Peter Post Offers Etiquette Tips for Divorce Announcements, Cards, Parties and More
How do you tell people you’ve gotten a divorce, changed your name and moved to another town? Emily Post’s grandson, Peter Post,who is the director of The Emily Post Institute and author of five etiquette books,including “Essential Manners for Couples,” shared histips for divorce etiquette withWevorce.com.
Wevorce.com: There are rituals for every event in life — birth, marriages. Why not divorce?
A: “Divorce is a difficult and negative time in a person’s life. We don’t celebrate the negatives in our lives.
Wevorce.com: How to tell peoplethat you are no longer married?
A: I think the way that you do it, your close friends know what’s going on in your life. You try to tell them in person and over the phone. A conversation is better than piece of paper. John and I are getting divorced and Mary and I are moving on in our lives. That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to say anything more.You want to let them know this situation has occurred. That way there’s no embarrassment later. Call them, meet with them, talk with them and let them know. Frankly they will spread the word for you. Some people will say ‘Please don’t tell anyone just yet,’ and I would honor that request. In some cases, people are still living in the same house and there’s nothing obvious about it yet.
Wevorce.com: What about telling friends and family who you may have limited contact with, a few times a year or at the holidays?
A: A change of address can do that. You can send them a note that says reach me at Jane Doe at such and such and give them the address. By doing that, you’re in essence giving them the information. That would be the best way to let others know. By doing that, you let people know instead of sending a divorce announcement. I’m not enamored of that. You’re moving forward rather than looking back. You can certainly send change of address forms. There are tons of appropriate change of address forms at stationary shops. You can use your own language or have them made up for you.
Wevorce.com: Why don’t you like the idea of a divorce announcement?
A: I think it celebrates the difficult past moment in your life, rather than where you’re headed in the future. The card has the potential to be disrespectful to the other person in the party, which is something we try to avoid even in an acrimonious divorce.
Wevorce.com: How should you respond if someone tells you in person or in writing, ‘I’m getting a divorce, and I just wanted to let you know.’
A: So sorry to hear the news, just to let you know I’m here for you and let’s get together soon. Or it can be a telephone call, that’s certainly a reasonable thing for a person to do.
Wevorce.com: What do you think of divorce rituals like divorce parties?
A: I’m not enamored of divorce parties because it’s a celebration of a difficult time. It’s an oxymoron to me. Celebrating a new chapter in your life is more appropriate. The new chapter allows me to look forward. If I wanted to have some of my friends over to start to become part of the social world again, I would call it celebrating a new chapter in my life. My first reaction would be to skip the party.
Wevorce.com: What do you think of divorce parties in which you are asked to bring a present, sort of like an engagement party, for the person who lost stuff in the divorce?
A: That’s over the top to say the least. It’s not appropriate. People do it. I know they do it. But It doesn’t feel right to me at all.
Wevorce.com: How should you tell co-workers about your divorce?
A: It’simportant to let them know. If you have an office with three or four people, you talk to them individually. If you work in a big office, you tell the people you are close to and the gossip tree will let the others know faster than you want them to. You want to let them know, so if you seem distracted, people know. I think you let your boss know. It is going to be public to everybody, so the news will get out.
Wevorce.com: How should co-workers respond if they hear you are getting divorced?
A: You express your sympathy and ask ifthere is something you can do. It depends on your personal situation with the person getting divorced. I think it’s appropriate to say, ‘Ifthere’s anythingI can do, please let me know.’ People like support, even if it’s not acted upon, if it’s just offered, it helps a person.
Wevorce.com: How does a professional man or woman deal with divorce in the workplace? Meaning, he or she is getting divorced and spends a lot of time aroundother professionals, who are mostly married,and wants tobecareful of their reputation in the workplace?
A: I think it’s no different than a singleperson in the workplace. You are now that single person. You want to be perceived professionally. A lot of relationships happen in the workplace. I saw a statistic that 50 percent of marriages happen in the workplace. I don’t think it’s appropriate for guys to start making commentsor hit on women in the workplace. It’s the same advice you give to single people. The real goal is that you want to present a professional image of yourself. The perception I have of myself is one thing. The perception others have of me is another. If they view me, all the sudden as someone who is on the hunt, that’s not a good thing. Other people’sopinions matters in business tremendously. You want to still maintain a professionalimage andyou want to think about how you look from other people’s perspective.
Wevorce.com: How to act around the other woman/new step mom?
A: The best word I can give you is civilly. Certainly when there are children involved, there’s the potential for people to interact in a cursory way or in small towns where you’re going to run into another person. For the sake of yourself and your children, you should hold your emotions to yourself and be polite. You don’t have to make this person your new best friend. Wherever you are running into them, particularly in small towns, you acknowledge they exist. When you’rearound her, you can have a factual discussion…We’ve seen divorces where people are able, especially when kids are involved, to make it something that doesn’t make the other people feel awkward. The only way to do that is be considerate and respectful.