Note: These gender roles can be reversed.
When I took off my wedding and engagement rings and set them on the kitchen counter after telling my then husband I wanted a divorce, it wasn’t because I didn’t love him anymore.
Far from it.
I married him because I loved him. I had children with him because I loved him.
But love wasn’t enough.
It felt like I had to tear my heart out of my chest to be able to do it, but I did leave behind my relationship of nearly ten years. I walked out on all of my dreams of our future, out of a beautiful home with our two little babies.
I eventually rallied, rebuilt, and remarried, but it wasn’t an easy road.
Women will leave good men, good fathers, good workers. They’ll leave rich men and poor men. They’ll leave universally-liked and nice men.
They’ll walk out the door and never look back on any kind of man simply because that man took them for granted.
My ex-husband and I both worked full-time. We each had friends, hobbies, interests— some together, but mostly separately.
When we were both home, he often “just needed a break,” so he watched TV or played on his phone or his PS4 alone. On the weekends, he might go golfing or hang out by himself.
Night after night, we didn’t connect. It felt more and more like there was a fence between us that we both struggled to reach over.
I expressed how I wanted to be touched more, even if it was just cuddling on the couch, but he “didn’t like that.” I wanted to have sex more. He wasn’t interested, and more often than not, turned me down. I wanted him to compliment the way that I looked every once in a while. He’d try, half-heartedly, and then give up altogether.
I wanted him to listen to me when I talked, to show interest in the things I cared about, but he just nodded along politely.
When he later became verbally abusive, it was clear that he thought I’d never leave, that I’d take what little scraps he gave me because “no one else would ever put up with me like he did.”
He’d told me when we first got married that I was amazing, yet he grew to see me as a “burden.”
If you’re reading this and your first reaction is to get angry, point a finger at me, proclaim that I must have been a shrew or a nag, or that I should have just “put up with it” because he “had it hard,” know that the truth hurts sometimes.
Marriage didn’t make me my husband’s “property.” You do not own your wife. Neither does she owe you anything, especially if you aren’t keeping up your side of the vows (namely, to love and to cherish).
I was a good wife until I wasn’t. Day by day, the neglect began to wear on me until I started to wonder why I was even with someone who couldn’t bother to thank me for making his lunch or for all I did for our children. I didn’t ask for much, but asking for anything eventually became “too much.”
The sad thing is that men can avoid making their wives feel unappreciated and wanting to leave. She already loves you. You’ve already accomplished the hardest part, but you have to continue to show her that you care to keep her committed to you and to the relationship.
1. Touch her.
Feel the softness of her skin against yours, how her clothes cling to her waist or hips. Hug her. Kiss her. Rub her shoulders. Hold her hand. Cuddle her. Don’t touch her just because you want to have sex with her. Touch her because she has a beautiful strong body that you once couldn’t get enough of.
2. Share with her.
What are you most passionate about right now? What are you excited about? What do you hope for the future? What are your goals or dreams? She wants to know about your passions and to see you be passionate. It draws her to you.
If you aren’t passionate about something, then find out why and go seeking. If you aren’t passionate in your own life, how can you expect her to be passionate about you?
3. Listen to her.
Ask her, “How was your day?” and then look her in the eye. Can you listen without your mind drifting off, or without formulating what you’re going to say in response? If not, focus on staying present. This is the person you chose to share your life with! Give her the gift of your undivided attention. Ask thoughtful follow-up questions.
4. Compliment and thank her.
Does she still challenge you? Make your heart flutter or freeze your lips shut? Tell her what you love about her. What impresses you about her. How she makes you feel and why you still love her.
Thank her for every little thing she does, whether it be buying the coffee or brewing a new pot every morning, getting the kids off to school, or working just as hard as you do but always making sure to read the kids a story before bedtime.
Let her know with your words that you notice her.
5. Be curious.
You may have spent the last 20 years together, but there’s still so much more you could learn. Who was her favorite elementary school teacher? What was her go-to dance move in middle school? What’s something she coveted when she was younger?
Take some time to ask her all of the off-the-wall questions you can think of, or take her to do something completely out of the ordinary. Throw axes. Play Dungeons & Dragons. Take a hike. She may be craving a new experience with you just as much as you with her.
We’re all too busy, so if all of the above seems like “too much,” start with 5–10 minutes a day. 5–10 minutes where you focus on your wife as a person, to be present with this amazing person you chose to spend your life with, to listen and be heard, to touch and be touched.
You don’t want your relationship to have an expiration date, so commit to connecting today.