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My Spouse Wants a Divorce

By Barrington H. Brennen, February 21, 2019


What do you do when your spouse wants a divorce?  If there is one simple answer to this question it is this:  Let him/her go.  Is that all?  Is it really that simple and is that all you do?   Well, although this might really be what one’s attitude should like, there is much more to be said.   Truthfully, many might be thinking when one just “let go” that this means one is giving up. But it really isn’t what will be happening.

There is something important to understand when one’s partner wants to get out of the relationships.  When one’s partner is fed up, frustrated or exhausted about the terrible condition of the relationship and wants to leave, the best thing to do is accept the condition of the relationship and do not intimidate or coerce the person to stay.  When one demands that the want-to-leave partner must stay, the chances of the partner returning to the relationship or even discussing the issues, is almost zero.  On the other hand, when the hurting partner wants to leave and the other partner lets her/him go, there is a 50/50 chance that the partner will return.  In fact, based on research, and my experience as a marital therapist, this is the only way the partner will even think about returning.

When I talk about “leaving” I am not necessarily suggesting that the person  wants to move out of the house or immediately file for divorce.  The person who is  so wounded, angry or confused might simply need “space” or time to think.  The person may want his or partner to move out of the bedroom or he/she sleep in another bedroom.  Some may need to “get away” for a definite length of time or for an uncertain length of time. Yes, some may want a divorce. Whatever the method or reason, let him/her “go.”  

Here is the bottom line why you should display a spirit of understand and let your partner go.  Love is freedom.  Love does not force.  True love is about letting go.  Hence, if you truly love your partner, then let her/him go.   The more you try to “hold on” it will push your partner further and further away.  Note carefully that “holding on” gives the other partner the feeling of being under control by her/his partner and that is excruciating.

Here what psychologist, Dr. Joe Beam of Marriage Helper states.  He says if your partner wants to leave and you really want your partner to stay then do the following. 

First, take control of yourself.  You might be emotionally upset, angry or confused.  Seek to understand your feelings and your motivation.  Do you really love your partner?  Ask the question why “Do you really want to save the marriage?” Be honest we yourself.  Seek to control your own emotions and behavior.  

Second, don’t try to take control of your spouse.  As I stated earlier, this can be the most damaging thing you can do.

Dr. Beam states that people in panic mode often try to take control of the leaving spouse.  Every day they beg the spouse not to leave. Every day they would send texts, call, and literally be a pest to the leaving spouse.  Based on my experience and the research, this behavior pushes the leaving partner away for good.   This kind of behavior leads your spouse to believe that you are trying to control and manipulate her/him.

One of the common ways a person tries to control his/her leaving spouse is by instigating guilt.  Some so-called Christians use bible texts demanding that they must serve them.   They would accuse their partner of sinning if he or she leaves.   It is really true?  To let go takes love.  Love is the only attractive force when your partner wants to leave.  True love let’s her/him go.

What message I want the readers to leave with is simply about the right use of “control.”   Taking control of yourself, your feelings, your thoughts, will set the frame for what happens next.  No, it will not guarantee that your spouse does not leave or will come back if he/she has left already.  But it is the only way your spouse would be attractive to stay in the relationship. 

If you are reading this article and your spouse wants to leave you, remember the route to you own emotional and relationship health is not to take control of your leaving spouse.  You must take control of yourself. 


Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org    or call 242-327-1980









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