People's reactions are all over the spectrum
After my husband and I split, it took me a few weeks to feel stable enough to start reconnecting with friends. As I told my story, I received many reactions, some supportive and some were astonished, but I usually knew which reaction I was going to receive, depending on who I was speaking with. Some examples:
- "But you two are the perfect couple." - Thank you but I knew how to act to seem like we were.
- "Can't you two work it out?" - Umm...no...and I have the police reports to show why we shouldn't try to work it out.
- "It's about time!" - Thanks! Are you able and willing to help the kids and I move?
- "Congratulations! When's the party?" - Soon...and there will be a HUGE one when divorce papers are signed!
- "I always wondered what you saw in him." - Umm...never knew what to say in response to this. Now when I receive this comment, I say that I have no idea either, but at least I have amazing kids as a result from the marriage.
Months went by, and I started telling acquaintances that my husband and I had split, without going into details. Some of their reactions were eye-opening:
- "I always thought there was something controlling about him, but I didn't know you well enough to say anything." - This comment was received from a woman I've met purely in a professional capacity so the resulting conversation with her was quite interesting. She ended up being one of my biggest helpers to move out of our matrimonial home, and getting us set up.
- "I hated the way he spoke to you, and wondered how he spoke to you when someone wasn't around." - A dear girlfriend of mine told me this, and she had even tried to tell me before everything escalated...but one is not ready to receive this type of comment until they are ready.
From dear friends of mine, whom I've known since I was a child:
- "He's asked to meet with me. Problem is that I don't know when he's manipulating me because he's that good at it." - Assume that if he's talking, he's manipulating you.
- "I'm sorry I didn't protect you." - No need to apologize. I wasn't 'yours' to 'protect'...but please remember that sentiment when I need your help later to size someone up because I never want to go through this all again!
The most hurtful comment though was from a close family member: "You should have left him when I told you to years ago." - followed by a 3-month silent treatment, which was supposed to be my "lesson to learn". This family member and I have a hot/cold relationship to begin with, let alone under stressful situations such as this. We are either the best of friends or ignoring each other. He even went so far as to say that I brought on everything that happened to me in the infamous month of hell, to which I told our ever-patient "mediator" family member, that he and I are now officially in another silent zone because I will NOT stand for that kind of comment. Our "mediator" told me later on that he didn't mean what he said, and that he recognizes that it wasn't my fault, that my ex's actions were his and his alone. Still, damage done. I'm hurt.
The biggest lesson I've learned by telling my story to those I know well, and those who are aquaintences is to expect any reaction. Usually, the recipient of the information doesn't know how to react, so will blurt out the first thing that pops into their head. Don't take it personally...and be sure to have lots of space in your journal afterwards! ;)
Also, don't be afraid to tell your story...even if it's to the customer service representative when you are trying to book your new phone number or cable. The more people you tell, the more you find out how common abuse is (unfortunately). People will do everything they can to help you...even if it's as simple as ensuring that I didn't have to change my new phone number I had activated the month prior in the matrimonial home when the kids and I moved to our apartment. It was a little thing, but it meant a lot to me!