These days I feel like I’m caught in a never ending loop of Twisted Sister’s song, “We’re not Going to Take It.” After 18 and 11/12 years of marriage, my husband and I called it quits, primarily because we weren’t going to take “it” from each other anymore. “It” was the sense that a Grand Canyon-sized chasm had settled in between us.
As news spread through my network of friends, I inventoried no less than 14 – yes – 14 friends going through exactly the same thing for exactly the same reasons. While 4 of them are men, the remaining 10 are strong, vivacious, smart women who want – dare I say – are beginning to demand more out of the most important relationship in their lives.
This is not to say that the women are faultless and that the men are selfish rakes (although some are!), but there seems to be a trend in my infinitesimally small and unscientific survey. The ladies, from their late 30s to mid-50s, are leaving their relationships because their husbands have not evolved in sync with them or have failed to evolve at all. My friends are constantly reading, bettering themselves, trying new things, starting new ventures and adventures – in essence, grabbing the brass ring wherever they can. In contrast, my anecdotal evidence suggests that the men in these relationships are either content with the status quo or are too tired or uninterested in doing the work to remain deeply engaged in the relationship.
So what is actually going on here? Is this just another “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” moment or does it go deeper than that?
Cathy Meyer, a certified divorce coach who writes for About.com, cites several reasons in her article, Why Are Most Divorces Filed by Women? including the fact that women are no longer beholden to men for financial support so they are unwilling to stay in an unhappy marriage. But perhaps the most telling, is her point that beyond the obvious reasons of abuse and infidelity, women want a more “intimate and emotional connection with their husband.” She mentions how women subjugate their own needs, writing, “Some wives spend so much time focused on raising children, helping their husband further his career and putting their needs last that they lose sight of who they are and what they want out of life . . . and then wonder ‘is that all there is?’”
Perhaps I, like other women, worked so hard at doing everything (perfectly!) that we failed to give our husbands the opportunities needed to grow into the spouses we so desired. Instead of letting my husband cultivate the skills to grocery shop economically and quickly, I would go myself or go with him. In retrospect, would it have mattered so much if it took him an extra 30 minutes or if we ended up with a few extra boxes of cereal? In The Orange Line, A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family & Life, the authors recommend maintaining a more balanced existence by bringing “yourself into the equation,” by setting boundaries and expectations without the fear of judgment, and asking for what you need. Had I applied this just to grocery shopping, things would have been dramatically different. I felt I was “expected” to do the shopping and feared that I’d not be a good wife/mother if I didn’t go. If I was too busy to go or felt overwhelmed, I would never ask that he go for me. I’m certain he would have gone, but I never asked. Frankly, it never occurred to me.
And this brings me to the most worrisome issue: what example have I set for my teenage daughter? Will she replicate the patterns her father and I have established? As she races toward adulthood, I will try to help her reframe what a supportive, respectful and loving relationship should be. I will tell her that sharing responsibilities from the outset sets patterns that are sustainable and establish equilibrium in the relationship so no one feels overwhelmed or resentful. I’ll encourage her not to assume that her way is the best way and convey the deep emotional connection that comes with finding new ways that suit her and her partner. I’ll emphasize the importance of developing and growing together by sharing the load – financial, parental and otherwise. I’ll encourage her to communicate, ask for help and find balance in her relationship so that she can lead a long, loving and fulfilling life with her partner.
© Sally Phillips, 2014
|Sally Ann F. Phillips is the mother of a teenager in addition to being a technology marketing executive, certified yoga instructor and studio owner, writer, sporadic commentator and voice over talent, therapy dog volunteer, social media junkie and closet geek. Her most recent project, 50 Revelations from the Heart: 50 Lessons on Loving and Living Fully, is currently available on Amazon.com. Chronically sleep-deprived, Sally has yet to find the perfect work-life balance but continues her joyful quest supported by friends and family.
Sally Ann F Phillips