By Deborah Skolnik
Though their reasons for divorcing may vary, men whose marriages fell apart are fairly similar-beyond having ex-wives and legal bills that'll keep their attorneys in silk ties for decades. Here, the traits many formerly married guys share-even before their relationships end-with expert advice to prevent your husband from joining their club. Photo by Getty Images
1. They're shocked.
That's because about 70% of the time, it's the wife who files for divorce. "Women tell me, 'I've been warning him for years.' The husband responds, 'But I didn't know she was serious!'" says Michelle Crosby, a family attorney in San Francisco and co-founder of Wevorce, a company dedicated to amicable divorces. Lesson: Air grievances before they fester, suggests Kimberly Friedmutter, a life-management coach in Malibu, CA-and be specific. "Instead of saying, 'You always embarrass me!' explain, 'When you're late for dinner with our friends, I feel embarrassed.'" If you aren't getting across, seek counseling. Sure, it costs money; divorce costs more.
2. Technology takes precedence over their relationships.
Ever see some guy yapping on his cell, ignoring his wife? Bad move, says Damona Hoffman, a Los Angeles-based relationship coach whose website, DearMrsD.com, provides love-life advice. Not only are computers and cell phones disruptive, but if your husband always texts or e-mails you instead of calling, "it can create distance," she warns. Lesson: Tell your husband how you prefer to communicate ("I want to hear your voice"), and don't let tech interrupt couple time. Leave phones and computers out of the bedroom if possible, "and on date nights, ignore calls unless it's the babysitter," Hoffman recommends. Getting undivided attention can keep you together.
3. They stopped wining and dining after the "I do's."
Speaking of date nights, skipping them hurts your marriage, says Hoffman. Sadly, romantic evenings often fade out once careers and children get demanding. Lesson: Date each other again-even if you have to initiate. "Tell your husband, 'I'd love it if you'd invite me out," Hoffman says. A simple stroll while Grandma watches the kids can keep romance on the radar.
4. A lack of work/life balance.
A guy who's married to his career often fails at his real marriage since his wife takes a backseat, says James Honeycutt, PhD, professor of communication studies at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge and author of Cognition, Communication and Romantic Relationships. Lesson: Help your husband take a break. "Don't say, 'you need to take it easier,' which could put him on the defensive, and points out that you feel separate from him," Dr. Honeycutt says. Instead, try: "We could use time to relax. It'll help us recharge our batteries and focus better when it's time to get back to work." If his job is so demanding that he's chronically short on time, plan an exciting evening close to his workplace, so he doesn't have to spend time traveling. And if your partner is the breadwinner, consider taking a part-time job to share the financial load-"that way, he won't feel the pressure is only on him to earn for the family," Dr. Honeycutt says. If your husband has a small business and you have clerical or sales skills, pitch in there to free him up more for fun with you.
The Number One Reason Men Cheat
5. A feeling that "my wife and I grew apart."
Divorced men frequently say they developed new interests that their wives didn't appreciate. As a result, they lose their connection. Lesson: Learn about the things that grab your husband's attention. Surprise him by saying, "You seem to really enjoy kayaking. Mind if I come along?" (Can't hurt to try once!) Just not into it? Give him space to do his thing on his own. "It's healthy to have some independent interests," points out Friedmutter.
6. A newfound appreciation of sex.
That's because their marriages didn't include a lot of it, especially as the relationship deteriorated. These men swear they'll never settle for sexual starvation again. Lesson: "Just as we need our husbands to communicate with us, they need sex," says Hoffman, and variety too. "Tell him, 'Honey, I'd like to try X, Y or Z.' It's the rare man who'll say no to that!"
7. They do boyish things with their money.
A sports car. Skydiving lessons. Divorced men do it all! "My male divorce clients often say they felt constrained in their marriage, and typically go through a phase doing everything their ex-wife wouldn't allow them to do," says Joleena Louis, a matrimonial attorney in New York City. Ironically, this immaturity stems from their spouses treating them like children. Lesson: "Avoid mothering your husband and telling him what he can and cannot do," cautions Louis. Set up his-and-hers accounts so you each have some financial freedom. And hold your tongue if your sweetie spends his bucks on silly stuff: "As long as your bills are paid, and it's just an occasional thing, look the other way," Louis says.
8. A longing to hear they're attractive.
Many divorced men were starved for compliments during their marriage. "Often people forget to say nice things to each other like they did early on," observes Friedmutter. Lesson: "If your husband's leaving for an important meeting, say, 'Don't you look handsome!'" Praise the things he does well too. "Show him you think he's the greatest, and there's nothing he won't do for you," Friedmutter adds.
9. Difficulty expressing emotions.
We need our husbands to share their innermost thoughts, but men are taught to suppress their emotions, since it's not "manly," Friedmutter says. This disconnect can create marriage problems. Lesson: Help your husband learn not to keep things bottled up, Friedmutter says. "If he comes home and seems glum, ask what's wrong, but if he's reticent, don't push. Just say, 'I'm sorry, it's just that you seem down. I'm here if you want to talk later." That space will help him come around.
10. Lingering affection and gratitude.
"After years of venomous anger, corrosive conflict and even disdain for their former wives, softer feelings of appreciation surface in divorced men," says Ken Druck, PhD, a family and executive coach and co-author of The Secrets Men Keep: Find Out What They Think…How They Really Feel. Lesson: Make gratitude and affection part of your everyday interactions, Dr. Druck recommends. Thank your partner for coming home early or doing a chore without being told. You'll both feel better.