Ask Wayne: Man Fears Wife Will Leave Him

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 15, 2009 · 15 comments

in Marriage, Relationships & Family

askwayne

As you probably remember, a few weeks ago we had a giveaway of Wayne Levine’s book: Hold On To Your N.U.T.s. The response to his post was phenomenal and many of you requested that AoM provide more advice for men on relationships. So we’ve brought Wayne back for a new, regular feature here on AoM, called “Ask Wayne.” Every other Thursday, Wayne will answer relationship questions submitted by AoM’s readers. And we encourage you to add your own insights and advice to his.

Q: I know it is irrational, but I cannot help thinking, quite frequently, that my wife will someday suddenly leave me and our boys. That terrifies me. Although we broke up once early in our dating relationship, and she has made comments about the kids being a “mistake” a couple of times when she was very upset, there really is nothing else to suggest that she would actually leave. Nonetheless, I get insecure and sometimes I obsess on the possibility. I wish I could make this stop.

A: There’s no way of determining whether your fear is irrational. If she leaves, I guess it isn’t. But what I can tell you with confidence is that your obsessive fear is positively unhealthy-for you, your relationship and your family.

One might suggest that, to know whether your fear is grounded in reality, we’d have to either hear from your wife or somehow read her mind. But that’s not the case. Your fear of her leaving has grown because of your obsession. The more energy directed toward that fear, the more likely it’ll come to pass. That’s the dark side of the “power of intention” we’ve heard so much about lately.

So rather than focusing your energies on the negative, and on someone’s behavior you can’t control (though I’ll discuss in a moment how you can certainly influence her), let’s direct our attention to what you can work on, what you can control…you.

Your fear suggests that you don’t think too highly of yourself. I wonder why. Were you abandoned in your childhood? Did you grow up feeling “less than?” And who taught you the fine art of obsessing? These are some of the important questions you’ll want to answer for yourself. Understanding where your behaviors come from can help quite a bit when you’re ready to change them.

Whatever the cause, you’ve become a man who has learned to give his power away. In this case you’ve given your power away to your fears and to your wife. I suspect it’s fairly easy for you to be separated from your cojones in most situations. Now THAT’s something to fear.

As men, we need to be able to hold on to our N.U.T.s, our non-negotiable, unalterable terms. We need to know what we’re committed to and what defines us as men. When we are not aware of or not committed to honoring our N.U.T.s, we become lost, frightened, angry, and weak. That’s why you, my friend, need to find your N.U.T.s.

You find them by identifying what you’re committed to, like being a strong and present father. You identify the N.U.T.s you need to develop by looking at the areas where you’re not being the man you want to be, like showing up like a rock in your relationship.

You can’t wait to see what your wife decides to do before you commit to changing how you’re showing up in the relationship. In fact, when you start acting like the strong, confident man you’d like to be, I suspect a couple of things will happen. First, your fears will begin to subside as your focus turns toward the positive. Secondly, the more you behave like the man you want to be, the more you’ll probably be the man she wants to be with. And when that happens, how likely is it that she’ll run for the hills?

This transformation may seem impossible from where you’re standing today. It isn’t. What you need is to ask for help, professional or otherwise. Surround yourself with men you can trust and ask them to support you as you make commitments to be a better man.

As those masculine relationships grow, and you put more and more effort into showing up strong and confident, you will become that better man, and you will marvel at the many rewards of your hard work.

Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @: askwayne@bettermen.org

Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man at www.bettermen.org

©2009 BetterMen

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cindy Marsch April 16, 2009 at 3:56 am

Um, wouldn’t it be a good idea to talk to the WIFE?! I see interaction encouraged with the kids and with male friends, but the marriage itself–including the spouse herself–is really important.

2 Kenny S April 16, 2009 at 4:14 am

Talking to the wife would be very helpful, but it is not the main issue. To live a healthy successful life he has to get over his fear.
The ironic thing is that time and time again you will here about people in these situations and the insecurities of the other partner breed problems that weren’t there to begin with. Doubt and Fear are powerful feelings that can wreak havoc on any relationship.
He should focus on getting his head straight. Ask why would you fear her leaving? Is it the end all, be all? Is it you can’t provide with out her? Understanding you and confidence in your self is key here.

3 Brian April 16, 2009 at 5:56 am

Great response, Wayne. Spot on. Insecurely obsessing is behavior that WILL eventually get her to leave him. Becoming a confident person will not only make him worry less, but his confidence will be attractive to his wife, and will make her want to stay. I suggest he focuses on his physical fitness and his children, the two easiest ways to boost confidence. The rest will fall in to place.

4 Rod Newbound, RN April 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Excellent advice. As a nurse I work with lots of women, and the ones that are divorced or otherwise single are always saying how hard it is to find a good man. And chances are, since you took the time to submit this question, you are one of them.

So hike up your trousers, pull those shoulders back, lift your head high, and smile.

5 Mitchel April 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm

If you have indications that you’re wife is unhappy with you and she might leave, you’re absolutely right… she might. Before you talk to your friends, a counselor, or your wife you need to get two things done first. Start a second bank account and start building it up slowly, and go talk to a lawyer to find out all the tricks you need to do to keep the kids because even if they are her mistake they are also her meal ticket.
Trust me. From someone who’s been there, you can be sweet and nice and honorable and blah blah blah blah… but if she wants to live the Jerry Springer / soap opera life then she’s already gone. Guys quit trying to “work” on your marriage because people get tired of all the work. Quit trying to talk things through unless she wants to have a two way dialogue.
After you get your plan B in order then start living like you can live without her. Stand up for your NUTs and don’t let her jerk you around anymore.

6 Keith Brawner April 17, 2009 at 9:39 am

For the uninformed:

N.U.T.s – Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms

– Keith

7 Jason Ellis April 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

Great advice. After reading the review of Wayne’s book on this blog, I went out and bought it. It was a great decision.

I quickly read the book, and started applying it to my 8 year marriage. It has immediately improved. I can tell a huge difference in how my wife treats and respects me. I am a better husband and man, and have even shut down some of the things my wife used to do that really bothered me (but I was “afraid” to bring up). In addition, my attitude toward my marriage and family has gotten better. I am becoming the man I want to be. That is a great feeling.

My marriage is better now than it has ever been, and I can tell that my wife is happier.

I know I have a long way to go, but I have to tell you, Wayne’s book is worth the time and effort to read and put into practice. You will become a better man, and your wife will be much happier.

Thanks to Wayne for the great advice and guidance.

Jason Ellis

8 Beat Attitude April 22, 2009 at 3:49 am

husband: “wife, will you leave me?”
wife “what? of course not!”
husband (thinks) “is she being truthful?”
wife (thinks) “am I being truthful?”

ergo, to find out if your wife might leave you, asking her outright in this way would only create an environment of fear and mistrust, and it is quite unmanly.

Better would be to ask the question:

“what would it take for you to consider leaving me?” (or, more positively)
“what would make you feel happier in our marriage?”

The ensuing discussion has to be reconciled to what you are both willing and unwilling to compromise on. You should know what your own values are, and be prepared to justify those appropriate to their objective worth (compared to other values).

If I can get a little philosophical about this for a moment…

It’s worth noting that some things that you value, and some of your “rights” have to be given up in order to attain a greater good. Unfulfilled dreams are a source of great upset in a marriage, so it’s important to know WHY you (or your spouse) have given up those dreams, and what has replaced them.

And you need to know the ultimate value of marriage: why marriage itself is a training ground that is second-to-none for the rewards it offers: why marriage can more easily provide happiness than any of our other desires and dreams.

Humans were created for relationship. The family is a valuable God-given community in which the nature and joy of relationship can be explored. Most families are dysfunctional in some ways, because they are made up of human beings, and human beings are selfish. The marriage, or the family, is about the best place to learn to love others, and the environment in which love is best displayed.

9 NUTs In A Jar April 28, 2009 at 8:41 pm

My thoughts and feeling are somewhere between Mitchel and Beat Attitude. There comes a point in a marriage where shortcomings of good intentions and reality settle in uncomfortably for one or both in the relationship.

Perception is reality or if your “Spidey-Sense” is tingling then, it maybe true that your marriage is going into the toilet and no amount of marital counseling will help. There is nothing wrong for a man to look into the insights of a divorce lawyer when it comes to a Man’s rights during divorce proceedings.

Children, divorce, custody battles are heart-rending but, not the end of the world. No one ever said LIFE was easy. If your wife walks out the door with children, remember what makes you a man and trudge onward and upward.

10 MJAYBEE May 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

Anyone that says their kids are a “mistake” has serious parenting and relationship issues.

Park your assets in a hidden, safe place, prepare for a long legal battle, and give counseling a shot, for your kids’ sake.

But also be prepared to lose your kids, house and income for a long time if things go south.

11 Chris May 14, 2009 at 10:54 am

I agree with Beat Attitude and adamantly oppose Mitchell’s opinion, with all respect. If you are a product of a divorced relationship (be it your parents or your own) I feel for you and understand opinions like Mitchell’s. Setting up a plan B only shows a lack of faith in your spouse and your marriage.

But if you are going through troubling times in your marriage and are even considering divorce, you have already put the nail in the coffin. We’re talking about holding on to our NUTs here, and divorce should never be one of those terms.

I have many friends who married young, and because of this they act more like little boys who can shave. So what I explain to them is this (and it is right on board with Beat Attitude’s post).

You have to be three things to be a successful husband/father.

1. Loving – no matter what is said or what is done, you never let any other emotion overtake your love for your spouse/child. This is most important.

2. Selfless – you have give somethings up. When my wife and I got married, I had to make the conscious choice to give up some friendships and habits that were not beneficial to our relationship. Keep in mind that this was not encouraged by my wife, I realized there were things that bothered her and made the choice myself.

3. Leading – This were your NUTs come in. But your wife will not concede to these terms without you being both loving and selfless. No woman or child will allow themselves to be led by a jerk. If you are one of those guys who feels you need to be domineering over a spouse or child… well you need to stop. I feel that if you leave one these three points out, you have just made yourself into a little boy that can shave. Thus weakening your marriage.

12 Phililp June 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

Wow, once again the solution appears to be, get a lot of male buddies, it will magically turn you into the man you want to be.

13 Tom June 18, 2009 at 3:34 am

Yeah, manning up is all well and good, but I agree with Cindy, he needs to talk to his wife. He mentioned that she has said a couple of times when she was upset that the kids were a mistake. My wife has been through some tough times when I was deployed – and I heard about it from her later – but I never heard her say THAT. Something is underneath the surface here. They need to talk, and maybe see a marriage counselor.

14 Bongani April 21, 2010 at 9:05 am

Great response!!! you are the man!!! who taught you to be such a man?

15 Incredible Absorbing Man June 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I’ve read this article over and over and it never fails to make me realize the mistakes I am committing with my current girlfriend(just want to make a point that this advice not only apply to married couples but also for other relationships). Being the “older” one in the relationship, I am the one that is acting like a child. Girls are hard to understand and I’ve come short in understanding her, something a man should be able to do. We had the same fear and I must admit I am not that confident with myself maybe because I have not yet defined my N.U.T.s.
Thanks for this great article Wayne and Thanks AoM for bringing such wonderful insights of being a man. Your articles have made me consider certain ideas I should be considering now that I’m trying to be the man that I want.

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