I am Pam Masters and I am a collaborative family lawyer, which is to say that I am a settlement specialist and I guide couples and families on the difficult journey of divorce without court involvement. I do this is ways that protects children, preserves financial assets and creates healthy co-parenting relationships.
In a prior video I talked about how to know when you are ready to tell your spouse that you want to divorce. Today I am going to talk about how to tell your spouse, including when to do so.
When (and when not) to have “the talk.”
Find or arrange a time when the children aren’t home (if you have kids) and you have some hours ahead of you. Don’t spring it on your spouse when he/she is about to go on a travel-for-work trip or out to a business event. Avoid giving the news on “special days.” These are birthdays, holidays, vacations, or getaways.
Opening the conversation after a long day at work is a setup for a bad interaction. You probably already know when your spouse is most open to difficult conversations. Choose a Saturday morning when you’re alone at home. If you have kids, send them to their grandparents or friends for the weekend.
Plan what you will say before you bring it up. Words said in anger set the stage for a difficult divorce. Be clear about what you want to communicate, how to say it, and how to respond to the inevitable questions. You may say something like “As you know, I have been unhappy for a long time. I think we have both worked to heal our relationship, and I’ve thought long and hard about what to do. I have decided that I want to divorce.”
It probably isn’t going to be a quick conversation. You and your spouse will need time to calm down before your kids are home. This may be one of the hardest conversations of your life, and you’ll always remember it. Choose a time when you aren’t stressed out about other issues in your life, or in a rush.
Don’t do it on the phone. If you are worried about your own safety, suggest that you meet in a public place (like a coffee shop or park) or your therapist’s office.
Don’t throw it out in the middle of an argument. Your marriage and your spouse deserve a more thoughtful approach.
Avoid getting into the “nitty-gritty” of your marital history, your resentments or unexpressed anger, or the grudges you may hold. Avoid getting into everything your spouse has done wrong, avoid blaming him/her, avoid contempt. Even if in your heart you blame it all on your spouse’s affair, you can still say “I know we’ve both made mistakes, and we haven’t been able to heal the hurts.” A respectful conversation paves the way to a respectful divorce.
Don’t bring divorce settlement proposals into the conversation. There is plenty of time later after the news sinks in. Now is not the time. You might say, “I want to do this in a peaceful, amicable way so that we don’t hurt each other more in the process.” If you are parents, you will need to have a decent co-parenting relationship after you separate.