Divorce has become so common place in our society that when we hear of a neighbor or friend divorcing we have a tendency to shrug it off as “just another divorce.” I know that before I went through my own divorce, I didn’t give much thought to the experiences of those I knew who were divorcing or had divorced.
I naively thought that the family court system took care of the legal issues and that couples went their separate ways and got on with life. I had no idea of how often getting caught up in the family court system prolongs the conflict in a divorce situation.
Or of the fact that most family and friends aren’t equipped to properly support someone going through a divorce because they are uncomfortable with the raw emotions that divorce brings out in those who need support.
The Need For Compassion During Divorce:
Since going through my own divorce I’ve realized that the most important thing missing from the divorce process is compassion. Compassion from friends, family and society as a whole. What most don’t realize is this, regardless of how common divorce is, when someone is going through a divorce they feel alone. Distancing yourself from them or judging them only heightens their sense of aloneness and adds to that a sense of shame, as if they’ve done something wrong and deserve to suffer the consequences.
I found that a lot of my friends and family were fair weather folks. They didn’t want to become “involved” in my personal marital issues so in spite of my need they allowed their own discomfort to take over and leave me to handle my situation on my own.
Friends that I used to speak to several times a week eventually became strangers that I would occasionally run into around town. And it wasn’t just me; they reacted the same way to my ex-husband.
Family, the people who are supposed to stand by you told me to “get over it” and move on. They were aware of the constant defiance of court orders by my ex-husband and the need to be in and out of court but the best they had to offer in the way of support was, “get over it.”
Divorce takes a serious financial toll on most women and some men. Not to mention the emotional upheaval and legal conflict one experiences. But for some reason, those closest to us find it easy to dismiss the fact that a friend or family member is going through a time of extreme adversity.
A Misperception About Divorce:
Because it is easier for those on the outside to view those going through a divorce as somehow responsible and deserving of their problems. To acknowledge the suffering of a friend or family member going through a divorce and offer support means having to face the fact that their marriage isn’t immune to the same horrible providence.
Instead of viewing them simply as someone in need, they are viewed as someone who’s bad character played a role in where they are and in turn, those who are character flawed are not worthy of their support and concern.
Instead of offering compassion or sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate or relieve their suffering they offer platitudes and distance themselves. Their support isn’t offered based on any critical awareness by them but on what they perceive to be happening.
Think about how difficult life would be if your friends and family dismissed a time of adversity in your life. If you had a car accident and were critically injured what would it feel like to know friends and family were not offering support but instead were thinking, “if had been more careful this would not have happened?”
Or, a better comparison, if you lose a spouse to death, that spouse taking with him/her your plans for the future, their love and support and their income you would be appalled if people didn’t respond with compassion.
Why then, when someone goes through a divorce are they not as worthy of the same compassion received by those who lose a spouse to death?
Divorce is ranked the second most stressful life event one can go through, right behind the death of a spouse that is ranked number one. Yet, when friends or family members divorce no one shows up at their home with casseroles, hugs and concern for the pain of lost hopes and dreams.
Death is perceived as something we have no control over. Divorce is perceived as a choice, something we sought out or either brought upon ourselves. Yet, few understand that divorce is rarely a unilateral decision. In the majority of divorces it is one spouse who wants the divorce, leaving the other spouse with no option but to deal with the loss of a marriage they were happy with.
It all goes back to the way people perceive divorce and those engaged in a divorce. And when you are sitting alone in the middle of the night wondering what happened to your friends or why your family insists you “move on and get over it” that is something to think about. Because, if you need compassion to get you through the adversity of divorce you have a right to ask for it. That may mean clearing up the misperceptions of those you need it from.
Offering and Getting Compassion:
If you have a friend or family member going through a divorce ask what they need and be there to give it. Divorce is not contagious; your marriage won’t suffer due to your offering of compassion to someone who is going through a divorce. If there is something you can do to alleviate the suffering and adversity it is your place as a friend or family member to reach out, in spite of your own discomfort and make the offer.
If you are going through a divorce or healing after a divorce and find yourself alone and dealing with the adversity reach out to those you need. You have nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to go it alone just because others have a skewed perception about what divorce has meant in your life.
You may have to clear up their misconceptions but if you are in pain, suffering financially or feeling alone with your problems, you are worthy of getting what you need from those who are supposed to be there for you.