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Your Divorce and Other People: Breaking the News

We may think that divorce is only an ordeal between two people, but in reality, it impacts many. Everyone from friends to family will feel differently once they find out you and your spouse are divorcing. But at this moment when you feel lowest, you’ll need your loved ones around you to support you. So it’s important to know how to break the news to other people. You can get ahead of any gossip and tell others in a way that makes you feel comfortable and in control. Here are some tips to help you.

Prepare Yourself

Before you tell anyone, you need to be comfortable with your new reality first. Don’t rush to talk if you’re not fully ready yet. Instead, think about the different ways you’re going to tell people your news; for example, the way you’ll talk to friends is very different from the way you talk to co-workers, so make a plan for each scenario. If you have a good relationship with your spouse, you might choose to tell your families together. When it comes to those at work, you might have to explain things in order to explain changes to your tax or healthcare status. Adopt a pragmatic tone for some conversations and more informal for others.

Set Your Mood

Your emotions may change every day, sometimes every hour. But it’s important to let others know where you stand when it comes to how you want your divorce to be seen. Is it amicable? Contentious? Was it a surprise to you? Define your divorce early on, so that when you explain your situation, you get to decide how much to discuss, and in what way. You might say “It was surprising to me, but I’m coping well,” or “It was a mutual decision, and we think this is the best choice for us both.”

Just the Facts

It’s tempting to let out whatever frustrations or sadness you might have with the divorce process, especially if your split was a hostile one. But for acquaintances or gossipy friends or family, it’s best if you don’t exaggerate or embellish details. Those who aren’t close to you might take your words literally. Air your anger or sadness with only your closest friends or family. They’ll understand your struggles best.

Don’t Blame

Sometimes, however, people assume that your brief frustrations mean that you hate your ex-spouse, and so start criticizing them to try to make you feel better. Even if you do dislike your ex, don’t give in to insults – instead, stay neutral. Say something like, “My spouse may have faults, but their good qualities are what I married them for. I’d like to move on.” If you resort to blame, you’ll never fully escape from your negative feelings. Plus, what you say could reflect badly on you, especially if your spouse stays civil about your marriage.

Be Brief

You might have many different reasons that you don’t want to tell the details of your divorce to people. Maybe a co-worker is too nosy and wants to spread gossip. Maybe you have a truly caring best friend but you don’t want to relive any pain just yet. Whatever the reason, you can keep things short with a simple “yes” or “no” answer to questions. This signals that you’re unwilling to talk, and most people will get the hint. If they persist, however, shut the conversation down by saying “I’m sorry, I’m not willing to talk about that at this moment.”

Be Ready for Reactions

People around you probably had many different opinions on your marriage, and your divorce will be no different. Some will be instantly sympathetic, others may mourn the idea of you two together and take time to accept your split. Ask for support from those you love, but be aware of their feelings towards your ex-spouse. Give them a chance to process the news. Remember, your marriage may have been troubled for a while, but looked perfectly fine to outsiders. Your divorce could be a shock to people. Ultimately, though, what matters in the end is how you feel. Stay firm even in the face of negative reactions. You’ll find that more often than not, people will get over their surprise and be there for you when you need it. And that will be a big help as you navigate your new future.


This is the second blog in the Your Divorce and Other People Series. For Part I, please click here:

Your Divorce and Other People: Answering Awkward Questions
For more information on this topic, please check our blogs on the Alpha Resource Center website:
Theres More Than One Right Way to Effective Communications


For further resources, go check out these links:

After a Divorce – How to Answer Questions from Curious Acquaintances and Friends
The Best Answer to Nosy Divorce Questions
Breaking the News About Your Divorce
How to Tell Others You’re Getting Divorced

©2019 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation

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