Whether or not you should let your spouse know you are thinking about divorce, depends on your individual situation and the results you expect from that confession.
You might want to ask yourself a few of these questions when trying to decide whether or not to tell your spouse your innermost thoughts about your marriage. What have you done up until now? Have you been up front and honest with your spouse about your unhappiness? Have you had discussions where you felt heard and understood regarding the important issues? Did your spouse feel heard and understood? Have you given him or her the time and opportunity to work with you to repair the relationship? Or, have you kept your feelings to yourself prior to now? Do you snipe at your partner expecting him or her to get the message? Or, do you try to manipulate your spouse into behaving the way you want him or her to behave?
Have you threatened divorce before, but nothing changed and you stayed anyway? What do you hope to accomplish by telling your partner you want a divorce? Do you want your marriage to survive, so your intention is to shock your spouse into changing his or her ways? Or, have you reached a point in your relationship, where you have already (mentally and emotionally) ended the relationship, and there is no chance for reconciliation? Are you on the fence about whether or not you want to stay or leave and you want your spouse to be the decision maker?
These are only some of the questions to consider before you tell your spouse you are thinking about divorce. You need to examine your relationship, what you have done up until now to heal it, your spouse’s temperament and the outcome you desire, to determine what is the best course of action for you.
Let’s imagine that you have already had several discussions with your spouse, about the issues that are painful and frustrating. Even though you have discussed the problems with him or her, nothing seems to change. If this is true for you, and you want to save the marriage, you may want to try a different approach. For example, if you have been trying to improve the relationship on your own, but not getting the results you desire, the next level might be to attend a couple’s retreat weekend to learn better communication skills. Or, you might want to begin seeing a therapist or coach, individually and/or as a couple. In this case, announcing you are thinking about a divorce, could do more harm than good. One approach that might be more conducive to repairing the marriage would be to say something along the lines of: “I feel that lately, our relationship has been strained. I love you very much and I want our marriage to be successful. What are your thoughts about our relationship?”
But, what if you have been clear in your communication with your spouse and you have made every effort to heal the parts of yourself that might be sabotaging the marriage, but he or she is not making any effort to work with you to improve the relationship? In that scenario, letting your spouse know you are considering a divorce, could be the wake up call that your partner needs to take you seriously. However, I want to caution you; do not tell your spouse you are thinking about a divorce, unless you are prepared to move forward with the process if nothing changes in a reasonable amount of time. If you bring up the possibility of divorce, and nothing about the relationship changes, and you do nothing, your spouse will conclude that you were bluffing. Your self-esteem will take a huge hit, and chances are good that your relationship will deteriorate even more.
It is impossible, in an article, to address all the different dynamics of each relationship or give tips that will apply to all cases. When I coach individual clients, I can be more specific and help them work through their unique situations. However, I will say this… If you decide to tell your spouse you are considering divorce, you must be ready to follow through. If your spouse says he or she does not want a divorce and is willing to work with you to repair the relationship, you are going to have to watch for actions that support that promise. If those actions don’t happen, you must be prepared to move forward with the divorce process. If you tell your husband or wife that you are considering divorce and they indicate that is what they want too, you have to be ready to move forward with the process. If you tell your spouse you are thinking about divorce and as far as you are concerned, there is no chance for reconciliation, you need to be ready for the emotional fallout and it may be necessary to leave or ask him or her to leave the marital home.
Too many couples use the threat of divorce to scare and manipulate each other. This is a destructive and harmful practice. Before you tell your spouse you are thinking about a divorce, make sure you have a plan of action to follow, once you have made that announcement.