The third stage of a divorcing spouse’s grieving for the soon to be ended marriage is the bargaining stage. In the bargaining stage of the grief process, the divorcing spouse still believes, at some level, that reconciliation is possible. According to Alexis Aiger on the Livestrong website, this belief can exist despite the other spouse’s clear communication that reconciliation is not possible, because you feel they have control over the situation. We all hold on to that last bit of hope, right?
The bargaining spouse is trying to fix their broken marriage, thinking “what if I …”, “I should have …” They try to rationalize what has happened to their marriage, even if there isn’t any way to rationalize it. He or she may believe offering a reasonable settlement will result in reconciliation. On the other hand, the grieving spouse may be very indecisive or afraid to make reasonable settlement demands in fear the other spouse will be less likely to reconcile.
The bargaining spouse needs to move toward confronting divorce issues head on, rather than viewing every divorce decision through a filter of “will this encourage my spouse to reconcile with me?” Referral to a mental health professional can be helpful for a spouse unable to move on from the bargaining stage of grief in a divorce.