How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

Couple talking on sofa
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Talk about a tricky conversation, telling your spouse you want a divorce is not a conversation anyone would look forward to. It may mean facing conflict; it may mean hurting your spouse and most of us shy away from either of those situations.

How you tell your spouse will greatly depend on whether or not divorce has been a subject of discussion in the past or your spouse is under the impression that all is well in the marriage.

If there have been discussions of divorce in the past, breaking the news that you've decided to divorce should be met with less conflict, anger and hurt feelings. If your spouse is unaware of your unhappiness this is going to be a hard conversation to have.

Whatever has been going on in the marriage you should always consider how the news is going to affect your spouse emotionally. In other words, don't let your fear of telling your spouse you want a divorce tempt you to do something that will only make the situation worse.

Seriously! Regardless of how you are feeling about your spouse and the marriage, respect for that person's station in your life is the only fair option you have. So, when telling your spouse you want a divorce, do it the right way, not the wrong way

3 Ways NOT To Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

1. Don't skip the divorce conversation and go straight to having your spouse served with divorce papers.

This tactic is an easy out but the easy is only momentary. You want to piss someone off and begin a war? Serve them divorce papers out of the blue!

2. Don't pack your bags and leave one day never to return again. I mean seriously, is this really the mature way of dealing with a subject as serious as divorce and dismantling a family?

My ex pulled this one on me. It sends a clear message, says "I'm out of here," in a way that can't be misinterpreted but you may find it hard to live with your cowardice once the dust settles.

3. Don't tell your spouse's family and friends before you break the news to your spouse. Divorce is hard enough when it is between two people only. Bring the rest of your community into it and you not only muddy the waters you look a bit foolish also.

Dealing With Your Spouse's Reaction

If your spouse is surprised by your desire for a divorce there will more than likely be a lot to deal with once you share your feelings. "Dealing" means being able to take into consideration the needs of the spouse you are leaving.

Let's look at the situation from the perspective of your feelings. Divorce is something you've been thinking about for a long time. You've put effort into being happy, you've come to terms with the fact that you can't stay in the marriage and more than likely have already emotionally divorced yourself from your spouse.

In other words, you've already worked your way through feelings of loss, hopelessness, and depression and have now detached from your spouse and the marriage.

When you share with your unknowing spouse that you want a divorce, they are going to begin the process of working through those feelings of loss, hopelessness, depression and a myriad of other negative emotions.

You are ahead of your spouse in the grieving process that comes along with divorce. I spoke with a man recently who was surprised by his wife's reaction to the news that he wanted a divorce. He told me that she was "fragile" and, "seems to be falling apart." He couldn't understand why she wasn't sharing his sense of relief and he had no idea how to deal with her behavior.

There can be a HUGE contrast between what you are feeling and what your spouse will feel once told of the divorce. You are ready to move on with your life, your spouse will question how you are ready to move on so quickly and be hurt by the fact that you are.

It is always helpful to the spouse being left behind if the spouse leaving is able to show compassion and empathy for their pain. It may not be easy to be around the person you've hurt but taking time to give your spouse closure is something you won't regret down the road.

When a spouse is left and handed an unwanted divorce they feel like they've lost control over the path of their marriage and plans for their future. You, the spouse who wants the divorce are now in control and if you behave badly toward the spouse you are leaving this will only promote more conflict and do more emotional harm.

I'm not telling you that you have to like your spouse's reaction. More than likely there will be some very unlikable response to your desire to divorce. I do believe that showing compassion for what he/she is experiencing and the transition they are going through will make the process of divorce easier for all involved.