Telling People about Your Divorce Ranks up There with Going to the Dentist
It isn’t fun in any way, shape, or form. There’s no shortcut, no emoji that can say it for you, although you could just send out the poop emoji and see if anyone gets it. (They won’t. People use that for everything these days, so your marital status may be last to come to mind.) Telling people about your divorce helps you avoid awkward and painful situations and ensures your peeps know what you’re going through and can be there for you.
Women handle this in many different ways. It can be a long, drawn-out process or be more Brangelina TMZ-style where the world knows in a flash. While telling people about your divorce is best done on your own terms, you don’t always have that luxury. News travels fast, and you’re not the only one in the relationship. Depending on your Ex, it could even be that other people knew before you did, which is a terrible invasion of your privacy at an already painful time.
In most cases, however, you’ll be the one letting your circles know. To be in front of that announcement, you can start with your closest and then let the wider world know.
Share It with Your Circles, Starting with the Closest People
Friends and Family
If you have children, they should be the first or among the first people you tell. You may want some help in telling them, and sometimes parents opt to do so with the help of a therapist. It’s critical that the kids hear it from you and have plenty of time to ask questions and talk about their feelings. And know you’ll need to have many, many more conversations with them as they process.
Beyond the children, you’ll reach out to your closest loved ones next, many of whom likely knew this was coming. Make sure to start with the ones you know will be 100% supportive of you. They will have your back through this process and can even help you let others know.
If you have friends or relatives who may not want to hear this news, wait to tell them until after you feel like you’ve got several people supporting you. It’s not uncommon for people to have mixed feelings about divorce for many reasons: they like your Ex, they don’t approve of divorce, it’s against their religion, or it feels threatening to them. This is where you may opt to bring someone with you.
Make a plan for how you’ll tell them and then be very clear about your boundaries. Even the best-meaning people may ask questions or raise concerns that can make you feel defensive or scared. It’s important to let them know what questions you’ll answer and what is off-limits in this discussion. This helps you take care of yourself and prevents someone from saying something that both of you may regret later, even if it was unintentional.
Next, you may tell a few select people at work. You may just tell your colleagues. Some people opt to tell their bosses, while others would never share that information with them. That depends on your situation. If you will need some extra time off or more flexibility, however, it’s a good idea to notify the appropriate people.
They do not need the full story, and as tempting as it may be to tell them what a low down dirty dog your Ex is, a simple “I wanted to let you know I am going through a divorce. I will do my best not to let it affect my work, but I will need some additional time off at different times. I’ll make a plan for coverage and make up the work.” Many people talk about their Ex and the divorce at work, but we strongly encourage you not to do so. You end up sharing too much information, your work suffers, and you risk being seen more poorly by your colleagues. Don’t make this career-limiting move. Limit your processing to friends, family, and therapists.
School and Childcare People
You should also let the important adults in your children’s lives know what’s happening: teachers, school counselors, babysitters, and parents of their friends. They will often be the first ones to see signs of difficulty. Alerting them can help them watch out for your children’s well-being.
You don’t need to go into detail; just let them know that you’re going through a divorce. Also share any relevant information they need to know about schedules or access to the children. In some divorces, one parent may be barred from seeing the children by court order; if this is your situation, the schools will need to see proper documentation.
Letting the school and others know takes the burden off of your child to explain, which can be very difficult for a kid to handle. The other parents and teachers will want to help, and it will be a welcome comfort to have them understand the family situation.
Your Wider Network
For everyone else, you can treat this situation as you would others when you have difficult news to share, like a major illness or death. You can send a mass email and/or make a tasteful announcement on Facebook or other social media. Tell them you’re getting a divorce and let them know how you want them to respond. It could say something like “I want to let you know that (Ex) and I have decided to divorce. I really appreciate your thoughts right now, but I’d ask you not to call or comment here for now, as I’m a bit overwhelmed and dealing with a lot. Thank you so much for your support.”
Be clear about what you need in terms of attention and communication. Maybe you don’t want to be flooded with calls and texts. Maybe you don’t want people asking lots of questions or bashing your Ex right now. You could also put an auto-reply on your email letting people know you won’t be responding right away. The main point here is that you get to decide with whom you share what.
Then that’s it. As time goes on other friends, acquaintances will hear or get the drift from social media posts. Years after my divorce, I hear from acquaintances who’d just found out. That’s perfectly fine. You don’t owe an announcement nor explanation to anyone on any kind of time table.