Heartbreak

The Best Response When I Told A Friend I Was Getting Divorced

Photo: Adan Gregor / Shutterstock
two woman hugging each other

One of the difficult parts about getting divorced is breaking the news to family and friends.

In the aftermath of my divorce, most people have been supportive, but some friends had a hard time understanding probably because I wasn’t always comfortable sharing a lot of details of my difficult marriage.

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I wanted to keep things as amicable as possible and not bad mouth my ex to people who have been friends with both of us. I shared the news and let the chips fall where they may.

Some said they’d take the Switzerland approach and remain neutral. They’ve managed to remain friends with both of us. Some people took sides. In a few cases, I lost friends.

I heard this may happen from a good friend who went through a divorce before I did, so I was prepared.

After telling all the people close to me about my divorce, there’s the next layer of people I know but don’t see often — people like old friends from college, those I run into when I do volunteer work, or parents of my kids’ teammates from sports they no longer play together — who I may bump into and aren’t aware of my current marital status.

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We’ll run into each other at a store and begin with small talk — catching up on recent news or chatting about what our kids are up to now. The conversation will sometimes turn to spouses and they’ll ask how my husband is doing. I feel the mood of the conversation suddenly shift when I tell them I’m not sure how he is because we’re no longer married.

There’s often an awkward pause.

I never quite know what to expect next because reactions and responses vary so much. I suppose most people are taken off guard by this information and don’t quite know what to say, especially since we only know each other casually.

Some offer condolences soaked with positive affirmations.

Some clam up or politely changes the subject. Some kick my ex to the curb, placing all blame on him. Some bite their tongue and give me what feels like a judgmental look. Others jump in with gossipy tales of all the horror stories they’ve heard about divorce.

It’s hard to predict where the conversation will go after I give them this big bit of life-changing of news. I do my best to roll with whatever comes next. It’s often an awkward few moments and I get it. Divorce is often a difficult subject for people to talk about.

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There was one friend however who handled the news with the best response I’ve heard so far.

His words were simple, practical, and non-judgmental. Maybe it’s because he’s a scientist. Maybe it’s because he’s older and has more life experience. Maybe someone close to him has been through it before so has a different level of understanding.

We’re part of the same volunteer group, but it’d been a few years since we’d helped out at the same event. He asked how I was doing and then inquired about my ex. I paused and then told him we were no longer married.

He nodded softly then said, “Sometimes things don’t work out.”

His words felt both comforting and validating. They held no blame. No shame. No awkwardness.

Only acceptance.

His reaction and his words have stuck with me. As hard as we may try — for better or for worse — sometimes things just don’t work out.

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Kasey Sparks writes about making mistakes, gathering lessons, and finding meaning in everything.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.