It’s been over two years since I posted this. I got word yesterday afternoon that the settlement officer had signed and approved my papers, terminating my marriage. As I’m processing all of this, I thought I’d share some wisdom on how to help and support people in my position.
Recognize that you don’t know the whole story. Unless you spend every minute with your loved one and their partner, you don’t know what happened in their relationship, what problems existed, and what they’ve hidden from the world. Yes, it might be surprising to you that they’re divorcing, but keep that to yourself.
Realize that they do not owe you an explanation nor do they owe you a reporting of every single thing that happens in the legal proceedings. As much as you might want one, your loved one does not owe an explanation to anyone but their partner and God. Prying will get you put on an info diet.
Don’t judge them. This goes back to #1. You don’t know what happened, so you don’t get to tell them that they’re a horrible person for filing for divorce or that they are irreparably damaging their children. For all you know, their partner could have been verbally/emotionally abusive or could have been cheating on them for years.
The winner for the dumbest thing I heard: that I was committing adultery by divorcing Jon.
Don’t try to get them back together with their partner. Yes, this did happen to me and that person got cut out of my life.
Understand that they will be going through a grieving process and that grief is not linear. There are days when I’ve accepted it, days when I’m angry that I was in a position where I had to make the decision, and days when I’m depressed. This is normal.
Do not attempt to incite anger in them against their partner or tell them they should do things to ruin their partner’s life. I had people trying to tell me that I should be angrier at Jon than I was and people who suggested that I contact Jon’s current parish and trash him. I told those people to cease and desist or they would be cut out of my life. (This is also why I keep my last name off of this blog — I had people offer to do it on my behalf and not knowing Jon’s last name meant that they couldn’t do it without me giving them a lot of information. And no, these people were not members of my family. My family members aren’t that hot-headed.)
The reason this is so bad: your loved one is already dealing with a lot of emotions surrounding their divorce and is struggling with what they’re feeling. Telling them that what they’re feeling is wrong is NOT helpful. Telling them to do things to hurt their estranged partner is wrong because it puts them in a near occasion of sin, it makes the situation more contentious than it needs to be, and going through with it can have severe legal repercussions for your loved one. It’s already a horribly painful situation — don’t make it worse.
Encourage your loved one to do things that are healthy for them. I had friend encourage me to pursue therapy, friends who encouraged me to pursue Confession last year and this year, and friends who got me out of the house for a game night or just for coffee to help me take my mind off of the situation.
If appropriate, pray for them. I have gotten through the last few years on the prayers of people in my life.
For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.