My experience is not unusual. In a 1995 study of adult children of divorce, researchers noted what seemed to be a contradictory finding: At the age of twenty-three, some of their subjects appeared to be more negatively affected psychologically by their parents' divorce than they were at the age of eleven. On the basis of this finding, the researchers suggested that the "developmental challenges of adolescence and young adulthood may have reinvoked certain vulnerabilities for the divorced group, evinced by deleterious effects of the aftermath of divorce in their early twenties." This increased vulnerability could be due to a variety of reasons, from a "continued or renewed sense of parental loss" to more tangible factors such as a decrease in economic status resulting in fewer education opportunities.
In other words, going out on our own is scary, especially if we don't feel that we have been launched from a firm base of support. Paradoxically, leaving home can increase the need and desire for a loving home. Time does not always work its healing magic; instead, the pressures of adapting to being on our own and realizing our actions now have serious implications can leave us feeling confused and exposed. As adults, we have entered the opaque sphere of our own potential mistakes, with only the past as our guide. And for many of us, the suppressed emotions from our parents' divorce are sprung loose once we face the prospect of our own relationships.
Excerpted from THE LOVE THEY LOST: Living with the Legacy of Our Parents' Divorce, a Delacorte Press Hardcover 2000 Stephanie Staal