If there’s one thing that truly makes an impending divorce feel real, it’s announcing it to everyone you know. Who do you need to tell? How should you tell them? You’ll likely spend a lot of time and energy worrying about this – that’s natural. It’s exhausting and it’s stressful, but it’s a necessary part of the process, unfortunately.
The best way to set yourself up for success? Take on the leadership role. To be a leader in your divorce means that you’ll identify the people closest to you for support, you’ll communicate what you need and expect from them, and you’ll always keep your messaging simple and positive.
Identify your inner and outer circle: No, you don’t have to tell everyone you know that you’re splitting from your partner. But who do you need to tell? To help you figure out who is closest to you, picture a bullseye with yourself in the middle. Working outwards from the centre, your inner rings might have your former partner, your children, your immediate family, and then your closest friends. In the outer rings, you’d likely put extended family and friends, as well as acquaintances, and business or school contacts. Your communication strategy will change based on where a person falls within the bullseye.
Prepare your communication strategy: Preparation is always key to reducing your anxiety. For each group of people that you’re sharing your news to, you should have the following:
● A prepared statement that is appropriate for that relationship
● Prepared answers to questions that they may ask
● A clearly defined list of asks you have of them:
○ How they can support you (emotionally and logistically)
○ Who they can share the news with (if anyone)
○ What you would like them to say to others
○ What they should do if questions arise
○ Overall tone of the message you would like to share
Keep your messaging simple and productive, rather than destructive: Before you let your fear or anger get the better of you, imagine how your attitude and words could influence the people who regularly interact with your children. How would you feel if you found out that someone said something to make your kids think that their dad was a bad guy? Keeping your message simple and positive will help you maintain control of how others perceive and talk about your family.
This might mean that your message is as simple as, “We have decided to separate and are going to divorce. We’re moving forward with a lot of respect for our family, and we’re focusing on what’s best for our children.” The more that you say, and the more people that you say it to, the more opportunity there is for misinterpretation and for unflattering things to work their way back to you and your children.
Stick to the high road and protect your priorities: Once you understand what your values and goals are and set your boundaries accordingly, remember that you have to be the one to protect them every single time someone tries to cross them. If your children’s wellbeing is your priority, then you should always speak about your former partner with positivity and respect, and you should never share details. When anyone asks you further questions, keep your answers short, sweet, and truthful. If they keep pressing you for more information, pull out your back pocket statement: “This is certainly the most challenging time I’ve ever been through, but we’re working through it. We have a lot of love, respect, and friendship, and we’re focusing on our children.” Resist the urge to discuss the details with anyone other than your therapist and your very closest friends.
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