When a couple gets a divorce, it can catch their friends by surprise. People tend to put on a positive public face, but no one ever knows what goes on in private. While you want to be supportive, there are a few comments that are not appropriate. Even if you are shocked by your friend’s declaration, there are a few things that are best left unsaid. Consider a simple hug instead.
You Always Seemed Happy …
Most couples keep their problems private, without subjecting their friends and family to public displays. They do the normal “married” things in public but keep the pain behind closed doors. These marriages have a public side and a private side.
When such a couple divorces, everyone is caught off-guard. A frequent response is, “You seemed so happy together.” While the comment is well-intended, it feels as if the justification for the split-up is required. As if the couple did something wrong. Your friend needs no justification. A simple, “I’m sorry,” is a far better response.
Such a comment is meant kindly, but it doesn’t consider the pain involved in getting a divorce. Your friend is facing a monumental loss and needs to go through the stages of grief. Simply be there, keep him or her company, and reassure your friend that he or she is not alone.
What About Therapy?
This question also has a subtle implication that perhaps the couple is at fault for not trying hard enough. It also implies they don’t know what they are doing. This is a topic that your friend will bring up if he or she wishes. Otherwise, it falls into the “none-of-your-business” file of life.
Do You Have A Lawyer?
This may be an appropriate question for a best friend or relative, where concerns over details are natural and appropriate. Asking this of anyone else is off-limits. While the question suggests you have the friend’s interest at heart, the louder implication here is, “how much dirt will be revealed, and give me the details.”
A person going through a divorce knows the legal steps involved, especially those involving shared assets and child support. These financial details are private and are not fodder for casual conversation. It is no one’s business how your household is split up or the type of dirt that might come up. If an attorney is involved, it will likely come up in conversation naturally.
I Knew He Wasn’t For You
Finally, a comment of an agreement to the divorce. However, it is wrapped in ribbons of utter rudeness and thoughtlessness. This comment asserts that you are smarter than your divorcing friend. It’s a mild “I told you so” slap in the face. Your friend has been struggling with a bad marriage and is now fighting the pains of ending it. A far better response is, “I trust you to make the best decision for yourself.” This thoughtfully implies that while your friend may have not shown the best judgment in choosing a spouse, you still trust him or her to handle things. That’s what real friends are for.
I’m Having Problems In My Own Relationship. Any Suggestions?
When your friend goes through a divorce, he or she can suddenly acquire the status of “divorce expert.” It isn’t unusual at all for friends and even acquaintances to ask them for relationship advice. In truth, what they really want is permission to do as your friends are doing and split up. That is far too personal a decision. You should think twice before asking a divorcing friend for marital or divorce advice. He or she has enough to think about.
Be Prepared For A Nasty Trial
Most divorces are settled outside of the courtroom. No lurid details are aired. Tell your friends that you will be there if he or she needs anything, including someone to watch the children. Encourage kindness and dignity instead of battles.
Well, There Are People With Worse Problems
While this statement may be factually true, it can only be interpreted as cruel. At this time, there are no greater problems for your friend than the divorce. You cannot take away your friend’s pain by diminishing his or her feelings.
When your friend confesses that he or she is getting a divorce, the friend is rarely (if ever) looking for advice. What is needed is reassurance that you will be supportive and there when they need you. Getting a divorce is very isolating, and your friend truly needs a friend who listens and offers comfort. No judgment; no argument. Just a reliable pair of ears and two arms that can hug.
Most people are not deliberately insensitive, they simply are unsure how to respond to such a life-changing announcement. When in doubt, a sincere hug is a strongest and best message you can deliver.
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