Tag Archives: Friendship

Dating Again, Post Divorce

OK friends, last in a 5 part series on how to be a friend when your friends have affairs, separate and divorce.  This one’s about what to do when they are ready to get back on the dating scene.

Part 5 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Are Dating Again

1. Invite your single friends over. Yes, you miss the good old times when you and your sweetie hung out with your friend and his or her “ex.” However, this can be a refreshing shift for your friendship. After divorce, most people shake loose some old behaviours and beliefs: Who is this person now? Invite your newly single friends over with other couples. It’s good for them to cross that hurdle of “odd one out amongst couples ” with someone they know and trust.  When possible, try to connect with both sides more or less evenly. Maybe play sports with one, but have dinners with the other. It’s all good.

2. Be careful with the matchmaking already. Sure it’s tempting! Especially if you’ve watched the death of your friends’ love over the past years and have longed for their happiness. 2 good reasons to slow this down:

  1. If your friends are to avoid a rebound disaster, they’ll need time to figure out who they are now, post divorce. Rather than urging more coupling, try championing some single time. Some “getting to love and enjoy my own company” time. This might be a long overdue developmental stage for your friend – support it!
  2. If you are friends to both, think how it will seem to the friend whom you do not “fix up” with a match? What’s she then – chopped liver?

3. Ask if and how your friends want your “feedback.” Talk to your friend about what they want next. Some self-discovery single time? Great – support that. Some dating-as-self-discovery? Great – support that too. But, have a conversation with your friend about what to do if you see warning signs. What if you don’t like the new friend, after genuinely trying? What if you see behaviors that look dangerous to you? Maybe your friend’s new partner strikes you as controlling, vindictive, or insincere? If your friend asks for your honest opinion, clarify some ground rules. Having an upfront conversation increases the odds these tough chats later will be possible and useful.

4. Watch and Learn – my friend. You may be surprised at your feelings when your divorced friend finally falls in love again with someone wonderful, and their romance, wedding, new home and fresh start make your 15+ year relationship seem dowdy and stale. Even the horror off sharing kids with the “ex” now has a bright side; alternating kid-free weekends! If you feel more jealousy than relief at all this newness, it’s time to clean up your own house.  What do you and your partner need to stay new, alive and in love?

Your Friend’s Divorce

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.

Your Friend’s Separation

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles makes 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 2 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Separate

1. Be a neutral-zone. Even if you feel strongly in favour of one partner over the other it’s not helpful to act this out as prosecutor or defense. Just listen and try to be supportive by telling your friend how sorry you are that he or she is having this experience.  Don’t badmouth one person to the other – not only is it unhelpful, but there’s always the chance they might get back together again. Don’t ever volunteer to be the “go-between.”  While it might seem neutral, this perpetuates dreadful behaviour and fosters jealousy.  If the separated partners want to talk, they can do so directly, or in therapy.

2. Offer tangible, practical help. If your friends are separating, one, other or both of them will be living with less stuff. Does someone need bedding, kitchen ware, extension cords or a lamp?  If your friend used to rely on his or her spouse to help with dry cleaning, car troubles, elderly parents or the pets, can you step in instead?  Sleuth out which day or night is toughest on your friend and show up with dinner. Be willing to talk about anything, e.g,(“Can I survive on this budget?” or “Shall I shave my head, drop 10 kg, and  re-do my wardrobe?” Listen. Ask questions. See if you can get them laughing at their predicament – occasionally.

3. Stay alert for severe reactions. Whatever the cause of a separation, this is a massively unstable time. Feelings and behaviour will be all over the map and you may be frightened by your friends’ oscillating mood swings. Just show up. Love your friend unconditionally even if they are making poor choices. If you suspect your friend is severely depressed be willing to discuss suicidal thoughts. If she / he has a concrete plan (I’ll take an overdose) and has the means for completing this plan (I’ve been hoarding my pills for two years and have more than enough) ask  “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being you don’t want to make it through the night, where are you?” If your friend has the means to carry out a suicide and is over a 3 or 4, get professional help.

4. Get your friend helping others. A pity-party is a lonely affair. If your friend is wallowing, get them thinking of someone else. You need them to walk your dog; the neighbour needs house-plants watered; animal rescue needs someone to love the kittens. Obviously, if there are children involved, this will look very different.  See Part 4.

Your Friend’s Affair

While the number of couples getting divorced (or ending their civil or de facto unions) is down a bit in New Zealand from over 12 per 1000 married couples in the late 1990s to below 9.8 per 1000 married couples in 2011,  most of us are touched at some point by the divorce, separation or infidelity of a friend or relative.

How friends and relations react when a couple is in crisis makes 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 1 of 5 HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ An Affair Strikes

While it can make a difference to how you feel about your friend if you know whether they are the unfaithful or the hurt partner in an affair, the following tips apply to both scenarios.

  1. Resist the urge to judge. Not all affairs are all bad. As I tell couples who come to me, affairs can be the death knell of a relationship, or the wake up call. When affairs are first discovered it is hard to know which way things will go and certainly there are two sides to every story. If you, as a dear friend or relative, sit in vocal judgment you may well interfere with the genuine insight, growth and healing that can come out of an affair.
  2. Be their friend, not their shrink . By all means be a good friend and listen, empathise, ask clarifying questions and be non-judgmentally supportive, but seeing your friend through the aftermath of an affair – no matter what role your friend played – goes over and above the bounds of friendship.  Hug them, cry with them, then help them find a good professional – you’ll both be glad of it in the end.
  3. Don’t succumb to gossip.  Betraying trust and trafficking in endless opinions about what’s happening, who’s right, who’s wrong and what “should” be done, does not help anyone.  Let your friends know you trust the couple is getting help and change the conversation by discussing ways to support both of them.
  4. Extend invitations to your friend… repeatedly. Often a therapist will suggest the couple touched by an affair take some time apart. This does not indicate divorce any more than going to bed with the flu indicates death, so don’t treat your friends as though they were highly contagious.  It can be a lifeline to know that friends are still reaching out, still care, and are willing to choose human decency over judgmental ostracism. Even if your friend turns you down repeatedly, keep asking. Whether you invite him or her for dinner next week or a cup of tea right now, even if the answer is “No thanks!”  they will see you care.