There’s no doubt that divorce is another of life’s dramas that are extremely stressful. But it isn’t always a personal tragedy for the people concerned. In fact for one party, anyway, it can be a blessed relief along with all the mid-slinging, guilt, arguments, despair and heartache.
What to write if you know the whole divorce story
This may seem easy to handle but be careful. There are a number of tripwires to be wary of here when you’re writing to either of the parties concerned:
1.You have heard all the facts from one of the couple only. I’m not saying this person would lie to you, but you know the old cliché – “there are two sides to every story.” Obviously there will be some facts that are undeniably true, but equally there may be some which are variable depending on who is interpreting the story. Be mindful of this.
2.If this break-up is very fresh, be careful of condemning the other party. Even though they may appear to be an utter *sshole, be aware that sometimes couples do kiss and make up. And if at this early stage you have called the offending party rude names, you may well find it awkward to get over that if they should get back together again!
3.Be careful about what support you offer them. Practical support may be well received, but in some cases – especially if you offer support with child care – you need to watch you don’t become embroiled in custody/visitation issues. If you sense that these may crop up, it’s best to leave them to immediate family and the authorities to figure out. You can always offer to help out later when all the arrangements and legal stuff have been finalised.
4.Don’t insult your friend by prefixing what you write by saying you refuse to get involved or take sides. OK, you may want to say something along those lines to protect yourself, but for someone going through the pain of divorce this is tantamount to writing “I don’t care enough about you to stand up for you or support you, but I want you to know that a I care. Well, OK, only a bit.”
What to write if you don’t know the whole divorce story
Ironically, in some ways if you don’t know the whole story it makes it easier to write your sympathy and support. OK, it will be less specific and more vague than what you can write if you know the whole story, but if you approach it well it can still have quite a powerful impact:
1.What’s common amongst nearly all divorces and other relationship break-ups is pain. As I suggested above, the fact of being released from a bad relationship can be a huge relief to the departing partner. But trust me (I have been there) even though the departing partner gets away from the bad relationship (and sometimes is going straight into a much better relationship with a new partner), the process doing so is still very painful. If you can recognise that element in what you write to your friend who is in that position, they will appreciate it.
For more information on how to write better about difficult and painful issues, click right here on #HTWB
2.Another thing that is common in divorces and other break-ups is guilt. Even if you don’t know the whole story about a given break-up, you need to be mindful that there will be guilt issues lurking around in most cases. Although you can’t address such guilt issues head-on, usually, you can write something that helps your friend to accept that guilt is a normal part of the procedure … even just by writing something like “often there is no such thing as ‘fault,’ only ‘human nature’ and its growth as we grow older. Some of us zig, some of us zag, and I hope you guys can be at peace with that eventually.”
3.Have a look at the four points in the section above, to see whether those apply to what you want to write. Although you don’t necessarily know the whole divorce story, some elements of what we shared above may still be relevant in this case.
So, to wrap up …
Be sure to express your sympathy for the pain and disruption your friend must be suffering from, because no matter what has happened they will have been through some sort of hell. But unless you’re sure you know the facts, keep your focus on the pain and disruption without attributing it to anyone or anything.
What experiences have you had when writing to friends and acquaintances when they’re getting divorced?
Please share here.