When someone you know announces her divorce, it can be very difficult to know how to respond. Grandparents may be afraid of losing access to the couple’s children, siblings of one spouse may become angry at the other, and friends may simply stay away because they are unsure of how to act. If someone you love has decided to divorce, there are a few things you can do—and avoid doing—to show your support.
How to Be Supportive of Someone Getting a Divorce
Divorce can place an enormous strain on family relationships, and it is often hard for those involved to ask for help. If a friend or family member is going through a divorce, here are some ways you can help make things easier:
- Be a good listener. Couples often hide their problems until they announce a divorce, and as a result, the divorce comes as a surprise. Even if you don’t know what to say, it can be helpful just to listen. If the person is comfortable talking about it, be a sympathetic listener, and if she doesn’t want to talk, let her know that’s okay, too.
- Avoid taking sides. If someone tells you she’s getting divorced, she’s likely hurting and in need of sympathy. However, you should resist the urge to badmouth her spouse. No one except the couple really knows what goes on in a relationship, so try to stay impartial and decline voicing judgments.
- Be careful what you say. When people hear that others are getting a divorce, their first response may be unkind. Many will want to offer advice, give their opinion, or even say “I told you so.” Above all, do not repeat any conversations with a divorcing friend or family member to others. Even if these responses come from fear or shock, your friend is relying on you for support, and these behaviors are not helpful.
- Make an open offer of help. Ask your friend if there is anything she needs (such as financial help, child care, or a temporary place to stay), and work together to come up with a solution. If she declines help, let her know you are available if she thinks of anything she may need in the future.
- Stay present. Many spouses put off filing for divorce because they are afraid that everything in their lives will change. It can be a great comfort to a divorced friend to continue to treat her as you always have, including maintaining your relationship with her children. Friends and family can be of great help in the transition of divorce just by staying in contact and maintaining a sense of normalcy.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody or support questions, please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.