Gray Divorce Revolution, the phenomenon which referred to couples getting divorced in their 50s, doubled between 1990 and 2010. It was the inspiration behind the book “Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce”. The book unveiled the struggles of adults dealing with their older parents’ divorce, shedding light on adulthood traumas that may get overlooked due to our sharper focus on younger children affected by divorce.
Like a child, an adult’s life will also take a drastic turn when their parents split up. After all, their age never changed their idea that their family will always be together. They may be even be looking up to their parents for maintaining their marriage for so long. So when the news of their divorce gets broken to them, they will feel as if they’ve been lied to all their lives. Some may resort to self-blame, feeling like their parents only stayed together for the sake of them as children.
Below are the changes gray divorce can forge in your life:
1. Your Parents Will Lean on You For Emotional Support
Because you’re a grown-up, your parents expect you to be more understanding of their ordeal. Some parents may even overshare, making you feel like you have to choose sides. In this scenario, experienced family lawyers and family caregiving experts recommend setting boundaries. As much as you love your parents, you are not their therapist. Use firm but respectful language to set boundaries, even if you have to resort to an ultimatum. It’s the best you can do to keep your relationships with both parents healthy.
2. You May Have to Provide Financial Support
When one parent moves out of their home, they will have nowhere to go to, unless they have the means to rent a place. But in usual cases, they’d end up in your care. If they don’t have a job, you have to support them financially too, in addition to giving them your home.
If your parents’ home is mortgaged, one of them should refinance to remove one spouse’s name from the loan. But for that procedure to succeed, the house should appraise well. This may compel you to spend on repairs, home improvement, and other fixes that will boost the home’s value. Though you are, by all means, not required to do this, being a child of gray divorce puts you in a unique position, in which providing financial aid is the least you can do to help your parents.
3. Family Gatherings Will Never Be the Same Again
Before your parents’ divorce, you spent all Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Easter holidays together. You might have celebrated their birthdays with them as well. But after the divorce, you or your parents would now host two separate celebrations. This setup, however, may cause problems because one parent may feel jealous if you put them second. Your children may get confused too on why there are suddenly two separate gatherings, with their grandparents apart.
You might never find an easy way to carry out family gatherings without hurting the other parent, but nonetheless, arrive at an agreement that will benefit everyone. As long as show both parents your equal love and care, you’ve already done your best.
4. Your Parents May Find a New Partner
Seeing your parents find a new partner can hit you harder as an adult, since all your life, you believed that their marriage will last forever. As much as it pleases you to see them happy again, you may regard their new partner as an interloper in your family. If you feel this way, it’s completely fine and normal.
You may act hostile, cold, or avoidant toward your parent’s new partner. You may also feel like you’re betraying your other parent by becoming friendly to your potential step-mom or dad. But though putting up an attitude is unfair, you have let yourself feel your emotions, because that’s how you’d adjust. Give it time, and give your potential step-parent a chance. Eventually, you’d warm up to them, and you can also create a strong bond.
5. You Will Heal
The pain of dealing with your parents’ divorce shall pass. The journey will be rocky, and you’d feel like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions many times. But one day, you’d just find yourself doing better than yesterday. Seek professional help if you need to. You are a part of the family too, so your feelings also matter as much as your parents.
If you’ve recently become a child of a gray divorce, you’re surely overwhelmed, disoriented, and trapped in a mix of emotions. When your new situation begins to sink in, use the pain to move forward and to prepare for the life changes you’ll face.