Written by Kristine Reich

How, when, and where to tell your spouse you want a divorce

The fact that you’ve been unhappy for a long time is no secret, but telling your spouse you want a divorce can still feel like dropping a bomb. If one or both of you have participated in marriage counseling, you’ve shared your frustrations and your emotional needs, and there doesn’t seem to be a fix that will save your relationship. How, when, and where you tell your spouse you want a divorce is important for both of you.

If you’ve “cried wolf” – made threats of divorce and never acted on them – your spouse may disregard your words, no matter how sincere you are. If that is the case, you may consider consulting an attorney who can help you through this process. You need to make it clear that this time you intend to follow-through with the divorce.

This is your first discussion. At its conclusion, establish a date for your next discussion. Here are a few how, when, and where tips to help you during this difficult time:


How you tell your spouse you want a divorce can set the tone for the entire divorce process. Every couple has a history; emotional “baggage,” and it’s too easy to slide into attack-and-defend mode: your insensitivity, his or her behavior, and everything else that has led to this moment.

Psychology Today says, “Despite your intuitive and reflective impulses, it is vital that you do not defend yourself and that you do not critique his (or her) failures and deficiencies.”

  • Acknowledge both of you have contributed to the deterioration of your relationship.
  • Acknowledge both of you have tried to save your relationship.
  • Be careful to use words that don’t give your spouse false hope.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Encourage your partner to share her or his feelings.
  • Listen quietly.
  • Refuse to play the blame game.
  • Reinforce that your decision is final and you will not change your mind.
  • Summarize your understanding of your partner’s feelings.

This is when you begin the first of several discussions about the divorce process. Organize these conversations in a way that considers everyone’s feelings and needs, especially when your divorce involves children. This is also a good time to discuss the benefits of minimizing contact with lawyers and courts and the merits of Arizona collaborative divorce vs. legal action.


“It’s all about timing,” says Huffington Post. The discussion should be held when you’re both calm and relaxed; the beginning of a weekend is often a good moment.

When you tell your spouse you want a divorce, you may encounter severe anger, a verbal assault, and/or extreme sorrow and loss similar to a bereavement. This is normal. When the time is right – you are alone, prepared, and there will be no distractions – begin the first of several discussions about the divorce process that is best for you and your loved ones. Here is a sample dialogue you can use:

I have something difficult to say. I have decided that this marriage cannot continue and we must seek a divorce. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time, and you are aware that we have been having a hard time together. This is a difficult choice, but I have reached the limits of my pain threshold and just can’t go on any longer. I know this will be a painful change for all of us, but I believe that we can do it with decency and reasonableness. I hope you believe that too.


Try to have the discussion in a place where there will be no distractions. Make sure the kids are occupied or asleep, and turn off your phones and television. Choose a place where you can both comfortably express yourselves and allow plenty of time.

Ready to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce?

Best Legal Choices of Arizona offers legal, financial, and emotional support as your life takes a new direction. We believe a collaborative divorce is the best alternative for couples who both want a future based on mutual respect and family unity. Before – and after – you tell your spouse you want a divorce, we’ll help you focus on the best possible outcome for everyone you love.

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