Divorce doesn’t only affect family, but can often put close friends in a difficult spot. Things get divisive, people choose sides, and none of it is healthy for the couple in conflict. Want to do what’s best for your friends during a divorce? Start with this advice, from the HuffPost Divorce blog:
1. Don’t take sides. Whether you met your friend during the marriage or you are old friends from back in the day, don’t pick sides. You may think siding with your pal is what you’re supposed to do, but in reality, it decreases the chances of reconciliation and it may hinder your friend from taking accountability for his/her role in the divorce. Avoid making judgments. Let’s face it: No one knows what really goes on in a marriage aside from the two people in it. Communicate to your friend early in the divorce process that you plan to remain neutral during the divorce.
2. Don’t trash talk. Even if you think it’s what your pal wants to hear, don’t bash the ex. Casting blame can have the adverse effect of cementing your friend’s perspective that he or she is right and can potentially prolong divorce proceedings. Plus, if they reconcile, guess who gets the ax? You! Remember, you can’t fairly judge something that you weren’t involved in, so reserve making judgments and just be there to listen.
3. Don’t play counselor. Of course you should be there for your friend, but set limits. Don’t try to win the “Friend Of The Year Award” by answering calls at 3 a.m. Chances are you aren’t a licensed therapist, so don’t act like one. Encourage your pal to get real help by consulting with an independent, licensed professional who can provide guidance during this difficult time.
4. Don’t encourage war. If there is no chance for reconciliation and the divorce proceedings are under way, don’t egg on your friend to get the most he/she can. What may seem important to you may not be in your friend’s best interest, so with all due respect — butt out. If your friend decides to forego things, he/she is legally entitled to in the interest of ending the divorce in a peaceful manner; don’t be discouraging. If you really feel your concern is legitimate, ask your friend if they have consulted with their attorney about his/her decision.
5. Don’t play attorney. While it can be tempting to advise your friend through the legal aspects of divorce, avoid playing attorney. Providing legal advice based on snippets of stories you’ve heard from other friends is not helpful. Remember, this isn’t an episode of Ally McBeal — this is real life. Decisions made during divorce can impact your friend financially for years to come, so avoid playing attorney and encourage your friend to consult with a professional if you have a legitimate concern.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for a friend going through divorce is act as a sounding board, while avoiding getting involved in the issues yourself. Go further, and you risk both harming your friend, and putting yourself in an uncomfortable position.