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Tips for having the break-up conversation with your spouse

You've made up your mind that you and your spouse need to separate. Maybe you're already separated, and you've decided it's time to begin the divorce process. You know that you'll need to be the one to take this step. Maybe your spouse wants to stay in the marriage more than you, or perhaps you're simply the more decisive of the two of you.

This is probably going to be one of the most difficult discussions either of you will ever have, and you'll both remember it forever. How do you go about having it?

First, if you've made up your mind that this is the right thing, you need to do it. Don't wait until you have your next argument and then just shout it at your spouse. They probably won't take you seriously. You need to present your thoughts in a calm, well-reasoned manner.

Before you make a plan to have the breakup conversation, consider what's going on in your spouse's life. Don't do it on their birthday, the day before a big meeting or the morning when they're taking your 16-year-old for their driving test.

Find a time when the kids won't be home and you won't have other distractions. If the two of you are already in therapy, you may want to arrange with your therapist to do it there.

Present your thoughts firmly but in a neutral manner. Don't focus on what they've done (or haven't done). Talk about how you feel and what you need.

Be prepared to let your spouse know what they can do, if anything, to try to save the marriage. If they agreed to couples' counseling or seeking help for a substance abuse issue, for example, would you reconsider? If there's nothing that would change your mind, don't give them false hope.

If you have any concerns about your safety, don't break the news when the two of you are alone, and have a plan for yourself and your children to stay safe. Abusive, violent partners and spouses are often the most dangerous in the days following a break-up.

It's wise to talk with an attorney before you take the step of telling your spouse you want to divorce. They can help you determine what you want to work toward in any agreements regarding your children, property, support and other matters.

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