How do I tell my co-workers I'm getting a divorce?
January 2, 2013 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How do I tell my co-workers I'm getting a divorce?

I'm getting a divorce. However, most of my co-workers don't know about it and it's kind of awkward when they ask if I'm spending time with my ex-wife, etc.

I usually reply with something vague and non-committal, because yeah, it's awkward and I try to keep my personal life personal.

I'm interested in hearing your ideas on how to approach this, namely how I should let people know, who I should tell, things like that. As always, I appreciate your help.
posted by Fister Roboto to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For people you don't feel close to, I'd keep it honest but terse.

"So, you taking your wife out this weekend?"

"No, I'm not; actually, we separated a few weeks ago. How about your plans; anything fun? Oh, by the way, did you spreadsheet invoice email blah blah blah..."
posted by threeants at 10:23 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you tell one person, the whole office will know fairly quickly. If you decide to tell people, be aware it won't stay a secret.

The next time someone asks you about your wife, just say you and her have separated. Most people, I would hope, won't pry beyond that. They might ask if you're getting a divorce, in which you can tell them that yes you are.

If they ask why you're getting a divorce, politely say that you would rather not talk about it or that it's for private reasons.

Be completely upfront about it. "We're getting a divorce, but I rather not talk about it. I pray you understand. How was your weekend?"
posted by royalsong at 10:25 AM on January 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

You do it on a case by case basis.

"Where will you be taking your wife for New Year's?"

"Oh, I'm afraid we're no longer together. I'll be going to a party with friends. Where are you going?"

Keep it matter of fact, and steamroll ahead. A mass email would just be even more awkward and kind of inappropriate depending on the size of the office.
posted by inturnaround at 10:25 AM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I separated from my spouse, I kept discussion of family vague and deflected back to them:
"Hey, how's your family doing?"
"Oh, just fine. And yours? Your son got a new bike for Christmas, right?"

If anyone asked specific spouse-related questions, I would hold up my left hand and, if necessary, wiggle my empty ring finger. If anyone pressed, I'd just say, "I don't really feel like talking about it right now, thanks. Maybe some day."
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think this is a matter of personal preference. If you'd prefer not to let people know at all, I'd just keep responding with non-responses.

If there is anyone at work with whom you have a friendship or a social connection outside work, you could tell them that you and your wife are splitting up, and that you're fine. (That person will probably be the source for others to figure this out. If asked directly by others, you can just say yes, we're divorcing, and I'm fine, then move on to other topics.)

You really don't have to talk about this. If someone pushes you by asking a lot of questions, it's fine to say you'd truly appreciate it if you could talk about another topic, as this isn't one you like to discuss.
posted by bearwife at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

People are probably just making small talk, so no need to make it any more awkward than it is.

It's really a matter of how your relationship with people in your office is. If your co-workers are used to seeing your soon-to-be-ex at the annual holiday party, and they've met her, you might want to casually say something, "Yeah, Lisa and I are splitting up. It's a bummer, but it's for the best."

If you're in a formal office, if your coworkers haven't met your wife, and you don't usually chit-chat with people, when ever anyone asks you one of those random, "You and the Wife" questions, you can just say the same thing.

If you tell one person, the rest will soon know.

Hang in there, it get better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:41 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Strategically tell one person who has a good heart, but you know can't keep gossip in. If you have any specifications (you don't want to talk about it, you wish people wouldn't mention her) through those in that conversation.
posted by fermezporte at 10:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I told people when it came up. Short and simple. "We are no longer together" or something along those lines. I considered proactively telling a nice buddy who I knew would tell a bunch of people, but I figured it would just make it a topic of conversation with me. "Hey Johnny, heard about you and the wife. Sorry to hear about it. Anything I can do?" So either way, you either address it proactively or reactively or never tell. Have a one line short answer ready.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:29 AM on January 2, 2013

These responses are good, but also, how about wait a few weeks or months until it doesn't seem such a big deal? Then you can go, "we split up a few months back actually, things are good though [or other vague non depressing phrase]" and maybe it won't have that sting that it does right now?
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:31 AM on January 2, 2013

When I broke up with my long-term boyfriend several years ago, I sent an email to the people in my (small, close-knit, gossip-prone) department. This was the sort of department in which the staff compared their hot flash symptoms, and brought in laxative tea when another staff member declared that they were constipated. I knew that if I didn't set the record straight from the beginning, it would spiral into people making assumptions, gossiping, and conjecture. Since I hate drama I figured it would be best to just lay it all out there. I worked with nosy people who were all up in everyone else's business. Afterwards some said nothing, some offered me help, and some were really supportive. I don't think that the gossip train even left the station. It was nice to be in control of the news.

But my choice to send an email was 100% due to the gossipy, crazy-family type department that I was working in. YMMV.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:36 AM on January 2, 2013

I took my manager aside and told him, so as to explain any behavior changes he might see in me and to give him a heads up about potentially needing time off to got to court.

I had a hard time with my co-workers. I tried being vague, I tried changing the subject, but ultimately I realized that I was becoming increasingly stressed about it - being defensive and feeling ashamed - because I was worried about gossip. I called my five immediate co-workers (my group within the dpeartment) together and told them what was going on - I said something like, "I'm sure you've noticed that something's going on with me, and rather than leave you wondering I wanted to let you know that we're getting divorced and it's amicable". I think I answered a few quick questions. I found that they were all understanding, and that as news did spread to the rest of the department it spread as I had delivered it - not as speculation.
posted by unsound at 11:36 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I went through this about a year ago I told my boss so that he could make sure I had time off for court dates, meetings with lawyers, and that sort of thing. Then I told the two biggest socializers that I work with with the assumption they would get the word out for me. That pretty much worked, but there were a couple of times when someone would ask about my (now) ex-wife. I simple said something matter of fact like "well, we split up a while back" and left it at that. For the most part people were supportive but not nosy; you will likely find that you get used to talking about it with others.
posted by TedW at 12:41 PM on January 2, 2013

Just stop wearing your wedding ring. Everyone will figure it out very quickly. Any conversations you do have to have, just handle them like JohnnyGunn said.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:26 PM on January 2, 2013

Just stop wearing your wedding ring. Everyone will figure it out very quickly.

I would never figure it out from this. If you waggled your empty ring fingers at me, I would stare at them blankly wondering what the hell you were doing. Spare a thought for those of us who are not quite so good with random details like who wears a ring or not and which fingers are important.
posted by jacalata at 1:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just stop wearing your wedding ring. Everyone will figure it out very quickly.

I would never figure it out from this. If you waggled your empty ring fingers at me, I would stare at them blankly wondering what the hell you were doing. Spare a thought for those of us who are not quite so good with random details like who wears a ring or not and which fingers are important.

As someone who knows lots of happily married people who don't wear rings I would second this.
posted by young sister beacon at 3:22 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

When it happened to me, I just decided to mention it to a few people so that they got the (simple) story straight. I found that rumours have a way to get distorted, but that when you take the initiative to tell something straight to a few people, the information spreads quickly, quietly and correctly.
posted by aroberge at 6:55 PM on January 2, 2013

Almost two years ago a good friend/co-worker/now-fiance was in this situation. He and his wife were divorcing and he wasn't totally sure about how to let the people we work with know. He took off his wedding ring, assuming people would notice and go from there, but yeah... no.

His solution?

He told me. He knew that I'm a bit of a chatty cathy in our office and that while he knew I have been working on being less of a gossip and better with secrets*, he told me, and then basically said "Go to 'er" and let me pass along the info. It was like gossiping with permission. SUPER FUN! :) Anyway, within about an hour and a half everyone knew and that was that. Everyone knew what was going on, no one was whispering misinformation or asking him awkward questions. It was just an "Oh, okay." and people went on about their day.

So tell a gossip that you are friends with and that you trust enough to pass along the truth. Tell them that you and your wife are separated and divorcing and that you're fine but you don't want everyone to be asking you about it, so could they please just pass it along. Problem solved.

*my difficulty with keeping things on the down low came up again when he and I began dating. Despite my telling him I wanted to keep it secret for a while, everyone knew within two days. ha ha ha
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:35 AM on January 4, 2013

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