Many children of divorce appear to breeze through the divorce at the time the divorce happens. Many of these are little girls who identify with their mothers. They will hide their feelings and say and do the things they think the adults expect and want from them. However, the divorce experience remains alive – but as memories that they push to the back of their minds. Little boys tend to express their frustrations and tear through their feelings using sports and active behaviors. Their negative thoughts about the divorce of their parents appear to fade away.
As girls grow into adulthood, become involved in a relationship and marry or start a family, the memories from the divorce of their parents pop back into the brain – the sleeper affect kicks in. They begin to worry if the other person in the relationship will walk away. They wonder if their marriage will fail like their parent’s marriage. The worry if they know how to be married.
They feel doomed in their relationships. They don’t know how to be in a relationship. One young woman told me she could only breathe and trust her marriage after she has surpassed the number of years her parents had been married. She said she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For 17 years she had waited anxiously, but after her 17th year of marriage she felt she could finally relax because they were going to make it.
Judith Wallerstein, author of “What About the Kids” and a pioneer in the psychosocial effect of divorce in children says this about the sleeper effect, Continue reading