When Hopin’ Ends, the Healin’ Begins
Dusty Springfield sang a song in the early 60’s called “Wishin’ and Hopin.’” The chorus went like this:
Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms
Clinging to Hope During Divorce
Those lyrics are wise words. It takes much more than wishin’ and hopin’ to reverse a marriage that is on the cusp of ending. Clients are rarely on the same page when a marriage ends. Invariably one person still clings to the hope of reconnecting and recommitting to the partnership. On the other hand, the person who is psychologically out of the marriage is not immune to the sadness and hopin’ either. This spouse is often at a loss on how to comfort but not encourage the other.
Thoughts to Help Ease the Hopin’ and Begin the Healin’
Avoid rehashing the conversations about “why” and “if only.”
Often the hopin’ party becomes addicted to the conversation. There is a belief that a magic word or two could change the outcome. The need or request to keep talking is sometimes a way to procrastinate and for the reluctant partner to maintain the status quo. Sometimes the kindest option is to set a time limit on conversations or not to engage in these conversations at all.
Focus on the future and not on the past.
Redirecting the conversations to how we’ll end the marriage (choosing between using mediation and/or attorneys) from if we are going to end the marriage is a way to move forward. Creating the option for the hopin’ spouse to make some decisions may be helpful.
It is not unusual for one party to express confusion and incredulity that the marriage may really end. There is often a lot of pent-up emotion and urgency to communicate. Good-bye counseling (one or two sessions) may be useful for both of you. It is a time to hear the other’s loss and grief in a safe environment. For a perspective on this, read my article, “One More Try–Marriage Counseling.”
This is not a shame-and-blame opportunity but rather a chance to gift each other with being heard and understood. Quite often the hopin’ spouse will be much more cooperative and less angry and ready to proceed. I can provide names of resources that might be useful. Please contact me for suggestions.
Respond to pouting with empathy
We all know that kids pout when they do not get their way. Sometimes they slam doors and shout. It does not often change the outcome: they still can’t go to the party or watch TV, but they want you to know they are angry.
Adults pout too. When a marriage is ending, the wishin’ spouse wants the other spouse to know, without a doubt, that they are hurt and upset and often afraid. Adult pouting looks like the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, sniping, and worst of all, bad-mouthing the other spouse.
What may help the pouting partner is to let her know that you sincerely care that she is in pain and deep sadness. Empathetic listening means that you can be present with the other’s feelings without problem-solving or minimizing. While the hurt does not disappear and the wishin’ may continue, it is likely the pouting and acting-out anger may be reduced. There is healing for both parties when people feel understood.
Consider divorce mediation to create your agreement.
The very nature of mediation is to create a space where each party feels respected, valued and heard. In mediation, both the emotional and practical details are discussed and honored. With the guidance of a mediator, the hopin’ spouse can share his or her fears and worries in the context of practical choices that need to be made.
Mediation promotes empathy and models supportive listening. Statistics confirm that mediated agreements are more durable and there are fewer post-divorce conflicts than traditional attorney-driven divorces.
Be Clear and Be Kind
It is hard to imagine that the spouse that is ready to end the marriage can influence the hopin’ spouse in a positive manner. One of the kindest ways to ease the pain of a hopin’ spouse is to be consistent and gently firm that nothing will influence your decision. It may seem counter-intuitive, but healing will only begin when your partner ends the hopin’ and comes to acceptance.
If you both have doubts, then marriage counseling is a very important part of the process. If you are clear that this marriage is over, then the kindest thing is to be firm and forward-looking. Please see my article, “This Marriage Is Over for Me.”