It’s hard to find someone sympathetic to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong these days, but he has a champion in Huffington Post divorce blogger Barbara Goldberg. She’s not defending his illegal blood doping or his serial lies to the entire world. Rather, Goldberg sees the scars of Armstrong’s parents’ divorce, and she speculates that was a major cause of his downfall.

There are four lessons to be learned from this former sports superstar, says Goldberg, and those lessons are embedded in things that divorced parents say and do to their children. The first is the corrosive effect of “powering through,” pushing through life as hard and fast as possible. Armstrong’s parents divorced when he was two and he never saw or heard from his biological father again. The past was past, his mother told him, and we don’t look back. Goldberg says divorced parents do that when they ask their children to “power through” adversity with no regard for how the children really feel.

Armstrong was a perfectionist, and not in a good way. Winning the Tour de France more than any other athlete was not enough. He was crushed the one time he finished third and he considered himself a complete failure.

No matter that he beat cancer, he had to be better than everyone else at everything. Goldberg says children of divorce feel compelled to be perfect because they may secretly blame themselves for the breakup, and they want to prove themselves worthy. In addition to being a perfectionist,

Armstrong was a control freak who panicked when things happened that he couldn’t manage. Goldberg says children recovering from divorce crave control over their chaotic lives, and the parents need to do everything possible to make them feel safe.

Finally, and this was crystal clear through the entire doping saga, Armstrong believed in winning at all costs. Be at the front of the line or don’t be anywhere. Goldberg reminds readers that family relationships are not a competition. Parents trying to win kid’s affections, kids pitting one parent against another, all those games will destroy a family, not build it, she says. Bottom line: learn from Lance Armstrong but for heaven’s sake don’t be like him.

Source: Huffington Post, “The four lessons I learned from Lance Armstrong,” Barbara Goldberg, Jan. 22, 2013