Almost half of Britons tell friends and family they want a divorce before telling their partner

sad young lady removing her wedding ring after divorce decision
Britons who have been divorced said they turned to family and friends about the decision before their partner. (Getty Images)

You may think that a couple’s decision to go their separate ways is between them and them alone - but a new survey reveals just how much other people may influence someone’s decision to divorce their partner.

Nearly half (44%) of divorced Britons said they told their family and friends that they wanted a divorce before even telling their partner, according to new research by amicable, a legal service for separating couples.

A slightly larger proportion (47%) of those surveyed said their friends and family influenced the decisions they made in their divorce process.

The research revealed that people who are thinking of divorcing their partners tend to tell their parents first (45%), followed by a best or close friend (39%).

Some 16% of divorcees said they told their children before their partner, and a further 16% told their siblings about their decision first.

On the other hand, over a third (36%) of friends and family members of couples who divorced or separated said they gave advice based on their personal opinion of the relationship or ex-partner.

This ranged from advice about co-parenting (23%) and how to tell their children about the divorce (22%), to legal advice (20%) and financial advice (22%).

Worried redhead woman using cell phone while talking to her friends in a cafe.
Seeking advice from close friends and family when a person is considering divorce can help them make decisions. (Getty Images)

A third (33%) of friends and family said they recommended solicitors to the separating couple, while 16% recommended court proceedings. Nearly half (44%) said their friend or family member chose to use a solicitor to facilitate the divorce, while 16% chose court proceedings.

However, not all the advice offered by close friends and family were helpful to the couples going through the breakdown of their relationship. Among the top 10 most unhelpful things divorced or separated couples heard, phrases like “You should have divorced him a long time ago” and “Give her nothing” topped the list.

Other pieces of unhelpful advice for couples who no longer wanted to be in a relationship included “Stay together for the children” and “In my day, we worked at a marriage”.

Commenting on the findings, relationship expert Marina Lazaris tells Yahoo UK that people tend to turn to their family and friends first out of anxiety about how their partner will respond. However, she adds, this is "never a good idea" because "it doesn't help and is more likely to cause further problems".

"They can be attached to the outcome how their partner will react and respond," she warns. "If there is uncertainty, your brain looks for ways to try to make you feel safe so this is why it’s normal to look to feel that you need your ‘tribe’ and therefore go to speak to family and friends first."

When broaching the subject with your partner, Lazaris advises people to ask open, honest questions about the quality of the relationship and your partner's happiness.

"Use open ended questions for you to open up the discussion in a healthy way rather than forcing a decision on your partner and demonstrating you’ve already made your mind up. Your partner might even come out with things that you’ve never even thought of and a different plausible outcome.

Shot of young wife expressing empathy and compassion to her sad frustrated husband.
Talking about divorce with your ex-partner is a difficult, but necessary conversation. (Getty Images)

"You both need to suggest healthy ideas and perspectives of new possibilities with your partner to find a resolution. So being open to new possibilities with your partner is important to brainstorm possibilities together."

From a legal point of view, Fiona Lazenby, partner in the family team at professional service business Knights, added: "Many people in fact tell their partner for the first time through a lawyer, because they find it just too difficult to discuss. Regrettably by that point, their communications may have become fraught, and they are distanced and it is just too difficult. There may be power imbalances, and the person is just unable to discuss it.

"Family can play an important part in providing support and encouragement to a person in finally taking the divorce forward. In a significant number of cases, a person would want to have family approval to this important step before they approach a lawyer, or discuss it with a partner, because the views of their family and their support at this difficult time is a fundamental part for them."

Katy Daly, co-founder of amicable, said: "Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through, and what you need most, is kindness and support. It’s common to turn to friends or family for support and advice, but whilst their intentions might be good, many people aren’t equipped to give financial and legal advice, and often project their own experiences or give their own personal opinion.

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"The impact of their words and actions can sometimes be detrimental to the success of an amicable divorce or separation.

"With the right support and guidance, couples can navigate this transition amicably, focusing on co-operation and respect rather than conflict and animosity.

"There are many conflict-free options available, including negotiation support, mediation and collaborative approaches. Every experience is unique and people’s individual circumstances will dictate what they can afford and how amicable their separation can be."

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