Deciding to seek a divorce was difficult. Now, however, you’re faced with something that may feel even harder: Telling your spouse.

It’s normal to have mixed emotions about leaving your spouse and seeking a divorce even when the marriage is unhappy and you’re the one making the choice to go. You may still care very much about your spouse. You might just hate conflict. Either way, you have to start this conversation somewhere.

Here’s how to begin:

  1. Decide what you want. Don’t agree, for example, to a trial separation if you already know you really want a divorce. A lack of internal clarity can make your communications fuzzy. That, in turn, can create misunderstandings and increase your spouse’s hurt feelings later.
  2. Be considerate. Pick a time to have the discussion when it’s appropriate. You don’t, for example, want to spring this conversation on your spouse right before their birthday or on your anniversary. Try to be sensitive and compassionate about the situation.
  3. Approach the subject at a distance. Instead of saying, “I’m leaving,” try to say something like, “It doesn’t seem like either of us is very happy.” That immediately involves your spouse in the conversation and provides an opening for them to communicate.
  4. Recognize that you can’t control your spouse’s emotions. Your spouse may be sad, bitter, angry, regretful or exhibit any number of other emotions. Don’t try to manage or mitigate them.

Whenever possible, it’s important to approach your divorce the same way that you did your marriage when it began — from a position of love. That can make it much easier to negotiate a peaceful split, particularly if you have children together.