7/9/2012 12:50 PM
Woman’s Day recently published an article titled “8 Things Not to Say to a Divorcing Friend.” While the items on the list were, indeed things you shouldn’t say, they were also things that people just wouldn’t say, unless those people were characters in a romantic comedy.
However, I’ve been divorced, and there are a lot of truly crappy things that well-meaning people say… they just weren’t, in my experience, the things that were in the Woman’s Day article. I figured I would list some here that friends or I heard during our divorces that left us speechless.
(BTW, if you are a rom-com character, you shouldn’t be reading this list anyway… don’t you have a window to stand outside with a boom box or something?)
“I never liked him.”
And you’re just telling me now? And then there’s the favorite alternate to this phrase, “I’m pretty sure he was cheating on you.” Again, this is something that you should tell your friend while they are still with their ex, not afterward.
Now, it is okay to have negative feelings about a friend’s partner, and to be happy that your friend is out of a bad relationship. But, instead of bashing their entire marriage, tell them that you are happy to see them move on from an experience that was obviously painful to them.
“You’ll meet someone new.”
Gee, really? And here I was all ready to become a crazy cat lady and die alone! What am I going to do with all those kittens I just adopted and my charming new housecoat collection?
These sorts of reassurances are always well-intentioned. But, when you have to state the obvious in that manner, it makes it sound like you are offering a “no, those pants don’t make your butt look big” kind of white lie.
Also, if the divorce was recent, your friend may not be ready to even think about dating yet. Give her time.
“But you two were perfect together!”
No, we really weren’t. No one knows what someone else’s relationship looks like from the inside. Also, this phrase makes it sound like you do not respect your friend’s decisions.
“I’m going to miss hanging out with him.”
Okay, confession time: this is one that I thoughtlessly said to a friend. Her husband had been part of our social group, and, I had frequently enjoyed having him around. However, I also knew that they had a combative relationship, and that, when they were alone, he was often a real jerk.
My feelings were not the important thing, and I should not have been saying positive things about her ex when she’d finally gathered the strength to leave a toxic relationship.
When people divorce, what they need most from you is support and a willing ear. Only offer advice if it’s asked for. Avoid generic platitudes like “time heals all.” Most of all, be willing to listen uncritically while your friend vents about her divorce. Being able to talk through what she is feeling is something she will probably need, and the best thing a friend can do is provide it.