Over the years I’ve had countless couples come into my office on the verge of divorce. In several of these couples, one partner is all but out the door while the other partner is fighting for one last chance to save the marriage. In some cases the partner who’s out the door says they’re no longer “in love” with their spouse, in others there was an affair and in still others there have been years of resentment built up from poor treatment, lack of an emotional connection, minimal help with the home and kids, etc. Regardless of the reasons, the set up is that one partner wants out (or, minimally, space) while the other one wants the marriage.
In these situations I’ve seen people do all sorts of things to try to save their marriages—most of which kill off any chance of getting back together. Most spouses in fear of losing their marriage turn to desperate measures and do things such as:
• Try to seduce their spouse into staying by being ultra sexual (women typically try this one)
• Plead/demand/pressure their spouse to make love with them (men)
• Call, text or contact their spouse constantly to “check in”
• Have endless conversations about how their spouse is feeling about the relationship now
• And on and on…
The problem with all these tactics is that they have the opposite effect from what the person is going for—they inevitably push their spouse away rather than bring them closer. And although these attempts make sense, given that the person is feeling desperate and scared, they are the LAST thing you want to do if your spouse is saying they want space or—worse yet—they want to leave you.
If you find yourself in this situation—avoid doing all of the above at all cost. The last thing you want to do with someone who says they need space is to smother them and give them no space. Don’t allow your fear and insecurity to sabotage your chances at saving this relationship. You have to get them to fall in love with you again—by giving them the space to miss you—not by pestering them 24/7.
Take the time to breathe, slow down and PAUSE. Listen to calming music, go for a walk, call a friend etc., and DON”T chase your partner.
Don’t hound them with questions about what they’re feeling, text them incessantly when you become insecure, look to them for reassurances that they still love you, pressure them to have sex or throw yourself on them for sex. Don’t act like a sick puppy and beg, plead, cry or tell them how utterly distraught you are. And please—don’t EVER tell them that you can’t live without them or insinuate in ANY way that you may harm yourself or kill yourself because of the pain they caused you. The moment you do that, you just confirmed for them that you’re not healthy enough for them to be in a relationship with. All these moves come out of desperation, which–like it or not–is highly unattractive and will only result in them feeling more distance and even disdain for you.
Ask them to go into couples work together and find someone who specializes in couples (there are many terrible couples therapists/coaches—don’t waste your time with someone who’s not excellent at what they do). Find individual support for yourself so you can show up differently in this relationship and have support through the insecure and lonely times. Show your insecurities to the professionals, not your spouse. Don’t send manic texts, make frantic phone calls or go on an angry rampage about how unfair this is and how it’s really all your spouse’s fault. Get calm, get grounded and get strong.
There are few things more attractive than confidence and strength. When you’re in front of your spouse—be strong and hold it together. Show up differently—in ways that your spouse has likely been asking you to do for years. If they complained about your anger—show up calm and stay calm. If they complained about your lack of help—step up and get responsible—help them. If they complained that you never listened, were emotionally unavailable or work too much—be present, listen and stop zoning out and escaping. Make the changes s/he has always asked for and show them these are forever changes, not just “get you back” changes.
Challenge: If you want a chance at winning your spouse back, you have to give them the space to miss you. Be the person they’ve begged you to be, letting them call you and having fun with them when you see them versus having deep conversations about your pain or the relationship. Let them miss you.
NOTE: Due to the number of comments sent in, I am not able to respond to all comments. Please do not take this personally.