The childhood game of telephone was guaranteed to bring peals of laughter. By the time the whispered message made its way down the line of those passing on the message, it was sure to be a hilarious ending. We played the game because it was fun.
But during divorce, a message misinterpreted can cause needless worry, sadness, or anger. We hear that our former spouse is driving a new Lexus. We get upset wondering where the money came from. Later we learn it was a borrowed car. We are told she was seen sitting at a table for two in a dark bar having an intimate conversation. We assume she is already on to a new romance, only to discover later she and her brother were planning a family reunion.
And so it goes when we are going through a divorce. Well-meaning friends and family can have a burning desire to share information about our spouse. Often it is inaccurate or incomplete. Even when true, very often sharing it is not a contribution.
The well-intended would be wise to remember their intentions when it comes to delivering “spouse reports” during a divorce. A pause to ask, “Why am I saying this?” would be useful. I love the acronym “WAIT”—“Why Am I Talking?”—-as a reminder to reflect prior to letting every thought that comes into my mind go out of my mouth.
Divorce is a time of unique vulnerability. Our identities are in a state of flux, and we are at risk for comparing ourselves to others, including our ex. We wonder, “Is she doing great because I am out of her life?” “Is he better off financially than me?” “Why is their life so easy when mine is so hard?”
We can also be surprised to find ourselves protective of the person who was our family for years. When others give a “bad” report about our spouse, we might feel compelled to defend them. Or, we start to wonder if we were fools to have stayed in the marriage as long as we did. Either way, our spirits are lowered, not lifted.
People do not intend to make us feel worse when we are already going through one of the toughest times of our life. But the failure to pause and consider the impact of the latest sighting or bit of news can have that result.
You have people who want to support you during this time. Ask them for what you need, and what you do not. Put spouse reports on the “not” list.
When we were children playing the game of telephone, we could be assured that laughter would result. As grown ups, sometimes never starting the game is the best bet.