Pursuing a divorce is one of the most life-changing decisions a couple can make.
The consequences linger for a lifetime and affect children, extended family, and other loved ones.
While it’s not uncommon for one spouse to make a rushed, one-sided decision without even discussing it, this is certainly not the recommended way to obtain a divorce. The much better option is to bring up your unhappiness and desire to separate so you can discuss the matter as two rational adults.
So how do you bring up divorce with your spouse in a gentle, constructive way that doesn’t cause devastation or an all-out war?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this difficult subject, here are some tips that may help.
1. Choose the Right Time and Place
Chances are, you’ve been weighing the possibility of divorce in your mind for some time. Whether you suspect your spouse expects this conversation or not, it’s important to time it right. Delay bringing up such a sensitive subject if your spouse is ill, recently lost a family member, or has been laid off. Bringing it up at a delicate time might exacerbate your spouse and lead to a less optimal outcome.
Then, wait until you both have plenty of time to talk. Don’t drop “the D-word” and just walk away. It’s also best if you can arrange childcare to ensure your conversation isn’t overheard and remains uninterrupted.
2. Be Calm but Firm
Your opening statement might be a variation on the following:
“I have something important but difficult to say. I can’t continue in this marriage, and I want to seek a divorce. I’ve been struggling with this for years and I suspect you have, too. But now I’ve reached my limit and can’t go on any longer. I know this will be a difficult process, but I believe we can be decent and reasonable as we move forward with our separation.”
3. Wait to Discuss the Details
If the topic of divorce isn’t a surprise to your spouse, you may find yourselves feeling ready to discuss asset division and child custody. Resist this urge. Negotiating details without guidance from a professional could come back to bite you.
4. Consider Counselling
It’s possible your spouse doesn’t want a divorce and suggests counselling instead. Because this is a decision you shouldn’t rush into, be open to the idea. It could provide the direction you need to either preserve your marriage or make you feel confident that divorce is indeed the best option.