Divorce is hard on kids. We know that with certainty, but exactly how and why it is hard is complicated. We spend a lot of time, as a culture, discussing it and I spend a lot of time, as a student of the blended family, thinking about it.
I read this with great interest: Recognizing When Kids Benefit from Their Parents’ Divorce.
I read it for the title which was ultimately misleading because, aside from abusive circumstances, there’s no real benefit of divorce for kids. This piece suggests only the possibility of an equal damage.
There’s a lot of personal anecdote, some citation of research, and perhaps cherry-picking, but the point is well taken. What I got out of it was this: maybe it’s not the divorce that’s messing everyone up. Maybe it’s the shitty marriage.
Unhappy parents spend so much time fretting about whether it would be better for their kids if they stayed together or if they divorced. But maybe it’s too late to worry about it at that point. The damage – to whatever degree there is damage – may already be done and continue to be done regardless of that choice. Based on inferences from that no-fault study, whether or not unhappy parents divorce seems to make little difference. If you married the ‘wrong’ person and then had children with that person, you’ve already messed up. And if we believe that divorce affects not only our children as they come of age, but their own likelihood to marry young or marry with whatever baggage they may have, and subsequently divorce, we must believe that our mate choice sends ripple effects down the genetic line.
If all of that is true, it means the fretting should be done at the time we choose to marry. And we are obviously not doing nearly enough fretting.
How many people are thinking about their children’s children when they make the decision to marry their boyfriend of two years because they’re in their late 20s and it seems like the right thing to do? I don’t think people really, deeply consider the idea of “forever” in terms of their own lives, let alone the lives of people several generations down the line. But I don’t blame people. How can we? What do we know of forever? We know nothing of forever.
Image credit: Erin Althea