Listening to the woman you love can keep you from experiencing this all too common scenario.
"She says we're over! I can't believe she left. I don't understand. She says she's done. I want her back. I'm reading books and coming to counseling. I'm going to church. She says she doesn't want to hear it because I wouldn't do those things before when she asked me to. I love her. I can't live without her. What can I do? How can I get her to give me another chance?"
The details may vary somewhat, but this is basically what I hear in my counseling office over and over from men who's wives or live-in girlfriends have suddenly abandoned ship. They come in to see me desperate and begging me to tell them how they can "fix it." They aren't sleeping or eating. They can't concentrate on their jobs or carry out day-to-day responsibilities. They're freaked out about being alone. They're calling her and texting her multiple times a day. They're even showing up at her work or her parents' house to try and have a conversation with her. They're calling her friends, her parents, her sister, anyone who might help them understand her and put in a good word to try and convince her to change her mind. They're reading relationship books. Their world has been shatterred and they'll do anything to "fix it."
"Why won't she talk to me? She says she's told me already and I wouldn't listen. She wants me to leave her alone and stop calling and texting. I just want her to know I'm sorry and that I love her and that I'll do anything. Why is she being so mean? Its like she doesn't have any feelings anymore."
So, what happened? Did their women expect them to mind read and guess about what they needed? Did she lie and say nothing was wrong when he asked because she expected him to know? Did she drop those subtle hints that guys usually miss and then get frustrated when he missed them? Did she have expectations that no man could live up to? Did she blame him for her unhappiness when she really had some bigger problem that lead to a sense of sadness or emptiness? Or, as many of these men want to know, did she meet someone else?
Or, was it him? Was he out drinking all the time? Did he spend all their money impulsively and without talking with her? Did he lose his temper towards the kids on a regular basis? Would he go out of town on business and not even bother to call? Has she discovered a drug problem or an affair?
Any of these things could have happened. They are common relationship problems. Usually, in this situation, it's nothing that big. What has often happened to these men is something counselors hear about far too often. They've fallen victim to the "walk away woman syndrome." This isn't a formal diagnosis, but it's a pattern played out so often that prominent relationship experts, like Willard Harley (www.MarriageBuilders.com)
and Michelle Weiner-Davis (www.DivorceBusting.com) have written about it.
In a nutshell, what happens is that the woman in the relationship attempts repeatedly to communicate her needs and her man repeatedly fails to take her seriously enough. She eventually gives up, stops saying anything, begins shutting down emotionally, and sooner or later, exits the relationship. He is stunned and devastated and finally realizes how unhappy she was and wants so much to fix it, to prove his love, to have her back. He tries to convince her that he is, or will be, different. She doesn't want to hear it and tells him she's done and isn't about to put herself through more disappointment. She moves on with her life and does not return to the relationship.
This scenario unfolds much more slowly most times. She starts by asking nicely. She attempts to bring an important concern to his attention. She tries to explain why a certain request matters so much to her. He may respond defensively because he feels he's already pulling his weight in the relationship, working hard to earn money to support her and their kids, helping out, and doing nice things for her. When she says, "I know, and I appreciate those things, but..." he accuses her of criticizing and "always" fussing and nagging.
Or, he might listen and appear concerned, but secretly be thinking he just doesn't get why certain things matter so much to her. Rather than trying to understand from her perspective, or at least accepting what she says as valid and real for her, he shrugs it off and decides it can't really be that big a deal. He might humor her by making a half-hearted effort or do just enough so she'll stop being upset with him and then go back to business as usual.
She feels frustrated and disappointed and the pattern begins. Later on, she'll likely bring the same thing (or things) up again. She may be a little more demanding the next time. If he still isn't responsive to her requests, she may start to complain, bring concerns up less nicely, and repeat her wishes more often and more forcefully. She might "get dramatic" and cry and accuse him of not caring how she feels. She'll say he doesn't listen, and that he doesn't want them to be happy as a couple.
He thinks, "This again? Really?" He again reminds her of all he does "right" and asks why she can't ever give him credit for that. He wonders why women have to bitch all the time and why they're so high maintenance. He thinks he's a pretty good guy. He doesn't run around on her or gamble away all their money. He doesn't even get too mad when she turns him down for sex! Why is she always trying to change him?Does she really think he's going to fall for the water works and hysterics? He's happy with how things are. Why can't she be? "You knew I was like this when we got together." "This