THE PROS AND CONS OF WAITING TO TELL THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE ABOUT YOUR DIVORCE

The public was notified about the Fergie—Josh Duhamel divorce with this joint statement:

“With absolute love and respect we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year. To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public.  We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family.”

After eight years of marriage and a four year-old son, the best-selling singer and her actor husband made a decision to divorce.  Apparently, they had been separated for several months before making the statement above.  Which begs the question: do your family and friends—your “public”—have a right to know the ins and outs of your decision to separate?

Keeping A Lid On It

How much, when, and whom to tell is, of course, a strictly personal matter.  No one is obligated to share details of a marriage gone sour.  Emotionally, there are advantages to this course of action: it gives you time to sort out your feelings in a time frame that suits you, rather than the people in your life.  You don’t have outside interference from others telling you what your feelings should be…according to them.  You have a bit of time to begin making decisions for your life—and perhaps your children—and possibly experience some healing prior to the equally emotional telling of the relatives and friends.  You give yourself the gift of time before being swallowed up in other people’s emotions about your divorce.

Then there’s the legal interference from others to consider.  Those in the know about your separation—friends, family, co-workers and others—may suddenly be quite comfortable dispensing “legal” advice about divorce. Only they are not divorce lawyers.  So what sounds like legal advice—“you need to file your divorce papers first” or “the mom always has custody of the children”—can actually be damaging if you rely on it. This adds one more problem to an already full plate.  Always verify any “legal” advice from non-lawyers before acting on it.  It’s important to set up boundaries with your support circle about the advice you need, and more importantly, what isn’t helpful.

Letting Others Know Immediately

Of course, there are also very valid emotional reasons for letting those in your life know of your decision—or his decision—to divorce at the time: you may want familial and friend support right away.  Knowing there are others on your team to pick you up and give you a shoulder to cry on can be extremely comforting.  You don’t have to go it alone; you can ask for help.  What you choose to reveal is still your decision, but understand that those in your life will ask for details.  Despite Fergie being one-half of what seems to be an amicable team asking for privacy and displaying mutual support, she certainly revealed a lot in her new song, Save It Till Morning: “Wanna hide away in a quiet place and wait out your storm of words again.  Build a wall and put my armor on, escape the bullet babe.”  Perhaps, just like you, she wanted to make sure that the “public” understood her side of the story.

This may also trigger a race to get mutual friends or even family, all possibly witnesses, on one person’s side. Yes, sometimes a member of one’s own family can be called to testify against them.  Friends or family may be asked to testify about incidents they have witnessed; the overall character of one of the parties or any other relevant issue.  Maybe a mutual friend of Fergie and Duhamel has seen things or been told things that could be beneficial or damaging within the context of a divorce trial.  What that person remembers and what they know suddenly becomes a vital piece of the legal divorce puzzle, and then the race is on.