Ever wondered what to say to someone going through a break-up?

It is amazing what people will say to you as you’re going through a separation or divorce.  I know it can be awkward when you find out about a loved one’s trouble nuptials.

Photo credit via Satish Krishnamurthy

Photo credit via Satish Krishnamurthy

Here is about the only appropriate thing to say, “How can I help you through this time?”   Then, give them a big hug.   Don’t look at them with pity.  Don’t say  “I’m sorry” or “Congratulations” .  Whatever you do, don’t say “oh, your poor children”.   I have learned much about all the wrong ways people react to those going through a divorce.   Here are some real world examples you probably want to avoid:

  1. But he loves you. Um, no he doesn’t.  Seriously, I promise.  Should I prove it to you?  Because, what you don’t know is he cheated on me with my best friend, sent me a text saying he needed some time to himself and cleaned out the bank account.  So, really, right now is not the best time to tell me he loves me.

I know it can be shocking when people who you believed were in love, who by all outward appearances were a perfect marriage end up on the rocks.  No matter how infatuated they seemed, please don’t make your friend prove to you how very much they were UNLOVED.

  1. I never knew why the two of you were together in the first place. Your friend already feels terrible and is grief-stricken by the fact she made a mistake.  You are essentially saying to her that her marriage was a freak show, everybody always knew it and wondered what it the world she was thinking for the last 10 years.  She is already distraught that she “wasted” all the good years of her life.  Please don’t reinforce this by saying to her she wasted it on a loser.
  1. OMG! What happened?   First of all, it’s none of your business.  Secondly, we don’t always know what happened.  There are a million unanswered questions in the midst of a break up.  Often, spouses are leaving and we are in shock with no idea what has happened.  More often, we are overwhelmed and can’t answer the question easily.  We have a long history that we really don’t want to repeat and re-live every time someone finds out our relationship is over.  I know you ask out of caring but, don’t let your curiosity get the best of you.  If and when your friend wants to tell you, she will.

There is a temptation to wonder if your friend is making a mistake.  There is a temptation to want to gather facts to help your friend decide how to move forward.  The truth is that all your friend really needs is a friend.  She will figure this out all on her own.  You don’t have to figure it out for her.  Just listen without judgment, love freely and be there when she’s falling to pieces.  Let her feel what she feels and understand feelings are not stagnant.  Whatever she is feeling today she will move through and tomorrow feel something totally different.  It isn’t up to you to have any opinion or reaction about anything she expresses.  You may feel completely helpless.  But, always know that it is enough just to sit with her through this process.

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