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September 11, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

At graduation time, we talked about dealing with parents who...weren't. And now that we're back in school, let's turn briefly to a new book that calculates the longer-term aftermath of:

When Grownups Break Up

I remember when, it seemed, all my friends' parents started to get divorced. The very beginnings of not assuming they all had the same last name, lived in the same house, would both show at the picnic. Well, now those kids are adults, and Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D., has followed their peers, 93 of them, since 1975, and has published her findings in The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study.

Which are...? Well, old school said that children of divorce pretty much deal with the effects by adolescence. Wallerstein found otherwise: "We've made a mistake in thinking that the breakup is the high point of impact," she says. "Divorce is a cumulative experience." Turns out the toughest time for these kids is when they're kids no longer. It's in their 20s and 30s that they start to feel the grownup aftermath; it's one thing to feel caught in the middle, another to feel doomed to repeat family history yourself. Well, that's not quite fair -- Wallerstein notes that divorcelings haven't soured on love or its promise, just that they tend to struggle with fears of failure and loss, and with a lack of a healthy "couple template" that might otherwise help guide their own decisions.

Also, in last week's Newsweek, "seasoned, married" 34-year-old Holly Hubbard Preston wrote about her parents' decision to split after 35: "I often find myself at a loss to explain how empty my parents' breakup has left me...The sad thing is that the two people I often want to turn to for comfort -- my mother and father -- cannot be good listeners in this circumstance....For me, understanding the necessity of the divorce was never the problem; it was learning how to deal with the consequences of it."

All of that suckiness said, a new study from Middle Tennessee State University suggests that adult children of divorced parents make easier exits from unhappy marriages. Chilly comfort, but still. Guess that's one place where a less-healthy "couple template" could actually help one recognize what works and what doesn't.

Wallerstein says there's not enough research yet to know exactly what kind of intervention could help divorcelings step around these pitfalls. (And besides, Adult Children of Lovey-Dovey Parents are never issue-free, so who's to say for sure what causes what, ever?) Meantime, suffice it to say that -- surprise -- communication is key. Kids -- I'm thinking, even grown ones -- need some sort of explanation for the split. The more specific a sense they have, Wallerstein suggests, the less they'll feel lashed to some vague unnamed divorce driftwood.

So let's talk now. Could you be a Wallersteiner? Are you a Holly? How have you dealt? Do tell.

Me, I'll just sweat over the high "couple template" standards set at Home BG Home. Please don't take that as smug; hey, it's what /whom I know, and they're a really tough act to follow. But yes, Mom, I'm trying to hurry.

Predicament of the Week:
"Am I carrying a torch so big that I turn every love shack into an inferno?"

Do Tell!
BG needs you to help her write her future columns! Inquiring superheros want to know:
Dating Violence: Help BG help others! Do you have a tale to tell?
Living Together? Since BG's only ever lived with friends/plants, well, did you do it? Did it change your relationship? What helped it work -or- any advice for handling this more cumbersome of breakups? (That part's for you, Clamstrung!)
• Did the Mrs. pop the question?
How picky are you?
How did you MEETmeet? We've got the Big To Do; let's hear from you, too. What advice do you have for finding keepers? (This is for you, Bethany!)
Something old? How old ...were you when you got married? The first time? Or decided not to? Does the "age" in marriage matter? (This is for you, Crystal!)
Single parents: How do you deal with dating? (This is for you, CJanelleS!)
Dealbreakers: I've been asked to print "the definitive list." Bring 'em on!

Do Sell!
That quaint medium known as "print!" Enjoy BG's books new and old!
Hearing voices? Check out the audio version of BG's book (read by BG herself, even though the headphones at the studio made her hair look funny)!

Predicament of the Week:
"Am I carrying a torch so big that I turn every love shack into an inferno?"


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