I Won’t Be Your Ally Because You’re Probably Doing it Wrong Like Me

I'm probably not your ally. (Image/www.mawwab.com)

I’m probably not your ally. (Image/www.mawwab.com)

I got lazy.

Lulled into complacency. No matter how many times I’ve experienced negative consequences due to my word choices or tone of voice, I’m not always mindful of how what I’m saying might be affecting her.

Sometimes I don’t stop and think. There’s always so much to do, you know. Never enough time.

So I spit out a response which seems reasonable and innocuous at the time. And then I help destroy a family.

Only this time, it isn’t mine.

She wrote me a note because she’s unhappy in her marriage. I get a lot of those, and I can’t read all of them, and can’t respond to most of them.

She tells me a story. It makes sense and sounds true. It’s pretty much the same story I always hear, because no matter how unique we like to believe we are, most of our divorce stories sound eerily similar.

So I write back a note which validates her feelings:

“There’s a famous saying I often heard growing up: ‘You can’t fix stupid.’ If the men you are talking about are simply WRONG and maybe stubborn and ignorant, maybe there is no reasoning with someone like that. In my experience, not everyone can be saved. If a man is incapable of demonstrating kindness and selfless love for his wife, then I think he’s kind of an asshole. I’ve never seen anyone turn an asshole into a non-asshole. I HAVE seen good men doing wrong by accident figure out that they were doing wrong, and then making changes to be better afterward. Those are the guys I write for and root for.”

Reasonable, I thought. Innocuous.

About two hours ago, I opened the blog’s email account to scan the subject lines. One of my professional niches is email marketing and effective subject line writing. This guy wrote a good one:

“My wife is divorcing me with your help.”

I figured it would be some guy getting pissed at me for the dishes post again. A million guys were upset with me about that one. But he wasn’t pissed at me. And he wasn’t using hyperbole.

He’s a regular reader and fan. His email was full of nothing but praise, gratitude and admiration.

He tells me a story. It makes sense and sounds true.

Halfway through his story, it hits me: Holy shit. This is the ‘You can’t fix stupid’ husband. And wouldn’t you know it? He doesn’t sound stupid at all.

I spent 10 years writing news stories. Then I went through a painful divorce and have fairly successfully learned how to explain my ex-wife’s side of the story. So you’d think I’d remember—there are ALWAYS two sides to a story.

My Son’s Other Family

I like, respect and care about my ex-wife. She’s a good person. We get along well and are effective, cooperative co-parents. She’s an outstanding mother.

She sees a man I like and respect, and have known for years. I trust him to be good to her and my son, which is all I could ever ask for.

For only the second or third time, they pulled in the driveway together yesterday to pick up our son. I waved goodbye to him as the three of them drove away.

There isn’t a pain now like there was three years ago. That would have hurt worse than a bullet three years ago. Today, things are different.

Infinitely less pain. Now it’s simple discomfort.

But the truth is painful: I didn’t like it.

Most Divorce is Stupid, Selfish and Wasteful

I really believe that.

If that husband and wife who wrote to me over the weekend end up divorced, their three children will see their family torn apart.

I don’t know how much of that is on me. I only know a guy who thinks I’m awesome and said really nice things about me and my writing believes my note to his wife convinced her to pull the trigger.

I contributed to the thing I despise most. I became part of the problem. Maybe it’s not the first time. And now I’ll have to live with that.

Three kids.

I think most divorce is bad. It think it’s lazy and wasteful.

I don’t want to eliminate the ability to divorce. God knows it’s an important option for people who discover they’re married to dangerous people or con artists. People in abusive relationships SHOULD NOT stay in them.

That’s where the gray area begins. I would have scoffed in haughty offendedness had you suggested my marriage was abusive. Nonsense!, I’d have told you. I never once felt abusive, even in the moments I knew I wasn’t loving as hard and selflessly as I should have. But after everything I’ve learned over these past three years, I do think my wife found herself in an abusive relationship.

One of those sneaky ones so many wives find themselves in, where to the outside world, everything seems cool, and they go borderline-crazy because it’s hard to find people who know how to see the subtlety of emotional abuse for what it is.

“But I didn’t mean to!” husbands say. Much of the time, it’s true. We didn’t mean to.

But that doesn’t turn fact into fiction. Abuse is abuse even when we label it “a misunderstanding.”

Still, most divorce feels wrong to me. Stupid and wasteful. A move done for ONE reason only: to feel better.

The Common Marriage and Divorce Story

Two young people meet, usually in their early to mid-twenties. They become serious and get engaged just before turning 30. Literally, 99 out of 100 accepted marriage proposals come from the guys.

They plan a wedding for a year or two later. Maybe the groom is heavily invested in the process. Maybe he’s not. It’s been well-established this is the bride’s day.

They put untold hours into decisions about colors and dress styles and who to invite and where to seat them at the reception. They invest about $30,000 to pay for everything.

“Why don’t these young people put more time into discussing and making plans about the MARRIAGE?!” so many of us wonder.

That’s easy—for the same reason you didn’t. They don’t know what they don’t know. NO ONE talked to them about this other than to say “Marriage is hard work, you know! It’s a lot of give and take!”

Sweet. Thanks for the life tip.

Everyone thinks marriage is going to be EXACTLY LIKE IT IS RIGHT NOW when they already see each other every day, and are going through daily life together. It makes sense to them to feel confident that everything is always going to be like it is right now.

Most young people don’t have serious, brutally honest talks about VALUES and BOUNDARIES. That rarely happens.

We overlook value differences, because it’s been fine so far! And we forgive boundary violations, because of real love I love them no matter what! or The Sunk Cost Fallacy, where no one wants to end the relationship, become single again, and lose this multi-year investment in one another.

We get married.

Husbands obliviously do the shitty husband thing.

Wives don’t enforce their boundaries, and when they try, they use communication techniques that don’t come anywhere near working.

You know what will help? A baby!

After all, that’s just WHAT YOU DO! You go to school, get a job, meet someone, get a place, and have babies! This is The Way®!

The kids come and exacerbate all of the problems which already existed, but because we love our kids so much, we don’t like to say it, because it’s not their fault. (And it’s true. It’s our fault.)

We drift further apart. Maybe someone has an emotional and/or physical affair. The marriage has withered on the vine over the course of 5-10 years, and it feels to one or both partners like the love died.

In the United States alone, more than 3,000 people file for divorce every day. Two out of three of those are unhappy wives.

That’s 2,000 unhappy wives EVERY DAY leaving their marriages.

You think all 2,000 of those husbands are bad guys?

You think all 2,000 of those wives are bitchy, entitled maniacs?

Neither do I.

I think divorce is stupid when two good people who love one another end their marriage (especially when there are children) because they believe there is something unique about their specific dynamics that prevent them from having a happy marriage.

If people are getting divorced because they decide marriage isn’t for them, I feel much better about it. But people who are married are people who naturally crave companionship and physical intimacy. Before long, they will start dating again, possibly remarry. Even if they don’t remarry, they will likely enter a long-term monogamous relationship where the dynamics are nearly identical to marriage.

And, if they haven’t learned it already, that’s when they will.

I traded in my old problems for a new set of them with this new person. All of the warm, fuzzy excitement I felt when I first met them has worn off just like it did with my ex. In fact, there are moments when I’m angry with my partner, that I sort of miss my kids’ other parent.

They might not know what to call hedonic adaptation just yet, because it’s not spoken or written about enough, but they’ve damn sure experienced it. And now in a VERY specific way.

The grass wasn’t greener after all.

Where are you going to go to escape from yourself?

I’m Probably Not Your Divorce Ally

I’m confident there are plenty of stories I could hear that, if true, would cause me to advocate divorce. It’s already happened before.

I’m not against divorces that SHOULD happen.

I’m against divorces that shouldn’t happen.

There’s how it is. And then, there’s how it should be.

I know it’s inconvenient and unpopular when your insides are all messed up and escaping your painful marriage feels like ointment on a gaping wound.

But this is my truth.

Love is a choice.

Nothing matters more than family.

And every relationship we EVER have will feel painful and fall apart if we don’t make the right choices.

What we’re doing isn’t working.

Maybe we should do something else.

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155 thoughts on “I Won’t Be Your Ally Because You’re Probably Doing it Wrong Like Me

  1. Marion says:

    You’re looking at it like there’s two choices the way I did for decades. The way that left me feeling alone and unloved for decades. Either decide to leave or make it work, but what if you don’t want the first and can’t do the second? Finally I realized I could cherish my husband for the wonderful man he is – even if I’m not sure he should be my husband. I could focus on developing healthy relationship skills rather than making this marriage work. I think most women attempt to enforce boundaries, but if shitty husband ignores them anyway – then what? If we aren’t prepared to leave, we make it work. It requires two people to make it work. Now I’m focused on healthy relationship skills knowing my marriage may not withstand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marion, I do understand the first part “what if you don’t want the first and can’t do the second”, but not the rest of your post. How are you doing what you are talking about ? It does indeed require two people to make it work. So if he isn’t, how are you doing this alone?

      Like

      • Marion says:

        By no longer focusing on the long term solution and trying to treat both him and myself with love on a daily basis. When there’s impossible problems it’s easy to neglect either your partner or yourself. Especially, when he’s being a shitty husband. I’m trying to take a step back. Even if I don’t like his behavior, even if I don’t know how or if we will solve our problems – I’m trying to be kind to o both of us. I don’t know if it will fix our marriage, but I’m feeling better about myself at least.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I see. I tried that too. I decided I was going to treat my husband like I would want my son to be treated by his wife. Unfortunately it rather made my husband think that this means everything is just fine the way it is so he doesn’t have to make any effort, :-(

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        Joanna,

        Lisa said something to me in another post, that she learnt from Terry Real. He talks about how the relationship failings of women in our society are more often on the codependent side, and men’s relationship failings are more often on the narcissistic side. Could be reversed, but more often it’s not. (That whole conversation came about because I protested against something Matt said, that love was about giving more than you get or something like that. I said that that is what many people do, they give and give and give and give, but their spouse hardly gives anything back, and they just can’t live like that. Matt replied something about taking a basic level of reciprocity for granted when he talked about things like this. I tried to find the conversation, but no luck today. :/)

        Of course, everyone is selfish and all of that, but women often give and give and give and give and give and give, hoping that if she’ll be just a little bit sweeter or a little bit more generous he’ll reciprocate and all will be well. Like Gottman would say, she adapts to his negativity. But often, the man just doesn’t. Like you say “it rather made my husband think that this means everything is just fine the way it is so he doesn’t have to make any effort”. It even seems to become a new normal sometimes.

        The accountability, the realization that he’s not perfect, that he’s been selfish, even abusive as Matt says in this post, that she was in fact right about many things, is buried so extremely deep in many men. So deep that it’s hard for many women to fathom that it can be possible (like when she’s said 5000 times that x hurts her and he still claims he didn’t know that doing x hurt her). I believe the willingness to admit fault is hard for women too, absolutely, but we’re raised to consider other people’s needs and feelings and we’re raised to know that of course we’re not perfect (selfish is pretty much the worst thing a woman can be). But that level of accountability is, I believe, much closer to the surface for most women than it is for most men. (If we had had a couple of millenia with women in power and men in a position of servitude and being considered less than, I believe the positions would be reversed)

        Anyway, I can’t find a good quote right now, but I believe I’ve read something by Jack Ito where he says that women often at first try to give a lot of love, without enough boundaries. Then, after years or decades of disrespectful treatment, she burns out. If she doesn’t divorce, she often starts practcing boundaries. But then she only practices boundaries, she doesn’t show any love. Understandably, because she’s been eating shit sandwiches served by the person who was supposed to love her, for years. Ito says that you need to practice boundaries WITH love. That has the best chance of saving a marriage.

        Did you catch the whole shit sandwich and Jason, Bill, Stevem Dick conversation? That was very enlightening for me.

        Here’s Ito’s page if you’re interested (I’m not affiliated): https://coachjackito.com/

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Donkey. I missed the “shit sandwich” conversation. Is it under this post?
          I did check out the link (Jack Ito) you recommend. I must admit I was a bit put off by his self proclaimed introduction that he is “Christian/Pro-Life/Pro-Family”. I am willing to give his books (is there no blog? I couldn’t find it) a try but need to ask – have you read any of them? Or there references to the Bible or God every other paragraph? If so it might be too tough for me to read. Never mind. I read a kindle sample and it is perfectly all right. Bought it. Thank you!!!!!!

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      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Joanna,

        I am sorry you are feeling down. It is so painful to be in a marriage and feel like your husband won’t take the necessary accountability. I hope you can find some insight for how to respond effectively.

        This is the Steve/Bill/Dick/Jason comment post Donkey was referring to. I think that is one of the most helpful things I have read here to understand some of what is going on in common bad marriages.

        https://mustbethistalltoride.com/2016/04/20/is-your-spouse-hurting-you-on-purpose/

        It has almost 300 comments but is a fascinating conversation exploring women’s unanimous choice of a man who was upfront in his zero sum treatment vs a clueless husband who insists you shouldn’t be upset because he didn’t mean to hurt you and you should be happier because he’s a nice guy.

        It adds the extra layer of “gaslighting effect” abuse that many men don’t acknowledge but is common for women to experience.

        Part of the clarity to me was to understand that many men (including here) really don’t find that obvious. Most women do in my experience.

        I hope your can find some new clarity in the book Donkey recommended too.

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      • Donkey says:

        I’m a bit confused as to whether or not you found what you needed from Jack Ito, but I believe perhaps you did? I’m not really religious either, he’s not heavy on the God stuff from what I’ve read. Anyway, here’s a link to his page, where there are both books and articles: https://coachjackito.com/books-by-coach-jack/

        The shit sandwich and Jason, Steve, Bill and Dick conversation is very near and dear to my heart (I was quite active in the thread). It’s in the comment section of Matt’s post “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose”: https://mustbethistalltoride.com/2016/04/20/is-your-spouse-hurting-you-on-purpose/

        That thread is quite overwhelming, it takes a while for the main points to be clarified, and many of the sub-conversations that devolped aren’t super relevant to the main points. But I found it SO worth reading (and participating in), and I really, really believe you will find it useful too. Please take the time to read through it, I believe you’ll find it quite clarifying. Key words: Bill, Dick, Steve, Jason, shit sandwiches vs burgers, gaslight effect, mindfuck.

        Lisa made a brilliant comparison between different kinds of husbands (people really) with characters from the work place. It basically explains why women, unlike many of the fellas here, believe that the husband who claims he doesn’t know he’s hurting his wife when she’s told him 50 000 times (Steve) isn’t guilty only of ignorance. And that his good intentions that don’t align with his actions don’t really count all that much, and in fact, it can all be a real mindf*ck for his wife. He thinks he’s giving her burgers, but he’s really giving her shit sandwiches. When she tells him about the shit sandwiches he’s giving her, he refuses to believe her, and insists it’s a burger, and that he’s a great husband. That repeats itself for years, and when the woman leaves, he can’t believe it. “I’m such a good guy, I have such good intentions” Steve says. Or “I know now that I hurt you, but I didn’t know, so I’m not a bad, selfish guy like Dick is, I was just ignorant”. (Dick is what everyone thinks of as an asshole, he takes pleasure in screwing people over.)

        If they have to choose, and can’t get a truly considerate guy (which is Jason), many women prefer someone who’s straight about being selfish, who’s straight about prioritizing his own needs over hers (=Bill), than Steve who really is equally selfish and inconsiderate, it’s just that he isn’t aware of it and insists he’s generous and kind.

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      • Donkey says:

        Ugh, I’m so frustrated, I’ve tried to post a comment to you Joanna several times now, but it just doesn’t happen. :(

        But yeah, the post Lisa linked to is the one I was talking about. It’s long, but it’s worth reading, please take the time. Ok, I’m going to try to sneak in my precious comment in this one, so it might be a bit weird, but here we go:

        I’m a bit confused as to whether or not you found what you needed from Jack Ito, but I believe perhaps you did? I’m not really religious either, he’s not heavy on the God stuff from what I’ve read. Anyway, here’s a link to his page, where there are both books and articles: https://coachjackito.com/books-by-coach-jack/

        The shit sandwich and Jason, Steve, Bill and Dick conversation is very near and dear to my heart (I was quite active in the thread). It’s in the comment section of Matt’s post “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose”: https://mustbethistalltoride.com/2016/04/20/is-your-spouse-hurting-you-on-purpose/

        That thread is quite overwhelming, it takes a while for the main points to be clarified, and many of the sub-conversations that devolped aren’t super relevant to the main points. But I found it SO worth reading (and participating in), and I really, really believe you will find it useful too. Please take the time to read through it, I believe you’ll find it quite clarifying. Key words: Bill, Dick, Steve, Jason, shit sandwiches vs burgers, gaslight effect, mindfuck.

        Lisa made a brilliant comparison between different kinds of husbands (people really) with characters from the work place. It basically explains why women, unlike many of the fellas here, believe that the husband who claims he doesn’t know he’s hurting his wife when she’s told him 50 000 times (Steve) isn’t guilty only of ignorance. And that his good intentions that don’t align with his actions don’t really count all that much, and in fact, it can all be a real mindf*ck for his wife. He thinks he’s giving her burgers, but he’s really giving her shit sandwiches. When she tells him about the shit sandwiches he’s giving her, he refuses to believe her, and insists it’s a burger, and that he’s a great husband. That repeats itself for years, and when the woman leaves, he can’t believe it. “I’m such a good guy, I have such good intentions” Steve says. Or “I know now that I hurt you, but I didn’t know, so I’m not a bad, selfish guy like Dick is, I was just ignorant”. (Dick is what everyone thinks of as an asshole, he takes pleasure in screwing people over.)

        If they have to choose, and can’t get a truly considerate guy (which is Jason), many women prefer someone who’s straight about being selfish, who’s straight about prioritizing his own needs over hers (=Bill), than Steve who really is equally selfish and inconsiderate, it’s just that he isn’t aware of it and insists he’s generous and kind.

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      • Marion says:

        Joanna, your response emphasizes Matt’s point that so many of us are suffering the same marital problems in silence. Your situation sounds familiar. My post should have emphasized that I’m now focusing on being kind to myself. I haven’t given up being kind to him, but no longer at my expense. It’s hard to hear others dealing with problems, but it helps me realize that I am not the problem. I wasted so many years internalizing his neglect. Now I remind myself that I am whole, I am worthy, and I am loved. (Sorry I just sounded like an Oprah movie). Take care of yourself!

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      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “Of course, everyone is selfish and all of that, but women often give and give and give and give and give and give, hoping that if she’ll be just a little bit sweeter or a little bit more generous he’ll reciprocate and all will be well. Like Gottman would say, she adapts to his negativity. But often, the man just doesn’t. Like you say “it rather made my husband think that this means everything is just fine the way it is so he doesn’t have to make any effort”. It even seems to become a new normal sometimes.”

        I hate to admit this about myself, I hate to admit it on behalf of my gender, but I do believe this is 100% correct. If men are already acculturated to believe that they are the “head of the household” and that their beliefs and opinions are the de facto “right ones”–in other words, if we are wired to not accept our wives’ influence easily–then dialing up the nice and sweet will only reinforce our misguided line of thinking. See?, we’ll think. Nothing wrong here. She’s happy, she’s sweet, I knew I was King of Siam around here! Good to see it validated! Now where’s my sandwich?

        Here’s the thing I detest most about my gender (and whatever comments have been made in prior posts about the fact that I’m the “girl” in my marriage, there are certain stereotypically male characteristics that I assuredly own, and this, lamentably, is one of them)–we are not motivated by an increase in positivity, but a (preferably rapid) increase in negativity. We don’t need a taking-the-high-road gentle caress from our wives, we need a sharp slap to the face from them. We don’t need them to be Martin Luther King, Jr., we need them to be Malcolm X. Start giving a man more kindness, support and affection and he just becomes more entrenched in his sense of moral righteousness, but tell a man that you refuse to live this way any longer and that he can reach you at your sister’s house in case of an emergency and he’ll (well, the ones still worth a damn will) shift the Earth’s axis to try to repair the damage. However, this represents a precarious tightrope walk for the wife who is interested in saving her marriage because men are very, very sensitive to what we perceive as bitching/nagging. When a woman expresses dissatisfaction in her marriage, if the tone used is angry or emotionally explosive, he feels attacked, overwhelmed, criticized, and ego bruised. HE WILL SHUT DOWN EVERY TIME, and by shutting down, he’s basically cutting off his emotional connection to you. He will become cold and clinical as a counter-response to the heat of your emotionalism, and if he can no longer access his emotional center at this time of self-protection, he can’t access the feelings of why he wants to be with you. He can’t access the warmth in his memories of the two of you as a couple. He can’t access the hope for your collective future. He can’t access the passion he should feel at the sight of you. He becomes a kind of robot so as to endure the immediate seemingly hostile circumstances, which makes it dangerously possible for him to walk away from something that could be special, good, productive and whole again. I fervently believe that women stand to have the best chance at this conversation by hitting your husband with a hard and firm conversation regarding boundaries session that is couched in the language of how hurt you feel, not how pissed off you feel. Or pre-emptively present yourself as the robot to him; that’s what shook the foundations of my world. Women are emotional, right? Dialed up to 11 all the time? Crazy, worked up basket cases of feelings, yeah? That’s the stereotype of them from the worst of male thinking. So when my wife told me she didn’t want to stay married to me, it was the cold, dead-eyed, clinical manner in which she said it that rocked my core. All that bellyaching and whining about limbs not cut down in the back yard, insults I made about her tastes in music, times I was playing on the internet instead of talking to her, dismissing some idea she’d had for a romantic date night flippantly out of hand, never proactively taking action on any chores, reading my Kindle at her softball games because I don’t like sports so I missed every play she made, and on and on and on, you name it, none of that registered because it was so dramatic, it was so over the top, it was so draining. It was white noise. But that simple message, delivered in a total monotone, with zero expression, “I don’t want this life anymore.”? That one cut right through the white noise. That one tripped every switch in my mind, body and soul.

        I wish it didn’t require that to get men to pay attention. But 99% of the time, rightfully or wrongly, fairly or not, justified or otherwise, I believe it does.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Matt: Thank you, but no worries, I wasn’t frustrated with you. Just with the wordpress gods for slowing down my self expression. :p

        Lisa: Again, swoon! :D I’m also flattered that you’re excited that you’ve maybe figured out where I live, but I must ask you to keep your clever thoughts to yourself for now. ;) And good luck writing a non snarky grievance list. :)

        Marion: You said “I haven’t given up being kind to him, but no longer at my expense.” That sounds like a very wise strategy!

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Travis,

      Your comments about men being more motivated by increasing negativity rather than positivity were interesting.

      Forgive the theory but it backs up your point.

      “First discovered by Daniel Kahneman and his associates, loss aversion is the human tendency to strongly prefer avoiding a loss to receiving a gain. This particular cognitive bias consistently explains why so many of us make the same irrational decisions over and over, in the realm of economics and elsewhere.”

      Ok how can loss aversion factor into stupid divorces? There are gender differences for what we are sensitive to losing. Women are often more sensitive to losing the emotional intimacy.

      She will give in and work hard and cry and complain and nag and and eat shit sandwiches and do everything they can think of to avoid the loss of emotional intimacy that is so painful to her. Sadly, she usually doesnt do what is often the only thing that will work to motivate her husband to change.

      She must set healthy boundaries to activate her husband’s loss avoidance. Her husband is often sensitive to losing the physical relationship and often doesn’t feel the loss aversion to emotional intimacy. So he doesn’t respond to his wife’s pain and loss around this issue because it doesn’t carry the same sense of loss for him.

      She must set healthy escalating boundaries so he understands real loss is possible. Move to a different bedroom, sister’s house whatever. His loss aversion will usually be activated then because he does not want to lose his wife or marriage. He will understand he needs to change or lose his wife.

      This must be done early to be effective though while both of you are still feeling positive enough to have loss aversion to motivate change. If either of them passes into indifference, there won’t be a sense of loss anymore.

      Like

      • Travis B. says:

        That was my exact case, yes (though I’m not quite on board with the theory that men are only concerned about loss of the physical relationship–how repellent to think wives only have value to us as sexual objects!; it feels more valid to me to say that we are sensitive to emotional intimacy, as well, but often via different inputs than women, which allow us to feel our emotional intimacy with our wives is rock solid at the very same time they feel it’s all crumbling away into dust). My wife and I recently discussed the key factors in how we were able to pull our marriage back onto firm ground and agree that it was a combination of a) rapid, wholesale and enduring change of problem behaviors on my end (which powerfully communicated to her that the sense she had built up that I did not value her was mistaken) and b) the fact that she drew her line in the sand early so that, despite how coldly her message of “I’m finished!” was delivered, and the fact that she was prepared to stand by it, she had not truly reached the point where all embers of feeling toward me and our relationship had fully burned out. If a wife endures a marriage all the way to the point where her heart has truly gone stone cold before throwing down her final gauntlet, I can’t imagine how any corrective change on her husband’s end could right the Titanic’s course in time.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        I phrased it poorly, I wasn’t thinking of sex when I wrote fear of loss of physical relationship (although that can be a part of it).

        I meant that he fears losing the entire relationship. She will physically leave him and take the kids with her. She will divorce his sorry ass if you don’t change. ;)

        I know you and others commented how you didn’t really think it was possible for your wife to leave unless you cheated or were abusive or whatever so there was no real sense of loss aversion activated when she was complaining about her hurt feelings.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Spot on.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Good for you and your wife to make the changes needed to fix your marriage! That is so awesome.

        I am glad your wife did it early enough so you were able to make the changes that she needed. I assume you are now watching her softball games very intently now. ;)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Spot on, Part II, LOL!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa, that research you pulled up there was very interesting! Your superpower is very handy. ;)

        I’m pondering your great comments about emotional abuse by typically shitty wives (I must say that I’m absolutely aware that women can be physically and emotionally abusive in the more common thought of way), I’ll respond when I have some formed thoughts and words. :)

        Travis, thank you so much for your honesty and self reflection. You describing the nitty gritty of the male perspective as you see it is very helpful for me. Just hearing generalites like “we’re differen” doesn’t do much for my understandg. ;) I have a few questions for you, if you’re willing.

        1. You said: “It feels more valid to me to say that we are sensitive to emotional intimacy, as well, but often via different inputs than women, which allow us to feel our emotional intimacy with our wives is rock solid at the very same time they feel it’s all crumbling away into dust”.

        I absolutely believe you (like you and Lisa both say, it’s not just the loss of his sex life the man fear). Would you mind desribing some of the ways you felt emotionally connected to your wife even though she was unhappy? Especially since you also say that when women complain and nag, men shut down and can’t access the real truth about their feelings for their wives, I’m a bit confused. I’ve read stuff that say that men feel intimacy just being in the same room as his wife, so if she’s physically there (much like what Lisa is saying), all is good. Is that what you were feeling to, or maybe something else?

        2. You said: “He becomes a kind of robot so as to endure the immediate seemingly hostile circumstances, which makes it dangerously possible for him to walk away from something that could be special, good, productive and whole again. I fervently believe that women stand to have the best chance at this conversation by hitting your husband with a hard and firm conversation regarding boundaries session that is couched in the language of how hurt you feel, not how pissed off you feel. Or pre-emptively present yourself as the robot to him; that’s what shook the foundations of my world. Women are emotional, right? Dialed up to 11 all the time? Crazy, worked up basket cases of feelings, yeah? That’s the stereotype of them from the worst of male thinking.”

        Huh. It’s all very interesting to me. I’ve read other stuff about if women want men to change, they should basically praise the hell out of them for every little thing, both as a kind of positive reinforcement thing, and as a way to sidestep his defensiveness to any kind of hint that he’s not perfect. :p I read Lisa’s stuff on loss aversion for men and women, which seem to line up more with your experience.

        But ok, if I understand you correctly you believe the best options for a woman wanting to get through to her shitty husband are 1. Being firm while explaining how hurt you are and laying out the consequences for what will happen if things don’t change? 2. Being cold and lifeless as you say you’re done if nothing changes? I don’t really see how option 1 is different from when she’s been emotional and explained her hurt before, is the significant difference in the clearly laying out the consequences (and meaning it) part?

        3. You said: “If a wife endures a marriage all the way to the point where her heart has truly gone stone cold before throwing down her final gauntlet, I can’t imagine how any corrective change on her husband’s end could right the Titanic’s course in time”.

        Yeah, there isn’t a question here, more of a comment. I basically believe you’re right, not just for your relationship but in general, that it was very important that you changed quickly, and that it didn’t take too long for your wife to be done (but not completely and utterly done.)

        For a not empowered-in-intimate-relationships and boundary skilled woman, it can take a looooong time to get to that point. She will have eaten so many shit sandwiches, she’ll have had her hopes crushed so many times, and forgiven him so many times and given him so many new chances. Women are raised, to some degree though of course it doesn’t apply to everyone, to subconsciously believe a man knows better than her, to defer to him, to believe that having a man on your arm isn’t only awesome but the one thing that validates your existence and gives it meaning. Given that, for her to be able to say and mean that she’s done (with utter calm and cold loveless eyes) she’ll have had to basically get over the vast majority of this social conditioning, she’ll have to have to completely gone through her loss aversion to both the emotional intimacy and the physical relationship and all the status and meaning and validation due to social conditioning that goes with it.

        If she hasn’t gotten over her loss aversion, she’ll probably often still rage or cry when she brings problems up, especially if her man doesn’t take her seriously and doesn’t accept influence, because of her immense fear of both not having the emotional intimacy, and at some point having to give up the whole relationship (because she knows she can’t take the shit sandwiches forever) will be triggered. At some level she knows that her man’s refusal to listen/accept influence yet again, is another drop in the “I’m done”-glass which is filling everyday, and one day a drop just like this one will make it spill over and then she’s really done and she will have lost the relationship forever and ever and ever.

        Or if she doesn’t even believe in her ability to be done/get over the loss at some point in her life, she may fear that the last drop will crush her completely, and she’ll be emotionally broken forever. Deep attachment wounds from childhood can be triggered (I’ll die if my parents don’t love me becomes I’ll die if my partner doesn’t love me). The fear of loss of intimacy and the relationship, and for some also the fear of emotional and even physical destruction is, I believe, in large part what fuels her rage and crying when she’s trying to get her man to see how she’s hurting him. On some level she just can’t stop those feelings, but she gets even more confused because since she displays those emotions, the immense crying and hurt and panic, she believes it must be obvious to her man how serious this is for her. And when he rejects her or doesn’t take her seriously, that makes her feel very hurt and hopeless.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I absolutely know that you understand women can be abusive. I want your Superpower of always remembering to say kind things to people in your comments.

        I wrote a comment below explaining that my “tone” in some of my comments was not at all directed at you but more at myself. I forgot to add stuff in there to say that your comments were quite good and as always I appreciate your thoughts.

        I am preaching to myself when I write that stuff about women being abusive. It makes me cranky because I hate that I did some of that.

        I didn’t do all my example but I am defintely guilty of the contempt. I am the queen of subtle contempt. My husband hates that! His number one complaint about me. I hate that about myself so at least I apply contempt to myself as well as everybody else. ;)

        Trying to fix stupid contempt now.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, I wrote: “both as a kind of positive reinforcement thing, and as a way to sidestep his defensiveness to any kind of hint that he’s not perfect. :p”

        Ok, this was too harsh, contemptuous really (not of you personally Travis, but of that side of many shitty husbands). I’m sorry. I wanted to be direct (partly because we’ve had these kinds of conversations before and I believe/hope we both know the other is both gIrowth oriented and open to these ideas and not a man/woman hater so I don’t have to be über careful with my words, and partly because of some anger on my end that I, probably wrongfully, wanted to release a little bit of here). I should have written something else, like “any kind of hint that he’s not a great husband in all ways”. I don’t know if this makes a difference to anyone else really, but it does in my mind, at least a little bit.

        I currently believe that I think there are different sub groups of Steves (and again, Steve can be both geners, but I’m talking about Steve husbands here). The quicker you’ve realized that you’ve been Steve and not Jason and the more you work to make lasting actions, the closer to a Jason you are and maybe also have been all along. Some Steve husbands, even when his wife reaches a breaking point, refuses to realize that he’s been Steve and not Jason. So he doesn’t want to get a divorce, but refuses to see that he’s been anything less than a Jason. That’s a worse kind of Steve.

        Lisa: You can see how I failed to be respectful and nice here. ;) Want to know a dirty little communication secret of mine? Sometimes when I can’t seem to help myself, I write something quite harsh/sarcastic/contemptuous, and then I go back and delete it/rewrite it. :p Donkey is NOT an angel. There is an obvious draw back to this, sometimes you can forget to delete/rewrite, and you hit reply/send and all the harshness/snark/something else disrespctful is included! So I try to only do it with little things, and delete it right away. If you really want to pile on someone, I recommend you open a word document or something, write all the crap there, and then delete it PRONTO! Don’t write it in an email or something thinking you won’t hit send, it’s SO easy to forget yourself and hit that button of destruction!

        Maybe all of this isn’t really a problem for you, because you’re better able to be very direct. So maybe you have less of the warm fuzzies, but maybe also less of the accidental/that wasn’t supposed to be included snark/contempt.

        My comment about saying that I know women can be abusive wasn’t really about your communication, it wasn’t about me feeling that it came across as though you didn’t knew that I knew. :p It was more from a vanity point, because I know I’ve been really piling it on the shitty husbands lately, so I just wanted to be clear that I’m also aware that women can be abusive. I know I speak in generalites a lot of the time, but I don’t want to sound like I don’t know that women can’t be both shitty and abusive.

        “I want your Superpower of always remembering to say kind things to people in your comments.”

        Aww, thank you. :) I don’t think I always remember though. But maybe I do do it a lot and don’t give myself enough credit for that, so again, thank you. :) When it comes to me though, you’ve been killing it with the warm fuzzies lately. The whole mysterious Western European princess ala Audrey Hepburn giving advice to commoners at night? The princess of tulips?…. *SWOON!* I felt so happy and flattered. :)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “1. You said: ‘It feels more valid to me to say that we are sensitive to emotional intimacy, as well, but often via different inputs than women, which allow us to feel our emotional intimacy with our wives is rock solid at the very same time they feel it’s all crumbling away into dust’.

        I absolutely believe you (like you and Lisa both say, it’s not just the loss of his sex life the man fear). Would you mind desribing some of the ways you felt emotionally connected to your wife even though she was unhappy? Especially since you also say that when women complain and nag, men shut down and can’t access the real truth about their feelings for their wives, I’m a bit confused. I’ve read stuff that say that men feel intimacy just being in the same room as his wife, so if she’s physically there (much like what Lisa is saying), all is good. Is that what you were feeling to, or maybe something else?”

        Well, to be sure, I didn’t feel emotionally connected to her during her moments of emotional dismay with something I was or wasn’t doing, but those were isolated incidences that didn’t have the resonance with me that they were, unbeknownst to me, with her. In other words, since it just seemed like another incidence of a woman overdramatically and overemotionally making a mountain out of a molehill, it was easy to brush it off. She was merely inconveniencing me with her responses to my actions/inactions, whereas I was repeatedly laying down accretion layers of hurt and dehumanization in her. So since I wasn’t accepting her influence, nor experiencing her perspective by way of practicing empathy, I was in a good place. My ideas, wants, needs, tastes and wishes were usually all being catered to, so it was easy to feel a connection with her. She was willing to give of herself in a way that I wasn’t giving back, so in large part, I was being provided what I needed in a relationship, whether that was good conversation, romantic dates, quiet downtime, cozy cuddling, sex, playfulness and laughter, etc. But lest I be seen as Dick in this relationship vs. Steve or Bill, please understand that it was never my desire to take without giving. I gave, and was happy to give. It’s just that, in an echo of the concept of “Love Languages”, I wasn’t giving what she needed.

        Donkey said,

        2. You said: ‘He becomes a kind of robot so as to endure the immediate seemingly hostile circumstances, which makes it dangerously possible for him to walk away from something that could be special, good, productive and whole again. I fervently believe that women stand to have the best chance at this conversation by hitting your husband with a hard and firm conversation regarding boundaries session that is couched in the language of how hurt you feel, not how pissed off you feel. Or pre-emptively present yourself as the robot to him; that’s what shook the foundations of my world. Women are emotional, right? Dialed up to 11 all the time? Crazy, worked up basket cases of feelings, yeah? That’s the stereotype of them from the worst of male thinking.’

        Huh. It’s all very interesting to me. I’ve read other stuff about if women want men to change, they should basically praise the hell out of them for every little thing, both as a kind of positive reinforcement thing, and as a way to sidestep his defensiveness to any kind of hint that he’s not perfect. :p I read Lisa’s stuff on loss aversion for men and women, which seem to line up more with your experience.”

        I would say both things you’ve been told are true. When a husband practices the sort of behaviors that contribute positively, healthily and meaningfully to the relationship–especially if it’s in ways that don’t come easily to him, or in which he’s had to put work into increasing his frequency and aptitude–then, yes, (an overabundance of) praise, provided it isn’t delivered in a condescending way that makes us feel like a dog who finally learned how to stop peeing on the rug, or a back-handed way that still rubs our noses in the times we weren’t doing well (“You’re doing so much better with putting away your dirty dishes! I never thought I’d see the day!”), is almost certainly the most effective way to reinforce continuing those positive behaviors. However, in the presence of your husband’s negative, unhealthy, destructive and cancerous behaviors, then I’d bet all your chips on loss aversion.

        Donkey said,

        “But ok, if I understand you correctly you believe the best options for a woman wanting to get through to her shitty husband are 1. Being firm while explaining how hurt you are and laying out the consequences for what will happen if things don’t change? 2. Being cold and lifeless as you say you’re done if nothing changes? I don’t really see how option 1 is different from when she’s been emotional and explained her hurt before, is the significant difference in the clearly laying out the consequences (and meaning it) part?”

        Yes, it’s all about driving home that the husband’s behavior is not just a matter of irritation or frustration or him being AC to your DC. It’s about the fact that, even if he would feel 100% differently if the tables were turned, it’s having a toxic and corrosive effect on you, to the point that your mental health and emotional well-being are better served with a life separate from him than continuing to remain married. That’s when the switch in his mind flicks from “If I continue to indicate to her how pointless and overcooked her complaints are, she’ll finally recognize it too and stop sweating the small stuff” to “It doesn’t matter if her concerns are objectively pointless or overcooked, dude–she’s prepared to leave you forever over them. Who gives a shit if you feel you’re winning on rationality points if it results in a Pyrrhic victory of losing her?”

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey princess of tulips,

        That’s funny that you write snarky stuff and delete it. I am in this process of rewriting a list of grievances for our marriage counseling tomorrow so I am following your example. First list is too snarky. ;)

        I am quite excited that I think I solved the mystery of where you live. Might be wrong but I think I am right! (Nothing new there ;).

        Like

  2. “I contributed to the thing I despise most. I became part of the problem. Maybe it’s not the first time. And now I’ll have to live with that.”

    Now hold up, Matt! Anybody who would blame some random dude on the internet for their divorce, is symbolic of the whole problem! Blame her, blame the world, blame some guy on the internet, all the precise opposite of “blaming” ourselves, of taking personal responsibility for what ails us.

    “But after everything I’ve learned over these past three years, I do think my wife found herself in an abusive relationship”

    I’m still married Matt, and yet I have indeed had an emotionally abusive marriage a few times. I can’t fully blame my husband for that, he had no idea what a weight he was putting on me. I, me, was the one unable to protect myself from his somewhat unintentional abuse. Conversely, ah heck I just bounced lawn chairs and coffee cups off his head. Stuff happens, we’re all less than kind sometimes.

    My point being, don’t beat yourself up for your marriage and don’t take responsibility for other people’s issues.

    Like

  3. Tina says:

    Matt-

    I’m not a divorce ally either but when your partner insists that is what WILL happen no matter what, when nothing you say or do will move them an inch, when they are emotionally and verbally so abusive you think you will lose your mind unless you just leave and that is exactly why they are being so shitty, you give in and give up. I have begged, literally on my knees, for him to come to counseling. He will not. Not even for the kids vs trying to fix our relationship. He “has moved on” with his mistress. I continue to go to counseling so I can see and own the shit I did to contribute to the problem. I still wish we were not doing this to our kids. Especially today when I spent an hour in my son’s principal’s office due to behavior I know is coming from his turmoil over this. But one person alone cannot do the work to keep a marriage together.

    Is our divorce stupid and lazy and preventable? Yes. Can I do a damn thing about it? No, not unless he’s willing to see it that way too. And he’s not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue says:

    Honestly, people looking for validation for their feelings / life choices / about-to-be-life-choices have the ability to hear what they wish to hear … The matter of whether you actually encouraged her or if your words were the final bullet in her arsenal, has less to do with your actual words and more to do with how made up her mind already was …I have witnessed that phenomenon (and occasionally participated in it, I am ashamed to admit) WAY too often not to recognize that fact …

    If you weren’t on the sidewalk looking up and chanting “JUMP!!! JUMP!!! JUMP!!!” She had probably already pretty much made up her mind …

    You are trying to share your hard won insights to those who may not yet have shared your view from this particular cliff in Life’s journey … That is a GOOD thing …

    Please don’t stop …

    Like

  5. Travis B. says:

    I do think that, if there’s any problem on your part in how this went down, Matt, it’s in forgetting that NO relationship in peril can be meaningful addressed in a simple one-paragraph reply. It’s why every post you put on MBTTTR is a mile long–not because you’re a poor writer, not because you don’t have the skills to properly parse your thoughts and deliver maximum impact with minimal expression, but because human relationships are complex, multi-layered and nuanced things. The ideas you espouse on this blog are ones that require due consideration and both you as a writer, and we as readers, need to marinate in them with proper gravitas. Unless you are prepared to really dig in (as you always do with your blog), you risk coming off as glib, offering one-size-fits-all “quick fixes” (as your private email arguably appeared).

    This puts you in a difficult situation as the author of a rich, immersive blog about marital complications, because you are seen as a type of guru (don’t fight it–it doesn’t have to be fair or justified to be true for many of your readers); therefore, individual readers will be reaching out to you in ever escalating numbers asking for your wisdom regarding their specific marital situation. How does a single man with a full-time job, part-time parenting, and a handful of hobbies and other interests, afford these types of inquiries their proper due? You probably can’t–your schedule constraints likely allow you only enough time to pop off quick bulletpointed advice here and there which, like this time, run the risk of flying far of the mark because it hasn’t been carefully catered to the specific inquirer.

    The alternative, however, is to not respond at all and let the main blog posts exclusively speak to your generalized thoughts on relationship woes, wherein you run the risk of being perceived as unapproachable or “above” your audience. I don’t envy you. I think you’ve found yourself in a Catch-22. You’ve opened the door to people in need because the source of their angst is a matter of the highest concern for you, and yet you can’t be all things to all people, nor let the minutiae of their unique relationship frustrations and paradigms hijack your own life. You’ll probably need to become much more targeted in whom you reply to and whom you choose not to acknowledge; then, for those to whom you do offer advice, your success may be enhanced by asking a lot more probing questions before ultimately proffering case-specific advice.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. marilyn sims says:

    IT left no unsightly bruises. I was uncertain whether I actually heard IT. I only sensed IT. I knew I felt something that made my stomach churn. I could not put my finger on IT, but IT was there…SNEERING CONTEMPT!! and IT disappeared without a trace. Leaving only a trace of slime. IT was there in every refusal to help, to listen, to bend (just a little) and IT slithered away…no one noticed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa Gottman says:

    Matt,

    You said

    “So I write back a note which validates her feelings:

    “There’s a famous saying I often heard growing up: ‘You can’t fix stupid.’ If the men you are talking about are simply WRONG and maybe stubborn and ignorant, maybe there is no reasoning with someone like that. In my experience, not everyone can be saved. If a man is incapable of demonstrating kindness and selfless love for his wife, then I think he’s kind of an asshole. I’ve never seen anyone turn an asshole into a non-asshole. I HAVE seen good men doing wrong by accident figure out that they were doing wrong, and then making changes to be better afterward. Those are the guys I write for and root for.”

    First of all Matt it was kind of you to respond to her email and try and validate her pain and make her feel a bit better. If she made a decision to divorce based on an email that is pretty crazy.

    Clearly she must have not needed a lot of persuasion to decide based on the general comments you posted. And to blame it on you to her husband rather than owning her decision? Hmmm…interesting. Might indicate some problems on her side of the equation to say the least.

    Do you think for your own peace of mind it is worth considering writing her back to clarify that your comments were were not advocating divorcing? That you were responding with thoughts about relationships in general without the intention on specific advice?

    Like

  8. zombiedrew2 says:

    Hey Matt, what you’ve just described makes me think of another 1/2 written post I have that I can’t get around to finishing, about one of the big reasons why I think counseling often fails (I don’t know how accurate the stats are that I’ve seen, but from what I have read counseling really doesn’t help a whole hell of a lot and 1/2 the couples who head to counselling still end up divorced).

    People often aren’t actually looking for help – they are looking for validation. They have a belief about all the things that are wrong in their relationship and/or with their partner. So they go to counseling because they know what once the counselor hears “their” side of the story the counselor will empathize with them and and put their partner in his/her place.

    Shopping for answers is also a big problem here, when someone has an answer they are looking for, so they will go looking for anything they can find to prove it. And if the first, second, third answer isn’t what they want to hear, they continue looking until they find the one that matches. When that happens, it doesn’t matter how many people disagreed, because they finally have found someone who “gets” them. So it’s just evidence to prove what they had already decided.

    This is a big area where people who feel blindsided by unhappy relationships struggle – when it feels like a decision has been made long before they had a chance to do anything about it. Of course on the flipside, the other person probably feels they gave their partner every chance and nothing changed.

    I think that’s the real struggle in rebuilding or repairing any marriage – getting someone who has checked out to actually believe in it again. And unfortunately until they do, very little can actually be done to change. One person can do their damnedest to make things better, but when they are unable to break down the walls of indifference and discontent eventually they will give up.

    Letting go of the past in order to move forward in a positive way is really, really hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zombie, I’ve been married for some 30 years now. Something I really notice is how many people have advised me to divorce my husband. Like the moment we were married there was this concerted effort to convince me to throw in the towel. Counselors have been some of the worst, as in I think they figure the cure for all that ails us is divorce.

      A bit humorous, but I actually tangled with one on the internet a few days ago who was trying to tell me that I was doing marriage all wrong and the only way I could ever have good mental health is if I divorced him. A friend of mine, a counselor who has had 3 failed marriages, and God bless her, but sure enough, she too projects her own issues onto other people.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lisa Gottman says:

    Matt,

    I am so sorry for the discomfort watching your son drive off yesterday. That must be so hard.

    Understanding things in your brain doesn’t make it any less emotionally painful sometimes. :(

    I have a dumb joke for you:

    How does a mathematician solve his constipation problem?

    He works it out with a number 2 pencil!

    Like

  10. marilyn sims says:

    Matt,

    You said, “That’s where the gray area begins, I would have scoffed in haughty offendedness had you suggested my marriage was abusive. Nonsense! I’d have told you. I have never once felt abusive even in the moments I knew I wasn’t loving as hard and selflessly as I should have. But after everything I’ve learned over these past three years, I DO THINK MY WIFE FOUND HERSELF IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.

    Matt, thanks so much for shining a light on the “invisible” abuse that leaves no bruises. There again is the unintentional hurt and pain that renders so many women speechless and ineffectively screaming in rage because no one sees any evidence of malice. In my previous post I was trying to make “visible” how unintentional abuse might be experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Yes, thank you both to Matt and to you Marilyn Sims.

      Living with someone for decades who treats you like you’re a less than worthy person? Less worthy than them of a fair division of labour, less worthy of having you feelings and needs and wants considered than them, less worthy of having free time than them, not worthy of being treated with kindness and respect by the person who promised to love them? No matter how clueless someone is to their effect, no matter that nothing criminal or violent is going on, it sounds like kind of a living hell to me.

      I think of it kind of like two siblings growing up, and the parents favour one over the other, even when they insist they don’t, and even when the parents aren’t violent or anything like that.

      Peter has to do way many more chores than Tommy. While Tommy getst to play his video games every night, Peter is cleaning the bathroom or some other chore. While Tommy doesn’t get his way all the time, 9 times out of 10, the parents accomodate his wishes for the weekend. They take him to his friends, to the park, out for ice cream. When Peter states his wishes for the weekend, there’s always some excuse for why his parents can’t accomodate him. They’re tired, it’s expensive, what he wants is stupid. When Peter says “but you do all of this for Tommy?”. They say it’s different, Tommy works so hard at school, and he cleaned the bathroom last week. “But I work hard at school too” says Peter, “and other than last week, I’ve cleaned the bathroom every time the last six months, plus all these other chores”. Then his parents tell Peter that they don’t like hi tone, and that he’s ungrateful for all of Tommy’s good qualities, and the 1 out of 10 times they do let Peter do what he wants on the weekend. When Tommy wants affection, the parents cuddle him on the couch. When Peter wants affection, the give him a quick peck on the cheek, and when he wants more, they tell him he’s needy and needs to grow up.

      The parents aren’t abusing Peter physically. But what do you think being subjected to this inequity by his parents, who were supposed to love and care for him, does to Peter’s emotional and physical health? I think in an unequal relationship, where one spouse is unfairly burdened and disrespected and not considered compared to the other, the underpriviliged spouse would suffer on a profound level, in similar ways as Peter.

      But granted, spouses are grown ups with more control of their own life than kids. Still though, there are ways to do a lot of damage to your spouse without being violent or criminal or call them degrading names.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Donkey,
        You’re so smart!

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I like your example. Emotional abuse is often difficult to deal with because it can be subtle.

        I think in the common gender patterns in heterosexual marriage both sides make mistakes and have relationship skill deficits to cause emotional abuse.

        But as you have pointed out before, men have often adopted subconscious or conscious privileged attitudes of thinking that listening and accepting influence from their wives is optional. And of course, women don’t stand up for themselves and set boundaries early and often as necessary. As Travis says, “ladies, don’t eat shit”.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        Here’s an interesting article about emotional abuse from Matt’s favorite book (How to Improve Your Marriage…) coauthor, Steve Stosney.

        “Anger and abuse in relationships begin with blame: “I feel bad, and it’s your fault.”

        Even when they recognize the wrongness of their behavior, resentful, angry, or emotionally abusive people are likely to blame it on their partners: “You push my buttons,” or, “I might have overreacted, but I’m human, and look what you did!” Angry and abusive people feel like victims, which justifies in their minds victimizing others.

        Angry and abusive partners tend to be anxious by temperament. From the time they were children, they’ve had a sense of dread that things will go badly and that they will fail to cope. They try to control their environment to avoid feelings of failure and inadequacy.

        The strategy of trying to control others fails to satisfy them for the simple reason that the primary cause of their anxiety is within them. It springs from one of two sources—a heavy dread of failure, or fear of harm, isolation, and deprivation”

        The Silent Abuser

        Not all emotional abuse involves shouting or criticism. More common forms are “disengaging” (a distracted or preoccupied partner) or “stonewalling” (a partner who refuses to accept anyone else’s perspective).

        Partners who stonewall may not overtly put anyone down. Nevertheless, they punish by refusing even to think about their partners’ perspectives. If they listen at all, they do so dismissively or impatiently.

        Disengaging partners say, “Do whatever you want, just leave me alone.” They’re often workaholics, couch potatoes, flirts, or obsessive about something. They try to deal with their sense of inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying—since no attempt means no failure.

        Both stonewalling and disengaging tactics can make you feel:

        Unseen and unheard;
        Unattractive;
        Like you don’t count;
        Like a single parent.

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201506/what-drives-emotional-abuse-and-how-begin-recover

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        Since there are often relationship skill deficits on both sides, there can also be emotional abuse on both sides. In my marriage, my husband is conflict avoidant and I am not. He felt like he had to walk on eggshells to avoid my anger. He told me this over and over. I didn’t understand what he was talking about.

        I did not understand I was emotionally abusing him because my conflict style seemed normal to me and I considered it relatively mild compared to others because I didn’t throw things or curse at him (this was my version of “but I’m a nice guy and don’t cheat or hit you” you should not be unhappy).

        So I did what many husbands do, he told me over and over and over but it didn’t make sense to me so I dismissed him as too sensitive. And I focused on my grievances against him rather than accepting his influence.

        I did not understand the true definition of accepting influence. It doesn’t require that it make sense to me at all. Only that my spouse is asking me to consider changing something that hurts them.

        I am exhibit A for the angry husband in this article and to show that the positiones are often flipped on marriage depending on personality or attachment styles or whatever.

        “Harmful Adaptations to Anger and Abuse: Walking on Eggshells

        The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious—nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behavior. It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent those episodes. You walk on eggshells to keep the peace, or a semblance of connection.

        Women can be especially vulnerable to the negative effects of walking on eggshells due to their greater tendency to be vulnerable to anxiety. Many may engage in constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from “pushing his buttons.” Emotionally abused women may second-guess themselves so much that they feel as though they have lost themselves in a hole. Emotionally abused men tend to isolate more and more, losing themselves in work or hobbies—anything but family interactions.

        No One Escapes the Effects of Abuse

        Everyone in a walking-on-eggshells family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy. We know that no less than half the members of such families, including children, will suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. (“Clinical” meaning that the symptoms interfere with normal functioning. They can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, can’t work as efficiently, and can’t enjoy themselves without drinking.) Most of the adults lack genuine self-esteem (based on realistic self-appraisals), and the children rarely feel as good about themselves as other kids.”

        So I have been both emotionally abused and been one who inflicts the emotional abuse. So has my husband.

        But I have found you actually CAN fix stupid.

        If you understand you are stupid, what you’re doing is stupid, and you are willing to admit that and find a smarter way of doing things. Fixing stupid requires a lot of forgiveness too for myself and him. ;)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Aww, thank you Linbo. 8) I think you’re smart too!.

        Lisa, thank you, good stuff.
        I definitely get that the typical shitty wife also has relationship skill deficiencies, but I don’t see how the typical shitty wife behaviours (like not asserting boundaries, harsh start up) can lead to emotional abuse of her man? I get that a hash start up isn’t nice, but can it be labeled emotional abuse when it’scombined with the fact that her husband has way more influence and priviligev in the relationship? Or were you thinking of something else?

        I’ve realized that I’ve not replied to some of your previous questions:

        How did I come up with Alan? I though about who the typical shitty wife would be, out of Steve, Bill, Jason and Dick, and couldn’t find a good match. 8)

        I do agree with you that health, finances, relationship skills, level of neuroticism, personal traumas all contribute as to whether or not one finds parenting very stressful. And definitely whether or not the kids we have trigger us. 8)
        While it definitely depend on the degree of everyhting, I mean, if you’re very poor or have very poor health that will matter a lot, I do believe that a healthy marriage can whether some storms. But maybe a good marriage that comes down to being a healthy individual with good boundaries? But then again, if your partner doesn’t then follow suit, as a healthy person, you’d then maybe leave and not be married anymore?

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey, you said: “Lisa, thank you, good stuff. I definitely get that the typical shitty wife also has relationship skill deficiencies, but I don’t see how the typical shitty wife behaviours (like not asserting boundaries, harsh start up) can lead to emotional abuse of her man? I get that a hash start up isn’t nice, but can it be labeled emotional abuse when it’scombined with the fact that her husband has way more influence and priviligev in the relationship? Or were you thinking of something else?”

        My understanding of the research is that in the average dysfunctional marriage men and women are equally guilty of not doing healthy things to enable a happy marriage. If I had to pick a side who is more at fault, I agree with you that men often start the ball rolling with not accepting influence.

        BUT as I’ve said before it is not optional for a mature adult to know how to set healthy boundaries. And that is where women often fail. We eat shit.

        If we don’t have good boundaries we eat shit our mothers, coworkers, friends, siblings want to serve us. And most especially our husbands. And we think it is all their fault for serving us. And we waste a lot of time trying to get them to see it our way or change the shit sandwich recipe. Instead of focusing on the real thing that changes the emotional abuse.
        I don’t allow yourself to be emotionally abused. I learn how to set healthy boundaries EARLY in the relationship.

        So I see it in terms of what does a healthy mature adult look like. It is the same skills sets for men and women but we often suck at different ones. The reasons we suck at different ones has a lot to do with the socialization and modeling we have seen.

        Many good men are not conscious of these messages any more than I am conscious of the fact that I, a strong, independent woman, unconsciously ate the shit in my relationship of cleaning more toilets than was fair.

        A lot of this stuff operates in what Daniel Kahneman (Brillant guy who basically invented behavioral economics to explain why we DON’T do rational things-great book Thinking Fast and Slow) calls our fast thinking. Patterns that live in our unconscious like teachers are women, firefighters are men. We don’t even engage our slow conscious thinking when we see what we expect to see.

        In marriage it works like this, women think men are naturally selfish little boys who try to do as little as possible, “it’s easier to just do it myself” and men think women are overly emotional and always bitching about something so why listen just ride the hormonal wave out.

        This is how you get good men who don’t listen to their wives complain about the dishes and smart women who just clean the toilet instead of setting boundaries. It all looks so normal to our unconscious brains at first we don’t even know we MUST engage our conscious brains to overcome these defaults.

        And by the time we do figure it out and kids come to make the shit piles bigger, one or both sides have been hurt and are now angry or resentful and you are in a full blown dysfunctional cycle that is hard to find your way out of.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        How can women be abusive?

        Well, let me count the ways. Here are just a few. We won’t include the subset of women who are physically abusive. (It’s not a tiny number)

        1. Let’s start with Gottman ;)
        The most toxic thing in a marriage is contempt. Women can be very contemptuous of their husbands. Anything from eye rolling to talking about his failings to her girlfriends in that popular game of “whose husband is the biggest idiot?” It is common for women to think of themselves as superior in relationships.

        But the research does not support this. They do accept influence more readily but they suck at other things like boundaries and harsh startups. We all need all these skills to be good at relationships.

        And the fact that women think they are superior to men in relationships is a form of contempt that will make it hard for him to not be defensive. So here she starts the dysfunctional cycle that prevents true partnership.

        Another way that women can be abusive us to prioritize her kids over her marriage and her husband. This is very common in modern parenting culture. The wife sets herself up as the maternal gatekeeper and expects her husband to do it her way. It is a form of unconscious fast thinking privilege. I’m the mother so what I want is the final word.

        Many husbands feel abandoned after kids are born. They no longer matter. Of course, this is where he needs to set healthy boundaries and stand up for himself but many men don’t know how or that they need too so they just adapt to their wife’s negativity.

        Many husbands complain that their desire due a healthy sex life is often dismissed by their wives after kids. He tells her over and over how much this hurts him but she dismisses it because it isn’t that important to her or he didn’t ask her in a nice tone of voice (sound familiar?).

        He feels sad and rejected and alone in his marriage and feels like she doesn’t even love him for himself but maybe now just for his paycheck. It is a very emotionally abusive situation for him.

        Just a few examples off the top of my head.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I didn’t do a good job of explaining the contemptuous wife as emotionally abusive.
        In a common dysfunctional pattern, the wife feels abandoned, the husband constantly criticized.

        Often the wife responds the the feelings of abandonment not from a place of partnership but from a contempt. She is better at relationships, she would NEVER do that to him. It is an attitude of superiority that will come through in her tone of voice and body language.

        Her husband’s fast thinking brain picks up the body language and tone of voice. She’s saying please put the dish in the dishwasher for the 3rd time and the message is often contempt. He is a selfish little boy that’s not very good at relationships. She’s not selfish, she’s knows how to treat people.

        His fast thinking about hormonal women combined with the correct reading of her contempt, will make him feel angry and defensive. “who does she think she is act superior and decide unilaterally where my dish should go?”

        She sets off the cycle in this round by her contempt. And her contempt will continue to grow. And she will criticize him more and more. Her body language and tone will be more and more contemptuous.

        This will not be conscious and because it’s not she has no idea what messages she us communicating to him. Her complete contempt that she is superior at relationships and that he is a failure and disappointment as a husband because he will not respond to her in the way she wants.

        She is accepting no accountability for her part in the dysfunctional cycle. She thinks it is 100% her husband’s fault. And because all this is not done at the conscious slow thinking level you can’t fix stupid.

        So she doubles down thinking it is all a dosage problem not that you have the wrong medicine. She does even more of the same dysfunctional non boundary setting contemptuous stuff and her husband doubles down on his shit. And each side has no idea what is really going on.

        But it is emotionally abusive for men to live in an environment where their wives are contemptuous of them and they feel that nothing they could ever say or do would be good enough for her. That she will always think she is better than him, that he can never suceed. This is a toxic environment just as much as the unloved brother in your example.

        To fix stupid you have to have your problem solving conscious brain involved. And you have to have the right information from really reliable sources. Not idiot experts who tell you that it’s all about men vs women or divorce is part of life or whatever. (See my contempt here?)

        No, it’s really about how the brain works and what healthy relationships and mature adults really are.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        If any of these comments are coming off as know it all, I most certainly know all the stupid shit I have done to screw up my marriage.

        One if the reasons I try to balance the equation with the women’s relationship failures is to fight my own inclination to only see my husbands errors.

        I spent several hours arguing with Jason our marriage counselor about the research that says that men and women are usually fairly equally at fault in an average shitty marriage.

        They just have different shit they’re bad at. I eventually was able to see how much my superior contempt attitude made our relationship toxic. As much or maybe more than my husbands not accepting my influence.

        Bitter red pill to swallow there. So when I am assertively declaring this stuff I am preaching to myself to continue to convince myself of the research.

        I still hate it. I want it to be more my husbands fault cause then I can focus all that pain on him. I hate that I ate shit and didn’t set boundaries (how stupid and weak am I?) was contemptuous and emotionally abusive and a shitty wife and mom.

        Really the bitter red pill is so hard to swallow sometimes. But I can’t fix stupid until I do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Hi all,
        It’s just hitting me how I ‘ve been served shit sandwich’s all my life, and that is exactly what I’ve come to expect. Damn- it’s like I even order them!! UGH!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Linbo, just a quick comment to say that I hear you, and I’m sorry for your pain, and I can relate to a lot of it, I believe. I am very interested in this topic. You’re training to become a therapist right? I’m sure you have plenty of interest and theories on this subject too. I’d like to hear more of your thoughts, if you wish to share them.

        I believe in some relationships (not just romantic) I’ve basically had “doormat” all but stamped on my forehead. I guess it must then be very hard not to step on me. :S

        We internalize so many of these shit sandwiches, and you’re right, we come to expect them and even ask for them in some ways. We come to embody a certain way of behaving, of positioning ourselves in relationship to others, so we have some hope that they’ll accept us…somewhat. Not as an equal (because we have internalized that we’re not worthy of that in that situation, it’s not possible for us), but maybe someone worthy of a little bit of their company, their attention. When kids grow up and are so vulnerable, kids do what they have to do to get some love and protection of themselves, even if that mean swallong shit sandwich after shit sandwich, and accepting what you can get even if it’s not enough. And it’s not like people can just flip a switch when they’re 18 and have great self esteem from then on.

        I have a story about someone else having doormat energetically stamped to their forehead and ME really struggling not to give her shit sandwiches, but I have to stop for now.

        Like

        • Lindsey says:

          Donkey,
          I am really bad at answering your questions!! First, yes- I was born and raised in Texas. I’ve lived in 4 other states, but just briefly. I studying to be nurse practioner that secializes in mental health. Therapy will be a part of what I do. I will mostly be diagnosing and prescribing for psychiatric conditions (But I may be lucky enough to initiate some social changes, too- yay.) Unfortunately we only briefly touched on things like attachment theory, and other therapies- so I will be doing a lot of reading on my own. But yes- you describe me to a tee. “You don’t have to love me, just don’t leave me” “I’ll take the crumbs of your affection, and can make a feast!” But it still always leaves me dry and aching inside. There are times I walk around in literal pain, and it feels hopeless- it feels like you can’t ask for or depend on getting love from anyone, so you do your best to cope. It makes it harder when people can’t understand what’s going on inside of you, and in our society it’s just not cool to be needy. My friend, we’ll call her H.G. and really her whole family have always been willing to let me inside of their lives, and have been interested in mine. I asked her if she wanted to go to this art party that I knew no one at, and she joked “sure,we’ll be your wing family.” :) -But, really they are more like my family (period). So theories- I don’t know a lot of theories just yet, but I know that those kinds of relationships have been profound in helping to heal.

          Like

  11. anitvan says:

    Ok…I say this gently…

    Maybe privately emailing married women with troubled marriages isn’t a wise thing to do.

    You and I have corresponded a handful of times by email and I’ve never thought twice about it, mostly because it was pretty innocuous stuff, but after reading this, it occurred to me that if my husband were to ever come across those emails he probably wouldn’t be too happy about that.

    Because I’M MARRIED and it’s not cool to be having private conversations that my husband knows nothing about with a semi-random guy on the internet.

    I think my husband would probably view it as someone trying to meddle in his marriage.

    I get the impulse to want to reach out but maybe there need to be some boundaries in place, you know? It may not always be appropriate to respond privately.

    Something to think about anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Travis B. says:

      ^^^ I’m Travis B. and I support this message.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is a great point anitvan! I would view it as such as well.
      Though I do think in this specific case it also might prove someone’s point here, that the said wife has made up her mind before, hence writing privately to Matt behind her husband’s back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sue says:

      A VERY insightful point …

      Like

    • Matt says:

      A correspondence policy. I like it.

      That’s going to happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        You can still respond to the marriage proposals emails from the single women. ;)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kristi says:

        Agreed. This is why I’ve resisted the temptation to send any private messages to Matt. Would they get answered? From what I see – yes, and with much thought put into a reply. Would they help? Yes. Would they entertain? Most likely yes! Would they make me feel better about some of the problems I’m having in my marriage? For sure.

        But I need to know I’m doing all I can to prevent hurting my husband or making him wonder if I’m being the wife he wants. A policy would be great! Maybe just responding to comments on the site only and no messages, I don’t know? Another hugely popular blogger I’ve followed and interacted with over the years is Tracy over at The Love Vitamin – http://thelovevitamin.com – I think she does that but maybe more for the sake of time…

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Matt,

    reading this post gave me a sad realization. I am somewhat envious of your wife. It is a strange mixture of sadness, envy and admiration. It must have been terribly hard for her to make this decision. I must have taken her a very long time. It must have been breaking her heart. Yet the determination turned into courage. And she did it. I would like to ask her how she did it. Not necessarily to follow her footsteps. Just to know that I have an option. As of now – it seems like marriage is an entrapment. You get in but once you have children you cannot get out.

    Like

    • I am sorry. I know it was neither constructive nor helpful.I was just really feeling down. I can’t remove it though. If you can – feel free to do so.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        I don’t think there was anything wrong with you comment. I believe that knowing you have the financial, physical and emotional resources to leave, can actually be a great relationship improver. You feel calmer, less triggered, less…codependent, because you know you can leave. Doesn’t mean you will. But you know can. Maybe you also put your fut down regarding harmful beahviour earlier and more effectively.

        I think David Schnarch talks about having as a goal to want your partner instead of needing them.

        Mark Manson, a favourite of Matt’s I believe, says: “But a relationship is only as strong as each person’s willingness to leave. Note that I didn’t say desire to leave, but the willingness to leave”. http://markmanson.net/why-people-cheat

        Marilyn quoted something lovely in the comment section of Mtt’s previous post, from Henry David Thoreau, “I will come to you, my friend, when I no longer need you. Then you will find a palace, not an almshouse.”

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        I’m sure I’m going to upset some people here, but I feel really strongly about this…

        Donkey said ” I believe that knowing you have the financial, physical and emotional resources to leave, can actually be a great relationship improver. You feel calmer, less triggered, less…codependent, because you know you can leave. Doesn’t mean you will. But you know can. Maybe you also put your fut down regarding harmful beahviour earlier and more effectively.”

        And I totally agree with that.

        One thing I have MAJOR issue with however is when people stay in a marriage that they have already “left”, simply because they feel they don’t have the financial, physical or emotional resources.

        Yeah, divorce sucks. And yeah the financial side is often ruinous to both parties – never mind the emotional trauma that comes with splitting up your life and your family.

        But if someone has completely checked out on the marriage, and they are making it pretty clear with their actions and behaviors that they don’t want to be there?

        Then get out. Period. Sure, it’ll suck. And it won’t be easy.

        But staying just for the financial, physical, emotional stuff, or “for the kids” because someone is afraid they won’t be able to do it on their own? That’s just flat out abuse in my opinion.

        I guess I speak from a position of pain here, but there is nothing I have ever felt that is more soul destroying than coming home to someone that you love, when they make it very clear that they would rather be anywhere else. You feel hurt, and you feel used, and it’s the best way of ensuring that when the break does eventually happen – it won’t be pleasant.

        To me the commitment of marriage isn’t just about not leaving – it’s about what you are actually putting IN to the marriage. And if someone has stopped putting anything in because they are already mentally checked out? Then the piece of paper that says they are married is meaningless.

        I’m not suggesting that anyone who is having doubts or isn’t sure about things gets out immediately. But I AM saying they need to make a decision. Look at the marriage, and decide that it IS what you want, and then work to make it better. Or get out.

        A limbo state of a non-marriage marriage helps no one, and hurts EVERYONE around them. The couple, the kids, the extended family that knows what’s going on.

        Staying when you are already checked out is up there with affairs on my personal list of the most selfish things that someone can do in a relationship.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, I totally agree with you! And I am fighting. I am determined to not get divorced. But sometimes i just get really discouraged and exhausted when it begins to feel too one-sided effort. With that said, my husband does not want to get a divorce at all. In the contrary. Or so he says. But he does not put the work required to have a good marriage. Marriage IS work. Love IS a choice. I choose to love him though he is making it very hard at times and my energy level has dwindled dramatically through the years and some significantly shitty behaviors.
          If he was openly implying that he has checked out/is done it would be a whole different story.

          Liked by 1 person

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            Joanna, I feel your pain – truly. My wife checked out years ago, and blindsided me with the “I don’t love you anymore and I’m not sure if I want to be married”. After the initial shock, my approach was to try to understand what had gone wrong and work to make it better. Things had been great once, but somewhere in the years of parenting the connection between us had broken down. I believed/knew we could get it back, if we both wanted to and were willing to put in effort to identify the things that had gone wrong and address them.

            Thing is, she didn’t actually tell me she was checked out until she was pretty far gone. I knew things weren’t great, but thought that she was struggling with other things – and I actually thought that our relationship was one of the bright spots in our life. Shows how tuned in I was. Part of the reason I didn’t realize how disconnected she had become was because we didn’t see each other much. We worked opposite shifts in order to avoid daycare, and only had a few hours together every week for a number of years.

            There were a few years where she was “trying to find herself again”, and I stupidly accepted that as I tried to take a long term view on things. But during that period I felt very, very used. Yeah, people can lose themselves in relationships and in parenting. And many people hit a midlife where they feel they need to find themselves. I get all that, but you don’t get to ignore a relationship while finding yourself. You’ve got to do both, and if you can’t? Well, you need to pick.

            That’s as much on me as it is on her though. In an attempt to be empathetic and understanding, I enabled some bullshit behavior that I never should have allowed. That’s all in the past now, but she never really came back from that. Similar to what you are saying, my wife is able to “say” she wants things to be better, and she doesn’t want to split up. But she sure doesn’t put in much effort. For me, it often feels like I’m the one largely holding things together and putting in the vast majority of the effort. And that’s exhausting. My own personal boundaries are much stronger now, and as long at there is gradual improvement without much backsliding I plan on being here for the long haul. Thankfully there are enough good stretches to offset the bad ones. But I definitely have days that I question if it’s really worth it.

            Liked by 2 people

        • and, by the way, I was apologizing to Matt. I realized that my comment about wanting to talk to his wife, might have been hurtful to him.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Yes, I believe I agree with you Zombiedrew, we’re probably just focusing on different things, while agreing on both things, in our comments

        1. Knowing that you can leave should you have to, is good.

        2. Staying while you’re not sure but you’re trying hard to make things work is good in my book. I mean, if the relationship has been bad for a long time, I can’t blame people for not being sure whether or not things will work out. The key though, is you’re staying AND you’re trying your darndest to make it work.

        3. But staying even when you’ve emotionally left the relationship, but you’re NOT trying to make things better and you’re NOT leaving? Yeah, that’s very cruel. Absolutely.

        I know more than one person who was in a relationship and their partner wanted to leave, but the partner who wanted to leave left it up (in words or deeds) to the person who wanted to stay to decide when they were going to end it! They basically had to break up with themselves. That is cruel.

        “To me the commitment of marriage isn’t just about not leaving – it’s about what you are actually putting IN to the marriage. And if someone has stopped putting anything in because they are already mentally checked out? Then the piece of paper that says they are married is meaningless.”

        “Staying when you are already checked out is up there with affairs on my personal list of the most selfish things that someone can do in a relationship”

        Yes yes yes! I know I’ve said several times on this blog that for me there are things that are as bad or worse than cheating, and it really is about what you’re getting into here (although I respect that people have different opinions about what’s a deal breaker or a worse betrayal for them). Being a good spouse is more than not getting divorced and more than not cheating. A million other things can be right or wrong aswell.

        Who files for divorce is one thing. If that person’s spouse had been emotionally or behaviourally checked out for years, or behaving in other (perhaps cluelessly) selfish ways, thinking that not cheating and not leaving is basically enough? Who really left the marriage? I think the effort part counts a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donkey – yes on all points. And that was my point exactly – to KNOW I CAN in case it came down to it. And it is not about finances. That can be dealt with. It is about true freedom of choice. I would daydream about asking my husband to rent a place next door, to come home from work everyday like he normally does, have dinner with us, spend some time with the kids and after they go to bed LEAVE. He can stay ONLY if he intends to be truly engaged and present in being with me. That way I would know that I am not a permanent fixture that needs to be dusted once in a blue moon but a choice. And so would he.

          Long time ago before I had any real idea what marriage was I met a professor in his 60s (might have been 50s – I was too young to assess properly). He was giving a lecture at the conference I was participating in (and in a different country that he was from). He told me he was married and was looking forward to seeing his wife the coming weekend. To my shock it turned out that they lived separately!!!! They each had their own flats, spend weekends together and any additional time they WANTED to spend together and they were very happy together. I thought it was insane and it was a recipe for a disaster. Today I appreciate the deep wisdom of it. They had a true choice. Every single day they were recommitting to each other. They were choosing each other. Literally. They valued and appreciated each others presence and company. Sigh. Obviously not happening with small children but I view it so differently today than I did then…..

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Zombiedrew,

        First of all, it sucks to be in the position of the person who wants change and is ready to dig in and do the work but whose spouse seems to be indifferent or not willing. I am sorry you are in this position but that you have set boundaries and are seeing improvements most of the time.

        Your story shows that while there are common gender patterns, they can be flipped and the husband is the one who is waiting for his avoidant spouse to be willing to face her fears and come to the table fully ready to work.

        There are many, many women with avoidant attachment styles. Because of gender socialization it will look a little different than the classic male stonewall and withdrawal but it’s still the same basic pattern.

        It is so frustrating to the spouse begging for scraps of emotional engagement. But my avoidant style husband tells me it is very frustrating to be the avoidant person overwhelmed by all the emotional requirements that seem so impossible to satisfy that little scraps are all they are capable of at times.

        It can be a fine line between being patient and understanding and yet still requiring sufficient change and movement. So I understand your pain to a certain extent at least.

        It’s just baffling sometimes because it seems like they should be capable of more. But of course that is easy for me to say since he doesn’t understand why I am not capable of being more patient.

        But that goes to your point about setting healthy boundaries. There is patience but there is also healthy expectations for change.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa Gottman,

        it seems like you and I married a variation on the same person.

        You nailed it with the avoidance comment. For years I thought that the lack of conflict in our marriage was a sign of strength, but little did I know that it was actually a case of avoidance, which turned into withdrawal and passive aggressiveness. It’s crazy and frustrating, because my wife is actually a fantastic person in almost every way. But for whatever reason she is also very anxious and avoidant, and it makes things very difficult to actually address any issues.

        I know exactly what you mean about “begging for scraps of emotional engagement”, and how “it seems like they should be capable of more”. As a person who is not afraid of his emotions, and tends to wear his heart on his sleeve it’s pretty tough to often feel like I’m in an emotional vacuum.

        My wife sees how much damage it does, not just to our relationship but also to her own general happiness. But seeing and being willing to tackle it as an issue are two very different things.

        When the withdrawal got really bad a few years back it took me being ready to walk away before anything started to change. And even then, sometimes it feels like just enough effort is put in for me to not leave. It’s really frustrating when someone is putting effort in only out of fear of losing everything, and not because it’s the right thing to do.

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Zombiedrew,

      I don’t know your story but from your comments you don’t seem like you that anxiously attached. Would you consider yourself reasonably securely attached? (I know you are familiar with attachment styles). If so that’s a big advantage even though your wife is avoidant.

      I am sadly more anxuously attached and have become more so since we’ve become married because of some extended family trauma and rejections. You get an anxiously attached person married to an avoidant? That’s a prescription for pain. Each of you setting off the others sensitivities, making them worse.

      I know from your blog that you’ve thought a lot about underlying anxiety. That was so helpful for me to frame it that way. Avoidant people have a phobia about emotional intimacy like some people fear spiders or dishes.

      It’s not that they don’t want to be healthy, but it just overwhelms their bodies and brain with fear. And as you know, the most common response to that is fight or flight. And avoidants chose flight. They withdraw. Their nervous systems feel our call for emotional engagement as overwhelming. Like being asked to have a bunch of spiders crawl all over you.

      When my husband described to me how overwhelmed he would get, his sense of frustration and desperation to withdraw to safety, I was able to feel empathy for how difficult this was for him.

      What is effortless to me is very difficult to him. His willingness to endure discomfort shows him commitment. Even if it is much, much slower than I would like.

      Now you may not relate to this but for me to not engage is physically difficult as much as an avoidant. We have a problem, it is fixable, we know how to fix it but I just can’t get the engagement to fix it. That is overwhelming to me! The battle I have to do to not go into fight mode.

      I am not conflict avoidant and like many anxiously attached people, I respond with anger and criticism when faced with rejection. It’s like those horrible experiments where the little monkeys beat on the wire monkey moms to try and get a response.

      Having to learn to not do this is just as challenging to my amygdala as avoidants learning to engage.
      Now that we understand that. It’s easier to be empathetic to each other and work together.

      But it’s frustrating no question about it! In my weaker moments I know this could have been solved years ago if he want avoidant but I’m sure he thinks the same about me. The silver lining is that it presents so many, many opportunities for me to learn more maturity. ;)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        That was supposed to be spiders and snakes. I guess autocorrect is phobic of dishes.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa,

        that’s hard to answer. I *think* I’m fairly securely attached. But isn’t that kind of like the “nice guy” thing you and I talked about, where I may simply overestimate my own attachment style?

        I do start to feel threatened in the relationship when she withdraws. Although I know it’s the anxiety, and it’s the fight/flight response, having someone withdraw emotionally and physically starts to feel a lot like rejection. Especially when it happens frequently.

        I know she doesn’t intend it that way and it’s simply her coping mechanisms, but I’m someone who’s primary love languages are physical and quality time, and those at the things she completely shuts down when anxious as she tends to withdraw into herself. Not a great combination.

        It wasn’t always like that though. Something changed a few years ago, and that’s when everything kind of fell apart for us. I don’t really know what that something was, but since then the anxiety which was always just kind of an underlying thing has turned into a significant issue. She is now highly anxious pretty much all the time, and it can be painful to watch.

        Sadly the only way of addressing anxiety is to slowly confront it, but for an anxious person confronting it is the last thing they want to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Drew,

        I think with the attachment thing it is more of an underlying sense of “are you good enough?”

        Anxious people tend to answer no (although it may look like overconfidence sometimes) and are highly sensitive to rejection. They will respond to constant withdrawal with panic and or clinging and or rage.

        Secure people (we will assume you are) respond to withdrawal and rejection too. It is just a painful horrible way to be treated. But it is often less of a blow to their underlying self esteem because they generally think they are worthy of love.

        Avoidants are sensitive to rejection too but it is more in not being fully unconditionally loved despite their withdrawal and rejection. Will you love me even if I don’t act in lovable ways? There is an underlying self esteem problem there too but they brace themselves by going internal rather than external.

        So to me a secure person will respond with understandable upset and anger when paired with an avoidant but the intensity level is more normal less exaggerated and “crazy” than an anxious attached person who is dysfunctionallly fighting for their sense of self worth.

        My husband also has anxiety issues which exacerbates the avoidant problems. But he is aware of them and treats the anxiety seriously. But it just adds to the fun that I also have anxiety issues!

        Although I think my anxiety issues would be “cured” if I could get more secure people (and I’m trying) because they revolve around all the annoying avoidant people I have in my life now. I’m trying to find ways to shore up my own mental stability despite constant assaults by avoidant people. (Bless their little hearts!).

        As an example, two of my closest girlfriends are avoidant. A few years ago I told them both that I was having serious problems and could barely function. They changed the subject immediately to talk about their kids school. WTF??????

        It’s why I thought I was friggin insane. I started reading some of these books about attachment stuff and it started to make the world understandable again. How can two of your best friends change the subject when you need help? Well they’re avoidant that’s why.

        It’s not that they don’t care but they are incapable of being empathetic when you need it. When I meet a new person and can tell they’re avoidant (I’m pretty good now at telling the clues) I don’t pursue the friendship.

        My mental sanity can’t handle any more avoidant people in my life!!! I would rather have a little crazy anxious than more withdrawl and passive aggressive.

        I hope your wife is getting treatment for her anxiety. It can make a big difference if you get the right help.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        “And even then, sometimes it feels like just enough effort is put in for me to not leave. It’s really frustrating when someone is putting effort in only out of fear of losing everything, and not because it’s the right thing to do”.

        I’m so sorry. Virtual hug for you or anyone who wants it! I think Lisa did a really good job of explaining the avoidant side’s perspective there though. It’s so hard to empathize when we’re on a more opposite end.

        I am not avoidant I believe (though I can be in some cases), but I had some stuff happen that really threw me off kilter (Lisa mentioned PTSD and I think I may have that), and true emotional intimacy with anyone really can be a struggle. I work really hard at it (I’ve been to different kinds of therapy and read a bunch of books and made lifestyle changes), that’s what I feel like at least, but maybe it doesn’t look that way to other people. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but I do believe that effort should count quite a bit. If I could force my nervous system to calm down I’d do it, but I can’t. Though I am making progress, it’s just slow. :S

        Still, it’s a hard balance. Someone I know had some mental health challenges. On the one hand, everyone wanted to be understanding and accomodating. But on the other hand, where does consideration end and enabling rudeness and someone not having to consider other people begin? It’s very hard to know.

        I really wanted to come up with an example of a woman being a jackass to her husband, just to show you that I really am aware that in many cases it’s the man putting in more effort. I really and truly believe that that happens too. But it just won’t come to me now, so if you’re able to suffer through the typical gender configuration, here’s a story that touches on the putting in just enough effort for the partner not to leave thing:

        I read something by a woman and a step mom being fed up with her husband not considering her needs and letting his kid walk all over her (yes, kids’ feelings obviously need to be taken care of in step families, but when a teen starts to steal and such from the step parent in addition to a bunch of other crappy things, that’s not cool). She said, if I remember correctly, that every time she got really fed up, her husband cleaned the house to placate her, as if to make her hang in there without him having to change any of the harder things. It’s like, he knew he was letting his kid treat her like crap without him enforcing any consequences, and he did just a little bit extra to make her be able to suffer that extremely hurtful shit sandwich (him knowing his kid was treating her like crap but not doing anything about it) for a while longer. And also, he knew she was also hurt that he didn’t do his fair share of the housework (that was my impression/interpretation at least), so he does it only when she’s really fed up and he has to do *something* to make her stay. The rest of the time he just lets the inequity go on. Never mind that she’s unhappy and unfairly treated, at least that was what I thought.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I know in other comments you’ve mentioned your best friend who you’re really close to. So it’s possible for you to be emotionally connected to her?

        Also, I think men are socialized to think being avoidant is healthy masculinity. So that’s why there are more men with avoidant behaviors if not actual avoidant attachment styles.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa/Donkey,

        From Lisa’s comment about secure attachment being a question of “are you good enough?”, I think that yeah I am probably securely attached. I like me. I don’t think I’m cocky or arrogant, and I definitely have my fair share of flaws. But I also believe I have a lot going for me, and I’m confident in myself and my ability to thrive in pretty much any situation. I guess I’m somewhat avoidant when it comes to conflict, as at times I let things go a bit longer than I should before deciding it’s time to do something about the problem, but on the whole I think I have my shit together pretty well :)

        As for my wife’s anxiety, no, she not getting any sort of treatment for it. I wish she would, as I believe it would improve her overall happiness as well as our relationship. But I need to respect her to deal with her anxiety in the way that she feels is best for her (or not deal with it as it may be). It’s frustrating though, because she seems to want me to be understanding of her anxiety but at the same time she doesn’t seem to appreciate that it doesn’t just affect her. So accommodation frequently seems to only go one way.

        Donkey, you mention emotional intimacy (which is a favourite topic of mine), and I think that really nails the issues on my end. For some reason, as the anxiety has spiked in the past few years emotional intimacy has really broken down – and that leaves me feeling pretty empty a lot of the time. Really, I think emotional intimacy is “the thing” that makes you feel like you are a couple. Without it I often feel more like room mates who co-parent, and I absolutely hate that. When the anxiety comes down (briefly), I see glimpses of what was, and what I believe could be again. But sadly those moments are pretty rare.

        I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand anxiety in order to be a better partner, but as you say – where does accommodating end and enabling begin? One person can’t always be accommodating at the expense of what they need out of life. That’s where the boundaries have to come in, but I’m still left with the feeling that we can and should be so much more.

        Like

        • anitvan says:

          Hey Drew,

          Hang in there. I respect the hell out of you for sticking with your wife through her mental illness.

          You and I are in similar situations. I know when he goes “down” that an emotional distance is going to creep in and I try to be supportive and accepting of what he needs (which is time and distance to “process” his thoughts and emotions) but it wears on me after a while. It’s painful to be on the “waiting” end. Waiting for my husband to come back to me. Or at least, that’s what it feels like.

          Sometimes it feels like emotional abuse. I know it’s not intended or inflicted intentionally – he is ill, not morally deficient. I try to keep that in mind – he’s not doing this out of malevolence, he is *symptomatic*.

          Something else that I have to keep in mind is that for every time he becomes symptomatic, there are probably dozens of times that he has successfully fought off the temptation to give in. Your wife may be working harder than you realize.

          I think you said once that you are “in this for the long haul”. My husband *is* in treatment – has been for 3+ years – and has a long way to go yet. Sometimes I feel almost hopeless. I know in my heart that his undealt with inner demons are a barrier to healing our marriage. His issues often manifest as relationship issues. Sometimes all that keeps me here is obligation – I made a commitment to walk with him until the very end. I will not discard him as if he is defective.

          Sometimes I wonder to myself, “what if this is as good as it gets?”.

          I guess it’s gonna have to be.

          I really hope your wife is able to find some help that works for her. My heart goes out to her. I also strongly recommend that you get support as well. Be sure to take good care of yourself. Continue to educate yourself about her illness and how you can best support her without enabling her. The absolute best thing you can do for her is to take good care of yourself, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

          Liked by 1 person

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            Hi Anitvan,

            Thanks for the support. I know you’ve said you’re in it for the long haul as well, and I have great respect for that.

            I *suspect* I’m in it for the long haul, but I’m no longer willing to say that with 100% certainty. I put up with some serious crap a few years back, and if I made it through that I think I can put up with most things. But at the same time, I’ve told myself I’m never going back to that type of situation again.

            Things are much better these days, largely good, with some moments that remind me of how we once were and how we hopefully can be again. Things aren’t nearly at the level I would like, but I guess that’s alright. No one has a perfect situation, and what we have does have a lot of good in it. I really miss closeness though, and sometimes things feel pretty lonely when the person you love is so caught up in every little thing that they are incapable of putting time/energy into the marriage.

            I know she’s trying as well as someone with serious anxiety and avoidance issues can. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t deal with that though, it sure feels like she could be doing a lot more.

            Still, we’ve been together through a lot. And as long as things don’t backslide too badly this is the road that I continue to choose each and every day.

            Like

      • Donkey says:

        Drew:
        It’s very easy to pass judgement from the outside, but it doesn’t seem fair to me that since your wife’s anxiety is affecting you negatively aswell (less emotional intimacy, and I’m sure other things too), that she’ not getting any treatment at all and still expects you to be continually patient.

        I mean, I would aboslutely want any spouse to be supportive and understanding and patient (and look at their end of the relationship, we all know relationship troubles can wreck havoc on a person, but it sounds like you’re owning your stuff), and some people just are more anxious than others. Not everyone is happy go lucky and that’s fine, they probably have other great qualities. But that’s a different thing, I believe. If she isn’t doing anything to improve the situation that’s causing problems for both of you, then your continued patience seems too one sided to me. One thing is accepting your partner has a problem, another thing is accepting that your partner has a problem and isn’t doing much about it. But maybe she feels like she’s working on it in ways you don’t see?

        I’m guessing you’d probably be on board with this, the only thing I would add is that you’re open to whatever kinds of treatment/lifestyle changes she feels would help her (with exceptions for obvious scam stuff and harmful things), even if you don’t believe in it personally or think it’s stupid and a waste of money. People really do respond to different things. Group thereapy, medication, yoga, life coach, reading lots of books about it, diet change, decluttering, making rotuines, whatever. In my opinion one of the key things is that she’s making a real effort to improve the situation. I’m guessing that alone would go a long way in making you feel like she cares about how it’s affecting you and that she wants to make it better.

        Lisa:
        Regarding my friend, yes and no. I’m definitely able to have a good time with her, and be very open about my thoughts and feelings, and have the whole experience be fun and easy and good for me. But even with her I also struggle with this experience of things not being quite real, that I’m a stranger to myself, that she’s a stranger. That I’m not fully present. I’m almost completely sure it’s because my nervous system is still out of whack for various reasons, so I’m trying not to overthink it and let it freak me out too much (been there). Just trying to keep my eyes on the ball (the ball being whatever I believe will help me, at this point, get just a little bit better).

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Donkey,
          Hi there. Thank you for your kind note. A part of me thinks you have hidden cameras in my house, because you describe a lot of what I experience (at least emotionally.)I also have tended to feel like you feel- about your friendship not being real,ect. (I think that is what you meant). I experience that at times with larger groups- like my church. I often feel unseen or unheard. There are times when I feel like my BFF and I “miss” each other. Where were not in rhythm with each other. But she is still the person I trust most and who connects with me on a deeper level. I know I have questioned our relationship, but I think it’s a mutual willingness to just be there that makes the relationship real- even when our feelings and perceptions tell us different. So just to let you know I think I can understand some of your experience. I am not sure what you mean about your nervous system. Is it anxiety? I know a lot of hard (traumatic) experiences can create that.
          Sorry if I’m getting too personal. I’m wishing you peace and wholesome self care and deep healing connections.

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        and I would just add one more thing, for her, and that is don’t give up.

        Like Lisa has told us with the marriage councelors, not everything is going to be helpful. :p As I look back on dealing with my own stuff, I can say that some of it was just a waste of tim, effort and money (although I probably did learn something from than blind road too). Some stuff helped me, but maybe just a litte, and then you have to look for the next step, If people gave up the first or second or 20ieth time they hit a dead end…that wouldn’t be good.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ok, did I become a divorce ally here?

        Like Anitvan says, it’s very possible Drew’s wife is working harder than he thinks.

        Here’s Harriet Lerner: “As a psychotherapist I know that substantive change often occurs slowly, sometimes at glacial speed”

        Like

  13. shannon says:

    A very wise woman told me that she and her husband look at all their problems like the problem is a stick stuck in the earth. They walk around it, survey it from all sides and in all lights, and stretch their brains to come up with a multitude of options to solve the problem, or alleviate it, or take steps to resolve it. Then they choose the one they think has the best chance to succeed or at least improve, define the steps it will take to get there, pick the ones they each commit to fulfilling, determine the time frame, then start. It seems that so much unresolved angst in relationships comes from the emotions that develop over time as each problem becomes a wall of multiple unsolved problems. But, unfortunately, it takes two willing partners to do this. On the other hand, everybody deserves an emotional breakdown or even to ACT like an asshole – on occasion, in turns, after which they need to explain themselves, make amends, and be given absolution, but once absolution is given, they don’t get another crack at jerkihood for quite awhile. There is a difference between occasionally acting like an asshole and actually being an asshole, which I would define as “frequency as observed by the recipient of the assholeness”. An old time “my word is my bond” might help to. If you said you were going to be home at______, watch the kids from _____ mow the lawn______clean the ________ Well, do it damnit, and if you really cannot, figure out what you are going to do that the reneged upon person wants and make that happen as an amend, but don’t just excuse yourself from anything in its place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shannon – I am reposting your post because I like it so much (and somehow I no longer can just “like” posts). YES. YES. And YES. Exactly that. And did I say yes?
      “A very wise woman told me that she and her husband look at all their problems like the problem is a stick stuck in the earth. They walk around it, survey it from all sides and in all lights, and stretch their brains to come up with a multitude of options to solve the problem, or alleviate it, or take steps to resolve it. Then they choose the one they think has the best chance to succeed or at least improve, define the steps it will take to get there, pick the ones they each commit to fulfilling, determine the time frame, then start. It seems that so much unresolved angst in relationships comes from the emotions that develop over time as each problem becomes a wall of multiple unsolved problems. But, unfortunately, it takes two willing partners to do this. On the other hand, everybody deserves an emotional breakdown or even to ACT like an asshole – on occasion, in turns, after which they need to explain themselves, make amends, and be given absolution, but once absolution is given, they don’t get another crack at jerkihood for quite awhile. There is a difference between occasionally acting like an asshole and actually being an asshole, which I would define as “frequency as observed by the recipient of the assholeness”. An old time “my word is my bond” might help to. If you said you were going to be home at______, watch the kids from _____ mow the lawn______clean the ________ Well, do it damnit, and if you really cannot, figure out what you are going to do that the reneged upon person wants and make that happen as an amend, but don’t just excuse yourself from anything in its place.”

      Like

  14. Linbo says:

    Matt,
    I’m really sorry. I thought about you on Sunday, and wondered if you had to give up part of your weekend. I thought you would do it graciously, but it would still hurt. I’m glad you didn’t have to give up your weekend, but your description of “not liking it” as he drove off just goes to show you what kind of person you are. You care. You’re tuned in emotionally, but you have the maturity to act responsibly. That is something lacking in a lot of people.
    Maybe you should write them both- or send this blog post with advice to talk it out. If your advice carried weight the first time, maybe it will the second time.
    But, what has been stated above is likely true- your initial advice was only validation to what she wanted to do.
    As far as personal emailing. I was really touched that you wrote me back when I wrote you after the dishes post. I wasn’t expecting it. There is a lot of good that comes from connecting authentically with others, but maybe I am also an example of why you shouldn’t respond personally. (Just so everyone knows- I tend to be needy and overcommunicate at times..but I’m working on it!)
    Just some thoughts.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Linbo, I just wanted to say thank you for the adivce you gave me about my friend who might have kids soon and not be able to see me as much. It’s great advice, that I tell her that want to still be in her life (I don’t remember your exact words)…and I’ve already done it. 8) My relationship with this gal is one of the healthiest I have, and she knows my thoughts about this. And of course she has my blessing (not that she needs it or that it’s my place to give it really!) to do whatever she wants. :)

      I’m getting a bit overwhelmed with all the comments, is there anything else that I haven’t responded to?

      I remember you asked about some kind of boundary accountability thing, and please don’t take this personally because it’s truly not, but I have to pass for now. I’m just really overwhelmed these days (my nervous system is out of whack to be frank), and while I definitely do not believe you wanted some kind of intensive thing, I just don’t think an extra commitment like this (however casual you intended it to be) is a good thing for me these days.

      I liked your idea of a forum (if Matt goes off into some kind of entrepreneurship, that could be a thing for him to ponder at least), that could perhaps make it easier to just shoot someone a private message here and there when someone felt like saying something a bit more private. As for now, I would definitely like to continue our conversations here, and boundaries is definitely on my interest list. :) And one day, maybe we’ll both feel trusting enough to drop anonymity and be facebook friends. :)

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Donkey,
        I just now got this. Thanks for the follow up. Definitely no pressure. Glad the advice helped and you got to spend some time with your friend :). I did the same thing last night,too. After being a hermit for the entire weekend while studying. I forget that I can pick up the phone and call! I remembered this time and had a lovely evening :). You take care.

        Like

  15. Linbo says:

    Matt,
    Here is something else. I know I and a few others have been using the comments section kind of like a message board. (Don’t judge.) I know we may go off topic a little, but actually what it has made me think about was maybe a closed group page where we can talk about some of the things that get brought up, but how they apply personally in our lives. Like, having a place to talk about specific issues in applying boundaries, etc. or just a place to “hang out.”
    I don’t know if anyone else thinks this is a good idea, or if really just need to get out more, but I thought I would throw it out there. …

    Like

  16. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Linbo

    I think your idea about a closed group page MAY be preferable to having an open forum where all kinds of ideas get kicked around…yet I find myself responding to Matt’s blogs from a different perspective (seemingly) and I like the feedback I’m getting from you and Lisa especially. I am a lot older than both of you and I often feel “out of touch” with the issues discussed here especially about marriage and the new uncommitted marriage called co-habitation.

    Like

    • Linbo01 says:

      Hi Marilyn,
      Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday. I have thought about the issue of bringing “pleasure” into the center of the relationship. Men may be thinking sex, I’m thinking about fun and play. I do think that is incredibly essential. I don’t know how many couples actually engage in play together. (Exploring,or building, or day dreaming together). I also thought about the power dynamics, and I’m not 100% sure that really effects couples since there has been a huge shift in women’s liberties. (By the way- I don’t think your old.Age=wisdom). As far as the closed board- I apologize. I have about a dozen ideas per day, and I’m lucky if 1 is a good one. I really don’t know if that would be the one good one or not. I’m interested in finding ways to practically apply some of the things talked about here.
      I have been curious as to your story,though. What brings you here? If your comfortable sharing, I would be interested in listening. I will be out for most of the day, so probably won’t respond very fast. But, I’m not ignoring you.

      Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Linbo,

        I think you’re probably right about the different meanings of play i.e. sex vs. exploring, or building or day dreaming together. And as far as the power dynamics are concerned, they still exist. I would use as an example the hostility shown by many( male) state officials to Planned Parenthood clinics and the success they have had in closing down many; the push by conservative (male) clergymen to make it more difficult for young women to obtain contraceptives through health plans that are connected to non-profit, religiously affiliated hospitals.

        I don’t know if you were following the news cycle a few years ago when the “War Against Women” was declared by the liberal section of the media. At that time, I thought the word “war” was an overstatement. Now, I’m not so sure. There has been an alarming (to me) increase in regressive legislation all over the US that seeks to limit a woman’s ability to exercise full and meaningful choices in her life as regards her sexuality/fertility etc.

        Thanks for your note that says “I’m not ignoring you.”

        Like

  17. ifonlymommy says:

    You absolutely cannot feel responsible for any advice you give to a stranger. If they take your advice (as you are also a stranger to them) then most likely, their mind was already made up. Not your fault. Also, you can’t tell if this husband is a good or bad person based on one email. There are some MAJOR manipulator out there and this could be the case with this guy. I mean what was the point of him emailing you anyway? She wanted advice he wanted….what? He wanted to prove to you he wasn’t as asshole? Really? So anyway, no fault of yours. They created this mess, like all of us and our broken marriages. Although I’m seriously not taking much blame in mine breaking up. My husband was studied in the ancient art of douchbagary

    Like

  18. ifonlymommy says:

    And he was a royal assholio!
    Give yourself a break, you’re not Jesus for goodness sake 😉. You’re just a dude getting real with the truth 😊. Keep on keepin’ on!

    Like

  19. I need you as a marriage ally Matt, because whether we are married or divorced as individuals, marriage is still a good thing, marriage is a benefit to all of society and to kids, to our communities. The sad thing is that hardly anyone is talking about the good things about marriage, that the loudest voices are talking about divorce and empowerment and freedom. Marriage within our culture is like the butt of jokes, balls and chains, the end of your sex life, endless suffering, something no one in their right mind would actually choose.

    Like

  20. ruralbethany says:

    May I just suggest, for a moment, that there is a good possibility that your comment to her was her equivalent to dishes left on the sink?

    Maybe it was just that final straw. Or that final confirmation she needed for something she’d been mulling over.

    I contemplated divorce for years before I actually did it. But I can tell you some specific things people said – inocuous things sometimes – that really drove it home for me and spurred me on to my decision.

    Here is an example:

    One of those comments – and you’re going to wonder if I’m crazy on this – but it was a simple remark by the wife of the man I buy firewood from, when they were delivering the firewood for winter but commented on the downed trees that were sitting right in front of my house. The trees were felled when we built the house three years ago, so they were perfectly seasoned for firewood.

    I told her I couldn’t cut them up because the chainsaw was too heavy for me to safely use and my husband just had been too busy. Her response was “Well maybe you could get a smaller chainsaw for yourself?”

    And that was it, my friends. I ran into her about 6 months later at the laundromat and told her about how it had affected me, quite deeply, and wanted to tell her thank you. Because immediately after she made that comment I had a very strong visceral reaction that I did NOT, in fact, want to get my own chainsaw.

    But that super strong reaction made me analyze myself and my reaction a bit. Chainsawing is right up my alley. I like that sorta stuff. So why did I absolutely NOT want one for myself?

    I realized that out of everything in my life, cutting up wood with a chainsaw was literally the ONE thing that my husband could do that I couldn’t do. And since he pretty much left me to run the show and do everything in our life on my own, I realized that if I got my own chainsaw, I would lose that ONE thing that I could legit require him to do.

    Now since we were buying firewood anyway, it was a moot point, but gosh that was a huge realization to me. Because everything else was on my shoulders already.

    You just never really know. The things you say, the things you do you just don’t know how it will affect someone. All you can really do is go about your life and do your best and understand if something you had written is the catalyst for something bad happening, like a divorce, it was just that – the catalyst. If it hadn’t happened through your words, it still would have happened… because there is a history there. There are deep issues there. There would have been some other catalyst.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Ruralbethany, I’m always happy to “see” you here. :) Your chainsaw story makes sense to me. Like you say, the catalyst can be pretty much anything. It’s what’s buried underneath that’s the real issue most of the time.

      Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Thanks! I come here every day or two, but I don’t always post frequently :) This is why we need a forum!!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ok, while I definitely believe in healthy boundaries and that spouses must treat eachother fairly (as a general principle, everyone slips up), I will say that I’ve heard relationship councelors caution people against talking too much with their friends about their relationship troubles. From the outside it’s so easy to label one person as the jackass and encourage someone to leave, even while the problems could have been dealt with.

        On the other hand, it’s a hard balance, because I definitely don’t want people to suffer in silence forever and question their sanity and put up with bad treatment and being miserable forever just so you won’t get divorced either. :S

        Human life isn’t always so simple, a lot of discernment is necessary.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ruralbethany says:

        Did you mean to post that response there? I mean – I totally agree with you about the friends thing but it looked like that belonged elsewhere :)

        Like

    • Linbo says:

      RuralBethany,
      As a single woman who cuts my own tree limbs, mows my own lawn and tends to my garden, I get what you were feeling. It must be extremely hard to feel that way in a marriage.
      But, my question is, if he were more engaged in the relationship would you have cared?
      I mean if he were an invalid, and physically couldnt DO anything, I think its the tendency for women to able to keep going as long as they have the relationship intact. Would that have a made a difference?

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Ok, obviously I’m not RuralBethany, but in my opinion it’s way different when someone isn’t physically capeable of doing something but they’re still an engaged and respectful partner in other ways vs they are more or less as capeable as you, but they just can’t be bothered.

        If I was with someone who was born without arms or something, I obviously wouldn’t expect him to do the dishes! Maybe he could walk the (well trained!) dog, order groceries online with a voice recognition computer or something instead. :)

        But another adult who’s more or less as capeable as you and just doesn’t do their fair share, no matter how many times you’ve talked about it? That’s wayyyy different in my opinion.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Donkey and others,
          Because it seems like I am a chatty sideline talker at best, and a version of “the girl you wish hadn’t started a conversation with at a party” at worst :), I think I’m going to dial back for a while.
          I do hope to read the continued conversation about respect/love. I learn a lot from you guys! But I think I’m going to take a cue from RuralBethany and dial back my comments and the time I spend here.
          Peace!

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        Donkey,
        Sure. Being capable of doing the necessary work, and not doing it , would look more like a symptom to me that the relationship wasn’t engaged. Someone has bailed. But, I’m just wondering if her final straw were the fact that she was doing all the work or if it were the realization that he had already checked out (and not participating in the work was an obvious symptom.)
        In my mind, women are such relational beings that while doing chores and service may be one way to “love” them, it isn’t necessary. For many women they are already doing those things on their own, so while it may be nice for someone to come in and take care of that, it isnt why they would want to be married or in some other sort of long term relationship.
        For some women men doing man things is a huge part of the deal. I remember a friend on mine, still single like me, telling me about crying while fixing her toilet. That wasnt supposed to be something she did. That was supposed to be something her husband did, and the fact that she had to do it brought up all kinds of feelings.
        For me, it was tomato’s. I love tomato, but I cant (or dont like to) eat a whole tomato myself and so had to keep throwing them out when the other half went bad. Brought me to tears. Seriously. If only I had a husband to eat the rest of my tomato. (Shakes head).
        If I ever do get married, my husband might not like tomato’s at all. So, that problem wont be solved- but there would be other necessary parts of the relationship that made wasting tomato a moot point. ..Because we would have relationship.
        Am I making sense?

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Linbo, you said: “But, I’m just wondering if her final straw were the fact that she was doing all the work or if it were the realization that he had already checked out (and not participating in the work was an obvious symptom.)”
        That’s a fair question, sorry if/that my comment derailed from what you were trying to get at.

        Linbo, you said: “Because it seems like I am a chatty sideline talker at best, and a version of “the girl you wish hadn’t started a conversation with at a party” at worst :), I think I’m going to dial back for a while”

        Linbo, if you feel the need to scale down your participation here, that’s absolutely your choice of course (I sometimes need a better balance myself ;)). Maybe you were just joking, but I truly hope you don’t do it because you feel like your comments are somehow less valuable than anyone elses! They’re not! :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Hey Donkey-
          I’m still here reading:)…
          I still plan on commenting when I have something that I feel really contributes, but as I’ve mentioned a while back I tend to be more relationship oriented and I really feel like that distracts from the main conversation. I’m sure I’ll still pipe in- or maybe just send a 👍,👊,👏,or a😱,😆,😏. Otherwise I may just start expressing my concerns over whether (the artist formerly known as) Prince was murdered or if he had HIV, and that would not get us any closer to understanding our part in having functional and happy interpersonal relationships 😉

          Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        To Clarify, I don’t always post not because I am holding back, but to be honest quite often there is a lot of information/stuff being said in the comments that takes me some time to absorb and I might not have anything important to add. Also I live off the grid and have really unreliable internet :)

        Linbo, that’s a fantastic question. To answer it – yes, that would have made a big difference. When I look at my life in hindsight, I see that I was not so much a partner or wife, but perhaps a tool or stepping stone – someone to take care of details so he could go do the stuff he wanted to do.

        Of course, he didn’t let it get TOO out of hand, probably because there’s no way I could have tolerated it. He was very much the “I’ll do the LEAST amount of effort possible in order to keep her with me” and most definitely the “JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO” guy and not doing any of that despised initiative-taking stuff.

        It’s so hard to even explain this. If I had felt like a cherished and loved partner, then things would have been different for me. It’s for the same reason why he felt he could leave for 1-2 weekends a month to go do shows with his band but would act all huffy and inconvenienced if I wanted to spend a day away and leave him with the kids. That’s not a partnership. That’s not a give and take.

        And I think in a true give and take, people aren’t giving and taking the same things. That’s what makes it work and complement each other. So in that sense, I would not have minded if he was, in fact, an invalid or somehow unable to contribute in the same ways I could, as long as he was THERE with me in the relationship and not just using me as a mother figure, someone to make sure bills get paid and laundry gets done and kids get fed and he gets fed, so he doesn’t have to worry about those things.

        The big problem was that he never actually gave, unless he was put into a position where he HAD to (like if a third party was involved or watching). He gladly took everything I had to give but really in hindsight, while he felt emotional love type feelings for me, he always valued his own comfort more so I really don’t believe that he ever loved me (as much as he will argue the contrary).

        And the rest of the discussion, I’ll weigh in on that when I have more time :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Rural Bethany,
          That is basically the same reason. I’m not necessarily holding back. It takes me a while to process, and then formulate a question. (And writing is not my best form of communication. At some point in time I lost the ability to use a comma appropriately- or at all. Seriously, I have resorted to dashes as most forms of punctuation, which I think may be the next big thing :), but doesn’t help when your trying to communicate your thoughts.
          I am sorry that ending your marriage was the outcome, though I know it may feel like relief.
          The whole “non-initiative, blissfully ignorant” thing can weigh pretty heavily on the other person day after day. And it is hard to repair the damage once its done.
          I still want to niavely believe that maybe marriages don’t have to go through the sucky part, that somehow there will be reasonably good communication and preparation for the hard times that people would be able to come together when it is really needed. But as has been posted before, emotional burn out usually sets in before anyone makes effort to work on it, and then there is little motivation towards it.
          I am glad youre here reading.
          You want to know something funny?
          I have a friend who I met as “Cherry Beth”. I thought that was her real name until I noticed her email was “Welder Beth”… Now she goes by Mama Beth :). It’s just funny how well adjectives go with the name “Beth”, or in your case “Bethany”- if that is your name, and not a place…
          So, so far I have not done very well in dialing back : ). And actually writing this has made me think of something that applies to a few posts back. I may try to formulate a response, I’ll see how it goes :)!
          Have a good evening! Will see you around : ).

          Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        “Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with the journey, you will be in love forever.” -Henry David Thoreau

        So Linbo – to answer your question above, about my final straw, it is this:

        The final straw wasn’t so much a final straw, as it was a realization and opening of my eyes. When I realized that nothing was going to change. The day someone mentioned it was her 20 year anniversary with her husband and the thought of being married to him for 20 years was just so terrifying I almost cried. The day the firewood lady made that comment. The day I finally admitted to my mom that I was really unhappy. The day a counselor told me that his throwing and breaking things out of anger was abuse. The day I burned my arm with boiling water because after two years in this house I still had to heat water on the stovetop and pour it into a rubbermaid tub to bathe the kids and his musical career was more important to him than investing in buying a hot water heater and installing the bathtub that had been sitting out back behind the house the whole time.

        After ten years of this, I finally came to a full realization that he wouldn’t just one day “grow up” or fgure out that he needed to step up. And that there was literally nothing that would make him change.

        He’s one of those crisis reactive kinda guys. In a crisis, he reacts and starts doing what he’s supposed to, but then when things settle down, he goes back to old habits. And I cannot handle a lifetime of intentionally forcing my husband to walk on eggshells and feel “under pressure” regarding our relationship just so he would actually be a PARTNER to me.

        So no – it wasn’t the fact that the work wasn’t getting done. I mean, if he was, say, military and on deployment, I certainly would have not felt the same even though he would have quite literally been completely absent and certainly not doing work around the house.

        NOW – I will say all this with the caveat that I think my situation was probably a little more extreme than most. This isn’t a case of a shitty oblivious husband, this is a case of someone who is right on the borderline of narcissism and was definitely neglectful. But a LOT of what is written here is just so helpful to me and very much applies to my situation.

        And please don’t stop posting! (and yes, Bethany is actually my name) I enjoy reading your posts and your perspective. I know what you mean about rabbit trails though :) I mean heck this thread right here has gone a bit off topic too!

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Bethany,
          Hi again:) I guess I’m silly in announcing “I’m not going to post” it can seem like I am fishing, but I’m really not. I guess it’s a habit , and maybe I consider it a politeness to let others know. Apparently I haven’t stopped yet:).
          About your story, I can imagine that feels awful. It’s like abandonment and imprisonment all at once. I can’t blame you for leaving. But, I wonder if your story is more common than not (but maybe with some unique variations). I don’t think people give up unless it’s really bad and they see their partner won’t change. I know it’s been mentioned that people don’t often talk about their marriage issues, so people on the outside don’t really know what it’s like. I say that knowing it can go the other way with people constantly complaining about their spouse. I think that leads to more problems, but what I’m trying to say is there are probably a lot of marriages that are not as calm as they look on the outside.
          You can’t make your partner grow up, that has to be something they choose to do. It’s harder to make those judgement calls when youre younger. You think you’re getting everything you want, but then you grow up and they don’t, and it’s a painful mess.
          I’ve always been single. Never even had a serious boyfriend, so I still have that need to be desired by a man, to be loved and to have that friend that is “for me”- both in the context of on my side, but also the one person that is committed to being there. I’ve held out the hope for marriage for many years, while my friends would tell me that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
          I still hope for that right relationship, but I think a lot of that is going to depend on me in regards to boundaries, and communication, and accepting that the life I have is good enough the way it is (I do for the most part). So, I want to just affirm your choice to save yourself and hope you know that you are an incredibly strong and capable person who is worthy of a mutual and respectful relationship. We all are. And in the meantime, we can be good friends and confidants to others who return the same to us. ;).

          Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Abandonment yet imprisonment… you hit the nail on the head right there. I suspect my story is very common. I just can’t in all honesty say that he was just a clueless husband. I mean there were things that he did that I think most clueless husbands would know not to do (for example, you move your wife and brand new baby into a new town and are staying with your sister-in-law until you find a job and get a place and instead of looking for a new job, you go find a band to play music with).

        And yeah I agree so much – while I do not think that it is fair to marry someone and expect them to change, I think people, whether man or woman, absolutely have a right to expect their partner to grow up and mature as they get older. Behaviors that are okay when you are young and child-free are not so ok when you are in your thirties with three children.

        I think I just tend to always think the best of people, and especially I sure did with him. In the sense that, he believed his own hype and because I’m the empathic personality that I am, I kind of absorbed that and so believed it myself. But then deep down I was so hurt and abandoned and unhappy and I never understood the conflicted dichotomy of how I was feeling. And then there was the codependent behavior and I allowed it for so long, just thinking he needed more time or he’d come to the conclusion himself, whatever.

        I hate to say it, but I really think it’s a blessing for you that you’ve been single. You are in a position to learn from mistakes like mine and I just pray that you won’t have to carry around this baggage like I do! I know so many women who move on immediately after a divorce and I’m here a year and half later thinking I don’t think I’ll be ready to date anytime this decade and it’s all because of the mistrust and baggage I’ve got left. It will probably be many years before I muddle through all this, but I don’t want to put a broken self out there and in return, end up with a broken man and get in a similar broken situation. But part of me I think still wants that, so I do understand that need/desire for a man in your life.

        While they are PRECIOUS few, I have met some women who 10+ years into their marriage, are still genuinely happy with their relationships and their spouses. I think having a relationship like that has nothing to do with “love” and more to do with two people who really, truly *get it.* That is what I hope to be, and hope to find. And I hope you find a man like that :)

        And thank you, for your kind comments. Sometimes I look at myself and think there is no way anyone would want me anyway. But I think I know that’s not true. The nice thing is, it doesn’t matter! Because I love being single, I take myself out on nice dates, and I take care of myself now better than I ever did in my whole life. If it’s like this for the rest of my life, I’m cool with that :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          You’re awesome,Bethany! Hope you have a great day! I’m off to take the last final of the semester and then get to do all the things I put off:) You’re a blessing!

          Like

  21. […] via I Won’t Be Your Ally Because You’re Probably Doing it Wrong Like Me — Must Be This Tall To Ri… […]

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  22. marilyn sims says:

    Lisa, Linbo and Donkey,

    If you have a few moments today to do some reading, please find on today’s HUFFFINGTON POST the following: ‘THIS BEHAVIOR IS THE #1 PREDICTOR OF DIVORCE, AND YOU’RE GUILTY OF IT”. The article is a summary of the Gottmans’ 40 years of research to determine the key predictors of divorce. I was surprised that things like lying, use of pornography etc. were NOT among the list.

    Lisa, from your previous post to this blog, it sounds like you may be familiar with their findings.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Thanks for the tip! :)

      Like

    • That’s a good article. I too believe contempt is the leading cause of divorce. Contempt is actually disrespect. While the words, tone,sarcasm, behavior we use is critical, it bothers me that they never speak of the heart. Contempt, disrespect is in our heart and you cannot hide it beneath soft words. I think this throws some men because I can read contempt just oozing off of them and yet they never express it, and they completely deny it, perhaps even to their own selves. Women may well do that too, but I think we are less likely to suppress how we are feeling. So yes, good manners, kind words, less sarcasm, but we actually have to “feel it,” respect has to become the primary motivation of our heart.

      Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Insanitybytes22,

        Thanks for reading and responding. I am a huge of fan of family therapist, Terrence Real and his book, “How Can I Get Through To You?” There is a whole chapter in that book titled, “The Dance of Contempt” He makes a pretty clear case for the man’s predisposition for its use…. not so much from the woman’s standpoint. There is one part of the chapter that says (I am paraphrasing here) learning contempt of the feminine is part of manhood training and somewhere on a scale of one to ten, all men eventually carry that predisposition into their relationships.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “learning contempt of the feminine is part of manhood training ”

          I really agree with that! What’s so interesting about men is that they often believe they love us, and they do, but they don’t respect us, not really, and they are seldom even aware of it. Most of us don’t require respect, or rather we don’t equate it with love quite like men do, but we still need an absence of outright contempt and hostility and men have a hard time with that. There are a lot of divorced men, bitter, so contemptuous of women and as unpleasant as they are, I think they genuinely don’t get how contemptuous they really are, how it just oozes from their very pores. And they can’t see it! It’s kind of astounding.

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        (I’m having trouble getting my comment posted, I’m sorry if it shows up several times or is all weird)

        Ladies, I love a good respect discussion, thank you both!

        I was going to quote something by Terry Real and then I saw you do it Marilyn Sims. :) Anyway, here’s Real again with his concept of full respect living:

        “WHAT IS FULL RESPECT LIVING?
        Full Respect Living means making a commitment that, no matter what, you will not drop below the lines of respectful behaviour to another human being. You can stand up for yourself, you can be assertive, you can be firm, but there is no reason to do any of that in a way that is disrespectful to the person you are speaking
        to. On the other hand, Full Respect Living also means that you do not allow yourself to be on the receiving end of disrespectful treatment and do nothing about
        it.”

        I feel very drawn to this concept. Anyone who makes a pledge to full respect living will obviously mess up, but still, I’m not quite where I need to be on order to take the plunge and have it be a meaningful commitment for myself. But I feel like I’m getting closer, lately thanks a lot to the growth that has happened for me as I’ve been participating on this blog, and I’m thankful for that.

        It’s so simple, yet so hard. No matter what, you will not treat someone disrespectfully, and you will not allow someone to treat you (or your children, I saw him include this somewhere else and that obviously makes sense) with disrespect and not do anything about it. Frankly, it’s much easier to not treat others disrespectfully when you don’t allow yourself to be disrespected by them either. :p But that might mean some hard choiced. Deciding that it’s more important that we no longer put up with disrespectful treatment abc by person x, knowing that that probably means they’ll reject us, possibly forever and ever, with the air that we’ re the ones who have been unreasonable. Anyone else feeling ready to make a commitment to full respect living? I would love to hear your thoughts anyhow.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I love Terry Real! I agree with you The Full Respect living concept is so helpful for several reasons.

        It highlights that men and women often need to change to full respect living in different ways. Men because of nature/nurture often have too much focus on themselves and not enough focus on respect for others.

        It’s a Narcissitic effect that allows them to think it is perfectly reasonable to leave their crying wife alone in the hospital after a C-Section so he can get a good nights sleep.

        My own beloved husband did a version of this. WTF???????? He looks back now and can’t believe he did this, so yeah progress!

        This is not full respect living and men need to own their shit and change to properly respect their wives and others.

        Women, on the other hand, often do not treat themselves with enough respect. They put too much focus on meeting other’s needs and keeping the peace.

        This co-dependent effect is what causes her to eat shit sandwiches and not realize what men would find obvious.

        Don’t eat shit and set healthy boundaries to make sure you do not allow people to disrespectfully serve you shit.

        This is no full respect living either and she needs to own her shit and change to properly respect herself.

        One of the most helpful things to me about this concept is that not respecting yourself is morally neutral. Women often think they are better at relationships because they are often better at respecting others needs.

        But it is NOT morally superior to respect others needs and not equally respect your own. Not only is that disrespectful to yourself, but it is the root cause of many dysfunctional relationships from kids to marriage to friends.

        If I don’t respect myself and set healthy boundaries, even a relationships with someone who does respect you will not function properly.

        Because everyone has different filters and needs and is human. All healthy relationships have both people operating with full respect for themselves and the other person.

        And that is why women should not think they are better than men at relationships unless they master full respect living. The healthier you are the more the gender relationship dysfunctions disappear.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ruralbethany says:

        Lisa that is hugely why I’m so afraid of even considering a relationship again. I’ve eaten so many shit sandwiches and I just don’t know if I could de-indoctrinate myself to actually put myself first when I’m in a relationship. Being single, it’s easy!

        Like

  23. marilyn sims says:

    Linbo,

    This really a case of “the message sent not being the message received.” Good grief did you really think I was inferring that my “advanced years” somehow gave me wisdom. Mercy NO!

    I was only trying to convey my understanding that age differences, along with hundreds of other variables, gives us different perspectives (often resulting in gross misunderstandings). Sometimes, however, with any luck, the different perspectives may result in an …”AHA or EUREKA” for the folks trying to reach each other.

    Like

  24. marilyn sims says:

    insanitybytes22:

    Thank you…loads. I am soooo glad you used the phrase…”it just oozes from their very pores.”. I thought I was being “over-sensitive”. Yet it seems I have an internal radar/sonar that picks up that vibe within seconds of meeting a man. I do not agree with your statement that it is possible for men to love us — but at the same time not respect us. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

    However, since I have not had a lot of close-up, intimate experiences with men, I am willing to listen to other voices. I wish Matt and Travis and some of the other men who contribute here would offer their opinions. Thanks again!!!

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Insanitybytes22 said: “they often believe they love us, and they do, but they don’t respect us, not really, and they are seldom even aware of it.”

      Marilyn Sims said: “I do not agree with your statement that it is possible for men to love us — but at the same time not respect us. That makes absolutely no sense to me”

      I’ve had a similar discussion with Insanitybytes22 before, so I hope you don’t find it disrespectful IB that I make some of my points again. :) I often really do agree with you IB, sometimes I disagree and sometimes I think I’m not quite onboard with what you’re saying, but maybe a little bit. ;) In any case, I often find your comments thought provoking, so thank you.

      Marilyn Sims, like I said to IB once before, for a while I did believe I understood the whole love vs respect thing, but now I’m more like you, it just doesn’t add up for me.
      Again, like I’ve said to IB before, I’m in the Pia Mellody camp (can’t find a good quote now, but it’s basically this): Respect is the minimum requirement of love.

      I mean, I’m sure there can be different behaviours that are more love focused or respect focused where one doesn’t rule out the other, and in that sense love vs respect can make sense to me. Say, listening and not interruping = more respect focused, telling someone how much you love them and showering them with kisses = more love focused. But if there isn’t also respect as the foundation of the “love” being shown me or someone else, it’s not really love.

      It reminds me of something I watched on TV (and I’m NOT comparing all men to this guy, I’m just using it as an example to illustrate my point on respect being necessary for love). Some guy had a chihuahua dog that he adored (I believe it was a female so I use she, but it’s not really important for the point). He spent lots of money buying her dog clothes, he carried her with him everywhere…. but the dog was miserable (that was what the show was about I think, him getting help from a dog trainer). While he probably felt that he loved his dog, he didn’t really love her in my opinion, because he did not respect her. She didn’t get her needs for exercise, sniffing about and just being a dog and not a doll met. All the love he felt isn’t worth that much, when he actually doesn’t even respect her basic needs with his actions.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I have a lot of thoughts on the love vs respect thing but a lack of time now so I’ll just say one. That concept represents this lack of full respect living concept. It describes a dysfunctional relationship.

        Women will accept disrespectful behavior to get love. Men will demand respect to give love. Framing dysfunctional relationship patterns as Mars vs Venus differences is wrong. It does describe a common pattern but doesn’t label it for what it is. Dysfunctional and a distorted view of love.

        Describing it as a normal healthy gender difference prevents a clear view of the need for both sides to change to accept influence and set healthy boundaries. To both love and respect ourselves and each other.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Lisa you said:
          “Women will accept disrespectful behavior to get love. Men will demand respect to give love.”
          This is just sucky, and I want to believe has more to do with the our social/gender history than genetics or hormones.
          It makes me wonder- do men just feel less emotion that they can separate themselves from other peoples experiences?
          I know it puts women that want to be able to love freely, and express affection in a place of constant deprivation when it isnt returned.
          …as I commented before, I would love to hear more from you Lisa, and Donkey and others..

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        Donkey,
        It seems more like he was getting his needs met through the doll, opps I mean dog, instead of actually loving her. And yes, that does seem to be how alot of men/women relationships (dys) function. Yuck.
        Lisa, I hope to hear more from you on this subject.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        You know, I can’t really speak to the respect part of the equation but I can tell you without any hesitation that it is entirely possible for a man to believe that he loves a woman when he in fact does not. Or perhaps he loves her but loves himself more, etc. And vice versa. They think that just because they feel the emotional love that it makes everything else okay, they can dress up their dolls and it’s OK because they “love” you.

        Because so many people think love is that love type emotion. But then they forget the fact that it’s a verb.

        Like

    • Travis B. says:

      marilyn sims said,

      “Thank you…loads. I am soooo glad you used the phrase…”it just oozes from their very pores.”. I thought I was being “over-sensitive”. Yet it seems I have an internal radar/sonar that picks up that vibe within seconds of meeting a man. I do not agree with your statement that it is possible for men to love us — but at the same time not respect us. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

      However, since I have not had a lot of close-up, intimate experiences with men, I am willing to listen to other voices. I wish Matt and Travis and some of the other men who contribute here would offer their opinions.”

      This is a hard one for me to answer. I’ve been mulling over it since seeing the discussion last night and I’m not sure I’ve made any headway with how to meaningfully address the issue. I will say that there are certain topics that I feel there’s enough commonality across the spectrum of males that I feel confident speaking as a mouthpiece for my gender. At other times, I feel that level of commonality doesn’t exist, so in those instances, I only feel confident speaking to my own personal experience and perspective. This issue leans more to the latter for me.

      In terms of speaking for the collective male species, I will repeat something that feels very true to me at an essential, primal level that I mentioned recently in another MBTTTR post: I believe that most respect issues men demonstrate toward women are reactionary and pre-emptively self-protective, emanating from a place of fearful respect of, and awe in, the capabilities of the female species. I truly believe that, deep down, in an area that falls for many of us into the realm of the subconscious, we realize that women (whether for reasons of nurture, nature or societal norms, none of which ultimately matter) are fully capable of meeting us on multiple levels, exceeding us on many more, and typically only fall below us on the single level of brute strength (and, hell, even that isn’t a given–I have yet to find an average man with stronger legs than the average woman, which is fortunate for my wife, because they’re her single–and considerable!–defense when I tickle her). I believe men secretly fear (in the same primordial way white men fear the growing population of minorities, or women probably fear that every man carries the latent threat of being an insuperable rapist) that one day women will collectively realize the full flower of their inherent strengths, cease their self-destructive sisterhood battles of being the prettiest/thinnest/most talented/most well-rounded/best girlfriend/best wife/best mother, and rise up in a massive, furious wave to finally wrest control of the world from us men, who’ve frankly never shown any aptitude in our forced rulership of it. If it is fair to say that men have left behind a broad legacy of treating women like shit throughout history, then I think it’s honest to say it’s not because men truly believe women are beneath them, it’s because we fear (know) that we are not worthy of them. If, as it’s said, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist, then the greatest trick men ever pulled was convincing women that they should exist as something subordinate to us, all just so that we may not be swallowed whole by them. All just so that we may know an existence as something more than brutes in your higher-minded service.

      In terms of my own experience, and I’m speaking as honestly as I can self-assess, I do not feel that men are inherently any more prone to disrespect than women. I see, and have directly experienced, more evidence that women, on their own primal level, are so convinced of their own moral superiority and greater aptitude with relationship skills, that they often “ooze” their own particular brand of condescension “from their very pores” toward the men in their life. Of all the types of questions/observations that come up pretty regularly in the MBTTTR comments, these are the ones I find the most problematic: the issue of “men do this more than women/women do this better than men/are men more fundamentally damaged as human beings than women?, etc.” Though there may be truth to a lot of it, I have trouble seeing what the end game is to that line of inquiry. If it is to say that women are the inherently better species, then they’re fair points of discussion, but if the end game is, “I love my husband, and I believe/have hope that he loves me/can love me again, and I want guidance on how he and I can both heal the damage we’ve respectively caused in our marriage and strengthen our marital bond”, then in my opinion, these sorts battle-of-the-superior-sex lines of inquiry and discussion take us farther from that finish line than closer to it. Of everything Lisa Gottman adds to these discussions, what I appreciate most is her understanding of, and willingness to express, the fact that both sexes own a fair amount of their own gender shit, so there is little to be gained by assertions/considerations of “men aren’t as good as women”. Considered another way, if on a fundamental level, you really believe that women are creatures more capable of love, respect and human decency than men, why oh why would you be participating on a blog designed to keep you wedded to them?

      On the issue of love can truly exist without respect, I would argue that it depends of the level and frequency of disrespect. I do believe one can have problem areas in demonstrating respect without actually believing their spouse is unworthy of it. A prime example in my own marriage that my wife has had to bring to my attention multiple times is my tendency to interrupt/overtalk her when we’re fighting. That’s a fair and accurate observation on her part, but I fervently deny that I do so because I believe her feelings and opinions are unimportant, irrelevant or beneath me. My tendency towards interruption increases the more that she restates my perspective or actual statements in ways that I feel are inaccurate or not as intended. I am attempting to put the brakes on what I feel is a pointless descent into a “rabbit hole” of discussion because of concerns of hers that are based on a misunderstanding of what I meant by something, or a reworking of my words that wholly changes their meaning. There are enough legitimate issues to be worked through in a typical fight without spending an hour or two trying to pull back the discussion back on course from something that spiraled out from an instance of “that’s not what I said” or “that’s not what I intended by that”. Does that make my interrupting valid? Probably not, but I will admit (as Lisa G. has admitted to herself before) that these types of misunderstandings of my actions or misinterpretations of my statements are a “red button” for me, where I’m too quick to respond from my amygdala than the more reasoned part of my brain (where all the skills I’m picking up from good people like you guys reside). It is a shame that I demonstrate my own brand of disrespect trying to conquer what, in the moment, feels like a type of disrespect from my wife (“don’t twist my words like that!”), but can anyone accurately or fairly say that, in those moments, I don’t love my wife? As with so much we discuss here, the balance of love and respect isn’t a clear cut issue. There are no hard lines in the sand. There is so much about situation, context, nature, nurture, societal norms, historical precedents, religion, biology, attachment styles, and on and on and on that colors and shapes our relationship dynamics. We want succinct answers, we want easy fixes, we want clear-cut truths. But when it comes to marital relationships, we’re never going to get them. As Donkey so perfectly put it in the best quote of this entire discussion: “Human life isn’t always so simple, a lot of discernment is necessary.”

      Like

      • Sue says:

        I just have to say — even though I am female — that I think you nailed this …

        Treating a partner with condescension and/or lack of respect can range from incredibly subtle to overt and blatant and DEFINITELY can come from either gender …

        I love how you expressed yourself here … it really resonated with me on a lot of different levels … some quite uncomfortable, which surprised me because I wouldn’t have that that was a problem area for me …

        Thank you …

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Travis,
        We don’t “rise up” because we still like you guys! (Meaning men in general- and if it doesn’t upset anyone’s wives, “you guys” in particular,too). I dont think anyone wins if just one “side” wins.
        As far as interrupting, I think it’s common to do that in defense of oneself. (But, That doesn’t mean it’s right).
        I’m thinking the contempt, the 7 years and its crap, and the maladaptive behaviors may all come from a feeling of “this is a power struggle”.
        Respect on both ends starts to become more and more of an issue when it’s perceived that their power/ability to influence is disregarded. That is just a never ending ramping up of power on both sides that will ultimately lead to separation.
        Can’t we make the enemy the outside (and inside) influences that threaten the relationship, instead of making each other the enemy?

        Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Travis,

        Thanks, as always, your replies are so well crafted and reasoned that even a rabid feminist like myself will begrudgingly say “amen”. I am particularly glad that you focused on the pile of hurt that both genders add to the enmity still building up between us. What MAY need to be discussed further are issues of power and privilege. I am not sure I want to open that can of worms. I think my enduring frustration with men is that they know they are hurting, yet refuse to seek help. Manhood training keeps the circular firing squad active and as deadly as it was before feminism and enlightened men helped diagnose the problem. Remedy will require revolution (I think). I pray for a peaceful and permanent peace.

        Like

  25. Emilia says:

    I don’t think we need an ally, I just love having a blog, by a man, which has decent, not self centered advice, which may actually help people heal and grow their relationships.
    I have never read into this that abuse, neglect, chipping away at your s/o’s sanity, both genders do fall into these self distructive behavior which are counter productive to keep your lovers and friends near you and loving you.

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Donkey,
      Sure. Being capable of doing the necessary work, and not doing it , would look more like a symptom to me that the relationship wasn’t engaged. Someone has bailed. But, I’m just wondering if her final straw were the fact that she was doing all the work or if it were the realization that he had already checked out (and not participating in the work was an obvious symptom.)

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        In my mind, women are such relational beings that while doing chores and service may be one way to “love” them, it isn’t necessary. For many women they are already doing those things on their own, so while it may be nice for someone to come in and take care of that, it isnt why they would want to be married or in some other sort of long term relationship.
        For some women men doing man things is a huge part of the deal. I remember a friend on mine, still single like me, telling me about crying while fixing her toilet. That wasnt supposed to be something she did. That was supposed to be something her husband did, and the fact that she had to do it brought up all kinds of feelings.
        For me, it was tomato’s. I love tomato, but I cant (or dont like to) eat a whole tomato myself and so had to keep throwing them out when the other half went bad. Brought me to tears. Seriously. If only I had a husband to eat the rest of my tomato. (Shakes head).
        If I ever do get married, my husband might not like tomato’s at all. So, that problem wont be solved- but there would be other necessary parts of the relationship that made wasting tomato a moot point. ..Because we would have relationship.
        Am I making sense?

        Like

    • Linbo says:

      I responded to the wrong comment, sorry. But I really do appreciate what you said here Emilia!

      Like

  26. marilyn sims says:

    Lisa & Linbo,

    NO! NO! NO! Accepting disrespect will never, ever get women the reward (love) they so fervently desire. What it gets them is the “privilege” to live in a state of DENIAL & DISASSOCIATION. What it gets them is a life as a victim of “identifying with the oppressor”.
    What it gets them is the chance of living as a victim of what is known as the “Stockholm Syndrome”.

    Thinking otherwise means there is a critical problem in the level of awareness; it is like the story of the fish who ask, “so, what the hell is water?”

    Disrespect, contempt, compartmentalized living, condescension, intimidation are the tools of men who have decided that manhood is more important than justice; that “power-over” is a more rewarding stance in the world than passionate connection.

    And yes, I’m on a rant. This stuff has boiling-up in me for a long time and yes I know some of the references are from the “seventies” and may seem outdated. Yet Terry Real uses the word disassociation in his books about the plague that affects women — they were written in 2002 and later. Disassociation is disorder of “knowing but not knowing” — disassociation is related to TRAUMA. “Women disassociate because there is no safe place for them to stand in the truth of their own experience.”

    O.K. then, enough is enough, for those of you who want to further explore the issues, all it takes is a few minutes using Google. I’m DONE!

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Marilyn,
      I’m not 100% sure of what was said that you disagree with. I just want to be clear. Men definitely use power to control things, women use more subtle manipulation. All of it can be unhealthy.
      I agree that people can disassociate, say to themselves “I’m here” but because they feel like they have no power over the situation,internally go somewhere else. I’ve done this. It’s a coping technique. It’s adaptive during the situation and mal adaptive when your not. I’m sure this can happen in marriage. But, I don’t think the ability to abuse and use power selfishly is gender biased. It’s not. You sound very passionate about this- I don’t think anyone is trying to argue. Will you explain what you disagreed with?

      Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Hi Linbo,

        I was responding to Lisa who said, “Women will accept disrespectful behavior to get love.” I cannot understand what definition of love requires women to accept abuse as a by-product or more troubling as a behavior that is to be endured.in intimate relationships.

        I don’t mean an episode of disrespect cannot be tolerated I’m talking about the on-going, purposeful, CAMPAIGN, of serving shit sandwiches to women that enrages me. It reminds me of the movie and the discussion about “gas-lighting”.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Marilyn,
          I’m not far from you in your indignation. I get disrespected (or feel disrespected) by men younger than me in my church because I’m a woman and it’s just not my role to have an opinion.
          These are the same men that make efforts to love their wives- they honestly do. Ive had some “lively debates” as it was quoted,with a few of them when we’ve had the occasion to talk and honestly it was fun and in the end they listened to what I said. Another a-hole sent me an invitation to the men’s retreat “by mistake.” – There are always those, but for the most part these men are really trying to be upstanding guys. They are trying to fulfill their role as men, and we have socialized that to be mean strong and protective. They are supposed to be the ones who lead,they are told this often. And, I’m not saying that women need to be “in charge” either. What happens in the marriage, and big life decisions should be shared. No one should have power over the other that is a vertical relationship- when it to should be an equal horizontal relationship.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Marilyn,

        I wrote a longer comment that may show up later but I agree with you. It is not acceptable that women are socialized to eat shit. sandwiches.

        It is our responsibility to understand how to set boundaries. Men do a much better job of not eating shit sandwiches even when they are served.

        So the person who is willing to eat it will be served it. Maybe by her mom or sister or friend (lots of shit served by women too).

        But most especially by men who are socialized to look out for their needs and often are not socialized to look after others.

        It is a bad combination that leads to dysfunctional marriages and other relationships.

        It is not morally better in my view to be willing to eat shit sandwiches than it is to be willing to serve shit sandwiches.

        Both show a fundamental lack of relationships skills snd understanding of healthy relationships.

        Like

    • Lisa Gotrman says:

      Marilyn,

      I don’t have much time but wanted to drop a quick note. I am a feminist too. Do I think there is more misogyny than misandry? YES! We have made a lot of progress but it is still there. It often lives in our unconscious biases in both women and men. It affects marriage and other relationships. YES!

      Is there trauma involved? Often yes. One of the things I like about Terry Real is that he talks about the trauma that men go through.

      I am trying to focus the attention of why people gets stupid divorces (the average shitty divorce that Matt focuses on) on the dysfunctional dance that both genders bring to the table.

      Because we all have unconscious biases that affect smart, loving people to act in incredibly stupid, dysfunctional ways. Because of a combination of nature and nurture (including thousands of years of patriarchy) the gender relationship failures will often be different.

      To put it simply, men serve shit, women eat shit.

      In our modern culture, women have the responsibility to not eat shit, men have the responsibility to not serve shit. The assumptions of marriage still carry many unconscious biases that make it harder for women (although there are some that make it harder for men). Absolutely!

      But I think it is important to see the big picture for what each side is responsible for. The research shows that certain relationship skills are more common for men and different ones for women, mostly I think because of socialization.

      But the research shows that in marriage, men and women are equally contemptuous.

      I share your frustration with sexism. I agree that many men carry unconscious sexism from their socialization. I also think women are sexist too. But because we often have less power and privilege, the damage done is often more significant against women.

      Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Lisa,

        Thanks so much for sharing my “infatuation” with Terry Real. I too was very, very impressed with his effectiveness at describing the wounds of men.

        My contempt aimed at men resides in my belief that “there are none so blind as those who will not see”. Terry has described the refusal of most men to inquire into the nature of their injuries (i.e. correct diagnosis) and then-after follow through with the treatment. I know it is a consequence of manhood training, yet the fall-out from that refusal, the collateral damage, is so horrific I have almost no sympathy for the men caught in the maelstrom.

        Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Lisa,

        I have been absolutely confounded by the choices I see many of us make in the selection of a “life-partner”. I know too many of us make the choice in the fog of romance and unrealistic expectations. Then there is this “….and they lived happily ever after.” The inference being that nothing untoward will happen to upset the blissful union of the couple. I know patriarchal socialization deforms all of us, blinds us to our agendas and even our inherent beauty

        O.K. so all of this has been discussed and well documented. So how do we stop the general free-fall into marital madness and divorce .

        Terry Real is some one who manages to make the possibility of sustainable marriages real to just plain folk. His latest book, “The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work” is truly awesome!

        Who reads his books — mostly women. Who most likely determines that a couple needs counseling to solve marital woes — usually the woman and who usually starts the divorce proceedings that may finally get a husband’s attention.?

        I feel as though I shouting into the wind here. I don’t see many men responding to Matt’s blogs. We both have recommended Terry’s books and have quoted extensively from them and from Gotttlieb’s research. To what avail? Both Matt and Travis are unique in their commitment to marriage and divorce prevention and I wonder if either (I know there are many constraints on their time and energy) have yet to find the time to read any of them.

        I also know that reading is often coded as a “feminine” activity. So now what? I guess you can tell that I am feeling sorely discouraged this morning. I just want the guys to tell us what will work for them. I want them to start the revolution that leads to ” love unbound”. I want them to do the recruiting that will result in massive resistance to the status quo. I know that women of good-will would join in.

        O.K. Matt and Travis, if you are listening (reading) I’ve issued the challenge. What say you?

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        marilyn sims said,

        “I feel as though I shouting into the wind here. I don’t see many men responding to Matt’s blogs. We both have recommended Terry’s books and have quoted extensively from them and from Gotttlieb’s research. To what avail? Both Matt and Travis are unique in their commitment to marriage and divorce prevention and I wonder if either (I know there are many constraints on their time and energy) have yet to find the time to read any of them.

        I also know that reading is often coded as a “feminine” activity. So now what? I guess you can tell that I am feeling sorely discouraged this morning. I just want the guys to tell us what will work for them. I want them to start the revolution that leads to ‘love unbound’. I want them to do the recruiting that will result in massive resistance to the status quo. I know that women of good-will would join in.

        O.K. Matt and Travis, if you are listening (reading) I’ve issued the challenge. What say you?”

        Poor ZombieDrew2, always left off the contributing males list. Hey, he’s working his own MBTTTR-style blog about relationship issues, so he at least deserves recognition above me.

        I am, based on some of the discussion around here, actually currently reading AVOIDANT: HOW TO LOVE (OR LEAVE) A DISMISSIVE PARTNER by Jeb Kinnison. After a lot of the dialog here, and some subsequent discussion with my wife, I believe that she leans Dismissive-Avoidant and I lean Anxious-Preoccupied. I feel that we both have at least one foot in the Secure style–neither of us are extreme in our Avoidant/Anxious styles–but since an Avoidant/Anxious pairing is the one most prone to marital problems and dissatisfaction, I want to get a leg up on the steps we can do to minimize unintentional damage to one another. I will say that, I am prone to be highly selective with my readings on relationship skills because I oftentimes find immersion in the scientific minutiae of expert testimony makes me feel like I’m being pulled farther from practical advice than closer to it. It very much feels like that scene in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF where the character of Cameron stares at a painting closer and closer until all that can be seen are the microscopic pixels that comprise it and the audience can no longer register the actual picture anymore.

        In terms of beginning, or championing, a movement to set more men straight about their considerable and historical contributions to marital collapse, and this may dishearten you to hear, by my point of view is that anything that takes my time away from focusing on my own marital backyard is time ill-spent and potentially even self-destructive. I participate regularly here because a lot of the discussion (not all–the posts about post-divorce life, sex issues, and esteem concerns tend to leave me cold because they’re not mirrored in my own current experience) helps provide me the types of reinforcement, perspective and challenge I can put to use in my own marriage. If that allows me to offer my own opinions and points of view in a manner that is useful to others–especially blind husbands who are finally ready to recognize their spousal failings and work to correct them–in exchange, all the better, but the fact is my presence here is fueled by a selfish drive–how do I continue to pull my own marriage farther and farther back onto solid ground?

        In the “real world”, my friendship pool is very small, by design (I’m a ‘small pool of close friends’ > ‘large pool of surface-level friends’ kind of guy); additionally, through my entire life, I’ve gravitated much more easily and comfortably to friendships with females than males (which has further constrained my friendship pool, because I don’t feel it’s fair or healthy to my wife to pursue bonds deeper than surface level with other members of her gender), which leaves me with precious few males for whom I’m in a position to directly influence. I do have one close male friend who I see regularly commit errors in his thought process which cause me to grind my teeth (he’s very prone to seeing his girlfriend’s relationship failures while resolutely turning a blind eye to his own not inconsiderable ones), but I know him well enough to know that (like so many of us men) he’s not soliciting, nor open to, advice right now. He wants dudes he can bitch and moan with, not dudes who will set him straight. You know why? Because his relationship Titanic, while positioned close to the proverbial iceberg, isn’t yet pointed directly at it. Nearly 100% of the time, that’s what it takes for us men to finally get it. That desperate cry of, “ICEBERG, RIGHT AHEAD!!!” God, that must suck to no end for you ladies, but that’s the truth of it.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        It is great you and your wife are talking about how to improve various aspects of your relationships including attachment styles.

        I am not at all surprised your wife leans toward the avoidant style. Anytime you have the scenario of the reasonably happy husband shocked his wife is leaving there is an avoidant wife. From their comments this would also include Drew and Matt.

        Anxiously attached wives make their misery well known through either asking for constant reassurance or loud angry criticism and the husband is therefore not happy or surprised.

        Secure wives would have set boundaries much earlier in the relationship so the problem behavior would not be allowed to continue.

        It’s all very predictable once you unstable the underlying dynamics.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis

        It’s all very sadly predictable once you unstand the underlying dynamics. And usually by the time the avoidant wife decides to walk, she has checked out emotionally.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Hello,

        I have so much that I want to say, but I’m not really quite sure what precisely I want to say and I’m running low on words again. Sigh. Quite frustrating really. :p

        Travis, thank you for liking my quote and for taking the time to answer my questions in a thread further up. Always appreciated.

        Lisa, I haven’t forgotten about the emotional abuse from shitty wives.

        But Lisa, just on your specific point about avoidant attached wives and the shocked husbands, I’m not sure I agree.

        I mean, I think it happes like you describe it in many cases! But I also think in many cases the anxiously attached wife will tell her husband about her upset and hurt, but since he doesn’t believe her and accepts her influence if it doesn’t make sense to him, he thinks she’s only exaggerating/hormonal etc. So he doesn’t really believe she’s unhappy even when she’s said it 10 000 times. That way, an anxiously attached wife who tells her husband she wants to leave, can get the shocked reaction from the hubby who thought everything was fine and that she was happy.

        I do think though, that after many years, an anxiously attached person can give up almost, and start to behave avoidantly.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I agree with you in the sense that an oblivious husband would not believe his wife was unhappy.

        Of course I am painting in generalities but an avoidant wife will be much more likely to keep meeting her husband’s needs so he will be reasonably happy. Because she is conflict avoidant.

        I know Travis said he was pretty happy (except when she was complaining) and his needs were being met by his wife.

        An anxiously attached wife will often respond in rage. And respond by not meeting the husbands needs to get his attention. This was my pattern. My husband would not describe his needs as being met like Travis would. And he defintely knew I was not happy.

        Other anxious wives respond by being very clingy and wanting constant reassurance. so there’s all kinds of variations.

        So I think it boils down to are you conflict avoidant. If you are, you’ll be more likely to just complain occasionally but keep on doing the regular routine so the husband can ignore the complaints and think everything’s fine.

        If you’re not conflict avoidant, you will have conflict. There will be fights and angry voices and far less willingness to just keep doing the regular routine. She stops meeting his needs to get his attention or to express her anger. So it’s is impossible for that husband to think everything is fine even if he thinks she is crazy. She makes sure he is miserable.

        Maybe the confusion is when you get a mixed attachment style. A wife can be anxious and avoidant. So she will be conflict avoidant and the husband will be surprised because she acts more like the avoidant wife. She might not be meeting his needs as much but she is not making his actively miserable. So he could be surprised that she is willing to divorce him.

        Of course I could be wrong about some of my observations. What are your thoughts? I’d be very interested.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Hey Lisa. :)

        I think there might be some confusion as to what we mean when we say avoidant? Because there’s a difference in my mind (though probably some overlap too) between being avoidant attached and conflict avoidant.

        You said: “So I think it boils down to are you conflict avoidant.”

        This is what I believe, basically. And I also believe someone can be anxiously attached *and* conflict avoidant at the same time. So if a woman is anxiously attached and conflict avoidant (or a man for that matter), maybe it will take a long time before she voices her displeasure, or she will do it with hints, or gently, and back off a lot of the time when she’s rejected (and go cry in the bathroom before she tries again the next day or something) Things aren’t black an white, so she might blow up once in a while too. But much less often than the anxiously attached who’s not conflict avoidant.

        What do you think? :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        Yes we agree then about the conflict avoidant part. My impressions are that an avoidant person will also be conflict avoidant because that’s part of not wanting to deal with other people’s emotions. It’s easier for them to withdraw and auto regulate.

        Of course that doesn’t mean they don’t complain sometimes but that’s what I meant when I said that when there’s a shocked husband there is an avoidant wife.

        Can there be anxious people who are conflict avoidant? Yes I think so because most people are not 100% on thing but anxious people look to sooth themselves externally so there will be demands placed on the husband one way of the other. He won’t be shocked that she is leaving because she has made him miserable to at least a certain degree.

        I haven’t done a huge amount of research on attachment styles but as I said in the other comment, I think if there is an anxious person who is conflict avoidant that is really more a disorganized combination style. Those are less common but obviously still out there.

        My sister is like that so I know what it looks like. She is anxious but has poor boundaries so will blow up but then withdraw and will not want to deal with solving the problem because she convinced herself it is her fault or not worth fighting over.

        Do you think the shocked husband scenario could be with an anxious wife? I could be missing something. Maybe it has to do more with the husbands style. If he is conflict avoidant.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Hey Lisa,

        It seems like we may just not fully agree on this? :p

        Yes, I believe the shocked husband could have been coupled with an anxiously attached wife, because:
        1. He doesn’t take her complaints seriously. So even though he’s heard her complaints/requests, they don’t make sense to him, he chaulks it up to her being stupid, hormonal, it’s no biggy, he’s a Jason. So even though he knows she’s complained, when she wants to leave he’s still shocked, because he didn’t think they mattered, he guessed that she would see “sense” eventually and that all of her complaints were just monetary overractions or something like that.

        2. She may be conflict avoidant aswell as anxiously attached, in my opinion. So even though she tries to connect and get more soothing (and whatever else she needs/wants), she might not do it in a very forceful/dramatic/raised voice and crying and yelling kind of way in front of him. More like “I want some cuddles, can we cuddle please?”. “No, I’m playing on the computer”. “Please?”. “No”. “Ok”. *anxiously attached and conflict avoidant wife goes and cries in the bathroom before returning, seemingly in a normal mood, to the couple’s normal life.

        I agree with you that people can have a disorganized style, but I don’t think that if you’re anxiously attached and conflict avoidant that you necessarily have a disorganized style.

        I mean, I believe you have read way more about attachment theory than me, so maybe there are strict categories and definitions that I’m not aware of, and that I’m wrong about. Maybe the attachment gurus have decided that if you’re anxiously attached you’re per definition not conflict avoidant. So maybe I’m not using the terms correctly, but I still believe the content of what I’m saying, if that makes sense to you (and I would then argue that I think the definitions aren’t precise enough).

        I have another question for you (and any other ladies who feel like answering this!), and this is purely because of personal, and perhaps some kind of morbid curiosity. :p I think we can both agree that both things are shitty shitty shitty! I’ve said a few times now, that although I can’t know it since I haven’t experienced either, I *believe* I would rather have my husband and father of my child cheat on me with 10 prostitutes than for him to leave me crying and begging him to stay in the hospital after giving birth/having a c-section. (If I for whatever reason felt perfectly fine with him going home to get a good night sleep and he did it, that would be a whole different thing of course).

        I’m wondering where you stand on this? :p Would infidelity wih prostitutes or being left even though you were crying and begging him to stay with you and your newborn after birth/c-section be a worse betrayal? Feel free to not answer if you don’t feel like it.

        (Are you on dance mom duty today Lisa? :))

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        The dance mom thing is cruel :( I have to spend all day tomorrow at another hideous pink sparkly event. Sigh. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?

        Actually it does apply to our topic though because I am learning to be conflict avoidant in that area. I am learning from my husband.

        When the email went out to the dance booster club with only the moms name I said WTF????? Where are the dads? I ranted to my husband for about 20 minutes about the hideous injustice and sexism. He was very good about offered to go in my place.

        But my daughter is new s deci don’t want to embarrass her yet. So it’s a great opportunity to learn more conflict avoidance! When the signup sheets were passed around for the social committees I calmly just passed them without signing up.

        I’m sure I’ll have to do some stupid crap I’ve learned my husband how to just not signup for things. Don’t make a fuss. I really should have learned this years ago.

        You know my heart sank when the fundraising person said she doesn’t believe in just writing a check. Really I’m glad there were no weapons nearby because of there is one thing I believe it is the efficiency of writing a check over stupid school fundraisers! Just tell me how many zeros I need to write so I can go home and not come back. ;)

        You can see why I am a bad dance mom. But getting better at conflict avoidance every day!
        Passive aggressiveness is next. Really I have no idea why I have not learned these magical skills before.

        Ok to your main point. I don’t know that we disagree. I just don’t know that many anxious people who are also conflict avoidant. So it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it that someone could not be clingy or angry enough for the husband to be shocked. Do you know people like this? Usually the anxious/avoidant pairing has a classic demand withdraw pattern where the husband feels hunted. But I think if he is just super avoidant he would be able to think of her as always crazy bitching about something and shocked she would really leave. Is that what you mean?

        Maybe I just have a mental block because I’m anxious but not conflict avoidant ( except as a dance mom for now anyway. I’m planning an uprising to demand dads do shit too).

        To your question about the prostitutes vs hospital abandonment. It’s like picking to be killed by drowning or strangling. Both really, really bad ideas.

        I guess in my mind they are morally equivalent, both very cruel and narcissistic.

        Luckily I’ve not had the prostitute thing but had 2 different variations of hospital abandonment and it was not good. He realizes now what an selfish idiot he was so that helps. But it did cause a lot of problems in me being able to trust him at a very basic level. I still have some of that now and it’s on the list of things for Jason to help us with.

        It’s all about trust. Anything that lessons that will destroy a marriage for a woman. Gottman’s work says trustworthiness is the number one thing fir women.

        What triggers that will be individualistic depending on love language or personality but most women will agree that being left alone in the hospital or cheated on will destroy trust whether it’s “intended” or not.

        Whether you intend to fail me does not affect whether I can trust you or not to be there. Like a Steve demonstrates he is not trustworthy.

        All I care about is whether I can count on you when I really need you to be there.

        Like

  27. marilyn sims says:

    Hello All,

    I’ve reading again the posts that contain references about the need to set boundaries. Those are certainly helpful discussions. And for me, my inability or refusal to do so has left me estranged from my potential.to have positive relationships. It was just a moment ago that I discovered something that has troubled me about boundary setting. It assumes that, even in intimate, supposedly loving relationships TRESSPASS will occur. It is unavoidable.
    I knew that arguments, differences in opinions are inherent in close encounters, yet there is something significant about the word TRESSPASS that takes me a place of darkness.

    Since I am totally, completely, unashamedly conflict averse, this leaves me unprotected, vulnerable to all sorts of negativity. I don’t need help at the moment or advice. I am just grateful for this forum that allowed me to “see” myself more clearly; I have the courage to face this particular set of demons. Thanks to everybody!

    Like

  28. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Travis,

    I did not expect you to “mount-up and lead the charge”. I did want some sort of solace, some hint that “all is not lost”. It is strange that you would mention the Titanic, that would be the vessel I feel we’re all aboard sailing without rudder or anchor.

    Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Keep your candle lit and aloft. I know it has guided some of us to safer shores. Kudos!! and the energy you and your wife are putting into your marriage … awesome!

    Like

    • Travis B. says:

      marilyn sims said,

      “I did not expect you to ‘mount-up and lead the charge’. I did want some sort of solace, some hint that ‘all is not lost’. It is strange that you would mention the Titanic, that would be the vessel I feel we’re all aboard sailing without rudder or anchor.”

      I don’t believe all is lost, but I do believe that, despite the obvious benefits to our marriages if we were to change our mindsets and behaviors, we men in particular have a LONG way to go and mountainous societal pressure and historical inertia pressing against us. It’s like looking at the night sky. The stars represent men who either naturally get it, or have learned to get it before it was too late, but there’s a lot more darkness to be seen than light. Our eyes, however, aren’t drawn to the abyss; they’re drawn to the starlight, so hopefully I can retain my own new-found light through the decades ahead and shine as an example for others of my gender.

      I do worry about my aforementioned friends (I spoke of the male, but they’re couple friends, so I care about them both). It’s so tough watching people make relationships so much harder than they need to be when you’re on the other side of your own “hard-to-starboard!” near miss of the Divorce Iceberg. It’s so aggravating to see the effect romantic comedies and fairy tales and that bullshit word “soulmates” have had on our collective consciousness. How it leads to that inability for people, men in particular, to have the same transcendent lightbulb moment I had when my brain switched from “If she’s the one for me, it shouldn’t take this much work!” to “Because she’s the one for me, there’s nothing I should dedicate more energy and effort toward than her!” No, it shouldn’t be THAT hard but, by the same token, it SHOULD take directed and sustained effort. It’s not about trying to fit a round peg in a square hole; it’s about ensuring your round peg doesn’t slip from her round hole (*giggety*, but you know what I’m saying, right?). I keep hoping one day, he’ll turn to me and ask, “Hey, man, I really want to know–how do you and your wife stay strong at this?”, but since he knows the bad patch she and I went through several months back, I don’t know if he sees us as an invulnerable paragon of relationship solidarity anymore. But if not now, in time, I hope. I hope one day, whether through my example or not, he discovers that one’s pride is a very poor substitute for the open heart of a good woman.

      Like

  29. Liza says:

    Both genders do it, but woman tend to do it to their friends, and men tend to do to people who they live with. Abusers abuse, it doesn’t matter the gender.
    I never read anything of “only men do these things” never mind most of my abusers are fellow woman who are literally satan, or just tried their luck a little to hard. Basically if a person doesn’t care about the people near them, they will do it.

    This blog is precious and the exact thing the internet needs to combat toxic “red pill truths” and “rad trad ‘God says put out'” fools, you know what might make your lover wanna love you, help her out, be an adult, take away the stresses, don’t be authoritarion, give back, look sexy, engage with her as a person et cetera

    Like

  30. marilyn sims says:

    To: ALL THE CANDLE LIGHTERS,

    I’ve have loved the conversations about love and respect. I’ve learned about behaviors that result from distorted definitions of love, Yet I could not shake the feeling that we were ALL missing something important. Intervention when our relationships are is crisis mode seems to be the usual pattern for many couples. We need early intervention.

    CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE

    If a child lives with criticism, they (he/she) learns to CONDEMN.
    If a child lives with hostility, they learn to FIGHT.
    If a child lives with ridicule, they learn to BE SHY.
    If a child lives with shame, they learn to BE GUILTY.
    If a child lives with tolerance, they learn to BE PATIENT.
    If a child lives with encouragement, they learn to BE CONFIDENT
    If a child lives with fairness, they learn JUSTICE.
    If a child lives with security, they learn to have FAITH.
    If a child lives with approval, they learn to LIKE THEMSELVES.
    If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, they learn to FIND LOVE IN THE
    WORLD.

    I do not think this is the appropriate place to enter into discussions about child-rearing.
    I would like to keep, with your approval, this space devoted to adult behavior.

    PLEASE, PLEASE TO ALL PARENTS, just think this over, ponder for a while, if you will, discuss it with SO perhaps make some necessary adjustments.

    Kudos and Kisses to you all — until next we meet, adieu.

    Like

  31. marilyn sims says:

    Travis,

    It’s going to take me several more days to respond intelligently to your post where-in you said that men don’t heed timely warnings about the dangers facing them as it regards their marriages or intimate relationships. Their “relationship Titanic” is in immediate danger from the proverbial iceberg and yet ……

    I want to respond — not react — because it really does SUCK BIGTIME!!!! My usual reaction to bad news is either ” high-dungeon” or “self-righteous indignation”. Neither is constructive , and now I am willing to admit it — and absolutely immature.

    So I’m working on all of the above.

    Like

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