Why women leave men they love – What every man needs to know

Marriage - why women leave, cheatAs a marriage counsellor working with men and women in relationship crisis, I help clients navigate numerous marriage counselling issues. While many situations are complex, there’s one profoundly simple truth that men need to know. It’s this – Women leave men they love.

They feel terrible about it. It tears the 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, likeable. 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 they cry.

Men – I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m telling you what I see. You can get as angry or 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 to moment. You earn her 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 you hearing 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 release 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, why? 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 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 lay 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 called mindfulness.) Tell her about what you’re noticing, moment to moment.

But you’re busy. You don’t have time for this. How about five minutes? Five minutes each day. Will you commit to that? I’m not talking about extravagant dinners or nights out (although those are fine too). I’m talking about five minutes every day to be completely present to the woman you share your life with. To be completely open – hearing and seeing without judgement. Will you do that? I bet once you start, once you get a taste, you won’t want to stop.

<Note – As some readers have observed, the gender roles in this article can be reversed and the same will be true. Comments have now been closed. Watch for PART 2 to this post in the next week!>

Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber Trying to grow, fix, or save your marriage? I provide counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships. Sessions in-person or by telephone. Your initial consultation is free.


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33 thoughts on “Why women leave men they love – What every man needs to know

    1. Andrea

      I love this and agree wholeheartedly. I also think that a man can be present physically– not fishing, golfing, gaming, etc and not actually be “present” emotionally.

      1. JustAman

        I quote :
        “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.”

        I am sorry but this is in contradiction with the entire rest of the article. Not just my passion for her, my passion for being alive?
        Well that is exactly what “doing what I enjoy” is. Gaming, sports, working with passion and conviction, for some people this is being alive.
        Now I understand every human being needs attention, and that no one, friend or partner, should be taken for granted, but don’t you dare be so patronising as to say “show her you are alive” when what you mean is “give her sincere attention”.

        And I agree that sincere “us time” is necessary, sincere care and attention, but people also need space, people need respect, and people have hobbies and likes/dislikes that have to be respected.

        I find your article truly heartbreaking, sincere, and with passionate beauty in it (the subject of the article I mean).

        But know that passion is selfish. It IS by very definition, a very selfish reason to break your man and family. Because your man also needs you. No matter how much you show it in a woman’s perspective.

  1. Pamela

    I love what ur doing and I was a co-facilitor for a Father Invovment program. It was basically couples counselling and I loved the difference it made in the couples by simply teaching them to listen to each other and to just be there for each other. I would love to learn more about couples counseling for I feel there is a great need for it. especially now there is an oil resession going on and many families are going to feel it.

  2. Tyler

    “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, why? Where did it go? Find out. Find it. If you never discovered it you are living on borrowed time.”

    Tell me how because I’ve been looking for my lost passion for life for over 3 years. I love my wife deeply but I can’t find anything that fires me up. The best way I can describe how I feel is stuck, bored, trapped, uninspired… I don’t know why I lost it or where it went.

    1. Jennifer Meyer

      Check out David Schnarch. He sais this is a normal thing to happen in longterm monogamic relationships and explains how to surpass that stage rather than giving up.

  3. Daniel

    Tyler, it’s not your fault. You are probably doing your very best in a world in which “following your passion” fails to pay the bills.

    I was a dutiful breadwinner in a job that I loathed, and in the end my wife left me because of it. Doing your best to secure her a middle class life is not enough for most women. It may not be enough for your wife; ask her.

    That is a flaw in their wiring, not yours.

    1. Justice Schanfarber Post author

      Daniel – You’re on to some good points, but consider that they may be true without anyone’s wiring being “flawed.”
      Tyler – There’s no guaranteed recipe for passion, and I’m not able to coach or counsel people online, but consider that being able to name your experience – stuck, bored, etc – is actually a good sign. There’s awareness there.

    2. Dawn

      Maybe a middle class lifestyle is unimportant to her, and you trying your best to secure it is preventing you from doing your best to actually provide what she wants. No flawed wiring, just a disconnect between the two of you. You’re right- you should ask her. Doing what you hate to provide stuff she doesn’t need or want will just kill the both of you.

  4. Kristi

    I think this is equally true of women and their husbands. Take the time to truly see him, be in the moment with him. I am a workaholic of sorts and am often too busy (paid job, volunteer jobs, education) to be present and in the moment, and choose (and yes it is a choice!) to nod and go thru the motions. Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to sit with my amazing, wonderful, husband and be in the moment with him. The other crap can wait :-)

    1. Arend-Johan Praats

      Thanks Kristi,

      I woanted to write it, but it is even more strong when a women writes this ! heartly, and lot of succes and love <3<3<3 ;)

  5. Peter Reznik

    Hi Tyler,
    I think the answer to the problem “I love my wife deeply but I can’t find anything that fires me.”-sentence #2, lies within the sentence #1- ” my lost passion for life for over 3 years”. Do not worry about your passion for your wife, keep loving her, giving to her, and serving her. This is the responsibility you took upon yourself when you married her. Giving is not about you but about her, what she needs and want she wants. Just like if you had a little child, you could be in a bad mood… so what, you still have to feed the child or the child will simply die. In this situation, if you do not nourish the relationship, the relationship may die. Once you fulfill your obligation as a man, you can work on finding your passion for life. It’s a huge journey. Of cause first you have to figure out how you lost it, what the passion that sustained you in the past was based on…. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate your vision on where you are going… but all that self-searching must not interrupt your commitment to be a giver to your woman. Even if it does not feel great to you at the moment…

  6. Adrian Brown

    This is a beautiful and siple article. Presence. Being connected. We are faced with so many distractions from our one ture relationship with our one true love. Life is the distraction, all of it. And life is also the relationship we have with that one true love. The core of that relationship is Purpose and Dynamic. Purpose is not that complex really, it is what we are in the relationship for at one level yes, but it is more about what is the relationship there to create. Dynamic is the how, the elements of action and interaction that executed effectively deliver the purpose.

    Whether, a relationship of marriage, parent, sibling, co worker, with any human being, they exist for a specific purpose and they have a specific dynamic. Yes be present to the other person, this is vital, AND remain present to the purpose.

    By doing both, you will create opportunities for each to contribute to each other, to the relationship, and that alone can empower and build self worth and passion for life

  7. BBrown

    Woman are much more about emotions and feelings than anything else. You put it very well…its what I have been trying to explain to my partner. I stop talking and I tell him…your not even listening to me. Your doing me a courteousy. I dont want sex with you…booty calls is what I left for you. Many stressors and barriers come up…but its the consistent communication…touching me…its more than holding hands…its sharing energy. We shared love to make a child…why cant we continue sharing. But women…we lack patience….there is so many times I can tell you before I walk away.

  8. J s

    Tyler- when is the last time you felt it reliably/didn’t have to search for it? And the last time you felt an inkling at all? Is there anything in common between those experiences? I’d suggest, perhaps couched in somewhat gentle terms, that you share this restlessness with your wife, while explaining that it’s not a symptom of indifference to her/your relationship & life together, but in fact the opposite- your desire to be fully present & make the most of your partnership- that fuels your searching for a more engaged life. I think she’ll appreciate sharing in your journey, and ypu may even inspire some soul searching of her own. If you really find that you’ve entirely lost interest in things you used to care about/feel down or blah all the time , you may want yo talk to your doctor about whether there is a psychological ( eg depression) or physiological (anemia, sleep disorder etc) explanation or at least contributing factor. If your malaise seems situational rather than an ongoing condition (suitable for medical/ psych intervention ) I’d try reconnecting with lost passions- dusting off your guitar or tool box in the garage you used to fix cars with or trying something totally new, like visiting that place you’ve always dreamed of seeing, or a combination, like a new adventure with old friends or even some sexy role play with the missus… The most important part is that you’ve shown you care about yourself and your wife enough to want to seize the days you have together; you only live once. But also know that life is long so don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t living the dream immediately, moving in the right direction is enough and I think you’ll find that momentum is more powerful than inertia. Good luck, you deserve a full and happy life, go out and make one!

  9. j.d.

    I agree to this article, but you can swap ‘women’ and ‘men’ there as well; It’s a two-way street. I suspect (though I am not a councilor in any way) that often the focus on work and other things to the detritement of their marriage is often as much a symptom as it is a cause, and it is not the sole responsibility of one to make the other not leave, it is the responsibility of both.

  10. Wanda

    People who leave people because they are providing a living for a family do so out of insecurities and greed. It has nothing to do with love.

  11. usmanshabbir

    Whatever I have just read it. It’s true but I think it totally depends on the situation to situation. I m having a relationship in which I give time to my girl and space to her as well. Because I think to be on someone’s head all the time makes them irritate.

  12. kate

    tyler…. You say you’re bored, trapped, stuck, uninspired, list your passion for life… Take your wife and go on an adventure. Not the kind where you just lay around in the sun on the beach. But an actual adventure. Something where you have to always stay busy and always interacting with your wife. Like going to a foreign land… Hiking up mountains, bungee jumping from a bridge, walking through a town even if its just the place where you live, and do activities you haven’t tried before, try foods you’ve never eaten, listen to music you never heard, try out different things from different cultures. It might help get your passion for life back, and doing it with your wife gives you a chance to get to know her again or more about her. Also her about you. Everyone needs to take a break from reality and jump into something crazy and out of the blue. In the world we live in today we are all stuck in one way or another.

  13. palika

    Thank you for this beautiful post – no matter how long women try to mentor men in emotional intelligence and healing, men need to hear from men thats its valuable, desirable, and possible. Thankyou. And -Men AND Women in our capitalist life denying culture have lost their passion and aliveness and connectedness, to SElf, to Other and to Wild and Nature. Finding our deepest belonging and passion for life is the quintessential journey to soul that everyone human being is designed to long for, seek, and find. Disconnected from the wild, destroying Nature, our current human culture the world over, does everything to numb us, and keep us in an undeveloped immature adolescence and separate us from what we truly are. If any man or woman wants to discover their innate aliveness and vigorous Yes for a sacred life of deep meaning, gratitude, and offering their unique soul gifts for the Greater Good, go to the Wild and court the Mystery – with guidance by those few who understand the journey of the human psyche we all long to be witnessed, held, supported and mentored in. The wounds of our family of origins, our ancestral and cultural legacies can be integrated Wholed and Healed in partnership with Mystery, The Wild and The Dream of The Earth.

    For healing family wounds work, I love David Richo’s books, James Hollis, James Hillman, Bill Plotkin’s Wild Mind, and Gay and Katy Hendricks Conscious Loving and Living, and Hakomi work.
    For support for the reconnection to Soul and Wild, I love Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft, Nature and the Human Soul and the Animas Valley Institute, Meredith Little and Steven Foster’s School of Lost Borders and Four Shields, Soulquest Northwest, Marc Bekoff – Rewilding Our Hearts, Joanna Macy’s books and Work That Reconnects, Thomas Berry and Brian Swimmes work The Dream Of The EArth and The Universe Story, the worldwide Permaculture movement, The Deep Nature Connection movement – Jon Young and 8 shields, Wildnerness Awareness School, and the Primitive Skills movement – Buckeye, Rabbitcount, and the worldwide Mindfulness movement, etc., for a start.
    May we all discover our deepest belonging and know who we are.

  14. mike

    I am incredulous at this article. Where is the woman’s responsibility in the relationship? Where is the comment about the woman being present for the man? Why is it assumed that the woman is totally present for the man, and the lousy man is so flawed. I thought marriage was a two way street. Maybe the man is “working, golfing, gaming, watching TV, fishing… the list is long,” because the woman is not present for him, and he is just finding other ways to occupy his time. People date and are totally present for each other, and then children come along and they both (usually) become present for the children, and I find that usually it’s the woman who quits being present for the man, and then the man develops other interests because the woman is not available. My point is, our society is constantly bashing men for any problem that occurs. What is left out of this article is the man’s perspective, which totally makes my point……

    1. Justice Schanfarber Post author

      Thanks for your comment Mike, and for remaining civil even while discussing a hot topic. I don’t disagree with your main point. Relationships are a two way street. I’ll ask you to consider that this article is a narrow slice. It represents one particular dynamic, one of many patterns that I see in my work. While true in the sense that it reflects a set of observations, this piece is not meant to be complete. In no way have I attempted to sum up marriage and relationships in a 30-second read! Also consider that I wrote this article because I care deeply for men and their (our!) struggles. BTW – I’m working on a follow up that deepens the conversation.

    2. corink

      Mike, I’m a woman and your comment said exactly what I thought as I was reading this. I think this is a terrible encouragement for women, and supports the never ending mindset that men just don’t do enough. Look at all of the women who agreed with this article. If your man isn’t present because he’s working 80 hours a week and then he goes golfing or out with his friends, I’m sorry but he’s kind of earned that privilege to enjoy some free time. His free time doesn’t always need to be with his wife. A wife like that sounds very dependent. It’s old school mentality to think that women need to be put on pedastals and have all of their emotions and feelings bowed down to. Meanwhile, the stresses of this 80 hour a week job consume a lot of his thoughts, even when he’s home with his family. I speak this from experience in a marriage where I had a role reversal as the breadwinner. My advice to women is, it’s not all about your delicate feelings and emotional needs. Men need your support too and sometimes that’s allowing them to ‘check out’ mentally for a little bit.

  15. Sean

    I done both the good and the bad that is stated in this article. I always tried to look into my wife, to pay attention to her, to care about and be consumed by her dreams. In the end it didn’t matter, all the stresses of working different shifts, enjoying sports, having children, and having a family that was a pain in the ass were too much to overcome. She told she didn’t want to be with me anymore, that she just wasn’t happy and that she didn’t love me anymore. Then I found out that since she wasn’t happy she’d actually gone out and found another man. Now we are in the process of divorcing, and I worry about how this will impact my children? I try to put the pieces back together, to understand what exactly I missed or where I went wrong. In the end I really hope that after almost 20 years together this is something I can learn from and actually be a better person.

    My biggest fear is that I feel lost, I’m now missing purpose in my life. I want to take all of this pain, hurt, loss and try to make something better of my life. Not live for anyone else (except my kids), but live for myself and find personally happiness.

    I will never understand how someone cheats, and then lies repeatedly to cover up the relationship? Do they really think it will be better? That they’ve found something better? It seems like so much to throw away.

  16. Deb

    I love this article and just shared it! I see others have written this, but I would say that women can benefit from this advice as well. I know that many of my friends and I are caught up in our lives sometimes and everything seems more important than just focusing on our partners. So, while I agree that our men could be more present, I think this is not just a problem with men. AND, I think you can totally be physically present and not emotionally present. Beautiful article.

  17. j

    I think the real underlying issue here is peoples failure to appreciate each other. Also failing to recognise when they are appreciated. People put too much emphasis on material things and pursuing dreams. The reality of the the matter is nobody is owed anything. There are people in the world with nothing and starving to death.. but they still muster up the strength to realize all they really have is each other. That is all.

  18. Chris

    Interesting article but one thing I wonder is why there is such an emphasis on Men pleasing women in our society? In this article it never mentions the woman doing things to inspire the mans attention nor does it address male desires for attention and connection

  19. Ron Sheppard

    5 easy steps guys

    1.Make your partner a priority and not an option.
    2.If you want it to work, you commit to her.
    3.Don’t hide anything.
    4.Love her,show her, and mean it.
    5. If all else fails, go back to # 1

  20. sjones

    As I was reading this article I felt like someone finally put into words how I am feeling NOW. What a fantastic article. This is not meant to point the finger at men, its about improving communication. Unfortunately my husband hates to share his feelings, he was like that as a child. This saying comes to mind. “My husband is like and island that I have been circling for years trying to find a place to land”. I try so hard to improve the situation but I am only half of the pie. Greetings from Australia

  21. Linus

    Yes, Justice … certainly incomplete. Men also have all of the needs – to be seen, respected, validated, loved and desired – that you have ascribed to women. A quick mention of this fact would have provided some much needed balance to your article while still keeping it short. How old are the couples you’re counselling? The stereotype of the distant, workaholic breadwinner seems a bit dated. I’m 39, and most of my peer group are sensitive, emotionally present men who do not consider any person – certainly not their wife – as property. Being emotionally/physically distant is a pattern that anyone fall into, not a gender specific trait.

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