting divorced was considered negative - that no one mentioned the positive effects of divorce on children - and that couples were seen as having “failed” at marriage. He asked why people didn’t look at the situation differently, in a way that couples got married and now they were making a different choice for the next chapter of their life. If they could nurture their divorce, maybe everyone could be happier after the marriage ended. A lot of what we are teaching in the court mandated parenting class is how to communicate with each other to lower conflict and create a positive environment for kids. I wrote a blog soon after that on Nurturing your divorce (link here).
In this blog, I want to look at positive outcomes that people reported came out of their parents divorce. For some people, their parents’ divorce lessened the conflict; moms became more independent, and maybe one or both parents found new partners. As kids, people reported becoming more resilient, able to handle what life threw at them, and perhaps they chose their future partners more carefully.
Rhiannon said, “ They're both better off just being friends and not having to share in responsibilities. It's let my mom be more free and creative and given my dad a better opportunity to explore his true self.”
Mike’s parents also are friends, “Maybe, by them getting a divorce, it saved their friendship.”
Rita learned her parents are real people, “When you go through a divorce and that brings out their real selves, their flaws and differences, you realize that even they are only human. Although to many (people) divorce may seem like something that defines a person negatively and that person is forevermore flawed, but I can't help but feel like I came out of the divorce stronger, and wiser, more defined.”
Susan A. also saw her parents grow after the divorce, “I really got to know my parents as separate people rather than as part of my family. I realized how different they were from one another. My dad was always on the go, type a personality. My mom needed to slow down and become her own person.”
HJ saw her mother blossom, “My mother became stronger, and grew in many ways. She began dating and eventually married my stepfather, who was an incredibly warm and caring man who loved all of his very very much. I am very grateful that my mother was able to have the strength and resolve to end the marriage.”
Susan B’s, Isabella’s and JD’s parents also found new partners:
Susan B: “They became much happier people -- especially when they found their new, wonderful spouses.”
Isabella: “They both seemed a lot happier after, they both found people who they love and are extremely happy with. They are completely different people now.”
JD: “They both went on to find love and happiness with another.”
Amy was happy for the violence to end, “It was rough to adjust after mom left, but there was so much less fighting, anger, and violence in the house. The house I lived in with my dad became a home and safe haven for me again. My relationship with my dad also got much better. We were honest and open with each other about things.”
Jessica had a number of positives: 1. I got out of an abusive home. 2. My Mom raised me in the church, so I was surrounded by loving people who cared about me. 3. I wasn't raised by my fathers twisted view of the world. 4. I have deep compassion for others, which I don't think I would have if I didn't go through such a hard situation.
A new family member is a positive for Dawn, “The best thing was gaining a step sister who is to this day my best friend. Too bad we live far apart. She is the sister I prayed for at age 3. It would have been far worst to live with parents that fought all the time and we're dysfunctional.”
Susan C. had a lot of positive outcomes in her own life, “I am totally independent. Can do (or teach myself to do) almost anything, travel anywhere, pay my own way, live my own life. I am up front and sometimes too honest (with others, anyway), have realistic expectations about truth, money, relationships, etc.”
CN is grateful for her parents, “They both eventually had a chance to be who they were meant to be…each found new or previously dormant parts of themselves and let them blossom. It was glorious to see! ... I bet a lot of people have revelations about learning that they, or their mothers or their fathers "really can make it on their own." But I already - always - knew that. I had great parents who taught me that from day one!”
Kelly’s brothers made better choices, “My mother became a strong, independent person, and taught all of us to be the same way. My brothers all became great dads and husbands, because they wanted to be different than the way he was.”
Jasmine took her time in finding a partner, “I am very close to my father, and I am careful with my heart. I am marrying a wonderful man, and I took my time in finding him because I only intend on doing this once. Everyone says that, but we took our time getting engaged and have worked hard to have excellent and honest communication.”
In our country, almost half of marriages end in divorce. Most people I know feel that some good came out of their marriage (the best thing is usually their children) and if they are able to come out of the marriage with more independence, a renewed sense of self, or a better parent, is that a “failure”?
Jody Comins, MSW is a Divorce & Family Mediator and Collaborative Coach in the Greater Boston area. She is an adult child of divorce and uses her experience to create a child-centered practice at A Better Way: Divorce Mediation. She is a mentor for volunteer mediators in the Norfolk Probate & Family Court and a court approved facilitator for the required parenting classes in MA.