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How Do I Tell My Wife I Want a Divorce Without Hurting Her

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.

Deciding on leaving your wife isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It may seem that feelings have faded away, and divorce is the only way out.

But it’s not always 100% true. Some couples just need to rekindle their fire to return to a happy life together.

Yet, not all the families on the edge of break up are able to do it. Some of them see no other option than to end their relationship despite all the happy moments in their marriage.

The keyword here is “memories.” They no longer make us happy. What’s more, according to a new study, people overestimate the good times they remember in their lives.

Once the decision is made, the question arises, “How to approach a divorce with your spouse?” What’s even more critical is how to tell someone you want a divorce without hurting them.

We can tell you right now. There’s no way you can do it. Cruel, but true. Divorce news and the divorce process itself will hurt your wife no matter what.

It puts you into a dilemma:

  • Continue to live in a marriage that doesn’t make you happy, but don’t hurt your wife;


  • Tell her about the divorce and feel guilty for breaking her heart, but allow yourself to find happiness in a new free life.

The choice may seem difficult.

However, you don’t necessarily have to choose. If you thoroughly prepare for the divorce conversation with your wife, you can hurt her less and take the first steps towards a peaceful breakup.

How Do You Know If You Want a Divorce?

How Do You Know If You Want a Divorce?

The main sign your marriage is doomed to divorce is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction with your relationship. You can also feel hopeless and unwilling to change the situation.

If the “D” word has bubbled to the surface, but you aren’t sure you really want to end your marriage, you should ask yourself some questions. For instance:

  • What do I want from my relationship?
  • Am I getting what I want?
  • What can I do to get it?
  • Are there any objective reasons for divorce?
  • Where will this relationship go if I don’t take action?
  • Can anything be changed?
  • What will change if I decide to get divorced?

Odd as it may sound, relationships and economics have things in common. Each partner invests something and gets something in return. When someone invests more than they receive, the marriage becomes unbalanced, leading to severe frustration over time.

Moreover, you should understand exactly what is stopping you from taking decisive action. If it is fear and insecurity, you should work it out. You can do it in several ways:

  • Yourself;
  • By talking to a close friend;
  • With the help of a family therapist or mental health professional.

But one thing is for sure. If you don’t know whether you want to end your marriage, you shouldn’t use the divorce process as a threat or manipulation. By threatening divorce, you lose your partner’s trust.

And it is likely that when you decide to end this relationship, your wife will not take your decision seriously.

Consider Your Spouse’s Reaction

Before initiating a divorce conversation, think about your wife’s reaction. Ask yourself what she would say if you break the news about such a major event as divorce.

If your wife is very emotional and impulsive, you should think over your speech more carefully.

Remember, the better you manage to smooth out possible conflicts, the higher your chances of ending a marriage amicably without lengthy court battles and family law specialists. It can save your and your wife’s nerves and finances.

Knowing your wife still loves you, you should be very delicate not to offend her feelings. If it’s hard for her to deal with conflicts or bad news, consider whether your conversation may cause depressive thoughts.

Depression is a critical suicide risk factor. Although divorced men are more likely to commit suicide than divorced women, this rate for women is growing faster, especially among 45-64 year-olds.

If your wife shows the slightest suicidal tendencies, you may want to divide the divorce discussion into several parts to make it easier on her. Act carefully and follow her emotions to stop the conversation when you notice she’s becoming too sad or low-spirited.

Remember, your task is not only to convey your idea but also to save her physical and mental health.

In some cases, your wife’s reaction may turn into hysterics. To avoid it, you can write your wife a letter asking for a divorce. Then, give it to her and ask her to read it in front of you.

This way of presenting information can prevent an explosion of negative emotions, and your spouse may take the news more calmly.

In the Right Place And at the Right Time

Right place to divorce

Before telling your spouse about divorce, you should carefully prepare. Remember, she must be the first to know about your decision. If information leaks from outside sources, it will only aggravate the situation.

Divorce talk can trigger an emotional reaction from your spouse. Thus, you need to be in a stable state of mind to cope with it and answer questions your wife may have.

If you feel tired after a long workday or know you have an important meeting tomorrow morning, it’s better not to schedule the divorce conversation for the evening. You may lose focus while talking, which can make the dialogue even more stressful.

You should use the same approach when choosing the best time to ask for a divorce from your wife’s perspective. For example, planning the conversation for a day when she has an important meeting at work or when she is going through a challenging emotional period is not the best choice.

Relationship coach Alice Wood says, “You know your partner better than anyone, so don’t make the disastrous mistake of bringing up divorce in the middle of an important life event. Be patient and remember that the announcement can wait until a moment when its impact will be the least damaging.”

Indeed, divorce news, just like divorce itself, can provoke mental and physical health deterioration. Moreover, some studies connect this experience with a 23% higher mortality rate.

As for the place, try to find a quiet space where no one will disturb you. You can even do it at home. However, if you are considering divorce with children, make sure they will be out at this moment.

Talking with a child about divorce is a complicated and delicate topic. Of course, sooner or later, your kids will find out. But it is better if it happens in a situation that you and your wife control.

The scale of the psychological damage your child will suffer depends on how this conversation goes.

You can also inform your wife about the divorce in a public place. For example, invite her to a coffee shop or take a walk in the park. However, try to choose a quiet place where you can fully concentrate on the conversation.

Sometimes, people who are afraid of their spouse’s reaction to the divorce news choose public locations. If you know your wife may react aggressively, other people’s presence can stop her.

And most importantly, before telling your wife you want a divorce, turn off your cell phone and ask her to do the same thing. It may be the toughest and longest conversation in your life, so you don’t want to be distracted by phone notifications.

Plan How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

Answering the question “How to tell your wife you want a divorce?” psychologists recommend starting by voicing your decision. It needs to be articulated clearly to avoid ambiguity.

If you are confident in your desire and want to share the news causing your spouse less pain, think about the right words.

Words and phrases such as “probably,” “maybe,” “I think it’s better for us” can make your wife think your decision isn’t final and give her false hope. No matter how hard it is, you need to say, “I want a divorce.”

Then you should explain the reasons for your decision. Try not to emphasize the negative aspects of your relationship. Instead, explain that this marriage doesn’t make you happy as gently as possible, and you see no reason to keep hurting each other.

Knowing your wife, you can predict her possible counter questions. So plan how you’ll respond.

If the conversation goes well, you may also discuss divorce topics such as child custody, child support, alimony, property division, etc. Therefore, you should think in advance about your options and prepare some arguments for ending the marriage amicably.

However, you should only move on to these topics if it's appropriate and you see your wife is ready for it now.

Once your speech is prepared, read it out loud or record to listen to how you sound.

If you can’t find the words yourself, or feel you’re mentally overwhelmed, consider talking to your psychologist or marriage counselor. You can script the divorce conversation together and even role-play your speech.

4 Ground Rules for Telling Your Wife About a Divorce

Telling Your Wife About a Divorce

Telling your spouse you want a divorce is a great responsibility. Whether you will part amicably and maintain normal relations, or your breakup will turn into a fierce battle with a judge and divorce lawyer involved depends on how you tell your wife about it.

Read the four basic rules on how to talk about divorce with your spouse so that you can end up with the first scenario.

Stay Calm

Speak calmly and confidently, but try not to sound like a robot. Let your wife know that this decision wasn’t easy for you to make, and you thought about divorce for a long time before talking to her.

You should sound compassionate, so she understands you appreciate what you two had, but be clear your relationship doesn’t bring you happiness and satisfaction anymore.

If you feel either of you is getting angry or losing control of words and emotions, it is better to pause the conversation and continue a little bit later. Otherwise, you can end up arguing.

Don’t Go Into Too Much Detail

You should explain your decision to get divorced, but you shouldn’t focus on details. If you and your wife have already visited a family counselor, most likely, she is already partially aware of the reasons why your marriage fell apart.

If the divorce news came as a shock to your spouse, you definitely should explain why you want to end your marriage. But don’t list everything that you are unhappy about.

Don’t Play the Blame-Game

Discuss divorce without blaming anyone, and especially without blaming your spouse for what happened.

Both partners are responsible for family discord. So, you shouldn’t shower your spouse with all the negative emotions you’ve accumulated. You may hear similar reproaches in response.

Remember, your task is to tell your wife about your decision and not provoke a conflict.

Let Your Wife Talk

It’s crucial to allow your wife to speak. Listen to her carefully without interrupting and say you understand her feelings. However, let her know that you’ve decided and will be moving forward with the divorce process.

She may suggest other options like living separately or trial separation instead of filing divorce papers. But if you really want to end the marriage, don’t let her arguments influence your decision.

Your wife may also have counter questions. You shouldn’t ignore them. Instead, try to answer clearly.

Remember, you and your wife are in different grieving stages. In other words, you’ve already accepted divorce and are ready to move on, while your wife is now in shock and denial. So give her some time if she wants to speak later.


Breaking bad news is always difficult, even to a stranger. Telling your wife you want a divorce is a hundred times harder, even if you know nothing will make your marriage work, and a breakup is the only solution for you.

Your and your wife’s journey to a new happy life will start with your first divorce conversation. It may help you end your marriage in a civilized way and maintain normal relations with your spouse.

So you need to prepare carefully. The better you do it, the less moral damage you’ll inflict on your wife.

And remember, there is no right time, perfect place, or best way to ask for a divorce. But you can create a more suitable atmosphere in which your wife will not be so hurt.


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