I ran into a childhood friend one weekend while my family and I were out and about. Because my kids were covered in ketchup and corn dogs, we briefly exchanged pleasantries and parted ways. In a flash, I realized that I hadn’t seen her and her husband in any photos recently. Sure enough, I quickly Facebooked her (when in doubt, turn to social media…) and while she didn’t provide any details on her profile page, I clicked on her husband’s and his profile stated, “single.”
Strangely enough, I ran into her again that same week after not seeing her for years!—isn’t it weird how that works sometimes? She and I were able to have a more meaningful conversation, as both of us were unencumbered by children. She confirmed that she’d been divorced for a year.
So, of course, I didn’t know what to say. I just said, “I’m so sorry,” probably a very inappropriate amount of times. Geez!
So what do you say? Determined to arm myself with appropriate social graces, I did some research. Statistically speaking, someone I know will get divorced again, right?
Right. So, instead of charging full-on into a sticky topic such as your friend’s divorce and feeling like a blathering moron, here’s some good advice for your arsenal.
- Do say, “I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” or something along those lines. Okay, so my natural instinct to say I was sorry was right. Why did it feel so wrong? Must have been my delivery. I mean, I think I was ready to burst into tears for her.
- Don’t ask, “What happened?” Gosh, I really, really wanted to ask, but how inappropriate, right? (Especially since I hadn’t seen her for years.) Divorces are so complex—and so many details are meant to be kept private.
- Don’t say: “I never thought you were a good match from the get-go.” Just don’t.
- Do say: “Let’s go out for coffee and catch up.” When so many people pull away from a newly divorced person (especially couples who only want to hang out with other couples) it can feel like grabbing onto a life preserver to have people offer to hang out and just be there.
In an extremely difficult time, I really, really wanted to be able to say and do the right thing. Adding positive support to such a tough transition is paramount, and not easy. But to do it correctly—as I think anyone would agree—is absolutely necessary. So, as I did not do number four on the spot, I have since reached out and asked if she would like to get together sometime soon. That’s what real friends, in tough times, are for.