How to manage the people in your divorce

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

18th July 2022

This month we are bringing lessons from the C-Suite to your divorce. C-suite women are leaders in their field, accustomed to making things happen. And that’s exactly the sort of energy you need in your divorce, whether you’re a C-Suite professional or not! In this blog we look at the people you need to manage in your divorce, and how to do exactly that. At first glance, divorce doesn’t seem to involve many people. It’s just you and your soon-to-be-ex, with some legal support if needed. A not-pleasant-but-private event. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the reality for many women. Your divorce has a gravitational field of its own, drawing in people, whether you like it or not. Let’s take a look at the main players, and what you can do to manage them.

Your soon-to-be-ex

Every divorce will involve an ex-spouse, it goes with the territory. But what that divorce process looks like and how the relationship with your ex plays out will be very different. One of the great truths in life is that you can’t control what others do, only what you do. But there are steps you can take to manage your soon-to-be-ex and keep things on an even keel as far as possible.

Aim for amicable

You don’t have to remain friends with your ex-spouse. But it’s helpful if you can keep communication as amicable as possible. It’s a tough line to walk: you don’t want to agree to everything they say if it’s not in your best interests. But you do want to be flexible. A useful approach in walking this line is to start from a place of compassion. Rather than assume evil intent behind everything they do, leave space for where they’re coming from. It may be that they are playing games and simply want to hurt you. Or it may be that they have a point. Consider the point first. And look for areas of agreement to work from rather than zoning in on where you clash.

Hold your boundaries

If they are out for a fight, or they are a high conflict personality, then amicable isn’t going to be possible. But you can still play your part to minimise the fighting. Your job is to stay boundaried and to stay cool. Don’t provoke or respond to provocation. Simply state facts and what you are prepared or not prepared to do. You can read more about communicating with a high conflict spouse here.

Your legal team

One of the messages I’m desperate to get out into the world as a divorce coach is that you (usually!) don’t need to hire a solicitor as soon as you decide to divorce. I say usually, as if you have a high wealth, complicated financial situation it may be worth getting early legal advice. But for most people, the crucial first step is understanding your divorce yourself first. Understanding what you want and need from your future. That’s one of the roles of a divorce coach like me. Once you have this vision in place, everything else becomes a lot easier. Not necessarily easy, but certainly easier than freewheeling and hoping for the best. And certainly less messy and expensive than using your legal team as a sounding board for all of your divorce issues. They are experts in the legal system. Not advisers on what’s best for your life. So get your plan together first. And then appoint a legal team you can rely on. Make sure you can communicate easily with them, and have some rapport. You want people who are willing and able to give you difficult news when necessary, not just people who will carry out your every instruction. They have to ‘get’ you, to understand you and advise you accordingly. Can you trust your legal team? If not, time to recruit a new one.

Your friends and family

Your loved ones love you. They want the best for you. They can be outraged you’ve been hurt, and they can be desperate to make things right again (sometimes even suggesting you patch things up so the messiness and sadness of divorce goes away). They will chip in with their unasked for advice. They can’t help it. Again, the key here is compassion and boundaries. They are coming from a place of love. They have the very best of intentions. None of this means they are right. None of this means you have to put up with everything! Let your loved ones support you in the ways they know best. Let them bake for you, clean for you, share wine and weep with you. Let them have the children for a Saturday so you can clear your head. Don’t let them dictate your divorce. Just because Auntie Margaret was ‘robbed’ by Uncle Bill when they divorced in 1992 doesn’t mean the same will happen to you. Just because your mum really wants to move in so she can help more doesn’t mean you need to say yes. Lovingly hold your boundaries. Reassure your loved ones you are seeking and listening to expert advice, and that you are grateful for their support through it all.

Your colleagues

If you’re a leader in your field (and even if you’re not!) your private life is likely to be the subject of great curiosity and scrutiny. Divorce is a magnet for all sorts of rumours and advice-sharing. And it’s great to have friendly colleagues. But you will need to set some unspoken (and, if needed, spoken) rules about what’s on the table for discussion. You can take control of the situation by letting everyone know about the divorce yourself, rather than letting the rumour mill run. Sending an email to your team letting them know that you are in the midst of divorce, that you have a great divorce team in place, and that you intend to keep work disruption to a minimum will help clear the air. You can be clear what you are prepared to hear from colleagues: whether that’s nothing, whether you’re happy for them to mention it, or whether you’re inviting feedback from their own divorces (I don’t advise this one!). But you’re the leader here: set your terms out clearly. It will be helpful to the people around you to know how to behave, and they will work better if they’re not feeling like they’re stepping on eggshells.


Finally, let’s get to the most important person in all this. You need to find ways to manage yourself. What does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean shutting down your feelings and powering through. It means creating space for your feelings and acknowledging hurt appropriately. It means understanding your personal values, and how they can play out in your divorce and your future life. It means understanding you’ll have a greater need for self-care, and will be feeling more tender than usual. Give yourself grace as you divorce. Have the confidence to know that it will be difficult, and that you are capable of handling difficult situations.

Let me help you

It’s hard doing all the managing on your own! When you work with me 1:1 you get:

  • Someone to vent with, with no consequence for work or family relations
  • An experienced ear to help you make sense of things
  • A coaching professional to help you plan
  • Someone who is there for you, when you need them.

No-one can do it all on their own. I can help you strategise, implement, shift and adapt as your divorce gets underway. Just book in a chat to see how my expertise can make your divorce that much smoother.

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit

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