What to do When Your Friends are Getting a Divorce (Part 3)

May 17, 2010

In parts one and two, we touched on some ways for Ann to explore and cope with her experience of Mary and Andy’s divorce. This last part will look at the possible impact on Ann’s relationship with her own husband, since one of her worries was that this might happen to her and Jim.

  • STAY CURIOUS If Jim’s feelings about this event are different from Ann’s, she may feel angry and dismissed. Jim may tend to ‘side with’ Andy and Ann with Mary. Stay curious about the thoughts and feelings that each of you have and work for understanding and not necessarily agreement. Try, “Tell me more about what you’re thinking and feeling” to open up the conversation. Using “I feel/think/am” statements instead of those beginning with “You are” can keep both of you in a dialogue that goes back and forth. “Knowing” what is right/true or wrong/false encourages anger and distance and shortchanges both parties.
  • ACCEPT (WITHOUT BLAME) each others feelings as true and real and respond to them in terms of understanding and, if needed, comfort. Very often our feelings about present events are based in our histories. This may bring into awareness experiences that have left unrecognized legacies on their relationship and offer the opportunity to use them consciously and well or to choose a different way.
  • EXPLORE AND SHARE together the emotions that may be hidden by anger or avoidance. Using anger and avoidance may be how you learned not to feel sadness, fear, and pain. This is more common than not. Learning to use our underlying emotions to help us determine the best course can help us avoid misunderstandings and deepen our relationships.
  • EVALUATE together the ‘joys and concerns’ in your relationship. We would urge Ann and Jim to share their feelings with each other and if Mary and Andy’s divorce has brought issues into awareness that have gone unnoticed before, it is a wonderful opportunity to begin dealing with them directly and, perhaps, even get professional help for themselves. Evaluating what is and what isn’t working in their relationship and in their family could be the impetus for a deepening and revitalizing of their relationship.
  • BE PATIENT WITH THE PROCESS The resolution of this crisis will take time and may not look like anything that anyone would anticipate. Try not to make anything happen too quickly. Thorough change happens slowly and, perhaps, in fits and starts. If Ann and Jim can develop a united, compassionate, and non-judgmental presence with their group, Mary and Andy have a better chance of getting the support they need and the ‘group’ a better chance of staying strong and allowing a new reality to emerge.

A divorce within one’s circle of friends can be very de-stabilizing. We hope we have honored the significance of this event and offered suggestions for both “being” and “doing” during this often difficult time.

Peggy Roth, MS Ed, LMFT is a Senior Staff Therapist at Council for Relationships’ University City and Paoli Offices. Request an appointment today.