My Friend Is Considering Ending Their Marriage

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Talking Divorce with a Special Someone

by Michael Heath

Divorce is so prevalent that everyone knows someone who has been through a marital breakup. When a friend or relative confides in a trusted someone that they are thinking of divorcing their spouse, the response needs to be mindful and measured. The person contemplating ending the marriage will be experiencing a level of psychological turmoil. This could include feelings of guilt, failure, financial uncertainty, concern for their children’s emotional well-being, etc. It is critical that the confidant follow some safeguards.

Be a Good Listener

Hearing what the person is saying is of paramount importance. That may seem apparent but too many listeners are not truly engaged. Instead, they are thinking about how to respond. Listening is learning. Maybe the person sitting there only wants to vent or on the other hand has something serious to convey such as incidents of domestic abuse or the threat of the children being abducted by the other parent. The friend or relative may be reluctant to disclose such critically important information if they believe they are without the other’s undivided attention.

It is important to respect the person’s privacy, allowing them to say only what they choose to. Prying makes people feel uncomfortable, even resistant to revealing what is on their mind. It is also recommended to refrain from disparaging the other spouse since there is typically fault on both sides. Careful understanding is what is needed, not judgment.

What To Say

There is almost always a temptation to offer advice when approached with a problem. It may even seem that the friend or relative is soliciting one’s counsel. The truth is that the breakup of a marriage is serious business that is better left to professionals. If someone reports domestic violence or a threat to children, then contacting both a family attorney and authorities should be insisted on. If there is no present danger, then maybe the marriage can be salvaged. Suggesting marriage counseling could be the direction needed. Licensed marriage and family therapist Anita Chlipala whose advice has been referenced in hundreds of articles, says that “most marriages are worth saving.” She adds that many couples try to fix it themselves, but too often the effort fails. A good therapist can assist spouses by providing the tools, guidance, and information to make the relationship work. It is not easy, but neither is divorce.

It’s Over!

When a couple calls it quits, the common thing to do is for each spouse to lawyer up before beginning the court-based process of negotiating toward a divorce agreement. That could be the best or only way for some couples, but certainly not all. If spouses are splitting up due to a contentious relationship, they should know that there are choices. Avenues such as mediation and collaborative divorce, where couples work through issues together, save money while tamping down hostilities. A couple with little or no assets and no children could consider doing the divorce themselves or working with a paralegal to complete the required documents.

The internet is replete with information about alternatives to divorce litigation. My book The Courtless Divorce is an easy read that lays out the choices couples have. Giving the book to someone whose marriage has failed may be the special act of friendship that they need most.







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