By Gia Chang. Filed in Gia’s Numbered List of Divorce Tips
How to Help a Friend Deal With Divorce
When friends get divorced, it is not always an easy situation for them to deal with. Divorce is hard on everyone – you, your friend, and the spouse of your friend. What does one say to this friend who has to deal with divorce? How does one act around a friend struggling to deal with their divorce?
It can be especially difficult when the friend and the friend’s spouse were your friends. Now it feels weird because you don’t want to pick sides. Or maybe you met the friend through their spouse. With a looming divorce, your sense of loyalty is threatened. On top of that, if you all were in a “couples” group, a divorce will mean that the couple is now “single.” Who do you invite to the couples dinners and other outings that you all regularly attended together?
As hard as it is for you, it can be infinitely more isolating for your friend. How can you help your friend deal with this divorce? Here are 10 specific ways you can be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem:
1. Shut up
Have as little to say about the relationship of this couple as possible. Especially if you are not a professional shrink. Listen a lot and certainly keep an empathetic countenance. But if you can’t say something positive, just shut up.
2. Don’t gossip
When you are in a group of married friends and one couple decides to divorce, of course it is hard not to talk about it behind their backs. Divorces can be very interesting and very juicy occurrences and the catalysts for the divorce can be fodder for gossip. Was someone cheating? Was there domestic violence? Did they fall on financial hard times? It can be hard to resist the urge to gossip about your friend’s business but even if the gossip is not mean-spirited, it is still damaging and if your friend finds out you are talking behind their back about their personal business, it can destroy the friendship. So don’t gossip.
3. Stay in touch
Keep regular contact with your friend when they are going through the divorce so that they know they are not alone and that they can count on you. Call, email, stop by as much as you can. And don’t focus on the “woe is me” aspect. When you stop by make it like a ray of sunshine in your friend’s life. They will thank you for it later on when the dust settles.
4. Babysit sometimes
During the process of divorce, a friend helps a friend with babysitting without even being asked. Offer! Take the children overnight, carpool to school, help getting them to activities and doctor’s appointments, take them on trips. Taking the kids off your friend’s hands for a little bit is truly a very helpful gesture and will go a long way in helping your friend deal with the divorce.
5. Sleep over
When a friend is going through the divorce process, sometimes they could use a little company that goes beyond a drink after work. Why not invite yourself over to sleep over a weekend per month or something like that? It can be so much fun staying up till late chatting, brainstorming and reminiscing about the old days before the marriage went sour.
6. Resist the urge to bad-mouth the ex
Your friend may not be in a good place and every other word could be negative about her or his ex. You don’t have to join. Let them vent if this is how they cope and deal with the divorce. Listen. But do not bad-mouth the ex. Be an inspiration for positivity in your friend’s life.
7. Help your friend organize the house
Another way you can help your divorcing friend is with organizing the house. They may want to change residences after the divorce or maybe they are selling the house or just want a fresh start. You can offer to come over to help with that process of bagging clothes, tossing useless items, painting or anything correlated to the fresh start so they can effectively deal with the divorce.
8. Never say “I told you so”
Maybe you had been against the marriage and saw the divorce coming before the ink was dry on the marriage certificate. Ok. But you don’t have to rub it in by making these “I told you so” declarations while your friend is struggling with dealing with this divorce. Be a friend and know when to say something and when not to. That is what distinguishes between a friend and a frenemy, btw.
9. Be a court buddy
Helping your friend deal with divorce might mean going with them to court to offer moral support. Especially if they are pro se but even if they have an attorney, having a familiar and caring friend sitting in the courtroom can give your friend an inordinate amount of strength.
10. Lend them some money
In certain cases, a friend could need financial assistance. Dealing with a divorce and coping with a divorce is one thing. Paying for it is another. There are all sorts of hidden costs and that could mean that other things can’t get done. For example, your friend may not have a budget for entertainment activities so you could offer to pay for dinner or the movies instead of expecting your friend to go Dutch. It is not about paying the lawyer’s feels. Not when they have the bank of mom and dad. But it could be just the movie ticket or the restaurant tab. That is a kind of “loan” and in most cases could be manageable for you.