I am getting divorced. But what a great time to do it, I'm sharing my sorrows in fantastic company - Gwyneth Paltrow, Paula Patton, Hilary Duff. We are holding down our side of the statistic rather stylishly. Very few melancholy tweets. No alcoholism. Alright, fleeting alcoholism. No (documented) bouts of public sobbing. Consciously uncoupling in a classy way and all that.
If you haven't already accompanied a friend through this phase of her life, turn 30 and you likely will. Or maybe you will be the one that finds yourself on the other side of irreconcilable differences. During this especially soul drowning, emotionally volcanic period, you'll need good people who know precisely what to say or more importantly, what not to say.
"Don't worry, you're beautiful and young and interesting..." She knows. That's how she got into this mess to begin with. Sure, the world as she knew it is now a fiery mound of glass, but divorced ladies can be certain of at least one thing. Someone found them so blindingly attractive, so violently captivating, that they begged her to spend a lifetime with them. Even if that lifetime turned out to be shorter than a chair with no legs, that wasn't a one off thing. It is going to happen again, whether or not she wants it to, because darling, she is officially marriable.
"I bet you'll be in love and married again sooner than you think." Would you say to someone diagnosed with lung cancer, you'll be smoking again in no time? Doubtful. Divorce is not a situation that calls for hair of the dog, no. It demands space. Time. Loneliness. Failed attempts at online dating. Gaining 10 pounds. Forgetting what human contact feels like. Chopping off most of your hair. Losing 15 pounds. Growing some of that hair back. All of that needs to take place before one should even consider going back in for round two.
"You just have to have sex with someone else." Does she? Does she really just have to? How do you know she hasn't already been having sex with everyone else and that is why she's in this situation? Okay, that's probably not the case, but still, you don't know that. The reality is that the only thing worse than mourning a marriage is doing so from a stranger's bed while searching for your missing earring in the creases of his sheets while breathing through clenched teeth. All the while trying to remember if his name was Edward or Ethan or... So for now just let her keep sleeping with her ex. Wait, what? Oh, we're not saying that out loud? What I meant was, let the girl stay celibate!
"I have just the guy for you." What kind of terrible human being are you that you would knowingly place some innocent creature into the role of the rebound? His heart will be her emotional punching bag. He will be called by the wrong name more than once, forced to wipe away tears he didn't cause. You will be leading him into the lion's den of the currently erratic, sobbing, unshowered version of your newly single pal. Let your temporarily cynical friend find the next victim all on her own.
"I am sorry." Don't be sorry, everyone who should be sorry, likely already is. Unless of course you're one of the women her ex was with running around with, then an apology is really empty here. It feels forced and inauthentic and if you're apologizing because you don't know what else to say, sometimes silence speaks louder. Remember that pity doesn't help a future or change a past.
"You're better off/ He was never good enough for you/ I never liked him." You might be right. But you could also be alarmingly wrong. Divorce doesn't necessarily call for one party to hold all of the blame. Do everyone a favor and lay off the name-calling, the grudge holding on her behalf and don't dare utter I told you so. Stop treating her life like a made for TV movie, this is very real and very complicated. Divorce isn't tinder; she can't just swipe this person into the abyss. She can't unfriend the father of her children. Only two people know all of the details of what went down and chances are you are not one of those people. Trust your friend to do what is right for her life and her family.
If you really want to help, and you do because you're a great friend, erase what you've seen from day time television, delete what horrors you've experienced in your own failed relationships and just listen. Maybe your divorcing friend will say nothing, maybe she won't shut the hell up, maybe she'll just rock back and forth repeating, I just don't know. When it comes time to chime in, stick with this easy to remember script:
"You are going to be okay." Deep down, she knows this, but on the mornings she wakes up alone and simply can't get out of bed, it is easy to forget. When her lip starts to tremble in public because she walked passed the place she first fell for the man who is no longer hers, she'll forget. When their anniversary comes and goes and she locks herself inside all day feigning illness but feeling heartache, she has forgotten.
But you know that this gorgeous, brave, intelligent woman, your friend, isn't defined by this one thing. Her life will be bigger than this event. Pour her another glass of wine, let her laugh, let her cry and remind her of the one thing she already knows.