Most couples walking down the aisle have the best intentions and hopes of a long, happy future together. Unfortunately, long after the wedding cake and flowers are just fading photographs, real life takes spouses on different paths. In the worst-case scenario, an angry spouse may shout out that they want a divorce during a fight or through unhappy tears, but for many individuals who’ve reached the conclusion that divorce is inevitable, determining the best way to approach the subject of divorce with a spouse is an important first step toward beginning a new life journey.
The way one spouse asks the other for a divorce can have a tremendous impact on the way the divorce process unfolds—either amicably and resolution-based, or resentful and contentious.
According to psychologists, divorces that begin badly may cause long-term dissension and unhappiness. One spouse may hold onto anger because letting go of that negative emotion means also letting go of the hope that one day the other spouse will feel remorseful, understand their perspective, and regret their loss.
If you’re planning on asking your spouse for divorce it helps to review some tips for taking on this painful challenge in ways that minimize the potential for bitterness, anger, and contention.
Preparing for the Important Talk
If you and your spouse have tried to reconcile, undergone counseling, and spent time working on your problems to no avail, it’s likely that one or both of you have reached the realization that divorce is the best way forward and the only path toward happiness and self-preservation. Living in an unhappy marriage can be soul-draining and causes depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It’s also an emotionally unhealthy environment for children.
If you’re ready to approach the subject of divorce, it helps to get ready you begin. Some helpful tips to prepare for this conversation include the following:
- Write down important points in the order in which you’d like to present them and then memorize them so you’re mind won’t go blank during the strain of the conversation
- Predict your spouse’s likely counterpoints and think of simple, key responses to each ahead of time
- Make arrangements for a place to go and potentially stay overnight in case your spouse reacts badly, you feel threatened, or simply to give your spouse space to digest what you’ve said
- Open a separate bank account and deposit an amount that’s no more than half of what was in a joint account so you’ll have sole access to funds in case your spouse tries to block access to funds
- Finally, it’s important to have privacy for this conversation. Don’t broach the subject while your children are at home. Arrange to talk while they are at school or with friends or family
Once you’re fully prepared for this important conversation, remember that your spouse probably isn’t as prepared as you, and may feel attacked. If you keep a calm demeanor and focus on the fact that you believe divorce is the best path to your spouse’s happiness as well as your own it can help diffuse a potentially volatile situation.
Important Tips for Handling the Talk When Asking for a Divorce
Asking for a divorce is never easy, especially if it’s coming out of left field for an unprepared spouse. The following tips can help both spouses get through one of the most difficult conversations of a lifetime:
- Stay calm and matter-of-fact, even if your spouse becomes angry or despondent. Resist returning angry comments or escalating your spouse’s negative emotions by stating your points confidently to show that you’ve put a lot of thought into them and are not acting on a whim
- Keep your statements and explanations about yourself and your own feelings rather than about your spouse’s faults and failings so they don’t feel attacked or accused. For example, you could say, “I need to become more independent” rather than “You don’t let me do anything for myself,” or “I’m feeling lonely even when we’re together,” rather than “You don’t pay enough attention to me.”
- Avoid bringing up past misdeeds or rehashing old grudges and instead, focus on the future and how this divorce could benefit your spouse’s emotional health as well as your own
- Talk about minimizing potential negative impacts on the children by pointing out that a divorce could help them live in a more peaceful and secure home environment compared to living with unhappy, fighting parents
- Own up to your own faults in the marriage so your spouse doesn’t feel like you are placing all of the blame on them
- Let your spouse vent their feelings and resist responding to their points so the talk doesn’t become an angry argument or a rehashing of each party’s faults and failings. Instead, nod your head and help them to feel heard
- Don’t begin talking about the next step. Instead, leave the conversation to settle and give your spouse time to accept that divorce is inevitable before talking about the legalities ahead
Once you’ve made this important first step, it’s time to begin working toward your goals behind the scenes by finding alternative living arrangements and hiring an attorney with excellent reviews and a strong reputation of success to represent your best interests.
Since you were the spouse who asked for a divorce, you are the most likely candidate for petitioner in the process, meaning you’ll fill out a petition for divorce and your spouse becomes the respondent. Alternatively, if your spouse agrees with your decision to end the marriage amicably you could file together as co-petitioners.
How to Ask for a Divorce if You Don’t Feel Safe
Leaving a physically or emotionally abusive spouse is entirely different than asking for a divorce from a spouse that you know will not respond with violence. Abusive behavior is likely to escalate when you ask for a divorce.
In this case, there may be no good way to prepare for the conversation since you can be certain it will not go well. Instead of asking for a divorce in person, it’s best to speak to a Denver divorce lawyer with experience with domestic abuse situations so you have a safety net in place while an impartial process server hands the divorce petition to your spouse.
Focusing On a Better Future While Asking for a Divorce
No matter how completely you prepare for this difficult conversation, you may not be able to fully predict how it will go. Your spouse may react with anger or tears or could respond that they’ve also come to this conclusion on their own and weren’t sure how to broach the subject with you.
Focusing on making the divorce a positive move toward a happier, more fulfilling future for both of you as well as for your children, rather than making it about bitterness and past grudges, can minimize the chances of a contentious battle and increase the likelihood of peaceful resolutions and a future of open communication.