For many people, separating from a life-partner is the single most tragic and painful event of their lives. Recovering from such a blow is rarely an easy or pleasant process. Watching a close friend go through the divorce process presents its own set of problems. You want to help, but it can be extremely difficult to approach your friend—an individual with whom you are accustomed to sharing considerably happier times—in this period of profound anger, sorrow, and/or uncertainty. “Good Divorce” Is Not an Oxymoron
However, by keeping a few things in mind, you can help your friend in their hour of need and make the time that you share together considerably more enjoyable for the both of you. Here are six general guidelines for being a good friend to the recent divorcee in your life.
1. Be a good listener. Probably the single attribute that all great friends hold in common, the willingness and ability to truly listen is even more important in times of insecurity and misfortune. What your recently divorced friend needs more than anything else is someone to hear and empathize with his complicated feelings. The best thing that you can do is to simply be there for him.
2. Don’t bring up your friend’s soon-to-be ex-spouse (STBX), even to bad-mouth him or her. Your role as a devoted friend is not to dwell on the past but to help the special person in your life to move past her failed relationship and embrace the future. You might think that you are expressing solidarity with your friend by commiserating about her spouse’s shortcomings. Such conversations, however, will typically only serve to oversimplify the complex network of problems that actually led to her separation. In any event, the mere mention of the estranged spouse is likely to reinforce painful and or negative connotations that are best left behind. If your friend cannot stop obsessing about her STBX, you can suggest that she seek divorce therapy.
3. Extend a helping hand. As the old adage says, actions are stronger than words. Lend your help in whatever way you can. Do you excel at time management? Perhaps you could set up a schedule to keep your friend on task. Have an eye for interior design? Arrange that new home or rearrange the old one for a fresh new start.
4. Lessen the day-to-day impact caused by a missing spouse. Those extending a helping hand can help even more by assuming some of the responsibilities that had typically been handled by your friends soon-to-be ex (STBX). Running errands, babysitting, and providing a home-cooked meal are only some of the ways to help your recently divorced friend share his burden. Even something as simple as driving your friend to a doctor’s appointment or meeting him after he goes to a divorce program can both make his life easier and alleviate feelings of loneliness.
5. Suggest a fun event. One of the most helpful things you can do as a friend is to be positive and uplifting. Catch a movie or a concert. Play sports or take a hike in the woods. In short, engage in whatever fun-loving activities or pastimes that you typically share as friends.
6. Spend time with your friend independent of your significant other. Although your recently divorced friend might thoroughly enjoy the company of your significant other, spending time exclusively with couples can easily lead to feeling like a “third wheel.” Minimize this tendency by setting aside time to spend with your friend alone. The dynamic fostered by this “one-on-one” experience will also open up streams of conversation that might go untapped in the presence of your significant other. “Relief” Divorce:” Avoid The Trap!