People often keep the struggles between them and their spouse private but you reach the point where it’s time to share your marital problems with your family. How challenging this is depends on your relationship with them, the nature of the problems and how long you’ve been keeping them hidden.
My current guest, Missy had been married for about eleven years when she discovered her husband had been unfaithful again. This time she asked him to leave and it was time to tell her family what was going on. Their reaction was surprising. Here’s Missy:
Opening up to my family was difficult. It should not have been, but for some reason I had a false impression that I was supposed to have it all together. To admit vulnerabilities was a weakness or to admit that he was not accessible.
I felt I was disappointing them in some way, but I was so pleasantly surprised at how willing and able and ready they were to be helpful, to support me, to encourage me, just to give me a break sometimes. I was a single mother with three children. That first time he left, the children were very young. I had a three month old and a two year old and a four year old at the very beginning.
I remember my dad would come over sometimes at 9:00 p.m. after they were in bed, just so I could go to the grocery store alone and not have to take three children. Just little things to be helpful. Very practical ways of being supportive, as well as the emotional support. They were very hands-on. It was a gift.
Now, when my divorce actually became final, by that point my parents had relocated and I no longer had family in the area, which was difficult. But still from then forward, I’ve been able to be very real and let them know when we had challenges or when money’s tight or loneliness, all of those types of things.
For some reason, I had the false belief that I wasn’t supposed to have problems. I don’t exactly know where that came from but I hid those things from the people closest to me and tried to present a false front of having it all together for years.
Sometimes I think the more intense the problem, the more we try to hide them, because we’re in a denial ourselves to a certain extent or at least I was. I certainly was.
Opening up to my family absolutely changed how my family treated my husband, especially I would say with my mother. Even as we were supposedly working on the marriage and trying to work things out, I think she had a lot of issues with trusting that he would be able to change. She did not have confidence that he would be able and willing to change.
My father was much more willing to hope for that and give him the benefit of the doubt and would even take him to lunch. He’d stop by my husband’s office at the time and take him to lunch and let him know that they were rooting for us, that type of a thing. My father was very willing to extend that. My mother, I don’t think was ever able to do so.
When someone hurts your children, I think it creates barriers that are very difficult. We at least never had the chance to move past those.
The Divorce Coach Says
Opening up can be daunting for all the reasons Missy gives. Rather than just barreling ahead and getting it done, I would encourage you to think about all the reasons you’ve been holding back. Do you feel you’re disappointing them? Do you think they will judge you? Do you think they won’t support you?
Then think about why it is you feel this way? Are there incidents or events from the past? Or is this more because of your own expectations, like Missy’s expectations of needing to have her life together?
You may find that your unwillingness to be open has more to do with your own beliefs and expectations than those of your family. Understanding this will not only help you have these conversations but will also help your own development.
Hopefully, when you do tell them, they will respond with love and support and hopefully you’ll be willing to accept their help.
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.