Image: HBO / Divorce
It's a lovely thought, this idea that marriage is forever. When you meet, fall in love with, and decide to marry someone, you're certainly not thinking about the possibility of the union ending. You love one another, have children together, build a life together. But sometimes, a lot of the time actually, things don't work out. People change, fall out of love, grow apart. Sometimes outside circumstances play a role, like infidelity or financial hardship. It's a hard thing to even think about, and a much harder thing to experience. The end of a marriage is rarely a happy time, even if the relationships ends for the right reasons. Uncoupling your life from the person you've built that life with is difficult and emotional, even in the best scenarios. Going through a divorce is life-altering, for all involved.
When someone you know is going through a divorce, you want to help in some way. You want to support them through this incredibly difficult transition. If that person is a mom, this is especially important. It's hard enough when a marriage ends - when there are kids involved, it becomes so much harder. We know you want to be there and do whatever you can, but it's hard to know what to say. Here are some things it's a good idea to avoid saying to a mom going through a divorce.
This is the NUMBER ONE THING you should never say to a mom going through a divorce. If you think that she hasn't spent every waking moment thinking about how this will affect her kids, then you clearly don't know her very well. Yes, divorce is traumatic for kids. But you know else is traumatic for kids? Growing up in a toxic home with parents who don't love each other. For a lot of families, the best possible option is to divorce and work on finding a good co-parenting routine. It's healthier for the parents, and healthier for the kids. Instead of asking "what about the kids?", ask how you can help WITH the kids. They need support, not judgement.
So what if your friend from work brought her marriage back from the brink of destruction through prayer and essential oils? Literally no one cares in this situation. This is a problematic thing to say for a couple of reasons. One, unless you know intimate details about what happened, you're assuming that the couple didn't try to fix their marriage. That's pretty presumptuous and rude. Second, you're saying that there are no problems that can't be fixed. And that is simply not true. If there was abuse involved, or dishonesty, or any number of things, that marriage very likely could not have been saved. Assume your friend did what was best for her and her kids and don't regale her with stories of couples who "didn't give up so fast".
Image: TV Land
We get it! When scandal hits, you want to know the nitty, gritty details. But if your mom friend tells you she's going through a divorce and the first thing you blurt out is, "WHY?" or "WHAT HAPPENED?", that's not very helpful. She might not be ready to talk about the details, so don't put her on the spot. If the separation is fresh, she's probably still trying to process it all herself. When she's ready, she'll need someone to talk to and hash it all out. But getting all the dirt shouldn't be your first concern, and will make you out to be a gossipy busybody.
Image: The Business Weave
You know what? She probably never thought it would happen to her, either. Like we said, no one plans for divorce. It's not something they put up on their vision board. And when you say that it would never happen to you? You're implying that she must have done something wrong for it to have happened to her. You have absolutely no way of knowing that your marriage is going to last forever! So making your friend feel bad that her marriage apparently wasn't as strong as yours is a bad move. Plus, you should never put something like that out into the universe, lest it come back to bite you in the ass at some point.
Is it true? Maybe. Is it what she needs to hear right after she announces she's going through a divorce? Possibly! But probably not, and it's better to not take the chance. Right now, she's just trying to figure out how to do this. Being a single mom is not easy, and she's lost her partner. And in all honestly, she very likely won't be better off, not in the beginning. It is a brutal transition and adjustment, and things get really bad before they get even a little bit better. So don't point out all the ways that she's better off just yet. She'll figure those out on her own, and you'll be there to celebrate them when the time is right.
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Siiiiiiigh. This is not a helpful thing to say at all. Not even a little bit! It's actually surprising that someone would say this, but it happens all the time. Sure, some marriages are a train wreck you can see from a mile away. Some divorces are not at all surprising. But like, you shouldn't actually ... say that. Maybe your friend really thought she was doing a good job keeping up appearance. To find out that people knew her marriage was on the rocks and didn't tell her? That would be pretty devastating. Think this sentiment all you want, but don't say it out loud.
Do not, under ANY circumstances, say this to a mom friend going through a divorce. Or ever, really! Don't say this about anyone at anytime. You know who else seemed really nice? Ted Bundy. Bill Cosby was America's Dad for crying out loud. Now, we're not saying your friend is getting a divorce because she married a serial killer or rapist. But the image people put out to the public is oftentimes FAR different than the image, personality, and behavior they display in private. Your friend made the decision that was best for her and her kids. Saying this invalidates that decision and can be very hurtful. Nice people get divorced, too.
Well, there's a good chance your friend couldn't imagine being single at this age, either! Sure, there are probably some people who get divorced because they want to be single. But for most of us, it's not exactly something we're looking forward to. And if being single wasn't hard enough, try being a single mom! It's not great. Instead of bemoaning your friend's future as a singleton, try to help her find some of the silver lining in her current situation. She really doesn't need to hear about how awful being single is, when she's facing being single for the first time in a long time.
Considering how common divorce is, it's kind of shocking how very little people understand about the process. You don't just automatically get an equitable separation of assets, custody arrangement, and judgement the minute you decide to end your marriage. It is a long, complicated process. If your friend has just confided in you that she's going through a divorce, there's a good chance she hasn't even thought ahead to that next step yet. If she's in the thick of it, she may not feel comfortable discussing the details of the divorce as they're being hashed out. This one falls squarely in "NACHO BUSINESS' territory.
Now, there's nothing wrong with saying "I'm sorry" in most cases. But here's the thing: this divorce may actually be a GOOD thing. Good marriages don't end in divorce - bad ones do. So offering your condolences for what could be a time of relief and maybe even happiness for your friend might be the wrong sentiment. It's always a good idea to gauge how she's feeling first. If she's devastated, then by all means, say you're sorry and help her through those emotions. If she seems relieved and scare by excited for the future, then maybe congratulations are in order instead! Let your friend's frame of mind be your guide.
Remember, this isn't a one and done deal. Divorce can take a very long time to heal from and move on from, and every person going through a divorce is going to take the time that they need. You wouldn't ask your friend whose mom died when she was going to get over it, would you? God, we hope not. It's just sort of a dick thing to say to pretty much anyone, regardless of what it is you think they should get over. Some days, your friend will be fine. Other days, not so much. Also, many people are in denial for a bit after the end of their marriage. Then there's the anger. The sadness. The fear. You don't get over that in a week or a month, or even a year.
We know you mean well, you really do! But immediately shifting the focus away from the mourning of one relationship to the prospect of a new relationship isn't helpful. Sure, your friend may indeed find someone new! But not today, or tomorrow, or maybe not even in the next year. Plus, moms have a whole other considerations when it comes to dating again after marriage. We can't just rush into the first pair of arms that opens for us when there are kids involved. Let your friend mourn the end of her marriage and figure out how to be single before you bring up meeting Mr. Right.
The good news is, you don't need to understand! You absolutely, 100% do not need to understand why your friend and her partner decided (as adults) to end their marriage. Again, for the majority of people, this is not a spur-of-the-moment thing. It's something they've thought long and hard about. And even knowing how hard divorce can be, they decided it was the better alternative. All you need to understand is that your friend is hurting and probably scared, and needs your love and support. That should not be conditional. And just generally speaking, never put a "but" at the end of "I love you". Never ends well.
Yes, your friend might need a night out with the girls to unwind and talk and cry and just forget about everything for a night. But don't be that friend who tries to fill your newly-separated divorced friend's social calendar with bar hops and hookups. She is probably a hot goddamn mess right now, and needs stability and time to process everything. Wine and apps at your place with a good movie? Excellent idea. Speed dating at the local biker bar? Not so much. With all the turmoil and emotional upheaval she's going through, it's very easy for her to spiral out of control. Help her keep in control by putting the raves on hold for a bit.
First of all, no adult should be living their life according to what other people might think of them. No adult, kid, tween, or teen should live like that! "Everyone" doesn't have to deal with living in a bad marriage or dealing with the fallout of divorce, so what they think is irrelevant. Also, there's a good chance your friend has considered that, and is probably struggling with those same worries herself. It's hard not to worry about what people will think, especially when it can turn into gossip and rumors. This shouldn't even be a concern, of yours or of hers. And as a good friend, you should be on the front lines of squashing the gossip that may happen when the news gets out. Don't let your friend worry about that, too.
Getting divorced doesn't mean a person is suddenly anti-love or anti-couples. There's no reason to assume your friend would be uncomfortable around couples, unless she tells you that herself. Give her the option of declining the invitation, but don't exclude her because you think it would be awkward. It does get a bit tricky when you're friends with both parties involved. In these cases, you should still make an effort to include them both separately. But when a couple splits up, the people in that couple are still individual people, and they're still your friends. Unless it's a romantic couples-only dinner, invite your newly-single friend whenever you can.
There are a lot of ups and downs when someone is going through a divorce, and we know you want to help! But sometimes help means just being there when you're needed and when you're not, with an open heart and shoulder to cry on. Don't worry about saying the right thing. But try really hard not to say the wrong thing.