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Advice | Do I have to explain my divorce? Readers of Carolyn Hax offer advice.


We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Caroline: I am in the process of a mostly amicable divorce. I have a therapist, so processing the divorce isn’t the problem. As I share the news outside my inner circle, I get the “But why??” ask. We were together 20 years and have young children togetherpeople have questions, I get it. It’s none of their business, of course, and I have my script response: “We’re doing what’s best for everyone right now.”

However, I wish I could share the reasons why the marriage fell apart. I am hurt and my life plans have been suddenly and drastically revised. I now have to deal with the impact of this life changing event on my children. I’m exhausted, struggling, rushing and giving every last ounce to my children. I have no interest in mud slinging or playing the blame game. I definitely don’t want to say anything that would be harmful if it came back to my kids. I want to convey enough of my situation so that people in my life understand my mental state, my limited ability to be social and that, out of respect for the children, I will not speak negatively about their father. Do you have any advice for a more comprehensive scripted answer to “But why???”

Don’t ask: First of all my condolences. My divorce was so painful, and it was made worse by the many people saying, “Why? We thought you were the perfect couple.” Like you, I suddenly became a struggling single mom with no energy left. I didn’t know what to say to acquaintances until I told a close friend about the many reasons for the divorce, including my ex’s point of view. She said, “There are so many ways to tell a divorce story, aren’t there?” My answer to people became just that.

When I was asked about it, I replied, ‘There are so many ways to tell that story – so you know, I think it’s better not to. It is difficult for everyone now, but we have done the best for our children.” This turned out to be a good answer because it closed off questions while still feeling respectful of the (usually kind and sympathetic) questioner.

Best of luck to you! I hope this helps. Know that you will emerge on the other side with your sanity and strength intact – life will be much better!

Don’t ask: I was divorced in my early thirties from a marriage that everyone thought was without flaws. It clearly wasn’t. Over time, I realized that most people who wanted to know the details were asking out of curiosity rather than compassion. Those who approached me with compassion cared more about how I was doing than the details of why everything was falling apart. All that to say: you don’t owe time, energy, or explanation to anyone’s curiosity.

A deflection might sound like, “It’s not one thing, but I appreciate your understanding that I don’t really have the energy to get into the details.” The most important thing to know is that the kids and I are fine, and we are thankful for the support of our community.” If someone really cares about you, that’s all they really need to know. And if they insist further, you owe them nothing more than that.

Another realization that helped me was understanding that people’s feelings about their own relationships (past or present) often come up in the conversation. Hearing about a divorce brings a lot of emotions, and you don’t have to help anyone deal with it. However, you can recognize that if someone has a less than compassionate reaction to your news, it’s probably more about their own state of mind than what they think of your divorce. Worry more about protecting your feelings (and your children’s) than about giving in to theirs.

– This too shall pass

Don’t ask: You are very nice to him. But the older I get, the more I believe that being vague or refusing to share information only helps the culprit. My advice is to state the facts simply and without details.

For example, saying “He was financially unfaithful” sounds better than “He had a gambling problem and drained the credit cards without telling me.” Or saying “He cheated” is easier than giving the details of who, how often and when you found out. Or say, “He refused to help me with the household chores,” instead of explaining, “I nagged him for years to pick up his socks and help bathe the kids and finally gave up.” You can follow the facts with statements about yourself such as, “I am now exhausted and I am grieving. I hope to see you this summer.”

In my opinion, he shouldn’t be doing what he did to you And take advantage of your silence. The children also deserve to know the facts, without details and nonsense. I am very sorry that you are going through this.

– Who is the main road intended for?

Each week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted via Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s episode here. New questions are usually posted on Fridays, with a submission deadline on Monday. Comments are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself, and have been edited for length and clarity.

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