When I published Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak several years ago, I asked Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute to write the Foreword.
What she gave me back was, in my opinion, a masterpiece. I was blown away by her description of The Divorce Fantasy World and its perpetuation, and I don't know why it took me this long to reprint it as a blog post for sharing!
A special note for spouses who are separated or divorced against their will due to abandonment or situations of serious abuse: Please take comfort in knowing that by "standing" (staying true to your vow, even in the necessity of physical separation), you truly are fighting effectively against the Divorce Fantasy World.
The Divorce Ideology is one of the linchpins of the Sexual Revolution. Kids are resilient. Parents who don't get along do their kids no favor by staying married. Everyone has a right to be happy, which means the right to change sex partners more or less at will. TV sitcoms, movies, academic studies, public policies, "style" sections of newspapers, women's magazines, therapists, and even some clergy claim divorce is harmless to children and beneficial to adults.
Unfortunately, these claims are false. Switching partners around can create chaos in the family. Divorce does not necessarily solve the problems people thought it would solve: The probability of divorce is higher for second marriages than for first marriages. Family law attorneys tell me that managing post-divorce conflict is a major portion of their business. And, most to the point of this book: Children do not just get over divorce.
"The kids will get over it." So say the experts and cheerleaders for divorce. On that basis, many parents end perfectly good marriages that could have been saved with some effort.
Sustaining the Divorce Ideology requires that people don't ask too many questions or voice too many objections. According to the Divorce Ideology, no-fault divorce just means that two adults who agree to divorce do not have to go through the elaborate charade of claiming that one party committed adultery.
In reality, many divorces take place against the will of one of the parties. The law takes sides with the party who wants the marriage the least, even if that person has committed adultery. That is how no-fault divorce not only demolished the presumption that marriage is permanent—it also smashed the presumption that marriage is sexually exclusive.
In the Divorce Fantasy World, there are only two choices. Unhappy parents stay miserably married and fight for the rest of their lives, or they get divorced and everyone lives happily ever after. The idea that one or both parents should change their behavior doesn't register as an option, nor does the idea that the divorce might seriously wound the kids.
In the Divorce Fantasy World, the children are all better off if their parents split than if they stay together. The children are delighted that their parents are happy. They have no ill-feelings about being asked to move every other week, a fate that few adults would willingly endure. Children are okay with calling their mom's new husband "Dad," or seeing their own dad in bed with another woman. Children have no feelings at all about their family photos being taken down. They never feel jealous of the children of the new union, children who absorb the attention of their parent and new spouse. No, my goodness, no: The children from the original union never feel like leftovers from a previous relationship.
To keep the Fantasy alive, anyone who does not follow the Socially-Approved Divorce Script must be silenced. This is bad enough for abandoned spouses. But for children of divorce, it is a living nightmare.
The kids are socially invisible. If they have a problem, we take them to therapy. We put them on medication. But we never admit that maybe the adults should have worked as hard on their marriages as they seem to work on managing their divorce. And we certainly never tell the adults not to remarry.
Even inside the family, the children are not permitted to voice their real feelings. Love inside the family feels fragile: The kids have absorbed the message that people sometimes leave each other or get kicked out. They may view love as unreliable. Even if children could verbalize their feelings (which they can't), they are afraid to risk losing their parents' love. They don't want to upset Mom or Dad.
They learn to silence themselves.
Leila Miller's book, Primal Loss, gives voice to the adult children of divorce. Their stories are not pretty. This book is significant precisely because it breaks through the layers and layers of pro-divorce propaganda that we all endure in 21st century America.
The cultural elites love the Sexual Revolution and actively promote the Divorce Ideology. They provide a platform for happily-divorced people, jolly blended families, and all the rest. They never mention the abandoned spouses or the shattered children. They need all this propaganda because that's what it takes to convince people that biological bonds don't matter either to children or adults.
Each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, "We still love you; we just don't love each other." The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the well-documented psychological, physiological, and spiritual risks that children of divorce face.
As a society, we are faced with two competing worldviews. The worldview of people of faith is this: Every child has identity rights and relational rights with respect to his or her parents. When children are deprived of these rights without an inescapable reason, this is an injustice to the child.
And these rights impose legitimate obligations on adults to provide these things to children. We don't like to say this too loudly, because people in our time resist hearing that they have obligations to others that they did not explicitly choose to bear.
The competing worldview is this: Every adult has a right to the sexual activity they want, with a minimum of inconvenience, and children must accept whatever the adults choose to give them. We do not just blurt out that last part because we would be ashamed of ourselves. But that is approximately the position of most of the people in power in most of the so-called developed countries: They believe it is the job of the government to minimize the inconvenience that adults experience from their sex lives.
The Divorce Ideology needs the State because it needs enormous amounts of power to accomplish its impossible objectives. This one insight unlocks the key to the whole course of the Sexual Revolution. We can now see why enforcing divorce has become a power grab on the part of a whole array of businesses and professionals who could be called the Divorce Industrial Complex. We can see why the family-breakdown-is-harmless propaganda seems so relentless, and why the downhill slide into new, more devastating, and more permanent forms of family breakdown seems to be accelerating.
And we can see why silencing the victims and dissenters is essential to its success. Once people start asking questions, or raising objections, the whole fragile structure could come tumbling down.
Because of this systematic silencing of the victims, the next generation of children grows up operating under the very same illusions as their parents. No one ever gets a course-correction.
Leila Miller has done us all a great service by giving a voice to the children of divorce. Please read this book. Then share it with friends, family, counselors, teachers, and pastors. Break the silence. Do it for your own family, and for the families of future generations.
This suffering has gone on long enough.
Jennifer Roback Morse. "The Divorce Fantasy World," from Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. LCB Publishing (May 20, 2017).
Reprinted with permission from Leila Miller.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is the founder of the Ruth Institute, an interfaith international coalition to defend the family and build a Civilization of Love. She is author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World, The Smart Sex Series: 3 CDs, and Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work.
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