Phases of life come and go. I watched my group of friends graduate high school, go of to college, graduate college, and then get married, buy a home and start a family. It seems to come in droves. One person is the first in our group to get engaged and then all of a sudden we attend 10 weddings in one year. But then as life goes on I notice another wave of life changes in my newsfeed and friends discussions… divorce. I start seeing long-winded announcements on social media about moving on with separate lives, co-parenting, and continuing to be friends. Others are not so amicable and some say nothing, just a swift change back to their maiden name with no further mention of their ex. At 35, I started to see these posts as early as 4-5 years ago, but it wasn’t until it came time for my best friend to make her announcement that I really started to understand a little more of what those folks facing divorce are going through. Here are my top three tips for how to support your BFF when they are going through a divorce:
1. Don’t talk about yourself, your marriage or your own circumstances.
She would have listened because she is a great friend, but now was not the time to make anything about me or my marriage. My own marriage could have been falling apart, but she didn’t need the extra stress to hear that. My own marriage could have perfect, but she didn’t need to hear me rub it in. For the time being, we just needed to talk about her.
2. Show them a good time.
She came up for the weekend immediately following her final divorce court hearing. We went out to eat, drank wine, and laughed. We went to the gay bar and danced with guys that had no intention of hitting on us (but they still bought us drinks!) and we sang old country music love songs at the top of our lungs at 3 am. She needed it, and I didn’t know it but I did too.
3. Tell them it wasn’t a waste of time.
Ten years she was with her ex and that’s a long time. Even though it is over now, she still needed to hear that ten years were not wasted. They did have good times together, at one point they were supposed to be together, and when all was said and done she found herself. She found out she no longer wanted to be with him, but that doesn’t mean the time they spent together was a waste. It was fun, she learned a lot, and she is better for it.
4. Celebrate them.
We went to a party. I was going to buy her a tiara that said “MISS” and we called it her unofficial divorce party. She isn’t the tiara type and I couldn’t find what I wanted exactly, so I settled on a sash and trucker hat that both said: “Divorced AF”. She laughed out loud, put it on and had me take a selfie with her. We talked about what she wanted to do next in her life but mostly focused on just having fun and keeping things easy that weekend. There had been enough stress and life changes that week so no future plans beyond a Sunday brunch needed to be made.
5. Let them know they are going to be just fine.
So here is where my advice deviates from real life. I didn’t have to reassure my BFF that she was going to be just fine, she already knew that. Her divorce was final in January but she had been separated for months already and I am pretty sure her decision was final before that even happened. She knew what she needed and what she wanted and she did it. She didn’t need me to reassure her about that. But for someone with less confidence or a really complex break-up (we weren’t dealing with children or tons of joint property) they may need a little reassuring that everything is going to be ok. You know your friend better than anyone, and you will just know what they need when the time comes.
No matter what ways you decide is best to support your friend the number one thing you can do is just be there….and listen.