When my girlfriend shared that she was divorcing her husband before her 30th birthday, I was stunned. She dropped the bomb at the very beginning of a girl’s night gathering at my house and none of us saw it coming. She appeared to be handling things well and seemed to have made peace with the situation. Still, I naturally wanted to comfort my friend during what I assumed to be a challenging transition.
When a friend shares that their marriage is ending, doing and saying the right things can be tricky. Though you want to make your friend feel better about their situation and help to get them back to their old selves as quickly as possible, the following well-meaning gestures can come off as hurtful, insensitive, and dismissive.
Attempting to play matchmaker without permission
Romantic comedies often lead us astray in this regard. When a divorce is fresh, it may not be the best time to begin trying to build a bridge between your friend and potential love interests. While you likely have great intentions and you may only be trying to help your friend get her mind off of her current situation, sometimes jumping into dating too quickly can do more harm than good. With that said, everyone is different, so as a rule of thumb it’s always better to ask permission, and if a friend isn’t interested in being set up, don’t force it.
“It’s always great to play matchmaker for a friend unless your friend isn’t open to it,” matchmaker Erin Davis, told The Every Girl. “I would never push someone who isn’t interested in being set up. They won’t be in the right mindset for a date, which would ruin it at the start. If I know two people I would love to set up, but they don’t want to be, then I don’t set it up. It is their loss, or perhaps they have good reasons to not be set up, and it is entirely their choice. I make recommendations, but I never push.”
Dogging their ex-spouse
Though it may seem like talking greasy about your friend’s soon-to-be ex-partner will make them feel better and show them that you’re on their side, your comments can be hurtful to your friend who may still have feelings for their ex. Additionally, if your friend shares children with their ex-partner, they will still have to co-parent with this person, so it’s generally best to just avoid trash talking.
“Oftentimes emotions can vacillate quickly, frequently, and intensely,” licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, PsyD. told O magazine. “One day your friend might be feeling and saying aggressively negative things; another day quite the opposite.”
Instead of chiming in and talking crazy about the ex, focus on building up your friend.
“Focus on listening and validating your friend’s emotions without emphasizing your own judgments or opinions,” Cilona added.
Saying that you saw this coming
During a recent interview, NeNe Leakes explained she never felt Kevin Hunter was right for her friend, Wendy Williams. However, she chose to mind her business because another person’s marriage was none of her concern. It’s true that there are times when our friends and loved ones can see issues that we can’t when it comes to our relationships and marriages. Still, it’s unhelpful to tell a friend that you saw their divorce coming. It’s virtually the equivalent of “I told you so,” which is insensitive and unhelpful.
Telling them to get over it
You may be tired of hearing your girl rehash the same issues over and over. You may have been around when things were going left and you may know some of the stories by heart at this point. Still, it’s best to be a patient, listening ear. Try not to be dismissive or act exasperated because she wants to talk about the split for the umpteenth time. She’s trying to process a lot and likely needs the love and support of her true friends.
“Sometimes friends just need a good, non-judgmental ear instead of advice,” Paulette Sherman, PsyD, psychologist told Reader’s Digest. “Show you care by just being a constant calm and supportive presence and a witness to this chaotic experience.”