Divorce Insights

Divorce 101: When You Say Nothing at All

Speaking of things not to say to your divorced, soon-to-be-divorced, or in-a-struggling-marriage friends, here’s a big one:

Nothing.

This comes with a caveat, because of course I’ve told you before that sometimes nothing is the best thing to say. Sometimes. With some friends. In some situations. However, knowing when to shut one’s mouth is a different thing than just pretending like a thing isn’t happening. Sometimes a lack of acknowledgement can be so demoralizing.

I am not suggesting, for the record, that you approach every acquaintance you’ve heard marital rumors about and start saying things or “acknowledging their pain”. I am suggesting that if you have a friendship with someone you know to be in this position, you should acknowledge it to them at least once. Pretending it’s not happening may feel like a normal reaction, particularly if you’re struggling with the spiritual aspect of a broken covenant or feel awkward about bringing up an assuredly personal topic, but your friend needs someone to talk to. If you can’t be that person (or if it does not fit the established tenor of your relationship with them), “hey, I just wanted you to know I’m praying” will more than suffice.

The thing is, you’re not dumb. And they’re not dumb. And white elephants don’t get smaller just because you pretend they’re not there.

Sometimes a small moment of genuine concern (like a “how are you doing, really?”) can be so uplifting. I had people who would check in on me like this, and each time it was so encouraging. I remember one instance in particular where an old co worker took me aside, looked me in the face, and said, “I just wanted to make sure you’re really doing ok”. That simple gesture was a really big deal for me. True kindness, genuine concern, heartfelt checking in- those things are noted, even if we don’t know how to thank you at the time.

Sometimes life is awkward. And a lot of real life things aren’t all that pleasant or easy to discuss. I have, more than once, thought “I should tell that person I’m praying for their situation or just check in and let them know they’ve got someone in their corner” and then not done it. I regret each of those instances now. It’s hard to step outside yourself and wade in someone else’s pain.  But please, let’s make the effort. It matters.

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