I recently heard from a wife who was quite devastated at the horrible surprise that had been sprung on her and dropped in her lap. Her last child had recently left the house for college. Shortly after that, her husband sat her down and told her that he was considering leaving their marriage. The wife was stunned. She felt that this was coming out of left field and that she had no warning about this.
When she began to question the husband as to why this was happening, he cut her off and gave her a seemingly prepared statement telling her that he hadn’t loved her in a very long time (possibly years) and that he had stayed with her all along because of the kids. However, since both of their kids were young adults in college, there was no need for him to pretend anymore. He told her that they wanted different things out of their lives and truly weren’t compatible. And he stressed that even though he would always love her in the way that he would any family member, he was no longer “in love” with her.
To say that this floored the wife is an understatement. She said, in part: “Out of the clear blue he just announced that he hasn’t really loved me for a long time and yet he sat quietly for all of those years and never said a word. I mean, I know that some of the passion was gone as we’d been married for nearly 20 years. I know that our lives were busy and there wasn’t always time to prioritize our marriage. But I never saw this coming. I can’t even appeal to his sense of family because our children are in college so he really has no reason to stay unless he decides that he wants to. What can I do?”
This was a tough situation, but I felt that there were some things that this wife could try. I will discuss them more in the following article.
Understand That It’s Common For People To Want To Make Drastic Changes After A Major Even In Their Lives: It’s not uncommon for me to hear from people whose spouse suddenly wants a divorce or a separation after they’ve had a major stressor or life change. Examples are a job change, a move, an illness, or the death of someone close to them.
In this case, the last of their children was going away to college. This often inspires people to take a hard look at or reevaluate how their life had turned out. The wife shared with me that the husband had always regretted not pursuing a college education and, although he was proud that both of his children were doing just that, the wife sense a little pent up resentment and disappointment that this didn’t happen for him.
This type of situation is not uncommon. Now, does the fact that this is a common situation mean that the husband would eventually come to his senses and change his mind? I can’t say. But what I can tell you is that evaluating your life (including your marriage) after a major life event is normal and common.
And sometimes, people will take action or think they want or feel something only to change their minds later (once they’ve had some time to see that they were only reacting rather than making a sound choice.) That’s why I thought it was best that the wife didn’t react badly or panic even though I understood that she was hurting.
Trying To Save Your Marriage When You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong And There’s Seemingly Nothing That You Can Change: This wife was in a confusing situation. Because many times when husbands are considering leaving, you can point to a very defined reason. There’s usually a very concrete and identifiable problem or issue that is standing between you.
But in this case, every time the wife asked the husband what she could do to fix things, he told her that she hadn’t done anything wrong and there wasn’t anything to fix. It was just a fact that they weren’t compatible or in love anymore. The wife wasn’t sure how to even begin to address this.
In cases like these, it’s very unlikely that you are going to be able to “convince” your husband that he’s wrong about how he sees things. Often, talking things out doesn’t really solve a situation like this one, especially when there’s seemingly nothing to talk about. It’s often your actions and behaviors that are going to make some progress for you.
And sometimes, this process just takes time. It was very clear to the wife that the husband felt like he missed out on some exciting aspects of his life while he was married and raising children. And he was hinting that he wanted to experience them now. The best case scenario here was if the wife could show him that it was possible for them to add some excitement to their lives together.
After all, they had a lot more time and freedom on their hands now that they were empty-nesters. Nothing was holding them back from doing exactly what they wanted to do. Another point that the husband didn’t seem to consider was that just because the children were in college, this didn’t mean that they didn’t need their family in tact. Divorce and breaking up a family affects every one in that family, regardless of age.
Prioritizing How You Want To Proceed And Then Working From There: The best case scenario for this wife was for the husband to change his mind about this on his own without any drama from her. To that end, I suggested that she remain calm and stress that she would never want to keep her husband from the things that would make him happy or would make his life more fulfilling.
In this way, the husband really doesn’t need to make a choice between having a more exciting life or remaining married. I felt she should make it clear that he didn’t need to leave her in order for this to happen. In fact, she’d be willing to accompany him on his new adventures if he wanted. Or, she would give him space if this was what he needed also.
Speaking of space, sometimes, it becomes obvious after a while that the husband is determined to set out on his own and see what’s out there. And in his mind, the grass just might be greener somewhere else, especially if he perceives he’s made sacrifices for years. If this turned out to be the case, I didn’t think the wife would gain anything by fighting him on this or insinuating that he was silly, wrong, or selfish.
If this happens, you’re typically better off stressing that you want him to be happy and have what he needs to evaluate his life, while controlling how the separation plays out. Should the worst happen, you want to define the amount of time he’ll be away or offer to leave for a little bit yourself.
However, there was every chance that it wouldn’t come to this if the wife didn’t panic and showed her husband (with her actions and not her words) that they actually could be happy and have new adventures together without needing to break up their family.
I had to use this same gradual strategy when I saved my own marriage. I made many mistakes but I finally learned some of the lessons I’ve shared with you here and was eventually able to work things out (even though my husband was sure he wanted out.) You can read more about a very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/