Once you know you’re getting divorced, you will have to prepare for going public. That means deciding who to tell, when to tell them and perhaps the biggest decision of all, what to say. Ideally, you’ll do this in collaboration with your soon-to-be-ex but if communication between the two of you has completely broken down then you’re going to have to prepare for this on your own.
The first step is deciding what you want to say and here you can take a tip from the celebrities. It’s standard practice for them to issue a press statement and while you may laugh or scoff about phrases like “conscious uncoupling,” a well-constructed statement sets the stage for any conversation about the end of your marriage, your divorce and your future.
Stealing from the celebrities then, start your statement with a description of what is happening to your marriage. Limit this to what you are prepared to say publicly always remembering that this could easily come back to your kids. If you’re working with your STBX, this may involve some trade-offs – I won’t say anything about your drinking/drug use, if you don’t say anything about my compulsive spending/affair.
Gynweth Paltrow and Chris Martin for example said, “It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate.”
If you’re working with your STBX on this, then it’s probably going to be a neutral statement with no real information and in my opinion, that’s how it should be. Save the details for the people you can really trust.
If you’re working solo on this, then you might want to give more details such as, “I’ve always been committed to my marriage however Joe has decided to end it. I’m deeply saddened.”
Next might come a statement about your relationship with each other such as, “Through this difficult time, we are committed to treating each other with dignity and respect,” or “Since we have two amazing children, our relationship is going to continue for many years and we are committed to making that work for our family.”
And this leads neatly into a statement about what your divorce might mean for your children. It could be a comment on where you will be living such as, “Cathy and I are both going to stay living in town here – we want to keep as much as possible the same for our children” or, “Cathy is going to be relocating back to California where her family is. We feel that this is in the best interests of our children because of the support that is available there. I will be visiting there frequently since much of my business travel is there.”
It could also be about how you will work together as parents such as, “We know that parenting after divorce has its challenges however we are committed to doing what is in the best interests of our children and putting out own needs aside.”
You might wrap up the statement with a comment about the divorce process such as “We are at the very early stages of our divorce and intend to take this step-by-step with a goal of coming to an equitable resolution,” or “We have lots of decisions to make but we are committed to reaching an agreement.”
Once you’ve figured out what to say, then you can decide when to go public. This is often driven more by other events and pressures then a conscious setting of a date – if your STBX has moved out and you’re going solo to events, it’s only a matter of time before people start drawing conclusions. Either way, it’s my belief that your children need to know before you go public. Once you go public, you have no control over who is saying what to whom and the last thing you need is for your children to learn about your break-up through an inadvertent comment from one of their friend’s parents.
Even though you likely won’t be posting your press statement to your website or expecting interview requests from People Magazine or TMZ, having the statement is about being prepared to answer the inevitable questions you’ll face once your divorce becomes public knowledge. So once you have your statement, practice it and recite it so you know it by heart.
Friends and acquaintances may mean well but their own experience with divorce or lack thereof, may lead to interesting, even intrusive or bizarre questions that may catch you off-guard. When you’re at your kid’s baseball game and one of the other parents on the team asks you what happened, you’ll be ready with your response. And when they say, “No, tell me what really happened,” you’ll have your response. Your statement will keep you from scrabbling for a response, sharing more than you want or even breaking down in tears.
If you need help crafting your divorce announcement contact divorce coach and mediator Mandy Walker. She writes the blog Since My Divorce and is the creator of the online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal. The Preparing For Divorce track includes modules on telling your spouse you want a divorce, telling your children about your divorce and going public.