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How Family Members Can Show Compassion For Loved Ones Going Through Divorce

Written by: Jolisa Webb, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


A divorce is one of the most challenging, heartbreaking events a person can go through in their life. Because of this, family members usually want to support and help you, but their attempts often make the process even more complicated and stressful. Consider asking – or requiring – that well-meaning family members refrain from taking the following actions.

Choosing Sides

One of the most tempting things to do when someone you care about is going through a divorce is to take sides. While their support may be appreciated depending on the situation, family members who take sides during a divorce can undermine conflict resolution and make reaching a settlement more difficult.

Choosing sides can also lead to lasting personal rifts. For example, some family members may be more sympathetic to your ex than others and feel alienated as a result. They may have developed friendships with their in-laws and feel pressured to choose your side at the expense of other relationships. Perhaps some of your family members even think you are wrong and are inclined to side with your ex. It's not an exaggeration that some family members choosing sides in a divorce can break families apart entirely.

While divorces are often very emotionally charged, it's best to take the emotion out of it, acknowledge the split needs to happen, and work towards the best outcome for everyone.

Giving Advice

The next thing people instinctively tend to do is give advice. They want the best outcome for you and hope to help you achieve it by providing guidance. They may have been through a divorce themselves or been close to someone who did and want to share their experience in an attempt to help you.

The problem is that unless your family members are lawyers or counselors, their advice may be wrong. And the bad advice can have serious legal consequences in a divorce. You should never accept legal advice from anyone other than a licensed attorney who is qualified to provide it and knowledgeable of your specific situation. Everyone's situation and divorce proceedings are different, so something true in another case might not be accurate for yours.

The wrong advice can also damage relationships. A well-intentioned family member might assume they understand another person's position and point of view when they really don't. If their advice is heeded, it can easily make the problem worse.

If you want advice, ask for it. During a divorce process, it's often a good idea to let family members know under what circumstances you do and do not want advice. Be sure to clarify that you are the only one who can make decisions that will affect your divorce proceedings and your life going forward.

Shaming An Ex

Family members may have a strong desire to shame your ex for how your former spouse treated you, but doing so is only likely to cause even more anger and resentment that can lead to spiraling revenge.

Family members can offer support without gossiping or being hyper-negative about your ex. The same is true for anyone else on the other side of the divorce. It's far better when everyone involved deals with the situation in a mature, healthy manner.

It helps to be clear to your family members about how you would like them to interact with your ex. If you don't want them to contact your former spouse at all, make your wishes known. If you are in a situation where your family members must continue to interact with your spouse for some reason, give them guidance on how you want them to behave.

Criticizing the Divorce Agreement

It is also expected that once a divorce agreement has been reached, family members may be openly critical of it. Aspects that are frequently criticized include custody arrangements and the assets each party is receiving in the settlement. Family members might think they are helping by commiserating and offering support. Still, such criticisms can be excruciating for a divorcee.

The details of a divorce agreement are profoundly personal, and you are not obligated to tell all to your family. Criticism of the agreement could cause more pain for you if you are also deeply unhappy with the arrangement but unable to get better terms. You could even be happy with the words, but criticism from family members can cause you to begin doubting whether the outcome was a good one.

It might help if you could explain the reasons why the particular terms in your divorce agreement were decided upon. Some aspects of it could be legally mandated. In contrast, others may simply result from the circumstances of your individual case. Ask them to be understanding rather than critical.

Bothering the Children

Kids are incredibly vulnerable during a divorce. You certainly don't want family members making them more confused or hurt than they already might be feeling. The problem is that kids are easy targets for family members who wish to information or even to hurt your ex-spouse. Even well-meaning conversations can plant the wrong ideas in kids' heads or cause them to worry unnecessarily. Family members must be made to understand that they will need to conduct themselves carefully around your children before, during, and after the divorce process.

It will be incredibly important for you to establish guidelines in advance for how family members should interact with your children during the divorce. Family members should refrain from saying anything negative about your ex-spouse to your children. Make it clear that you are the one in charge and will set the pace for how and when these heavy topics are discussed with your children.

It is crucial during a divorce to encourage kids to be honest about their feelings and process what might be highly complex emotions in a healthy manner. Well-meaning family members can assist with this by being supportive in the right way if your kids open up to them. Remember, though, that any issues your children have should be dealt with by professionals rather than meddling family members.

Fighting With An Ex

Supportive family members might be furious with an ex-spouse. Still, starting fights often has lasting personal and even legal consequences. Your family is likely only trying to protect you, but beginning any kind of fight just isn't a good idea.

Physical altercations should be avoided at all costs, as one could easily open up family members to assault charges and put them in physical danger. You don't want to deal with the legal case of a family member ending up in court in addition to the divorce proceedings you are going through.

Verbal altercations are more likely to occur than physical ones, and while they're far less likely to get anyone in legal trouble, verbal fights can cause significant damage in their own right. They can lead to damaged trust, hurt feelings, and resentment that can last a lifetime. As mentioned previously, this can largely be avoided by reminding family members that it's better for everyone involved if they handle the situation respectfully and with grace.

A divorce is challenging enough, and anyone going through one does not want to suffer more due to outside meddling. Before divorce proceedings begin, you should do your best to establish boundaries against well-meaning but intrusive meddling from family members. Family members need to listen to and respect your wishes in turn. Ask them to offer support in the way you wish it to be given, so they don't cause more problems than they solve.

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Jolisa Webb, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jolisa Webb is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach ® and the owner of Beauty in the Midst, LLC, a woman and Veteran-owned small business company. Beauty in the Midst DBA Divorce Coach Confidante is rooted in healing presence and holistic, action- and outcome-focused philosophies.

As a divorced mother, a retired and highly decorated Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, and an executive leader, she knows first-hand what the divorce experience can feel like both personally and professionally. With a career spanning the globe, Jolisa has over 30 years of executive, analytical, and leadership expertise in strategic human resources management, with demonstrated success in command and control, communications, information management, personnel, training, protocol, and military equal opportunity.

As a result of her own lessons learned, she became a divorce coach to help female Veterans and other professional women who might be thinking about divorce, in the midst of a divorce, or struggling to move on in the aftermath of a divorce. Jolisa understands how lonely and overwhelming the divorce process can be no matter how intelligent, accomplished, strong and beautiful a woman is. No matter where they are in the divorce process, her Signature Packages are designed to help her clients think and make decisions in a way that honors their truth.



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