Skip to main content

Telling people

Once you’ve decided there’s no future in your relationship, the first thing you need to do is talk openly and honestly with your partner. Next, your children need to be told. Only after that should you consider telling others.

Telling people

You may find it hard to think about how to approach telling others about your separation, especially your parents, friends and colleagues. It can be easier if you first work out exactly what to say. You could try to talk to your partner about this.

Agree a statement

It can help you, your partner and your children, if you agree a statement. This shouldn’t carry blame and it should keep the reasons for your separation private. This can be difficult, especially if you’re still angry.

In time though, you may be glad you decided on one statement together. Your children may get to hear what’s been said to someone else and it won’t help them if it’s not the same as they’ve been told. Their trust in you will grow if there’s only one story and you’re both telling it.

Example statements

You could try using one of the following statements. They’re all neutral and will all keep your information private:

  • “We just can’t work it out.”
  • “We’ve both decided that this is best.”
  • “A lot of things weren’t right.”
  • “We just want to be good parents and move on.”

Telling friends and family

You may find that telling family and friends about your separation makes your situation all the more real to you. It can be hard.

You may find it helpful to think through the following tips first:

  • Speak to your ex. Try to agree with your ex what and what not to tell people. This is important because you and your ex may not be in the same place in terms of moving on.
  • Stick to what you know. Try to avoid talking about things you aren’t sure about.
  • Maintain your privacy. It can help to have planned answers to unwelcome questions. For example: “I’ll have to have a think about that.”
  • Describe changes. Make things real for people by describing what’s actually going to be different, for example where you’ll live.
  • Consider who you’re talking to. Are they your or your ex’s family or friend? How would your ex feel if they could hear what you’re telling them?
  • Stay focused. Think about how people may react to your news. They may not respond as you expect.
  • Think of the future. Think about the kind of relationship you would like in future with the person you’re talking to. It may not be helpful for you or your children to speak badly of your ex now.

Telling people


73% of users reported improved or significantly improved readiness to take next steps after using Separation Planner

(based on usage up to 20th September 2020)

Telling people

Maintaining relationships

You may find that some relationships with family and friends fade away or end. This may or may not be what you want.

Managing difference and allowing change to happen can be a real challenge.  Sometimes other people find it more difficult when you separate because they think they have to choose. For every friend you lose you’ll probably create new ones.

Deciding what to tell people about your separation

It can help to plan out the conversation you have with your ex to agree an official line about the separation. These steps can help you agree a statement you’re both happy with:

  • Tell your ex that you want to ‘sing the same song’ about your separation.
  • Suggest that you each think of a one liner that will explain the reason and keep the painful and difficult bits private to you both.
  • Arrange a time when you can either do this together or compare notes after your separate time thinking about it.
  • Agree on at least one of the statements - you  may find there are more than one that you think would be okay for both of you.
  • Lastly, think about how this statement would work with different kinds of people you need to tell – agree together, if some of the people will need a different statement from the “general” one you have decided upon
  • If your partner cannot agree with you, it may be important that you still follow these steps yourself – you will need to be able to live with the statement for a very long time, so make it good and make it right for you.

Working out how much to tell people

Try this activity to work out what you would like to tell different people about your separation:

  • Write a list of family and friends that you’d like to tell you’re separating.
  • Group them together in terms of how much detail you’d like to tell them.
  • Write a list of points about your separation that you’d like each groups of friends/family to know.
  • You may find a scale of family and friends emerge for who needs to know the most and least detail.
  • Could you ask your ex to do the same and then compare your answers? This could give you both a starting point to compromise on.

Content originally produced for What Next? The Parent’s Guide to Separation © Copyright DWP 2015

Informing others

You will need to inform a number of other people and organisations as well as the people that are important in your life.

We have developed a tool called Informing others that you can use as a starting point for this task in the tools section of this topic. You can use it to keep a record of who you have informed about your changes in circumstance.

Check your situation with our assessment tools

  • Getting documents together

    You will need to get together a range of information, depending on your current circumstances. Here’s a list of the kinds of things you may need.

    woman on bed with dog
  • Informing others

    There will be a number of people and organisations that you will need to contact and let know about your change of circumstances, here’s a list of who you may need to inform.

    person on phone
  • Budget Planner

    Use the Money Advice Service's free Budget Planner to put you in control of your household spending and analyse your results to help you take control of your money.

    Money Advice Service logo

Was this page helpful?