Sign that reads I want a divorce: concept for how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.

Few words are harder to hear from your spouse than “I want a divorce.” But those words can be just as difficult to say, and how and when you say them can set the tone for the difficult months ahead. Before you talk to your spouse about ending your marriage, take some time to think about how to tell your spouse you want a divorce before you speak.

Talk to Yourself First.

Bringing up the topic of divorce changes a relationship, even if the divorce never materializes. Your spouse will forever know that you consider divorce a viable option, and that knowledge will be ever-present in your relationship going forward. So before saying, “I want a divorce,” be absolutely certain that you do.

Why would someone ask for a divorce if they didn’t truly want to end their marriage? There are a number of reasons. Some people say they want a divorce in anger, lashing out during an argument. Others say it in frustration, because nothing else has worked to call their spouse’s attention to problems in the marriage that need work.

So figure out what you really want, with the help of a therapist if necessary. Do you want your spouse to go to counseling with you, or try a separation to see if you can work things out? Or do you genuinely believe that your marriage is over, and it’s time to file for divorce? If you conclude that you truly want to end your marriage, it’s time to plan a talk with your spouse.

Step Into Your Spouse’s Shoes.

Once you are certain that divorce is the right next step, you need to communicate that to your spouse. There’s no easy way to do it, and it won’t be a happy conversation no matter what. But by taking the time to think about the headspace your spouse is in, you can make the talk a little easier on both of you.

How surprised will they be to hear that you want a divorce? Have you raised the subject before (or have they)? Have they seemed unhappy in the marriage too, or did they believe the two of you were living happily ever after? Imagining their reaction will give you an idea of what to say. Again, this is something you can talk through with a counselor if you have access to one.

Plan When and Where to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.

This is one of the biggest and most important conversations of your relationship, and it will probably be one of the most emotional. It’s not a talk to have casually. Creating the right time and space is crucial. Here are some tips.

  • Plan for privacy. It may be tempting to tell your spouse you want a divorce in a public place, in the hopes that they won’t make a scene, but they deserve the dignity of a private space to receive and process this difficult news.
  • If you have children, arrange to have them out of the house for at least a few hours so you can focus on talking with your spouse without them overhearing or interrupting. Ask a family member or trusted friend to watch them.
  • If you and your spouse are in marriage counseling, consider breaking the news in one of your sessions (talk to your counselor about this ahead of time). Marriage counseling isn’t always about saving a marriage; sometimes it’s about helping people to divorce as peacefully as possible.
  • If at all possible, have this discussion when there’s nothing else major happening, either positive (like a family vacation or holiday) or negative (like a job loss or illness).

Be Honest, Kind, Straightforward, and Firm.

Saying “I want a divorce” to your spouse is almost certain to hurt them. You may be tempted to waffle on your decision, especially if they beg you to reconsider—this is another reason to be certain that divorce is really what you want. If you’ve had that internal discussion, it will be easier to stand firm.

Try not to assign blame, either to your spouse or to yourself. Repeat, if necessary, that you have spent time thinking about options and decided that you can no longer stay in the marriage. Don’t promise to try something you know won’t work in order to placate your spouse and put off what you know has to happen. It will only be more difficult later. Delaying the inevitable only prolongs the misery for both of you.

It’s okay to say, “I know this hurts you and I’m sorry for that, but this is what I need to do.” Be prepared that your spouse will need time to “catch up” with you emotionally, and that in the meantime, they may be feeling (and expressing) deep grief, anger, and other strong emotions.

(If you are someone whose spouse has recently asked for a divorce, you may be struggling with processing the news and your feelings, including anxiety about the future. You need to think about these five things to do after your spouse asks for a divorce.)

Talk to a Divorce Attorney Before Talking to Your Spouse.

If you have questions about what needs to happen in your first conversation about divorce with your spouse, it’s wise to speak with a divorce attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you understand what’s helpful and unhelpful to say from both a legal and personal standpoint. And if you are truly committed to getting a divorce, your attorney can have your divorce papers ready to serve so that you can begin the process shortly after breaking the news to your spouse.

To learn more about how to tell a spouse you want a divorce, and get the legal help you need to navigate the process yourself, contact Mundahl Law at 763-575-7930 to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce, Family Law