She wants a divorce! Help!

February 1, 2012

in Links to good stuff, Seeing Clearly, Series, The "D" word, Understanding Her

This is the second part in a series for men facing divorce. See parts one, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten.

Shattered heart  © Loopall |

So your bride has left, or asked you to leave, or you realise one of those is about to happen. Odds are you are shocked; you did not see it coming, and you do not understand it. Worse, it seems her mind is made up and she is not listening to anything you say. I cannot promise your marriage can be saved, but there is a good chance if you do things the right way. The problem is your natural reactions are almost certainly not the right way. Frequently a husband’s reaction makes his wife feel she has made the right choice. All to often, his attempts to save the marriage are what kills it for good.

Bottom line: Your way of thinking and doing things has you on the brink of divorce, more of the same won’t fix it.

Yesterday I asked you to read The Walk-away Wife Syndrome by Michele Weiner-Davis. This article is brilliant – well done and a perfect description of a very common cause of divorce. Michele ends with this:

Perhaps your wife is no longer open to your advances because she’s a soon-to-be walk-away wife. If so, read the posts on the messageboard. Don’t crowd her. Don’t push. Be patient. If you demonstrate you can change and she still has eyes… and a heart, you might just convince her to give your marriage another try.

I want to build on that over the next few days.

First, you need to get over your perception of your marriage, of what you have each done right and wrong and why your wife is doing what she is doing. In truth there are three versions: your perception, her perception, and reality. If your goal is to save your marriage, you must act as if her perception is accurate. I know that feels wrong, especially if you feel she has made untrue accusations or completely misunderstood your intentions. Fighting over who is right, or trying to correct her perception of you, is not going to save your marriage; on the country, those things will push her away and seal the deal on your divorce.

I know this is a major struggle for many men. Not correcting her seems like agreeing with her, and agreeing with something wrong feels like telling a lie. Even worse, I am suggesting that you act as if she is mostly right! You have a choice here, and only one choice holds any real chance of your not ending up divorced. I suggest you put away your need to correct, your need to be right, your pride, and anything else that makes you want to set the record straight. In reality these traits, or at least the over expression of these traits, are part of why you are facing the end of your marriage.

Next, you need to be clear, in a simple and non-confrontational way, that you don’t want a divorce, and you are ready to do whatever it takes to work things out. To that end, the following are bad ideas:

  • Telling her she does not have cause to divorce you.
  • Talking about what you put up with from her.
  • Saying it would be sin for her to divorce you.
  • Using the kids against her (“Think about the kids”).
  • Suggesting you will try to take the kids is beyond stupid. [If the kids are truly not safe with her, I mean real harm is very likely, you need to act in their best interest, otherwise don’t say a thing about the kids.]
  • Asking if she is seeing someone else (or outright accusing her of an affair).
  • Trying to spin the situation with mutual friends.
  • Sending anyone to “talk sense” in to her.
  • Making any kind threat, no matter how veiled or ambiguous.

Of course, some of these things may be true; that is not the point. These things are attacks, and attacks will make her defensive. You need to avoid anything condemning or confrontational, it will not help.

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Yeah, I would have said don't let the door hit hit you where the good Lord split you, and lost a lot less sleep over it. I wouldn't have been mean about it. I would simply say I would choose something different, but I can't decide for you. Either you are in this marriage, or you are out. But once you are out, you are out, period. I'd say you don't have to decide now, but once you decide, I'll honor your decision. I also would not allow a WaW or a Wayward Wife to leave with my children. If they want to leave, they are free to go. But no way would I allow the kids to leave. I would make it clear that if they were leaving, that they were leaving the whole package. To say you want to leave me doesn't mean you get to take my kids away from me. So my fight wouldn't be to convince her that she's making the wrong decision. My fight would be if she's no longer willing to do the work needed to have a good marriage, she sure isn't taking the kids with her. That is a natural consequence of the decision to end the marriage. I would not wish to deprive her of the consequences of her choices.


I don't think he's advocating lying to her. Here is my take on this having lived through the experience of an unfaithful now ex-wife. Pay close attention to the part about perceptions. Because that is key. A wayward wife who wants out is like a person possessed. They are going to see what they want to see. One is wasting their breath trying to tell them you'll change, they are making a mistake, etc. They are blinded and won't hear it. If you read up on wayward spouses, you'll find that the stories are for the most part, the same. The follow a sort of script. You'll hear something like, "I love you, but I'm not in love with you..." They will re-write history. They will lie to you. Why? They are living the fantasy life with their lover. They don't have to pay bills, take care of dirty diapers, or figure out who is going to pick up the kids at soccer and volleyball practices. They sneak off somewhere, have their tryst, and that's the extent of their relational logistics. Nothing you say can compete with that. As it was said, they won't hear it from you that it's wrong. They won't hear it from you that their relationship is built on lies and will blow up. They are "cake-eating" and you have to decide if you are going to be the better cake, or be unavailable. Having gone through this before, and trying to be a better cake, there is NO WAY I'd try it again. Zero support from my church. The pastor asked me what I did to force her to have an affair. Zero support from her family. If my wife doesn't love and respect me enough to be honest about how she's feeling long before she gets to the point of considering walking out and/or having an affair, then she's not spouse material. I've tried to win a wayward wife back before. I believe it's the right thing to do. But given the general lack of support and the typical lack of success, even using the techniques by MDW or Dr Willard Harley of, I couldn't advise any betrayed husband to try to win an unfaithful or walk-away wife back. Stay home, don't leave, don't let her take the kids. Don't make the divorce easy. But do nothing other than work on being the best husband and father you can be. The affair will eventually blow up, and if you are the better cake, she may come back. The question will be, will you want her after the emotional abuse she has perpetrated on you and the family by walking out and/or having an affair? For me, having walked this road before, the answer is no.

Take Two
Take Two

Yep, lie to her. That's the best way to save the marriage and make your marriage better.

Joel D
Joel D

Wow! I think I've used every single one of the BAD IDEAS in trying to avoid divorce. I can absolutely say NONE of them worked and only made matters worse! My marriage isn't wonderful, by any means, but we aren't talking divorce so much anymore and I think it's because I've been keeping MY MOUTH SHUT! Patience, patience, patience and love, love, love is what my wife needs, I think, and I'm trying to give it to her. What she doesn't need are THREATS and OPINIONS!

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