It is a social norm for one to state, “I’m sorry to hear that” when hearing of someone’s divorce or death among one’s friends or family. While it is an appropriate response of condolence when someone dies, is it always appropriate to state the same when there is a divorce? Maybe not.
In the words of comedian Louis C. K., “Someday, one of your friends is going to get divorced, it’s going to happen, and they’re going to tell you. So don’t go, ‘ohhhh I’m sorry.’ That’s a stupid thing to say. First of all, you’re making them feel bad about being really happy, which isn’t fair.
And second of all: divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It’s really that simple.” In my opinion, congratulations may be in order.
Why You Should Stop Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ When Hearing of Someone’s Divorce.
Deciding to divorce can be an extremely difficult decision to make. Without a doubt, your friend or relative has likely experienced the highs and lows associated with a divorce. They have definitely felt the societal-induced feeling of failure, especially for women.
Divorce is for many people life altering. Both parties may not have wanted to divorce. It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has gone through a divorce. Instead of ignoring the herculean strength it can take to divorce and dismissively stating, “I’m sorry” thereby potentially resurfacing feelings of loss or failure, perhaps complementing your friend or relative on their strength and courage is a better approach. As an attorney, I can tell you that divorce is not something one slipped, tripped, and fell on by accident. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to divorce.
Life can be better for everyone involved – including the children – in divorce and no one should be sorry for that. Staying married for the children is not really for the benefit of the children. How can one think that staying in an unhealthy marriage is something that you should do for yourself or model for your children? Researcher Constance Gager of Montclair State University and her colleagues conducted a national survey involving nearly 7,000 couples and their children, focusing on how harmonious their homes were and whether or not they stayed married. The result was that children who had grown up in high conflict families actually fared better in their own adult relationships when their parents divorced and allowed the children to escape that household conflict. The survey also revealed that children of happily married parents did not necessarily go on to have happy marriages.
Next time, instead of defaulting to “I’m sorry” when hearing of someone’s divorce, consider whether the divorced or divorcing person might be ready for encouragement or congratulations on the achievement. For many people, ending a bad marriage or navigating a divorce is an achievement. It’s an achievement in recognizing what is good or not good in a relationship. It’s an achievement in recognizing what is good for your family. It’s an achievement in growth. It’s an achievement in mental health. It’s an achievement that we need to start acknowledging rather than diminishing.
A version of this article originally appeared on www.yudesfamilylaw.com.
Elsie Gonzalez is a family law attorney with The Law Office of James P. Yudes in Springfield, New Jersey.