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Things Not To Say To A Divorced Person #5: I Know How You Feel

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  • Things Not To Say To A Divorced Person #5: I Know How You Feel

    Do not claim to know what you don't.

    Link

    -------

    Do you really understand? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    This is one of those statements that applies in so many situations, but it also applies to divorce. There is one exception to this like the others. That is with someone who has gone through a painful divorce. No two divorces will be exactly alike, but at least there is some relationship there.

    So if you have gone through a break-up, you do not know what it is like. If you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have been lovers and lived together and broken up, you don't know what it is like. If you have lost a spouse due to an unintentional and unmalicious death, you don't know what it is like. All of these may bear some similarities, but they are still different.

    What the intent is:

    The intent is to show sympathy with the person. That is a noble attempt. The problem is that you can't do that. If you have not walked in those shoes, you do not know how it feels. I hear across the board from people that divorce is worse than the death of a spouse. With death there is closure and you live on good terms. The love is never questioned. With divorce, the opposite is true.

    I think of a friend who a few years ago told me of how his first wife died. Someone meant to have sympathy for him and said, "I know how you feel. My cat died recently." The death of a pet is hard, but it is not the same as the death of a spouse.

    Why it's wrong:

    As said, you don't know how it feels. Divorce carries with it a personal rejection and a breaking of the covenant. This is something that makes it different from other break-ups. A marriage covenant is a solemn promise to not betray one another and to stay with that person until death. This is not to say that no one can ever justifiably divorce, but I argue in those cases, someone else has already broken the promise.

    Throughout the day now, I am constantly reminded of how I am divorced by so many things. A small event could remind me of a joke we shared together. Seeing a happy couple together can remind me of the longing. Going to bed at night and waking up in the morning reminds me that there is no one else there.

    Being in society doesn't always help much. My job is one of the most public places I go to and it can be one of the loneliest places of all. It's a very real reality to be in a crowd of people and feel utterly lonely. I can say through the two other major trials in my life, I didn't have the fellowship that I have now, largely through social media. The internet has been a great boon to me in developing relationships.

    Do not try to relate if you cannot relate. Accept it. That doesn't mean that you can do nothing to help.

    What to say instead:

    I thought originally of "Tell me how you feel", but then that sounded too forceful. Instead, a simpler answer could be "Would you like to talk about it?" If it could help the person, take them out for a glass of tea or a slice of pizza and just meet and discuss it.

    I realize this isn't the traditional guy approach, but sometimes, I want my male friends even to stop telling me what to do in a situation. Instead, listen. Listen to my concerns and listen to my issues. Perhaps there will come a time later, but speak too quickly and it can seem like my concerns are being dismissed. I certainly realize that is not the desire, but it is what happens.

    Sometimes, the best thing to say also could just be absolutely nothing. When my friends want to get together with a game night, that is just fine for me. I think one benefit of something like Final Fantasy XIV is for awhile when I am interacting with people on there, I am not the guy going through a divorce. I am the tank or the healer or one of the damage dealers. This is also one reason gaming can be so beneficial for me now. I get to play a different role for a time than the one I am in now.

    Now for those who have been through divorce before, many of our conversations now are invaluable. Right now, I am dialoguing with someone in email who has another similarity to me in that his ex-wife had BPD as well. For those who have been divorced, the more similarities there are in the cases, the better. He too, was accused of abuse. That, by the way, is something that makes it even worse. Everyone who knows me knows I would be absolutely aghast at the thought of hurting her. Unfortunately, after years of giving, this is what I have been given in return. It's betrayal on top of betrayal.

    My plan now for this blog is to go through Scripture and see what it says about divorce. I don't plan on this answering every question. People like Mike Winger and Craig Keener have done much more on this than I have. Still, I want to attempt to answer some questions people have for me, including about the Bible and remarriage after divorce.

    Thank you again, fellow travelers.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

  • #2
    Nick, have you ever considered, with so much emphasis on what NOT to say, that there may actually be some very good kind loving people who would love to be an encouragement, but they're afraid of saying the wrong thing?

    I know I'm just an ignorant old country preacher, but those of us who are Christians, when hurt, should really be more focused on the spirit in which something is said than the words actually used.

    There are a lot of people who don't verbalize things well, who really do care, and are well meaning. They man not know "what to say", but the fact that they even try should indicate that they care.

    Example -- when my oldest brother died when he was only 27 years old (full-on consuming cancer), one of the Deacons in my church approached me just before the funeral, and told me that he had seen on the program where I was a pall bearer. (I think I was 19 years old). He proceeded to tell me "I know how you feel, and if you'd like, I'll be honored to take your place carrying Paul's casket".

    It made me mad. SEE RED mad. I pretty much told him off, and resented that for several years. As I saw his character and got to know his heart over those next few years, it really impressed me what a loving caring serving Deacon he was. I felt guilty for rejecting his awkward attempt to minister to me.

    In time, I mustered the courage to ask him if I could talk to him, and I told him I learned a very valuable lesson that day. That even though I STILL believed there is NO WAY anybody could "know how I feel", that I should have understood that he was only trying - in his own way - to be an encouragement.

    He told me that HE learned a very valuable lesson that day, also --- that there is no way that he can know "exactly how somebody else feels", even if the circumstances were nearly identical. (He had also lost an older brother to cancer)

    He became like a second Dad to me - and I praise God that I repented and went back and restored that relationship.

    At the risk of "saying the wrong thing", Nick, I submit this in brotherly love.
    The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think the issue is even if you have had a similar experience you cannot "know" what someone else is feeling. People respond differently to even the exact same things and more so when there are differences. At best you can "appreciate" what someone is going through having gone through it yourself, but nobody will ever "know" what someone else is feeling just because they had a similar experience.

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
        I think the issue is even if you have had a similar experience you cannot "know" what someone else is feeling. People respond differently to even the exact same things and more so when there are differences. At best you can "appreciate" what someone is going through having gone through it yourself, but nobody will ever "know" what someone else is feeling just because they had a similar experience.
        Which is why, in my situation, it was a learning experience NEVER to say "I know how you feel", but something more like "I know this is tough" or even "I can't even imagine what you're going through, but..."
        The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

        Comment


        • #5
          When I got divorced, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. My dad said it to me. He is also divorced from my birth mother. I needed to hear some validation that I wasn't the only one who felt the way I felt - like a huge failure. So, I disagree with you, as someone who walked through it. Do we WANT to hear it? Not a chance. Do we NEED to hear it? 100% yes.
          That's what
          - She

          Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals
          - Manya the Holy Szin (The Quintara Marathon)

          I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common
          Stephen R. Donaldson

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bill the Cat View Post
            When I got divorced, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. My dad said it to me. He is also divorced from my birth mother. I needed to hear some validation that I wasn't the only one who felt the way I felt - like a huge failure. So, I disagree with you, as someone who walked through it. Do we WANT to hear it? Not a chance. Do we NEED to hear it? 100% yes.
            Even though I didn't WANT to hear what that Deacon said to me when my brother died, I, too, NEEDED to hear it, and it literally changed the way I deal ministering to people in trouble/distress/need...
            The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bill the Cat View Post
              When I got divorced, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. My dad said it to me. He is also divorced from my birth mother. I needed to hear some validation that I wasn't the only one who felt the way I felt - like a huge failure. So, I disagree with you, as someone who walked through it. Do we WANT to hear it? Not a chance. Do we NEED to hear it? 100% yes.
              I also added the stipulation that it is different if someone has gone through a divorce.

              If they haven't, they don't know what it's like that way.

              When I hear it from friends who have been there, it's great.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post

                I also added the stipulation that it is different if someone has gone through a divorce.

                If they haven't, they don't know what it's like that way.

                When I hear it from friends who have been there, it's great.
                You've met my Mrs. the Cat. There is no way I would ever have her had I not listened to my dad who said "God only gave us one direction to change our right now - forward. You can't change the past, but you can either dwell there or move forward. Sitting there keeps you feeling just like this. And this sucks. If this isn't how you want to live, just embrace that you didn't cause this and nothing anyone says can make you the one at fault."

                Lies will never become truth no matter how many times they are repeated and no matter how much they are intended to hurt you. God is your defender, so let Him defend you. And move forward.
                That's what
                - She

                Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals
                - Manya the Holy Szin (The Quintara Marathon)

                I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common
                Stephen R. Donaldson

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bill the Cat View Post

                  You've met my Mrs. the Cat. There is no way I would ever have her had I not listened to my dad who said "God only gave us one direction to change our right now - forward. You can't change the past, but you can either dwell there or move forward. Sitting there keeps you feeling just like this. And this sucks. If this isn't how you want to live, just embrace that you didn't cause this and nothing anyone says can make you the one at fault."

                  Lies will never become truth no matter how many times they are repeated and no matter how much they are intended to hurt you. God is your defender, so let Him defend you. And move forward.
                  That's what I am trying to do now. It's my choice. I'm just working through the process and hoping to meet my own new Mrs. someday.

                  Comment

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