1. You’ve struggled with inner conflicts and fears whose source you don’t comprehend
  2. You’ve lived for years with fear of loss and worry that if you’re happy, its only a prelude to disaster
  3. You fear change because deep down you believe it can only be for the worse
  4. You’ve been worried about one or both of your parents your whole life
  5. You’re terrified of conflict because the only way you know to handle it is to explode or walk away
  6. You’ve lain awake at night struggling with anxiety about love and commitment
  7. You’ve felt lonely in groups and struggled to find enduring friendships
  8. Your childhood memories are separated by a hard divider: before the divorce/after the divorce
  9. You’ve had difficulty “playing” and people have told you to lighten up
  10. You’ve struggled to identify your own needs, instead you’ve been consumed with meeting the needs of others
  11. Holidays have been diminished for you by the need to treat both parents equally
  12. You’ve lived in fear of repeating your parents’ history, hardly daring to hope you’ll be able to do any better
  13. You’ve been trapped between the longing for love and the fear of loss

(Taken from The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce; The 25 Year Landmark Study by Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakeslee)

If you are hearing these characteristics for the first time and it is resonating with you, I get it. When I first heard this list I felt like someone had seen inside my soul for the first time and said “you are normal.” After years of feeling broken and disconnected from people and not understanding how to connect, I finally had answers and hope that I could be better. I did get better. There were several steps in that process, one of  which consisted of acknowledging what I’d lost because of the divorce and grieving those losses. Because my parents divorce was the launchpad for a series of events that brought fear and uncertainty into my experience, I needed to break those events down and look at them individually, reducing their power to overwhelm me. Their divorce process was protracted over four years of my adolescence and young adulthood. These critical years of development were interrupted by crisis, leaving my personal growth and individuation stunted. These missed areas of development had to be identified and then experienced later in life in order to mature and heal. Because of this disruption, I lacked a personal identity to guide me to a career or even support my self-esteem. Identity formation was part of my healing as well. As you can see, there is a great deal of work to do on the recovery of Self but it is worth it!

For those of you whose parents’ marriage endures but married someone whose parents divorced, you are experiencing the legacy effect. Your list may include something like this:

  • Why do you have to be so careful about trivial disagreements?
  • Why is it so hard to change your plans?
  • Why is it that in dealing with your spouse you feel so often as if you are walking on eggs?
  • When it comes to the decision to have kids, you feel like you’ve run into an emotional blockade
  • When it comes to getting along with your spouse’s family, the complications never cease
  • Your spouse has deep anxieties that seem strangely out of sync in an otherwise highly functioning person


(Taken from The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study by Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakesly)

To you spouses I say this, if you can understand your partner and accommodate his or her special needs, they will be profoundly grateful. Judith Wallerstein, the chief researcher on the longitudinal study of adult children of divorce reminds us “Children of divorce have not had many people in their lives who understand how scared they sometimes get in situations that others take for granted.” I hope you will be that person for them.

I‘d like to help you through the process of recovery either as an individual or as a couple. If you are ready to stop being stuck between your longing for love and fear of loss, give me a call at 855-255-5993 or email me at lchadrick@cosoulcare.com and we’ll set up your first session on the road to healing.

If you identify with any of these points, share that in the comments section below. We can all benefit from your experience.


Posted by Lee Ann

Hi, I'm Lee Ann, an extrovert; perpetual learner; book collector; Jesus-follower; A “doer” in recovery; Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Greater Denver, CO

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