Often, sitting there in silence, and just listening with compassion, will be the greatest gifts that you can offer at this time.
But if you do choose to speak, then please be careful with your words. Don’t blurt out empty platitudes or trite, hurtful advice.
Specific statements to avoid include the following:
1. “It will get better. Just give it time.” You don’t know their situation, and you don’t know what the future holds for them.
2. “At least he didn’t (fill in the blank)”. Betrayal is betrayal. Searing pain is searing pain. There isn’t a hierarchy. Don’t attempt to minimize.
3. “You should definitely leave him.” Maybe that’s what you would do – but this isn’t about you. And you have no idea what is right for someone else.
4. “I think it’s pretty common. I’d say most men look at porn.” Here, you might as well have said: “Why complain. It’s no big deal” … When the truth is they’re in shock, and they have a broken heart.
5. “I know how you feel.” You might imagine you can feel something of what they’re going through. But the truth is, we don’t know what it’s like someone else. Their experience is unique to them.
6. “The best thing you can do is to forgive. It will help to set you free.” It is callous to suggest they should forgive, and just move on. Right now, that comment says to them: “Your heartache doesn’t matter.”
7. “Everything happens for a reason.” And usually that reason is our partner made the choice to break his promise to us, and to put his own wants first.
8. “Let it go”, or the sister comment, “This too will pass”. If only it was easy to let go of all the pain, to put it all behind us, and move on with our lives again. But processing betrayal can take years, if not a lifetime.
“They don’t understand our pain because their world didn’t stop when our did.”