“My husband just told me he want”s a divorce.”# What can I do?
The British had a slogan during WWII that caught on and fits quite well as a first step. “Keep calm and carry on.”# Your first task is to remain calm.
Even if you don”t want to continue marriage like it”s been, the threat of divorce can be quite scary. Divorce is more than just an end to marriage. Divorce means tearing apart an estate, disrupting children (no matter how old they are), asking family and friends to choose sides, feeling rejected and not good enough, and not least, the death of a dream. Any one of these can engage a high level of anxiety and humans rarely respond well when we are anxious. I have seen many marriages die because the spouse overreacted when it could have survived if they had stayed calm enough to work though it.
Second, spend some time remembering why you got married in the first place. In part, we marry because we liked how we felt around our spouse. We associated them with feeling loved, safe, appreciated, beautiful, happy, or a host of positive feelings. Shortly after the wedding, marriages go through the “terrible two”s”# of marriage. This developmental stage lasts about 5 years and can be quite rough for most marriages. During that time we begin to associate each other with pain instead of pleasure. It is important to go back and refresh your memory on what you did fall in love with. It gives the energy to move forward.
Third, believe you can bring about change. We often feel like a victim in disaster. You cannot control your spouse, but you can bring about change in your marriage.# Just choosing to maintain your sense of calm and not fighting or threatening back can begin to change the course of your marriage. In one study, 70% of divorced individuals told researchers they wished they had worked harder to save their marriage. Ten years from now, you want to know you behaved well, and did all you could in bringing health to your marriage.
Finally, get help. We all know to get to the Emergency Room for signs of a heart attack. We don”t try to figure it out on our own. One spouse stating a desire to divorce is a clear sign that the marriage is at risk of a fatal heart attack. Your #marriage might not survive this attack.
While even the most skilled marriage counselor cannot save all marriages any more than the most skilled physician can save all heart attack victims, a expert counselor can make a huge difference in the outcome. We can help minimize the damage to you and your family and often help you create a marriage you both want to be a part of.
Michael Sytsma, PhD, LPC, CST is a marriage and sex counselor at Building Intimate Marriages, Inc. in Suwanee, GA. IntimateMarriage.org