How to help a friend through a divorce.

Honey and I celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday so it seems weird to be talking about divorce.  However, that’s where life is right now.  We know a couple who is in the process of ending their marriage.  This is a couple we’ve known through the majority of our marriage and their decision to end their marriage came as quite a surprise to us.

We met Betty and Al (not their real names, but I’m guessing at least one person will know my reference) shortly after we moved to our town and pretty quickly became friends.  Betty and Al were a bit older than us and had been married for longer, and even had kids and a dog.  Compared to us newlyweds they were seasoned veterans.  We bonded over the Red Sox, family, books, work and before we knew it we were a part of each other’s lives.  Betty and Al were two of the first people we told that we were pregnant, both times.  They gave us great advice about parenting (that we still use) in those early traumatic weeks after Lovey’s birth.   Over time Al and Honey became closer than Betty and I as they developed a lot of similar interests.  Betty and Al moved to another area of town two years ago and we didn’t see them quite as much.  Although, they were the first people we had over when we moved into our new house.

Over the past few months whenever we saw Betty or Al they weren’t together.  We didn’t think much of it, as there was always a logical explanation, until one day when I casually asked Al what Betty was up to and he broke down.  He explained that they would be getting a divorce.  He had confided in Honey a week or two before and to his credit, Honey had said nothing to me.  To say I was shocked was an understatement.  This couple who had been so important to us and seemed so strong was falling apart.  We both felt like we needed to do whatever we could to support them.  Because Honey and Al are closer we haven’t seen to talked to Betty about this since we learned the news.  I don’t want it to seem like we’re taking sides here, because we’re not, we just have more of a relationship with Al right now.  If Betty were to reach out to us for support right now we would offer it to her as well.

Since we learned about this we have done several things to offer support that may be useful to others in a similar situation:

  • Show up.  This is Rule #1 of life.  Be there for people.  Honey and Al had a standing date to get together once a week during the spring.  When summer came I encouraged him to continue to keep the date, if it was what Al needed.  He agreed.  It gives him an opportunity to get out of the house and allows him a chance to talk about what’s going on with someone he knows he can confide in.
  • Stay neutral.  This one might be tricky for some, but Honey and I haven’t said a single thing about Betty.  We know there are two sides to every story and right now we are hearing one so it’s best not to bad mouth one person “in support” of the other.  Again, if Betty were to come to us for support we would offer it.
  • Help out with the kids.  Al told Honey that it occurred to him that now that he was doing things as a single parent it would be harder for him to take his kids places.  An opportunity presented itself where we could do a family activity that his kids would also enjoy and so we invited him knowing that we could help out.  If we need to help out in other ways, like offering to pick kids up at school or have playdates we’d be happy to do that as well.

I’m sure there are other things that we are doing right now to be supportive as well, but those are the big ones.  If you have been through a divorce, or have supported a friend through one what are some of the things you found to be helpful?

3 thoughts on “How to help a friend through a divorce.

  1. It’s so hard when this happens because it affects everyone. Here’s my one observation that I will add from experience – don’t be surprised if one of the pair decides to distance themselves from you because sometimes a way to heal is for them to create a more neutral ground. It’s happened to two couples we knew – we knew all individuals before they were married, but after divorce, only one stayed really close with us. Nonetheless, make the one who is distancing themselves from you know that when they are ready, your door will always be open.


  2. I think this is so tough. I remember when one couple I greatly admired announced their separation to Natacha and I. It seemed we also had our own grieving to do. Our dear friends often quip at us “we can handle so-and-so getting separated but you two never can!” It’s hard to watch when couples we look up to choose another path. I think your offers of non-judgmental support and concrete assistance are just what folks need, and having feelings about it is okay too.


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