In Defense of Men

Underneath his mask of apathy, he wants to be a hero. I promise.

Underneath his mask of apathy, he wants to be a hero. I promise.

Men aren’t so bad.

We lead nations. Win wars. Build skyscrapers.

We fix things. Protect things. Create things.

We are often calm. Rarely petty. Good problem solvers.

All men want to be heroes.

I’ve written a series of blog posts titled “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands.” There are four parts so far. I published Vol. 4 yesterday, and it is far and away the most-popular thing I’ve written.

Predictably, unhappy wives are drawn to it. It makes sense that they would be.

Marriage—or at least, relationship—trouble is unquestionably the human ailment that affects more adults than any other thing in the world.

And that makes sense, too. We are attracted to others. We find each other. Pair up. The honeymoon period is always awesome.

Then monotony sets in. And that’s when we learn about ourselves and our relationships.

That’s when we learn whether we’re going to let our feelings dictate our actions, or whether we’re going to let our decisions and resolve dictate them.

Many guys have commitment issues. When conversations involving “love” or “marriage” come up, lots of men run away.

I don’t like labels!” they might say.

I can’t explain this phenomenon. I can only share my experience.

I was afraid to commit to someone for the rest of my life, too. And then finally, I was in a relationship with my ex-wife, who I met when I was 18 and started dating when I was 21.

She was the first woman toward whom my fear of losing was greater than my fear of losing independence.

I proposed to her when I was 24. We were married a year later.

When men first get married, they have no idea what they’re doing. A small percentage of us figure it out and grow into the role. Most of us don’t. And we end up divorced, or with miserable wives.

When men first get married, they think they’re simply signing up for a permanent girlfriend. That what they’re experiencing in that moment is how it will always be. They’re simply agreeing to never have sex with anyone else again.

They don’t have any clue what is required of them to make a marriage work.

They stand in the reception line at their own wedding accepting little bits of marriage advice from the old timers walking through, smiling and nodding politely, and agreeing to always love and cherish her, but they’re not really listening.

They just want to go party with their friends.

The Ultimate Denial

It’s easy to point fingers at the dicks. The obvious dicks. The guys who physically abuse. The serial cheaters. The guys who go out with their friends and get drunk while their wives stay home raising children alone.

Men see guys like that and think: How bad can I really be!?!? At least I’m not like those losers. My wife is lucky to have me!

We’re in denial, you see.

Because we mean well. We have hearts. We care. We love. We are well-intentioned. We really, truly do love you more than anyone or anything else in the entire world. We would take a bullet for you. Run through fire for you.

You are why we go to work every day. In many instances, you are the very reason we live and breathe.

You give us something every man needs—purpose.

You validate our existence and give our lives meaning.

We feel this through every fiber of our being. Our brains are almost incapable of understanding how you don’t know it also.

Here’s why this is important: We—I shit you not—DON’T KNOW that we hurt you as badly and as deeply as we do.

They are accidental wounds.

I know what you’re thinking, ladies: “But Matt! I tell him over and over and over and over and over and over and over again! But nothing ever changes!”

You don’t want to hear this, but it’s true.

He thinks you’re crazy and overly emotional.

He thinks you’re crazy because he loves you more than anything and you’re suggesting that despite all of his sacrifices on behalf of your relationship, that he doesn’t.

He thinks you’re overly emotional because he’s a man. And men think that overly emotional = chemically imbalanced.

Men think calm is better than crazy.

Men think steadiness is better than overly emotional.

Men think the way they feel and experience the world is the way women feel and experience the world also, only women don’t handle it as calmly and coolly as they do. (I realize I’m making broad generalizations here. I understand there are always exceptions. But I do believe this covers most of us.)

When we love you more than anything and have mostly positive experiences with our friends. With our co-workers. With people we meet out in the world. With our other family members.

It’s nearly impossible for us to understand how we—the men who love you and swore off all others to be with you—can be your greatest source of pain and frustration.

It’s hurtful and discouraging to hear you say it.

And in the end, we don’t believe it. Because it doesn’t make sense to us.

It doesn’t make sense when everyone likes us except you. In our minds, you must be the problem.

Shame, Shame, Shame

The worst thing a woman can do to a man is make him feel ashamed.

In the end, all of the accusations, all of the sadness and hurt feelings wives report to their husbands, cause men to withdraw.

Women confuse this reaction with selfishness. With apathy. As a display of not loving a wife enough to validate her concerns.

It’s shame, ladies.

You have, probably without trying, just made your spouse feel inadequate. Like he’s not good enough.

He wakes up every day, goes to work to provide for you and any children that may exist. And all he wants is for you to feel proud of him. To respect him. To appreciate that he does this for you every day.

But you don’t feel proud of him. You feel like going to work is the bare minimum. You don’t respect him because you don’t feel like he respects you. You don’t appreciate him because he REALLY doesn’t appreciate how much of a load you carry.

In the end, he feels shame. Deep shame.

And all of the chemicals in his body—just as you have chemicals in yours—cause him to withdraw. Survival mechanism we inherited from our earliest ancestors.

Shame is at the root of most relationship problems. A silent relationship assassin.

And if I can sell unhappy wives on just one teeny, tiny thing, I hope I can sell you on the idea that you can help change your entire marriage by doing just ONE thing.

Always phrase your frustrations and fears in such a way that can’t be interpreted as: “You are the reason my life is shitty. I blame you for all of my problems. All that you do is not good enough.”

Because you simply can’t save your marriage communicating with him that way.

If you do, his shame will grow. He’ll withdraw further. And maybe that girl at the office that makes him feel sexy and brilliant and tells him so will poison your relationship even more, just as your fantasies about the other men in your life who don’t make you feel shitty like your husband does, poison it also.

I feel shame in ways I can’t articulate.

That I don’t make more money. That I’m not more attractive. That I’m not in better shape. That I’m not smarter. That I’m not funnier. That I couldn’t make the woman I love happy. That I have to tell people I’m divorced. That my five-year-old son has a fractured family because of my choices. That I don’t manage my life responsibly. That I procrastinate. That I do a poor job communicating with friends and family. That I’m selfish.

It’s darkness. On the inside. Potent darkness.

And it makes my daily pursuit of inner peace and happiness an incredible challenge.

Ladies, Men Are Not Your Enemy

Besides infidelity (which I believe happens mostly because people don’t know how to treat their spouses in the first place), the worst thing a man can do to a woman is abandon her emotionally.

I’m going to repeat this for any guys who might be reading.

Gentlemen, your greatest crime is leaving your wife alone in your relationship.

But Matt! I’m home every night! We have dinner together and sleep in the same bed every single night!”

She feels emotionally detached. I know you don’t understand that. It’s not your fault. You’re a guy. You won’t know what that feels like until she turns into Robot Spouse and completely shuts you out before starting her affair or leaving you. Please believe me when I tell you that you won’t like how that feels.

Being physically present isn’t the same as being emotionally and spiritually present.

Does this sound dumb to you? Like girl talk?

This is the difference between having a happy and satisfying life and marriage, and being a grumpy old man who lives sad and alone.

Basically, in terms of your time on Earth, this is the most-important lesson there is.

You need to treat your relationship with her as you would a project at work, as you would a strategy session on the football or battlefield, as you would any of the many problems you solve all the time. Because that’s what you are. A good problem solver.

And if she says your relationship is in trouble, I implore you to believe her. It’s so easy for you to believe everything is fine because your emotional needs are fewer than hers. So, you shrug her off. Everything’s fine! you tell her. Everything will work itself out! you tell yourself.

Everything WILL NOT work itself out.

FIFTY. PERCENT. DIVORCE. RATE.

You don’t think it’s going to be you. But it is. It is you.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Because you care. You DO love. She does matter to you.

Love your wife enough to admit you hurt her by accident. Believe her when she says it hurts. Then adjust. Adapt.

And ladies, I’m begging you to accept the truth that your husband loves you and—literally—is oblivious to the pain he causes. His chemical makeup prevents him from feeling what you feel, until he gets a taste of it himself.

I did. I got a heaping spoonful of it.

Changed my life.

But usually, once you go down that road, there’s no turning back.

I don’t know how to help you make him understand the pain he causes. To help you convince him to adjust his behavior in ways that will enhance and fortify your relationship.

I’d essentially be able to print money if I could solve that mystery.

But I do know this: You can be part of the solution. Part of this effort to make the world a better place by keeping families together.

And you can do so by believing the following:

  1. He loves you. Perhaps not how you want and need him to. But in his mind and heart, he loves you.
  2. He doesn’t understand that he hurts you. All the pain he’s causing is purely accidental. It’s NOT intentional. It doesn’t matter that you’ve told him 14 million times. You might as well have been speaking a foreign language. He doesn’t know. Please operate from that place when you’re talking to him, or about him.
  3. You can be part of changing your marriage and communication overnight by working REALLY hard at not making him feel ashamed. He doesn’t have any inadequacies that every other man on the planet doesn’t also have. Our DNA is all remarkably similar. Our shittiness just looks and feels different from guy to guy. But we all lack something.
  4. There is no human on the face of this Earth with whom you won’t have conflict. The hot guy at the coffee shop. The co-worker who flirts with you and makes you feel good. The guy writing on the Internet that really seems to understand how you feel. They are all human. Flawed. Selfish. Prone to mistakes. The grass is not greener over there. It’s not.

I believe in men.

We have exceptional guys in this world who don’t need help. And we have some guys that will never learn.

But the 90 percent in the middle?

They’re just human beings learning life lessons every day like the rest of us.

I don’t believe in unsolvable problems. And part of that reason is because I’m a man.

The man in your life probably doesn’t believe in unsolvable problems either.

Please fight for him.

Because underneath all that shame is a man who wants to do something heroic.

What’s a better story?

The one about the unhappy wife who ended up remarried to a divorced guy who’s only a better man because he experienced the agony of divorce also?

Or, the one about the unhappy wife who found a way to reach her husband? To touch his heart. His mind. And helped him grow. To become enlightened. Who watched him grow into the man she believed she was marrying in the first place.

The one about forgiveness. The one about redemption. The one about hope.

The one with the happy ending.

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54 thoughts on “In Defense of Men

  1. seattlegraphix says:

    I’ve thought a lot about this. And really – this comment is only directed at the last paragraph. When is enough enough? In your last paragraph – you state that there are 2 options. A woman finds a new man – who’s also been through the agony of divorce.. vs the alternative where she reaches her husband and their marriage makes it to a new, higher level where maybe happiness is also achieved. But here’s the thing I wrestle with. As someone who was a devoted wife for 10 years – when do you throw in the towel? I know for me, it came down to the straw that broke this camel’s back. My marriage didn’t end over infidelity like yours did, for me, my marriage started to unravel after the death of my son, and the last straw was my ex driving drunk with my children in the car, and watching him lose himself to something I couldn’t help with. No matter how hard I tried. I wrestle with guilt over my decision to walk away. In my heart, I believe that marriage is forever. But how long is too long to continue to work to solve something when both parties aren’t actively trying to solve it? Just as you’ve said – eventually – you become Robot Wife. How do you recover from that? Just a ramble to add to your blog today – sending you a hug!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      A fair question.

      I have many friends in troubled marriages facing this very thing.

      When is it the point of no return? I don’t know. We can’t know a person’s heart.

      I don’t know how to make a beautiful painting. But I know what a beautiful painting looks like.

      I don’t know how to make a man love his wife and work on his marriage, but I think I could recognize it if I saw it.

      Marriage takes two. If it’s only one, and the other is never going to do his or her part, it’s over. It is. I agree.

      I was pleading for the men like me. Who wanted it to work. And was sincerely putting in the effort.

      They deserve a chance to grow and love and save their family.

      Also, I can’t prove infidelity in my marriage. She moved out on a Monday. I found out about the other guy 10 days later. But I don’t care. They both feel the same. Just wanted to clarify that one point.

      Thank you for the hug! :)

      Like

  2. Thank you. I have posted this one on my facebook and re-blogged/ pressed this. Sigh. I stayed 20 years in a marriage relationship that was very similar to the one you wrote about in Vol 4. I would have stayed another 20 years though, because deep down I loved the man, flaws, emotional neglect and all. I would have died of liver failure and miserable, but I was determined to stay married. In the end he felt life was better without me and told me to leave. Four months after I left, he got a new model. I feel sorry for her because he won’t change. He will be great the first few years, but then re-runs, video games and beer runs will be more important than him spending time with her. I’d almost like to warn her… almost.

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    • Matt says:

      I wish I knew what to say.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, certainly.

      I know what it feels like to be replaced. And it’s horrible.

      Unlike you, though, that relationship ended very quickly. That’s mostly a good thing for my son and personal sanity. But it also makes my marriage feel cheaper than ever.

      I’m so sorry a 20-year marriage ended. What a good run you had.

      Like

      • I apologize; December seems to be the worst month for me to ruminate about my failed marriage. I am quite the miserable woman right now. But hey, I am an optimist and I know things will get better. Matt, you will make a great boyfriend or husband next time around! I can only wish I can improve myself enough so when I get into another relationship down the road, I won’t shame my next man. I have to say, no matter how much I told him he was worthy, he didn’t feel it. I never did find his love language. I am a Interpersonal Communication major. And I still don’t know how to communicate in such a way that makes him feel like he is a good man. I have to add, some men (and women) will never feel good about themselves. It (self esteem and feeling that you love yourself warts and all) come within. If you feel like you are a shitty person, you will believe it no matter what your girlfriend/ spouse says to you, does for you, no matter how many times a week she makes love to you, can do. I couldn’t change his mind. I believe because he hold that close and believes he isn’t worthy, he will take it into this new relationship. It’ll last a while, until she gets fed up of trying and leaves him.

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        • Matt says:

          No need to apologize. I’m right there with you.

          I can’t believe how fresh something feels that happened eight months ago.

          And yeah. The holidays are doing the opposite of helping.

          Thank you for your kind words. I’d like to think there’s hope for me yet.

          Maybe someday. I keep waking up every day hoping today’s the day something great happens.

          One of these days, I’m going to be right.

          I wish the same for you.

          Like

  3. suzjones says:

    Wonderfully written insight into the mind of a man. 17 years tomorrow I have been with the love of my life but it took a failed (and emotionally abusive) marriage to another for me to truly appreciate just how wonderful some men could be.
    It’s true, men and women are wired differently and all are painted with a different brush.
    Wishing you luck for your future. :)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you so much for saying this.

      I am THRILLED that you’re celebrating 17 years! Congratulations!

      So much sadness lives in the contents and comments section of this blog.

      Thank you for sharing a little joy. :)

      Like

      • suzjones says:

        You are so very welcome. There is beauty all around us. Often times we find it in the opposite sex but we need to remember that even roses have thorns. You take the good with the bad. (That said there is never an excuse for infidelity, abuse and neglect).

        Like

  4. Jessica says:

    I am the exact woman you are aiming this blog at. I am so guilty of pointing the finger at my husband. While I accept that there are things I need to work on as well, I don’t adopt those changes nearly as quickly as I expect him to. I am very quick to tell him what he’s doing wrong, how he hurt me, how he needs to change, etc…

    Reading you write what it does to a man hearing those things, will make me rethink it next time. In my head, I feel like laying into him about everything I don’t like about him is going to help him. However, I think I’ve now realized that I’m just pounding him further into this little pile of the man he used to be, that I’ve torn down with these words ;-/

    I think you have a new follower. Your words are powerful, Matt, whether you realize it or not.

    Thank you. A million times, thank you,
    Jessica

    Like

  5. Oh.. it’s going to be good ;-) I’m kidding. It’s going to be dull, I’m sure haha

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  6. I’m guilty of something. I’ve searched myself, looked at my flaws and have tried really hard to make some kind of change that I just can’t seem to capture. I’m divorcing. She’s just not happy in our marriage. I love her but I can’t do anything.

    I’ve never hit her, cussed her out, cheated, or even called her out of my name. The thing I am guilty of is failure to meet some kind of emotional expectation or thing that I just can’t seem to get right.

    I’m not perfect but I swear I have tried to be the best husband I can. I’m the man you speak of in this blog.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Believe me when I tell you that I’m under the distinct impression you’re a good man and an infinitely better husband than I ever was.

      People quit. It takes two. And sometimes, people quit.

      And I’m sorry that it’s happening to you. And I’m sorry that it’s happening to your children.

      Love is a choice. And for reasons even you don’t understand, she has made the choice to not love you every day.

      I wish I could help with that sting. I can’t.

      I can only offer the not-so-helpful promise that I understand what that feels like.

      And my unwavering faith that good, honest, decent people, in the end, will find happiness.

      Like

  7. Sofia Leo says:

    “Or, the one about the unhappy wife who found a way to reach her husband? To touch his heart. His mind. And helped him grow. To become enlightened. Who watched him grow into the man she believed she was marrying in the first place…The one with the happy ending.”

    Yeah. I wasted 25 years (3 separate men) doing everything I could to support their dream of being a hero, shouldering everything but their jobs (when they had them, that is) hoping and praying that I would be able to reach them some day, if I only tried hard enough. I believed it was my sacred duty to help them find love and joy and happiness, to help them grow into the men they thought they were. I was raised to believe it, society’s message to that effect is everywhere and I thought that I would some day have my Happy Ending.

    You know what? They drank up all of my positive energy, every “atta boy!” I threw their way until I was drained, body, soul and bank account, and damn near lifeless. I deliberately avoided shaming them, but they did not hesitate to shame me for real and imagined slights. I went above and beyond what any sane person would do to try to get through to them, and in the end I realized that the men I pick don’t want a partnership. They want domination. True, it’s my fault for falling for their lies, for believing that there’s something good in every person and perhaps I just misunderstood that comment – he didn’t really just say that, did he? and on and on.

    The message that it’s a woman’s duty to stand by her man and “help him to grow” because he isn’t wired to think like we do can be very damaging to an impressionable woman – we sacrifice everything when we think there’s a Happy Ending at the end of the long, hard road. We put up with physical abuse, infidelity, emotional abuse and wear ourselves to the bone for that little thing called “hope.”

    I think your portrayal of men as creatures who don’t know they hurt the women they love above everything else is doing men and women everywhere a disservice. There are plenty of men (and women, too) who know exactly what they’re doing when they hurt their partner.

    You are also painting men as pretty simple creatures – they (you) can’t understand when their partner says, “that comment really hurt my feelings?” Even if you don’t understand why, surely you care enough to stop doing it already!

    Mixed message on this post…

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I wanted to wait a bit to reply to this. I wanted to choose my words carefully. Type exactly what I mean.

      1. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with three men. It doesn’t sound to me like those were the type of men I’m describing here.
      2. Of course there are plenty of men who know they’re intentionally hurting women. I’m trusting the wives reading to recognize the difference.
      3. I can only write through the prism of my experiences. I’ve never had three men mistreat me before.
      4. This messy-human-relationship stuff is not one-size-fits all. We’re all unique. We all have individual challenges, circumstances, life experiences, motivations, etc.
      5. I stand by what I’ve written here as a broad generalization written to women like my ex-wife who were married–at times, unhappily–to men like me. I believe there are A LOT of people like this out there. And I believe they can make their marriages work.
      6. Men who intentionally seek out opportunities to hurt their spouses don’t deserve to be married to them. You seem to be suggesting that because a man repeated a mistake that that’s what he was doing. If he was, he’s scum. If he wasn’t, AND he’s loved? He deserves to be worked with. Physical abuse? Infidelity? I did not defend those things here. Not one time. I’m talking about emotional abandonment. I thought that was pretty clear.
      7. And lastly, I will NEVER abandon hope. Ever. The alternative is cynicism. Hopelessness. The absence of ever having something to look forward to. I won’t live like that. And it’s irresponsible to tell people–no matter how unhappy their lives may be–that this is all there is. That the horribleness that engulf their hearts and minds is as good as it’s ever going to get. If they have a truly horrible partner, the future without them represents hope. If they have a partner with a heart. That cares about truly maximizing a partnership with the person they exchanged vows with?

      Then, yeah. Forgiveness. Redemption. Choosing to love. Hope.

      All of that. That’s what it takes.

      If every relationship ends every time someone gets hurt, then there will NEVER be any relationships.

      Being an adult is hard. And maybe it always will suck for the rest of my life.

      That truth won’t change whether I’m angry and cynical, or whether I’m cheerful and optimistic.

      And despite feeling worse than I have ever felt about myself in my entire life, I wake up every day and choose hope.

      And I hope everyone else will too.

      Because there is no reason today can’t be the day that the best thing that ever happened to you, happens.

      Like

      • Sofia Leo says:

        1. I made some terrible decisions and I own that I allowed each relationship to go on much longer than it should have, but I really wanted my marriages to work – each time I really believed it was For Ever. I was All In, dedicated to making it work.

        2. The trouble is that it’s impossible in many cases to know the difference between a man who doesn’t have a clue and a liar who pretends to be a man without a clue. I’m afraid that all you good guys without clues (90% Really?) are not thick on the ground here, but liars and manipulators are. They’re stacked three deep everywhere I look, it seems. All too often the wife is the last to know who her husband really is.

        3. Of course. We all filter what we believe through our own prisms – nothing at all wrong with that! I believe it makes us richer and more interesting as people when we are different and can compare and discuss, have a Real Conversation.

        4. We are all different, but you’re saying that 90% of your sex are essentially the same…

        5. I agree – if both parties want a relationship to work, nothing can stop them. When one checks out, though, that is the end, even if it comes years later.

        6. “If he wasn’t, AND he’s loved? He deserves to be worked with.” Here’s where you and I disagree. Provided he is not intellectually damaged, any man (or woman – it goes both ways) is capable of learning what his spouse likes and what hurts her. A man who loves his wife is going to recognize that he’s hurt her and take action to avoid it in future. If she comes right out and says something like, “when you raise your voice at me it hurts my feelings and I can’t continue with the conversation or project,” (totally pulled from my own experience – something I said over and over that has more back story than we have space here) that is a very precise description of something he does that hurts her; it’s not subjective at all and he should be able to internalize what she said and do something in future to avoid causing that particular hurt again. If it continues for YEARS, what is she supposed to think? I mean, how long does it take for something like that to sink into 90% of the male population’s brains?

        7. I have not abandoned hope. I am perhaps a bit cynical, but since my picker is defective, I’ve taken it offline and resolved to make my own happiness. Being an adult is hard, no denying it. Feelings get hurt every day and it doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship.

        That said, I’ve been single for almost a year. It’s going really well. I think I’m the one :-)

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Thank you for this thoughtful response.

          90 percent? I don’t know. Maybe I’m being overly generous.

          And yeah. There are A LOT of selfish, broken people out there.

          I don’t know what to say. I’m overly defensive and was inclined to defend my writing–which I hope you can believe has good intentions behind it.

          I hope you’ll continue to tell me when you think I’ve got it wrong. Despite my sensitivity and defensiveness, I care very much about growing. And I don’t think people grow when they’re not exposed to other people’s thoughts, feelings and life experiences.

          I appreciate you sharing yours. Very much.

          And I’m thrilled you’re still smiling through the tough times.

          Hope, indeed.

          Like

      • Sofia Leo says:

        I don’t think you’re “wrong” at all, I simply view life through a red prism, where yours is (perhaps) green and we see things a bit differently. Sweeping generalizations are a dangerous thing – we all like to say, “Hey! What about this! Or how about that! You’re wrong, Sucka!” because there’s an obnoxious 6-year-old inside us screaming to get out :-) Or is that just me?

        Your writing is wonderful and you have a message that I very much want to read – no need to defend yourself, I just wanted to present a different point of view. Believe me when I say that if I had met just one of you 90% (instead of the losers and liars) we would still be together and he would be the happiest man alive :-)

        Since being on my own, every day is beautiful, even when things go sideways or even clean off the rails. There is always hope. Unless you’re living with a narcissist :-)

        Like

  8. “Here’s why this is important: We—I shit you not—DON’T KNOW that we hurt you as badly and as deeply as we do.” Matt, I’m addicted to your writing!!!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Cool?

      Sometimes I write about drug use in college. Or how I never have sex. Or how I hurt my friend’s feelings because I wrote about their personal lives and then they never talked to me again. Or how my five-year-old son exposed his penis to classmates in the school bathroom right as a teacher walked in. Or fifty other random things.

      We’ll see how addicted you are after you read some of that crap.

      :)

      In the meantime, I’ll just feel flattered and try to enjoy the super-nice comment. Thank you so much.

      Like

  9. Matt — you know that book you were talking about writing? I think you’ve started writing it.

    Like

  10. iptw283 says:

    Reblogged this on impossibletopredict and commented:
    This. Again.
    His last two posts feel like they were written for me and my husband.

    Like

  11. iptw283 says:

    I am this woman (like many others). I am miserable. I am ready to give up. I read this and vol 4 of the shitty husbands series (actually I read them all eventually) and I feel as though there might be a glimmer of hope if I can stomach the search for it. I forwarded my husband the link to vol 4 and this post. This is what I’ve been trying to get out of my head for years. I feel a bit sheepish to admit it because, let’s be honest, it’s not like your words are complex. I’m not sure if it’s how you write them or maybe I’m over complicating the situation? Regardless, I very much appreciate your writing and your honesty. Your posts could not have come at a more perfect time in our miserable and failing marriage. I love your messages and I very much look forward to reading your blog. It also gives me hope that not all men are clueless ;)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I wish I had more to say to you than “I’m sorry.” But that’s all I’ve got.

      Thank you for the compliment of sharing the writing and for feeling as if it mattered enough to you to use as a tool in your personal life.

      It’s incredibly flattering. And my prayer is that it night help in some small way.

      Appreciate you reading so much.

      Like

      • iptw283 says:

        His reaction to your posts were far from what I expected. He is the man that feels him working 90 hours a week and providing beyond what we need financially should be enough for me and the kids to be happy. True. However money has never bought me happiness and I’ve said a million times I’d give it all up in a heartbeat if it meant I could have my best friend be my husband. I didn’t know that comment hurt him like it did. He would never tell me. We are all he works for and I’m telling him it’s not good enough. So he works harder. And still…. not good enough. Work is all he knows and I just want a husband and wants to be a husband.

        He very much liked reading your post. This very unusual for him to do, let alone tell me about it. And after that he thanked me for sending them to him.

        I guess, perhaps, he just needed an anonymous man’s opinion to validate his feelings as a husband. Life is full of oddities :)

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I’m incredibly grateful for you sharing this story.

          And for you trying to understand that he displays love differently than you might prefer, but it doesn’t mean it’s not genuine love.

          And for him caring enough about your lives together to pause and read the ramblings of some asshole on the Internet.

          It really hurts when it all falls apart. Like, fundamentally changes you on the inside.

          I don’t want other people to ever feel that. I don’t want children to grow up alternating Christmases with their moms and dads.

          It just doesn’t have to be that way.

          Like

  12. Hi again, Matt,

    I don’t know why I’ve deemed you as my “go to” guy for this, but you are.

    My husband read all of your shitty husband blogs. He said it opened his eyes, a lot. I was hopeful. Until last night, 10 hours after reading them.

    This is just an example of the absurd fights we get in, pointless, stupid fights:

    Long story short; we were hanging curtains and curtain rods. One of them wasn’t the right size for the window, so we agreed to move the curtain rod into a different room. I asked him nicely (since I don’t do heights and he was hanging them), to please remove the brackets so we could move them into the other room with the rods and curtains. He instantly started arguing with me about it. I asked him to just please remove them and he proceeded to argue about why we didn’t need to move them, we could just use other ones, they don’t need to match, they’ll probably fit, why can’t we just try his way first. More arguing about stupid curtain rods went on, until I finally lost my shit, storming off, telling him I didn’t want to look at him.

    TEN hours after a very heart-felt conversation about fixing our marriage, he starts an argument over curtain rods. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but this is our daily life.

    How should someone handle this? How would YOU want this to be handled? What would have gotten through to YOU?

    I’ve just kind of left him alone this morning, as I don’t want to get into anything with him right now. I don’t want to attack him, this isn’t a fight I want to have or feel it’s even a reasonable fight to have. It’s stupid. I feel stupid for writing this. He knows I can’t leave it alone, that’s the problem. It’s easy to say “well just don’t argue back”. I have a hot Irish temper, I have since we started dating, he knows this. So why “poke the bear” if you know it’s going to turn into something stupid? Why can’t man just say “yes dear” when they’re asked to do something?

    Jessica

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Well, first. I would never encourage a man to just say: “Yes, dear” anytime his wife or girlfriend asked him to do something.

      I believe in doing whatever the smartest thing–or best practice–is in any given situation. (I don’t do that. Ideal Matt would, though.)

      I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t have agreed with him about the curtain rod brackets without being there.

      But that’s really beside the point.

      Your point is: Why do we fight about stupid things?

      Great question. 97 percent of every fight I ever had with my spouse is over something I’d deem insignificant in the grand scheme of life. I have no idea why, because I HATE fighting and would have liked to have avoided it.

      People roll there eyes at this–I know I have before–but I think the WAY we speak to one another has more to do with the way we react than anything. I think kind, gentle tones go a very long way.

      So not: “Will you take down those brackets and put them up in the other room?” with a tone.

      But: “I’m sorry about this. I know it’s not fun. But will you please take those down and put them in the other room for me?” while you do that cute thing with your mouth.

      But here’s the real problem–you don’t want to do the cute thing with your mouth because you’re deeply angry with him right now. And even if you did, he might not respond because you guys are at that scary place in a marriage where you either fix it, fall apart, or agree to live in quiet misery for the rest of your lives.

      You’re not really mad at him about the curtain rods.

      You’re mad at him about a thousand things between the day you’ve met and right now.

      The curtain rod thing wouldn’t have phased you the first week you were together–nor would he have fought you on it.

      The problem is the deterioration of your relationship. It doesn’t make you weird. It just makes you like almost every other married couple in the world.

      Connect on the inside. Connect in the bedroom.

      Then you won’t disconnect when you’re doing home-improvement projects.

      He’ll need to buy in. You’ll both need to give more than you take.

      Sprinkle in a little Christmas magic, and who knows what the new year might bring.

      Prayers and positive thoughts for you and your family, Jessica. Thank you for the compliment of thinking my opinion matters.

      Like

  13. Reblogged this on soulfoodwords and commented:
    Matt’s Response to Vol’s 1-4. I’ve only re-blogged Vol. 4 and this one. Visit his site at mustbethistalltoride.com Matt is a great writer. He is going through the divorce process aftermath, trying to make sense of it all.

    Like

  14. Jack Chaser says:

    I truly hope you don’t get too much negative feed back from the legions of man haters that seem to proliferate the blogging world my brother for you have hit the nail on the head.

    We all dream of being heroes. Far too often when you are the villain of the story at home you end up looking to be a hero some where else. I know I did and paid the price for it.

    You have very succinctly pointed out the flaws in a sociological system that views us all the same way. Women are programmed to see us as damaged goods that only they can fix.

    Your work here is brilliant and an eye opening pleasure to read.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Thank you.

      I think the one thing that will help men and women not ruin their lives is the realization that they are radically different from one another.

      Not necessarily good and bad. Just, different.

      Men shouldn’t treat women like men.

      Women shouldn’t treat men like women.

      Once both sides figure it out, a lot of good can come from it. That’s my hope anyway.

      I read your post about the sunbathing cougar.

      Were you really thinking about pulling the trigger before you saw the pubic-hair forest?

      Just curious.

      Like

  15. mel says:

    Book Title: “How not to be a shitty husband”
    Author: Matt…

    :) Probably should reflect on that title, but I’d buy it….
    (It’s nice to see so many new commenters, I’m guessing your blog is blowing up!)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Perhaps!

      The Open Letter to Shitty Husbands Vol. 4 post got WIDELY circulated, relative to what most of my posts do.

      Spread around Facebook and reblogged a number of times.

      So, yeah, a lot of new eyeballs in the past 72 hours. A lot more than usual.

      Which is nice. And terrifying. :)

      I really am thinking about that book, Mel. Maybe next year I’ll start throwing ideas on paper.

      It’s really nice that you think I’m good enough to pull it off. Thank you.

      Like

      • mel says:

        Of course you are! You are an amazing writer, and your ability to help other people through your words HERE… I’m positive you’d help many more via a book. Plus, I think it makes you feel good about yourself. And I think you really need that…

        Like

  16. daytightliving says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with any of what you wrote.

    The issue I have is something that arose in some angsty discussions with my now ex-husband.

    This inborn need to feel like a hero (which I think it’s more accurate to define as feeling like a “man”) is something that can be supported but not necessarily stoked by the women in one’s life.

    I’m in a very unique position in that according to all the books I’ve read, and there are MANY, I operated emotionally as a male in my marriage and my husband operated as the female. In every single account I’ve read, I indentify with the male feelings, behaviors and expectations with one glaring exception. And that is the need to feel like a man.

    Here’s my beef. A man’s got to feel it in his own right, and seek it and stoke it by way of his own hard work and accomplishments. Feeling like a man is deeply rooted in pride and, I daresay, in the ability to provide for and protect one’s family. I realize that sounds archaic and weird. But I think it’s dead on.

    I needed my husband to be a man without me, to stand on his own two feet and be a man because that’s what men do. It wasn’t that I didn’t adore him or want to feel proud of him. What I needed was for him to bound out of bed when a noise went bump in the night instead of rolling over and mumbling something about me going to check it out.

    When things started going badly and we had one of many big blowups, I made a cutting remark about him not behaving like a man. Because I realized too late that a man was what I needed. And his response was that I didn’t make him feel like one. I’m very sorry but you’ve got to do it and feel it for yourself. It’s not something you can depend on a woman for.

    And before anyone jumps on my case and says I’m a man-hater and asking for too much … I have found the most amazing alpha male who walks the planet. He’s fearless, authoritative, deliberate yet quick, exceptionally intelligent and quietly strong. His presence is absolutely magnetic, although in today’s world he wouldn’t necessarily be considered attractive by most women. He’s shorter than me and balding, with a face and body that bear the physical scars of an unforgiving profession, a hard life and of true suffering and conflict most people can’t even imagine.

    But he is beautiful to me. And ALL man, 500%, and without any ego-stroking from me. He thankfully was raised with an incredible work ethic and he’s supremely conscious of his role as a man, a partner and a father. And it is THIS amazing combination of qualities that make him irresistible to me. I don’t see other men anymore. They don’t even exist. He is it.

    It’s because he accepts his responsibilities as the man in our relationship that I’m free and able to adore and emotionally support him the way I do. There is no pestering him to pick up after himself or get things done or anything like that. Those are simply not conversations we have because he’s a responsible adult who keeps his promises, thinks of other people first and who doesn’t need a mother. I think I strayed once into mothering territory with him and his response was to very quietly inform me that he was a grown-ass man and was quite capable of taking care of things himself.

    Dare I say it? It was a HUGE turn-on.

    With him, at last I can just be the woman instead of having to be the man and the woman and the mother. When you only have to be the woman, it’s a lot easier to BE the adoring female.

    And that’s something I will be grateful for until the end of my days.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much for sharing this. Well-written. Thoughtful. Insightful.

      Full of truths.

      I just want to say one more time: NONE of this stuff is one-size-fits-all. Not even close.

      I just think it covers a lot of general territory.

      I’m not saying anything that I haven’t read in a book, or experienced directly myself. And that is far from all-encompassing.

      I hope my writing doesn’t come across like I think I know it all.

      I also hope it didn’t suggest that women are responsible for making men feel like men. We are ALL responsible for our own feelings and self-respect.

      I think many women can help many men, and themselves, by communicating with their existing husbands differently.

      In the end, I agree with you. All of us, men and women, alike, need to stand on our own two feet and own our choices.

      We’re who we are, and where we are, because of those choices.

      I’m really happy to hear you’ve found someone that makes you feel good. Who you feel like you can count on.

      Thank you for visiting and reading again. I appreciate it very much.

      Like

    • uneffingbelievable says:

      You hit the jackpot! I think this is a great lesson to lots of men who are not Rob Lowe in the looks department. I think men and women for whom looks are number one on the Must-Have list are simply shallow. They think that a great-looking guy or girl as a partner says something about THEM. My husband was so dismissive in our relationship, but when we were with clients or a group of his friends he always trotted me out and with false self-deprecation said how he over achieved in the spouse department. It was very confusing, to say the least. Men don’t understand that we are attracted to what makes us feel like women. If my husband had just once come to me and told me to put down my load, that he was here to shelter and protect me, I would have seen his superhero cape immediately. Unfortunately, he only wore it when at work, with friends, and his whore. If a man wants to be seen as a hero by his wife, then he needs to be heroic.

      Like

      • Matt says:

        Thank you for contributing these thoughts. Helping men see through the fog. Helping us ask ourselves pointed questions about why we want whatever we think we want.

        Appreciate that you came back to read more. Thank you.

        Like

  17. […] of time siding with women in terms of how men contribute so much to failing relationships. But I took some time to defend men. Because many of us deserve […]

    Like

  18. Hannah says:

    This post is brilliant. After my last break up, my mom gave me a book that she had been given long ago in her marriage but never read called “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.” I read the entire book in two days trying to understand what went wrong and if there was anything I could do to salvage the relationship. Your post ultimately sums up all the high points that I learned from reading a 300 page book in one blog post. I wish I had found this post sooner and I sure as hell hope that every guy that I date in the future will have the good sense to read and actually take to heart a lot of what you say.

    It all comes down to a horrible lack in communicating our intended feelings to each other. So many problems could be avoided if both sides of the relationship realized that men and women are synced in different ways, need different things, and express their love in different ways.

    I hope a lot of people find this post. Because it really nails it.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much. That means a lot.

      I think most people aren’t aware of these fundamental gender differences. And if everyone was, we’d recognize a lot of our conflict for what it is.

      Appreciate your kind words. :)

      Like

  19. […] there are A LOT of good men out there. A lot. And they WANT to be good husbands and fathers. Deep within their hearts, minds and souls. A […]

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