Many spouses ignore for years the alarms of discontent that their partner has been ringing. None of the complaints sounded like they might end up being causes for divorce. When their spouse “suddenly” announces that he or she is moving out, wants to end the marriage, or even has filed already for divorce, the ground below shakes like an earthquake. Is there any way, at that last-ditch point, to stop a divorce?
Ted announced on Friday to his wife Maria (names changed for confidentiality) that he wanted a divorce. Maria was shocked. She had no idea that her husband had been so unhappy. Yes, he had complained of this and that, but don’t all husbands complain? By Monday morning however Maria had made a decision. She would do all she could to stop the divorce. Here’s the 7 strong steps that she and I (the therapist she went to for help) mapped out together for her.
1. Prepare for action
If you are serious about wanting to stop a divorce, as soon as possiblex, soothe the panic, skip the moping, and make an action plan. The steps below will guide you to a strong start.
2. Smother the urge to play victim
“How could you do this to me?” may express how you feel, but it’s likely to be a loser strategy for regaining your spouse’s affection. Guilting your partner into returning will just win back, if it wins anything, a depressed “I hate being here again” spouse. Not a good way to stop a divorce.
To skip the “poor me,” flip to “proud me.” Remind yourself of the positive qualities you can bring to a marriage, and figure out how to show them in their full colors. Pretty soon you’ll start believing in yourself more, and then
Notice that I said “show,” not “show and tell.” Let your actions speak louder than words. Save your words for appreciation of him, not for comments about yourself. Flattery will get you everywhere. Self-praise is a turn-off.
Speaking of appreciation, strong people give out lots of positivity. Smile at your almost-ex. Laugh at the almost-ex’s jokes. Express affection. Share your gratitude for good things your spouse has done.
3. Clarify what you need to change
Make a list of all the negative comments that your spouse has made to you that now, with hindsight, you can see were attempts to stop a divorce. List all the complaints, criticisms and angry comments you can recall that you probably see now were about causes for the current divorce attempt.
Check out the list with your almost-ex. Be sure you left no criticisms out. At the same time, keep your tone strong, as if you are just checking the list you are bringing to the grocery store. “No big deal; I’m just beings certain my list is complete.” No victim and no groveling either.
Once you have your list, think back to your family of origin. From your Mom? Your Dad? An older sibling?
The more effectively you can identify where in growing up you might have learned that mistake, the more effectively you will be able to let go of the mistake and replace that habit with a far better one.
Then map a plan of action for fixing each and every item on your list.
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