5 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Divorce
Five Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Divorce
FAQ: How do I tell my spouse about the divorce?
This question is a common one for anyone who has not yet broached the subject of divorce with their spouse. From my 43 years of experience in this area, the only definite answer I can give is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for this difficult conversation.
Every couple I have worked with has been different. Some come to my office after many years of growing apart in the relationship. Others have been through a recent traumatic revelation. Speaking about divorce is not a science; it is more of an art. And, there is no single right way to engage in this conversation.
That being said, the initial conversation about divorce should not be an afterthought. It has the potential to shape the tone of what happens next. Here are a few tips that I can offer to help you prepare for the conversation.
Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Divorce
1. Consider how surprised your spouse will be when you bring up the subject of divorce. Some have been unhappy in the marriage for years and have contemplated a separation. Others are completely shocked. From their perspective, the relationship had its rough spots but was otherwise just fine. Keep in mind that the more surprised your spouse is, the more time it will take him or her to come to peace with the idea.
2. Choose a time and a place when the two of you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation. Keep the kids away, turn the television off, and remove all cell phones. No one lives in a vacuum, and your divorce will have an impact on your friends and loved ones. However, the decision of whether to stay married is primarily between the two of you.
3. Choose language that is clear, firm, and free from blame. Begin your sentences with “I” instead of “you.” Consider the effective differences between “I messages” vs. “you messages” vs. “we messages,” and use them constructively.
4. Don’t get pulled into an argument. While you have your reasons for wanting to end the marriage, now is not the right time to list every indiscretion and oversight by your spouse. Additionally, try not to defend yourself against your spouse’s list of your indiscretions and oversights. You will find it more constructive to simply listen.
5. Be prepared for emotional flair-ups. Your spouse may be feeling angry, betrayed, confused, blindsided, and fearful – sometimes all in the span of 5 minutes. Tears and emotional withdrawal are also possibilities. Remember that you are only in control of your own mindset and emotional state. Your spouse will need the time and space to process the news in his or her own way.
Preparation Is Key
Remember that this conversation is the first of many. Do not jump into figuring out logistics. There will be time to decide who is moving out when, who pays for the kids’ swimming lessons or summer camps, and how to deal with health insurance. Don’t discuss the details of any settlement until you both have had a chance to (a) consult with professionals, and (b) allow emotions on both sides to subside.
There is no simple answer for how to talk to your spouse about divorce. My best advice is to consider the timing of the conversation, arrive prepared, and get the support you both need in order to go through the divorce with as much grace as possible.
For more on this topic, schedule a visit with the Law Office of Randy Michel, PLLC. We will be happy to speak with you about your situation.