When you tell your friends and family that you are getting divorced (or are divorced) your status changes – you are now a man or woman with added dimensions. You are a person of curiosity, a person to feel sorry for or perhaps even to envy.
There are four questions that you can expect to be asked and probably don’t want to answer. All of these questions are best left unasked, but if you are asked them here are some suggestions on how to deal with them.
“The two of you always seemed to be so happy.”
This can often seem like an accusation. As in “I thought you were so happy how come you have let me down and are getting divorced?” Many collapsing marriages look pretty solid on the outside. In fact couples will often spruce up the public face of their marriage in an attempt to allay any suspicions about the state of their relationship.
The person asking this question is almost presupposing that they had a better idea of the state of your marriage than you did, which is very annoying if not hurtful. The best way to close down this question is to say “There is more to it than you can know.”
“Did you try couples therapy?"
You may well have done this. It’s a good thing to do and can be successful at allowing couples to express themselves in an environment which frees up communication and allows issues to be discussed constructively. Couples therapy can work.
The thought behind this question is all about whether you tried hard enough to ‘make the marriage work’ and questioning if you have rushed into divorce without making every effort to ‘save the marriage.’ This can be very hurtful as it calls your judgement into question. Some relationships cannot and even should not be kept going. The best way to respond to this enquiry is to say “We are doing/have done everything to make sure that divorce is the right decision."
"I hope you have a good lawyer."
This is, in fact a very intimate question. It’s all about the most important issues in a divorce, dividing up the spoils and the arrangements made for the children. If you want to discuss your legal situation, whether it’s about the kids’ residency arrangements, maintenance or child support, you should be the one to raise it. Any details of the divorce settlement that you share with family or friends will immediately set off well-meaning comments on what you should have done and what you should have got from the financial settlement. You don’t need this. The best answer is “Yeah, I’ve got the best divorce lawyer around.”
"Could you give me some advice? My marriage is really not in good shape."
This is the question to dread. Often it’s not so much advice that is being sort but rather permission to make a decision from someone who has already made that decision. They may be looking for confirmation of a decision that they have already made or even your opinion about whether they should divorce or not. This is dangerous territory and these are questions that are probably best not asked.
The only real answer is to say “I have no idea what you should do, that decision can only be yours. Whatever you decide, do make sure you can be certain of the reasons for your decision and you are confident these reasons are true, honest and lasting.” It’s natural for your friends to look for reassurance when they may be contemplating divorce but rather than giving advice your support and empathy are the best ways to help them.