No one has ever told me at the end of the divorce process they wish it had lasted longer.
Unfortunately, there are many things couples can do to ensure, upfront, that the divorce is handled rationally and with little disruption to everyone’s well being. Because it is tough for the people involved to stay calm sometimes, your role as a friend is critical. While in some conversations you should just let your divorcing friend vent, there will be other times when you can have a calm discussion about how to move forward. When your friend has decided to divorce and is ready to discuss that decision with his or her spouse and children, you can help by suggesting some practical thoughts about how to stay diplomatic.
If your friend’s first thought once he or she decides to divorce is to get an attorney, encourage him or her to approach the spouse instead. The eventual conversation with an attorney will go more smoothly if the couple first discusses the situation and what they want to do about children, assets and debts.
When Approaching the Spouse, Encourage Your Friend to:
- Choose a time issues can be discussed at length. Plan to have several hours to discuss the issue without interruption.
- Pick a place where there will be privacy. No one needs to feel self-conscious about reactions or concerned about being overhead.
- Think through the consequences of divorce and only approach the conversation when he or she can do so calmly. If your friend is feeling angry or upset, suggest he or she postpone the discussion so the discussion can happen rationally.
- State the reasons for wanting a divorce without being argumentative or accusatory. While honesty is important, inflaming the situation by blaming will only make the situation worse.
- Listen to their spouse’s perspective. Even if your friend has already decided to file, give the other person a chance to share his or her feelings on divorce without interrupting.
- Bring up the issue during counseling if seeing a couples’ therapist. Having a neutral third party present can help a couple make a rational decision about divorcing.
Important Exception If There is Domestic Violence. If there is any type of domestic violence in the relationship, encourage your friend to file with an attorney and follow the attorney’s or a domestic violence counselor’s advice on approaching the abusive spouse.
Understanding how – and why – to approach divorce can help you encourage your friend to make better decisions. Help your friend find a balance of getting what he or she deserves from the marriage but not at the sacrifice of children and sanity.