If someone asks for your advice when they are contemplating divorce, respond if you like. Or if someone you are very close to is heading down a catastrophic path and you and other loved ones are trying to help, it’s your call whether or not to say something.
But if a casual friend, acquaintance, co-worker, gym pal, or book-club buddy tells you they’re getting a divorce, they are probably not seeking your input. In such cases, here are 5 Things NOT to ask:
1. Have you considered the effects on your children? It’s hard to think of a more insulting question. Such a question presumes that you are being more considerate of their children than they are. You, who has no clue whatsoever about what goes on behind closed doors at their house.
2. Have you prayed about it? Very judgmental. Now is not the time to foist one’s own morals upon them, or to assume they don’t have any of their own. And frankly, no answer to that question will satisfy the one asking. If the answer is ‘no,’ more intrusive, intentionally guilt-inducing ‘advice’ will follow. If the answer is: “Yes, and God told me I should” is the one asking likely to believe them?
3. Were your parents divorced? Because we all know divorce is genetic, right? The question implies that, if the answer is yes, they were doomed from the start. And if the answer is ‘no,’ there must be something very wrong with them to not be able to stick it out, too. Again, take a step back and remember that you have no idea about the circumstances that led up to their decision. If it was, indeed, even their decision as opposed to one that was thrust upon them.
4. Was your spouse having an affair? Whether the question is a result of sympathy, empathy, or curiosity, this is sooooooooo none of your business. In any world, at any time, on any level.
5. Is there anything I can do? What are they suppose to say to that? This is right up there with “Call me if you need anything.” The speaker feels they have put out something compassionate, but it’s an empty offer. If you really want to help and there is something you think you can do, be specific. Such as “I know you’re scheduled to host book club next month, I’d be happy to cover that for you if your plate’s full right now.” If there’s not something specific to offer, simply tell them you’re sorry they have to deal with that and/or you’ll keep them and their family in your prayers – whatever response is sincere for you.
Bonus admonition: This is not the time to tell them your divorce-from-hell story. They probably have enough on their plate without the added baggage.
Have you had someone respond inappropriately to you when you said you were getting divorced? Is there something a casual acquaintance could have or did say to you that was helpful? If so, please share so we can all get better at navigating this difficult situation.