Divorce advice for men (and women!)
If, when and how to tell that you want to end the marriage

Category: Better Endings | Author: Elly Prior | First published: 09-09-2010 | Modified: 02-12-2017

If there is still a chance of reconciliation when you have already separated click here for my review of an excellent resource.

If the two of you are still together but you're longing to sort things out, then I recommend Save the Marriage as well.

I've written this page specifically to give divorce advice for men. If you, like many men do, find it difficult to know how to handle all the 'drama' and the emotions that come with the ending of your marriage, I really hope to be able to help you along a bit.

If your wife or partner has told you they want a divorce and there is no way back, then hop over to:

On this particular page I'm going to assume that you are the one wanting to end your marriage.   

Bibian Mentel: Bitterness prevents healing!

How well prepared are you?

Knowing how to actually end your marriage is really hard to figure out - rightly so, I think. I've anticipated some of the questions you might have asked me if you'd come to see me for counselling, so I hope I can help you out here.

I'm guessing that you're probably already having a hard time and are dreading the road ahead. Ending a marriage or partnership is a painful step to take. It's unlikely to matter much how long you've actually been together.

How to tell your partner you want a divorce is a little more manageable if you come prepared. Relationship guidance is seldom included in information on divorce for men, so stick with me... I'll talk you through how you can deliver the bad news in the best possible way under the circumstances.

How sure are you?

First of all you need of course to be absolutely sure, before uttering the word divorce.  I know it sound obvious - but you know... in the heat of the moment...

If you have any doubt at all, I'd strongly suggest that you consider relationship counselling, marriage guidance counselling or you use this Stay or Walk Away questionnaire. Particularly if you have children you'll want to know that you've done all you possibly can to save the marriage.

More often a wife will contact me to ask for counselling. Men are more likely to come as a very last resort (but this isn't always the case though).

However, a well-trained and experienced couple counsellor will know how to help you personally, and your marriage, even if your partner won'’t come with you for counselling.

You can speak to a trained relationship therapist right now from my site if you like. It won't be half as scary as you might anticipate!

Does your partner anticipate a divorce?

Your partner may well be aware that there's trouble on the horizon. However, they may not suspect that you actually want to end the marriage! Your 'request' for a divorce may come as a complete surprise despite the difficulties. So, be prepared for a shock!

It's a cliche to say that men 'don't do feelings' very well. However, I think that divorce advice for men (in fact for women just as much) should include some guidance on dealing with the emotional roller-coaster too.

Divorce advice for men who hope to remain ‘friends’

I suspect you might have considered trying to soften the blow by saying that you want to remain friends. My best divorce advice for men is not to suggest you stay friends - I'm afraid that just won't work at all.

You're both on different time scales - you've had time to consider it all. Your partner may need many months to recover.

Couples do sometimes become friends again... but this usually takes up to a couple of years - if not longer - after the ending of a long-term relationship. You both need to be able to move on first. Only much later you may discover that you're developing a sort of friendship –- perhaps even despite yourself!

How much do you need to see of each other?

The complications and therefore the speed of the divorce are likely to dictate the frequency and length of your contact, if you don't have children. The division of property can complicate the ending, unless you have a prenuptial agreement.

If you do have children, then clearly you'll remain parents for the rest of your lives. For men this is even more important, as so often it's much harder for them to maintain contact with their children.

Do have a look at my page on Children in the Middle for further information on this.

Contact will to some extent be dictated by factors such as:

  • the age of your children
  • the quality of your relationship with them (is there anything you could you do to improve that?)
  • the quality of your relationship with your partner
  • the level of conflict between the two of you
  • both of your abilities to 'park' your needs for the sake of the children
  • life stages of all the family
  • family events

The quality of the contact with your children will be significantly affected by how you both react to events. So do try to create a dignified, considerate ending.

Ending a long term relationship or marriage is always a process. It's so important that you allow time to do it properly.

How are you going to tell your partner?

This is the really difficult bit. It's also the bit that you need to do well in order to preserve everybody'’s dignity and self-esteem as much as possible.

I'm going to help you...

10 Tips to help you tell your spouse you want a divorce

  1. Line up your own support in advance - consider who you might want to talk to after
  2. Prepare yourself for all possible scenarios. How do you think your wife might react? If possible talk it over with a good friend (or a professional licensed therapist)
  3. Be prepared for a completely unexpected reaction!
  4. Avoid blaming your partner, or being drawn into an argument about blame. This is not going to be the time for finger pointing and point scoring.
  5. Get your timing right - if possible. Is your spouse expecting to go out? Is it meant to be a 'special day' of any kind?
  6. Resolve to remain calm - think through in advance how you're going to accomplish that
  7. Resolve not to argue during the conversation
  8. Ensure you won't be disturbed –- are the children in? Could someone be walking through the back door? Have you switched your mobile off?
  9. Communicate clearly, kindly and decisively - learn how on my page Relationship Communication to learn more 
  10. Accept your partner's expression of feelings. Your soon-to-be ex may be angry, feel guilt, sadness and/or intense despair. It is what it is! Feelings can't be argued over.

There are some helpful hypnosis downloads that can help you get through this difficult period in your life.

What precisely will you say to finish your marriage?

To prepare yourself, write down your thoughts on the following points. Then sleep on it for a few nights. This allows you time to become a little more comfortable with actually doing it. The calmer you can be, the better you will be able to handle the reaction.

10 important things to consider

  1. Tell your partner that the two of you need to have a conversation. This will prepare her or him for something serious. Don't just start the conversation 'out of the blue'.
  2. Kindly suggest a realistic time limit if you anticipate an endless conversation: "This is going to be difficult for both of us, but possibly mostly for you. Let's give it ... minutes for now. We can come back to it later."
  3. Lead by saying she or he must may have realised this is a different conversation.
  4. Gently ask how they're feeling right now - then– listen, and simply say you understand - if you do, or: "I can see you're feeling ....." It helps to prepare the ground
  5. Be prepared to listen and 'sit with' your partner's distress for a while.
  6. State your reasons for wanting a divorce gently - keep it short, no endless explanations (see my page: Breaking Up Tips on how to do this)
  7. Talk about your own role and your own contributions to the relationship.
  8. Repeat your reasons if necessary. Be clear, but be short without too much detail.
  9. Allow time for things to sink in at least a little and for feelings to be expressed
  10. Remember to stay calm. Do not start a row now, even if you - understandably - feel hurt and angry.

I'm afraid nothing you can say will make it better for your partner. The only thing he or she may want to hear is that you will 'try again', that they will do anything, that you must be mistaken, etc.

Does it all seem a bit much? Divorce counselling can really help with all of this stuff. A professional (online), licensed therapist will let you get things off your chest in your own time. He or she can help you make the right decisions and move forward.

To what extent have you discussed finances?

This is a really tricky one. There's no doubt that your finances will take a battering. Divorcing is expensive and a family living in two houses is always going to cost more.

Have you been able to approach this with your partner yet? It'll be so much better if you can both come to an arrangement amicably. However, you may want to speak to a solicitor or financial adviser first.

Ask your partner what her or his expectations are. Stay calm - just hear them out and say something like:

... "I can see your reason for wanting it that way", or

... "I'm finding it hard to understand your reasoning and (not 'but') I will do my best to ensure that all is fair"  

... "You'll appreciate that I need a little time to sort it all"  

... "Can we discuss this again in a couple of weeks (or whatever time)"

... "Shall we discuss this again, when we're both a bit calmer?"

... "How would you feel if we discussed this with a mediator?"

None of the above lines mean that you agree with your spouse! However, it will pay off if you take the time to really listen. They're more likely to feel that at the very least you're taking notice of their needs. Fewer rows, mean a more manageable, less expensive divorce.

Remember: emotions cloud thinking

Remember that the more emotional someone is, the less likely it is that they're able to process what's happening. Your partner's unlikely to think or act rationally after receiving the bad news.

You too will be at risk of 'spitting out' stuff you later regret. You might not want to admit it, but my guess is that you're finding all this really tough.

Give it time and try not to react. In fact, to help you with this - have a look at the self-hypnosis page with FAQs and downloads and in particular: Stay Calm with THAT Person or How To Get Over Divorce.

I hope that my advice has helped you to understand how to end your marriage with dignity, when you want a separation or divorce. To make this advice a little more complete, I'd also like to help you find ways to make sure you can look after yourself too.

Are you feeling really low? Do have a look at the fact sheet about men and depression from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (you can find the link at the end of the page).

Are you really struggling, or do you feel that you don't want to ‘bother’ friends or family? In that case, you might want to consider getting some extra professional help and support. That way you can be sure how to end your relationship the best way you can, and you'll have someone to lean on a little bit.

What will you do in the meantime?

One of the most difficult aspects of the ending of a marriage is how you share your home. There may simply not be enough money for one of you to move out.

If finance is a problem, you may end up with just a couple of choices: back to mum and/or dad (if they are still around and supportive), or staying with friends. Neither solution is ideal. In any case, my advice is to get some legal advice before you decide to move out.

New! Rate this article (anonymously)...

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Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)

Related articles

Depression in Men
Children in The Middle
What happens in Couple or Relationship Counselling
Before You Divorce
How You Communicate in Your Relationship
How to Get over An Affair

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Elly Prior

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It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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