Tips on Communicating with a Divorcing Friend or Relative

When a friend or relative is going through a divorce, you may be unsure how to handle sensitive situations.  For example, what if you are friends with a divorcing couple, and the wife expects you to pick a side?  How do you handle a situation when your divorcing friend avoids making plans with you because money troubles have greatly reduced his leisure budget?  What do you tell a family friend’s child who asks you questions about her parents’ divorce?  Author Denise Schipani discusses these and other topics in an article at, excerpts of which appear below.

On how to respond to a friend that just told you she’s getting a divorce:

The best thing you can say in this situation is simply, “I’m here for you.” In a way, supporting a divorcing friend is not unlike supporting a grieving friend, because divorce—even if she wanted it, even if it’s relatively amicable—evokes similar feelings of loss.

On what to say to a sister whom you feel is making a mistake by leaving her spouse:

In truth, you don’t know—and never will know—if her divorce is truly a mistake because none of us really understands what goes on behind closed doors…However, you might want to ask if she’s tried couple’s counseling.

On choosing sides of a divorcing couple if you are friends with both:

[T]ry your best not to choose sides or leave either of them out in the cold…If the female half of the couple is asking you to drop her ex from your friend list, tell her—as kindly as you can—that you’re there to be her friend, but you’re not actually angry with her ex…By the same token, be sensitive to both of their feelings by not telling either of them about the time you may have spent with the other person and ensure both of them that anything discussed when you are with them will always be confidential.

On what to do if you’ve grown close to your former sister-in-law:

There’s no reason why you can’t stay pals with a friend’s or family member’s ex, but the social etiquette can get thorny… If your brother is upset that you are still friendly his ex, be respectful of his feelings. “You can say, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, but I still enjoy spending time with Jane. I hope you understand,’” suggests [Margot] Swann [founder and director of Visions Anew, a nonprofit divorce resource for women]. If he’s adamant about you breaking it off, you may have to decide if the friendship is worth risking your relationship with your brother, adds [Darlene] Lancer [a licensed marriage and family counselor, former attorney, and author of Codependency for Dummies].

On a best friend who avoids making plans with you because she is having money problems due to the divorce:

Dream up different things to do together that don’t involve spending cash, such as nature walks, free concerts and dinners at home. If there are group outings that you know she would love to go to—like dinner with a group of your girlfriends—“offer to pick up the tab now and then,” says Swann. “You don’t want her to feel isolated right now.”

On children of divorcing friends asking you questions:

If your families have always been close, you may find yourself in the position of being your friends’ kids’ confidant…Reassure them that their parents still love them, and that the divorce is absolutely, positively not their fault (often a child’s biggest fear or suspicion). But resist trying to answer specific questions about “what happened.” The truth is that you don’t know the details.

If you or someone you know is facing a divorce, and you wish to set up a consultation with a Florida divorce attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.

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