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Elizabeth Marquadt is the author of ‘Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce’. Elizabeth herself is a child of divorce and grew up shuttling back and forth between the two houses of her divorced parents. This is the experience of many children of divorce.
Now a brand new blog has been established by the Ruth Institute called simply, ‘Divorce Stories’. It allows those who experienced divorce in their childhood to recount their experiences.
The stories so far told are invariably sad and sometimes angry. The overwhelming experience of these now grown-up children of divorce is of having to live ‘between two worlds’ exactly as Elizabeth describes in her book.
One particularly caught the eye because the writer so forcefully expresses her anger at adults who try to sugar-coat the experience of divorce for children and pretend that family breakdown isn’t exactly that.
She writes: “Just today I had a conversation with a friend whom I had not talked to in a long time. She remarried a couple years ago, and [her] new husband has younger kids. She remarked that even though she loves her husband very much, it is so hard with the kids, and she sounded a little bitter about it. The elder girl just turned 13 and is beginning to act up. I didn't say anything, but I wanted to say, "As hard as it is for you, it's about 100 times harder for the kids." I felt a little offended at her words. The kids intuit that their family has been destroyed, but they cannot articulate it yet. And even if they could, would they? Not likely. So they will act out. I'm sure that for now, they buy the crappy line that it's just an alternate family form. I call foul. It's only an alternative family form from the adult's perspective. From the child's perspective, their family has been destroyed. There is no way to sugar coat this--this is the reality.”
In another entry the author is annoyed at her mother for trying to minimise the effects of divorce on her life simply because she (the daughter) finished High School and went to college.
She writes: “My mom denies how painful the divorce was for my brothers and I. Once we grew up, she openly mocked the statistics demonstrating poorer outcomes for children whose parents divorced, because we didn’t suffer any of the social pathologies to which we were statistically more susceptible:
• none of us ended up in jail
• all of us graduated from high school
• all of us went to college (two of us finished and even went to grad school: one became a lawyer, one became a veterinarian; the third stopped college but joined the Navy and became a nuclear technician on a fast-attack submarine)
• none of us developed a problem with drugs or alcohol
"Now that we’ve all ‘turned out all right,’ my mom continues to mock the above statistics, but what she cannot detect because it cannot be measured is the emotional pain, the psychological upheaval, and the gap in our upbringing and personal development due to the absence of our father.”
How many similar stories exist here in Ireland and when will we hear them? Or are their experiences to be kept from view in case they upset the adults? Are these children of divorce part of the new ‘hidden Ireland’?