Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship

Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship

Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship

Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship


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Restore your faith in love and build healthy, successful relationships with this essential guide for every woman haunted by her parents' divorce.

Silver Medal Independent Publisher's Award

Winner of the Best Book Award in "Self-Help: Relationships" 

Over 40 percent of Americans ages eighteen to forty are children of divorce. Yet women with divorced parents are more than twice as likely than men to get divorced themselves and struggle in romantic relationships. In this powerful, uplifting guide, mother-daughter team Terry and Tracy draws on thirty years of clinical practice and interviews with over 320 daughters of divorce to help you recognize and overcome the unique emotional issues that parental separation creates so you can build the happy, long-lasting relationships you deserve.

Learn how to:

  • Examine your parents' breakup from an adult perspective
  • Heal the wounds of the past
  • Recognize destructive dynamics in intimate relationships and take steps to change them
  • Trust yourself and others by embracing vulnerability
  • Create strong partnerships with their proven Seven Steps to a Successful Relationship
  • Break the divorce legacy once and for all!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492620655
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/19/2016
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,067,169
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

TERRY GASPARD, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, researcher and acclaimed divorce expert with over thirty years of experience working with women, children of divorce, and their families. Her research has been published in The Journal of Divorce and Remarriage and she is a regular contributor to Huffington Post Divorce, DivorcedMoms.com and other outlets. Her writing has appeared on eharmony.com, TheDailyParent.com, and others.

Read an Excerpt




No one goes through a breakup or divorce for fun. It's messy, it's complicated, it can be scary, and it is incredibly painful. And for those of us who have witnessed our parents' divorce—whether after five years or twenty-five years of marriage—that pain can have a far greater impact than we could ever imagine on our own relationships down the line.

But daughters who have endured their parents' breakup face more serious emotional challenges when it comes to forming successful relationships than sons do (for reasons we'll explore later on). What's worse is that often many of these problems don't surface until well into the teenage years or adulthood. If you're reading this book, you've likely recognized that your parents' divorce is hindering you from creating and/or maintaining successful, healthy relationships. We're here to help.

Before we get further into the purpose of this book and what you can expect to gain from it, I first want to share my own personal experience with divorce, as it illustrates many of the unique emotional difficulties that daughters of divorce face. They're common ones—you may recognize some (or all) of these in yourself as well. But they can be very tricky to identify, let alone overcome. That's what this book is for.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old, precipitated by my mother leaving our family abruptly during the first week of school. By all accounts, I was a shy, easygoing child who went through my second grade year without speaking much—let alone telling anyone about my parents' breakup. When my mother returned seven months later and was determined to gain custody of me and my older sister, my father decided not to put up much of a fight. After all, he had been struggling to raise four daughters on his own—quite unusual in the early 1960s before the divorce epidemic hit the United States. One day I was living in a lovely home in an affluent seaside community, and the next day I was swept away to a two-bedroom apartment in a Los Angeles suburb. For the most part, I lost contact with my friends and had to start from scratch in a new school with unfamiliar faces.

A gradual realization came over the next several years that contact with my dad would be limited due to his subsequent remarriage and lasting tension between my parents. In those days, joint custody was rarely considered a viable option. So over time, my relationship with my dad went from a reality to a fantasy. Always a "daddy's girl," I developed an intense craving for the love and affection of my father, as our interactions became fewer and farther between. As I struggled to deal with the aftermath of essentially losing my father, I never talked about my feelings of loss to anyone. I was afraid others would just brush it off as me being needy, saying something like "You'll get over it," or worse, reassure me of what I no longer knew to be true: "Your daddy still loves you."

Due to our ever changing custody arrangement, my three sisters and I never shared the same residence for more than a year after our parents divorced. I didn't dare tell my classmates or teacher that I was thrust into such a chaotic lifestyle, or that I was dealing with a succession of my mother's boyfriends, her second husband, and multiple moves—never living in the same dwelling for more than one entire school year.

My father's lifestyle was unpredictable as well. An artist who made his living traveling to various art shows, he helped my stepmother—whom he married when I was eight—pursue her own art career and catering business. While they enjoyed a successful long-term marriage—lasting thirty-five years until my father died—their beachfront home wasn't my permanent residence while growing up. For a period of five years after my parents' divorce, my visits with my father were sporadic mostly due to his schedule and continual conflict between my mother and stepmother. The absence of my father in my life on a regular basis caused a breach of trust between us. I felt left behind and unloved. Worse, since I couldn't make sense of it, I assumed my dad's lack of contact was because of a flaw within myself.

Although I wasn't aware of it at that time, my experience of feeling betrayed by my father, coupled with my mother's persistent bad-mouthing of him, created a major fear of abandonment in me as well. Truth be told, I lacked a sense of control in my life but had no way to understand or translate it. Like many daughters of divorce, I lived between my parents' two desperate worlds for many years and learned to adapt fairly well—at least on the outside. Although I didn't attribute it at the time to the absence of my father, I did experience an intrinsic mistrust of men, and oddly enough a strong craving for their attention and approval at the same time.

As I entered high school, my parents decided to give me a say in where I lived, and I chose to live with my father and stepmother. It was during these years that I developed more confidence in myself as a student and made solid friendships. With the onslaught of new people and transitions, I figured out that school was a place where I could shine. I finally found the predictability I craved, and my hard work paid off.

For the first time, my life felt fairly secure because my father stopped traveling and opened a restaurant. During my adolescence, my dad and I strengthened our bond, my self-esteem improved, and I formed a positive relationship with my stepmother and stepbrother. But while I didn't miss living in Los Angeles, living apart from my mother and my three older sisters was a significant loss that caused a strain in our relationships later on.

The absence of my three sisters from my daily life was perhaps the worst fallout of my parents' divorce. My sisters and I don't have much in common, and interestingly, we have vastly different takes on our parents' split. Perhaps this is because of our dissimilar alliances to our parents and loyalty conflicts. Parental divorce often puts children in a position of feeling they must choose between their parents and take sides. This feeling that we needed to choose sides was amplified by the way that our mother's and father's lifestyles became so different after the divorce that it was akin to being raised in two different families. Additionally, we were subjected to intense rivalries between our mother and stepmother—intensifying our experience of divided loyalties. However, the one thing we do share is the legacy of divorce—we have all seen our own marriages end in divorce.

While my parents' divorce was certainly not the worst, it was the most defining experience of my life. Throughout my childhood, I recall thinking that I wanted to avoid my own divorce at all costs. I never imagined passing on the legacy of divorce to two of my children (who are now adults) and truly believe that I wasn't prepared for the inevitable ups and downs of marriage. Looking for security, I married young and didn't realize how clueless I was about all the challenges that come with commitment. I rushed into marriage because I was fearful of being alone. As my marriage progressed, I walked on eggshells to avoid confrontations with my former husband. In The Love They Lost: Living with the Legacy of Our Parents' Divorce, author Stephanie Staal identifies several relationship patterns among adult children of divorce, one of which is the "nester." This type exemplifies adult children of divorce (ACODs as we refer to them) who eagerly enter into a committed relationship with high hopes of finding the security they didn't receive as a child. This profile certainly describes me. But what I didn't understand is that in order to have a successful, secure relationship, I had to find that security in myself first!

Like many daughters of divorce, I was also faithful to an idealized image of my father due to a loss of daily access to him, and this led to unrealistic expectations of men in my life. I naively entered marriage with an idealized mind-set of what it would be, never stopping to consider what I deserved and needed from a partner. At the time, I lacked the insight to realize that I was reenacting the painful pattern of my parents' marriage by selecting a spouse who I wasn't compatible with—just like my parents did. After dating for only a year, I leaped headlong into my first marriage without considering that our backgrounds, values, personalities, interests, and needs for intimacy were drastically different.

Another lesson I learned growing up was to be skeptical of relationships and not to put my trust in a romantic partner. After all, being able to trust others is based on experiences of counting on people in our past, particularly our mom and dad. And even though I had overcome many challenges prior to marrying my former husband, being married brought me face-to-face with how many more there were left to conquer.

For better or worse, most couples follow the marriage example set by their parents. In my family, I learned early on that when people have difficulties resolving conflicts, it leads to the demise of a relationship. As a result, I gave up easily on love and perhaps considered divorce an option too quickly when love in my marriage morphed into mutual unhappiness and ongoing conflicts after sixteen years. In hindsight, I've come to realize the importance of taking time to pick a partner with whom you are compatible.

In whatever form it exists, your parents' relationship creates a template about love and relating. It is your first and greatest teacher about love. However, your parents' divorce doesn't have to determine the outcome of your relationships. Instead of repeating the past, you can create a new story for your life and build partnerships based on love, trust, and intimacy.


My daughter Tracy and I wrote this book for all of the women raised in divorced homes who continuously feel that there is something wrong with them, something missing, and who are eager to build healthy, long-lasting relationships but struggle to do so. As children, they may have done their best to be "good girls" and play well the hand that divorce dealt them. But as young women, many daughters of divorce have trouble with trust and intimacy. When they fall in love, it reawakens long-hidden emotions they buried in childhood, such as the fear that no matter what they do to ensure a successful relationship, they'll be left anyway. This fear of abandonment can translate into fear of commitment to romantic partners. They long for love and lasting partnerships but feel utterly powerless to sustain a relationship. In addition, many daughters of divorce have also endured damage in their relationships with their fathers, which can leave a lasting imprint. Studies show that a girl stands a better chance of becoming a self-confident woman if she has a close bond with her father.

As a therapist, college instructor, and nonfiction writer, I have specialized in studying divorce and helping people impacted by it. Although my work includes all individuals affected by divorce, I'm especially interested in helping adult children of divorce address their challenges because they often suffer silently and needlessly. I began researching the long-term impact of parental divorce in the mid-1990s because I was going through my own breakup and wanted to avoid passing the legacy of divorce on to my children.

After publishing two studies on adult children of divorce in 1995 and 1996, I remarried and settled into a blended family life (with three children) and my clinical practice. Then in 2009, my daughter Tracy, now a young woman, stunned me by expressing a keen interest in processing her experience of my divorce years ago. Though her father and I had worked so hard to protect her, it was clear she still suffered wounds from our breakup regardless, and I wanted to do everything to help her mend those. Astounded by the lack of information available to help daughters of divorce heal from their parents' breakup, I decided to pursue a third research study. This time, with Tracy's assistance, I began to address how we could help other daughters of divorce resolve and integrate issues related to their parents' split in concrete ways, and the idea for this book began to emerge. We supplemented our personal experience with research from experts as well as interviews of more than three hundred women who had been raised in divorced families.

Research studies show that adult children of divorce have double the risk of getting divorced themselves compared to their counterparts from intact homes. So it's time to discover the root of the divorce "bug" and figure out how to shake it.

We learned that childhood experiences, including our parents' divorce, create the framework for how we experience love as adults. In my case, my parents split when I was a young child, and I longed to recapture the love they lost, even though it was a fantasy. But since I didn't grow up with a healthy template for how couples achieve intimacy and resolve conflicts, I was more prone to reenact unhealthy relationship patterns. Although I desperately wanted to build a rewarding, long-lasting, intimate relationship, I didn't know how to go about it.

As we began to interview women who volunteered for our study on daughters of divorce, similar themes emerged over and over again. When the volunteers spoke about the impact of their parents' split on their romantic relationships, we realized that we view love and commitment with a similar lens—one which was colored by fear of loss and a reluctance to commit. One respondent, Abby, age thirty-eight, reflects: "I've built up walls and rarely let anyone in. It's like I'm testing them, trying to force guys into proving their love. I'm always wondering when it's going to end. The worst part of it is that I'm waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me—so I can't relax and just be me."

While parental divorce can certainly be problematic for all children, it appears to pose unique challenges for girls. As adults these women may feel pessimistic about love, mistrust their romantic partners, and live with constant fear that their relationships will fail. Or if they pick a partner who might be a good fit for them, they might engage in self-sabotaging behaviors because they are accustomed to living with chaos and uncertainty.

Why is the father-daughter relationship so vulnerable to disruption after parental divorce? In A Generation at Risk, Paul Amato, PhD, and Alan Booth, PhD, conclude that the disruptive effects of parental divorce persist for daughters into adulthood and are associated with lowered feelings of closeness with their fathers. They noted fathers generally give more attention to sons than daughters post-divorce—a tendency that grows more pronounced as children get older. In Between Fathers and Daughters, Linda Nielsen, EdD, a nationally recognized expert on father-daughter relationships, observes that daughters often compete with stepmothers after divorce and that mothers don't always encourage a close bond between their daughters and their former spouse. She writes, "Sadly, divorce usually damages a daughter's relationship with her father more than a son's." Her research findings indicate that the father-daughter relationship is the one that changes the most post-divorce and that only 10 to 15 percent of dads and daughters enjoy the benefits of shared custody. Since many daughters perceive limited contact with their fathers as a personal rejection, this can lead to lowered self-esteem and trouble trusting romantic partners during adolescence and adulthood.


The leading researchers in the field of divorce who inspired our research are E. Mavis Hetherington, PhD, Paul Amato, PhD, and the late Judith Wallerstein, PhD. They all agree that parental divorce has a lifelong impact upon children and that the legacy of divorce is often passed down in families. These scholars concur that the effect of parental divorce upon ACODs deserves special examination. However, only Wallerstein studied women separately from men. She concluded that females raised in divided homes are particularly vulnerable to self-doubt and fears about commitment because they identify with their mothers after divorce and view her to have failed at love and marriage. This vulnerability makes sense because girls are socialized to be nurturers and caregivers from an early age and tend to be more focused on relationships than men are.

In "Daughters of Divorce: Report From a Ten-Year Follow-Up," Wallerstein discovered that daughters of divorce show a distinct "pathway" that includes a delayed emergence of the powerful effects of parental divorce. She coined the term "Sleeper Effect" to describe how daughters often experience fear of conflict with their partners and shaken faith in love when they venture out on their own and make decisions about love and commitment. Over a decade later, in The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Wallerstein detailed the struggle that ACODs face in adulthood because they worry about following in their parents' footsteps. A unique aspect of Wallerstein's research is that she conducted a longitudinal study—interviewing the same families over a period of twenty-five years—at different stages in their development. But even she wasn't expecting to find that the greatest effects of divorce on children don't emerge until adulthood.

In her highly acclaimed book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, Hetherington describes her findings from a sample of fourteen hundred families whom she interviewed over the course of thirty years at the University of Virginia. She reveals that although divorce presents children with many challenges, which make them more at risk to have problems, the vast majority (or 75 percent) have adjusted reasonably well six years after their parents' breakup. Several protective factors that foster resilience in children emerged from her research, such as low parental conflict after divorce and having competent parents with a warm, authoritative style. Like Wallerstein, Hetherington posits that daughters are more likely to have vulnerabilities that emerge during adulthood in intimate relationships when compared to sons, primarily due to their altered relationship with their fathers after divorce.

Building on the work of Hetherington and Wallerstein, we sought to examine the impact of parental divorce on women specifically. We conducted 326 in-depth interviews, over a period of five years, in which we asked respondents to describe their experiences growing up in a divided home and to identify their most prominent memories—such as their belief about why their parents divorced and whose fault it was. They were also asked to answer questions such as: what is the most difficult part of a romantic relationship for you?

From these interviews and other research, we were able to identify key emotional challenges faced by daughters of divorce that are nearly universal, such as trouble trusting romantic partners, reluctance to commit, damaged self-esteem, intimacy issues, extreme self-reliance to an almost harmful degree, and mistrust in the permanence of relationships. Most of the women we interviewed also experienced a damaged father-daughter connection due to spending less time with their fathers after their parents' breakups. In chapter 5, we offer steps to deal with a broken father-daughter relationship since it was the most common theme that was explored during our interviews.


Today, about 40 percent of all children in the United States will experience a parental divorce prior to the age of eighteen. For years, researchers have identified the damage divorce inflicts on the lives of children. In recent decades, many studies have examined the negative impact of parental divorce on children into adulthood. However, few have offered concrete strategies for overcoming these difficulties, and none have shed light on the unique challenges faced by women as daughters of divorce.

My original research study in 1995, which sought to describe why women raised in divorced homes have unique challenges, was designed to be a follow-up study of Wallerstein's groundbreaking findings about the specific vulnerabilities daughters of divorce face. My results supported her theory that adult daughters of divorce have lower self-esteem than adult females raised in intact homes. In my study of 198 women, I discovered that the loss of regular access to parents and the exposure to intense conflict during and after parental divorce were associated with diminished self-esteem in the adult daughters of divorce in my sample—even when family climate variables such as abuse were controlled.

One year later, I studied a larger sample of 325 men and women raised in divorced homes in order to describe and explain gender differences in the psychological well-being of ACODs. This study examined a version of Paul Amato's resources and stressors model for children of divorce. In "Towards a Resources and Stressors Model: The Psychological Adjustment of Adult Children of Divorce," I discovered that parental conflict, financial hardship, and a parenting plan that limits access to both parents (as resources) are risk factors impacting a daughter's more so than a son's vulnerability to parental divorce in terms of their self-esteem and ability to sustain healthy interpersonal relationships. In chapter 1 you will learn more about my findings and why my daughter Tracy and I choose to focus on daughters of divorce in this book.

Our current study on adult daughters of divorce, published for the first time in this book, explores the specific factors that make them more sensitive to the risks for marital dissatisfaction and breakup, along with ways to reduce their greater tendency toward divorce.

The goal of our book has been to better understand the challenges daughters of divorce face so that we can help women to rise above them. One of the women we interviewed put it like this: "When will I stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?" We sought to answer her question and give her tools to help her overcome her difficulties with love, trust, and intimacy. Every woman we met with, over a period of many years, contributed to our understanding of how parental divorce can impact daughters. They enlightened us, surprised us, and inspired us.


Why is it that adult children of divorce are at such a high risk of seeing their own marriages end in divorce? Leading divorce researcher Nicolas Wolfinger posits that the legacy of divorce is passed on in families because adult children of divorce often don't have positive role models for long-lasting partnerships and they tend to marry companions from similar backgrounds. For instance, people from divorced families often marry other adult children of divorce with whom they share common ground. But this greatly increases their risk of divorce. In fact, when a wife alone comes from a divorced home, she's 59 percent more likely to divorce than her counterparts from an intact home. Even more alarming, if both partners experienced parental divorce, their marriage is three times more likely to dissolve when compared to couples who grew up in intact homes.

Why is this the case? Many family scholars, such as Amato and Hetherington, believe that ACODs learn that marriages are impermanent from their parents, putting them at increased risk for divorce. Hetherington's study demonstrates that the root of marital instability is that adult children of divorce are more likely to see divorce as an option to marital problems or even sporadic periods of unhappiness than other people are. Amato and Booth's research shows that individuals raised in divorced homes are at a slightly higher risk for marital difficulties—especially if they endured multiple parental divorces. These studies report that once married, ACODs exhibit behaviors that make it difficult to sustain a lasting relationship.

Further, Amato's extensive study, "Parental Divorce and Adult Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis," summarizes the results of thirty-seven studies and concludes that daughters raised in divorced families are more likely to have their own marriages end in divorce than sons of divorce are. While the reasons for this are complex, Amato found that one main reason is noncustodial fathers are more likely to maintain contact with their sons than with their daughters—making it difficult for daughters to trust men and to learn how to resolve conflicts in adult relationships. It's no wonder that daughters of divorce would be reluctant to commit to a romantic partner and pessimistic about lasting love.

In their landmark study, "Parental Divorce and Premarital Couples: Commitment and other Relationship Characteristics," researchers Susan E. Jacquet and Catherine A. Surra interviewed 464 couples and discovered that daughters of divorce experience more uncertainty about romantic relationships and more problems associated with intimacy compared to women raised in intact homes. One of the unique aspects of this study is that it examined the premarital relationships of young adults. Interestingly, they found the strongest effects of parental divorce upon young women who were dating. These daughters of divorce expressed higher levels of mistrust with partners, less relationship satisfaction, and more ambivalence about getting involved in a committed relationship compared to counterparts raised in intact homes or sons of divorce.

Ambivalence about commitment can persist even after daughters of divorce get engaged. A recent study by Sarah Whitton of Boston University queried 265 engaged couples just before they took a relationship education class. Whitton found that daughters of divorce were more ambivalent about remaining committed to their partners and had less confidence in their ability to keep their marriage together compared to counterparts from intact homes—even after they accepted a proposal to wed.

Given these facts, it is unsurprising that many daughters of divorce are skeptical about the future of matrimony. As everyone knows, marriage is a risky proposition. The divorce rate, though down from its peak in the early 1980s, remains considerable today. Approximately 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. In addition, we have seen a dramatic rise in children being born outside of marriage, and most of them to women who cohabit with partners, rather than marrying them. According to a 2014 Pew Research report, about 24 percent of never-married adults (ages twenty-five to thirty-four) are living with a partner. Based on these facts, it appears that a generation of children that grew up with divorce is becoming an adult generation that is questioning commitment and marriage.

A Pew Research report titled Barely Half of U.S. Adults Are Married—A Record Low shows that the number of adults currently married is down 5 percent from 2009 to 2010. In fact, the rate of single women getting married dropped by 22.8 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the Heritage Foundation's 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity. The U.S. marriage rate (the number of women's marriages per one thousand unmarried women fifteen years and older) is the lowest it has been in over a century at thirty-one marriages per one thousand unmarried women.


In spite of a declining marriage rate, demographers predict that most Americans will marry at some point in their lives. Currently, about 72 percent of U.S. citizens will marry by the age of thirty-five. A recent Pew Research report found that 61 percent of never-married adults in the United States said they would like to marry someday. Therefore, it's important to consider: What do women want from love and marriage?

In the 1950s and '60s the gold standard of marital success was a "companionate marriage." The essential feature of this type of union is teamwork and achieving life goals—like running a home and raising a family. In Marriage, A History, author Stephanie Coontz concludes that today "people expect marriage to satisfy more of their psychological and social needs than ever before." Today, people (and especially women) want a partner to share a deep love, communication, and to have great sexual and emotional intimacy, rather than just working toward common goals. Adults nowadays desire a relationship that promotes their personal growth and are more likely to consider divorce if they believe their partner is holding them back in any way.

In fact, wives are more likely to file for divorce than husbands. According to a report titled "‘These Boots Are Made For Walking': Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women," women file for more than two-thirds of divorces in the United States. Another recent report, Marriage: More Than a Century of Change, found that 15 percent of women in the United States are divorced or separated today, compared with less than 1 percent in 1920.

While marriage is one of the most defining acts of our lives, and the stakes are pretty high, many twentysomethings focus more on their career than on their marriage. However, choosing a partner may be the most important decision of our lives, in terms of the high cost of divorce. After all, it's a lot easier to change jobs than to disengage from a spouse financially and emotionally. Most women are painfully aware of the significance of marriage, according to psychologist Meg Jay, PhD, and see a successful marriage as a victory. So while we hear a lot about young women wanting to delay marriage, many want to commit and hope to be luckier in love than their parents were.

In The Defining Decade, Jay writes, "Half of all women have been left in the wake of divorce, and all know someone who has." She explains that while it was tempting to minimize the impact of parental divorce in the twentieth century, the "unexpected legacy of divorce" described by Wallerstein in her landmark study was undeniable.

Consequently, one of the most common questions asked by the women we met with was: How can I overcome the loss I experienced in childhood and create a loving relationship that will last? Most daughters of divorce are aware they need to develop a healthy respect for commitment and don't want to repeat their parents' mistakes. As one respondent, Kayla, put it: "I don't want to be disrespectful to my parents but I want my marriage to succeed where theirs didn't." Fortunately, by keeping her eyes wide open and making intentional efforts, Kayla can learn to build relationships on a firm foundation instead of shaky ground.

The voices of the women we interviewed form the heart of this book, and their stories are testimonies to these women's strength and hope. The stories of these women reveal their innermost fears about ending up alone and losing out on love. These daughters of divorce share their struggles with dating and fear of commitment—yet also their eagerness to find the lasting love that eluded their parents. For many daughters of divorce, pain is what they know. Dealing with turmoil and conflict is in their wheelhouse. A partner who wants nothing more than to be with them and make them a top priority is a foreign concept they don't know how to translate.

When a girl grows up in a fractured home, she may feel deep in her heart that because her family is broken, she is broken. If her parents aren't together, she may feel something is wrong with her. There's not, and that's exactly what we address in this book. We posit that this girl, who is now a woman, has the ability to craft a new story for her life. There isn't anything missing, nothing imperfect or incomplete within her. She has all the tools she needs to build a healthy relationship, and we're here to help her (and you!) discover those skills and use them to create strong, happy, healthy, and long-lasting relationships.

We also hope that reading this book will encourage you to give yourself permission to look back at your history. Even as an adult, there is great value in taking an inventory of your life. It's understandable if you feel hesitant about doing this. However, it is possible to heal, and the first step is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and recognizing how your parents' divorce affected you. The next step is letting go and not being paralyzed by fear and shame. In doing so, you will begin to trust yourself and others, and increase your sense of worthiness and authenticity.

This book is about how you, a daughter of divorce, can learn to overcome the legacy of divorce and move forward to enjoy rewarding relationships built on love, trust, and intimacy. Each chapter describes a central theme and skill that are essential to achieving this and includes practical steps to go about it. At the end of each chapter, we include perspectives from both of us—mother and daughter—on our own experiences with divorce and lessons we've learned.

A note on how to approach this book: while you could go directly to the chapters that seem most relevant to you, we strongly recommend reading this book in its entirety. Though each chapter focuses on a particular challenge faced by daughters of divorce, the chapters are interrelated and you might miss crucial information if you read only some of the steps. You may also find that a step you don't think applies to you actually does help in ways you might not have realized if you had not taken the time to read about it. In short, reading each chapter will help you understand the full impact of your parents' divorce on your relationships and emotional well-being, which will help you fully heal.

Although it may be hard for you to trust your own judgment when it comes to making a commitment, we support you on your journey and encourage you to take your time to develop a successful relationship. Over time, you can learn to trust your instincts and gain self-confidence. Rather than hold you back, your divorce experience can be the catalyst to make you stronger, more realistic, and better prepared for the requirements of love. It's time to take a chance on love and life!

Table of Contents


Author's Note

Preface: From One Daughter of Divorce to Another

Introduction: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do-Even if You're Just a Bystander!

Chapter One: Looking for Love We Can Be Sure Of

Chapter Two: Restoring Your Faith in Love: The Seven Steps to a Successful Relationship

Chapter Three: Step One: Revisiting Your Parents' Divorce as an Adult

Chapter Four: Step Two: Face Your Ghosts from the Past

Chapter Five: Step Three: Longing for Dear Old Dad: Overcome Your Broken (or Missing) Relationship with Your Father

Chapter Six: Step Four: Building Self-Esteem: Let Go of Your Childhood Hang-ups

Chapter Seven: Step Five: Learn to Trust Yourself and Others

Chapter Eight: Step Six: Vulnerability: Discovering the Key to Long-Lasting Love

Chapter Nine: Step Seven: Making Smart Decisions about Love and Marriage

Chapter Ten: Breaking the Legacy of Divorce


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