Divorce is one of the most stressful life events to navigate mentally, emotionally, financially and logistically. When ending a marriage, you need love and support from the people in your life — not insensitive comments or prying questions about the details of the split.
We asked divorced people to reveal some of the rudest things you could say to someone who’s splitting up with their spouse. Hopefully, their responses will help you be a better friend, family member or co-worker to those you know who are going through this, too.
1. ‘You’re going to f**k up your kids.’
Divorce can, no doubt, be hard on children of any age. But staying in a hostile or loveless marriage isn’t healthy for anyone, nor is it setting a good example for the kids.
“It wasn’t at all easy for my grown daughter at 35 years old when her father and I divorced after 37 years of marriage,” Hilliard told HuffPost. “But what’s more destructive than modeling an unhappy marriage or relationship and showing our children that is what they should also come to expect as adults?”
Sometimes ending a marriage is modeling healthy behavior. You’re taking agency over your own life and “making choices that take care of yourself so you can take care of your children in a healthy environment,” Hilliard said.
2. ‘It’s about time! I never liked them.’
This remark is often an attempt at being supportive. But know that voicing your honest opinion about their partner could backfire later on if they end up reconciling.
“This assumes [the split] was not amicable and that they don’t still have feelings for the other person,” Adam Petzold, a parking operations and events director, told HuffPost. “While you may think you are supporting your friend by saying this, it is not helpful and … if they ever do get back together, it does not put you in good standing.”
If you really want to be supportive, the best thing you can do is just listen, he said.
3. ‘You need to suck it up and make it work.’
For one, this statement suggests the couple hasn’t already tried — probably pretty hard — to make the marriage work.
“In my experience and in most other relationships I’ve seen, couples do work hard to make it work,” Hilliard said. “I usually think about this: Make what work? A toxic, unhealthy relationship? Two people who don’t love each other? What about working on a healthy divorce? That should be the goal.”
This kind of comment also strikes Hilliard as a projection. Perhaps the person who said it is struggling in their own relationship but feels like they need to “suck it up,” and now thinks their loved one should do the same.
“Unfortunately, they don’t have the power to exit or heal their own relationship, and don’t want me to have that opportunity either,” Hilliard said. “Misery loves company, but it’s also unkind.”
4. ‘Whose fault was it?’
Marital troubles are “almost never one person’s fault,” divorce attorney Nicole Sodoma recently told HuffPost. When a marriage ends, typically both partners have played a part (with abuse and infidelity being notable exceptions).
“Anyone who has ever been in any relationship, especially a marriage, should recognize it takes two to make it work and fault lies with both people,” Petzold said.
“Our friends and family were shocked to hear we were getting divorced and automatically assumed one of us was cheating or worse,” he added. “The truth is, people change and they don’t always change together and no longer become compatible partners.”
5. ‘Who gets the kids/dogs/house?’
It’s natural to be curious, but it can come off as insensitive to ask this point-blank.
“And the majority of time, they will end up telling you anyway without you asking,” Petzold said.
6. ‘Who’s going to take care of you?’
Hilliard was 64 when she got divorced and received several versions of this question, she said. Her response: “I am, of course!” Though it may come from a place of concern, it can be insulting to know this person doesn’t believe you’re capable of taking care of yourself or doesn’t think you have a support system to lean on for help.
“I am lucky enough to have a friend still in my husband, so if either of us need anything, we are there for each other,” she said. “In addition to my friends, family and partner, I feel more cared for than ever before.”
Hilliard also started a fitness business in her 50s that helps keep her mentally and physically strong, she said. And money-wise, she has “made it a point [her] entire life” to ensure she was financially independent.
“Those who ask the question, ‘Who is going to take care of you?’ probably need to make sure they are as well,” she said. “If you are going through a traumatic or life-changing event, remember to keep your body, mind and bank account in order.”
7. ‘You’ll get a fresh start.’
During her divorce years ago, writer and life coach Patty Blue Hayes was gearing up for a dinner out with couple friends, but without her ex.
“It took an enormous amount of energy to put myself together mentally, emotionally and physically to join,” she said.
At the time, Hayes was “terrified” of what her life would look like post-divorce, she said.
“My friends meant well, but one of the rudest comments was when the wife of the couple wistfully said, ‘But Patty, you get to have a fresh start. There’s not many times in life you can do that.’”
But Hayes didn’t want a fresh start, she said. “I wanted my husband back, my life back.”
Perhaps the comment would have been better received had she wanted out of the marriage. But since she didn’t, it made her feel “unseen” and “even more alone,” she said.
“They got to go home together and play out their nighttime routine before kissing goodnight and I returned to a dark and silent house and likely cried myself to sleep,” Hayes said.
Similarly, after attorney and author Maria Leonard Olsen’s divorce, she received a certain unhelpful platitude a handful of times: “You’ll find someone else.”
But at that time, she didn’t want a divorce, nor did she want to find someone else, she told HuffPost.
“The best way to support someone during a divorce is with your presence,” Leonard Olsen said. “Just listening or spending time with someone who is hurting is a gift.”