As we get into the holiday season, it’s likely that you’ll be gathering with family at some point soon. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, this may be your last time together seeing both sides of the family for a while.
While you don’t want to dampen family celebrations with news of your upcoming divorce, this could be the best opportunity to tell most or all of your close relatives together. It can also relieve you of the strain of pretending everything is fine when it isn’t.
There’s no one right way to do this. Family dynamics are highly unique. Divorce may not be uncommon in your family. On the other hand, some relatives may have strong religious or moral beliefs against it.
If you have children (even if they’re adults), it’s best to tell them first. However, you probably want to ask them to let you tell the rest of the family – particularly your parents. If you have young children, you may not be able to control what they say. That’s all the more reason to tell the rest of the family the next time you’re together.
It’s often best to break the news as a couple. If you’ve been together for a long time and have children, this can help reassure relatives that you’ll continue to have an amicable relationship and that they’ll all continue to be welcome in your children’s lives.
Don’t lose control of the conversation
No matter how you choose to break the news, be prepared for relatives to express their feelings – no matter how hurtful they are. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to respond to those feelings or explain yourselves more than you feel comfortable doing.
It’s wise to set your boundaries ahead of time. You don’t need to give them details about the reason for the break-up or any of your divorce negotiations.
Have some short but definitive statements ready. You can acknowledge their concerns, but you don’t have to respond to them. A statement like, “It’s not helping me (us) to hear that” is one example.
If you’re planning a mediated divorce, this can help things stay amicable between you and your soon-to-be ex. Mediation can also help you keep both sides of your family in your lives. This can be especially important if you have children but also if you have business or other social connections in common.