If your marriage is on the brink of divorce, and your spouse wants to leave, it may be very hard for you to manage your frustration. You may feel hurt and angry.
This may be a very hard punch to your ego, but instead of lashing out, retaliating, or pleading, now is the time to “put your best foot forward,” and avoid common mistakes most people make if you want to try to preserve your marriage.
4 Common Mistakes to Avoid to Prevent Divorce
1. Don’t try to convince your partner that you should stay together
This can lead to further deterioration of your self-esteem. This puts you in a vulnerable position, possibly feeling desperate and reacting in a way that will only alienate your partner. This may cause you to lose all hope and act in ways that will push him (or her) further away. Also, avoid reminding him of good old times or telling him that you love him. He is not open to receive this from you, and you may be disappointed with a cold response.
How to proceed instead:
Accept his decision or lack of determination to work on the marriage at this time. This can help your spouse reflect, allow him to reexamine his decisions, and perhaps feel differently over time. People sometimes make drastic decisions out of anger, and when they calm down, they may feel differently and change their mind.
The best thing is to give him space that will help him make his own decisions. After all, you don’t want to feel that you had to convince him against his will to stay with you. You will not provide him the opportunity to appreciate you and reflect on why he may want to be with you. Be friendly, but not a doormat.
2. Don’t lash out in anger
It’s natural that you feel angry or hurt, but this may lead to making serious mistakes. You lose all the power when you allow your anger to take over. You may have good reasons to be angry, but lashing out at him may only reinforce his decision to leave.
We also have to remember that we contributed to the problems in the marriage. We can often be angry not only at our spouse, but sometimes we are angry because we didn’t set the right boundaries and allowed some unacceptable things to go on.
Remedies that will help you avoid acting in anger:
Focus on yourself. Now is the time to start that workout, yoga, or meditation program that you always wanted. What about your hobbies? Maybe you will rediscover old or gain some new passions. This will leave him surprised. This will not be what he expected. When he sees you in this state, he may remember the spark that originally attracted him to you.
When you calm down, reflect and look into how you contributed to the problems in the marriage. Even if he cheated on you, or did something else that is absolutely unacceptable, there must be things you could have done differently throughout the course of the marriage as well. Maybe you were too busy to give him needed attention, or maybe you were focused on your career and neglected your relationship? What he did is not your responsibility. It’s his dysfunctional way of dealing with a dysfunctional relationship, and he needs to take responsibility for it. If you accept responsibility for your part, he may regain hope and reconsider his decision. Even if he doesn’t, you are in a better space to create better relationships in the future if you reflect and understand what went wrong. And, who knows, maybe you will decide that you don’t want to continue with him.
Instead of lashing out, act friendly, but don’t pursue him. Be reasonably available and don’t distance yourself. Behave as a friend, and don’t try to sway topics on your marriage or relationship. Talk about kids, household, and daily routine.
3. Don’t force your partner to go to couples therapy
He is simply not interested. This is another way of convincing or pursuing him. You would be spinning your wheels, and his resentment would grow. This would put you in a pursuer role and waste your energy and time. At the end of counseling, you may wind up saying that therapy didn’t help. And, it wouldn’t because your partner wouldn’t be invested in it.
What he may be open to doing instead:
Instead of trying to make things work out, maybe he would be open to something called discernment counseling. Discernment counseling is a short-term process that can help both of you learn what went wrong in the marriage or a relationship. It will also help both parties decide what they want to do. A well-trained discernment counselor can help your partner feel heard and make decisions that are the best in his given situation. They can also help you be on your best behavior in order to make it possible for the marriage to work if your partner decides he is willing to give it a try.
4. Don’t stay in limbo indefinitely
You have self-respect and boundaries. There has to be a meaningful time limit to how long you will wait for him to make decisions about recommitting to the marriage. There isn’t any specific time frame; you need to make that decision for yourself. How much uncertainty can you tolerate? He must know it’s not an easy position for you, and hopefully he will be cognizant of it. By now, you have accepted responsibility for your mistakes in the marriage, and he may have done the same. If you’ve given him reasonable time to make his decision and you’ve been on your best behavior, it may be time for you to make the decision if he is not able to commit to your marriage.
How to move on when the deadline comes:
Hopefully your spouse or partner realized how important this marriage is for him, and the two of you can now start working on your marriage. This may be the time to seek help from a couples therapist.
If your spouse decides that he wants to leave, you two need to decide how to proceed legally financially, etc. Collaborative divorce or mediation may be a less painful way than litigation. It will be sad and painful for you anyhow. There are so many resources that can help you heal. There are many articles on divorce recovery that can help you find the right fit.