Question (from Facebook community): “How do I deal with telling family and friends about my change in marital status and what do I say when I’m asked what went wrong in our marriage?”
When I filed for legal separation, I wrote three emails. One was detailed that I sent to my close family and friends. One was to those in my outer circle, written in generalities. And the last was to those I am in contact with professionally with my writing and speaking ministry that contained a statement my elder had written on my behalf. I chose my words carefully, writing and rewriting those emails. Hitting send was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. (Waiting for people’s responses wasn’t a cakewalk either…)
I think what you say depends on who you’re talking to. Not every person in your life needs to know every detail of your life. You are not obligated to be an open book with everybody. You are allowed to choose how much of your story to tell and to whom. So think through carefully who you feel needs to know what.
Your children should be told as soon as the decision is made, or as soon as the other parent is moving out. Be truthful, but age appropriate. Most kids only need to know that their parents are divorcing, that it’s not their fault, and that both parents will continue to love them just as much after the divorce as before. They will also want to know how this will affect them, like when they’ll see the other parent and if they’ll have to move, or if it’ll affect their school activities. (Remember, up til about 18+, life is all about them.)
Your kids’ teachers should be told that the living situation is changing so they can be aware of what’s going on in your children’s lives and be watchful for any behavior or schoolwork issues.
Your boss might need to know about the separation or divorce but then follow it up with, “But I will do my best not to let this affect my performance.”
Leaders in the ministry you serve in should be given the heads up. Prepare yourself though…depending on your church and on your situation, you may be asked to step down from serving for a while. Try not to take this personally – easier said than done, I know; try instead to look at it as God’s way of giving you the gift of some extra time to readjust and heal.
Ahh, family. While married, I kept my extended family almost entirely out of the loop of how difficult things really were, but once the separation was imminent, I felt I needed to share some details otherwise it looked like we were doing this on a whim.
There will be fringe people in your life who will judge you because they don’t understand what’s going on. It’s up to you whether to try to defend yourself against their words. I’ve found, for the most part, that I don’t have the emotional energy to answer to someone who doesn’t actually know my heart. Who has that kind of time? Plus, as I’ve said before and I’m sure I’ll say again, only One opinion of me matters and it’s not some random person who I barely know.
If someone outright asks me what happened, I quickly run it through a filter…how close is this person to me? How well do they know me? How much do they already love me? Can I trust them? Why are they asking? (Is it out of curiosity vs. out of concern…there’s a huge difference.) Again, you have the right to share what you want to who you want. If someone asks you something that you feel is too personal, simply say, “I’d rather not talk about it,” and change the subject. Remember, you can always say more…but once the words are out there, they’re out there. If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.