A newly-minted “ex-wife” may feel that she’s lost her bearings, not to mention her zest for life and love. As a career matchmaker, I’ve met hundreds of women in this situation, struggling to navigate the single world immediately post-divorce. While they’re often highly functional and on auto-pilot at work, they usually experience intense grief, embarrassment, and confusion in their personal lives. If you have a friend in this vulnerable state, your reflex may be to tiptoe on eggshells, “giving her space” or “just listening, without talking.” What she needs, though, is warmth and assurance that she’s still the same great person that captured the ex’s heart, only better and wiser than ever before. Here are some specific DON’TS that I advise against:
- Don’t: keep tabs on the activities of her ex. No one wants to hear that you saw their ex out, or with another woman. You may think you are building up ammunition to support the break up – but it’s extremely hurtful and stress-inducing to keep connected with your friend’s former personal life.
- Don’t: Ask “is this what you really want?” Because obviously – no one wants this (whether it’s for the best or not!). Speak objectively, and instead offer resources, such as blogs or single parent groups, that provide support. The last thing a recent divorcée needs is people making them question this painful decision!
- Don’t: Compare one friend’s divorce with another’s. Some people are able to handle their divorces rather amicably, while others are a financial and emotional mess. Each separation has its own story and it’s illogical to try to find similarities between two of them.
- Don’t: Assume anything, especially the cause: for example, that an affair was the cause of the divorce. Boundaries are important to consider. If your friend wants to come out and tell you the real deal, just be there to listen.
- Don’t: “Give her space.” Keep frequent tabs on your friend as she recovers! It’s supportive and thoughtful to call regularly, stop by with a bottle of wine, or sign you both up for a cycling class or social event.