Mr. Marriage Counselor - "Divorced Husband Wants to 'Try' Again"

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    “My ex-husband wants to get back together and try again (sigh).”

    “Really? After all you went through in the divorce?”

    “Yes. I don’t know what to do. It seems so complicated.”

    Sound at all familiar?

    Divorcing is a painful, last resort in a marriage which makes getting back together and trying again a tricky thing to do. Getting to the point in a marriage where a couple feels they have no choice but to end things generally means the relationship has become so bad that splitting up seems like the only option.

    Divorce is also not a quick and easy process. There are a lot of emotional and legal hoops to jump through. So, after going through all that what should you do if the husband you divorced now wants to try again? That’s exactly what Lisa was wondering when she wrote to us about her husband wanting to try again after they had already divorced.

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    Bringing Your Relationship Back After Divorce

    The desire to get back together after divorce isn’t as unusual as you may think. But there are also several things to consider if you’re thinking about trying to bring your relationship back after going through such a painful process. Check out Lisa’s question below and my response that follows.

    Reader Question:

    We're recently divorced after a 12 year marriage w/2 children. My husband wants to 'try' again. Is it possible to make this work? Where do we start?" -Lisa W.

    Lisa’s situation is pretty typical of couples that experience divorce regret. Those couples have generally been together for a number of years, are somewhere in their midlife years, and struggling through the process of raising a family.

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    My Answer:

    Yes, it's possible to put a marriage back to together after a divorce and to make it work. I've seen it happen.

    I've also had divorced men tell me that after their divorce they really made some changes and became different men, particularly in regard to involvement with their kids. So maybe the divorce process has affected your husband and he really does want to make this work.

    Everyday I work with men who've stuck their heads in the sand for years and denied there were any problems in their marriage. But when the marriage was finally ending, they woke up and became desperate and willing to do anything to save it. Maybe this is your husband too.

    Start by making sure that his understanding of what "try again" means and matches yours. For example, this means working at your relationship, not just getting back together for sex or a maid. You should put some specific definitions in place of what "trying" will look like and start slowly. For example, maybe start with an evening together once a week or couples counseling every other week.

    Be sure to get the advice of a relationship expert like you'll get in professional divorce counseling or marriage counseling. You'll both need help in resolving the issues that led you to divorce, as well as learning some new relationship skills that put you on a path to making this go around successful.

    Considerations Before Getting Back Together

    As I told Lisa above, many men don’t realize how much they value their wife and family until they’re gone. Divorce can leave people unsatisfied, sad, and lonely. In some cases this results in a man making positive changes and truly wanting to fix what was broken. In others, however, it can make a man feel like he just wants the pain to stop and what he had before was better than being alone.

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    The motivations of both ex’s needs to be honestly and thoroughly considered.

    It’s my experience as a marriage counselor that most marriages can be saved with the right commitment and effort from both partners. But once a couple has gone through divorce, I also know there are important considerations before getting back together and potentially restarting an unhealthy and painful cycle all over again.

    This is especially true when there are children involved. No child wants their family to break apart, but once it’s happened, they need a chance to heal. Shaking their emotions around like snow in a snow globe as they bounce from hope to disappointment and back again will create emotional and psychological turmoil, as well as lasting damage within children.

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    Despite good intentions it can be easy to be more influenced by your short-term self-interests than to have the patience required for the longterm greater good.

    So, before a couple jumps back into a relationship, there needs to be a lengthy evaluation of the prior relationship, reasons for break-up, and how a future relationship would be different. And a plan needs to be developed and implemented to ensure these things are addressed.

    Divorce once is bad enough, but divorce twice – from the same person – will be even more devastating for all involved than the first time.

    Do you have a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? Click here to submit it and I'll answer it in an up coming post. Be sure to subscribe in the box at the bottom so you'll get my answer.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published February 4, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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