Supporting a friend through divorce can be difficult. It’s hard to see someone you are close with going through such a traumatic experience. All our lives are an equal share of fortunate & unfortunate things. It is basic human tendency to assume the bad doesn’t befall us and the people we love. Unfortunately, we fail to respond when it hits us hard on the face.
I have more than a dozen girlfriends from school and many more since then. Some of them are more dear to me than my own family members. I have been the bridesmaid more times than I would care to remember. I have helped the bride’s months before their wedding day until the day they walk down the aisle. It’s a good feeling to be a part of someone’s love story, isn’t it? I have always taken my friendships seriously, and have always been the ideal bridesmaid. I take pride in being that dependable friend.
Things were all fair and fine until last year. One of my girlfriends called up late one night. She told me that she had decided to part ways with her husband of 7 years. I didn’t know what lead to the divorce but I knew that I had to be there for my friend. The good friend that I was, I supported her and talked to her until she fell asleep. It was only after the call that I had realized I didn’t know what to do next. It broke me a little inside, knowing that I wasn’t that equipped to help my friend after all.
I had overheard from others at work how difficult divorces were, and how supporting a friend through divorce could be hard. I read a lot and talked to others in the months that followed. I gradually learned how to be more helpful to my friend. I also learned how supporting a friend through divorce could help make the divorce process a much easier one for them. If you are someone who is going through something similar, you’ve reached the right place
Here are 5 things to keep in mind while supporting a friend through divorce.
1. Do more listening and less talking
Understand that your friend is going through a big change in her/his life. Also, understand that this change has been drastic and uncalled for. It’s obvious for your friend to be confused, given the countless things that must be running through his/her mind. They might be trying to figure out ways to find solutions to all their problems. There will be times when they just break down because of the enormous pressure on them. In times like these, they will need only 2 things from you. The first, a patient listener and the second, a non-judgmental listener.
Allow them to speak their mind and listen to them carefully. Respond with your opinion when necessary and never be judgmental. You don’t have to necessarily agree with everything they have to say, but you will have to be strong when they aren’t. At times, they will miss their partners, while other times they will see how terrible he/she was. Be a fair and impartial judge to what they have to say and stand by it.
2. Give them all kinds of support
It could be as basic as picking up their kids from school or just doing their laundry on a weekend. Understand that you are supporting your friend and not just her/his decisions, as they will change from time to time. Supporting a friend through divorce doesn’t also necessarily mean hating her/his ex-partner. You are just trying to help your friend go back to a better place after the divorce, that’s all. Make it clear in your discussions with him/her. Make it a point to say it loud and clear more often. Chances are your friend will forget this amongst all the messiness she/he is going through. Stay in touch with them through visits and calls, even when they aren’t asking for it.
3. Don’t forget their milestones
Understand that not all divorces are messy. Some of them happen because things just don’t work out as planned. Nonetheless, divorces are never easy, even if they are on amicable grounds. These people have spent a good part of their lives with their partners. They have made some of their best memories with them too. Their partners will always hold a big position in their lives. Remember their big days, like their wedding anniversary or Valentine’s Day. Talk to them and hear them out. Try making them a part of your big celebrations too. This will make them realize they have a life outside of their chaos. Do fun things together on those dates and show them your support.
4. Be a source of information for your friend
As I have mentioned above, divorces aren’t just messy emotionally, but also mentally. There is paperwork they have to sort through, finances discussed, and more. What was once a permanent arrangement is now broken down to pieces and being built back separately again. This can be stressful and time-consuming. Read online and talk to others who have been through similar situations. Gather information and understand what needs to be done. Take up a task and help your friend with it. With a little off his/her plate, he/she is bound to feel a little relieved. This also shows them your support and helps them feel more optimistic about the position they are in.
5. Make them a part of everything
It might feel awkward to invite your friend to your family get together or to your anniversary dinner, but it’s not. Ask them if they would be interested in joining. Don’t just assume they wouldn’t be interested just because they are single, let them decide. Invite them over for sleepovers and ask them if they would like to join you for a night out. These are small things that make them feel involved and connected to you. These fun activities will be a nice distraction too.
Supporting a friend through divorce can be a rewarding experience, and I understand what it means to be a friend to others during these difficult situations. It is about supporting the other person and being there for them through some of the hardest moments of their life.
Bronte Price is Australia’s First Certified Gay Marriage Celebrant in Melbourne. He stands strongly for marriage equality and takes immense pleasure in marrying any couples in love. He is a regular volunteer newsreader at Joy 94.9, and a member of GLOBE (Gay and Lesbian Organization for Business and Enterprise).