At some of the earliest ages you can remember, you are taught how to be a good friend. You learn about what it means to be there for someone, how to react to their emotions, how to distract them from what troubles them, and so many more little life hacks in human relationships.
As simplistic as the early methods of helping others and being a good friend to them are in childhood, they are valuable experience necessary for the greater hurdles in life and friendship that come during adulthood.
When dating, relationships, marriage, and even divorce come into the folds of life, you gain a wealth of knowledge in how the balance of emotions and logic fuel decision-making and create the need for support from others who care about you and want to see you at your best.
When a friend is facing marital conflict, a possible divorce is something that they have to decide for themselves. They have to figure out if they are unhappy and facing a dysfunctional relationship, and they need to do what is in their best interests without your influence.
The dangers of advice-giving
Many individuals considering a divorce or those already pursuing divorce may look to confide in their friends seeking advice. However, many who are looking to give advice about divorce are individuals who have never experienced it for themselves.
This is why much of their advice is regarding money. According to Psychology Today, people who little or nothing about divorce, but feel that it is helpful for them to give advice, rely on the little that they know from TV shows, movies, and what they read in other media.
This makes their advice a little bit more aggressive. They encourage you to make moves based on your best interests, that may inadvertently exacerbate the divorce experience with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Telling the potential divorcée to move money around and close accounts may seem like smart financial advice, but if the end of the relationship is amicable, it may turn the experience sour very quickly.
Instead, those going through the divorce experience are looking for reassurance that it is all eventually going to be okay. As challenging as this situation may be, they need a calm and steady hand standing by them, as they face this rough road ahead. They need to be reminded that this is an adjustment period in not only their life, but the life of their soon-to-be ex-spouse, and if there are children in the relationship, they’re going to need their parents to handle this situation with the dignity and grace that it deserves.
As someone ending their lifetime commitment, they may become down on themselves and feel like a failure. However, this notion implies that the more years that you are with someone, you are somehow winning the game of life, according to Bustle.
They need to understand that as difficult as the division of assets and finances may be and as challenging as a custody situation may be, they have not lost the game of life. The game still is going. It does not stop when divorce occurs. It has just changed.
As important as it is to reassure them, it is equally as important to not overstate this sentiment. Overstating the sentiment may make them feel like a victim in their situation, and as emotionally drained and hurt they may be during the experience, they are an active participant in the divorce. They are part of the issue in the relationship, and as someone not in the relationship, it does your friend no good to be fed negative sentiments, regarding their soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Given that they are pursuing a divorce, there is a decent chance that conflict and bad behavior already may have occurred, and your friend already has an opinion on them. No need for that validation.
If your friend is particularly struggling in their divorce, finding ways of suggesting that they seek professional help, in order to improve their mental and emotional state can be helpful. As resistant as they may be, making them understand that it for their own health and happiness, as well as the health and happiness of their children, if they have them, is necessary.
They need to be aware that as much as they may enjoy unwinding from work, kids, and the mentally and emotionally taxing experience of a divorce with a beer, it is not the only therapeutic way of releasing your stress and can cause problems down the line. Whether it is a creative endeavor like writing or a practical one like going back to school, encouraging your friends to channel their emotions in a healthy, therapeutic, and constructive way can only benefit them in the long-run.
That is what it means to be a good friend. In times of difficulty, you are able to put aside your thoughts and feelings in the situation, and do what is in the best interest of a friend struggling to navigate the ins and outs of divorce. Whether it is letting them crash on your couch for a few days or giving them a ride to work, these small gestures of kindness and compassion brighten their day during a time in their life when they may need it most.