Gentle stages in approaching the divorce request

Divorce is a topic that strikes fear into your heart. You wonder how to tell your spouse the bad news. There are many ways you may imagine the scene, but the experience remains a mystery until it occurs.

Many people regret the way they heard of or announced a pending divorce. You know your spouse has no idea that your marital relationship is about to spin sideways. What is the best way for you to handle the heartbreaking discussion?

Plan for kindness

Perhaps months of planning went into your wedding day, or you bypassed the traditional route and eloped. In either case, you developed a plan. The planning stage progressed from the day you first met until the time you decided to become life partners. Your decision to marry took time and thought. A plan for your divorce will help you.

Set the stage for peaceful progress

Starting the process gently is always a good idea. You cannot control the other person’s reaction, but you can control yourself and how you approach the first discussion. You will help both you and your spouse by remaining respectful but firm.

Your goal is to share your decision as peacefully as possible to your spouse. Make time to be alone together for the first talk. Make arrangements for your children to be at a friend’s home or school. You do not want any interruptions. If your spouse may harm you, plan to meet in a neutral but safe public location where other people are near.

Hold firmly and calmly to your goal

The important thing is to tell your spouse without apology, without explanation, and without argument or defensiveness, that you have decided you want a divorce. Use only one or two sentences at the most. Do not enter into an argument or try to justify your decision. Use “I” words and resist the temptation to discuss anything right now.

Give your spouse the gift of time away from you to process what you said. If necessary, firmly but gently state that you are leaving now to go home (or if you fear his/her reaction, go elsewhere but do not tell him your location). State that you will listen and respond to whatever your spouse wants to discuss, as long as the conversation takes place in a professional setting.

Bring in experienced professionals

Divorce discussions can escalate in a way you may not expect, but even under the best conditions, you can all benefit from professional help. A professional can keep the discussion productive and defuse tension. Whatever attitude others may choose, you can steadfastly treat your family with kindness, compassion, and respect to avoid regret and unpleasantness.

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