Divorce is tough for everyone involved, including the people in your life who care about you or are just plain curious. You’ll inevitably face some — let’s be honest — rude questions and comments during and after your divorce. So, how should you respond while both satisfying them and keeping your grace and sanity intact?

First, let’s go through the possibilities. Some of the nosy, insensitive, or otherwise unwelcome questions and comments you’re likely to hear include:

  • “Don’t you love [your ex]?”
  • “Have you tried counseling?”
  • “Isn’t it better for the kids if you stay together?”
  • “Well, [someone they know] is divorced and [insert preachy warning tale].”
  • “Maybe you need to try harder.”
  • “Marriage isn’t a fairytale.”
  • “Are you just bored?”
  • “You’ll regret it.”
  • “Your lifestyle will change a lot.”
  • “What about your friends/house/other things?”
  • “Did one of you [insert accusation]?”
  • “Who’s getting the ____?”
  • “I warned you about _____.”

While you always have the option of either telling them you don’t want to talk about it or spilling your guts about it all, it’s usually better to give a thoughtful response. Not only will it likely close down the discussion, but you’ll also react far less emotionally, too. Here are the steps we suggest when faced with a prying question or comment about your divorce.

Take a moment to consider why they are saying it

It’s best to assume they have good (if not clueless) intentions and are merely curious or expressing concern about your divorce. A good approach is to flip your perception of these situations as about them more than you — especially if their tone is judgmental. Divorce is a complex situation and people have strong opinions about it. Those who have never been through it may not understand the realities attached to ending a marriage. So, why are they asking, and what kind of response are they really after? Use this knowledge to frame your reply.

Decide if it warrants a response at all

Do you even want (or need) to respond? If you don’t, think of a short, concise and non-emotional way to shut the conversation down. It might be as simple as “I’d rather not discuss this right now” or “Thanks for your concern, let’s talk about it another time.”

If it seems like they are coming from a good place or you think it warrants further explanation, keep reading to learn how to answer in a way that will help you stay calm and perceived in a positive light….

Answer as if you had an audience

There is really no benefit to responding in a negative manner. Even if it’s a hushed conversation or totally in private, answer as if the world was listening in — namely your ex, kids, colleagues, and other people who could perceive your response in a negative way. Here is how to frame your reply in a positive, calm way (no matter how rude the question or comment is):

  1. Take a deep breath and try not to get too emotional. A few tears or a slight eye roll might be appropriate, but breaking down in sobs or viciously bashing your ex is not. You’ll always be better off at least appearing to be rational and level-headed.
  2. Stick to the big-picture facts. Keep it simple and limit details. The truth is better than pretending, but don’t overshare — especially if there’s a lot of conflict and betrayal involved.
  3. End it with a closing statement. Make it clear the conversation is over by saying something like: “I appreciate you asking, but that’s all I’d like to say for now” or flip the conversation back to them. For example, you might end your response about your divorce with “… So, tell me about your new job.”

Remember that it’s more about them than you

As we said, people ask or give unsolicited opinions about other people’s personal lives for several reasons, including curiosity, concern, or lack of manners. All of these are about them, not you. You are not obligated to tell them everything they want to know, nor should you take these questions or comments to heart. 

It can help to look at rude, insensitive feedback from others with sympathy, or even pity. Instead of letting your inner critic think: “I’ve failed” or “Maybe I should have…” turn it outward. Think: “Aunt Sarah might be going through her own relationship problems” or “John really lacks self-awareness.” 

You can’t expect kindness and understanding from everyone around you when you’re doing through or recovering from a divorce. But you must be kind to yourself. You’ve heard it many times, but it will get better. By this time next year, you might be wondering the same sorts of things about someone else, while your life is better than ever. You’ll get there! 

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