Divorce is something none of us really want. We want a relationship that is fulfilling, sustainable, and fun. You want a stable place for your children to grow; a household built on a foundation of love, not resentment. A divorce means life will be tipped upside down, and everything will need to be changed. Your sense of normalcy, your home, and your stress level will be in a state of disarray and the pain will feel insurmountable. Worst of all, the partner you promised to love forever will no longer be present in your life, leaving you feeling lost and alone. You likely have a lot running through your mind right now, and that is normal. In this article, we will explore various ideas and methods you can use to avoid a divorce you do not want.
Work on Yourself
Get Yourself Together
Acting sad and desperate is not going to help anything. It may seem tempting to cry in front of your partner, showing them the hurt you feel from their desire to divorce. It is important that you do the opposite and get your emotions in check. This begins the salvage effort off on the right foot. It’s going to seem hard to avoid acting this way, as you likely feel that a rug has been pulled out from under you, and you’re struggling to get back up. Do activities that keep your mind active and away from those negative thoughts. Housework, yoga, exercise, or walking are some ideas you can use to keep yourself looking forward, not backward. Find a hobby you like and use it to your advantage.
Secondly, you must avoid sulking and feeling sorry for yourself. Once again, it is tempting to hide away, crying quietly in hopes that your partner will come looking for you. However, a 180-degree change has to take place-flip your behavior. This is not going to be an easy process by any means, but the idea here is to “fake it till you make it.” Stay positive. As you start your day, give yourself a positive affirmation: “I am a good employee. I am a good parent. I am a good partner.” Then, put it into practice. Remind yourself of the good you bring to your work relationships, family relationships, and the one you have with your spouse. Act this way, and you will soon believe it. At first, it’s going to feel rather ridiculous, but you will get used to it. And the more you believe it, others will too. Be kind to your spouse. You don’t have to go overboard, but simple gestures like laying their car keys out or leaving a cup of coffee on the counter for them can show you care.
Finally, do not crack under pressure. As you encounter your spouse, their reactions to your kindness and positivity may not pay off at first. Do not give in and break down. Avoid getting into your own head with what you think they may be feeling. Stay positive, and remember, they are probably just as nervous as you are.
Make the Changes Clear
Identify the Issues
You must identify the problem so that you can take steps to solve it. You can approach this in the best way possible by simply sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen, listing off any negative comments your spouse made about your marriage or situations with home and family life. Perhaps you disagreed on how holidays should be handled, or there was a child-rearing decision made that just didn’t go over well.
Talk It Out
Once the list is made, sit down and talk it over. Be firm, but polite, as you approach these issues. Stay strong, and do not play a victim here. The purpose is to lay out everything on the table in a neutral way. After you’ve said your pieces, think long and hard about what caused you to reach this. Did something happen in your past that did not get resolved? For example, did your parents argue a lot or divorce? Examine the impact that events like these have had on your own relationship and seek appropriate guidance.
Find a Way to Fix It
After identifying the issues, now is the time to begin talking to your spouse about the actual things that led to the resentment that he or she feels right now. What did the other person do that led you to feel this way? Moreover, what behaviors do they embody that leads to these actions? How did it make the other person feel? What can you and your spouse do differently to ensure that it doesn’t continue? What do you need from one another to ensure that this can be corrected?
Each person should focus on their own issues and their resolution. The goal here is not to pick each other apart, but to move forward and get by what happened in the past.
Improve Your Skill Set
Skills for a Healthy Relationship
There are certain skills you can adopt in your daily life to improve your relationship. They have been adapted from the ideas of Susan Heitler, PhD. They are as follows:
- Cooperative Dialogue
- Making Win Win Decisions
- Not Letting Anger Win
- Radiating Positivity for One Another
Cooperative Dialogue is where the tone of conversation stays positive. Both sides communicate as friends and teammates. You take turns talking and sharing information. You do not talk over one another, and you are a good, active listener when you’re not speaking.
Win Win Decisions
To begin making win-win decisions, you start by noting when there is a conflict. After the conflict is identified, you should then address the concerns each party has. After that, you address the concerns one by one, instead of trying to find a blanket solution for the whole problem.
Do Not Let Anger Win
Realizing that anger is nothing more than brain chemicals at work is a powerful thing. Knowing this, you can stop and evaluate the situation before you react in a harmful way. Do not let one impulsive outburst ruin the good image you’re trying to create.
Focus on the Good
Lastly, focus on the good about your partner. Radiate positivity to one another. Do not pick each other apart over even the smallest things. Zero in on the good parts and from there, positivity can grow.
Some people considering divorce may have physically separated, or the contact may be limited despite living under the same roof. Here, we offer some tips to help you make contact again.
Give Them Space
Start by giving your partner the space they need. Acting clingy or desperate is a huge turnoff. Remember, you don’t want to play the victim here. Although it may seem tempting, you must avoid crying, obsessively calling or texting, or leaving crying voicemails.
Acknowledge Your Partner
Take stock of how your partner feels. Say power phrases like “I know I have not been the best I could be,” or “I know I haven’t been as loving to you as you would like.” Doing so shows that you are taking ownership of the issue, whether real or perceived.
Wait for Your Cue
After some time, you likely will get a phone call or text from that person. Now you can make a short, simple date to meet. You might consider just getting coffee. Keep it happy, positive, and brief. Once the tension eases and a few laughs are exchanged, you can begin getting to the real issues at hand.
Be the Change
To make this work, you have to get the ball rolling. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Here are some ideas to change for the better:
No Threat Zone
Do not threaten the relationship, but instead work to find a solution with your partner. Don’t react on impulse-think everything through before you speak. Be sure your partner knows that you care about their feelings.
Keep Abreast of Their Feelings
Keep tabs on what happens as you progress through the healing process. Ask how your partner is feeling. Let them know how you feel, too. Ask how they feel about the solutions you’ve worked together to create. Keep an eye out for any behaviors that indicate unhappiness so that you can address that feeling and let them know it’s okay to be honest.
Take care of yourself. Dress in clothes that look and feel good on you. Exercise each day and eat wholesome foods. Show your partner you care about the inside and the outside. You can’t love somebody until you love yourself, so take care and be your best each day.
Go to Counseling
Counseling can be a valuable tool as you work through your marriage, but it will ultimately be up to you and your spouse to resolve what is bothering you. Use it if you feel that you need it.
A Sample Session
During your first session, a counselor will probably ask you both why you are here. Make sure you think of the response to this question before you arrive. Often, marital problems have been going on for so long that it becomes harder and harder to see why it began in the first place. The counselor will then speak with each of you individually to help determine the best course of therapy for you.
How Long Will It Last?
Typically, couples see a counselor for about six months. As no two situations are alike, your experience will vary.
Choose the Best One
One size counselor does not fit all. You must review their credentials first and then determine who will be most effective. For example, if you or your spouse is dealing with substance abuse, you will want to see a counselor who is trained to handle it. Different therapists have different levels of education and qualifications.
A psychiatrist is a doctor trained in general medicine who then had to complete a residency in psychiatry. These doctors can prescribe medicine and will be familiar with any mood-altering medications that you or your spouse take.
A psychologist is a PhD recipient who, after their education and training, can diagnose mental and emotional disorders in a variety of situations. They use psychotherapy and behavioral changes to treat patients.
The two will often work in tandem to treat patients, e.g. a psychologist may refer a patient to a psychiatrist for medication that can help.
A marriage and family therapist is a skilled practitioner who has, on average, 13 years of experience in dealing with marital and family issues. They are licensed to diagnose emotional disorders in these contexts. Their treatments last for about 12 sessions on average. They also use psychotherapy to assist in treatment.
A social worker is a mental health professional focused on providing care mostly for individuals. They can certainly help, but do not have special training focused on the dynamics of the family in order to counsel those having issues within their marriage. Social workers are just as their name implies-workers within the community whose mission is to provide care to its people.
Techniques You May Encounter
During your counseling, you may receive one of the following treatment methods. Here is a quick overview of what you can expect.
- Relationship strengthening – exercises you and your spouse will complete as a means of fortifying your relationship.
- Attachment-based therapy – a series of tasks are followed as a means of repairing a damaged relationship.
- Insight-oriented therapy – a dialogue between yourself and your therapist. Often requires multiple sessions.
- Behavior modification – through the use of stimuli and response, unwanted behavior is corrected. The reason for the action needing to be corrected is also examined as a means of understanding the person’s behavior.
Remember, nobody ever actually wants a divorce. What we really crave are fulfilling and sustainable relationships with people who understand and care. You can avoid the divorce suggested to you by your spouse. It is going to take a lot of hard work, patience, and there will be times when you just have to swallow your pride and accept what happened. The important thing to do is focus on what can happen, not what has already happened. Stay positive, stay strong, and you will have a better chance of saving your marriage.