Episode 5 - Creating Your Divorce Support Crew

podcast Sep 20, 2022
Do Divorce Right
Episode 5 - Creating Your Divorce Support Crew

The Do Divorce Right podcast is a new podcast dedicated to looking at the many different aspects of divorce,  interviews with women who have their own incredible divorce stories or those who can offer some great advice as you go through yours. Hosted by Becca Maxwell, a divorce coach and relational intelligence consultant, the focus here is to help you to find the strength and support to help you heal, feel lighter and in a better frame of mind to face the inevitable challenges of your divorce journey.

In this episode, Becca talks about the importance of getting support through your separation and divorce and - spoiler alert! - you will probably need a bigger support crew than you think you will!

She describes how to ask for help from an inner circle of close friends, a selection of professionals and a broader community network so that you can build the most effective support crew to see you through this.


Audio Transcript

Welcome to the Do Divorce Right podcast. 

I’'m your host, Becca Maxwell. And I'm here to help you transition through your divorce with ease and integrity, to not only survive the challenges of your divorce, but to thrive as you come out the other side of it with a much better life than you ever hoped possible. On this show, we talk about many different aspects of divorce, interview women who have their own incredible divorce stories, or those who can offer some great advice as you go through yours. The focus here is to help you find the strength and support to help you feel lighter, happier, more positive, and in a better frame of mind to face the inevitable challenges of your current journey.

Thanks for joining this episode, Episode Five, I want to talk to you today about the importance of getting really great support through your separation and divorce. 

It's really a gorgeous expression that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. And I have actively used that as a parenting strategy to help my children make better decisions about the children that they choose to surround themselves with and the people that they spend time with. 

I've actively used that to think about who I am investing my time with and spending time with as well. 

However, at a time like this, five people are simply not going to be enough. In fact, you probably need a bigger support crew than you think you will! 

There'll be an inner circle. Now, the inner circle is that safe space to crawl and cry when you need to. They're the people that can invite you to things, people that will help keep you active socially and mentally. So perhaps that inner circle is three to five people. 

But outside of that you're going to need professionals - that includes your legal team. 

Presumably, you can find a legal team that shares your values, somebody that you respect, and enjoy working with, somebody who can meet you on the same page and help give you the advice that you want to achieve your goals. 

You may need a doctor, you may need a therapist, you may need a coach. They're all within that professional circle, if you like, the second of the three. 

And then the third is a broader network, you're going to need people who can provide support and don't necessarily know anything about your current situation. 

So it's important not to confuse these three groups. 

While they are all there to provide you with support, they each have a very different purpose. 

And if you start using your broader network as an inner circle, you can start muddying the waters and diluting the impact and help and support that they can provide for you. 

So let me go into a little bit more detail on those three broad groups of support that you're going to need while going through your separation and divorce. 

So first of all, it's your inner circle; so when it comes to friendships, of course, quality is more important than quantity. But you certainly need more than one person in this inner circle. If you have one BFF through this - the one person that you call, when you've you know, when you're thinking about things or when you're responding to a message that you've received from your ex, or you know, a drama with your children, that just feels like too much, if there is only one person, you're actually putting too much pressure on that person to be everything to you, and to be everything for you. 

Vulnerability is at the heart of friendship and this inner circle will get to see you being your true awkward self - your true awkward and sometimes ugly self! 

These are the people who are going to treat you with respect and not judge you. You probably already have your inner circle in place. These are the friends that you've been speaking to while your marriage was falling apart. These are the people who might have passed you the tissues when you've had an ugly cry. 

Have a think about who those people might be and again this needs to be more than just one. 

I thoroughly recommend that once you've figured out who this inner circle is, that you make it very clear to them that you're going to need their support more than ever in the coming months. 

Separation and divorce can be an incredibly lonely time. And I say months, but usually it takes years. But your intensity of needing this inner circle really is in those early months of processing the grief of the division of the marriage. It's in setting up your life together. So this is an incredibly lonely time.

Here's a few ideas on how you can make it clear to them, and maybe what you could ask your inner circle to help you with:

There would be things like:

  • Invitations out. Can they, you know, invite you out to dinner, ask if you'd like to join them at the cinema, could you go for a walk and a talk together, go to a picnic, a trip to the beach, football, anything, really just continue those invitations, You might turn them down more often than not, but ask your friends to continue to invite you. 
  • Then there's invitations in. Could they invite you for some quiet time together at home, whether it's for a meal, to simply hang out, whether it's to watch Netflix together or to get your kids together or for you to be around other people, but not necessarily engaging in what they're doing. Perhaps you're just hanging out on their sofa watching television, while they're going about their time. It's nice to get those invitations into somebody else's space as well. 
  • Another area that they could help you is with flybys and drop-ins. So maybe if they're preparing a meal that they know you'd like, but you're not actually up for a visit, could you swing by and collect take away from them? Or could they drop it off for you or, you know, just fly by and drop-ins just to occasionally knock on your door and check on you or a phone call when you're driving or walking somewhere; when you're hanging the washing, when you're walking the dog, whatever it is. So those flybys and drop ins are really helpful. 
  • Something else to ask them for is to call you out when you're not behaving with integrity. Remember, this is your inner circle. These are the people who know who you want to be. These are the people who get to see you at your best and at your worst. These are the people that you can be vulnerable with. So yes, absolutely joke together and laugh about all the ways in which you'd like to respond to your ex, you know, send them the draft of the emails that you'd like to send. But they should also be the ones that don't actually let you send the ugly text message or the incendiary email. So these people need to call you out when you're not being the best version of yourself. And I hope that you'll be able to forgive them for that. Know that they're doing it from a place of love and not judgement.

So, your inner circle, certainly foster these friendships, let them know that you're going to need their help. Articulate a few ways in which they can help. I’ve given you some ideas, you might have some yourself too.

Then the second area of help will become the professionals. 

I haven't seen anyone successfully navigate a separation or divorce without the help of professionals at some time or another - sometimes an army of them! and I don't wish that on anybody. I really hope you do not need an army of professionals. But I have seen it be that way, you know, I have seen that be the case. 

So, not to say that you're going to be handing out all of your hard earned cash to hard-ass lawyers, and you know, you're going to lawyer up. That's not necessarily the case. But you are going to need some help along the way. 

You're not necessarily going to be able to outsource all of the hard stuff either. I'm sorry to say that it's simply not possible to do that. You can't just employ a bank of lawyers and let them make the decisions for you. It doesn't quite work that way. You're gonna have to make the decisions. But you will certainly, certainly need to find a fantastic lawyer who shares similar values to you. Someone who can provide really sound advice as you navigate all of those difficult decisions you need to make.

You will have, ideally, a lawyer who shares your values. 

You may also seek professional advice from Legal Aid, or free legal advice from the family courts. In my situation, I worked with a wonderful lawyer and her associates for the first few years of my divorce. It took five years to finally settle and I couldn't, I just couldn't imagine spending this kind of money on paying lawyers to write the letters and to keep this combative process going I just couldn't financially manage it. 

So I was clear with my lawyer and her associates about that. And what I did was I sat them down, I paid them for the time that it took for them to patiently talk me through the pros and cons of each of my options. 

I asked them to walk me through the steps that I would need to take, the documents that I would need to write, the documents that needed to be written, any potential response documents that would need to be written, etc. 

And then with that, armed with that information, I then represented myself in court, and I wrote all of the documents myself. 

That was, you know, for the final three years of that divorce, I relied really, really heavily on free advice. Free advice at the Family Court. And the ladies at the litigation service bureau. I divorced in Singapore, so it's a little bit different to anywhere else that you might be listening. 

But you know, I really relied on just all of these different resources and asking them to help advise me on how to submit the required documents. 

It was truly painful. 

But I'm so proud of myself for not just for.. Gosh, I'm proud of myself, not just for being able to represent myself and write those documents. I think more than anything, I'm proud of myself for being brave enough to ask lots of questions, so that I could figure it out on my own. 

No, I'm not suggesting that that's your way. But I am suggesting at some point, you will need some advice, you will need professionals in your corner. Nobody can replace that for you. You can't make it up. Your inner circle of girlfriends is not going to provide you the advice of a coach or therapist or counsellor, they are not going to be able to give you this advice. You will need professionals at some point. 

So other professionals that you might need would be a psychologist, a counsellor or a coach. Let me just say right off the bat here though, if you've experienced any type of domestic or family violence, any abuse or coercive control, please seek the appropriate help. Not everybody is specialised in dealing with that trauma. 

So if you're listening in Australia, there are multiple free helplines that you can call for online counselling and referral services, including 1800 RESPECT. That's the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counseling Service. That's one 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732. 

There are free helplines. 

Another is the women's domestic violence helpline on 1800 007339. 

Please seek the right help if this is the case for you, not just asking for a referral or, you know, getting the number from somebody from a friend, you'll need a trauma specialist to help you process all of that. 

So even for those of us who have not experienced family violence, we often find ourselves needing the support of an independent professional to help us process and understand and manage our emotions through separation and divorce. 

The stability of your mental health is critical. And look, I've heard clients and friends say that they felt seeking help was self-indulgent. Not only is it not self indulgent, but it can be the single best investment that you make in yourself ever, period. 

So please, please do consider what kind of support are you going to need in this space for your mental health.

It can be quite complex to explain, but in case you're trying to decide which type of professional to talk to in this area, I'm going to briefly outline the difference between a therapist, a counsellor and a coach, just so that you're a little bit better armed to make that choice.

First of all, a therapist is an umbrella term, but for this purpose, I'm talking about clinical psychologists or psychiatrists, the kind of professional that your GP might make a referral to. These are essentially specialised medical professionals, meaning that you are treated as a patient and the goal of your engagement with them is to help you remove pain or problematic behaviours. They can help you deep dive into emotional issues, healing and trauma recovery. They'll help you to uncover any past traumas and patterns that you repeat and they can offer medication as part of treatment as needed. Okay, so that's the therapist, the psychologists, the psychiatrists.

In the second tier then is a counsellor. 

A counsellor has studied cognitive therapy, they'll use similar techniques to a therapist, but they're not considered a medical professional and cannot prescribe medication. So counselling is usually focused on a specific issue for a limited amount of time. And it's more focused on helping people overcome specific unwanted emotions or behavioural habits. 

And then finally, coming to a coach.

A coach offers a very different type of support and works with clients as partners. So a coach seeks to empower their clients through a process of self discovery. The focus is on the future, and encouraging clients to figure out what's possible, and inviting clients to take action. 

So all of these professionals will help you to tackle complex issues. And they will all provide a safe space that allows open and honest communication. 

Each of those options comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, and you may actually find you use all of them at different times in your journey. 

I certainly have! Many women I know have. 

I've used, you know, therapists at a specific point of time, and a counsellor for a specific issue, and then coaches for a longer period of time, through wide ranging areas. 

You might choose to engage a divorce coach for a particular period of time. And then you really narrow your focus, and you'd like to work with a business coach or a life coach to further that work. 

All right, so that's your professional support that you're going to need. 

And then the final area of support is really the broader network. 

And you might be surprised by how willing people can be to offer help, if you're willing to ask for it. In some cases, and perhaps in most cases, these people, this broader network, they may not have any idea that you're going through a divorce, right? 

In some cases, there'll be people who are also going through divorce or separation - that might be the Divorce Support Facebook groups, or In-person support groups if there's some in your area. 

But other examples of that broader network would be local community and resident groups. They can be a fantastic resource for support. In the area that I live there are at least three or four Facebook groups just around this little area. So one will be a ‘buy nothing’ page and another one's a neighbourhood page. One is the neighbourhood and surrounding area page. 

But it's really lovely to hear people asking for help and asking for advice and suggestions within that group, it can be really valuable. And, for example, do you need some help moving some furniture?

I had this crazy big bookcase to move up from the lower level to upstairs. My partner was away at the time so I sent a message out to this group asking would anyone help me carry this massive bookcase up the stairs, you know, in return for a six pack of beer? 

And a lovely guy who I've never met before, will probably never meet again - I've never seen him since - he was more than happy to help and didn't even take the beer. So bless him. 

And another example might be, you know, if you've split up your household goods, and you're looking for a cheap microwave, or dining table, since your ex took the one that you shared. At the local residents group, you don't need to tell them your story, but you can ask for that help. 

School communities can be really great for asking for shared pickup or drop off arrangements. So that, you know, is that something that you're having to figure out on your own and you're finding it's a real draw on your time? Is there a girlfriend or someone within the school community that might be able to pick up your kids on the way to school and drop them off for you?

Work colleagues, you're not going to want to share all of your intimate details with your work colleagues - maybe you've got someone in your inner circle but the others, not so much. 

Work colleagues might be prepared to take the lead on a project and reduce pressure for you temporarily. You know, think about how you can leverage that community also, to give you a bit of a break. 

Parents of your children's friends can be a useful example of that support. They might be available to take your children to the extracurricular activity that your children share. I’ve become quite close, I guess, with the parents of my son's friend, simply because I've asked a couple of times “do you mind picking my son up on the way to football? And I'll join later and bring them home?” 

Just asking the question, being willing to, perhaps you've heard this phrase like that “if you don't ask, you don't get”

It's, it's true. Sure, I agree with that. But I do think it can be really, really hard to do. 

You know, often we think that asking for help makes us appear incapable. We can feel vulnerable, or we can feel less-than.

My mum - who I'm probably going to talk about lots in all of these episodes, because she's a wonderful role model and a wonderful human - my mum role models this so beautifully. And I've seen it since I was, you know, really small. She says to her, whoever she needs to ask help, she says, “I'd like to ask you a favour, and refusal won't offend”. 

That's how she broaches any conversation. “I'd like to ask you a favour and refusal won't offend”. 

And she'll ask about absolutely anything! She'll ask to borrow someone's car, she'll ask for someone's holiday home if the family and I are coming to visit, she'll often ask, “well, do you have a spare space for the family to stay?”, she will ask for a lawnmower or whatever.

But she's also one of the most generous people on the planet, and people like to help her in return. So she has no hesitation in asking for help. And, and generally, that's reflected with people who have no hesitation in offering her help. 

I am less like my mother, I'd like to think maybe one day I'll get there. But I'm an extremely independent person, I believe I'm very capable, I can take on difficult things, I can achieve big stuff. 

But I've even become pretty great at asking for help when I need it. And without fail, I'm amazed about how willing people are to go out of their way to help someone in need. It's life affirming! 

So I'd really like you to have a think about what support you could use right now. 

Where are the pressure points that are just creating friction that you don't need, and if only you were to ask for some help, you'd be able to overcome that? 

So there will be support you need from your inner circle. Often.

Try to articulate that to them. Try to warn them, I guess, and tell them the ways in which you'd appreciate their help. Even if you don't have to take them up on it. You know, ask them to keep asking you out.

Think about the help that you can get from professionals; and, like I say, that with a psychiatrist or a therapist or counsellor or a coach, you can articulate your goal for that time together. 

Perhaps you just don't want to feel so heavy anymore. Perhaps you, whatever it is, whatever your goal is, articulate that with them. 

With your lawyers; ask lots and lots of questions. Empower yourself with knowledge. Empower yourself with understanding what's going on. Don't expect to just outsource everything. The more you can understand and take on, the more you will feel comfortable about the process that you're going through. 

And then think through what support could you get from your broader community. And perhaps there's some pockets of that broader network that you haven't explored yet, and could be really valuable for asking for help. So it's time to go get good at asking.

I hope that this has been helpful in deciding who is going to be your divorce support crew. I'd love to hear from you about who they are.

Thanks for listening. I hope you took something of value out of this episode. I'm your host, Becca Maxwell. And you can find me on the web at www.dodivorceright.com or on Instagram at DoDivorceRight. 

I look forward to connecting with you there.


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