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My interest in the lives of women who grew up in divorced families began with my own experience. Divorce runs in my family and most of my life I believed that my parents’ breakup cast a shadow over my intimate relationships. As a result, I was fearful of repeating the cycle of divorce and felt hesitant to commit. It’s a weird mix. I was fearful of commitment yet stayed in toxic relationships too long due to my fear of abandonment.
My passion for this topic grew as my counseling practice included many daughters of divorce, I experienced divorce, and two of my sisters divorced. After watching my female clients struggle with the distinct emotional challenges from their parent’s’ split – and experiencing it myself – I was certain it was time to create a guide that helps daughters of any age overcome the unique legacy of divorce, so they can establish healthy, happy, and long-lasting relationships.
Today, more than 40 percent of all Americans between the ages of eighteen and forty are children of divorce. For years, researchers have identified the damage divorce inflicts on the lives of children. In recent decades, many studies have examined the negative impact of parental divorce on children into adulthood. However, few have offered concrete strategies for women who desire successful relationships that endure the test of time.
Many daughters of divorce are haunted by ghosts from their childhoods telling them that their relationships, like their parents’, are doomed to fail. This pessimism about the stability of intimate relationships, combined with a lack of competent relationship skills, seems to fuel their high risk for relationship failure. In fact, daughters of divorce are more than twice as likely to divorce themselves when compared to their counterparts from intact families.
Grounded in research and thirty years of clinical practice, Daughters of Divorce is filled with poignant real-life stories and offers a clear roadmap to help women increase their self-awareness and to develop better relationship skills so they can heal the wounds of the past and build the healthy, happy relationships that they deserve.
During my interviews of over 300 women, I asked respondents to describe their experiences growing up in a divided home and to identify their most prominent memories – such as their belief about why their parents divorced and whose fault it was. They were also asked to answer questions such as: What is the most difficult part of a romantic relationship for you? During these in-depth interviews I was able to identify key emotional challenges faced by daughters of divorce that are nearly universal:
- Trouble trusting romantic partners
• Damaged self-esteem
• Issues with intimacy and commitment
• Extreme self-reliance
• Persistent doubts about the stability of present relationships
• A father-daughter wound
My findings support the view that the road to healing for a daughter of divorce begins by examining her divorce experience now that she is an adult. It’s no longer up to others to help her bounce back from their parents’ divorce. In order to heal and adjust, a woman must move out of the place of being a victim and take responsibility for her recovery. It can no longer be about her parents’ attitude or behavior. It’s time for her to create change in her life and move forward. She will discover she can change self-defeating patterns in her relationships and build ones based on love, trust, and intimacy. With greater awareness, women can learn to recognize the forces that shape them and build healthier relationships for themselves.
In fact, experiencing divorce as a child can make a woman more careful about whom she chooses for a partner as an adult. This can emerge as her signature strength. A daughter of divorce understands the fragility of love, yet maintains a respect for its sacred place in her life. Once a woman is aware of the root of her issues, she can and will change her outlook about love and intimacy – letting go of her fear of rejection and past hurt. She can learn to adopt a mindset that it is good to be open about her innermost thoughts, feelings, and wishes. Instead of being paralyzed by fear and shame, she can risk being vulnerable and open with her partner. In doing so, she may find that it allows her to build trust with her partner, and increases her sense of worthiness and authenticity. In the long run, vulnerability is the glue that holds a relationship together and allows us to give and receive love fully.
Daughters of Divorce encourages its readers to take a risk on love. Although it may be hard for a woman who grew up in a divorced home to trust her judgment when it comes to making a commitment, Daughters of Divorce supports her on her journey, imploring her to take her time to develop a successful relationship. Over time, she can learn to trust her instincts and gain self-confidence. Her divorce experience can be the catalyst to make her stronger, more realistic, and better prepared for the requirements of love.
Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist, college instructor, author, and contributor to Huffington Post Divorce and several other websites. She is delighted to announce the recent publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcoming the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship. Her new book, written with her daughter Tracy Clifford, offers a powerful look at the emotional impact of parental divorce upon women and provides concrete ways they can improve their relationships. Follow Terry at movingpastdivorce.com, Facebook, and Twitter.