When people call my office to schedule a consultation appointment, they often ask: “what if my spouse won’t cooperate?” Being the person who first initiated the idea of ending a marriage is often a difficult position to be in. The guidance provided here is a path to allow both of you to move forward.
When you have concluded that your marriage is over, and you are sure, you need to say to your spouse: “This marriage is over for me.” Not over for him/ her, or us, just over for me. At that point you need to focus on HOW you are going to process the end of the marriage, not IF. The choices are generally mediation or litigation.
Once you are sure your marriage is over, following these four rules will help you move the situation forward.
1. No Defending Yourself: Your spouse may start blaming you and labeling you all sorts of things. Do not defend yourself. Every time you do you are fueling the same old conversation you have been having for months or years.
2. No Persuading: You will not persuade your partner by reminding him or her that your marriage has been over for a while, or that neither of you are happy, or that the kids are miserable. Those points just fuel more of the same conversations that you have already had. Do you actually imagine that he or she will stop, listen, and say: “You’re right, that makes sense, we should end our marriage?” Probably not!
3. No Negotiating: Another typical reaction is: “Fine, you want a divorce? You’re not going to get anything. No house, no retirement money, no nothing.” Your response should be: “I don’t know how we will do this. We will have to figure that out.” You don’t say that’s not fair, that’s not legal, you can’t do that. Your spouse is looking for your fear and your Achilles heel, which is a useless conversation. You will have a guide to help you, either a mediator or an attorney. You do not want to negotiate or agree to anything at your kitchen table when you are both scared and angry.
4. Next Step: You then say: “We can choose to do this cooperatively or not. We can meet with a mediator or we can both make appointments with separate attorneys. It’s your choice. We just need to get started by (establish a date).” And then stick to it.
During this period, your spouse may attempt to draw you into one of the above kinds of conversations. You need to stay cool and kind and determined; do not engage in the old conversations. Managing these discussions is like being on a diet. You need refrain from engaging in those old conversations just like you refrain from eating a cookie when you are on a diet. Some times are harder than others, but if you stay determined and firm, the choices for moving forward will emerge. As with a diet, ambivalence will sabotage you. You need to have a plan every day to not engage in the old conversations.
Counseling: If you want to explore the “why” and “if only” of your marriage, then both of you need