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Third Parties

SCRIPTS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH

Confiding in your inner circle is one thing, but what do you say to everyone else?  Here are some effective ways to communicate your situation to your employer, your religious organization, neighbors and acquaintances. 

 

1.

Sharing your news with others
(neighbors, parents of other children, etc.)

THE SITUATION
 

You need to let people outside of your inner circle know about your separation.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

  • To control the message.

  • To share personal news in the way you want it delivered, while protecting your family/children.

THE STRATEGY

You can’t keep the news from getting out forever — and you may not want to. But you can thoughtfully create the message that you put out.
 
A few things to consider:

  • It’s a good idea to write out your message, let it sit for a day, then come back to it. If you’re still happy with it, send it. If not, edit it and let it sit again until it feels right.  

  • This is a serious note.  You don’t have to be funny or cute unless that feels right to you. 

  • How you share the news (e.g. written or verbal) will depend on who you’re sharing it with.  These scripts are designed for written communication, but you can also write out talking points of what you want to say in person or by phone. Having your words ready is a good idea no matter what mode of communication you use! 

  • If you can agree on a joint message with your ex, you’ll appear as a united front on this.  If not, consider sending him a copy of what you do send out as a suggestion he might follow suit.

  • It’s not your job to make the recipient feel comfortable. It IS ok to let them know what you need from them right now, whether that’s privacy, a standing Friday coffee date, or relief from carpool duties for a few weeks. 

  • Take the high road.  If you can’t say anything nice, just keep it short. You might be tempted to overshare (he was unfaithful… he left us… etc.)  but we promise, years from now you’ll be glad you didn’t. 

  • Like everything else, remember anything you send can be copied, shared, forwarded. A good gut-check: ask yourself how you’d feel if this message were posted on a billboard (because that’s essentially what’s happening)!

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. Group email

    I’m writing to let you know that Dave and I have decided to separate. While we’ve made this decision, there have been many wonderful times in 10 years of marriage that we wouldn’t trade.  We are committed to doing our best to co-parent our children. We will be selling the house, so we’ll each send you our new addresses once we know them. It’s a difficult time for our family and we ask for privacy while we sort out the details. 

     

  2. Text message to a school parent

    Dave and I have decided to divorce. We’ve told the children and are letting other people know now, too.  Since our kids are in class together, I didn’t want you to be caught by surprise.  Megan seems to be doing ok, but if you see or hear anything that concerns you, I’d really appreciate if you let me know.

     

  3. Note to your neighbors

    Dave and I have decided to divorce. I’m going to stay in the house and he’ll be living a couple of miles away. He’ll send out his new address soon.  We know things may feel uncomfortable though we don’t want them to be.  You’ve been great neighbors over the years and we appreciate your support. 

 

2.

Sharing your news with your employer/employees

THE SITUATION
 

You need to update your employer about your divorce.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

  • To let your employer know there is a change in your family situation, how it will/won’t affect your employment.

  • To obtain any forms or other information you need to update health insurance, beneficiary designations, and tax withholdings.

THE STRATEGY 

How much you say depends on your relationship with your boss, but a good rule is to only say as much as you need to, and not share personal details.  Whether she says it or not, your boss’ #1 concern will be how this will affect your job performance and availability — such as times you’ll need to miss work etc., so be sure to address that. Also, think about timing.  If this is a face-to-face conversation, it’s better to ask for a closed-door meeting at a convenient time rather than bring it up while she’s distracted with something else. In all communications with your employer, make sure you stress your commitment to continuing to do a great job.

 

If you’re at a small company, your boss and HR may be the same person, so combine scripts #1 and 2.  If you’re at a larger company, use script #1 for your direct supervisor and script #2 to communicate with HR. 

THE SCRIPTS

  1. To your immediate boss

    I asked to meet to let you know that there is going to be a change in my life. My spouse and I have separated and will be getting a divorce. My lawyer said there will be a few times that I have to go to court and mediation during the day. I can’t always choose when things are scheduled, but I will have advance notice. I can use sick days as much as possible, but I’m also willing to make up the missed days in the evenings or weekends if need be. If you have any concerns please let me know. I want to assure you I’ll do everything I can to keep doing a great job here.

     

  2. To HR

    I’m going through a divorce. My spouse is going to apply for continuation coverage of health insurance through COBRA. I will also need to change my 401k beneficiary and my tax withholdings.  Please provide me those forms, and let me know if there is any other information you’ll need from me. Thank you very much.

 

3.
Sharing your news with your religious affiliation

THE SITUATION 
 

You want to let your religious affiliation know of your divorce.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME

To inform and possibly ask for guidance and support.

THE STRATEGY

If you’re at a supportive place, then you can speak freely. Unless you reveal an intention to harm yourself or others (which many faith leaders* have a mandatory duty to report), you can ask to keep your conversation confidential, including from your spouse.  Faith leaders are often skilled in providing both spiritual support and coaching — listening, consoling, and asking questions intended to help you in making difficult decisions.  Many religious organizations also offer support for children.

 

If you don’t know how to broach the subject, email whomever you feel most comfortable with under whatever “guise” you want and ask him/her to coffee or for a phone call.  Once you’re together, just be honest about why you wanted to meet.  Chances are whatever you need to say, they’ve heard before.

*We use the term “faith leader” intended to refer to religious leaders of all affiliations, understanding that different terminology is used in different religions.

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. Pastor Jones, I’d like to meet to discuss the children’s ministry programming. Would you have time for coffee on Thursday morning? 
     

  2. Rabbi Smith, I need to speak with you about a personal matter. Please let me know a time I can come by the synagogue for a private conversation.
     

  3. Reverend, Jamie and I have been going through a rough time and decided to separate.  I’m struggling with this right now.   Can we schedule a phone call in the next few days to talk?
     

  4. Imam, We are having a rough time in our marriage and I could use your advice and support. May we schedule a time to meet?

 

4.
Your friend’s decision to stay friends with your ex feels hurtful or uncomfortable.

THE SITUATION 
 

Your friend's association with your former spouse is causing you pain.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME

To ask your friend to cool things down with your ex.

THE STRATEGY

Express your feelings honestly but understand she still might not change. We can’t control our friends and asking them to choose sides may feel a little high-schoolish.  Let your friend know you understand her desire to maintain a relationship with your ex but that doing so is hurting you.  From there, what she does is her choice, and it’s your choice what you do about your friendship.

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. I know you and Stephen have always gotten along well. But it’s really hard for me to know that you’ve still been spending time with him since we separated. I’m not sure what to do: I don’t want to ask you to choose sides, but I also need to be honest with you about how I’m feeling. At a minimum, if you do choose to keep in touch with him, please don’t fill me in on the details.
     

  2. I know the guys are tight, and this has to be awkward for you. It made me uncomfortable to hear you had dinner with him and his new girlfriend. I don’t know how to handle it.  Do you have any suggestions?

 

5.
When you’re caught off guard by someone asking you intimate details

THE SITUATION 
 

Someone you know asks a question that makes you uncomfortable or invades your privacy.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME

To shut down the questioning without sounding defensive or hostile.

THE STRATEGY

Have your words ready. Expect that at some point during your divorce, someone will say or ask you something that makes you uncomfortable.  If you’re not ready for it, you might either say more than you want to (and regret it later) or come off in a way you don’t want to (defensive or hostile). 

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. I’ve made a conscious choice not to publicize our private details. Thank you for respecting that.
     

  2. The reasons don’t matter.  All that matters is we’re better off apart.
     

  3. Your question is making me uncomfortable and I’d rather not discuss this.
     

  4. What you heard isn’t true. But I can’t stop people from saying things even if they’re not accurate. I don’t want to add to the story so I’ll leave it at that.

 

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