I’m Getting Divorced – How Do I Tell My Family?

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Telling people you're getting divorce can be painful and awkward. It's best to steer the conversation in a positive direction.
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Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Breaking the news of your separation or divorce to your parents, children, friends, and relatives can be awkward and painful. You may not even want to tell people at first in case there’s a chance you’ll get back together.

If, however, you are certain you’re ready to file for divorce, you have to tell people, and you may not know how. It’s natural to worry about your friends choosing sides, losing a positive relationship with an in-law, or getting unwanted advice.

When discussing your divorce with friends or relatives, steer the conversation in a supportive, positive direction. Here are some tips for sharing the news.

Talk To Your Children First

If you and your spouse have children, you’ll want to break the news to them first before they hear it secondhand from another family member. According to Parents.com, it’s best to present a united front and tell your child together. This is not a place to assign blame or show resentment. Make this conversation about your child’s emotional well-being by working together and using “we” statements.

Be ready for unexpected reactions and a lot of questions. All kids, no matter what age, will want to know how this affects them. You don’t have to have all the answers, but make sure they know they can talk to you, and that you encourage them to do so. Most importantly, remind them that you and your spouse will always love them, even if you’re not all living together.

Prepare A Factual ‘PR Statement’

During a corporate crisis, a company typically prepares a brief, factual public relations statement for the press about what’s happening. You need to take the same approach when you’re ready to start telling friends and relatives about your divorce.

Psychology Today recommends a positive statement that gives you strength, such as “It was a mutual decision and we’re both happier now,” or, “This is the best option for both of us and we wish each other well.” If things aren’t so amicable, you can say something like, “I want a fair, non-confrontational divorce and that’s what I’m working towards.”

This puts you in a favorable position when people inevitably start talking about your situation to others. Avoid criticizing your spouse, as this may backfire if the wrong person starts gossiping – the last thing you want is for the details of your split spreading where you don’t want them.

Let Your Friends And Relatives Know How To Support You

When someone breaks bad news, most people’s first reaction is to offer their condolences and support. It’s OK to tell your family and friends what you need from them and what part they can play in helping you through the divorce. You may need someone to watch your child when your spouse moves out, or maybe you just need some quality time with a friend. Whatever it is you require, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

On the other hand, you may find yourself overwhelmed with that one pushy friend or relative who insists on helping you when you don’t need or want it. Thank them for their offer, but draw the line and tell them you will reach out to them if and when you need their help.

End On A Positive Note

When you tell people you are getting divorced, keep the conversation short and simple, especially with acquaintances and coworkers. You may feel compelled to vent, but try to get out of the conversation before you say something you may regret later.

A lot of things happen during a divorce, and how you talk about your split may evolve as the situation progresses. You may feel comfortable sharing more details as the divorce progresses, which is perfectly fine. However, remember to remain positive and engage in conversations that are healthy and helpful to you.

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