Many women are losing their marriages and they don’t know it.
Many women have interpersonal needs, which are not being met in their marital relationship. They probably have friends with whom they share the emotional side of their lives. This helps; however there are needs which can be best met by the marriage partner. When it doesn’t happen the relationship can go “flat”.
All too often a woman will not speak openly about her needs. She suffers privately and eventually gets to a point where she can’t endure the isolation and unhappiness any longer. In frustration and anger she may begin to believe that her marriage is over.
If she is getting individual counselling, her therapist may unfortunately agree with her and encourage her to make a break. Many counsellors/psychologists do individual work that is insensitive to the health of a relationship.
Finally the wife speaks up. And what does she say? “I don’t love you anymore and I want a divorce.” The husband is often shocked and wants to seek help to rebuild but it may be too late for the wife.
Had she spoken up clearly and loudly about her needs earlier, there may have been a chance to save the relationship. Often, the silent sufferer believes she or he has spoken up. Unless the partner gets the message, there will be no change. (Sadly, at times there will be no change even if the partner does get the message.)
Why do many women (and some men) not speak up when they are unhappy? There can be several reasons:
1. The Fear of Anger. Some people do not like controversy and angry arguments can be threatening. They believe that if they speak up and the other person gets angry it will be too unpleasant. It can be stressful to experience anger in the other person and yet it may be more stressful to not open up and to suffer in silence.
2. The Fear of Hurt. A woman may believe that if you love someone you do not hurt them, ever. When she says something that upsets her husband, he may appear to be mortally wounded and she feels guilty. This woman may feel guilty even when she thinks critical thoughts about her husband. It is not good to intentionally hurt people; however, there are times within a love relationship when each partner needs to offer critical feedback so that there can be new growth. Change cannot happen without feedback.
3. The Belief That People Can’t Change. “It won’t do any good to bring up concerns because my partner is not able to change. He is the way he is and there is no use bringing up issues. I have no right to ask my husband (wife) to change because I should love him just the way he is.” This assumption is not completely correct. Much of the personality is established by age seven; however there are some changes in attitude and behaviour which can occur all through life. Marriage is about growth and change. Marriage is where we grow up, finally.
4. The Belief That Nothing Will Change For Long. There may have been some meaningful conversations in the past but there was either no result, or whatever change there was, did not last long. Many men (or women) have good intentions when they are told what is wrong with their marriage. They try hard to adjust and yet old habits die hard. Counselling may be needed to show both partners how to change for the long term.
5. “If He Loves Me, He Should Know What I Want Or Need.” There is the expectation that the mate should see the mess that needs cleaning up or the problem that needs solving. This expectation stems from the assumption that the spouse needs to be “like me”. Marriage partners are usually very different people and rarely see things the same way. One person may see a mess and the other does not. Most partners are not great mind readers. They need to be told how their spouse wants to be loved, .i.e., what chores to be done etc. (Don’t worry. You can’t force anyone to do anything they do not wish to do.)
6. Excuses, Excuses. A woman may have learned early in life to make excuses to cope with the erratic behaviour of her caregivers. She would have been powerless to do anything else as a child. She brings this style of coping into her marriage and lets her mate off the hook by excusing his poor behavior or his insensitivities. There is no excuse for not loving in a healthy way. There is no excuse for behaving immaturely as an adult. These issues need to be addressed openly.
As indicated above, this tendency to not speak up is not confined to women. There are men who are unhappy and do not speak up for the same reasons outlined above. Also, the tendency for men (“Wake Up Guys!!” – Spring 2000 edition of PsycHealth) to be oblivious to the health of their relationship is not confined to men. There are women who are also out of touch with their husband’s emotional needs.