"Nathan says he doesn’t love me anymore.” Julie said bluntly.

“When I try to get him to talk about it, or to listen to what I feel, he shuts down. The closest thing we’ve had to a conversation was his explanation of how much better off the kids and I will be if I don’t fight the divorce.” She paused, looked away as if she were trying to find the words to describe something that could not actually exist, and continued. “He asked if I understand the financial and social penalties he will make happen if I get my own lawyer or cause any difficulty. I can’t even talk about this with my friends or he will make things miserable for me. He hints that he may try to get full custody of our children if I don’t do just as he says.

“You may think I’m a fool, but I still love him, even though in my heart I know there’s someone else. I know who she is. When I asked if he was involved with her, he yelled at me, then became very calm and told me that I should have my head examined.

“I’m afraid to do anything to make him angrier. The only thing that can save us now is a miracle. I’m praying that God will change his heart and make him back into the man he used to be.”

I replied that if I were in her situation I would pray for something quite different.

“Rather than asking God to change Nathan,” I said, “I believe you’d achieve better results by asking him to help you change some things.”

She jerked upright, glared at me, and unleashed her pain and frustration. How dare I imply that this was her fault? How could I think she was the one who should change? Was I implying that Nathan was justified in deserting her for another woman?

I explained. “I do not blame you for Nathan’s affair. What he is doing is wrong. Even if you were not the perfect spouse…as if anyone could be the perfect spouse…it would not justify his adultery or abandoning your marriage. Please do not hear anything I say as an indictment of you.

“My point is that you cannot change him. The only person you can change is you. However, certain changes you make may lead him to make changes. The changes I suggest are not intended to either blame or correct you; they are designed to bring him to his senses.

“In relationships, our emotions and actions affect the other person either positively, neutrally, or negatively. Positive effect draws them to us. Negative effect pushes them from us.

“Burn these four words into your conscious thinking. Positive attracts. Negative repels.

“Nathan has moved away from you and continues to do so. However, if you make certain changes, you may create positive effects that attract him to you again. It may help to think of it this way: Which actions make you attractive? Which actions make you unattractive?

“The changes I suggest may not work, of course, but our experiences with thousands of marriages convince me they are the best chance you have.”

Julie made the changes I suggested.

Nathan reacted with intense anger and dire threats.

I had warned her that the changes likely would affect him negatively at first, temporarily pushing him further away. I explained that because Nathan wanted out, he would be negatively affected (repelled) by anything she did to delay or obstruct his departure. Therefore, she should expect him to escalate his emotional abuse in effort to make her again compliant to his plans. When he did, she wavered, but she stood strong. She forced herself to focus on long-term effects of her changes, and refused to allow herself to be discouraged by his short-term responses. She knew he might never come around, but she understood that those changes were her best hope.

Perhaps most importantly, she grasped the crucial role those changes would play in benefitting her personally, whether or not he returned.