If you’ve been terribly unhappy in your marriage for some time now, how much of an obligation do you have to warn your spouse about your feelings? Could your spouse really not be conscious of the fact that you’ve already got one foot out the door?
Psychologists say that as many as 70% of the people they see felt like their spouse’s had walked out on them without any warning. Granted, that’s a one-sided perception of events that may or may not be rooted in reality. After all, you can’t force someone to recognize the signs that you’re unhappy wed, can you?
Well, yes and no. In order to really give your spouse warning that you’re on the edge and thinking about divorce, you have to have at least one hard conversation well before you take that step — and not the kind of hard conversation that starts with a fight.
When you got married, you entered into a contract with your spouse, so try to think of this step as a part of the contract — your “duty to warn” that you are finding the marriage untenable. It helps if you can approach the situation as calmly as possible, at a neutral moment. Try rehearsing what you want to say in advance so that you get your real feelings across.
For example, something like “I’m frustrated and unhappy about how much we fight and how little we seem to have in common anymore.” That kind of statement doesn’t put blame on anybody and gives your spouse a chance to respond in a constructive way. The goal from there is to decide whether you both want to try to save the relationship or it’s time to make a graceful exit.
Knowing how to start a divorce — if that’s genuinely where you are heading — can have a big impact on how the split plays out. If you don’t leave your spouse feeling shocked and betrayed, you may find him or her more agreeable when it comes time to make decisions about property, support and other issues.