How do I best support my father through a tough breakup?
June 25, 2012 7:36 AM Subscribe
How can I support my father through what's likely to be a really painful breakup? What support do you wish you had, or were you grateful to have, from your adult children while going through divorce?
posted by yomimono to human relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My father has been with his girlfriend for over 10 years. Although they never married, I've been referring to her as my stepmom for a long time. She is a very caring and loving person, and I'm very glad that she came into our lives; I lived with her, her daughter who is near me in age, and my father through my adolescence.
My stepmom and my father have never had the kind of relationship that I would want to have with a long-term partner, but they seemed to be making it work and helping each other be happy. I was really surprised when my father called me yesterday to say that she had left him.
Their breakup is likely to be very painful and logistically complicated. We don't live in a state with common-law marriage, but they do own land in common, and have a shared house and a whole mountain of stuff that they've bought together over the past 10 years. Their families - our family, really - is pretty intertwined. While it's not legally a divorce, I think it will bear a lot of resemblance to one.
I have a lot of trouble imagining either of them alone, but I particularly don't know how my stepmother is going to manage without my dad. I think she will need a lot of support from him just to disentangle, which will be hard on both of them, but especially him. The only concrete way I know of to help both of them is to try to take on some of this burden, but I feel like I should know how to provide more, and better, emotional support.
I know how to support my friends who are going through tough breakups - moving trucks, ice cream, lots of beer, "well fuck 'em!". I don't know how to support family in the same situation, particularly parents, particularly emotionally. I was really young when my mom and dad split up, and they were both mature and reasonable enough not to lean on me for that kind of thing. I'm all grown up now and I have good adult relationships with my parents and stepparents, but those relationships aren't like the ones I have with friends, and it's clearly not appropriate to act the same way in situations like this.
Were you in a similar situation? How did your adult children support you? What do you wish they had done for you?