Over the weekend, I received an email from a wife who clearly felt that her back was against the wall. Against her wishes, her husband had filed for divorce and she knew that the clock was ticking down on her marriage. She didn't want a divorce, but was paralyzed over what to do about it because she felt that since the divorce seemed imminent, her husband wasn't listening to or receptive to her anyway. She asked me for "advice on how to get him to stop the divorce proceedings so that we can work on our marriage." I asked her what tactics she had been using to achieve this previously, and she told me that she was basically asking him for a reprieve (and listing the many reasons why he should give it) because she couldn't even think straight with that deadline looming large. I'll tell you how I told her to proceed in the following article.
You Can't Force Him To Change His Mind And Often The Tactics That We Use To Do This Only Make Him Want The Divorce More: The first advice that I gave her was to immediately stop trying to strong arm him into doing what he apparently didn't want to do. By being very forceful about changing his mind, she was only presenting the divorce as the carrot that he was dangling in front of her and the master issue for which the two of them were fighting for control. She needed to take it off the table so that it was no longer creating the huge power struggle that she had on her hands.
Of course, she was very resistant to this. I heard comments like: "well, isn't he going to think that I'm OK with the divorce then?;" or "so you're just telling me to let the divorce happen when I don't really want it." The answer was no on both counts, but it was already pretty clear that he was determined not to give in and continuing to fight about this issue was only bringing her further and further away from her goal and perpetrating the perception that he wanted to escape this marriage as soon as possible to free himself from the conflict.
Making Him Think That You're Working With Him Rather Than Against Him: The first thing that I told her to do was to sit her husband down and let him know that she was changing course. I told her to tell him (in her own words that would be believable) that she had been thinking about this a great deal and she had decided that she was exhausted at continuing to try to change his mind. She know realized that this was only driving a wedge between them and since he was a grown man, he could certainly make his own decisions. Yes, the thought of divorce devastated her, but she knew that they needed two people equally on board to stop it and clearly he wasn't there.
I told her to concede that he has every right to be happy as does she. Therefore, she was no longer going to nag him about the divorce. Instead, she was going to make the best that she could out of negative situation. She was going to concentrate on strengthening the relationship as it ended because he was still an important person in her life and she couldn't walk away in a healthy way knowing that things ended with the relationship destroyed. She wanted to part as friends so that they could both have the peace of knowing that they handled this in the correct way.
Now of course she wasn't really giving up on trying to change his mind. But she was no longer going to be so obvious about it. And by telling him that she's now accepted the reality of the situation, she's shown him that he can let his guard down somewhat and relax. This is going to make him more receptive and this is what I mean when I say working with him rather than against him. You're going to get a lot more of his cooperation this way.
Making Him Want To Call Off The Divorce: Once the tension has lessened, you have a great deal of work to do. In whatever time that you have before the divorce is final, you need to make him realize that going through with it would be a mistake. The most effective way to do this is to focus and draw upon what brought you together in the first place. But again, you don't want to be obvious about it and you certainly don't want it to feel like work. (Men cringe when you ask them to "work on our marriage.") You're trying to create fun, light hearted encounters where the two of you can laugh, bond, and realize that you can still have a great deal of fun together.
Believe it or not, you do have an advantage in this process. You were there when you husband fell in love with you. You know exactly what it took and which of your qualities he valued most. Often when I tell people this, they'll say something like "yeah, but the situation is entirely different now. We're two completely different people. " Of course you are, but it's still basic human nature to gravitate toward what makes you feel good and to move away from what elicits negative responses.
Your job right now is to give him pause and to make him ponder if he's better off with you than without you. And to do that, you have to make sure that the two of you are enjoying your time together. (Hint: him feeling any pressure is going to make this less likely.) So, think hard about what your husband loved most about you and make that the inspiration for what needs to happen next. Of course, you have to make sure that this reads as genuine. The last thing that you want to do is to let your husband feel manipulated. You just want to come off as the lighthearted woman who still values his feelings, can still make him smile, and who is making the best of a bad situation. If played correctly, many men will respond to this.