How your family of origin issues from childhood can destroy your marriage…

I married for the first time right out of college. My high school sweetheart. He and I were still wet behind the ears, having come from parental homes to our home without ever really growing up first and experiencing life on our own. Both of us had stuff and neither of us had viable marital role models — and God bless the parents involved who did the best they could given their own brokenness emanating from their childhoods.

Getting served with divorce papers after 12 years and three children — a horrible, gut-wrenching experience which further increased my abandonment issues — was a true wake up call for me. I immediately set about pressing into God and sought counseling. I also asked forgiveness, stating that I was willing to do whatever was needed for as long as it took to win my marriage back and keep my family intact.

But for me there was no second chance.

Hearts which allow themselves to harden seldom budge in time to stave off a divorce, and more’s the pity. Because later, when things cool off and you are thinking more clearly about the life-altering ramifications of divorce, there can be regret — and some of it may not manifest until after a new marriage is formed and you realize you’re facing the same or similar problems in your new marriage.

Because the problem in your marriage didn’t solely lie with your spouse, but was lurking within you, too.

And the baggage we drag into our marriages gets packed when we are very small. Family of origin issues — the home life you grew up with — impact spouses for better or for worse. Any marriage where there are two wounded, messy, selfish, immature individuals will result in relational rupture and often divorce. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, I pray you read my words before taking that next step. There is always hope for getting the marital monkey off your back if and when both hearts involved are willing to trust and begin the process of building a whole new life from the ash heap.

Surrendering all to God.

I am the adult child of an alcoholic dad. The fear, violence and pain I witnessed at home translated into a twisted mess of anger, more fear and not having a clue about God’s ways of love and marriage. I will never forget the time — before filing papers — that my former spouse said,

“You are the adult child of an alcoholic. You need to go to meetings.”


Immediately I felt shamed. There is something wrong with me. Then fearful. What if he leaves me?

I knew deep inside things weren’t right in my heart and life, yet I wasn’t fully out of my own denial about my issues and was less than humble about needing help. I disregarded his words. With the wisdom that only pain and hindsight imparts, I now know that if I had seriously started dealing with my issues — AND if he had begun unpacking his own issues –my family of three little boys would have grown up with mommy and daddy together, instead of in a single parent home later marred by an awful, abusive second marriage.

For the dance of every failing marriage takes two. Sometimes one spouse presents with a bigger, louder problem that gets most of the notoriety, but the spouse that seems the better behaved or sinned against, has his or her stuff that needs dealing with, too. Whether our parent was an alcoholic or we suffered through a childhood with parental mental illness, depression, incest, abuse, anger and fighting, divorce, overly-strict control, perfectionism, a parent walking out, or even a lack of emotional warmth and healthy, human touch, we grow up to become adult children in pieces. And all adult children, regardless of circumstances, present with some degree or other of these traits.

But God.

He is the healer of the breach who puts our pieces back together forming a beautiful mosaic of hope.

And when at least one spouse is willing to start — though full and lasting marital healing always needs the cooperation of both husband and wife over the long haul  — the place we must begin is with God. Humbling ourselves. Becoming repentant. Naming our sins and realizing that we are all in this messy, glorious life together. Learning a new way to love and do relationships.

For when we allow God to reparent us, we are on the road to eventual wholeness and marital success…

Is your marriage falling apart? Are you wracked with pain over your brokenness? A free mentoring session can help.

Sheila Kimball Mentoring encourages you to move forward from where you are today to a much better life and marriage based in an abiding relationship with God.
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5 thoughts on “How your family of origin issues from childhood can destroy your marriage…

  1. What a gut-wrenching story. Thank you for sharing. You’re right though… “He is the healer of the breach who puts our pieces back together forming a beautiful mosaic of hope.”

    I love that. Hopping over from Women with Intention.

  2. Sheila,
    What a painful story filled with “BUT GOD” as you wrote…and this is so true: “And the baggage we drag into our marriages gets packed when we are very small.” I am so grateful God helps us unpack it and then gives us something infinitely better in himself. Thank you for sharing with beauty and courage while pointing us back to God. Blessings to you <3

    • Thank you, Dolly. Yes, those days were wracked with pain. And my story is like so many others. Sharing so that others may know there is always hope in God…Thanks and blessings to you, too.

  3. Hi Sheila! I’m your neighbor at #TestimonyTuesday this week. I have two daughters with failed marriages. It was hard, but in both cases divorce was probably the best thing even though it makes it hard for the children to be raised in a mostly one parent home. God can redeem them, though, and I pray that He will bring all parties back to him. Thanks for your insights here and for your encouragement in marriage. Blessings to you!