When you go through a major life change, typically extended family is at your doorstep offering casseroles and a shoulder to cry on. Isn’t that what family is for? To be there when no one else has the time or inclination? The first and last humans on the planet you can rely on? Yes, if there’s been a death, job loss or severe accident then you would certainly garner much family sympathy and support.
But divorce is different.
Divorce has an ugly reputation that creates bad feelings including accusations and judgment. Divorce is the ugly step sister, the evil step mother and the weeds that just won’t stop growing in your garden. Unfortunately many people including family, cannot see the beautiful side of divorce. So, instead of rising up to support you, they may turn the other cheek.
Your family may not be there on your doorstep with that casserole.
What is surprising though is when a family flat out, doesn’t agree with your decision. They ask whether you went to counseling and if you’ll remain friends with your ex, for example. Sometimes, they just need a ‘reason’ or a ‘story’ to validate your decision. It can be disrespectful to your personal boundaries and undermine your confidence. Instead of unconditional support, they challenge you in your decision to end your marriage.
Apparently, not all families are as loving as the fictional family in ‘Parenthood’ but I digress.
This scenario can be very unsettling. When you need support most and when you expect loyalty from your family, it just isn’t there. You feel very alone going through this without their understanding.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…
One of the lessons I learned? The people who are supporting you emotionally and showing loyalty to you? THOSE PEOPLE ARE YOUR FAMILY.
I hope you always have family support no matter what. I hope you can rely on your family for assistance whether it’s emotional, financial or physical (just being there). If there is only one of those categories available to you, at least know that they can give that one thing. Find the good, no matter how small and know how to ask for it.
But if your family is all but invisible when you need them; What can you do?
ACCEPT that your family doesn’t get it …
MAKE A FAMILY where you are now
ASK your family for what they CAN give (maybe it’s financial assistance but not emotional)
LOWER your expectations of family (you won’t be disappointed)
START BELIEVING in your own power … and get shit done
FIND support you need elsewhere, even in a support group
When family doesn’t get IT, we have to move forward. Realizing that not everyone will agree or support our decision to end our marriage (even though it is the most personal decision you’ll ever make) will allow us to move on and avoid judgment. Knowing that there may be resistance to your decision will allow you to moderate the emotional damage that comes with divorce.
Living a positive life will show your family that you’re on a path that’s right for you. Spend less time justifying your life and more time living it. Eventually your family will come to understand that you made the right decision.
Building our independence and seeking help from the right people will give us the emotional boost we need during the difficult, transitional time that divorce represents. Recognizing the people who DO give you unconditional support will infuse you with the positive spirit and energy that divorce requires.
Casseroles, be damned…
How has your family reacted to your divorce?