176 - Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce - Interview with Dr Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg
Many parents of adult children going through a divorce think that they have saved their children from the pain of divorce by waiting until they are no longer children to file for divorce. They believe that they are old enough now to handle the divorce, whereas as children they were not. Or, perhaps the divorce comes along long after the children have graduated from college. They think that they will be fine. After all, they are adults with their own family. They can handle something like this, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, both these beliefs are incorrect. In many cases, the gray divorce can be even more devastating to adult children. In their eye-opening book, “Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce,” Dr. Carol R. Hughes and Bruce R. Fredenburg discuss this growing problem, because adult children are actually the unknown casualties of gray divorces. If you know anyone going through a divorce where adult children are involved, then this book is a must read for everyone, the divorcing parents and the adult children.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here you learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well Todd, I've got some good news and some bad news for you. What do you want first?
Todd Orston: I'm a bad news first kind of guy. I need the good news to lift up my spirits afterwards, so let's go with the bad.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, good. All right, because that's how I was going to tell it to you anyways. The bad news is-
Todd Orston: Glad I got it right.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So the bad news is that we're talking about some unknown victims of what has been coined, "gray" divorces today. That's the bad news.
Todd Orston: Well, Leh. What's the good news?
Leh Meriwether: The good news is that we won't be the ones expounding on this topic.
Todd Orston: Oh, thank goodness.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. As always, we like to bring in experts that know more than us on specific topics like something like this, and with us today, we have Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Frendenburg, the authors of the brand new book Home Will Never be the same, A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. Bruce, before I introduce both you and Carol, did I say your last name right?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Fredenburg.
Leh Meriwether: Fredenburg. Well, if-
Todd Orston: You added another N.
Leh Meriwether: It's all right. Fredenburg. If you've heard the show before, you know I am terrible with names. So Dr. Carol Hughes, she holds her doctoral degree in clinical psychology and her master's degree in counseling psychology. She served for the first 10 years as an associate professor of human services at Saddleback College. In her practice in Laguna Hills, California as a California licensed marriage and family therapist and family focused divorce professional for more than 30 years, she has assisted hundreds of divorcing families as a therapist, child and co-parenting specialist, divorce coach, and mediator.
Leh Meriwether: And Bruce has been a California licensed marriage and family therapist for more than 30 years. He was a college instructor in human services at Saddleback College, and at the National Medical Review School in Southern California. He also created and taught parenting classes for adoptive and foster parents. His practice in Laguna Hills, California, helps families as a therapist, divorce coach, co-parenting specialist, and mediator. Carol and Bruce, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Thank you. We're really happy to be here today.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Yes, yes. We are, thank you.
Leh Meriwether: And we're really excited about this new book. I mean, it just got published, right, in the last couple months?
Bruce Fredenbur...: It did.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: June 22nd.
Leh Meriwether: June 22nd. So-
Todd Orston: Congratulations, that's fantastic.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, congrats.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Thanks.
Leh Meriwether: Because I'm not sure, has anybody ever written a book like this before?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: In 1990, there was a book that a therapist and a journalist wrote. And I think about 10 years, eight years later a journalist who was an adult child of gray divorce wrote her journey. It was more like a memoir. But there hasn't been anything like our book with the research, the little bit that there is, and how it's all laid out. It's unique for sure, which we're happy about.
Leh Meriwether: And it's obviously timely and again, the name of the book is Home Will Never be the Same Again, A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. And I'm so happy that you reached out to us to come onto the show because of what's going on right now with these gray divorces. What inspired you to write this book on this subject, helping in particular the adult children? Because most people, they think oh, they're adults, they can handle it.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Bruce?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Well, this is really a story for Carol but I'll tell it. A little over four years ago Carol wrote an article, a blog article for our practice group because over the years, we've encountered people who in our therapy practice were suffering either because of how badly they did their own divorce or how badly their parents' divorce went. And more and more we were seeing these people who were adults when this happened to them. So Carol wrote a blog article about that. And then a few months later a reporter for The New York Times researching the subject came across her article and called her up and interviewed her on the phone.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And then a few weeks or months after that a literary agent for one of the major literary agents organizations in New York called her up and said, "This is really great. Would you be willing to write a book on it?" And Carol came to me after saying yes because she says yes to things like that. She asked me if I would be willing to co-author it with her and I said, "Yes," and had no idea it was going to take four years of research and re-writing and editing, et cetera. Then finally here it is.
Leh Meriwether: Wow. I know I'm glad you didn't give up.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yeah, we are too. It felt like it sometimes. We wanted to give the adult children whose parents are going through a divorce. They're already adults. We wanted to give them a voice because as you were saying earlier, this is a population that no one thinks about. And I like to say it's not an underserved population, it's an unserved population because we were seeing them in our practice and they kept saying things like they felt crazy, it was surreal. "What's happening? My whole life that I thought I had up until this time at 20, 30, 40, 50 years old, the foundation of my life has come apart."
Dr. Carol Hughe...: We're in California so frequently they would say in some form of this, "It feels like the rock that was my family of origin just got sucked into an earthquake fault." And I thought, "Wow, that's a really powerful metaphor." So we wanted to give them a voice because no one really thinks they have an issue.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Leh and I have been doing this for well, too many years, and I was saying to you offline, in all the years that ... This is why I'm excited for you guys to be on the show. In all the years of practice, I'll be honest. I don't think I've ever given it thought. And when I sat down and read notes in your book and it became very clear to me why because there is no place in the work I'm doing as the attorney to deal with adult children. Younger children, I have to deal with custody issues and other things. But the feelings of adult children because their parents have decided to end their marriage, that's not something I have to actually focus on. And on top of that, oftentimes those children, those adults aren't sharing those feelings with me and asking for any help. So it's easy to ignore their needs.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Exactly. And as Bruce mentioned, we're part of a practice we co-founded in 2003 in Orange County, California with family lawyers, financial specialists and mental health professionals who were passionate about providing out-of-court options for people who have decided to divorce, so it's mediations and collaborative divorce. And one of the founding attorneys who did write a piece for the book, was fond of saying, "Adult children are stakeholders in their parents' divorce," and I'd never thought of it like that. And that really was a bit of a seed being planted as well for the book. So yeah, here we are.
Leh Meriwether: So let's take one step back real quick just in case our listeners may not have ... We did have a show about gray divorce, but not on this perspective before. But for those that may not be familiar with that term, what is a gray divorce, and just how prevalent is it? So we can understand the magnitude of you said, "It's not a community that's being underserved, they're not being served at all." So share with the audience just a little bit of that information.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Sure. Well, between 1990 and 2015, the divorce rate for adults 50 and older doubled, and it's still rising. And it's not just happening in the United States, it's happening all over the developed world. But just in the United States and this is really the demographic, it's Baby Boomers and Generation Xers 50 and older, and we've had one attorney who was telling us they had a client who was divorcing in his 90s. But every year in the United States alone, 300,000 families divorce, and that's how many divorced in 2016, I think.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And so that's 600,000 people, 300,000 couples. And in that demographic they average one to two children, so it's another 300,000 to 600,000 people. So somewhere between 900,000 and 1.2 million people enter this experience in the United States every year. And the ones who were hurting last year are still hurting, and the ones who were hurting the year before are still hurting. So it's millions of people by now.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I loved how in your book you broke down that this isn't just a US problem. This is something that's all over the place. And I had never even heard the term, you had in there that the United Kingdom's office for National Statistics says that for them the divorce what they call their version starts at age 55. I think here in the US we start gray divorce at 50. But they termed the gray divorce over there is called "silver splitters."
Bruce Fredenbur...: Yes.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes, yes.
Leh Meriwether: That was an interesting. You all have definitely researched this. I mean, you even went to Japan and looked at the rate there and there, it's called the retired husband syndrome.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Right.
Leh Meriwether: You all have definitely done your research not only in this realm, but just what's happening to adult children. And when we come back we're going to continue to break down how this book can help adult children going through a gray divorce.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right? It's ... you can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can go listen to past episodes of this show or read the transcript at divorceteamradio.com. Let's get to it.
Todd Orston: All right. Well, I got to say, I'm going to jump in and I'm going to say, we are constantly looking at some of the statistics regarding divorce. Overtime, I believe we've seen reduction, some decreases in rates and yet when I read your material, it became very clear. That's not the case when it comes to gray divorce. So guys, I'm going to throw this out as a general question. Someone take it. Why are more people divorcing later in life?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: It's a really good question, isn't it? The younger generations are divorcing less. They're marrying less is one reason their divorce rate is down. It doesn't mean they aren't living together having children but they aren't marrying. But the 45 and above at least in the US is still in that generation where marriage was looked at to be for life and yet it became where divorce was being more and more accepted morally. And so we saw that in the values are changing as time goes on. The expectations of marriage change, also as people age because we're living longer now so that's another reason.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: But as we age, a lot of times the people we connected to at 20 or 30 years old, we don't have anything in common anymore is what these gray divorcees say. Maybe they stayed together for their children, their careers, they were focused on other things and once the children hit that magical ... in California, it's 18 years old when they're legally adults. They go off to school, at college, training, start their own careers, whatever. They look at each other and think, "I don't think I know this person very well and I think I want to pursue being happier than I've been the last 20, 30, 40 years."
Dr. Carol Hughe...: So part of it is they're looking for happiness and they've got maybe 10, 20, 30 more years of life ahead of them. And economics is a factor as well. What we know in the US is that over 50% of moms who are married have jobs outside the home, jobs, professions, careers and so they're not as financially dependent on their partners. And so they are better able to make a choice to leave a marriage if they aren't happy. In the US, more women file for divorce than men. That doesn't mean that maybe they aren't both at fault, of course but that's the statistic on that one as well.
Leh Meriwether: Interesting.
Todd Orston: Well, I know in our practice I mean we definitely ... who have seen that that stigma that may have been there in decades past is it's just not there anymore. So there is a societal increased comfort level with the concept of divorce, whereas I know Baby Boomers and people in previous generations, there was always that stigma of, oh that's a divorcee. And therefore they are to some degree, criticized by others or looked down upon. And you don't have that. Now, it just seems like it's a society of I need to be happy and if you're not the right person for that then I'm going to move on and find the right person.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Exactly. And you mentioned previous generations. There was that term decades ago, "broken family." He's from a broken family, and that was part of the stigma and that they wouldn't even let their children play with someone who was from a "broken family."
Leh Meriwether: In your book, again, if you're just tuning in, it's A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce, a book that really especially with the explosion of gray divorces really needed to be written. This is very timely because this isn't a community that's barely even served if at all. I mean you all are serving and obviously that's partly what gave you the inspiration to do this but why do we dismiss or I mean, Todd touched on that in the last segment but Bruce, why is it we dismiss or overlook the effect of gray divorce on adult children?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Well, there's a lot of different factors. One is our culture in general just seems to think that their adult children are just lucky their parents didn't divorce when they were young and you're older now and grow up, get over it and you should just slip by it. And secondly, you touched on the legal system. Legally, the courts will tell people that your adult children don't matter because there's no jurisdiction and everybody buys into that cultural expectation, they're going to be fine. And as a parent I know that every parent wants to think the parents their kids are going to be fine and now they've heard it from their attorneys, they've heard it from the judge, they've heard it from everybody else, they're going to be just fine so don't worry about it. That's very seductive because that's one less thing to worry about because the parents are already overwhelmed with their own emotions and confusion and anger about the divorce.
Bruce Fredenbur...: When we laid out this book, first we had to lay out the problem because a lot of people don't really recognize that it exists but we also needed to weave throughout the book different ways in which the adult children can heal and the parents can help them. So the first step to solving a problem is to identify it. The way to get out of the cage, the first step is to recognize you're in one. And so it's not realistic to think that people aren't going to be shocked and grieve and be upset about the disintegration of their family because it's the only thing they've known their whole life. And it's like oxygen, it's really precious and you can't be without it for a couple of minutes but we never think of it until we don't have any. And if your head's underwater, you don't think about your kids at all. You think about where's my next breath. Well, that's how it is when your family falls apart.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And one of the things, I mean the parents of these adult children can do once they understand it exists is to listen to what their children are telling them. And there's research that shows that when people feel that they're listened to, it actually helps with their healing because they're experiencing a lot of losses. There's not just the loss of the family as a place to go home to, but then most adult children are connected to their family through holidays. There's family celebrations. If it's a college-aged kid, they're going to be worried, "Am I going to have to drop out of college?"
Bruce Fredenbur...: If they've got kids of their own, my kids are going to lose grandma and grandpa. And if they're fighting with each other, sometimes family celebrations turn into family traumas when somebody insists that, "I won't come to the graduation if so-and-so is going to be there." And so you can see it's just a never-ending cascade of problems.
Leh Meriwether: As an attorney, I think it was Maria's story that that kind of hit hard. I think she's the one who was in college.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: Her parents are divorcing. Yeah, so that's one of the stories you have in your book. And she was legitimately worried about, "Hey, do I need to be looking for other ways to pay for college because they're going through this divorce?" And because we've handled gray divorces, I can remember being in the middle of a very intense battle and negotiation's probably a better word. We weren't going to court. We were trying to settle but one of the tensions was they were already on a, as far as finances go, things were very, very tight. And they were barely making the college expenses for, I think, two of the adult children.
Leh Meriwether: And when they broke into two households, there wasn't enough money to go around and so there was a lot of guilt tripping going on. On one end, the husband was the primary breadwinner. He wanted to be able to support them but the attorney on the other side said yeah but legally I am ethically bound to get as much money for my client in the way of alimony because there's no child support as possible. But the greater the amount of alimony that person got, the less likely the husband was going to be able to support the kids in school. So it created this huge tension. Even we get calls from the adult children who are very upset.
Leh Meriwether: Before your book, I knew anecdotally that this is very hard on adult children and that sometimes just trying to tough it out to get the kids off to college may not necessarily be the right course of action. And your book's kind of confirming that for me.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: It really does create a crisis. Shock waves is another metaphor that a lot of the adult children we have served and also that we've read about. Again, because we're in California they talk about the aftershock waves can go on for months, years.
Leh Meriwether: And I remember having had some difficult conversations with the ... because I've been on both sides of that negotiation before and it's difficult because also as an attorney, whatever that they agree to that number. So let's say the breadwinner wants to be able to pay for college and then sometimes they want to agree to it. That's another tension too because in Georgia, a judge can't mandate it but the problem is as soon as you agree to do that in writing in Georgia particularly, you can be thrown in jail if you don't meet those financial obligations you agree to. There's a lot of tension there and hey, when we come back, we're going to continue to talk about how this brand new book, A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce can help children that are dealing with this themselves.
Todd Orston: Hey, everyone. You're listening to our podcast but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to and give us a five-star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio. A show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com and you can listen to old shows, previous shows and read transcripts at divorceteamradio.com. Well today, we have in studio, sort of, Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg, the authors of the brand new book. It just came out last month, A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce and this is a fantastic book. It is so timely. Well, I'm sorry. The full name of the book is Home Will Never Be the Same Again and the subtitle is A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. Sorry about that. I want to make sure. It's sold anywhere you can get books, that you can buy this book, right?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Correct and it's also available via on Amazon and Kindle and Audiobook.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I almost downloaded the audiobook the other day but I decided to read the book because that way I can mark it up. But I'm normally a big audiobook listener because one of the things I love about audiobooks is that sometimes you find yourself busy like adult children and maybe there's a lot going on. They're busy. They're working. All of a sudden they get this bombshell dropped on them that their parents are getting a divorce. This is something that you can easily get with through Audible or something like that.
Leh Meriwether: I know that if you don't use Audible, the first book you get you when you sign up is free. Download this book and start listening to it while you're ... Well, as some states open back up, on your commute. That's what I used to be able to say but not so much anymore. But let's keep going because you've got some great information here in this book and obviously we can't even scratch the surface of it in the hour we have on the show but the next question that I had for you was what can older parents who are divorcing do to help their adult children cope?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Well, as Bruce said earlier, first of all before we can deal with the problem, we need to be able to identify what it is. And as we've been talking here today, it's important that parents identify the problem which is that their adult children are being affected by their divorce. The research shows about the little bit of research that there is on adult children of gray divorce shows that about half of them are experiencing pretty severe feelings, negative feelings about their parents' divorce.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: And so again as Bruce mentioned, listening is the first thing. Listening without judgment, the parents can do listening without being defensive. "Don't I deserve to be happy?" Those kind of things and really try to understand what your adult children are telling you that they're going through no matter what ages they are. They're experiencing losses and one of the early chapters in the book is called Shock and then Grieving and that's about all the losses that the adult children and the parents by the way are going through because we do educate the adult children in the book about the losses that their parents are experiencing as well so that they can both be sensitive to each other.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: And also know that your adult children may not be as happy for you as you are for yourself. If you're the happy person leaving the marriage, we know often one person is happier than the other typically. And don't expect them to be all excited to meet people you're dating or a new significant other so that if you can remember what they're going through, don't try to get into alliances with one child against the other parent. That's not healthy. A lot of the same things we see with minor children actually when they're going through divorce with their parent, but these adult children are caught and often between having younger children themselves and their older parents that's called the sandwich generation.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: We want the parents to understand that their adult children are also going through a lot. Just because they're adults doesn't mean that they aren't being impacted by their parents' divorce.
Todd Orston: Yeah, the interesting thing there for me is I've already admitted that I have largely ignored the needs of adult children that are perfectly involved in a divorce that I'm handling. But it makes sense that the now that I look back and I look back at gray divorces I've handled, it really appears that the needs of those adult children were even being ignored by my client and my client's spouse. They were so hyper focused on their pain and what they were dealing with, that the needs of their then adult children were largely ignored.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Exactly. One of the sayings that Bruce is fond of saying, we quote each other all the time because we train other people a lot. And we've been friends and colleagues for decades is that the family celebrations go from being a celebration to family trauma. T as in Tom R-A-U-M-A. And I don't think most parents really want to create that for their adult children but that is what happens when there's all this animosity in the family, and the battle lines drawn in trying to align with one adult child against the other parent.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: And even we see extended family members doing that as well, even community members lining up saying, "You shouldn't see your mom or you shouldn't see your dad because they're the ones that closed the doors, blah, blah, blah." And that's a horrible place to put the adult children. Put them in the middle of all that.
Leh Meriwether: So it sounds to me like this is a good book because I mean the title the book seems to be ... If you look just at the title, it looks like it's aiming towards the adult children but this would be a good book for a couple that have adult children, that they should read this book themselves so they could get a better understanding of what their children may be experiencing.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Absolutely. In fact, we do have a chapter in the book that's aimed at the parents, the gray divorcing parents. What to do, what not to do and here's why. And we've woven in throughout the book, information for the parents as well, the divorcing parents. You're right it is aimed mainly at the adult children but because it's family focused. There's a saying that divorce is never a neutral event for children. Period. Whatever age they are, it's not a neutral event. And so we wove in information and tips for the parents as well.
Bruce Fredenbur...: We also thought that it would be the adult children who were noticing the problem most. And so we thought if we targeted them primarily but had things in there for the parents they could share with their parents on how to avoid some of the worst aspects of this problem.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, and people if you're listening and you're getting ready to go through a divorce or you're going through divorce and you have adult children. You think, "Oh, that's not going to happen to me." Let me just tell you from my experience of seeing grandparent visitation cases. In Georgia, many states have not really rights, it's really you have an opportunity to come to court to try to get some visitation with your grandkids but it's absolutely not a right and it's actually in some states an extremely high hurdle.
Leh Meriwether: But one of the themes I have seen in a lot of these cases is I'm not saying every case or anything like that, but I have seen a theme where the parents or the grandparents went through a divorce at some point in the now adult children's lives, they still remember that. And because of whatever came out of that, not necessarily the divorce itself but how they were behaving during the divorce, how they talked about the other parent, now the adult children do not want to bring their kids around the grandparents for that reason right there. We're just trying to get them to pit one child against another parent. It alienates the children. If you want to be involved in your grandchildren's lives, then you really should read this book.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes, that's very well said. Yes.
Bruce Fredenbur...: We think that one of the biggest pieces of advice to give people, is not to themselves, don't make your adult child your confidant against the other parent and give your adult children permission to not participate in bash-the-other-parent conversations with the other relatives. And insist to their own brothers and sisters, their own family of origin not to drag the kids into taking sides because each one of these parents, they may be divorcing each other but they're always going to be their child's other parent. And that's going to be a different relationship than the ones they had with each other. But when there's been too much bashing, it's really hard to overcome that. And father's relationships with their adult children are the most at risk.
Leh Meriwether: And why is that?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Oh, because women tend to be the kinship keepers in our family. And so they're the one to keep up the connections and so a lot of times, they will just keep the relationship with their mother. If you think of it, most people have a closer relationship with their mother if their mom was the early caretaker and the father was at work the whole time they were growing up. There's that natural thing. Men if they remarry or they get a new partner tend to get absorbed into that family if they haven't been able to keep their relationships with their own children. And so that's a really big loss for that demographic. Wouldn't you agree, Carol?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: Carol, can you hold on for that? Just say that for the next segment. We'd come right back, we're going to hear Carol's take on it.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online atlantadivorceteam.com and today we are very privileged to have with us Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg, authors of Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce.
Leh Meriwether: Well, Carol and Bruce, thanks so much for not running away after the last three segments.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: We're happy to be here.
Bruce Fredenbur...: We're in quarantine. We're not going anywhere.
Todd Orston: It's nice to hear that's the only reason but I guess we'll take it.
Leh Meriwether: Well, this has been a great conversation and you have a great book that's going to help a lot of people knowing that gray divorces is something that's exploding. And I know there's a couple things we want to get to but real quick, you had mentioned that something ... Let's be real quick with this because there's another great question I want to ask too but this isn't a problem that's going away, right? Is this something that's getting worse?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes. In fact, the researchers who did the original research and coined the term, "gray divorce revolution" showing that the divorce rate in the 50 plus and older had doubled in 25 years. They've projected it will triple between right now 2020 on into 2030.
Todd Orston: Wow.
Leh Meriwether: So what is the most critical piece of advice you can give to an adult whose parents are divorcing right now?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Well, we want them to understand that they're not alone number one and that the attachment bonds that we form in childhood with our parents last a lifetime. Even though you're adults, I'm going to talk directly to the adult children, and what you're feeling is real and we want you to feel validated and to know that there's also hope and healing for what you're going through. I mentioned earlier in the show that the research shows about half of the adult children of gray divorce are very upset, have very deep negative feelings about what they're going through, what their parents are going through. But the research also shows that in about five years, sometimes 10, they've healed those relationships and very often it's the adult children who reach out to their parents and say, "Let's work on this. Maybe go to family therapy together. Go to clergy."
Dr. Carol Hughe...: So there are ways to heal this what you're going through right now. And things that you need to learn adult children are how to effectively communicate better. You might need to work with a communications specialist, a divorce coach, a therapist, how to set boundaries with your parents so that they don't drag you into these battles that we talked about earlier. Community members as well, they will try to drag you in sometimes. Sometimes even church members will do this. And that you get to plan your own holiday traditions if you would like to do that. You don't have to depend on your parents trying to work out visitation, so to speak, of the grandchildren and all in you during the holidays. And if they're still angry at each other, you can create your own holidays, traditions, rituals and don't become your parents' confidant. That's for them to deal with a therapist or their own best friend or their brothers, sisters, somebody but not you. Clergy they can work with.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: And another topic that we didn't cover yet just briefly, if you're worried about your parents' financial stability and maybe even your inheritance, if there is any, see if you can't get your parents to go to a estate planning attorney, financial planner to discuss that, all those financial concerns. And we even have a segment in the book written by an estate planning attorney we know who's also a divorce attorney that's advice to your parents, the parents of gray divorce of what they should be thinking about. That will take that burden off of you, adult children.
Leh Meriwether: That's smart.
Todd Orston: Let me jump in for a moment and I hate to play the pessimist here, okay but-
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Sure.
Todd Orston: All right, you don't even know me and you're right. That's amazing. You guys are-
Bruce Fredenbur...: I appreciate your sacrifice [crosstalk 00:38:10].
Todd Orston: Good. Wait, is this an intervention? Leh, did you bring them on? No, I'm going to play devil's advocate for a second because with all of our experience in representing people in divorces, you're talking about walking that right path and doing the right thing and just acting the right way. So it's going to minimize the pain on adult kids. What about those people? There are people who ... they're looking for that. They're looking to create those alliances. They're looking to alienate the other parents because they feel, I don't know, maybe it'll benefit them in the case or just in life. They want to make sure they've surrounded themselves with ... It's almost like, forget about who got the house, who got the most friends? And so what do you say to those people?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Well, we recognized that problem pretty early on and struggled with it. And one of the things we've come up with is when we're working as divorce coaches with clients or child specialists is to meet with the parents who are divorcing, and help them craft what we term a statement of highest and best intentions for the divorce. And because nobody comes in and says, "Oh boy, I can hardly wait we get to wreck the kids. Or, "We can hardly wait to wreck the grandkids." So usually-
Todd Orston: We have bumper stickers we give out but whatever. It's-
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes, you do.
Bruce Fredenbur...: What we're doing is we'll bring up the idea of the children and sometimes frame it because everybody will agree. If you point out, they probably would agree that the children are the real wealth of their family. And most parents will agree they don't want to hurt the kids. So in the statement of highest and best intentions, there's usually something to the effect of help us. We intend to have for both of us to continue or to regain a good relationship with our children. And then when they start doing those things that are counter to that, like getting people to choose upsides, we can use it as a callback to remind them what they said they want to do because then they jump right back into doing things that'll wreck the kids like fighting over teacups.
Bruce Fredenbur...: But when they've agreed to the statement of highest intentions and we even check in with them at the beginning of every meeting to read it again and tell us if they still agree with it. And if there's anything they don't agree with, they can take it out but they'll almost always agree with it or add other things. And it really is a powerful tool to keep them on course, so at least they don't do the worst things.
Todd Orston: I love that. That's a fantastic idea and reinforcing it with every meeting that you have. I could see how that's very powerful.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Another thing that we teach the parents who are divorcing is we ask them a question. What would you like to be the legacy that you're leaving your adult children right now about this time in their lives and maybe your grandchildren's lives? And we're not talking about money legacy, we're talking about they're watching you on how you resolve disputes. So do you want to leave them the legacy of battle and watching you destroy the family that they've grown up in all their lives? Or do you want to role model for them healthy, respectful, dignified, dispute resolution? That gets their attention pretty well, we've discovered.
Todd Orston: Got my attention.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that's powerful right there. That's powerful. I know from my wife and I lead married groups. We've been doing for years we took a bit year off but we'd had some couples in there that between the two of them, they had seen like 13 divorces.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: And the amount of confidence that is eroded as far as their current relationship, it's huge. And that was one of the things that you had in this book about for many of these adult children, they're in a relationship or they're maybe about to get married and they look at their parents that may be married 30 years and they go, "Well, if they failed, how am I going to succeed?" And it just creates a crisis in confidence when it comes to the relationship.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Very well said. You know that saying, they say that saying very frequently, "Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and how do I know I'm not going to be just like them?" And it does create, yeah, ripples of lack of self-confidence in their ability to have a healthy relationship. That's very common as well, yes.
Todd Orston: Or was it all smoke and mirrors? That's my whole life while I'm growing up.
Leh Meriwether: And that just makes this book so much, I think it's so important today because we don't want those adult children to have their marriages fall apart. We want everyone's marriage to be successful and I think that's why this book is so timely because it can help them process their feelings, help them understand what's going on, they're not alone and help them work through it. So they don't have whatever resulted in that failure of the marriage for their parents doesn't happen to them.
Leh Meriwether: So the book is Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce written by Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg. Guys, thanks so much for coming on the show. Before we go, we got 30 seconds left, where can people find more about you in this book?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: The book's website is homewillneverbethesameagain.com. That's the name of the book and we've created a free report that we would love to send to your listeners if they want to email us at the same name of the book, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leh Meriwether: Thanks so much for coming on the show and hey everyone, thanks so much for listening.