How To Tell Friends & Family About Your Divorce

Posted on December 15, 2021.

Many families and friend groups are now coming back together for the holidays after 18-months or more of COVID-19 isolation.  That amount of time can bring a lot of changes including divorce.  After being confined together, many couples found they were no longer compatible.  Broaching the subject of divorce can be very embarrassing and painful, open wounds and bring the realization that certain people will take sides.

Sharing With Your Outer Circle

Before any in-person get together, the best approach with not-so-close family and friends is to contact them by phone or email (sometimes a group email).  Don’t post an announcement to social media. This is an important and emotional time in your life and it should not be trivialized. 

Essentially state in your call or email that before they find out from someone else you and your spouse would like them to know personally that you are divorced/getting a divorce.  You don’t want to talk about the details right now, and you hope the person will respect your privacy and remain friends/in contact with both you and your spouse. 

Divorce can be very hard on friends and extended family because they aren’t close enough to the situation to know the whole story and may be hearing different versions from you and your spouse.  Although a lot of people try to stay neutral, they may not be able to due to their relationship with one spouse through business, club memberships, or they are that spouse’s long-term friend.  Expect to lose a couple of friends in this process – it is inevitable.

Talking To Your Inner Circle

Close family and friends may deserve a little more detail, especially if they are a confidant or a parent, but keep the additional details to a minimum.  These people that were close to both of you will need time to process their feelings.  You may feel obligated to put a positive spin on the divorce. This could happen by stating this was a joint decision and you worked or are working through your issues amicably, or if the divorce is contentious with professionals. That may people the people close to you at ease, but it’s important to be able to share the truth with people you trust, so they can be there for you.

Communication With Your Professional Network

When a divorce happens or is on the horizon, people often forget more than just friends and family are affected.  You will likely need to tell your boss if you need time off to deal with the legal aspects such as meetings with lawyers, signing document or going to court. Your performance may drop a bit and it may be good to alert your supervisor, so they can give you some leeway while you adjust.

Being upfront, open and assuring him/her you will work around your normal work schedule as much as you can will reflect you have considered their needs during your process.  If necessary, nip co-workers in the bud by telling them you are divorced/divorcing, and request they respect your privacy by not gossiping about your personal life to others.

Speaking To Children

Those that have children will want to (jointly if possible) inform the other important adults in their children’s lives such as teachers, doctors, counselors and babysitters.  These individuals are important positive support to your child(ren) while they adjust to the new changes in their life.  Knowing more about your divorce, including any special visitation or custody arrangements, will help them deal with any behavioral changes that may result.

General Interactions

Be prepared for the questions and unsolicited advice.  Some people respectfully keep their distance and let you tell your story as you are ready.  Others will pry with 20 very personal questions and regale you with the facts of their own divorce or horror stories they have heard from others. 

Remember, the purpose of telling people about your personal life is to gain support.  Keep your conversation about your divorce short by letting them know how they can help you such as talking about it later privately on the phone, or flat out just respecting your privacy.  If you find yourself a victim of a relentless interrogation, gracefully deflect, deflect, deflect. 

People love to talk about themselves so simply turn the conversation back around with something like, “Speaking of family how is yours?” or “We have all had a lot of new changes lately.  So, what is new with you?”  Don’t allow yourself to be goaded into sharing more than you are interested in having them know.

Lastly, if you have any questions about divorce or separation, you can reach us at our office in SeattleTacoma, or Olympia.

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