When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce
May 19, 2023
One of the most gut-wrenching things that can happen in a marriage is when your spouse says they want a divorce. For you, the spouse that wants to stay in the marriage, it often comes as a complete shock and leaves you feeling angry, devastated and lost.
My husband of 34 years, John, knows exactly how those words hit because I said them to him. Really. I said, “John, I love you but I’m not in love with you and I want a divorce.” It was almost two decades ago when we were knee deep in careers and raising kids, and when I said it, I meant it. Oh, did I mean it.
How things have changed! Though I still can’t believe I said those hurtful words to the man I so dearly love today, I do remember how I felt when I said them all those years ago. My hope meter for our marriage was on zero and I thought for sure I was DONE.
But John wasn’t.
It took a number of months and many professionals before he – and ultimately, we – found the help we needed to figure out how to save our marriage and why we had almost lost it in the first place. It wasn’t easy. He had to trust the process and learn to stay focused on the one thing he could control, himself, even while I wasn’t willing to do the same.
It worked. He changed how he showed up in our marriage and as a result, my feelings began to change too. I found myself curious about the changes I was seeing in him and slowly but surely my hope meter started ticking back up. Eventually, we began working on our marriage together and healing the parts of us that had been damaged.
Today, our marriage is one of my most prized possessions, battle scars and all.
If you are reading this, and find yourself in John’s shoes with a spouse who wants out of your marriage, please don’t give up hope just yet. Just because your spouse is saying they want a divorce doesn’t always mean it’s over. It could mean they are frustrated, angry and they feel hopeless, and if this is where they are, your promises and words will not help. Your spouse needs to see action and real change. That is where we come in. There are proactive steps you can take to save your marriage, even when your spouse has one foot out the door.
I want to share four of those steps with you here.
Give Your Spouse Space
The first thing you should do when your spouse says they want a divorce is to give them some space. Yes, space. Your spouse may be feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, or just burnt out. If you smother them with ‘I love you’s’ and other signs of affection, try to initiate intimacy, or beg and plead for another chance, you will push them even farther away. Trust me on that. Desperate isn’t an attractive quality and they need to come to a decision on their own as to whether they want to stay in the marriage.
Work on Yourself
While you are giving your spouse space, start working on yourself. There will hopefully be a time in the future where your spouse is willing to do the same, but for now, it’s up to you. Change the dynamic in your marriage by focusing on yourself, the one thing you have full control over. You can decide to show up differently with your spouse. Think about the things your spouse has complained about in the past. Were there things you could work on? Did you take your spouse for granted? Did you stop doing things you used to do? When you work on yourself, it can make you a more attractive person to your spouse and, more importantly, it can build your own self-esteem.
Communication is Key
When your spouse says they want a divorce, it is essential you buy as much time as you can and keep the lines of communication open. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but it is important to listen and try to understand their point of view. Avoid arguing, yelling, or name-calling. Instead, you want to be calm, empathetic, and understanding while maintaining healthy boundaries.
Saving a marriage doesn’t happen overnight and truthfully, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. But you’d be surprised how often even the most troubled, hopeless looking relationships can do a 180 with time, effort, and the right guidance. Time is your friend when your spouse wants out. Be deliberate and work though things slowly, one step at a time. You may not have control over your spouse’s decision, but you can focus on the things you can control, like yourself and your response to the situation.
Finding the Right Help
One of the best moves John made all those years ago, was to find a trusted resource who could speak truth into his life and help him stay focused on what could work to help him save our marriage. If your spouse has said they want a divorce, you need a marriage expert who believes that a marriage can be saved even if only one spouse is putting forth the effort to save it. You need a resource who knows what works and even more importantly sometimes, can help you steer clear of what doesn’t work.
If that sounds like you, you need to work with one of our coaches who specialize in Marriage Rescue, saving a marriage when one spouse wants out. Your coach will meet with you virtually and provide you with structured guidance, tools, and resources that have helped clients coast to coast breathe new life into at-risk marriages.
If you want to try and save your marriage, you are going to need support from someone who knows how to give you the best chance at succeeding. If you’d like to learn more or are ready to schedule your first session with your coach, give us a call or schedule a free Discovery Call. Remember, you are not alone! So many have walked this same journey. Let us walk alongside you.
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The silent treatment is a pretty common response I see in couples therapy. It happens when you are so angry, disappointed, let down, and you don’t feel like you have any other way to let your partner know just how upset you really are.
A lot of the therapy work I do is helping couples and partners understand what their contributions to the relationship are, and how they can start making changes for the better, specifically with communication. Specifically, when communicating with your spouse, it’s important to make sure that you are not part of the problem, but part of the solution.
I bet many of you have already seen the recent Brene’ Brown video making the rounds where she calls out the myth of marriage being a 50/50 partnership.
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