Stop That Divorce!

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic

Q

My wife has left me and has filed for divorce. Every time I try to talk to her about her actions, she becomes angrier and more adamant about the divorce. I desperately want to save our marriage but make more of a mess each time I talk to her. How can I stop pushing her away? Can you help me save my marriage?

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A

Many men and women are shocked when their mate leaves, as if this decision was made overnight. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When clinicians and pastors analyze why a mate left their marriage, they often find piles of emotional rubble in the path leading to the door.

Help is available; divorce is not the inevitable outcome. However, your first task is to step back and critically review what is happening. Let’s consider common mistakes men and women make when their mate leaves and threatens divorce:

    –Become angry. The desperate mate reacts with anger, chiding their mate in an attempt to make them come back. This only makes matters worse.
    –Beg for second or third chances. The wounded mate begs for another chance to be a better spouse. This disrespectful action puts pressure on the mate and causes them to push further away.
    –Overwhelm a mate with promises. Feeling frightened, a spouse overwhelms their mate with promises to change. Again, feeling suffocated, the spouse pushes further away.
     –Overwhelm a mate with gifts. In a desire to win their mate back, a spouse sends flowers, gifts, cards, and letters.
     –Offer shallow apologies. Unfortunately, these apologies are not thorough or deeply considered, and breed even more resentment.
     –Refuse to allow space. Fearing being alone, the desperate mate refuses to give the other mate space to reflect and consider the situation, even to the point of making counter-threats. Of course this leads to further emotional distance.
     –Use Scripture to induce guilt. With an attitude of self-righteousness, a spouse uses new insights and Scripture in an attempt to manipulate their mate back into the marriage. These actions do nothing to draw their mate back to them.

Now, back to the topic of what you can do to stop the divorce. Of course it is not entirely up to you — however, there is MUCH you can do to understand why she left, to stop irritating her, and finally, and most importantly, to win back her heart.

Do no harm. When we panic, we often make impulsive decisions that harm the situation. While difficult to do, you must slow down, step back, become reflective, and consider your best course of action. Impulsive, knee-jerk actions often cause even more harm.

Take a fearless relationship inventory. You need to take time to consider why she left. She has experienced “divorce by a thousand cuts,” and it is up to you to understand your part in each of those cuts. These insights will not likely come to you quickly or easily. Scripture tells us, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success” (Proverbs 15:22). Trusted friends and professional counselors and pastors can help us see our blind spots.

Apologize. You must take responsibility for your failures and apologize for them. This should not be done too quickly. Your wife will not be moved by a superficial apology. A changed heart, followed by a changed life, just might make an impact. Include not only an apology for what you’ve done wrong, but share with her what you plan to do differently in the future.

Change your behavior. It’s never too soon to start making changes. Don’t make the changes for her alone. It’s okay if you begin living differently even when she can’t or won’t see the changes. Begin living differently. She needs to see a godly sorrow that leads to repentance—a turning away from old behavior (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Take every opportunity to listen and respond. You will have more opportunities than you think to do good. Don’t get hung up on the need to “show her I’ve changed.” Listen more and talk less! Show that you care about what she thinks and wants.

Make corrective emotional experiences. One good action on top of another leads to momentum. One simple act of change on top of another simple act of change can have a profound impact. Don’t try to overwhelm her with huge promises that ultimately fail. Make small, corrective actions that will lead to her seeing and experiencing you differently.

Be patient. The problems that led to her leaving did not occur overnight. The solutions I’ve talked about in this article cannot be implemented overnight. They take time and your wife likely needs time to sort out what has led her to such drastic actions.

Pray for wisdom. Bathe all your actions in prayer. God promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it. You can know the next right thing to do. Follow the Lord and he will honor your choices. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

In summary, having a mate leave and threaten divorce can a most frightening experience. However, it can also be an opportunity to learn much about yourself, make necessary changes, and remake your marriage. Use this traumatic experience to draw close to the Lord and be the man God wants you to be. I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions by contacting me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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