How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles can make a huge difference, often for the worse. I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple
Part 3 of 5 HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Divorce
1. Don’t be afraid to mess up. There are no rules for how to divorce with élan. No common divorce rituals, rites of passage, no playbook for those of us left with loyalty issues and sore hearts for our friends’ broken love. It’s understandable to be a bit nervous around divorce – it’s a death and there’ll be grief and loss. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open with your friends. This is particularly important if there are children (see Post 4). But in any case stay connected, however imperfectly, so your friends know they are not alone.
2. Don’t rush back to “normal.” Just because the death of a marriage doesn’t end with a funeral doesn’t mean your divorcing friends are not in a state of grief and loss. Most likely the divorced couple will have lost their home, savings, shared past, future hopes, family unit, in-laws, photo albums, lifestyle, trust in the permanency of love, and often a huge helping of self-respect. It takes time to come back from all this. The divorced partners are now off on separate journeys of recovery and it won’t help to rush them. It may take years before your friend becomes the old familiar playful, funny, unselfish character you once knew. Allow your friendship to evolve – as it will.
3. Do remind them of “normal.” Sometimes the last thing your friend wants is to discuss the divorce. Great – provide them with the distractions they seek. This is a good time for you to complain, seek their advice, ask for their help, take up Hot Yoga, start a diet, and generally show them that life is big and wide and has a place for them even when they’re not quite ready to engage 100%.
4. Sort out your own feelings. Remember, this is not your divorce. While it might seem as though your friend/relative wants you to dislike (hate?) their ex as much as he or she does, you may not. It might be this “ex” is the mother or father of your grandchildren; how can you hate them? It might be you have loved this person and are sad to be losing them from the family or friendship circle. How you negotiate your relationship with someone who is divorcing out of your community is up to you. You can stay in touch and love them as before. You may just have to do this separately for a while.