Break-up & Loss

Don’t wait to tell your parents about your divorce. Keeping them informed will bring them closer towards acceptance

How and when do you break the news to your parents that you are going to get a divorce?
man talking with mother

Helping parents accept your divorce

If you’ve waited until the last moment to tell your parents that you are divorcing, you are springing an unwelcome surprise on them.

As hard as delivering bad news is—which is why we tend to postpone it—receiving bad news is hard too.

To help them accept

Two patients were facing cancer with little hope for cure, narrates The Anatomy of Hope. The first patient realised only during her last days that her cancer was terminal and that her physician hadn’t informed her. She was dismayed and filled with regret.

The second patient’s physician, on the other hand, had kept her informed all along. This lady passed on with acceptance.

Similarly, keeping your parents informed of trouble in your marriage can bring them closer towards acceptance when you decide to divorce.

Nita’s parents knew of her troubled marriage and in the end, it was her mother who stayed with her for a few weeks and took her back home when Nita was ready to move out.

I need to confess that I hadn’t done it myself and although Dad stood by me with a stoic and supportive, “The decision’s yours and we’re here to fully support you,” many parents have taken weeks or months to accept the fact.

Related reading: How do I announce my divorce among friends?

When there’s trouble, talk

So, the time to talk to parents is when there’s real trouble in the marriage—the chronic troubles or the deeply hurtful incidents—not the small tiffs.

Bharti, who put off telling her parents that her marriage was deeply troubled, later found that her father had given money to her husband to build the long-pending house. He had believed he was doing it for his daughter.

Mita believed in keeping trouble under wraps, and when the news of her troubled marriage came out, it exploded, as it tends to, since by then both spouses are at the end of their patience. The parents took months to accept it and after many stressful conversations for Mita.

women sad
Representative Image source

What’s your elevator speech?

Commonly called the elevator pitch, Wikipedia will tell you that it’s about getting your point across within the span of an elevator ride, usually thirty seconds to two minutes. It contains the what, why,and how—the present, past, and future—in that order.

It’s important to convey these, since we seem to need a framework to cope with bad news:

  • That you are divorcing
  • The key reason (not a blame game)
  • Your next steps

We falter at the key reason since we mix emotions with facts, so here are examples of how to get the facts across:

“We have been through terrible financial stress, Krishna hasn’t kept a job in five years and I can’t deal with it any more. I am moving out.”

“I’ve had an extramarital relationship. I regret it. We’ve tried working past it, but Kiran is unable to cope with it. I am moving out.”

Related reading: 15 most common reasons for divorce

Try not to be disappointed with their response

Receiving bad news is hard. It can take a few weeks to months for it to sink in. There’s a thing or two we can learn from doctors, the reluctant conveyors of bad news to patients.

The “bad news” conversation, stresses Thomas J. Smith, director of palliative medicine at the Johns Hopkins Institutions in Baltimore, needs to be more than one conversation. “When you give a bad diagnosis, they don’t hear anything [anyone says] for the next three weeks anyway. They are stunned.”

Give them time and your patience.

breakup and loss

Make room for their suffering

Accept the fact that they are in pain. It helps to get past the thought, “I’m the one suffering here!”

Sometimes, you get to occupy all the suffering space. Sometimes you need to make room for theirs. When you do so without getting consumed by their suffering, you turn stronger, more resilient, and empathetic.

They will have questions—whether you’ve made all efforts to retain the marriage. Who has caused the rift. What happened after that…

If these turn out to be draining rather than emotionally supportive conversations, don’t get drawn in.

Step back from “If you had done this or not done that” discussions.

Remember that, above all, they’d like to know that you are okay.

Remember that, above all, they’d like to know that you are okay.

Your course of action and their help

They’d want to know how you’ll handle your future. And the children’s future. Address these questions, since they serve a purpose.

Usually, your plans at this stage are not clearly outlined. I had the vague knowledge that we’d stay with my sister-in-law for a few months until I was completely sure that a divorce was the only way.

After that, I knew that my child and I would move into a house of our own and that we’d continue to stay in the city we were in.

Broad outlines are good enough and they are necessary.

Your parents will want to help. Tell them what you need, rather than leave them guessing—finances, home to stay in, help with children, legal help, and so on.

While it will give your parents a degree of mental stability in the uncertain circumstances, you will receive what you need.

Essentially, it’s not about how you convince your parents, but about the kind of conversations you have with them and the space you give them that leads them towards acceptance.

My parents announced their divorce in the middle of my final exams and drag me into their fight daily

How I prepared myself and my kids for a divorce

How to remain sane during a divorce

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3 Comments

  1. My friend was going through this very same issue. not being able to tell her parents about the real status of her marriage. Forwarded this to her…!

  2. Divorce is no longer a strictly “Say No” topic in Indian households. So, as said here, taking the advice, help and support of your parents is essential in order to sail through the phase in a better and smooth manner.

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