Coping with Unsupportive Family Members

Divorce is believed to be the second most stressful event in a person’s life. The first being the death of a spouse. It can be even more difficult when your family members are taking your husband’s side or are constantly criticizing you. Coping with unsupportive family members during divorce adds more anger, sadness and guilt to the emotional roller coaster that you are already on.

Unsupportive family members may take his side during the divorce. They may believe the lies and propaganda he has spread around town about you. This is especially true when he is a highly respected citizen of the community. He knows how to weave his lies and make everyone believe that he is the victim and that you are some lunatic. You may have your parents telling you, to be nicer to him, or that you just don’t understand him. They may even ask you why you did the things that he accuses you of and not believe you when you say that it never happened.

They are choosing to believe the gossip. They are choosing to believe the lies. They might even be partners with your husband in order to get you to do whatever it is that he wants you to do. They might lie about you in court. When all of this happens, you might begin wondering why your parents are against you, when they are supposed to be the ones that give you unconditional love. They should be on your side, no matter what, but they are threatening to cut you off. You feel alone and may be even more confused than you have ever been.

On the other hand, unsupportive family members may simply just emit anger towards you. They may not be on his side, but they definitely are not on your side either. They have absolutely no sympathy for what you are going through. When they see you, they tell you to do things like, “get over it,” “just stop crying,” “stop acting like a child,” “I told you so,” or “It’s your own dammed fault.” They may perceive you as being difficult to get along with.

Take a step back and separate your relationship with these unsupportive family members from your divorce. These are actually two different situations that need to be dealt with separately. Lumping them together creates pain that is almost unbearable.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this the core personality of your unsupportive family members?
  • What happened in their own lives to make them so bitter and angry?
  • Do they have a strong belief that divorce is never an option?
  • Did your mother persist in a long term abusive relationship and find it normal, therefore thinking you should do the same?
  • Does your father see a divorced woman as tainted, and therefore in his own mind he is trying to protect you?
  • Are they often negative and critical of everything you do and say? (Have they always been?)
  • Do they feel that your so called “failed” marriage is a reflection of them?

As you are asking yourself these questions you are pulling the attention away from your feelings and onto theirs. Realize that the answers to all of these questions are in correlation to the issues your unsupportive family members have. They are not your issues. It is up to them whether or not to deal with them. Ultimately it is their business, not yours. Your business is the way you cope with your own feelings.

Tips on Coping with Unsupportive Family Members during Divorce

    1. Tell your unsupportive family members that you do not appreciate their actions. Be strong as you tell them that they are not welcome in your life if they continue to ignore your feelings.


    1. Limit the time you spend with them. You can do this by only spending an hour a month or every other month with them. Another way to limit your time is by making the decision to leave as soon as they start saying nasty and mean things to you. Simply, stand up and say, “I have to go now.” This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and to be true to yourself. Especially because most of us were taught to respect our parents and to sit there and listen to what they say. However, you are not a child any more. You are an adult and your parents need to respect you as well.


    1. You may have to choose to cut all, or most of the ties with unsupportive family members. This is especially true when they are blatantly 100-percenrt on your husband’s side.


    1. As hard as it is, learn to ignore what your unsupportive family members are saying. Persist with following your heart and doing what feels right for you. If you live your life based on other people’s values, beliefs and opinions, you will never find happiness.


    1. Accept that you cannot and will never change your unsupportive family members. They are who they are. You do not need to like it and there really is no rule that says you must communicate with them x amount of hours, if at all. Search your heart and find what you will be able to live with. Remember, you can always change the boundaries you set. If today the boundary is no contact, it doesn’t mean this will be your choice a year from now.


Seek out support groups, church leaders, friends, a therapist or a trusted life coach to give you the support and encouragement that you need to endure this difficult period in your life.

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