Help! My Spouse Just Asked for a Divorce

Here's how not to blow your chances of getting things back on track

spouse leaving marriage
Fabrice LeRouge/Creative RF/Getty

Whether it seems “out of the blue” or you have been sensing it for a long time, it is scary as hell when your spouse wants to leave you. (By the way, it’s never “out of the blue,” but that’s another article). Maybe at this point, you will do anything to save the marriage…even therapy. However, what if it your spouse says “I’m done?”

As the saying goes-- it’s not over ‘till it’s over. If you still desire to save your marriage, there are many things you should (and should not) be doing.

Here are the top 10 things you SHOULD NOT do if your spouse wants to leave you and you want to save your marriage:

 

  1. Do not beg, plead, pursue, or make demands. This will have the opposite effect and turn your spouse off.
  2. Do not make excessive phone calls and texts to your spouse. Do not act desperate or needy.
  3. Do not continually point out all good points in marriage or about you.
  4. Do not try to get him/her to read marriage books, look at your wedding pictures, etc.
  5. Do not trail your spouse around the house like a sad puppy. In fact, do not appear like a sad puppy at all!
  6. Do not ask family or friends to encourage your spouse to stay with you. Discussing such personal matters with these people will upset your spouse and make things worse.
  7. Do not buy gifts, flowers and cards to make up for what you may have done. You will not be successful at buying back love.
  8. Do not spy on spouse by following in your car, checking emails, cell phone, bills, etc. 
  1. Do not say "I Love You." Your spouse is not in the mood to hear it right now, and it will come off as manipulative or "pushy." 
  2. Do not go wild. Stay away from drugs, alcohol, the bar scene or having sex with others. If you really want to get your spouse back, these behaviors will not do it!

 

Here are the top 10 things you SHOULD DO if your spouse wants to leave you and you want to save your marriage:

 

  1. Do bring your “best self” to this crisis. It is not the time to fall apart, go into a rage or get vengeful.  Muster up the best attitude you can.
  2. Do keep up with your appearance. Going unshaven, stinking from not showering, looking like a slob or sitting endlessly on the couch watching TV will not be enticing to your spouse at all.
  3. Do behave respectfully toward your spouse and have self-respect as well.
  4. Do act as though you are moving forward with confidence regardless of whether or not your spouse stays with you. 
  5. Do keep busy. Continue your day to day activities. And, go out on your own, with friends, with family and the kids. Go to a place of worship, try a new hobby, get some exercise. In other words, get a life for yourself despite what happens with your marriage. You may invite your spouse, but do not react negatively if he or she does not take you up on your suggestion. Do not change your intended plans.
  6. Do give your spouse some space! Do not question your spouse about his/her whereabouts or schedule.  
  1. Do let your spouse see you as content regardless of your current feelings. Your moods will be fluctuating. However, you should be someone that your spouse would want to be around because you are pleasant.
  2. Do allow your spouse come to you with any questions or concerns about the marriage, not the other way around. Other than sincerely letting your partner know that you want to save the marriage, be patient about any discussions about you two. If he or she does come to talk, be an active and engaged listener, showing you care about what is being said.
  3. Do not engage in arguments.  Do not “take the bait” if your spouse tries to get you to do this.  You may even have to walk away. (If your spouse claims that you “always walk away,” just state you would be happy to stay and have a civil conversation...then do it!)
  4. Do get help. Read self-help or self-improvement books or see a counselor (with experience with couples). Divorce Remedy is a good book for your circumstances.


It can be devastating to hear that your spouse wants to leave you. Even spouses that say they want to divorce are actually still somewhat ambivalent about doing so. You want the best opportunity to have things work out in your favor. Many people completely sabotage this by acting desperate, angry, nasty or vengeful. This is the opposite of what you should be doing.

Follow these dos and don’ts and, above all, be consistent in these actions and behaviors. You must demonstrate that you are capable of real change. You need to think deeply about what has gotten you both to this place.  What behaviors are you willing to change to get your marriage on track? Think about what your spouse has probably been complaining about for a very long time. What have you been remiss in hearing from your spouse?

It may seem unfair that you have to do all the changing. For now, yes, you most likely do because you are at a disadvantage. You need to essentially change first. If you have an addiction (porn, substance or other) or you had an affair or you are abusive (physical and/or emotional), you must get your own treatment to work on these. You will also have a long road ahead of you to repair the damage you caused.  

Making positive changes (whether your marriage works out or not) is always a good idea. Chances are there are some behaviors or traits you have that would be problematic in most relationships. If you can get your spouse back on board with you about working on the marriage, making changes would definitely not have been in vain.

PURCHASE ON AMAZON: Divorce Remedy by Michelle Weiner-Davis

STAY UP TO DATE...SUBSCRIBE TO THE WEEKLY MARRIAGE TOPIC NEWSLETTER TODAY!