You’re staring at the blank computer screen, unsure of what you should do. Is sending an email too cold? Maybe. But the thought of telling everyone you know you’re getting a divorce, one person at a time, makes you want to vomit. Isn’t there an easy way how to tell people you’re getting a divorce without either looking like a jerk or melting down into a blubbing mess in public?
How Do You Deal With What You Don’t Want to Discuss?
While your divorce may technically be no one else’s business, the truth is that a big chunk of your friends and family will make it their business. (Sorry!) Although you may get away with pretending nothing has changed for a while, eventually people are going to catch on.
They’re going to notice when you always show up at events alone.
They’re going to see you flinch when they casually ask, “So, what are you and [your spouse’s name] doing this weekend?”
In short: people are going to figure it out.
When they do, they’re going to want details. It’s just human nature.
While you’re definitely not obligated to give anyone a blow-by-blow description of how your marriage ended, it’s also foolish to think that you’ll be able to brush everyone off until you’re ready to talk about it.
Like it or not, people will talk.
The sooner you can craft something intelligent to say, the better off you will be.
Preparation is the Key
The problem with talking to other people about your divorce – especially at the beginning of your divorce – is that it’s just too damned hard! Your emotions are too raw. Your shame is too real. You’re not ready to “come out” to the world yet. Yet, ready or not, when the world figures your situation out, “they” will come to you!
Well-meaning friends and family will call, text, and email. Not-so-well-meaning neighbors and acquaintances will gossip.
No matter what you do, you’re not going to change any of them.
The key, then, is to make a pre-emptive strike. The sooner you can tell people you are getting a divorce AND communicate how you want them to handle it, the less painful your “divorce conversations” are likely to be.
To do that, though, you have to carefully prepare yourself in advance. You need to decide:
- What you want to say;
- How you want to say it; and
- Who you want to say it to.
What to Say
While saying, “X and I are getting a divorce” sounds simple and direct enough, the problem with that statement is that it’s TOO simple. When all you tell people is, “We’re getting a divorce,” you can expect to get a barrage of questions in response.
“OMG! I didn’t know anything was even wrong with the two of you! What happened?”
“I’m so sorry! Did [spouse’s name] cheat?”
“What are you going to do about the kids?”
All of those questions may be well-intended (or not!). The problem is: You don’t want to deal with them right now! And you especially don’t want to deal with them from people who barely even know you! (Trust me. THOSE are the people who will have THE MOST questions!)
In order to cut any conversation about your divorce short, you’ve not only got to communicate the facts (“I’m getting a divorce”), but you’ve also got to tell people what you want them to DO about the facts. (“I appreciate your support, and my family and I hope you can respect our privacy while we go through this difficult time.”)
The problem is, words like that don’t tend to spout out of us naturally. Instead of politely telling someone to mind their own business in the calmest and most sophisticated way, we’re much more likely to spit out, “We’re … we’re … we’re… (uncontrollable sobbing).”
That’s why crafting a short statement in advance helps.
When you’re not under the pressure of having to come up with a statement about your divorce on the spur of the moment, you can create a better one. A “better one” will end with a statement like:
“I understand this news may be surprising to you, but it’s come after a lot of soul-searching and work. It’s also not something I care to talk about any more right now.”
That statement doesn’t just tell people what’s happening. It also tells them you don’t want to talk about it. If they continue to ask questions after you tell them that, THEY are the ones being rude.
9 Ways How to Tell People You’re Getting a Divorce
Knowing WHAT to say is, of course, only the first part of your problem. Once you know what you want to say, you have go figure out HOW you want to say it.
In today’s world, there are more ways to communicate your divorce announcement than ever before.
1. Facebook (Subtle)
For most Americans over the age of 25, Facebook is still the social media platform of choice. It only makes sense, then, that you may be tempted to announce your divorce on Facebook. After all, with a single post you can reach dozens (maybe even hundreds or thousands) of “friends” at once.
But, coming right out and posting “We’re getting a divorce” can be a huge step. Thankfully, Facebook offers a more subtle approach.
Without making a public announcement of divorce you could simply, quietly, change your Facebook status from “Married” to “Divorced.” Or, if that’s still too dramatic, you could go from “Married” to “Separated” or “Complicated.”
The downside of this approach is that your status change could set off a barrage of direct messages and comments from concerned friends and family – which is pretty much exactly what you’re trying to avoid!
2. Facebook (Bold)
If you do craft a divorce announcement like the one mentioned above, posting that on Facebook can actually be reasonably productive. You will break the news to a lot of people at once. You will tell people what you want, and how you would like them to respond.
But if you think for one moment that your divorce post won’t trigger a small tsunami of messages and texts from those who see it, you’re kidding yourself. So, if you make this kind of post, prepare to spend the next few days dealing with concerned (or nosy) friends and family members.
Also, the absolute best way to post this kind of information is to prepare a joint statement with your spouse. Even in divorce, there’s strength in presenting a united front. If that’s not possible, you can always post the news alone.
Just remember one thing: Everything you post on Facebook can be used against you in court. So keep your post short, simple and clean! (… and after you’ve posted your notice, stay off social media for the rest of your divorce!)
3. Other Social Media.
If your friends and family don’t hang out on Facebook: No problem. The tips for posting divorce announcements on Facebook will work on other social media platforms, too. But, with the other platforms you also have other things you’ve got to remember.
YouTube gives you the opportunity to be super creative and make a divorce announcement video. While this can definitely be the most entertaining way of announcing your split, it can also be extremely awkward and tasteless. (Bottom line: I don’t recommend this!)
If you’re posting your announcement on Twitter, you’d better be concise. Even though Twitter has upped its character count to 280 characters, that still doesn’t leave you with a lot of room to wax poetic about the end of your marriage.
If Snapchat is your social media platform of choice, timing is everything. Since Snapchat stories only last 24 hours, you probably want to time the release of your divorce story based on when the biggest percentage of your family and friends are likely to see it. (Unless, of course, you don’t mind posting and re-posting and re-posting your story.)
4. Mass Email.
A less flashy alternative than announcing your divorce on social media is to send out a carefully crafted email to all of your friends and family. Doing this will be slightly more private than posting on social media. But, it, too, has its downsides.
First, if you send a mass email to a lot of people at once through your regular email provider you risk getting your emails tagged as spam. That means that a lot of people will miss it – which kind of defeats the purpose.
Of course, you could send individual (and individualized) emails to everyone you know. But custom crafting all those emails can be exhausting – especially if you have a big family or a lot of friends.
Regardless of how you do it, the biggest down side of the mass email approach is that your inbox will quickly be inundated with replies that you may not be ready to deal with. Even if you ask people NOT to reply, some people will! (It’s much easier to disregard what someone says in an email than it is to do it to their face.) So, if you take the email approach, just be ready to deal with what comes back!
5. Divorce Announcements (Yes. These are a real thing!)
Riffing off of wedding announcements, divorce announcements are a formal (?) way to let your family and friends know about your divorce.
These announcements can be particularly useful in telling people that your divorce is final. Unfortunately, they’re not designed to let people know that you’re in the process of getting a divorce. So they’re really only useful once your divorce is behind you.
Greeting card universe features a wide assortment of divorce announcements. (They also offer “friend” cards. So if someone you know is getting a divorce and you don’t know what to do, you can send them a divorce card!).
If you do decide to send divorce announcements though, be careful! While most of them try to be funny, many border on the boundaries of bad taste. So if your friends and family are easily offended, this may not be the best way to break the news of your divorce to them.
6. Elevator Speech
An “elevator speech” is a short description of an idea, product, company, or person that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can immediately understand it. Elevator speeches are most often used in business. But they actually work surprisingly well in divorce, too.
A divorce elevator speech, like any other divorce announcement, should let people know that you are getting a divorce AND what you want people to do about it (e.g. respect your privacy). Most importantly, your speech should be SHORT! If it takes longer than two minutes, it’s too long.
Finally, to be effective, you need to write your divorce elevator speech in advance. That will allow you to craft your message carefully, and to keep it short. Then memorize your speech and PRACTICE it! (Yes, you’ll feel silly talking to yourself in the mirror. Do it anyway.)
Telling someone you are getting a divorce is emotional. Practicing in advance will help normalize what you’re saying, and will make saying it easier.
7. Christmas Cards (Subtle & Bold)
Just like there are two approaches to announcing your divorce on Facebook, there are also two approaches to announcing it in Christmas cards.
If you’re taking the subtle approach, you can include a family photo of you and your kids – but not your spouse – in your Christmas card. Then you sign the card with just your name and your kids’ names. People will usually get the point. (Although they could think your spouse died!)
Or, if you choose a more direct approach, you can include in your card a pre-written statement of what your family did in the past year:
“This year was a busy one for our family. X and I divorced, we both moved to new houses, and the kids are adjusting well.”
Again, this approach is not for everyone. But, because people are usually busy during the holidays and because snail mail takes longer to arrive than social media posts, you probably won’t be bombarded by all your friends responding to you at the same time.
8. Face to Face
Nothing beats telling people you are getting a divorce face-to-face. Of course, this is also the hardest way to do it. It’s emotional and time consuming. When you are first starting your divorce journey, having one-on-one conversations about your divorce with anyone can be beyond challenging.
Even still, face to face conversations are the best way to break the news of your divorce to anyone who is close to you. The key to keeping them positive and productive is timing.
If you try to have any kind of a conversation about divorce too soon, you’re either going to be a blubbering mess, or you’re going to be spitting mad. Your emotions are too raw for you to be anything else.
That’s okay if the people you are talking to are your very closest friends and family. If you’re trying to have a face to face conversation with anyone else, it’s probably best to wait until your emotions have settled down a bit and you can talk about your situation without totally falling apart.
9. Get a Gatekeeper
It may sound a little bit unusual, but, if you have a good friend or two who you can rely on, having them help spread the news for you can save you a lot of pain.
You can delegate your friend(s) as “gossip gatekeepers” for you. Their job will be twofold:
1. To tell those people who you want them to tell, that you are getting a divorce. (NOTE: It’s NOT a good idea to let them run their mouth off to the world. They should only share the news with the people who you ASK THEM to share it with!); and
2. To shut down other gossiping folks when they hear them talking about your divorce. Saying something like, “Yes, (Insert your name here) is getting a divorce. S/he is really not up to talking about it right now. I’m sure you will agree to respect his/her privacy, right?” tends to be fairly effective.
(If getting a gatekeeper to spread your news seems like you’re cheating or wimping out, don’t worry. While I wouldn’t recommend having your gatekeeper tell your family or close friends about your divorce, there is nothing wrong with enlisting a little help in dealing with others.)
Who to Tell You’re Getting a Divorce
Who you tell you are getting a divorce depends on two things:
- Where you’re at in your divorce process; and
- How private you are.
The earlier you are in your divorce journey, the fewer people you will probably want to talk to about your divorce. Not only is talking about the end of your marriage so much more painful in the early stages of your divorce, but it’s also very emotionally draining.
With everything else you’re going to have to be dealing with when you start your divorce, dealing with too many other people is likely to push you over the edge.
So, in the beginning, you’re probably only going to want to share your news with those who are closest to you. As your divorce progresses, you may want or need to widen the circle of those who know what’s going on. Once your divorce is over, that circle will grow even more.
Eventually, the only people who won’t know you’re divorced will be the people who don’t know you at all right now.
Your sense of personal privacy also plays a role in who, when, and how to tell people you are getting a divorce.
If you are a very private person, you may not feel comfortable sharing your news with anyone except your closest friends. Ever.
On the other hand, if you’re not so private you might not care whether you talk about your divorce to others. And, if you are fairly well known in your area, you may not need to talk about your divorce with anyone, because everyone will already know anyway. (Yes. This can suck! But, on the upside, at least you won’t have to have those conversations yourself!)
The bottom line when it comes to talking about your divorce is that: It’s up to you.
While there will always be people sniffing around for good gossip, you certainly don’t need to encourage their behavior. Who you tell, what you tell, and how to tell people you’re getting a divorce is, in the end, only your business.