Amongst my friends - I'm the only one that has really gone through the Big D. This makes me happy because I wouldn't wish it upon anyone but can also be a bit awkward sometimes. No one in my "inner circle" really understands what I have been through. I feel weird offering relationship or marriage advice. Truth be told, no one really comes to me for it anyway. My advice should basically be "don't do what I did..." but that's not fair to anyone either.
What do people come to me for advice on though? Divorce. Not usually their own, but when one of their other friends is struggling through one they want to know the right thing to say to comfort them so they ask me. Truth is, I don't know! I was in such a fog in the beginning of mine I can't really remember a single piece of advice that was given beyond "it'll be okay." And you know what, in reality, that's enough! They were right. Sure, it's a canned answer but it's enough. "It'll be okay and I'm here for you". If you haven't been through a divorce yourself, you can't really offer advice, just support. I think this may be why I don't remember getting a lot of advice - my amazing family and friends were just there to offer support anyway they could while I figured things out on my own.
Now, if someone was to come to me that was going through a divorce, and there have been a few, this is the advice that I would offer them.
• Your divorce will not define you! You have so much more to offer the world than just being someone whose marriage didn’t work out. Hold your head high.
• It’s okay to be scared and sad. Don’t feel like you have to fake a smile if you don’t want to. You need to grieve. Take the time to do so. (Note: If you have children, you WILL have to fake a smile for them sometimes. They will need you now more than ever. Try not to let them see you hurt. I know this is hard, but it’s important)
• Don’t let your fear of loneliness lead you to make poor decisions. There is no need to start your match.com profile before divorce papers are final. Yes, it’s scary to be alone, especially if you haven’t been in a very long time but rushing into something before you truly have a grasp on who you are can be a recipe for disaster.
• If you have kids – they need to be your #1 priority! As I said earlier, they need you now more than ever. Watching your kids go through this with you is gut wrenching at times but you need to keep their best interests at heart. Regardless of my own true feelings, I want my kids to grow up thinking their dad hung the moon. He’s their dad! Every kid deserves to think both of their parents are amazing. I’m fortunate enough that our divorce was based on decisions we made as adults and we handle them as adults. There was never any violence or any reason for my kids to think less of their father, especially not at this age so why try to make them? Does my ex drive me crazy to this day? Yes! But do my kids need to know that? Absolutely not!
This advice isn’t all inclusive and will not apply to everyone in the same way but these are just a few of the things that I think of when I look back at how I “crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side”. (Name that movie!!)
So if you find yourself faced with a situation where one of your friends is going through something like this, here is what I would suggest you do.
• Be there! One of the toughest parts of a divorce or separation is the loneliness that comes with it. Suddenly you are not coming home from work to someone every night. It’s weird. It’s quiet. It sucks. Especially if they are sharing custody and they suddenly find themselves with nights with no kids, no spouse, and no plans. Sometimes they will need nights like this to just cry but sometimes they really just need someone to distract them from the quiet. That’s where you come in!
• Listen. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to what they are saying. You may not be able to relate but just letting them get it all out is enough. A shoulder to cry on never hurt anyone!
• Choose your words. Don’t immediately set out to say awful things about the person’s spouse or ex. I could rant for days about my ex but still get a tiny tinge of guilt when one of my friends does it. Avoid saying things like “I never liked him anyway” if possible. Your friend made the choice to marry that person and hearing things like that can actually feel like a shot at their own character or life choices.
Wow, that was a lot of stuff! Sorry for the long winded post but I just felt like putting it out there today. So if you’re struggling with what to say to a friend that’s going through this, you could always offer support and send them here if they need a little proof that a divorce doesn’t mean the end of the world.