Is There A Right Way To Announce Your Divorce?
On Monday, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum broke some pretty surprising news: Your favorite adorable (not to mention, absurdly hot) famous couple is separating after nine years of marriage.
In keeping with the amiable nature of their partnership, Channing and Jenna simultaneously released a joint statement via People and on their social media accounts. "We have lovingly chosen to separate as a couple," the statement reads.
"It feels odd that we have to share this kind of thing with everyone, but it's a consequence of the lives we've chosen to lead, which we also happen to be deeply grateful for," the statement reads.
Channing and Jenna also expressed that they wanted to set the record straight about any potential rumors about why their relationship ended:
As sad as it is to see any relationship end, it's not super surprising that Channing and Jenna managed to handle news of their separation with maturity and kindness (after all, their relationship has always appeared genuinely loving).
And as awkward as it seems to announce a breakup on social media, this kind of thing is pretty commonplace for high-profile couples. Who can forget the "conscious uncoupling" of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in 2014, announced on Gwyneth's website GOOP?
Rapper Logic announced his divorce from Jessica Andrea with a similarly calm Twitter statement in March. "It's very simple: It just didn't work out," he wrote. "There is no anger involved. No fighting, no cheating, no nothing. We love each other and will continue to support each other for the rest of our lives."
For people without a fan base or tabloid reporters demanding answers, a social media statement probably isn't necessary. But for couples who are splitting up and wondering how to tell their friends and family, it wouldn't hurt to take a page from Channing and Jenna's book:
1. Don't make it anyone's fault
"It’s always best to go about it in a way in which one person is not being faulted or is being made out to be the one responsible for the breakup," says Bruce Berman, Ph.D., a private practice psychologist who works with divorcing couples and families in New York City.
"It might be that one person wanted to see the relationship continue and the other partner didn’t," Berman continues. "But if your relationship doesn’t work, usually it’s because both partners contributed to the relationship not working in some way. So I think if they can present it in a way where fault or responsibility is not being attributed solely on one of the partners, that’s constructive."
The decision to divorce or separate is likely one you're making as a couple, Berman adds, so if at all possible, decisions about how you'll break the news should also be collaborative.
2. Work as a team to break the news
"The best way for couples who are separating or divorcing to tell friends and family is to first sit down together and figure out how they want to go about doing that, what is it they want to say, and who they want to tell first," Berman notes, adding that splitting pairs generally have a mountain of issues (like custody agreements and alimony) to settle together before they can sever ties.
It might make sense to form a united front when telling certain people, and to delegate particular friends or relatives to one party or the other. "Separating, as a couple, is still something to do together," Berman says. Provided there isn't a prohibitively high level of animosity between the two of you, of course.
3. Consider the best option for your kids
For couples with children, as in Jenna and Channing's case, maintaining a level of civility and support is crucial, says William J. Ryan, Ph.D., a private practice psychologist in Brooklyn, New York.
"If children are involved, you’re coparenting with this person for life," he says. "You want the family to continue to work as a family system." This can set the tone for future interactions down the the line—which includes everything from cooperating during parent-teacher conferences, to being civil at your child's wedding years later.
Ryan and Berman agree that, when informing children of a separation, parents should avoid laying blame, demonizing, or bad-mouthing one another.
4. When in doubt, give each other space
While separating best practices may seem pretty straightforward, for many couples, it's easier said than done. Many people who find themselves filing for divorce don't feel so kind and loving towards their former partner as Jenna and Channing.
For those couples, it's probably best to just divide and conquer: Tell people in your own time, in whatever way feels most natural to you. But if you do have kids, don't tweet or share any big divorce news until your child is aware of and understands the situation. Chances are, your kid probably has an active online presence, too.