This article was written by Australia Counselling member Philipa Thornton.
Adapted from The Divorce Remedy, Michelle Weiner-Davis, Fireside Books; Simon & Schuster, New York, 2011.
When your partner has dropped the proverbial bombshell – “I want a divorce”- after the shell shock is over you need to move past the devastation into action. The last resort technique has been developed to save your marriage, your sanity or both. Warning this is not for the faint hearted.
Ok, so you have tried everything, exhausted all your options and feel hopeless and even helpless. Now it is time to use the last resort technique to save your marriage. This is relationship boot camp and comes with a warning this is a LAST RESORT.
This needs to start today if:
- Your Spouse is adamant they want a divorce and this outside of the heat of the battle of a fight.
- You have the divorce papers in front of you
Your marriage is at crisis point. Beat the odds and the divorce statistics.
Hold onto the hope I give you here please!
While no technique is guaranteed to work, there is always some benefit to taking positive action. It’s worth a crack!
I have worked with many clients on the brink or in the trauma of an affair. Usually it is only one partner in favour of a divorce while the other spouse who made the call to me desperately wants to stay together.
If you are the spouse keen to hold onto your marriage you are not usually doing your best thinking and acting in desperate ways. The very behaviour you keep doing pushes your partner further away (you know but can’t seem to help it!).
You have chased, cajoled, reasoned, begged, pleaded, railed, guilt-tripped and implored your partner to no avail. All the phone calls, text messages, letters, emails, heart and gut wrenching pleas have failed.
You sense your spouse is out the door and a part of you recognises the attempts are felt by him or her as pressure. They will dig their heels in insisting the marriage is over and this may prompt another wave of fear and you to chase even more.
It is the effects of this pursuing and chasing that are deadly to a marriage
Blind Freddy can see this is not working. In fact if you keep pushing your husband or wife, you will be driving them right out the door. As I said there is a part of you that knows this but the fearful scared vulnerable part is making the wrong decisions and making you appear completely desperate and unwelcoming.
Of course you need to honour that fragile part of you that is in pain and wants to cling on – it is human nature we all want to hold onto something that is important and dear to us. The flip side to our human nature and animal instinct is the part being chased or even hunted down will feel the need to escape when you coerce or pressure in response to feeling trapped.
If you are truly serious about saving your marriage you have to stop pursuing.
When you chase, your partner will feel hunted and you become a point of danger on a primal level. What also happens is the troubles in your failing marriage and eroding family get lost, as you become the vector for anger and hurt.
You see it – your spouse gets frustrated and angry and the best way for them to deal with this annoyance is to get rid of it. This means their focus shifts on how they can get away from YOU!
It is surprising but it is the reality. This will really connect with the part of you that can hear reason. Indeed your very persistence is robbing your spouse of valuable time to think about what else is really going on your life.
When we are in survival mode we will go into flight or fight mode. Usually partners go into anger and aggressiveness (or worse, pity) toward you as a distancing move and part of separating from the distressing situation. The shame of this means that the angry part will not allow into the foreground any other feelings like sadness, grief, and guilt, remorse that might cause reflection and actually help your cause. With your mate staring angrily at you what opportunity do they get to look in the mirror, reflect and take some responsibility for your marital breakdown?
Option a – Keep doing what you are doing and get the same results.
Option b – Quit supplying your wife or husband with a reason to leave.
Oh if it were only that easy. I am asking you to stop doing the very thing that keeps feeling of powerlessness and helplessness temporarily at bay.
Last Resort Steps
1. STOP Chasing!
Immediately cease anything that your spouse might look at as pursuing behaviour.
This means stopping anything that looks like:
- Frequent phone calls/ texts or emails
- Begging your spouse to reconsider
- Describing all the good in your marriage
- Writing letters
- Following your mate around the house (or anywhere – this is stalking!)
- Encouraging talk about the future
- Asking for reassurances
- Buying gifts or flowers
- Planning holidays or trips away together
- Trying to schedule dates together
- Spying on your spouse, keeping tabs on their calls, movements and work arrangements
- Talking to friends and family about what to do
Stop saying “I love you.”
This is essential.
It seems counterintuitive – how will they know? I get it, but even though this will be hard, know that every time you say “I love you” your spouse is reminded of how they don’t love you and be looking for the ways!
Scary huh? That is why it is imperative to silence the ‘I Love You’s.’
You already know how disheartening it is to hear their resigned response of “I know” or worse still silence. Hurts doesn’t it, so stop the chase.
2. Get a life
What happens in a crisis like separation is we get desperate, feel clingy and become depressed. You are in tears a lot, mope around sadly, lose interest in things and basically become lifeless as the fearful or rejected part shuts you down as a means to cope.
Of course it is normal to feel all your feelings and shut down.
The loss of a loved one and witnessing the falling apart of your family are the most painful times you can ever experience. The separation anxiety and desperateness that results are an ugly place to be in both for you and others to see. You will appear unattractive.
Now if your relationship has had the trauma of an full-blown sexual affair or emotional infidelity, you are competing with the not only the fantasy of an ideal life without problems, but a person that is in the opposite space of distressed. Hard to hear, but reality hurts and I say this to the part of you who knows how to pick yourself up after a fall and dust yourself off.
Here you need to act as if you are moving forward in your life and getting on with it. Otherwise you had better quit now.
Of course it may seem like I am suggesting an impossibility – get happy, become strong, get back into life, and develop your confidence.
You are asking yourself ‘how can I do this when I feel like crap?’, ‘how can I function?’, ‘how can I get out of bed each day when things are horrible at home?’
Obviously these are normal feelings and you are reacting as any normal person would in such devastating circumstances.
I want to ask you, is that the core of you? The real you? Or the hurt, scared or angry part getting all the airtime?
Because I believe in the heart of you, your true essence there is a trooper. That’s a part of you. A part that is much stronger, mature, more confident and wiser in dealing with tough situations.
Can I get you to take a moment to get in touch with that part right now?
Ask yourself and you can even write this list down. What was it about me that my partner was attracted to in the first place? Allow yourself to remember and really connect to those wonderful parts.
This is the person your partner fell in love with.
Each of those parts on your list are valued by your partner but have been sidelined by the hurt and angry parts who’s job it is to defend you from attack and the hell you are going through now.
Please allow those parts some more airtime and a chat with angry, scared and hurt to negotiate the best way forward for all of these parts.
You are in danger when acting in the victim role of getting typecast and truly becoming the victim. Reclaim your life today by reconnecting with your whole self.
- Immediately start doing things that are out of character to the way you have been acting lately. Move beyond helplessness
- Allow your mood to be more upbeat in your spouse’s presence.
- Appear pleased with yourself and your own life.
- In phone conversations sound content, even bubbly. Don’t sit around waiting for your spouse to call. Get out and do things. Start a new hobby – rock-climbing, needlepoint, ice-skating, and movie critic. Get busy.
- Start to be unpredictable. Let calls go to voicemail. If you’ve always tried to engage your partner in conversation when they call, visit or home be scarce and short on words.
- If you were in the habit of being detective and grilling your spouse about their whereabouts, ask nothing. Simply wish your partner a good time. In short you need to make your partner think you have had an AWAKENING and, as far as you are concerned, you are going to move on with your life, with or without your spouse.
This doesn’t mean you are nasty, angry or even cold. It is simply a case of pulling back and more importantly realises what they will be missing.
Taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your relationships. Focus on becoming a better person.
Contact some old friends, pick up the phone and connect. Visit a family member. Rise at dawn, go for a walk, and watch the sunset. Read poetry, listen to music, play golf, go fishing, go camping, running or star gazing. Join a ‘meet up’ group, go walking, cycling, get a massage, a haircut, find a personal trainer, and get therapy.
Do some things that will get you back in touch with you, not just because your spouse might like you more if you do (in fact people have a weird sixth sense when things are not genuine) but because it is important to honour, value and love yourself in a caring healthy nurturing manner.
You Deserve it.
3. Wait and Watch
According to Michelle Weiner- Davis one of three things will happen when you use her last resort technique.
Unfortunately, there are times when the universe just says no and no matter what you do your spouse has shut the door on your marriage. It needs to be said there is no magic bullet and sometimes life is just really unfair and we don’t get the things we most want.
Regardless of improving your marriage there will be a secondary gain from applying the last resort in your life; you will have recovered you and your emotional well-being. At the very least you will have gotten back your Dignity. Step 2 gives you a plan of action and the part that feels lost and out of control will benefit.
Michelle also notes two other responses you might see in your spouse.
The second possible response from your mate is they become curious.
They might start showing more interest in you, your whereabouts, and what you are doing in your life. Your husband or wife may even suggest you spend more time together to talk or do something enjoyable. They may also start asking you a lot of questions about these sudden changes.
Listen up: Michelle’s advice if any of these begin to happen
- Show care, but not overly excited or enthusiastic (read desperate)
- Accept some invitations, but not all.
- Do not ask any questions about your future together.
- Be vague when asked questions about the changes in you. Say that you are just thinking things through.
- Continue to be upbeat
- Do not say, ” I love you.”
- Resist getting in the conversation about your relationship.
You set the tone for going your separate ways and end the time together when it feels right on a date in a nice way.
As a general rule of thumb, be responsive to your partner’s interest but not too responsive. Going overboard will lead your partner to getting cold feet. Be warned.
If you are excited this technique is working share it with a friend, write it down but don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.
So stay interested, but cool, until you are absolutely convinced your partner’s renewed interest in saving your marriage has taken hold. Once you feel absolutely sure this is so, you can test the waters by becoming more obvious about your desire to stay together.
Try discussing your future and see what happens.
If your partner is receptive, move forward slowly and begin to tackle the issues that drove you apart in the first place.
If on the flip side you are met with any resistance or reluctance, do a reverse and backpedal quick smart.
Go back to your interested but distant stance until things move forward in a more positive directions. This may take a whole lot longer than you would like – weeks or many months. You must be patient. As long as your spouse appears to be a little interested rather than pulling away – you will know, be real. While it is tough for the marriage (and you!) to be in this holding pattern, it’s ok. Trying to save your marriage is the most important thing that is happening in your life right now.
Be patient and hold onto yourself, even when the scared part wants you to act out or the excited part wants to whoop for joy.
The third possibility is probably the least likely but these outcomes do on occasion happen.
The overnight change of heart by your spouse. They might lose all thoughts of divorce and jump right back into the relationship as if nothing has happened.
While rare, this does happen. Michelle gives some great advice:
It is vital you pace yourself; if you act as if nothing happened between you then it is only a matter of time before they will have second thoughts about their decision. You didn’t get into the place of relationship breakdown overnight.
If separated don’t jump right back into being together.
Once you have your partner’s attention and you sense a real commitment to working things out you will need to take further steps toward making your marriage a healthier and happier place.
Therapy helps you to heal both the wounds of the separation and the causes of what lead up to it. Find a marriage friendly health professional to help coach you into the next level of intimacy.