So your friend is getting a divorce, and you’re not sure how you feel about it. You may believe she could be handling it better, that you would have done X. You might be a child of a difficult divorce and are worried she is going down the same path as your own mom. You witness your friend, and she is not exhibiting the behaviors appropriate for someone who is ending a marriage, such as happiness or joking about divorce.
Here’s what you can do to be a supportive friend.
A person, man or woman, who is going through a divorce isn’t able to fully articulate the depth of what led to that decision. It’s so hard because we in our own minds believe firmly how we would act in that situation. I am divorced and did not seek counseling when I told my husband at the time we needed to separate. That decision wasn’t made in a flippant / who cares let’s meet some boys, frame of mind.
There are layers and multitudes that lead to that, and it’s really hard to articulate.
She may be making jokes about divorce and may be excited about other guys. I would guess it is a very strong possibility she’s DYING ON THE INSIDE. I was. I was out and meeting guys soon after we separated. These are all shallow coping mechanisms.
Divorce is not a single action, it is a journey of emotions and adjustments. I don’t like the person I was when we separated, but I was doing the best I could.
If you want to support her, try not to assert how you believe she should be handling it. Unless she is self-harming, negligent of her children, and risking her professional career – she’s going through emotions and motions.
If you’re able to – I would look at it through the lenses of “she’s going through a massive upheaval and doing it day by day and it’s okay.” If you’re able, be excited when she’s happy. Be understanding when she’s so frustrated. Be empathetic. Its okay to think “I would have done it differently” and still support her and love her through it. There is so much time left to unfold as to what sort of divorced parents she will become and grow into. When you see her doing something really great, reinforce that “you’re really being so present with your kids”. If you fear she could do more, then gently explore her thoughts and ask questions without judgment. Not from a place of fear and hurt from your childhood, rather from a place of “not sure if you see this, I love you and want to help be the eyes when maybe it’s too much to see all at once”.
She has time to rise and grow into the divorced Mom you want for her. This is really early. I’m sure I was a wreck and mess as a Mom when we were separated. But having someone who is solid and not casting judgment will be a much better path toward positive parenting after divorce. She’s unsteady right now. She will find her way. She’s got a really supportive friend in you – maybe your Mom didn’t have that? Maybe well-meaning friends approached her in a “wagging finger shame on you” way and she wasn’t able to tap into her best self.
But your friend has YOU. And you don’t judge her, you love her through this time knowing in a year so much will settle down.