BY: Heather Tannenbaum, CDC Certified Divorce Coach®
So many clients come to me and say “How could he/she be surprised that I want a divorce? I have been telling him/her for years that I am not happy!”
Remember that you may have been wanting this for a while, but this is all new to your spouse and is likely going to come as a great shock to them. Whether you feel they should be surprised or not, they likely will be, so tread carefully and keep this in mind.
They need time to process what you’re telling them and so you need to choose carefully now, what you tell them and how.
2. BE CLEAR BUT KIND
While this will undoubtedly be a lot for your spouse to take in, you need to be clear that there is no chance for reconcilliation or couples therapy. Be consise in your words, that you have been giving this much thought and consideration and that you feel it is the only option.
Kindess is important here. You have just dropped a bomb on your spouse. If you allow anger, resentment or blame to fuel your conversation, you are likley to create an adversary where you may possibly have been able to create an ally. Avoid expressions like “you always….” or “you never….” Instead, use language like “we have been trying to…..but……” By acknowledging that you have got to this point together as opposed to blaming one party, your words will be less confrontational and far less contentious.
3. THIS ISN’T THE TIME FOR DETAILS
If you’ve been bouncing divorce scenarios and logistics around in your head for some time, you have likley given thought to issues such as parenting time, dividing your assets and property. It’s also likley that your spouse has not. You want to be sensitive to this when telling your spouse you want a divorce. The news of the divorce will be enough to put their thoughts and fears into overdrive. You needn’t add to that turmoil at this time by throwing in overwhelming terms and concepts. Give them some time to digest the news and keep things general and on the surface for now. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the nitty gritty down the road. For now however, stick to generalities.
4. LET IT SINK IN
Even if you do everything right in the way you approach this topic, there’s no real way of predicting your spouse’s reaction. Be prepared for them to react however they need to and try not to take it personally. While relations between spouses are very personal, it helps during this time to remember that your spouse’s reaction comes from a place of fear, anger and pain. Give them time to process and it’s best to not engage in a back and forth dialogue at this time. Emotions will be high for both of you and you’re more likely to react and say something you wish you hadn’t, if you stick around to engage. It’s best to acknowledge to your spouse that you appreciate that you have just dumped a lot for them to process, and then tell them that you will walk away now and give them some time with this information.
Telling your spouse that you want to end your marriage is never going to be an easy conversation to have. If you approach it with compassion, kindness and understanding, this dreaded talk can likley go much better than you could have anticipated.