I read this book with great interest, and learned much to add to my hands-on experience as a remarried divorced father, stepfather, and father of a child by my remarriage. I sincerely wish that I had had this book available when my first marriage failed. Interestingly, I found the parts that affirmed what my ex-wife and I had done right just as valuable and important as the parts that suggested room for improvement. I look forward to discussing this book with my two grown sons by that first marriage. The lesson for you from that experience is that whenever we, as parents, focused on what was best for the children, things worked out well. If in doubt, you should do the same. It's about the children!
Divorce affects children intensely, yet they are almost always totally innocent of causing the divorce. Past studies have suggested that many children do okay after awhile. What is new in this work is that some of the most negative effects occur for many of these children in adulthood. This happens because they see themselves as being permanently marred by divorce, almost like a genetic taint that they cannot escape. According to the author of the study, "The problem of numb feelings among grown children of divorce is serious and more widespread than I initially realized." How do you prepare for marriage when you have no good parental role model? It's obviously harder, and takes longer. This can be complicated if you had a tough adolescence without much support. You will tend to want to enjoy a real adolescence in your 20s and 30s.
This book will be of tremendous value to those who are thinking about divorcing, parents who have divorced, the spouses and potential spouses of the children of divorce, and the professionals (judges, social workers, psychiatrists, and lawyers) who work with families involved in divorces. Children need more help from parents than before the divorce. The classic advice of "don't fight in front of them" isn't nearly enough. You need to nuture your children more thoughtfully and thoroughly than before. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins can all make a difference. If possible, one of the parents should stay home with them until the children are grown, rather than working. Visitation should be flexibly determined by the child's needs, rather than by a court order. Fathers should stay involved as actively as possible in their children's lives, through common interests that can last a lifetime. The future spouses need to be understanding and supportive of the uncertainty felt by these young adults. Many more good bits of advice are in this book. As an opportunity for improvement, I would have appreciated more information about being a stepfather. What was in here was good, but it was not nearly enough.
As the authors tell us, "Silently and unconsciously, we have created a culture of divorce." "Without our noticing, we have created a new class of children who take care of themselves, along with a whole generation of overburdened parents who have no time to enjoy the pleasures of parenting." Obviously, this should be avoided. But you knew that already.
As bad as that sounds, the story gets worse. "But it's in adulthood that children of divorce suffer the most. The impact of divorce hits them cruelly as they go in search of love, sexual intimacy, and commitment." Essentially, these emotionally poor children often assume that they will fail to create and enjoy a stable marriage themselves, while children from undivorced households assume the opposite.
If you are like me, you will see that building stronger marriages from the beginning is a major wake-up call from this book. The pain of the alternative is too much to anyone to even consider a marriage with children that will not last for a lifetime.
This book focuses on seven examples from 131 children whose parents divorced in Marin County, California around 1971, and a comparison sample of 44 similar adults now from the same community whose parents did not divorce. Your heart will go out to each of these young people in the book, as they relate their stories -- whether their parents divorced or not. Life was hard for each of them.
Although the authors state that they are not against divorce, they do point out that there is stalled thinking in believing that if the parents are happier, then the children will be, too. The case of Gary makes the point that unhappy parents can be good parents for their children, even if the marriage isn't good for the parents.
While it is possible to read too much into a few cases and this type of qualitative research, clearly the social implications of divorce for children are not well understood. I hope that this book will help people to better understand how to relieve children's pain and help them to lead happier, healthier, more productive lives filled with love.
If you know someone whose parents are divorced, I suggest that you use this book to show them some special appreciation and understanding by being more emotionally supportive of them.
Before you marry (and certainly after you do), I also suggest that you and your spouse read and use Relationship Rescue and The Relationship Rescue Workbook to help you build a foundation for your relationship that does not lead to divorce. That's the best lesson of all!
May all be and feel loved!