Social Question

girlofscience's avatar

How do you break the news about a break-up/divorce to the families of a couple?

Asked by girlofscience (7550points) December 3rd, 2009

My (ex-)boyfriend and I have been together for three years, but we are currently in the process of breaking up (and have been in this process for the past several months). We still live together and will continue to live together until July, when our lease expires. (This is going fine; we’re still friends.)

In any event, we both come from families that are very, very family-oriented, loving, and involved. Our families live in the same city, but the two of us live 8 hours away from them. We visit them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they come to visit us a few times each year.

Before we moved away, we saw them regularly and usually together. My parents love him, his parents love me, and they love each other. They’re all so thrilled to get together and think we’re the perfect couple and have always been very excited about us being together. Our families are now close even with each other, and our past two Thanksgivings and Christmases have been completely combined with our extended families! Everyone is all so happy and probably expect that we’re going to get married in a few years…

Our families still have no idea about the break-up. We are absolutely dreading telling them because it is going to absolutely devastate them. Even though we were broken up, we went through with the (already-planned) combined extended family Thanksgiving dinner this year and feigned the existence of our relationship. Our parents still constantly make comments to us (via phone/email) about how lucky we are to have found each other. Both of our families have already purchased Christmas presents for the other side, and Christmas plans have already been made. We’re going to have this last Christmas together and break the news of the break-up at some point after the holidays.

Given how close our families are, how much they love us being together, and how devastated they’re going to be, how should we go about telling them? How long should we wait after the Christmas festivities? What medium should we use to communicate the bad news? How should we begin the conversation? Please help!

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7 Answers

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Tell the truth. You two can try and reassure everyone you are both on good terms as friends and might continue on in each other’s lives but as friends rather than lovers but be prepared some will be very disappointed and hurt. Give them all time to adjust and see by example you and your ex treat each other well, go gently but put out your want of continued involvement where you feel and accept who takes you up and forgive those who choose to shy away.

casheroo's avatar

I still can’t understand how the new boyfriend is okay with this all. And I guess it’s good your now ex has finally accepted it?

Well, I think since you have a close relationship with your mother, you should tell her first. Whenever I have something important to tell my parents, I usually end up talking with just my mother first, then we involve my father. Not to leave him out, but..we’re just closer and mothers and daughters just have that tight sort of relationship.
I think your mother will be most understanding of all. She’ll want you to be happy, and yeah maybe she’ll be upset for you..but do you really think your break up will overwhelm her with emotions? Break ups happen.

Going more into how to do it…
When talking to your mother, just be honest. Tell her you broke up, and tell her why…whatever those reasons may be. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your mature and honest conversation with her.

I imagine it’s hard when you have such a close relationship to his family. I don’t see the need for this to be done as a couple. He should inform his own family as he sees fit. I’m sure they’re going to have quite a few questions regarding his living situation…being that he moved multiple states away to be with you, when you were already liking someone else.

I think it HAS to be done before Christmas though. I’d get it done and overwith prior to it. Maybe a phone call to your mother?? I’m not sure what your school break is like, and when you were planning to come up for Christmas…but it’d be way too awkward to have Christmas together with both families and then be all like “Hey, we’re actually broken up!” right afterward.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I agree with @casheroo to do it before Christmas.

holden's avatar

Be straightforward and direct. Don’t turn it into a big announcement. They will get over it, but it might take some time. You might remind them that there’s no reason for them to stop being friends because of the breakup. I just hope they weren’t expecting grandchildren from you.

girlofscience's avatar

It’s definitely not happening before Christmas. We’ve discussed this a lot, and we’re going to wait. Plus, we’d like to have one last Christmas together for closure purposes, and it would be way too devastating of a holiday for our families. So, that’s not up for debate, but I do appreciate the advice on how to handle this. I agree that announcing the breakup immediately after Christmas would be totally effed, so we weren’t planning on that either. We were thinking maybe end of January?

@casheroo: Yeah, I agree with the mom conversation. I’m the same way with my mom. I’m sure I’ll call her and talk to her first, but I just can’t bring myself to figure out how to begin.

galileogirl's avatar

First of all you may be surprised how well they accept your choice. After all the will want what is best for you, not what is easiest for them. When my husband and I divorced our families were very connected, my Dad was like a father to my ex. My male relatives were among his closest friends. His family lived thousands of miles away. Before we sp;it, I got things in order so that when I did tell my family I was able to tell them I had things under control and there was no fault or blame but we no longer had the same goals.

That was sort of true in that there had been no infidelity or violence. He had done things thay caused me not to be able to trust him but that was nobody’s business but ours so I didn;t discuss it with the family. We continued to run in the same social circles for several years until we had moved to new places with new relationships. We remained friendly without being friends.

When one of my brothers divorced after 20 years of marriage he went about it totally wrong, We lived severalhours apart but talked all the time, His wife was loved by everybody and she fit into the family because of her similar personality. One day he stopped answering his phone and eventually left a message that they were breaking up and he wasn;t going to be available for a while. I was very hurt because he didn’t call me for almost a year. I was perfectly willing to not talk about his divorce but his breaking off our 45 year relationship was never the same again.

So what I am saying is don’t lie about it but don’t give them too much information. Nobody has to be the bad guy, Don’t make them take sides and maintain friendly relationships. If you were friends with his sister or mother, you still can be.

Dr_C's avatar

You each tell your own parents. They love you and will support you no matter what.

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