The thing you feared most has happened.
Your spouse sits down with you and says, “I think I might want a divorce.”
You want to make it work but this stings and you don’t know where to begin.
Now there are two ways that will feel easy but are certainly not going to help. The first is to go into defensive mode. It becomes a battle of, “she said, he said.” Who’s fault it is and who’s right? The second is to go completely passive and avoid any struggle.
Resist! And consider the third path. Of course, marriage takes two and it’s hard when one seems to have given up. Right now, you have a choice. You can be a victim, or you can make a plan and do your best.
If you’re at a loss where to begin, consider these 9 steps:
When you spouse tells you they’re on the brink of leaving, listen carefully. Our first instinct is to try to solve the problem right away. But, yet if your partner does not feel understood, they also will not feel that you care. The best and the first step must be to hold your tongue. Try to understand before being understood. Ask questions without judgment. Really get to the heart of what’s going with them. This simple act immediately disarms any conversation from turning into a fight.
Apologize. It doesn’t matter if you don’t completely agree with what your spouse had to say. Find where you can take responsibility for how they are feeling. This can be difficult but it is a necessary step. It validates their position and shows that you’re not their enemy.
If you’ve completed the first two steps, then you can do this third step. Don’t mess up the order! Express how you feel about this news. Let them know that you’re sad. Let them know if you’re feeling shocked. Let them know also what it is you want or need in a positive manner. For example, you can say that you need some time to process and get help. You can say that you want the marriage to last and that you will do everything in your effort to make it work. Show your determination.
You may feel lonelier now than ever. This is not the time to isolate yourself but to seek help. Do not find friends who will simply side by you and bad talk your spouse. Find people who are committed to seeing your marriage work as much as you. Tell them what’s going on. Tell them to keep you accountable to your plan. Tell them to be a support when you need to cheer you on.
Don’t forget yourself in this process. Make sure you’re still going out to exercise. Improve yourself. Dress well. How can you win your spouse back if you go off the deep-end? This is why you find support first and then ask them to help you prioritize your self-care. Your spouse will be able to see the difference in you.
There are at least two people you need to forgive in this situation. The first one is your spouse. By contemplating divorce, they’ve hurt you. Perhaps fights have gotten nastier. Perhaps they did something they’re feeling guilty about. If you want this marriage, you need to forgive your spouse. Secondly, forgive yourself. Unfortunately, you are not super human. So find ways to express to yourself that you are loved. When you don’t believe it, get your support to help you.
What were the main conflicts between you and your spouse? Learn to separate these two things: Things you cannot compromise on, and things that you can be more flexible with. Let your spouse know that you’re willing to be flexible on certain issues. Again, show your determination to make this work.
This is not an invitation to be a door mat. You absolutely must have strong boundaries to protect yourself from hurt. But do not return hurt to your spouse. This is the time to pour out kindness to them. Take a moment before you go home to get them something. Help clean the home without being asked. Tell them you appreciate them. Give them a hug. Even the stoniest of hearts will melt eventually.
Are any of the above too difficult or a skill you do not have? Look for professional help. Ask your spouse if they are willing to try. A good therapist will help you both get a good assessment of what needs are missing in your relationship. They would also be able to train both members on good communication skills. They can help you get into the heart of your gridlocked issues and discover ways to get around it.
These 9 steps can not guarantee you anything. But, yet by having a plan, you would have done everything in your power to turn things around. Imagine if your spouse was following the 9 steps, wouldn’t you soften up towards them? So for now, do everything you can and all the best. If you need my help feel free to read more about couples counselling or call me now at 705-300-0077.