DEAR DR. JENN,
I just ended a six-year relationship. Everyone in our social circles knew us as a couple. How do we break the news? —The End
DEAR THE END,
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin consciously uncoupled through a statement on Goop. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan announced their split on Instagram. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt broke the news on Facebook and Twitter. But what do you do if you’re not a celebrity with a PR team orchestrating the perfect strategy to announce your break up? How do you tell your “following” without sounding like you think you are a celebrity?
Whether you’re ending a long-term marriage or a committed relationship of a short duration (that was long enough to have social and social media evidence of the flame), you are going to need to address it with your friends and family. But it can be difficult to know how to respectfully get the word out that you are back on the market or that you are in full-on grieving mode so you can get the support you need.
You don’t want to start with a post; instead, share the information with your close inner circle. These are your family members and close friends whom you trust and whose support will be the most important. It is likely that some of these people already know that things have been strained. Many of them, I’m sure, will have their own strong opinions about the break up. We never really know how people feel about our partner until it’s over.
But don’t surrender to temptation: Take the high road. Pick that one trusted friend with whom to detail every heinous crime and despicable thing your ex did because it’s cathartic. And then stop talking crap about the person you used to share your life with because it does not bring out your best side—or reflect well on you.
VIDEO: Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Split After Almost 9 Years of Marriage
If kids are involved, trash talk is strictly off limits with them, no matter how intolerable the relationship got. Children’s well-being comes first and trashing the person who gave them half of their their DNA is hurtful and inappropriate. Speaking of which, if there are kids involved, make sure to tell them with your soon-to-be-ex-partner, before you tell anyone else, so they don’t hear rumors or pick up on pitying stares.
Then, if you dare, comes the social media announcement. Simply changing your relationship status on Facebook is the easiest way to break the news. In fact, the instant and non-attention-grabby ease with which it spreads the word is an argument in favor of using relationship statuses on Facebook in the first place. Many people find it awkward to post an announcement: How do you word it? Should you say anything? The relationship status change is the most understated formula.
But there are couples—normal, non-celebrity couples—who prefer to use the Gwyneth approach or find that after a long relationship or marriage, they have a few things to explain to their communities. If you go that route, keep these tips in mind:
1) Don’t be premature. Do not post anything unless you are 100 percent sure that it is really over, for good.
2) Leading up to it, don’t post thinly veiled messages about the problems you are having. More importantly, don’t have any of your fights on social media for the world to weigh in on. Gross.
3) Whatever you write should be mature and honor the history you have together. “I finally dumped that freeloading ex-boyfriend of mine!” does not qualify.
4) Do not share details. It is nobody’s business. Not to mention, the next person you want to have a relationship with will be reading all about this when he or she looks through your social media history. Ditto new friends, colleagues, and bosses.
5) In an amicable break up, crafting a statement together is not just for celebrities. Having a united front is a positive, especially when children are involved. If the two of you are not in a place to do it together, sharing a statement on your own that is respectful and straightforward can be a good option too.
6) This is an especially important move if you were engaged and planning a wedding. You’ll want to let those who would have been guests know that no, their invitation did not get lost in the mail, without holding up their travel plans. Here’s one cut-and-paste statement you can build on: “[Partner’s name] and I have decided to call off the engagement. This has been a painful decision and we prefer not to get into the details. We wanted to let you know in case you were making your summer plans around our wedding. Thank you for your support.”
How do you drop the hint more subtly if you don’t want to make a formal announcement? After some time has passed, there’s no shame in getting the word out that you’re single in a less direct way. The first time you go out with your single girlfriends, caption the photo accordingly; share a funny comment about rejoining Tinder, and the point will be received.
Don’t expect everyone to get—or remember—the message, though. After a long relationship, people will likely ask you about your ex-partner, so it’s best to think about how you want to respond ahead of time. A simple “We actually broke up quite a while ago, but we’re friendly and he’s doing great” or “Thanks for asking; we actually recently broke up. How is that work project going?” does just fine.
If you want people to set you up with eligible singles or if you need support or advice, straight up tell your friends when you’re chatting one-on-one. Everyone wants something different after a breakup and the best way to get it is to be direct.