Having to tell your family and friends you’re getting Divorced can be a surprisingly difficult part of the process. At a really awful time in your life, when you’re already dealing with all the turmoil and fear and uncertainty, one of the last things you may want is to run into a friend at Starbucks who asks, “So what’s new?”
Author Wendy Paris, writing for Psychology Today’s website, believes that the act of telling others about your split is actually a great opportunity. She explains that marriages exist within communities, and members of those communities can be confused by a Divorce. So the way you break the news helps the community see how you’re viewing it, and lets them know what to expect.
The key to handling it well is, like so many things in life, preparation. Paris suggests developing an “elevator speech,” a term from the business/networking world, which means a quick, organized, presentation — but instead of pitching yourself or your product, you’re describing your Divorce. And she offers some steps to creating a good one, among them:
Define the Divorce. Position your splitin a way that gives you more strength, not less. If it’s amicable, say so. If it’s not, say you’re working toward amicability. Avoid, or at least limit, criticisms of your ex. This is about you. Accentuate the positive.
Issue a call to action. Keep in mind that most people will be thinking “How does this affect me?” So, depending on who they are, give them a task. From a good friend, you may ask for support. From an acquaintance, perhaps a set-up when you’re ready to date again. This call to action turns the conversation from “why” to “what’s next.”
Always be closing. Be ready to shift topics once you’ve finished saying what you want.
So, did you come through the Thanksgiving Holiday okay?
If it’s your first one since your Divorce Over 50, it was probably rough. Even if it was your sixth, as it was for me, it still doesn’t feel quite right. My young adult children were in town, and this was my year to have them join my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Which was great. But it’s still odd to be sharing them with my ex-wife, as they spent some nights at my place, and some at hers. It’s strange to hear about them going to a “Second Night of Thanksgiving” at her and her new husband’s house. And I missed being in a home on Thanksgiving Day when the meal was being cooked — I used to revel in the smells, the warmth, just the whole feel of that experience.
And now, the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/New Years Holidays loom.
As parents, we all want to set good examples for our children. If, for instance, they see us treating everyone we encounter with respect, chances are good they’ll do the same. Personally, I’m always gratified when one of my sons orders by asking the waiter if he can “please have the filet mignon,” and then thanks him when it arrives (perhaps not as happy when the bill comes, but whatever…).
I’m sure all of us had hoped to model marriage-lasts-a-lifetime-behavior for our kids, too, but as we know, life doesn’t always work out as we expected. In my case, their mom and I went through a basically mutual, fairly amicable split after 27 years; though it was nice to show them how to have a civilized divorce, that still wasn’t the ideal.
There was, however, a positive to be gained from the negative. I believe going through my divorce gave me insight into why the marriage was what it was, and went where it went. I’ve come to more clearly comprehend the thoughts and choices I made, and the assumptions I held, concerning getting married. And I discovered that some of them were, shall we say, less than correct.
Some couples go through a Divorce Over 50 and are able to stay quite amicable. Occasionally you even hear about a couple that gets along beautifully after their Divorce, functioning better as friends than they did as spouses.
Others, however, want nothing to do with their ex once the Divorce is final, preferring to never set eyes upon him or her again. That might be possible if the couple never had children, but once kids are involved, the see-no-ex approach becomes almost impossible. Events such as a graduation, wedding, or the birth of a grandchild mean the formerly married partners will be thrown together, no matter how much one or both don’t want it.
And if one or both spouses still have anger, bitterness, or other negative feelings toward the other, it’s going to be an uncomfortable situation. The question becomes, will it be uncomfortable for just the parents, or will it affect the child as well?
It hurts to realize your plan for the future won’t come true. It hurts to realize your spouse is not who you thought he or she was (and maybe you aren’t, either). It hurts to leave your family home, and to divide the possessions you shared there.
Much of the pain tends to hit both men and women equally.
There is, however, a divorce aspect that’s unequal: In a gray divorce, with a marriage that lasted two decades or more, when it comes to the friends you shared as a couple, the man is going to get hurt.
Did you stay in your marriage longer than you wanted to “because of the children”? Did you just grit your teeth and stick it out until reaching some milestone, like your youngest leaving for college?
Lots of Divorced Over 50’s did. Whether it was the right thing or not, it’s done. You’re Divorced.
But your concern for your children is as strong as ever. And one of your top priorities for them is, very likely, that they make good relationship choices. After all, they saw your relationship end — you want them to do better.
If you’re making progress in a new relationship, at some point you’re likely to meet his or her children. But just because they may be adults, don’t assume that dealing with them will be easier than if they were younger.