After years of wedded bliss, you and your wife find yourselves living parallel lives under the same roof. Like ships passing in the night, you are on opposite schedules, eat dinner every night with the television, and cannot recall the last time that your wife kissed you and meant it. Although unhappy with the state of affairs, you figure that things will improve at some point.
Until all of a sudden, your wife approaches you and utters the dreaded “D” word in an emotional amalgam of resolve, fear, and uncertainty. Incredulously you stare at her as your mind goes numb. Your future flashes before you in segmented movie clips and fear overcomes you like a tidal wave crashing into the shore.
As you try to alleviate panic, your mind starts racing with questions. What happens next? Did I even realize that she was this unhappy? Do I want a divorce? Is there another option? It is important to know that aspects of this scenario are commonplace and you are not alone in this life upheaval.
What not to do when your wife wants a divorce
There are several actions, methods, and behaviors to avoid when your wife wants a divorce...
- Do not ignore or disregard your wife’s intention or feelings by assuming that she is simply overreacting or having a bad day.
- Do not minimize the situation by assuming that it will “blow over” and resolve itself on its own.
- Refrain from becoming belligerent, aggressive, confrontational, or abusive.
- Avoid threatening your wife that you will take the children, the family dog, and leave her destitute and homeless in the streets.
- Do not deny personal responsibility by placing fault and blame squarely on your wife’s shoulders.
- Stay away from insistent contact, stalking, pleading, or begging and be respectful when she requests space.
- Do not play a victim role or attempt to guilt your wife via manipulation tactics, such as threatening suicide or relapsing on drugs if she leaves you.
- Steer clear of lavishing your wife with presents and material things to make things up to her.
- Do not organize a line of friends and family members to talk to her on your behalf. If children are involved, be sure to never use them as leverage or in manipulative tactics.
What to do when your wife wants a divorce
Despite understandable feelings of helplessness, fear, and foreboding, there are several healthy and effective courses of action to take when your wife wants a divorce. It is important to maintain a level head, keep your emotions in check, and stay calm.
Think before acting, process before verbalizing, and take special care to avoid acting rashly or impulsively. Staying calm will allow for well thought out decisions and will have positive impact on an already tense home environment, especially if children are concerned.
Understand that divorce is never to be taken lightly and results in profound emotional impact. Bottling or avoiding your feelings will come at great cost to your mental and emotional well-being. Seek support in family and friends without pressure to “take a side.”
Consider contacting a religious affiliation, a professional counselor, or a support group to assist you in deciding how you want to move forward.
Option #1: Comply with her request
If you are in agreement with your wife and want to move forward with proceedings, you must create an initial action plan. First and foremost, know your legal rights in regards to property, custody, and safeguarding assets.
Seek legal counsel that is a good fit and keep in mind that legal representation will have great impact on the proceedings. For example, if you hire an aggressive lawyer with a “take no prisoner” attitude, you are priming yourself for a less than amicable divorce.
Get educated on what to expect via books, articles, or online resources. Arm yourself with financial and tax resources to assist your lawyer in fair division of financial assets. If children are involved, ensure that you are knowledgeable about custody, visitation, and parenting rights and responsibilities.
Consider how your social landscape might change pertaining to your network of shared friends. Become informed about other alternatives, such as no-fault divorce that excludes lawyers and entails mediation.
Whatever route you decide to take, be fully informed and equip yourself to ensure a fair outcome for all parties involved.
Option #2: Attempt martial repair
If you are not ready to call it quits and feel that the marriage can be saved, consider talking to your wife about delaying formal proceedings until you attend professional counseling. If open to this prospect, ask your wife if she would be willing to attend marital counseling with you. This would enable a mental health professional to act as a third party in addressing difficult and complex issues.
A marital counselor would assist you in processing marital discord, while helping you develop healthy communication patterns and coping mechanisms. If your wife rebuffs and states that you have tried martial counseling before to no avail, it is important to note that counselors need to have a trusting, therapeutic rapport with their clients for therapy to be effective.
Perhaps the previous marital counselor was not the right fit, or maybe it was not the most conducive time to be in therapy. Whatever the case, try to convince your wife that in the spirit of “leaving no stone unturned”, it would be worth seeking assistance from a professional who might be a better fit.
Simultaneously, individual therapy would help you to heighten awareness, process thoughts, and accept responsibility for your part in marital conflicts and discord. Regardless of outcome, individual therapy would provide you with a safe and supportive outlet to help you move forward.
Option #3: Resist and delay the process
Admittedly of all options, this is the least recommended route, but is provided in good faith as a valid alternative. A common misapprehension is that an individual has the option of opposing and shutting down a divorce when it is not desired.
In actuality, if only one party wants a divorce, it will inevitably occur to both parties. Divorce can be unilateral and is not required to be a joint decision. Despite this fact, a spouse can attempt to prevent and prolong proceedings during the negotiation phase.
During negotiation, you have the right to argue any points that you are not in agreement with, pertaining to things such as spousal support, custody arrangements, or division of assets.
This tactic can delay the divorce for an extensive length of time, but will result in continued litigation and legal fees. If you would like to be resistant, or to buy extra time, you can choose this option, but please be aware of the extensive emotional and financial cost.
What to do when your wife wants a divorce but you don't
It is a likely possibility that your wife will want to power forward with divorce proceedings while you would do virtually anything to stop them. Attempt to engage your wife in a conversation where she talks and you listen.
Inquire what her reasoning is for wanting a divorce and clarify the things that would need to be changed. Be humble in accepting responsibility for your role in the marital discord and explore your wife’s resentments and anger that factored into her decisions.
Apologize for your past actions or inactions and ask for an opportunity to depict change. Keep in mind that actions speak louder than words and change will not occur if anything is not done differently.
Inform your wife about intended actions to bring about change, such as counseling, switching jobs, taking more responsibility, or being more active with child care. Strengthen yourself so that you can be proud of who you are.
Most importantly, follow through and be committed to bring about permanent change in the marriage. Attempt to infuse light-hearted fun into your relationship by asking your wife out on a date. When reminiscing, encourage past memories of better times to surface.
Assist your wife in remembering why she fell in love with you in the first place. Point out that you are still the same man, despite flaws, mistakes, and events that occurred thereafter. Despite the best of intentions, your wife may not want to give you or the marriage an opportunity to improve. If this is the case, you can courteously disagree, but will ultimately have to respect her wishes.
How to change her mind about divorce?
When your wife is prompted about her logic and reasoning for divorce, it is probable that she will inform that she is no longer in love with you. While this might not be your observation or understanding, you have to respect that it is her perception and experience.
In practicality, you must disprove this argument by showing her that the love is still there. Portray that you can be a person who she can fall in love with again. The only way to change her mind about divorce is to make changes in you. Be more attentive to her needs, listen better, and accept responsibility more.
Take better care of your health, validate her concerns, and fully support her goals and dreams. This is not a feat to be accomplished in the short term, but rather will take time, effort, and commitment to substantiate.
What to say to a wife who wants a divorce
It is important to be astutely aware and mindful of your wording and discussion about divorce. If you act impulsively by saying hurtful and spiteful things, you will confirm that your wife is making the right decision to dissolve your marriage.
It is important to be open, emotionally vulnerable, and humble when speaking with your wife. Ask for her reasoning, take responsibility for your actions, and offer a sincere apology. Inquire as to what changes she needs to see to allow an opportunity for the marriage to continue. Your words will be important at this juncture, but actions are paramount.
Be honest, express your feelings, and let her know that you cannot envision a future without her in it. Depending on the finality and assuredness of your wife’s decision, your wording or conversation may have no impact on her resolution. Despite this possibility, take comfort in the fact that you will have no regrets about putting it all out on the line.
What to do when your wife wants a divorce but won't file
If your wife desires divorce, but does not follow through with filing, it will be important to have an open discussion about her reasoning. Is she unsure or having second thoughts? Is she concerned about potential custody disputes or financial battles?
These reasons have vastly different implications for potential outcomes. If her reasoning is the former rather than the latter, take advantage of her indecision by highlighting reasons to reconsider her stance.
You are by no means out of the woods, but should take solace in a glimmer of renewed hope. If your wife’s reasoning relates to the latter, assertively inform her that it is unfair to leave you and your relationship in a holding pattern. Notify her that it is emotionally unhealthy and does not allow for either of you the opportunity to move forward.
Should I move out?
One of the most common and critical mistakes men make when faced with divorce is to voluntarily move out of the family home. Often times, men perceive that it is their responsibility to be the one to vacate the premises.
Furthermore, women will often ask their husbands to provide her and the family space by temporarily residing somewhere else. The main reason to avoid this prospect is because opposing counsel can later charge you with abandoning the family.
If children are involved, leaving the home of your own accord can depict that remaining close to your children is not a priority for you.
If children are not involved and you are the primary earner, you could be required by the court to continue paying for your home in addition to your wife’s living expenses. Moreover, in certain states, a “status quo order” is implemented, meaning that you would still be obligated to pay the household bills if paying them previously.
If your spouse is a lower earner, you may also be obliged to pay temporary spousal support so she can continue her accustomed lifestyle. Finally, if you voluntarily move out, it may be increasingly difficult to return, thus making it difficult to retrieve important financial documents.
If your wife is vindictive or strategic, these important records have the potential to disappear. Bottom line, don’t move out.