When Janet told her husband Matt that she wanted a divorce, he ignored her. A few weeks later, a process server showed up at the door and handed him papers marked “divorce summons.” That’s when Matt realized she was serious. Despite Janet’s efforts to let Matt know her feelings, he still expressed shock and resentment. This set the stage for a very bitter contested divorce.
Most people are uncomfortable with conflict. But you cannot afford to “ghost” out of a marriage when you have kids and property to divide. If you haven’t told your spouse you are unhappy, the news of a divorce will be even more devastating to them. So how can you avoid surprising your spouse and set the stage for a “friendly” divorce (if at all possible)? Here are a few tips to approach the divorce conversation with that goal in mind:
- Time. The person who initiates the divorce generally has the advantage of time: they have moved forward in their mental and emotional process and feel more comfortable in their decision to divorce. The other spouse may not have arrived at that same space yet emotionally. Let your spouse know that you are willing to give them some time to do that emotional catch-up work and come to terms with the divorce.
- Certainty. Once you’ve made your decision to divorce, talk to your spouse about it with certainty and confidence. This will help convey to your spouse that you are not asking for permission and this isn’t just another fight – you have come to this decision and are not willing to argue about whether they believe divorce is the “right choice” — it is the right choice for you.
- Don’t Play The Blame Game. Avoid fights about the past – troubles and wrongs are all things that you can hash out with a therapist, not your spouse. Getting into previous disputes when you break the news about your decision to divorce will only lead to unnecessary arguments. These past problems may be the reasons you are getting divorced and if you couldn’t solve them during the marriage, you won’t solve them at the end of it.
- Organization. Set a few meetings with your spouse to discuss how to organize the divorce and figure out what areas you both agree on. Steer these conversations to focus on the positives when you can reach a consensus. Continue to remind your spouse that your goal is an amicable divorce and that will benefit you both in terms of a shorter, less expensive process, and if you have kids, on keeping things friendly for future co-parenting. Just a little information about the start of the process can go a long way in establishing that you are using the divorce process as a tool, not a weapon.
- Talking To The Kids. Before talking to the kids about the divorce, get a few age-appropriate books that speak to them about divorce. Work hard to make decisions together about what you are each saying to the kids – and whenever possible, approach them together. Kids hear and understand more than parents realize. Creating a unified front will let them know that even when you are apart, they can expect unified parenting from you.
Have you been able to navigate the divorce conversation in a friendly manner? What are some of your tips for keeping things friendly? Discuss in the comments.