It’s a question that no woman wants to ask.
But it happens, and when it does you don’t want to be blindsided.
If you’re worried that your husband is headed for the exit door then this article is for you.
I can’t make any promises about stopping it from happening, but I can tell you what worked for me and the warning signs I noticed that tipped me off before we passed the point of no return.
That’s why I’ve written this:
The 12 biggest signs and symptoms of a married man who’s about to call it quits, plus the 6 most effective ways to stop it from happening.
So, first up:
How to know when he’s headed for the exit door.
1) He’s bored with your marriage and tired of it
Many times we can get so busy that we miss obvious signs that our husband is bored and unhappy with the marriage.
In my case, I was blindsided after 12 years of marriage when my husband finally told me straight up that he was just about done and that he was experiencing serious depression over our marriage.
I was actually shocked, and it was the last thing I expected.
Not everyone will be as lucky as me, I know that.
Many husbands will start sexting – or having sex – with other women before they ever open up to you.
If he’s never initiating conversations, absent as much as possible, seems glued to his phone (or turned on by it), and basically snaps at you when you talk, then these are all good signs he’s turned off the marriage.
More subtle indicators that he’s just about done include him never thinking about you, stopping helping out around home or outside the home, and basically treating you more like a roommate than his romantic partner.
2) You’ve become part of the backdrop for him
This one is hard for many wives to take, even when they do notice it.
But I want you to know that it’s not necessarily your fault.
If your husband is looking past you when he comes home or treating you like part of the scenery it could be because of his own issues or a number of other reasons that have nothing to do with you.
Unfortunately, however, his behavior and indifference have an obvious impact on you and it hurts.
If he only seems to think of you when he needs something done or when he’s checking up on practical stuff like whether you paid the electric bill then you’re drifting right into this territory.
Even if he’s not having an affair it’s almost like he might as well be.
Because by this point I can tell you that – whatever the cause – your marriage is basically on life support and it’s going to need a giant jolt of adrenaline and honesty in order to come back from the dead.
3) You piss him off
A big part of what makes a man leave his wife for another woman is when his wife pisses him off.
Sometimes he’ll directly tell you, but more often than not he’ll start sniffing around for another woman and recategorizing you as a past partner instead of his future.
The worst part about this sign is that sometimes what pisses him off is something you do that’s entirely justified.
I’m talking about things like:
Asking him to drink less;
Politely requesting he clean up a bit more;
Mentioning when you don’t feel like having sex;
Or just generally speaking your mind on topics he feels differently about.
Sometimes this is going to be a stumbling block you don’t get over that results in him leaving you for another woman. Other times it can be worked through.
3) He’s emotionally shut off
There could be a lot of reasons for this – I know in my husband’s case it was a health issue he was having and didn’t want to talk about and problems with his estranged son – but whatever the basis, when he’s emotionally shut off it hurts the relationship.
It can often be a sign that he’s not feeling validated or comfortable around you.
Every couple is different and it depends what your “baseline” usually is, but if you can remember the past where you joked and talked like intimate partners and now it’s just barely a grunt and he looks pained and sad around you then you know something is up.
Whether or not it’s to do with you, his emotional disconnection with you can be a big reason that he starts seeking connection and solace in the arms of another woman.
Despite the cliche that men cheat for sex and women cheat for love, the truth is that men often cheat because they don’t feel their emotional needs being met, too.
As Stacey Lloyd writes:
It’s been shown that nearly 50 percent of men who cheat do so because they feel emotionally unfulfilled, unhappy, and unsatisfied in their relationship. In other words, men cheat in order to feel valued and emotionally supported, both of which they may not sense they receive from their partner.
4) He feels unwanted
Whether or not he’s really unwanted, when a man feels unwanted it can be the motivation that slingshots him into another woman’s bed.
Many times you don’t even know why he would feel this way and might have thought everything is normal.
But for him, he was drifting further from you by the day.
What was happening is you were failing to stimulate his “hero’s instinct.”
The term was coined by author James Bauer to describe a key part of men that he found was being overlooked in many relationships.
Bauer discovered that a core part of almost every man wants to be needed and vital to his woman. He wants to protect and “save” her even if it’s just in small ways.
Years of failing to have this need met will often cause a man to begin losing sexual and romantic attraction and start looking around for another woman who can fulfill this deep biological need that he has.
If your husband is beginning to feel like an afterthought in your marriage or completely separate from you in his work and relaxation and home time then he can begin to feel his hero’s instinct wither and die.
And as this happens he may also find himself not getting turned on by you and starting to eye up and chat up other women instead.
5) He feels like he has to hide his real self
This sign is very hard to figure out, because if he feels like he has to hide his real self then…how would you know?
After all, he’s hiding it or trying to.
The best way to get a read on this is to look honestly at your own behavior.
Are you snapping at him sometimes or telling him to shut up over small things?
Are you dismissing his interests, opinions, and concerns with a shrug or a laugh?
Are you talking down about his friends and basically making it clear you find his life and social circle kind of stupid?
Maybe you notice that he’ll mutter half-apologies and kind of wander off a lot of the time nowadays instead of looking you in the eye and having a real conversation.
This can all cause a guy to feel like he has to hide who he really is and that he’s no longer “good enough” in your eyes.
This will quickly lead to many men seeking out a woman who does find them good enough.
Happy wife, happy life may be true, but a happy husband is also important.
As marriage coach Sheri Stritof writes:
Try different ways to demonstrate how much you care about him by being warm. Simple things you can do include telling him how much you love him, cheering him on when he’s feeling doubtful, and telling him you’re sorry when things go wrong.
6) You don’t treat him very well
There’s a tendency to put a lot of blame and criticism on men.
And let’s be fair, sometimes it’s well deserved.
But in our new, woman-power world it’s also only fair to admit that sometimes the woman can be wrong, too.
Relationships absolutely are a two-way street, but it isn’t always the case that what’s happening is evenly split between the both of you.
There’s no point at all in keeping score.
But sometimes in some situations one partner really is more to blame.
I know that my own behavior has not always been at the highest standard and that, frankly, there have been times in the past when I have treated my husband like shit.
I used him as a sounding board for my frustrations, as a piggy bank and as an emotional comfort blanket.
I’m not proud of it, but admitting it to myself – and him – was a big part of how I was able to pull us back from a nasty divorce.
7) You’re calling all the shots
Many men are attracted to a strong and assertive woman.
So if that’s you, congratulations.
But if it’s reached the point where you’re basically calling all the shots and determining how everything is going to go down it can all simply become too much for him.
This is especially true about big decisions like having kids, buying a house, dealing with finances or career decisions and deciding where to live.
These are major decisions that he needs to have a voice in.
But if you’re always the one who overrules him or are never willing to compromise, then your husband is going to be angry and lose attraction.
He’s going to try to find a relationship where he gets a say.
Being overly dominant in a relationship is bad when a man does it but it’s also bad when a woman does it.
As Kyra Stemplinger observes of her own experience:
Some women feel that it’s time for a power shift. However, I’ve been told many times before I seem to be “the male” in my relationships, simply because I come off as the main caretaker. This perpetuates the “breadwinning” label, which is overrated.
8) Your sex life has hit rock bottom
You don’t need me to tell you that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage. Everyone already knows that.
But how good or bad is your sex life, really?
It’s simple: when your husband makes love to you are you genuinely turned on? Is he?
It sounds so basic but I really mean it: do you want to have sex or are you just doing it out of habit or a basic release?
The sad truth is that many marriages end because the physical intimacy just leaves the building and doesn’t come back.
In other cases you may have developed more vanilla or more kinky tastes than him and it’s making him lose interest or feel uncomfortable.
Bedroom blues can sink even the strongest marriage.
It’s often the first step toward cheating and him looking to do the mambo with another lady.
You’ve got to get your sex life in order if you want a chance of keeping your marriage alive, and sometimes it’s a matter that you both have to contribute to equally.
As Psychology Professor Susan Whitbourne explains about a study showing the link between a healthy sex life and happy marriage:
The results confirmed the study’s hypothesis that, across days of the study, sex predicts affection and affection, in turn, predicts sexual activity. The study remained correlational because participants weren’t assigned to conditions of sex/no sex or affection/no affection. Given that such a study would be practically impossible to conduct and likely produce artificial results, the analytic strategy used by the researchers provides as strong evidence as is possible of the sex-affection link.
9) One or both of you have changed
People and situations change. It’s a huge factor in a man leaving you for another woman.
Some of it is outside your control:
Maybe he or you lost a job and had to relocate,
Maybe there’s been a scary health challenge,
Maybe one of you has been dealing with a mental health crisis.
The list of what can change is endless. Your interests may even have just grown apart so much that it’s hard to carry on a decent conversation or understand each other’s sense of humor anymore.
And that can be awkward and hard, I get that completely.
If he’s starting to feel bored or disconnected from you he’s going to naturally gravitate toward a woman who makes him feel connected and engaged.
10) Your relationship is a drag to him
“For better or for worse” should mean what it says.
But many times a man will head out the door in search of greener pastures when your relationship has simply become too unenjoyable and too much work for him.
It’s awful to say, but these days there is a lot of choice out there and especially if you don’t have kids he may feel like he’s got one last chance to escape what’s become a painful and dull relationship.
It may be his fault as much – or more – than yours.
But either way, if he’s feeling like the relationship is taking away value, energy and time from his life to such an extent that he no longer even feels good or glad to be around you.
Then he’s likely going to seek out another woman to be his one and only.
11) He never felt right with you to begin with
This one can be a gut punch, but if it’s the case then you’re going to have to face it sooner or later.
Many people get into relationships – and sadly, even marriages – that simply isn’t good for them or the other partner.
In many cases they are codependent, leaning on someone else to complete them or hoping to save and be there for someone else who’s broken or desperate inside.
The shaman Rudá Iandê’s free masterclass on finding love and intimacy has many excellent insights and solutions for how to get over codependency and find the person you can share love with in a healthy way.
Next up are some of my suggestions about what you can do to head off disaster if your relationship is headed for the rocks.
1) Show him you love him
This doesn’t need to be over the top or anything, but showing him you love him goes a long way.
Men like to feel needed and appreciated.
When you become his cheerleader and give him little compliments and loving shoulder rubs it all adds up.
He knows that you want him around and really values him.
And he’s much more likely to respond in kind.
One of the downsides of marriage is taking your partner for granted. But if you’ve been doing that – or he has – it often will take one of you to snap out of the “trance” in order to shake things up.
Sometimes saying you love your partner or going through the motions can get lost in the noise of a busy day.
As relationship writer Sarah Crow puts it:
“You’ve told your spouse a million times how much you love them—that has to count for something, right? But what are some other ways you show how much you love and value them? If you are struggling to find an answer, then start prioritizing your relationship’s health and growth with rituals like regular date nights or sharing a kiss when you leave the house in the morning.”
2) Get on his hero side
As I was writing above, triggering the hero instinct is a core component of many healthy relationships.
Make your guy feel needed, whether it’s something as simple as asking if he can go out and buy some groceries when you’re not feeling well to requesting his help looking at the leaking kitchen sink.
Even if his plumbing skills aren’t quite up to par he’ll certainly enjoy trying his best and maybe showing you a bit of crack.
A man doesn’t need to feel like he’s the king of the world, he just needs a bit of a nudge and some validation now and then.
Even the most “macho” guy can start to feel like maybe he’s not that important to you, but those small comments and little requests can mean a lot for him and be the difference between a great marriage and a separation.
3) Switch it up
Another great way to bring your marriage back is to switch things up a little.
Try new restaurants, join a group class together doing Tai Chi, take painting classes after work on Friday nights with your hubby.
Whatever it is – even just one or two new things – try it out!
Maybe even take a vacation to somewhere you’ve never imagined going. This can often bring out a side of your partner you never knew existed.
As Albright College Psychology Professor Gwendolyn Seidman writes:
“A large body of research shows that engaging in exciting and novel activities with a partner increases feelings of closeness and passion. Field experiments where couples were asked to spend time together doing things they both found exciting, and lab experiments in which couples tried fun, novel, activities together, have shown that these activities increase feelings of intimacy and closeness.
Travel provides many opportunities for excitement and adventure, such as visiting new cities, going water-skiing, or trying out a cuisine you’ve never eaten before.”
4) Talk openly and honestly
Communication needs to happen sooner or later no matter how painful.
If you’re like me then you realized your marriage was in big trouble after years of settling into a non-communicative pattern.
Suddenly you wake up and realize:
“Holy shit, I haven’t had a real, deep conversation with my husband in years.”
It’s a weird feeling that’s for sure.
But once you notice there’s a communication breakdown you can begin to rectify it.
Have a drink or two – but not too many! – to loosen up if necessary and then start to talk it out.
Sooner or later it’s going to have to happen, and the alternative is often divorce.
Repressing emotions is one of the worst things you can do physically and mentally.
It leads to shallow breathing, stress, depression, anxiety, and all sorts of other troublesome symptoms.
When your emotions are denied or pushed down they well up like geysers and eventually shoot out and make a mess everywhere.
As I’ve said it’s really important not to be impulsive and reactive.
But at the same time, you want to fully embrace your emotions and be honest about how you’re feeling and why.
Letting your husband know about where you’re coming from will at least establish an even playing field.
And he’ll never be able to say you didn’t tell him how you felt. But remember to listen to his experiences, too.
As marriage coach Natalie of Happily Committed notes:
“The one I see the most often is problem people desperately seeking to be understood instead of trying to understand. They keep rebounding off of what their partner says to try to make their point, without actually taking what their partner is saying into consideration.”
6) Loosen up a bit
Criticism is natural and if you’re married to someone you’re going to notice their faults, guaranteed.
But if you can find a way to loosen up a bit then you’re going to give your marriage a much better chance of making it in the long run.
There are some really good meditation techniques for finding inner peace even in the middle of chaos that I’ve used to help me through some of the toughest points of my marriage and personal life.
I heartily recommend them.
I also recommend doing an “intention check” before criticizing your spouse.
Before you comment on their appearance, their schedule, their interests, their mood or anything else, think about the root feeling that’s motivating you to say something.
Is it jealousy, annoyance, frustration, sadness?
Don’t speak impulsively and let the negative, reactive part of yourself determine your relationship.
At the same time, make sure that you fully face and accept those painful emotions and experiences which may be hurting you and your partner.
6) Time and space can be the best cure
Sometimes a little time and space can be the best cure.
Having a trial separation and spending some time apart can bring a lot of clarity about what the best next step is.
See how you feel being apart and what emotions, memories, and experiences it brings up in you.
Do you feel called to branch out in a new direction or revived and ready to reembark on the marriage journey together?
Respect how you feel and how your partner feels and keep in touch.
But prioritize that time alone, out in nature and with yourself, and see where it takes you in the end.
I also highly recommend trying shamanic breathwork as a way to process trauma, blockages, and pain. Many times we become “stuck” and don’t process painful memories, experiences, and states of being, and they become trapped in our respiratory system and the way we breathe.
Here’s the bottom line about what makes a man leave his wife for another woman…
No marriage is perfect.
At least as far as I know. And if yours is I would be more than interested to hear about it below in the comments.
Even two people who are incredibly loving, bright, and committed can go off track.
It’s not always some big dramatic thing, either.
Something as simple as pure exhaustion and being overworked can bring an entire marriage down.
In addition to highly recommending Rudás free masterclass, I want to highlight that sometimes couples or sex therapy can also be a way forward.
There is no copy-paste blueprint, but the journey you’re on does matter and it does have plenty of paths left to walk on.
The thing I want to emphasize is to have hope and a can-do attitude.
Not every marriage can be saved, I absolutely get that.
But at the same time, there are many marriages that do come back together, and there are happy couples out there who truly love and appreciate each other. So have hope, stay strong, and please remember to love and care for yourself, too.
As author Fawn Weaver writes in the Happy Wives Club: One Woman’s Worldwide Search for the Secrets of a Great Marriage:
Happy marriages are alive and well. The cries of their demise have been highly overrated, and couples happily married do indeed exist.
The real reason why men pull away
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