A Coach’s Advice (from an MLC-Standing expert)
Do a 180 and instead of insisting divorce is not the answer while your MLCer insists it is the only solution, agree with them.
Why? What will this do?
This will diffuse the situation and you will no longer be resisting. When you are fighting against each other, your MLCer sees you as the obstacle in their path to whatever it is they think they want and don’t yet have: freedom, happiness, a different partner…
I do not directly disagree with the coach’s advice. He is trying to make a point about being resistant or an adversary versus validating and being an advocate. But remember: validation is not agreement, it’s about feelings.
- Do not do this if it goes against your principles/values/belief system regarding marriage and divorce.
This is something bigger than your specific marriage and what you feel is best for your situation.
- Do not agree to something if you are bluffing and unwilling to follow-through.
What does agreeing mean in this situation?
To me it means that you are agreeing that a divorce is best—rather than acknowledging it is going to happen whether you think it’s best or not. You are also agreeing to take a more active role in the process. That doesn’t have to mean you will help your MLCer with their part, but you will be proactive rather than passively doing only what is legally required or what you must to protect yourself and your children.
- This is not good advice if Bomb Drop was recent: 12 months or less, maybe 18 months or less. If you are a newbie, work on detachment and giving your MLCer space as a possible 180.
- Do not do this if there is no divorce in process. Your MLCer may be threatening to initiate the process; let them. Many will not, so be patient and wait for them to do it—though find a good lawyer to represent you so that you are prepared.
- Do this if it is what you want or are willing to accept even though you choose to Stand.
Maybe you need the divorce for protection—you want to protect yourself. Maybe you recognize it as inevitable and just another piece of the MLC journey and your relationship, but not the end.
- Do this if you decide to stop Standing.
Divorce may be inevitable. The papers have been filed, the dates set, the assets divided and in a few days it will be done, but the MLC is nowhere near through. It’s going to happen, but you fall into the first two on the list. Is there an alternative?
Yes. Divorce is going to happen, whether you like it or agree to it. Instead of focusing your 180 on agreeing with divorce, focus in on your resistance. I do not believe in fighting for marriage because fighting yields fighting; what you resist persists. Peace for your marriage instead. Stop the argument. Stop the discussion. Legally you have a responsibility to take certain active steps in the process of divorce. You are responding, not initiating. Your MLCer may Monster and continue to interpret your actions or inactions as resistant. They get to choose how they view the world; let it go.
Treat it as business. In the beginning I told Chuck that it was not personal, but I simply had a different opinion about what was best in our situation and divorce was not only not best, it was worst and would lead to more damage. But I let him know that I realized he had a different opinion and that I was not doing this to change his mind, I was doing it because to uphold my principle of acting in the way I thought was least detrimental. This diffused Monster just a bit, no, not totally! But I was consistent in my reasons; I simply had to be true to my values. By making it about my values, it was no longer something I was doing personally against him.
I told him that any divorce discussion would go through our lawyers and refused to discuss it further and attempted to gently turn a conversation to another topic if he brought it up. If Monster roared and became insistent, I hung up or left the room. This was during the first months after Bomb Drop when I’m sorry you that feel that way is a staple in the Stander’s response tool box.
But those were the easy days. As most of you know Chuck stopped the divorce less than 3 months after filing.
How did this help—since I was still saying I would not divorce him or help him divorce me?
It helped because I did not fight over it and I did not make attempts to convince him about my side of the issue. Part of agreeing to disagree is agreeing to give up trying to convince the other person. I removed the argument because it was a no-win situation. Did I ever convince him? No. He later came to a position against divorce on his own. Of course it was influenced by my Stand, but he owns it.
My bigger challenge came three years later and I was not facing divorce, rather I had to switch roles and he had to fear losing me. My mentor finally advised me to set up a consequence or rule when he came home that if he continued to see the alienator I would file for divorce and that I should also have a suitcase for him packed and ready at the front door—where he could see it as a reminder. She was a supporter of my Stand, but was trying to come up with something to scare him; those were not good tactics.
Threatening to file wouldn’t work for me because I fall into the first two bullets on that list above; I built my Stand and Chuck’s reassurance on a foundation of principles. I had not simply been saying I didn’t think divorce was right in our situation; I was saying divorce was wrong, against my values, against my belief system…I made it a moral stance.
The suitcase would have sent the message that being with me was not permanent and was conditional. Well, technically it is conditional, but that sort of reminder would have felt as though he was at risk every moment of being tossed out of his home and would have thus been in opposition to building his feeling of safety and security in our home.
In the three years since Bomb Drop I had been consistent in my Stand and Chuck was finally reassured that I was there for him. Too reassured. The cake-eating got pretty bad; he once said he was going to change his mind every day so that at night he could live at home and he would leave me for the alienator in the morning and change his mind at night and dump her. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but just shake your head and laugh at the absurdity; I did. I also knew it was finally time to do something different—180. He now needed to fear losing me. But how could I do that without tearing down the foundation of my Stand—without going against my principles?
This was different than the situation 3 years before when there had been a divorce in process. Now there was no divorce. But I had to make it seem more like I was willing to divorce even though it was against everything I had stood for over the past 3 years. This scared me because I felt I was trapped by my own values.
What I did was set up a difference between emotional divorce and marriage. I told him that we could not have a relationship while he was not being an appropriate husband and that the only relationship I was willing to have with him was a marital relationship—no friendship without the marriage. I said I would not divorce him through the law, but not being divorced did not mean we would have a relationship.
Doing a 180—doing the opposite—is about changing the dynamics of the situation when things seem to be at a stalemate. But whatever you do, it needs to fit in with who you are; do not ever sacrifice your values, because you will lose every time.
Standing is not meant to be a conflict of you against your MLCer—even though your MLCer will see it that way. And often it will start as conflict, so one of the first 180s is to change that dynamic toward more passive or peaceful resistance. Step aside and let your MLCer do whatever it is they will do. You can’t legally stop them from divorcing you, so release it—detach, let-go-surrender. This is not your fight, but you can make it your peace.