My current series is about Kristi from Divorce to Happiness. Kristi (@Divorcetohappy) has been divorced now for about 18 months, separated for three and a half years – long enough to gain some valuable perspective on her 18-year marriage. She says she spent many years ignoring her inner voice which was telling her the marriage wasn’t working. That isn’t uncommon and there are many things, both conscious and subconscious, that we allow to influence us. One of those things, is the support of our family. Without that, getting divorced can be a hard decision and that’s the situation Kristi was in. Here’s how Kristi describes it:
My parents to this day, I still don’t think they agree with it. They did not help me, they didn’t even know where we lived for six months after I left. They’re very devout Christians in their beliefs and divorce is just not something they believe in. They believe I should have stayed.
The day I moved out, my mom, dad and one of my sisters were supposed to come and help. I had two friends who were also going to help me. My parents called me the day before and told me they couldn’t help me move my kids out. Then, my sister called the next morning and said, “I can’t go against mom and dad’s wishes, so we’re not coming to help you.”
The day I left, I had one friend show up to move me and I called another one and he brought his mom and dad and his brother. They moved me. You figure out who your real friends are really, really quick.
I love my parents and I’m sure they love me but the relationship is strained. They will come and visit for a couple of days, if I ask and we’ll get together at holidays. Everybody will act like everything is hunky-dory and fine but there’s tension. I’ve spoken to them and I’ve written emails. They’re freaked out I’ve done my Divorce to Happiness website.
However, I learned a long time ago to quit trying to please them because it was never going to happen and I have to live my life. They did not live in that hell that I lived in and until you’ve gone through one day of that, you cannot tell somebody that they should stay. When you’re emotionally abused, nobody sees it but you. It goes through you, it goes right to the center of your brain and the center of your body. It might now show but it goes deep.
I’m glad Kristi raised this topic because surprisingly not many of my interviewees have talked about parental or family support – that might be just a function of the questions I’ve been asking and the duration of the interview. I do think it’s sad that Kristi’s parents weren’t able to be more supportive and yet at the same time, I admire people who have strong convictions and are willing to stand by those convictions. I may be being idealistic but I’m encouraged that Kristi’s parents will still come and visit even if they can’t accept her divorce. I believe family ties are important – may be over time, Kristi’s parents will come to accept her decision and in the meantime, Kristi’s children deserve a relationship with their grandparents, no matter what happened to the marriage.
I think if you don’t have your parents’ support, deciding to leave a marriage is harder especially if you have a close knit family. My own family is small – at time of my divorce, it was just my dad and two siblings. (My dad has passed on now.) We live on three separate continents and have done for more than 20 years. While it was important to me to know that they cared, they weren’t going to offer any practical help like helping me move or even suggestions on child custody or asset division. My husband’s family is even smaller – just his brother who lives on the East coast. There are no awkward family get-togethers to contend with. Sometimes I wish we did have a bigger family but you know what they say … you don’t get to pick your family. It just is what it is and that’s a lesson in acceptance in itself.
What role has your family played in your divorce? Were they supportive? Understanding? Did they help you with practical advice? How about you’re in-laws? Do you still see them?