Even if you’ve been unhappy in your marriage and thinking about divorce for months or maybe even years, when you finally decide to act on that thought, breaking it to your spouse can seem formidable. You can make the situation easier by choosing a good time and place and addressing the matter neutrally.
The best things you can do to prepare yourself for the big conversation is to educate yourself about the law and face your own fears, according to Alison Heller, divorce lawyer, and author. Learning about the law — even meeting with an attorney to figure out how your property will likely be divided — removes uncertainty. Facing your own fears about your spouse’s reaction can help you take whatever action is appropriate to allay them. For example, if you can’t stand the idea of causing your spouse pain, you might benefit from a little therapy to work through those issues.
Find a Quiet Time and Private Place
In one sense, no time is a good time to give your spouse bad news, but in fact, sometimes are better than others. When and how you handle the discussion can impact the outcome, notes family lawyer and mediator Sam Margulies. Pick a time when both of you have several hours of free time. Choose a place where you can have a private discussion without the fear of interruption. Your own home can be a good place as long as no other family members are present or likely to arrive.
The First Cut Is the Deepest
The first discussion with your spouse will be the most difficult. Although he probably already knows you’re unhappy and is likely unhappy, too, the announcement that a spouse wants a divorce is usually unexpected. You should introduce the subject quietly, saying that you have some painful news to relate. Then state directly that you’ve decided to seek a divorce. You might add that the decision is irrevocable and that you hope to arrange matters in a respectful and civilized manner.
Listen Without Reacting
Every spouse responds differently to this type of announcement, but few react with pleasure. Your spouse might try to berate you and blame you for the failure of your marriage. He may try to talk you out of it with threats of how you’ll be financially ruined by the divorce, or how you’ll be lonely and full of regret afterward. Or, he may beg you to stay. You should not respond to the attacks or the entreaties other than to encourage him to talk, listen compassionately and repeat your earlier statement that your decision is irrevocable. He will need time to accept the idea that your marriage is truly over.