"We Have to Talk": On Telling Your Spouse That You Want a Divorce

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce

Some conversations (example bringing up divorce) are really difficult and telling your spouse (who doesn’t see it coming) that you want a divorce is going to be hard. It is hard to even imagine being at the receiving end of a conversation like this where you think you are in a happy, stable marriage and wham! Your spouse just hits you with this crowbar which started innocently enough “honey, we need to talk.”

The person who has to initiate this conversation could equally be as traumatized as the person who is at the receiving end a lot of times. Nobody wants to be the bad guy.  If you are the one initiating the conversation, my only advice is to think about it in advance and carefully plan what you say and how you say it. Also think about where and when. Consider how the other person will respond and choose your words carefully.

If you know or suspect that your spouse will be taken completely off guard by this announcement that you want a divorce, be careful in how you deliver the news. Be sensitive. Don’t be too aggressive and surely don’t point fingers and cast blame. Be considerate. Think about the aftermath.

If you are absolutely certain that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and that your goal is to end it as quickly as possible, then fine. Be strong but kind in telling your spouse exactly that: that it is over and that there is nothing they can do to change your mind and that you want out.

Be willing to listen, though. A conversation is a two way street and just because you have your mind fully made up does not mean that your “honey” is likewise fully ready to absorb this news and say “ok honey, let’s divorce right this minute and have a nice next marriage!” The person you are speaking to may have questions or comments. They may respond differently from how you assume they will respond. That could be either in a good way or a bad way. You have to be prepared to handle any contingencies.

Give both of you the right and permission to get emotional or even angry, scared or confused. But also understand that all of these emotions do not have to be resolved right there and then in this first conversation. It is going to take time for the notion of a shock request for divorce to sink in for most people. At least a few hours if not a couple of days or weeks or months or in some cases years. Be patient. Be reasonable.

The whole idea is that it is not what you say but how you say what you say that is going to make all the difference in the world. Be empathetic in your approach. How would you feel or respond if this were you on the other end of the conversation?