I often hear from spouses who are desperate to save their marriages before the divorce becomes final. Often, their spouse has filed for divorce when ending the marriage is the last thing that they want. And typically, they’re willing to try almost anything to stall, stop, or delay the divorce. They’re desperate to buy some time in order to save the marriage before it’s too late to do so.
I recently heard from a wife who said, in part: “My husband filed for divorce last month. I’m shattered over this. I don’t want to end my marriage. I still love him. I don’t want to break up our family. But, he’s going forward with the divorce even though I begged him to work with me on the marriage and to at least give us a chance. He resists me. He doesn’t listen to me. What can I do to facilitate a reconciliation before it’s too late? He doesn’t seem motivated, but I think I’m motivated enough for both of us.”
Before I could offer her any insights, I needed to know what she had been trying which had not worked. She had basically been trying to remind him how good they’d once been together and bombarding him with messages letting him know that she didn’t want the divorce. She’d taken to calling and texting him excessively, leaving notes in his car, trying to use sex to peak his interest, and making promises and claims that they both knew were repetitive. In short, she was trying to do everything that she could to show him that he could love her again and that the marriage could recover.
However, none of these things were working well. The husband had stopped taking her calls. She suspected that he was deleting her texts without reading them. And, he was pretty much avoiding her at this point. In my observation, this cycle is so very common. The more the motivated spouse tries to convince the other that they really don’t want a divorce, the more likely it is that they stoop to desperate actions. And the more the desperate actions occur, the more the spouse who has filed for divorce only wants for the whole thing to be final as soon as possible.
Your Spouse Likely Already Knows That You Don’t Want A Divorce. What They Don’t Know Is Whether Things Can Change And Improve: Here’s something that I’ve noticed. People will often stress the things that their spouse already knows. I was guilty of this as well. I think we do this because we assume that they aren’t listening. So we feel that we must speak louder and in a more dramatic way to get our point across. So, we make dramatic and impassioned speeches. We repeat ourselves. We figure if we just keep talking or writing, then hopefully, eventually, they will start to pay attention.
But the thing is, they likely already know what you’re trying to repeatedly tell them. They already know that you don’t want a divorce and they likely even realize the negative consequences of a divorce. And sometimes, your spouse begins to see all these attempts as repetitive and disrespectful. So, if you’re still trying to drive this point home, you likely don’t need to.
But what can help is to show your spouse that their perceptions may be wrong in some areas. For example, they may think that the connection between you can’t be reignited. They make think that the negative rut that you’ve fallen into will never improve or change. They may think that their life would be healthier and happier without you in it. These are the points that you need to address and place your focus upon.
Moving From Desperate To Deliberate When You’re Trying To Save Your Marriage Before The Divorce Is Final: I often advise people to do their best to objectively look at their actions to determine if they are coming off as desperate. This can be quite hard to admit. But, it’s important because desperation is rarely attractive and it rarely improves your situation. I know very well that the wife in this situation was hoping for some miracle plan that was going to make her husband suddenly see the light and ask for an almost immediate and heartfelt reconciliation.
But, the things that she was doing to encourage this were actually pushing him further away. He was being conditioned to suspect that every time they were together, he could anticipate huge dramatic behaviors and speeches. So, he limited his interactions with his wife and put his defensive walls up. And the longer this continued, the less likely it was going to be that he was receptive to his wife.
So, the first order of business was going to be to set it up so that the husband wasn’t putting up his defenses every time he saw her coming. She might sit him down and tell him that although she still didn’t want a divorce and was still hoping for a reconciliation, she was not all that comfortable with her previous behaviors and would be backing off. It might be a good idea to stress that, deep down, what she really wanted was not to lose his friendship and their relationship.
This would let him know that, in the future, he no longer needed to worry that her behaviors was going to sabotage this. This understanding is meant to lessen the tension and to eventually regain her a bit of access to her husband. Because they would never be able to reconcile if he were reluctant and defensive every time they interacted.
Facilitating A Reconciliation By Focusing On The Positive Rather Than Negative: Many people in this situation will fear that they need to solve all of their marital problems very quickly before the divorce is final. This is pretty unrealistic. Not only that, but the idea of “working” on all of your painful issues is not likely to seem all that attractive to the spouse that wants the divorce.
It’s my opinion and experience that you’ll often have more success if you downplay these negative outstanding issues – at least for right now. You want to give them something to look forward to and you want for them to move toward the new, more positive feedback. This isn’t a new concept and it’s based on basic human nature, but so many of us don’t really understand or incorporate these concepts. It wasn’t until I really understood this and I began to change my strategy that I began to see my husband change his attitude and perceptions.
Remember that you don’t want to act or appear desperate. So, while it may be very tempting to take to your home in old ratty sweats playing all of your old sad love songs, don’t. (Or at least don’t let your spouse know about it.) Every time you interact with them, you want to appear upbeat, positive, and busy. And, you want to turn the pressure level and the displays of desperation way down. This sometimes means settling for baby steps. This may mean coffee rather than dinner or just a pleasant conversation before you push for more. You have to crawl before you can walk sometimes. And, this situation is often like that.