She wants a divorce! Help!

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 | Dreamstime.com

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 divorcebusting.com 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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13 Comments on “She wants a divorce! Help!

  1. 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!

    • I agree, just do your best in your relationship, and try to understand her feelings. Right now, since she’s still there, she’s probably at a stage where she still wants to hold on, so give her a reason, just like when you were courting make her fall in love with you again. Take her on dates, compliment her–make her truly feel as if she’s special, and i’m assured, the love you shared before will come back to life, even more vibrant. ( Just make sure you’re completely sincere, else you won’t be able to keep it up)

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

    • @Take Two – Choosing not to argue is not lying. Choosing not to engage in an argument that will only deepen her resolve to divorce is, in my mind, very wise.

      Beyond that, odds are there is more truth in any wife’s perspective than her husband can see, or admit. That does not mean she is right, or even that she is more right than he is, but it does mean arguing with her almost certainly means he will be arguing against the truth in a few places.

      As Tony said, perspective is huge here. She does not “feel” you love her, or respect her, or whatever. You do love, or respect, or whatever her. Just telling her that truth changes nothing, other than irritating her. Why does she not feel loved? Is it her? Is it you? It’s almost always a combination of the two. You can (and should) do what you can to fix your part, and then you should try to find ways to work around her part.

      Or tell her she is wrong and watch as the divorce unfolds.

      • You don’t openly advocate lying but you are clearing not advocating truth. That’s the easiest way to see a lie. Trying to see someone’s perspective is often helpful , but ultimately we are only interested in truth. Manipulating a husband by using perspective is unfair, especially since he is crushed now. We use many names for lying now: exaggerating, stretching the truth, perspective, but in the end the Bible just says it’s wrong.

        My point is now is the perfect time to give her a dose of truth and correct her, assuming she is doing something wrong. The way I see it, a husband either did something worthy of divorce or he didn’t. If she is advocating divorce without warning she is clearly doing something wrong. As for the husband, he needs to correct himself if he is wrong and if not, he should not be manipulated by how his wife feels.

        I have seen this happen at least five times in my life and mostly they followed your advice. It can be summed up as giving up your will and your life to “save the marriage”. It worked for a small period of time and then the marriage ended after the husband was destroyed. The key problem is you advocate “doing whatever it takes”. Of course this is just making marriage an idol. I only obey God with totality and he apparently is OK with divorce, whatever your view is on the restrictions. If your God is your marriage it will show in the end.

        Given your scenario, the one thing the wife needs is a good dose of truth. Obviously one needs to be careful about what you say in that situation. It is no time to be nit-picky, but if there is any chance she will get over her perspective, she needs to hear it as directly as possible (wasn’t that the purpose of yesterday’s story? Oh I forgot that was man).

        This is the only chance a man haves of saving his marriage. Sometime you can manipulate things a little longer to keep together, but the marriage has been long gone anyway. Otherwise the women learns all she has to do to destroy her man is say divorce and he runs around like dog with his tail between his legs.

        Ps. Your double standard between today’s story and yesterday’s is blatant.

        • @Take Two – First there is no double standard. In the story the WIFE said nothing, it was HIS FRIENDS who condemned him. So when I say the husband should not say anything, I am advocaitng EXACTLY what the woman in the story did. Do you think maybe her friends will see him doing everything as kindly and loving as possible and suggest to her she is wrong? Wouldn’t that be more effective than her husband doing it?

          As to truth, you seem to assume the husband knows the truth, and as such is in a place to correct his wife. I find that a presumption – a huge presumption. As I said the truth is usually some place between her perception and his, and as such he is not in a place to declare the truth. If he says one tiny thing that is indisputably wrong, she has all she needs to dismiss everything he says.

          As I said to start, a man is either focused on making sure the truth is told and believed, by everyone, or he is focused on saving his marriage. He can’t do both. When you realise he does not know the whole truth, and has no power to make anyone believe what he says, it becomes clear he can’t even accomplish that goal.

          As to anything to save the marriage, that would be anything not illegal or immoral.

          I understand thinking not stating the truth at every turn is wrong, but have you considered that Jesus did this very thing more than once? Jesus was often silent. He told people to not tell others what He had done, or to not tell them who He was. In light of that, I would suggest the standard of “yell the truth 24/7 or you are in sin” is not a biblical standard.

          As to divorce, I don’t see that God is “OK with divorce”. It happens, and it can not be prevented at times, but that does not mean He is okay with it. Jesus told us it’s now what God wants, the the OT tells us God hates it. I find that obeying God with totality includes doing what I can (short of sin) to prevent things God hates.

        • While I agree that the truth is best, would you agree that many will refuse the truth?

          I believe that’ s the overarching point here. It will take more than telling someone the truth for it to be effective.

          Where I think you are going is too many times, the WaW or the WW is shielded from the consequences of her actions. I.E. she has an affair, abandons her husband, but keeps the house, the kids, and he has to work to care for her even though she’s moved another man into the marital home.

          The current legal situation, with no fault divorce and the presumption that women are better parents doesn’t allow the truth regarding most divorces to weigh upon the ones choosing to betray and divorce their spouses.

          So while I agree that the abandoned and/or betrayed husband probably cannot deliver the truth, we as a body of believers should endeavor to change things such that the truth is ultimately delivered to those who abandoned their vows and their spouses.

          I think that would be the most effective means of delivering the truth you believe needs to be delivered.

          But until we are ready to fire pastors such as my former pastor who asked what I did to force my ex-wife to have an affair, (blame the victim) and remind folks that all parties in an affair are sinners, regardless their marital status (we have this false notion that more men are in affairs than women, while the truth is both man and women are equally represented since men typically have affairs with women and women with men) we will not get anywhere.

          So I see both what the GH is saying and what you are saying.

          The ladies of the church need to come along side the WW or WaW and find out what’s going on with her. They need to speak out against their sisters who by and large are the majority of those choosing to end marriages. They need to call for their pastors to hold them accountable. They need to call for the Matthew 18 process to be used in churches when folks in sin such as affairs or abandoning your spouse are brought under church discipline. Not for the purpose of making them feel guilty, but for the purpose of restoring them to the body of believers.

          So I do agree, as a church body, we need to do so much more. But I don’t agree that the betrayed husband will be the one who is effective in delivering the message.

          But given my experience, the church will not step up, or worse, assume the woman is justified in leaving and/or having her affair.

          • @Tony – I like that you don’t dump this on church leaders, but on those who hire and keep leaders who don’t do what should be done. It’s a problem of the whole church, not just pastors and other leaders.

            I think it also goes way beyond not dealing with the big blatant sins. We have the whole “right to privacy” thing going on, and that means not dealing with marriages that have clear problems. We ignore unloving behaviour, sexual refusal, putting work or kids ahead of spouse, and on and on. Either we get serious about caring for marriages or we don’t.

  3. 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 http://www.marriagebulders.com, 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.

    • @Tony – I bet if you knew then what you know now you would have done some things differently early on?

      Too often the first reaction is the last thing the wife ever pays attention to. Do that wrong, and nothing after that matters.

  4. 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.

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