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What Not To Say To a Friend Who’s Going Through a Divorce

 In situations of grief, it’s easy to say the wrong thing despite having good intentions. For many people, divorce can be freeing, and give a sense of a new beginning. At the same time, it’s also an extremely painful experience for most people, one that requires a process of grief. When someone you love is going through a divorce, it’s natural that you’d want to be there for them and act as a confidant. But it’s important to choose your words carefully, as some well-meaning remarks can seriously sting. These are the five things that, according to relationship experts, you should avoid saying to a loved one who is going through a divorce. 

1. I never liked them anyway

Things Not to Tell Someone Who Just Got Divorced, woman trying to comfort a crying freind

According to seasoned relationship experts, this is the absolute worst thing to say to someone who is going through a divorce. You probably have the best of intentions and think this is a reassuring statement that would make your friend feel like you’re on their side. However, it can come off as an inadvertent insult. There is implied judgment of your friend’s choice of partner and it can make them question their own instincts. 

Avoid diminishing the ex-spouse’s character and give your friend the possibility to grieve. If they are venting about their ex to you, you may say “you must feel so angry and hurt”. By echoing their feelings back to them you refrain from any hints of judgment. 

2. What happened?

Things Not to Tell Someone Who Just Got Divorced, two friends at a restaurant
This may sound like a neutral question on the surface. But actually, it’s quite loaded because it suggests more of a personal interest to learn possibly scandalous details about someone’s divorce than genuine empathy. Moreover, you don’t want to make your friend rehash all the painful steps that led to the breakup and experience those hard feelings again. If your friend wants to tell you what happened and how it happened, they will. 

3. Take some time for yourself

Things Not to Tell Someone Who Just Got Divorced, man home alone

Some divorced people may need some time to cocoon at home and that’s okay. However, it isn’t healthy to let this phase drag on for too long. More often than not, a divorced person will find themselves with much more free time than before, and the best way to fill it is with a human connection. After all, this is what makes us feel most happy and fulfilled, and losing the love of your life is a big loss of connection. 

“Socializing is one of the most dramatic changes divorced people face later in life,” says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, a clinical psychologist and author specializing in divorce. “Acknowledging that change is one of the best things you can do.”

4. I have the perfect person to set you up with

Things Not to Tell Someone Who Just Got Divorced, two friends looking at a smartphone

Like always, this statement or question comes from a well-meaning place, you’re just trying to help your friend move on. But when it comes to playing matchmaker with someone who went through a recent divorce, timing and sensitivity are everything. Suggesting it too soon may come off as trying to stick a band-aid on their loss. 

A breakup or a divorce can make one question what they know of themselves, their worth, and their value. Beginning to date too soon can amplify these doubts, and be the opposite of helpful. Every person will take a different amount of time to be ready. In the meantime, all you need to do is remind them that they are valuable and worthy of love with or without a significant other.

Related: How to Break the News to Your Kids about Divorce

5. Did you try counseling?

Things Not to Tell Someone Who Just Got Divorced, counseling
Much like asking what happened, this advice doesn’t imply true empathy but rather personal curiosity and even the predisposition that your friend could have done more to prevent their divorce. Not to mention, if they are already in the throes of a divorce, it’s probably too late and impractical to suggest marriage counseling.
Instead, you can ask ‘Do you have someone to talk to’? This is a gentle yet direct way to show you care. Rather than asking them what they did to prevent the situation, encourage them to take good care of themselves in the present. 
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