If the parents separate amiably the children usually learn to cope with the separation. Some children may on the outside cope all right, even if there is constant struggle between the parents. Children can probably cope all right if they happen to be totally in agreement with the parent they live with.
I do not want to make this too theoretical. So I just start with a bit of my own experience. I fall into the category of the child who is constantly torn between the parents. To my mind this is a pretty bad state to be in. I think I can say that my parents’ relationship was very much a love/hate relationship. The way I see it, it was not the right kind of love that led my parents to each other. Their outlooks and aspirations in life were extremely different. There were separations due to conditions under the Hitler regime and to the disaster of World War Two. After the war they just could not live together any more, that is my mother refused to live with my father. I constantly heard her saying bad things about him. Her hate was unrelenting. She showed not one iota of compassion towards him. My two younger brothers and I lived with my mother. There was no question that we could have lived with my father at the time.
My parents got divorced when I was sixteen on the request of my mother for she wanted to marry someone else. It turned out, the man, who wanted to marry Mum, was not the right man for her. She decided she would rather not marry him. Instead she made an enormous effort to get some secure employment and become independent.
When I was in my twenties, Dad married a second time. This time a widow who luckily was just the right person for him. Sadly they had only a short life together. Dad died of cancer aged 62.
My parents had been in enormously strenuous circumstances after the end of WW II. Till the end of the 1950s they both struggled enormously to make ends meet. Dad died in 1966, Mum died in 1994 aged 83.
Mum had two sisters and a brother. One of the sisters, who never had any children, divorced her first husband and had a very good marriage with her second husband. This was ‘meine’ Tante Ilse. She played a big part in my life. She was a very motherly woman.
Dad was one of six in the family. All his siblings married and had children. None ever got divorced. One of Dad’s nephews lost his wife after she had given birth to a little girl who was then raised by the second wife as though it was her own. The nephew also had a son with the second wife.
Mum’s other sister had only one child. This was my cousin Sigrid. Sigrid was four years my senior. She was a great person: Outgoing, fun loving, very musical. I adored her. She was such good company. She married a dentist. The dentist divorced Sigrid in a very amiable way. I think their two children were grown up already at the time. Walter, the dentist, then married his receptionist and had a child with her. Sigrid remained good friends with Walter and his new wife.
When I met Peter, my future husband, it turned out, his parents were divorced too. Maybe this is another story along with the divorce of one of our daughters.
10 thoughts on “Children of divorced Marriages”
Divorce usually leaves sharp jagged edges that hurt everyone involved in the relationship, parent and children alike. Even where parents refrain from badmouthing one another, I believe the children are inevitably torn between mother and father. But – besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als Schrecken ohne Ende.
“Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als Schrecken ohne Ende.”
I agree, Cat, if the parents can refrain from badmouthing one another after a separation the children might still be torn between mother and father, however in this case an ending of the marriage is probably beneficial for all concerned in the long run.
Relationships are so complicated. This is an area in my life where I have not done well. What I do understand, however, is that women today have far more options to control their own destiny than in former times. The result is that if a marriage isn’t working, it is relatively simply to disengage from it. Simple legally, but never emotionally. Who knows what completely bizarre strains the German politics of the 1920-40s put upon all relationships.Often, people were forced to compromise their principles in ways we cannot and don’t want to imagine. And then the heart remembers those compromises and finds reconciliation difficult. My heart bleeds for your mom, your dad, and you and your siblings for the upheaval that ensued.
While all divorce leaves a wake of confusion and grief, much of that pain can be ameliorated if only the parents can bring themselves to act like adults. Refraining from badmouthing a former spouse can be difficult, but it is a parental duty.
I did not do that well all the time either, Linda, even though I have been married now for close tor 58 years. But believe me, there were periods in my life when the togetherness did not seem all that harmonious. Sometimes I very much questioned my ability to function as a wife and mother. It can be hard work to make a marriage work; most important seems to be to keep love alive somehow. When love is regularly turning into hate, we have to face up to it that the marriage is unsustainable.
Should my mother and father never have married? Then my brothers and I would not exist. But as far as there staying together is concerned, well, this is a different matter. I do accept that for them it was better that they separated and later on were divorced. It would definitely have been better if they could have done this without all this fighting.
You say, Linda: Refraining from badmouthing a former spouse can be difficult, but it is a parental duty.
In this regard I stand totally on the side of my father. In my experience he never badmouthed my mother. Even though he tended to be extremely emotional and hurt by my mother’s rejection of him, he always stressed that he did not want us children to have a bad relationship with her for she was our mother. When I let my mother feel that I did not reject my father she tended to be angry with me ‘for taking his side’. The way I saw it, my mother was totally guided by her emotions, whereas my father tried very hard to act as an adult towards us children.
Ah, Aunty Uta, how glad I am that we found each other. You are blessed in your marriage to Peter, having not had good role models. I often find myself struggling with how to be the right wife, but my husband is enormously loving and forgiving. He is my rock (in the good sense that he doesn’t go anywhere if I break down, which I have done twice, and in the challenging sense that he is very stubborn.) I have no doubt that my own lack of role models will not effect the longevity of our marriage. We have been together for a long time already and have withstood all trials and joys. In fact, yesterday, we celebrated early our fifteen year wedding anniversary. It was lovely. Thanks for echoing my experience with your post.
Thanks very much for this beautiful comment, dear Elizabeth. I think, we, as women, cannot praise men like our husbands, highly enough! 🙂
Your post spells out the difficulties all those affected by divorce have. It goes down through the generations. And I know that much advice says that we (the divorced) should ‘act like adults’ but I think sometimes it is much more difficult for the ‘leavee’ to cope.
For example, I know that I cannot pretend to be ‘friends’ as it is simply too painful.
However, civility is managed most of the time.
Of course, Elizabeth, to be friends requires that you have overcome pain or maybe not felt much pain in the first place. However I think it is a great achievement if you can manage civility most of the time.
Sadly my mother was not capable of this at all.
Thanks very much for commenting, dear Elizabeth.
Thank YOU for this series of posts. I have connected with them and I have been interested by your views on this topic.
I thank you very much for your comments, dear Elizabeth! Means a lot to me. Thank you.