How to tell your partner that you want a divorce or to separate
‘I want a divorce’…but don’t know how to tell my ex’.
Telling your ex that you want a divorce is one of the most difficult parts of the divorce process and why many people end up staying in unhappy relationships, losing their confidence and their mojo. We are frequently asked ‘I want a divorce but don’t know how to broach the subject with my ex’, so we’ve written a guide with our top tips for keeping the conversation as amicable and least stressful as possible. If you’re ready to take the first step, here’s how...
It’s a tough call deciding things are broken to the point of divorce. Saying ‘I want a divorce’ out loud is a line crossed. But if you have reached that point and are ready to move on, it can be even scarier to think about how you’re going to broach the subject with your partner, particularly if you’re still living together. Not to mention the potential stress of going through a divorce. So, what should you do?
amicable’s guide on telling your ex you want a divorce:
Step One: Prepare yourself
Firstly, make sure you’re prepared for the conversation. Manage your expectations – remember, your partner will react, so be prepared for a reaction. Everyone behaves in different ways to sad news but the more shocked they are, the more volatile their reaction is likely to be. Even if you’ve been arguing, they may still be shocked that you have reached this point. Read this blog, be clear about what you’re going to say, drop your shoulders, relax your jaw and take three deep calming breaths before you start.
Tip: Try writing down how you feel and what you want to say before telling your ex you want a divorce– that way you can visualise what you want to say before you say it.
Step two: Pick your moment
It’s not a good idea to say, ‘I want a divorce' in the heat of the moment. Whilst there may never be a ‘good’ time to have this type of tricky conversation – there are definitely bad times.
For example, during an argument, in front of family members (especially your kids), in public, before a family event, over the phone or via text (unless totally unavoidable).
Plan to tell your partner when the kids aren’t around (create the situation if necessary) and at a time when you won’t be interrupted or distracted.
Step three: Keep the conversation short
It’s tempting to think that once you’ve decided to end a relationship that you need to sort everything out straightaway. You don’t. The first conversation should be short. You should aim to convey a single message:
‘Our relationship is over, I’m sorry this is so hurtful, but I’m decided and I won’t change my mind. I want a divorce.’
You may have to repeat the message several times. It’s fine to say the same thing over again (it’s called the broken record technique and it can be a very effective communication tool).
Stick to this message and don’t focus on the future or sorting out other issues. It’s best not to defend yourself against criticism levelled or rise to any bait.
This is the time for maximum self-control. Make it clear that you hope to discuss things and make amicable arrangements with everybody’s best interests at heart, but that now is not the time.
Step Four: Be patient, give your partner time to adjust
You may have been thinking about this conversation for a while, and therefore had more time to process what ‘I want a divorce’ means. Your partner will need some time for the news to sink in. They may say rash things or even demand that you sort everything out here and now.
Don’t be tempted to dive straight in. Allowing them time to process ‘I want a divorce’ will lead to better outcomes for everyone in the future.
If they ask “well what about…the house, the kids” etc? Re-state that you are very happy to talk about all the things that they are worried about in due course but for now, you just want them to know where you’re at.
Setting the right tone from the outset of the process will save time and lower the cost of your divorce .
Don’t be afraid to plan what you are going to say, you can even rehearse it or write a script. Getting this conversation right is a kind thing you can do for your family to ease the transition.
Tip: Be understanding, you’ve had longer to process this then your ex has – don’t expect them to be okay with it straight away.
What if I'm in an abusive relationship?
Domestic violence is a crime and it is wrong. Physical/ mental abuse should never be tolerated, therefore, if you're in an abusive relationship there are several places you can go for help:
The National Domestic Violence Charity:
Before you start divorce proceedings you need to make sure you and any children are safe from the perpetrator. Here is the website for REFUGE – The National Domestic Violence Charity. Please take a look at it has lots of very useful information about staying safe. There is also a helpline run in conjunction with Women’s Aid. You can call and speak to someone who will advise you how to leave safely. Contact them on 0808 2000 247.
You are entitled to legal aid if you are being domestically abused. You should search for a solicitor who is legal aid registered and they will explain how they can help you can access a free divorce. This leaflet explains where to get help (back page) and what situations qualify for legal aid.
Search the Resolution database for a legal aid family lawyer specialising in Domestic Abuse.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.
Start your amicable divorce journey
Speak to an amicable Divorce Specialist to understand your options and next steps for untying the knot, amicably.
Probably blurting it out when you have given no indication that there is any problem in your marriage such as after an enjoyable holiday or romantic meal is one to avoid too. Would suggest that some preparation is required such as mentioning that you are not happy and talking through that for a few weeks before coming out with “I want a divorce”