How Not to Ask Your Spouse for a Divorce

Telling your spouse you want a divorce is always a difficult moment. Many men and women simply don’t have the guts to say it as it is and take the coward’s way out, by living their lives as if they were single.

Meanwhile, their spouses are experiencing waves of anger, pain, and resentment. Deep down I believe most spouses know what’s coming, but often fool themselves because the fall-out from separation and divorce is so devastating and often embarrassing. We’ve all heard “They looked like the perfect couple.”

Often female clients will say “Oh, we’re not going to divorce. My husband says this is just a trial separation”. Don’t believe it for a second! This is just another lousy husband who doesn’t have enough respect for his wife to tell her the truth, the whole truth.

For spouses who are desperate to hang on to their marriage, no matter what, it is cruel for their mates to pretend it’s not really over, when it is. While a phased-in separation may assuage the guilt of a spouse who is leaving, a left-behind spouse will only suffer more heartache knowing he or she has been set up, again.

In my 22 years as a divorce lawyer, I have seen the gamut of “breaking up is hard to do”.
Let me share a few of the more memorable scenarios.

Probably the worst thing you can do to a spouse is move out of the family home and take everything with you, while he or she is out-of-town. While this may be the best option in a short, abusive marriage where there are no children, it often occurs in long-term marriages where the children have left the home.

I can’t think of a crueller way to say sayonara to your husband. A person who would do this to their 30-year partner must be devoid of any human kindness or empathy.

An unusual approach is one that I personally observed having dinner with married friends. I can’t recall how the topic was broached but my friend’s husband suddenly declared that he and his wife “had a good run, but some good things come to an end”.

I, of course, thought he was joking, but this was no joke. I later learned he had convinced his wife to agree to purchase a “rental” apartment in a neighbouring town and coincidentally, the company he worked for had just transferred him to their office in that community.

What seemed obvious to me had sailed right past my friend. Yes, he was now staying in the new apartment and coming home only on weekends. She only clued in when I suggested this was odd behavior, but fully understandable based on his dinner comment.

Perhaps the most shameful “notice” was that of a small town mayor in California. At a busy city council meeting, Mayor Mario Hernandez suddenly announced to the crowd that he was having an affair with a councilwoman and explained that he was separated from his wife. He did this with his wife sitting in the first row of attendees.

When his wife attempted to speak out and deny the separation, the mayor instructed his acting chief of police to escort her out of the meeting if she spoke again.

Not surprisingly, Mayor Hernandez and his paramour quickly left the meeting together. A week later at the next San Fernando council meeting, 150 angry residents called for the mayor’s resignation. His lover, councilwoman Maribel De La Torre, wisely stayed home that night.

Divorce can bring out the best and the worst in people. Don’t forget the adage “You don’t really know who you married until you divorce them.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


3 thoughts on “How Not to Ask Your Spouse for a Divorce

  1. “Divorce can bring out the best and the worst in people. Don’t forget the adage “You don’t really know who you married until you divorce them.”

    So very true.

  2. As a former divorce mediator and child custody investigator for the Court, I have seen a few strange ones as well. The saddest ones, were where the mother sexually abuses her children, but works the system, so that the child protection authorities are investigating the father, and put him out of the house, and highly control his access (if any) to the children. Of course, he has to pay, and pay. He can never afford proper legal representation to fight the mother’s lawyer paid for by the government. The father finds it financially impossible to find a lawyer who will take on his case and provide the considerable resources to investigate thoroughly to protect the children, when the government files are already full of manipulative incidents indicating that the father is a perpetrator. However, the ones who pay the most are the children. The insight is that sexual abuse (and other kinds of abuse) of children is not gender specific.

  3. My kids found out from their aunt that my wife was divorcing me and moving four hours away, leaving them behind with me. My wife handed me the divorce filing while we were downtown, and rushed home, trying to leave before I got home. She was gone three hours after she handed me the divorce filing. We had never discussed divorce before that. And no, there was never any violence in the relationship.

    Yes, the kids were furious at her. And completely shocked.

    Even if you hate your husband, have mercy on your kids and deliver a gentler message to them, jointly with your husband. Then make sure you stay in their lives, because abandonment hurts, short-term and long-term.

    PS: Although the kids are old enough to drive, they have seen her only four times in the two years since she left, for about 3-4 days at a time. She won’t visit them, and calls once a year on their birthdays. She will take their calls, but they rarely call. She ordered me not to speak to her again, and I haven’t.

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