ASK AMY: Soon-to-be ex ponders divorce disclosure

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Dear Amy: Should I accompany my husband to his parents’ house in order to tell them that we are getting divorced – after 32 years of marriage?

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“Dan” and I have been together since high school and have lived within five minutes of my in-laws for 30 years.

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We see them at least once a month.

After much careful consideration, we have decided that a divorce is the most responsible path for us, for reasons I won’t begin to explain.

My husband asked me to go with him to tell his parents, but I am conflicted.

I feel that closure is important and respectful, but we are not divorcing because everything is wonderful.

I feel like my husband knows it’ll be easier for him if I am with him, but I do not want to project like everything is OK.

What are your thoughts? What are some ways I can handle this news?

I am also worried about the scene being too emotional for me, and I’d like to avoid that.

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– Splitting

Dear Splitting: Not every divorce is a “conscious uncoupling,” and it might be naive to believe that accompanying your husband would provide any “closure” to your in-laws. Closure is complicated, and you might not ever believe you’ve achieved it.

If you two are announcing your divorce, your in-laws will probably intuit that everything is not OK.

One reason to accompany your husband is to witness the narrative he presents to his parents (although this story could always change later), and to respectfully and discreetly let them know that this is a mutual decision, without heaping on details, accusations, or your profound and personal disappointment in their son.

I do believe that you should make an effort to see your in-laws in person, and whether you do this with your husband or alone – you should prepare yourself for this potentially emotional moment.

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This news might make the elder couple quite sad, and the knowledge that your very long relationship with them is changing might make you feel emotional, too.

Divorce is messy and sad – even when it is overdue. I hope you maintain your equilibrium, as well as a friendship with your in-laws.

Dear Amy: Over the pandemic shutdowns my husband has reconnected with old friends and distant family.

It has been wonderful for him to be able to catch up with them, but a consistent problem keeps happening.

The spouses tend to sit in the background and listen in to these calls – or even chime in. He never gets to chat with the person alone.

It is disconcerting to say, “Tell your wife hi for me,” and hear her respond personally – with my husband not knowing that she was monitoring the call the whole time.

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Any suggestions for how to handle this? Or is this just the way things are?

– Mary

Dear Mary: Modern protocol suggests that if a caller is on speaker phone and more than one person is in the room, the caller should be informed: “Hi – you’re on speaker and Tina is here with me.”

Your husband’s relatives aren’t doing that, so he should ask at the outset: “How is Tina – is she in the room with you?” Greeting her at the outset of the call might inspire her to move along.

Using video calling would at least give him some knowledge of other people in the vicinity.

If your husband has something private to discuss, he should say so. If he merely wants to have a one-on-one conversation of no particular consequence (understandable), he could ask his relative: “Would you mind calling me back sometime when you’re alone? I feel a little self-conscious walking down memory lane with other people in the room.”

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Dear Amy: Responding to the issue of handling predatory charity solicitations directed toward elders, my mom got tons of mail like that.

I found out that it was because when they called her and asked if she would pledge (an amount of) money to them, she always said yes.

I told her to say no, but she just couldn’t, she’s too nice, and a people-pleaser.

My sisters gathered up all the mail, and I called each charity and explained that she was never going to pay them, and they were just wasting their time and money.

They were all very understanding, and took her off their calling and mailing lists.

– Called Them Out

Dear Called Them Out: This was a good and proactive solution to a persistent problem.

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