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Do Spouses Who Ask for a Divorce Sometimes Rewrite History?

I’m in the middle of a separation that my wife asked for. And I’ve noticed that sometimes my wife says things about our past that are either untrue or greatly exaggerated. So, do spouses who ask for a divorce sometimes rewrite history?

It is not uncommon for spouses who ask for a divorce to rewrite the history of the relationship to be more negative than it really was as it helps them to justify to themselves and friends and family as to why they want to divorce.

But it’s often not that they are lying.

No, many times, they actually come to believe the re-written history. My therapist calls it a false narrative. But essentially, it’s a spin on the truth that favors the person doing the re-writing.

In my wife’s case, every little bad thing I’ve ever done has been brought to the surface and greatly exaggerated. And the many good times we’ve had are pushed down or completely forgotten.

The end result is she feels like a victim of a terrible marriage.

And in truth, that’s just not how our marriage was the majority of the time. To be sure, we have both done a few really bad things in our marriage.

I cheated on her in 2013 for a 2-month period, and I acknowledge that is one of the worst things I could have done. And she struggled with alcoholism for the first 5.5 years we were together and did things repeatedly that broke trust.

The difference is I don’t base the entirety of our relationship on the bad times.

And as I said to her yesterday, I believe we are both good people who have occasionally done bad things. And that is totally different than a bad person who does bad things.

What does rewriting history in a relationship mean?

When a spouse rewrites the history of a relationship, they skew, exaggerate, or even fabricate details of the relationship to make themselves a victim. They tend to downplay their own role in the demise of the relationship and greatly exaggerate the role their spouse played in the decline.

And every time they tell the story to their friends and family, they come to believe it more and more.

So it’s not even really that they are lying, although much of what is being said isn’t really true verbatim. It’s almost like they are brainwashing or hypnotizing themselves.

Believing they are somehow a victim of their spouse makes them feel less guilty and more justified in their decision to leave the marriage. It also makes it a whole lot easier when they tell their friends and family about why they want a divorce.

In short, it helps them save face and embarrassment at the expense of their spouse.

Why is my spouse rewriting history?

A spouse will rewrite history to portray themselves as a victim in the marriage so that it is easier to justify to themselves and others as to why they want a divorce.

In a way, it’s totally understandable.

In my case, my wife and I had been married almost 15 years when she asked for a divorce completely out of the blue. Our marriage didn’t seem perfect to me. But it didn’t seem broken either, and certainly didn’t seem beyond repair.

I’m not going to go into details of our marriage and why she asked for a divorce so suddenly. But you can read our story (my perspective, obviously) in a recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

But I began to notice shortly after her announcement that many of our so-called mutual friends no longer were reaching out. And then when we eventually started going to therapy together (she refused at first), things even came out in therapy that I knew weren’t 100% accurate.

So I began to suspect that history was being rewritten to make her seem more like a victim when I don’t think of it that what whatsoever.

And eventually, my suspicions were confirmed by some mutual friends who became uncomfortable listening to what they knew wasn’t really true. Or at least not the whole picture.

What do I do if my wife wants a divorce and I don’t?

In short, there is nothing 1 spouse can do to stop another spouse from filing for divorce. But not moving out, not signing anything, and remaining positive and focusing on being the best version of you that you can be will create the best odds for them changing their mind.

So in short, don’t focus on trying to change your spouse’s mind.

That will seem needy and desperate (been there, done that). And while it’s true you may well feel needy and desperate, those aren’t attractive qualities and aren’t likely to win them back to you.

Instead, as counter-intuitive as it might seem, focus on yourself.

If you found yourself overweight and out of shape, get back in the gym. If you’re always tired and stressed, go to bed earlier and take up yoga or meditation. Get a hobby, and start hanging out with friends more.

Just make sure they are the right friends. As renowned speaker Jim Rohn says:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

What I mean by that is that if most of your friends are single or divorced, drama-filled, and struggle with drugs or alcohol, that’s not really what you need right now.

Find people who are happy, successful, and well-balanced and spend more time with people like that. I’m not saying cut out your old friends if they fall into that first bucket.

But they will naturally have a tendency to bring you down to their level instead of you bringing them up to yours (or where you want to be).

How often do ex-wives ever regret divorce?

Women regret their decision to divorce 27% of the time in marriages that were relatively healthy and free from physical abuse. Comparatively 32% of men come to regret their divorce if they asked for it.


So roughly a 3rd of all couples come to regret the decision to divorce.

In my case, my wife is both proud and stubborn and has skewed the history of our marriage to make her more out to be a victim. So only time will tell if she later comes to realize the truth or if she stays with that false narrative.

But I doubt she’ll change her mind prior to the ink drying on the divorce decree.

But I’d like to think that eventually, she’ll begin to remember all the great times we had, all the many ways I supported her dreams (and she mine) over the years, and all our amazing adventures.

In our case, my infidelity in 2013 is one of the reasons she cited although not the top one.

And I truly thought we had worked through that years ago. She even had us renew our wedding vows once we got past that. But here we are well over 8 years later.

But I did work really hard to make up for my affair and the tremendous damage it did not only to her but to myself and our kids.

In a recent article, I detail all of the steps I took to rebuild trust following the affair. Just click that link to read it on my site.

In our case, I really don’t think the affair is a large part of her reason for wanting the divorce.

As a family, we had all been through a lot in the prior year and a half, and there were some traumatic things that happened that were outside our control.

But trauma is trauma and it affects everyone differently. But I know that, combined with turning 40 and not being quite where she wanted to be career-wise, were big factors in what could best be described as a mid-life crisis or breakdown.

You just have to acknowledge the problem and be willing to work on it.

How do I know if my wife is having second thoughts about divorce?

A wife who begins to question whether she really wants a divorce or not may ask to go to marriage counseling when they had previously refused. But they may also not push for finalizing agreements, will become nicer to be around, and may begin to initiate sex or affection.

In my case, I don’t see these signs.

While it’s true she did ask to go to marriage counseling after initially refusing. But she claimed it was only to work on trust and communication as co-parents.

And I believe that.

I don’t think there’s any part of her that is reconsidering. But for those of you out there seeing one or more of those signs, let’s examine them in greater detail.

1. Asking for marriage counseling

Marriage counseling usually, by definition, is designed to help couples work through past issues so they can start to have a healthier marriage.

If your spouse is bringing up wanting to go, even if they had previously asked for a divorce, and even if they have moved out, this is a great sign they are having second thoughts!

But don’t go unpacking her suitcase yet.

She may be wanting it to see if she’s justified in leaving. In short, she’s unsure. But we don’t know the percentage of that uncertainty. So take it slow.

Continue to focus on improving yourself.

But by all means, go to marriage counseling with her! Not sure how much it costs, or exactly what they do?

Luckily I have a recent article that explores all of that in great detail. I even get into all the different types of therapists and what all those letters mean and how to pick the right one.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

2. Delaying the divorce proceedings

Assuming your wife is the one who asked for the divorce if she has noticeably slowed the pace of everything that is a sign she might be reconsidering.

Maybe she hasn’t filed yet and keeps putting it off?

Or maybe she had planned to move out and hasn’t yet? Or maybe she hasn’t even gotten an attorney or sought legal advice.

In any case, take that as a possible sign she might be beginning to doubt herself.

But take it slow, don’t rush things, and focus on being the best version of you that you can be. Even if she later files and the divorce becomes final, you’ll be better off having improved your own physical and mental health.

3. Becoming more affectionate or nicer

This is tricky, as my wife did initiate sex once a few weeks after asking for the divorce.

Maybe she was seeing if that would change her mind or “fix” things. I know at that time I was still being too needy, clingy, and desperate, and none of that is attractive, masculine, or what a woman really wants to see in a guy.

But if you see some consistently nicer behavior towards you, going out of her way for you, or an increase in asking for hugs, those are all good signs.

I’ve seen those things, but not consistently.

And then sometimes she’s angry, or unreasonably jealous over things she has no business being jealous over. So I’m not reading into anything.

But if see a consistent upward trajectory, that’s a great thing and could be a sign she’s reconsidering.

Final thoughts

Divorce sucks. I’m now going through it a 2nd time (and won’t get married again).

And this time I have 3 amazing kids involved who don’t deserve the turmoil and upheaval in their lives this is and will continue to bring.

In my case, I’m doing my best to ride the wave, and try and be compassionate and understanding with my soon-to-be ex-wife. But it’s challenging when my wife’s behavior gets erratic and she paints herself falsely as a victim.

I no longer have any illusions that she will change her mind about the divorce. But I know there will come a time when she regrets it or at least regrets how she went about it and handled it.

And all that being said, I know I became complacent in our marriage and took her for granted. I (and she too) became so focused on our kids that we weren’t focused on our marriage.

And I, as the husband, should have been more in the driver’s seat of making her feel special, planning date nights, and treating her the way she deserved to be treated.

To be sure there were signs leading up to her request for a divorce that I should have paid attention to but didn’t. But our marriage wasn’t terrible. And many times it was great, no matter what her history book now says.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell