Monday, May 11, 2009

Divorce and Kids: What's the Real Deal?

This weekend, I finally put Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce in the library returns bag that sits in my foyer. Because I've been using it as a resource for writing God in the Yard, I renewed it until I could renew it no more and now I owe a lot of fines on it. (I know, I could have bought the book and foregone the trouble, but this is my way of supporting my local library.)

What to do with a book like this? Well, I'm not sure. Even in my own handling of the material as background for the personal side of my book, I find myself in a quandary. I have no interest in criticizing anyone for divorce (least of all my own parents), yet it's an issue that has deep implications.

And maybe that's the answer for what to do with a book like this. We can use it to understand ourselves (if our parents divorced when we were young), our children (if we are already divorced or considering divorce), our friends (if they are contemplating or living through divorce). It's just good to know how things really are, even if it won't completely change our circumstances.

As the book title promises, we learn about the inner lives of children of divorce. This alone makes the book worth a read. But we also learn things like most marriages that end in divorce these days— two-thirds of them— are low-conflict, which means there is not prevailing violence but mostly prevailing bickering and general unhappiness. Interestingly, Marquardt notes...

For years the most-asked question about children of divorce was this: should unhappily married parents get divorced or stay put for the sake of the children? This is no longer the right question. For one thing, a marriage that is unhappy right now might not be unhappy a few years later. For another, divorce is not a sure remedy for unhappiness. (One study showed...that only a minority of people who are unhappy in their marriages today still feel that way even five years later.)

Also interesting, kids don't seem to care if their parents bicker and are unhappy. Well, they care at one level. But the security of seeing mom and dad together day after day still trumps their concerns and tensions. (I tell you, this made me feel better about those arguments we seem to get in every Sunday morning in an effort to get out the door on time!)

Anyway, a good read, if one could call such a book a good read. For me personally, it explained a lot of things.

Bend to Beginnings

Between Two Worlds photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Blogger Llama Momma said...

I saw a review of this book awhile back, but haven't read it yet. I think I will, though.

My parents divorced a few years ago -- I"m well into adulthood. While I completely understand the why, for them, it has still been a tearing apart that is hard to verbalize.

And more than once I've thought about children -- very young children -- who endure this pain.

8:23 AM  
Blogger TAMI said...

Hmmm ... looks like a book worth "checking out" - pun FULLY intended!! Thanks for the review.

9:07 AM  
Blogger sojourner said...

i like this thought: "We can use it to understand ourselves..., our children..., our friends..." - understanding the context of our lives, those we live with, and the impact we have on one another can go a long way to make a difference in the world - hope you had a nice Mothers' Day :0)

10:02 AM  
Blogger Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Thanks for sharing this, L.L. I have a family member who is in the midst of a divorce, and there's a young child in the picture. It's heart-breaking and frustrating, and sometimes I just want to sit the "adults" down and ask them when they plan to grow up and think of someone other than themselves. I'll have to look into this book.

10:43 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Llama, I think it could still be an interesting read for adult children of divorce. Adults are affected differently than small children, of course. Also, though, it can be informative to consider what the parents are going through too.

Tami, I laughed at your pun! It's a book I think every pastor should read and definitely worth anyone's time, since we all live and work with families facing these issues.

Sojourner, I think understanding is a major key to finding our way, yes.

Katrina, I'm thinking that many people don't understand the full implications of the decision (for instance, who knew that small children experience divorce as "sudden death"?) The author unwraps the myth of the "good divorce", which is how most of us have been taught to understand it (as long as the parents have a 'good divorce', the kids will be okay... this is the message of the last few decades and she notes, not to be critical but to be honest, that this is not true). As far as how to apply these things on a practical level... well, it might mean putting off the divorce until kids are older; by then, the marriage may just have come 'round too, or not, but at least kids develop a sense of much-needed security. Also on a practical level, those going through divorce might decide to compliment the child for her ways of being like the other parent (this is huge issue, as disillusioned parents send subtle messages of rejection to children by discounting or degrading ways the child is like the other parent... a big source of anxiety for the kids, who find themselves constantly facing identity issues and fears of abandonment because "you're just like your father").

10:58 AM  
Blogger Prairie Chick said...

the word alone never fails to make my chest go tight and my breathing get short. I want to understand. I want to be able to make sense of all the messiness when I see people running down this road I am just at a loss as to how to relate or react.

12:17 PM  
Blogger deb said...

your book,Stone Crossings, arrived today and I am rushing to the evening hours .
I managed to suprise myself today , posting while crossing the bridge. Thanks again to all the cyber support here and from other HIgh Calling Bloggers.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

It is good for those who've had to live through it as young children, and who write, to share their thoughts and insights on it. And it's also good to see marriages that have lasted, loving legacies, and the difference that can make. I've seen both, not firsthand. What a difference!

But marriages need to be much more than just the couple staying together. But hanging in there through the difficult times is good, and most any marriage will experience more or less of that.

Look forward to your book to come. You remind me of some books I read, which may not seem to have a direct bearing on what I'm thinking and doing, but end up being profoundly impacting. I'm reading LeRon Shults, right now "Christology and Science." A factory seconds I got from Eerdmans here. One of those books! And in this case a keeper, even if sometimes my stomach might turn a little in the process of reading it.

4:06 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I read this book last year as I prepared to do a little talk at a book signing for my little tween's book, Brody's Story. It's crudely inspired by my own story of going through my parents' divorce as a girl.

I found Between Two Worlds very helpful to me personally, and also a great tool to encourage those "low-conflict" people to stick it out.

Divorce is so common that we seem to shrug our shoulders and assume things will be ok. I know personally, I still feel the effects of my parents failed marriage.

But at the same time, I, like you, don't want to condemn or evoke feelings of guilt. It's a slippery slope.

Too much to say on this issue :)

Thanks for reminding me to invest in my marriage!


11:32 AM  
Blogger elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I should have bickered more at some point ... fought harder ... been more willing to walk through the crap to get to the other side. But I didn't; neither did he, and I am confident of suffering wounds that still fester and worry and cry out for understanding.

There is grace to be found on the other side of divorce, no matter your position in the story. It just takes a long season to get there.

God hates divorce. Of that I am sure, but God loves the divorced, of that I am even more certain.


7:00 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Prairie, it's good to be compassionate as you are. I don't know that we always need to understand... maybe we just listen and ask good questions (the kind that say, I hear this from you... tell me more so people can tap into their struggles and needs and maybe find answers they wouldn't if we just tried to fix everything for them.) Your love goes along way, I'd guess, even though you don't always relate.

Deb, enjoy! I hope you'll let me know what touches you (if anything... and I hope something will :)

Ted, yes, good to see those who have lasted, but good too to comfort those who couldn't find a way.

Laura, a tweens book! That is so cool. The older I get the more compassion I have; relationships are hard... not just marriages, but friendships too.

Elaine, thank you so much for saying these things, for sharing this tender part of who you are. There are so many things in my life where I think "I should have..." One can suffocate in that place, or one can move on. For me, reading this book was part of the "moving on" process, because it put things out on the table in a way that helped me deal with my own losses from the past and the losses I've seen friends face. What I liked about the book was that its intention wasn't to create guilt but to give knowledge... knowledge that I think can ultimately help people no matter where they might fit in the story.

8:08 PM  
Blogger deb said...

Just wondering where I should best place thoughts as I read your book, here in this site?

6:29 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Deb, oops. Forgot to answer your question. You can post about your thoughts (if you're that inspired) and I'll link to them). Or, if you want to dip into the comment box every now and then and leave thoughts, that's okay too. :)

5:46 PM  

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