Sixty-nine percent of divorces are initiated by women, compared to 31 percent initiated by their husbands. In a recent study led by Michael Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology at Stanford University in California, Rosenfeld drew this conclusion by collecting data from over 2000 adults ages 19-94 in heterosexual relationships. This conclusion is in contrast to non-marital relationships, where men and women initiate break-ups at equal rates.
Attention Complacent Husbands
This reason why married women initiate the end of relationships with men a higher rate than unmarried women isn’t explained by the study. As a counselor nearing the beginning of the fourth decade of my own marriage, I think I know the reason this disparity exists. I see husbands more than wives get complacent about their marriage. More wives bear the brunt of a stagnating relationship and get to the point where they can no longer stand the stench. In unmarried couples, men tend to work harder than married men to keep the relationship interesting. At least the perception is there that until his woman says “I do,” the unmarried man needs to outshine the competition or the woman will leave.
Complacent husbands neglect the work needed to better themselves and their marriage. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I’ve been in it. Too often, it takes a crisis to get our attention and motivate us to action. Many times the crisis comes too late for the marriage to be saved.
Too Late to Save Your Marriage
My parents had been married for little more than 10 years when my mother decided it was time to pull the plug. My father didn’t see it coming. He thought everything was good. When my mother told him she was finished, it was too late for him to turn things around.
In the case of my marriage, my wife and I saw a counselor about three years into our marriage. We felt turbulent from the start. Counseling helped us improve our relationship. But as we moved into calmer waters, after a few years I got complacent.
Doing What Married Couples Do
It didn’t take a crisis to get my attention. Instead, I saw we were stuck in a rut. We’d gotten into a routine where we just did things because that’s the way we’d been doing them. We were doing the things that married couples do, but we weren’t thriving in our relationship. Our relationship wasn’t growing deeper. We were losing touch with each other’s interests. We weren’t cheering each other on. We didn’t support each other in pursuit of our dreams or have shared goals.
In a marriage where one or both spouses have become complacent, the stress of a major life event can push a couple farther apart and beyond reconciliation. The stress may come from any direction, including the birth of a child, a spouse’s unemployment or job change, a severe illness, injury or death in the family, or financial pressures.
If your marriage has drifted into complacency, the way out is to disrupt your routine. Do it before you encounter a crisis and find it’s too late to save your marriage. Whether you’re a husband or wife, it only takes one of you to set a positive change in motion. Just say something like, “Let’s start doing some things differently around here to pump some more life into our marriage.”
How to Disrupt Your Marriage
Here are three places to start:
- Create new connections. Do something new that’s just for the two of you. Brainstorm together for ideas of new experiences you can engage in together. It might be a weekly date night at home or on the town, a class or workout you do together, or a new vacation location. Write the activities you agree on into your calendars and make a verbal contract with each other to make it happen. As you brainstorm ideas, lay plans and engage in activities together you’ll connect with each other on a more intimate level. You’ll learn more about each other’s interests, likes and dislikes, goals and dreams.
- Spice up your sex life. Physical intimacy often becomes a chore for one or both spouses in a marriage where there’s complacency. This is often because husband and wife aren’t connecting on an emotional level. Sex only happens when it’s “necessary” or not at all. As you create new connections outside the bedroom, make time to discuss what you’d like to happen in the bedroom. Talk frankly to each other about what your spouse can do to turn you on, give you more pleasure, and satisfy your sexual desires. As you have these discussions, use positive words to express yourself and avoid criticism.
- Find a shared purpose. As you get better connected with each other’s interests, goals and dreams, talk about those that you share in common. Brainstorm about something you can do together to give to the community you live in, your faith community, or the world to enrich the lives of others. You may choose to give your time, talents or money to a worthy cause. Research on generosity reveals it’s a powerful antidote for stress, it improves our health, and makes us happier people. Low stress, healthy and happy spouses enjoy each other’s company!
Disrupt Your #Marriage Before It's Too Late!
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.