Divorce causes problems for more people than just ex-husband and wife. In most cases, family members are also involved to some degree. Probably the most common scenario is that husband’s family sides with him, and wife’s family sides with her. Because there are so many varied perceived wrongs, the differences between the families that already existed become more and more pronounced and, sometimes, result in estrangement.
If you don’t have kids, no one cares. You don’t have to be friends after divorce, and your families don’t have to get along. Sure, it’s probably nicer for everyone involved if you and your families can make peace with the situation so that no one ends up yelling at anyone else in an aisle at the Harris Teeter, but, really, it’s totally up to the people involved.
When, however, there are children involved, the situation becomes tense and more emotionally charged. Though one side hates the other side, in most cases the families are at least united in their love for the child, combined with a strong feeling that the child MUST see the “reality” of the situation. The child needs to understand why there is a “right family” and a “wrong family”—and, ultimately, choose.
I’ve heard really heartbreaking stories about how children are frequently used as pawns in the family drama. It is damaging and unnecessary to inform them of the source of the strife or, even worse, to ask them to choose sides.
Divorce hurts a lot of people, and it sometimes takes years and years to get over the pain caused by the split. For the people involved and their families, there is a sense of loss and a period of mourning. Even worse than that, there are hurt feelings, anger, resentment, embarrassment, and misunderstanding. In many cases, these bridges are burned and can never be rebuilt. That part is understandable.
Still, if you are the parent, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, niece, or nephew of a child of divorce, it is your obligation to behave as lovingly towards that child—whether actually a child or a grown person—as you did before. If you really are the “right” family, the child will see it eventually. In most cases, though, the child loves the other side unconditionally, too. The child is already a sort of an intermediary between enemy encampments, and that can’t be easy. Don’t make it any harder.