When Reconciliation Isn't Really Reconciliation
As a divorce attorney, I'm known for encouraging my clients to reconcile with their spouses if reconciliation is possible, particularly if they have children. This isn't a great financial move on my part, as divorce lawyers don't make (as much) money from people who are staying married, but I do it for several reasons. Divorce can be hard on kids, although there is decent research demonstrating that staying in a high-conflict marriage can be just as detrimental. It's also fundamentally true that people shouldn't go through the divorce process unless they really don't want to be married anymore, and many people derive peace from knowing they tried everything possible to save the marriage before dissolving it. So I am, within reason, encouraging of reconciliation attempts if the client wants to try.
With that said, when does a reconciliation attempt not make sense? When it isn't really an attempt at reconciliation.
I have lately noticed a disturbing trend in which one party baits the other with the promise of reconciliation, when that party is actually setting the trap to gain an advantage in an eventual divorce proceeding. One party believes the marriage is working toward restoration. The other spouse, meanwhile, is secretly acting strategically, improving his or her prospects of faring well in the divorce by gathering documents, moving or hiding assets, spending more time with the children and cultivating his/her image as Supermom or Superdad, and occasionally getting away without paying necessary child or spousal support.
In these situations, the party who truly desires reconciliation often fears "rocking the boat" by requesting anything from the strategizing spouse, such as financial support or counseling, because it will cause a breakdown in the reconciliation talks. This is the thing: people who are trying to envision a future married to their current spouse should still see the marriage as a partnership. If you are hearing a lot of "me me me," that may be a significant clue as to what's really going on.
If a simple request for support for yourself or the children, counseling sessions for yourself and your spouse, communication about the status of your relationship (not just coparenting), and the like is met with substantial resistance or causes the spouse to threaten "if you do that, I will proceed with the divorce," in my experience there's a substantial likelihood that the reconciliation "attempt" is really a ploy to give your spouse more time to manipulate the facts of the eventual divorce case in his or her favor.
That's a problem, and if you sense it's happening, you should stay on your toes and, frankly, contact an attorney to ensure that you are not acting in a way that disadvantages you in the litigation that is likely to come your way soon. You may also want to consult with an attorney to determine whether it makes sense to file for divorce immediately in order to get temporary support if you are an economically disadvantaged spouse and you think your spouse is attempting to starve you out so that you will not have adequate resources to defend an eventual divorce.
Don't let your spouse play on your emotions and hopes for saving the marriage in a way that will hurt you financially in the long run. You owe it to yourself - and your children, if you have any - to be on your guard if you think your spouse is seriously contemplating divorce.
Image Credit: By Arenamontanus.Van Helsing at ru.wikipedia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons