Perhaps nothing will make your decision to divorce seem as final as when it’s time to go public with your intentions. Your announcement will be met with mixed reactions depending on your relationship with each person you tell, their awareness of the situation, and personal beliefs. You will have to decide who needs to be told and what they need to know.
Are you ready to do this? Alright. Take a deep breath, and I will walk you through some of what you may expect from this prickly phase of the divorce process.
Who will you tell first? Most likely you will want to spread the news to your closest friends and family first. You may have already made some aware that you were unhappy, going to counseling, or they may have even been a witness to some of your marital discord.
I told my mother when my ex-husband and I started attending counseling that our relationship was in big trouble. I wished for some support and comfort to help me through a difficult time. I suspected what the fate of my marriage would be, so I wanted to start softening the blow for the final step.
A friend of mine waited to call her parents until the final decision had been made because she felt bad troubling her family and was embarrassed to share all that had been happening because she assumed it would eventually work out. She was also afraid to share too many gritty details of her marriage’s decay because, assuming they would stay together, she didn’t want her family to harbor any ill will against her husband. In hindsight, she wishes she would have brought them into the loop sooner.
I waited to tell co-workers last because I didn’t feel it was necessary for them to know until major changes in my life occurred, such as a name change, moving, or court dates. I have come to see many of my colleagues as extended family, so I probably would have told them sooner had I realized how much support they could offer me.
Which one of you will tell who? Obviously we each told our own family members. It became clear very quickly that relationships were somewhat territorial. My ex clamored to tell everyone he could as soon as possible and to “claim” people for himself. I understood that some friends or family would stand behind whichever of us they knew first out of loyalty to family ties or longstanding friendship.
I let him announce to whomever he wanted “his” people, but I did contact the ones I felt closest to. I clearly lost many people in my divorce because he has a large family and we lived in what was his hometown. They had first “claim” on him, and I respected that some people had more of a reason to continue to be associated with him than me. I am happy to still be connected to some people that were originally more “his” than mine who simply valued our relationship and don’t care to take sides.
The only joint announcement we made was to our children. I was the most anxious about this conversation because I knew it would usher in a new life for them. My daughter was only 5, so she had no comprehension of what we were telling her, and was unaffected. My son was 7 and at least knew what the word “divorce” meant; but, it took him quite a while (and for some of the major steps to begin falling into place) before he processed it.
How will they react? You will probably receive a mixed bag of hugs and sympathy with shock and disgust. It really depends on where each person is at in their own life, their connection to you, and their perception of the events. It is true when they say that you will learn who your real friends are and who is really there for you. I found myself shocked and surprised by many of the reactions – some pleasant, and some devastating.
I had many co-workers and friends rally around me with great sympathy, friendship, and support. They offered to help me in any way possible and were very understanding when I needed to talk, cry, or be angry for a moment. These interactions gave me great strength and warmed my heart. I will never forget the kindness and wisdom I was given during these very low moments.
I was most shocked to learn how my own family would react. As previously mentioned, I started to tell my mom about our problems when we reached the point of going to counseling. Her response was a stinging slap in the face to me. She scolded me for even considering divorce when I had two children involved, was approaching 40, and would surely never find anything better! I shared graphic details with her of what I endured in my marriage to assure her that my intentions weren’t on a whim; but, apparently, she would rather see her daughter suffer unspeakable misdeeds than break that covenant.
As much as I wanted my family’s support and approval, I never achieved it. Six years later and my parents and an aunt still will not speak to me. I was tortured by their reaction but found my resolve to proceed with my divorce because I was certain that my marriage would kill me and I had to make a better life for my children.
I regret losing my parents in my divorce, but I have no regrets about divorcing. Their loss is collateral damage in my personal war. Losing my parents was no more desired than losing my marriage (and just as painful), but I concluded that I was the one living my life and had to live it as best for me.
What’s necessary to share? Most people can’t help but want to know why you are divorcing. Even if they don’t come right out and ask, you know they’re thinking it. Only share what you feel you need to with each person depending on what you think they really need to know. Most really don’t need it, and you sharing it just provides fuel for the rumor mill.
Other people feel compelled to assign blame to one spouse or the other. Sure, one person might be more responsible, but usually, it’s a joint effort. They can usually connect the dots and figure out what motivates the divorce based on things they have heard and seen.
Think about your motivation to share. Is it just to inform? Is it for pity or to establish yourself as the victim and your ex as the villain? Emotions are raw right now, so it’s easy to act and talk from an emotional rather than logical place. You may overshare or say things you wish you hadn’t later. Divorce details are tasty gossip fodder, so consider what you want the general public or your children, to be privy to about either you or their other parent.
I have only told my mother all of the graphic details of my ex’s actions that led me to seek a divorce. I am too disgusted and ashamed to tell anyone else what I lived through. All that anyone else needs to know about are the surface symptoms of the deeper problem, which were unpleasant enough on their own!
You are about to have some uncomfortable conversations. In some ways you may feel relief, knowing that you are one step closer to this reality and that the painful secret you have been keeping is now out in the open. Give some thought to what you want to say, to whom, and when. Consider the impact of your news on others and how they are likely to react or be affected by it. Be prepared for outpourings of love and concern, as well as rejection and anger from others. Once you accomplish this task, you are well on your way to starting to regain your life!
Audrey Cade is the author of ” Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision ” and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step-parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology.