How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

February 19, 2024 O'Connor Family Law Divorce

The decision to get divorced can be extremely difficult. Once you’ve settled on the decision, figuring out your next steps may feel overwhelming. There are some things that you may want to think about before telling your spouse like how your finances are structured and whether moving out may be the right option for you. You can find answers to these questions and more in our free Divorce Basics E-Book but once you’ve thought through the fundamentals, you will likely want to have a conversation with your spouse explaining your decision. This post covers some key things you should consider when preparing to tell your spouse that you want a divorce. 

Safety Considerations

While an in-person discussion is often desirable, especially when you have had a long marriage, your safety should be the first thing that you think about when planning the conversation. Talking to your soon-to-be-ex over the phone or via text or email may be better if:

  • Your ex has a history of making threats or acting upon threats of violence.
  • You do not have a way to leave the space quickly if the conversation turns sour.
  • You have reason to believe that meeting with your ex might endanger your physical safety.

If you or a friend may be in a domestic abuse situation, please view our list of Massachusetts domestic violence resources here and seek aid as appropriate.

Prepare Yourself for the Conversation

Preparation is the key to success in almost any situation, and discussing divorce with your spouse is no exception. To create the best chance for a smooth and effective conversation, follow these steps:

1. Outline the Main Points: Before the conversation, outline the key topics you want to address. Write down your thoughts in the order you want to discuss them. You don’t need to have every word planned out but an outline can help you ensure that all of the important topics are handled so you don’t walk away with important topics left untouched.

2. Anticipate Questions: Think about the potential questions and objections your spouse may have. Be prepared to address these concerns calmly and confidently. Having the reasons that you want the divorce outlined in step 1 will give you a good starting point to think about answers your spouse may want. Consider whether they will be shocked by your desire for a divorce or whether they might be expecting it. 

3. Practice Your Speech: Practice delivering your message multiple times, either in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend or a professional divorce coach. This will help you gain confidence and clarity.

Getting to the Point

When it comes to discussing divorce with your spouse, it’s essential to get to the point while maintaining clarity and empathy. 

1. Keep It Simple: Communicate your decision as clearly and concisely as possible. Avoid overcomplicating the conversation with unnecessary details.

2. Stay Calm: Keep your emotions in check during the conversation. Avoid shouting, name-calling, or blaming your spouse for the decision.

3. Use “We” Language: Frame your reasons for divorce in a way that focuses on both of your interests. For example, say, “I believe it’s in both our interests to consider separating.”

4. Avoid Blame: Refrain from blaming your spouse for the divorce, even if they contributed to the problems in the marriage. Focus on your feelings and the need for a change.

Choosing the Right Timing

While there may not be an ideal time for such a conversation, choosing the right moment is crucial. Consider the following factors:

1. Plenty of Time: Ensure you have ample time for the conversation without interruptions.

2. Privacy: Have the discussion in a private setting where you both feel comfortable.

3. Child-Free Environment: If you have children, choose a time when they are not present to avoid unnecessary stress.

4. Emotionally Neutral State: Ensure both you and your spouse are calm and not emotionally overwhelmed by other events or stressors.

Listening and Addressing Concerns

Once you’ve communicated your desire for a divorce, it’s important to listen to your spouse’s thoughts and concerns. They may have emotional reactions and objections, and it’s essential to be prepared for these responses. Here’s how to handle them:

1. Listen Actively: Allow your spouse to express their thoughts and emotions without interruption. Let them feel heard and respected.

2. Stay Firm and Calm: Be consistent in your decision to divorce, but remain calm and composed throughout the conversation.

3. Address Concerns: Respond to your spouse’s concerns with empathy and understanding, even if you disagree. Acknowledge their feelings but reiterate your decision.

4. Be Prepared for Objections: Anticipate objections and questions, and have a strategy to handle them while staying focused on your decision.

After the Conversation

Once you’ve initiated the conversation about divorce, be prepared for various reactions and emotions from both you and your spouse. Understand that the divorce process has several stages, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial: Initially, both you and your spouse may struggle to accept the reality of the situation. It’s natural to experience disbelief and emotional turmoil.

Anger: Anger can be a necessary outlet for the frustration and pain associated with the end of a relationship. Allow both you and your spouse to express this emotion in a healthy way.

Bargaining: During this stage, you or your spouse may question if there’s anything that could have saved the marriage. It’s essential to accept that some things are beyond your control.

Depression: Feelings of sadness and helplessness are common during the divorce process. Seek support from your friends, family, and professionals like a therapist or divorce coach. If you’re a client of O’Connor Family Law, reach out to Stacey to see if your case qualifies for a complimentary coaching package to help you find your path to progress. 

Acceptance: The final stage involves adapting to life after divorce and finding clarity in the changes ahead. While you may never fully accept the end of the marriage, you can navigate a new beginning.

You Can Do This

Telling your spouse you want a divorce is undoubtedly a challenging conversation. However, by following the steps and strategies outlined in this guide, you can approach the situation with empathy, clarity, and respect. Remember that seeking professional guidance from a family attorney or divorce coach can be instrumental in navigating the complexities of divorce.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please feel free to our team for additional information. Remember, there is a path forward, and you can emerge from this challenging time with strength and resilience. Our team at O’Connor Family Law is here to help you through this challenging time.