10 Tips for Talking With Your Spouse About Divorce

tips for talking about divorce

Take a Mindful and Healthy Approach

Take a deep breath [inhale, exhale]. You are in the right place. 

The fact that you’re here means you are a thoughtful person in a challenging situation. After reading this guide, you will feel better knowing how to approach these important conversations. 

Our 10 Tips for Talking With Your Spouse About Divorce will explain the valuable communication tips you need and provide life-changing information about how you and your spouse can have a healthy divorce. 

You do not have to:

  • go to court,
  • take opposite sides,
  • let conflict erupt,
  • hire aggressive divorce attorneys, or 
  • spend years battling your divorce out in court.
You can

  • have a healthy, amicable divorce, 
  • protect your family,
  • keep conflict low, and
  • have minimal cost in mediation. 

Share your honest perspective rather than trying to convince your spouse that your perspective is ‘right’. Trying to convince them to change their perspective almost always causes conflict.

Address Your Own Wellness

Feelings of loss and grief are common, even when you are the one initiating the divorce. Taking care of your emotional well-being and practicing self-care at this time is so important to your health and overall wellness.

Before having a conversation about divorce, you may take time to envision how you want your divorce process to look and feel. Knowing what you want—a process that is fair, positive, and caring, or whatever you feel is most important—is the first step toward making it a reality.

Amicable divorces are based on a commitment to keeping conflict low and reaching agreements that support everyone’s best interests. Believing that you too can have an amicable divorce, even if you sense your spouse may not be interested, can keep you focused on suggesting mediation. This will substantially increase the probability that you have a healthier process.

Whether spouses are barely speaking, or choosing to maintain a strong friendship, mediation provides the space for healthier communication, focusing on the future, and thoughtfully addressing the issues of divorce.

In most situations, it is important to approach the initial conversation about divorce as a “discussion,” (two people talking about a topic) and not as a “declaration,” (one person announcing something to the other).

Communicate Thoughtfully

“Honesty is the best policy”. During the initial conversations, commit to being honest about your feelings, while also keeping in mind your spouse will be experiencing challenging emotions.

The following ten communication techniques can help you improve the quality of your conversation and lead to a healthier divorce process:

  1. Share that you want a healthy process in mediation without court or conflict. Let your spouse know about your desire to have the healthiest divorce possible, and avoid ever having to go to court. By having this respectful conversation about your choice to divorce in mediation, you are setting the foundation for a collaborative, respectful process.
  2. Use “I” statements. Begin your sentences with “I” rather than “You”, to avoid sounding accusatory, is a tried and true technique. Avoid bringing up past issues and focus on explaining what you want to see happen now— a healthier divorce process for you both, and if you have children, a process that focuses on their needs.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider what you have to say, and think about how your spouse will likely feel hearing it. Ask yourself, “How would I want to be approached in this situation?” It is normal if your spouse initially displays resistance. If you begin to feel defensive during this conversation, try to be mindful and take a breath. Allow your spouse to feel, and communicate thoughtfully with them. This communication helps to establish a healthy foundation for your divorce process and co-parenting.
  4. Stay focused on “now” rather than the past. You can avoid conflict by focusing on where you’re at today and making a plan for the future. It’s easy to get off track and start discussing past issues, which can be counterproductive. If you or your spouse needs to discuss the past, there are caring professionals who can help so you can stay focused on next steps and solutions.
  5. Control tone and pace. How you speak matters. It is helpful to speak slowly in a low, soft voice around important and sensitive issues. There may be times when you need to take a moment and gather your composure. If necessary, you can take breaks, leave space between your initial divorce conversations, or even get professional assistance from a marriage and family therapist or professional counselor.
  6. Avoid personalizing. Try not to take your spouse’s feelings of loss or erratic behavior personally. It is normal for people to respond defensively when faced with heightened emotions surrounding divorce. It can be helpful at times to allow them to vent about their feelings without any reaction as they come to a place of acceptance.
  7. Respect Emotions. As you begin divorce conversations, you and your spouse are likely in very different emotional places. This is expected. In fact, experts agree that almost all spouses grieve the end of a marriage and neither spouse is perfectly calm and rational at all times. If conversations become challenging, agree to have that discussion in mediation, where you have support and guidance from your mediator.
  8. Choose the right time and place. Choose a private place, away from your children, where you can have an uninterrupted conversation. Choose a time when you are both likely to be rested, calm and able to give the discussion your full attention. How to talk with your children about your divorce is a mutual decision that will come later.

    Special Considerations

    Professional Assistance. Would it be best to have the support of a counselor? Many people report that their counselor’s office was the ideal place for challenging conversations.

    Major life events. Have there been any recent major life events, such as a death, major illness, or job loss? If so, commit to having cooperative discussion and limiting extreme reactions, and if practical, allow your spouse to take some additional time to adjust.

  9. Phones. Turning off phones conveys respect, honors the importance of the discussion, and can help set a positive tone for healthy communication.
  10. Safety. Determine whether you are safe having the conversation in person. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to develop a plan if you have any concerns about your safety.

Your spouse is more likely to hear and understand your message when you speak from a place that calmly, clearly, and consistently communicates that you are ready to move forward with divorce.

Avoid Conflict not Conversation

Avoiding conversations about divorce can actually lead to a conflict-driven process with expensive divorce attorneys. A spouse being ‘served’ with divorce papers, without warning, often leads to court hearings and continued contention—which are detrimental to your wellness, your children’s wellness, and your future co-parenting relationship.

In your very first conversation, let your spouse know that you both have the choice to complete your divorce in mediation or litigation. Share your goal of a healthier process through online mediation, preventing either of you from ever having to go to court. Explaining this option can help prevent or reduce conflict.

Please note, in cases where safety is a concern, such as situations involving intimate partner violence, unexpected service of divorce papers may be the only reasonable approach.

Take One Step at a Time

Remember, not all divorce-related discussions need to happen right away. Schedule a separate time to discuss details, such as how to divide assets and debts or reach parenting agreements. A disagreement, without the support of an experienced divorce mediator to help navigate, can cause damage and perpetuate fear, mistrust, and “worst-case-scenario” thinking. If a topic becomes uncomfortable or tensions begin to rise, agree to continue the discussion in your mediation meeting.

Gather Information for a Healthier Process

For more information, contact The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation, and we will email you about scheduling your free 1-hour complimentary consultation and our successful mediation services. Our clients find it is helpful to share our initial email with their spouse during the first discussions about divorce. The email contains a link to our website, which provides key information that helps both spouses to be educated and supported, especially where children are involved. It also includes our contact number so you and/or your spouse can call our office with any questions before your consultation.

During your complimentary consultation, your potential mediator will explain to you and your spouse how divorce mediation works and how it compares to litigation in the courts. They will help answer your questions, and explain our process so you know exactly what to expect during mediation. You can call 480-999-7399 or schedule a complimentary consultation online.

Focusing on a Mindful and Healthy, Low-Conflict, Divorce Process

Once you have the initial conversation, you can focus on having a divorce process which will:

  • support financial stability for you and your spouse;
  • support the emotional well-being of you, your spouse, and your children;
  • set the foundation for healthy co-parenting; and
  • ensure that you both feel as stable and secure as possible moving forward.

A more peaceful process begins with the first conversation you and your spouse have about divorce.

You are making the choice to set the foundation for a healthy divorce.

You will get through this—there are brighter days ahead. We are here to help you get there.

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