real life

How to predict the end of your marriage two years before it happens.

By: Steve Horsman for The Good Men Project. 

I thought I was all alone. I thought I was special.

But over the years my clients have proved me wrong. This happens nearly every day.

There is a very definite trend with marriages that end with the man left standing in shock and awe.

Didn’t see it coming.

How could she be so cold?

Wait! I can change!

We can fix this! Can’t we?


The alarming trend.

In almost every case where a woman has initiated divorce, I’ve discovered a common thread.  And when I present this information to a group of divorced women, they sheepishly nod in agreement.

The alarming trend is that nearly all of them knew they would be getting divorced about 24 months before it happened. The funny thing is they didn’t really know this consciously until the 2-year clock had run out.

I asked one of them, “How did you know?”

She said, “My heart just told me so.”

Is the beginning of the end so difficult to spot? (Source: iStock.)

She went on to explain about the time leading up to the start of the two-year warning clock. She said she was trying to communicate her feelings, her fears and her dreams.

She said she was feeling disappointed with their relationship, how they treated each other and the quality of their intimate life.

She said she felt more and more like she didn’t matter and wasn’t valued.

She wanted more connection, more love and more fun.

And she thought she was being as direct as possible in explaining it all to her husband. He just didn’t seem to hear it or want to hear it.


She felt like she started out in her marriage like a brightly lit office building bustling with hope and opportunity. But she slowly felt like the office lights were being turned off – one by one – every year another light.

By the time she got to the start of two-year warning clock period, she felt dark. She was checked out. Emotionally numb.

She was about to spend the next 2 years grieving the end of her marriage in quiet solitude.

But she was unprepared for the level of shock it would create in her husband.

How could he not see the darkness – the stillness – the sadness?

How can he just be starting his grief when she was finally finishing hers?

Listen to Lisa Wilkinson talk about Karl Stefanovic's divorce on No Filter with Mia Freedman.

Her two-year warning clock – is it ticking?

Once the clock starts ticking most husbands don’t see much difference. This is a problem because once it starts it is nearly impossible to stop it.

Money is getting made, bills are getting paid, dinner parties go on and the kids make their soccer games on time.

In the house the air is cool, matter of fact, businesslike and cordial.

In the bedroom there is still the routine of mostly lukewarm, obligatory and unsatisfying sex.

There is a little more distance and little more disdain showing up. But, it’s not alarming. It’s just a phase…he thinks.

She may be taking trips alone with mom or sister. Spending more time at work or with friends.

She is unusually spunky and happy when she is with her friends – or even the dog! But she’s still cool and detached in her own living room with him.

Her conversations are practical and functional. Oddly, she is less angry and has lowered her expectations. There may be fewer arguments than ever before.

Then, one day, out of grief, guilt or desperation…she will initiate lovemaking. And it will be pretty good.

Ahhh…”Everything must be okay.”…he thinks.


Whose fault is this?

I’m not blaming him and I’m not blaming her.

I’m just reporting the facts here. This trend is so pervasive it needs to be revealed.

It’s not just the husbands who feel clueless at the end of the ticking clock.

Most of the women I’ve talked to didn’t actually know it started. It just so happens that 24 months is about how long it takes most women to realise their heart has turned off. The lights are all off. They feel dark.


It’s easy to blame him for not knowing better or for not being more attentive.

And it’s easy to blame her for not being more open and communicative.

The truth is neither of them knew exactly what was happening until the clock ran out. And her heart spoke.

More fighting, more hurt. (Image: The Wolf of Wallstreet, Paramount Pictures)

What can you do with this information?

First of all, awareness is king.

Just knowing this gives you a leg up because it can help you start a conversation.

A REAL conversation full of scary, vulnerable feelings and nasty stuff like that.

Share this article with your partner – not as a threat, but as a dinner invitation.

Invite her/him to “turn some lights back on” in your relationship. Explain why you love her/him and how you dream about your next 10 years together.

Show her/him that you are willing to show all your cards and hold nothing back.

Inspire her/him to be vulnerable with you and to talk about the reality of your relationship and what you really want to create together.

Ask more questions than you give answers. Treat her/him like a first date.

It’s quite possible neither of you have gotten close to trying as hard as you need to.

Oh, and try to do this before the 2-year clock gets started.

It gets really hard after that.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

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