How to Approach your Partner for a Divorce

How to Approach your Partner for a Divorce

The thought of approaching your partner for a divorce can be stressful, even if you believe they will take the news “well.” The reality is most couples in trouble have deeply bottled-up emotions that could explode once faced with the prospect of a separation.

If you believe your spouse will react poorly, or if you are married to a narcissist and need to tell them you are leaving them, your stress may feel that much more pronounced. The upside is there are ways to communicate your intentions that can minimize the uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing while helping to make the conversation go more smoothly. They are as follows. 

Consult a divorce attorney for guidance.

You may not realize it, but a divorce attorney can offer guidance even before the divorce process commences, including strategies for informing your partner that you are planning to end your marriage. Rest assured, an experienced family law attorney has seen many divorces, from amicable to high-conflict and everything in between, including divorces whose tenor changed along the way. 

If you want a divorce but aren’t 100 percent sure or are afraid of what the future might hold, a divorce attorney can help you feel more secure in your decision. No question is off limits, and since every divorce is as unique as the people going through one, your divorce lawyer should be expecting many. 

They should also be able to point you to valuable resources so you can become educated on what is happening every step of the way, eliminating any mysteries around the divorce process. Call our team of empathetic Seattle family law attorneys at Elise Buie Family Law today.     

Mentally prepare yourself for the conversation. 

Knowing that you are walking into a potentially unpleasant situation it can help to mentally prepare yourself. Preparation can mean different things to different people. It can include consulting with your own support system first, i.e., trusted family and friends, a mental health professional, a clergy member, a divorce coach, or a divorce lawyer if you have already spoken to or hired one. Note that you can engage with more than one of these individuals at the same time. 

Preparing could also mean meditating beforehand, going for a run or walk, or eating a hearty breakfast. You know best how to keep yourself centered. 

Choose the time and place. 

Be thoughtful about where and when you decide to approach your partner for a divorce. Though you may want to choose a public place for your conversation, especially if you fear for your safety, be sure you and your spouse will still be able to converse freely without others listening to your every word. Consider a crowded restaurant but one that is not too packed or a park during daylight hours with lots of passersby.  

Be direct.

As you begin your conversation, be honest and truthful and get to the point fast. Long windups tend to agitate others as you keep them in suspense, so be as direct as you can. Additionally, speak clearly without raising your voice, and be matter-of-fact and firm but not nasty. The quality of your delivery can go a long way, positive or negative.

Have empathy. 

Though you are asking for a divorce and have your reasons for doing so, being empathetic to your partner’s feelings is a way to give a nod to your shared past, the one that brought you together. Displaying empathy can also make you and your spouse feel better in a difficult moment. 

Listen carefully.

Your spouse may have a few words for you, too, in response to your request for a divorce, and not all of them may be nice. Emotions can run the gamut, and you may get more than one emotion from them in the moment. Give your spouse a chance to express themselves. 

Remain calm.

Whatever you do, no matter what your ex says or does to provoke you, stay calm. More than that, let it become your new mantra. The calmer you are, the better your divorce can run, even if your spouse’s sole goal in life becomes making you rue the day you told them you wanted out. 

Your ability to control your emotions will become one of your superpowers, especially if you are going to be co-parenting with your spouse. In that case, you will need to direct your focus — and, as best you can, your spouse’s — to keeping your children’s best interests front and center not only in your divorce but in your lives. Remember, the only one whose behavior you can control is your own. So, now is the time to start.

Leave practical matters for another day.

Given how much your spouse has to absorb after your conversation and how your exchange may affect you afterward, it is wise to leave any other logistical arrangements for another day. You will have plenty of time to discuss what your life will look like moving forward with your respective lawyers by your sides, advocating for you individually. 

Whether you choose to utilize the services of a mediator in conjunction with legal representation or pursue a collaborative divorce, all of your outstanding questions will be answered in time, and your issues will be resolved to create your divorce agreement. In the meantime …   

Give your spouse some time to process the news.

Following your conversation, give your spouse some time to process what you have told them. If you are the one asking for a divorce, you have likely spent a while thinking through your decision before voicing it to them. Afford your spouse that same courtesy. 

Do your best to maintain the status quo.

If you can, and your or your children’s safety is not in jeopardy, wait to move into the guest bedroom or to exile your spouse from the bedroom you share. Do not move out of the marital home or change the locks on the doors so your spouse can’t get in. Taking any such action without consulting a family law attorney first could have legal consequences. 

Schedule another time to talk. 

If your spouse comes to you with questions or tries to pick a fight in the days or weeks that follow, suggest scheduling another time to speak, just as you did before. If you find that impromptu discussions devolve into arguments quickly, the same rules that applied to your first meeting should apply to the second. As parents, arranging set times to discuss the status of your marriage will likewise help to insulate children from hearing conversations they shouldn’t. 

Urge your partner to seek their own counsel and retain your own (if you haven’t already).

Either during your first conversation or a conversation that follows soon after, urge your spouse to begin interviewing a family law attorney to represent them individually. If you haven’t retained your own divorce lawyer yet, it would also be appropriate for you to do the same, interviewing at least three divorce lawyers before deciding. 

Find a Seattle family law attorney.

Whether you are considering asking your partner for a divorce or have already spoken to them, having an experienced Washington state family law attorney at your side to guide you can make the divorce process feel more manageable. The divorce process can be confusing and overwhelming, which is why, at Elise Buie Family Law, we are committed to educating our clients about each step in their divorce and how to begin looking forward to the life they envision living after their divorce. To discuss your individual circumstances, call our Seattle office today


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