When people are getting divorced, there are experiencing so many different emotions, one of them being anger, which stems from being hurt. And, when people are hurt and angry, they naturally look for ways to soothe it, to cope, to make themselves feel better. Think about it. If you have a headache, you pop a Tylenol to make it go away. The same thing applies when we are hurting in any way.
One way someone might try to soothe his or her pain is talking to others. I remember, in the early days of my separation, I'd get together with friends, and the conversation would naturally be all about my recent breakup, because that was the big news. During those conversations, I would become both teary-eyed and outraged when telling stories of what was going on.
But sometimes, the conversation can go to far and people decide to reveal very personal things about their soon-to-be ex. In other words, if you are getting divorced, be prepared that your dirty laundry might be aired.
When a person decides to "over-share," they are basically crying out for help. Again, they want to soothe their pain. They want to vent. They want to let people know what a horrible, awful, cold-hearted jerk they are divorcing, what a weirdo or a psycho he or she is. They are doing it because that helps them cope, and helps them justify that breaking up was the right thing to do.
They might say things like, he always had really bad breath, I won't miss him clipping his toenails in bed, the sex was awful, she slept with tons of guys behind my back, he asked me to have a threesome, once etc. etc. Things that are even more personal than this can be revealed to others. It is basically a time when someone's personal life becomes very public to mutual friends and family, and even to members of their community.
What the person airing the other's dirty laundry does't realize is, it can create issues. First, what if the two of you reconcile? Now, everyone knows your personal life, and many secrets that you really don't want them to know if you are back together. Secondly, I think airing someone's dirty laundry is hitting way below the belt. No matter what he or she did, I think there should be an understanding of things that need to be kept between the two of you. In other words, it's just really mean. Then again, divorce can be really mean, and rules of ethics and integrity get thrown out the window on a daily basis in lots of cases.
Having your dirty laundry aired can be embarrassing and humiliating. But, remember, it is the one who is sharing who looks like the bad guy. I have to believe people who hear the dirty laundry say to themselves, "Why is he or she telling me this?" So, the person probably looks kind of stupid.
If you are someone whose soon-to-be ex is airing your dirty laundry, (and you find out because someone says something to you,) here are my three pieces of advice on what you should and should not do:
1. Don't run back to your your soon-to-be ex and scream at him or her. It won't make that person stop the behavior, and it will only cause another argument you don't need.
2. It's not easy to do, but you sort of have to let it go. If someone says to you, "Your wife is telling people that you slept with 20 women during your marriage..." I'd say set the record straight with the people you care about, but after that, move on.
3. Don't feel the need to pay your soon-to-be ex back by telling the people his or her deep, dark secrets. Don't stoop to that level. You'll just feel bad about yourself.
In closing, when feeling horrified that your dirty laundry was just aired, remember two things: hurt and anger. Those are the driving forces that caused your soon-to-be ex to do it. It's not right, but it's one of the realities divorce can bring. If you are prepared that it's a possibility, it's easier to handle. And remember, like all other news, your dirty laundry will be yesterday's news tomorrow.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, "Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.