The Last Resort Technique from the book, The Divorce Remedy by Michelle Weiner-Davis, adapted by Philipa Thornton.
When your partner has dropped the proverbial bombshell, “I want a divorce,” you need to move past the devastation into action after the shell shock is over. The Last Resort Technique has been developed by Michelle Weiner-Davis to save your marriage, your sanity, or both.
If you are at the place where you have got nothing to lose, then give it a go. If your friend is sharing their sadness and hopelessness with you and needs help with their marriage, please pass this relationship advice on.
The Last Resort Technique
OK, so you have tried everything, exhausted all your options, and feel hopeless and even helpless. Now it is time to use the Last Resort Technique to save your marriage. This relationship boot camp comes with a warning – this is a LAST RESORT.
This needs to start immediately if:
- Your spouse has said in no uncertain terms that they want a divorce and it feels like they mean it. (This can’t be empty words, spoken in anger during a fight.)
- You and your spouse are living apart.
- You and your spouse are in the same house but are like ships passing in the night with very little interaction. You may be in separate rooms, hardly speaking with little or no sexual contact.
- You have the divorce papers in front of you.
Your marriage is at a crisis point. While divorce rates are high, there are relationships that can still survive this vulnerable time and you don’t have to be another statistic. Those rates don’t tell the story of all the many people who beat the odds.
Hold onto the hope I give you here, please!
While no technique is guaranteed to work, there is always some benefit to taking positive action. It’s definitely worth a crack!
I have worked with many clients who were on the brink or in the trauma of an affair. Usually, only one partner is in favour of a divorce and the other spouse who made the call to me is the one who desperately wants to stay together.
If you happen to be the spouse who is keen on holding onto your marriage, it is highly probable that you are not in your usual state of mind and are acting in desperate ways. This very behaviour that you keep doing pushes your partner further away (you are aware of it, but can’t seem to help it!). You have chased, cajoled, reasoned, begged, pleaded, railed, guilt-tripped, and implored your partner to no avail.
All the phone calls, text messages, letters, emails, and heart and gut wrenching pleas have failed. You sense that your spouse is out the door and a part of you recognises the attempts are felt by him or her as pressure. They will dig their heels in insisting that the marriage is over, and this may prompt another wave of fear and you to chase even more.
It is the effects of this pursuing and chasing that are DEADLY to a marriage.
Blind Freddy can see this is not working. In fact, if you keep pushing your husband or wife, you will be driving them right out the door. As I said, there is a part of you that knows this. But this fearful, scared, vulnerable part of you is making the wrong decisions and making you appear completely desperate and unwelcoming.
Of course, you need to honor the fragile part of you that is in pain and wants to cling on. It is human nature – we all want to hold onto something that is important and dear to us. However, the flip side to our humanity and animal instinct is, the party being chased or even hunted down will feel the need to escape when you coerce or pressure in response to feeling trapped.
If you are truly serious about saving your marriage, you have to stop pursuing. Completely!
When you chase your partner, your partner will feel hunted and you become a point of danger on a primal level. What also happens is, the troubles in your failing marriage and eroding family get lost, as you become the vector for anger and hurt.
You see it – your spouse gets frustrated and angry, and the best way for them to deal with this annoyance is to get rid of it. This means their focus shifts to how they can get away from YOU! It is surprising but it is the reality, this will really connect with the part of you that can hear reason.
Indeed, your very persistence is robbing your spouse of valuable time to think about what else is really going on your life. People start to do an amazing reframe here and I often hear spouses wondering aloud with things like, “I am not sure I ever really loved him or her.” This is basically due to the suffocation the spouse feels. It becomes a survival issue and you are the danger they need to escape from.
When we are in survival mode, we will go into flight or fight mode. Usually, partners go into anger and aggressiveness (or worse, pity) towards their spouse as a distancing move and part of separating from the distressing situation. When this happens, the angry part blocks any other feelings, like sadness, grief, guilt, and remorse that might cause some reflection and actually help your cause.
With your mate staring angrily at you, what opportunity do they get to look in the mirror, reflect, and take some responsibility for your marital breakdown?
Option A – Keep doing what you are doing and get the same results.
Option B – Quit supplying you wife or husband with a reason to leave.
Oh if it were only that easy. I am asking you to stop doing the very thing that keeps the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness temporarily at bay. But you have to stop this harmful pattern today. I repeat – stop it now, right this very minute.
I am going to give you a specific guide how to stop the landslide of desolation in your marriage today.
Here is your action plan based on The Last Resort Technique:
1. STOP Chasing!
Immediately cease anything that your spouse might look at as pursuing behavior.
This means stopping anything that would be perceived by your spouse as your way of chasing him or her, such as:
- Frequent phone calls, texts, or emails
- Begging your spouse to reconsider
- Describing all the good in your marriage
- Writing letters
- Following your mate around the house (or anywhere – this is stalking!)
- Encouraging talk about the future
- Asking for reassurances
- Buying gifts or flowers
- Planning holidays or trips away together
- Trying to schedule dates together
- Spying on your spouse, keeping tabs on their calls, movements, and work arrangements
- Talking to friends and family about what to do
Stop saying “I love you.” This is essential.
It seems counter intuitive – “How will they know?” I get it, but even though this will be hard, know that every time you say “I love you,” your spouse is reminded that they don’t love you and will be looking the other way!
Scary huh? That is why it is imperative to silence the “I Love You’s”. You already feel how disheartening it is to hear their resigned response of “I know” or worse, still silence. Or the ouch that goes with “I love you, but I am not in love with you.” It hurts, doesn’t it? So, stop the chase.
2. Get a life.
What happens in a crisis like separation is, we become desperate, clingy, and depressed. You are in tears often, mope around sadly, lose interest in things you used to enjoy, and basically become lifeless as the fearful or rejected part of you shuts you down as a means to cope. Of course, it is normal to feel all those feelings and shut down or want to ease the hurt.
The loss of a loved one and witnessing the falling apart of your family are the most painful times you can ever experience. The separation anxiety and desperation are an ugly place to be in for both of you and for others to see. You will feel and look unattractive – not one of us will be at our best here.
Now, if your relationship has had the trauma of a full blown sexual affair or emotional infidelity, you are competing with not only the fantasy of an ideal life without problems but a person that is in the opposite space of distressed.
Hard to hear, but reality hurts and I say this to the part of you who knows how to pick yourself up after a fall and dust yourself off. Awareness helps and heals.
Here you need to act as if you are moving forward in your life and getting on with it. Otherwise, you better quit now.
Of course, it may seem like I am suggesting an impossibility – get happy, be strong, get back into life, and develop your confidence. You are asking yourself, “How can I do this when I feel like crap, I can hardly function, it’s a miracle getting out of bed each day, and things are horrible at home?” Good question. Obviously, these are normal feelings and you are reacting as any normal person would in such devastating circumstances.
I want to ask you – Is that the core of you? The real you? Or the hurt, scared or angry part getting all the air time?
Because I believe that in the heart of you, your true essence, there is a trooper. That’s right! A part of you at the core can survive this – a part much stronger, mature, more confident, and wiser in dealing with tough situations.
Can I get you to take a moment to get in touch with that part of you right now?
Ask yourself (and you can even write this list down to remind yourself as you come home to yourself), “What was it about ME that my partner was attracted to in the first place?” Allow yourself to remember and really connect to those wonderful parts of yourself.
This is the person your partner fell in love with.
Each of those parts (for reference, please look up Official Resource Therapy Institute for a full description) on your list are valued by your partner but have been sidelined by the hurt and angry parts, whose job is to defend you from attack and the absolute hell you are going through now. Please allow those parts some more air time and a chat with the part of you that is angry, scared, and hurt to negotiate a better way forward.
You are in danger when acting in the victim role of getting typecast and truly become the martyr. Reclaim your life today by reconnecting with your whole self.
- Immediately start doing things that are out of character to the way you have been acting lately. Move beyond helplessness into action and power.
- Allow your mood to be more upbeat in your spouse’s presence.
- Appear pleased with yourself and your own life.
- On phone conversations, sound content, even bubbly. Don’t sit around waiting for your spouse to call. Get out and do things. Start a new hobby – rock-climbing, needlepoint, ice-skating, and movie critic. Get busy.
- Start to be unpredictable. Let calls go to voicemail. If you’ve always tried to engage your partner in conversation when they call, visit, or go home, be scarce and short on words.
- Take up opportunities offered by your partner for family time, gracefully, with no expectation of any further.
- If you were in the habit of being detective and grilling your spouse about their whereabouts, ask nothing. Simply wish your partner a good time.
In short, you need to make your partner think you have had an AWAKENING and, as far as you are concerned, you are going to move on with your life, with or without your spouse.
This doesn’t mean you are nasty, angry, or even cold. It is simply a case of pulling back and waiting to see if your spouse notices and, more importantly, realises what they will be missing.
Be warm and friendly.
Remember this point: Backing off increases your chances of your spouse becoming more interested in you, if you back off and start doing your own thing.
Another important reason for “getting a life” is, you have stopped having fun and doing things that give you pleasure. At times, we all need to be reminded to find out what makes us feel good in a healthy, respectful way. Find your joy!
Taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your relationships. Focus on becoming a better person.
Go back to old interests, church, synagogue, or the library. Join a new class at the community college. Play an instrument or get lessons. Contact some old friends, pick up the phone, and connect. Visit a family member. Rise at dawn, go for a walk, and watch the sunset. Read poetry, listen to music, play golf, go fishing, camping, running, or star gazing. Join a meet up group, go walking, cycling, get a massage, a haircut, find a personal trainer, and get therapy.
Do things that will help you get back in touch with yourself, not just because your spouse might like you more if you do (in fact people have a weird sixth sense when things are not genuine) but because it is important to honour, value, and love yourself in a caring healthy and nurturing manner.
You DESERVE it. I know you are worth it.
3. Wait and Watch
According to Michelle Weiner-Davis, one of three things will happen when you use her Last Resort Technique:
Unfortunately, there are times when the universe just says no and, no matter what you do, your spouse has shut the door on your marriage. It needs to be said that there is no magic bullet. Sometimes, life is just really unfair and we don’t get the things we most want.
Despite not having been able to save your marriage, there will be a secondary gain from applying the Last Resort in your life – you will have recovered yourself and your emotional well-being. At the very least, you will have gotten back your DIGNITY. Step 2 gives you a plan of action and the part that feels lost and out of control will benefit.
Your self-worth will be in a much better place, allowing you to feel more prepared to take on whatever comes your way. A good point to take on even though it is not easy to hear.
Michelle also notes two other responses you might see in your spouse:
The second possible response from your mate is, they become curious.
They might start showing more interest in you, your whereabouts, and what you are doing in your life. Your husband or wife may even suggest that you spend more time together to talk or do something enjoyable. They may also start asking you a lot of questions about these sudden changes.
Listen up: Here’s Michelle’s advice if any of these begin to happen:
- Be loving in return, but not overly excited or enthusiastic.
- Accept some invitations to spend time together, but not all.
- Accept all Family time invites. Your spouse seeing you having fun with your kids together reminds them of the value of family.
- Do not ask any questions about your future together.
- Be vague when asked questions about the changes in you. Say that you are just thinking things through. Live the shift.
- Continue to be upbeat.
- Do not say, “I love you.”
- Resist getting in the conversation about your relationship.
- Get a head start and beat your spouse to the punch when it comes time to leave or separate from each other at the end of an activity. You set the tone for going your separate ways.
- As a rule of thumb, be responsive to your partner’s interest but not too responsive. Going overboard will lead your partner to get cold feet. Be warned.
So, stay interested, but cool, until you are absolutely convinced that your partner’s renewed interest in saving your marriage has taken hold.
If you are excited about this technique and it is working for you, share it with a friend or write it down, add your comments to the blog, but don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Tell us here, we would love to hear from you.
Once you feel absolutely sure this is so, you can test the waters by becoming more obvious about your desire to stay together. Patience wins out.
Try discussing your future and see what happens.
If your partner is receptive, move forward slowly and begin to tackle the issues that drove you apart in the first place.
If on the flip side you are met with any resistance or reluctance, do a reverse and backpedal quick smart.
Go back to your interested but distant stance until things move forward in a more positive direction. This may take a whole lot longer than you would like – weeks or many months.
You must be patient. Wait until your spouse appears to be a little interested rather than pulling away – you will know when it’s real. While it is tough for the marriage (and you!) to be in this holding pattern, it’s ok. Trying to save your marriage is the most important thing that is happening in your life right now.
Be compassionate and hold onto yourself, even when the scared part of you wants you to act out or the excited part wants to whoop for joy.
The third possibility is probably the least likely, but these outcomes do on occasion happen: The overnight change of heart by your spouse.
They might lose all thoughts of divorce and jump right back into the relationship as if nothing has happened. While rare, this DOES happen.
Michelle gives some great advice:
- Don’t move too quickly. I liken it to the Latin adage, festina lente, which means “to make haste slowly”.
- It is vital for you to pace yourself. If you act as if nothing happened between the two of you, then it is only a matter of time before your spouse will have second thoughts about his or her decision.
- You didn’t get into the place of relationship breakdown overnight. Much as you would like to forget that it ever happened, you won’t get back on track overnight.
- If you’re separated, don’t jump right back into being together.
- Once you have your partner’s attention and you sense a real commitment to working things out, you will need to take further steps toward making your marriage a healthier and happier place.
I would suggest The Divorce Remedy by Michelle Weiner-Davis, where the Last Resort Technique has been adapted for this article. Truly great advice from couples expert Michelle of www.divorcebusting.com.
Therapy helps you to heal both the wounds of the separation and the causes of what has lead up to it.
A word of caution about sex: Have it! We are only talking about sexual encounters that are initiated by your spouse. Enjoy the moment. With a sexual connection, our bonding hormones are released – oxytocin. Use it.
*Warning! Please do not read anything more into your intimate moment than a happy event. Do not go overboard or start laying down expectations about your partner. Keep doing the Last Resort.
Good luck and it’s not over till it’s over!
We welcome your comments and experiences. Please share here, you are not alone.