Divorce is such a touchy subject. I know people who have divorced, are on the verge of a divorce and sadly, should probably get divorced. 16 years ago, I went through a divorce, myself. The process was scary, depressing and incredibly lonely -- even though I was the one who essentially pulled the trigger.
What was especially hard for me was that I was treated as the "bad guy." The family who claimed to care about me, no longer wanted anything to do with me. Even my own mother accused me of being on drugs (which I was not). I was constantly playing defense from being attacked at every angle. The thick armor I put on every morning to get through the day was beyond repair by the end of it.
Basic instincts prompt us to point the finger at one person. We tend to overlook three important factors: two people were married and were equally responsible for the success or failure of the relationship; the decision to divorce isn't one that comes easily or made hastily; and in most cases, it's not something both (yes, both) parties want to necessarily do.
So before you get ready to take aim at someone who is about to begin divorce proceedings, it's best that you hold your fire and consider the following tips:
1. Stay as neutral as you can. It is to be expected that there will be some bashing going on. Regardless from which side it's coming from, you should do your best to not jump on the band wagon. Let them trash talk as much as they want, but hold your tongue. In the off chance that there is a reconciliation, you won't feel awkward about the things you may have said.
2. Don't play therapist (unless you actually are one). Chances are the individuals involved have already been to therapy. And yes, it's true a listening ear may be welcomed, you shouldn't try to evaluate things based on the information you were given. You may be able to relate to the situation, but you certainly don't know every last detail. Keep your inner Dr. Phil to yourself.
3. Don't push for an explanation. Not everyone feels like they need to explain their reasons for divorcing. The cause could be too embarrassing or too overwhelming to process. If they want to share what happened they will do so on their own. But give them the space to determine when that will be. Don't keep asking what went wrong.
4. Avoid being the "middle man." Don't be tempted to accept requests to speak on the other's behalf. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to play The Telephone Game with a grown person, especially a soon to be ex. Besides, if they weren't convincing on their own, hearing it from a different set of lips isn't going to change anything. Just stay out it.
5. Ask what you can do. Divorce is like grieving, it's a loss for everyone involved. You should treat it as such. You won't be able to change the circumstances and you may not agree with them, but you can at least offer your support. The assistance may not be needed, but the thought of being there will be appreciated.
Going through a divorce, for whatever reason, sucks all around. The involved parties want to get it over as quickly and painlessly as possible. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. If you overstep boundaries and constantly interject your undesired opinion, you will make matters worse than they already are.
Stay in your place -- off the battlefield. Otherwise, the divorce won't be the only casualty, so will your friendship.
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