True Story: My parents divorced after 32 years of marriage

What's 'gray divorce'? How does it change your views on marriage when your dad leaves you mom for another woman? Click through to read one daughter's story //

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Sara her parents’ ‘gray divorce’.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi. My name is Sara and I’m 29. I recently moved to San Francisco from Montreal with my husband and 18-month-old daughter. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked as a nurse in pediatric critical care. When my family and I aren’t exploring our new city, I love to knit, TV binge on Netflix, and thrift.

What was your parents’ relationship like? How did you view their relationship as a child?

My parents’ relationship was pretty ordinary. My mom stayed at home with the kids until the youngest started grade school and reentered the workforce. My dad was always the primary breadwinner.I think like a lot of busy families they didn’t have much time for each other and certainly didn’t go out much.

They went on their first kids-free vacation when I was 14. I didn’t give a lot of thought to their relationship because they never argued in front of me or seemed to be having problems. They were just simply Mom and Dad.

What about their relationship made you think it was a happy one?

To tell you the truth I thought they were happy because they were so boring. Like I said, they never argued in front of me so it would have been difficult to think otherwise.

Can you tell us about the day that your parents told you they were getting divorced?

My mom called me to make sure I was coming over for dinner. It was Sunday, so nothing out of the ordinary. I said yes, of course, but didn’t think that my husband would come since he was busy. She asked to talk to him. What I didn’t know was that she told him that “something terrible” had happened and that he should really be there that evening.

Thinking back to that day I can’t imagine what my husband was feeling all afternoon. Poor him. He later told me that he thought someone was sick. Something like stage 4 cancer or something. I often wish he had been right. Does that make me a terrible person..?

Anyways, we went over for dinner and before it was served my father said “So I have some sad news. Your mother and I are separating.” (At this point I tune out and only catch spinets of what he has next to say.)

He says something about another woman. My mother starts to cry and I just sit there in total shock, rocking back and forth on the stool I’m sitting on. My husband is standing in the corner of the kitchen, silent. Most of that evening is a blur of crying and my father repeating over and over “I will always be your dad.”

How did you react? How did the other people in your family and life react to the news?

Since all my siblings were out of town at the time they asked me how I thought they should all be told. I vividly remember thinking to myself “What?! Are you serious?! You dump this load of shit on me and I’m supposed to help you ruin their lives?!”

That was the only time I was ever mad at my mom during this whole ordeal. But really how could that request have been her fault? There’s no chapter in the parenting book on telling your adult children your marriage is falling apart.

They felt like they should wait until everyone returned from out of town and not tell them over the phone. That meant a whole week of keeping this to myself. I needed someone else to know. So I said that we had to go over to my brother’s girlfriend’s place and tell her. Then at least I wouldn’t be the only one who knew. I would be able to talk to her about it as the reality of the situation set in.

As the week went on, the news spread to my siblings and I began the grieving process. I was incredibly hurt by my father’s behavior. I was so mad at him. I was embarrassed to be his daughter. What he had done was so cliché, so tacky. I was also 14 weeks pregnant at the time and often worried about how all this stress would affect my baby. The whole situation was just terrible.

Initially, my siblings all took it the same way. Shock, sadness, anger, embarrassment. Our family friends were in total disbelief. No one saw it coming. We were the happy, functional family that held huge holiday dinners. Not the family that falls apart.

What reasons did they give for the divorce?

My father had fallen in love with another woman and my mother didn’t want to be married to a man who slept with other women. She was the one who said it was over. Pretty straight forward. No chance of reconciliation. To this day my father states that the separation was her idea (yes, literally it was, but only because he wasn’t brave enough to suggest it).

He also admitted to being unhappy for 15 years. He stayed in the marriage to raise the kids. Now that we were all out of the house and on our own he just didn’t see the point of staying married to my mother.

Looking back, were there any clues that their marriage was struggling?

No. I keep playing back different family events in my mind and just don’t see any unhappiness. I think that’s the worst part. I figured since they had been married for so long nothing like this would ever happen.

I think it’s a generally held assumption that when parents of adult children divorce, it doesn’t affect the children. Have you found that to be true?

I think it’s often believed that adult children will “get over it” because they’ve mostly left the family home and may have spouses and children of their own. Their parents are no longer the most important people in their lives.

But when your parents divorce when you are in your 20s or 30s you understand the trust and commitment that has been broken. Your entire life is put into question, especially when the unhappy parent stays in the marriage for the sake of the kids.

My father had been unhappy for 15 years. That’s almost half my life. I have a hard time looking through old pictures because I think to myself, was he unhappy here? We all had such a great time on this vacation… It also makes you reevaluate the life decisions you’ve made based on their family model.

If he was unhappy, was my seemingly happy life a lie?

Has their divorce affected the way you feel about marriage and relationships?

Definitely. I often think to myself “Well at least they weren’t married for 30 years with kids” when breakups are announced. I look at marriage much more seriously now and am relieved when two people realize they shouldn’t be together before they get married.W

hen my husband and I got married I knew it was forever. I’m not one of those people who stays married until they get divorced. Now I see our relationship even more seriously. I’ve experienced the pain and sadness of divorce firsthand and promised my daughter that I would never put her through it.

My relationship with my husband has always been founded on honesty. We make sure to tell one another when we are unhappy and most importantly make sure that the message is actually received. I realize now that that last part was something overlooked by my parents.

(Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not advocating for couples to stay together when things like violence are involved, but in my mind you just don’t let yourself fall in love with someone else when you are already married.)

What books/resources/coping mechanisms have helped you get through this?

During internet searches for resources on the matter I discovered that there was a term for what my parents were going through. Grey divorce. Older (gray-haired) couples in long lasting marriages who get divorced.Despite it having its own term there has been very little published about it and adult children of divorce.

One book I found however was very helpful. A Grief Out of Season is part a collection of stories from different families and part advice on coping. It was comforting to read about others’ experiences and know that I wasn’t alone.

They were going through the same process of grieving that I was. One likened it to a death in the family, many spoke about being embarrassed and not sharing the news with friends. These were all things going through my mind. I wasn’t crazy!! I was like everyone else.

Not surprisingly, I found it most helpful to talk my husband and close friends about the situation. Since I wasn’t trying to solve a problem, just make some sort of sense of it, talking about it and having someone be there to listen was very freeing.

What advice would you give to someone going through something similar?

Don’t bottle up your emotions. Find someone to talk to about it, professional or not. It’s ok to be embarrassed, heartbroken, crushed… It’s also ok to not be sure if you love your mom or dad anymore. It’s even ok to hate them sometimes. Yes, time is a great healer but don’t put a deadline on it. It will take however long it takes to feel normal again.

I still sometimes have dreams about my family where my parents are together. I feel incredibly sad when I wake up from these dreams. I would give anything to have my family back. I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel “normal” again, so instead I’m just trying to redefine what normal means.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Sara. Have any of you guys experienced something similar – either as the parents or the kids?

P.S. How to get over a breakup + Love your ex enough to leave them alone

photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo // cc

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  1. lindsaymarie

    sara, thanks for sharing this. my mom and dad divorced when i was 5, and my mom and stepdad divorced when i was 22. the second divorce was much "easier" to deal with because my sister and i both saw it coming, and i could remember the first divorce (she'd been too young to remember) so i kind of had a "i've been through this before, i can handle it again" attitude about it. it's also easier to take when you can tell your parents are unhappy, as i could. i can't imagine having it come out of the blue as you describe.
    despite my family's divorces being relatively "easy", they really did a number on my perception of marriage. i'm engaged now, and my mother's divorces have had a huge influence on my relationship. my partner's parents are still happily married after 35 years, so he's coming from a totally different place and has been very patient with understanding why even minor ways we interact are a Really Big Deal to me, because i'm constantly trying not to make my mom's mistakes.
    anyway, apologies for the feelings dump but thank you for sharing and a big hug to you!

    • Lisa

      My mum died when I was 4 and my dad died when I was 10 years old.i know it’s hard to see parents divorced, but at least you have them and they are alive. To those children who feel awful for their parents divorce. If you really love them, knowing that they are miserable together then you shouldn’t be too sad for their divorce. When you live with someone you don’t love, it’s like living in hell.

      • Anna

        Then if you feel they are living in Hell then they should be respectful enough to tell the person and then have the decency to move on in a respectful way. There is no reason to drag it all out for 15 years or more, and hurt people, your children, your spouse and other family are all effected. At this age it is a devastating blow, worse then a death, because at least in a death you know the person loved you, in this case you are being lied too and deceived which is unacceptable to do to someone you supposedly love. Love has little to do with it when someone will do this. Living a hell, is only what they set themselves up for and put others through.

        • Deb

          There is a lot of truth to had been said by Lisa. I met my ex-husband (35 yr. marriage) at the age of 16 and married him just shy of my 20th birthday. We were married 10 years before our first son came along. We both had are careers, made great money and came and gone as we pleased. When I think back now, I realized we had never even gone vacation in those ten years. We never did anything fun. Our circle of friends was small and as they moved on or started there only families my ex didn’t want to bother with them anymore. I kept in touch with them and did breakfast or lunches with them alone. After five miscarriages my sixth and seventh pregnancies gave me two beautiful sons. My husband changed even more. Long story short, people change. What they want or expect of life changes. So, unless you have actually experienced an adult relationship and have gone through the heartache of loving your children unconditionally you won’t know what its like to be in the other persons shoes.

    • Maria

      I’m seaching the internet as after 33 years of marriage my husband a veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wants a divorce and we need to tell our 19 year old son. I’m so sad that my husband is not able to seek help for his illness and is self medicating with alcohol but I’m more sad for our son. He is the best thing to come from this marriage, and I only hope he understands that his parents love him. Only a few months ago I was contemplating retiring from work and now I need to go back to work full time to support our son who still lives at home. Please remember, everyone makes mistakes. Maybe the divorce will prompt my husband to seek help? I only hope that our son knows we love him very much.

  2. Michelle

    I'm so sorry about what happened. Good for your mom for standing up for herself though.

    I went through something similar. When I was young, my mom cheated on my dad all the time. I met numerous of her side boyfriends, but I was young (8 and younger) and I still remember every single one of them. My dad knew, but he sadly loved my mom too much to leave her…

  3. Ashley @ The Memory Letters

    Thank you for sharing your story, Sara. My parents divorced when I was in my late twenties, and I was floored by it too. I still find it embarrassing to say to people that my parents are divorced, as if their failed marriage is a comment on my family's love and commitment to one another. My mother told me after their separation that she didn't have a single good memory of their marriage. I was heartbroken, because of their marriage included me and my siblings and our time with our parents, and her comment meant that she didn't have good memories of us as a family. When I pointed this out, she stood by her comment. Divorce is never easy, regardless of age. You just understand it in different ways.

    • Anonymous

      As women we are mothers and wives. Happiness is not just about being a mom or being a family it’s aloso about being a women. I wish my children understood that being their mom was the best part if my life. Being his wife was the hardest most painful part. I am a child of divorce and now sadly a divorced mother. Both not my choice. But life is complicated. The roles we play can be separated. She was no happy inthat her wholeslef was not fulfilled. That does not mean when she was with you or inthose pictures she was not her happiest. It’s in the quiet moments when no one is taking pictures where the pain hides. You are what made the ugly parts worth it. Do not let her words finish what you had. It may be the moments that kept her alive.

      • Anonymous

        We are taught at a very young age that women are to make sacrifices, to be the patient and bear the brunt of all that comes our way. Well guess what, who says we need to bear all pain and deal with it forever. This is near the end of 2018 and guess what it’s time women are seen as human not saviours or s(heros) we honestly can’t bear all. We have come to a point where it isn’t sustainable to be “ALL” to everyone. It’s time a woman can make a mistake or want to find herself again, when she’s been “ALL” to everyone but herself. Perhaps if husbands and children chipped in and said “MOM” let me do that or “mom don’t worry I can figure that out.” This double standard that the woman has to be the STRONG one has to change. And your point is well made and well said. Life is most definitely complicated and not made to be perfect as humans are not.

  4. Liz

    My dad left my mom when I was 22, after nearly 29 years of marriage. I knew my parents weren't happy together, but for whatever reason I just figured they'd stick it out. Thank you for sharing your story, Sara. I can definitely relate.

  5. Tamber

    As someone who comes from a heavily divorced family, I have a lot of thoughts (not judgements) about this. It took me until my earlier mid-twenties, once I had a few relationships of my own, to realize love isn't black and white and cheating isn't black and white. Though I've personally never cheated in a relationship, I can understand how it happens and I've learned so see both sides of the relationship. In my younger years I heavily resented the cheater to the point where it changed my opinion of them for a time, but as I get older I realize that other people's relationships shouldn't have an effect on my assessment of them as a person. The truth is that people sometimes make mistakes in the way they deal with things and that doesn't make them bad people. That doesn't make your relationship with them or your happy memories with them invalid. Though you know her so well you have no idea what it's like to be in a romantic relationship with your mother. It may look very different from what you expect. Your father may never be able to make you understand (and honestly he shouldn't have to) the reasons why he made his decision.

    I'm fortunate that my parents didn't stay together on my behalf. They separated when I was about 5. They were young parents who weren't a good match and they wouldn't have been able to refrain from arguing in front of me the way that yours did. Thankfully instead, I got to bear witness to my mom and stepdad's relationship that was a lot closer to what a healthy relationship should look like. However, as well as they got along, they're in the middle of a separation at this time also. So I understand how your opinion about marriage can change from all this. And I think it's a blessing to have your foundation rocked sometimes. Myself, at 28, just having ended a 6 year relationship at about the same time my mom is ending her 20 year relationship, I'm not sure that a traditional marriage is something I want to ever squeeze myself into. And I'm ok with that. When you convince yourself that a marriage (or career, or parenting, etc) needs to look like a societal norm, you're going to constantly struggle when trying to fit into that mold. I get it the allure of it, traditional feels safe and for some people there's no other way.
    As difficult as it may seem, it looks like you're finding some life lessons in this. I hope it hasn't put too much of a damper on your relationship with your father.
    Best wishes.

  6. Miss Cat

    My parents got divorced when I was very young, and I just accepted that, much in the way you would accept a move or a new family member. It was a little weird, but you adapt quickly. I agree that it sounds much harder to come to terms with something like a parent's divorce when you're older.


  7. liveletlive

    What stood out to me was how you said you didn't see it coming and how your dad said he was unhappy for 15 years before all this happened. Truthfully, that's happens a lot with cheaters. They rewrite the history of their marriage and are all of a sudden they have been unhappy for years. But for those 15 years, he never put any true effort to make his unhappiness known and to fix what he had with his wife. He was a bad partner who shirked his commitment to your mother, and she deserves better than that.
    Your Dad did wrong by her, and I hope she finds happiness.

    • Anonymous

      You are so right on. This is exactly what happened to me. Married 30 years. My heart is still broken. And I feel the same for my two 26 and 29 yr old daughters. What kind of role modeling is this? I wanted so much more for my family! Here we are 5 years later and he is going to marry her. I’ve come a long way with this journey but this is the final nail in the coffin. It happens over and over again and no one is ever held accountable for destroying all these lives.

      • Anna

        Agree with you 100% my ex did the same thing tried to shift the blame to me like a child. He took no responsibility, and even treated his own child like dirt, they do not speak because of the way he treated her, my family, our friends, and me. It is the hardest thing to go through in life. Worse then a death.

    • Karleen lasala

      Tk u I m glad someone. Out there can show E mpathy for the Wife of A cheater.

    • Janet

      I been married 36 years add my husband of 56 had an affair with a 30 year old woman I asked him why and he said that he had been unhappy in our marriage for the past 15 years I was devastated he has for separation two weeks later he decided that we will work on our marriage.

    • Tammy

      Amen! Never heard it stated better. If one is willing to do work to make things better and the spouse does nothing but blame, then divorce is inevitable. One cannot make things true and good. After 33 years, and secret lives discovered, divorce was necessary. Not wanted. Affected 2 adult children greatly. They had known these secrets before me and tried to protect me. I feel so sad about that. I love my kids very much and pray they can get through all of this mess on top.

  8. Anonymous

    My parents got divorced about 9 years ago when I was 19 or 20 when I was home for the summer from college. The situation was a little different because we were never a happy family. My mom cheated on my dad and that changed my whole opinion of my mother. I went from missing her so much when I was away at college to not speaking to her at all for 2-3 months. For me the shock was not that my parents divorced but how it happened. It opened my eyes to how selfish my mother can be. To this day she doesn't understand that she did anything wrong. She feels that they were basically not together for a long time and does not think it was really a problem that she didn't tell my dad before she started a new relationship. I was not only hurt that she lied to my dad but I was also hurt that she could lie to me like that. Divorce was actually much harder than I expected as an adult. They had to sell the house I grew up in and both moved to different states and this left me without a place that has that comfort of home. Holidays were really the only time my family was happy and we lost that because my sister and I have to bounce from state to state. That was really hard at first but, with all things, you get used to it. I used to fight with my mom a lot over her actions but I have accepted that there is no point. I still don't feel the same way I felt about her before but I try to hide this from her now. I have accepted that both my parents had a big hand in their unhappiness throughout the whole marriage. Their relationship has made me terrified of divorce and having a loveless marriage. Being miserable in a marriage for 20 years sounds horrible to me and I am obsessed with how to prevent this. I'm hoping that the only good thing that came out of this is knowing what can go wrong and learning how to hopefully prevent it.

  9. Anne

    Thank you for sharing this. My mom left my dad after 25 years of marriage just a few months ago, and we were all crushed. I'm proud of her for leaving (my dad has issues, and while they aren't absolutely awful he refuses to work through them), but I didn't even realize how toxic her relationship with him was until a few months before. I tried to find support and information online, but I didn't really find anything for adults whose parents divorced as adults. I felt/feel the same as you; were all those family dinners a lie? That perfect Christmas, was half my family miserable? It hurts, badly. I appreciate that you wrote this.

    • Hope

      My mother passed away almost 4 years ago from colon cancer. Just recently we found out my dad has another family. He’s got two children that could be mine. I always suspected something but he always denied it. I’m very confused and unsure if I want to continue having any contact with him. He blames my mother which to me is unfair since she’s not here to defend herself. He still lives at our old home but I have a feeling he might move soon. He still relies on us for a lot of things. I just don’t know what I should do. I don’t like feeling this way.

  10. Ashley

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. My parents separated three years ago, after 29 years of marriage, due to my father's infidelity. It was (and still is) incredibly painful. Dealing with this as an adult is life changing. As a kid, I saw my parents as flawless; as an adult, I very clearly see the flaws and have a very different, heart-breaking perspective of who my parents are. The cherry on the cake? Today is my grandpa's funeral, and my dad announced he'd be bringing the other woman to the service. I'm so incredibly glad that you decided to share and that I stumbled upon this today. And thank you, Sarah, for posting this on your blog.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I'm so sorry you went through that Ashley and I'm so glad you found this today. We'll all keep you in our thoughts <3

    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry for your pain. My daughters haven’t verbalized it by my guess is that they are hurting too. There is never a perfect age for parents to split up!!!! And shame on anyone who thinks there is. I had no control over my husband leaving and I will never excuse the behavior or the ramifications it has had on our girls. You kids do not deserve any of it. Stay strong and just promise yourself that should you ever marry, that you and your spouse fight to the death for your marriage and let your children see you and hopefully appreciate the sanctity and value of marriage.

      • Interested Person

        My parents divorced as I entered puberty. I am one of six siblings.
        Up until that time, I was a happy, pretty normal carefree girl.
        When my parents divorced, my childhood ended. They were consumed by their disdain for one another and the feelings of us (their children) went by the wayside.
        Court battles, child support payments, that’s all I heard about after that.
        Thank your lucky stars that you were able to get through high schoo and college in peace. I didn’t.
        The other side of the story is also that, just as you experience it now, holidays were never fun after that. Two bickering parents are my life story from age 12.
        Write your own story and have your own marriage. Do not let your parents’ divorce overshadow your personal joy.
        This does not mean that I think there is no reason to be sad. There is. Just do not let your or your parents’ sorrow suck the joy out of your life. You deserve to be happy, even if they are not. It is nice to empathize. It is foolish to throw away your own happiness just because their marriage went wrong. You are their child, not their surrogate spouse, therapist, side taker or adjudicator.
        Do not be embarrassed. You did nothing wrong. I am sure your father could have handled it in a better way. Perhaps your mother could have too.
        I am no fan of divorce or cheating. Thank your lucky stars that you have a good marriage and do not expect that just because your parents divorced means you will.
        By the way, the best thing you can do for your mother is to ensure that she gets every penny she can. A single older divorced woman can become impoverished very easily if her ex husband has been the main bread winner. Do yourself a favor and encourage her to get every nickel she can. Otherwise you may be paying for her late life upkeep, which would be an additional economic burden for you and your children. Let your father cough up the money and make sure you are not “paying” for their divorce.
        It is sad that holidays and birthdays may not hold the same carefree joy. It is not incumbent upon you to support either of your parents because of the economic hardship they have created for themselves as a result of their divorce. Make sure it is not your lifelong “divorce “. It’s theirs.
        Emotionally Iand economically I can tell you that both my parents became the opposite of the united and caring front they were when the ink hit the paper. The welfare of their children was secondary to their constant battles over money, righteousness, blame, etc.
        Do not try to figure this one out. Step aside and enjoy your life. It is really their problem. Do your best to be supportive, but truly, there is nothing to be gained by losing sight of your own happiness and potential just because they are divorced. It is not a selfish act to be happy in your own life just because their marriage fell apart.
        Good luck!

  11. Sara

    Hi Ashley, if you want to chat more Sarah has my email address. Please feel free to contact me if you want. Big hugs.

  12. Anonymous

    I just got a call yesterday from my mother that a process server had served her with divorce papers while she was at work. They have been married for 36 years. I am an attorney so I understand the reality of how difficult this process can be. Thanks for the great advice on books.

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you for this. Truly. I'm 19. People say to my mother that at least her kids are "grown-up," but is that supposed to make it hurt less? 30 years of marriage. 30 years of her life wasted. Dad's affair began 6 years ago. I feel like I don't know him, I was freaking 13 years old, and he's been lying to me and my sister since. It's like our entire life was just a huge hoax. I'm away at college and my parents decided to let me know about this over the phone. It's unfair, and I almost wish this had come to light years ago.

    • Simmmi

      I have never replied to comments online but reading your comment just made me cry…
      I’m in a similar situation right now(just shy of 19 and in college).
      I don’t know what to do….
      Honestly I’d like to ask…Does it get easier?

  14. Anonymous

    To all of you who think back on family times and think well my parent wasn't happy then. Remember they are talking about the general sense of being happy. The looking back and saying I love this person the same or more then I did years ago that is being happy as they see it.Like everything else in life we as humans are programmed to want more, to grow and if you are not growing in a relationship then you are unhappy. It's natural. It doesn't mean to say that there weren't happy days, happy events, happy memories as a family because there will always be those, but, the happiness was not a constant, it was overshadowed by the struggles that were faced thus taking a back row seat in the recollection of life.

    • Anonymous

      So true

  15. Anonymous

    My dad left my mom after 32 years of marriage a few months ago. We knew that he was having an affair but we never expected what was coming. He just left his ring and a note, packed some of his stuff and took off. We spoke 2 times since. He says he wants to leave the time with us behind him. The worst part is that a few years ago mom sold her house to help him get out of a debt and now she has nothing left. I'm shocked because my dad and I used to have a strong relationship, and I'm having a hard time going through this and also staying strong from my mom. I did my best to try and understand his behaviour but it's beyond me. It just hurts so bad.

    • Caro

      Hello anonomyous ,

      I understand how frusterated and disappointed you must be. My dad left my mom 9 yrs agofor. Much younger women and according to him he and that othr women are seperated i have helped my dad financially and i had news last night that heis still going our with hthe homewrecker. There come a point where it best to have seperate relationship with our parents. We as there kids should not be dwelling or worried about their issues we also have our own lives to worry about. But like you its very hard and i uderstand where your coming from.

  16. Brynna McCafry

    Hi Sara. My name is Brynna, I’m currently 16 years old and my parents got divorced 3 years ago. My father cheated on my mom with our realtor and it has left my family broken. My dad has been dating the women on and off for 3 years. I’m not sure how many times or how long he cheated but it still stings like heck. One week ago he announced that he was marrying her and it hurts a lot. I came home from dinner with my dad and his person tonight and my mom was acting funny. She would usually come and hug me, but tonight the first words she said were, “Did you have fun with your new mom?” It just hurts a lot. I have a younger sister who is 8 and is too young to understand what is going on, and my older brother is 21 and he doesn’t care about me or my sister. My dad tells me everything that happens with his thing and that stings a lot. My mom asks me about it and takes her pain out on me. I’m so involved and I have no one to talk to about it. My friends parents are all together so they don’t get it, and they are to immature to care. I have all of this weight and luggage on my back and I feel sick thinking sniff it all. Thanks fur your words earlier it had helped me.

    • Caro


      I myself was 17 when my parent seperated because of another women. I have learned that as the time goes by our parents should not be involving us in their personal probelms. You meed to have a serious talk with both ur mom and dad and stand your ground. You are young and deserve to libe your life as a regular teen. Talk to them tell them not to involve you in their problems and be firm about it be strong.

  17. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing your story. My Dad left my Mum 3 years ago for a woman he had been seeing secretly for 3 years. I am 26 now and my parents would have been married for 40 years this year…. It was completely out of the blue without warning and a total life altering shock. My Mum had no idea and he just came home one day and announced that he was moving in with another woman and expected her to file for divorce as he wanted to remarry. He handed over a letter with an offensively misogynistic idea of how he thought the money should be dealt with and refused to ever speak about the reasons why. My Mum was completely devastated and is still to this day. I support her the best I can but her whole life time of memories and sense of who she is has been cruelly taken away from her in such a hurtful way I can’t compute it. My Mom was a homemaker and he used to be considered a ‘family man’ but I don’t recognise him as the Dad I knew. His new wife (who has broken up 2 other marriages) already has a house, so during the divorce he swanned around going on exotic holidays, wine tasting, experience days and to expensive restaurants whilst my Mum struggled through the trauma of a divorce she didn’t want. I can’t believe after spending 40 years with someone and having two children with them a man can be so callous, selfish and irresponsible. It’s made me seriously question whether I can ever truly know or trust anyone if I don’t even know my own father. I’ve tried to talk to him but he just gets up and leaves if you say anything other than small talk. I hope one day he will really listen, stop being a coward and come to terms with what he has done so we can all move on. I vow never to be dependant on a man! Thanks for sharing and listening.

    • lagertha

      wow… you just described my situation. My parents have been together for exactly 40 years (married for 35 years) and it happened exactly just like that. One day my dad confessed to my mom that he is not feeling happy with her and that he has another woman. Out of the blue. Mom was totally devastated because she didnt see it coming. What I dont understand is why, because they always seemed happy and never fought. They have always been an example for me, as how I want my relationship to be. How can the need for better sex (I suppose, the woman which my father is with now is 20 years younger than him) mean more to someone than staying with your family, who has been by your side since forever. I just dont get men. I dont know if my mom will ever get through this, she will turn 60 soon and what are her chances?? She was totally psychically destroyed by the man she loved the most. The man obviously does not care. How can this even happen__??? I also thought I knew my dad…was I wrong for 33 years of my life_?

      • Angie

        There is so much that goes on in a marriage that you will never see. It takes two. My guess is that they both avoided issues for a very long time before your dad made the move. Don’t be so hard on him. I am sure you don’t realize what an emotional struggle it was for him to choose to leave. And of course he cares. He will carry some form of guilt with him forever. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness. And I know. My parents divorced after 26 years of marriage.

        • Anonymous

          Speaking as a dad who did this Angie, you are spot on. Being a co-dependant I struggle every day with my decision and the fact that my adult children won’t talk to me (for 3years now) and their mother continues to share every detail with them it makes it tgat much harder. I love them so much. And I desperately I want their mother to be happy…and I want to be happy. Thank you Angie for your perspective.

    • Anonymous

      I have a very similar situation to yours. My dad isn’t recognizable to father he used to be when my parents were married. My dad left my mom out of the blue 6 years ago and we have spoken on and off during those years. We haven’t spoken in the last year and a half and I just want to know if it ever got better with you and your father. It has been 6 years since my parents separated and it still hurts. I have also lost the father I always knew which makes all of it 10x harder.

  18. Ashley Read

    I feel your pain … I am so sorry that this is happening to your family. A little back story, my parents were married for 25 years, my mother was a homemaker, and my father never went to college but went off to be our primary breadwinner. My parents fought here and there, but never to the point where I thought my father would be so unhappy … It was out of the blue, it was unexpected, and my mother was so proud to be married 25 years … It happened my senior year of high school. My father divorced my mother back 6 years ago after 25 years of marriage, I was 17, my little sister 13, my borther 19. He had an affair and was being very unfaithful. It was like he was living a complete lie the whole time. It has been six years since then and I still am filled with disappointment from my father. My father divorced my mother, left her by herself, remarried nine months later to a women who was not accepting that our mother is half of us. My mother was happy, my father was not with the marriage. He still has not accepted responsibility for his actions 6 years later. The divorce was a absolute mess. Years back and forth to court, holidays that were never the same, fights with my father that never gave me compassion for his decisions, he missed my sisters 8th grade graduation, her confirmation, and never showed up for pictures after her highschool graduation because of HIM and his new WIFEs hatred for my mother. What really is confusing to me is that hehates her so much he cannot stand in the same picture with his kids, stand in the same room with her, and they do not speak at all (not my mothers choice). I do not understand why he was the one who caused sooooo much damage, remarried and gets to live happily ever after when we had to listen to my mom for years cry herself to sleep, watch her lose the house, destroy my sisters childhood, cause my brother so much anxiety he is seeing multiple professionals, make himself look like the “victim” to his whole family, destroy my innocence, have me work my ass off through school so I could buy a house at the age of 21 so my sister, and mother could live with me and stop living in my parents basement, make us choose in court, listen to his new wife yell at us telling us we are so selfish, and he still expects us to be there to support him, when we need him to support us he is not there. This all played out from a family who were together for 25 years, same house, same holidays, same traditions, mom was a stay at home mom, and dad always came home at 5 to be with his family and kids, to watch my whole life, identity, and family that I knew crumble around me was absolutely devastating … Now that you know the back story I want you to know that it will get better, it takes soooo much time and acceptance which can take a very long time, It is still hard for me to fully accept it and is has been almost 7 years, I am now 23. My therapy came through college. courses where all my projects, papers, and speeches expressed everything suppressed inside me from continuous years of devastation from my family crumbling. pages upon pages and projects upon projects of sadness and trying to understand while still going through the devastation. I came into acceptance that it feels like a death and nothing will ever be the same. It was a death of a family, and mothers identity I once knew completely changed who I became to love for her strength and love for us, and for my father, I felt like he had died, his identity completely changed , and unfortunately his old identity will never return. For years I carried hate and anger for him, but it was exhausting. I still love him, but just in a different way. I forgave him for everything he had done, even though he never asked for forgiveness. I did not do it for him, but I did it for me. and I forgave myself for holding so much anger and hate inside towards him. There was a lot of things he destroyed but he will not destroy my faith in people. ALOT of my comfort comes in knowing someday I will have a beautiful family of my own and will have the sense of “family and home” that I knew so long ago, BUT it will not be the same sense of “family and home” , it will be EVEN BETTER. Since you are a child of divorce you know exactly what NOT to do to your kids someday, that can be your strength to get through this. You define your sense of family, mine is my brother, sister, and my mother, and still my father even though he has done so much to hurt our family. Do not let him define your family for you, it is yours to choose. Do not let this make you a bitter person, he does not deserve that right. Forgive even though he may not want to be forgiven, and love even though he has not put your love first. and remember to TAKE YOUR TIME, as long as you need, if you do not see it in your heart yet, that is okay, it does NOT make you a bad person. It is okay to be hurt, angry, disappointed, uncomfortable, and be sad, this is life altering. and always Remember there is nothing wrong with being both of your parents no matter how much they may tear each other apart at times. You discover your own identity, mine includes both my mother and my father.

  19. Ashley Read

    See above. Even though all this can be devastating some good will come through …. I did things I never thought I would be able to do under the circumstances. There were many times I thought about dropping out of college because my perfect family life was crumbling and it was too painful to stick it through, but I knew I had to finish not only for me , but for other adult children of divorce. When going through college the sources for adult children of divorce were slim … it was devastating because I knew there was so much more that people did not know about us … life altering identities, grief, guilt, and endless altered responsibilities that many do not understand. My parents divorce drawn me towards my degree, I wanted to understand it , even thought I figured out it was much more complicated than I could imagine. I would not be where I am today without both of them. I went on to receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in communication studies with my emphasis in Interpersonal Relational Communication (one on one relationships, marital relationships, family communication), and Organizational Leadership Communication with my minor in Applied Conflict Management (dissolution of marriage, children of divorce, mediation). If you have your story you would like to share please send it to my email (, or feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I am producing a book will have many short stories(or not so short) stories of adult children of divorce. Many send letters they wish they could write to their mother or father, many just want to be heard. the best way to understand is to share. Know you are not alone, there are so many. Good luck to all of you, I am wishing the best for all your families, keep faith and keep hope , and that your days will become brighter as time makes things clearer. God bless.

  20. Stephanie

    My heart goes out to anyone going through this, regardless of age. My parents divorced after 41 years of marriage. Although I am grown with my own marriage and life, it’s devastating to think that I’ll never have holidays with my parents again. What makes the pain worse is that they have both found new partners and devote more time, graciousness and affection to their new families than they ever did to each other or to me. It’s heartbreaking to see these new people getting the new, improved versions of my parents when I was there through all the sh*t years when they were young, selfish, out of control, and abusive to each other and me. Am I jealous? Yes. Who wouldn’t be?! Everything with them was a fight and I was the child they had who “forced” them to stay together. My mother has made it very clear that she stayed in the marriage for my sake (thanks mom!). I truly feel in my heart that they resent me for ever being born and being the cause of their unhappy marriage and bad financial situation. When they were in the heat of the divorce, I got pulled into the ugly details by both parents. I know about their sex life, affairs, lies…you name it, I’ve heard it. I dealt with calls from my father at all hours of the night threatening to shoot himself. I dealt with my mother lying to me, standing me up and using me as the instrument to leave my dad (I had to break the news to him!). I had a good job at the time and the stress was so bad that I started screwing up and work and lost my job. They have devastated me emotionally and financially….and now, everyone gets a happy ending and a new family. Everyone but me. At the ripe age of 43, I am trying to accept that my family was all one big lie and my parents are two of the most narcissistic and selfish people walking the planet. I shudder to say this, but it’s how I see them now. Nobody should ever use their only child as a mediator and therapist. Sorry for the rant, but I really have nobody to talk to about this. Maybe someone reading this understands….but I hope not because it sucks. Thanks for listening.

  21. Marcia

    I left my husband after 28 years of marriage. Why? Because he constantly cheated on me before and during the marriage, each time he was caught, he cried and told me he was sorry and would never do it again. Each time, I took him back and forgave him. That is, until I hardened my heart, to eliviate the pain. I finally stopped caring about him and the heartache he caused me. Now that we are divorced, he has made himself the victim. He cries to my daughters how much he still loves me and how he is devastasted. I am now the bad parent. I should have stayed and worked things out, gone to therapy, etc. It truly hurts me that my daughters are numb to the pain I am feeling. It hurts me that they expected me to continue the pattern of abuse to keep their family unit intact. I ask each one of you to put yourself in your parents shoes. What would you do? How would you react? Divorce isn’t a death sentence. Sure, it changes the family structure and makes holidays more difficult. But I ask you to continue to develop your relationships with your parents. Follow their lead and try to understand what they are going through. In some cases, it may just be narcissism. In my case, I decided I deserved better than to be cheated on. I hope and pray someday my daughters will understand my pain. I am happier in life now, but pained in knowing that I have disappointed my daughters. It seems that I only hear from the oldest now, when she needs something from me. Divorce hurts, divorce sucks, but sometimes you have to move on.

    • Ella

      Omg sorry to hear your story ,I’m going through something similar, this women know me and my family she knows we married and she still mess around with my husband, I’m so hurt ,I don’t know what to do I love him we have 3 handsome son’s mymiddle son is graduation from the marines this Friday ,and IM so in pain I don’t know how to tell them that my husband is cheating and that women she know he is married and don’t care she goes to church every Sunday wow what a bitch and heprocrit. Any advice for me I’m desperate I been married for 25 years we have a lot together. I’m so hurt I don’t know what to do .thanks . ELLA

  22. KeepSmiling

    My mom and I found out that my dad is having an affair for a year after I came home from college this summer. His lies about his work trips and everything were exposed. It was a big mess. We eventually found out who the woman was. She does not live in our country, but is from the same hometown. My parents refused to sell the house and divorce. All the lies continue to pile up and the wound never start to heal leaving deep scars. My mom is deeply hurt, but she is staying strong. For a short period time, I pretended that I did not know about his affair hoping that this will not destroy my relationship with my dad, but he took my actions as support for him to continue hurting my mom. My mom gave him numerous chances, but he believes that he had done nothing wrong. That woman sent messages to my mom using a fake account trying to flirt with my mom and comfort her. I found out and send back messages yelling at her and calling her a whore. My dad did not believe us even when we told him. He viewed us as the ones hurting his lover. Before I went back to college, he asked me questions like whether my mom and I call that woman’s home phone, and whether I hate her so much that I want her to die. We did not as we have never talk to or met the woman before, but was that important anymore? In the end, he decided to believe someone who he just met over the family that he had spent 20 years with. That was the end of my summer while staying at home. I am still disgusted by my dad and her. These two really have no morals. Many would say that forgiveness is the key, but if anything can be forgiven so easily, they will think that they have done nothing wrong and it’s okay to continue hurting others. As humans, they have the rights to do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting my family, but they crossed the line. I still cannot forgive them. It may take a long time and I might not be able to for the rest of my life, but I cannot force myself to do something that I am not ready for. After I came back to college, my parents are both still living in the same house. Arguments and fights mostly about money continue at home. I kept telling them to divorce. Every time I am on the phone with my mom, she would take about the arguments and fights. I wonder how we are going to get through this. Many times, I thought about dropping out of college, but my mom would be even more sad if I did that and I cannot give up what I have worked for so far.

  23. James

    Your story sounds very much like my own (though not identical). My dad just dropped the divorce bomb on us all last week after 39 years of marriage. I completely related to your lines about how unexpected it was and the lack of warning signs, about how you thought your family would never suffer this fate, and about the big (seemingly) happy family holidays. I am totally reeling at this moment. I don’t hate my dad, because I understand that I am not the one who has to live day-by-day in a situation in which I am unhappy. I know that he only held it together this long because he worried about hurting us all, and I don’t want to be selfish. However, I told him to expect raw anger from me from time to time over the coming years. I just can’t help it. Fortunately, my mother is also employed, but I worry about her physical and mental wellbeing. Also, it is a huge concern that they will no longer have each other to lean on as they get older, as my career in academia makes it impossible for me to choose where to live. This whole experience has just saddened me. I have very little stability in my life otherwise, and this has really blasted away at what I thought was the bedrock of my life. I feel that I am on entirely shaky ground. It helps to read the experiences of others who have gone through this. Thank you for your post.

  24. Axel

    Rewriting the Marriage: Your father’s comment about being unhappy for 15 years was most likely the result of rewriting the marriage.

    This is when someone decides long after the fact to highlight the bad parts of the marriage and their spouse, and conveniently forget any good parts. It helps them justify whatever they are going to do, and is particularly common with affairs. If you’re bored, reach about rewriting or cognitive dissonance.

    In any case, this may make you feel better about how your father felt as you grew up. It’s unfortunate that he told you that, but remember that your parents are human.

  25. Lenora

    I would like to know how is your mom doing today and how do you feel Towards them now ? If you where in your mothers place what would you do if this happened to you how would you deal with it. I have so many questions for you I can go on . I have 4 children &3 grandchildren And they hold me back don’t want to disappoint anyone my situation is the same as your parents my husband’s affair was from 2013 to 2015 with an old girlfriend who manipulated her way back to our life story helped me a lot

  26. Loveth

    Iam sorry 2 hear their stroy’s my ar similar like their’s,i married and bless with 2 girl without knowing dat he is a married man with 4 kids now my parent ask me 2 quit or they disown me 4 iam 2 young 2 be a second wife,i dont know what to do.

  27. GTT

    My three grown children are still recovering and it’s been seven years since my husband left. After thirty two years of marriage, my husband decided he wasn’t happy. But my husband was never happy I discovered-he had family and wife that adored him, a vacation home, boats, cars, toys, he had it all. He could never get past wondering if he could find a better situation is my own estimation of his problem. He visited prostitutes, I spoke with one of them, he had a long time affair with a really awful woman who told me she was in my house and bed, and when that broke off, he was on thirty dating websites according to what he said in divorce court.

    He is now remarried, to his soul mate and high school sweetheart, and is his new wife’s fifth husband. He quit working and grew a long beard and hair and stopped washing so often. I found evidence of him visiting pre teen and teen pornographic websites right after I made him leave our home and also evidence of him buying awful sexual items.

    We are still in divorce court. He has transferred money out of the country on two occasions, emptied accounts against court orders, and he has been awful to separate financially from.

    That is my awful story. Surprisingly I could never find hatred for my husband, only a terrible and aching sorrow. I was on anti depressants for four years and two of my children were also. My middle child used marijuana which I really do not agree with, but I could not judge her choice so harshly as I could not cope without drugs myself.

    We’re all getting better. My children don’t speak to their father. I have a mixed race grandchild and also two other grandchildren and my daughter received a text from her father’s phone using anti Semitic language. That is not like my husband so perhaps he has turned racist and anti Semitic, but I suspect it is his wife. This text exchange ended my children’s quest and desire for reconciliation and I believe with all the pre teen and teen pornography sites he was visiting it is completely best he stays completely away from my granddaughters. The pornography was made in Cypress and according to what I read and researched, the poor sex workers in them are made to look extremely young, but are in fact age 18. Or so it is claimed.

    It’s a tawdry story. And one that has completely changed everything for myself and my children. I would rather know the truth and be able to make decisions based upon the truth and for too many years, the truth was kept completely from me.

  28. Anonymous

    Hi Sara. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Helped a lot. My parents, after 32 years of marriage and six kids are divorcing. They’ve been pretty unhappy for the past five years but I never thought it would get to the point of divorce. About a year ago, my mom and dad started fighting in front of us and usually me and my little brother would run over to our friends house or just sit outside. ( we are both kids, youngest of the family) also my mom found herself a new boyfriend. I’m not sure what to do or how I feel but I agree with you it really helps to talk to someone. I’ve been talking to my friends stepmom and she’s been there for me through this whole thing. Once again thanks for sharing your story

  29. Tara

    This was extremely helpful and I’ve been searching desperately for someone who wrote something that made sense on this issue! I don’t think I thought my parents were 100% happy, but I did think that deep down they loved each other and had other issues they needed and wanted to work through. BOY WAS I WRONG. I’m 27 and pregnant with my first child and my parents have been married 29 years, and it crazy to think my baby will never know his grandparents being together. He/she will have different memories of their grandparents, and I’m trying to let that be okay.

  30. Dolores Romano

    My husband puts his family ahead of me


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