‘Let’s stop pretending divorce doesn’t hurt’

A writer who was abandoned by her first husband when her son was not yet ten explains why she hopes the next generation will not repeat their parents’ mistakes.

“Divorce hurts – hurts badly – and leaves crushing debilities”, says commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

“For millions, the injuries are so serious they may never fully recover.”

Mrs Alibhai-Brown wrote her article in response to news this week that divorcees are more likely to suffer long-term chronic health problems than their still-married counterparts.

In it, she claims divorce has long been considered acceptable and describes how her former husband, who left her in the late eighties, dismissed her distress as “melodramatic”.

“One night, my son recorded a tape for his father, begging him to come home,” Mrs Alibhai-Brown writes.

But he told both of them: “‘Look around, look how many people get divorced.'”

“For him”, she writes, “it was the norm, no big deal”.

Mrs Alibhai-Brown has since remarried, but says despite this she still bears the pain of the first separation and wishes it hadn’t happened.

“Why?”, she asks. “Because my son and I lost our innocence then, and with it the trust between parents and children that needs no name or affirmation.”

She quotes a study by the University of Pennsylvania which found that divorce was: “‘An intensely stressful experience for all children. [They feel] a loss of the non-custodial parent, loss of the intact family, feelings of anger and powerlessness.'”

“These facts are rubbished by those who believe personal liberty should be the only imperative to drive behaviour,” says Mrs Alibhai-Brown.

“All very convenient for those who want to abandon a marriage, but not for the children they freely brought into the world.”

Mrs Alibhai-Brown, who has in the past described herself as a “left-of-centre commentator”, says there is “no national conversation about the consequences or morality” of divorce.

As a result, she suggests, people today find it “easy to throw away old families for new”.

“There is, perhaps, one small glimmer of hope”, she says.

“The millions of young men and women whose parents casually dumped them over the past decade or two have through suffering, learnt some hard lessons.

“They could go two ways in their own adult lives. Either they will repeat the cycle of innate selfishness that has caused so much harm to their own generation, or they will vow not to repeat history and reinstate forbearance and fidelity in marriage.

“For the sake of my unborn grandchildren, I do hope it is the latter.”

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