The “d-word”. Some people are reluctant to use the term — even when they are about to file for it. It’s understandable. Saying “divorce” out loud makes it real. And even for couples who have been moving towards the end of their marriage for a while, the finality of divorce can give them pause. Telling friends and family can be difficult at first. Here are a few suggestions to help you share your news.
Wendy Paris, author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well, provides some great advice. “One of the best ways to deflect unwanted advice and steer the conversation in a productive, supportive manner is to create a ‘divorce elevator speech,’” she writes. “An elevator speech [or quick summation] shares news of your divorce as you would like it seen.”
Here are Paris’ three steps for composing a “divorce elevator speech”:
- Define Your Divorce: Briefly describe how you would like your divorce to be understood. You may still be seething over the terms of your separation, but this is a chance to envision your ideal situation. No need to lie, throw your ex under the bus or gloss over the difficulty. For example, “Beth and I are getting divorced. It’s hard right now, but I’m working towards making peace with our differences.”
- State Your Needs: Friends and family may want to help, but may be clueless as to how to go about it. (How many times have you heard, “I’m here for you! Let me know what you need!”) Making a specific request helps the person know exactly what he or she can do to help you through this challenging time. (No matter how kind and thoughtful they are, your loved ones cannot read your mind.)
Before you announce your divorce, make a list of the types of support you will need. For example, if you are moving, you may ask your best friend to help you pack. Or you may let your Aunt Sue know that you’ll be calling on her for childcare.
- Close Quickly: No need to prattle on. Once you’ve imparted your news, provided your perspective and a way for the person to be helpful, Paris’ suggests moving towards a “graceful close.” Bringing your story to a natural ending keeps you in control of the conversation. One tactic is to shift attention from you to the other person. For example, “Thanks so much for being there for me. Now I want to hear all about your new job.”
Of course, as time goes on, your divorce definition and needs will change. Periodically, updating your “elevator speech” will not only help you communicate with others, it will also empower you to move forward into a happier life.