I often write about saving marriages even when it seems that divorce is imminent. However, some of the hardest questions that I get are about preventing the divorce when the other spouse has seemingly moved on and is seeing someone else. Admittedly, this is a tough one. It’s pretty clear that the divorcing spouse has pretty well made up his mind (or is at least playing mind games) and isn’t going to change course any time soon. However, there are some things that you can do to paint yourself in the best light, giving yourself the best chance that they will come to their senses before the divorce is final. I’ll discuss this more in the article below.
If They Are Playing Mind Games: Many people will write to me and say things like “well, I think that his seeing someone else is just meant to hurt me or to get a reaction out of me. He’s just playing games and I’m not going to play along.” You may well be right. Sometimes, a spouse will see someone else to hurt you or to make some point. There’s no denying that.
But, getting pulled into this negative cycle is not going to do anything for your bottom line. It’s always important that you carefully evaluate every action and reaction that you have. Obviously, if your spouse chooses to see someone else before the divorce is final, it’s going to be hurtful. If you want to save the marriage, it’s pretty hard to deny this effect on you. And, if you do attempt it, you’re only playing games yourself.
Many people ask me if they should counter by seeing someone else too. My response is always that they should if they concede that the marriage is over and they feel that it is the right time for this. But, if you want to ultimately save your marriage, this is a bad call. It only digs a deeper hole and creates more negative emotions and confusion.
In my opinion, the best tactic to take is restrained honesty. I always tell spouses to make their position very clear – that you want to save your marriage, but you can’t control how someone else feels or responds. You respect their right to be happy and you agree that the marriage, as it stands, isn’t making either of you happy. However, what you can control is how you conduct yourself during this very difficult time. And, for your part, you’re not going to add more fuel to the fire – because this relationship is very important to you – whether you remain married or not.
Of course, you may not have full conviction with this message. That’s OK. But you need for them to think that you do so that they don’t need to deny you access to them. If they think that there will an argument or debate every time you are together, they’re only going to avoid you.
Don’t Overreact. Sometimes Their Seeing Someone Else Works To Your Advantage: It’s so important that you don’t overreact and cause this to allow you to do something that you will deeply regret and can not take back. Actually, sometimes, their seeing someone else works to your advantage.
But, in order for this to happen, you have to set yourself up to come out favorable in any comparisons. If you conduct yourself with quiet, respectful grace and present the best version of yourself, you’ve done what you can do. Ultimately, it’s highly unlikely that your spouse is going to fall deeply in love with the first rebound person they meet. It’s more likely that they’ll be awkward and uncomfortable as they reenter the dating maze. And, it’s not at all uncommon for spouses to tell me that dating someone else actually showed them how much they missed the other spouse.
Controlling What You Can: It’s important to understand that you can’t “make” or “get” your spouse to do what you want them to do. No one likes to be manipulated. There truly is only one thing that you have absolute control over right now – yourself and your own actions. So, focus your control there. Dust yourself off, pick yourself up and get moving. A moping, depressed, and stagnant ex is just plain unattractive. Ask yourself who was the person that your spouse first fell in love with and resurrect her.
Go out with your friends. Do things that you enjoy and make sure that your spouse knows this. This is going to make you feel better and reinforce that you respect yourself enough to make yourself a priority. And, once your spouse knows about this, it’s likely that two things may happen. First, they are going to wonder what is behind this turnaround. They’ll likely sniff around wanting to know more.
Second, if there are comparisons between you and the new person, they’re likely to be positive ones because you are displaying yourself positively rather than negatively. I know that it is tempting to react strongly and negatively about this other person, but don’t. Your spouse already knows your stance on the issue, so you don’t need to harp on it. Just continue displaying your best self and have patience. It’s highly likely that this relationship will come to it’s natural end sooner rather than later. And, when your spouse compares this person to the person he fell in love with, it’s highly likely that you may just have the advantage.
But, you give up this advantage if you react badly right now.