When to Learn from Other People’s Experience—and When Not To

In the dating world, there’s a relatively new term for an age-old practice of dating and disappearing: ghosting. It might mean never returning calls, it might mean not showing up for a date and it might mean blocking someone on social media. It’s just disappearing. And no matter how it’s expressed, one thing is certain—it’s hurtful.

In divorce, many people experience a different but equally—or sometimes more—painful form of ghosting. They’re ghosted by friends and family.

The reasons are complex and varied. Maybe these people came into your life through your partner. Maybe they fear the fragility of their own marriages. Maybe they just don’t know what to say.

On the other side, if you are the one going through divorce, you may be tempted to isolate. You may not want to see friends who bring up painful memories. You may want to distance yourself from the past as much as possible.

But what if everyone paused for a moment to learn? What if we looked at divorce—our own and those of others—as the learning opportunity it is?

This week I sat down with Deanna Coyle, founder of Vesta: ReDefining Divorce, an organization that provides informative and social events, retreats, and referrals for trusted professionals to educate and empower people who are navigating life during and after divorce. After leaving Wall Street she now focuses on work that centers on treating divorce as an opportunity for growth rather than an end.

Divorce as a Learning Opportunity

But being around other people who are going through divorce can also be a learning opportunity. Seeing common mistakes—like isolating yourself—can help you avoid them in your own divorce.  It’s important, according to Coyle, to know when to turn off student mode. Remember that each couple has its own unique dynamic that may be nothing like yours.

The Pain of Others

Of course, you’re dealing with a moment of crisis for them—perhaps the worst they’ve ever experienced. Three key attitudes can help you be the strong support they need:

  1. Don’t Fear People’s Pain: it’s ok to speak plainly to people about divorce. They know they’re going through it. It isn’t a secret. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s understandable. But perhaps they do. Don’t be afraid of going where they want to take you.
  2. Ask What People Need: the best way to find out what people need is to simply ask them. Do they want to spend the day forgetting about divorce? Do they want to re-hash it? Do they want to joke about it, or is it something very serious for them? Be open to listening to whatever they tell you when you ask.
  3. Give Comfort, Never Demand It. One of the most frustrating things for friends is to not be able to make a difference. That is, some people are energized by “fixing” people, cheering them up or getting them to a new plateau of healing. But that may not be possible. You must be willing to give comfort without the guaranteed pay-off of healing someone. Sometimes, people need to feel sad. And you, as a friend, are simply by their side. And that is enough.

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.