How Do You Tell Your Spouse You Want a Separation or Divorce?

You have made the decision that separating or divorcing is the right next step. You know for certain this is best. If not certain please consider see my previous post 5 Conscious Steps to Knowing When its Time to Initiate Divorce .

Now how do you tell your spouse you want to separate or divorce? How do you find the courage to initiate this conversation?

Making the decision to separate or divorce takes considerable effort. You may feel completely drained and now to take that final step of telling your spouse seems to be nearly, if not completely, impossible.

Countless people stay in unhappy marriages because they’re terrified at the thought of starting this conversation. They’re concerned (and rightly so) about the disruption it will cause, worried about the effects on individual family members as well as the group as a whole.

Yet in the long run, it can be even more damaging to do nothing.

It takes tremendous courage to say you want/need a separation or a divorce. But having courage is better than remaining paralyzed, or worse, allowing an uncomfortable or hostile environment to develop and forcing your spouse to be the one to say the words. Indecision on your part creates a horrible state of limbo for your spouse and your whole family.

My advice? It will be easier to find the courage to initiate the conversation after you’ve done the preparation work necessary to separate or divorce well.

Here’s what will help you to gain that courage.

  • Fully explore your decision.
    • In bringing up the subject of separation/divorce, are you testing the waters, or do you intend to follow through?
    • Be aware of your reasons for wanting to separate/divorce and make sure they’re clear in your mind.
    • To minimize chaos know for certain this is what you think is best. Otherwise the conversation should be about your fears that the marriage is in jeopardy.
  • Speak with an attorney. Know your legal options before you take a single step.
  • Consult with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to understand the financial impact of dividing assets and maintaining two households.
  • Stay in a problem-solving mindset. Be open to anything that will make the process easier for everyone.
  • Understand your own expectations, standards, and boundaries.
  • Find a common ground with your spouse to build upon, especially if you have children. No matter how irreparable your marriage, you’ll still need to establish a co-parenting relationship.

And when you have that conversation, here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t point the finger of blame – that will only put your spouse on the defensive. Instead of telling your partner how they have failed, you might say, “We don’t seem to be making any headway with the changes I need in order to continue working on this marriage.”
  • Don’t spend the whole conversation justifying your decision. Remain firm and don’t get bogged down in answering all the “why’s,” or the discussion will quickly devolve into an argument. Suggest instead that the two of you see a marriage counselor or coach.
  • Don’t waver in your resolve. Your spouse will latch onto any opening you provide to try and change the terms of the discussion.

Now, create your script for how to tell your spouse you want a separation or divorce:

  • Be brief, clear, and as honest as possible. Example: “After much thought and reflection, I’ve decided that (separating/divorcing) is the right thing to do. I’m committed to making this process fair and reasonable with the goal of having the best possible outcome for our family.”
  • Remember: whether or not to separate is not up for discussion. You’ve already made that decision. How to proceed is the topic of the discussion.
  • Expect a range of emotions from your spouse. Show compassion, but stay firm.
  • Focus on moving forward and building a productive co-parenting relationship if you have children.
  • Be prepared to suggest, and follow through on, coaching or counseling. Having a neutral third party can be extremely beneficial. Your spouse will benefit from being given the time to “catch up”.

You have made the decision to separate or divorce. You are certain this is best. At this point the focus needs to be on HOW to proceed onto the next steps with integrity and compassion. Not at all easy, but well worth the effort.

Contact me to be your sounding board and thinking partner. I can be in your corner and we can tweak these strategies to fit your individual situation.

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