"I want a divorce. How do I tell my spouse?"

Unless both spouses simultaneously come to the conclusion that their marriage isn’t working, one (the initiator) starts having doubts first. By the time they break the difficult news to their spouse, the initiator has had a fair amount of time to think about divorce and come to terms with its emotional ramifications. They may also have quietly started building a new life by finding their own friends, going back to school to brush up on their employable skills, and losing weight or changing their hairstyle to reflect the new person they believe themselves to be. By the time they break the news to their spouse, they are detached and ready to move on.

If you are the initiator, please remember that your spouse may not be as prepared and your request for a divorce needs to be both private and respectful. Sit down with them at a time when no one will interrupt. Be conscious that you’re about to break some potentially devastating news and act accordingly. Use neutral language and make “I” statements that describe your feelings without characterizing theirs.

Your spouse’s reaction may vary from total shock to agreement or resigned acceptance. They may get angry and use strong language.

“How can you do this to me, to our kids? There’s nothing wrong with our marriage that counseling and hard work won’t fix.”

“You’re just trying to run away from responsibility again. You’re so damned selfish. Neither the kids nor I deserve this.”

No matter how personal they get, do not retaliate, defend yourself, or justify your decision to divorce. Tell your spouse that you will do everything you can to manage the process fairly, and don’t be swayed if you’re certain that divorce is the best solution for everyone involved.

After this difficult conversation, give your husband or wife time to absorb and hopefully accept your decision. Although both of you may be worried about the future, now is not the time to discuss divorce details such as selling the house or a stay-at-home partner getting a job. Tell your spouse that there is no hurry to decide these issues and that you both can talk more when you’re ready.

Both of you want the same things: happy and fulfilled lives for yourselves and your children. By controlling strong emotions and treating one another with respect throughout the process, you might even remain on good terms at the end. If you have questions about the divorce process and would like to talk them through, please give us a call today at (503) 227-0200.

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