An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

couple fighting

Boys and girls grow up pretending to not like each other while playing together on schoolyard playgrounds.

The Boys vs. Girls theme runs strongly through the elementary school social culture.

Boys like blue.

Girls like pink.

Boys like Army guys.

Girls like Barbies.

Boys like playing sports.

Girls like playing dress-up.

When we’re children, we seem to confuse common interest with friendship. Boys are mean! Girls are silly!

We wanted to be accepted by our peers, so most of us tucked ourselves neatly into these stereotypical gender roles. As we aged, we watched what the older kids were doing and we paid attention to the boy-girl relationships playing out on television which helped us morph into whatever we are today.

In many cases, despite our obvious differences, men and women tend to like one another. Many of the decisions we make are centered around the idea of partnering up with, and having sex with, those we find most attractive.

A conversation that has happened on every park or playground in the history of mankind:

Male Friend 1: “Ooooooooohhhh! You like her!” *sings mocking song*

Male Friend 2: “No, I don’t!!! Girls are stupid!!!” (Even though he totally likes her.)

Then, the next time Male Friends 1 and 2 are with the girl, Male Friend 2 will make fun of her and be kind of mean to her to show off to his friend and demonstrate that he doesn’t “like” her. Also, because first and second graders don’t understand gallantry or charm, boys often resort to playful mocking as a means of flirting with the girls they do like.

This often continues into adulthood forever.

Mars vs. Venus

Men and women are DIFFERENT. Totally not the same make up and inner workings. I’m absolutely convinced the reason we have a 50-percent divorce rate is because so many men and women don’t take the time to learn HOW they’re different and what they can do to bridge those differences and overcome them.

Male friends make fun of one another. Just for fun. Because we like each other. Why? I don’t know. We. Just. Do.

All the time. Almost daily. Even the nicest of us sit around playfully mocking one another.

Doesn’t that make you feel bad, Matt!?!?

No. It doesn’t. Because most guys seem to innately understand that it is being done BECAUSE we are accepted as part of our social group. It is not a display of hate or rejection.

Whatever it is chemically or genetically that makes men do this, we also take into our opposite-sex relationships. And sometimes we do it to our spouses. Sometimes we do it to our female friends. We think it’s the same as when we do it to our guy friends because we’re often dense and thoughtless.

When the females in our lives take our verbal jabs as personal attacks and react emotionally, we get confused and assume they must be hormonal, crazy and imbalanced since everyone else seems totally cool about it.

“How can you treat me that way in front of your friends? Don’t you love me?”

“It was a JOKE! Of course I love you! I married you and would do anything for you.”

“Then please don’t be mean to me.”

“You’re overreacting. Why can’t you take a joke like everyone else? We were all laughing!”

I think I’ve had that conversation, or one just like it, dozens of times. You’ll notice there was no sincere and heartfelt apology in there to the offended party.

If I ever hurt the feelings of a stranger or one of my friends’ wives or girlfriends, I would have gone to great lengths to try to rectify the situation and make sure it never happened again.

I am guilty of thinking my wife was overly emotional. Of feeling like she misunderstood me and punished me based on false premises. I am guilty of not respecting the pain I caused. Of attempting to invalidate her feelings to avoid accepting responsibility. Of not sincerely apologizing for causing pain and never doing it again.

Most importantly?

Despite feeling like my wife was the most-important person in my life, I never demonstrated that in my day-to-day behavior.

I don’t think I can overstate the following: Many times, men have no idea they’re hurting and upsetting the women in their lives EVEN WHEN the women tell them so, because it makes absolutely no sense to the man that the thing that happened could have caused pain.

It makes men dense and stupid, sure.

BUT. It also oftentimes makes them innocent of INTENTIONALLY trying to inflict pain. I think shitty things done on accident should be handled differently than shitty things done on purpose.

However—how many times can she say it before it sinks in? How many times does she have to tell you before you’ll actually believe the words she’s saying?

At what point are you being willfully negligent?

One Wife’s Take

One of my female friends who is also going through separation and divorce married a shitty husband like me. Not a bad man. Just a guy who is bad at marriage.

Because I’ve heard so many stories about him, I knew he was the belitting-your-wife type.

The type of guy to not worry about facts in a debate. He’ll simply tear down and invalidate the person he’s debating in order to win. Even if it’s his wife and the mother of his children.

I asked her to give me some examples of things he would do to make her feel stupid and invalidated.

She wrote this:

My family is all sitting around the brunch table. We are talkers—philosophers and theologians and writers. We discuss politics, theories and ideas. My husband doesn’t like this. He finds our discussion annoying and refuses to enter in the conversation. The truth is—he probably isn’t capable intellectually but that’s okay. No one is pushing him. As the topic rolls around to the inevitable “Why are we here?”-type questions, he starts to roll his eyes. But I love this part of debate and get excited to speak. As I’m explaining my thoughts to my family, he cuts me off. “Isn’t she hilarious?” he mocks. (I’m instantly furious that he addresses me as “she” but let it slide.) He continues: “I try to tell her there isn’t some big, grand life to be lived… ha ha ha. She has so many ideas about fulfillment and striving for some greater good! Ha! This is it, hon. This is your life! There isn’t some great thing out there you’re missing out on! Ha ha ha!”

My whole family stares at him… Did he really just belittle me like that in front of everyone? Yes. Yes he did. No one knew what to say. He’d done it so many times before but never this blatantly.

Some men think it’s a joke. To tease, mock, belittle, make fun of their wives in front of others. It’s not funny. In fact… it makes women feel so so so worthless and lonely and stupid. It made me feel like that, anyway.

To feed into stereotypes that women nag, are bossy, spend money irresponsibly, are sex objects, are only good for cooking/cleaning, etc… to feed into that is to erode the heart of who a woman truly is.

Things that can be said include:

“Well, I’ll have to check with the boss before I can let you know.” (Meaning the wife is in charge of him and all he does… probably somewhat true because she has to be his mother.)

“Did you spend all my money at the store today?” (All his friends laugh like I’m some bimbo-shopping wife. WTF? It’s our money and I am the only financially responsible person here!)

“I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. She wouldn’t let me! Ha ha.” (Nag implications)

“Why would I pay for her to go to law school? She already has her hands full with the house and the kids! How on earth do you think you could pull all that off, honey?? She gets too ambitious. Ha ha!!” (Implying that 1, the money is all his again, and 2, I’m stupid for even thinking I could accomplish such a thing.)

I really think men who get their kicks from saying these types of things actually aren’t joking all that much. I think, to a certain extent, they truly believe this. And I think that is why it takes away from who their wife or girlfriend really is. If one is so wrapped up in thoughts like this… are they even thinking about the real, live woman in front of them? Who is she really? Do they even know? Chances are she doesn’t think it’s funny to joke like this. BUT, then again, chances are he doesn’t even know that.

What If?

What would it look and feel like if every single day you treated your wife like you did when you first met her and you might not have tomorrow together? What would it look and feel like if someone bad was going to come hurt her or take her away—UNLESS you treat her with the deepest respect and kindness and thoughtfulness possible?

Would she ever nag you?

Bitch about you to her friends?

Make you feel ashamed or disrespected?

Would she ever tell you you’re not good enough? If you gave it your actual best effort?

We spend so much time reacting and responding to others rather than going first. Rather than being the example.

I think maybe if everyone treated their partners (and maybe others) with love and kindness without the expectation of receiving it return, that the world would change overnight.

There are a bunch of us out here who already learned things the hard way or figured it out on our own: Don’t act like a bag of dicks.

And if you, Shitty Husband, figure it out soon enough, she won’t leave you to be with one of us.

You’re a man. Strong. Logical. A skilled problem solver.

So I know you can do it.

And I’ll continue to root for you.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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62 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

  1. AndiMirandi says:

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for being a man who gets it, or is trying to get it. I’ve always been the “emotional woman, who can’t take a joke”. xoxo

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Lots of women are, Andi. In quotes. I’m very sorry. Hope you’re having a good day, miss.

      Like

      • meg says:

        Are you trained? Not that you have to be; clearly your experiences are enough. I just wondered. You’re very insightful.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Thank you, Meg. No. Nothing formal. Just one failed nine-year marriage, lots and lots and lots of reading, and countless hours discussing things with other married people.

          Mash it all together and you’ve got this stuff. I’m glad you think it has merit. Thank you for saying so.

          Like

  2. AndiMirandi says:

    Reblogged this on AndiMirandi and commented:
    Again, this was written by one of my favorites. :)
    I have been in so many relationships like this. Whether it be friendships or dating, I’ve been in them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nights7 says:

    I’m pretty sure your friend is married to my ex-husband (or a clone of him). You should warn her that that type gets especially mean and belligerent when going through divorce. I hope she has a thick skin, a good lawyer, and a strong support system.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m pretty sure there’s just a whole bunch of the exact same guys out there. Many care and want to be better. Some do not. They’re the scary ones.

      Like

      • nights7 says:

        Yup. The scary ones, the ones who can’t change, are the ones who can’t see past their own insecurities and realize that they behave badly and treat people badly, that they too are at fault for the problems in their lives.
        You can’t change if you’re not willing to admit you have a problem.
        And saying you care, having good intentions, means little when your behavior says quite the opposite.

        Like

    • TA says:

      Love the mask!!! Lmao!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. bamboozled1 says:

    it also seems to me that men just think it will ride out, she will bounce back, get over it, and all will go back to normal… and he can go back to ‘being himself’ again…

    Like

    • Matt says:

      *nods*

      Me <—– learned hard way

      Like

      • bamboozled1 says:

        yeah well… many of us could write similarly, i think i did… somewhere, but it was sort of lost in a jumbled post… about our criticisms having the same effect on our husbands. so its not like were off the hook either…

        Like

  5. suzjones says:

    I have a wonderful man in my life who likes to tease me and often jokes about me with others HOWEVER I know that he is truly just teasing and he means no harm. This is a vast difference to my ex who would belittle me and pull me down in front of guests or when out with friends at every available opportunity.
    There is a line between pulling someone down and teasing and it’s important for a man to realise this.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Yes. Thank you for making the distinction because they are two very different things. But. I think sometimes people feel the same, even if it was meant in harmless jest. Men really hurt need to be aware of how poisonous it can be to their relationships. All depends on their partner who they should respect and adjust to, regardless.

      Like

  6. Tyac says:

    I . . . I can’t . . . this is so enlightening. To know that others (other men) are doing this . . .?!? This is dangerous, subliminal (mind) behavior that has to be confronted head on . . . MAN TO MAN, because if a woman initiates this dialogue . . . well, yeah, “her hormones are raging out of control – again!”
    Matt, your book(s) will be flying off of the shelves just from this vol. alone! Thanks for sharing and bringing some light into dark places that are trivialized and swept under the rug. This is relevant to ALL relationships. It’s not all in vain. BTW, I have a fridge magnet that says, “Women are from earth. Men are from earth. Deal with it.” I so agree.

    Like

    • Tyac says:

      Men Are From Earth, Women Are from Earth, Deal With It, is the latest book by veteran author Sandra Marchetti

      Like

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think oversimplifying the complexities of human relationships–particularly romantic ones and/or marriages is a particularly good idea. BUT. I’ve long believed now that we are all more alike than most of us think. I think divorce is horrible and damaging and I don’t think it has to be that way. This is just one little thing that can be changed that would bring about radical positive change in many lives.

      Like

  7. Maine Girl says:

    Reblogged this on Songs From the Wood and commented:
    I found it refreshing to read something this intuitive about wives and marriage from the male perspective. I am one of those (ex) wives who is will someday be looking for one of those enlightened men. It was like you were writing my story.

    Like

  8. mel says:

    Women can also benefit from this advice. Just as men make women feel worthless and stupid with their unintentional insults, women often belittle their men by acting like they are incapable or by mothering them.

    Respect each other. Trust each other. Appreciate each other.

    I think you are right, Matt. If we all started doing this all the time, the world WOULD change overnight.

    Like

  9. Reblogged this on my daily therapy (things that bug me) and commented:
    I really like this one.

    Like

  10. I will say it again you are a very gifted writer. Honest. Respect, one another. Life’s lessons need to be taught, written, read and if one person like me learns something, maybe the world will become a better place. Maybe the key to all is to listen, really listen to what others have to say. Great blog. Ivan

    Like

  11. Vince says:

    Often times on the ride home from hanging out with friends my stbx would say, “you know, it really bothers me when you make fun of me in front of people like that.” Instead of responding with a sincere apology I would act surprised and play it off like she was being unreasonable for being so offended. To me it was just part of hanging out and besides I did it with my male friends all the time and they laughed about it so what’s the problem?

    I just couldn’t see that there was a really big difference between teasing her and teasing my male friends. I wish I saw it then but I get it now but now it’s too late. Just another shitty thing I did. I hope other shitty husbands can learn something so they are not a soon to be ex shitty husband like I am.

    Like

    • Vince says:

      Oh and thank you for posting this. Even though it’s too late for my marriage it’s not too late for me to learn these things. I am aware of it now and I can’t help but wonder if I would do it again to another girlfriend or wife. Now that I get it I bet you I won’t.

      Like

      • Matt says:

        I don’t know whether marriage, or even a committed relationship, will ever be in my future. But maybe. Maybe even probably.

        God help me if I don’t walk a higher path, should I be fortunate to have a next time.

        Like

    • Matt says:

      Please don’t call yourself “shitty,” Vince.

      But thank you for corroborating my experiences here.

      I don’t think guys understand that this is one of the things that destroys intimacy and trust in their relationship.

      It’s really unfortunate, because it’s one of the easiest things to avoid.

      Like

  12. ttravis says:

    Great post, Matt. You’re totally right that men don’t see what the big deal is with that kind of mockery, because it is seen as fine among peers and, indeed, a way of showing that you feel you are on an equal footing. But since many men secretly, even unconsciously, believe they are (or should be) superior to women (as your friend’s horrifying story makes clear) it is not the same thing when men treat women this way. But if you try to point that out, you instantly become a “humorless feminazi” and since that identity is so stigmatized, many women just suffer in silence. Until they’ve had enough, at which point they ditch the dude as an unfeeling, immature douchebag. Which he probably was, at least in this regard. The upside of the whole situation is that, as you note by your discussion of playground interactions, all of this is learned behavior; it’s not innate (meaning no venus/mars b.s.). That means we can unlearn it, and teach our children otherwise.

    Like

  13. Nicely done Matt. It is such a thin line that one, teasing and doing great and sometimes great harm. Being open to listening when your partners says, ‘you really hurt me when…’, is the answer.

    You did really good here.

    Like

  14. We do say stupid things. It happens. Sometimes we don’t realize it, sometimes it’s a Freudian slip, sometimes it’s blatant. The girl I am seeing now told me that her ex used to be a snarky little shit to her in front of her family, and it seemed more blatant and on the malicious side than anything else.

    Sometimes we can win. Sometimes we put ourselves in that position. I guess, sometimes, it depends with the person on the receiving end.

    Hope you have a great weekend, man.

    Like

  15. Lee says:

    Wow- I cried reading every letter. Living through this right now. It really sucks having a ‘shitty husband’.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m very sorry. Very.

      Seems shitty to “thank” you for reading them. Millions of people feel just like this. Trying to figure out how to make it work. How to feel whole.

      I hope whatever brings you lasting peace is what happens.

      Sending as much good your way as possible…

      You have my best wishes.

      Like

  16. Beautiful Amanda says:

    Thanks for sharing this… I’m literally crying my eyes out right now!!! I wish he would wake up!!!

    Like

  17. Dude. I am in a 9 year relationship, not married, although it feels like it. My real name is Megan, not frank. and I am having a lot of trouble…. I am 24 years old… I have been with him since I was 15. I love him to bits but I experience this same thing. Anytime I try to talk about something serious, I am belittled and made fun of. It hurts very much. I love joking around! But I also like being serious from time to time when necessary… It is weighing on me. I sincerely do not want to give up on us but some days I feel like I am going to explode. He does not “feed me” spiritually. Today I stumbled upon your blog and I am so glad I did. I would feel like an asshole to be like, here honey, you should read this haha but I want him to. I still have hope! Thank you

    Like

  18. Sharon says:

    When a man belittles or humiliates his wife or girl friend when they are with others or when they are alone, he is emotionally abusing his wife. No man should feel comfortable emotionally abusing his partner. While the writer of this blog assumes that when men are belittling women, they are just acting naturally, emotional abuse should not be a natural part of a relationship. There are men who do not emotionally abuse their partners, and those men who humiliate and belittle their partners deserve to be left for the higher caliber of men whose egos are strong enough that they can treat women with dignity and respect. send

    Like

  19. Susan says:

    I love your take on things. It adds a bit of humor to my long days. Thank you.
    I could give you a script for living with a compulsive lier for 7 years….

    Like

  20. Jeff Strand says:

    Criticize in private, compliment in public.

    A compliment has much more force when given out in front of others.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Kathy Ringering Wendt says:

    Great example from your friend….I bet if she ever confronts him about it he’ll say, “Never happened.”

    Like

  22. Sammantha Sanders says:

    Just got into it with my fiance, he refused to even listen to what I had to say, just threw it back in my face. I just Googled around trying to find someone who gets it. Thank goodness I found your blog. Knowing that at least one person can no only see but understand, makes me feel a little less alone. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    Like

  23. Rebecca Cohen says:

    Can I put a slightly different spin on this behaviour?

    Years ago when I was in my early twenties I was working a low paid job with a teenage guy. This kid wound me up like nobody else – so much so that I would go home to my dad and tearfully tell him everything this kid said to me. Know what my dad said? “Give it straight back to him.” Of course I said “I can’t do that! I’m not going to sink to his level.” But my dad urged me on, so I started to viciously try to match this kid insult for insult.

    You know what? Incredibly, the more juvenile and nasty words I chucked at him, the more he smiled and enjoyed it. Really, and truly, the more mouthy I got the more he perked up; it was truly weird to see.

    Then I cottoned on: this teenager wasn’t being a jerk. He was being a male. He was treating me the way he’d treat another guy, and because I was female I could not relate to it at all. The things he said made me upset as hell, but this was actually his way of trying to include me as one of the guys. He spoke ‘man speak’ and I didn’t.

    Now that I’m an adult (who has read a bunch of Mars and Venus type self-help books) I get it. I realize that there are certain things that we women do/say that wind men up, and I avoid doing these (although it goes against my natural instincts). There ARE differences in the way women speak to women and men speak to men. The trick is to listen, really listen, and not dismiss what your partner says as ‘my boyfriend is being a jerk’ or ‘my girlfriend is overly emotional’.

    Great website champ. You are making a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • erinchafig says:

      I have employed a similar strategy with my husband. He loves to make jokes, but I was taking everything personally. When I started making jabs back at him, a lot of the nastier put downs stopped. He also is better about taking me seriously when I get upset about something. I think that by not freaking out about everything, it is easier for him to accept when I am truly insulted. We still have some serious problems, but this one seems to be improving.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. TA says:

    The one thing I have to say is you’re very insightful Matt, but you really shouldn’t say you were a shitty husband because we all make mistakes, it’s whether we learn from them or not and it sounds like you have.

    Like

  25. Jenny says:

    Thank you for your insights and effort.
    The advice you give to men is absolutely spot on, and I truly hope it makes a difference.
    I thought I might share a really pathetic story with you, which happened to me this morning with my husband. I will preface this with the acknowledgement that our marriage is roughl.
    It’s New Years Day, and I decided to tell my husband that I wanted to go down a new path and move past all the anger and hatred that had built up in our relationship and start anew. I would wipe everything from my mind and move ahead in a positive way. I only requested that he treat me like a friend, like we used to be, rather than a person he wanted to escape from.
    He immediately got angry and accused me of making things up, etc, etc and I ended up apologizing for bringing anything up.
    Same day, late in the evening, my husband walks up to me while I am doing laundry and says, “I got a 10 o’clock ticket for Rogue One in 3D, so I’m leaving in 15 minutes.”
    I really didn’t know if I should scream or cry.
    I’ve mostly just given up.

    Like

  26. rachetwench says:

    I think I’ve read all of the volumes and nodded, shook my head in wonder, and then cried after every one. Want to know why? Because in the back of my, “Trained By a Shitty Husband, ” mind, I have this awful, sinking feeling that every time you publish a new volume, you clap your editor’s shoulder and laugh heartily, saying,”Watch this shit, Bob – the chicks will eat this up like cake. We’re gonna be RICH!”

    Sorry. I’d love to believe you’re real, genuine, and that you truly do understand but I guess I just can’t get past everything my shitty husbands did for me. Besides, if something seems to good to be true it probably is.

    ::::cries::::

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Ha. I wish I had some money from blogging. Then I wouldn’t be in hour #6 at my kitchen counter on a Saturday building a PowerPoint presentation for a client’s online advertising campaign.

      You’ve got it right AND wrong.

      I am genuine.

      But I’m very close to four years removed from the end of my marriage, and even though I totally GET all the things now, I’m not sure I know how to help myself, and certainly others, with actionable steps for relationship success.

      I have plenty of things wrong with me.

      Authenticity isn’t one of them. :)

      Like

  27. Donegoner says:

    Owww, don’t tell me, this is merely a snapshot of how you were feeling at one time in your life because…FEELINGS! You have GROWN and EVOLVED sooooo much and you are sooooo PROUD of who you’ve BECOME over this JOURNEY. Men: there is nothing more sad than the endless menstruations of a mangina. If you want to really grow and find your best and healthiest life, start at Dalrock and read everything, follow his links to other blogs and sites, visit Return of Kings. Have the maturity and discipline to embrace truth and reject all of the rest because all advice has flaws and mistakes and you should know going in that those sites and opinions are no different in that way, but you will get what you need when you use judgment and reason, the gifts of MEN. Flee from this self abasing and shame based ideology. This guy thrives on feminine affirmation while shaming and emasculating men. He is the true target of contempt for men and women alike. The message here feels good because you want to feel sorry for yourself and his insults do the trick. This leads to ruin. The message I point you to is harsh and difficult to hear, but it will build you and help you gain confidence and direction.
    It will make your woman love and respect you and have genuine attraction for you and you don’t have to run the vacuum a single time or wash a dish. Sound good? Wake up then.

    Like

  28. Sweetie Pie says:

    I’m female and I totally make fun of the people I love – the more I like them the more brutal I am! It’s like I never left 7th grade.

    Thankfully my best friend and male paramours get that.

    I have an awesome sense of humor, that probably helps. I don’t want to be with any guy who doesn’t make fun of me (as long as he is good at it).

    Liked by 1 person

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