When a friend or coworker announces life-changing news, it can be hard to know exactly what to say. Here are 10 things to avoid.
- If you two can’t make it, who can? It’s sometimes hard to understand the dynamics of our own intimate relationships, let alone someone else’s. Some marriages end with a series of awkward and public explosions, others slowly drift apart. We can never know what truly went on between two people, so why make assumptions or judge the situation?
- Did you try counseling? If they didn’t try counseling, they’re going to think that you’re judging them as irresponsible or inept. Focus instead on the present situation by asking what type of support you can offer.
- She wasn’t your type anyway or (even worse) I told you so. When someone is going through a divorce, they are likely already questioning their ability to make good choices. Blurting out that you predicted their doom will only make them feel worse. It may also cause them question your friendship (especially if you kept your lips sealed from the engagement straight through the wedding ceremony).
- Do you worry about having to get naked with a stranger at our age? I was amazed when a coworker, for whatever reason, brought this up with me. The key words here being, “having to”, “naked” and “stranger”. I let my jaw drop, then pretended to be late for a meeting.
- How are the kids? If you don’t know the kids very well, don’t ask how they are. We all know the kids are upset. If you do know the kids well, and it’s appropriate, offer to help out. Take the kids on a fun outing, be the person the kids can talk to safely, free from taking sides or having to hear negative things about one of their parents.
- Will you have to downsize or move? One of the hardest things for many divorcing parents to face is the possibility of losing the family home. Try asking a more generalized question such as: “How is it going?” or “How are you feeling about the process so far?” This gives your friend the opportunity to choose what he or she would like to talk about.
- You’re strong, you’ll be fine, just move on It’s human to want to pull our friends out of their pain. Know that before they can move on they need to grieve. When a friend is grieving, what they need most is someone who can just simply listen and express compassion and empathy.
- Don’t ask, why? This is really between the two parties divorcing. If you were close to the couple, you’ll likely know why. If you weren’t you may be looking to judge the situation which isn’t helpful. “How are you doing?”is a safer bet, especially if you don’t know who initiated the divorce.
- Did you get the house? We tend to get a little more liberal with asking about friends’ finances when they are going through a divorce. Unless it seems like your friend isn’t sticking up for himself, try not to ask about the details. If your friend is showing signs of withdrawing or saying she doesn’t care who gets what, it may be a good idea to encourage him or her to be more assertive in guarding their financial future.
- “Go find yourself a fling” When I was first divorced, it seemed like my married friends were trying to live vicariously through my “freedom”. Honestly, the thought of a fling just made me feel lonely. All I wanted to do was heal, get comfortable with being on my own and eventually find a healthy relationship.
If you’re finding yourself at a loss for words when someone tells you that they’re getting a divorce, the easiest and most thoughtful thing you can do is ask, “How are you doing?” And then listen.
- Telling Your Children About Divorce
- Want A Divorce? Friends and Family May Not Support Your Decision
- How To Break The News Of Your Divorce To Family And Friends
- Divorce and Friends: What They Knew And Didn’t Say