Understanding ‘Walking Away’ as a Concept


  • There is a societal perception that the wife is always the one to walk away.
  • Fights get picked, in an effort to wear a spouse down to walk away.
  • Fear and expectations come into play.
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"Walking away from a relationship does not have a gender, nor does it have any predetermined scenario or specifications that the action needs to follow."

When a married person seeks a divorce from their spouse, it can look like they are walking away from their vows, their union, and their commitment. However, the personal details of the specific situation could tell a completely other story entirely.

Walking away gets ascribed to the wife in many marriages. Many psychologists and social workers describe it as ‘walkaway wife syndrome.’ Psychology Today said that walkaway wife syndrome is part of a larger emotional problem that exponentially grows worse over time.

Societal perception at play

Most of it stems from a concept that women tend to be the emotional caretakers of the early years of marriage. The idea is that she is the one prioritizing spending time together, having meaningful conversations, participating in shared activities, etc., and that when he is not reciprocating, she pursues him more vigorously, until she begins to notice all of the faults in their relationship and begins feeling unimportant.

After that, it spirals into planning an escape, which involves financial strategizing and finding scenarios that decreases the emotional impact of a possible separation or divorce. The unfortunate part is that no matter how much any spouse tries, the emotional impact will resonate and create a swift fallout.

This can just as easily occur in the opposite. A husband could be the emotionally nurturing one in a relationship and find themselves following the same path as what Psychology Today described walkaway wife syndrome to be. We, as a society, find ourselves building up and tearing down stereotypes regarding gender roles and how they affect interpersonal relationships. Walking away from a relationship does not have a gender, nor does it have any predetermined scenario or specifications that the action needs to follow.

Winter of discontent

In looking to walk away, many spouses may expedite the process by creating reasons to fight with their disconnected significant other. They are looking to wear out the other spouse, until they finally give up and walk away from the relationship entirely.

It causes many who employ this strategy to feel guilty for putting the other through that, instead of being honest about wanting out of the marriage.

Fear and expectation

Part of the reason that many employ various strategies to make the other person walk away is fear. A lot of people wonder if they, themselves, are in the wrong and they just cannot see it. They wonder if this is actually the person they are meant to be with, and they, themselves, are the ones messing up the relationship. They begin to question whether or not they have put forth all of the effort that they could into the relationship or have they been living with the expectation that the other spouse should be the one putting forth the effort, in both the home life or even in the relationship in general.

Expectations also play a part, in incentivizing behavior that makes people want to walk away from their marriages and divorce. When one spouse has an expectation for how their marriage should be and thinks of it in terms of ‘their’ marriage, their opposite’s spouse’s feelings and thoughts are not being considered. The opposite spouse has entered the marriage under the impression and with the expectation that there would be some sort of partnership, which is not occurring.

Children in the crossfire

Walking away can be especially difficult to either do or process when there are children involved. Emotions run high with children, as they try to process the absence of one of their parents and the dismantling of their familiar and safe familial dynamic.

Many are under the impression that the children will be better off in the long-run with the situation, which can be true, but that also requires getting to the ‘long-run.’ In the immediate present, this is a life-altering moment for the child or children involved. They do not necessarily fully grasp the concept of walking out and without the proper communication between a parent and child, regarding a separation or divorce, it can be difficult for them to understand.

Hard to understand

It can be difficult for the opposite spouse to understand. One minute, their spouse is in their house, in their marriage, in their life, and the next minute, they are gone. The lack of communication regarding the problems and concerns can be a source of frustration for the spouse left behind.

That being said, the spouse left behind does not always see the warning signs that indicate that their significant other is not happy. They don’t always notice the building frustration or the physical and emotional distance building; often times, because they don’t want to.

Walking away entails much more than just leaving a building. In an unhappy marriage, it is rarely one action that causes the end. It’s all of the little things, or the little inactions, that cause the action of walking away to occur. In understanding what it means to walk away, one can assess their options more thoroughly and give themselves the needed perspective to make an informed decision.

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