Divorcing When Your Spouse Doesn't Support Your Child


Divorcing When Your Spouse Doesn't Support Your Child

by Lana Halperin

My daughter came out to my husband and me last year. I love my daughter more than anything, but my husband hasn’t been handling it well and it’s been affecting our marriage. We’ve recently been talking about separating. How do I let my daughter know this isn’t her fault?
— Anonymous

Lana Says:

First of all, thank you for being so supportive of your daughter and continuing to love her through her coming out process. It’s always important to acknowledge that it can be difficult for some parents to understand, accept, and provide the necessary support and love to their child during this process.

If you and your husband do decide to separate and you are telling your daughter about this, the critical message to get across to her is that you’re not separating because of her, you are separating because you have reached the conclusion that you are not compatible as a couple.

I am no relationship expert, but it’s a common theory that longer-term relationships remain solid when there’s a strong foundation of shared values—“values” being those vital parts of you and core beliefs and rules that form who you are as a person. If your core values aren’t aligned, relationships can go awry when tested.

Your daughter came out and you and your husband had very different reactions. This is not an isolated incident. Your reactions are rooted in your values. Ultimately, if you hold such different views on issues that mean a lot to you (e.g. how to react when your daughter comes out to you), it’s a sign that your values have some fundamental differences. Going through this experience may have been a catalyst that exposed incompatible differences, but they were there all along and could just have easily revealed themselves in another scenario.

I don’t believe it’s unusual for some sort of change or life event to create a situation where you re-examine a relationship. This life event (and just time in general) has revealed information that has led you to the point where you may be separating. Now you are in the position to make a decision about whether you should stay together or if there would be too much compromise to continue the marriage.

So with all of that said, no matter the decision, it’s absolutely not your daughter’s fault, and you should tell her that. However, simply telling her that probably won’t go a long way toward changing her mind if she’s already jumped to that conclusion and is blaming herself.

Perhaps it will pay off to sit down with your daughter and have an open, honest conversation about the big picture that has led you and your husband toward separation. Everything I mentioned above would be worth explaining to your daughter. Be as transparent as possible to address the issue head-on and not leave her to fill in the blanks and assume the situation is largely her fault. Maybe it all won’t be much of a surprise to her, but it still could be a reassuring conversation to have for her sake so she isn’t as likely to blame herself.

I hope all goes well—good luck!

Lana Halperin is a 25 year old law graduate from Perth in Western Australia, currently living and working in Canberra (Australia’s largely forgotten, under-appreciated capital city). She recently helped establish a social network for LGBTQ young professionals in Canberra and will gladly talk for hours about musical theatre, reality television, ladies of comedy and/or her fondness for bicycles and trampolines.

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