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12 November 2020

What to Say to a Friend Going Through a Divorce

Paul Rossiter
Posted by: Paul Rossiter Managing Director

What to Say to a Friend Going Through a Divorce

 

I would like to offer my advice in this regard, writing as someone who has been through a divorce, someone whose friends have been through divorces, and as a family lawyer who deals with divorces and associated subjects such as financial settlements.

The most important piece of advice is to listen to your friend.

People go through divorces for lots of reasons and the support they require differs depending on the situation.

Did your friend file for divorce?

Support them with their decision

The person filing for a divorce (the applicant) is usually the partner who feels happier with the decision, and sometimes they simply require reassurance they are ‘doing the right thing’.

As a friend here, it is your duty to support them. However, do not be afraid to disagree with them. Once the divorces go through, realistically there is no going back. They need to be sure that they are 100% committed to this course of action.

What are the reasons for the divorce?

Help them concentrate on the future

Sometimes people filing for divorce do so for reasons where they are not so in control.

For example, if your partner has been cheating on you, you may wish to be the one who files for divorce and move on with your life. Anyone going through this situation is going to be more upset and emotional and therefore is likely to require more ‘hand-holding’.

There is no need to necessarily portray the adultress partner in an overly negative way as this can actually have long-term and far-reaching effects, especially if children are involved and the two parties have to maintain some sort of relationship over a number of years.

You should reassure them that what the other party has done is wrong, and what they are doing is the correct course of action, but don’t let it become all-consuming.

You can also help them concentrate on the future and although they may not be ready to consider dating straight away, it is important to point out the good things in life and the opportunities that will arise.

Is the divorce a shock to them?

Listen and try to respond to their needs

When people who are on the receiving end of being divorced (the respondent), sometimes it comes as a shock to them, other times they will have been expecting it.

Again, you must tailor your advice to the situation. It is never appropriate to use the phrase ‘I told you so’ as this has no positive effects at all.

They are likely to be upset, lacking in confidence, and unsure about the future. The most important thing to do is to listen – whatever they focus on and whatever their worst fears are, you must do your best to address them.

You must be prepared to spend some time and energy with them over the coming months. It can often be a shock, not just about the divorce but about the change in lifestyle.

They may be living somewhere else, there may be no-one at home when they return from work, they may have holidays booked, there are going to be memories and constant reminders of the relationship around.

Everyone is different and they will focus on different things. That is why I keep stressing the point to listen to your friend and try to respond to their needs.

Is the divorce a mutual agreement?

People regularly get divorced based upon a mutual agreement. This may be because the marriage has petered out and the love has gone. Or it may be because the children have left home and they both feel they need a new start at that stage of life.

Realistically, people in such situations will have thought long and hard over a number of months or years before arriving at this decision and it is likely that you have picked up on this, if not actually been told outright what was going through their minds.

In this situation, your support is not quite so important. I think all you can do is ensure that they have thought everything through before making that leap to being single again, but it is likely they are looking forward to it and possibly excited by a new chapter in their lives.

I hope that this will not only help you if your friend is going through a divorce but more importantly, your advice after reading this will help them.

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