Many therapists run into an especially frustrating situation – when clients come to us too late: when one of the partners (more often than not it’s the wife) drops “the Divorce bomb.” And what’s regrettable is that sometimes this is the only way for someone to get their partner’s attention, to get them to recognize that the situation is very serious.
The therapists’ frustration comes from the realization that in the most cases if the couple had come for counseling about 5-10 years earlier, their marriage could have been saved.
Why does it happen, why people don’t consider counseling as a way to save relationship?
— Some people believe that fights, (wives’ nagging, husbands’ “you never listen”) are inevitable part of marriage.
— People don’t know that things can change, they don’t believe that help is possible and available.
— Many hope the problems will just go away on their own and “things will get better” (that’s probably the main one).
— Women don’t know how to express their dissatisfaction in a way that men would listen or understand.
— Men don’t take their wives complaints seriously.
— Some people tend to minimize or ignore their spouse’s feelings until hurts and resentments accumulate to the degree where it becomes impossible to overcome them.
— Many are afraid to “rock the boat” in fear that things might get even worse.
— When times are good, we tend to forget about bad times and there’s never a genuine resolution after a fight.
— Others mistakenly believe that going to counseling is a sign of weakness.
This list probably can go on and on. And you can add your own reasons why you did not get help when you needed it.
The fact is, your spouse got to the point when he or she “just can’t take it anymore.” It’s what we feel when our capacity to deal with pain and disappointment becomes overwhelming and exhausting.
So, it is really too late? The good news is that no…not always. Sometimes threat of divorce is just a way to get your attention. Nobody can predict whether your situation would fall into a category of “not always,” but in any case, there is something you can do if you want to have any chance at saving your marriage at all. This approach is very difficult to implement, as it’s almost impossible to stay rational and calm when one spouse threatens divorce. Emotions go wild and fears makes people go crazy and do and say crazy things.
But probably the only constructive action that might do some good is what renown therapist and “Divorce Busting” author Michele Weiner-Davis calls “doing a 180.” It means stopping all the negative behaviors (clinging, getting angry, pursuing, pushing, pressuring, begging, yelling, threatening, crying, etc.) and moving focus of your attention from your spouse to yourself. What can you do right now to help yourself to deal with your fears and other emotions? What can you change in your behavior to show your spouse that they are really making a mistake by walking away from something that’s so good?
I know, I know, it’s easier said than done, but this is really the only way. You need to give your spouse plenty of room, space and freedom to cool off, to see how good you are, what they would be losing and how things can really be different. You need to be able to show them that you are willing to change, willing to work things out. The only way to show this commitment is through your actions.
So, do whatever you need to do to implement this plan. Get support, hire a therapist, read books, talk to friends. If you’re successful maybe your spouse will believe that things can be different and give your relationship another chance.
Better yet – don’t get to that point in the first place! If you feel that you struggle too much with your relationship, if you feel that your spouse is “slipping away,” that your relationship is on the brink of collapse – get help! See a family therapist, put some effort into your marriage. Most probably it’s worth saving.
I wish you a loving and fulfilling relationship. If you have a story to share or advice for others – I welcome your feedback in the comments section.