Most often the question I hear from my clients is how do we tell our kids we’re getting a divorce? However, recently I had a client ask me, “How do we say to our friends we’re getting a divorce?” I thought that was an excellent question that I’m sure many people have thought about but probably just haven’t asked. Telling your friends that you’re getting a divorce can be scary and uncomfortable. But they can also provide some of the most generous support you may need going through this process. Having a support system while getting divorced is the most important thing, and for some people, that support system will be their closest friends, while for others, that may be their therapist, family, or an online support system. Especially when your support system is your friends figuring out how to tell them you’re getting divorced can be challenging. Here are a few tips about how to tell your friends you’re getting a divorce.
Talk with Your Spouse
First and foremost, it’s imperative to have a discussion with your spouse about what you’re going to tell people and when especially if they are joint friends. If it’s just a friend of yours that you know isn’t going to tell anyone else and you need to talk to them for support, that’s ok, however, if these are mutual friends you’ll want to talk it over with your spouse first so you can decide what are you going to tell people and when. Both parts of this are equally important. One of you may want to share more than the other does, and finding a place that you both feel comfortable about what you tell and what you don’t tell is important. Additionally, when you tell them can affect many things. First off, if you haven’t told your children yet, be very careful who you tell because it could get back to them, especially if they also have kids and your kids are friends. And before you say that won’t happen, trust me I’ve had clients it happened to. Furthermore, you’ll learn that everyone has an opinion (more on that later), and sometimes waiting until you’re partly or almost entirely through the divorce process can allow you and spouse to focus on what you want and make your own decisions without other people’s opinions sneaking in.
Be Honest, But Also Don’t Feel Like You Need to Tell Them Everything
You don’t want to lie to your friends, and you also don’t need to share everything that happened with your friends, well at least all of them. You may have that one best friend who you tell everything to, and they may know all of the intimate details of what happened and how you’re feeling. However, not everyone is that person. There are going to be many friends, especially ones you aren’t as close with who will want to hear everything that’s going on, more in a gossipy way than in a way that supports you. You do not have to share everything. It is ok to say to people I’m not going to talk about that and know that your true friends will be ok with that. And if they’re not going through a hard time such as a divorce, you’ll learn pretty quickly who your real friends are. Also, when you’re thinking about how much to tell people, think about whether this is someone you trust who won’t tell anyone else or are they going to share the information with anyone who asks.
It’s essential to set boundaries both with yourself and with your friends about what you’ll talk about, how you want them to talk about your ex and what you want to hear from them. I spoke already about what you want to tell and talk about with your friends, and it’s just as important to make sure that once you’ve decided that you set the boundary with them and be honest. Suppose they start asking questions or talking about something you don’t want to tell them then and ask that they change the subject. If they keep bringing it up, then maybe you don’t want to spend as much time with them. Additionally, it can be helpful to share with your friends how you would like them to talk about your ex. At the same time, there will be those times and those friends that you want to vent about your ex with over a bottle of wine you may not want to hear your friends bashing your ex, even if they are your ex, especially if you have a child(ren) together. Remember, your ex is also the mother or father of your child(ren), and how you talk about them with your friends can affect how you co-parent with them. Lastly, as I said before, everyone has an opinion on how you should go through your divorce, what you should agree to, and anything else you can think of. A technique that I like that use in my own life is to ask a friend whether they want my support or my opinion when we’re talking about something. This allows me to know the role I should play and also makes my friend think about what they’re looking for. You can be the one to set this boundary with your friends and tell them whether you’re just looking to vent or whether you want to hear their opinion.