Your Options If Your Spouse Wants a Divorce and You Do Not

It’s a common scenario: One spouse asks for a divorce, and the other spouse begins searching for ways to prevent the divorce from happening.

Reconciliation is sometimes possible, but not always. Surely you cannot “force” your spouse to rescind their decision to divorce you. The most you can do is try to persuade them to reconsider. 

How to save a marriage

First, let’s talk about a service some people have used to save their marriages: couples therapy. Maybe your spouse would be willing to consider attending couples therapy with you.

Couples therapy

According to Dr. Kristin Davin, Psy.D., couples often seek her counseling services due to problems with money, communication, or sex. Among other therapeutic techniques, she fosters communication within her sessions by “asking the questions that they should be asking each other.” If your spouse is willing to participate, couples therapy might help your relationship. Before you settle on a therapist, Dr. Davin advises that you spend time interviewing several candidates to make sure you both feel comfortable with the person.

If you decide to pursue couples counseling, there are a few things you can do to encourage success. First, keep an open mind. For change to occur, both spouses must be willing to listen and change. You must also be honest … and willing to accept honest statements from your spouse.

Further, don’t attend therapy with the intention of changing your spouse. You only have the power to change yourself. Expecting someone else to change to fit your expectations will only frustrate you – and them.

Other types of counseling

If couples therapy doesn’t sound quite right for your situation, there are a few other possibilities. 

Divorce therapy: Each divorce therapist might conduct their sessions a little differently. That said, the overall goal of divorce therapy is not necessarily to prevent divorce. Rather, it’s to delve deep, figure out the problems, and set goals for each individual, whether that includes reconciliation or not.

Religious marriage counseling: Some couples seek help from their church pastor, priest, or a layperson in their religious community. This type of counseling may be helpful, but note that it may or may not be provided by a licensed professional.

Divorce coaching: If you hire a divorce coach, the understanding is not that you’re trying to stop the divorce. Rather, it’s that you’re seeking help through the divorce and with your post-divorce life. 

If you don’t want to get divorced and your spouse does, signing up with a divorce therapist or coach might feel like admitting defeat. But think of it this way: You’re setting yourself up for success by getting the help you need to make it through this difficult time.


Alternatives to divorce

Separation is an alternative to divorce that disrupts the living situation but doesn’t legally end the marriage. Several types of separation exist: trial separation, legal separation, and permanent separation.

Trial separation

This is just as it sounds: A couple lives apart for a while so each can see how life feels without the other. The goal of trial separation is to determine the most appropriate permanent path, whether it’s reconciliation or divorce. 

Trial separation might be easiest if each person lives at a different address, but this isn’t always possible. If you want to try a trial separation but can’t afford two rental or mortgage payments, you might consider having one spouse move out of the shared bedroom and into another part of the home.

Read: 5 Benefits of a Trial Separation and Tools for Success

Legal separation

In some states, legal separation is possible. In this scenario, a couple is not actually “divorced” with the right to marry someone else, but they live separate lives. Legal separation requires a legal process much like divorce. The couple may work together to determine a settlement that reflects how to divide property and share parenting responsibilities, or they may ask a court to rule on these issues for them.

Permanent separation

Couples who permanently separate are still legally married and do not intend to reconcile. They retain the rights of married couples, though, such as staying on the same health insurance plan and filing their taxes jointly. Depending on the state, a permanently separated couple may be able to keep separate any property and debt acquired after the date of separation.

Suggested reading: Ending Your Marriage: Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment

How to handle a tough situation

You may be reading this because your spouse has asked for (or filed for) a divorce you don’t want.

As we’ve discussed, there are avenues couples can take to try to save their marriage. But the hard truth is, if your spouse has made up their mind, they may be unwilling to try to save the marriage. In that case, you have little recourse but to give them the divorce they’re requesting. 

You can’t prevent your spouse from divorcing you, but you can handle the situation with grace.

So how should you handle this situation? First, take care of yourself. Divorce is tough stuff. You may feel like you’re wandering through life half-blind for a while. That’s normal. As you struggle to regain your footing, use these dos and don’ts as a compass.


  • Beg your spouse to stay
  • Attempt to “win” them back 
  • Spy on or stalk them
  • Fight with them
  • Threaten your safety or the safety of others
  • Make unrealistic demands 
  • Binge on substances
  • Engage in other dangerous behaviors


  • Give your spouse space
  • Think before you speak and act
  • Spend time on self-care
  • Be the best version of yourself
  • Seek emotional support 
  • Consider professional mental health support

Every day in the U.S., countless couples decide to part ways and start new life chapters on their own. We have helped many of these couples divorce with grace. Our economically priced divorce plans are designed to make this painful time as easy as possible for both members of the couple. You choose the degree of help you want from us. 

Interested in learning more? You can take advantage of a free one-on-one 15-minute phone consultation by viewing our calendar here

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and emotional during and after divorce. We want to help you heal, and we want to see you start your next exciting chapter with confidence. Remember: You’re not alone in this. We’re here, and we’re ready to help.

Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.