Some couples delay the dissolution of their marriage for the sake of their children. They reason that if the kids are older and out on their own, then the impact of the divorce will be diminished.

The intensity and severity of loss the children feel regarding their parents’ divorce is dependent on many variables beyond just their chronological age. Yet due to the rationale that adult children won’t be affected now that they “have lives of their own”, divorcing parents often overlook or minimize their adult children’s feelings during this family crisis. Unfortunately, sometimes adult children get assigned the role of confidant or ally. Although this role is both unwanted and stressful, many adult children may not want to “hurt or complicate the situation by speaking up.” They may just internalize their pain or else distance from one or both parents.

Here are some valuable insights I have learned from speaking with adult children regarding their parents’ behavior during divorce. Being aware of these issues, can diminish conflict and insure that long after the divorce dust settles, your relationship with your children is not irreparably damaged.

Here are ten things adult children would really like their divorcing parents to know.

  1. Remember the person you are divorcing is our other parent. Please spare us the details of your finances, sex life, legal battle and emotional angst. If it was private during your marriage, then keep it private during your divorce. You may not have a problem betraying your spouse’s privacy, but we have a problem when you cross generational boundaries. Tell your friends, therapist or minister. (But please don’t tell us!) 
  2. Please don’t expect us to hang out with you, to be your best friend, date, surrogate spouse, confidante or therapist.
  3.  Don’t nag or compare how much time we spend (or don’t spend) with each of you. Keeping a scorecard and complaining, “It isn’t fair. I don’t have equal time” just makes you seem petty.
  4.  Please don’t expect us to be overjoyed with your new relationship. You may feel as if you have found the love of your life. To us, that person is an interloper in our family.
  5.  It hurts us when you compare your “new children” to us. We don’t want to hear how accepting they are of you and how great a relationship you all have forged. We feel replaced.
  6.  Please don’t expect us to hate your spouse for what they did. You are divorcing your spouse; don’t ask us to divorce our parent. We love you both. Really.
  7. Don’t expect our recovery time line to be the same as yours. We may get over it quicker than you or it may take us longer. Be patient with us. Please don’t judge our feelings and we will try not to judge yours.
  8. Don’t expect us to be unaffected by your divorce. Just because we are in college or out on our own, doesn’t mean our parents divorcing does not hurt us. Our family, our history and our future are forever altered. We can deal with it and we will, but don’t act shocked by our response.
  9. Be aware this divorce impacts us in practical ways- vacations, holidays, inheritance and our caring giving responsibilities just to name a few. If you remarry, our children may not be your only grandchildren. Don’t assume this is no big deal to us. Ask us about our concerns. We still need you to act like parents.
  10.  Please remember our perspective is different than yours as the relationship is different.  You are divorcing your spouse. Our parents are getting a divorce. Different experience; different point of view. Don’t expect us to feel the same way you do.

Lastly, we love you both. While you may think your cheating, lying, manipulative spouse has a “no right” to have us love him/her; the truth is WE have the right to love and to have a healthy caring relationship with BOTH of you. Don’t make us pawns in your battle. We simply ask that you love us more than you hate each other.



  1. Rose on the 24. Jul, 2011 remarked #

    Donna – this article brought me to tears. I divorced 5 years ago and my children were adults at the time. Both children were out of the house and one was married with children of her own. I clearly see my behavior at that time in so many of these points you make. I wish I would have had this feedback then because I’m sure I would have handled things differently.

    My ex did the cheating and I was devastated but after reading this article, I clearly realize that I did not handle it well and I’m guilty of a number of these things.

    Luckily, my children are okay with me and are re-developing their relationships with their father. But it’s been a long process and I’m sure it took longer partly because of how I handled my divorce.

    Divorce causes a lot of damage on its own and as two divorcing adults, we need to be aware of the impact that this does have on our grown children.

    Thank-you for sharing this article and clearly stating the impacts to adult children. Hopefully, this article will spare other adult children.

    And Thank-you Donna for the important work that you do around divorce and the impact to families.


    • admin on the 24. Jul, 2011 remarked #

      Thanks Rose, for your candor. Hopefully others will learn from your tale of heartbreak and courage! There is life after divorce!

  2. CJ Golden on the 24. Jul, 2011 remarked #

    I had to read this from the perspective of more than 20 years in the past. Hopefully I was diligent about honoring those ten essential items you list. Hopefully, if I wasn’t, my children have learned to accept that I never meant harm.
    All is calm and good and accepting in our lives – our blended family is loving, cohesive and supportive.
    How fortunate I am!

  3. Chip Mues on the 27. Jul, 2011 remarked #

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE! All too often divorcing parents seem blind to the feelings of their adult children. I especially liked #2 – just because they are adults, don’t treat them as your support group! Don’t dump on your Ex. Go to a professional therapist to work through the divorce transition issues!
    Regardless of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, children deserve to maintain a positive relationship with each parent! Thanks for sharing your valuable insight!

    Chip Mues
    Divorce Lawyer – Dayton, Ohio

  4. Jerry on the 28. Jul, 2011 remarked #


    I cheated on my girlfriend with an escort. We have a two year old daughter, and she has a ten year old from her marriage. I want to try and save the relationship, but she does not. I worry about how all of my horrible behavior will impact my children.

    • admin on the 28. Jul, 2011 remarked #

      Perhaps you can show your girlfriend this blog. The advice certainly applies to young children too! I am not sure what will become of your relationship but telling the details of your “situation” to your children will only hurt and confuse them. For their sake, try to be at least civil in front of the kids and that can go a long way to minimize any damage to them. Good luck!

  5. jackson on the 23. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    Thank you so much for this! I am going through a divorce right now. My 20 year old son is having a tough time. My husband has been emotionally abusive to me and our sons. I am having enormous difficulty NOT talking with my children about my spouses behavior. I fear that he will try to alienate them from me in the future if I don’t warn them. I don’t want them in the middle of this but my husband has already put them there.

    • admin on the 24. Sep, 2011 remarked #

      Trust that your son(who is a young man) is wise enough to form his own opinion.Stay supportive, loving and don’t let your fear control your behavior. In the end, the high road is the best route. Acting like your husband only brings you down to his level. Don’t let someone else dictate your behavior.

  6. Lisa on the 18. Apr, 2012 remarked #

    Thanks for this article. I’m happy that this issue is being addressed more and more.

    My father had and affair and left our family two weeks after that. I was 21, on the cusp of becoming an adult.

    I do (perhaps unfortunately) consider that he divorced the family. This is because I only ever have that ‘family feeling’ around my mom, sister and me. Owing to the affair as well as my stepmother’s difficult personality, my anxiety levels rise in their house and it does not feel like family, even if my sister is there. Even if it is just my sister, dad and myself, I just do not have a family feeling.

    It has been 10 years and this situation still makes me cry.

  7. Lisa on the 18. Apr, 2012 remarked #

    Also… what do you do if you already know everything about the divorce (from my mom)? I don’t fault her for confiding: she had no confidant following the divorce as well as no self-worth.

    • Donna Ferber on the 18. Apr, 2012 remarked #

      Of course you don’t fault your mom, but as you have learned, it is important for parents to keep some things private even from their adult children. Although you are an adult, you are still a daughter and the details are simply too painful. Thanks for sharing-hopefully others will learn from your comments.

  8. Laura on the 25. May, 2012 remarked #

    I am glad that I happened on this website and article. My daughter just turned 20 and wants to know why her dad and I divorced. She resents us for not having let her in on this when it happened in 2006. Neither of us felt a conversation about it back then was the right thing to do. But now, with her asking frequently, I told her we could sit down and talk about it. Ours happened due to our growing apart, no affair. I’m still glad to read your comment above about keeping some things private. I’ve recently learned from her that she has a lot of anger inside and have asked her to see someone but her dad has convinced her that counselors are not helpful, even though I see one regularly and feel the opposite of him. She feels she has no real family (she’s an only child) and I’ve learned how important family is to her. It’s true I think that her dad and I spent more time stressing over our situation and not considering her feelings as much as we should have. Thanks for any advice you can provide.

  9. Tricia on the 16. Jun, 2012 remarked #

    My parents were married for 43 years. My father had an affair last year & decided to leave my mother. Point number 9 is one I feel strongest about really – my husband & I have 2 children of our own. It might seem a bit heartless to say, but time & money are precious commodities! And caring for 2 parents separately is unbelievably stressful for their adult children (especially if you are an only child & there is no one to share the burden). In this decisions, my dad did not think for a moment about the future – who is obligated to take care of the parents in the future, how much 2 separate care arrangements cost (in time &/or money), and if they selfishly suck up all of the time & energy of their children, what is left for their grandchildren??? I feel like my father has stolen my life & my children’s future.

    • Kathleen on the 04. Sep, 2014 remarked #

      Really? The sadness of divorce comes down to your inheritance? I’m sure that your parents have sacrificed much for you, but they deserve their own happiness too.

      • Debbie on the 31. Mar, 2015 remarked #

        Kathleen, I don’t think for one minute that Tricia’s concern is about her inheritance. It’s interesting that that is the only word you took out of #9. Tricia was merely concerned about being an only child and have to care for two separate elder parents. Caring for one elder parent is challenging enough when you have your own family, but two parents, and separately? Most, if not all, people who choose to destroy their families for their own selfishness when they break up a marriage do not once think about how their choices impact the rest of the family.

  10. Ash on the 09. Jul, 2012 remarked #

    Thank you so much for this. As an adult (23 yrs old) of recently divorced parents, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of setting up boundaries with my parents, but there are a few things on the list that expressed ideas I hadn’t even thought about. I’ll definitely be sharing this with both of my parents. Thanks!

    • Debbie on the 31. Mar, 2015 remarked #

      Ash, I thank you for wanting to talk to your parents about their divorce, even if it is to set up boundaries. I would give anything for my adult children to want any kind of dialog with me about their father’s and my divorce. They have been misinformed and misled to my detriment, and I am not able to defend myself because they don’t want to talk about it. You’re acknowledging that your parents have feelings about the break up too, and not necessarily do they want you to take sides, but that they just want their side to be heard by someone whose opinion matters to them. Good luck.

  11. Leigh Ann on the 21. Oct, 2012 remarked #

    This article is lovely and just what I needed. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. I have two daughters away at college and one in high school and am in the middle of a messy divorce. This article is a keeper and will definitely go on my fridge!
    I have one question that I’d like to ask about something that has been bothering me. My husband, their father, was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder while in rehab for alcohol & drugs. I am often torn when I hear that my husband has set academic goals for my children that place so much undue pressure on them. It makes me so angry, but as the article states, they love us both.
    I’ve thought about finding/suggesting a counselor for them that specializes in narcissism so they can learn to deal with the fact that their father’s expectations aren’t realistic. Would this be seen to them as badmouthing their dad? I just want them to understand that they needn’t feel guilty or embarrassed for not being perfect all the time.

    • Donna Ferber on the 22. Oct, 2012 remarked #

      Thank you for oyur kind words. You can urge your kids to find a counselor to explore their feelings about the divorce and their relationship with you and their father WITHOUT labeling him. A trained therapist will focus on their recovery and growth rather than on their father, his diagnosis and “what he did”. The goal is for them to find their own voice, make their own decisons and find their own bliss-regardless of the expectations of others.

  12. Tara Miller on the 21. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    My parents, married 40 years, separated this summer. My initial response to my dad leaving, was not shock. My mom had become increasingly difficult to be around the past several years due to emotional issues and depression/anxiety. However, shortly after telling us that he had decided to leave my mother after years of unhappiness, we found out that he moved in with the woman “friend” that had become his confidante over the past year of so. I am now torn between the anger I feel towards my mom for “driving him” to that, and the anger I feel towards my dad for cheating – my entire life my dad has been on a pedestal to not only me, but my friends, for being “such a good man.”

    I live halfway across the country from my parents so travel and holidays are a big issue. As we speak, I am at the house my parents designed, built and shared together for the last 13 years and it kills me to look around at the memories that lie in these walls (even though I never lived here).

    I am having lunch with my dad today and it’s the first time I have seen him since this happened. How do I express to him how angry I am, but that I still love him? I was always a “Daddy’s Girl” which my mom knows, so she thinks I hate her or am mad at her because of my silence on the subject. It has already been a difficult couple of days with that elephant always in the room. I just don’t know what to say to her and I don’t want to upset her.

    I wish I had found this blog earlier so that I could be better prepared for what I want to say to both of them.

    Are there any books out there that you would recommend for my family?

    • Donna Ferber on the 21. Dec, 2012 remarked #

      Hi Tara, Divorce is hard on everyone, especially this time of year. The reality is that both of your parents are responsible for the demise of the marriage. There is no “good” V “bad” here. You are getting to see your dad for who he is- a human being who is not perfect. I think when our parents divorce, we never know the entire story ( and it should stay that way…. )It is best to share what you feel openly and honestly, but to not take sides or past judgement. I hope your holidays are filled with peace and that you can find comfort from both of them as you all go through this difficult time.

  13. leslie on the 22. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    I found yesterday txt s on my husbands phone asking women to lunch and how he is getting divorced. Shock, anger, hurt many emotions. But ok I say, things have been going downhill but I thought we were going to keep at it.We are having a christmas with our adult children today. They live pretty far from us, should we tell them today since we ll all be together or should we wait awhile until we sort it out more.husband kept saying IF he decides too go through with it and I said nope , I won t be waiting around for YOU to decide. We ARE getting divorced!

    • Donna Ferber on the 22. Dec, 2012 remarked #

      I am so sorry you had to find out this way.
      My advice is to sort it out first as a couple and go through Christmas without telling your adult children. Ruining their holiday has no benefit. Even if your husband decides to move ahead, you can tell your adult children later, after the holidays and when you have had some time to deal with this painful information. Confide in a friend, a therapist or your clergy for support and let the family celebrate Christmas without this sad information. If you tell them during the holiday they will always remember Christmas as the day their parents broke up. It can ruin this Holiday and all those to come.

  14. Jess on the 16. Jan, 2013 remarked #

    This article has brought tears but I wished I could find it much earlier. We all learn from somewhere and thank you for sharing this. I was a divorcee for past 9 years and married now for 10 months now. My children 15 and 12 is getting well with my husband but I can see that there’s lots of anger/disobedience with my elder. Reading the list I could put my feet into his shoes as I am also from a broken family for I too had the same felling as in the list. Their father and me had a good friendship a while after the divorce for the children sake and it went well with us to main a positive relationship and to build the confidence in our kids no matter what had happened that we are going to be there for them. Everything turn upside down ever since he got a women and the kids do not want the father to marry her and let her go but the father carried on with the relationship. The women could not see how close we are altogether though we are not in one roof and created a mess for all of us due to jealousy. She does not want him to be in contact with me and step back. She threatened him that she will commit suiside if he failed to take care of her heart. We both have stopped talking now but trying to bring the boys in a right path, giving them the support, love and guidance which I need more advice to help me out. Sharing this list with my ex anyway. Thanks

  15. Dee on the 22. Jan, 2013 remarked #

    I divorced my husband of 28 yrs, seven years ago. My four children then 26, 23,22 and 17 yrs of age. 28 years of protecting my children from his Bi-polar cycles. His unfaithfulness, and emotional, mental, physical and spiritual abuse. I was alone in my marriage as the religion that we were involved in put a lot responsibility on the wife keeping the husband happy and the family together. Divorce was a sin. Divorce was never a choice for me until my kids where beginning to lead adult lives. When I did snap, it was time to take care of myself, there fore leaving the kids to care for their emotionally ill father. I was still alone as they gathered around him in is every need. It was a very very lonely time…”the perpetrator became a victim, and the real victim became the accused” me! My children still keep me at a distance and blame me for the broken family…they will never know all the horrible details of our marriage!! It is very hard and very unjust. I have since remarried a beautiful loving man and am so very happy…but with a hole in my heart. Still taking the high road and hoping at the end it is worth it. Thank you for your blog, your article is so very true and is not easy to manage.

  16. Michael Craven on the 05. Aug, 2013 remarked #


    Great perspective. I will share with my clients in Chicago.

    Michael Craven
    Divorce Lawyer Chicago

  17. Nancy D on the 24. Dec, 2013 remarked #

    Wow, this is my divorce. My STBE is bi-polar and has Asperger’s and I sheltered the kids a lot from his bad behavior (multiple affairs, emotional, mental, physical abuse, etc.) From the very beginning, I’d told our adult children this wasn’t an “him or me” issue. They were allowed to love the both of us and I didn’t want anyone to take sides since he was still their father. However, a mere two weeks into the divorce, the kids started telling me I was divorcing their father to punish him, to drag him into line, to force him to do what I wanted him to do. My youngest even told me, “Why don’t you just kill yourself and put me and dad out of our misery.”

    I can listen to them talk and hear these same words from the mouth of their father over the course of our marriage. He’s actually turned them ALL against me in a really short timeframe. It’s breaking my heart.

    However, given he’s mentally ill, I expected this, but it sure doesn’t make it any easier to take. My oldest son now refuses to talk to me and my youngest is home for the holiday, but staying with his dad, and didn’t want me to know he’d come home. His dad was more than happy to tell me when we were in court the other day, following it up with, “Oh, shoot, he asked me not to tell you.” and laughed.

    Again, he’s mentally ill so I expected the same childish, abusive behavior I saw throughout our marriage, but this goes beyond the pale. This is evil.

    • Donna Ferber on the 26. Dec, 2013 remarked #

      That is a sad story. It is important to remember that divorce as a process for ALL involved-your children’s immediate response will most likely evolve over time and they will in time (hopefully) see things differently as they begin to experience his behavior first hand without you running interference and protecting them. Have faith in your kids and their ability to grow emotionally. Good luck!

  18. Seri Tar on the 25. Feb, 2014 remarked #

    My parents are going through a divorce after 40+ years together. It has been a horrible experience that I suspect would have been easier on me if I was the one getting a divorce. Watching the fallout but not being able to help has been VERY stressful. My father has cut me out of his life because I allowed my Mom to move in with me when he became emotionally abusive. He has also cut her off financially and so I have become the primary source of support for her while he lives it up, making close to 10 thousand a month. Such betrayal can never be forgiven or forgotten.

  19. Frances on the 23. Apr, 2014 remarked #

    My mother and step-father are currently going through a separation. I am 30, with 4 children. I have had the “honor” of getting a play by play of their marital collapse. Both sides say the other cheated, and now 2 weeks after their separation and my mother coming to stay at our home, my step father is moving his girlfriend of 9 months in, and my mother spends most nights at a “friends” house. I realize that both may be ready to move on, but I am not! How could 16 years mean so little that neither of them care to mourn the loss? I think what makes the situation worse is that even when my mother is around, she will jump up from the dinner table to answer her phone when her “friend” calls. I have to hear about how myself and my children are her reason for living, yet we only exist when it’s convenient. I only wish that my parents would act as grown up as some of the others I have read above.

  20. katie on the 22. Jun, 2014 remarked #

    Thank you, thank you for this article!! My parents divorced when I was 30. My dad left, moved on, and is remarried. My mom, 5 years later, is just as devastated as the day he left. She cuts him down, calls him names, talks about private information, and has made me feel that if I have a relationship with my dad, that I’m picking his side. I’ve cried many nights over this. I try to talk to her about it, telling her that when she puts my dad down, it hurts me too. She says I don’t understand and that I’m not being sensitive to her greif. She sees nothing wrong in what she is doing, and makes it a personal attack when I try to say it hurts me. She says she’s been diagnosed with PTSD and that she is fragile and easily hurt. That I’m selfish for not wanting to listen and take her side. I’m struggling right now horribly with all of this. This article makes me realize I’m not selfish and not alone. Late in life divorce can be heartbreaking for children, even when we are adults. Thank you again for your articles.

  21. Diane on the 26. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    I found with my horrible divorce that even with one daughter, it was an ongoing strain afterwards. After being totally mistreated, abused mentally and financially by my ex, now I found that she has to keep secrets about him. I’m not trying to find out details about his marriage as I don’t want to know about the other woman, but she won’t even tell me what he is up to in a casual sense. For example: Is he still going to football games? This was a man I once loved for Pete’s sake. It really upset me when she said: “why don’t you ask him”. She knew we didn’t talk to each other anymore. She won’t say a single thing, but she probably tells him things about me. I can’t have a family member who keeps secrets to protect my hurt feelings. I never had to keep secrets in my family like this ever. This is not respectful or loving when she has to lie about things. It just isn’t right. Since that is more abusive behavior, I’ve lost a daughter. She refuses to talk to me about it. I lost a close relationship with her because of him. Divorce doesn’t end with final papers and new marriages. It just complicate it that much more. I have friends who fight over who gets to take care of grandchildren, etc. Emotions continue because of bad memories that will always be present. You can’t forget the past. It’s a sad situation, but I’m sure over battling it, so I try and look at it as I have no family anymore, and that is fine for everyone involved. Naturally, I don’t like it as far as losing a mother and daughter relationship, but I’m not going to sit back and be lied to after living with someone who lied to me for over 35 years. It’s almost like the ex manipulated her to be the same way. He’s good at that as he was a salesman. He sure had me fooled many years. I’m going on my own way, and trying to leave the past behind – regardless who is in it. Having a biological parent isn’t a reason to condone their bad behavior and then lie to the other parent. If this had been my dad, I sure wouldn’t have had much to do with him, but I can’t keep her from associating with him. It’s like the young adults today have to be robotic to each side. Why fight it? Keeping secrets isn’t the way. A good parent doesn’t teach their children to keep secrets. I thought I taught her better. I was always told to tell the truth, put things out in the open and discuss them amicably as a family, but she refuses to talk. So, it strains both ends unfortunately. She lives in a different state, so there’s no way to talk in person except by phone or emails. I did everything to discuss it with her, but she refuses to talk about it. So I feel I lost her because of the way the divorce has caused her to keep secrets and lie to me.

    • Jackie on the 23. Nov, 2014 remarked #

      You need to cut your daughter slack. It’s not her fault you are divorced and you need to find happiness within yourself and let go of needing to hear about your ex. I bet your relationship will improve if you just focus on your relationship with her rather than focusing on how you feel she is lying to you in regards to your ex.

      My parents divorced after 40 years and the best thing I did for my mom (whom I am very close with) is listen to her without judgement but them to help her to find and objective person to vent to (like a counselor). This way we could move forward and enjoy each other without her needing me to take sides and without me needing to be blunt about how I want to remain neutral.

  22. Alex on the 20. Sep, 2014 remarked #

    Wish I had found this site a few months back. I am totally guilty of most of this and the results are not pretty.
    I was so devastated to find my husband if 28 years has lied and mentally twisted and manipulated me over the years. He has lost pretty much everything we have owned with bad business decisions without my knowledge, which eventually ended in us loosing our house.
    I felt along with my decision to separate I needed to justify why to my adult (22&24) kids in order for them to understand. Bad mistake.
    My son has fallen down heavily on my ex husbands side even though he was closest to me growing up over the years. He now hardly talks to me and is usually quite rude when he does. It has broken my heart- almost literally. I have never felt so devasted over anything else.
    I realised I had made a mistake and I don’t need to justify anything to them after the councillor explained this. I did it as I thought I was answering their questions as an adult to adult.
    My ex husband lied for months telling him he was trying to repair things and I wasn’t ! This just added fuel to the fire.

    If only I had read this article first. ;(

    If someone can tell me this will get better as it’s only new and fresh I would really appreciate it. If on the other hand I have list my darling son forever – tell me too as I feel I need to grieve this out. Any advice gladly appreciated .

    • Donna Ferber on the 30. Nov, 2014 remarked #

      I can’t say whether it will get better, but over time feelings change- new insights are reached and people’s perception softens. Be patient with him and gentle with yourself.

  23. Dave on the 30. Sep, 2014 remarked #


    This is very interesting. My wife’s parents are not divorcing just living separate for the past few years. Now we have a child she is 18 months and I don’t really for her to grow up thinking this is normal. My parents divorced when I was 6 weeks so to me divorce between them would be easier then living in separation. Do you have any advice on what/how to tell them that it is difficult on their grandchild and I don’t want my daughter to think that is normal to be married but not living together?

    Thank you,

    • Donna Ferber on the 30. Nov, 2014 remarked #

      At 18 months, there is nothing to explain. You have many years before she can even begin to understand this choice and a lot can change by then. As long as they are kind and loving to her, their marital status should not impact the relationship at all.

  24. Marci on the 26. Nov, 2014 remarked #

    I think divorce is just sad. The breakdown of the family has hurt so many people and society as a whole. My ex divorced me after 25 years of marriage when our daughters were 15, 19, 21 and 22. We have all moved on and remarried, but the holidays are horrible. My ex has the family in this area; I do not, therefore, every Thanksgiving and every Christmas, I am alone. Yes, I have my husband, but my children are my only family. Their father and I live very close to each other, but they choose to spend every holiday DAY with HIM because HE has “the family”. I do not understand why they can’t just pop over to see their mother part of the day. It hurts and they don’t care. 🙁 I feel like I have raised very selfish, inconsiderate children. I always put THEIR feeling first when they were growing up and now they still seem to feel like THEIR feelings should come first. It makes me feel VERY alone and I get very depressed at the holidays. Divorce sucks…plain and simple.

    • debbie on the 25. Dec, 2014 remarked #

      Im so sorry. I just got divorced dec.10. I hope they come around. Can you call them and wish them a merry xmas? Try that and invite them over. What have you got to lose?

  25. Ellie on the 21. Dec, 2014 remarked #

    I am 19 and my parents have been going through a divorce over the past few years. My dad had an affair and is now living with the woman and her two kids. I have two brothers (18 and 22) and neither of them have any contact with our dad. I didn’t talk to him for a year or so but have recently started to see him pretty regularly. I really struggle with being the only child to talk to my dad as I feel really stuck in the middle. I feel really uncomfortable speaking about either of my parents to the other, and it almost feels like I’m living two separate lives. My mum is still really devastated by the situation, she has been left to sell the house and is still really emotionally hurt, and has little to no self esteem. But my dad seems really happy and although I want him to be, it doesn’t seem fair that he’s the one who cheated and he ends up with exactly what he wanted. He often tries to belittle my mum’s feelings, he thinks it’s been long enough and that she should be over it by now. But they were married for almost 25 years and she was very happy, even though my dad wasn’t. He also is frustrated by the lack of contact from my brothers. I don’t feel like he accepts responsibility for his actions, and doesn’t realise that what he did caused really long lasting pain.

  26. Liane on the 29. Dec, 2014 remarked #

    Thank you so much for this article — from the bottom of my heart. I am a 40yo woman who is recently estranged from my mother. She and my father divorced — very angrily — when I was 19, and I don’t remember being treated as if I was a child who had a right to mourn for her broken family. And “broken” wasn’t the half of it. The separation was so contentious, it felt more like war.

    At the time, my sister was a preteen. My father, who was not around much, always reminded me to look out for my sister in his absence. My mother also relied on me heavily, not only to help with my sister but sometimes for financial assistance, as well. I was also tasked with household chores such as grocery shopping and running other errands. You’d have thought my mother was a single parent of a house full of kids, not just of two daughters, one of whom cared for herself. She made time for dating, though. At the time, I was also employed full-time and paying my own way through college.

    I am now a mom of two teens, very happily married to my high-school sweetheart, and a professional, but the pain of being expected to handle my parents’ divorce with the grace they never showed never left me. I tried to push through it and “move on,” but the whole experience has left deep scars. Over the years, my father has been present. He’s toughed out some hard conversations with me as I told him how painful the divorce was for me. What a relief it has been to be able to hear from my own father his acknowledgement that I did my very best, that I succeeded despite what he and my mother put me through. As for my mother, it’s too much for her to hear that I suffered, too. She’s estranged herself from me rather than allow me to share the pain. In fact, she told me, “I’m not going back there! I’m not living what’s left of my life feeling guilty! Your problem is you just can’t forgive!” What choice did I have but to carry on without her and make my own peace with our family’s past? She despises me now and isn’t afraid to let people know it, all because I had the “audacity” to not just get over it — “let go of the pole,” as she so hypocritically admonished.

    Anyway, reading this article is like being acknowledged, because I felt like saying everything in this list, but my parents observed not one of these things. Now I know why I was hurting so badly, and I’ll keep working on healing.

    • Donna Ferber on the 30. Dec, 2014 remarked #

      Thanks for your comment. There are two good books on the subject that you might find helpful. One is WILL I EVER BE ENOUGH? and the other is called OUR MOST COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP: WHEN YOU AND YOUR MOTHER CANT BE FRIENDS. Best of luck to you in your journey.

  27. Kylie on the 11. Jan, 2015 remarked #

    Thank you for this article.
    My parents are not divorced, however they have gone through many ups and downs.
    4 years ago my dad left my mum and my then 20 year old brother with autism. I was living at home at the time and became the man of the house. My dad left to be with another woman. After some time he realised the grass wasn’t greener on the other side and begged my mum to take him back. Mum took h back for many reasons- financial support, to help with my brother, she loves him etc
    Soon after I moved out with my boyfriend and went to therapy. I had my ups and downs…fights with dad…forgave him eventually after 3 years but can never forget what he did to the family.

    4 years later I have built a house with my partner an hour from my parents and brother. My parents relationship has not improved. They didn’t go to therapy…got no help…just basically left off where it ended…

    My dilemma is….dad rang me and we had a talk…he is thinking of leaving mum again. He hasn’t made his decision…he just wanted to talk to me about and how I feel about it. After being in a relationship for many years and having my own ups and downs….and being very similar to my dad….and I know him well…I told him I will support whatever decision he makes….I understand why he wants to leave (depression, anxiety, hard times looking after my disabled brother etc) I told him that I believe he would be much happier on his own. I told him the difference between now and last time he left is that this time he will sit down with mum and clinic ate his wants, needs, fears etc…rather than cheating on m and lying for 12 months.

    So now…I have this hanging over my head…knowing that any day now or week or month…my dad is gonna leave my mum… I’m gonna receive that phone call from mum- he has left! What do I do!? I need you!!!

    I’m trying to start my own life. I hate to be selfish. Ive moved to the country from the city, starting a new job…etc I can’t deal with his now. It’s all gonna call on me. I will have to be there for mum as she has little family or friend support. She will need help caring for my brother….

    This is causing me a lot of anxiety. It’s on my shoulders.

    Should I tell my mum about the conversation I had with my dad? She has already asked me if I know if anything is going on with dad. I hate telling lies and pretending I know nothing.

    What do I do?

    • Donna Ferber on the 01. Feb, 2015 remarked #

      The only thing you can do it to ask them to stop confiding in you.. This is between them. They have to figure out their relationship without involving you. You are not being selfless-you have a right to have your own life! Both of your parents need to find support systems that are outside the family- a therapist or clergy member or a support group. Good luck to you!

  28. Rae on the 19. Jan, 2015 remarked #

    Divorced and in a Long-term, committed relationship. He’s been separated for over 10 years. His adult children in their 30’s, refuse to accept the reality of the situation and hope their parents will be together again. They also refuse to accept me,excluding me from holiday/birthday events. He feels like he’s put in the middle, having to choose. I feel like he made his choice by committing and moving in with me a year ago. He tells me he wants a divorce and is working through issues, mostly financial. I also feel he carries around a lot of guilt, baggage and its a heavy lift. He goes to counseling and I think that’s giving him the outlet he needs. I’m getting impatient and neither one of us are getting younger. I love him but need our relationship to move to the next phase, a more permanent relationship. I’m tired of living in limbo and have seen the negative affect on others.

  29. JJ on the 07. Feb, 2015 remarked #

    My partner’s 20 year old son hasn’t spoken to him for a year; his 22 year old daughter is sometimes okay and sometimes not, currently she says she doesn’t want to see him. His wife (they are half way through a divorce) has confided every detail of everything that has happened to their daughter. I am the other woman, although I met him before, our relationship didn’t start until he and his wife were separating. His wife took his phone and shared all the texts with his daughter. The kids accept the separation and say it would be okay for him to date other women, just not me. They want him to end his relationship with me. It’s been 18 months since they found out about me; everything his daughter says to him is, almost verbatim, what his wife says to him. He feels like he’s being emotionally blackmailed. We don’t live together and he always, quite rightly, puts his kids first. I understand that they want nothing to do with me, but I wish, for his sake, that there was some way to resolve the situation. He keeps trying, texting, calling them, asking to see them. But his daughter says this is not enough, his physical presence is not enough. She blames me for the break up of her parents’ marriage, she wants him to be happy, but not with me. He is a lovely man and has been a great Dad and he loves his 3 children deeply. I know we have done wrong and I feel terrible about it, his daughter calls me a whore and a bitch. I also think he is a victim of parental alienation. His wife has done nothing to help him improve or mend things between him and his oldest son. I don’t know why she can’t see that it’s important for the kids to have a good relationship with their Dad who loves them so much. I do feel it suits her purpose to have them in conflict with him and is using this to hurt him and also to try to win him back. She is in a new relationship herself.

  30. Amanda on the 17. Feb, 2015 remarked #

    This was an excellent article. I am a therapist myself and going through a divorce. My children at the time the divorce begun was ages 14, 16 and 21. I believed that the way parents handle a divorce makes a huge difference to how a child copes and recovers from it. I am also a child of divorce and feel my parents did not handle it well. I have done all of the above because I felt strongly that I would do my divorce “right” to protect them. My children’s father has not. He has always been mentally abusive and some rare occasions of physical abuse throughout 25 years of marriage. He continues to harass, name call, and put me down. He confides in the kids, ask them personal questions about me and bad mouths me to them. It is almost 2 years later. I had a protection order against him for a year which kept him from the family home for a year but he moved back in the day it expired. He will not agree to divorce me and will not leave the home. I pay all finances for home and kids. I cannot move out as the mortgage is only in my name and he can not afford it to transfer it. I have found another man who treats me extremely well with respect and care that my kid’s father had never shown me. My kids will not accept him and I feel they are angry about the situation although they will not discuss anything about situation and I do not push it as I try to keep them un-involved. I think the kids find the situation confusing as their parents still live in same home but i am trying to move on with my life. I feel as though I am trapped in a marriage with no escape. This situation is not healthy for anyone especially the kids. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    • Donna Ferber on the 22. Feb, 2015 remarked #

      What state do you live in? You should be able to move forward in some manner…even a legal separation. If the house is only in your name then you can sell it. It seems there may be other legal avenues for you to explore.
      Good luck!

      • Amanda on the 22. Feb, 2015 remarked #

        I have been trying other legal avenues. There is no legal separation in my state. I have a petition in to see if he can be removed from the home due to him not financially contributing among other things. The home is in both our names the mortgage is just in mine. So I am in a bind. There are legal avenues I have been taking but they take a lot of time.

        • Donna Ferber on the 07. Mar, 2015 remarked #

          Sorry you are having such a tough time. It sounds like the legal system will eventually prevail. Good luck!

  31. Paige on the 17. Mar, 2015 remarked #

    Reading these comments I’m am completely taken back by adult children who’s parents divorced after they had left home and were on their own with familes of their own or at the very least out of college. For those of you I say. Yes it’s a shock but no one gets divorced after the kids are grown if they hadn’t been unhappy for all the years when the kids were growing up which you have to have seen tension, arguments, sleeping apart. everything that would tell you these two people stayed for the kids and what was the example. You stay in an unhealthy marriage and you pass that example along to your children. Then there’s the whole thing about having to take care of of two separate parents as they age. Oh my god if your parents are still young enough to have a second chance a love and life why not be happy for them. You as adult children wouldn’t think twice in your marriage about getting a divorce you wouldn’t think lets consult my parents to see what they think. God know never. So In an day and time when we are seeing marriages end at 27 years of marriage or 40 years of marriage. I think to myself how sad that all those years went by of holding on to something that wasn’t there or someone you thought you could change or you were just stuck, but good for you if you finally made the decision to leave. I am in the process of divorce and there is not one of my adult children that hasn’t said to me over the past 10 years why haven’t you left Dad. Kids are not stupid so lets not treat them like they are or oblivious to what’s going on. /they would rather see us happy then two people miserable. I want to be happy and am still young enough to have it in my life. My children have their lives and I will always be their Mom by I’m also a woman that still has at least 30 more years left at 53 years old. I in love again again with a Man I knew when I was single. I know after raising children supporting an abusive husband , taking care of my grandchildren that there is no way my children wouldn’t want to see me happy. My ex also I love and would like him to find peace and happiness as well. The kids love us both. This is what an adults need to do support but move forward. You can’t taken a backseat to your own life if you are my age. Even when the kids are young if you are thinking of leaving which one of my daughters did with young children. I never told her to stay I just supported her decision and helped. No judgement. Happy takes less energy then being angry and mad at the people you love.

  32. Vanessa on the 20. Mar, 2015 remarked #

    This is a great article. It made me stop and think. I am considering divorce after 26 years of marriage. I just don’t think I can live in a loveless marriage any longer. We have a 20 year old in college. Although I know it would ne be a shock I now realized how hurt my child will be.

  33. Jason Googins on the 28. Mar, 2015 remarked #

    When my ex wife divorced me I was depressed. I tried to see them but she and her lawyer made it impossible. I tired seeing them where her father would go to a nearby McDonald’s where I worked at the time. I could see this was taking allot out of him so I told her to stop the visits. I than lost two years of their life. I send them Xmas presents and she called me at work. I tried to reason with her stating that if she wanted to go out or go to school or needed a break she would NOT have to pay for a baby sitter. She said she would think on it and than I gave her some time. I called her Jan 1, 2005 which happened to be my birthday and asked her what she thought of my request. “Yo’re an A#!hole and you will never change so if you want to see the kids you will have to take me back to court” She than hung up the phone. I was devastated to say the least. I knocked on doors of lawyers offices but no one would help me. It was than I moved away to another state thinking I would never see them again. I have tried to write them but they will not call or write back. It has been very lonely without them. I cry sometimes they are adults now 21, 20, and 16. I just hope that maybe they will call or write.

  34. David on the 08. Apr, 2015 remarked #

    I am now 2 years divorced. My ex-wife had an affair and I spent 4 years trying to keep the marriage together with no success. We divorced, I moved out and started my new life. I met someone great, but my 2 kids (son who is 18 and daughter who is 21) do not accept her as pat of my life. I am beyond frustrated as the kids do not even communicate with me any more. What to do?

  35. JoeInMidwest on the 08. May, 2015 remarked #

    Yes, I read your article plus I can see that I did many of the ‘dysfunctional ploys’ portrayed. Not in a mean way but more because I also suffered as a child who still has painful memories of MY parents’ divorce over 50 years ago. After years of therapy, I finally realized some ten years ago that my father had an overabundance of narcissistic traits, so I predictably ended up marrying a woman with a likewise overabundance of narcissistic traits.
    I believe I was trying to compensate for my own unhappy childhood by trying to be a genuine father to my own son. Unfortunately I suffered a traumatic fall, lost my job, my career (which required a graduate degree), and ended up on disability. I feel fortunate as I had private disability insurance, but the (now ex) wife left me, and tried very hard to take what little financial security I have with seemingly little regard for the father of our son.
    Since our son was 14 yo at the time of our separation, my time with my son was significantly reduced. Yes, I am a human with my own faults, but I was a loving parent and a faithful spouse through all of this. But, as is common with narcissistic people, my ex-wife cast me off like a broken toaster once my ability to generate a high income was diminished.
    Given that scenario, I, on the one hand do want to trash talk my son’s mother, yet I also don’t want him to suffer the same pain I did with a narcissistic parent. Ugghh!
    Now, almost ten years have passed, and now I rarely see my son, and he lives with his domineering mother. I tried my best in a really bad situation. If reincarnation exists, I truthfully hope this life is close to over for me. And I hope I have better luck the next time around.

  36. Ron in PA on the 31. Aug, 2015 remarked #

    I had an affair years ago and am now divorced because of it. The hurt that it caused my children & the woman’s children was terrible. To this day the two of the three woman’s children won’t have anything to do with me & my son has nothing to do with me. We are sorry for the hurt that we caused to children & our spouses. The woman barely has a relationship with her children. We were together but she ended our relationship because of her children not ever being able to accept me. Which I fully understand. We went about this mess so poorly thinking the children would come around. We should have been honest with our spouses & divorced before ever getting involved with each other.
    Having an affair is NEVER the right thing to do! And we regret the affair & how much hurt we have caused to this day, but don’t regret meeting each other. This may sound selfish I’m sorry.

  37. Taylor on the 13. Sep, 2015 remarked #

    What an insightful and helpful blog! Thank you for your public service.

    I have a different situation from those above. My ex-wife and I have 4 adult children, each with partners and families of their own. My wife left the marriage 16 years ago after 29 years together. Today, my ex-wife and I are good friends and enjoy each other’s company, especially visiting grandkids. Despite this, my oldest daughter does not want her mother and me to be together at her home “except on special occasions”. On those “special occasions”, the atmosphere is always friendly and upbeat, and I simply cannot understand my daughter’s discomfort at having us together. My ex-wife does not have a partner, and I have a relationship with a “good friend” whom my daughter adores, and has told her that on many occasions. My ex-wife and friend also get along very warmly. So new-partner-strife is not the issue.

    Our daughter’s aversion exacts a steep price in lost time together with grandkids and at the cottage, although my ex-wife seems more accepting of this boundary than I manage to be. I simply cannot understand the aversion, which I thought had eroded over time but apparently has not.