How Could She Be Surprised? Part One.

Recently a male acquaintance told his wife of more than 2o years he wanted a divorce.  

Since they hadn’t slept together more than a couple of dozen times in the previous decade (and if you know men, you know he was very aware of this) and in fact hadn’t even shared a bed for the preceding year, they seldom did anything together, they barely spoke and they even ate their meals separately, he figured she’d shrug her shoulders and say, “Whatever”.  

Instead, her response knocked his socks off.  She screamed at him, told him to get out of the house RIGHT THAT VERY MINUTE, and made it clear that she didn’t want to ever speak to him again.  

He was stunned.  After all, as a salesman with a very large territory he was often on the road for weeks on end; he’d frequently invited her to travel with him.  She’d always refused, even after their kids grew up and moved away from home.  In fact, within days of returning home from yet another assignment, she’d be sniping at him, “Isn’t it time for you to go out on another sales trip?”.  

As far as he was concerned, the marriage had been over for years.  A decade or so before, he’d asked her to go to marriage counseling with him, but she’d refused.  She didn’t want to talk about it.  

 The divorce was difficult.  The wife was very angry and hurt, and made it clear to the family that her heart was broken by the horrible person she’d married so many years ago, with the full expectation that it would last forever.  

What happened?  How could two people have such a different understanding of what was going on between them?  How could any woman who was still fairly young – after all, she was only in her mid 40s – believe that her similarly-aged husband was happy to be in a relationship with no sex, no mutual interests, and no conversation? 

Sounds completely irrational, doesn’t it?  

It happens with far more frequency than most people realize, and the reason is both very simple and extremely complicated at the same time.   The simple explanation is “People see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe”.   

What my friend’s ex-wife wanted to see and believe is that her marriage was fine, that as long as they weren’t battling it out every day and were living a reasonably harmonious existence, that there was nothing to worry about. 

She apparently valued a relationship where she didn’t have to “feel”, where she could be emotionally distant and there were no expectations placed on her – other than those she felt competent to handle, such as her job, housework, mothering, and so forth.  

She was probably panicked when he asked for marriage counseling those many years before, and likely did everything she could to dissuade him from pursuing that line of thought… and she most likely pushed all the right buttons – those buttons that any spouse knows how to push – to make it clear that this was a bad idea on his part, and that even bringing it up was both foolish and indicative that he had some serious personality failings.  

So my friend gave up.  He stopped asking for counseling, he stopped trying to find a way to make the marriage work, and he was rewarded for it… the air cleared, the household became calm again, and sadly, he was left alone. 

Married, but quite alone.  

Coming soon, Part Two.

Soul-Mate Marriages is saddened by the high rate of divorce in the U.S., with even fewer second marriages succeeding.  We recognize the reasons are complicated but believe the trend can be reversed with trust and hard work. 

Neither of us is a relationship saint, but our marriage, the 2nd for both of us, has brought more joy, satisfaction, and peace than we could have imagined. 

We hope our insights will be helpful.

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