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How to tell your spouse you want a divorce

A week before the introduction of no-fault divorce, divorce consultant Rhiannon Ford shares her advice on how to tell your spouse that you want a divorce.

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce

There is no magic formula to telling your spouse you want to divorce and knowing when and how to have the conversation can be difficult. My advice focuses on how best to avoid unnecessary hurt and upset. While you may have decided you want a divorce, hopefully you still care about your partner enough to be considerate about their feelings.

Approaching things in a respectful and constructive manner will also help minimise the stress as well as the costs involved in formalising your separation.

Here are my top tips for how best to approach this challenging conversation with your wife or husband:

1. You are likely to be in a different place emotionally to your spouse

The first thing to remember is that you have made a decision which directly affects your spouse (and children). Chances are you have given things a great deal of thought before coming to this very difficult decision. As the decision-maker, you will probably have already started to move on emotionally from the marriage, having given thought to how your life could be beyond the separation.

This is not the case for your spouse. Be mindful of this, when you tell them the marriage is over. They are playing ‘catch up’, with decisions made about their life.

2. Plan carefully what you want to say to your spouse

Planning carefully what you are going to say, will help you to feel calmer and clearer about the conversation. Write down the important points you want to make and if need be have the notes with you when you have the conversation. Avoid blurting out information in anger when your spouse says something you don’t like or when you will feel rushed.

Be clear and calm. This will help you to make sure you say what you want to say and helps keep the conversation as calm as possible. It also gives your spouse the opportunity to understand fully what you are saying, making it easier for them to process the information.

 3. Decide when and where to tell your spouse

This will be a very difficult conversation for both of you. Just because you are the decision-maker, it is likely you are still struggling with the decision and are very upset about the breakdown of the marriage. Arrange to have the conversation at a time and place where you will both feel as comfortable as possible. Choose somewhere quiet and where you won’t be interrupted.

Avoid arranging to have the conversation when either you or your spouse are likely to be tired or distracted.

Make sure the children cannot overhear.

4. Show consideration to your spouse’s feelings

Keep calm when you speak to your spouse. You know what you are going to say, but your spouse doesn’t. It is likely to come as a shock and they could be very upset. Allow them to be upset. Give them time and space to process the information. You have given them information that they will not want to hear and it will be difficult for them to accept.

They will need time to process the information. Give yourself and your spouse some time and space after the initial conversation.

5. Answer their questions honestly

The truth always comes out in the end. So, be respectful of your spouse, and honest with them. It may upset them, but it is better for them to know the truth. That is not to say you need to tell them every tiny detail at this point, if it is not appropriate. Don’t overload them with too much information straight away.

Allow them to ask questions. They can guide you as to what information they feel is important for them to know at this point.

6. You don’t need to have all the answers

Chances are that you have not been through a divorce/separation before and are unlikely to know exactly what happens next. This is fine. You do not have to have all the answers to your spouse’s questions about the next steps. If you don’t know, be honest about it. You will both need to think things through and have further discussions about what happens next.

You don’t have to cover everything at once. Avoid putting either of you under pressure to feel rushed to take any action.

How a divorce consultant can help

This blog contains general advice for how best to approach this type of conversation. However, it is also very important to take account of the individual personalities and circumstances involved, in deciding how best to deal with this. How you approach this discussion, could have a big impact on what type of divorce follows. If you want an amicable divorce, then the starting point is to tread carefully in breaking the news to your spouse (by following the tips above). Working with a divorce consultant in advance can also really help.

I am working with an increasing number of clients who are the person who has made the decision to divorce. They have come to me to get guidance on how best to approach things, as they wish to protect their spouse and children’s feelings and work towards achieving an amicable separation. I work with them using lots of different tools and strategies to minimise the stress involved for the whole family, at such a challenging time in their lives.

Get in touch

If you have found the tips in this blog useful you can find more on Rhiannon’s online guides, which you can purchase and download today. To work with Rhiannon 1:1 or find help preparing for your divorce, or support during and after the divorce process, please do get in touch to find out how she can help.

Stowe Family Law have teams of specialist finance and children lawyers who can assist you in dealing with all the other issues that may need to be resolved as you progress through your divorce. For more information on divorce, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry



The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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