At one time you were one big happy family – or not. But, now you’re divorced and you’re going to have to come to terms with how to go forward. Is your favorite sister-in-law still your friend? Do both mothers think the divorce was a big mistake or is one of them cheering? Relationships are tricky at any time, but after a divorce they can become a maze filled with landmines.
You have to decide. You may get hurt. You may be welcomed. But, it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to handle a new family – one made up of ex-in-laws, an ex-spouse and your own family and relatives. Here are 5 things to consider.
1. Know everyone’s expectations. You’ve always spent Christmas afternoon with Grammy and Pops, your ex-husband’s mother and father. Now what? Are the kids still invited? Are you still invited? And, what about Easter morning when both clans have gathered at your home to greet the Easter Bunny. Do you still invite everyone? Will they come? It’s a good idea if you and your spouse can discuss these things during the process of the divorce and reach an agreement. You’ll both have to be knowledgeable about how your own families feel. There is no sense in trying to have that Easter party if you know that your own mother can’t be civil. Many times holidays are addressed as part of custody agreements so if the joint celebration is out of the question, at least you’ll know who goes where and when.
2. Use technology. It’s a big help after a divorce. Send an email to that sister-in-law you really like and ask if you can continue the friendship – make discussing anything about your ex off bounds and, ditto, for bringing up the new man or woman in your life. Send another email to the grandparents (they’re not ex’s) and tell them you’d like them to continue in not just your children’s lives but in your life. Email allows the person to say yes, no or simply ignore you and you’ll get the hint.
3. Know your own motives. And, keep them pure. If you’re pushing for a joint get together with your ex’s family because you want your children to continue to enjoy their grandparents – that’s good. If you’re having lunch with one of your ex-family members because you truly enjoy them – that’ good, too. However, if you’re planning on getting everyone together so your ex will look across that crowded room and want to get together again, it’s not going to work for anyone.
4. Expect (and create) distance. It’s not the same. Accept it. Too close is too close. You are going to want to move on. Your ex is going to want to move on. The families need to move on, too. Try to explain to your new significant other that you always spend a lot of time with your ex’s family and it may put a damper on the relationship. You all are walking a new path so allow for some distance.
5. Be prepared to be rejected or hurt. The old saying that blood is thicker than water is often true. Your ex’s family may feel that the best way to support him or her is by cutting you out of their lives then you have to accept it. They may resent you or something you have done. If it’s something you’ve done and an apology will fix it, apologize. If they simply don’t want to have anything to do with you, you may feel hurt but you’re going to have to accept it.
One of the best ways to lay the foundation for a good after-divorce is to make your divorce as amicable as possible. One key to that is finding a good, experienced divorce attorney who can protect all of your rights and, at the same, time help the two of you work out your differences with as little anger and angst as possible. A good divorce attorney will help you be prepared to start a new life and help you build a foundation for the future.