With almost 45% of first marriages and a whopping 60% of second marriages ending in divorce, chances are you know someone who's been down this road.
It's sometimes hard to know what to say when someone you love is struggling emotionally.
Do you offer advice or lend silent support? And what do you do if you're friends with both parties involved?
This article is designed to help you navigate what to say to a friend going through a divorce so you can support them through this difficult time. You'll also find tips on what not to say.
What to Say to a Friend Going Through a Divorce
Being a good friend is about lending an ear, offering advice, and being supportive in the best way you know how. But knowing the type of help your friend needs isn't always easy.
Here are some questions that can help you lift your friend up without making them feel worse.
Do You Want to Talk About It?
Don't assume that your friend wants to talk about what's happening. Everyone heals in their own way and in their own time.
Avoid asking prying questions. This can be tough if there are rumors circulating around why your friend's marriage fell apart. But it's important to respect their space and wait until they're ready to open up.
Instead of asking specific questions about the separation, simply ask them if they want to talk or if they're ready. Most importantly, respect their answer even if you don't agree with it.
You can also suggest they speak to a professional therapist or counselor if you're concerned about their well-being. A family law attorney is another great resource for helping your friend cope with divorce.
How Can I Help?
Everyone lends support in different ways. Some of us have an overpowering urge to bake pies or cook gourmet meals and hand-deliver them. Others call or text an inspirational message each day.
Remember that this situation isn't about you – it's about your friend. Instead of doing what you think might help, ask them what would make them feel better.
What Do You Need?
Don't be surprised if your friend isn't open about exactly what they need. They may be struggling with their own internal demons.
If you know your friend well, use your instincts to determine what they need to get through their divorce.
Do they need somewhere to stay? If they're going through an ugly divorce with lots of tension, they may not want to stay in the same house as their estranged ex. Offer them a spot in your spare room or on your couch.
If your children attend school together, offer to carpool. Most people will appreciate any help to reduce their daily stress.
Things Will Get Better
While this may seem like an empty phrase with little meaning, during a divorce, reminding your friend that good times are coming can be reassuring.
Right now the pain seems endless but in time, your friend will adjust to a new way of life. Help them see the potential for a brighter, more positive future.
Discuss what living arrangments will be, their new schedule, or possible career changes. Dreaming of a new, better life ahead will keep your friend from falling into a dark place.
What Not to Say
While words of encouragement are important during a divorce, it's just as important to know what not to say.
Here are a few things you should avoid saying to a friend in a troubled marriage.
Are You Sure You're Not Making a Mistake?
Trust us, your friend is already questioning their decisions. They're likely torturing themselves by replaying recent events and possible scenarios like a bad movie in their mind. The last thing they need is you adding more doubt.
While your intentions might be good, it's not your job to fix your friend's marriage. Try to be supportive without offering too many solutions or advice.
If they take your advice and things get worse, they could blame you. As much as you might love the thought of your friend with their partner, this is their personal decision and it's not for you to question.
Avoid asking questions that place blame or guilt on your friend – or their ex.
They Didn't Deserve You Anyway
Even though your friend might have ill-will toward their partner right now, feelings can change in an instant.
The last thing you want is to bad mouth your friend's ex only to have them reconcile. This could negatively impact your friendship later on.
If you start bad mouthing your friend's ex now, they'll think you've been harboring a dislike for them all this time. This will only add more sadness and despair to an already difficult situation.
Let's Go Out
Yes, getting your friend's mind off of what's happening is a great idea – but a broken heart isn't always fixed with partying. Unless your friend shows interest in wanting to date again or mingle, don't suggest it.
Instead, plan a shopping date, lunch, or outdoor activities to help your friend distress. Be sure to check with them before planning anything. If they prefer to stay-in, try a movie and pizza night.
Take cues from your friend and avoid being pushy or making outlandish plans.
Why Are You Acting So Strange?
Supporting a friend going through a divorce means remaining positive and encouraging. The last thing your friend needs is to feel worse about themselves.
Even if your friend is acting differently than normal, there's no need to point it out. Divorces are emotionally and mentally exhausting. People need time to heal and feel like themselves again.
Encourage them by admiring how well they're handling things. Mention their strength and courage. All of these things will help your friend feel like their old selves again.
Life After Divorce
When you're in the thick of a divorce, it's sometimes hard to see the light on the other side. If your friend is struggling with separation, they need all the support they can get.
When you know what to say to a friend going through a divorce, you can be their source of encouragement and positivity.
Check out our blog for more tasteful tips on how to live your best life.