When your spouse wants a divorce
What do you do when your spouse wants a divorce? If there is one simple answer to this question it is this – let him/her go. Although this might really be what one’s attitude should be, there is much more to be said. Truthfully, many might be thinking when one just lets go that this means one is giving up – but it really isn’t what will be happening.
There is something important to understand when one’s partner wants to get out of the relationship. When one’s partner is fed up, frustrated or exhausted about the terrible condition of the relationship and wants to leave, the best thing to do is accept the condition of the relationship and not intimidate or coerce the person to stay. When one demands that the want-to-leave partner must stay, the chances of the partner returning to the relationship or even discussing the issues, is almost zero. On the other hand, when the hurting partner wants to leave and the other partner lets her/him go, there is a 50/50 chance that the partner will return. In fact, based on research, and my experience as a marital therapist, this is the only way the partner will even think about returning.
When I talk about leaving, I am not necessarily suggesting that the person wants to move out of the house or immediately file for divorce. The person who is so wounded, angry or confused might simply need “space” or time to think. The person may want his or partner to move out of the bedroom or he/she to sleep in another bedroom. Some may need to “get away” for a definite length of time or for an uncertain length of time. Yes, some may want a divorce. Whatever the method or reason, let him/her go.
Love is freedom. Love does not force. True love is about letting go. If you truly love your partner, then let her/him go. The more you try and hold on it will push you partner further and further away. Holding on gives the other partner the feeling of being under control by her/his partner and that is excruciating.
Psychologist, Dr. Joe Beam of Marriage Helper says if your partner wants to leave and you really want your partner to stay, do the following: take control of yourself and don’t try to take control of your spouse. You might be emotionally upset, angry or confused. Seek to understand your feelings and your motivation and determine if you really love your partner and if you really want to save the marriage. In answering he says you should be honest with yourself. And that you should seek to control your own emotions and behavior.
Dr. Bean states that people in panic mode often try to take control of the leaving spouse, begging the spouse not to leave, sending texts, calling, and literally being a pest to the leaving spouse.
Based on my experience and the research, this behavior pushes the leaving partner away for good. This kind of behavior leads your spouse to believe that you are trying to control and manipulate her/him.
One of the common ways a person tries to control his/her leaving spouse is by instigating guilt. Some so-called Christians use Bible text demanding that they must serve them. They accuse their partner of sinning if he or she leaves. To let go takes love. Love is the only attractive force when you partner wants to leave. True love let’s her/him go.
Taking control of yourself, your feelings, and your thoughts, will set the frame for what happens next. No, it will not guarantee that your spouse does not leave or will come back if he/she has already left, but it is the only way your spouse would be attracted to stay in the relationship.
If you are reading this article and your spouse wants to leave you, remember the route to your own emotional and relationship health is not to take control of your leaving spouse. You must take control of yourself.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 242-327-1980.