Be there in your own way to support a friend going through a marriage separation.
With high rates of divorce, many people receive the news that a friend is going through a marriage breakup. Even if the friend wants the marriage to end, it still involves change, loss and starting over. Feelings of fear, sadness, and anger may be there even if there is relief and renewal.
We want to support our friends the best way we can. When they are troubled we want to soothe and comfort them. When they are confused we want to help them clarify. And when they are wallowing in self pity, or about to embarrass themselves, we want to give them a shake and tell them to wake up and smell the coffee. So how can we best support a friend who is going through a marriage separation? Here are my suggestions, and I’d love to read yours if you have any to add in the comment section at the end of the article.
6 Ways to Support a Friend Experiencing a Marriage Breakup
1. Listen with empathy not sympathy. When we’re experiencing pain and suffering, we need to be heard and understood; we don’t need someone else’s pity weighing us down. Sympathy is a ’sorry- for’ vibration which basically says, “You poor pathetic creature, I feel so bad for you, how will you ever survive?” Whereas empathy is a higher vibration filled with compassion for what your friend is experiencing, but surrounded by the vision of your friend’s resourcefulness. Envision your friend moving through this painful experience and coming out the other end with important life lessons, personal growth and empowering gifts.
2. Encourage emotions. It’s important to honor our sadness and anger as it arises. If we don’t, it ends up getting stuffed down and can turn into depression or inappropriate outbursts. By simply listening without saying anything, your friend will know it’s safe to cry or be angry around you. This will support them to process and release difficult emotions so they can touch into lighter feelings of amusement and joy.
3. Avoid jumping on the blame wagon. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to blame the other for their marriage problems. And it’s easy for a friend to jump in and join the pummeling session. But all this does is escalate into a right versus wrong fight, which doesn’t allow healing to happen. What’s happened is in the past and now it’s time to accept the loss and move forward. Help your friend to see the bigger picture of the marriage by reminding them that everyone makes mistakes, and some relationships are not meant to last forever when a couple has grown in different directions.
4. Avoid dramatizing the situation. Gossiping or talking about a friend’s marriage breakup with others turns the situation into a soap opera. Keep it in perspective by recognizing that relationship endings are a natural part of life. Each person that comes into our life teaches us something, and when we have learned the lesson, sometimes we move on to another one. It doesn’t have to be a drama, just an important life experience.
5. Support your friend in your own way. When someone goes through a marriage separation or divorce, there may be many changes happening all at once. No one person can be there to offer support in all the areas needed. Decide what would be the most natural way for you to support your friend. If listening is your gift, offer that. If you’re a strong bodied, action oriented person, perhaps helping them to pack up boxes and move furniture would be appreciated. If you have an eye for design, your friend may need help staging his or her house if they have to sell it as part of the divorce. If children are involved, offering childcare services would be a blessing. Even just sending an inspiring card or e-card may make their day.
6. Help them to stay amused. One of the best ways to heal and move forward is by being in a state of amusement as it prevents us from getting stuck in resistance. Even when your friend is processing emotions through bouts of anger and bursts of tears, you can interject with some humor to help cushion the pain. Initiate fun and inspiring activities together as a way to help your friend keep the bigger picture perspective and appreciate life.
Do you have any questions or other suggestions to add on how to support a friend going through a marriage separation? Please comment below.