The other day, a divorced friend of mine began complaining about her divorce -- not so much the divorce itself (although that was traumatic enough), but the things people will SAY to a divorcee. And we're not even talking good friends. Like, random people. My friend is a performer and some woman walked right up to her after a show and said, "Why don't you go back to your maiden name?" Huh? Why don't you go back to your own business, lady?
Here are 13 things you should never say to a divorced woman. (As told by REAL divorcees!)
1. "Why don't you go back to your maiden name?" A woman might have many reasons for not dropping her married name. In my friend's case, she is a performer who had built up a following on her married name. Other women have built up a professional reputation. Some women just don't like their maiden name -- maybe it's hard to spell or impossible to pronounce. Others want to continue to have the same last name as their children. Other women just aren't ready. It's her call, not yours.
2. "I knew he cheated/was gay/had a gambling habit, etc." So you knew. Wow for you. What you're really saying is, "I knew. How come YOU didn't? I'm so much smarter than you." And if you did know the guy was doing something and didn't say anything, what kind of friend does that make you?
3. "I'm sorry." This is okay if said in a neutral tone, but apparently saying it like your friend just told you she's dying isn't appreciated by everyone. Some women are all too happy to be getting divorced. And if she says something like, "Oh, don't be. It's for the best," don't argue with her.
4. "Thank God you didn't have kids." This was said to a friend of mine who indeed hadn't had kids with her husband. Which just served to remind her that she now not only didn't have a husband, but didn't have children either. Which is fine for some people, but can be a bummer for others.
5. "I almost got divorced once." OK, you're probably trying to sympathize and say you understand how hard marriage can be. But it comes across like what you're really saying is, I almost got divorced once but we worked through it and you could have too!
6. "You still look young. You'll meet someone." Wow. You look young? I.E., You look it, but you're not!
7. "How could you give up that lifestyle?" Uh, because she might have had very good reasons for "giving up that lifestyle"?
8. "They're not all like your ex/you'll find someone/there's someone for everyone, etc." Maybe that's true but probably the LAST thing on your friend's mind right now is finding someone else.
9. "You're so lucky! Now you can start banging people and have a bunch of sex!" Yeah, again, probably not what is on your friend's mind at that moment.
10. "You're going to love it. Life is so much better divorced." Again, if your friend's divorce is fresh, she's probably still devastated. Or maybe she's not. But for God's sake don't say anything like that until your friend makes it clear she is ECSTATIC that the cad is gone.
11. "You'll get over it/You should be over it by now, etc." It's not up to you to put a timeline on your friend's healing.
12. "I could never understand why you two were together to begin with." Okay, you've just wiped out a person's entire marriage. There was probably a lot of good things in it, or they wouldn't have been married. Or even if there wasn't, no sense rubbing her nose in her unfortunate choice.
13. "Couldn't you have waited until the kids grew up/were out of the house/got into college/graduated from college/were out of diapers, etc.?" Obviously not. And who are you to decide someone should stay married for the kids? Maybe the bad marriage was making the kids miserable. Maybe they begged their parents to get divorced. (To paraphrase Woody Allen.)
But what should you say when your friend -- or even someone you just met -- tells you she got divorced? Divorced women suggested saying things like, "I'm sorry," but not in a tone that would be more suitable to her dying. There's also: "Is there anything I can do?" "Hang in there." "Divorce is tough." "Take time to heal." "Do you want to talk about it?" "I've been there." (If you have.) And then there's offering to do something with your friend, like maybe inviting her to a yoga class or for a girls' night out.
What do you think people should never say to a divorced person?
Image via Cosmic Kitty/Flickr