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How to tell your partner you want to split up

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

It’s rare in life that uttering one sentence can alter people’s lives, but telling your partner you want to split up will do just that.

That’s not to say that a split or divorce is necessarily the wrong choice, more that it’s important that you to have tried to solve the issues involved before you make the decision.

Before you utter those words

What has brought you to this point? Why are you feeling there is no way forward? It’s important to consider the situation and relationship fully. Think about whether you have tried to communicate how you feel to your partner, and whether it’s worth trying again, perhaps with the help of a couples’ therapist.

Writing down the reasons or events that have led you to reach this crossroad can also help you gain clarity. Have life events put pressure on both of you, causing issues in the relationship? Have you both tried to work things through?

Sometimes, difficulties in life can leave people feeling that leaving their relationship is the best solution, or the only choice. Before you make that leap, however, consider if you are sure. Divorce and separation can be painful, stressful and heart-breaking, particularly if there are children involved.

If you are sure that splitting is the only option

How you approach announcing your desire to split up can have an impact on what follows- the fallout, and the potential for civility going forward, ideally avoiding lengthy court battles and custody fights.

Choose your timing and your location wisely

It’s probably wise, for example, to avoid bringing it up in the living room while the kids are in bed. It’s also advisable to sit down and break the news gently rather than shouting it at your partner during a heated row (however hard that may be). If you are attending couples’ therapy together then bringing it up in a session could be useful as the therapist can act as a kind of mediator.

Also, talk to your partner about splitting up when things are calm in the house and there are no major life events going on. It will help both of you get through the conversation and manage to cope with the split.

Be honest but sensitive

Try to remember that even if things have become bitter between you, your partner is the co-parent of your kids and someone you have loved. A split can be a devastating life event, so approach with sensitivity.

That said, don’t be drawn in to giving false hope of a reconciliation out of guilt. Even if your partner reacts with shock and sadness, it’s important to be upfront about your feelings. Leaving things in an unsure or ambiguous way will only delay the pain for both of you. If you’re sure the relationship is over, you have to be honest.

Now is not the time for plans

Even if you’ve got a plan in your head for where you both might live, or for splitting your assets or custody, now is not the time to introduce them. For example, letting slip that you’ve been looking at prices of flats now will hurt them more. Give your partner time to digest the news before you get into plans.

Think of the kids

Contrary to popular belief, divorce or separation doesn’t have to be a battle. If you can approach the split calmly and with compassion for the other person, then chances are you’re more likely to have an amicable separation. For both of you, your priority should be a split that does as little damage as possible to your children’s lives. Voicing this and discussing it can help both of you get on the same page and avoid bitter arguments down the road.

Thinking of separating? Come and chat on our friendly forum.

More on divorce and separation:

Strategies for a calm, child-centered split |

Divorce day: how to have a child-centered divorce |

Should you stay together for the kids? |

How do I co-parent with a toxic ex? |

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