Question

My wife filed for divorce last week. For the past three months I was struggling to get her to not choose divorce. I wanted us to go to marriage therapy and improve our relationship though she didn’t want to. I feel that I still have hope. She has turned into a completely different person and is no longer approachable. She is resentful and full of disdain toward me. I asked her for her reasons to leave, and I am able to solve them in little or no time. Most of them are related to my own verbal and emotional behaviors, though I do know that the state which she is in right now is without trust toward me. So even if I could solve all my problems in a day, it’ll take far longer than that to gain back her trust and respect for me. 

We don’t have any kids between us, nor any property. Which is why this divorce is so easy and may be completed in a few weeks. Here is the insane part of me: I still think there may be something that I could do or say that could get her to start thinking again about us and think about giving this another try or let me date her again. I probably sound really desperate, and that’s perhaps because I am. She is my perfect companion that I want to take through the eternities with me. I know that I’ve done her wrong and many ways, but after reflecting on myself and visiting with counselors these past couple of months, I’ve understood myself and am adamant to change and improve my conflict resolution skills, my attitude in general, and to show her more respect and love like when we first started dating. 

We’ve gone to our bishop, and he wasn’t able to do much since she said it was her choice. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s become far too late for me to learn the truth of a mental “switch” that women have. Where when they’ve had enough, they are just permanently done and walk away. I’ve heard of such things before, but this seems unreal. After one more argument, she was done and became dead set on divorce. I could see this in a worldly or non-member woman, but I thought she was stronger than this. Other brothers from church estimate that she had been planning it for a long time, or that switch is in all women. I tried to show her that I was changing myself to fully support her in literary anything. Her response was that she recognized the changes I was making and appreciated it, but she wants divorce nonetheless, and says she does not love me anymore.

I did steal some chances of talking to her about it. She would give me different answers at times, or say weird things that she never used as an excuse before. I don’t know what to do or where else to turn. I thought that our church does all it can to encourage repairing and enriching the marriage, rather than just saying “okey dokey” to whatever any spouse wants. 

Answer

I commend you for your desire to reach out for help to save your marriage. You’re asking me to identify what you can do in what appears to be a dead-end to your marriage. You say your wife isn’t open to fixing or even acknowledging you, so let’s focus on what you can work on. 

I obviously don’t know you or your wife, but some of the things you’ve written in your question reveal clues about why your wife might be done with this marriage. I think it’s important for me to reflect back the way you are conceptualizing and presenting your marital troubles so you can decide if there is anything you might be able to work on. Please imagine me sitting down with you and sharing some observations out of genuine concern for you and your failing marriage. 

First of all, you appear to be categorizing your wife’s choice to divorce you as a sin and using her membership in the Church to shame her for deciding she needed to be done. I don’t know your full story, but you admitted to patterns of “verbal and emotional behaviors” that have damaged your relationship with her. I challenge you to reflect back on the hundreds of interactions you’ve had with her over the life of your marriage to see if there were requests and pleas for you to change the way you interacted with her. My belief is that you will discover plenty of warning signs that led to her eventual decision to end the relationship.

You also reduced her decision to leave the marriage as a “flipped switch” that is unique to women and was arbitrarily activated without any warning. This statement is critical of women and minimizes the bigger context of why she felt she needed to make the decision to cut off ties with you. My belief is that all of us have limits and the right to protect ourselves from others who refuse to treat us with dignity and respect. 

It sounds like you continue to harangue her into reconsidering her decision. She is likely treating you with increased hostility because you’re not backing down. You still believe she belongs to you and that you can influence her decision to stay. Please honor her voice and allow her to have the space she’s requesting. She knows where to find you if she wants to reengage in the relationship. 

Your healing is going to happen through personal accountability and a willingness to honor her voice. She is telling you what she needs and if you want to change your past behaviors toward her, then please take her seriously and stop trying to pressure her to change her mind. Work on becoming the kind of man you promised her in the beginning of your relationship. Your insistence that she’s at fault for ending the relationship casts you as the victim and her as the perpetrator. Again, I don’t know the full story, but the way you’re talking about the demise of your marriage is full of blame, minimizing, and criticism. Your explanation also lacks any meaningful accountability or compassion for how you’ve affected her. 

You are blaming her and the Church for allowing this divorce, but it’s important for you to take an honest look at how you contributed to the downfall of this relationship and make the requisite changes. Like Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon, you can find joy and light in your accountability, even though you will live with the consequences of your choices. I’m confident you’ll find the healing in this new chapter of your life. 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children. 

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT