Note from the editor: This is in no way meant to be a judgment on anyone who has gotten a divorce or who is considering one. It is simply answering a question posed by a reader and is the opinion of the author.
So what should you say to a friend who is considering getting a divorce?
I’ll own up to three convictions here in addressing this difficult subject.
First, I believe that divorce is destructive: for relationships, for families, and for the well-being of our society.
Second, I believe that divorce is too easy: our culture encourages a “quit when things get rough” approach instead of an attitude of perseverance and commitment.
And third, I believe that nobody ultimately wants to get a divorce but rather sees it as the lesser of two negative options: either stay in a bad relationship or get out.
That said, there are times when divorce is necessary. If unaddressed abuse or infidelity is present in a marriage, clearly there are grounds for divorce. No one should endure abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical. And if someone’s spouse is unfaithful, then major damage has already happened in the relationship. Divorce is not inevitable in these cases, but they do require extensive healing and repair.
With that said, what do you say to a friend considering a divorce?
So about that friend who is talking about getting a divorce. Your first role is to listen attentively and sympathetically. So much depends on the kind of friendship this is: is it a casual acquaintance, another mom from your child’s sports team, or a friend you’ve known for many years? The depth of your listening and your sharing may be determined by how well you know this friend.
Next, it’s important to determine what your friend is seeking from you. Does she need a sounding board? Does she need to hear herself talk out loud about something she’s trying to figure out? Is she looking for advice? Or is she in danger—is she crying for help?
If you’ve ruled out any concern for her safety, try proceeding with a few questions. You can ask for further information about why she’s considering this. You might say, “Divorce is a pretty big step. Why are you considering it?”
Throughout the conversation, it can be helpful to both of you if you summarize what she has said. For example, “So what I’m hearing you say is…” This can clarify the matter, help her sort things out, or even bring her to a new realization.
Unasked for advice is criticism
It’s also helpful for you to remain objective but also validating. In other words, you can say, “Wow, what you’re going through sounds really hard” without offering opinions about her husband or adding to the emotion she’s already working to contain.
You might also take a step back and reflect on why she is broaching this subject with you. Likely she sees something in you that makes you an ally, a resource, or a witness. Perhaps you have a strong marriage yourself, and she wonders how she and her spouse can also attain that. Or you have lived experience that she sees as valuable. You may have connections to other people who could help her: a pastor, a counselor, someone knowledgeable in working with marriages.
In the end, it isn’t your job to talk them out of a divorce or fix it
Remember that most forms of marriage vows contain some variation of “for better or worse.” You may be that anchor for your friend who is going through a “worse” time…and with your support and God’s grace, she and her spouse will progress to “better.”
But no matter what happens, it is not your job to talk your friend out of a divorce (even if you are both Christians or any faith), and it isn’t your job to to “fix it” for her. Rather, listen to her, lover her and pray for her heart to be turned back to her marriage. Pray for her to have insight into the man that her husband has become, to be able to respect and appreciate him. And pray that as she turns back to him, he will reciprocate.
Blessings, grace and peace to you as you support your friend!
P.S. If you have another minute, don’t miss my husband Jim’s tips for lowering stress…my girls always laugh as soon as he starts to say: “Don’t make your amygdala any bigger!” …but it really does work! :)
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