Having support from your family during your divorce and your friends to lean on can make this period in your life somewhat bearable. But, you might consider exercising control when you need to vent, so that you don't over-burden those around you. Below are some more suggestions about how to handle the various issues that come up when dealing with divorce and your friends (and family):
Peggy's Question: Is it a good idea to be calling everyone for comfort and feedback? Sometimes I feel they don't want to listen to me or be bothered with my decision. I get hurt when no one calls to see how I am. Thanks
Gloria's Answer: I truly do believe that when we are going through the trauma associated with divorce, we as women especially need to reach out and get whatever support it is that we need - those few loving people who will listen, care, and support us when we are hurting. Yet, I want to encourage you to be careful when it comes to "everyone".
So often, we do want to share our story with the world - church members, teachers, neighbors, family members down to the 4th generation, and strangers in the grocery store line! But when we are left feeling as if they aren't listening or think they may be sorry they ran into us, then we need to take a step back and think about what we are doing. Is it really helping or is it feeding the negative self-image that we are already battling?
I would encourage you to pick a few friends or family members who love you, you trust, and who will truly listen and support you. It doesn't have to be "everyone" and just because someone asks doesn't mean you have to fill them in. I would also challenge you to let those few people know how much you appreciate them calling you now and then just to say hello. If you aren't getting what you need, ask! Just because they are near and dear friends, doesn't mean they can read our minds.
Debbie's Question: I was divorced after 29 years because I had an affair. My husband was very controlling. I am still in love with this other man even after 2 years of us being together. My kids and mom say they will never meet him. They think HE was the cause of the divorce, but he wasn't. He was the RESULT of a bad marriage, but I have dated others and no one has ever treated me with more love and respect then this man. Do I stay with him and make myself happy, or give him up and be lonely? I know I'll never find a man I love as much as him. PLEASE HELP
Gloria's Answer: It is never healthy for us to gauge our life and our decisions by what other people want. From the objective standpoint, I can see why your family and children would be angry about the situation, but now that it is all said and done, it is time for you to support them to move through the anger so they can move into the future with you.
Communication is going to be the key here. Let them know that it is okay that they are angry, but you are making a decision and whether they like it or not, it is your decision to make - not theirs. Your parents may never have to meet your new love, but your kids will. It is going to be a bit of a minefield for a while, but hold to the bigger vision that in the end it'll all be worth it!
Get whatever support you and your family needs to make this transition - counseling, a coach, a support group. Kids are resilient, your parents love you, and what they need from you right now, is the clarity of your decision so they can move into accepting what their life is now going to look like. Let go of any guilt, lead the way, and support your family to accept the life you are now choosing.
Elisha's Question: I left my husband shortly after our son was born because I was worried that he would take the baby out of the country (he is from the Caribbean). He also didn't want me to hang out with my friends, and refused to accept my family during the 2 years that we lived together. I left for the safety of my son, knowing that it was the right decision at the time.
Now he is starting to come around and be the sweet and loving person I thought that I married to. Why did he wait so long? I know that I was emotionally controlled during our marriage, but he's tugging at my heart strings and doing a great job at it. Is it wrong for me to feel lost; second guess myself, longing for something that would only be there during the honeymoon phase? I don't want to put my son in danger and I want us to be happy, but if I talk to family or friends about the slightest thought, they get upset and mad at me. I have also been told that if I go back to him, my family and some of my friends would disown me. I'm torn and lost! Help!
Gloria's Answer: Elisha, I don't mean to sound harsh here, but it's time for you to grow up and be on your own in this! You have a son, and you have to make some adult decisions. While we love our families with all our heart, when we marry, it is time for us to cut those apron strings and sometimes be willing to make them mad. I know that your family is acting out of the belief that they are supporting you to do, what is in their opinion, is best for you. But only you, as a mature, responsible adult, can make that decision for yourself. So, with that in mind, I have to ask you directly - What do YOU want for your life?
Do you want to reconcile with your husband? Do you want to give him another chance? Do you want to take the risk that very well may be worth taking? Or are you ready to finalize the divorce and begin your life again? There are no right and wrongs here - everything is a choice.
What I might suggest is that you take some time alone to think things through. Make a decision based on the information you have right now. No regrets and no doubts that in 3 months you'll wish you had made a different decision. Make a choice and go with it.
From there, get whatever support you need. If you choose to try again, get counseling to support the changes that you've been seeing in your husband. Do whatever you can to ensure that he is the person you most want to be with - even though we all know he will never be perfect. If you choose to move on, do it. Get the divorce papers signed, get whatever support you need to move through all of this with grace and dignity, and begin again - knowing that either decision was your decision, and not your well-intended family's. You do have the power to make smart and wise decisions. Start making them for yourself!
A's Question: My brother recently had an affair and says is not in love with his wife anymore and has chosen to end the marriage. I'm very close with my brother, and his wife has been my best friend for years. How do I go about supporting them? Obviously it's easy to be there for my dear friend because she is losing so much. She has been such a huge part of our family for so many years and my heart breaks for her.
I'm having a hard time supporting my brother because of the way he's gone about this. I can't help being angry with him as well for leaving her in this position - alone and trying to take care of an infant. I'm so afraid of losing my best friend during all of this, but at the same time I'm afraid of pushing my brother away because I can see the hurt in him and the guilt and shame he is dealing with having made this decision. I just want to be able to help them get through this, although I desperately wish it didn't have to come to this.
Gloria's Answer: I first want to acknowledge you for your kind and generous heart in wanting to be there for all of your family members. Being in the middle is never a fun place to be! Yet, you are so valuable and needed by all who are in the midst of all of this... for lack of a better word - mess - right now.
You have two people who used to love each other and now they no longer do. My loving reminder to you is that just because they have chosen this path does not mean that you have to. You can whole-heartedly and unconditionally love both of them.
What I would suggest for you is to communicate that to both of them. Let the sister-in-law know that you are supporting your brother because he is your family and he needs you even if you do not agree with his choices right now. Let your brother know that while you do not agree with his choices, you love him, and at the same time, you will continue to love his wife, your best friend. Claim your Swiss territory as neutral zone, and have it be a safe haven for both of your family who so desperately need it.
Also know that the best gift you can give your brother right now is the ability to "speak the truth in love". We often think that unconditional love means keeping our mouths shut. This may be so once in a while, but I would encourage you to have the courage to express your anger with him, disagree with his decisions, and continue to love him in spite of it all. You may also find that there will be times when you are faced with being honest with your sister-in-law, too.
You are a wonderful and loving person, sister, and friend, and while this is a tall order for anyone, I have a true belief that you are up to the challenge of bringing all of these characteristics to the many people around you.
Justine's Question: I'm divorcing after a 17 year abusive marriage. My husband abandoned the family, myself and children. My father gave me shelter and is helping me with monumental debt incurred. Does he have a way to get compensated being that he used his life's savings to help provide shelter to us?
Brette's Answer: You can seek spousal support. But your father is not entitled to anything from your spouse.