Husbands Are Negligent Criminals, Wives Are Flawed Judges

Lady Justice

(Image/blogs.monash.edu)

There are several ways I could kill three people.

One way would be to successfully craft and execute a plan to murder them. Using a weapon or poison or something else, I could intentionally take three lives.

Another way would be to do something dangerous, reckless or negligent that ultimately caused their deaths. Maybe I attacked them with the intent to cause physical harm but they died from the injuries. Maybe I set their house on fire not realizing they were inside. In the end, three people are dead because of something I did that was bad.

A third way would be to somehow be involved in a total accident. Maybe another vehicle hits me. My tire blows. I spin out of control and my car hits some innocent pedestrians, and three people die.

The U.S. criminal justice system takes the particular circumstances into account when determining an appropriate punishment or whether to press charges at all.

The premeditated murder of three people will likely send you to prison for the rest of your life, and might get you a death sentence. It’s very bad because you deliberately planned to do one of the two most horrible things imaginable, and then actually went through with it.

When you do something bad and then people die incidently, it’s usually labeled involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. You didn’t intend to kill. But you clearly were doing something you understood to be harmful or dangerous and it resulted in people dying. A common sentence for such a crime can range from months to 10 or more years in prison.

And then there are no-fault accidents. Deaths ruled as accidental don’t result in any criminal charges or punishment.

Fighting Couples Often Mislabel Crimes, Then Improperly Punish Them

I used to say it to my wife all the time when she was getting on me about some random thing I’d done that she thought was a big deal: “Ummm. The calibration on your This Is How Mad I Should Be About This Right Now thingy is totally broken. It’s like the punishment never fits the crime with you. I accidentally do something, and you want to try me for murder. I love you, for God’s sake. Get a grip.”

As is true in most relationship disagreements, we were both a little right and both a little wrong, and since neither of us were willing to admit we might be wrong nor made any effort to acknowledge where the other might be right, we’re not married anymore.

When you’re in the middle of those fights, you sometimes feel like you’re the only person going through it. It’s not something I wanted to talk about. Whether it was because I loved and respected my wife too much, or whether I was worried about someone judging me for marrying someone that “crazy,” I didn’t talk much about marriage fights with friends or family.

One of the most important things to ever happen to me happened while I was reading this relationship book in the guest room bed trying to figure out how my life had fallen apart. And the book described, in exquisite detail, a common argument between a husband and wife.

We all know what it’s like to make a connection with someone or something by discovering some common bond. It’s great. It’s how we make friends, or fall in love with music and fictional characters and art. But it’s different when you’re desperately trying to keep your entire life and everything you know intact.

I read a stranger describe my marriage for me.

The truth smacked me in the face and it felt like the eighth shot of tequila at a beach party—amazingly mind-expanding, and also like I needed to vomit.

If a stranger can accurately describe the same exact fight I always have with my wife, then that must mean that pretty much EVERYONE has this same fight.

It’s awesome, because you realize you’re not the only one and that if everyone’s going through this, then it’s all the more reason to keep the marriage alive and continue to grow and evolve.

And it’s intensely sickening, because this is so common that ANY experienced couples therapist or even just some dumb blogger can accurately describe the common fight and dynamic that causes half of all marriage to fail, yet it’s somehow still a major secret the vast majority of people walking around are completely oblivious to. They just keep trying and failing in their relationships, moving onto the next one, because maybe this new person will make me happy!

That’s always it, isn’t it? We want other people to make us happy, and we don’t want to take any responsibility for it. We deny our partners certain treatment they say will make them happy and then get bent out of shape when we’re treated the same in return.

Husbands mess up.

We inflict emotional pain on our spouses in ways indistinguishable from neglect. These are pretty good guys I’m talking about. They’re not looking for ways to hurt their wives. They’re not murdering.

When I was a senior in high school, someone killed my uncle in a hit-and-run highway accident. We never found the guy driving the white Pontiac Grand Prix heading south toward Chicago. Eyewitness accounts say the driver aggressively swerved into my uncle’s truck which led to the accident.

My uncle was 37, just like I’ll be in a few days.

White Grand Prix Guy didn’t murder my uncle.

But he’s also not completely innocent in his death.

Husbands hurt their wives accidentally insofar as they do harmful things that inflict emotional damage without intending to. And because they “didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” they expect their wives to give them a total pass for it.

Someone died. “It was an accident!” the husband says, asking his wife to not press charges. “It’s not fair because I didn’t hurt you on purpose!”

That husband is White Grand Prix Guy.

I was White Grand Prix Guy. Only I eventually got caught. And I deserved it.

Wives mess up.

They often don’t try their emotional criminal cases based on the facts of just one case. In the United States, there are laws in place to protect people from being tried twice for the same crime.

Our wives don’t give a shit about criminal justice analogies, though.

You just left the damp towel wadded up on the bedroom floor, and she’s freaking had it because she’s asked you to not do that about 50 times, and you apparently don’t care how bad you make her feel, which pretty much means you don’t love her, because people who love people care about respecting and protecting the feelings of the people they love.

During your trial, you will not be charged with leaving the damp towel on the floor one time. You are being charged with leaving the towel on the floor all 50 times, PLUS every single other thing you have ever done or not done that produces within her this feeling that you are INTENTIONALLY not doing some little thing she’s asked you for, and all 14 million of those moments have her at her wit’s end.

You committed negligent homicide.

She’s charging you with premeditated murder.

And then you make it worse by arguing for all charges to be dropped.

There’s a line, and I don’t know how to identify it.

Men, in my estimation CAN honestly and legitimately claim ignorance regarding how their behaviors sometimes adversely affect their wives.

But how many times does she have to say it with you dismissing her before it stops being innocent? At some point, innocent ignorance becomes willful ignorance becomes neglect.

Unfortunately, the people least-equipped to make that determination—the husband and wife themselves—will be the ones making that call and getting it wrong.

The husband claiming total innocence while his wife suffers.

The wife applying malicious intent to accidental carelessness while her husband withdraws further.

The negligent criminal. And the flawed judge.

Unwittingly sprinting to divorce court.

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115 thoughts on “Husbands Are Negligent Criminals, Wives Are Flawed Judges

  1. zombiedrew2 says:

    Here’s another way of looking at this that may strike a chord with a lot of men. Yeah, it’s a generalization that I realize doesn’t apply in all cases – but they exist for a reason.

    Guys are often characterized as being fixated on sex, and most would probably admit that they wish there was more sex in their relationship. Lots of guys talk about the frequency they are “hoping” to have sex with their wives – and it’s usually met with a lot of rejection as compared to how often they actually do have sex.

    And usually, their wife has a reason. They are too tired, due to the stresses of the day. Work, kids, household duties. There are all sorts of things that cause someone to say “no, not tonight”. And these reasons are virtually always legitimate.

    When you are constantly on the receiving end of that rejection though, the validity of those reasons really doesn’t seem to matter. After a while it hurts, a lot. And when she say “I’m tired”, that starts to be heard as “I don’t desire you”, “Your needs don’t matter”, and “I don’t love you any more”.

    That’s not what she’s saying – but that’s how it feels. And over time that takes a toll. It starts to eat away at you, your self esteem, and can lead to depression. Eventually the guy stops asking, because it’s easier to not bother then it is to be rejected yet again. And when they’ve stopped asking the hurt will turn to resentment over time.

    Guys may have a hard time understanding the importance of the dirty dishes – but I think many can get that.

    And it’s at once funny and sad how this pain is usually interpreted by their wives. They tend to think that their husband only cares about sex, or only wants them for sex. Some will say things like “he doesn’t need sex”, or “if sex is such a big deal to him, then that’s his issue”, or “I do all this stuff around the household, I don’t have the time or energy left for sex”.

    And in doing so, they are completely invalidating the feelings of their husband. Often, this is our dirty dishes.

    This comment isn’t about sex.

    It’s about one person in a relationship viewing an event, and someone’s response to that event through their own beliefs and putting their own meanings to it. That’s something that’s wrong, no matter who is doing it.

    Guys completely need to do more. They completely need to try to understand their wife’s perspective even when it’s foreign to them.

    A few posts back someone talked about how women often internalize the dirty house, and it becomes tied to their self-image. That probably seems ludicrous to a lot of guys, because to them it’s some dishes, or some laundry. We separate those things from the house and from our perception of who we are. So it doesn’t compute. We left a glass out – so what. To us it doesn’t mean we don’t care, it doesn’t mean we don’t love her. And we can’t understand why it feels that way to her.

    Just as she can’t understand why having and maintaining a sex life is fundamental to our self-image.

    We do little things that for our wives start to symbolize a lack of caring and love. And they do the same.

    We both need to listen, and we both need accept that when the other says something is important – it probably is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Travis B. says:

      I bet Matt just found his next reader comment to spotlight. NAILED IT, buddy. Out of the ballpark. Bravo!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Really nice comparison drew about sex being the as dirty dishes are to women. I value that you have aptly pointed out the humanity of men. Women and men are simply different. As women, so many things are interconnected for us, men are better at separating and compartmentalizing. However, they ultimately want connection as much as we do, they just look for it in different ways. They too need to be heard, feel loved, validated, valued and appreciated. The problem is, when it gets to the point of resentment no one wants to extend an olive branch. One party is so used to feeling like its unbalanced, that they do more, that they are under appreciated … it tends to be too little too late because they are unable of letting go of that resentment.

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      • zombiedrew2 says:

        I may come across as a total jerk here, but when I follow these discussions in different blogs and comment sections I see a ton of comments that seem like they can be reinterpreted as “how do I get my partner to listen to my needs and understand me and accommodate ME”.

        There is often little flexibility on the idea that both sides can be different, and both sides can still be right.

        We ARE different. And it doesn’t even have to be a guy and a girl. Two guys, two girls, a guy and a goat – whatever. We are different. With different needs, and different wants, and different ways of feeling valued and loved.

        It’s just that due to socialization the guy and girl differences seem more pronounced.

        So we can continue going around believing our way is the right way, and continually being first hurt and disappointed and then resentful when someone makes us feel invalidated. Or we can start to accept that there are other ways, and we can try to truly understand each other, and try to love each other in the way that the other needs – even when it’s foreign to us.

        And that starts with us, whether we are a guy or a girl.

        Unfortunately as you said, instead we get hurt, and become resentful. Then we start disconnecting emotionally from each other because it hurts too damned much to try when the other person doesn’t get us. And as we disconnect, it just makes things worse. So we divorce. Then we find someone else and the pattern just plays out again.

        I hear a lot about couples who have hit a breaking point and been able to make it, and in every case there is some talk of letting go over everything. Past hurts, ego, an insistence that things have to be “our way”. That seems a common thread to me.

        I almost lost my wife a few years back, and I can’t predict the future – so maybe I still will. And it was both of our faults.

        Things are pretty good now, but really very little has changed. The biggest change is our mental approach.

        We still have issues, and a lot of them are the same ones. I’m trying each and every day, and doing my best to live with appreciation for the good things instead of focusing on the bad. And she is too.

        When problems happen we no longer look at them as reasons to shut down, and disconnect. Because when one person is shutting down it’s REAL easy for the other one to do the same. Instead, we continue to try. And let me tell you, for me seeing consistent effort makes a world of difference.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Wow. So well said. Thanks for the male perspective. You are completely right. It is the same as the female comments about not helping clean up, etc. I am definitely guilty of disregarding my husband’s feelings.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      I love Matt’s original post up top. And I love this comment by you, Zombie! Good reads!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thant you for sharing your insight. “Just as she can’t understand why having and maintaining a sex life is fundamental to our self-image.”

      It’s not always the woman withholding intimacy, oddly enough men do it as well for various reasons. And, it is damaging to whichever partners self-image. I think the bottom line is that rejection hurts no mater who it comes from and both partners need to recognize what feels like rejection for the other.

      Liked by 2 people

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Men definitely do it as well – and I think you said an important thing there.

        Withholding.

        I know that for men, it often feels like sex has become this thing that is weaponized by women – and they will withhold it if they aren’t happy or if they aren’t getting something they don’t want.

        And I think that’s very dangerous thinking for a relationship. At some level I suppose it does happen, especially when resentment has worked it’s way into a relationship.

        From a lot of the people I’ve talked to, it’s not withholding though – they simply have no drive. Sex drive is complicated, and is tied to a lot of things (stress and self-image being big ones). Often the person with low drive feels awful about it, they feel guilty, and the fact that they don’t have a drive and don’t seem to be able to do anything about it makes it worse.

        People can also get confused about what it means, and a lack of sex drive is often interpreted to be a sign that they have fallen out of love with their partner.

        I’m sure it’s hard enough for anyone to have no drive, male or female. It seems like it can really damage self esteem, and can become something that snowballs into larger issues.

        But I think it would be especially hard for men. There is a perception out there that men are “all about sex”, and that they are able to have sex pretty much on demand. Likely due to socialization, sex and sex drive definitely IS something that gets tied into our self-image. So imagine how painful it must be for a guy who has no drive. He probably feels like a complete failure.

        Anyhow, my initial comment really wasn’t supposed to be about sex. It was about rejection, and not feeling valued by your partner. And that’s something that may manifest differently from person to person, couple to couple. But it’s always important for each of us to try and think beyond our own understanding of things, and try to ensure we value our partners in ways that are meaningful to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reed French says:

        Hope I’m posting this in the right spot. I think where I get confused is that if a man has a female boss and she says, “Hey, when you send emails, please hit reply all. Cool?” The guy will say, “No problem” and will do it and won’t forget. But at home when his wife says, “Hey, when you finish with your plate, please rinse it and load it in the dishwasher. Cool?” he says, “No problem” but doesn’t understand what he just agreed to and won’t do it – no matter how many times she asks.

        I’m not trying to bash. It’s just that I don’t get the “why” of this. It’s like there’s a work hat where he knows he needs to be respectful and a home hat where he feels challenged if his wife is directive.

        Honestly, I don’t know what it’s about but I have to call bullshit when someone is able to perfectly understand when one woman gives a directive or asks for help but says he doesn’t understand when his wife gives a directive or asks for help.

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      • zombiedrew2 says:

        This is in response to Reed French’s comment:

        “if a man has a female boss and she says, “Hey, when you send emails, please hit reply all. Cool?” The guy will say, “No problem” and will do it and won’t forget. But at home when his wife says, “Hey, when you finish with your plate, please rinse it and load it in the dishwasher. Cool?” he says, “No problem” but doesn’t understand what he just agreed to and won’t do it – no matter how many times she asks.”

        There is definitely some truth to that. Though I don’t think it’s entirely true. I suspect the guy will occasionally forget to send the email for his boss as well, and there are times he needs reminders.

        Part of the problem is, I think we have a perception of how our partner acts towards other people vs. how they act around us, and that perception is skewed. Because we only see our partner in public when we are with them. This leads us to believe that they act better, or more consistently around others. Which makes it seem like they don’t care about us.

        Plus, our partners can do 100 good to great things, and it’s easy to overlook those when we are hurt. We tend to focus on the negative things, fueling this skewed perception.

        But it is also true that we often do “behave” better around others that we do at home. Ironically, that’s precisely because we feel safe and loved at home, so we are more likely to let the walls down and let our true self out. In some ways this is actually a good thing (don’t throw things at me yet, give me a moment here…)

        Think of the classic dating rite of passage – farting in the presence of your partner. It’s a natural act, though not a pleasant one. I think we can all remember moments where we were in physical pain holding in gas around our partners, because we didn’t want to fart around them. Over time, as we become more comfortable with the other person we no longer have that intense fear of farting around them. Hopefully we still show some tact, but when those air bubbles escape it’s not a huge deal.

        I think some of our less desirable behaviors and laziness are similar.

        I have young children, and one of my boys is a handful. His behavior at home can be challenging at times (VERY stubborn), and I’m always struck by how his teachers talk about him being a perfect angel at school. I didn’t get it, how could it be the same kid? At one point I talked to the school counselors to get tips on dealing with his tantrums, and she told me it’s totally normal for the behavior to be different at home because home is his “safe” zone. It’s where all his defenses can come down.

        Of course, the other side of the equation is that him doing it at home is kind of my fault too. In my desire to be a “good dad” I have allowed him to get away with stuff that maybe I shouldn’t have. And once you’ve done that it’s harder to change. So for me, part of addressing things at home involves setting boundaries on what is acceptable and what isn’t, and standing by them.

        We really shouldn’t have to do that with our partners. Our partners should “know” what’s alright and what isn’t, and act accordingly. They are adults, not kids.

        I think however that a lot of guys grew up in a home where mommy picked up after them and they didn’t have to do much, other than “guy stuff” like mow the lawn. Then they get married, and in a desire to be a “good wife” the wife does a lot of stuff – crap that she never should have had to do. Over time she grows understandably resentful. But really, can you blame the guy in that case? It’s what he knows. He needs to learn early that it’s not alright.

        I think the best thing that ever happened to me was I moved out early, and had to learn to do everything on my own. There were some hard years, but to me it was an invaluable experience that made me appreciate things a bit more.

        I’ve got buddies who went from mommy to wife (ie replacement mommy), and I just shake my head. But I see how it happens.

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      • Reed French says:

        zombie, thank you for a well thought out and considered response. You’re right. I think we do feel our partners listen to others better than they listen to us – probably more than is actually true. And they tend to get comfy enough around us to feel they can be “themselves.” It’s also true that boys (I think perhaps more than girls) go from mom taking care of them to wife taking care of them with no need to learn to care of themselves or clean up after themselves. Girls have that too – but in a different way. I know one mistake I made in my marriage was to expect my husband knew how to do EVERYTHING. I grew up with a father who just handled everything. Mom would tell my dad about the things that needed done around the house that she couldn’t do or didn’t know how to do at dinner and within a few days it was all handled. It was an unfair expectation for my husband. But I think a marriage saver is realizing that you are not more important than the other people in the family and being respectful is the way to happiness. But your words were well received as a good reminder that our children learn about how to treat their spouse from what they learn at home.

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    • Reed French says:

      When you leave your wet towel on the floor or dishes in the sink and expect her to clean up after you because you don’t want to clean up after yourself, you’re effectively making her the maid. But she’s not your maid. She’s your wife.

      There may be an agreement that you earn the cash and she cleans the house. So, she vacuums and does laundry and scrubs toilets, cooks meals, runs to the grocery, picks up kids, buys the clothes, does the shopping, etc. When you don’t clean up after yourself, you’re making her job harder and disrespecting all she does.

      The comparison to this would be if she showed up to your job and pulled everything out of the cabinets and dumped it on the floor or threw your computer out the window. She’s making your job harder and you’d likely be a little upset about it.

      When you expect that she should be available for sex whenever you want it, you’re expecting her to be your sex slave. Not even a prostitute because a prostitute can decide whether or not to have sex with you. You’re saying she should not be an autonomous human capable of deciding whether or not she is interested in having sex. She should exist to service you whether or not she wants to have sex. But she’s not a sex slave. She’s your wife.

      It’s not her job to clean up after you. And it’s not her job to have sex with you.

      A better comparison may be this – if your space is the workshop and your wife keeps borrowing your tools and leaving them outside in the rain so you never know where they are, you run over them when you’re mowing and you have to keep buying new ones anytime you want to work on a project – and you’ve told her 50 times to please not do that – you may start to feel the same way she does.

      If your job is to take care of the finances and your wife never writes in anything in when she uses the debit card and checks are bouncing left and right because of it, and you’ve asked her 50 times not to do that…you’ll get an insight into how she’s feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        “There may be an agreement that you earn the cash and she cleans the house. So, she vacuums and does laundry and scrubs toilets, cooks meals, runs to the grocery, picks up kids, buys the clothes, does the shopping, etc. When you don’t clean up after yourself, you’re making her job harder and disrespecting all she does.

        The comparison to this would be if she showed up to your job and pulled everything out of the cabinets and dumped it on the floor or threw your computer out the window. She’s making your job harder and you’d likely be a little upset about it.”

        I don’t disagree with your core point regarding the respect a loving, faithful wife should be due at all, but I do feel that your analogy may not correspond to the typical male’s way of thinking on this. From a male perspective, I would argue that, if he were to think consciously about what he’s doing (which he never is, because all we’re ever typically processing in our minds is “When can I watch TV, have dinner, screw and go to sleep?” ;-) ), he would say, “At my job, there are no concessions on my employer’s part to continue paying me while also doing everything it can to remove all work from my plate. Every day, I expect there to be work for me to have to handle in order to earn my keep. So why should it be any different for my wife and her kind of job?”

        I always make posts like this with a great deal of trepidation because I’m afraid it will be misinterpreted that I support/champion such a line of thought, which is most assuredly not the case, but I think it’s important for women to understand common male frames of mind, especially in matters where they diverge dramatically from females’. If you can better grasp how we look at the world, and our relationships–justifiably or not–the better you may be able to make the connection of why your feelings about, or approaches to, relationship matters are bouncing off of him instead of sticking.

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      • All the good names were taken says:

        A better comparison may be this – if your space is the workshop and your wife keeps borrowing your tools and leaving them outside in the rain so you never know where they are, you run over them when you’re mowing and you have to keep buying new ones anytime you want to work on a project – and you’ve told her 50 times to please not do that – you may start to feel the same way she does.

        This is what I have often thought when reading posts here (BTW, first post!) I have a friend who was/is a much more girly-girl than I have ever been. I forget what we were doing at my house but we needed an extension cord for it. After we were done, I turned my back for a minute and when I came back, she had tied that extension cord up beautifully. I mean, it was a piece of art. I have never been able to do that. I was amazed and I think I blurted out “How did you learn to do that?” Her father had owned a body shop and the First Rule of Borrowing From the Garage was: return the item back exactly where you found it and how you found it. Her father had taught her how to wind his extension cords the way he wanted them done and if you didn’t do them that way, you weren’t allowed to borrow them from the garage. Same went for any tools, they went back in perfect condition exactly where you took them from: or else.

        I think everyone has something they take time over and value. Record collection. Baseball cards. Books. DVDs. Something where, if someone was constantly removing things and not putting them back in the same place, the owner of them would quickly be annoyed. If X person took a screwdriver from its place and then put it on the workbench, instead of the place where it “lives”, the first thing Y person would do is see the screwdriver sitting on the bench and wonder why the hell X person didn’t take the extra 30 seconds to just. put. it. back. The first time, you blow it off. The second time, you give it a pass. By the thousandth time, you’re out for blood. Does it “matter” in the great scheme of things where the screwdriver is or isn’t? No. But it does to the one who needs it. I say this as someone who frequently forgets to take my own tools back and put them where they are “supposed” to be and then I can’t remember where I put them. I have no one to blame but myself for that!

        There’s that old saying “women’s work is never done” – because it isn’t. People don’t use one glass a week, or have one bath a week (any more). I think that what a lot of women are waiting for is for everyone to recognise that housework is never done and housework ≠ women’s work. It’s everyone’s job to clean up after themselves, so long as they are physically able to do so (or pay someone to do it). Just ask any parent of a teenager – boy or girl – about the struggle of getting dishes out of their bedrooms. We no longer have a society that functions where one person stays home and takes care of the house and children and the other person goes to work and brings home the money. Many would argue that even when that system was in place, society didn’t function for other reasons, it just appeared to do so.

        I’ve been watching a documentary about the sixties and it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t so long ago that married women couldn’t have birth control without consent from their husbands. Or have a bank account in their own name. Or get credit/a mortgage without a co-signer (either husband or father). My vet has a photocopy of a rejection letter up on the wall of her waiting room from 1962 where the dean has written to her that there are 4 slots reserved for women in veterinary medicine… unless there are really great male candidates and this year, all the male candidates were outstanding. That she would do better to consider a career in nursing or teaching because veterinary medicine was hard and gross and dirty. My grandparents wouldn’t pay for my mother to go to college because she would just get married and have children and it would be a waste of all that money. These are the kind of things that women still remember of what life was like “back in the good ol’ days” and that men, for the most part, have never thought twice about.

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      • Reed French says:

        Travis, I appreciate your insights. I think the person who is not working at home sometimes doesn’t see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Just as the one not going out of the home to work doesn’t get the challenges faced there.

        I understand what you’re saying and it’s sad to me. There may be an understanding that if I’m earning the money, you have to clean up after every mess I make. It’s incredibly disrespectful. There is plenty to do to keep a household running without picking up your wet towel and loading your snack plate.

        But I thank you for your words.

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      • Reed French says:

        Well said, all the good. What I am trying to sort out is why some people choose to listen and respond appropriately while others just ignore their partner. I call bullsh*t on anyone who says it’s a male/female thing. I know men who are incredibly considerate and women who walk all over their partner, but I do agree that it is generally the women who observe that something bothers their partner and respond – or they need to be told once or twice, realize that if it’s important to their partner it’s important for the survival of the marriage.

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      • zombiedrew2 says:

        You won’t get any disagreement from me on what you have said.
        The old gender roles of our parents/grandparents generation are outdated, broken, and unbalanced. And men and women both need to recognize that, and in my mind move towards a future where marriages are more about partnerships where each person is valued and respected equally.
        As a guy or girl, expecting your partner to clean up after you and be there as basically hired help is a recipe for resentment and unhappiness.
        I know Matt has talked about this before, but for many of the unhappy women here who are likely in unbalanced relationships, I think your husbands/partners actually DO love you, and want things to be better. They are likely feeling just as disconnected as you are, and are frustrated by the fact that they literally don’t know how to make things better. And although you may believe you are telling them what is wrong and they don’t seem to be listening, it’s because we are speaking different languages and not really understanding each other.
        To me, improved communication seems key. And it needs to be communication with the goal of really understanding each other. Not just airing grievances, and not getting defensive when issues are raised that we are uncomfortable with. In my non-existent utopian world, my wife and I could talk about anything and I would never have to worry about being judged or criticized, and neither would she. We would listen, and each strive to be better partners and people each and every day.
        Human nature complicates that, and often attempts at improving communication and understanding are misinterpreted – either because of the way the message is conveyed, the way it’s received, or likely a bit of both.
        So instead we hurt each other, and we don’t talk. And then we grow resentful because we aren’t being heard, and we don’t feel valued.
        I think this blog, and others like it are valuable. Because if you try to understand the feelings and the messages, then maybe we CAN work at understanding each other a bit better.
        As you said – get an insight into how she is feeling. That should be our goal here. Not girls bashing guys for being insensitive or vice versa.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Molly says:

      Thanks Zombie, I appreciate the time and effort taken to explain the sex/ dishes analogy. I think for many people, especially women, sex is a far more loaded issue than the dishes. I believe many women, do want to be having more sex with their husbands…. But for many it’s not like turning the dishwasher on….it’s very mental, and I’m not talking about perfunctory, check the box sex, I talking mutually satisfying sex. For many people it requires head space and desire, and the ability to let go. All very complicated things to produce in a struggling relationship. I absolutely believe in the validity of the isolation men feel from not having sex or being rejected, and perhaps you imagine the rejection feels similar to the way women feel pain when their expressed needs or values ( no dishes) are not met. I see a big difference in the amount of effort needed to put the dish away ( do more housework childcare, instead of checking out) than the effort for many women to get to the place where they actually feel desire for their husband, and are not too tired/stressed from their lives/kids /relationship that they actually want to have sex, with the person they feel like invalidates their very existence. ( Matt covered this in his why she doesn’t want to have sex with you post)
      I think many men don’t think that women have any idea how important sex is to men, which would make the sex/ dishes comparison more similar. The difference is most women know how important sex is to most men.
      I think for the most part women get it, we believe it’s important, we’re not oblivious to the impact that a lack of sex has on a relationship, we might even know that not having sex is injuring you.
      The issue is having sex is not like putting a dish in the sink. I don’t think all the men out there in sex deficient relationships want their partners to have sex with them as a favor because it’s important to the man. ” I don’t want to have sex with you, but I’m going to do so you don’t experience the pain of rejection” i I think many women in struggling relationships would literally kill to want to have sex with their partners, they just don’t. They don’t feel valued/ attractive/ or respect or are respected by their partner…therefore no desire, they are not withholding on purpose….they don’t want to have sex, or don’t want to have sex with their partner because there is too much resentment for them to experience desire.
      I think the main difference is women are aware of the importance of sex, if you tell us, we believe you, even if we feel powerless to changer our desire, unlike the reverse…many Men don’t believe in the impact of their action/inaction or validate their partners experience, they are not powerless to put the dish in the sink, whether they share the same belief in its importance.
      This is not to give a free pass to women….I believe in the importance of mutual physical intimacy/ satisfaction in a successful relationship, which deserves attention and work….I just don’t think the comparison is all that similar.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tina says:

    Zombiedrew totally nailed what killed my marriage – on both sides. and I’m left living Matt’s comment “The truth smacked me in the face and it felt like the eighth shot of tequila at a beach party—amazingly mind-expanding, and also like I needed to vomit….it’s intensely sickening, because this is so common that ANY experienced couples therapist or even just some dumb blogger can accurately describe the common fight and dynamic that causes half of all marriage to fail, yet it’s somehow still a major secret the vast majority of people walking around are completely oblivious to. They just keep trying and failing in their relationships, moving onto the next one, because maybe this new person will make me happy!” I think I need to go cry some more now.

    Like

  3. “The negligent criminal. And the flawed judge.” Yes. When, in a relationship, we can begin to appreciate out perfect imperfection and practice vulnerability we will be much more likely to remain authentic and free of resentment.

    Like

  4. This is so timely and I am having a particularly bad day, so excuse the rant Matt. But I am facing this exact same situation in real time…

    Honestly, it boils down to one huge ingredient: respect. A man needs sex to feel respected in the relationship. But a woman needs to feel respected in order to give sexually. Respecting her means not walking past that towel the kids left lying in the hallway for the 3rd time. Respecting her means if you have taken responsibility for something, then live up to the promises you’ve made. Respect is shown in a multitude of ways: by not leaving a pile of dishes every morning as you dash out the door. It means paying the bills on time and not having to ask, “Did this bill get sent?” before replying like an irresponsible 12 year old, “oh no, I forgot. I’ll do it now..” even though you’ve already reminded them several times. Respect means you communicate. You don’t shut down and become mute when conflict arises. Respect is taking an active role in your children’s lives, knowing every single important date in their school schedule and being proactive enough to put that into your own calendar, so that your wife doesn’t feel like a single parent. Respect is remembering to get the oil changed in the cars, getting the tires rotated and balanced. You care about your kids? Then at the very least show respect for their safety. Respect means taking the trash out to the curb on time and not scrambling as the trash man is two doors down–all because you’ve told your wife you will handle it & then you don’t.

    I could go on and on…

    Point being, it’s pretty damn hard to feel like having sex when you’re facing a husband that behaves like this. Sex is the last thing you desire when all day long, this is your interaction. Frankly, how on earth is any spouse supposed to respect theirs–if this is how they behave?

    Eventually one spouse takes on all the responsibility (begrudgingly) while the other one rides their coat tails. And you wonder why women initiate more divorces then men! There’s a huge disconnect regarding respect. You wouldn’t treat a stranger like this. You wouldn’t treat your boss like this. Or your best friend. But somehow it’s ok to treat your wife this way.

    If men want frequent sex then put in the effort to be the best version of yourself. And live up to your promises. You are far sexier and more appealing to us when you actually behave with responsibility and intent, rather than disrespect and laziness.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      A. Rant away.

      B. I’m sorry you’re dealing with real-time conflict and angst.

      C. This comment just summed up the previous two weeks of blog comment conversations around here. You might even want to go check some of those out for therapeutic reasons. A bunch of smarties weighed in.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Reed French says:

      Thank you twocheatinghearts. Thank you.

      That being said, sex should not be an expectation. You should clean up after yourself (both men and women) because you’re not 5 years old.

      Our culture has really created a lot of craziness around sex that couples need to untangle in order to have a healthy sex life.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. shannon says:

    Zombiedrew, exactly. I use the knife analogy. Husband is wonderful cook and because of this, we have accrued wonderful cookware over the years. HIs knives are carbon steel, from Paris. Unbeknownst to me, until he caught me, they need to be washed, dried with a towel, then let sit for several minutes to be sure they are bone dry before replacing in rack. He told me once. That is all it took. Somehow, however, he has a very difficult time believing me when I ask for the same care to be taken with all the little stuff that bothers me. I cannot understand it because when he stated how he wants his knives handled, I did not even ask why, I just do it because that is what he wants and it is so easy, so why not? My rage at not being accommodated for the small stuff is intensified in reverse proportion to how easy it is to accommodate the request. This, guys, is why the wife seems to turn into the Incredible Hulk.

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    • Reed French says:

      Exactly. The sex comparison makes no sense but this does. I find that generally one person in the relationship can be told once or twice and get it. They’ll do it even if it seems ridiculous just because it makes their partner happy. The other partner tends to feel like, “That’s stupid so I’m going to ignore you.” The couples I find that stay together and enjoy their marriage are the ones who have mutual respect and a good sense of humor – able to laugh at themselves and listen to their partner.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. simysmom99 says:

    It really is all about respect. I learned a lot in my first marriage, of not what to do to the person you love. I am remarrying, and this relationship is very different, in a great way. I actually listen to what is being said. Last week my fiance just felt fed up with him being the only one to take care of the animals. It’s true, he feeds, waters, walks 3 dogs. Cleans the litter box and feeds the cat. Cleans the cage and feeds the birds. Every. Day. So I heard him and am making an effort to pitch in. Every. Day. This is what you do for someone you love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      That’s wonderful to hear, simys! It gives me hope! I keep reminding myself that if there’s ever to be a real and valuable opportunity in the future that myself and whoever the man is will have to go in with our eyes wide open and great communication (and maybe even great help with communication) already in place before exchanging vows. I wouldn’t want to accidentally trap some poor guy only to discover that fears and hurts from past heinous relationships were still having a huge effect on me in new moments of stress or that I’d somehow managed to again trap myself with someone who was never going to work at it at all. Any two people will have issues arise that require care, consideration and commitment.

      I’m unwilling to risk being mistreated on an ongoing basis or finding that I’m so far off the mark of what he wants that I’m required to become a completely different human being in order to try to “win” his unwinnable esteem and kindness. And I’m most definitely not willing to risk ever being stuck in another marriage with not enough sex or with a ton of psychological warfare about sex and everything else under the sun. I actually like sex and want it to be a vital and healthy thing in my life! So communicating with wild and crazy levels of openness ahead of time seems to me like the only real shot at avoiding the wounds of the past being repeated.

      Like

  7. I have been married for almost 14 years. Though a vast majority of it has been spent being a mom, more so than a wife I can honestly say my husband tries. That is a truth a lot of my girl friends ignore about their own husbands.
    It is very hard to maintain a good friendship these days, let alone a good marriage. If our spouse is not our friend, then of course, every dish left by the sink, every sexless night is a wound that cuts deeper than most and being married alone is instant salt in the wound.
    Trying for men looks different. It lies in his words rather than actions. I’m sorry rather than placing the dish in the sink. Women try by talking, talking, talking, when men will block them out after what would be one written paragraph.
    When my husband and I would fight pre-separation it was always an eye for an eye. After we chose to try again on our marriage we had to GIVE UP being right…And LET GO of our past both together and before we met. It’s hard. Very hard. I constantly bite my lip and he constantly goes out of his way to be more accepting about the little things I do for him, and therefore feels more loved when I do the all out grand show of love for. Our sex life now isn’t a problem, but I think that is because I know and have taken the time to understand that physical intimacy is HIS way of receiving love that matters most. As most men weigh their ‘full-on manliness’ by the same.
    Anyway….I never really looked at marriage as you have, and continue to explain, describe and drill into our habit forming minds. I know you can only write from your own experiences, and what you have learned Matt, but since I started reading/studying your posts, I have learned much and have applied what I could to my own relationship with my husband. I want to say thank you. Your wisdom has made me a better wife to my husband, and I have a deeper understanding of his mind/heart. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Matt, I really love the community your blog is building. It creates a space for an overdue conversation about gender, relationships and communication. Plus I have found some other really great blogs through it.
    Very grateful 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bitsofheaven-“Our sex lie isn’t a problem, but I think that is because I know and have taken the time to understand, that physical intimacy is HIS way of receiving love that matters most.” So COMPLETELY agree! 💚

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  10. James says:

    Well my situation hasn’t changed much since last time I chimed in. I don’t know if things will improve or if she will stay. I do know I am a better man for the changes I have made. I was notorious for “saying” how much I loved and appreciated her. I was horrible at “showing” my love and appreciation. I have made it a point to clean up after myself, participate in family activities and reminding our boys to help out. I look back and I am literally ashamed of the way I was. It has been 6 months since she has said she was leaving. I can proudly say I’m not the same man she grew tired of. Sadly though I may have been to late. Everyday I show that I have changed and that it’s not just an “act”, which was common with the old me. Thanks again for writing this blog Matt. You have done more for me and my family than I could ever explain. I have shared your blog with some younger guys I work with. I see them heading down the same path I took. Lucky for them I am not afraid to share my experience. Another friend of mine is a pastor, he is the one who introduced me to you. He is starting up workshops for young men on this very subject. So maybe this divorce trend can start heading the other way. Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories, people are listening.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lissy says:

      Good for you, James. Regardless of what comes next, you have done the hard work of changing into a better man.

      My only generic suggestion would be to talk to your wife. Tell her how sorry you are for the “old you”. And let her know that the new you is here to stay. Even if she leaves you. And you understand she has “X” number of years of hurt and anger, and you are willing to give her “X” number of years of the reverse situation-you being the main ‘giver” of the relationship. And then start courting her again-small things to show you are thinking of her, invitations to go to a movie or local outing. I say small things, because that’s the stuff daily life is made of. A big show of sending flowers or expensive things is “showy” and not sustainable. Don’t be discouraged by a lack of enthusiasm on her part. Six months ago you say she checked out of the relationship. I don’t know the specifics, but if she isn’t actively “leaving” then we can assume she is currently “staying”. If that makes sense…

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  11. Matt! This analogy….(Or…metaphor…?) is INGENIOUS!! Did you make it up yourself or read it somewhere. This needs to be in the book. And I especially appreciate how you don’t give women the “I’m not a woman so I can’t really say” pass you normally do. Bravo, mister!

    And Hey! Bday week begins,…..NOW! =D

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “Our wives don’t give a shit about criminal justice analogies, though”

    Bahaha! Oh gosh, Matt, I am so sorry! You are quite right. We often charge men with premeditated murder when it was really only accidental homicide, but since we’re the ones dying, we really don’t give a crap about the finer aspects of the law. That really is a great description of the nature of women.

    Also, you gave me a chuckle, because here we are dying and men are like, hey don’t blame me, I’m not intentionally trying to murder your soul. It’s just involuntary manslaughter! You’re being unfair to me! Now that really is a great description of men in general. “I’m dying here.” Yes, but so what? I’m being unfairly charged with a crime I didn’t really intend to commit. Ha! Ha! That is why marriage is just one act of forgiveness after another

    Lurking underneath all that however, is a kind of high expectation for men, placing you on a pedestal, believing you are all Batman. We often expect men to just get it, because Batman would just get it, right? Women seldom speak of this aspect of ourselves and it’s certainly not politically correct these days, but we really do elevate men. On the downside that looks like having unrealistic expectations, but on the upside it is about calling you to your higher selves. Women have to be able to see the potential in men, what is possible, because that is how we chose future good husbands, future fathers. We have to be able to see what is potentially within men, even when they can’t quite see it themselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      So very very true! So many men think they are not getting respect when they don’t like her efforts to communicate or some other thing when, in fact, the woman trying to communicate with said man or assuming some great thing of him thinks he’s the one guy on the planet who is that great of a man. Her man that she chose is batman,…or superman or Spider-Man depending on the woman in question. lol

      Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      Well. We have a few things happening here that need worked out, RE: Men are Batman.

      Maybe all men ARE Batman, but some are just the shitty Batmen.

      For example, Awesome Batmen include:

      Adam West (original gets respect even if his outfit is super-lame).
      Michael Keaton
      Christian Bale
      LEGO Batman

      Questionable/Sucky Batmen:
      Val Kilmer
      George Clooney
      Ben Affleck (?) (we’ll find out soon.)

      And while most women swoon over Clooney, and probably even Kilmer (the younger, skinnier version) and Affleck in real life, they were/are the private-label generic cereal version of Batman compared to the previously listed awesome ones.

      Maybe women marry those guys because they look sexy in their suits, heroic behind their masks, and have rad Bat Caves.

      But seriously. Everyone should be trying to get hitched to the West/Keaton/Bale/LEGO Batmen.

      It’s kind of hard to tell the difference when they’re all geared up and fighting bad guys. But with enough open-minded viewings, and the benefit of aged-earned wisdom, identifying the good ones gets a hell of a lot easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        Hahaha. I have to agree with your comparative assessment of Batmen. In fact, whether you did it on purpose or not I think you may have nailed it from the top down in my exact ordering.

        As for women judging men based on their looks. I’m not sure how much my own take on that reflects a generality that is true of most women, but i can say with confidence that it is certainly true of myself and of nearly all of the type of women I tend to get into friendships with. And it is even true of my teen daughters and some of their friends that guys actually become better looking as they win us over to trusting them with their actions (or with the persona they put forward.) I can say with all honesty and not a hint of trying to win anything that my soon-to-be-ex is not good looking. And all though he made lots of money later he had no cave of his own and drove a beat up old hatchback when I met him. I’m not saying I’m any better, just… Objectively, if men were held to the kind of standards that women are or if women operated with looks being important to us in the same way we often hear men say that looks matter, he’d not have had many dates even as a young man. But I ended up loving his eyes, his jawline, his hands, precisely because I fell for him, ….when he was being amazing to my son and saying almost all the right things and listening to me. (I later learned that he wasn’t really listening to me but I thought he was and that’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms anyway.)

        So in my experience, really the suit that men wear that catches women is made up of (or heavily influenced by) their behavior, their words, their personalities. Most of us women NEED to get smart enough to recognize dating behaviors for what they are and look past them to discover the real man. Is that fair to say about men too? You need to learn to look beyond the dating version?

        Weirdly even one of my daughters randomly told me today that he’s likely to be in trouble on the open dating market after his first replacement relationship falls apart because according to her he’s NOT good looking although she did allow for saying he’s better off when he keeps his glasses on which oddly enough is true. Basically it’s clear even to her that the reasons so many of the women he works with were attracted to him, had far more to do with him coming across as a stable husband and father than with anything else because his looks are far enough off the mark to require that method of overcoming them. But later he will no longer be that guy. Later he’ll be the guy who dumped his wife, has two kids out of three who don’t speak to him, and botched the first affair or two he jumped into right after. So his pool of possibilities will be limited to the most damaged women, the ones who still don’t see him as fatally flawed even after all that. I was surprised, not that she could have that much insight into adult women or into women entering affairs with divorced, divorcing, or other men, but that this was what was on her mind that she was thinking through and wanted to talk about. But it didn’t come from me prompting it. I was actually kind of desperately in need of some alone time and not encouraging conversation at all but just listening as patiently as I could and praying my negatives weren’t showing on my face. And If anything I used to say plenty about liking his eyes and other features in the ways that make kids roll their eyes at their parents for seeing them being attracted to each other. I said way more than enough to balance out any deep heart to heart discussion we’d had once or twice where we spoke about men’s looks changing in a woman’s view as she gets to know him. So I had to accept that this was a part of her mind in overdrive since he left trying to sort through all she can see and understand about adult relationships in all their gory details.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You mean like Belle saw the potential in the Beast or the princess who kissed the frog or maybe every storyline where the popular chick turns the bad boy around? It’s no wonder we hold men up to such high standards. It doesn’t help that Hollywood does an equally great job of showing us how sensitive and engaging “real men” ought to be nevermind the female authors who write the qualities we’d kill for in our husbands into every leading man’s make up. Seriously, women have been set up to fail in marriage since before we could pee on our own.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yep, you nailed it. Women have been set up for failure at every turn. Our intuition, our wisdom is powerful, but the culture has been working us over since day one and so much of our relationship success must now come from unlearning what we have been taught wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      • fromscratchmom says:

        Dee, I think that clearly happens and not infrequently. But I think it is a unhealthy decision making process to get married thinking that you are going to change someone or that they are going to change for you because they have promised to do so. I was referring to what attracted women physically being something other than visual aesthetics. Visual aesthetics are often referred to by men as being important and according to what most of them say they are rarely apologetic about it or willing to admit or consider what an unrealistic guide it is to a person’s character. Some of them report getting really conflicted over it because they know it is a poor guide and they are unhappy with the results of using it but they still just want what they want which is primarily, good looking.

        Even in cases where women avoid the mistake of expecting a man to change, even with the women I know that are happily married going on 20 or more years (and I know quite a few in that situation) they mostly all say the same thing. His wisdom or kindness or intelligence or strength of character or some other relevant quality was really a major part of what they saw in him to begin with. And as they came to respect him, trust him and love him they also became physically drawn to him. For a couple of the elderly ladies I’ve heard it from they have had some pretty crazy funny stories of not being attracted at first and avoiding stringing him along or letting him kiss them for quite awhile.

        With myself and with some of the the women I know who ended up in agony in marriage we still thought we saw those sorts of good qualities to begin with and came to trust that they were real before we exchanged vows. We just turned out to be dead wrong in attributing those good qualities to the men we married. So we made huge mistakes somehow too.

        Possibly in the case of the guys who needed to change and the poor women who believed they would, his way of attracting her had to do with an appearance of something that is either less valuable such as charisma, success in sports, social popularity, or business acumen or something that is harder to correctly identify. It might be something that was missing from her life previously like not being validated in some very specific way and he knows how to do that or happens to hit the exact right note for her personally with it during the dating phase.

        Or maybe it was just the fact that he needed her and being needed is powerful. I think we all need other people and we all need to be needed. Its not at all wrong. It is just something to be very careful of in each specific relationship so that we can either end up successfully helping him along in life while he also successfully helps us along in life or avoiding the guy with whom it will never turn out that way. I’d say that was definitely another mistake of mine. We did need each other but we did not establish a good working relationship where we were mutually benefiting.

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    • Reed French says:

      I am not sure that asking a man to hang up his towel or put his glass in the dishwasher is expecting him to be super human.

      I will say that I think it’s unfair to expect men to know how to handle anything that needs to be taken care of – how to fix a toilet, rewire the house, fertilize the lawn, handle a beehive (yikes!).

      Unless they’ve said, “I know how to do that and I’m happy to take care of it” we shouldn’t expect them to know how to do everything. That’s why there’s Angie’s List.

      That being said, anyone over the age of about 10 should clean up after themselves.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think men and women sometimes have different ideas about what “clean up after themselves” actually means. Women can have clothes scattered about, piles of shoes, hair all over the bathroom and yet what really bothers us is….that dish on the edge of the sink, waiting for us to take care of it.

        Like

      • Reed French says:

        Insanity – I understand where you’re coming from. I think the issue is that she doesn’t make a mess and expect you to clean it up. She may leave a mess and clean it up later. So while her dish in the sink doesn’t bother her, yours does.

        Like

  13. kaylamaree1 says:

    Matt, I have been a regular reader for quite a while. I am presently going through a divorce for all of the reasons you talk about in your blog because I finally got fed up and couldn’t take it anymore. Dishes by the sink, towels on the floor, no help with household responsibilities in any way. When I started to put my foot down and say No to doing things for him, he would throw a fit. I tried to talk to him about it a million times. We went to counseling and he didn’t feel the need to change anything because my priorities weren’t his priorities ( he said this in the counselor’s office) and repeated it many times over the last few months. Sex was a constant battle – I didn’t want him to touch me because I did not feel appreciated or respected and I was completely exhausted at the end of each day from making sure everything was taken care of. I was also battling severe depression and anxiety issues because all of the “adulting” was left to me. I have never been on medication for depression or anxiety until we got married. His only concerns were going to work and flea marketing because that is what he loved to do. Forget everything else – even HIS kids – he would leave his daughters with me or with his mom the entire weekend so he could go flea marketing and he would be gone with his dad ALL DAY. He saw no issue in this whatsoever and still leaves them at the house all day even though the weekends are supposed to be for his visitation. I tried to get him to read your “Shitty Husband” blogs but that didn’t go over well as you can imagine. After a very horribly rough holiday season I decided I needed to save myself so I pulled myself off all the medication, started going to counseling by myself, and asked for a divorce. The relief I felt by saying those words was immeasurable. I immediately made plans to separate all bills, bank accounts, etc and began to feel alive again for the first time in over a year. I didn’t want a divorce, but knew I couldn’t live like this any longer.

    We are still living in the same house for now, just on different sides. That is the only thing that has changed, everything else has remained the same with him feeling more entitled than ever to have absolutely no responsibility for anyone or anything but himself. It is a hard situation to be in but I am hoping to be able to move out in a couple of months so I can really start my healing.

    I wish more men would read your blog and would work to understand what is being said on here. Everything you write about rings true in my marriage and I know many other marriages. Thank you for sharing your experience and for trying to get both men and women to understand how different we are and how we can work together to help each other instead of constantly hurting each other and working against each other. Some marriages can be saved and sadly others cannot. No amount of counseling or reading another man’s opinion would have changed my husband’s thought process and saved my marriage. I truly believe that my husband is a shitty husband with narcissism running rampant through his veins. I wish I could warn the women in his future so they don’t have to deal with what I have had to deal with. Thanks again, I really enjoy reading your posts!

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    • Matt says:

      While I’m incredibly sorry you have to go through the end of your marriage, I’m genuinely happy that you’re feeling better and confident in your decision.

      That often indicates it’s the correct one. I try to stay out of the judgment business.

      I just try to root for everyone. I appreciate very much that you’re reading and that you feel like there’s value in doing so.

      I hope you’ll continue to heal. If there’s a next time, talking about and thinking about the stuff we talk and think about here will make the process a lot less scary and stressful, I think.

      I appreciate all of the kind words.

      Best wishes to all of you as you move forward through this transition.

      Like

  14. anitvan says:

    And then this happened today.

    I went to my cousin’s funeral today. He and his wife had been married for 54 years. I know in the early years of their marriage things were pretty rocky at times. She threatened to leave him more than once. Somehow they managed to work things out.

    My cousin was a really good guy. And, for a while, he was a really shitty husband.

    He was also a very well loved guy in his community. Everybody in their small town knew my cousin.

    Today I witnessed an outpouring of love for him, and I watched how family and friends gathered around his widow to support her, and each other, in their loss and thought about how much that would have comforted him, that he was not leaving his family bereft of love. We, who loved him, have each other.

    I can’t help but wonder if his widow thinks it was worth it? To trade those awful early years for the later love they shared. Most of those 54 years were pretty happy years.

    Suddenly, dirty dishes don’t seem that important…

    Liked by 1 person

    • zombiedrew2 says:

      I’ve always taken that long term view. My marriage took an unexpected turn for the worst a few years back. And though I’m sure there are things I could have don’t better, I think the issues were largely on here end. Just judging thing based on a few weeks, or a few months – there was absolutely no reason for me to stay. Things were pretty bad.

      But, we had also been together for a long time and had two children. I personally don’t believe in the idea that you stay just because you are married. I see commitment as more about your actions and how you continue to love each other and put into the marriage every day. So I totally don’t get when people devolve into hating each other but staying “for the kids” or because “they committed” to each other.

      Thing is, IF it could turn around we would potentially have many more years ahead of us. And in the big picture of a lifetime together, a couple of bad years are kind of like a downturn in the stock market.

      It’s been a few years and we’re still together, and I think we have both grown and learned. Our communication still kind of sucks, but it’s better. And the connection feels a lot stronger to me than it had in years.

      Will we make it? Not sure. The issues caused a lot of doubt that will take a long time to fully heal from. But we do seem to be on a pretty good road right now.

      Like

      • anitvan says:

        Interesting choice of words…the long view. My situation is similar to yours…20 or so good years together before things fell apart, and the reasons for it are primarily on my husband, something he owns.

        People are not disposable. And isn’t that what we essentially promised each other? That we wouldn’t discard each other like an old pair of shoes when they no longer suited us? I don’t think I could do that to another human being.

        For 20 good years, our marriage philosophy was simple. If we’re gonna be stuck with each other for the rest of our lives, we can be miserable together or we can be happy. We choose happy.

        We have to work much, much harder for happy than we’ve ever had to before, and I’ll be quite honest, we are not there yet and sometimes we go through periods where all that keeps us together is our resolve not to leave. We still have a lot of unhappiness to work through but we’ve both come to understand that change doesn’t happen overnight.

        I’ve asked myself many times, what if this is as good as it gets? What if I invest the rest of my life in this man and it never gets any better than it is right now? I won’t lie – sometimes that thought both frightens and depresses me. I wouldn’t say I’ve come to terms with it exactly, but I do accept that I have to risk that possibility in order to find out.

        We still both hope for a better future together though. Neither of us is willing to give up yet. Maybe a day will come when that is no longer true. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. btho5531 says:

    husbands are negligent criminals? Wives are flawed judges? You got divorced son, you didnt murder anyone. I think its time you let go before it consumes you.

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  16. Fromscratchmom says:

    I’m laughing here. I really don’t want to destroy your perception that most guys are good guys but I suspect that since you wrote the dishes post you’ve seen more examples than you ever wanted to of generally sucky guy behavior and also plenty of examples of guys all along the spectrum from good to bad where a girl would have to excuse their determinedly self-centered and/or machismo stuff that shows them in the light of day as not really being a totally good guy, in order to polish up their reps and label them as good guys despite themselves. Oh well, what are you gonna do? For the sake of the sane, healthy, and rational life I’d like to live, I’ve decided I just have to look at it all with brutal honesty and then let most of them exist in their own problems without it having anything to do with me. As long as I keep recognizing them for what they are I can rule them out as deserving of any sharing in a joint life (or a connection that could lead to one) pretty quickly and easily…and if it’s early enough its also easy to remain dispassionate and not end up with a ton of positive and negative feelings to sort through.

    It’s like political discussion on the internet; you have to remain dispassionate no matter how serious the issue being discussed or the yahoos and the commenters who are really just poodles on computers will really drive you up a wall. It’s not at all easy for me to be totally dispassionate in real life interactions. I’m the kind of girl that I’ve confronted a strange guy who was already worked up into a lather in a bar/restaurant parking lot who was hitting a girl and trying to physically force her into his car even though their friends weren’t doing anything to stop it because putting myself in danger was easier than walking away and ignoring it. (Their friends did get her away while he was distracted by the crazy woman interjecting herself into the situation.) But I’m learning….not to let violent crime happen but to not let people touch my heart easily.

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    • Travis B. says:

      Fromscratchmom, I’m not sure I followed your last post entirely correctly but one element of it stands out starkly to me, and it’s an element that, alarmingly, is beginning to appear more and more frequently on this blog’s comments lately: the discussion of truly vile, willfully and intentionally abusive husbands and correlating them to the kind of man whom Matt was in his marriage, the kind of man about whom he regularly writes about, the kind of man whom he desperately hopes to reach with Must Be This Tall to Ride. I am increasingly concerned and alarmed that it represents an orange speaking about the orange’s experience and being listened to by wives who aren’t married to oranges but rotten apples. To boil this down to brass tacks:

      * If your husband ever strikes you (with the arguable caveat that you didn’t strike him first, therefore putting him in a situation where he needs to defend his safety)
      * If your husband forces sexual favors from you by threat of violence, withdrawn finances, infidelity or other such overt duress
      * If your husband is a serial cheater
      * If your husband demeans you by calling you foul names (“slut”, “whore”, “bitch”, et al)
      * If your husband literally, in the core of his being, believes the woman’s place is “barefoot in the kitchen” and refuses wholesale to ever lift a finger to clean the house or help with child-rearing in even the most basic ways
      * If your husband belittles, scoffs or ignores every thought, opinion or taste you verbalize to him
      * If your husband is a raging alcoholic/drug addict/gambler/porn addict

      …you do not have the kind of husband Matt is talking about or to. You do not have simply a Bad Husband. You have a Bad Human Being. You are married to an, at best, profoundly defective, and at worst, evil person. You don’t need Matt’s blog. You need a very adept professional counselor or therapist, perhaps a police officer, perhaps to set the device you’re reading my words on down right now and to walk out your front door, never to return. Matt and I believe these men are the minority of our gender; some of you women readers have had life experiences which lead you to believe they’re the majority. Neither of us has the math or field research to definitively say one way or another, so it frankly doesn’t matter the ratio of good husbands who can become great husbands with some eye-opening perspective and the effort of due diligence, and odious husbands who are a blight to humankind in general. What matters is that the problem you face as a wife runs much deeper and darker than anything Matt is qualified to help you with.

      Alternatively, if you have the kind of husband who tells he loves you but doesn’t always demonstrate it in ways you need to feel the truth of it, if he provides (or puts authentic effort into trying to provide) a roof over your head, food on the table and safety for you and your children, if you can authentically say he is a good MAN, a PERSON with a good heart, even if, when it comes specifically to the art and science of being an effective HUSBAND or father, it seems like he dropped out before getting his degree, he’s the kind of husband Matt was, the kind of husband I am, the kind of husband for whom Must Be This Tall to Ride is for and about.

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      • Fromscratchmom says:

        Travis B., Actually your sort of a million miles off on what prompted my post and sort of dead on in spite of that. My post that you hit the reply button under wasn’t remotely related to Matt’s original post at the top but was inspired by an odious commenter. A guy whose behavior of the moment was actually directed at Matt and was the kind of thing that good guys here in all the comments seem to excuse as not-the-most-vile stuff even if it is kind of nasty or unintelligent or just distasteful. My most recent comment wasn’t meant to attack Matt at all (or you or anyone like you) but to simply point out just how challenging such behavior can be for those its directed towards unless they have fully distanced all their emotions from it.

        There are vile people who other people hopefully stay safely distanced from, although obviously some of us didn’t in the past. There are amazing people who hopefully end up blessed with an equally amazing spouse where they are often good to each other and then when they aren’t are at least both good at working towards resolutions and offering and accepting forgiveness. And then there’s the rest of us who fall somewhere in between those two extremes and who need to constantly work to improve ourselves. Men and women both make mistakes. Men and women both need to accept responsibility for their own stuff and improve themselves on their side of their marital equation.

        So while my last comment wasn’t consciously meant to have anything to do with it, there is a kind of dangerous sticking point that you refer to that does come up here among the commenters. And it’s a sticking point that’s still killing marriages after both people are trying to work on repairing marriage. Matt, without necessarily meaning to, challenges women to accept men as being on the more fabulous end of the spectrum even if in reality they are somewhere in the middle. And women in strained marriages tend to struggle with that exact concept and not just because they’re bad at forgiveness or acceptance.

        People after they betray trust and do damage need forgiveness and leeway when and if they are learning and growing and trying to repair the damage done. So within marriage people who have had trust broken do usually need to be challenged to offer that help to the person who hurt them but who is trying to make it better. Sadly, the dangerous dynamic that usually happens in those excessively strained marriages is one where someone repeatedly says to the person they hurt “I’m sorry. Let me back into your heart” and then in the same breath “but see I’m not really all that bad. What we really need to discover together here is that you were really only hurt because of your own flawed viewpoint.” I think it’s true often enough that the guy who says that doesn’t even realize that’s what he said. But then they can never repair anything because they are picking at the scabs and invalidating the feelings of the person that they hurt. There is a certain level of each person having to make apology and never backtrack on it after a mistake. And there is a certain level of each person having to learn to fully accept apologies from the other person and even though it takes time allow for the comfort zone to return or be rebuilt and then to get better and better…while that person allows them to heal even if slowly, rather than picking the scabs open.

        But then again I realize Matt’s probably not really trying to evoke that struggle in his writing.

        And like I started to say, I really was only feeling for Matt because he’s been more exposed lately to general ass-hattery as some here have called it than makes sense given its from totally outside of his intended audience. I was a little frustrated for him and a little amused at the irony that these seemingly not-so-good-guys intrude and unknowingly work against Matt’s effort to stand up for them and make them look better than they are making themselves look.

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      • Travis, I really appreciate your compassion and concern about abuse and I quite agree with you.

        I think there is a key hidden in there that lends itself well to having a happy marriage however, and that is a clear understanding that you have indeed married “a bad human being.” Take two people who recognize the fact that they really are bad human beings, and you have enough humility going on to make marriage successful.

        A lot of our problems stem from pride, from one party or the other believing they are actually a good human being, a good husband, a good wife, and the other person is just a defective unit.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        This is why I love this blog! Such intelligent comments that really make me think.

        One of my favorite quotes is from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. I really want things to be simple, black and white, good and bad guys but it so seldom works that way.

        Marriage is like that too. Leaving out the psychopaths, we are all a mixture of good and bad. It may be true that good men and women don’t intend to cause their spouse’s pain, but it is also true that I have regularly participated in arguments that were like Marriage Hunger Games and fought to win because it was him or me and I wanted to be the survivor. I don’t think I am unusual and I consider myself to be a reasonably nice and empathetic person. We are ALL capable of great kindness and great cruelty under the right circumstances.

        So getting back to the quote, I am learning to default to giving my husband the benefit of the doubt that he loves me and if he is acting in ways I find painful, it is not because he is a “bad guy”, selfish or sexist or lazy or whatever. AT THE SAME TIME, I also recognize that he, like me, is fully capable of “normal marital sadism” and acting like a “bad guy” on a regular basis even in happy marriages.

        They are both true at the same time. I think that is why there is some pushback from women about simplistically classifying men as clueless “good guys” even when we know these same men act like “bad guys” regularly. The same is true for women by the way. This came up in Becca’s conversations about the dark side of female friendships.

        Interesting discussions. I learn so much from you all!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Fromscratchmom, ah, then I did, in fact, misread a lot of what you were saying, then, and why. That’s what I get for reading complex thoughts before my just-woken-up butt has rolled out of bed. Thanks for clarifying. Everything makes better sense for me now.

        I am glad I said what I said, however, because though it may not have been a ‘best fit’ for what you were talking about, discussions blurring the line between truly cruel, inhuman husbands and simply misbegotten, harebrained ones seems to be on an increase around here lately, and frankly, it’s been bothering me. I feel like there is a subsection of the female readership here looking for answers that this blog isn’t designed to provide. They need help at a much more expert and interventionary level.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        I’m SO GLAD this discussion ishappening.

        Lisa said; “I think that is why there is some pushback from women about simplistically classifying men as clueless “good guys” even when we know these same men act like “bad guys” regularly. The same is true for women by the way”.

        I agree SO MUCH! We’re all good and bad. This definitley transcends gender! And labeling someone as being a good person but a bad husband (or partner or wife) is too simplistic in my opinion, for two reasons.

        1. Like I just said, and other people have just said, we’re all good and bad. Like Fromscratchmom writes, there’s a spectrum from good to bad. Did you all know that DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING CHEATED REPEATEDLY ON HIS WIFE? Should we then conclude that he’s categorically a bad person? Or should we decide that he’s categorically a good person because of his off the charts wonderful social contributions, and overlook his bad behaviour towards his wife? Both options seem too simplistic. We’re all a mix.

        2. When Matt says that you can be a good person but a bad husband, just like you can be bad at playing the piano (or whatever the example he used was), I have to disagree (although I definitely agree that a lot of the hurt is unintentional and that relationships skills can be taught and learnt).

        Let’s say you’re a bad spouse who, however unintentionally, leaves the majority of the total workload (financial, domestic, emotional and logistical) labour to your partner, you continually dismiss and/or disrespect their opinions and feelings (however much you don’t mean to intentionally hurt them). That’s not just lacking skills (although like I said I definitely believe interpersonal skills can be learnt) in a morally neutral way like lacking skills in playing the piano is, or being bad at math is. You’re overburdening and disrespecting another human being.

        Matt says: “But how many times does she have to say it with you dismissing her before it stops being innocent? At some point, innocent ignorance becomes willful ignorance becomes neglect”. I agree (and again, both women and men can be shitty partners a little or a lot of the time). At some point it’s not morally neutral and innocent any longer.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Travis,

        You said: “Alternatively, if you have the kind of husband who tells he loves you but doesn’t always demonstrate it in ways you need to feel the truth of it, if he provides (or puts authentic effort into trying to provide) a roof over your head, food on the table and safety for you and your children, if you can authentically say he is a good MAN, a PERSON with a good heart, even if, when it comes specifically to the art and science of being an effective HUSBAND or father, it seems like he dropped out before getting his degree, he’s the kind of husband Matt was, the kind of husband I am, the kind of husband for whom Must Be This Tall to Ride is for and about.”

        I greatly value your insight and the other brave men like Matt and Zombiedrew who comment on here. I am GENUINELY puzzled and need your help to understand. It seems to be very important to you guys that the husband be classified as a “good man or good guy” with a good heart who is a shitty husband because he is “clueless” or unintentional or thoughtless. I can totally understand that you don’t want to get lumped with psychopaths who enjoy beating or raping their wives. I don’t think ANYONE on this blog is making those connections at all.

        What I don’t understand is why it’s so important that you maintain the good person or good guy label.

        My husband is a good man with a good heart. At the same, he can be mean spirited and petty. This is normal. Sometimes he hurts me and it is not intentional, sometimes he leaves the dish by the sink and it IS intentional because he is annoyed with me or wants to not feel controlled. He is both a good man and a bad man because he is human. No one is saying he is a psychopath. And you know what, this is perfectly average and human.

        I do the same to him, I can be both loving and intentionally petty. I am both a good woman and a bad woman because I am human. No one is saying I am a psychopath.

        Maybe I am not understanding what you’re saying. Could you help a girl out?

        Like

    • Lisa says:

      Travis,

      I appreciate your speaking out against abuse. I absolutely there is no excuse for it ever. But to back up my point about how often things cannot be broken down into bad apple husbands and orange husbands (same for women), even physical abuse is more complicated than we think.

      In Gottman’s book, The Marriage Clinc he has some surprising research statistics. “In 71% of all violent fights, the woman engages in the fIrst physically violent act.” “Women tend to reciprocate violence and it cannot be attributed merely to self defense.” “The helpless battered woman’s syndrome Lenore Walker (1984) described is not typical at all.” This needs to be balanced with this other finding that “Despite this statistic, it is only men who use violence to systematically terrorize, control, and subdue their wives.”

      There are two catagories of abusive men type 1 are the ones we typically think of as “bad abusive husbands” who are more dangerous. Women are afraid to divorce these men. Type 2 men are more extreme versions of the “clueless bad husbands” that don’t accept their wives influence. Abuse is about not sharing power not anger management according to the research. This is why it’s hard to separate men and women into “good but clueless” or “bad abusive”. Excluding type 1 men, it’s really a matter of degree. Same is true for women.

      This IN NO WAY excuses ANY kind of abuse but just shows that even in things that seem black and white are more complicated than we would like.

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      • Fromscratchmom says:

        Wow. That makes perfect sense. Thanks, Lisa. Even though physical violence between he and I wasn’t the problem in my recently killed off marriage I can really get a ton out of what you said. I have got to get ahold of some of Gottman’s writings. So far I’ve added them to my Amazon wish list; I just need to bump that up into really reading them. Lol.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Fromscratchmom,

        From your descriptions of your husband it sounds like he was not willing to accept your influence very much if at all and blamed you for everything. In my opinion, this is typical of a spouse with “abusive” characteristics which is why men who are not “bad apples” violent husbands and wives can still create abusive marriages.

        By the way, I often get information by listening to free podcasts and YouTube videos that I can listen to while cleaning up or driving. Its hard sometimes to sit down and read all the books I want to. Gottman does have interviews on podcasts on iTunes and videos on YouTube. Also his website at Gottman.com has lots of information.

        Like

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        You’ve read the situation pretty accurately, Lisa. I’ve just been coming to understand some parts of this little by little of the last two or three months…coming to understand that there can never be any hope for myself and the man who I’ve been in love with and committed to for the last twenty years, and there can be no reason for me to allow myself to want for there to be any hope even though he wasn’t like a guy straight out of The Burning Bed, even though he was not so far off the mark of a “good guy” in some ways. Sometimes in all our mistakes we create abusive relationships and that’s what he and I had even if it didn’t look like it to most people, even if plenty of other people are making some of the same mistakes and are later able to fix theirs and get past it. Ours was just a few significant steps too far.

        So I’m on a journey to try to heal and understand and still improve me while at the same time accepting and appropriately acknowledging what he did and how wrong it was and how much work I have to do to set straight the many subtle ways I’ve gotten totally twisted up. Hopefully Matt and Travis aren’t too befuddled or hurt by my input. Believe it or not I hold back and don’t post as much or more than I do post. lol. And of course when I think I can participate, I try to say something that I think might actually help someone, like trying to help the “good guys” who are trying to save their marriages understand that the way women operate and perceive things in that repair phase is still different than what men might expect it to be or think it should be and the differences can still be creating new hurts even as they are really trying.

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      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa, we may at that. The trick for me may be to begin getting comfortable with that, though it’s hard for me, because I can’t help but feel like the old pitchman, “Hey, this worked for me, it’ll work for you, too!” It’s very hard for me to process constant theoretical talk when it isn’t being put into practical action. Theories about matters that don’t come with an attendant compressed time-table (e.g. how did the Universe come into being? How does gravity work?) are fine–I enjoy hashing those out as much as the next person–but I’m not at all personally comfortable with theory for theory’s sake when hearts are on the line, when at any moment, one spouse or the other may call up a divorce lawyer and ask what their hourly rate is. But it may better serve me to understand that I can only be my wife’s Superman. To paraphrase the great Obi-Wan Kenobi, your fate may lie along a different path than mine.

        But it is hard to walk away from a fair question, an authentic inquiry made to understand. And I do struggle mightily with the basic idea of a woman asking a male to explain the male mindset, then disagreeing with the male’s answer. Admittedly, I do not, cannot, and should not (shame on me for occasionally violating that last one) speak for all males everywhere, but surely as a male I’m one crucial step closer to explaining stereotypical male mindsets than the female disagreeing with me…? But, alas, in the end, all I can speak to is my beliefs, my experiences, and my “proof is in the pudding moments”. Maybe they don’t apply to your case because your husband operates fundamentally differently than I do. Maybe they don’t because you operate fundamentally differently than my wife does. But I sure hope they speak to someone here. I’d love to think the conclusions I came to in my marriage, and the action steps I took to successfully save it, aren’t a weird one-time aberration. I’d love to think that how Matt presents our often self-afflicted crisis as husbands, and the legwork of how I put his thoughts into practical application, can have a profound ripple effect beyond just the two of us. And I very much hope you and your husband are able to find your own respective lightbulb-going-on truths. I truly hope, even at my least useful, I’ve never been a bother to anyone here.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Whoops. Posted in the wrong spot (*rueful sigh*). Please move along. Nothing to see here. So sorry.

        Like

    • Travis B. says:

      Lisa,

      I’ve really been struggling to figure out how I wish to respond to your question over the last 24 hours or so. I had a pretty visceral reaction to it and wanted to try to process my feelings before just shooting a response from the hip. Let me begin by addressing the first thing which prompted a very uncomfortable feeling in me:

      “It seems to be very important to you guys that the husband be classified as a ‘good man or good guy’ with a good heart who is a shitty husband because he is ‘clueless’ or unintentional or thoughtless. What I don’t understand is why it’s so important that you maintain the good person or good guy label.”

      At the unintentional expense of very possibly coming across as rude or defensive, allow me to clarify that I have never been a person who concerns himself with how others judge him (which flies rather fully in the face of at least the first half of Matt’s new article today, but nevertheless, them’s the facts). Even from a young age, I rarely sought, or needed, others’ approval to feel good about who I am as a person. You can count on one hand the people whose perception of me actually matters in my heart and still have a finger left over: they are my wife, my mother and my two children. Beyond that, yes, in a general sense, I would like to believe that people see me as having a positive impact, however meager, in the world, and that it isn’t a worse place for having me in it but, otherwise, on an individual by individual basis, if someone thinks I’m an asshole, or weak, or an attention whore, or whatever, I’m not particularly fussed about it at all, and despite the fascinating, enlightening conversations I’ve been having regularly here lately, that includes each of you commenting on Matt’s blog, as well. I say all of this to clarify that it is not at all important to me that I be afforded a “good man” badge of honor by any of you. My discussion regarding “good men” vs. “bad men”, “oranges” vs. “rotten apples” is not self-aggrandizement, but is instead an effort to, as precisely as possible, demarcate the kinds of husbands who you wives may still wish to reconsider holding on to, and the ones who should be cut away as only so much ballast. I think it’s a critical point to consider if the ruminations of this blog are to have any practical application.

      “My husband is a good man with a good heart. At the same, he can be mean spirited and petty. This is normal. Sometimes he hurts me and it is not intentional, sometimes he leaves the dish by the sink and it IS intentional because he is annoyed with me or wants to not feel controlled.”

      zombiedrew2 already spoke to this more clearly than I could at the moment, so I’ll try not to belabor it, but a husband knowingly “resisting influence” (as the term has been coined here as of late) is NOT intentionally trying to hurt you. You said it yourself–he’s intentionally trying to avoid feeling controlled by you, yes. He is intentionally resisting an influence he does not yet value over his own, yes. But that’s simple boundary setting, and no matter how immature or ill-reasoned it is on a case-by-case basis, it is not tantamount to an intentional effort to cause emotional hurt and dismay. In fact, that point has been illustrated so many times by Matt, zombiedrew2 and me that I’m struggling to find any other ways to phrase it, or analogies for which to tie it to.

      In a subsequent post, you spoke of two different types of abusive husbands. Those who strike or otherwise cause immediate danger to their wives, and those who resist their wives’ influence. Respectfully, I do not agree that the latter type of husband has earned the label “abusive husband” or, more specifically (returning to Matt’s superb “negligent criminals” analogy), what I mean to say is that these wives may feel abused by their husbands, but their husbands’ goal was never to abuse. Abuse may have been an unintended result, but the husband did not set forth with an abusive agenda. Another analogy: a teenage boy might have unprotected sex with a girl and, though he may have acquired some amorphous education somewhere in the back of his overheated mind that he might “knock her up” by practicing unsafe sex, he doesn’t really think that’s a tangible reality for him. He just thinks he’s about to feel real, real good. That’s all that’s motivating his poor behavior. A baby was the result of his actions, but a baby was not the intention of his actions.

      When it comes to the label “abusive”, for me personally, I see that as an act of intention, and I return you to the list I made above for examples. The men (and some of the “I see where you’re coming from” women) on this blog have argued at length about the myriad ways we demean, disrespect and take our wives for granted that were not by design, that were not our end goal, and they usually come back to the core concept that men don’t really relate to the importance women place on the requests and needs of theirs that we dismiss too carelessly out of hand–the “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” principle. But there are plenty of behaviors in which I would argue there is no point of confusion between the two genders, where we are far more alike than different. If we drew a Venn diagram with a “man think” circle versus a “woman think” circle, I’m talking about the behaviors that fall within the eye-on-its-side shape in the middle where the two circles overlap.

      If you hit someone, you fully intend to hurt them physically.
      If you force someone into sex, you fully intend to hurt them emotionally, psychologically and physically.
      If you cheat on someone multiple times, you fully intend to hurt their sense of self-worth.
      If you call someone foul, vile names, you fully intend to hurt their sense of self-worth.
      If you force someone to live a life subservient to you, you fully intend to hurt their sense of self-worth.
      If you consistently belittle, scoff or ignore every thought, opinion or taste verbalized to you by someone, you fully intend to hurt their sense of self-worth.
      If you are a raging alcoholic, drug addict, gambler or porn addict, you are hurting yourself with intention, and therefore, cannot help but hurt everyone else around you with intention.

      If anyone practiced any of the behaviors above toward their spouse and claimed they were ignorant of the pain and despair they were causing said spouse, I feel confident the vast, overwhelming collective of both men and women (at least in the Western world) would emphatically call bullshit. If you hurt a loved one with intention, you’re a bad person, simple as that. That’s how I see it. I discovered late last year that I had been causing my wife at least twelve months of mounting emotional pain, disrespect, and ill regard, and I was forced to confront every misstep I took with her heart and own them. But I’m telling you, hand to God, I cannot think of a single solitary time in my life that I ever thought to myself, “F*** that bitch. I wanna hurt her. I want her to suffer. I want to put her through the shit.”

      I caused my wife pain. I AM a bad husband (or at least I was until just recently; I’m doing everything in my power to change my wayward course and, judging by the feedback from my wife, I’m doing a bang-up job so *high-fives myself*).

      I have never set out to cause my wife pain. I am NOT a bad person. I am a good man. I value my wife. I work to provide for my wife. I want the best for my wife. I support my wife. I’m in it to win it with my wife. Even at the worst of my exposed bad husbandry, the idea of willfully causing my wife harm, physically, emotionally or mentally, would have been anathema to me.

      Donkey mentioned the rarely discussed case of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., heralded as one of the Great Men of the 20th Century, and his repeated offenses of philandering. The question was hypothetically asked if anyone would dare to label MLK as a bad man. Well, my honest and unpopular opinion has always been, yes, he was a bad man. Not a useless man, not a scourge on humanity, not a hopeless loss of a man, not a man who wasn’t responsible for many great, worthwhile, paradigm changing things, but yes, on my “bad human being” scale, he was nonetheless a hypocritical, “profoundly defective” man, though the direct impact of his character defects would have only been felt by his wife and children. MLK was a man who built a legacy out of fighting for the equal treatment of blacks alongside whites, but his vision of equality did not extend similarly to women alongside men. That made him a hypocrite. That made him (assuming he and Coretta were not practitioners of an open marriage decades before such a concept stared becoming acceptable, at least to a fringe degree) someone who knew the pain his infidelity caused, but did not learn from it, was not changed by it, and therefore, willfully continued inflicting the pain of it on others to feed his own selfish needs. History is replete with beloved and honored figures with checkered, morally specious backgrounds. As the quote from Harry Potter goes, “It is a curious thing, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.”

      Do I need validation from anyone other than my wife, kids and mother that I’m a good man? Not whatsoever. But I am a man who is committed to add value to the world, not subtract from it. I am a man who wants better for his children than he had for himself. I am a man who works a job he rarely loves, and which is below his worth and capability, because he wants to provide his family safety, security and good health. I am a man who may blindly make mistakes, sometimes profound and shameful ones, but who always holds himself to owning them, learning from them and making a better future effort. I am an imperfect man, an evolving man, a man prone to errors of behavior and judgment, but I AM a good man and I don’t apologize for it. I have already spoken on behalf of Matt’s intentions with this blog too many times and it’s unfair to him. It has been presumptuous of me to assume my understanding of Matt’s writings is the Right and True One, but I see nothing in anything he’s ever written to make me believe for a second that he feels any differently about himself.

      When we speak of good men, we speak of men who have a lot to learn, and a lot to prove, but men who are defined by at least the single redeeming virtue of not being intentional in their crimes of love, caregiving and general human decency. Therefore, even in the hours of your darkest pain as our wives, maybe you will see some hope for us, for yourselves, for our marriages.

      Maybe you won’t.

      But the more men like Matt show up with such open vulnerability, humility and shame, as well as conviction that they can, and will, do better for their wives, surely the more often we can become the driving force behind pulling the women we value more than anything on Earth out of the darkness of the abysses we’ve caused them to fall into.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa says:

        Hey Travis,

        Thanks for your very thoughtful reply. First of all I value your post of view and comments. I am genuinely trying to understand the things you and others are writing and if I wrote my questions in a way that was offensive or disturbing please know that it is probably my poor way of phrasing things.

        I was not in any way thinking or trying to imply that you or Matt caring about what other people think motivates valuing the label of being a good man.

        The type 1 and type 2 types of men I was describing comes directly from Gottman’s (and others) scientific research about violent relationships. The research about not accepting influence and its relationship to abuse is also part of that research. Maybe the way I wrote it made it seem like it was my opinion, I don’t know.

        I try to ask questions and write comments in a friendly way and I apologize for my failure to write things if they come across as accusatory or something else. Of course, we all have life experiences that are our lens in how we read and write things so it’s quite possible I hear it in my head much friendlier than it really is when most people read it. I have learned a lot from the many perspectives on this blog and want to keep learning. Thank you for all the passion you bring to helping others. You’ve clearly learned to understand new ways of thinking and doing things that have made a real difference.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        If I have been rude to anyone, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to (for whatever that is worth).

        Travis, Lisa, anyone interested:

        Travis, I appreciate you speaking your honest opinion about Dr Martin Luther King. I was NOT aware that he was a sexist (I’m not from the States though of course that fact doesn’t make knowing this impossible). How very disappointing.

        My own personal journey has included a lot of jungian(-ish) psychology, with a focus on owning all of our parts, also our potential for good and bad even if we haven’t acted it out. So I do feel some resistance when someone (man or woman) labels themselves as “good”, almost in a categorical way. But maybe it just feels categorical to me, and other people’s definitions of good include some of the darker aspects of our humanity aswell.

        Maybe you’re the exception Travis, but I have a hard time believing a person has never done anything intentionally mean/petty. Growing up, have you never taken the last piece of candy to annoy a sibling, or something similar? Turned up the volume of a song you knew someone was fed up with? Whenever we snap at someone, even if we just do it because we’re hangry, we know our words/tone are likely to harm. We ARE dumping our negative emotions on another human being after all, even if we on a general basis wish this other person well.

        And personally I just don’t believe we can draw a sharp line between intentionally hurting people and unintentionally hurting them (though of course there’s a difference between physical abuse and leaving a dish by the sink, to put it very simply). A lot of people cheat, never wanting to hurt or disrespect their spouses, even if it’s generally agreed upon in society that it’s bad. They just felt lonely, horny whatever and went with it (I’m not excusing anything!). It’s also generally agreed upon in society that men and women should share the workload at home when both are working, but we all know quite a few men (and some women) don’t do that, even if it’s not intentionally done or meant to hurt. Even people who hit their partners often don’t want to hurt their partners on a general level at least. In their minds, they just “snapped” (I don’t agree with this explanation, just to be clear).

        A person can have quite a self-centered world view and not want to hurt people, even as they go about behaving in very selfish ways (that they don’t realize is selfish, because of course they’re right/reasonable/a special snow flake who deserves special consideration or whatever). So not hurting someone intentionally doesn’t count THAT much in my book, though of course it counts, and in some situations counts a lot!

        And we all have this self centered world view to some degree in different aspects of our lives. I would say I’m quite good, even very good, at supporting my friends emotionally with all kinds of problems they have. I’m not self-centered in that aspect of my life. But I AM quite self centred when it comes to my conversations with my friends from a birds eye view. I often talk quite a bit more than them. The honest truth is that I prioritze them listening to me more than the other way around, even when I’m not aware of it. And no, of course that quality has nothing to do with my lengthy comments on this blog. ;) Am I intentionally treating them as less important than me? No. Do I believe they’re less important than me? No. But really, by my actions, I am behaving as though what I have to say is more important than what they have to say.

        Lisa, I don’t know you or your husband, but maybe that last part is relevant to your husband not wanting to admit to having hurt your career? That in this aspect of his life he’s maybe quite self centered and didn’t want to intentionally to hurt your career and so he doesn’t want to admit to that. But then he would have to face the truth (and I’m just thinking out loud, I could be wrong!) that his whole attitude regarding this aspect of your lives (which is an important aspect) is inherently selfish/self centered, which is probably very hard both realize, understand and admit/own. Maybe he didn’t want to hurt your career, but he did (even on a subconscious level) feel like his was more important and so it was “ok” for you to sacrifice more than he does. Now you’re asking him to realize that it’s inherently no more ok for him to expect that than it is for you to expect that, and so you’re also poking at his whole way of looking at this thing, which unfortunately is a selfish way, and that’s always hard to admit (and probably also to grasp, if it’s very ingrained). It’s never fun to own our bad qualities, especially if they’re deep seated so to speak. And again Lisa (and everyone), I’m just thinking out loud and speculating, please don’t believe that I’m telling you how it is! And just to be clear, I have worse qualities than talking more than my friends.

        I like what Zombiedrew says about accountability.

        Lastly Lisa, I get that you’re confused, I’m confused too. But what are your tentative answers so far, if you have any at all?

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Donkey

        You said: “And we all have this self centered world view to some degree in different aspects of our lives. I would say I’m quite good, even very good, at supporting my friends emotionally with all kinds of problems they have. I’m not self-centered in that aspect of my life. But I AM quite self centred when it comes to my conversations with my friends from a birds eye view. I often talk quite a bit more than them. The honest truth is that I prioritze them listening to me more than the other way around, even when I’m not aware of it. And no, of course that quality has nothing to do with my lengthy comments on this blog. ;) Am I intentionally treating them as less important than me? No. Do I believe they’re less important than me? No. But really, by my actions, I am behaving as though what I have to say is more important than what they have to say.

        Lisa, I don’t know you or your husband, but maybe that last part is relevant to your husband not wanting to admit to having hurt your career? That in this aspect of his life he’s maybe quite self centered and didn’t want to intentionally to hurt your career and so he doesn’t want to admit to that. But then he would have to face the truth (and I’m just thinking out loud, I could be wrong!) that his whole attitude regarding this aspect of your lives (which is an important aspect) is inherently selfish/self centered, which is probably very hard both realize, understand and admit/own. Maybe he didn’t want to hurt your career, but he did (even on a subconscious level) feel like his was more important and so it was “ok” for you to sacrifice more than he does. Now you’re asking him to realize that it’s inherently no more ok for him to expect that than it is for you to expect that, and so you’re also poking at his whole way of looking at this thing, which unfortunately is a selfish way, and that’s always hard to admit (and probably also to grasp, if it’s very ingrained). It’s never fun to own our bad qualities, especially if they’re deep seated so to speak. And again Lisa (and everyone), I’m just thinking out loud and speculating, please don’t believe that I’m telling you how it is! And just to be clear, I have worse qualities than talking more than my friends.”

        YES! You have nailed what I have been trying to say!!!! That is exactly how I view things. That we all have areas that it is easy to be selfish to the detriment of others. It is usually things that are very important to you or a defining characteristic and hard to sacrifice or change because it would require great effort and loss.

        You’ve never met me or my husband but all that Jungian reading has paid off because you have described our dynamic better than I could have. So thank you! His work is his passion. He would do it for free and in fact has in the past before I helped him figure out how to monetize it more. He would spend most of his waking life working if given the choice. Partly because of the way he was raised, partly because of gender role expectations, partly because of who know what else he expects to be able to work as much as he wants and advance to his full potential by moving a lot. This is where the “intentional” part comes in from my perspective. The sense of entitlement and perceived sense of unfairness when I challenge those assumptions. I don’t really care if he intends it or not, I am looking for an acknowledgement that that assumption is there. That his needs outweigh mine as it relates to his career. He won’t acknowledge the assumption and that includes not acknowledging any sacrifices I have made because it would highlight the fairness in my asking him to give up the sense of entitlement.

        I don’t think he’s any more selfish than I am or the average person, this is just the particular area it focuses on. I have my own areas of selfishness like trying to get him to adjust to my level of organization and structure in our home and family life. It has taken years for me to see and acknowledge my sense of entitlement in that area and the sense of unfairness I felt when he would challenge my presumption that my needs should be more important than his. Eventually I was able to understand the need to fully adjust to include his needs and preferences in a more balanced way. This is a real sacrifice because the more chaotic way we live as a result is very anxiety provoking to me and requires me to retrain my brain and find other ways to reduce the increased anxiety.

        By the way Donkey I enjoy every word of your posts! This one was so helpful to me and I think has really finally helped me understand my husband’s resistance to acknowledging the impact of his career on my career. I am sympathic because it was so hard for me to see and acknowledge my own issues.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Donkey,

        You said: “A person can have quite a self-centered world view and not want to hurt people, even as they go about behaving in very selfish ways (that they don’t realize is selfish, because of course they’re right/reasonable/a special snow flake who deserves special consideration or whatever). So not hurting someone intentionally doesn’t count THAT much in my book, though of course it counts, and in some situations counts a lot!”

        Yes!! You keep talking Donkey because I am starting to understand what my questions really are. For me, the l focus of the attitude (self centered or able to take others into account) matters much more to me than whether someone intended to actively hurt you. Yes!! If someone has a sense of entitlement, they are going to act in ways that will often hurt you because they aren’t thinking about your needs at all. Acknowledging that and changing it is much more important than to me than focusing on intentional/unintentional motives.

        Regarding Martin Luther King, it is true he had many affairs and was sexist in many ways that were sadly common for men of that era. Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson all sexist by today’s standards. This is not to excuse it but to say it’s tricky to judge historical figures. Often they get one thing really right and fail in other areas. George Washington and many other founding fathers fought for their freedom yet owned slaves. He did not have affairs like Martin Luther King but of course women couldn’t vote or have many other rights we now take for granted. But he could have been King but chose to give up power. Is he a good man? Hypocritical? How do we judge? It’s not to say that everything is relative but that very few people pass the test if it’s pass/fail. That’s why it makes more sense to me to judge people as a mixture of things good and bad.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa (and Donkey), honestly, no apologies are necessary. I’d feared my response would come off as more rude or defensive than I desired and I was clearly right to. I don’t want any of you here to feel that you shouldn’t be comfortable asking any questions that come to you; after all, we’re all of us on a search for the truth, and oftentimes, that makes for an awkward and uncomfortable journey. I do admit to occasional frustration reading the posts here. Some of that frustration stems from the perception that I’m being unclear, misinterpreted, or having my words used in a context for which they weren’t intended. Some of that frustration comes from a sense of precious time slipping away from all of us here, as i observe so many of us wallowing in too much minutiae, too much theory and not enough practical application, as well as too much “well sure, I’ve committed my sins, but his sins are way worse” one-upmanship. I’m less than three months removed from having stared down the barrel of a great and terrible gun that threatened to shatter what I value most in this world into a billion irreparable pieces and somehow, by some miracle, by some great strength I found deep in my character, by some amazing grace of my wife, that bullet was stayed, but the cold, dark threat of it still hangs over my every waking thought. So when it comes to the subject matter of Matt’s blog, I’m admittedly too emotionally close to it, and that probably showed in my response yesterday.

        I just want the pain to stop for all of you. I want for you what I managed to create for myself. I want the healing to begin. So when I see all the women and men here challenging Matt’s assertions, disbelieving them, demonstrating a lack of conviction in them, insisting on more and more proof, it causes a kind of panic in my heart because for most of us, if you’re here, there’s no time left to save your marriage. Action must occur now. And in my personal opinion, so many people here are making it so much harder than it needs to be. That’s both the Heaven and the Hell at the heart of everything Matt regularly writes about here–the understanding that everything husbands need to change in themselves to begin rebuilding their marriage and healing their wives’ hearts can happen in an instant, yet by the time that understanding occurs, the probability of their wives extending them the concession to try one last time is shrinking at an alarming rate.

        At this point, I am a little emotionally spent from some of this week’s discussions, and tomorrow is my anniversary with my wife, an anniversary that almost didn’t come, but which now is going to be a three-day restorative and ultra-romantic getaway, so you probably won’t hear from me much until the weekend at the latest. Before I part, though, I am compelled to respond to some of Donkey’s assertions:

        “Maybe you’re the exception Travis, but I have a hard time believing a person has never done anything intentionally mean/petty. Growing up, have you never taken the last piece of candy to annoy a sibling, or something similar? Turned up the volume of a song you knew someone was fed up with? Whenever we snap at someone, even if we just do it because we’re hangry, we know our words/tone are likely to harm. We ARE dumping our negative emotions on another human being after all, even if we on a general basis wish this other person well.”

        I doubt I am an exception. I am a human being, as flawed as every other one. Though, I shit you not, other than occasional grumpiness because of a bad day at work or my kids acting up, I really am having a devil of a time thinking of a specific moment similar to your examples (I’m an only child, so that at least covers the hostility to siblings part, LOL!). My honest self-assessment is that I’ve never been someone who takes any private pleasure in causing hurt or comeuppance to my loved ones. I know for a fact I’ve done it (all too often), but I never intend to. But we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about marital relationships in general and the critical point there deals with frequency. If a wife is prepared to walk out the door the first time her husband is snippy with her after a bad day at the office, I’d argue she may not be marriage material. Sometimes, love requires us to lift our partner up when they’ve done little in the moment to deserve such grace. But consistent pattern behavior makes the difference. We’re all entitled to “once in a blue moon” stumbles, but when our day-to-day lives are informed by our spouses choosing to repeatedly and consistently dump their negative emotions on us, that’s a problem, and in the more extreme examples, may indicate you’re not dealing with a fundamentally good person. It has always felt to me that Matt’s writings speak to husbands who are unwittingly paving a road to Hell with good intentions, not the ones who are picking their wives up and throwing them in the handbasket hanging over the pit to Hell, then cutting the cord and laughing maniacally as they watch the basket drop down into the blackness. I leave it to you wives to decide which type your husband is, but I caution you to judge fairly. You deserve the rewards of providing that benefit of the doubt every bit as much as your husband does.

        “And personally I just don’t believe we can draw a sharp line between intentionally hurting people and unintentionally hurting them (though of course there’s a difference between physical abuse and leaving a dish by the sink, to put it very simply). A lot of people cheat, never wanting to hurt or disrespect their spouses, even if it’s generally agreed upon in society that it’s bad. They just felt lonely, horny whatever and went with it (I’m not excusing anything!). It’s also generally agreed upon in society that men and women should share the workload at home when both are working, but we all know quite a few men (and some women) don’t do that, even if it’s not intentionally done or meant to hurt. Even people who hit their partners often don’t want to hurt their partners on a general level at least. In their minds, they just ‘snapped’ (I don’t agree with this explanation, just to be clear).”

        There’s a key difference here, as well. What those types of husbands think means precisely f*** all, as far as I’m concerned. I never intended to speak to them. I speak to their spouses. If your husband hits you, defiles you, cheats over and over on you (once you might be able to come back from, as it could indicate a critical need in the relationship that needs to be addressed, rather than overt contempt for you on his part; any more than that, though, and I’m sorry, you’re with scum, as far as I’m concerned), forces you to take 100% ownership in all home duties, chooses drugs/booze/gambling/pornography before you, that’s a person whom 98% of men and women alike would surely say knows he is inflicting pain on his loved ones, whether the offender wants to cop to it or not. These types of husbands are a much more extreme and problematic version of the kinds to which Matt caters this blog, so if you see your husband reflected in my examples, I don’t think this place is a best fit for the help you need. Your answers don’t lie here. At best, they lie in intensive psychotherapy for both you and your husband; at worst, they lie in a valid, defensible divorce.

        Conversely, if you do not see those types of behaviors in your husband, then you aren’t married to the kind of man who is murdering your heart and spirit by way of blunt-force trauma, but instead the kind who is blindly killing you by way of a million paper cuts. I would argue that that man has a chance at redemption. You play a part in it, he plays a much bigger part in it, but worthwhile hope can likely be found there. That’s a simple as it needs to be for practicality’s sake when we talk about “good men” vs. “bad men”, “oranges” vs. “rotten apples”. For you wives, it’s going to have to start with accepting that your husbands don’t mean to hurt you over and over and over again. They are, but they don’t INTEND to. You may have to get comfortable with that even if every cell in your body is screaming, “But that doesn’t make sense to me! How can that be?!” IT JUST IS. LOL, I’ve never been a religious person because every question I’ve ever posed to so-called religious leaders about the nature of God always gets reduced to, “You just have to believe.” Ugh, how I despise that vague, insubstantial, cop out answer, and yet here I am, desperately espousing the exact same thing–just trust what we’re saying. But in the interest of beating the clock of the sands pouring down from the hourglass of your marriage’s lifespan, it behooves you to accept that one aggravating assertion so you can move immediately into resuscitative action.

        Again, no one offended me, no one has anything to apologize for, or to feel bad about, and I’m truly sorry if I read the wrong things into some of the questions posed to me yesterday. I value you all, I hurt for you all, I’ve been where you’ve been (in some form or fashion) and I just want to see all of you take the journey from the dark back to the light as my wife and I recently did. As Matt often says, above all else, choose hope.

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        • Matt says:

          Best Unintentional Thing Ever:

          Travis demonstrating the nature of faith, and that something can be true no matter how intellectually intangible it is conceptually, or logically, or how challenging it is to explain.

          I don’t profess to KNOW what is true. Only that something IS.

          And that sometimes, faith, in all it’s incredibly annoying and sometimes-seemingly illogical glory, is required in our individual pursuit of it.

          I’m also really happy to read about the resuscitation of your marriage, Travis.

          It happens, but with the people who read this stuff, it’s certainly uncommon.

          Pretty inspiring to read you talk about how mindful, purposeful love in action can breathe life into something previously on the brink.

          Thank you for being part of all this.

          Like

      • Lisa says:

        Hey Travis,

        First of all Happy Anniversary! What a sweet one it will be since you have rebuilt your relationship. I hope you and your wife have a wonderful time together. :)

        Second, since I did all that apologizing earlier I am going to be a little more blunt to try and get my point across. So forgive me in advance if this comes across in any way as rude.

        I understand and fully appreciate that you are saying that you did not intend any any damage to your wife. I take you at your word since you know your situation.

        But I simply DO NOT AGREE with some of the things that “wives” are being told they must accept as fact. It is not that I don’t understand the points. I understand the points just fine, I do not agree with them as applied in some universal way to men. In some ways I am more bilingual than a lot of women because I grew up with boys, had many male friends, worked in make dominated jobs, I have a personality type that is the least common for females and far more common for men. I go out of my way on these posts to point out the many ways that I have done the same thing to my husband that “men” do. To point out that these same things are incredibly common in same sex relationships like sisters. I really believe most of this is human and cultural. Of course, men and women grow up in different cultures so it is important to understand these common differences and there are biological and sociological factors as well.

        I cannot speak for other commenters, but in many cases while I find many things helpful, I sometimes simply disagree with your conclusions or ideas or dislike of theory or wanting to classify people into good or bad categories while I favor a different approach. We all speak from our own experience and understanding and have different things that make sense to us and are helpful. We simply disagree.

        One of those things seems to be the idea of intention to harm. You find it helpful to frame it in a certain way and I do not. I don’t find it helpful to be told to take it as faith and just believe someone when they are speaking for “men” and to have my equally valid points of views dismissed as too theoretical or just not understanding the points presented over and over or that it’s just that I’m not willing to think outside my point of view as a woman or not willing to take what worked for someone else as a prescription for everyone. Or that “wives” are missing the ability to figure out the difference between bad husbands who are good men and bad husbands who are bad humans.

        We just disagree and that is completely ok. I learn best when learning and hearing all sorts of different ideas and perspectives and being challenged to reconsider my ideas. But at the end of the day, we might just disagree.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa, we may at that. The trick for me may be to begin getting comfortable with that, though it’s hard for me, because I can’t help but feel like the old pitchman, “Hey, this worked for me, it’ll work for you, too!” It’s very hard for me to process constant theoretical talk when it isn’t being put into practical action. Theories about matters that don’t come with an attendant compressed time-table (e.g. how did the Universe come into being? How does gravity work?) are fine–I enjoy hashing those out as much as the next person–but I’m not at all personally comfortable with theory for theory’s sake when hearts are on the line, when at any moment, one spouse or the other may call up a divorce lawyer and ask what their hourly rate is. But it may better serve me to understand that I can only be my wife’s Superman. To paraphrase the great Obi-Wan Kenobi, your fate may lie along a different path than mine.

        But it is hard to walk away from a fair question, an authentic inquiry made to understand. And I do struggle mightily with the basic idea of a woman asking a male to explain the male mindset, then disagreeing with the male’s answer. Admittedly, I do not, cannot, and should not (shame on me for occasionally violating that last one) speak for all males everywhere, but surely as a male I’m one crucial step closer to explaining stereotypical male mindsets than the female disagreeing with me…? But, alas, in the end, all I can speak to is my beliefs, my experiences, and my “proof is in the pudding moments”. Maybe they don’t apply to your case because your husband operates fundamentally differently than I do. Maybe they don’t because you operate fundamentally differently than my wife does. But I sure hope they speak to someone here. I’d love to think the conclusions I came to in my marriage, and the action steps I took to successfully save it, aren’t a weird one-time aberration. I’d love to think that how Matt presents our often self-afflicted crisis as husbands, and the legwork of how I put his thoughts into practical application, can have a profound ripple effect beyond just the two of us. And I very much hope you and your husband are able to find your own respective lightbulb-going-on truths. I truly hope, even at my least useful, I’ve never been a bother to anyone here.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Travis,

        These threads are so long now I have no idea if I’m posting in the right spot. :)

        You said: “Theories about matters that don’t come with an attendant compressed time-table (e.g. how did the Universe come into being? How does gravity work?) are fine–I enjoy hashing those out as much as the next person–but I’m not at all personally comfortable with theory for theory’s sake when hearts are on the line, when at any moment, one spouse or the other may call up a divorce lawyer and ask what their hourly rate.”

        This highlights why we disagree on some things. Your personality type might be different than mine. I take action THROUGH getting information. The reason why I read books, blogs, podcasts, videos whatever and talk theory is because I know THAT is what I need to do take ACTION in my brain that then leads to action externally.

        Part of the downside to being a person who has strong opinions is that I am just SO convinced I am right. I can back it up with perfectly good logical explanations and it just makes me pigheaded sometimes. I try and be open to hear other people’s experiences that are different than mine but I am absolutely NOT going to accept is one persons point of view as dogma, most especially if they insist that their way is the one true way. What I am convinced by is science and empirical logical data even if it tells me I am wrong. Of course, this must be examined critically too because scientists disagree but at least you can examine evidence and wrestle with that rather than subjective experiences.

        I get what you’re saying about talking theory looking like people are just dithering around and not taking action. I’m sure that’s the case sometimes but I can tell you that for my husband and I science changes our mind and is ACTION. Gottman’s research shows us what we need to change to be like successful happy couples, Atkinson’s research shows us how to change it. This is theory and action. If we’re lost in the woods, do we just take action and get started in a random direction just to take action or do we listen to a person who got out but may have different skills and circumstances or do we consult a map or gps that gives us directions for where we need to go and tools designed to help us get there.

        Also, maybe some of the disconnect is that I, for one, do not read this blog or comments to have anyone explain the “male” mindset. I am not asking for you or anyone else to do that. I am, of course, eager to hear your experiences and those of others to add to my understanding. I am also eager to hear theories and scientific research that speak to
        giving us a map. As I’ve said before, there are more differences within groups than between groups. Many of the things that I read that “men” are supposed to think and feel do not describe my husband at all and I know he’s not that unusual, same for me with “women”.
        Doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to speak of group averages as long as it’s not perscriptive. So much of this stuff is really common human experiences anyway and not as pink and blue as often presented.

        So when I disagree with your opinions of the “male” mindset, hopefully you will be less frustrated if you understand that I,for one, was never asking you to definitely explain it anymore than I am trying to explain the definitive “female” mindset.

        May the Force be with you!

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Travis,

        I forgot one thing. When you said you hoped you were not a bother. Oh my goodness no!!

        I greatly value your opinions and thoughts. It is so inspiring that you have turned your marriage around and that you take time to comment to tell what you’ve learned and your great wish to help others improve their marriages. You are helping just by adding your voice and wisdom to the conversations.

        Best wishes for your anniversary and many, many more in the future!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        “I, for one, do not read this blog or comments to have anyone explain the ‘male’ mindset. I am not asking for you or anyone else to do that.”

        Then this is an honest point of confusion for me. This entire line of discussion was prompted by the following comment from you:

        “I am GENUINELY puzzled and need your help to understand. It seems to be very important to you guys that the husband be classified as a “good man or good guy” with a good heart who is a shitty husband because he is “clueless” or unintentional or thoughtless. What I don’t understand is why it’s so important that you maintain the good person or good guy label. Maybe I am not understanding what you’re saying. Could you help a girl out?”

        That’s what prompted me to help provide a male perspective in this specific case.

        “If we’re lost in the woods, do we just take action and get started in a random direction just to take action or do we listen to a person who got out but may have different skills and circumstances or do we consult a map or gps that gives us directions for where we need to go and tools designed to help us get there.”

        I completely get what you’re going for, and as a man who values scientific inquiry over all things dogmatic, you might be surprised how much in lock-step we are with that principle. However, I note that you avoided reference to my qualifier of a compressed time-line, though. This may be indicative of where you are in your marital difficulties versus where I recently was. Perhaps there’s less of a pressure cooker element in your case. Perhaps your husband and you are not at DEFCON 1 yet. That was not the case in my marriage. Shit hit the fan fast, and I was the bomb squad lackey in the movie, covered in sweat, desperately trying to figure out if I should cut the red wire or the green wire with ten seconds left on the timer. So pretty much all of the advice I proffer on this blog is driven by a sense of “you have no time to question this; act now, come back for additional reinforcement and clarification later.” In other words, to go back to your forest analogy, I’m speaking from the perspective of you’re lost in the forest…and it just caught on fire. You don’t have time to check your map. You don’t have time to consult your GPS. There are a couple of guys nearby who are pointing at an exit through the trees on the opposite side of the flames. I suggest you start running that way pronto.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Oh, and thanks so much for the kind congratulations! I feel deeply blessed to be having this anniversary at all. I’m very proud of both myself and my wife. I’m so glad we had what it takes inside both of us. It’s so affirming to see proof that the love I’ve always believed she and I share is as enduring as I’d always believed it to be. There was a time I would have felt the greatest strength in us never facing a hardship of the magnitude we did, but now I feel that perhaps the greater strength lies in being tested by such a crisis and surviving it hand in hand.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Travis, I’m quoting you quoting me

        “I am GENUINELY puzzled and need your help to understand. It seems to be very important to you guys that the husband be classified as a “good man or good guy” with a good heart who is a shitty husband because he is “clueless” or unintentional or thoughtless. What I don’t understand is why it’s so important that you maintain the good person or good guy label. Maybe I am not understanding what you’re saying. Could you help a girl out?”

        I was asking for you to explain YOUR mindset not the “male mindset” with the idea that it might help me understand YOUR point of view which I do not relate to and see if so could find any commonalities in thought that might help me understand people like my husband who emphasize the good guy thing.

        I appreciated your input along with Matt and Zombiedrew. All helpful ideas that even if they didn’t apply directly to my husband’s case helped me to understand YOUR point of views better.

        Ironically it was a woman’s (Donkey’s) perspective that were the aha fit that really made sense to explain to me my husband’s reluctance to admit any detriment to my career. The idea that we all have things that we are “selfish” in and don’t want to acknowledge because it will mean that fairness will require us to change. THAT makes complete sense to me based on our relationship and is so helpful to me. And as I said, I have done the exact same thing. I REALLY don’t think a lot of this stuff is uniquely male or female.

        Also to the point of gotta take some action NOW, We have been there before and some of the instant action things made things WORSE. But I understand what you’re saying that sometimes you have to act now. We might just disagree on the value of theory or that it somehow slows you down. I really do think this is a case of personality differences and what works for me is not what works for you sad vice versa. In my marriage, I am much more of the Action/do it now person and I’ve had to learn to accommodate his slower style which drives me crazy by the way. So believe me I prefer action. Fortunately, we’ve made a lot of progress so now things can progress at a much slower pace and it’s fine. Still theory involved, no matter what because that works for us. ;)

        Like

  17. Fromscratchmom says:

    Perfect wording, IB. I can forgive others even when from my perspective some of their specific faults seem pretty far down the spectrum toward terrible choices because I know just how defective I am.

    (And referring back to my own broken marriage and the struggle I tried to elucidate and which Matt’s writing seems to hit on for quite a few other women, it hurt a ton when I was trying to offer forgiveness for him and healing for both of us but was told that there wasn’t really much for me to forgive because he was actually such a great guy and I just needed to realize that or on other days depending on the wording that it was really all about how defective I was and not about him at all because he’s actually just a great guy who got himself stuck with me. I could feel pretty great about receiving and offering forgiveness, but not about offering it and being told he didn’t actually need it. He just needed me to admit that he didn’t need and was an all around good guy.)

    Like

  18. zombiedrew2 says:

    I’m not seeing the reply button under individual comments, so this won’t be in the right spot. But this is a few thoughts started by a response by Lisa, as well as some random ramblings…

    Lisa, you mentioned “It seems to be very important to you guys that the husband be classified as a “good man or good guy” with a good heart who is a shitty husband because he is “clueless” or unintentional or thoughtless.”

    I guess there’s a part of everyone who wants to be thought of as “good”, whether you are a guy or a girl. But I’m not sure if Travis, Matt or myself really care about whether or not we are seen as “good guys”.

    I do think there are some differences in men though. Looking at historical gender roles, I don’t think women were ever really respected. When I look at how limited their rights were, to me it seems that in some ways women were seen almost like possessions for men. And in some parts of the world, that is still the case.

    Thankfully that has been changing, and I think maybe some of the current gender struggles are because elements of that still remain at a subconscious level – and continue to be perpetuated by both men and women.

    I still see guys out there who clearly think that they are better, or superior to women. That mentality is still out there, and hopefully most will recognize it for being as repugnant as it is. My parents had a pretty equal marriage – where my mom probably ran the show. Not just in terms of domestic stuff (though yes, she did take on the lions share of that), but also in the decision making. My dad was largely happy to go along with her.

    My wife’s family is different however, where “the man” rules. And it has caused some issues. When we met, her mom liked me and thought I was “a good catch”. Because of that she apparently told my wife repeatedly to not lose her temper with me, and to be “the good wife”. That was never a role that I wanted her to take on, but it was a role she felt she needed to take on due to years of influence from the way she was brought up.

    I didn’t want that – I valued her for her. She was smart, funny, fun to be around. There was a lot that was good. But over time she became unhappy because she was trying to conform to a role, and a broken one.

    And although I was raised in a fairly evenly balanced home, it’s pretty easy to start taking for granted all the little things people do when they constantly do them.

    Anyhow, part of the issue in this blog and others like it seems to come down to the fact that people are selfish. We all want things, and we all like our own needs to be met. I think maybe due to gender roles women are taught more about sacrificing their own needs for the benefit of their family – often to their own detriment. And guys are often oblivious to how selfish they are because we aren’t taught that way.

    The question to me is, when confronted with our own behavior how do we react? Do we listen, and try? Or do we become angry/defensive and push it back on the other person?

    If someone is legitimately trying and putting in consistent effort then I think the relationship has a really good chance.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      “Thankfully that has been changing, and I think maybe some of the current gender struggles are because elements of that still remain at a subconscious level – and continue to be perpetuated by both men and women” <—yes!

      "It’s pretty easy to start taking for granted all the little things people do when they constantly do them" <—yes!

      "Anyhow, part of the issue in this blog and others like it seems to come down to the fact that people are selfish" <—-yes!

      "I think maybe due to gender roles women are taught more about sacrificing their own needs for the benefit of their family – often to their own detriment. And guys are often oblivious to how selfish they are because we aren’t taught that way" <—yes!

      Male privilige definitely can play a part in many heterosexual relationship, but I also believe that all kinds of privilige and personal soft spots and childhood stuff and on and on can play a part aswell. A female friend of mine, (who's gay, just to highlight my general heterosexual privilige) and a few years older, was sometimes behaving in kind of petty ways towards me. For instance, "Two and a half men" were coming on and we were starting to watch it, and I asked her to not step in front of the TV or something like that because I really like seing the kid grow bigger (I explicitly said this), and I like the melody. And she intentionally changed the channel for about the length of the intro, with this kind of self satisfied smile on her face. (This is just a little example not ment to bash her AT ALL. She's wonderful in many ways. My personal failings in life include MUCH worse transgressions than this and I'm sure she could mention some petty/selfish stuff I did aswell, so I'm not claiming some innocent victim position). At some point she did some self-initiated self reflection and admitted that she was starting to see me a bit like a little sister, and was acting in similar ways towards me as her older brother did towards her when they were growing up.

      Like

    • Lisa says:

      Hey Zombiedrew,

      Thanks for your reply! Family gender roles and belief definitely complicate an already complicated situation. I am curious if your wife’s families belief about the men being in charge was based on religious beliefs or something else. I know many other cultures are still very male dominated.

      I grew up in very conservative churches that taught that men were to be in charge of both church and family. There was also a lot of teaching of God given gender role and characteristics. Let me just say I was not the teacher’s favorite student in Sunday School class with all my pesky questioning of these interpretations! Lol. It gets even more complicated when people are taught that certain jobs or roles are required by God when the spouse was not taught this or their personalities or gifts don’t fall naturally in these norms.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        In her case it’s cultural. And it’s weird in some ways, because she recognizes how imbalanced the culture is and she feels it’s wrong. But at the same time, I think just from being brought up in that environment there’s a part of her that still buys into some of those things, and feels guilt/shame if she is not measuring up to them.

        I try really hard to make sure that doesn’t come from me, and I don’t want or expect those things from her. But there are cultural pressures – interestingly usually from the women in the family and not the men that can make her feel like she’s not measuring up.

        Thing is, she’s not measuring up to her cultural expectations of her. They aren’t ones I share, but she still seems to feel guilt at not meeting them.

        Like

    • Lisa says:

      You’re a good guy to try and answer these questions! Lol. I appreciate you willingness to comment and help us all understand a little better.

      I am still a little unclear about the intentional part. I could be wrong but I have read Matt’s and Travis’ explanations of male behavior that really emphasize that it was “unintentional” “clueless” etc.

      I believe both my husband and I sometimes intentionally hurt one another. This is perfectly normal human behavior. I get confused by what I interpret as the insistence that shitty husbands hurt their wives unintentionally because they are good men. The research shows that even in happy marriages people yell, withdraw, stonewall, blame each other, everything but contempt is present. The difference is they are able to apologize and repair.

      As scratch mom so eloquently commented, when a spouse doesn’t take responsibility for acknowledging both the hurt done but also spends a lot of time trying to get you to acknowledge that it was all unintentional and they are really a good guy it turns into a shallow and incomplete apology.

      I understand and agree much of the stuff we do to hurt each other in marriage is unintentional or clueless or dense but I think it is important to also recognize that some of it IS intentional. And not in abusive relationships, in regular “good guy and good girl” marriages. That is what I don’t seem to hear acknowledged when Travis makes the distinction between bad apple husbands and orange good guy husbands and talks about the comments women are making on the blog as being not really about the husbands this blog is trying to reach. But I could definitely be wrong and have misunderstood.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        I’m not sure what Matt meant, but here’s my take:

        Do we intentionally hurt each other? That depends on how you define intention. Do we actively choose the actions we take? Definitely. But do we actively understand the implications of what we are doing? This is where I think the lack of intention comes in.

        A story I’ve used before – a few years ago a buddy of mine had a heart attack. When doctors asked him about the days leading up to the heart attack it turns out his body was giving off a lot of warning signs and symptoms that something was wrong. But he didn’t understand them. He had never had a heart attack, and didn’t know what to watch for. So he thought he was coming down with the flu.

        When my wife checked out on our marriage, there were all sorts of signs that things were wrong. And I saw them, but I didn’t “get” them. I thought hey, we’re married, we have a family and we love each other. Not a big deal here. To me this was just a down stretch in our marriage, and I needed to give her some time. Like my buddy, I knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. And I COMPLETELY misjudged the severity of it.

        Does that make me a bad husband? Maybe. At the very least it meant we had bad communication – and I think many couples do. To me this is where the intention comes in. Sometimes I think guys and girls do love each other, and want the best for thier marriages. But we completely misread each other, because we don’t have the context of each others understanding.

        As for our actions though, yeah, I agree those are totally intentional. We are all human, with good and bad sides. And we all have good days and bad days. When we are tired/stressed/whatever, we have a tendency to take out our frustrations on those closest to us – parents, kids, and specifically our partners. I’m sure we’ve all had days that someone says or does something, and our reaction is completely out of line with what has happened.

        We leave the dirty dishes, don’t pick up the towels, whatever it is. And it’s intentional, because those things just arent’ important to us. They don’t matter to us in the same way. But the bug the hell out of our partner, and even though our partner has reminded us time and again that something bugs them we kind of brush it off. In doing so we’re being selfish jerks, intentionally. But at the same time, we truly don’t understand WHAT we are doing to our partner, and how it is hurting them inside.

        My buddy knows what the symptoms are of a heart attack now. And if they ever happen again, he is on the alert for them. I realize how close I was to losing my wife, and now if she starts to withdraw or get distant I know that I need to ask what’s going on (can’t fix something if you don’t know what it is).

        Sadly, I think sometimes we do need to hit a bad spot in order to learn to appreciate what we have. And I don’t think that makes us good or bad, it just makes us human.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          I can’t remember my state of mind in every single interaction with my wife, or behaviorial choice I made to really dive in on a granular level. I wasn’t mindful of those things back then, which is really the point.

          Simple awareness. Like Drew’s excellent heart attack example.

          EVERYONE knows you shouldn’t eat bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes and fried chicken every day.

          Yet, some people have diets just like that.

          Sometimes people have super-unhealthy diets and habits and live a long time, just because. Good genes or whatever.

          Sometimes they die suddenly from a massive heart attack.

          Sometimes people survive a heart attack, change their diet and life style, and live a full life having made the changes necessary to do so.

          The parallels to romantic relationships, I think, are obvious.

          Drew summed it up quite nicely.

          It’s human nature for most people, I think, to not REALLY be afraid of a bad thing that might happen until the threat is imminent, or the bad thing actually happened.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks you Zombiedrew and Matt for your replies. I got a lot of good perspectives but some serious cravings for a cheeseburger. Lol

        Like you guys, I am trying to make sense out of what happened in my marriage as well as others I have seen. Fortunately, we have been clawing our way out of the pit and things are changing for the better although it’s a work in progress since we still don’t really understand each other’s perspectives on certain critical points.

        I am trying to understand the reluctance to admit “intention” because that seems to be really difficult for my husband. I don’t know why. He puts a lot of emphasis on “things just happening” and “not understanding the meaning” “us being different” etc. Of course those are true, but it seems VERY threatening for him to acknowledge any knowledge or intention. And I don’t know why.

        I am not talking about the general pattern of dishes or towels or whatever. I understand that now and many of the posts and comments have helped me understand it further. I am talking about acknowledging that some pieces of the dysfunction WAS intentional.

        As an example, his career is very important to him, advancement requires moving, we have moved twice and each time he got an exciting new job and I got left with a bunch of moving boxes and no job and no friends. I am not against moving again but I will not move until we can work out a way that would be mutually beneficial to me (or at least less crappy in general). This was an intentional decision I made as a boundary with the understanding it WOULD make him unhappy and prevent him from fully realizing his career potential. He, on the other hand, will not acknowledge ANY corresponding decisions or boundaries he has ever made that were intentional on his part that he knew would negatively impact me. I do not understand why this is so threatening. He blames me for holding his career back (and I say yes, yes I did) but he cannot acknowledge how he has held my career back by having to move a lot and do a lot of the grunt work. I don’t get it, really, I don’t get it. And I’m trying to.

        That’s why I was hoping some of you smart people could explain it to me. Meanwhile, I might drive through and get a cheeseburger.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa,

        what you are describing seems to be something I see that is symptomatic of many struggling relationships, and from my experience is definitely not the sole domain of men.

        For some reason a lot of people have issues with the concept of accountability. Of owning something, and saying “yes, I screwed up”. And unfortunately, until you are able to own your actions and your part in things, I don’t think you can ever really improve.

        For the other partner it’s especially frustrating, because if someone won’t even own what they have done, and acknowledge when they are wrong then how can we ever have confidence that things will ever change.

        I once read something about accountability, and it talks about how people will often go through a few stages of it. First, they will deny something. Then they will blame or rationalize (yeah, I did this. But it was because…). Next they will start to take ownership, but only due to guilt or a sense of obligation. And lastly comes true accountability. Where someone will say yeah – that’s on me. No excuses. No blame. But a willingness to do something because it’s the right thing to do.

        I don’t know why accountability is so hard for some people. We all make mistakes, and that should be okay. Refusing to acknowledge them however is something different.

        Off to eat a cheeseburger.

        With bacon.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Exactly. I don’t perceive this as an issue of unintentional pain inflicted vs. intentional. This is an issue of accountability. Surely you’re not implying that the driving force behind your husband’s career advancement has been a desire to “stick it to you”…??? I’m sure his intention was a better home (maybe neighborhood) for his family, greater earning potential, greater self-fulfillment, an all-around better life for you and him (at least in the narrow way the capitalist Western world defines “better life”). It is simply that when he is forced to compare what was gained with what was lost by way of his career advancement decisions, he’s not prepared to take accountability for his part in it. Maybe that’s because (from his perspective) he doesn’t understand why you didn’t set more clear and concise boundaries upfront around how you define a “good life” versus how he does. Or maybe he’s just being a weak asshole. I dunno know. That would all be shallow supposition on my part. But I’m not seeing any part here where he set out to cause you anguish, or where you’ve done the reverse to him.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Zombiedrew and Travis,

        Thanks for your replies. I forgot about the bacon on my cheeseburger!

        I liked what you were saying Zombiedrew about the stages of accountability. Very helpful frame. I will think about that further.

        Travis, no I don’t think my husband’s drive in his career is a “stick it to my wife” mentality. Nor is it the other things you listed such as wanting to live in a nice neighborhood. He loves his career, he is great at his job, he gets great pleasure and satisfaction from it. I am proud of him and all he’s accomplished. The problem comes when he has to make sacrifices that he would not have to if he was single. Again this is normal. We all have to make sacrifices in certain ways when you share life with different people with different wants/needs. And sometimes it stinks because that means you are not going to live life the way you would prefer and you give up real things that cause you pain. And no I don’t think it’s because he’s a “weak asshole” or that he wishes I set better boundaries earlier as you put it. My best guess is that he understands he can’t live like he’s single (he’s a fantastic dad) and has made huge changes already and its easier to wish that I would change so my needs match his needs better so he doesn’t have to sacrifice more. I’m just guessing though because when I ask him he just thinks I should see moving as an exciting new opportunity and doesn’t understand why I am so negative about it even after I explain my reasons.

        I just don’t know if I can write these questions in a way that make sense to anybody. I certainly don’t want to come across as unfriendly becsuse we’re all here to help each other figure stuff out that is hard to get. Or it’s hard for me to get anyway.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        …I asked for your thoughts before I saw this comment by you Lisa. Now I have them. :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        …and I also just want to say again, like Lisa, if I’ve been unfriendly/rude I didn’t want that. I love the energetic yet friendly discussion going on, and I certainly don’t want to ruin it.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        …and I’m sorry for any unfriendliness/rudeness on my part. I know that can matter to a lot of people to hear. :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        …and reading one of Zombiedrew2’s comments again, I mean that. I’m not just saying it out of obligation. ;) When/where/if I’m rude/unfriendly, my bad.

        Like

  19. Thank you all again for sharing! These are difficult matters to discuss in the real world, and being able to see your different perspectives and insights makes it easier for me to see that I may not completely have a grasp of my partner’s motivations or lack thereof, and quite possibly I need to clarify my own motivations.

    I know he is not hurting me intentionally and it feels like the “negligent” things are minor. That being said, asking for affection or intimacy and being rebuffed adds up over time, and all of a sudden, my emotions withdraw and I realize I feel hurt and disengaged. This is totally unintentional on my part.

    Many of us have never been in relationships lasting 15-20 years and have no framework to try and analyze what is actually going on. It’s like we are all bumbling around in the dark ;-)

    Like

  20. Donkey says:

    Lisa, I’m writing this here so it’s easier for you to find. 8)

    Woohoo, I’m so glad I could help you (while “talking” at the same time – I call that as win-win)!

    I’m basically just repeating/summarazing/expanding on what we’ve already said.

    1. Sometimes not intending to hurt someone matters a lot (or a little) in a positve way. I remember an ex-boyfriend who pushed me into the street once. The thing is, he was just goofing around, giving me a friendly playful push, but I tripped or whatever and somehow ended up in the street (a quiet street I have to admit though). Of course intention matters there. It would have been a whole different thing had he meant to push me into the roadt! It has also been very enlightening (and almost like a brain exercise, because to me it just seemed so impossible), that even when a man (and women do it to) has been told over and over that he’s hurting his wife by doing xyz he doesn’t believe it and is schocked when she wants to leave or whatever.

    2. Sometimes intention doesn’t matter that much one way or another.

    3. Sometimes doing something unintentionally that hurts someone can even be worse than doing it with intention. I may be poking at your wound now, so let me apologize for that (and again, I could be wrong), I’m trying to use it as an example. Let’s say your hubby had badgered you into moving for his career:
    A) as a punishment/retribution for something you did/didn’t do that hurt him in some way
    B) not as a punishment, but wanting this new opportunity so badly that he wilfully decided to push you into it, knowing that it would hurt you, even though he didn’t want to cause you pain per se. Basically deciding that he would rather have you suffer than him.

    Wouldn’t both those options in some ways almost be…better? More…good overall? Of course, punishing you, or wilfully deciding that he’d rather have you suffer than him isn’t very nice at all. It would hurt a lot to have someone you love do that to you. And yet… at least his baseline understanding of what you two individuals are entitled to would be one of equality and fairness.

    Another example. Let’s say person A and B have sex. Person B is angry at person A, and intentionally decides to stop the sexual encounter after person A has given person B an orgasm. Not nice. Petty. Mean.

    Vs. Person B the vast majority of the time is only focused at their own orgasm*. They don’t think about person As orgasm at all, or very rarely. If they sometimes decides to return the favour to person A, person B considers themselves to be extra generous. Their baseline understanding doesn’t include wanting to hurt person A, but they just take it for granted that person A should be happy and satisfied to be just a vessel for person B’s pleasure.

    I know which person I’d rather have as a lover. 8)
    *(Yes, sex is more than just orgasms, sometimes people are fine with being sexually generous, sometimes they’re relieved and happy to not feel pressured into having an orgams at all and so on. I’m not talking about these kinds of things).

    Like

    • Lisa says:

      Yes whether or not “intention” matters is complicated.

      It’s like that idea that opposite of love is not hate but indifference. It’s almost more palatable to think that you have an evil nemesis than someone who isn’t thinking about you at all.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Yes! Again, I’m sorry if it wasn’t ok by you for me to keep spinning off on whatever the situation is with your hubby (again I’m just thinking out loud). And one last thing, I do think you agree and have experienced it in your own life, but just to be clear: I think becoming aware of and potentially losing a way of operating in the world is VERY difficult and very hard and anxiety/shame-provoking even if that way isn’t inherently selfish. A fish is the last one to know it’s swimming in water. And if that way is inherently selfish (or threatening in some other way), and if we’re comitted to viewing ourselves as a good guy/girl (for whatever reasons) and we don’t believe a good guy/girl can do anything majorly selfish, than it will be much harder for us to understand and admit what’s been going on. We’ll do a lot to protect ourselves from that realization.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Donkey,

        It’s fine to riff off my examples. The work thing with my husband is a combination of factors.
        1. He’s much more of an independence first rather than a togetherness first approach. So his default is for both of us that just do our things independently. I think it’s harder for people with this mindset to see acknowledge how their “independence” affects others because they don’t approach things as system.

        2. He LOVES his career and has made significant adjustments to be successful while being an involved Dad. There is a big difference though between adjustments that still allow you to keep your and concessions that require don’t.

        3. Making concessions to that require him to really sacrifice his potential is just seen as unnecessary when I could make adjustments from his point of view and not have to sacrifice my dreams. What I have been trying to do is get him the acknowledge the concessions I have already made for him to keep his dreams. This has been the problem.

        4. Here your theory is quite helpful because it explains it in a way that rings true. He can’t allow himself to concede my concessions or he has to acknowledge that his dreams have been prioritized in our marriage. His default independence style also makes it hard for him to even see it as a system. He just sees it as both of us making independent choices that have resulted in me having a lesser career. He also doesn’t see his privilege as the male in ways that make his career the “default” in many ways.

        5. To change these views requires being willing to make concessions because he is a fair minded person.

        6. So it’s much safer and easier to keep your dreams by denying that I have made any concessions in my career that were not independent choices. To not acknowledge the sense of privilege and entitlement underlying the assumptions. This in my opinion is not gender specific although the topics may be and I have done the same to him as I pointed out in an earlier post.

        It really makes sense to me now.

        Like

  21. Donkey says:

    Lisa, you said: “It’s not to say that everything is relative but that very few people pass the test if it’s pass/fail. That’s why it makes more sense to me to judge people as a mixture of things good and bad”.

    I agree VERY much. If I had been a poor, working class christian German in he 1930s, would I have voted for Hitler? I probably would have (and though of course he was openly antisemittic, the horrors of the concentration camps wasn’t publicly known from the start). Had I been a white contemporary of George Washington, living in the South, would I have been ok with slavery? Very likely.

    Humility is one of the things my Jungians reading have given me a lot of. We are a mix of all things, and I believe we have the potential for all things. This goes for everybody, though I do find it very disappointing and hypocritical when people who concern themselves with social justice causes are ok with other groups of people being subjugated. You care about LGHBT rights and yet are racist? Err, not very impressed.

    And I don’t think cheating makes man a misogonyst or a woman a misandrist. And, while it’s a very hurtful, low-integrity, deceitful and potentionally very damaging thing to do, it’s also just a bad thing among many other bad things we can do, in my opinion. And if something is just a little bad, but you do it over and over and over? Saying, well I didn’t do this Big Bad thing like cheating or stealing can be a cop out.

    Travis B mentions a series of behavior where he believes the vast majority of western men and women are in agreement that those are bad behaviours and says that his opinion is that if you do those, you do intend to hurt your spouse and are bad person.

    Obviously, Travis B is entitled to his opinion (your opinion, if you’re reading Travis, and I have learnt so very much from you)! My opinion however, is that its’ too simple. As we have seen on this blog, what someone thinks is completely obviously “bad” isn’t obviously bad to someone else. And like I’ve already said, in my mind intention goes only so far, because we can operate from a very selfish place without realizing it and without intending to cause harm. Someone might not even be aware they’re doing one of the behaviours Travis B mentioned (belittling someones opinions, forcing them to live in a subjugated way). And again, doing many small shitty things, intentionally or not, can be just as bad in my opinion as doing A Big Bad thing.

    Like Matt says, he would never abandon his crying wife. But he did. I’ve had my fair share of similar come to Jesus moments. It’s awful. It’s humbling. I’ve hurt people badly. And people just feel so differently about things, that’s one of the reasons I disagree with Travis on this. I’ve never been cheated on as far as I know, and I don’t have kids. And if someone feels differently than me regarding what I’m about to say, that’s just as valid. But for me, I think I would rather have my husband/life partner cheat on me with 10 hookers in a crazy orgy, than leaving me alone after giving birth/having a C-section to deliver our child. Being left in the hospital like that would have been much worse for me, I believe, I think I would have had an easier time forgiving him for the 10 hookers.

    And somehow Matt would never cheat on his wife with 10 hookers, he would consider that awful. Yet he was ok with leaving her crying at the hospital, not intending to cause her harm. Stuff can be…complicated.

    Like

    • Travis B. says:

      “And again, doing many small shitty things, intentionally or not, can be just as bad in my opinion as doing A Big Bad thing.”

      And that cuts very succinctly to the heart of our disagreement, and on this point, I do vehemently disagree. With a “Big Bad Thing”, regardless of the oddities of how men and women perceive things differently, as a collective culture, the vast majority of us are in complete agreement that it’s a Horrible, Shitty Thing to do to someone else. “Many Small and Unintentionally Shitty Things”, while certainly demanding ownership and change on the offender’s part, are not tantamount in my book at all. For me, it’s the difference between “I screwed up, I see that now. I love you, you matter to me, I honestly didn’t realize what I was doing was having this effect on you. I would never want to hurt you. I want and intend to make this better.” and “F*** you, bitch. Don’t like it? You can suck it.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Travis B,

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree. :p Just to be clear (and I do believe you understand this Travis), many small shitty things aren’t ALWAYS as bad (in my mind) as A Big Bad Thing, though I definitely do believe they can be.

        Respectfully, maybe this is a point where you’re the one who just won’t believe a more typical female point of view (and many women may very well disagree with me, but paraphrasing what you said, at least I’m one step ahead of you in understanding a point of view that many women may share).

        I’m just pulling examples from my own life here, but I talked with a friend about this very thing. I asked her how she thought she would handle it if her husband cheated on her. She said she obviously would be very hurt, but she would try to work it out. Here’s comes the point: She said that while she would be hurt, she would also in a way understand it, because she feels that she’s been in many ways (many small ways in any case, no cheating, financial deceit or stuff like that) more shitty than him. This is just to prove to you Travis that at least one other woman feels something similar to what I feel. :)

        Intention can matter somewhat. But if I’ve told someone over and over that it hurts me and they don’t believe me, well, ok, maybe I can believe that you didn’t believe it hurt me, but since I’ve told you so many times… It’s no longer innocent and the fact that you didn’t take me seriously is a shitty thing in itself (and yes, sadly I’m guilty of the same thing *bows head in shame and disbelief*).

        It seems like for you doing A Big Bad Thing would mean intentionally wanting to demean and hurt your wife. I don’t think it’s all that simple. Sometimes people act out without wanting to hurt, even though that IS NOT AN EXCUSE! And as I was trying to demonstrate with the comparison between someone leaving me after I’d given birth vs cheating on me with hookers, people don’t even agree on all the Big Bad Things. I would have thought leaving your wife in that situation would have been just as obviously bad as cheating, but it seems like it’s not. For me I believe it would be worse than cheating, but “better” than hitting me or raping me (what a very depressing train of thoughts).

        Let’s imagine someone’s been disrespecting me, even unintentionally for many years. I think they should have known better (aka it’s at best wilfull ignorance, certainly not innocence in my mind) because I’ve told them over and over and it’s just common sense in my mind – for instance that priviliges and responsibilities for logistics, learning how to care for the baby we both agreed to have and indeed doing the caring, keeping track of everything going on with kids and house and everything should be fairly shared for instance. Or whatever else. Maybe they’re very snappish/angry and roll their eyes at me not just once in a blue moon (I agree with you, that would be fine), but several times a week, and I’ve told them how much it hurts me. Though I can’t say for sure since I’ve not been there, I honestly think that that mountain of accumulated disrespect, hurt and exhaustion would be harder for me to recover from and forgive than if someone had been a fair, considerate and responsible partners for years, but then they f*cked up at a weekend seminar at work and slept with their coworker many times that weekend, and maybe even the next weekend. Maybe we’d had a bad patch before that happened, maybe not. They came home and fessed up and wanted to make amends. Make no mistake, I still think it’s very shitty! If people have kids, they risk their whole families, a man could get another woman pregnant/a woman could get pregnant by another man, diseases can be caught and spread, what’s truly exclusive about the relationship is no longer exclusive, it’s deceitfull, trust is broken and on and on. It’s shitty shitty shitty! And when people have repeated or very elaborate affairs, if they lie even when they’re caught, if they don’t want to take responsibility and all of that, that would be worse than if it was a short thing and the partner was remorseful obviously.

        Again, if I ever find myself in that situation, maybe I’ll change my mind. That’s possible. But as of now, I honestly believe I would judge it as I do now. Same with the cheating vs being left after birth. You might disagree and not get it (I mean mostly the Many Small Things vs A Big Thing, but perhaps also the leaving after birth vs cheating). But that is how I feel and see it, and if many women see it that way (and again, I can’t speak for all women, I’m sure many would disagree aswell), then their respective male partners would do well to accept it as reality, no matter how wrong/impossible it feels to you, just like women should believe you and Matt when you say many men never wanted to cause hurt by leaving the dishes by the sink or whatever. :p

        I’m glad it’s established that we’re all good and friendly (yey!), so like Lisa, I have allowed myself to be blunt here. It’s all meant in good faith and not meant to belittle or disrespect.

        I think the vas majority of us here are very happy to hear bout you and your wife’s anniversary. :) <3 Come back and give us all the dirty details!*

        *I'M KIDDING!! DON'T DO THAT!! UNLESS YOUR WIFE IS EXHIBITIONISTIC THAT WAY AND HAS GIVEN YOU HER ENTHUSIASTIC AND EXPLISIT CONSENT!!

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Oh, there will be copious sex, let there be no doubt of that, LMAO! But the details thereof? Well, I’m really trying to shore up my cognizance of demonstrating respect for my wife, so I’ll have to leave the details to your imagination! ;-) I’ll go so far as to say this provides me a legitimate opportunity to use the term DEFCON 1 for a second time here today.

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        Ok. I can’t resist throwing some Gottman out there.

        In The Man’s Guide To Women, here’s the equation for what women want:

        Trait women want most: trustworthiness

        Trust us built through: emotional connection

        Emotional connection is created through: attunement

        Therefore, emotional attunement = trustworthiness.

        And that is why leaving dishes by the sink for years can be worse than having an affair. It has shown that he can’t be TRUSTED whether it was intentional or not.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Donkey says:

    Lisa, there are so many comments, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I hope you do.

    You wrote somewhere about being self-sentered in wanting to have things your way at home (organized, tidy), and that it’s been a sacrifize for you to fully take your husbands preferences into account your husbands preferences. I sympathize and empathize, because clutter makes overwhelms me, and gives me all kinds of bad feels.

    Obviously, I don’t know what kind of needs and obligations you and your whole family have, your wishes for your career and lifestyle and everything else, but I have some thoughts I wanted to share:

    Maybe you could agree to moving again for your husbands career on the following conditions (since he loves it so much, you may have a lot of bargaining power):

    1. You get to decide the amount of stuff and the level of tidyness and cleanliness in your home now and forever more, Basically, you could declutter and organize to your heart’s content (or at least a very long way in that direction), including his stuff. You get to decide how the remaining things are organized, when and how people should tidy up, and who does what around the house to what time and standard. With clearly stated consequences for if he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. Obviously you’d have to be reasonable while still mostly considering your own preferences (that’s the deal after all). If he loves his guitar it wouldn’t make sense for you to force him to get rid of that and so on.

    2. Maybe you’re a billionaire who never has to worry about money, but if not: You protect your finances both now and in the future. X amount of his paycheck goes into an account that’s your savings and your savings only. You draw up a legal binding agreementt that states that if the marriage were to dissolve for whatever reason, you’d be entitled to a, b, and c. Or whatever else makes sense for you. Nothing outrageous, just what’s fair (and yes I would consider this fair if the genders were reversed aswell).

    Here’s my final point: I remember you talking about having considered therapist training. I’ve worked with two different kinds of therapists via Skype only (not marriage councelors, but still). It was great. I believe a large part of their clientelle worked with them via Skype. So maybe that could be a possibility for you too, and then you could have your career wherever you go (as long as there’s internet). Or maybe there’s something else related to work you’ve done before or indeed something else entirely, that you could do online aswell. :) If all of this were possible, you could have a career, a home you enjoy and your husband could pursue his career goals.

    (I know that immersing myself too much into other people’s stuff can be a way of avoiding my own life problems, but for now, whatevs. :) )

    Like

    • Lisa says:

      Hey Donkey!

      I appreciate your kindness in giving this some thought! Let me just throw out some random thoughts in response.

      We have found a good marriage counselor that we are skyping with. (Brent Atkinson’s clinic outside Chicago). We’ve only been working together for a few weeks but he’s by far the best therapist I’ve worked with so I am looking forward to really digging in. I wrote on other posts about the truly terrible marriage therapists we experienced even after interviewing and researching. That’s why I have had to read many, many books and have taken therapist training myself because I just couldn’t find a therapist. Based on what I found, we have made a lot of changes already and things are much better than at the worst point about a year ago.

      Some of the differences are core personality differences like I am someone who likes plans, being on time, structure, organization etc. My husband prefers more spontinaity, runs late, likes lees structure and more freedom, etc. Either way is not wrong but they’re sources of frustration in roommates or spouses. I used to think my way was “better and less selfish” than his. The books told me that this is not the way people in successful relationships view things. They are just differences and both ways are equally valid. So I’ve had to get off my high horse and balance the too without being judgemental (probably my biggest flaw). He’s also done a lot of accomodating so we show up to movies on time as an example.

      The moving thing is less about moving than trying to fix the problematic attitudes it represents. Just like I had to acknowledge my crappy judgemental attitude my husband is going to acknowledge his crappy sense of entitlement about his job.

      You have some good practical ideas, you should become a life coach! We actually can work things out in a reasonable IF we each give up our crappy attitudes. That’s what’s holding things up. I feel pretty confident now that we can make some progress on some of these gridlock issues now that we are working with a good therapist. Because I have firm conviction of my own rightness in a pigheaded way, I have to really wrestle with things to get my mind to change. That’s why I like to read books and blogs that help me convince myself I’m doing things wrong (when I am) and understand my husband better.

      Thanks for your help, it’s really made a difference. I enjoy internet chatting with you!

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        I like chatting with you too!

        ..it’s always so much easier and more pleasant to “solve” other people’s problems. :p But it sounds like you’re handling your stuff just fine. ;) I think I have the pigheaded rightness thing too. Sigh. I’m sure I can be a real pain in the you know what to people close to me sometimes.

        (…I actually am somewhat considering the coach thing! Maybe some time in the future, don’t think I’m ready for it now. But I like listening to people’s problems and empathizing with them, and I like giving advice/thoughts on both an emotional and practical level. Seems like a good fit at least.)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        …and good luck with everything!

        Like

      • Lisa says:

        You would be a great coach! You have a good sense of theory (you know I love my theory :) ).l and good practical problem solving skills and you can type things in an empathic way (I assume you can talk that way too).

        I don’t know if I have a good handle on things. I frustrate myself everyday with not being able to change my attitudes more to be more flexible and loving. And forgiveness and letting go of resentment is a work in progress. But working on it every day, at least I can’t be accused of lack of effort. And the more I understand what I’ve done wrong and what to do now the easier it gets.

        I actually started commenting on blogs as part of my work on getting my message across differently. I experiment ewith Facebook blogs comments to see how I phrase things get different responses. I know it’s hard to believe (not!) but I can come across as know it all even when I don’t mean to. Trying to learn how to talk about things in ways that still contribute facts without coming off as too “I’m above you trying to teach you”.

        Also the comments about theory being useless just trigger a sore spot. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that i “think too much” or read too many books instead of taking action etc. That’s partly why I have had a hard time finding a therapist. I don’t want to know more than you or to just talk about my feelings. I want scientifically valid approaches and practical solutions along with the feelings. Why is this not the approach? Seems weird to me to think it would be otherwise but appatently the majority of counsellors disagree. This is not to bash counsellors but couples therapy really requires a completely different set of skills and structure than individual therapy to be successful. You really know what you’re doing and be the leader!

        Marriage like anything else CAN be analyzed and understood. I have to laugh at myself though because I had to spend a hour with my counselor to discuss the validity of the material saying things are 50/50. Doesn’t make sense. Aren’t some 40/60 or 25/75. Maybe it’s part of that same discussion we were having with Travis about people being all good or bad or a mixture.

        My calculations showed I was 43% responsible. Lol. Although I could easily be convinced I was more than 50 depending on the measure. I asked the counselor if anyone else asked him about this. He said no I was the first, so then I knew this is just my crazy talking and to just view it as a interconnecting system since the 50/50 thing doesn’t make sense to me. Gotta laugh at myself sometimes. :).

        Like

  23. […] my wife was mad and I thought she was charging me with murder when my crime was actually driving too fast in a construction zone, I’d get defensive and pivot the conversation to her lack of justice instead of the […]

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