For Those Whose Parents Divorced When You Were a Child...

Updated on January 17, 2015
R.S. asks from Chicago, IL
23 answers

Just wondering if the pain of your parents divorce is something you still feel from time to time even if you have already dealt with it years earlier...

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answers from Washington DC on

some situations don't have one good answer.
i think most children of divorced parents have SOME repercussions to work through, even when it's a 'good' (ie amicable) divorce.
but kids who live through marriages that are only in place 'for the kids' where the parents are bitter, or miserable, or angry, suffer at least as much.
the focus needs to be on 'what will do the least damage', not 'how can i spare my kids any pain.'

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I wish my parents had divorced. They were miserable together and hated each other. They stayed together for the kids. O M G! I hated them for the fighting and arguing.

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answers from Portland on

My mom has been married 5 times. I was nearly 8 when she left her second husband-- my adoptive dad-- and married my stepfather. It was hard and confusing because my father was openly sad while my mom was pretty happy (maybe?) and pregnant with Husband#3-to-be's baby.

Her infidelities are why most of her marriages split up. Either they were the problem or facilitated her leaving.

My mom would be the poster parent for what NOT to do to your kids in regard to divorce. She regularly told my sister and I that we could choose which parent to live with, which was horrible and made us feel guilty. She regularly bad-mouthed him; if he ever took me to the doctor, she'd throw the medicine away because it "wasn't right". She encouraged me to write a letter to my father's then-fiancee to tell her not to marry him because he was a 'thief' (he had taken a couple ashtrays from casinos...). When he was late to pick up, or was called away to National Guard service fighting forest fires, she let us know that he was 'choosing' other things before us.

With the next divorce, she just blamed all of that one on me. :)~ Sadly, that was the family party line for years to come.

What's most painful is that I had a truly awful, no-win situation with some adults who refused to take responsibility for their own actions. The divorces were hard to get past in some ways, and I did a lot of work around this in my 20-30s. Now, what's left is a lot of sadness that this all actually happened and that, in her pain and mental illness, our mother made us tools against our parent as well as each other. My take-away from this was a lot of strength, growing and healing I had to value and pursue on my own. In this way, dealing with those terrible circumstances became an opportunity to become a better person.

Below, you have a lot of posters whose parents really tried to do the best they could for divorce. I write this so you can see that it really is how the parents handle things which has the most direct impact on the children. (I just scrolled down and agree with NYMetroMom's answer-- my mother's mental illness destroyed our family. Had both parents been relatively emotionally healthy, things would have been a lot different.)

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answers from Williamsport on

No, I never feel sad about it. My parents were very mature and civil and I had no idea they were so unhappy as a child but something seemed wrong, and I was jealous of my friends whose parents divorced instead sticking it out for the kids. By high school my brother and I were begging them to get divorced. Sounds weird, but it was true. When they finally did I was glad they did what they needed to do. Now they are both happily married to much better matches, and I have good relationships with both of them and their spouses, so i see no down side other than that they waited so long. I also love my step siblings. Our family is much more vibrant than it would have been with just our original little core. I know it must be different for younger kids, and I read all the time about how devastating it is, but I have to say, among my adult friends who have divorced parents, I haven't seen the destruction. Maybe they just hide it well?

And of course it depends on HOW the parents divorce. If the parents are dysfunctional and hateful it could be a nightmare, and if they are loving and stay present for child that would be different and many shades in between...some people are more harshly affected by adversity than others. To some it would be the end of the world, to others no big deal at all...

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answers from Boston on

Absolutely. My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. 30 years later, and I still at times get emotional and reactive about it. They both were very civil, and remained friends so I never had to deal with the stress of them not getting along, and they both have remarried and are happier.

As a child of divorce leading to adulthood it can be messy in dealing with your own relationships. Fear was my main problem. I didn't and don't want history to repeat itself. For me , I've always felt that nothing is permanent, so why put any effort into it? Those kinds of issues I struggle with. However, you have to at some point suck it up and live your life for your own.

It's worse with holidays, for me anyways, as well as when my own child asks questions about my parents. Having to explain it so that it doesn't create the same fears in their head is difficult.

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answers from Columbus on

First off, I am not a child of divorce; I am, however, the child of a child of divorce, and a divorcee.

My mom and her siblings all speak of their parents' divorce as a relief, it was wonderful for all 6 of them to no longer be exposed to the bitterness that was their parents marriage.

My grandparents were never able to reconcile enough for their children (and grandchildren) to be able to enjoy their company simultaneously, but none of their kids have ever lamented the breakup, because everyone's lives improved as a result.

My eldest aunt on my mother's side divorced 40 years ago, but it was amicable, and even though both the marriage and divorce occurred before my birth, he is still my uncle, because he never stopped being a part of the family. The same aunts children (now in their 20s) even have a relationship with him.

I see many responses saying children of divorce are left with a lifetime of choosing sides, or separate families...that is so sad to me! I think divorce has changed over the years, and many people are now able to put the needs of their children above their anger towards their former spouse. Many coparents I know are able to celebrate holidays together with their kids, and some (my ex and myself included) are even able to continue with regular family dinners or outings to give the kids the sense that they are more important than whatever it was that broke up the relationship.

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answers from Austin on

Never, I was relieved.
What I have had is guilt. In my 20's I went to therapy, it was a tremendous help, because I was able to figure out my feelings and realized none of it was my fault.

I was secretly thrilled my father would be moving out. When he would try to come back, I was horrified.. so when he finally left for the last time, I told my mother "do not let him come back". She said this gave her power to do what she knew needed to be done and proceeded with the divorce.

It was obvious my parents were not happy together. My father had a terrible temper and alcohol did not help. My mother father and sister were ll so upset, so I felt guilty for my feelings.

There is no way I would be the person I am today if we had stayed as a family. No regrets!

Now my sister was very young at the time and saw it very differently. She is messed up because she has gone through her own divorce and has been terrible about her divorce. Hateful vengeful. She has put them all through hell.

She needs therapy and we have even attempted group therapy per her request. It was amazing how different she remembers things. She vs me and our parents have very different memories of what went on. My sister has made up stuff in her mind and will not believe us when we tell her it did not happen the way or for the reasons she recalls. Never stay for the sake of the children, it is a huge burden to place ion them.

Children deserve happy parents and if that means being divorced, then do it.

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answers from Norfolk on

My parents divorced when my sister and I were 7. I don't think it affects me much to this day (I'm in my late 30's now). However, their subsequent remarriages and divorces (Dad is on wife 3, and Mom just divorced husband 3) still affect me. I am quite jaded about relationships and commitment and marriage in general.

On the other hand, I have been happily married for 14 years. Perhaps I learned from their mistakes? Not sure. My husband's parents have been married for 50 years. We are both very committed to our relationship but oddly I still am not a big "marriage" fan.

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answers from Detroit on

My parents divorced when I was 3 and my brother 5. It was painful and scary to deal with your mother being abused (and remembering every detail.) It was also painful that neither one was around for us growing up.

My dad disappeared for a long time, and then was in and out of the picture for years. I never forgave him for his lack of responsible, but he knew that he was dying and tried to make up for his past in the end. He passed away knowing that he ran out of time.

My mother was never, ever around for me or my brother. She pawned us off on babysitter's and grandma. She is a selfish person who only cared about herself and her numerous boyfriends (she is on her fifth marriage). My brother and I and both left home young (my brother was 13 and I was 16) due to her. She is now sick, and needs around the clock care. For a long time I did not talk or have anything to do with her, but I had children and tried to have a relationship with her (I said try!) I do help her, but I remind her about the past all the time, she could care less.

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answers from Washington DC on

Relief. Their marriage was terrible and my mother left an abusive situation. I think that it is normal for feelings about any bad situation to resurface here and there, but if you find yourself fixated on them, you should seek counseling to work through them. We always carry our childhoods with us, sometimes the weight is heavier than others.

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answers from Louisville on

I have more issues with how my parents behaved than I ever did about the separation itself.

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answers from Dallas on

My parents divorced when I was 5, but they were wonderful about being nice to each other so it was easier on my brother and I. Even when my brother and I were adults and my parents were each married to other people, they remained friendly, so we had it pretty good. My dad died 10 years ago, so that's tough even now, but the divorce wasn't too hard on us.

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answers from Anchorage on

I am not sad my parents got divorced, my mom is happier without my dad. I do mourn the loss of my relationship with my father. When he left he left, I hardly saw him after that, and as an adult I talk to my mom weekly, and see her every year. I have not talked to my father in months, and have not seen him in 8 years.

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answers from Wausau on

No, I've never felt that way I was 9 or so when they split. Other than the initial surprise (they were good at hiding their issues) and the adjustment period of moving and getting into a visitation routine, it wasn't actually painful.

I'm sure things were awkward for them for awhile but they were amicable and never spoke poorly of the other to us kids. There were no battles about custody, visitation, or child support. We knew we were loved by both of them.

My parents both eventually remarried. My stepmom is great. My stepdad died a few of years ago. We have joint birthday parties for the grandkids and stuff. Everyone gets along.

Given how easy the situation was on us, and because I know that I had no part in causing the divorce and I couldn't possibly have prevented the divorce, I can't think of a logical reason that it should cause me years of pain. Had the divorce been a hot mess or one/both of my parents sucked as a parent, then I can see how issues develop in children.

My husband's parents are also divorced and his mom remarried. My kids basically had 7 grandparents instead of 4. They think that's just great.

I do have a couple friends who were relived that their parents split, because there was always fighting and conflict going on. I also have an adult friend that thinks her parents should have divorced ages ago.

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answers from San Francisco on

My parents split when I was about 5. I have no memories of ever living with my father when I was little. Growing up, I didn't think it had affected me, but now that I'm older, I understand how very much it did. And yes, they were always nice to each other in my presence.

Divorce changes your children forever, in one way or another.

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answers from Dallas on

I was around 26 -27 before I really felt like I could have a successful marriage despite my family history and then my dad and stepmom divorced and that was a big blow. There was more dysfunction and hurt going on past the divorce. It was a painful childhood mostly due to the divorce how things where after.

I don't feel like I have parents I'm so envious of my husband family and families like his. My parents where very young and immature.

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answers from New York on

My parents divorced when I was 13. My mom sat me and my sister down to tell us she was divorcing our father. We all cried but I'm not certain why. He didn't live with us and hadn't for years. Nothing about our every day life was going to change. What did change was my mom's new found freedom and peace of mind. My father is mentally ill and can be dangerous when not on his medication which is why my mother divorced him. He was becoming increasingly dangerous. The divorce was very necessary because it set a boundary up for my father to adhere to.

I was only sorrowful over the divorce that one day but there has been a ripple effect of the divorce. I didn't get married until later in life because I was just picky about who I was going to date and eventually marry. I didn't want a man like my father. My sister however married a man much older than her and similar to my father. My husband is more like my mom. I try not to be like my father with the dysfunction. My sister's marital relationship and life is very dysfunctional.

In my opinion the problem with my mom's divorce is she never saw herself as financially successful without him and lived a life of lack because of how she viewed life. In her set mind we never had enough and couldn't have more because she couldn't afford more. She never asked herself how she could afford the life she wanted and never managed to want for more for herself.

Her and my dad were friendly to each other but I would never trust them alone together because you never could tell if my father was stable in his thoughts or if he was going to be violent.

Counseling is needed. It helped me but I didn't get it until I was grown and on my own.

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answers from Asheville on

I was 6 when my parents divorced. While I remember bits and pieces of it, I don't really associate any pain with it. I do remember my mom being so much happier once the divorce was final- it was a turning point in her life. I think if my parents had of stayed together, I would have had a terrible childhood. My mother would have been miserable. But I remember my childhood with my mom being good.
The only bad result of the divorce was my father marrying his current wife. She is a jealous, spiteful woman where I was concerned. On my visitation weekends, I was often left alone with her, and I hated going. As soon as I was old enough to make the decision to cease visitation, I did. I was around 12 years old.

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answers from Beaumont on

No. But I was 10 and they had a "good" divorce, they weren't nasty, and we still were all together on holidays. I think it all depends on the circumstances.

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answers from Lakeland on

My dad left my mom when I was a baby (for another woman). I think the divorce affected my older siblings more then me since the only life I knew was my parents not being together.

Now, there are times when it still hurts (for the reasons he left, but I do not put all the blame on him), but I would not have wanted to grow up in a loveless, fighting home.

Divorce hurts everyone involved (parents, children, extended family too), but children living in a broken home (no love, trust, etc.) is much worse.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I think it depends on how nasty the divorce is and as always, everyone handles thing differently.

My adult cousin still calls his mom a bit ch to this day. He is still mad at her for how she did things and I don't think he will every change that opinion. However, I don't think it is affecting his life, he is in a great relationship and does everything he can to support his girlfriend so she can stay home.

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answers from Cleveland on

It definitely affects was very amicable as far as divorces go....but having two households was terrible. ..I was limited w my friends bc I had to spend time w each of them separately....that is still an issue...and even if u think ..oh it was no big deal I survived. ..things will come up like a wedding or like the holidays and those bad feelings come back again....I know I am not a whole person the way I could have been if my parents had worked on their marriage and had....Acted like responsible people and put the needs of the children they created first over their own needs......neither one is any happier today.


answers from New Orleans on

My parents divorced when I was 13 1/2 years old. They were married for almost 20 years. I thought once they were divorced things would calm down. It did and didn't at times. My dad threw it at me at times how I was like my mama. He would blame my mom for not wanting to work their marriage and how its her fault for splitting up my siblings which 2 out of 4 of us kids took favor to my dad. (Myself, I have a relationship with both)
It hurts still at times. It's weird when I graduated high school, got married, had kids, birthdays, holidays when both my mom and dad was there. They stay away from one another, had weird looks towards each other. I don't know. I think alot of what "if" my parents was married still.Maybe my father would be more involved with his grandkids. It hurts seeing my husbands parents together joking with each other, telling stories about my husband and sil was little. Yes, I remember good times before my parents divorced but I after they did I came home to a mom everyday after school and saw my dad on Thursday sometimes and weekends if I went with him and if he wasn't complaining about my mom.

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