Top 5 Ways NOT to Ask for a Divorce

Let’s face it, how you ask your spouse for a divorce matters. Going about it the wrong way can cost you in the long run (financially, emotionally, and in Newt Gingrich‘s case, politically), but going about it the “right” way can help to set the tone for a more collaborative — and less contentious — divorce. Getting ready to share the news? Here’s our list of the top 5 techniques to avoid, and some ideas to consider instead:

5. “—-” Silence isn’t going to start a conversation. It won’t get you a divorce, either. Some couples spend years in an unhappy marriage because neither one wants to be first to broach the subject. If this is you and your spouse, it’s time to speak up—don’t wait for your partner to do it.

4. “I want—SQUIRREL!—a divorce.” Asking for divorce is a big, scary deal. It’s tempting to choose a time and place that’s full of distractions in the hope of avoiding heavy emotional fallout. As unpleasant as it is, you need your spouse’s full attention. Don’t ask in a crowded restaurant — or any other public place — or when you’ve got a house full of guests. And, it should go without saying, make sure your children are out of sight — and earshot. Wait until you’re alone, well rested, well fed, and relatively relaxed.

3. “I hate you! I want a divorce!” If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, the divorce request may slip out in a moment of anger. It happens—but don’t let that be your “real” request. Once tempers cool, sit your spouse down and explain to him or her that you really do want to divorce. Be prepared to give specific reasons why you feel that way, so you can convince him or her that you’re not still acting in anger.

2. “i wnt 2 dvrce U.” Tweeting, e-mailing, or texting your spouse to request divorce is cowardly, and says that you don’t respect your spouse enough to ask directly. This message is a bad one to send before you head to divorce court—it decreases the likelihood of a quick, friendly, amicable settlement. Your marriage proposal wasn’t sent electronically; your divorce request shouldn’t be, either.

1. “The doctor thinks he got the whole tumor. Here’s your divorce summons.” Don’t ask your spouse for a divorce when he or she is at his or her most physically, emotionally, or mentally vulnerable. In a hospital bed after surgery? Don’t. After your spouse loses a job? Don’t. At your mother-in-law’s funeral? DON’T. Unless you want to run the risk of being labeled heartless and selfish, find a more appropriate moment.

Instead: Meet with your spouse in private. Make sure you have concrete reasons for why you want to part ways, but don’t be cruel or insensitive in expressing them. “I no longer feel romantic love for you,” or “We just can’t seem to get along living under the same roof,” is better than “You drive me crazy and I’m sick of fighting with you all the time.” Avoid making personal attacks or judgments about your spouse during the meeting. Rehearse what you intend to say before the meeting, preferably in front of a mirror. And don’t post about it on Facebook or Twitter, before or after. It can be construed as disrespectful, and as we’ve seen in the news lately, can get you into even more hot water with the courts.

Exception: If your spouse has a history of verbal or physical abuse or making threats of violence or suicide, don’t request divorce privately or in person. Either have someone else present for your protection, or have law enforcement serve divorce documents (after you’re out of harm’s way).

Alternative dispute resolution methods for divorce, such as Mediation, can often times be less expensive and less stressful. So, if a cooperative and peaceful approach is taken when asking for a divorce, all involved can benefit.