Marriage Missions International

Why Wives and Husbands Leave Marriage – Marriage Message #79

Originally, 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 continue to read more of this article and solutions Dr Harley gives, please click onto “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


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137 Responses to “Why Wives and Husbands Leave Marriage – Marriage Message #79”
  1. Janelle from United States says:

    Seems like this article turned into a debate about cheating for the most part. But the gist of the article is why men and women leave their marriages. From my own experience and studies, it seems men and women enter into relationships and marriage with different expectations and perspectives about how things should be. When those expectations aren’t met, people are more likely to go “outside” the relationship or marriage to get their needs met with someone else.

    Most of us go into marriages with no real knowledge of how to really “relate” to another. We have little to no concept of how to resolve conflict, power struggles, etc… or even how to really communicate with each other. Love turns into war at some point. Each person coming into a marriage has past wounds, experiences and baggage and all of that comes out during the course of the marriage. It’s an understatement to say that it is tough to work through all of that. It is really, really hard for each person to be honest about what is really going on, because all of us have blind spots about ourselves -and that’s where each of us usually starts to blame the other, in a kind of “It’s you who is the problem, not me”. It usually takes a lot of guts, hard work and usually some outside help to turn a troubled marriage around. Much of the time people just “give up” and hope that the grass is greener on the other side with someone else… and usually we end up going around the same “mountains” with the new person.

    Thankfully, there are more resources than ever out there that people in troubled marriages can benefit from. It’s worth it. Finding the right counselor is crucial as well. It’s amazing, but most people will spend more money on cars and vacations than they are willing to spend on counseling or other things that would help save their marriage with the one person who should be the most important priority. It seems like most of us learn that too late…

  2. Susan from United States says:

    This article caught my attention while seeking an answer on whether or not to separate from my husband. He is my 2nd. My first left me, and then cheated. After which, I got a divorce. In that marriage I loved him with everything I had. It wasn’t easy, but I did get over the betrayal. My current husband, the 2nd, is wonderful to me. We have had a few hurdles to overcome, but for the most part, he is a good man. We didn’t marry right away, and took our time, therefore, I knew what I was getting into before I married him, and I did it anyway.

    I do love him, it’s just that we have two issues that we have had from the beginning. The first is that we’re hardly ever intimate. I have to beg for it, which makes me feel cheap as a woman. I shouldn’t have to beg my husband for sexual intimacy. He says it’s not me, and he’s not cheating, but he’s just lazy. Which also leads to problem number two. Finances. He’s on disability, which provides very little. I work, but deep down inside I resent him for not being the breadwinner in our home. I feel like he just sits around while I work everyday, and I don’t like it.

    He tells me that I knew it was gonna be this way before we married therefore, I have no reason to be upset, and to a certain extent he’s right, but I can’t help it. I do resent him for it, and for withholding sexual intimacy from me due to his being lazy. Sometimes, I have to admit that I do try to emasculate him on purpose thinking that this may snap him out of it, but it never works, and I feel guilty afterwards. So, I’m trying to stop doing this, but I constantly tell him that these things bother me, to no avail. I’ve been tempted to cheat just for sexual gratification. Nothing serious, but the only thing that stops me is knowing that the Lord would not like this.

    It’s all so tragic because he really does love me. He hugs me a lot, and we laugh together a lot, and he tells me he loves me all the time. No man has ever expressed their love for me so openly. It’s just these two areas that are causing me to lose hope for my marriage. We had a big fight again tonight about, you guessed it, sex, and money. I just don’t know if I can hold on any longer.

  3. Kay from United States says:

    I totally understand. The sad part is what you need doesn’t cost him anything. Feeling like his buddy isn’t a marriage. It hinders a lady’s growth as a woman. Seems that a lot of men say things they do not mean I wish you well.

  4. Ben from United States says:

    Susan, I thought I would chime in from a mans perspective. You posted that- “Sometimes, I have to admit that I do try to emasculate him on purpose thinking that this may snap him out of it, but it never works, and I feel guilty afterwards.”

    As far as resenting and emasculating, this will never work. The more you do this the less of a man he will feel and if he does not feel like a man in your eyes then he will never want to have sex. Trust me, I would bet my paycheck on this and I’m not a betting man. If you resent him, I can guarantee he knows it, even if you don’t think you show it. I’d be surprised if it didn’t bother him that you’re the primary bread winner. If it doesn’t bother him then there’s a whole other set of issues that he has, and my heart goes out to you.

    Let me share a part of my story though: My wife insults me and allows her family to insult me this even happens publicly. I feel like (in her eyes) I never add up to how she sees other men. With her I feel like less of a man. Because of this I really have no attraction for her in that way I want to have that attraction; I just don’t. But in the end we’re all responsible for our own actions. So being on the other side of this issue I’m going to continue to initiate and change the way I approach her and her families insults. I cannot be responsible for her behavior anymore than you can be responsible for his behavior. You do have a choice in how you respond to him though. You can try changing tactics. Make him feel like a man, like he’s the most important thing in the world and give it 6 months of that. Try to read Love & Respect and For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. I don’t think that most women have any idea how to relate to their husbands as men anymore than men know to relate to their wives as women.

    The other thing I’d check on though, is pornography. If he’s looking at that then he won’t be interested in “real time” sex. I only bring this up because if he is at home with tons of idle time then for any man that can be a temptation. Another thing is that you mentioned he’s on disability. Is he taking any medication? That can definitely make a difference on sex drive.

    Now- if it’s just pure laziness there’s no excuse for that. Please know that you don’t have to cater or enable that type of behavior. Laziness is nothing more than selfishness and if you just allow it to happen he will never change. While you should still respect him biblically you don’t have to cater to laziness.

  5. Johnq from United States says:

    I was married for 17 years. Separated last yr. Now staying at our home (she left with my daughter) to her own place. I have tried everything to reconciliate but she won’t have it. I never had an affair nor had any domestic abuse issues. Finances were always taken care of and we had a beautiful home. We both worked, but suddenly she was “not happy.”

    Okay, after a year I am accepting this and trying to be civil for the sake of our daughter. But every time I have a phone conversation about finances, she gets all angry and threatens with divorce. I have been providing what I can in child support and meanwhile paying all the debts we both had. I just asked for her to help me a little and at first it was agreeable. But now it’s horrible.

    Needless to say I have no choice but to start delaying debt payments we both have in order to start paying a lawyer. Obviously if I don’t start handling our finances through the courts, she will try and destroy me financially. Sad that she is reacting this way when she was the one who walked out. On top of all this she is preventing me from having any sort of visitation with my daughter. What should I do? Should I beat her to the punch and file for divorce immediately?

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