No matter how amicable it may be, divorce is still a tough process for anyone. If you have a friend going through a divorce, you want to comfort them during a difficult time.
Although they may be well-meaning, many people say the wrong thing and end up making their friend feel worse. Several people opt for the simple words, “I’m sorry.” But sometimes even that response can backfire, as Miss Manners said in this response to a question about what to say when a friend informs you about divorce.
“Miss Manners used to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ until a lady replied, ‘If I’m happy and he’s happy, what are you sorry about?’ Miss Manners was forced to acknowledge that a quiet ‘I wish you the best’ is more appropriate.”
I’m a lawyer, not a therapist. But I’ve seen and heard enough of the emotional side of divorce that I can share with you several things not to say when a friend tells you their marriage is ending.
- Do not bash the ex
There are several reasons for this piece of advice. First, the couple may reconcile, which then places you are in an awkward position with both spouses. Even if they don’t reconcile, comments about how you never liked her or never thought he was right for your friend are not helpful. These types of comments can cause hurt, casting judgment on your friend’s choice of a spouse.
- Do not offer unsolicited advice
Your friend is feeling emotionally fragile. If they want your advice, they will ask for it.
Your friend needs support and compassion. Encourage your friend and let them know you are confident in their ability to make the right choices for themselves and their children.
- Do not ask what happened
The circumstances may be too painful or too personal. Or in some cases, the spouse may have been unfaithful or have some type of addiction problem, but your friend is keeping quiet for the sake of her children.
This is a potentially painful question. If your friend wants you to know what happened, he or she will tell you.
- You’ll find someone else soon
Probably the last thing your friend is thinking about is dating or finding a new partner. If he or she has been cheated on, they may have issues trusting anybody for quite some time and needs to deal with those before moving on.
Even if that isn’t the case, a person getting divorced needs time to mourn and grieve over the marriage that is ending.
- Don’t give legal advice
This is general advice for all types of situations — if you aren’t a lawyer, don’t give legal advice.
Divorces can be extremely complicated. You most likely don’t know all the circumstances and even if you did, don’t have the knowledge of the law to advise your friend.
Even if their circumstances seem similar to another friend’s, their cases may be vastly different. They need to listen to their attorney when it comes to any legal considerations.