You may have arrived at your decision to divorce in secret. Perhaps you know that your spouse feels differently, and that he or she would prefer to stay with you until the end of time, but you know your marriage has to end. How do you break the news? How do you tell your spouse you want to be alone the right way?
The truth is, there is no “right way” to communicate that you want to have a divorce, but you may be able to help the discussion be more balanced, respectful and compassionate by following the advice below:
Remember you’re setting the stage for your divorce process
The way you tell your spouse you want a divorce will set the stage for your uncoupling, and you want this stage to be as patient, respectful and reconciliatory as possible. Make sure you have a moment of time when you can both be alone without interruption. Then, you may want to break the news something like this:
I have some hard news to tell you. I’ve decided that I need to get a divorce. I’ve struggled with this for a while now, and I think you know that things have been hard between us. I can’t do this anymore. It won’t be easy for any of us, but I think we can divorce reasonably and respectfully.
After breaking the news, your spouse might try to convince you to stay. He or she might even become angry or make you feel guilty or bad because of what it will do to the children. Regardless of how mean or ugly your spouse becomes in this moment, the way you respond is vital.
Don’t defend your choices
If your spouse accuses you, criticizes you or says ugly things to you, you’ll face the strong temptation to fight back and defend yourself. You may even want to tell your spouse all of the awful things that apply to him or her. Resist the temptation. Don’t defend yourself. Just listen to what he or she has to say and remember that your spouse’s pain is probably significant. Endure whatever he or she has to say, even encourage your spouse to continue sharing. Then summarize what your spouse has said to help him or her feel understood.
Do not participate in any discussion about fault or blame. Only repeat the following things:
- Your decision is final and you’re not going to change your position.
- You want to have a civilized divorce that honors everyone’s needs.
- You won’t talk about fault.
- You will only discuss how to organize the actual divorce, but before that, you understand you and your spouse both need time to reflect.
Bring an end to your divorce talk
Now it’s time to bring your discussion to a close. Don’t engage in talk about finances or child custody just yet. Simply reiterate your points above, show that you empathize and indicate that you’re done talking about the topic.
No one said that getting a divorce is easy, but if you and your spouse can work together respectfully, you may be able to reach a peaceful, no-conflict resolution without going to court. The better you are at breaking the news to your spouse compassionately as described above, the more peaceful and easier your divorce will be.