The Best Way to Ask Your Spouse for a Divorce

05/22/2015 10:57 am ET | Updated May 22, 2016


OK, that's it -- you can't do it anymore. You're done.

You've tried your hardest for years, but you just can't seem to make it work. You want out of your marriage.

But how do you bring up the topic of divorce to your spouse without devastating them or triggering an all-out war?

As a divorce coach, one of the most common things clients want to know is how to ask their spouse for a divorce and keep things peaceful. Well, there's no "one-size-fits-all" answer, but here are six tips to help make an uncomfortable conversation go as smoothly as possible:

Be prepared.

Understanding ahead of time where your spouse is emotionally can make a big difference in how you approach the topic of divorce.

Is he blissfully ignorant? Is she just as unhappy as you? Has the "D" word been used in the past or will it be coming out of left field?

Knowing how aware your spouse is to the state of your marriage can help you be prepared for both how to bring up the subject and how your spouse will likely react to the news. You may even want to consider working with an individual or couples counselor to help you sort through your feelings and prepare for the conversation you're about to have. They can help you role play asking for the divorce and even what to say.

Choose an appropriate time and place.

One of the more important ways you can prepare for the unexpected when telling your husband or wife you want a divorce is by picking the appropriate moment.

Really think about where and when this should be, and make arrangements for your children to spend time with a relative or friend, so that the conversation can occur without interruptions. Of course, there's no great time to announce that you want out of your marriage, but there are certain scenarios that are better than others.

This conversation should never coincide with another major event in your lives if at all possible. For example, if your spouse is sick or has recently been fired or laid off, it's generally not a good time to announce that you want a divorce. Timing really is everything and you'll want to find the right time without adding more stress to an already difficult situation.

Choose a place where you can have a calm discussion and make sure there is plenty of time for you both to talk. Don't just drop a bomb and walk away.

Be gentle but firm.

The way you ask your spouse for a divorce will likely shape the way the entire divorce process unfolds. If you come at your spouse with anger and frustration, don't expect them to respond calmly.

Instead, be as gentle as you can, yet firm in your decision so your spouse understands you have made up your mind and there is nothing they can do to change it.

Remember -- you've spent a lot of time thinking about this decision and preparing for divorce. Chances are your spouse has not, so be understanding and allow some time for the news to sink in.

Be ready for your spouse's reaction.

If asking for a divorce is going to come as a complete shock to your spouse, be prepared for retaliation as a response.

Frame the conversation with "I" statements instead of "You" statements to avoid placing blame and starting a fight. There are a ton of emotions that go along with divorce. Support your partner in dealing with these initial feelings, empathize and try to remain as calm as possible.

Avoid discussing the details.

If your spouse is on the same page as you, and the topic of divorce doesn't really come as much of a surprise, you may find yourself already beginning to talk about dividing property or discussing custody arrangements. A word of caution - negotiating a settlement without the appropriate guidance from a professional could end up coming back to bite you.

Don't discuss too many details on your own. It's better to wait until you've hired the right professional to guide you through the process.

Get help.

Once you've approached the topic, chances are you'll both be dealing with a lot of intense emotions.

Some of those emotions - like anger and resentment - can be toxic to your ability to negotiate with one another and move forward. A counselor, therapist or a professional divorce coach can help you deal with the emotional aspects of the divorce and gain the clarity required to work together toward a settlement.

There's no simple answer.

When it comes to how to ask your spouse for a divorce, there's no simple answer. But if you prepare ahead of time, consider the tips provided here and get the divorce support you need to get through it, you'll have a much better chance of making the divorce process as peaceful as possible for you, your spouse and your children.

Joe and Cheryl Dillon are co-founders of Equitable Mediation Services, a divorce mediation firm that specializes in helping couples divorce peacefully, cost-effectively and fairly - without lawyers.