People put a lot of thought into a marriage proposal. They realize that a proposal is an emotional event, so they want to set the mood and get everything just right. Unfortunately, people seldom think that way when they’re on the opposite end of the situation and want to ask for a divorce. They may blurt it out in a moment of anger or in some other way that makes the discussion harder.

That’s bad. Mishandling the initial conversation with your spouse about divorce can lead to unnecessary hard feelings and make a difficult situation worse.

Just like a proposal, it’s wise to put some thought into how you broach the subject of a divorce. Here are some steps to take that can make the process easier:

1. Make sure you’re really ready for a divorce

Don’t propose a divorce if you have any doubts. If you’re still quietly hopeful that the marriage can be saved, talk to your spouse about couple’s counseling, not divorce. If you know, however, that nothing will make you want to stay in the marriage or you’ve already emotionally checked out, then it is truly time for the marriage to end.

2. Don’t offend or defend

This means that there’s no reason to go into your spouse’s failings. You don’t have to dredge up all of the past arguments or problems in order to justify your decision. Simply say something along the lines of, “I have realized that I just can’t continue being married. This isn’t working and I want us both to be happy. We just aren’t happy together.” Don’t give in to the temptation to justify or defend your decision because that only gives your spouse room to argue.

3. Focus on the future, not the past

Let your spouse know that you want to have as friendly of a divorce as possible. You want everything to be fair. The time for blaming and fighting is over, and you want your spouse to work with you to plan the divorce.

Be prepared to give your spouse some space to adjust before you start talking about the particulars of the divorce. Once your spouse has recovered a little from the shock, there will be plenty of time to discuss the division of assets, support and custody, if they apply.