By Leslie Cane
Most of the correspondence that I get is from wives who want nothing more than to save their marriages. Often, one of the first objectives in this scenario for these wives is to get the husband on board so that they aren’t trying to save their marriages alone. And sometimes, the husband will seem to agree to this and swear to his wife that he truly does want to save the marriage, but his actions run counter to this. As a result, the wife often has her doubts if he’s really being sincere in his claim that he truly wants to make things work.
I recently heard from a wife who said: “my husband and I have been having serious problems for over a year. About three months ago, he started mentioning getting a separation or divorce. I was adamantly against this and I began to do everything in my power to change his mind and to save our marriage. At first, he was very resistant to this, but eventually, I got him to agree to work with me for three months to do everything in our power to work on our marriage. I agreed that, if at the end of those three months things are still bad between us, then I’d concede that a divorce is probably our best option. I agreed to this because I thought that if he would truly work with me, then a divorce wouldn’t be necessary. The problem is that although he agreed to work with me, in reality, he’s doing just the opposite. He certainly doesn’t act like a man who wants to save his marriage. He’s continuing to go out with his friends and continuing to avoid me. He’s distant and cold. He won’t participate in any discussions about what’s wrong with our marriage or how can we fix it. He says I’m trying to over analyze everything. He resists any talks of counseling or finding some help. If I try to get him to go out with me so that we can have a good time together, there’s always an excuse as to why he can’t. His words say that he really wants to save our marriage, but his actions say just the opposite. I feel like I have to save my marriage completely alone when I have a resistant husband on my hands. What can I do?”
Why Your Husband May Be Saying That He Wants To Save Your Marriage But Is Acting In A Way That Is Counter To His Words: Many wives in this situation will automatically assume that the husband isn’t being truthful about his claims that he wants to save the marriage. In this case, the wife assumed that the husband was going to sit back during their 3 month reconciliation period and then proclaim at the end that, although he was sorry things didn’t work out, the wife had agreed to give him a divorce and he was going to hold her to this.
And although this was a relatively logical assumption, it can be a mistake to jump to these types of conclusions. I sometimes dialog with men in this situation on my blog and it’s clear to me that at least some of these men are acting this way because they aren’t sure which actions to take and, because of this, they have some doubts about the possibility of success. So, they sort of sit back and watch and wait as a sort of defense mechanism. They are reluctant to have unrealistic expectations or to get their hopes up when they haven’t seen any real or huge changes so far.
I often hear comments like: “my wife is determined to save our marriage. She’s asking for my cooperation and I agreed, but no matter what I do, it’s not good enough. She suspects that I’m sabotaging her and that I don’t really want to save our marriage. This isn’t true, but at the same time, I have no idea what she wants from me. I’m not a marriage counselor and things have been bad in our marriage for a long time now. And I don’t want to go and sit in a shrink’s office so I can hear how bad of a husband I am or how many mistakes I’ve made. She gets mad when I go out or when I don’t constantly reassure her, but doing this would be pretending or living a lie. I do want to save my marriage, but I have my doubts that it’s going to be possible. Still, I guess I’m just supposed to pretend like my concerns don’t exist and put on a happy face.”
I know that reading this might be frustrating. Many wives will respond to this with some anger. After all, it can seem as if your husband gets to sit back with his arms crossed waiting for you to prove to him that the marriage can be saved while he’s not lifting a finger to save it. Yes, this is completely unfair. But it’s often our reality and the situation in which we find ourselves. And it’s at this point that we have to make a choice as to whether we want to give up or we want to keep fighting in the hopes of eventually proving to him that, if he’d just cooperate a little, change and improvements really are possible.
Overcoming Your Husband’s Reservations About Saving Your Marriage: Many wives truly believe that they need their husband’s full dedication and cooperation to save their marriages. My belief is that, although this would be nice and it might make things easier, it’s not always necessary, especially at first. Sometimes, you just have to continue along your own path almost with blinders on until he sees and is convinced that improvement really is possible. And at that point, you will usually see some positive changes in his attitude. Another obstacle that you’ll usually need to overcome is his perceptions that saving your marriage is going to be an uncomfortable process that constantly places him outside of his comfort zone.
Many men envision “saving a marriage” as sitting in a counselor’s office having to reveal their deepest, darkest feelings while being scrutinized. And this is one reason that they are so reluctant to fully participate. So, it can really help if you can show him that the process doesn’t have to be a difficult or uncomfortable one. Sometimes, you can accomplish this goal in unorthodox ways. For example, in the beginning of this process, you’d often be better off just tagging along on whatever it is that he likes to do in his spare time, rather than requesting that he sit down and talk about all of your problems.
Yes, this will need to happen later, but often you really need to rebuild the trust and the comfort level before you attempt anything that might reinforce his reluctance. You will often sort of have to feel your way and move forward only as you see him begin to relax and to be more receptive. In this wife’s case, I felt that she would be better off backing off of her accusations that her husband was trying to sabotage the marriage and to focus more on just improving the day to day interactions between them. Once the comfort level and cooperation returned, then she could resume the talks meant to save the marriage. It’s better to wait and have a receptive husband than it is to push forward with a resistant one.
Unfortunately, I didn’t understand these principals when my own husband was reluctant to save our marriage. I only pushed harder when I felt resistance and this almost costs me my marriage. Moving forward gradually and gaining his cooperation took a lot of effort on my part, but it was so worth it. I was eventually able to return the love and intimacy, and save the marriage. If it helps, you can read of that very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/