A Misdiagnosis Can Kill You

misdiagnosis

(Image/dailyherald.com)

An infectious disease specialist who was suffering severe throat pain visited a doctor to figure out why.

Acid reflux, his colleagues said. More time went by. The pain persisted despite treating the acid reflux. So he went to see more doctors. Repeatedly over several months, multiple head and neck surgeons assured him acid reflux was causing the pain.

Finally, a resident performed a simple examination procedure which the surgeons over several visits hadn’t tried, and discovered a cancerous tumor the size of a peach pit.

The doctor with the throat pain underwent emergency throat surgery and had his voice box removed.

All because he spent months trying to fix something that wasn’t actually the problem.

I read it right here in the blog comments of a recent post. Someone wrote that her father was a doctor and often said: “An accurate diagnosis is 90 percent of the cure.”

Sometimes I read or hear something that sticks with me. This is one of those things.

Because, how do we diagnose the problems in our marriages or long-term relationships?

We mostly guess. And I think we mostly guess when we’re angry or sad or afraid.

At any given time, we have a certain amount of facts we know or at the very least, believe to be true. Certainty, real or otherwise.

Regardless, there is also a certain percentage of missing information. About everything. We constantly have expectations about what will happen next, or about what might be going on elsewhere, or about something we’ll be doing in the future.

When you’ve driven the same route to work for five years, you can predict with relative accuracy (even with all the variables) how long it will take to drive to your destination.

You can accurately predict how long it will take for your shower water to turn from cold to hot when you first turn it on.

We expertly perform countless little tasks every day that seem routine and inconsequential, but to someone who had never done them before, the experience would be much different.

Any time we’re missing too much information, our brains use every piece of input it can to try to guess what’s happening or will happen. We fill in all the missing pieces with guesses. Maybe we’re right sometimes. But we’re probably mostly wrong. 

 

During most of my marriage, I would repeatedly choose things I wanted to do over being present and engaged with my wife. I’d sometimes watch movies or ballgames in a separate room, or play online poker or do whatever.

In moderation, two healthy people can have an amazing relationship balancing Together Things and individual pursuits. But outside of our social lives, we didn’t have a lot of Together Things, so I pursued many individual interests.

I made a habit out of leaving my wife alone in a separate room to watch TV or read a book or talk on the phone believing it was a simple matter of us both doing what we wanted to do. Everything’s cool! We’re just both good at letting one another do their thing!

But when you combine it with me not pursuing her intimately as a husband should, and me being disengaged and disinterested in some of her personal interests, and frequently demonstrating an unwillingness to perform household chores and projects, and of course ALWAYS messing up the empathy thing during disagreements, it must have looked and felt much different to her.

She felt alone. Unsupported. Unwanted. Unloved. Disrespected. Rejected.

I never realized people could feel alone with other people around. I didn’t know the typical “shitty husband” behaviors affecting so many marriages were the dangerous relationship killers they are.

There was a lot of incorrect guessing going on all around.

It’s hard to explain how many pegs I had to fall in my own mind to gain the perspective and humility necessary to eat the Crow, the Humble Pie, and the Shit Sandwiches I needed to be the me I am now.

How does one feel genuine gratitude for the worst thing to ever happen to them?

That’s how.

It’s silly for her to be sad and angry!, I thought. She’s misdiagnosing the problem!

And in a way, I was correct. Philosophically, my wife was mistaken. She was loved, wanted, respected, desired, etc. But knowing what I know now allows me to see how everything happened in a way that was impossible (due to ignorance and neglecting to educate myself) for me to see then.

She was missing information. And because our communication was so epically shitty (despite both of us being longtime communication professionals), I was never able to communicate the missing information effectively or convincingly enough to help her more accurately understand those unknown things we’re all constantly guessing at.

During the final 18 months of my marriage, I slept in the guest room, and our already substandard and ineffective communication had come to a near-standstill. Because I was fully disconnected from and disengaged with my wife, the Unknown piece of the Things I Know About My Wife pie chart was expanding.

That was very bad.

The Art of Guessing What We Don’t Know

Back to the example we started with, The Washington Post ran an article about medical misdiagnosis a few years ago. It somehow feels relevant.

“Misdiagnosis ‘happens all the time,’ said David Newman-Toker, who studies diagnostic errors and helped organize the recent international conference. ‘This is an enormous problem, the hidden part of the iceberg of medical errors that dwarfs’ other kinds of mistakes, said Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology and otolaryngology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Studies repeatedly have found that diagnostic errors, which are more common in primary-care settings, typically result from flawed ways of thinking, sometimes coupled with negligence, and not because a disease is rare or exotic, the Post story said.

“The problem is not new: In 1991, the Harvard Medical Practice Study found that misdiagnosis accounted for 14 percent of adverse events and that 75 percent of these errors involved negligence, such as a failure by doctors to follow up on test results.”

I started to lose it.

I know people say that as a figure of speech to talk about normalish episodes of feeling upset or whatever. But I mean it a bit more seriously than that. I came undone. I became, to some degree, mentally and emotionally unstable.

I totally lost it during those months sleeping in the guest room while I watched everything break apart from the inside.

I started feeling immature jealous feelings which is something I hadn’t experienced much in life.

Every attractive guy on TV or in real life suddenly became an object of her sexual interest in my imagination. Every text message alert was some guy she probably had a crush on, I thought suspiciously. I’d make up all kinds of thoughts and feelings for her—all of which I was really afraid of being true—and I thought about and worried about these made-up thoughts and feelings so much that they became real for me.

When our friends would come over and we’d pretend to be cool, I secretly thought that the wife in those other couples had been talking to her about our marriage problems and that they were silently judging and thinking bad things about me with fake smiles on their faces.

I wasn’t kidding. I lost it.

Without ever having any sort of mature fact-finding, soul-searching conversation with my wife, I just kept letting my paranoid imagination tell me stories about her thoughts, feelings and dreams. About who and what she wanted. About with whom she was discussing our broken marriage.

It’s funny because I assumed everyone knew, but almost no one did.

Until it was all over, she barely spoke of it, and even then, not much.

I thought I knew my wife better than anyone, and maybe I did. But without communicating effectively or asking the right questions, there was still so much I didn’t know.

The truth is hard to write:

We both guessed incorrectly about what the other person thought and felt, we both did an awful job trying to bridge the communication gap, and the kiss of death was my assumption that My Way—the way I thought and experienced the world through my own individual perspective—was somehow “more correct” than her way. That inherently flawed belief helped me justify not putting in the work reading books and talking to people who knew better than I did what love really is.

I don’t know how long I believed my marriage problems were simple acid reflex instead of cancer.

Maybe if I’d started down this path sooner, everything would be different.

Maybe the misdiagnosing and early detection failures at the start of our relationships are ultimately the things that kill us.

There can be no answers when we fail to ask the right questions.

There can be no cure when we don’t even know what’s wrong.

We think it’s this thing. But really it’s something else. So we never get the medicine or treatment we need.

And then we die.

…..

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89 thoughts on “A Misdiagnosis Can Kill You

  1. zombiedrew2 says:

    I firmly believe that in many (and perhaps most) relationship problems, people misdiagnose things. They see a problem, and think it’s THE problem. But that problem is really just a symptom of a different problem.

    So couples go around constantly trying to deal with symptoms of problems, and they are really just putting bandaids on things instead of getting to the root of their troubles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Yes. (I think I heard this first from Sheryl Paul regarding intrusive thoughts or some such thing.) If you deal with one symptom, but not the true cause, you’ll soon be busy playing Whack-A-Mole with different or new or old symptoms coming up.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        As I said in my other comment, most people think bad communication is the problem when a relationship is troubled. Even many therapists think poor communication is the problem.

        And, of course, it IS helpful to have good communication skills. But usually that’s the symptom. I can learn Imago reflective listening skills, I can learn less harsh ways of bringing up a difficult conversation, I can learn more empathetic responses.

        But, it will be like taking Tylenol to bring down a fever. I haven’t diagnosed what was causing the fever. And that can be deadly as this post points out. Because, at first you just feel a little warm. And everybody has communication problems, right? Men and women just see the world so differently, right?
        It’s so easy to not even know you are getting sick.

        Some relationships really do just need better communication skills. But I don’t think that’s a majority. Most of us have underlying relationship skill deficits and even basic skill deficits of what it means to be a healthy adult that are like an infection that will spread unless the right diagnosis and treatment is giving.

        The underlying infection is what causes the fever of bad communication that seems like it is the problem. But, I just think that he is wrong and I am right and that will kill us even if I say it in the nicest way.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I know you know this stuff too. I was just musing to myself about this post and your comment. :)

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        This is exactly why I didn’t leave him sooner. Even if his words or his silence were harsh, there was the knowledge of knowing that there were deeper problems to our lack of communication. I always held on hope that we could figure it out, but there is a time when you realize that you can’t take it on for both.

        When you don’t know where exactly the infection stems from, it’s hard to communicate it.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Bygeorge,

        “When you don’t know where exactly the infection stems from, it’s hard to communicate it. ”

        Yes! You just described most of my life. :(

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        And mine… ;)

        Like

      • fromscratchmom says:

        Yes, ByGeorge! I always held out hope that the deeper problems could be figured out and addressed and everyone could grow and become healthy together!

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        fromscratchmom,

        Yes, I held on for dear life for years!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa: I know you know I know. 8)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Gottman says:

    Matt,

    You said:

    “The truth is hard to write:

    We both guessed incorrectly about what the other person thought and felt, we both did an awful job trying to bridge the communication gap, and the kiss of death was my assumption that My Way—the way I thought and experienced the world through my own individual perspective—was somehow “more correct” than her way, helped me justify not putting in the work reading books and talking to people who knew better than I did about what love really is.”

    I made the same mistake for many years. All I can say is when I was finally able to swallow the bitter red pill is when I could change the big stuff from a place of true humility. I did the best I understood but it was in reality a big pile of shit.

    But, now I know better and I’m trying every day to understand more and do better.

    I know you are too.

    PS I’m waiting for the final red pill when you will finally acknowledge Reba’s greatness.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      I felt a deep deep painful sadness when I finally realized how my sense of “rightness” caused so much of the damage to my marriage. I still feel it now. I have to remind myself to give myself forgiveness and grace. I have to give it to myself or I’m filled with the same wrong judgmental attitude towards myself that I used to wrongly apply to my husband.

      It’s not better for me to apply it inward. In have to give it up entirely. My precious sense rightness and certainty. It’s an abusive bully. I can’t love myself if anyone else with him in my head.

      Like

  3. April says:

    This spoke to me much more deeply than “dishes by the sink.” I shared it with my husband of 10 months. Just trying to ward off trouble….

    Like

  4. Chris Alexander says:

    I like the saying, “Lots of times, perception IS reality”. When it comes to human behavior, it doesn’t matter what reality actually is, because the person is going to behave (and behave logically, I might add) based on what he or she perceives to be reality.

    Dismiss your spouse’s perceived reality at your own risk.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

    I could see so many problems arising for so long. I tried to communicate things, but his yelling and patronizing words would start pushing me back from any communication at all. As the years went on, it was in my opinion abusive. I died slowly.

    I’m still slowly dying, but trying to build myself up in every way possible.

    I wish he had been able to understand, to empathize with me. Early enough so that I did not start despising him the way I do.

    Now that I have left, I see the same pattern. The manipulation. The vicious cycle of mental swings. The anger.

    Him: You fucking bitch, you’re destroying our family!!
    Me: I’m sorry I left. I just can’t do it anymore.
    Him: You should be!!

    It’s hard because I do CARE about him. He is the father of my children.

    I wish he could “get it”. But it’s too late and his behaviour continues to show me where his head is at.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Bygeorge,

      I am so sorry that you have to endure your husband speaking to you so disrespectfully.

      I don’t know what it would take to get him to see that he needs to be different. I wish I did.

      Best wishes to you and your kids.

      Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        It wasn’t always like that. We both use a lot of profanity, but in the earlier years we had a pact. We agreed that ANY profanity used was to be used in “regular” instances. Any profanity meant to scold or to be hurtful toward others would not be accepted. This was good for a long time.

        The first time I noticed it was when I left him with one of our children and I took the other. He wanted me to come back by a certain time so that he could go somewhere. I was late. (I usually had both kids glued to the hip) When I came back, I had several of my siblings with me and he blew up in front of them. It was embarrassing. De-valueing. I felt so ashamed to have my husband speak to me that way. It was if he was doing it on purpose to “show them” who was boss! (We have a family business. I worked from home for 15 years in total. Isolated from society.)

        That is when I started noticing that it was a deeper problem. The problem of his control. Already a good 7 years being together and I hadn’t really noticed. I had seen little things, but I didn’t realize how big the issue was until it started repeating itself over and over and more frequently. And we had kids.

        He’s up and down all the time. I walked on glass for years. I either stopped doing anything that I new could upset him, (which seemed to be anything for myself) or the opposite, would just do them anyway and suffer the consequences of him patronizing me or not talk to me for a week.

        This went on for at least a decade. The worst was the last 5 years. It was super toxic. It was really horrible when the kids would see.

        I tried to talk to him. I tried therapy with him. I left him for a week in 2013 to see if he would wake up. It just got worse.

        I’m done.

        I’m not sure anyone like that could change.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Also, I don’t think he’s a horrible person. He lacks the tools to know how to behave with others. Deep down, he is a sensitive and loving person. The person I saw before I saw the social mental instability.

        We both come from dysfunctional families.

        I take half the blame for our demise of marriage, because I lacked the tools to enforce my boundaries. I lacked the tools to communicate properly. I have my own insecurities. My own crap to figure out. Stuff that was in beaded in my soul since childhood.

        He “says” he will do anything to fix this… but I told him I can’t trust his words. As long as he continues to behave the way he does, I cannot take any more chances. I cannot risk putting myself in that scenario. It took me a LOT of strength to leave knowing how difficult it would be on all of us. I know I’ve made the right decision though. I know I need to fix myself. I have to do this for me… for my kids. I want to be able to stop the vicious cycle of toxicity in this family. I want my daughter to grow up with a strong understanding of what it is to respect herself. To teach my son how to respect others, that it’s ok to have emotions and to talk about them.

        I’m trying hard, I’ve waisted a lot of time, but it’s never too late to improve.

        This blog and other great reads have helped me understand this better.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Bygeorge,

        Your story sounds so familiar to me. The degree might be different but the basic underlying story is the same. Two people who haven’t seen what it looks like to be in a healthy relationship. Who have their own issues they don’t even know they have much less how to fix it.

        They do the best they can but the combination of the lack of basic skills can be toxic. It takes a LOT of soulsearching to even try and figure out what is wrong and what I am doing to contribute to it.

        Some people find it too threatening to go that deep. Doesn’t mean they are “bad” people. They just can’t do it. Maybe they can later, maybe they never can.

        You sound like you have been able to do it. To protect your kids. To protect yourself. To learn to live in a healthy relationship with yourself first and then maybe figure out how to be in a healthy relationship with someone else. Good for you Bygeorge! It takes so much courage!

        To own your shit! To work on getting healthier. To be able to recognize your husband is not a bad guy. He just can’t own his shit. But a guy like that is not safe. Maybe not abusive but defintely not safe.

        Thanks for sharing your story.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        He told me if I go through with the divorce there is no going back. He still tries. He can be very manipulative, but I have learned to recognize it.

        I on the other hand, see it as a stepping stone for improvement on all parties including our kids.

        I told him, there is no crystal ball. I am taking this path. It’s one I should have taken years ago.

        I wish he would take the same. To see that there is a greater need to fix himself before trying to fix our marriage.

        He has the choice. He can try to improve himself. He can either be my friend or my enemy.

        If he choses to help himself, be my friend, miracles may happen down the road.

        Who knows.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Bygeorge,

        I said: “To own your shit! To work on getting healthier. To be able to recognize your husband is not a bad guy. He just can’t own his shit. But a guy like that is not safe. Maybe not abusive but defintely not safe.”

        I want to make sure that the way that I phrased that doesn’t imply that I think your situation was not abusive. You said in your comment that it did become abusive even if it wasn’t earlier on.

        It is a matter of degree. A guy who doesn’t own his shit is at a minimum unsafe. Because I can’t trust him to take a look in the mirror and see what he is doing to cause a problem.
        He will just blame me.

        Sometimes that will progress into abusive behavior either emotionally or physically or both. And that requires getting out of an abusive environment to protect yourself and your kids.

        You are courageous to see this Bygeorge and take the hard steps to be safe! Pearl is going through the same process now. I can’t imagine how hard it must be especially when kids are involved.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Lisa,

        Because the human race has many levels of abuse, I cannot tell exactly HOW abusive my husband WAS / IS because we all have different opinions of how we perceive the abuse.

        He sees himself as a provider, a GOOD husband. Who is right? It doesn’t matter. What matters here is that I see my own flaws, I see a toxic family, I want change for the better. When he sees he has his own shit, he may start understanding why I left.

        My empathizing with him does not mean I condone his behaviour. My empathizing gives me the strength to see that we ALL need to better ourselves. A process that goes on until we die. I cannot put the silver lining on his problems (like Brené Brown said in her video). I can just empathize what he is going through. I can only be there as a friend. As the mother of our children. I need(ed) to stop hanging on to his responsibilities even if he tries to put blame on me.

        Like I said, he is NOT a horrible person. I think even the “worst” aren’t really horrible. They were likely not born that way. They just don’t know. They can’t see. They can’t feel. They don’t process feelings/emotions the same way. I’m not saying that anybody should take any form of abuse because they empathize with the other. All I’m saying is that we are all human…

        We all make mistakes.

        It’s what we learn from our mistakes and the will to improve on them is what matters.

        I don’t know how far back both my side and his side of family have had toxic relationships, but I guaranty it’s been going on for some time.

        I want to stop the vicious cycle from generation to generation.

        And hopefully my will to make this difference will pay off for my children.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Bygeorge,

        You said: “I want to stop the vicious cycle from generation to generation.

        And hopefully my will to make this difference will pay off for my children.”

        Most important and best way to look at it!

        Stop the vicious cycle. However we have available to do it. We have to stop the vicious cycle.

        Sometime both people are willing to change. Sometimes only one. Either way the vicious cycle has to stop.

        Totally agree.

        Like

        • pearl says:

          Lisa Gottman and bygeorge –

          I haved called this cycle a “shit show” long before I had the luck of discovering this blog. Everyday I still tell myself: “Pearl, stay out of the shit show.” :) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

          Echoing and applauding everything about these statements.

          “Breaking the cycle” and “My kids are my priority. I am my priority.” Enormous gifts when we finally worked hard enough on ourselves and our situations discover such convictions. Like I mentioned to Matt, next comes the action. Because what good is conviction without action? The next step on the path is being active in pursuit of our follow through. Put conviction into motion. This is where I get stuck.

          A moment to say thank you all for the support and kind words that have been shared here. I am deeply grateful. Learning to be vulnerable is important in all of this. And have a soft place to fall is incredible.

          THANK YOU!

          Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Right!

        He thinks that if I move back in and we “try”, everything will be ok instantly. I know exactly what that means. It means, I move back, everything is a honeymoon for a week like Pearl said, then the shit hits the fan over and over again. Up and down, up and down.

        It would take YEARS to repair if even it’s possible. I know for even myself, there are years of hard core soul searching. I feel like I’ve lived in a coma. I feel like I need to re-learn everything from the begining.

        My kids are my priority. I am my priority.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Pearl,

        I don’t know the depths of your story, but if you are in an even slightly “dangerous” situation, please make sure you have a good plan. I’m saying this because you mentioned “fists through walls”.

        There is help out there.

        And we are here to be supportive!

        Like

        • pearl says:

          bygeorge

          Thank you so much for support and concern. I am lucky . . . I do have a couple people to call on if I need them.

          What an amazing group of people gathered here!

          Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Yes Pearl,

        This bunch IS awesome!

        Matt is awesome for getting us all here! I am so happy to have found his blog.

        It’s a brilliant message that should be propagated to all!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Pearl, Bygeorge:

        Virtual hugs if you want them!

        No one deserves to eat shit for years. It pains me so much that the human race is so messed up that these kinds of shit cycles are going on, they take so very much suffering both to endure and to break out of. I wish I could bring you both dinner, hand you tissues and serve you tea/coffe/a drink.

        Shit cycles need to be broken somehow. That. Is. Hard! I honestly believe anyone who’s waking up and learning to both refuse shit sandwiches and stop giving them to others is helping the collective human consciousness grow and heal.

        Like you say Bygeorge, we all make mistakes the important part is owning up to them and improving.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Oh trust me Donkey, I have done my share of yelling and calling him out for the miserable fucking DICK that can be!

        But I have also told him that I see his pain, that I know he loves me deep down, but doesn’t know how to behave or treat others. That we both made mistakes. Mistakes that may not be reconcilable.

        The mistake of not recognizing some very important issues that made us so different that we should not have started the relationship at all in the first place. The “infections” that ate us to the core.

        Virtual hugs are super welcome! And if I knew if we could meet in person, I would very much like to have dinner, a drink and take a tissue!

        Like

    • pearl says:

      bygeorge

      I have never posted on a blog before. But I have been reading and really letting this community soak into me for quite awhile. The shit sandwich discussion . . . really brought clarity. Isn’t that something? “Don’t eat shit.” Should be a no brainer, right?? For most people I reckon it is.

      bygeorge – When I read those same words “you fucking bitch” I broke down. . . again. I have heard those same words repeatedly. There have been stretches of solid weeks were it was every night for months on end. I lived (still am) through the manipulations, cycles of devaluing and then honeymoon periods. Promises/threats of smear campaigns, brainwashing your children against you. Fists through walls. While I have been eating the shit he serves me, I have been serving him my sweetness, my magic, my essence and soul. Taking this back and leaving him to starve (or eat his own shit) creates waves of more rage and pain.

      I am currently trying to break away as well. Struggling to find the courage. Fighting the fear, shame and guilt everyday. Carrying the weight of dissolving (his words) our family because I am changing/evolving/demanding/recognizing the damage we are doing to our boys. Knowing I will have to fight him everyday for the rest of my life to hang on to my heart, my value, my spirit. All the while trying to show my boys how to hold on to their hearts, values and spirits.

      I am also trying find grace in all of this for him. It is hard but I know if I am going restore or strengthen my spirit, I must. I have so much to learn about myself and where this process is going to take me. I have two boys and I pray to God I am strong enough to show them the way as well. How does a previous (current) broken mother show/influence/guide boys into manhood? To be great men and great fathers and husbands. This is my goal/my dream/my quest. I given up on my husband. He is in God’s and the universe’s hands. We are not a match. But I hope and pray that my boys still have a chance.

      Like

      • Matt says:

        That you’re even mindful of your critical role in helping mold young boys into good men would seem to be 75% of the battle.

        I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, and so grateful that you’re here sharing and pulling something good from all of these other people’s experiences.

        When everything hurts and we don’t recognize ourselves anymore because we’re totally broken, is when we need to borrow from everyone else.

        My very best wishes to you and your family.

        Like

        • pearl says:

          Thanks, Matt

          And thanks for providing a format for people like me who have been punished for being vulnerable. Providing a place to grow trust in ourselves and in others. This is environment for people like me re-learn and practice the basics and place our convictions. To be active. I am recognizing that through all of this actions must follow convictions. What good are convictions, mantras, value systems, the belief in your very core if you don’t (won’t or refuse) to have the follow through?

          Like

          • Matt says:

            That’s the right question.

            Every great idea is only good as the execution once it’s been realized.

            Trust yourself. You’re smart and wise. It’s easy to tell.

            And I’m pulling this out of my ass, but I think it’s true:

            When we are smart (which I mean as informed/aware/educated), and exercise wisdom, and demonstrate kindness, and we know in our very core that we are doing these things, then I think it becomes a lot easier to do the hard stuff.

            It’s hard because we love, and because of guilt, and because of habit, and ton of self-doubt.

            Smart. Wise. Kind.

            If we can check those off, then we get to take the leaps with faith we’re going to come out of it okay.

            And when we grow from the experience in a way that protects us from repeating mistakes of our past?

            We come out of it better.

            Rooting for you.

            Like

            • pearl says:

              I see so much truth in this. I like how you presented it as a check list.

              Is what I am doing SMART?

              Am I being, or how can I be WISE in this situation?

              Am I being KIND? (To myself? To others?)

              I know I get bogged down in the emotion, guilt, shame. When the drama gets engulfing, it blinds your vision and pokes holes in your gut. Maybe three simple questions (like these – maybe they are different for everyone) can get to the BIG answers. Or at least keep us moving forward instead of back. Or, stuck which is where I have been spending a lot of time lately. . . asking the hard questions instead of the “easy” ones. :) :)

              Thank you for your KINDness. :)

              Like

              • Matt says:

                When I first started this blog and felt indescribably horrible every day BECAUSE my wife had moved out and my son was gone half the time, I was always encouraging everyone to fight, fight, fight to save their marriages.

                And I certainly do believe MOST marriages, most of the time, are worth saving (because of my general belief that people push each other away accidentally, and that unless they intend to stay single and celibate forever, are likely to continue those behaviors in their next relationships). So, why not just make the existing marriage and family great?

                However, the longer I do this, and the more people I talk to, the less I’m inclined to go there in the absence of information.

                You’re here, reading and thinking and trying and hoping. That leads me to believe you have a pretty good handle on what’s happening or not happening in your relationship, and to what extent that is or isn’t good for you and your children.

                It pains me to say it, but once I stopped selfishly feeling butt-hurt over my wife making the choice she needed to make for herself, I started recognizing I’d been looking at marriage and all the breakdowns the wrong way.

                Sure, the same things tend to cause the same problems in everyone’s relationships. And sure, the LEGIT good guys who figure it out fast enough probably deserve the opportunity to practice good husbandry once the light bulb goes on for him.

                But I no longer see it as two lazy people unwilling to try hard enough or love hard enough.

                Our problems begin in the incubation stage of our relationships, when we lack knowledge, experience, resources, wisdom RE: a healthy understanding of boundaries, and honest communication, and aligning on core values, etc.

                The cancer grows undetected for a few years before the symptoms kick in.

                Then things get really complicated.

                It’s a question worth asking: Once diagnosed with cancer, how many of us are going to keep people in our lives who are totally unsupportive and deny that we’re actually sick and informed enough to know it, and ultimately serve as an impediment to treatment and healing?

                I’m going to continue to root for families and marriages. Passionately.

                But I think my perception of reality is a lot healthier and clearer than it once was.

                We can’t ignore fatal diseases by denying they’re real or simply hoping they’ll magically disappear on their own.

                Sometimes, we have hard choices to make on our road to recovery.

                It’s not until we’re healed that we learn how to thrive.

                Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Peal,

        This made me cry. It’s an EXTREMELY hard decision, but I think you are making the right one. Your situation sounds a bit worse than mine. I hope you have support networks. Family and/or friends.

        Do NOT let him allow yourself to take the full blame. We are human. We all make mistakes. He is making mistakes, but can’t see them. You on the other hand are willing to look for them. We are not born “sick”. We are moulded into what we consume. I trust, he has had shit happen to him that he is repeating without understanding why. If you read the “empathizing with Hitler” post, similarly, empathizing with your husband will give you the strength to move on. For yourself, and your children.

        It is one’s OWN responsibility to better themselves. If he can’t see his own flaws, you’ll never be able to point them out.

        You can do this! You’re first step is to making the decision of change. Once you make that decision, hold on to it! NEVER let it go! It’s very easy to give into the manipulation, I know. But just remember WHY you came to the decision, and hold onto those reasons. Believe in yourself and let go of what you can’t control.

        Please let us know how things unfold.

        Sending my love to you!

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Pearl,

        I can’t even imagine having to endure being spoken to and treated in such an abusive way. Day after day to be told I deserve to eat shit.

        You are such a brave woman to rise up and see you have to change something. For yourself and your boys.

        You deserve better than shit Pearl! Your boys deserve better than to see their mother eat shit! You know this now so your healing has already begun.

        I don’t know why your husband is serving shit and expecting you to eat it or calling you a “fucking bitch” every night but it is not safe to live with him unless he can figure it out and really change at a deep level.

        Sending you thoughts and prayers today for you and your boys.

        Like

      • Karin Antal says:

        Oh, Pearl. I see so much of my marriage in your post. I also have boys that I worry about. I’m not quite at the part where I muster up the courage to leave though. I love him too much and have faith in him still, but I don’t know for how much longer. Love and light to you. May we both find our way with our magic intact. xoxo

        Like

        • pearl says:

          Hi Karen

          Thank you for reaching out. I wish it was under better circumstances. I am sorry that you see yourself my post. But maybe recognizing a little bit of you in me can spark a little bit of awakening.

          I am not going to get too deep or pushy. I hardly have any courage and I am certainly far from a creditable source, but remember those little eyes are watching. Watching and learning. Watching and learning how and where to put love, anger, pain and hate. I don’t know where you are in your marriage, but in mine they witnessed me put all of my big, beautiful love out only to get the anger, pain and hate in return. This became their normal. This became my normal. It is the biggest battle to change the programing of love = fear/pain. It might be too late for me but I want my boys to know that love = love. They are 12 and 9 now and “want to be just like dad.” I pray it is not too late.

          I dont want to over step so I will just add a little bit more. You must, must, must say “no more” and mean it. Don’t bust your own boundaries like I did. No one ever told me this so I am going to say it to you: “You are valuable.” Never let this go. I did and I faded away. . . for a while. Now I trying to find my way back. When I make “it” hopefully I will be stronger, kinder and wiser (thanks, Matt).

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Fromscratchmom says:

    You are so right on the nose with saying people guess. Without real, effective healthy communication marriages cannot thrive. When that is missing or messed up somehow people truly do need help to get that going correctly and to get to the real issues that inhibit the marriage.

    I know beyond a doubt that there were so many things that my husband thought about me that were way off base. There were probably many that I was incorrect about as well!

    Like

  7. Lisa Gottman says:

    I’ve been the patient that was misdiagnosed. It was incredibly frustrating but I’ll save that for another post. There is a book that is referenced in the article How Doctors Think that has some great things for everyone to consider.

    Because this is really a flaw in trusting ourselves too much. Not enough humility. Not enough listening to other people’s perspectives.

    This is from a goodreads recap that I am modifying with my comments.

    Things you can say to your doctor (or your spouse) to help him/her with your case:

    – “What’s the worst this could be?”

    This gets to the idea of assuming that I should assume I need to actively work on our relationship or it will almost certainly degrade into unhappiness and or divorce.

    – “Is it possible that I have more than one problem?”

    I was reading the other day that virtually everyone who comes into marriage counseling identified their problem as communication. Yes, that is true. But it is almost certain poor communication is a symptom of one or more other problems that are causing the communication problems.

    – “Let me tell you what is really frightening me.”

    I must be willing to show true vulnerability and also make it safe for my spouse to show vulnerability. That’s how we build intimacy.

    – “Can I tell you the story again as if you’d never heard it? Is it possible that I left out something important that I don’t realize is important?”

    Don’t assume that I understand my spouse’s perspective. Even if did at one time it changes. Spend energy and effort to be curious and make each other feel understood.

    – “When you say ‘improvement,’ do you mean ‘cure’?”

    When my spouse promises to “fix” a problem does it address the root of the problem. Because if it’s an improvement, the problem is not cured and will show up again resistant to the fix that didn’t work last time.

    – “How likely is this test to have a false positive rating? What about a false negative rating?”

    Are the dishes by the sink a dish they we both think is no big deal or do they represent a pattern that will lead to our divorce?

    – “Are you doing this procedure because you are confident it will work, or are you doing it because you don’t know what else to do?”

    When we are unhappy, do we throw random things at the problem or do we look for evidence based solutions or advice from wise happily married people who have been through similar problems?

    – “Do you need more time to think about this? Do you want to call or e-mail me, or should I schedule another appointment?”

    I read recently that a high percentage of unhappily married people are pretty happy several years later. It feels hopeless and I feel like I’ve tried everything but usually it’s all the wrong things that I’ve tried.

    Of course all this applies to average unhappy marriages not abusive marriages.

    Like

  8. Neen says:

    Wow. I was married to the same person. I wish I had read your blog 15 years ago. Maybe I would still be married and possibly happily married. Well at least I’m reading it now and if I ever do get married again… My husband and I will read repeatedly. Thank you for your exceptional insight!!!

    Like

  9. Rykahl says:

    I found this blog a little over a month ago. I’m always looking for something that will help bring the issues of our marriage out from the dark corners and into the light. I’ve said from day one, literally our wedding day was the start of the downward spiral, that we have issues but they don’t have to do with our core. He’s not a bad person he just relies on bad habits.

    I never felt like the issues were insurmountable, but there were real issues that if left to fester, would poison our marriage.My husbands view was he was doing everything right, is always right, he’s the perfect husband and I’m just never going to be happy. So he refused to talk to me, deflecting and redirecting any conversation back to me being the person who is “wrong”. Never read an article of book (he even bought one but never read past 10 pages). Never participated in our counseling sessions, preferring instead to go drunk and try and charm our counselor.

    We have separated twice and each time he promises to come back and try. He never does.

    The fuse to my patience is all used up now. It kills your soul to be the only one working while you wait for promises that never come to fruition. I’ve become bitter and depressed. He has become angry and vindictive. It’s our inappropriate way of dealing with a marriage we just can’t make work together. And at a time I needed my husbands support, he decided to use it as a weapon. I left my job 2 weeks ago, with his support, and now he has informed me he is leaving in 2 weeks. Abandoning me with rent, a new car payment and utilities when I have no income. He nicely stated he was’t going to support my unemployed ass and I needed to figure out how to care for myself. Never-mind that he has been supported by me during his 3 times of unemployment.It’s just a reason for him to justify leaving.

    It made me ask, what am I holding out hope for? What am I trying to keep here? And the answer is nothing. In 2 hours, I’ll be at my appointment in the courthouse to file our divorce papers. And still I look at this blog post and think, it’s really so simple. Why aren’t we both smart enough to fix it? I think that’s what’s most heart breaking, it’s so easy but the right and wrongness of it apparently is more important.

    Like

    • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

      Rykahl,

      I read this the other day… it’s a good read. This article relates to why people often get involved without truly knowing what they are getting into when they get married.

      I DEFINATELY know now that I rushed into being with my husband, having kids even if we waited 4 years into it… this article resonates a LOT with me.

      http://markmanson.net/love

      Like

      • Rysusee says:

        bygeorge,

        Yes, good article. It’s funny, I knew this man for 30 years. You’d think that would have helped, right? No, it actually caused my little pea brain to make excuses for inappropriate outburst while we were dating and even while engaged. I kept telling myself that’s not the Matt I know. And it wasn’t. That’s the key with this man. He is one way to his friends and you LOVE that man! But he is not that way to his partner, that person is for everyone else. And that man is self-centered, lazy, hurtful, disrespectful, cold and un-attentive. And I would not accept those traits in a friend, ever.

        He actually said he was sorry to me this morning and that he didn’t intend for our marriage to be this way, end like this. It doesn’t help.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Rysusee,

        It’s really hard to know a person COMPLETELY.

        I’m starting to think I’ll be alone forever! I’m ok alone for now, but forever is a long time.

        :(

        Like

  10. OKRickety says:

    We both guessed incorrectly about what the other person thought and felt, we both did an awful job trying to bridge the communication gap, and the kiss of death was my assumption that My Way—the way I thought and experienced the world through my own individual perspective—was somehow “more correct” than her way. That inherently flawed belief helped me justify not putting in the work reading books and talking to people who knew better than I did what love really is.

    Is there any possibility that there was another “kiss of death”? That she assumed that Her Way was somehow more correct than Your Way? So she also did not work to save the marriage?

    You seem to want to believe that you changing would have saved your marriage. Perhaps it would have, but there is no guarantee.

    It’s possible that she would not have been willing to see changes in you, or make changes in herself. I suspect the primary reason for the divorce was a lack of total commitment by one or both of you.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      What could POSSIBLY be the point of exploring that idea, and then simply alleviating myself of all responsibility and never worrying about being smarter and wiser?

      What would be the point of trying to find more ways to accept less responsibility for my own life?

      Even if that were true, it’s a wasted exercise that doesn’t make me anything more than I always was — someone who didn’t know how to own his shit.

      Those days are over.

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Perhaps you missed the word “another” before kiss of death? The significance being that she may have also had some portion of responsibility for the end of your marriage. Perhaps she was the perfect wife, although I think that unlikely.

        If she had some responsibility, that certainly does not mean that you did not have responsibility as well. I think it’s quite likely that both of you had fault. I am not suggesting that you cannot learn from what happened, nor that you should not look to grow from the experience.

        I agree you should own your own shit, and, if you care about her, even if only as another human being, you should want her to own her own shit, too. I’m not suggesting it’s your responsibility to tell her that, just that you should recognize it. Of course, you can only change your own behavior and that is your responsibility.

        If you want to believe that you have “all responsibility”, go right ahead. There are many who will praise you for it, as you have already experienced.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Of course my wife messed up in our marriage. Mostly through ignorance as I did, and maybe even intentionally sometimes, simply because she was angry.

          I don’t know what I’ve written that leads you to believe I think I’m 100% percent responsible for my failed marriage.

          I just choose to focus 100% of my attention on what I could have done better.

          You show me ONE honest spouse who can legitimately claim perfection in his/her marriage, and I’ll be happy to grant them unmitigated finger-pointing and blaming.

          In the meantime, I’m going to keep my attention on me cleaning up my failings before I still worrying about others’.

          Until I bring near-perfection to the table in a relationship, I’ll have no way of knowing how much or how little I contribute to the suck.

          Something tells me, if I DO bring near-perfection (or at least an obvious demonstration of trying really hard), things will be pretty awesome.

          I have little doubt more than 90% of all people in committed relationships would experience that as well.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. “I never realized people could feel alone with other people around.”

    Oh, that is absolutely brutal. There is nothing worse in the whole world. Seriously, it is better to be completely alone than lonely and surrounded by people. That is a pain like no other, even worse then the unrequited love of teen age angst.

    Misdiagnosing the problem, you are right, Matt. We often try to read one another’s minds, projecting what we think they are saying or thinking onto them, and getting it terribly wrong in the process. We have to learn how to speak to the heart, how to let go of what we think we know and to really listen. There’s that old saying about assuming, it makes an ass out of “U” and “Me.”

    Easier said then done of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree with you completely Matt. I think that looking back on my own failings in my marriage, one big black cancerous blob on my pie chart of all thing anti-empathy was how religious I became with my actions, obsessing, counting the nights in which I too slept in our guest room, terrified my less than emotionally stable self had been found out by all, all because I froze, or said I love you like Siri gives directions.
    There is a way to come back from all of it, but that also requires each spouse to see themselves in their spouses truths, and to let go, if all of it, forever. Easier said than done, but I’m proof it does happen.

    Like

  13. Donkey says:

    Lisa,

    I’m continuing our attachment vs differentiation discussion here as I’m so overwhelmed by all the comments on the other post (I know I’m a large part of the problem though, lol).

    It’s interesting that you say you’re more on the anxiously attached side and are therefore more comfortable with the attachment approach. I think I also am more on the anxious side of things (although my crap can manifest itself differently, and again, I have some emotional avoidance/numbness/freeze stuff going on). But again, for me the truth is that I can’t attach healthily, almost no matter what someone else does (remember the affectionate dog?), if I’m not emotionally healthy/well differentiated. Had I been a toddler it would probably have been a different story though. Someone stable and loving soothing all my emotional boo-boos until I felt happy and safe would have been just the thing, I imagine. 8).

    I don’t think avoidant types are better differentiated. :p If you’re well differentiated in this area, you can deal with your partner wanting a bit more closeness, wanting some soothing. Not vast amounts of neediness, but I imagine a well differentiated person (in this area) wouldn’t have that intense fear of being engulfed, and they would be able and willing to see that they may have been too independence-focused.

    It’s interesting what you say about Gottman being attachment oriented but in an avoidant type friendly way. I can see that!

    Ok, if I’m understanding you correctly, your hubby felt validated by Terry Real? Would you mind elaborating? I found it a bit surprising. I’ve noticed you say that you and your hubby often fall outside of the stereotypical gender patterns, and I don’t doubt that. But still, the lack of boundaries on your part, lack of accepting influence on his part, anxious vs avoidant types, the housework inequality fights seem quite typical. I’m a bit surprised because from what I’ve read by Terry Real, he definitely calls men out on all of this, and isn’t shy about it! :p

    Regarding attahcment styles, I definitely think that approach can be useful. Personally I’m just trying to do whatever I can/need to become well differentiated/healthily attached/emotionally healthy. I definitely do not want to be in a relationship where someone ignores me and hardly shows me any affection in ways that are meaningful to me and just be fine with that. No. But I don’t want to depend on one specific person’s emotional attunement for my basic sense of well being and safety you know. As I said in another post, everyone has needs, which is fine and great, but there are healthy needs and needy-needs. And I’m repeating myself here, but that just doesn’t seem to work for me in any case, I want to/need to be healthy enough to receive any love coming my way. It’s no wonder people feel lonely/unloved if they aren’t receiving what they’re getting.

    I DEFINITELY believe healthy relationships are necessary for good health though! I think that’s part of the healing factor og group therapy, or just regular therapy, having healthy and honest relationships with people. I’m just trying to deal with what can only be successfully dealt with by me (now that I’m not a kid anymore).

    i do believe strongly in dealing with our childhood/life stuff, in whatever ways work for us (and that would include pursuing and developing healthy relationships of different kinds). On that level, it doesn’t really matter if you’re avoidant or anxiously attached, they’re just different symptoms which will mostly disappear when we’ve healed enough. I believe in doing whatever we can and must to be a loving and safe parent to ourselves, and to grieve away all the painful underlying feels. I think true grieving is very underestimated, I believe that is partly how our walls come down. So I try to make space for true grieving (as apposed to victim crying, but I won’t go there now) in my life.

    Again, I definitely agree we all have attahcment needs, and we also heal through safe relationships. I think that’s partly why group therapy, and just plain old therapy, can be so effective, we have corrective experiences. I’m just trying to remove the root causes of my unhealthy needs/tendencies, that other people can’t or shouldn’t have to deal with for me.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Ok here’s a summary of Stan Tatkin’s common attachment styles for anyone interested. He calls avoidants “islands”, anxious style are “waves” and the lucky healthy people are “anchors”

      In Wired for Love, Stan Tatkin classes individual attachment styles into 3 categories: islands, waves or anchors. We all fit into one of these categories based on how we tend to respond in our relationships. Here’s a brief summary of the different attachment styles as described by Stan

      People who are ISLANDS tend to:

      like to be alone, enjoy their own space
      have been raised to be self-sufficient and tend to avoid people
      learn early on not to depend on people
      often feel crowded in intimate relationships
      be in a world of their own
      self-soothe and self-stimulate
      not turn to others for soothing or stimulation
      find it hard to shift from being alone to interacting
      under express their thoughts and feelings
      process a lot internally

      People who are WAVES tend to:

      feel a great deal with their emotions
      have strong attachments in childhood, but they were inconsistent
      have helped soothe a parent or both parents who were overwhelmed
      have felt rejected or turned away by one or both parents
      focus on external regulation- asking others to help them soothe them
      find it hard to shift from interacting to being alone
      over -express and like to talk about all the details
      stay in close physical contact to others
      often think they are too much and nobody can tolerate them

      Characteristics of ANCHORS

      People who are anchors tend to:

      come from a family where there was an emphasis on relationship
      have experienced justice, fairness and sensitivity in their family
      love to collaborate and work with others
      read faces, voices and deal with difficult people well

      Our attachment styles get hard-wired into our brains from an early age. Understanding your attachment style is not about pathology, but is about helping you to deal with your natural state and improve your relationships. Understanding how you move towards and away from others and how your partner moves towards and away can help you improve your relationship.

      (I’ll explain on another comment why I think all this matters and how it can be applied practically).

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Here’s the link for the summary I posted in the other comment with a summary of Stan Tatkin’s Wired For Love book.

        http://clintonpower.com.au/2012/07/wired-for-love/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey, You said, “He’s not actively trying to get me to do housework but he doesn’t want to do it so he doesn’t”

        Be warned, housework inequality is such a trigger for me for many reasons, so that probably will show in my tone here. I’m not trying to disrespect your hubby. :p
        I just feel like that kind of attitude is typical of the “shitty husbands” Matt are addressing on this blog. From my impressions, many guys consider themselves egalitarian. It’s not that they force their female partner to do the housework, it’s more, as you say, they just don’t do it themselves. Or derpy derp around waiting for her to initiate and organize things And that kind of blind, (often but not always) male entitlement, that you can just decide to not do stuff and not think about stuff, is just…. not to my liking. :p Of course people can argue about standards, but people need to be cleaned and fed, and if stuff isn’t cleaned in a timely manner, nasty bugs will infest your home.Donkey,

        YES! I completely and totally agree. It’s one of the main reasons we almost got divorced. It think I am trying to explain too things at once so my message is getting confused (kind of like my first Bill and Steve comment).

        Ok. John was an ABSOLUTELY shitty husband when it came to taking no responsibility for the care of our house inside out out.

        It enraged me because I am not a naturally nurturing person who wants to do any of the homemaking things that some women enjoy like decorating or cooking or gardening.

        I see absolutely no reason why it should be in any way assumed I would do these things because I have to be female. I hate cooking, decorating, gardening. It is all like cleaning toilets to me. So I feel no natural territorial pride (I did not relate to Travis’s comment about how most women won’t give in decorating. I agree that it is common, but I don’t feel it).

        If I had enjoyed these things and wanted to be a stay at home mom, our marriage probably would have worked ok even if he had the same shitty attitudes. That is why I think so many people with traditional gender interests do ok. Not because the ideas are not sexist but because their natural interests line up in ways that allow the other person to do things they enjoy.

        John also feels no responsibility for male things like taking care of the yard or doing handyman things or remodeling etc. These are also like cleaning toilets to him.

        All of this is ok if you have good relationship skills because you can work out some kind of solution. Hire out the work as you can afford it, divide crappy jobs in a fair manner etc.

        But, it was a problem because we both had relationship skill deficits. So our issues were not about sexism in the traditional sense. My mother’s husband has these views and they drive me crazy! Men do this manly yard work because they’re men, women do inside work because they’re women.

        He is literally an absent minded professor who cares NOTHING about his environment. I am someone who feels anxious around clutter. The environment messes with my head! But this is one of those perpetual differences that every marriage has. You have to be able to negotiate win win solutions.

        And we had the deadly combination of relationship skill deficits. He would not accept my influence to work out a reasonable solution. Because he didn’t care about it so my discomfort didn’t make sense to him. Because he thought he needed to understand and empathize before he had to accept my influence. So he didn’t.

        He would do what he thought was a reasonable amount and leave it to me to do what I thought was reasonable. It’s a very “Bill” avoidant way of looking at it. But it seemed very fair to him. Because he was doing a lot more than a lot of guys, more than his father.

        And I looked at it and said this is not fair because you have to start with the entirety of the crap work and divide it “fairly”. In my view, he was only doing 20% of the work on a good day. And I am just not going to let someone hand me a shit sandwich and say it is delicious. (To be fair, he did a much higher percentage of kid work, he’s closer to a Jason there).

        So this is where my lack of relationship skills came in. The skill that most women are missing. How do you set boundaries early in the relationship without making a big deal of it?

        I had three settings to my boundaries.

        1. I put up with your crap and try to be nice because you’re family and I’m going home in 2 hours.

        2. I can compromise in reasonable ways with someone who is also trying to compromise in reasonable ways.

        3. You are trying to feed me a shit sandwich and I am going to shove it in your face and make YOU eat it while I tell you how shitty you are for giving it to me.

        I was missing the boundary skill in between 2 and 3. I am trying to learn it now. This is where you respond non-judgmentally to people who don’t accept your influence. You don’t shove it in their face and treat them like shit.

        You accept that it is human to want to get your own way when it is inconvenient to give something up. The attitude is the key to whole thing for me. I respond in anger (because of my history). I don’t have a problem with actually setting the boundary. But because I do it with the wrong attitude, it makes it worse than before.

        Now many women have the opposite problem and feel guilty for setting boundaries. Who think they should help people, their needs don’t matter etc. I don’t relate to this common subset of “co-dependant” women. For them the boundary setting is harder than the attitude.

        But the end result is the same because both of us have failed to set healthy boundaries when our husbands have not accepted our influence. And we will both end up adapting in some short term way and will be really unhappy or divorced several years later.

        Ok, now the Terry Real issue. His book is presented as a perspective on how marriage has changed. He talks about traditional views of the purpose of marriage and how the modern changes through feminism have totally changed what marriage means. And what wives expect from their husbands.

        His premise is that women have changed a lot. And here I’m using language he doesn’t just to make it fast. Women have become differentiated in the sense of wanting to have relationship success and career success (however defined). They have made a lot of emotional changes to make these things happen.

        Men have not changed that much. They still are given the same messages about what it means to be a man or a man-fail. You can’t be vulnerable or emotional. You are only as good as how successful you are compared to other men. Being avoidant is equated with being a man.

        So Terry Real is calling bullshit on that and says that being avoidant is not healthy masculinity. It is dysfunctional and will lead to divorce. Because women REQUIRE connection and true intimacy in modern marriage in ways they did not 60 years ago when a good husband was about being a good provider. And a wife considered herself lucky if he didn’t drink too much or beat her or had affairs she knew about.

        So, he asks men to accept that true masculinity is also about emotions and empathy and intimacy. And he calls for women to fight their tendencies to not stand up for themselves without being angry or critical or co-dependant. For both genders to learn what it really is to be a healthy adult with healthy relationship skills.

        The healthier you get the more similar the relationship skills are for both genders. Because the pink/blue divide really represent dysfunctional distortions that need to be rejected as the shit sandwiches there are.

        Hopefully, this has made more sense. I will respond to your book question in another comment.

        Like

      • Lisa Gortman says:

        Donkey,

        You said: “Would you mind sharing some of the books that helped you, and just how/why they helped? Was it the validation you felt, or something else? Or what else you did that helped you?”

        Yes, I’d be interested in a similar answer from you!

        I don’t know if your process is like mine but here’s what I did.

        I listened to a lot of different ideas and approaches. I try to listen to a lot of podcasts and YouTubes to get the general idea of a particular person and then if I like their approach I go deeper. I’ll listen to everything available for free and turn buy books or audiobooks of courses or whatever.

        I like to do the podcasts and YouTubes because I can do it during a lot of wasted time like when I’m shopping for grocerys or driving in my car or cleaning up I can listen on my phone.

        One of the ones I mentioned that helped me with the big picture was Sue Johnson. If you haven’t read it I recommend her book LoveSense. It has a big picture kind of approach with research but is written for a general audience.

        Her book Hold Me Tight was my aha moment but I like LoveSense better. I’ve gone deep on her stuff and have read her training books for therapists and signed up for therapist videos so I can see what a gifted therapist does to help anxious/avoidants to heal. It’s really quite fascinating. She’s very soothing almost like a dog whisperer and slows everything way down to uncover and help them express the vulnerable emotions underneath the hurt and anger.

        Because I had seen the videos, I knew the shit passed off as EFT therapy in our couples therapy was NOT the way it is supposed to be done. I think so many couples get such bad marriage counseling even when they are trying to learn.

        I like the EFT stuff because it helped me to understand better what healthy relationship look like, what is the nature of love and other big questions.

        Dan Wile is another gifted therapist I like. I like his book for therapists Couples Therapy more than the general public one After The Honeymoon. His basic idea is similar to the EFT model. You try and uncover the underlying thoughts and motivations in a more vulnerable way.

        His concept that you marry a particular set of problems was really helpful. I’ve written about it in another comment but the idea is that whatever problems you have with your spouse is just a result of interlocking sensitivities and we all have many of them so which are activated depends in which set is s mismatch for your spouse.

        I am sensitive to John working all the time, he hates feeling his time is controlled so we argue about that. If I married Joe and he wanted to spend all our free time together I would hate that and want more independence. We all have differences. The differences are not the problem just the way you deal with the differences. Can you work together to find a reasonable solution?

        I’m just going through the attachment people in my head. I think Gottman’s best book was The Science of Trust. It’s very geeked up and full of fascinating ideas that ask and answer how important is trust to a relationship? What is trust? etc. I’ve read a lot of his stuff. I think the popular ones are the least interesting.

        I also have the DVD set for their marriage workshop, The Art and Science of Love. I’ve written before about the pros and cons of Gottman.

        Since my underlying problem is relationship trauma, anything that helps me understand people and relationships is healing to me. I am phobic of people like some people are phobic of dogs after being bitten by a dog.
        I don’t understand how people work or what I needs to do to in a healthy way.

        So the attachment model stuff helps me understand what love looks like. It is healing for me because most of my trauma has been people telling me over and over that their avoidant behavior or their shitty treatment of me is normal love.

        I kept saying it tasted like shit but you get the gaslighting effect often enough and you defintely don’t trust anything anymore. And I defintely didn’t know how to respond in love to avoidant people. For sure. I just tried to kick the dog that bit me and then I was surprised when they ran away.

        Another thing that helped me was a lot of personality stuff. I’ve read all kinds. I focused mostly on the Myers Briggs because there is a lot of material. There is a lot more depth there than most people realize beyond the simplistic quizzes online. Lots of training stuff free on YouTube for example.

        That helped me quite a lot because I could underside people’s behaviors with a different more neutral lens. Oh he says I think too much because I’m an abstract INTJ and he’s an action ESTP. That makes sense why he would say that. Before I would respond like a dog bit me and get angry because I had no other filter than someone being rude and rejecting me.

        Another one that was helpful was Vanessa Van Edwards. Her website is the science of people. I watched her course on understanding people on creative live. Really good! It’s like an overview of the differences based on different lens.

        For me the more I understand why people do things, the safer I feel. This is getting too long so I’ll just add s couple more and we can swap more in other comments.

        I like David Burns. Not so much the classic Feeling Good for depression. That is too rigid for my tastes but I loved his Feeling Good Together which teaches how to sooth upset people. How to work out win win solutions. I also liked Burns book on social anxiety, can’t remember the name at the moment.

        The last book for this comment is Bessel van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps The Score that one is all about how we experience trauma and how our body stores it and then we get sick or feel anxious or depressed or can’t sleep or whatever. And we have to reverse the process to heal. Fantastic book.

        Ok I have lots more. But I’d like to hear some of your favorites.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        That should be your new fake last names for dates! Matt Gortman.

        Also, I’m typing in my car while I’m waiting for my daughter in my Dance Mom role when I write most of these things. I’m surprised I get anything right.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Donkey,

      I am going to reply to your comments in several comments. Some to talk about attachment theory that was so helpful to me. Maybe it can help someone else reading about it. Some to respond to your questions about my personal story. ;)

      Ok, you are right that many of my marriage difficulties are incredibly common.

      So in our case, there are two different levels.

      Level one is where we often fall outside the gender norms. Because I process information and emotions intellectually I process things in a more stereotypical “male” way. I don’t relate at all to the nail in the head YouTube video where the woman just wants to vent her emotions without problem solving. And of course this is simplistic because it really a question of which comes first understanding or problem solving.

      So, I am a problem solver in the stereotypical male way. I also feel plenty of emotions but I don’t lead with my emotions. If there is a fact based “logical” reason vs an emotional reason, I generally choose the logical reason. (Ok not when Doritos are involved but most times ;). One style is not “smarter” than another it’s just a different way of making decisions.

      I have said before that I often don’t relate to a lot of stuff all women are supposed to feel. I often relate to the husband’s point of view in marriage books etc. For example, I don’t relate to moms who feel guilty for prioritizing their needs or their marriage. I love my kids but don’t feel that identity as a “mom” that I’m supposed to feel. But I really think of it as having an atypical “thinking” style.

      Nothing wrong with either one. Just different styles. My husband is also an atypical style. He’s very theoretical but also able to talk about emotions. He’s very empathic to others suffering. Partly because he had undiagnosed panic disorder for 10 year.s. When you’ve gone through true suffering it’s easier to drop the mask of invulnerability. His processing style kind of reminds me of Drew’s comments except Drew seems much more anchor than avoidant.

      Anyway, so I thought marriage would be a piece of cake because we’re both “thinkers” and speak the same language. And it does make it easier because we are both share that fact based style vs prioritizing emotional decision making. It does make it easier to talk about things in the same language.

      BUT, level 2 is completely stereotypical. My emotional needs as an anxious “wave” combined with his avoidant “island” is a very common gender combination in marriage. And it creates all the interlocking sensitivities that exacerbate the differences.

      As an example, when I am stressed, I look externally to talk to someone to help me process the distress and help me problem solve. When my husband is stressed, he wants to be alone to process the distress and problem.

      So obviously this is not a good combination to naturally get our needs met. And because as a wave I naturally feel unsecure about feeling loved, his need for distance feels like rejection. So this leads me to criticize his need for distance which makes him feel even more need for distance and over and over. He criticizes my need for connection as needy which causes me to see him as selfish etc.

      The stuff we argue about is just content. Dishes, work, whatever. It really doesn’t matter mostly because it really is about, can I count on you? are you really there for me when I need you? do you love me? And the way we naturally respond feels like the answer is no. We start to feel unsafe to each other. Which moves the distress into an even more disconnrcted level. We then move into zero sum watching our own back mode.

      We label each other as needy or selfish. Because we don’t understand the cycle. We just think the other person is wrong and we need to set boundaries to make sure this needy or selfish person does not take further advantage of our good natures.

      Finally, we lose hope and just kind of drift into living separate lives as much as possible. Only interacting around the kids. We have no idea how we could have misjudged this person who seemed so not selfish or needy when we married.

      We don’t understand that the cycle is what is causing the dysfunctional reactions. Exacerbating the underlying sensitivities that were already there but not activated as long as we felt safe with the other person.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Thank you Lisa! I can see some of myself in all three types, Island, wave, anchor (probably not too much in the anchor as of now, sadly). I guess I really must be a special snowflakeness that just can’t be contained to one type. 8)

        I am really curious as to how your hubby felt validated by the Terry Real stuff? 8) But if you don’t want to talk about it/just have other things to do (heh, there’s a thought!) that’s fine, I won’t push it again. :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey:

        Girl, I am only getting warmed up. Ha! I was going to write about the disorganized attachment style and Terry Real.

        You said: “Thank you Lisa! I can see some of myself in all three types, Island, wave, anchor (probably not too much in the anchor as of now, sadly). I guess I really must be a special snowflakeness that just can’t be contained to one type. 8)”

        There is a less common type than the 3 basic ones called disorganized (you may be familiar). It is a chaotic combination of anxious and avoidant. You desperately want to regulate with another person but you can’t because it feels so unsafe even when it is available to you.

        This style is caused by a chaotic childhood where things felt unsafe but there was no way our. It can also he caused by trauma as an adult.

        I think I had the disorganized style for several years. I had my underlying anxious style but after experiencing some traumatic events, developed crippling social anxiety and PTSD symptoms.

        I felt desperately alone but also alternately terrified or paralyzed and unable to connect on a basic level. It was a horrible, horrible place to be. It’s what I thought of when you were describing your dog story. The world felt very unsafe to a terrifying degree. Of course, I don’t know if it applies to you.

        I tried at great effort, because of the social anxiety that made even making phone calls difficult, to find a therapist to help me but because of my atypical information processing style I was told I was thinking too much. It made the world feel even more unsafe. I can’t even pay people to help me. Sigh.

        After a lot of work and a lot of books, I have healed enough so I’m mostly my typical anxious style. The goal is,of course,to heal even more to someday be a more secure style. Getting a little better each day. ;)

        PS I’ll respond to the Terry Real stuff in the next comment.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey

        “I don’t think avoidant types are better differentiated. :p If you’re well differentiated in this area, you can deal with your partner wanting a bit more closeness, wanting some soothing. Not vast amounts of neediness, but I imagine a well differentiated person (in this area) wouldn’t have that intense fear of being engulfed, and they would be able and willing to see that they may have been too independence-focused.”

        Yes I agree. I think of a well differentiated person as being able to both be independent AND interdependent. Avoidants lack the ability be interdependent in a healthy way. especially when stressed. They fear interdependence as losing their self.

        So my thought is that avoidants feel more comfortable initially with differentiation models because it starts with a focus on being independent. Of course, it also emphasizes healthy interdependence but sees that as a result of two differentiated people coming together. This is my very simplistic analysis.

        “Ok, if I’m understanding you correctly, your hubby felt validated by Terry Real? Would you mind elaborating? I found it a bit surprising. I’ve noticed you say that you and your hubby often fall outside of the stereotypical gender patterns, and I don’t doubt that. But still, the lack of boundaries on your part, lack of accepting influence on his part, anxious vs avoidant types, the housework inequality fights seem quite typical. I’m a bit surprised because from what I’ve read by Terry Real, he definitely calls men out on all of this, and isn’t shy about it! :p”

        My husband has a few blind spots but one of the things I love and appreciate about him is he does not approach things from a “you are female so you do x, y, or z”. So, most of the stuff that Terry Real calls men out on is not stuff that we struggle with in the 1950’s way. The one exception was his sense of privilege about his job. But even there it’s not a straight forward, “I am the man so my needs come first.”

        He’s avoidant so he approaches everything with “you do your thing” and “I’ll do mine” not really understanding how his thing is impacting my choices. His avoidant default is generally the Bill approach. He’s not actively trying to get me to do housework but he doesn’t want to do it so he doesn’t.

        Anyway, Terry Real is calling out a little more extreme versions of male privilege than my husband shows so that part was not that uncomfortable and my husband is not emotionally repressed and afraid to show vulnerability so that part was not
        uncomfortable.

        And Real has a differentiation model approach that focuses on each spouse taking responsibility for their childhood wounds and owning their shit and then coming together as interdependent. So that is why Real was validating to John. It reinforces more of his point of view of him not really having to be involved in me healing my attachment issues, even the ones caused by our relationship.

        That is the opposite of the attachment models initial approaches where you understand what the wounds are and help heal them by creating new safe relationship experiences.

        Avoidants don’t feel as comfortable with that because that involves regulating someone else’s emotional distress. And avoidants are auto regulators. They neither understand or want to understand how to help someone else regulate their emotions.

        The opposite is true for anxious types, differentiation models stress being able to regulate your own emotions first. They neither know how to auto regulate nor do they want to.

        Secure people are skilled at both auto regulation and helping to regulate other people in distress as appropriate.

        Hope this makes sense snd answers your questions. If not feel free to ask again.

        Also, Ellyn Bader talks about how you can have a mixed style. For example, if you grew up with a secure attachment with one parent and an avoidant with the other parent you will be able to respond securely in certain circumstances and you will be avoidant other times. Also stress makes everything more dysfunctional.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        Of course the Terry Real summary I gave is simplistic. His book The New Rule of Marriage has a lot of helpful stuff.

        I also think like the convo we were having about being Jason in one circumstance and Bill in another that attachment styles are like that too.

        In our relationship, for example, my husband is more often Jason around parenting. We have co-parented together pretty well.

        The thing I am most proud of, despite all our struggles, is that both of our kids are pretty securely attached. That way a huge goal for both of us. Since neither of us had that advantage desire having parents who loved us and did their best.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I don’t know why this is bugging me but I feel like I didn’t explain the Terry Real thing right so let me add a couple of thoughts.

        Terry Real does talk about men becoming full partners, interconnected, emotionally available. He has a differentiation model so that part was reasonably comfortable to John because it emphasizes developing internal strength on our own.

        Just like he told me I was needy and I felt validated by Johnson that I was not, I had told him he was selfish and he felt validated by Real that he was not in the sense that having an independent sense of self is healthy.

        Of course we were both right and wrong. You need independence and interdependence to be well differentiated. So we’ve both had to change.

        I used to tell him I want to play doubles tennis with us as a team by and he would say we’re supposed to be playing singles tennis on side by side courts. Which model is right?

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Thanks Lisa!

        You said:
        “He’s not actively trying to get me to do housework but he doesn’t want to do it so he doesn’t”

        Be warned, housework inequality is such a trigger for me for many reasons, so that probably will show in my tone here. I’m not trying to disrespect your hubby. :p
        I just feel like that kind of attitude is typical of the “shitty husbands” Matt are addressing on this blog. From my impressions, many guys consider themselves egalitarian. It’s not that they force their female partner to do the housework, it’s more, as you say, they just don’t do it themselves. Or derpy derp around waiting for her to initiate and organize things And that kind of blind, (often but not always) male entitlement, that you can just decide to not do stuff and not think about stuff, is just…. not to my liking. :p Of course people can argue about standards, but people need to be cleaned and fed, and if stuff isn’t cleaned in a timely manner, nasty bugs will infest your home.

        You said:
        “Terry Real is calling out a little more extreme versions of male privilege than my husband shows ”

        Huh, I might have misunderstood what Terry Real was mostly about. I don’t have any books by him, I’ve just read stuff here and there. I thought he was addressing more typical “shitty husbands”, like Matt does,

        I think avoidant people who feel validated by a differentiation approach, will do well to proceed with caution when it comes to completely disregarding their own contribution and just leaving their partner alone. Or else they might see their partner differentiating out the door. :p And then the avoidant partner would desperately like to connect. Doesn’t seem like that’s the cae with you and your hubby though, so that’s great.

        “I think I had the disorganized style for several years. I had my underlying anxious style but after experiencing some traumatic events, developed crippling social anxiety and PTSD symptoms.

        I felt desperately alone but also alternately terrified or paralyzed and unable to connect on a basic level”

        Girl, that’s me a lot of the time these days, but I am slowly healing. As I said before, when shit really hit the fan in my life, it wasn’t just those events that threw me off balance. Everything that I’d been more or less able to manage before came to the surface. Slowly I’m trying to deal with my stuff. But my nervous system is not where it should be, for sure, and now that’s perhaps one of my biggest problems/symptoms of problem.

        Would you mind sharing some of the books that helped you, and just how/why they helped? Was it the validation you felt, or something else? Or what else you did that helped you?

        “Ellyn Bader talks about how you can have a mixed style. For example, if you grew up with a secure attachment with one parent and an avoidant with the other parent you will be able to respond securely in certain circumstances and you will be avoidant other times. Also stress makes everything more dysfunctional”

        A mixed style seems to be quite fitting for me! And also what you say about stress making everything more dysfunctional. For sure! :p I’m overly sensitve to stress/life these days, and that’s just not sustainable. I need to get to a place where I can handle a lot of stuff in a normal, healthy way, no biggie way. But at the same time? I think a large part of a well life for me will be to just not have too much on my plate, and create routines that eliminate a lot of the day to day stress. I don’t thrive on busyness. Of course, we can’t choose all of the stuff that happens in life. But often we can try to create some margins in our life so that we have some space and time to deal with annoying/unexpected/bad stuff that happens, and just have time to chill. We don’t have to have a McMansion with a huge mortgage, we can have a smaller home and so on. A simple life is appealing to me. :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Eeek, didn’t catch your last comment before I posted mine.

        “Of course we were both right and wrong. You need independence and interdependence to be well differentiated. So we’ve both had to change”.

        Yes, absolutely. :)

        “I used to tell him I want to play doubles tennis with us as a team by and he would say we’re supposed to be playing singles tennis on side by side courts. Which model is right?”

        Heh. A little bit of both. One weekend as a team, the next time side by side. 8) I do sometimes wonder why very avoidant types want realtionships at all. I read something that made me think maybe part of it is the physical closeness to a loved one, as that’s also an attachment need when we’re little, being physically close to a caregiver. So that gives them comfort, while interacting too much triggers fear of engulfment/inadequacy or whatever.

        I’ve also read that men often feel closeness with their female partner by just being close by. So they crave that side-to-side thing, while a lot of interaction may feel too intense to many guys (especially if they have unhealed stuff/man card issues and so and). And maybe the interactons also feel unneccessary, if they’re able to feel connected just by being close by, they may also feel happy doing their own thing instead of interacting on a level with their partner that requires more effort (and that can also trigger stuff). I think we all are guilty of rather wanting to sit on the computer/read a book etc than talk to a loved one exactly when they want to, so if many guys already feel close just having their female partner around, it makes it a bit easier to understand.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Donkey said:
          “I do sometimes wonder why very avoidant types want realtionships at all. I read something that made me think maybe part of it is the physical closeness to a loved one, as that’s also an attachment need when we’re little, being physically close to a caregiver. So that gives them comfort, while interacting too much triggers fear of engulfment/inadequacy or whatever.”

          When I write about being afraid of the future and taking a Hold Your Horses attitude about just how great I may or may not be in a future relationship, these thoughts are a big part of it.

          “I’ve also read that men often feel closeness with their female partner by just being close by. So they crave that side-to-side thing, while a lot of interaction may feel too intense to many guys (especially if they have unhealed stuff/man card issues and so and). And maybe the interactons also feel unneccessary, if they’re able to feel connected just by being close by, they may also feel happy doing their own thing instead of interacting on a level with their partner that requires more effort (and that can also trigger stuff). I think we all are guilty of rather wanting to sit on the computer/read a book etc than talk to a loved one exactly when they want to, so if many guys already feel close just having their female partner around, it makes it a bit easier to understand.”

          I have no idea how “gendery” what you’re describing is, but I can say that this is how I am (and many men I know, talk to, or hear from via this blog are).

          This is what I mean when I say “Accidentally Neglectful.”

          We can be in the same room, and she can be watching a show, and I can be reading a book, and because of a bunch of crap going on between us and/or in her head, she can feel alone and disconnected without me realizing it.

          I’m there in the room with her, and that is comforting. I experience it as us being together and sharing the moment (not always, but sometimes — that perception obviously changed once I realized how bad things had gotten).

          We both experience the moment very differently. And because we all spend a lot of time GUESSING how other people think and feel (usually based on how we believe we would think and feel in a similar situation), we act presumptively, and then it comes off shitty and insensitive to the other person, and then the presumptive person who meant well feels rejected and misunderstood, and then everyone gets divorced.

          I’m accused sometimes of oversimplifying things. Maybe so.

          But that’s marriage. Right there.

          Two people in the same room, and one person thinks it’s fine, and the other doesn’t, and then when the unhappy one tries to talk about it, everything goes wrong.

          Not only that, the unhappy person (often the wife in such scenarios) adds that to the Reasons I Will File for Divorce pile, and the oblivious and happy one (usually the guy) brushes it off as inconsequential and never thinks about it again.

          The solution would seem to be impressing upon people in relationships to NEVER take these moments for granted.

          As people who try to communicate this to others, it’s virtually impossible to convince someone who instinctively takes certain events and experiences for granted to stop without them having ever experienced a negative consequence for doing so.

          Most of us are fish who have spent our entire lives in the water, so we swim through life completely unaware that water is even a thing to notice and that it’s all around us.

          The enlightened live lives aware of the water.

          I want very badly to be such a fish.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I posted a long response but accidentally put it in a thread above.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey and Matt,

        I think the problem is that we often think and are told that the definition of masculine is to be avoidant. That that is NORMAL masculinity. From my reading what we are often told is healthy masculinity is dysfunctional. An attachment dysfunction from either personal experiences and/or being trained to think since birth that any part of you that is vulnerable is weak or girly and must be suppressed.

        And so many men become avoidant and can’t give or receive love in a fully healthy way. Some men share a healthy love with their children but not their wives. Some men can’t do it with either. But they think it is because they are men. But it’s not it’s because they are avoidant.

        It’s one of the reasons I don’t like the Mars/Venus books. Not because it doesn’t describe accurate differences between many men and women. But because it doesn’t ask us to question which part of this is healthy and is just a difference and which part is dysfunctional and will cause a stupid divorce.

        It’s like going to the doctor and saying, there’s something wrong with my legs. And he says, well, one of them is the left leg and one of them is the right. They’re different that’s why you can’t walk.

        When really the problem is the right leg has a sprain from being avoidantly attached and the left leg has a sprain from being anxiously attached. You can limp along for a while but eventually the pain of walking with sprained ankles is overwhelming and you have to stop.

        And let me add that according to Dan Siegal, the attachment styles are spread equally among both genders. But because of the social conditioning men and women receive, avoidant men are like the supersized version of avoidant and anxious women and the supersized version of anxious.

        So, it will cause many more stupid divorces for an anxious woman to be paired with an avoidant man (my lucky situation!) than the other way around.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          “It’s one of the reasons I don’t like the Mars/Venus books. Not because it doesn’t describe accurate differences between many men and women. But because it doesn’t ask us to question which part of this is healthy and is just a difference and which part is dysfunctional and will cause a stupid divorce.”

          This is fantastic. And the more I think about this (and I DO think about it a lot because of how “gendery” much of my writing has been) the more I agree with the premise.

          I wish I didn’t consider it such an effective tool for explaining general differences to people who may have never thought about it before.

          I gotta run. More on this later, because it’s something that’s been weighing fairly heavily.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        I just realized I am picking on the men too much so I’ll throw this in. Although it has changed quite a bit in recent decades, our view of feminiity is also linked to dysfunction.

        The idea that women at the foundation of a family and they are responsible for everyone’s health and happiness. That is at it’s root an anxious attachment style.

        Taking on other’s responsibilities, not setting enough boundaries. Not having the healthy amount of independence and self-care. I have to do it all and look beautiful and, of course, make it look effortless!

        And if I don’t do all that I am a woman-fail. Worthless. That also leads to stupid divorces and unhealthy kids.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        You said: “The solution would seem to be impressing upon people in relationships to NEVER take these moments for granted.

        As people who try to communicate this to others, it’s virtually impossible to convince someone who instinctively takes certain events and experiences for granted to stop without them having ever experienced a negative consequence for doing so.

        Most of us are fish who have spent our entire lives in the water, so we swim through life completely unaware that water is even a thing to notice and that it’s all around us.

        The enlightened live lives aware of the water.

        I want very badly to be such a fish.”

        We are probably saying the same things in different words but for me to see the water I had to pull way back away from the moments to see the pattern. To understand what was REALLY going on.

        Maybe people do this is different ways, but I think so many times, we respond to the small things as you said as no big deal. Or we think it is about the dishes instead of the real thing. We just don’t understand. I know I didn’t and I was trying to understand.

        But it really involved asking big questions.

        1. What does it mean to be a healthy adult?

        I thought I WAS a healthy adult and in many ways I was but I was missing the boundary with a nonjudgmental skill and that was the cancer in my liver even though the rest of me was healthy.

        2. What does it mean to be in a healthy relationship?

        I thought I knew what it meant because I had been in healthy relationships before. And I have walked away from unhealthy relationships that I recognized were unhealthy but I didn’t have to full set of relationship skills that healthy adults have and neither did he and I didn’t know how to respond to that in a healthy way so my relationship got sick.

        3. Which part of me is just quirky and which part is dysfunctional? Which part of my spouse is just quirky and which part is dysfunctional?

        This is where I have to really understand how to apply the answers to questions 1 and 2. Quirkiness requires acceptance, dysfunction requires change.

        4. What does it mean to love someone?

        Is it unconditional? If not what are the conditions? The reason we are still married is because we both believe in the same definition of love. Not unconditional (I told him I would divorce his ass and call the police if he ever hurt our kids, which he never would but it’s an example of why love should not be unconditional).

        But love that keeps struggling and working until you figure it out. That is what love is. Never giving up but not unconditionally. Like most of life it’s a constant tension of two opposing things. Both true at the same time.

        So, I think you are healthy to be afraid that you won’t be able to have a healthy relationship in the future. As Yoda says “you should be afraid.”

        But you are also right to KNOW that you definitely will be able to have a healthy relationship in the future if you keep asking and answering the big questions.

        At least that’s what I think.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You said: “I do sometimes wonder why very avoidant types want realtionships at all. I read something that made me think maybe part of it is the physical closeness to a loved one, as that’s also an attachment need when we’re little, being physically close to a caregiver. So that gives them comfort, while interacting too much triggers fear of engulfment/inadequacy or whatever.”

        I know what you mean. I think avoidants want connection as much as anxious or secure types. It just feels so uncomfortable to them because of their dysfunctional attachment. They want to connect but can’t be intimate so they connect in ways they are comfortable. Being in the same room, limited time, sharing their interests with passion.

        That feels comfortable. It feels like they’re connecting because they are in their mind. But the other anxious or secure person recognizes the lack of intimacy and feels it’s loss in ways that avoidants don’t.

        It’s like someone who has never seen the sun missing it’s light and warmth. They don’t miss it because they have never had it so they learned to adapt within themselves to function with the moon’s light.

        The sun’s light burns too bright for someone who has lived their life at night and it burns their sensitive skin. It’s not that they don’t want connection, they just don’t know how because of their attachment dysfunction.

        I often would envy my husbands’ avoidant style over my anxious style because it does make you more self-sufficient. But it limits your ability to be truly intimate.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt:

        You said: (me) “It’s one of the reasons I don’t like the Mars/Venus books. Not because it doesn’t describe accurate differences between many men and women. But because it doesn’t ask us to question which part of this is healthy and is just a difference and which part is dysfunctional and will cause a stupid divorce.”

        This is fantastic. And the more I think about this (and I DO think about it a lot because of how “gendery” much of my writing has been) the more I agree with the premise.

        I wish I didn’t consider it such an effective tool for explaining general differences to people who may have never thought about it before.”

        I actually think it is VERY helpful to explain the dysfunctional cycles that cause stupid divorces through the lens of gender. Because there often is a gendered pattern underneath it

        I think that it is critical to ADD the extra step of identifying which part is result of dysfunctional attachment styles or a lack of relationship skills. These also have a prominent gendered pattern.

        So keep the gender analysis but add in a distinction for unhealthy male and female patterns and healthy male and female patterns.

        For example, for testosterone or other nature/nurture differences men often tend to value their career identities. That is fine. What is not healthy is to wrap your whole identify in your job and how you compare with other men. So when you are laid off, you feel like a man-fail and because you also think it is unmanly to be vulnerable you can’t talk about your sense of failure and shame with your wife.

        A healthy male has a healthy sense of identity rooted in his self if self worth as a person. Of course he would feel sadness at his job loss but he doesnt see himself as less of a man and he is able to talk about it with others to get support. And so he doesn’t need to drown his manfail sorrow in alcohol or other women or video games or porn or some other unhealthy prop.

        The gendered similar pattern for females is to wrap their self worth in their kids or emotionsl regulation from her husband to prop up her self image.

        I don’t know if that made sense but I’m typing in my car.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. tavartano says:

    This is a very powerful and well-written post, Matt.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Donkey says:

    Lisa, I’m running low on words (it does take a bit for that to happen, but it seems to be something that happens when I’ve been super active here, lol), so I don’t think I will do all of your great comments justice here.

    “And that kind of blind, (often but not always) male entitlement, that you can just decide to not do stuff and not think about stuff, is just…. not to my liking. :p” <—- "not to my liking" was my conflict avoidant/polite way of stating quite a strong opinion of mine. 8)

    "And I looked at it and said this is not fair because you have to start with the entirety of the crap work and divide it “fairly”". This is how I think one should approach it too. Just look at the crap/stuff and divide it fairly!

    You say you struggle with the attitude and not the boundary setting. For me, it definitely depends on what the boundary is, whether or not it's something that triggers me a lot. If so, I can struggle with both the attitude an the boundary setting. Sigh. 8) And it also depends on who the other person is, how I think they'll react, whether I think they'll reject me, to what degree, how important that person is to me.

    "I often would envy my husbands’ avoidant style over my anxious style because it does make you more self-sufficient. But it limits your ability to be truly intimate."

    I agree (I also liked what you say about avoidants being like someone habituated to the moonlight, so the sun is too bright). This isn't quite the same, but sometimes I'm so jealous of men (generalizations ahead, be warned). Their feeling of safety and confidence in the world, more money, how they can allow themselves to be blind to so much, so much less f*cked up internalized stuff about what you deserve, how you should look, how much power you can have, how you belong at work, emotional labour, more often a sweeter deal in hetero relationships (while they last anyway). I know I'm blind to/not acknowledging a lot of men's problems and harmful internalized messages here, I'll just say that right away. But anyway, then I think of my bestie, and the super great and fun and intimate relationship we have, and I feel grateful to be female and have this kind of relationship be socially accepted you know. I know Matt says he was/is part of a great group of friends, a tribe, but my impression is that many men don't really have close friendships, and I think that's very, very sad. I think a lot of men are very lonely, even if that feeling is buried very deep.

    I've also heard what you say about the attachment styles being spread pretty equally between the genders, but the harmful messages about femininity and masculinity just makes the anxious woman and the avoidant man such a tough nut.

    I like what you say about figuring out what's quirky and what's dysfunctional about our stuff. Very true.

    Thank you for your book recommendations! I think I might check one of those out (the one about trauma and the body, don't want to scroll through the thread right now to find the name :p).

    I've listened to pretty much any sort of inspirational stuff. Super Soul Sunday, things like that. A game changer for me though was when I discovered Jungian psychology, or Jungian inspired psychology and inner child stuff (it all sounds airy fairy, but it makes sense to me on an emotional level). I had such a hard time being ok with myself.

    – James Hollis "Why good people do bad things"
    – Debbie Ford "Why good people do bad things" (I know, same title)
    – James Hollis "The eden project" (A jungian take on relationships, more of a differentiation approach)
    – Alice Miller "The drama of the gifted child" (I know, it sounds so obnoxious, it's about how parents with unhealed stuf basically use their child as a way of trying to get their own needs met since they didn't have those needs fully met when they were little)
    – Books by John Bradshaw (when I started reading him, I had already kind of gotten the deal about inner children though)
    . Sheryl Paul and Margaret Paul have stuff that have been useful to me.
    – So does Teal Swan. She's a bit…out there with some of her beliefs, but she's great at shadow (a Jungian concept) stuff and inner child stuff.
    – The emotional labour thread: http://www.metafilter.com/151267/Wheres-My-Cut-On-Unpaid-Emotional-Labor
    – I think it will be useful for me to read more feminist books (I've read "The Masculine Dominance" by Bordieux, chosen mainly because I happened to have it on hand, but I liked it). I so badly want to rid myself of some of the harmful internalized stuff, and it helps reading basically the same thing in different ways to really start feeling differently you know. I'm kind of avoiding it too though, because reading stuff like this is always quite painful for me. And absolutely, men have their own damaging stuff they've internalized too.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Hey Donkey,

      Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve literally never heard of any of those authors so that gives me great new avenues to explore.

      The Bessel Van Der Kolk book The Body Keeps the Score is great! I heard him originally on a podcast (On Being maybe can’t remember?) if you’re interested in getting an overview.

      I would be interested one day in hearing why equal division of chores is such a hot button for you. When you recover some words.

      I almost never run out of words, sigh. I wish I was a more external processor. It would defintely make my life easier. Oh well I’ll think of as s quirk not a dysfunction :)

      Thanks for swapping comments. I always think about things in a new way and you ask great questions.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        I meant I wish I was more of an internal processor.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa, that was very gracious of you, repeating the title I didn’t want to scroll to look for! Thank you for the emotional labour you performed there! 8)

        Most of the authors I listed are Jungian inspired (that’s my way of thinking of it anyway). But if I remember correctly, Alice Miller doesn’t lean too heavily in that direction, so that could perhaps be a good place to start if Jungian stuff isn’t your deal. Attachment traumas are at the heart of the book I mentioned by her (likely other books too, but I’ve only read the one), even if she probably uses other words.

        More Jungian-inspired authors I’ve found useful:
        Maureen Murdock “The heroine’s journey” <— loved this one
        Clarissa Pinkola Estez

        I saw Marily mentioned bell hooks, I haven't read any books by her, but I've read stuff here and there. I think I'll be reading more by her, she seems to be great at gender (both genders I believe) and race issues.

        I made a spelling error:
        It should be Bourdieu (Pierre Bourdieu), not Bordieux.

        I may look at some of the attachment resources you mentioned in the not too distant future. Probably as a way of accessing grief I still have, like I've said before, grieving seems to be very healing for me.

        "So the attachment model stuff helps me understand what love looks like. It is healing for me because most of my trauma has been people telling me over and over that their avoidant behavior or their shitty treatment of me is normal love"

        I'm sorry for the attachment traumas you've suffered! :'( I like what you say about feeling safer when you know why people do what they do. I think there's a lot of truth in that for me too.

        Thank you right back for swapping comments! I enjoy it so much and I learn a lot from you! :)

        Like

  16. Donkey says:

    Matt, you said:
    “Most of us are fish who have spent our entire lives in the water, so we swim through life completely unaware that water is even a thing to notice and that it’s all around us.

    The enlightened live lives aware of the water.

    I want very badly to be such a fish.”

    I want to be such a fish too. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re well on your way to becoming such a fish.

    When it comes to intimate relationships at least, you *know* that people are different now. And you obviously don’t scoff at learning about relationships. (Unlike many guys sadly, because of man card stuff or what not, you probably know the reasons better than I do. That really hurts women when men do that by the way, it’s like, you think our relationship, our love is stupid, not worth learning about? Thanks a lot. WTF do you want with me then if this is all so stupid to you, don’t I matter to you at all?!)

    Again, it seems like you’re well on your way to becoming such a fish. A Jason fish, hehe!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Fromscratchmom says:

    Donkey, Lisa, & Matt, I sometimes have to skip some of these great conversations just from time constraints or from being overwhelmed lately. But they mean so much! I’m really glad I got to come back to this one and digest it in little pieces today. There were only about a million seventeen bits that resonated and made me want to respond! However I’m not going hit any individual bits of it this time around. I’m just going to say thank-you. Y’all are great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Aww, thank you! You are great too! I sometimes skip some conversations too, for similar reasons as you, but I really appreciate all the great discussions going on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Fromscratchmom,

      Hey, I learn a lot from all these comments too! So many smart people with different points of view.

      I am such an external processor that it helps me to understand what I think by responding to others thoughts and questions.

      Like

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        Lisa Gottman, I think I’ve only heard that phrase, “external processor” from reading where you put it in the comments! And yet right off I understand what you mean and I know that applies to me too!

        Like

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