When Your Friend Is Going Through A Divorce, She Needs You To Listen
“Say something, I’m giving up on you.”
This song from A Great Big World has been echoing through my head this weekend as I finally reached the breaking point in my marriage. After a tumultuous and short temporary separation, I enjoyed a few weeks where my husband outwardly appeared to be committed to working on the behaviors and choices he’s making that have been slowly destroying our relationship. We even met with his doctor together.
Though I’m not going to go into the specifics, suffice it to say that while I am by no means perfect, he is single-handedly crashing the ship on the rocky shore. I’m in survival mode trying to save myself and my children.
So when I reach out to my village for support, there are some things you say that are well-meaning but miss the mark.
You’re leaving a bad relationship to open the door for a good one to come along.
Shut up. Seriously, on some level I know you’re trying to help me feel better. You’re trying to help me focus on the future, but you’re invalidating how heartbroken I am. I don’t want a new and shiny “better” relationship to come along. I want my husband to get his act together and stop destroying our family.
I want to go back to the first five years when our problems were minimal and normal. I want my husband back, the man he was before substance abuse and untreated mental illness ravaged him. Stop suggesting that maybe this was the kind of man he was all along. Stop saying something better is just waiting for me.
My husband was part of the future I envisioned, and I’m still processing the fact that the future I’d dreamed of is no longer possible. I’m not ready for anything else.
You deserve so much better than him.
To which I immediately want to say, “No! I deserve for him to respect me and love me enough to have prevented this whole thing.” And why do all the comforting words for moms going through a divorce focus on what man might be waiting around the corner to sweep her off her feet and into a real loving relationship?
Even my eighty-year-old grandfather, bless him, said years ago that a woman never leaves a marriage without already having some bloke lined up to replace her ex. Well, #fakenews, because I am that woman.
Divorcing my husband is not something I want to do. It doesn’t mean that I have someone else lined up or that I hate him. I love him so much that even thinking about what I’m doing hurts more than I ever imagined. I look at our newborn every night and tell her how sorry I am. I cry in the bathroom so my older kids won’t see that “where’s Daddy?” tears me apart.
Divorcing my husband is my attempt to save myself and protect my children. Because my wellbeing is important, too. Because my children deserve to see healthy relationships.
As divorced dad, Matt Sweetwood, said in a HuffPost article, “I was desperate to protect them from the trauma of another divorce. As a result, I kept the family in a situation that wasn’t good for any of us. The reality is, the worst thing for your children is for them to live in a hostile home and have them see you unhappy.”
Have you tried [blank]?
Yes, yes, yes. Why is it that the initiator of the divorce is constantly questioned, as if I up and decided one day that communicating and trying to work it out was too hard. I feel forced into this decision after years of problems, years of watching these little cracks in my marriage become chasms. I have tried everything I can think of, but I don’t owe you a breakdown of all those attempts.
Ultimately, I can’t keep a marriage together when the person I’m married to refuses to help.
My marriage has become like trying to throw a lifesaver to my drowning husband, only he refuses to grab on. So because he won’t grab the damn float, am I supposed to jump in and drown, too?
Listen to the heartbreak in my voice. Hear my sorrow and my anger and my resentment. Listen to my frustration, imagine the tears I’ve already shed, and for the love of everything, please give me the benefit of the doubt and stop asking if I’ve tried ______.
Trust me. I didn’t come to this decision overnight. Stop asking if I’ve tried the thing that worked for you and your husband or your friend and his wife. Let me come to terms with the fact that this ball is not in my court anymore.
It hasn’t been for a while.
Dear friend/sister/mother, I know you mean well. The whole situation is painful and awkward, and you just want to help. Thank you. Really, thank you. I’m in so much pain that your support makes me feel less alone.
Just shush and let me cry on your shoulder, okay? Tell me it’ll be better eventually, and listen while I pour my heart out. Just be there for me. You don’t have to have all the right words or try to help me see the positives here. You don’t have to scramble for solutions. Just be here with me.
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