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Rethinking the Walk Away Wife Syndrome

Ms Darcy

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Reading through everyone's stories, imagining everyone's pain, I understand that it is a very difficult life event for a woman to walk away from a marriage (termed as "Walk Away Wife" Syndrome). I just wanted to share a personal story that might add a little more perspective to the discussion.


My sister and her husband had been married for ten years. They met in college, dated for three years, and got married when they graduated at age 21. They divorced about 6 months ago. I overheard my ex-brother in law referring to the situation as exemplifying the "Walk Away Wife" Syndrome and that was a real surprise to me.


From his perspective, things were going well. They have two little boys (5 and 3), a house, and a steady life. He didn't really understand what was so bad about the marriage, that he treated her very well (perhaps too well), and thought that it could have been worked out.


Now, my sister's perspective was VASTLY different. They had actually spent a couple of years in marital counselling where she asked him to take on more responsibilities around the house (without being nagged) and he didn't keep up with that. She stated, and the counsellor agreed, that he was pretty emotionally unavailable. He didn't have much to say for the most part and it took him days to process his feelings/discuss any issues. He never acted passionate/interested in her but he did open stare at other women in restaurants and on family outings. In fact, he had set up a trip to have an affair with another woman, a trip about which he had of course lied to my sister about for months. He decided to cancel the trip and told her the truth. And she was HUGELY upset. Unfortunately, he couldn't understand why she was angry since he had not gone through with it and told her about it.


At first she filed for Separation and then tried to work on issues. When she felt there was no change, she filed for Divorce. Now my sister, who had always seemed very prim and proper, seems to have emerged from her shell. She's not a partier by any means, but she does have girls nights once a week and is much more social/verbal than she had been in the past. She is more open with her sexuality and a more confident person.


Now I am not saying that she's typical of the so-called Walk Away Wife. She tried counselling for years. She tried to work on the marriage. And she certainly did not cheat, become a 'party girl' or abandon her family. She has just discovered new sides to herself. She changed careers, from nursing to teaching, and remains the primary caregiver of the children. I am very happy about the fact that they are still cordial and had zero drama with the divorce, child support settlements.


As she and I have discussed the situation, some main points come to mind:


-She had unmet needs (for romance, attention, support around the house, and more responsibility from him)

-She communicated those needs and they remained unmet

-She had to become the 'in charge' one as he's admittedly always been passive about everything

-They were unable to communicate honestly and intimately with each other

-She lost respect for him

-She fell out of love for him


This was years in the making and, mostly, it was a process that happened in silence. There were MAJOR hints, but he didn't hear them. So when she asked for the divorce, she was seriously done.


She tells me she wishes she had dated more as she has grown so much through the years and through raising kids. Once she had the kids and became a mom her priorities changed. Additionally, she realizes that she settled with him. It was more about getting married to a 'good enough' man than Mr. Right.


Perhaps this will resonate. Perhaps not. Just my thoughts.

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I think this sounds more like an unhappy marriage and proceeding divorce than a "Walk Away Wife".


I opened this b/c my husand's mother left the family with no notice when he was a child, my husband has forgiven her as only a child can forgive their parent but I never will.


What put into your head that your sister was a "walk away wife"?


I get the feeling that this post was in reaction to something hurtful you heard about your sister...

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Maybe that is what your ex-brother-in-law is telling himself and telling other people in order to make himself look and feel better. "Its not my fault, I provided her with everything and she walked away from me!"


You can`t really do anything about it though...

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Sounds about what my wife was going through in my marriage. She tried to tell me on many occasions, but I didnt listen. Then she cheated on me. And I dont really blame her although I dont agree with what she did. Im kind of thankfull for that though because it was a huge wake up call for me. Through the days following her revealing her affair to me I did a lot of self reflection as well as her telling me how I was not there. And she was right.


Although I did a lot of things around the house like all the cooking and some cleaning, when the kids went to bed, I went downstairs to the basement and played video games. And this went on for years. I became anti-social, I never wanted to do anything for her and I was only nice to her when I wanted sex. Rest of the time I was angry, and i didnt even know why.


After her revealing the affair I went to the doctors. I could not sleep, no appetite, I started to lose weight and had trouble concentrating at work. So he prescribed an anti-depressant, Zoloft to be exact. And man, what a difference. I started to become happy again, I quit the games and really started to be there for her. We spend all of our evenings together now.


Its been like 3 months since I found out and thank god she decided to give me another chance. She tells me now that she is falling in love with me again, that Im acting like I acted 10 yrs ago, when we were dating. I give her massages, we sit by the fire and just enjoy our company. Our sex life has never been better. We both please each other and she actually has desire to have sex with me now. Something that was also missing for years. We also started to go out together. Something that I have not done with her in a long time. We go to dinner, go dancing, and have a blast together, just like before. Im so happy now, its like we found each other all over again. Im sometimes even nervous around her like I was when we were dating.


Granted, she did cheat on me and sometimes my mind gets flooded with thoughts and emotions. and its hard for me to totally trust her again. But I did forgive her for it. It was a mistake on her part, and like I said, I didnt help the situation at all. she told me that she basically wrote me off and that she thought it was over. She told me that by her telling me she expected me to leave and never look back. She never expected a change to occur in the way I treated her. But I had to change for myself and her. Because you dont really know what you have until you're about to lose it.

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Hi MollyElise,


I think you missed the part where I said: "I overheard my ex-brother in law referring to the situation as exemplifying the "Walk Away Wife" Syndrome and that was a real surprise to me."


I am just saying that not everyone sees that term that same way.


I think that everything's worked out for the best and I have no ill will or bad feelings towards him whatsoever. I hope he finds someone again, and I'm sure he will. I hope the same for my sister!

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I think its interesting that women's behavior seems to be labelled with the word "syndrome" as if we have some sort of disorder or disease.


What do we call it when men divorce, "Found a more willing woman syndrome?" lol


Actually the term given by counselors is "Walkaway Spouse Syndrome" for it does happen with men.


Syndrome does not have to viewed with the negative connotations as implied here. It can be seen a pattern of behavior or having common threads.

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When I think of the term walk away wife I think of a wife (or husband) who wants out of the marriage because they feel that their needs are not met EVEN if the husband wants to make things right. The typical walk away wife will want out no matter what the other party says or does to improve...nothing is ever good enough and they are not willing to give the other spouse a chance to improve. They just want out.


As for your sister and her husband......he had it coming. Sounds like she was doing the right things with counseling and all but things were just not improving.

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Ms Darcy I could not have explained it better myself, everything you just said is exactly my situation and feelings. I am tired of feeling bad because I decided to end the marriage because I was tired of being taken advantage of,

tired of making all the decisions, including going to counselling which he never thought we "needed", tired of being the "man" in the relationship. I always felt "what do I need him for" , I do everything myself anyway....


Thank you so much again for explaining so well and I hope that some of the males on this point realize it's not EASY by any menas to walk away from a marriage no matter how miserable you are in it.

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I think the reason why it is called walkaway wife syndrome has to do with the fact that most divorces are initiated by women, and because of the financial incentives that exist for women when they choose to leave a relationship.


In many states, a woman will actually have more money if she leaves the marriage and shacks up with another guy. That is what makes men so angry... the finances make divorce a more attractive option than marriage, especially if multiple children are involved.


Marriage is two sided. Both sides need to give 100% in order for it to work. But, the government makes giving up more attractive for women than giving 100%.

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Thank you so much everyone for responding.


BabyBones and TheJigsUp, I think you two are saying exactly what my sister feels - that while her husband saw things from one perspective, there are always two sides of the story.


I agree that divorce is often very unfair. My bf has a pretty vindictive ex-wife and seeing his battles have given me a new sympathy for men with children in a lot of divorce cases.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm sorry you are going through what you are going through - I've read some of your posts thedaps. People are different and different people have different breaking points. It depends on how long someone has felt neglected, abused, or disconnected for whatever reason. Emotions are difficult to explain as they are so individual. Just try to remember that the 'rules of logic' don't always work in relationships.

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Stop trying, work on being yourself and comfortable with being alone. Then maybe the boat will come to you.


This seems to be the case, sometimes. A sliver less than 2 yrears ago, my wife left, we are divorced, and once I started straightening me out, and reclaiming myself, she is wanting to go slow and try things again. Saw each other twice in a year and a half, and she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with me ever again. Now we see each other every single day. It's slow, but we need to repair what we did, so I suppose it's understandable.


I had given up, and really started looking forward to life on my own, or with someone else, and *voila*, there she was.


Not trying to hijack, just thought I would say sometimes weird things happen, and your path may cross again. She seemed to be the encyclopedia definition of 'walk-away spouse syndrome'.

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She seemed to be the encyclopedia definition of 'walk-away spouse syndrome'.


There is a definition in the encyclopedia?

Just MHO, but it sounds like she realized you had really changed, and was willing to give the relationship a second chance. Thats a good thing right?

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There is a definition in the encyclopedia?

Just MHO, but it sounds like she realized you had really changed, and was willing to give the relationship a second chance. Thats a good thing right?


I certainly hope so, Chanter. As far as the definition, that was just a wise ass poke : ) I have learned alot from this, and the hardest part is not the separation/divorce, but to maintain my positive improvements. I think it was mentioned earlier that a separation might not be the worse thing in the world to endure if you learn from it. Truer words have never been spoken. Just maintain what you've learned... somewhat easier said than done, and even if it's not with your ex, then it will serve you in the future, regardless. But human nature being what it is...........

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"i say to the walkaway wife - try to open your heart and mind to your partners earnest changes"


I say to any spouse whose spouse walked away, take a look back. In some cases the departing partner begged, 'nagged', tried to communicate for months or years without feeling heard. To any partner not listening to their spouse, I say try to realize what you have and work on the relationship before it's gone.

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