I sometimes hear from people whose spouse has announced that he wants to separate or divorce. Most of the people who I hear from do not agree to this, but of course, there are two people in any marriage, and so just one person wanting to remain together does not necessarily mean that it is going to happen. So, many of the spouses who don’t want to break up (even temporarily) will try many different methods to force their spouse to change his mind. Many will attempt to use logic and repeated discussions. Or, they will try coercion or gentle pressure. When neither of these work, they will often try to step up their game to the negative or “tough love” tactics where they’re trying to force or scare their husband into changing his mind.
Someone might say, “my husband initially said he wanted a divorce, but then I got very upset and begged him to think of our kids. So he backed off some and said the maybe we could consider a separation. The thing is, I don’t want a separation either. It would disastrous for our family and my husband is really being a baby who is going through a midlife crisis. We don’t need to separate or divorce. He just needs a little dose of reality so that he realizes how good he has it. I have tried numerous things to make him see this. I’ve tried being very nice, but he won’t play ball. So now I am trying to think of a strategy to scare him into dropping this whole thing. I have thought about telling him that I won’t make it easy for him to see the kids, but my friends are cautioning me not to do this. They say that it’s a low blow. Other than threatening to take him to the cleaners financially or to tell him that he’ll never find anything that makes him happier, what can I do to scare him out of this?”
I know what you are going through. When my husband wanted a separation, I tried many tactics to get him to change his mind. I am going to tell you what I learned through experience, although you may not like what I’m going to say. Many of the tactics that seem attractive to us are short-term tactics because we want immediate results. Our worst fear is a separation or divorce, so we’re willing to do nearly anything to avoid that happening. However, because we are so afraid, we feel like we need results now. We feel like we can’t afford to wait even a little bit. But in my experience, those short-term tactics not only don’t work, but they also make things worse. I am still married today, but I ended the separation and I saved my marriage using long-term tactics. This was difficult because I wanted immediate results too. But if I had stayed with those plans that drew on my husband’s anger and fear, I would not be married today. There is no doubt in my mind about that.
Think about this for one second. Change positions with your husband. Pretend that it is you that wants the break. How would you react if your husband suddenly threatened you with the inability to see your children? Or with sudden poverty simply because you wanted to be happy? Of course, you would not only be angry and frustrated, but you would probably not want to willingly and enthusiastically reconcile with someone who wanted to hurt you in this way.
The most efficient way to make your husband end the separation or divorce is to gently encourage him to want to be with you and to want to continue with your marriage. This offers the most positive outcome because he is happy and he is there willingly. He’s not there resentful and dragging his feet because you used negative tactics.
On the flip side, making him want to be there often takes time. It’s not something that usually happens after one threat or conversation. It takes your being a skilled communicator during this very trying time in your relationship. It takes you using every bit of the emotional intelligence you have to try to feel empathy for him instead of anger toward him. Why? Because you are going to get a much better response from him (and a higher chance for a reconciliation) if you do not immediately present yourself as his adversary or as someone who opposes him. Instead, you want to stress that you are his loving wife and that, because of this, you want to work with him so that you are both happy. I know what a challenge this is going to feel like. Believe me, I have done it. And yet, this strategy worked so much better than trying to manipulate my husband into being scared or frustrated. At the end of the day, you do want him to be happy because that’s really the only way that you’re going to have a happy marriage and that you’re going to feel secure with your reconciliation.