When your parents don’t support your divorce

When your parents don’t support your divorce, it can be a challenge that you weren’t expecting. It’s easy to assume that your parents will back your decision. Often, parents (along with friends), will be the guiding light for many women who struggle with the idea of divorce. Sometimes that’s due to domestic abuse, and sometimes just because she’s unsure what to do for the best.

Being a lady who leaves isn’t easy, and when your parents don’t support your divorce, it can often leave you feeling confused and alone. You see, however old we are, the opinion of our parents often still matters. Displeasing our parents can bring up uncomfortable childhood memories where we were perceived as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. So how do you cope when your parents don’t support your divorce?

If you’re a lady whose parents are supporting your divorce, perhaps this article isn’t for you, but you never know, you might just find something useful anyway!

Remember that you are now an adult

It may sound obvious, right? But in reality, we often allow our parents to treat us like the children we once were. Sometimes, our parents do this consciously; and often it’s unconscious – after all, it doesn’t matter how old you get, you are still their child. This can make it challenging for your parents to accept ‘adult’ decisions that you make. 

It may be that your parents approval was instrumental to your decision to marry your husband in the first place. You might have been much younger, less self-assured and lacking in confidence. Your parents may have supported and encouraged you to marry this man they believed would be ‘good for you’. It could be that you married this man against your parents’ express wishes and now they feel that ‘you’ve made your bed and you should lie on it’.

Remembering that you are an adult allows you to take responsibility for your decision. This is your marriage, not theirs. You are the best person to decide whether you should leave it or not. Have you been totally honest with your parents about how unhappy you are in your marriage? If you’ve kept this from them (or the extent of your unhappiness), then remember that this decision may be a shock because for them; it’s come out of nowhere. Give them time to adjust to your news, whilst remembering that you don’t need their permission!

Remember that your parents will have a point of view 

Your parents will have a point of view, it’s impossible for them not to.They are your parents and love you. As well as shock, they may express anger, fear and upset. Perhaps they are close to their son-in-law and, or his parents, and worry about their relationship with them. It’s likely that they’ll be worried about the emotional and financial impact that your divorce will have upon you and their grandchildren. This is normal.

Remember though, that your parents point of view is just that. A point of view. It doesn’t mean that you are wrong or that they ‘know better’. There will be times in your life when you’ve made decisions they didn’t understand or approve of. Staying out late, smoking, that first boyfriend with a car, dropping your A-levels, whatever. You did it and your parents still loved you.

Our point of view is shaped by our past, our values and our hopes for the future. That’s why your parents reaction to your impending divorce can be challenging for you. They will have their values – it could be that they ‘don’t believe’ in divorce. You will have been brought up with that value and yet, as you have grown and lived in a different generation, your values have changed. Know that this is OK – you’re not a naughty school girl!

Perhaps your parents understand how unhappy you are, but feel that for religious or moral reasons, you should remain married. They may believe that divorce is damaging to children. Remind your parents that you have to tread your own moral and religious path – that your decisions are not a reflection on them, in western culture.

If in your culture, your actions do reflect upon your family, take appropriate steps to get support and ensure your physical and emotional safety. Remind your parents too that children raised in dysfunctional families suffer and often go on to have unhappy relationships themselves. A healthy divorce doesn’t have to be harmful to your children.

Reflect upon your parents own marriage

Are your parents still married? If your parents are divorced themselves, your divorce may bring up anxiety for them that you have ‘made the same mistakes they did’. This can be uncomfortable for them and they may experience guilt, if they feel that you didn’t have a ‘good enough’ relationship role model.

Perhaps your parents struggled emotionally and financially after their divorce even more than they had anticipated and they are worried that you will experience the same difficulties.

If your parents are still married, is their marriage a happy one? Really? I’m not talking about the situation where the outside world perceives your parents to have a great marriage (and you’ll know the answer in your heart), I’m talking about the ‘behind closed doors’ aspect of your parents marriage. 

Times have changed. This is the 21st Century. But it’s not that long ago that divorce was looked upon as a source of shame. “what will the neighbours think” was a genuine concern of many people, particularly women. It’s likely then, that one or both of your parents were brought up with that value. Perhaps their marriage was genuinely happy. They believe that with ‘a bit more work’, you and your husband can get your marriage back on track. Divorce is for the weak and lazy.

It may also be the case, that your parents have not enjoyed a particularly happy marriage, but the idea of divorce was unthinkable! It could be that your parents don’t accept that being ‘unhappy’ is a reason for divorce. If this could be your parents, recognise that your divorce may trigger anxiety about shame on the one hand, and even jealousy and feelings of regret on the other.

If you are the first person in your family to get divorced, for the older generations, this can be tricky (it can even be tricky for siblings who wish they had the courage to leave their unhappy marriages too)! Perhaps your parents are secretly envious that you are taking a course of action that they would never have dared to do, but wished they had?

Find compassion and focus on the positives of your relationship

I’ve been working with a number of women recently who have recognised that their parent’s marriage was less than happy at points. I shared with them that finding compassion for their mother’s triggered response to her divorce, would allow her to cope with the sadness and frustration that she feels that her mother can’t engage with her emotionally on the subject of her divorce. Focusing on what her parents are doing to support her, reminds her that in-spite of it all, they still love her and are there for her, even though this support is practical rather than emotional.

Remember that like you, they’ll move on

One day, at some point in the future, you’ll be divorced. Once you and your children are settled, and you begin to relax and smile again, your parents will recognise that for you, divorce was the right decision. Keep lines of communication open until then, as best you can. You may need practical support with money, childcare and moving house. If you need their support, ask for it and respect whatever they feel they can offer. Remember that like you, they’re doing the best they can with what they know.

I’m Emma The Divorce Alchemist. I support Ladies who Leave to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download The Smart Woman’s Divorce Guide by completing the box below. Please note, by signing up, you will receive a series of 7 emails over 28 days to accompany the Guide. You will also receive an email from me each Wednesday morning UK time with hints, tips and advice. I sometimes promote my coaching packages too – I’m sure you understand that this is my business :). You may unsubscribe at anytime.

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