Ending a relationship without a solid emotional divorce support net in place is quite daunting. You will be required to make some of the most important decisions of your life—decisions that impact your future, your family and your finances. When someone close to us dies there are also many decisions to be made, but friends and family tend to gather around to help. So often in divorce we’re left to ourselves even though we need just as much support, maybe more.
Mapping Your Divorce Support Resources
If you don’t yet have a large support community you will want to put one together, and you want to select your divorce support strategically. Below I’ve listed the pros and cons of six potential components of your support community.
6 Components of Your Emotional Divorce Support System
1. Your family: Family may be able to be a prominent part of your support system, but even the most supportive family may tire of listening to you talk about it. Sometimes family is so invested in your getting over it that they push you along too fast. They may be hurting also and though their input is well-meaning it can be do more harm than good. Your family members may idealize you and demonize your former partner instead of giving you balanced input. At the other extreme, they may take the side of the Ex, rather than yours, leveling a hard blow to your self-esteem.
2. Friends: Your support system can certainly include friends, but if your friends have not been divorced themselves they may not be able to relate to the depth of your need. Even though they are willing, their ability to understand what you are going through may be limited.
3. A coach or therapist: These professionals can help you one-on-one. A therapist for processing, a coach for moving forward, a systems coach for understanding the dynamics of your ended relationship. You can do a lot of emotional healing that way. It takes time though. There’s a lot to work through.
(I’ve helped hundreds of people get across the finish line whole and healthy. Talk to me about your next best step. You can schedule a time to connect right here.)
4. A supportive group: I have found that the most effective results come from being with other people who are going through the same experiences in a group setting. Churches sometimes offer these but I’ve often had people come to my live seminars in addition because the church groups weren’t quite enough. They are better than going solo though!
5. Support Sandwich: One of the best uses of your support community is what I call a “support sandwich.” The idea is to sandwich a difficult situation (like attending your child’s school event or a friend’s wedding when your Ex will be there) between supportive interactions. Talk with your support person before the event to be reminded of your strengths, get clear on how you want show up, and set your intentions. After the event you can talk with the same friend again, or with another, to discuss what went well, what you would do differently, and to plan your next steps.
6. Your support system can include more than just individuals: it can include activities such as a workout, massage, or a meeting with your book club. You will come to appreciate and anticipate the relief and rest in these scheduled events. I’ve referred them to “islands in the madness.” They are a time to rest, regroup and recharge before getting back into the tedium of divorcing.
Two People to Leave Out of Your Divorce Support System
Your attorney. Your attorney may be the most available person with whom to vent, but that is an expensive option. Attorneys are not trained to work as your divorce support. You will save yourself a lot of money and get more effective help by working with a divorce coach who is specially trained.
Your former spouse. You may be tempted to reach out to your former (or soon to be former) spouse for support. After all, this is the person you have leaned on in the past. Unfortunately, it is rare that spouses can support each other while going through the breakup. Some couples can reconfigure, be supportive, and even develop a friendship afterward, but it is extremely rare for that to happen while they are divorcing. One of the things you need is to complain about your Ex and you can’t very well do that to your Ex, especially when you’re trying to negotiate important aspects of your divorce such as finances and parenting.
However you do it, remember to take care of yourself. Put YOU on the top of your priority list to get the divorce support you need. I’m here for you.