I ran across a newspaper article from the Tennessean several years ago. They interviewed me and asked if people should try to slow their divorces down. I replied, “Yes, I think it makes sense to slow a divorce down if your spouse is involved with somebody else. Because, by doing so, you may be making it long enough that the other person will finally end the relationship with the other person, and you may have a chance to save your marriage.” Now, I still believe that, but I’ve discovered that people heard me say something different from what I meant. If you’re wondering, “Should I drag out my divorce to save my marriage?”, there are a few things to consider.
Limerence Will End
When I’m talking to a client who has a husband or wife that’s in limerence, I tell them it will end at some point. It is not uncommon that in the second stage of that, for you to find someone trying to get out of the current relationship they’re in quickly to move into the new committed relationship with their limerent object. Limerence is a state or condition that doesn’t last forever. Limerence is just a way of science saying and describing people who said they are madly in love.
Okay, so here’s a brief explanation. Charlie’s married to Ann, and then Ann decides that she’s in love with Fred. And so she wants to leave Charlie so she can be with Fred because she’s somehow madly in love with him. And she decides she’s going to divorce Charlie to be with Fred. Now, in that situation, it can be to your advantage to drag out the divorce because what she’s feeling for Fred’s not going to last forever; it can come to an end. And dragging out the divorce might give you a chance to save your marriage. But what I didn’t go on to say, and should have, is unless dragging out the divorce is going to make things worse.
That’s what I think. As I said, all advice works well, depending on its context. And that is a huge truth. Since limerence will end, you do the best you can to be available when that does end. And I think that’s important. So, the effect of not cooperating in divorce means I’m not just going to roll over and give it to you right away or agree to every term. Instead, I’m going to seek counsel from someone. I hear that a lot. “Well, no, I’m going to seek counsel, I’m going to do this, I’m going to delay it.”
Should I drag out my divorce? What if that makes my spouse angry?
Truthfully, it’s probably going to make them mad.
Right now, your spouse is already angry and with someone else. So it’s not like you could make it a whole lot worse unless you begin to attack them. We’re not talking about attacking them. But delaying it could be beneficial.
I’ve had clients before who, believe it or not, are somewhat amicable. Some couples have been married for 25 years. Their kids have all graduated and left the house, and over that period, they spent more time being mom and dad than husband and wife. So, therefore, they don’t have any idea who the other person is. They don’t hate each other. There’s no one else involved in the relationship; they just have no affection. The descriptor we hear is, “We’re kind of like roommates. We have fun together. We go to the pub, go to baseball games, do whatever, and go to church together, but there’s no emotion there. I don’t feel passion for them.”
So, my husband decided he wanted to get a divorce; he’s filed. And I heard Joe say, make the divorce hard. So I’m suing him for everything he has. So, I’m dragging it out; I’m going to make it as long as possible. Then it becomes that I’m attacking this person, hurting this person, and bringing pain to you.
I’ve often referred back to my divorce when I have talked about this before. I divorced my wife, Alice, back in 1984. We remarried each other in 1987. But in our divorce in 1984, Alice stood her ground. I mean, she had a backbone, and I got angry with her at the time. Because you’re not letting me have what I want, you’re in my way. And I just got mad, and I got furious with her. But that turned into respect over time because she wasn’t just letting me run over her. She stood up on her hind feet and took care of herself. And I’ve used that illustration many times when I’ve written or talked about it, and I have used that phrase, “make divorce hard.”
Don’t Be Mean
So I wasn’t thinking and needed to change my language: don’t be mean. Why agitate the other person just because you want to agitate them? I’m not just going to give them everything they want. Some people roll over, give them what they want. And my suggestion is, I think you should follow your attorney’s advice. You may say, “Well, he’s just going to get madder at me.” And as you mentioned, you’re not losing a lot because they are already mad at you and making unreasonable demands. Standing up for yourself is a good thing here.
I typically recommend that they put it off on the attorney if they get angry. They are used to being gladiators. You can say, “Look, I don’t want this divorce. I’m happy to try to work things out if you wish. We can get the right kind of help if you will do so. But as long as you continue with this, then I’ve got to protect myself.” Sometimes you’ve also got to protect your kids, so you should follow your attorney’s advice. Now they may get angry with that. But you need to take care of yourself, and you need to take care of your children if you have them. And at least in my experience, that turned into respect over time because she didn’t rollover. But some people have misunderstood me and have just gotten mean.
And during that painful time, it’s easy to get mean. But that feels good sometimes when that’s happening. I recently had a client whose wife disengaged and finally became somewhat amicable. They don’t hate each other, and they’re not fighting and hurting and attacking each other. She just decided she wanted something else. And so, she decided she was going to file for divorce. And she had an idea of what divorce would look like in her mind.
I want to be clear about this. I’m amazed by the fantasy that people create within their minds of how divorce will go. My favorite line is, “Nothing will change.” To which I always say, then why are you divorcing? It seems like a moot point to me.
Nevertheless, her fantasy of what the divorce would look like came to a crashing halt when he said, okay, I’m going to talk to my attorney as well. And when he did, and she found out what she wasn’t going to get, she became infuriated. And nevertheless, he responded that it’s getting worse. I didn’t want to make this worse. And honestly, he cared about her, not whether she would get this or not get that. That was the furthest thing from his mind.
Here was the thought behind it. When we talked, the thinking behind it was that right now, his wife’s not that reasonable. And what you are doing is not unreasonable. You speak to an attorney, and the law says this. That’s the law, and that’s what you did. Well, when a person’s in an unreasonable mindset, either because they’re involved with someone else or has an unrealistic expectation or some fantasy they’ve created, their emotion is more potent. I’m mad at you, I hate you, stuff like that.
But when they return to homeostasis, they return to normality; they look back and go, “Well, it wasn’t that unreasonable.” Because it isn’t, it isn’t like we brought more pain; it’s just what happened. And that’s part of the reasoning for not going crazy with it or making it so hard; you’re reasonable with it. So we’re getting a divorce, but I’m going to be practical in how I do it. She deserves this; he deserves this; I’m going to do the right thing based on my value system.
I’m going to do the right thing based on my value system.
I remember talking to him and, this guy is just a great guy, and she’s a great lady, by the way. And I remember looking at him and saying, listen, you need to do a couple of things. One, listen to your attorney. You’re a good guy, so don’t let your emotions rule you in it. You might want to give her a little more because that’s who you are. In other words, later, if you don’t, you will be upset with yourself. That’s damaged, that’s bad. I want you to be still the human you need to be for you to be whole later. So no matter what happens, don’t rollover.
I have said, and I still believe this, sometimes people will say, they want this, and I’m just tired of fighting, why don’t I give it to them. So my response to that is you can do that if you wish, I don’t make your decisions; you do. But sometimes, you don’t give them that because you need them to understand the consequences of their decision. So, for example, you can’t have all the money from the house. Even if I don’t need it, I will not let you have all the money from the home when we sell it because that aids and abets what you’re doing, and you need to face the consequences of your behavior.
So let’s clarify.
First of all, it’s only in limerent cases where I would say that dragging it out can, potentially, be to your benefit. If it’s some other situation, this is not going to work. Limerence is if they are “madly in love” with somebody else, then making it go a little longer actually can give you a shot at that other relationship ending. But if, in the process, you make them see you as the evilest thing on the planet, they’re not coming back to you. Because even if they end it with the other person, it’s going to seem like you’re just evil. So as we’ve talked about, this is not a science; it’s an art.
That’s the part I love about this. People hear something, and it becomes this black or white thing. You cannot take the discussions you are having, the podcasts you listen to, or the books you read and then cut them into your life. You have to think and apply this to your specific relationship. It is essential.
So let’s continue to clarify. I’m saying this differently than I’ve said it before because I’ve come to realize that how people were hearing me was not what I was thinking in my head. Dragging it out can be to your benefit if they’re “madly in love with somebody else.” In the process, stand up for yourself. Don’t roll over, don’t give up everything. And if they say, “Okay, but I need you in mediation tomorrow.”
You don’t have to go to mediation tomorrow. You can say, “No, that’s not going to work for me; there are some things I need to think through. There are some things I need to talk to my CPA about.” So you don’t jump through the hoops. But if you take what I’ve said before and interpret that as, I’m going to make this just vicious, then I don’t know that it benefits you in any shape, fashion, or form.
So here we’re back to the art or the science. Because if you heard what we’re saying, some of the things you do will tick the other person off, but you should do them anyway. And some of the things you do will tick the other person off, but you shouldn’t do them. And it sounds like we’re talking on both sides of our mouth. We’re not. We’re saying do what’s reasonable. You do have to apply it.
So that’s why we keep saying it’s an art, not science, because some of the things are going to make him mad. But that’s what you should do; they need to face their consequences. And you don’t have to jump the minute they say you should. Take enough time to think things through.
And sometimes people have said this to me: “He wants me to go to mediation next week. But I’m just not ready for that. There are some things I’ve got to process first.” Okay, then say that. “I’m not trying to avoid mediation, I’m a processor, and there are some things I’ve got to think through first.” And that’s all reasonable. So what do you do? Don’t be mean, don’t do things just to hurt them. And for goodness sake, if they say, if the attorney says we need your financial records, you’re going to have to give them. At some point, you’re going to have to do it.
But I wouldn’t turn around and spend an extra $100 to get them for him tomorrow. It’s like, “Okay, you can get them, but my accountant says he can get them in 10 days unless I want to pay him to do it quicker.” Just be reasonable.
If you’re wondering, “should I drag out my divorce?”, we can help.
We do not give legal advice. That’s what attorneys do. You pay an attorney to provide you with legal advice, not us. And I think it’s very reasonable for you to say to your attorney, “I want you to make it tough, but not mean. And here’s my reasoning. I’m not trying to damage him; as a matter of fact, just the opposite. Even if he gets mad, I’m doing this because I’m hoping that it somehow comes out the right way down the line. So understand that my goal is to save the marriage. So whatever you do, be tough, but not mean. Don’t make him think I’m the evilest person on the planet.” Let the attorney guide you on those things.
You can talk to one of our coaches about it. Now, our coaches will not give you legal advice. But sometimes, you need to examine your motives. For example, you can call our office and set up an appointment with a coach. You may think, well why would I want to do that if you can’t give me legal advice? We can help you think about yourself. What are your motives? What are you trying to accomplish? How’s this working for you?
Get in contact with our team today. We want to help you change your marriage for the better.