How to tell people you are separating?

Explaining that you are separating from your partner to family and friends is often an awkward and uncomfortable conversation. This is even harder when family relationships with your partner are strong or your friends are mutual. If you are in the midst of a separation and you are ready to share the news with those who love and support you, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

1.Be prepared

In order to control the conversation about your separation or divorce, you have to communicate the facts (“I’m getting divorced”), but it also helps to say what you want the people you are telling to do with that fact. Otherwise human nature and curiosity (and sometimes the urge to gossip) takes over and you will be bombarded with 101 prying questions. Try something like “I know this news may come as a shock (or not!), but I’ve made it after a lot of soul-searching and hard work. It’s also not something I care to talk about any more right now.” This way, it is them that is being rude if they ask more questions, rather than you feeling rude by not answering theirs!

2. Prepare for a variety of reactions

People will react to your news in unexpected ways; from being supportive, shocked or even judgemental. Try not to have too many expectations regarding the response. It might be helpful to ‘break the news’ and then return to discuss the situation at some later point when the person has had time to process your news. 

3. Pay attention to timing

For those closest to you, tell them as soon as possible so that they can help and support you (practically and emotionally) through the process. When it comes to friends and distant family, many suggest waiting until you have a more definite idea of what your future looks like. This way you can focus discussion towards the positive future rather than digging up the past. 

4. Avoid blame

Even when your spouse’s affair is completely to blame, it is best to avoid bad-mouthing your partner to anyone who will listen, especially on social media. Save your venting, anger  and frustration for your nearest and dearest who you love and trust. When it comes to everyone else – silence on the topic is golden – you do not have to justify to anyone what went wrong in the relationship. 

5. Keep legal details to yourself

You have a family lawyer for a reason so don’t listen to the opinions of everyone who knows someone who went through “a situation just like yours”. Despite similarities, all separations are unique and your lawyer is representing your best interests. Also, what you discuss with your lawyer is subject to client legal privilege. This means your communications (both written and verbal) remain confidential and cannot be produced in court. However, you can waive this confidentiality by acting in a way that is inconsistent with the information being privileged, such as by speaking publicly about the matter. 


Ultimately, how you manage this is up to you and what you feel comfortable with. If you feel like you would like to discuss this process with an expert, we can refer you to a specialist counsellor or coach. 


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