Until the 1970s, women couldn’t file for divorce without hard evidence of abuse or infidelity. Today, divorce rates are skyrocketing – and it’s the women who are leaving in droves.
In this episode, I explain what’s caused this massive shift in modern relationship dynamics. I also explore the biological differences between men and women and what causes imbalanced marriage satisfaction over the years.
If you’ve ever wondered how your husband seems “fine” while you’re falling apart… don’t miss this special episode of The Loving Truth podcast.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- The massive shifts that are affecting today’s relationships (and causing most marriages to be ended by the woman)
- The differences in how men and women find life satisfaction (and how this impacts relationship dynamics)
- Why relationship coaches (including myself) primarily speak to women, not men
- How today’s relationships differ from those of even one generation ago (and the resulting resentments we need to watch out for)
- Why women struggle to get the connection they want in marriage (even if their husbands genuinely want to appease them)
Featured On The Show:
Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?
Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.
“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. Now, I wanna talk to you today about why women leave. This is a big topic because divorce rates are increasing, particularly if it's your second or third marriage. And more often than not, it is the woman that is asking for the divorce. And if you look back only maybe a few decades ago, or one generation ago, that was not the case. If a divorce was happening, it was primarily being asked for by the man because the man had more of the power in the relationship. Now, I think this is leading to a big wake-up call, or at least an opportunity for men in our heterosexual relationships.
“All right. Now I wanna share with you the story of a client of mine. This is a recent story where she had made the very difficult, and in many ways, heartbreaking decision to end her marriage of twenty-two years. And her husband was a good man - is a good man. And when she shared with him her decision to end the relationship, he couldn't understand why she would want to do that. He's like, what is so wrong that you would wanna throw away twenty-two years? Why would you want to disrupt our family like this? What is so wrong? He kept looking for, ‘What did I do?’ or ‘What is so wrong?’
“And I think right now, we are in a time inside of our marriages where it's not about what the marriage is. It's not that the marriage is bad necessarily; it's about what the marriage isn't. It's the gap between what we have, what we've created together as a couple, and what we ultimately want to feel and experience in our most intimate relationships.
“So that is an enormous shift. So let's talk about the details of why that is. There are several big relational dynamics that are taking place that are impacting marriages in a big way today. So the first one is that relationships are very important to women, like in terms of life satisfaction. At the very top of that priority list is the quality of our relationships.
“At the very top of most men's list is not relationships in terms of life satisfaction. Their satisfaction often comes from other things like feeling successful in their lives, not just in their career, but as a father, or even potentially as a husband. But it's more like a broad understanding of success, whereas for women, it's all about relationships. And that is a very distinct difference.
“Now, if you've ever studied the work of Dr. Harriet Lerner, she has several books, but my favorite one is The Dance of Intimacy. And it's only like page six or page eight or something. It's early on in that book that she says something that is very true and it will also kind of piss you off,
which is, even today, the health of relationships is pretty typically still considered to be women's work, right? No, it makes me mad, but I understand it and I think it's true, right? Because women will notice when the relationship is starting to disconnect. We notice that almost immediately because we feel it because we're so in tune to our relationships.
“And then because we are problem solvers, we wanna go out and find out what's wrong. ‘How can I fix it?’ Because we don't like that break in our relationship. And so for that reason, a lot of times people are like, ‘Well, why do you only speak to women?’ I don't only speak to women, but I primarily speak to women. And that's because women are the ones that notice when their marriage is starting to disconnect. They're the ones out seeking answers, right? They're up in the middle of the night Googling, ‘Why is my marriage falling apart? Why don't I love my husband anymore? How do I tell my husband that it's over?’
“Like they're the ones that are seeking those answers. They're the ones that are reaching more traditionally inside of a marriage and wanting to improve it, wanting to evolve it to a new place so that it can feel good for them. So I hate that it's still women's work, particularly because you know, as there's been a lot of studies that show that men don't fare as well post-divorce as women do, particularly when they're by themselves.
“So I think that is a result of women being pretty good at community. Like we have typically strong female networks, friendships, and long-term relationships, because we really value community, whereas men don't necessarily have that. I used to make a joke - I don't make this joke anymore, but I'll tell it to you this one time. And that was, I said, in my next life, I want to come back as a dude. Because I thought, ‘Oh, it'd be so much easier than being a woman.’ But once I learned more and more about the male experience, I don't say that anymore.
“And one of the big reasons for that is because men don't have the community aspect that women have. If they're struggling with something, they don't have two or three or four people that they can reach out to and really talk to about that. They're lucky if they have one person that they can reach out to and talk to about the struggles in their lives. And I thought to myself, ‘That would feel really lonely for me. I don't think I would like that.’
“So I'm not saying that one way is the right way. I'm saying that over the course of centuries, women have cultivated a sense of community where men really haven't had to do that, or it's just not in their DNA or as high of an interest or whatever. Whatever the dynamic is that leads us to do that, I think it's fair to say that women do well, even if they're not in relationship, because they're not alone, they're still in community.
“So that's the first piece, the first dynamic to pay attention to is that women, in terms of life satisfaction relationships are number one for men. That is not necessarily the case. And that's a distinction. And that's why women are still the ones that are taking on a lot of the heavy lifting as it relates to making their relationships feel as good as they can feel and calling it quits when they can't make it feel better.
“So the next dynamic that I wanna share with you, and this is a big one, it is really - we're gonna spend some time here because marriage today looks and feels very, very different than marriage even just one generation ago, right? When I think about my mother's marriage - so my parents were married in the late sixties, and at that time a woman could only technically end her marriage if she was being placed in physical harm or she could prove adultery, right? And that was at a time where there weren't cell phones and computers and tracking devices and all that kind of stuff.
“So that was pretty much impossible. And more often than not, you'd also have to prove that you were being beaten or being harmed somehow. So women didn't have that option until the seventies. In the US, at least in the seventies, there was a no-fault divorce act that was passed, which means you didn't have to have all those reasons in order to get divorced.
“But that didn't mean women wanted to walk through that door right out of the gate, because there were other circumstances at play too; if I think about my mother, if she ever wanted to leave my dad, who was going to provide for her, she was gonna have to go out and get a job, and then who was gonna take care of the kids? She didn't live near her parents where her parents could watch us. And so how could she manage all of that on her own? And then there's the social stigma of being divorced. You know, my mother came from a long line of Catholics, right? You don't get divorced.
“There might have been family relationships that maybe she had to let go of, or at least she would be judged. There might be friendships that she would walk away from, or that they would walk away from her because now her model of being a single woman, a single divorced woman, might bring up a lot of fears in the people around her and her community, her social circles, her church friends - they might judge her and shame her for being a divorced woman.
“So that really was not an option, right? It's really just today's day and age where women no longer need to be married to be provided and protected for. And part of that protected for is that social status of not being shunned, of being a married woman with children and doing what is expected of you, right? That's not necessarily the model today. So whereas one generation ago they knew exactly what their roles were, right? Dad went to work and he didn't screw up too much. That was his job. Mom took care of the kids and the home and the family and him.
“So they had very distinct, very clear roles in which they played in their lives in order to make the marriage work. But women had very little freedom, very little freedom. I remember one of my friends, she told me - she's probably in her early sixties now - I think she said she was like thirty, thirty-two years old, and she was making $60,000 a year. She's like, ‘That was a great income for a woman back then to be making, I was really successful in real estate.’ She said, ‘I wanted to buy a house, and the house cost $64,000.’ She said, ‘Do you know, I still had to have my father cosign on that loan for me, right?’
“That was in the seventies. And even though there were laws passed saying banks can give women checking accounts and they can give them loans, that didn't mean banks wanted to loan women money. Why? Because they're not a good credit risk, right? They're not going to, if they can get a job, it's not gonna pay what a man can pay. And God forbid they get pregnant, then they're gonna have to take maternity leave and potentially quit after I've trained them. And then how are they gonna pay the mortgage? How are they gonna pay the car note? All of this kind of stuff, right?
“So there are a whole bunch of dynamics around marriage where women did not have freedoms a few, one generation ago, certainly not two generations ago. Like that's night and day. They had zero freedom, but they had role clarity. Today, we don't have a lot of clarity as it relates to roles. When in the seventies during the women's liberation movement, when women wanted to be in the workforce and we wanted to contribute, and we wanted to make as much money as a man - which we're still fighting that fight, right? We never renegotiated at home, all the work that comes along with having a home and having kids, and raising those children and taking care of a family.
“So I feel like men went, ‘Yeah, sure, you can go to work, but you're not gonna let go of any of your responsibilities that you're carrying now.’ So it was just additive to the experience. And now, because we haven't renegotiated that, there's a lot of women that carry a lot of resentments, understandably, about the fact that they carry such a heavy load, even when they have their own career outside the home. Plus, I always say, raising kids, even if that's your choice to stay home with the kids, that's the hardest job on the planet. You're raising human beings. So that's so much easier than building a business or something like that.
“So that is a huge change that has transpired in one generation, and that is part of what's leading to women feeling more empowered to be able to take these steps for themselves. And I think all of this is leading to a real wake-up call for men and for marriage in general.
“Now, let's think about this. So you'll never find me male bashing. I'm never here for the male bashing. It's not about that. It's about understanding each other better so that we can be in relationship with one another better. Now, who taught our husbands how to be a man, how to be a husband, how to be a father? Well, clearly that's his father or the primary male figure in his life growing up.
“But what was required of men one generation ago, like what was required of my dad, was to have a job - to show up for that job consistently so that you are providing for the family - and basically not screw up too much. Like you can go to the bar after work, but don't stay out too late, and certainly don't come home with lipstick on your collar or smelling like perfume.
“Like basically, if you just do that, you're good. You don't even have to get up in the middle of the night and change a diaper, right? Women will take care of everything else. That was what was required of my dad and certainly of my grandfather. My grandfather, he worked at the same place, like from the day he graduated college until he retired at sixty-five.
“And all he did is he just worked and then he came home and he enjoyed his family, and he gardened a little bit. That was his hobby, right? It was a pretty simple life. So what was required of men one generation ago is not the same thing that is being required of men today. So we say things to men, ladies, we, we say things to men like, ‘I wanna feel more connected to you. I want to have more intimacy in our relationship.’ But no one ever taught them what that means, right? They're thinking communication is talking. Well, we talk, we talk about the kids, we talk about the logistics, we talk about work sometimes, but that's not intellectually or emotionally stimulating. Right?
“Now, women very much are asking to see inside men's hearts, but that's not something we've ever given them permission to do prior to now. So from little boys, they're told boys don't cry. Suck it up, be a man. Don't feel your feelings, stuff it down. And now, as women with them in relationship, we want them to sort of open that kimono when that has been on lockdown their entire lives. That's what they've been taught. So that in and of itself is another dynamic that's taking place. It's a huge shift for men. And so men are, I think they're genuinely, many of them, trying to understand what that is and how to do that.
“But to be honest, we don't make it easy. You know, I'm sitting here thinking of an example. So recently there was a reality person who committed suicide, and it felt so, so tragic. And I saw a post about this that really got me thinking. And the post essentially said, obviously he had so much going for him, but he was clearly struggling mentally and emotionally, and nobody knew it. They said he lit up every room he ever came into, and nobody knew. And so you wonder why did nobody know?
“And the reason is because when men show their struggles in a public way, we make memes about them, we make fun of them, we degrade them, and we take away their masculinity. We take away some of their manhood when they show us their hearts and or they show us their struggle. We love the hero archetype, but in our marriages, we want that softness and openness and vulnerability, but we don't give them permission to ever show that. So I think we, everyone, all of us have a role in the creation of that, and we can do a little better with that.
“So those are the three big dynamics, in my opinion, that are leading to the reasons why women are the ones that are leaving their marriages now more often than men leaving their marriages. So first of all, I want you to know, if you're considering leaving your marriage, you're going to be called selfish. You're not selfish, and you're not a bad person. Things don't have to be horrible for you to want more. We don't have to be in such deep pain. It doesn't have to be broken in order to create change.
“Now, it's not so much about what the relationship is. It doesn't have to be bad. It's about what is missing and what is the gap between what it is your heart really desires when relationship is your number one life satisfaction, right? And so it's about how can I create that for myself - so someone I'm sure will call you selfish. I just wanna give you this little thing to think about as it relates to the word selfish.
“Look, when someone says, you're being so selfish, what they're essentially saying is, you shouldn't think about yourself and your dreams and your desires. You should think about me and my dreams, my needs, my desires, which is the definition of selfishness, by the way. So I just wanna give you that little nugget to think about, because people will use selfish. They'll call you that name as a judgment to keep you in your place so that you won't change anything. Because the worst thing a woman could possibly be as selfish.
“Women by nature are not selfish, right? They're just not. We give and give and give in so many ways. And the minute we want to honor something for ourselves, we get shamed and called selfish as a means of controlling us. Okay? I just wanna leave that there for a second.
“Now, these massive shifts that I just shared with you, this is a big part of the reason why not just divorce rates are increasing but that women are the drivers of those divorce rates. Women are way more empowered in their lives today than they've ever been before, and they're not as fearful. There are not as many social constructs surrounding them should they choose to get divorced.
“That doesn't make divorce easy. It doesn't make it any less heartbreaking. It just means that they're not necessarily going to be living under a bridge, right? Because we do know how to provide and take care of ourselves. We can do that. We're not being chased around by lions and bears, so we don't need active protection. And the social stigma associated with being divorced is just not really rampant right now.
“Like I'm sure there are communities where that's a big deal still, but for the most part, every one of us either knows someone, loves someone, or ourselves have been divorced. And so we don't judge it the way that people judged it just a generation ago. So in the context of why women leave, there are a lot of reasons right now, and it's a huge opportunity for all of us who want to be married in order to have better success at our marriages.
“We've got to get equipped to do marriage as it needs to be done today. And that's not just a man problem, that's also a woman problem, at least in heterosexual marriages, right? If we're gonna be in relationship with one another, we've gotta understand one another a little better and be willing to understand the dynamics, the female dynamic and the male dynamic a little better, so that our relationships can feel better.
“All right? I hope that gives you something to chew on, and I will see you next week. Until then, please take really good care.
“If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team.
“On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and me to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now. That's clarityformymarriage.com.”