According to the American Psychological Association, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce. Given that statistic, it’s probable that you may find yourself trying to help a loved one prepare for divorce at some point in your life. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you support your friend going through the divorce process.
Focus on Positive Advice.
Unfortunately, well-meaning friends will sometimes offer suggestions like, “find the most aggressive attorney in town,” “make sure to transfer bank accounts before he does,” or “hire a private detective,” to help navigate the situation. Unfortunately, leaning toward a combative stance may do more damage than good. Statements like these serve only to breed contempt and suspicion.
Instead, suggest healthier ways your friend can take control of his or her situation. Understanding his or her finances, shared marital assets/property, what he or she envisions as a fair distribution of those things, and child visitation (if children are involved), are vital to being able to conduct productive negotiations. This will give your friend more confidence and security.
Find a good support system.
Your friend may feel more alone right now than they’ve ever felt. Encourage them to find a good support system and arm themselves with friends they can bounce ideas off of and share feelings with. This doesn’t mean he or she needs to find a whole new network of friends, but certainly having two or three people they can turn to will take the edge off of the anxiety they may be experiencing.
Don’t just offer to help.
It’s great to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” but sometimes there’s greater value in picking a task and doing it. For example, your friend likely won’t ask you to wash the dishes or fold their laundry, but if you see it needs to be done, do it. It will take some burden off of them and they’ll appreciate it.
Offer to babysit children.
Going to dinner or the movies with a friend or taking a walk in the park can be very healing activities. If your friend has children, offer to watch them for a few hours. They might feel uncomfortable asking for help but knowing that you offered makes them feel okay about it. That extra time for socialization or quiet introspection will be beneficial.
Don’t encourage dating right away.
Happiness does not equate to immediately finding someone new. Don’t suggest that your friend “get out there” when he or she hasn’t fully adjusted to the idea of being single again. Jumping into a new relationship isn’t healthy – especially if it was a long-term marriage. People who’ve been married for many years sometimes lose their identity and forget how to be alone. There’s incredible value in taking the time to find themselves again. Remembering what makes them unique and lovable is essential to a healthy future relationship.
Watching your friend go through the rollercoaster of emotions they’re likely to experience from divorce is never easy, but these suggestions will help you be a “rock” at a time in their life when they really need you. Overall, knowing you are there will be one of the greatest comforts of all.
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About the Author: Kyle M. Janes
Kyle grew up in Meadville and attended Meadville Area Senior High. He attended college at Allegheny College. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Kyle returned to Meadville to serve the community where he grew up.
Kyle has a diverse family law practice, including divorce, support, custody, juvenile dependency, adoption, pre-nuptial agreements, protection from abuse, and other domestic relations issues. His compassion for his clients and his knowledge of the law allow him to work on a full range of cases, from simple to complex.