Breaking Up With the Family Can Be the Hardest Part
Posted by Maggie McGee for BounceBack.com
The answer to this question is like a pair of jeans: one size does not fit all.
After dating someone for an extended period of time, not only do you become integrated into his or her family and vice versa, often spending numerous holidays, vacations, and countless hours together, but you may also develop loving relationships and affections for your partner's loved ones.
Therefore, this question can be very tricky and many factors affect the appropriate reaction to your break up. Knowing your relationship and place within your ex's family is the biggest factor of them all. Other important factors include, how and why the breakup occurred, if there are children involved, and how your ex feels about you continuing the relationship with his or her relatives.
The Amicable Breakup
If your breakup was amicable, then yes it may be okay, but depending. If you and your ex are on "good terms" then it is okay to have relations with his or her family if the ex is aware and okay with it. For example, my brother, Matt, is engaged and we absolutely adore his fiancé, Jessie. She has been a part of our lives for five years. I asked my three siblings and mother how they would react if Matt and Jessie were (knock-on-wood) to decide that their relationship isn't working anymore. My siblings and mother unanimously agreed that they would want Jessie to stay in touch with them post-breakup.
I agreed because I already consider her one of my sisters. Therefore, if my brother were to break up with her, or vise versa, I would reach out not only to be there for him, but her as well. Of coarse, things would be different and us girls wouldn't go out shopping together anymore, but we would most definitely be in touch and delighted to see one another again. Even so, you must remember that staying in touch with your ex's loved ones is a constant reminder of your past relationship, and that eventually you may have to cut all ties to fully get over the breakup.
The Not-So Amicable Breakup
If, on the other hand, my brother's fiancé had done something that crushed him (e.g. cheated) and they were not on good terms, we would have to honor his wishes and keep our distance. Family loyalty was a concern for many of the individuals that I interviewed prior to writing this article.
I discovered the idea of family disloyalty when I asked my friend, Megan, her opinion on said topic. She responded by saying, "When I break up with you, you break up with my family too." Megan had broken up with a serious boyfriend of two and a half years and they completely stopped speaking. During their relationship, she introduced her boyfriend at the time to her cousin, and the two hit it off.
To her dismay she saw on a social networking site that, a few months later, her boyfriend went out for a night with her cousin without telling her. This upset her because she wasn't on speaking terms with her ex and was particularly close with her cousin. This is an example where it was not okay for her ex to have relations with her family because it upset her to a great extent. This situation may have been avoided if the ex had asked beforehand for the okay, so that she was not completely shocked, irritated, and dismayed upon seeing the interaction online.
When Children Are Involved
The answer to this question completely changes once children are brought into the picture. It is expected and completely fitting to have contact with your ex's family if you and your ex have children together. Numerous news outlets have reported on the negative effects that any kind of a divorce may have on a child. During this trying time, children need to see all members of their family. In this regard, staying in touch with your ex-spouse's family is critical for the well being of a child. You may need to contact your ex's family member regarding the child, which is totally okay and appropriate, even if you and your ex are struggling to stay cordial.
Related: Helping Your Children Understand Separation and Divorce
Everyone's situation varies and everyone has his or her own opinions on this topic. It is up to you to decide if it is appropriate or necessary to keep ties with your ex's family. Situations may get sticky at times, but using your best judgment is the only way to figure out the answer. What works for some does not for others and in the long run, no matter how much affection you may have for your ex's family, to truly get over the relationship you just might have to call it a quits with the family too. When children are in the picture, it may be best to stay in touch and friendly. Look at the factors and figure out what works best for you.
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Maggie McGee is a sister, a daughter, a friend, an observer, and a writer. Maggie is venturing into her senior year at SUNY Geneseo, studying English and minoring in Psychology.