Because marriage is so significant, divorce can be equally devastating. Our lives are often turned upside down in the process. The way our life looks seems so much different from what we’d planned on. And it seems every person we talk to about it has something different to say.
Even though it is hard to share with others, communicating the reality of our divorce with those in our lives is necessary. It brings understanding to friends and family, helps you process your thoughts and feelings around your separation, helps children adjust and heal and allows you to make good decisions moving forward. Remember, it’s your life; what you share and how you share it with others is up to you. But there are some things to remember when communicating with others. Here are a few tips for healthy conversations about divorce.
Communication Differs from Person to Person
When divorce moves from the possible to the inevitable, it becomes imperative that we share this with others. It’s rarely easy. The reaction will be different with each person. And we can never predict what that will be. It’s nerve-wracking sometimes to try to prepare yourself for every outcome. This really isn’t possible, and it’s exhausting. The important thing is that you are being honest with those you love and respect, that you are letting them in, offering them a chance to be an important part of your grief, your healing process, and your growth.
Understand, though, that you don’t and shouldn’t share exactly the same way with every person. What you share with colleagues and work acquaintances will differ significantly from what and how you share your divorce with your closest friends and members of your family. Some people need more details, more story, because they have more direct influence in your life. Others just need the facts, simply so they can understand a measure of what’s going on, why things are changing, and so they can respect this phase of your journey. This allows them to be present for you when you need it and give you space when you ask for it.
Valued colleagues that we work with are often genuinely concerned with our well-being. But since they’re not as close as a dear friend or sibling, they may not know how to behave around us or talk about it. In your own time, try to open a short dialogue with them in private if it is someone you want to invite in. Share only what you want and give them a chance to ask a few questions. Allowing them a measure of this lets them know that you value your connection and want support. Be careful not to throw around your news loudly and indiscriminately with everyone. People enjoy gossip. And the office is a hotbed for it. It’s likely the news will get around, eventually. It always does. But sharing sincerely with those you trust allows it to come out more naturally, with decency and self-respect.
Communicating with your children is often the most difficult, as your divorce will affect them the most. Divorce not only changes your life forever, but your children’s lives. They will have to deal with split homes, shared custody, different ways of parenting and living, changes in resources and finances, moving, school changes, and a lot of confusion and questions from their friends.
Think about what you’re going to say to them, but don’t take too long. If possible, it is healthiest if both you and your spouse can sit down together to discuss it with your kids. They will get a clearer picture of things, and understand more easily that you both love them and have their well-being in mind, even as things get more difficult for a while.
Allow your kids to express their thoughts and emotions freely. It’s normal for feelings to get big and loud at times. Children are naturally angry when their parents separate. As confused as we are about our own divorce sometimes, our kids are fighting for answers and longing to recover a sense of equilibrium and peace in a life that suddenly feels chaotic.
Be ready to discuss their concerns when they arise. Be honest with them and reassure them of your love. Don’t bad-mouth your ex during these interactions. They still love both of you, need both of you, and long to maintain a healthy, happy bond with each parent.
Because of shifting dynamics and differing levels of intimacy, it often seems more perilous to share our divorce with certain family members than it does with others. Those who love us the most also have the power to hurt us the most. It usually isn’t intentional, but when we’re that close, things often get said and done that leave us feeling drained, hurt, offended, and alienated.
Family members invest in our relationships, too. They have their own feelings about your marriage and your divorce, and about what you should do in the future. It’s important to remember that you aren’t required to satisfy their every need or answer every question. If they respect and love you, they will give you space when you request it. Share the truth of your life and separation the way you want, whether it’s one on one with each individual or in a group setting, with several family members present. It depends on the level of your relationship with them. It also depends on their history of either respecting and supporting you during troubled times or tearing you down even more.
Honesty is always the right way to go. This doesn’t mean you share every detail. It’s your life, not theirs. But being vulnerable and honest allows them a greater inroad to be the support you need. It also leaves less room for speculation, which is where confusion breeds gossip, poor assumptions, and severed relationships.
Give them the information and openness they need to be a source of strength in your life. Always remember, though, that no matter the expectations or disappointments of your family members, your life is your own. You shouldn’t try to keep them happy by changing your mind, hiding your true thoughts or feelings, or doing what others think. Family should be both loving and truthful. These two together make for healthier family bonds and faster, more complete healing following divorce.
Though it isn’t always what we choose, finding a good counselor is often a wonderful choice during this time. They not only help us understand ourselves and our choices better, but bring perspective to our divorce, and help us see the hope that lies ahead.
And when it comes to communicating, counselors can offer better ways to share your divorce with your kids, your friends and with others in your life, giving you the tools you need to navigate tricky conversations, varying levels of intimacy, and the genuine concerns of those who love you.
On top of this, don’t hesitate to connect with older, trusted individuals in your life. Mentors with decades of life experience can be an invaluable resource. They not only understand things from personal experience, but often have more patience and wisdom than some younger folks too close to our marriage to see things clearly.
Remember, it is your life and your story. You deserve to share it the way you want with others. Be wise about your communication, but never shut people out. It only breeds misunderstanding and confusion for them and loneliness and isolation for you. Healthy communication leads to better relationships, healthier grieving, and more complete healing.
Torrone Law loves helping families find wholeness again. We walk with you during this time to bring understanding, closure, and the legal guidance you need to move forward into a better future. Contact us today to get started.
For answers about communicating your divorce with others, check out our frequently asked questions below.
How important is sharing my divorce with others?
The short answer is “very important.” But it is a lot more layered than that. Every relationship in your life is different, with varying levels of intimacy and history. Sharing all the details with everyone indiscriminately is not a great plan. It’s best to be open and vulnerable with those who are closest to you, the ones who are most affected by your divorce, and the ones that have a long history of caring for you selflessly. It is your story to tell, and up to you to determine how much you want to share with each person.
How do I communicate my divorce with my kids?
Divorce affects kids almost as much as us, sometimes more. They are thrown into a time of loss, confusion, multiple changes and various judgements from others. They may have to change schools, homes, life patterns, friends, and be forced to adjust to a new family unit.
It’s important to be as honest with your kids as possible. Invite them to share their feelings and thoughts openly, without judgment. Give them consistent space to come to you with concerns and reassure them of your love and care often.
Be sure to focus on maintaining healthy, open communication with your ex if possible and don’t bad-mouth them in front of your kids. They need to see both of you respecting one another and working together for your children’s well-being.
What kind of help should I seek when trying to figure out how to communicate my divorce?
A great place to start is with a good family counselor. They’ll help you make sense of your emotions and thoughts, give you ways to work through pain, help you make healthy decisions, and coach you toward better patterns and communication with your family.
Also, try to find a few trusted mentors, a few good friends or acquaintances who are older and have some experience in this area of life. Look for individuals with a level head, calm demeanor, measured advice, speak objectively, and have an overall positive and hopeful outlook for your future.