Getting What You Need: What to do When Your Spouse is Being Unreasonable

Your lawyer has advised you that your spouse's anger should subside once the divorce gets underway. However, you are now in month 5 of the divorce. You have heard that most cases settle. You have been to mediation twice. Yet your spouse seems to be getting more and more angry because you are not giving in to her demands, which your lawyer has told you repeatedly are not going to be granted if you go to trial. You don't want the expense or the wait of going to trial. You also don't want to give in to her demands since you know in the long run, the situation will hurt your children and you.

What to do?

Confer with your lawyer about what other strategies you might try. Some of the options include:

  1. Go to court on a motion (petition) over an interim issue. If the judge rules against your spouse, she may get the message that going to court will not result in a favorable outcome for her.
  2. If your judge has a judicial attorney, ask that person to meet with your spouse and you during a pretrial or a settlement conference and tell you both your chances of succeeding on some of your arguments.
  3. In some courts, the judges will meet with the attorneys and tell them how they are likely to rule on some of the issues. The attorneys can then tell their clients whether they are likely to get a favorable ruling on key issues.
  4. Switch mediators to an evaluative mediator who will hear you both out and give you an evaluation of each of your proposals. These are often retired judges or referees who have a lot of experience in hearing both sides of a case, asking critical questions, applying the law and giving you feedback on your respective positions. These people will tell you each when you are being unreasonable.

There may be other tactics your lawyer can suggest that permits your spouse to get an advance ruling on her issues. No one (hopefully) likes to lose their arguments and pay dearly for the privilege. Hopefully, your spouse will realize that she needs to become more reasonable in order to finish this case.

It is very important that you and your lawyer present a united front. One reason that your spouse is pushing for unreasonable outcomes is that during your marriage you were the accommodating spouse. In other words, your spouse is used to you giving in to her demands. She expects this will continue. However, in most divorce cases, the accommodating spouse figures out that he had better get a good outcome to protect the children and himself. He can't afford to give in to the demanding spouse any longer. While it is tough changing your way of dealing with your spouse, especially when you prefer to give in, it can be very expensive in the long run. You are also setting up a dynamic where your spouse will continue to make outrageous demands after the marriage is over. You need to stand up for yourself and your children in order to get what you need.

Where do you find the strength to stand up to her? Talk with your therapist. Read about assertive training. Listen to your lawyer. If your spouse begins to badger you about "your being unreasonable," tell her to have her lawyer talk to your lawyer.

It may be worth it to give in on some issues in order to end your divorce. It very important to stand firm on the big issues. Your lawyer will be able to advise you and help you put systems in place that maximize your spouse's chances of complying with the terms of your divorce, so you do receive what you will need after the divorce is over.