The Truth from a 30-Something Whose Parents Finally Split

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I am thankful for the promises of the Lord found in Isaiah 43 when he says: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” My friend has been through the waters, the rivers and the fire when her parents went through a divorce a few years ago but the Lord was with her. Here is her account as an adult child of divorce. -Barbara

It was time to make the call.

My parents had been fighting for months, make that years. They hadn’t regularly slept in the same bed in a decade. They’d visited every counselor, read every book, attended every conference. They lived in the same house, but hadn’t spoken even a mildly cordial word to each other in longer than any of us could remember.

They did, though, still share Sunday lunch with all of us, conveniently sitting at opposite ends of the table. My mother distracted herself in conversation with my teenaged brothers about upcoming college choices, and my father preoccupied himself with his granddaughter, my sweet, curly-haired girl. Together, my parents also appeared at my little sister’s high school sporting events, sitting silently and awkwardly, far apart with a cavern of bleacher safely between them. They even reluctantly held each other’s leprous hands on stage at my brother’s wedding, at least making their appropriate public appearance.

Still, no one was surprised that day three summers ago when my mother contacted each of the seven of us to tell us she was leaving … again. This was nothing new. She’d left multiple times over their 35 years together. Some for a few weeks, some for a few months.

The surprise is that, this time, she never went back.

And in a way, I think most of my siblings and me were mildly relieved that we could stop pretending. We could finally stop hiding behind the façade that no one had believed for years.

I guess we thought it’d all be so easy. Mom would get the house and custody of our youngest sister, the only one still living at home. Dad would move across town. We’d still see each other for Sunday lunch and birthday parties and Saturday outdoor fun.

We believed a lie.

How could we all go to lunch together now?  How could we be at the same party with warring parents as guests?  How could we have known that some siblings would side with opposite parents and what family unity we had left would be exchanged for hostile parental loyalty?

Listening to my parents battle for my allegiance, professing to have proof of the real truth in all the documents they have on hand is not a welcome distraction from parenting my two little girls. Writing custody recommendation letters to legal personnel isn’t how I dreamt of using the five-paragraph essay model. Shelling out hundreds of dollars in personal counseling fees to wrestle with the biblical command to honor my father and mother isn’t how I want to use mine and my husband’s fun money.

I know that my parents thought they knew the “easy” answer. Walk away from 35 years of an awful marriage because, really, who can live this way anymore? (And we naively agreed.)  And even more, what kind of cruel God would expect anyone to?  (And we naively agreed again.)

They also believed a lie over the years.

The lie that personal issues and hidden sins don’t affect a marriage. The lie that when out of town, a night spent with someone else can be neatly compartmentalized to that business trip. The lie that bitterness harbored can be swept under the kitchen table when a warm dinner plate is placed on top. The lie that seven sets of eyes won’t remember the shouting matches, the squealed tires, the tears cried behind locked bedroom doors.

We all believed the lie that now that most of us are grown, it was okay to make the split. But the truth is that this new way that it isn’t supposed to be is often more heart wrenching than those battle-filled days under the same roof.

Still it is my responsibility, as an adult child whose parents finally divorced, to make some choices.

Do I believe marriage is God’s good idea? At times, because of the nightmare I’ve endured, it’s been hard for me to believe and accept that.

I’ve only been recently convinced of this by finally seeing couples who have chosen to do it His way. They don’t have perfect stories. In fact, many of them have similar stories to those of my family. But both spouses have soft hearts toward God and are willing, at whatever cost, to put aside their selfishness and sin in pursuit of His transformation.

Will I succumb to the same easy, enticing lies in my marriage and parenting that tore my family of origin apart? I am choosing to believe the truth that sin has consequences. The truth that if I am not moment by moment surrendering my plans and my life and my desires to the heart of God, then I can just as easily make the mistakes that my parents made.

Will we end up like my parents? I am confident that through the power of the Holy Spirit enabling me to obey, mine and my husband’s marriage, our family, can begin the God-honoring legacy of lifelong marriage that we want our great-great grandchildren to know.

Can I forgive my parents and continue in relationship with both of them? The hardest truth that God is helping me to believe is that He still changes people. Even important people who’ve hurt me. Even parents who’ve disappointed my expectations. Even my siblings and me who have believed the lies about the easy way out.


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6 thoughts on “The Truth from a 30-Something Whose Parents Finally Split”

  1. Thank you for this. Although it is an older post it is my marriage. We fight all the time and can’t seem to move toward forgiveness (my husband) because my destructive ways have hurt him deeply. I want to change because I live my husband and want to make this marriage better. I am willing to give up my selfish desires and pride nd sin at whatever cost to pursue God’s tranformation. I want to be transformed so this marriage doesn’t end in divorce.

  2. withhold my name, please

    Sad and all too common a story :(

    I believe the breakdown of the family is THE societal problem – contributing to illness, economic downturn, etc… Vows, by definition, carry the expectation of being met without question.

    I like the Zig Ziglar comment…

  3. Did you Marry the Right Person?
    “I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person, and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person. I also know that it is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person. in short, whether you married the right or wrong person is primarily up to you.”
    ~Zig Ziglar

  4. Well said!
    As the youngest of my siblings and the one who witnessed more of our parents fights and naively thinking their separation and divorce was the way to go—they divorced while I was in college and after 27 years of marriage.
    They did not know the Lord nor any of us at the time but divorce wasn’t the easier way out either. I believe that is a lie from the enemy.
    After more than 4 decades of my own marriage, the battle for our marriage is not over nor can we let down our guard, until one of us goes to be with the Lord.
    But, we can live in the victory Jesus has won for us–daily!

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