Telling your Husband You Want a Divorce or Separation

The most awkward conversation you’ll probably ever have is telling your husband that you want a divorce. Being prepared, and even practiced, can help. Here are some tips for you from our divorce lawyers in Newmarket to keep in mind while you work through your options.

Your Emotional Divorce

When you’ve decided to move forward with divorcing your spouse, realize you’ve likely already gone through the grieving stages of your own Emotional (Mental or Internal) Divorce from your husband, says Cathy Meyer.

She offers three sage pieces of advice:

  1. “Don’t skip the divorce conversation and go straight to having your spouse served with divorce papers. This tactic is an easy out but the easy is only momentary. You want to piss someone off and begin a war? Serve them divorce papers out of the blue!
  2. Don’t pack your bags and leave one day never to return again. I mean seriously, is this really the mature way of dealing with a subject as serious as divorce and dismantling a family? My ex pulled this one on me. It sends a clear message, says “I’m out of here” in a way that can’t be misinterpreted but you may find it hard to live with your cowardice once the dust settles.
  3. Don’t tell your spouse’s family and friends before you break the news to your spouse. Divorce is hard enough when it is between two people. Bring the rest of your community into it and you not only muddy the waters you look a bit foolish also.

Don’t Shame or Embarrass

You may need the emotional armour to feel like you’re prepared to make it through the personal, intense, emotional battle you’ll face internally at each step of actually telling your husband about your decision.

In his book Adversaries into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion, Bob Burg quotes says, “It is better to jump into a flaming furnace than to embarrass someone.”

Evolved from leadership maxims to always “publicly applaud, and privately criticize,” you want to be sure that your husband isn’t feeling threatened by your mental preparations and exploring all your options even extreme ones.

Respond, Don’t React

If you or your husband tend to react emotionally to messages and communications, with an obvious physiological response similar to your family cat – “Hiss, then adopt an attack posture” – you’ll be operating and complying with demands out of fear, with no real commitment to an amicable resolution.

Cautionary Tales: Never In Public

The most infamous story is of the San Fernando mayor who made a shockingly poor decision for his own career, to “come clean” about his extra marital affair with a city councilwoman, at the same time as announcing it to his wife and publicly exposing her personal & private life decisions to the world.

Two tales come to mind immediately,

  • When Barbara Walters publicly outed Ricky Martin, asking if he was gay in a live interview, which she had to apologize for in an equally public manner years later
  • One of the many ad agencies I worked for had an “employer legend” tale of a public firing – where the entire staff was called in to the boardroom to announce that a staff member had been let go, but no one had told her & she was standing in the room!

You don’t want to carry the burden of the reputation that you react badly to stressful situations, or a time when you “showed your true colours” but not in the way you want people to remember.

Be Aware of His Ego

We all know that men can have their egos bruised; seemingly irreparably in stressful situations where they feel out of control or emasculated. The more you remain sensitive towards his feelings, the more amicably you’ll be able to settle your divorce.

Always Keep Your Safety In Mind

If you suspect your husband may become physically abusive or threatening, or if he’s ever been abusive in the past, consult with a local women’s domestic hotline or shelter before telling your husband about your plans. For the men who pose a risk, the time immediately after they learn their wife plans to leave them can be the most dangerous time when your life & safety may be at risk.

Of course, ask for your attorney’s advice – the way you approach this might impact your satisfaction with the divorce proceedings and results.


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Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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