When you were younger, you may have spent a lot of time – and money – attending weddings. During later phases of your life, those same marriages that you joyfully celebrated may have changed quite a bit. Some of your close friends and family may even be in the middle of divorce proceedings.
It can be hard to know how to help a friend when they are going through a divorce, particularly if they are acting differently from what you may expect. A divorce can be incredibly stressful, and your friend is likely grieving the loss of their relationship – even if they wanted the divorce. While it is OK to set boundaries, you should try to listen and be there for your friend as much as possible.
At Manassa Law, we represent individuals and families in divorce and other family law matters in and around Barrington, Illinois. We offer skilled, compassionate representation to our clients, understanding that even a divorce that you initiate can be hard emotionally. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
How You Can Support a Friend Through Divorce
Recently, The Atlantic’s “Ask a Therapist” column featured a question from a person who wanted to support a friend who recently divorced her husband after 17 years. The writer was frustrated by some of the choices that her friend has been making, and her friend’s seeming inability to be there for her.
In response, the therapist reminded the writer that divorce is one of the most stressful life events that a person can experience. She urged the writer to remember that her friend is grieving a major loss, and may be numbing herself to not have to feel the emotions. Ultimately, she advised the writer to think of her friend’s behavior in this light – and that while she can set boundaries, she should try to have compassion for her lifelong friend who is going through a difficult time.
This advice is solid, and it highlights a pretty big issue: even if you wanted the divorce or the separation to be amicable, it is still incredibly difficult to process. With that in mind, here are some concrete steps that you can take to support a friend who is going through a divorce.
Keep Including Them
Many spouses develop “couple friends” over the course of their marriage. One of the losses that people often experience during a divorce is the friendships that they have nurtured. Whether the friends originated from the other spouse, people are taking sides, or others just find the situation awkward, it isn’t unusual for invitations to dry up after a divorce.
You can help a friend by continuing to include them. Don’t assume that just because they are single, they won’t want to go to a show, out for dinner, or to a party. Invite them along, and let them decide whether or not they want to go.
Use the Ring Theory
The Ring Theory, developed by psychologist Susan Silk, is a simple concept that can guide you as you support your friend. With Ring Theory, you imagine that the people affected by a loss – such as a death or a divorce – fall into one of several concentric circles. The people who are most affected are in the middle, with others on the outer edges of the ring.
The rule with the Ring Theory is: comfort IN, dump OUT. This means that if someone is closer to the center of the ring – such as your friend who is divorcing – then your role is to comfort them (comfort IN). If you need to vent, seek someone in your own ring or at a higher level (dump OUT).
This theory is particularly helpful when you are friends with both partners. You may be tempted to talk about how the divorce affected you. Focus instead on listening to your friend and offering them comfort – and if you want to talk about your own feelings, look to the outer circles of the ring.
Offer to Help in Whatever Way You Can
When people go through difficult circumstances in life, such as a death in the family, we often have a good idea of exactly how to help – sending flowers, dropping off food, or offering to help with their kids. With a divorce, people often don’t know what to do or feel weird about the situation. This can often lead to not offering much in the way of help during a very challenging time.
With this in mind, consider little ways that you can help your friend. Can you drop off a meal? Help them find a great divorce lawyer? Pick up their kids after school so they can attend a mediation session?
Think carefully about what you can do for your friend, and offer to do it. Let them know that you are there for them, whether they need a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand. The true key is to be there, without judgment, as your friend moves forward with their new normal.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
There is nothing easy about getting divorced. Even the most amicable divorce can be emotionally fraught – to say nothing of more contentious divorces. If you are contemplating divorce, our law firm is here for you.
Based in Barrington, Manassa Law represents clients in all types of divorces, including collaborative divorce. Our goal in each case is to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for themselves and their families. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with an Illinois divorce lawyer, give us a call at 847-221-5511 or fill out our online contact form.