How to be a good friend through a divorce

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that Chris Pratt and Anna Faris have decided to divorce. My heart breaks for them because even though this is the right decision for them, it’s certainly not an easy one. And it really seemed like everyone talking about this divorce had that reaction—sad, heartfelt and compassionate support for the duo—which isn’t the norm in terms of Hollywood coverage. I was really heartened by that. And seeing all that appropriate coverage got me thinking about how to best address divorce with people you actually know. It’s tough to figure out how to be a good friend during this situation. So, here are some pointers.

Take “I” out of it

When you’re talking to your friend about their divorce, eliminate the words “I,” “me,” “my” and “mine” from the conversation. This discussion is about them and their divorce. You’re just there to support. I know it’s tempting to talk about your divorce or experience with divorced parents or your opinions on their soon-to-be-ex or what you think they should do as next steps or how excited you are that they’re single now, but you need to suppress that impulse. Even if you’re offering what you think is meaningful or helpful, you need to hold back. Don’t compare, contrast or butt in. Just be a listener and you’ll be doing a lot more good than if you were to talk about yourself.

Offer specific help

Sending a text that says, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” is dandy if you’re talking about helping with a dinner party, but when someone is going through the trauma of divorce, you need to take it up a few notches and get specific with what you can do. Your friend is going to be so focused on the divorce and their emotions surrounding it at first that they’re not going to be able to delegate responsibilities. So, take it upon yourself to think about what they might need. Maybe it’s offering childcare while they go to the lawyer’s office. Or hooking them up with a good real estate agent if they need to move. One of my guyfriends was going through a terrible divorce and his partner was the handy one around the house. So, I got him a gift card for two hours with a local handyman because I knew he’d need that now that he was living alone. Think about what your friends might need and offer it proactively. Don’t wait for them to ask.

Ask early, often and then again later

When someone’s going through a high stakes emotional situation like a divorce, often they want to vent about how they feel, but feel like they need to keep it in. Haven’t we all been there—wanting to talk about what’s on our heart, but being afraid that no one wants to hear us drivel on? Let your friend know that you’re there for them to vent by asking the simple question “How are you feeling about the divorce?” Ask it early and ask it a lot. And then ask again and again and again. Even after the divorce doesn’t seem to be top of mind, it probably still is for them and they probably still need a way to vent about it. So, keep asking. It’s a question that’s easy enough to shut down with a “fine” when they don’t want to talk about it, so you don’t have to worry about seeming like you’re prying.

Divorce is a tough thing for everyone involved, even friends of the couple. So, be kind to yourself during this period, too.