Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | January 6, 2010

When to tell…

Hello, my bloggy friends. I have a question for you:

When do you start telling people about your upcoming divorce / break-up?

Do you (did you) wait until you both are (were) living in separate quarters? Do you just not make any formal announcement, but tell a few people individually? Big public broadcast? Throw a divorce / break-up party? Write up a press release or a FAQ to show to anyone who asks the inevitable follow-up questions?

As I’ve deliberated whether to divorce, I have necessarily told and asked the advice of a few trusted friends. But now that my wife and I are agreed to go down that road, and we’ve already started mapping out what it will look like, and our intention is to remain as amicable as possible (and so far, we’re doing well with that), I find myself in the situation of wanting to tell more people, but being concerned about possible fallout.

Do people shy away from you as if divorce / break-up is contagious? Do mutual friends start to get weird?

What’s been your experience, if you’ve gone through it? What is your advice for someone at this stage of the game — even if you aren’t / haven’t gone through such a big break-up, you might have some insight into human nature or social conventions that could help.

I want to tell certain people at my taekwondo studio. I wish to do so with some dignity and integrity; my goal is not to make anyone take a dim view of my soon-to-be-ex wife, and at the same time, I want them to know that this is going on and it does affect my availability to participate in certain events, etc. And there are other friends, as well, who I’d feel more honest with if I wasn’t keeping mum. As I’ve mentioned before… I’m an extrovert. I am who I am, and I’d rather not feel like I have to hide this big part of who I am at the moment… but, at the same time, I don’t want to call undue attention to it, either. And I want to minimize any potential harmful fall-out.

What are your thoughts?



  1. Mutual friends do get weird. In my case, they all took her side. This was mostly due to the lies she told, but that is neither here nor there.

    I told people one on one, as I felt neccessary. Some of those, told others and eventually everyone just knew.

    Good luck.

  2. When you get divorced you join a club that you never knew about until you got divorced. For every mutual friend who might act oddly (really how are they supposed to know how to act?), there is an individual who will treat you with more kindness and patience because they know what you’re going through. It’s a gift. And it’s really lovely.

    Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster. If you insulate within a community of good support, tell a few close friends, when the timing is right, they will start to share your news for you. It makes it easier all the way around.

    Follow your heart. If it’s pushing you towards honesty, go with it. Good luck.

  3. I would first ask Penny what her thoughts are about this. You don’t want it to get back to your kids until you two have sat down with them and personally talked to each of them.

  4. 1. With Your Kids: Tell them until you are ready to physically separate. Read this post, You are struggling yourself on how to tell other adults…just imagine what it does to their little minds! Before anything put your heads together with Penny as to what is the best way to do things and communicate things so that it makes sense to your Kids, and lessens the blog on them. The younger the kids the harder it is on them but they all struggle. Have counseling ready for them ahead of time just in case!

    2. To your Boss/ employer (you?), or business associates/partners: No need to hide the sun with a finger. You inform them of the situation. Also have a joint plan with Penny to lessen impact to business and present a common front…business will go on. I inform my boss when my marital problems started (once) and told him when I filed for divorce. He confided in me he was divorced, told me his story. “you have a tough year ahead of you” he said. You will have my support and advise as a friend πŸ™‚ [ I needed it!]

    3. To others: Case by case basis, as long as you don put on a sandwichboard around your nexk and announce it to every soul who passes [with gory details] you by most people will understand [no explanations needed].

    4. Martial Arts club: you might want to go public with this there. There is a measure of mental discipline and spiritual /moral development with such clubs. You might get some genuine support from some of them or not [take when offered]. Even if you only get support of divorced club mates you are ahead. Get ready to hear : So you are going through a divorce “hu”? that’s the icebreaker usually!

    Timing: Joint decision with Penny talk it out until you both feel comfortable with it. You need a PR campaign common friend field questions with same story, agree on it, stick to it. You do not want to get the rumor mill started (not when amicable divorce is what you want.) if you have emplyees / personeel under you this is also important.

    last you might consider different timelines / stories for all this..and that is the secret be flexible. Don’t Rush.

  5. For the time being, I would wait until you’re slightly further along in your discussions with your wife about how things will be. My reasoning is this: People are nosy. People are also opinionated. When you tell them they are going to want to ask questions and give opionions and really that could just complicate matters which are currently going well between you and your wife.

    When you do tell them, it will be imperative to your joint-relationships (mutual friends etc) that you don’t bad talk your wife or make the story seem one sided. I wouldn’t give any specific details. Come up with an excape line for questions like “we’ve got a plan in the works that will suit both of us” and leave it at that.

    I’ve never been divorced (or married for that matter) but that’s my opinion!
    Good luck!

  6. I’m an open book, so the day after the shit-storm that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I confided in two friends/work-mates.

    In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t. It got to a point where I didn’t want to discuss my marital breakdown over lunch or try to express to these happily-partnered people that yes, while I was the one who was ending the marriage, didn’t make it any easier on me. That it really fucking sucked, thanks for asking.

    I say confide in a couple of close friends, tell them to keep their mouths shut about it and don’t make a big deal of ‘announcing’ it to friends, martial arts buddies, etc. If they ask how you and P are doing, just respond that you’re in the midst of working out a separation.

  7. I was so shell-shocked the day after I moved out that I told near-strangers that I was getting divorced. But after that, I told a few close friends, and let the rest of our friends find out through the grapevine. (He was too embarassed to tell anyone until a situation forced it.) Yes, I lost a few people, but honestly, most people said “I’m surprised you’ve stayed this long.”

    Even though my boss at work had gone through it herself, she cut me no slack and came down like a nitpicking hammer on me when I was at my worst and made my life even more miserable. So that part didn’t work so well for me.

    As imgonnabreakyourheart said, it’s a club you didn’t know existed, and you have no idea how many people have gone through it. Most people are very, very supportive.

  8. I have never been married and divorced but I did end a 7 year relationship. At the time and because of how long we had been together (in your 20s, 7 years is long!), we had only mutual friends, many of whom were his coworkers. We were able to stay friends and that helped everyone see that they could also stay friends with us.

    I agree, if you tell only those people closest to you in each of these areas (work, martial arts, personal friends), the rest will travel through the grapevine and it’s easier that way. It will allow you to have more one-on-one conversations with the people who genuinely care and it will also be easier to fend off nosy busy bodies.

    You will for sure find out who your real friends are.

  9. There is much wisdom above, so I won’t expound in great detail. As people need to know, then tell them. If someone you didn’t tell asks, just admit that it is happening and leave it at that. Broadcasting about that you are getting divorced can bring negative effects, as I saw happen to a co-worker. Suffice it to say that you should be selective as to who knows and when. If your inner self says to remain silent, LISTEN!

  10. I told the people closest to me and built my support system there. Everyone else figured it out when I did things like buy a house by myself and change my name. When they asked, I stated the facts as facts and left them at that. If anyone gave me that typical “I’m so sorry” response, I told them there was no need to be “sorry” and I would prefer to be congratulated instead πŸ™‚

    Sounds like things are moving along well enough- good luck! (and… congratulations!)

  11. In my whole life I never considered I would be divorced so I was also kind of shell-shocked. Then my ex was the one who had a blatant affair and left the business and the family, but he went around telling people it was me and lying, etc. I was even MORE shell-shocked! But after a bit to catch my breath, I decided to tell my close family, people who are friends whom I considered family and church members so I could get support and encouragement. Much to my surprise, people whom I thought would love me and help me get through it alive acted like I had leprosy…but people whom I hadn’t necessarily considered best friends were kind, loving, and supportive. So it was confusing!

    I would advise a lot of what others advised. Make sure to tell your children so they are not surprised by it one day from a kid who heard from another kid who heard from their mom. Work with Penny on deciding how and when, and nope, don’t let her duck out of it. Next, I would suggest telling people who may need to know–like people at work who may notice a little lack of focus or productivity–and just be briefly factual: “I wanted to let you know that Penny and I have decided to divorce, and I’m doing the best I can to keep the business going but naturally it’s going to affect me. Just wanted you to hear it from me directly.” The end. A business associate doesn’t need more. Finally, tell the people you think are likely to be your support system. I’m going to warn you now that you are going to lose some people you think of as friends, but this is part and parcel of divorce. If you can, miss them by try to let them go knowing they were in your life for a season and that seaon is over. But tell the support system folks so when the day comes that you’re upset, hurting, lonely or just WHATEVER they can be there for ya.

  12. Okay, remember the trail. Your first job, as you well know, is to protect the kids. They should always hear everything from you (two) first. At the same time, it makes sense that you want to start telling a few select people.

    Just know that people will spread the word even if you ask them not to…and not simply for the sake of gossip…some really will care and be concerned. Regardless, same result. And once you start telling people…face to face…it does get a whole lot more real.

    Know that your blog family supports you!

    Thinking of you!

  13. One of my biggest concerns is Penny’s ability to make the divorce extremely difficult. In that light, I would discuss with her how you will go about telling people. I feel you have every right to start telling those you feel should know. My only fear is if you tell a mutual friend and then that mutual friend brings it up to Penny and she reacts negatively. Things are being kept friendly now, but as we all know, whether it is a break up or a divorce, things can turn nasty and ugly in a matter of seconds.

  14. I wholeheartedly AGREE that you should FIRST discuss this with Penny, and SECOND, sit down together and explain it to the children.

    After that, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll see…..

  15. I agree with what imgonnabreakyourheart said.

    As for me, I dubbed the group I was joining, aka divorced people, as the “Cool Kids Club.”

    But, for me, the more people I told, the less ashamed I felt that my marriage had failed. I also found a great support group, and have made many friends as a result of it.

    It was freeing feeling I got as more people knew about it. On the flip side, my ex-wife told very few people. I found this out because I would have conversation with people we both knew, and they would ask how she was doing, and they had no idea we had split up.

    You do what you feel you need to do in order to get through this the best you can. That’s the bottom line. If you feel better telling only a few close friends, than so be it. If you feel better taking out a full page ad in the paper, then so be it.

    Every situation, and every relationship is different. And so is every divorce.

  16. Lots of great advice here.

    I didn’t have any kids involved in my divorce, so I just told *my* people. I didn’t mention it to co-workers who weren’t friends until I started dating again…which was over a year after we separated. I didn’t want to talk about it, likely because I was hoping it wasn’t really the end, but also because I was emotional about it.

  17. I’ve written about this a lot – when I was going through the same wonder myself – though I don’t have any kids (which made it much easier!), I just paced myself, told people as it came up, and told my closest friends privately, so it wouldn’t be a surprise or something they heard somewhere else. My sisters and mom did a good job too, telling my family for me, in some cases, when I was too sad to do so myself. I listed a few of my posts on it below – if you type in elephant (lol!) in the search field, you’ll see others, since I often note it felt like the elephant in the room πŸ˜‰

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