The other day I got an email from a woman who wrote in part: “my husband has finally asked for a divorce.  Does this mean that my marriage is over?  I’m wondering if I should just throw in the towel and give up the fight, because frankly, I just don’t have anymore fight left in me.”  I was a bit confused as to what she really wanted the outcome to be.  The words that she was using almost indicated that she was tired of the whole thing and felt that maybe it would be the right call to just let the marriage come to a natural end.  But, when I asked her a few follow up questions, she indicated that she actually wanted the marriage to work, but she felt that she had tried everything and she was tired of just going around in circles with no real resolution.  Ultimately, I told her that since everything she had tried only made the situation worse, she was going to have to completely change tactics if she wanted to save her marriage in the face of divorce.  I’ll elaborate on this more in the following article.

His Wanting A Divorce Doesn’t Have To Mean That It’s Officially Over, But It Does Mean He’s Not Hopeful That Things Will Really Ever Change:  There are a lot of men who find my blog as they are researching divorce.  Some write to me and share their feelings.  I can tell you that the vast majority of them indicate that they are giving up because they just don’t know what else to do.  They tried everything that they could think of and lasting change really never happened.   Over time, the harsh reality has set in that this is how things are and that despite what you both may say or do, nothing really changes for the better.  Sure, there may be some temporary improvements – just enough to get everyone’s hopes up – but in the end, you both revert back to sabotaging patterns and behaviors that leave you both unfulfilled and frustrated.

Women are often surprised to learn that it’s the perception of the ability to change that they must overcome, not the fact that their husband’s don’t deep down love them or the external stressors that many blame for their divorce.  It’s often the fact that he’s just tired of muddling through and having his hopes slashed.  The repetitive going through the motions and disappointments begin to add up so much that he begins to think that he’s better off starting fresh than continuing on in the same old way.

Changing Course And Finding Something That Will Work To Save Your Marriage: You first step is to identify what you’ve been doing that hasn’t been working.  In the case of my reader, she’d tried really two tactics.  First, she tried what I call the “hard ball” tactic.  She had taken a somewhat combative stance and had insisted that her husband was pretty much wrong.  The implication was what did he really expect from a relationship that was well over a decade old?  People become busy.  Children and jobs require most of our time and energies.  You’re doing the best that you can and he should not be so selfish as to imply that you aren’t.

Of course, as you might expect, this was not met with a warm welcome by her husband.  No one wants to be told that they are wrong or selfish.  When it was clear that this wasn’t going to work, she then made a drastic change and tried what I call the drastic or desperate tactic.  She began to act in a way that hadn’t been typical telling her husband that she couldn’t live without him and begging him not to leave.  The problem with this is that her husband knew that she was insincere because during their whole relationship, she’d never been subservient before.  He didn’t buy this and it didn’t ring true.

Trying The Middle Of The Road Tactic To Save Your Marriage:  In order to succeed in saving your marriage in the long term, you need to find a solution that you can both live with and get excited about.  Remember when she said that she “didn’t have much fight left?”  Even using these words is a tip off that what she was doing was undesirable to her and certainly wasn’t giving her much pleasure or anything to look forward to.  So, in a sense, she’s beaten before she’s even started playing the game.

You have to come up with a solution that will stick and be believable over time.  I often advise people to sit their spouses down and agree that you aren’t happy either and you agree that the marriage is stale and stuck.  You can honestly see why he wants a divorce and you’re sad to see how opposite this is from how you used to interact with one another.  In fact, you’re so bothered by this, that you’d like to just try to take small baby steps and see if you can salvage the relationship, even if it does ultimately end in divorce. 

The reason that you’re moving so slowly is because if you come on too strong, you’re likely meet resistance and doubt.  You want to come off as nonthreatening as possible and to set yourself up to succeed.  He’ll likely accept that you just want to make the road before both of you easier (and the kids if you have them) since you’ll be working with each other rather than against each other.

He may resist at first, but if you show rather than tell him that genuine change can take place, he will eventually start to change the perception that is your real problem in the first place – that nothing will ever really change so he’s better off cutting his losses now.