Is My Spouse Rethinking Divorce?
Deciding to divorce can be difficult, and there are often signs that one spouse may be changing their mind about the divorce. This can confuse the parties as they attempt to navigate separation, custody, and dividing their lives because it can cause the couple to question whether the divorce is actually the best thing for their relationship and lives. It can also be a welcomed idea, especially if the spouse that changed their mind was the one who initiated the divorce in the first place. However, it can be a difficult idea to navigate because it often involves assumptions about the behavior of one spouse, which can be read wrong. Knowing what the signs are of a spouse changing their mind and the reasons that a spouse may change their mind can be helpful to determine if a conversation regarding the change may be the right idea. It is important to understand a true shift in thinking or a second thought that will not change their mind.
The Possibility of a Changed Mind:
Some people may question if a spouse changing their mind about divorce is even a possibility because so much thought goes into the decision in the first place. Yet there is a chance that circumstances and feelings have changed to the point of deciding that it is not worth going through with the divorce. There are reasons that someone may change their mind which will be discussed below, but it is not a one-size-fits-all option. Not all spouses will exhibit the shift in their thinking in the same way, and not all spouses will be willing to change their minds. However, if a couple is going through a divorce and the parties are rethinking the notion actively, it is important to consider the possibility that a spouse can change their mind about the divorce and move forward. Choosing to get a divorce is not always the final option, and it is worth considering changing your mind if you feel that staying together may be the best thing for you and your family.
Signs that They are Changing their Mind:
To begin the discussion, it is important to understand some signs that one spouse may be changing their mind about the divorce. Knowing that one of these signs individually is not an indicator that the divorce will not happen, a spouse noticing many of these signs together may want to begin evaluating the projection of the divorce and whether staying married is an option. Some signs to way for include:
- Communication: One of the leading causes of divorce is a breakdown in communication or a lack of effective communication. When communication becomes negative, that may be a sign that divorce is on the way. However, if communication suddenly improves and the spouses can discuss their lives more positively. Notice the use of the collective noun outside of using it in a divorce context. If a spouse begins talking about the couple as a couple again, it can be a good sign that divorce may be moving off the table.
- Compliments: In some cases, communication changes may look like one spouse showering the other with compliments. This can help repair the relationship because it encourages the receiving spouse to feel good about themselves at the hand of the spouse complimenting them. This can reinforce good thoughts about each other and can indicate that the spouse complimenting the other wants the receiving spouse to associate the good feeling with the complimenting spouse.
- Sidestepping “Divorce:” Couples that are committed to the divorce may focus their communication on the divorce itself and limit communication to that. However, another common shift that can happen in communication that could be a sign that a spouse is rethinking divorce is the tendency to avoid using the word “divorce” and choosing not to talk about how it is going. Avoiding the subject could mean that the spouse may be choosing to pause the process while they make their decision, and they would like to see how the couple would be without the divorce.
- Reminiscing: Similar to communication shifts, a spouse may begin to talk about the good times that the couple used to have together. Consistently bringing up the positives of the relationship can help the spouse remember what they were able to do right in their relationship and consider fighting for those good times again. This can be especially true if they are talking about the good times that are missing that relate to the reasons that the coupled is divorcing in the first place. It is an indication that a return to those memories may end up saving the marriage.
- Being Together: While there are times that divorcing spouses may need to spend time together logistically, if one spouse is going out of their way to spend time with the other, it may be a sign that they are rethinking divorce. Being physically separated is one of the steps that a couple will often take when considering or moving toward a divorce. However, it is possible that if one spouse is seeking to spend time with the other, they are hoping to close some of the space and possibly heal the relationship. This can be particularly true when the couple spends time together and does not speak about the divorce.
- Body Language: When couples are divorcing, their body language and intimacy are usually quite distant from each other and avoidant of each other. If one spouse begins to approach the other more frequently and encourages physical touch and intimacy, then they may be reconsidering the divorce. Paying attention to nonverbal language that encourages the couple to be together rather than separately may indicate that one of the spouses is rethinking divorce.
- Therapy: Many couples may try to go to therapy before they decide to get a divorce, but the idea of revisiting therapy or going to therapy for the first time amid a divorce may be a sign that the spouse suggesting the therapy may want to try and reconcile the relationship rather than separating. Therapy can be helpful in a variety of ways, and even if the couple does end up divorcing in the end, they may divorce better after having gone to therapy.
- Jealousy: Jealousy, on its own, is typically not a sign that a spouse is changing their mind about divorce because it is natural to not want a spouse to move on, no matter how much they have grown apart. However, if the jealousy is accompanied by other signs, it may be time for the couple to have a conversation about whether divorce is the right option.
Recognizing these signs is the first step in evaluating if the couple should rethink the divorce process; however, it needs to be evaluated through the potential reasons that the divorce is being reconsidered.
Reasons A Spouse May Change their Mind:
Understanding the reasons that a spouse may change their mind about divorce is important to evaluate whether the shift is the best thing for the pair or not. There are two major categories of reasons that could be influencing a spouse’s actions, which are (1) fear and (2) genuine reconsideration. With each of these categories, there are a variety of reasons that could be the case.
Divorce is a scary and overwhelming process, and there are many things that a couple may have to do for the first time in a long time, which can increase the difficulty. Fear is often a driver for reconsideration, but in many cases, it is not the best reason that a spouse may change their mind, as it is less focused on the couple growing and learning together and more focused on avoiding living apart, regardless of the healthiest option. Some common fears that may influence divorce are:
- Loneliness: One of the most common fears that influence a spouse to rethink divorce is the fear of loneliness. Going from being around someone nearly every day to living alone for periods can feel very isolating. The fear of being unable to separate themselves from their prior life and move on to make new connections can be a driving factor. This can be especially true if the couple has been together since they were young because they have never lived apart or had other relationships in some cases. However, the fear of being lonely should not drive the couple to attempt to reconcile, because it is not seeing positive change, but reacting to the fear.
- Blame: A spouse may fear that they will be blamed for initiating the divorce, and it can cause them to rethink their choices. Having to face others as the ones that decided to divorce can be intimidating if others do not agree, so this fear can also drive spouses to reconsider.
- Independence: It can be difficult to learn to live by oneself after an extended period of living with another person. Having to learn how to do all the chores that were usually shared can be intimidating, especially if the couple has been together since they were quite young. It can be hard for the spouse to commit to continuing to live on their own, so they may choose to continue living together.
- Disappointment: For some spouses, their families or other aspects of their social circle may disapprove of divorce and this can cause fear and pressure of disappointing these people by getting a divorce. This is likely the most dangerous of the fears that may influence a spouse to change their mind because none of the fear comes from the desire of both spouses to make the relationship better.
When fear is the motivating factor, it is important to consider where the fear is coming from and whether the motivation to stay is based on possibly seeing the relationship heal and realizing that there may have been some action prematurely, or a completely fear-driven reaction to divorce that does not commit to bettering the relationship.
Another common factor in choosing to remain in a marriage may be the spouse changing their mind on the divorce based on a change in the relationship, either with each other or with their family. Some common relationship drivers include:
- Spousal Relationship: At times, there can be a true change in the spouses’ feelings toward each other and a genuine shift in the way their relationship is moving. They may begin to make more of an effort to heal the relationship and begins to see each other as spouses once again.
- Kids: Another common relationship that may end up encouraging a couple to stay together is the drive to do so for their children. Children may respond to the divorce in different ways, and in some cases, they respond poorly and the parents may see staying together as a way to help their children succeed. This may not always be a good choice, especially if one spouse may be in danger, but understanding the health of their children can help determine if divorce is the best option.
While not listed as one of the main categories for reasons that a spouse may change their mind, the cost is an influencing factor. It can be very expensive to get divorced if the spouses are unable to decide on the divorce together. Because of the enormous expense, some spouses may decide that spending money on therapy or other forms of reconciliation may be more useful than spending money to get divorced. Cost should not influence the decision unless there is a genuine commitment to reconciliation on both sides, but it can be avoided if the couple chooses to stay together.
What to Do:
Once a spouse has noticed some of the changes listed above and evaluated the reasons that the spouse may be changing their mind, it can be time to consider their own feelings about the divorce and evaluate if they would like to have a conversation about the future. If both spouses are expressing a genuine interest in wanting to heal the relationship, it may be worth taking a step back in the divorce process and approaching paths to conciliation. However, it is also important to understand when the spouse is not quite ready to think about staying together or has made up their mind to get a divorce and not push the divorce on the spouse. Having the conversation and the commitment can help the parties evaluate each other and get on the same page without making assumptions. Noticing the signs in a spouse and considering trying to rebuild together can be a starting point for a stronger and healthier marriage moving forward.