“A lot of decisions that our adult children make are poor decisions. And because they are our children, we care. And we hurt.”
Many couples are choosing divorce after twenty, thirty, or even forty years together. Dr. Gary Chapman knows how challenging marriage can be – especially when grown children can bring extra stress to your relationship. He addresses this and other factors in his book Married And Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half.
How can a grown child bring stress to your marriage? Gary lists a few possible scenarios.
From your adult daughter – I’m pregnant.
From your grown son – I got a girl pregnant.
From a married son or daughter – I’ve left my spouse.
Any of these phone calls would bring a burden to an otherwise healthy marriage. Gary says it’s okay to feel for our children, but it’s not healthy to carry guilt for what they’ve done. Carrying unnecessary guilt brings a weight to your marriage that will lead to stress and division.
“Don’t blame yourself. Even God’s two children Adam and Eve, with a perfect father, made poor decisions. So don’t blame yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re perfect. And you can certainly apologize for wherever you feel you have failed.”
If there are things you need to own in your relationship, apologize. But don’t step in to fix the mess they’re in. Adulthood means taking responsibility, and your adult child has an opportunity to do that. Let them work out their own life, while you stay focused on your marriage.
“Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to alleviate all the consequences of their poor decision because you can’t fix it in the first place. And if you alleviate and take away the consequences of their own struggle, they’re not going to learn from the experience. When we make poor decisions there are consequences; we hurt other people as well as ourselves.”
Gary admits this can be a challenge, but healthy distance doesn’t mean no contact.
“Be there. Express your love. Let them know you love them no matter what they do. You can also share your emotions [by saying], ‘I’m disappointed.’ But don’t preach to them because they already know the truth. They already know what you’re going to say. Be there for them, but don’t try to rescue them.”
Key Scriptures: Isaiah 41:10