Much like the actual divorce statistics, about 50-60% of my friends, as well as myself, are divorced. I clearly remember when each of my friends told me their marriages were over; the conversations on my own separation and divorce are burned into my memory. But are there right and wrong comments to make when you’re told by a friend they’re getting divorced? I’m so glad you asked!
There are definitely do’s and don’ts when it comes to discussing divorce with a friend…
Don’t say: nothing
Sometimes knowing what to say escapes you and so you take the route of ignoring the elephant in the room. If you know about your friend’s decision to divorce, then she probably knows that you know, so go ahead and acknowledge it. Making a tough situation more awkward by discussing the weather or trivial topics is not going to help either of you.
Do say: ‘I’m sorry.’
Divorce, like marriage, is a life-changing decision, involving many emotions, so it’s okay to acknowledge all that divorce entails. By saying, ‘I’m sorry. How are you doing?’ you are saying that you sincerely care for your friend, and everyone wants to know they are loved.
Don’t say: ‘What happened?’
Divorces are multifaceted and rarely can be attributed to one thing. Usually, as in my own situation, circumstances started piling up until that final straw, and recounting all that transpired wasn’t something I wanted to get in to. A nice, neat summary is impossible and not something your friend wants to share, so best not to ask.
Do say: ‘I’m here for you if you need me.’
Your friend needs to know whom they can turn to if they need a shoulder to cry on. If your friend takes you up on your offer, you will probably learn more than you ever wanted to know, so keeping everything confidential is important. However, do not extend an ear to listen if you have an urge to share details with others.
Don’t say: ‘You two weren’t right together anyway.’
I heard this many times, and although the intent was to make me feel that I have more to offer than my spouse recognized, in return, it questions your choice of a mate from the get-go. At one point in your friend’s life, she loved this person, the soon to be ex-spouse, feeling that this was ‘the one’ for a lifetime. It doesn’t help knowing that your bestie never really was all that keen on him and could see divorce was coming a mile away.
Do say: ‘I hope you are both doing okay.’
Some divorced people may disagree with me, but I never wanted my friends to feel like they had to take sides. Remember, the ex-spouse is hurting, too, and expressing concern for all involved is okay to do. This kind of goes out the window if the reason for the divorce is some sort of abuse (that’s another topic), but if you were a friend before the divorce, there is no reason you shouldn’t be one now.
Don’t say: ‘I saw your ex out the other night with a girl half his age looking like a model.’
At the time of divorce, most women are experiencing low self-esteem and the last thing we need to know is that our ex is dating someone younger and a dead ringer for Cindy Crawford (back in the 1980s). Keep any interactions with your friend’s ex to yourself.
Do say: nothing
Getting back where we started with saying ‘nothing.’ Never repeat rumors about the ex-spouse. And even if you’ve seen something with your own two eyes, keep it to yourself. No good can come of it with anyone involved.
Separation and divorce are hard times to get through. You feel alone and pretty much a failure, but with close friends who are there for you, tears flow and turn into brighter tomorrows with deeper friendships, knowing who you can count on when times are tough.