Help! My Family Is Taking My Ex's Side in Our Divorce
- Divorce impacts the whole family
- How you might be feeling
- How to cope
- Setting boundaries
- Surrounding yourself with support
Leaving your marriage was your choice to make. You knew it was over, and divorce was the right decision.
But your extended family is struggling with your decision. In fact, it appears that they may be taking your ex-spouse’s “side.” What should you do?
Divorce impacts the whole family
No matter how amicable your divorce was, no matter how pleasant or generous your ex is as a person, you grew apart. It happens.
As in marriage, divorce comes with families attached.
Perhaps your family, when you were married, wholeheartedly embraced your spouse. You probably spent holidays together, and maybe you even vacationed together. Your lives are intertwined. Of course, your divorce has changed your family members’ world, too. The question becomes how to address their shifting allegiance post-divorce without ruffling a lot of family feathers.
How you might feel if your family sides with your ex
After you complete your divorce process, you have your own feelings of sadness and loss to deal with – even if you parted on good terms. If you’re not sure where you stand with your family members, your grief process can become all the harder.
You may be feeling hurt, angry, and even betrayed by your family members’ attitude toward your divorce. After all, you are an adult who can make their own grown-up decisions, thank you very much. On the other hand, you may wonder if saying something to them about it would jeopardize any of your relationships or even burn some bridges.
How to cope when your family sides with your ex
Unlike you, your family may not have been prepared for your split. They may not understand the reasons why you split, either. Thus, they may be experiencing their own grief about losing the close relationship they developed with your ex over the years.
Honest communication and empathy may help the situation. If you can, talk about why you made the decision you made, and acknowledge that you understand it may be difficult for everyone. Be open to hearing other points of view so you can find ways to navigate the situation together.
At the same time, be realistic. This is a person your loved ones have considered an extended family member for years. Their attitudes and actions might not change even after they’ve heard your point of view.
If you’re co-parenting with your former spouse, you can’t go no contact. In fact, it’s helpful if the two of you can maintain a good relationship for the sake of the kids. Your own family may have trouble understanding this, so you might need to explain it to them.
Boundaries are essential for any healthy relationship – even family relationships. Boundaries are the rules that everyone is expected to follow to be respectful of each other’s needs and wishes. If your family chooses to maintain a relationship with your ex, they need to know that you expect them to respect your boundaries regarding your divorce and your ex.
Clarify your boundaries with yourself first. Contemplate your answers to these questions:
- How much personal information will you share about your new life with your family knowing they still communicate with your ex?
- How much information about your ex will you tolerate from them in return?
- What happens if the situation starts to feel guilt-provoking and manipulative?
- How will you handle it if their relationship with your former spouse continues to be a problem for you?
Your family needs to know that you’re ready to put everything behind you. You’re ready to cut ties with your past and don’t want any more divorce drama in your life. For instance, you probably don’t want to hear your family echoing your ex’s version of the divorce – perhaps that it was all your fault and they only tried to make you happy. What’s more, you may not want your ex to know you’ve started dating – and you may not want to hear about their romantic life, either.
Divorce is a private matter, and your entire family needs to understand that. Although they may have their own opinions about it, you expect them to keep those thoughts to themselves. While there’s not much you can do to stop them from having a relationship with your ex, you can establish your expectations. If family members choose to ignore those boundaries, they can expect consequences for it.
Surround yourself with support
Although you’d probably like to rely on family members for support, this might not be an option. If your family can’t support you, find those who will.
This is the time to reach out to friends, support groups, and others like you and understand what you're going through and can offer clarity and support. It may be helpful to consider a therapist or divorce coach who can also provide professional guidance in your situation.
Divorce therapists and coaches are trained to look at difficult situations from an outside perspective and suggest ways to navigate them that work for everyone involved. Whereas therapists often employ models that look at the whole timeline of your life and family dynamics, divorce coaches tend to look forward, focusing on specific goals and how to attain them. Meeting with potential divorce coaches and therapists will allow you to get a feel for what works better for your personality and needs.
At Hello Divorce, we understand that divorce isn’t just a legal transaction. It’s a complete life change. And you can experience some serious bumps along the way. We offer an online divorce platform to help you with legal matters as well as professional services, like divorce coaching, for financial and emotional matters.
Let us help. Schedule a free 15-minute call to chat with one of our account representatives.