When their concerns are brushed off, women often give up trying to fix the marriage, leaving them dissatisfied for years on end… and leaving men completely blindsided when faced with divorce papers.
The truth is, in most relationships, both parties could be doing more to give the marriage a fair shot. And if we don’t make critical changes sooner rather than later, the decision of whether to stay or go could be made for us.
In this episode, you’ll learn how to improve communication on both sides and use honest, open dialogue to get everyone’s needs met – before the marriage is past saving.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- My biggest regret about how my first marriage ended (and how you can avoid this for yourself)
- What happens when the small “give-ups” in a marriage pile up
- Why I discourage women from working with me in secret
- How you might accidentally be putting your spouse at a huge disadvantage (and not giving your marriage a full shot)
- Why men suddenly want to change when divorce papers are served (and how to open up this potential before the marriage is over)
Featured On The Show:
If you’re questioning whether you can recover the feelings you’ve lost for your spouse, and you’re serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone… I’ve written a book just for you.
It’s called Stay Or Go: How To Find Confidence And Clarity So You Can Fix Your Marriage, Or Move Forward Without Regret. The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I’m confident that it will work for you, too. If you don’t want to spend another day stuck in indecision, get your copy below.
Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host relationship expert and certified master life coach: Sharon Pope.
“Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today we're talking about how women will leave mentally years before they will ever leave a marriage physically.
“Now, I want you to think about a time when maybe you were sharing your feelings with your husband, and you were met with some level of disinterest, and that made you think, ‘Well, why bother?’ Or maybe you tried to bring up an issue in the relationship, and it was met with defensiveness, and that makes you feel hopeless. And so then you stop trying.
“Or maybe your partner promises to do better, but you find both of you in these same sorts of destructive habitual patterns in the exact same place that doesn't feel very good. So these are all things that lead to what I call little give-ups along the way. It's the ways in which we give up in little ways inside our marriages. And those little give-ups in and of themselves individually wouldn't equate to anything catastrophic in the marriage.
“But when you have a lot of little give ups over the course of years, or even a decade together, now all of a sudden we're in big trouble. And so this is one of the things that I talk about in my coaching practice where we share how we give up over the course of years before we ever actually make a decision to end the relationship.
“So today, I wanted to share with you my story of what happened in my first marriage, at least from my perspective, which is all I can actually share. So it was probably fifteen years ago, and we had probably been married at that time, I'm gonna say maybe eight or nine years. And I had started to see other couples and how they engaged with each other, and it felt so foreign to me.
“I would see how they would look at each other and how present they would be and the level of just comfortable affection that existed between them. And I remember… like when a dog looks at you… I feel like that's kind of what I was, because while we had a perfectly fine relationship, it was one of, you know, not a lot of drama. We didn't fight very much, but we also just didn't have passion either, or affection or connection. It was like we were good friends or roommates just living together, and we liked one another. We were good friends, but, but we weren't lovers. We weren't partners walking beside each other through this life.
“And so I remember it was around year eight or nine that I started to ask him for more affection and saying that I wanted more connection and that I wasn't happy. I don't know how many of you have gone to your spouse and said, ‘I'm not happy,’ but I know there are millions of women around the world that have done that and nothing has really changed.
“And so at one point, he wanted to give me what I was asking for. I don't think he was withholding that. I think it just was foreign to him as well. He wasn't brought up in a very affectionate home. The man who taught him how to be a man wasn't terribly affectionate. I was not brought up in an affectionate, loving, connected home. It wasn't that I never felt that I was loved as a kid, but we just never said the words or expressed it through our actions. So when we got together, it seemed like, ‘Oh, that's a good fit because we don't really want that.’ But my needs changed over time. And then what I wanted at that point in our marriage was something very different than what I wanted at the beginning of our marriage.
“So I would ask him for more affection and connection and things like that, and he would try to give it to me. Now, one of the stories that I tell is I used to tell him, I said, ‘Well, okay, here's what this could look like. I need at least one hug a day.’ So trying to oblige, he would give me a hug. And I remember one time he came home from work, and I was in the kitchen, and he comes up to me, and he puts his arm around me like shoulder to shoulder and gives me one of those like buddy hugs. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I'm gonna need to be more prescriptive about the type of hug.’
“So this is what I'm telling you. It really wasn't in him to give it. And to be honest, I didn't know how to receive it. So I gave up. I gave up on the relationship ever evolving. I gave up on us ever having what I saw other couples having. I gave up on us having that affection and that connection. And I just tried to convince myself that he's a good man in so many other ways, and I just needed to make peace with that. And that lasted for a little while, while I threw myself into my work and avoided thinking about the implications of that. But the gap and the distance between us were still there until it was about year eleven. Between years eleven and twelve is when I finally went to him and said that I had made the decision to end the relationship.
“And he was stunned because, although years ago I had communicated to him how unhappy I was and how I wanted more, at some point along the way when I gave up on him, I gave up on the marriage. Those little give-ups equated to something, but I never told him that I gave up. And so, to be honest, during that time, he was probably like, ‘Whew, thank goodness she's not bugging me about that stuff anymore.’ Right? But I never told him that I gave up, and he had no understanding of what the downstream implications of that would be. And to be honest, I didn't either. At the time, I wasn't trained as a relationship coach. This was a long time ago.
“So I had given up; I had not told him until I had made a decision to end the relationship. And then he's shocked and stunned and hurt for very obvious reasons. So I share that with you because looking back on that, that's not something that I'm proud of. Knowing what I know today, boy, would I have done that so differently.
“And I wanna share with you these small give-ups, the ways in which we give up inside of our marriage, this is the equivalent to me of what I call the rumble strip. So you know when you're driving along the freeway, and you start to veer off to the side of the road accidentally because you're just not paying attention or you're looking at your phone or singing along to the music, or you start to fall asleep - that's what those strips were built for. It's going to make your car vibrate so that then you'll be alerted to get back in your lane and not end up in the ditch. But what happens if you fall asleep while you're driving and you go over the rumble strip, but it doesn't wake you up? You end up in the ditch.
“It's the same thing here. Those little give-ups were the equivalent of me being on the rumble strip, and I didn't pay attention at that point. And so therefore then a few years later, our marriage ended up in the ditch. So these give-ups are really important to pay attention to, and I'm gonna share with you some tools on what to do with that.
“Something else I wanna share with you is this idea that sometimes when women come to me, they think, ‘I have to hide working with Sharon from my husband because I'm coming to a decision about our marriage on whether to stay or to go.’ And many of them, because they've been trying everything they know to try to fix it and it hasn't worked and hasn't been successful, they sort of in the back of their mind assume that the only answer is going to be to leave and to end the marriage. And so they're not gonna tell their husband, ‘Hey, I'm working with a coach to end the marriage.’ Right? That seems terrifying. But what they do then is that they come to a decision in isolation without sharing with their partner where their real heart and mind are at.
“Now, I say this because there are two people involved in this relationship, and when I look back at my own first marriage, for me to just make that decision unilaterally without ever having the real honest conversation with him about where I was along the way, so that even if I get to that point where I'm ready to end the marriage, at least he had a heads up, [isn’t good] right? At least he [would have] had some runway to have an opportunity to shift things or to understand where I'm at. But instead, coming to a decision in isolation and then springing it on your partner, they're expected to go from zero to ten - zero to like ten being, ‘I'm ready to leave like that when you've had years to think about it, years to contemplate that decision.’
“And they're expected to come and make peace with that decision in an instant. And that's a lot to ask. It's impossible to ask. Let's be clear. And now being in my second marriage, what I can honestly say, and I say this all the time in my community, is, ‘Look, if my husband had one foot out the door, I would want to know that. Frankly, I think I deserve to know that.’ And we are so afraid of having those very real conversations that we are more likely to just step away, give up, go quiet, give up on the marriage, give up on the husband, give up on it, never evolving to a new place, and then ultimately down the road making a very quiet decision to then end the marriage.
“And that doesn't just impact us, it impacts our partners, it impacts our kids, it impacts our families, it impacts our livelihood and our lifestyle and our home. It impacts everything. It touches everything. And then the last thing that I wanna be able to address is when you go to your partner and you say, ‘Hey, for me, I don't see a path through this and I think our next best step is to separate or to divorce’ - well, now all of a sudden they wanna do all the things, all the things that you've been trying to get them to do for years, to make the marriage better, to come home from work earlier, to go to a couple's counselor or hire a coach, to have regular date nights, to invest in the relationship, to look at me more than you look at your phone when you're at home, like any of the things that you've been asking for when that day comes and they realize, ‘Oh, she's made a decision to end the relationship.’ Well, now they wanna do all the things that you've been asking for. And that can be very confusing. Sometimes it can open up a new point of connection for two people, and sometimes they can find their way back to one another.
“Sometimes they can't because that distance is just too far and too wide to bridge. And now the actions that would've made a difference back on the rumble strip are not going to be the thing that pulls us out of a ditch, right? Little things, small things, little shifts and changes can make a difference when we're just on the rumble strip as a couple.
“But when we are in a ditch as a couple, it takes a tow truck to pull us out. And little things are not gonna do it. Like, just be nice to one another. Not gonna do it right now. We need some heavy-duty equipment to pull us out of the ditch. So let me give you just a few things, because a lot of this comes down to being comfortable. Maybe it's not being willing to be uncomfortable enough to have the very difficult conversation with your partner through those little give-ups.
“So for instance, let's say you've noticed that you're giving up on the relationship evolving, or you're giving up on ever getting a need met. You could say to your partner, ‘I need you to know that right now I find myself giving up on us, and that scares me. And so I wanna be able to talk to you about that so that we don't end up in a place that we can't come back from. Are you willing to have that conversation with me?’ Right? Like, think about how that could open up the dialogue between you and your partner versus like what I did, which was [say], ‘I want to, I want us to be more affectionate. I don't want to feel like roommates.’ And so I had to make him a list, like, I need one hug a day. And he tried to do that. And even that was super awkward, right? So you can say it in a way that opens up the dialogue versus ‘here's what I need you to do differently so that I get my needs met,’ right? That doesn't work very well.
“Another one might be, you know, ‘I feel like we've been living like roommates for a while, and I want more from that in my most intimate relationship. I want us to feel like a connected couple, and I bet you do too. I think one of the ways that we might be able to do that is by inserting more fun into our lives. Our lives have become so serious between work and the kids and all the responsibilities. I think we should insert more fun. So if you're down for it, I would love to plan maybe every two weeks just an outing for us of something new that would feel fun for both of us. Are you in?’ Like, that would go a long way.
“And then if it's something where it's gotten to the point where you're close to making a decision - so let's say you go to your spouse and you say, ‘I'm not happy. This is not okay.’ And let's say that he's been treating you really disrespectfully for a lot of years. You could at that point go to him and say, ‘Look, I am not willing to remain in my most intimate relationship where I am consistently disrespected. So if this continues to happen, I'm just being honest with you, but I need you to know that I'm gonna have to make some decisions for us, and it's not just going to impact me. It's going to impact both of us and all of our families, right? That goes beyond the ‘I'm not happy,’ right?
“‘I'm not happy.’ He doesn't know what to do with that. Like he's probably not trying to make you unhappy, but he doesn't know how to make you happy and get why you don't wanna give him a list, because then you end up with the one-arm buddy hug. But we've gotta be able to speak to one another and open up the dialogue in an honest, but also a loving way. And so if you have found yourself in the place of giving up on the relationship evolving, giving up on your marriage, giving up on your husband, it's really, really important that you get equipped to be able to open up that conversation in a way where you can really get at what's real. Because this work is never about, ‘Oh, I need to go away by myself and come to a decision in isolation and then jump out of a bush and spring it on my partner.’ We're not trying to do a sneak attack here. That's not the path to being able to do this well. And I speak from experience because I didn't do it all the perfect way.
“So I'm not here teaching you from the perspective of, ‘here's what I did, and it worked perfectly.’ I'm telling you that before I ever had any of these tools and knew what to do, I look back on that and think to myself, ‘I could have done that better. That was pretty hurtful what I did.’ And if I was ever going to walk through something like that again, now standing here today, I can say unequivocally that I would do it very, very differently. But I just didn't know what I didn't know, right?
“So I hope that that is helpful for you. I will see you next week. Until then, take good care, love.
“If you're questioning whether you can recover the feelings you've lost for your spouse, and you're serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone, I've written a book just for you. It's called Stay or Go, How to Find the Confidence and Clarity You Need so You Can Fix Your Marriage or Move Forward without Regret. The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I'm confident that it will work for you too.
“If you don't want to spend another day stuck in indecision, go to SharonPopeBook.com to get your copy of Stay or Go now. That's SharonPopeBook.com.”