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How to Write a Separation Letter to a Spouse

by Anthony Oster

Deciding to end your marriage is rarely easy, and knowing that you must break the news to your spouse makes it even more difficult. Indicating your desire to separate from your spouse through a letter can enable you to speak your mind without being interrupted, intimidated or coerced to keep the marriage alive. Consequently, your letter may also provide tangible evidence that your spouse may scrutinize, mull over or even attempt to use against you in your upcoming legal proceedings. A carefully crafted letter can enable you to speak your mind, while minimizing the risk of your spouse misinterpreting the meaning of the letter.

Prepare yourself for a tough discussion by asking questions such as, "What do I hope to achieve by writing this letter," and "What advice would I give a friend in the same situation," can put you in the proper mindset to send a clear and direct message to your spouse. Professional counselor Aaron Karmin suggests in a PsychCentral interview, "Tips for Talking About Tough Topics," that journaling and asking yourself these types of questions before confronting a difficult conversation can assist you in understanding your personal motivation when confronting your spouse.

Choose your wording carefully to avoid coming off as accusatory, belligerent or aggressive. You can accomplish this by using statements such as, "I don't feel loved or appreciated any longer," as opposed to, "You don't act like you love me anymore." Using "I" statements throughout your letter is imperative for sending a clear, direct message to your spouse.

Avoid sending mixed messages. Writing a separation letter involves addressing difficult decisions and confronting intense emotions. A statement such as, "This is very difficult for me because I love you so much, but this marriage simply isn't working any longer," can come across as misleading and may give your spouse false hopes that you might reconcile your marriage. You can avoid sending a mixed message by being direct and eliminating the ambiguity from your letter with a statement such as, "I realize that this is difficult for you to read, but I've made the decision to file for separation. Despite our best efforts, I don't believe that our marriage is working, and on some level I think that you might feel the same way."

Stick to your decision and avoid defending your reasoning for wanting a divorce. Your decision to separate will likely elicit a strong reaction from your spouse. Sam Margulies, a Juris Doctor, suggests in "Psychology Today" that defending your position or striking back at your spouse may only serve to elongate the separation process. As Marguiles points out, this letter is only the beginning of your separation discussions, not the end.

Review your letter carefully before sending it to your spouse. Divorce lawyer Helene Taylor advises that once something is put into writing, your words may be used in your impending litigation. Never put anything into your letter that may be used against you, such as evidence that you are leaving your spouse for someone else.

About the Author

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.

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