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How Do I Tell My Spouse I Want a Divorce?

How Do I Tell My Spouse I Want a Divorce?

Living with the knowledge that you want a divorce when you have not talked to your spouse can make every interaction with them feel like a lie. Carrying the weight of this unspoken thought can be so burdensome that it negatively impacts almost every aspect of your life. As much as you want to be free, you may be struggling with the idea of actually saying the words aloud. If you are in this situation, you may be asking: How do I tell my spouse I want a divorce?

Ensure Your Safety

When there is domestic violence in a relationship, the time when the abused person leaves the marriage can be one of the most dangerous for them. This is known as separation violence.  If you are concerned that your spouse will react abusively, you should take steps to ensure your family's safety before letting your spouse know about your decision to divorce them. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to connect with a local community domestic violence organization before you act. It may be better to leave your home and then to have your spouse formally served rather than having a face-to-face discussion. You may also need to get a restraining order to keep them away from you after you file. If there is ongoing violence in your relationship, get the help you need as soon as possible to get out of the situation and remain safe.

Consider Your Words Beforehand

If there is not a safety concern, you will want to set aside time to talk to your spouse in person. There is no easy way to tell your spouse that you want a divorce. Still, you can carefully consider the words you plan to use before talking with them. You may want to practice what you plan to say aloud. If you are seeing a therapist, you could discuss the situation with them. Additionally, taking the time to carefully choose your words in advance may help you maintain focus during your discussion.

Choosing a “Good Time”

There is probably never going to be a “good time” to break the news to your spouse. That being said, some times may be better than others to begin this dialogue. You may have put off saying anything because your spouse is busy at the office, it’s the holidays, or there is about to be a family birthday. It may also be because of a recent death of a loved one. These are all logical reasons to delay talking with your spouse about the divorce. It makes sense to wait until there are no significant events happening in your family. Further, choosing your timing carefully can help lessen the impact on everyone involved. If possible, do what you can to talk when things are relatively calm in your and your spouse’s lives.

Don’t Involve Your Children Yet

Divorce is hard on everyone involved, especially children. Learning about your divorce will change their lives forever. Of course, you are going to have to tell your kids. They should not be involved when you and your spouse talk initially, however. You and your spouse need to process the news first and then discuss how to talk to your children. Ideally, the two of you will be able to speak with them together after you have had your own conversation. 

Handling the Reactions

No matter how carefully you choose your words or how many times you practice, when your spouse learns that you want a divorce, they may be devastated. If your spouse didn't expect the news, they could react in any number of ways. Some people may become angry and lash out, while others may be in shock, cry or try to negotiate staying together. However you imagined it would go, actually going forward with it makes it real. You also may react differently than you expected. It’s important to remember that you have had time to think about this day, but your spouse has not. Navigate the subject carefully as the two of you decide what will happen next.

Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law understands the complexities of divorce and the importance of Divorce Mediation. She is an attorney and Mediator with over 29 years of experience helping clients understand their options and connect with resources during and after their Wisconsin divorce cases.  Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.