Monday, May 23, 2011

The Children of Divorce: Choosing New Family

I’m slowly reading through The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being by Andrew Root. The following is the third post interacting with the book and my own experiences.

For the first time in my life, I am a little brother. My dad got married a couple of weeks ago to a wonderful woman who loves him very much, and both of her daughters are older than I am. The oldest was having quite a fun time calling me “little brother”, which made it quite weird for me because “little brother” has never been part of my identity. But to be honest, it is probably not as weird for me as it would have been if we were all living in the same household.

I cannot imagine how weird it may have been for my youngest brother when he went from being the baby in my mom and dad’s family to being the oldest in my dad’s home in his second marriage. The challenge to navigate in both of those worlds as he formed (and is still forming) his identity would have been and is great.

In his book The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being, author Andrew Root writes that the “pure relationship” nature of marriage today allows people to choose relationships in which “the self is free of obligatory structures”. Root writes that a relationship chosen by two individuals who have committed to marriage based on their love for one another is a “pure relationship [that is] contingent on the choice to be together outside of any kind of coercion.” (pg. 39) In contrast, “children are bound to their parents not by choice but by biology.”

My parents have both chosen new spouses. As good as their new spouses may be to them (and they are), I have not chosen my new family and I have no biological bond with them.

I will always be the child of my mom and my dad. My current reality is that I will always live in the tension caused by the divorce. How much time does each “family” get? Where do I stay when I visit “home”? How many stories do I share that involve the other parent? What do I reveal or not reveal on facebook? Root writes:

"When the biological obligatory bond is broken, and one world becomes two separate worlds, children are forced to form identity not through the solid place of shared being, but through choice. Children must be two selves in two different families, neither which firmly hold them in biological correlation.” (pg. 42)

Children of divorce struggle with identity issues in blended families. I do not know how to be “little brother”. It is not a role that I am familiar with in a family. I have always identified with being the oldest brother. Those of us who get to minister to and love these children must understand these issues and the complexity that comes with it. The children must be given the freedom and time to “choose” to love those that were “chosen” for them. Parents who have chosen divorce and then remarriage should understand that it is both complex and difficult for the children to navigate the world of blended families. The “new family” dynamic will never look like the “old family” dynamic.

As an adult child of divorce who has found his identity in Christ and His church, it is easier for me to love my new step-family because I can “choose” to love them as brothers and “big” sisters in Christ. But it will take time, and the bonds formed will be different than the biological bonds I have with my parent’s children.

I pray that my “new" family will have patience with me. I am still very attached to my “old family.


  1. Thank you for posting. It is exactly has you say it is for those of us (and I am well past my "formative" years)who have gone through the pain of divorce. To this day I struggle to "love" my step-mother because she is a mental case. But I know that she is loved by Christ just as much as I am, so I choose to be loving towards her.

  2. Thanks for sharing Patti. I think sometimes the new families can cause all of us to go "mental" because we are struggling with our place in them.

  3. Very well put Ray. I will pray for you. I know your old family and know of your new family and wonder how hard it must be on you. I may read this just to support friends going through this. Thank you for posting Ray.