Setting Boundaries with Nosy People during Divorce

Does this sound familiar? Right in the middle of one of the most emotionally tumultuous times of your life – your divorce – just about everyone seems interested. 

Whether it’s a co-worker you’ve barely spoken to or your ex-spouse’s great Aunt Matilda, you’re suddenly bombarded with intrusive questions and unsolicited advice about divorce in general – and your divorce specifically. Without making a lot of enemies, how do you create healthy boundaries that shut the conversation down?

People love gossip

Isn’t it bizarre how people latch onto someone else’s misfortune? From the moment the “D” word was uttered, it seemed to awaken the insatiable curiosity of people around you. Your life is now the topic of conversation. Everyone is “concerned” or wants to share their advice and anecdotes. 

So why do people gossip?

Experts have suggested it’s because we’re social creatures, and gossip allows us to “connect” and provides us with “cultural learning.” But you suspect there’s more at play here than some innocent connection. 

Most gossip, especially about unfortunate situations, is a way for people with self-esteem problems to feel better about themselves. Latching onto someone else’s adversity allows them to feel superior. Some even take passive-aggressive delight in others’ unfortunate circumstances to make their own lives seem better in comparison. 

At the very least, it allows them to be the expert. Want to hear all about their divorce? Yup, here it comes … but somehow, you’re still the center of attention. Does this bother you? If so, it’s time to kindly yet assertively slap up some firm boundaries.

Cut ‘em off

Fielding abrupt personal questions during your divorce can seductively lead you down the long, painful path of over-sharing. Don’t. 

You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your divorce or your personal life, not even family members. Period. Divorce is a difficult time as it is; fielding personal and inappropriate questions or comments makes it all the more so. 

What can you do? Equip yourself beforehand with tactics you can use to stop the nosey "friends" in their tracks. Here are some ideas.

1. The elevator speech

Shut questions like “What happened?” down with a well-rehearsed, short, and swift response. “It’s been a long time coming, and we mutually decided that this was the best thing.”

If your interrogator keeps up, just let them know you’d rather not discuss it for now. Sorry.

2. Polite diversion

When abruptly asked how things “are going” with your divorce or in your new life, say “Fine.” Then, change the subject. You will get pretty good at diversionary tactics after a while. And they will eventually get the hint.

3. Honesty is the best policy

Depending on who you’re being assailed by, you may just want to take the honest approach. “Hey, it’s a tough time right now, and I’d really rather not talk about it. Thanks for understanding.” Unless they’re a lout, that ought to shut the conversation down. 

4. Lighten the mood

When you’re fielding questions about what happened with your former spouse, a little humor can go a long way. “Well, in the first place, it’s classified information. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Ha. Ha.” Collect some humorous comebacks, and if these don’t work, refer to the first three suggestions. 

Remember, setting personal boundaries doesn’t mean you have to be unkind or aggressive. You’re just implementing a bit of self-respect, asking for some privacy, and expecting others to understand. That’s not too much to ask for. 

Navigating a divorce is difficult in the best of situations. At Hello Divorce, we’re here to support you from the very beginning through your post-divorce recovery with DIY divorce plans, services like divorce coaching, and a library of informative resources to make your divorce process a little less daunting. Want more information? Schedule a free call today.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.