You’ve been thinking about this for months. Maybe years.
You’ve had the conversation in your head about a million and one times, and it frequently doesn’t go well.
You are gathering up all of your courage to tell your spouse you want a divorce, and you want to do it the best way possible. But just what the hell does that mean?
Years after my divorce, I still vividly remember every word my husband said when he told me he wanted a divorce. Every. Single. Word.
When you broach the topic of divorce, the words you speak will start shaping the rest of your life, how your marriage ends and how the divorce process unfolds. And they’re probably going to be profoundly memorable. It’s worth your time to make sure what you say is what you want to be remembered.
Half of the people going through a divorce will be on the receiving end of this message; the other half is delivering this life-altering news. How you approach this conversation informs everything in the process to follow. Be thoughtful about your statements, know they may come as a shock, and realize they will set the tone for your new relationship with your spouse. When you make thoughtfulness and empathy the basis of your message, it can pay off immensely in your family and financial outcomes.
Let’s start with what NOT to do!
Many people simply blow it. You’re not sure how your spouse will react, especially if infidelity is involved, and that fear can induce you to make terrible decisions. For example, thinking that being in a public place will less likely lead to hysterics.
Here’s where empathy comes in. Picking a coffee shop or a park translates into your spouse having to sit in a public place, potentially with people they know witnessing the news, while their world crashes down. This discussion will reveal emotions that many don’t even know they have. That’s weighty enough without having to sort them out in public.
So, what’s the correct answer? There probably isn’t one.
This is one of the most challenging conversations you ever have. Even so, thinking through the message and its delivery is something you’ll never regret.
Here are my best tips:
1.) Make sure the kids are somewhere else. It’s an excellent time for sleepovers with friends or a night with grandparents. You both need space to work through this.
2.) Allow your spouse time to process. My best advice is to say it simply and directly and then let them know you don’t want to discuss anything right now. Consider making arrangements to leave and spend the night somewhere else. You’ll both be better off for it.
3.) Do it in person. Whatever you do, do not do it in a letter, an email, or my high tech nightmare, a text message! Have the courage and respect to say it to their face.
4.) Speak only about yourself. Do not attack! No “you” statements. It should go something like this; “I have made a decision for myself that I need to share. At this point, I can no longer stay in this marriage, and I believe it will be best for both of us to start the divorce process. All of the reasons aren’t important anymore. I just know that I need things to change. I also know this is a lot to absorb, and it’s not really a good idea to talk about anything now. I’ve made arrangements to stay somewhere else tonight, so you can have some time to yourself. I’m really sorry.” And quietly leave.
Now it may not go that smoothly, but that’s a good intention to start with.
5.) Make sure you’re safe. If there is any possibility that you might be met with anger or violence, be sure that someone is with you. Have your support person stand by the front door while speaking to your spouse in private and then immediately leave.
I know this can be scary, but your life can’t move forward until you do. Good luck!
Remember, you’re not alone; there are professionals out there who are passionate about supporting you to make it through the divorce process as intact as possible.
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When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Brenda Bridges, a Mediator, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), RICP® Retirement Income Certified Professional, and Certified Divorce Coach.
Brenda provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Brenda will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.
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Divorce coaching and educational services provided through Bridging Divorce Solutions, LLC. Bridging Divorce Solutions, LLC is not affiliated with Cambridge. Examples are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only.