Divorce can often be a complicated and messy process. But you’ll encounter one of the biggest hurdles early on: telling your spouse about your decision.
The way you broach this conversation can cause huge ripples across how your divorce unfolds. As experts in family law, we’ve seen firsthand just how impactful your approach can be here.
That’s why we’ve compiled our top 10 tips for telling your spouse you want a divorce. With this knowledge, you can start this process off right and ensure the best possible outcome.
1. Be certain this is what you want.
One of our biggest tips for telling your spouse you want a divorce doesn’t actually involve them. You see, the first thing to do is make sure this is truly what you want.
This decision is a statement you can’t take back. While some couples who discuss divorce ultimately stay together, the conversation creates a deep wound. Healing it would take time. You must be certain this is what you want, and of your reasons.
2. Think about what you’d like to say ahead of time.
Planning ahead will make this conversation easier for both of you. It’s normal to feel scared about bringing up this subject.
But your spouse deserves clarity and honesty. The best way to achieve this is by thinking about what you want to say. Worried about getting overwhelmed in the moment? Try writing down or rehearsing the main things you need to say.
3. Be compassionate, clear, and direct.
Depending on the details of your marriage, you may find telling your spouse you want a divorce very easy or difficult.
You may be harboring large amounts of resentment, making it hard to be compassionate. Perhaps you’re still processing your feelings and struggle to make your opinions clear. These are normal experiences.
But you can’t let your emotions get the best of you here. Be clear and direct in stating your reasons for wanting a divorce. Be compassionate—yet firm—as you listen to their responses. Keeping a level head here can pave the way for a smooth, fair divorce.
4. Pick the right moment for this conversation.
There’s a right time and place for everything. While there’s never a “great” time to deliver this news, some moments are certainly better than others.
You’ll want to speak privately, at a time free of distractions. Trying to discuss things in-between errands, right before work, or even during a moment of frustration aren’t your best options. Your spouse will likely have questions and their own comments to make.
You both deserve to have this important conversation in a safe space without feeling rushed for time.
5. Avoid blame and criticism.
It can be challenging to remain civil at this point. That’s why another important tip for telling your spouse you want a divorce is avoiding finger-pointing and harsh criticisms.
Even if your spouse starts blaming you for issues or accusing you of wrongdoing, try not to return fire. Otherwise, you risk falling into an endless cycle of trying to “prove” whose fault this divorce is. This frame of mind can make divvying up your assets even messier in the long run.
6. Consider your feelings on a trial separation.
In our experience, it’s fairly common for a spouse to suggest a trial separation when presented with a divorce. It’s wise to consider your feelings before the initial conversation with your partner.
And if you decide you aren’t interested in a trial separation, that’s okay. There are many cases where living apart temporarily won’t solve any of the problems in a marriage.
In the interest of making this process as painless as possible, decide ahead of time what your thoughts are on a trial separation. The more you waver on your true feelings, the more complicated your divorce will be overall.
7. Don’t be wishy-washy about your decision.
One of the worst things you can do here is being unsure of what you want. If your spouse thinks your relationship can be saved, they’ll be looking for signs that you feel the same.
Walking back your decisions or making exceptions sends mixed messages and complicates the divorce. Stay focused on your reasons for wanting to separate in the first place, and remember they’re valid.
Staying firm in your choices can help your divorce wrap up more quickly while minimizing the pain for everyone involved.
8. Avoid publicly airing your grievances.
Some people feel inclined to announce their divorce immediately. Especially if you’ve felt trapped or stifled in your marriage, you might want to declare yourself “single” ASAP. People in your life may even ask for details on your reasons or what went wrong.
But you should resist the urge to spill these private details to the world. It’s incredibly easy for outside opinions to influence your own thoughts or actions during an already complicated time.
Your time and energy are much better spent making sure the divorce goes smoothly and minimizing disruption to your life. Furthermore, social media posts are valid evidence during a divorce. Blasting your spouse online could come back to haunt you in major ways.
9. Remember this won’t be your final discussion.
Telling your spouse you want a divorce is just the first of many discussions. You’re both going to experience a wide array of emotions in the coming weeks or months. And dealing with them will require additional conversations.
The same is true for figuring out things like custody, alimony, and division of assets. So don’t go into this discussion thinking you can “win” once and for all. Dissolving a marriage is just more complicated than that.
It may be wise to set up a time for your next conversation. Especially if you’re concerned about being “ambushed” with accusations or demands, scheduling the next discussion can put you both more at ease.
10. Talk with an unbiased professional.
Even in the best cases, getting divorced is a heavy burden to bear. Your friends and family can help lighten the load, but they all have their own opinions and advice to share.
That’s why our top tip for telling your spouse you want a divorce is talking with an unbiased professional, like the legal experts here at Bansmer Law. With years of experience in family law—and related issues like custody and spousal support—we’re ready to help you however we can.
We take the time to understand the details of your divorce, plus who you are as a person. Our compassionate yet focused and aggressive legal strategies will be custom-tailored to protect your best interests, every step of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you tell your spouse you want a divorce?
Tell your spouse you want a divorce by approaching them in a private place, at a time when nothing else is going on.
Trying to squeeze this conversation in before leaving for work, after a hectic day, or other stressful moments won’t lead to a good result. There’s never a “perfect” time—this news will always be distressing to your partner.
But being direct and honest in private at a low-stress moment gives you the best chances to minimize fallout.
Why does it matter which method you choose for telling your spouse you want a divorce?
The method you choose for telling your spouse you want a divorce matters because it heavily influences the overall outcome.
Here’s the thing. According to the US Census Bureau, when the process of divorce is easier, the people involved fare better—both financially and mentally.
And it isn’t uncommon for angry spouses to maliciously drag out the divorce process or make lofty demands. Basically, taking the time to make sure you’re honest, clear, compassionate, and respectful during this conversation is a wise investment.
Is wanting a divorce selfish?
No, wanting a divorce isn’t selfish. Whether you have children or not, the worst choice for everyone involved is staying married—especially in high-conflict relationships.
But you should know studies have found that a “good” divorce is healthier for adults and your children than a “bad” or messy divorce.
Our most important tip for telling your spouse you want a divorce is hiring legal representation as soon as possible. With a focused and skilled California divorce attorney in your corner, the process will go much smoother (and likely lead to a better outcome overall).
Divorces can bring out the worst in people. And being taken by surprise during this process can be a costly mistake. Ready to learn more about how to prepare and how we can protect your best interests? Call or email Bansmer Law today to schedule your consultation!