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Tips to help move your reluctant spouse towards separation and divorce

Divorce is often a result of prolonged disagreement and fundamental differences in perspective between spouses. After months or years of conflict, you may have arrived at the decision to divorce, while your spouse still wants to try to make your marriage work. Here are some tips to help you move your reluctant spouse towards separation and divorce.

Be Patient

Remember that we grieve at different paces, and perhaps you moved on much earlier than your spouse for whom the separation may have come as a shock. Unlike you, your reluctant spouse hasn’t yet planned and prepared for divorce. Gently help your spouse realize that the divorce is going to happen whether they want it or not. Sometimes, in an attempt to be nice, you may send mixed signals about wanting a divorce and give your reluctant spouse a reason to hang onto hope that the divorce won’t occur.

Address Concerns

In order to encourage your spouse to move forward, it is important to understand his or her perspective. That way, even if you do not agree with your spouse’s concerns, you can come up with a plan to address them, and move forward. Respectfully point out the dysfunction in the marriage to make them feel better about the divorce. Acknowledge that your marriage has been unhealthy for a while, and while your spouse may have grown accustomed to the dysfunction, it doesn’t mean it’s the optimal environment for either of you.

Communicate Openly

Have a frank discussion to clarify that the marriage is over, and communicate your desire for divorce clearly. Avoid filling the situation with anger and blame, which will quickly break down communication. Instead, aim to create an open and comfortable space in which you can be honest. This is especially helpful for couples for whom hostility was an issue in the relationship. It shows your willingness to change and grow; open and respectful communication also makes it more likely that you will be able to discuss what led to the separation. It is important to foster healthy communication early because even when separated, you will have to communicate, especially if children are involved.

Couples’ Counselling

Even if you have no intention of reconciling with your spouse, going to counseling together may help your spouse understand that your relationship is at an end, especially if he or she hasn’t accepted it. If you don’t want to stay married and doubt that traditional couples’ therapy can help, you may want to try Discernment Counseling for mixed-agenda couples. Discernment Counseling will support the different stages you and your spouse are at with respect to moving on and will help your spouse realize that the divorce is going to happen while still acknowledging their loss. Without coming to terms with the positive and negative aspects of the marriage, your spouse may interpret divorce as meaning they wasted years of their life, and be reluctant to let go of the marriage.

Individual Counselling

Separation and divorce are highly stressful life events, and can often lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. You may be tempted to sweep your emotions under the table while you focus on financial issues and parenting plans, but it is important to work through your distress or it will affect your life going forward. Individual counseling may be especially helpful for your spouse who is struggling to accept that your marriage is over. Reassure your spouse that they’re not alone in this process, and to seek outside sources of support. Without support, your reluctant spouse is more likely to delay the separation process and drive up legal costs.

Retain an experienced family law lawyer

When emotions become too overwhelming, it may be helpful to switch focus on more rational aspects, like planning finances. Once your spouse sees that they’re going to financially survive, it may be easier for them to move forward with divorce. Retain an experienced family law lawyer and urge your spouse to do the same. Help your spouse cope with uncertainty and fear over the future by assuring him or her that you plan to work cooperatively in separating finances and resolving parenting issues. An experienced family law lawyer can help you create a concrete and realistic separation agreement. Mediation can be an ideal option to help your reluctant spouse feel more in control over the divorce process. A reassured and empowered spouse can start to envision life after divorce and will be less fearful of letting go of the status quo.