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Never say this to someone who is going through a divorce

One of the most wonderful things about the internet is that people are becoming aware of the complex emotional narratives behind every day situations that are not often articulated. This is a great example of a fairly common occurrence that is often met with the exact wrong response, although a well intentioned one.

In the realm of faux pas it’s hard to know what to say when someone announces they’re getting a divorce. The looks we get, the side tilt of the head and the sighs, the whispered, “I’m so sorrrrrry…” Here’s the deal, my cat didn’t die.

In the perfect words of Louis C. K., “Someday, one of your friends is gonna get divorced, it’s gonna happen, and they’re gonna tell you. Don’t go, ‘ohhhh I’m sorry.’ That’s a stupid thing to say. First of all you’re making ’em feel bad for being really happy, which isn’t fair. And second of all: divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It’s really that simple.”

I get it. It’s so uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say. We know divorce is “bad” and that we do not want to get divorced. So we naturally apologize when the announcement is made and let the offending divorcee know how sorry we are that they’re stuck in this awful hellish world.

Let’s be clear. Getting divorced is hellish. Well, it can be. The process of divorcing can be hellish, especially when legal bills, emotions and in laws are involved, but being divorced is not worthy of an apology.

I am hardly an expert. I am not the divorce whisperer, but I can tell you, from my own experience and from the experience of those around me, divorce is not an accident. You don’t get out of your car and slip on it like black ice. It is not something that just happens. It is a joint effort of two parties.

Whether each party is aware or not of their role in the path to divorce, well, that’s another blog all together. But both parties chose this path. They chose it by either being done with whatever was or wasn’t happening within their marriage or they chose it unconsciously by giving up, by not feeding the living and breathing child that a marriage is.

The best reaction I have heard when others hear of my divorce is, “Congratulations!” Congrats that you are courageous enough to take the journey towards authenticity. Congratulations that you are getting the opportunity to grow as a human and that you get to face the incredible challenges of single parenting and finding your center.

The only apology needed in the announcement of divorce is to the children. Divorce sucks for the children. How bad it sucks is up to us. If we are willing to set our stuff aside so we can best co-parent our kids without placing them in the middle of our adult issues, the kids will be alright. They will have the chance to grow up in two loving homes where they can witness their parents taking the high road and putting their interests first. IF we do the work.

But please do not apologize to me. I am not sorry. I am saddened at the end result of what was once a beautiful dream, but life doesn’t always play out the way we hope or dream. Life is life and what we do with the reality of it vs. the dream is our freedom and our obligation. We get to create a new story, we get to carve out a new picture of what a family is and we get to show up and do our best regardless of how beautiful or ugly our mess is.


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