On Friday I wrote a short piece called Why women leave men they love – What every man needs to know. Three days later 500,000 people had read it. Something struck a chord. People are reading the article and seeing themselves. Many, many women have shared their relief at knowing they are not alone in their desire for deeper connection.
Men are responding too. “Presence is so damned hot!” says one. Another laments “If only I’d read this two years ago.” A few have pointed out that the roles are reversible, that men want the same things and suer in similar ways. I agree. Which begs the question –Why are women so much more likely to show up in my oce BEFORE they drop the hammer, while men tend to wait until AFTER the hammer is dropped?
We’re ALL subject to social patterns and structures, and gender gures heavily. Assigning blame is a dead-end that always gets us less of what we truly want. Trying to understand what drives our behaviour – collectively, individually and in marriages is potentially enlightening. And so I take the approach of inquiry.
Let’s start with Why are women staying in marriages for years when their husband is emotionally absent? I’ve had numerous women conde that their relationship strategy is basically this: Somehow hold out until the kids are grown, then bye-bye. Which leads us to… Men – how did you not see this coming? Why did you do nothing? (Again, you can ip the gender assignments to suit you.)
Frustrating as the questions are, honest answers exist. I hear them all the time, but never through smiling lips.
I didn’t know any other way.
I hoped it would get better.
I was busy with work.
That’s just the way it is.
I didn’t want to screw up the kids.
Forgive me if I make self-awareness sound easy. The insights above can be extremely hard-won. Of course it takes time, and tears, to get to this place of acknowledging our own part in a painful relationship. We avoid it because it oends our ego. But truth wants to and you.
Therapist David Schnarch says something like “ Only marriage can prepare you for marriage.” What he means is that the problems we encounter in relationship are the right ones, at the right time. They reect our current level of maturity or development. No one expects someone in eighth grade to ace grade twelve exams. But that doesn’t mean exam time isn’t stressful for everyone.
Once we begin coming to terms with the reality of a relationship in crisis, we may turn our attention to how we respond in the face of change. Change happens. It’s not negotiable. Yesterday’s experiences changed us, and we are dierent today. Our choice lies in how we align ourselves with the change process.
Whether or not a couple chooses to stay together when they hit their crisis point, some kind of change will be required. Often one partner makes a decision that changes everything. That’s reality. Avoiding reality has big costs. As Byron Katie observes “When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.” So do we actively participate in the reality of change, accepting the discomfort and uncertainty along with the exhilaration of growth? Or do we resist because change is scary and painful? (Hint – the rst one gives us more and better options.)
I’m opening up comments on this post and I welcome your thoughts and reections.