Why Grey Divorce Doesn’t Bother Some Adult Children

Why Grey Divorce Doesn’t Bother Some Adult ChildrenYoung children often have certain notions about their married parents, and about marriage in general. Marriage means love, and ending that marriage means lost love. It means a broken family. It means that things aren’t going to work out or fix themselves, and turn into the picture-book happily ever after that they may have dreamed of. As adults, they understand the world better. They know that marriages are more than just romance and love. Adult children can see how flawed their family may have been, and they may actually see that their parents getting a divorce later in life is probably a good thing, or at least something that doesn’t need to be mourned in the same way they may have done when they were children.

What struggles do adult children face when their parents divorce?

In an article released by Psychology Today, psychotherapist Carol R. Hughes, Ph.D. describes a singular interaction with a client who faces the same struggle as many adult children face when their older parents divorce.

The client, given the pseudonym George, sought her help for the emotional distress he was feeling about his parents and his childhood. Once the two sit down in Hughes’ office together, George goes on to explain that while he’s not upset that his parents had recently divorced, the event has caused him to think about his troubled childhood, and the mental, emotional, and financial abuse he and his mother faced from his father/her husband.

As with many children of divorces and abusive households, he speaks of his mixed feelings when it came to his father. The man’s drinking and cruel temper wore on him and his mother, but he could remember some fond things about his father as well, such as how he taught George how to play tennis, and how he was a good cook. But George’s father failed at jobs, had a gambling problem, and constantly gaslit his mother when she would confront him about how he lied when concerning the family’s finances.

George ended up fearing and avoiding his father more than loving him, and when he was old enough, George moved out of the family home. This caused him to feel guilt for leaving his mother behind. He felt that he should have protected her better, saying: “I feel like I let her down by letting her suffer for so long. Of course, I suffered too. But I should have protected her.”

What advice does a therapist have for these adult children?

Dr. Hughes tells George, and tells her readers, that many adult children who have experienced a painful childhood family life often feel the same thing that George has elaborated to her. It is natural for people who have been through such things to feel guilty. Dr. Hughes reminds George that when he and his mother experienced his father’s abuse, he was just a child, and children are not meant to be responsible for protecting adults or even themselves from abuse. She tells him that both he and his mother were scared, and were undergoing trauma. Finally, Hughes assures George that the pain he’s feeling – the mourning – is a part of his healing. It’s grief not only for what his mother experienced, but what he experienced. She coins this as his “healing journey.”

Don’t hold back from getting a divorce if it’s what’s best for you

While many parents want to stay together for the sake of their children (saving them from the trauma they believe it will bring, keeping the family in a single household), it is important to consider the trauma that may be happening by staying together. If you believe there to be abuse happening, not only to yourself but your children as well, a divorce and even a restraining order may save you and your family from a lot of pain. From there, you and your divorce lawyer can talk about child custody and child support, and how to best proceed in a way that keeps you and your family safe.

If you are older and your children have moved out, you should feel empowered to seek a divorce if the marriage still isn’t what you want it to be. You do not have to spend the rest of your life trapped in a loveless, possibly abusive, relationship. You deserve freedom and happiness.

If you live in North Carolina, and you want to get a divorce, the attorneys at Hartsoe & Associates P.C. are here to support you, and to guide you through the legal process. We will provide a safe and comforting environment to tell your story, and to find your freedom. To schedule a consultation, please call us in Winston-Salem or Greensboro, or you can fill out our contact form.

This blog contains general information and does not constitute legal advice, and the ideas contained within may not apply to your specific case. For legal advice about your case, please contact an attorney directly.