Not everyone who gets a divorce has been blindsided or shocked to discover that their spouse wants out, but there are many who fall into this category.
Being blindsided is commonly referred to as Sudden Divorce Syndrome. In her article, Sudden Divorce Syndrome: Reality or Myth? Donna Ferber, a psychotherapist, states, 'A man may be shocked by the news that his wife wants out, but that doesn't mean she hasn't given him plenty of warning. It usually means he wasn't listening. Or maybe he was listening, but didn't hear her.'
Either way, the marriage has started to unravel long before someone asks for a divorce. 'Sudden Divorce Syndrome' assumes impulsive behavior on the part of the woman, yet nothing is further from the truth. Ferber goes on to say that perhaps a better term would be 'Shocked Divorce Syndrome,' because that is how most men feel when their wife asks them for a divorce.
Statistically, women are the ones who file for divorce the majority of the time—to the tune of 66%. What would make that many women file for divorce?
It's not uncommon that, despite a woman's time and effort and relentless and numerous attempts to engage in conversations—which often become circular in nature, and morph into chronic arguments—it's not enough to save the marriage. Most women feel the situation is futile and exhausting. They feel disconnected, frustrated, and disillusioned. After significant time monitoring the relationship and looking for ways to improve it, they are done. They start to distance themselves from the marriage—emotionally, mentally, and physically. It's hard to come back from that. Women are also the ones who will not stay in an unhealthy marriage, whereas men are more apt to do that.
Many women don't necessarily want a divorce, but feel their hands are tied and they no longer have a choice. Her resolve and strength to work on the marriage have dissipated and been replaced by feelings of sadness. Ask her what's wrong with the marriage, and she will answer 'everything,' indicating a level of unrecognizable frustration and inability to work on the marriage.
Many men complain that their wife nags them, and although there may be some validity to this, there is another side to the proverbial 'nagging' issue. For example, many men say they will do something, promise something will be taken care of—and then it never gets done. The wife revisits this conversation, often, but nothing changes. This becomes very frustrating for both parties. This is the circular nature of how men and women define their nagging, which ultimately leads to communication breakdown.
It's also very common that what is most bothersome to people is not the actual behavior (though trust me, behaviors do bother people), but the message that emanates from the behavior. For example, despite years of monitoring the marriage, making ongoing requests for changes to be made, to be listened to, to feel understood, to take problems seriously, and eventually to resolve problems—men often demonstrate an unwillingness to take the time to talk and resolve the issues at hand. This resistance is then interpreted as 'this marriage isn't important enough for me to listen and make changes—even if that's not the intended message.
Her silence means she has given up, and in many cases, has emotionally checked out. Yet, her silence is often interpreted (though incorrectly) that she is happy again, and not bothered. This missed cue eventually leads to a marked decrease in conversation, requests, and ultimately, nagging.
A woman's decision to divorce is often the result of many reasons that have been percolating for a long time before a 'tipping point' occurs—a critical event that creates, for many, a point of no return. And once a woman has become tired of the situation, seldom will this turn around. Though not a hard and fast rule, at this stage in the marriage, it is rarely, if ever, salvageable.
Before you get blindsided by a divorce, what are you doing to make sure that you and your wife are showing up, being present, and paying attention to your marriage? What are your communication styles? Do any of these signs resonate with you, and if so, what will you do about it?
Written by Dr. Kristin Davin
Dr. Kristin Davin (aka "Dr. D") is a divorce mediator and clinical psychologist practicing in New York City. Her approach is based upon cognitive behavior therapy, coupled with solution focused therapy. Learn more at www.KristinDavin.com.