Divorce Against Your Will:  For those who don't want a divorce that has been
                                                             started against their will

by Dean Hughson

Some of the saddest e-mails I get are from people who were served divorce papers and from those who's significant other just notified them that they were leaving. They say to me "How do I stop this divorce/breakup? I love this man/woman and I'm hurting."

This subject is something that few people have actually studied. Most therapists and researchers are very confused by divorce... It is a difficult thing to study because it hurts to see up close even as an observer (and even to the person who wants it.) I know that in my case I did all of the wrong things in terms of trying to stop the divorce that my ex-spouse wanted. When she told me (on our wedding anniversary) that she had decided to divorce me I begged, pleaded, and cried that I loved her. I pursued her... Bargained with her... All of the things that if you read "Divorce Busting by Weiner-Davis" you will learn don't work. I say this often but don't lose your dignity during a divorce. You'll 'grimace' later when you realize dumb things you do under the stress of an unwanted divorce.

What seems to work is different for each person. I suggest that you find a therapist who believes in marriage and that marriages can be saved. (A site you may want to visit is Pat Burton's Face to Face Communication). Many therapists are very non-directive about divorce. If you told a therapist you were going to jump off of a 'dock' they would warn you of the pain. However, many of the therapists, when told that a divorce was imminent do nothing.

They just do reflective counseling i.e. "What does that mean to you? What will happen if you do it" They rarely say, "Are you aware that you will cause some damage to your children with this action? Are you prepared to accept that consequence? I believe in marriage and think divorce is something that should be reserved for tragic cases where their is alcoholism/drug abuse/or mental illness that are chronic and the person unwilling to change."

Why don't therapists express their opinions about the damage of divorce? The reason is that therapy is a business and if you don't make your customers happy they leave you. A person who verbalizes a divorce/breakup has usually made the decision to do it and they are looking for someone to help them do it. The therapist unwittingly does that by their silence or unspoken approval.

  1. Slow up the process. In some states you can file for 'reconciliation court' - which puts the divorce on hold until you have completed court ordered mediation. Iowa and Arizona are examples.
  2. Ask someone else to intercede for you. This has to be a very skilled/loving friend but it has worked. Be prepared to hurt because you must share your story but it can work. Sometimes a minister or Rabbi can intercede for you.
  3. Immediately stop 'pursuing' the other person and have a cooling off process. The person sometimes comes back to the relationship when he or she realize that the divorce may not be the answer to their problems. This is very, very difficult to do because your heart wants the individual but you must use your head--by not chasing you confuse them enough to force them to think about it.
  4. Go to a therapist with your spouse under an agreement of 'divorce counseling' When they get into the divorce counseling some see the problems are indeed able to be resolved. Sadly, when you are to this point much of the magic of the marriage is out of the bottle and you truly need a genie to find it again.

Don't get me wrong. After 4 years of divorce and meeting thousands of folks involved in divorce, there are some good divorces: marriages that just weren't meant to be. But I think that FEW marriage problems can't be worked out and the chaos that divorce causes our families, communities, and society are terrible and should be avoided.

Once a partner talks divorce or separation the magic in the relationship is gone for the other often unsuspecting partner. Even if you go back, the relationship will change because the trust has been broken and it will take hard work to make the relationship 'whole' again.

For the person who has someone who refuses to divorce them and you are absolutely certain, no doubts, that you want to divorce the person be honest with them. Don't have sex with them. Don't promise 'maybe in the future we'll be back together.' Go to a therapist with them and say, "This is it. There is no hidden meaning. We are divorcing. Let's figure out how to do this without destroying our children." If they refuse to leave you alone, get a court injunction and get on with your life and in the same way, let the other person get on with theirs. Again, I would reserve this option for those who have a mentally ill partner, physically abusive partner, or one who can't stop a damaging behavior like alcoholism, drug addiction.

You have my prayers and best wishes if you are an unfortunate, like I was, who got a divorce thrown at them that they didn't want. Look at my recovery list and take care of yourself... Recovery is painful but the rewards are sweet. Indeed, as hard as it seems right now for you, there is someone for you in the future--even an overweight, middle-aged guy like me found love again and so will you if you open your heart, work on your recovery, and work on showing love.