Write a Letter Like No Other
You may wish you had a dollar for every time you said as a student, “This is the hardest paper I’ve ever had to write.” You could use that money now to pay a psychologist to write a letter you hope will foster a reconciliation and stop a divorce. Of course, it’s possible that a psychologist (and especially a divorce attorney) might tell you not to bother. But this is no time to follow someone else’s advice; instead, it’s time to follow your heart and try to salvage your marriage.
In the words of one marital counselor: “If you decide to give it one more try, nothing is more important than this: You shouldn’t try to work on your marriage unless you feel that you can wholeheartedly do so.”
Unfortunately, no form letters are available to follow as you pursue this path. They would be too impersonal anyway. And you won’t find a predetermined “format” to follow, either. It would be an insult to your marriage to suggest that the causes of strife in your relationship are identical to those of a perfect stranger – or that certain words or phrases will persuade your spouse to acquiesce to your point of view. This leaves you somewhat alone in your task – but not without some gentle, sensible advice about how to proceed (and how not to) in a genuine, heartfelt manner.
Expect to Go Through Several Drafts
Your English teachers may have been right after all: Some projects are too complex to be completed in one sitting – and a letter that proposes a marital reconciliation is one of them. Do what you can in one sitting – or two or three. Then set your letter aside for at least a day before making changes. This is another way of saying to give yourself time to produce your letter. The finished product might not swell you with pride, but a rushed effort could needlessly backfire.
Bring Focus to Your Marital Issues
Unless your marital strife pivots on one issue and one issue alone, do yourself the biggest “favor” of all and segregate your letter into sections. If you can’t “think straight,” you probably won’t be able to “write straight,” either, and your letter might meander and confuse your spouse. Devote one section, say, to “work issues,” a second to “financial issues” and another to “child care issues.” Chances are that some of the issues will overlap; this is the way most marriages work. But addressing the issues individually should bring greater clarity to your thoughts and help you describe them clearly.
Express Your Love
For many people, writing is an egocentric experience. And if you’re trying to hold your marriage together, you probably are dealing with a torrent of emotions and opinions that center on you. At the same time, it may help to remember that you’re not writing a diary entry; you’re writing a letter in the hopes of forging a reconciliation. Two important inclusions could lift your letter into the realm of a convincing emotional appeal: expressing your love – and the explicit reasons why you love your spouse – and pledging how you are committed to making your marriage work. If you have specific ideas – going to therapy, promising to alter certain behaviors that you know are troublesome to your spouse – then say so. But if you don’t have a clue about how to repair your marriage, then acknowledge this, too. Now, more than ever, this is a time for honesty. Your love for your spouse and your commitment to your marriage should be the overriding themes of your letter.
Excise Over-the-Top Emotions
No one has to remind you of how emotional the prospect of a divorce can be. But remember that one of the reasons you’re writing in the first place is, perhaps, to reduce the drama that surrounds you and state your feelings cogently. Expressing emotion is one thing. It can be powerful as long as it’s not overwrought. As another marital counselor put it, “Don’t act like a sick puppy and beg, plead, cry or tell them how utterly distraught you are. And please – don’t EVER tell them that you can’t live without them or insinuate in ANY way that you may harm yourself or kill yourself because of the pain they caused you.”