As a Marriage Counselor in Denver, CO I get a lot of calls from people saying that their spouse wants a divorce and they would like to save their marriage. But they question whether or not they should even be calling a therapist since their spouse is so adamant on wanting a divorce. They also wonder if they’re too late to try counseling and to try to save their marriage.
In just about every case, the spouse who wants to save their marriage feels helpless because their spouse has already made up their mind their mind that they want a divorce. They wonder if there is anything they can do now. And how can you show them that you will do what it takes to save the marriage?
What to Do If Your Spouse Wants a Divorce But You Want to Try Counseling
The first thing to do if your spouse wants a divorce but you don’t is to take an honest assessment and ask yourself why you want to save the marriage. After all, if your spouse has been unhappy for so long in the relationship there has to be difficulties that are just making it unbearable. Ask yourself why you want to stay in a relationship with so many difficulties? Why do you want to stay with a spouse who is so unhappy?
As you’re considering why you want to stay in the relationship try to decide if you fit into one of these two categories: 1) because you need the marriage, or 2) because you want a better life for you and your spouse. The reason to decide which category you fit into is because it helps you realize whether your relationship is salvageable. If you’re trying to save your marriage because you need the marriage, your attempts to save the marriage probably won’t work. If you want to make sure to increase your chances, you need to work to get yourself to the second category. Here’s more about the categories so you can decide which one you fit in to.
You Want to Save The Marriage Because You Need the Marriage
After so many years of marriage life becomes comfortable. It’s predictable. You can reasonably predict what tomorrow is going to look like. You can reasonably predict what the next five years are going to look like. And you know within reason what your life is going to look between now and five years from now. Having this kind of predictably feels safe. And people need this kind of safety – including you.
When you get divorced, on the other hand, your life becomes less predictable. You don’t know what your life will look like in five years. Will you be dating? Will you be remarried? Will you have stepchildren who don’t like you? What will your holidays look like? Will you be able to pay all your bills if you have to pay alimony and child support?
divorce is scary for anyone to think about. So a lot of times people want to stay married simply for the reliability and predictability of maintaining their current married lifestyle. But if this your reason for staying married, then you want to stay married for your own needs than for your spouse’s needs. You are the one who’s afraid. You feel uncertain. You want to save the marriage because of your own insecurities not because you want a better life for you and your spouse. In other words, you need the marriage.
This is not a good reason to want to save your marriage. Marriage is not about one single person’s needs. It’s about both partners trying to meet each others’ needs. And to top it off, if you need the relationship that badly, you’re likely willing to bend over backwards to save it. And you may have to. But that’s not fair to you. And that’s not a healthy relationship.
You Want to Save The Marriage Because You Want a Better Life For You and Your Spouse
When you want to save your marriage because you want a better life for you and your spouse then the possibility of saving the marriage is much more likely. Your actions naturally show that you’re willing to address the problems that needs to be addressed which caused unhappiness in the first place. It also shows your spouse that you are being caring and considerate of them – not just you. This shows your care and love for them which they may not have felt in a while.
If you want to save your marriage because you want a better life for you and your spouse, your relationship will make the necessary changes to satisfy both of you. When a spouse comes in desperate to save their marriage because of their own insecurity and fear, they often make desperate concessions they later regret. And years later they’re back in an unhappy marriage. But if you want to save your marriage to create a better life for you and your spouse you’ll acknowledge difficulties that you both need to fix. You’ll be assertive when you need to be assertive and concede when you need to concede. And this is the making of a great relationship.
You can’t Keep Your Spouse From Wanting a Divorce
If your spouse wants a divorce, there are no magic buttons you can push or levers to pull that will change their mind. You can beg and plead and you’ll probably just annoy them more. But if you take a step back, take an honest look at yourself and try to fix the real issues in the marriage in order to make your marriage better, you have a better chance of saving your relationship and ending up happier for it. This means you fix the things about you that you need to fix. Then, if your spouse still wants a divorce, you’re in a great place for it. You’ve done a lot of self-improvement and you’ve learned more about what it takes to make a happy marriage. And you have no idea how helpful this will be to you the next time around.