Haggard Husband: Considering Divorce
Companion article to “Walkaway Wife: Wants Divorce“
The Haggard Husband is the much-maligned, often underappreciated and misunderstood partner to the Walkaway Wife who may be dissatisfied with marriage and considering divorce. He is worn down by the Walkaway Wife’s frequent demands for emotional attention. He is haggard because of the incessant nagging and relationship game-playing. He feels he is doing his best but not receiving the appreciation he deserves. From his perspective, he may not be getting what he bargained for when he married his sweet, generous bride. And so it is no surprise that the Haggard Husband may be considering divorce.
Based on the Walkaway Wife’s valid complaints it would be easy to imagine that this manly creature is distant, emotionally unavailable, distracted and reticent. Because really, just how hard is it to give a woman the one thing she craves – emotional support. A simple request, right? And one only a barbaric brute would withhold from his adorning wife. But what happens when the dynamic is deconstructed?
The Haggard Husband may have the best of intentions. He may want to give his wife what she needs and keep the marriage strong. In his defense, there are three common situations that derail that plan. And to appreciate them, one has to have some familiarity with the concept of Love Languages.
According to the famous book “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, there are five basic means of showing and receiving love.
Words of Affirmation – These verbal validations include: appreciation; poems and love letters; bragging about her in front of friends and relatives; and compliments.
Receiving Gifts – This can include either purchased or homemade, sentimental gifts. The spouse who appreciates gifts may appreciate the items themselves or may feel loved because of the unspoken thoughtfulness, effort and sacrifice that goes into buying or making them.
Quality Time – These people may appreciate the social connection of date nights, a cup of soup on a cold night, or hand-holding under the stars. These people have a fondness for happy, romantic times spent together.
Acts of Service – These people appreciate when others take burdens off their plate. They notice when their partner does chores without being asked. Much like the Gift lover, the acts of service may be symbolic of the giver’s intention to improve the partner’s life and show an understanding of what’s important to him or her.
Physical Touch – They’re the huggers. These people appreciate snuggling and backrubs.
The three situations that plague the Haggard Husband’s relationship may have to do with misinterpreted Love Languages. Before considering divorce, investigate how the Love Languages might give insight into the relationship.
- The Haggard Husband doesn’t know what Love Language his wife appreciates.
This may be because he doesn’t know about love languages. If he is aware of the five languages, he may either be unable to figure out which one his wife responds to, or may be uncomfortable trying to “speak her language” if it doesn’t come naturally to him. Many men may, consciously or sub-consciously, know which language they like. When they express adoration to their wives using the language they are familiar with, it’s not always well-received. He may become frustrated at trying to please her and not getting a positive reaction. As an example, a husband who likes Words of Affirmation, may want to hear what a great breadwinner he is or how strong his arms are looking. But when he tells his wife that he thinks she’s a great cook, it doesn’t hit the mark.
The key to fixing this disconnect is to experiment. Try to “speak” each of the love languages and see what the spouse responds to. If the relationship is still functional, try sharing the Love Languages book. It may be enlightening. Even if it’s not a relationship cure-all, putting in the effort should be a demonstration to a Walkaway Wife that the Haggard Husband hasn’t given up.
- The Walkaway Wife doesn’t know which Language she wants.
“All of the Above” is not a viable answer. Some people appreciate more than one Love Language. Usually though, there is at least one primary category that each person can relate to. For some husbands, their loving gestures may be seen as ineffectual because the wife has confusing expectations. She may not know herself. One day she might want a love letter because that’s what her friend’s husband does for his wife. The next, a pretty ring because the neighbor got one for her anniversary. Her priorities might change based on life stage. Some people who don’t have experience with the five languages may be copying their parents’ relationship, mirroring their partner’s language or even trying to imitate pop culture or social media examples. If possible, take the Five Languages Quiz together.
It may be eye-opening. Even if she doesn’t acknowledge it, the Walkaway Wife may realize that expecting her husband to be proficient in all of the languages is not realistic. If she hasn’t already walked away, she may be willing to refine her priorities, spell out her specific needs and give her Haggard Husband a chance to please her.
- The Haggard Husband may also be feeling deprived.
The third stumbling block to a mutually-supportive marriage is a touchy topic (literally). Let’s imagine that some people (for ease of conversation we’ll call them “men”) may be highly motivated to want physical intimacy – sex. He may even equate it to love. If his physical needs are neglected, the Haggard Husband may be feeling unloved himself and begin to wonder why he should bother working hard to please his wife. If he withdraws from the relationship it reinforces the vicious cycle. The negotiation could be tied to power struggles, sexual politics and gender-equality issues. So it’s not a lightweight discussion. But it’s one that cannot be avoided if the couple truly wants mutual satisfaction. According to the Love Languages, sex is not always purely related to the Physical Touch category. The Haggard Husband needs to first nail down which Love Language is satisfied by physical interaction. Some see sex as a gift. For others it satisfies the need for Quality Time. If discussed in emotional terms, it makes for a more equivalent trade-off with his wife’s requests.
Sometimes when a wife steps back she might see that her Haggard Husband was not intentionally trying to alienate her. He may have been trying, in his own ineffectual and uninformed way, to please her. Often arguments erupt based on the premise of “who started it” but if both spouses are motivated to recover, couples therapy might be a realistic alternative to divorce.
Considering Divorce? Talk to Kathryn Wayne-Spindler
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler is a compassionate divorce attorney that won’t sell divorce for the sake of gaining a new client. She gives honest counsel to Haggard Husbands and Walkaway Wives. She’s heard enough unhappy marriage tales to know when a marriage is irretrievably broken. If there’s a chance of saving an otherwise working partnership, she may suggest couples therapy or trial separation. If you are considering divorce for an emotionally-dysfunctional marriage, contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spinder & Associates at 248-676-1000 for a free consultation. The divorce attorneys of Spindler & Associates help clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston Counties. The attorneys handle cases in Milford, Highland, Hartland, White Lake, Commerce, Walled Lake, Wixom, New Husdon, South Lyon, Waterord, Holly, Grand Blanc and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long
Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates