Is It Time to Have the Break-Up Conversation with Your Spouse?

A conversation about breaking-up will be remembered forever. It is one of the most difficult discussions spouses can have. Organizing one’s thoughts and preparing emotionally are crucial steps that will set the tone for the divorce. If leaving an abusive relationship, a safety plan should be in order before the abuser is aware of the situation.

Preparing for the Discussion

It is imperative to take time and carefully reflect on the resolution. Divorce is a painful topic for most couples. Empty threats of divorce are cruel and weaken credibility. Feelings and thoughts should be expressed once an individual is calm, ready for discussion, and has rehearsed what to say. Consulting with a therapist, parents, or devoted friend may help with nerves and certainty. Once the decision for divorce is definite, it is time to determine how to announce it to one’s spouse.

Breaking The News

Announcing divorce shouldn’t be done during an argument, in a rush, or on an important day. If a couple has children the discussion should be planned for a day they aren’t home. When informing a spouse that a talk is needed, feeling comfortable and safe is important. Couples should choose to talk at home or in a neutral place. Neutral places can provide relief from worrying about a spouse’s reaction to the news. Having this conversation in person is important unless safety is a concern. Leaving a break-up note is agonizing and unjust.


Despite past marital problems, some spouses still seem astonished when confronted with divorce. When addressing divorce, an individual should prepare for his or her spouse’s reactions. Regardless of the given response, getting defensive and pulled into a fight are steps in the wrong direction. A spouse should remain calm and stay on point by abstaining from all accusations and sticking with “I-Messages.” These points will keep the conversation considerate, firm, direct, and neutral. A partner should acknowledge emotions and thank his or her spouse for listening. Offering comfort can be tempting, but sends mixed messages and gives false hope. Living situations and whether or not a spouse is leaving home should be predetermined.

Post Discussion

Both spouses need time to process divorce conversations. Next, the children should be informed about the decision. Giving news of divorce is as upsetting as receiving it, and a divorce lawyer can help couples through the difficult process.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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