When someone you care about announces she is getting a divorce, what do you say?
Fortunately for you, there are a lot of options. I’ve listed 10 below, and you’ll know which ones will do the most good for your friend if you start not by doing a lot of talking, but by doing a lot of listening.
A good response is like a good meal. It starts with a small appetizer to appease the hunger, more to nourish and sustain, and ends with a light and satisfying morsel. By listening carefully, you’ll be able to respond with the right words and assure your friend she made the right choice in confiding in you. If you’re a close friend, you’re going to get a lot of opportunity to listen over the coming months.
Matching your responses to the feelings of your friend is harder when the topic is divorce than when the topic is death. Don’t assume your friend is devastated. Likewise, don’t assume your friend is elated. Over the coming months chances are good your friend is going to feel a wide range of emotions from joy to profound sorrow and back again, possibly several times.
Appease – Inquire First
The first order of business is to determine how your friend is feeling right now at the moment she has shared the information with you.
Try one of these:
- How do you feel about this?
- Is this what you want?
- Should I offer sympathy or congratulations?
Her response to your question and your knowledge of what kind of relationship the two of you have, tells you what to say in the rest of your present conversation.
Nourish – Express Sympathy
Divorce and the process of uncoupling always involves some pain and grief, so it is always appropriate to say that you’re sorry, whether you say it gently, forcefully or cheerfully.
4. I’m so sorry to hear about your marriage.
5. That sucks.
6. It’s time to start a new chapter for yourself.
What’s important is that your response does not sound like pity, or conversely that you’re glad or relieved that she’s finally come to her senses.
Sustain – Offer Support
Whether she sees this as a sunset or a sunrise in her life, the next thing to say is something to lend your friend strength, perspective or hope for the future:
7. I’m here for you, tell me how I can help you.
8. You’re going to get through this. Just take it one day at a time.
9. However this turns out, I hope it all works out for the best.
Satisfy – Confirm Her Choice
Even if you’ve experienced your own divorce, you can still only look at her situation through your eyes, not hers. Your role is not to judge her or to second-guess her, your role is to be her friend. That’s why she told you in the first place. Confirm the wisdom of her choice to tell you by saying:
10. I understand.
Even when you think you don’t. There’s one thing you certainly understand, and that is that your friend is currently undergoing a monumental, life-altering change.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: Knowing how to respond to someone who has just told you she is getting a divorce can be difficult. When you choose words that match her mood and needs at this moment, you’ll be friend she needs you to be.
What other ways can you show your compassion and respond appropriately? If you’ve been through a divorce, what did people say to you that was helpful? What was hurtful? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!
Related Posts: Divorce Support