Thursday, April 30, 2009


I counseled a young woman whose parents were divorced when she was sixteen. She said, “If I had been a better cook, my father would never have divorced my mother.” As a teenager, because her mother worked outside the home, it was Debbie’s responsibility to keep the house clean and prepare the evening meals. Her father often complained about her cooking. Then one night this man, whom she loved and admired more than anyone on the face of the earth, packed his bags and left. Seven years later, Debbie remains convinced—no matter what anyone tells her—that “my father divorced my mother because I was a lousy cook.” Her cooking had nothing to do with the divorce of her parents. But regardless of how many counselors she may see (she’s now with her fifth psychologist), Debbie continues to go through life blaming herself.

After I had spoken at a conference, a woman came to me asking for my help. She told me that two weeks earlier her husband had served divorce papers on her. That afternoon, as she was driving to the conference with her fourteen-year-old son, the boy said to her, “Mom, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Forgive me!” Then he began crying. When she asked what he was sorry about, he answered, “I’m sorry for making Dad divorce you.” The woman assured him that the breakup was not his fault. But he kept insisting, “Yes, it is my fault.” When she asked why, he answered, “If I hadn’t loved soccer so much, he would never have left you.” I see it all the time. Young people feel responsible for their parents’ divorce.

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