1. challenges
  2. character
  3. character education
  4. commitment
  5. compassion
  6. conflict resolution
  7. contentment
  8. cooperation
  9. courage
  10. decision-making
  11. encouragement
  12. filial piety
  13. goals
  14. gratitude
  15. healthy families
  16. healthy lifestyle
  17. integrity
  18. kindness
  19. leadership
  20. life goals
  21. loyalty
  22. marriage
  23. meaningful life
  24. moral education
  25. perseverance
  26. politeness
  27. relationship skills
  28. religion
  29. respect
  30. responsibility
  31. self-awareness
  32. self-improvement
  33. service
  34. sexuality
  35. social awareness
  36. sportsmanship
  37. teamwork
  38. tolerance
  39. trustworthiness

Sometimes, in spite of all our efforts, relationships of all kinds break apart or fade away. This always involves some pain—from a feeling of regret and a sigh of sadness to the sense that your heart has been broken in two. Recovering from broken relationships is an important part of going on to build successful new ones. Some relationships, of course, can be restored and renewed, and the pain goes away by itself. Others are unable to be recovered, or at least they will not be the same once they are renewed. In other cases, you may be pained by the break up of someone else's relationship and yet unable to do anything about it. In this chapter we will cover broken friendships, broken romantic relationships, and coping with the divorce of your parents.

Broken Friendships

Friendships break up for many reasons. Betrayal—or thinking that you have been betrayed—is a big cause of broken friendships. This would involve a friend letting your secrets out, lying to you, hiding things from you, or going behind your back in some way.

Once trust gets broken in a friendship through betrayal, it is very difficult to restore. It is like gluing back together a piece of broken china—the piece is never quite as strong or pretty as it was before it was broken.

To get over the pain of a friendship broken by betrayal, write your feelings out on paper. Sort them out as best you can. You may never know all the reasons why things happened the way they did, yet you can at least sort out your role in it. If any of the responsibility for the betrayal is yours, sorting things out will help you to understand what to do better next time.

Sixteen-year-old Marissa and Her Friendship with Carla:

"I thought we were best friends. I thought we were enough, just us together, but she seemed to want a lot of other friends. I guess I seemed possessive and needy to her. The way she dumped me for new friends hurt, and it hurt for a long time after, but I realized I needed to make more friends myself. I have made friends, and it's great. But I'm a lot more careful now. I don't let any one person become so important now."

While recovering from the pain of a broken relationship, talking things out with a trusted older person is very helpful. Be honest with them. They can help you look at your relationship honestly and objectively. Their advice may be hard to hear through all your emotions, but over time, it will make more and more sense.

Be good to yourself. Form new interests, even if you don't want to at first. Join a club. Take gymnastic lessons. Invite classmates to go with you for a soda or to a movie. You may not enjoy them as much as you enjoyed your old friend at first, but, in time, they will come to be good friends to you, too. Don't wait for people to come to you—go to them. Let yourself cry when you need to. It is natural to grieve over something that is lost, and a broken friendship is a real loss.

Another common cause for the breakup of friendships is change. A friend moves away. You change schools. A friend is put in different classes or in an accelerated program. A friend's family situation changes radically—a new baby is born, a divorce takes place, a relative moves in. You get an after school job. Whatever the reason, your friendship is affected. You may find that you no longer have as much in common. He's no longer interested in sports and only wants to play video games, yet sports were what brought you together in the first place. She has become involved in student government at school and she doesn't have time now to spend with you, and you drift apart. He became more serious about school and no longer wants to hang out as much. These kinds of changes are painful and it is okay to feel sad about them. They are usually not as painful as betrayal, though, and with some adjustment, your life goes on.

Broken Romances

When a romantic relationship breaks off, it can be even more painful than betrayal in a friendship. The feelings of rejection, jealousy, spite, and the unanswered questions are even more intense than when a friendship breaks off. Since most young romantic relationships do break up, an important thing to remember is that they are much more devastating if you are sexually involved. This is another good reason, among many, to not get sexually involved before marriage.

Sex Puts You on Drugs!
Sex actually releases "bonding" chemicals in the brain. When you have sex with someone, oxytocin is released in your bloodstream. Oxytocin is the same chemical that is released in a mother's brain when she nurses her child. It is nature's way of making sure she bonds deeply with her child. If a sexual relationships Then, if the relationship breaks up, you feel pain because you are "glued" or "bonded" to that person through chemicals. There is a real sense of breaking apart.

When a non-sexual but romantic relationship has broken off, you may still be devastated. You may feel embarrassed at being "dumped." You may find it hard to walk around school with your head held high. You may feel like getting back at the person or like begging him or her to take you back. If you are the one who dumped the other, you may feel guilty and want to put the other person down to justify having left him or her.

Don't try to get back at the one who dumped you; don't beg. Don't try to put down the person you dumped so you can feel better about yourself. In all cases, behave calmly and with quiet dignity. You may not be able to completely avoid the other person even if you want to, but basic politeness is all that's called for in relating to him or her.

It is also helpful to talk with someone you trust—your parents, a relative or counselor, or your closest friend. However, sharing your feelings with everyone is not helpful. Having one person with whom you can share is far more helpful. No one else needs to know everything you are feeling inside.

As we said, when a relationship ends, a certain amount of sadness or even grief is going to come. Let yourself feel it. Cry if you need to. Write out your feelings. Confide in people who care about you and who won't tell anyone. Take long walks. Focus on your studies. Work hard on self-improvement so that you feel good about yourself. Work out. Find something that you like to do or find a hobby that will make you happy. Try a new haircut. One day you will be surprised to see that the sun is still shining. You are on your way to recovery!

Getting into intense, one-on-one romantic relationships at this time in your life may be setting you up for an unhappy love life in the future. Since most of these relationships break up, some people say such relationships are just practice for divorce. In the next chapter, Preparation for Marriage, you will learn how to develop healthier long-term relationships with the opposite sex. For now, why not avoid the heartbreak by learning to be friends with many different types of people and not just concentrating on one as a boyfriend or girlfriend?


We know that many marriages that began with great hopes and dreams end up in disappointment and disillusionment. Today in many countries of the world, 50 percent or more of marriages end in divorce. Even traditional societies are experiencing increases in the divorce rate. The result is that each year millions of children see their parents separate. Probably among your own friends, there are some whose parents are divorced, perhaps even your own. Although a painful topic, let us try to discuss this openly.

Here are the feelings of some young people who have gone through the experience of seeing their parents divorce. For many children, their worst fear is that they will never again see the parent who moves away:

"I really thought I wasn't going to see him again. The only thing I could imagine was that I would stay with my mom and never see my dad again. I remember actually asking him, 'Where will you go? When will I see you again?' I really did."

Anger is one of the strongest feelings children have about their parents' breakup: "I've got no feelings for my dad. I see him now and then when he's in town. He doesn't buy me any birthday or Christmas present. But it doesn't bother me anymore. I've gotten used to it." This boy's feelings seem to be masking the bitterness of anger. Some children and teenagers do turn their anger into an attitude of pretending not to care and harden their hearts.

In one of the few positive aspects about divorce, some children feel that the relationship with their father actually improved after the breakup:
"When he was at home, which wasn't very often, he never took me out. He was very strict and always criticizing me. But now that my parents have split up, I get on a lot better with my father. He takes me out quite often now and we have a lot more fun."

Another common feeling is shame. Most children of divorced parents do not want their friends to know or do not know how to tell them that their parents have split up:
"I can remember hiding it from my friends. I used to get embarrassed talking about it. I didn't want them to know. I didn't want people's pity."

For many children, there are the emotional problems of trying to adjust to their parents finding new partners:
"I felt pretty jealous. I mean, after you've had your mom to yourself for a while, and then somebody else comes in, and she starts paying more attention to him than you, you get very jealous. I hated it. I was so nasty. I used to sit in the room and give off nasty vibes or make underhanded comments. I frightened quite a few of them off that way."

When parents remarry, this too can introduce new challenges. Stepfamilies have large adjustments to make. The children may feel that if they accept a stepparent, they are betraying their real parent. There are a lot of emotions and feelings to be sorted out.

Many children feel that the whole experience of divorce would have been easier to handle if their parents had only explained and discussed more what was happening:
"I think parents should talk about it with their kids and see how they feel about it. They should explain how things are going to work out—what the arrangements will be. Then the kids will be able to understand what is happening. And the parents should let them know that other families also go through this too."

It is very hard for children is to watch their parents break up. When parents fight in front of their children, it can be very painful. Children don't know what to do and feel as if they are being split in two. It seems as if the whole world is falling in around them. If the parents have separated or divorced, the child might feel abandoned or rejected. The child may even blame him- or herself for the parents' breakup.

The parents' break-up is never the child's fault. The parents' break-up is not a reflection on the child or a rejection of the child. The sons or daughters had nothing to do with it. Secondly, even though most children of divorce want to see their parents reunited, this is unlikely to happen. Accepting this may be a step toward recovering from the pain of the break-up.

As with other relationship break-ups, writing feelings out can help a great deal. This can be in the form of letters (not necessarily to be sent) or in a journal. Talking feelings out with trusted mentors, relatives or friends can be a big help. Grieving is important. Feelings shouldn't be buried in an "I don't care" attitude. When that happens, often children then find themselves acting out in very self-destructive ways. Sometimes teenagers become romantically involved too early and too intensely as they try to get rid of the pain of the break up of their parents' love. This can cause even greater problems as those relationships break up—putting hurt on top of hurt.

Crying washes things out, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. When a person has lost something precious, it is natural to feel grief and sadness. Children of divorce should let themselves grieve—and know that, as with other losses, the sun will come out to shine on their lives again.

Reflection Exercise: "A Broken Relationship"

1. What relationship in your life has broken apart?

2. Briefly describe what happened.

3. What are your feelings about the break up of this relationship right now?

4. Is there anything you would do differently in regard to this relationship if you could do things over again?

5. What have you done to allow yourself to grieve over this relationship?

Exercise: Jean's Choices

John and Jean were a dating "item." Everyone knew they were going together. They really liked each other a lot. Then Jean slowly lost interest in John. The romance just faded for her, and she started getting restless, wanting to spend time with more people than just with him. Finally, she told him over the phone that she didn't want to date him anymore. The next day in school, John came up to her locker, acting as if they were still going together. What should Jean say to John?

1. "Look, stupid, I told you last night—I'm not interested any more."
2. "Hey! Great to see you! Where are we going Saturday night?"
3. "I hope you have a good day today. Goodbye."
4. "What do I have to do—hit you over the head to make you understand?"

Exercise: "With Whom Should I live?"

Jane is talking with her best friend Lucy in her family's kitchen. Both girls are seated at the kitchen table.
Jane: (Crying) I love them both, but they can't accept that. They're tearing me apart.
Lucy: What do you mean?
Jane: Well, they hate each other now. That's hard enough anyway, but what's worse is they think I should take sides. If Mom says something bad about Dad, she thinks I should agree. And Dad's the same way.
Lucy: So, what will you do?
Jane: I don't know. I can't sleep; I can't eat; I can't concentrate on anything. My schoolwork is terrible, but I just don't care anymore. I'm just dreading the day when I'll have to make a choice.
Lucy: What kind of choice are you talking about?
Jane: You're lucky, Lucy, you know that? Your mom and dad get along. They really seem to like and respect each other. I never really thought about that until…
Lucy: I guess I am lucky. Strange, isn't it? You never really think about your parents—about their relationship. They're just kind of there.
Jane: Now I'll have to choose between them. With whom I want to live, I mean.
Lucy: Won't the court decide?
Jane: No. That would be easier. But since I'm as old as I am, I have to choose. I love them both. How can I choose one over the other? One of them is bound to be hurt by my decision.
Lucy: I'd hate to be in your position. (Pause) Maybe you could try to make a list—you know, pros and cons.
Jane: (Hurt) Of my parents? I can't do that. I told you, I love both of them.
Lucy: No, I don't mean that. I mean things like where they will live; who will keep the house; whether you would have to change schools.
Jane: I don't know.
Lucy: I think if you did that, it would help you to choose. You could then make the best choice.
Jane: The best choice? Lucy, haven't you been listening?
Lucy: (Squeezing Jane's hand) I know it’s hard. But the more you know about the situation, the better. And living with one parent doesn't mean you're rejecting the other, especially if your choice is because one is living closest to your school or something like that.
Jane: I guess.
Lucy: You can visit the other one on weekends and holidays and the summer. You could spend those times with the parent you're not living with. You'll work it out. I know you will.
Jane: I hope so.

1. What consequence of her parents' divorce bothers Jane most?

2. What do you think about Lucy's suggestion to Jane to make a list?

3. What do you think about Lucy's statement, "You never really think about your parents—about their relationship. They're just kind of there"?

4. Was Lucy right to say, "You'll work it out, I know you will"? Why might we avoid trying to give simple answers?

5. If you were Jane, how would you decide with whom to live?

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