How To Help a Friend Going Through Divorce

how to help a friend going through divorceWhile this site is mainly dedicated to self help for men going through divorce, all too often us guys do not go seeking advice and help out of a mistaken sense of trying to be “strong” and independent. It is often other people in their lives that try to find ways to reach out to them and find it very difficult, or simply do not even know how to approach such a raw and delicate topic. How to help a friend going through divorce is not just a unique skill for this particular situation – it can be applied to any situation where you are trying to help someone overcome grief and loss. However this post will delve into the more unique aspects of men and divorce as well, to help you tailor your approach.

Firstly I think it might be helpful to break it down into what you should NOT do. Common mistakes that people always make out of ignorance, or out of well meaning – but misplaced efforts.

  • how not to help a friend through divorceDo NOT Insult Their Ex Wife – It might seem tempting to begin to demonise the ex wife in an attempt to make your friend feel they are better off without them, or to try to convince them that it was all the ex wife’s fault and none of theirs. Even if they are doing it themselves in front of you, never join in because they might not really feel the same as what they – and you – are saying. A session of complaining against women and especially the ex might actually end up angering your friend because they still will leap to the defence of their ex at this stage. It is also just good practice not to bad mouth people even if they do deserve it.
  • Do NOT Try To Fix Their Problems – I know the feeling of seeing a good friend or loved one dealing with a big problem badly. Sometimes you just want to jump in and tell them exactly how they should fix it. You might even know from experience, or have very good reason to believe you are correct. However at this stage you should not be offering advice to someone who is not yet ready to hear it. They might be angry at you, ignore you, or take the advice the wrong way. People will only change when they are in the right space to change and your role as a friend is to support not to force their hand.
  • Do NOT Attempt To Get Them To Date – Some people believe the best way to get over a hard break-up or divorce is to hit the dating scene again to find a new lover. This is the absolute WORST mistake a friend can make when trying to help their friend. This could be disastrous to a mans self esteem if they do badly, and very bad even if they are successful because they are trying to boost their self esteem in the short term rather than trying to find a long term solution to their happiness and life goals. Trust me; do not encourage them to do this!!
  • Do NOT Avoid The Topic – While it is a difficult topic to approach you should not shy away from talking about the divorce. This does not mean you should go headlong into it, but acknowledging that you know they are getting a divorce and that you are there to help them is a good start. If you do not acknowledge this, it becomes a strange unsaid void between you and your friend and they will not be certain if they should talk to you about it as you might be uncomfortable with the topic.

Now these are not the only mistakes that you can make when trying to help a friend going through divorce, but they are some of the most common ones. They also lead into how you should be approaching this delicate topic. Here are a few more tips on what you SHOULD be doing to support your divorced friend.

how to help your friend after divorce

  • Acknowledge The Divorce – As mentioned before, you need to broach the issue quite early so that there can be a dialogue about the divorce. You do not need to say you want to talk about it, or that they need to talk about it – you just need to let them know that you know and that you care. You might even tell them that you do NOT know what to say and how to feel about their divorce; that is ok too. It will mean a lot to them that you are just there for them – and it gives them the initiative to talk when they are ready without fear of being ignored, misunderstood, or preached at.
  • Listen! – This is the most important skill to have when supporting a friend after their divorce. You do not need to even need to reply, as long as you are there for them to talk to when they are ready. One problem is that we often feel the need to interject and ask more questions, or offer advice. This will not help when what they need is someone for them to pour out their thoughts and feelings too. This will allow them to often find the right decisions without ever saying a word! One tactic that is very useful in this area is what is known as active listening where you reflect back what they say to them in your own words. This way you engage in a conversation but they drive the entire thing.
  • Be Grounded – While you need to empathise, make sure to not get carried away if they begin to over react to things. You need to be grounded and realistic to help them avoid complicated situations and be able to more through the divorce well.
  • Offer Help – Make sure you offer some practical help as well as your words and your ear. Simple things like doing small errands to help them save time, or doing small things that might be painful for them to deal with can make a big difference and shows a lot of support.
  • Watch For Warning Signs – While it is natural for them to be anger, sad, scared and so forth – if you see a major serious decline into depression, drinking, or any other destructive behaviours do not turn a blind eye. Make sure to contact whoever you can to give them the help they need if things are becoming out of control.
  • Laugh! – No matter how serious life is we all need to laugh. It is amazing how much this can help someone who is feeling low and lost. Simple humour and laughter can have a massive impact on their outlook and actually stimulates feel good chemicals in the brain that can boost their mood. It can also remind them that life can be fun and worth living even if times are dark.

This is by no means an all encompassing list, but I think it sums up what you need to be to help a friend going through divorce. You are not their psychologist, you are not their life fixer, and you are not their silent companion either. You are their metaphorical shoulder to cry on until they need you to be more. You are there to help when it is needed – and not before. You are there to enable and empower them to change their own life for the better.

If you feel they are ready to learn more about themselves and how to get over a divorce specifically related to men, perhaps direct them to this blog – or to the main page where they can download the Men After Divorce eBook which maybe be a good guide for them to move through this rough phase of their life.

Living With Your Wife After Separation and Divorce

living with your wife after divorce
Still Sleeping On The Couch?

It came as quite a surprise to me to find that there seems to be a significant number of men living with their wife after separation and divorce. After speaking with a number of divorced men in real life and many more online in various forums, blogs, and via email it seems this phenomenon is quite widespread – if still not the norm. This prompted me to think a little more deeply on this topic of living with your wife after divorce and what the consequences of this might be.

I am going to hold off judgement on whether I think this is right or wrong until a little bit later. For the moment lets look at a few issues that surround this issue, and are consequences of it:

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money

Money: Many men I spoke to commented that it was simply about money. They could not afford to move out, or they could not afford to support their wife moving out. Money is always a major player in our minds when separation and divorce rears its ugly head and many guys focus on it almost exclusively as a way to keep things in perspective. Money becomes a central theme for some men and it gives them something to concentrate on and wrap their minds around while the more ambiguous emotions are left aside because they are too hard to deal with. While you can never dismiss the importance of money, it does sometimes become more of an issue that it really is – men should ask themselves the question, if they did have money, would they move out right away? If you hesitate then perhaps it is not really the money and you need to take a closer look.

childrenChildren: Another curly issue that comes up is of course children. How can either of you manage with kids when one moves out. Custody is a major issue here, but more importantly the safety, security and health of your children who are the innocent victims in this adult problem of separation and divorce. This is a tricky one and of course depends on custody laws and how far you are through getting s divorce. Amicable divorces might end up doing this for the sake of the children which might be a good thing, but if the divorce is not amicable – there might be more consequences of staying living together for the children than if one or the other moves out. A question to ask yourself might be what long term impact will the arguments, the lack of clarity and anxiety about the situation between their mom and dad. Are you doing what is best for your kids in this instance?

attachmentAttachment: For many men after separation and divorce, the real reason they do not move out is because of the attachment issues they still have with their ex-wife and their home. This is the real reason behind many guys choosing to live with their ex-wife. Some men even sit through enormous indignities such as their ex going out partying every night, flirting with other men on the phone in front of them – and in some very sick cases having to be present when their ex brings back a new boyfriend for the night (in one case the kids were also present which makes me very sad). Men who do this are often stuck in the stage of denial which is the first stage of grief where we cannot accept what is actually happening. In rare cases some men have gone through this – past the stage of anger – and end up in the bargaining stage. They are actually trying to somehow work out a deal to bring their marriage back (which never happens). I explain in more detail the stages of divorce in my e-book you can find by clicking here.

stubbornPride & Stubborness: Another reason some guys do not move out is pride and/or being stubborn. Not wanting to move because they should and if they refuse this becomes a kind of passive aggressive action against their ex. Men doing this might be mired in the anger stage of divorce and are looking for nay way to express it without too much confrontation. A kind of Mexican stand off with their wife but never actually saying what they really want. This is quite rare though from my experience as this cannot last long before something breaks.


So should you live with your wife after separation or divorce?

At first I thought it was very strange and my mind instantly said no. From my experience and research this sort of proximity with the person you must end your relationship with causes until tension and problems. Emotional turmoil, arguments, hostility, and sometimes sexual encounters which can complicate things even further. It also, as has been mentioned, comes with a certain amount of humiliation for many guys whose ex wife does not respect their feelings or space. However, after thinking upon this and talking with some men my mind has been changed but only very slightly. If you are living with your wife (or ex-wife) after separation or divorce then there are only a very few select sets of circumstances where it might work out.

  • It needs to be an amicable divorce without hostility
  • If children are involved they need to be treated fairly and understand what is happening
  • You must be doing this out of a sense of co-operation and not being mired in the early stages of divorce recovery.
  • If money is the real issue, then you must be prepared to save up and work out better living arrangements as soon as possible.

Some Tips to Live With Your Ex After Divorce

live with wife after divorceSome further tips on how to create a stable living environment if you have to live with your ex wife after you are separated or divorced are needed because this can be an emotional minefield that you will have to navigate every day. Let take a look at a few things you can do:

 

  • Separate sleeping arrangements that never meet are vital. NEVER sleep together or in the same room. Make sure you separate yourself and if possible both have beds, don’t have one person sleeping on a couch as this is a kind of humiliation that causes friction.
  • Draft a living agreement that clearly states who will do what so there is no leftovers from your marriage about who used to do what. Make sure there will be no arguments or manipulation, just a document which outlines who will do what so there is no confusion.
  • Make sure both of you have your own space. Following on from point one; you have to both feel comfortable in the house and not be stepping on each others toes all the time. Add this into the living agreement about times for bathrooms, when you have access to certain facilities and so forth.
  • Schedule things. Make sure everything is planned so you know when you should be out for the night when she invites the girls around, and vice versa. Also make sure to schedule in times to talk about the divorce if it has not finished yet so that it is never ad hoc and happens when one party is angry, upset, or tired.
  • If you are only waiting for a time that you or her can move out, make sure to keep to the schedule as well! Do not delay it!

You can only truly overcome and recover form divorce once you have the space to think and internalise all of the emotions and feelings that comes from a failed marriage. This can only be achieved after you stop living with your wife after separation. This is a process that can take some time and can be very destructive if you do not handle it right. This is why I wrote the Men After Divorce E-book and highly suggest you look into it if you are a guy struggling to cope after divorce.