How Do You Talk to Your Spouse About Divorce?

Let’s face it – there is no easy way to break-up. There’s no good time – there will always be

holidays, weddings, and birthdays to celebrate. There will always be people who will be upset

by your announcement. And you have the opportunity make some choices about the

conversation you intend to have.

Don’t ask for a divorce in the aftermath of a fight. Your emotions may be running high, and

you may be acting from impulse rather than from the thinking side of your brain.

Do take the time to think about what you want. It may be useful to schedule some sessions

with a therapist who can help you look at the big picture.  Are you really done, or would you

be willing to go to couples counseling to see if any of your issues can be resolved?

Don’t have the discussion at the end of a long day. When you’re tired, you may be less able

to talk calmly and openly. Your ability to listen to your partner may be diminished, and your

patience worn thin. If you have children, they don’t need to know about your decision right now.

That said, children are incredibly sensitive to their parents’ words and behavior. Be mindful of

what you say in front of them.

Do arrange a time when you and your spouse can be alone and disconnected from your

phones. If you have kids, make a playdate for them. Protect them from uncertainty until you

know more yourself. They need to know, at the appropriate time, that this decision is an adult

decision and that you will always love them unconditionally. Children, particularly younger

children, want Mommy and Daddy to stay together, so that life will stay the same.

Do your homework ahead of time. Look for resources online or in your community. In addition

to counseling, support groups and psychoeducational classes can help normalize the wide range

of feelings that you may experience. There are many different ways to obtain a divorce, and it

helps to know your options. Even if you “do it yourself”, it may be wise to talk to an attorney.

Don’t start packing.  With rents climbing higher and higher, will one of you be able to move

out, or will you need to live together for some period of time, until there’s money for one of you

to move. If you have kids, where you live may impact your ability to see them often.


Nancy Payne Lewis, MA has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for nearly thirty years. She has worked in substance abuse recovery, child custody mediation and evaluation, and as a juvenile probation officer. She has a private practice in San Francisco, CA, where she helps individuals and couples who are examining their relationships and life transitions. Nancy can be contacted at

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