How friends can help you through a breakup (old ones and new ones)
If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help or talk about your emotions, you might find taking this advice quite tricky. However, there’s no two ways about it – getting through a hard divorce is easier if you lean on your mates.
What may come as a surprise however, is that the moment you say the words “we’ve decided to get a divorce/ I’ve left her/ she’s left me” or whatever variation of split you’re going through, some friends will be speeding out the door faster than you can say “separation”.
But that’s OK.
Identifying the right friends to help
Not everyone can deal with a friend’s divorce, some people are fair weather friends, some may have been though something quite similar themselves and find the process of supporting you too painful, some are just not the kind of friends that have the patience to help you heal your broken heart. Some people are just not equipped to deal with how awful you might be feeling. Of course, some friends may side with the ex.
It doesn’t mean they’re crap friends necessarily, it just means they’re not the right friends for you right now. You need to prioritise the ones that are the right friends. These include:
– The mates that know you inside out and “get” you.
– The ones who want to listen and who you feel comfortable opening up to.
– The friends that are happy to hear you rant about your ex (even if they are trying to stay friends with both of you).
– The ones that have been divorced or are divorcing.
– The ones that you’ve noticed are making an effort to see that you’re ok.
What can be an amazing bonus during a divorce (yes there are positives!) is suddenly connecting with people who maybe weren’t that prominent in your life before. It is like joining a club with a really bloody awful initiation ceremony. But once you’re in, you will find a range of people made wiser by this dollop of life experience.
“I’d always really liked Claire, who I knew through work. But we just saw each other from time to time for a drink, probably less than once a year. However, it turned out that she was going through a divorce at the same time as me. When I got in touch with her and mentioned it, we swopped stories and it turned out her situation was uncannily like mine – right down to the emotions we were feeling, the circumstances of our marriage breakdowns, and even the lessons we were learning from the whole process. We became so much closer and I now speak to her regularly and would probably count her as one of my closest friends.” Lucy
You’ll also find that really good friends suddenly prove to you why they’re worth their weight in gold. They’re the ones that ring, that always ask you how you are, that never mind listening. If you’ve got one of these, you are truly blessed. In their book “The Divorced Girls Society”, Vickie King and Jennifer O’Connell call these brilliant friends the “speed dial sisters”.
“You will be counting on girlfriends to keep you centred throughout this process and give you the affirmation you formerly got from your spouse. I wanted – and needed – my friends to step in to pick up the spousal slack. Where I used to have plans to be with my husband at the weekends, I now needed invitations from friends to come visit.”
This all may sound a bit girly, but the basic foundation of the advice applies to men and women. There will now be a gap in your life where your marriage used to be and a whole heap of emotion that goes with that. At the very least there’ll be some free time, which it’s sometimes better to fill with stuff than brooding on your own about what a witch/sod your ex is. So lean on your friends in any of these ways:
Go out for a drink or a coffee.
Don’t take this as carte blanche to go on the razz, but a couple of pints down the pub, or a few glasses of wine in the bar and a chinwag can really help you get some perspective. You don’t even have to talk about the divorce if you don’t want to. You just have to get out, have a chat, and either get some good advice or support, or just some stuff to fill your brain that isn’t related to your messy life.
Pick up the phone.
Keep your mates up to date with what’s going on. Have a chat. And if you’re not the gossip on the phone type, use it regularly to make arrangements to meet up. Don’t kick about on your own too much. And with your really supportive friends, don’t be afraid to call when you’re in a dark or low patch. That’s what they are there for – you’ll have a chance to show them your gratitude further down the line.
Go over and hang out.
Invite them over to yours. Be in a relaxed space where you can talk, eat, watch films or telly, and not be on your own.
Go on holiday.
Take a break if you can. It’s not an option for everyone for financial reasons or because everything is a bit up in the air. However, even a weekend away visiting friends cheaply can be the most amazing tonic. A change of scene can be very helpful, and can give you some much needed perspective in crazy times. Go with a good friend, or go visit a good friend.
Use friends as a sounding board.
Not everyone is as rational as they could be in the heat of separation. Talk to your friends who are not in the middle of your awful row/ financial wranglings/ tug of war over kids and get them to be the voice of reason when yours might be a bit off kilter. The friend who stops you writing that angry email/ posting something immature on facebook/ calms you before you make that important phone call is helping you negotiate a tricky path through your divorce. Your friend’s advice may not always be that brilliant because they are biased and love you, but more often than not they’ll put a brake on your riskier impulses, which is very helpful!
But I don’t want to be a burden….
Even if you are the type that doesn’t like “putting upon” others or you don’t want to be a “burden”, this is one of those times when your friends really are there to help. It’s your turn to be the friend in need, the one that needs support. Whether you need to talk, a holiday, dinner, a running buddy, someone to watch the kids, or just company, give your friends a call, put yourself first and make a mental note that when things are better for you, you can repay the favour later.
Some people will want to help and will like to help. Coming to Divorce Club events or using the forum can be really helpful to get support from people who understand this rotten time. So whatever the reason for your divorce, you will find people who will not judge you and will help you through it.
Lucy Davis is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and a TV Producer. She divorced 6 years ago. She is a passionate advocate for exploring the potential for change and creativity that can result from the trauma of divorce.