When a friend is going through a divorce, you may be at a loss for words, not knowing what to do or say. Here are some tips I have learned over the years:
1) Listen more, preach less. While you should not force a friend to open up, if they want to talk about their divorce, let them. Sometimes just having a sympathetic ear and giving them the opportunity to vent can be enormously helpful. Just nodding and saying “I understand” can go a long way.
2) Go light on the advice. This may seem counterintuitive but a friend in distress will often do what they want despite any advice you give them. This can cause resentment and frustration between you. On the flip side, they may readily take your advice and them blame you if it does not turn out well.
3) Encourage professional help. If you are going to give advice, the best advice you can give is for your friend to rely on professionals, whether it is their attorney or a licensed therapist.
4) Set boundaries. While you want your friend to know you are available to listen, you do not want to be so available that you get burned out. It is okay to limit the length of calls or the amount of time the discussion focuses on their divorce. Remember, you had a friendship that predated their divorce and you want to maintain some of that normalcy.
5) Do not trash the ex. This is especially true of they have children together. You do not want to stir up more anger or embolden them to do something against their interests or their children’s interests.
6) Help them stay busy. Divorces can take a while and a lot of nervous energy can build up. Go dancing, take a kick boxing class or go shopping. Help keep them busy and distracted so they have some time away from dwelling on their divorce.
7) Do not just say “call me if you need anything.” Your friend may not feel comfortable asking for a favor if your offer is too general. Try to anticipate what they may need such as childcare when they have to meet with their attorney or therapist, reaching out to your network to help find them the best professionals, or going with them to the courthouse so they have a friendly face when they are most scared.
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