Ending a long-term relationship is never easy. It’s even harder if you’ve built a life, shared a home, and had children with that person. But if you’re no longer happy with where the two of you are and where you’re headed, it’s time for a serious conversation. Sadly, no one ever teaches you how to ask for a divorce — so here are a few useful tips.
1. Be Prepared
No matter how ready you are to end the marriage, talking about divorce is bound to get emotional. Your spouse might not be in the same headspace as you — for instance, your marriage problems might seem perfectly solvable to them. That’s why you need to carefully think about how to ask for a divorce.
It might be wise to write down what you want to say beforehand, while you’re still calm and collected. Try to keep it focused and as brief as possible — you don’t need to list every issue you’ve ever had. Simply state why you want a divorce and why you think it would be good for you. Don’t make any assumptions on your partner’s behalf — telling them why they’d benefit from the divorce won’t help.
2. Choose an Appropriate Time and Place
You can’t just drop the news during a family gathering and walk away — even if you’ve seen it happen in movies. Talking about divorce needs to be done privately, with just the two of you present.
Tell your spouse you need to talk, and choose a time when the kids are sleeping or spending time with their other relatives. Make sure there’s plenty of time to talk — don’t announce it just before heading out to work. Also, be careful with the timing — if your spouse just lost their job or a family member, don’t suddenly hit them with divorce too. If you can, wait for a more appropriate time.
It’s important to find a private, quiet place where no one will interrupt your conversation. Talking about divorce in public is acceptable only if you’re concerned about your safety.
3. Express Your Feelings
Conversations about divorce can easily turn into a shouting match, so tread carefully. You need to say how you feel and what you want, but you also need to avoid blaming the other party.
Even if you don’t intend to put all responsibility on your spouse, it may still come off that way through your language. For instance, sentences such as “I’m tired of you disrespecting me.” are counter-productive and put your spouse in a defensive mode. Instead, be honest but stay focused on your feelings — say something like “I haven’t been happy in this marriage for a while.”
And most importantly, don’t drop the bomb right at the beginning. Starting with “I want a divorce” can turn the conversation sour rather quickly. Mention that you want to talk about the state of your marriage first. Then ease into the topic of divorce.
4. Be Clear About Wanting a Divorce
Keeping your cool and remaining tactful is important, but you still need to say what you want loud and clear. You’ve carefully considered the situation and made up your mind, so there’s no reason to show uncertainty. If you don’t state it clearly, your partner might not take you entirely seriously.
Before this step, though, make sure you really do want a divorce. If you’re not quite certain, but you believe you need space, ask for a temporary separation instead. However, make it clear that you’re thinking about a divorce, and that the temporary separation could turn into a permanent one.
5. Prepare for a Negative Reaction
Your spouse might have been anticipating this, or perhaps even considering divorce too. If you’ve talked about your relationship before the divorce conversation, they might not be surprised at all. In that scenario, their reaction is likely to be calm, but you still need to listen to their side of the story.
On the other hand, though, asking for a divorce may take them completely by surprise. If that’s the case, you can expect a range of reactions — tears, anger, denial, or refusal. No matter what, try to remain calm and let them speak. Even if it sounds like they’re attacking you, don’t defend yourself — they need to get it off their chest.
6. Don’t Talk About the Details
Divorce isn’t just two people going their separate ways — it’s also splitting assets, deciding on custody over kids, and going through the draining legal process. You need to discuss all of these things eventually — but not during that initial conversation.
When you first let your spouse know that you want a divorce, it’s unlikely that they will be calm enough to think about what comes next. In fact, talking about it might just provoke a worse reaction. Let your spouse process what is happening — you had time to think about it, but they probably didn’t. The conversation about the details can wait until you’re both ready for it.
7. Get Professional Help
Divorce can cause all sorts of intense feelings — anger, resentment, disappointment, even depression. You may think that, as the one who asks for a divorce, you won’t struggle to come to terms with it. Unfortunately, you probably will — so it’s good to have someone to talk to.
Of course, your friends and family could be your primary support. However, you should consider seeing a therapist too. There are professional divorce coaches and counselors that can help you process your feelings and deal with any potential resentment. After all, you want to settle the divorce as peacefully as possible, which can’t happen if you and your spouse see each other as enemies.
How to Ask for a Divorce — In Conclusion
Talking about divorce is always painful no matter how tactful you are. But when you feel like you and your spouse have no future together, it’s the right thing to do. With these few tips on how to ask for a divorce, you’ll make the whole unpleasant experience at least a little more bearable.