My Facebook feed blew up last week regarding the topic of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce. I am not sure if people are dealing with shock, sadness, or some other emotion regarding the break-up of a celebrity marriage that people had idealized or some other issue is happening.
However, it has caused me to take stock of my own divorce experiences, both as someone who went through my own divorce and someone who watched my parents go through theirs. It’s occurred to me that there are three things that people just need to stop doing when the word “divorce” has been stated. These things usually cause more pain, or add more fuel to the fire as it were.
3 Things to Stop Doing When the Topic of Divorce Comes Up
1. Asking for Details
I can remember when a neighbor of mine went through her divorce and she said to me: “Please don’t ask me for details. I am not discussing it with anyone.” I laughed when she said this over tea, and told her, having gone through it myself, I would never subject anyone else to discussing such intimate details. She seemed relieved when I said that. However, it is true that people cannot seem to stop asking for details about divorces.
My Facebook feed is still going on about whether or not Brad cheated on Angelina. My thinking is, who cares? There are six children for whom the entire world is being turned upside down, and people are looking for salacious details. There have been other events in the news worthy of discussion. My Facebook feed has made no mention of the events in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, for example, but Brad and Angelina are somehow more important than 29 people being injured. I guess it’s more important than events in Oklahoma as well, at least in my news feed circle.
Stop asking for details. You’re not entitled to know everything about people’s lives, especially something as traumatic as a divorce.
2. Talking About It Non-Stop
I remember the talking was so bad that I would walk into a room and people would just stop and stare at me — even at the grocery store this happened to me. I finally had to quit attending my church. I went to a different church, and then it was on and on about my parents’ divorce and dad’s new wife. I finally gave up church during my divorce. I told my rabbi that I couldn’t take people staring at me everywhere I went, as if I were a demon child. The rabbi told me to just say hello to people and let them know I see them. I was so grateful to find a faith community that embraced me and supported me. I didn’t have to deal with people talking about it in that one.
People seem to feel the need to gossip about divorce or any kind of misfortune, and to talk about it non-stop with people. This, like the bullet above, makes people feel like they are on display. They get no respite from the pain. Stop talking about it constantly — don’t you have your own life to live?
3. Bash the Other Person
It’s really sad that I have to say this, but divorce has at least two sides, more if there’s children involved. Don’t bash the other person, don’t bash anyone involved. People used to bash me to my face during my divorce, and behind my back after Dad got married again. This kind of talk isn’t helpful to anyone, and just leads to more alienation.
There are things that people can do during a divorce, and I hope that Angelina and Brad, and their children, have people doing these things for themselves, and if not, then they can reach out to me and I will gladly do these things.
3 Things to Do During a Divorce
1. Mourn the Loss
In my memoir, I talk about how I sat shiva and had a funeral for myself, and I think I have written about that in other posts here as well. It is very important to honor the loss. It’s a very significant loss. Support the people in your life going through this experience in the same way you would support them if they were dealing with a death. That’s what this is — a death of a marriage. In many respects, a death of the self, followed by a rebirth.
2. Own It if It’s Yours
None of us are perfect. People going through a divorce, often egged on by others, tend to forget that they have flaws. This is not a failure: divorce is a change brought about for many reasons. Own those reasons that you are responsible for, and challenge people close to you to do the same. If someone cheated, don’t go after the other person. To quote my mother, “It’s not my job to hold the other woman accountable, it is my job to go to my husband and say this is not acceptable, so that’s what I did.” That sums it up nicely.
3. Encourage Wholeness
If there are children involved, this is particularly important. Children have a right to both parents and as much wholeness as possible post-divorce, regardless of their age. To the children, the family is dying. Encourage people to remember the children deserve this, and so do the adults. People deserve to go through their lives with as much wholeness and dignity as possible. They don’t deserve to be branded with scarlet letters or to have their dirty laundry aired by the water cooler. Encourage the people that are divorcing to find things that can help them on their journey to their new selves, and what they consider to be wholeness.
Remember that there are coaches out there willing to assist during this time period, and as communities we need to provide support to celebrities and non-celebrities alike that go through these traumatic events. How would you want to be treated if you were the one going through it? If you’re not behaving in that way toward someone else, re-evaluate what you’re doing.