Falling in love is fun, exciting and romantic. It is all the things we dream of and romance novels are made of. And of course then there is falling out of love- it is, as we know, just the opposite. The end of a significant relationship will bring with it fear, grief and sadness and a range of other emotions that can turn even the most controlled person into a madman!
One of the hardest things next to your own divorce is watching your best friend, or loved one, deal with all that flows from the breakdown of their marriage. Sometimes there is the desire to celebrate- you might have been watching from the sidelines for years and have ‘known’ for a long time the break up was inevitable. (Just a tip, now is not the time to share those wise thoughts and come to think of it, I don’t know that time will ever come, so just keep them to yourself!) More often though the news comes as a surprise and will come completely out of the blue.
We never really know what is happening in the relationships of others and sometimes the breakdown of a loved one’s marriage can make us question our own relationships. It can be confronting and confusing and chances are you will suddenly see someone you care for in the depths of grief- they will go from being calm, rationale and seemingly unaffected, to overwhelmed, angry, teary and inconsolable (and back again all in the space of an hour!).
So what can we do to support those closest to us as they fall out of love? Perhaps the most important things is to ask them exactly that- to sit and listen and ask them just what they need from you right now. But there is every chance they won’t be able to answer you and so, if that is the case here are 3 things that you can do to help them through-
1. Listen, listen again and then keep listening- This will be hard and you might hear the same things over and over again, but just being there, listening is sometimes all they will need. They most important thing is to listen without judgment. This is not easy, as there is a good chance you will want to share your thoughts or that your loved one will ask for them. But try and avoid judgment and instead focus on acknowledging the emotions they feel. This will help them to feel someone is ‘by their side’.
If it is a year down the track and your loved one is still telling the same stories in which he or she is still the blameless victim it might be time to try a little ‘gentle’ reality testing! Do be careful, it might be wiser to encourage them to see a professional counsellor who will be in a far better position to help (and without the risk of damaging your relationship).
2. Help them to find the ‘right’ information- Almost every client I see during divorce says a similar thing- they describe feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn. Divorce is one of those times in life when everyone around you is suddenly an expert! Sadly though, that expertise is usually as a result of their own direct experience of divorce and rarely because they are a professional working in the space. You can help your loved one by making sure that the information and advice they are receiving is from the best source for them.
Professionals such as counsellors, lawyers and financial planners all have much to add during divorce. The key is to find the right advisor for the issue your loved one is dealing with at that time.
If you are going with them to appointments, use those listening skills again and take notes but try and remember that this is not ‘your’ divorce and your job here is to support and ensure that they are able to make informed choices for themselves. You want them to look back on their decisions in 5 years’ time and know that they were good decisions that they had time to consider properly and make for themselves.
3. Help them to find the silver linings- Being able to find the positives when it feels like everything in your life is upside down is a real challenge. During divorce, it will be really difficult for your loved one to find the ‘silver linings’ as chances are their life has turned upside down- their home, relationship, friendships and social circles are probably changing and it may be entirely against their wish and out of their control.
Often there are few positives to be found at the end of a marriage and so, as a friend, or loved one we can help to create some for the future. You don’t need to organise an around the world adventure (although I am sure that might be perfect for some!). Go for the simple things- a walk, a coffee, a dinner or night out- just something that your loved one can look forward to- a silver lining to help get them through the tough times.
Our great friendships can be a lot like a marriage- they can be for life and come with ups and downs, good times and sad times. When a marriage comes to an end we all need our friends and those closest to us by our sides to help us as we take those first steps into a new future. A great friend will be there, through thick and thin with chocolate, wine or beer in hand with boxes of tissues and reassuring words. A great friend also knows when to save us from ourselves, when to quietly and calmly remind us that a decision we are about to make may not be the best!
And on that note, a final thought- if you find your loved one making their way to Facebook to share their thoughts on their former spouse this is the one time you are allowed to ignore all the above advice, charge across the room and throw them aside to disengage their electronic device- trust me, they will thank you later on!
Clarissa Rayward is a Divorce Lawyer & Mediator and the Owner of Brisbane Family Law Centre. Over the past 14 years, Clarissa has worked with over 2000 families during separation and divorce. She specialises in assisting her clients to experience a dignified divorce- staying away from the Court process and finding sustainable agreements for the future.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 15 minute phone appointment with Clarissa or one of her team here.
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