5 proven steps to tell your wife you want a divorce!

As a divorce coach, I work with men in every phase of the divorce process. Whether it’s at the beginning, middle, or towards the end, each phase has its set of challenges. Yet, the one phase I see as the most paralyzing seems to be informing their spouse they want to divorce even when they have been unhappy in their marriages for years. Most clients have been unhappy for an average of 3-5 years, sleep in separate bedrooms from their spouse, and have more of a “roommate” existence than a romantic marriage. They have had marriage counseling in the past, and no matter how hard they try, they are still unhappy and want to move forward with a divorce. However, taking the very first step in informing their wife, seems to cause a great deal of anxiety, so much so that they delay the conversation for months and sometimes even years!

Let’s look at a few ways to become unstuck and rip the band-aid off so you can tell your wife you want a divorce.

  1. Make sure this is really what you want. There are many things in life, you cannot come back from. Telling your spouse you want a divorce, may be one of them! Also remember, how you break the news, will shape how the divorce unfolds.
  2. Plan your conversation. Now that you’ve made the decision, think about when and where you want to have the conversation. Also, think about how you see it playing out. Plan your dialogue to be kind, direct, and calm. Choose a moment when you will have some uninterrupted time, if you have children, make sure they are not at home or go somewhere you can have a private discussion, and turn off your phones. Also, keep in mind not to have this occur on an anniversary or holiday. Trust me, you will ruin that day for years to come for her and your family.
  3. Examples of how to begin the conversation. The more surprised she is, the longer it will take her to accept the divorce, which may result in her trying to talk you out of it. Use “I” or “we” language, and nothing accusatory.This is not the time to blame or shame her. Being clear about the things that have been bothering you, will validate your feelings while explaining to your spouse why it has come to this.

Here are a few examples:

  • “I have some difficult news to share with you. I have decided that our marriage cannot continue and that I will be filing for a divorce. I have been struggling with this for a long time, and I cannot go on any longer. I know this will be a painful process for all of us, however, I do believe with can do this the best way possible with kindness and decency.”
  •  “I have been unhappy for a very long time, and nothing seems to help us improve our marriage. I suspect you are at least aware that we have been having a difficult time together. I have reached the limits of my pain threshold and cannot continue in this relationship. I’m sorry to say this, but I have decided I want a divorce. It is my hope and belief, that we can do this by being fair and amicable to one another, and I hope you will come to believe that as well.”
  • Be firm and show compassion. Expect to be dragged into a possible debate of whose fault this is. When being firm with your decision, keep in mind this is a conversation to inform, not blame or show anger. You do not have to defend yourself or your decision, which is often our reaction when drawn into a debate (which this is not). If you can, be as clear, specific, and rational as possible, but also show compassion and acknowledge her feelings and reaction to this news. Remember, if your spouse was not expecting this you’re both not on the same page which will mean the conversation may circle back to accusations, blame, etc. Stating you have made this decision, and that you are not looking to “try again” in saving the marriage. It may be tempting to offer comfort, but this may inadvertently give your spouse a mixed message which may seem cold-hearted, however, it’s better than giving her false hope.
  • Time to digest. Acknowledge that your spouse’s feelings may not be aligned with yours. Let her express her point of view without judgment from you. Your spouse is going to need time to accept the situation, therefore, reiterate that you are aware of this and that going forward you will have to negotiate many issues, however, this is not the time for those discussions. When your spouse is ready to discuss this further, I suggest you make it clear you will not discuss who may or may not be at fault, you’ve given this a great deal of time and thought, therefore, your decision is irrevocable, and you wish to go forward in the process with only fair and amicable intentions.

This should be the end of the first conversation, as there will be many more to come. Once the dust has settled, you will need to talk about how to tell your family and children (if you have children). Before you do so and if your spouse agrees to wait, take some time for yourself to digest what just happened.

Hayley Lisa, The Divorce Coach for Men