Originally Printed in the Lakelands Leader in our advice column The Laudable Life

Q: Around Thanksgiving my wife told me she is not in love with me anymore and that she wanted a divorce.  I told her we needed to get through the holidays and I asked her to try to put it out of her mind until the New Year.  I hoped we could make the holidays special and she would forget about it. It didn’t happen. In the last couple months I’ve tried hard to “woo” her back. I’ve sent her texts throughout the day telling her I love her and that I’m thinking about her. I’ve hidden cards throughout the house. I’ve sent flowers to her work. I try to be more physically affectionate. All of these efforts are completely rejected. It seems the harder I try, the more she pulls away. I don’t know what to do.

A: This will be extremely difficult but you must stop chasing her immediately. As you said, the more you chase the more she pulls away. Why is that?  It seems so counterintuitive.  Here is an explanation from Dr. Elizabeth Carr on how you might want to “be” with her instead.

  1. Don’t Seem Desperate. Begging, pleading, crying, and seeming desperate (by over pursuing) or depressed are major turn offs. Behaving like a victim makes your partner feel guilty and that makes them resent you all the more.
  2. Be Unpredictable. Your daily text, cards, and efforts at unsolicited affection have become predictable. Pulling back on that can make you more mysterious and appealing.  Pump the brakes and let your spouse wonder what’s going on in your head, rather than spending all your time wondering what’s going on in hers.
  3. Find Your Old Self. Use your time to reflect on what attracted your spouse to you in the beginning. Try to find your way back to that person.  Make your life about more than your spouse and your relationship. Focus more energy on your career, your kids, your friends, or your hobbies.
  4. Stop Pursuing. Be open to the very subtle signs of your spouse turning toward you, and respond to those subtle efforts with gracious openness. However, please don’t use your partner’s positive signals to justify resuming your own overdriven pursuit of her affection.  Your fear will try to persuade you to go back to chasing. Don’t do it. It’s critical you give your partner some space to find her way back to you.

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