Do Bad Husbands Ever Really Change?

(Image/lonerwolf.com)

(Image/lonerwolf.com)

Blackolives wrote: “Found your Huffpo ‘dishes’ post earlier today. Still laughing at how an appalling number of people didn’t get ‘dishes as metaphor’, and used that to cement classic women-are-irrational narratives. Now I’m going through everything you’ve written about shitty husbands. I feel less alone — it’s weird that a ‘shitty husband’ is having this comforting we-are-not-alone effect on women who are married to good friends/nice guys who also happens to be heartbreakingly bad at marital responsibilities.

“Thank you for all your self-deprecating but also — self-improvement writings — so, I am just — and please forgive me for my own cynicism — I am just wondering if you believe your self-awareness will now impact you in a positive way so that you wouldn’t habitually make those mistakes in a future relationship. I have this belief that, nice people/shitty spouses usually don’t get to self-awareness and introspection because they stay in the bitter/blame the other stage. But you have recognized your active role in the failed relationship — well done. Is that enough to create enough change in active participation in relationships? I believe most of us aren’t resilient enough to constantly fight against our instincts — in the case of the shitty husbands you describe — stubbornness and belief that if you don’t think it’s important, she’s overreacting, and that makes you not ‘feel like’ doing whatever it is.

“(I have been criticized for believing [most] people don’t [not can’t] change — having wasted a considerable chunk of my life on emotionally abusive immediate family members and a nice-guy/shitty husband, which cemented a narrative of ‘people don’t change’ in me. People will always prefer being right. Me included. I’d be so pissed if everyone did 180s and became fabulously self-aware and innately empathic :)”

There is some mathematical probability that I’ll divorce again or suffer a tough breakup resulting from my personality, habits or behavior causing problems.

Blackolives’ experience tells her that people don’t change, so she asks a fair question: “Do you believe your self-awareness will now impact you in a positive way so that you wouldn’t habitually make those mistakes in a future relationship?” and “You have recognized your active role in the failed relationship — well done. Is that enough to create enough change in active participation in relationships? I believe most of us aren’t resilient enough to constantly fight against our instincts — in the case of the shitty husbands you describe — stubbornness and belief that if you don’t think it’s important, she’s overreacting, and that makes you not ‘feel like’ doing whatever it is.”

I’ve had several bouts of fear with these questions in my three years of post-divorce reflection.

I know that it’s less expensive and generally healthier to cook at home than to eat out all the time. But because I don’t like cooking for one, and because my life is busier than it has ever been and don’t like grocery shopping as much as I once did, I often eat out.

I know that having a book published will give me a greater feeling of accomplishment than anything I’ve done as it’s long been a dream of mine, yet EVERY DAY, many of my choices would seem to prioritize other things ahead of book progress.

I know about MANY things I could or should do to improve my life, yet I sometimes make choices that work against me.

I’m a pretty reflective and self-aware guy. So, yeah—I’ve asked myself the question: What if BEING ME is, in and of itself, something that kills love and relationships? What if I’m, ultimately, not cut out for marriage?

The Power of Awareness

I shared this last week, but it’s so powerful, I want to do so again.

From the mind of the late novelist David Foster Wallace: “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’

There is ENORMOUS power in the simple concept of awareness.

I posit—sometimes to the disbelief of wives currently or formerly married to guys like me—that men can go YEARS hearing their wives repeat themselves about how something like leaving socks on the bedroom floor can inflict physical, emotional pain and HAVE NO IDEA that it’s actually happening.

It’s The Secret About Men Most Women Don’t Know.

I understand how bizarrely oblivious and neglectful that might sound to someone who has been painfully and frustratingly living on the opposite end of those relationships.

But, since I actually lived this, I know it’s true. We don’t always get it until she walks out the door.

Wow. She totally meant what she said all those hundreds of times.

Put simply: Good men can be bad husbands, because it’s not always about character. It’s about awareness, relationship skills, and making the choice to apply those skills in a way consistent with loving and respecting our partner.

One of the advantages I will have in my next relationship, is that I’m HYPER-aware of these things. Writing, thinking and talking about these ideas often certainly helps because these things are top of mind for me.

In the future, a lack of awareness will not be my downfall, though it may be a huge factor for others.

The Power of Habit

Much of our lives—nearly 40 percent!—are comprised of things we do out of habit.

Or, you might say, thoughtlessly.

I have some bad habits, including biting my fingernails. I think about how disgusting and unattractive it is every day, yet I probably bite one of my nails at least once every day. No part of my nail-biting habit is me thoughtfully going: Hmmm. If I bite my nails right now, I’ll get to enjoy some gross microscopic germs hiding under them and have uglier hands afterward! Awesome!

I just bite the damn things and sort of realize it later.

Maybe poor relationship habits are that way too. Maybe much of what we do to hurt those we love—or at least much of what I do—are byproducts of bad habits.

The Future

I believe that when I choose to love someone for the rest of my life, that I’ve now been through enough divorce horribleness, and possess enough sensitivity, self-awareness and knowledge to remain aware and not let unrestrained bad habits cause it to crash and burn.

But, it’s a nagging thought and concern. One I probably worry about too much.

And it’s probably something many people don’t worry about enough, and it will ultimately lead to their divorce and a bunch of other sad and uncomfortable things.

I don’t own any crystal balls. I’m a good guesser, but still guess wrong sometimes.

I may—in the context of marriage—be fatally flawed.

Blackolives doesn’t believe necessarily that people change.

But I know they sometimes do. Because I’ve changed.

If I ever suffer through another divorce or bad breakup, it’s not going to be because I was a victim of circumstance with no power to influence the outcome. It’s not going to be because I’m some oblivious dumbass with his head in the sand.

It will be because I chose selfishness over selflessness. It will be because I chose easy over difficult. It will be because I chose lazy over love.

There’s always a chance that could happen. Anything’s possible.

But I’m betting on hope. On change. On me.

Maybe others will bet on themselves too.

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233 thoughts on “Do Bad Husbands Ever Really Change?

  1. DrK says:

    I’m going to place a fairly well-educated bet that you will not only fail to repeat the behavior patterns you once engaged in, but also possibly over-extend yourself to avoid the possibility your future SO may even think that about you. People change when they realize their behavior has caused them pain AND when they feel they can control their behaviors. They don’t change if the pain wasn’t that bad, or if they absolve themselves of responsibility and finger-point, or if they feel they can’t control their behaviors (or it’s too hard/too much work). In your case, you have accepted responsibility, identified specific behaviors you believe contributed to the demise of your marriage, AND feel that changing is within your control. Without these three things, people may 1) feel the behaviors are too vague, and therefore too hard to change, 2) blame externally, and/or 3) engage in learned helplessness (nothing I do is going to matter, so why try?). There must be a reason to change, and it needs to seem possible to change, otherwise a person can become stuck. But with all the work you’ve done, and patterns you’ve identified, I whole-heartedly believe you have changed, and will sustain that change!! With you, I’d worry about you swinging to the other end of the spectrum and blame yourself for everything, or attribute everything internally, which also isn’t true (:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr Ruth 2point0 (Anna) says:

    I often speak of my favorite psychological theorist, Abraham Maslow. He’s the father of humanistic psychology and big on self-actualization, or realizing your faults and changing them for instance. In fact, my site is named for this (self-actualized events). I think what you do, looking at what you did wrong so you don’t do it again, is important to that self-actualization. I think you can change if you want to and you clearly do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RD94 says:

    I’ve followed your blog for a while, but lately, you seem to be more self-deprecating and assume the blame yourself more than what you probably should. It takes two people to manufacture drama, and generally, any failed relationship is ever the exclusive fault of only one party. I think you really need to start looking into MGTOW philosophy, personally.

    Like

    • I’m not sure that it takes 2 people manufacture drama. I think a lot of people incorrectly think this and it may be an attempt to dilute personal responsibility. There is usually a dance between the 2 persons, but I think the person who holds more of the emotional power in the relationship is often taking the lead.

      Like

    • Emilia says:

      Why do people post this on this blog? This blog is about understanding if you mess up your person will leave and you better take responsibility for it, and try to fix it?

      None of this “I bet she was as bad as you” bs. Sometimes one person starts slacking and its that’s persons fault!

      Heck, I take the blame for my failed relationships, but not in the way you would think!

      Like

    • RD94 – I would disagree with you. While there are totally relationships where both parties neglect each other and their responsibilities I imagine there are at least as many (if not more) where one person is struggling to work on it and finally save it while the other is slacking. Say something I do bothers you, but you don’t tell me about it so I have no idea that it irritates you more and more. Is it my fault? I say no. I can’t read your mind. Or something I do bothers you, you do tell me (in a kind way) I express my empathy and work hard to stop doing it. Something you do bothers me, so I do tell you (in a kind way), but you do not bother to stop doing it or worse dismiss how I feel about it. Are we even? I say no. I put work, you didn’t.
      This is what Matt is writing about. He is not saying his wife was perfect. But he is not blaming her. He is simply taking responsibility for his part. The other part, if there was any, would be up to her to acknowledge.
      By doing all that and doing all the reflective work he does all he can (even if this is not his plan consciously) to ensure that his next relationship will be more successful! That he will do all he can to make it work. Because he is focusing on fixing (not the right word but the best that came to me right now) himself instead of fixing another person which is impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa Gottman says:

    You know what I think is the most critical thing to change? A willingness to change. That simple. Humility. If I’m willing to look on the mirror and see my part of the problem, the how tos or changing are details that can be figured out.

    I bet going through your painful divorce has made you more humble. I know my parenting and marriage failures have made me MUCH more humble. I console myself that all I have to do though is be “good enough”. Not perfect, just pretty good on most days and humble enough to say I’m sorry when I screw up because I’m human.

    Why don’t/can’t some people change? Because humility is terrifying. I have to admit I’m not really in control, other people see things completely differently and maybe they’re more right than I am.
    All the stuff I base my self esteem on is just not true.
    Terrifying! Like walking a high wire with no net.

    And so many of us need the certainty to get through the day without drinking vodka or eating bags of Doritos or numbing out on work or tv or Facebook. I’ve wasted YEARS of my life doing that because I was afraid to be humble.

    But a crisis forces us to a fork in the road. I had to choose the red or the blue pill. Somedays I want the blue pill back. But adult love is based in humility and most days I’m glad I chose the blue to see what a “shitty wife” I was/am. Even though humility and forgiveness is hard. So much easier to eat Doritos and blame him for everything. But once I saw it, I can change and be a “good enough” wife and mother that shows snd feels real love.

    I know men can change because my husband has done it. We’re still working on it but the red pill has been swallowed and the rest is details.

    Like

    • zombiedrew2 says:

      Alright Lisa, I need to ask a pretty important question here…

      you have lots of references to Doritos – so what’s the favorite? Classic Nacho? Cool Ranch? I’m classically a Cool Ranch guy (have been for over 20 years), but have recently also gained appreciation for Jalapeno and Cheddar.

      As I said, important stuff here.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Hey ZombieDrew,

        I am a big fan of classic nacho cheese Doritoes. Artificial cheese flavoring is like mother’s milk to me!

        I used to try and hide a bag so my kids wouldn’t eat them but the orange fingers always give me away. Maybe I should wear gloves!

        P.S. I just wrote you a couple of comments on the last blog. I was kidding about the radical thing but I do want you in the Arthur C. Clarke club.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Zombiedrew,

        I am impressed that after 20 years of commitment to Cool Ranch that you have embraced new flavors like Jalapeno and Cheddar.

        You are living proof that men really can change!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oh my…. What does it mean if I don’t know what Doritos are? Does it mean I am infinitely humble (“So much easier to eat Doritos and blame him for everything”)? Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lively Life says:

      great to read your coment Lisa:)

      Like

  5. Travis B. says:

    This has been the crushing, breath-stealing realization that has haunted the dark corners of my mind and soul ever since I managed to pull my marriage back from the cliff’s edge by only the most meager handful of threads: “this will never stop.” The work to prove my affections to my wife will never stop. The work to hold up my end of the marital contract will never stop. The work to practice active empathy with my wife will never stop. The work to always place her needs before any competing needs will never stop. The work to help her fully actualize herself as a wife, friend, lover, daughter, sister, student, employee, woman, independent human being will never stop. In gentlemen’s terms, having to bring my A-game Every Single Day can never stop. Every single day of the rest of my life will bring with it the Herculean effort of ensuring no other path my wife could have taken in life (or still could!) holds more allure than the path she chose to take with me. Every single day of the rest of my life will require active engagement and devoted effort. I take even a single day off at my extreme peril. It’s an overwhelming, leveling realization, the kind that requires us to operate with almost superhuman levels of self-awareness, the kind that most people can’t hope to sustain for a few years, much less forever. All I know is I’m going to die trying.

    I do believe all of us have the power to change, and to commit to such change. The problem is that only each of us individually, internally can truly know if we’ve made that commitment all the way to the finish line. Our loved ones have nothing to go off of but hope and faith in us. I think perhaps the greatest grotesquery in Man’s character is how commonly we all fail to register what Great and Terrible Power we wield over those who’ve blessed us with their love. And with Great Power comes Great Responsibility.

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    • Lisa Gottman says:

      What a great comment Travis!

      Do you think it will get easier over time as the new skills become a little more familiar?

      I loved the Spider-Man quote. It seriously is one of my favorites. I have to balance the idea of the great responsibility with the “good enough” idea or I get overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of the long term struggle. Do you feel that way too?

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      • zombiedrew2 says:

        I think part of this goes back to concepts of accountability. Accountability goes through stages – denial, justification, obligation/guilt, and then true accountability. True accountability to me is when we are doing something because we inherently know/feel it’s the *right* thing to do. Not because someone is pushing us, or we’re scared they will “take our toys away if we don’t”.

        It’s only when someone has worked through those levels and tells themselves they are going to do something because it’s the right thing to do that it becomes a part of them.

        And when that happens, I really believe the new behavior is the rule instead of the exception.

        Not saying there won’t be “off” days, cause there will. But how we behave most of the time is what’s most important.

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      • Travis B. says:

        You bet I do. It looms over me like the alien space craft in INDEPENDENCE DAY every day. As far as whether I think my efforts as a husband will become easier the more I practice better relationship skills, I truly don’t know. To be honest, I’m kind of afraid they won’t. I’m father to an eleven year-old boy and a seven year-old girl and I’m telling you, hand to God, being a parent, even after a decade of daily practice, hasn’t gotten one damn bit easier. In fact, just this last weekend offered up a juicy little slice of parental hell and crammed it down my throat. So often, being a parent is miserable, embarrassing, failure-prone, unfulfilling, soul-sucking, labor-intensive effort upon effort, and it feels like the end goal target is constantly shifting. Parents aren’t supposed to admit that sometimes raising children is about as easy, fun and affirming as bashing our face repeatedly into a brick wall, but hey, there it is. I know the truth and so does every other parent, whether many will cop to it or not. So I fear marriage will, similarly, very likely continue to present a constant Lazy Susan of shifting, alternating challenges, and I’ll always prove to be a little behind the 8-ball as a husband. It’s hard to say; I’ve only been practicing a better way of husbandry for about four months now, but despite having an A-game effort unceasingly top of mind, I bet my wife would say I’ve already had some days in 2016 that were B, C, maybe even D-game level. I imagine that many people reading this might say I’m making an apples to oranges comparison because my wife chose to marry me, but my children didn’t, so my responsibility to them is of a more heightened nature, but I respectfully disagree. It’s not that my wife chose to marry me. It’s that I chose to allow her to make me the custodian of her heart. In that sense, there is zero difference between my responsibility to protect and help actualize my children and my responsibility to protect and help actualize my wife. I guess that’s what makes all three of them my family. If I had to guess, Lisa, I’d venture that, no, it won’t get any easier ever. But who ever became a better person by taking the easy route?

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      • Travis B. says:

        Sorry, I meant to type “my wife chose to marry me, but my children didn’t choose to be born”. Yeah, pretty sure they didn’t choose to marry me. Pretty sure I would never ask them to. Pretty sure Hollywood won’t be looking at my personal life as inspiration for the screenplay of DELIVERANCE 2: MORE SQUEALING. Jesus wept.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Magpie says:

        This “…having to bring my A-game Every Single Day can never stop…” This was the space between the rising ape and the falling angel in our relationship that failed. He didn’t understand that a partnership of the magnitude of marriage needed two people putting in continual effort, to better the relationship and themselves and not to add to the burden of the union or the individuals in the union. And thank you travis & drew. I always get something meaningful from your comments.

        Like

    • anitvan says:

      “this will never stop…”

      Now you get it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        Amen.

        I think there is discomfort during “the transition,” or “the growth.”

        When you don’t run for a while, and then go running, it’s hard. But you get in shape eventually, and it’s not.

        Same with weight lifting.

        Same with healing after a loss.

        Getting “used” to things can cause a lot of boredom and general lack of appreciation when we don’t pay attention.

        But it can help us too. Adaptation helps us get used to “discomfort” and eventually the discomfort disappears as we adapt to the new thing.

        We wake up every day, and we choose to love unselfishly. And after a lifetime of selfish living, it’s hard and it feels weird and maybe not as comfortable as the lazy way.

        Then we do it the next day.

        A few months later, it’s more routine. A few years later, it’s a fundamental part of you. A few decades later, you accomplish one of the most beautiful and universally celebrated things in the human experience.

        A love that really lasted.

        Not because of magic or anything intangible.

        Just a deliberate choice every day to keep doing it.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Anitivan,

        You said:

        “this will never stop…”

        Now you get it.”

        This is what I love about you! I write these long rambling comments but you will say more in two sentences than I say in two paragraphs.

        It’s a gift! Do you write haikus in your spare time or are you an editor? How do you posess this magical power?

        Like

        • anitvan says:

          Hey Lisa,
          No magical powers here…just plain old, unglamorous experience. Because I’ve had that moment, as Travis did, when you realize with perfect clarity that *this is what the rest of my life is gonna look like*. If I wanna be married, and stay married, this is what I’m in for. There can be no coasting, no resting on our laurels; every day requires *this* level of effort.

          Like Drew so aptly illustrated with his basketball analogy (I love a good analogy!), it comes easier with practise. The new skills become more and more ingrained and they begin to come naturally. It will take less conscious effort over time.

          Which is probably good, because you’re gonna need it for the “next big thing” to come along. Because it WILL come. Something will come along and throw a wrench into the whole works and you’ll realize, Holy shit, we DON’T have this licked! There’s always going to be something that you’re going to bump up against that’s going to cause conflict, something that causes you to realize that you have more skills to learn, more growing to do.

          But it’s ok. Because if you’ve made it this far, it means you already *have* the tools you need to work through this new issue together.

          And yes, it will mean going through more pain and unpleasantness to get there, of course it will, because that’s what growth does – it makes us look at some uncomfortable truths about ourselves, our spouses and our marriages. But you will do it because you know it’s what has to be done.

          A healthy marriage is not defined by an absence of conflict. It’s how you choose to deal with conflict that matters.

          Having that “aha” moment when you realize *this* is what marriage looks like? That’s half the battle right there.

          Like

    • Lively Life says:

      Oh that is awesome.. Guh.

      Like

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      Travis, Lisa, Zombie, and Matt, y’all are just making me happy today. And I needed it. It is true that people can change and can do better. Although, I’m struggling through right now riding the waves of emotion that I have no idea how many more months or years I’ll have to ride, in my better moments I know I am growing and improving and that other people are too. I’m hoping and praying for a future that is better than the past and trying to do the work to become better myself.

      Travis, your view on what you owe to your wife is beautiful. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing it. And that’s the way everyone who has voluntarily entered into marriage ought to view their role. Matt sometimes points out a line or a paragraph that could change the world and that is one of them.

      The next thing I’m interested in that I think may give some similar or related thoughts is Dr. Cloud’s new book, The Power Of The Other. I plan to read it as soon as it’s released.

      Like

    • Deanna says:

      Being completely honest over here…I read what you write and think if it’s that much work for my husband to love me then I want him to want to leave me. And if he has to go to those measures along with the healing necessaryafter three years of emotional abuse, I want to deal with being alone. I guess at the end of the day, a day like mine as been today, I want Matt and the rest of you to know that sometimes it really is better to pull the plug on the relationship. As much as I’d love to believe we could do the work and get things on track, the truth is (at least for me) that any way you shake it this train does not belong on that track. I hope I’m the only one reading who feels this way because it’s torturous. But it would be as equally damaging to continue to believe this marriage I’m in could ever be a marriage like yours.

      Like

      • Deanna says:

        For me, the change needed is to stop believing everyone is capable of change. When paired with someone truly incapable of change, hope serves up a slow death.

        Like

      • nights7 says:

        Yes, sometimes it really is better to pull the plug on a relationship and walk away. Or maybe throw a Maltov cocktail on it and run far and fast while it burns in spectacular style. Slightly more dramatic but basically the same thing.
        You can’t make a person change; you can’t force someone to want to do better. At some point the decision is to settle for something terrible or stop banging your head against the wall and call it quits.
        This goes back to the original question of this post: Can shitty husbands actually change?
        Only if they’re willing and able to see that there’s a problem and they’re part of it. I do think everyone can change IF they see a problem with their behavior. BUT not everyone is capable of seeing that they’re part of the problem.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Deanna,

        I know the word “work” has negative connotations, so maybe think of it instead as effort. In the early stages of a relationship, people tend to put a ton of effort into each other. And it’s great, because it’s exciting and new. Of course it’s also completely unsustainable.

        I think the most common relationship problem is that over time that effort fades. We start to take for granted what we have, and we stop putting in that effort – because (perhaps at a subconscious level) we don’t think we need to anymore.

        For almost everyone I know of who has had a failing relationship and has managed to resuscitate it, the common thing is they started to put effort into each other again.

        I think of bad spots in a relationship as like being in a deep hole. The worse it is, the further away you seem from the light at the time. And I know when you are in a deep hole it often seems hopeless. That hopelessness is probably the biggest killer of relationships. The feeling that it will never change, and it doesn’t matter what you do, you will never make progress.

        That’s where focussing on the good, and celebrating the small victories can make a huge difference. Often we need to turn around the mindset a bit, and remove some of the negativity from the relationship in order to heal.

        I’m one of the biggest cheerleaders I know for holding onto relationships and making them better (I’ve got the pom-poms and cheer and everything – no skirt though, sorry). I truly believe that *most* relationships can be turned around, and can have successful and happy futures. And I don’t believe in empty relationships where a couple is still married or together on paper, but essentially lead separate lives. When that happens I think, what’s the point?

        So I do agree with you that sometimes it’s better to pull the plug on a relationship. Actually, sometimes I think it can even be an act of love to recognize that two people simply aren’t good together, and to be willing to let things go.

        I just think it’s really sad when people do that before they have given it every chance, and when they are letting go while in a state of hopelessness that may very well be coloring their view of things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        “Being completely honest over here…I read what you write and think if it’s that much work for my husband to love me then I want him to want to leave me.”

        Boy, once again, with full respect, I have to admit that I really struggle with your points of view about the tenets of a successful, fulfilling marriage. You and I obviously look at the issue through profoundly different lenses. What is it about your husband putting dedicated effort into your marriage that you find repellent? Can he be expected to meet your emotional needs by simply coasting by, counting on your goodwill and the butterflies you feel at the memories of your early courtship? I don’t know if you’re a parent, but it’s a strange, often exhausting dynamic where my children repeatedly fail me, and I repeatedly fail them. But our mutual love goes beyond making the parental effort tolerable. It makes it NECESSARY. I chose to bring my children into the world; therefore, I owe them so much more than just my feeling of love. I owe them my investment. I owe them my active demonstration of love. I owe them a commitment to holding myself to an ideal so as to present an example to them of how to self-actualize their own personal ideals. It’s the most important work with which I could ever be involved. Since I took on the honor and responsibility of being the custodian of my wife’s heart, since I made her every bit as much a part of my family as my children, I owe her the exact same due diligence as I do to my children.

        In the simplest terms, what thing ever made someone a fundamentally better person, what thing ever grew, evolved and enhanced them as a human being, that came easily?

        Let me let you in on something that might prove illustrative: my wife and I had a big fight last night. A really charged up, volume-up-to-ten row. That’s right, at the precise time Fromscratchmom was waxing poetic about my loving statements regarding my responsibilities to my wife, we were hurling verbal javelins at each other. At one point, my wife said she was done trying to argue because the fight wasn’t accomplishing anything. No headway was being made, so she wanted to table it and just try again another day since both of us were too entrenched in our points of view to give an inch. I walked away PISSED OFF. But within thirty seconds, I “heard” Matt’s voice in my head: “Own your shit.” The proverbial devil on my shoulder started right in, trying to overtalk Matt. “Screw her! She’s being a bitch! You can say sorry when she says sorry! Why do you have to be the first to concede anything? What about your needs being recognized? Why should she get to win?” But again, those words broke through: “Own your shit.” I don’t own my wife. I can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want, or isn’t ready, to do. She accounts to herself. The only thing I own is my shit. And I forced myself to have the humility to review the fight in my head and admit to myself that there were things I said, ways I conducted myself, that hurt the progress of our disagreement instead of helped it. And if I was to adopt an attitude of “she has to say sorry first”, that would convey an unfair message that her failings in the disagreement ranked above mine. So I marched right back into the room and said: “I’m sorry for how I just conducted myself. I can do better than that, and when you feel ready to return to this discussion, I promise you I will do better.” And you know what happened? The overheated temperature in the room immediately plunged. The defensive walls instantly crumbled like ash. And we TALKED. We COMMUNICATED. We SHARED. We practiced a healthy GIVE AND TAKE. We TOOK OWNERSHIP for our respective failings. We GREW. We HEALED. We DEFENDED OUR LOVE together, instead of defending our respective positions alone. I walked the walk that Matt speaks about at length on MBTTTR and everything instantly changed for the better. I put taking care of my wife’s heart before taking care of my own; in turn, she immediately returned the favor. And I don’t give two shits that I had to go first. Someone always has to be the first to cut a slice of birthday cake for everyone to enjoy the treat.

        So I think the question at this point in your relationship, especially if the gauntlet of divorce has already been slammed down, is do you matter to your husband like my wife matters to me? Does he fully understand that you have one foot already out the door and he still won’t, at minimum, say, “I don’t understand how things got like this, and I don’t understand what part I’ve played in it, or how to get us back on track, but nothing is more important to me than trying. I don’t want a life without you.”? Because if you’ve played every card you have to play and he still won’t budge an inch, then I’m with nights7. It’s probably time to burn it down. Nobody deserves a loveless life. Not you. Not him. Perhaps when Matt says choose hope, the hope you need is that your next relationship will be better.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Removing for a second my sensitivity to, and awareness regarding, Deanna’s struggles, I need you to understand how much this comment matters to me.

          I know what that Near-Rage feels like. There’s just so much Fuck You in your mind and heart. In that second where emotion floods your body and your chemistry is totally jacked, and the thing that FEELS best in the moment is “Fuck you” either in word or deed.

          But as most of us know, the feeling we have once the dust settles is PROFOUNDLY worse than the “good” we felt by lazily sharing our internal monologue and hurting someone we loved.

          That in THAT moment, when your body is rebelling so hard against your mind, you found the discipline, humility and wherewithall to turn around and LOVE (the verb)… and that you think your participation here was a factor…

          I probably write this too much, and maybe it’s losing meaning for anyone reading this stuff, but…

          I can’t do anything in this life (outside of raising a good man) that matters more than what you just described.

          I, LITERALLY, cannot accomplish something more important or meaningful.

          So, when you share a story like that, you give me the thing that everyone wants more than money even when they don’t realize it — Purpose.

          Thank you, Travis.

          Like

      • Deanna says:

        I admire all the responses here, I really do. And the effort you all put in to them but my situation is just different – that’s what it boils down to. Look up ‘stonewalling’ and ‘gaslighting’. Look up ‘covert narcissism’. Then, if you’re still not understanding spend some time with Richard Grannon on YouTube and maybe then you’ll begin to ‘get’ where I’m coming from. Because I promise you that I can only hope to one day be on the crap side of a relationship with an accidentally shitty husband.

        This really stuck out to me yesterday when I came across it (paraphrased) “…people in normal relationships don’t go seeking explanations for their partner’s behaviors on the internet”.

        Really? Because that’s exactly how I found Matt’s blog. I’m pretty sure that’s how lots of other people find it too. And if that’s the case – normal vs not normal – then someone has to take a stand to say “hey guys, let’s put your chivalry and good intentions beside for just a second to remind people that while a whole lot of folks are not innately evil and getting off on hurting others, some are.”

        And some of us are married to them. And some of us really need it to be okay to believe waiting for them to change would be the most damaging thing we’ve ever chosen to do.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “…someone has to take a stand to say “hey guys, let’s put your chivalry and good intentions beside for just a second to remind people that while a whole lot of folks are not innately evil and getting off on hurting others, some are.”

        And some of us are married to them. And some of us really need it to be okay to believe waiting for them to change would be the most damaging thing we’ve ever chosen to do.”

        On this point, you’ll get no argument from me. Some men are “just” shitty husbands. However, some are shitty human beings. If you have determined without question that your husband is of the latter, you have my sympathies and, yes, I would agree that the amount of emotional energy necessary on your part to hope for, and work with, him to become a worthwhile human being (a much steeper climb than the one out of the Pit of Shitty Husbandry) is surely more than would be your fair due.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Deanna,

        just saw your response, and reading words like “stonewalling”, “gaslighting” and “covert narcissism” I suspect I know a bit more about your situation then many people here might.

        Let me add words like “passive aggression”, “avoidance”, “entitlement” and probably “control”, and if those sound familiar to you then yeah, I get it.

        You’re right, not all situations are similar. There are cases where people are just unintentionally bad partners. And then there are cases where our partners are very, very broken people (from our perspective at least).

        I wrote a bit about coping skills earlier. And some people seem to learn some REALLY bad ones. Ones that often are commonly found on lists of “toxic” traits and behaviors for relationships. I don’t really think that makes them bad people, but it makes them people who are very difficult to be in relationships with, and at least be in a spot where we feel fulfilled.

        For those who happen to fall in love with people like that, what to do is really tough.

        Staying very likely means being in a situation that will never really improve. Can you still love someone when you don’t get much in return? Will it be enough for you?

        Stealing lines from a post I wrote last year:

        “Loving someone doesn’t mean you will put up with anything. Love has to go both ways. If someone says they love you, but don’t back up that claim with their actions then what do you really have? At that point you have nothing.

        It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about someone, if it’s not reciprocated you don’t have a relationship. People have bad days, and people make mistakes; so I’m not saying that the relationship has ended the first time someone gets angry. People run into issues, and you need to be willing to work on them together.

        But if someone is consistently treating you poorly, or the relationship becomes very one sided where your love is not reciprocated, then staying with them is not love. It’s enabling them. It’s telling them that the way they are treating you is alright.

        No. Sometimes unconditional love means knowing when to walk away. It doesn’t mean you love them any less, but that’s different from always being there.

        There is no “meant to be”. Life gives us opportunities, and it is up to us to decide what we want to do with them. Some embrace the opportunities life gives them, and others squander them.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Wow! Bravo, Travis! Seriously. Standing ovation over here! (Not that it matters- I think the defenses to ashes is probably worth a lot more, but still- YOU’RE A BADASS! for that!

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Deanna,
        (Is it Dean-na, or De’anna?) I have friends with both pronunciations.
        I don’t know you’re situation, but yeah- if you’re partner is damaging you and he isn’t stopping (especially if he doesn’t seem to care) then it’s better to be alone.
        There is the kind of persistant, ignorant negligence that Matt, Travis and Zombie attest to, but then there is the willfully and abusive negligence that no one should stay under.
        I’m sorry youre hurting. I know it hurts either way.
        It’s a sucky time. (Understatment of the year!!)
        But, I have hope for you. Like Matt says a lot- choose Hope.
        No matter who is to blame. (In fault, we can learn)
        No matter what the outcome (There will be a tomorrow, and you’ll be wiser)
        I am not as eloquent as some of the contributors here, but trust me when I say that the crappiness that you feel right now is not a life sentence.
        It’s only for a little while. One day, it will be hard for you to remember what this felt like.
        Anyway,
        Peace to you!
        Lindsey

        Like

      • Lissy says:

        You know, Deanna, I have observed a family member in a relationship like this. The woman played dumb in public-like she didn’t notice what an abusive, unkind ass he was. He did mellow some with age, and twenty years later she was saying Pollyanna-ish things like how nice it was, now that he retired, that he would vacuum, like she had won the lottery to be married to him. I remember thinking, wow, I guess it finally turned around some where there was actually some positive, but the amount of positive was so miniscule compared to the years of crap…so while some marriages may be “saved”, you still never have a good marriage, only a less crappy one.

        Run, Deanna, run.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Derpiddity, Depr, Depr. I am one of those degree seeking idgits who may or may not know what she is talking about.
        You know your relationship better than anyone here. I hate to sound like I am giving anymore advice other than- if its abusive, leave. (I feel confident that is ALWAYS the right choice.)
        Apart from that, if the marriage has gotten crappy, and its because of the things Matt and others have described, then really- the poor man cant help himself. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. So, it may be up to you to be the first one to change. The goal would be for better, non-defensive communication (so you can gently let him in on “what he doesn’t know”…:) As sucky as that sounds, if he loved you enough to marry you, he really loves you and he probably feels as lost as you.
        This response may be totally unnecessary, but I felt like I kind of spoke up where I shouldn’t have.
        I hope that if none of this helps, it at least doesn’t hurt.
        Have a great week!

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        ZombieDrew, You seem to get it. I appreciate that. I understand that the others reading/commenting can’t understand what I’m saying as this is so much more than your typical “ignorant husband syndrome”‘. Funny, how now I wish that was what I was dealing with. I’m still learning about it all myself and although I’ve experienced it for 19 years I only just learned of its true abusive nature. When the experts say people won’t understand and will think you’re crazy, they aren’t wrong. I mean, I don’t understand and have questioned my sanity so why wouldn’t everyone else? I don’t wish this mess on anyone. The very basic comment that one made “if you just feel confused about the relationship in a general sense something is going on” is so accurate. Doubting your own memory, being told what you just heard and saw never happened, having your pain twisted and used against you…so crazy-making. I’m sure I’m at the tip of the realization iceberg. Anyhow, I think tomorrow I’ll start my own writing journey to manage the flood that’s bound to start flowing. The link is in this post’s name link if you want to shoot me direct urls to your pertinent posts. I would very much like to read them.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Deanna – I get what you are saying, because I sometimes find myself thinking along those lines too. I’ve left my marriage and mine was borderline – I can’t really say that he is a bad guy or abusive for the most part (except the whole breaking stuff in fits of rage thing) but there was some serious neglect going on in my situation and I constantly have to remember and reframe that my situation was a little more extreme than probably average, and in turn I’m guessing yours is even more so.

        No real input, other than yes I agree with you and I’m with you and I also feel like my ex would not ever change, at least not with me.

        Like

      • Mo says:

        Amen Deanna.

        Like

      • Emilia says:

        reached that point, I was so done the only time I’d consider “reconnecting” is ten years from now. I was burnt!

        Like

    • Travis B – you just made me cry. What an incredible comment! And a great piece of literature at that!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Linbo says:

    Black olives wrote a great question. I absolutely do believe in the power to change. We all do anyway, some just default the choice as to how they change. (That’s often the laziness/ignorance/shame default).
    Relationships have an innate difficulty because they involve (at least) two different people. There’s always small differences that can create conflict..but they can also create a place for connection, given empathy and love.
    As far as the next time- A lot of talking, a lot of being honest, a lot of love and forgiveness. (Both sides typically need that.) I’m sure a next time will come for you. You may not be perfect all the time, but I don’t think you would want anything less than being all-in.
    Another great post-btw!

    Like

  7. zombiedrew2 says:

    Yeah, people can totally change. As Matt has said, a lot of what we do is out of habit. We don’t even realize we are doing it, so how can we change it?

    “There is ENORMOUS power in the simple concept of awareness.”

    Awareness is definitely a big part of things. We need to realize we are doing something before we can change it.

    But in addition to awareness of change we have to see WHY we should change. If someone says, “hmm, I see now that I’m invalidating you by not listening to you and responding to your needs” that’s the first part. It often ends there though, because the next thought is some variation on “but you don’t really know what you’re talking about”.

    Change only comes when someone wants it for themselves. They have to realize how their current behavior is hurting not only people around them, but also themselves. Basically, they need to buy into the notion of change. Improved empathy can be enough. Sometimes the benefit to you isn’t tangible, and is just “I feel better about me because I’m being better to you.”

    Years of habits can be hard to break though. Which is where supporting each other and noticing/appreciating the small changes that our partners make can go a long way towards ensuring those changes become permanent.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      I wonder if some of this is different for different people?

      Maybe Travis and Matt can weigh in but I have read their comments saying that for them it’s not (or far less) important to know the why of the change. I could be wrong in my interpretation.

      I definitely need to understand the why of things to really change. That’s definitely an important piece of it as well as awareness for me. It’s why I read a lot of books and struggle to understand theory because to effectively change I HAVE to understand why to internalize the change (as you said Drew) but maybe not everyone does it this way. Not sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        I’m with you, Lisa. Knowing the why truly matters to me. Maybe that makes some lessons harder for me though. There are definitely some things I should have gotten to sooner than I did!

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Fromscratchmom,

        I relate to that! It’s the classic “if I knew then what I know now” but I’m trying to make sure my kids know what I didn’t.

        Maybe our hard lessons will help our kids not to have to suffer what we did.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        To me the “why” is actually something pretty simple. And changes should be because we want to improve something. Our life, marriage, children, whatever.

        We see a gap between where we are and where we want to be, and we look at our current behaviors and find something that will help us close that gap. When we believe the change will help us accomplish something, then we are more likely to be willing to make it.

        This is where belief really comes in though, and where WE need to be the ones to want something. It can’t be another person nagging us, telling us to change.

        When that happens people have a tendency to put a half-assed effort into the change, and then they say “see, it didn’t really work. I knew it wasn’t going to work. I can’t change, this is just the way I am”. That sort of thing happens ALL THE TIME. And to me the lack of belief has undermined the effort, which in turn has reduced the effectiveness of any potential change.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          That word “belief.”

          “Belief” is a funny word. Like “empathy.” Or “boundaries.” Or “values.”

          I think those words all fall into this group of topics many (most?) of us would generically categorize as feely-hippie jargon.

          I equate them to words like “high-quality” or “industry leader” or “innovative” as marketing buzz words that no longer mean anything to anyone because we see them so much. I think most people tune that sort of thing out.

          But those feely-hippie words are VERY important concepts that, when ignored, can be the difference between a shitty life and an awesome one.

          RE: “belief”

          I linked to an article in this post summarizing Charles Duhigg’s fantastic book “The Power of Habit.”

          And one of the major takeaways from the book is how important it is to BELIEVE, as intangible as it might sound, that when you make a change, you can sustain that change.

          “You can replace old habits with new ones by shifting routines, but only belief will keep you from relapsing.
          Everyone relapses to old habits in times of stress but the key to to not ditching your new habits completely is the belief that you can stick to them.”

          So, that’s just my long-winded way of trying to support what you’ve written here, Drew.

          This also makes me think of my personal experience with being told no, or not getting what I want.

          I don’t do well being told no and/or not getting what I want (I don’t mean that in a selfish way, so much as I do in terms of me believing there’s a better way to do something and being told we’re not going to do it that way as part of a project team at work or whatever) when I am not given a REASON for why.

          I always have a reason for believing what I believe. I love to share that reason, because I think it will make sense to most people, and then most of the time they will understand me even if they don’t agree with me, and being understood is enough (for me).

          I don’t crave “being right” or “being agreed with.” I crave being perceived accurately (though even that can be subjective if I have a warped self-perception).

          Even when I disagree with something, when I am provided a reason or explanation (even if I don’t draw the same conclusion) I feel a lot better about my preferences being denied.

          It somehow feels connected to me.

          Give me a REASON for things, and then it’s easier to work toward something even when it’s not how I would have done it.

          I don’t know why these two ideas are playing together in my head right now.

          I guess because they both seem bizarrely intangible.

          But BELIEF. Maybe people don’t think about that enough. Our self-doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          We have never NOT done it this “bad” or “inefficient” way. And then maybe when we tried to kick the habit (drugs, smoking, alcohol, nail biting, emotional outbursts, something sexual, whatever) we never really believed we could or would… so we didn’t.

          The only way to do it is to believe.

          It becomes self-fulfilling the other way. You actually don’t smoke for a few days. Then a few week. Then a few months.

          Then, it’s not a matter of faith. You’ve ACTUALLY done it. Now you know. Now you BELIEVE.

          And the change sticks.

          Boom. Another Life win.

          Good shit.

          Liked by 1 person

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            Personal story for you. I know you like basketball, so hopefully it will make sense…

            I got into sports late, and got into basketball because I’m fairly tall and was gifted with above average jumping ability. Starting late meant I’ve never been coached. Instead, I just played pick up with buddies and then eventually started playing mens league. My skills were raw, and all I could really do was be tall and jump.

            I could shoot, kind of. Without coaching I developed my shot by watching others and trying to emulate what I saw them do. What I developed was ugly us hell but it worked well enough for me. Some days, my shot was dropping and if you met me on those days you would think I was a pretty good player. Other days not so much. My shot was completely inconsistent, but it was what I knew and it worked for me.

            As my athleticism decreased I realized that to continue playing I needed to improve my shot. I went to a shooting clinic with my son, and I listened intently. Here I was, almost 40, having a coach teach me the proper shooting mechanics for the first time. Most of it was familiar, as you can learn a lot by just watching. But I learned a number of little nuances that I didn’t know.

            That summer I worked on this new shooting form in my driveway, and at first it felt completely unnatural. I had all these old habits that I had internalized, and trying to break them was pretty tough. Over a few weeks though, I started to get more comfortable with the new shot and I found it helped a lot. I was hitting much more consistently then before – it was great.

            So here I am, all excited for the upcoming season. I’ve worked on things, and I’ve convinced myself that I will be more confident and effective shooting the ball.

            The season starts, and it doesn’t exactly go the way I had anticipated. Practicing on the driveway by yourself is one thing, but doing the same thing with a defender closing out on you is quite another. In the stress of the moment, I found myself quickly falling back on my old broken shooting form. I knew it wasn’t good, but it was what I knew.

            See, I hadn’t actually put in enough time and effort in realistic situations to truly internalize the change.

            I think relationships are really similar. We aren’t coached. We learn by emulating what we have seen, and doing what feels natural to us. And in the process we develop some pretty awful relationship skills that tend to get us in trouble. And when they do get us in trouble, it’s pretty easy to say “hey, this is just who I am”. But it’s not, it’s who we have learned to be. And although it’s hard to unlearn years of bad habits, it CAN be done. We need to want it though. We need to be willing to accept that there are problems with our current approach, and be willing to try to learn better ones.

            Communication IS a skill. Relationships ARE a skill. There are always things we can do to improve, and to make our lives easier. IF we’re willing to learn. Doing so isn’t easy though and takes time and discipline.

            And in the process it’s really easy to fall back on old habits (especially in times of stress), or get frustrated and tell ourselves the “new” ways are too hard, or they aren’t working for us. But if we stick with it, it starts to get easier bit by bit. And the new things start to feel more natural. Eventually we can internalize them. But to do so we’ve got to believe in them.

            With basketball, I haven’t bothered putting in the effort. I play for fun, and at 41 with a family and other commitments basketball just isn’t that important anymore. But when it comes to relationship skills? Man, at 41 I have another 40-50 years ahead of me. So you can be sure that I will put in whatever effort is needed to improve.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Matt says:

              This is awesome. It’s a fantastic example. This is the same phenomenon they talk about with quarterbacks under the pressure of a pass rush, or with the swing mechanics of golfers and baseball players in pressure situations.

              It’s a pretty awesome analogy, and one I won’t likely forget when it comes time for me to take some breaths during an argument and not speak or behave like the old me.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      ZombieDrew,

      Just typed in a comment and then put in the wrong address. Sigh. Let me try again.

      I agree with you of the importance of understanding the WHY for me to internalize the change and make permanent changes as opposed to superficial behavioral changes. I’m wondering if this is universal or varies by person.

      I have read Travis and Matt write things that say they don’t find the WHY all that helpful. I could be wrong here in their approach in this case. But I’m wondering if different people make changes without needing the why at all.

      I know I need it which is why I read a lot of books to try and understand the why. So I can internalize the changes and make them permanent.

      But if I’ve learned anything in my great social media comment experiment it’s that there idea great variety of approaches to things that seem to work. There do seem to be critical things but then a variety of methods.

      Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “I have read Travis and Matt write things that say they don’t find the WHY all that helpful. I could be wrong here in their approach in this case. But I’m wondering if different people make changes without needing the why at all.”

        Well, Matt and I did need the “why”, but the only why we needed was “because she will straight up drop your ass like a soiled diaper on fire if you don’t change up your game”. I won’t speak for Matt but, for me, I’m less interested in the “why” of why she ticks differently from me, the nature/nurture/biological/psychological/sociological/historical underpinnings of what causes she and I to see an event from two totally disparate perspectives. As ZombieDrew so astutely put it, “change only comes when someone wants it for themselves.” I didn’t want to lose my wife; therefore, I got my shit together in a hurry. I didn’t change before then because I didn’t want to, or see the need to. One day, she showed me the need in stark terms I could understand. The answer to any other “whys” beyond that were strictly nice-to-haves, not need-to-haves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Does you wife find you funny? I think you’re hilarious and would be worth keeping around just for that. But turn again my husband is very funny too but I didn’t find him funny at all when we were at our worst.

        So do you agree then that the why piece generally varies by person? Not just in marriage but to change in other areas that are less pressured.

        I know for my husband he is more of a why person. Even at defcon1. But I can totally see how this might be a personality difference between different people. What you and Matt describe for men to change actually is very consistent with what researchers say.

        Maybe the preference for which gets through, a vital post about dishes or a theory based book is more of a personality based thing. I do know I have read many blog posts (not here) that prescribe things that are WRONG in my personal opinion and based on my understanding of research of happy marriages.

        Things like MGTOW men treating women poorly or men being told that women need a “strong leader” to make decisions for the whole family, or women being told to submit and all will be well. Or that men are all scrum or idiots and you can’t trust them. And I’ve read theory based books that I think have equally bad advice.

        So many people are confused about what to do because they are so many different opinions and not get many happy marriages to model in their real life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa asked, “Does your wife find you funny?”

        By and large, yes. I think it’s one of the key reasons why she fell in love with me. I guess there really is something to all those studies that show women rank sense of humor in a man above all other criteria of attractiveness (provided the man’s sense of humor isn’t attached to a man who looks like Conan O’Brien, I assume, ‘cuz…damn). That being said, I do tend to be “on” the majority of the time, and can find the humor in just about everything, so I do believe some “hedonistic adaptation” to my humor has set in for her, LOL. As such, to get her tickled, this is another area where I really have to bring my A-game!

        “So do you agree then that the why piece generally varies by person? Not just in marriage but to change in other areas that are less pressured.”

        Well, it might be presumptuous for me to assume what drives anyone other than me but, sure, I believe there is ample anecdotal evidence even on this blog of that. We live in a world where some people think Donald Trump will bring about a better America, a world where Rihanna’s “Work” is considered a great, chart-topping song, where “The Big Bang Theory” routinely sits at the top of the ratings. In other words, there are a lot of people out there motivated by an entirely different set of drivers than me.

        I guess the part that intrigues and perplexes me, specifically in the context of saving troubled marriages, is how the “why” husbands have any chance at success (assuming that they haven’t begun studying the whys long is advance of their marriages reaching DEFCON 1 level). When my wife told me she believed she’d reached the end of her rope and didn’t think she wanted to be married anymore, I’m convinced that if I had responded by undertaking extensive research into why she was operating the way she was and why I was operating the way I was, I would have lost her. I concede that my marriage is not the de facto standard for all troubled marriages, but it would seem to me that a woman at that point of very near no return is demanding immediate, wholesale change of behavior from her husband. It’s almost as though, if I had taken time to do a bunch of analysis prior to instituting major behavioral changes, it would have sent a message to her of “I need to take something for myself (research and analysis) before I’m prepared to give you what you’re asking for.” It seems like that would be the very last message a checked out wife would want to hear. So when it seems like I’m dogging on people who desire the whys before they work on making changes within their marital framework, it’s really just that I struggle to conceptualize how that approach can successfully work.

        “So many people are confused about what to do because they are so many different opinions and not get many happy marriages to model in their real life.”

        I am in complete agreement on this, and it’s one of the reasons why I sometimes struggle to embrace so-called expert relationship advice, because there’s another expert right behind that one, armed with his/her own research, who’s recommending a totally different course of action than the first expert. When I found Matt’s blog, my experience clicked with his. The conclusions he was drawing matched the ones I was coming up with. And, irony of irony, he was just about the only voice out there on saving marriages who wasn’t an expert.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Chalk another one up to be an asshole, amateur nobody.

          I totally think it has merit. I love that you agree, and (selfishly!) that your experience here validates that belief of mine.

          There are a million brilliant academics with books and theories out there.

          Probably not enough divorced idiots sharing their’s from the everyman barstool I prefer to hang out on.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said: “I guess the part that intrigues and perplexes me, specifically in the context of saving troubled marriages, is how the “why” husbands have any chance at success (assuming that they haven’t begun studying the whys long is advance of their marriages reaching DEFCON 1 level). When my wife told me she believed she’d reached the end of her rope and didn’t think she wanted to be married anymore, I’m convinced that if I had responded by undertaking extensive research into why she was operating the way she was and why I was operating the way I was, I would have lost her. I concede that my marriage is not the de facto standard for all troubled marriages, but it would seem to me that a woman at that point of very near no return is demanding immediate, wholesale change of behavior from her husband. It’s almost as though, if I had taken time to do a bunch of analysis prior to instituting major behavioral changes, it would have sent a message to her of “I need to take something for myself (research and analysis) before I’m prepared to give you what you’re asking for.” It seems like that would be the very last message a checked out wife would want to hear. So when it seems like I’m dogging on people who desire the whys before they work on making changes within their marital framework, it’s really just that I struggle to conceptualize how that approach can successfully work.”

        I wrote a response to ZombieDrew that kind of explains what I mean by this but I wanted to give a little more of an explanation to maybe help you understand where someone like my husband is coming from.

        I like the way it was framed in other comments by ZombieDrew that to permanently change it has to come from within. Otherwise, it’s just a short term half assed response to keep someone from walking out the door. It’s a critical piece to wholeheartedly believe in the need for change to internalize it and make the changes long term.

        I think different people have different methods of coming to the BELIEF (as defined in other comments by Drew and Matt). Some of the different methods will depend on our life experiences and our personalities.

        1. You’ve explained that you look for someone like Matt who is an average guy who has been through it all and figured out what he did wrong and how to do it differently.

        2. Some people find more spiritual approaches meaningful like many Christian blogs and books that focus on loving in a Christ-like sacrificial way. Of course, there are many other other spiritual approaches. As an example, a Buddhist approach might emphasize letting go of our egos and the meanings we attach to things.

        3. Other people find information approaches like science or research books and blogs and discussions more helpful.

        4. Some people might go hiking in the woods and do some soul searching in nature and come back with a new understanding of what they did wrong.

        I’m sure there are many other approaches that work for people, but I don’t think it matters HOW you get to the understanding of what we need to do differently as long as you do get there.

        Now, the point that seems to be puzzling to you is the amount of time that each of these approaches may take. I don’t believe that any of these particular approaches take any more time than another for the person who prefers them. Because that is the way that they normally do stuff and it will feel natural to them.

        At DEFCON1, we go to our most natural style because that is the most efficient. You were successful with approach 1. Many other people are too. But many other people don’t find that approach the fastest way to real change.

        I read lots of blogs, many of them with various spiritual approaches. There are comments on there of people who talked about how meaningful those approaches were and what a waste of time it would be to consult “Non-Christian” advice. Approach 2 worked for them because it’s their natural style if you will.

        My husband and I are more of approach 3 naturally. It is the fastest and easiest for us. It doesn’t take that long to read a book and because that is our normal style we would PICK a book that is well regarded and has good advice. For someone who doesn’t have that style they might luck on one or would read a lot of different books and waste time before taking action (so I agree with you there). But if you do have this style, it is the fastest way to get to “belief”. My husband has the disdain for personal stories that you have for relationship experts so he is just not going to be changed by approach 1 anymore than you are by approach 3. But it’s all good as long as we find our way in the fastest, most efficient way to changing our belief that we have to internalize the changes we need to make.

        4. The outdoor people are the most mysterious to me but I know they exist and I’m not talking about a year long trek in the Alps. Some people (and I know one that does it this way) just need to go off by themselves and think by themselves and they come back with a different “belief”

        These are just a few examples of different styles to get to “belief” I’m sure there are a lot more. Like the dishes thing, it’s hard to understand that what I find helpful is worthless to somebody else and vice versa. My personal failing here is the outdoor people! Cannot imagine that EVER being helpful to me (outside of sunburn and poison ivy) but I know it is to some people so I have to believe them when they say it. Because of the dishes thing man. We all have different perspectives and need to constantly remind ourselves of it. Doing that is a relationship skill that feels unnatural and needs to be practiced over and over. I’m getting a little better at it but still pretty much suck at first pass.

        You seemed genuinely sincere in wanting to understand why people would find the research thing helpful at DEFCON1. Hopefully this has explained a little why I and my husband were successful with it and chose that and not approach 1 that was successful for you.

        P.S. I thought it was awesome how you apologized to your wife after your fight!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa, I honestly think I got more out of that post–well, more accurately, I felt I better understood where you were coming from–than anything I’ve read of yours before. Thanks for the very helpful clarification! I would say it is certainly beneficial you and your husband have the same approach to arriving at belief. I’m trying to imagine your husband married to my wife at the DEFCON 1 point. Heaven help him, I think he would have been screwed, LOL.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said:
        “Lisa, I honestly think I got more out of that post–well, more accurately, I felt I better understood where you were coming from–than anything I’ve read of yours before. Thanks for the very helpful clarification! I would say it is certainly beneficial you and your husband have the same approach to arriving at belief. I’m trying to imagine your husband married to my wife at the DEFCON 1 point. Heaven help him, I think he would have been screwed, LOL.”

        Hey I’m glad I’m saying it in a better way that makes more sense! The one piece that I need to clarify a little more though is that my husband and I agree on our styles and that matters. I don’t know your wife obviously but it sounds like you had the typical dishes kind of problem.

        You used approach 1 to change quickly. My husband used approach 3 to change quickly. Some other husband could use approach 2 or 4 or something else to change quickly.

        The wife’s style will often be different and it doesn’t matter at all. Because this is an individual process. If my husband was married to your wife, all that would matter is that he change quickly. If you wife had style 1 and he had style 3, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever in the quick change required. Does that make sense?

        Like if your wife happened to be an approach 1 person, she could read a woman’s story on a blog and have an “aha” moment. Cool, now the red pill has been swallowed and the work begins. If you wife was an approach 2 person she could read a Christian book like Sacred Marriage (that Anita recommended) and have an “aha” moment. Approach 3 for me was reading Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight (terrible title but good research based) and I had my “aha” moment. Approach 4 people go off in the woods or something (I told you I don’t understand them) but they come back with their “aha” moment.

        The husbands will all go through whatever is quickest and easiest for them to reach their “aha” moment. Each individual does his own stuff to swallow the red pill and change enough to “own their shit” if you will. It’s just coincidental that my husband and I use approach 3 and the book that was my “aha” moment was not meaningful to him so even there it is individual.

        This is hopeful because it is faster and quicker to do what works for us individually to swallow the red pill and “own our shit”. Once we do that we can work together to find a way to change the relationship.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “You used approach 1 to change quickly. My husband used approach 3 to change quickly. Some other husband could use approach 2 or 4 or something else to change quickly.

        The wife’s style will often be different and it doesn’t matter at all. Because this is an individual process. If my husband was married to your wife, all that would matter is that he change quickly. If you wife had style 1 and he had style 3, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever in the quick change required. Does that make sense?”

        I guess that I struggle with the idea of committing to research and acquiring comparative data and collating expert testimony being a quick process. It seems like the mechanics of approach 3 would be lengthier by their very nature than the mechanics of 1, but maybe all I’m really exposing is that I’m a much slower reader than your husband, LOL.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said:

        “The wife’s style will often be different and it doesn’t matter at all. Because this is an individual process. If my husband was married to your wife, all that would matter is that he change quickly. If you wife had style 1 and he had style 3, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever in the quick change required. Does that make sense?”

        I guess that I struggle with the idea of committing to research and acquiring comparative data and collating expert testimony being a quick process. It seems like the mechanics of approach 3 would be lengthier by their very nature than the mechanics of 1, but maybe all I’m really exposing is that I’m a much slower reader than your husband, LOL.”

        Ok, maybe the research approach for you is like the hiking in the woods things to me. I really have a hard time even conceptualizing how people go off in the woods and find that helpful at DEFCON1. I can see how hiking would be helpful for me to think about things in general on a nice sunny day, but if I really NEED to figure out how to save my marriage that is the very last thing I’m going to do or understand why other people do. Because that is the one that is the farthest from my natural style.

        So it may be that the research is just so far out of your natural style at DEFCON1 that its hard for your to grasp how other people would do it. You’re an intelligent man who respects science so I really think this is just a style preference thing. So just like I have to accept on blind faith that the hiking people are valid, maybe the research thing is blind faith for you?

        The one thing about the time element is, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get the “aha” moment usually. I didn’t even have to finish the book to get the “aha” thing where I realized my part in the crappy marriage dynamic. I don’t know your story but maybe it took reading one post here or several to get the “aha” moment. It’s probably about the same amount of time. A few minutes or hours? The key to the whole thing is for our eyes to suddenly be opened that the world is not what we thought. I don’t need to understand nuanced theories to get that moment or read Matt’s entire archived posts on his blog.

        To quickly change at DEFCON1, we need to “aha” moment and then a cliff notes version of behavioral changes and attitudes to let the other person know you “get it” How you get that will depend on your approach preferences. I got that from “research” books, I still prefer that so I know lots of different theories and research statistics. Because I know that that is HOW I change at a fundamental level. But because I am not at DEFCON1 anymore I come here and lots of other places that have really good information and ideas that have different approaches. I think it’s really helpful to have lots of different ways outside of our natural styles to help us change and understand that my way is not the only way. But I agree that at DEFCON1 gotta get stuff done quickly so I couldn’t afford to come here and read approach 1 things and people having different stories. It distracts me from quick change. And it seems the opposite is true for you.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “So it may be that the research is just so far out of your natural style at DEFCON1 that its hard for your to grasp how other people would do it.”

        That’s a fair observation. You may be quite right.

        “To quickly change at DEFCON1, we need to “aha” moment and then a cliff notes version of behavioral changes and attitudes to let the other person know you “get it” How you get that will depend on your approach preferences. I got that from “research” books, I still prefer that so I know lots of different theories and research statistics.”

        See, there again is my personal point of confusion–how one can work through “lots of different theories and research statistics” to “quickly change”. Presumably, it’s not too time-intensive for you to conduct that much research. Unless I, through luck of the dice role, happened to begin with a resource perfectly simpatico with my needs, my process would undoubtedly fail to be brief. Maybe it’s lacking the skill necessary to parse through such a volume of data efficiently that make style #3 so problematic to me.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said:
        “To quickly change at DEFCON1, we need to “aha” moment and then a cliff notes version of behavioral changes and attitudes to let the other person know you “get it” How you get that will depend on your approach preferences. I got that from “research” books, I still prefer that so I know lots of different theories and research statistics.”

        See, there again is my personal point of confusion–how one can work through “lots of different theories and research statistics” to “quickly change”. Presumably, it’s not too time-intensive for you to conduct that much research. Unless I, through luck of the dice role, happened to begin with a resource perfectly simpatico with my needs, my process would undoubtedly fail to be brief. Maybe it’s lacking the skill necessary to parse through such a volume of data efficiently that make style #3 so problematic to me.”

        Yeah, I worded that in a confusing way so I can see that’s not clear.

        Here’s how it worked for us: I read lots of approach 1, 2, 3 stuff as our middle years as unhappiness developed. It was very confusing to me especially the approach 1 and 2 stuff. I find it confusing to read a lot of different stories with things I don’t relate to but people say IS the way to have a happy marriage. I tried out a lot of these approaches because I was trying to improve things. It made things worse. Things proceeded to DEFCON1, I buckled down to basics and went to my natural approach style of research approach. I read Sue Johnson’s book because I had heard a podcast with her on it and I knew she was a well respected researcher and her approach had been proven to be much more effective in marriage counseling then any other. See, I’m a approach 3 person and that helps me BELIEVE that things can be different. So I read a few chapters in her book and have my “aha” moment. I realized that a lot of the approach 1 and 2 approaches that did not work for me because they doesn’t work consistently for most people. Because they don’t describe the fundamental problem.

        She comes from an attachment model perspective so it describes the bad cycle that is common in marriages when an anxiously attached person (me) marries an avoidant person (my husband). This is what Matt is also describing in his dishes post. The more we try to get out of the cycle, the worse it gets. I try and “explain my sadness and hurt” and he feels “controlled and unappreciated for all he does right”.
        We are talking past each other and because we can’t see the cycle, we can’t change it. We start to see the other person as unloving and selfish or irrationally emotional and controlling depending on which side you’re on. When really it is just that we are lacking the safety and relationship skills we need. Those that securely attached people have.

        Now, I have my “aha’ moment and I finally understand the problem. My eyes are now open to the new reality. How do I understand the cliff notes version of change as research person? Well, I listen to podcasts in the car to get overviews, I reread Gottman’s stuff because it has a behavioral model for what happy couples do and what divorced couples do. It’s a process but it doesn’t take any longer than any of the others. Once you’ve had the “aha” moment the rest is just details. The fastest way to do it will be your style. I am a researcher. That is one of my Superpowers. I can process lots of different information and listen to podcasts and you tubes and figure out how I can apply the information. As I said in my sad, sad posts the other day, this is often criticized by others as “thinking too much” just because it is a different style. But I can tell you it is fastest for me in all kinds of circumstance, parenting, marriage, mortgages, medical stuff, hair color whatever.

        If I read Matt’s blog at DEFCON1 it would be slower for me because I would have to wade through his personal stories and figure out what applies to me and what doesn’t. I would be distracted by his perfectly valid way of talking about gender and whatever else I might disagree with. It would be much slower and harder for me because of my style. Even though the dishes post describes the exact same cycle as Sue Johnson’s book. Many approach 2 people have told me they find the Christian book Love and Respect their “aha” moment. In the first part of the book he uses Ephesians 5 to talk about the love and respect cycle between men and women. It is the same basic cycle information that Sue Johnson and Matt’s dishes post describes but couched in approach 2 language. Because I strongly disagree with that books theology of stereotypical gender roles presented most clearly in sections 2 and 3, I can’t stomach it but many, many people find it helpful because they’re approach 2 people.

        Three presentations of the same information with three different style approaches.
        You hear Matt’s voice “own your shit” in critical moments to help you change. I hear Sue Johnson’s or Gottman’s or other researchers voices (literally sometimes) to help me change. Doesn’t matter as long as it helps us change in the right direction.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “I read lots of approach 1, 2, 3 stuff as our middle years as unhappiness developed.”

        See, this also illustrates a key difference between your circumstance and mine: you were aware of increasing unhappiness for some time in your marriage, whereas I thought everything was going along swimmingly until, one day, out of (for me) the blue, my wife detonated my complacency and utter ignorance of her emotional condition in my face. Not sure if stereotypical gender tendencies play a part between your case and mine; I suspect they might, since women appear, traditionally, to place themselves ahead of the proverbial 8-ball by proactively exploring unwelcome changes to equilibrium in their relationships, while men are traditionally behind it.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa, in my humle opinion, your communication is on fire today! 8)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Thanks for having this conversation. I’m finding it very helpful for me to clarify my thoughts and understand yours too.

        You said

        “See, this also illustrates a key difference between your circumstance and mine: you were aware of increasing unhappiness for some time in your marriage, whereas I thought everything was going along swimmingly until, one day, out of (for me) the blue, my wife detonated my complacency and utter ignorance of her emotional condition in my face. Not sure if stereotypical gender tendencies play a part between your case and mine; I suspect they might, since women appear, traditionally, to place themselves ahead of the proverbial 8-ball by proactively exploring unwelcome changes to equilibrium in their relationships, while men are traditionally behind it”

        The relationship dynamic that you and Matt experienced is one particular version. There are a lot of different variations. Even though we had the similar dishes cycle going on and didn’t understand it, we were both unhappy. This is also a common pattern in unhappy marriages. I won’t bore you with theories (although I’d love too!) but there are different attachment style combinations that give different variations on the theme.

        Because I’m not an conflict avoidant person and in many ways haven’t absorbed the messages of the emotional labor or traditional female work “should” be mine (as many women do early on) he heard many, many times in very clear ways my anger and unhappiness at both the ridiculous gender expectations and his particular behaviors. Hence his unhappiness. But I wasn’t doing it the right way and I didn’t know that. He wasn’t responding the right way and he didn’t know it. So we ended up in the same DEFCON1 place as you did even though he knew I was unhappy. We both had no idea how to fix it. I was 2 words away from agreeing by him moving out because I was so sick of him and tired of treated like a worthless piece of shit by him (in my view of the cycle) by that point. But I didn’t because we have kids and he’s a good guy.

        So that moment was our DEFCON1. It is different that the total shock that you must have felt. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. But on the other hand, we both felt such a sense of hopelessness because we’d been trying stuff and it just seemed to make it worse. And both of our self images were trashed because it’s hard to live with someone who doesn’t even like you anymore. It was hard to imagine what to try next they would be any different so we would stay married. Time was short because we couldn’t even communicate about dinner without fighting and our kids were living with that tension. Something has to change quickly or we couldn’t li together anymore. So we ended up at the same beginning square 1 as you did.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa, I agree with Donkey–you’re firing on all thrusters today! The tectonic shifts that threatened to capsize our respective marriages definitely occurred in pretty disparate manners. So forgive me some presumption here (and if it proves faulty, I’ll count on you to set me straight, of course), but assuming you found Matt’s blog while trying to better understand your husband’s thought process and/or what he was going through emotionally, I imagine you quickly discovered that Matt’s experience was dissimilar to your husband’s (awareness of marital discord vs. ignorance of it). So what was it that spoke to you at MBTTTR that kept you coming back? Some greater truth(s) in Matt’s writing beyond the particulars of how his marriage collapsed in comparison to yours? Or was it the different perspectives of commentators like ourselves? In other words, does MBTTTR offer maximum impact for your personal experience via Matt or via the community he helped to build?

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said: “Lisa, I agree with Donkey–you’re firing on all thrusters today! The tectonic shifts that threatened to capsize our respective marriages definitely occurred in pretty disparate manners. So forgive me some presumption here (and if it proves faulty, I’ll count on you to set me straight, of course), but assuming you found Matt’s blog while trying to better understand your husband’s thought process and/or what he was going through emotionally, I imagine you quickly discovered that Matt’s experience was dissimilar to your husband’s (awareness of marital discord vs. ignorance of it). So what was it that spoke to you at MBTTTR that kept you coming back? Some greater truth(s) in Matt’s writing beyond the particulars of how his marriage collapsed in comparison to yours? Or was it the different perspectives of commentators like ourselves? In other words, does MBTTTR offer maximum impact for your personal experience via Matt or via the community he helped to build?”

        Thanks to you and Donkey for that encouragement! And thanks for listening to my story.

        Ok, now don’t forget that I am a type 3 research person. When we reached DEFCON1, I buckled down and started researching, rejecting all input from other approaches. When I had the “aha” moment and recognized the cycle.

        https://www.google.com/search?q=EFT+cycle&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&imgil=cMKPT1ob93tT7M%253A%253BD3FLh_4n_hhFyM%253Bhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.pinterest.com%25252Fpin%25252F144396731778781970%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=cMKPT1ob93tT7M%253A%252CD3FLh_4n_hhFyM%252C_&usg=__HYE-2013KM-C3D90lmhF8twLgK4%3D&biw=1680&bih=1018&ved=0ahUKEwi9uuHM55vMAhVIyyYKHYlnAb4QyjcIJw&ei=FLkWV73gG8iWmwGJz4XwCw#imgrc=cMKPT1ob93tT7M%3A

        I finally was able to diagnose the real problem in our relationship. I was able to “own my shit” and see my husband as a good guy with just a different set of relationship skill deficits and attachment injuries. Then I did more research to figure out the cliff notes version of how to quickly change it. But as a researcher with the internet once you know the question, it’s not too hard to find the answer. So that’s what I did. My husband did his own separate version of this.

        Once we did that things actually improved pretty quickly. Because once you have you “aha” moment and swallow the red pill you can see that its both your faults (in the average crappy marriage) and both of us need to learn new relationship skills. But it restored my view of seeing my husband as a good guy who just needed to learn new things not a selfish uncaring man who just wanted to have his dreams at my expense. And my husband could see me in similar terms. I used to joke that he thought my indian name was “Lisa Dreamkiller”.

        Ok, now we enter into the sad, sad phase of trying to find a decent marriage counselor. We understand the problem, we’re both willing to fix it you would think it would be easy right? He wanted the marriage counselor more than I did. I am used to them telling me I think too much and am resistant to their incorrect ideas. So we both researched and called and visited various ones. We eliminated the new age and religious ones (too approach 2 for us) We eliminated those who had a personal story that they wanted to apply to us (too approach 1 for us). We focused on trying to find a type 3 approach person. We met with people trained in Gottman’s and Johnson’s approaches.

        Let me tell you I have seen the videos of gifted therapists so I KNOW what it looks like and it does not look like anything at all like what we paid them to do. We did phone counseling, we did counseling with people who teach classes at universities. TERRIBLE! I mean truly, truly terrible. And of course they all told us we think too much. Even people trained in approach 3 models tell us we think too much. All that money and time wasted did have one advantage. We would walk out and laugh together at how bad it was! So it inadvertently brought us closer that way.

        So we continued to improve based on approach 3 ourselves while we looked for a decent therapist. I am enrolled in a online training class for marriage therapists to teach myself the skills I need. But what works for me individually is often difficult with two people because of perspective differences and years of pain and beating each other up emotionally. Luckily I’m now relentless because now I understand what we need and it’s just a detail question of how to get it. So after 8 bad ones we eventually found a guy from Chicago that we Skype with. That program (Brent Atkinson) is awesome! Totally nirvana for a type 3 person! It takes research and mindfulness and brain science and puts it in cool flowcharts for every situation.
        But of course, even that guy told us we think to much so the struggle is real man. I know we can work with him though and I am quite confident that we will continue to make progress. We have both swallowed the red pill and like each other again. Now we just need to learn new relationship skills to build our second marriage with the same person.

        I didn’t read any approach 1 or 2 blogs or information until we were out of the DEFCON1 phase. I was totally in my natural research approach until it was safe.
        Then when things were much better, I started to venture out of the safe house a bit more. I saw Matt’s dishes post and said “Hey, that guy is talking about the Vulnerability Cycle (there are different names)” That’s why that went viral because it is such a common pattern. And I came on this blog and read his funny stories and saw that most of his advice agreed with my approach 3 research stuff. Very consistent with Gottman’s research. Which is why so many people that use approach 1 find it saves their marriages.

        I didn’t come here to understand my husband’s perspectives at all. It often doesn’t represent our gender styles. But I do get excited to read Matt’s posts and recognize that what he’s saying is RIGHT and will help so many people that can relate and understand his posts. I also appreciate the intelligent comments and am practicing responding to people in different ways.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Thanks again for replying, Lisa. I definitely feel like I more fully understand you (if not relate because, come on, I’m a #1 and you’re a #3, and there’s a world of “Whaaaaa?” between us but, hey, at least we’re not totally helpless like those #2 and #4 weirdos, amiright?). One thing I definitely do relate to is how, once the temperature in the room has leveled out, and the front door has closed with your spouse still on the inside of it, it becomes easier, more interesting and fulfilling to start digging into the deeper theories and research into adult relationships. It adds contextual meat to the bones of my initial behavioral changes.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,
        I realize that I didn’t answer your question about why I like Matt’s blog and commenters very well. Since I am sitting in the last row of an incredibly long and boring school event now is the time!

        I found the blog after I read the dishes post. I came here and saw his other advice and thought much of it is amazingly consistent with many of the research findings. It absolutely fascinates me! Because I am a approach 3 research person, how do other people know these things? I have to laugh at myself.

        Because, of course, other people use their natural approaches to find common truth. So partly I come here to remind myself not to be dismissive of other people’s styles just because it’s not research based. And I truly find it fascinating to read Matt’s more approach 1 present the same thing in a different way. Knowledge he’s gained by hard personal experience and hearing and reading so many common stories. And of course lots of other reading and writing sources.

        I also come here because the comment section is so intelligent! Most comment sections devolve into middle school locker rooms. I learn so much from other people’s perspectives and it challenges me to keep changing my thinking in healthier ways. Sometimes I need to hear the same information out in a slightly different way to have it finally make sense.

        Also sadly I am an external processor and I need to talk out loud or dialogue to process my thoughts. Having this interaction today with you helped me to understand the approach style differences much better (so I thank you for that!). I am so appreciative for the interactive community on the comment section here.

        Another plus is humor. I helps to laugh when things seem overwhelming and do I love Matt’s humor in his posts and other commenters too. Your Hitler spelling joke was particularly awesome!

        I also am trying to practice responding kindly when people disagree and trying to learn to talk with my approach 3 research style that doesn’t come across as know it all or condescending to other people. Because that really is not my intention.

        Finally, I am still learning new relationship skills to improve my marriage so I am challenged by Matt’s posts that talk about skills we all need. The one about empathy (The Hitler post) was awesome! I need me more of that empathy stuff! A post like that triggers me to think about the topic broadly and research I have done or could do now on emotional intelligence. So it gets me thinking.
        And that’s how I change.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        (*thumbs up*)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said. “Thanks again for replying, Lisa. I definitely feel like I more fully understand you (if not relate because, come on, I’m a #1 and you’re a #3, and there’s a world of “Whaaaaa?” between us but, hey, at least we’re not totally helpless like those #2 and #4 weirdos, amirght?”

        Good one! Made me laugh.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        I can see that you still think this is about free speech and that you seriously think I expect you to moderate 100% of the comments.

        This is about me and my feelings. Just like the dishes.

        You are responding like a shitty husband.

        So I am going to give it one more shot in the interest of the content of this blog to explain it from the shitty wife point of view. Just like the dishes.

        I don’t expect you to moderate 100% of the comments of course that’s ridiculous. I can’t believe that you think I expect you to moderate 100%. That is is takeaway for you from my call for moderation.

        But just in the interest of arguing the content rather than the way it was handled. There are many ways to moderate a blog. I am sure that you know this. But under your free speech model, one practical way is when you notice a long thread full of “difficult” comments.
        Maybe take a look see But you made the decision to respond to me (!) and talk about stupid sparkling water.

        That was your moderation. Incredibly dismissive of whatever my real concerns might have been. What were my concerns at that point? Clearly you had no idea. Just s crazy woman (!) bitching about the dishes. Better to sit in my chair and make a dismissive joke and ignore it and watch basketball. Yeah sounds like you haven’t learned. I would have FAR preferred that you not respond at all to me than make stupid dismissive comments. Because being dismissed through jokes makes the other person feel disrespected.

        If at that point you had written a comment responding to the EMOTION of upset in an EMPATHETIC way. It would have all been good. I am a reasonable person. Not right now but in general. But the irony of being dismissed by the very guy who writes posts about shitty husbands dismissing they’re wives on a post about Can Bad Husbands Change? It’s too much man. I can’t handle that shitload of irony.

        Just like the dishes. You think my concerns are invalid. Cool. You think I should not be upset. Cool. So instead of responding to the upset emotions you DISMISS me. Sound familiar? Does any of this sound familiar? Have you learned Matt? I hoped you had. And maybe it’s because it’s just a blog commenter and not a real person in your kitchen. Maybe you have learned with real people in your life. But I really don’t think so. Not anymore.

        I am going off of you because that seems to be a style you respond to and enjoy. It feels unkind to me. Terrible and unkind. I didn’t go off of my husband like this even at our worst. But whatever it’s free speech.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          First and foremost, I’m really sorry you felt as if I was somehow ignoring you or dismissing you or in some way demonstrating a lack of concern for something that’s important to you.

          I was joking with you about Dasani because A. You’re someone fun to joke around with, and B. I didn’t know it was an inappropriate time to be joking.

          In other words, I didn’t know there was something serious happening, because people disagreeing in the comments doesn’t set off my alarms.

          Because you don’t understand how I experience the world, and how I process information on my phone while A. Watching my favorite team in the NBA playoffs, B. Answering text messages as they’re coming in, C. Trying in vain to catch up on email, D. Perform basic life tasks around my house, E. All while a trillion things swirl around in my head every second of every day.

          I was no more aware that something so serious to you was happening in the comments than I was of whatever the Robinson family in Little Rock, Arkansas (assuming there’s at least one) was doing last night.

          I jokingly said I wasn’t paying attention NOT because I didn’t care, but because I was never aware in the first place. No one ever said: “Hey Matt! There’s a problem in the comments, and the only solution is you doing something about it!”

          Until reading this comment from you, right now, on the heels of a long work meeting this morning, did I realize that anything more than regular comment volleying was happening.

          I’m glad you feel comfortable saying what’s on your mind. You should. I told you it was safe to do so with me, and it always will be.

          I will always respond (if I even realize there’s a thing to respond to) in the most honest way I know how.

          You may or may not believe this. My wife didn’t believe it. People who get frustrated when I don’t email them back don’t always believe it. People who don’t like how long I take sometimes to respond to a text message don’t always believe it.

          Exactly as you’ve done here, MANY people throughout my life have become angry with me because (as I perceive reality to be — maybe I’m totally insane) they’ve misinterpreted what I’ve said or what I’ve done.

          If you and I hopped on the phone right now, this would be cleared up in five minutes.

          I refer to my guy Mark Manson a lot because I think he’s brilliant. One of the three or four things I read in his book that REALLY resonated with me was his personal policy of only using text message to confirm plans or provide a status update or to quickly say hi to someone.

          He NEVER has serious conversations via text message for exactly the same reason we shouldn’t have (too) serious conversations here.

          That reason is: In the absense of non-verbal visual cues AND tone of voice, our brains are missing information from TWO major senses (vision, hearing) we use in face-to-face interactions to interpret what’s happening.

          Mark is really wise to do things this way.

          You read all of my responses through the prism of me UNDERSTANDING that you were legit upset. (I didn’t.)

          And I read yours through the prism of you in the same tone you “always” use: Playful, kind, friendly, pragmatic, etc. (It was not.)

          I was joking about Cheetos and Dasani Sparkling water because I thought it was okay.

          I don’t crack jokes at funerals, and I don’t let my 7-year-old run around at restaurants, and I don’t wear swimwear to go mountain hiking.

          I pride myself on pragmatism and making decisions appropriate to the occasion.

          Moving forward, if my responses to feel inconsistent with the guy you think you know, let that be a clear sign that we are misunderstanding one another, in which case, having a private convo via Facebook messages or email will be more appropriate.

          You are valued and respected and cared for.

          And I am very sorry that what you read from me made you feel otherwise.

          I’m going to (I can’t right now, and am not sure when because my.life.is.INSANE) reach out to you privately on FB, because I think in a focused conversation where I’m only thinking about what you’re saying, and can ask questions in real-time, instead of me not understanding your tone, and not having it get watered down a little by all the other noise happening, I’ll be able to do a better job.

          Please feel free to reach out to me there, otherwise I’ll fire a note as soon as I’m able today.

          Sorry this got weird. I mean that. I didn’t know it WAS weird until this very last comment from you.

          Like

      • Deanna says:

        Lisa, Please hear me when I say that I sincerely did not call Travis a woman. Also, hear me when I say that I did not use his own words against him. Believe me when I say that I cited his own admission that sometimes the person who you’d expect to hear things as the wife or husband or dog or cat in a relationship doesn’t, it does not change the context of whatever was being said.

        What you hear does not change what is said – not in the very basics of language. Now, I completely hear what you are saying in this post to Matt and yes, I can absolutely empathize with why you responded the way you have. Travis dismissed me several times with his bait-and-switch tactics and you did once as well. Matt responded to my final comment yesterday in much the same way.

        HOWEVER, the chief difference in how I received all of those messages and how you seem to have is that I took them seriously but not personally. When someone responds in a way that makes you feel dismissed you have two choices. You can either presume that since you feel dismissed you’ve been dismissed or you can consider that maybe that person is feeling attacked or confused or frustrated or flat out tired and just wants the shit to end.

        How they go about ending it might not be the way you’d prefer. But sometimes, assuming they didn’t mean to dismiss you and were just ‘venting’ is the right way to handle a situation.

        And sometimes flying off the handle because you really do need to be heard is the right way.

        I guess, to me, and from my “expert communication level” point of view (which, by the way isn’t quite accurate – military linguists are skilled at finding hidden meanings in language spoken by non-native language speakers) it isn’t so much what is intended at the time something is said that matters…

        …it’s what you choose to do next with what you’ve been given.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        Thanks for your response buddy. I just wish I could rewind yesterday and just read the comments instead of commenting at all. I was just exhausted and not feeling well and recovering from family drama. But everybody here has their own sad stories so it’s no excuse.

        I am putting myself in a temporary time out. Part hockey penalty box for fighting and part kindergarten nap time for being overly tired. I will be reading cause I enjoy your blog! But since you’re a Terminator fan I’ll say I’ll be back!

        Here’s a relaxing meditation I found quite helpful. Plus it’s hilarious! Enjoy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          We should still have the conversation at a time that’s appropriate and convenient for you RE: what actually happened, and what I might be able to do better from a moderation standpoint.

          Thank you for this note because it indicates you’ll be around, which really matters and makes it better, and because it was just a kind, forgiving sort-of thing to do.

          Hope we talk soon.

          Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Zombiedrew,

      You said:

      “I think relationships are really similar. We aren’t coached. We learn by emulating what we have seen, and doing what feels natural to us. And in the process we develop some pretty awful relationship skills that tend to get us in trouble. And when they do get us in trouble, it’s pretty easy to say “hey, this is just who I am”. But it’s not, it’s who we have learned to be. And although it’s hard to unlearn years of bad habits, it CAN be done. We need to want it though. We need to be willing to accept that there are problems with our current approach, and be willing to try to learn better ones.

      Communication IS a skill. Relationships ARE a skill. There are always things we can do to improve, and to make our lives easier. IF we’re willing to learn. Doing so isn’t easy though and takes time and discipline.

      And in the process it’s really easy to fall back on old habits (especially in times of stress), or get frustrated and tell ourselves the “new” ways are too hard, or they aren’t working for us. But if we stick with it, it starts to get easier bit by bit. And the new things start to feel more natural. Eventually we can internalize them. But to do so we’ve got to believe in them”.

      THIS RIGHT HERE is what I believe! We think our personality is set and that the other person just needs to accept us and change but what I used to think of as normal is like your lousy basketball skills. It feels normal and an essential part of us just because it looks like what we are used to and we’ve been doing it that way for so long.

      But when you have an average crappy marriage, skills are missing on both sides. And it hard to even see them as skills because we tend to think of relationships are not skill based. And it’s oh so easy to see the stuff your spouse needs to change and be blind to your own stuff.

      The belief part in this quote and others is what I believe ;) too. This is maybe where my questions are not clear. I’m thinking that there are different ways that make sense to them for people to come to the belief that it can and should be changed. Some people prefer information to convince them that relationships are skills based and yours suck, some people prefer personal stories from people who have gone through it, some people prefer more spiritual approaches.

      I don’t think the way you get to belief matters as long as you get there to understand what you need to do differently and to keep doing it regardless if it feels uncomfortable. To have enough belief in the need for change to internalize the change so it comes from within not from a short term need to make someone not leave.

      Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “I don’t think the way you get to belief matters as long as you get there to understand what you need to do differently and to keep doing it regardless if it feels uncomfortable.”

        Did you just say you don’t care about the why?! ;-) LOL!

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        I am quite sure “why” will be my last dying word. My mom tells me it was one of my first words. Mama, dada, and why LOL

        I just wrote a response to you explaining it but I think there are different ways of getting to belief. The “WHY” approach I prefer is a valid one but there are many other equally valid ones. It only matters that each person figure out what works for them.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa,I saw the EFT cycle you linked to. If you would care to use your superpower for my benefit and elaborate on the vulnerability cycle (perhaps in regards to Matt’s dishes or something else) I would appreciate it. :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You said:

        “Lisa,I saw the EFT cycle you linked to. If you would care to use your superpower for my benefit and elaborate on the vulnerability cycle (perhaps in regards to Matt’s dishes or something else) I would appreciate it. :)”

        Ooh you’re asking me to talk about EFT cycles? My heart can’t take it! It might show up in the comments of the next post but I will definitely give you my take on it. It was the biggest “aha”moment for me. I’d love to hear your feedback if you had a similar version of the cycle in your life and how you recognized it.

        PS trying to practice your communication tips!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa:

        My understanding was that the vulnerabilty cycle and the EFT cycle is basically the same thing, but explained differently.

        My brain needs to hear things explained in different ways sometimes. Through the EFT chart you linked to, my brain has now “heard” the EFT way of explaining things (so I wasn’t asking you to elaborate further on the EFT thing, hope I didn’t hurt your feelings there, please don’t hate me, lol).

        But, if the vulnerability cycle you mentioned is indeed a different way of explaining things than the EFT cycle (even though as I understand it it’s really the same thing at it’s core), my brain would appreciate you elaborating on that further. :)

        If the vulnerability cycle and the EFT cycle is not only the same thing at it’s core but the same thing when it comes to how they word stuff, then I would still appreciate you giving an example from your own life, using Matt’s dishes or something else to illustrate it. But only if/when you want to. :)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        My understanding is they are all different names for the same basic patterns and variations on the same themes.

        Here’s a Dan Wile quote that I found helpful.

        “Tom and Betsy are caught in “interlocking vulnerabilities” (Carol Jenkin’s term) or “interacting (or reciprocal) sensitivities” (my term). Each partner responds to having his or her sensitivity inflamed in a way that inflames that of the other. Tom is sensitive to criticism and responds by disengaging; Betsy is sensitive to disengagement and responds by criticizing. Michele Scheinkman and Mona Fishbane call this pattern “the vulnerability cycle.” Scott Woolley calls it “the EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) Cycle.” Robert-Jay Green calls it the “problematic couple interaction cycle.” “Pursuer-distancer” (coined by Thomas Fogarty) and “demanding-withdrawn” (researched by Andrew Christensen) are earlier ideas out of which the notion of interacting sensitivities developed.

        My purpose here is to distinguish two major subtypes of interacting sensitivities—“pursue-withdraw” and “attack-withdraw”—and to describe how the pattern of interacting sensitivities plays out in the couple relationship. Awareness of this pattern will help the therapist follow the flow of the session and enable the partners to appreciate what they are caught in.

        In “pursue-withdraw,” one partner is sensitive to the other’s withdrawal (feels ignored, shut out, abandoned, rejected, lonely, uncared for, unloved, unlovable, or just not as close and connected as he or she wants) and responds by pressing for connection (time together, intimate talking, affection, sex), and the other partner is sensitive to pressing (feels engulfed, smothered, suffocated, bombarded, besieged, flooded, controlled) and responds by withdrawing (disengaging, abandoning, shutting down, closing off). The self-reinforcing nature of this exchange is clear. The more Bob disengages, the more Gloria needs reassuring contact. The more Gloria presses, the more Bob needs to disengage.”

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        Here’s the rest of the Dan Wile quote that fit cut off in the last comment.

        “In “attack-withdraw,” the other major form of interacting sensitivities, one partner is sensitive to attack (complaint, blame, criticism, anger, reproach, scolding, demands, sarcasm, rejection, disapproval, humiliation, exposure) and responds by withdrawing; the other partner is sensitive to withdrawal and responds by attacking. Again, the self-propelling nature is clear. The angrier Ben gets, the more Alan withdraws. The more Alan withdraws, the angrier Ben gets.

        In a fight, the withdrawn partner typically seeks to end the fight or, at least, take a time out. He or she is the one more aware of the destructive and stalemated quality of the fight. The pursuing partner typically wants to keep talking. He or she dreads ending the exchange without a resolution and on bad terms.

        In practice, “pursue-withdraw” typically morphs into “attack-withdraw.” At some point, and in some cases very soon, the pursuing partner becomes frustrated and shifts from pressing for connection to reproaching for failing to connect: “Why are you so defended?” “How come you never talk to me?” “Living with you is like living alone,” “Hello, are you alive over there?” Such reproach creates an “attack-withdraw” pattern (unless, of course, the other partner responds with anger rather than with withdrawal, which would then trigger an “attack-attack” pattern. I’ll get to that in a moment). Here is an example of the shiftfrom “pursue-withdraw” to “attack-withdraw”.

        Sally (inviting): What do you say we go for a walk?
        Tom (vaguely): Maybe later.
        Sally (encouraging): Come on. Let’s go now, while it’s still sunny out.
        Tom: I want to read this book.
        Sally (pressing): You can do that when we get home. Come on. You’ll feel different once we’re out there.
        Tom: I’m really into this book.
        Sally: (pressing): Well, okay, we don’t have to walk. Why don’t we just hang out and talk for a while?
        Tom: I’m not in the mood.
        Sally (shifting to attack): You’re never in the mood.
        Tom (shrugs)
        Sally (blurting out a hidden fear): Admit it—you just don’t want to do things with me anymore; that’s it, isn’t it…
        Tom (looks up for a second): That’s not true.
        Sally: Well, it is true. You’re like your father—the way he treats your mother. You’re getting to be more like him all the time.
        Tom (Looks down at his book)
        Sally: Aren’t you going to say anything?
        Tom: I don’t know what I can say.
        Sally (sarcastically): You could say, “Sure, let’s go for a walk. What a great idea! Thanks for suggesting it. You always make things such fun.”
        Tom (looks unhappy)”

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You know I could never hate you. :). I always find your comments and questions thought provoking. And you’re so well versed in theory too like David Schnarch! You know that’s the way to my heart. Ok maybe it’s really Doritos but talking theory is a close second.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Thank you Lisa! :)

        Like

    • Donkey says:

      Zombiedrew, this isn’t exactly about this post, it’s about something you wrote further up about believing strongly in making the relationship you’ve got better, and something you wrote in another post about identity crises (or something like that) causing problems in relationships.

      Out of everyone here, I find myself agreeing with you the most (so you obviously must be a genious, hehe).

      Ok, to what I’m about to say, I KNOW there are many exceptions (abuse, addictions, probably some mental illnesses and many other things ). But I heard a piece of relationship advice that I found very interesting and almost radical some time ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InzNCnGb8-o

      Basically, you should only leave a relationship when you’re happy. That’s right.

      That way any life stuff or emotional problems you (general you, not you personally!) have projected onto your partner or your relationship but was really your sh*it to take care of (with therapy, career change or whatever) would be taken care of by it’s true owner, you.

      Feelings of not being worth anything without a relationship, looking for a mommy or daddy 2.0 to soothe all your emotional boo-boos in just the right way every time you need it (because that didn’t always happen when you were a kid and you haven’t fully grieved your losses), needing someone to do your every bidding and not have a life and mind of their own because if not you get so effing triggered would get taken care of by you, instead of you being miserable and thinking that it’s your partner’s fault.

      You’d learn to be strong enough to know that even if your partner doesn’t love you, even if they treat you like shit, you’re still a worthy person who can have joy and meaning in their lives.

      You’d learn to practice healthy boundaries before leaving.

      You’d learn to not take everything your partner does or doesn’t do personally.

      And still, if after all of this, you don’t feel that this is a good relationship? Then it’s time to go.

      This stuff would take A LOT of growth for most people, I believe. But I think it can be very powerful, and many dysfunctional patterns could change And obviously perfection can hardly be obtained here. And obviously, even an emotionally healthy adult has needs, for sure! The point isn’t being in a relationship where very few of your needs are met and being just fine with a loveless relationship… But there are needs and then there are unhealthy-needs. You know? Like, everyone needs to eat, but if you need 12 cups of soda to get through your day, then that’s not healthy. Likewise, people need attention. That’s healthy. But if you freak out/get angry/feel worthless every time your partner is too tired or preoccupied or just want some alone time or whatever to pay attention to you, that’s not healthy. I’m sure you get what I’m trying to say.

      I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, if you would like to share them.
      Have a nice day/afternoon/evening. :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deanna says:

        THIS. THIS a million times over. This is where I am after 5 years married to the same man I divorced 12 years ago. However, this is the very first I’ve heard of anyone identifying that once the work’s done and you’ve owned and worked thru your shit but they are still stuck where they’ve always been, where they’ll always be and even now moresi because you’re no longer as miserable as they insist on being – then it’s not only okay but necessary to walk away. That’s where I am. I’m happy. I like me. I’m GOOD. And that makes me okay with wherever I wind up next. Because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there will be better than here. And according to this chick, it might not even wind up the same. Yay!

        After another crazy-making day you’ve given way to sanity Donkey. I can’t thank you enough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Well Deanna, if I helped you in some way with this, I’m very glad. :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I agree with you! So well put. It’s part of the healing and growing up we all need to do to have a healthy relationship with ourselves or anyone else.

        The one thing that might differ is how we do that. Is it done mostly individually and then two healthy individual people form a good reactionship? Or is it done with the other person? We learn to heal and help each other feel safe while also working on individual responsibility?

        As I’m sure you know there are fierce battles among researchers and therapists to this very question with David Scnarch and Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson on the differentiation side and Sue Johnson and John Gottman on the other. I find it helpful to understand both sides to the coin. But I can see how which one is helpful to be emphasized depends on personality or situation. As I’m sure you’ll agree, to have a good marriage or any relationship really, individual responsibility and responsibility to the other person needs to be present in a healthy way.

        If I don’t even know what I did to contribute to a bad marriage (either directly or just by picking an unhealthy person to begin with) much less fix my stuff, it’s very likely I’ll just repeat the pattern with the next person. So I agree with you that first and foremost I have to “own my shit” before looking around and complaining at other shit stinking up the house. Then once I’ve done that I can make a decision on if I can stay.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Donkey,

        Damn, that’s a very difficult thing to respond to. And in doing so I run the risk of destroying any good will people may have towards me, because I suspect my thoughts here won’t sit well with many. But hopefully anyone reading this can get past any initial emotional response and try to understand where I’m coming from.

        I actually support most of those ideas, and feel they apply in many, many situations. Not all, but many.

        About a year ago I wrote a post called Who’s Responsibility is Love? One of the main ideas in it is that falling in love is easy, but staying in love and maintaining feelings of love isn’t the responsibility of the person you are with. Yeah, it helps when they are good/kind and treat you well. But in many ways, nurturing loving feelings is for your partner is your own responsibility. And if you find yourself falling out of love, that’s just as much your fault as it is your partners.

        Unfortunate truth of life – the ONLY thing you have any control over is your own actions. You can’t control how people will treat you, and you can’t control what happens to you. But you DO have control over your own responses to things.

        Matt’s blog in many ways to me is his own way of recognizing that. His marriage broke down, and looking back all he can really say is the things HE could have done differently, that may have helped influence the outcome. He’s taking ownership for HIS part in the breakdown.

        Look at the comments section though – there’s a huge disparity in the number of male vs. female respondents. And a lot of the female respondents say things like “yes, this is sooo right. I wish my partner/husband/ex would read these”. And there is truth to the things Matt says and I do think there is tremendous value in as many men as possible seeing these messages. But when these words resonate with female readers and the thought is “I wish my partner would get this” I think it’s kind of missing the point.

        I know the details of Matts situation from what he has described, and he often takes ownership – which is great.

        But lets imagine for a moment that if there was some imaginary “fault detector” that could tell us how the breakdown of fault is in the relationship.

        If it’s 50/50, Matt can only control his contributions. If it’s 30-70, Matt can only control his contributions. If it’s 80-20 (with 80% being his ex-wifes fault), Matt can STILL only control his contributions. So it really doesn’t matter whos fault it is. All that matters is what are YOU going to do about it. How are YOU going to try and make it better? What are you going to put in to the relationship to try and make it stronger?

        But that’s not easy, because what we try to do to make things better is usually the things that make sense to US. The things that would make US feel better. And then we get further hurt/upset when that doesn’t work for our partner, or they aren’t engaging us in the way we think they should be. You talk about us looking for people to “soothe all your emotional boo-boos in just the right way every time you need it”, and in many ways I think that’s exactly what we all do.

        A few post ago I talked about communication theory and how any message is encoded by the sender through their own filters, and then it’s conveyed, and then the receiver interprets the message through their own filters.

        What are these filters? These filters are our own experiences. Our own fears, and insecurities. We all have shit that’s happened to us (some worse then others), but we are ALL broken in one way or another. And man, these things leave marks. We all carry this baggage around, and often we let the baggage of our past sabotage both our present and our future.

        If people REALLY want to improve their relationships I think the MOST important step they can take is to improve themselves. And I’m not talking about taking about stuff like eating right, and taking a Yoga class or something. I’m talking about starting to understand our own filters, and how they are impacting us today. And then starting to heal, and let go of all that stuff. Deal with our own baggage instead of letting it continue to weigh us down and color how we interpret things in the present.

        If we really do that, and really heal ourselves? I think our relationships will generally follow.

        Of course this is complicated further by the fact that relationships involve two people, and we can only really work to heal ourself. Our partner may or may not do something similar.

        Thing is, if we DO heal ourselves I suspect we will find that a lot of the things that piss us off today don’t seem quite as important. And when we heal ourselves it’s a lot easier to be appreciative of the positives in our life instead of focusing on the negatives. Plus, I think we are more likely to be accepting of the differences and limitations in our relationships.

        I could write forever on this stuff, but I’ll leave with the idea that anytime someone hurts me or pisses me off, I try to first look in the mirror and try to separate the action from my emotional response. Frequently I find the issue lies with me more than it does with the other person – and I suspect I’m not alone in this.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Love this.

          You touched on something I’ve had to say to people in comments who want me to spend more time on my ex-wife’s “faults” or “divorce contributions.”

          I DON’T CARE what percentage is her fault, and what percentage is mine. It will NEVER matter.

          Until I was as close to perfect as a human being can get behaviorally in a marriage, I can never know to what degree my actions influenced her’s.

          BE GREAT. Every day. Then, when the other person sucks, you can start asking them to keep up and pull their weight.

          Whether I was 15 percent or 70 percent responsible for my divorce — for me — is totally irrelevant.

          My most important job is to clean up whatever my share of responsibility is, teach my son NOT to do those things (or to do good things, as applicable), and then walk the walk in my relationships as the opportunities present themselves.

          KNOW THYSELF.

          I was 33 before I started really challenging my own beliefs and assumptions.

          The TRUTH will always stand up to scrutiny.

          We pick everything apart, digging deeper, asking more uncomfortable questions.

          When we do that, we ALWAYS conclude we had the power somewhere along the way to make a better choice that would have prevented something bad, or contributed to something good.

          Once we start there, we have a real chance at love.

          Because it’s not about “What can they do for me?”

          It’s about “What can I do for them?” And you recognize someone who operates the same. And then you both give. Without masks. Without disguising truth because you’re afraid of rejection or judgment. With enforced boundaries. With shared or complementary values.

          Deanna had a great quote upthread, which I’ll paraphrase here: I think it’s really that simple, and that difficult.

          Liked by 1 person

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            It’s REALLY easy to blame though. And it’s much more comfortable to look at the things that are someone elses fault then it is to look in the mirror.

            When someone says this it often gets misinterpreted as “oh so I should just put up with his/her crap then”, and no, that’s not at all what I’m saying.

            I just think often we’re simply people, who do things that seem natural and even positive. Of course we can also be selfish sometimes, and that’s natural too.

            One of the things I hate the most is what I call the “f*#k you” attitude. You’ve hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you back or hold a grudge that turns into resentment and then anger and apathy. How can anything positive EVER come from that approach? It can’t, ever. But it makes us feel a bit better – all the while we’re turning a “we” into a your vs. me.

            This is why communication is so damned important.

            Avoidance leads to passive aggressive behaviour (the f*#k you attitude) which leads to bad relationships. So don’t avoid stuff – address it head on. Yeah some things are really hard to discuss and try to deal with, but the hard things are actually the most important things to try to get out in the open. And no, you won’t always resolve things. Some things are just differences that will exist forever, but at least when they are out in the open and you can understand each other, you can determine if that is an “acceptable difference” or not.

            Communication is really, really hard though. Probably the most important thing we can ever learn, but no one ever teaches it. And as I talked about above, we interpret everything through our own filters anyhow – so we really need to address our own stuff before we can even communicate effectively.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Matt says:

              I nodded along with every single thing in here except your choice to spell “behavior” with a U.

              That seems super non-Texasy.

              Liked by 1 person

              • zombiedrew2 says:

                Sorry bud, I’m Canadian. We spell colour with a “u” as well. Though I usually correct it when the US based spell checkers tell me it’s wrong :)

                Liked by 2 people

                • Matt says:

                  That’s awesome.

                  I don’t know whether I knew that. That could easily be something you’ve said 40 times, and I missed it because you wrote another sentence that affected me more. That would be very ME.

                  You do live in Texas now, correct? I got at least one fact right?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • zombiedrew2 says:

                    Texas, not so much. I suspect I said something in the past about my undying devotion to the San Antonio Spurs, and you made the connection there.

                    Never been to Texas, though I would love to change that.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Matt says:

                      That’s it! I actually thought you lived in San Antonio.

                      Chalk another one up to dipshit assumption making dot com.

                      OR… in this case…

                      Chalk another one up to dipshit assumption making dot CA.

                      Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Extraordinary thoughts, ZombieDrew, amazingly written, and they match the exact same condition I find myself in today, as I try to peel off the cracked and cancerous skin of bad husbandry. Everything you’ve discussed in this post gets back to that essential layman’s phrase that’s been bandied about MBTTTR as of late: “own your shit.” I’m forcing myself to move past questions of “Why does she react/fail to react/think/feel/believe the way she does?” and stay in a mindset of “can I improve the way I react/fail to react/think/feel/believe?” I have to relinquish my wife’s actions to my wife and trust that she will put in her own due diligence. For my part, all I can work on is minimizing any contributions I am making, with intention or without, that are having an negative impact on the health of my marriage.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Zombiedrew,

        You said “Look at the comments section though – there’s a huge disparity in the number of male vs. female respondents. And a lot of the female respondents say things like “yes, this is sooo right. I wish my partner/husband/ex would read these”. And there is truth to the things Matt says and I do think there is tremendous value in as many men as possible seeing these messages. But when these words resonate with female readers and the thought is “I wish my partner would get this” I think it’s kind of missing the point.”

        I would like to throw out my understanding of the “female filter” for the comments and present a different way to view it.

        The common pattern in the dishes divorce situation is a result of a dysfunctional cycle. (Lots of different names for it but I’ll call it the interlocking sensitivities cycle) Because of nature/nuture this is a very gendered patterned. She feels unloved and unheard, he feels unappreciated and shamed in simplistic terms. As years go by, the cycle deepens as each tried to use ineffective means to feel valued and respected in ways they understand.

        For nature/nurture reasons women often feel more deep unhappiness and pain from this cycle. They seek out blogs to understand and find ways to relieve the pain. Men because of nature/nurture withdraw or compartmentalize. They don’t feel the need to seek out blogs until his wife threatens to leave. And sometimes not even then.

        When sad, lonely, rejected women come here and read Matt’s post finally explaining what she has been experiencing all these years many cry. Why? Because they finally feel validated. Empathized with. Understood. The very things that have been so missing in their marriage. They write comments like “I wish my husband would understand this”. It’s wistful. Because there is still no understanding of how to get him to “get it” yet.

        I wrote a comment about Terry Real’s take on the gender differences in how men and women often experience relationships. Men tend to be more “narcissistic” in their failings. Women tend to be more “co-dependent” in their failings. So the remedies for this are different. The first step for women to “own their shit” is finally being validated in ways lift them up to say “you are not crazy or overly emotional as your husband has been implying or saying all these years”. That is what I hear when I read the many comments from women on this blog. Because I experienced it myself.

        Now, I totally agree with you that that cannot be the last step. The next step is the swallow the bitter red pill and see all the shit I have done to create the dysfunctional cycle”. Absolutely. But the validation part is a little bit of healing for a woman who has not heard it is YEARS.

        Just my take, what do you think about it?

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        ZombieDrew – You’re awesome. This response is awesome. And this is exactly why Matt – buddy – you gotta change your approach. Not your message but how you’re delivering it. You’re hanging out in the Ladies Room hashing out the gory details of her relationship and her divorce and answering questions about whether she should date this guy or she should marry that one.

        You’ve got the right message but it’s being delivered in the wrong room. And, since I’m probably already ticking people off I might as well go ahead and say you’re probably saying it in a tone of voice that sounds a whole lot like the chicks you’ve been engaging with. So, bring it down a notch as well.

        I firmly, 100% believe that if you took your story – your message – and reframed it from HIS point of view (not yours, not the dude who got it – albeit it too late and is now chilling in the ladies lounge) but HIS – Mr. My Wife Is a Crazy Person with Unrealistic Expectations and Impossible to Achieve Standards for a Simple Guy Like Me who really does love her but has gone deaf to her pleas and empathized with him (aka The Old Matt) – acknowledging that YES his wife is a little wacked out because hey, they all are, and rub shoulders with him you could reassure him that he’s NOT intentionally being a shitty husband.

        No, if you were talking to the right people in the right restroom you’d chime in agreeing that sometimes women are too demanding and too needy and just outright in your damn space and need to shut.the.eff.up because we are! we do! (even if we have reasons for it – it’s not YOUR place to tell our secret to them – it’s not like we haven’t tried umpteen thousand times already and it won’t gain you any street cred). Once you’ve gained his confidence because you’ve proven you are him THEN you can tell him what you’ve learned.

        AND then maybe he’ll sign up for your blog posts all on his own cause ‘wait a damn minute, this guy might be on to something!’ Of course you’re going to have to keep hanging out in the boy’s room and stop catering to women (and the men in relationships who have already self-identified as the women in those marriages). But then – guess what I bet will happen? I bet those guys will try the things you suggest and these women here – the ones like me all bent and shit because our husbands (those w/out mental issues of course) suck majorly – will STILL thank you for what you do.

        They just won’t write books about it in your comments section anymore.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Deanna, other than the completely worthless and vitriolic “Dude, you’re a big pussy! Grow a pair!” threadcraps Matt (well, all of us) has to occasionally endure around here, this represents the post that I disagree the most vehemently with on every single level. It’s so off target, I’m at a loss as to where I would even begin to construct a counter-argument (I’ll throw out this aside–Matt has bent over backwards to stay in the mens’ room; if anything, he is being constantly and forcefully pulled into the women’s room by force of sheer audience numbers). I guess I can only say I believe with every fiber of my body that the exact 180-degrees of what you’ve written is, in fact, the truth. As a man who has been helped immeasurably by Matt’s insights and approach, the thought of him changing a single thing about how he speaks to fellow males leaves me in a cold sweat of panic.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Yes, Travis, I figured you would be. But listen – I honestly don’t think you represent the guy most of the women here are married to. I could be wrong. You’ve said yourself you’re the ‘wife of the relationship’ and that’s why I think you’re able to hang w/the big girls up in here but again I said – you’re NOT the intended target who needs to be reached with this “Accidentally Shitty Husband” campaign. Disagree all you want. But realize that it might be coming from a selfish place to do so.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        By the way, I’m not asking Matt to change his message – please don’t misunderstand – just his delivery of that message. What would it hurt if he tried it? Aside from maybe being foreign territory (only because he’s out of practice seeing things from that side of the fence not because he’s never been there) I don’t see what harm it would cause. You’re right, women are the driving force here because they are the ones googling and finding the blog. Matt’s not trending for whatever it is dudes are searching for, but if he changed his delivery? He might. And if, when they got here, they found someone who GOT THEM (instead of some dude who sounds like his wife?) imagine the implications – think of the far reaching effects Matt’s message could have.

        If you’re sincerely backing Mr. Fray in his overall efforts then why disagree with me at all? Why restrict him? Do you think for some reason if he casts a wider net with a different approach you’ll no longer understand him? That his message will no longer be suitable for you? Because that’s ridiculous.

        I wonder if you would have stayed when you first came across this blog if there weren’t so many big words and high level concepts being tossed around. If it was rudimentary would you have paid attention to the content being delivered?

        While most men can truly appreciate a big, juicy steak that can be a big hard to digest. I’m just suggesting he serve up a tasty burger that’s easier to hold on to and equally satisfying.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa Gottman,

        Yes, I agree with what you are saying. When we feel like we’ve been talking to a wall for a long time, it’s great to finally feel some validation and get the feeling that someone out there understands what we are going through and how we feel. It can be cathartic.

        But it can also be dangerous if it stops there.

        Let’s say my wife consistently does something that pisses me off, and I tell a buddy about it and he understands because he’s going through something similar. Because he gets it, it’s easy to talk to him about this kind of thing because he knows how I feel. When he responds positively and with empathy for what I am feeling it’s great. But the danger is in that reinforcing within me the belief that because he understands, that means I am right. And if I am right, then my wife is wrong.

        I guess that is my one real caution, and something that has been an underlying theme in pretty much any comment I have ever made here or elsewhere. I worry that while validating that what others are feeling is good and important, it also runs the risk of pointing the finger at someone else without acknowledging that we have also done something to contribute to the situation. Especially when “our” contribution is really the only thing we can change.

        What I feel is absolutely valid – because I feel it. No one can tell me that it’s wrong. And if my wife is discounting what I am feeling, then it feels like she is invalidating me, and that hurts.

        But often there IS no right and wrong. There are two rights, or two wrongs. Really, there are just two approaches. The “wrong” is when we think that our right has to make someone else wrong. So what’s really important is trying to understand and accept each other. We need to try and understand both our filter and our partners. By understanding our own, we can actually make improvements to ourself. Understanding our partners is also important, but it doesn’t allow us to “improve them”. Hopefully they will improve themselves, but they may choose not to and there’s nothing we can do about that. What we CAN do if we understand their filters though it be more empathetic. Sometimes the “craziness” on each of our parts is a bit less crazy when we have a sense of where it came from. And I find that can sometimes make things easier to handle.

        Every once in a while I read comments where people say “and I know I’m doing all these same things too”, and that part always makes me happy. Because too often I fear that people are thinking “If my partner (husband of wife) where to change these things that he/she is doing then our relationship would be better”. And I wonder, are they recognizing that there are also things THEY are doing that are contributing to the problem? If so, great. If not, they are basically saying that they want their partner to accommodate them. To do things in a way that feels good FOR THEM.

        And of course we want that. And of course what we are feeling is valid. But it’s not just about someone accommodating us, we should really be striving to be better for EACH OTHER.

        I do totally get that a lot of readers here are feeling at wits end, and are feeling really frustrated by what seems to be years and years of being ignored and invalidated. And I acknowledge that women often take on the lions share of responsibilities in terms of home stuff and child rearing. Thing is, no matter how amazing anyone is and how much they have given and sacrificed – their partner probably has some frustrations and complaints about them that are equally as valid. And it shouldn’t matter if one person has 50 complaints while the other has 15. As soon as you are keeping track of who is “more” right you are in dangerous territory.

        I guess I’m just saying we all need to look in the mirror. If you look in the mirror and don’t see any ways that you can change or improve, or don’t actually feel that you should have to change and improve then you are probably a part of the problem as well.

        I want to be better tomorrow than I am today. And that can’t happen until I can accept and focus on my own part of things.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Deanna.

        You say “ZombieDrew – You’re awesome. This response is awesome. And this is exactly why Matt – buddy – you gotta change your approach.”

        Thanks for the compliment, but can you help me understand how you see my approach is different from Matts? I see us as really saying largely the same things.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Zombiedrew,

        I completely 100% agree with you. I often annoy Matt by saying that this is common stuff for both men and women. That I disagree that women are better than men at being good at relationships. (Defined as skills to accept influence and effectively deal with those who won’t). That we all need to look in the mirror. I’m with you man all the way!

        Because until recently Matt has focused exclusively on his and by extension’s all shitty husband’s failings, it has not provided the questions for women to respond to in the comments. The comments usually revolve around men’s fault or blame or intentions because that is what the posts focus on.

        I totally agree that the females are often lacking critical relationship skills like proper boundary setting or harsh startups. I endlessly drone on and on about this because I think, as you do, that we must ALL look in the mirror and own our shit. Even if the only thing you did “wrong”was somehow marry a shitty husband unwilling to ever change. You have to figure out how and why that happened to own whatever of my stuff I need to change to make sure it never happens again.

        I still think the solutions are slightly different on emphasis depending on which part of the cycle you come from. Because Matt writes his blog usually with the goal of reaching shitty men it will be necessarily be weak on accountability for shitty wives. I try and bring that in the comments when I think I can quote Gottman yet again without collective groaning. Lol. I do like and appreciate your emphasis on accountability for all in both your blog and comments here.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Zombiedrew, thank you for answering, and as usual, I pretty much agree. :)

        I do LOVE the point you added Lisa, what Terry Real says about women’s failings in relationships being more on the co-dependent side and men’s failings in relationships being more on the narcissistic side, so a big first step for women to own their part is in being validated in the pain they feel from not having their needs and wishes respected in their marriage. Yes, I love this point.

        Lisa this is regarding what you said earlier about attachment vs differentiation theories. I am indeed aware that there is some kind of battle going on. :p I honestly believe both sides have merit, and I’m not just saying that. Life isn’t always simple, in my own life, in almost any aspect, I need a bit of this and a bit of that x 100. I seem to be an omnivore in many ways, if you will. :) So it makes sense to me that we can get something from both sides. I must say, I read a blog comment or something like that by Schnarch once that disappointed me quite a bit, with all his talk about differentiation. If I remember it correctly, he was criticizing some kind of attachment thinking quite categorically (again, I could be remembering it wrong and I do remember one other instance where he was a bit more positive towards the attachment approach). As far as I know, Sue Johnson does have the most documented success with her approach, so obviously the attachment approach has value! It’s not impressive to me that he didn’t acknowledge that.

        I think you’re right, it depends much on the situation, personality style, combination of personalites in a couple and so on. So I really feel that folks just need to what works for them.

        I find myself, rather unwillingly I must say (but perhaps more an more willingly with time), more on the differenatiation side. Like I said, I know about Johnson’s success, and the attachement model makes EVER so much sense to me, it really does. But in real life? How many men, beause of man-card issues or lack of skills in accepting influence or whatever (and of course it could be the woman) are not willing to seek therapy, read relationship books, or like Matt has explained, even to believe or take into account a woman’s vulnerable emotions (which seems would be necessary in the attachement model), or to admit they’ve been wrong/not fully decent all the time? And as we both know, women can certainly have their own blindspots and failings and selfishness aswell. How much pain does a person usually have to encounter before they’re really willing to look at the deepest of their stuff and change for the better on a deep level? Iif I’m judging by myself, it seems a whole lot. :p So if our relationship needs clashes against a deep issue of our partner’s or a fundamentally different way of viewing things or just a blindspot, we’ll be waiting for a long time if we sit back and wait for them to *get* it, no matter how much we try.

        I’m sorry to pile on Matt here, but his wife was crying in the hospital (perhaps being more vulnerable and showing more vulnerability than at any other point in her life), and he just ignored her plead for attachment/love/support and left her (I don’t even have kids, but I feel so vicariously wounded by that, I honestly haven’t quite gotten over it myself and am still kind of bitter, lol).

        When a woman has explained with tears in her eyes 100 times how much it hurts her when he won’t do the laundry like he promised (or whatever the case may be, and as always, could be a reversal), it seems like trying to get him to empathize with her deeper feelings and to sooth her fears just. won’t. work., and it’s time for some differentiation! Like Gottman says, she would need to practice boundaries at that point. And I just think that a woman would have to be quite well differentiated in order to really enforce these kinds of boundaries at all, let alone without too much anxiety or bitterness, especially with her man pushing back!

        If someone can get their partner to understand their true, deep, vulnerable feelings, and of course, to understand those of their partners, I think that would really help aa relationship and that it can be VERY healing! And I think that even if you’re mostly on the differntiation side, you won’t get away from empathy. Perhaps the empathizing with your partner’s vulnerabilites could help you differentiate aswell? That certainly seems possible. And I think if both partners have an attachment approach if you will, that could work very well. But then again, how likely is that, when gridlock often happens when one has pursued and one has withdrawn for a while, when one is not accepting influence?

        And let’s say a couple manages to heal their relationship with an attachment approach. Will they always or most of the time be able to empathize? When they don’t succeed at this, will they then be miserable (because of lack of differentiation), or will the deeper attachment they’ve attained see them through? If one were to die, would the healthy attachment they once attained be able to keep the surviving partner healthy and well functioning? Perhaps this is possible, we can take the feeling of being loved deeply and being valuable with us and function better for it (isn’t that how healthy kids develop?). But what if one partner were to leave? Would the once happily attached partner (because they healed the relationship with the attachement approach,at least until one partner left) be able to function as well as a well-differentiated person would (although of course everyone would feel sad)? I somehow doubt that.

        What if you’re single, if the differentiation model is less valid than the attachment model, what can you do? Is your only choice to be avoidant/anxious/numbed out or in some sort of continual attachment panic because you don’t have a safe partner?

        I know from my own life, that the more emotionally healthy (well differentiated) I feel at any given time, the more likely I am to be able to empathize and connect with someone else’s vulnerable primary emotions.

        I had some shit happen in my life a few years ago, that’s kind of still going on, and it broke me open. All the shit I had previously tried to avoid, I now have to deal with. And I just know that even when I want love/affection/empathy, if I’m not good with myself (again, well differentiated), I’m sadly, oh so very sadly, not able to receive it. Ok, this is a silly example, but my mother and her husband have a dog. He’s just the sweetest thing, so cuddly and loving, he’s just amazing. But honestly, when I’m frozen/numb/anxious/whatever else because I’ve not fully healed my own pain and it’s taking up a lot of space in me, I am just. not. able. to receive, to really feel, the love and affection, and be healthily attached to the dog if you will (lol). And this is a dog! A DOG! A DOG!!!!! I know he won’t judge me! He litererally can’t chose to leave my life (although I’m so scared for the day he’ll die, I think that’s part of thE problem)! He’s probably never or at least very rarely failed to respond with affection, lol. I think David Scnarch mentioned a somewhat similar example in one of his book, of a woman complaining that she wanted more intimacy and more connection… but when it really came down to it and she had the opportunity for the connection she said she wanted, she wasn’t able to really stand that level of intimacy.

        So, to conclude, I know that the attachment approach has a lot of success, it makes sense to me, and I do believe it has value, and that’s not just lip service. In some ways it can probably also help us differentiate, just as the differentiation approach can help us attach. We humans have both a need for attachment and individuation, so it only makes sense that we need both approaches. But as of now, I’m more of the differentiation persuation (hehe), because I have found that to be more useful in my life, in helping me to be a happy, healthy, functioning adult with good integrity (not there yet with all of this, but making progress) whether or not I’m in a relationship. And also, very importantly, it’s the most helpful approach for me in helping me be strong enough to be able to give and receive love, to be able to empathize instead of beng triggered, pershaps somewhat ironically, in helping me be more healthily attached. :p

        But again, if leaning more towards the attachment side works better for someone else, then that’s what’s right for them. I do doubt however, that the attachment approach is as helpful as the differentiation approach at creating (for lack of a better word) not just happy and healthy couples but happy and healthy adults regardless of relationship status (but again, we need a bit of both approaches!). But of course, I could be wrong, maybe the increased empathy creates a sense of security in the individual or something like that which could then make it as successful as the differentiation approach in that aspect.

        Well Lisa, did you even ask for my thoughts? In any case, here you have quite a lot of them to ponder should you wish. :)

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        ZDrew – I don’t necessarily think your approach is different than Matt’s. I haven’t spent much time on your blog so I can only base this response on what I’ve read of your comments here, in this thread. And I think I have to agree with my husband all around that everyone here (yes, including me) is too damned long winded.

        My background is in construction. Prior to that I was in the military. I’ve spent my fair share of time with men and if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s to “stick to the facts”, “the devil is in the details”, and “save the drama for your mama” as it were.

        I can tell most guys here (including and starting with Matt) like to talk. They like to write. They enjoy discussing and philosophizing all of this crap to death. And that’s all well and good but it’s not normal. Not in my experience.

        I’m married to a corporate man. He spends all day in meetings where people discuss, discuss, discuss and so when he gets home he just wants some damn peace and quiet. Meanwhile, I’m here working in my carpentry shop all day, just me and the dogs (and you people of the internet) in nothing but solitude and silence.

        You’re smart. You can already see what happens next…

        What you say resonates with me. That’s why I said you were and the comment was awesome. However, what you say would go over a lot of guys’ heads. My husband wouldn’t take the time out of his post-work beer & video game steam-blow-off session to read anything you’ve said. Even if I said our marriage depended on it. Especially if I said our marriage depended on it.

        Again, I don’t think I’m in the minority of double-X-chromosomed people when I say this. I don’t know many men who would respond to that sort of strong-arming and the few that might would certainly experience corneal-glaze-over after the first few sentences on these posts. Women? WE LOVETH THEM TO PIECES!!!! And then we tell Matt how awesome he is and how much we wish our guys were just.like.him and can’t believe his stupid ex-wife left and then he gets emailed marriage proposals.

        I don’t think that’s what he’s going for here.

        I *think* maybe when people have asked Matt about his ex-wive’s point of view it wasn’t necessarily to assign blame but maybe to get a better understanding of how his marriage flushes out against their own. Matt is cerebral – my husband is cerebral. But, my husband isn’t this introspective. He isn’t going to mull over the 52 ways he could have responded to my last question in an effort to minimize the contempt he’s fairly certain he picked up in my voice.

        My husband is a typical guy. I’m sorry, but I do not think the guys who frequent this blog – as it is today – are typical guys. I think they are the types of men the women who hang out here WISH they were married to. And as such, we keep coming here to get what we need from our husbands because they can’t, won’t, don’t know how to give it to us and the smart boys talk to us here. In a way, Matt’s kinda driving the wedge between us further apart – unintentionally.

        So that’s why I say he’s gotta stop it. And Google Search backs me up. Here’s a compilation of what people are searching for. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153439124681034&set=a.10150295009156034.339951.710961033&type=3&theater

        I’m curious what you and Travis searched for to find this blog.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          “Matt’s kinda driving the wedge between us further apart…”

          This would be hard to read if I didn’t already know that more than half of marriages are going to end because people AREN’T dealing with the things being discussed here.

          Really hard.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Deanna,

        Hey there as one crazy ass overly blunt female to another!

        You said that you wanted to be called out in previous comments so here I am taking you at your word. I actually really like a lot of the content of your suggestions for Matt. I’ll add a second idea that maybe he could add a differently titled blog with a men’s only comment policy as a suggestion. I would sneak on there and call myself Roger but say manly things about how women write too long theoretical comments in the other blog like that annoying Lisa Gottman. ;)

        However, your tone is harsh Deanna. I know you and Matt are friends and that works for you guys in some weird way. But the rest of us aren’t friends with you outside this blog (although I think you’d have some really interesting opinions and really tell me what you think and I love that kind of woman).

        Travis is s big boy and can take care of himself and you have no idea how much I was lmao at your comment implying he liked the big worded theoretical comments. So ironic!

        Anyway, Deanna I know you are going through hell right now with your marriage so I don’t know how much of the harshness is that or frustration at wanting Matt to reach as many men as possible. But from this stall of the ladies room is just like a little less harshness towards commenters when making those good points. I will say I will pick bluntness with a side of rude any day over passive aggressive with a side of apathy so we’re soul mates there.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Tough love Mr. Fray, tough love. Would you feel better if I said the internet and all this searching for answers instead of, you know, talking to the person in the next room is driving people further apart? It wouldn’t carry any less weight and your participation would be minimized exactly zero but if it helps your ego then pretend I said that. {smile}

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Lisa – You can’t know my tone. You’ve never talked to me. You can hear my words through your own filter and come to a conclusion that you think I’m being harsh – and that’s fine but it doesn’t change the way I said what I said, which wasn’t harsh at all. Matter of fact, sure. I don’t tend to sugar coat things. That’s probably from years of being in the military and construction. I’m not in a bad mood, I’m not going through shit as you said – regardless of my personal situation I feel the way I do and wouldn’t have worded it any differently.

        Drew says “Communication is really, really hard though…we interpret everything through our own filters anyhow – so we really need to address our own stuff before we can even communicate effectively.” I know how I meant to say what I said. I’m responsible for what I say. I’m not responsible for how you receive it.

        I get it, you all love Matt & the way he does things. That’s fine. It really is. Except that I think people are forgetting that you guys, the ones getting on my case, are happy in your marriages and working at staying married. Matt’s focus really isn’t on you.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Alright, last comment for the day…

        Lisa, I’m big on personal accountability and sometimes I think that isn’t a popular approach because people don’t like to hear it – especially when they are hurting. I’ve been accused of “victim blaming” in the past, and I really don’t think I do that. I just think that the vast majority of situations (even the worst ones), we have done things to contribute to the situation we are in. Since blaming isn’t productive and we can only ever control our own actions, I think it’s better to try and understand our part and what we can do to ensure we have learned, and that things won’t happen like that again.

        Deanna, I’m definitely long winded at times. I think it’s just the analytical side of me, and how my brain works. As for not being a typical guy – you’re right I guess. In some ways I’m very much the typical guy – playing/watching sports, enjoying tinkering around the house. But I also tend to be more introspective than most (hell, I have a degree in philosophy). I suspect most of the guys here aren’t typical guys; because a lot of guys (and girls) don’t actually want to think about this stuff. They just want to live their lives and not worry about the details. So many of the people here are people who have had something break, and they were trying to understand what broke and why.

        How do we engage typical guys? Not sure. My earliest blog entries were things I thought would appeal more to “typical” guys, with sports analogies and attempts at humorous anecdotes, but it never really caught on. It’s only when I started writing things with a bit more emotion and thought that anyone noticed, and then it was mostly women. So what to do? Not sure really.

        But anything any of us do to get people possibly thinking is better than nothing. Maybe no one reads, maybe no one cares. But hopefully someone out there does.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Deanna said,

        “Yes, Travis, I figured you would be. But listen – I honestly don’t think you represent the guy most of the women here are married to. I could be wrong. You’ve said yourself you’re the ‘wife of the relationship’ and that’s why I think you’re able to hang w/the big girls up in here but again I said – you’re NOT the intended target who needs to be reached with this ‘Accidentally Shitty Husband’ campaign.”

        It occurs to me that, while you’re perhaps right that I don’t represent the kind of guy most of the women here are married to (and I’ll take that as the compliment it seems to be intended as), you may be mistaken about me not being the target audience. I said recently that I wouldn’t make the mistake of presuming my understanding of Matt’s motivations and intentions with MBTTTR is iron-clad, but I’m going to risk another landmine of presumption by saying that, from my perspective, it appears that Matt’s target audience is men going through a similar experience to the one he went through, men who might be able to benefit from his learned perspective before it’s too late for their own marriages. Men who never once stopped loving their wives. Men who never once would have intentionally caused their wives pain. Men who blithely have been going on feeling their marriages were peace on Earth, only to discover in one shocking revelation that, from their wives’ points of view, everything was actually at DEFCON 1, pressing-the-big-red-button, last-minute-of-DR. STRANGELOVE level. Men who truly, fundamentally believed they were proving themselves as good husbands at the very same time they were driving their marriages right off the edge of a cliff. And that kind of man is me.

        Additionally, you reference my statement that I’m considered the “girl” in my marriage, which is true. That still fills me with no small amount of Man Card angst inside, but somehow I’ve managed not to let it prevent me from being true to myself. But is it possible that Matt was, at least in some ways, the “girl” in his marriage? I don’t know. In fact, you know him better than I do, since you know the man in the flesh, behind the veil of this blog. But I do recall him talking about how his wife was the least nurturing person he knew, the person in his friends-and-family sphere least likely to champion his hopes and dreams. That doesn’t seem to fit the female stereotype. And the dedication to “touchy-feely” relationship issues he provides here doesn’t seem to fit the male stereotype. So I come back to the point that maybe, just maybe, Matt’s true target audience extends no farther than the men who read his blog and say, “Holy shit! He’s talking about me!” Are there men who could benefit from his point of view that won’t be open to it in their current level of Shitty Husbandry? Millions, yes, I’m sure. But Matt can’t be all things to all audiences. Maybe he can only speak to men who operate in a similar mental and emotional headspace to him. Maybe those men, including the “I would like more romance in my life” ZombieDrew, are more “girly” than the men you think Matt should be reaching. Again, I don’t know. I do know this, however. You are flat-out mistaken that I’m not the intended target who needs to be reached with Matt’s message. My wife told me she believed she no longer loved me. My wife told me she believed a life without me would bring her greater fulfillment and peace than one with me. My wife said she was finished. Don’t let the fact that I have made extraordinary strides in rescuing my marriage and re-securing my wife’s effusive love cloud the fact that I was, in a multitude of ways, a shitty husband, and I have a lifetime of due diligence ahead of me to ensure I never backtrack into being one all over again.

        “Disagree all you want. But realize that it might be coming from a selfish place to do so.”

        Of course it’s coming from a selfish place. I easily cop to that. The impulse that brought me to MBTTTR was entirely selfish in nature. It wasn’t “I owe my wife a better husband.” It wasn’t “I want to understand what my wife is going through better.” It wasn’t “I’d like to atone for marital my sins.” It was, “Oh, please, dear God, I don’t want to lose my wife! How do I make sure I don’t?”

        So, yes, I selfishly prefer that this blog remain geared toward men who truly believed they were fulfilling their duties as a husband perfectly, only to discover they were way off target. I prefer this blog cater to husbands actively seeking help to right their unintentional wrongs than toward trying to persuade husbands who feel 100% justified in watching their marriages crash and burn that they should wake up and think differently. I would prefer that this blog remain a pull resource, rather than a push one. I would prefer that this blog’s male audience reflect Matt’s personal experience, because any other audience to which he speaks is one he’s less equipped to reach. While we’re on the issue of selfish motivations, what is it that drives your press for Matt to change up his game? Is it, as you’ve repeated numerous times, that you don’t see your husband (or yourself) reflected in his writings and, therefore, they aren’t as useful for your own personal “ah ha” moment as you’d like?

        “By the way, I’m not asking Matt to change his message – please don’t misunderstand – just his delivery of that message. What would it hurt if he tried it?”

        Shakespeare put it best: “to thine own self be true.” Matt’s delivery carries weight and resonance because it comes directly from his personal truth. It is raw. It is take-it-or-leave-it as it applies, or fails to, for any individual reader. Though he has a particular writing style, he does not push the style ahead of the message by using it to manipulate the audience. And that it is what you are arguing for–manipulation of his fellow man. To speak their language of callous disregard for women, to ingratiate himself with them by affirming their selfish, blind beliefs about their virtues as shitty husbands, to play politics by telling them what they want to hear so he can, at some point, surreptitiously, clandestinely slide in some bitter truth. I find that to be a condescending approach, personally, but whether anyone agrees with me on that point or not, I maintain that such an approach would not be true to Matt as a writer. Questions of whether men not ready to hear the truth about their culpability in the dissolution of their marriages are Matt’s intended audience aside, I don’t “hear” Matt’s voice in any message that would play the “Yeah, these wives be some royal bitches, playa, I hear dat!” card before exposing his true agenda of setting those husbands straight. In short, I’ve never taken Matt as a man preaching his truth as all men’s truth. He’s always simply said, “Hey, here are some pearls of wisdom I’ve discovered amongst the ashes of my marriage. I’m willing to share them with anyone who can use them before they find themselves standing in their own pile of ruins.” What would it hurt if he tried it? I’m not sure if “hurt” is the right word, but for me, it certainly wouldn’t ring true. You can’t get comedy gold from asking Brian Regan to try an Andrew Dice Clay stage style.

        “Matt’s not trending for whatever it is dudes are searching for, but if he changed his delivery?”

        Matt’s not trending for guys, I would argue, because it is a rare guy that searches for “how do I save my marriage?” Maybe most guys search for sites where other men can commiserate about their nagging bitch wives, but they’re rarely searching for, “I royally effed up and I’m about to lose the most precious thing in the world to me forever and I’m scared and I’ll do anything to stop that from happening!” If I was a betting man, I’d say most of them are just searching for porn. But then when they finally get it, when playtime is over and the Mrs. is packing her bags and the only words of hers he can make out over the rush of panicked blood in his ears is something about “…hear from my lawyer…”, yeah, then that’s when Matt’s blog stands a chance to trend for men.

        “If you’re sincerely backing Mr. Fray in his overall efforts then why disagree with me at all? Why restrict him? Do you think for some reason if he casts a wider net with a different approach you’ll no longer understand him? That his message will no longer be suitable for you? Because that’s ridiculous.”

        One of the key virtues to the Comments section of MBTTTR is the consistently polite and respectful tone to nearly everyone’s discussions, no matter how heated the topic or emotional temperature of any specific reader’s personal situation. As such, I would ask that you recognize that my opinion is not ridiculous. It is inconsistent with yours, surely, but it is based in the very legitimate concerns I’ve expressed above.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “Except that I think people are forgetting that you guys, the ones getting on my case, are happy in your marriages and working at staying married. Matt’s focus really isn’t on you.”

        Again, speaking for myself, there was a time not too long ago at all when my marriage was in a place far from happy. That’s when I found this blog, and Matt was most assuredly focused on me. After scrabbling out of the Pit of Imminent Divorce, I believe Matt’s focus is still on me because his message isn’t simply “Save your marriage now”, it’s “Save your marriage now, and every day for the rest of your life.” As such, his writing continues to provide the sort of reinforcement and embellished perspective I need to make sure I get this right long-term. He isn’t providing a one-time test; he’s providing homework. And, on top of all that, perhaps those of us who have been able to use some of the balm he provides to soothe our own inflamed relationships provide a favor to him in return by offering our “I once was blind, but now I see” comments here as testimonials.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Sigh. Let me try to be as succinct as humanly possible.

        If Matt wants to help men stay married to their wives then the context of the messages contained here should apply to them. LIkewise, they should speak to them. If my primary language is English and I find instructions for how to do something in Japanese – while they very well may be the epitome of perfection in 1. 2. 3. step format – I won’t know because I didn’t stick around because I didn’t understand anything being said.

        I don’t know Matt “in the flesh”. You assumed when I said we were friends outside the blog that meant we physically spent time together. It’s not relevant but I wanted to clarify. We are friends insomuch as we talk about personal things behind the walls of his blog. And in those discussions I’ve asked point blank what his goal is. I’m a blogger, I get the whole blogging/traffic/marketing side of what he does. I also happen to be someone going through a divorce.

        I think we have spent as much time discussing both of those subjects equally. So – when I responded to him about his delivery it was from a different place entirely than where you are, Travis.

        I don’t do sports but it might be like a coach giving a player pointers about his game and the fan chiming in with disagreement. I get that you’re passionate about the message of Matt’s blog but I want him to be successful all the way around. I’ve talked to Matt about what his future plans are so I think I know a few things. I can only guess you’ve talked to him about these things too, and that’s why you can be so adamant that he’s already doing all he can to reach the people he wants to reach?

        I think I’ll keep my comments, from here on out, to myself and the dogs. If I have anything to share with Matt re: blogging I’ll reach out to him personally.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottmsn says:

        Deanna,

        Thanks for your response. Apparently, I misunderstood your comments about several things including giving you the benefit of thinking you were writing these connects under duress. You don’t like sugar coating cool. I’ll serve how you like it.

        Through my filter (and you’re right we all have them) your word choices are rude and insulting. Now I have no idea how you will receive that sentence through your filter. But they are blunt and not sugar coated as you said you like it. Probably you won’t agree. Maybe I am the only person who would read it that way. I doubt it but who cares.

        Here’s my genuine thought for you. Maybe YOU (with a male name) should write a blog to men since you seem to have a good grasp of what you think is needed. And I have no doubt that with your background in construction and the military that you genuinely do have a good take on certain types of men.

        You make assumptions though that all shitty husbands are like this. Clearly Matt was a shitty husband who is not as you are describing. My husband, Travis and Drew are not “your” type of men that wouldn’t “get” this blog. Whatever. There are all types of shitty husbands in the world.

        Maybe it’s your calling to reach the type you understand. And the rest of us can do what we think is right. I sincerely wish you well.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        You said:

        “Matt’s kinda driving the wedge between us further apart…”

        This would be hard to read if I didn’t already know that more than half of marriages are going to end because people AREN’T dealing with the things being discussed here.

        Really hard.”

        I have no idea what she is talking about. Since I represent one of big girls in the ladies room, I can tell you that I DO NOT come here to have you give emotional validation instead of working on my marriage.

        Most of the commenters here as far as I can tell are either divorced, going through a divorce, came close to a divorce but are working on rebuilding (my situation) or have been through some crap and are trying to improve their relationship skills. Maybe you get swooning marriage proposals by email and prison pen pal requests I have no idea but that is just not what I’m seeing in the comments I read.

        Now you know that I write annoying comments disagreeing with all kinds of things you say I am not some kind of fan girl as presented. I come here to read and learn to improve my relationship understanding and skills. That’s it.

        You seem to value Deanna’s advice. Cool. I’m sure she has a lot of valuable insights on many things. But this one is just not one of them.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Lisa, If you would – copy & paste the parts of my comments that have you so riled up. Then, tell me how you’d have preferred my words had been delivered.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Deanna,

        I am all riled up aren’t I? I’m probably still pissed about the big check I had to write the IRS on Monday.

        I’m going to assume you were serious about feedback maybe you weren’t if so just ignore.

        You wrote:

        “And, since I’m probably already ticking people off I might as well go ahead and say you’re probably saying it in a tone of voice that sounds a whole lot like the chicks you’ve been engaging with. So, bring it down a notch as well” implies that Matt has lost his man card. That’s the whole shit why men don’t read his blog in the first place. They’re afraid that people will see it as hanging out with in the ladies room with a high pitched voice.

        How could you say it differently? Just say that you think he should write the posts from his old point of view and then sneak in the advice and that might reel them in to validate THEIR point of view first. I thought you had some great points to consider.

        Here’s another one:

        “Of course you’re going to have to keep hanging out in the boy’s room and stop catering to women (and the men in relationships who have already self-identified as the women in those marriages).”

        Travis has already responded to you but I assume you were thinking of him when you “self-identified as the women in those marriages”. He made that statement in the discussion we were having about gender expectations and how I get told I’m not female enough. A vulnerable admission for a especially. It’s easier for you and I to admit we have “masculine” characteristics then for a man to say the opposite because of the man-card thing.

        I get what you were trying to say with the thought about trying to reach a certain demographic of men but the word choice implied that Travis was a woman. And therefore not the real men Matt needs to reach.

        How could you say it differently? You said it in one of you other comments when you were talking about your experience with men in the military and construction. You could say you think to reach the big chunk of men who are not into introspection or reading of writing blogs, you need a bare bones “why is my wife crazy” blog. I think that has a lot of merit. My idea would be a second blog because they are all types of men and it has nothing to do with masculinity just personality types.

        Anyway, Deanna I like the different perspective you bring. I disagree with Matt in all kinds of annoying comments. He based an entire post last week on a comment I made disagreeing with him. So unlike what you said in another comment to me, I am not his adoring fan girl who tells him he’s wonderful all the time. I’m a straight shooter. I tell him he’s good when I think he is and I disagree (hopefully politely) when I don’t.

        All right. Thanks for you comment. I do have one question from a Google search standpoint. How do we know that the many people who search for “crazy wife” are men and not women. Maybe women are searching because they get called that? Is it broken down by gender? I’m not a blogger so I don’t know about how you guys do the statistics.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Lisa, You think you get what I was trying to say yet you failed to receive what I said on all points presented. How do I know? Because you offered up your version of what you thought I was saying by suggesting another way it could have been said and I know what I actually was saying. After rereading yours vs mine, I still mean to have said exactly the things I said. And it’s completely okay for you to disagree with me – after you fully digest what I actually said.

        Your suggestions to my comments seemed to run along a common theme so I’m guessing that the underlying issue with why you’re not hearing what I’m saying does as well. Or maybe not, I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. However, it is interesting to me that you brought up my military/construction background but didn’t ask what it was that I actually did in either endeavor.

        I was a linguist. I specialized in languages – specifically encoding hidden meanings within the construct of the communication. In the civil sector I carried those skills into contract negotiations between all kinds of big-egoed people with a ton of money and bigger reputations on the line. I have learned not to sugar coat or bullshit as a matter of principal. When you remove the emotions – most people sincerely appreciate my communication style. I don’t think anyone ever left the bargaining table without his ‘man-card’.

        While he says he pulls these posts out of his ass over lunch I assure you that blogging takes an enormous amount of time. I’m sure Matt will agree that one blog is more than enough.

        By the way, I don’t believe I ever called you a fan girl. So, if something was said off the cuff that you took personally, I’d ask you to reconsider any ill will you believe I have towards you and give me the benefit of the doubt. If you come across it – call it to my attention. If, in the future, I ever intend to direct a comment towards you or anyone specifically, you’ll know. I don’t play those kinds of games.

        I can get you the general statistics on those search results I pulled. Matt’s actually asked a similar thing in the background as well. The good & bad thing about today’s internet is that we’re all tracked pretty efficiently. For those with good intentions, it goes a long way to help direct blog posts towards those who you really want to target – if you know how to utilize the information.

        I will say one last thing specifically to you, Lisa and Travis. I’m newer here and today was the first time I really spoke up and the both of you came out – arms swinging. it didn’t go unnoticed, ZDrew, that you took the criticism in stride. Thank you.

        Now, I’m a big girl who’s handled mean spirited people over on my own website but I caution you guys to remember that other folks might not agree with what Matt’s saying; might not understand and need a little more clarification and if the first thing they see is the calvary coming in to defend the land? Chances are they won’t bother coming back.

        And less traffic means less audience. Less audience means less effectiveness. And I know for a fact, that is not what Matt is hoping to do with the time he spends here.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Deanna said,

        “I caution you guys to remember that other folks might not agree with what Matt’s saying; might not understand and need a little more clarification…”

        And if you’re attempting to equate the post you made to which Lisa and I took umbrage as a simple lack of understanding and request for clarification on your part, then I say so much for your mantra that your comments present no bullshit. I know my phrasing seems harsh, and I’m not proud of taking such a tone, but I have to assume you’ll appreciate it. If you feel confident that it is Lisa’s and my thoughts that would be inclined to chase fresh faces from the premises, not yours, then gosh, I just don’t know what else to say here. I guess you do you, Deanna, and I’ll do me. I may not be a fan whatsoever of how you choose to communicate, or your advice for how Matt can improve this blog, but I’m not being disingenuous when I say I hope you find what you’re looking for somewhere.

        Lisa,

        Deanna saying she was an expert in the field of communicating might go at least a meager way to explain why I’m not always quick to embrace the advice of so-called relationship experts, LOL.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Deanna,

        That’s cool that you were a linguist. I’m sure you are a really interesting multi-faceted person with all kinds of talents. I didn’t ask about what you did in the military because you brought up the military up in a general way with your experience in construction to talk about how you are used to men wanting “just the facts” (or something like that just going by memory).

        I know you did not literally call me a fan girl. I just found it funny and so used that term because I have taken so much heat in other comments (not from you obviously) on previous posts for not agreeing with Matt and wholeheartedly accepting what he says about “men’s intentions”. It was in response to this part of your comment to me.

        “I get it, you all love Matt & the way he does things. That’s fine. It really is. Except that I think people are forgetting that you guys, the ones getting on my case, are happy in your marriages and working at staying married. Matt’s focus really isn’t on you”

        I would be delighted to give Matt feedback for how to improve his blog and or his mission to reach more people prevent divorces. I don’t love all the way Matt does things especially moderating the comments. Nor was my marriage happy not that long ago. So no, I am not a man but I was in a “shitty marriage” for a long time and am still learning new skills to improve. That’s why I come here.

        About your comment that I came out swinging on you a newbie commenter. It was not my intention to come out swinging or make you feel attacked in any way. I don’t know how long you’ve been commenting because I’m fairly new too but I remember several comments you have made previously about how useless this blog was in your estimation several times before. Not reaching real men, no concrete advice etc. I responded one time and recommended a Gottman book and you found that worthless and insulting as I remember. It was cool, everyone is different in what they find helpful. And you had some comments saying you were open to being called out. So I tried to have some dialogue with you today but clearlyI haven’t phrased things in a way that have been helpful.

        Maybe I’m wrong and everyone else on this blog has read your comments in a totally different way. Possibly my filter is just distorted in reading all that man card fail into your comment. But clearly my filter and yours don’t line up so I will let you and Matt and Zombiedrew talk amongst yourselves in the future. But I do wish you well and I think you have good ideas.

        I will let you have the last word if you have the energy. I’m all good here.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          You just called me a crappy blog-comment moderator!

          I don’t know for sure what you mean entirely, but I’ll bet anything you’re right.

          I should program some Chat Bots to “talk” like me, and let them loose here.

          I bet Chat Bots worship Satan and listen to Reba.

          Remember that one time you asked someone if they would have read the Hitler post if I’d used Satan as the example instead?

          I’m still laughing about that.

          One more question: Have you ever had Dasani Sparkling water?

          I just tried to drink the Berry-flavored kind, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I haven’t had anything so terrible since taste-testing Beverly (the drink; not a random woman named Bev) at Epcot last year.

          In fact, I think Dasani Sparkling IS Beverly, or at the very least, that some woman with HORRIBLE tastes (and whose name is Beverly) invented Dasani Sparkling water.

          It’s so important that you never drink it. Reba’s music is so much better. For real.

          Like

      • Deanna says:

        Travis, I’m not looking for anything actually. From the word go you had issue with my comments and frankly, they’ve always been out of line. This isn’t your blog. You’re not Matt’s spokesman regardless how passionate you are about what you think he’s doing here. What I was saying in my comments below – with an element of tact which I’ll go ahead and discard now – is that when an average Joe stumbles across this blog he might miss a lot of what Matt is trying to say because Matt talks over a lot of people’s heads. Not on purpose but he does. That’s not my opinion, it’s just true. The language contained within the blog does not cater to the 8th grade reading level as recommended by all experts on the subject.

        And that’s fine because Matt, while being intellectual, isn’t an asshole. However, the comments below? Should the reader go ahead and scroll on down? I can’t say the same for.

        And I’ll leave it at that. Since I’m practicing boundaries I’ll let you know upfront I won’t let you goad me into any more conversation on the topic. I’ve had enough of your passive-aggressive commentary.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          And now we are all friends! Friends who sometimes, or possibly never, talk to each other.

          And then we all turned on TNT and rooted for the Cleveland Cavaliers, because, yay, playoffs.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You said: “I had some shit happen in my life a few years ago, that’s kind of still going on, and it broke me open. All the shit I had previously tried to avoid, I now have to deal with. And I just know that even when I want love/affection/empathy, if I’m not good with myself (again, well differentiated), I’m sadly, oh so very sadly, not able to receive it. Ok, this is a silly example, but my mother and her husband have a dog. He’s just the sweetest thing, so cuddly and loving, he’s just amazing. But honestly, when I’m frozen/numb/anxious/whatever else because I’ve not fully healed my own pain and it’s taking up a lot of space in me, I am just. not. able. to receive, to really feel, the love and affection, and be healthily attached to the dog if you will (lol). And this is a dog! A DOG! A DOG!!!!! I know he won’t judge me! He litererally can’t chose to leave my life (although I’m so scared for the day he’ll die, I think that’s part of thE problem)! He’s probably never or at least very rarely failed to respond with affection, lol. I think David Scnarch mentioned a somewhat similar example in one of his book, of a woman complaining that she wanted more intimacy and more connection… but when it really came down to it and she had the opportunity for the connection she said she wanted, she wasn’t able to really stand that level of intimacy.”

        I thank you for being willing to be so open. You know, people think that PTSD only happens to people in wars. But there is a lot of other shit that causes real trauma just like being in a war. Because it takes away our safety and we live in a state of fear and high alert. It makes it almost impossible to make ourselves vulnerable to love in any form even a dog. So, I don’t know what you went through but the after effects you are describing sounds pretty horrible. You are a super intelligent person and I give you all the credit in the world for facing it. I KNOW you can can get over this load of shit that was unfairly dealt to you and feel safe again. I wish I knew you in person, but all I can do is send you love through the internet and best wishes to heal and be able to feel safe and loved soon. Because you deserve it.

        (I went through something with PTSD symptoms and developed severe social anxiety and all kinds of attachment issues. Mine involved a cat instead of a dog though. :) I have recovered from a lot of that through facing hard emotions and reading lots of books so I KNOW it can be done. I am so proud of all the hard work you are obviously doing to deal with this. It will pay off!)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt you said:
        “You just called me a crappy blog-comment moderator!

        I don’t know for sure what you mean entirely, but I’ll bet anything you’re right.

        I should program some Chat Bots to “talk” like me, and let them loose here.

        I bet Chat Bots worship Satan and listen to Reba.

        Remember that one time you asked someone if they would have read the Hitler post if I’d used Satan as the example instead?

        I’m still laughing about that.

        One more question: Have you ever had Dasani Sparkling water?

        I just tried to drink the Berry-flavored kind, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I haven’t had anything so terrible since taste-testing Beverly (the drink; not a random woman named Bev) at Epcot last year.

        In fact, I think Dasani Sparkling IS Beverly, or at the very least, that some woman with HORRIBLE tastes (and whose name is Beverly) invented Dasani Sparkling water.

        It’s so important that you never drink it. Reba’s music is so much better. For real.”

        I didn’t call you “a crappy blog-comment moderator!” That is your filter man.

        Perhaps based on this comment thread you would prefer I say you’re a high pitched man fail hanging out with the Big Girls and “girly” Travis n the Ladies Room. You can call me Big Lisa and we can drink Dasani Sparklng water while discussing conflict avoidant behaviors. LOL

        P.S. I did say I was a “shitty communicator” didn’t I? I really, really tried to keep it all David Burn’s Feeling Good Together. But then I ran out of Doritos.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Maybe you should keep some Cheetos around for emergencies.

          And not those crap Puffs, either. I’m talking original, crunchy Cheetos.

          I’m not a massive snack food guy.

          But, it’s not impossible to sometimes find Cheetos here.

          My 2nd grader’s favorite snack chips are Cool Ranch Doritos. I think those are suspect. Like cheese puff Cheetos.

          It’s important to me that I never drink Dasani Sparkling again. It tastes like someone took original NyQuil, then sprinkled in used locker room towels and boiled cabbage nuggets.

          People who eat mayonnaise and banana sandwiches think Dasani Sparkling tastes gross.

          You get the idea. It’s terrible.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said:

        “Lisa,

        Deanna saying she was an expert in the field of communicating might go at least a meager way to explain why I’m not always quick to embrace the advice of so-called relationship experts, LOL.”

        Yes, and now you understand why as an approach 3 research person I quote Gottman so much.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        Look I get it . Obviously, it’s your blog man, moderate or not as you wish. Just from a sense of curiosity, sometimes you go HARD after some random guy and then like today not a lot of response. You’re mysterious. But I am but a lowly random commentor so I shall resume my proper submissive stance.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        I’m screwded already today in terms of my David Burn’s Feeling Good Together so I’ll just start again tomorrow.

        The thing I love about your blog in addition to the posts is the comment section. Such intelligent people with such polite discussion. it appears that may be changing and that makes me sad. See here’s a sad face to prove it :(

        My concern is about a lack of safety when discussing such vulnerable topics that may be used later in a comment without moderation as happened today. (see Travis “woman”)

        But as I said before I decided to type this very unsubmissive comment, it’s your blog and your choice to moderate or not. But if not, it may lead to less vulnerable and honest responses. Maybe that’s perfectly fine. Maybe it’s better. Who knows? But it will be different.

        Enjoy your cheetos!

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I probably fail, but here’s my general take.

          I’m anti-censorship. I’m a MAJOR free speech advocate and don’t like the idea of policing how adults speak.

          I accept criticism and personal attacks on me.

          I DO NOT accept personal attacks on others, nor hate speech, though there are certainly some misogynistic comments on the dishes post, and some attacks between people (or toward me here and there).

          My favorite thing about how vibrant these comments have been lately is how they might provide resources and food for thought to readers in a way my writing never can not will.

          I hope people will keep having these conversations.

          But hate speech and/or name calling won’t be tolerated (except toward me). I hope you don’t feel as if you can’t say what’s on you mind. Here, you can and should.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        You said
        “I probably fail, but here’s my general take.

        I’m anti-censorship. I’m a MAJOR free speech advocate and don’t like the idea of policing how adults speak.

        I accept criticism and personal attacks on me.

        I DO NOT accept personal attacks on others, nor hate speech, though there are certainly some misogynistic comments on the dishes post, and some attacks between people (or toward me here and there).

        My favorite thing about how vibrant these comments have been lately is how they might provide resources and food for thought to readers in a way my writing never can not will.

        I hope people will keep having these conversations.

        But hate speech and/or name calling won’t be tolerated (except toward me). I hope you don’t feel as if you can’t say what’s on you mind. Here, you can and should.”

        What we are having right now is a dishes conversation, except I’m not your wife, or your friend, just a random female commentor.

        I am telling you, and I may be the only person here that feels this way, that this is a safety issue as much as hate speech and/or name calling.

        You obviously have a different perspective, hey this is a dishes thing. Cool!

        I am just throwing it out there so you will know how I feel. Maybe other people feel that way too, maybe not. Maybe you don’t care. It’s your blog so you can care about what you care about.

        But you can’t say you haven’t been told.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          So, wait. Define “safety.”

          I’m missing something because of obliviousness. I assume you don’t mean physical safety.

          I’m super tired and not many minutes away from falling asleep, so I’m also not at the top of my game.

          In a free-speech environment, different people will at times disagree. I’m okay with that.

          I think there’s a VERY HIGH level of discourse here relative to what I generally see online, and I’m grateful for that.

          Many of these things are emotional topics and people will sometimes disagree. Maybe even argue.

          I’m not inclined to A. Pay attention 24/7 (it’s impossible), but more importantly B. Try to tell adults how to speak to each other as a command.

          No hate speech. No insults unless they’re toward me. When I see nonsense, I try to stop it as I tried to do in this thread.

          You may be talking about something more significant. I may be missing a point related to threats or cyber stalking or something else.

          That is serious and I care.

          But squabbles in the comments? I don’t care. Because I don’t like people telling me what I can and can’t say, I try to reciprocate it.

          Please fire me a note privately if I’m being a excessively moronic. I do that sometimes.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa, I truly appreciate your safety concerns. Though valid, and though they go beyond anything specific to me, I nevertheless want to assure you that the only offense I took from anything Deanna said today was on Matt’s behalf, not my own. Because of society’s influence, I do bear an occasional internal struggle when somebody refers to me as ‘girly’ (or some other variation thereof intended as an insult or negative character judgment), but society’s tastes always lose that battle. Frankly, I feel rather proud and self-actualized that I concern myself with, and care about, a richer form of human experience than most men I’ve ever met. It certainly commits me to a life as a stranger in a strange land but, on the other hand, to my own self, I’ve always been true. I relish the fact that, unlike the vast majority of the people I’ve met throughout my life, I’m quite comfortable in my own skin.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt and Travis,

        Look I don’t think you guys are understanding what I’m saying. This is a very typical gendered response division about internet comments. Reddit and Twitter cried free speech, no moderation unless physical safety is involved.

        I don’t speak for anyone but myself. I will say that this is part of a bigger discussion about how men and women view safety. (maybe a blog post someday). Of course, today’s discussion wasn’t about physical safety. It’s about safety of information. Is this a blog that is safe for me to come and share very intimate vulnerable details and they will not be used against me and if they are the moderator will step in. The answer is clearly no this is not a safe place anymore. Now cool you want to prioritize non-censorship awesome. That’s a valid choice.

        Then I have a different choice to make. You don’t want to moderate. I am perfectly capable of going all Bobby Knight on the comment threads (did you know that was my husband’s nickname for me?) I was trying today to be all David Burns nice. I am fully capable of unleashing all amounts of wrath but I will be careful to not call names or have hate speech cause then I’ll be free to say whatever I want to whoever I want. Cause free speech right?

        But I don’t want to do that, so I will just go away. No big loss, there are plenty more commenters out there and I am messing up the gender ratio anyway.

        But it’s disturbing that we are having this discussion on a post about can Shitty Husbands Change? This is a dishes discussion.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          That’s interesting. I didn’t know about this macro-level-conversation RE: safety that was happening on the Internet.

          I also didn’t know there was a predictable response from either gender, but please rest assured THAT irony isn’t lost on me at all.

          It’s 3 a.m. and maybe there’s more clarity to be had on this topic from reading other stories and hearing other opinions. I OFTEN change my mind about something because of a well-made argument, especially here in the comments.

          I’m open to the idea that maybe someday, I’ll change my mind about this one too.

          First, it should be said that the practical implementation of a Matt Moderates 100% of MBTTTR Blog Comments Policy would look something like speed limit law enforcement. It could only work if I witnessed it. That would require me to read EVERY blog comment with such focus that I identified a situation in which a commenter felt unsafe because of information left in a previous comment.

          Lisa, there are 50-200 comments left per day here, some of which are as long an individual blog post.

          Even if I wanted to police adult conversation, it would be a bit like me promising my 7-year-old will never misbehave at school even though I might only be with him 15 percent of his waking hours–pointless and empty. I can’t control what my son does at school (only influence) any more than I can read and understand every post here.

          Then there’s a matter of context. Until a few minutes ago, I didn’t even know what you meant when you said “safety.”

          I guess the only thing I could offer would be the promise that if someone contacted me to say: “Hey Matt! This comment over here made me feel unsafe!” and then explained to me why, perhaps I’d understand and then could privately contact the other commenter and say “Hey! One of your comments made another commenter feel unsafe because X, Y, and Z. Please don’t do that anymore.”

          But it makes sense to me that Twitter and Reddit would respond to similar requests like this with the fundamental protection of free speech.

          I was a newspaper reporter for a decade and I took it VERY seriously. This freedom of speech/freedom of the press/freedom of expression. That I live in a society where the government won’t squash my voice even if it’s one of dissent.

          It is a CHERISHED value of mine. Not a internet disagreement copout. Something that I feel passionate about in my bones.

          That we all have the fundamental right to disagree with another person, even a big and powerful entity like a wealthy business or a military-controlling government.

          Without freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, maybe we’re still fighting the civil rights fights of the 1960s in the U.S. Without freedom of expression, maybe women are still being burned at the stake as “witches” because ignorant people were irrationally afraid of them.

          Again, maybe someone will say the right thing to me and I’ll change my tune.

          But my gut reaction to anyone requesting that I restrict speech any more than I already do (I’ve never discussed it, so no one but me even knows what I don’t let through here) is that it would go against my core beliefs and values to do so.

          I’d HATE to see you go away, Lisa. You’re hilarious, brilliant, important, friendly, and force people to ask themselves important questions. Including me.

          But I this might be one of those boundaries you’ll need to enforce for yourself if you feel that strongly about it. Like the lady who wouldn’t read the Hitler post.

          I want you to be here.

          I also want my little boy to be able to play on YouTube or wherever and not hear profanity or see pornography if I don’t monitor his usage.

          But that’s not the world we live in.

          And for better or worse, I’m GLAD protective parents can’t mandate that YouTube or whoever not share whatever content they want to share.

          I won’t let another commenter call you a name I find offensive (if I see it) because I believe in kindness. And I don’t give a shit if some childish name caller feels like their free speech was violated on my silly blog.

          But I WILL let people call me names I find offensive because I try hard to be principled, even when it’s inconvenient.

          I care way more about a person’s right to speak what’s on their mind than I care about the degree to which I agree with it.

          I’d like to believe you and everyone else know that I want you to feel safe here. I want everyone in the world to feel safe everywhere.

          But in the end, where people choose to go and with whom they choose to engage is a personal choice.

          Some will feel safer than others.

          It has never felt safe for me to write here as I do. It’s why I still mostly keep it a secret in my personal life, with most coworkers and many friends and acquaintances having no idea I do this.

          Some things aren’t safe. They’re just worth doing anyway.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        Here are the questions I am supposed to ask you per today’s post.

        “Do you know why I am upset with you?”

        Or.

        “When you think back to [insert personal experience] and how that hurt you—on the inside—do you understand that I feel similarly right now?”

        So there you go.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        Since my original message was completely misconstrued most likely as a result of negatively receiving and deciphering the metaphor I used to deliver it, I’ll reconstruct. Maybe this will clear things up.

        Matt – The information presented in the posts within this blog is gold. However, it is my opinion that it would be advantageous and help to achieve the results you and I have discussed that you’re seeking if you took that information and presented it from a different vantage point.

        Recently, it seems that the tone of your posts and subsequent comments have favored the “wife’s” position. Referring to her husband as “shitty” would more than likely put him on the immediate defense were he to happen upon your writing unintentionally. It’s hard for me to believe that he would then willingly consume the information you’re earnestly attempting to share with him if, to his own ears, you sound like she does.

        Because I know it is your sincere desire that he does stick around to hear what you’ve got to say on the matter since you’ve been there – in his very shoes – I’m asking you to consider doing just that. Tell him in succinct detail what it feels like to be in those shoes. This, as you’ve espoused, would be quite empathetic. Tell him what you now know that you should have done back then to change the situation, but do it from his point of view, in his voice, through his eyes.

        It’s easy to see based on the comments sections that regularly follow your blogs that what is said and how it’s said within your posts stirs up emotions in women and intellectual types. While the information passed back and forth there is valuable, I wonder if it represents the everyday “shitty” husband. I wonder if it doesn’t further confound or condemn the very person you’d hope to reach if they visited that space.

        Back when you were Shitty Husband Matt how would you have felt if you’d come to a space where you were told that you were shitty? Would you have objectively sifted through the information tossed out – the book recommendations, the expert opinions, the ‘big word’ analogies and high level hypotheses – to figure out which part of all that noise you contributed to and could control? I concede some will and some do but how many don’t? How many shitty husbands are force-fed your blog URL and then insulted by what they find here?

        I don’t know. You don’t know. None of the commenters and other readers here know. But I care and I know you care.

        As you’ve mentioned multiple times before, no one is taught the things you’ve come to learn and hold dear during the formative years. This blog is your chance to do just that. So it would be quite valuable for the shitty husband to want to be here to learn what you have to teach. Meeting him at his level, offering life lessons in language he can firmly grasp without much maneuvering while sounding like someone he can relate to would, I’m certain, appeal to your target audience.

        So, taking a different approach doesn’t mean changing who you are or what you say. It doesn’t mean offending those who you’ve already reached and who willingly return to continue to learn from you. But it very well could mean reaching those people who couldn’t understand what was being said before.

        You won’t know until you try.

        I know that when I find someone who comes from a place I’m at I’m more than happy to return again and again to hear what they have to say on the matter. Once I feel they are, indeed, an authority on the subject and have put my trust in their words, experiences and techniques I’m quite willing to join the conversation, ask questions and test what I’ve learned in my own life.

        But if I come across something too big for me to understand? Too confrontational in theory? Too ‘noisy’ in my already loud and obnoxious world?

        I’m out.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          I understand and appreciate your stance on this.

          I already believed everything you just did a nice job of summarizing here.

          And I think you’re probabably right. I’m not sure I know what it looks like.

          The stuff I write here is ME.

          If you sit down at a table with me, and we talk, it sounds just like this stuff. I jump around to different things. I talk fast. I say bad words. I goof off a lot like a 16-year-old. And I have a solid vocabulary, but just kind-of-okay grammar.

          The energy part of this is taxing for me, but the execution part is not. Because all I do is think of one little point I want to make, and then I write five times as many words as necessary in order to make it.

          BOOM. That’s the blog.

          Your question is direct, challenging, and fair: “Don’t you want this shit to be as effective as possible?”

          Yes.

          But I don’t think I could spit out blog posts doing what you’re discussing.

          But I do think (with help) maybe I could assemble something here on the blog or otherwise that made it all more palatable for the kind of guy you’re talking about.

          I use the label “shitty husband” super-liberally and loosely.

          By the letter of the law, a SHITTY husband would be someone who sucks and is mean and abusive and a cheat and whatever else.

          I mean it a bit more playfully than that, though I can appreciate that someone reading it through the prism of a wife or girlfriend saying: “See!? See!? I TOLD you that you were an asshole!!!” that most people will tune it out right away.

          Like the Hitler post, people will see what they want to (or at the very least, are conditioned to) see.

          I’ve told you a couple of times already, I don’t always agree with your tone or word choice, or even the actual substance of what you’re saying. But about THIS, I do, and I appreciate it because I know you have this content’s best intentions at heart, as I do.

          You’re saying, reframed, this same stuff can help people more effectively than it currently is.

          I buy that wholeheartedly, and promise to think about ways to execute making that happen without abandoning what I naturally do by simply writing what’s on my mind as I think of it.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt, I wrote a response this morning to the great free speech/dishes debate.

        It ended up somewhere else in another thread. I would so appreciate it if you could use your magic blog powers to delete it.

        It was unkind and for all my faults I am not intentionally unkind. So I want to sincerely apologize to you for that and wish you well.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          You don’t owe me any apologies, Lisa. The day I think you’re unkind, I’ll let you know. (That will be never.)

          You truly thought I was being an asshole. And you said so.

          It’s actually a really great example of what mostly happens in everyone’s marriages, and I think for the few people who might read it, it can be a worthwhile exercise.

          Hopefully by now, you’ve seen my response and taken me at my word… I didn’t even KNOW anything serious was going on.

          I thought we were talking about Reba and Satan, while we were actually talking about the dignity and respect and appreciation you’re owed as an important part of this (What is it?… a community?… I don’t know)… that you are.

          I didn’t like when I realized I did the same thing I pretty much always do: I obliviously did my thing, and not realizing context (do to inattention), doing my thing felt like something else.

          Remember when I said: Sometimes I wonder if simply BEING ME means I can never have a healthy long-term relationship?

          You just experienced WHY I say and feel that.

          This happens to me A LOT. Like, I don’t know… my guess is most people don’t tell me about it because I’m mostly really nice.

          But I’ve lost friends and struggle with staying in touch with people because of this sort of thing.

          This is what really opened my eyes to Emotional Labor. Once I realized how ill-prepared I was to live alone from a life management and organization standpoint (remembering birthdays, buying and sending cards, getting gifts, marking my calendar, planning ahead and communicating those plans so I don’t have schedule conflicts)… these are ALL things my mother did until college, then I wasn’t expected to do in college, then my fiancee/wife did for the 12 years prior to my divorce, and for the last three years I’ve had to slowly improve (but still fail miserably at).

          THIS is why I’m so able to grasp how exhausting the expectations of emotional labor can be for wives and mothers.

          Because it’s freaking exhausting, Lisa. I don’t have the mental stamina to deal effectively with:

          1. Full-time job
          2. Entrepreneurial start-up agency
          3. Father with 50% shared-parenting agreement
          4. Blog
          5. Book project
          6. Social calendar
          7. Son’s extracurriculars
          8. House maintenance
          9. Life stuff (weddings, funerals, graduations, holidays, etc.)
          10. Other random surprises

          I have a VERY hard time managing text, email, regular mail, voice messages, social media notifications, and these blog comments while trying not to drop the ball in all my other life areas.

          I’m in a constant state of treading water, and I swallow a bit more than I’m comfortable with sometimes.

          There’s a chance that sounded whiny and overly defensive.

          But people DO NOT understand how busy and frantic my life feels absent adult help of any kind and no stable routine for the past three years.

          And that’s not just you. That’s people who see me often.

          The good news with them is, they know my character, and have a front-row seat to the madness, thus we never have any painful conflicts.

          Through the occasionally fuzzy prism of the written word, uncomfortable disagreement is a lot easier to manufacture.

          I’m still sorry, Lisa, and I hope we’re able to chat soon.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        In the interest of leaving this thread on a better note I will throw out my thoughts on free speech. Like you, I am a big believer in free speech, free information, free discourse. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. All that stuff.

        I am not a big believer in ridiculous extremes on college campuses recently. Safe zones where no one has to be exposed to anything they don’t believe in it find triggering. Where conservative speakers are disinvited because they present unpopular views on campus. I believe that colleges of all places should be where you SHOULD be exposed to everything you DON’t believe or find comfortable.

        I listen to NPR and FOX. I read all kinds of blogs and websites because I believe it is my duty to challenge my thinking and understand both sides of an argument. I annoy people all the time in real like by arguing the other side of an argument that I don’t even believe just because I know there are many, many people who do and they are entitled to respect for their view.

        But I do believe in restraints. There have been many reports of harassment on many internet sources. Many more for women than men. As you probably know, women journalists get many more threats of both physical violence and just mean spirited comments on news websites. There have been many reports on the difference between how men and women are treated on the Internet. And often men dismiss it because they don’t experience it or certainly not the sheer quantity. And also because of the way that men and women experience fear in their life. Gottman’s new book talks about this. That when you ask a mixed room about if they experience fear for their safety or have to alter their plans for where to walk or park on a near daily basis most of the women raise their hands, most of the men do not and are shocked that the women do.

        Reddit and Twitter were started as free speech vehicles. They dismissed women’s concerns that they were being harassed. Free speech man. They’ve give through several battles for how to approach it. But the dismissal is what is the problem. Because you can always debate the balance between free speech and appropriate restrictions against hate speech or harassment or tone. Lots of different ways to approach it. But it should not be dismissed because free speech.

        Anyway, of course, this is not at all what I was talking about specifically yesterday. I just thought I’d throw out the big picture so you’d know I agree with you on the need for free speech and I deplore people who hide their hides and just want safety because they don’t want to hear people disagree with them. Not what I was talking about. At all. Although it is an interesting subject and us love to talk about it. Because I love interesting comment discussions about all kinds of things.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa are you leaving? :( I would be very sad to see you go, but of course that’s your choice. However, if you want to, I would like to exhange e-mails or something like that. I don’t know how the technical part works, but I was thinking maybe I could send Matt an e-mail and he could then send *you* an e-mail giving you my address (so *I* wouldn’t know your address unless you chose to write me).

        But I don’t know if it’s possible for Matt to access indivual commenters e-mails. Would you mind answering this Matt? If Matt doesn’t reply to this comment, or if it’s not possible, I’m thinking that I can create a new anonymous e-mail address for myself and post it in the comment section of Matt’s post “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose?”, and you can write me on that address if you wish it. Again, totally up to you whether or not you want to, it’s fine if you don’t. It might take me a little while though, I’m not great at these techy things. But by the end of next week I should’ve been able to figure it out. :)

        (And, I’m very low maintenance when it comes to internet-friendships, there would be no pressure to interact a lot with me, frankly I wouldn’t be able to be that active myself. I have someone in my real life that I consider a friend who I’d be happy to catch up with, but I don’t think I’ve talked to her in 5 years, lol).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          This is hilarious. Yes. If you included an actual, legit email address when you created your WordPress account, I could dig it up, and then email you. But you can make fake ones, and some users have in order to leave troll comments under the veil of anonymity which I didn’t uncover until I tried to email them only to have it rejected as invalid.

          So. that’s up to you guys. I could also talk to Lisa via FB Messenger, and skip all of the funny emailing.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        “Matt and Travis,

        Look I don’t think you guys are understanding what I’m saying.”

        Lisa, before going any further, I really want to take another moment to clarify, just in case my intention wasn’t clear in my last response, that I very much was not attempting to be dismissive of your concerns by making a statement which could have been misread as, “Thanks, Lisa, but I’m a big boy and don’t need you to run to my defense.” I actually a) feel there is a great deal of validity to the concern you are broaching with Matt and, b) was truly touched that you expressed concern for my welfare and fair treatment (re: Deanna referencing me as a “woman-ish” husband). If Matt and I (and, hell, this whole blog community) face losing your continued presence here, this is more important for me to convey to you than anything else I wrote below.

        “Matt,

        Here are the questions I am supposed to ask you per today’s post.

        ‘Do you know why I am upset with you?’

        Or.

        ‘When you think back to [insert personal experience] and how that hurt you—on the inside—do you understand that I feel similarly right now?’

        So there you go.”

        Even though I’m not the one being addressed, I’d like to take a crack at this, in part for selfish reasons. One, since you twice referenced a perception that my vulnerable admission that I am considered the “girl” in my marriage amongst my friends and family was being used against me by Deanna, I feel like I have a continued stake in the discussion. Two, this “dishes by the sink” moment presents me with a useful opportunity to practice my nascent Matt-sponsered, MBTTTR readership-approved skills at working through communication breakdowns. In short, by using you (with what I hope becomes your kind, after-the-fact permission) as a sounding board, it can only help me in similar moments with my wife when she and I are struggling to see a situation eye-to-eye.

        In terms of “Do you know why I am upset with you?” (excepting the latest critical explanation you provided this morning; more on that later), I read it as “You are concerned that this blog is losing its sense of security as a place where people can come and confess very vulnerable, naked truths about themselves, or ask very vulnerable, naked questions, and not be unfairly judged by such exposure, or have such points of confession used against them to win battle points during a disagreement, and you feel frustrated that Matt is demonstrating no motivation to change anything in regards to that slippage.”

        I think where things might have failed to connect with Matt (and certainly failed to do so with me) was simply around the issue of providing tangible examples of where such violations of commenters’ security have been taking place. Unless I’ve missed it, it seemed like the only one you aired was Deanna referring to me as ‘girly’. Though her posts yesterday are pregnant with things that I found offensive, on this single point (and I can’t believe I’m going to be defending Deanna here, but the circumstances demand it), I have to agree 100% with what she wrote this morning and say that I never once took her reference of me as the more “female” partner in my heterosexual marriage as an insult or crossing the line of appropriateness. To me, it was simply a fair contrast of the kind of husband I labelled myself with perhaps a more knuckle-dragging, Cro-Magnan stereotype of a husband. It was way off base for her to imply men of my sensibilities are in less need of what Matt writes here, but it wasn’t for her to simply label me as I’d labeled myself. On this single, isolated point, it is my honest opinion that it isn’t fair to Deanna to accuse her of using the label of me as the girl in my marriage in a derogatory manner.

        That being said, if there are other examples of where you do see a person/people crossing the line and using personal confessions as intellectual or emotional weapons against the confessor, then that’s totally alarming and, yes, needs to be addressed. For me, the struggle is that none of these examples (unless, again, I missed them, and apologies in advance if you subsequently show where I have) had yet been stated. So when Matt said, “please define what you mean by ‘safety’”, I bet he was honestly saying “I’m halfway there with you. I’m beginning to understand why you’re upset, I’m just not seeing tangible examples of what is making you upset so I can consider action steps.” Matt can’t fix it (or definitively choose not to fix it) if he can’t recognize what it looks like. To return to the de facto dishes example, it would be like saying, “When you do that thing you do with the dishes, it hurts me!” The husband’s natural first thought, before deciding which path to take in the “Oh my! Shame on me! I would never want to hurt you!”/”Who gives a rip, you crazy dingbat? It’s just friggin’ dishes!” fork in the road, is going to be, “What do you mean by ‘thing’ I do with the dishes?”

        “Matt,

        This is about me and my feelings. Just like the dishes.

        You are responding like a shitty husband.

        There are many ways to moderate a blog. I am sure that you know this. But under your free speech model, one practical way is when you notice a long thread full of “difficult” comments.
        Maybe take a look see But you made the decision to respond to me (!) and talk about stupid sparkling water.

        That was your moderation. Incredibly dismissive of whatever my real concerns might have been. What were my concerns at that point? Clearly you had no idea. Just s crazy woman (!) bitching about the dishes. Better to sit in my chair and make a dismissive joke and ignore it and watch basketball. I would have FAR preferred that you not respond at all to me than make stupid dismissive comments. Because being dismissed through jokes makes the other person feel disrespected.

        If at that point you had written a comment responding to the EMOTION of upset in an EMPATHETIC way. It would have all been good. I am a reasonable person. Not right now but in general. But the irony of being dismissed by the very guy who writes posts about shitty husbands dismissing they’re wives on a post about Can Bad Husbands Change? It’s too much man. I can’t handle that shitload of irony.

        Just like the dishes. You think my concerns are invalid. Cool. You think I should not be upset. Cool. So instead of responding to the upset emotions you DISMISS me. Sound familiar? Does any of this sound familiar? Have you learned Matt?”

        So now is the point where I go from my thoughts based on everything you said last night to what you are now clarifying with laser precision this morning. And, Lisa, I’m right there with you. I totally relate. When things were getting heated between Deanna and the duo of you and me, Matt’s attempts at defusing the situation came off as very dismissive, conflict avoidant, and irritatingly glib. They seemed unusually limp and non-commital from someone who regularly pushes people to engage in tough conversations in order to get to a more productive place. I will say that they didn’t grind my gears to the point that they did for you, however. I gave Matt the benefit of the doubt that it was late, so he might have been tired; he might have had one foot in being a father and another foot in being an employee and might, therefore, have had no foot left to properly engage with what was happening here; he might have been alarmed that (for the first time I remember) some real hostility was building in the comments section wherein he wasn’t the direct target of it, and he had a clumsy moment of not knowing how to effectively deal with it. But, yeah, it irritated me. When he said, “And now we are all friends! Friends who sometimes, or possibly never, talk to each other. And then we all turned on TNT and rooted for the Cleveland Cavaliers, because, yay, playoffs.”, I rolled my eyes and said to myself, c’mon, man, we deserve better than that. Shit’s getting real up in here so either bring your wisdom or bring down a hammer, but don’t just throw in some condescending, “Ooh, look everybody! What’s that shiny spot on the wall?”-style redirection. But at the same time that I agree Matt failed us in some of those closing moments yesterday, I do really, really feel for him because it’s as though, as someone presenting a kind of daily wisdom, he progressively is only allowed to be a teacher of it, never a learner from it. Matt’s going through the same process we all are. He’s trying to get better. Get better at being a man. Get better at being a husband. Get better at life. And intellectually, he’s making major, major strides, the kind of strides that have attracted all of our attentions because the conclusions he’s been reaching for himself make a kind of universal sense. But just like the rest of us, he’s still trying to integrate what he intellectually realizes with what his heart and behavioral habits likely struggle to absorb as easily as his mind. Each situation Matt encounters in life offers him an opportunity to put his words into demonstrable actions, yes. He owes it to his readers and himself to hold himself to the very highest standards, yes. But each situation he encounters in life also offers a challenge for him to comprehend how it might prove to be tantamount to situations he’s learned from in the past. As rapier sharp as Matt is, he’s not always going to be able to quickly and succinctly realize how a “what LisaR. is saying about safety in the blog comments” moment equates to a “what my ex-wife was saying about leaving out dirty dishes” one. As we cleave to Matt for his superlative insights, I hope we can all give him the courtesy of remembering that he’s still learning how to integrate his own philosophies into his own everyday practice.

        In closing,
        • I am sincerely sorry if you are offended by anything I’ve written here from the standpoint of “Well, Travis, I never asked you.” That would be quite fair of you to feel, but not at all what I was aiming for.
        • I will echo what Matt said (“I’d HATE to see you go away”) and move it from passive to active phrasing—please don’t leave, Lisa, if you can stand it at all to see this sore moment through. You have great worth here. You have expanded my thinking. You have challenged me to move outside of my comfort zone. You have forced me to consider things that don’t come to my way of thinking easily. I am made better by your presence here. So is Matt. He’s going to fail. He’s going to be occasionally (unintentionally, I’m quite sure) hypocritical. But I believe he’s dedicated to working it out. I believe he wants to be held accountable. I believe he wants to do better in increasingly larger margins than he fails. I believe he needs you to believe in him.

        (Now watch. All the while I was working thorough this post and making sure it was constructed as effectively as I could, there have probably been a ton of new replies that already addressed this stuff more effectively, LOL.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis, Donkey, and Matt,

        All the drama I have caused! I appreciate you guys! Even though I was cranky yesterday and not my usual unicorn of love farting theories and rainbows wherever I go!

        Donkey, I’m not leaving just taking a little comment break though ive already posted two so you can see how committed I am there. I would be delighted to swap emails with you. You are great to talk to and I would enjoy sharing ideas with you via email.

        Travis, thanks for your comments. You’ve gone from my annoying brother in law to my goofy brother who though we don’t see eye to eye we can share jokes and good will.

        Matt, I left you a comment on the other comment where I was a bed girl and said mean things but I’ll share this vides again here cause I find this video hilarious. I don’t know why because my son said it was funny but not hilarious. You be the judge. You seen like a guy who meditates all the time (while eating Cheetos.)

        PS bad language alert do not play if sensitive
        I know this doesn’t apply to Matt whose favorite word is shitty :)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. shannon says:

    There’s changing deep seated emotional things and there is changing small, habitual things. The point of the “glass left in the sink” is that many of the day to day shittiness of life resides in small, easily remedied things. When one, so often the wife, cannot even get her husband to care about the small but myriad things that eat up her attention, time, energy and love, boy, does it feel bad. You think “all the things I do willingly for him because they are important to him, and he can’t even do (or not do) this little bullshit for me? He sees how much it upsets me/infuriates me/takes time for me to do/takes me time away/piles up/makes me work harder/longer, and HE CAN”T EVEN pick up his socks/put his shoes away/not walk dirt all over the floor I just mopped/hang up his coat,sweatshirt, jacket/put this dishes away/put things back in the fridge the way he found them/voluntarily without being reminded take out the trash/mow the lawn/ etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. until the wife is under a mountain of a to do list, can’t trust her husband to do what he says he will, can’t get time for herself. And Kaboom. All the small shit he could not be bothered with results in a big emotional blow up/fight/repeated fights/disillusionment/not caring anymore/defeat/divorce. Very few divorces and unhappinesses in my circle of friends are from cheating, gambling, alcoholism. Most of them were from the huge, overwhelming mountain of little things that showed the wives the hundreds of ways her husband didn’t care for or about her. So no, Matt is not being hard on himself. Had he been harder on himself before she got fed up, he would probably stayed married. I think people who get away with little, constant selfishnesses need to be hard on themselves. Very hard. As for forgiveness – of course they should be forgiven. A few times. Just not hundreds of times. For years. Matt, you are gutsy in that you are actually being as hard on yourself as you and many, many others should be or even better, have been. Because if you had been, you may still be married.

    Like

    • ^^^. I love your comment. Because it’s so true. Every.single.word.

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      I think you are very right Shannon and Twocheatingheart!

      I have not been in either situation, so granted, I may well be wrong, and other people who feel differently as I know some do are welcome to their feelings. I’ve said this before on this blog, so I guess I just want to preach to the choir here a little bit. 8)

      I honestly believe an affair (if the partner stopped and made meaningful amends, and unless it went on for a looong time) would be easier for me to get over and forgive than years of mountains of shitty behaviour where my needs and time and worth as an equal partner isn’t respected in a marriage, even if that wasn’t the intention.

      Obviously with infidelity, trust is broken, it’s so very hurful, if deseases are caught and spread and people get pregnant, that is a HUGE deal in addition to everything else. But honestly? If a man of mine were to sleep with another, he wouldn’t hurt me directly by doing that. Now, not picking up after himself day after day, year after year, not being trustworthy and competent with responisibilites – that hurts me directly. The daily betrayal, how degrading I find it. in addition to the very real extra work and stress it gives me, the time and peace of mind and ability to invest in other things it robs me of (fitness, a more demanding/interesting career if that was what I wanted), it would damage my emotional and physical health and… joi de vivre.

      To put it in cheating terms, it would be like (after a few times at least) if he kissed a woman every day, I saw it each time and asked him to not do it again and he would contemptuosly sneer “what’s the big deal?! You’re overreacting, you’re crazy!”, and in addition to that I would have to spend the extra time and effort, in addition to all the other shit I have to do everyday, to brush their teeth for them or give them a sponge bath to make them clean again or something. UGH!

      Like

  9. Rosa says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for such a wonderful website. I’m a marriage counselor and have a facebook fan page (not in English). I started translating your posts to share on my page. But I’m worried to be accused of taking sides with women. So I’m curious if you know of a similar blog written by a woman so that I can make a balance? Thank you.

    Like

  10. Ok so I had this amazing response to your post…but I deleted.
    Matt do you ever read one of your posts, shrug and just kinda want to melt into your couch? Just curious. This post made me do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. shannon says:

    If that was for me, two cheating, thanks.

    I have a true story that is about glasses by the sink. Male friend, let’s call him X, married and had a child. She left him. He remarried and had two children. Wife #2 asked him repeatedly (although I am sure there were other problems) to put his glass in the dishwasher when he was finished with it, and not leave it half-empty by the sink. His response was to fill every single glass in the house halfway and leave them all by the sink. She left him. Wife #3 was madly, madly, madly in love with him and suffered for years before she became #3. She left him for his best friend in the world and they married. Successfully. So, a little being hard on yourself goes a long way, or not….

    Like

  12. I absolutely believe people can change with if the following come from within- willing to let go of ego, see the need for change and making change by choice. My now-husband did that in the years before we met and the once-confirmed bachelor is now an amazing husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Hey Lisa. Thanks a lot for dropping in here.

      I believe it, too. I still worry about it. That’s just an honest fear. But I have a lot of faith that playing the game with a full deck is going to go much better than when I didn’t know what I was doing.

      I love hearing that everything is going well in your personal life.

      NOTE: For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, Lisa Arends is an excellent writer and coach with one of the most insane and life-shattering divorce stories I’ve ever heard. If you’re healing from divorce, or just looking for a fascinating read, it would be smart to go read Lisa’s story: https://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com/

      Liked by 2 people

  13. “What if BEING ME is, in and of itself, something that kills love and relationships? What if I’m, ultimately, not cut out for marriage?”

    This made me laugh, Matt. Hubby and I both knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that marriage wasn’t for us, that something within us obviously kills relationships. We never expressed any doubts like you are, it was a done deal, we were doomed to failure. And yet that’s not how it turned out at all, it worked, here we are defying our own expectations some 30 years later. So, we do not always know what we think we know and often the things we fear are true, aren’t true at all.

    Men can and do change all the time, and women too, and marriages can even be saved. People can take a 180 right in the middle of a disaster and change everything. I see it happen all the time. My hubby is even better than he was when we first got married. He’s changed a lot, so even in the context of marriage, people change.

    Like

  14. Magpie says:

    People can change. For most it requires a life altering traumatic event, some don’t even change after that though. A few people though are lifelong learners and are continually fine tuning who they are.

    Like

  15. Mo says:

    Lovely writing. My mother has always told me, “Honey, leopards don’t change their spots.” If that’s true, I should never, ever get married a fourth time! Ha!
    Mo

    Like

  16. I am the one who changed. And I am aware of it. I became his mom. Whether I fight or not about his messes and his lack of consideration it doesn’t matter anymore. The damage is done.

    With every shoe that I tripped over, every dirty plate left next to the sink, with every bottle left leaning against the foot of the sofa my ovaries dried up. The sexy and eager woman in me went away and what I am now is a matronly being I have to admit, I hate.

    And it was not only the chores. All the times I needed support yet I was left alone (because “she is strong”, because “she can deal with whatever”, because “she’s brave”, because “she’s afraid of no one”, because “she doesn’t any help”) I questioned thousands of times why he didn’t feel the need to be there with me.

    Neglect is a horrible thing.

    But because he was shrouded himself with the veil of righteousness he feels he hasn’t done anything wrong. Because he is a good man. Because he never abused me, or yelled at me, or prohibited me to do things or go places, and because he rarely drinks, and he doesn’t smoke, and he is a decent person, and a good son, and has never cheated. And because all of that- everything else that I bitch about is petty. Heck, it makes me sound like an ungrateful wife.

    I think being a good man for him is like the sacrificial blood that covers all others sins. He IS good. He is cleared of any faults. And everything else is insignificant and I need to be content with how he is.

    And family and friends are not much of help either…. “at least he doesn’t hit you”, “at least he is good with the girls”, “at least he is not a cheater”, “at least he sends you flowers”….

    Did I tell you that he sends me flowers… like ALL THE FREAKING TIME??!! So far this year I have gotten like 5 arrangements. Twice this month.

    My cubicle smells like a funeral home.

    I like flowers- but, I’d prefer to see that he made the bed after he got up.

    Because HE KNOWS, BECAUSE I TOLD HIM, that having a clean & nice looking home is important to me. Because it’s a reflection of the relationship we have. Because if he takes of the house, I feel he is taking care of me too.

    But hey- at the end, no one will ever understand why I complain about a bottle leaning against the foot of the sofa whilst I get flowers twice a month. What kind of a horrible woman am I? Right?

    Like

    • Deanna says:

      Wrong. And one day you will allow yourself to hear the truth you’ve tucked deep down into your soul. You can shush it only so long before it comes out, full song, loud enough to be heard. While you wait to be the strongest you’ve ever been, don’t forget to love yourself. Don’t wait for someone else (who is never going to be able to) to do it for you. There are reasons people do what they do – the trick is figuring out and then BELIEVING their actions absolutely have nothing to do with you and then getting on with the business of doing for yourself.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ugh, just lost my long comment. :(

        Travis you said:

        “From the husband’s perspective, whenever his wife is going on for the umpteenth time about a dirty dish left out or [insert case more specific to each reader here], it feels equivalent to the wife saying, “The sky is lime green with shiny silver polka dots! Why won’t you acknowledge that for me? It hurts me when you won’t!””

        and:

        “From my personal experience, it is not willful ignorance. It’s the fundamental inability to perceive how what the wife is saying could possibly be true. It feels like an alien, uniquely female (the vast majority of the time) tendency to make overdramatic mountains out of…well, not even molehills, but thin air.”

        Travis, I really do learn so much from your examples and explanations, so thank you very much. But this “fundamental inability to perceive how what the wife is saying could possibly be true” that you describe is where a large part of the moral failing/lack of innocence that I’m talking about lies.

        You talked about women’s and men’s school of life (or something like that, love that anology by the way), so allow me to elaborate (and I’m talking in generalities here, EVERYONE has their blindspots and failings, and of course there are plenty exceptions on both sides, and if we had had a few thousands of years of matriarchy the numbers would roles would probably be reversed anyhow).

        Women in general are taught to a larger degree than men to:
        1. Empathize and listen and accept that even though a person is different from you they’re fundamentally equal and you must respect that and take their feelings seriously. So even if a woman thinks a man’s point of view is as crazy as believing that the sky is lime green with shiny silver polka dots, she will still respect that his feelings are valid to him, just as her feelings are to her. She will NOT do this perfectly or all the time, but in general she will do it to a larger extent than the man will do it for her.

        2.To accept influence regardless of whether or not you can empathize with the other person’s feelings. So perhaps a woman thinks her man’s wishes or beliefs really are as unbelieveable as the sky is lime green and so on, and she just can’t believe him. Chances are however, that she will still accomodate whatvever it is he wants. Again, NOT perfectly or all the time, but more often than he does it for her.

        So that’s where the moral failing, or lack of innocence, comes in for me. Men:
        1. Empathize less, they don’t muster up the necessary humility to believe that at the very least his wife’s feelings are as true and important to her as his feelings and wants are to him.

        2. Whether or not he’s able to understand or empathize to some degree, he’s less likely to accept influence and accomodate her wishes.

        I hope I’ve been better able to explain what I’m trying to say. Perhaps we really do disagree on this. But if it helps convince you (and full disclosure, I would like you to be convinced, lol), Matt actually replied that he did fundamentally agree with me. :p

        Travis, you also said:
        “In fact, one could just as easily argue that it is the wife who is moving from innocence to willfulness (is that a word?) by (again, from the male perspective) demanding the man recognize some kind of sanity in what, through the lens he views the world, seems insane”.

        In some cases, I would agree with you on this. Whether or not the house should be tidy or cluttered doesn’t seem to have a right/wrong answer. How often you should have sex doesn’t have a right/wrong answer (when it comes to other things, like whether or not the mental and physical burden of responisibilites should be equitably shared, I do believe there is a right/wrong answer). Life is filled with stuff like this. But the thing is, like the Gottman research says, more often than not the woman will accept influence from the man and accomodate his wishes but he more often than not won’t do it for her.

        So to put it very simply, if in 50 % of the previous cases the man had gotten his way and in 50 % of the previous cases the woman had gotten her way (hopefully more happy compromises/win-win situations could be reached), than yes, in this example I don’t think it’s more fair of the woman to demand that he accepts her thinking than the other way around. But I would wager that more often than not, if she had felt equally respected/powerful in the relationship as her man before this incident, she wouldn’t feel so strongly about this particular thing.

        Have a nice day/afternoon/night Travis. :)

        Like

    • Matt says:

      I suspect if you had a long sitdown with my ex-wife five years ago, you’d both recognize one another as being in the same foxhole.

      This is dangerous, nuanced, at times–morally ambiguous–territory.

      I say “ambiguous” because INTENT weighs heavily in my evaluation of a person’s behavior. As you may or may not know, I believe in UNINTENTIONAL neglect, and it needs dealt with effectively. Those effective ways probably change from person to person and personality type to personality type.

      But an oblivious person MUST be made aware of what’s happening before they can be measured morally for those actions.

      You said “HE KNOWS, BECAUSE I TOLD HIM.” I caution against believing he knows because you told him, even if you’ve told him 1,000 times. I can’t emphasize that enough.

      No matter how little sense that makes to you.

      The way to figure out whether he KNOWS would be to ask him the right question.

      If he can articulate accurately WHY you become upset about an unmade bed, or an untidy home, or a bottle leaning against the sofa, then he KNOWS.

      If he gives you a bunch of bullshit “guy” answers because he’s an oblivous dolt like I was? Then he DOES NOT KNOW.

      In fact. As I’m typing this, I’m realizing what a lovely post idea this is.

      Maybe I’ll write it tomorrow.

      But, I want you to know I recognize how you feel. How unfair it is to be getting emotionally shat on every day of your life, while it appears to the outside world like you’re a bitchy ingrate, and while your husband–the person who swore to love and honor you forever–denies you ownership of those feelings.

      It’s a bad, bad, bad place to put a marriage, and I’d argue can’t be sustained.

      In conclusion (my unimportant opinion only):

      He’s exhibiting shitty husbandry.

      But he’s a good man.

      The optimum outcome is him learning how to understand what’s really happening. Him becoming AWARE — having the “ah-ha” moment when the light goes on.

      He is (literally) incapable of empathy until he understands the pain caused by these things about which he’s currently in denial.

      I don’t mean to sound like I KNOW. I obviously don’t know.

      But you’re describing my marriage. To a T.

      And depending on your point of view, that can be good or bad.

      Thank you for sharing here.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        After conversing with some of the gentlemen here, I’ve come to believe that in many cases they honestly didn’t know how much x y z hurt his wife, even though the wife has told them 50 000 times that “when you do x y z it hurts me”.

        Matt says: But an oblivious person MUST be made aware of what’s happening before they can be measured morally for those actions”.

        This is where I respectfully disagree with Matt, at least partially. Even though the husband (or wife when it’s reversed) doesn’t know that he’s hurting her, when his wife has told him hundreds of times it goes from innocent to wilfull, like Matt actually said in another post. It’s just not innocent anymore, even though the man may very well feel like “a good guy” and not intend to hurt her.

        But I just don’t think it matters THAT much. How many people wake up and think “today I’m going to hurt my wife and shit on her needs and dreams, because I’m not a good guy like most other men are”. Hardly any I would believe. We hurt people out of our own hurt, our own selfishness, our own blindspots.

        So to me, intent matters, but not that much, because a selfish/self-centered way of operating can “protect” a person, a “good guy” from *getting* how they hurt other people, because it allows them to just refuse to believe other people or tune out perspectives different from their own and then go on their merry way. And I think that selfish/self centered way of operating, which results in those hurtful actions, can be measured morally to some extant (as it can with women).

        Anyway, here I somewhat self-centeredly decided to use your thread Sylvia Enid Valentin to express my point of view yet again. These are my thoughts, so please, if you find Matt’s approach more useful, go with that.

        I wish you all the best Sylvia.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          I’m going to write about this again today, Donkey.

          I fundamentally agree with you. (To wit: an open letter to shitty husbands exists.)

          This is a semantics thing.

          Enforce boundaries. Whether someone knows it’s inappropriate to punch you in the face shouldn’t matter. Don’t let anyone punch you in the face.

          Independent of that boundary enforcement, one might want to gauge where someone’s motivation lies. One might want to learn what compels their partners to do the things that ultimately hurt them.

          And that’s what I intend to think about today. How asking the right questions can be a powerful tool in our search for answers.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Matt says: But an oblivious person MUST be made aware of what’s happening before they can be measured morally for those actions”.

        “This is where I respectfully disagree with Matt, at least partially. Even though the husband (or wife when it’s reversed) doesn’t know that he’s hurting her, when his wife has told him hundreds of times it goes from innocent to wilfull, like Matt actually said in another post. It’s just not innocent anymore…”

        Perhaps, as someone who has committed such sins of disregard, it isn’t my place to push back, but here goes anyway. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the husband is moving from innocent lack of understanding to willfully choosing not to understand or care. From the husband’s perspective, whenever his wife is going on for the umpteenth time about a dirty dish left out or [insert case more specific to each reader here], it feels equivalent to the wife saying, “The sky is lime green with shiny silver polka dots! Why won’t you acknowledge that for me? It hurts me when you won’t!”

        From my personal experience, it is not willful ignorance. It’s the fundamental inability to perceive how what the wife is saying could possibly be true. It feels like an alien, uniquely female (the vast majority of the time) tendency to make overdramatic mountains out of…well, not even molehills, but thin air. In fact, one could just as easily argue that it is the wife who is moving from innocence to willfulness (is that a word?) by (again, from the male perspective) demanding the man recognize some kind of sanity in what, through the lens he views the world, seems insane.

        So I will continue to defend Matt–hell, defend my own experience–that husbands like he and I (the shitty husbands, as opposed to the shitty human beings) were not committing moral crimes for which we should have obviously known better. Just because our wives use the same words over and over does not make what they are communicating to us become objective reality. As Matt has been saying recently regarding empathy, the connection only comes when we are able to tie the pain our wives are feeling by way of a condition to which we don’t relate with a pain we have felt by way of our own personal experience. Until then, our wives’ cries for help are simple words without substance. As Shakespeare said, their words, to us, represent so much “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

        I hope that makes sense. I assure all critical readers, I fervently believe this does not in any way, shape or form absolve us from responsibilities to our wives at which we’ve shamefully failed miserably, but in order for our discussions about husbands and wives here to retain their worth, they have to be fair and accurate to both parties’ experiences and perspectives; though there is an abundance of “ignorance of the law” crimes for which we shitty husbands deserve to be held accountable, I fundamentally believe that dismissing statements out of hand, regardless of who they come from, because they don’t seem steeped in any kind of reality for us does not represent committing a moral crime willfully.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ugh, just lost my long comment. :(

        Travis you said:

        “From the husband’s perspective, whenever his wife is going on for the umpteenth time about a dirty dish left out or [insert case more specific to each reader here], it feels equivalent to the wife saying, “The sky is lime green with shiny silver polka dots! Why won’t you acknowledge that for me? It hurts me when you won’t!””

        and:

        “From my personal experience, it is not willful ignorance. It’s the fundamental inability to perceive how what the wife is saying could possibly be true. It feels like an alien, uniquely female (the vast majority of the time) tendency to make overdramatic mountains out of…well, not even molehills, but thin air.”

        Travis, I really do learn so much from your examples and explanations, so thank you very much. But this “fundamental inability to perceive how what the wife is saying could possibly be true” that you describe is where a large part of the moral failing/lack of innocence that I’m talking about lies.

        You talked about women’s and men’s school of life (or something like that, love that anology by the way), so allow me to elaborate (and I’m talking in generalities here, EVERYONE has their blindspots and failings, and of course there are plenty exceptions on both sides, and if we had had a few thousands of years of matriarchy the numbers would roles would probably be reversed anyhow).

        Women in general are taught to a larger degree than men to:
        1. Empathize and listen and accept that even though a person is different from you they’re fundamentally equal and you must respect that and take their feelings seriously. So even if a woman thinks a man’s point of view is as crazy as believing that the sky is lime green with shiny silver polka dots, she will still respect that his feelings are valid to him, just as her feelings are to her. She will NOT do this perfectly or all the time, but in general she will do it to a larger extent than the man will do it for her.

        2.To accept influence regardless of whether or not you can empathize with the other person’s feelings. So perhaps a woman thinks her man’s wishes or beliefs really are as unbelieveable as the sky is lime green and so on, and she just can’t believe him. Chances are however, that she will still accomodate whatvever it is he wants. Again, NOT perfectly or all the time, but more often than he does it for her.

        So that’s where the moral failing, or lack of innocence, comes in for me. Men:
        1. Empathize less, they don’t muster up the necessary humility to believe that at the very least his wife’s feelings are as true and important to her as his feelings and wants are to him.

        2. Whether or not he’s able to understand or empathize to some degree, he’s less likely to accept influence and accomodate her wishes.

        I hope I’ve been better able to explain what I’m trying to say. Perhaps we really do disagree on this. But if it helps convince you (and full disclosure, I would like you to be convinced, lol), Matt actually replied that he did fundamentally agree with me. :p

        Travis, you also said:
        “In fact, one could just as easily argue that it is the wife who is moving from innocence to willfulness (is that a word?) by (again, from the male perspective) demanding the man recognize some kind of sanity in what, through the lens he views the world, seems insane”.

        In some cases, I would agree with you on this. Whether or not the house should be tidy or cluttered doesn’t seem to have a right/wrong answer. How often you should have sex doesn’t have a right/wrong answer (when it comes to other things, like whether or not the mental and physical burden of responisibilites should be equitably shared, I do believe there is a right/wrong answer). Life is filled with stuff like this. But the thing is, like the Gottman research says, more often than not the woman will accept influence from the man and accomodate his wishes but he more often than not won’t do it for her.

        So to put it very simply, if in 50 % of the previous cases the man had gotten his way and in 50 % of the previous cases the woman had gotten her way (hopefully more happy compromises/win-win situations could be reached), than yes, in this example I don’t think it’s more fair of the woman to demand that he accepts her thinking than the other way around. But I would wager that more often than not, if she had felt equally respected/powerful in the relationship as her man before this incident, she wouldn’t feel so strongly about this particular thing.

        Have a nice day/afternoon/night Travis. :)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “Women in general are taught to a larger degree than men to:
        1. Empathize and listen and accept
        2.To accept influence

        So that’s where the moral failing, or lack of innocence, comes in for me. Men:
        1. Empathize less, they don’t muster up the necessary humility
        2. He’s less likely to accept influence and accomodate [his wife’s] wishes.”

        God love ya, Donkey, but I’m still really struggling with this. As I read it, you’re, in effect, saying that men exhibit moral failing and lack of innocence because they are less inclined to demonstrate that which you admit they have much less training in. I realize there are those who say “ignorance of the law is not a defense” but empathy and acceptance of influence are, in many ways, learned concepts. They reflect our more civilized, less primal, nature. Has he committed a moral crime if a child is taken out of school at the age of ten when he grows up to be a man who can’t pass the GED?

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, thank you for searching through all of these threads and for reading my long comment (and hopefully this one to).

        I just want to be VERY clear that we all exhibit these kind of empathy fails/accepting influence fails (= what I here call moral failings, lack of innocence), women and men, but men perhaps more in heterosexual relationships because of social conditioning. If it’s a reverse situation (and as I’ve said before, I honestly have my fair share of these failings), it’s just as bad/not completely innocent.

        Travis, you do have a point, men are exposed less to this kind of training, so perhaps should be excused somewhat. However, this is still a human skill, a social skill, which men demonstrate a capability to perform at work for instance, or with buddies/men in their social circles who they respect for whatever reason. So yes, men are less trained to respect and believe and accomodate and empathize with women, but that doesn’t excuse him fully, it’s still a choice (and he is capeable of chosing differently), even though he is now just operating at his default setting.

        To put it another way, if I’m brought up in a racist family (but let’s say subtly so, like the conditioning men are exposed to which encourages them to not fully respect and consider women often is subtle), it would perhaps be easier to understand and forgive me somewhat for my (subtly) racist thoughts and actions as an adult. You probably wouldn’t just decide that I was fundamentally a bad person because of my (again, subtle) failings in this regard.

        But when I go around behaving in (subtly) racist ways, even though I do it because I was raised that way and it’s what I know, not because I intentionally mean to or want to treat people with a different skin colour as less worthy/capeable/human or believe that that is what I’m doing, it is a moral failing/not completely innocent in my opinion. And it’s especially a moral failing in my opinion, if it’s brought to my attention again and again by someone else that they “find x y z racist” and because of my conditioning and the way I’m operating I just can’t understand how they could be right about this, because I don’t *mean* to hurt/be racist, and *I* don’t find it racist and I wouldn’t be hurt by it, so I just decide that since I don’t understand it they must be wrong (instead of deciding that even though it’s VERY hard, even impossible for me to understand at this moment, perhaps they do still have a point), forget about it until the next time and go on behaving in subtly racist ways.

        To elaborate, if I’m able to not judge a white person by their skin colour in some situation or other, then it could also be within my reach to not judge a person of colour by their skin in that same situation or other, and it’s within my reach to consciously challenge any racist thoughts that pop into my head (we must all fight our social conditioning). So when I do judge a person of colour by their skin (without challenging my judging, again we must all challenge our conditioning), however subtly, even if I don’t mean it to be racist and even if it’s because of subtle social conditioning and I didn’t mean to harm and I don’t *think* that I’m racist or want to be racist, it’s not fully innocent in my opinion. And especially not when it’s brought to my attention over and over.

        I hope that was clarifying. :)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey, thank you very much. This last post of yours provided a watershed moment for me to finally grasp what you’ve been aiming for with the whole “moral failure” accusation. The tie-in to subtle racism was astute to the point that I’m at a loss as to how to mount any counterargument. I concede the battle of semantics to you (but I’ll get you next time, Batman, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!).

        It still feels important to me, personally, that intention be taken into account, however. If I’m prepared to concede that I (and Matt and the rest of my derby-derp husband ilk) have practiced a failure of moral judgment, would you feel comfortable equating such a “crime” as a kind of involuntary manslaughter vs. an intentional, vindictive, emotionally twisted, evil husband’s brand of voluntary manslaughter? Yes, the parties behind both types of destruction are guilty. They should have been more careful. They should have been more respectful of the consequences of their actions. They should have known better. They both earned punishment. But isn’t there greater hope for, and justification of, forgiveness and redemption with the one who committed an involuntary crime? More opportunity for his personal growth and worthwhile contribution to the world? In short, isn’t a husband who commits an involuntary moral crime more worthy of fighting to have a functional future with, in consideration of that ages old marital promise “for better AND FOR WORSE”? I would certainly hope so, for all of our collective futures, because I suspect that when you subtract the voluntary manslaughter husband’s from the equation, followed by the involuntary manslaughter ones, you ladies are going to find precious few paragons of male virtue standing.

        Regardless of your opinions of my ruminations, though, Donkey, I really appreciate your further explanations regarding my points of inquiry. You’ve given me a lot to consider, and to own up to.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ah Travis, I’m so happy that:
        1. I was finally able to explain what I meant
        2. That you somewhat agree with me now, lol

        “If I’m prepared to concede that I (and Matt and the rest of my derby-derp husband ilk) have practiced a failure of moral judgment, would you feel comfortable equating such a “crime” as a kind of involuntary manslaughter vs. an intentional, vindictive, emotionally twisted, evil husband’s brand of voluntary manslaughter?”

        Yes absolutely! There’s a moral difference between involuntary manslaughter (although as you also say he/she should have known better) and voluntary manslaughter! There’s a difference between involuntary shitty husbandry (although as you also say the shitty husband should have known better) and a husband who consciously believes that his wife exists mainly to serve him, so to hell with her feelings and well being, if he wishes to treat her as an emotional dumping ground and a maid, that’s his perogative.

        “But isn’t there greater hope for, and justification of, forgiveness and redemption with the one who committed an involuntary crime? More opportunity for his personal growth and worthwhile contribution to the world? In short, isn’t a husband who commits an involuntary moral crime more worthy of fighting to have a functional future with, in consideration of that ages old marital promise “for better AND FOR WORSE”?”

        I would think so! Although I do, on a philosophical level at least, believe that the possibility for change and a come to Jesus moment exists even for the voluntary evil shitty husbands. But it seems like a longer, steeper road for sure.

        This is not to detract from anything I’ve just said. But I also want to say that it appears to me like I’m more in touch with my darker side, or my darker side is more in touch with me if you will, than the case is with you. So I believe that even when a wife or husband occasionally hurt the other intentionally, that doesn’t make them evil humans. (“I’ll show her crappy ass, I’ll tell her that I really hate her stupid Beyoncé album, even though I just don’t like it that much”, “I’ll show his crappy ass, the next time we have sex I will not show any interest or enjoyment at all”). And so on, and of course, sometimes we mess up in bigger ways.

        As I said to Lisa once, sometimes I would even prefer(!) some of the hurt to be intentional. If a man of mine decided to leave a dish by the sink knowing that it hurts me, well, at least he know’s what he’s doing is hurting me, some thought goes into how his actions affect me (instead of just obliviously derpy derpying happily around no matter what I’ve said or how many times I’ve said it), and perhaps his default would be to put the dish in the dishwasher. Now, if that man were to leave the dish by sink *intentionally* wanting to hurt me, not just once in a blue moon when he’s pissed off like everyone is sometimes, but every day year after year? Now that’s awful, worse than what Matt was doing for sure!

        Travis you’re such an eloquent guy, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again here, and I’ll fess up right now that it’s for vanity’s sake that I mention it: I live somewhere in Western Europe where English is taught as a second language. I’m vain and lack the inner strength to not care, because while I know my English is good, I don’t want people to believe I don’t have better command of my own native language. So, know that when I make I typo or spelling error, I don’t leave it there to intentionally hurt you at least. :p Although, knowing that you have a bit of a hang up regarding grammar and spelling (didn’t you say this yourself?), this could be a nice little passive aggressive revenge if you’re saying something that’s pissing me off. And you can’t really fault me for it either can you. 8) Muahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “I also want to say that it appears to me like I’m more in touch with my darker side, or my darker side is more in touch with me if you will, than the case is with you. So I believe that even when a wife or husband occasionally hurt the other intentionally, that doesn’t make them evil humans.”

        As Matt said today about his use of the term “shitty husband”, I’m probably too loose and liberal with the term “shitty human being”, but it’s just a quick and dirty way of separating the involuntary homicides from the voluntary. I will admit, though, that my sympathy for shitty husbands dries up PDQ when they are fully cognizant of the harm they are causing their spouses and choose to continue doing it anyway, and I’m not inclined to encourage those shitty husbands’ wives to try to stick around and work it out. Intention speaks volumes to me and life’s too short for that kind of shit.

        “As I said to Lisa once, sometimes I would even prefer(!) some of the hurt to be intentional. If a man of mine decided to leave a dish by the sink knowing that it hurts me, well, at least he know’s what he’s doing is hurting me, some thought goes into how his actions affect me (instead of just obliviously derpy derpying happily around no matter what I’ve said or how many times I’ve said it)”

        I don’t relate to that perspective whatsoever, but I can understand why that might be someone’s truth. It does make a kind of twisted sense.

        “So, know that when I make I typo or spelling error, I don’t leave it there to intentionally hurt you at least. “

        Firstly, let me say that I agree wholeheartedly with Matt that I find your command of English as a second language thoroughly impressive. Secondly, I have a Facebook account; I challenge you to attempt with intention to jack up the English language anywhere near as badly as most of what I read (suffer through) there daily. I don’t think you could if you gave it all you had.

        P.S. I really DO hate her stupid Beyoncé album. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It doesn’t smell anything like teen spirit. There will never be enough love in the Universe between my wife and me to erase that truth, LOL.

        Like

    • ruralbethany says:

      Oh my goodness Sylvia, I think we were married to the same man. I have to digest your post a bit. I so know this… the neglect bit.When I took mine to counseling and flat out said I was unhappy and wanted out and the counselor asked him about his feelings for me he basically said “I have no complaints, she does a great job holding down the fort all the time.” I just about exploded right there, because I had been for years and years trying to get him to live life in a partnership with me and not just float by knowing that I’d take care of All The Things because I didn’t want to live with power bills shut off or no food in the fridge.

      Like

  17. I’m gonna say what no one else is saying here…

    You used the word “posit” in regular use. Why you gotta make me look stuff up? ;-)

    Like

  18. Ash says:

    Bad husbands can change but they are the ones who have to be wiling to change. Wives of bad husbands will try to inspire a change in him, but they do so with words, and words aren’t as effective to men as actions are.

    Like

  19. ruralbethany says:

    This is something that I struggle with, on both my end and my ex’s end.

    Because he’s very sorry, and he misses his family, and he still loves me, etc. Aside from the fact that the idea of being back together with him makes me want to panic and hide, I think it all stems from the fact that I don’t think/trust that he would really change, with ME. On the other hand, I think if he had a relationship with another woman someday, he has a real shot at being a great husband.

    I never knew how to put it into words – we separated many years ago for about 10 months, at which point I was ready to divorce but he was, you guessed it – so sorry, missed his family, loved me, etc. I always felt, before I asked for that separation, that he would always be “okay” as long as he had me. But no one ever understood why I was saying that in a negative way. Truth is, as long as he had me, he never got uncomfortable enough to change. Losing me was the thing that woke him up, at least partially.

    He did really good for about 4 or 5 years, but then it was one thing and a very quick slide back into old habits and it was even worse than before.

    I really feel like, when it comes down to it, if I could theoretically somehow reanimate the ashes of the romantic feelings I once had for him, it would all happen again. Because I think some people don’t act until their world falls apart. As in, a future him could probably have come to him and told him “Dude you need to quit doing this or Bethany is going to divorce you” but it wouldn’t have had an impact, at least not permanently.

    I think, and this is along the lines of what Deanna was talking about earlier, that some people can’t change because ultimately, their own comfort and desires are of utmost important to them. I just think there are some people that can’t change. I was married for a decade and finally got out when I came to the conclusion that after all this time, nothing would be different.

    Because it would have been just one more time, amongst many, that I “got over it.” That I forgave. That I understood. That I gave him another chance. Because that’s what I do, right? I give him more chances. Bethany will get over it. Bethany will understand. Bethany is great at holding down the fort.

    That’s what he always thought, at least subconsciously. HOWEVER – I suspect that if he was in a relationship with another woman someday, he would be more along the lines of “I lost Bethany because of _____ so I am sure as hell not going to risk this new lady.” I would hope so, at least.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Glad to see you again Ruralbethany. :)

      I don’t know if you’re right or not, but I do think I understand what you’re saying.

      I found it very disappointing that he “did really good for about 4 or 5 years, but then it was one thing and a very quick slide back into old habits and it was even worse than before”. Ugh!

      Lisa G over here has been talking a lot about boundaries, and I find myself thinking in similar lines as you. I wonder if Matt or any other previously or currently shitty husband had found themselves coupled up with someone suprimely confident – say Oprah. I could be wrong of course, but if she had laid down the law very early, I think there’s a good chance they would have not only shaped up, but also understood the selfishness of their own behaviour.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        This. For me, it’s this.

        Establish what lines mustn’t be crossed. Enforce these boundaries immediately and consistently.

        Then, partner always respects those boundaries and you are married with those as a foundational thing, OR you quickly end the relationship early into dating someone and it never becomes a marriage problem.

        I know it’s not always that simple. But that would still cut out a LOT of these disrespect issues that finally seem to break a couple after five to 10 years of marriage.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Yes! The boundaries thing. That’s a tough one for me… I am naturally very sacrificial and so I always struggled with boundaries and consequences, etc. Seems like I shouldn’t have to treat my husband like a kid, right? But also I’d felt selfish pointing out his selfishness. I never wanted to be the nag or the “boss” or telling my life partner what he was allowed and was not allowed to do. It didn’t feel right then, and the thought of it still doesn’t feel right to me.

        I think it has a lot to do with my very traditional upbringing, with a stay home mom, etc. I admired my mom so much and wanted to emulate her and now after this all crashed down on me I’ve realized what I observed and emulated was a fragile dynamic that worked in her situation with my dad but since I married a man quite different from my dad, it backfired bigtime.

        However – I just really think that if I could figure out this boundaries thing without feeling unnatural about it, I would be okay. because in the end, I think if I’d been stronger about them from the get-go, and been more aggressive, then things might not have ended the way they did.

        Like

    • Deanna says:

      These were my own thoughts until recently. Have you sought professional support? Working with a counselor (first together and now on my own) has helped me realize that while my husband will most likely seek and find another “Deanna” and continue the exact same cycle with her it’s not for me to care or worry about. My work must come in the form of self care, boundary setting and boundary enforcement so that should I ever decide to get close to someone again I don’t pair up with another “Dave”. Because as I’m sure you’re aware, we all have a type…at least until we get to the root of things and really make changes. That said, this post? What Matt’s really getting at here? Is that he sure the hell hopes he’s done the work at his core to affect a future outcome but he can’t know, not really, until he logs off and gets back into the game. And I’m sure that scares the beejesus out of him. But I doubt it’s as frightening as potentially losing another meaningful relationship to ignorant pride. The fear of both could stunt his actual growth if it renders him unable to get back out there at all.

      This blog is steeped in theory, not practical application. The damage from any broken relationship is real so the work to own and fix “shit” is real. But the true test of any change is in what comes next.

      At the end of the day how much I’m willing to change and then see that change thru for myself regardless who I agree my life with is the only thing I should concern myself with. I finally understand what “Be the change you want to see” means. And I’m fairly sure that’s what Matt is getting at when he says “choose hope”.

      Just do both with the right intention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deanna says:

        That’s should say “share your life with”…give this video a listen. This guy has been there. https://youtu.be/CEQ5e2iPkMw

        Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        *nods at pretty much all of this*

        A new commenter, Cristine, recommended a book earlier, and then you repeated the theme.

        While understand your personal values and enforcing boundaries without compromise will protect us in the future, I would love to understand what drives certain kinds of people to attach with whomever.

        That’s powerful self-awareness.

        Like

      • Deanna says:

        That one’s easy. Look into mirroring. You seek that which you lack. It’s as cliche as “opposites” attract but if done correctly, the true goal of partnering up would always be to continually build up the self – on both sides. Think best practices…I bring my A game, you bring yours, we work together to better both by working out our deficiencies and voila! unstoppable awesome duo yes? Yeah, except instead we do all that in reverse and get the inverse effect. (Wah, wah, wah)

        SO, the video shared earlier that says stay in your relationship and work that shit out is spot on. I told my sister once that her and her guy needed to stay together and “contain their crazy” because no one else needed to be subjected to that nonsense. They did. They worked it out and guess who isn’t getting divorced again? :-)

        Liked by 1 person

      • ruralbethany says:

        “Because as I’m sure you’re aware, we all have a type…at least until we get to the root of things and really make changes.”

        Oh my gosh yes. This… so this. It terrifies me. That’s a good point about the professional help. I haven’t been seeing anyone since we quit marriage counseling but I hope to eventually, just haven’t had the $. I think before I re-enter the dating pool I’ll probably commit to seeing someone just to make sure.

        Like

    • ruralbethany says:

      I haven’t even read the responses yet but my internet died last night when I was posting that message and I meant to add on a message about me! SO here it is:

      And then… on my end. That’s a tough one. I contributed to this mess by being codependent. I sheltered him from stuff, I’m a doer, I took care of things, I’m super understanding and I’m an empathic personality type which I figured out post-marriage and boy that put things into perspective! I enabled the behavior. My love language is acts of service, which means I just did all the things. By the time I was fed up and bitter and didn’t want to do all the things, I didn’t quite know how to stop doing all the things without him acting like I was being unfair or demanding.

      I am, quite honestly, terrified of being in a relationship again, at least a permanent one. I’m terrified that I’d let someone take advantage of this serving nature I have again and not realize it. For me a big part of it has to do with drawing appropriate boundaries and sticking to them. But then, that’s the hard part for me. I’m not sure if I can change.

      The empathic personality type I referred to above – basically what that means, in my case, is that I feel other people emotions like they were my own. Mostly just people who are close to me, but I am so in tune with others that often their feelings/desires outshadow mine and I don’t even know it’s happening. I can’t even tell you what a huge eye opener it was for me when I finally realized that not everyone is like this.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know if I can function in a relationship because of this. I’d need to learn how to draw and enforce boundaries but I don’t trust myself to do it. I’m perfectly willing to change, I just don’t know how.

      Like

  20. Mo says:

    I saw above someone became their husband’s mother. Yuck & Ditto. Who wants to make love to your son? No one. So that killed it. Never again. If they’re not an adult, I will remain alone rather than become a parental figure. I can only fix myself. Done. Actually, at 49 yrs old with an almost empty nest, I LOVE my freedom now. So marriage again is unlikely. Why would I want to marry again when I have a perfectly happy family? My ex and I get along just fine. So I would rather search for a life companion. No need for the legal sh*t. Just my humble opinion. Thoughts?
    Mo

    Like

    • Deanna says:

      Don’t delude yourself. If you pair up with another person on more than a casual level any and all of these issues can and probably will come into play. It doesn’t matter what the official or legal definition or label is applied. What’s that song? “People are people so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully”. Sure it’s about race relations but it still applies. Do the work to fix up yourself. Vet anyone you’re investing time into and be certain they’ve done the same. Then, enjoy life. I think it’s as simple and as difficult as that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ruralbethany says:

      I don’t know, Deanna – I think it kind of depends. Marriage, for example, terrifies me. But a serious relationship or even a live in partner not so much. Probably just a psychological thing, but I suspect that with the role of “girlfriend” it would be much easier for me personally to hang on to my sense of boundary, as opposed to being a wife. And this could be totally way off base, but I know several women who had pro-active boyfriends who then magically turned into incapable slobs after they tied the knot. I think most of it goes back to the psychological and cultural conditioning of wife vs. husband roles.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. anitvan says:

    You spelled it correctly.

    Like

  22. Linbo says:

    #1) Is everyone alright?
    #2) Not sure if I should even ask
    #3) I logged back on and saw the comments blowing up and looked. I guess that makes me a fan girl? (and PROUD OF IT!!)
    #4) Lisa- I’m probably also more masculine-androgynous than really super feminine (or what we tend to think that it is), too!
    #5.) Is everyone alright?

    Like

  23. Emilia says:

    People can change but it takes a hell of a lot of stress, drama, personal time, self discovery and therapy. Backsliding is also awful!
    I know I did it, but I know people who couldn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Me says:

    I just found your blog…I have that husband. I wonder what I can do to fix things, but after 16yrs together, I’m not so sure it’ll work out. I’m only on your second open letter and I’m a mess. A mess thinking of all the things/ways I’ve tried to reach out…and a mess that no matter what the outcome, he’ll never see it like you do. I will be wrong. Our girls will lose out. Staying for the kids, and hoping for once was. Glad you found your “faults” and were willing to work through them. God bless

    Like

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