It’s time to tell the spouse you are leaving. I was on the receiving end of this message in my divorce, so I can certainly share what NOT to do! My ex-husband, I believe, was nervous about telling me so instead, he informed me he was thinking of leaving me and then waivered back and forth for over a week. He left me sitting in limbo when he knew he was done. After he finally told me he was leaving, he spent the next 2 weeks telling me how terrible I was, and he threatened to take our child away from me if I didn’t cooperate with what he wanted. And after the insults and threats, he told me I had to file. I did end up filling and we started a war which lasted many years and our child was adversely affected by our long, continuing legal battles. This is one of the worst ways to tell your spouse, followed by one of the worse reactions.

So, what’s the right answer to tell the spouse you are leaving? There probably isn’t one. This will be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have. Here are my best tips.

  • Make sure the kids are somewhere else. Even if you want this divorce, you’ll need time to deal with the emotions of telling your spouse you want out. That is the first of many steps that bring finality. It’s emotional. Your spouse will also need time to deal with this. Send the children away for the night or the weekend.
  • Be direct and as compassionate as possible. I advise telling your spouse simply and directly. Own it. Say it. It is also okay to let them know you don’t want to discuss any details in the moment. It might even be a good idea to leave and spend the night somewhere else to avoid a huge emotional situation. You’ll both likely be better off for it.
  • Do it in person. Whatever you do, do NOT do it in writing, an email, or, mostly, a text message! Have the courage to say it to their face. You made this decision – own it and tell them honestly and openly, and if possible with kindness.
  • Speak only about yourself. Do not attack! Absolutely no “you” statements. It should go something like this; “I have made a decision for myself that I need to tell you about. At this point, I can no longer stay in this marriage and I want to start the divorce process. All of the reasons aren’t important anymore. I just know that I need things to change. I also know this is a lot to absorb. I’ve made arrangements to stay somewhere else tonight, so you can have some time to process this, and neither of us do something we will regret. I’m really sorry.” And quietly walk out. Things may not go that smoothly, but that’s a good way to start.
  • Don’t make idle threats about not giving your spouse any money or taking the children. This will only cause fear and create the ground work for a long emotionally and financially costly war. I often see couples who are at the beginning stages of divorce doing this. Keep with those “I” statements and only say what you think and what you feel.
  • Make sure you’re safe. If there is ANY possibility that you might be met with anger or Dviolence, be sure that someone is with you. You might also want to have the police on notice and patrolling the area. Have them stand by the front door while you speak to your spouse in private and then immediately leave.
  • Once the decision is made, be sure to get educated. A great place to start is our e-book on options for divorce. Get your copy at