Everything I do just seems to drive him further away. I know God can save my marriage. But John wants a legal separation so I’m giving him one. I figure it would be better not to fight him and that if I go along with him it will calm him down so that later we might be able to repair our marriage.”

With those words, she ended several minutes of describing her marital situation.

She had called our office to ask about our workshop for troubled marriages and somehow had gotten me rather than one of our team who normally helps callers. I listened to her politely, interjecting a question here and there. As she ended with the words above, I responded carefully.

Based on the things you told me, it sounds as if he may be manipulating you to get what he wants…and I fear that what he wants is not the best thing for you…”

She cut me off before I could finish. She had made her mind up and that was that. The reason she called was to let us know that she and her husband would not be enrolling in our workshop for troubled marriages.

I thanked her for her call, cradled the phone, leaned back in my chair and sighed deeply. Because of my experience from more than twenty years working with troubled marriages, I knew she made the wrong decision, and that unless God did indeed intervene in some spectacular way, her marriage would end. She thought she followed a wise course of action that would lead her husband back to her. Instead, my experience shouts that she followed a foolish course of action that all but ensures he would not.

Every day our team talks with people who wish to save their marriage. For most of them, their mates do not have the same desire. Sometimes the other spouse is “madly in love” with someone else and wants a divorce. Other times the other person has felt controlled and dominated for so long that all they can think of is getting away as far and fast as possible. The reasons vary, but most often, the situation with those who call is that he or she desperately wishes to save the marriage but the other partner does not.

From our experience with thousands of couples, I offer the following suggestions.

First the things not to do, then the things that you should do.

Do Not Cling

Nearly everyone tries it, but hardly anyone succeeds. Trying to keep the person you love from leaving you by pleading, begging, arguing, demanding, apologizing, or manipulating typically fails terribly. Some throw thousands of words at the other in person, by text, email, and sometimes through other people. They tell the other that they are sorry, that they forgive, that they will change, that no one could ever love them as they do, that they are destroying their children, or any other thing that they think will stop the other from leaving. Others cry, not only in pain but also because they hope to evoke compassion. One woman said, “I followed him to his car and banged my head on our concrete driveway until blood flowed like a river. And he STILL left!” Some get sick or “accidentally” hurt themselves, hoping that will trigger a rekindling of the love lost deep within the departing spouse.

Rather than drawing the departing person back, clinging behaviors usually propel them away faster. There are several reasons that it does. One is that no one who clings, begs, or whines is attractive in any sense of the word. Another is that clinging behavior implies that you will take the other back no matter what they do, thus removing any reason for them to stop their abandonment.

Do Not Collapse

Rather than clinging – or, more often, after finally giving up on clinging – some people provide the departing spouse permission to do whatever they wish. Some ignore or tolerate inappropriate behaviors. Others agree to separation or terminating joint accounts. Typically, they yield because they think that if they do not, the departing spouse will become angry and things will become worse. In actuality, they very likely are easing the departing mate’s transition into divorce.

Often departing spouses demonstrate anger and frustration if their mates do anything that deters their departure. They use their anger to manipulate with threats such as, “If you don’t go along with me, I’ll make things very hard on you…I’ll fight to take the children…my lawyer will take you to the cleaners…I’ll tell people you care about that…”

In response to threats, tantrums, and manipulations, often a person gives in. They rationalize that it will make things better. The truth is just the opposite. Giving in typically leads to the same results as giving up.

Do Not Control

If you try to keep your marriage together by demanding, dominating, or dictating, you will fail.

No one wants to be controlled.

If a major reason your spouse wants out of your marriage is that you have exhibited controlling behaviors, this is your wakeup call. Stop now and demonstrate that you will treat him/her with utmost respect and equality. Quit forcing your opinions. Quit the habit of haranguing until your mate yields to your point of view. Never again, tell your spouse what he/she feels…or should feel. Allow your partner to be, think, and feel even when you do not like it.

If you think (or know) that your mate is unfaithful, tracking or following will backfire when you are caught.

Clinging causes the other person to pull away, collapsing helps them leave faster, and controlling disgusts them with you. None of these helps your cause if you wish to save your marriage.

What will help?

Consider these suggestions.

Do Be Patient

Patience buys time.

No matter how difficult, take life one day at a time. Make decisions one by one. Overcome obstacles separately. Start with matters you can do something about. Patiently work out how to deal with situations or problems that seem overwhelming. Take time to seek wise counsel.

If your spouse seems in a hurry to move toward dissolving your marriage, do not join the race. Time is on your side. If your spouse is involved with someone else, enough time will begin to erode the intensity of the emotions in that illicit relationship. If your spouse is dissatisfied with the way life has been with you, enough time provides you the opportunity to demonstrate changes you are willing to make.

When you feel you may do something rash through anger, pain, or frustration, ask yourself, “If I do this, how will I feel about it in ten days? Ten months? Ten years?” Do not sacrifice your long-term future for a short-term emotion.

For every action you make, your spouse will have a reaction. Positive actions instigate positive reactions. Positive actions provide a possible future for your marriage.

Do Ask a Trusted Third Party

Do you know someone that your departing spouse holds in high esteem? If so, ask that person to intervene in your marriage. It may be a pastor, a friend, her parent, or even one or more of your children (if mature). Ask the person(s) to spend time with your mate, to listen to her, and to do everything possible to influence her to agree to marriage counseling or our intensive marriage weekend workshop. Our experience is that often a spouse who absolutely refuses counseling or a workshop when asked by a spouse will agree, if reluctantly, when urged by a third party that they deeply care for.

If your spouse agrees reluctantly, do not become frustrated and refuse because of his lack of desire. Rather than being upset that your mate does not desire to save your marriage, rejoice that he is willing to go to counseling or our workshop in spite of his desire to end the marriage. Over the past twenty years, I have seen marriage after marriage salvaged when a couple came for help though only one spouse wanted to save the marriage.

Do Provide a Perk

If you want to try marriage counseling or work through one of our Marriage Helper Programs you may be able to convince your reluctant spouse to attend by offering something if she does. Many times in our workshop, for example, people have told me that the only reason they came was that their spouse offered some concession in their pending divorce in return for their coming. Almost universally, I hear that from a person who during our workshop concluded that he wanted to stay in his marriage. “I didn’t want to be here. She said if I came, she’d agree to _____ when we divorced. I’m glad I came. I see how we can work this out.”

If you offer a concession, make sure it is one that you are willing to give. Do not withdraw it after your spouse keeps her end of the bargain. Offer it only if you are willing to give it in exchange for a strong opportunity to salvage your marriage.

Do Prove You Have Changed

Rather than focusing only on the faults of your spouse, admit your own weaknesses. When you begin working on improving yourself in those areas, you benefit yourself. You also make strides toward salvaging your marriage.

Whether your spouse notices and affirms the changes, ignores them, or scorns your efforts, keep on growing in those areas. Even if your marriage ends, you become a better person. However, those changes in your behaviors may well influence your spouse in very positive ways though at first they may appear to have the opposite effect. Keep on, no matter how she reacts.

Do Persevere

It takes strength to work at saving a marriage when your spouse wants to leave. Stay strong. Find a support system of people who will encourage you and who will be optimistic about the possibility of reconciliation.

Focus on taking care of yourself. Exercise. Eat as you should. Start a new hobby to keep your mind from obsessing on your troubles. Get involved in your church. Get individual counseling. Whether your marriage makes it or not, you need to provide for yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Actually, as you do, you also do the things that have the strongest likelihood of causing your spouse to realize what he will lose if the marriage ends.

While no one can make another’s decisions, my experience with thousands of couples leads me to believe that if you follow these suggestions, you have a greater chance of salvaging your marriage. Of course, each situation is unique. Therefore, feel free to contact us to ask questions about your circumstances, if you wish.

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.

15 thoughts on “What to do If Your Spouse Wants A Divorce

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  • January 16, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    What do I do if my husband:
    A) Was having an emotional affair with one of my closest friends, then it turned physical.
    B) We still live together for now
    C) He feels in love with her
    D) He has made it quite clear that:
    -He still cares deeply for me
    -He still loves me
    -He still wants to be friends
    -He says I am his best friend
    -the only connection missing is the emotional one
    -That I am not like any other woman and I never will be just some girl
    -That he still wants to travel
    -That I am important to him
    -That he has no idea what the future has in store for him by himself, him with me or him with her
    -That he does not ever want to get married again
    – That if there were to ever be an us again it will be outside of our marriage… he sees this as the only way for a clean slate.
    E) We Still:
    -We still cuddle sometimes
    -We still talk, hang out, and kid around with each other
    -go for runs
    -have breakfast daily
    -2x a week lunches

    What he says to her:
    – I still care for and love my wife
    -I still want to be friends with her
    – I still will hang out with her
    – I have no idea what my future holds with me, my wife or with you
    -I do not want to get married again
    -I am not looking to be anyone’s father role or step father

    She is 33 has 2 kids 11-12, she has no job, no money, her parents pay her bills, she lives with her mom, she is a FT nursing student, we look alike, sound alike, dress alike, act alike, have the same taste in music, movies, and obviously men….

    She says to him:
    – she is okay with us being friends (she has tried several attempts already to get him to be furious with me, it hasn’t worked)
    -that she is okay with him taking things day by day
    -that she is okay with him not wanting to be a father figure role/ step dad to her kids
    -That she is okay with him not wanting to get married.

    *** I know her she was my friend, I know her better than he ever will, She has shown these traits of possessiveness before, manipulation, impatience and so on He doesn’t see it now, almost everything I say or do is wrong and pretty much everything she says and does is correct. Its a matter of time before she shows her true colors. She texts him all day/night, whether he is at work, at home, with his family. I view this obsessive, and that she has no self respect for herself, him or me no matter how much she says she loves herself she is coming off as insecure. She was like this with past boyfriends as well***

    I have been focusing on myself, giving him space, we talk sometimes about our situation, he works odd hours so sometimes its hard to do that. I asked him the other day if divorce was what he really wanted, no reply… I sense hesitation, but I also know that he is pursuing a woman he feels will make him happy in the moment… Do I have a chance???

    • January 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      You probably have more of a chance than you think. Your husband telling the other woman that he still loves you and cares for you shows that he is waning in his decision. We have a video series called Marriage Recovery that will explain to you how to interpret what he is saying and the things that you can do now to start getting him back. He is showing many signs of wanting to stay in the marriage.

  • May 4, 2015 at 3:36 am

    My husband do not love me anymore. He told me that so many times. He do not want to give a 2nd chance to our marriage. Whenever i ask him he always shake his head. But me i really want to save on our marriage. We do not go out, eat togother anymore but we’re still together. Living in one roof, one bed. We do not conversate anymore. Just if he will ask something or if i ask something thats the only time we could talk. We do not have intimate relation for almost a year now. We have 4 children 26,26,23,19. Our children is still living with us. We’ve been in this situation for almost 2years now. I almost want to give up. I think he is tied with his girl emotionally but i dont know physically. He denied having physical relation with his girl. I planned to go away. But i love my children. I am in this period of discerning to go. Can you help me?

  • May 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    What do I do???

    A. Hubby tells me he loves me, he is choosing us after the 30th of June (that’s when they change duty stations) but in the mean time is exploring his feelings for her. Wants to be over her. Wants to burn out and sees that happening with more time spend. That no one can ever replace me. That he will always support me in whatever decision I make and that he will always care about me.
    B. He is in love with her and loves me. That he is slowly tiring of her attitude
    C. Tells me that we will be ok. Says that we will rekindle.. That the distance between them two will make it happen. But in the meantime his actions choose her over and over again and it hurts
    D. Allows her to assume we are divorcing, tells her I will always be in his life and love me. Tells her he is in love with her. Tells her when he stays with me he is sleeping in guest bedroom not with me. Declines that we have been intimate. In the meantime they act as a couple, go out on dates, get drunk, act single. In 2 weeks her daughter is coming with her mom and he is planning on staying there with them. Makes me sick as we have 2 kids under 2 and I feel he should be here while her mom and daughter are in town. Asked if ok to have play dates- answered no.
    E. How do I deal? How do I keep the love and respect when he is hurting me so much? ehat do I do? And how do I get the strenght to do it? Do I tell him he cannot come home until he has chosen? We are in HI 1st duty station, away from family

  • August 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    My husband for 25 years is not in love with me anymore. He is in love with another woman emotionally not physically. He says we’re alike but different. He’s willing to try to work on our marriage but he remain friends with her. They still have conversations. Can this marriage be save with her in the background? Not sure what to do.

  • November 25, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I am loosing hope and was told not to hold my breath to save my marriage. Legally we are divorced but for financial reasons. I still pay the bills while she is getting her education. I am a recovering sex addict, recovering because I will always be an addict. I ruined my first marriage and drove my first wife into another man’s bed because of my secret life I was living. I ran away from that life and tried to start over with my second wife. It wasn’t long before in her drunkenness she would emotionally bully me. Partly because I hadn’t found a job to support us. My resentmentson started to add up. Sex was the one thing she said that has kept us together, but for some reason I always felt that she would betray me. I did somethings that some would say aren’t that bad and others would have me persecuted depending on the person. My wife is a victim of molestation, rape, imprisonment and had been beaten and forced into being a stripper. So when her anger comes out, nothing is held back until I feel less than scum. I have recently taken a job that keeps me away 3 weeks at a time with 2 days to have any relationship. Well I became stricken with fear when all these red flags went off and could not perform in bed. Worse I blamed her for my failure, even worse the next day it happened again. My wife had gotten back in shape, her sexual habits had changed, she mentioned she was bored in the bedroom and she had just learned how to use snapchat. Not to mention the unexplained condom wrapper I had found behind our bed that had happened 4 months before this last incident. She basically said because of all my wrong doings, she didn’t love me but the sex was what was keeping us together. Now that she sees that I no longer desire her she is done. There’s more, I tried to be too controlling as far as not letting her go clubbing because she would dress like a stripper. She obeyed until after that. She planned a trip with her sister and daughter. I knew she would be going out, but she actually lied to me which she never lies and it happened on the anniversary of the day we met. We had a good connection themail week before that. Now because I called her out and threatened to punish her which was supposed to be with love, she went on the attack and decided to kick me out of our bed, she’s going out with no accountability and still all I want to do is love her. What can I do?

  • October 29, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    My husband of 19 years is having an affair with another man….yes, man. Several years ago, after his ex wife took her own life, our marriage started to deteriorate. He wanted out—saying that he doesn’t love me and will never love me the wa he loved her. I refused to give up. I told him that his love for her was teenage, immature infatuation not love and that our marriage and relationship was pure mature love. He agreed. But still things were not the same– still not great but okay. Fast forward to this spring…has a new friend that he hangs with, works out with etc…I now am public enemy # 1. Everything I do and say starts a fight.. even “have a good day”. Everything I do and say is embarrassing him in front of his new friend. Wants to separate….I refuse! Tells me that he loves me but is not in love with me. Wants me to be happy. I am happy with him– tells me to go out and find someone who will love me the way I deserve to be loved. I found proof of an affair with this guy which has been denied. Just this week found proof of an affair with someone else– not the new friend another friend. Real proof. Can’t bring it up because of how it was obtained. I flat out refuse to have my marriage destroyed because of this. I love him and am in love with him with every ounce of my soul. I want to confront him but can’t. I want to let the other guy’s wife know– anonymously of course. He has started seeing a therapist but has only been there 2x. So no progress yet. He says he wants to save our marriage but isn’t really doing anything to try. When I ask him to go to marriage counseling he says “we’ll give it a shot” then I ask again and he says no way counseling is bull s;&t. Don’t know what else to do… tearing me apart. We still have dates and hang out and go to sporting events, concerts and parties together. No one knows anything that’s going on. So family functions are “normal” for now. We are still intimate. Can my marriage be saved??? Any advice would be helpful!!! Thank you

    • October 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Good afternoon,

      I am so sorry to hear you are going through this.. My heart goes out to you.. I would strongly encourage you to look into our Save My Marriage Course.. It is on sale 50% off today ONLY. I really feel that it would help you and your marriage.. Please click here for more information. Blessings,

  • May 31, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Nearing 12 yrs. of marriage. Lot’s of resentment (both sides), which turned into resentment, which turned into bitterness. My wife is mad at me, and mad at God. Tells me 5 weeks ago she’s filing. So, I’ve been putting together an amends list, will give it to her to read, telling her how I believe I hurt her, how that might have made her feel, etc., and will leave it as that. She said she doesn’t need a husband right now. Hmmm. Been following yours (and other suggestions) not groveling, acting only in sacrificial love, etc. and not being negative.

  • August 21, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    My wife told me 3 weeks ago that she wants to fix up the house together and divorce me. She said everything is my fault. I am controlling, I am hateful, I am a Narcacist, a mental abuser. To the point she has me believing some of it. We have been married for 25 years. Both come from abusive homes. We have 4 kids, 23,20,13,10. I live my wife and family. I am realizing all the ways that I have communicated bad over the years and how I Did a poor job of listening. I am trying to save our family.

  • December 7, 2018 at 3:50 am

    My husband and i have been together almost 10yrs and married almost 6 and the past year its been tough for us! It started with his affair and we both agreed to work on our marriage but it seems like im the only one trying! Ive brought up counseling but says he doesnt need it! He says that a marriage shouldnt be hard and we shouldnt have to try to make a marraige work! Neither one of us have good marriage role models so were pretty much trying to figure this out on our own! Ive tried recommending this website and videos, ive gotten books but he wont read them or watch them! He says he doesnt want to give up but hes doing nothing to change anything! I dont know what to do!


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