Just recently my very best friend shared the shocking news that she and her husband were getting divorced. They had been married for 18 years, had what appeared to be a seamless marriage, 3 incredible children and were always laughing. I never saw it coming and I thought at first that she was joking. When the small tear leaked out of the corner of her brown eyes I knew she was telling me a truth that had been hidden for many years. The only thing I could do was offer the warmth of my arms and say nothing. There are certain times in life when we really need to learn to keep our mouths shut and support in the inherent way that humans do without words. Death & divorce are two of those moments.
I am the kind of friend that will support my girlfriends in any thing that they want to do. If they want to run away to Mexico for a while to run with the bulls, I say go for it. We have one chance at life to be truly happy and to fulfill ourselves. I try very hard to not meddle in the morality of issues or vindication of being right that may be felt by other adults. When it comes to divorce I noticed early on that my friend wanted a partner in her anger. Although I love her and even like her husband pretty well, I could not offer her more of what she already had. So what I offered her instead was my ears and my heart. I did not feel the need to agree or commiserate or begin to tear down the personality of her soon to be ex. I did feel the need and the desire to reacquaint her with all the beautiful qualities and innate abilities that were steadfastly present inside her. In matters of divorce, the winds of anger can change very quickly and by becoming overly involved or accusatory in your support you risk ruining the long term friendship. Especially if the two decide to reconcile.
Supporting our friends through divorce means understanding the mood swings, helping create valuable solutions to the problems they may be facing, allowing them to work through their own pain or anger, and remaining consistent in our friendship. Just because it is no longer possible to engage in the couple’ activities does not mean the friend should be cut off from engagements. Obviously when you are friends with both partners this is more difficult to handle in a conscionable manner. Just because someone is single, newly divorced or separated does not mean that they no longer fit in your married life. I think many people who go through divorce feel as though they are being uprooted from not only their mate but their friends and family as well.
Divorce Does NOT Mean Failure
Divorce is not another word for failure. Whether someone admits it or not when they are going through divorce the little voice inside their head begins to brow beat them up and make them feel like they have failed at something in life. What they may have really failed at is continuing a facade, and there should never be any shame associated with divorce. When my friend began talking as though she let her sons down, her mother, and herself down, I tried very hard to point out as quickly as I could that it is more a sign of failure to stay in a marriage that lacks love than it is to realize it is time to move on. People change drastically over time and it is almost unrealistic anyways to think that marriages will last forever unless of course we wait until we are in our 70’s. Let’s get real.
We forget how many failed relationships we went through before we married. Although perhaps morally undesirable I feel strongly that it is better to divorce than to live with someone or in a situation that doesn’t add to our abundance. When a friend gets divorced we simply need to help them, lead them and show them that their abundance is still awaiting them. ClichÃ© phrases like ‘everything happens for a reason’, or ‘you’ll be okay in time’ ‘he didn’t deserve you’, ‘your better off without him’ are not only unhelpful but they perpetuate negativity. No matter what our friends are telling us when they are in the midst of a divorce they are in a spot of emotional upheaval that needs to be respected as curable and regarded as transitional. In other words we need to accommodate their feeling better not their feeling miserable. We also need to point out that although the world is changing, it is not ending. Big difference!
When my friend was getting divorced she went through a lot of emotions. I still said very little about the actual event. I kept on listening until the weeping and pity party became too much and then quite frankly told her it was time to grow up. After all, her children needed to see strong parental figures that remained in control and responsible. There isn’t time to blame and hate. It is my stance on divorce, especially if kids are involved, that the couple should work things out quickly and move on faster. Not move on to another mate, just move on with life. There is no one in this world, regardless of how much we love them that can bring us or take way our joy. The responsibility of joy and happiness is an internal one and although people may add to it, they only deduce our joy if we allow them. It is also my position that marriage as we define it today is truly a stationary relationship status. One day it will begin to move again and chances are since two egos are involved it will move in radically different directions.
A lot of the reasons that divorce is so difficult are because of perception. We are increasingly worried about how we will be perceived. If’ infidelity is the cause of divorce then we feel shame. If someone falls out of love, we tend to feel worthless. What I told Liz and what I believe is that divorce happens every day and in every home and to every married couple at one point or another. The truth is that few are willing to admit it because they are so afraid of being judged. I think any divorced person should hold their head high and walk away from a marriage knowing that even though they are angry, hurt, confused etc’ they gained something valuable from the relationship. We can support our friends by not allowing them to grow bitter; to pointing out what it is they learned in this life and by showing them that a new world is opening up. We can support our friends through divorce by hugging them, holding them, by keeping our mouths closed and not adding to the drama. We support our friends by simply being their friends and helping them to stand up when their legs may feel too weak. We support them through divorce by realizing that although in the moment they hate their spouse down deep they truly love them and it is not our place to become involved in the drama, just to be a solid person that they can lean on.