Updated: Aug 9, 2021
While there's no easy way to make this life-changing announcement, here are five tips for how to have a discussion that is clear and effective.
You've tried to solve the problems plaguing your marriage, you've sought outside help and you've come to accept the difficult truth that you want a divorce. Now what?! While it is important to carefully consider how you're going to deliver this news, there are several things you should prepare well before having this conversation. If you have just recently decided to divorce, check out my short video on 10 Things To Do BEFORE Breaking The News To Your Spouse.
“You've tried to solve the problems plaguing your marriage, you've sought outside help and you've come to accept the difficult truth that you want a divorce. Now what?!”
Once you're fully prepared for the road ahead, use these five tips to ensure that your discussion about divorce is both clear and effective.
Don't ambush them
While your spouse may be aware of how unhappy you are, chances are this announcement will still come as quite a shock. Tell them you need to talk about something serious and choose a time that respects both of your schedules. Unless you are concerned about safety (in which case, please read through to the end notes), choose a private place to have the discussion. If possible, secure child care during and after the conversation so that you both have some time to cool down and process everything that has been said before returning to your parenting responsibilities.
Think through and rehearse what you’re going to say. Avoid blame – if you truly feel as though there is no saving this relationship, your only focus should be on delivering this message calmly and compassionately. You can avoid playing the blame game by using I statements such as “I know this is difficult to hear, but I can no longer stay in this marriage and want a divorce.” and “I don’t think additional marriage counseling will fix our relationship, but we may both benefit from seeing individual therapists.”
Be prepared for BIG emotions
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve already experienced some of the denial, anger and sadness that are all part of grieving the end of one’s marriage. Your partner on the other hand, may be just beginning this painful process and will likely have less control over their emotions. Even if you feel your partner is largely to blame, respect that they are entitled to experience the same emotions you have likely already felt yourself.
It may be difficult to remain calm if your partner becomes angry and tries to initiate an argument. Don’t allow yourself to match their tone or hostility. Focus on listening, validating their emotions and calmly re-asserting that this decision is final. “I understand how difficult this is to hear. This decision hasn’t been easy to make but I know there is nothing else we can do to make this marriage work.”
Create and Maintain Boundaries
Despite your own anger or frustration, you may feel guilty after delivering the bad news and be tempted to comfort your spouse. Failing to maintain personal boundaries may send mixed signals to your spouse. Kindness and compassion are okay but avoid being affectionate so that they understand you are serious.
Two final and important notes to consider:
1. Do not use divorce as a threat. While it’s important to communicate the concerns you have about your marriage, using divorce as a threat is not a healthy or productive way to express yourself or create any lasting changes within your relationship. If you are unsure about how to communicate this with your partner effectively, consider going to couple’s counselling or receiving individual counselling with a therapist or coach.
2. If there is a history of abuse or you have concerns about the safety and well-being of anyone within your household: speak with your local women’s shelter before having this conversation so that you can develop a safety plan.