Zelda explores the emotional demands of one of life’s biggest challenges and the positive ways we can be there for friends and family as they go through it.
Good friends are one of the cornerstones of life and make up an essential part of our happiness. Some friendships start at school and can last a lifetime, some longer even than many marriages, while other equally deep friendships may be formed at different stages of your life.
Good friends are there to celebrate your triumphs but equally importantly are there for you when times are tough. Perhaps one of the times that our friends need us the most is when their life hits a crisis such as divorce.
Dealing with divorce
Divorce is always a very painful and traumatic event in people's lives and even more so if there are children. It can be a time when someone feels very alone and lonely. The person they loved and who loved them now doesn’t want to be with them. Or they may be the one that wants to leave the marriage.
At this time more than ever, they need someone they can really talk to.
Being a good friend
When a close friend tells you that they are really unhappy and are getting divorced, one of the most important things you can do is to just listen.
- Don’t tell them what to do, or overload them with advice (tempting as that can be). Just let them talk about what is happening so they know that you understand and care.
- Explore with them what they want to do now and what their options are. They may be worried about where they are going to live, will they have to downsize or rent and how they will cope financially?
- The things that are likely to be worrying them most are issues to do with the children. How they will feel about their mother and father separating and how will it affect them? How much time will they spend with each parent?
- Divorce brings with it many contentious issues like custody and division of property. Encourage your friend to take the right kind of legal advice and possibly even seek counselling on how to reduce any acrimony. This is particularly important if there are children involved.
- If your friend’s partner has met someone new, that adds to their distress and devastation. It helps them to talk about how they feel to someone who understands.
- In my experience as a Relate counsellor for many years, one of the greatest challenges that your friend is likely to be facing is life on his or her own or as a single parent. Though they may really want to end the marriage there is often another part of them that does not want to be on their own. As a friend who may have been divorced yourself, it is good to acknowledge how brave they are being and also to tell them it’s good to give themselves time to recover and get back on their feet.
- It is also good to gently reassure them that given time they will hopefully meet someone else and fall in love again. Though perhaps not too soon.
- You may be divorced yourself and be able to reassure them that this is one of the most painful times of their life but it will get better. But be aware too that their divorce could bring back some painful feelings for you.
- It’s nice if you can remain friends with both halves of a couple after a separation or divorce but sometimes this is just not possible. It may be that one of them does not want to see you because they resent the help and support you have given the other. Or it may be that you feel much more sympathy for one of them.
They will probably feel very lonely so try and see them individually as well as inviting them to spend time with you as a family.
Remember though that as a friend you can’t be there for someone all the time. It’s important that you look after yourself as well and have your own life, too.