What to do when your friend tells you she’s divorcing?
Two more words.
If you’re divorced yourself, remember what it was like when the pain was fresh and the disorientation, at moments, overwhelming. Remember what it was like to feel as though you had somehow failed yourself, your spouse, and worst of all — your children. Remember what it was like to try holding in the emotions, and knowing you could get weepy or angry at the oddest times, and hoping you wouldn’t be out in public and embarrassing yourself.
Most of all?
This is not your moment to spill your guts or tell your sob story. This is not the time to wax pessimistic any more than you should be spouting platitudes that are dismissive of what your friend is going through. While every divorce is different, and each of us will have our own story, do remember to be sensitive to the person you are with who is telling her story.
Have you seen the recent episode of Real Housewives of New York where Ramona and her gal pal Sonja are talking? Yes I’m a fan of the show and watching Ramona with Sonya would not allow Ramona to express her own pain was really an eye-opener. What’s Sonja did? Running off at the mouth about her experience — not only not comparable, but not relevant?
Don’t do that!
What should you do instead?
- DO you remember what it felt like in those first weeks and months, when everything was a tangle of lawyers and confusion, and children who needed your strength besides.
- DO remember the fatigue of answering so many questions; explanations to neighbors, coworkers, and teachers; the pitying look from the latest person to hear the news and invent their own tales.
- DO remember standing and staring at yourself in a mirror, hoping to recognize something in your life and wondering when the world would right itself again.
- DO remember that sometimes, filing for divorce does not mean getting a divorce. Your friend may find herself in relationship limbo — in a prolonged separation, a period of trying to repair the marriage, the back-and-forth of separating and getting together, and any number of other interim living arrangements.
- DO remember that your divorce experience will not necessarily be her divorce experience.
- DO talk in positive, empathetic and constructive ways if asked. But what’s most important is letting her talk about her issues — to you.
The bottom line?
Don’t push. TLC. And plenty of understanding.
There’s an old standby and it’s a classic. Try it. “I’m here when you need me.”
And then act on it.
Be there for your friend as much as you can, and be there for her children. Be there without trashing her spouse, her choices, or rushing her through the necessary stages of grief. Do be honest if asked for your opinion, but without insisting and in the most gentle way possible.
For most of us, the process of divorcing involves a period of adjusting to losses including the loss of dreams, even if we are the ones who want the divorce. And regardless of who files, it takes two to make a marriage work, and some differences are beyond resolution.
As Ramona said in the episode I mention, when you’ve spent a significant amount of your life with someone, when you’ve shared children and a home with someone, splitting up is a sort of death. No one needs judgment, patronizing remarks, or dismissing the mix of emotions they are going through.
It seems the latest on Ramona Singer’s very public marital situation indicates that her divorce is moving along. Let’s hope the so-called housewives (and her “real” real friends) are providing the kind of consolation we all need when making this transition.
- Is Divorce a Failure?
- Does Talking About Our Problems Really Help?
- Relationship Limbo
- Which Is Worse: Death or Divorce?