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Why Women Leave

There's an old saying that has for years been bandied about by cynics and seasoned veterans of the relationship wars: men leave women for another woman, while women leave men for another life. Those who doubt this would be well served to take an honest look around, if not at their own situation, then at the broken relationships that dot the landscape of their experience. Statistics show that with the vast majority of marital partings it is the woman who leaves. And in those rare instances when it is the man packing up and going, the odds that he'll drive straight into the arms of another woman are orders of magnitude greater than that of a woman doing the same. Not that it doesn't happen, but the underlying reasons become proof statements for that same cynical old saying. Because even when men fall in love with another woman, they tend to be hesitant to leave the nest - their feet dragging then becoming the reason their new lover dumps them before he can pull the trigger - while women, once they smell greener pastures, waste little time in getting on with it.

This is all less true of non-marital relationships, even long-term ones. It's that marriage certificate that cements this old saying into cold hard truth. Men are just as likely to cheat on their girlfriends as they are their wives, while woman seem to more stringently honor the expectation of fidelity once the ink dries on the signature line. And in attempting to understand why it is that women do leave their men, not for another man per se, but for another life (which may indeed involve another man... it's a subtle differentiation), one needs to look deeper than the symptoms of a stale or unhealthy relationship to find the real reason.

There are lots of good reasons for women to leave their husbands - or if you prefer, to fall out of love with them - as many reasons as there are relationship books at the local B. Dalton's or marriage counselor listings in the Yellow Pages. Most of these are things the husband tells himself after the fact - and even then, he'll try to find a way to make it her fault - because the more accurate truth is just too hard to fathom. The husband cheats. He has addiction problems. He is physically or emotionally abusive. Intimacy in the marriage is dead, the couple just doesn't have anything in common anymore, which is a common complaint once the kids depart the nest. Maybe the husband has simply lost all sense of self-respect and looks like Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor movies. All of these things, while perhaps good reasons to move on, are actually symptoms of a deeper issue, one easily confused with "falling out of love," and the one all those marriage counselors will try to unearth and analyze in hopes of turning things around. Which, if this terminal deal breaker has festered, probably isn't going to happen.

No, the real reason for her leaving is deeper than the woman falling out of love. Indeed, a woman who still loves her husband may very well leave him in favor of this more compelling motivation. All of these symptoms are, in fact, merely evidence in a sort of emotional court case being tried in a woman's heart and mind, and once the verdict is in it's only a matter of time until the real lawyers get involved. The reason is as simple as this - the woman has lost all sense of hope.

The loss of hope kills marriages from a woman's point of view. Not the loss of love, because there may be hope for the return of love. Not the frustrations of a man who doesn't get it, because there may be hope that he'll change. Men, for reasons that occupy another wing of that bookstore entirely, will stick around even in the absence of love and hope, especially if things are quiet enough to allow for the viewing of a football game on the wide screen. But women see the loss of hope as the death knell. It is the destination of all these other symptoms, in the same way that injuries lead to death. The cause of the symptoms - bleeding, pain, dismemberment -- is the trauma, but the effect of the trauma is death. So it is with relationships from a woman's point of view. The cause may be that dirty laundry list of all-too-frequent relationship snafus, but the effect of them over time will be the loss of hope - which means death - that the woman can find happiness in her marriage to this man, even if some semblance of love remains. If she's lost hope that things will ever change, she's gone.

The good news here is a long shot, but at least it keeps the nuptial conversation alive. Because the remedy for a relationship heading for the rocks isn't so much about alleviating the symptoms, or even in "falling in love again," but in understanding how those symptoms lead to the perceived loss of hope on the woman's part. The wise man understands that he has to do more than start taking out the garbage and being a little nicer and more appreciative. It's all about the resurrection of hope, and while it certainly embraces changes in husbandly behavior, to a certain extent things are now out of his hands.

Because another old saying says that you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube, and if the husband's behavior has killed off his wife's hope of happiness and fulfillment - and perhaps her hope of other, more complex dreams - not to mention love itself, the best he can do now is pray. And in the meantime, putting that toilet set back down isn't a bad idea, either.

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