Tag Archives: adultery

5 Tips for Loving People through the Loss of a Marriage

 

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Maybe you sat in the crowd, an easy smile on your face as you watched them hold hands and exchange words of promise sealed with rings. Perhaps you bought them a gift to celebrate the new, happy home and life they were making together. You cheered this couple on, and you hoped and believed in romance all over again as their love story unfolded.

Burn.

Crash.

Unrecognizable.

That’s what happened to their love, to their promises, to their hopes.

And you remember the way they looked at one another, the day you heard about their engagement, the flurry of Facebook wedding snapshots, and all the sweet things people said about this couple. What happened? What went wrong? What are you supposed to say or do?

It’s a complicated and delicate matter, to be supportive and loving of a friend whose marriage is over. Fumbling around for words and saying the wrong thing is easy to do. You won’t always know how to love your friend or relative in the best of ways. You may not know what to say to your coworker or acquaintance at church, but here are a few tips for loving people in the midst of their heartache.

1)    Say, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.”

This is a generic phrase, but it’s a good one to use because it can convey compassion and gives recognition of a major life transition. It also keeps the focus on the person you’re interacting with and not the couple.

Saying, “I’m sorry you two aren’t together anymore” or “I’m sorry for what you’re both going through” wouldn’t be good choices because it insinuates two things:  1) Togetherness is better than separateness. 2) Both parties are going through the same trauma and turmoil.

2)    Buy them stuff.

When my world was spinning, it meant so much when someone bought me dinner or coffee or flowers. These little gestures of kindness were tangible ways for me to know that I wasn’t alone.

 3) Create an advice-free zone.

Chances are there was a fair amount of advice seeking and counseling before the couple decided to break-up. Unsolicited advice from you, no matter how great your intentions may be, will be annoying at best and hurtful at worst.

I can’t remember one single time that I wanted advice from anyone during the first several months after my marriage was over. I wanted to verbally process my feelings with people, but I didn’t want their opinions about what I should do, say, etc.

You’ll show yourself to be a safe person as you listen more than you speak, and validate more than give counsel.

4)    Give them permission to be exactly where they are at.

When I moved into my own apartment, I hung a picture in my bathroom of a woman in a bathtub with a caption that said, “What we have here is a failure to give a shit.”

There were other things hung up throughout my apartment with similar sentiments; I was working some of my anger out by using a lot of profanity. When people came into my apartment, laughed and entered into dark humor banter with me, it made me feel enveloped in understanding.

I did more drinking than was good for me. I slept odd hours. Sometimes I went out on dates simply because I couldn’t stand being lonely on a particular night. I canceled on friends. I didn’t return phone calls. In short, I was fairly unpredictable for a period of time, and the people who gave me permission to be that way? They were the best. They loved me in my flightiness, and they loved me when I returned to a more settled and stable state.

5)    Send a card or a letter.

I’ve kept all the cards and letters which I received as the word spread about what had happened in my life. Never underestimate the power of kind, handwritten words.  A short prayer scribbled out in a card, sweet sentiments and wishes from a friend, family member or acquaintance can be extremely comforting.

6)    Bonus Tip: Don’t expect them to be the same person ever again, because they won’t be.

The end of a marriage is traumatic; there is very real and present grief that must be worked through. Grief changes people, and sometimes the grief will cause shifts in existing relationships, habits, beliefs, and even personality.

{What else has been helpful or meaningful to you as you walked through the end of your marriage? How did others help you to start a new life? Thanks for reading.}