The decision to divorce is a life-changing one and should not be entered into blithely. After you decide, take time to prepare how you will tell your spouse, which includes what you are going to say, when, and where.
Meeting with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to discuss, plan, and rehearse the particulars can help you feel prepared. Consulting with family lawyers, financial and mental health professionals specializing in respectful, dignified divorce processes like mediation, co-operative, and collaborative divorce can educate you about peaceful options for legal, financial, and emotional concerns that you must address in divorce.
Where you meet depends on your specific situation. Unless there have been incidents of domestic violence, meet in person. If you and your spouse have mentioned divorce before, both of you may be ready for this conversation. Or your spouse may be in denial about the state of the marriage and will feel blindsided by your announcement. If you fear your spouse may react violently, a public place like a park or uncrowded café or restaurant will be best, so you can leave quickly and safely. In this case, it would be wise to have a friend waiting nearby who could call 911 if necessary.
Pick a quiet time, not in the middle of an argument, or when both of you are stressed for other reasons, like work overload or other family concerns. If you have children, arrange for them to be away with friends or relatives so that you have privacy away from their curious ears.
It’s best to tell your spouse in the calmest and most caring tone you can muster that you have decided to end your marriage and you want to do it peacefully and respectfully. Don’t ask for a divorce. You have made the decision. Remain firm and kind. Wavering may only give your spouse false hope and drag out this first part of your divorce journey.
Next, share what you learned from consulting with the family lawyers, financial and mental health professionals about peaceful, respectful, out-of-court divorce options. Say that you value the love you have shared, that you intend to be amicable during and after the divorce, and you want your children (if you have them), relatives, and friends to honor this intention. There is no need to pick a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” You want to preserve all the important relationships in your lives.
Focus on your reasons for ending the marriage, not on blaming your spouse. Common reasons for divorce are:
- Poor or no communication
- Lack of intimacy – emotional and sexual
- Financial issues
- Growing apart and falling out of love
- Lack of common interests
- Power imbalances
- Loss of identity
- Abuse – physical, mental, emotional, sexual
- And the catch-all irreconcilable differences
Giving some common reasons like “I have fallen out of love” or “I am unwilling to live with the lack of intimacy and communication” may help your spouse understand your decision. Listing too many reasons can incite a debate that will not be productive since you are unwavering in your decision. Sometimes less is more. You can simplify and say something like, “I have been considering this for a long time. I haven’t been happy. Going to marriage counseling will not help. I have made my decision.”
Remember that if your spouse is shocked by your announcement, he or she will not be as ready as you are to divorce and will require some time to absorb and process all that you have shared. Allow that time. You may need to have the same conversation again. Emphasizing that you want to proceed peacefully and respectfully during and after the divorce may help your spouse accept the divorce and do the same.