Divorce is more than a legal process. It is an extremely emotional process. It’s also common for one spouse to want a divorce while the other does not. More often, one of the spouses decides, over a period of time, to end the marriage.
When you’re the spouse who wants the divorce, it’s important to know this. The way you handle your emotions and the emotions of your spouse will essentially determine how the legal divorce process will unfold.
For example, suppose your spouse reacts with shock or outrage when you announce you want a divorce. In such a situation, your spouse might refuse to cooperate in the divorce, or escalate the conflict with potentially exorbitant legal fees.
It is only when your spouse gets the chance to emotionally process the divorce as a reality that he or she will be able to engage in reasonable discussions about splitting up. If you push too hard and insist on an immediate divorce, it’s likely your spouse will run to the “safety” of a litigious lawyer to “protect” his or her interests.
That’s why the way you tell your spouse you want a divorce is critical to an amicable legal divorce process.
Therefore, before approaching your spouse, make sure you’re certain you want a divorce. Think of how your spouse might feel and what you might say. And be sure to use neutral language. For example, “I think you would agree that we’re making each other miserable. I’m concerned if we keep going this way, we’ll end up hating each other. I want a divorce.”
Or, if you have children, you might also say something like “our kids deserve better. They deserve to have two parents who are each happy, and not be destined to model what we’ve been like in our marriage.”
When your spouse offers a response, you can prevent escalating emotions by staying focused on the emotions behind the words and describing back what you hear. For example, “it sounds like you feel hurt.”
It’s important not to become reactive or defensive, or try to convince your spouse that divorce is the best option. Keep the conversation focused on the future, not the past, and who is at fault.
It’s also generally best to steer clear of talking about dividing assets at this time. The time to address the legal issues can be as your spouse adjusts to the reality of the divorce.
Approaching your spouse in this way shows respect and reinforces your commitment to keeping things amicable during the divorce.
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