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|Your Parting Words: How to Break the News Responsibly
This Divorce Expert and Counselor shares some wise advice on how to tell your spouse that your marriage is over, and it's time to move on.
By Susan Allison
Telling your mate you want a separation or divorce is the moment of truth, and every individual I interviewed remembers precise details about this instant. In my case, we were vacationing in Lake Tahoe when I told my husband. We sat looking at clear blue water, at our kayak tied to the dock, and ducks bobbing on the surface. And then I broke the stillness by saying, "I think we should separate for awhile and see what happens. I need my space to find out who I am and what I want. I need to leave when we get back home." I said a few other things, to make it sound less final, less threatening, and hurtful. As I spoke, I felt strong and exhilarated to finally be saying these words. I felt terrified as well.
Candace, now divorced for seven years, says of her leaving speech: "I felt mixed emotions when I said to Lenny, 'I'm leaving and taking the children with me,' because I still loved him; I still love him to this day. But for three years I tried to get him to come to therapy with me. I tried to get him into rehab for his addictions, but he would not go. He wouldn't look at his part. I feel I did everything to try to make my marriage work. Finally, I had to get out of there. Right before I left I had a dream or vision that said I was going to die if I did not leave. I left to save my life in a way." Ironically, Candace is now a therapist who works with people with addictions. As a therapist, her advice to those who are preparing to leave a marriage is, "Be honest. Tell the truth as long as you are safe to do so. Say: 'I'm leaving. This is what I need to do for me. I think it is the best thing for both of us at this time.'"
Words You Can Use
Depending on whether you are preparing to leave, wanting a trial separation, or a divorce, your choice dictates the degree of finality in your words. The following scripts make this progression clear:
Striving for "Right Relations"
As a free individual, you have the option to do whatever you want. You don't have to be conscious. You don't have to explore all options. You can just say you want a divorce. My belief, however, is that as human beings we have a higher consciousness; we have choices, and every action has a corresponding reaction. If we want "right relations" with others, then we need to think carefully about our choices, and strive to harm no one in the process. I believe we should attempt to be conscious every moment, for the choices we make in the present will affect our lives in the future.
Part of my reason for writing about "right relations" is that I didn't always behave responsibly during my divorce, and it has taken a few years to rectify my behavior. After making amends to my former husband at several junctures, showing kindness to him in words and deeds, our relationship is again based on trust and friendship. But to be honest, while leaving my marriage, I often deliberately hurt his feelings; I was not tactful when telling him I was leaving; I was greedy about what I wanted from the house, and I left him with the responsibility for our son, and the upkeep of our large home. In other words, I behaved selfishly. This doesn't mean I should have taken full responsibility for our marital problems, nor that I should have stayed in the marriage. His treatment of me, especially his absence and neglect, in part, caused me to be cruel out of anger and retaliation. However, I wish I could have been more aware of the effect of my actions and words on everyone. You, hopefully, can learn from these mistakes.
This article was excerpted and edited with permission from the book Conscious Divorce: Ending a Marriage with Integrity by Susan Allison, Ph. D, published by Three Rivers Press 2001. Dr. Susan has a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology and a private practice with individuals and groups to bring about healing, using traditional therapies, hypnosis, process therapy, shamanic journey, and energy medicine. Learn more at www.empoweredhealer.com.
For more articles on health and well-being during and after your divorce, please visit www.divorcemag.com/articles/Health_Well_Being.