How can you be a friend to a friend who is going through a divorce?
Wendy Paris is a journalist who runs the website Splitopia, which explores how to navigate a divorce. In her book of the same name, she writes, “If you are a confidante of a friend in the midst of a divorce, don’t discuss her situation with other people. It’s easy enough to label this kind of talk as concern, but if you’re saying something you wouldn’t say right in front of her, it’s gossip.”
This is a good reminder to me, and perhaps to you: If you are saying something you wouldn’t say right in front of your friend who is hurting, don’t say it. It’s gossip.
It is also helpful to check your motive when passing on news which pertains to another person’s life. Are you sharing that information because you have a deep concern for your friend and want to solicit care and compassion from other mutual friends? Or are you sharing the “news” because, for a few minutes, you will have the attention of others?
Instead of passing along information in your friend’s absence Wendy suggests, “Be her protector. When people inquire, you can say, ‘She’s doing OK. I’ll let her know that you asked about her.’ (This response was new to me, and I really see its value. One might also say, “She’s doing OK. Perhaps you might write her a note or call her sometime.”)
Wendy also suggests, “Don’t bring gossip (even in the name of ‘loyalty’) to your friend. People are often oddly eager to tell you what your ex says about you or what someone else said about your situation,” says Paris. “That doesn’t do any good.”
So be your friend’s protector. Do you agree?