When Your Parents Divorce After You're All Grown Up

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The news that Al and Tipper Gore were separating didn't shock me. Divorce happens. It did break my heart, but not necessarily for the couple themselves. My heart broke for their four adult children.

A month and a half ago, my parents separated. I am 29 years old. They have been married for 30 years. My world is upside down.

small red heart, broken with threaded stitches

Credit: Small red heart via Shutterstock

One of the CNN articles about the Gores' split talks about the U.S. Census stats and cites things like longer lives and a growing acceptability of divorce as reasons for divorce later in life.

Like the Gores, my parents had made it past all of the normal breaking up and off points in a marriage. My parents married young but weathered through the end of the honeymoon phase, the seven-year itch and the eventual emptying of their nest. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a big gala affair complete with fancy clothes and a vow renewal. Their marriage wasn't perfect, and they dealt with some serious issues over the years. Still, I felt that we had made it to a safe place.

I'm struggling to make sense of this, and I have many worries and concerns.

Worry, of course, isn't only for adults who live through a divorce. Children going through their parents' divorce can have different reactions dependent upon their age. Some people claim its harder for adults. Other say that the turmoil placed on children is far more than what adults have to endure. I've come to the conclusion that child or adult, it sucks.

PastaQueen, whose parents divorced after 27 years of marriage, also wonders about the similarities and differences.

I don’t know what it is like for little kids who’s (sic) parents divorce. I can guess and sympathize, but I’m not sure if it is easier or harder to be an adult when it happens. I certainly didn’t blame myself, and I didn’t have to chose (sic) between living at Mommy’s or Daddy’s. Instead, I was left to wonder, “If this was going to happen, shouldn’t it have happened ... sooner? Like, in the era of hair bands?”

Adults going through the divorce of their parents don't deal with child custody issues. I don't feel as though any of this is my fault. I'm not harboring that guilt. I'm busy with my own life and dealing with my own family and marriage issues, whether those are highs or lows. Perhaps that's one reason why it's so hard for adults dealing with the breakdown of their parents' marriage to wrap their minds around the concept.

Marti's Musings, whose parents divorced after 34 years of marriage, brings up a good point.

Your parents’ marriage is a part of the foundation of your life. How they feel about each other means something to your own well-being, for better or worse. How they relate, love, interact and take care of each other plays a big part in every relationship you’ll have, which is probably why everyone needs therapy.

I was just bragging about the fact that my parents were still together. I felt proud that my parents were still married when so many of my friends' parents were not. They'd made it through the valley and were ascending to the golden mountaintop that every married couple wants to achieve. The big 5-0! I haven't totally based my married relationship on their model, but I knew that I wanted to overcome challenges as they had over the years. Now that's all a wash.


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