Sarah Hughes is a freelance writer and co-creator of The Sex Talk podcast and blog. She is also a divorced mother and step-daughter and decided to take actions and help others here at Smart Divorce Network.
Divorce is hard enough. Add the holidays and questions from family and friends and it can be downright unbearable. Your family and friends are trying your best to be there for you, or you have the odd cousin that seems smug about your recent predicament – either way it’s hard.
Often the most difficult conversations to have are the ones with family that cares deeply about you but isn’t quite sure how to be helpful in the way they go about it. This can lead to discomfort, embarrassment, and even unnecessary frustration. Much of the time this is actually because your family genuinely doesn’t know the best way to help you – here are a couple tips to help with that.
Ask someone you trust for help with spreading the word
It can be a really good idea to go ahead and give the group you’ll be with a heads up. Truth of the matter is your family and friends are discussing your situation and how to navigate it. Select a person you trust and know has your best interest in mind and tell them to spread the word – asking for exactly what you need. It can be exhausting to have the same conversation over and over again – let your friend do the heavy lifting for you. Select which details you’d like them to know and explicitly tell them how you’d like to have it dealt with. It can take a lot off your hands to have someone act as the front runner and explain to those you love how they can be supportive.
Be honest about what you are comfortable discussing
You know what? People don’t commonly akin divorce to death, but that is exactly what it is. It is the loss of someone who played a vital role and presence in your life. The difference is most people know how to talk appropriately during a death in the family, while most will not know how to talk to you during a divorce. Be honest about what you’re comfortable discussing and be prepared for seemingly inappropriate comments and assumptions about how you are feeling.
Unlike many other comparable difficult situations in life – like death in the family – there are a thousand ways you could feel about your divorce. Angry. Happy. Relieved. Sad. Neutral. Nostalgic. Bittersweet. Desperate. Terrified. Anxious. Divorce has such a unique mix of emotions it’s impossible for those around you to know how they can be supportive without you clearly defining the help you need and telling them what you are comfortable discussing.
Consider limiting social time
While support and being surrounded by family and friends during a difficult time can be wonderful, it can also be draining and sometimes lead to additional sadness. Also, depending where you are in your divorce, you might not have the answers to a lot of the questions that might be asked and that can cause added anxiety. Therefore, there is such a thing as too much family and friend time. Consider limiting your social time to prevent yourself from being exhausted or overwhelmed.
Divorce is tough and ultimately your family and friends want to help – but most will not know how. It’s up to you to ask for what you need.
So, you think your ex wants to get back together with you. If you aren’t 100% sure, here are a couple signs that the might be interested in rekindling a broken relationship.
- They are trying to be positive and kind
- They are talking and focusing on the good memories of your relationship
- They are staying in very frequent contact
- They are making it difficult for you to get your possessions from them
- The are improving areas of their life that caused the relationship to end
- They are hiding their dating life from you
If you have the suspicion that your ex might want to get back together, your best bet is to go ahead and ask them if that’s the case. In sticky situations such as separation and divorce, it’s best to be as clear and as straightforward as possible.
Then, if they tell you they are interested in getting back together, you’ll need to ask yourself what to do when your ex wants you back. Try and take a moment and thoroughly examine what ended the relationship, what’s best for both of you, and what would need to change. Be sure to reach out to friends and family who might have a clearer perspective on the situation. It is hard to see things clearly when your emotions are involved and you’ll need the extra support.
Or perhaps you aren’t interested in getting back with your at all. If this is the case, skip ahead to the section on what to do if you are NOT interested in getting back together with with your ex.
If you are interested in getting back together with your ex
1. Ask yourself these questions.
First, examine the things that ended your relationship. Here are a couple questions you should ask yourself:
- How will this time be any different?
- Were the problems and issues chronic?
- Are they working on improving themselves?
- What are some signs that they are working on the issues we had in the past?
- Am I ready?
- Why would you want to reunite?
- Are you capable of forgiving them?
- Are they capable of forgiving you?
2. Be 100% sure they are capable of getting back together.
If after answering these questions you come to the conclusion that you do want to try and mend things with your ex, then you should examine what you both need to work on to make a relationship possible.
3. Be friends first.
No matter what promises you or your ex might make to one another for the sake of saving your relationship, you reached a very serious breaking point and will need time to heal. A lot of trust needs to be rebuilt and time is your best ally. Don’t rush back into your relationship, you will probably cause more harm than good, instead take your time and be friends first.
4. Seek counseling.
You are likely embarking on a long and difficult journey by choosing to get back together with you ex, but sometimes these difficult times can lead to a beautiful relationship. Seek the help of a professional.
Maybe you already know that getting back together is not an option. If that’s the case and your ex is trying to get back together with you, here are some suggestions on how to handle the situation.
If you are NOT interested in getting back together with your ex
1. Ask them to minimize contact with you.
Whether they are outwardly asking you to reconsider or doing things that suggest they may be interested in getting back together it is probably a good idea to keep all contact to a minimum. This can be hard because this person was probably who you communicated with the most in your daily life. Reducing this contact can leave a feeling of void. Try to fill this space and time with family and friends – be honest and let those around you know that you need support.
2. Stand your ground.
Too often we ask for contact to be kept to a minimum but in moments of weakness, we don’t respect this boundary ourselves. It can be almost a reflex to call or text your ex, instead try and replace that with someone else’s contact information. It may sound silly but I would text a girlfriend things I wanted to text my ex to prevent myself from backsliding into relationship-like behavior.
3. Ask them to consider everything that got you here.
Sometimes loneliness can make us forget the bad times or negatives aspects of a relationship that made up breakup or get divorced. Ask your ex to take a thorough inventory of everything that got you to that moment in time. And be sure to do the same yourself.
4. Write them a letter.
Writing a letter can sometimes leave a longer lasting impression than talking. It allows you a form of communication that can be more concise and rational. Breakups and divorce are extremely emotional and it can be very difficult to keep a respectful tone while explaining your point of view. Often times negative tones can cause the listener to completely check out, and then your opinion isn’t heard – letters allow you to carefully outline your thoughts.
5. Reach out to friends or family.
These hard times are truly what friends and family are for. Sometimes people think they are being a burden by reaching out for help but more often those you reach out to will be happy to help. It can strengthen understanding and bonds with your friends and family. Also, it will make them feel more comfortable asking for your help in the future. Asking for help and support is part of the beautiful cycle of reciprocity.
Breakups, separation, and divorce are some of the most difficult things we experience in our life, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. In addition to friends and family, there are now communities and forums online specifically available for support during these difficult periods of time. To make this process as easy on yourself as possible, utilize all tools and resources available to you – reach out.
I was 27 when I decided I wanted a divorce. 27 years old. I was devastatingly embarrassed. The embarrassment was so crippling I could only even admit it to a few close friends. After, I really thought I would never get married again and how could I? It was clearly too big of a risk to take. Three years later, I am remarried and in a relationship that is completely different than they first. I often wonder if my ex peeked in on it, if he would even recognize me. I learned so much from my previous marriage and divorce that has affected my marriage today.
1. Being Your Honest Self Is Vital to Everyone’s Happiness
There’s sacrifice and then there’s sacrifice. I had been raised to believe that marriage required relentless sacrifice – putting the other person before yourself in order to succeed. Two problems with this mindset arose in my first marriage – I sacrificed until I no longer recognized myself and I resented the hell out of my partner for it. Keep your sacrifices in check, while it’s important to be giving it’s toxic to not be true to yourself.
2. Escape Your Routine Together
It’s easy to forget when you live with someone that mini-vacations from the routine and even your home are important. Every time my husband and I sneak off for a weekend we return rejuvenated, asking each other, “why don’t we remember to do that more?!”
3. You Should Not Have to Sacrifice Friendships for Your Marriage
My ex wanted me to stop being friends with a particular guy friend with whom I was very close at the time. I happily complied because I came from an upbringing that taught friendships like that as a form of cheating. When we got divorced I realized not only how hurtful it was to this very important person in my life, but I realized how hurtful it had been for me. If there is jealousy caused by a friendship it should be discussed and treated delicately not simply ignored – because that does not make it truly disappear.
4. Be a Safe Place for Your Partner
This might be the most important lesson I learned and the biggest mistake I made. We were “pushing” each other to be better people and better partners way too hard. Eventually, I was no longer was a safe place for my ex. I’ve since noticed how common this is in relationships. If you push your own desires or expectations of how a relationship should be or look on your partner, you are setting yourself up for a relationship full of secrets.
5. Your Partner Can’t Be Your Everything
Lover & best friend, safe & mysterious, predicable & surprising? What an order! I truly believe we have come to expect way too much from one person in modern marriages and our expectations are causing unnecessary suffering. I now know my husband cannot be everything and try to rely on other outlets for the variety of interests and needs I have. It reduces the pressure on him and creates a healthy independence for both of us.