Telling your spouse you want a divorce is one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have. Be prepared. Enter this discussion with your thoughts organized and your emotions in check. This conversation can have a long-lasting impact, setting the tone for your divorce process as well as your life post-divorce. Here are five things to consider when telling your spouse you want out.
1) Keep the Conversation Simple and Brief.
Chances are your spouse is already aware of your marital issues, so there is no need to re-hash every problem and argument you’ve ever had. Remember, this is an initial conversation. There will be many more divorce discussions to follow. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your spouse at this time by reliving your entire past or by trying to figure out your entire future.
2) Find the Right Time and Place.
Try to be tactful concerning when and where this discussion will take place. Seek a calm, quiet setting free from distractions and interruptions. No phones! Obviously, children should not be present. Be cognizant of the timing. Is your spouse more approachable in the morning or the evening? Are there other stressful issues or important events going on in your partner’s life right now? Stay clear of holiday times, birthday weeks, and other major life events. Negative associations can deepen and prolong the hurt for years to come.
3) Avoid Blaming, Threatening and Criticizing.
These tactics will just fuel anger and other nonproductive, defensive behaviors. Your spouse is already feeling vulnerable and under attack. There is no need to further heighten emotions. Soften the blow with “we” statements. Some examples: We can’t seem to make this marriage work any longer; We can’t go on like this, it’s not good for either one of us; We need to find a way to peacefully end this; We both know this marriage is not working. Avoid blaming statements beginning with “you.” In addition, avoid superlatives such as “you always…” or “you never…” Remember, your goal is to end your marriage as peacefully as possible, not start a war.
4) Stay Calm.
Prepare for and respect your spouse’s reactions, which can vary greatly depending upon whether they were blindsided by your decision to divorce or expecting it. Your spouse may immediately shut down or may bombard you with questions, insults or threats. Be prepared to maintain your composure even if they lash out. Regardless of their initial response, your spouse deserves an explanation. Fairly answer questions, but don’t engage if a battle ensues. You have already made your decision to divorce. You are no longer fighting for your marriage, so hang up the gloves. No need to test emotions and waste energy fruitlessly trying to prove your position. Break the cycle of conflict. Release the need to be right. Release the urge to retaliate. Agree to disagree. Most importantly, be kind. Remember, at one point in your life, this person meant everything to you.
5) Be Firm.
When confronted by divorce, your spouse may promise to change, or plead for one more chance, or try to convince you that divorce is not the answer. If you have already weighed this decision over and over again for months or years and are absolutely sure this is what you truly need and want, don’t waiver. Be firm about your decision. Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded or guilted back into a relationship you no longer want. Hold your ground and don’t give your spouse false hope.
Jenine Marie Powell, CDC®
My name is Jenine Marie Powell. As a certified divorce coach, I specialize in providing help and hope to women whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of their divorce. I help them regain their sanity and redefine their identity so they can feel in control, confident and capable of managing their lives and moving forward.
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