You’ve just been through a major life change.  Your circle of friends, the city in which you live and the overall size of your tribe will determine the frequency and level of intensity when it comes to fielding difficult questions about your divorce.  Inevitably, there will be a public event where matters of the heart will be addressed.  Taking a moment prior to finding yourself in such situations will prepare you once they do arise. Ask yourself a few simple questions to help navigate this foreign territory.

Why do they want to know? It’s okay to be skeptical.  A divorce is a very personal matter, and you have a right to privacy.  Does this person have a genuine interest in your well being, or are they only genuinely interested in gossip?

Unfortunately, you will find yourself on the receiving end of prying questions at the most inopportune moments.  Rather than find yourself caught off guard, prepare a few canned responses which will make the situation a bit less awkward.  The following are three options, commonly referred to as the Three D’s:

  • When in doubt, deflect.  It’s a gracious way to handle any situation, as you are not refusing to speak — you’re just refusing to speak at that moment.  It may sound something like this, “I would love to chat, but now is just not a good time.  Call me and we’ll have coffee.”  By putting the onus of following up on to the person asking, you are increasing the likelihood of the coffee date never happening.  Gossips can be lazy and opportunistic.  If they have to call and schedule a gab fest, it likely won’t happen.
  • Be diplomatic, yet vague.  If you don’t want to divulge any information, yet the possibility of a future coffee date is unappealing, choose the vaguely diplomatic option.  It may sound something like this, “You know how things are. It was just time.”  Assume they know what you mean and move on.  People skilled in this method will add reinforced body language, give a knowing nod and perhaps a grief stricken arm squeeze.  Instinctively, the person asking the question will mimic your body language and find themselves nodding knowingly without understanding why.  Once it registers that they do not, in fact, know how things are you will be a safe distance away.
  • Divulge.  Have a good purge.  This person may be truly interested and now may be the best time for you to have a good chat.   They may offer helpful insight, an understanding ear and may very well offer you a hug at just the right moment.  A helpful tip is to get a clear picture in your mind of who these people might be prior to leaving the house.

Consider the source. In any divorce, division of friends is inevitable to some degree.  But some friends are sincerely Switzerland, and can maintain respectful boundaries with both parties.  These friends will make themselves clear fairly early on.  In the event you’re not sure, trust them with small pieces of information.  You’ll sense a leak early on and will know that this person simply isn’t to be trusted with matters of the heart at this time.

Other friends are like “cleanup on aisle 6”.  These friends will seem as though they are all about a compassionate shoulder when they run into you at the grocery store, however they are on their phone spilling your business before you reach the checkout.  Just be careful.  Choose your confidants carefully, and keep up a brave front when those outside your immediate circle ask for too many details.  The emotion that you’re feeling now will pass, as will your perception and understanding of what happened.  Best to work these things out in private than in the theater of public opinion and gossip.

Consider the approach. “How are you?  So I heard that…”  Sigh. Whatever people say or is being said about you is truly none of your business.  This bears repeating, so I’ll say it again:   whatever people say or is being said about you is truly none of your business.

Rather than enter a discussion either explaining your position, defending yourself or wading around in the murky waters of hearsay, simply stay dry and don’t engage.  Why?  Because you know what happened.  You know your role is the demise of your marriage and the part you played.  That isn’t anybody’s business.  You also know her role in the demise of your marriage and the part she played, and that isn’t anybody’s business either….especially people who begin a conversation with the latest gossip about you and your situation.  Rest assured whatever you contribute will continue to be conversational fodder.  True friends will approach with kindness, compassion and with a gentle look of understanding.  Maybe a hug or a warm pat on the arm.  They won’t ask you anything because they don’t need to know, they just understand what you’re going through and will respect your privacy.

Go forth and be social knowing you are prepared to handle social situations.  Rest assured there will be blunders, that you may overshare, and that people may stop speaking with you if you don’t offer the juicy details.  But this phase in your life will pass, and you’ll come out the other side knowing your true friends, and be that much stronger for it.

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