Someone you know””a friend, a relative, maybe your parent or child””is going through a divorce. You know this person is hurting, and you want to show support, but sometimes we end up saying the exact wrong thing when we try to be helpful. Here are some things to avoid saying if someone close to you is currently going through a divorce:
“I’m so jealous that you get a fresh start!” People say this, believe it or not. In reality, the depression, doubt, and emotional turmoil of a divorce ”“ not to mention the court appearances and potential for child custody battles ”“ are nothing to be jealous of.
“Time to move on and start dating again!” Let the person going through the divorce decide the best time for this. Conversely, something like “Isn’t is awfully soon to start dating?” is equally ill-advised. Don’t judge or shame a person’s dating choices.
“Probably for the best. Did I ever tell you I saw him flirting with everyone?” This hindsight perspective is not helpful here. Your friend will likely wonder why you didn’t mention this sooner.
“I/we never really liked that person anyway.” We get that you want to commiserate, but what you’re also saying is, why did you spend so much time with that awful person? Trust us, your friend is already asking him or herself that. No need to pile on.
“So sorry to hear that you’re getting divorced.” Maybe instead say that you’re sorry for the stress they’re going through, because in many cases, getting divorced is the right thing to do. Saying you’re sorry to see it happen can have a shaming effect.
Oh my God what is wrong with you? This is about helping your friend, not proving that you were right. Drop the ego.
What to say instead:
- “If you ever want to talk, I’m here to listen.”
- “It sounds like you’re making the right decision.”
- “How are things today?”
- Nothing. Just listen and let them talk: people going through divorce often have a lot in their heads that they need to verbalize.
If you know someone going through a divorce, call them frequently. It doesn’t matter what you talk about: just the gesture, as well as filling the silence, will be immensely helpful. Or go visit them, and don’t forget the comfort food and the least romantic movie you can find.