In this day and age it is pretty inevitable that at some point one of your friends will probably go through a divorce. Part of being a good friend is cheering your friend up when life gets rocky, am I right? The thing is, as I learned from my own divorce, half the things that people say to cheer you up can actually make you feel worse. If you have never been through a divorce yourself, you might not realize how the things you are saying might actually be making your friend feel worse. In order to avoid that depressing and all around awkward scenario, these are a few things you should probably avoid saying;
1. “We are all so proud of how you are handling this.”
Now I see where you might have been going with this, but what I heard was “Hey, we have all been talking about you behind your back and quite frankly we can’t believe you haven’t had a mental breakdown yet.”
2. “It’s so good to see you out.”
This one I heard at least five times, and I’m sorry, but I have no idea where you were going with it. Where should I be? Hiding in a closet, eating crackers and wailing up to the skies about how much my life sucks? Yes, I actually enjoy the sunlight just as much as the next girl, not to mention groceries, and I have a job, and all of these things can only be found outside of my closet.
3. “Don’t worry, you will find someone else.”
This I know was meant to reassure me that I won’t be alone forever, but what you are actually telling me is that I’m not good enough on my own, that my life is currently incomplete, but rest assured that is unlikely to be my permanent status. You are also reminding me that I have will now have to start over at the beginning of the dating world and honestly, does anyone really like starting over?
4. “I know my mother has a friend with a single son.”
I’ll admit it, I’m not against the occasional referred date, but what I don’t want is to be handed every single person you know. There is a reason that some of those people are single and parading them in front of me just terrifies me that I really might be alone forever. Give me a chance to actually get divorced before you start sending me your pity dates.
5. “I just don’t know how you do it.”
I think you were trying to tell me that you admire my strength and ability to be adaptive to my new life, but what I heard was “Your life really sucks and I’m surprised that you are able to wake up every morning and continue on.”
6. “My sister’s best friend got divorced too and she is doing great now.”
OK, well…thanks for sharing. I don’t know her, I don’t know how that is relevant to me, but thanks for pointing out that someone else on the face of this planet has gone through this horrific ordeal and has lived to tell the tale. Lovely, there is hope for me yet.
7. “Well at least your ex will have your kids every other weekend so you can get a break.”
OK, well this really isn’t going to make me feel better. Now I’m being reminded that there is the possibility that my kids are going to be bouncing around from different homes and that half the time I won’t get to see their sweet little faces -- faces that I love very much. Not to mention that custody schedules are different in every family and your friend might not want to discuss it.
8. Please do not ask me how the divorce is going in front of my kids.
This should be a given, but unfortunately it is not. Chances are your divorcing friend is trying very hard to shelter her children from the dirty details of a family-shattering event and the last thing she needs is to be thrown under your bus of curiosity with her children watching.
9. “I always knew you could have done better.”
Again, I see how this was meant to be a compliment, but you are actually telling me that I settled for “less than” and that my judgment was off the first time around.
10. “Do you need anything?”
Yes, I need a lot of things and I just don’t know how to tell you because I am mentally exhausted and my pride is a bit broken. Stop by with a meal. If I’m financially struggling, leave a bag of toilet paper and laundry detergent by my front door. Pop over on the weekends to watch my kids for a few hours while you insistently shoo me out the door for a break I might desperately need and not even realize it. I need a lot but I’m not in a place where I can effectively communicate that right now and I might be embarrassed.
So now that I’ve basically cut out everything that you thought you should say to a friend going through a divorce, does that mean you should fall silent? No. Please do not be one of those “friends” that just fades away because you are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. Be honest with us, chances are this is new to us as well. There is nothing better than hearing “I love you. I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I’m here for you in any way that I can be.”
Just be there for us.