Things Not To Say To A Divorced Person #5: I Know How You Feel

Do you really understand? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is one of those statements that applies in so many situations, but it also applies to divorce. There is one exception to this like the others. That is with someone who has gone through a painful divorce. No two divorces will be exactly alike, but at least there is some relationship there.

So if you have gone through a break-up, you do not know what it is like. If you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have been lovers and lived together and broken up, you don’t know what it is like. If you have lost a spouse due to an unintentional and unmalicious death, you don’t know what it is like. All of these may bear some similarities, but they are still different.

What the intent is:

The intent is to show sympathy with the person. That is a noble attempt. The problem is that you can’t do that. If you have not walked in those shoes, you do not know how it feels. I hear across the board from people that divorce is worse than the death of a spouse. With death there is closure and you live on good terms. The love is never questioned. With divorce, the opposite is true.

I think of a friend who a few years ago told me of how his first wife died. Someone meant to have sympathy for him and said, “I know how you feel. My cat died recently.” The death of a pet is hard, but it is not the same as the death of a spouse.

Why it’s wrong:

As said, you don’t know how it feels. Divorce carries with it a personal rejection and a breaking of the covenant. This is something that makes it different from other break-ups. A marriage covenant is a solemn promise to not betray one another and to stay with that person until death. This is not to say that no one can ever justifiably divorce, but I argue in those cases, someone else has already broken the promise.

Throughout the day now, I am constantly reminded of how I am divorced by so many things. A small event could remind me of a joke we shared together. Seeing a happy couple together can remind me of the longing. Going to bed at night and waking up in the morning reminds me that there is no one else there.

Being in society doesn’t always help much. My job is one of the most public places I go to and it can be one of the loneliest places of all. It’s a very real reality to be in a crowd of people and feel utterly lonely. I can say through the two other major trials in my life, I didn’t have the fellowship that I have now, largely through social media. The internet has been a great boon to me in developing relationships.

Do not try to relate if you cannot relate. Accept it. That doesn’t mean that you can do nothing to help.

What to say instead:

I thought originally of “Tell me how you feel”, but then that sounded too forceful. Instead, a simpler answer could be “Would you like to talk about it?” If it could help the person, take them out for a glass of tea or a slice of pizza and just meet and discuss it.

I realize this isn’t the traditional guy approach, but sometimes, I want my male friends even to stop telling me what to do in a situation. Instead, listen. Listen to my concerns and listen to my issues. Perhaps there will come a time later, but speak too quickly and it can seem like my concerns are being dismissed. I certainly realize that is not the desire, but it is what happens.

Sometimes, the best thing to say also could just be absolutely nothing. When my friends want to get together with a game night, that is just fine for me. I think one benefit of something like Final Fantasy XIV is for awhile when I am interacting with people on there, I am not the guy going through a divorce. I am the tank or the healer or one of the damage dealers. This is also one reason gaming can be so beneficial for me now. I get to play a different role for a time than the one I am in now.

Now for those who have been through divorce before, many of our conversations now are invaluable. Right now, I am dialoguing with someone in email who has another similarity to me in that his ex-wife had BPD as well. For those who have been divorced, the more similarities there are in the cases, the better. He too, was accused of abuse. That, by the way, is something that makes it even worse. Everyone who knows me knows I would be absolutely aghast at the thought of hurting her. Unfortunately, after years of giving, this is what I have been given in return. It’s betrayal on top of betrayal.

My plan now for this blog is to go through Scripture and see what it says about divorce. I don’t plan on this answering every question. People like Mike Winger and Craig Keener have done much more on this than I have. Still, I want to attempt to answer some questions people have for me, including about the Bible and remarriage after divorce.

Thank you again, fellow travelers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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