How to Tell Your Husband or Wife You Want a Divorce

The decision to get a divorce is not an easy one. In some ways, telling your husband or wife that you want a divorce can be even more difficult. If you are in this position, preparing what to say and how to say it in advance can make this process less stressful. If you are the spouse leaving the marriage, these suggestions may help you get through this challenging and emotional conversation with honesty, sensitivity and hope for the future.

Prepare Yourself Mentally and Emotionally

Do not dismiss what you are feeling during this difficult time. Acknowledge your emotions – whether they include anger, grief, frustration or relief – and know that your spouse may be experiencing some of the same feelings. Be prepared for this conversation to bring up negative feelings and do your best to avoid elevating them. Recognize that this will most likely be an emotional discussion for both of you.

Pick the Right Time and Place

Choose a quiet location where you can have an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse in private. If domestic violence is an issue in your marriage, pick a public place or have a trusted third party there with you when you deliver the news. Find a time when both of you can focus your attention solely on the conversation, without distractions, responsibilities or children in the room.

Choose Your Words Carefully

You want your announcement to be clear and direct, with no room for misinterpretation. At the same time, try to remain sensitive and broach the subject with kindness and compassion. Be honest about your feelings and use straightforward language to avoid sending mixed messages or giving your spouse false hope that the marriage could be reconciled.

Use “I” Statements

Using “I” statements can be more productive than “You” statements when trying to express your feelings and intentions. Rather than saying “You make me feel,” for example, start with “I feel.” This can prevent your spouse from feeling like you are blaming them, which can help to defuse the situation and avert arguments. Avoid accusations or bringing up past fights. Express your feelings honestly but respectfully.

Practice Active Listening

When it is your spouse’s turn to talk, be an active listener. This is a communication technique that involves listening, understanding what is being said and responding appropriately. Acknowledge your spouse’s views and concerns. Do not discredit or shrug off your spouse’s feelings or perspective. Do your best to refrain from judgment when information is shared with you. This can create a safe space where neither one of you is attacking the other and can mutually share and acknowledge your own experiences.

Stay Calm and Collected

Divorces can quickly get messy, especially when they involve children. How you approach sensitive subjects in the beginning can determine the rest of the divorce process, such as whether you will have a contested or uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are preferred, as it means you and your spouse can come to an amicable agreement on important matters such as child custody and avoid the cost and hassle of a trial. Do your best to remain calm and collected during your initial conversation to set the tone for the rest of your divorce negotiations.

Once you have told your spouse you want a divorce, consider professional guidance to help you settle legal matters and plan for the future. Seeking legal advice from an experienced San Diego divorce attorney can make the legal process easier, smoother and less stressful for the whole family.