In the narrative of love and commitment, the story of “happily ever after” can sometimes take an unexpected turn. What happens when the hands of time have intertwined two lives for so long and suddenly decide to pull them apart?
Being married for 30 years can seem like a sealed deal of a happily ever after narrative, but today, we have a surge in gray divorces. The phenomenon of parents divorcing after three decades together offers a unique and compelling glimpse into the complexities of long-term relationships.
Dive in as we delve into the intriguing and emotional journey of parents divorcing after three decades of shared history, exploring love, loss, resilience, and reinvention.
How Gray Divorce Affects Adult Children
As an adult, it is easy to assume that parents divorcing should have less impact on you than it would if you were younger. However, the situation is quite the opposite. Being an adult and experiencing parents divorcing can be devastating. Determining the best way to deal with the problem is reasonable.
First, you start by identifying how gray divorce affects adult children. If your parents are divorcing after 30 years of marriage, you are likely to experience the following:
Being raised in a closely-knit family can increase your hopes of seeing your parents grow old together. However, if this dream shatters due to divorce, you will likely experience grief. Griefing about your parent’s marriage and your sweet childhood days can be a heavy feeling. Also, you can experience distress at the idea that your parents will be together forever.
When parents go through a gray divorce, you, as their adult child, can experience emotional stress. Emotional stress can manifest as anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and sadness. It is not easy to watch parents go through a tough time. Gray divorce can have tremendous stress on the whole family.
Changed Family Traditions
Gray divorce leads to shifts in family traditions. Since they live separately, you may skip the annual Thanksgiving or Christmas ritual at your parent’s house. The breaking of the things that initially held the family together can be heartbreaking and cause stress. Also, it can take a lot of work to develop new ways to unite as a family, with parents going their separate ways.
As an adult, your parents see you as more of a confidant than a child. Therefore, they expect you to know some details regarding the divorce. Your parents may not shield you from the aftermath of divorce as they would have if you were a child.
Parents divorcing after 30 years can also lead to competing loyalties. You may experience the pressure of parents competing to have you for themselves. Striving to divide your attention between two parents can cause relationship tension. Also, it can cause you stress or guilt for feeling loyal towards one party.
Your parents can rely on you as their primary support system during divorce. The expectation to be the emotional support can be overwhelming since you are also trying to navigate through their divorce. Sometimes, you might be their financial support during or after the divorce. Being the only shoulder to lean on can be stressful.
Your upbringing and your parent’s marriage are fundamental to who you are. Parents divorcing after 30 years can heavily impact your identity. You may experience feeling lost and having a struggle with your identity. The divorce can go as far as having you trying to redefine yourself.
The end of a long-term marriage can also have you questioning the institution of marriage. It can lead an individual to think they grew up with a lie.
How To Support Parents Divorcing After 30 Years
While experiencing parents’ divorce after 30 years can be emotionally taxing, it is essential to be there for them. Below are ways in which you can offer support without sabotaging yourself emotionally:
Respecting Their Choice
Keep in mind that your parents are an average couple with marital problems. While accepting can be challenging, remember that they can consciously decide to divorce. Avoid interceding on the decision; offer support and accommodation to their divorce.
Keep It Neutral
Regardless of whether you know the victim and the villain in the divorce, try to remain neutral. Avoid blaming one parent for the divorce. Also, avoid picking sides if one parent tries to persuade you to take sides. Staying neutral makes it possible to reduce stress and strain during the difficult situation.
Respect Their Privacy
While you want to be supportive, also respect your parents’ need for privacy. They may not like to share all the details of their divorce with you, and that’s okay. Allow them to disclose what they are comfortable with. Try not to interfere with their decisions on divorce matters such as property and finances.
Help With Transition
The transition during divorce can have a heavy impact on the parents. If one or both parents will be moving or facing significant life changes due to the divorce, offer assistance with the practical aspects of these transitions. You can assist in downsizing, finding a new place to live, or adjusting to a new routine.
How To Navigate Parent’s Divorce As An Adult
While supporting your parents is essential, remember to care for your life and well-being. Ensure you have a support system and engage in self-care activities to manage stress.
If you are experiencing emotional distress, such as panic attacks, depression, or anxiety, seek counseling to help navigate the emotions. If your parent’s divorce is toxic and hindering you from actively participating in your own life, you can choose to keep off.