Maybe she was a housewife home alone. Maybe she was crying.
“My husband is an asshole,” she typed into Google.
More and more often, someone like her finds one of my An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts. Usually Vol. 1.
They’re getting 250-300 reads a day now, which is a lot relative to most of the posts here.
People are out there broken and looking for answers—probably easy ones—but there aren’t any.
When your marriage is falling apart, there are no magic how-to manuals on the internet to save you. No YouTube videos that show you how to do it better. No Buzzfeed lists to give you pointers.
A part of you dies.
So she types: “shitty husband” into the search engine and she stumbles upon this place.
Anne read Vol. 6. She wrote me:
“This article is as if you have observed my husband since we got married. Thank you for your articles… We do not have children, but everything else is spot on. He thinks I’m the only woman like this and to ‘require less’ when I beg for some attention and help. I am not sure if I can hang on much longer… Thank you for making me believe that it ISN’T just me, that my feelings matter, and I deserve more.”
It’s funny. Things are so different now. Inside me. I was so sad and angry. And it was easy to go off on all these subjects related to marriage where I see guys doing the wrong thing and a bunch of marriages falling apart. Some guys aren’t particularly good people. (That probably applies to some women, too.) And they don’t feel any remorse for violating their marital covenants or abandoning their families.
But I’ve come to believe that most guys are good guys that do want to keep their families intact. Even the really shitty husbands. I don’t think they’re bad men. I think many times they’re good men who just happen to be bad at marriage.
I think learning how to be good at marriage is like learning how to be good at selling pharmaceuticals or smoking ribs or developing commercial real estate. I think it’s a learned skill.
I was angry at all the men who had what I wanted—what I missed. My family. And I was pissed at them for taking their wives and children for granted just like I had.
Some people need to figure things out for themselves.
Some people need to learn the hard way.
“I’ve read every single one of these letters now, and they’ve taken the wind out of my sails. It’s incredible really. This is exactly, down to the smallest detail, what I’m going through. I’m pre-divorce, but I’ve told myself I’ll give it 3 more years, until our youngest is 6. And I have some way to support myself, and maybe somehow my husband will care.”
I don’t think about this stuff nearly as much as I used to.
As time marches on, I get further and further away from being a husband. It was so shocking at first. I felt so lost. So without purpose. I was supposed to be a partner. Someone’s husband.
And then I wasn’t. It felt like overnight even though it was a long time coming. I freaked out. Panicked.
It felt hard just to be alive.
But then I got a lot better because that’s what happens if you just keep waking up every day. I was writing and writing and writing, including these posts about what I perceive to be my shortcomings in marriage, and by extension, the shortcomings of so many other men out there.
As I see it, I’m super-average. Nothing extraordinary. And because of that, I figure there must be many people out there who feel how I feel and think how think and do many of the same things I do.
That doesn’t bode well for their marriages.
“I’m sitting here crying my eyes out because everything you wrote is so true and I hope my last ditch effort of sending it to my husband of 19 years might wake him up, because no matter how many times I try to talk to him about feeling alone and unloved, he gets the stupid deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. I used to want to cry or slap it off his face, but now I don’t even try to talk to him because it’s too frustrating and I’m sick of banging my head against the wall. I wish I would have stumbled onto you years ago. Maybe it would’ve saved millions of tears and tons of arguments.”
It’s so good for me to read these comments. To be reminded that all those painful keystrokes served a purpose.
That all those ideas—all those feelings inside me—have merit and are shared by many others.
I have no idea whether I have what it takes to be a good husband. I’ve never been one before.
But I feel certain I understand the choices and behaviors that helped facilitate my divorce, and how making better choices and behaving differently in the future could prove a better way to co-exist with a partner.
It’s all still theory at this point.
But this stuff matters to people. And that matters to me.
“I found your blog today after googling “shitty husband” (why I was googling that particular phrase probably doesn’t have to be explained). I read all the open letters during the Murray State basketball game today, which speaks volumes to how much I related to and enjoyed it. I laughed. Even shed a tear or two… it definitely had an impact on me… a positive one. So thanks for that… for your honest take on how much work this whole marriage thing is, for reminding me that I am not perfect in this, but most of all, for reassuring me that I’m not the only girl struggling with a shitty husband, and that there is hope.”
Our hearts don’t have to stay broken. They mend. Like magic.
With just a little care, a little honesty, and the perfect amount of time.
And I believe strongly that hearts can heal within a troubled marriage where two hearts were always supposed to beat as one.
But they don’t always die.
Then we give just a little bit more than we did before.
Speak to each other just a little bit smarter than we did before.
Forgive just a little bit more than we did before.
Hug just a little bit longer than we did before.
Love just a little bit harder than we did before.
All these people. Desperate for answers. Trying to save that which matters most.
“Husband is a first-rate piece of shit,” someone typed.
You’re not the only one.
Broken people. Shitty husbands.
But we don’t have to be.