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How can you soften a divorce request?

You may have thought long and hard about divorcing your spouse. As far as you can tell, your spouse has no idea his universe is about to go sideways. He is cheerful, and life is good. You, meanwhile, are miserable. You no longer love your spouse; in fact, the stress of putting on a happy face becomes more difficult with each day.

You may blame yourself for leading your spouse to believe your marriage is sailing on smooth waters. At this point in your relationship, you realize that acting as if nothing is wrong has not served you or your spouse fairly. The sunny marital climate you have been careful to maintain is about to come crashing down in a firey storm of smoke and ashes when you deliver the bad news: "I want a divorce."

Plan to be kind

No matter how distraught or upset you may feel, you will gain nothing by starting divorce negotiations with a hostile or defensive attitude. You will not only lose the advantage of peaceful progress, but your divorce could become bogged down in a mire of hatred. Even after the divorce, you may need to interact with your current partner in one way or another. Creating a positive, friendly relationship—though it feels impossible now—will affect your future in useful ways that you cannot presently imagine.

Also, remain kind and positive as you interact with the professionals who will help you through the divorce process. Your divorce advisors do not want to hear an inappropriate litany of angry complaints about your marriage. Save your bitterness and the desire to vent for therapy sessions if you need help to deal with strong emotions.

Allow time to grieve

While considering how to approach the dreaded request for a divorce, take time to grieve. In a way, you are experiencing the death of a significant part of your history. Divorce truly ignites a grieving process, and it is essential that you see this reality. Allow yourself to feel sorrow and disappointment, the entire gamut of emotions that people experience when someone dies or a cherished part of their lives reaches an end.

Remain calm but firm

When you finally build the courage to approach your spouse with your request for a divorce, remember that what you have to say may be heartbreaking for him to hear. He may feel as if his world is suddenly crumbling—because, in fact, it is—and he has no control over your decision. There is no way to predict what will happen. Remember, you have had time to get used to the idea of divorce. Grant your spouse the respect and time he needs to begin his own grieving process.

Set the right tone for your future

The key point to drive into your mind is to make your initial request brief; do not engage in any discussion. For this first encounter, calmly and kindly state the fact that you want a divorce. There will be ample opportunity later for your spouse to ask questions and explore details, preferably while you are in company with your professional representative. There is no need for you to navigate a divorce alone. 

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