What to say (and not to say) to a friend who is getting divorced:
If you don’t already have one, it’s very likely that at some point you’ll have a friend who is going through a divorce.
According to government statistics, 34% of marriages in England and Wales are expected to end in divorce by the 20th wedding anniversary (ONS, 2013). Much like bereavement, friends are often left wondering what the right thing is to say or do.
Ann Corrigan, founder of Clarity Family Law and a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer, is a specialist in family law who deals on a daily basis with the legal complexities of divorce, but also sees the emotional fall-out when couples break up.
Here are her tips for supporting a friend who is getting divorced:
Don’t change your behaviour
Your friend’s circumstances might have changed – but he or she hasn’t. What your friend needs from you is the same friendship you’ve always had.
Don’t expect anything
If you’re happily married, it may be that your divorced friend just doesn’t want to see you at present. Accept this decision, but continue offering support in the background and reminding your friend that you’re there, if he or she needs you. Whatever support you give, don’t expect anything in return.
Send flowers and a card unexpectedly. Turn up with a couple of meals ready for the freezer. Have an endless supply of wine and chocolate. Offer practical help: babysitting, walking the dog, doing the ironing, whatever helps.
Keep the invitations coming
If your friend has always come to your dinner parties, now is not the time to stop the invitations. Let them decide. Don’t assume they won’t want to come.
Offer to be a companion if your friend wants to try new ventures, or go to social events. Until they get back on their feet or find a new partner, life alone can be pretty daunting.
The elephant in the room
Don’t let the divorce be the elephant in the room. Allow your friend to talk as much, or as little, as he or she wants about the divorce; however, now is not the time to launch into “I never liked him/her anyway,” or “I knew this would happen one day.” Keep your ears open and your opinions to a minimum.
Don’t take sides
Even if your friend desperately wants you to…and you want to! Remaining neutral is the most respectful thing you can do, and won’t stop you supporting your friend.
Don’t encourage bad behaviour
He or she might be spitting with rage and hurt, but your job is to help your friend act with dignity, not to encourage them to do things they might regret. Two years down the line they may not thank you for that encouragement.
Give information only when asked
Don’t turn up with a bunch of leaflets on how to be a good single mum or dad or how to date again. Give information only if directly asked.
Understand, don’t pity
Your friend’s confidence will have taken a bashing. It’s your job to remind your friend of the fabulous person he or she truly is.
Ann Corrigan is founder of Clarity Family Law Solicitors , a specialist family law firm in Buckinghamshire, and a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer.
She can be contacted on telephone: 01753 880075, www.clarityfamilylaw.co.uk or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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