Men: The Rules of Marriage Have Changed

New Rules for MarriagesYou’ve suddenly found yourself being told by your wife that your marriage is over.  She doesn’t love you anymore. You are stunned. You still love her very much and you thought things were fine.  Yes, you have had your arguments but you had no idea she would consider it so bad she would want to end the marriage.  How did this happen?  Why so suddenly?

You have most likely been cruising along in a companion marriage.  You and your wife do things together, raising kids and enjoying some of the same activities.  You also have some great history together and your sex life is satisfactory too – at least from your perspective.  Your marriage, as it is, meets your needs just fine.  You could go on like this for the next 50 years! The problem is your wife cannot.  It is not what your wife wants or needs out of the relationship.

When your wife married you she believed that she had found the one man with whom she could share her heart, her dreams, and her feelings.  She expected to open her heart and have you listen, accept and protect her feelings.  She believed she could be vulnerable to you and feel safe and cherished. She was expecting marital intimacy; a much deeper form of relationship than a companionship marriage.  We learn from Terrence Real in his new book, The New Rules of Marriage that there are five areas of intimacy:

Intellectual: The mutual sharing of ideas in respectful, nonjudgmental ways.

Emotional: The expression of one’s fears, joys, sadness, anger, etc. and the receiving of each other’s feelings with respect and compassion-without disqualifying, attacking or withdrawing.

Physical: The active participation in mutual activities.  Support in each other’s physical care, physical nurture and affection.

Sexual: Honoring the mutuality of sex. Being open to your partner’s desires without doing something you don’t want to do.  Being open to your own desires and expressing them.

Spiritual: The sharing of a spiritual life, however defined.

These are the foundation of a much deeper relationship experience.  Let’s be honest. Very few of us had marital intimacy modeled for us in our parents’ marriage. Those were usually traditional patriarchal marriages. A husband was doing all he needed to do if he was a good provider, kind to his wife and children, engaged in raising his children and not prone to excessive drink or a violent temper.  This was the model that shaped our image of a “good marriage” and therefore most of us rock along blissfully ignorant of the volcanic eruption that awaits us.  But times have changed now and our wives need and expect something different than our moms and grandmoms did.

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Our wives need something more but they aren’t always successful in communicating those needs.  They may try unsuccessfully or they may assume we already know.  There are several myths regarding marriage to which many wives subscribe:

– If you truly loved me, you’d know what I need.  I shouldn’t have to tell you.

– If I have to explain it to you and ask for it, it cheapens the act.

– My body language and moods should have made my needs clear to you.

When our wives believe these myths they become very frustrated with our bone-headed inability to get the message, resulting in an escalation in their attempts to communicate with us.  They stop hoping we will figure it out and they move on to trying to control us with demands.  They are angry and fearful they are trapped in a marriage in which they cannot be happy.  To us husbands, this often comes across as an illogical, exaggerated, unfair attack.  We become defensive, feel unappreciated, and usually respond by dismissing or minimizing our wife’s statements as untrue, irrational, and purely emotional.

Some of us are so uncomfortable with talking about our feelings we simply shut down and refuse to participate. We go into our emotional man cave and become even more emotionally unavailable.  We may say we agree and comply with orders for change, but our motive is simply to end the uncomfortable argument.  Others of us respond with our logical arguments as to why our wife’s “attack” is without merit.  We find ourselves trapped in circular arguments over “who is right” and our marriage becomes distant and strained.

At some point many wives simply give up the struggle to communicate. They become resigned and stop trying to get their needs met in the relationship. In our parent’s generation, wives just accepted this as the nature of marriage and instead would look to meet their needs through their children and friendships with other women.  In today’s world, women are no longer willing to settle for a companionship marriage!  They demand their needs be met and they are empowered by our culture to leave the marriage if it’s not satisfying those needs.  Divorce is no longer looked down upon and “If you are unhappy, then leave!” is the norm.  Some wives will try to endure the unhappy relationship for a time, perhaps until the children are older.  Others will take part in emotional or physical affairs to get their intimacy needs met.  All of them will plod on until the day when their building volcano of resentment explodes and you hear these words: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore”, “I’ve never loved you” or “My love for you has died and I know I can never get it back”.  And your world shatters.

What do you do now?  We do not believe that marriages have to end at this point and we’ve helped many couples in this exact situation save their relationship.  We would like to join you in an attempt to “Divorce your Marriage, Not your Spouse”, a blog by Kim Bowen that I recommend you read next.

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13 thoughts on “Men: The Rules of Marriage Have Changed

  1. The article above described the condition our marriage exactly. Until one day during a heated argument I heard the words “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” These words turned my world upside down. Fortunately my wife of 23 years was open to marriage counseling. It was there we were introduced to the book The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real. We both read the book and began to practice some of the prescribed strategies in order to recover our relationship. It is still a work in progress, but I can tell you that it has given us tools to successfully communicate our needs. Tools that we didn’t have before. The book definitely gave us a new perspective on how to obtain happiness for both in our marriage. Never again will I become complacent in our marriage or take her love for granted.
    Men, if you find yourself in this situation and you and your spouse are willing to repair the marriage, then I highly recommend reading the book. A marriage is constantly evolving and requires attention. I feel we are on the road to recovery! At this time I’d like to personally thank the author of the book, Terrence Real. You literally saved our marriage. Thanks, JJD

  2. This is how I feel. My relationship has turned into oatmeal! Plain oatmeal. I have tried to tell him he ignores. I am almost our the door. Wish he would read this article.

  3. I am a 54 year old mother of 5 gma of 10. It took a failed marriage after 3 children, (an affair on my part). I have been married for 25 years to husband number 2. (The affair) . It took 10 years for me to finally start to open up and ask for what I needed. I still have to make myself put my feelings out there. The result of not ever having parental approval, made me defensive. So I didn’t communicate my needs and waited for my mind to be read and needs to be met. That mentality set me up for disappointment every single time. Thank God that my husband and I decided to talk to each other, and more importantly to listen. Men need t be told. They are clueless on their own. Not that they are dumb, they are just wired differently. As women we are brought up with the “knight in shining armor mentality” and that puts unbelievable pressure on us. Not the guys because, we haven’t told them that’s what we want and therefore their “horse”is really a jackass and their armor is just more dirty clothes for us to wash.

  4. Yes, this is true, I think. I wouldn’t say I don’t love my husband anymore, because I do. But there are many days I don’t like him, and feel betrayed by him…let down. He isn’t the “safe place” he promised to be, financially things are a wreck, and I feel isolated. I’ve thought about leaving more than once. Staying is more about avoiding divorce at this point.

    1. LC,
      It sounds like you are having some pretty intense feelings about your marriage. If your husband doesn’t feel safe…you need to let him know. If he isn’t willing to work on it….get his attention. Even if you have to put the marriage on hold. I promise you…staying to avoid divorce without making positive changes will cause you to erode from the inside out. You simply can’t do this for long without paying a steep price for it. Very possibly, your marriage will be over. Shake things up now! Get his attention. Call us and we can help you be heard. Hugs to you!

  5. Hi Kim! I love this article… I’m questioning if you may be talking about my marriage. This definitely describes it perfectly. The question is… What next? Hope is gone…. Things get worse by the day and I haven’t seen any hope or improvement in a long time…. I’ve completely lost my companion, my best friend that I thought I once had.

    1. Hi Leann…thanks for reaching out.

      Unfortunately, this article describes a LOT of marriages. You asked what is next? GET HELP!!! We would love to work with you. Hope isn’t gone because you haen’t tried everything. 🙂 We can help. Call us.

  6. Spot on! I just got blind sided after 24 years of marriage and two boys (still at home) with, “I am filing for a divorce” about 2 weeks ago. This fits our situation perfectly. I have always wanted to have that illusive intimacy for both of us and so basically knew “what” our issues have been, but never have been able to figure out the “how”. Hope I am not too late. Getting cut to the knees can do amazing things with your perspective and openess for a new approach and outlook.

  7. WOW! This is/was my marriage, to a “T”! Even with the counseling we had, my wife continued to expect me to read her mind, be angry whenever she had to “explain” things to me, and then try and control me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t/am not perfect. But then she escalated things – 1st with an emotional affair, then a physical affair. I found out about the physical affair about 2 weeks after she told me she was divorcing me. I lovingly confronted her with our marriage counselor, and she boldly stated everything I said was true, and that she wasn’t sorry. So, 10 months later, we are almost divorced. Really sad – our 4 kids are besides themselves, and my wife is on to affair #2.

    1. JJ
      That really IS sad. I hope you find joy in every day! You are a warrior! You fought for your marriage but you cannot control what your wife does. I’m proud of you. Warriors are so needed in this world.
      Much love,