"We need to talk."
The words strike fear into the hearts of men. Yet those who ignore it, do so at their own peril.
With the epidemic-like trend of more and more women filing for divorce, I've noticed an increasingly common phenomenon: husbands caught completely off guard when their wife announces that she wants out.
The scenario goes like this:
A couple gets married, gets jobs, pays bills, has kids and somewhere along the line the inevitable conflicts ensue.
The woman thinks that the best way to solve the problems is to get her husband more emotionally engaged. She wants to talk about it or go see a counselor.
The husband resists, dreading the potential conflict and often fearing that counseling will be a dissection of all his flaws. Plus, who's got time to talk when you're trying to hold down a job - a task many men view as their primary contribution to marriage?
So he tries to ignore it, burying himself television, golf, or the office, hoping the problem will go away.
And it does. After months, or sometimes years, of trying to get her man engaged, the woman gives up and makes do with the status quo.
Thus, the marriage enters the danger zone.
While the husband is relieved that they're no longer fighting, the wife is so angry and heartbroken that she can't even bear to make eye contact with him.
She spends more time with her friends or church. She may get a job or start volunteering, and slowly but surely, she creates an emotional support system that doesn't include her husband.
So, while he's thinking things are better because she's quit nagging, she's actually growing further away every single day. And she's even more hurt because he doesn't seem to notice.
Then one day it dawns on her: I'm happier without him than I am with him. And that's when she drops the bomb.
The saddest part is that many men don't even know why they got dumped. I had one friend whose husband came back to her the next day with a diamond ring, promising that he would go to counseling, quit working late and do all the other things she had begged him for a few years back.
But unfortunately, it was too late. She'd been leaving him for years, and by the time she told him, she was already gone.
Why do I understand the wifely withdrawal scenario so well? I was unknowingly partway down this path myself a few years back, silently brewing and stewing, until fate - and a highly skilled counselor - intervened. I was lucky because my husband was willing to put aside his discomfort to step into the terrifying world of feelings and emotions.
So wake up guys. Wedded bliss takes work. If your wife wants to talk, it's probably time to put down the remote and engage.
Contact Lisa Earle McLeod at www.ForgetPerfect.com.