After divorce or separation, men often find themselves grieving the end of their marriages while trying to keep up at work and thinking about establishing new lives solo. Financial and legal stresses are likely foremost on the divorcing man's mind, as well as loneliness. With divorce, social networks shift or disappear, according to marriage and family therapist Larry O'Connor. A newly divorced man might find he's wading through his emotional grief on his own. Add to this the fact that men find it harder to reach out and ask for help because they feel they should be self-reliant. All of these factors point to how important it is for your brother to receive your support when he's going through a divorce.
Resist Taking Sides
If you know his ex, make sure you don't end up as a go-between. Says divorce consultant and author Deborah Moskovitch in the article "How To Help Friends Going Through a Divorce or Breakup," delivering information and messages back and forth will just add fuel to an otherwise inflamed situation. Plus, your brother may be hurt if he knows you're in contact with his ex. It's your right to maintain contact if you choose, but keep that information to yourself. If you're not in contact and, further, if you dislike his ex, keep that to yourself too. You might trigger feelings of insecurity and shame if you make comments such as "You're better off without that loser." Plus, if the two of them end up having an amicable relationship, what you said will forever hang in the air.
Take Your Cues From Him
Your brother needs all the support and friendship you can provide during this time, says Margot Swann, founder and director of Visions Anew, a nonprofit divorce resource. If you're unsure exactly what to say, a simple "I'm here for you" is always appropriate. Then take your cues from your brother. Perhaps he wants to hang out without mentioning his ex or maybe he wants to spend some time venting and working through his feelings. Whatever he needs, follow his lead. He's likely to need practical help too, such as having the kids driven to activities, says Swann. Offer your services if you see him struggling to keep up with his increased responsibilities. Be sure to call every few days, or every day if you can.
Do Things Together
Men going through a divorce might feel aimless or restless. Married life takes up a lot of time and your brother may not know what to do with all of his free time. Help him develop interests and hobbies that not only keep him busy but also give him a new sense of self-identity and confidence. Talk to him about activities he might enjoy or encourage him to revive old ones he's forgotten. Try going motorcycling, playing sports, or doing a creative project together. Exercising together is a particularly good idea as it will help reduce his stress and make him feel better about himself. Even better if the activity gets him involved in a larger community or social network that will help ground him.
Don't Give Advice
Although you might be tempted to tell your brother what to do when going through his divorce, hold your tongue. Your brother is in emotional turmoil and is likely to listen to everyone at this point in time, or to simply shut down. Instead, reassure him that you're there for him and then commit yourself to simply listening. He probably needs to vent more than anything else. If he really needs extra support, refer him to a therapist, divorce consultant or family lawyer. These specialists can give him the exact advice he needs. Handing over contact information or going with him to the appointment can also help if he doesn't have the motivation to pursue counseling on his own.
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Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.
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