If you've never separated or divorced a partner, then you probably feel at a loss for how to support a friend going through a divorce. No two experiences are the same, and no two people need the same type of support. Yet, there are a number of actionable ways, from being physically present to giving them a place to stay, that you can use.
Just remember, life changes don't follow a rulebook, so it might take trying a few things out to see which ones really work for you and your loved one.
Be a Safe Place to Vent
An incredible way to approach people when they want to talk to you about the hard stuff in life is to ask if they want to vent or want solutions. While you might not have any solutions for someone who's going through a divorce, or even know the right things to say, you likely do have the time to let them air their grievances.
So often, divorce can turn into a battleground where family members and shared friends pick a side and weaponize things they hear from one person to start drama with the other. Your friend might be hard-pressed to find people who are safe to really let out their thoughts and feelings with, whether they'll still believe those ramblings in the morning or not. So, be that person for them when you have the chance too.
Give Them a Place to Crash
One of the most important things when you're going through a separation and divorce is getting space from your former partner. Help support your friend by offering them your spare bedroom, your couch, or even your bed (if you're that close).
If they're having to sell a shared property, remember that it can be a challenging thing to do while looking for new places that fit their needs and are in their budget and area. A great way to support them is giving them a space to relax and be free from their situation.
Continue to Invite Them Out
Divorce can take all the energy right out of a person, and it's a lengthy process, so it might be months before your friends or family members are feeling back to normal. But, if they turn down your invitations to go out, don't get discouraged.
The important thing is that you consistently show them that they're welcome to join you at any time, and that your friendship isn't contingent on them being "okay" all the time.
Be Physically Present for the Hard Stuff
Depending on how amicable your friend's divorce is, there might be some very difficult situations they're going to have to be present in. Heading to the courthouse for a restraining order or negotiating custody agreements, for example, will mean that your friend and their ex-spouse are going to have to be in a stressful environment together.
This can be overwhelming, triggering, and poke at the growing feelings of loneliness they might be experiencing. The best way you can help with this is by being physically present. Whether it's to drop them off at lawyer mitigations and waiting around the corner to pick them up or heading to the courthouse with them and sitting in the aisles.
Being a friend that shows silent support can be incredibly refreshing in the wake of everyone's well-wishes.
Lend Money if You Have Some to Spare
Of course, money is a hard conversation; offering it can make someone feel inadequate and giving it without attachments can be difficult for others. But divorces are expensive and if they're a single parent or weren't working full time during their marriage, then getting on their feet might be a financial impossibility for a while.
If you have money to lend them, that can be incredibly helpful. However, don't give them your money with the expectation or demand that they repay you. This type of giving should be done out of love and compassion and without strings attached.
Encourage Them to Explore Their Identity
Being married can be a huge part of a person's identity, and when that leaves, it can trigger a bit of an identity crisis. If your friends or family feel like they're living in an existence where it seems as though they're wearing jeans that just don't fit anymore, encourage them to explore different things.
You don't come out of a divorce the same person you went into the relationship as, and that shift in your life can be a catalyst for exploring new hobbies, activities, fashion styles, hairstyles, and more. At the end of it all, they might settle on something that's practically the same as it was before, but for the interim, trying on these different characters can be really healing.
Be Humble Enough to Ask if You're Really Helping
Sometimes we get it in our heads that we know the perfect way to help someone out of a bind or cheer someone up. Usually, this is based on what we'd want when we're feeling in a bind or down, rather than on what the other person actually needs. So, when someone you care about is going through a divorce, you'll need to check in with them and ask if what you're doing is actually helping.
That isn't to say that you're not trying your best. All it means is that they might need you to shift your efforts into another area, and that's okay. With all relationships, communication is vital, and it's even more so when one person is experiencing a significant change in their life.
Don't Divorce Yourself From Your Friends
Separation and divorce is an emotional, expensive, isolating, and challenging time for even the most well-adjusted couple. So, if you have a friend going through that process, don't add yourself to the divorce papers. They need you more than ever, and if you really care about them, you can offer support in many different ways.