Divorce advice: Split Happens… dealing with divorce | Minneapolis, MN
How to deal with a friend’s or family member’s divorce.
Adapted from February 21, 2012 article by WomansDay.com
There’s no denying that divorce is hardest on the couple and their children. But its effects can ripple out into the splitting spouses’ social spheres, as well, often leaving friends and family members unsure about what they should say or do when it comes to interacting with the now-split couple. Why is divorce etiquette so tricky?
“A lot has to do with our own emotional reaction to a close friend or family member’s divorce,” says Margot Swann, founder and director of Visions Anew, a nonprofit divorce resource for women. “We don’t like the picture changing, which makes us feel awkward.” Plus, she adds, it might bring up uncomfortable feelings about our own marriage (If it can happen to them…). Here are five issues that often arise when someone you know divorces, and how to handle them with grace.
1. A good friend just told you that they are getting a divorce, and you don’t know how to respond.
The best thing you can say in this situation is simply, “I’m here for you.” In a way, supporting a divorcing friend is not unlike supporting a grieving friend, because divorce—even if they wanted it, and even if it’s relatively amicable—evokes similar feelings of loss. They may need your support and friendship now more than ever.
2. Your friend is getting a divorce, but you think it’s a big mistake.
In truth, you don’t know—and never will know—if the divorce is truly a mistake, because none of us really understands what goes on behind closed doors. Keep in mind, too, that just because the news comes as a shock to you, the same might not apply for them. They may have been thinking about it, and discussing it, for years before the announcement.
One thing that is certain: Berating anyone for making a mistake won’t help. However, you might want to ask if they’ve tried couple’s counseling. Even if they don’t ultimately reconcile, counseling can help the couple work through their divorce. The bottom line: Steer clear of offering advice that’s not asked for. Stick to support.
3. The couple you and your husband always hang out with is now divorcing, and you two don’t know whose side you should be on.
Presuming that the four of you are all friends, try your best not to choose sides or leave either of them out in the cold. Divorcing spouses often find they lose friends and are excluded from events they normally attended, which is a shame. Remember, it’s not your job as a friend to take sides as much as it is to support and be there for her and him.
4. Family friends are getting a divorce, and all the kids involved have a lot of questions about it.
If your families have always been close, then you may find yourself in the position of being your friends’ kids’ confidant. Their children may talk to you before they talk to their own parents. Reassure them that their parents still love them, and that the divorce is absolutely, positively not their fault (often a child’s biggest fear or suspicion). But resist trying to answer specific questions about “what happened.” The truth is that you don’t know the details.
Your own kids may also be full of questions, such as why their friends’ dad (or mom) isn’t living at their house anymore, or whether you’re on the road to divorce too. Answer their specific questions as they arise (“Yes, Jen and Joe’s dad lives in a different place now, but he still loves them very much”) without trying to over-explain. Saying something like “Sometimes, families have problems so the mom and dad can’t live together anymore, but it has nothing to do with how much they want their kids to be happy and loved.”
5. A divorce among your circle of friends is leading to a lot of ugly gossip about the separating couple.
Do your best to not go there. It’s just never a good idea to indulge in negative divorce gossip, for everyone involved (particularly the couple’s children). It’s natural that your friend will want to talk about their divorce, but because you care and are concerned about their emotional wellbeing, avoid the urge to tell the latest rumors about an ex or trash talk about them.