Studies show that women initiate divorce more often than men, and one of the most common reasons cited for leaving the marriage might surprise you – and come as a serious reality check.
It’s not about money or infidelity, or even arguments. No, one of the most common reasons women decide to leave their marriages is that they feel overly responsible for the relationship. They feel like taken for granted, and that they’re the only ones putting in the effort to make things work… And based on many of the other common complaints women bring up in counseling sessions and surveys, this is an underlying issue in many, many marriages.
This problem may take different forms in individual relationships, but the underlying sentiment is the same. When the marriage doesn’t feel like a partnership, with both people contributing to its success, it can start to feel like a burden. Here are just a few of the ways this can happen:
● She does all of the housework
● She is the only who suggests dates and spending time together
● She initiates the sexual relationship
● She brings up issues or initiates discussions about the marriage
● She handles the finances
● She does the majority of the childcare
There are numerous other ways this problem can show itself, but it all comes down to how a wife feels about it. Some relationships function well with a clear division of labor, and couples thrive in well-defined roles – however, if most or all of the work falls to her, the likely result is burnout, stress, resentment, and ultimately, the mentality that the marriage is more trouble than it’s worth.
It’s a stereotypical image we’re all familiar with, where the husband kicks back on the couch while the wife prepares a meal and cleans up after. It’s the “honey, we need to talk” while he’s ignoring her in favor of a sports game. It’s husbands forgetting holidays and anniversaries…
While these are the kinds of problems we see in movies and on TV, the cliche relationship where the wife is the brains of the operation, and is the only thing standing between her husband and utter disaster – this kind of relationship in real life is anything but a joke. It’s not and eye-rolling punchline, it’s a one-sided marriage that is on its way toward collapse.
So, how can you resolve this problem before it’s too late?
For husbands, hopefully this is a wake up call. If you’ve been ignoring or minimizing your wife’s complaints about feeling taken for granted or being solely responsible for the marriage, it’s time to listen up! It’s really a matter of effort, and simply taking it upon yourself to help around the house, to lighten the load of chores and home management, to actually carve out time to spend with your wife will make a world of difference. Being present and engaged in the marriage is the first major step here, and the closer you pay attention to what she wants and needs, the less “on her own” she’ll feel.
For wives, ask for help! Instead of bottling up your frustrations and unleashing them when arguments happen, try to approach it calmly – without putting him on the defensive. It’s ok to be upset, but if you attack him with everything at once, you’re unlikely to get through to him. Instead, explain how you’re feeling, and how it threatens the relationship. He needs to understand that he’s taking advantage of you (even if it’s unintentional), and that a healthy marriage has got to have involvement from both parties.
Whatever the biggest pain points are, ask him for help there. If it’s about housework, try creating a method of assigning chores equally between you. If it’s about spending time together, ask him to plan some activities for the two of you…
Addressing each issue specifically will help avoid a big blowout argument, and hopefully the two of you can achieve some incremental improvement the more you talk through these problems. However, the specifics – like helping with kids or planning meals – are only symptoms. The real problem is not seeing the marriage as a two-way partnership that both parties need to be actively involved in. If she’s doing the majority of the work (either physically, emotionally, or both), it’s frustrating and one-sided – and that’s not a relationship anyone wants to be in.
If this hits close to home for you, it needs to be examined right away. Of all the reasons marriages come apart, this is among the most common – but also one of the easiest to resolve IF (and only if) the husband is willing to make a major change to his attitude.
…And this can go both ways, it just happens to be a more common complaint among women. Both of you need to see the marriage as a joint venture – something you’re both responsible for. When you both put in the effort, the relationship can truly flourish!