No one walks down the aisle anticipating that their happy union might come to an unhappy end. But when the problems pile up and it seems like your relationship is no longer salvageable, divorce just might be the healthiest option. At that point, the only thing left to do is determine how to tell your spouse that you might want a divorce.
Of course, this isn't a conversation you should take lightly. In the end, if you've decided there's absolutely no other solution, telling your partner you want a divorce is the first step in the long process of undoing a marriage. To help you navigate this conversation effectively, we asked marriage and relationship counselors for their best advice about how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.
Make sure this is really what you want.
Open a dialogue with your partner and see how they feel about the relationship, too. "If you think you want to tell your partner you want a divorce, the first step might be to ask your partner if they think the problems you are having are so bad that the two of you should consider divorcing," says relationship therapist and dating expert Dr. Susan Edelman.
You might be surprised to learn that they're much more open to counseling or other types of therapy than you had thought. In other words: "If there's something that can be fixed, therapy is a lot cheaper than divorce," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and the author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.
Choose a time when stressors are low.
Telling your partner that you want a divorce can inspire emotional reactivity, and you want to make sure you're in the best state of mind to answer any questions your spouse may have. That means avoiding the chaotic hours after a long workday, as well as the ones before you're scheduled to host company, head out to an event, or do anything else that could make this conversation even more stressful than it already is, advises Virginia Williamson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Fairfield, Connecticut.
State why you're unhappy.
One landmark study by relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman found that many unhappy couples wait an average of six years before getting help for their problems. The research also found that oftentimes, the first sign a relationship is headed for divorce is that one person shuts down emotionally and doesn't address their relationship woes until it's too late.