Part I- Deciding if divorce is something you definitely want
Before you begin your conversation, consider whether the problems and difficulties in your relationship are so irrevocable that the relationship cannot be salvaged, or if there’s a chance for reconciliation. When you do broach the topic, it might be that your spouse feels strongly about trying alternate solutions, so it’s helpful to have determined whether divorce is the only option for you or if you’d be receptive to further investment in the relationship. It might be useful to have met with an attorney, therapist or family counselor to ask for advice about your situation. This may change your mind or validate what you’re already planning to do. Either way, be open to guidance and suggestions.
Part II- Broaching the conversation
After confirming you’d like to proceed with the conversation, aim for a time when emotional stressors are low for both of you. You might be very cognizant of patterns in your spouse’s mood and behavior but forget to consider the times when you yourself are most anxious or fatigued. Try to time the conversation when you know you’ll be able to maintain a calm and rational demeanor.
Especially if it seems you and your partner have put off the conversation for months or years, begin with stating why you’re unhappy. If you or your spouse have become disconnected and emotionally distant over the years, saying this out loud might be a wake up call for both of you, leading you to work toward change you desire or else a validation of separation.
Try to be clear and compassionate, even if you feel wronged or frustrated. If you are first in voicing your desire for divorce, be firm and confident in your decision. Rather than getting angry with or unsettled by his or her response, understand this may and probably will come as a shock to your spouse. You can be receptive to his or her reaction without changing your stance. If his or her response is decidedly aggressive, remove yourself from the situation and consider broaching the subject again in the presence of a professional. Plan out what you want to say and ask your spouse to hear you before commenting or interrupting. That being said, don’t dominate the conversation. Thank your spouse for listening and be respectful of his or her response. This does not mean, though, you need to align with his or her point of view.
Unless you need emotional support or an unbiased third party present for safety purposes, keep this conversation private until you’ve both had time to process your feelings and decide together how you’re going to proceed. This includes telling your kids, which should be a separate conversation, planned and executed jointly.
This is the time to voice your desire, not to plan out the next twelve steps of your separation. Take it slowly. The process can be lengthy and taxing, so don’t expend all of your emotional energy up front. Leave room for change and growth, even as you go your separate ways.