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Managing The Breakup – Family

Submitted By Dennis Marshall :

How you can deal with your family, and the ex’s, when you split.?

When you split up with a spouse or partner there is a ripple-effect, like a stone plopping into a pond, as the effects of your separation or divorce reaches out to your wider family.

Divorce and separation necessarily brings up strong feelings in people. You need to understand that your relatives will have invested in you both – maybe financially, but probably emotionally. They will feel a loss and a responsibility – and may ask themselves if they did enough to help and if they were supportive enough. They have hopes attached to you for the future and your split will come as a shock to them. They may be extremely fond of you both and are frightened of losing you and worried about what will happen to their own child and grandchildren.

In an ideal world, you would be supported by your parents. The truth is often far from this, as feelings run high, or parental expectations are dashed.

How and when you should we tell the family what is going on?

Unless you have been talking to your family during the difficult period of the decline of the relationships, a rule of thumb is: don’t involve them until you are clear, both as individuals and as a couple, what you are going to do. Relatives, particularly parents, are not going to be unbiased.

Should my parents shun my ex?

You are looking to achieve an atmosphere of respect, understanding, compassion and ultimately forgiveness – you need to explain this to your parents and in-laws. Make it clear that you don’t want them to shun your ex (if you don’t); or make it clear, you don’t want them to blame you or your ex if it is an amicable split. Some distance is helpful at the beginning. It would feel strange if your ex- was enjoying hospitality from your parents. On the other hand, if your ex’s behaviour has been unreasonable or aggressive, make sure they understand the affect this has had on you. Aim to make a clean break – emotionally. It will help everyone focus on reality and move on.

What support can I ask from my parents?

This depends on your relationship with your parents. But be clear with them, if you can, about what you want: ‘Mum/dad, I’d like you to help me move’ or ‘Could you take the children one day at the weekend until I get straight?’

  • Ask them to be objective but ‘gentle’. You will need advice but might not be able to take it straight away. This can be frustrating.
  • Be conscious that they will be worrying about you and feeling very stressed and angry that they can’t take away your pain.
  • They can keep bringing you into the present when you may want to stay in the past.
  • They can act as a reality check.
  • If practical support is an option then make use of it, don’t feel guilty about accepting a meal, ironing, help in clearing stuff, the odd treat.
  • Don’t be a martyr – an offer of help is an offer of love. You need help and you need love.

Should I stay in touch with my in-laws?

  • Make it clear whether you want to stay in touch or not (if you know at this stage). Explain how you will keep in touch – and then stick to it.
  • Remember the needs of your children, it may not be about only you.
  • If they offer support in the early days, accept it if you can.
  • Expect the relationship to change over time ‘ often becoming increasingly distant
  • Be prepared for them backing away, it may be too difficult for them. If so you have to accept this, there is no point in becoming resentful as it will only hurt you.

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