How you first discuss the issue can set the stage for how the divorce will proceed.
Be clear about your goals and what discussion you want to have. Is it:
- I am feeling that things are so bad;
- we need to talk about a divorce if we can’t fix it. (possible outcomes include therapy, change, continued conflict, divorce).
- I want to talk about a divorce (put the possibility on the table, how do they feel?)
- I have decided after a long, thoughtful process that I want us to divorce.
- Have the discussion when there are no major events (wedding of child, surgery, children’s recital in 2 hours, etc.).
- Schedule a time of day when both of you are clear-headed (no alcohol, etc.)
- Schedule so you both will have time to reflect after the discussion (not have to run to work or pick up the children)
- Be sure that you are away from the children if you have them.
- Pets are to be considered. Will the discussion stress them out, or will they be a steadying influence for either of you?
- Have the setting be neutral and safe, especially if there is a concern about emotional or physical violence. If needed, have a back-up plan to be sure you are safe and have a support person available.
State your purpose and leave room for them to respond.
- Let them know you have thought long and hard about this, especially if the d-word has been impulsively tossed out between you during emotional conflict.
- Let them know your goals of proceeding with fairness, honesty, integrity, and focused on the best interests of the children, yourselves, and the extended family.
- Perhaps have a brochure or handout or invite them to a seminar about options.
- Assume they may be shocked, need time.
- Try to listen and reflect their feelings back, if possible. Surprise, anger, sadness, vulnerability—whatever the emotions, be open.
- Try to keep the discussion focused on moving forward, versus rehashing the past.
- Even if you are anxious and dreading the talk, try to have room for compassion.
Point of closure.
- Restate your goals of fairness, honesty, integrity, and being focused on the best way to take care of the children, yourselves, and extended family in the process.
- It is fine for you to share your own sadness but be careful not to give false hope. Your desire to soften the impact can work against being clear about your decision.
- When you need to, say something like “I’d like to take a break now. We will have time and many chances to talk more later.”