What not to say…

Ok, here’s a bit of a pet peeve coming…

What John told me after he said he was leaving me, was something like this:

“But you’re still attractive.  I’m sure you can find someone else.”


Since then several people have said a similar variant of the same thing to me.  I know it’s well-intentioned.  It’s a kind of hopeful twist on the awfulness of being left behind.  But it still really feels awful to hear (and, quite frankly, the last thing I want in my life right now is “someone else” to be attached to).

Have any of the rest of you been told this by a spouse or a lover who’s leaving, or by friends who were trying to cheer you up after you’ve been ditched?  If so, how did it make you feel?  And are there any other things that people have said to you in the divorce process that have particularly grated on your nerves?

UPDATE: One more thought: I wonder if anyone says the “you’re still attractive” line to men? Or is that a gendered thing that’s only said to women? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

20 thoughts on “What not to say…

  1. melissa

    I got a variation of that…’you’re funny and smart…I’m sure you’ll find someone’. The assumption that I *WANT* to find someone cracks me up. And pisses me off. The judge who asked me, repeatedly, if I was sure I wanted to do this. And I had to tell my well-intentioned mother that really, I knew all his flaws, no need to point them out.

    But my all time least favorite? Had to be the person, who is no longer part of my life, largely because of this comment, who decided that my choice to end my marriage was simply unacceptable to her. The words are seared in my brain — ‘well, yeah, he’s an alcoholic who can’t keep a job, but he doesn’t hit you. Unless he hits you, it’s your responsibility to keep your marriage together.’

    And then she couldn’t figure out why I never called, never responded to her voice mails, emails, or even snail mails. HA ha ha.

  2. Doe

    Jesus! I would have said some variation of what an *extraordinary human being you are,* which will have all KINDS of people flocking to your door–and for all kinds of reasons! We’ve actually seen that in progress with your job and other work. How you are being in this situation makes you the clearing for a whole new range of possibilities!

  3. Angela

    This is a diary entry I wrote on Dec. 9th, 2007 (expletives edited out!):

    “Well, at least you don’t have kids” is the well-meaning rejoinder I’ve heard a few times in the last two weeks when I tell someone I’ve separated from my husband.

    Yes, kids would certainly complicate things. But being child-less does not lesson the pain of having your life partner tell you he’s not sure if he loves you enough anymore. I’ve been with this guy for 8 years. This wasn’t a quickie marriage — we waited five years — and we’ve been married for more than 2. This is damn effing hard as it is and I’d like some acknowledgement of that rather than people telling me how much worse it could be.

    Furthermore, I want kids! I want kids so badly, it hurts sometimes. And I was convinced, utterly convinced that this was the guy I wanted to have children with. And to have that man tell me that he can’t “envision” having children with me socks me right in the gut. So “at least you don’t have kids” hurts on a whole other plane of reasoning, the one where I had hoped by now to be close to the point of getting pregnant with our baby.

    To which people respond: “You’re only 25! You’ll meet someone! You have plenty of time to have children!”

    Yes, I’m young. Many of my friends aren’t even married yet, let alone ready to have children. But I honestly think I’m different than much of my age group. I have little to no desire to date. I vastly prefer monogamy to the uncertainty of dating. Just because I’m starting to learn that monogamy is no sure deal either doesn’t mean that I’m able, willing, or ready to shake that fear.

    I don’t even know if I ever want to get married again after this fiasco. My feelings might change, but my husband is being such an effing cliche right now that it’s souring me on the marriage concept in general. I mean, really: Running to the arms of another woman because you fear the future and sense of responsibility with your wife? Really??? Could you BE anymore like a tragic country song? There’s no way in hell I’d want to go through this again. How can I ever trust a man not to do this to me? How can I ever trust a man enough to have children with him and be sure he won’t leave?

    “At least you don’t have kids,” indeed.”

    [Realizing now, of course, that’s there’s a whole other level of insensitivity to such a comment — I mean, so what if I did have kids? Would that have made divorce the “wrong” choice? Ugh, it still grates on my nerves, three years later!]

    1. Shana

      I get that one too.

      “At least you don’t have kids” aaarrgghhh!!!!

      Its insensitive on so many levels. I won’t go into it here (too public) but its one of those comments that just irks me.

  4. Danielle

    The sad truth is few people know what to say–I’m sure I didn’t have gems to offer! But the part about those kinds of comments that I can speak to now relate more to the absolute wrongness of them (wait! Not that you aren’t beautiful and interesting and strong!) I mean that if you were/when you are so inclined to date/meet someone, it’s just not that simple. Attraction and then the more important connection and all the other -ions and -isms and just plain ole’ timing and luck that make up relationships go so far beyond any one quality that it’s just not realistic to say that a wonderful person such as yourself will have no problem finding someone. What is perhaps shocking for people to realize is that the real issue isn’t whether someone finds you interesting etc., it’s whether you will find someone who is interesting to you.

    So here’s what to say: You are a wonderful person (you are) and you have a lot to offer yourself (you do) and I hope that you enjoy the journey (I think you will). Some day when/if you want to meet people for fun/dating/romance, please let me know if you want a friend to help you through the process. I’d be happy to help in any way (I will).

  5. janaremy Post author


    Thank you so much for sharing that. Wow…so powerful. I will never say that again to anyone (and I hope I didn’t say it to you???)

    I can’t tell you how much it means to have your support through this. While it’s terrible that so many of us have been through similar experiences, feeling like I’m not alone is really helpful to me right now.


    I know the comments that I referenced are well-intentioned and I don’t mean to alienate anyone who’s trying to support me. But because that was the first thing John said to me, it’s just a particularly awful feeling when someone else echoes that sentiment.

  6. janaremy Post author

    Melissa: that’s just weird. Ugh.

    Doe: I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re on my support team 🙂

  7. Melinda

    Different spin – the laughable comment: “Have a nice day!” This was from the clerk at the courthouse just after my ex and I signed the papers live and in person. It was particularly awkward and painful for us both and I’m sure it showed. I almost climbed over the counter and throttled her.

  8. Jensie

    How about someone saying: “Whew, I’m glad he’s out of my way. Wanna go out?” Cuz I think that would be way more soothing than “I’m sure you’ll find someone else.” Even if you just the opportunity to tell them you know, up yours or something….

  9. Val

    I think that people feel the need to say something. That they don’t truly understand what you’re going through but that they have to acknowledge it. And generally I find that when people don’t understand, they’re uncomfortable and try to make light of it.

    The irritating part for me was when I filed for divorced everyone assumed I already had a boyfriend lined up. As if I couldn’t survive without a man.

  10. Angela

    Don’t worry, I don’t think you ever said that to me 🙂 But even if you had, I wouldn’t have held it against you. I’ve just always felt that it’s important to be able to channel my feelings about something, at least initially, without taking others’ intentions into account. If someone’s remark hurts me, that feeling is valid regardless of how the other person meant it and venting is a way of acknowledging that validity. Then, once that’s out of the way, I’m in an even better position emotionally to recognize and accept that people may not always have the right words, but that they care about me and support me.

    In any case, I thought it was really powerful that you shared your unfiltered reaction to that comment and I wanted to respond in kind.

  11. Lena

    I’m still shocked at your situation! Yes, people don’t know what to say, they only want to offer some kind of support or comfort. Does it always come out the right way? Ha!

    When it happened to me, I was floored. We were together on and off for five years, lived together 3 separate times and each time always ended in flames. We lived in harmony the same way a hurricane and a volcano would cohabitate. When I finally discovered all the lies and betrayal I realized I had no idea who this man was that shared my life with for so long. I packed my things in one night getting ready to leave our house. I was in the closet crying uncontrollably. Not so much that I was hurt – I was beyond hurt – but more so that I knew better than to let this happen and to have been blind to it s for so long. As I’m gathering my things, I cannot stop this overwhelming emotion. He come in the room and looks at me with disgust and says:

    “Look at you, you’re a mess! You should just go kill yourself already.”

    then he walked out of the room. Something in my head snapped and my gut said get out of this house now! Get out and don’t come back. You don’t know this man anymore and he doesn’t see you as a person. I was gone that night.

    I’ve forgiven and moved past what happened, but I remember in the months that followed how painful it was to think of our end. To me, it was as if I would relive a tragic car accident everyday, as if someone had died, yet he was still very much alive. However, I’m so glad it happened the way it did. I needed to be forced out of that sinking boat and the support I got in return was phenomenal.


    The support you have on your journey is an awesome gift! Keep writing, Jana…

  12. Dejah Thoris

    Jana –

    I echo the thoughtful comments and observations from the others herein.

    People whom have *not* been through the divorce process often do not know what to say or how to provide comfort or support, and in the awkwardness of it all, will often say such comments. Granted, the source of the comment in your case is what it is.

    Reality is many things are said when we are in the epicentre of this process that we regret later, no matter whether we are the “dumper” or the “dumpee.” I could cite numerous comments that were exchanged that were both uncharacteristic and really inappropriate, but it is testimony to nature of the divorce experience.

    I *had* been told that very statement by numerous people (come to think of it, all of which were men), that I was smart and attractive to where finding a new person shouldn’t be an issue. Thanks, but no thanks. I knew I needed to work on the healing process and learn how to be resilient and capable rather than impart on another co-dependent journey.

    Just know Jana, you’ll have plenty of times of anger and a myriad of emotions through this process, but hang on, because it really does get better. And know, I am here for you.

  13. Tiffney

    When I left my ex after learning about his multiple acts of infidelity, people said similar things to me, but it was always with a caveat. “You’re still good-lookin, young and capable of having kids, but no good Mormon man is going to want a divorced woman” was the gist of just about everything I heard on this subject. From non-Mormon friends I heard things like “he didn’t treat you the way you deserved to be treated. Now you can go on and live a much healthier, happier life.” The stigma of divorce and being single was absent.

    Unfortunately a divorce is one of those situations that is so full of emotional landmines that it’s virtually impossible for anyone, however well-intentioned, to say anything that doesn’t end up being backhanded.

    1. janaremy Post author

      I suppose I have the added benefit of not being active LDS so no one has said anything to me about the problem of divorce stigma on my marriage prospects. I like what you said about living a “healthier, happier life.” I feel like I’m already headed in that direction–sure it sucks to be alone sometimes, but that’s better than being in a seriously flawed relationship.

  14. Shana

    I was sorry to hear about the end of your marriage. My husband Devon and I recently separated with plans to divorce as well. Although he was the one who suggested the split, I was the one who told him that he was attractive and would find someone else. So perhaps its not a gendered response. We were together for 13 years, if you need to talk please contact me.

    Additionally, email me if you would like a referral for a very nice (and affordable) lawyer.

    In the mean time, I am holding you in the light.

    1. janaremy Post author

      Where are you living right now? I’d love to get together sometime soon–I’ve missed seeing you regularly!

      13 years is a long time. I wonder if we are all just evolving right out of these long-term relationships? In any case, I’d love to hear your story if you’d like to talk.

  15. minxlj

    As much as I honestly respect those with religious beliefs and their respective churches, I *cannot* understand things like ‘marriage prospects’ and ‘divorce stigma’ – it’s just not fair on any person to be labelled like that. Someone you trusted totally betrays you, but maybe you ‘shouldn’t’ divorce them just cos other men might not want you if you’re divorced? So put up with the ruined marriage you have? Err, no thanks. Not fair on anyone.

    People don’t know what to say, but thankfully I’ve got friends who actually came out & said they didn’t know what to say, rather than give me the traditional speeches. I haven’t divorced, I’ve had 2 rough breakups in my life one of whom was my (ex)fiancée & it was mutual – seemed harder for friends etc to cope with than for us! And the other a year ago; breaking up 5 days before my birthday was just the beginning of a rough process. This one was rough, my ex had a child who I’d obviously grown to love and care for. So I got almost the obvious – “at least it isn’t YOUR kid”. As much as I understand, that’s often worse – you have no parental rights, no access, and the child knows nothing of you afterward. Sad really. People thought they were helping me by saying that? Worse still was seeing said child (only 5yrs old) only days after the breakup – they don’t know what’s gone on, or why you can’t come along with them and daddy when they repeatedly ask. I felt awful.

    Several friends sent me messages of ‘you’re gorgeous and clever, you’ll find someone else’ which I understand come from a good intention. But mostly gorgeous first, then clever (cos that’s what’s important yeah? Tongue firmly in cheek lol). I wonder too, if friends said that to him as a guy? Do they assume it’s the woman being dumped and think they have to reassure her? (as it wasn’t in this case & I also felt a little like some people thought I couldn’t be ‘that’ upset as it was my ‘choice’)

    But most were along the lines of ‘you’re good and kind and fun to be with, come out and have fun and we’ll help you through it’, and when I was visibly down they’d suggest a walk or an outing or something to take my mind off things without needing to talk. It was good, and also I had listening ears for when I just needed a cathartic rant too 😉

    My best friend was great though, and he actually said to me ‘don’t dare go finding someone else yet, you don’t need that to be happy’. I knew what he meant, and he’s been there for me all through the rough few months that followed. I spent time with friends, being me, working hard, getting on with things – and I became happy and much less stressed. I knew I’d be fine and would move past it all. Friends started to say how I seemed happy and smiley again, which was great. I made even more friends through going out and doing the things that made me happy. I spent whole weekends on walks and art galleries and photography, with friends and alone. I got more happy and comfortable just pottering around by myself. And then 2 months ago – because of the above friends inviting me on a photo group outing, no less – I met someone else and it clicked immediately – a happy, confident person who is enjoying life and actually likes to make me laugh. You find what you’re looking for – whether it’s internal happiness, confidence, clarity or eventually someone to make you laugh – when you’re really not looking 🙂

    For how rough things were, I truly appreciate my best friend more than I could have known. And the dark times were worth it as they highlighted what I’d been through, and eventually where I wanted to arrive at. They showed me who my truly stellar friends were.

    I stand by what I said on twitter – you seem like an awesome (& very inspiring) person Jana. Regardless of the situation or challenge, where life takes you or what you decide on from here, I think you’ll tackle it head on and make the rest of us seem like amateurs 😉 But if the road takes a little dip now and then and you need that cathartic rant, or just a distraction, feel free to shout and write and share, and those of us even as distant internet friends will do what we can to help. Take care of yourself and keep posting and sharing 🙂 Lots of hugs and roses xxx

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