How does your parent’s divorce affect you as an adult? How does divorce affect future relationships for the children of divorced parents? And what is a biblical way to heal as an adult who grew up in a divorced family?
In this article, we will discuss 4 negative effects of divorce and how they might be affecting your relationships as an adult. Certainly each child in a divorced family will be affected differently as an adult, but these negative effects are some of the most common problems divorce causes for future relationships for children of divorced parents.
Your Parent’s Divorce Might Cause Trust Issues and the Fear of Abandonment
Perhaps the most common way a child is affected by their parent’s divorce in their adult relationships is by having trust issues or a fear of abandonment. God made us to learn from each other, and this can be used in good and bad ways.
Once you see one of your parents leave the house, naturally you will learn that people leave. As you grow older, this can manifest in the fear of abandonment. To protect yourself from being hurt, you might avoid trusting people at all.
The only way to overcome a fear of abandonment and trust issues that are rooted in your parent’s divorce is to find your security in God first and foremost. Many people try to overcome these issues by finding a very trusting person to marry or they just reassure themselves that their spouse could never do that type of thing.
While it is certainly wise and biblical to try to marry someone who will not abuse your trust or leave you, your fear of abandonment will not go away no matter how trusting your spouse is. Why? Because the rationale for your fear of abandonment is not rooted in your spouse or the person you are dating. Your fear and hurts are rooted in your parents’ divorce from when you were a child. You feel the way you do because you come from a divorced family, not because your spouse is actually untrustworthy.
This is why you need God, not your spouse, to heal your heart. The reality is any human can fail us no matter how great they are. God is the only person who will never leave you nor forsake you, and when you can find all your security in God, then you will be free to trust and love your future spouse. God has promised his people, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). When you know this deeply, you will be able to overcome your fear of abandonment.
Your Parent’s Divorce Can Make You Feel Unworthy to Keep Someone’s Love
Another common negative affect that your parent’s divorce can have on your future relationships is feeling like you are unworthy of love and not good enough to keep someone’s love. When this occurs, you not only have trust issues and a fear of abandonment, you have these fears because you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you.
Divorce is so painful for children because they often take ownership for their parent’s relationship. When a child’s parents get divorced, they might think to themselves, “What did I do to cause this? Why did my dad (or mom) leave me?” Rather than seeing divorce as a problem between a mom and dad, kids often internalize the problems in the home and start believing that they had a role to play in their parent’s divorce.
As a child who experiences this becomes an adult, this false belief of not being loveable will manifest and derail all of your relationships. People who date you will always wonder, “What did I do?” because they will sense your insecurities and distance based in fear.
To overcome this feeling of being unworthy of love which stems from the belief that you were not valuable enough to keep your parents together, you must receive the value God has put on you as his child. As 1 john 3:1 explains, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Your Parent’s Divorce Can Negatively Affect You By Causing You to Believe that Divorce Is a Normal Option in Marriage
While your parent’s divorce can seriously hurt your ability to receive the love others want to give you, it can also hurt the love you give to others. One common way your parent’s divorce can affect your future marriage is by causing you to believe that divorce is a normal option within marriage.
If you believe you can divorce whenever you want in marriage, you will most likely get a divorce. If you think divorce is an option in solving marital conflict, you will use a divorce to solve problems divorce is not meant to solve.
God allows divorce for adultery (Matthew 19:9) or when an unbelieving spouse wants to leave a believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15). Besides those two reasons, there is not an explicit Bible verse allowing for divorce. Even with adultery, however, divorce is allowed but it is not a command. What about the Old Testament laws for divorce? Jesus clarified that for us in Matthew 19:8, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
So even though your parents may have chosen to get a divorce, do not believe the lie that God allows for divorce. Divorce is never what God wants for a marriage. It’s allowed sometimes, but it should not be viewed as “normal.” If you think you can get divorced for any reason, you will most likely get divorced for any reason.
(For more on this read/watch 5 Ways to Lay a Foundation for Divorce.)
A Skewed Understanding of God’s Love for You Is the Worst Affect Your Parent’s Divorce May Have on You
Marriage is meant to reflect God’s relationship with his people (Ephesians 5:22-33). Ideally a child will grow up knowing that God loves him or her because they have been told about God’s love but also because they have seen the symbolic picture of God’s love expressed in their parent’s marriage. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and a wife is to respect her husband as a way of showing the church’s love for Christ.
When children experience a dysfunctional marriage, they can subconsciously receive a dysfunctional view of God himself. Humans are preprogrammed to learn in the ways that God has designed us to learn. Before sin, God created children to learn about his love and character through the imagery of marriage.
When marriages are unhealthy, this does not change the fact that a child is still programmed to learn about God through the marriage. Therefore, when your parents divorced, it is possible that this taught you something false about God. The reason God does not want marriages to end in divorce is because this no longer reflects God’s love accurately.
The marriage covenant is supposed to be forever (while living) because God’s covenant love is forever. So if your parents did get a divorce, you must examine your heart to see whether or not you have believed false things about God because you saw a false image of God’s love expressed in your parent’s marriage.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)