How To Stop A Divorce With 3 Words


    5 Min Read


    I counsel a lot of couples that are on the verge of divorce. One of my goals with these couples is to show them how they can stop a divorce before it happens.

    Most come to counseling to find out if there's any way their marriage can be fixed. Although some of these partners aren't asking how to stop a divorce since they assume they’ve got irreconcilable differences and divorce is inevitable.

    Many of these partners have been unhappy and thinking about divorce for quite a long time. They see marriage counseling as just a box to check before they pull the trigger on a separation or divorce.


    For others, divorce talk has been triggered by an event such as the discovery of cheating or a series of events like the repeated abuse of alcohol.

    Whatever the situation, many have little hope that things can actually change. They just see counseling as a last step before the final stage -- divorce.

    It’s very hard for most to truly believe that they can stop things from reaching the divorce stage.

    Regardless of the circumstances, the best way to stop a divorce is by preventing the need for one in the first place.

    Practicing Divorce Prevention

    Most married couples don’t actively think, “How can I prevent a divorce?" They simply assume, whatever the problems, things will work out and they’ll be fine.

    Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.


    There are, however, some couples who naturally practice preventative behaviors, not realizing the favor they’re doing themselves.

    Couples who,

    are doing divorce prevention whether they know it or not.

    Unfortunately, most of us aren't intentional enough about building our marriages to prevent a divorce ahead of time -- we wait until there's a crisis and then get to work trying to fix our relationship.

    However, at this point the work is exponentially more difficult.

    Stopping Divorce Before It Starts

    At the core of how to prevent or stop a divorce is -- change.

    Not changing is the cause of all divorces. This is true for both partners in the relationship.


    This can be a hard concept for many partners. A lot of people hold beliefs like,

    • “This the way I’ve always been, why should I change now?”

    • “He/she knew what they were getting when they married me."

    • “What was good enough then should be good enough now.”

    What these partners don’t realize is that life and circumstances change whether they recognize it or not, and keeping a relationship strong means they must change too.

    If things are going the wrong direction it’s usually a combination of behaviors from both partners that are the cause. Even if one partner’s behavior seems to be the primary problem, the circumstances that allowed that behavior are a shared responsibility.

    What do I mean?

    • Poor communication

    • No boundaries

    • Lack of effort

    • Taking one another for granted

    These are all behaviors that come back to both partners and allow the cracks to form in the foundation of a relationship.

    Taking stock of your relationship early on and making changes as they’re needed will go a long way toward keeping your relationship strong.

    Check out this social media post I wrote about a perfect relationship, and I'll explain next how it relates to change.



    Maybe you aren't somebody who wants or expects to have the perfect relationship.

    However, whether we're aware of it or not, we all have expectations of what our,

    • Partner

    • Marriage

    • Lives

    will turn out like.

    And when those expectations (sometimes they're unconscious) aren't met, we can understandably become dissatisfied.

    If this dissatisfaction isn’t addressed it will grow and lead to resentment, along with other strong feelings that will ultimately causing a couple to drift apart.

    Stopping Divorce Means Changing

    Being willing to change is how to stop a divorce.

    And one of the most important things we can change are our expectations.

    Unrealistic or unmet expectations are at the root of the majority of marital problems.


    The failure of expectations to be realized causes disappointment and unhappiness. Many people live with this disappointment allowing it to eat away at them and hurt their relationship.

    As I wrote in the above social media post,

    In couples counseling I find that one of the biggest problems most couples have is dealing with the imperfections in their partner. A common stumbling block to improving the relationship is the focus on changing all of the imperfections of the partner."

    Changing unrealistic expectations of our partners, especially regarding past hurts, is vital for relationship health.

    You can stop a divorce with 3 little words.

    No, not “I love you,” (those are important too though).

    The three words that can stop a divorce are -- "I will change."

    You may not know how, and that's okay because there are people out there like me that can teach you. You just need to be willing to change yourself more than you want to change your partner.

    It's possible that your partner needs to make changes as well, but the only behavior you can really affect is your own. You have to be willing to make the needed changes within yourself and expect that your partner will do the same.

    I remember working with a couple in divorce counseling a few years ago. The husband hadn't cheated or done anything extreme, but he could be very demeaning and controlling towards his wife.

    We worked together in couples counseling for a while before she decided to file for divorce when he continued to refuse to make any changes. And he continued this stance while we mediated their divorce without attorneys.

    Finally, at one meeting about 5 months into the divorce process he finally broke and admitted he needed to change. Sadly, she was done and was not willing to change her decision to end the marriage.


    Had he only been willing to evaluate his own behavior and make the needed changes within himself earlier they would very likely still be together today.

    It typically takes both partners being willing to say, "I will change" to stop a divorce from proceeding, but not always. And even though none of us can force our partner to say and do those words, we can certainly influence them by doing it ourselves.

    What To Take Away

    Not all divorces can be stopped, but many can – with the right effort and commitment to change.

    In many, many divorces couples have become so focused on what’s wrong with their partner that they forget to look at themselves.

    Demonstrating your commitment to the relationship by being willing to make the changes needed about yourself can be very impactful.

    It can also reinforce to your partner the importance you place on them and your relationship.

    And although both of you may need to make changes, if there has been betrayal in the relationship or anything that has broken trust, it may require the person who did that to do the work first before the other will be willing to engage.

    I believe there are always ways that both partners can change themselves for the better. Yet obviously in some situations one partner has more changing to do than the other, such as when they're cheating or are an alcoholic, as described earlier.

    If you want to stop a divorce, try working on changing yourself, and start with the words, "I will change."

    We all can list things our partner has told us that they wish we would do differently, and that's a great place to start. Even if you cannot stop the divorce, being willing to change is something that will definitely benefit you in the future.

    If you liked this article on how to stop a divorce, you can get notified each time there's a new one by signing-up at the bottom of this page, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I post relationship and self-improvement tips just like this.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 13, 2014, updated on May 23, 2018, and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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