How do you tell your spouse you want a divorce?

Starting conflict-ridden conversations is never easy, but divorce news is one of the hardest to deliver. There is no perfect way to tell your spouse how you feel. However, these relationship and divorce experts have gone through this many times with couples and have some thoughtful ways to approach this difficult conversation.

Jamie N. Berger

Jamie N. Berger

Jamie N. Berger, Esq. is the Co-Founder of Jacobs Berger, LLC.

The 4 Ds of Divorce: Delicately, Deliberately, Delivery, and Dignity

There is no good way to drop the “D” word on your spouse, especially when they may not see it coming. With that said, there are a few other “D” words that come to mind when thinking about how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.

The first one is delicately. Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand that you’ve had time to sit with this decision, but they have not. Whether they saw it coming or refused to acknowledge all the flashing signs you were putting up, there is going to be emotion, anger, and hurt after that initial conversation. It does not do any good to use that conversation as an opportunity to tell your spouse the laundry list of reasons you want out.

The next “D” word is deliberately. It’s not fair to anyone involved (you, your spouse, or your kids) to create false hope if none exists. If you have made the difficult decision to go forward with a divorce, it is only right that your spouse does not leave the conversation thinking they still have a shot [at making] it work. This part is hard because, of course, nobody goes into a marriage expecting it to fail, but it is only right that you give your spouse the opportunity to process what is happening and start looking forward.

Next is all about delivery. You know your spouse better than anyone else, even when you do not particularly like them. Think about where, when, and how to approach your spouse. If your spouse is not a morning person, don’t wait by the side of the bed when they wake up and drop a bomb. Consider having the conversation on neutral ground so that neither of you feels territorial or that you don’t have anywhere to retreat to after this huge conversation.

The last “D” word that comes to mind is dignity. While it may be hard to recall, you married this person for a reason and have shared life moments together (good and bad). Marriage is hard, and there are all kinds of reasons that they do not work, but it typically is a two-way street.

Whether you like it or not, you will be tied to this person in some way for some period of time, so approaching the initial conversation with dignity matters. The way you tell your spouse you want a divorce can set the stage for how amicable (or not) your divorce can be. The topic of divorce is never easy, but thinking about these other “D” words can help ease the stress of that first discussion.

Nine Steps to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

Telling your spouse you want out is a dreadful experience. These tips will help make the process smoother for you and your spouse:

1. Ensure that you’re ready for this move. Take emotional inventory. Make sure you have carefully evaluated the viability of the marriage to avoid divorce regret, which affects 50% of people initiating divorces.

2. Center yourself and be serene before having the conversation. Do not begin the talk under the influence of anger or any negative emotion.

3. Speak in a place where you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation.

4. Be prepared. Know what you want to say and decide in advance what you want to achieve through the conversation. Do you want to physically separate? Do you have a place to live? Do you want your spouse to move out? Have you hired a lawyer?

5. State clearly that you want out of the marriage, the reasons, and that you have made up your mind.

6. Be resolute and tell your spouse you have carefully considered making this decision and you are not going to change your mind.

7. Be sensitive to your spouse. Breaking this news will probably take [them by surprise, and [they] may need time to digest and process the news.

8. Be safe! If your partner is aggressive or has mental health problems, take precautions to protect your safety. Have the talk in a secure location, instead of a solitary place or vehicle. Avoid areas where your spouse will have access to weapons, and make sure you have access to an exit should you need to flee.

9. Have a friend or relative available to support you, as you will be experiencing very strong and conflicted emotions after the mushroom cloud settles.

Sonia Frontera

Sonia Frontera

Sonia Frontera is the owner of the Law Office of Sonia Frontera.
Katina Tarver

Katina Tarver

Katina Tarver, Life Coach at ThePleasantRelationship.

4 Tips for Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

Make up your mind first.
Before leaping, ensure that you have a dialogue with your spouse. Check on them, know their views about your relationship, and then take the final decision.

Be empathetic toward them.
Your spouse might go into a state of shock after hearing your decision. Stay calm, and don’t let your anger peep! Your spouse might throw all their emotions; allow them.

Choose an appropriate time and place.
One should make such a decision in a sound environment. If your spouse is traveling or stuck in a business meeting, [wait until they are home.]

Do not delay the process.
After spending years together, it becomes difficult to let go of a person. But you have to stay firm on your decision and set boundaries. There will be times you might get emotional with those recurring happy memories. However, if you have made up your mind, do not delay the decision.

Tell Them With Filed Divorce Papers

The best way to let someone know you want a divorce is by giving them filed divorce papers and an accompanying agreement.

This turns the divorce from a conversation full of questions and accusations into a set of facts. Most of the questions a spouse will have will be answered by the divorce documents, and they will realize that, in the end, they will be okay.

The worst thing that can happen after being served a petition for divorce is that the other spouse may hire their own lawyer who will systematically explain the law to the spouse, which brings everything closer to the final conclusion: divorce.

Russell Knight

Russell Knight

Russell Knight from Law Office of Russell D. Knight.

Jennifer L. Young

Jennifer L. Young

Jennifer L. Young is a Partner at Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski.

3 Options For Discussing Divorce

Deciding to proceed with a divorce is a daunting decision as the end of one’s marriage will often have everlasting effects on each party both financially and emotionally. This decision is often even more difficult to make when children are involved. Once you have made that decision, the next step – telling your spouse – can be challenging. Do not fret. There are several options:

1. Through Marriage Counseling – If you are involved with a marriage counselor, a counseling session may be a safe opportunity to confront your spouse with your plans to proceed with the divorce.

2. Through Your Attorney – It is not uncommon that one party first learns that [their] spouse intends to proceed with a divorce from a seemingly friendly “hello” letter from an attorney. This tells your spouse that you mean business and are ready to proceed.

3. Directly to your spouse – Often it is best to pull off the proverbial band-aid yourself.

Whatever path you decide to take, it is always best to lead with an offer to work cooperatively towards a resolution. Remind your spouse that while your marriage did not work, becoming contentious now when the divorce is inevitable will only lead to higher financial and emotional costs for both of you.

This conciliatory approach is particularly important when children are involved, as both parties must recognize that the divorce is just an end to one chapter of their lives together. Divorced couples with children will remain in each other’s lives forever.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.