Divorce can be a very isolating time particularly in the very early stages when you’re trying to decide if ending your marriage is the right decision. You might be scared to mention your marital challenges to friends because it likely will change the friendship dynamic and what if you and your spouse do work things out? Same too, with family members – you don’t want them taking sides or inadvertently letting something slip.
Faced with such a major decision the temptation is just to withdraw and cocoon yourself in privacy and while it may be smart to drop some of your social or voluntary commitments, you need the emotional support from friends now more than ever. No matter where you are in the divorce process, you need to create your Personal Support Team.
These are your three or four closest friends in whom you can confide. If you’re in the evaluation stage then it might be just one or two people. They are the people you can call when the negotiations are pushing you to your limit – instead of shooting off a quick, acerbic email or voice mail to your Soon-To-Be-Ex that could be used as an argument against you in negotiating parenting time, you can call one of your Personal Support Team and vent.
Your Personal Support Team has your back. They are the people with whom you can share deeply personal information and be assured that it isn’t going to be shared with your STBX or used in any way against you. They are the people you can turn to tell your story.
Your Personal Support Team are not substitutes for professional advisers such as your attorney, realtor, therapist or coach but using them to brainstorm different options and proposals and to reflect will help you make the most effective use of your professional team and may help you manage your professional expenses. Ask your Personal Support Team to give you honest opinions without being judgmental and with their help you’ll be able to determine exactly what is in your best interests and the best interests of your children.
Your Team are also the people who have the courage to tell you to take the high road when you’re really feeling bitter, angry and revengeful. They are the people to tell you when you’re in the wrong.
Trustworthiness and personal allegiance to you, as opposed to your STBX, are the top criteria for choosing team members. While first-hand experience with divorce may be helpful, depending on the individual’s experience it may also be damaging so it’s not essential. Desirable team members are skilled at evaluating the pros and cons of a situation, are creative problem-solvers, bring different perspectives and most of all are good listeners.
As you identify potential team members ask yourself what strengths each person would bring. When you’ve narrowed down your choices you can approach each person, explain your current situation and ask if they would be willing to serve on your Personal Support Team. Explain what being on your team means and why you see them as an important team member. If you have to persuade someone to support you, that person is not the right choice.
Don’t worry if you can’t identify four people immediately – you can always add to your team later or you can work with a smaller team. Conversely, try not to have more than four people – having more people means spending more time updating everyone, more opinions and the potential for more disagreements – not what you need at this time. This is definitely where quality matters more than quantity.
With your Personal Support Team in place you won’t be tempted to overwhelm your other friends with your divorce details, they won’t see you as being overly needy and you won’t feel guilty about ask them to support you in other ways whether it’s helping you with a task at home, picking your kid from an after-school activity or joining you for a drink. Another potential benefit … your coworkers won’t get tired of hearing about your divorce either.