Falling in love is fun, exciting and romantic. Then there is falling out of love – it is, as we know, just the opposite. We talk to Clarissa Rayward from Brisbane Family Law Centre about supporting a friend through divorce.
One of the hardest things is watching your best friend, or loved one, deal with all that flows from the breakdown of their marriage. Sometimes there is the desire to celebrate – you might have been watching from the sidelines for years and have ‘known’ for a long time the break up was inevitable. More often though, the news will come completely out of the blue.
So what can we do to support those closest to us as they fall out of love? Perhaps the most important thing is to ask them just what they need from you right now. There is every chance they won’t be able to answer you and so, here are three things that you can do to help them through.
Listen, listen again and then keep listening
This will be hard and you might hear the same things over and over again, but just being there, listening is sometimes all they will need. They most important thing is to listen without judgment. This is not easy, as there is a good chance you will want to share your thoughts or that your loved one will ask for them. But try and avoid judgment and instead focus on acknowledging the emotions they feel. This will help them to feel someone is ‘by their side’.
Help them to find the ‘right’ information
Almost every client I see during divorce says a similar thing- they describe feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn. Divorce is one of those times in life when everyone around you is suddenly an expert! Sadly though, that expertise is usually as a result of their own direct experience of divorce and rarely because they are a professional working in the space. You can help your loved one by making sure that the information and advice they are receiving is from the best source for them.
Professionals such as counsellors, lawyers and financial planners are all of use during divorce. The key is to find the right advisor for the issue your loved one is dealing with at that time. Ask them if they would like you to attend the appointments where you can use those listening skills again and take notes for them to use in the future.
Help them to find the silver linings
Being able to find the positives when it feels like everything in your life is upside down is a real challenge. However, often there are few positives to be found at the end of a marriage and so, as a friend, or loved one we can help to create some positives for the future. Go for the simple things – a walk, a coffee, a dinner or night out – just something that your loved one can look forward to – a silver lining to help get them through the tough times.
Our great friendships can be a lot like a marriage – they can be for life and come with ups and downs, good times and sad times. When a marriage comes to an end we all need our friends and those closest to us by our sides to help us as we take those first steps into a new future. A great friend will be there, through thick and thin with chocolate, wine or beer in hand with boxes of tissues and reassuring words. A great friend also knows when to save us from ourselves, when to quietly and calmly remind us that a decision we are about to make may not be the best!
And on that note, a final thought – if you find your loved one making their way to Facebook to share their thoughts on their former spouse this is the one time you are allowed to ignore all the above advice, charge across the room and throw them aside to disengage their electronic device – trust me, they will thank you later on!
Clarissa Rayward is a Collaborative Family Lawyer & Family Mediator at Brisbane Family Law Centre
07 3862 1955
This article was published in Issue 15 of our print magazine, April/May 2016.