Why Wives and Husbands Leave Marriage – Marriage Message #79

AdobeStock Conflict between man and woman sitting on either side of a wallOriginally, this message was titled, Why Women Leave Men, but in re-thinking this message it seems sensible to address why the “leaving” is happening on both the wives and the husband’s parts. Of course this message can’t be all inclusive, but hopefully it will shed light for some who are in the dark and promote good discussion —particularly in the comment section below this message.

Why do husbands and wives leave marriages they promised to be in for the rest of their lives? It’s simple —because they can. Sometimes leaving seems easier than staying committed and working things out. And lets face it, it’s easier to divorce in today’s world.

So, as we look at this subject, please understand we are going to address this in “general” terms as it will apply to MOST husbands and wives. We understand there are exceptions. And as you read this, first pray and ask God to show you what YOU should get from this and APPLY to your own life and marriage.

If you ask a woman why a wife would leave her marriage she’ll give answers like:

  • “She feels lonely and abandoned”…
  • “The only time he pays attention to her is when he wants something” (and we all know what the “something” is)…
  • “He’s having an affair either emotionally,viewing pornography or physically…
  • “She feels disconnected —that he doesn’t include her in important matters, or even unimportant matters”…
  • “That he seems to care more about other things like TV than he does about her”

And the list goes on and on and on. But most of the reasons had to do with feelings and emotions.

Now, when you ask a man why a husband would leave his marriage, our first response is usually a blank stare followed by the words, “I dunno.” At least that was my first response. But I (Steve) was curious —I wanted to see what the “experts” had to say about the reasons men give for leaving their wives.

As I did an Internet search on this topic I discovered two things: First, there’s not much that addresses this side of the problem. And second, what I could find pretty much summed it all up in three categories:

  1. Boredom. This is often expressed when he says, “I simply fell out of love” or something along that line…
  2. Cheating. The husband discovers his wife is having an affair or he’s having an affair…
  3. Other. This category is a “catch-all” for a number of different reasons men have given. These would include feeling disrespected or emasculated, mental problems, physical or sexual problems, child-bearing issues, personal habits, financial problems, etc.

Because we hear from so many husbands whose wives have left (and they don’t understand, “why”) and from so many wives who say they’re “fed up” and are about ready to walk out or have already left, we want to give you some insight from Dr. Willard Harley in a helpful article he wrote called, “Why Women Leave Men.” And while this focuses on the issue from a wife’s angle, you can see a husband’s perspective as well. Our prayer is that God will help us ALL learn from what Dr. Harley shares.

Harley writes,

“Each day I’m confronted by women who are extremely frustrated with their marriages. Usually, they 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 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 sizable 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 fell that for all their effort, they get nothing but criticism.

“Men’s perceived failure to satisfy their wives is punctuated by the fact that women file for divorce twice as much as men. In other words, their unhappiness with marriage often results in divorce. The most common reason women give for leaving their husband’s is ‘mental cruelty.’ When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they’ve been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husbands efforts to drive them crazy. It’s usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating forms of neglect.

“When all forms of spousal neglect are grouped together, we find it’s far ahead of all other reasons combined that women leave men. Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, or other serious grounds. In fact, I find myself bewildered by women in serious physical danger refusing to leave the men that threaten their safety. Simply stated, women leave men when they’re neglected. Neglect accounts for almost all reasons women leave and divorce men.”

Harley continues,

“…Some of the most 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 to see how I’m doing, he hurts my feelings and never apologizes; Instead, he tells me I’m too sensitive.” Most husbands are mystified by these complaints. They feel their wives demand too much, and that most other women would be ecstatic to be married to them. Their wives have become spoiled, take their efforts for granted and have unrealistic expectations.

“Do women expect too much from their husbands or are men doing less for their wives than they should?” (To learn more solutions Dr Harley gives, please read “Why Women Leave Men.”)

Cindy and I answer Harley’s question with a “Yes and Yes!” We have found that both husbands and wives come into marriage with unrealistic (and often, unexpressed) expectations which set them up later for big problems as illustrated above. It’s not difficult to “trash” your marriage, as you can read in the following article Trash Your Marriage (which will also give you ways to ways to clean it up).

At one time or another in our nearly 38 years of marriage we’ve both been guilty of much of what Dr. Harley described. Cindy would readily admit that she expected too much from me and, sadly, I was neglectful of many of her needs, not realizing how important they were to her.

To us, the bigger question relating to this subject is, “How can we change the pattern of divorce that is so pervasive in the Christian church today?” I think we found an answer simply stated in this quote from Walt Henrichsen in his devotional titled, Thoughts From The Diary Of A Desperate Man:

“You can do two things that most people cannot resist, love and serve them. Loving and serving is a ministry and you do not need special gifts to do it.”

Think about that this week. It goes with the scriptures,

You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:13-15).

And how much closer of a neighbor can you get than a spouse? So, how can you love and serve each other? If you want or need some help, make marriage your marriage your mission and look around our web site  to see what you can find that will help you. Be intentional in working to make your marriage the best it can be.

We encourage you to go into the Romantic Ideas topic read the articles, “100 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife HER Way,” and “100 Ways to Show Love to Your Husband HIS Way.” You might find it could help you come up with ideas to love and serve your spouse as God intends.

Steve and Cindy Wright


Filed under: Marriage Messages

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167 responses to “Why Wives and Husbands Leave Marriage – Marriage Message #79

  1. My wife is mad that I won’t put her on my account by we have a joint account… She keeps telling me it’s a deal breaker for her and I should leave if I won’t do it. We have 3 kids ….I’m kinda confused why it’s big deal.

  2. I left husband because of not feeling safe so must be one of the few that do leave an unsafe spouse.

  3. Hey guys, please give me your prayers. I have been married two years; this is my first marriage, and the only person I have ever slept with and it has always seemed kind of one-sided, but I thought, “as long as she’s happy I don’t care.” I do all chores 95% of the time (wash the dishes, wash and hang the clothes, take out the trash, clean, pick up her dirty clothes, all of the grocery shopping, etc). I also sometimes give her gifts when none are returned (valentines/ anniversaries). I also surprise her with a clean house, a date night, flowers, cadle-lit massages and other random things and I don’t expect or care if she responds a certain way, I just want her to be happy.

    My problem is that she is never happy and she is always nostalgic for when we dated. She won’t talk to me about serious things and if she does, it takes 30 minutes for her to reply and she usually replies by changing the subject. She yelled at me again today and I yelled back. Usually I will apologize for our arguments, but I’m the only one and so I didnt. She has threatened to leave before, and she won’t see a counselor with me. I tried talking to her again to no avail, but I really think she is leaving and I don’t know how I can do more than what I am doing. I am willing to but I am out of Ideas. Her family might side with me and she already has enough anxiety without me turning her friends and family against her so I can’t go to them. She already thinks that my family doesn’t like her so I definitely can’t go to them.

    Also, we have been missing church for about a month because I am the only one who will wake up for it and we really need community right now. Please pray for us and give me any advice you can. I really love her and to top it off she is going to have our first child in March and I want that kid to have a good and stable home. This is a good article but I try not to think that her expectations are too high, I spend tons of time with her, and I care deeply for her. And yes, sex has been an issue, but not one that I have been animalistic about. I do loads of romantic and nice things for her and when I eventually ask her why she hasn’t had sex with me in weeks she says I have to turn her on. I don’t make everything about actions with no emotion but its like she wants an emotional euphoria at all times to be happy and thats not possible. Emotions change, love doesn’t. If God were “in-love” with us only and didn’t love us then he would be changeable and he is unchanging otherwise there would be times when he was not “in-love” with us all. Please help.

  4. The implications of your article are that men are insensitive. Consider these facts, not opinions but facts. 3 times more widowers committ suicide when their wife predeceased them than widows whose husband predeceased them. 7 times more men committ suicide when going thru divorce proceedings than women. Now you tell me who is the more neglected party. Anthony in LA.