Current trends show that an increasing number of women are opting out of their marriages. In fact, women initiate approximately 2/3 of divorces that occur after the age of 40.
Thirty years ago this wasn’t the case, women would stay in a bad marriage; but today women are more confident to take care of themselves, and thus, more “empowered” to leave a bad marriage.
women initiate approximately 2/3 of divorces that occur after the age of 40. Click To Tweet
In a book entitled, Men’s Changing Roles in the Family, the authors (Robert Lewis and Marvin Sussman) tell of several clinical observations that were made of “abandoned” (and shocked) husbands whose wives had initiated divorce, or whose wives were in the process of initiating divorce. The 5 types of men that women are divorcing emerged from their observations:
1. The overtly aggressive husband. The predominant emotion of the overtly aggressive men was anger. They were completely against separation and they were open and clear about their opinion. Many of these men were physically or emotionally abusive to their wives—often controlling and intimidating them through threats, denigration, coercive maneuvers, and empty promises. All of them had a history of refusing to go to marriage therapy, which their wives had encouraged at an earlier time.
2. The passive-aggressive husband. The second type of abandoned husband was the passive-aggressive. These men would procrastinate on suggestions in therapy, intentionally miss meetings, and refuse to negotiate during the separation process. In essence, they persistently resisted change by passive means. They would either aggressively fight for sole custody of the children, or passively refuse to see them at all. In addition, they would degrade their wives to their children, or be consistently tardy for pick-up and drop-off times with the children.
3. The depressed husband. The third type of abandoned husband was the depressed. The degree of depression varied from case to case. Suicidal thoughts and threats were common with these men. Some even entertained homicidal fantasies.
4. The sexist husband. The fourth type of abandoned husband was the sexist. The men in this category had many of the characteristics of the tradition male role.
“They worked hard, were professionally ambitious, competitive, and emotionally constricted. Most of their energy was directed outside the home and toward the acquisition of money, power, and status.”
They took their marriages for granted, “…assuming all was well, and rarely had any complaints. Their wives concerns and marital unhappiness tended to fall on deaf ears or were dismissed as silly and exaggerated. Generally, these men encouraged their wives to seek individual psycho-therapy”.
Only after their marriages were unbearable (or their wives had left) did these men agree to therapy. Most of these men were shocked and bewildered when their wives left.
With the reality of separation knocking on their door, they attempted to lavish their wives with gifts and recapture their days of courtship. Therapy (marital or individual) for them was characterized as embarrassing, awkward, and frightening.
5. The passive-dependent husband. The last type of abandoned husband was the passive-dependent. These men tended to be younger and poorly self-reliant. They were unambitious and unassertive, and their wives made most of their decisions for them in the areas of finances, vocation, recreation, household jobs, etc. “Some of the wives of these men actually selected and organized new living quarters for their husbands after they separated.” In general, these women felt less guilty about leaving their husbands once they convinced them to go to therapy.
Let me be clear. The purpose of this post isn’t to celebrate this trend, encourage wives to divorce their husbands, or put all the blame on men; but rather, to sound an alarm to men who identify with one or more of the following types of abandoned husbands…and point towards a better pathway.
What does this research reveal? Primarily, it reveals the need for men (especially Christian men) to heed the words of Scripture and emerge as Christ-like leaders within their homes.
As I read this research, I couldn’t help but think of Adam and Eve, the very first husband and wife, and the dynamics between them from the very beginning. Let’s read it again from a fresh perspective:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6 NIV, emphasis added).
As Eve was engaged in a cataclysmic battle with the prince of darkness, her husband was right there, but did nothing. Like the passive-aggressive (#2) or the passive dependent (#5), he left Eve out on a limp as she was tempted and deceived by the serpent. One could almost hear all of creation shouting,
“Adam, do something! Wake up! Fight for your wife!”
He does nothing, however, and refuses to speak or act on her behalf. He was passive and seemingly paralyzed. Adam failed to fight for his wife – he failed to lead – and the consequences are beyond measure.
Every man is a son of Adam. His natural tendency is to be clueless in the moment of his wife’s greatest need; but every Christian man is a son of the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. And in Christ we are a new creation.Every man is a son of Adam - clueless to his wife's real needs; but every Christian man is a son of the 2nd… Click To Tweet
As the great Christmas hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, so beautifully portrays,
Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place
But here’s the key: if we’re going to truly change and truly love our wives as Jesus loves the church, we must choose to walk in our new nature every day. We have to put off the old self and put on the new self…every day.
You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. -Colossians 3:9-10
Regardless of what the research says, we don’t have to become a statistic. In Christ, there is always hope. So my encouragement today for all of us husbands is to daily put off the old self (Adam’s image) of passivity, contempt, anger, sexism, self-centeredness, etc. and put on the new self (Christ’s image) of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Here’s how Colossians 3:12-15 says it:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.