Divorce happens. A lot. Yet it’s still hard to share the “news.”
Divorce is hard. Even a fairly amicable one. One of the first (outwardly) difficult parts includes breaking the news to those you friends and/or family members you know and love.
After you’ve told your kids (if you have them), who do you tell about the end of your marriage next? At what point during the divorce process should you tell people? And how exactly do you tell people about a life change you may not be ready to discuss in detail?
No two divorces are alike, and the answers to these questions are different for everyone. But I thought it could be helpful to round up some advice – including “do’s” and “don’ts” to consider – for those of you who are struggling with these very questions right now.
Here are 5 pieces of divorce advice from my colleagues and clients that may help you navigate the end of your marriage and how to tell the people you love.
1. Don’t be scared of the reactions, because they may be better than you thought
“My advice is tell whoever you want and keep talking until you find the support you need. I didn’t tell my parents and family for five miserable months. They ended up being my biggest support.” – Sarah*
I hear this time and again from past and current clients. Sometimes outside factors or opinions or even the stigma that is still too frequently attached to divorce clouds our perspective.
Step back and reframe your situation as another piece of big, life-changing news – a big promotion at work, or maybe even a diagnosis of illness. Who would you share that news with?
Who would give you the reaction and the support you want? Chances are pretty good those same people will be right there by your side to give you the support you need through the divorce process.
2. Telling others about your divorce can yield helpful advice
“I would suggest that you do inform your immediate network about your divorce to (1) obtain referrals to qualified attorneys, and (2) start the pipeline for leads on future housing and job opportunities if currently unemployed.” – Spencer Schiefer, Schiefer Law Firm
This is a great point. If you feel ready to share, even selectively, your network will want to help, however they can.
Getting attorney referrals, housing and job leads from people you trust can save you time and energy.
And it will make those who you share with feel good that they were able to support you in a valuable way.
3. Be Mindful of your audience
“We had a friend whose ex-wife sent out a card with her new address announcing the divorce. The card said. ‘A change of a dress…’ and showed a picture of a new dress on a hanger. Her new contact information was inside. I think she was trying to be cute/funny, but we found it offensive as we were friends with her husband first and had become friends with her over the course of their marriage. I thought it was an offensive play on the concept of not just her change of address, but the change in their marital situation and her taste in her husband.” – Laura L.
There’s a key lesson here: Keep in mind that what might feel lighthearted to you might not come across that way to someone else.
Announce your news in the way that feels most appropriate to you, but do be prepared for unexpected negative feedback or feelings from people who may not understand your approach.
4. Keep it subtle
“I didn’t do a formal announcement. I did send out a Christmas card to my nearest and dearest that just had my daughter and me on it, rather than all three of us. So, people figured it out. And I send out Christmas cards every year, so it wasn’t a direct ‘f**k you’ to him.” – Vanessa Spencer
I really liked this one. Just a small change to something Vanessa did every year in sending Christmas cards to the people she cares about. Just as subtle: simply changing your social media status – or deleting any mention of relationship status on social media altogether.
5. Do think twice about going too public
“I would suggest that you don’t make broad announcements to the public, such as on public social media accounts, because even though a divorce is typically ‘public record,’ making a broad announcement could attract people and businesses that prey on divorcing couples. For instance, many businesses thrive on buying (and then flipping) houses from divorcing couples because the divorcing couple often needs or wants to sell fast. Giving out information about the divorce could suggest to buyers that the house is in distress, possibly resulting in low offers and less money.” – Spencer Schiefer, Schiefer Law Firm
Remember, this is your divorce. You call the shots.
You get to decide with whom and when to share your news. There are no wrong answers here. Just helpful things to think about.
When/if you do decide to share the news, keep in mind that first impressions matter – this is your chance to frame the way others think about your divorce, from the outset.
All said, I do hope you have someone you feel comfortable reaching out to with news about your impending divorce. This can be a difficult journey, and establishing a support system early on will help you navigate this process on stronger footing from the get-go.
Erin Levine is the Founder & CEO of Hello Divorce, a ‘Modern Break Up Service’ that offers a fresh, streamlined and less institutional (read: more humane) way to separate.
*name changed to protect privacy