When you know your marriage is over and you know you want a divorce, what do you say to your spouse? “Hi honey. How was your day? Hmm. That’s interesting. I think I’m done with our marriage. I want a divorce.” I mean, seriously! Who does that?
Yet, what are you supposed to say? It's not like there is a guidebook somewhere on the proper way to tell your spouse you want a divorce. Plus, you know that once you announce your desire for a divorce, what follows is not going to be pretty. Bringing up the subject of divorce at all is amazingly difficult. Knowing the right thing to say is even harder.
Yet, even though there may not be any hard and fast rules about how to tell your spouse you want a divorce, there are definitely some ways to do it that are worse than others.
Here are the top 10 ways NOT to tell your husband or wife that you want a divorce.
1. Via email or text. There are some things technology is just not good for, and this is one of them! No matter how tempted you may be to avoid a face-to-face confrontation, telling your spouse you want a divorce by sending an email or text message is never OK. It's tacky, cold-hearted and just plain bad manners.
2. By having the Sheriff serve your spouse with divorce papers. If divorce was a war, serving your spouse with papers before telling him or her you wanted a divorce would definitely be considered “the nuclear option.” There is NO worse way to start your divorce than this. As a matter of fact, if this is how you start your divorce, you are almost guaranteed to have a war on your hands.
3. On social media. If texting your spouse that you want a divorce is cold-hearted, announcing your divorce first on social media makes you the ice queen (or king)! Not only is it horribly callous and unfeeling, but it is outrageously humiliating to boot! It is also likely to backfire as your “friends” turn on you for being so cruel. Please. Don’t ever do this. Even if you hate your spouse. This is really mean, really, really mean.
4. By sending out a press release. If you think no one would ever do this, think again. That is precisely what millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi did when he wanted to divorce his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. While those of us who are not celebrities or multi-millionaires would probably never think to do this, that doesn’t change the fact that it is horribly inappropriate.
5. In front of the children. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Unless you completely hate your children, want to really mess up their heads, and definitely scar them for life, make sure they are nowhere around when you first tell your spouse you want a divorce. Enough said.
6. By having an affair and making sure your spouse finds out about it. It doesn’t matter how horrible your marriage may have been. Doing this is just chicken shit. If your marriage isn’t working out, face that fact and deal with it. End your marriage with dignity and respect, not with cheating and lies. You not only owe that much to your spouse, but you owe it to yourself as well.
7. By not saying anything at all and just leaving. Some people literally walk out the door one day and never come back. Walking out on your marriage without even giving your spouse a reason is horrible, especially if s/he didn’t even know how unhappy you were with your marriage. Not only does leaving unexpectedly dramatically increase the pain of divorce, but it leaves your spouse (and your kids) with a big open wound. It totally shuts them out of your divorce decision and also deprives them of any sense of closure about their situation. Please don’t do this.
8. In public. Divorce is not a spectator sport. The only people who are part of your marriage are you and your spouse. The only ones who should be part of your divorce conversation are you and your spouse. Not only is announcing your divorce in public in front of friends, family, and/or co-workers extraordinarily embarrassing and hurtful to your spouse, but it is awkward and embarrassing for everyone else who is around, too.
9. By convincing your spouse to do a “trial separation” when you know all along you really want a divorce. You may think that starting with a trial separation will ease the pain of asking for a divorce later, but it won’t. Your divorce is going to be painful no matter when you start it. It is far better to be honest from the start and rip the band-aid off cleanly, than it is to lull your spouse into believing that your marriage can be saved while you slowly and painfully tug at the edges of the relationship.
10. By purposely acting out so that your spouse is the one who asks for a divorce first. Just like #6, this it totally gutless. If you are unhappy in your marriage and you know you want a divorce but you don’t want to be the one to end the marriage – grow up! You are an adult. You are responsible for your own decisions. Unless your spouse is abusive, and you know that you will have a better chance escaping further harm if deciding to divorce was your spouse’s “decision”, then this kind of manipulation is just inexcusable.
Telling your spouse you want a divorce is going to be hard no matter how you do it. While there may be no “right” way to break that kind of difficult news to anyone, acting with empathy, dignity and respect is always going to be your best choice.
To get more information and advice from Karen Covy, go to www.karencovy.com.
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