Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Desperate Tactics Used To Stave Off Divorce

March 16, 2008

Your wife just asked you for a divorce. Here is a surefire formula to make your situation worse and beyond repair.

Think of yourself first: Make no effort to understand why she is so unhappy. It’s not her happiness you’re worried about anyway. It’s your happiness that is important. You want to keep things the way they have been. The problem you want to solve is how to keep her.

Try generating fear: Use physical violence or the threat of physical violence. Make her believe she is in danger if she leaves you.

Threaten her with a battle over child custody. Threaten not to pay child support, quit your job, disappear, and/or have a nasty, bitter divorce.

Remind her of the financial calamity a divorce would cause. Secretly take money out of savings and checking accounts and put it in your name only.

Threaten suicide. Be erratic and desperate enough that you are believable. She will feel responsible. Appeal to her "caregiving" instincts. This will keep her there for a few more miserable months.

If power tactics don’t work, try seducing her back into the relationship: Send flowers. Buy her candy. Promise her something she always wanted.

Appeal to her romantic interests. Suggest a second honeymoon. All you need to do is get off by yourselves and everything will work out.

Agree to immediate superficial changes. Promise her anything. Tell her exactly what she wants to hear. Tell her you’ll make all of the changes she’s been asking about for years.

Bring up memories. Remind her of the good times.

If that doesn’t work, try to confuse her or undermine her self-confidence: Argue with her over how she sees things. Challenge her memory. Debate and dispute her contentions.

Be placating and conciliatory one day and enraged and hostile the next. Be unpredictable.

Agree to marriage counseling and then try to get the counselor to "protect" the family. Once you’ve headed off the storm, drop out as quickly as you can.

Wear her down with persistent phone calls, unannounced visits and other intrusions into her routine. Make her believe she can’t get rid of you even if she wanted to.

If that fails, manipulate behind the scenes: Cut off her sources of support. Induce guilt. Undermine her support by having long heart-to-heart talks with her friends. Get them to help you or at least feel guilty for going along with her plans.

Here is a good tactic - get her minister or priest on your side. Or her parents. That will put the pressure on.isolate her.

Work on the children. Put them in the middle. Let them pressure Mom for you. Be real nice to them. Let them see your desperation. They will feel sorry for you.

Describe the effect the divorce will have on the children. Make your best "worst case" scenario.

Congratulations! You have just proved her point. If she wondered whether you were worth divorcing before, you have certainly convinced her now.

A better way. If you really want to understand the real reasons why she wants a divorce and react positively, you might try these ideas:

Talk to someone to gain control over your emotions. Your fear breeds impulsive actions that are manipulative and controlling. Think before you act.

Acknowledge the mistakes that have been made. Commit yourself to a process of making changes for yourself regardless of their impact on your wife.

Be willing to go for help. Go with the idea of learning and understanding what the problems are. Be open and flexible.

The pain and threat of loss have genuinely awakened you. You can get excited about the kind of relationship she wants. She doesn’t know or trust that you want what she wants.

Don’t pressure her. Give her time.

She needs time to process the idea that she may have misjudged your willingness or ability to change. The most you can ask for her and for yourself is time – time enough to show the changes you are making are real.

However, if you are asking for time as another desperate tactic, you won’t be able to sustain your changes. Time will be on her side. She’ll know soon enough what is real and what is not.