The worst part of a divorce, at least in those you have seen on television dramas, is the show-down in divorce court: The litigants are tense, and the attorneys are intimidating. The judge is frowning. Family and friends in the courtroom may be in tears.

Now that you are planning a real-life divorce, you suddenly realize that possibly the hardest part of divorce is the beginning—like starting a car when the battery is dead. It seems frustrating and impossible. You feel frozen in place.

The decision to dissolve a marriage

The worst part is that you have already tried everything to save your relationship. In spite of your best efforts, your husband/wife remains blissfully unaware that his/her marriage is in trouble. After a long period of soul-searching, you know your life cannot continue this way. But how can you talk to a person who refuses to hear the truth?

Above all, you do love your husband/wife—but you can no longer live with him/her. Yet you hate delivering the bad news that you are filing for divorce. A few simple methods may help you to approach the topic of divorce without drama or conflict. Before you begin, find a professional who specializes in no-conflict or amicable divorces.  You should discuss the process of the dissolution with an attorney prior to meeting with your spouse.

Set the stage for a peaceful request

To maximize your success, find a good time to avoid interruptions. You might want to arrange a sleep-over at a friend’s house for your children. Turn off any cellphones. Then calmly ask your husband/wife to sit down and talk with you. A conflict-free request for divorce can set the tone for the rest of your divorce proceedings. Keep your voice as kind as possible; do not behave defensively or apologize. The goal for this first meeting is to make the request brief, avoid all discussion and then leave. Remember, you have made the decision to get the divorce – your spouse may not have reached the same conclusion.

Calmly ask for a divorce

To achieve a peaceful request for divorce, try these steps:

  • Tell your husband/wife that, after careful consideration, you have decided to file for divorce.
  • Do not defend, justify or outline your reasons; simply state the message.
  • Explain that you would like to meet with him/her later in the week; at that time, you will answer all his questions. Offer to meet with a counselor or at a neutral place.
  • Keep this first talk brief. After you have delivered your message, leave the house if necessary. Refuse to discuss things further. Your spouse deserves some personal space to come to terms with the idea.

Going forward, keep your interactions peaceful and respectful. Be open to compromise; no one gets everything they want in a divorce. Remember that your primary goal is to avoid conflict. You–and particularly your children–will benefit now and in future years if you work to maintain a conflict-free relationship with your spouse during the divorce.