Filing For Divorce To Scare Your Spouse Into Saving The Marriage: Is This Ever A Good Idea?

I recently heard from a wife who had come up with a strategy that she hoped would get her husband’s attention and make him recommit to her marriage.  She was considering serving him with divorce paper in order to “scare him” into saving the marriage.

She said, in part: “my husband is very noncommittal about saving our marriage.  He seems to always be on the fence.  He has no sense of urgency at all and always tells me that he wants to “wait and see” what happens.  I want to be very proactive and work very aggressively on saving our marriage and getting the passion back.  My husband will admit that we have problems.  He will admit that we need to do something.  But he isn’t sure what he wants that “something” to be.  He’s mentioned separation, a break, or a divorce, but he never mentions doing any real work to make our marriage better. I’m just thinking that if I force his hand a little bit, he may be scared or alarmed enough to actually work with me.”

I did understand where this wife was coming from.  There’s nothing more frustrating than a spouse who is dragging their feet about saving the marriage, admitting there’s a problem, or at least making a decision.  But I felt that this strategy was extremely risky and not the best way to handle this. I’ll tell you why (and tell you the alternative I suggested) in the following article.

Filing For Divorce In The Hopes Of Getting Your Spouse To Recommit To You (Or To “Scare Them” Into Saving The Marriage) Is Extremely Risky:  This isn’t the first wife who has run this plan by me.  And I won’t tell you that there’s no chance that it will work.  I suppose it could work.  But to me, there are other strategies that would work better and are less risky.

If you file for divorce, you are filing legal documents in a court of law.  There will be a permanent record of this.  And you have no guarantee that your spouse won’t proceed, get his own attorney, and respond to the divorce with the intention of seeing it through and making it final.

And I’m not even going to mention the cost and time involved – both of which can be quite steep.  If you think about it, your real goal is to get your spouse recommitted to you and the marriage.  There are other ways to do that which don’t involve nearly as much risk or dramatics – neither of which your spouse is likely to act all that nicely toward.

There’s every chance that your filing for divorce can anger or hurt your spouse so much that they tell you that, after you’ve forced their hand, they’ve decided that divorce really is the best option.

At the end of the day, you want him to be more receptive toward you, more motivated, more cooperative, and more loving.  You aren’t as likely to get these things if you act this drastically.  So what do you do instead when you’re trying to get them to recommit to the marriage?  In my view, there really are two options, as follows.

Try To Get Your Spouse To Recommit To The Marriage Using Positive Reinforcements:  I honestly think this is the preferred way to go.  The less drama and the more cooperation there is, the easier the process goes in my opinion.  The next time things aren’t volatile with your husband and things are going a little better, you might tell him that you miss the way things used to be in your marriage and you want to get it back.

When you are saying this, you need to speak in such a way that your husband is going to listen.  Remember what men respond best to.  You likely know your husband very well so now is the time to use that knowledge.  I can tell you that most men respond more to the physical than to the emotional. 

So it’s better to say things like “I remember when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.  I miss that.  I miss feeling close to you physically.”  And you’re less likely to get the response you want if you say things like “we need to work through our problems until we’ve solved every one of them.  You need to work with me and recommit to this marriage.”

Actually both of those phrases mean the same thing, but which one do you think your spouse will respond more favorably to?  Men think in more physical terms.  You want to give them something to look forward to instead of giving them the mental image of them “working.”

Asking them to “work” on the marriage may fall on deaf ears.  And asking them to work on the marriage while you’ve filed for divorce papers could well be a disaster.

Another Possible Strategy To Get Him To Recommit To The Marriage:  I realize that what I described before isn’t going to be possible for every one. Some husbands are going to be too distant or too angry to respond to you – even when you reference a physical reconnection.

In this case, you might want to suggest or pose giving each other some time or space.  This sort of accomplishes the same thing as filing the divorce papers in the example I gave, but it’s certainly not as drastic and it’s not as formal.

One of you can stay with family or friends for a bit. The hope is that the time apart will help your husband to see how much he misses you, how much he wants you back, and how important your marriage really is to him.  Because ultimately, you really want for him to realize that he wants this marriage and he’s willing to work or fight for it.  Sometimes, it’s distance between you that will accomplish this.  And other times, you will get a better response if you act in a positive way since men do not like to feel manipulated.

If it were me, I would try taking a more positive approach first.  If this doesn’t work, you can always then suggest some time apart.  But a separation was forced on me and this honestly almost costs me my marriage.  I stooped to very negative behavior and this only drove my husband further away.  I finally got myself together though and was able to save the marriage.  You can read the whole story on my blog at 

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