Please understand that what I’m about to talk about is in no way a roadmap. You have to do what you think is best, obviously. But since I experienced this within a small group of people, I felt like it was an important topic to tackle. There’s so many websites that mention divorce and talking about it with piers and family members, but there’s not a lot out there about discussing it with your boss. Sure you have the articles that give you very straight-edge practical advice, but nothing about divorce is straight edge. Okay, now that the disclaimer is over, let’s get down to it.
When I first separated from my husband of 4 years, it was not an easy decision. I also knew it wouldn’t be obvious to others since, on the outside, we seemed like the perfect couple. We hosted fabulous parties, went on awesome vacations with matching scrapbooks to provide proof we loved each other, and went out semi-regularly with our small group of friends, all of whom had gone to our “epic” wedding.
Like a lot of people, I felt embarrassed and ashamed at my failed “perfect” life. I rarely spoke to my friends or family about my marital woes. It was just too complicated. I was too busy to have a sit-down “serious” conversation with anyone about it. And the thought of doing it over and over and over with more and more people felt overwhelming and terrifying. I had to do it once with my husband which was the worst thing ever. Why would I want to relive these thoughts and feelings with anyone else?
The truth is, you don’t have to.
While it may seem obvious, you don’t have to get emotional with your boss. Your boss is not your friend. (EVEN if they ARE your friend, their number one priority is their business and the continued success of it. They might care about the role you play in that success, but you personally, not so much.)
At the time of my divorce, I was working with a very small group of women. I loved these women. They were strong and powerful and kind and fun. They were a second family. But I found it extremely difficult to tell them what was going on with me. So I didn’t. I just never talked about it. I would give vague answers when people asked about him or said that we were in the process of planning something to avoid further questions.
When I moved out and found a new apartment, I did so quickly and quietly. I didn’t miss a day of work and I never asked anyone for help. Looking back, I probably should have. They were solid resources. Being a little older and wiser, I should have utilized them, even just to feel comforted. Hell, some of them had even been through a divorce already!
I don’t think my work or my working relationships suffered, but you can’t hide everything and it was pretty obvious that something was going on with me.
Ultimately, it was my boss whom asked me if everything was okay. I wasn’t ready to tell her, but she asked me a question I wasn’t prepared to answer and I crumbled like a dry pie. I was so lucky that she was the first “real person” I had told.
It was a relief, sure, but I wish I had been able to approach her when I was ready to.
My advice is to set a meeting your boss and lay it out very plainly. You can say things like, “I wanted you to be aware of my personal situation in case I need to take a day off for court or signing papers.” Or, “I am currently going through the beginning stages of a divorce. I would appreciate it if I could take a day or two to finalize some things.” And that can be that! Honestly! Unless there are extenuating circumstance which alter the nature of the relationship you have with your boss, this is all you really need to say. You’re giving them a courtesy heads-up and you’re also taking the pressure off of yourself. You can check this person off your list of people you feel obligated to tell.
As for the “when” part, you should feel like you have control over your personal life. If you don’t want to get cornered (because believe me, you might be the strongest person in the world but your coworkers will be able to tell that *something* is a little off about your attitude or even the way you walk!) I suggest telling your boss sooner rather than later. Practice what you want to say a few times and go for it.
Also, do yourself a favor and get some inspiring things like this cute pennant.