One would think family members would be supportive during divorce, but that is not always the case.
There are a myriad of reasons for this with one being not wanting to take sides. My mother would often hang up on me when I called during my divorce. She had a summer place, so this necessitated having a girlfriend drive over to her house and tape a note to her door.
My husband and I jointly owned a house with her, so financial discussions were imperative during these proceedings. She wanted to pretend this event was not happening.
Fortunately she gave unconditional love and support to her grandsons. Be forewarned that this could happen to you.
Some relatives may have anger towards you. While they are unsupportive, it does not mean that they are on your spouse’s side. It could be that your divorce elicits painful memories of theirs and they do not want to relive them. Do you have a relative who is just a bitter, mean person? Your divorce is another thing to hold against you.
Remember that this nonsupport and unkindness is their issue. It is something that they are dealing with, even though it can be hurtful for you. In one case there was paternal abuse and the sons had very limited visitation. The grandfather told a crying grandson over the phone, that they were severing ties unless those boys resumed a relationship with their dad.
How do you deal with unsupportive relatives?
One solution is to limit visits to an hour or so once a month, never on a holiday. You might consider meeting in a public place for these. If something rude is said, leave immediately. Decide what you will and will not tolerate and go from there. It may be best to limit contact to holiday cards in more extreme cases.
I informed my step-mother that in abuse situations it was not therapeutic for children to have close family members stay in contact with the abusive parent.
My sons even told her specific details. I acknowledged that this was her choice either way, however if she stayed in contact with my ex, we would only be able to share superficial aspects of our lives, nothing personal. When she continued to mention that their father was feeling hurt, then we had to pull away and only exchange cards.
One woman’s step-sister resented her intrusion into the family from day one. After this woman’s divorce, the toxic step-sister made a big point of staying in touch with that ex online. Reducing or eliminating contact may be the only option for protecting you and your children.
In a few divorces, family members want to stay in contact, but have obstacles.
After a man divorced his wife, she fell apart and her health condition worsened, requiring intermittent hospital stays. Her pre-teen daughter was at the stage where they start distancing themselves from their parents.
Anne became enamoured with her new glamorous step-mother. This narcissistic woman swept Anne away as if she were a trophy prize. Meanwhile Anne’s maternal grandparents tried desperately to maintain a relationship with her, but were thwarted by the step-mother and father. I urged them to get a solicitor to help sort out this situation and apparently they chose not to.
They gave up when their daughter died and moved far away. On a happier note, nieces by marriage told their aunt that she was to “get custody” of them in her divorce. That was a sweet way of letting Dana know that they were continuing their relationship with her post-divorce.
You may have a close, loving relationship with your in-laws. In divorce this can change if they feel it is disloyal to their offspring to remain in contact with you. Or the relationship may change to a more casual one.
You can certainly contact your in-laws and let them know you would be happy to bring their grandchildren around from time to time. If your best buddy is your former wife’s brother, then there will be a sense of loss if you are dropped.
Acknowledge your grief. In the vast majority of times, family sticks by the divorcing person. If this is not your case, be reassured that you are not alone and it is not your fault.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.