I recently heard from a wife who was very troubled by the negative cycle she and her husband had been participating in. During a recent argument, the husband had mentioned that maybe they would just be better off if they got a divorce. The wife suspected that he was only throwing this out there to get a reaction out of her. But, she was troubled enough by this that she had begun to explore some of the issues that caused most of their problems.
However, this seemed to only make things worse because every time she brought the issues up, this resulted in additional arguments and, in turn, the husband would bring up the divorce conversation again. The wife told me: “It seems that we’re getting into a very destructive cycle. I’m afraid to bring up many issues because when I do, this results in an argument and when we argue, he’s likely to threaten me with a divorce (which he knows I don’t want.) So, nothing ever gets resolved and I feel like I have to tip toe around him which makes me resentful. As a result, it’s so tense in our house. I’m not sure what to do. Every time I try to speak up, we seem to be repeating the same patterns so that I never gain any real ground.”
I understood that wife’s frustration. This was a difficult situation, but history had shown them that they were going to keep repeating this until someone or something interrupted this process. Sometimes, this means that the divorce eventually takes place. And, other times, this means that one of the spouses stops or interrupts the process by taking action. I will discuss this more in the following article.
Making Your Husband Understand That The Threat Of Divorce Is Only Going To Make Things Worse: Sometimes, I communicate with the husbands in this situation. Many of them tell me that they keep making these threats because they are trying to get their wife’s attention. They want for there to be some lasting change. And at this point, they often don’t know what to do or say to inspire a change or an improvement. Many of them admit to me that they feel guilty about using such threats, but they will often justify it by telling themselves that they have tried many other things before and nothing else has worked.
If you’re the wife on the end of this equation, it can be important to make your husband understand that his threats are only making the situation worse and are making it more likely that no meaningful or positive change is going to take place. I often advise wives to directly address this the next time the husband begins his same predictable script.
An example might be something like: “now that you’re brought this topic up once again, I want to talk with you about this. Your continuing to threaten that you’re going to just divorce me is hurtful and is only making this worse. It keeps us from addressing and working through the real and underlying issues. And it keeps us from being happy together. I know that you’re probably continuing to bring this up because you’re trying to inspire improvement and change. I am more than willing to work with you to make this happen, but you have to know that your threats only make this process more difficult. I’ll make you a deal. I will commit to working with you to make changes if you commit to not threaten our splitting up for an agreed upon period of time. This will allow us to work on our issues without this dark cloud hanging over our heads. Something has to change, but threats and negative promises aren’t likely to get us what we want. Let’s change what we’ve been doing so that we can change the result.”
Setting It Up So That You Both See Improvements And Changes So That No One Needs To Mention Ending The Marriage: At the end of the day, if this couple were able to restore their relationship to a more harmonious one, neither party was going to want or need to talk about ending the marriage. However, one very important thing that the wife needed to understand was that the process of “working” on their marriage had been a very undesirable one for both of them. Actually, every time they tried to “work” on their marriage, an argument was the result and we all knew where that lead.
I asked the wife to consider delaying dragging their issues into the light once again. There was so much tension and resentment in the home right now that I felt it was best to try to reconnect and restore some sort of harmony before they attempted to drag out their troublesome issues. The wife worried that this meant they would never fix their problems, but I would argue that by delaying this process until they were reconnected on some level, they had a better chance of success.
When you try to solve your problems when you are harboring resentment and anger, you’re really not as invested in the process or in the outcome as you should be. Remember when you were first married and you were able to make up quickly because neither of you wanted for anything to get in the way of the fun you were having? Although no one can expect you to revisit that time period, you often can return to a place where you are both connected, invested, and having fun. This will often make the process much easier and more agreeable for everyone.
And, its easier to make changes that are going to last because everyone is enjoying the process. I felt that the wife would hear less of the threats if the atmosphere was one of cooperation rather than one where they were picking apart their problems before they were ready to so do.
It was my husband, not me, who felt that our marriage was completely over and often threatened to end it. And he wouldn’t lift a finger to help me save it. I knew that it wasn’t over and I refused to give up. But, for a long time I drew on negative emotions rather than positive ones. This seriously backfired. Thankfully, I realized my tactics were not working, changed course, and finally laid my cards on the table. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/