“I need to tell her it will be alright. I know you know all about it. So I can tell her, right? I can tell her that it will be bad for awhile and then it will be fine?”
It was a friend of a friend of a friend. You know the kind of thing I mean.
Someone was reaching out to me, hoping I could provide resources, commiseration, and more than anything, some sort of emotional reassurance that she could convey with some degree of certainty.
“She’s still pretty young,” the woman said. “Mid-thirties, has kids. So she’ll do fine, don’t you think?”
I do not know the woman who is getting a divorce, nor her story, nor even where she lives.
I wanted to ask a hundred questions.
I wanted to know about their marriage, at least a few basics.
- Was this the first marriage?
- How long have they been together?
- Who wanted the divorce and why?
- Has she tried everything to work it out?
- Has he?
- Are their differences really insurmountable?
I wanted to ask about her career, her education, her prospects.
- Did she go to college?
- Does she have a job?
- Does she have current, marketable skills?
- Did she put a career on hold or has she kept a hand in?
- Does she have her own income?
- Can she survive if he doesn’t pay child support?
I wanted to understand her environment.
- Does she live in a state where they don’t look unfavorably on women?
- Does she live in an area where she has childcare for her kids when she works?
- Are there jobs in her field where she lives?
- Does she have support around her – family and friends that won’t back off when the going gets tough?
I wanted to know more about her children.
- How old are they?
- How are they taking the news of the split?
- Will there be a blended family to deal with anytime soon?
- Are they healthy?
- Is their dad likely to spend as much time with them as he can, and help ease their transition?
I wanted to know more about her.
- Is she healthy?
- How is her stamina?
- Will she hold up through multiple rounds of legal proceedings if it goes that way?
I didn’t voice all these questions. Or so many others that come to mind. It was, after all, a friend of a friend of a friend, and her story will be her own — but also, the legacy that she and their father will bestow on their children.
Here is the reality as I see it, and as I have lived it: The impacts of divorce are for life. For some of us, the consequences are a mixed bag in which the positives far outweigh the negatives. For others, the wounds remain open, the aftermath drags on, the years that follow are difficult to bear, and the lessons — as we come to recognize that marriage may be our undoing in some ways — also grant us a measure of wisdom.
So what do I say when I hear a friend is divorcing?
- Inform yourself as soon as possible and as much as possible.
- Know your state-specific options and time frames.
- Seek legal counsel from lawyers and emotional counsel from family, friends, or lesser-priced professional resources. (Lawyers are not shrinks!)
- Be good to your children.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Enlist the help of friends and family.
- Don’t dwell in blame. Sometimes, we make bad relationship choices. That doesn’t mean we’re “bad people.”
- Beyond that, hope to be lucky.
What I would also caution – do not rush to remarry, even after you are divorced.
If only women felt greater permission to take time before marrying, to delay marriage if they are uncertain, and to be pragmatic about money, parenting, jobs, division of labor. To be realistic with regard to marital expectations.
If only women could clearly state: “I love you, but I don’t want to marry you” if in fact that’s how they feel.
Here’s what I answered, more or less:
“Tell her to inform herself. Tell her she’ll need her friends, her family, good representation. Tell her a little luck doesn’t hurt. Tell her that to be divorcing in your thirties is a lot easier in some ways, as she won’t be facing a the demographic challenges of dating at or after midlife.”
There’s so much more to say, so much more to ask, so much more to consider.
And the answer to any individual’s questions about the future after divorce is, of course, “it depends.”
In the meantime, I wish her a strong support system, no unusual problems, and the benefits of good health, good counsel, and good character in the man she once married.
- I Love You, But I Don’t Want to Marry You
- Marriage Made Me, Marriage Undid Me
- Bad Relationship Choices
- Cost of Raising a Child, 2014