Telling family members that you are going through a divorce can be one of the most distressing aspects of the early stages, especially if you have tried to hide the deterioration of your marriage from outside eyes. You may not only have to tell family, but also people who feel like extended family or who support your family, such as a babysitter, teacher, or your child’s coach. At some point, if you are moving forward in your divorce process, you will have to have this conversation with at least a few people. While the timing can vary depending on the individual circumstances, this is an unavoidable aspect of the decision to divorce.
Avoidance can create extra distress for you and confusion for your family. If you do not have a plan, it will be difficult to figure out what is appropriate to share in the short-term and what still needs to stay private between you and your spouse as your divorce progresses. Managing your boundaries is even more important if there is the chance you and your spouse could call off your divorce proceedings in order to work on preserving your marriage.
When working with clients I use a helpful acronym and encourage them to keep it REAL.
Takeaway Tip #1: Review Your Talk Points
It is important that you take some time to reflect on your reasons for the separation or divorce because that will be the starting point for the content of your conversations. Whether you are initiating the conversation jointly, or are being forced to respond to questioning by family members who may have seen the distance and disconnect between you and your spouse, remember that what you say and how you talk about your decision to divorce can have lasting impact. Conversations with children that begin with, “Your mother/father has left us for another person, or your mother/father wanted this divorce,” do nothing but create trauma for your children. These conversations can be extremely emotional. It is important that you are mentally prepared so that you can stay focused on appropriately conveying some of the reasons for the decision.
Takeaway Tip #2: Explain The Impact
You should be able to fill in the blanks on any areas immediately impacting your family members, such as a parent who lives with you or whom you support financially. Will a babysitter’s income be adversely impacted? Will you need to move in with your parents or take your children out of a school? Will you have to re-enter the workforce? Do you need your parent or sibling to step up their support in a more meaningful way? There are short-term and longer-term lifestyle-impacting decisions in divorce. While no one will expect you to have all the answers, as you prepare your talk points it is important that you give some initial thought to these questions. If you cannot explain the impact of your divorce procedure, give yourself permission to say, “I don’t yet fully know how this will work out because it is a process.”
Takeaway Tip #3: Anticipate Questions And Emotions
There are adults who can vividly recall the day their parents told them they were getting a divorce. Others have compared divorce to a death given the magnitude of the loss. Your children, parents, and siblings may ask you many uncomfortable or embarrassing questions, and they may express a range of emotions such as shock, anger, fear, and sadness. If you are telling someone who is very invested in your “togetherness” that you are getting a divorce, no matter the level of pain and suffering you personally experienced in your relationship, it is important to realize that you are now going to have to deal with other people’s emotions while you are still dealing with your own. Family members are not an extension of you, and everyone will have a unique response to your decision to divorce. Keeping this in mind can help to minimize resentment if your family member does not respond the way that you expected. Someone may also surprise you unexpectedly with positive support as well.
Takeaway Tip #4: Listen Actively
During this conversation, it is important to really listen to the response to your sharing your decision to divorce. Active listening allows you to understand your children’s biggest fear or your parents or in-law’s concern about their ability to see their grandchildren. Active listening allows you to gauge whether or not your siblings or other family members may be willing to support you financially, let you stay with them temporarily, or help you secure divorce support, such as an attorney, therapist, or a coach. The more prepared your are to have a REAL conversation with your family, the more you can understand who is in a position to support you and your children as you navigate your divorce journey. When you know you are not alone and are aware of your support system, that knowledge can only help you feel more empowered and loved.
Wishing you strength for the road ahead!
If you are contemplating divorce, or struggling with a high-conflict divorce procedure, let Tamara Harris, CEO of Tamara Harris LLC, be your partner as you navigate through each stage of your journey. As an impartial, experienced professional, Tamara will work directly with you to give you the best tools and strategies to manage the specific challenges and uncertainties of divorce. Serving as your Divorce Coach and advocate, she will help you see clearly during this time where emotions can often impede and derail your divorce procedure. While each member of your high-conflict divorce team – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other experts – will be advising you, Tamara will help you to synthesize this information, think strategically about the options you have with clarity and purpose, and get your divorce across the finish line. Visit tamaraharris.com for more information, or contact Tamara Harris to discuss becoming a client. All inquires will be held in confidence.