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How to Tell Your Wife You Want a Divorce

by Melody Causewell

It is difficult to tell your wife you are ready to separate. By staying calm, acknowledging your role, clarifying your intentions and not expecting perfection, you stand a better chance of getting through this conversation unscathed.

Stay Calm

Conversations about divorce are nearly always difficult, but maintaining calm will go a long way in getting through it. When couples start the conversation by fighting or yelling there is also more tendency to see it as an argument that can be resolved as opposed to something that is final. Yelling, “Oh yeah? Well, I want a divorce!” is less effective in the long term than sitting on the couch saying, “I understand you’re upset, but I can’t do this anymore. I want a divorce.” This might be hard to do, so anticipate that you may get upset as well. Concentrate on taking deep breaths and take a break to go to the bathroom or take a walk if you need a minute to regain control. If you must, write your wife a letter and let her read it while you sit in the room with her. This will ensure that things stay as calm as possible while ensuring that you get your points across.

Acknowledge Your Role and Move On

There is often blaming during conversations about divorce. For this reason, it will be important to acknowledge what part you played in the process. If your wife accuses you of being absent, try not to throw the blame back or make excuses. Instead, admit it if there is truth to it, and focus on the issue at hand. “I made mistakes, but we are beyond those now,” is a good line to get the point across. Because no matter what occurred in the past, if you are ready to divorce, those issues may be moot points during conversations about divorce proceedings.

Be Clear About Your Intentions (and Your Boundaries)

There may be a time when your wife asks if there is anything that can be done. Can you go to therapy? Will you try for another month? Is there something she can do to alter your course of action? Anticipate these questions and be ready with firm answers. If there is a chance that you can reconcile, admit this to yourself before going in and know what things you are willing (and are not willing) to do in order to do this. If you intend to make a clean break, let her know when you will be moving out and what must be done for legal proceedings. If there are children involved, be mindful that a clean break will not necessarily be possible, and acknowledge your role as a father even as you break from the marriage. Being honest and open about your intentions and your plan for the divorce will make this conversation go more smoothly.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Communication issues often contribute to divorce, reports research published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2010. If you are considering divorce, there is a good chance that your communication patterns have been sub-par. For this reason, don’t expect that a highly tense conversation such as one about divorce will go off without a hitch. It may take a series of conversations. It might take some letter writing so that each of you get your points across. It might take legal mediation. But this does not mean that the conversation was a failure if all does not go smoothly. Remember that the ultimate goal is to begin the process of divorce and to clarify your intentions to your wife. Understanding your goals and that things may get messy will relieve some of your stress and help you remain calm in the midst of this difficult conversation.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

Photo Credits

  • Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images