While this is one question that has no easy answer, it is one that I am asked all the time. It will be easier if you are already living in separate homes, or at least living separate lives. But if you think that your spouse doesn't have any idea that its coming or may not want to get divorced, that makes it all the more difficult.
People sometimes tell me that their spouse has no idea that a divorce is even being contemplated. I think that is true less often than people think. While the "D" word may have never reached your lips, if you think that your spouse really is clueless that you are thinking of divorce - ask yourself if you might have been dropping little hints, albeit subconsciously. Remember, your husband or wife is, presumably, someone that knows you pretty well even if things haven't been all roses lately. Tension in the home has probably escalated and something in the marriage is just not quite the same. The clues are there, the question is whether or not your spouse has picked up on them or not. Often times, people will see what they want to see and ignore tell tale signs of an unhappy spouse. If you are worried that your spouse may be caught off guard, you can be kind while still doing the right thing. While no one said it would be easy (most things in life that are worth it are hard)- Just tell them. Its only fair- fair to your spouse and fair to you.
I can't tell you how your spouse will react. You are much better able to predict that than I, but I can tell you that common reactions are these:
1) Shock and Disbelief
2) Blaming You
3) Blaming Themselves
5) Anger with or without violence
I think the hardest scenario must be telling a spouse who does not want the divorce and who then breaks down in tears and begs you not to do this. It is bound to make you feel guilty and I would be without a heart if I tried to say that it is wrong for anyone to react with tears- people don't always choose how they will react and it is normal to be distraught if you are on the receiving end of a divorce that you don't want. If I had to do it, I would be kind but firm. You have the right to get out of a marriage that isn't working for you. After the initial reaction, do not be his or her shoulder to cry on as it may give them false hope and will only make you feel worse or guilt you into staying in a marriage that no longer works. That is not a good solution for anyone.
Above all, I do think that being kind when you do it is the best way to do it, regardless of what has happened. It could set the tone for the duration of the process and lead to a more amicable divorce and a better overall outcome for you. Once this is done, if you think it might be possible to negotiate the terms fairly and without lawyers tearing into one another for blood, you may wish to consider divorce mediation, which is something that I can help you with. Call us at 630 250-8813 to schedule a complimentary 30 minute call to determine if mediation might be right for you.