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My Wife Wants a Divorce, and I am Clueless

It’s January and your wife wants a divorce.

Your world has been blown apart. Your wife calmly told you she is filing for divorce. No, she doesn’t want to explain why. She is done with your marriage and she’s done with you. You had no idea there was even a problem! You may never recover. Suddenly, you know you would do anything to keep her from walking out the door, but you have no idea what that is, and she is not talking.

First of all, please know that it is not inevitable that your marriage is over. This situation can be turned around. I can help you. I have helped numerous couples with this problem. There are three things I want to say to you right now.

1) This is not sudden.

This has been building for a long time. From your perspective, it feels sudden. From her perspective, she has been trying to tell you something for a long time, and now she is done. The more you say, “I had no idea there was even a problem!” the more she is convinced that she is doing the right thing by leaving you. You did not hear her all the time she tried to tell you, and she’s not going to tell you anymore. No, she doesn’t want to go to marriage counseling. That’s ok. You can go to counseling by yourself.

2) Listen.

I cannot stress this enough. Do not argue. Your wife does not feel heard. You need to make her feel heard. That is the beginning of the turnaround. Do not tell her you didn’t understand, she should have told you in a different way, etc. She is walking out the door. You need to change and you need to do it quick. Instead tell her you are sorry you failed to hear her, and you failed to understand, and you failed to meet her needs. (Throw your pride out the window for now.) Tell her you will do anything she needs and then do it. I don’t care if it’s cleaning out the cat box or something equally small. Tell her she is your life and you will do whatever it takes to repair this and that you are so sorry. Tell her you love her more than your own life. Think back to what she used to tell you. She may have stopped complaining a long time ago, which made you think the problem went away. It didn’t. She stopped complaining when she gave up hope, and started planning when she would leave you. Think back to the complaints. What were they? You didn’t spend enough time with her? You didn’t spend enough time with the children? You didn’t pick up your socks? You came home late from work? If you know what they were, start acting on those. Start doing all of those things she used to ask for.

3) Be prepared for massive anger from your wife.

She is not going to be happy when you start doing what she wanted you to do. She is going to be furious you didn’t do it when she asked. She is going to be furious you only started doing it when she filed for divorce. She also may not trust that this is real. Do not ask her to make things emotionally secure for you. This is going to be a difficult time, and you are going to have to endure if you want to save your marriage. You really need to see the right counselor- someone who understands there is not a lot of time to get this right. Please call and set up an appointment with me—sooner rather than later. Stop trying to get your wife to do anything, or to make any sense, or to “be fair”. This situation calls for emergency action, and it’s your chance to turn things around and save your marriage.