How To Support Your Friend Who’s Going Through A Divorce

Divorce is painful for everyone involved. So how can we help a friend who’s going through one?

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
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No one gets married assuming they’ll go through a divorce. Getting a divorce is one of the most painful things we can go through. It’s the death of a relationship, a future, and a version of ourselves. It’s not a simple, straightforward, painless thing for anyone – no matter how necessary someone feels it is.

So it should go without saying that if we have a friend who’s found herself in the midst of a divorce, she’ll need some extra support, love, and community for a while. But because of how emotionally draining, distressing, and confusing it is to end a marriage, we might feel like there’s nothing we can do or say that will make her feel better. It can be difficult knowing exactly how to help someone who’s going through something we ourselves haven’t had to face. 

So how can we support a friend who’s going through a divorce? What does she even need from us right now? What would be helpful, and what would be unhelpful?

Offer a Listening Ear

It’s tempting to offer any advice we can muster when our friend tells us she’s getting a divorce. Maybe we knew another couple that went through the same thing, and want to warn her or call her attention to something we feel she needs to know. But too quickly plopping a bunch of well-meaning advice in her lap will probably make her feel overwhelmed.

More than anything else, she just needs to know that she has a safe person to whom she can vent. She’s undoubtedly having a lot of feelings right now, and it’s important that she feels able to spew them out, totally unfiltered. To begin with, there’s nothing more helpful than simply being a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear – so bring over a bunch of tissues and her favorite ice cream, and just be ready for her to let it all out. Maybe even prepare to stay over at her house, or have her stay over that night.

The Details Don’t Matter Right Now

It’s natural to want to know what led up to their decision to get a divorce – because no one lands on that decision without giving it some thought. Were there signs we missed? Was there infidelity? How ugly did things get between them?

There’s nothing more helpful than simply being a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.

But until she offers up details, it’s best not to pry too much. More likely than not, rehashing the details before she’s ready will be painful, embarrassing, or upsetting for her. Let her be the one to bring up exactly what went down.

Don’t Badmouth Her Ex

Maybe we never really liked her ex. Maybe we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to tell her how much he bothered us. Maybe we always thought they were an odd match, or had been wondering if things weren’t going well between them. Maybe we’d even expressed concerns before they were married, and we’re dying to say, “I told you so.”

As much as we want to badmouth her ex, it’s smart to stay away from making comments like, “I never liked him anyway,” or “Honestly, good riddance,” or “You’re better off without him” – especially if there are children involved. In this case, being that he’s the father of her children, she’ll most likely have to continue interacting with him after the divorce. 

Comments like these, while meant to make her feel better, will just make her feel like a fool or even defensive of her ex – after all, he’s the man she married and had committed her life to. Plus, we wouldn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of her knowing what we really think in the case that they get back together.

Give Her an Excuse To Get out of the House

Getting a divorce means that the person she used to count on seeing every day will no longer be in her life. This major shift will probably make her feel lonely, empty, and depressed, even if she’s settled on her decision. What used to feel like a fuller life will suddenly be blank and quiet.

She needs to know that, even with her ex out of the picture, she has places to go and things to do.

Make an extra effort to invite her out to dinner, functions, holidays, and gatherings, even if she declines the first few times. Right now, she needs to know that, even with her ex out of the picture, she has places to go and things to do – this is especially important if she has children who are with her ex-husband for the weekend or holiday. Remind her that she has a “family” in her friends too.

Help Out with “Husband” Duties

Her daily life will undergo some major changes once she and her ex officially separate – changes that she might not even be ready to think about or face. Maybe her ex always made sure the gas tank was full for her, or he always took out the trash, or he used to bring home dinner on Friday night, or he was the one who picked the kids up from school a couple times a week.

However we can realistically do this, it will be both incredibly helpful and loving to try to fill in the gaps that his absence will create in her day-to-day life. While we won’t be able to help her out like this for an extended period of time, it will mean the world to her if we’re willing to do some of the “husband” duties while the divorce is still fresh.

Encourage Her To Get Back Out There When It’s Appropriate

We just want to see our friend happy again. We long to see her in a good, healthy, lasting relationship. We want her to heal from the divorce and move on. And we understandably think that getting back out there and starting to date again is the best way to do this.

But it’s important not to rush her back into dating before she’s ready, or before she’s even expressed wanting to again. After something as traumatic as a divorce, it’s prudent to stay single for a while instead of rushing into another guy’s arms to escape heartbreak, anyway.

Gage how she’s feeling about dating again after some time has passed, and once she’s shown interest, encourage her by setting her up with someone or by coming over to help her get ready for a date – and if she wants, maybe stick around so she has a friendly face to come home to, to spill all the details of the date to.  

Closing Thoughts

Divorce isn’t ever going to be painless to go through, but having a good friend to support us through it can make all the difference – be that friend.

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