Commit to being honest about your feelings, keeping in mind your spouse will be experiencing some challenging emotions. Following are ten practical communication techniques that can improve the quality of your conversation and lead to a healthier divorce process.
- Use “I” statements. Beginning 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—namely, a healthier divorce process and if you have children, a process that focuses on their best interests.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Carefully consider what you want to say and think about how your spouse will likely feel hearing it. Ask yourself, “How would I want to be approached if the tables were turned?”
- Plan ahead to stay on topic. You can avoid conflict by focusing on the future and avoiding conversations around past issues. If your spouse needs to discuss the past, there are caring professionals who can help.
- Control tone and pace. It is incredibly powerful to speak slowly in a low, soft voice. There will be times when you need to take a moment and gather your thoughts—take the time you need and allow your spouse to do the same. If necessary, take breaks, reschedule and/or get professional assistance.
- Avoid personalizing. During initial conversations, your spouse may experience feelings of loss and pain and may behave erratically. Try not to take this behavior personally. It is normal for people to respond defensively when faced with new emotions that they are not equipped to manage. Allow them to vent about their feelings as they come to a place of acceptance.
- Avoid going on the defensive. If you face initial resistance, be mindful not to go on the defensive. Communicate thoughtfully as you establish a mindful and healthy foundation for your divorce process and healthy co-parenting in the future.
- 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 tell your children is a mutual decision that will come later.
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.
- Phones. Turning off phones conveys respect, honors the importance of the discussion, and can help you build a foundation for healthy communication and courageous co-parenting.
- Empathize. Consider what you will say, and think about how your spouse will likely feel hearing it. It is normal if your spouse initially displays resistance. Be mindful not to go on the defensive and be prepared to allow your spouse to feel and vent.
- Safety. Determine whether you are safe having the conversation in person. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to develop a plan if you have concerns.
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
Avoidance can lead to a conflict-driven process which includes 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 future co-parenting.
In your very first conversation, let your spouse know that you have the choice to complete your divorce in mediation or litigation. Make it clear you prefer 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
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 the topic becomes uncomfortable or tensions begin to rise, agree to have 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 information about your free 1-hour complimentary consultation and our innovative mediation services. Our clients tell us it was helpful to share this initial email with their spouse during the initial discussion about divorce. The email contains a link to our website, which provides a wealth of information that helps both spouses to be educated and supported, especially where children are involved.
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 explain our neutral process in great detail so that you know exactly what to expect. They also take the time to fully answer your questions. You can call 480-999-7399 or schedule a complimentary consultation online.
As you begin divorce conversations, you and your spouse are likely in very different emotional places. Experts agree that all spouses grieve the end of a marriage, and neither spouse is perfectly calm and rational at all times. If conversations become difficult, take a time out, and agree to have that discussion guided by your mediator.
Focusing on a Mindful and Healthy, Low-Conflict, Divorce Process
Once you have the initial conversation, your goal becomes 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.
Stay true to yourself, and lay the groundwork for a healthy divorce.
You will get through this—there are brighter days ahead!