How to Cope with the Threat of Divorce
How to Cope with the Threat of Divorce
3 Ways to to Heal Your Hurt, Restore Your Dignity and Revive Your Faith in Love
When I was on the brink of divorcing my husband, I was desperate to end the pain of constantly feeling rejected and lonely. I also hoped to escape the financial chaos we were stuck in and dreamed of finding a man who would better match me than the Loser Pants I had married.
Convinced it was my husband’s fault that I was so unhappy, I managed to avoid looking at my own contributions to the tension, hostility and pain in my marriage. I was sure I was the “good” spouse–the marriage counselor even said so.
I didn’t realize I was avoiding the door marked “Reflect on Your Shortcomings,” and I would have gone on my self-righteous way if my marriage hadn’t been failing.
Looking back, I realize that I not only contributed to the breakdown in my marriage, I was chipping away at the intimacy and connection on a daily basis.
Nobody had ever taught me the Six Intimacy Skills™ critical to having a playful, passionate relationship. My parents are divorced, so I was following a failed recipe. Maybe nobody has ever taught you either.
The good news is that the aching heartbreak in my marriage led to an incredible, transformative journey that I never would have taken any other way.
Today I’m deeply grateful for the breakdown and for the woman I’ve become as a result.
That’s why I’m so passionate about ending world divorce and why I started an international coaching company, writing several books to make sure every woman knows how to prevent a divorce by making her marriage amazing.
1. Find Ways to Respect the Man You Married
One of the things that had gone terribly wrong in my marriage was that I had stopped respecting my husband.
I didn’t realize that respect is like oxygen for men or that, like love, respect is a decision or that my being respectful would go such a long way toward restoring peace and courtesy.
Why does your husband deserve your respect? Because you chose him.
You wouldn’t have picked a jerk. Even if he seems like one now, that’s not who he truly is.
One way to bring out his higher self–even if you haven’t seen that side of him in a long time–is to show him respect.
I desperately wanted a respectful marriage, but what I didn’t realize is that, to paraphrase Gandhi, I had to be the change I wanted to see in my marriage by bringing the respect first.
One woman was astonished that when she apologized to her verbally abusive ex-husband for the years of disrespect she had shown, he not only softened but offered to do her laundry when she was sick, even though they’d been separated for years.
You may prefer to do your own laundry, but giving your husband respect has magical powers to restore your own dignity and pave the way to having the kind of relationship you want in the future.
If you’re willing to try this respect experiment, consider saying (or emailing or texting him) these words: “I apologize for being disrespectful when I dismissed you/interrupted you/rolled my eyes/argued with you last week/at the kids’ party/for all those years.”
If you can be quiet after that–no justifying or defending or restating your point–you’ll give yourself an unfair advantage in healing your marriage.
2. Find Ways to Make Yourself Ridiculously Happy
The threat of divorce has a way of making you cry in your Cheerios or your Riesling (or the two together, which seems like a reasonable meal when your heart is broken).
I’m not saying to squash that heartache down or dismiss it. Of course those feelings need their day in the sun. You’re having them for a reason.
Even so, consider purposefully doing at least three things a day for frivolous fun–like riding your bike, taking a bath or a nap, or getting out the paints or your guitar. Play with your pets, have coffee with a friend, call your sister, sing at the top of your lungs and play Words with Friends.
Do things to delight yourself even if they cost money, like a mani-pedi or a massage.
Here’s why this matters so much: When my marriage was at the lowest point, I thought my husband was doing a lousy job making me happy.
Turns out, that important job is mine, not his.
Only happy people have happy relationships, and I had lost sight of whose responsibility it was to make me happy. I had gotten used to being miserable, which is no way to go through life.
You may still find yourself feeling weepy, but making it your priority to fill yourself up to the point of giddiness will not only help you cope better, it could just save your marriage because it will restore your confidence and make you more attractive.
You may feel selfish doing three things that delight you every day at first, but think of all the people who depend on you, then put your own oxygen mask on first. That’s what this self-care is: taking responsibility for your own happiness.
If you’re anything like I was, it will be challenging to figure out what you like to do. That’s okay. You’ll get the hang of it and start to feel amazing in no time.
3. Say “I Can’t” and “Ouch!” Instead of Biting the Bait
If you’re still in the ring going five rounds with your husband about custody, finances or selling the house, it’s a good bet that he’s baiting you by saying things that he knows will make you react.
He makes a snide remark, insults you, or ropes the kids into the mud when you’re trying to protect them. It’s exhausting and stressful!
Consider reacting with no reaction. Let his head explode that you’re not defending, throwing back insults or rushing in to protect the kids even.
This may sound like crazy talk, but I’ve seen it work wonders in restoring peace in the family.
Emma felt so empowered when her estranged husband called to say that she had to come pick up their daughter’s forgotten end-of-semester schoolwork at his house or her daughter would suffer the consequences. Her calm response was “I can’t.”
It was shorthand for “I can’t make that drive without being resentful.” She didn’t say that part, nor did she engage in a conversation about it beyond those two powerful words.
Her husband upped the bait by attacking her and saying that it was on Emma if their daughter had to repeat the sixth grade, which felt like huge bait, but she simply said “Ouch!” And nothing else. No defending, no arguing, no negotiating.
Her husband not only made the drive to get the schoolwork himself, he later texted an apology like she’d never seen in all the years they’d been married. She was moved by how accountable he was.
Who knew that she could get the words she’d been longing for by saying next to nothing?
I certainly didn’t know that before I learned the Intimacy Skills either, so the pain of feeling lonely and hopeless built until I felt completely hopeless.
Luckily, I was too embarrassed to go through with the divorce. So I asked women who had happy marriages for their secrets. That’s how I learned that being successful in marriage is a skill, like playing piano, and not just a matter of luck, like playing roulette.
But there was no Relationships 101 course at my school, and I bet there wasn’t at yours either. That’s not your fault.
Here’s the upside I see now: Without excruciating pain, I wouldn’t have started this journey or have the 28-year marriage of my dreams to the same man I once thought was a Loser Pants. Now I hate to see anyone suffer unnecessarily. I want every woman to have the Six Intimacy Skills.
You may think that being on the brink of divorce is the wrong time to learn Intimacy Skills, but that heartbreak was the doorway to something wondrous for me, and it can be for you too.
To quote Maya Angelou, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.”
Don’t let the pain go to waste.
What to do next…
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