Divorce is tricky—not only for the couple going through it, but for friends and family who aren’t quite sure how to navigate the situation.
As a relationship coach, I often help people navigate through this process, and I’ve gone through a divorce myself, so I know first hand how difficult and alienating this time can be.
Here’s the thing— divorce remains taboo for many in our culture, especially because it is never intended to happen. When you get married, it’s supposed to be “until death do us part”, but things can happen and marriages end. All the while, people feel unequipped to talk about it, and it can feel extremely uncomfortable when you don’t know how to approach the subject.
And aside from all the shame that surrounds the topic, oftentimes the divorcee feels as though they have failed their family and even their community. While no one wants to find themselves in this situation, life is messy and divorce can happen! The beauty, though, is that there is joy and happiness on the other side—we simply have to reframe how we view it and offer people grace and support as they regain their footing.
Keep reading to learn 10 ways you can support a loved one after a divorce.
Don’t Be Offended If You Weren’t Privy To The Marital Problems
Although your friend’s divorce may come as a shock to you, it’s important to remember that your friend is still the same person. It may seem odd to think that the marriage looked happy and healthy from the outside, but that doesn’t mean your friend was wrong for hiding their marital issues behind closed doors.
Most people will try to fix their marriage in private while keeping a smile on their face in public for the sake of their children or other involved parties. This does not mean they’re a different person all of a sudden!
Have they been pretending to be someone else all along, before the news broke? No, of course not! But now that the word is out, they will need your love and support to get through this.
Be Their Biggest Cheerleader
It might be the talk of the town between friends when someone gets divorced. But do everything in your power to not talk about them behind their back. They already have a lot going on and likely feel insecure to boot! As their friend, you should be a safe space for them. Be their biggest cheerleader!
A Loved One’s Divorce Won’t End Your Healthy Marriage
Some people carry a misconception that spending time with a divorced person will influence those around them to follow suit and end their own marriage—this couldn’t be farther from the truth! If you’re in a healthy marriage, being around a divorcee will NOT threaten your marriage. If you’re fearful of this, it may be time to take a look at your own marriage—it may not be as solid as you think!
Please Don’t Share Your Opinions About Divorce
Your loved one already knows that divorce sucks—they absolutely don’t need to hear about it from you! Remember, when this person got married, they didn’t foresee the marriage ending, nor do they want it to be this way. It’s already awful and far from ideal, so reiterating this will only cause more pain.
What you can do is simply be there for them, support them through this incredibly difficult time, and love them unconditionally. They need you now more than ever.
When Children Are Involved
Believe it or not, THE KIDS WILL BE OKAY. So many people think that divorce is the worst thing that can happen to children, robbing them of a happy childhood, but this is simply untrue!
What is most important is that children see their parents thriving and living authentically. Children are extremely observant; when parents stay together in a loveless or toxic marriage “for the sake of the kids”, this can often have detrimental effects for the children because they pick up on it. If mom and dad separate and are able to remarry or find their own version of authentic happiness, the kids will be better off.
P.S. There are a million ways to mess up your kid. It is not only the children with happily married parents who thrive. The beautiful thing about life and family is that you get to create your own dialogue and author your own recovery. Stay strong to your values of family and respect others’. To each their own!
Not All Friendships Will Be Equal
One of the worst casualties of divorce can be the loss of friends. Even really old, best friends. But it happens. We recommend being patient and staying open, while also ensuring you’re never crossing boundaries or forcing anything too quickly—if you’re willing to be kind even when it gets tough, you may be able to maintain a friendship with both exes.
Empower Instead of Apologize
It’s natural to defer to the cliche condolence of “I’m sorry” when trying to comfort your friend. People tend to apologize for divorce because they simply don’t know what else to say. While this is a natural reaction, we encourage you to take a different route.
Instead of pity, choose words that will support and uplift your loved one. Say things like, “You’re beginning a new journey, and while it may be hard, there are great joys and growth ahead of you”, or “It’s time to live your own life; you can do this, and I’m here for you!”
Don’t Exclude Them
You should continue to invite your divorced friend to things you used to do together in the past—whether that’s to dinner, on a vacation, or to an event. If your friend doesn’t want to go, THEY will make that decision. But leaving them out and assuming they won’t want to go will only cause them pain. You don’t want to send a message that they’re no longer welcome or worthy to do these things now that they’re single!
They May Act Oddly For A While
Any huge life transition causes people to change drastically—whether that’s mood swings, weight fluctuations, dating a ton or not at all, unhealthy coping mechanisms, etc., these things can and do happen.
If your friend is acting crazy or totally out of the ordinary, don’t be alarmed or offended. Oftentimes, this is just part of the grieving process, and with support from loved ones and a healthy dose of therapy, the craziness will subside.
Be the friend who knows what is going on in their life and checks in. Be aware of your friend and their behavior. Continue to stay in touch, offer support, and be there for them.
Celebrate Small Wins With Them
Whether that’s finding their own place, getting a new job, or dating someone new, be the source of joy that celebrates life’s wins. With all the heaviness of divorce, it’s important to continually find happiness in the little things.
If your loved one meets someone new, simply be happy for them. Whether it ends up being their new life partner or just a short term relationship, this is a big step in their new journey, and it deserves to be celebrated.
Again, the best thing you can do when a loved one is going through this difficult time is to be a source of unconditional love and support. Give them grace when they hit their lows, and jump and cheer for them whenever they get back up. It’s the little moments of love from your support group that make all the difference!
Have you ever helped a loved one cope after divorce? Let us know any tips you may have in the comments!