Although TV, movies and Netflix specials show men walking out of a marriage or leaving the woman they love, the opposite is true. According to the American Sociological Association more than two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women.
Among college-educated women that number jumps to 90%. When the researchers talked with the women in the study most of them agreed that they felt as though they had done everything within their power to fix the relationship, but they were ready to quit because nothing changed on their partner’s part. A divorce expert named this behavior as Walkaway Wife Syndrome.
Wives who have this syndrome describe the same story. The marriage started, and the wife took the role of caretaker of the relationship. She was responsible for initiating meaningful conversation, scheduling date nights, planning social outings, and maintaining a romantic relationship with her partner. This worked for a while but as time went on and the honeymoon phase ended, she became more and more overwhelmed as real life set in with financial issues, family conflicts and having and raising children. She began feeling as though she was in the relationship alone and bore the total burden of everything.
The research suggests that as work, family and money issues became more prevalent the walkaway wives begin to push their partner to engage more, connect, and began criticizing them when they weren’t getting the attention they desperately needed. If she was quiet and became resentful, her husband often thought everything was okay and was in total shock when one day his wife walked away. Most of the husbands in the research study were dumbfounded and would tell the researchers that they had no idea their wife wasn’t happy, nor did they have any idea what they had done wrong.
Since both lawyers and counselors see this phenomenon in their clients frequently, it’s important that you share your expectations of each other before you get married and become aware of what your responsibility is in the marriage. If you feel as though your wife may be thinking about walking away, changing these four behaviors will have a big impact on helping the two of you feel more connected and engaged in your relationship.
1. If you are the wife that wants to walk away, reconsider and know that divorce is not always the answer. If you have children divorce is never easy and it’s worth your while to not quit until you’ve gotten professional help. Your marriage may seem broken to beyond repair, but you owe it to yourself and your children to see if the help of a therapist can help you turn things around. If it doesn’t work at least, you can leave knowing you tried.
2. Husbands: prioritize your wife. If you’re the husband and your wife is complaining about not enough connection, instead of getting defensive, be grateful, tell her thank you for not giving up on "us." Listen and spend time with her, wake up and pay attention to her.
3. No one wants intimacy without connection. If your wife is not open to your advances, it may be because she feels you don’t see her unless you want intimacy. She may have already left you emotionally. Show her you care, make changes she will see instead of talking about them, and try to convince her to give your marriage another chance.
4. Talk about your expectations for each other and your marriage. When you get married you have expectations and so does your partner. Talk about these before you get married and make sure you both agree on 50/50 chores. No one person can or should do it all. Many walkaway wives had expectations of their husband and what a marriage should look like that were never talked about or shared. Their husband had no idea what was expected and may have followed the course of his parents. In families where marital duties fall solely on the wife resentment and anger result. It takes both partners to equally contribute to make a marriage work.
A marriage ending is always difficult; however, if you’re that partner left after a spouse leaves, there is no emptier or more confusing time, especially if you didn’t see it coming. Talk to your partner about how they feel frequently, listen to them when they complain and work with them to plan ways to resolve issues that cause strife. You’re a team and the health of the team depends on your ability to talk honestly and openly with each other.