If your spouse told you it's over, it doesn't necessarily nail the marital coffin shut. There are still things you can do to revive your flat-lined relationship. One thing you should consider is The Last Resort Technique. The Last resort Technique is exactly what it says it is. You use it as a last resort. In theory, this technique is identical to doing a 180
, but you put it to use when your situation is extreme. What do I mean by extreme? It's imperative that you begin doing the last-resort technique immediately if:
- Your spouse has said to you in no uncertain terms that s/he wants to get a divorce and it appears as if s/he really means it. It wasn't just said in the heat of battle.
- You and your spouse are separated physically.
- You and your spouse still live together but have very little to do with each other. You may be sleeping in separate rooms, have virtually no communication, and little or no sexual contact.
- Your spouse has filed for divorce
Although it's true that many marriages do end in divorce, just because your marriage is really fragile right now doesn't mean you have to become a statistic. There are many people who beat the odds. Don't feel hopeless. I will give you specific instructions about what you should do to try to get things back on track. Although the last-resort technique doesn't always work, it works often enough for you to be eager to give it a shot. I have worked with many clients and have received many letters, phone calls
, and e-mails
from people whose relationships were on the their marital death beds but were successful at turning things around by using the last-resort technique.
Step 1 - Stop the Chase
First, you need to stop doing anything that your spouse might look at as pursuing behavior. Here are some examples of behavior that I would consider "pursuing."
- Frequent phone calls
- Begging your spouse to reconsider
- Pointing out all the good in your marriage
- Writing letters
- Following your mate around the house
- Encouraging talk about the future
- Soliciting help from family members
- Asking for reassurances
- Buying gifts/flowers
- Trying to schedule dates together
- Spying on your spouse
In addition, it is essential that you stop saying, "I love you." I know this will be hard. But remember what I told you. Each time you say, "I love you," you remind your spouse that the feelings of love aren't reciprocal at the moment. My guess is that every time you say, "I love you," your spouse says, "I know, " or remains silent. Not exactly reassuring, is it?
Step 2 - Get a Life
I've worked with enough couples in this situation to know that when you feel desperate, you get clingy and depressed. You cry a lot, mope around, lose interest in things, and basically become a blob. Understand that this is perfectly normal. Losing someone you love and watching your family fall apart are definitely the most painful things you can ever experience. However, the end result - your desperateness - is not exactly attractive. In fact, it's very unattractive. And when you consider that you are competing with your spouse's fantasy of an ideal life without problems, or perhaps even a real-life affair, you'd better pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get yourself together! You need to act as if you are moving on with your life. Otherwise, you don't stand a fighting chance.
You're probably asking yourself, "How do I become more cheerful, strong, outgoing, or attractive when I feel like crap?" That's a good question. The reason you are feeling as crappy as you are right now is because you are living through some really tough circumstances. You are reacting as any normal person would. But, and this is the big but, this isn't the real you
. You are much stronger and more confident deep down inside, aren't you?
Stop for a minute and ask yourself, "what was it about me that attracted my spouse to me in the first place?" Think of all your wonderful traits. Well, the person your spouse fell in love with is the "real you." You're acting differently right now because you're going through hell, not because you've changed radically as a person. Don't forget that.
I'm not asking you to put on an act. I'm just asking you to remember who you really are
. You need to stop acting as if you're a victim because if you act the victim, you'll become the victim. Any self-defense instructor will tell you that the worst possible thing to do in a tense situation is to signal to a potential attacker that you believe you are helpless.
Focus on making yourself a better person. If you've stopped going to church or synagogue, go back. If you've been wanting to take a new class, go for it. Think about some old friends you haven't contacted in a while. Pick up the phone and connect. Go visit a family member. Watch a sunset. Read poetry. Count leaves. Play golf. Go fishing. Do something that will put you back in touch with you, not just because your spouse might like you more if you do, but because it's important to feel centered and love yourself
. You deserve it. I know you do.
Step 3 - Wait and Watch
One of three things happens when you use the last-resort technique.
Unfortunately, there are times when, no matter what you do, your spouse has firmly shut the door on your marriage. I tell you this because I don't want you to think that this is a magic bullet. It isn't. However, even if your marriage doesn't improve when you do the last resort technique, your mental health will. I promise you. So many people have thanked me for suggesting this technique because it gave them back their dignity. They felt so lost and out of control prior to employing this method. With your self-esteem in place, you will feel more prepared to take on whatever comes your way. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but since it is a possibility, you should know about it. Having said that, you should also know that there are two other responses you might observe in your spouse.
2) Your mate becomes curious
S/he might start showing more interest in you, your whereabouts, and what you are up to in your life. Your spouse might even suggest you spend some time together to talk or do something enjoyable. It's also possible that your spouse might start asking you a lot of questions about your sudden changes. If any of these things begin to happen, here's my advice:
- Be loving in return, but not overly excited or enthusiastic.
- Accept some invitations to spend time together, but not all.
- Do not ask any questions about your future together.
- Be vague when asked questions about the changes in you. Say that you are just thinking things through.
- Continue to be upbeat.
- Do not say, "I love you"
- Resist getting into conversations about your marriage.
- Beat your spouse to the punch when it comes time to leave or separate from each other at the end of an activity. You set the tone for going your separate ways.
The general rule of thumb here is to be responsive to your partners new interest, but not too responsive. If you go overboard, your partner will get cold feet. I've seen it happen many times before. If you are excited that the last-resort technique is working, share it with a friend, write it in your journal, go for a run around the block, but don't wear your emotions on your sleeve.
You need to stay interested, but cool, until you are absolutely convinced that your spouse's renewed interest in saving your marriage has taken hold. Once you feel absolutely sure that this is so, you can test the waters by becoming more obvious about your desire to stay together. You can try discussing your future together and see what happens. If your spouse is receptive, you can continue to move forward slowly and begin to tackle the issues that drove you apart in the first place. If, on the other hand, you're met with reluctance, backpedal just as quickly as you can. Resume your interested but distant stance until things move in a more positive direction. This might take a whole lot longer that you would like, weeks, even months. However, you must be patient. As long as your spouse seems to be somewhat interested rather than pulling away, it's okay for your marriage to be in a holding pattern. It will try your patience, but what else do you have to do right now that could be as important as trying to save your marriage? Be patient.
3) Your spouse might have an overnight change of heart
That is, s/he might want to abandon any thought of divorce and jump right back into things as if nothing had ever happened. This third possibility is the least likely, but it does happen occasionally. I have some advice for you if this does happen. Don't move too quickly! It's really important to pace yourselves. If you act as if nothing had happened between you, it's only a matter of time before your spouse will have second thoughts about the decision. You didn't get to this place of disharmony overnight and, as much as you'd like to forget that it had ever happened, you probably won't get things back on track overnight. So if you've been separated, don't jump right into being together again. If you've been emotionally miles apart, don't spend every waking minute at each other's sides and don't abandon all of your other interests. You have to back into your marriage cautiously. If you don't, and really deal with the problematic issues before you recommit, you might find yourselves in the same situation a few weeks or months down the road.
As you do the Last Resort Technique, it might be useful to keep a solutions journal. Keep track of any and all changes you see in your spouse or your marriage. And remember, you should look for small signs of change. This might include a spouse who is a little more talkative than before, or one who emails you for the first time in months, even if the email is mundane in content. If you are living under the same roof, a small change might consist of your spouse spending time in the same room as you when in the past. s/he has avoided your presence.
Keep your eyes open and be patient. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results. And if you need help sorting things out along the way, call our office to speak to a coach
Michele Weiner Davis is the creator of the Divorce Busting Centers, learn more on how you can solve marriage problems and stop divorce. Follow me on Twitter @divorcebusting, add my Divorce Busting Facebook Page, and subscribe to the Divorce Busting YouTube Videos for more advice and upcoming marriage saving events.