This Isn’t Advice, and You Shouldn’t Take It

advice

I do not write an advice column.

I don’t want to be a life coach, I don’t think I’m smart and I don’t believe people’s lives will be better if they act like me.

I don’t think I’m better than anyone, I don’t think I’m an expert in anything and I don’t think anyone should listen to me.

I failed Intro to Computing TWICE my freshman year of college. This challenging class included the basics of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. I failed it because I liked smoking pot and having fun more than I liked going to that class.

When I was the editor of my college newspaper, I let a story run with an anonymous source who claimed to be a sophomore female student in the College of Pharmacy’s honors program. She was bragging about how much she liked taking the drug MDMA, which most of us know as Ecstasy.

Turns out there were only eight sophomore female students in the Pharmacy honors program that year, and our source WASN’T one of them. I never bothered to vet her ahead of time. Maybe I was high. She had lied about being in the honors program. And eight completely innocent students at my university were made to look like assholes.

But really I was the asshole.

I used to lie about the cost of candy I was selling for school and pocket the extra money.

I accidentally let my car insurance lapse earlier this year and drove around for a while not even realizing I wasn’t insured.

I forget shit all the time unless it’s something I’m super-stressed about or have a reminder note written.

I’m not particularly intelligent. I’m far from being the responsible adult I aspire to be.

My dad has been divorced once.

My mom has been divorced twice.

And I’ve now been divorced. I cried like a total pansy a bunch of times for months afterward.

I don’t have a fucking clue what a super-healthy, super-functional marriage looks like from the inside. And I’m really sorry if anyone is or was under the impression that I did think that.

Some People Don’t Think You Should Listen to Me

I don’t disagree with them.

I wrote a series of posts called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. They’re my most popular posts by a mile, because I think sad and pissed-off wives like seeing a guy figure out why his marriage got toxic because he did all the same stupid things their husbands do. I think these women are hopeful that maybe their significant others can come to the same conclusions I did. I think these posts validate all of the things they feel and that they’ve tried to explain to their husbands and boyfriends for years. And finally! A guy gets it.

And I do.

I do get it.

And I think it’s devastatingly sad that so many guys don’t seem to give a shit just like I didn’t seem to give a shit until it became pretty clear that my marriage was fast-tracking to divorce.

It took that fear of losing my marriage—that motivation to avoid it—to exert the energy to learn what was happening in my relationship. I read books. I prayed. I talked to people.

And it started to become really clear how all these little things I had been selfishly and obliviously doing for years made my wife feel how she did.

Anyway, An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands Vols. 1, 4 and 6 get shared a decent amount on Facebook. (For the record, Vol. 4 and Vol. 6 are the only ones I think have much value. Vol. 2 is a preachy, shitty post and I should take it down because it reads like a total asshole wrote it. No one likes being preached to.)

I’m not privy to any of the comments people make about those posts on Facebook.

But a couple days ago, someone shared Vol. 1 on Reddit and a few readers were not impressed. I was able to check those out.

From “terminite”:

“This article, and the other volumes I read look more like the manifesto of a depressed and guilty man who thinks he is the sole reason his wife left him. He talks as if he ruined their marriage because he didn’t treat her like a princess… Then goes on later to say that you both have to give 100% to the marriage – Did she treat him like a king? The volumes I read were overtly abrasive and erroneously absolute, I guess to hook the reader, but it’s hyperbole and generalizations out the ass. I don’t think people should read too much into a recovering divorcee’s self-help writing therapy.”

The writer made that last sentence bold to emphasize it.

And terminite, I’m sure, is right. You SHOULD NOT read too much into a recovering divorcee’s writing on marriage. It’s not as if I was good at it.

But let’s get something straight, because it’s REALLY important:

I write about marital things, shouldering the lion’s share of blame and responsibility, and encouraging men to do their part in their relationships because I think it’s really important to take responsibility for your place in life.

Who am I to tell women what they should do as wives? I don’t know the first thing about being female or a wife.

But I DO know what it’s like to be a dude. I DO know what it’s like to be a husband. And I DO understand how I contributed to my marriage’s demise.

I figure I have two choices: I can either point fingers and scream and pout and call my ex-wife a bunch of names and blame everything on her.

Or.

I can be an adult and take responsibility for what I did and let the rest sort itself out.

Of course I don’t think my ex-wife got everything right. I was a ragey sonofabitch for a while after she left. Of course I felt justifiably pissed off dozens of times during our marriage.

But I’m not going to sit around telling men to just stand their ground and keep doing what they’re doing when I KNOW half of them are going to end up divorced if they do, and another large chunk will spend years suffering through a shitty, loveless marriage “for the kids.”

Someone has to lead. Someone has to apologize first in a fight. Someone has to be the first to call for peace during war. Someone has to be a “big” person and swallow their pride and put their marriage ahead of their selfish, petty wants.

Why not the husband?

“terminite” continues:

“We’re obviously not getting his whole story. The Masters example is a poor one, I think. I’m certain he fucked up greater than that, and much more often. And probably a lot of little things that compounded into years of resentment.”

No. You’re not getting the whole story, terminite. I was married for nine years AND I have a shitty memory. I could write an encyclopedia-sized volume of fuckups if I could only remember all of them.

From “saturdayd”:

“I really think you’re right in saying that this isn’t a reliable source of marital advice and more him trying to process what he felt went wrong.”

She seems to get it.

From “dominodog”:

“I agree. I don’t know why his marriage failed but can guarantee it wasn’t because one Sunday he wanted “me” time instead of going on a family hike that his wife wanted.

“It appears to me this guy has no idea why his marriage failed and I don’t know why anyone would take his writing as good advice.”

I don’t either, man. I don’t either.

From “gddammit”:

“He probably did this all the time to her. I am always alone and doing things alone. When my husband is not working, all he wants to do is watch TV or be in another room from me. We have only been married 3 years. It’s hard and it makes me sad. I don’t know if I am unreasonable in the way I feel, and I often wonder if he is telling me the truth when he says he loves me.”

… 

I don’t give advice. I’m not in the advice-giving business.

I’m in the storytelling business.

Matt did X. X= something shitty.

The result was Y. Y = something REALLY shitty.

And in the final analysis, maybe a couple people will be able to identify with my experiences and make the choice to not do X so that Y won’t happen and ruin their lives.

That last lady? The sad wife? She’s sad because her husband is essentially the same guy I was. He takes her for granted. She likes “Real Housewives” and “The Voice” and romantic comedies. And he likes video games and watching football and movies with explosions.

So he hangs out by himself to do what he wants to do. He might not even realize he’s causing harm.

But he’s committing marriage’s worst crime, after infidelity and abuse.

He’s leaving his wife alone in their marriage.

And someday it’s going to break.

That’s not advice. That’s just really good guessing.

I got a little defensive when I saw people treating my post like I was trying to be a marriage counselor. Part of that is because I’m naturally defensive. It’s one of my shittiest traits.

But another part of that is because I really don’t want to be seen as a guy who thinks he “knows” anything.

I don’t know anything.

I only know that sometimes I read or hear things, and combined with relevant life experience, I sometimes have some “Ah-ha!” moments that make me grow and be better.

It would be really cool to write stuff that helped people have some of those “Ah-ha!” moments once in a while, and God-willing, maybe end up in a happy, healthy relationship because of it.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands is just a clickable headline. I don’t really believe all these men are “shitty” husbands. And I don’t believe that men are always the assholes ruining their marriages.

But I do believe there are some small, subtle things that a man CAN and WILL do if he knows that doing them will be the difference between being married or being divorced.

I don’t think I’m smarter than you.

I don’t think I’m more insightful than you.

I CERTAINLY don’t think I know any more about marriage than people who are actually still married.

I just think there are a few guys out there that don’t know they’re getting marriage wrong and might recognize a few commonalities in my story.

And just maybe they’ll ask their wives the right questions.

And maybe then they’ll make some changes.

And maybe then everyone grows just a little bit more, loves just a little bit more purely, feels just a little bit happier.

None of this is advice.

It’s just a story.

Just a story with a bunch of blank pages waiting to be written.

Just a bunch of blank pages hoping for a happy ending.

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35 thoughts on “This Isn’t Advice, and You Shouldn’t Take It

  1. Samara says:

    Matt. Reddit is a freak show. It’s bizarro world. It’s where people look for the most disgusting videos ever posted in the history of the world.

    The Cro Magnon trolls of Reddit are only useful in terms of how fun it is to get sub humans worked up over stuff normal people write.

    Stay off of Reddit. You will see things there your eyes cannot unsee. It’s a freaking scary place filled with voodoo and human sacrifices. Trust me. *shudder*

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I feel better already. Thank you.

      You called them Cro Magnon trolls.

      You’re the best.

      Like

      • Samara says:

        Their favorite hobby is humiliating bloggers. You’re not on Facebook, or you would see the way Reddit losers viciously attack bloggers. Even their physical appearance – yes. They DO.

        So really, the feedback you got was not bad at all, compared to what I’ve seen.

        *shudders again*

        Like

  2. Jack Chaser says:

    I have always found it ridiculous when someone picks apart anyone else’s self expression.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Mr. Chaser!

      I have no problem with people thinking the post was shitty. I don’t particularly like that post and hate that it gets read more than any other.

      What I didn’t like was that the takeaway seemed to be that I was trying to be the self-help guru or marriage counseling business.

      Hope you’re well, sir. Great to hear from you.

      Like

  3. That first comment seems to me to have a tint of defensiveness on it, which may actually be a compliment in disguise. Not to mention, it’s one post. You don’t really write single posts. You said it yourself. Yours is a story, told over several posts and those of us who follow, we get it. And of course, writing is an art. Art is loved and criticized. Congratulations. You’ve arrived my friend. Drink it up. XOXO

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think my silly post showing up on Reddit and getting eight comments–six of them negative–constitutes “making it.”

      But.

      Do know that I appreciate that you think so. And that I’m getting capitalized hugs and kisses.

      Like

  4. martha0stout says:

    I don’t actually know all that much about Reddit, but I always figured that most blogs were for the blogger. You write for you and sometimes it helps other people and when it does, that’s great! But your still writing for you to work something out, not necessarily for someone else.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      *nods*

      You can try to write for others, but it doesn’t last long.

      Doesn’t take long before you run out of steam.

      When you write what’s inside you, it just happens. Most people won’t like it. Just a few.

      I really appreciate those few.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate your writing for exactly what it is….and internet trolls just love going on the attack. They live to throw rocks, mud, and nasty at everyone’s heads. Just duck and keep writing.

    Like

  6. Nephila says:

    Well you know I’ve always said you take too much on yourself Matt. It’s a nice trait because so many take too little.

    Also comprehension isn’t the strong suit on reddit. You made your positioning as storyteller clear. Yes, we learn from stories. Well, some of us do :)

    I would love to hear more about how you and your wife compromised and made joint decisions then and now as divorced parents you must have to do that still. I’m stumped. How do you balance between bargaining and conceding and really agreeing? That would be a story that I would love to read, and yes, learn from.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. This was super-nice.

      Compromise. Joint decisions.

      Let me chew on that for a bit. Obviously important components of dealing with all human beings–not just your partner.

      Like

  7. Thank you for sharing this experience. I feel sorry, that it made you feel bad, Matt.

    I’m not good in making sarcastic comments. (Who knew…?)

    But maybe it helps if I share with you something that I just recently learned:
    Some topics just stirr up a lot of emotions in people. Divorce seems to be one of those. On our blogs it is a bit like being at home. Besides, most part of the blogger community is respectful and open-hearted. That makes a huge difference.
    On other social networks, that is not always so. In fact, some people use it as a projection screen for their own unfulfilled lifes rather than to reflect about themselves. They might become judgemental and shoot from the hip.

    THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. It is about their own little lifes and their wish that a fairy may come around and magically fix things for them. There is no reason to take that on, except you choose so. :)

    YOUR readers appreciate your authenticity and who you are.
    (The others are merely random passers-by.)

    Much love,
    Steffi

    Like

    • Matt says:

      :)

      Thank you. They didn’t hurt my feelings or anything. But I do get defensive when people suggest I’m doing something I’m not doing.

      Not a wannabe life coach.

      Just a guy who got a lot wrong and wants others not to. Really appreciate you, Steffi.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I understand the terminite’s thinking… a lot of times, it really is women who mess up their marriage & they are by and large, usually the ones who treat their husbands like shit. So to someone like terminite, it probably irks them that you seem to take all of the blame, when normally people know better that it takes 2 (usually) to make a bad marriage. Women in this day and age, are usually the worst. I know that’s not always the case of course, but it seems to be the usual… much more often in the people I know, and in the comments and letters I’ve read that men write, and women who are honest in how horrible they’ve treated their husband.

    You’re right though, that adults need to take responsibility for their part of the failure. My opinion is probably too general… but it’s just what I always seem to see. For me, it’s really really rare to see a husband that takes his wife for granted (truly takes her for granted). A lot of it is just communication – communicating better from the wife that she needs his involvement in the relationship… in their life together… she needs communication/involvement the way he needs good sex. Most couples go through that phase (where the husband isn’t being involved enough), and if they can’t articulate it well enough, or the spouse (husband) doesn’t take it to heart that it is a NEED of women to have their husbands be involved, then yea, things typically go south from there. Same thing is often seen vice versa when women ignore their husband’s needs (usually the need for sex… but it could be their need for support, understanding, companionship… anything).

    Aw but don’t let Reddit get you down… that would be hard to see people misinterpret who you know you are. I think it happens to anyone who puts themselves out there. You’re doing great! You *do* have the capability of talking publically about marriage because of what you’ve been through, you see it as an adult, taking your own responsibility. If people decide to read too much into that, it just reflects on them badly.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I appreciate you taking women to task for harming their relationships much in the same way I do with men.

      I appreciate it very much.

      We all just need to be responsible for our shortcomings and make a good-faith effort to be better today than we were yesterday.

      You’re wonderful. Thank you.

      Like

  9. traveshamockery says:

    Hello sir. I like this. A lot. While I don’t agree with the Philadelphian feedback, I appreciate the stokage de fire…

    This is you. Not writing for others.

    That is where the comfort lies.

    1. Spill out you.
    2. Whatever comes back… Fuck em, you”re still on 1…

    Merry Halloween! DD

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Dude. Awesome to hear from you. Wonder about you guys often and think about you every time I see how well the Cards are playing.

      I should write and check in. Thanks for taking a minute to comment. I do appreciate it.

      Like

  10. Here is the thing Matt, people of normal intelligence, empathy and compassion read what you write and found you to be smart, introspective, compassionate and worth listening to. This is true whether we are women or men. Most of us read you because what you have to say is worth our time, worth our comments. We follow you, so we can keep up with your journey, we like you and like the way you think, we gain something from your insights.

    Reddit on the other hand, the people who flock to this pit of hell where only imps of the lowest order, trolls of broken bridges, stinking ogres consigned to be cannon fodder in the war for middle earth reside; they look for cause and reason to attack bloggers. They do this because most of them cannot string words together to form sentences, let alone three sentences together to form a paragraph.

    Matt, you are a sublime writer. Never mind what those ijits on Reddit say, they are not worthy of a moment of your time, they are cat feces.

    Like

  11. Repeat after me: Reddit Schmeddit.

    Now liberally wave the middle finger of choice. Remember opinions are like bung holes and everybody has one.

    ~Darling

    Like

  12. Dawn says:

    It doesn’t matter what position you take on any given subject…there’s always going to be critics. Mostly because we write based on our own experiences…and people read into it based on their own.

    You have a personal perspective…but it really isn’t one sided. Your experience could go either way husband or wife.

    Take what you need and disregard the rest…well, in a perfect world.

    :)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you, Dawn. I totally agree.

      Rule of thirds: 1/3 loves, 1/3 hates, 1/3 doesn’t care.

      Always true.

      Hope you’re well. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

      Like

  13. lost33years says:

    As the wife of a shitty husband who is not only shitty he also commited serial cheating he is an abuser of me my life and our children too bad he hasn’t gotten IT yet I have serious doubts he ever will. It is sad how much people have to lose to simply grow up. You are making great progress at growing up. Children and immature people are experts at denying and shifting blame you seem to be taking steps to accept how you see your own need to grow. You have seen you can only change yourself and your writing shows your internal struggles thank you for sharing with us.

    Like

  14. Matt, please don’t take the negative feedback you receive personally. Your blogs kept me sane throughout my bitter divorce, it gave me hope that one day my hubby may realize what you have realized. You’re posts are very relatable, entertaining and often makes me smile. Keep up the great writing – sharing your feelings is helping other people like myself heal and smile <3<3<3

    Like

    • Matt says:

      This is an extraordinarily nice comment. Thank you very much.

      I promise I wasn’t too upset about the Reddit commenters. There were so few of them, they didn’t hurt too bad. ;)

      Like

  15. Aspen'sProudMama says:

    Matt,

    I just stumbled here, yesterday, from facebook. I am SO glad I did! I read all the open letters and am now working my way through your story, your life.

    I LOVE the way you write, so heartfelt and real. Please do NOT let a bunch of hating trolls bother you. Haters will always be, haters!

    I believe that what your writing, although not an “advice” column/blog, has more potential of helping people, men and women, than a whole truckload of “advice” crap. Because it is from experience, from the heart, sometimes not pretty, sometimes funny, but always truthful. YOUR truth!

    Even if only one man has an A-ha moment, and one marriage is saved, that’s worth more than anything the haters could ever say! I know, that this blog will help so many people, more than you’ll ever know!

    So, my dear, sweet, struggling Matt, please carry on and continue to keep writing! I look forward to more, much more, from you!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, lessons learned, and words of wisdom with us!

    Looking at your profile picture, I was taken aback by the depths, the sadness but also the deep seated love for life, that fills your large eyes. I wish you love and inner peace!

    Robin

    Like

  16. I love your stories. I love reading your personal insights. I love your willingness to be vulnerable and open, and you inspire me to be brave.

    Like

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