I talked to everyone about my divorce.
The abruptness and the shock of it all seemed to manifest itself in an overabundance of thoughts and an inability to keep them to myself.
The clerk at the gas station learned why I trembled with anxiety every time I ran my debit card (because I was still afraid that my ex would somehow manage to drain my personal account). My coworkers heard about the latest information I gleaned from my still-legal-husband’s other wife’s blog (the description of them showering with monkeys in Uganda was a crowd favorite; you can’t make this stuff up). And my poor parents and the friend I lived with were subjected to pretty much every thought that pinball through my spinning mind.
I don’t recommend that approach.
In my case, the fallout from the verbal explosion was minimal. The mutual friends either jettisoned my ex immediately or I decided that they were not worth the effort. There were no children to get caught up in the web of oversharing. I didn’t join Facebook until after I had learned to keep my mouth shut. And, thanks to the wise encouragement of those around me, I never revealed his identity to those that didn’t already know him.
Many people react like I did and talk about their divorces too often, too openly or with the wrong people. Others decide that it’s all too personal and elect to clam up and hold it all in.
The best response is one in between, where you deliberately choose who to talk to about your divorce so that you get the support you need without the risk of additional drama or negative consequences.
Talk About Your Divorce With Impunity
Your journal – The absolute safest place to share all of your thoughts about your divorce is in a private journal. This is the one place where you can say anything (even the darkest thoughts and fears) without worrying about facing judgment. Just make sure that your journal is password-protected or locked if there are others around.
Your counselor, clergy or physician – These people are all professionals whose job is to help you. They are trained to be non-judgmental and required to keep your information confidential. Keep in mind that you may have to hunt around a bit to find people that seem like a good fit for you. But once you find them, don’t hold back. The more they know, the more they can assist you.
Supportive friends and family – You may have to test the waters a little bit to see who can listen sympathetically, offer the necessary guidance and keep your conversations private. Once you find these confidants, talk openly. They’re your cheerleaders and often your motivators.
Talk About Your Divorce With Some Caveats
Intimate strangers – I know it seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not. These are those people that you connect with briefly but deeply. You may meet on a plane, at an out-of-town bar or sitting in adjacent seats in a waiting room. You never exchange names or identifying details, yet the anonymity allows for a certain reckless vulnerability. In these situations, share as much as you wish about the emotional impact but withhold the particulars. Throughout, be mindful of the other person’s reaction. If they are asking questions or sharing their own circumstances, they are receptive. If they seem uncomfortable with the exchange, it’s time to move on.
Blogs and internet support groups – These can be a lifesaver when you don’t have an in-person support group or you are looking for others who have experienced similar situations to your own. These are similar to the intimate strangers in that you get to know them very well in some ways and not at all in others. Again, refrain from sharing identifying details or names of others involved (it’s up to you if you want to share your real name). In addition, be mindful of the tone of any groups that you’re joining and strive to stay within their cultural norms.
More judgmental friends and family – These are the people that love you and want the best for you, but they don’t necessarily “get” you. They may respond to your cries with, “Everything happens for a reason” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Your frustrations with your ex might be met with, “I never did like them. What did you expect?” They mean well, but their perspectives and responses can hurt more than help in the short term. Feel free to censor what you share with them to avoid unnecessary grief.
Attorneys – Obviously, when it comes to the legal aspects, tell your lawyer everything. But the emotional? It’s best to keep it to a minimum. Oh, they’ll listen. But you’ll end up paying. Literally.
Talk About Your Divorce With Caution
Social media – If it’s online, assume it can and will be read by everyone. If you’re still in the process of divorcing, err on the side of caution and say nothing. Social media excerpts are quite commonly used now in divorce and custody cases. After the legal proceedings are finalized, you can share some information. But be careful to avoid creating drama.
New dates – Once you’re dating, it’s natural to talk about what brought you to dating. If you can’t discuss your divorce or your ex without becoming emotional or going into the whole saga, it’s best to steer clear. If you do decide to talk about your divorce, focus more on what you’ve learned from it than on how much you despise your ex.
Children – Obviously, you will have to talk with your kids about your divorce. Repeatedly. As you do, remember that these conversations are for them, not for you. They need to hear that it’s not their fault, that both parents love them and that there will be some stability in their lives. Allow their questions to guide the conversation. It’s okay to let them know that you’re sad or scared, but you also need to show them how to move through those feelings.
Mutual friends – These poor folks are caught in the middle. If you want to keep them as friends, it’s best to keep the divorce talk to minimum.
Talk About Your Divorce With Abridgment
Professionals on the periphery – Your accountant, insurance adjuster and maybe even your child’s teacher will need to know something about your change in marital status. Share only what is necessary and only when necessary.
Coworkers – If you’re friends with any coworkers and trust their restraint, feel free to share more. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with an elevator-speech divorce announcement just to keep them in the know and to alert them that you may be having a harder time than usual at work.
Acquaintances and neighbors – Keep it short. Keep it simple. And keep any salacious details out of it. These are often the folks that like to create drama.
And When Not to Talk About Your Divorce
It’s okay to respond to questions that feel intrusive or that come at inopportune times with, “I’m not wanting to talk about that right now.” You are not required to tell anyone about what you’re going through and when and if you do share, you get to decide how much. However, be careful about being overly private and cautious. When we bottle too much up, the pressure has a tendency to build. When we share our stories, we also share the burden. Allow others to help lighten your load.