Friends. Kids’ friends. Co-workers. How do you tell people you’re getting divorced, and when do you need to?
Many couples call it quits in January, dubbed “Divorce Month.”
But after the decision to file for divorce, what’s the next step? Often, it’s telling family, friends and co-workers.
There are many ways to tell others that you and your spouse are divorcing. Social media expands the ways — but is a Facebook post a good option? Should you meet with a few friends and break the news, or make a quick phone call? Is this even something to worry about right after making the decision?
The Chicago Tribune talked to Diane Sherry Case, who teaches therapeutic writing classes on how to find language in a tough time.
Write a script. The best way to prepare yourself? Spend some time writing. Think through how you would like this news to be presented. Perhaps you write a few paragraphs that turn into two sentences. Your goal, Case notes, “is to get support for yourself and not to demonize your spouse.”
Think something along the lines of, “We’ve been struggling in our marriage, and we’ve decided to get a divorce.” Ideally, this will truthfully include, “It’s a mutual decision. We’re going to be friends, and no one has to choose sides.” If the divorce is more acrimonious, frame it in ways you’re hopeful. “We want this to be peaceful.” Practice on those closest to you. Tell friends first.
Realize a divorce might have impact on a community. “I think longer marriages, especially, you have to realize that it’s going to affect the community,” she said. “They’re going to have feelings too.”
You can tell friends things such as that it would be helpful if they didn’t criticize a spouse in front of the children. And ideally, the language you use will help friends feel they don’t have to choose between you.
Use different language for different people. Obviously, telling your children is most important. You’ll want to answer practical and logistical questions and reassure them. But beyond that most important conversation, do you owe anyone the news? Absolutely not, Case says. But there are practical reasons you might want to tell people.
If you need time off at work or a changed schedule, you might need to tell your boss something like, “I’m really going to try hard for this not to affect my work, but it is a difficult time.” You might want to inform your children’s teachers and let them know to inform you if they see your kids acting out.
Reconsider the Facebook post. Social media might be best used on the “private” setting, Case said. Perhaps you use it as a way to write the script, but keep it only where you can see it. “It’s just such a delicate subject to be announced in that way,” she said. Especially when a divorce is new, she noted, you’re opening yourself up to be bombarded by people’s responses.
Remember the goal is support. “The important thing is to not be prodded into telling more information than you’re interested in sharing,” Case said. The purpose of informing is to find support. Consider whom you feel safe with. You don’t need to inform distant friends. When you do have the conversation, keep it short and tell them how they can help you — talking on the phone, respecting your privacy. You can say, “I’m not ready to talk about it more at the moment.” And turn it back to them. “Speaking of family, how’s your family?” Case suggests. “It’s good to have a way to end the conversation.”