Post-divorce relationship reshuffling with ex’s family
DEAR MARIANN: After several decades of marriage, it ended a few years ago. During that time I was always very close to one of my ex-spouse’s family members. Now suddenly that has changed and I am saddened by the loss. What can I do?
MARIANN’S RESPONSE: First, my condolences concerning the end of your marriage and sudden loss of this valued friendship. Marriage is difficult enough, and a divorce is even more stressful and, at times, heartbreaking. Unfortunately relationships change, even when there is no marriage component. I have lost long-time friends for seemingly no reason, even after apologizing for something that might not have been my fault. Lives evolve especially when people live far away, and we become less connected with distance. You do not mention where this person resides, but geography might be a factor.
My guess is this person has been pressured by your ex-spouse to minimize or end their friendship with you. The old cliché of “blood is thicker than water” is the dominant theme in this scenario, especially when family members are expected to have ongoing relationships for the entirety of their lives together. Since you entered into the family via marriage versus birth, the “membership” rules change when a divorce occurs. Even though we might have dysfunctional family members, there is a certain level of tolerance we must have for our relatives, especially as the holidays approach, (which will probably merit a column just on that solo subject.) Once a divorce occurs within a family, all of the relationships are reshuffled and holidays reassessed as new parameters are established for how the members will interact, now that that the unifying bond, the marriage, has ended.
Please do not blame yourself for the loss of this friendship, which is easy to do but serves no positive purpose for you. Due to our electronic age of communication, rather than contacting this person via email or leaving a voice-mail, I would send a holiday or birthday card enclosed with a short, upbeat letter. It is much more difficult to dismiss a personalized note versus the quick deletion of an email in someone’s in-box or a message on an answering machine. Within that correspondence, mention that you “miss our times together and hope to renew the relationship at some point in the future.” After that, let go, and focus on other friendships which might fill the void or become a volunteer for a deserving organization. Let this person make the next move, allowing them to re-establish the connection with you, on their terms. This might occur when they are again comfortable seeing you, possibly when your ex-spouse is dating or has remarried, and not feeling so “caught in the middle.”
Mariann Main is a licensed counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Saturdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.