Eventually, after months or years of this cycle, she stops mentioning the things that bother her. She stops making requests or trying to talk with him about her feelings. Many men are relieved. They think she's realized she's got a good man who just isn't much of a talker or hugger or house cleaner or whatever. He figures she's realized she can't change him and has made her peace with how he is because his good qualities outweigh the things she was complaining about. She's likely being a little less open and affectionate, a little more cold, but he doesn't really notice. He doesn't understand that their relationship is now on thin ice.
What is happening is that his partner has begun shutting down emotionally. She's tired of feeling disappointed and hurt and has given up hoping that she can get her needs met in this relationship. She grieves this loss and may feel resentful, but she decides to accept reality. She stops investing so much effort and emotion, and begins making plans to change her life. She's saving money, trying to figure out where she'll live once she moves out, and researching divorce attorneys.
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One day, he comes home and she tells him she's leaving him. Sometimes, he walks in and finds that she's moved out already. She may inform him she's met someone else who listens and cares. He might be surprised by divorce papers. He's stunned and devastated. How could she do this to him? What happened?
When he asks her, she either won't talk about it or tells him she got tired of asking for him to show more affection, talk more, help more at home, spend more time with her, or whatever it was she needed so much. He says he just didn't realize how much those things meant to her, that he'll do them, and that he's so sorry. He begs her to change her mind. She says she doesn't believe him and is tired of being hurt and disappointed. She doesn't want to put herself through all that again. Besides, she doesn't feel anything for him anymore and wants to move on with her life. He can't believe how cold she's being. She seems annoyed that he's so upset. She says she wants him to leave her alone and doesn't want to keep talking about it.
I feel genuinely sad for a lot of these guys. Most of them are decent men who just didn't quite "get it" when their partners tried to communicate with them about needs or concerns. I also feel sad for them because, so many times, when these women finally leave or say they're leaving, they really are already gone and its too late for the relationship. I truly believe these men love their wives/girlfriends. I believe they're devastated. Some men just can't stand to lose control, but I'm not talking about those guys here.
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After asking enough questions to figure out if this is what happened, I explain "walk away woman" syndrome to these guys. I make no guarantees about the future of the relationship, but agree that there's always hope. Some of these women do change their minds for various reasons, after all. I validate their shock and sadness and confusion. I talk to them about eating, sleeping, bathing, and getting back to work and other usual activities.