It wasn’t until I was 27 (4 years after my divorce and 6 years after my separation) did I realize why I lost all my friends during my divorce. Ok, so I kept a few, but I did lose most of them.
Some of them were because they had closer ties to his family, and some were because he kept attending the church we went to.
But, a few were my very close, close friends. I mean, they were MINE before they were OURS.
Now, I’m older and a little wiser. I’ve had the chance to see the other side. Luckily, I knew what NOT to do in this situation, because I got hit with the worst of it.
However, it became clear to me that not very many people know how to help their friends when they are going through a divorce.
The reason is pretty simple…They feel pressure to pick a side! Whether you are saying it or not, it’s a feeling that’s automatic. It’s a thought that says, “Who do I stand beside?”
There are 3 choices, “The man, the woman, or none.”
How do you choose which one?
Well, you may have heard the saying, “divorce is contagious.” Well..there is some truth to that.
So, it’s the “fight or flight” instinct that comes in. “If I spend time around her helping her through this divorce, it could happen to me, so maybe I should just walk away.”
It’s a completely appropriate fear, and should not be overlooked.
But you have other options. So, the following advice is for the dear friend that doesn’t want to walk away, but feels torn about how to help and not compromise her marriage.
1) Do NOT walk out on them.
If they’ve ever needed your friendship the most, now is the time. Not only will you disappoint them, but you will regret it too.
2) Set clear boundaries with your spouse AND your friend about the conversations you will engage in.
This will allow you to be ‘cautious’ and prepared.
Your friend needs to hear, “Men suck. You are better off without him. He doesn’t deserve you…” BUT, they DO NOT need to hear it from a married woman. Let another person be the one to say those types of things.
This is really important, because if you do not follow this rule, you could fall into the “divorce is contagious” trap.
When you generalize and group men into a category and speak terrible of them, you are allowing yourself to put your husband below you. You may not even realize it.
When you begin to view your husband as “lower than you” or that you are better than him, then the unity begins to break. That is why it’s so important NOT to engage in conversation that demeanors the sex of your spouse.
So, speak up when you feel uncomfortable in the topic or change the subject.
3) You should spoil her, surprise her, invite her, etc.
Depressed, scared, lonely, stressed…these are just a few of the feelings your friend is likely feeling. Your job as her friend is to get her out of this funk as quickly as possible. It may take a year or two, or just a couple months. Each situation will vary.
However, nothing is more fun and exciting than planning a girls get-a-way. This will give her something to look forward to, a reason to buy new clothes, and she is likely to feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
If you have a few extra dollars, treat her to a massage and day of shopping. Or, if you don’t just invite her out. And don’t forget to stalk her ;) Not literally, but show up on her doorstep with dinner and a movie. She’s learning to adjust without her other half.
Bottom line, she needs you and you need to make sure you do not compromise your marriage while helping. Step up and be there…cautiously.