Often, we can become so involved in the lives of friends and family members that their experiences can begin to exhaust us. We feel compelled to offer them all of the help, advice, condolences, nights out, and extra shoulders to cry on that we can muster up. This is especially true during a divorce. While it is certainly important to be there for the people most important to us, balancing how we do that is just as important. A recent article from The Washington Post offered some of the following tips, mixed in with our own, on how to handle your relationship with someone going through a divorce and some very important things to avoid.
Do Not Offer Legal Advice
Chances are that unless you have been through a divorce yourself, you are not extremely familiar with how your state’s divorce laws work. Even then, you should remember that divorce is an individual process that impacts each person differently. Some laws that applied to you may not apply to everyone else, or there could be laws you are unfamiliar with that are applicable to someone else. Even if a close friend or family member has intimately involved you in the details of their divorce, it is still difficult to generalize those experiences, especially if such experiences happened in another state with different divorce laws. Television and movies offer a skewed version of how divorce works, too.
Keep in mind that your familiarity with such laws is likely often limited, and dispensing unqualified advice can sometimes do more harm than good. It is understandable that you will want to do everything you can to help a friend or family member going through a divorce and will want to ensure that things like divorce settlements are fair to them. However, it is almost always best to let them discuss the law and related pieces of the divorce process with their lawyer. As with any type of advice, ask the person if they need help before offering it and limit that help to what you are best qualified to provide.
Do Not Degrade Their Soon-to-Be Ex
Just because a couple is divorcing does not mean that there is automatically animosity between the two spouses. Even in cases where infidelity has led to the decision to pursue divorce, a person may still have strong feelings of attachment for their spouse and might not respond positively to unkind words about them. It is one thing for someone to call their spouse names or talk negatively about them, but it is another thing for someone else to do that.
It is also important to keep in mind that you do not necessarily know how the divorce process will play out. Even if both spouses have already moved out, already have lawyers, and already have custody agreements ready to present to the court, there is no way to know if they will be able to reconcile. If that happens and you have spent the previous several months insulting and degrading their spouse, it could cause problems between you and them that are difficult to overcome.
Do Not Force Positivity
There is nothing wrong with trying to look on the bright side of a negative event. However, doing so can take some time. It is important to try and take the time to understand a loved one’s emotions during the divorce process, which can vary from positive to negative. Try and allow a person going through a divorce to experience the wide range of emotions that will accompany it. It is a healthy, natural process to go through that can be made more difficult by trying to force silver linings and hopeful attitudes on someone that might not be at that place yet.
Do Not Make Insincere or Vague Offers to Help
If you want to be there for someone that is going through a divorce, then be there for them. However, make sure that your offers to help during an extremely difficult process are concrete and sincere. Instead of just saying that you will be there should they need anything, help them understand how you will be there for them. Offer to watch the kids for a few hours on Saturday so she can treat herself to some quiet time or a manicure. Find out what day he will not have the kids and offer to bring a pizza over and watch the game. Knowing exactly what someone will do to help make the divorce process easier can be extremely uplifting, and can give people something to look forward to during a painful time.
Do Not Push Anyone to “Get Back Out There”
While a reflex to divorce may be to encourage a person to get back out there and start dating again, people need to do so at their own pace. You may think that bringing your friend to the bar every night and setting them up on three blind dates every weekend is the best thing for them, but they need time to heal. Not only is the prospect of starting a new relationship difficult to digest, trying to do so while a divorce is pending can actually make the divorce process more difficult and may even have a negative impact on the potential divorce settlement. Let the person experiencing divorce decide if they want a night at the bar or a movie night in, and let them tell you when they are ready to “get back out there.”
Remember that Divorce is an Individual Process
As with most things in life, what works for you or another person does not automatically work for everyone else under the sun. There is nothing wrong with dispensing friendly advice, as long as you have been asked to do so. Most of the time, people experiencing a traumatic and difficult event like divorce simply want to know that the people they love and trust are there for them. You can provide that by listening. It is rarely helpful or reassuring to know that two or three other friends of yours are going through divorce or that chocolate ice cream always made you feel better during yours. Offering up these adages makes the focus of the conversation turn to you, and that can make the person going through a trying experience feel even less “heard” than they already might feel.
Legal Assistance with Florida Divorce
Divorce can be an intimidating and confusing process, but you do not have to face it alone. Working with an experienced family law attorney that focuses their practice on working with clients going through a Florida divorce can be an important part of understanding the divorce process and emerging from it successfully. If you are considering divorce, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more about what a Florida divorce might mean for you.