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To think that kids from broken homes can be fine and happy and lead normal lives?

(208 Posts)
westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:28:26

Wondering if I can get some accounts from others on whether I'm mad to expect this to be possible. I have a DD with my ex but he and I split up when she was two so she knows no difference and is 9 now. She's totally cool with having two homes and is very close to her dad and I and our respective new spouses.

My dsd is nearly 16 and has been my step daughter since she was 9 (parents split at 7) She is still incredibly angry about it and feels like her life is completely ruined and she will never be happy. She feels it destroyed her life and any hope she could have of being "normal". She is very angry at my dh and tells him often.

There was nothing dodgy about the break up. He left her, no affairs or anything, maintenance always paid. 50/50 contact for the first three years until her apparently complete and utter hatred of him and what he did when he "tore her family apart" finally got the better of them having a relationship. They now see each other once a week or sometimes less, for about an hour and he struggles to get anywhere with her without trawling through the ins and outs of how he has destroyed her life.

I don't want to drip feed so I'll say now that there is a lot of animosity from mum who also has never accepted what happened. But rather than go in to all of that I'd like to hear if anyone has experience of children of divorce kind of grieving the lost of their family unit, then moving on to become happy and stable people... dsd seems to believe dh and I are mental for even suggesting that she could move past it and be content with "her lot". He has suggested counselling/ family therapy/ talking to older relatives etc. to help her move on but she thinks it's pointless because "all children of divorce are broken people". Divorce is so common now, I can't believe such a huge proportion of the population are walking around seething with rage about their parent's divorce. Maybe she still needs more time.

I get that it's how she feels and I can't minimize that - what works for one won't work for another, but maybe someone could shed some light on how to get her to see her life doesn't need to be like this.

OddBoots Fri 26-Dec-14 22:34:42

Dh's parents divorced and he and his four siblings in their 30s and 40s seem to generally be happy and leading normal lives (and all in so far successful marriages) so I do think it's possible.

I think it comes down to lots of different factors over which we have only some control though - things like cause of break up, timing, personality of all involved, if a parent enters into a new relationship (and the timing/methods of that) and any other children brought into the household as a result.

GristletoeAndWhine Fri 26-Dec-14 22:36:07

That's sad but that is her perspective and it may be the only way she can see it right now. I think the age of the child when their parents break up is obviously very significant for how they experience it. Also some children will be fine. Some won't. Lots of happy stories that respond to your OP will not change anything for her unfortunately. And it's also worth remembering lots of teenagers are very angry and unhappy regardless of having experienced divorce or not.

26Point2Miles Fri 26-Dec-14 22:38:53

It's not a broken home. I hear of abusiverelationships on MN all the time.... 2/3/4 threads a day. Those are the broken ones.... The ones that stay in these rubbish relationships

Maybe with the absence of a 'reason' she is failing to make sense of it all

westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:39:11

Thanks oddboots. I guess it does. She does have a new sibling, but on her mum's side and only in the past couple of years. She's very jealous of him but has never mentioned that she's angry about her mum having had him.

Her dad and I met a year after the divorce. Her mum had several relationships quite soon after, dsd says they weren't very nice. I wonder if she's angry that dh let that happen by leaving... There are lots of maybes around why exactly she's still so pissed off about the divorce. I just wish she could see that she has a choice over whether to have a happy life and that it wasn't set in stone the day her dad left her mum.

Spero Fri 26-Dec-14 22:40:17

Of course they can.

But this isn't the issue is it? This child isn't one of them. The reasons why could be multiple - her own personality, lack of support from the adults in her life etc, etc.

You may never know. It may be impossible to unpick. It may be that sadly the adults in her life reflect their misery onto her and encourage her not to cope. I have no idea.

But can I just say, to suggest to someone that they have counselling so 'they can move on' sounds a lot like 'so you will stop bothering me with your misery'. To suggest that someone, especially an angry and miserable child, needs therapy should be done with a great deal of sensitivity and not in any way that makes it sound like they are a problem that just needs to get fixed to make every one else's life easier.

westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:41:44

It definitely wasn't worded like that spero - although I wonder if that's how she saw it.

hissingcat Fri 26-Dec-14 22:44:52

Do you think she might feel that her dad has a new family with you and your DD and her mum has made a new family with her new sibling and presumably a new partner and she feels like a cuckoo in the nest?

Spero Fri 26-Dec-14 22:45:20

I suspect she probably did hear it that way. That's certainly how I felt when it was suggested to me! I am sure the person doing the suggesting meant it sensitively and kindly, but we hear what we want to hear...

I would suggest that any approach should be firmly along the lines of 'we worry about YOU. We care about YOU. What can we do to help you?'

westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:46:40

She may well do hissingcat. But she's been angry at him ever since the divorce happened and it's just got worse and worse. Her nager towards the situation has got more intense every year steadily. I don't think it got worse when she met my dd, or when her brother was born.. although I couldn't swear to it.

westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:47:22

Thanks Spero, I'll remember that.

Quangle Fri 26-Dec-14 22:48:34

Of course it's possible. My parents divorced when I was six and my life is very good. I also have an unusually happy (judging by the posts on MN) relationship with my mum, sisters and a decent if not perfect relationship with my dad.

She is obviously very stuck but there are lots of factors here not least of which is being 16. I wouldn't have been quite so OTT at 16but doubtless said some pretty self-pitying things. I think it was the biggest issue in my life for many years so you are probably not wise to expect this to be resolvable with evidence iyswim. It sounds like she and her dad need a different dynamic - one which doesn't revolve around her talking about her grief and him trying to rationalise it away. Also you do sound a little like she should be over it by now. She shouldn't. It does take away some of your childhood and I still feel a bit angry that my stepmother doesn't understand what we lost and it happened 40 years ago!

I always think (only half joking) that you've got till you're 25 to get over it all (ie whatever childhood crap you are processing - assuming it's all just normal childhood crap) and start living on your own terms. After that you need to get a grip. So there's a lot more to go through OP.

Treeceratops Fri 26-Dec-14 22:49:05

Having new half-siblings affected me hugely. I had been the youngest of 2 and felt very pushed out. Maybe that's part of the reason DSD is so angry?

WoodliceCollection Fri 26-Dec-14 22:49:07

You say there was 'nothing dodgy about the breakup', but actually just leaving someone out of the blue is just as hurtful as what some might describe as 'dodgy'- usually following a divorce it's possible to explain to children that you tried at the relationship, but could not manage constant arguing, major disagreements, went through counselling but failed to resolve issues, etc. You don't just expect them to accept that one day you decided you'd rather bugger off for no apparent reason! (Which will be, if it is as you describe, how dsd sees it). Ideally all breakups should be consensual, at least for both partners, if not also all children involved. It is a bit of a shit culture that we have that thinks people should just be able to unilaterally pick and choose whether they have responsibility to others or not, and I strongly hope it changes in future.

It does also seem like age has an effect here- she is old enough to actually remember the break up, and the family existing beforehand, whereas your daughter is not old enough to remember her dad living with you. This doesn't always help- my younger daughter doesn't remember her dad being with me, but is still pretty messed up by the situation she has sadly found herself in, whereas my older one does remember and can thus rationalise it to herself at least with regards to how much we were arguing when we were together, and how it is less like that now. This is why I think it seems like it was a dodgy breakup- because if it had followed a more understandable pattern of relationship breakdown on both sides, your dsd would be able to see this a bit more clearly iyswim?

I get that you don't want to feel guilty, and I don't actually think that you need to about this, but your partner clearly does need to actually think more about what happened in his past and the hurt it has caused, before he can expect his daughter to accept it- has he actually apologised etc? I find that admitting any fault you have is helpful with older children, as it allows them to see that you are not trying to patronise them from above but are sorry for failing them (which he has, regardless of whether he is 'happier now' etc- for her it was the loss of her family as she had envisioned it, and of her father as the role model and resident parent she wanted him to be).

haphazardbystarlight Fri 26-Dec-14 22:50:50

I have to admit, I can see how divorce could be incredibly traumatic for a child. That's from someone planning to get a divorce.

I think it's become so common we assume it isn't traumatic when it often is.

Runwayqueen Fri 26-Dec-14 22:51:08

My dd's father and I separated when she was 15 months. She is now 4, fine and happy. Her df hasn't been good at seeing her regularly but is improving. I admit she doesn't know the reason behind our separation and I'm hopefully I'm along way off having to explain that to her, I'm hoping that it won't change how she feels towards her df. Im very much a believer of everything happens for a reason, both her dad and I are happier people for it and I don't feel she is worse off for us being apart

hissingcat Fri 26-Dec-14 22:52:55

How long after the break up did you get together?

DaphneMoonCrane Fri 26-Dec-14 22:53:26

I have been very damaged by my parents' split, which happened when I was 18 (I'm now 36). I definitely grieve for the loss of my family unit, even though, to my dad's logic, I was an adult when it happened so apparently didn't need my parents anymore hmm

The damage mainly comes from the fact that the split was extremely acrimonious (Dad cheated) - my parents constantly slag each other off to my brother and me - really, they say the most awful things, and I can barely mention my dad in front of my mum - it's like it's my fault he's my dad when in fact it's hers In practical terms, this has meant things like my brother having to keep them away from each other at my graduation, and not being able to have either parent on my table at my wedding because the atmosphere would have been awful sad It's also meant they opted out of being co-parents, so I've not had that joint support for major life events (wedding, having the DC etc).

Also, my dad married the woman he cheated with and is so absorbed in her he seems to care very little about me anymore (eg he didn't contact me at all on Christmas day this year).

I have friends whose parents are divorced but remain on friendly or at least cordial terms and therefore continue to be a parenting team despite no longer being together. These friends are much happier with their family setup than I am, needless to say hmm

EhricJinglingHisBallsOnHigh Fri 26-Dec-14 22:54:13

No such thing as a broken home. It's a poisonous, heteronormative, misguided concept. Please don't ever use it again.

Your DSD is bitter because her mother is, not because her parents separated.

Quangle Fri 26-Dec-14 22:56:17

I just wish she could see that she has a choice over whether to have a happy life and that it wasn't set in stone the day her dad left her mum

I think you are overestimating how much agency over their own life a child of 16 thinks she has. Even a happy confident child of that age needs the bedrock of support and guidance from their parents and the repeated experience of things going well and effort being rewarded with good outcomes. That's how you learn to be confident and to run at life regardless of what it throws at you. But she hasn't had that, has she? It doesn't sound like she comes first above all things for anyone, and it sounds like her dad is just a bit baffled by her hurt. Which will make her say it louder to try to get through to him.

haphazardbystarlight Fri 26-Dec-14 22:56:19

Or she could be unhappy and bitter because she feels she doesn't belong anywhere.

I can understand and empathise with those feelings.

westielover Fri 26-Dec-14 22:57:17

All good for thought and thank you very much.

He has apologised a lot. Too much I think.

We met about 9 months later and dsd and I met about 3/4 months after that. She'd already met two new partners on her mums side by then though.

cestlavielife Fri 26-Dec-14 22:59:40

The dsd and both her bio parents should attend few sessions of family therapy . A good therapist may help unpick what dsd is angry about a nd help both parents addresss it.
She addressees anger at her dad but her mum is negative, while also having moved on and got another child. That's a lot to deal with. Dsd having it put with dad with a trained therapist present to appropriately intervene may help. Come up with strategies.

The answer to your op is of course they can . Do you think wills as in wills and kate has done badly ? From a very broken dysfunctional home....

cestlavielife Fri 26-Dec-14 23:02:15

And yeh define "broken home..".. It shouldn't mean a divorced /separated one... Many dysfunctional v broken homes with two parents in them arguing fighting dv emotional abuse etc....

hissingcat Fri 26-Dec-14 23:04:20

hmm Who knows how Wills may feel inside
In my experience when a parent meets a new partner there is a shift in their relationship with their child. They may not realise it but the child does.

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