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What to Expect and Do When Close Friends Divorce

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  • What to Expect and Do When Close Friends Divorce

    When close friends divorce, whether you saw it coming or were completely blindsided, it does not only impact that couple and their family. As a close friend, you, too, can expect some difficult feelings to be brought up in you.

    Like what? Well, to start, you may feel that you’re being forced to choose sides -- and perhaps you’d really like to remain friends with both people. If your spouse then chooses to take a different side than you do, it can actually cause an argument in your own relationship.

    If arguing over someone else’s marital problems sounds crazy, it shouldn’t. It’s actually quite natural to internalize your friends’ hardship, according to Hale Dwoskin, CEO and director of Sedona Training Associates.

    “When anyone you are close to experiences anything unpleasant --including divorce -- you tend to identify with them and what they are going through as though you are going through it yourself,” he says.

    Meanwhile, despite divorce being relatively common in the United States -- there are 3.6 divorces per 1,000 population, according to the National Center for Health Statistics -- most people do not expect it to happen.

    "Nobody really thinks divorce is that close to home," Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist, told Redbook magazine. "Even when married friends behave abrasively or combatively, people assume that's just their way of getting along and working out their differences, until it almost becomes normal."

    What is worse, however, is the couple that gets divorced who seemed perfectly happy.

    "To see a friend who you thought had a solid marriage -- to see that come apart, you can get frightened and think, If they can't make it, what are the odds for us?" says Greer.

    What a Friend s Divorce Means for You

    It is quite common for couples to feel a range of anxiety and concern when they hear their friends' news. Things like:
    • Is our marriage strong?
    • Could divorce happen to us?
    • Would my spouse cheat on me?
    • What will happen to the friendship?


    Eventually, after the breakup has had time to set in, you may even find yourself envying your friends’ new, more exciting lives as singles. Or, if you’re already single, you may resent one of the pair for demanding that you side with him or her.

    So how can you keep your friends’ divorce from interfering too much with your feelings about your own life? In a word, acceptance.

    “It’s quite natural to identify with your friends’ divorce,” Dwoskin says. “However there is another way you can be compassionate with those you care about without getting into the soup with them. The best way to do this is to welcome whatever feelings it brings up within you and then allow yourself to refocus on being there for them.”

    To do this, stop resisting the fears, concerns, and anger that the divorce is bringing up in you. Then, as you feel each emotion, use the three simple questions that make up The Sedona Method to release your uneasy feelings.

    “By doing this,” Dwoskin says, “you can allow yourself to be a good friend while still maintaining your own ability to let go and honor what is best for you.”

    Then, remember these three simple tips whenever your friends’ divorce is getting to you:

    1. Stay out of it. Do not take sides or argue for or against either person.

    2. Avoid comparing your life to theirs. You will either end up fretting over your own marriage, or wishing you, too, were single again … and it’s never a fair comparison.

    3. Remember that they're the ones going through the divorce, so be ready to lend an ear if they need to talk.
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