"The kids will be fine if the adults are happy..."
I am the child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was about three, and I was bounced back and forth between their households my entire childhood.
There were several things that were and still are very painful.
My mom later remarried. I loved my step dad a lot, but when they had a child of their own, it was clear that I was not really part of this new family. They worked very hard to create a stable home for their new daughter, and seemed to care little for the fact that my life was torn into two pieces. My holidays were always split in two. There were some Christmas Eves in my teen years that I would spend with my dad, to ride home late at night by myself on an empty train to my mom's house to spend Christmas Day with her. Thanksgivings were mostly with my mom and not my dad. Not only did I have a life that was torn, I had to watch on a daily as my mother and her new husband created a safe nest for their new child. I became sullen and angry, and nobody knew why, myself included. They would say things to me like, "You're so cranky all the time!" This was like salt in a wound.
My dad also remarried, two more times. In both instances the women had children from prior marriages. The first wife left abruptly and I never got a chance to say goodbye to her or her kids, whom after five years I had grown to love. While they were still married, my dad coached the boy's baseball team, took them to concerts, and expected me to baby sit for them while I was there. The wife never tried to cultivate a relationship with me and it was clear that she did not like me. My dad and his wife smoked pot and used cocaine. There was also pornography lying around in the form of magazines and black market VHS tapes. You can guess what we kids did with them. I was about 12, the other two were about 8 and 10.
The next wife was a better step parent, in the sense that she did cultivate a relationship with me and did not seem to resent me. They were both alcoholics and seemed to enjoy the "keeping up with the Joneses" lifestyle. I later found out she was bisexual and left my dad for her lesbian lover. After he moved out, she took family photographs and other items and left them in the street for him to pick up. They got stolen; I will never be able to recover these irreplaceable items. My dad later died alone in a hotel room. I suspect he committed suicide, but I don't know for sure. He overdosed on cocaine, so it may have been accidental. The coroner called it an accidental overdose. He was in the middle of his third divorce. He had a Rolex watch that I never found.
Generally speaking, I felt squeezed on two fronts. Psychologists say that kids feel shame in response to a parent's wrong doing (such as drug or alcohol addiction). That was true for me. I loved my dad but I was ashamed of/for him.
The other way I felt squeezed was with my half sister. I loved her but I resented how much more my mom seemed to care for her than me. Both instances were a double bind.
After I grew up, I joined a religious cult and spent 22 years there. It provided a certain stability that I never had while growing up. I also realize my upbringing conditioned me to accept my feelings being minimized and neglected by others. Not only were was I treated poorly and disrespectfully on a regular basis, I participated in treating others poorly and disrespectfully. On one level I new it was wrong, but on another level it seemed OK because it kept my status in the group secure.
I could go on and on and on.
There were some bright spots though. I have three healthy and beautiful adult children. As a youngster I got to ride horses a lot and trained for competitions, becoming a championship level rider. I went to excellent schools with outstanding teachers. I got good grades, participated in science fairs and art competitions and did well. Teachers almost always liked me, and I was well liked by my peers. After high school was able to attend a popular university. I suspect the good education helped me more than I could have appreciated at the time. I also got myself catechized and baptized at the Presbyterian church down the street from my home when I was in middle school. That irresistible grace was calling me. It still does. So in these respects I was lucky. Not every kid who undergoes divorce resides in wealthy neighborhoods like my parents (all of them) did. Money does provide a buffer of sorts.
Given a choice, I would have traded all the perks in my childhood to live in a home with my mom and my dad. This is why I am so utterly opposed to the continued destruction of the marital structure at the policy level. The so called increase in freedom for adults is terribly unjust for children and conditions them to accept injustice.