I feel so lucky to have strong, supportive women who are helping me get me through my divorce. They just get it. Some have been divorced and some have happy marriages. Nonetheless, I’ve talked to a few divorcees and experienced first-hand questions and comments which make anyone who has been through this experience cringe:
1. “I can recommend a good therapist.” Unless someone asks you to recommend to good therapist, they really don’t want your opinion any more than you want unsolicited advice about your parenting. They have already tried everything they think will help them and their situation. They may have been in counseling for years or one of them is dead-set against it.
2. “Do you think you two will get back together?” There is a reason people split and getting back together may or may not be on their mind. The women I’ve talked to, who have gone through a divorce (or separation), are trying to make it through one moment at a time. We shut down when we start thinking too much into the future; it’s overwhelming. We are trying to find our new normal without our partner to see how it feels.
3. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Yes, they are sure. Before they have mentioned it to friends, family, and coworkers, they have lost a ton of sleep, and they have questioned their life purpose. They have tremendous guilt and did not come to this decision lightly. This was a last resort.
4. “My husband and I struggled, too, but we worked really hard at it and decided to stay together.” This makes us feel ashamed and gives us the impression you think we took the easy way out and didn’t work hard enough. While it shouldn’t feel like this or bother us, especially if we are good with our decision, it does. We can’t control how personal it feels. Your situation is different than ours. You do you, we need to do us. And you would be hard-pressed to find a woman who has been through a divorce saying, “Just leave your husband. That’s what I did and I feel great!”
5. “You need to start dating, ASAP.” Women need to start dating when they are ready, end of story. Whether you have children or not, you know when you are ready and when you need to take the time to date yourself. The advice, “Get over him by getting under someone else,” adds chaos and discontent to an already broken heart. It’s not fair to do this to yourself, or to the person you are using to mend yourself back together.
6. “You should really try to stay together for the kids.” No, no you should not. One thing I have learned through this process — for my well-being and my kids’ well-being — is they want parents who are happy. In fact, my kids have told me a few times over they are happy their father and I seem happier even though they are sad we don’t live together any longer. And they also mention they felt a lot sadder when we did all live together and my ex and I would argue or not speak to each other. The tension is now gone and we are moving forward.
While I consider myself an open person, and talking with others about marriage, divorce, and all that goes along with it has been therapeutic for me, I know how raw and vulnerable it makes you feel. And some comments and questions will make you hurt more whether they are intentional or not.
I know it’s a tough subject to broach; no one knows what to say. But to be very blunt, unsolicited advice is never the way to go.