27th Jun 2024

Wanting to Separate? Starting the Divorce Conversation

By Jo Harrison

Wanting to Separate? Starting the Divorce Conversation


Every relationship is different and any conversation about separation is highly personal. But we thought it might be helpful to flag up some aspects to think about if you are building up to discussing separation with your partner.

The most important aspect to consider is safety. In some relationships, the moment of ending a relationship is when someone is most likely to be at risk of violence. If you have any safety concerns about bringing up the issue of ending your relationship, we advise that you book an individual consultation to discuss this (making sure that the act of booking it doesn’t put you at risk). In such a consultation you are likely to think about having a practical plan to ensure that you and your children are in a safe place with access to support.

It is never going to be an easy conversation, particularly if your partner is not expecting it. Some couples find that going to relationship therapy and looking at the problems in their relationship is a way to transition into separating more smoothly because this can create more space for them to listen to how each other is feeling about the relationship, and this supports mourning the relationship.

We recommend that you think carefully about the timing of a conversation. You may feel there is never going to be a good time but we think that these are important considerations:

  • schedule a proper time, giving your partner notice that you want to talk to them – rather than springing it on them spontaneously;
  • make it a supportive time – not just before bed or just before one of you has to go off to work;
  • make sure that your children are being looked after by someone else so that you can focus on each other;
  • have a plan for afterwards.

We also recommend thinking about the tone of the conversation and thinking about how to make it a less defensive conversation. If it is a conversation where you list all the problems you’ve had with your partner, it is likely to make them defensive and this might get in the way of them being able to take on board what you are saying. This is where it can be helpful to describe the issues in the marriage between you from your own experience rather than making it into a blaming conversation. This isn’t to say you might have a lot of angry and disappointed feelings with your partner that need to be expressed somehow but in the initial conversation remember that, particularly if the news is coming as a shock to your partner, there is only going to be so much information that they can take on board.

This also links to another aspect – you might feel that you want to start talking with your partner immediately about the practicalities of separating. If you have had some time emotionally to prepare for the ending of the relationship you may feel more preoccupied with the practicalities. Your partner, however, may be processing the emotional side of things and have absolutely no bandwidth for thinking about the practicalities.

For both the person initiating the divorce and the person receiving this information, it can be really helpful to prepare for how it is going to go. We often work with people who are contemplating or thinking about divorce to give them space to prepare for this big transition in their life and to support them in thinking about how to handle it best in the relationship.

Ultimately it is not just about one conversation. The moment you tell your partner that you want a divorce may be the first time it is verbalised, but it may reflect many years of thinking about it. There will be a process, both legal and psychological, that will follow in which it will be important that you both have a support network within which to think about the implications of your separation.

If you would like to enquire about support individually in relation to preparing for a divorce, please contact the FLiP relationship support team at E: therapists@flip.co.uk 

At FLiP we take a unique approach to family law. We combine the exceptional expertise of our lawyers, mediators and arbitrators with the support of our specialist divorce consultants and relationship therapists to offer insight and understanding which is second to none.

Our in-house specialists have a depth and breadth of experience in helping individuals and couples to improve their relationships, whether they are together, separating or separated. They offer a place to reflect on relationship issues in a confidential and stigma-free way.