There are many difficult conversations, but probably none as tough as telling your spouse you want a divorce. If you’ve ever had to tell someone that the relationship is over, or if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this talk, you know what I mean. I’ve personally been on both sides, and neither is any fun.
As a practicing divorce Mediator for the past seven years, I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And because I am a professional, I’m not going to name any names. What I am going to do is share with you a list I’ve compiled from my personal and professional observations. I’d like you to read and absorb this BEFORE you tell your other half that you want to end the relationship. (And if you know someone who’s in this position, please pass this along.)
Now I would like you to pay attention. There will be a quiz at the end.
Here are eight of my most successful tips:
- Make an appointment with your partner to have an “important conversation.” Schedule a chunk of time that you can sit together, face-to-face, with no kids around.
- Choose the time and place with sensitivity. This should not be done in public (unless your personal safety and/or that of your kids is a concern).
- Make up your mind beforehand to be honest, direct, kind, and compassionate. This is not the time to make false promises in an effort to “soften the blow.” Nor is it the time to be mean and nasty.
- Practice the words you’re going to use to begin the talk. Try to start your sentences with “I feel . . .” and not “You never . . .”
- Try not to list all the things he/she has done wrong. Lists are not helpful, and they invite a defensive response, which is also not helpful. When a relationship deteriorates, it’s never about just one thing, and it’s never 100% one person’s fault. And leave the kids out of the conversation. If they’re brought up, simply suggest that the two of you schedule another time to talk about them.
- Also postpone talking about the logistics for now. You don’t need to decide right away who’s moving out, and who gets the recliner chair.
- Prepare for a bad reaction. If you anticipate what your partner is going to say, you’ll be less likely to say something you’ll regret in response. Instead of reacting to a bad reaction, try memorizing this: “I’m sorry you feel this way. It was never my intention to hurt you.”
- Remember that you’ve had time to come to this conclusion. Your partner may feel blindsided, and it’s important that you give him/her time to adjust.
Now here’s the quiz: Which of the eight tips do you think is most important? Second most important? Least important? Answer in your comments, and please tell me why.
I may use your responses in a future blog post. Anonymously, of course.