to say or not to say... the dreaded topic of divorce.

***UPDATED*** I forgot my favorite one and added a #13 :)

I recently read a friend's blog post about the awkward things people say about her being single and it inspired me to write this post....

What to and what not to say to someone getting divorced.

Obviously, everyone is different and everyone has their own unique experiences and I can't say that I know how everyone feels and how everyone wants to be treated. So this blog post is very much from my own perspective even though I'm going to try and make it as general as possible. I also am not writing this post out of spite. I realize that not everyone has been divorced and not everyone knows what to say. This is to inform the uninformed, not make anyone feel bad.

What NOT to say.

(In no particular order)
#1: "I never really liked them in the first place." or "I don't know what you ever saw in them."
This probably was the one the really pushed my buttons the most. It was like a slap in the face during an already incredibly difficult time. At one point in my life, I thought this person was going to be my forever and always, I planned and dedicated my life to them and loved them with every ounce of myself. When you say that you never liked them or don't know what I ever saw in them, it makes me feel like you're questioning my judgement in choosing a spouse (which is something I'm probably already questioning in the first place). And not to mention it's just rude.

#2: "I saw it coming a while ago."
I never actually got this one (thank goodness, heads would have rolled), who knows if anyone was actually thinking it. It's very much like #1 above. Thank you for having faith in me and my marriage that I was planning on lasting a life time and beyond (that was sarcastic, I'm not really thankful). Again, the last thing I need during a divorce is for you to make me feel like you're questioning my judgement or that you knew better.

#3: "I know someone who's divorced, too. I should set you guys up!"
I appreciate your thoughtfulness in wanting to make me happy ... or whatever. But you might as well say that you also know a brunette and because I'm brunette, you should set us up as well. Everyone is different and each divorce is a unique experience, just because we're both divorced does not mean we're going to have anything at all in common. And besides, I do not want my divorce to define me and how people treat me. If you want to set me up, set me up because you feel that person is wonderful for me and that we would get along great or anything else besides the fact that we have something tragic in common.

#4: "At least you don't have kids!"
I got and still get this one a lot. Yes, it makes the technicalities of my divorce easier because there are no children involved but whenever people tell me this, I have two thoughts.... first- it makes me feel like you're minimizing my experience. Just because I don't have kids doesn't mean that my divorce was any less difficult than someone who does have kids. Having children says nothing about the relationship between the couple and how heartbreaking cutting ties is for the two getting divorced. My second thought- for all you know, we might have been trying to have kids for a long time. I might have cried myself to sleep at night because despite our months of trying, I still wasn't pregnant. I might still want to have children but now that option isn't available to me because I'm now getting divorced. Be sensitive, you don't always know the whole story.

#5: "How long were you married?" I respond and you discover is was a relatively short time period - "Well, at least is wasn't very long."
Again, like #4, you're minimizing my experience when you say something like that. Am I supposed to not be crushed because I wasn't married for 20 years? Is it supposed to only be a little bit of heartache because in your eyes, it wasn't a very long marriage? All of my hopes and dreams have been killed, it doesn't matter that I wasn't married for a decade.

#6: Comparing your breakup with your girl/boyfriend to my divorce.
As much as this one irritated me, it also amused me that people could be so naive. Breakups are hard, sure. But divorce is a completely different ball game. If you've never been married, I kind of doubt you can truly understand so please don't compare... 'nough said.

#7: Be careful about how you talk about other people's divorce or divorce in general in front of me.
If you talk about someone getting divorced or divorce in general in a negative light in front of me, I'm probably going to think you feel the same about me. And that never feels good... Being judgmental towards divorce or others getting divorced only casts the same judgement on my divorce even if you aren't saying it directly to my face. Also, saying things like "I give them 3 months" about a couple just getting married is terrible. If you ever say it, stop what you're doing and slap yourself in the face. Divorce is a terrible thing. You should never wish it or predict it upon anyone especially in front of someone who's divorced or going through a divorce.

#8: "I don't believe in divorce." or "You can always work it out if you try hard enough."
I believe these two comments are made from the naive mind, I even used to say them myself. Until I realized that everyone has their agency and no matter how hard I tried, my husband still left me and I still had to go through a divorce. Just because I'm working as hard as I can on my marriage, does not mean that my spouse is and there is absolutely nothing that I can do about his choices. There are some relationships that are beyond repair, you don't know the whole story so just be wise and avoid these comments entirely.

#9: Don't talk about how much you hate my soon-to-be ex or how they're the scum of the earth, blah blah blah...
Yes, I'm going through a divorce and yes, I probably have a lot of unpleasant feelings towards my spouse... but that doesn't mean I don't still love them. It's not like I have a switch in my heart that's going to shut off all of the very strong feelings I have for my husband just because we both signed a piece of paper. Just keep your feelings to yourself and if I need to vent, listen, but don't join in.

#10: Don't expect me to open up to you and cry on your shoulder. 
I got this one all the time. Someone would find out I got divorced and expect me to open up, bear my soul to them, cry on their shoulder and then share tea and biscuits because we must be such close friends now! Okay, that was a little harsh... but the idea is the same. Divorce is painful. There were very, very few people that I entrusted my true feelings to. It's hard to talk about, so please don't expect me to open up to you. I appreciate your concern, but it's better if you just express your sympathies and move on with the conversation.

#11: Don't be tackless and dig for details over a facebook message, etc... just because you're curious about what happened.
This one made me feel like people were just wanting the latest juice and not that they cared about me or my well being at all. If I don't talk to you in person or we aren't even really friends, why in the world would I tell you my most sensitive details just because you "want to know what happened"? I'm very open about my divorce (clearly, I talk about it all the time on my public blog) but if you want to know what happened in detail, at least have the tack to ask me in person and be heartfelt about it. Disclaimer- I have had people email me about my divorce because they sincerely wanted to know what happened and usually it's because they're going through the same. This I do not mind one bit. I love that people feel that they can talk to me about something so personal and I appreciate their trust. I am very willing to talk about it if you're not just trying to be up on the newest gossip.

#12: "You'll find someone better."
It's sad that it didn't work out with us but that doesn't mean that they weren't a good person. Yes, I'm going to find someone different, but that doesn't mean they'll be "better" because who's to say my ex wasn't wonderful for me in the beginning anyways?

#13: "Hopefully your next choice will be the right one."
I take back what I said about #1 being the one that pushes my buttons the most, this one definitely take the trophy.
I'll keep it brief....
Who's to say I didn't make the right choice? Like I mentioned before, everyone makes their own decisions and has their own agency. He changed, there's nothing I could do about it. That doesn't mean I didn't make the "right choice" in choosing to marry my spouse. And that kind of comment is quite the burn towards me as an individual and my decision making. How was I supposed to know that it wasn't going to work? How was I supposed to know that he was going to change and leave me? No one knows that including me.
That's all I'm going to say before I get on my soapbox. Moral of the story. Don't ever say that. If it's a bad day for the person, they might start bustin' heads (yours included).

Okay, now that you have been informed on my personal opinion of what not to say, let's talk about things that are good to say.

What TO say.

#1: Follow my lead.
If I want to talk about it, I'll talk about it. But don't push the subject. If I'm clearly staying silent about it then you should do the same.

#2: Express sympathy.
It's always good to at least acknowledge what I'm going through with a "I'm sorry about your divorce, I hope you're doing okay" type of comment. It's not a good thing to avoid the topic entirely. I was hanging out with a guy for a few weeks a couple months after my divorce and he never brought it up once. He obviously knew about it and it made me feel like it was a disease that was to be avoided. It was super awkward when it did come up and he tried to avoid it. If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine, but at least acknowledge you know it exists.

#3: It's okay to stay silent.
If you don't know what to say, don't say anything at all. Sometimes a good listening ear is everything that I need. Don't feel pressure to say something profound that's going to change my perspective on life. Do acknowledge me and what I'm saying, but don't feel the need to give advice or say anything meaningful about my new life change.

#4: Offer support.
You can never go wrong by telling me that I can turn to you if I need anything (well, unless you don't mean it). I probably will never call you up at midnight for a late night cry with chocolate and ice cream, but it's good to know that you support me and that you're there for me.

Like I mentioned before, this post is from my own personal experience and not everyone can relate to it. But when it comes down to it, just be sensitive to what the person is going through. You never know the whole story so don't assume and make judgements. Just love them, that's all they really need from you, as much love as possible.


  1. Thank you for this post Missy. It was honest and straight forward and you wrote it perfectly. It also helps me understand how to be more comfortable with an uncomfortable subject. I've been in those situations where I probably said the wrong thing or made them feel insecure simply because I wasn't sure how to respond. I also realized that you don't need to understand someone's problems to be able support them (kinda obvious, right?). I think I felt that if I didn't understand then I couldn't say anything worthwhile enough to comfort them. Now I think I can be more confidently compassionate regardless what someone's circumstances may be.

  2. I LOVE THIS! I have never been through a divorce myself, but watching Briti and what she had to go through was one of the hardest things ever. Of course, i'm sure it was a different kind of situation, but one of my favorite things I would hear people say was stuff like "Well she kind of go herself into that mess by marrying someone like that" or "I knew he was the wrong person for her". Made me want to ring peoples necks! NONE of us really KNEW anything like that was going to happen. Sure, we talk about it now and how there were warning signs we didn't notice at first, but that's only for family and very close friends to talk about and ONLY if she brings it up first. I am so glad you wrote this haha you are awesome!

  3. When one of my close friends was going through a divorce she was in a BYU class and someone made the comment "Obviously not everyone prays about their future spouse or we wouldn't have such a high divorce rate". Heads almost rolled.