I believe the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.-Joyce Meyer
Are you a TMI person? Someone who shares everything until people respond with “Too Much Information!” Or, are you someone who lives life with a poker face, hiding your true feelings and passionately guarding your privacy? Most of us tend towards one or the other. But when you begin the process of divorce, you might want to think about your natural tendency to over or under-share when it comes to telling your friends and family about the divorce.
One of the hardest phases of divorce is letting people know when you’re getting a divorce. Do you communicate everything up front and in detail? Or is it better to keep most things to yourself? There’s no hard and fast rule, but it’s helpful to think about it before simply diving in. Being strategic and thoughtful in your communication with friends and family will help them to know how best to help you through the journey ahead.
It is just strange not knowing what to say. I’m usually very private, but I can also be transparent at the same time if someone close to me asks what is going on. It’s much easier for me when someone simply asks me what happened, than the awkward feeling of not knowing how much to share.
Assess your own needs. Spend some time determining what kind of support would feel most helpful. The AVAIL pillars will help you think through the different parts of your life and where you might be the most vulnerable if you share too much, too fast.
Think about boundaries.
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them.
If you think about and set boundaries in advance you will have a good sense of when a friend or family member is overstepping those boundaries in terms of either extreme but unwanted helpfulness, or pointed criticism or negativity.
Consider who needs to know and when.
This will help you control and communicate the message effectively. Your audience will vary. It might include your children, parents and grandparents, friends, extended family, boss or direct reports, parents of children’s friends, and mutual friends with whom you would like to remain friends. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone at once.
Develop a plan to reveal the news.
Be thoughtful about how you reveal to your close group of family and friends about divorce. Interact face-to-face with those who will be impacted the most – children, parents, and your close coworkers. A phone call might be needed for those who are long distance. If you want to tell everyone in your world all at once, social media might be an option. However, consider not allowing comments on your post; this helps you avoid answering questions which you are not ready to answer in a larger, more public forum.
Be open about what information is okay to share.
Don’t be afraid to let your family and friends know what is, and is not, okay to share with others who might not know about your divorce. Here are two ways to handle the flow of communication: “This news is really hard for me to share, so I would really appreciate if you could spread the word.” Or, “this is a really difficult and challenging time for me, so I would appreciate you keeping this to yourself for now.”
This is your news to share on your terms. Letting your friends and family know your wishes will help them to help you.
Your divorce is not only going to affect you and your future, but it will impact your children, your immediate and extended family, and your friends. The news may also ripple outwards, depending on the extent of your family and community connections, affecting many others as well.
An amicable split might mean that you and your ex can break the news together, having discussed beforehand how and when you will share. But in a tense situation, your ex may be sharing the news in a different way. You’re allowed to tell the story your way, and don’t feel like you need to answer questions you aren’t comfortable answering. You get to decide how much or how little to share, in any situation that you find yourself in.
As common as divorce is, it nevertheless remains an under-discussed topic in our society. The stigma and shame of divorce is not as great for most people as it used to be, but it’s still around and may be impacting your feelings, even if you don’t subscribe to the idea that divorce is “bad.” (Reminder: divorce is neither bad nor good; it’s just a common reality that many/most married people will face in their lives!) So you may be impacted by a sense of stigma, whether real or imagined.
If you’re feeling ashamed of your divorce or stigmatized by it, it’s important to remind yourself that divorce is not a moral issue. Unless you belong to a fairly extreme community, divorce is not a moral failure nor even a failure at all; it’s the solution to a dysfunctional relationship–and the flaws in that relationship were the problem. Not you.
Shame is one of the most destructive emotions we can feel. It cuts us off from our shared humanity–we all make mistakes, we all have better and worse times in our lives–and it prevents us from growing and learning and creating new, happier lives.
If you can relate to this, please try to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. The majority of marriages do NOT last forever! Divorce is normal. Give yourself credit for taking responsibility for your own happiness and wellbeing. Shame and stigma have no place in the divorce conversation. If anyone tries to tell you differently, that’s their issue–not yours.
Letting people know what is or isn’t comfortable for you to talk about will help them understand how to interact with you. Friends and family may need time and space to process the information, however, so be sensitive to their own individual and unique comfort levels, too.
Create a plan for who you want to tell, in what order, and what you are planning to say. You may even want to write down what you want to say and practice it in advance. This can make you a little more comfortable and keep you from sharing more than you want to.