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“We Won’t Have A Good Marriage When The Kids Leave The House” Is Not A Compelling Argument To Work On Your Marriage


Staff member
Mar 19, 2024
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Many preoccupied attachment husbands constantly tell their wives that they should work on their marriage, which includes things like going to counseling, going on dates, spending time without the kids, and, of course, being more affectionate (including physical touch and sex). Their stated reason is that one day, the kids will leave home, and they will have nothing in common and no romantic relationship to fall back on. Often, this reasoning doesn’t do much to convince their wives, as I discuss in my podcast episode, “If You Ignore Your Husband For Decades While The Kids Are Young, He Will Not Be There To Reconnect With Later; Also, You May Not Care.”

When men say this, they are usually attempting to change what they perceive as the woman’s overfocus on the kids to the detriment of the marriage. Women think more about the kids than their husbands usually understand, and this is natural and normal (although can be excessive and harmful when taken to extremes). Therefore, they often respond with, “the kids are only young once, and we have our whole lives.”

To a large extent, this makes sense. Imagine if your wife told you that you shouldn’t have a career because at some point, your parents would die and you would likely inherit enough money to live on. (The plot, to some extent, of one of my favorite books.) How about if she told you that one day you would likely lose your ability to have an erection, so you should practice only using a sex toy on her and never having intercourse. In both scenarios, you are deferring current pleasure, fulfillment, and/or purpose for possible future semi-pleasure, keeping in mind that of course, you may be hit by a car before receiving the inheritance or getting to old age at all!

Remember, many women initiate divorce when the kids leave the house. This makes sense if the marriage is unhappy, as it is fairly dysfunctional and martyr-like to remain in a marriage that isn’t working for the entirety of your life, despite your kids being grown and gone. It may not be that bad of a thing in your wife’s eyes to remain together for the kids, focusing on them and the family unit, and then deal with whether the marriage is working or not once the kids are gone.

Telling your wife that she will regret a lack of focus on the marriage will also strike her as potentially extremely inaccurate. Most people know many older single women who are very happy and fulfilled with their lives, filling their days with work, hobbies, friends, and spending time with family. Many older women feel liberated from the demands of marriage after divorce, or even after widowhood. Women’s priorities often shift starting in their 40’s and certainly after menopause, along with their changed hormones. This means that they are less fulfilled by intimate relationships and caretaking, and are more fulfilled by focusing on their own interests and activities, as discussed here.

If your wife is close to any older female family members, she likely understands that her sex drive and focus on romantic partnership is likely to drop over time, and her interests will broaden beyond how her marriage is doing. The grandmother hypothesis is the evolutionary theory that women live longer than men in order to help with their grandchildren, which gives the grandchildren a higher rate of survival because they have one more “alloparent” (caregiver who isn’t the biological parent). This intrinsic drive is why women are often more involved grandparents than their husbands expect… or even than they expected to be before they saw the new baby!

How then can a man bring up his wife ignoring their romantic partnership without giving vague long term threats? As discussed in the below video, there is a much better motivator for women to work on their marriages while the kids are young…. the kids themselves! Biologically and evolutionarily speaking, a woman’s first priority is her kids, not her marriage. She can find another husband, or not, but her genetic material lives on through the kids. But many women who ignore their marital relationship do not realize, until we discuss this idea in couples counseling, that their disconnected marriage is the template that their kids are internalizing. Most women want their kids to be in loving and close marriages, but don’t realize that kids need to observe a loving marriage in order to have the skills to create one. Otherwise, they will replicate whatever dysfunctional dynamic they saw growing up, which I discuss here… and it’s divided for each gender here and here.

If this post resonated with you, understand that you and your wife may have very different ideas about the empty nester years (which you should discuss), but are likely on the exact same page about wanting your kids to develop the skills to be in a loving romantic relationship one day. Kids are happier when parents are more connected, and they learn what a reciprocal and close intimate partnership looks like. This can be your motivational speech to your wife to change her mind about the importance of working on your marriage while the kids are still at home, and it will resonate much more than some nebulous idea about future regrets that may be quite unlikely for her to ever to feel. And until we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, More Ways To Convince Her To Go To Couples Therapy Are Here And Here!
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