by Kristen Hilty
How Do I Tell My Spouse I Want A Divorce?
It is never easy to tell your spouse that your marriage has officially reached its end. Preparing yourself for the emotional implications of breaking the news to your spouse, not to mention how and when you will share this news, adds stress to an already difficult situation.
How and when you tell your spouse that you will be filing for divorce will be a major factor that sets the tone for how your divorce will proceed. It can determine how civil your conversations and interactions will be moving forward. Of course, with time, things may improve but the importance of proper planning cannot be underestimated.
In order to have more successful and productive conversations, you should follow these basic tips when telling your spouse that the marriage is over:
1. Select An Appropriate Time And Place To Deliver The News
Select a relatively private, quiet setting, and a time when you can talk without interruptions.
If there are children involved, see if a trusted friend or family member can take them out for an activity. This conversation can get emotional and privacy is key.
2. Remain Calm
As impossible as it may sound, strive to remain calm and composed, even when it becomes difficult. You may want to write down 2-3 key “talking points” that get your point across and refer back to them when things get too emotional. That keeps the conversation on-topic and helps you to reaffirm to you and your spouse why you are having this conversation.
3. When You Share That You Want A Divorce, Be Prepared For An Emotional Reaction From Your Spouse
Especially if your spouse is blissfully unaware that you have reached your capacity to endure the relationship, be prepared for an emotional response. This will take more preparation on your part, but you should be able to remain stoic and calm, despite their emotional reaction. If you are struggling with your own emotions over this decision, seek guidance from a professional counselor in advance. And remember to repeat your key talking points and keep your reasons for wanting this divorce top of mind. Also realize when it’s time to take a break from the conversation or walk away.
Common Spousal Objections To A Divorce
You can still divorce your spouse even if they object to this conversation. If you immediately file for divorce, that is one way to end your marriage as quickly as possible, but it may not be the best solution. For instance, if you file for divorce despite your spouse’s objections, it could lead to a more argumentative future. If your spouse is not given the chance to come to terms with the divorce on their own, they may feel blindsided and betrayed.
Before you immediately head to the courthouse to file paperwork, you need to give your spouse some space to adjust to the idea of a divorce. Particularly if they were shocked by the realization that you want out of the marriage, they may need a few days or weeks to process this new reality.
Once they come to accept the situation, be sure to give them an opportunity to speak their minds. They should have the chance to voice their opinion on the divorce, but you will need to ensure that they are able to do so without an emotional response from you. To make sure that you can manage your own feelings, some intense work – and patience – on your part will be required. In this situation, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor.
Your spouse may have come to terms with your desire for a divorce, but that does not necessarily mean that they agree with your opinion. Take the time to actively listen to their concerns and hear their objections. Doing so will demonstrate that you are willing to keep the lines of communication open, which sets the stage for a more amicable divorce down the road.
It is relatively common to find a spouse that harbors objections about the demise of the relationship. In fact, there are a few responses that tend to be frequently used in these situations:
“It’s Better To Stay Together For The Kids”
Some individuals truly believe that they should remain locked in a loveless or tense marriage in order to spare their children the pain of seeing their parents split. Unfortunately, this situation rarely leads to the desired outcome: In fact, it can be detrimental to your children’s long-term emotional well-being.
This living situation may ultimately teach your children that it is okay to live in conflict, instead of taking the lead to enact positive changes in their own lives. The chronic stress that results from living in a tense, hostile environment can lead to more serious issues, such as depression and anxiety. In the end, separation and divorce could actually be better for the children than staying together.
You should note that this philosophy only holds true when both spouses are able to co-parent well into the future. They must be able to communicate amicably, particularly in the presence of the children. Do not speak negatively about your spouse or engage in petty arguments when you are picking up or dropping off your children for visitation.
“We Need To Work Harder To Repair The Relationship”
If your spouse thinks that there hasn’t been enough “work” put into fixing the relationship, you might need to consider whether or not there is some truth in their statement. Evaluate whether you both put forth an effort to salvage the relationship – and do you want to? Before you ultimately begin the divorce process, it is always best to ensure that you have no doubt that the marriage is truly over. If there truly has been no (or very little) attempt to restore the relationship, attempting to salvage it can give you peace of mind, and honor your spouse’s objection.
This situation may mean signing up for marriage counseling or getting the assistance of a third party. A marriage therapist can help both of you identify the root cause of the divorce. However, they may also be able to give you the space to have a conversation with an objective third party in a neutral location. The mediation of a professional can be highly beneficial for resolving conflict in any relationship.
Postponing the divorce until you are both positive that a valiant effort has been made to bring healing into the relationship may be well worth the wait. Even if the marriage is over, this last-ditch effort to save the relationship could lead to a more amicable divorce process.
However, you do not want to allow your spouse to use marriage counseling as an excuse to drag out the relationship long-term. Be sure to set an exact date when you will both reevaluate how the work is going. Then decide the fate of the relationship at that point, if at all possible. You will need to move forward with your initial decision – when you can both clearly identify that the marriage is not working, or when the pain of staying surpasses the pain of leaving.
“We Do Not Want To Be Dragged Through The Courts”
It should be no secret that divorce is extremely expensive. Consider how quickly attorney fees can add up. And this does not begin to cover the expenses of maintaining two separate households, child support payments, and alimony. The cost of heading to court is a major concern for many couples, as is the time that this process will take. Divorce is grueling—mentally, emotionally, and financially.
Instead of creating an acrimonious litigation, suggest a less harsh method of divorce, such as mediation. A Certified Divorce Financial Advisor (CDFA) is a neutral party who can help avoid some expenses and a courtroom.
Be sure to handle your spouse’s objections fairly and make an attempt to hear their point of view about the key issues. You are ultimately attempting to set the stage for a more amicable divorce, which is less draining on you emotionally and psychologically.
With those guidelines firmly in place, you may also want to consider that having a conversation about the end of your union will look different, depending on whether or not you will tell your spouse.