How to Get the Best Support from Family and Friends (and When to Walk Away)
Beyond the “inner circle” of your Winning Team (which I teach you how to create in this post), you have a support network of friends and family who can help you get through your separation in a positive way. When you take the time to actually look at this network and who is available for you to call on (and for what), you will never feel like you’re doing this separation on your own, because you’ll always have cheerleaders when you need a boost.
That said, not everyone in your family or circle of friends is going to be able or willing to be a support pillar for you at this time. Everyone in your life will react to your separation in his or her own way. Some will react positively and supportively, and others negatively, angrily, or just plain incomprehensibly. This isn’t a judgment on them or a reason to avoid them; it’s simply the reality. If you know who you can trust to support you, and who you can’t, you will be far less likely to fall into emotional traps like feeling alone or disempowered.
Who can you call on in your separation?
You can get a clear picture of who to reach out to by making a list of friends and family members whom you trust implicitly. These should be individuals who you know will deal with your emotions and needs in a confidential, trustworthy way, and who won’t focus on your past life and your ex, but instead on helping you reconnect to yourself and create a radiant future.
Remember, just because someone in your life doesn’t make the list of who you call in a crisis doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be part of your life or even part of your separation process. It just means that you will not rely on them for support in difficult moments, or for positive, constructive advice. Their love and support is a bonus!
For example, family ties are often strengthened during a separation. You might find that your brother is suddenly there for you, your mother calls you every day to make you laugh, your aunt helps take care of your kids, and your financially-savvy uncle helps you figure out your financial situation. If this is happening, accept such help graciously, even when it’s not easy to do so. You need all the help and support you can get right now!
Unfortunately, the opposite situation is also common. Some family members may not understand your decision, or may condemn you for your choices. They may be jealous of your new “freedom,” or still harbor negative emotions about their own separations. They may be judgmental, gossipy, or just plain patronizing. Remember that you cannot influence their behavior; you can only control what you do in response to it. Try to adopt a neutral attitude, and avoid getting sucked into negative discussions. If this is too difficult, try to avoid all but the most necessary interactions for a while, until you feel strong enough to deal with them.
Friendships, like family relationships, can go one of two ways in a separation. Some friendships become stronger, while others turn antagonistic, or simply disappear. The loss of your relationship is also, in a way, a loss for your friends, so this can also be a confusing and emotional time for them as well. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Your friends are used to relating to you as part of a couple, and when you are no longer paired, it requires your friends to make a mental shift around the relationship.
For shared friends, a separation can often be especially difficult, since they often don’t know how to react. If they feel pressured to take sides, tell them they don’t need to do that; you can catch up with them again in a year or so, once the turmoil has passed. Remember that, during your separation, you are bound to be extra-sensitive, and certain friends’ reactions to your situation might be more painful than expected. (Even your best friends might be acting weird, being unsupportive, or taking the side of your ex). If this happens, just keep focusing on yourself and what you have to do, and remain confident that the friendships which really contribute to your life, happiness, and well-being will emerge from this time even stronger than they were before.
Your First Priority
Whatever is happening, try not to allow your relationships with friends or family to disrupt your progress or undermine your vision of, and actions toward, a positive future. Call only on those people who lift you up, make your day more positive, and give you useful feedback. At this time in your life, you need to be your first priority!
If you find yourself battling to keep negative behavior at bay, or feel drained every time you have contact with your family or a certain group of friends, try to maintain a safe distance. Avoid arguments, even if you feel like you’re being treated unfairly. You don’t need any additional drama right now. Instead, express your frustrations to people you trust, and with whom you feel safe―especially the members of your Winning Team!
Choose a Star Action as a
Gift to Yourself Today!
The Star Actions are part of my Positive Separation Method and give you a positive boost in the direction of happiness. Doing these actions is a fun way to spend time with your close friends and family, or give yourself a boost of energy. Learn more about Star Actions in this post.
Family Fun Day: Ask one of your family members―one who has great organizational talents―to plan an excursion for you to a park or somewhere in nature. Even if there are no kids, think of fun outdoor games to play or crafts to work on. End the day with a picnic or campfire, sharing old family stories and songs. Don’t forget the marshmallows!
Make a surprise visit: Think of someone you really like, but haven’t seen for at least two years: your favorite cousin, your neighbor who used to go dancing with you, your college friend who did a perfect karaoke rendition of “I will survive.” Then, drop by to see them! (Or, if they live far away or don’t like surprise visits, send them a card or a small surprise gift to let them know you’d like to get together.) When you do see your old friend, don’t talk about your breakup for more than 10 minutes. Share happy moments instead.
Get local! Read the local newspaper or advertisement board to find a free activity you can go to with friends (such as a free concert, book launch, crafting class, free film showing, etc.). Carry a big smile along and see what this initiative brings you and your friend(s)!
Eveline Jurry is the creator of the Positive Separation Method™ and the author of three books, including ‘Happy Again! The Art of Positive Separation’. From her home base in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, she teaches people how to create a happy future during and after divorce or separation.