Did you know that only 50-66% of people who say they want a divorce are certain of their decision? That leaves one-third to half of the people that consult a family law attorney uncertain of their choice. As a relationship counselor, I’ve learned that marriage isn’t over until it’s over.
We assume that a marriage is over once someone enters the legal process of divorce, but many people consult a divorce attorney when they are considering their options. And then other married couples cancel their divorce after they’ve filed. Deciding to divorce is such a hard decision that having mixed feelings, or ambivalence, about getting divorced is more common than you think.
When your spouse says they are done, are unhappy, or they want a divorce, it can be hard to know if your spouse is really done or more frustrated at that moment. So, if your spouse says he or she wants a divorce in the middle of a fight, then first let each of you calm down. Follow up by asking whether your spouse is 100% certain they want a divorce or less than 100% certain. This will give you an idea of whether future reconciliation is an option or not.
And, if your spouse says they aren’t 100% sure they want a divorce, then how do you open up the chance for reconciliation and marriage repair? I think it starts with bringing your best self to the relationship.
• Don’t over focus on trying to read your spouse: After asking once whether or not your spouse is 100% certain of their decision, try not to over-focus on ‘reading’ your spouse. It’s common to try to read spouse’s behavior or mind so that you know where you stand. But this will literally drive you nuts because the only thing you know is what you think.
• Don’t pursue or withdraw: People deal with anxiety and stress differently. Some pursue, plead, beg, question, and try to pull out the response they are looking for so they can calm down. While others avoid in attempt to calm themselves. While it’s natural to do either of these when you are worried about your marriage ending, find ways to manage your anxiety that don’t involve these postures.
• Make contact without pressure: Instead of pressing on your spouse to give your marriage another try make contact without pressure. Resist the urge to talk about your relationship each time you talk to your spouse. And when you do talk about your relationship, let your spouse know what you are learning and what you want, while also allowing them time to get clear on what they want for the future of your marriage.
• Work on yourself more than your spouse: Find ways to soothe yourself that don’t depend on your spouse’s behavior. Some find comfort in spending time with friends and family while avoiding the temptation to get them on your side. Others find comfort in spiritual practices and/or working on personal goals. Think about what you’d like to do if you weren’t focusing all your energy on getting your spouse back, then make steps to start doing what you enjoy even if you don’t feel like it yet.
• Consider working with a counselor: Making sense of what happened to get your marriage to this point is the key to either your divorce recovery or your marriage reconciling. Focus on your part and your choices. Counseling options to consider are: relationship counseling for one, discernment counseling for both, or even divorce counseling (if your spouse is 100% certain).
You are trying to cope with a lot right now, and worrying about how you will get through this time. It’s ok to reach out and ask for help when the one person you’d usually lean on can’t be there for you right now.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a resident of Lee’s Summit, MO. She offers marriage counseling for one at 816-373-6761 ext 2, where she helps men and women discern if their marriage can change. She also offers divorce recovery counseling for men and women trying to cope and rebuild their lives. Schedule your free 15-minute phone consult with Marci at https://marcipayne.com.