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Breaking The News To Your Spouse

Breaking the News to Your Spouse

This is a conversation to have with your spouse only if you are serious about ending your marriage.  Once you decide you want a divorce, telling your spouse is going to be hard because emotions become heightened and feelings sensitized. Be prepared, know what you want to say, and give your spouse some warning about what’s coming.  Complications arise when one spouse is unaware that the relationship has broken to an irreparable condition. Breaking the news to an unsuspecting spouse that their world is about to be turned upside-down is a challenge and more than likely one of the most difficult discussions you will ever engage in. 

Do Not Ambush Your Spouse

Even if your spouse knows how unhappy you are, there is no assurance he/she isn’t in denial about a divorce.  If your spouse has no idea you are about to break up the marriage, it’ll be a shock when you tell them.  Let your spouse know you need to talk about something serious and make an appointment.

Anticipate Your Spouse’s Reaction

No one knows your spouse better than you do. Mitigating the emotional impact should be your first priority. Anticipate their reaction, determine what methods can be used to soften the shock and plan accordingly. It is important to understand that divorce has been at the forefront of your mind for quite some time; however, your spouse will be completely unnerved and immediately defensive.

There is no easy way to tell someone you loved, married, and lived with for years that you want to divorce them.  It’s going to be a stressful discussion, so be prepared for crying, anger, denial, blame, and arguments. Once you have decided you want a divorce, don’t delay, it will get harder to do later.  If you need support, bring in a counselor, a good friend, or talk in a public place.

Of course, if you are both in agreement, then discussions will be less argumentative. No matter how well you and your spouse are cooperating, however, please be aware that hurt feelings and guilt over the failure of the relationship will continue to weigh within both of you. Empathy and respect for one another will assist everyone as the difficult road of ending a marriage is navigated.

Choose the Right Place and Time

As with many things in life, timing and location are important. Weigh carefully your schedules and the particulates of your relationship before expressing your desire for a divorce. Be cognizant of your partner’s potential reaction and plan accordingly. Do not place yourself or your minor children in harm’s way of a potential violent reaction. If you are comfortable that there will be no abusive response, please do not broach the subject in a public venue where your spouse will be embarrassed and unable to adequately engage in the discussion. Choose a quiet time when you won’t be distracted, because this is an important conversation. Stay calm and be reasonable. Select wisely as this initial discussion has the potential to lay the groundwork for either a relatively amicable divorce or a prolonged and combative divorce.

Be Prepared To Talk

The initial discussion will be lengthy, emotionally charged and uncomfortable for all involved. Be prepared to listen to your spouse’s concerns, engage in meaningful conversation and keep an open mind. Allow time for both parties to digest what the other has stated and respond accordingly. As outlined in “Telling the Kids”, be prepared to discuss how to best present your decision to divorce to them. Do not forget to discuss potential therapy that will assist the family in navigating this difficult time in your lives.

Plan What To Say and Be Prepared To Listen

Think carefully about how you want to share your feelings and be clear about your message.  Begin with a short summary of your unhappiness, make certain he/she understands the seriousness of the situation, and then clearly state that you don’t want to be married to him/her anymore.  At this point, stop and let your spouse respond, but do not give them false hope.

Your spouse’s response is important. Listen carefully to what he/she is saying. The initial discussion provides an opportunity to gauge what potential issues need to be addressed as well as the level of animosity. If you are uncertain about the finality of divorce, this is the perfect chance to listen to your spouse and determine if divorce is the remedy or whether counseling will resolve the differences.

Stand Your Ground

After delivering the bad news, you may feel guilty and want to comfort your spouse by being affectionate.  That’s a mistake.  Maintain your personal boundaries and keep your distance, because you don’t want to send mixed signals to your estranged spouse.  Make certain he/she knows you are serious. Reconciliation is not always an option. Be firm with your spouse when it comes to the seriousness of your decision to initiate divorce proceedings. Honesty is not the easiest path, but it is the proper one.

Stay Calm and Monitor Your Reactions

Most likely your spouse will become upset when you tell him/her you want a divorce and he/she may become angry, want to argue or may even threaten you.  Don’t let yourself get angry in return and don’t argue. Listen to their arguments and respond in a calm manner that you understand how difficult this is to hear and how hurtful it must be, but it’s how you honestly feel and you can’t change it.  Tell him/her there’s no way we can make the marriage work.

Prepare yourself for a myriad of reactions from your partner. Maintain a civil tone and empathetic nature to help encourage a positive outcome of this important first step. It is in your best interest, both financially and emotionally, to encourage an open line of communication and partnership in resolving this potentially hostile situation.  If the discussion escalates into an argument, do your best to extricate yourself and retreat until emotions have settled. This is the ground floor of a complicated action and will determine what steps are taken next and the nature of the proceedings to follow.