Now that I'm a veteran divorcée of seven years, I am a little better-versed in the world of being single, as well as better-equipped with a more-refined manner of dealing with certain situations that arise in the kingdom of the no-longer-married.
Most people, like me, don't go into what they believe to be a lifelong commitment of marriage with any thoughts of divorce in their mind. Theirs is a love that was meant to be forever. Theirs is a love that will defy all odds. Theirs is a love that will one day be emulated by lovers for centuries. Of course, the harsh reality of this fantasy is that for 50 per cent of us it comes to a screeching halt upon realizing that the supposed "forever" will not be with each other.
The path to healing, acceptance and moving onward to a life that will not be with the person whom you envisioned is a crushing blow, to say the least. The long-winded road to recovery brings along many bumps and bruises before the wound is healed completely. One of the most difficult things to face is the questions, comments, advice and commentary from family and friends.
I've heard some gems over the years. Not everyone is intentionally being rude. I realize it's a difficult situation to be in for either person. Some tread this sensitive subject more cautiously and with more discretion than others. Most aren't really sure what to do or say. I'd like to share with you some of my top picks for what you should never say to a divorced friend.
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"Was it an arranged marriage?"
Although I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and want to believe they're asking this question because they're being culturally sensitive, the truth of the matter is that in most instances, it's asked so they can make some type of judgment in their heads and because they are just nosy. Contrary to belief, the likelihood of an arranged marriage ending in divorce is far less than one may realize. Don't knock this age-old tradition that has clearly worked for centuries. I've often wondered if things would have been different had I followed tradition and allowed an arranged marriage.
"Whose fault was it?"
A marriage's success or failure is an equal and shared burden. Although the tipping point that caused the ultimate decision to end this relationship may weigh in more at that given moment, it's unfair to put the blame on one person. It takes two to tango.
"Shouldn't you have stayed together for the kids' sake?"
Each situation is different. Chances are that your friend has in fact lived out a portion of their marriage with just that in mind. There comes a point in the relationship in which the benefits for all are greater in leaving than in staying. It's not an easy decision for a parent to know that their decision means that the children are being uprooted from a life that they are attached to. There's a great probability that the children will move away, start new schools, leave friends behind and give up a life that equates to comfort and stable for them. Staying in a marriage that does not emulate the foundation and basis of a marriage is not providing them with a good example of love, marriage and partnership.
"You poor thing."
Please don't feel the need to pour unnecessary or unwarranted pity to a person or situation that you don't know anything about. It's not likely that the details of the divorce will be shared with many. Although it's not an easy time, the end of an unhealthy relationship is not to be sorry for. Instead, approach this with a more cautious, accurate and supportive, "How can I help?" or "Let me know if I can do anything for you."
"Tell me all the details."
Dear whoever is asking this: If you were a close friend, you would already know all of the details. That bit of sensitive information is typically shared with a close friend because they more than anything are concerned about the well being of all involved as opposed to satisfying a nosy curiosity. Truth be told, I don't want to re-live the part of my life that's brought me to this point over and over again. I'm focusing on moving forward and this is only cause to hinder that progress.
"I knew it wasn't going to last."
Also known as the "I told you so," this comment only digs the dagger of marital demise deeper into the heart. What your friend needs at this time is support and confirmation from her/his circle that life goes on and that the hurt or anger they feel today will over time soften and open the door to a happier life. It's irrelevant at this point to share your feelings about the ex or opinions on their faults. Focus on the future and helping your friend overcome the past.
"Are you going to start dating?"
I'm certain most people pose this question with good intentions. Please understand that divorce is one of the most emotionally devastating losses second only to the death of a loved one. The last thing on most people who suddenly find themselves single again after marriage is 1) dating 2) remarriage. Give us time to heal. Give us time to re-discover ourselves. Give us time to put our life back together. Give us time to focus on ourselves (and our children, if applicable). It's never a wise decision to jump out of the pan and into the fire.
This is perhaps the worst thing you could say; they're the two words that make me cringe when someone responds to finding out that I'm divorced. Why? Why are you sorry that I'm divorced? I'm not sorry! Yet how do I share that sentiment with someone without sounding like an angry, cynical and bitter woman when in fact it's quite the opposite. I don't devalue the institution of marriage nor do I not believe in love or a happily ever after. It's as if there's an expectation from people that I should be a sad, depressed and woe is me person because my marriage ended. don't feel I need to explain to anyone the details or circumstances behind my divorce. So, what do I do? I laugh and respond in a truthful and light-hearted way, with a "life goes on."
By Vaishali Sharda