How to ask for support in your divorce
We all need support in our lives. Even when we’re not in the middle of something as big as divorce. In How to ask for support in your divorce we take a look at ways in which you can get the support you need. We rely on each other all the time: we rely on the shops to stock our food. We rely on the garage to fix our car. And we wouldn’t have much of a happy, relaxed or fulfilling life if we were entirely self-sufficient.
Suffering in silence sometimes feels like the only option. You tell yourself you don’t want to worry friends or family, and they wouldn’t get it anyway. Your thoughts and feelings are all over the place so it’s best not to say anything. You’re feeling overwhelmed and having someone else involved feels like it would add to the mess.
The thing is, we are not here to suffer. Even during divorce, when the going can get tough, it’s not our destiny to suffer. And humans were created to be social animals. It might not feel like it, especially if you’re low, but reaching out for support is the best decision you can make – for your divorce and for yourself.
Learn what you need
Asking for what you need is important. It’s acknowledging your worth, your place in the world. It is not selfish. Nor is it weak.
To ask for what you need, you need to know yourself. We cannot expect others to know what we want and need if we don’t know ourselves.
Listen to yourself first. Notice the thoughts you have – the internal chatter. What’s it saying? What does it repeat over and over? Are you repeatedly saying you’re tired or the children are too much? Listen. If it helps, set a timer for five minutes and write it all down, without stopping.
Then reflect. If you’re tired, why is that?
Is it simply that you have no time to yourself? How can you get more rest, and who could support you with that? Who could take the children for a while or overnight?
Is it that you’re so busy dealing with the divorce and life admin you’re completely drained of energy? What can you schedule to lift you up? A date with friends? Something creative?
Dig deep into your inner voice and learn to trust yourself. Learning how to ask for support in your divorce is about learning the power of saying no and yes please!
How to ask for support in your divorce
Learn the power of saying ‘no’
What do you need to stop doing (even if just temporarily)? You don’t have to be all things to all people all the time. It is okay to say ‘no’ to your friends, mum, sister and children. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to your soon-to-be-ex too!
Saying ‘no’ can be really challenging. You feel guilty or bad or that you’re letting others down. You are not – you are putting yourself first. Putting yourself first builds your resilience and strength, and actually means you’re better for others too. Remember a ‘no’ is actually a ‘yes’ to something else. Something positive, that serves you, and builds you up.
Learn the power of saying ‘yes please’
You know how much pleasure you feel when you help someone out? That feeling you get when you give to someone else just because you can? Well, other people love that too.
That means when someone offers you support say ‘yes please’. Yes, you are receiving a gift from them but you are also giving them the greatest of gifts. Everyone loves to feel helpful (as long as they are doing it willingly). A cooked meal, childcare, a lift, help with paperwork, support with moving house – all of it counts. It strengthens your bond as friends and it lightens your load. And there will always be times in the future you can return the favour.
Make a list of what you need
People want to support you in ways that you need. So write a list. There are many benefits to a list! Firstly, it gets everything out of your head and onto paper/your computer. That alone will feel better. You can look at that list objectively and prioritise it. Or break big tasks down into more manageable ones.
Then you can think about the support network you do have and consider who you can ask. That friend who loves cooking – ask her to batch cook some meals for you. Your brother who loves spoiling your children – ask him to have the children for a few hours. Your friend, the beauty therapist – ask her for a massage. And your friend with a van – ask him to help you move.
People love to help and they love specific instructions – it makes it easier for them. All that help really adds up. How to ask for support in your divorce – be clear with you and those you ask to support you.
Make time for you
Your divorce takes up a lot of headspace and it also takes up a lot of your physical time too. There’s a lot of paperwork involved. Clients often say they feel like getting a divorce is like a full-time job. When you already have a full-time job it’s doubly difficult.
Making time for you to just be is important. Eating well, getting fresh air, having plenty of rest and some time for fun is crucial to keeping your sanity. You may be going through divorce but you are still a daughter/sister/best friend. If finances are tight, say so. It doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Girls’ nights in are just as much fun as girls’ nights out. Walks and talks with your friends can be free, or the price of a latte and a slice of cake.
Monitor your mental health
Our mental health is not static. Our emotions can change hour to hour, even moment to moment. You can sink to the depths of despair in a heartbeat. Looking after your mental health is your responsibility so it’s ok to do what you need to do to remain emotionally safe. It’s actually essential.
As we see frequently these days, social media plays a huge role in our lives – both positively and negatively. Social media can make us feel alive and connected. It can also leave us feeling alone, unloved and vilified.
If being on social media isn’t supporting you, come off it. Remove apps from your phone. Shut down your privacy settings and stop stalking your soon-to-be-ex. What he thinks about you, or what he’s doing is none of your business anymore. Even if he’s posting pictures of himself with another woman, it’s none of your business. Don’t read things about yourself and don’t post about him or his new woman on social media. It never ends well. Focus on your own life. Be kind even when you don’t feel like it. That shows the ultimate strength, and it turns out it’s the kindest thing for you too.
Don’t ignore dark thoughts and feelings
If you’re struggling you are struggling. Own it. Reach out. Give yourself the love you need and ask for the support of others. Whether you need to call Women’s Aid or the Samaritans, help is there if you ask. If you need to go to your GP and share how bad you are feeling right now, do it. Do it without guilt or shame. Divorce can be lonely, scary and bewildering. It’s okay not to be okay.
Life is our greatest gift. It is precious and yet, it’s not always easy. We don’t need to compare our struggles with those of others to decide whether we are worthy of support or not. It isn’t a competition. Yes, it’s likely that ‘there’s always someone worse off than you’ but so what? That does not make your struggles any less valid.
The darkness doesn’t usually go away by ignoring it. But sharing dark thoughts shines a light onto them – and darkness doesn’t do so well in the light.
Share what’s in your head
When you share how you feel something shifts inside. You unburden yourself even though the situation may remain the same. If you feel that you are speaking but you’re not being heard, what do you need to do to be heard? Are you feeling worthy of being heard?
Sometimes we can fall victim to the false belief that if people really know us or love us they’ll automatically know what to do or say. That they’ll swoop in and ‘save us’. Some of us want to be ‘saved’ even though that’s out of our conscious awareness.
The truth is it’s your job to save yourself – with support. If someone you’ve reached out to gets it wrong – if they say something crass or hurtful but they’re trying to help – you have a choice. You can speak up, and let them know how you feel. Or you can leave them be and try someone else. But don’t let it fester. Usually, when people have been insensitive it wasn’t intentional or personal. It’s not about you. Focus on building yourself up, with a support crew you trust. And, as we discussed earlier in the blog – quite often people like and need direct requests to be as supportive as possible.
It might feel like a big ask to request help with dinner when you’ve been so busy you’re living on toast and coffee, but how would you feel if you got this text from a friend?
“Hey, I’m really struggling at the moment. Is there any chance you could bring round a meal at some point? I’d love a chat too.”
I know I wouldn’t feel put upon. I’d feel honoured they’d trusted me enough to ask.
No one else can support you until you are willing to support you
Sometimes potential clients cross my path because they want me to ‘fix the problem’ or ‘save’ them in some way. That is not my job. It’s theirs.
I can and will support you, encourage you, guide you and give you the tools to help you but ultimately, you have to support yourself. That means acknowledging where you are right now, where you’re struggling, and realising you need help getting to a better place.
When you’re ready you will. It might not be today or even next week but you will. If you’d like my support as you navigate your divorce reach out anytime. We can chat through the options of working with me either 1:1, in my group coaching programme or through my membership club. You get to choose and make the decisions that will support you best.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com