Wedding Woes

"We're not on good terms."

Dear Prudence,
I have a weird etiquette question: I was in an abusive marriage for a decade, and after we split, I had to distance myself from both my social and professional circles because we worked in the same industry. I’m very healthy and happy now. Recently, I’ve started to fold a few previous connections back into my life. Nobody has any idea how bad the abuse was, or why we divorced, and I still have to see my ex on occasion. My question is: How do I address my divorce circumstances politely, without burdening my new connections with a heavy dose of emotional content?

—No Polite Way to Say This

Re: "We're not on good terms."

  • Title says it best.
    If they want more details, that's up to LW but unless you're close it's best not to go that route - especially since they're happy now
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    charlotte989875OurWildKingdom
  • "Irreconcilable differences." 


    charlotte989875MesmrEweOurWildKingdom
  • We work with clients to identify who in their lives are "safer" to tell about the current or past abuse, and who isn't. So, if LW feels a few close friends would be safe to tell, then she should. She doesn't need to hide what happened to her, if she doesn't want to. If she does want to keep it private, she absolutely shouldn't feel like she has to tell.  If she has any triggers it can be good to share this with close people so they can help the LW manage the symptoms or environment.

    But if these aren't close people, a "we had difficulties we couldn't overcome" or "we're not on good terms" should be sufficient to change the conversation. 
    short+sassyOurWildKingdomOliveOilsMom
  • So if someone asked why we got divorced, I'm kind of on the fence with being vague and answering the question directly. 

    Why should someone shield an abusive ex or worry about protecting their reputation? It just further entrenches abuse being secret, something we "don't talk about". I would be tempted to respond to the why questions with, "It was an abusive relationship for me, but I'd rather not go into details...*bean dip*"
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    charlotte989875MissKittyDangermissJeanLouiseshort+sassy
  • So if someone asked why we got divorced, I'm kind of on the fence with being vague and answering the question directly. 

    Why should someone shield an abusive ex or worry about protecting their reputation? It just further entrenches abuse being secret, something we "don't talk about". I would be tempted to respond to the why questions with, "It was an abusive relationship for me, but I'd rather not go into details...*bean dip*"
    I totally agree, but many survivors of violence don't want to share too much, with too many people. Many of our clients say they don't want to become a "poster board for DV victims" or that they don't want that to define them or their relationships. The LW has to decide for herself what she wants to share and when, and if she feels comfortable answering directly she absolutely should. 
    Yep.  I remember a co-worker with a bad DV situation and management eventually stepped into help her...but it was difficult and embarrassing for her in a professional environment.  They probably saved her life.  However, at the time I just remember how worried she was about her job and perception. 
    charlotte989875OliveOilsMom
  • So if someone asked why we got divorced, I'm kind of on the fence with being vague and answering the question directly. 

    Why should someone shield an abusive ex or worry about protecting their reputation? It just further entrenches abuse being secret, something we "don't talk about". I would be tempted to respond to the why questions with, "It was an abusive relationship for me, but I'd rather not go into details...*bean dip*"
    I totally agree, but many survivors of violence don't want to share too much, with too many people. Many of our clients say they don't want to become a "poster board for DV victims" or that they don't want that to define them or their relationships. The LW has to decide for herself what she wants to share and when, and if she feels comfortable answering directly she absolutely should. 
    Totally agree, she should decide what she's comfortable with.

    But she says her concern with telling people about the abuse is not to burden them with emotional content. That part just made me really sad for her - like she feels as though she can't tell people because telling them she was abused would be too hard for THEM! 
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    charlotte989875
  • So if someone asked why we got divorced, I'm kind of on the fence with being vague and answering the question directly. 

    Why should someone shield an abusive ex or worry about protecting their reputation? It just further entrenches abuse being secret, something we "don't talk about". I would be tempted to respond to the why questions with, "It was an abusive relationship for me, but I'd rather not go into details...*bean dip*"
    I totally agree, but many survivors of violence don't want to share too much, with too many people. Many of our clients say they don't want to become a "poster board for DV victims" or that they don't want that to define them or their relationships. The LW has to decide for herself what she wants to share and when, and if she feels comfortable answering directly she absolutely should. 
    Totally agree, she should decide what she's comfortable with.

    But she says her concern with telling people about the abuse is not to burden them with emotional content. That part just made me really sad for her - like she feels as though she can't tell people because telling them she was abused would be too hard for THEM! 
    Completely! We just started a program where we work with the friends/family members of women who have been abused; how to support them, how to reach out, what to say, etc. so the social networks of survivors can be better prepared on how to really be there. I wish more programs did outreach like this, so that survivors wouldn't feel so bad about reaching out or feeling like they're burdening people who, in all likelihood, really do care/would want to help. 
    short+sassy
  • While my previous marriage wasn't abusive, I haven't really had too many people try and push for details.  If they ask about exH, I just say, "We've divorced."  There's sometimes a moment of shock or fumbling.  I honestly can't think of one person who asked why or what happened, just offered condolences, I said thank you, and we all moved on.
    charlotte989875short+sassy
  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
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    VarunaTT said:
    While my previous marriage wasn't abusive, I haven't really had too many people try and push for details.  If they ask about exH, I just say, "We've divorced."  There's sometimes a moment of shock or fumbling.  I honestly can't think of one person who asked why or what happened, just offered condolences, I said thank you, and we all moved on.

     I was thinking that about acquaintances.  How many acquaintances really pry? But for close friends.... I could only imagine they'd want the scoop.

  • VarunaTT said:
    While my previous marriage wasn't abusive, I haven't really had too many people try and push for details.  If they ask about exH, I just say, "We've divorced."  There's sometimes a moment of shock or fumbling.  I honestly can't think of one person who asked why or what happened, just offered condolences, I said thank you, and we all moved on.

     I was thinking that about acquaintances.  How many acquaintances really pry? But for close friends.... I could only imagine they'd want the scoop.


    My take from the LW are that none of the people she is talking about are close friends.  Maybe some of them were close friends at one point, but it sounds like it has been a few years and she is now trying to make reconnections.

    Agree with the other PPs.  If she doesn't want to mention the abuse because SHE feels it is an uncomfortable topic to bring up with new/"rekindling new" friendships, that is fine.  But I also don't think she should feel the need to hide anything out of an "etiquette worry" (?) that she is burdening people with emotional content.

    The "closest" I would come to prying about a divorce...even with a very good friend...is, "I'm so sorry to hear that!  Are you doing okay?  Let me know if you want to talk about things.  My door is always open."  And leave it up to them to confide in me, if they want to.

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    charlotte989875southernbelle0915OurWildKingdom
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