Whether it seems out of the blue or you had sensed it coming, it can be scary to hear your spouse say, “I want a divorce.” You may be prepared to do anything to save the marriage, including therapy. But your spouse may be saying, “I’m done.”
If you truly want to avoid divorce, you must demonstrate that you are capable of real change. Think deeply about what has gotten you both to this place. What behaviors are you willing to change to make your marriage work? Think about what your spouse has probably been complaining about for a very long time. What have you been remiss in hearing?
It may seem unfair that you have to do all the changing. But when your spouse has hit their limit and you’re the one who wants to make it work, you will need to make the first moves toward real change. But remember, it’s not over ’til it’s over. Even spouses who say they want to divorce may be somewhat ambivalent about that decision. That means there may be hope.
Research has shown it takes the average person more than two years to go from thinking about divorce to actually telling their spouse they want one.
Meaning this was probably not a snap decision or something your husband took lightly. So unless your spouse is willing to go to marriage counseling or discernment counseling, or engage in marital mediation to try and repair your relationship, there’s not much you can do to stop a divorce process from happening. Because when your spouse tells you he/she wants a divorce, it means you’ll both be getting a divorce.
He/she is well within his/her rights to get a lawyer, go to court and file for divorce. Starting the whole ugly litigated attorney-driven divorce process.
You’ll then have no choice but to go out and get your own lawyer, and off to battle you’ll go. Putting your kids squarely in the cross hairs of what will most certainly be a disastrous situation. But as a parent, is that really the best move for you and your kids?
What to Do When your Spouse Wants a Divorce
Try these proactive steps to repair your rift and encourage your partner to change their mind about divorce. Ultimately, the goal is not only to avoid divorce but to improve the health of your relationship.
• Act as though you will move forward with confidence. Commit to doing this regardless of whether or not your spouse stays with you.
• Allow your spouse to come to you with questions or concerns. Sincerely let your partner know that you want to save the marriage, and then be patient about any discussions on the topic. During any discussions, be an active and engaged listener.
• Be your best self. This is not the time to fall apart, go into a rage, or get vengeful. Muster up the best attitude you can.
• Behave respectfully toward your spouse. Have self-respect as well.
• Don’t engage in arguments. Don’t take the bait if your spouse tries to get you to argue. You may even have to walk away. (If your spouse claims that you “always walk away,” state that you would be happy to stay and have a civil conversation. Then do it.)
• Get help. Read self-help or self-improvement books or see a marriage counselor.
• Give your spouse some space. Don’t question them about their whereabouts or schedule.
• Keep busy. Continue your day-to-day activities, and maybe even add some new ones: Go out with friends, family, and your children. Visit a place of worship, try a new hobby, and get some exercise. Continue living, despite what happens with your marriage. You may invite your spouse to join you, but don’t react negatively if they decline. Don’t change your intended plans.
• Keep up with your appearance. You may feel very down and bad about yourself, but ignoring basic hygiene can further impact your mental health.
• Let your spouse see you as content. Your mood will be fluctuating, but find an outlet for difficult feelings that isn’t your spouse. Often, a therapist or counselor can provide a safe space to process your feelings.
How to Handle Next Steps
You might be wondering the best way to proceed. There are a few immediate steps you could consider if you and your spouse have discussed getting a divorce.
Try relationship/couples therapy: See if your spouse might be open to going to couples counseling with you to identify and work on the issues in your relationship. Therapy, both as a couple and as individuals, could help you understand if there’s a way to move forward together and reconcile what’s causing a rift.
Consult a lawyer: Even if you hope to reconcile, it may still be a good idea to speak to a lawyer to see what implications of a divorce could mean for you from a legal perspective.
Going through or considering a divorce can be emotionally distressing. In order to stay mentally strong, remember to practice self-care and reach out for support. You may also consider seeing a therapist on your own or joining a support group.
Making positive changes, regardless of whether your marriage ultimately works out or not, is always a good idea. Chances are there are some behaviors or traits you have that would be problematic in most relationships. Working through them will help improve your ability to connect and communicate with a romantic partner (whether it be your current spouse or someone new).
What to do When Husband Wants Divorce: For stay at home moms
If you’re a stay at home mom and your husband wants a divorce, the choices you make before you start the process are critical.
But you can only make smart choices if you take the time to get ready for divorce by getting educated and preparing for divorce first.
Do Not Cling
Nearly everyone tries it, but hardly anyone succeeds. Trying to keep the person you love from leaving you by pleading, begging, arguing, demanding, apologizing, or manipulating typically fails terribly. Some throw thousands of words at the other in person, by text, email, and sometimes through other people. They tell the other that they are sorry, that they forgive, that they will change, that no one could ever love them as they do, that they are destroying their children, or any other thing that they think will stop the other from leaving. Others cry, not only in pain but also because they hope to evoke compassion. One woman said, “I followed him to his car and banged my head on our concrete driveway until blood flowed like a river. And he STILL left!” Some get sick or “accidentally” hurt themselves, hoping that will trigger a rekindling of the love lost deep within the departing spouse. Rather than drawing the departing person back, clinging behaviors usually propel them away faster. There are several reasons that it does. One is that no one who clings, begs, or whines is attractive in any sense of the word. Another is that clinging behavior implies that you will take the other back no matter what they do, thus removing any reason for them to stop their abandonment.
Do Not Collapse
Rather than clinging – or, more often, after finally giving up on clinging – some people provide the departing spouse permission to do whatever they wish. Some ignore or tolerate inappropriate behaviors. Others agree to separation or terminating joint accounts. Typically, they yield because they think that if they do not, the departing spouse will become angry and things will become worse. In actuality, they very likely are easing the departing mate’s transition into divorce.
Often departing spouses demonstrate anger and frustration if their mates do anything that deters their departure. They use their anger to manipulate with threats such as, “If you don’t go along with me, I’ll make things very hard on you…I’ll fight to take the children…my lawyer will take you to the cleaners…I’ll tell people you care about that…” In response to threats, tantrums, and manipulations, often a person gives in. They rationalize that it will make things better. The truth is just the opposite. Giving in typically leads to the same results as giving up.
Do Not Control
If you try to keep your marriage together by demanding, dominating, or dictating, you will fail.
No one wants to be controlled.
If a major reason your spouse wants out of your marriage is that you have exhibited controlling behaviors, this is your wakeup call. Stop now and demonstrate that you will treat her with utmost respect and equality. Quit forcing your opinions. Quit the habit of haranguing until your mate yields to your point of view. Never again, tell your spouse what he/she feels…or should feel. Allow your partner to be, think, and feel even when you do not like it.
If you think (or know) that your mate is unfaithful, tracking or following will backfire when you are caught. Clinging causes the other person to pull away, collapsing helps them leave faster, and controlling disgusts them with you. None of these helps your cause if you wish to save your marriage.
What will help?
Do Be Patient
Patience buys time. No matter how difficult, take life one day at a time. Make decisions one by one. Overcome obstacles separately. Start with matters you can do something about. Patiently work out how to deal with situations or problems that seem overwhelming. Take time to seek wise counsel.
If your spouse seems in a hurry to move toward dissolving your marriage, do not join the race. Time is on your side. If your mate is involved with someone else, enough time will begin to erode the intensity of the emotions in that illicit relationship. If your spouse is dissatisfied with the way life has been with you, enough time provides you the opportunity to demonstrate changes you are willing to make.
When you feel you may do something rash through anger, pain, or frustration, ask yourself, “If I do this, how will I feel about it in ten days? Ten months? Ten years?” Do not sacrifice your long-term future for a short-term emotion.
For every action you make, your spouse will have a reaction. Positive actions instigate positive reactions. Positive actions provide a possible future for your marriage.
Ask a Trusted Third Party
Do you know someone that your departing spouse holds in high esteem? If so, ask that person to intervene in your marriage. It may be a pastor, a friend, her parent, or even one or more of your children (if mature). Ask the person(s) to spend time with your mate, to listen to her, and to do everything possible to influence her to agree to marriage counseling or our intensive marriage weekend workshop. Our experience is that often a spouse who absolutely refuses counseling or a workshop when asked by a spouse will agree, if reluctantly, when urged by a third party that they deeply care for.
If your spouse agrees reluctantly, do not become frustrated and refuse because of his lack of desire. Rather than being upset that your mate does not desire to save your marriage, rejoice that he is willing to go to counseling or a workshop in spite of his desire to end the marriage. Over the past twenty years, I have seen marriage after marriage salvaged when a couple came for help though only one spouse wanted to save the marriage.
Provide a Perk
If you want to try marriage counseling or attend a marriage intensive workshop, you may be able to convince your reluctant spouse to attend by offering something if she does. Many times for example, people have said that the only reason they came was that their spouse offered some concession in their pending divorce in return for their coming. Almost universally, it is heard from a person who during a workshop concluded that he wanted to stay in his marriage. “I didn’t want to be here. She said if I came, she’d agree to BLANK when we divorced. I’m glad I came. I see how we can work this out.”
If you offer a concession, make sure it is one that you are willing to give. Do not withdraw it after your spouse keeps her end of the bargain. Offer it only if you are willing to give it in exchange for a strong opportunity to salvage your marriage.
Do Prove You Have Changed
Rather than focusing only on the faults of your spouse, admit your own weaknesses. When you begin working on improving yourself in those areas, you benefit yourself. You also make strides toward salvaging your marriage.
Whether your spouse notices and affirms the changes, ignores them, or scorns your efforts, keep on growing in those areas. Even if your marriage ends, you become a better person. However, those changes in your behaviors may well influence your spouse in very positive ways though at first they may appear to have the opposite effect. Keep on, no matter how she reacts.
It takes strength to work at saving a marriage when your spouse wants to leave. Stay strong. Find a support system of people who will encourage you and who will be optimistic about the possibility of reconciliation.
Focus on taking care of yourself. Exercise. Eat as you should. Start a new hobby to keep your mind from obsessing on your troubles. Get involved in your church. Get individual counseling. Whether your marriage makes it or not, you need to provide for yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Actually, as you do, you also do the things that have the strongest likelihood of causing your spouse to realize what he will lose if the marriage ends. While no one can make another’s decisions, my experience with thousands of couples leads me to believe that if you follow these suggestions, you have a greater chance of salvaging your marriage. Of course, each situation is unique. Therefore, feel free to contact us to ask questions about your circumstances, if you wish.
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