How to Ask About a Parent’s Previous Marriage



Make a habit of chatting with your parent regularly.,
Share stories about your own life.,
Ask your parent questions about their past.,
Define your reasons for asking about your parent’s previous marriage.,
Lead into the conversation by talking about a more general topic.,
Listen without judging.,
Use “I” statements.,
Ask for advice.,
Keep the lines of communication open.

Tell your parent about interesting things that happen to you, and ask them how their day is going. You don’t have to talk about big, important topics. Little conversations, like telling a funny story or discussing what to have for dinner, can also help you keep the channels of communication open.If you don’t currently talk to your parent much, establishing this habit will probably take time. Be patient and persistent, and don’t try to force a connection too soon – let it happen naturally.
If you and your parent aren’t very talkative, or if you don’t live together, try establishing a connection by texting or emailing them more frequently.;
, Talk with your parent about things that happen to you at school, at work, or with friends. Sharing personal anecdotes will help your parent feel like they know you well, and it will make them more comfortable telling stories about their own life.Whether you’re a teenager living at home or an adult who moved out years ago, volunteering information about your life will help your parent feel like you care about staying in touch. This will make them more likely to return the gesture.

, Show your parent that you want to get to know them better by asking questions about where they grew up, their own parents, and other pieces of their history. Many kids show little interest in learning about their parents’ youth, so your mother or father will be flattered, and they may be more inclined to talk about their previous marriage too.For instance, you might want to ask your parent about what life was like when they were your age, how they got along with older family members you never knew, or what childhood events they remember most fondly. This can all set the stage for more intimate questions later on.

, Ask yourself what you hope to gain from this conversation. Also, clarify what you want to know. It will be easier to have a productive conversation if you plan out your questions ahead of time, so write down your thoughts.For instance, you might want to ask why your parent got married to their previous spouse, or how that marriage changed their life. Understanding your own motives fully will help you know which questions to ask and how to guide the conversation.
Find a good time and place to talk. Talk to your parent when both of you are relaxed and in a good frame of mind. Choose a quiet, private place to chat. Avoid talking to your parent when they’re stressed, unhappy, or busy with something else.For instance, you might decide to have the conversation during a quiet afternoon at home, or over lunch at your parent’s favorite restaurant.

, Approach the topic of your parent’s previous marriage by talking about something like marriage or families in general first. This will warm both of you up to the topic, and when you bring up the subject of your parent’s own marriage, the transition will seem less abrupt.For instance, after bringing up the topic of marriage, you could say something like, “What was your experience the first time you were married?”

, Depending on how they feel about their previous spouse, your parent’s earlier marriage might be a sensitive topic. Listen to them with empathy, and avoid saying anything critical or judgmental about their relationship or divorce.Avoid interrupting your parent as they talk, and ask thoughtful questions to ensure you understand their point of view.
Don’t be surprised if you have a lot of different feelings come up as you learn things about your parent’s past. It is common to get stuck seeing your parents as only “mom” or “dad.”

, Your parent may feel uncomfortable discussing their past, or may wonder what your motives are. You can reduce tension and prevent them from becoming offended by modifying your language. “I” statements are designed to let you take responsibility for your feelings or concerns without making your parent feel at fault.

For example, your parent may be worried that you will chastise them about getting a divorce. You can minimize the fault-finding by saying something like, “It’s hard for me to picture you having a life before this. I want to know you better–that’s why I’m asking.” This will go over much better than, “Wow, I can’t believe you hid this from me!” which sounds accusatory., When put on front-street about their past, some parents may shut down. One good way to encourage your parent to open up more is to ask for advice based on their own experience. Most parents are happy to share their hard-won wisdom, especially if their kids take the initiative in asking them to.If you ask for advice, don’t dismiss what your parent says. Listen with an open mind and thank them for sharing their thoughts, regardless of whether you agree or not.
You could say, “I really appreciate you talking to me about this. I want to learn more about you, and also want to learn from your experience.”

, There’s a chance your parent may refuse to discuss their previous marriage with you at first. They may have unresolved feelings about the relationship such as sadness or resentment. Rather than taking this refusal personally, encourage them that you are willing to talk if they ever change their minds.

You might say, “I guess I caught you by surprise when I brought this up. I understand if you feel uncomfortable talking about it. Like I said, I just want to learn about your earlier life. I’m here if you ever feel ready to discuss this.”

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