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 older brother’s divorce a few 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, my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) 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 the hell 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.
A short time before that conversation, I had decided it was time I did more to reconnect with my brother and two sisters.
Following up on that and bolstered by the conversation with my brother-in-law, I arranged a weekend getaway with my brother that fall in the Adirondacks. We rented a cabin and fished for a couple of days.
We had a great time. We caught some a mess of perch, cooked them up and drank more than our share of wine and beer.
One night in the cabin, I talked to him about my desire to see him happy, but that I felt I was going about it the wrong way. I told him that from then on I was going to stop pontificating and just do my best to keep in touch and just listen to what he had to say about things.
I asked if he had any friends who have been there for him. He said he had 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.”
Today, my brother and I 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.
Later this month, we’re getting together down in New Orleans with our daughters for a father-daughter getaway weekend. My daughter, Katie, is getting married in October and she suggested the trip.
I can’t wait.
A friend once told me that to get your point across to another person, you have to “say things in a way” that he or she will want to listen.”
What I’ve learned, though, is that you have to begin by listening yourself.
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