While divorce for the most part is something that occurs between two spouses who may or may or may not have made a mutual decision, there is no doubt ending that relationship will affect not only the children but the extended family as well. This is especially true in cases where one spouse may have become quite attached to the in-laws. What do you do when divorce is imminent? The biggest problem is likely to be loyalty, and this applies not only to the extended family but also to mutual friends the couple may have.
The Primary Issue
It’s not uncommon for people to keep details about their marriage a secret. Some of this may be due to their belief that the information about their marriage is something to which only spouses should be privy. They may also fear the knowledge about the state of their marriage may change their relationship with that person or create an awkward situation when the two of them attend family events. Another reason people may keep quiet when there are problems in their marriage is because they feel an obligation to make the marriage work and do not consider divorce as an option to rectify those problems. It therefore becomes real challenging and courageous for them to open up and share the truth about their marriages, especially when family members they love and respect do not support them.
Reasons for a Lack of Support from Family Members
Some of the reasons family members may not show support when a marriage is in trouble include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
They believe they may be required to take sides along blood lines, but this is certainly not a requirement. If you have friendships with your in-laws, it is not necessary for those friendships to come to an end because of a divorce.
They are attempting to judge you, but it is important to remember a person cannot judge you unless you accept that judgment. This means they are not being supportive and are not being a true friend; in this situation you may wish to take another look at that relationship and whether you wish to allow it to continue. This doesn’t mean you need to necessarily end the relationship since you may still come into contact with that person, but you will definitely need to be careful how much and what kind of information you share.
They fear talking to you will cause them to engage in conversation about similar things going on in their own lives. You can’t avoid them feeling this way, and the only thing you can really do is try to reach out to them, but if they are truly not able to be supportive of your situation, there is nothing you can do about it; you will simply have to accept their decision to distance themselves from you.
One thing you definitely want to do is try to talk with those family members with whom you wish to remain connected. Let them know how much you value their friendship while also explaining you do not expect them to take sides but would like to remain friends in spite of the breakdown of the marriage.
It may not happen right away; people sometimes need time and a little distance in order to accept the inevitable.
Signs of Trouble
There is no doubt marriage is a sacred institution, and most people truly do believe in “until death do us part.” This is one of the reasons it is so very painful for the average married person to even remotely consider the idea of divorce when things aren’t going as well as they should.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that all marriages endure both highs and lows, but it’s also true that some endure much more serious patches. In these types of marriages the spouses often find themselves constantly fighting which may eventually lead to cheating, lying, and doing things without the knowledge of the other.
One of the things many couples don’t realize is when there are serious problems within their marriages divorce can seem like the only way of resolving the pain. The problem is while they may resolve their own pain there will still be pain for the children and extended family members. In spite of their pain they have genuine concerns for how a divorce might affect their loved ones.
The Effects of Divorce on the Family
There are three ways in which divorce can affect the family as a whole:
It has the potential to relieve some of the tension that results because of constant arguing or discord. While there is no doubt divorce is stressful, the end result will be a resolution of the daily negativity caused by the daily interactions of an unhappy couple.
Forces the couple to give careful consideration to the marital bonds. On the negative side, all of the people who know, love, or even just care about the divorcing couple will more than likely begin to assess their own feelings about the institution of marriage once they become aware of the divorce. These feelings are quite normal and serve as a reminder that divorce doesn’t affect just the spouses getting divorced but everyone who loves and knows them as well.
Causes all family members—children and extended families—to question their loyalties. This may cause the children of the couple along with parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings to go through a temporary period when they become quite confused about which party deserves their support both during the divorce and afterwards. They are forced to make some difficult decisions about the placement of their loyalties.
Divorce can have both a positive and negative effect on families. The three ways listed above are the typical ones but certainly not the only ones. There are many other ways divorce can affect families, friends, and extended families.