It could be obvious. It could be a shock. Either way, your parents getting divorced in your 20s makes life way more complicated.
It can feel like the end to something essential, a brutal blow to your family. Whether it’s amicable or acrimonious, being a child of divorce can force you to fight guilt and other feelings.
To some people in their 20s, it looks like there isn’t much sympathy for them when it happens.
Your life is supposed to be together at that stage, and yet the divorce can leave you shaken. If your parents divorce when you’re just a little kid, that becomes your normal.
But if you’re pregnant, or engaged, or about to get interviewed for a job, your parents’ drama guarantees unrest that you do not need.
You might wonder why it took so long for your parents to call it quits, remembering days when things didn’t quite seem right like they were hiding something.
But if they really don’t love each other anymore, divorce is healthier than staying in a bad marriage.
You have to find the silver lining and deal with it.
Handling Your Parents Divorce In Your 20s
Prepare For Changes
While roped up in the proceedings of the divorce, you shouldn’t neglect to think about the changes that are coming.
Denial is the first stage of grief and trust me – divorce is grief! Your are grieving the death of a relationship, the death of how life was, there are a lot of emotions during this time.
Start thinking ahead of how to handle future events with grace.
For example, if you or any siblings are going to celebrate their birthday, consider how your parents fit in now.
Holidays and get-togethers that your parents would have been involved in may become awkward.
Are they on good terms? Would you have to have to throw two parties, F.R.I.E.N.D.S-style?
Your relationship with your extended family could also be changing depending on who took who’s side. (My best piece of advice is to NOT take sides – More on this later)
Long after the breakup, people may come to you as some kind of mediator, a role you’re uniquely qualified for but which comes with unfair pressure.
There are ups and downs to all of this and a lot of emotionally charged decisions to make.
If you don’t set aside time to really hammer out your approach, you could get overwhelmed by important events in your family life.
Manage Your Emotions
The divorce may well batter you with a flurry of feelings. Whether you expected or wanted your parents to split up, brace for a different status quo.
It’ll be easy to tell yourself that you’re too old to be broken up about it, but if you deny your emotions you can’t move on.
Whatever your age, it’s valid to experience confusion, dread, regret, anger, and more.
Friends and family might not know exactly what to say, but bouncing thoughts off them can help you process the breakup.
Getting an explanation from both parents can ground things, though it may be hard to hear. Not every divorce is simple, with victims and villains.
So don’t get melodramatic, jump to conclusions, or say things you’ll regret.
Don’t be petty and fight with either parent. Chances are they’ve got their own inner turmoil.
Which brings me to my next point…
A lot of people say there is no such thing as a ‘no-fault divorce’ and someone always hold the blame for the end of the relationship.
I won’t argue against or for that statement, but I want to remind you that a relationship takes two.
It can be easy to villainize one parent for something they’ve done, but neither side is perfect.
Whatever happened between them is unfortunate but try to remain as neutral as possible in these tough situations.
Getting dragged into their problems will just cause you more pain and grief!
Handle With Care
One thing that’s sure to happen during a divorce is that your parents will probably want your counsel and comfort. Being in your 20s, they’ll confide in you, ask for advice, and so on.
It’s a burdensome dynamic but be encouraged that they trust you and like being around you.
If they tell you things you barely believe, or they sound like they’re falling apart at the seams, it can make you look at your shared past harshly.
You might wonder about a lot of things, like why they didn’t talk about their problems, whether they were sad when they seemed fine, and whether they stayed together for your benefit.
That sort of thinking can gnaw away at good memories, so cut your parents a little slack. When one is a parent, the decision to shield kids can seem perfectly reasonable.
If they kept you out of the loop, they were probably genuinely afraid of damage they could do to you.
They may not have always made the right call, but you can talk about that respectfully.
Where you don’t need to cut them slack is in setting boundaries. You have to be clear that there’s only so much you can hear about the gory details.
Your parents may want to unload years-old anecdotes and feelings of anger that you’ll find painful to stomach.
That is not good for you, so you need to explain that listening to this stuff about someone you love is too much. They must have friends and family that are better equipped to handle certain information.
It also wouldn’t be good for your parents to use you as a back-and-forth messenger between them, particularly if you’re being encouraged to take sides.
These sorts of situations are complicated, so staying neutral will tend to be best for your mental health.
The last thing you want is resentment that makes you gang up on one of your parents with the other, egged on by angry rants and misremembered stories.
If there’s an unresolved tension between your parents, let them take care of it.
Look At Things From Their Perspective
Something that’ll help you empathize with your parents is to remember everyone has their own needs.
You might be mad and hurt about the disruption brought to your life, but you have to think of it from a “better late than never” perspective.
Being in a romantic relationship and wanting to end it creates a suffocating feeling. A person senses that they’re losing time like their life is being sucked right out of them.
A dead relationship just can’t be prolonged, and you have to rip that bandage off eventually.
Even though it would’ve been better if your parents had gotten around to it sooner, stay positive.
For them, it’ll be a relief that they’re not together anymore. Contemplate all the positive ways they can grow and branch out.
They can go to new places, take new risks, and find new love. If they do enter new relationships, it can be pretty uncomfortable for you and your family at first.
You’ve got to support them and their new partners though because that’s the only way to move on.
Relax and let your parents be who they are.
Otherwise, the memory of their old marriage will haunt you for eternity.
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