I come from a long line of couples that stayed married, in spite of everything. My great-grandparents remained married until my great-grandfathers death. My grandparents have been married for 57 years. My parents have been married for 36 years. They take that whole “till death do us part” thing pretty seriously. So, what do they make of their self-willed daughter who has managed to get herself married and unmarried twice?
“What have you learned from your experience?” my mother asked in her pseudo psychiatrist voice after the demise of my second marriage, “And what will you do differently next time?” My grandmother added, “Please don’t get married 8 times like your aunt Rose,” likening my experience to that of notorious multiple marriers, like Liz Taylor. Even as adults, we hope to have our parents support in times of hardship. What do you do when you are facing divorce and your parents just don’t understand?
Protect Yourself from Insensitivity
Learn to protect yourself during this highly emotional time. Your parents may not know the appropriate things to say, or realize when they have hurt you. Due to your hypersensitivity and need for approval, you may be easily offended by anything they have to say. Censor yourself when discussing the dirty details of your divorce, if you cannot be direct with your parents about which topics to avoid during a conversation.
Walk away when you hear sentences that start with, “It’s probably better that”, “At least you two didn’t ” and “I heard that”. Why? Because you are emotionally unprepared to listen to anyone rationalize why your marriage ended and try to make you feel better about it. They may also relay rumors about your ex before you are ready to face reality. In time, you will be better equipped to respond tactfully, but right now anger and sadness is easily triggered.
Find Your Tribe
Call your girlfriend that had a contentious divorce 7 years ago and still talks about it, because no one (not even your parents) wants to constantly hear about your divorce drama. Especially when they are: a) in love or in a comfortable living arrangement, b) trying to ignore the fragile state of their own marriage, or c) resolved to staying married, despite their unhappiness.
It is easier to empathize with those who have gone through the same experience. Your parents love you and may lend their ultimate support, but they may not understand what you are going through. Building a support system comprised of individuals that have “been there” may be the only thing that keeps you sane, preventing you from feeling isolated and motivating you to keep moving forward.
Accept Help On Your Own Terms
Your life is changing rapidly whether you chose to divorce or not, and you may suddenly be faced with financial demands and other responsibilities that you never had to deal with before. You may be trying to keep it together and manage alone, because you feel that is what you are supposed to do as a mother. Your parents are asking to help, but be mindful of how much help you accept and how it could affect your relationship in the future.
Accept your parents help, but on your own terms. If your mom is notorious for bashing your ex, lay down some ground rules. Make sure she understands that she cannot do so in front of your children, if she wants to pitch in with childcare. If you need financial help – but know a loan from your parents will come with strings – consider other options. At the very least, make a written agreement with repayment terms and stick to it to avoid problems down the line. Accepting help from your parents does not have to mean totally sacrificing your independence and reverting to old relationship patterns.