I often hear from wives who are scrambling to come up with the best course of action after their husband tells them that he wants a divorce.   Many of them are looking for a way to make their husbands either regret the decision to divorce or to see that it is the wrong decision in the first place.  And one logical emotion to try to elicit to accomplish this is guilt.  After all, a husband who wants a divorce is seriously disrupting his family and asking everyone to change life as they know it.

I recently heard from a wife who felt that her husband deserved a large dose of guilt.  She said, in part: "My husband is being so selfish right now.  He says he's not happy and that remaining married isn't what he wants.  He feels that he deserves to be happy and fulfilled, so this means that my children will grow up without their father and we will struggle to make ends meet.  I don't think that I can possibly maintain our house by myself.  So not only will my kids have to go through a divorce but they might have to move also.  And this is all because this selfish man thinks that the grass is going to be greener on the other side of the fence.  My friend said that I should pull out all our bills along with my pay stubs and show him what this divorce is going to do to us.  Or maybe I should have my kids beg him not to do this.  Are these good ideas?  Would they work?"  I will try to address these questions in the following article.

Before I begin exploring the idea of making a husband feel guilty, I have to stress that in this situation, the wife was hoping that the guilt would make the husband call off the divorce so that he would stay married.  Her real goal was saving her marriage.  She just suspected that guilt feelings were going to be one way to achieve this.

I Don't Think That Guilt Is The Emotion That Is Most Likely To Get Your Husband To Change His Mind About The Divorce: I learned the hard way during my own separation that negative emotions will usually only drive your husband further away from you.  (More on that here.) The thing is, your husband likely already feels bad or has mixed feelings.  So following this path is not likely to introduce a new or insurmountable dilemma for him.  By the time a husband opens up and asks for a divorce, he has likely already thought deeply about what sort of changes this will bring about.  You likely aren't telling him something that he doesn't already know and, at least for right now, his desire for a divorce is greater than his worry about the changes that the same divorce will bring about.

In my opinion, the better strategy is to change the circumstances that contribute to him wanting a divorce rather than trying to make him feel guilty for his reaction to them.

Moving From Focusing On Negative Emotions That Elicit Shame Or Guilt To Positive Ones That Will Encourage A Sense Of Cooperation: The wife in this situation did seem to understand my point.  But she felt that she didn't have any other cards to play.  She felt that her husband was convinced that he couldn't be happy within the marriage.  So she wondered what else she was supposed to do to keep her family together.   Sometimes, focusing on the positive when you feel such fear is the most difficult thing to do, but it can be the most effective.

Because if your husband feels that you want two separate things and that you fault him for wanting to be happy, then common sense tells you that he's going to want to avoid you at all costs.  No one welcomes a situation that makes them feel shame, guilt, or other negative emotions.  And usually, they will either become angry with or distance themselves from the person who inspires these feelings (and that person is you.)

I've watched this situation play out countless times (including watching it happen to me.)  And most of the time, you gain more ground and have more success if you can bring about a sense of cooperation along with positive feelings.  Because when you do this, he may start to doubt that a divorce is the right decision.  When you are laying on the guilt, then you're not really doing anything to make him change his logic or to show him that his conclusions are faulty.  You are trying to make him feel so bad about his conclusions (even if they are correct,) that he'll reverse course even if it's not what he really wants to do.

A Man Who Stays In A Marriage Out Of Guilt Often Doesn't Really Want To Be There And Isn't Fully Invested Or Committed: Another thing to remember is that trying to get your husband to call off the divorce out of guilt is such a short term strategy.  Even though this strategy has a low success rate, some wives do get a short term reprieve with this, but the gain is so rarely lasting.  Because even if the husband does stay or come back, it's usually quite obvious that he's only there out of a sense of obligation and his unhappiness grows.  Sometimes, it's only a matter of time until he starts talking about divorcing again.  And the next time he files or wants to move out, you won't be able to use the same strategy and you will have a much harder time getting his attention once again.

That's why it's so much better to make him believe that his happiness is your goal also.  Once this becomes believable, the next step would be to show him over time that he can be happy and fulfilled if he remains married to you.   I'm not going to pretend that is process is going to be quick or easy because it's often neither (although it's not impossible either.)  But it is usually much more effective than playing the guilt or pity card.  A marriage that's still intact only because of guilt isn't much of a marriage at all.  It may seem like an attractive last-ditch effort.  But there's usually a better way.  And if you must use it, make sure that you balance it with a sense of cooperation and plenty of positive reinforcement afterward.

When my husband initiated a separation, I did not understand these principles and I went about saving the marriage in the completely wrong way. I stooped to negative behavior that only drove my husband further away. Thankfully, I soon realized my mistake and decided to approach things from another angle and this eventually worked. You can read more on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/

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