Conversations with Coworker re: divorce


#1

I have a coworker that I am quite close with that let me know a few weeks ago that she had separated from her husband and was getting a divorce. I am quite close to her at work and consider her a friend, though I never hang out with her outside of work and have never met her husband.

I am having trouble navigating conversations with her on this topic in a moral way. She is kind of a non-practicing Protestant and doesn’t go to church but probably believes in God.

I don’t ask questions about their marriage, but what I do know is:

  1. She has an eating disorder. Not only did he not help her, he was actively encouraging her to lose more weight even though she is EXTREMELY thin. (Incidentally, she hasn’t identified this as a problem in her marriage but it always worried me well before I knew they had separated.)
  2. From what she says, he has a very controlling personality. She was expected to work outside the home, and do all of the work in the home. One day, for example, I was there when he called her while we were at work and told her she needed to go home right away and do xyz.
  3. Now that they are separated, he is still telling her that she needs to come home and clean his bathroom.

So far I’ve tried really hard to not say anything supporting the separation. Just let her know I’m there for her, and let her talk. But it is getting harder and harder. If she was Catholic, I could talk to her about annulments. But how do you have conversations with a Protestant about divorce in a moral way? Especially when you aren’t sure exactly how controlling/detrimental to her mental health he has been?

What do I say when she starts dating again?

Thanks for any suggestions.


#2

If you want to protect your job, your reputation, and your comfort in your workplace, you will avoid giving your coworker unsolicited advice and opinions on her recent separation.

You’ve said yourself that you don’t know the details and you don’t spend time with her out of work. Regardless of whether or not the separation is the fault of her or her husband is not for you to say-but either way, it seems pretty obvious that no matter how it went down, this was a dysfunctional and painful situation.

If she truly has an eating disorder, and he was encouraging it, then he was abusive and a physical danger to her. She doesn’t need your support to leave someone like that.


#3

This is the best thing you can do. As you said, you don’t have enough info to determine if seperation is best or not.


#4

I don’t understand why this would be a problem for you. You just listen to her talk and say that you’re sorry to hear that and that it must be difficult for her.

It is not really your place to advise her on what she should or shouldn’t do. If your employer has an Employee Assistance Program, you could suggest that she look into that.

Her husband sounds like a jerk.


#5

You should probably keep your conversations general and advise her to seek counsel about her divorce with her own Church. If her husband is mentally abusive or even physically abusive this is something she is going to have to address as part of the divorce proceedings and it is something you may need to stay clear of, friend or not.


#6

As in any situation, there’s his side, her side, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. So far you’ve heard fragments of her side and a couple of snatches of his side. That’s not enough to get any kind of real understanding of the situation. Any advice you offer, however well-meaning, is likely to be a day late and a dollar short.

You’ve let her know you care, but she apparently doesn’t want to make the rest public knowledge here in the workplace. That’s the way things should be on the job, so let her alone unless she asks for advice.

Remember that you’re on your employers time while on the job. I hope you’re not getting into personal conversations during working hours.

When she says, “We’re divorced” your response should be, “I’m so sorry. I hope things will be better now.”

When she says, “I’ve met someone new” your response should be, “I hope things work out.”

When she says, “I’m getting married again” your response should be, “Congratulations.”


#7

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