No matter what the circumstances are around your divorce, the process can feel very lonely and isolating. For this reason, it is important to have support and encouragement from loved ones in your life. According to the researchers at the University of Minnesota, most people going through a divorce will, in fact, confide in a friend or family member, but not everyone gets the type of feedback they hope for or need. You can increase your chances of getting the helpful support you desire by consciously choosing the person and being thoughtful in the way you approach them.
1) Helpful Support Provides Perspective
It feels good to vent, and it certainly has its time and place, but if you want a better understanding of your situation, pick a confidant who can offer a helpful perspective rather than someone who will just perpetuate the situation. A thoughtful friend’s response can help you see what role you played in your marital problems so you can make the best possible decision about how to move forward. Friends who interrupt you in order to share their own stories of woe or continue to “egg you on” are less helpful and can actually serve to keep you stuck.
2) Pick a Friend Who Won’t Boss or Demand Information
Bossy friends are probably not the best confidants when you’re in the early stages of a divorce. When a friend “knows best” in every situation, the odds are that she/he’s going to demand the intimate details of your marital issues and insist that you follow her solutions. According to divorce writer and blogger Gretchen Rubin, this kind of reaction isn’t useful because nobody can make decisions for someone else. This is your journey and you will need to go through it in your own way. Having a confidant who judges you or your situation or who spends more time telling you what to do than listening will only make it harder for you to heal.
3) Don’t Solicit Spouse-Bashing
Although it may feel good initially to hear a friend roundly berate your spouse, it gets old in the long run. After all, you married him/her and he/she may be your children’s other parent. There’s no need to sugarcoat the situation, but bashing him/her is only going to hurt you in the long run. Focusing your energy on him/her also deflects you from focusing in on yourself, which is what you need to be doing so you can successfully move on. Your friend will be most helpful simply by assuring you that your life will feel better in time and that she’ll be there if you need to talk.
4) Pick Friends Who Keep Coming Back
The first time a friend calls to get you out of the house — whether for lunch or a walk or to the theater — you might be suffering too much divorce depression to agree. But you do need to get moving eventually. A real buddy will call back, over and over, until you say yes. You can encourage this kind of persistence by taking a rain check the first time rather than just saying no. Divorce writer Stacy Morrison suggests you find a useful Internet article about the kinds of responses that are helpful in this situation.
5) Be Careful What You Share
Resist the temptation to blacken your spouse’s name to one and all — the odds are that it will get back to him/her. Infuriating your spouse now might feel good, but it could make it difficult for you to negotiate an amicable divorce settlement down the road. This doesn’t mean you have to keep his extramarital affairs or physical abuse a secret, but it does mean you should pick a confidant who really, honestly won’t share the information you pass on. An alternative is to share this information with a therapist or coach.
It is important not to isolate yourself during divorce. Seek out support and help.