Michele Weiner-Davis is a legend in couples therapy. Her particular expertise is “Divorce-Busting.” One of the videos in the CTI collection is authored by her and is called the “Walk Away Wife Syndrome.”
Two-thirds of all divorces filed in the USA are filed by women. Women turn to divorce as a final solution when in their mind, they have exhausted all other options. Women value and attend to their marriages, but now women are walking away from their marriages like never before. Why? Culturally, there are several contributing factors, but Michele believes she understands the primary reason.
Davis tells us that in early marriage, women are socialized to be the emotional caretakers of their families relationships. Wives tend to prioritize marriage, monitoring amounts of quality time together, meaningful togetherness and shared past times. When women feel connected to their husbands, there is peace in our time.
However, if the marriage is delegated to the back seat, the wife will tend to ardently pursue her husband for more connection, asking or demanding more frequent interaction.
The capacity for husbands to take influence and connect with their lonely wives determines what happens next. If the husband learns to manage his anxiety, and tunes into his partner, understanding what is needed.. well that would be helpful.
But unfortunately, too often she gets a little shrill when she’s being ignored. Counter to what you might imagine, her harshness is not endearing. Women get angry when they feel powerless. A part of the husband’s brain lights up to offer:
“Do you really want to spend more time with… her?”
At this point maybe the wife is getting ever more desperate. She may drag her husband to therapy. But in the hands of the all-purpose therapist, they often leave more aggravated than when the first showed up.
In some cases, the husband will flat out refuse to attend counseling. But at some point, a tree falls in the forest and it doesn’t make a sound. In the Walk Away Wife Syndrome, the wife stops complaining.
I mean she stops all complaining.
Most husbands describe a sense of profound relief.
This is the very definition of a false sense of security.
These wives are planning to leave, or have already made elaborate exit strategies. At some point, often after the death of a parent or sibling, divorce of a sibling, or job change, wives inform their husbands that they are done. The marriages are over. The walk away wife does exactly that…she walks away.
The men are usually thrown for a loop and utterly devastated. “Why didn’t you tell me you were this unhappy?” they wail.
Those words finally nail the marital coffin shut. In this Walk Away Wife Syndrome, she’s shocked and disgusted that he mistook her quiet for anything accept what it was: misery and profound hopelessness that change is possible.
It is at that moment, Davis tells us, that husbands in the Walk Away Wife Syndrome start to realize how important their wives and their children are to them. They become desperate and single-minded in their efforts to save their marriages.
Upcoming: Walk Away Wife Syndrome… What to Do.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. using EFT, Gottman Method, and the Developmental Model.