This post is part two of a series.

The divorce rate of those 50 and older has risen globally since 1990, and research predicts it will grow by another third by 2030. Divorce can stress and even fracture parent-adult-child attachment bonds. Due to longer lifespans than previous generations, gray divorced parents can have adult children aged 18 to 70, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The relationship repercussions of these divorces can affect up to three or four generations. There are many reasons why parents who have been married for 20, 30, 40, or even 50-plus years divorce. Likewise, adult children disconnect from their parents for many reasons.

Loyalty Conflict: Mario, the 19-year-old son of Jason and Sheila, shares, "My mom filed for divorce. Dad was angry and told me Mom had abandoned us. He pressured me to align with him against Mom. I told him I loved him and Mom and didn't want to be in the middle. He wouldn't stop. I was so sad about the divorce and angry that he wouldn't listen to my feelings. I didn't know what to do. So, I stopped talking to him."

Jason created a loyalty conflict for Mario. It was human nature for Mario to step away from his father because he viewed him as the source of his pain, anger, and confusion. Adult children are entitled to have individual relationships with each parent.

Remedies: Jason worked with a therapist through his employee assistance program at work, focusing on his anger and feelings of betrayal by his wife initiating the divorce. His therapist helped him understand that Mario was grieving the loss of his parents being together and that he deserved to have a relationship with both parents. Jason apologized to Mario for putting him in the middle of the divorce and told him he supported him having a relationship with both parents.

Values Contradiction: Louisa had an affair and left her marriage. She hid the affair for three years. Her 28-year-old daughter Penny recalls, "I told Mom she was a hypocrite and bad role model for me and my kids because she abandoned the values she taught me growing up. I could not trust her to be truthful about other things, so I refused to let her see my kids. I tried to talk with her about it, but she always said I didn't understand what she was going through. I finally gave up. She hasn't seen me or her grandchildren for four years."

Remedies: Penny asked Louisa to go to counseling with her. They saw a family therapist, who helped them understand the other's perspective, develop compassion for each other, and repair their relationship. Eventually, Louisa and her grandchildren began spending time together.

Leveraging Dependency: Yolanda, whose 20-year-old son Lucas depended on her for financial support, leveraged Lucas' dependence on her against his father. Lucas shares, "Mom said things to me that put Dad down. She told me Dad was not an adequate breadwinner for the family. She also told me stuff about the divorce, like Dad was putting undue pressure on her to give him money in the divorce settlement. I kept telling her to leave me out of the divorce. I didn't know how to handle everything, so I stopped seeing Dad to keep the peace with Mom." The divorce took two years to complete. Lucas didn't see his father for two years.

Remedies: Yolanda saw a therapist at a local non-profit agency and joined a support group for parents going through divorce. She learned how detrimental it was to denigrate his father to Lucas and to involve him in the divorce process. Eventually, she encouraged Lucas to reconnect with his father, and he did.

There is good news from some of the research about adult children who rejected their parents during and after divorce. Greenwood found that some adult children who became estranged from their gray divorced parents remained so for five to ten years. Eventually, they asked their parents to go to counseling with them and subsequently reconnected with their parents. If their parents had reached out to reconnect with their adult children sooner than their children did, perhaps they could have repaired their parent-child relationships even sooner.

If your parent-adult-child relationship is estranged, consider contacting a therapist, clergy member, or medical doctor for assistance.

Read the previous post here.

© 2023 Carol R. Hughes, Ph.D.

*Names and details changed to protect patient confidentiality.

References

Brown, S. L., & Lin, I.-F. (2022). The graying of divorce: A half century of change. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 77(9), 1710–1720. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbac057

Brown, S. L., Lin, I.-F., Hammersmith, A., & Wright, M. R. (2019). Repartnering following gray divorce: The roles of resources and constraints for women and men. Demography, 56(2), 503–523. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0752-x

Greenwood, J. (2014) Effects of Mid- to Late-Life Parental Divorce on Adult Children. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 55. doi: 10:1080/10502556.2014.950903.

Lin, I-F., Brown, S. L., Mellencamp, K. A. (2023) Gray divorce and parent–child disconnectedness: Implications for depressive symptoms. Journal of Marriage and Family, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12936

QOSHE - Why Do Some Adult Children of Gray Divorce Reject a Parent? - Carol R. Hughes
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Why Do Some Adult Children of Gray Divorce Reject a Parent?

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29.11.2023

This post is part two of a series.

The divorce rate of those 50 and older has risen globally since 1990, and research predicts it will grow by another third by 2030. Divorce can stress and even fracture parent-adult-child attachment bonds. Due to longer lifespans than previous generations, gray divorced parents can have adult children aged 18 to 70, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The relationship repercussions of these divorces can affect up to three or four generations. There are many reasons why parents who have been married for 20, 30, 40, or even 50-plus years divorce. Likewise, adult children disconnect from their parents for many reasons.

Loyalty Conflict: Mario, the 19-year-old son of Jason and Sheila, shares, "My mom filed for divorce. Dad was angry and told me Mom had abandoned us. He pressured me to align with him against Mom. I told him I loved him and Mom and didn't want to be in the middle. He wouldn't stop. I was so sad about the divorce and angry that he wouldn't listen to my feelings. I didn't know what to do. So, I stopped talking to him."

Jason created a loyalty conflict for Mario. It was human nature for Mario to step away from his father because he viewed him as the source of his pain, anger, and confusion. Adult children are entitled to have........

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