Why Did Dad and Mom Split Up?
“I was home with Mom the day Dad left us. I was only six, so I didn’t understand what was going on. I was sitting on the floor watching TV, and I could hear my mom sobbing and begging my dad to stay. He came downstairs with a suitcase, knelt down, gave me a kiss, and said, ‘Daddy will always love you.’ Then he walked out the door. I didn’t see my dad for a long time after that. Since then, I have been afraid that Mom would leave too.”—Elaine, 19.
IF YOUR parents divorce, it can seem like the end of the world, a catastrophe that generates enough misery to last forever. It often triggers a wave of shame, anger, anxiety, fear of abandonment, guilt, depression, and profound loss—even a desire for revenge.
If your parents have recently split up, you might be experiencing similar feelings, and no wonder, for our Creator meant for children to be raised by both a father and a mother. (Ephesians 6:1-3) Now you have been deprived of the daily presence of a parent, one you may have deeply loved. “I really looked up to my father and wanted to be with him,” says Daniel, whose parents split up when he was seven. “But Mom got custody of us.”
Why Parents Break Up
Often, a split-up comes as a surprise to the children because parents have kept their problems well hidden. “I was in shock,” says Rachel, who was 15 when her parents divorced. “I always thought that they were in love.” Even when parents do squabble, it may still come as a blow when they actually split up!
In many cases the split-up occurs because one parent is guilty of sexual misconduct. Under those circumstances, God does permit the innocent mate to obtain a divorce and be free to marry again. (Matthew 19:9) In other cases, “wrath and screaming and abusive speech” have erupted into violence, causing one parent to fear for his or her physical well-being and that of the children.—Ephesians 4:31.
Admittedly, some couples split up for less compelling reasons. Rather than work out their problems, some selfishly divorce because they claim they are “unhappy” or “no longer in love.” This is displeasing to God, who “has hated a divorcing” of that kind. (Malachi 2:16) Jesus implied that some families might be disrupted when one mate becomes a Christian.—Matthew 10:34-36.
Whatever the case, the fact that your parents may have chosen to be silent or to give you only vague answers to your questions regarding the divorce does not mean they do not love you. Wrapped up in their own hurt, your parents may simply find it hard to talk about the divorce. (Proverbs 24:10) They may also find it awkward and embarrassing to admit to their mutual failures.
What You Can Do
Identify your fears. Because divorce can turn your world upside down, you may find yourself worrying about things that you formerly took for granted. Even so, you may be able to shrink your fears to a manageable size by first identifying what they are. Below, put a ✔ next to what you fear most, or identify your own fear by writing it next to “Other.”
□ My other parent will also abandon me.
□ My family won’t have enough money to survive.
□ The divorce is somehow my fault.
□ If I marry, my own marriage will fail.
□ Other ․․․․․
Discuss your concerns. King Solomon said that there is “a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) So try to discern the right time to discuss with your parents the fears you identified above. Let them know how sad or confused you are. Maybe they will be able to explain what is happening and thus lessen your anxiety. If your parents are unwilling or unable to give you the support you need at the moment, you may be able to confide in a mature friend. Take the initiative to seek out such a person. Just having someone who will listen to you can be a tremendous relief.—Proverbs 17:17.
What Not to Do
Don’t hold a grudge. “My parents were selfish,” says Daniel, quoted earlier. “They didn’t really think about us and how what they did would affect us.” Daniel’s feelings are understandable and may be true. But how would you answer the following questions? Write your answers on the line provided.
What harm could come to Daniel if he refused to let go of his anger and resentment? (Read Proverbs 29:22.) ․․․․․
Although it would be difficult, why might it be good for Daniel to try to forgive his parents for the hurt they have caused him? (Read Ephesians 4:31, 32.) ․․․․․
How might the basic truth stated at Romans 3:23 help Daniel to view his parents objectively? ․․․․․
Avoid self-destructive behavior. “I was unhappy and depressed after my parents’ divorce,” recalls Denny. “I started having problems in school and failed one year. After that . . . I became the class clown and got into a lot of fights.”
What, do you think, was Denny trying to accomplish by becoming the class clown? ․․․․․
Why might he have started getting into a lot of fights? ․․․․․
If you have felt the urge to punish your parents by behaving badly, how might the principle at Galatians 6:7 help you to keep the right perspective? ․․․․․
What to Expect in the Future
A literal injury, such as a broken bone, can take weeks or even months to heal completely. Similarly, emotional injuries take time to heal. Some experts feel that the worst of a divorce is over within three years. That may seem like a long time, but remember, a lot has to happen before your life can stabilize.
For one thing, the household routine—disrupted by the divorce—must be reorganized. Time will also pass before your parents are back on their feet emotionally. Only then may they finally be able to give you needed support. However, as your life regains some semblance of regularity, you will begin to feel normal again.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 2, CHAPTER 25
Feel anxious because your parent remarried? How can you cope?
If your parents have divorced, one or quite likely both of them have made mistakes. Try to identify those mistakes so that you can avoid repeating them if you choose to marry in the future.—Proverbs 27:12.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Marital unhappiness is not something that you inherit from your parents.
I can express my fears to (write the name of a mature person you would like to talk to) ․․․․․
If I feel an urge to punish my parents by behaving badly, I can control it if I do the following: ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why might your parents be reluctant to talk with you about their divorce?
● Why is it important to remember that divorce is a dispute between your parents—not with you?
[Blurb on page 32]
“After my mom left us, I was depressed and cried every day. But I prayed often, kept busy helping others, and stayed close to mature friends. I feel that through those means, Jehovah God helped me to cope.”—Natalie
[Picture on page 33]
Getting over your parents’ divorce is like recovering from a broken arm—the process is painful, but you will eventually heal