Why Women Leave Men

Why Women Leave Men by Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D. See below for details.

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"I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned."

"My husband is no longer my friend."

"The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex."

"He is never there for me when I need him the most."

"When he hurts my feelings he doesn't apologize."

"He lives his life as if we weren't married; he rarely considers me."

"We're like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine."

"My husband has become a stranger to me, I don't even know who he is anymore."

"He doesn't show any interest in me or what I do." 

Why do women seem so dissatisfied with marriage? What do they want from their husbands? What bothers them so much about marriage that most are willing to risk their families' future to escape it?

Each day I am confronted by women who are extremely frustrated with their marriages. They usually express no hope that their husbands will ever understand what it is that frustrates them, let alone change enough to solve the problem.

From their perspective, marital problems are created by their husbands who do little or nothing to solve them. Wives tend to see themselves as the major force for resolving conflicts, and when they give up their effort, the marriage is usually over.

When I talk to their husbands, they usually have a very different explanation as to why their wives feel the way they do. They often feel that the expectations of women in general, and their wives in particular, have grown completely out of reach. These men, who feel that they've made a gigantic effort to be caring and sensitive to their wives, get no credit whatsoever for their sizeable contribution to the family.

They feel under enormous pressure to improve their financial support, improve the way they raise their children, and improve the way they treat their wives. Many men I see are emotionally exhausted and feel that for all their effort, they get nothing but criticism.

The simpler role of husbands in decades past has now been replaced by a much more complex and confusing role, especially in their relationship with their wives. Some conclude that women are born to complain and men must ignore it to survive.

Others feel that women have come to expect so much of men that they are impossible to please, so there's no point in even trying. Very few men, these days, feel that they have learned to become the husbands that their wives have wanted, and the job seems to be getting more and more difficult.

The most common reason women give for leaving their husbands is "mental cruelty." When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband's efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect.

Neglect includes both emotional abandonment and physical abandonment. Husbands that work away from the home, sometimes leaving their wives alone for weeks at a time, fall into this category.

Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, fraud, or other serious grounds. In fact, I find myself bewildered by women in serious physical danger refusing to leave men that threaten their safety.

There has been increasing social pressure on men lately to avoid hurting their wives physically and verbally, which makes my job even easier. But neglect is a much tougher sell. While it is the most important reason women leave men, it is hard to convince men that it is a legitimate reason, something they should avoid at all costs.

Some of the common complaints I hear from women is, "He ignores me except when he wants sex, he sits and watches television when he could be talking to me, he rarely calls me to see how I'm doing, he hurts my feelings and then never apologizes: Instead, he tells me I'm too sensitive."

Most husbands are mystified by these complaints. They feel that their wives demand too much, and that most other women would be ecstatic if married to them. Their wives have become spoiled, take their efforts for granted and have unrealistic expectations.

Do women expect too much of their husbands or are men doing less for their wives than they should? I've proven to husbands over and over again that their wives usually do not expect too much of them, and when they understand and respond to their wives' frustration, the complaining ends and a terrific marriage begins.

What are women looking for in men? They want a soul mate, someone they trust who is there for them when they have a problem, who takes their feelings into account when decisions are being made. Someone to whom they feel emotionally connected.

I use a house as an illustration to help husbands understand how their wives feel. Each room in the house represents one of the husband's roles in life. There is a room for his job as a production manager, there is another for golf, another for his new sports car, one for his garden, one for his children, and, yes, one for his wife.

As he makes his way through an average day, he visits various rooms when he is faced with the role the room defines. And when he's in a certain room, the others are blocked out of his mind so that he can focus his undivided attention on the role he plays at the time.

He does his best when he's not faced with distractions, and prefers to deal with each problem with all his energy and creativity so that he does the best he can in each role he plays.

The wives of most men are only one of many rooms in this imaginary house. It represents the "husband" role. When they are in that room, they usually try to give their wives undivided attention and make a special effort to meet their needs. They also go to that room to have their own needs met, particularly the need for sex.

What frustrates wives most is that they are relegated to only one room in their husbands' imaginary house instead of every room. In other words, they want to be integrated into a man's entire life, not relegated to one corner. Without such integration, there can be no emotional bonding, no uniting of the spirit, no feeling of intimacy and, in many cases, no sex.

They learn to integrate their wives into every aspect of their lives. When I counsel a husband, I explain that he is to invite his wife into each room of his house. Regardless of his role or responsibility, his wife should be considered in each decision he makes. Once the invitation is made, the results are startling!

When a husband invites his wife into each room of his house, she helps change his priorities. She reminds him that her feelings are very different from his. As a result, he begins to live his life in a way that is compatible to her needs and values.

He learns how to avoid habits that cause his wife to be unhappy, and he learns how to meet her most important emotional needs. He also learn how to give his undivided attention to her and schedule time to be alone with her.

To help men integrate their wives into each room, I have encouraged husbands to follow the Policy of Joint Agreement: Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.

This policy helps men take their wives' feelings into account whenever they make a decision. They avoid thoughtless habits, learn to meet emotional needs with mutual enjoyment and resolve their conflicts. All of this creates marital compatibility and emotional bonding.

The word "anything" in the policy applies to all the activities of a husband that go on in each of his rooms. So whenever he follows it, he learns to think about his wife's reaction to everything he does, not just what goes on in the "husband" room.

Some argue that just an agreement would be a big help, why insist on enthusiastic agreement? It's because I want couples to avoid agreements that are coerced or self-sacrificing. I want couples to learn how to come to agreements that take both of their interests into account at once.

Joint agreement means that both husband and wife must be enthusiastic together, and no one risks losing their identity or subjecting themselves to slavery when they themselves must be enthusiastic about each decision. The goal is to become united in purpose and spirit, not to overpower or control each other.

Couples that are already emotionally bonded have little or no trouble following this policy because they have already learned how to behave in sensitive and caring ways in each of their life's roles. But emotionally distant couples have great difficulty with the policy at first.

They are accustomed to doing what they please regardless of it's effect on each other, especially when they play certain roles. 

As couples apply the policy to each of their daily plans and activities, they begin to feel cared for by each other and are encouraged by each other's thoughtfulness. Over time, their emotional bonding becomes more and more firm, and the policy becomes easier and easier to follow as they become soul mates. These men become increasingly sensitive to their wives' feelings.

If men consider their wives feelings in each decision they make, asking their wives when there is any uncertainty, they create a compatible lifestyle. The Policy of Joint Agreement helps create understanding, emotional bonding, intimacy and romantic love in marriage. Men that learn to take their wives feelings into account meet their most important emotional needs.

They also learn to overcome the selfish habits that make their wives so unhappy, because these habits do not meet the standard of mutual agreement. Over time, they experience what every couple hopes to create in marriage: A loving and compatible relationship.

A woman doesn't leave the man who has invited her into every room of his house. That's because she doesn't stand outside the rooms of his house feeling like a stranger. She is welcomed into his entire home as his cherished life partner.

Read another popular post: Don’t Ever Apologize For Loving Someone – Not Ever!

This article first appeared as Why Women Leave Men by Dr. Willard Harley. Click on his name to follow him on social media.

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14 comments

  • Anoesjka

    Anoesjka Port Elizabeth south Africa

    Love reading your articles...they are eye openers and reminders that I should keep my promises. Thank you.

    Love reading your articles...they are eye openers and reminders that I should keep my promises. Thank you.

  • Amy

    Amy California

    This article hit home for me. Very sad, but extremely true. Especially the view from husband and wife. I felt alone all the time, even when my husband was home. He is a fun, great guy but never made me feel loved and number #1. Painfully, I chose to leave because it hurt too much all of the time. I still miss him, We are friends but even with counseling we couldn't fix it and I hurt less now.

    This article hit home for me. Very sad, but extremely true. Especially the view from husband and wife. I felt alone all the time, even when my husband was home. He is a fun, great guy but never made me feel loved and number #1. Painfully, I chose to leave because it hurt too much all of the time. I still miss him, We are friends but even with counseling we couldn't fix it and I hurt less now.

  • flailer

    flailer West Coast USA

    Great article. You explore both sides. But as "gender roles" are in flux, and even reversed, the point of view you express as "her's" can actually be his. I'm a Male Feminist, and "played" the role of Mr. Mom for many many years - and did a FINE job of it (proof is in the child I raised.) Then we switched roles: Wherein I spent far FAR less on my education; worked far harder; & made far more money, built up a HUGE "nest egg" ; bought homes; while, she raised a child (& did so quite poorly) & played tennis. Granted, tennis was my idea, as she refused to do volunteer work (as it was beneath her.) Feminism has DEMANDED that it is about equality (all while demanding special treatment for women, which sometimes rolled out to better treatment for Men, but usually not, as Blaming & Hating Men is how they got most of their "equal treatment".) Staying on the equality point: When held to task, many women (my ex as an example) simply do NOT measure up. I said "do not" not: "can not" , as it is so easy to play the victim card, or incompetency card, and earn a FREE "pussy-pass" The culture stands behind women on this, as does Feminist. Add to these FACTS, the constant PRESSURE of False Allegations, where the Man is ALWAYS arrested, ALWAYS assumed guilty, is ALWAYS jailed, and ALWAYS pays all the bills (for his entire life.) Thus: Men today find themselves in a thankless & wholly powerless situation. On the gratitude point: My ex NEVER thanked me for anything! NEVER. And she could NEVER say she was sorry. NEVER. The more I did, the more demanding she became. So, was it any surprise that her behavior KILLED our relationship, making my job the primary "relationship" in my life. And of course, this created a negative feed-back loop, making it worse and worse for her. Plainly stated: She brought negativity; and the job brought rewards. One of the primary points that must be taken away from my discussion is Female Privilege & Female Power - and how it undermines the Family unit. I am far happier WITHOUT her in my life. But I miss my kids GREATLY!!! The situation is wholly and completely unfair, particularly for the Kids, but also for me as well (with little access to my kids, & financially speaking as well.) Yes, it is bad for the ex as well! But tough SHIT: it HER behavior that created this (massive) life altering situation. So, as Feminism DEMANDS: I will hold HER accountable for her own misery, as well as the misery of the kids.... All while our culture REWARDS her (emotionally and financially) for her horrid behavior, actions, and deeds. regards, c Divorced, father of 2, MGTOW because heavy-handed laws

    Great article. You explore both sides. But as "gender roles" are in flux, and even reversed, the point of view you express as "her's" can actually be his.

    I'm a Male Feminist, and "played" the role of Mr. Mom for many many years - and did a FINE job of it (proof is in the child I raised.) Then we switched roles: Wherein I spent far FAR less on my education; worked far harder; & made far more money, built up a HUGE "nest egg" ; bought homes; while, she raised a child (& did so quite poorly) & played tennis. Granted, tennis was my idea, as she refused to do volunteer work (as it was beneath her.)

    Feminism has DEMANDED that it is about equality (all while demanding special treatment for women, which sometimes rolled out to better treatment for Men, but usually not, as Blaming & Hating Men is how they got most of their "equal treatment".) Staying on the equality point: When held to task, many women (my ex as an example) simply do NOT measure up. I said "do not" not: "can not" , as it is so easy to play the victim card, or incompetency card, and earn a FREE "pussy-pass" The culture stands behind women on this, as does Feminist. Add to these FACTS, the constant PRESSURE of False Allegations, where the Man is ALWAYS arrested, ALWAYS assumed guilty, is ALWAYS jailed, and ALWAYS pays all the bills (for his entire life.)

    Thus: Men today find themselves in a thankless & wholly powerless situation.

    On the gratitude point: My ex NEVER thanked me for anything! NEVER. And she could NEVER say she was sorry. NEVER. The more I did, the more demanding she became. So, was it any surprise that her behavior KILLED our relationship, making my job the primary "relationship" in my life. And of course, this created a negative feed-back loop, making it worse and worse for her. Plainly stated: She brought negativity; and the job brought rewards.

    One of the primary points that must be taken away from my discussion is Female Privilege & Female Power - and how it undermines the Family unit.

    I am far happier WITHOUT her in my life. But I miss my kids GREATLY!!! The situation is wholly and completely unfair, particularly for the Kids, but also for me as well (with little access to my kids, & financially speaking as well.) Yes, it is bad for the ex as well! But tough SHIT: it HER behavior that created this (massive) life altering situation.

    So, as Feminism DEMANDS: I will hold HER accountable for her own misery, as well as the misery of the kids.... All while our culture REWARDS her (emotionally and financially) for her horrid behavior, actions, and deeds.

    regards,
    c
    Divorced, father of 2, MGTOW because heavy-handed laws

  • Tammy

    Tammy Washington State

    What a great article! Thank you for taking the time to research this information and prepare an article relating this insight : )

    What a great article! Thank you for taking the time to research this information and prepare an article relating this insight : )

  • Linda

    Linda

    Awesome article! Thanks

    Awesome article! Thanks

  • Billy Torent

    Billy Torent Detroit

    These articles are way too slanted towards what the woman wants , needs, how to make the woman happy. May I suggest this is why many men are choosing to check out ?

    These articles are way too slanted towards what the woman wants , needs, how to make the woman happy.
    May I suggest this is why many men are choosing to check out ?

  • Scott

    Scott Florida

    I agree with Mr. Torent. As a man, I know I am not a mind reader. Communication is not the only key to a successful marriage as there are many others, but certainly an important one. Re-read the article. It is entirely slanted towards how women FEEL. This is ridiculous. The man is selfishly spending way too much time trading his life for the economic stability of his family....really? You think we want to work 60-80 hours a week and come home to a miserable wife that expects us to magically make her "happy"? Feminism, and the media's portrayal of men as stupid and abusive, is to blame. No one understands that a successful marriage takes WORK, by both spouses. We work to earn money, work to pay bills, work for charities, work on our children, work in their schools, work to maintain friendships with our social circle, and then simply expect that showing up in a marriage is all that is required. Nonsense. When women start to appreciate how a man dedicates his life to his family and a man starts to appreciate his wife's contributions to the marriage, a marriage will flourish. Period!

    I agree with Mr. Torent. As a man, I know I am not a mind reader. Communication is not the only key to a successful marriage as there are many others, but certainly an important one. Re-read the article. It is entirely slanted towards how women FEEL. This is ridiculous. The man is selfishly spending way too much time trading his life for the economic stability of his family....really? You think we want to work 60-80 hours a week and come home to a miserable wife that expects us to magically make her "happy"? Feminism, and the media's portrayal of men as stupid and abusive, is to blame. No one understands that a successful marriage takes WORK, by both spouses. We work to earn money, work to pay bills, work for charities, work on our children, work in their schools, work to maintain friendships with our social circle, and then simply expect that showing up in a marriage is all that is required. Nonsense. When women start to appreciate how a man dedicates his life to his family and a man starts to appreciate his wife's contributions to the marriage, a marriage will flourish. Period!

  • J

    J Pretoria

    I faced a similar situation as Flairer, I gave my family (and wife) everything I had, but it wasn't good enough. The ex just wanted more and more power to the point where I was miserable as hell. Sure I'm not perfect, but I gave her everything I could, I had no life outside work and family. Funny enough, I got blamed for our marriage failing, too justify her inexcusable behavior. She could not be honest and vulnerable in our relationship and had so many secrets and lies. When I found out about these, she decided to end the marriage as she could not stand the sight of the person she abused and hurt and left me for dead. For me the most important thing in a relationship is honesty and trust, and if your spouse can't give you that it's doomed no matter how hard you try.

    I faced a similar situation as Flairer, I gave my family (and wife) everything I had, but it wasn't good enough. The ex just wanted more and more power to the point where I was miserable as hell. Sure I'm not perfect, but I gave her everything I could, I had no life outside work and family. Funny enough, I got blamed for our marriage failing, too justify her inexcusable behavior. She could not be honest and vulnerable in our relationship and had so many secrets and lies. When I found out about these, she decided to end the marriage as she could not stand the sight of the person she abused and hurt and left me for dead.
    For me the most important thing in a relationship is honesty and trust, and if your spouse can't give you that it's doomed no matter how hard you try.

  • sayso

    sayso nottingham

    Is Dr Willard the biggest mangina in the entire history of the universe? Possibly. It's this kind of ingrained social sexism, demonstrated by the bucketload in the article, that explains why so many men are avoiding relationships like their life depends on it. Getting married and killing yourself in an effort to satisfy every single whim and desire of your wife is why men die younger! I have a son and a daughter, but in all honesty I will only be passing my "don't ever get married" wisdom on to my son. The system is rigged, and men are best advised to stay out of it.

    Is Dr Willard the biggest mangina in the entire history of the universe? Possibly.

    It's this kind of ingrained social sexism, demonstrated by the bucketload in the article, that explains why so many men are avoiding relationships like their life depends on it. Getting married and killing yourself in an effort to satisfy every single whim and desire of your wife is why men die younger! I have a son and a daughter, but in all honesty I will only be passing my "don't ever get married" wisdom on to my son. The system is rigged, and men are best advised to stay out of it.

  • John Cayfield

    John Cayfield

    This gyno-centric stuff has got to stop. Buddy, it's not all about pandering to a woman. 2way street . We are back to changing men and emasculating men for the sake of what women want .

    This gyno-centric stuff has got to stop. Buddy, it's not all about pandering to a woman.
    2way street .
    We are back to changing men and emasculating men for the sake of what women want .

  • John anchor

    John anchor Detroit

    Don't get married . No reason . Just something the government wants. Relationships come and go . Impermanence . Stand on your own . Being single .

    Don't get married .
    No reason . Just something the government wants.
    Relationships come and go . Impermanence . Stand on your own . Being single .

  • Rob

    Rob New York

    These comments and articles are written by a woman or man with balls. If woman is submissive or /and gives a man his desires or needs he wouldn't need to leave. Oops,in this modern day western feminist politically correct American culture . Female-males traditions that have lasted for thousands of years in other societies is a no no.

    These comments and articles are written by a woman or man with balls.
    If woman is submissive or /and gives a man his desires or needs he wouldn't need to leave.
    Oops,in this modern day western feminist politically correct American culture . Female-males traditions that have lasted for thousands of years in other societies is a no no.

  • Geoff

    Geoff Moving on

    While a repost, should be a reminder of just what marriage box is... This original post and just insight James and others have ALL Men should wake up. My story ended by my wife's choices otherwise, and Everyone has different perspectives and experiences that make our marriages what they were interested to be... Woman leave and cheat the very same as men.... Mine otherwise blindsided me, it destroyed a family... Families... Children... I deeply loved my wife, she was literally my single friend.... Our life was each other, yet for all reasons above, it contained many strains. Know your commitment to help your spouse (each other) and along the dynamics of life. 4 years later, I hear how amazing I was.. yet also don't take something for granted and abuse someone to the end that you need to remove yourself from toxic behavior... Grace, Forgiveness, they can't repair trust... or a feeling of an emptied soul next to you. Trust me.... If it's LOVE you really feel, you'll know it without words, both the onset and anything someone chooses in the end. So apply being a better Man, make it a priority DAILY !! Your wife WILL see you in a new light, and if she decides otherwise.... You can go to your grave knowing that while we ALL have faults, excuses for ones actions are simply that..... Excuses in there mind you can't change nor control. So, it's a n amazing post... One can't even expand on, except take and foster, share, and bring into your life.... It will matter MORE than you'll ever believe possible !! And be blessed.......

    While a repost, should be a reminder of just what marriage box is... This original post and just insight James and others have ALL Men should wake up. My story ended by my wife's choices otherwise, and Everyone has different perspectives and experiences that make our marriages what they were interested to be...

    Woman leave and cheat the very same as men.... Mine otherwise blindsided me, it destroyed a family... Families... Children...
    I deeply loved my wife, she was literally my single friend.... Our life was each other, yet for all reasons above, it contained many strains. Know your commitment to help your spouse (each other) and along the dynamics of life.

    4 years later, I hear how amazing I was.. yet also don't take something for granted and abuse someone to the end that you need to remove yourself from toxic behavior... Grace, Forgiveness, they can't repair trust... or a feeling of an emptied soul next to you.

    Trust me.... If it's LOVE you really feel, you'll know it without words, both the onset and anything someone chooses in the end. So apply being a better Man, make it a priority DAILY !!
    Your wife WILL see you in a new light, and if she decides otherwise.... You can go to your grave knowing that while we ALL have faults, excuses for ones actions are simply that..... Excuses in there mind you can't change nor control.

    So, it's a n amazing post... One can't even expand on, except take and foster, share, and bring into your life.... It will matter MORE than you'll ever believe possible !!

    And be blessed.......

  • Dana Harris

    Dana Harris Virginia Beach

    I just recently came up for air from an emotionally and financially abusive marriage. I (we) have spent the last 15 years in counseling, we did individual, marital, and my husband did cognitive behavior therapy as well. He has finally come to realize the damage he did to our relationship. He is passive aggressive and pathologically narcissistic. After going to my pastor to ask for his help in transitioning our children in the divorce, my wise pastor agreed only after we agreed to counseling with him. The first thing he hit on was exactly what James wrote about in this article. Amplified by my husband's personality disorder, the initial break down started when I began to experience the result of my husband putting me in one of his "rooms". I felt isolated, lonely, sad, angry, and confused as to what I did wrong to deserve going from being a partner in the relationship to being a nuisance. If only couples counselors could articulately address this common issue as easily and quickly as James just did, I know a lot of men reading this are feeling discriminated against thinking it's not just women who are treated this way, I don't think that was James' intention to convey it is a one-sided problem. He mentions, of all the reasons women leave their husbands, this is the number one reason given. He didn't say it only happened to women, just that is the reason cited for divorce when women file. I think we can all agree the problem is more readily validated when it comes from a woman's mouth rather than a man's. Men have it hard, no doubt. A man's role is frequently being redefined by society; leaving gray areas which result in insecurity, uncertainty, and the socially acceptable male emotion: anger. I think men tend to shut down or go to their "nothing room" when feeling conflicted. Throw the fact that woman use 500 more words daily and require more emotionally than most men doesn't help things. Unless society becomes educated, the problem will perpetuate. Thank you James, for articulating what seems to be a significant problem in today's marriages. As Geoff pointed out, consider James' message, share where applicable, and maybe apply it to your own life. It can only help you grow.

    I just recently came up for air from an emotionally and financially abusive marriage. I (we) have spent the last 15 years in counseling, we did individual, marital, and my husband did cognitive behavior therapy as well. He has finally come to realize the damage he did to our relationship. He is passive aggressive and pathologically narcissistic. After going to my pastor to ask for his help in transitioning our children in the divorce, my wise pastor agreed only after we agreed to counseling with him. The first thing he hit on was exactly what James wrote about in this article. Amplified by my husband's personality disorder, the initial break down started when I began to experience the result of my husband putting me in one of his "rooms". I felt isolated, lonely, sad, angry, and confused as to what I did wrong to deserve going from being a partner in the relationship to being a nuisance. If only couples counselors could articulately address this common issue as easily and quickly as James just did, I know a lot of men reading this are feeling discriminated against thinking it's not just women who are treated this way, I don't think that was James' intention to convey it is a one-sided problem. He mentions, of all the reasons women leave their husbands, this is the number one reason given. He didn't say it only happened to women, just that is the reason cited for divorce when women file. I think we can all agree the problem is more readily validated when it comes from a woman's mouth rather than a man's. Men have it hard, no doubt. A man's role is frequently being redefined by society; leaving gray areas which result in insecurity, uncertainty, and the socially acceptable male emotion: anger. I think men tend to shut down or go to their "nothing room" when feeling conflicted. Throw the fact that woman use 500 more words daily and require more emotionally than most men doesn't help things. Unless society becomes educated, the problem will perpetuate. Thank you James, for articulating what seems to be a significant problem in today's marriages. As Geoff pointed out, consider James' message, share where applicable, and maybe apply it to your own life. It can only help you grow.

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