You are walking down the street and you run into a friend.  Although you went to his/her wedding, over the years you lost touch.  You talk for a while and exchange pleasantries.

You ask how the family is when the friend responds, “Well, I just got divorced.”

What do you say in response?  Most people say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

Why?

Louis C.K. a renowned stand-up comedian says that this is a pretty ridiculous statement to make for somebody who is recently divorced.  The relatively recently divorced C.K. says that saying you’re sorry is “stupid.”  He goes on to say that divorce is “always good news.”  Why?  As C.K. relates, “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.”  It would be sad, he goes on to say, if two people were married, were deeply in love, had an amazing family, fulfilling careers, stable and prosperous finances, a supportive home life, and were always happy.  And then they just got divorced, much in the same way lightning will just strike tall buildings.

“That would be really sad,” C.K. says.  “But that has happened zero times.”

In reality, most marriages end for a reason.   Marriages that end in divorce are usually unhappy, painful, filled with stress, emotional turmoil, rage, anger, tears, or possibly worse of all, icy silence.  These marriages consist of very unhappy people who have probably been trying for years to save their marriage and “make it work.”  And those attempts have failed.   Sometimes they stay married for the children, even though more and more studies are finding that this is not actually what’s best for the children.  However, as time goes on the stress and turmoil become too much and people file for divorce.

Almost universally, people who are divorced are happier after their divorce than they were when they were inside their unhappy marriage.

And yet people still say they are “sorry” for a person once they are divorced.  As a friend of mine asked me, “What should you do?  Ask them for a high five?”

If there is one thing a divorced person wants to hear, generally, is not a mournful plea aimed at their former life.  What they would much rather do is focus on their new life, the one they are living after their marriage has ended. Most people can appreciate how much time and effort goes into a divorce.  However, most people do not really understand how much effort and time goes into a divorced life.

For starters there is living a single life after having been married for many years.  Next is balancing finances and trying to make a living on one income as opposed to two.   If there are children involved a divorced person now has to balance visitation, child support payments and family issues that will invariably arise from a divided family.  Finally, as time goes on other issues may develop that could affect a divorced person’s life that directly involve their ex-spouse.  As an example a child going to college may be a wonderful event, but in reality a divorced couple now must coordinate paying for that education and this can cause a tremendous amount of friction and stress.

In other words, a person who is divorced has a lot more on their mind than their ended marriage.  They are on their own now and are no longer tethered to their failed matrimony.  They want to be treated as such.  Next, they may have issues going on still connected to their former marriage such as overdue child support or unfulfilled visitation with their children that needs addressing- a painful reminder of their former spouse and the power that person still has on them.

I think one very good question to ask somebody when they first tell you that he or she has been recently divorced is, “So how is that going?” Usually, the person will tell you, especially if they still have problems.   This exposes an interesting phenomenon- while people going through a divorce are not apt to talk about it; people who are having problems after their divorce is final are very open to discuss it.  Problems such as unpaid alimony or even child visitation problems are, somehow, easier to discuss.  These friends may just need to vent or they may not know what to do or what their options are.  They may actually be looking for assistance.

The reality is that the marriage people started with is rarely, if ever, the marriage they end up with at the moment they file for divorce.  Divorce is usually the culmination of a series of bad developments in a marriage, some attributable to one party or the other and some attributable to the world we all live in.  When we say we are “sorry” it’s usually because we are mourning the marriage that started, not the one that was finished.

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