Divorce can tear a person to pieces. Many going through it may not even have considered what happens next yet, but the questions are lurking in their subconscious: How do you let the world know that you’re now divorced? Should you, even? And how in the hell do you navigate the spider’s nest of social media when you’re newly separated? We asked three guys who’ve been through it about the right approach to such a delicate and devastating situation.
Carlos, 45, Tijuana
I don’t know if women are this way, but men, even if they’re always thinking they’re unhappy, they never want to take that step of getting divorced. When it happens you feel a combination of embarrassment, and in my case, maybe failure. Then you get over it, but the first six months are hard: You’re absorbing what happened, you don’t really want to be out, you feel blindsided. It takes some time to swallow that medicine.
One day, though, you kind of put it all behind you and you see the glass half-full and not half-empty. Because with marriage, you get institutionalized: You get used to the chores, spending time together, not being alone, and this and that. Only to find out that you’re now alone, you’re by yourself more, and it takes time to adjust to that. But you adjust, and you adjust very well to it — because it also has its upside.
In those first six months, I didn’t really want to let anybody know except for a few people I trusted. People you care about don’t necessarily go into the topic, but they keep in touch and ask how you are and things like that. If you’re willing to talk about it, it’s fine by them — if you’re not, they won’t ask.
But people know. In any city where there’s any kind of a social scene, people gossip. I think for some people who aren’t happy with their lives or their situation, one way of feeling better about themselves is finding out that somebody’s doing worse than they are. I didn’t hear about the reaction from too many assholes, but I did get some. You get other people — women — approaching you for a different reason: Because you’re now available in the market. So it’s a weird combination. People who don’t know, when you see them, they’ll say things like, “Why didn’t you bring your wife?” Or: “Say hi to her.” So sometimes I tell them I got divorced, but I’m not very forthcoming about it because I try to be private.
Social media is tricky. Overall you want to know as little as you can about your ex, so that you only have to think about and talk about the things that are related to your kids. And yeah, you might feel betrayed by certain people you feel took sides — you’re not going to want to have any contact or anything with them. But after a little while, I tried to show the world that I was okay — that I hadn’t died. I tried not to use Facebook a lot because I have too many friends whom I don’t really know, and I don’t know where they stand, really. But on Instagram, I have a lot fewer followers so it’s a way to keep in touch with the people I really care about.
I really tried hard not to show myself with women I went out with, because of my daughter. If you don’t have kids I think it’s different, but if you do have kids and you start going out, you try to be private about it. People that might have a grudge against their ex or who want to make society think that they’re doing great, they’ll go on a binge to show everyone that they’re having a good time — I don’t think that’s a good thing to do when you have kids who are on social media.
I had psychological counseling for a while, and I still do sporadically. I’ve read a lot of books on it. What I found out is that people will say whatever they want, and you really don’t have to care about what they say because you can’t control that: The less you know and the less energy you spend on that, the better off you are. People will judge, people will gossip, and if there’s somebody that you find isn’t trustworthy or not on your side or whatever, it’s best to just lose touch or stop following them.
Andrew, 63, San Diego
This is what you shouldn’t do: Don’t change your status on fucking Facebook. You will become the hot gossip of the day, and everyone will come flocking to you like, what’s up? Do tell! Tell me the truth! As if you’re gonna write the whole thing out on Facebook. I changed my marital status to “It’s complicated,” and everybody just flocked. I remember writing something and taking it down. I don’t even remember what I wrote.
I think the step for social media should be toward the end of when you’ve told everyone you know intimately, and you’re getting used to it. Wait till everybody knows who’s supposed to know. You should remember that if you have children, they see your posts too, so social media’s probably either the last place to let everybody know, or for some people, it might be the first place. That way, you get it over quickly. But to me that feels a little like breaking up over text.
In the beginning, you mostly want to stick your head in the sand because it’s just so much to deal with. Then as you start to come out, you start to find ways to let people know you’re coming out. That point where you want to get the word out is when you’re ready to get back on the market, but then you have to start thinking about the question of, “Do I actually want to put my picture on Tinder and whatnot for everyone to see?” Because it seems to me if you go somewhere like to the mall, you invariably run into friends. Or if you travel somewhere — I’ve run into high school friends in a market in Paris! So I’m always mindful that if you go to a dating site, you don’t know who the fuck is looking. Then you have to think about, is your ex also gonna be on the dating site?
So that’s when the social media posting starts coming in: The well-placed, fun posts from different places and restaurants, like, “I’m doing things.” Then there’s the whole question of when is it proper to start showing your date in your posts. In my case, I never did any of that, because my son didn’t even know I was dating. I wanted him to think that he was what I was thinking about — being his parent, not running around dating, because anyone who’s seen even one after-school special knows kids don’t like it when their parents start dating, they just want it to be about them. So that’s pretty much what guided me.
Luckily, I didn’t really run into people where I had to explain why my wife wasn’t there, mostly because I’m not that social. But the bigger reason for that is that you stop going to the same places you went with your ex. You don’t go to the same favorite restaurant unless it’s right near where you live and the other person lives somewhere else and is not likely to go there. You have to change your haunts. But when people did ask, I had a nice pithy response: “We’re not together anymore. She got happy feet and left.” They’d be shocked, or they’d be like, “Do tell,” the way people are with gossip. Then it depended on whether I felt like trashing her or not. If I did tell, I wouldn’t spare details or be polite about it.
I think what any divorced person wants most is for the truth of their failed relationship to be told in a fair way, but that will never happen. Once you feel wronged in a relationship, there’ll be your side, and there’ll be their side, and there’ll never be, like, a forum where you’ve been heard. My ex can write or say all this shit, and I can never do anything to fact-check that. It’s like there’ll always be fake news out of the other camp. If you’re a person who cares about the truth being known, well, the truth will never be known. That, I think, is the toughest and most frustrating thing.
Vinny, 29, Hudson Valley, New York
Initially I kept to myself, but I spoke about my separation to my closest friends and family. I have a YouTube channel and there were speculations about the split online, but I didn’t go on social media for three or four months in order to avoid them. At the time, my ex and I tried to make this process as amicable as possible. It was painful enough to be going through something so personal and deep, let alone being a public figure as it was happening. Generally, people were respectful.
Now, I still try to speak kind of my ex, but that proves to be difficult with the more information I find out about who he was and how he behaved when we were together. No one deserves to be hurt, and if I were to do it intentionally, I’d be no better off. I try my best to see someone else’s perspective, maybe even to a fault, but it’s important to remember the humanity in such a profound and hurtful process. I was more concerned about myself than caring about gossiping and making things more complicated for myself.
Still, when people would ask and I wasn’t ready to talk about it, I’d just politely decline and say that it was personal. It’s okay not to be ready to talk about something so personal. At first it was difficult to talk about the split, but in time, things became easier to open up. I was also in therapy, which I’d recommend for anyone, especially for someone who is going through a traumatic life event — it really helped me.
Then, about a year after we got separated, I posted this video. It was viewed nearly 500,000 times.
Posting the video was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. In a world where people are afraid to be vulnerable and show their true selves, it was a triumphant feat to be so candid and real.
When I posted it, I really thought my YouTube career was over, but it was the opposite of what I expected. I gained subscribers, the video went viral and hundreds of messages poured in with support — particularly from people who randomly came across the video, but felt a connection to a familiar pain. I think people really liked how open and honest I was. How kind I was, considering the circumstances. Pain is a very relatable emotion, and to handle it in the way that I did is often hard to come across, but always wanted. In some ways, it was a new beginning for me both personally and in a career sense. I was even nominated for a Shorty Award in the LGBTQ category. I went from ground zero to the top of my game.
But as far as social media goes, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong approach — it’s up to the individual. Whatever allows them to cope with the ordeal is the best way to handle it. If seeing posts from your ex is too painful — and it was for me — do whatever you need to do to keep yourself healthy and safe. You need to learn to live your life without them. I found this easiest to do without distractions.
Now I can talk about the split openly, in person and online. I’m actually creating a whole new series called The Ex-Files, where I discuss what happened the year and a half that led up to the divorce. In doing so, I’m hoping to have a better understanding of the truth, and to help others not feel like they’re alone while they may be going through the experience.
When you come out about a divorce, the most important advice is to be honest, be true to yourself and try to remember why you fell in love in the first place. People change, couples grow apart, but there was something that brought you together in the first place, so try and hold onto those memories through the hard times. Accept that it’s over and move on, taking command of your future. After all, it’s your life — no one else’s.