Being a good friend sometimes can put you in a very stressful – what can I possibly do or say situation – especially when your friend is going through a divorce crises. As much as you want to be on her side and support her, you may actually stress her and freak her out even more about the decision she is making.  In general it is always best to be a “good listener” during challenging times.  When I was going through my divorce I got all sorts of running commentaries and suggestions by well-meaning friends that just stressed me to new levels.  I deeply wished that they would know what to say and what not to say to me that would help me through that difficult journey.  Sometimes I just wished to be heard with getting no response at all.

Here are some of the things that I came up with:

Don’t say:” Well, statistics show that almost 50% of marriages end in divorce”. How is that supposed to help and make you feel better? Even if divorce is very common it is still a very painful and traumatic experience. Telling your friend how common it is undermines how upset your friend is feeling and makes her feel unsupported.

Don’t give advice! I call this unsolicited advice and nothing drove me over the edge more than this. It’s amazing how many people who have never experienced a divorce think they have the greatest advice to offer.  I believe people mean well, but someone who hasn’t had the experience or isn’t an expert in this field really shouldn’t offer unsolicited advice.  It can come to haunt them back and lose a friendship over it if the advice lead to a destructive or painful results. Regardless of your intentions or connections to your friend refrain from offering advice, especially when not being asked. If asked and you feel ill equipped to answer your friend tell her something like: “I would love to help you with this but I honestly don’t feel that I have the knowledge or skills to help guide you the right way, and I care too much about you to give you advice that could potentially hurt you”. She will appreciate your honesty a lot more than advice.

Don’t exclude your friend from couple’s night out. I know you might think you are hurting your friend by inviting her to couples night, but trust me your friend doesn’t care if you are going solo or with a platonic friend or partner. It means more to her that you don’t drop her and keep her in your life and let things be as normal as possible. Some of my friends made this mistake which ultimately resulted in alienation.

Don’t make comments that are supposed to make her feel better but are really kind of stupid.  For example: “He is an asshole”, “kids are resilient”, “you will find someone better”.  As mentioned before if you don’t know what to say SAY  NOTHING!

Don’t say: “I kind of saw it coming”, or “I had a feeling you guys weren’t happy”.  If you are a true friend don’t make your friend feel like you were analyzing her relationship from the sidelines.  It is not your place and will make her feel awful. Remember to keep your opinions to yourself.

Don’t badmouth your friend’s ex or soon to be ex.  You are probably thinking that it will make your friend feel better when you point out negative behavior from her ex. Or maybe you are thinking it will give your friend the confidence in her decision to divorce.  What hurt me deeply was how many people all of a sudden came forward with stories about my ex of things they knew he did and what they truly thought of him. Why didn’t they tell me when before I married him or when things were actually happening? Saying these things now really aren’t conducive.

Don’t’ ever say “I am jealous, you get to start over”. It’s amazing the kind of senseless comments people can sometimes say. Some people actually told me they are jealous that I had the courage to leave. I thought to myself, what are they jealous of? Custody arrangements? My endless Legal bills? The painful hardships of a torn-up family?  The inferno I lived in? I couldn’t quite wrap my head around these comments. Of course, marriage has its ups and downs and some people look at divorcing people as lucky in the sense that they get a fresh start.  Please know that just because your friend is getting a fresh start it is far from easy and her journey will consist of many challenges. Expressing to her that you are jealous of her freedom, reminds her that you are still married, and guess what, she really doesn’t need to hear this right now.

Don’t offer an attorney without being asked.  Don’t say something like: “I know a great attorney, let me get you an appointment”.  Stepping in while someone is going through a divorce and proactively offering your suggestions may come across pushy. Your friend needs space to think about things, so instead of being pushy just say you have referrals if she needs them and let her reach out if she chooses to do so.

Don’t say “Let me know if you need anything”. I was never good at accepting things from anyone so when people offered me that kind of help it really wasn’t much of a help.  If you want to offer a helping hand to your friend who really needs you now, be specific: Offer to watch after the kids, or a sleepover so she can take a break, take her out to a movie, or cook her a meal.  She will most likely accept what your offering or tell you that she has things under control when you offer more concrete help.

Don’t suggest: “Have a fling”! Your friend will be ready to date at some point, but suggesting a fling really belittles the fact that she is still in a mourning crisis and needs the time to heal.  A lot of people feel pressured by their friends and sometimes even family to start dating too soon, and for many it really doesn’t work well.  It will take your friend time to settle down after the divorce, to heal and better understand what really happened over the course of her marriage and ultimately find herself again. Be the friend she needs by trying to get in touch with what she is experiencing and learn how to support her during this difficult time.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

Telling your children about your pending divorce will probably be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with them. Even if the announcement is not a surprise (your children kind of saw it coming or can’t stand the constant tension and fighting), it is natural for children to want their parents and their family to stay together. This conversation will break their hearts and dreams and it will be one they will NEVER forget.

There is no perfect or easy way to have this conversation with them, but the following tips can make it a little easier.

1 – Present a united front. You and your soon-to-be-ex should sit down with your children together and explain the situation. Even if the divorce isn’t a joint decision, it’s best to present it as such and to incorporate the word “we” as much as possible when explaining the decisions that has been made.  Your children need to feel confident and reassured that you and your soon to be ex will be able to work together and guide them as parents.  As challenging as it is to do this together I can’t stress the importance of this enough.  This is really ONLY about your children. It is not about you so do whatever it takes and refrain from accusations and bitterness towards one another. Make sure you have your emotions in check when you deliver the news.

2 – Avoid sharing inappropriate information with children. Please don’t discuss adult details with your children. They either won’t understand what you’re talking about or will resent you for a number of reasons: You are overburdening and overwhelming them with information that their young minds can’t process, you’re bad mouthing the other parent, and you are influencing them indirectly to take sides (your side). Only share with them what they need to know in an honest way and make sure you keep it focused on them. Explain to them what the plan is for them, like if they would be moving to a new house and how often they would get to see each parent.  Remember this is going to change their whole world and you want to give them a sense of reassurance that you will do whatever it takes to keep it as balanced and as normal as possible.

3 – The kids didn’t cause this. Make sure they know that. Your best bet is to give the kids the reason for the separation but make it external to both of you and something that they can live with. “We grew apart” is a good one. “Your mom/dad is a great mom/dad but we just don’t get along as a couple” is good as well. The reality (in your mind) and what you actually tell the kids, really do not have to match. It’s not their fault, it’s an external reason that is not the fault of any of you: you, your spouse or your kids. And for their own well-being, that’s all they need to know.

4 – Plan what you are going to say: This is not the kind of conversation you want to do off the cuff. Be sure to prepare what you want your children to hear. If you are doing it together with your soon to be ex you could each take turns covering the important points you want to share with your children:

  • “You know that Mom and Dad have been having problems. We’ve tried to fix this, but things aren’t working out.”
  • “We both love you very much. Nothing will ever change that love or the fact that we will always be here for you.”
  • “We will always be your mom and dad. But we aren’t going to be husband and wife any more. Your dad [or mom] and I are getting a divorce.”
  • “You are great kids. It is our fault that this is happening — not yours.”
  • “Even though things are going to change, we will always be a family.”

If you noticed the above points each have an important message:

  1. You are explaining to them that there is an issue between the two of you without getting into the details.
  2. You are reassuring them and letting them know that you will always love them.
  3. You are giving a clear message that this is NOT their fault and has nothing to do with them.
  4. You are clarifying that although things will change it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative change.

It is best that you repeat the reassuring statements above as often as possible. You should let your children know that you love them and that they are not at fault for this at all.  Children sadly internalize divorce to be their doing and need to hear this time and time again.

 5- It’s not over until it’s over. Do not tell your children that you are divorcing unless you and your spouse are ABSOLUTELY certain that the decision is final. I usually advise my clients to do this when one of you is ready to move out or they at least have a preliminary divorce agreement and plan in place. However sometimes this may not be possible.  In such an event, be sure that you discuss it with your soon to be ex so you can both plan when the appropriate time to break the news should be. Do not tell the kids without telling your ex, it is not fair towards your ex and not fair towards your kids.

 6 – Timing is everything. Pick a time where you and your ex are emotionally ready to support the kids, in whichever way they end up reacting. Many couples don’t realize the importance of this and fail to respond to their children’s reaction effectively. If you haven’t yet come to terms with it yourself and are not strong enough for yourself, you might want to wait till you are in a better and stronger place. Be sure you have the support and guidance you need for yourself before you break the news to your children. You will have to carry both your pain and theirs. It would be great if you can arrange a support system for your children, it could be family members and professionals. Be sure to inform their teacher and guidance counselor. They will handle them accordingly and provide them with the support they need.  Do not do this to them right before graduation or an important exam. Choose your timing carefully. Very carefully.

 7 – Expect mixed reactions: No child will react to this news the same way, so it is impossible to predict how your children will respond. That being said, you should expect the worst and hope for the best. Your child/ren might start yelling or crying, perhaps they will storm off to their rooms and slam the doors, or start blaming and throwing accusations.  Please do not take anything your child/ren is saying now personally. They are deeply upset and frightened and need time to digest the news.  Depending on your child’s personality give them what they need. Some will need space and time to think, some will need hugs and reassurance.  Be sure to tune into your child/ren needs and be there for them.

 8 – Encourage questions: Your child/ren might need time to process the news and figure out how they feel. Therefore, you should expect to have many more conversations with them as things start unfolding. The first conversation is really just a door opener for ongoing dialogue between parents and children. Both you and your soon to be ex should be open to answering your children’s questions, and respond to their emotional needs. Don’t ever shut them down, or make them feel bad for asking questions that make you feel uncomfortable. Find ways to answer them in a way that is age appropriate but satisfactory without shaming or blaming your soon to be ex.

9 –  Consistency is key — to the best of your ability. I know right now things might be up in the air and you yourself don’t quite know where life will take you. However, it is extremely important that you give your children clarity to the best of your ability.  Let them know what they can expect. What school they will be attending and where they will live.  If things aren’t 100% finalized or clear yet be sure to explain to them that you are working out the details and should have more information for them in a couple of weeks. Buy yourself more time than you anticipate to avoid unnecessary stress.  Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Knowing what to expect and then seeing that it actually happens, will alleviate a lot of their anxieties.

10 – Stay calm. Your kids are watching and feeling you ALL THE TIME. If you breast fed your children, you may remember how they used to get cranky when you were tense or stressed. Children FEEL EVERYTHING.  If you are anxious, they will be anxious. If you are out of control, they will be out of control as well. It is perfectly normal for you to grieve and you should, all of you, it is normal.  That being said, it is absolutely NOT OK as a parent to be out of control in front of the kids, badmouth the other parent or neglect the kids’ routines. Breath, deeply, and be there for your kids. They need you.

With divorce, remember that your relationship with your soon-to-be ex is not ending; it is changing. You will need to continue to work together to be supportive co-parents to your children all the way into adulthood. Demonstrating respect and care for the other parent sends your children the message that you also respect and care for them.

Although divorce is very difficult and breaking the news to your children is painful and overwhelming,  difficult, you and your children can come away from the experience emotionally stronger and with a deeper bond between you if the focus remains on the children and their needs.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

 

 

You’re now in the midst of a bitter divorce. You wake up daily wondering how your life got so out of control.  How did two people who once loved one another (or at least you thought so), end up in this bitter venomous painful nightmare? Somehow it seems that no matter what you say, your spouse defiantly opposes you.  It may seem that even when you both finally agree on an issue, one of you changes your mind for the sole purpose of being an obstructionist.  You don’t really know why, but somehow both of you are just responding to one another with animosity and contempt. You are unable to channel your feelings of hurt and disappointment and they keep getting in the way of every little issues.

When the cost of the fight exceeds the value of the object
As you’re driving home from the latest meeting between you and your spouse and your respective attorneys, you replay the conversation in your head.  Your frustration begins to mount as you do the simple math.  You spent two and a half hours fighting with your spouse over who gets to keep the dining room table and chairs.   In the clarity that comes from being away from the emotional tinderbox you just experienced, you recognize that you incurred fees of $1,250 or more fighting the dining room set fight, while your spouse incurred the same cost or more for their own attorney.  In the end, you couldn’t reach a resolution because neither one of you was willing to back down.  At that moment, you realize that your combined attorney fees of $2,500 already exceed the cost of the set.  And the issue is still unresolved.  You are asking yourself “how does this even make sense?”, “how do I even justify this?” So why not give it up?

When you lose sight of your priorities
If you look back at all the meetings with your respective attorneys, a pattern emerges.  You fight over things you don’t care about or may not even want.  So why can’t you let go?  Perhaps divorce has been depicted to you as having a single outcome:  you’ve either won or you’ve lost.  Perhaps your attorney has hinted early on in your meetings that you will emerge the victor.  So you dig your heels and go ahead with  your full reserve of emotional resources to fight every battle, big or small, to assure a win. What you don’t realize is that price you are paying for this battle is one that you will not be able to afford. It will drain you financially, and sap the last bit of energy out of you emotionally and mentally.

Back in the day when I was going through my divorce I was so lost that I followed my lawyer blindly. I did not have a mentor or coach that enlightened me and presented other options. All I knew was that I had to do whatever it takes to WIN this war, or who knows what I would lose.  Hindsight they say is 20/20, and although my EX was really not a candidate for peaceful resolution, I wish I would have at least known what other alternatives would have been available to me. Even if I would have ended up in the same drawn out court battle, at least I would have felt more in control, having made the decisions myself.

Seek an alternative path that leads to your happiness

Divorce by nature is highly charged and emotional. The most calm and logical person can get pulled into heated discussions that result in illogical responses and reactions.  The need to win at all cost has an alternative.  Thoughtful compromise through a facilitated dialogue can lead to both of you feeling victorious in those areas that you identified as priorities.  In mediation, you’re not trying to win, you are navigating through what matters most, addressing these points through productive discussion, and building your path to a new life.  This is a significant differentiator.  Instead of being dragged through a series of small battles in which you are certain to be at least an occasional loser, mediation helps you to create a new foundation based on your own priorities with the goal of leading you to future happiness.  That is why today I advise most of my clients to opt for mediation when possible. It will save you a lot of money and heartache. Believe it or not it is possible for divorce can actually end in “happily ever after.”

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com