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How to Ask for a Divorce Peacefully | The Top Rules for a Graceful Divorce

Anna Khmara

Anna is a certified life transformation and relationship coach with an in-depth focus on positive psychology and transactional analysis. Using her 3+ years of experience, she helps her clients understand the essence of the problem, build self-esteem, establish healthy relationships, find harmony, and manifest their dreams into reality.

The decision to end a marriage does not come easy. Couples could stay together for years before they decide to divorce. For example, according to a CDC.gov report, about 22% of spouses divorce after 5 years of marriage, and 36% call it quits after 10 years.

And when you are finally ready to break off the relationship, there’s the challenging task of telling your spouse about it without triggering a massive conflict.

Is there a way to ask for a divorce peacefully and avoid lengthy litigation? How to prepare for a difficult conversation and spare your spouse’s feelings when you bring up the divorce topic? Read on to find out.

Choose Appropriate Ways of Communication

The best way to ask for a divorce is to avoid verbal fights and insults. If you start blaming the other person for your marriage breakdown, you will only create an angry spouse. Your communication style should be polite and emotionally neutral.

Tell them face-to-face

It is easier to notice a person’s reaction to what you tell them during direct interaction. Then, you can adjust your message accordingly. Talking face-to-face is a more polite way to tell someone you want a divorce.

But this rule only applies to situations when it is safe to meet the other party or if you can easily reach them without distant journeys.

Use the phone

The divorce conversation over the phone is emotionally simpler in many ways. For example, you don’t have to see the other person’s frustration, and they won’t see your intense emotions.

You can use this option if you live far away from your spouse or think it will work better for your circumstances than the other ways. However, there’s always a risk that your spouse will hang up at any time if they don’t like what they hear.

Send a letter

If you can’t meet face-to-face with your spouse, consider asking for a divorce in a letter. Sometimes, this way is better because you can calmly write down everything you want to say without interruptions.

When composing your letter asking for a divorce, be careful with word choice and use a respectful tone. To ensure you are sending the right message, read your letter aloud a few times or give it to a close friend for review.

Pick the Right Moment

You probably think that there is no convenient time to start the initial divorce conversation. But that’s not true. First of all, the best time to ask for a divorce is definitely when you have thought thoroughly about this decision and prepared a backup plan in case your spouse’s reaction won’t be civilized. We will talk about these things later in the article.

It’s not the perfect time to talk to your spouse about divorce if you are not feeling well, either mentally or physically. For example, if you’re feeling depressed, postpone the conversation and try to restore your peace of mind. The same goes for your physical health. Get back to a normal state, and only then start that difficult conversation.

From a purely humane point of view, you should also delay asking for a divorce if your spouse has a challenging temporary period. For example, they could be in the middle of an unfortunate event and need time to get over it. It could be the death of a relative or complications at work.

In this case, wait for a more appropriate moment to announce divorce to your spouse when they are in a better place.

Plan What to Say

What to say when asking for a divorce is the most difficult part of the divorce conversation. First, decide how to approach a divorce with your spouse and prepare to argue and answer questions.

If you want to ask for a divorce from your wife or husband peacefully, you should carefully choose the words and avoid blaming them. Your goal is to explain why you think your marriage cannot be saved and that moving forward would be better for both of you.

If you need to tell your husband or wife you want a divorce when they don’t, you need to be clear about your decision but not rude.

Don’t insult them or call them an idiot for not understanding what you are trying to explain. Instead, calmly repeat that there’s no other way and you don’t want to reconcile.

Control Your Emotions

Divorce is undoubtedly an emotional turmoil. But fighting with your spouse, screaming, and calling them names will not help you divorce peacefully. If you want to go through the entire process with the least amount of stress, a calm discussion with your spouse is an essential starting point.

The more control over your emotions you have, the more chance you have to eventually divorce nicely with your spouse and stay in a civilized relationship afterward.

“When you feel that you want to say something derogatory, get off the phone or walk away,” says the author of ‘Seven Secrets of Divorce’ and divorce coach Christina Rowe. She believes that you need to always focus on the desired outcome. It will help you control different emotional aspects during communication with your spouse.

Choose a Place

Your marital home may seem like an obvious choice of surroundings to start a divorce conversation. But it only applies if you are sure that your spouse’s reaction would be healthy and appropriate. Otherwise, consider a safer environment. And in no case should you start a conversation about divorce with your kids around.

Thus, you have several options when choosing where to tell your spouse you want a divorce:

In your house

You can discuss divorce intentions at your family home if you are sure that your spouse will respond calmly, meaning there is no risk of domestic violence.

You should bring up the divorce to your spouse gently to spare their feelings. “The tone to be used is similar to the tone one would use to tell a person that a loved one has died,” says Sam Margulies, a professional divorce coach.

Also, prepare ahead what you will say and make sure your children aren’t at home to keep the talk as private as possible.

Around your friends and relatives

Undoubtedly, the relationship between husband and wife concerns only the two of them, and other people’s advice could only complicate the situation. However, if your spouse is prone to violent behavior, you should find a safe way to tell him you want a divorce.

For example, it is best to have a conversation with family members and friends around. At least, they could serve as a support group if something gets out of control.

At a public place

It’s a good option if you live separately and don’t want to talk about divorce with your spouse at their or your home. However, it’s not a good idea to meet your partner at the café if your goal is to avoid scenes. The presence of other people won’t necessarily calm down your spouse.

At the marriage counseling session

One more way to ask for a divorce from your husband or wife is to do it in the presence of a family therapist. A mental health professional would be more successful in keeping the atmosphere calm and could offer appropriate guidance at the right moment.

They could also promote the idea of an uncontested or collaborative divorce or suggest divorce mediation if necessary.

Remember that avoiding conflict in the first place is more beneficial than resolving it later. For example, if the couple has many disputes about ending their marriage, it will take a lot of time to fix them.

Explain the Benefits of a Peaceful Divorce

The best way to divorce is to go through the entire divorce process without scandals. When there are children involved, a peaceful path is even more preferable. So, when you are planning a talk about divorce with your spouse, mention several advantages of an amicable end to the marriage.

  • Uncontested divorce is cheaper than litigation. You can prepare your divorce papers without a lawyer and even file a joint petition for dissolution in some states. A survey by findlaw.com shows that an average lawyer’s hourly rate is $100 for new lawyers’ services and $300-$500 for experienced ones.
  • You can be in control of all decisions, such as custody arrangements, property division, spousal maintenance, and child support.
  • A divorce process where both spouses agree takes less time to finish than disputed cases. According to lawyers.com research, the average time a couple without dispute needs to finalize their case is eight months. Contested cases take 12 months and longer.

How to Make Divorce News Easier on Your Spouse

2017 research by McIntosh and Deacon-Wood showed that the reaction of a person to divorce depends on several factors:

  • Their personality traits;
  • Past experiences;
  • Communication methods;
  • Mental and physical health;
  • Ability to cope with stress.

If you want to ask your spouse for a divorce without hurting them too much, you need to consider a few things:

  • Give them time to process the news. Then, assure your spouse that you will not do anything (call a divorce lawyer or start a divorce process) until they are ready to discuss how to divorce peacefully.
  • Don’t blame your spouse for the marriage breakdown. If you tell your wife or husband that you want a divorce because they made your marriage unbearable, you won’t get a positive reaction.
  • Don’t give your spouse hope where there is none. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce, they will try to look for a chance to change your mind. For example, they could suggest living separately for some time. If your decision is final, you need to avoid trial separation at any cost. Otherwise, when the separation period is over and you still want to end the marriage, your spouse will feel angry and duped.

Things you should avoid discussing during the initial divorce conversation

Property and debts

Postpone the discussion of property division for later. Bringing up this issue during the first interaction would only add more stress to an already uncomfortable conversation.

First, your spouse needs to overcome the initial shock, which could take a few days. Then, only when they are in a more stable emotional state should you start dividing property and talking about debts.

Remember to spend some time learning about your state property laws and make sure you are on the same page with your spouse about who gets what. If you have a prenuptial agreement, it will make things easier because all post-divorce terms were negotiated before the wedding.

Romantic relationship with another person

Many spouses mistakenly believe that they can make their husband or wife want to divorce them if they mention another romantic interest. However, if you’re going to divorce peacefully, telling your spouse that you are leaving them to be with another person is hardly the best strategy.

On the contrary, they could misinterpret this information and use it to allege your infidelity. The divorce law of some states considers adultery as a factor that can influence the division of financial assets and the amount of spousal support.

What to Take Care of Before You Tell Your Spouse About Divorce

Start collecting documents before your spouse finds out about your intention to end the marriage. Some people try to hide important papers from their spouses to get better divorce outcomes. As a result, the lack of documentation complicates and extends the divorce process.

“Get an accurate idea of all your resources and document all of the household income,” advises Billie Tarascio, a family law attorney. He also mentions the documents you might need during your divorce proceedings for the financial disclosure procedure. They include pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, cost of child care, retirement accounts, etc.

If you are financially dependent, you need to save some money in advance and find housing so that you can safely leave your wife or husband.

How to Stop Blaming Yourself for Wanting a Divorce

If you initiate the conversation about divorce, you must be “very sure because you will have all the responsibility of ending your relationship,” says the author of “What’s Behind Divorce,” Kathy Higgins.

The writer emphasizes a big difference between the responsibility for ending a failed marriage and being the person who caused this failure.

If you are the initiator, you could feel guilty for ending your marriage and not giving your relationship another chance. But is it really your fault?

Think of the initial reasons that led you to this life-changing decision. If you weren’t the primary culprit that caused all your marital issues, then your marriage breakdown is not your fault.


Ending a marriage is always a painful process for both spouses, regardless of who initiated it. Everyone has a different reaction to the news because all of us are unique in many ways.

Although it’s not easy to predict your spouse’s response when you bring up divorce, you can at least do everything possible and follow the tips above to channel your divorce to a peaceful resolution.


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