My parents recently told my younger brother and me that they are getting a divorce. I didn't really see this coming. Even though I'm 24 and I have my own life, this is still really hard. I feel like my whole life growing up was a lie and I'm so sad for both of them - but I am also kind of angry. Why after all this time are they doing this? I feel kind of torn between them and I don't what to do. How do I handle this?
- Daughter of Divorce, 24, Atlanta
Dear Daughter of Divorce,
Your parents getting divorced at any age is going to be difficult so don't pressure yourself to be un-phased by this just because you are an adult. It's natural to have feelings of sadness, confusion, and anger. Make sure that you have a support system to help you through this time like friends, a counselor, a mentor, and/or a religious or spiritual advisor. Don't expect your parents to be able to make this "okay" for you -- understand this probably wasn't an easy decision for them either.
It's important to keep in mind that their divorce has absolutely nothing to do with you -- you did nothing to cause it and can do nothing to prevent it. What you have to focus on now is your own individual relationship with each of them. Love them through this process and know that they will always be your parents, even if you all aren't sitting around the holiday table together.
I caution you against talking about the divorce with either of them or listening to any type of "he said/she said." It's common for parents to want to vent to their children, especially if there is a lot of anger between the two of them. If one, or both, of your parents begins to talk to you too much about the other, or you feel like you are in a conversation where you are feeling pressured to pick sides, I encourage you to put a stop to it. Say something along the lines of, "Mom or Dad, I love you but it's really hard for me when you talk negatively about my other parent. Can we just talk about how you are doing instead?"
Any way you slice it, this situation is not easy -- you just have to get through it. Remember the good memories you had growing up as a nuclear family and be grateful that you had that experience for as long as you did. Your whole life has not been a lie; it's just going to be a little different moving forward than you planned on. And who knows, it may even be better . . . your parents could blossom into happier individuals.
One of my best friends since childhood has struggled with an eating disorder for years. We don't live in the same city but talk a lot and I make sure I ask her about her health and inquire about how things are going with her therapist to make sure she is okay. Sometimes she tells me the truth, but sometimes she doesn't and I find out about relapses through her roommate or mother. I just get so upset and worried about her and even frustrated. It's draining to be friends with her and I feel so bad I can't help her and I hang up the phone feeling just exhausted. I feel so selfish for even thinking this, but I am not getting anything from this friendship other than stress and sadness, should I cut it off?
- Troubled Friend, 26, Jacksonville
Dear Troubled Friend,
First I want to acknowledge your concern regarding your friend, it sounds like she is dealing with a disorder that's been part of her life for years. But you've been part of her life for years too and I am sure that you can look beyond her eating disorder to who she truly is. It seems like you are troubled because you are making her disease too much of the focus of your relationship.
From what you said, she has an involved roommate and a mother and sees a regular therapist so that means she has plenty of people who live near her that are looking after her. I'd encourage you to stop bringing up her health and the status of her disorder during your conversations. Talk to her about anything else, like work, dating or the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy. She is probably craving these types of "lighter" conversations and would look to your phone calls as a great source of relief.
Her eating disorder is not your responsibility, but being true to your own feelings is. Since talking about it causes you anxiety, take it off the list of topics during your talks. Call her roommate and mother and ask that you be informed if she relapses or needs additional support regarding her well-being. For now, focus on all the things you love about her and the connection you share. Allow her the opportunity to be a friend back to you as well which I have a feeling she will once she doesn't feel like she is the one with the "problem."
Girlfriends are a cherished commodity. Before you consider backing away from this one, try to recreate the dynamics of your relationship. If you do and you still feel like the friendship is too taxing on you, it may be time for a heart-to-heart with her. But I have a feeling if you stop worrying about her so much and trust she is in good hands, you'll remember all the reasons you became friends in the first place.
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