I was going through some old e-mails I have not been able to reply to1, and came across two that were very. From different guys, months apart, but frighteningly alike. Over the years, I have received a dozen or more similar e-mails. They go something like this:
My wife wants a divorce. Says she no longer loves me. [Some say she’s not sure she ever did.] Says she is unhappy. Says she’s not sure she still believes in God. – or – Say’s God is no longer important or relevant to her life.
This one is particularity painful to me because twice in my life I have seen it played out up close with people to whom I was very close. In both of those situations, and the one’s I have seen by e-mail, the wife made her decision before the husband had a clue it was coming. Usually the guy knows something is off, but he’s not sure what, and questions don’t get real answers.
At first, these incidents seem age related, but I think they are actually more related to significant changes in a woman’s life as her children mature. A very common time for this is when all the kids have move beyond elementary school. It’s also common when the last child enters elementary school, and when the woman knows she will birth no more children. As the needs of her children change and diminish, there is a sudden hole. She is no longer needed as much as she has been, and she has a growing amount of time on her hands. A search for relevance, importance, and usefulness is understandable at this point in a woman’s life – but it’s also dangerous if she is not well grounded in her faith, or has a strong voice leading her elsewhere.
It’s easy to understand why a woman might come to see her marriage and/or her children as the problem, as a limitation that needs to be shed to become all that she was meant to be. In her mind, choices that she was a part of become something forced on her by her husband or motherhood, or circumstance. Her marriage, and family, become the scapegoats – allowing her to distance herself from the part she willingly played in who she has become. It must feel easier to “start over” than to try and fix a situation she no longer wants.
Which comes first, the desire to divorce, or the “loss” of scriptural morals that would prevent one from divorcing out of nothing more than boredom? I suspect that in most cases the two develop gradually, and both are well progressed before either becomes a runaway train that can only bring destruction. Thing is, the changes in spiritual beliefs are probably more noticeable than the changes in marital feelings. It’s usually more about what she does not do, what she stops doing. Loss of interest in church groups and activities. Running late when she never did before, and only for church things. More “schedule conflicts” with church activities. Less or no Bible reading (if she was once regular about this) or a change in what she is reading towards new age or other non-Christian religious ideas.
If a husband sees the signs soon enough, can he stop what will become a loss of faith and a desire to divorce? Probably not always, but I think it can be done in many cases. Recognise the changes as symptoms, not the real problem. The real issue is a deep dissatisfaction that she probably can’t grasp, much less verbalise. She needs to matter, she needs to have significance, and she needs to feel she is doing something bigger than she is. Help her to do this, and the symptoms should go away. Show her that what she has now grow to meet her needs. Convince her by your actions that you are prepared to make changes and sacrifices to build a marriage and a family that she feels is worth her time and able to make her feel fulfilled. If she wants to go back to school, or get some other form of training, be all for it. If she wants to start a business, ask how you can help. If she wants to throw herself into a non-profit, start doing jail ministry, or do short-term missions work, look for ways that it can happen. Be a real sounding-board, not a naysayer looking for reasons she should not follow her dreams.
Please use the comments to add your thoughts. I’d especially like to hear from any of you who have avoided this scenario going to maturity.
1 I apologise to all of you who have written and not heard back from me. The e-mails greatly exceed my time, and sometimes I don’t even get them all read. It is my hope and prayer that we have reached a place of a bit less business so I can read and reply to more e-mails.
Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:
What Savvy Women Consider Sexy: Real women telling us what they find sexy. SWEET!
Better Husbands and Fathers
Date Your Wife: Blizzards!: Great low cost date idea.
Happily Married After
Retreat: Thank you David for reminding us that retreating from marriage problems is a bad plan.
Holidays and In-Laws: Excellent post, and a MUST READ if you have any family that expects you to visit during the holidays.
Still Accountable: “Regardless of the traceable origins of your behavior… you are STILL held ACCOUNTABLE for what you do. Regardless of the traceable origins of your behavior… you are STILL held ACCOUNTABLE for what you do.” [David L Patric] Yes and AMEN!
Intimacy in Marriage
Some Orgasms You Have to Work Very Hard For: Thank you Julie for posting on a very important sexual subject that goes unmentioned too often. If your bride’s lack of orgasm is not as much a concern to you as it would be if you failed to climax, something is wrong!
Journey to Surrender
The Hard Reality of a One-sided Journey: This one is for those of you who feel you are the only one in the marriage who is trying.
Low Conflict Does Not Equate with Great Long-Term Marriage: Lori Lowe has a great write up of various research which shows that avoiding conflict is a marriage killer.
The 5 Marriage Types and Their Risk of Divorce: An interesting article which includes the fact that traditional marriage have the lowest divorce rate
Happy Relationships Create a Fountain of Youth: Looks like I am going to live a very long time! ;-)
The Marry Blogger
What I learned in Traffic School: Resisting vs. Non-Resisting: Another good marriage tip from driving class. (Almost glad he got that ticket!)
One Flesh Marriage
Trouble in Paradise, a.k.a. You Can’t Solve Your Marriage Problems by Moving to Paradise: A very good guest post which tells us that “Changing your location or the things you own may put off relationship problems for a little while, but they don’t solve them.” Don’t think it would be better “if only …” – if you can’t make it work here and now, a change of location won’t solve the problems.
Buck Naked Marriage: Strip away the unnecessary and focus on the bare essentials. : I have not read Corey’s new book yet, but based on following his blog for a year I have no doubt it’s a good read that will help almost any marriage. (And no, I’m not getting a kickback on this one.)
Holiday Tips for Divorced Parents to Avoid Holiday Headaches: If either you or your bride have kids by a previous relationship, PLEASE read this article.