The Pleasure and Pitfuls of Sharing Divorce Talk with Sisters and Friends
“A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves—a special kind of double.” – Toni Morrison
Sisters and close friends can be a great source of support during a divorce. After all, who knows you better? Who’s been there for the heartache and the decision process? And, perhaps, who knew you before you were married?
Sisters and friends who are like sisters are a major source of strength and comfort in the divorce process. But, like every relationship, the sister or friend dynamic can be strained during such tumultuous times. Sometimes you may not want to be with someone who already knows all the details of your divorce (and may have formed their own opinions). Or you may not feel up to ex-bashing. Or perhaps you just want some time away from dwelling on your divorce.
This week I sat down with renowned professor, author and expert Dr. Deborah Tannen. She is the University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships, best known for You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, which was on the New York Times best seller list for nearly four years. This month we’ll be taking a deep dive into Dr. Tannen’s work and what makes it so incisive and unique.
In speaking with Dr. Tannen, she revealed that in her experience interviewing women for her books, she saw something interesting—women are more often hurt by being left out than by anything else. Whether women are “in the loop” with their female friends affects them. And, according to Dr. Tannen’s research, it affects women much more than it affects men.
Sisters are our first friends. And often, our best friends. They understand you and you understand them. You’ve been through family bumps and bruises, and you’ve mutually stood by each other for all of it. Sisterhood is a unique relationship that even the closest friends can’t rival.
But that closeness can sometimes play a role in one of the hardest parts of divorce. With that closeness comes a sense of entitlement—sisters can sometimes feel like it’s their right to know exactly what’s going on emotionally. They feel like they deserve the inside track. And when they don’t get it—aren’t told about growing dissatisfaction in a marriage or even about an infidelity—they feel betrayed.
The solution? According to Dr. Tannen, being open. Tell your close friend or sister exactly why you didn’t tell them what was going on. Open the door to your thoughts and let them know that you’re not rejecting them, since that’s the feeling they’re reacting to.
And above all, know that relationships this close are prone to ups and downs. But open communication can help keep you close.
If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.