People going through divorce often feel angry, confused, and alone.
They turn to their friends and family when they are contemplating divorce, in the middle of a divorce and all throughout the process. In fact, I often get calls from family members or friends inquiring about the legal services that I can provide to their loved one.
Supportive friends or family members instinctively seek to protect a person they love by saying negative things about his or her spouse.
“He’s really a jerk, I can’t believe he is doing that to you.”
- “You need to get the right attorney and make sure that they are fighting for you, and go on the offensive right away.”
- “Be as aggressive as possible and get out in front.”
These are automatic thoughts we all have in order to protect a friend or family member, but in reality, negative sentiments like the ones above only serve to reinforce emotions that get in the way of compromise. You don’t want to make your loved one feel more ashamed, or more embarrassed, about the choices they may have made or why he or she put up with certain behavior from their spouse for such a long period of time.
People going through divorce instead need a calming voice. They need reassurance. Encouraging them to fight is not really the reassurance that they need. They need somebody who can help them think clearly and calmly and find support – legal, financial, and emotional – from professionals who are going to help them think through this problem from beginning to end. What they don’t need is stage direction from the Greek chorus.
In classical Greece, a Greek chorus was a group of performers who, in the background, commented on the dramatic action during a stage performance.
The Greek Chorus is very focused on fear. It can consist of friends, coworkers or family. Unfortunately, some of the loudest, fear-mongering voices often come from the parents.
Even if you are a parent helping to provide financial support for the divorce process, that doesn’t give you the right to tell your child what to do. Try to stay out of the fight.
Instead, provide support in a more productive way. Consider these ways to help:
Provide referrals to non-adversarial attorneys
- Provide referrals for financial or emotional support
- Babysit to give the divorcing person time to themselves
- Treat him or her to dinner and just listen
….and then step back.
Initially you might feel good to support this person going through a divorce in an aggressive way that encourages them to be angry or afraid. But that is going to cause more harm than good. A true ally would quietly empathize with the fear and anger that usually plays a lead role in divorce, instead of exacerbating the situation and adding to the acrimony and legal fees that almost always result from high-conflict divorces.
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