How Divorce Has Affected My Future Relationships
I did not grow up in a stereotypical family home with loving parents and siblings. At five years old, my parents had separated to get divorced. My mother received full custody. We moved to a neighboring city to remain close to my father. Although they were getting divorced, she wanted to ensure that he and I maintained in contact for a father-daughter relationship. As I got older weekend visits became more and more infrequent. It was due to schedule conflict from his odd work hours, my mother’s work hours and my school schedule. Since I was so young, I realize that it seemed ‘normal’ for me to always be with my mom and only seeing my father sometimes. The relationship with my mother was and continues to be toxic due to our differences. Children are believed to be the reflection of their parents; often to forget their adolescents will grow into their own. My mother often forgot I was my own person making it difficult for us to connect. She was raised in a strict Evangelical home, passing along the same teachings to me. As I grew older, forming my own opinions and decisions became clearer; I stopped going to church because I did not agree with the values it instilled. The rules and regulations of the church were drilled into my heads at a very young age. Sadly, it was not something I could follow through the rest of my life. The best decision I have made in my life was leaving the church; the downfall of my decision is the broken relationship I have with my mother because of it.
Before my own separation with the church, she remarried, and I felt betrayed. At six years old, I was able to understand that a stranger was entering my life. I could not understand why our little family needed him. She claimed she got married to have an extra helping hand with me. Both she and I were mistreated in very similar but very different ways by her second husband. After 17 long years, they are divorced, yet somehow, she has hope for another marriage. Witnessing my mother through two failed marriages, it has discouraged me from pursuing serious romantic relationships in my future.
Romantic relationships are healthy to have if built on a well-balanced foundation, but I cannot picture myself getting married. My mother has been independent before, during, and after her marriages, I wish that she could see that. She does not need a man to validate her. As I came to that conclusion evaluating her, I came to the same conclusion for myself. I have learned independence and hard work ethic from watching her. I have learned to deal with the stresses of life but also, not to place blame where it did not need be. I have learned to take care of myself and be responsible for my actions; knowing that whatever the choices may be that I make I will have to live with the consequences be it good or bad.
My mother’s divorce and religious beliefs have affected our relationship. It has affected my adolescence more than any other experience up-to-date; it has changed the way I think and process relationships and how I view religious practices. During the divorces, I was cognitively aware of what was happening; I was able to see the bad side of divorce, making me wary of romantic relationships. With our arguments about religious beliefs, it has made wary of believing someone as forgiving and mighty as God would allow many religions to exist, wars and death. It has taken me a while to appreciate my experiences and appreciate the lessons it has taught me. The focus of this paper is on the view of romantic relationships, marriage, relationships between mother-child as well as father-child relationships during and post-divorce of the parents. The environment children grow socially and cognitively greatly influenced the type of person they become in the future. Ideally, a mother is thought to be nurturing and caring, there when her child is in need and makes everything better. The ideal father is thought to be strong yet kind, who fixes everything if it is broken, always there to lend out a helping hand. Now, place these two ideal parents in a perfect world; mother and father would stay married and live happily ever after with their children.
In the real world, marriages do not always last. About half of the first marriages are expected to end (Risch, Jodi & Eccles, 2004). The age of the child or children involved in divorced families may leave adverse effects on behavior affecting cognitive and identity development. The younger the adolescent, the stronger the sense of abandonment may feel, older adolescents are able to understand and feel less responsible (Sorosky, 1977). Children’s sense of security and love from both parents are affected greatly in the separation of the family (Angjelkoska, Stankovska & Dimitrovski, 2015), which is why children are the greatest victims during this time (Angielkoska et al., 2015). Molding of the child traditionally needs a mother and father under one roof. It is looked down upon to break the bond that has been valued for so long (Hartman, Magalhaes & Mandich, 2011). The media’s depiction of divorced families is unhelpful to the stigma it already carries. On TV, divorced families are seen as dysfunctional and unhappy whereas, families that remain together are seen as happy and loved (Hartman et al., 2011). Adolescents spend a lot of time watching TV programs – watching dysfunctional divorced families on television does not help with coping skills; instead, it furthers the negative connotation of divorce and views it only as bad without any positive effects.
Studies have focused on the emotional well-being of the child under the age of 18 who have witnessed the parents’ divorce. Little research has been done on the ability of adolescents maintaining romantic relationships afterward (Shulman, Shachar-Shapira, Connolly & Bohr, 2012). There are guide books on how to build a ‘perfect’ relationship. The first example of a relationship to a child is the demonstration parent’s show to one another (Shulman et al., 2012). This can be explained by two theories written by Risch et al. (2004): attachment theory examines the role of mother-child and father-child relationships and social learning theory, in summary, is the modeled behavior the child will follow (Risch et al., 2004).
Studies have shown strong relationships with the mother to be more beneficial in perceiving an adolescents’ future romantic relationships than with the fathers; however, both relationships with either parent determine different effects (Lee, 2018). Daughters and sons look up to the same-sex parent for modeled behavior (Risch et al., 2004); daughters also may be more subjected to the effects than males according to Lee (2018). Traditionally, women are the caregivers of the family, the glue that holds everything together. Lee states females are more vulnerable to succumb to the pressure of maintaining a relationship with a partner due to social stresses; females that come from divorced families also show more characteristics in negative behaviors toward romantic relationships more than men. With increased support and involvement, studies show it to be correlated with positive future romantic relationships for the adolescent (Lee, 2019).
Multiple researchers deem dating an important emotional developmental skill for the adolescent. Consequently, the experience of dating may be altered by divorce (Sorosky, 1977). Fear of being rejected and hurt due to the misinterpretation of the word “love” may prevent a successful relationship. Difficulty resolving conflicts with communication skills and understanding views may prove to be a challenge. The adolescent may also jump full throttle into relationships, one after the other in hopes to find what could be “love” (Sorosky, 1977). Peers outside of the family home have a role to play as well in the formation of romantic relationships. Quality of future relationships are influenced to be a combination of both peers and parents (Shulman et al., 2012). Children who feel unwanted and less loved are likely to look for love outside of the family leading to romantic relationships at a younger age (Shulman et al., 2012). Parents capable of maintaining an authoritative parenting style may help prevent negative effects (Shulman et al., 2012). The younger the adolescent is, the more sexually active they are; this leads to earlier pregnancies and marriages (Shulman et al., 2012).
Different cultures and religions come with a different set of values on the topic of marriage. Islam and Christianity religions believe divorce is wrong, once you are married to someone, that someone is your partner in life. Buddhists believe marriage is a choice but see no real necessity for it, Mormon elders are known for their views on polygamy, and many more. Divorce is seen as sin under God and disrespectful since it was for seen through him that two people got together. Risch, Jodl, and Eccles (2004) reported on a statistic dated back to 1990 of African-American families having higher divorce rates compared to European-American families. Culturally speaking, this will tell adolescents that African-American kids will have a more positive view on divorce and believe that it is normal for their group to get divorced versus the non-dominant group. It is easy for children to be discouraged from divorce if there is no previous experience with it. The more a child is exposed to a stimulus, in this case, divorce, the more normative it becomes (Shulman et al., 2012).
When a parent leaves the household, an adolescent may have abandonment symptoms (Angielkoska et al., 2015). It is a different type of loss, one that is misunderstood if not handled carefully. Dr. Fracasso of Towson University states in her lectures with video-clip examples explained the best approach that has been studied to tell children about divorce. Parents should seek counseling and an agreed approach to explain the next steps that will take place in their family. Dr. Fracasso also emphasized the need to tell the adolescents that it is never their fault; never allow your child to feel blame for the separation of the adults. Counseling benefits children and divorced parents to help cope with the change and what can be done to assist the adjustment (Sorosky, 1977).
It is important parents continue a relationship with adolescents after separation. It is believed that all aspects of a family dynamic will have a negative impact due to divorce (Lee, 2018). Children will view divorce as the answer to an unhappy marriage in the future, unable to resolve using solution skills. Patterns of marriage, divorce, and remarriage transpiring common, it is possible that children will not have a stable father-figure and are put in a step-family dynamic. Adolescents may present negative views with the introduction of a step-father, it may feel as if he is a stranger trying to infiltrate the family; the adolescent will be withdrawn and will keep their distance as much as possible (Risch et al., 2004). A positive aspect step-parent may have is the outlook on remarriage. Remarriages may change the adolescents’ view on divorce. Remarrying a second time may be beneficial for the family overall and the children will be given a second chance to see what love is (Risch et al., 2004). Divorce and adolescents are two words no parent wants to put together. There are many reasons parents do not stay together; however, the most important position parents should take is for the benefit of the child. It is important to let the adolescent know if it never their fault if the relationship fails; it is important to let the adolescent know that there will be love from both sides to make the new family dynamic work. Respect and love between parents and adolescents is a great way to instill great values for future relationships regardless of the divorce status of the parents. Every family is different, every divorce is different, every outcome is different.
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