According to the American Psychological Association, divorce rates in the US are about 50% for first time marriages, and even higher for subsequent marriages. With such figures, it's not surprising that most of us know at least one friend or relative whose marriage has failed. When a loved one is divorcing, it's tempting to offer tips and advice, especially if you've been through a divorce yourself. Some advice, however, may not be in your loved one's best interests, and could even end up hurting their chances for a fair and speedy resolution.
While each divorce has its own unique set of circumstances, there are some basic rules that you should follow when helping a loved one through the divorce process.
- Keep an open mind. It's normal to come to your friend or family's defense, but avoid making derogatory remarks about the other party. It's good to let your loved one vent their feelings, but remember that you're only getting one side of the story. Even if you do get a chance to speak with the other spouse, do your best to remain a neutral party.
- Offer practical support. The process of divorce can be extremely time consuming, so your loved one is likely to need help with day to day responsibilities, like household chores and child care. Offer to do things like babysit, pick up groceries and help take care of the pets. Practical help is just as important as emotional support, and serves as a concrete reminder that life goes on.
- Do fun things with them. Although it's important to work through your feelings, shutting yourself off from the world is unhealthy in the long run. Provide distractions for your loved one by taking them out to dinner or the movies. Even a simple walk in the park can give your them a welcome respite from their fears and frustrations.
- Encourage them to consult an attorney. Even if your loved one anticipates a quick and civil divorce, it's always a good idea to get legal advice from an experienced attorney. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations, so there's no harm in at least speaking to one. It's also quite likely that you don't know the whole story of your loved one's marriage, because many people don't want to burden their friends and family with awkward or painful details. In many cases, it's often easier for them to open up with a neutral third party, such as a therapist or lawyer. Just hashing out the details and legal options with a qualified attorney can help your love done gain valuable perspective.
If someone in your life is contemplating or going through a divorce, be there for them without judgment or criticism. Offer them advice when asked, but encourage to them to speak to an attorney about their rights and possible legal actions. Most of all, remind them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it seems at the moment.