Unless you ARE a single mom, you can’t feel like one.
In the year 2000 I was happily married (for 13 years, together for 20) to my college sweetheart, with a lovely home and two young children.
Then one day I began the process of discovering my husband’s long-standing affair—with someone I knew very well. Within 9 months my marriage was over.
And though I met and married a wonderful man— and have been married for over 10 years—the hurt and pain of that time is still there. Still palpable.
I was (and still am) very lucky to have an incredible network of friends and family—without whom I would have never come out the other side as successfully as I did. Yet even among my closest friends, I would experience “well-meaning” advice, words and comments that really stung. Things that I myself might have said prior to my divorce, having no idea how powerful those seemingly innocent words could be:
- “It’s too bad you have children—you’ll always be connected because of them.”
This was very painful to hear. My kids were often the singular reason that I got out of bed many mornings following my divorce. There were so many times that I would wake up not knowing how I was going to face the day. But then I’d remember my children—and the responsibility I had to them—and I did what I needed to do. Having them around me made me feel happy, loved, not alone. I can’t imagine my life without them.
- (When a spouse is out of town) “I feel like SUCH a single mom this week.”
No you don’t. Yes, you may not have extra hands at breakfast or bath time, but this is NOT the same as being a single mom. The fears, anger, hurt and complications that accompany divorce are there 24/7, as opposed to the temporary “single” status that occurs when a spouse is away. Do NOT say this, ever.
- “I kind of envy your ‘alone’ time.”
Another well-meaning comment that ultimately stings. Mainly because even in moments when I was enjoying my “alone” time, the reason for it would quickly overwhelm. I was alone not by choice, and as the result of a devastating event.
- “You’ll never be truly happy until you forgive.”
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this. My husband had an extra-marital affair that ruined me emotionally, physically and spiritually. I will never forgive him—ever. And yet I can say, with complete conviction, that I am happy. Happily married. Happily employed. Happily engaged with life.
- “I saw it coming.”
Even if you did, don’t say it. No matter the cause, divorce almost always feels—on some level—like failure. A comment like this just pours salt on the wound.
- “It’s ultimately for the best.”
It’s natural to want to offer hope in this situation. And I was lucky that in my case it really did work out for the best. But in the beginning I was terrified—for my financial future, and that I’d never meet anyone else. A comment like this diminishes that fear, and rings hollow.
- “I’d never survive if it happened to me.”
This is like the opposite of the above comment—implying that divorce is something that would decimate the average person. I only wanted to feel “typical”—not some freak or outsider because of my new status.
- “You’re so brave.”
Another seemingly innocuous comment—well-meaning, and yet I can’t think of a single time I heard this that it didn’t ultimately feel like pity.
- “I would never put up with (insert spouse’s awful behavior here).”
I hung in for months after discovering my husband’s affair—and no one was more surprised than I was. I knew there’d be no turning back once I ended my marriage, and I needed to be absolutely ready and sure before I did. I learned that you don’t REALLY know how much you’re willing to tolerate—until you’re there yourself.
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