Dear Sito,

Someone I know who is going through the final stages of a divorce has already started to attend singles events. The couple is in their 40s and they do not have a get. There remained together during many years of marital discord because of the children, until they finally separated. The divorce proceeding took a year or so.

I care a lot about this person, and I am disturbed that she is beginning to attend singles events before the divorce is finalized, but I don’t know if it is my place to say anything. What can I do?


Dear Concerned,

It is very difficult to watch someone we care about do something that may be harmful to him or her. We often struggle with the choice of whether or not to intervene and advise, telling people our personal opinion about their behavior and enlightening them as to what we think is the proper thing for them to do. Sometimes we decide it is none of our business and that we don’t want to damage our relationship by offering unsolicited advice, and at times we ourselves are unsure of what advice to give, knowing only that what is being done is incorrect.

As you contemplate whether or not to intervene, you will need to carefully consider several different factors. First and foremost, you need to ascertain whether you have all the facts necessary to make an informed opinion and give relevant and practical advice. Perhaps her divorce really is final, and you are not aware of it, or the event she attended was not just for singles. Next, you must consider the nature of your relationship with this woman.  Are you close enough to offer advice, or are you simply butting into somebody else’s personal business? Of course, we all want to feel that we are helping our family member, community member and fellow Jew, but before trying to help we need to ask ourselves, “Am I the right person to do this?” If this is just someone you randomly see and with whom you do not have a close relationship, then it is probably best not to confront her directly.

Lastly, you need to have a sense of how your advice will be received. Will your friend see it as intrusive or helpful? Will she heed your advice, or just feel you are judging her? And do you feel confident in your ability to express your concern without coming across as critical and judgmental?

After considering these factors, you can then choose your course of action.

If you do decide to raise the subject with her, there is one rule of thumb to always follow – a philosophy that has never failed me before: do not offer unsolicited advice. Most people do not take it well and receive it as criticism. If you happen to be speaking to her and the subject comes up, you can say, “I care about you and am concerned that attending singles events before you have a get will lead people to start talking about you.”  Do not say anymore.

Finally, it is important to remember that this woman, in all likelihood, has given a great deal of thought to this decision, is as aware as you are of the possible repercussions, but has chosen this route anyway. As I wrote in last month’s column, we cannot judge another person, or really understand another person’s behavior, until we have experienced what he or she is going through. She may be feeling very lonely, desperate, and a deep need to move on. Those intense feelings have a way of impairing one’s judgment and hampering his ability to make sound decisions.  And so even if in the end you choose not to say anything to this woman, remember that by not judging her, and by encouraging others not to judge her, you can actually help her without ever having to speak to her directly.

All the best,