I'm Getting Divorced. How Do I Share the News?
You've decided that a split is best for you, your ex and your kids. The conversation — and the tears and anger — happened in your own home, but now it’s time to share the news with your immediate family. This, understandably, can fill you with dread and a wave of nauseating butterflies.
Before you have the conversation, decide what you want to say and how you’ll say it. Try to keep it as short and sweet — and tactful — as possible.
And no, it’s not silly to practice what you’ll say in front of the mirror or with a close friend. Think of this as your opportunity to define how others view your divorce:
“Our split is amicable, and we wish each other well and are excited for our futures. Also, our kids love having one-on-one time with each of us.”
“We’re working toward a cooperative, non-confrontational divorce that results in the best outcomes for our family.”
When you share the news, you can tell your family upfront that you’d like them to stick to the topic at hand — and you can set a time limit on the conversation. You can even have a transition ready: “So what’s the latest on your home addition? Decide on a vacation destination yet?”
Some experts recommend first telling the family member who’ll be the most supportive, say your brother, before you tell everyone else. That might help set the stage for the rest of the conversations. Depending on how amicable your split, you and your ex might have this conversation with some family members and friends together.
However, be aware that there’s no guarantee to how people will react, so realize that whatever the response, it’s not a referendum on you or your decision.
“You’re destroying your family!”
This is an emotional reaction, but one that might result in unwanted, new scrutiny over your split, and even aspects of your life that they never commented on or cared about before. In addition, you might be surprised to find them taking your ex’s side, especially if you’re the one who initiated the split.
It’s OK to take small breaks from seeing them in person or sharing, to allow them and you to work through your feelings. Realize that a family member’s sudden insensitivity likely stems from difficulty working out their own feelings about your divorce. It’s perfectly fine for you to tell them you feel hurt and would like them to rethink their reactions.
“This totally goes against our religious beliefs!”
If your family has strong convictions that divorce is morally wrong, be prepared for lamentations, Bible verses and even pleas to visit your minister right now. It’s important to acknowledge that this is an emotional reaction. If you feel the need to seek a clergyperson’s counsel, do it because you want to — in addition, many places of worship offer support groups for those going through divorces and the newly split. If you feel like that will help you, definitely attend a meeting.
“I have a right to know what happened!”
We know it’s normal for your family to be curious and ask questions, but they don’t have the right to know the full story. You can set the boundaries for how much information you provide.
Be aware that your family will press you for details so they can try to talk you out of your decision. They might also ask if you’ve thought it through, leading you to second-guess yourself.
Tip: If you and your ex decide to get back together but you’ve spilled all the gory details about infidelities and fights, your family might have a hard time accepting or dealing with the reconciliation.
You might even want to prepare yourself — and your ex — for a phone call from one of your family members either to chew them out, be sympathetic, or even take sides. If your family has a cordial or great relationship with your ex, they’ll likely experience grief over the demise of your marriage.
Tip: Don’t expect them to sever ties with your ex, especially if you share children, to keep up as healthy a family dynamic as possible.
“I can’t believe that you’re doing this to me — and our family.”
Remember that when you tell your parents about your split decision for the first time, they’re going to experience a range of emotions, from anger to shock to fear to blame. The reality they knew, and most likely were comfortable with has suddenly and irrevocably changed. You should remember — and remind them — that first, you’re not doing “this” to anyone. Say, “I’m making the best possible decision for me and my children.” And whatever you do, don’t ever apologize for your decision.
“How can I help?”
Often, in times of perceived crisis, people will want to know what they can do and how they can help. It’s a good idea to think about this before these conversations.
Can you use extra childcare help? A lunch date once a week for a fun distraction? If you can steer the conversation toward “what’s next,” that will give your family and friends a more positive focus.
If you need assistance with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley & Lis can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.