Being An Adult Of Divorce
When we talk about people whose parents are divorced, we call them “children of divorce.” And, to some extent, every person out there probably feels like a child to their parents, and always will. We’ll always take comfort in our parents. We’ll always go to them for guidance. We’ll always go to them when we’re having a total meltdown. We are their babies, and that’s how they see us, too. But, technically speaking, some people are not children of divorce—they are adults of divorce. Some people’s parents divorce once they are fully grown, out of the house, and even married with children themselves.
This happened to one of my close friends recently. “I’m jealous your parents divorced when you were young,” he said to me. He then apologized and said, “I mean, I’m sure that wasn’t easy—it’s just…different.” And he’s right. I don’t envy his situation at all right now. The way the world treats you as a kid whose parents are divorcing versus as an adult whose parents are divorcing is completely different. I think there is also the expectation that, if anything were going to go down with your parents, it would have happened when you were young. When you think of a couple who has been together, say, 30 or 40 years—long enough for their kids to grow up, get married, buy homes, and have kids—you can’t help but wonder, “What’s there to fight about now? Aren’t they pretty settled?”
But people get divorced at all ages, and that can mean they have kids of all ages when they get that divorce, too. I want to provide my friend with some advice and insight, having divorced parents myself, but the truth is that what he’s going through is so different from what I went through. Here’s a look at what it’s like being an adult of divorce.
You really ask why?
Like I said before, when a couple has been together that long, you find yourself wondering why divorce now? I mean, my friend’s parents are in their seventies and getting divorced. For what? To go out into the dating world again? At age 70?! Couldn’t they have just stuck it out for the last chapter of their lives? I know my friend wonders that.
You don’t get a day off
When my parents were getting a divorce, I got to stay home from school many days. I was a wreck. My mom called the school, let them know what was going on, and they totally understood. I got sick days but, divorce days. As an adult, my friend doesn’t get that. He just has to go to work, even though he wants to hide in bed—he’s devastated about his parents.
You question your marriage stability
So many people model their own marriages after their parents’—so long as their parents had good marriages. That’s what my friend did. He’s looked to his parents as gurus in the marriage arena. Now that their marriage is falling apart, he can’t help but fear what that means for his own marriage.
Explaining it to the kids
My friend has kids. So he has to explain to them that grandma and grandpa are getting a divorce. Telling kids that you and your spouse are divorcing is obviously hell, but telling them that their grandparents—the foundation of this family—are splitting up is no walk in the park.
The maturity to discuss it
My parents didn’t tell me a lot about why they were divorcing. I was 15 years old. What did I understand about relationships and love and responsibilities and life? They left me out of the conversation, and I couldn’t even protest because I was a minor. They paid my bills. I just needed to stay out of it and be respectful. But my friend is mature enough to understand what has happened with his parents.
But the resistance to
The funny thing is that just because my friend is old and wise enough to comprehend where his parents’ marriage fell apart, that doesn’t mean that he wants to. He finds his age a curse, because his parents actually want to give him the details of their demise—and he’d rather not hear it.
The friends talk is short
When I was 15 and my parents were divorcing, it was the only topic of conversation in my friends group. Everybody felt so bad for me. Everybody understood how much it impacted me. As an adult, if your parents divorce, your friends don’t talk to you about it much. They ask a quick, polite, “How is that going?” and move on.
You’re stuck refereeing
Everyone in the extended circle—your parents’ friends and family—have so many questions, and want to know how to handle things socially. My friend whose parents are divorcing says that everyone goes to him, expecting him to navigate things, since he’s an adult. And he doesn’t want the responsibility.
The splitting of funds
My friend had it in his head that his parents’ lives—financially speaking—would go a certain way. They have a lot of funds together that, together, they can do a lot with. But now that they’re divorcing, and splitting up money, it seems like they’ve both become much more financially, well, stressed.
Leaving your childhood home twice
He had to leave his childhood home when he left for college. There was that emotional roller coaster of just knowing you wouldn’t live at home anymore. But now he has to say goodbye to his childhood home for a second time, because his parents are selling it.
It’s very weird when they date
My parents divorced when I was very young. So, I had just about 15 years of being used to the idea of those two being together forever. My friend, on the other hand, has been used to that idea for 32 years. So seeing them date, he says, is nauseating for him.
Wanting to be there
I just wanted to get away from my parents when I was 15 and they were divorcing. I didn’t want to be around all of the turmoil. My friend, who is 32, actually wants to be there for his parents, but can’t be, because he has a job and a family, and things like that.
You’re away from your siblings
At least I had my sibling near me when my parents were splitting up. We both still lived under the same roof, and could commiserate (thank god for sisters). But my buddy whose parents are divorcing now lives across the country from his siblings. They moved away and have their own lives.
Divorce lawyer solicitation
People have actually been trying to get business through my friend’s misery. Well, he’s an adult so he has some friends and acquaintances who are divorce lawyers. In addition to “pitying” him, they’re also handing him their card, in case he should want to pass it along to his parents.
Membership to a weird club
People keep welcoming my friend to the club—the divorced kids club. But he always saw those people as sort of sad and broken. He doesn’t want to be in that club. And yet, he can’t really deny being a part of it now. He does have divorced parents. But he doesn’t relate to children of divorce.