Getting Divorced: What & what not to say to couples ending their marriage. The delicate task of being supportive to couples who are separating.
Divorce is not only stressful for spouses. It is also stressful for their immediate environment. Imagine a close friend sitting in front of you and saying: “Well, you know, we are getting a divorce…” In this situation, it may be challenging to understand which phrases will sound good and which will only upset the loved one. This article will teach you how best to express support and empathy and what words should not be said.
1. Why?! What happened?!
Instead, it’s better to say: “If you want to talk, I am ready to listen.”
Divorce is not an ankle sprain. It does not happen because of one careless movement. A relationship breakup is a long process, which may be caused by facts, actions, and emotions that are hidden from view. When divorcing, ex-partners may not fully understand what actually caused the breakup. The true reasons may not become apparent until several years later, often with the help of a therapist.
It’s important to understand that the words “we are getting a divorce” are not necessarily an invitation for dialogue. The person may not have the desire to tell you details of his or her private life. Or maybe, he or she is afraid to burst into tears at the very first words.
Though it is possible that your friend does not mind discussing what is happening, it must be their decision. Remember that divorce is very stressful. So be delicate.
2. Are you sure? And you will not regret it?
Instead, it’s better to say: “I trust your decision.”
No, they are not sure. Or they are sure now, but in two days painful uncertainty could creep in. Divorce is a complicated process that includes stages of doubt. Sometimes, there are strong doubts, and people get back together for a while. Often, just to break up again later.
The reason you should not ask “are you sure?” is because by doing this, you only increase the other person’s hesitations without offering any sense of help. It is not good to try to rationalize somebody else’s decision of divorce, even if it’s a close friend. Remember that it’s not about your feelings. It’s about the state and choice of another.
3. But you were such a beautiful couple! You were an example to us all!
Instead, it’s better to say: “I’m sad to hear that.”
The closer the divorcing people are to you, the more it hurts you. Maybe you perceived your friends’ relationship as an example of a good relationship. So now, their divorce makes you doubt your perception. They seemed so loving to me! Have I made a mistake?
The divorce of friends or relatives makes many people think about how strong their own relationship is. “They were an example of a perfect couple for me! But it turned out to be “wrong.” Will we divorce too?” No, this does not mean that you will break up. The things that you liked the most about this couple were not the reasons for the divorce. Those things helped the marriage last as long as it did. The fact that the relationship is ending does not make them completely and initially bad.
Just because you care about the couple does not mean that you have the right to express feelings about your friends’ divorce. Do not be self-centered. It’s not about your fears and hypothetical losses.
4. Damn! And how should I invite you to parties now?
Instead, it’s better to say: “I was going to invite both of you to my birthday party. Are you comfortable with it? If not, let’s come up with something.”
Over years of marriage, spouses make mutual friends and acquaintances. When a couple divorces, these acquaintances have to somehow be divided. If you were close friends with one of the spouses, and the partner was perceived as a “plus one,” there are no difficulties. But if you met the spouses after they became a couple or became close friends with your friend’s partner, everything becomes more confusing. Not inviting anyone is a shame, but inviting them together can cause uncomfortable situations for everyone.
Do not ask for a clear answer right away. People need time to get used to the new status and to understand whether they can meet each other at parties. Even if the spouses managed their dissolution using an online divorce service and avoided all possible conflicts, they may still have complicated feelings about the situation. Even if the ex-spouses are not scandalous, their presence at the same event may be stressful.
Fresh divorcees often assure friends that they will remain friends and spend holidays together. Unfortunately, these promises rarely come true.
Nevertheless, time will pass, and new rules will eventually be established. In the meantime, suggestions of alternatives may come into play: “If you don’t mind, I will invite you on my birthday and John on the New Year’s Eve party.”
5. And what will you live on? Where will you live now?
Instead, it’s better to say: “Do you need any help? Please just ask for it, if you do.”
Such questions reach 10 out of 10 on the rudeness scale!
You may have good intentions and may be asking with the intention of helping, but choosing the proper words is important. Even if you have noble intentions, the wrong words can be humiliating. Don’t hint that your friend needed to be in the marriage for the sake of money or profit. To talk about money is considered indecent in our society. If you have no intentions to help, it is better to just not say anything. If you want to help, offer your help in a way that does not make your friend feel like they are incapable of coping with everyday problems independently.