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How do I tell my friends and family that my marriage is over?

View profile for Kirsty Morris
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We are used to people oversharing on social media but if you are not “that” person, the thought of telling friends and family that your relationship has come to an end can be daunting. Everyone will have your best interests at heart, but the idea of sympathy and “help” may leave you feeling anxious. Kirsty Morris sets out a few points to keep in mind when you consider what to say to friends and family and when:-

  1. Timing is everything

The first thing to bear in mind is that you should tell people when you are ready. This is your news, and provided your partner doesn’t make a public broadcast before you do, you should be in control of who you tell and when. You may want to tell a few close friends and relatives straight away so that they are on hand to scoop you up if required. You should tell the people you know will respect your need for peace and quiet/a wild night out (delete as appropriate), and some time to digest the situation, before you start answering their questions. This is your news and your primary consideration should be when you are ready to speak to others about your situation and explain what you need from them. Phone calls to your parents, siblings and close friends may feel too daunting so you could confide in one or two people and ask them to share the information with someone else so that you are not re-living the same painful conversation all day. You can convey what information you want people to know, and how you want them to interact with you. When you are feeling more robust you can arrange to speak to those you missed the first time around.

You may want to tell people straight away, so that there is no risk that you are caught off guard by well-meaning friends who inadvertently ask after your former partner or invite you both to an event. On the other hand, the thought of everyone knowing about your situation may be too much to digest initially, so wait until you are ready. There are no rules, rights or wrongs. This is your news to distribute when you feel you are able.  

  1. It’s all about you

The decision to explain to friends and family what has been going on in your personal life may feel like a significant one. Announcing your engagement or new job may have felt easy, you would receive congratulatory texts and the dopamine hit that went along with the “ping” on your phone. The responses to the news of your separation may feel more unpredictable.  

Only tell people what you want them to know. Your private life is not suddenly an open book, you do not owe an explanation to anyone so you can explain as much or as little as you feel you can handle.  

If you know you can’t deal with people calling you straight away, ask them not to. Explain that you know that they are there for you and you will get in touch when you are able. You can set the agenda for how you want to be supported. Your friends and family may appreciate a direct approach as they may be just as confused about how to help you as you are. Try to remember that irrespective of the normal dynamics in a relationship, on this occasion it is all about you, even if some people try to make it about how it will impact them.   

  1. The joint approach

You and your partner may be communicating well enough to decide together what you want to tell joint friends and when you want the news to be spread. Just like celebrity couples who post a joint statement on their Instagram accounts, a message that you compose together, and send to your family and close friend at the same time, or to joint Whatsapp groups, may be the best way of getting the news out to your wider circle of friends.  

This blog does not cover the situation of parents telling children about a potential family separation. Advice on this can be found on The Happy Coparent website which can be found here.