It is not uncommon for one party to want to divorce and that party’s spouse to want to work on the marriage. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about steps you can take to communicate this to your partner. As a disclaimer: This is not legal advice, nor is it the recommended path if you fear your spouse will become violent. This is advice intended for the fairly common occurrence of not being on the same page regarding the decision to divorce. That being said, here are some things to consider:

Understand your feelings:  Are you 100% sure you want to divorce or are you still willing to work on your marriage?  Some couples enter discernment counseling specifically to decide if they want to work on the marriage and, if not, how to proceed with a divorce in the healthiest way possible. Marriage counseling will not work if both partners aren’t committed to the process. Too often, I counsel couples after years of being unhappy and it is a long, slow road back to building a positive relationship. If one partner is set on leaving the marriage, then couples counseling can help with the separation but it definitely won’t save a marriage.

Discuss it directly and openly: Be clear, “I want a divorce.” Explain to your partner in the kindest and most respectful way why you have come to this decision. You owe your spouse an honest explanation.  This is not the time to blame him or her for every mistake that’s ever been made in your marriage. It is important that you own up to your role in the problem. For example, “I don’t like conflict, so I didn’t let you know when things were bothering me.” Please do not serve your partner with divorce papers to let them know you want a divorce. This will start your divorce down a very adversarial path. 

Be realistic about your time line: You didn’t come to this decision lightly and you most likely spent a very long time coming to the decision to divorce. Your partner is going to need time to catch up with you. 

Your partner is still accountable: While you need to respect that your partner needs time to get to the same place, if you feel that he or she is stalling in hopes that you will change your mind, then you need to get professionals involved.  Meeting with a divorce coach or mediator is a great way to have this conversation in the presence of a neutral third party who is trained to facilitate these difficult discussions and keep the process moving in a constructive manner.

It can be emotionally draining to try to convince your partner that the marriage is over. Remember to get the support you need to keep yourself healthy during this process.