It took a lot of courage to make the decision to divorce. You know it’s the right thing to do. What you weren’t expecting during this challenging process was the lack of support from your family. Their reaction came out of nowhere.
Maybe they’re being critical or acting a bit hostile toward you. Maybe they’re even lobbying against you breaking the marital ties. You’re surprised, confused, doubly hurt that you have to deal with more relationship disruption. Now more than ever you need them. What’s a soon-to-be-divorced woman to do?
What’s Going On?
What to do is consider the reasons why they’re pushing back. Understanding that will reveal strategies for getting them to see things your way – at least in part. Consider what may be happening is:
· Your parents are emotionally tied up in the break-up that they have no control over.
· They see the breakup as their breakup too. You may have a close-knit family, lots of communication and get-togethers.
· They are close to your husband and don’t want to lose that connection.
· They are not walking in your shoes. They can’t see your action from your perspective.
· They don’t know the inside story of your marriage – and you may not want them to.
· They fear your decision is not well thought out, or that you’re taking the easy way out.
· They don’t believe that unhappiness is a good enough reason to divorce.
· They are afraid for you and your future; your emotional and financial well-being.
· If you have kids, they are afraid they won’t get to see their grandchildren as often or at all.
· Your decision triggered anxiety, shame, regret or even jealousy that you dared do what they did not in their marriage.
· They are divorced and are worried you will experience the same divorce hardships they may have experienced.
· They have old-school attitudes, among them that marriage is forever, no matter what.
· Religious beliefs about divorce are why they are against it.
· They are not, in general, being sympathetic and understanding. They have a “You made your bed and should lie in it” attitude.
· They were instrumental in your decision to marry and now they take your divorce as their failure.
· “What will the neighbors think?” worries them.
What to Do About It
Just as you showed bravery, independence, certainty in your decision to divorce, you can do the same in dealing with your parents. Use your inner strength and love for your parents to create strategies for encouraging their acceptance.
· Talk out your decision with your parents. It could be they are still in shock. Give them time to process and adjust to the news.
· Show sensitivity and compassion for their feelings.
· Acknowledge that your parents come from an older generation and have different values.
· Keep the lines of communication open between you and your parents.
· Assure them that your decision is not a reflection on them and how they raised you.
· Be open and honest with them. Tell them how unhappy you were in the marriage (you needn’t go into the fine details).
· Ask for their support if you need it or you think it would help patch things up.
· Ask for their help with the things your husband would handle for you.
· Point out the positives in your decision.
· If you are a parent, reassure them they won’t be cut off from their grandchildren. Tell them the kids deserve a relationship with their grandparents, no matter what happened to the marriage.
· Explain that you have a future plan and that you can manage on your own. If you have kids, explain how you will be able to provide for their financial and emotional well-being living solo.
· If your parents are divorced, reassure them that you will not experience the same difficulties as they did.
· Don’t let them lay a guilt-trip on you. You are an adult, not a wayward child.
· If they are making waves, disengage temporarily to create some distance. There’s a chance they will come around and get past it.
The Comfort of Accepting
Ultimately, only you can make the decision to divorce. You know what? You’ve done your best to make the marriage work. You are no longer a child and under their control. You don’t need to ask for their permission. If your parents don’t see it that way, that’s their decision. You’ve done nothing wrong.
Of course, it hurts and you love them. They raised you, guided you to adulthood. You’ve come to them for support and advice much of your life; Why can’t they support you now? Water under the bridge. Deal with what’s going on now.
Take solace in having pleaded your case, explained why you know the decision is right, and that you’ve given them some time to reflect and process their feelings. Now it’s their turn to accept or face the fallout. The ball is in their court. If they’re not budging after a period of time, the only thing left to do is accept. Learning to accept – as hard as that may be – will not add to your grief in the long run; Trying to change them and failing will.