Here's how to have that difficult conversation with extended family about your divorce

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Experts say the end of a marriage is a loss and it's okay to grieve it.
Experts say the end of a marriage is a loss and it's okay to grieve it.
Klaus Tiedge

Nobody gets married to get divorced, but sometimes life serves curve balls, forcing people make changes they never thought they’d have to make.

Divorce can be one of those hard choices one has to make. And while dealing with that, they may have to deal with questions from concerned or prying relatives.

Imagine going home for the holidays and have aunts or uncles asking where your significant other is.

Mandisa Malange, a social worker in private practice, says people need to set boundaries and family members need to learn to respect those boundaries and not make things about themselves.

“A divorce is a loss and people who go through it are allowed to grieve the end of the marriage like any other loss they grieve. This may result in going through the different stages of grief.

“I would say the right way to handle this is that a person only speaks about it when they are ready. You cannot allow an external person to dictate to you when you should share such a big part of you.”

She says family members are not entitled to anything.

Read more | 'I have accepted no valid marriage was entered into' - Somizi explains 'divorce' and payment of legal fees

“We share what we want to share with whoever we want to share it with. Therefore, family members cannot be upset or take it personally when a person chooses to come home without someone they used to be married to.

“If you want to take the cultural route, [you] say the family was involved in the beginning stages of the marriage, therefore they need to be involved now. I’d say the relationship started privately before the couple chose to involve their families for wedding preparations, so even if the marriage ends, it is still up to you to choose when you are ready to share information with family.

“Remember, some people may have questions that even you yourself do not have answers to. So there is no need to subject yourself to that kind of pressure when you are not ready yet. The simple answer to a question about where your ex-partner is would be ‘I’d prefer not to talk about that’ and that would then close the conversation,” she says.

Unisa’s Dr Joshua Ndlela says marriage and divorce are different in the African context than any other race.

“In the African context, marriage is a different concept compared to the west. While divorce is a painful and traumatic experience, it does not only affect the married couple and their immediate family. It is not just a disruption to their family unit, but to the family at large.

“When a couple gets married, it is not only them that are joined, but their families too. They stop being two families, but they become one. They are connected too.”

He says the older generations need to be managed too, as they will also need to know how to relate with the other family now that the two people who joined them are no longer together.

Read more | 6 important questions to ask before marriage from a divorcée

“The divorce threatens the sustainability and the stability of the two families, and it can cause havoc. In the African context, marriage is also seen as a sign of maturity. It shows decisiveness, consistency and commitment to growing the family and procreation. Marriage plays a central role in shaping families and society at large.”

He says there is no way one can have a divorce without the extended family members knowing.

“In the African context, you do not just get divorced without getting the families involved to try sort out whatever issues you have. The family must be on the same page regarding why you have come to the decision to divorce. This is not to say they must a make a decision for you whether you stay or you go, but they must be involved.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R29 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to SNL24
Show Comments ()