If you are reading this, chances are good that you aren’t guilty of committing the Seven Relationship-Deadening Sins. Oh, you will want to read this article to be sure, but the mere fact that you’ve gravitated toward these words suggests you are different. You are probably doing everything you can to take care of the important women in your life or you are working hard, nurturing your committed relationship. Bravo!
We also think that you know someone else, however, someone who is cheating on his wife or girlfriend, or who is a workaholic who never ever sees his significant other — or who is making some other critical mistake that is bound to tank their marriage. You see it unraveling before your very eyes and it makes you shake your head sadly.
It makes you especially appreciative of your significant other and your strong relationship. So, you hold her a little tighter. It also forces you to realize you have to keep showing up. Your relationship is not something you can EVER take for granted.
As educators who have studied how women learn and navigate crisis, we hear a lot about what makes a marriage explode — or in some cases, disintegrate painfully over time. And among the reasons women give for why they’re leaving, there are always commonalities. We have heard certain ones over and over – seven in particular.
This matters, because did you know women more often than men call it quits? A 2015 Stanford Study conducted by sociology professor Michael Rosenfeld, looked at 2,262 adults, ages 19 – 94 who had opposite sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of these people had split up or gotten divorced. It turns out that wives initiated 69 percent of the splits, compared to 31 percent of husbands.
That’s a tad scary, no? And why are women more likely to initiate?
According to cultural anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, it’s because both genders have more choices today. Whereas in the past women did not have access to money or income, today “many men and women can afford to walk out of bad marriages to make better ones.”
At the same time, says Fisher, the good news is “the current emphasis on marital companionship” means that the divorce rate is actually going down and “people are working harder on this core relationship than in any previous century.”
So while women are filing for divorce more because both husbands and wives have more choices, marriages are also stronger than ever because couples are working harder at them. Where does this all leave you?
It leaves you squarely in the latter scenario, our friend, aware, informed and working hard in your relationship; while your less evolved bro’s remain at risk.
Help them. Let them know about the following grievances that women tell us spell imminent doom for any relationship:
There’s an unspoken belief that the male pain-threshold is not anywhere near that of a woman’s….
“He kept talking about his colonoscopy … it was his first,” said one single, 50-year-old woman we know. After a long marriage and raising four kids, she had divorced and eventually began dating again. She met a nice guy and dated him for five months, until one day she couldn’t do it anymore. “It just wasn’t sexy. Of course, it wasn’t why I broke up with him, but it was the last straw … or tube or hose, so to speak.”
When it comes to pain, women want men to man up.
2. Peter Pan Syndrome
Women frequently refer to this phenomenon: what they consider the male propensity to regress or even resist growing up.
“We were kids when we got married,” said Anna, reflecting on her marriage of 14 years. “I thought we’d grow up together. But he couldn’t. It was always a party with him. The weekends? He was out of the house, leaving me with the kids while he played golf. He checked in with friends. He washed his car. When I’d complain, he’d call me a ‘School Marm’.” His behavior forced me into this role of responsibility 24/7. I was a stay at home mom but I could never have fun, because I always had to watch what he was doing, what he was not doing – like paying the bills. Now I just feel old. Done.”
Similar to men not wanting to be mothered, wives want husbands to stop acting like sons. “Don’t wait for us to serve and nurse you, or scrub the coffee drips off your shirt,” said Janet a 42-year-old. “Or indulge your distaste of vegetables! Going forward I am going to eat healthily and not indulge him with only eating creamed corn from a can. I am buying the freaking kale.”
3. Languishing in Lazy
“Okay, as they age their testosterone diminishes, and ours may rally a bit,” said Millie, a client who explained her need for a partner to be different than her best girlfriends. “But let’s hang onto our glory of gender distinction, the birds, the bees. I want him to be my guy! Be daring! Take charge. And if he can’t, I want him to fake it. Please let him not melt, morph or become one with his plaid, Lazy-boy chair.”
We think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
Only a mother could really love a Know-It-All.
We’re guessing again you are not this as you have already defied cultural norms. In fact one of your hallmarks is your willingness to try things and to fail. Women find that certain confidence in your uncertainty is sexy. It’s not wimpiness or softness as in Sin Number 1. It’s a vulnerability that shows you are willing to risk failure.
And you know what? You have failed. You have failed many times, but you’ve mostly won by our count.
5. Flat Lining
In short, boring. Boring. BORING! It’s important to mix it up. Show the women or THE WOMAN in your life you can still surprise her.
How do you do this? Women tell us they want their partners to stay curious and inquisitive. They want you to invent something you can do together, or notice that she’s dyed her hair a slightly warmer color, or compliment her on the fact that she has executed something — supremely well. Stop the car and pick that flower, is what we’re telling you. Bring it home to her!
6. Inordinate Anger
Some men disempower women through manipulation, overt force, temper or control. Men who make their mate feel belittled and anxious are narcissists, or at the very least, bullies.
“I see now, he was a rage-aholic, so controlling – even I didn’t fully know. Until I got away.” This is how one client describes her experience of tyranny everyday. “When I look back, I realize my body was telling me something was wrong. I had these reoccurring ulcers. I’d tense up every evening when I’d hear his key in the door as he came home….”
According to Rosenfeld in the Stanford study, the leading contributor to divorce for women is when they experienced their marriage as “constraining, oppressive, uncomfortable and controlling.”
Know anyone living in a marriage like that?
7. Resistance or Rigidity (and not the good kind)
Are you hanging on to the status quo like it’s your last life-raft? But the raft is floating down river, have you noticed? And coming closer and closer is the sound of rushing water. It’s a gorge! What will you do?
Adapt, of course.
That’s what makes you different from the others, those guys going down the falls. No relationship is easy, but you take the tact that challenges also make life exciting. And that’s why smart women are watching you in admiration and with just a little turned on-ness.
You are our Man!
You aim for flexibility in your conversation and discussions. You are not overly attached to your opinions or sense of being “right.” You are learning the subtly of good partnering. As Alain de Botton, the author of The Course of Love, writes, “(t) he person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement.”
Having read this list of grievances, issues, or risks, you have already done more than many. As a man of action, you have countered them by actively nurturing their opposites, the pro-relationship virtues that make women sit up, take notice, and even whisper, “Come to bed!”
And this is your secret to success.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons