The Ripple Effect
By Gail B. Nunn
Divorce is very tough on the family, and there is a ripple effect. You move from a one house family to a two house family. Your children may acquire step-parents and step-siblings or half-siblings. But beyond their nuclear families, are their extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grand-parents. The divorce has a ripple effect on all those people and on the relationship your child has with those people.
Recently I was gratified when my ex-husband’s niece reached out to me as she planned to relocate from the mid-west to my home town area of Seattle. It brought to mind the questions about who makes up our extended “family”. In her mind, I’m still her aunt even though the blood relative uncle has remarried, even though I haven’t seen her in 8 years, even though she lives 3,000 miles away from me.
When you get divorced you lose your spouse. You don’t have to lose his/her family too and your children do not have to lose those relationships. It “takes a village” is a well-known phrase, even cliché’ perhaps. However, the ties forged during the marriage do not have to be totally undone. How wonderful for your children if they can talk freely about their grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins no matter on which side of the family those folks happen to fall. How wonderful for you if you can rely on these folks for day care, babysitting, birthday party attendees, etc.
Those “ex” family member may miss you. You were their family. Now you are not? How does that work? You’re divorced so you never again talk to your mother-in-law or favorite sister-in-law? Using collaborative law process to get divorced can help heal your family beyond its borders to the extended family more quickly and keep everyone more connected.
A few summers ago, I traveled to visit my 94 year old former mother-in-law. She is a wonder feisty woman who was my mother-in-law for 21 years. She is the grandmother to my children and the great grandmother to my grandchildren. I delight in our continued relationship and am so grateful she decided to stay connected to me. My divorce was over 15 years ago, but my ex-husband’s family became my family and are still my “family”. I’m took my daughter and two her great grandchildren, one of whom she has not yet met. Pretty exciting stuff.