“We need to talk” he stated, in a very matter-of-fact tone that alerted me that he meant business. I put down the basket of clothes that I held in my hands and took a seat opposite him, preparing myself for what I guessed would be an uncomfortable conversation. I was correct, though I wasn’t prepared for how monumental of a discussion this was about to be and that he would be asking for a divorce.
“I don’t love you anymore, and I don’t want to be married.”
I felt as though a gust of wind hit me, almost knocking me off of my chair. He didn’t even love me anymore?
Questions and explanations ensued. I asked him what was going on, if we could go to counseling, if he would go to counseling, anything! He was obviously very prepared for our talk, and was almost emotionless as he delivered his request for a divorce. I knew things could be better in our relationship, but I never thought they were this bad! How could we go straight from “I’m unhappy” to refusal to even try to work on the relationship? What had I missed?
After my then husband dropped his announcement, I was left alone with my thoughts. I was surprised to find myself shocked, but not altogether so. I discovered that I, too, was more unhappy than I allowed myself to acknowledge. I certainly wasn’t to the point of disposing of our marriage, but I became more aware of the many red flags indicating that things between us had deteriorated.
I recalled the increasing impatience we had with one another, and how we now even argued openly in front of our friends. We had become so disconnected after a series of misfortunes hit him (a health crisis, a death in the family, and a career disappointment), yet I didn’t feel like he would let me in to comfort or help him through. We were gradually becoming strangers, but I still loved him.
I was dumped by my ex-husband in the conversation I’ve described nearly 20 years ago. I am over him and our divorce, but the fact that someone found themselves to the point of uttering the words “I don’t love you anymore” still stings!
A More Humane Way to Go about Asking for a Divorce
- Don’t Wait until You’re Completely Done with the Relationship to Say Something. If you’re unhappy in your marriage or with your partner, start talking about it and trying to work on it before it’s too late. It’s just not fair to never express dissatisfaction until the moment you’re ready to walk!
- If Your News May Come as a Shock to Your Spouse, Show Some Compassion. You may have decided the marriage is over and come to terms with that outcome; however, your spouse may not feel the same way or be aware that this is how you feel. Be prepared for a full range of emotions including shock, anger, and sadness when you break the news. Remember, this is someone you once loved and made a lifetime commitment to. You may have legitimate reasons to end the marriage, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt!
- Have the Decency to Have This Conversation Face-To-Face. This is a marriage you wish to end, not a gym membership; therefore, this discussion warrants a proper face-to-face exchange, NOT a text message or cowardly move out when no one else is home! This announcement is bigger than any other break-up you may have had, and will certainly be more complicated. You can’t get by with the drop of a bomb and quick escape!
- Refrain from Insults. Obviously, if you’ve decided you want a divorce there are plenty of things about your partner and relationship that you’re dissatisfied with. There’s no need to lie about your feelings, but also no need to add to the injury of your request by telling your soon-to-be-ex that no one will ever love them again, and every other hurtful thing you can think of. Think of it this way: the request for divorce is the catalyst for the divorce process. If you tip it off in a disrespectful and hurtful manner, you might open yourself up for an ugly dose of retaliation during the legal proceedings.
- If You’re Done, Don’t Leave the Door Open. If you know, without a doubt, that you are finished with your marriage, don’t lead your spouse on with words or actions that allow them to believe there may still be a chance. Avoid phrases like “let’s see what happens” or “for now.” If you are still on the fence, consider counseling or other options to help you make up your mind; otherwise, be firm and clear about the fact that you’re done.
- Don’t Let the World Know before Your Spouse. Understandably, you may have confided in a trusted friend or family member about your feelings as you have tried to make a decision; however, your spouse should ideally be the first to hear that you want a divorce from you- NOT on social media or through the grapevine! It is wise to be very careful about what you say on social media or in any form of writing during a divorce, as tour words may come back to haunt you in court! This is definitely not the time to flaunt a new relationship or trash your soon-to-be-ex in a public forum, and shows a lack of decorum!
- Honesty Really Is the Best Policy. The truth can hurt. A lot. It is usually best, however, for a conversation about divorce to be honest. In the future, it will be helpful for both you and your spouse to know what went wrong in the relationship so that you have the opportunity to learn and grow from mistakes made during the marriage.
Recognize that Asking for a Divorce may Cause Your Spouse Immense Grief
In the beginning of a divorce, emotions are very heated, so not everything makes sense, and sometimes hurtful things are said to combat the pain. If possible, try to take the higher road, and understand that anger is often an expression of grief. Very likely, a lot of pain and anger will be directed at you following your announcement.
You may no longer love your husband or wife; but, you can still behave with integrity through the divorce request and beyond by being truthful about your feelings and intentions, respectful of the relationship you once had, and minimizing damage to them and yourself.
Think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to present your message when asking fro a divorce. This may be one of the most difficult discussions both of you ever have, but if you believe that your marriage cannot be saved and you are beyond love for your spouse, then setting them free to find happiness again may be the best for both of you!
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