When one spouse wants a divorce, but the other doesn't, it can lead to confusion, heartbreak, and impulsive actions. If you don't want your partner to go through with the divorce, there are a few ways to test the waters to see if there's a chance at reconciliation.
What to Do if Your Spouse Wants a Divorce
It can feel completely jarring to have your partner ask for a divorce. You may feel an intense wave of emotions that propel behaviors you may want to act on.
Understand the Situation
Before taking any action, it's best to sit with the situation. Even though this can feel agonizing, it's best to slow down and really process before making any decisions or approaching your partner. This gives you time to organize your thoughts and figure out how you want to handle the situation. Note if your partner asked for a divorce during a heated discussion, or if they asked you calmly without the presence of a triggering situation. Understanding the context of how they asked you for a divorce, coupled with your relationship history, can help you process this situation better.
Even though it may feel incredibly difficult to do so, find ways to bring your emotional energy down before speaking with your partner. Doing so can help you think and process more clearly without being influenced by your emotional reactions. Know that whatever you are feeling is valid and completely normal, but when it comes to decision making and planning on what to bring up with your partner, it's important to be in a calm space before attempting to connect. This doesn't mean you should numb out your emotions. You should absolutely take time to process your emotional experience, but try to do so in a way that does not include your partner.
Having empathy for someone who has caused you pain may feel like the last thing you want to do, but it really can help you understand their perspective. If you understand where they are coming from and they are willing to speak with you, you two can work together in finding mutually beneficial solutions. Issues and tiffs can be made significantly worse if one or both partners hears what the other person is saying, but doesn't fully understand it. Showing your partner that you understand their reasons for wanting a divorce, as well as wanting to listen and work on it together can be a great start towards reconciliation. You can say:
- "I hear what you are saying, and I want to better understand your perspective. Would you mind offering me a few examples?"
- "Thank you for telling me how you feel. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts if you are willing to speak a bit more with me."
- "I appreciate you being so candid with me and I can understand why you feel that way."
If your partner opens up to you and shares some examples or thoughts about the relationship, it's best to use active listening, acknowledge their feelings, and keep the conversation focused on their feelings and not yours. This is the time for you to show them that you can listen and understand their thoughts and feelings without it leading to a tiff or argument. Even if your partner gets heated, remain calm. If the situation becomes uncomfortable, you can see if you can pick it up at another time when you both are feeling more calm.
What Not to Do if Your Spouse Wants a Divorce
There are a few behaviors to avoid when your partner asks you for a divorce.
Don't Take the Bait
You may have fought often with your partner in the past and/or felt like you two weren't on the same page. In their mind, they may have a list of reasons as to why they think the marriage is no longer viable and fighting or bickering may be one of them. It's human nature to want to prove our thoughts and instincts right. This means that they may try to bait you into an argument to prove to themselves that you two do fight and that the divorce is the best choice. Instead of engaging in an argument:
- Stay calm and take a breath before responding to them.
- Validate their feelings or thoughts and let them know that you would like to calmly discuss this issue if they are willing to.
- Say something like "I hear what you're saying and would like to discuss this when we both feel calm if you are comfortable doing so."
Don't Radically Change Yourself
You may feel tempted to do everything in your power to change into the person you think your partner wants you to be. If you do radically change yourself to the point that you are no longer acting like your normal self and your partner decides to stay with you, this can create a lot of pressure on you to be someone you're not. You may also grow resentful of the situation and eventually burn yourself out from putting on an act. Keep in mind that there's a huge difference between changing into what you think someone else wants and becoming insightful and shifting unhealthy behaviors that benefit both you and all of your relationships.
Don't Plead to Be Acknowledged
Pleading or begging, no matter how badly you want to do so, may put you at a disadvantage and creates an unhealthy power dynamic between you and your partner. Whether you end up reconciling or not, it's best to have you both on even ground so you both can decide what's best for your relationship instead of playing mind games with each other.
Don't Blame Them
Even though it can be tempting to do so, don't bring up tense, recurring issues, and place blame on your partner. With most relationship issues, typically both partners have a hand in the relationship deterioration and your partner may not be ready to discuss their part in this with you. Blaming them for mutual issues can put an even bigger wedge between you two, when in reality creating a sense of unity and togetherness is the best thing you can do.
If Your Partner Hasn't Filed
If your partner seems to be delaying filing for divorce, they may be having doubts about going through with it. Bringing up divorce is one thing, but a whole slew of new thoughts and emotions can emerge when it becomes real. While this could mean something, keep your expectations in check, because they may still go forward with filing.
How to Save Your Marriage
If your partner has approached you about a divorce, you may be feeling a range of different emotions. Assessing the situation, remaining calm, and trying to work on rebuilding your relationship, if possible, are solid first steps to take in opening up communication again with your partner.