You have done your homework. After much reflection, you realize not only how you got in, but that the only way is out. Your marriage is at a dead end, and you need to let him know.
Finally. The dreaded moment you have been preparing for is here. This is the time to have “the talk” when you tell him it is over. It is going to be awkward, unpleasant, but it has to be done. There is no way around it.
You need to be sure you are ready and able to go through with it. This is not the time to botch it. So take time to center yourself and muster the serenity and strength you will surely need.
This was the hardest thing for me. I was terrified to tell my ex-husband I was done and dreaded the night of tears and loneliness that would inevitably follow the conversation. Having no place to go and no one to be with, I avoided it altogether.
But then one night he went through my car and found the divorce complaint I had hidden under the driver’s seat. There was no way to avoid it anymore. There were tears, there was a lump in my throat, but I transcended it and spoke my truth. Just like that. And I slept through the night. I overcame the dreaded feelings of loneliness. And I didn’t die. I actually felt relieved.
You can’t choreograph, stage or rehearse your exit speech. You can’t time it with the precision of a Swiss watch. But you must be prepared for this moment and, unless you have pre-selected the conditions, you must be ready to seize the opportunity when it arises.
If you’re lucky, he will give you an opening—engage in that unacceptable behavior you can’t stand, or drop the last straw, so to speak. If you’d rather have control over the situation, you can pick a time and place that are more comfortable for you.
This conversation is of utmost importance. It is your chance to, at long last, say your piece. It is the first outward step towards your liberation and sets the tone for your divorce.
How to Tell Your Husband Your Marriage Is Over
Below are some guidelines to help you get ready to exit with dignity and poise:
I can’t overemphasize how important it is to be mentally prepared for this life-altering step. Even though there is no script for this difficult conversation, you still need to think it through ahead of time. Unless you’re thrown into this situation at an inopportune moment, it pays off to take the time and effort to do your inner work, explore your options, and feel empowered to make this move correctly before you embark on the divorce journey.
Be Centered and Serene
Spend some time quieting the mind and visualize yourself speaking confidently and without hesitation. Know what you want to say.
Decide in Advance What You Want to Achieve from the Conversation
Do you want him to move out? Have you found a place to stay? Do you have a lawyer? You don’t know how he will react, so expect the unexpected.
This is difficult stuff. You will be telling the love of your life that you don’t want to be with him anymore. This hurts you, I know, and it will hurt him, too. That’s why, in the name of the love you once had for each other, it is critical to be sensitive to his feelings, no matter how mean he has been to you during your relationship.
Ending your marriage will require the delicate balance of honoring yourself and being kind. As in every area of your life, practicing the golden rule will go a long way in setting the tone for your separation, or at the very least create some good karma.
Ask yourself, how would you like to be treated if the roles were reversed? In addition to the inevitable feelings of rejection, would you like to be inflicted with humiliation and blame?
No matter how tempting—or how true—this is not the time to tell your husband you hate his guts, that you’re repulsed by his beer belly or that his mother is the greatest witch on the planet.
Although this may be the culmination of years of misery, and the confession may appear cathartic, letting it all out unfiltered may backfire, and right off the bat create a revenge-thirsty adversary determined to make your divorce hell.
This is setting yourself up for failure and will set you back from your real goals: freedom and fulfillment.
In the spirit of a peaceful resolution, break the news in a way that will be productive. This is not something you do on a post-it note, in front of friends or family, (especially the children) or in the midst of a heated argument.
Select a quiet, safe location where you can speak privately and without interruptions.
Avoid the possibility of a public scene that would cause embarrassment or could escalate.
Be direct and sincere, but not ambivalent. He needs to understand you have carefully considered leaving, and that this is not something you’re doing on a whim.
Make your speech short, sweet and to the point. Stick to the facts and avoid editorializing, as tempting as this may be.
Be Mindful that He May Need Time to Digest
Let’s face it. Men can be clueless. No matter how odious his behaviors, your husband may not have seen this coming. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you’re leaving him?
A man I know told my current husband that, after five kids and 25 years of marriage, his wife “woke up one day and decided she didn’t want to be married anymore.” And he believed it! And my husband believed it, too! I bet you dollars to donuts that the signs were there, and that the wife told this fool that he was being a jerk—for the previous 25 years!
Likewise, your husband may not be expecting or may not understand your burning desire to jump ship. You may have caught him off guard. He may fire back with excuses or blame.
This is not the time to do the tit-for-tat. Listen to him, but make it clear that you’ve made up your mind, and give him a chance to process the news. Once you inform him of your decision, you can resume the conversation when you are both calm and ready to begin sorting out the next steps.
Be Patient with Yourself
You need to be kind to yourself, too and be open to the possibility that you will experience grief. Allow yourself to be surprised by your feelings. You may be overcome by sadness or intense feelings of relief.
Stay with your feelings and let them be there without judgment. Do not run away from your feelings and avoid the temptation to cover them up with distractions. You need to process them, too. You will have time to take action afterward.
Are You Open to Reconciliation?
Let him express himself briefly, yet firmly express that you have made up your mind. Do not give him hope if there are no prospects for reconciliation.
If you’re open to reconciliation, take his temperature and wait for his response. If he brings it up, you can have a mental list of your demands, and make it clear that you won’t settle for less.
Again, you need to be clear on what it is that you need to be happy in the relationship before you begin this conversation.
What do you need from him to make you stay married? Is it counseling? More help around the house? More support? End of inconsiderate, hurtful behaviors? More space? Go back to your workbook and review your list of relationship must-haves.
Give him a reasonable deadline to get his act together. You don’t want to waste your life in a hopeless relationship. Let him know you’re willing to try again—if he does his part.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Freedom
He may have been a rotten scoundrel, but this is not the time to be his match. This conversation will set in motion the divorce process.
Keep your eyes on the prize and remember at all times that you want to start your life from scratch. And to accomplish that, it is in your best interest to get the deed done as efficiently as possible. You want to set the stage for what you hope will be a cordial, respectful process.
Remember—He Will Get Over It
This is hard, I know, and you may even feel a little sorry for the fool. But the bottom line is that he will eventually get over it. Sooner or later.
Do not beat yourself up or stay in the trap of an unhappy marriage because he starts acting pathetic. Time heals all wounds.
Above All: Be Safe
Staying safe in a volatile situation is your number one concern.
Use good judgment. If your husband has mental health problems, if he is aggressive or if you’re afraid he is going to become violent, take precautions.
Have the conversation in a secure location—never in the car or in a solitary place. Avoid areas where he will have access to weapons, such as knives, tools or firearms.
Stay away from the top of the stairs and rooms without access to an outside exit, in case you need to flee.
And do not be afraid to call for help if you believe you are in danger. Keep your cell phone and the phone number of the police department handy.
Breaking up is the most dangerous stage in an abusive relationship. Plan a safe escape in advance and make arrangements to have friends or family members be available to assist you or stay with you.
Speak to a therapist and get professional advice before you have this delicate conversation. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can also help you plan your safe escape.
Now that you’ve dropped the D Bomb, let the mushroom cloud settle, and give yourself a chance to collect yourself before you continue on your journey.
This blog post has been edited and excerpted with permission from Solve the Divorce Dilemma: Do You Keep Your Husband or Do You Post Him on Craigslist? (Coventina House, 2018) by Sonia Frontera. From cultivating forgiveness to approaching one’s spouse with a request for divorce and handling the fallout from different kinds of reactions, Solve the Divorce Dilemma covers the entire emotional process. It is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in making lasting changes in their psyches and lives. These keys to change go beyond a singular relationship to probe how to make choices, react to adversity, and, ultimately, envision freedom and self-love. Available on Amazon.com.