"Honesty requires a level of kindness to present the information with gentleness and tact."
Telling someone about your divorce is never as simple as it sounds. It is a loaded topic that is tip-toed, creating an unspoken social taboo out of something that the other person may very well know nothing about. If it is a family member asking the question, it can be intimidating, given the judgement that could very well come from their response.
Family and friends
This build-up can be something anticipated, especially if you haven’t told or talked to this family member in a while or about the topic of divorce. This level of anticipation can build anxiety and create tension toward other family members, who may not even be aware of any marital issues you are facing in the first place.
If the issues you’re facing are only marital problems, and not yet divorce itself, Psychology Today suggests not to tell your family. The thought process stems from your family member or friend only hearing your side of the story, which creates a skewed perspective that allows them to offer advice based on only half of the information. Context for actions or words cannot be established with only half of the information present.
Another point that Psychology Today brings up is bias or loyalty issues, when it comes to you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Gossiping and insults will only fuel division and never offer constructive advice, regarding what to do in these circumstances.
Relationship counselor Andrew G. Marshall wrote in The Daily Mail that some who find themselves listening to your marital issues might advise a break, divorce, or separation, in an attempt to validate their own choices in relationships. In breaking up with their significant other, they have lost the companionship of a relationship and need to forge a situation, where a friend of theirs makes similar choices in their own relationship. Loneliness can breed loneliness.
Sometimes, the person that you are not telling your divorce history to is a new significant other. In admitting divorce, many fear that their new girlfriend or boyfriend will reject them for their perceived failure in a previous relationship, which is entirely unrelated to the present relationship.
There also is a fear, regarding how to approach the subject. CNN spoke with psychologist Christie Hartman about how to talk about your previous divorce. If you are in the process, Hartman advises that you speak about it right away. The new significant other needs to be aware that there are not any residual feelings left for a soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Hartman also says that while it may cause anxiety to approach additional personal information about the marriage itself and the relationship with the soon-to-be ex-spouse, it can wait. During the early stages of a new relationship, many individuals do not know enough about someone to become invested in the personal details of their previous marriage and divorce.
Furthermore, it’s important to stay as emotionless as possible when discussing your ex-spouse. Hartman describes how the emotions of resentment or anger you display during your date when describing him or her, the more it sounds like there are unresolved feelings involved.
If there are children in the picture, they can’t be hidden from a new significant other. Because you are their parents, they are a deal-breaker in any relationship you will ever be in. If a potential love interest is not interested in them, you cannot be interested in that potential love interest.
After they have spent some time with the new significant other, it is important to gauge the opinion of the children. The change in your relationship status affects them as much as it affects you. There is now a new adult in their lives, and their opinions and feelings need to be factored into how to proceed with any new relationship moving forward.
Honest and kind
This level of honesty that you need to bring to the table in any new relationship after a divorce is important, and it’s important to try and stay as honest as possible. You cannot have a culture of honesty in your relationship, just some of the time, according to Psychology Today. Not being honest or forthcoming about anything and everything, including feelings themselves, could be part of the reason for a divorce in a previous relationship in the first place.
However, there is a difference between bluntness and honesty. Honesty requires a level of kindness to present the information with gentleness and tact. Bluntness does not care about the feelings of others. When discussing your divorce with a family member, friend, or new significant other, it’s important to be kind toward their reaction, because this type of news could create discomfort. Divorce is not a topic a lot of people like talking about, but kindly opening up about it with someone for the first time will let that person know how much you trust and care about them.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.
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