Sasha Answers: Choosing sides in a divorce
Hi Sasha, my parents are getting divorced. It's actually my mom and stepdad, after 16 years of marriage, and as if it wasn’t painful enough, things are getting very ugly between them. My mom wants my brother and I to cut him out of our lives, my brother agreed. He never really liked our stepdad to begin with. But I don’t want to. When I told my mom I wanted to stay out of it, and keep seeing my stepdad, she told me “he’s not my biological father, but she gave birth to me”. I don’t think that’s fair. My stepdad has been more than a father to me than my dad ever was. I’m 21, and have celebrated 3 birthdays with my actual dad in my whole life; shows how much he cares about me. I have an amazing mom and a wonderful dad, and I just don’t see why I should have to lose one. They’re getting divorced from each other, not me… am I being an asshole? Thanks, C.
This is one of the sh-ttiest causalities of divorce – having to choose, or rather being forced to choose between the splitting couple, in this case your parents. I’m so sorry that you’ve been put in this situation.
C, rest assured you’re not the asshole in this; if I’m being honest the asshole title goes to your mom. She’s making a big mistake by telling you pick a side, and the only reason she's doing it is because - as I'm sure you understand - she's hurt. The problem though is she's not taking into account that you’re hurting too.
So C, the first thing that needs to happen is an honest conversation. Tell her exactly what you said to me, and explain how this divorce is affecting you. I’m not saying it will change her mind right away, but it’s important for her to realize there is some common ground and that you are both in pain.
Right now, both of you need to stock up on some emotional tools to support each other, and another battle or fight in the family is the last thing you both need, capiche? So it’s in your best interest to keep the relationship with your mom healthy and intact; this goes for your step-dad too. C, this means reach out and let him know how you're feeling as well. Just talk it out – no harm, no foul.
Look, this process isn't going to be fun. It's going to suck and there will be a lot of raw emotions to deal with, but in time there will certainly be a new normal. So while it feels like a sh-t storm now, as a child of divorce, I promise you the drama will subside.
In the meantime, don’t think you have to run around trying to fix your parents and their relationship. My advice to you right now is to stay out of it as much as possible, and let your parents settle their own differences. As for your step-dad, don't step up your interactions with him, but don't step away from them either. Tell him you are there for him if he needs you, and that you are just trying to keep to yourself and stay out of the fray during the divorce.