Over the past few months, I've had to explain to acquaintances that I'm in the middle of a divorce. My closest friends knew from ground zero, but the parents of my kids' classmates and many of my other friends didn't know until it awkwardly came up in conversation. I know the subject makes everyone uncomfortable. Here are a few things to know if a friend of yours is in the middle of a separation or divorce.
Divorce isn't contagious
Unpleasant events seem to happen in clusters. When you find out a friend is getting divorced, it seems like suddenly everyone is getting divorced. I know from experience that it can feel like a horrible snowball is rolling down a hill toward you. Even though my marriage ended in divorce, I can tell you that it had nothing to do with a trend in our community. On the other hand, if a friend's divorce makes you uncomfortable because it forces you to look at issues in your own marriage, don't be afraid to talk and vent and seek help. Counseling goes a long way and I wish my ex had been up for it.
The topic isn't taboo
Don't feel weird about bringing up divorce. It's an inescapable part of my life and I know the same is true for many women going through divorce. While you shouldn't ask prying questions about the specific circumstances of a divorce (if she wants you to know, she'll tell you), it's okay to ask a mom how she's handling things. A simple, "Do you want to talk about it?" goes a long way. Though be aware that it could land you on the receiving end of a torrent of information. (And it probably won't be pleasant information, so have wine at hand.)
Asking for help is hard
Divorce is very stressful, particularly when it comes to parenting and finances. Heartbreak is a given, and when you pile additional stress on top of it, the situation gets dire pretty quickly. Know that many women struggle to ask for help. You may see me drowning, but I'll wave you off. Nothing to see here! As a friend, the best you can do is offer help. A sympathetic ear, girl's night out or home cooked meal can make a difference between a bad day and an okay day. If you have a friend going through a divorce, tell her she's doing a good job. She needs to hear that.
Here's the hard part. Sometimes you might catch yourself talking to your divorced friend about how you can't wait for your husband to get home from a trip or something else positive about your marriage. By all means, talk about this stuff. Your friend's divorce doesn't make your life an off-limits topic. But you also have to recognize and accept that your friend may feel resentful or jealous sometimes. It isn't personal at all. It isn't really about you or your marriage. Divorce is an ugly process, and part of that process involves resenting people who aren't in the middle of it. It won't change how much your friend loves and appreciates you.