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'Your Marriage Is Doomed,' and Other Lies Told to Children of Divorce

May 30 2012
In her new book, MOMumental, Jennifer Grant gives adults courage and confidence in raising off-script families.

When my parents divorced when I was 32—already married for nearly a decade and with two children of my own—I remember thinking, Great. Now, I'm a statistic. My marriage is doomed.

I'm pretty sure any child of the 1970s or 1980s will understand my concern. After all, we grew up hearing about the tragedy of divorce and how all these children's lives would now be tainted. Children of divorce, we were told, were more likely to experience just about every societal horror: from underage drinking to promiscuity to murder sprees, it seemed. But the one statistic I worried about most (after all, I was already of legal drinking age and not exactly tempted by promiscuity or murderous rampages) was the one we heard the most: that children of divorce were more likely to end up divorced themselves.

Of course, eight years after my parents divorce, my husband and I are still quite married. And while those statistics probably were never meant for adult children of divorce, they have become increasingly dubious to me—especially as I've looked around and noticed just how many of my friends from "broken" homes have managed to pull off marriage and family life—for better or for worse.

In fact, in her latest book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, Jennifer Grant, whose father left her family when she was 10, takes those statistics right to task, showing readers that no matter what "type" of family we come from, all of us can create wonderful, healthy and loving—if often "messy"— marriages and families.

So, what do you think about those marriage fears o' mine?

It's fascinating (and sad) that you, at 32, felt "tainted" by your parents' divorce.

That underscores the way our very muscles absorb and take on the messages we hear over and over again, perhaps especially when we are children.

It's critical that we speak with care to children about any real loss, wound, disability, or grief that is a part of their lives. We want to acknowledge the pain of these things and support kids in appropriate ways, but we should never pathologize them or stamp them as abnormal or destined to fail on the basis of the difficult life experiences they encounter.

I know I had to fight the messages I had always heard about people like me who were from "broken homes" even to get engaged as a college student and take the risk of getting married as a 21-year-old.

But how do people who've heard this message—that they're abnormal or destined to fail—for so long counteract this?

From: May 2012

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