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How To Prepare For A Divorce Conversation

How To Prepare For A Divorce Conversation

Divorce and Transitions: Mardi Winder-Adams

Divorce is undoubtedly one of the most challenging and emotionally charged conversations anyone can have with their spouse.

The Divorce Discussion:

It’s a conversation that can bring forth a whirlwind of emotions, uncertainties, insecurities, and fears. This conversation can often seem to blindside the other person, even though you may have alluded to or even discussed divorce in the past. 

When you’re contemplating telling your partner that you want a divorce, it’s natural to be nervous about how they’ll react and what the outcome might be. To be confident and clear in your message, preparing in advance for the conversation is a critical step. This is not a topic that should just “jump out” in a conversation or something that is said in the heat of the moment in a disagreement or a time when one or both of you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or already stressed with the relationship or other issues. 

“Keep your message simple, focusing on three to five key points.”

To help prepare for the conversation about divorce, the following points are central in thinking about how the information can be shared with respect for the other person and to avoid escalating a situation. 

5 Tips To Best Handle Your Divorce Conversation:

1. Prepare: Keep It Simple and Clear:

When it comes to initiating the divorce conversation, the importance of preparation cannot be overstated. Keep your message simple, focusing on three to five key points. Start with the fact that you’re considering divorce, followed by two or three other critical points. Writing down your thoughts can help ensure you have a complete message. The key here is clarity and knowing that you will be drawn into their drama after you deliver the message.

2. Plan: Timing and Location Matter:

Timing and location are crucial aspects of this difficult conversation. Choose an appropriate time when you can sit calmly without external distractions. The location can be private or public, depending on your situation, but always ensure that children are not present during this conversation. They can go to a friend’s house or spend a night or weekend with a family member to allow you both to address the emotional issues around this conversation. 

3. Practice: Boost Your Confidence:

Practice makes perfect. Rehearse what you want to say out loud. Do it in the shower, during your commute, or whenever you have a moment to yourself. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become in delivering your message with poise. I recommend writing it out and getting comfortable in knowing the three to five points you want to make. 

4. Focus: Keep the Conversation on Track:

The last point in the preparation framework is to maintain focus. Be clear in your message about moving forward with divorce. Avoid vague statements that can lead to confusion. By keeping the conversation centered on divorce, you ensure you and your partner understand the primary focus.

Avoid Trigger Words In The Divorce Conversation:

In any high-stakes conversation, using trigger words can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. Try to avoid absolutes like “never” and “always,” as they can make your partner defensive. Name-calling and even sarcasm should also be avoided. Bringing up past issues can derail the conversation from its purpose, which is to discuss the future and not rehash the past.

“To help deescalate the situation, set your own mental boundaries for the conversation and have a plan in place.”

One effective communication tool is the “I” message. This approach allows you to express your feelings and thoughts without making assumptions about your partner’s emotions or actions. For example, saying, “I feel that divorce is in my best interest,” is far more productive than saying, “You’ve made this relationship unbearable for me and that is why I am leaving.” The “I” message focuses on your thoughts and needs rather than concentrating on where they failed to make changes or support the relationship. 

Deescalating The Divorce Conversation:

Emotions can run high during this conversation, particularly if your partner responds with anger or distress. To help deescalate the situation, set your own mental boundaries for the conversation and have a plan in place. If things become too heated, consider ending the conversation and seeking support from a friend or family member.

This could include going out for coffee or visiting a friend or family rather than staying in a hostile environment. Remember that hurt people often lash out verbally, so maintaining your composure and responding gracefully can help defuse tension and avoid the temptation to engage in the same negative behaviors. 

Initiating a conversation about divorce is never easy, but with the right approach and mindset, it can be a productive and respectful exchange. Doing advanced work by preparing, planning, practicing, and focusing on the message helps you feel confident and clear. You can also foster understanding and reduce conflict by avoiding trigger words and utilizing the “I” message. 

Remember, learning how to prepare for a divorce conversation can really make a difference. This marks a significant step in your life journey, and approaching it with care and consideration can help to set the tone for the many future discussions you will need to have with your partner throughout the process. 

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Mardi Winder-Adams

About the Author:

Mardi Winder-Adams is an Executive and Leadership Coach, Certified Divorce Transition Coach, and a Credentialed Distinguished Mediator in Texas. She has experienced her own divorce, moved to a new country and started her own business, and worked through the challenges of being a caregiver and managing the loss of a spouse.

Handling life transitions and pivots is her specialty! In her professional role as a divorce coach, Mardi has helped hundreds of women before, during, and after divorce to reduce the emotional and financial costs of the process. She is the founder of Positive Communication Systems, LLC.