It’s a known truth these days that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce; a common phenomenon that impacts many kids and young adults. As a therapist who specializes in work with young adults and women’s issues, I’ve witnessed firsthand, the impacts divorce can have in adulthood. Sure, it’s common to see kids and teens in my practice to help them cope with the instability and stress divorce brings in the moment, but I’ve come to find that the impact of divorce is much more longstanding and manifests in many ways long after; as kids have become adults and started families of their own.
Here are 4 common ways that kids of divorce can struggle in adulthood:
Kids who witness the unpredictability and emotional chaos of divorce seek stability and control. As adults, the need for control can manifest in unhealthy ways such as the need to control others. Extreme discomfort or anxiety occurs when the inevitable happens- we cannot control others and everything around us.
Likely, the need for control can arise from the fear of failure, something which can be created from witnessing failure of a marriage. In efforts to alleviate this fear, adults overcompensate by having rigid expectations for themselves and others around them. This often leads to disappointment, low self-worth and unrealistic expectations for relationships.
- Interpersonal Relationships
As adults, kids who experienced divorce may have trouble with emotional intimacy and have difficulty expressing emotions. Vulnerability can be a scary concept to someone who has witnessed betrayal and the breakdown of trust that divorce can sometimes cause.
Kids who get dragged in the middle of their parent’s divorce are more likely to internalize the blame or insults parents trade during divorce. This can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem as an adult.
As well, self-blame can create feelings of guilt and a low sense of self-worth in adults who developed the misconception that divorce was their fault, as kids.
- Skewed Expectations of Marriage
Adult children of divorce can develop skewed world views about relationships and marriage. Having an expectation of “perfection” in intimate relationships (one without conflict) can lead to short-lived and unstable relationships. These adults will often be disappointed and let down when these unrealistic expectations are unmet by their partner.
It’s important to remember that the ways each individual experiences a loss such as divorce is different, and that generally, kids are extremely resilient. With this said, if you or someone you know are struggling with any of these issues, it might be beneficial to explore them further with a therapist. Therapy can help you gain insight as to how your past has shaped you in the present and to empower you to shift your life in a healthier direction.