You’ve made up your mind that you want a divorce. Like many other people, you’ve decided that a “new year means a new you,” and you’re planning on heading to an attorney’s office early in January.
Now, you just have to tell your spouse.
Whether your relationship has been rocky for a while or just virtually lifeless, the way that you make your announcement can set the tone for your entire divorce. Handle this the right way, and you could have a relatively peaceful split. Do it the wrong way, and you could have a real War of the Roses on your hands.
3 tips for breaking the news as gently as possible
Whether you journal, talk it through with a trusted friend or speak with a therapist, rehearsing what you want to say can help you find clarity — and keep you from making a mistake. Here are some points to consider:
- Is your spouse likely aware of your feelings or will this take them by surprise? If you think that your spouse is equally unhappy in your marriage, this conversation may be a relief to them. If you think that your spouse will be surprised or resistant, you need to be prepared for a wash of negative emotions.
- Are you clear about what you want? Don’t have this conversation unless you are 100% sure you want a divorce – and don’t give your spouse any false hope for reconciliation. Make it clear that you are not willing to try couple’s therapy, a vacation together to rekindle your romance or anything else.
- Are you ready to frame the conversation with empathy? Blaming your spouse for the divorce (even if that’s how you feel) is counterproductive – and it won’t help you negotiate a peaceful divorce. Focus your statements around what matters the most: You aren’t happy. Your relationship isn’t working, You want different things out of life or hold different values (or both).
Keep in mind that one thing you should not do at this point is talk about the practical aspects of your divorce. Resist any attempts to immediately sort out who will live where, who will get what or how the expenses need to be divided. All those parts of your divorce can wait until you have experienced legal guidance.