May 3, 2013

What Happens After I Tell My Spouse I Want a Divorce?

Workplace -istock photoSo you are thinking of telling your spouse you want a divorce or you already have:  what next?  In many divorces, one spouse has spent endless hours, weeks or months working through the issues in the marriage and arriving at the conclusion that they want a divorce.  So if you are that spouse, and your spouse is fairly clueless that you have reached this conclusion, what are some steps you can take?

  1. Discernment CounselingDiscernment Counseling is a relatively new form of counseling available to couples where one of the parties is considering divorce.  Through a series of sessions, the counselor will help guide the couple to a point where they can decide whether to work on the marriage or begin a constructive separation or divorce process.  There is no doubt that a more gradual and productive realization of impending divorce makes the process much more likely to be productive and amicable.
  2. Don’t Sweat the Details Yet.  When confronted with the idea of separation and divorce, many couples embark on the road to resolving their issues immediately, i.e. custody arrangements, property distribution, who keeps the house.  When you’re just beginning the process, it is WAY too early to be thinking about what the end will look like.  Spend this early time deciding on a divorce process and keeping your kids well-being at the center of your thought process.
  3. Let Your Spouse Go Through the Process.  I know that the party who has concluded that divorce is his or her best course of action has spent all the time they want deciding and now want to “move on.”  Remember that this may be a shock to your spouse who has had NO time to think about it.  Even though you may have been experiencing problems and even thrown the “D” word around doesn’t mean your spouse thought you actually meant it.  They are going to be sad, angry, frustrated and everything in between.  Expect them to try to “make it up to you” the same they have (and has worked in the past) during your courtship and marriage.  Expect them to try to reconcile.  Just because you are there, doesn’t mean they are.
  4. Don’t React Defensively.  One of the ways, sadly, that many people try to convince their spouse to stay in the marriage is via threats.  They sound like, “I am gonna take the kids” or “You are going to be broke.”  Remember that these words are spoken in anger, fear, sadness and desperation.    However, just because your spouse says they will do something, doesn’t mean they will or that it will happen.  Don’t argue.  If nothing else, you may be able to calm things down by saying, “I would love for you spend a lot of time with kids going forward” or “It would be great if we could both be financially okay in the future.”  It can take the anger out and show that you are not trying to take everything away from your spouse.
  5. You Can Only Control You.  In the end, it is difficult and oftentimes unproductive to force the pace of a divorce.  The best outcomes come when each party gets through it at their own pace.  In the end, you cannot control what your spouse does and says (unless it is illegal, dangerous and harmful to you or your children).  You can only control you.  So as you move forward, it is important for you to be your best self.  You want to look back with pride and dignity in how you handled one of the most difficult periods of your life.

Kimberly Miller,JD, MA, LAMFT

Author disclaimer submitted here with what you want to have at the bottom of each of your posts.

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One Response to What Happens After I Tell My Spouse I Want a Divorce?

  1. Holly Lundquist says:

    Nicely said, Emily. Discernment counseling is a wonderful concept. Most couples experience ambivalence toward their marriages at one point or another. And even if they end up deciding to divorce, they can move forward with less regret.

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