Want A Divorce? Why Asking Kindly Is the Worst Way

How to Relieve Pain

Sheila had been thinking about it for months and had talked to her friends.

They were shocked by her confession – she was no longer sure that she loved her husband Luís.

Her friends were shocked that, even after all these years, Louis seemed hopelessly in love with her.

But she just wasn’t in love with him anymore.

She made her decision; she was going to tell Luis that she wanted a divorce.

That weekend was their twentieth wedding anniversary and they had plans to spend a long weekend at a resort without the kids.

Sheila argued that since the resort would be a relaxing environment, they would be alone and provide the time the two would need to talk about their divorce.

The first night at the resort, they made reservations at a romantic restaurant.

After the wine was served, Sheila told Luis that she wanted a divorce.

She chose to tell him the first night so they would have plenty of time to talk about the details of the divorce.

What she hadn’t planned on was Luis’ shock and confusion when she counted the bomb.

After a scene, he left it on the table and went back to their room.

At first, she was confused by Louis’ reaction.

He always gave her everything she wanted before.

Soon she felt the impact of how much she had hurt him.

She felt guilty – terribly guilty.

When he finished signing the check, he went back to his room and made love to Luis.

It was the only way she could think of to make him a little less sad and make her feel a little less guilty.

They fell asleep in each other’s arms.

In the morning, Luis asked if she was feeling better about the wedding.

She replied, “No, I still want a divorce.”

Louis was once again shocked and confused by her response.

How could she want a divorce after the way they made up last night?

And so the weekend (and subsequent breakup) continued; a chaotic mix of messages: “No, I don’t want you”, turning into “Yes, I want you”.

Sheila told her friends that she was just trying to be nice to Luis.

She didn’t want to hurt him.

The part she didn’t admit to him or to herself was that she didn’t want to feel guilty about hurting him.

I Always Hear People Tell Me They Want To Be Nice To Their Soon-to-be-ex

They will tell their spouse they want a divorce and then act as if they are still married.

I’m going to ask why they do it and, without exception, the reason they give is that they want to be nice.

What this really means is that they feel guilty about hurting their spouse and want to make the process easier.

What these people fail to consider is what kindness actually does to the soon-to-be-ex.

From the dump’s perspective, kindness is confusing at best and a direct attempt to get in the way of your ability to heal from pain.

Just as the dumped side is starting to accept that the marriage is ending, the spouse comes back offering gifts, money, or some combination of these.

Then, just as the dumped side is beginning to have some hope that the marriage can be saved, the spouse throws that hope away and confirms that he really wants a divorce.

It’s a horrible emotional yo-yo for anyone who’s in pain.

How to Be Clear When You Ask for a Divorce:

To avoid putting your spouse on this painful yo-yo of emotions, you must first be very clear about what you want.

Ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly.

  • Do you really want to get divorced?
  • Do you want to ask your spouse to do therapy with you?
  • Do you want them to say “I love you” by spending quality time with you?
  • Do you want a breakup?

Many people aren’t sure what they want when they tell their spouse they want a divorce.

If you’re not sure, decide that you simply need to talk to your spouse about how you’d like to change your marriage.

The Kindest Thing You Can Do For Your Spouse If What You Want Is Divorce, Is To Be Very Clear About Your Decision

Where and when you tell your spouse you want a divorce is critical to being truly respectful and kind.

You will want to choose a time and place that gives each of you privacy, security, and time for the discussion to take place.

How you tell your spouse is probably the hardest for people who want to be kind, but the truth is, the most compassionate way is to be as direct as possible.

Direct does not mean abrupt; it means not fighting and making your spouse guess that you want a divorce.

Finally, you must be prepared to feel uncomfortable.

Chances are your spouse isn’t expecting bad news.

People get the news that their spouse wants a divorce in every way – from shock to anger.

And their reaction, whatever it is, will probably make you uncomfortable.

Being prepared for this will help prevent you from automatically trying to make your spouse feel better in a way that makes them think your marriage can be saved if you’ve already determined that it can’t.

The kindest thing you can do if you know you no longer want to get married is to be as sure of your decision as possible and communicate it as clearly and compassionately as possible to your spouse.

Trying to be kind, and relieving your spouse’s suffering and pain is robbing you of the ability to begin healing and moving on with life.

Your Task For A Functioning Divorce:

Be clear about what you want.

Spend a lot of quality time is very, very clear about what you want out of the wedding.

The more clear you are about what you want to discuss with your spouse, the more respectful and kind you will be to them.

Express your desire with compassion and limits.

It is important that when you express your desire to your spouse, you do so with as much compassion and respect for yourself as you do for your spouse.

Divorce discussions are rarely easy, but you can ease yours by:

  • Choose a time and environment that gives each of you the security of privacy and the time the discussion deserves.
  • Set the tone by being direct and compassionate. Avoid curling up.
  • Prepare to feel uncomfortable. Telling your spouse you want a divorce is uncomfortable in itself, but your spouse’s reaction can exacerbate the feeling. By waiting to feel uncomfortable, you can continue to be kind to your spouse and not fall into the trap of being kind.

Dr. Karen Finn is a Coach and Divorce Consultant, helping people who are considering divorce make an intelligent decision about staying or leaving their marriage.