“Walk-Away Wives”

Who are the “walk-away wives?” It’s an interesting term — one that refers to women accounting for two-thirds of the divorces filed today. Half of all marriages end in divorce now, and statistics show the majority of divorces are wives walking away from often long-time marriages.

Why is this happening? Are more women experiencing mid-life crisis like many men? Have women simply become more independent with the rise of education and income? Have the more traditional roles of wives given way to the modern woman’s wishes for self-fulfillment?

There are many articles that explore reasons for this mass exodus of women from their marriages. Many women believe their partners are unable to change and unable to offer them what they need in life. In turn many men cry, “Foul! Do not lay it all at our feet. After all, we are what we are, and you knew it when we married.” And indeed, according to one article, 30 percent of divorced women knew they were marrying the wrong man, even on or before their wedding day.

Boiled down to its core, most women want fairness and understanding from their spouses. And most men want to be valued and respected. That doesn’t seem so unreasonable or difficult a thing to deliver, yet it becomes insurmountable to many couples. Is it bad timing? Women are generally thought of as the relationship caretakers, they are usually the first to try and fix things that aren’t working. If their husbands fail to respond, unhappiness sets in and the wives start complaining, nagging about anything and everything. This is when men tend to emotionally retreat.

It can take years for this kind of deterioration to take place and the vicious cycle to do damage. The wife eventually gives up and begins to make plans. Resigned and now silent, she no longer nags; she just lives for the day when she can leave. Unfortunately, silence to the husband means everything is “okay” and when she finally tells him she wants a divorce, he is shocked. He had no idea she was unhappy!

Many husbands are willing to step up and make positive changes. But sadly, it may be too late at this point. Their timing was off from the outset. When she was talking, he wasn’t listening. Or if he was, the message he heard wasn’t clear, and because he was uncertain, he took no action. By the time he started to listen, she was already done with the marriage. She was walking away.

Is the answer as simple as communication and empathy? Why is it so difficult to walk in each other’s shoes? Is it even possible for men and women to find common ground, listen and understand what they are saying to each other? Are they willing to work, really work, toward compromise and change?

Marriage isn’t easy. It’s not the happily-ever-after scenario written in romance novels. It’s hard work, constant work. And it’s definitely a two-way street; two people, two hearts, and two points of view. Are they both up for the challenge of making marriage work? Until the effort is equal on both sides, “walk-away wives” will still be striding into the sunset.