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How to deal with your parents getting a divorce when you're an adult?
April 23, 2011 9:04 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with your parents getting a divorce when you're an adult?

So...my dad came over today to tell me he's asked my mom for a divorce. And better still! He's met someone else and wants to start a new life with her. Just wonderful.

Long story short, I'm 27 and my parents are in their 50s. I have many friends whose parents are divorced but it happened when they were much younger. Has anyone experienced their parents breaking up later in life? What should I expect to happen? I've never really gotten into specifics with my friends over their parents' divorcing but most of what they had to deal with was custody and the like and decisions were made over their heads. I'm assuming I'll be dragged into many a confrontation or argument about what should be done with money, property, etc.

And, for extra credit, what do you do when your parents split...and already have someone waiting in the wings (who, btw, is about your age)? I can't imagine how I'll manage to be remotely polite to this woman.
posted by dayspteh to Human Relations (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your fifty something dad is divorcing your mother after decades of marriage to shack up with someone in their twenties? I'd deal with it by telling him what I think of that and giving your mother a call pronto. This sorry situation isn't about you, I'd say it's about your mother and that she's the one who needs some support around here. Tell her to hold out for the house.
posted by joannemullen at 9:13 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have definitely spoken to my mom. She has my unequivocal support, as well as my brother's (he lives at home but is older, too). We've already spoken about what to try to do about this - she asked him to try counseling but he's refused. I talked to him only when he came to tell me but I was too much in shock to have much of a reaction besides "ummm...whaaaaat...". I'm regrouping for when I need to talk to him tomorrow; I have no idea what to do besides lash out now, which feels terrible when I've always been so close with him (or so I thought...). But maybe that's the appropriate response?
posted by dayspteh at 9:20 PM on April 23, 2011


My parents got divorced when I was about 18 or 19 or so. I forget exactly. It was a long time ago, and yes, my dad did have another woman in mind, who is only a little bit older than me. I wasn't taken by surprise or anything though. My parents had been having trouble for a long time. Anyway. Nobody tried to drag me into any sort of confrontation, and I would simply have refused anyway. Most of my time was spend taking care of my mom and my younger sister, who were far more upset than I was. That's basically how I handled it, but taking care of the people who needed compassion, and not antagonizing the people who don't. As for the new woman, I mostly stayed out of the picture for a while, and got to know her better later. Shouldn't be too hard. She won't feel comfortable meeting you right away either. As for the situations when you absolutely have to interact, I feel like at 27, you have enough experience with people you dislike that you should be capable of being polite to anyone. It's a basic life skill.

Short version: Take care of your mom. You lashing out at someone she cares about will only hurt her. That's her job, not yours. Put her first.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My parents split up when I was 18 and my younger sister was only 12, so I can't really speak to that part of your question. As for the other part...oh boy. It's a tough one. My dad had someone waiting in the wings, someone who was only ten years older than me. It was hard to deal with because my mom was so hurt by all of this. However, thirteen years later and my dad and the other woman are still together and even adopted a baby through foster care (who is now no longer a baby but the funniest almost-five-year-old I know).

You will manage to be remotely polite to this woman because you are an adult and adults have to learn how to be polite to people we'd rather spit on. You'll have to do some compartmentalizing for awhile, but you should probably act as though this woman will be in your life for a long time. I'm not saying you have to become besties with this woman, but consider that if you want to have a relationship with your father, you likely will have to negotiate a relationship with this woman (if she sticks around). I got used to my dad's other woman because it was clear that a) she wasn't going anywhere and b) my dad was happy with her.

That said, it is totally fair to ask your dad to not have the ladyfriend around you while this is all fresh. Tell him you don't want to meet her for six months, nine months, whatever you need. It is also fair to ask your parents to not involve you in their arguments. I wish I had known that when my parents were breaking up. I became the sounding board for both of them and it sucked.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2011


My advice is to let what is between them stay between them. It's not your job to mete out punishment against your dad. Take the time you need to be able to be around him without losing it, and consider seeing a therapist a couple of times as a not-involved sounding board.
posted by lakeroon at 9:24 PM on April 23, 2011


Tell her to hold out for the house.

I'm not so sure getting directly involved like that is the sanest thing to do. Gently tell her to get a divorce lawyer if she doesn't already have one. The lawyer will most certainly try to get what is possible.

I was also 27 when my late 50s dad left my mom, with another (albeit one his age) woman ready to move in. My mother got a very nice settlement given that scenario, and I tried to just keep a distance from both while being respectable until things quieted down. It would've been easy to blame my dad for everything, but it does indeed take two people to let a long time marriage go sour.

Really, your best bet is to take a kind of high, quiet road where you try to be supportive of your mother while staying away from financial issues. Same goes for your father, really. Once the divorce is final they will still be your parents. Be aware that the new relationship your father is in is probably not going to last long, and that he might even be in another one after that. You don't owe those women any kind of familial sentiment, but being perfunctorily cordial makes it alot easier.

Again, stay aloof, be kind to your mom and honest with your father. They might not be able to express it, but they probably don't want this to be any harder on their children than it already is.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:27 PM on April 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, and because I've also been on the other side of this (wife leaving me for a younger man), let me reiterate. You're not allowed to say anything mean about your dad while your mom can hear. She is allowed to say those things. You're not. Sure, when it happened to me, I said some about my ex-wife in anger, but that didn't mean other people were allowed to. Whenever other people criticized her, I took it personally, because they were attacking someone I cared about. Now, everybody's different. It's possible that you mom is the angry vindictive type and wants you to say mean things about your dad. Even if she does, it's still a bad idea to do it. It will damage your relationship with your father. However, judging from what you've told us here, about your mom wanting counseling and trying to repair this marriage, it sounds like she's not that sort of person. Rather she's more like me.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:35 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, at least you know it isn't about you, and you won't have to go though a horrible custody battle.

My parents divorced when I was nine, and fought it out until the day before I turned 14 and could choose who I lived with. It was awful, but I survived.

I'm not sure how I would act if my parents divorced at this point in my life. I mean they have remarried and all, both 20 years on now. Longer than their original marriage by far. I guess I just really wouldn't care. I am an adult and have my own life to worry about. I mean I would accept emails about it, but I'm not going to play intermediary at all. I'll give helpful, nondescript advice. But really what demands are they making of you?

You are probably being bombarded from all sides on the issue, in this day and age of emails and such, but just accept them and move on. As hard as it is to accept. This isn't about you. At all. 99% of the emails that get you all worked up and make you want to choose a side about one party or the other are just venting. Venting.

They may be legitimate gripes and contain facts that you don't want to know, but those facts and feelings are your parent's, not yours. They have no effect on you. Your Dad is still your Dad. Your Mom is still your Mom.

As far as your parent dating someone about your age? So what? It happens all the time.
posted by sanka at 9:41 PM on April 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was 19 when my mom was discovered having an affair with an older man... who was an abusive alcoholic at the time.
It sucked because I had the parents who everyone (including myself and my sister) thought were perfect.

Anyway, I was upset. My father talked to everyone and anyone for hours at a time about it.
11 years later my father is still upset and still brings it up constantly and has been depressed since then.
So, depending on your moms personality, you may have to deal with that.

As an adult, I realized there wasn't much I could do. There was no sense in disowning my mother because she wasn't in love with my father... and was too terrified of confrontation. It was sad and terrible but... that's how it went.

Years later, my step-father lost his leg and almost died. He stopped drinking and everything is fine in that aspect.
The only thing I wonder about is how ill have a wedding with all of them present.

Another thing my grandmother left my grandpa for a man who was a year younger than my dad... who was 25 or something at the time. Dad said he never had an issue with it but admitted it was strange at first.

Oh. And my boyfriends dad who is 50 is dating a girl who is 26... younger than both of us. But they really seem to like each other and she's actually pretty nice. We both thought it was ridiculous at first


So. Depends on everyones personality involved, really.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:53 PM on April 23, 2011


1. Grieve. Rule number one about grief: don't make any major decisions while letting yourself grieve. That includes completely alienating your father.

2. Be honest about your feelings. You really can do this without alienating your father, but maybe not right away. Find a friend or counselor to rail at. Or, you know, post questions about it to internet strangers.

3. Stay away from the other woman until you think you can be at least awkwardly polite. Should be easy, she doesn't want to be around you right now either.

4. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Support your mom emotionally but establish boundaries. Don't allow yourself to get dragged in the middle of things.

5. Realize or remember that your parents' relationships are none of your business. Try not to judge them. Be hurt, but don't be mean.

Good luck. It's icky. There's no way around the icky but live your own life and remember to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting other passengers.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:55 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


My parents divorced when I was a child, so my advice is not based on personal experience, but rather on what I've observed with family and friends since then. That said, I think you're making a big assumption when you write,
I'm assuming I'll be dragged into many a confrontation or argument about what should be done with money, property, etc.
Don't assume that. Instead, refuse to engage. Your parents' divorce is their matter, not yours. I don't mean that you aren't concerned; however, you aren't committed in the same way that they are. You don't need to take sides unless someone insists that you do. And I'd advise being skeptical if one side or the other insists on that.

Since you are an adult and can take at least a semi-detached look at your parents' marriage, you might want to take a deep breath and decide whether your father is entirely to blame for this turn of events or whether trouble has been brewing for some time. I loved both my parents dearly, but even as an eleven-year-old I knew there were problems that could not be easily apportioned to one or the other side.

Finally: as for being "polite to this woman," keep in mind that she is at most a catalyst in this situation. If your parents' marriage had been strong, it would not be ending. If he's in his 50s and she is in her late 20s, it's likely that he has the upper hand in the relationship. Apparently, she finds your father attractive and lovable. My advice would be to focus on that.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:57 PM on April 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just tell him that you'll need some time to get used to it, but that you love him.

Continuing to care for your dad even as he lives his life (or even makes huge mistakes) isn't a betrayal against your mom, any more than him loving you even when you made mistakes was a betrayal against... the boss of the convenience store who fired you for getting high in the freezer, or whatever. People are a lot more complex than we think, and just about all we can do is care about them and be honest, with compassion. You can consider sharing your honest emotions about the whole thing, carefully, as it feels appropriate, but judgments aren't emotions. Now is not a particularly good time. It sounds like you think you could do something about this, but you're not going to be able to stop him from doing stupid things, no matter how upset you get.

And he's always going to be your dad, whether or not he does stupid things. The guy has as much right as anyone to live his one shot at life, even if that means making some huge step (possibly a mistake) like falling in love with someone else and ending a long marriage. The fact that he spent 16+ years meeting your every need doesn't change that, nor does it give you the right to judge or punish him. It may give you the power to hurt him, but not the right, in my opinion. When my parents got divorced, they later told me that they were terrified of the "we have news" conversations because they were afraid of our anger, of losing us and our love. People are human, and most people are fuck-ups in one way or another, but if you love the guy, just love him. If you want to lash out, well, try to protect him from your desire to hurt him the same way you would anyone else you love.

That doesn't mean you can't feel upset, angry, whatever. Do have your honest feelings, of course. "Whaaaa?" is very honest, btw, I congratulate you for staying present in that moment of utter confusion. If you read Pema Chodron's book When Things Fall Apart, you'll see that she encourages people to stay in that very honest "what the hell does this all mean" phase rather than pushing themselves into one particular story. One thing you could try saying is, "dad, to be honest, I'm kind of upset about this right now, and full of a lot of confused feelings. It's going to be hard to get used to this. But I respect your right to live your life, and still love you a lot."
posted by salvia at 10:01 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


As someone whose parents are still married but don't really love each other (today was their 35th wedding anniversary and my dad "didn't feel like" going out to dinner - he's not sick - so I took her instead) - stay out of the middle as much as you can.

If one of them starts complaining to you about the other, say as politely as you can that, while you support that parent, it's not something they should really be discussing with you. If one insults the other to you, don't pass it along.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:35 PM on April 23, 2011


My parents divorced when I was 19, around a year after I'd left home. It was hard. It seems like it wouldn't be as hard if you're older, and maybe it's not, but at least for me there was this weird sense of something stable that I could depend on just... vanishing, and this sense of something that had been true my whole life being negated. It really shook me up, because nothing really changed that much practically, but everything changed as far as how I thought of my family. People might not understand that, but let yourself be upset, even though you're an adult. obviously, you're a lot older than I was, but I still think this would have been true to some extent if I were older.

I think the way that my parents treated me was different after the divorce. I've had to see a succession of my dad's girlfriends and listen to my mom's problems in a way I wasn't necessarily prepared for. It was a definite shift in how our relationships felt, which I think isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still brings me to the next point.... Don't let yourself be dragged into the messy parts. Just because you're an adult doesn't mean that's your job. Supportive, sure. Dragged into the legal battles? hell no. You are looking to maintain a relationship with both of these people (I assume) so don't let yourself be dragged into their fight.

ymmv, but I have been surprised at how easy it is for me to be introduced to my dad's girlfriends. It's been relatively easy for me to be both polite and removed. I think this is a plus of having divorced parents at a later age... you're on a more even footing with new boy/girl friends and it simply doesn't matter as much. But then again, none of them were pre-divorce.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:43 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really, your best bet is to take a kind of high, quiet road

This.

There will be bad behavior and nasty things said, on both sides. The more you can stay out of it (other than as a quiet support in the background for both of them), the better. The anger and disappointment being expressed took decades to build, and won't dissipate overnight. Your taking sides may well serve to magnify that anger, rather than dissipate it.

And, you will likely have the "pleasure" (ha ha) of watching quite large sums of money being spent on lawyers (or on the new spouses and kids) that isn't going to help pay for your house downpayment, your college fund, or (more frustrating of all) your parents' retirement.

It's a pretty shitty situation overall, honestly. I wish it wasn't, and I very much hope that your family's split plays out more cleanly and neatly. But my experience, and those of my friends whose parents divorced later in life, says that it will likely be nasty in quite a few respects.
posted by Forktine at 11:05 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The guy has as much right as anyone to live his one shot at life, even if that means making some huge step (possibly a mistake) like falling in love with someone else and ending a long marriage. The fact that he spent 16+ years meeting your every need doesn't change that, nor does it give you the right to judge or punish him. It may give you the power to hurt him, but not the right, in my opinion.

I have to disagree here. In certain circumstances, you have absolutely every right to judge and punish your father for cheating on your mother and leaving her for another woman. And if I sound none-too-objective here, it's because I'm not particularly. When I was 28 years old, without any warning whatsoever, my father announced that he was unhappy, left receipts from motels and airline tickets out showing he'd been traveling with another woman, and served my mother with divorce papers. No willingness to talk or get counseling. Nothing.

I think he just expected her to roll over and take it. What he didn't expect was that we'd all get behind her and make sure she had a lawyer and that she understood everything to which she was entitled.

There's no reason that you need to be dragged into property and money disputes...unless your father directs you to "take care of your mother," as mine did, meaning that we would be responsible for her financially as well as emotionally. Oh, yes, make damn sure your mother lawyers up. Women over fifty get especially short shrift when their husbands suddenly enter their second adolescence. But once you know she's got good legal representation, there's no reason why you should need to be involved.

For me, what my father did demonstrated incredible disrespect, not just for my mother, but for my sister and me as well. He essentially communicated to us that women were essentially like cars--when one wears out, simply trade her in for a new model. I don't consider him my father anymore. You can't change his behavior, but there's no reason why you should have to put up with it, if you don't want to, just because he's your father.
posted by tully_monster at 11:07 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went through almost exactly what you're going through. I was 30 and married myself, when my dad divorced my mum after 32 years of marriage, to marry a woman who was 5 years older than I. We were even at the same university at the same time, although I didn't know her. She brought with her a 5 year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and a few years later they had another daughter together.

I tried to stay out of the legal and financial messes as much as I could. I threw my emotional support behind my mother because she was the one hurting and left alone. My dad had a new life's companion. I lived 3000 miles away so there wasn't much I could do, except for the odd visit, but my sister, who was single and living close by, stepped up and did heroic service for Mum. What we both did was started socking away a bit of money each month to help Mum with what we knew would be coming (and which both of us encouraged her): she moved the 3000 miles to be close to me and her grandkids (my sister followed some months later). Our other sister paid my mum's first month's rent and other expenses, so Mum was able to make the move without a huge financial hit.

I visited my dad on occasion--I had always been close to him--and tried to establish relationships with my new little sisters (the whole mess was certainly none of their doing), and was civil to his wife. It would not have helped my mother any if I hadn't done those things, nor did she expect me to sever ties with Dad.

After 12 years, Dad's second wife left him. During that period, Mum had passed away. I was immensely grateful that I didn't say anything to Dad I regretted because he needed me desperately. He realized he made a mistake to leave my mum and he didn't need me to remind him that there's no fool like an old fool.

There is nothing to be lost by taking the high road and making sure you don't demean either parent, and much damage to be done if you let your anger with a parent run away with you. Somehow, the trick is to give support to the parent who needs it more, while maintaining ties with both.

It was perhaps easier for me as I'd been married 10 years by then myself, so I knew from my own experience of marriage that there are many stories, and even in situations that seem quite unambiguous, there are many grey areas. I was able to avoid confusing my parents' divorce from each other as being somehow related to their relationship with me, mostly, I think because I was married.

It's not easy, but helping a parent while remaining on good terms with them both is possible in some cases. It was in mine.
posted by angiep at 11:57 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


@joanmullen... you might want to go back and read the question, paying attention this time.

OP... Love your dad. Love your mom. They get to wind their way through life in whatever way will get them to the end. If you can, help them to love each other enough not to destroy their lives while they adjust them. Relationships have a progression, and one stage is disengagement. One can remove a BandAid by cutting off the limb it's protecting, but it's suboptimal. They loved each other enough to get married and raise a nice kid once upon a time. "Holding out for the house" sounds like encouragement to be an asshole, and frankly, is about the most horrible advice I can imagine.

How about being an adult, recognizing the impacts, being present for their needs, helping them to be kind, not taking sides, embracing their humanity, preserving what good feelings you can.

Or... you COULD take a common route. Most people do and that's why the species improves soooo slowly. Anyone who encourages you to emphasize the negative adds to the collective stress of the planet, and makes dogs out of people. If we are going to be different than dogs, we should act differently. People are hurting here. Kind humans try and make it better, not worse.
posted by FauxScot at 3:10 AM on April 24, 2011


How do you cope with this? You try to remember that your parents are people and not just parents. They have feelings, desires, internal struggles that have nothing to do with you. Put this into perspective by asking yourself what you would expect from your parents if the situation was in reverse. What if you got divorced and then remarried? Would you accept your parents' interference and moralizing condemnation or would you expect their understanding, love, and support? Ask yourself how you would like your new partner to be treated. Stop putting yourself and your feelings first and love your parents for themselves.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:23 AM on April 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of the things about your parents divorce that really sucks when you are an adult is trying to balance holidays, grandchildren, etc. with your parents. If you're lucky they can be mostly civil when at the same functions; but, if you're anything like me, you're constantly nervous that the holidays will wind up like an episode of Arrested Development. What I recommend is doing what you want, let them work around your life. They (well your Dad in this case) made a choice let them live with the consequences.

Do your best not to take sides because there are always two sides of the story, even when your Dad is doing something as sleazy as running off with another woman. Oh and I won't bring up how hard it is to balance the health needs of two aging parents in two different locations.

Sorry this had to happen to you. But better they split up when you are 27 than a week before your high school graduation. Thanks Mom and Dad.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 8:00 AM on April 24, 2011


What Secret Life of Gravy said.

Like many of the responses above, look after your mum. Take her out, check up on her, do nice things together. She needs your support.

As for your dad's new life & partner, give it a little time before start spending time with him and his new partner together. If you need to do so in these early days, meet him separately.

Always remember that it is always best to TALK instead of bottling things up. But be fair when you are venting your frustrations to your mum or your dad. It may make things worse.

Most importantly, respect your mum's space, as well as your dad's (and his new partner's).

Good luck to you.
posted by heartofglass at 8:34 AM on April 24, 2011


Hi OP,

I haven't read the responses yet, but my parents recently divorced. I am in my early twenties and they are also in their 50s.

It's a different experience because it's not like when you're little, you might feel like it's your fault or something. The hardest part for me has been the holidays thing. I realized that they will never be the same again. I lost my platonic ideal of Christmas and of being a "normal" family (even though divorce is quite common!).

My parents are both seeing people (in fact, even before the divorce was final). Feel free to not meet any of their boyfriends or girlfriends until you're ready. For me, the line is if the person they are dating becomes a significant part of their lives, then I will meet them--but not before that. Listen, my parents were married for 27 years. It's just weird to see them with someone else. I don't want to have to go through meeting every new guy or gal, ya know?

My best advice is to set up boundaries like that and stick with them. If your dad bugs you about meeting his new girlfriend and you don't want to--it's absolutely your prerogative. Wait until you're ready and you should have an easier time being polite.

And as others have said, it's probably a weird time for your mom, so be nice to her.

Good luck to you.
posted by too bad you're not me at 9:58 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really want to thank everyone who answered this. This has helped tremendously, hearing feedback from other people (the internet always knows best, right?) and I (and my mom and brother) luckily have some pretty great friends weighing in on this, too. Just good to hear what others have had happen so I can make some educated guess about what to do next.

Again, I really appreciate it.
posted by dayspteh at 3:37 PM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


My parents just recently divorced and I'm 27 years old. My parent's divorce isn't a very amicable one and to make it worse, they have an adopted 5 year old.

My parents had already been separated for a few months, but right before she announced she wanted a full divorce (like a week before), she got involved with another man. A man our family has already hated for...20 years or so.

Well, now they are divorced, it will be a year in June, she's still dating this scum of a man and my dad is one SERIOUSLY bitter man. Her dating this other guy wasn't the reason for the divorce or her asking for one, but it just all happened so closely together. My dad is convinced that this is the reason for her finally leaving. Not the 30 years of drinking, fighting etc etc, but this one incident.

So anyways, I am their go-to person. They both for the last year 1/2 have come to me with all their problems. I was really angry with both of them, but much more so with my mom. Not because she was dating this guy ( that's a whole other can of worms), but because I felt like she did this all on purpose. I can't really explain it, but like she just destroyed all the work I had put into keeping our family sane.

Their divorce, being their handler, their problem solver, being their message runner, being their ear to cry on has taken it's toll on me emotionally and physically. I have gone from hating my mother and wanting to pin the demise of our family on her shoulders, to loving her and hating my father.

It has ruined my relationship with my father, which was something I held so closely to my heart. Now...it's gone. We can barely speak because he starts to ramble, abuse and throw out crazy comments about my mom. I can only handle hearing the "C" word said about her so many times a day.

I can barely talk to my mom, because it's all about her new relationship (ugh i hate that man), my dad or her new relationship. The guy she's dating was an ass 20 years ago and he's still an ass 20 years later, but she refuses to see it.

The point of all this rambling...don't get involved. Hate the girlfriend with all your heart, hate your father for leaving your mom, hate whatever you want, but don't get involved.

Set boundaries now. Set them before the divorce starts to go forward. For your sanity and your parent's, don't let them drag you in it.

It's a lot different being the 27 year old person with divorced parents, then being the 19 year old with divorced parents. We are older, living on our own, financially independent. We aren't the little child being sheltered from all this. They see us as adults and old enough to hear it all.

If one starts to speak badly about the other, shut it down immediately. Don't let one word of what the other is doing/feeling/thinking ever come from your lips. Once they find out that you have communication, its over.

I hope for your sake, your experience is nothing like mine. And I'm sorry for the rambling, but it's Easter and I've been dealing with my parents all day. This just really hit close to home for me. I saw that most people answering were either young when their parents divorced or still considered teenage.

If you need any support or maybe advice, feel free to hit me up on memail. Good luck to you...I"ll keep you in my thoughts :)
posted by Sweetmag at 10:06 PM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


My parents divorced when I was ~25. I definitely agree with everyone who has said to get involved as little as possible, especially with legal/money arguments. It was a hideous time for everyone and you have my complete sympathy.

You mentioned that you have no idea how you'll be polite to your father's new partner. I don't think you have to be - its certainly fine to avoid her for now while you get used to the new situation. Even beyond that, many people have very icy relationships with their parent's partners. However, if you can get past it, it will be much better for your relationship with your father.

The way I see it is that the responsibility of maintaining a marriage is entirely down to the people in that marriage. I don't approve of anyone trying deliberately to break up a marriage, but those people are unlikely to succeed without a willing partner. Thinking of your father's new partner as the wicked witch who destroyed a happy marriage may be comforting, but it's unlikely to be accurate and it almost certainly won't help your relationship with your father.

As much as you may not like it, this woman may very well be an important part of his life and make him happy. My parents stayed married much longer than they should have and for the last years of the marriage it was obvious that they were both totally miserable*. Initially I didn't approve of my Dad leaving or finding a new partner, but having seen how much happier he is with his new wife, I'm very happy for him. Now a few years have passed, my mother also seems happier without him than she was while married.

One final thought - not meant to make you feel guilty for being upset - this is a horrible time I fully understand how upset you are: all marriages eventually end in either divorce or death. Having been through the divorce of my parents and the death of my mother-in-law in the last few years, I'd take the divorce any day. Hopefully in a few years this will settle down and you will be able to have a good relationship with both parents. This too will pass.


*My mother has since said that she would have done more to save the marriage if she'd known how bad they were, however I strongly suspect it was staring her in the face and she didn't want to know.
posted by *becca* at 8:24 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


From my experience: just let them sort it out. Don't take sides. Avoid talking about it. I hate it when my mother goes off on my father and vice versa. I try to nod and change the subject as much as I can. I find it a violation of Parenting 101 when my grown parents try to turn their grown child against each other. (This elicits the "What is WRONG with people?" response in me.)

I don't care who cheated on who, who mistreated whom for 15 years, etc. I mean, I *care* about my parents, but the role I've adopted for myself is to continue to play the role of the daughter. I'm not my mom's girlfriend / dad's buddy and my role is not to bash either of their exes.

This works just fine for me, and frankly, I never think it's constructive to fuel someone's fire, so I believe my staying out of it helps them as well. At least, it doesn't add fuel to the fire like taking sides would.

As for how to deal with it, yourself, emotionally: I can't help you there. I knew my parents were unhappy for a long time and was relieved when they split up. So I already had years of expectation under my belt when it happened.
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2011


From my experience stick with the advice young kids get,
1) Don't take sides - I pushed very hard to not be their friend about this, that's what other people are for. And be prepared for them both to be flawed. Very flawed.
2) Don't try to sort out money - again not your part, lawyers can do that.
3) Be kind to yourself - I grieved the loss of my family and Christmas, holidays and selling my childhood home was part of that. Its going to hurt - your family has shattered, that hurts at any age. They get put back together differently which is OK and sometime better but that change hurts. Good luck and take care.

And try not to protect either of them from your feelings - its your family that's different now, nothing wrong with talking about that.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 2:01 PM on April 27, 2011


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