How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce
How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce
Deciding you want a divorce is a difficult conclusion to come to, and then telling your spouse can be even more difficult. Because this is such an important discussion, it’s important to make thorough considerations prior to the discussion with your spouse. Then, when you are ready, you can be prepared to talk to your spouse in a civil, respectful way.
Setting Your Intentions for Divorce
Ask yourself some questions.Before going into a discussion about divorce with your spouse, be clear on what you want to say. Be clear with what you want and why you want it before talking to your spouse. The decision will affect your lifestyle, economics, your children’s lives, and marital investment. Consider these things carefully before talking this over with your spouse.
- Ask yourself, “What are my options, and what are the positives and negatives of each option?”
- Ask yourself about the emotional impact of the divorce. Some questions to consider include, “What do I want? What are the reasons this divorce is in my best interest? How will this affect the family?”
- Think about logistics as well. Ask, “Where will I live? How will I manage my finances? What will we do with the kids?”
Accept your doubts.There’s no way to know if you’re making the “right” decision in asking for a divorce. You may doubt yourself that you are being too hasty, or not considering all of the factors. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know for sure which decision is best.Don’t rush into a decision. Instead, note your feelings and see how they change over time. If you remain steadfast in your assertion to want a divorce, trust that feeling. If you go back and forth on the decision, give it some time or perhaps talk to a friend.
- It’s okay to ask for outside opinions, but notice if you start asking for more and more reassurance from others. Remember that it’s your decision to make.
- Ask yourself, “Is this decision emotionally driven?” If so, wait a few days to see how you feel. Make the decision as rationally as possible.
Gauge your spouse’s awareness of your unhappiness.Your spouse may be aware that you are unhappy, or be completely surprised by your request for a divorce. The more you take your spouse by surprise, the harder it may be for him or her to accept the divorce.If you think your spouse will be shocked, don’t be surprised if he or she tries to talk you out of it.
- Especially if you’re feeling unsure about your marriage, talk about the problems first before discussing divorce. Don’t hold your problems in or expect your spouse to know what you want or need.
Preparing Yourself for the Discussion
Set aside uninterrupted time to talk.Choose a time to talk that is quiet and allows for discussion. When planning a time to talk, ensure that neither of you have to run off for an obligation. If you have kids, make sure they are out of the house. Choose a time when you are both home and can talk without distraction.
Be prepared to feel uncomfortable.Telling your spouse you want a divorce is not a conversation you expect to go smoothly or one that you will enjoy. Chances are, this will be a very uncomfortable discussion that will make you feel uneasy throughout. Accept the discomfort and know that it will feel this way.Feeling uncomfortable isn’t a valid reason to delay telling your spouse you want a divorce.
- Take some deep breaths to calm your body and your mind. Especially if you start to feel tense, deep breathing can relax you.
Expect your spouse to be emotional.Upon hearing the news, your spouse may feel a range of emotions. He or she may express anger and ask you why you would do this to him or her or the kids. Your spouse may accuse you of being selfish or of all kinds of terrible things. Or, your spouse may express sadness, cry, and feel abandoned. On the contrary, your spouse may also feel relieved if he or she feels the same way. Expect that your spouse will have an emotional response.
- Prior to the discussion, prepare yourself for these emotions, and ask yourself how you will handle them.
- If your spouse is emotionally reactive, don’t respond with more reactivity. Practice active listening instead by intently listening to your spouse talk without interruption and without planning what you’re going to say next.
- If you have problems managing your emotions, check out How to Be Less Emotional.
Let go of blame.Before you have the discussion, tell yourself not to get pulled in to discussions about fault, blame, or wrongdoing. These are irrelevant at this point. Talking about the past will not solve any problems but may more likely add to them. Instead, take responsibility for your actions and take ownership of your feelings.Refuse to discuss these issues and instead focus on clearly communicating your needs regarding the future.
- Agree that both of your actions have contributed to the demise of the marriage. No one person is at fault.
- Avoid blame speech by using “I” statements and not “you” statements.For instance, there’s a difference between saying, “You let me down too many times” and, “I feel abandoned and forgotten by you.” Keep the focus on you and your own feelings.
- If you think the discussion may turn into blaming or fault-finding, find a way to deter this beforehand. Say, “This is irrelevant to our divorce and I do not want to get into discussions about blame or fault. It’s best we focus on the the future and how to end this as civilly as possible.”
Having the Discussion
Be clear on what you want.If you want a divorce, be firm in this assertion. Don’t hesitate or be wishy-washy. Be firm in saying, “Yes, I want a divorce” and stick to it. If you want something else or are unsure about the divorce, say these needs first. Don’t give unclear signals, as this can be confusing to your spouse. Be clear, even if you know it will hurt your spouse’s feelings.
- Perhaps you want a separation or for things to change in your marriage. If you want something else, such as therapy or more attention, don’t say you want a divorce first, but ask for these changes first. Say, “I feel like our marriage isn’t working, but I’m not ready to give up yet. Would you consider therapy or a mediator?”
- If you are absolutely ready for a divorce, say so clearly. You can say, “This is a difficult conversation to have, but I need to tell you that I want a divorce. I’ve struggled with this for some time, and I suspect you are aware of how difficult this relationship has been. This is something I’ve put considerable time into thinking about, and I believe it is the best decision regarding this marriage. I know this will be painful and difficult for all of us, but I believe we can get through this and be decent, reasonable, and mature from this point forward.”
Let your spouse talk.Don’t monopolize the discussion. Allow your spouse the space to speak his or her mind and feelings. It’s important not to interrupt or cut your spouse off. Allow your spouse to speak openly, and encourage the discussion. Make sure you understand how your spouse feels, and reflect back your understanding.
- To reflect understanding, say, “I hear you saying that you’re unhappy too, and that although you feel sad, you agree this is the right thing. Is that right?”
Show compassion and respect.This isn’t the time to blame your spouse or tell them all of the things that have gone wrong or sour between you two. This is simply a discussion of you sharing your feelings and your need for a divorce. While it’s an uncomfortable discussion for you, it’s likely your spouse is uncomfortable, too, and perhaps a bit caught off guard. Treat your spouse with compassion and respect through the entirety of the discussion. Remind yourself that this isn’t easy for your spouse, just as it isn’t easy for you.
- The way you treat your spouse in the first discussions of divorce can set the tone for how the divorce will continue. Stay calm and empathetic toward your spouse.
- If your spouse is angry, say, “I know this is difficult, and I can understand why you feel angry. I feel a lot of emotions, too, yet it’s important we be respectful to one another.”
Be fair and reasonable.In talking about the impending divorce, show that you are willing to be fair and reasonable in the following proceedings. Before filing for divorce, communicate that you want things to be respectful and address everyone’s needs, including your spouse’s.This can help set the tone for the rest of the divorce.
- Say, “I don’t want drama to follow us as a result of this divorce.
Video: How do I tell my husband or wife that I want a divorce?
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