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Two-thirds of the divorces in our country are filed by women.
When I became a marriage counselor, I was told that women want therapy and will drag their husbands in with them.
That has not been my experience. Many of the calls I receive are from husbands who want to try and save their marriage because their wife wants a divorce.
Divorce offers an illusion of happiness for everyone who is miserable in their marriage, but women are particularly susceptible to the idea. In her book The Divorce Remedy, Michele Weiner Davis gives her opinions on why women are most frequently the ones who call it quits.
She states that women are the ones who take a daily temperature check on the status and health of the marriage. They monitor the relationship to see if they feel emotionally connected and if they are spending enough time together. If they feel those things are happening, all is good and life goes on. If they feel disconnected or sense things aren’t going well, they will press their husbands for more.
They will say things like, “You don’t value our relationship anymore,” or “You always put work ahead of me.” Their husbands begin to feel nagged and will withdraw emotionally and/or physically, which makes the wife feel even more dissatisfied.
When men withdraw, or possibly even become hostile over this approach, women get frustrated and try other ways of getting their point across. They begin complaining about their partner’s lack of involvement in every other area of their lives, saying things like “I feel like a single parent,” or “I have to do everything myself.” Although they are really trying to get their husband’s attention, men recoil even further.
This kind of interaction can go on for months or years before a woman finally gives up and declares, “I’ve tried everything. Divorce is better than this. I can’t take it anymore.” According to Davis, women don’t usually make this declaration immediately. They tell themselves they will divorce when the kids leave for college or when they finish school and can support themselves. Some even begin looking for another man to start over with and plan to leave as soon as they find him.
But here is the tricky part: once a woman comes to this conclusion, she stops working on the marriage. She stops complaining. The man notices she isn’t complaining anymore and assumes everything is better. He’s thrilled because he thinks she is happy again, so he proceeds with business as usual. Until the fateful “D-Day,” when his wife announces she wants a divorce.
The husband is shocked! He thought things were better. He realizes his wife is serious about divorce, so he wants to go to therapy to make things better—but by then, the wife is done. She has had months or years to get mentally prepared for leaving.
That’s the tragedy in this whole situation. By the time most men finally understand the depth of their wife’s unhappiness, most women have built a wall around themselves and cannot see any opportunity for change. The husbands are ready to do backflips to save the marriage, but the wives are quick to dismiss any offers of reconciliation or outside help.
Oh, how I love to work with couples like this! Sometimes I have to reassure a disillusioned wife there really is hope. I tell them there is always time to divorce, but there may not always be time to work on their marriage.
Oftentimes, I tell them to let me hold the hope for their marriage for them until they can see it themselves. I just finished working with a couple who came to see me on the brink of divorce. Last month, they celebrated their 25th anniversary by renewing their vows.
I’ve seen too many successes to believe that a marriage is hopeless. I’m convinced too many therapists are hesitant to fight for marriages. We are all trained to help people make decisions that are good for them as individuals, and if someone comes in who is unhappy in their marriage, many therapists encourage them to leave.
I don’t think divorce is the answer.
If it were, people would stay single and be happy. Instead, they get married again and soon find they are once again disillusioned and thinking about divorce.
Every marriage has four stages: honeymoon, disillusionment, misery, and joy. Most quit or stay stuck in misery without ever getting to the last stage.
If every marriage goes through these stages, why not stay and fight for this marriage? The alternative is to keep cycling through relationships.