Dealing With Your Parents' Divorce as an Adult
Divorce Is Hard and You're Not a Child Anymore
According to experts, the number of couples over the age of 50 filing for divorce has more than doubled since the year 1990. This can be a shock to any older children involved in divorce, as there seems to be an implication that there is a safety net for divorces once a certain age is reached. We think that it just won't happen, but sadly more than a quarter of divorces in the US are now made up of couples over the age of 50.
Whenever young children are involved in divorce proceedings, the divorcing couple tend to keep things as amicable as possible for the sake of the children (well, you do if you are a decent person) so in turn, children are protected from the messy, uncomfortable and often painful world of divorce.
But a parental divorce does not always happen when children are young; sometimes it happens when children are grown up—maybe even with marriages of their own. Many people think that divorce will be easier for an adult to deal with because they understand what is happening, but the very fact that they do understand what is happening can sometimes make it that much harder to handle.
Divorce Means Change and Change Is Scary
Change is scary for most people; in fact, it is human nature to resist change and attempt to keep things as they are. However, children are so much better at dealing with change. They accept that there is nothing that they can do about the change and the eventually just deal with it. Adults are not like that; we may try to intervene and make things better even though we know that there is nothing we can do, and it will not stop us from trying.
If you are an adult and your parents are going through a divorce then you need to realize that there is nothing that you can do. I know that this might be a difficult thing to admit, but you need to understand that this is not something that you can deal with—it is something that your parents have to deal with. You need to be there to support them in all of their decisions (even if you may not agree with them) but you can't try to interfere in the way they are handling things. Many therapists say that going through a divorce can cause the same feelings as grief, and you would never dream of telling someone how to grieve if someone had died, so don't tell them how to handle their feelings in this state.
They Are People During a Divorce, Not Parents
Just because you can't do anything about the divorce itself, doesn't mean that you can't do anything for your parents. You can be there to support them when they need you, as it could potentially be a very emotional and difficult time for them.
You need to be an adult about this; you might not want to hear some of the things that they're going to tell you, but believe me, they are going to tell you anyway, and you can't judge them for this. You are part of their support network and they need to know that you are going to be there for them.
During the divorce proceedings, try to see your parents as people, rather than parents. This will make it easier to handle things, and it will mean that you are objective. Plus, it could make it easier for you to handle emotionally.
It's Okay to Take Sides During a Divorce
It's okay to take sides—it really is. If one person has acted unreasonably or done something horrible, then taking sides will be a natural part of the process. Just remember that this doesn't have to be forever. You can always build bridges again at a later date if both parties want to.
Be Honest, but Be Careful
Being honest and saying what you want is a right that you have, but just remember, that as much as you have a right to say what you want, people have a right to stop talking to you because of it. Words can hurt and cause family rifts that may never be healed, so always think before you speak.
Recovery Is not all Uphill
Recovering from a divorce will not be quick, nor will it be straightforward. In fact, psychologists say that recovering from a divorce after the age of 50 is significantly harder due to the fact that people may have been together a very long time, and the thought of entering the dating scene again is more than many people can bear.
And it will not be an uphill linear journey. Just when someone seems to be doing really well, they may have a downward spiral and this pattern could potentially keep going for a very long time. As frustrating as this may be because you are keen to see your parent get better, you need to be patient.
Find someone to talk to about what is happening, even if it is a support group online. Having someone to vent your frustrations to can make things easier to deal with. When you are an adult dealing with your parents divorce, remember that you are just that, an adult. They don't have to stay together for your sake and they should be able to count on you for support.