How to Handle Friends' Divorce or Break Up

Breaking up is hard to do.

Adam Lowe
3-minute read
Episode #8

Several listeners have written in with questions about how to handle the situation when friends get divorced or break up, so we'll try to address a few of the ways to negotiate that situation.

Be Supportive

It is never easy going through a breakup, so remember to be a supportive friend or family member. People going through the dissolution of a relationship may face many of the same feelings of loss and regret that someone would experience dealing with a death. There may also be feelings of anger, jealousy and betrayal. These feelings will generally be present in an acrimonious separation, but may happen in an amicable split as well. So be supportive, check in with your friend or loved one, give them space when they need it, and company or distraction as well. Especially for long-term relationships, it can be a very big change to go from living with a partner to living alone, so try to make some extra time for your friend in need.

Don't Get Caught in the Middle

If you are friends with both parties in a splitting couple, it can get very complicated. If it is an amicable separation, it may be possible to keep up a relationship with both individuals, but the challenge will be not getting caught in the middle. If they are close friends, then of course they will want to talk to you about the split since it will be the most pressing issue in their lives, but this can put you in the awkward position of mediator or double agent. If you wish to remain friends with both sides, then you will probably have to avoid the breakup topic with at least one side. Let's say you are a close confidant of Pat and a more social acquaintance of Leslie, then you could say something like, "Leslie, I really would like to remain friends with you, but considering how close Pat and I are, I think it would be much better if we avoided discussing the divorce." You would also want to be open with Pat about your decision to maintain a social friendship with Leslie, in case this would be too upsetting for Pat. Sometimes you may have to decide where your loyalty lies: with a close friend, or with a more social acquaintance, or at least wait a period of time before normalizing relations with the other partner to make sure you can be there for your close friend.