When You’re Leaving: How To Break The News

Modern Law founder Billie Tarascio looks at the common emotional phases that lead to divorce in her 3-part series examining the beginnings of a life altering process.

For some people, there’s an easy thing to point to: a betrayal, an argument that got out of control or violence. For others, and that’s a lot of the people who come into my office, it’s because they were ‘done.’

The cause of divorce is the failure to solve the problem or problems that for one spouse is a “deal breaker.” Maybe the “deal breaker” isn’t something that causes you to storm out of the house the moment it occurs. In most cases, it’s a pile of issues that have become overwhelming and unmanageable.

What does it mean to be “done?”

It usually looks like this: You make your position known. You don’t get the change you need, and you find coping mechanisms. You fall out of love slowly, over time. You lose your friendship. You stop sharing things. You rely on your extended family or friends for the emotional support you are not getting from your spouse. You pester. Your spouse withdraws. You stop pestering. You find new hobbies and find new joy.

Your spouse responds by working longer hours or becoming more involved with the kids and cutting you out. You end up doing more of the housework than you think is fair. You find yourself managing your job, the kids, schedules, homework, shopping and cooking. Your spouse may be a great parent; a parent that participates and who the kids adore. Things are fine. Sort of. Kind of. Until they aren’t, and the recurring cycle rears its head again. Whatever the major “problem” is just keeps coming up.

You realize this isn’t the life you want to live. You are 10, 15, 20+ years into your marriage. Familiar patterns have become established. Your spouse isn’t changing and neither are you. You are sick of feeling like a single parent every time your significant other finds a new hobby. The two of you are at an impasse. Most of the time, your spouse thinks things are fine. Good even. Certainly fine. You do not.

Breaking The News To Your Spouse

“I think we should divorce.” Either this isn’t the first time the discussion has come up, or this is the first time you really meant it. Your spouse either lashes out or shuts down, existing in denial. You are done. You weren’t done a year ago. You weren’t done three months ago. Maybe you aren’t done and this is just one discussion in a series of discussions to see if the marriage can be saved.

But here is the deal: This isn’t the life you want. This isn’t the relationship you want your children to grow up seeing. You want your children to see you love, laugh, hold hands. You want them to know they can do better. You do not want to stay married merely because of the vows you took years ago. You get one life. One chance. Each day feels like it is slipping away.

You become desperate for a change and start to think about what it would be like to be single. You plan your contingent life as a divorced parent. Will you move in with your family or friends? Will you ask your spouse to leave? Will you share equal time with the kids? Will you need to sell the house?

This is an incredibly emotional decision. How can you really be sure? You may find enormous relief when you finally communicate what you want. No longer are you kicking around your options or agonizing over what to do. A decision has been made and now you can work on your plan of execution.

When You’re Leaving

If you are leaving, you probably do not want your spouse to be miserable. Ideally, you want your spouse to have a beautiful and fulfilling life too. You don’t want to fight. You can give all of your money to attorneys or the two of you can try to be civil and split the assets and debts and come up with a parenting plan that works for the kids.

Your primary concern is the kids. How will you tell them? Will you be able to work together for their benefit? Will your spouse tell them you are “leaving the family?” Will your spouse try to make you the villain, while playing the victim? You want to sit down and tell them together. Your spouse is angry, unpredictable and you are scared. Will you need to pack bag and leave?

NEXT: Making the move. Managing the fallout. How will you survive?