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How to tell your partner or ex you want a divorce - how to broach divorce

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Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM

‘I want a divorce – but don’t know how to tell my ex’. This is often a major reason, as well as being afraid of the divorce process, why people stay in unhappy relationships and lose their confidence and mojo. This post contains tips to make that first conversation less stressful and what you can expect afterwards to give you the confidence to say, ‘I want a divorce’. If you’re ready to take the first step, here’s how. 

It’s a tough call deciding things are broken to the point of divorce. Saying ‘I want a divorce’ out loud is a line crossed. But if you have reached that point and are ready to move on, it can be even scarier to think about how you’re going to broach the subject with your partner, particularly if you’re still living together. Not to mention the potential stress of going through a divorce. So, what should you do?

Prepare yourself

Manage your expectations – remember, your partner will react, so be prepared for a reaction. Everyone behaves in different ways to sad news but the more shocked they are, the more volatile their reaction is likely to be. Even if you’ve been arguing, they may still be shocked that you have reached this point. Read this blog, be clear about what you’re going to say, drop your shoulders, relax your jaw and take three deep calming breaths before you start.

Pick your moment

It’s not a good idea to say, ‘I want a divorce’ in the heat of the moment. Whilst it’s arguable that there’s never a good time to have this type of tricky conversation – there are definitely bad times.

For example, during an argument, in front of family members, in public, before a family event, over the phone or via text (unless totally unavoidable).

Plan to tell your partner when the kids aren’t around (create the situation if necessary) and at a time when you won’t be interrupted or distracted.

Keep the conversation short

It’s tempting to think that once you’ve decided to end a relationship that you need to sort everything out straightaway. You don’t. The first conversation should be short. You should aim to convey a single message:

‘Our relationship is over, I’m sorry this is so hurtful, but I’m decided and I won’t change my mind. I want a divorce.’

You may have to repeat the message several times. It’s fine to say the same thing over again (it’s called the broken record technique and it can be a very effective communication tool).

Stick to this message and don’t focus on the future or sorting out other issues. It’s best not to defend yourself against criticism levelled or rise to any bait.

This is the time for maximum self-control.  Make it clear that you hope to discuss things and make amicable arrangements with everybody’s best interests at heart, but that now is not the time.

Be patient, give your partner time to adjust

Your partner will need some time for the news to sink in. They may say rash things or even demand that you sort everything out here and now.

Don’t be tempted to dive straight in. Allowing them time to process ‘I want a divorce’ will lead to better outcomes for everyone in the future.

If they ask “well what about…the house, the kids” etc? Re-state that you are very happy to talk about all the things that they are worried about in due course but for now, you just want them to know where you’re at.

Setting the right tone from the outset of the process will save time and lower the cost of your divorce.

Don’t be afraid to plan what you are going to say and when even rehearse it or write a script. Getting this conversation right is a kind thing you can do for your family to ease the transition.

If you’d like to talk, please get in touch. amicable offers a free 15-minute call with a divorce expert.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.

Kate Daly
Kate Daly
Kate Daly is a co-founder of amicable and host of The Divorce Podcast. Kate is a divorce expert and helps couples and separated parents navigate divorce and separation amicably. She's passionate about changing the way the world divorces and campaigns for fairer divorce laws and access to justice.


Probably blurting it out when you have given no indication that there is any problem in your marriage such as after an enjoyable holiday or romantic meal is one to avoid too. Would suggest that some preparation is required such as mentioning that you are not happy and talking through that for a few weeks before coming out with “I want a divorce”

posted Angela at 06.06.2018 5:00