Sometimes You Can’t
Even though we desperately try to figure out how to avoid divorce, sometimes it’s impossible to change our spouse’s mind. We can go to counseling and talk to our friends and mentors. We can try separation and then reconciliation. (And in my case separation and reconciliation and then separation and reconciliation two more times.) All to no avail. Every time we think that our spouse has finally realized what a mistake divorce would be, we find out that they are still on a path that will definitely lead to divorce regardless of anything we say or do.
Sometimes You Shouldn’t
When our husband tells us he is not happy and wants a divorce, women usually immediately think first about “how to stop my husband from divorcing me!” We usually frantically try to save our marriage even when our husband wants out. The reality is that sometimes we shouldn’t stop divorce.
Most of us know that abuse is unacceptable in any marriage. But sadly, women often adapt to all kinds of abuse without even realizing it. We make excuses for him. We protect our kids from him. We keep trying to appease him. We walk on eggshells. We keep the abuse to ourselves. DON’T DO ANY OF THAT!
Divorce is sometimes the only way to be safe and to have a productive, good, fulfilling life if you are married to any kind of an abuser. And by the way, do not avoid divorce “because of the children!” Abuse of any kind is not only unhealthy for us, it’s also unhealthy for our kids, no matter what age they are. It’s unhealthy if they themselves are experiencing abuse. It’s also unhealthy if they see us being abused and refusing to stop it.
In cases of abuse, remember that you must be very careful about when and how you leave, if you decide to leave your marriage. Talk to someone you trust and have a plan that is safe for everyone involved. See our blog about How To Leave An Abusive Husband.
You Can’t Change Other People, Only Yourself
After all of these years of helping women through divorce, I’ve discovered that once a man goes down the “thinking about divorce” path — especially with another woman, it is very hard to turn that situation around. The more we beg and plead for him to come back home, often the more he is driven to whatever is causing the problem in the first place…another woman. Gambling. Porn. Alcohol. Whatever.
Sometimes, by the time we realize anything is wrong, they have already mentally left the marriage and there is little we can do to stop a divorce that he has already thought through.
Everything I did to try to change his mind about staying on his path that was going to lead to divorce had no effect on him whatsoever. At that point, we have to start changing ourselves and finally realizing that “I might not be able to stop a divorce I don’t want.”
How To Avoid Divorce
Every divorce is different, but every divorce is also the same in some ways. One person wants to leave the marriage. If you are reading this article, you are probably already at a critical point in your relationship. If you had known earlier that your partner wasn’t happy, maybe you could have done something about it.
Unless there is ongoing abuse, addiction or adultery, I usually always encourage women to try to save their marriage and figure out how to avoid divorce. In my own case, even though the infidelity lasted for three years, I was willing until the end to try to save our marriage and NOT get divorced. I was willing to work to save our marriage. Nothing I did to try to stop our divorce worked.
For me, it was very, very difficult to give up my dream of our good, intact, primary family we had built, and I could hardly bear the thought of the end of a marriage that we had committed so much love and time and care to for all of those years.
We can’t force someone to stay with us. The more we try to demand their love or think they should love us out of obligation, the less likely they are to want to be with us. Sometimes I think the more desperate we seem to stay married, the more our mate wants out. It’s better for them to see us happy and enthusiastic about life and our future. It’s better for us, too.
If you are trying to figure out the best way to stop divorce, marriage counseling can be helpful…or not. Often, when we get to the point where one spouse has already mentioned or threatened divorce, it is much harder to save the marriage.
Many spouses have already rationalized in their mind why they need a divorce, and are actually way down the road to a new (and they think) better life before they even say they aren’t happy.
What is infuriating is if they say, “I haven’t been happy for years!” but somehow never seemed to get around to telling us that.
Even though one partner has already made up his mind to divorce, he may go through the motions of going to counseling, but really has no intention of saving the marriage. Usually their heart is already some place else, and they made up their mind way before we even knew anything was wrong.
Some people go to counseling just to get us off of their back. Their heart isn’t in it. They have no intention of giving up their girlfriend or whatever else is causing trouble in the marriage. Some go just so they can say, “We tried counseling. It didn’t work, so we mutually decided to go our separate ways.” If both spouses aren’t fully committed to trying to fix things, all the counseling in the world won’t help. It’s still worth a try.
Work On Yourself
When divorce is being considered or even talked openly about, most of us promise our partner that we will make personal changes that could help make the marriage better for both of us. Especially during a long marriage, we may start being less attentive or less interested in giving our spouse what he or she needs. We can always do better.
But in some cases, saving the marriage is not about both of us changing little things about ourselves. It’s about really huge things like giving up alcohol or drugs or a girlfriend. I could have changed every little irritating thing about myself, and done every single thing I could to stop the divorce from happening, but if he wasn’t willing to give up his new woman, nothing would get better at all.
I encourage anyone who is on the edge of the cliff of divorce to do everything they can to make the marriage good and strong. But stopping divorce and creating a more fulfilling marriage has to be a mutual goal for both spouses.
In my experience, many men who say they want a divorce, also try to make their bad choices (a girlfriend, alcohol, drugs, porn, etc) somehow our fault. That is a coward’s way forward. We can all do things to make our marriage better, but we do not have to take responsibility for someone else’s destructive behavior.
“My ex-husband never told me that he wasn’t happy.” I hear that from women all of the time. How can we fix our marriage unless we know what’s wrong? Everyone talks about how important communication is, but hardly anyone has figured out easier ways to talk about hard things in our marriage.
It’s hard to tell someone what is bothering you about the relationship. It’s hard to tell your mate he makes you feel unloved. It’s hard for him to describe what he really needs in a relationship. For good marriages, telling the truth should be there from the beginning. If you talk honestly when the relationship is good, it’s easier to talk when things are rocky.
It’s never too late to be honest with each other and if divorce is on the horizon, you may not have another chance.
Some experts think a trial separation helps us sort things out, and I guess that can be true. But often, being apart can keep us from really facing our problems together and coming to grips with where we see our relationship going forward.
For me, after I found out about the continued relationship with another woman, I went from not wanting to see his face again to wanting him to hold me in his arms and promise to fix things.
My emotions were all over the place. In our case, the separation simply gave him a place away from me that made it easier to be with his girlfriend. Every single time we separated, he was supposed to be figuring himself out, and I was supposed to be working on forgiveness. Both things that could have helped us fix our marriage and made it better than ever.
Instead, he just kept getting deeper and deeper into the other relationship while I thought he was really trying to figure out how to stop the divorce himself. Separation didn’t work for us.
I wish I had a magic wand to save marriages. I don’t. What I do have is a practical, proven program that has helped thousands of women who tried, but could not stop, their divorce. We have a practical roadmap of divorce recovery starting from those first awful early days to a rediscovery of who you are and what you want now. Don’t try to struggle through this alone. Join us today. We’re here to help.