Telling Your Spouse You Want A Divorce

Let's Untie the Knot | Telling Your Spouse You Want A Divorce

Telling your spouse that you want a divorce may be the one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do.  As hard as it is, do not blindside your spouse with the news.  If you have been in counseling together it may be an easier discussion since your spouse is already aware that there are issues in your marriage.  However, if your spouse has no idea, it can be devastating. The following are some suggestions that may be helpful in breaking the news:

  1.  Think things through:  

If your spouse has no idea that you are contemplating divorce, it is crucial to have a well thought out strategy on how and when to share your feelings.  If you are open to trying to save the marriage, explain what you are struggling with and suggest that seeing a professional may help to deal with the problems.  However, if you know that the marriage is over, do not offer your spouse false hope.  Tell them directly and in succinct terms that the marriage is done. Do not sugarcoat things or talk about how much you love them. The best thing is to be honest and allow them to grieve in whatever way they see fit. Give your spouse time and space to process the news.

  1.  Choose a good time and place to tell your spouse:

Determining when to tell your spouse you want a divorce is crucial.  You want to make sure that you choose to have the conversation at a time when your partner is emotionally capable of receiving the news.  You don’t want to have this discussion at a time when they are rushed, stressed or occupied by other things. This conversation should never coincide with another major life event in your lives if possible.  Choose a place where you can have a calm discussion and make sure there is plenty of time to talk.  Be patient and wait for a time when its impact will be the least damaging.

  1.  Be calm, kind and direct:

How you ask for a divorce from your spouse will have a significant impact on the way the entire divorce unfolds.  You will want to be direct but also kind and considerate.  Even if you are met with an angry response, it is best to remain neutral rather than becoming defensive.  Listen to your spouse’s arguments and respond that you understand how difficult it must be but that your decision is final.  Be direct in telling your spouse that there is no way to make the marriage work.

  1.  Do not be defensive:

If your spouse’s reaction to the news is accusatory or critical, you may be tempted to strike back.  You may want to point out how his or her faults contributed to the demise of the marriage.  DO NOT DO THIS!  Your spouse is probably very hurt by the news and his or her anger is the first step to processing grief.  Give your spouse the room to be upset.  Your first reaction if your spouse lashes back at you may be to defend yourself.  Now is not the time to defend yourself or to criticize your spouse’s shortcomings.  Listen quietly and don’t interrupt.  Give your spouse all the time that he or she needs to talk and feel heard.

  1.  Do not engage in a discussion of who is more at fault:

You must refuse to engage in any discussion with your spouse about blame.  If he or she tries to draw you into a discussion about fault and recrimination, simply state that the marriage cannot be fixed.  Explain that divorce is the only alternative.  If your spouse still tries to draw you into a discussion about blame, repeat what you have already said, emphasizing four key points:

  1.  If you cannot keep the conversation simple, enlist the help of a counselor:

If you cannot handle the idea of telling your spouse on your own, consider asking a therapist or counselor to accompany you when you break the news.  With someone else present, it may be easier to handle your spouse’s emotional response.

Although telling your spouse that you want a divorce may be difficult, it is possible to have a conversation that is clear and effective.  Regardless of what you feel about your spouse and your marriage, you should approach the situation in a manner that is respectful, calm and direct.  Be prepared that your spouse may be hurt or angry and don’t engage in any discussion about fault.  The way you tell your spouse about your divorce may color the way the divorce unfolds so you want to remain as neutral and kind as possible.

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