The Best Friend’s Guide to a Marriage Break-up

Watching a friend go through a marriage breakdown is a heart-wrenching experience, but it happens all too often.

Author Bella Vendramini documented her own divorce in her book Naked in Public (Hachette). Here are Bella’s tips on how you can be a supportive friend when your friend’s family is breaking up.

1. Be her shoulder to cry on

A marriage break up is a difficult time and any little thing you can do to lessen your friend’s load or to help her through it will have 10 times the significance for her, than the effort you need to expend in order to do it. “Your job is to be there as a shoulder, a box of tissues, a team coach, a guide and a helper,” says Bella.

The most important thing is to be there for your friend, to let her cry and to let her talk. “I remember when I went through my own marriage break up, I was feeling so vulnerable and scared about the future. Dealing with regret, hurt, betrayal, love, loneliness and fear. A cacophony of emotions are generated during a break up. Having loving and supportive friends with open ears and kind words are balm for the soul. I truly don’t think I could have gotten through it without my friends.”

2. Give kind words and listen

Bella adds that a friend’s kind words or non-judgmental advice can make the difference between dealing healthily and eventually moving on with life or falling into despondency or depression. “Some kind words, some loving cuddles and sane advice goes a long, long way,” says Bella.

Listening is much more important than giving advice, says Bella. “She needs non-judgmental listening, more than she needs judgmental advice. Put yourself in her shoes and see how it feels and learn by asking yourself what you’d want to hear if you were in the same situation.”

3. Time heals all wounds, but …

Essentially time is going to be the great healer – so be sure to remind your friend of that. “Let her know that it will get better, that she’ll feel all sorts of emotions but as time goes by, those high salient emotions will ebb and they will eventually disappear,” says Bella. “Also, you can suggest professional counselling. You don’t need to be at death’s door to get counselling – in fact it is a great way to get effective tools to help with a relationship breakdown including help with mourning, grieving, anger and moving on.” Also let your friend know that you can get subsidised sessions with a counsellor or psychologist, through referral from your GP.

4. Help her get some ‘me time’

Part of your job is also helping your friend nurture herself, especially if she’s thinking about others rather than herself. “If she has children, it’ll be important to her to lessen the fallout for them so she may neglect her own needs – this is where you come in.” That means you might be there simply to listen, with a glass of wine, when she needs you – and even with your dancing shoes on, if she fancies heading out to a bar for a fun evening out.

Organising a day trip away is a great way to get your friend’s mind off her ex. “She may be despondent and may not want to do much, so perhaps surprise her with a day trip to the country,” says Bella. “Just to get her out of the house and breathing the fresh air. Those little steps all help win the race back to health and optimism.” So buy tickets to the races, book an evening at a day spa or just go and see a new film together at the cinema.

5. Lend a hand with her kids

Offer to take her children for the day or help her with some chores around the house. “If she’s been married a long time, it’ll be new and strange for her dealing with things on her own, so be prepared to be there for her, or at least offer a hand,” says Bella. That might mean offering to help her out with the ironing or cooking up some meals and freezing them for the weeks ahead.

6. Don’t knock her partner

One of the main things is to be non-judgmental – including about the partner she’s broken up with. “Just let her talk and sympathise with her instead of judging her decisions or the man she’s chosen,” says Bella. “Inevitably one moment she’ll miss him terribly and mourn the loss of him, the next moment she’ll think he’s the worst creature on earth and want to put a hit out on him. Let her go through that process, those ups and downs, it helps her to come to terms with an even view of him and their past relationship.”

As a friend, you’ll have to be patient even when you feel frustrated over her slow process, or constant need to talk about it – but just as it will pass for her, it’ll pass for you too and you’ll resume your friendship as it was. “Remember, men come and go – but friendships last a lifetime,” says Bella, adding that it’s OK to trash talk about her ex with friends, but it’s never OK to bad mouth a former partner in front of children.

This article was written by Joanna Bounds for and has been adapted for

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  1. kymmage 01/09/2019 at 5:56 pm

    I’m just going through this. It’s tough, especially when he is a lovely guy as well. They are both really lovely people, but don’t work anymore as a couple. I definitely agree with the not bagging him. Especially around his kids. That’s not fair and the kids usually love their dad no matter what you think of him. And just being there. I’ve been making plans as often as possible. New shows or bands playing locally, art exhibits. Anything that might be interesting and a change of scene.

  2. Alezandra 30/08/2019 at 11:44 pm

    Reading an article on how to comfort someone going through a break up like and actually doing it will be 2 different things. It was good to read something like this though – if we are honest enough, it’s never easy. And similarly, my faith helps me in tough times so I would also offer a prayer.

  3. MuddledUpMolly 27/08/2019 at 7:46 pm

    Thankfully I have never been in this situation but I am sure there will come a time when the tips will come in really handy to support someone I love.

  4. Jen_Wiig 13/08/2019 at 6:41 pm

    When my bestie went through her marriage break up it was so so hard seeing her and the kids so sad and lost. What deff helped was being an ear and being available to have the kiddos, also as much as ALOT would say that doesn’t help… Having a couple of nights out and just being young crazy free girls again helped her just to forget for abit, re focus and carry on… Letting lose helped her see thing clearly too.
    What I remember her saying that didn’t help was everyone’s input as to what she should do next and dissing her ex after all he was still the kids Dad and a good one at that.

  5. Bevik1971 13/08/2019 at 4:49 pm

    Just being there for them is the best I think – I have helped more than one friend through a break up and they are not enjoyable. Take them out for coffees, do stuff together and if there are kids involve the kids always 🙂 Making sure they are all doing ok is the most important. Just a simple phone call or a text daily to say hi is always a good thing to do 🙂

  6. Shorrty4life1 12/08/2019 at 8:54 pm

    Great tips etc for marriage break ups. When my mate had a marriage break up she was in Dunedin which is about 3hrs away from me so I could only help through message. I agree with the don’t bag her husband coz that don’t help if anything it makes them want to run back. I just used positive things to get her through and also reminded her that she’s got a beautiful wee girl that needs her strong mum and that things will get better in time. She seems way better now with all that’s happening and is looking happy and healthy just her and her daughter killing it

  7. SarahBlair 12/08/2019 at 2:02 pm

    I have supported a few friends through break ups and it is never easy, I think just letting them know that they arent alone and that things will be okay is important, as well as listening and supplying coffee! Just sitting, listening and letting them talk is so much help!

  8. Loucyd3 06/08/2019 at 5:02 pm

    We had a friend go through a tough separation and what helped them to get through it was just knowing they had our 100% love and support. As I was a stay at home mum I was able to offer help with their daughters care before and after school and my family opened our door to them both when some time out was needed for our friend.
    They just appreciated having someone there to listen and support them through the good and bad of it all.

    • Mands1980 13/08/2019 at 8:15 am

      I’m lucky none of my friends have been through a marriage break up but I know so many family’s who have been through this. These are some great tips though if any of my friends end up going through one. In our local town it seems to be happening more and more. My brother separated from his wife years ago but things ended well for them and they still get on as friends but I know this is not always the case. When kids are involved it gets a bit more tricky but as long as you can help out if close by it would make a huge difference.

  9. Micht 06/08/2019 at 2:10 pm

    A tough thing to watch a friend go through and hard to not be over protective of her and want to fight for her too but good to remember these tips…she is feeling hurt herself and needs support more than we as a friend want justice for them… sad and painful but always hope at the end for them too… for me its my Faith that helps in tough times so prayer is what i would offer personally.

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