From ladywithatruck: I was in an abusive relationship as you know. I went back to him many times. Why? Because every time we split he would have an epiphany and realize and admit to and apologize for everything he did wrong. I would feel validated, heard, valued, loved and willing to look at my part in things and do my part to save the relationship. We would get back together, I would be putting 110% into “us” and he would recant or “forget” ever admitting fault.
His article is dedicated to her insight.
When I read these words, comments on a recent post, I had a bit of an epiphany myself. I realized, maybe for the first time, that in virtually every relationship I have worked with, if the woman is the one to leave, the man will have an epiphany a day or a week later. I myself was full of epiphanies, that breakup those many years ago that shaped my life. As a guy I knew beyond doubt that if I could just do something, I could salvage this thing. I needed to do a bunch of sentimental things, placating things, say the right words and this situation would be fixed. This was what I would set my mind to until things were back to normal.
The worst part was that I knew better, was a proponent of better. I was a professional, but I was still a guy.
That was the day my journey really began. But I digress.
I know full well that there is something in men that ignores a situation if it seems too daunting or unwinnable. I cannot tell you how many times wives tell me that their husband no longer communicates, no longer wants to date, no longer spends hours in conversation (or minutes). It is very difficult for women to understand that this is a very natural and learned response for many of us, and just because it seems unbelievable to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. As I have written many times men, especially men over thirty, do not grow up in a culture that encourages or teaches emotional connection. Our social connections were and remain mostly shallow. Patrick Warburton in Rules of Engagement is not as much a caricature as we would like to believe. Few men spend hours a week trying to connect emotionally with anything, it’s a lot of work.
Years later, when the relationship breaks up it usually comes as quite a shock to the guy who is left. Things were going along swimmingly, everything seemed “ok” even if she wasn’t interested in sex anymore, at least with him. She was always sort of frigid. What does she want, anyway?
As bizarre as it seems to the leaver, your choice to go really was a shock. Sorry but it’s true. We have an amazing capacity to compartmentalize our lives and ignore issues which are going to cost too much emotionally. It comes as no surprise then, that when men are confronted with the immanent demise of their relationship they tend to do the wrong thing – they do things. ‘Doing’ is an area where I am comfortable and I understand the rules. Women are incredibly difficult to understand (believe it) and there will be so much anger, so many long conversations, so many hours spent talking about stuff that I don’t care about. Even if I did care half as much as you I still would not understand what to do and you refuse to tell me. I need to figure out a way to placate you.
Women who leave understand that they have gotten their hopes up and expected more than he was willing or able to give. Men like projects, and projects end. Understanding that emotional investment in a relationship is a lifelong project is a lot for a man to get his head around. Becoming that guy is a huge commitment (to fundamentally change your personality) and takes a hell of a lot of work with little or no initial rewards. You won’t suddenly enjoy those long talks about things that don’t seem to matter. There is no instant payoff for giving unselfishly and relentlessly to a woman who is suspicious of your motives and prone to become overly critical. And nothing wounds me deeper than a condescending spouse.
Is it worth it? I cannot answer that for you. I only know that for me, the work has occasionally become part of the pleasure. The more I learn about my wife, the better I see her motivations and personality, the easier and more fun it gets. For some reason it isn’t as hard as it used to be.
She certainly seems to be thinking more like me lately…