Women file for divorce twice as much as men do. Is it because they have a lower pain threshold? Do they give up easier, are they somehow weaker? No. Women are more readily disappointed when the reality of marriage does not live up to their expectations. Women on the whole are far better communicators than men are and yet are often unable to communicate their needs adequately to their partners for them to be met in a satisfactory way. Many women I’ve interviewed expect to have their needs met on several levels and cannot be satisfied to be united for life if this expectation is not being met. They end up sad and lonely, feeling unfulfilled and unimportant; suffering from what I believe is largely unintentional emotional neglect.
Women’s expectations about relationships and married life differ greatly from most men. The fairy tale of the knight in shining armor on the white steed is something that many females are raised with from early childhood. All the Disney movies with princesses send a message that girls and women need to be rescued, need to be saved and to be fought for to feel important. That the “prince” they marry will be the answer to all of their desires.
Boys and men on the other hand are taught to be providers, protectors, fathers and sexual partners, but the majority of them are not taught how to be emotionally supportive or good listeners. This create the disparity that makes men feel that wives are overly emotional or too forthcoming; too talkative; too needy; and the woman’s reaction of feeling that their husbands or partners don’t care or are unwilling to listen to them. When wives tell their husbands they’re not getting what they need it can be a huge blow and can cause him to withdraw even further, convinced that he’s never going to be able to provide what she needs.
As for romance: Again there’s a disparity between expectations of both partners and the reality of living with your partner day in and day out. He feels like she’s his. He’s courted and wooed and won her heart and hand. His work is done. Now the fun begins, he gets to have his woman his home his sexual partner and the mother of his children and she gets what? To cook, to clean to work outside the home, to bear children and the expectation is that she will be a fulfilled woman.
She wants some romance, some flowers and some attention. She wants him to notice when she has her hair done or buys a new outfit. She wants to know he finds her attractive and sexy. Especially after they’ve been together for some time. She wants to be appreciated for the things she does every day. She’s the one who keeps body and soul together and is the heart of the home. Of course these are generalizations but they’re accurate depictions of the disparity that happens between two partners who feel they have defined gender roles. You can see how disappointing it is not to have these expectations met.
The good news: This can be changed. It can be fixed. The woman doesn’t have to go unfulfilled emotionally. While men are not hardwired to be the emotional equivalent of their female partners, they can learn to be good listeners and supportive partners. They can learn to pay attention, to notice things, to communicate in a different way. To explore feelings that they’ve been traditionally taught to bottle up or stuff down. Women on the other hand can learn to recognize the differences in the genders are positives rather than negatives. They can be taught a different way to communicate about what they need, and to give their man what he needs to feel loved and important in the relationship. They can each adjust their expectations to be more aligned with the reality of marriage and long term monogamy. It takes the willingness on the part of both to reach a middle ground that is a vast improvement over the disconnection I’ve described above. If both parties make the effort to meet each other’s attachment needs there will be less divorce and more love in the world.