Being a good friend means standing by and supporting your friend, even when times are tough. If your friend is going through a divorce however, it can be hard to know what to say. Here are things you should never say.
“Get a lawyer and take him for everything he’s got”
While anger can be a normal part of divorce, it is best not to fuel that anger with fantasies of revenge. Doing so has the ability to keep a person stuck and unable to move on. The end of a marriage doesn’t have to be an ugly painful war, and their ex isn’t suddenly the enemy.
Whether a couple stays together or not, if children are involved it is their responsibility to find a way to engage with each other in a healthy way.
“How can you do that to your kids?”
One thing you should understand is that your friend most likely took a long time analysing the impact the divorce would have on their children before making a decision. While divorce is difficult on everyone involved, including children, the truth is that divorce is sometimes the best thing for some parties.
It isn’t divorce itself that has long-term negative effects on kids. It is the conflict between the parents. At times, getting divorced is the key to allowing parents to engage with each other in a healthy way.
Yet even so, the decision to divorce often comes with guilt. Your friend might have underlying feelings of guilt and doubt and you should try to assuage them, instead of stoking them.
“That would never happen to us”
When a friend is going through a divorce, you may want to derive some form of comfort by comparing and saying their marriage was different; ours is strong. You should however keep in mind the fact that your friend may not have seen the divorce coming either.
In order to be a supportive friend, there is a need to sift through our own issues, beliefs, and automatic assumptions and remember that what we think we know isn’t necessarily true. And that supporting our friend though a trying time means suspending our reactions and following their lead.
Instead of trying to distance yourself from the divorce, try to think of it from your friend’s perspective: Divorce can happen to anyone, even someone who thinks they are in a happy marriage.
“He’s a jerk”
Saying this casts not only on the soon to be ex, but also on your friend as a bad judge of character. There may be times when venting feels good, but you also have to be wary of getting locked into the negative. It is not helpful when a friend can’t see both sides of the bigger picture.
Even if your friend is professing hatred toward her ex, try not to join the bandwagon. Allow them to vent and be supportive without making similar comments.
“Have you tried counselling?”
The question can feel presumptuous, making your friend going through a divorce feel like they haven’t tried hard enough to save the marriage. If they happened to have tried marriage counselling, and it failed—or if the other half of the couple wasn’t interested in counselling—the question can feel hurtful, too.
Remember there is no one right way to get divorced, nor is there one right way for how to get over a divorce. Assume that your friend has tried everything that theu felt comfortable trying.