Advice for Women “In That Place”

Read this book. I don't care if you're happy in your marriage or in your relationship. Read it anyway. Please. It could change everything.

Read this book. I don’t care if you’re happy in your marriage or in your relationship. Read it anyway. Please. It could change everything.

Tracy asks:

Do you have advice for women who are in “that place”? You know… The place where you still love your husband, but feel so unhappy in the marriage? I feel that I don’t know what to do… My husband keeps telling me that if he is so bad, why don’t I find someone else? I am seriously considering it these days even though I don’t want to. I need to find a way to get him to see that he’s pushing me and our son (and soon-to-be-born baby) out the door. How do I know if he cares anymore? Thanks in advance for your help.

Disclaimer:

I know I come off like I think I know everything sometimes. I’m not proud of that. I’m not in the advice-giving business. What I try to do is speak (or write) confidently about things I feel strongly about. Maybe a small percentage of people will care.

I don’t want to give Tracy “advice.” If you do every single thing I do in life, you’ll be single, 36, a little bit lonely, spend some holiday weekends alone, have less money than you’d prefer, sit in a cubicle for 40 hours a week, and other shit that really isn’t that great.

I don’t think people should be like me.

I don’t try to tell other people what to do. I just project all of the thoughts and feelings I have inside me and I spew them out here. And sometimes they resonate with people.

I think I know why.

I think it’s because I’m really average. Really typical. Average intelligence. Average income. Average life experiences. Average looking. Et cetera.

Where I’m not average is sometimes I write it all down. Not a lot of people do that.

And because I share so many human-experience silos with so many people, a lot of people can relate to many of the things I write about.

Maybe that helps someone. Some people say it does.

This isn’t advice.

This is what’s inside me.

In the end, everyone has to decide for themselves. Whether to leap.

I think people should trust their hearts. Their guts.

If it says leap…

Leap.

Getting Through to Him

“I need to find a way to get him to see that he’s pushing me and our son (and soon-to-be-born baby) out the door. How do I know if he cares anymore? Thanks in advance for your help.”

You have to understand something. This is really important. All these women write me all the time. Sometimes privately, sometimes publicly. Many think I’m sooo great and they wish their husbands would be like me.

I hate to break it to you ladies, but your husband is like me. I’m like them. We’re not so different. Any of us.

I wish I could tell you how it happened. I wish I could tell you why.

The story of how my wife and I died.

If you sat us both down, you’d get a variety of stories. The lowlights of our marriage that we recall that ultimately led to its demise. A series of unfortunate events. She probably wouldn’t remember or think much of mine. She probably didn’t think they were a big deal. I probably wouldn’t remember hers. I certainly didn’t think they were a big deal at the time.

That’s been the greatest lesson of marriage and human relationships for me: Our ability to destroy people on the inside without even realizing we’re doing it.

Unwitting life destroyers.

We are capable of terrible things.

Tracy, He Doesn’t Know

I’m guessing here, Tracy, but it’s an educated one.

One based on my very specific life experience. You’re unhappy in your marriage. But you still love this man, and assuming this has been going on for a while now, intentionally chose to have another child with him.

I think this is the way most broken marriages go.

There’s love there. The basic tenants of human decency (meaning: no infidelity, no domestic violence, no addiction issues, no child abuse, etc.) are present.

I need you to hear this, and believe it with your whole heart and soul: HE DOESN’T KNOW.

I know you’ve told him. You’ve cried. You’re so exhausted. You’ve told him over and over and over again.

It doesn’t matter, Tracy. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t understand.

What doesn’t he know?

He doesn’t know how scared and alone you feel on the inside. He’s there. Taking care of you and the kids. Going to work every day. Not cheating. Not hitting you. Loving you. Loving you, Tracy.

He has never felt like you do before.

When you tell a husband and father who is doing all of those good things and NOT doing all of those bad things that you’re sad, scared, tired and miserable, he hears this (this is so important, Tracy):

“You are a bad husband. You are a bad father. You are not good enough. You do not make me feel good. I fantasize about a better life. I fantasize about a better man.”

He feels like he’s sacrificed so much for you, Tracy. I don’t know how to measure that. I don’t know how much. But by committing his life to you and sacrificing his time to provide resources and security and shelter for you, and by NOT doing all the bad things commonly attached to ruining marriages, he feels like he’s giving a good-faith effort at this marriage thing—this commitment he was scared to enter into—but took the leap because he was too afraid to lose you.

Tracy, you feel it now. Fear of abandonment. Of being alone and emotionally isolated. And it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying on the inside and you can’t feel safe in your own life. You can’t feel safe in his arms because he is mostly responsible in your mind for causing these feelings.

He feels it too, Tracy. That same horrible pain and fear. But in most men, it manifests itself not as fear of being alone, but as shame.

Men feel shame.

It’s a chemical thing. Caveman shit we can’t do anything about. Same for you and the things you feel.

I don’t want to speak for you, Tracy, because I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.

But men? We have a VERY hard time with the following truth:

When something happens. Anything. Our perception of that reality is NOT the same as how the women in our lives perceive it. We literally live in different worlds.

It’s why when you fight, you always disagree about some relatively inconsequential fact that one of you chose to throw in the other’s face in the heat of battle. And then instead of fighting about whatever you’re fighting about, you spend time arguing over this new piece of information that really doesn’t matter.

It’s a constant loop of insanity and it makes both of you so angry. You both want to cry, but the guy will try harder to not cry because crying makes us feel shame.

Here’s what I mean. All these things have happened to you and hurt you in deep and profound ways, Tracy. Your husband’s actions or lack thereof made you feel this way.

When you tell him about it, it comes off to him like you’re picking on him. Like you’re nagging. Like you’re telling him again he’s not good enough.

Because he would NEVER, EVER get upset about the thing you just got upset about, he thinks you’re crazy. Tracy, he thinks you’re totally nuts.

He doesn’t mean to insult you. Every day he just hopes you eventually outgrow what he thinks is emotional instability. Because he doesn’t yet know what I know.

That you’re not wrong or crazy.

That he’s not wrong or crazy.

But that in the context of unconditional love in marriage, you’re both doing it wrong.

He crushes your soul every time he doesn’t validate your fears.

You crush his when you tell him he’s being a bad husband.

You’ll either live like this forever, secretly resenting each other, but sticking it out for the children.

Or you’ll get divorced like me.

Behind Door #3

Or you can take the road less travelled.

Tracy, I know you want to. You’re searching for answers online. Hoping and praying and crying and trying.

This is where women almost ALWAYS outperform men in marriage. The fight for the marriage.

It’s hard for men to do heroic things when they feel ashamed. When they feel disrespected and unloved.

It’s pride, Tracy. More caveman shit.

Ugly truth time?

It took several months of sleeping in separate rooms and never having sex and living in daily fear of her leaving before I started to ask myself better questions.

Before I started actively seeking answers and figuring out how I contributed to breaking everything.

Humans always want to look outside themselves for solutions to the problem. Cognitive dissonance. Our brains will do anything to avoid the conclusion: This is my fault.

My wife—whether it was her being a poor communicator, or me being a prideful, shitty listener—was never able to get through to me.

She would keep telling me things. But the message never got delivered.

Things That Might Help

In my opinion, the most-important thing you can do is read this book. If you can get your husband to read that book, I think it can save both your lives. I couldn’t be more serious.

I think it’s the most-powerful thing I have ever read about male-female relationships, and I couldn’t recommend something more.

I don’t know where you fall on the faith spectrum, Tracy. I would never try to impose faith or prayer on someone as a cure-all. People need to find their own path. But there is something called The Love Dare. If you have the courage and mettle, it’s a worthy adventure. There’s a Love Dare app you can download on your phone, if you want.

And that leads me to the final thing.

You’ve been neglected, Tracy. Maybe even mentally and emotionally abused.

So, it’s unfair for me to ask you this.

But maybe you muster up the strength to do it anyway: Love him harder than you ever have before. Lift him up.

Tell him every day how much you love him. How much you respect him. How thankful you are for all he does for you and your family. How good he makes you feel when he makes you feel good. How PROUD of him you are. How much you believe in him. That you know he’s going to accomplish whatever he pours his heart into.

Tell him how much you appreciate that he has dedicated his life to you and the kids.

All the things you want him to do for you. You show him how without asking for anything in return.

I know you don’t feel like doing that, Tracy.

It’s pride. Cavewoman shit.

And it’s going to tell you that you’re not going to give any more than you’ve already given. Because he doesn’t deserve it.

But you deserve it, Tracy. Your children deserve it. Your friends deserve it. Your family deserves it.

You deserve the peace that comes from knowing you gave all you have to give.

Broken marriages are not fights to be fought with anger and resentment.

They’re fights meant to be fought with love.

Not the kind of love we see in romantic comedies or read about in sappy Nicholas Sparks novels. That’s all poisonous fantasy.

But the gritty love. The love you feel in your heart for your child even when they’re driving you mad.

It’s the love you choose when you wake up in the morning.

When the feeling goes away, it’s all we have left.

The choice.

And Tracy, if you can find the courage to make that choice even when you don’t feel like it?

I think your husband—a good man, I want to believe—I think he’ll muster up the strength and humility to choose it too.

Two people. Giving more to each other than they take for themselves.

Waking up every day, and saying: I choose you.

Tracy, that’s what forever looks like.

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40 thoughts on “Advice for Women “In That Place”

  1. swo8 says:

    Just stick it out. I can get better and probably will.
    Leslie

    Like

  2. this is so practical and convicting! I hope more people read this as they fight for their marriages…. (…and you don’t want to be a divorce blogger…) PSH! jk

    Like

  3. elbrookman says:

    LMAO…. Hey Tracy….Here is the truth girl. You are on your 2nd child and your hormones are on fire and you see that it is no longer party time for you and what kind of woman have you become…YOU ARE LIKE YOUR MOTHER NOW….lol…… It is full diapers and you looking like dog poop most nights when the old hubby comes home from work. You will more than likely have his third or fourth child. You are full of nagging and are just gonna nag this SOB to an early heart attack like what happens to most men after their wives have a second child. I suggest you take lots of insurance out on him and if he does kick off early, hire a nanny and go to the Bahamas and pay for a cabana-boy to rub oil on you in the hot sun…… Or quit getting on his case cause he no longer kisses your tight butt like when you two were dating because the routine of life has sagged your booty and the romance is gone cause it is just too damn hard to have energy with kids getting into the flour and throwing it around the house and cleaning up after them and then they climb into your bed and fart on you all night….. go ahead….I dare you to leave him because there are just not many men out there who will take on your kids and you too. Threating him with finding another guy?…I agree with him…go on baby, take your best shot….I hope you end up with Matt who is giving you advice …I have week old bread more exciting than him….You would be back with your husband after a weekend……You picked this guy, and he’s more than likely the right one for the rest of your life. I suggest you quit your whining, get some hormone or vitamin treatment from your doctor, appreciating your life, start spoiling your husband cause you say you love him… make him some great food and then go crazy on him in the bedroom……and if it doesn’t work out…keep that insurance policy going and go bat shit crazy with a cabana boy in your late forties.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Your intentional efforts to make Tracy feel shitty are only going to remain public because this comment is a shining example of what a fuckstain you have turned out to be. I’m pretty sure no one would ever take you seriously enough to actually feel bad about something you have to say.

      Hopefully, people who read it will want to come troll your blog like you do mine, since you’re such a classy guy.

      You really hurt my feelings with the week-old-bread comment, man. Of all the guys in this world to make me feel inferior, you can bet your ass it’s the overweight pedo-stached 60-year-old that’s going to do it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • elbrookman says:

        Uh. … I would not have jotted this down and pressed send if I didn’t want this posted ….let’s see … I don’t think you can put me in the troll category …. It was like last summer I last commented on your blog ….I do occasionally add an “lmao”…. Tracy will come to appreciate my advice long after she awakens from the snooze she got from reading your advice.

        Like

      • I thought elbrookman was going to stay away. I distinctly remember him promising to never come back…..He has tons of unfiltered, unwise, un-asked-for counsel AND he’s a liar too? wow…. his ineptness in life knows no bounds. Gotta give him credit for being blissfully unaware that no one wants the garbage he dishes out all over cyberspace. But let’s be real….He’s never, ever, in a million years, going to get a base of followers as wide and loyal as yours. I guess he figures by trolling around and getting people talking about him, he might be as successful a blogger as you. I tip my hat to him for how cute his little (albeit pathetic) efforts are. I just hope I’m around long enough to see him mature and decide to apologize for all of the damaging comments he’s made here. He has a soul… he doesn’t think anyone ELSE does, but he has one nonetheless….we just need to feel pity for him. (you get that He’s TOTALLY jealous of you, right? I mean, he’s a classic case. He reeks of it!).

        Like

      • Karen G says:

        I wish there was a “like” button!! Matt, I think you’re awesome. It’s too late for my 30 year marriage, but I am really awed by you’re insights :)

        Like

  4. DcsStorys says:

    Holy crap this hit home hard! “Well said” is going to be understatement of the year for this post.

    I don’t think I could agree more with what you said, coming from a similar outlook finally after my divorce from my wife.

    I hope Tracey gets this and truly gives it her all, whether or not it is successful, should the marriage not work in the end, she and any other can walk away fully knowing you did you best.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you so much. This is really my experience, and I think the experience of many guys out there.

      I don’t want people to quit when there’s still so much to save.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DcsStorys says:

        I agree. I walked away from mine knowing I did take that extra step, and she continued to do what you said, made me feel like it wasn’t good enough. I think people out there have been brain washed to “never settle” without understanding it is within them to not settle, not rely on the other person being the most spectacular being every single day.

        Like

      • BoPeep says:

        Matt, as you know, I am on the other side of this fence, and I worked hard for years, counseling, open communication of my needs, making sure his needs were being met, believing there was still so much to save, but in the end, he made choices again and again that he knew were wrong and a betrayal, but he made them anyway because it’s what made him feel good. You can only call it a mistake the first time, after that it’s a decision. I’ve made the decision not to tolerate his “mistakes” anymore. Tracy-every relationship has two people in it. Work hard to repair yours. Exhaust all efforts. Find a way to reconnect, keep working at it. Walk away only if you have done everything you possibly can, and only if truly arrive at the conclusion you will be better without him than with him, because even for the one that leaves, it sucks. It’s hard, you question yourself and your decision. You are lonely. Alone. Don’t leave because you think you’ve found someone else, that rarely works out, leave for yourself, because you need to move on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Thank you, Bo.

          I apologize that a man-child called you a name in my comments section. Sincerely. If it upsets you, I’ll take it down. If you chuckle at the inanity as I do, we can leave it for posterity’s sake.

          Like

          • BoPeep says:

            Oh Matt.. No apologies needed… I enjoy sparring with worthy partners, but he isn’t one of them. Your blog is wonderful, don’t let commenters like that detract from your message to readers, if anything I just made it worse, but I hope your reader Tracy got a chuckle and follows your advice. Most relationships are worth saving, but only if both people are committed. It just doesn’t work if one partner makes a half assed effort.

            Like

  5. girl25 says:

    Great advice, I will be reading the book. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. It’s an outstanding guide to better understanding ourselves and our partners. Life-changing, I believe.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Like

  6. I read this book about 2 months post dday and it helped. Will reread it again so I can apply the advice more actively. I’m raising two men children and it really makes sense.

    Thanks for posting, Matt. Keep up the great, worthwhile work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Here’s why I love it: It helps us understand WHY we react emotionally as men or women to certain things. It helps us understand WHY our partner responds certain ways to things we didn’t realize we’re hurtful. It gives us reasons. It gives us the ability to understand and empathize so that we can learn how to speak and act in ways one another understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nephila says:

    Honestly I just think Tracy has a case of the Entitleds. You have man who loves you and you still feel unhappy? Then its not him. It’s really not. And asking him to change is really unfair. And you changing is probably unrealistic until you’ve been through the fire of loss or infidelity and worked out that actually none of the things you don’t like about him matter.

    Happiness isnt getting a better partner. It is appreciating what you have.

    Like

  8. Phoenix says:

    A simply stated “beautiful” is all I could muster because like usual, you said it all that I have been thinking, feeling, wondering about.

    Like

  9. rougedmount says:

    1. women’s brain change during pregnancy and under NO circumstances should she make any life changing decisions while pregnant or until her post pregnancy brain returns to it’s normal size and function at about 18 months.

    2. both people have to fight for and sacrifice for the marriage and it is impossible for a woman to carry the weight of the family, the children and the marital relationship. It kills her soul and any love she has for her husband.

    3. the most important advice you shall ever read ” My wife—whether it was her being a poor communicator, or me being a prideful, shitty listener—was never able to get through to me.She would keep telling me things. But the message never got delivered.”

    What this means is actually this: He will never get it. Not unless you change things dramatically. 10 years will pass and you can say what you mean, what you feel, what you need him to hear and he will never, ever, ever hear it. You don’t speak the same language. Ten years will pass and nothing will change. What he WILL understand, is if you leave. Before the baby is born. LEAVE, Go to marital counselling when you are separated, with every intent to stay married. He will understand you are serious simply because you are not there. He’ll discover the incentive and work to get the marriage and his family on track or he will get what he was pushing for, which was you to leave. You’ll find out sooner as opposed to later.

    4. You never have to wonder if a man loves you, because he shows you. He puts you and your kids first. He listens to you and does 100 little things that make your life easier because making you happy is what makes him happy. I never wondered if my father loved me or my mother…he showed me and i watched how he loved her. If he can’t love you how you need, then let him go so he can find someone who works better for him and you can get on with your life with someone who values you instead of treats you like an unreasonable combatant simply because you need support during the most vulnerable time of your life.

    Like

  10. That was really said, Matt. Good book recommendation, too.

    What really helped me is understanding that men and women are not the same and so he really doesn’t know. He really doesn’t. This stuff seems plain as rain to me, but he speaks an entirely different language. He just doesn’t get it. His emotional life is different, his perceptions are not the same as mine.

    It is incredibly difficult to try and pour some honor into men, to lift them up, when what you really want to do is kick them in the shin, but it sure helps. Men tend to need to feel respect in order to feel loved and when they’re feeling loved, they listen better. They put more effort into trying to understand. They start to pay attention, they begin to accommodate you more. It’s tough, you have to swallow a lot of pride, but on the other hand, you have a lot more power when you can pull it off.

    Like

  11. Perfectly stated Matt. Though we all take different paths, this one is one that makes sense to save a marriage.

    Like

  12. John says:

    Matt, well said, all of it! Men hear things differently, for sure. I agree that the husband is probably hearing “you’re not a good husband and father” even though that may not be what Tracy is actually saying. I’ve been there, and I have a good marriage. But sometimes I actually say to myself “my gosh, I do all of this stuff, working, coaching, doing chores, running errands, how can I be such a shitty husband/father? I do more for her/them than EVERY husband I know!” When I calm down, I realize that is not what she is saying at all.

    I have to disagree vehemently with the advice some are giving to just leave him. If he is saying “go ahead and see what happens” the outcome will not be good. Here is what he is saying: “my pride will get in the way of this. If you leave, its over, period”. And, you have to ask yourself, do you want to do this alone? Really? Is it really that bad? I suspect not.

    Marriage is a lot of HARD WORK, so get to it. If you put in a lot of hard work and he just doesn’t, well then maybe you have your answer.

    Finally, my wife and I facilitate a marriage workshop offered by AlphaUSA called The Marriage Course. If you can find one in your area, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it gets you 7 date nights with dinner!

    Like

  13. Sarah says:

    I love what you say about the end of marriage. It is about love. It is a choice. It is hard. It sounds like putting an animal down, but it is so SO much worse. Thank you for that. I’m going to have to get off your blog for the rest of the day or I’m going to be a mess.

    Like

  14. edna_londono@yahoo.com says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share! I’m so glad I found your page today. It is what I needed. I felt last night like there is nothing left to give to my husband anymore. I don’t want to give up but I do feel alone in fighting for this marriage. It’s nice to be reminded to continue fighting and to also know that I am not alone and my husband is not any different than most men. God bless you and I pray that you have found peace and happiness!

    Like

  15. TK says:

    Your entire blog has been an eye opener showing me I am not alone. It was like you were writing this post to me. I’m almost 12 years into this marriage and I’m exhausted from giving. In fact, I wrote a journal entry last night that was about how exhausted I am in my marriage and life because of my selfish husband. He’s not a bad guy but my god is he selfish. Like you mention, it’s the little things. I feel I cannot depend on him for anything. I’m a giver and he’s a taker but I’m running out of love to give him. I’ve reached the uncaring stage and he can’t understand why.
    I’ve tried loving him harder and giving more. His response is to take more. I’m not the same person anymore. I feel like an old, tired hag.
    We have three young kids, I get to stay at home to raise them, we live comfortably, and yet I’m so unhappy. I’m not sure what else to do at this point but I’m glad I’m not alone with these feelings. I’ve felt so alone for years.

    Like

  16. Bonnie says:

    First of all, wow, this resonates with me so much. I wanted my marriage to work, to be resolved. We separated 2.5 years ago, and he passed away in November. I thought that the only way I could continue was separate from him til he could understand some of the choices he was making was leaving me to feel so disrespected and fearful, and unloved. My husband was a very poor communicator, I mean he just didn’t know how to do that. He was a wonderful man in so many ways though. He was the love of my life. I still love him. When I knew he was passing, I grieved, I told him I was so sorry and of course fell apart. He looked at me and said, For what? Well I knew he didn’t understand, but I felt like I had failed him for not being able to make him see the mistakes and foolishness, the desire to be the best wife in the world. Oh, I am not a writer and find it hard to express myself although my heart is full. I am going to read this book, at least maybe I can understand better why I felt so abandoned and alone. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  17. Lauren says:

    I wish it was easier to wake up with the “I choose you” mentality . Thanks for writing that I bought the book and feel exactly what your saying is the absolute truth. It just makes to much sense to not be . So thanks … Because I have been making the sincere effort to wake up and love the sh** out of my husband even though he came home from work and dumped his lunch containers in the sink, walked in the house with his work boots on to bring wood in , and got into bed all dirty from work because he is so damn tired from working a 12 hour shift ! But I know he does it for us ! So thanks because even though i would like to strangle him for all of those things I know he’s not intentionally doing it to hurt me or make me mad . Just wish he wouldn’t do it lol ! It takes a real effort to not get mad and get all angry about it . So thank again !

    Liked by 1 person

  18. kantal113 says:

    So fucking great. Thank you so much.

    Like

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