Things haven’t been going great lately in your relationship, except maybe on social media. You are fighting constantly with your partner and you can’t ever seem to agree on anything. Every day seems to be an onslaught of tears and more fights. The smallest matters end up in fights or in harsh criticism and you just want to have one day without fighting. One day where you get along and can feel on the same page.
Instead, the punches keep rolling and you don’t even want to go home anymore as it seems like home is a warpath.
Suddenly, your husband asks for a divorce. You know things can get fixed, and you want them to be fixed...but how? What can you do? And….what if he doesn’t change his mind--what do you do then?
1: Find Help For You
The first step is to find help for you. A qualified therapist can help you sort out these difficult feelings, make a plan for how to handle the current situation, and give you a venting place to release those feelings of frustration and resentment before they destroy your relationship or the divorce process.
This can help you avoid factors that will propel you into a divorce faster such as:
Attention seeking behaviors (drugs, alcohol, anything to make your spouse worry)
Being excessively needy
Doing things out of spite
Pleading for them to stay
Threats to keep the kids away
Trying to buy back their love
Venting to friends and family and it getting back to your spouse
Having this weekly space can ease some of the tension. It will show your partner that you are willing to work on yourself in therapy and therefore willing to change. If he continues to stay steadfast on the divorce process, it will also give you a safe place to process your next move and the complicated feelings around divorce.
2: Listen Calmly
Research shows it generally takes the average person over two years to move from thinking about divorce to telling their spouse they want a divorce. Therefore, there are reasons behind why they are suggesting this divorce and this is probably a long-standing problem. For some, it could be loneliness, frustration, or a heat of the moment decision. As you approach your partner’s want of a divorce, move forward as calmly as possible to not rock the boat even more or make your partner stick harder to their decision to ask for a divorce.
This may require you to take deep breaths or to remind yourself that you are okay, but ask and wait for their answer. Try to conduct the conversation as calmly as possible with listening, reflecting on what they are saying, and avoiding interrupting. This isn’t a place to justify or try to fix things, first we have to start with understanding the reasons behind why they want a divorce. Be careful not to get sucked into the drama, have an over-the-top reaction, or scream at them.
This can also be a great place to ask your spouse how certain they are they want a divorce. If they say 100% this is time to proceed towards calling a lawyer. If they are less, see if they are open to couple’s counseling or continuing to work on the relationship.
3: See If They Are Open To Couples Counseling
Divorce research shows only “50-66% of people are certain they want a divorce, leaving one-third to half of the people that consult a family law attorney uncertain.”
Couples counseling can be a great way to work on communication, to re-establish the feelings of love and affection, and to begin building your relationship back better. If he is open to this, this can be a great place to start.
If he isn’t open to seeing a therapist, there are several books that are great for weekly check-ins. Try a book like this one or this one to begin to have some of those challenging conversations on a routine basis.
If you are worried that he won’t talk to you about problems or even the idea of couple’s counseling, check out our blog post on What Can I Do, My Husband Won't Talk To Me About Our Problems
4: Keep Living Your Life
The best way to recover from something catastrophic happening is to continue with your healthy routine and relationships. Continue to go to work, hang out with friends or family, and be you. You can invite your spouse to join you, but don’t be angry if they won’t go and don’t change your plans. Continue to take time for yourself and your relationships so that you have something to fall back on if the relationship ends. This can also prevent you from putting too much stress on the relationship or being needy.
5: Lawyer Up
If you stay together or decide to divorce, it is still a good idea to consult a lawyer to know your options and how to move forward with as peaceful a divorce as possible. This can help you move forward with clarity and know the cards on the table. You may want to explore with the lawyer topics such as a parenting plan, child support, spousal support, how you are dividing assets and debt.
Ultimately it takes two to tango, but only one to seek a divorce. If you have done all you can do to save your relationship and they are unwilling, it may be time to move on. It won’t be an easy thing to do, but it will be good for both of you. As we often continue relationship patterns even in new relationships this can be a great time for you to seek healing and wisdom from therapy so you don’t make the same mistakes in a new relationship. This can also be a great time to remember what you love, are passionate about, and remember the parts of “you” that you gave up to be in a “we” or have those experiences you never could because of being in a relationship.
Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.