A recent Dear Abby column caught my attention (2nd letter):
DEAR ABBY: Please pass along this suggestion to your readers: If you’re separated or getting a divorce, use discretion if you’re tempted to talk about it. The more you bad-mouth the person you are divorcing, the more people will reject you. It may not seem fair, but it’s true. People will “forget” that you never complained before and say, “I didn’t know she was so vindictive. No wonder he left!” You will do yourself additional damage by ranting to co-workers. You’re paid to work, not talk. Your co-workers are paid to work, not listen.
. . .
Your pain will linger for months, but the patience of your friends and co-workers will fade. My co-worker managed to bore all of us. She quit therapy to spend the money redecorating her home to “erase him from her life.” Not only did she lose all sympathy in that shortsighted, shallow act, she also lost precious time she should have spent healing and becoming strong and independent.
–TIRED OF LISTENING IN MARYLAND
So, how are you supposed to behave when faced with a divorce? Are you supposed to discuss your divorce with others? Of course! Sometimes, you just need to talk about it. Sometimes, you are so angry, your feelings spill out. That is understandable but “Tired” does have a point.
The very first, and most important, thing to remember is to not talk about your feelings or express your anger to or in front of your kids! I cannot stress enough how much damage you can do to your children by engaging in this type of behavior. People think that children, especially older children, “have the right to know” what is going on. Or, they talk to their children instead of friends or family because they are the closest to the situation. Even if kids ask, they do not need to know the details of your divorce. They are not mature enough to handle that kind of information, even if you think they are.
I think the point of the Dear Abby letter is not that you shouldn’t talk to your friends or family but that you should be careful of what and how much you share. If you are having trouble dealing with the situation or of letting go of your anger, you should seek counseling or a support group to help you deal with your divorce. While friends and family are a good source to “vent to” once in a while, they are not trained professionals and cannot help you move forward with your life.
You should also not share with strangers or in your workplace. Let’s face it, they really don’t want to know all the gory details. This creates an uncomfortable situation for them and you may regret it down the road. Do you really want casual or business acquaintances knowing the intimate details of your life? Once you calm down, you will realize probably not and will regret the details you have shared.
I have heard stories over the years – people who call their spouse’s boss to share “what they did”. Or, even worse, telling teachers or daycare professionals the details of the break-up. You might think that you are trying to get people on your side which will generate sympathy for you but what you are really doing is making everyone uncomfortable and creating possible unforeseen circumstances. You could, for example, cause your spouse to lose their job which will hurt you and your children in the long run when there is no income to pay support. Or, you could lose your daycare provider because they don’t want to be put in the middle of you and your spouse. You could also have difficulty in a custody or placement dispute if you are seen putting your own needs above those of your children. I have seen all of these things happen.
Keep in mind that how you deal with your divorce will create long-term consequences for you and/or your children. No one blames you for being upset or angry. But, you do not need share the details of your divorce with everyone around you which could be damaging to you, your career, your relationships and your children. Think before you speak and if you are having difficulty doing that, seek counseling or support from a professional.
–Teri M Nelson