Asking For A Divorce

For many people, asking their spouse for a divorce is the most difficult conversation they’ll ever have. It’s so intimidating that people put it off over and over again, waiting until the “right” time. The reality is that there is probably no “right” time and waiting for one is an indicator of your own fears and anxiety.

My present guest, RMJ was separated from her husband for two years before she decided to end her marriage.  I asked her to share how her husband reacted when she told him of her decision. Here’s RMJ:

He was really controlled and I think for a long time he didn’t even think I meant it. For twelve years of the relationship he was very much used to getting his own way and he was used to me taking the path of least resistance.

Asking for divorce is a very difficult conversationEven to this day he hasn’t completely absorbed the shock of this idea, that it really, really is over and he needs to move on.

He was very controlled when I introduced the idea.  There were no outbursts or anything.  He was really controlled and didn’t really show much emotion.  I think he delayed the way he felt until later.

He was very co-operative and after being co-operative and after a whole bunch of paperwork he tried to talk me out of it in different ways, full of telephone messages to say that is was not what he even wanted, this is totally my decision and he had not been a part of it and this wasn’t what he wanted.

I think he also knew me really well and eventually he knew that I was serious because it was so hard to believe.

Since the divorce, he has visited once and that was last April. We ended up going to church because this was our church, not my church.  It was quite interesting because on the one hand I was secretly wondering if he maybe should go somewhere else and then I thought well that’s not really fair.  This was his church too.  And he wondered about the same thing, but eventually just decided to come along.  It was a little bit awkward, but not terribly bad. It’s a small sort of family sized church so we had to contend with some curious stares.

We sat on opposite sides of the church.  And ever since that day, one of the topics in discussion at Sunday School is about marriage and so it’s quite interesting.  We were both sitting in that same class, but not together.

It’s hard to imagine that a conversation about divorce after a period of separation, would come as a surprise. Living apart, I would expect both partners to have a realistic assessment of the relationship.

I think some of the disbelief on the part of RMJ’s spouse comes from the relative rarity of divorce in their home country of Nigeria. Perhaps he was assuming that they would continue to be married but live apart, just as RMJ described other couples in her church.

I admire RMJ’s courage to end her marriage and to be open about her divorce, not to bow to societal pressures and to be true to her herself. That takes strength and yet at the same time, being true to yourself creates strength.

A period of separation may pave the way for asking for divorce. If you are not separated and you are considering asking your spouse for a divorce, it’s a conversation that needs careful preparation – it’s not something to blurt out in the heat of an argument. If you have any concerns for yours or your children’s safety then seek help before you have the conversation. In the U.S. you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Are you preparing to tell your spouse you want a divorce? How do you feel about the conversation? What are you doing to prepare?

RMJ blogs at Remembering My Journey were she writes, beautifully about being an African, a Christian and divorced.

Photo Credit: 2012© Jupiter Images Corporation


  • MA1968

    Thank you for sharing this story, I found your comment about you taking the path of least resistence especially close to home. Your story is very similar to mine. Many blessings in your journey.

    • Mandy Walker

      MA1968 .. it’s a common theme. I know I used to avoid conflict thinking that was the way to make a marriage last. The marriage may last but marriage isn’t an endurance test. Blessings to you, too.

      • rmj

        Mandy, I just had to say: what a phrase! “Marriage isn’t an endurance test.”

    • rmj

      Thank you for your comment. That’s one of the great things about this website, I think. It makes you realize just how similar we all are. Wishing you blessings and joy, too, and strength for your journey.

  • MA1960

    Telling your children, no matter what their age, before you talk to your spouse is not a good thing.

    • Mandy Walker

      I would agree in principle however I can think of some circumstances where children would know before the other spouse, such as with adult children who are supporting one parent in their decision. Also with domestic violence situations where the departure has to be secretly planned, the children could know before.

  • Jem Campbell

    This is one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have in your life and one that most put off – instead letting infidelity do the talking. When deciding to have the dreaded divorce conversation, I found the following article useful:

  • janet2321

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  • bananahead

    Be careful about how to break the news that you want a divorce, especially if you have children. My wife handed me divorce papers at a marriage counseling appointment with no prior discussion of the possibility of divorce, left minutes later, and three hours later had left town in a rage, telling me that she never wanted to see me again. She spent only 15 minutes with our college age children, one who commutes and lives with me.

    Although leaving me with the marriage counselor was thoughtful, the quick exit, the rage, and the way the news was broken to the children is not the way to go. This often sets up a hostile divorce, filled with lots of legal fees and delays by the left behind spouse. In addition, the kids were confused and angry. After four months, one has yet to talk to his mother (she hasn’t called, either), and the other last spoke to her mother 10 weeks ago. Both are still angry, and are feeling abandoned

    If you have kids, you need to break the news to them jointly, even if one of you is surprised or opposed to the divorce. The surprise and runaway approach will likely make your spouse into an enemy, leave him or her wondering if you’re nuts, and could estrange your children for many years or even for life. That will also hurt your children as they develop, whether they are age 7 or 21.

    • Mandy Walker

      As you say, this is so not the way to tell your spouse or your children you want a divorce. It makes it extremely difficult for everyone. Do you have any understanding as to why your wife felt compelled to leave in this way?