Have you been blindsided by a divorce? If so, you are not alone. According to divorce attorneys, women are more likely to initiate divorce than men. Plenty of men are happy to stay in good enough relationships because, frankly, they don’t believe their emotional needs are important to survival. But not women. Women put more emotional demands on men than ever before.
So what do you do? If you’re like most men who have been blinded by divorce, your first instinct is to tell yourself, “I’ve got to find a way to stop my divorce. I need to save my marriage.” This is an especially good idea if there are kids in your nest. But if you’re like most men, you’re probably going about it in the wrong way.
I’ll bet the first things you are trying, are all the things that worked in the past. The things that worked when you courted her originally. You’re showering her with affection and gifts to remind her how valuable she is to you. You tell her you love her. You take her on date nights. Or, you give her all the freedom she desires — more girls nights out, yoga retreats to go “find herself” or even a housekeeper so she doesn’t feel so burdened. When that doesn’t work, you try to give her the emotional attention she says she’s craving. You spend a ton of time in couples therapy while she hashes out all the reasons she wants to leave and you tell her what a great wife she is, and then you pay the therapy bills. While all this makes sense from a logical point of view, the truth is, SHE KNOWS HOW VALUABLE SHE IS. That’s why she is ready to head to the mating market.
Showering her with affection and love may have worked when you were initially courting your wife, but now it underscores her suspicion that she is a valuable partner asset — to someone else! I think you see where I am going with this. Being the nice guy just doesn’t work.
But there’s another problem here. Being the bad guy is even less effective. Changing the locks, blocking bank accounts, or giving her your rages or the silent treatment, only serve to remind her why she wants to leave the relationship. It’s way easier to leave an angry man than a groveling man. That’s why, if your goal is “stop my divorce,” there’s an even better man who must emerge. The strong backbone guy.
Think of a spine. It is flexible but firm. It supports the entire body and controls everything through a balancing act that never bends too far. Growing a back bone in an impending divorce means you must do three things:
1. Raise your own self esteem. Go to the gym. Flirt with women (don’t let your wife know about this harmless flirting or she will perceive you as the bad guy.) If you have kids, win the best Dad award in their eyes. Discover that you are a valuable man in the eyes of the world, your children, and most importantly, your own eyes.
2. Agree with her. She’s not expecting this. She wants you to grovel or be mean. When you do neither, and you calmly make plans to go on with your life, she may second guess her decision.
3. See a therapist — alone. You need to get in touch with your feelings. And if you’ve been sleeping with the enemy, she’s not the person to bleed on. Tell her you’re going to therapy. That you need some support in processing all that’s happening. She’ll beg you to go to couples therapy because she doesn’t want to feel excluded. In fact, if your therapist is a woman, she might even feel a little jealous. These feelings will confuse her, but let her sit with them.
4. Stare into her eyes and use platonic touch – I know you think that sex will cure everything. If you could just get her into bed, she’ll melt and forget about all her crazy ideas of breaking up. But sadly, there’s a pretty good chance she’s already having rocking sex with someone else and exposure to old pheromones will generally not stir her juices. And when women have an affair, they have a 79% chance of falling in love with their paramour. This is a battle for love not sex. That’s where eye contact is important. In a lab, strangers have been known to fall in love simply by staring into each others eyes for four minutes straight. The eyes are the window to the soul. So, while you are having all the calm conversations about the break up, use plenty of eye contact and touch only in a protective, brotherly way. If she sexually comes on to you, tell her you do desire her but feel it’s not the right time. The world’s biggest aphrodisiac is the word no.
Will all this work to stop your divorce? It depends, of course, on the degree of marital discord, if there is substance abuse involved, if she has already made a commitment to someone else. But I’ll tell you this, FOR SURE, playing the nice guy or flipping out like a bad guy will only seal the deal.
DR. WENDY WALSH IS AVAILABLE FOR TELEPHONE RELATIONSHIP COACHING. TO SCHEDULE, PLEASE CLICK HERE AND COMPLETE THE BOX ON THE LEFT. SHE’LL PERSONALLY RESPOND.
WATCH ME ON CNN TALKING TO DON LEMON ABOUT HOW DIVORCE IS CONTEGIOUS.
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