Supporting Friends and Family through Divorce

30 September 2022

B&W image of a caucasian man sitting on the couch with his hand clasped to his chin

Divorce is difficult, not only for those who are in it, but also for friends and family. Unfortunately, you are not the only one going through the divorce process. They feel the pain, albeit in different ways. And like you, they need support from time to time as well.

Knowing the right or wrong thing to say can be daunting especially considering the emotional sensitivity of the topic. Pushing the wrong button at the wrong time can send your friend into either an emotional breakdown or worst even — reactive damaging behaviour.

Gone are the days when getting armchair advice from the barbershop is reliable and confidential. Life is more complicated than it was years ago; laws and legal advice are cumbersome, costly and relationships and family units are simply more complex than in the past. While our world has changed so dramatically, humans: their emotions and responses to stressful events, are pretty much the same.

There is no question that for those who are trying to help their loved ones through this journey — your words matter a lot. That brings with it a huge responsibility and sometimes a burden you did not sign up for.

How to Support Friends and Family Through Divorce

Your friends/family need you. They feel your pain and, tough as it may be, require support of their own at times. So, here are a few tips for helping them and still keeping those friendly boundaries intact:

  • Help them reflect on their language to ensure they are using empowering language and not the language of a victim. Victims are stuck and will not heal until they are responsible and accountable. Yes, that means to be accountable to whatever happened.
  • Encourage them to work with mediators if at all possible. Going at it with lawyers will only delay moving on and will cost everyone emotionally and financially. There are lots of alternatives out there now. So help them do their research and make good decisions.
  • Point out to them when they are making decisions based on emotion and encourage them that more time and research would be wise.
  • Encourage them to get counselling, regardless of whether they feel it is needed. Everyone can use the help of an objective set of ears that has no motive other than to help them move on (we hope).
  • Remind them that this does not define their life — it is an event in their life. But how they move through it will define a large part of who they are. Do not create a negative divorce legacy.
  • Buy them a couple of great books. No pity party books but empowering, life changing books — there are many out there.
  • Encourage them to look good on the outside, exercise, buy something new, get a new haircut, etc. This is not shallow — this is smart. Divorce is a confidence destroyer and it may take years to rebuild that. In the meantime having a nice book cover will speed up the process and make them feel better.

Remember That They are Not Choosing Sides

It is important to remember when going through divorce that your friends and family did not ask for what is happening. If they wish to remain close to both you and your ex, it creates and uncomfortable situation for them.

That is why it is imperative that you remain objective. You want to be there for them but you also aren’t there to pit them against anyone. Tell them enough to assuage their feelings and try to move the conversation on. Details aren’t needed here and will more than likely muddy the water.

It is also of the utmost importance that you do not bad mouth your ex. If they are hoping to remain friends with the both of you, saying bad things about your ex will just make things uncomfortable. Even worse, you will be putting them in the middle of things, making the entire process uncomfortable for everyone. 

Lastly, do not engage in detailed conversation with friends or family around children, either yours or theirs. Even if they are of age to fully understand what is happening, that information does more harm than good.

With younger children, you may be giving them a different idea about what is happening. Try to keep their involvement to a minimum as this entire process is difficult enough for them. Make things as smooth as possible during turbulent times.

Supportive Families are There for One Another Through Divorce

Like it or not, divorce is not easy on anyone. As much as those directly involved in the divorce need help, so to do the support systems. That is why it is so important for friends and family, as well as the divorcing parties, to lean on one another through tough times.

Where children are involved, there will still be relationships going forward. Ruining those relationships over spoiled feelings will have ramifications that may not be felt until much later. Be there for one another and come out better for it in the end.