205 - Why are the Gates and more older people divorcing?
For some, the Gates divorce was a surprise. Unfortunately, they are part of a growing demographic where divorces are on the rise. This situation has come to be known as Gray Divorces. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg, the authors of Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce, come back on the show to discuss the Gates divorce. Carol and Bruce share their thoughts on what is happening and what advice would they give the Gates and their children going through this tough time.
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'll 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. Well, Todd, I've got some good news and bad news for you today. What do you want first?
Todd Orston: You know what? I'm going to go with bad news first.
Leh Meriwether: Bad news? Okay. Well, we're talking about another tragic gray divorce today. Namely, Bill and Melinda Gates.
Todd Orston: Yeah, that is definitely unfortunate news. I mean, we weren't close, but still, I'm sorry. But jokes aside, it is an interesting situation, because they are incredibly public figures, and from the outside looking in, it appeared like they were good, right? That everything was on track for them. And then, all of a sudden, they drop this bomb and really, the effect on me and my family, it's selfish really. Am I taking it too far?
Bruce Fredenbur...: It reminds me of the old Al Franken shtick he did on Saturday Night Live. I know what you're asking, I know what you're thinking, "How's this affecting Al Franken?"
Todd Orston: Right, right. In and of itself, a little selfish. But, yes. All right. But no, jokes aside, from the outside looking in, they seemed good, but Leh, you and I, we talk about this all the time. Unfortunately, it's happening more and more, people later in life getting divorced, where unfortunately you would think they've ironed out all the rough spots, they've figured out how to make things work. And yet, after 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years saying, "I think it's time for a divorce," and that gray divorce concept, it's becoming, unfortunately, more and more common.
Leh Meriwether: It is. And here's the good news I have for you.
Todd Orston: I can stop talking, and somebody who actually knows what they're going to talk about...
Leh Meriwether: I was going to say, "You don't have to hurt your brain today," because I know this radio show taxes you mentally. How about maybe we bring on some experts to talk about the situation and shed some light on gray divorces like the Gates? With us today are Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg for a repeat appearance. They are the authors of the book Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. Thanks so much for coming back on.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Thank you. You guys are always great to have us and great to talk with.
Bruce Fredenbur...: We figured you won't let us stumble too much, so this is good.
Todd Orston: Well, that's not really what it is. We stumble all the time, so you'll fit in.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, it's fine.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Oh, okay. Well, pressure is off then.
Leh Meriwether: Exactly.
Bruce Fredenbur...: We won't stand out as [inaudible 00:03:23] here.
Leh Meriwether: That's right. Well, and if y'all are interested in all the credentials behind their names, definitely go check out their book, Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. Dr. Hughes has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and she has a master's degree in counseling psychology. And Bruce, he is a California licensed marriage and family therapist for more than 30 years, he's a college instructor of human services at Saddleback College. And the list goes on and on. So I don't want to take up the precious air time going through it, but definitely check the two of them out. I'm pretty sure, if you go to Amazon, you can look up your bios there, too. Right?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: Well, today, I'm so glad that you reached out to us, because Todd and I were actually thinking the Bill and Gates divorce. Bill and Gates.
Todd Orston: That's all right. See?
Leh Meriwether: The Bill and Melinda Gates divorce. Then I got your email and I was like, "Oh, that makes our lives easier." Not to mention, you've studied this and wrote a whole book about it. Is this one of the first books of its kind, where it's focusing on gray divorces?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: It's the first book about the adult children of a gray divorce. There was one back in 1990 that a therapist and journalist wrote, but it's the only current book about the adult children of gray divorce. And then, we have a lot of information in there to help the parents help, as well, help themselves, as well as help their adult children.
Leh Meriwether: And I could tell you that even in the past year, so y'all had come on the show last year and talked about the book coming out, and I have had several people talk to me, unfortunately, about divorce, because they fell into that gray divorce category, and all of them were under the misconception the children would be perfectly fine, and I definitely recommended your books. I said, "Hey, look, before things go sideways, because you think that's how things are going to be, you really need to read this book and share it with your children, because odds are they are going to have problems with this." If our listeners haven't heard that previous show, that's sort of do a quick recap before we talk about the Gates divorce. Why are there increasing numbers of older Americans getting divorced?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Well, a lot of things have come together. The Baby Boomer generation, the people born from 1946 to '64, technically, they accept divorce more than previous generations, and they don't seem to be attached to the till death do us part part of the agreement that people used to say they were going to do. And so, it's a phenomena that's going on, actually all over the world, in developing counties. The researchers at Bowling Green State University coined the term the gray divorce and they found that from 1990 to 2015, they divorce rate for this particular population actually doubled, and they predict that by the year 2030, the divorce rate for this population will triple.
Leh Meriwether: Wow.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And so, they've got kids and most women work outside the home, so in the early parts of their marriage, while maybe the newness was wearing off, suddenly they've got responsibilities of their kids and building their careers. And so, that is enough, a lot of times, to keep people occupied and not notice how much their drifting apart. But now the kids are older, going off to college, have their own family, and suddenly they might find themselves living with someone that they really don't have much in common with. These are mainly women initiated divorces, so women have the economic ability to not have to stay in a marriage just because it's the only source of income. So all of that coming together, we think, accounts for a big part of the rising divorce rate.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And Bruce mentioned that the Baby Boomers are more excepting of divorce. Interesting statistic we came across, in 2001 about 45% of Americans considered divorced morally acceptable, and in 2014, 69% considered divorce morally acceptable, so those are interesting statistics, we thought.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I will say, from my point of view, a lot of the people that call in, that need help, that would fall into this category, I agree, the stigma's no longer there. And I do see a lot of people where they've just drifted apart, they're just not the same people, so on and so forth. It's not just people have changed, but there are some behavioral issues that pop up where people they're just sort of like, "I'm done." Right? It could be drinking, it could be something more serious, but they are far less patient and they are more ready to move on and say, "I'm not going to live another X number of years, if this is the way I'm going to be treated. And with that stigma gone, more and more people are moving in this direction.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Exactly. And people are living longer, also, and as you were saying, they're looking at the next 10, 20, 30 years of, "I want to be happier than I am now." And also, when they become empty nesters, which is, of course, what Bill Gates is quoted as saying, waiting until their last child became 18, it gives them more freedom to get on with their lives. And as Bruce alluded to, economics is a factor, too, because the majority of American women have jobs and careers outside the home, so they're not as economically dependent on husbands or partners, as in previous decades.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Also, people's expectations for marriage have been changing. In previous generations, if you were a man and you were able to be a good provider, that covered a lot of sins or at least deficiencies. And the mother was expected to be able to stay home and run the house and be able to raise their kids. In fact, I remember a therapist that I knew when I was an intern, she was much older than me, so she was from the World War II generation, and she told me she always thought men knew what they were doing. They would talk as if they knew what they were doing and they always had answers and she said, as she got older, she realized that, at least the men of her generation, they really knew their job and just didn't really talk about much else, because that's what they really knew and they weren't going to venture into areas that they weren't good at. And nowadays, people expect, they talk about-
Leh Meriwether: Hey Bruce, we're coming up against a quick break. Hold that thought.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Sure.
Leh Meriwether: We'll come back to it when we come back. We'll be right back. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 a.m. on Monday mornings, WSB, so you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for 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. If you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can always find it at divorceteamradio.com. Well, today we are very privileged to have some repeat guests, Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg have come back on to talk about their book Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. And, in particular, how their research in putting together that book, they're going to apply that to the recent announcement of the divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates.
Now, I know I had to cut you off on that last segment Bruce, and you were talking about how roles inside of marriages have changed over the years that could be impacting the gray divorce. Was there anything else you wanted to go into? I can't remember exactly where I cut you off, and then we talked offline.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Sure. Well, I was just saying, in past generations, the people expected from their marriage different things. The woman maybe expected the man to be a good provider, primarily, and he may or may not have had other great qualities. And men expected the woman to be able to take care of the house and to raise the kids, and people didn't live as long. But nowadays, marriage is seen as something where you're going to be marrying your best friend and women don't have to depend on a man economically anymore, so they find that he can be a good provider, but they can be a good provider, too, so they often want more things out of a marriage.
Also, when it comes to Bill and Melinda Gates, calling them Bill and Melinda, it almost sounds like I know them, but I don't. That's just how we know them as the public. And so, we can speculate on the things that led them to make this decision, because they're part of that Baby Boomer generation, but they've done a really good job for such a public couple, of keeping most of their family private life private. And so, we are assuming that most of the reasons that other people divorce in this population, this age group, apply to them, and then the things that have to do with money are just magnified. And the things that have to do with being under a microscope, just by being famous. Those can put pressure on people, as well, but we may never know much more.
Leh Meriwether: I wanted to go back to something said earlier. We've got a bunch of questions for you and what I love about doing these interviews is it's as much a conversation as a series of questions. But you had mentioned that women are the majority of the initiators of divorce in couples 50 years older and beyond, which is really interesting when you consider the cliché, the stereotype you might see on TV is that men are divorcing their women to get younger, I'm putting air quotes, trophy wives. But you've seen something different.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Yes, yes. In fact, Carol, you can talk to that. We've discussed that in a couple of interviews before.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It doesn't mean that the trophy wives scenario isn't still happening, it's just that women are less tolerant, for some of the reasons that Bruce was just explaining, to stay in the marriage, so they aren't mutually exclusive. Certainly, the research that I've read is that that phenomenon of the older man looking for a younger woman and even sometimes starting another family is still happening. It's just that women aren't feeling as stuck, because the majority of American women have careers or professions outside the home.
Leh Meriwether: Gotcha.
Bruce Fredenbur...: In fact, Carol, as you were speaking, I was thinking, there's a comedian, I think her last name is Boosler, Elayne Boosler. And she had a great line, she said, "Women will become equal when they can become fat and balding and still imagine their attractive to 20-year-olds."
Dr. Carol Hughe...: That's a great one.
Bruce Fredenbur...: I just said, "Yep."
Leh Meriwether: That's pretty funny. Oh, we've all seen those situations. And you guys are in California. You see it quite a bit, I'm sure.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: Anyway-
Bruce Fredenbur...: We've heard of it, we've heard of it.
Todd Orston: Let me ask you this, moving on, we've talked about why increasing numbers, but the last 12, 14, 16, almost months have been like nothing most of us have ever experienced. How has COVID-19 played a role, or has it, in the growing number of gray divorces?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Well, I think that it has, from the little bit of research that is out, which isn't a lot right now. Often, as Bruce mentioned earlier, couples 50 years and older, the adults rather, have drifted apart and don't like, love, or respect each other anymore. And during the pandemic, they've been forced to spend time together, maybe working from home, jobless for months, retired, disagreeing about individual and family health safety measures, like wearing masks, deprived of outside leisure and social activities. So they've been coping with a lot of the same stressors as younger couples have been, too, a lot of things I just mentioned. Their routines are disrupted, they don't feel economic security a lot of them. A really important consideration is that we know from previous times in US history, when people have been forced to be at home, for whatever reasons, unemployment or whatever, that increased arguing and fighting and domestic violence increases.
And I have some interesting statistics. The National Domestic Hotline reported a 9% increase in calls and online contacts between March 16th or 2020 and May 16th of 2020. That was a while back. But then, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Domestic Violence Council Hotline, long name, saw an increase in calls every months of 2020 compared to 2019, and in December of 2020, the calls were 32% higher than previous years.
Todd Orston: Wow.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: And what we know is when people spend time like that together, for whatever reasons, as I said earlier, more divorces occur.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And Carol, I was thinking while you were saying that, we've noticed that, too, with divorcing couple. The Gottman's work where they found that maybe the one quantifiable tool you can use to predict who's going to get divorced is when the ratio of positive to negative interactions falls below five to one. And so, when people say, "Well, we get along most of the time," well, 80%'s most of the time, but that's not five to one, that's four to one, and this has been validated with studies and with functional MRIs, too. Just the common interaction with ordinary people in your life, not within the intimacy of a marriage, but just ordinary interactions. It has to be three to one positive to negative interactions. So you've got people who have been locked down in the same house, in the same area, and the normal things that they would do to have fun together or apart from each other weren't available. People like to go out to restaurants, they like to go to movies, they go to sporting events. They'd walk around the neighborhood, go to the gym, but all of that's taken away.
But the normal business conversations that couples have to have still happens, and the subject of, I don't know how you two guys are, but most couples the subjects of those family business conversations is almost never, "Honey, what are we going to do with all this extra money?" It's always about, "Well, Junior needs braces, and this is the year I was going to get a new car. My car's falling apart. Now, I love my children, I'm going to get the braces, but it's still bad news to me that I don't get the car." Those things happen anyways, and so that increases the opportunity to have negative interactions with each other while you have decreased opportunities to have positive interactions or at least an escape from each other. So that five to one ratio, and in a marriage you really want six or seven to one, but anyway, it becomes really lopsided and I sort of see it as people have depleted their funds here in levels, and then [crosstalk 00:20:41] go into the garbage.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I wanted to add to that too, Bruce, that a number of mental health organizations like National Institute of Mental Health started doing research of April of last year, in 2020, and comparing the depression and anxiety rates that are being reported to physicians and mental health hotlines and already in April of last year, the numbers were 33% higher of adults calling the hotlines reporting anxiety, depression, feeling hopeless, fear of dying, fear of dealing with their loved ones who might be getting sick or dying.
It definitely had an effect, we'll know more as more research comes out, but we know that traditionally after couples or families spend time together, like during the holidays, extended time or vacations, the divorce rate spikes after that. And China and Italy saw their divorce rates spike after they came out of their first shutdown early. I think it might've been summer. I'm not remembering the exact time. Probably, we'll be going through the same thing, but we don't have any research on that yet, that we know of.
Leh Meriwether: When we come back, we're going to start breaking down what we think happened between Bill and Melinda Gates.
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 a.m. 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 it, give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are you co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back to listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.
Well, today we are very fortunate to have back in studio, so to speak, with us the authors of the book Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce, Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg. Bruce, am I saying your last name right?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Yes, you are.
Leh Meriwether: Because I'm horrible at names. Oh, excellent.
Bruce Fredenbur...: You are.
Leh Meriwether: Normally, I mess up names and Todd makes fun of me ruthlessly.
Todd Orston: Normally, he means all the time. Every time.
Bruce Fredenbur...: One time I called my brother at work and the secretary answered and I said, "Can I speak to Brian Fredenburg?" And she said, "Mr. Fredenburg's out of the office." And I said, "Well, tell him when he gets back his brother Bruce Fredenburg called."
Leh Meriwether: I do know that there are a lot of people out there that really appreciate the fact that you've written this book, especially for the adult children of gray divorce, because we have seen, actually in our practice, it negatively impacting the children, the adult children more than it would have when they were younger. Especially the younger ones under 10, I see them not being as impacted as greatly as the ones that are perhaps in college or recently graduated. And your book really shines light on that, so thanks for writing that book, I really appreciate it. I know it's helping people out there.
I want to talk about the Gates divorce and at some point I'm going to ask you a question about what advice would you give their children. But they've been married, well before the divorce, 27 years. And so, many people are just sitting there, "Why can't they just work it out after all this time? I mean, my gosh, they're billionaires, surely they can get some great counseling and help them work on their marriage." And not to mention, it's not like either of them have to work. I mean, I know they do a lot of charity work. But gosh, they have so much money in the bank they don't need to work, per se, and they could focus on their marriage. So what do you think's going on there?
Bruce Fredenbur...: Well, somebody once said that money can solve all the problems that only money can solve, but there's lots of things that money can't solve. And so, they are, at least as best I can tell, again they've done a good job of shielding their public life compared to, say, the royal family. But at the same time, we do know that they seem to be very different personalities. They're both really intelligent, really bright. He left Harvard early on, but is a brilliant business guy and is also able to grasp a lot of other things, because he's become a very powerful person and sits on a lot of boards. But she was really a driven student, real high academic, and she's also, I read, a very devout Catholic, and she really took to heart some of the ideas of liberation theology, about being able to help disenfranchised people around the world, so she may have been the driver of their charitable work around the world, and he was a builder of this business.
Then, they took care of the kids. But she's also a good athlete, too. I don't know how much of an athlete he is, but she was a really good athlete. They may have been different people who were attracted for various reasons when they were younger, but 20 years has gone by and now they're different people and the focus of their life may have been their children for the 25 or so years of the oldest one. But now the 18-year-old's gone off to college, probably. And when we talk about adult children, they're not monolithic. There are different stages. There's the younger and the middle and the older. Now, their youngest one's not going to have the question some people have, "Is anybody going to still be able to help me pay for college?"
But they are going to have to deal with the fact that their relationships with their parents, will they ever see them really together at holidays? Are they going to celebrate Thanksgiving together? How much was hidden from the public? How much they hid from themselves, just because they were so busy with these other things, but now that the children are gone. And again, this is speculation, but I think the same things that affect other people in their generation. What about you, Carol?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Well, I think, as we mentioned earlier, about the empty nest, obviously that's an issue. I don't think Bill Gates would've mentioned it, and the wanting to be happy is there, probably, my guess. I read something, I think one article said that it was in Melinda Gates' book where she talked about feeling like she was always behind the stage when she and Bill Gates were on the stage together, and the power differential that she felt in the marriage, and she is about empowerment, as Bruce said, and empowering women. The person who wrote the article, and I've read several that said the same thing, "Someone close to them said," you know how that goes.
But it did seem like it was one of those where, as I was saying earlier, women aren't financially dependent on their male partners or even female partners, for that matter, as they used to be decades ago. And it sounded like she has some ideas about a direction she wants to go, and that maybe on her own, to have her own voice. So I think that might be another issue, from what I've read.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Hmm. And relationships take a lot of work and a lot of people stay in them because they don't have as many options as the Gates do, if they wanted to do something else. They don't have the constraints that most people would have, other than the ones they want to impose on themselves.
Todd Orston: Yeah, it's kind of interesting when you think they could hire all the therapists.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.
Bruce Fredenbur...: They could hire us.
Todd Orston: Every single one, and not even make a dent in their piggy bank.
Bruce Fredenbur...: Right.
Todd Orston: But you're right, they have, financially speaking, everything. And a lot of people, I mean, I speak to people daily, and a lot of people are reluctant to take that next step and far be it from us to push that issue, that's not for us to do. But they are reluctant simply because of the financial concerns. And so the Gates, they don't have that. So whether it is some self-empowerment issue or whatever the case might be. I mean, obviously, things have broken down and it's gotten to this point, where now unfortunately, their laundry is airing in the public eye. But in any event, when you see people like the Gates, obviously, it's much, much different, the dynamic is much different than what 99.999% of the people that are out there are going to be going through.
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Right. But you know, at the same time, the mutual announcement that they made was that they no longer believed that they could grow together as a couple in the next phase of their lives. And we hear that from all different people in the gray divorce population, no matter how wealthy or not wealthy they are. As Bruce said, the money doesn't fix that problem, necessarily.
Bruce Fredenbur...: The children are going to have the same challenges that other adult children have in these situations, and the parents, too. Because some of the challenges are going to be taking up sides, when people start taking up sides, deciding who's the hero, who's the villain in the piece. That makes it really hard to fix later on or if different siblings choose different parent to fight with, I mean, assuming that that's a danger for a lot of people. That can be a big problem. And sometimes, kids solve it by just distancing themselves from one or both of the parents. And so, the average person wouldn't be able to travel as far to distance themselves as any of the Gates children. But again, they would only be constrained by their own self-constraint, I would imagine. I have no idea what their estate plans are, but I suspect that they'll have more resources than most adult children their age, so that's going to be a challenge, and I don't know how much of a challenge, because again, I don't know the inner workings of their family.
But it is a challenge to keep their own family of origin, that are the kids' aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins from choosing up sides, because it can be really painful for an adult child when aunts and uncles start inviting them to join in on a bash the other parent conversation. And so, there's some proactive work that this family could do by having conversations about boundaries and what's okay to talk about and what you don't have to talk about and speaking to their own family of origin to make it really clear that they don't want the kids pulled into those kinds of conversations and that each of their children has a right to have their own individual relationship with each parent, which is going to be a very different relationship than the parents have with each other.
Leh Meriwether: Bruce and Carol, when we come back, we're going to ask you what advice would you give the Gates children as they navigate this transition in their life? I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 a.m. on Monday mornings on WSB, so you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we your co-hosts for 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 if you wanted to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again or find transcripts of other shows, you can find them at divorceteamradio.com. Well, today we are talking with Dr. Carol Hughes and Bruce Fredenburg, and the book is Home Will Never Be the Same: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. And in particular, we're applying what they have learned in putting together this book to the Gates divorce and how it might impact their children.
I wanted to just go back to, because what, in some respects, makes the Gates divorce different than a lot of other people is just there's so much money there. And I like how you pointed out, even though there's a lot of money that makes that different, the emotional impact can be the same, regardless of how much money you have. And another thing that kind of hit me, too, while y'all were talking was, even though they have a lot of money, you still only have so much time in your life, and it makes it more difficult on the adult children that now that they're separated, especially at the holidays, often you see adult children, they're visiting both parents at two separate residences and it becomes, in some cases, a pain in the butt.
And money doesn't change that, money cannot buy you more time. We all have so many minutes in a day, that doesn't change. The big question is, what advice, and I know you have some background on this, too, so I'm just going to ask the question and let you run with it, what advice would you give the Gates children as they navigate this divorce and transition in their life?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Well, one of the things I wanted to share, Leh, is a quote that I read that the oldest daughter, Jennifer Gates, posted on Instagram. It really captures it and it's something that the research indicates and that we, as clinicians, hear adult children saying a lot. And she said, "It's been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I'm still learning how to best support my own process and emotions, as well as family members, at this time." And so, we would say, first, exactly what Jennifer said, focus on your own process, what you're feeling, fear, anger, frustration, sadness, depression, anxiety, whatever the feelings may be, they're all very valid, and help yourself help yourself. It's not your job, really, to help the parents or family members and this is what I call healthy selfish, is that it's important to keep the balance between what do you need to do for yourself, and what do you need to do for your family and family members.
And a lot of adult children say, as Bruce said earlier, they just need some time away. They need time to process it and not be talking about it with their parents or family members, because in the end, it's their own process of how it's affecting them. The family that they've known their whole lives is breaking apart, and maybe they'll be able to readjust as, what we call, a restructured family and still do some things together like dinners or whatever, vacations. Some parents and adult children are able to do that. And then, the holidays that you were mentioned, Leh, you also get to decide, as an adult child, what you want to do for the holidays, and it may not be schlepping back and forth between mom and dad's. It may be going with friends on a vacation, something like that, that's focusing on your own self-care.
Leh Meriwether: Is these a way that they can, I've heard from parents, they're like, "I can't believe their not coming to visit me for the holidays," and they get upset. How would an adult child broach that conversation with the parents that are getting divorced and saying, "Look, I need time away. Y'all are crazy"? No, just kidding. What is a more effective way than what I just said, for the adult children to discuss that, where they need some self-care with their parents.
Bruce Fredenbur...: I think that it would help if they had already started ahead of time to have conversations about boundaries. For instance, are the parents able to be civil to each other or is it important they they stay away from each other? And then, that could be more burdensome for the children. I'd also like to advise all family members going through a divorce that divorce is hard, no matter how much professional help you get. And be kind to yourself, because there's going to be mistakes made, and as best you can, be kind to the other people who are involved in it for the same reason. It's hard for all of you. It's new territory for all of you, it's certainly not something they planned for. Allow for those mistakes and don't make every one the hill you're going to die on.
And I know for adult children, whether the parents are together or not, there's just times when their busy with their own lives. Once a kid becomes a teenagers, if you have teenagers or ever raised one, even when they love you and they're happy to be around you, they really want to be with their friends. And so, that's just going to be a given, I think, and giving everybody permission. But maybe invite them to take some time for each other, but everybody understands that you're still having your own life.
Leh Meriwether: I will say that I know you cover this in depth, I mean, we can't obviously get into it in a short show, but you do go into it in pretty good detail in your book, Home Will Never Be the Same Again. So if someone's listening out there and going, "I need more, I need more," you can definitely pick up the book and get more of that information. And let me ask you real quick, if someone were to reach out to y'all and perhaps talk to you about or use your services or whatnot, how would they get in touch with you? What's the best way?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Actually, the best way is they can simply email us. My email address is all lowercase, no punctuation, D-R, like Dr. C-A-R-O-L-H-U-G-H-E-S at me, like Mary Elizabeth dot com. And I will reply to you.
Bruce Fredenbur...: And my email is all lowercase, it's Bruce, B-R-U-C-E at healthsolutionsmadeeasy, all one word, dot com. Bruce@healthsolutionsmadeeasy.com
Leh Meriwether: Excellent, excellent. And before we get to our last question real quick, I know that during COVID there's rules in every state and you have to be licensed in a certain state to give out counseling advice and they lifted it for a period of time during COVID-19, so that you could get a lot of remote services, but I heard they're going to start tightening back down on that. Do you know where they are on that, as far as who can you help and you can't help when it comes to counseling?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Not yet. From what I've read, the American Psychological Association, there's a lot of pressure from mental health professionals to keep those guidelines lifted, because there are people in remote areas that don't have, literally, access to mental health care. But even though we are licensed in California, there's another option that we can... you've heard of coaching, which is not regulated in most states, and so we can do adult children of gray divorce coaching or family coaching, something like that, if people are interested.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, that's great to know, because I think that's really helpful. I mean, I don't see why you wouldn't take advantage of technology like we are right now. We're doing this radio thanks to technology. COVID didn't stop that from going forward. Hey, if you're out there and you're listening and you're either the parents going through the gray divorce or you're the adult child of parents going through a divorce then definitely reach out, not only get the book, but reach out to Bruce and Carol, and maybe they can help coach you through that. Okay, last question Todd, what's the last question?
Todd Orston: Well, I mean, for me, I guess the last question would be, we've talked about advice to give to the kids, but how can the parents help the children cope with this?
Bruce Fredenbur...: One of the easiest things they can do is to simply listen to what their adult children are telling them about what they're experiencing, how they're feeling, what's going on, because the research shows that just feeling that you've been heard can help people with healing. And the parents shouldn't be surprised that this is going to be troubling to their adult children. If somebody's family member died, nobody would be surprised that that was hard. And, in a very real way for adult children, their family that they've grown up with, that's just been there their entire life is now dissolving before their eyes. And so, that would be a big one, and we already covered some of the other. But Carol?
Dr. Carol Hughe...: Just today I received an email from someone, I don't even know where she lives, and she says, "Dr. Hughes, I'm almost finished with Home Will Never Be the Same Again, and for the first time, as an adult child of gray divorce, I feel heard." That was how she started her email, so the listening that Bruce talked about is really important.
Leh Meriwether: Well, unfortunately, we are out of time. Gosh, thanks so much for coming on the show and hey everyone listening, I hope you got something great out of the show. Thanks so much for listening.