15 Things Not to Say to Your LDS Divorced Friend
We all know the common statistics, 50% of marriages end in divorce.
Yes even for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although we hold marriage to a higher standard than the larger global population, the family is still crumbling. Being married in the temple doesn’t always protect against divorce either (more on that later) and even if they weren’t married in the temple, divorce is still hard.
Divorce has likely touched your life in one way or another. Whether you know someone who has gotten divorced or you’ve been divorced yourself, it can be a tricky patch of terrain to navigate.
From an outsider perspective, most people want to help those who are struggling with the after effects of a shattered marriage. We all strive to live up to our baptismal covenants to “mourn with those that mourn” but members may feel hesitant as they tip-toe around divorced members. It’s good to be aware of feelings and process with care when addressing these individual Saints.
There are some things, however, you should avoid saying to your LDS friend who just got divorced or disclosed to you that they are getting divorced (disclaimer: this list comes from men and women who have experienced divorced as members of the Church and may not reflect everyone’s opinions):
You’ll find someone better
When divorce happens, the last thing we want to think about is someone. Even if the marriage involved abuse, infidelity, or other problems, your friend still loved their spouse. They married them for a reason. It’s hard to imagine life without them.
It’s going to be fine
We know it will be fine, we are very well aware of that. But in the moment, we need people to tell us “It’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to be ___ (insert emotion).” Don’t brush off their feelings. Instead, sit with them and let them feel.
You are better off without them.
But are we? That’s what we often feel. Our life has been turned upside, after divorce, and we are grasping for normalcy. Divorce feels like walking down stairs and missing the last step. You are surprised, falling, and taken back. We might be better off, in the long run divorce can be healthy, but in the moment, don’t try to comfort us with this.
Are you praying enough?
We ARE. Prayer is often the first line of defense as the walls come crumbling around us. Instead, tell us you are praying FOR us. Don’t put our faith on trial while our marriage is broken.
Didn’t you know or have a feeling that this marriage wasn’t right?
Never, never, never assume that the Spirit should have warned us. The Spirit helps us make decisions to the best of our ability. We are commanded to use our agency and many people CHOOSE their spouse with the best knowledge they had available. Here’s a fact: people lie, they aren’t always truthful, and marriage changes people. The past is in the past and even if your friend had felt it wasn't right, it is not your place. When we go through divorce we already start to question our own judgement, don’t make it worse.
Weren’t you married in the temple?
We can’t emphasize enough, a temple sealing DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST DIVORCE. Many LDS people who get divorced were sealed, they made covenants. It takes two people, however, to make a marriage and covenant work.
Aren’t you supposed to work on a marriage no matter what? Don’t just give up.
If we’ve gotten to the point of divorce, we have tried. Divorce is not giving up or throwing away a relationship. Divorce can sometimes be the best thing for a relationship. LDS divorce is not giving up. Don’t convince people to stay in a marriage that is unhealthy. Don’t talk us out of the decision we’ve made.
What did you learn from this that you will take to your next marriage?
We are still reeling from our first marriage, don’t put the thought of “next” in our heads. Especially if the person is the one who was left, don’t imply that they are at fault. Eventually, when they are further removed from the situation, they can look back and learn from their mistakes.
Are you sure divorce is the answer?
Again, it is not up to you to convince us otherwise. Divorce in the Church is a conclusion
that is typically reached with a lot of prayer, fasting, and if possible, temple attendance. Chances are, if they have come to you about their divorce they’ve already started the grieving process. Be here for us. Listen to us. If we are confused, offer a shoulder to cry on, but don’t assume.
Was it really that bad?
If a person tags “abuse” onto their marriage, they don’t do it lightly. In their eyes they were treated unfairly at some point. Let them label their story, even if it doesn’t sound bad to you, but don’t make them question their experience. This type of communication is known as “gaslighting” and can really mess up a person. Instead, validate their feelings, whatever they are feeling, and LISTEN to them.
You should have dated longer.
We know people who dated a year and still got divorced. It is none of your business what their dating life was like. It will not make them feel any better to bring up the past. Instead, help them look towards the future. Be there for them, listen to them, and don’t try and teach them to “learn from their mistakes.”
He/she is a ___ (bad mouthing your ex).
Regardless of if the person is actually a ___, your friend doesn’t need you bad mouthing them. Chances are they still care for the person and it hurts when you rake the soon-to-be-ex spouse across the coals. No one knows what goes on in a marriage besides the two people in it. Again, focus on your friend and their feelings. What do they need to feel better? Ask them that and be willing to help them.
Good thing you didn’t have kids with him/her.
Many LDS couples are getting divorced younger and younger (the Author was 24 years old) which means many people do not have children to throw in the mix. We might agree with you that we are lucky not to have kids, but that doesn’t make their divorce any easier. A marriage is still a marriage and in the Church we believe families are forever. A couple, sealed in the temple is still a family. Our dreams of an eternal family are lying in pieces around us and part of the heartache is the reality we won’t have kids anytime soon. So don’t remind us that we don’t have kids.
Now you can have more fun.
This. It implies we did not have fun in our marriages, that our ex-spouses destroyed every part of joy we had. It probably is true, for some cases, but in others, we had fun. We married the person for a reason and there are plenty of good times we’d like to reflect on and remember. It makes us feel like we didn’t have fun in our marriage. Instead, help us think of goals for ourselves, that don’t depend on our marital status.
This is God’s plan for you.
We know this, but it still makes us angry. It can be hard to accept God’s plan, we’ve all been there, but it is not helpful to hear. Instead, we like to hear “He is aware of you,” and “He knows you what you are going through” but WITHOUT preaching. God, the Atonement, and the Gospel only take us so far. Don’t put a timeline on us of when we should or should not start dating, when we should or should not be able to move on. Let us heal with God.
Your LDS divorced friend always needs love, support, and communication. Even if we are too busy to respond, too emotionally exhausted to put forth effort, or too stressed to be functional, we need love. We need attention. We need to know that people love us and are there for us. May you learn from this post and be supportive to those going through divorce.