Carolyn Hax: Afraid to tell my husband I don't want a divorce
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I was in the middle of a divorce when my mom suddenly died four months ago. It had been acrimonious. He hired a lawyer who seemed to want to make my life as miserable as possible, and I can't say my lawyer was much nicer.
However, as soon as my mom died, he said, "Let's just press pause on this until you feel ready to process it again," and he has been amazingly supportive to me and kind to my family during our grief.
So, I've fallen back in love with him and don't want a divorce anymore. But I'm not sure if he feels the same way or if he's just being nice because my mom died. I don't know how to proceed and feel like I'll be crushed if I tell him I want to try again and he says no, but it would also be stupid to go through with a divorce I don't want just because I'm afraid to say what I do want. How should I proceed?
-- Back in Love
Certainly don't proceed as if being "crushed" is the worst possible outcome.
The worst, to my eyes at least, is a tie between divorcing someone you don't want to divorce, and never knowing if there was another choice available to you.
Arguably in a three-way tie for worst is mistaking grief-fueled gratitude for healthy and sustainable love.
So, you're in a pickle. But there are still some reliable and responsible ways out of it that don't include rushing headlong at or away from your soon-to-be ex and these inconvenient feelings.
You've hit "pause" on the divorce, so use your time wisely. Get yourself the best therapy you can find. Sort out the grief from the gratitude and figure out how you got from marriage to acrimonious divorce to rekindled affection. Deeply consider the things that drove you apart, and don't minimize them. Be realistic about facing them again.
If in the meantime he starts nudging you to resume the divorce proceedings, then be open about your need for more time. Say you have complicated feelings right now and aren't ready to go forward.
If and when you are sure your revived love is for real: Gather up all of your support resources -- think airport runway lined with fire trucks and ambulances -- and see if you can land this plane.
Good luck, and I'm so sorry about your mom.
A positive approach: "I really appreciate your kindness when I was going through that difficult time. Regardless of our differences, it is that part of you that I realize helped me fall in love with you." Where he takes that could be positive, even if you still end up divorced.
Also consider talking to your estranged husband about getting different attorneys. A mediated divorce is FAR less acrimonious! Divorcing doesn't mean you have to be enemies -- consider taking a lower-key approach if full reconciliation isn't in the cards.
Why were you divorcing in the first place? I think starting from that question, and finding out what has changed, is the key. If the root cause isn't resolved, these feelings of love are likely not sustainable.