by Roy M Milam, MA
Seventeen years ago, after years of working with distressed marriages I, along with the help of several other marriage experts developed a program to restore and rebuild distressed marriages. Today, this program, with a proven 86% success rate of restoring crisis marriages, has restored thousands of crisis marriages all across the U.S. and Canada.
In the process, I’ve listened to a lot of men who’ve shared with me their anguishing experience of being told by their wives that they wanted out of the marriage- that they were leaving and wanted a separation or a divorce. Some of these guys, distraught and at a point of despair even told me how they had come home from work one day, “totally surprised,” only to find their wives had packed their bags, taken the kids and left.
Today, amazingly hundreds of these men… and their wives, I might add, can tell you that because of our program, (which utilizes some of the key action steps I’m going to share with you here), that now years later they are back together. Astonishingly, many of them have told me that they are happier now as a couple, than they ever were before their crisis. Their marriages were saved by following a timeless, proven process which we guided them through in our Marriage Counseling Weekend.
Practically every week, others call and tell me they are calling me at the recommendation of a friend whose troubled marriage was turned around and saved through our “New Beginning, Marriage Renewal Weekend Retreat. Many of them, at the point of tears, tell me the reason they are calling is because they love their wife and children too much just to sit idly by, “call it quits,” and end their marriages.
Most of these men tell me they’ve come to the end of their rope as to knowing what to do, but that they’re seriously ready to do whatever it is going to take- and sincerely make long-needed changes in their personal lives in order to win their wife back and save their marriage. They tell me they’re truly willing to change and do whatever it takes to turn their marriage around and get their wives and children back. Its a solemn moment for me to hear a guy pour his heart out with a sincere desire to win his wife back.
In most cases like these, regardless of the specific nature of the problems that the couple is having, there is usually a tremendous amount of hurt, pain, tension, anger, bitterness and resistance on the part of the wife. Many of these guys tell me that when they tried to get their wives to come to a Christian Marriage Counseling Weekend Retreat, their words have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears. The reason is, they tell me, is that their wives are not the least bit interested in working on the marriage anymore. When I ask why, many say something to the effect, “My wife tells me that she loves me, but that she is not ‘in love’ with me anymore.” She says, “We’ve tried everything and you’re not going to change, and I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I think we just need to part ways. I want a break from this and a separation might help.” Or, “I’m done. I’m filing for a divorce.”
Talking to these men it’s obvious, they feel panicked and at a loss as to what to do. They basically want to know two things; (1) Given their particular situation, is there any hope for saving their marriage, and (2) How should they go about winning their wife back.
In most cases, there has usually been a great deal of unmet needs, hurt, pain and conflict. Arguing, blame, finger pointing, anger, volatility and often withdrawal have become common daily occurrences. Things may have continued along these lines for several years, and now all the talk and threats of separation or divorce have become a reality. Their wives have no desire to go to counseling or seek any kind of professional help to get back together. So now here these guys are distraught, many at the point of tears, wanting to know if I think there is any hope, and if so, how they should go about getting their wife back, and how to get her to come to our program so that their marriage might be restored.
Perhaps as a husband reading this article, you and your wife may be at a similar place in your marriage. Perhaps your wife is talking about leaving or has already left and you find yourself in total dismay, wondering if anything can be done to win her back. If so my heart goes out to you. When you love your wife and you see her slipping through your hands, you can hardly sleep at night. She is all you can think about and you want to do anything and everything you can to save your marriage and your children from a legacy of divorce.
The good news is there is hope. Our proven process has an 86% success rate which is phenomenal, especially when you consider the pain and hopelessness that many of these men and women feel when their marriages reach this level. I’ve seen some of the seemingly most hopeless of relationships restored and marriages saved. But it takes a willingness on the part of both spouses, to engage in a proven marriage renewal process that works. In order to do that, there are two questions that need to be considered and answered with total sincerity. The first question is: (1) Are you really willing to get to work on yourself and on the relationship? The second question is: (2) Are you willing to do the things (things I’ll show you), that need to be done to relate to your wife in ways that can influence her to begin to move towards you, and to engage with you in a marriage restoration program that can result in the two of you experiencing a marital restoration and renewal of your love. If your answer to those two questions are affirmative, then lets get to work.
First, you as the husband will need to invest some real effort in understanding the emotional state of your wife and the painful feelings she is experiencing. You must be willing to make some changes, and do some things that run counter-intuitive to what might seem to you be the “right” and “logical” way to deal with your wife.
She may be saying that she does not love you anymore, and it may seem to her that her love for you is gone, and that you and she can never get it back. But – as I have seen in literally hundreds of troubled marriages over the past 19 years, the feelings of love spouses once had for each other have not actually been lost, but have become masked by past hurts, that resulted in pain, frustration, fear, disappointment, anger, bitterness and perhaps even contempt. Fortunately, it is possible to heal the hurts, and reconcile the relationship to a state of peace and to restore affectionate feelings of love.
What’s important for you to know right now is that you will NOT be able influence your wife to engage in a restoration process unless you are willing to do some things that run completely counter-intuitive to your normal way of thinking. You must be willing to take an honest look at yourself and your marriage and make some changes. You must come to a clear understanding and acceptance of where your wife is emotionally. Then you must start consistently responding to her in appropriate ways that will allow her to open her heart to you, and be willing to engage in the process of healing her heart and repairing the relationship.
Trying to coax her, fix her, smother her with “love, and trying to convince her that you have had an awakening, or that she is wrong about you and the marriage and how she feels will only serve to push her further away from you. These kinds of attitudes and actions invalidate her feelings, creating more frustration, hurt and anger in her, making things even worse for her… and for you. If you try to logically convince her to feel and do something different from what she is presently feeling and doing you will continue to push her even further away, decreasing any possibility of saving your marriage and increasing the probability of eventually losing her.
Think about it this way, like a teenage daughter who has disobeyed her dad by staying out late past her curfew. Now she and her dad are at odds with each other. She is trying to explain her legitimate reason why, but he tells her to just be quiet and shut-up. There is a huge conflict and he ends up demanding, belittling her and yelling mean, harsh words at her?
The teen daughter may have done wrong, but now her feelings are hurt. She is crying, and is now very angry at her Dad. Consequently everything her dad tells her to do – she does e opposite. “Clean your room,” he says. What does she do? “She leaves her room a mess, refusing to cooperate with her dad. A few days later, her dad says, “Be nice to your sister. What does she do? She sneers at her dad, turns away flippantly, calls her sister a bad name and treats her sister even worse. The next weekWeeks later her dad says “Be home before midnight” and she comes in at 2:00AM. On it goes.
The teen is hurt by her dad who treated her badly and refused to listen to her. She feels hurt and disrespected, and then she then becomes what? Angry. She in turn resents her dad’s being disrespectful, yelling at her and demeaning her. He tries to reason with her and get her to cooperate and come to the table and talk. She withdraws and resists. In fact she’ll start doing all sorts of things to prove to her Dad that that she is a respectable, honest person. Her dad in response gets upset and angry at being ignored and disrespected and he gets even more demanding.
“You’re grounded!” he says. So, she sneaks out. …smokes…drinks…meet Johnny and…Whatever. She resists and rebels and withdraws. Even when she knows it will mess up her life. She does it because she is hurt at her dad not listening, she feels disrespected and her feelings invalidated by her dad. Now her hurt and anger and resentful feelings dominate and her anger kicks in and begins to drive her thinking and actions. Her emotions have the power to drive her to withdraw in self-protection, not speak to her dad and to do the exact opposite of what her dad wants her to do.
Both dad and daughter need to listen to each other and show each other respect. And its the same in a marriage, when there have been conflicts and hurts your wife then becomes angry, resentful, self-protective and she withdraws or lashes out. Now the hurts over time have stacked up and your wife is pulling away from you, wanting a divorce or separation. She is like the teenage girl, obviously hurt emotionally, frustrated, angry and resistant to anything you may try to get her to do.
What can be done to change this dynamic and turn things around? There are several important things you can do to help your wife recover emotionally so that you can get a cooperative dialogue going with her. Each marital situation will be different and have its own specific characteristic of hurts. What is important to understand and remember is that overall women, as different as they are from us guys, contrary to popular belief, they are wired in certain ways emotionally, making their behaviors quite predictable. And once we begin to understand how they are wired emotionally we can expect certain behaviors, and in so doing take steps that can influence her in a positive direction.
So I want to share with you some key concepts couples that can help you win your wife back if you find yourself and your wife in this kind of situation. Once you see some of these things, you’ll better understand what’s going on inside your wife emotionally and be able to act and react most appropriately to influence her in a positive direction. And then I want to give you some very specific and practical steps you can take to begin to influence her feelings and behaviors in a positive way that will most likely lead her to open her heart back up toward you. Once this begins to happen, she will be much more likely to be willing to engage with you in a professional process of restoration and renewal.
1. First, Listen for and Validate Her Feelings.
Why is your wife saying she does not love you and that she wants to leave or get a divorce? Ruling out the possibility of an affair, it is likely because she feels hurt emotionally, and has reached an intolerable threshold of pain. She likely feels so hurt that she will do almost anything to stop the pain. And the only way she thinks she can stop the pain is by getting away from the source of her pain, and that is you. Of course she has probably hurt you as well, and caused you a substantial level of pain too. The difference is, you may have likely not reached your maximum threshold of pain or both of you would be talking about parting ways.
If she is talking about leaving or asking for a divorce, most likely she feels deeply hurt and before she can start to recover emotionally she needs for her hurt feelings to be validated, and empathized with and to feel that to some degree you can relate to the hurt you have caused her and that you are understanding her pain, and where she is emotionally. She needs you to validate her feelings. Not tell her you love her so dearly. She doesn’t need you to apologize and try to make the hurt go away. Right now she doesn’t want to hear any of that. She just needs to you to really “get” the sense of pain she is feeling and acknowledge it and not try to fix it and make it go away.
She needs you to show her you can listen, relate to, respect and acknowledge her upsets, and hurt feelings, even if you disagree with them. If she is telling you she wants a divorce she probably feels frustrated, angry, afraid and hopeless- so dont argue and disagree with her and try to convince her otherwise. Just listen and identify,relate to and validate her feelings. Ask yourself, “What is she feeling?” Do you really have any idea at all as to what that she is saying actually feels like inside? If you really do, then empathize with her. Tell her, “I understand you feel …..or,” I understand with those kinds of feelings how you could want to get away from me for causing a lot of your pain and how that could cause you to feel like you don’t love me and would want a divorce.” Then be quiet. None of this: “But the reason this is not good is,” or “the reason I did this was because you…” or “Well you shouldn’t have done such and such.”
Unfortunately, as you listen to what she is saying and you hear what her hurts and feelings are, you will likely hear her say some things that sound very unpleasant to your ears. This may include hurtful things you have said or done, or perhaps even weaknesses she points out about you or things she says you have done, or things you have failed to do; things that you disagree with her about. Beware, now is NOT the time to refute, argue, defend, disagree or explain why. This is NOT a time for you to get defensive and point fingers at her. That would only serve to frustrate, hurt and alienate her more. Remember, the ultimate goal is to save your marriage. To do that you want to influence her (not coax) her to open up her heart to you even if just little by little. You want to influence her in a positive direction that will lead her to be willing to get professional help.
When a wife feels hurt and has decided to leave her husband, she has closed her heart to him. She has decided that closing her heart will protect her and feels this is what she needs most for herself at the present. She doesn’t want to be reasoned with or talked out of it. If your wife’s painful feelings have caused her to close off her heart to you, she is in a severe state of emotional pain, and if you try to fix it by reasoning with her about it, you are in essence telling her that her feelings are invalid, that her feelings are wrong and that she has no right to feel that way. That totally invalidates her feelings and causes her even more emotional pain. From her viewpoint it equates to you disregarding her personhood, disrespecting her, and being totally uncaring and inconsiderate of her. This is the way she has been feeling for some time now, and she is at the tipping point.
It will cause her to close the door of her heart even tighter. Just try and tell any hurt, angry person that they have no right to feel a certain way, that they are wrong for having those feelings, or try and minimize those feelings and just watch the response you get. That person will feel so invalidated, disregarded and disrespected they will then naturally shut down and will lock you out of their heart and life. They will make every effort to protect themselves by withdrawing, avoiding and disengaging with you at all costs.
2. Back Off and Give Her Some Space.
She is experiencing difficult and painful emotions. We guys tend to have a hard time understanding “emotional pain. Physical pain we can identify with and understand, but “emotional pain is usually somewhat more difficult for us to hear about, recognize and deal with. When a person is in a critical physical condition and suffering pain, what they are needing is some quiet, low-stress time to heal and recover. It’s the same with a wife who is experiencing emotional pain. She needs some quiet, some time to rest, calm and begin to recover from the emotional trauma of the crisis she is feeling.
This may require some processing her pain with a trusted friend or counselor so that she can regain a sense of calm, start feeling safe again, and a have a chance to re-gather her sense personhood and value. All of that usually requires time in a peaceful, non-threatening, non-conflicted environment. So do everything you can to give her some time and space and privacy. Whe a person has been in a auto accident and is severely injured, they are traumatized and that’s the main reason doctors and hospitals limit the number of visitors a patient can have.
Understand that where your wife is now is like she has been in a train wreck. She is in critical condition emotionally; probably experiencing what she considers to be an extreme level of emotional pain akin to trauma. A good consideration for you would be to check yourself right here at this point, and ask yourself: “My wife is in pain, do I care?” If you really care, then make a sacrifice for her and do what she really needs and what is best for her right now- be willing to back away from her for a while, give her some space, leave her alone so she can calm herself.
It is a natural human response when someone is hurt to first experience pain, and then anger. Have you ever been hurt emotionally by a co-worker or business associate; maybe betrayed, put down, disrespected, lied to, disappointed, offended? Recall a specific incident when you felt that way. Recreate the scene in your mind the details of it and what happened. How did that experience make you feel? Did you feel hurt, insulted, cheated, angry? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being very little pain and 10 being very much pain. What would you rate it?
If you multiply that by many repeated hurts, where a person has experienced multiple wounding repeatedly over period of time, or has experienced a majorly shocking trauma, their natural human reaction will typically be hurt, then anger, and also fear. A person who has been wounded repeatedly or deeply will feel afraid of what caused their pain; afraid that they may get hurt that way again.
Take a moment to try and grasp what fear feels like? Consider a situation in your past when you personally felt anxious or afraid. Do you get a sense of the feeling from that previous experience you can relate to about how it feels to be afraid. Anyone who has been deeply hurt by someone is likely to feel anxious and afraid that what hurt them might possibly happen again resulting in more pain again. It can activate your God-given internal “fight or flight”mechanism. It moves you to action, to flee or to back and avoid the source of pain so that you are not inured, or to rise up and fight whatever is threatening you and to get rid of the perceived threat.
And even if the one who has wounded you tries to reassure you that it will never, never happen again and that they will never cause that hurt again, what they are saying will not alleviate your fears. Words don’t build trust. Change does. When a person is hurt emotionally by another person, there is a broken trust that causes the person to feel extremely uncomfortably, vulnerable and either to rise up and defend oneself against the threat or to withdraw in self-protection. That is why a wife who has experienced emotional hurts from unmet needs will either lash out or withdraw and avoid her husband. It will take some time for her to process through and deal with her pain, hurt, anger, and fear if she is going to be able to open up to her husband again, or consider reconciling with him and want to be with him or near him again.
When she is at a high threshold of pain, the more you move toward her, the more she is going to feel the need to protect herself from the pain, and the more she is going to pull away from you or push you away. It is at this very time when she needs you to understand that you hurt her, and that to at least validate her painful feelings, hurt, anger and fear. This is when she really needs for you to care enough to back off and give her some space. She needs to hear you tell her that you realize that she needs some space and some time to heal, and that you are willing to give her that gift. This will make it more likely to start to open her heart and to consider reconciliation. (But this is definitely NOT a time for apologizing and trying to fix things and make her feel better. This is definitely NOT the time for that. She is in no place to hear your apology. But if you follow these steps and don’t rush matters, there is a significantly increased likelihood that she will, given some point and space, come to a place where she is willing to consider restoration and begin.
For right now though, it is imperative that you understand and keep in mind that you have hurt her, that she is in pain, is probably angry, and is likely experiencing a roller coaster of emotions especially anger and fear. In this state she does not need or want you to pressure or pursue. Most assuredly that is the very opposite of what she needs and wants right now. Even though you may feel desperate and afraid that you are losing her, it will be extremely important that you get help with those feelings in some other way through the help of a counselor, friend, rather than looking to or moving toward her.
You must not under any circumstances act desperate for her, pursue, or crowd her through your words or your actions and behaviors. You may feel like you can’t live without her, but you lived without her before you met her and though you love her and desperately want her back, you will need to give her some space and allow her some time alone, regardless of what you may presently be needing and wanting or expecting from her.
This will help her to be more able to calm herself, emotionally stabilize and be less resistant toward you. Then she can feel freer to open up to you and to the idea of reconciliation. But this will come only if you give her some space, do not crowd her, push on her, or cajole her. You absolutely must do whatever it takes to back off. It may require you to develop your ability to do some things for yourself and to develop more independence and responsibility taking care of yourself spiritually, physically and emotionally.
It is more likely she will become more approachable and open to talking if you give her space and stop constantly pursuing her. Go work out. Get a hobby. Do something challenging. When a woman sees her man taking responsibility for himself, taking care of himself and not leaning on or pushing and pursuing her she will be more comfortable with him. She is more attracted to him and more likely to want to be with him.
Here are some guidelines on what you can do to back off and give her some space:
a. Don’t call her for 3-5 days (if the two of you are not living together). If you are living together allow her to be alone, stay out of her face, be around, but out of sight. When near her, be cordial and kind. If she initiates a serious conversation Do Not get pulled into arguing. Detach yourself emotionally from the argument. Stay calm. Pray and stay with Step 1 closely, not doing a lot of talking, but if she wants to talk just focus on listening and validating her feelings.
b. Don’t phone her, text her or email her during work hours or after-hours for the first 3-5 days of the crisis or of being separated, whether or not you are living together.
c. Don’t drive by her house. Don’t panic. Be patient and pray for wisdom for yourself, and that she will recover emotionally and that she will come to a place of receptivity to you and to working on the marriage.
d. Do call a counselor or a trusted friend who can support you in this approach- this you need to help you keep your sanity.
e. Do, (if you are not living together) after 3-5 days give her a call, text or email her. Say a brief hello, ask how she is doing, affirm your love for her. If she needs support with kids, or the house or car, offer it but do not be overly forward or pushy about it to show how “wonderful” have suddenly become. Don’t not volunteer to do a lot of stuff for her thinking that will win her back.
Briefly share with her you understand she is in pain and that she has a need for some space, (see Steps 2). Confirm with her you realize this and that you will commit to her that if that’s what she needs, then you want to honor that need. Lightly, remind that you love her. But WARNING -do not go overboard and get all mushy, touchy, huggy, and heated up about it- if you know what I mean. And certainly for now, ANY initiating sex on your part is completel OFF LIMITS. Don’t even think of going there right now, whatever you do. That would be totally insensitive and prove to her you do not understand her pain or care about anyone but yourself. Communicate to her that you understand she is in pain and that you will “back off” and “give her “some space.” Keep this conversation as brief as possible, though important as it is.
f. Do stay calm, cordial and self-controlled on all occasions you are around her.
g. Do not keep trying to engage her in serious discussions. Some therapists erroneously encourage their clients to attempt to engage in serious communications as quickly as possible. But this is not yet the time for serious communication; infrequent and light conversation only. Attempts at serious, problem solving communication can be counter-productive to the relationship at this time. Keep it light ad keep it brief. See how it’s received. If it’s received well, wait 2-3 or more days before you contact her again. If not received well, wait another week or two.
h. Do take some time every day to read some good resources that can help you grow and improve yourself.
3. Keep It Light.
Some counselors will insist that you need to sit down and have a lot of serious talk. But in most cases, early on in the crisis of her wanting to leave, having too much serious talk or too much chummy talk can hurt the relationship rather than help it. But a limited amount of small talk, light, friendly talk is okay, and usually needed. But at the same time, peacefulness and quiet is needed for her to heal and to be able to recover emotionally if she is ever going to open up her heart to moving toward you again. Whether the two of you are living together or separately, make your conversations positive, few and brief. Sure you can occasionally call or text her. But keep it brief and positive. That way she will not feel pressured by you, if you keep it light.
4. Be Honest with Yourself.
This is a time to look at your contributions to the marital problems. But not a time to be in hot pursuit and trying to make up for them. Don’t put her on a guilt trip or play on her sympathy. Instead, be honest with yourself about your part of the problems in the relationship and the things that you have done that have hindered your marriage.
Don’t blame, defend yourself, deny your mistakes, or discredit her opinions and perceptions about things she says you have done that have frustrated, hurt or irritated her. Of utmost importance, zip it up and just LISTEN, empathize with her feelings and t try to make a bunch of promises and try to fix things now. Shes not ready for that yet, and it will only serve to push her away further.
5. STOP ALL Negative Interactions.
In the days ahead keep there must be a concentrated, all out effort to keep your opinions and feelings about your marital problems to yourself for now. Pray and as God for help and wisdom to do this. This is what will enable her to begin to open her heart to you. But you must stop pressuring her, stop criticizing her, stop invalidating her feelings.
If you will make the choice and commitment to respect her feelings and see her as a little girl who is hurt, this will help you stop the negative interactions with her. Being negative will never influence your spouse to open her heart to reconciling with you. Stop it. Pray for God to empower you with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a spirit of self-control (Galatians 5:22-23.) .
The big question is, do you want her back? Or another biggie, do you have to be RIGHT? You can’t have both. If you always have to have the last word and to always be “right”then you need realize that you will soon be relocating, living all alone in “Rightsville”. So do not. DO NOT argue and disagree with her. To help keep your interactions with her positive, look for points of agreement with her and again zipit up and work on LISTENING. Listen for feeling words and validate her feelings.
“Yes, this relationship has troubles and I can understand how you would feel hopeless.”
“Yes, I hear you. You feel you will never be able to trust me again. I understand.”
Do not defend yourself. Do not make excuses for things you did or failed to do. Do not justify anything you’ve done wrong. Do not deny her perceptions of hurts and wrongs you have done. Acknowledge it and feel her pain. The Bible pictures Christ as the husband and we followers of Christ as His bride. Scripture admonishes husbands, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, Ephesians 5:24-26. What did Christ do for us- His bride? He bore our pain. He took the nails through his hands and His feet for us and died on the cross for us. He denied His rights.
Agree with her, validate her feelings sincerely and let it go. Don’t try to explain why, or to fix it. Tell her she is right Yes, you were neglecting her…taking her for granted…not listening to her ? or whatever her complaint is. Don’t disagree with her, even if you see it differently. Whether you agree with her or not you can at least try to understand whatever it is she is complaining about and validate her feelings.
Do not say anything invalidating, like “I said I was sorry – can’t you just drop it?” That only makes her feel more frustrated, angry, resentful and resistant to you..
Do not use drama to get what you want. Do not get in a car wreck and need her to meet you at the ER. Do not “attempt suicide” or pull a drama show…”I just can’t live without you so I’m going to kill myself.”
If you DO have suicidal thoughts…GET HELP immediately! You can’t get her back if you do something you can’t come back from.
6. Don’t Talk About Change – Demonstrate It!
A lot of guys tell keep saying to their wives, “I’ve changed. I’ve changed. Let’s get back together. I’ve changed.” That is not productive. It just supports any possible suspicion that you are making temporary changes just trying to convince her to come back. When I hear of guys are saying these kinds of things to their wives, my advice to these men is, “Every time you say, ‘I’ve changed,’ you are demonstrating to her that you have not changed.” A wife can see through this easily, her response to this is likely to be “Really? How could that be? He has been talking about but it probably won’t last. He is just doing this now for himself so he can get me back… and so he can get his companionship or sexual needs met,”and so on.
“It is counter-intuitive to how we guys think- and so it is hard for us guys to really get it. But examine what you are saying and why? Read my article on “Why Marriages Fail: Invalidation,” on this website in the article section. Think about it. What is your underlying motive when you say certain things to her about how you are changing. Why are you telling her how you’ve changed? What are you expecting from telling her this? Be honest with yourself. Are you saying it to get your way with her.” Sure, you want her back, and that is completely understandable. But touting a behavior that you have only been working on changing for one week, and yet you have been doing it for ten years is not the way to get her back. That will rather be certain to only drive her further away.
If you could see it from her perspective, you are not willing to completely let go and let her be her own, free person. You must have her. You are driven to have her, and that is insisting on having your way. You will not allow her to have her way even for a while. You have to have her now. You want her back and you want it now. She says she may consider it later. But not right now. And that is a little scary so you keep trying to convince her with your “new attitudes and behaviors .I’ve changed.’ You’re saying, ‘Come back now, give me my way. In essence you are saying to her “I really don not care what YOU want and need. We are supposed to be together right now. My way is the right way. I want you to do this my way. What I want is more important than what you want. I don’t care what you want.”
And subconsciously, she says, “He hasn’t changed. He’s still the neurotic, controlling, selfish, pressuring guy he has always been, and if that is the way he is going to keep on being, there is no way I am going to go back to him. I do not want him if he has to have it his way. I have had all I can take of that.”
7. Don’t “Love” Too Much.
Of all things, do not smother her with “I love you” cards, flowers and letters. Every time you say to her, “Oh but, I love you,” you are in essence saying, “I know you feel hurt and don not want to be near me, but I want something different than what you want and I want to be close. I know you feel hurt and want to pull away, but what you want does not matter, I want you with me. I don’t care what you want. What I want is what is important.”
When she calls …be pleasant…be positive. Talk a little. If possible laugh a little…but though you’d like to talk to her a long time, determine to keep it short.
The conversation might go something like this; Hi, good to hear from you, you doing okay. Allow her to talk some. Then sign off from the conversation. “I was headed over to do
such and such. And I’ve gotta run – I can’t be late”. Do NOT stay on the phone more than 5-7 minutes.
Again, Do NOT…I repeat, Do Not keep saying “Oh baby I love you,” “I miss you so much.”She does not care to hear that and DOES NOT want to hear that.
You must be sincere and committed to persevere in treating her in this respectful, understanding way. You cannot a do this for a week or two then switch back to a controlling, defensive, argumentative way of communicating with her. It will not work that way. You can’t do this for a week or a day or a month, and then switch back over to the old pressuring self. You’ve got to be consistent with this; no pressure at all, or it’s not going to work for you. This may take some months and if she senses that your behaviors were all just a temporary act, she will not be interested in staying in the relationship. Neither will she be in the least bit interested in seeking professional help to restore the marriage. In fact if this approach is not sincere and does not have your wholehearted effort to live with her ongoing in this kind of understanding way, she is likely to soon be out the door and on her way to a divorce attorney.
These steps will help her to feel that her painful, angry and hopeless feelings are not ignored, refuted or put down, but rather listened to, validated and respected by you. That is what she needs and that is what you must give her. This will demonstrate to her that you respect her feelings and her thoughts. It is what she has always needed from you and it is what she needs now…
And you can not do this half-heartedly. You can’t agree in one conversation and then slip back to defending and explaining yourself about what you want or why you did what you did. You have to stay on track. Every time, not some of the time. Listen to her. Let her say what she wants to say. Validate her feelings. Be consistent. if you do, it is likely she will start to calm down and open up to you.
*Because she sees you are respecting her and sees you are learning how to really care
*Because you are listening, respecting and validating her feelings.
*Because you are meeting her need for space and alone time and that makes her feel better because she needs that now more than ever before.
8. Offer Some Support.
After several weeks as she begins to recover emotionally, offer to help her with a few practical things. For instance, ask her:
“Would you like for me to pick the kids up?” Or, “Do you want me to bring a check by or do you want me to mail it to you?”
The key is you MUST not over-do this, because if you do it will only cause her to pull away and she will feel that you are doing it just to get her back, She will think you are being manipulative. But if you do a few helpful things for her in a low-key non-noticeable way, without expecting anything from her in response, not so much as a smile, or a thank you, it will not make her feel uncomfortable and feel you are doing it just to get her back.
Doing the small everyday kinds of practical things that a wife needs help with, without expecting anything in return can demonstrate to her your unconditional love in a very tangible way. It will tell her that you love her and that you care- not just that you can not survive without her and that you are just trying to get her back. And if you are really willing to keep doing these things, it can show that you are really willing and trying to truly make lasting changes.
9. Get a Life Now.
What does this have to do with your wife? Everything! A person who has interests is interesting. A person who can have fun is exciting and attractive. Show her you are fun. She will see you in a new light. This not only helps to keep your mind occupied, but it gives you a level of vitality you have not had before and allows you the opportunity to make some new friends, and develop some confidence. A wife wants a friend and needs to see that her husbandly has the capacity for friendship. Now, it time for you to step up to the plate and get going. Get in there and do things the right way and it’ is likely we’ll be talking soon and your marriage will get restored and you will have her back. You can do it!
10. At the “Right” Time, Talk with Her to Explore and Share About the Possibility of Getting Professional Help.
Timing for this conversation is of utmost importance. Consider her energy level, her schedule that day, her schedule for the next few hours, her general mood and attitude. Your approach is important. Perhaps begin by suggesting to her that you realize you have made some serious mistakes and that you realize you have hurt her, (although this is not the time for an all-out, detailed, lengthy confession, and request for forgiveness. But a time to communicate or re-communicate that you have been wrong, and that you are “beginning” to see there are some real changes in you that you need to make. This will take humility. But without your admission to her of your seeing ways you have hurt her and of your wrong- doings she will only remain stuck in a defensive or accusatory posture.
Unless she sees in you a spirit of humility, and a sincere willingness to change, she is not likely to be receptive at all. And at this point, don’t expect that she will be thrilled or outwardly “impressed” with your admission, but that it may help her to begin to open up to the possibility that you are willing to change and to the possibility that the marriage might benefit from getting Professional help.
Share information with her about the advantage of attending an Marriage Renewal Weekend rather than the traditional one-hour-a-week counseling. Refer to the article on our website; “Why Traditional One-Hour-a-Week Counseling is Ineffective for Struggling Marriages.” Point her to our website www.MarriageMinistry.org on your laptop and show her about the ministry.
Allow her to get acquainted with the ministry on her own some without you having to tell her all about it. Provide her a printed copy of some testimonials and an article from our site. Show her the information about the format of Marriage Renewal Retreats, and dates of our upcoming Marriage Renewal Retreats. Don’t try to push anything on her. At this point just introduce her to the idea by point it out to her. Allow her to read it for herself and give her some time to think about it.
In a day or so, revisit the subject. Ask her what she thinks of the ministry, and the idea of A New Beginning, Marriage Renewal Retreat, the After-Care program, etc. Realize that she may be ready then to commit to it, but likely she will need some time to think about it and learn more about it. Point out to her that we offer a free 30 minute phone consultation where she can talk with a counselor to further explore if this is something that she feels the two of you could benefit from.