I hear it often.
“My spouse wants a divorce, but I don’t. What can I do?”.
Are you in a marriage you want to save but your spouse is ready to call it quits?
You aren’t alone. Just before a couple separates, one partner usually gets to a place where they are fed up.
He/she is done talking.
They don’t want to work it out.
For them, it is over.
But the other partner wants to save the marriage.
They see their world falling apart and they begin to panic. For them, it is time to fight harder. But invariably, they do all the wrong things to try and save the marriage. In their panic and desperation, they cannot see how their actions are pushing their partner even further away.
It is human nature to want to pursue what you need and want. But sometimes, you have to act opposite to your instincts in order to get what you want.
There are no guarantees, and you have to remember that you cannot control the decisions your partner makes, but I’ve seen amazing things happen when one person in the marriage begins making positive changes.
Please understand and remember that these are actions YOU need to take.
What to do when your spouse wants a divorce and you don’t
1. The worst thing you can do at this point is to beg your spouse to stay.
In your panic, you may be crying and pleading for them to change their mind. You may be promising to change everything about yourself they don’t like. But this isn’t appealing. It comes across as pathetic.
It NEVER works in your favor! If your spouse says they want out, they may have been mentally preparing themselves for a long time…often years. Their response to your begging is probably going to be “too little too late” and it solidifies their resolve to end the marriage. This isn’t the time to push for marriage counseling if your partner is resistant to the idea.
However, don’t agree to leave the house if your spouse asks you. Be kind in your refusal but it gets much harder to save the marriage when one of you moves out. You can’t stop your spouse from leaving, but do not offer to be the one who moves out first.
2. Stop doing things to make it worse.
Sounds simple, but for you to really grasp this concept you have to be willing to understand what role you play in the problems your marriage is experiencing.
If you have been having affairs, STOP NOW.
If you have been critical and complaining. STOP NOW.
If you have been blowing up and losing your temper, STOP NOW.
If your response to reading this is “But what about when he/she does……” put your focus back on saving the marriage not on who is at fault. This isn’t the time to get angry and start blaming.
If you want to save your marriage, you better be prepared to focus only on how you contributed to the breakup…for now.
Remember, your spouse is done talking. You have to start changing you. It’s time to take a personal inventory of your flaws.
Since you have little control over your spouse’s behavior, your job is understand your own behavior and stop doing whatever is damaging the relationship.
3. Stop putting pressure on your spouse.
It is likely you are asking your spouse to try “one more time”. You are probably asking them to go to counseling.
If you suspect your spouse is having an affair, you may be spying or tracking their social media. Stop NOW!
If your goal is to save the marriage, you are going to have to back off all the places you are pressing.
If your goal is to stand up for yourself and set healthy boundaries, you are probably going to be divorced. I promise…there will be a time for this but it isn’t now. Your spouse is already feeling trapped. Any attempt you make to change him/her will be interpreted as “smothering”.
This isn’t the time to make any demands.
4. Understand how your behavior has affected your spouse & caused them to want a divorce
Again, I caution you to avoid blaming. It is never entirely your fault when a marriage goes wrong, but your objective isn’t to be proven right.
It is to save your marriage.
At some point, you have said or done things that have been hurtful to your spouse. It’s time to own it.
Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes as much as possible. What did they experience when you behaved the way you did? Focus on their pain and loneliness. Talk to a counselor/coach who can help you get a better understanding of your actions and their consequences.
5. If your spouse wants to work on the marriage instead of heading straight for divorce, get professional help.
This isn’t the time to stick your head in the sand and hope things will improve.
You are going to cause more damage if you make a bunch of promises to change things but don’t seek out some professional help to make sure those changes stick.
You will invariably fall back into old patterns.
Invest in counseling or coaching to help you put healthy habits in place that will keep your relationship healthy and thriving.
Even if you have tried counseling before and felt it was a waste of time, you can’t afford to give up. I know from personal experience that it works. Read my story here.
*******For Part 2 of this blog post click here.
For more free resources and info on how to get help with this situation, visit The Marriage Place. You can download a free ebook Marriage Rescue: 5 Tips for When Your Spouse Wants Out that gives a much more detailed list of what to do when your spouse wants a divorce and you don’t. Or, you can buy the full toolkit, Marriage Rescue: Tools for When Your Spouse Wants Out that will teach you exactly how to save your marriage!