As soon as the divorce or infidelity is public, the platitudes begin to rain down from loved ones and strangers alike. They can feel so off-base and tone deaf in the moment, even when they’re coming from a place of care and concern. What makes these platitudes sting and what wisdom might we gleam from them?
“This too shall pass.”
Why it stings – There is a complete lack of acknowledgment of where you are right now and the damage that has been done. It’s like focusing on the fact that the knife that has stabbed you is no longer in your body when the wound is still open and bleeding.
The wisdom within – The way you feel right now is not the way you will always feel. It will never be as though it never happened, but it will no longer be so raw and shocky.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Why it stings – This can feel like a person’s bad behavior is being excused because it fits into some greater good or that a horrible experience is a positive thing because it allows for something new. It implies that you should be looking for silver linings moments after the lightening strike.
The wisdom within – You have the power to make this a starting point, to create good things from this situation. It is possible to both acknowledge how terrible something is and also recognize that there are indeed positive things that can arise from the ashes.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Why it stings – Being told you’re strong when you’re feeling incredibly weak and vulnerable only makes you feel ashamed that you’re struggling. Because no matter what God thinks, it certainly doesn’t feel like you can handle this.
The wisdom within – We are so much stronger than we realize. We tend to think that because something is hard, it is impossible and we fail to see the incremental progress that we’re making. You may not be strong enough today, but don’t discount how strong you’ll be tomorrow.
“It’s for the best.”
Why it stings – Then why is it the worst thing that has ever happened to me? From an outside perspective, it can be easy to see why the relationship wasn’t working. But from within? The loss of it overwhelms everything else.
The wisdom within – Sometimes we stay in a relationship simply because we fear losing it. And only once we’re out can we see how damaging it actually was.
“Time heals all wounds.”
Why it stings – You’re already feeling powerless and since time travel is still fiction, being told you have to wait some unspecified length of time to feel better, only adds to that lack of control.
The wisdom within – Time acts like a river over stone, slowly smoothing away the rough edges of the pain. You can’t force it to happen sooner, but you can appreciate it when it comes.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Why it stings – You don’t care about what you could have, you want what you lost. Besides, the thought of dating again is scary, exhausting and perhaps completely off-putting.
The wisdom within – Love is not, “Limit one per customer.” When you’re ready, you may just find that you not only can love again, but that this love is even better than before.
“When one door closes, another one opens.”
Why it stings – Why are you telling me about a door when I can barely stand? This platitude makes us feel like we need to be pushing at a time when we’re still nursing our wounds.
The wisdom within – Struggles always come with opportunities. After the initial grief passes, you may find yourself on a new – and exciting – path.
“Others have it worse.”
Why it stings – This hurts on two levels. First, it dismisses our experience, which although it may not be the worst in the history of the world, it is the worst in our history. Secondly, it can make us feel guilty, thinking that we shouldn’t feel the way we do.
The wisdom within – Gratitude is powerful stuff. Simply acknowledging the gifts you do have can go a long way to making you feel better.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Why it stings – I don’t want to be stronger; I want to have a partner that treats me well. I may be stronger because of what has happened, but I’d prefer not being victimized thank you very much.
The wisdom within – This has changed you. You have found your inner strength, gained wisdom and compassion. And even though some days it felt like you were dying, it didn’t kill you.
“Forgive and forget.”
Why it stings – Don’t we wish we could have selective amnesia and the peaceful mind of a Buddhist monk? This stings because we so desperately want it to be true and yet we can’t seem to make it happen.
The wisdom within – I’m not sure forgetting ever happens, but you can find a peace with it. You don’t get over it, you learn from it.