As a marriage counsellor working with men and women in relationship crisis, I help clients navigate numerous issues. While many situations are complex, there’s one profoundly simple truth that men need to know: Women leave men they love.
They feel terrible about it. It tears their heart out of them.
But they do it. They rally their courage and their resources and they leave. Women leave men with whom they have children, homes and lives.
Women leave for many reasons, but there’s one reason in particular that haunts me, one that I want men to understand: Women leave because their man is not present. He’s working, golfing, gaming, watching TV, fishing…the list is long. These aren’t bad men. They’re good men. They’re good fathers. They support their family. They’re nice, likable. But they take their wife for granted. They’re not present.
Women in my office tell me: “Someone could come and sweep me off my feet, right out from under my husband.” Sometimes the realization scares them. Sometimes it makes them cry.
Men, I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m telling you what I see. You can get as angry, hurt or indignant as you want. Your wife is not your property. She does not owe you her soul. You earn it. Day by day, moment after moment. You win her over first and foremost with your presence, your aliveness. She needs to feel it. She wants to talk to you about what matters to her and to feel that you’re listening to her. Not nodding politely. Not placating. Definitely not playing devil’s advocate.
She wants you to feel her.
She doesn’t want absent-minded groping or quick sex, she wants to feel your passion. Can you feel your passion? Can you show her? Not just your passion for her or for sex; your passion for being alive. Do you have it? It’s the most attractive thing you possess. If you’ve lost it, what’s the reason? Where did it go? Find out. Find it. If you never discovered it, you are living on borrowed time.
If you think you’re present with your wife, try listening to her. Does your mind wander? Notice. When you look at her, how deeply do you see her? Look again, look deeper. Meet her gaze and keep it for longer than usual, longer than what’s comfortable. If she asks what you’re doing, tell her: “I’m looking into you. I want to see you deeply. I’m curious about who you are. After all these years I still want to know who you are, every day.” But only say it if you mean it, if you know it’s true.
Touch her with your full attention.
Before you put your hand on her, notice the sensation in your hand. Notice what happens the moment you make contact. What happens in your body? What do you feel? Notice the most subtle sensations and emotions. (This is sometimes described as mindfulness.) Tell her everything you’re noticing, moment after moment.
But you’re busy. You don’t have time for all this. How about five minutes? Five minutes a day. Will you commit to that? I’m not talking about extravagant dinners or date nights (although these are fine too). I’m talking about five minutes a day to be completely present with the woman you share your life with. To be completely open– listening and seeing without judgment. Will you do that? I bet once you start, once you get a taste, you won’t want to stop.
Note: The gender dynamic outlined above is reversible. It can go both ways.