In The Backseat: What It’s Like Being a Daughter of Divorce

Coaching, Marriage
July 9, 2022

The Authentic Wife and Mom

Beth Rowles | The Conscious Marriage Coach

It’s been suggested to me that I speak about my own experience as a daughter of divorce more than I do. I often hesitate to share my story for two reasons…

The first is that I never want someone to assume that I am triggered by my parent’s divorce and that I do my marriage coaching work out of my own pain. The fact is that the pain of divorce for children is mostly grief, as the family they know dies and never comes back to life. Grief is the only emotion that we can’t release by processing as it never ends, so of course, I have moments where it visits, just like you might if you’ve lost someone you loved. But when it comes to the triggers and unmet childhood needs I had from the divorce, I’ve done the inner child healing work I needed to do. I also don’t view all divorces as equal — sometimes, they are inevitable. So, let me be clear that I’m not judging others or projecting my pain. I have simply learned how to avoid divorce, which I think is worth sharing, and I will always put children first. In the end, all of us need to grow ourselves up so we don’t cause unnecessary suffering for our children. Avoiding the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) of divorce is as important to me as avoiding all of the other ACE’s!

Ace Out

“There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and experiencing divorce of parents. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.” – https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

If nothing else, I’m continuously operating from a ‘children first’ mentality. It feeds everything I do. This just happens to be the area where I can help the most.

The second reason I don’t talk about my experience during the divorce much is that I don’t want it to appear that I’m judging my parents for not keeping the family together. The truth is that I actually rarely think about what either of my parents could have done differently, because I know they were operating from the best place they knew how to at the time. I’m not sitting around at my desk blaming them for how their marital actions impacted my life. To the contrary, if there is any desire, it’s for them to heal and grow in the same way that I have been able to. I love them and want them to live their best lives and I know how much happier I am after doing this work. I also love their new spouses. Do I wish I had my family back? Of course, for reasons I’ll detail in a moment. But most of my own work has been based on individual encounters with each parent and identifying systems of dysfunction, so I don’t repeat them. I operate under no delusions of my family being resurrected from the dead. I firmly believe that I chose this life (and these parents) and knew I’d experience what I needed to in order to remember my life’s purpose.

With that said, here’s my story, shared from my point of view. If it seems like I’m only sharing the negative, it’s because that’s all that was really left (honestly). The amazing foundation I had up until their divorce crumbled. We went to Montessori, then were homeschooled, scored in the high 90th percentiles on tests, and on a trajectory to live really great lives prior to their separation. Our parents’ finances had just stabilized. We had a beautiful home in sunny South Carolina. Dad and mom both had good jobs, we went to church on Sunday with mom, had good friends, and everything seemed great. I don’t remember being super close to my dad because we spent a lot less time with him, but he was definitely the one who ‘got’ me and would respond with empathy when I was upset. However, both parents spanked us and operated from an authoritarian parenting paradigm, but overall, the structure of a good life was there. And if you’re curious, it was my dad who initiated the divorce.

A note to you: I am sure there are those of you out there who suffered because of other family members, the toxicity present when your parents did not get a divorce, abuse, or far more trauma than I endured. I hope you can read this and not compare my suffering to yours. In the end, all of us needed our parents to grow up. That’s it. This is my experience with emotionally immature, unhealed, unconscious parents who were doing the best they knew how to do. I’d love to hear your story as well. Also, this is not the whole story of my life. I’m only focusing on the impact of the divorce itself.

I’m seven.

It’s 1990. We return from a visit with our grandparents who lived in Michigan in the summer or early fall and dad is sleeping in my bedroom. There is chatter between my parents and grandparents, and I can’t remember if they tell me, but I don’t really know what’s going on. Within days, there’s a truck. Dad loads his things and our family breathes its last breath. We are now just two kids, with a very sad, very upset mom crying on the couch up against the paneled wall in our living room. All day crying. Maybe for days crying. I try to cheer her up. It doesn’t work. It won’t be the last time she is annoyed at me trying to cheer her up. I learn it’s no longer ok to be happy in our house. This is when I learn how to become hyper-sensitive to the emotional state of others. An empath.

Halloween comes and we walk around a strange neighborhood with dad, returning to an equally strange tiny rental house. It’s bare, for the most part. I don’t remember much about that house, other than during the time he lived there, there was a fight over who got to keep the wooden chair mom rocked us in as babies.

While dad used to watch us during mom’s second shift at the hospital, I don’t have a lot of memories of that time, just a few moments of his presence here and there. Once, he wanted to test an idea for his tire manufacturing job (or maybe it was for school as he graduated from college shortly before the divorce) and had us put colored circle stickers on something and I thought it was the most fun activity ever. But now being alone in the car with him or at his new little rental feels different. His rules tighten. I feel like a guest. It doesn’t feel like anyone’s anticipating our needs when we’re with him. It feels like we’re a disruption. My heart is beginning to harden so I don’t die from the pain of their separation, of being suddenly breathless.

Back at my house, dad doesn’t save me like he used to, he doesn’t get home from work, smelling like a brand new tire, and walk up the stairs to my room and encourage me to come down to dinner when my mom couldn’t care less about my tears. I can’t just share with him how my day went or the picture I painted or the model of the sun I made. I can’t even talk about him, because that triggers my mom. Then when we’re together during our visitation time, it’s like we have a new dad. One who didn’t want us enough to stay. One who seems happy to be gone… not gasping for air like the rest of us.

I’m eight.

As time drags on, there are many phone calls. Mom vents to her friends or family about the situation. I hear her end of everything. Dad comes over for Christmas and brings corn casserole with jalapenos. I’ve never had it before. Both parents tell us over and over that it doesn’t mean they’re back together, that he’s just there for Christmas. Duh, I think. I’m not sure why they keep telling us things like this… like “It’s not your fault,” because it was so clear to us that it was absolutely their fault. But later, I learned how much of their conflict stemmed from mom trying to parent us the way she thought was best and my dad being angry that there wasn’t enough – of anything but especially money – left for him, or his desires.  They are polite to each other and he leaves. It’s the last time that happens for a long time… both the being polite part and them being in the same room with us together.

We’re sent to some big building where we’re supposed to be talking about divorce with other kids briefly. I remember none of it, other than we were told some more ridiculous stuff we already knew. It felt like the grownups were all idiots and we knew it. It’s like they were trying to convince us that they weren’t as unhealthy as we could clearly see they were. I remember as a child wondering why they made life so hard for themselves and all of us, why they couldn’t see the consequences of their own actions. In any event, out of these “professionals”, no one comforts me in my grief or teaches me how to feel better. It’s like they are trying to condition us to believe that we’re ok, even though our whole flipping foundation has just been nuked. They do introduce me to a little train made out of Lifesavers candy at some Christmas event which I thought was clever… that’s my most vivid memory of the experience.

I know we’re also sent to some kind of counselor who might as well have taken a nap while we were there. No one helps me feel better about anything. How could they? Unless they have a box with my family in it, there’s no way to take the pain away. We don’t even know what to process. There’s nothing to process yet. It’s clear that the adults need help processing. If only THEY were getting the help they needed, then they could meet our needs. Instead it was like they hoped the professionals would “fix” us so they didn’t have to be confronted with the consequences of ripping our hearts out of our chests. I think my mom was probably especially resentful about having to deal with us, especially me, because she was not the one that did this in her mind. No matter how unhappy she was, she wouldn’t divorce him… but she wouldn’t (or didn’t know how to) heal either.

I’m nine or ten.

By this time, I have already told my mom one night on the stairs that  I think I should commit suicide. She tells me it’s selfish. I’m not even good enough to end my life.

Dad takes us to some woman’s trailer (maybe she’s a coworker?). I’ve never been in a trailer before. I have no idea what they’re doing, and it’s boring. She seems awful and 100% not interested in kids cramping her style. Both parents like hearing about what’s happening with the other parent. Mom buys a new car at some point, and dad is angry when he picks us up and sees it. We love the new car and are so excited about it and its faux wood dashes and electronic seats. Recently, I learned that mom having a nice car had sparked a lot of arguments in their relationship, which began the day she met dad when he came to buy her car. Dad eventually sold the car she replaced it with without asking her at a garage sale, which really blew my mind, even if he had good intentions.

Our phone begins getting physically abused. I don’t know why they talk on the phone so much, but mom slams it down often, then he calls back, and she slams it down again. I knew they used to fight sometimes before the divorce (usually not in front of us), but now it feels like they fight all the time, over the phone. I hear everything that’s wrong with my dad repeatedly, and I realize that I’m a lot like him, so I try to be less like him. The descriptive word “anal” is added to my vocabulary.

Mom has a terrible lawyer. She does nothing then sends her a huge bill, and mom starts to cry about how she won’t be able to give me anything for my upcoming birthday. I remember not caring at all. I really didn’t care about getting things or gifts. Is it my family back? No, ok, well I don’t care. Mom had always been generous, but dad always had pinched pennies. In the meantime, mom starts dyeing her hair and wearing more makeup and nicer clothes. But she’s also really tired, short-tempered at times, and generally just sick of life a lot. (I’m sure she was getting almost no self-care.) We still spend plenty of time with friends and in our pool until she goes to work. Catastrophe after catastrophe happens in the house between things flooding or breaking, and it feels like there is a lot to do on our shoulders without dad there. Visits with dad are boring, and he seems to never relax and have fun. We see a LOT of movies at the theater and emerge from the cold, dark room to the Carolina heat to be driven home. Tension between him and my brother increases. My brother is really upset that Dad left us. The battle lines have been drawn. It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but no one loves each other.

The divorce is finalized in 1992, after two long years of battles over everything. The same year, two friends’ babies die along with my favorite grandpa (who was a step-grandpa). It’s a terrible year. We all agree on that. Well, on ‘our’ side. Dad’s good.

We now have a babysitter in the evening during my mom’s second shift job as a nurse in the emergency room. Several babysitters. The first took us to a movie and then was gone, the second caused a flood by pouring the litter box down the toilet, the third was scared of everything and I still feel bad for using a Chinese yoyo to make her jump coming out of the bathroom, and the last one, Mrs. Beasley, finally lets me go play in the woods by myself again. Eventually, we were just left home alone, which wasn’t great. Being in the house alone until late at night is terrifying. But then my mom moves her mom in during the winter, and that is worse. Her visit starts with weighing me and telling me how fat I am because that’s what she weighed in high school. She takes over my room, and my brother is sent to what used to be the playroom downstairs, and I get his room. I’ve heard lots of stories about how my mom’s dad was a shitty parent, like sending her into bars to pick up gambling winnings at eight years old, and I have such fierce loyalty to my mom that I’m angry that grandma let her husband be so horrible to her child (and angry at him as well, of course). I’m incredibly annoyed by my grandma the majority of the time for various reasons and wish she would leave. She is trying to be a parent, and I barely know her — we only saw her twice a year up until now. I want my family back. My world has fallen apart.

I’m eleven.

Dad has found an old girlfriend again, and he’s talking about getting married to her. My mom is livid that he would dare move her down from Michigan (where they had lived until she drew a circle on the map around the Carolinas and said move me here) to HER town (in South Carolina). Our days of leisurely homeschooling end, and we’re put in public school. I’m miserable there. Mom changes careers to be a home health nurse, and it seems we start to see her less. Dad is preoccupied with his new woman, not that it matters because we see him like twice a month. One day I learn how to use his computer to make an April calendar and add important dates, as one does. I add their wedding. I’m very excited about what I’ve made because I worked hard on it on this fun new technology called the computer, and decide to show my mom when I return from his house. She’s sitting next to my grandma on the couch when I hold it in front of her. Her reaction pierces my innocent heart. I don’t remember what was said, but I was shamed to eternity. Fortunately or not, my grandma pointed out that it was the date she was upset about, which made it stupid, which meant I was stupid. It gets embedded in my psyche and makes me afraid to ask for feedback on my creations for decades.

Before the wedding, in what seems like days, mom decides to move. Most of our things are auctioned off. Nearly all of my childhood toys are put in milk boxes from Ingles and sent away on some truck, never to be seen again. Our school room, our pool, our woods… none of it gets a proper goodbye. We just drive off in the Uhaul. We’re heading north to Michigan to live with that same grandma, and mom gets to be closer to an old boyfriend of hers.

This is where my hell really begins. It was one thing to take my family. One thing to take my structure. But now I’m being thrown into a completely different life.

I’m twelve.

Now we’re 700 or so miles from dad. We talk on the phone sometimes; who knows what we talked about. Up in Michigan, we’re put into a private Catholic school. Talk about a culture shock from homeschooling! It started off fine when I had a tan and hadn’t lost my southern charm, but by the next year, I’d paled up, gained weight, and kids were sticking “wide load” signs on my back. I hate it. I rarely see mom, who’s changing careers again to be a Realtor. She lives in the walkout basement, and our rooms are upstairs. Now it REALLY doesn’t feel like we have a family. And nothing is really OURS anymore. The things that regulated me in South Carolina are still down there, and I can’t drive. No best friend, no woods, no pool, no homeschooling, nothing. At least our pets came with us.

We don’t do much because money is so tight, and mom is an introverted homebody anyway. I can’t really talk to this side of the family about me because half of who I am isn’t ok, half of my experience isn’t ok to talk about either, and no one wants to talk anyway. When I cry about missing home, my mom tells me shit happens, and I have to get over it.

By the way, part of getting me excited about moving to Michigan was mom promising to buy me a horse. I loved Felicity (the American Girl doll) who rode all over on her horse, and imagined the freedom and love of a giant pet that was also transportation. She does keep that promise but buys me four horses which are boarded at my great aunt’s house, what seems like five miles down the road. So my existence is now walking through whatever weather we have, mostly snow, to go take care of all of these horses I can’t even ride, in the frigid cold. No one’s taking care of me but now I’m some frickin’ Annie Oakley wrangling these big beasts. And it’s on me to clean up all of their giant piles of manure, and of course I do a terrible job, because I’m the shell of a depressed 12-year-old, so I get shamed again. At school, I’m wearing the same shoes I went to the barn in, so I probably stink which does not help my popularity or approval at a building full of the richest kids in the county.

Once, I decided to go ride on my own since my mother wouldn’t ride with me, and my mare’s young colt literally jumps on me! He drags his hoof down my thigh, splitting it wide open. I get down and put all the tack away, sobbing. Somehow, I ride or walk my bike down the dirt road home, and all I can think through the tears are how I have to hide it because I did it without asking. They all end up seeing my blood-soaked leg and I guess they had a moment of clarity because I didn’t get in trouble. I also didn’t get stitches either. It’s the second horse-related injury in my life that gets a Band-aid because mom’s a nurse and we have to be far closer to death than that to get medical care.

By now, we’ve started to visit dad via Delta. But on a return trip, my brother harasses me one last time and my dad ends up pulling his jacket to get him to walk away with him, and rips it in the process. My brother stops seeing dad, so now I’m the black sheep still talking to him, and no one else cares. I can only share incriminating things or keep my mouth shut. I feel sick. I miss my family, my house, my old life. I hate school, have no friends, too much responsibility, and stinky shoes. And I miss feeling well. I start feeling sick to my stomach a lot from the anxiety. The kids at school have both parents at their events. They have normal homes. No one lives with their grandma. No one goes all evening without talking to their mom. Grandma picks me up from school daily, but we don’t talk. All of my pain is directed at her most of the time. One year she starts living on Jekyll Island during the winter, and I walk home every day from school, in the snow, in slacks and loafers because mom says it was that or the bus. I was bullied relentlessly on the bus after the time mom cut my hair, giving me two inch curls instead of the “long layers” I asked for… apparently no one loves a chunky Sophia from Golden Girls with an expander in eighth grade. I choose the uniformed frozen tundra hike with the possibility of hypothermia over a bumpy 30-minute ride of shame.

I hate my life.

I’m thirteen or fourteen.

Maybe because I was so sad most of the time, dad and his new wife move up to Michigan, too, in with her parents. So now I get picked up and ride in the car 45 minutes to where they live. I have to meet more new people, and deal with more snow. My introverted, previously homeschooled self is a giant balloon of swallowed tears by this point, doing everything I can not to drown. On one visit, my first period started immediately before I left, and my mom somehow thought I was prepared (like I have a car or money to get myself stuff?) and off I went, only to bleed all over this stranger’s house (not really, but if you remember your first period, you know what I mean). I have to go to the store with my dad, who I barely know anymore, to buy pads. I stuff the panic attack inside.

I’m always figuratively in the backseat, out of control, in fear, hostage to the inner children of my parents. I also literally sit in the back and go wherever my dad and stepmom are going because they constantly plan things without my input and surprise me. While dad does stuff with me, I don’t feel like an active or wanted participant in it. I feel like an annoyance. A disruption to whatever their new life is like. At least I’m not like the neighbor girl whose divorced parents make her leave the belongings they bought at each house, I think. At least I can take whatever I want back and forth… to “my” two homes, which aren’t really mine at all. What is home? Where is home? Home is back on Three Bridges Road in South Carolina. My dad’s choice destroyed MY home.

Back and forth I zip along I-94, east to west and west to east, across Michigan. Who knows what happens back at grandma’s house while I’m gone. But then I return, and if I miss dad and cry because my life is such a mess and I have so much unprocessed grief, not only over the loss of my family but the loss of my house and friends as well, then my mom is offended and storms off. I complain about my stomach and get this terrible minty medicine to drink. Inside I’m screaming that none of the adults around me will just grow up. We’re just tossed around like accessories in the baggage, left to deal with the aftermath of their choices without much concern for ours.

Mom’s boyfriend sort of fizzles out, or was never really her boyfriend, I’m not sure. There’s no dad figure in my brother’s life. He starts going south (figuratively), so at least now I’m the good child again. He wears a trench coat to his new alternative school. Mom’s precious babies! The ones she sacrificed her life and energy to homeschool! We’re left behind. No one is getting us ready for college or even really spending time with us. I make myself dinner or have whatever yech grandma made, and eat it by myself. They put a giant mirror next to the table so I can be sure to see how fat I am while I eat. No one really talks to anyone. I’m sent to a counselor again, this time because my grandma hit/slapped me once when I didn’t get up and do what she said. She was not my mother. My mother was MIA. It felt like it was these three adult women against me in that office, and all I could think was wtf is actually wrong with these people. What do you expect? I’m certain that had it been a stepparent in my primary home, it would have been them who received my wrath instead of my grandma. I’ve seen it with other children of divorced parents I know. My poor grandma just paid the price of being the unwanted new adult in my life, and treating her role as a parental one.

I’m fifteen or sixteen.

Dad visits me for the last time. Mom has now gained some real financial independence and she builds a house and finally moves us out of the grandma hell. Those three years felt like a lifetime. Visits with him now are like meeting up with a total stranger. I’m in the way of his new life with his wife, too. She tolerates me, but if I want to be physically close to my dad I’m told to move–out of her seat, out of the middle, whatever. She couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to my mom, which I’m intrigued by, but there’s no love for me in the house. But that’s not why it was the last visit. It was the last visit because, during a phone call with dad, it somehow gets heated and I tell him things I’ve heard from mom and he starts telling me about the devil that’s coming out of my mouth. I forgot to mention that he has now become some sort of born-again Southern Baptist, memorizing and vomiting scripture (because it was a prerequisite of this new relationship he’s in). My whole childhood, it was mom who went to church, volunteered, and hosted the kids from Ireland. Dad tolerated it. His actions never modeled anything like “God’s love,” but now he was always trying to tell us about THE LORD. So anyway, I was done with the hypocrisy from the man who ditched us and stopped talking to him for the next 16 years of my life.

I’m an adult.

The only kind of relationship I had with my dad from that phone call to lunch at Bravo! Italian Kitchen in 2012 was trying to avoid him. Cards came. Sometimes phone calls. Surprise visits. But not desperately, just like when he’d think about it or some reasonably hallmark holiday. Like I’d want to be confronted at work by the man who murdered my family and suddenly want to talk about the weather at McDonald’s for an hour.

My brother and mom seemed content that I was finally fully on their side, even if they didn’t really accept me. I’m more like my dad, after all. I’m trying very hard not to be anal. But sometimes, I mess up and rearrange my mom’s pantry to something that makes more sense, which probably triggers her. My brother had maintained wanting nothing to do with him all this time and had successfully avoided him, somehow. He still (to this day) doesn’t talk to him. He could fill a swimming pool with his unopened cards, had he not thrown them immediately into the trash.

As one would imagine, I had a lot of terrible relationships during this time. I was so desperate to start and create the family I didn’t have (for long) that I scared any guy who looked at me. I had no model of what was healthy. I had no boundaries, I just wanted to overdo and over-serve for everyone so they would finally love me without leaving me. I had terrible beliefs about money because I learned somewhere along the way that if I gave my brother money, he would stop punching me and be nice to me for a minute. So there I was, just giving myself and my money away, trying to fit in with what was left of my family and find my way in life.

Mom meets the man she’s now married to. One thing this guy does right is NEVER try to be my parent. I give him credit for that. From day one, he’s been just a friend, even though their relationship was tumultuously on again, off again. Watching her with him is eye-opening in every way. I can see where she suffocates authenticity to be whatever she thinks she should be.

Then I met my husband, and after a weird chain of events that led to not speaking to my mom briefly, I decided to reach out to my stepmom on LinkedIn and reconnected with my dad.

The rest would be history, but now we have a new problem.

I’m a parent.

The first baby. The baby shower. The delivery. The first birthday. All of them, I had to worry about and manage who was coming. Which parent would get me when? Not that I cared if they were in the same room at the same time, but they sure did. Even 24 years later, the drama and divide of the divorce were still ever-present. Not to mention the insecurities of their spouses, who probably only heard the worst about their predecessor.

Now every road trip north, I have to coordinate visits between houses. Coordinate birthday parties. Manage who I’m seeing and when. And in the end, I really don’t see either of them nearly as much as I want to. And it’s not because they’re in Michigan and I’m in Ohio, it’s because I have to essentially plan two visits for every trip. I can’t just sit down with my mom and dad and share the joy of my children with them. I can’t just call one and talk to both of them. It’s not the same as managing one set of parents and one set of in-laws. It’s two emotionally heightened visits, watching my own parents who couldn’t be there for me, trying to be there for my children.

Once, I had a medical issue during a visit, and my dad and stepmom agreed to visit at my mom’s house, but that was the last time, and now they refuse to do the same again. Mom was awful friendly to dad…can’t be having that kind of harmony, can we?

My kids ask me over and over why I have these two sets of parents… what happened? Why did they divorce? Are you and daddy going to do that? Do all mommies and daddies do that? Is Grandma going to come to my concert? Is Grandpa going to come to a basketball game? My friend’s grandparents come to her games, but Grandma never comes to ours; why not? And if they did live close enough to just drop in, it would be another challenge where they’d likely want to trade off dates to not be in the same gym simultaneously.

So here I am, almost 40, still dealing with their divorce. The drama and dysfunction are still alive to some extent. The void from spending most of my adolescence without the normal parental guidance and support one would expect to have, especially from parents like mine who really cared about us when we were born, still seems to have a lot of my success in its clutches. Don’t take me wrong–I’m not blaming them for where I am and know I’m fully responsible for my success now, but for example, I only just earned my bachelor’s last year (and am working on my MBA now). I’m just now healing and maturing from my childhood. I’m doing everything I can – LITERALLY – to grow up and keep my marriage together and unlearn the inner conditioning that was created from living under such an unhealthy model. And all of the statistics say I’m not alone.

In 2000 the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published a study of college students whose parents had divorced that found 75% felt they would have been a different person if their parents hadn’t divorced. 50% said they missed not having their father around, they had a harder childhood than most people, or they wished they had grown up in a never-divorced family. 25% wondered if their father really loved them, and 20% believed they were doomed to repeat their parents’ problems – all significantly different responses than those from students who grew up in always married families.

In 2001 a study by Furstenberg and Kiernan published in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicated that individuals whose parents divorced are more likely to break up with their live-in partner, suffer economically, live in subsidized housing, be on welfare, and men are more likely to be unemployed.

The family may die if one of you signs divorce papers, but the children you both created are yours forever. The man or woman you once loved is going to be in your life forevermore, most likely.

My mom still has a life insurance policy on my dad and wonders if she’ll ever get a small payday from the man who questioned every dime she ever wanted to spend, especially on us.

My dad still wonders how he can get my brother back in his life. And you have to wonder what he would even mean to him at this point?? Did those first nine years of physical presence matter? Do they have lasting power over the last 32? My brother is a lot like my dad, which probably would eat him up inside to admit. It might threaten his close relationship with our mom to admit that now. We got very strong lessons about what was acceptable, and what is divorceable.

I don’t want this for you.

I don’t want this for you. I don’t want this for your children. If my parents had used their conflict to grow up, they would have been the adults we needed as children. That’s it. Plain and simple. I firmly believe my children should not have to suffer for my willful ignorance and immaturity. I have done, and will continue to do everything in my power to make sure they are raised by two mature, adult, humans. The two people who fell in love and started this family and don’t have the right to leave it.

Everyone gives that “choose your hard” meme grief, but I want you to know that there is nothing I can even think of that is harder than divorce that one can actually voluntarily choose. To me, it’s murder. It’s a death that is unnecessary. It’s grief and heartbreak that could be avoided. And the research and science back that up, it’s not just my perception. Divorce is as painful to a child as the death of a parent would be. In my opinion, it’s almost more painful, because they die at the end of every visit, over and over and over again.

Finally, you might notice that the relationship dynamic between my parents was replicated after the divorce; my mom and dad went to my brother and my dad, and my dad and mom went to me and my mom. In other words, what triggered my mom about my dad continued to trigger her through me, and what triggered my dad about my mom continued to trigger him through my brother. That’s how closely we represent each of our two parents. That’s why my mom and brother continued to get along; he reflected for her everything she loved about herself. I reflect for my dad what he loves about himself. So know that if you don’t heal these triggers and learn to accept your spouse, your children will make sure you continue to have the opportunity to heal them, and play a role they shouldn’t have to. 

Be the authentic you. Let your husband do the same. Learn to accept and love all of yourself so you can accept and love all of him. Know your worth. That’s what the world needs most right now. Not this. Not divorce.


To Read More About Having a Conscious Marriage, Click Here

If you’d rather not take my word for it, I include some of the pertinent statistics on divorce’s impact on children at the link above. You can also watch more about it in my video, How We End Divorce Culture.

  • Should you get divorced? Take the quiz: >> CLICK HERE
  • Someone asked if I had tips for making a divorce better, but in the end, if you actually do what you need to do to make a divorce better for your kids, then you most likely wouldn’t need the divorce anyway. It can be summed up in two words: Grow up. And how do you know you’ve fully grown yourself up? When your spouse starts to grow up as well. The relationship dynamic itself is co-created by the healthiest one of you. If you are the self-regulated adult (not the parent but the adult) then your spouse has no choice but to also mature into a self-regulated adult. And that is always what your kids need most.
Beth Rowles
Follow me!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I'm Beth Rowles, Hi!

I help driven moms use the conflict in their marriage as a feedback loop to grow in self-awareness so they can create the marriage they, and their kids, deserve without leaving the one they're in or waiting for their husband to evolve.

I'm the author of The Authentic Wife: Uncaging Yourself Through Marriage and host of The Authentic Wife Show podcast & YouTube channel.


Recent Posts




Save your marriage from divorce coaching course book Beth Rowles relationship trailblazer. What's your Soul Truth in Marriage?

FREE: The Princess & The Peeve™ Instantly Take Control Of Your Life By Learning What Your Current Emotions Mean

The Princess & The Peeve Emotion Assessment Worksheet

FREE: Get 30 Texts/Scripts to Ask Your Husband for Help Without Getting Resistance

30 Texts to Ask Your Husband for Help Without Starting a Fight

Are You True to Yourself in Your Marriage? Read My Book, The Authentic Wife:

The Authentic Wife: Uncaging Yourself Through Marriage by Beth Rowles

Learn How to Love Your Husband Again, Even If It Feels Like It's Too Late

Love Him Again: A Step-by-Step Guide to Saving Your Marriage by Beth Rowles

6-Month Marriage Coaching Program for Wives Contemplating Divorce

Happily Ever After 6-Month Marriage Coaching Program

"Your partner is ultimately a mirror of how you feel about yourself, and your relationship will call on you to get into integrity with earlier wounds and negative life patterns."

--Dr. Laura Berman, Quantum Love

Love Queen, Enneagram 5, Child Prioritizer, Problem Solver, Book Lover, Authenticity Expert, And Your Marriage Saver

I’m Beth.
Your Authenticity
[to keep it a Family] Coach.

You and your kids deserve a marriage that brings your light to life. That may seem far away right now, but I’m proof that it’s possible and in your power to create! Stop worrying about what your kids are learning from him and let’s figure out what they can learn from you, mama!