“My Husband Wants a Divorce” Asked:
My husband asked me for a divorce. I don’t want one. I left the home, but I feel like I should fight for my marriage. What should I do?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
I am so very sorry. You must feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. My response may be tough to hear. Many others may suggest that you stay and fight for the marriage, but my professional opinion is to give him what he says he wants.
Often, spouses in this position feel that refusing and fighting is sending a message to him of your love and devotion, but it isn’t. It’s just disrespecting his wish and yourself.
Instead, ask him to go to therapy with you and get clear on what he feels the issues are in your marriage. If he refuses, just ask him for a list of the issues and take them seriously. If it is possible and realistic, you can work on changing those things and let him know you are doing that. Fighting his wishes is not likely going to give you the outcome you desire. It will just reinforce to him why he wanted the divorce.
There is a psychological phenomenon that when you move towards people who are pulling away, they pull away stronger and harder. When you move away, with open energy, they tend to move towards you.
How to “Fight” for Your Marriage
There is a place and time to fight for your marriage. It’s when two people are both committed to making the marriage work—or at the very least, no one has actively left the marriage.
When a spouse asks for a divorce, sometimes that means he is out and sometimes it means that he is hurting so much, he can’t see any other option and it’s a last-ditch effort.
The best way you can “fight” in this scenario is to not respond with bitterness, anger, resentment, etc. (It’s important to express those feelings in another way, though.) Make it known that you will respect his wishes, but that your desire is to maintain the marriage.
What’s important to understand is that what you want to fight for is not healthy—otherwise, he wouldn’t want out. What you need to focus on is health. If there is any hope in the longevity of your relationship, it hinges on whether you can recognize that your old marriage is gone and something new has to be born.
The good news is that it isn’t over ’til it’s over. I have seen marriages restored that have been separated and headed straight for divorce. This only happens when both people get really serious about fixing their own personal issues and the issues of the marriage. You can’t force him to do that, so instead, let him see you working on yourself first.
I know this is a tough time for you. I know your knee-jerk reaction is to fight against his will. Don’t do that. Fight smart by working on yourself. You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!
Check out these related articles:
5 Fresh Ways to Work on Your Marriage (When He Isn’t)
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Ask Dr. Zoe – Grieving Divorce
This Is How to Overcome Toxic Emotions After Divorce
The Best Way to Co-Parent During the Holidays
Ask Dr. Zoe – Can I Move On If I Still Love My Ex?
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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: If You Can’t Avoid Divorce, Can You Do It Honorably? With Attorney Leesha Newkirk Crouch – 059!