When a close friend is facing the end of a relationship – and especially the breakup of a marriage or civil partnership – it’s only natural to want to support them.
But it’s important to understand what your friend needs from you, and which boundaries you should keep in place so that you can give them the best support possible.
Often it’s wise to keep advice to yourself unless your friend asks for it. A friendly listening ear and a shoulder to cry on can be more helpful.
If your friend is at the start of the divorce mediation process, there are several ways you can support them through it.
First of all, it’s worth noting that friends and other third-parties usually don’t attend mediation sessions.
Mediation is a private and confidential process, and it’s best if the only parties present in the room are the divorcing couple, plus any close family members who need to be involved with planning future childcare arrangements.
However, it is sometimes possible for a close friend to attend the initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), which is an opportunity to learn more about the mediation process and how it can help during divorce proceedings.
Instead of offering advice, try to think of practical help you can offer. For example, your friend might need childcare while they attend mediation sessions.
You could offer to take care of household chores or to cook a meal for your friend – which would also get them out of the house and give them a chance to socialise outside of the divorce process.
Sometimes people can benefit from a sense of normality. At a time when your friend’s relationship status and home life will inevitably change significantly, offer them some continuity and reassure them that your friendship is not in jeopardy.
Everyone is different. Talk to your friend and ask them what they need from you to help them through this difficult time. But also try to be specific – if you can think of something in particular that might help, say so, rather than just generally saying “I’m here if you need me.”
If you’re reading this, you’re obviously a caring and supportive friend. Remember to be patient and to keep your friend’s needs first throughout their divorce, as the types of support they need from you might change.
At times they might not want to socialise, but keep trying. More often than not, meeting up with a friend is beneficial, so don’t give up if they turn down your first few invitations.
Finally, try to talk about things other than the divorce itself. It can be tempting to want the latest updates every time you see your friend, but it might be better for them to talk about something completely non-related.
By providing a sense of normality, a friendly ear and a mix of emotional and practical support, you can make sure you give your friend everything they need to get through their divorce with a lot less stress – you might even find your friendship grows stronger as a result.