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Breaking the News to Your Spouse

When a marriage ceases to thrive, emotions become heightened and feelings sensitized. The discussion of divorce between spouses is a tender, egg-shell coated topic. Complications arise when one spouse is unaware that the relationship has broken to an irreparable condition. Breaking the news to an unsuspecting spouse that their world is about to be turned upside-down is a challenge and more than likely one of the most difficult discussions you will ever engage in. 

Determine what you want

As more readily discussed in “Is Divorce the Answer?”, the unraveling of a marriage can be devastating both emotionally and financially. Seeking guidance and advice from therapists, counselors, and legal counsel will help navigate you in the proper direction.

Anticipate your spouse’s reaction

No one knows your spouse better than you do. Mitigating the emotional impact should be your first priority. Anticipate their reaction, determine what methods can be used to soften the shock and plan accordingly. It is important to understand that divorce has been at the forefront of your mind for quite some time; however, your spouse will be completely unnerved and immediately defensive. Of course, if you are both in agreement, then discussions will be less argumentative. No matter how well you and your spouse are cooperating, however, please be aware that hurt feelings and guilt over the failure of the relationship will continue to weigh within both of you. Empathy and respect for one another will assist everyone as the difficult road of ending a marriage is navigated.

Mitigating the emotional impact should be your first priority.

Choose the right place and time

As with many things in life, timing and location are important. Weigh carefully your schedules and the particulates of your relationship before expressing your desire for a divorce. Be cognizant of your partner’s potential reaction and plan accordingly. Do not place yourself or your minor children in harm’s way of a potential violent reaction. If you are comfortable that there will be no abusive response, please do not broach the subject in a public venue where your spouse will be embarrassed and unable to adequately engage in the discussion. Select wisely as this initial discussion has the potential to lay the groundwork for either a relatively amicable divorce or a prolonged and combative divorce.

Be prepared to talk

The initial discussion will be lengthy, emotionally charged and uncomfortable for all involved. Be prepared to listen to your spouse’s concerns, engage in meaningful conversation and keep an open mind. Allow time for both parties to digest what the other has stated and respond accordingly. As outlined in “Telling the Kids”, be prepared to discuss how to best present your decision to divorce to them. Do not forget to discuss potential therapy that will assist the family in navigating this difficult time in your lives.

Be prepared to listen

Your spouse’s response is important. Listen carefully to what he/she is saying. The initial discussion provides an opportunity to gauge what potential issues need to be addressed as well as the level of animosity. If you are uncertain about the finality of divorce, this is the perfect chance to listen to your spouse and determine if divorce is the remedy or whether counseling will resolve the differences.

Stand your ground

Reconciliation is not always an option. Be firm with your spouse when it comes to the seriousness of your decision to initiate divorce proceedings. Honesty is not the easiest path, but it is the proper one.

Be firm with your spouse when it comes to the seriousness of your decision...

Monitor your reactions

Prepare yourself for a myriad of reactions from your partner. Maintain a civil tone and empathetic nature to help encourage a positive outcome of this important first step. It is in your best interest, both financially and emotionally, to encourage an open line of communication and partnership in resolving this potentially hostile situation.  If the discussion escalates into an argument, do your best to extricate yourself and retreat until emotions have settled. This is the ground floor of a complicated action and will determine what steps are taken next and the nature of the proceedings to follow.