I sometimes hear from wives who are trying to come up with a strategy to get their husbands to come home after leaving. One of the common strategies that I'm asked about is trying to make your husband feel regret or guilt about leaving. I recently heard from a wife whose husband had left the previous week. He didn't leave abruptly. He had been telling her for weeks that he was going to go. And, he wasn't sure how long he would be gone or if he was coming back. But he reassured the wife that he would check in with her, would not abandon her and their child, and would not act in a way that would be inappropriate.
None of these things reassured the wife very much. She was already tired of the process and she wanted him home as soon as possible. She did not want him away from their home for one more day. So, she felt that the best way to get him home was to make him regret leaving her in the first place. She said in part: "how do I know if my husband will regret leaving me? And how can I make sure that he does? Should I date other people? So I try to make him feel guilty? Should I make sure that he knows how much my son misses his father?"
These were some very difficult questions. And although I completely understood the wife's thought process, I didn't think that trying to elicit more negative feelings was going to help or to make her husband come home more quickly. I'll tell you why in the following article. I'll also tell you what I think is a better strategy.
Many Men Do Feel Regret For Leaving Their Wives. But They Are More Likely To Do So When Their Wife Brings About Positive Feelings: I hear from a good deal of men in this situation on my save my marriage blog. I have to tell you that those who did feel regret often did so when they experienced positive feelings of longing toward their wives. And when they recounted how or why this happened, very few mentioned emotions like jealousy or guilt. Instead, they remembered realizing that they missed their wife's sweet smile or her mischievous laugh. They'll tell you that they missed feeling connected to her. They very rarely mention being motivated by negative emotions like guilt or pity, which leads me to my next point.
Ask Yourself What You Really Want. And Then Examine If Eliciting Regret Is Going To Accomplish Anything: I always advise women to ask themselves what they really want before they come up with any strategy. Because often, the things that we do are truly are in direct contrast to what we really want. In this case, what the wife really wanted was for her husband to come home. She hoped that making him regret leaving her was going to achieve this result. But frankly, focusing on negative emotions like guilt generally do not achieve this result as well as you had hoped.
First of all, it can be difficult to "make" your husband regret something that he himself decided upon. And second, what good is regret in this situation anyway? It's not really an emotion that is conducive to healing or moving forward. Because getting him to come home is only step one. Step two is improving the relationship enough that he wants to stay home. One way to do this is to avoid adding yet more negative equations to the mix. You want to create a healthier relationship instead of one that is loaded down with regret and guilt.
Instead Of Trying To Make Him Regret Leaving You, Try To Encourage Him To Want To Come Home By Using Positive Reinforcements: So at this point, the wife's plan consisted of using her son as sort of bait to lure her husband home and making him jealous by going out with other men that she honestly wasn't the least bit interested in. Although I understood her motivation, I felt that using these sorts of strategies wasn't the best call. They showed her husband a manipulative spouse whose actions potentially brought about pain and confusion. There was a real risk that using this strategy was going to make her husband associate the pain or guilt with her and the marriage. And, her husband might have resented this in the end.
The thing is, people are more likely to do what you want for them to do when you show them some empathy, understanding, and respect. But the wife's strategy didn't encompass any of these things. So I suggested that rather than placing her focus on trying to get him to regret leaving her, she instead focus on making it so enticing for him to come home that she didn't need to focus on sorrow or regret.
So how would the wife go about doing this? Well, she could focus on what was positive and binding rather than on what was dividing them. When she saw or interacted with her husband, I encouraged her to be cheerful rather than resentful. I encouraged her to try to enjoy the visits rather than worrying about making things appear in any particular way (in the hopes that her husband would feel regret.) It's better to allow for positive things to happen naturally rather than to force negative things in the unlikely hope that it gets you positive results.
I encouraged her to use the sense of humor that he admitted her husband loved. I challenged her to see if you could laugh even when she felt tense or unsure around her husband. I knew that the wife was tired of being alone and that she really wanted to do something to get her husband to come back home. But trying to force or trick him into regret probably wasn't the best way to go.
It's my experience that acting with integrity while focusing on the positive will often get you what you want. And frankly, when you encourage your husband to remember the good qualities that he misses about you, then he may well regret leaving you and want to come home. But when he does, he will be filled with hope rather than guilt or doubt.
I completely understand why you might feel the need for regret, because, for a long time, I focused on negative emotions when I was trying to get my own husband to come back home. This backfired on me in a big way. It wasn't until I learned to conduct myself in an entirely different way that I had success and was able to get him back home. If it helps, you can read more about that that very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/