By Joshua E. Stern, Principal and Managing Partner, Divorce and Family Law Attorney
Frequently, new clients reach out to me with the same question: how do I tell my spouse that I want a divorce?
If your spouse isn’t aware you’re unhappy with your marriage, bringing up such a big conversation can be challenging and intimidating. The most important advice I can give is to communicate openly and honestly with your spouse. If you’re not yet able to do that on your own, discernment counseling can be a good place to start.
What is discernment counseling?
Discernment counseling is a set number of sessions, normally one to five, with a counselor who specializes in couples in transition. These sessions are designed for couples who aren’t quite on the same page—if you’re leaning toward divorce and your spouse is committed to staying married, discernment counseling is likely the right place for you.
Discernment counseling, before a divorce attorney, allows you both to uncover new information about your relationship and determine if there are ways that you can improve your partnership. If separation is the right route, it can help both you and your spouse understand why. And discernment counseling often allows you (and your spouse) to identify relationship patterns you may want to adjust in future partnerships.
How is discernment counseling different from couples therapy?
Couples therapy is better suited for people who both actively want to be in their relationship. If you already know you don’t want to be in your relationship anymore, couples therapy won’t change that.
Instead, discernment counseling enables you to gain clarity about your relationship, the role you both play and how you got to the current point. Along the way, you may decide to commit to repairing your relationship or to continue with divorce. No matter the outcome, having a professional guide you and your spouse through these critical conversations can make the process a bit more approachable.
How do I ask my spouse to go to discernment counseling with me?
If you want to end your marriage and have chosen discernment counseling as the right place to start, you’re making a very compassionate choice for you, your spouse and your whole family. The initial conversation with your spouse should also be a compassionate one. As you begin the emotional counseling process and face the possibility of divorce proceedings, articulating your needs and feelings will be crucial.
I recommend sitting down with your spouse in a comfortable space and being honest about your unhappiness, and gently sharing that you’ve considered wanting to end the marriage. Because you care about your spouse and your relationship, you’d like to begin discernment counseling to explore if this is the right option for both of you.
Contact Stern Perkoski Mendez
Telling your spouse you want to get a divorce is never easy. If you’ve taken that step and are ready to speak with an attorney, our team is here to support you along the way. We encourage you to stay in touch and give us a call to set up an initial conversation.