We all have divorced male family members or friends.
Early on following the divorce, it’s not unusual for guys to be acting out of sorts. Some get depressed and sink into a hole. Others engage in denial. Others start partying and sleeping around like there’s no tomorrow.
I won’t go into any specifics about my brother’s divorce a couple of years back, or how he dealt with it. Instead, I’ll talk about how I dealt with it.
I didn’t want to see my brother unhappy. In the beginning, though, I was extremely judgmental, and critical of how he was handling things. I gave him all sorts of advice – advice that fell on deaf ears.
Fortunately, one of my brother-in-laws pulled me aside.
“Stop telling your brother what to do. Have you ever been divorced? No, you haven’t. I have. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Then he gave me some advice that I’ve tried to adhere to ever since.
“Just be there for him. Call him every week or so. Ask him how things are going. Listen to him and don’t judge,” he said.
I wrote last year in this blog about how I’m committed to reconnect with my brother and two sisters. As part of that promise, I arranged a weekend getaway last month with my brother up in the Adirondacks. We rented a cabin and fished for a couple of days.
We had a great time. We caught some fish, cooked them up and drank more than our share of wine and beer.
One night in the cabin, I talked to him about doing this column. He agreed that my ‘listening’ approach in communicating with him was the right one. In the long run, it’s brought us closer together.
I asked if he had any friends who have been there for him. He said he’s had many open and heart-felt conversations with his golfing buddies – specifically the guys who’ve also been divorced.
“You realize they’ve been through it, and you open up,” he said. “Sometimes, it just feels good to laugh together about things.”
My brother and I still call each other, usually about every other week. If I don’t call him, he calls me. We share the highlights and problems in our lives.
That’s the way it should be. I’m there for him, he’s there for me.
A friend once told me that to get your point across to another person, you have to say things in a way that they’ll want to listen.
What I’ve learned, though, is that you have to begin by listening.