Divorcing Your Family

Keli Goff wonders when it’s acceptable to cut a close relative out of your life:

January has long been considered the most popular month for divorces with many unhappy spouses ready to make a fresh start after faking it through the holidays for the sake of the kids or other family members. But what if the dysfunctional relationship in your life isn’t with your spouse, but with another family member? Is January a good time to consider divorcing a sibling, parent or other family member who makes you miserable?

While divorce is widely accepted today there remains a stigma around ending a relationship with other family members, often no matter how egregious their behavior. I was reminded of this just before the holidays when on a recent episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass, megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes chastised two sisters who had not spoken in years. The reason for the estrangement:

one sister tried to engage in an affair with the other’s boyfriend but was caught before the relationship was consummated. The sister in question had never apologized to her sibling for this transgression. Yet for some reason Jakes seemed under the impression that having this woman out of her life was a major loss for the sister whose boyfriend the other one had tried to shag and insisted they reconcile. But the question I kept asking is: why?

Why should this woman want a person she cannot trust and has shown her no remorse or empathy to remain in her life? What benefit is there in such a relationship? Jakes insisted on the importance of blood, which seems an odd reasoning to focus on when it comes to defining what constitutes a worthwhile relationship, particularly since we live in a society in which there are plenty of strong, healthy adoptive families who do not define family along bloodlines.