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September 10, 2010 Print

Taylor Swift’s “Mine” shows effects of divorce on children into adulthood

by Jenny Tyree

The new Taylor Swift song and video, “Mine,” characterizes a plea common to children of the divorce generations.

Swift sings about starting a relationship with “why bother with love when it never lasts?”  She and her boyfriend promise to “never make my parents’ mistakes,” but when they have an argument her character “braced myself for the goodbye because it’s all I’ve ever known.”  After he follows her and says he’ll never leave her, the video shows a wedding, the birth of two children and their family together, while Swift rejoices, “do you believe it?”

The video opens a window to the ways children of divorce often fear relational abandonment into adulthood—although most still desire lifelong marriage.

Recent research also supports the ideas portrayed in the video.

1) A majority of adult children of divorce struggle relationally in adulthood, according to research by Judith Wallerstein and mentioned in Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce by Elizabeth Marquardt.

For instance, her [Wallerstein’s] most recent book shows that experiencing parental divorce during childhood has a ‘sleeper effect’: its worst symptoms often appear when children of divorce leave home and attempt to form intimate relationships and families of their own, but to do so with much less ability to trust and little idea of what a lasting marriage looks like.

2) Wallerstein, a well-known scholar of divorce, also found that children bond not just with each of their parents individually, but with their parents’ marriage.  The break-up of the marriage requires the child to navigate the distance between the two worlds which were formerly one—described often in Between Two Worlds, as a childhood-ending event.

Ultimately, whether or not our parents turned out to be ‘good’ at divorce is not the main issue.  The splitting of one home into two opened a whole new chapter in our lives.  Now we had the responsibility of bridging our parents’ increasingly different worlds.  The immediate loss of one parent and the sudden, unnamed burden that fell upon us loom larger in our memories than the words our parents hoped would be reassuring.

In the Taylor Swift song and video, the couple appears to move in together before marrying–something Focus on the Family does not support—but which is indicative of the millennial generation’s approach to relationships.  They would prefer to risk sex rather than love and the marital commitment they’ve seen fail more than succeed.

But Swift’s song shows that they would still prefer the forever commitment that comes only with marriage.