When I first realized that my marriage was not going to survive, I didn’t want to tell family or friends I was getting a divorce. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I had been determined not to be one of those divorced people that I always felt sorry for, but never knew what to say to. I hated to face the fact that eventually, I had to figure out how to tell people about our divorce.
Most of my extended family and close friends figured out that my then husband was involved with someone else. He kept telling me he wanted to end it or was going to end it or had ended it. So for three years I kept thinking, “We can fix this! We can make our marriage stronger than ever.” Then, I would never have to tell anyone that we were getting a divorce.
The only trouble was, My ex couldn’t give up his girlfriend, and it was a little more than three awful years from when I first found out about the girlfriend until we were actually divorced.
So, for me, it wasn’t so much that I had to figure out how to tell parents about the divorce or tell close friends about the divorce as much as finally telling everyone, “I give up! I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get my heart crushed one more time! I’m filing for divorce.”
Telling Your Family
Some couples tell their children together about the coming divorce. Our children knew about the girlfriend. They were on board with me giving their dad all those opportunities to change. Until they weren’t. We tried one family counseling session with a therapist to lay the groundwork for the last attempt at reconciliation. My then husband didn’t say a word during the whole session. My oldest son first asked the therapist what his credentials were, and then asked how he was going to help me if his dad did this again? I guess none of them thought a reconciliation would work.
My primary family was very supportive and encouraging during my whole separation and divorce trip. His family were all very supportive, too. As in-laws, we had loved each other for more than 35 years. Everyone was surprised and disappointed by the whole thing. My mother-in-law cried every time we talked. Your ex will most likely tell his family, and you never know how he will frame the story. Families usually rally around their own, no matter what. Divorce is hard, regardless of how it happens or how you finally tell your family, or his, about the divorce.
Be Straightforward & Honest
One of the things we talk about in our Midlife Divorce Recovery resources is deciding how to tell family and friends about your divorce. There is a lot of chatter going on around the breakup. People are talking about it. Hearing different stories. They want to know. Be ready to answer the questions.
When you’re trying to figure out how to tell someone you’re going through divorce, you need to prepare and practice. Early on, when I ran into someone at the store or the post office and they said, “Hey, what’s going on with you guys?” Or if it was an acquaintance, and they had no idea and simply asked, “Hey, how’s it going?” I almost always ended up in tears. At first, I couldn’t talk about our divorce without crying.
Think seriously about how you want to tell friends and family you’re getting a divorce. I made lots of mistakes early on. I said things I shouldn’t have. Here are my rules now (after many years of helping women get through divorce more gracefully than I did).
The first rule is be honest. I realize now that God gives us a little window of opportunity to say the truth about our divorce, but also to nudge people in the direction of hope and encouragement instead of bitterness and anger. Don’t be ugly and make people think, “Boy, I think I’ll steer clear of her from now on!”
You might try something like this when you’re telling friends and family about the divorce: “(My husband) made some choices that made it impossible for us to stay married. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever been through, and I’m unbelievably sad about it — but I know God has something good planned for my future, and I intend to find it.”
Practice your response so that when you unexpectedly bump into someone who doesn’t know, you aren’t caught off guard.
How Much Should You Share?
When telling people about your divorce, It’s not necessary to give all of the gory details of how you found them in bed together or how she confronted you in the parking lot or all the other dirty soap opera details. That doesn’t do anyone any good. You may want to tell those things, but don’t! (And by the way, every time we say those words out loud, it further imprints them on our brain!)
Telling Your Friends
It’s different how you tell book club friends or people at church that you have known for 20 years about the divorce and how you tell the parents of your kids’ friends. Our youngest child was in middle school and high school during all of the “fireworks” as he calls that awful time. He was in lots of school sports and activities. We were close to all those parents and families we sat in the stands with every week. We also had friends from decades of my ex’s professional life. We were the couple everyone admired, had fun with and even looked up to! It was heartbreaking to even think about telling all these different friends about our divorce.
Peripheral friends, neighbors and acquaintances are sometimes the hardest to tell. They were almost always incredulous that we were divorcing. Often, our ex is saying things like, “We just drifted apart and this is going to be best for both of us.” I wanted to scream, “NO! We didn’t drift apart! You drifted to a girlfriend for three years and broke up our family!” (Learn what to say to a friend going through divorce).
Losing Friends Because Of Divorce
Divorce is hard on friends. They often don’t know the whole story. They may be hearing different stories from him and from you. Sometimes, they need to stay friends with your ex because of business referrals. In my case, most of our long-term friends were because of his profession. We had been through school together, and started in practice at the same time. He still had all of those professional connections. Sadly, I was the odd woman out.
A lot of people try to stay neutral. Friends didn’t want to invite me to something and hurt him, or hurt me by inviting him to a party. So sometimes, they don’t invite either one. We get complicated.
Often, because of financial reasons, your ex keeps the basketball tickets, the theatre tickets and the country club affiliations (and the friends there). Most divorced women can’t afford those things no matter how good the alimony is…especially if you were a stay-at-home mom.
So, it is often the wife who loses the most friends in the long run. That’s why it’s important to reconnect with old friends and stay connected with at least the wives of couple friends. After divorce, creating new friend relationships is really important. Our MDRcommunity connects women to other women from all over the world who are also going through divorce. They become virtual (but very real) friends and cherished compatriots on the road.
Telling Colleagues & Co-Workers
Believe it or not, colleagues and co-workers can provide important support during divorce. Co-workers can be there for you because they usually do not have any allegiance to your ex. I would encourage you to share what’s going on in your life with your managers and bosses. They can help tremendously during this challenging time. I also tell business groups the importance of flexibility and understanding for employees navigating the overwhelming trip of divorce.
How Will People Respond?
Be prepared for different responses when you are telling others about your divorce. How people respond usually depends on how we tell the story of our divorce. If we are furious, people will more likely respond in anger, too. If we tell friends about the divorce with grace and sensitivity, they will be more likely to mirror that. Sometimes I wanted people to just listen and be supportive and invite me to get a cup of coffee or have lunch or remember that I’m struggling, and stay in touch.
Some of the most common questions friends and family have about your divorce:
- What happened?
- How long has this been going on?
- Who is the other woman?
The better questions are …
- How are the kids doing? How can we help?
- How are you doing? How can we help?
Often, when you tell someone you’re going through divorce, unless they have been through it themselves, they don’t really understand how your heart is feeling. Some can be helpful. Others can say some very unproductive things like …
- You’re better off without him!
- Just get over it! He’s not worth it!
- Move out of state. It’s easier.
- Start dating. It helps with the loneliness.
- Just pray about it.
(Learn what to say to a friend going through a divorce)
I try to be a God-follower. I realize that everyone is somewhere on that road of figuring out what they believe about a Higher Power or Something Bigger than us, or a specific idea of a personal God. I encourage people going through divorce to use this time to think deeply about their religious beliefs and practices.
Some spiritual groups have strong, sometimes inflexible ideas about marriage and divorce. Some believe that it’s wrong to get a divorce on any grounds except infidelity. In my opinion, there are a lot of ways to be unfaithful in your marriage. Any kind of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, substance abuse) is infidelity to your promises to love, honor and cherish your spouse. Divorcing as a Christian presents its own set of challenges. Read more about Christian divorce recovery.
Should I Announce It On Social Media?
In my opinion, even thinking about how to announce your divorce on Facebook is not necessary. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I was so devastated about my divorce, that any kind of social media announcement would have been trivializing a heartbreaking loss. I can’t even imagine a tweet or Facebook message that would have expressed my despair about all of the losses of my divorce. This is just my opinion, but some things in life should not be trivialized on social media.
Some Closing Thoughts
Close friends and family probably know the truth about your divorce story, but casual friends and acquaintances usually don’t. I wanted everyone to know I didn’t want the divorce. Don’t say things that hurt or make things difficult for your kids, and don’t come across as a vengeful, bitter, ugly woman. After hearing about our divorce, we want people to walk away from us saying to themselves, “she’s a good, gracious woman.”