how to talk about divorce with your friends and family

How To Talk About Your Divorce with Friends and Family

It can be very hard to figure out how to talk about your divorce with the important people in your life. Breaking the news or ongoing conversations can have a very real effect on your relationships, depending on your approach. Some people may have an urge to shout it from the rooftops, while others find it incredibly difficult to discuss even with those closest to them. Going through a divorce can be a rollercoaster of emotions and your feelings can change on a daily basis. There is no “normal” when it comes to how you should feel and how you should discuss your divorce with others, but there are ways you can work through this process that are constructive and things you can do that are destructive. Ultimately, our hope is that your divorce strengthens your relationships with your friends and families and helps you move into a brighter future. 

Take Time to Process Before Talking to Anyone

Even though divorce is very common, it can still be a traumatic experience even when you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s normal to cycle through feelings of sadness, anger, relief, and even elation. Before talking to anyone, take some time to process your emotions. There is no rush to talk to anyone about your divorce if you aren’t yet comfortable. You should be aware, however, the news of your divorce may begin to get out, especially if your spouse is already telling others. Regardless, the bottom line is that you get to choose when to start talking about your divorce. 

Some people struggle more than others as they move through the divorce process. Again, there is no “normal” and the emotions you are feeling are valid. But if you are really struggling, please take care of yourself and do not hesitate to reach out for help. Support groups, therapists, and other resources can help you get through this process, such as the following: 

For your own emotional health, moving past the anger should help you move ahead with your own life. This does not mean bottling it up but rather dealing with it in a safe space such as a counselor’s office. This is a perfect place to learn how to talk about your divorce effectively.

Be Intentional

Before talking with anyone before your divorce, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. My most important recommendation is to avoid running down your spouse. I know you may be angry, and spilling out all that anger may feel good, but in the long run, it is likely to be counter-productive. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to keep your emotions in check when talking to others about your divorce. Some suggestions that may be helpful: 

  • Prepare a speech or talking points. Ask whoever you are telling to let you finish before they ask questions. 
  • Decide ahead of time whether you want to answer questions. It’s perfectly acceptable to say something like, “I know you probably have a lot of questions, but I’m still processing this and can’t answer all of your questions right now.” 
  • Decide ahead of time how much you want to share. 
  • Be prepared for a wide range of reactions, some of which may be inappropriate. 
  • Be prepared for unsolicited advice and have a response ready such as “I am working with professional support to get through this process but I appreciate your advice.” 

Giving some thought to what you want to say in advance of telling people about your divorce can help you control the conversation and significantly reduce the amount of anxiety involved. 

Of course, you may be telling a friend or family member because you need help. Before talking with them, think about what kind of help you need. 

  • Do you just need someone to listen? 
  • Do you need advice or guidance? 
  • Do you need help moving into a new place, getting rides for your children, or other tasks? 

Once you have recognized what your expectations are, you should communicate them to whoever you are speaking with. This can help avoid unwanted advice as well as feeling disappointed when people don’t offer the type of help that you need. 

Social Media

For many people, social media has become the default method for sharing both good and bad news in their personal lives. You probably have people in your social media network who have shared the news of their divorce via one or more platforms that they are on. You may even have witnessed the fallout that can occur when divorces are discussed on social media indiscriminately. 

Many of the suggestions we discussed earlier apply here – be intentional about what you post, avoid disparaging your spouse, and be prepared for a wide variety of reactions. However, sharing your divorce via social media also requires some additional considerations: 

  • Tone and nuance are extremely difficult to interpret via social media. As a result, you need to be extremely careful about not just what you say, but how you say it. A post that can be interpreted negatively about your spouse, your in-laws, or your children can make your divorce far more difficult than it needs to be. 
  • Do not discuss details of your divorce online, even if the process is proceeding amicably. It is important to remember that people have different expectations when it comes to privacy, and other members of your family may not appreciate you discussing the situation online. 
  • Remember that social media posts are easily shared. When you post on social media, you are likely posting to everyone in your network, many of which may not exercise discretion when it comes to sharing information about your private life. As a result, news may get back to friends, family, or even your children in ways that you did not intend.
  • Never post when you are upset. The most damaging posts about divorce on social media are shared when the person is angry, sad, frustrated, or otherwise upset. 
  • Review and update your privacy settings. If you choose to announce your divorce online, you may invite people to pry into the details of your personal life – people who may want to use that information against you. Make sure that you have your account set to “private” so that only those in your network can see your account. 

The best course of action is to refrain from discussing your divorce on social media at all – it avoids misunderstandings, inadvertent disclosures, or inflaming an already fragile situation. But if you feel that you must post, our recommendation is that you limit your post as much as possible. And when the urge to vent online strikes, consider calling a close friend that you can trust to get it out of your system.     

How To Tell Your Children About Your Divorce

If you have children together, you and your spouse are still going to be part of each other’s lives, so avoiding making that relationship worse (you know the things you are saying will get back to your spouse) will make co-parenting easier. We recommend that you and your spouse set aside your differences to talk through the logistics of telling your children – when, how, and what you want to say to them when you tell them about your divorce. 

Ideally, you will be able to talk to your children together – this is a powerful indicator that both parents will work together to ensure that they always have your love and support. However, we understand that this isn’t always an option. If you must tell your children without your spouse, give some thought to what you want to say ahead of time, the message you want to convey, and how you can answer any questions your children are likely to have. 

Friends and Family

After telling your children, you need to then consider who you will tell next. Generally speaking, you should probably tell those you are closest to first, such as your parents and other friends and family members who are in your daily life. A good idea may be to delay telling friends and family right away in order to give yourself time to deal with your anger and get into a better head space. Working with a professional counselor can both help you build strategies for coping with your distress, and avoid burdening those close to you with the worst of your negative emotions.

As mentioned above, you should plan what you want to say and expect a wide range of reactions, some positive and some negative. Do not hesitate to ask for their emotional support, but also consider what boundaries you want to set in terms of what you will discuss and what you won’t. 

It is important to remember that friends and relatives may become involved in unexpected ways down the road, whether group get-togethers, picking the kids up from an activity or a visit at another house, or in some other way. When that time comes, not having poisoned those relationships will pay dividends.

Even if there are no kids, there are many common relationships, particularly the friends that know you both. A war of words where both of you are running each other down is going to harm those relationships. You do not want to put your friends and family in a position where they feel like they have to choose sides. 

During and after your divorce you are going to need those friends more than ever – don’t drive them away by dragging them into the middle of the conflict or forcing them to take sides.

I also believe that it will be more productive to reframe the issue as to what went wrong with the marriage rather than on what went wrong with the other person. Not only can this help calm your current emotional state, but it can help you develop a better narrative for sharing with friends and family, not to mention better preparing you for any new relationships.

Finally, you will get bonus points and impress your family and friends if you are able to rise above the conflict or even find ways to reduce the conflict from the start.

Telling Co-Workers

When it comes to letting your co-workers know about your divorce, you want to first give some consideration as to how your divorce may affect your job or your performance. Your boss should know if it will affect your work schedule or have other impacts on your job or if you need to change your tax withholding. They should already understand that this information should be kept confidential, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them to avoid inadvertent disclosures. 

For other co-workers, you should use your best judgment. Close colleagues who may need to cover for you should know, but you should feel compelled to tell only those who need to know. However, you should be prepared for the news to eventually get out, and have a response prepared for anyone who may ask. And again, don’t be afraid to set boundaries and to share details sparingly.  

Other People You May Need to Tell

Finally, you should also give some thought to who else you may need to tell, especially if you have children. Teachers, for example, may need to know as the divorce may affect your child’s behavior or academic performance. Coaches and daycare providers may also need to know. When telling them, you can keep the details to a minimum and ask them to let you know if they see any potential issues. 

Moving Forward

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are excellent ways to work through the various divorce issues peacefully, maintain relationships to the extent possible, and develop ways to deal with each other in the future.

If you need help with your divorce, give us a call at 206-784-3049, or use the form on our website, to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We only charge a minimal fee for the initial consultation and you can get a number of your questions answered at that time to help you decide how best to move ahead.