If, when and how to tell that you want to end the marriage
I’ve written this page specifically to give divorce advice for men. If you, like many men, 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.
My advice is, of course, for everyone. We’re all as unique as any star in the sky and perfectly capable of sifting through advice to find the nuggets that apply to us, regardless of gender.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you are the one wanting to end your marriage.
Is there still a chance?
If the two of you are still together and you’re longing to sort things out, then I recommend my Loving Communication Tool Kit. It’s an action-packed, relationship-saving, user-friendly, solution-focused bundle of tools.
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 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 that 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.
Just in case… how sure are you?
First of all, of course, you need 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 my Marriage Compatibility Test. 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. In general, 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 from my site if you like. It won’t be half as scary as you might think!
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!
Let’s therefore consider your expectations…
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 is not to suggest you stay friends – I’m afraid that’s unlikely to work.
You’re both on different time scales – you’ve had time to consider it all. Your partner, meanwhile, 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 or marriage.
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!
In the meantime, I do hope, that you can both remain friendly and civil, assuming that you’re not in an abusive marriage.
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 it’s often much harder for them to maintain contact with their children.
Do have a look at my page on How to help your children through a breakup 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 contact with your children will be significantly affected by how you and your partner react to events. So for that reason, do try to end your relationship in a dignified, considerate way.
Ending a long term relationship or marriage is always a process. It’s so important that you allow the 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.
So I’m going to help you with this part…
10 Tips to help you tell your spouse you want a divorce
- Line up your own support in advance – consider who you might want to talk to afterwards.
- 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).
- Be prepared for a completely unexpected reaction.
- 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.
- Get your timing right – if possible. Is your spouse just about to go out? Is it meant to be a special day of any kind? Make sure you’ll have adequate (and appropriate) time and space to have this conversation properly.
- Resolve to remain calm – think through in advance how you’re going to accomplish that.
- Resolve not to argue during the conversation.
- Ensure you won’t be disturbed – are the children in? Could someone be walking through the back door? Have you switched your mobile off?
- Communicate clearly, kindly and decisively – see my page Relationship Communication to learn more.
- 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 really helpful hypnosis downloads specifically for what you’re going through right now. Self-hypnosis with the aid of a download is effective, really user-friendly and affordable.
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 the 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
- 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.
- 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 X minutes for now. We can come back to it later.”
- Lead by saying that she or he may have realised that this is not just a regular, run-of-the-mill conversation.
- Ask how they’re feeling right now – then listen, and simply say you understand – if you do, or: “I can see you’re feeling …..” This helps to prepare the ground for the next stage of the conversation.
- Be prepared to listen and sit with your partner’s distress for a while.
- State your reasons for wanting a divorce carefully – keep it short, no endless explanations (see my page: Breaking up tips on how to do this).
- Talk about your own role and your own contributions to the relationship.
- Repeat your reasons if necessary. Be clear, but be short without too much detail.
- Allow time for things to sink in at least a little and for feelings to be expressed.
- 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.
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.
State clearly but calmly what you are hoping for and what your expectations are.
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?”
… “I would prefer it if we discussed this with a mediator.”
… “I’m not prepared to discuss this any further until I’ve had some legal advice.”
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 equals 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 saying 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 with your problems?
In that case, you might want to consider getting some extra professional help and support. That way, you can be sure that you can end your relationship in the best way possible, and you’ll have someone to lean on a little bit too.
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 – for either one of you.
Neither solution is ideal. In any case, you do need to get legal advice before you decide to move out.
You may also be interested in:
I hope my divorce advice for men has helped you to get a handle on what you’re feeling and dealing with right now. The breakdown of a marriage and subsequent divorce are really tough things to cope with. So don’t ever feel like you should just man up and get over it – there’s absolutely a place for your feelings of pain, anguish and hurt in the midst of all this.
Try to be considerate towards your spouse throughout the process – it will hopefully make it easier (and cheaper) for everyone.
Importantly, make sure you take the time to look after your emotional well-being. Accept that it will be a little while before you can fully heal and move on. But know that you will be able to set out on a new life path again whether or not it was your choice to divorce. :-)
Images courtesy of: Michael Dunn