Our Marriage is a Steam Train

Steam Train

(Image/w-dog.net)

Our marriage is a steam train.

Like the old locomotives responsible for most long-distance travel and supply shipments from the early 1800s through the middle of the 20th century.

Our marriage is a steam engine-powered train requiring that coal be shoveled into the firebox to keep the fire burning, the pistons pumping, the wheels churning, and the train in motion.

Even before we were married, our relationships were steam trains. But then, keeping the locomotives moving was easy.

Then, the engine is only pulling a few cars. Your fuel source, filled right to the brim and easily accessible. The only other weight comes from whatever train cars are needed to hold all of our baggage.

We’re often in our twenties; sometimes just teenagers. We are youthful, full of energy, strong, and dragging very little baggage behind us.

The steam engine doesn’t require much coal, because it needn’t work hard to pull the lightweight and low-baggage train down the track.

Sometimes, he shovels in a little coal to keep the fire burning. Sometimes, she does.

Everything feels easy.

This train will never stop, we think.

We Get Married Which Adds More Train Cars

Marriage isn’t like having a Forever-Girlfriend or Forever-Boyfriend. It’s something else. Something harder. Something requiring more work and sacrifice.

He shovels more often. Larger piles to help pull the extra weight. New relationships thrust upon him. Her family. Her friends. Her job. Her needs. Her wants. Her dreams. The train is heavier. So he shovels more.

She shovels more often too, for all of the same reasons. The train is heavier now. So she shovels more.

They’re working together. In tandem. And the train chugs on.

We Have Children Which Adds More Train Cars

Children join the train. Many more cars are added to accommodate them and their needs. Life mistakes are made. Guilt and shame. Fear and anxiety. More train cars.

Children consume our hearts and sometimes we give less of them to our steam engine partners as a result. More train cars.

Children consume our time and sometimes we give less of it to our partners. More train cars.

Children consume more of our money, and financial stresses add more weight. More train cars.

The train is now very heavy, but there’s plenty of momentum.

The Shoveling Schedule and Efforts Seal Our Fate

When both partners shovel, the train hums along.

Sometimes, one partner sets down their shovel. There are many reasons why.

Maybe one of us is going back to school to advance our education and career, so one partner says “You go ahead and tend to that. I’ll keep the train moving.”

Maybe one of us switched jobs, and it takes us away from the shoveling.

Maybe we get sick. “You go ahead and heal. I know you’ll help me shovel again once you’ve recovered. I’ve got this.”

Maybe we suffer a death in the family, and collapse emotionally. One must tend to the fire while the other regains their strength.

But with each new life event, new train cars are added, and the locomotive gets heavier and heavier. As the weight of marriage increases, the relationship requires even more effort to keep it moving forward.

More communication. More empathy. More sacrifice.

More shoveling.

So long as that fire keeps burning, the train moves forward. Sometimes trudging along slowly. Sometimes at a comfortable pace. And when we’re fortunate to come to downhill track grade, things seem to flow very smoothly.

Until it’s time to move uphill again.

The train will keep moving so long as there’s someone manning the engine and willing to shovel coal.

When both partners are shoveling, things run smoothly, though much effort is involved.

When both partners communicate and coordinate a strategy for a mutually beneficial shoveling schedule where one person is willing to shovel while the other tends to another important life need, or is in some kind of recovery period, things still run.

When one partner stops shoveling, but the other is willing to press on, shoveling and sacrificing for everyone on board, the train presses onward, though unsustainably. Because the next uphill climb eventually gets here, and one exhausted shoveler inevitably collapses trying to keep the now quite heavy locomotive moving forward on her or his own.

It’s simple enough.

It’s just very difficult.

A steam engine requires shoveling to keep the fire burning, and all of those heavy parts in motion. Certain sections of track require more power, and more power requires more sacrificial work. Shoveling coal is hard.

Which is why it’s a two-person job.

When we both shovel, we move forward.

When we both cannot shovel, we communicate and work cooperatively to keep moving forward.

When one of us stops shoveling out of necessity, the other must work harder and give more to keep moving forward.

When one of us quits shoveling due to exhaustion or selfishness, the other must work harder and give more to keep moving forward.

When both of us quit, the fire burns out, the train grinds to a halt, and everyone has to find a new way to carry all of that baggage to wherever we’re going next. We’re no longer part of the same passenger list.

When both of us quit shoveling, the ride is over.

Our marriage is a steam train.

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243 thoughts on “Our Marriage is a Steam Train

  1. Simmis Mama says:

    Great metapher(s)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. It’s my favorite for characterizing sacrificial love and teamwork in marriage.

      I heard the basic metaphor from a reader in my first year of writing here, and embarrassingly can’t remember who that was, or I’d have acknowledged them.

      Maybe they’ll see this. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Gottman says:

    Matt,

    Too bad my train doesn’t run on shit cause then I could shovel some of all that shit I own into the engine. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      That would smell amazing! You could play Reba the entire time.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Reba, Wu Tang, and Beyoncé for Travis.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa = Reba
        Matt = Wu Tang
        Travis ≠ Beyoncé (editor’s note: Jesus wept!)
        Travis = U2

        Fixed.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Jesus loves Beyoncé. He’s weeping at joy at Lemonade.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        I’m more interested in the tracks Satan and Hitler are spinning in Hell, LOL.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Hitler and Satan listen to Reba and Beyoncé 24/7.

        That’s why it would be hell for you and Matt.

        U2 and Wu-Tang are upstairs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Jesus, Satan and Hitler listen to the same station?!

        If I can’t get away from Beyonce either above or below in the afterlife then it’s a cruel universe indeed.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Everyone in the Universe loves Queen B except you.

        Do you just not like R&B/Pop or is it something particular about Beyoncé?

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        I can tolerate some pop but I loathe modern R&B. Only country ranks lower.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Man, Travis you really should expand your repertoire. Honestly I never voluntarily listen to country music, but at least 2 of my all time favorite songs are country songs (which other people forced me to listen to..)
          and you TOLERATE pop? Are you really human? Didn’t you live through the 80’s- how can you only tolerate pop?

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Let me qualify that statement, Linbo. Since Lisa was referencing Beyonce, my statement about tolerating pop was meant more for what qualifies as pop in the 2000s. I friggin’ adore ’80s music (well, I loathe the Bon Jovi/Poison/Motley Crüe hair metal crap, but otherwise, nothing beats the ’80s!)! But modern pop? I enjoy acts like Coldplay, One Republic, and Lorde, some Katy Perry, even less Lady Gaga but, God as my witness, stick a knife in my eye if I ever have to hear Taylor Swift’s voice again. And, yeah, everything that falls under the umbrella of R&B for pretty much the last quarter century makes me want to punch my own face.

        Like

    • Travis B. says:

      I’m surrounded by many friends who like them. I’m not one of them. Fortunately, neither is my wife. You know what I miss? I mean like really ache for? Rock music that sounded royally pissed off. With everything wrong with the world, and with the complete tanked economy bill of goods they’ve been sold, why isn’t any Millennial music righteously angry? If Kings of Leon wasn’t out there keeping the fires of young rage alive, I wouldn’t know what to do with modern radio.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Like Rage against the Machine? OR Fugazi? I’m trying to think of who else just screams into the Microphone…I know there’s tons. .. :)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Tons? Not in the last fifteen years, there hasn’t been.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Ok, I was using “tons” as a relative term…:)
          Maybe its a good thing that we’re getting away from angry “Arg, F*ck, Kill” music in our society?… I dunno.
          But yeah, sometimes it just feels good to scream :) I could be a music legend in that genre.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        I will say I’m not at all surprised about the affection for 21 Pilots centering around their lyrics. I’ve lost count of how many conversations I’ve had with friends and other music fans where it’s been confirmed that my focus with music is unorthodox. Lyrics are literally the least interesting part of popular music to me. My attention is almost exclusively dedicated to the melody, instrumentation, and the sonic and emotional quality of the vocals (i.e. how the words are sung, rather than what the words actually are). The actual subject matter of the song’s poetry? More often than not, I could give a rip. In fact, I couldn’t tell you how many songs I’ve lamented, “I wish that guy would shut up so I could hear the music better!” But almost every discussion I try to have about music turns immediately to the lyrics. *sigh* Just add it to the epic list of Ways I’m Not Like Everybody Else, LOL.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Well, we agree that 80’s hair bands are the lowest element of the 80’s. But youre right- I don’t get how lyrics aren’t 70% of what makes a great song. Except disco- I could care less about the lyrics in disco. (I’m “Not Like Every One Else” in regards to disco ..: )
          Did you ever listen to White Zombie?

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Sure, White Zombie (and Rob solo) kick ass. But if you want my top ten, I’d probably go:

        1) U2
        2) Coldplay
        3) The Beatles
        4) Duran Duran
        5) Prince
        6) Kings of Leon
        7) Nine Inch Nails
        8) Jesus Jones
        9) Led Zeppelin
        10) Pearl Jam

        With a honorable mention for Radiohead.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          U2 is classic
          Cold Play is pretty awesome.
          Love to the Beatles!
          Duran Duran – Right next to Thompson Twins, OMD, Flock of Seagulls (I could go on)
          Prince- God rest his soul
          Kings Of Leon- This may damn me to eternal shame, but I have never heard them!! (But I may go listen, now..)
          Nine Inch Nails- They had their moment. (Err- sorry : )
          Jesus Jones- Amazing song (Right here, Right now), but I don’t know much else by them!
          Led Zeppelin-I could definitely sing along :)
          Pearl Jam- Loved them

          I don’t know if I have a top ten. I just really like music :)
          But my most oft listen to goes like this:

          Talking Heads
          Paul Simon
          Audrey Assad
          New Order
          Ella Fitzgerald
          …That’s at least my top 5… :)

          Like

        • anitvan says:

          What, no Chilis? I don’t know if we can be friends man!

          Like

          • anitvan says:

            Travis:

            Ignore Anthony and listen to Flea! Flea IS Red Hot Chilis imo

            I actually don’t listen to that much American music anymore…indie, underground and world music is so much more accessible than in the past and there’s so much incredible stuff out there! I love discovering the hidden gems 😀
            I’m also a HUGE supporter of local indie.

            There’s a lot of great stuff out there that isn’t getting heard but really should be!

            Like

      • Travis B. says:

        New Order (and their original incarnation, Joy Division) are stellar! If you look into Kings of Leon, might as well pass on their first two albums, but everything after those is the only proof that authentic, down-and-dirty, good ol’ fashioned rock-and-roll is still being made today.

        Like

      • nights7 says:

        Umm, Three Days Grace. Shinedown… just to name a couple good, angry bands. There are more. Maybe you just listen to the wrong radio stations.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Duran Duran was my first concert. :D

        Shake the disease… Martin Gore’s “understand me” still gives me goose pimples!

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        nights7 said,

        “Umm, Three Days Grace. Shinedown… just to name a couple good, angry bands.”

        I can only say that you and I have a different definition of “good”.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Travis, you need to listen to some Rise Against. There’s a fair bit of angry screaming (at least in their earlier stuff), but also great melody and fairly strong messages.

        The song that got me hooked on Rise Against was “Give it all”, but they’ve got a ton of great stuff and they’re now one of my favorite bands.

        Throwing out my own unofficial top 10 (in no particular order):

        1) The Cure
        2) Nine Inch Nails
        3) Rise Against
        4) Tool
        5) The Dandy Warhols
        6) City and Colour (note the Canadian spelling)
        7) Foo Fighters
        8) Florence and the Machine
        9) Modest Mouse
        10) Linkin Park
        11) Broken Bells
        12) Silversun Pickups
        13) Underworld

        alright, that’s more than 10. and I could keep going, but if you aren’t familiar with them there are some real gems in there.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Drew, I’m not too familiar with Rise Against, so I’ll see about checking them out. I will say that I’m not a big fan of some of the harder bands you mentioned (Tool is so plodding and monotonous to me–everyone loves them, my wife included, but their music sounds very simplistic to me and the vocalist nearly always comes off like he’s completely disinterested; Foo Fighters have always left me cold, too, though I adore “The Pretender”–and I fervently believe Dave Grohl demonstrates far more talent as a drummer–why’d you have to go away, Nirvana?!–than as a singer), but NIN is perfection, and Florence + The Machine, Modest Mouse and Linkin Park do have their moments of promise (“The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box” was probably my second favorite track of the year, behind AWOLnation’s “I Am”), so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, LOL.

        P.S. – The Cure is too emo even for me, LOL. When Travis B. says, “These guys need to grow a pair!”, that’s a bad sign! ;-)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        anitvan wrote,

        “What, no Chilis? I don’t know if we can be friends man!”

        Sorry, friend, but I think Anthony Kiedis is probably the most excruciatingly poor vocalist I’ve heard since Morrissey. And why does everyone keep mentioning bands from the ’90s? There was no shortage of badass rock in the ’90s; I’m talking about the death of new rock ever since the Millennials took over the dial around ’98 with the advent of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the like. Rock didn’t die at that moment, per se, but it all sounds so happy, poppy and folksy these days. Music hasn’t been pissed off since Bill Clinton left office and I weep…no, rage!…for the loss.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Umm, The Cure is too emo, but Radiohead is an honorable mention? Love Radiohead (haven’t heard the new album yet, but “burn the witch” is great).

        As for the Tool comment – they are a band that grows on you. When a buddy first introduced me to them I wasn’t feeling them at all, but over time I have come to greatly appreciate them. Maynard’s side project A Perfect Circle was pretty awesome too – especially the first album Mers de Noms.

        If I remember right, Trent Reznor is an Ohio boy as well. He’s gone on to do movie soundtracks now (never thought I would say that), but man, his early albums were amazing. I’ve seen him twice live, and both shows were fantastic.

        You mentioned 80’s rock earlier. Platinum Blonde was one of my favorites back in the day, and I actually saw them live a few months ago.

        Definitely check out Rise Against though.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Public service announcement:

        Rise Against is pretty great – and generally has a pretty aggressive sound.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Drew said,

        “Umm, The Cure is too emo, but Radiohead is an honorable mention?”

        Yeah, I’ll stand by that. Show me a Cure sound with the guitar shredding power of “Blow Out” or “Just”, or the face-punch sonic edge of “Bodysnatchers” or “Myxomatosis” and I’ll be forced to reconsider.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Anitavan,
        I have obviously mellowed in my middle age, but this (Middle Finger) reminds me of some awesome noise I used to listen to. Love it!
        I’m also a big fan of the chili peppers- Anthony Kiedis included. (Fight Like A Brave just popped into my head.. :)
        ( Even if I may have just lost Travis’s respect… :)
        Did anyone ever get into The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Judy W says:

        – Highly Suspect and Nothing More – some of my favorites at the moment.

        Like

    • Linbo says:

      Lol @ Anitavan :)

      Like

  3. Travis B. says:

    I’m still trying to figure out, while the wife and I are up here sweating buckets and breaking our backs shoveling all this damn coal into the engine, where’d the damn kids go?! “Kids! Get up here and help us! Kids? KIDS!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cracTpot says:

    ‘Simple enough, but it is very difficult’. I really really liked this one

    Liked by 1 person

  5. zombiedrew2 says:

    “When both of us quit shoveling, the ride is over.”

    Which isn’t to say the train can’t start moving again. But once stopped, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to get it moving again.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Well, well, well Drew,

      Laid low for the C-section post but show up for the train. Smarter than I am.

      I’m just kidding obviously. ;)

      Liked by 2 people

    • tonifoverby says:

      Preach, Drew! I will NEVER understand this concept that people stand before God and promise til death do us part and then literally do NOTHING to keep the locomotive going (to use Matt’s metaphor).

      A marriage takes TWO people daily laying down their lives in sacrifice. You are killing old desires. You are choosing to be okay instead of staying angry. You are putting aside what makes you happy to pick up what makes another person happy.

      Time and time again I see marriages where only one person is doing all the work. And that person either has to accept it to keep the marriage together or they get tired of it and bail.

      Personally, I’m on the tired side of it.

      Great post as always, Matt. Even if I don’t comment, I read and so relate to them all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Have to admit, I’m on the tired side too. A couple years of shoveling largely by yourself takes a considerable toll.

        I really wish she would start putting in more effort shoveling. I don’t believe things have to be 50/50 in relationships – life isn’t that simple and for assorted reasons some people are simply able to take on more than others. But there has to be consistent effort, no matter what it is.

        I get a lot of excuses as to why effort can’t be put in. And looking at each excuse individually, they are valid. But looking at them as a whole? Well, it’s a pattern of behavior characterized largely by excuses, lack of accountability, and not much in the way of action.

        Ah well, the choices we make. It’s been a rough stretch though, and one that has me questioning the point of continued effort.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I’m extremely sorry to hear this, Drew.

          I’m glad you’re here, thinking and sharing.

          As a major proponent of staying married, but acknowledging there are unsustainable conditions sometimes (the NOT-stupid divorces), I’d really like to come to terms with when to pull the plug.

          It’s an important thought exercise. I perceive many in the therapy community to be SUPER-quick on the “just get divorced!” trigger finger, and it really bothers me.

          That said. Some people hang on far too long and people also suffer for that.

          How do we know when to let go?

          Liked by 1 person

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            Well, I don’t think there’s any right answer on when to pull the plug. It’s a very individual decision, and what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily what’s right for another.

            I started with the viewpoint that a commitment is a commitment, and you stand by it no matter what life throws at you.

            My viewpoint has evolved a bit though. “What” was I (or anyone else) actually committing too? We probably didn’t really know at the time, but commitment isn’t just about the words you say, or the piece of paper you sign. It’s about the actions you take from that day forward. It’s about what you PUT IN to the marriage, not just about what it takes to make you leave it.

            And if someone says the words and signs the paper, but then stops putting in to the marriage? Well, then the words don’t really mean a whole hell of a lot.

            I’m just really tired right now. Maybe I’m just taking a rest so I can get back to shoveling, or maybe I just don’t want to shovel by myself anymore. I’m not quite sure right now.

            Like

          • Lesli Doares says:

            Matt,
            As you know, there are some of us in the therapy community who really believe in helping couples work things out so both people feel loved and supported in the marriage.

            We can help people learn to shovel more efficiently so less effort is required to make the train keep running. Or maybe it’s just limiting the number of hills. Either way, we can’t help people who don’t ask or who are so spent by the time they get to us that they think the answer is to get off the train.

            Love the analogy by the way. Can I borrow it?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Matt says:

              Hi Lesli! It’s not mine to borrow from! Somewhere in the history of this blog lives a comment from somebody who introduced the metaphor to me, and it resonated strongly.

              I think it can help people see marriage for what it’s supposed to be, and truly grasp why their actions or inactions contribute to their failure.

              I’d be flattered if you did. Looking forward to hearing the show Monday!

              Like

        • tonifoverby says:

          I love the question you posed: what are we committing to? I’ve often wondered why people talk so much about how important it is just to stay married but say nothing about staying married happily. Or at the very least, content. Too many people honor the word without honoring the action.

          For me, having grown up in a horrific situation borne from my parents’ inabilities to grow up after their divorce (let me be clear that I’m thrilled they divorced- they were horrible together), my biggest fear of leaving is knowing I’m married to someone who in all likelihood would not be able to put away his anger towards my decision to coparent our kids. So I stay and try to make the best of it, but every year chips away at my fortitude a little more. I love him but don’t like him, and certainly don’t like me.

          And the greatest fear of all is that I’ve committed the best years of my life to someone that, upon our youngest daughter’s departure, may very well decide that I was right all along. And we all know that men have a funny way of being able to start life all over again…with much younger women…whereas I will be a fifty-something, unemployed, divorced mother of four. Depressing.

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        Drew,
        I am really sorry to hear this,too. I can hear the weariness. This may be a dumb question but, have you established your boundaries in this area? Have you told her she needs to step up because you can’t survive on shit sandwiches?
        I think the boundary issue goes both ways. You have to be willing to uphold them.
        Even if she has underlying issues, …changing outward behavior can change the inward processes.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Yeah, Drew, I’ve noticed a sharp drop in your tone of positivity and sense of brighter tomorrows ahead lately, so I knew something had to be up. I have no answers for you, nor feel qualified to give any opinions or advice. Just know that I feel for you, man. Other than the death of a child, I literally can’t imagine anything worse than pouring 100% of your heart and soul into building a life with the person you love most in the world, only to see it still crumble away from underneath you.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        And Travis, my relative absence and slightly less positive outlook actually comes from a couple of things. Yeah, home is less than fun right now. But I’m also busy as hell with work (multiple projects coming due), I’m taking a course right now that has me a bit preoccupied, AND the Spurs were knocked out of playoffs last week.

        A part of me was looking forward to bantering back and forth with Matt when/if the Spurs faced off against the Cavs in the finals. But sadly, that dream has now faded away :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Drew,

        That is tough man. As a spouse of an avoidant person I think I can relate to some of what you may be feeling.

        I don’t know if this applies to you but what has made a difference for us is to finally (after much effort on my part and 8 failures) find a good marriage program.

        It’s very structured with specific things to do which helps my avoidant husband know exactly what is expected. And the active counselor to hold him accountable instead of me.

        Because I told the counselor, I was tired and done being the person pushing the heavy rock up the hill by myself. Or being the coach who had to have hope abs cheer for both of us.

        You can only keep up that energy for so long with an avoidant person. It’s exhausting.

        Anyway, I don’t know if you have tried counseling but it matters significantly for avoidants especially that it is a good structured program with a very active therapist. Not the kind where you sit on the couch and just talk.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        I’m sorry Drew. :( This is a marriage positive site like Lisa said once, but not at all cost.

        I don’t overthink it, but I try with the fellas to not write stuff their wives/girlfriends would be too upset about should they happen to read it (different personal convictions and things like that aside). I’m much more frank with the ladies, but I try to be honest without bashing someone’s hubby/partner (not that I always feel like doing that!). All this to say, feel I was perhaps more negative towards your wife’s behaviour than I’m comfortable with in one of our previous exchanges, and I kind of regret that.

        But then again, I do want to be able to be honest with the guys here to. Drew, you’re very intelligent, you’re probably highly capeable of not being swayed by a comment or two made by me.

        At the same time it doesn’t seem quite fair (not that you’re dependent on my comments obviously) to not speak my mind when I also…just agree with you, and want to say that, knowing that I don’t really know what’s going on, it sounds like because of x y z you’re not getting a reasonable deal.

        Again, not that you’re dependent on my comments or anything, but I don’t really know what to do. Maybe if I want to say something negative about your wife’s behaviour I’ll ask you first or something? And should you ever wish for my frank(er) opinion for some reason, you can ask of course. I don’t know really, if you have any preferences, then do tell.

        You said: “I get a lot of excuses as to why effort can’t be put in. And looking at each excuse individually, they are valid. But looking at them as a whole? Well, it’s a pattern of behavior characterized largely by excuses, lack of accountability, and not much in the way of action.”

        This is so very on point when it comes to people who won’t accept responsibility for something. It’s just like you say, each “reason” alone can be valid, but together they’re a way of just helping themselves avoid and deflect form responsibility. I believe they often partly or largely manage to convince themselve of their own excuses. Or they just have a selfish way of operating when it comes to this area, so they really believe they’re reasonable, even when they’re not. I guess that’s part of why personal boundaries are a must. We must protect ourselves from other people’s deflecting and defense structures and, frankly, sometimes just unreasonable/selfish thinking. At least unreasonable/selfish in my value system when it directly affects me, you know.

        All the excuses…I don’t have time, I don’t see the problem, it’s too hard, I don’ know how, you’re better at it, I do this and that, I don’t have the energy, I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s necessary…

        I mean we all have stuff we just can’t or won’t do, but there’s a limit somewhere. What’s a dealbreaker for someone isn’t for someone else. And I think it also depends on the amount and number of concessions we need to make. They can add up for sure.

        Thinking about people around me, I’m probably trying to feel better about the stuff I still have to successfully deal with, but I do believe effort should count for something. I hope so at least. :) But again, what looks like effort for one maybe doesn’t to other people sometimes. And as always, it can be easy to overlook our own failings.

        Lisa, the marriage counceling program you’re talking about, is that the Brett Atkinson thing?

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi Lisa,

        thanks for the thoughts. What you describe sounds pretty good, except for the fact that I can’t actually get her to *do* anything. She just kind of wants to “think” about things, and take time to process things. But there is never any action.

        Think I’ve said before, I’m of the mind that doing something, anything, is better than nothing. You try something, and if it helps great. If not, at least you tried. Then you find something else that might work. I kind of need action of some sort.

        She’s willing to say she’s not happy – but is never sure of what to do. So I suggest things we can try, but it kind of gets turned around on me as me trying to tell her what to do.

        I’ve tried the other approach where I say alright, you aren’t happy – I’ve suggested A, B and C and you won’t even try any of them. You tell me, what do YOU want to do? What are you willing to try?

        And I get nothing.

        Very, very frustrating.

        Sadly, life is largely pretty good. As long as we pretend there are no issues and just brush them under the carpet. So I’ll go along for a little while hoping that some of the issues will improve, but they don’t, so I periodically hit a breaking point. Then there’s just enough effort and engagement to keep me going for a while till it all goes to hell again.

        Gotta say, that carpet is getting pretty bumpy. And I can’t begin to comprehend why there is no willingness to deal with issues that to me seem like they should be easily resolvable.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        I don’t know if you’re there yet, or if you’ll ever be there, but I believe the Divorce Busting team has some last resort techniques that sometimes work when people have exhausted all other options. Don’t know how relevnt they’ll be for your stuation. I’m sure there are other helpful resources out there too, if this one doesn’t speak to you. I’ve mentoned Jack Ito a few times, he seems to be big on practical boundaries, I saw some stuff he had on avoidant spouses too.

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Just to be clear, I don’t want to paint a bleak picture here. My wife is generally pretty great, and there’s a ton of good in our lives.

        The avoidance and anxiety are real killers though.

        We’ve got issues, but so does everyone, and in theory they shouldn’t be things that are fatal. Thing is, due to avoidance we aren’t able to ever approach/deal with anything. I would like to, and I think we would both be much happier if we could. Instead, the same problems linger on and on. And what should have been a small problem starts to turn into something much bigger.

        More and more I think that coping mechanisms and the ability to deal with conflict is probably THE most important things in a relationship. And those are areas that we happen to suck, so everything else suffers as a result.

        Donkey, you’re 100% right about people justifying to themselves the reasons they do things and refusing to see the larger patterns of behavior. As long as each individual item can be explained, hey, it’s not a problem.

        Don’t worry though, unlike Matt’s post from last week where the lady used Matt as a scapegoat for her own divorce proceedings, I’m not likely to be swayed much by anyone. I think I see things pretty clearly – good and bad. And I’ve stuck it out for many years because for now the good still outweighs the bad.

        Doesn’t mean I’m not tired of shoveling by myself though. And I definitely dream that one day she can be an actual partner, shoveling with me. At this point though I guess I doubt that will ever happen. I’ll either continue to shovel largely by myself, or one day I’ll stop.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        “I’ve tried the other approach where I say alright, you aren’t happy – I’ve suggested A, B and C and you won’t even try any of them. You tell me, what do YOU want to do? What are you willing to try?”

        Goodness, that sounds very frustrating. I read something, I think it was from Terry Real (though I’m guessing other people say the same thing), that if you want to complain about something, you also have to make a suggestion for what you’d rather prefer. Sometimes it can be so very easy to think that the other person should just know, and maybe in a perfect world they would (not always though!), but sadly, we’re not there yet.

        Maybe you can say this to her.
        I need effort. I’ve suggested A, B and C. You don’t like them, fine, but then you must think of what option D could look like. If you wish, I can brainstorm with you again next Friday. You need to process, fine, but I need some action aswell. By date x, you need to have chosen some action you’re going to do, or y will be the consequence. What do you need from me to help you succeed in this? (Real mentions this too, how can you help your partner give you what you need)

        Here’s a link, if you’re interested. Though he doesn’t talk much about boundaries in this particular process, maybe that would be necessary for you at this point: http://vivianbaruch.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/6.-Shift-from-Complaint-to-Request-How-to-Speak.pdf

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        “I need effort. I’ve suggested A, B and C. You don’t like them, fine, but then you must think of what option D could look like. If you wish, I can brainstorm with you again next Friday. You need to process, fine, but I need some action as well. By date x, you need to have chosen some action you’re going to do, or y will be the consequence. What do you need from me to help you succeed in this?”

        Ha, that seems logical doesn’t it?

        I’ve been trying that for years now. Then date x comes, and she will try at all costs to avoid continuing the conversation. If forced to resume it, I will get all sorts of reasons as to why she couldn’t come up with answers by that date. Each one valid, but again, all excuses.

        So it comes down to boundaries on my end. For a long time I just kind of put up with that, because really, what consequences can you give? Stop doing things? I don’t believe in withholding or any sort of games that are about control. I kind of what her to do things simply because it’s the right thing to do.

        Eventually I got to the point that I had had enough. It felt like everything was based on her rules, and what she could handle. Instead of a partnership it felt like I was in a situation where I was expected to accommodate, but it only went one way.

        So I said “this is what I need in order for us to work. If you can’t meet that, then I guess we don’t work anymore”. And instead of being understanding that I had limits, it turned into anger because now I was seen as threatening her and making ultimatums.

        And I guess they were ultimatums, but they were never about threats or about getting what I want really. They were about trying to have a partnership, and a collaborative relationship. But I was the bad guy.

        We actually did split up for a few months, and when I hit my 40th birthday we were living apart. It was a brutal time for everyone.

        We ended up back together with some promises of change, and things definitely are a bit better. But we’re still nowhere near where we should be. And there is still no real desire on her end for us to improve.

        I’ve talked before about the fine line between accommodation and enabling, and it’s a tough one. In trying to be a “good husband” over the years, I think I probably contributed greatly to my own problems.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Drew,
          I tend to be with you in feeling like “giving consequences” seems like a manipulation tool- and I hate manipulation. Or something a parent has to do with a child. But, I am becoming more open to the idea.
          It’s just clearly stating your boundaries and limitations. Like I need you to ready by this time, or else it will make me late. If you can’t be ready by this time, I cannot take you.
          That’s a much more harder pill to swallow when the consequence could be “or we won’t be married anymore.”
          You have to be willing to back that up, and isn’t anyones preferred way to go.
          Do you go to counseling, for you? Sometimes that can really be helpful and constructive. Except if they tell you to divorce right away. Divirce them and get a second opinion, ok?! :)

          Liked by 2 people

          • zombiedrew2 says:

            Yeah, Matt had a post a while back about not wanting to feel like someones parent and that’s how it feels to me. At the same time, I’m much better at establishing boundaries than I used to be. And I don’t see them as threats, they are simply statements of what I need out of things – and what I need has to matter too.

            As you say though, it’s tough when the only real recourse for it is “or we won’t be married anymore”.

            I’m much more open to the idea now though, and I don’t necessarily view it as a failure if things go down that road. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve grown as a person. I look at the things I’ve done the past few years and sure I’ve made a few mistakes, but on the whole I’m at peace with how I’ve conducted myself and tried to keep shoveling coal.

            So if things fall apart, it’s more just a recognition that sometimes two people just can’t always find a path that works for both.

            It would be disappointing for sure, especially when I feel like things could easily be much better. But I can only control my own actions, and truthfully I wouldn’t want to control anyone elses.

            I’ve been to a counselor a few times, and have seen some that were good and others that were less so. At the end of the day though, no one ever told me anything I didn’t already know at some level. And without any coverage, it’s a pretty expensive thing to do when you aren’t seeing much value.

            A while back there was a post about self-esteem, and Anitvan made a comment about secretly thinking she’s pretty awesome. I’m kind of the same – I like me. I think I’m a relatively intelligent guy and I think I have my shit together. So I’ll figure this out, and whatever I do will be what’s ultimately right for me because it’s what “I” choose. No one will really sway me much one way or another.

            Liked by 1 person

            • anitvan says:

              Hey Drew. Sorry, man.

              I’ve been there…still go there from time to time actually…I can really empathize with what you’re going through.

              The vast majority of our relationship issues stem from my husband’s unresolved personal issues. I recognized a long time ago that in order to heal our marriage, he needs to heal *himself* first. Sometimes getting better scares him. For all kinds of reasons. He worries that if he gets better, I may not like him anymore, as a “well” person. He admits that sometimes it is just easier to let himself slip back into his old thoughts and patterns – as torturous as it is to be there, it is *familiar* and oddly comforting. He can get stuck there for days or weeks (but at least it’s not months on end like it was before) but the long stretches tend to wear at my resolve, make me question my promise to stay.

              I try to practice “radical acceptance”. Instead of longing for a future time when he is “better”, I simply accept the situation as it actually is, in the moment.

              “We are not in a good place right now. I am feeling frustrated and disappointed and insecure right now. What do I need *right now*?

              I can usually figure out that much. I can get through it, moment by moment, if I have to.

              I gotta be honest with you…I’m not 100% sure we’re gonna make it. I mean, I’m committed to staying, but I no longer trust ANYTHING 100% and who knows, I may crack up one day and pull the plug on the whole thing.

              Anything could happen.

              I do know this:

              There are worse things in life than being unhappily married.

              Even if my husband and I do end up throwing in the towel, I will not consider even one moment of it wasted time.

              Staying in a difficult marriage makes me a better person. Not in a “I’m a better person than you” kind of way…I mean, it’s transforming me, molding me into a better person than I was before.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Linbo says:

                Anitvan,
                Hey- its your new BFF :). Lol. I was just reading your words and hearing the struggle. You are keeping a really good perspective with just accepting life/marriage how it is and getting that it is molding and changing you. Hopefully for the better :).

                Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        I think this is what Gottman talks about, adapting to negativity. It’s hard to know what’s accepting differences and not being too critical and ungrateful, and what’s just creating a standard that will be harmful in the end.

        Maybe you must consider some consequences other than splitting up though? Not as a game, you are being frank about it, but to create some balance to make you able to still enjoy the relationship. Again, Jack Ito talks about this, it really seems like he has some good stuff about practical boundaries, maybe it could be helpful. He mentions that sometimes people just don’t know what an appropriate boundary can be.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Drew,
        Not that I don’t think you aren’t fine just the way you are, but an alternative to one on one counseling may be group therapy. Its usually cheaper, and is sometimes really beneficial.
        No saying you need it, dude. But that is an option if things do start seeming bleak. It can give you a reprieve. (But, hopefully this “forum” can too :)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Drew,

        OMG!!!

        I know exactly what you are talking about. It’s like trying to take a cat for a walk!

        People would suggest that I do x, y, and z reasonable things and of course I had tried that but it absolutely does not work with an avoidant person.

        They just say just barely enough to say they are involved in a conversation even though they add nothing to it.

        I used to come up with multiple ideas for improving our marriage, books, seminars whatever and he would either agree to do it and never follow through (my favorite passive aggressive thing ever!!!!!) or just say I don’t know.

        I would say well I’m open what would you thing would help? And he’d say he didn’t know or he’d think about it and never come back with ideas. It’s like chasing my cat around the house, running out of breath but never catching him.

        Really, it drives you crazy!! So I feel your pain.

        People who are not married to avoidant people don’t understand. They think you can just do things to get them engaged but it just doesn’t work. A non-avoidant would give you some kind of response at least.

        All depressing things to affirm that I really get it Drew. I get it. It almost kills your soul. But you have hope that one day they’ll decide to change but they never really do.

        So it reaches a breaking point, sounds like you’ve already reached it a time or two.

        People would say to me, well just work on yourself! Yeah well that works for a while but you’re still married and at some point you need the other person to get engaged too.

        I would go to therapists looking for how to engage an avoidant and they would either advise me to divorce (because therapists tend to have a pro-divorce stance) or they really didn’t know anything at all. Other than to focus on myself!

        I knew far more than most of them about relationships and couples therapy because I read books. That is not comforting that is terrifying when you are looking for help.

        So, I relate to you there. From your blog, I can tell you think very deeply about these things and read lots of information so you probably would not be helped by seeing the average therapist nor certainly the average marriage counselor.

        Because marriage counselors are poorly trained and most of them have no idea what they are doing. It’s the truth!

        I know there are good ones out there but they are just hard to find. I got more help from a few comments from Kassandra Lamb here than all the therapists I saw in 10 years.

        I wasted a lot of time and money. I used the Divorce Busting phone counseling because I like Michele Weiner Davis work. It was not helpful. The first person told me I should just focus on being grateful. Ok, yeah I’m grateful. How do I fix my shitty marriage? Being grateful is an individual thing and does not tell you concrete steps to deal with an avoidant spouse.

        The next one was a little better but told me really basic information that I already know, like Gottman’s work. Hello, I already told you lady that I have read all of Gottman’s work. Help me figure out how to apply it to an avoidant spouse. She was even worse with my husband. He just told her the bare minimum to participate. So she focused on me and told me to be grateful and sweet to him. Yeah that’s so helpful. Thanks! You can be as sweet as candy to an avoidant and it doesn’t make a difference, they just go on their merry avoidant way.

        I could go on and on for all the stupid and inane advice people give you to deal with an avoidant spouse. They probably will have more sympathy for you because you reverse the gender patterns and you won’t be expected to be grateful for being treated like shit, you know because I’m a girl! So you got that going for you at least. And you are securely attached so that’s good too.

        Still miserable, don’t get me wrong. I mean it’s an advantage because you won’t have to spent as much time trying to rewire your brain to execute the steps without acting like a crazy person like I do.

        All right I’m just venting so I’ll cut to the chase. The most helpful thing I found was Brent Atkinson’s program. It is research based but adds mindfulness. It has step by step stuff on what everyone is supposed to do.

        I found the ebook to be the best cliff notes version of how healthy relationship should work and how to deal with people when they don’t treat you well.

        The hardest red pill to swallow was that I was part of the problem by not standing up for myself without making a big deal of it. This may not apply to you Drew I don’t know. But the research shows in average shitty marriages both sides are usually not doing something right. With me it was not setting boundaries without getting really, really angry that I had to. That doesn’t work.

        I told the counselor, how do you deal with an avoidant who just doesn’t care if you avoid them? But it’s really about diagnosing what I am doing to allow them to continue the pattern and figuring out how to set my internal boundaries.

        These are all things you said. But my condition to John was to actively be involved in a structrured program and not half-ass it. When we found this one, he engages because the counselor engages and there is structure to engage with. Not just talking which avoidants just say the bare minimum.

        I was doubtful he would engage but he has so we are making progress. It deals a lot with our nervous systems and rewiring our reactions to be less anxious and agitated.

        This might not be helpful to you at all because everyone is different. I don’t know but I thought I’d throw it out there in case anyone else might find it helpful. It would have saved me a lot of money and time.

        Sue Johnson’s EFT is good at dealing with avoidants. She is Canadian so you might have some good ones near where you live. We tried two near us and even though they were certified they had no idea what they were really doing. Sigh.

        http://www.iceeft.com This is the EFT website where people can look for therapists.

        Here is the website for Brent Atkinson’s group with an overview of their approach. They are based in Chicago but Skype sessions are offered for other locations.

        http://thecouplesclinic.com/services/couples-therapy/

        It’s not cheap but neither is divorce or living separately.

        Here’s a sample of the ebook from Brent Atkinson’s group. It personalizes it with your names to get it in your brain better that’s why it says Lisa.

        http://thecouplesclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/M-Sample-V-4.4.pdf

        Heres the table of contents for anyone interested. The pdf is a little wonky but you can get an idea.

        Developing Habits for Relationship Success Version 4.4
        Table of Contents PREFACE……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1
        PART I – Habits of People Who Know How to Get Their Partners to Treat Them Well 2 Chapter 1 – Lessons Learned From People Who Know How to Get Their Partners to
        Treat Them Well………………………………………………………………………………………
        Chapter 2 – Dealing With Differences……………………………………………………………………………
        Habit #1 – Avoid a Judgmental Attitude………………………………………………………………. Habit #2 – Find the Understandable Part……………………………………………………………. Habit #3 – Identify the Underlying Needs, Values and Worries………………………….. Habit #4 – Give and Ask for Equal Regard…………………………………………………………….
        Habit #5 – Offer Assurance………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
        Habit #6 – Stand Up for Yourself without Making a Big Deal About The Fact That
        You Had To………………………………………………………………………………… 21
        Ask and Offer………………………………………………………………………………………….. 23 Broaden the Scope…………………………………………………………………………………… 25 Temporarily Distance Yourself………………………………………………………………… 27 Don’t Make a Big Deal of It……………………………………………………………………… 30
        Try Again Later……………………………………………………………………………………….. 31
        If Necessary, Refuse to Continue Business as Usual………………………………… 32 Knowing How and When to Implement Each Predictive Habit When
        Upsets Occur: The Sequence…………………………………………………………………… 34
        The 12-Step Sequence Summary………………………………………………………………………… 37
        When to Apply Sequence Steps………………………………………………………………………….. 38
        Chapter 3 – Core Differences in Ways of Maintaining Emotional Stability……………………. 39
        ndependence-First vs. Togetherness-First………………………………………………………….. 39 Invest-in-the-Future-First vs. Live-For-the-Moment-First…………………………………….. 41
        Predictability-First vs. Spontaneity-First………………………………………………………………. Slow-to-Upset vs. ReadilyUpset………………………………………………………………………….
        Problem-Solving-First vs. Understanding-First…………………………………………………….. 44 Core Differences Summary Chart………………………………………………………………………… 48
        Chapter 4 – But Lisa is so Extreme! …………………………………………………………………… 49 Chapter 5- When Lisa’s Thinking or Actions Seem Wrong……………………………… 52
        Obvious Offenses………………………………………………………………………………………………… 52
        Developing Habits for Relationship Success, Version 4.4 – Copyright to Brent J. Atkinson – http://www.thecouplesclinic.com Page ii
        
        Disagreement-Related Offenses…………………………………………………………………………. 53
        The Offense of Misplaced Overall Blame……………………………………………………………. 55 The Non-Offenses (Often Mistakenly Believed To Be Offenses)………………………….. 55
        Reacting Effectively When Lisa’s Thinking or Actions Seem Wrong…………. 56
        When Lisa’s Priorities or Expectations are Legitimately Different Than
        Yours……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 56 When Lisa Commits a Disagreement-Related Offense………………………………. 57 When Lisa Commits an Obvious Offense…………………………………………………… 58 Reacting Effectively When Lisa Believes that You are the Main Problem….. 61
        The Relationship Offenses…………………………………………………………………………………. 64 The Disagreement-Related Offenses………………………………………………………………… 65
        Chapter 6 – Is Lisa Really More to Blame? …………………………………………………….. 66 Common Sources of Bias in the Assessment of Overall Blame…………………………… 66
        Mistaken Assumption #1: Obvious Offenses are More Damaging than Disagreement-Related Offenses………………………………………………….. 67
        Mistaken Assumption #2: Some Disagreement-Related Offenses are
        More Harmful than Others…………………………………………………………. 69
        Mistaken Assumption #3: One Shouldn’t Need to Stand Up for Oneself Because One’s Partner Shouldn’t be Selfish or Controlling in the
        First Place…………………………………………………………………………………….. 70
        Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 73 PART II – Putting Knowledge Into Action 74 The Phases of Relationship Transformation…………………………………………………….. 75
        Chapter 7 – Putting the Past to Rest………………………………………………………………………………. 78
        Accepting Your Share of the Blame: Letter-Writing Exercise……………………………… 78
        Common Sources of Hesitation………………………………………………………………………….. 80
        Phase II of Relationship Transformation…………………………………………………………….
        Talking About Your Hurt or Upset Feelings……………………………………………………….
        Listening and Responding as Lisa Talks About Past Hurts…………………………… 85
        Chapter 8 – Tuning Up Your Nervous System …………………………………………………
        Mindfulness Training Rewires the Brain to Function in a More Balanced Way….. 89
        The Benefits of a Balanced Brain……………………………………………………………………….
        Mindfulness Exercises Interrupt the Brain’s Tendency to Get Stuck in Striving
        Mode…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 91 Why is Spending Time in Experiencing Mode Such a Big Deal?………………………. 91 Breath and Body Awareness…………………………………………………………………. 92 Mindful Attention to the External World………………………………………………. 92
        Distress Tolerance and Self-Soothing……………………………………………………. 94
        
        Priming the Brain for Feelings of Love and Connectedness…………………….. 95
        Chapter 9 – Tools for Rewiring the Way Your Nervous System Operates When You
        Feel Upset ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 97
        Rewiring Automatic Reactions…………………………………………………………………………… 98 Counterproductive Automatic Reactions
        Physiological Arousal…………………………………………………………………. 99
        “Buying Into” Gut-Level Impressions and Interpretations…………. 100
        Biased Attention……………………………………………………………………….. 101
        If It Feels Bad, It Is Bad……………………………………………………………… 101
        Knee-Jerk Accusations and Defensiveness ………………………………. 102
        The Desire to Rewire………………………………………………………………………………………. 102 Conditions Needed to Develop New Habits…………………………………………………….. 104
        The Reconditioning Practices
        Practice #1: Visualization and Mental Rehearsal…………………………………. 106
        The Recordings
        1. Overview and instructions for using the recordings.. 109
        2. When you feel upset with Lisa……………………………… 110
        3. Getting her to care about something that bothers you 111
        4. When Lisa is upset with you………………………………… 112
        5. Negotiating your differences………………………………….. 113
        6. When being open and flexible isn’t enough……………. 114
        7. If Lisa criticizes you harshly or puts you down…….. 115
        Practice #2: Working with Everyday Upsets………………………………………… 116 Practice #3: Taking Breaks During Discussions…………………………………….. 118 Practice #4: Practicing with Pre-Recorded Provocation……………………….. 119
        Daily Review of Reconditioning Practices………………………………………………………… 122
        Chapter 10 – Increasing Feelings of Love and Connection…………………………………………… 124
        The Relentless Introduction of Positivity…………………………………………………………… 125 Priming Your Brain for Feelings of Love and Connectedness…………………………….. 126 Instead of Mind-Wandering……………………………………………………………………………… 129
        Instead of Mind-Wandering Log Instructions……………………………………………………. 131 Instead of Mind-Wandering Daily Log……………………………………………………………… 132
        What Makes You Feel Loved? ………………………………………………………………….. 133 Practicing the High/Low Conversation………………………………………………………. 135
        High-Low Conversation: Guidelines for the Listener………………………. 136
        High-Low Conversation: Guidelines for the Speaker……………………… 138
        High-Low Review: Your Experience Listening………………………………… 139
        High-Low Review: Your Experience Speaking………………………………… 140

        
        Appendix I – Reacting Effectively When Lisa Says or Does Something That You
        Don’t Like or Agree With……………………………………………………………………….. 141 “Lip Service” or “Going Through the Motions”………………………………………………….. 141 Believing that Lisa is More to Blame………………………………………………………… 142 Poor Timing ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 143
        Using the Guidelines…………………………………………………………………………………………… 143 Decision Tree: Selecting the Right Set of Guidelines…………………………………………. 1
        Situation 1 – You Were the One Who Felt Dissatisfied or Disapproving First Scenario A: Lisa’s actions seemed selfish, inconsiderate, immature,
        inappropriate, or bad in some other way…………………………………….. 147
        Scenario A-1: Your dissatisfaction had to do with Lisa not
        devoting enough energy to connecting with you…………………………. 150
        Scenario B: Lisa’s viewpoint or opinion seemed questionable,
        off-base, or just plain wrong……………………………………………………….. 153
        Scenario C: Lisa’s preferences or needs seemed illogical,
        short-sighted, excessive, unrealistic, or unfair……………………………… 156
        Situation 2 – Lisa Was the One Who Felt Dissatisfied or Disapproving First
        Scenario A: Lisa didn’t like or agree with your actions…………………… 159
        Scenario B: Lisa didn’t like or agree with your viewpoint
        or opinion…………………………………………………………………………………….. 162 Scenario C: Lisa didn’t like or agree with your preferences
        or needs……………………………………………………………………………………….. 165 Situation 3 – Lisa’s Thinking or Actions Were Clearly Wrong
        Scenario A – Lisa pushed, shoved, grabbed, hit, physically
        restrained you, blocked you from leaving the room, or followed
        you around, refusing to allow you to remove yourself from her presence………………………………………………………………………………………. 168
        Scenario B – Lisa 1) intentionally lied to you or deceived you,
        2) was sexually unfaithful, 3) failed to keep a clear agreement,
        with admittedly no good reason, 4) badmouthed or undermined
        you, 5) violated your privacy or personal space, or 6) made an irreversible, unilateral decision regarding something about which
        she knew you had strong feelings………………………………………………… 170
        Appendix II – Standing Up Quadrants…………………………………………………………………………. 172

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Hi all, thanks for the thoughts. I’ve kinda taken this section off track a bit, and shared a bit more about me and my situation than I normally would. And frankly more than I’m sure if I really should have. I usually keep things high level and at a more theoretical level (even in the cases when I am indirectly talking about my own situation). But things are in a tough spot right now, so thanks for those who have commented and listened.

        A few parting thoughts on this:

        Anitvan, I’ve read bits of your blog and I know you can empathize exactly with what things are like. I used to believe that a persons past didn’t really matter. Their past shapes them, and turns them into who they are today – so all that really matters is who the person was when you met them. I still want to believe that, but personal issues have a tendency to come from the past, and peoples pasts often shape their futures. You talk about unresolved personal issues, and people needing to heal themselves first. And that’s true. Someone can’t really have a healthy relationship with another person when they don’t have a healthy relationship with themselves. Their own issues (and we all have them to some degree) will always start to spill over into and damage the relationship. And it’s really frustrating when you see issues in the relationship, and a part of you knows they really don’t have anything to do with the relationship.

        For better for worse right? That’s what we signed up for? And you wouldn’t leave someone because they had something like cancer, right? So not staying due to mental illness on many levels feels wrong. It’s different in some ways though. I know they can’t help what is going on in their own lives and heads. But when there are options, and ways to potentially make things better and they won’t even try them? They have every right to treat or not treat their own illness in a way that feels right for them. But choosing to not treat it doesn’t just affect them, it affects their partners, their kids. So while refusing to get help is totally their right, when the marriage is crumbling due to personal issues that someone won’t be accountable for or do anything about? Even when you know that things are really hard for them, over time it just starts to feel selfish. Support vs. Enabling. That line continues to blur every single day.

        Donkey, thanks for the thoughts on Jack Ito, I’ll have to look him up. I would love to find some consequences that would work, and seem fair without making me feel like an asshole.

        And Lisa, trying to take a cat for a walk – I love that. Yeah, I’ve never had a cat but I suspect that’s exactly it. You and I seem to have fairly similar mindsets (the Arthur C. Clarkes :)), so I know it must be especially frustrating for you when things seem logical and reasonable. But reason goes right out the window when dealing with someone who is avoidant. You’ve mentioned avoidance and passive aggressiveness (both fantastically fun things to deal with). I’m not sure how deep those things go, but they way you talk here I suspect they are some pretty deep seated things.

        Kills your soul is an apt way of looking at it. As you said, you keep hoping that things will turn around but they don’t. For us things were pretty good for a lot of years. There were always signs of anxiety and avoidance, but it didn’t really get in the way of the relationship. Then, as we added more and more train cars the issues started to get worse, until finally something happened and everything changed pretty much over night. The woman I had known and loved for many years was gone, and the new person that was there was a very, very difficult person to try and have a relationship with.

        You mention working on yourself – well she went for “help” and that’s what they told her. So she completely checked out on the marriage to “work on herself”. And I was supposed to just sit there and wait, and hope she found herself again. And also hope then when she did – the marriage would still be what she wanted. That was total bullshit, but I only have myself to blame for allowing it. I should have told her if she wanted to do that, fine, but we needed to separate. Then if we were both interested in the marriage when she finally found herself, we could look at resuming it. Instead I let her have her cake and eat it too. Have the house and the family, with no engagement in the marriage.

        Once I hit the “screw it” point and started putting up some boundaries, things started to get better. But she’s never really come back. Part way, and probably a lot of the way. But part of her has been gone for years and never came back.

        I know what you mean about counselors telling you to work on yourself and take care of yourself. Yeah, you need to. At the same time though, I didn’t get married in order to be two people living separate lives. To me, part of the joy of marriage is sharing your life WITH someone, and building a future with them. That kind of falls apart when each person is more worried about themselves. I guess I need a “we”, and not just two “me’s”

        It would be easy to walk away if things were awful all the time, but when things have some pretty good moments and you see glimpses of the person you knew. And those moments are great, because you know they are still there and you hope that maybe one day they will come back, or at least stay for a while longer this time. But they don’t, and you find yourself alone again with the person you love.

        It’s shitty, but there are worse things I suppose. As Anitvan says – I don’t regret it. I wish things were different, but for now at least this is the road I continue to choose.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Linbo says:

          Drew,
          Hey- I hope you dont mind me replying. I’m wondering if the first part of your paragraph was a sort of apology? I cant speak for everyone, but I think it is ok to share personal stuff to the level you are comfortable with. The only thing “wrong” with it is you are at risk for is people making well intentioned comments that maybe miss the mark is what you are needing to hear.
          If you ever want to know how to write one of those, I can show you how :).(That was a joke- funny, haha :)

          Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        This is one of those times when I wish I’d seen the blog yesterday. I have a lot of responses to a lot of things that were said here but I just don’t have mental space right now to write it all down!

        Drew, I know this feeling. The avoidant spouse, yes. And the very difficult question of when is enough enough? When you set boundaries (which to me also feel very parenting-ish and I am deeply uncomfortable with them)?

        The hard part is that in my case, I wanted my husband to WANT to choose me, not to be forced into choosing me because of an ultimatum or whatever. Everyone just always had so much ADVICE all the time. “Just tell him to stop ____.” “Just tell him you want him to help around the house more.” “Just tell him that you need him to step up with the parenting/kid thing and spend more time at home.” Sure.

        The problem with giving an ultimatum to a spouse (aside from the parent/child dynamic) is that while it may make someone “fall in line” it doesn’t usually make a true, lasting heart change.

        It’s a very difficult thing. In my case, I kept telling him I would not tell him what to do, but I made it as clear as I could that his actions were affecting me negatively and it was up to him what he would do about it. The problem is, that sometimes people continue doing the avoidant thing because they are allowed to be, in a sense.

        I could tell him until I was blue in the face “this thing you are doing, _____, is killing my desire to stay in this marriage and I am thinking about divorce” but in spite of all that, he still had this “it won’t happen to me” mentality and so kept continuing to make empty promises.

        In my case, there was one definitive moment where I really felt that God had released me from my marriage. I don’t know if you believe in God but it was like… the whole time before I just kept feeling this “not yet!” feeling. And then there was one last broken promise and immediately I felt this release, and I knew that it was time. It was two years from the moment I admitted to myself that I was in an unhealthy marriage.

        Ultimately I think most people just have their moment, their line they won’t cross. When you understand fully and completely that nothing is going to change, that’s when you make a tough choice.

        Like

  6. Linbo says:

    Wrote this a few days ago, but would really like some input:
    Not that I think anyone is up for another hardcore discussion of epic proportions or anything, But this is a sincere question. I originally posted it in the easy/hard way post, but I think it could apply here, too.
    The reason I went back and read it was because of a premise that she described that says “You cant skip day 2.” Day 2 is the hard work, where things get uncomfortable. Like the train going into a long tunnel and not sure when it ends.
    But that is where the work right before the solution.

    From Brene Browns “Rising Strong”
    “The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
    The Reckoning:Walking into our story
    Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.

    The Rumble:Owning our story
    Get honest about the stories were making up about our struggle, then challenge the confabulations and assumptions to determine whats the truth, whats self protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more whole hearted lives. (cant stress this part enough- how often do we fill in the blanks believing we already know what the other person is thinking/feeling, what are we experiencing that is coloring our perception ect., )

    The revolution:
    Write a new ending to our story based in the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.

    She refers to the Hero’s story as a metaphor as to how we struggle with conflict.
    There are 3 phases:
    1.)The call to adventure with “the inciting incident”
    2.) (Day 2) The protagonist tries every comfortable way to solve the problem- this act includes the lowest of the low…usually significant failure.
    3.) The protagonist understands what needs to be done, and is willing to prove it at all costs…this leads to redemption.

    In her own example, her call to adventure was a fight/miscommunication with her husband. Her rumble included being pissed and reactionary, and thinking of stories that “paid back” her husband. This was the most comfortable way to try to solve the problem. Her redemption was in figuring out that she needed to tell herself a different story as to why her husband was acting this way “one where Steve’s intentions were not bad”. So, she started asking herself questions: “Could I be that generous, Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself? What’s the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while skill acknowledging my own feelings and needs?” ..And finally the questions “What are the consequences of putting down the weapons and taking off the armor? What is he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person? …If I give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m wrong, I’ll be doubly shamed for being rejected and naïve.”

    It’s a really good book and can be applied in several different areas, but I thought it was fitting.

    I’d like a male perspective on this. (But anyone else could certainly chime in! :) )

    Brene Brown is all about vulnerability- about risking hurt to find connection. All the questions
    Do you think that contradicts what you guys are saying about putting down hard boundaries?
    I think women tend to want to connect and are more willing to be vulnerable, but you guys are saying that doesn’t lead you to respect or listening to your wives.

    Can you help me reconcile these two things?

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Its “Act 2” , not “Day 2”- sorry :)

      Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Linbo,

      I posted a quick Brene video on the other post I response.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        I’ve probably seen it.
        I imagine everyone is running low on soul coal (XTC reference, see what I did there?)
        I’ll just leave it alone.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You are a teller of dirty jokes!

        Well, well, well! You are full of surprises aren’t you?

        I have not doubt you tell great jokes in real life because you have some great ones here. The shit burger comment is a classic! ;). Made me laugh out loud the whole time I was reading.

        Regarding the Gottman joke, you did lot offend me at all. That whole thing was a bad combination of things. I shouldn’t have engaged at all because I was physically tired but I was practicing different commenting techniques so I thought I’d try to respond to her initial challenging “man-fail” one with a direct technique.

        Clearly not a good idea.

        And then it turned into a difficult one where I felt triggered by other things. And we had had other conversations earlier when I recommended a book and I think I responded to the difficult comments she made ok.

        But that was all in my mind during that conversation. My mistake was not recognizing how tired and triggered I was and just not commenting anymore.

        I should have taken the high road and not made that joke. But I say (defensively) there was a lot of stuff flung my way earlier in another post that I had responded nicely to so it was not a question of picking on a poor defensive conflict avoidant person.

        Clearly neither of us is in that category.

        But still no excuse. It was unkind and stupid and I’m sorry for writing it. And if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t have commented at all.

        Feel free to tell me if I make unkind remarks. I am trying to learn not to. To disagree but not to be unkind. I know I missed the mark in some of the C-section comments. I wish we had the ability to edit and delete here. :)

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Linbo,

      I think the Brene Brown video on the last post explains this well. I cannot be generous and believe the best unless I feel safe because I have good boundaries.

      I don’t allow others to serve me shit sandwiches so I can politely return the sandwich and say no thank you, I would like a burger. I can be polite instead of angry because I trust myself even if I don’t trust them.

      You know when I was talking on the last post when I was talking about my flowchart way of thinking? That is a crude substitute for boundaries. But it doesn’t allow me to be generous and give people the benefit of the doubt. Because I have learned to diagnosis when I’m being served shit sandwiches but not to feel safe enough yet to not be harsh.

      That’s why I am trying to learn boundaries so I can be generous and kind. I also don’t accept influence all the time, most especially when someone has an idea that I just think is flat out wrong (shocking I know).

      That is one of the areas I need to improve with my husband. He withdraws because he doesn’t have good boundaries to stand up to me when I don’t accept his framing of a problem.

      He had the unforgivable sin the other day of telling me he disagrees with Gottman!
      I cannot even hear this sacrilege!

      Actually we worked it out and it turns out he does agree with Gottman because come on if you think you disagree with Gottman, there’s a 99.99999% chance you’re wrong. :)

      Even if he really did though I would have to find a way to accept his different framing. My crude flowchart system doesn’t work well with that so I am trying to learn good boundaries.

      I only developed the black and white crude flowchart thing as a way to stay sane in my family environment. No boundaries there and lots of people telling me they don’t need to do reasonable, normal things like show up at the hospital. That’s why the moral flowchart thing is helpful to me.

      But I am angry when I use it because I don’t really feel safe.

      I can’t feel safe because it’s not a substitute for the real thing healthy people do. The combination of healthy boundaries that allow you to be generous and believe the best in people and accept influence.

      But it’s toxic to accept influence and be generous and believe the best without good boundaries. Because that leaves you defenseless against intentional or unintentional harm by the other person.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Yeah, I keep forgetting there is a balance. When you are emotionally driven, and lets face it- relationships are, at least personal relationships, then its really easy to get off balance. For me it has always been a desperate need to be liked, and accepted. Having boundaries feels counter intuitive, and even threatening. If I assert a boundary then I run the risk that they wont need me or like me. You learn to be “Blurry faced”- a little like Hilary Clinton, but maybe for different reasons. Youre willing to conform to other peoples expectations and serve their needs in order to fit in as best as you can. I’m not as bad as I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, but I am very ill practiced at knowing when I am being served a shit sandwich (I mean, I didn’t even know there was anything else for so long) and how to assert “I didn’t order that, I would like it returned with my burger in its place, thank you”.
        But, I’m working on it. You really have to have a strong sense of your priorities and expectations to have strong, consistent boundaries.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis said: “but when a woman is rejected because she’s not “hot” enough, or sexually active enough, or whatever shallow “primal brain” qualifier you want to pick, I doubt that makes her feel fundamentally less like a female (set me straight if I’m off target)”.

        Ok, obviously women respond differently to this.
        But in my opinion, this just cuts to the heart of it. For men, being a man, feeling like a man, being called a man is a compliment. Because men = better than women in patriarchal thinking. I get that it’s not always like that though, sometimes feeling like a man, or indeed feeling like a woman, can be sort of a deliscious feeling of being conscious of our gender and sexuality in a way that doesn’t degrade the other gender.

        But when a woman is rejected because she’s not hot enough, she may not feel less female. But she will feel without value, like she’s worthless. Because women in a patriarcah culture are assigned value based on their attractiveness to men. If a man rejects a woman because she isn’t educated enough, intelligent enough or Rich enough, I’m sure many women would be offended and hurt by this. But when it’s because she’s not attractive enough? That undercuts her worth as a person, because she’s mainly ascribed value based on hotness.

        I know many men value intelligence, maturity and competence, absolutely. But many women feel rejected by men, because they’re “too” intelligent and competent. If she’s “better” than him in these areas, it makes him feel less like man, because men are supposed to be better. If she isn’t attractive, and not just in a bone structure, age and body type way (though this very much emphasized) but in the way she performs (or doesn’t perform) femininity, nothing else she has to offer will matter at all. She’s been deemed worthless by the invisible patriarch/the one who’es opinion matters and is deemed the true one, and to degree that she has internalized this kind of value system (and honestly, who of us doesn’t internalize stuff like this to some degree?) she will feel worthless.

        Travis, I’m wondering abut what you say, that it’s worse for men when a woman questions his masculinity (why aren’t you athletic, why are you anxious etc) than when a man does it. Would you be willing to qualify this as many men and not all men?

        I’m thinking that said in a joking way, I can definitely see it being worse from a woman, because many men poke fun at their friends. But also, it seems like the man card thing is very dependent on other men. Like frat boy stuff. I’m sure it would hurt the typical frat boy if a pretty girl questioned his man card and rejected him because of it, but if his friends, his peer group, decided to ostracise him, because he doesn’t conform to their standard of masculinity? My guess is that would be way way worse. Isn’t that where a lot of atrocious behaviour stems from, conforming and adapting (to some degree at least) to the peer group’s norms so you can be accepted, no matter how shitty they are?

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “Though I’ve personally lucked out on the whole humour thing, I’ve made quite a few men romantically interested in me by being funny. It’s one of my go to let-me-try-to-charm-this-person-male-or-female skills. Though I’m guessing many have also found me unattractive because of it (assuming I passed the ‘test’ in other areas).”

        Screw that. Funny women rule! Some of the best memories of my relationship with my wife involve us trying to out-crack each other up.

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Linbo,

      Let me add a little male boundary action too.

      Part of healthy boundaries for men is to differentiate and detach from the need to constantly fear losing their man card.

      That is what keeps a lot of men from being able to be vulnerable or emotionally intelligent. it keeps them from showing empathy and accepting influence.

      It is difficult because of the constant real pressure he will get but that is part of good boundaries. Being secure in his own self worth and able to feel safe enough to respond generously when others joke about being a man-fail for showing emotions or checking with your wife or whatever.

      And also setting boundaries around tolerating that joking. It was one of the reasons I went off the rails a few weeks ago with that discussion around Deanna and Travis and I. I did not articulate it well because I was using my crude flowchart.

      The one place were man-fail language of any kind should not be tolerated in my humble opinion is on this blog. Not because Matt’s feeling would be hurt but because it is as offensive to men as slut shaming a woman and calling her a whore.

      It is not the individual’s feelings that matter so much as becoming intolerant as a culture one comment at time to language that tells our boys and men that vulnerability is coded female and you are a man-fail. Because that is why men don’t learn basic relationship skills and don’t read relationship books to improve their marriages.

      Because that is a big part of why we have stupid divorces.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        I think individual feelings matter. You have to know your feelings matter, and have your feelings respected in order to understand the importance of respecting others. This may not be the only thing a person needs to understand the importance of respecting others feelings, but it is an important part of it.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Linbo,

        Yes you’re right individual feelings matter. I didn’t phrase it very well.

        I meant that even if someone’s feeling weren’t hurt or bothered, it still matters to not allow it as a general effort to rid the man fail messages from the world.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa said,

        “Part of healthy boundaries for men is to differentiate and detach from the need to constantly fear losing their man card.”

        I can picture that as a reality if only other males were the sole societal force working against us but when a sizeable portion of females also holds us in contempt when we try to step outside the confines of our stereotype and embrace our more so-called feminine side, I just don’t ever see that becoming reality. This is an area where a lot of women have screwed it up for ALL women by sending males mixed messages that we’re insufferable, lunkheaded barbarians when we act according to stereotype and repellant, weakling girly-men when we don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Linbo says:

          I’ve seen a man vulnerable twice in my life (both before I was an adult) . I probably wouldn’t know how to respond.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Can you explain to me how women do that. I believe you I’m just trying to wrap my head around how wives might do that.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Oh, I see it all the time. “Man up!”, “Grow a pair!”, “Be a man!”, “God, you’re such a girl!”, “What are you? Gay?” I’ve encountered tons of women who say things like this to me and other less stereotypical guy-guys, sometimes playfully, sometimes with open disgust. My own wife has struggled with it before (as have I in return in my sometimes awkward attempts to acclimatize myself to her energy and presentational style, which I associate as “masculine”–told you we had a gender swap). The way many women want men to be seems to be the very definition of having their cake (a manly man) and eating it, too (a man who understands and relates to them like their girlfriends).

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Frankly, I don’t think we’d have the common stereotype of “women love bad boys” if men who exercised their muscles of emotional investment and accepting influence were what they really hungered for.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        I am thinking about this. I know you must be right because Brene Brown talks about her research that some women don’t want to let their husbands be weak because it frightens them. It’s more about the women’s lack of maturity than the men in this case.

        They want their husband’s to stay emotionally strong so she can fall apart if she needs to. It’s obviously not healthy, definitely a childlike immaturity. Isn’t that the passage of childhood, when you realize that mommy and daddy are just flawed humans and can’t fix everything?

        These women didn’t get that message and just substitute their husbands in that role.
        That is one of the unrealistic expectations that women bring to the table partly based on romance novels or movies. That he should be responsible and willing to externally regulate my emotions.

        It’s not fair to expect that. You should help each other but an adult needs to be able to regulate their own emotions.

        I can’t imagine myself ever wanting my husband to need to be invulnerable so I don’t relate to that.

        And you’re right that man-up language is used by women all the time. Definitely not good.

        I have to say that I don’t have a lot of experience with those types of women except very casually. We did have one neighbor who considered herself a jock that used to ride John about him not being an athlete, like that was a necessary sign of manhood. The funny thing was she was just incorrectly assuming that because he is indeed good at sports.

        One of the things I love about John is that he just doesn’t care about stuff like that. He didn’t even bother to correct her. He doesn’t care about man-up or man-fail messages.

        Partly because he’s secure in himself and I think partly because its easier when you’re avoidant. I guess being avoidant has its advantages.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        You said. “Frankly, I don’t think we’d have the common stereotype of “women love bad boys” if men who exercised their muscles of emotional investment and accepting influence were what they really hungered for.”

        Drew and I had a discussion on his blog recently about Nice Guy Syndrome and its relationship to the stereotype of women loving bad boys.

        I think women don’t like bad boys as much as men think they do.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Linbo,

        You said: “I’ve seen a man vulnerable twice in my life (both before I was an adult) . I probably wouldn’t know how to respond.”

        Curious what you mean when you say you saw a man vulnerable? You mean crying?

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Linbo
        “Yes. Is that a pretty shallow definition of vulnerable?”

        No, it’s a powerful marker for vulnerabilty. That’s why we from a very young age overtly train boys not to cry.

        I’m just surprised you have not seen more men cry in context of your job as a nurse.

        I remember reading about experiments where a woman was crying in a public place and several people stopped as asked if she was ok.

        Then they repeated it with a man and no one stopped, they even looked away.

        It’s all so horribly depressing the messages we give men to not be allowed to express a full range of human emotions.

        That why depression in men can look like rage
        Or men turn to alcohol as another example. But you know more about that stuff then I do.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Another thing I’ve never heard, but am fascinated by.

          I’m going to send myself a note to look that up.

          This is all part of that whole Death of Manhood thing.

          I think MANY shitty husband problems begin there. Most are universally human. But many are undoubtedly male.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Lisa said,

        “Drew and I had a discussion on his blog recently about Nice Guy Syndrome and its relationship to the stereotype of women loving bad boys.

        I think women don’t like bad boys as much as men think they do.”

        I’m not sure if you and Drew have actual data to back up that claim, but in my admittedly anecdotal experience, I don’t think the number of these types of women are inconsiderable. In fact, they pretty much defined my initial decade of entering the world of dating. Whether it’s the bad boy or the strong, silent type, the messaging I constantly see in both the media and real life is that those are the types of men that get women’s pulses running. Men who actually communicate, who cry, who are vulnerable, who stay in touch with their emotions, tend to make women feel awkward at best, repelled at worse. I’m sure much of what you talked about with “primal thinking” applies. There may also be a regional factor at play here, I don’t know. I’m from Oklahoma and I can tell you ladies in the South like ’em rugged. They want warriors, not poets.

        But whatever the reasons, I want to reiterate that women threatening our man cards does far more damage than other men doing it. I learned early in my youth that I really liked who I was. I liked being me. I felt comfortable in my own skin. So when I constantly had to suffer the slings and arrows of fellows boys and young men taunting me as a sissy, or “queer” (mostly because of my distaste for sports–I can’t even tell you how much it enrages me to this day that this whole country ties so much of the definition of masculinity up with an assumed interest in sports), it was relatively easy to shrug them off. I actually often felt like I had secret knowledge that they didn’t, that I was more evolved and fully engaged with the totality of what it means to be a human being than they were. I had risen above the stereotype. But as I’ve said before, for most heterosexual men, women represent our Achilles heel. We can fight wars, endure great strife, move mountains, level cities, shape and reshape the planet, or even leave it altogether, but the negative opinion of a woman leaves us as exposed and weak and as slug. When a woman mocks a man for not liking sports or yard work, or for not knowing how to fix a leaky faucet or a broken car, or for preferring to take the high road and walk away than defending one honor by fist fighting with another man, or for (hardest of all) expressing any emotion that indicates he’s not indestructible, yeah, you can forget that guy feeling safe and encouraged to surrender his man card.

        Liked by 1 person

        • linbo says:

          This is very enlightening, I always thought it was the man who wanted to be a super hero.
          I think in our current society women want a warrior poet. A David.
          But, men want the best of both worlds,too- someone soft and pretty, and totally independent, strong and capable.
          Do you think that what we are asking from each other is really the same thing? – Just to be able to express their full capacity as a human being?
          Is that really lofty and abstract?

          Liked by 1 person

      • Travis B. says:

        Linbo asked,

        “Do you think that what we are asking from each other is really the same thing? – Just to be able to express their full capacity as a human being?”

        To be honest, though it’s a compelling thought, no, I don’t think that’s it, at least not exactly. Because we’re talking about characteristics that are not inherently compatible. We’re talking about yin and yang. I can’t be a rugged badass while simultaneously being soft and vulnerable. You can’t be a damsel in distress while simultaneously strong and capable. I think what we want is the opposite gender to be yang when it’s convenient for us, and then be able to switch on the fly to yin when it’s convenient for us. We want our cake and to eat it, too. And it’s not realistic whatsoever. If women’s primal brain wants the Marlboro man and men’s primal brain wants Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson, it’s gonna take a long time for both genders to get to the point where they realize how unsatisfying that is, and that maybe what’s most fulfilling is someone who isn’t an island unto himself, someone who can stand on her own two feet. But in the intervening decades, us less stereotypical men are going to be clinging to the tatters of their ruined man card ever more tightly and feeling ever more mounting shame.

        Like

        • anitvan says:

          I can’t speak for all wives, but for me, it’s not so much that I want my husband to switch from Marlboro Man to Mushy Man on demand, it’s more like I wish he was able to *integrate* the two aspects.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Linbo said,

        “I always thought it was the man who wanted to be a super hero.”

        I don’t think you’re wrong about that. I think what many privately suffering men want, though, is for our willingness to be vulnerable to be perceived by the world as a strength, not a weakness. We want to be held less accountable to being an invulnerable Superman and instead allowed to be a little more broken, like a Batman; a little more heart on our sleeve, like a Spider-Man. We just want the world to work with us on redefining what true “manly” strength really looks like. Can it only be found in the hardness and immobility of the oak tree, or can it also be seen in the flexibility and withstanding of the willow tree?

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        Terry Real’s book I Just Don’t Want To Talk About It is quite fascinating about men and vulnerability and depression. It’s really a story telling book about his own life and his relationship with his invulnerable father.

        How he had to learn to be vulnerable and the messages about man fails that make it very difficult for men. It factors into marriage directly because being invulnerable is incompatible with true intimacy.

        Here a little summary of some of the main ideas because I know your queue is long.

        “It’s not a book just for men who feel they’re depressed. In fact, one of the strongest points in the book is that “overt” or “clinical” depression is only the tip of the iceberg.

        Terry Real asserts that depression is often overlooked and misunderstood to men He disputes the conventional wisdom that the rate of depression in women is two to four times the rate of men.

        Depression is experienced and expressed differently in men and women.

        Depressed men don’t reach out for help in the same way that women do. Too often, men are reluctant to be too expressive of their feelings or too openly vulnerable.

        Depression is seen as unmanly and shameful. It carries a double stigma for men — that of a mental illness as well as femininity.

        The depression that we most often see—or fail to see—in men is what Terry calls “covert” rather than “overt” depression. Where do we see this covert depression? In self medication, isolation and lashing out.

        Self-medication may be drinking, drugging, womanizing and even watching excessive amounts of television.

        Terry points out that some forms of self medication are tolerated by our culture so it is hard to get across that what these men are doing is stabilizing depression.

        Lashing out can mean violence and domestic abuse. Untreated depression may be an integral part of many male batterers.

        Terry’s explanation for isolation is interesting. He sees depression as a problem of intimacy and relationship—intimacy and relationship with one’s self.

        Because he is desperately trying not to be intimate with himself he can’t afford to be intimate with others.

        So he isolates himself and withdraw from intimacy with his partner, his kids, his friends.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Travis,
        I am finding it hard to believe that there are so many women who say such sexist things (and mean it). I hardly ever hear that. I do know that some women have countered sexism towards women with being sexist towards men (objectifying them), and so may say things like that in a tit for tat sort of way (So to speak), or as a way to empower themselves. But it misses the point. Its a case of two wrongs don’t make a right. I think both sexes should be respected as human beings.
        I still think it is true that men may hold on to their man card out of the perceived threat that women will reject them, but I wonder if it is more of a perceived threat. I haven’t actually read any research by Brene Brown (who did mention it in one of her Ted talks) that actually unpacked this.
        Is it a real threat or a perceived one?
        Maybe what women are taught, as has been described previously, is to protect a mans dignity. (to let him save face, ect. ). Its our way of fulfilling our role in protecting the man’s ego- what if you guys are reading our desire to preserve your dignity as a need for us to have your dignity preserved?
        So, what if this is some kind of horrific decades old mis-communication?
        I’m just throwing that out there.
        I’m going to go check out the university library and see if there is any research about this.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        anitvan said,

        “I can’t speak for all wives, but for me, it’s not so much that I want my husband to switch from Marlboro Man to Mushy Man on demand, it’s more like I wish he was able to *integrate* the two aspects.”

        Sure thing. When you women can integrate Cinderella with Marvel’s Black Widow, we’ll use that as our template. ;-)

        How do you integrate two versions of men that I would argue are fundamentally incompatible?

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Ok- I have the answer!
          Lol- not really.
          I’m not seeing a lot of research specifically about women’s effect on male vulnerability. But, I did find a really great article about masculinity changing to meet “non-emphasized” femininity (meaning not following stereo typical gender role). The article does have a lot of nuances related to what we were talking about. All in all, I think that we (humans/society) are in a transitional period that is moving in the direction of understanding one another…but, we are not there yet. ..
          I am about to copy and paste the first 5 pages of the study (please forgive me)- It’s a PDF so I cant link it, and going to the HTML address wont benefit anyone unless you want to pay to have access to the article.
          You dont have to read if you’re not that interested, but you will have to scroll down, so for this I apologize!!!
          Young Mens Vulnerabilities in Relation to Womens Resistance to Emphasized Femininity : Neill Korobov 2011
          Over the last couple of decades, research within the new psychology of men’s studies has revealed that traditional forms of masculinity may pose significant risks to men’s psychological and physical health (Kimmel and Messner 1992; Levant and Pollock 1995). Certain male problems, such as aggression, violence, homophobia, sexism, detached fathering, hypersexuality, and neglect of health, have been shown to be significantly related to men’s internalization of traditional masculine gender roles (Levant and Pollock 1995). These findings represented a historical shift in conceptualizations about ‘‘men’s vulnerability.’’ During the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1970s and early 1980s, men were thought to be vulnerable to and wounded by a kind of soft masculinity; men were thus encouraged to reclaim a wilder, more muscular masculine authenticity (for a review, see Kimmel 1995). As a more feminist-inspired, new psychology of men’s research gained traction in the early 1990s, notions of ‘‘men’s vulnerability’’ also shifted. Research began to examine the ways that men are vulnerable not to soft masculinity but to the effects of traditional and restrictive masculinities.
          As a result, there has amassed a rich vein of research that has focused on the ways that various groups of men may become vulnerable within contexts where restrictive emotionality, competitiveness, achievement, antifemininity, sexual virility, homophobia, and self-reliance are normative (see Holland et al 1994, 1998; Hyde et al 2008; Kimmel 2003, 2009). For groups of men who conform to restrictive masculinities, research has shown that they may become vulnerable to the costs of such conformity, which may include sexual disease, depression, substance abuse, physical health problems, addiction, alexithymia, and body dysmorphia (see Frosh, Phoenix, and Pattman 2002; Mac an Ghaill 1994). Programs have thus emerged that help men avoid these costs by encouraging emotional disclosures and expressivity and discouraging risky sexual behavior and physical violence (see Izugbara 2008; Spencer 2007). For groups of men who do not conform enough to restrictive masculinities, research has shown that these men are vulnerable to ostracism, teasing, and even physical harm for failing to live up to traditional masculine standards. Consonant among these strands of research is an approach to men’s vulnerability that is centrally conceptualized in relation to hegemonic masculinity, that is, in terms of the vulnerability of conforming too much (the collateral costs) or the vulnerability of nonconformity in environments tightly governed by hegemonic masculinity norms.

          Men’s Vulnerability in Relation to Emphasized Femininity
          Conspicuously absent in the empirical literature is research exploring men’s vulnerability in relation to dominant and traditional models of femininity or in relation to what Connell (1987) has called ‘‘emphasized femininity’’ that refers to a range of traditional femininity norms that encourage women to accommodate men’s desires for sex, attractive female bodies, power, and control. Broadly, traditional or ‘‘emphasized femininity’’ norms encourage female passivity, compliance with men’s sexual advances, an unremitting desire to have a romantic partner, a pressure to be sentimental and emotionally committed and caring, a pressure to attract the gaze of men, and a pressure to manufacture romantic feelings and mitigate unhappiness or abuse (see Bartky 1990; Fine 1988; Korobov and Thorne 2009; Lawes 1999; Phillips 2000; Tolman 2002). Since masculinity is inextricably defined in relation to femininity (Connell 1987; Cornish 1999; Gough 2001; Holland et al. 1994), men’s achievement of masculinity is intimately dependent on, and vulnerable to, women’s complicity with emphasized femininity.
          Conceptualizing men’s vulnerability in relation to emphasized femininity requires a focus on the ways men become vulnerable in relationship with women who resist emphasized femininity. When women resist the proscriptions of emphasized femininity, men are placed in a vulnerable position, since men often measure their masculinity against women’s acquiescence to traditional femininity (Tolman 2002; Ussher 1997). When women resist emphasized femininity, their sexuality and the material reality of their bodies and desires constitute a potential threat to conventional masculinity. Men become increasingly vulnerable as restrictive femininity dissolves and women’s embodiment of multiple femininities expands. As women conform less to the stereotypical cultural notions of emphasized femininity, men must negotiate the dilemma of incorporating women’s resistance into their masculine identity projects.
          While there is a rich tradition of feminist research on women’s resistance to emphasized femininity (e.g., Herridge, Shaw, and Mannell 2003; Leahy 1994; Tolman 2002; Wilkins 2004), as well as a range of theoretical discussion concerning the ways women’s resistance to traditional femininity norms places men in a vulnerable position (Cornish 1999; Holland et al. 1994; Seidler 1989, Ussher 1997), there is exceptionally little empirical research that examines how men negotiate their masculinity while partnered with women who resist emphasized femininity. In one apposite study exploring young men’s vulnerability to women’s sexuality, Janet Holland and colleagues (1994) found that when in relationship with sexually experienced or ‘‘knowing females,’’ young men would mitigate their vulnerability by telling ‘‘performance stories’’ that featured boasts and even lies to firm up their own sexual experience and prowess, or else they would denigrate the sexually experienced woman by objectifying her, dismissing her, or by attributing negative attributes to her (see also, Hyde et al. 2008). In short, the young men managed women’s resistance to emphasized femininity by ratcheting up traditional masculine bravado and sexism.

          Managing Vulnerability through Ordinariness
          Although this male response is stereotypical and thus unsurprising, there is growing evidence that suggests that this traditionally ‘‘macho’’ or ‘‘heroic’’ masculine position may now exist in a synergistic relationship with a knowingly antimacho and antiheroic position of ‘‘ordinariness,’’ particularly for young adult men in Western cultures. Evidence for this derives from two sources. First, critical-gender research on media depictions of masculinity has revealed the popularity of the lovable-loser everyman who continually tries but fails to emulate the sensitive and domesticated ‘‘new man.’’ These depictions are legion in men’s lifestyle magazines, particularly in sections devoted to lifestyle advice (Benwell 2002). They are also a chief staple in television sitcoms where men are portrayed as hapless, yet affable dads and boyfriends who appear befuddled in relational situations with women (Benwell 2002; Brayton 2007; Messner and Montez de Oca 2005). There are also series such as MTV’s ‘‘Jackass,’’ where failure and bodily injury continually lampoon heroic masculinity (Brayton 2007). The ‘‘white-guy-as-loser’’ trope is ubiquitous in beer commercials (Messner and Montez de Oca 2005), such as Bud Light’s eminently successful ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ ad campaign. Central to these media depictions are failed versions of hegemonic masculinity. What now appears heroic is the ‘‘average-Joe’’ who is routinely humiliated, not simply because he pursues women ‘‘out of his league,’’ but because he is unapologetically self-accepting about his inability to accommodate women’s increasingly higher expectations when it comes to the emotional maturity and sensitivity expected of male partners.
          A second vein of research derives from critical-gender explorations of men’s everyday lives. A range of studies have begun to chart the ways that young men are adept at resisting heroic and macho forms of masculinity, often with irony, playfulness, nonchalance, or self-effacing candor (see Allen 2007; Benwell 2002; Brayton 2007; Messner and Montez de Oca 2005; Korobov 2005, 2006; Korobov and Thorne 2006, 2007). In remarking on the ‘‘generous nonchalance’’ in heterosexual collegeaged men’s stories about heterosexual breakups, Gilmartin (2007) and Allen (2007) have reported how men appear invested and caring, but in ways that are casual, retractable, and easily jettisoned. In two similar studies, Korobov and Thorne (2006, 2007) identified that young men would openly display vulnerability in talking about romantic problems but would playfully mitigate the seriousness of such problems so as to appear nonchalant and at times mildly amused by their own and each other’s troubles. The common thread in these studies is that the heroic and macho response may no longer be the only male response to women’s subversion of emphasized femininity. Instead, young men may manage their vulnerability to women’s resistance by practicing ordinariness—that is, an antiheroic and antimacho everyman form of nonchalant masculinity. These newer and more contemporary strategies for accommodating women’s resistance are the focus of the current study.

          Emerging Adulthood
          Men’s vulnerability to women’s resistance of emphasized femininity may be especially salient and developmentally meaningful for young men during the emerging adult years. Research suggests that emerging adulthood is a time not only when young women begin to resist emphasized femininity norms (Korobov and Thorne 2009; Tolman 2002), but that it is also a period when young men’s intimacy practices begin to expand, possibly so as to be able to cope with the erosion of traditional gender roles and the impracticality of using stereotypical seduction scripts in reallife intimate relationships (Korobov and Thorne 2006; Tolman et al. 2004; Way and Chu 2004). It is thus during the emerging adult years that young men are likely to begin to experience unique vulnerabilities as an effect of being in more serious, nonparentally regulated, and protracted romantic relationship with women who are themselves beginning to experiment with resistance to traditional femininity norms.
          The purpose of this study is to examine emerging adult men’s vulnerabilities in relation to emphasized femininity. How do young men negotiate the vulnerability of their female partner’s resistance to emphasize femininity norms? And how is the negotiation of such vulnerabilities, particularly during the flux years of emerging adulthood, part of the project of achieving masculinity? Of particular interest is the extent to which negotiations of vulnerability reflect more contemporary forms of nonheroic and ordinary masculinity as opposed to more traditional displays of machismo, seduction, and bravado. Insights into the nature of men’s vulnerability in relation to women’s experience of emphasized femininity may helpfully expand theoretical models of ‘‘men’s pain,’’ models that continue to pivot predominantly around hegemonic masculinity. What is needed are theoretical models capable of offering a broader and more relationally nuanced conceptualization of men’s vulnerability as an artifact of an evolving engagement not simply with feminism and feminist critique in the abstract, but with the ways feminist-inspired resistance is concretely lived and expressed in actual women’s lives.

          Like

        • anitvan says:

          Travis – “How do you integrate two versions of men…that are fundamentally different?”

          ARE they fundamentally different? I mean, they’re both you, aren’t they?

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Linbo said,

        “I am finding it hard to believe that there are so many women who say such sexist things”

        I can only speak to my personal experience, and what the media presents. Andie chose Blaine over Duckie. Sandy chose Danny. Catherine Zeta-Jones chose to pursue a life chasing shit men over taking a chance on good guy Tom Hanks (THE TERMINAL, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, the only Spielberg film I flirt with outright hating due to its atrocious ending). Show me one prom queen who prefers a member of the chess club or drama club to stand at her side on stage over the star of the football team. The writing’s been on the walls for centuries–women say they want sensitive men, but they pursue the very counter to it. It’s like the recent conversation here about “the grass being greener on the other side of the fence” because we only see the negatives with what we have and the positives with what we don’t, failing to recall the positives with what we have or recognize the negatives that surely come with what we don’t. Not realizing that, to have a positive we don’t get with our current spouse, we have to give up a positive we do have with them, or that to rid ourselves of one of our spouse’s negatives, we have to take on a new person’s negative. Women don’t want to deal with the fact that, the more sensitive and vulnerable we are, the less “island to ourselves”, “strong, silent type” we can be. As with all things, I’m sure you can produce plenty of examples where women find the less stereotypical man more compelling but the fact that I’d be able to meet each of those examples with a counter example means it’s a very real problem.

        “I still think it is true that men may hold on to their man card out of the perceived threat that women will reject them, but I wonder if it is more of a perceived threat. Is it a real threat or a perceived one? Maybe what women are taught, as has been described previously, is to protect a mans dignity. (to let him save face, etc.). It’s our way of fulfilling our role in protecting the man’s ego- what if you guys are reading our desire to preserve your dignity as a need for us to have your dignity preserved? So, what if this is some kind of horrific decades old mis-communication?”

        Who knows? It’s an interesting hypothesis. I don’t wish to presume women’s part in this. All I know is that if they really loathe the man card, they need to become the forerunners of not tolerating, or participating in, shaming men who don’t align with the stereotype. A man tells me I’m not real man? Eff him. He holds no more authority than me to determine what a “real man” should look, talk or act like, as far as I’m concerned. But a woman tells me (or demonstrates to me) that I’m unattractive or unwanted because I’m not a stereotypical guy’s guy? That wound cuts deep, especially when they continue to show a disconnect between what they say they want from men and what they routinely pursue.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        I found a shit-ton of stuff about this on the internet just now, including a fair amount of scientific studies that support my assertion that women are repelled by men who display the very same “nice, sweet, sensitive, vulnerable” characteristics they say they want in us.

        This article written by a woman was an interesting (and aggravating as hell) primer on the conundrum: http://elitedaily.com/dating/science-women-nice-guys/1000116/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Travis, I always loved Ducky. …But that is Hollywood, stories contrived to push your emotional buttons (the way all good stories do.) I will read your article. I’m not arguing, per-se, I’m just saying that maybe there is a middle. I dont want to be partnered with a complete basketcase, or someone who cant take responsibility when needed, (what some may call a wimp or wuss, or whatever.) either. But how much of that is emotional maturity (as someone mentioned) vs. gender specific traits. I wouldnt want to hang out with a girl who was like that, either.
        I just posted a hella long post about current manhood.
        I dont think the question should be about women needing to pick what they want. I think, as the article eludes to and demonstrates, that women were tired of being socially subservient and so made a lot of efforts to change that. Since then, men have adapted to that change. It isnt neccessarily in the most positive ways.
        The end of the article makes a statement about the need for “… a broader and more relationally nuanced conceptualization of men’s vulnerability as an artifact ( Read : object …Linbo’s words) of an evolving engagement not simply with feminism and feminist critique in the abstract, but with the ways feminist-inspired resistance is concretely lived and expressed in actual women’s lives.”
        The “rebellion” wasnt against you guys individually, but against the way society constrained us. I think we are working our way back into learning to relate to one another that isnt so destructive to either sex.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, I’m so sorry you were shamed, by both women and men, for not conforming to what they believed a man should be. I definitely believe there is a significant amount of women who act and think like this (though I do not consider myself to be one of them, though I’m absolutely sure I still have some harmful conditioning left in these areas).

        Linbo, the research you posted (haven’t read all of it as of now, tired brain) is extremely interesting and precise (from what I’ve seen)! What an excellent find, thank you for sharing! :D
        Men’s vulnerabilities when they face women who resist the more narrow and traditional definitions of femininity (again, I count myself among those women, though I do conform in many ways), and men’s vulnerabilities when they face women who conform to traditional femininity. Wow, this is fascinating!

        I read something similar, I believe written by a man. He mentioned often seen advice that encourages women to behave, kind of helpless, less capeable than they are, deferring to the man, not just being vulnerable but treating the man as the boss, pretending to be incapeable as to get him to do something. I’m sorry I can’t be more precise now, maybe I’m remembering it somewhat or quite wrongly. I’m sure this can be effective on and flattering to men who are identified with a more traditional form masculinity, or indeed effective on the part of men that at least feel pressure to conform to this kind of masculinity.

        His point was that (from what I remember and I’m paraphrising) this can put a man under a lot of pressure, too much pressure. If she’s incapeable, he has to step up, he has to take charge, he has to be the strong one, always. If someone behaves like they’re not capeable of taking care of themselves, it does put other people under a lot of pressure to take care of them, even if it may flatter the traditional maculinity in them.

        To be clear, I’m not saying I think there’s anything wrong with the man being more capeable and taking more charge in some areas! But just like many women complain about being the one who has to be the capeable one, the initiatior, the competent one and the one in charge of everything in the home and with the kids and with the budget, obviously men can get exhausted from having the be the strong and capeable one too much of the time aswell. I’m all for sharing the burden of responsibility. :)

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Well, I can totally grant that a whiny, meek, needy, milquetoast man wouldn’t be appealing to anyone. That kind of personality has issues that go well beyond reconceptualizing masculinity norms. But I stand by the fact that, if most women had a sports loving, car fixing, home repairing, lawn caring, stereotypical “island unto himself”, “strong, silent type” manly man warrior on her left and a sensitive, vulnerable, emotionally open, tenderness giving, feelings processing, quick to be wounded poet on her right, the man on her left would infuriate her and the one on the right would repel her. It’s a narrow tightrope walk to try to bridge the yin and the yang of these two types of males. In my case, I think I’ve been able to tow the line relatively successfully because a) most women seem to respond to my sense of humor (one of the very few characteristics befitting of either the warrior or the poet), b) I carry myself with a certain confidence and appear very comfortable in my own skin (i.e. I like myself) and, in an extension of that, c) I am honest and true to myself (i.e. I’m very ‘what you see is what you get’, and don’t alter myself for the outside world’s acceptance), d) I’m intelligent and e) I think women feel safe with my emotional temperament. I’m able to bring enough of the characteristics that women respond to to the table to appeal to a certain subsection of them (and thankfully my wife is one of them, hopefully ending my mate search forevermore), but my personal history is littered with women I found attractive who, in spite of these virtues, and due to my lack of more stereotypical “warrior” type qualities, viewed me as a girlfriend in a male body, not actually representative of attractive, uniquely masculine aspects. I have spent my life comfortable enough to, more often than not, not struggle to hold onto a man card I neither wanted nor ever believed much in, and just put myself out in the world and trust I would be appealing to someone I found mutually appealing, because there’s very little that I find as viscerally unappealing as not being true to myself, but the world is stuffed with men, of both the warrior and poet types, who really feel cut adrift in a new world where they can’t be both types of men at once, but where women won’t be satisfied unless they are. All the generations of men raised by strong male figures beget the men who weren’t emotionally available enough. Now we have a generation or two of men raised solely by women and it beget men who are too emotionally available. I know it’s tough being a woman but, ladies, there’s some stuff about being a man that’s hard as hell, too. B

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          All I can say is that hearing your perspective will make me more aware when I am interacting with the opposite sex. I always hope to be open to who the person in front of me is, and not put expectations on them. If that is a romantic partner (which may or may not ever happen ) then I hope to be just as accepting and open to whoever he is. (Unless I need him to step up then I’ll boundary the shit out of him! :)
          But, by the way- just so you know, my date the other night was the rugged type- he kind of looked like Tommy Lee Jones with his beard. Which was attractive, but I don’t think there is going to be a second date. And it didn’t really have anything to do with his masculinity, it had more to do with relatable-ness. So, there : P! Lol. :)

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey, oh that’s spot on, yes! My ex, the biological mother of my children, was a prime example of this sort of “damsel in distress” type, and I admittedly strongly responded to it initially. I totally cop to the fact that it triggered something in me that made me feel like I’d found an avenue into being more masculine and manly. But you’re quite right: over time, I really began to resent always having “helm the ship” (while at the same time being paradoxically manipulated by her stereotypical “man fixing”–you’re not capable of doing anything on your own and are terrified of the big bad world outside your door, but you’re capable enough to think you can mold me into something you find more appealing???) and ultimately came to hold her in contempt as someone useless and meek and dependent. I’ve gone through a 180 from that experience and now find those sorts of qualities in women rather unsavory and not at all attractive. But now, as a result, the struggle I sometimes find myself in is trying to understand, with an intelligent, capable and powerful “warrior” woman now in my life, what use do I even serve for her?

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Travis,
        Be her partner and her friend. That is what many want (period).
        ..And that can be a fun job, too, right? :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, I hope the very interesting excerpt Linbo posted helps you believe there isn’t just one kind of woman, (the Marlboro man loving kind) around. :p I promise you there isn’t! My friend’s husband cried way more than my (female) friend at their wedding, I thought it was very sweet, lost no respect for him. :) I also believe he likes shows like Grey’s Anatomy (who knows, maybe he even likes Beyonce?), and I think it’s fabulous they can enjoy that together. No fights over the remote control! But again, I must definitely admit to some remaining conditioning here.

        It goes both ways though. If most men:

        1. Were readily willing to accept a woman’s influence without her having to walk on egg shells around his ego?
        2. Initiated and were responsible for half the house/family stuff?
        3. Didn’t give a damn if his mate wore the same kinds of clothes and shoes and hairstyle and underwear as him, all day every day? Or if she’s as tall as and as heavy as him?
        4. Did not lust after the young and hot thing in attractive clothing, shaved legs and no visible gray hairs?
        5. Would not mind at all if she was more stereotypical successful than him in her career?
        6. Would welcome a woman who has had many sexual partners?

        I think womens dating behaiours and attraction patterns would change too.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey, oh, I know! I’m married to one (though I think in her all-too-human moments of hedonistic adaptation, she occasionally allows herself to long for Mr. Burly Asshole a little more than usual, LOL!), and I’ve had my fair share of relationships prior. I just mean to speak to the larger issues that complicate men easily surrendering their man card, using some personal experience for illustrative purpose in the same manner as Matt does, with a particular highlight on an element I think is dangerously overlooked–the role women play in encouraging men to keep holding tightly to their man cards. In terms of the list you provided, just as an exercise in self-accountability…

        1. Were readily willing to accept a woman’s influence without her having to walk on egg shells around his ego? “I’ve made massive strides in this area over the last half-year and hope to never allow that muscle to atrophy again. The end of 2015 was a watershed moment of discovering how important this is, and how blind to it I’d allowed myself to be.”
        2. Initiated and were responsible for half the house/family stuff? “To be honest, at this point, I’m well above 50% on this point, because she regularly travels for her job. I’ve discovered that, in order for her to relax and be at peace, her environment needs much more of a degree of tidiness and orderliness than I do; I’m trying my very best to always proactively provide that for her.”
        3. Didn’t give a damn if his mate wore the same kinds of clothes and shoes and hairstyle and underwear as him, all day every day? Or if she’s as tall as and as heavy as him? “Hmm, that would be a little odd, admittedly, because I am attracted to a ‘feminine’ look, but I don’t see it being a deal breaker. In my case, though, it’s ultimately a non-issue, since my wife enjoys wearing a ‘feminine’ look. Actually, as far as height is concerned, she’s the one that struggles on that point. She is only two inches shorter than me (5’8″ vs. 5’10.5”), so she feels awkward wearing high heels around me, because it causes her to be taller than me. I find that a crushing shame because (“typical chauvinistic male” alert) I find a woman in high heels outrageously sexy.”
        4. Did not lust after the young and hot thing in attractive clothing, shaved legs and no visible gray hairs? “There are sexy women at any age, and gray hair doesn’t have to be a turn-off, but (chauvinism alert again) I have to admit that hairy legs on women, personally, is (unfairly, I fully concede) a major turn-off, but my wife has given me enough “tough titty, pal!” about it that I have had to come to terms with the fact that waxed supermodel legs are just another dream that will have to be left unfulfilled, like being the next Steven Spielberg, or getting to walk on the Moon. I will say that I believe both genders tend to suffer from a sense that presentational upkeep is no longer necessary once you’ve snagged a partner, but I call bullshit on that. If putting your best appearance forward seemed necessary during dating, it should be doubly true for marriage. Never stop dating your spouse, I say!”
        5. Would not mind at all if she was more stereotypical successful than him in her career? “My wife currently makes more than $5,000 above my salary with less formal education than I’ve had. Honestly doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m effusively proud of what she’s accomplished and, hell, it all goes into the same household budget anyway, right? I don’t judge masculinity or self-worth through an employment lens, and if I could afford to never work again, I happily wouldn’t.”
        6. Would welcome a woman who has had many sexual partners? “My wife has a much more extensive sexual background than me. It made me feel awkward, uncomfortable and insufficient at first, I will admit, but it was ultimately pretty easy to get past because she’s the woman I love. The journey she took in her life is the road that brought her to me and the bittersweet reality is that, had she not encountered her fair share of assholes and pieces of human shit along that road, she may not have ever reached the point where she could recognize that a guy like me represented a better match for her heart’s desire.”

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the damsel in distress thing. Thanks to what Linbo posted (even though I still haven’t read it all), and your experience, things are making so much more sense in my head! Wheeeeee!!!

        We are complex beings. One part may be flattered by playing the hero, another may feel disgust at a grown adult playing games or not being more capeable. One part of a woman might be happy her man looks at her throwing her hands in the air and then goes to take care of the plugged shower drain. Another part may feel disgust at him that he buys her act. She may also feel disgust at herself for positioning herself as incapeable when, from all the life complex life challenges she’s faced, she’s pretty sure she could figure out how to deal with this.

        I definitely recognize a lot of similar things as you describe Travis. I actually spent a lot of time writing a response where I fessed up some similar experiences from my own life, but I couldn’t do it in relevant/sharp enough/appropriate way. 8) So this is just to say again, thank you, and I relate.

        Linbo, thank you again! :D I’m quite impressed with your boundaries regarding dating. I’ve definitely experienced in my own life (way more than I like, ugh) the feeling of being desperate for attention/approval/affection so I’ll accept getting hardly any from the man I was seeing (genders could be reversed). :p That you’re unwilling to do this means you’ve come a long way in your healing, I believe! Yey!

        Like Marilyn Sims says, kudos and kisses to all.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        anitvan said,

        “Travis – “How do you integrate two versions of men…that are fundamentally different?”

        ARE they fundamentally different? I mean, they’re both you, aren’t they?”

        I don’t see proof that I have anything but the most meager filigree of Marlboro Man in me (see, I can’t even use masculine words, I gotta say things like “filigree”!). I hate sports. I hate hunting. I hate wrestling, MMA and all that violent caveman shit. I hate home repair. I hate car repair. I hate tinkering on shit. I hate lawn care. I hate camping. I hate video games. I hate most forms of competition (save for a good round of trivia!). I hate the surface-level one-upmanship of male friendships. I even hate facial hair (at least on myself…and lumberjack beards on everyone!)

        I like talking about emotions. I like exploring ways to better serve my wife’s needs with you good people. I like to read things which concern themselves with the human condition. I like music that stirs my soul, where the singer sounds like he’s vomiting up his very soul (I’m lookin’ at you, Bono!). I like movies that make me feel like my heart’s caving in (two of my all-time favorite films are TITANIC–because of the romance, not the mayhem and destruction–and THE NOTEBOOK). I like laughter. I like loving and feeling loved. I like romance. I like feeling deeply. I look at Marlboro Men and think a) I could never be you and b) I’m sure I’d never want to be.

        Like

        • anitvan says:

          Travis:

          We may have different ideas of what constitutes Marlboro Man, lol.

          See, based on your description, I married you! You just described my husband to a T. But I wouldn’t consider my husband to be unmanly AT ALL.

          My husband has a very HIGH conception of what it is to be a man. He sets very high ideals for himself as a husband and he strives to live by them. His philosophy to being a husband can be summed up as this: “If a sacrifice must be made, it is the husband who must make it.”

          Living up to that ain’t easy. As great as he can be, he screws up all the time! That’s when it would be nice for the integration to kick in. He feels pretty bad when he screws up and that’s when he kinda hides behind his man-card. He still has trouble making himself vulnerable to me, admitting his true feelings to me when he’s feeling ashamed about something.

          To me, Marlboro Man is just a caricature of the stereotypical man’s man. I bet he would have made a pretty shitty husband though.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        anitvan said,

        “See, based on your description, I married you!”

        Ah, shit! Please don’t tell my wife (other wife?)! Things have been going really well between us lately and that would put a helluva damper on things!

        On a serious note, I don’t question that I’m a man. I just don’t feel that I align with what I associate with “manly” or “masculine”. And, yes, I’m positive the Marlboro Man would be a shit husband but that doesn’t stop his type of tall drink of quiet, cool and collected water image from getting women’s hearts racing.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Travis. You’re allowed to say “vagina.”

          “Gets their VAGINAS racing.”

          That’s what you mean.

          I’ve been wanting to jump in on this particular conversation. Have a lot of work, though. Perhaps later.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        See, even Matt thinks I’m too much of a pussy to say “vagina”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        I have some thoughts to add to this manly discussion.

        I agree with you that our stereotypes about men are based around sports, at least in the US. My son is not athletic and generally is indifferent to sports. I had a very difficult time after age 6 or so finding summer camps and other classes for him.

        Why? Because the boy options were about 95% sports related. The girls had way more options, everything from more traditional girl things like cooking or fashion but also sports stuff too.

        This sums up the problem. Even though it is certainly not perfect, we have expanded greatly the options available for girls and women in interests, careers, in clothes, etc.

        She can participate in most traditional masculine things plus the the feminine stuff and still be ok.

        The options for boys and men remain very traditional. If they venture outside of that they risk being labels feminine.

        Art classes after age 7? Yeah you can do it but you will probably be the only boy. Dance, and cooking, choir its all the same pink code in our society.

        Now, I was lucky in a certain way because my son loves computers and video games. Although there is still a lot of shame given to parents about letting your kid stay inside in the basement instead of playing soccer.

        Cause soccer is manly exercise! Doesn’t matter at all what their interests are. Gotta force those boys to play sports! Why? Cause thats what real boys like!

        I got a lot of criticism because my son didn’t like sports and I didn’t force him to play. He did take Tae Kwon Do for several years at my suggestion for coordination and liked it ok. We had to do a lot of work to help him with coordination. Kid couldn’t even swing without being taught the steps.

        It took me 5 tries and a written list to teach him how to boil water and put spaghetti in. But then again I never spent a second helping him learn spelling words so it’s all a trade off.

        My goal for him is that if he has to play at a company softball game, he not be embarrassed that he can’t throw the ball. So he took lessons to just catch and throw a ball. Because none of that comes easily to him.

        But I didn’t force him to play sports because it is stupid to think that to be a man you must like sports.

        Because Nerds can now make money, their status has risen somewhat over 40 years ago. They are definitely not the top of the food chain in high school but they are not coded feminine.

        And there is a certain acknowledgement of their future status as your boss. So there’s that. But it’s still kind of warped because it’s status based on money which is a traditional measure of masculinity.

        I think it’s ridiculous that we lionize male sports teams in high school instead of academics. Part of the societal problem right there of focusing on stereotypical masculinity to the exclusion of acknowledging other forms like art and music.

        I mean they kind of do but not really. And it’s mostly girl participation.

        Its awesome that they now have the FIRST program to elevate robotics to a team competition level. At least it’s a small recognition of other forms of interest.

        Anyway, just wanted to affirm Travis’ assessment about the emphasis on sports in “true” masculinity.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        Here are some other responses to your life anecdotes. I think patterns of masculinity and femininity in our fast thinking brain definitely vary by culture. I happen to be very familiar with Oklahoma culture since I have family there.

        It is very definitely more stereotypical than many other places. Partly because of the highly Protestant Evangelical culture that sadly equates traditional gender roles with God’s design (no, no, no!) and partly cause its just a more conservative state with traditional gender roles as a default

        It is traditional on both sides, my niece despairs of finding a man to date that does not believe he needs to be the head of the household and her submit.

        So you’ve got it harder there than if you lived in DC or Chicago. For sure.

        I think part of why you might feel a little different is because you are a ENFJ personality type. A feeling man is in the minority. Most men are thinkers, meaning they make decisions based on more objective measures. Captain Kirk is a feeler, Spock is a thinker.

        So your style being comfortable with emotions is more common among women than men. That’s why you said you tended to have more female friends. You will “jive” with their way of being in the world. Not because you’re not masculine but because of the way you process information and emotions.

        I have the opposite problem. As a “thinker” female, I relate to more men’s way of being in the world sometimes and definitely in the way I process information.

        At parties, I usually am more interested in talking politics with the men than kids with the women. I always feel a little alien. And of course all this varies by setting and culture. I fit right in talking ideas in academic settings, but don’t tend to match the personality types or feminine fast thinking patterns in the suburbs. Maybe this is true for you in Oklahoma.

        But it’s still easier for me to be a female thinker than you to be a male feeler. Because we have expanded the options for women and not for men.

        There are actually about 40% male feelers but they are discouraged from developing their emotional intelligence since we sadly code any emotion except anger as girly.
        I’m glad you buck the system man!

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Yeah, “buck” the system!

        And, yes, after a whole lifetime living here, I still feel very, very alien in Oklahoma. I really like being me, but being me constantly involves having my little bit of AC getting pressed up on all sides by a shitload of DC. It’s a rather surreal feeling to be a white American male and still feel like some kind of minority. My wife and I decided long ago that the moment my youngest moves out of the house (it’ll be ten years from now until she reaches eighteen, and I’d like to think I can hopefully hold on that long, but does anyone move out of their parents’ house at eighteen anymore???), we’re moving to a warm coastal area with a local culture that’s nothing but AC for miles in every direction.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Travis,
        Thanks for the input/conversation yesterday. I hope you don’t think I was diminishing your experience. I really didn’t mean to do that by saying “I have a hard time believing…” I wasn’t suggesting that you were lying, I just don’t hear a lot of man-fail language with the women I hang with. Of course- I am not a male, either, so that makes a big difference.
        I did another lousy job of “editing” the article I posted. I will learn. It may be much easier to read without all the stupid references interrupting the flow of the sentence.
        The biggest thing I draw out of that article is that we are 40 years post a massive social shift towards women being self sufficient and not subservient. (Even if you loved your wife in the 1950’s-60’s, you more than likely felt that you were the one in charge and she was your helper. Very little autonomy for the wife.) So sometime in the 60’s Women started exerting their independence and role in society. This is likely why there are so many more options now for girls than boys in Lisa’s example of extra-curricula’s. We have spent the last 40+ years pushing for that. Is that an issue? Yes. Does it tend to hem men into a small “either A or B” category (as in “either/or”.)? Yes. Does that lead to stereotyping. Yes, I believe it does.
        You were saying that men cant both be sensitive and rugged, that’s like trying to be both Yin and Yang at the same time. I think they can because you can have both of these things in degrees. To what extent is he sensitive, and to what extent is he rugged. Life, and especially people are not black and white, either/or. They are more like a little bit of this and that.
        What I do think is true for men in our society right now is that they are responding to the social change that occurred with the womens lib movement.
        If the male role isn’t being in charge, then what is it? Who is leading young men into the “new” role of manhood when nobody knows for sure what that new role is.
        That’s because I think we are in the middle of a process and we are redefining what it means to be a man. “Men’s Studies” is a relatively new field of study that I am finding myself interested in. I like that there is such a thing.
        My hope is, that the definition will be more closely akin to being your whole self (emotions/thoughts/abilities/preferences, ect.) instead of assuming stereotypical gender traits. Just by writing that, I can hear/see/smell the pushback from some people.
        I think the most important part is that whatever your yang is, that it will fit into her yin. (I thought you’d appreciate that ; )
        As far as women’s expectations of “manning-up” vs. “being sensitive”…for as many anecdotal stories of women demanding men to be more manly, I bet I have one that demonstrates the opposite. Even though I am the queen of anecdotal opinions and thoughts, this is exactly why they are considered unreliable.
        I don’t doubt that women influence men holding on to their “man card”, and that some women would prefer that he do that. The cost of him holding onto his man card is the scary part.
        So, I think this is where I stand in regards to this. I think what your are describing as women wanting both, or saying they want one thing but going after another is women wanting masculinity (and that doesn’t have to be overt, over the top masculinity.) but in a way that is more interactive and relational, more involved.
        Men are still trained to respond to life in some pretty unhealthy ways(saw some jerk off trying to toughen his kid up at the park yesterday- telling him he wasn’t out of breath and to keep moving. What an ass! That kid is not going to be better, stronger, tougher because of that. He is going to emotionally detached and harsh. I really wish I had a “MBTTTR” card that I could just give him and walk away…I may just start doing that!) . I truly hope the next 30-40 years brings about significant change for the better in how men are taught how to process the world- both inside and out.

        Thanks again for the convo! :)

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Here is a NY Times article about men and emotions. ..ya’ll may have already seen it.
        I don’t think you can talk about marriage/divorce without this being a core issue.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/education/edlife/teaching-men-to-be-emotionally-honest.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

        Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Just getting to the stuff on masculinity and conflicting ideas on what women want and whether or not the two ideas (warrior and poet) are actually incompatible.

        I’m totally going to ride the fence here, and say that the answer is sorta, maybe, sometimes.

        If any woman or guy here closes their eyes and envisions their “perfect partner”, we all probably start with physical characteristics. (most) guys think T&A. A lot of guys go for the Barbie stereotype (I’m more a brunette guy myself). And I can’t really speak for girls, but from some of the things I hear girls often envision a tall guy with broad shoulders, and a muscular build. Then there’s the intellectual side, and the emotional components too.

        Thing is, the looks come first. Often guys/girls won’t even give the other person a chance unless there’s something about the looks to make them want to look deeper.

        So yeah, I think there are a lot of guys (and girls) out there who feel that they bring a lot to the table, but no one will even give them a shot unless they look a certain way.

        I grew up in Canada, where hockey is king. And when guys grow up play sports regularly they tend to naturally look more muscular/athletic. During my high school years, it was dumbfounding how girls were just automatically drawn to the athletes of the school. Even when a lot of these guys were complete jerks/assholes.

        A buddy of mine who is 6’5″ went on to play college basketball, and he could go to a bar and have a list of women who wanted to go home with him that night (and he definitely took advantage of that in his youth). I know these girls/women don’t represent “all”, but when guys grow up seeing that day after day, it makes an impact.

        I grew up as the quiet introspective type who read a lot of books and was good at drawing. I was also 6’2″ and skinny. This didn’t equate to many girls showing much interest in me (though a lack of self confidence at a young age likely played a factor). Interestingly, a buddy and I started doing weights in grade 11 (just because we enjoyed it), and I started playing basketball around the same time. As I filled out and put on muscle, suddenly a lot of girls were showing interest that hadn’t before. 6’2″ skinny version of me who drew? Not getting any “vaginas racing” as Matt put it. 6’2″ fairly athletic and muscular version of me? Suddenly I had a lot of interest that wasn’t there before.

        In university I did my philosophy degree while spending countless hours in a gym, so I guess I kind of was the warrior/poet for a while there at least.

        But in my experience, MOST of the guys who are spending a lot of time in the gym aren’t really interested in feelings, emotions or philosophies on life.

        Being dedicated to the gym takes time – time you don’t have for other stuff. And often people who are good at the other stuff aren’t that interested in sports or the gym. Stereotypes, sure. And there are definitely exceptions. But it’s pretty hard to live in both of those worlds.

        Then to be the warrior/poet who’s also a great dad and husband? Pretty damned hard.

        I think it’s the same for women. Balancing a career, family, marriage, and having time as an individual is hard. Usually we have to pick one or two that are more important to us and put more of our time towards that.

        Some find a healthy balance, but I suspect most don’t.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Linbo said,

        “Travis,
        Thanks for the input/conversation yesterday. I hope you don’t think I was diminishing your experience. I really didn’t mean to do that by saying “I have a hard time believing…” I wasn’t suggesting that you were lying, I just don’t hear a lot of man-fail language with the women I hang with. Of course- I am not a male, either, so that makes a big difference.”

        I believe that one of my strengths, at least with people who have proven themselves worthy of it, as all of the recurring commenters here certainly have, is practicing presumption of positive intent, so I ultimately figured that’s what you were trying to communicate. I do, however, admit to a bit of a tightening of the muscles when I first read, “I have a hard time believing…” Maybe it was because you used the word “believing” (which does infer you think you’re being lied to) vs. “imagining/picturing”. But again, contextually, it was clear what you meant to communicate; therefore, your apology is in no way needed, yet still very appreciated.

        “I think the most important part is that whatever your yang is, that it will fit into her yin. (I thought you’d appreciate that ; )”

        Oh, I most certainly do, LOL.

        “So, I think this is where I stand in regards to this. I think what your are describing as women wanting both, or saying they want one thing but going after another is women wanting masculinity (and that doesn’t have to be overt, over the top masculinity.) but in a way that is more interactive and relational, more involved.”

        I believe this is an easier balance to strike when one is in an established relationship, when the value of the interactive/relational/involved can clearly establish itself as superior to the more traditional and surface-level definitions of “masculine”, but where the struggle really rears its ugly head is in the wooing stage (I really hate the word “wooing”, but I merely rent, not own, the English language)–the hunk on the football team just seems so much dreamier than those runts over in chess club and those spazzes in the drama group, so those less stereotypically masculine struggle to ever secure an opportunity to make their case. I certainly realize that works the other way, too, but when a woman is rejected because she’s not “hot” enough, or sexually active enough, or whatever shallow “primal brain” qualifier you want to pick, I doubt that makes her feel fundamentally less like a female (set me straight if I’m off target). I am curious, however, if there is some equivalent of the man card for rejected women when the rejection is tied to them being a “tomboy”. There have been some times when I’ve jokingly (often defensively and reactionarily) made comments about my tomboyish wife (well, she’s 50% tomboy, 50% stereotypical female…it’s a confusing, yet intoxicating, mix) being “mannish” that I now deeply regret and intend to never say again. Adding to the problem, even if only in an attempt at self-protection, never solves it.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Awww…Travis thank you for your kindness for my poor choice of words.
          Confession: even though at one point I had the potential to be a wordsmith I lost it some 20 years ago when I went into nursing. My vocab is obviously shit,too. (You made me look up milquetoast, you know!)
          Honestly I don’t think I can keep up with you guys.
          For what it’s worth, I think that your clarity of thought and your presentation of it come across as very masculine. You have certainly earned my respect and caused me to want your respect. So, no matter what the image of masculinity may be- I think it has a lot to do with how you hold yourself.
          I’m a little ticked I missed the whole frickin discussion. I’ll just have to call out of work tomorrow. Yeah, not really- lol :)

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Well, shit, Drew basically beat me to a lot of the same points, LOL.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Sorry, posted this in the wrong thread, I hope this is the right Place. :)

        Travis said: “but when a woman is rejected because she’s not “hot” enough, or sexually active enough, or whatever shallow “primal brain” qualifier you want to pick, I doubt that makes her feel fundamentally less like a female (set me straight if I’m off target)”.

        Ok, obviously women respond differently to this.
        But in my opinion, this just cuts to the heart of it. For men, being a man, feeling like a man, being called a man is a compliment. Because men = better than women in patriarchal thinking. I get that it’s not always like that though, sometimes feeling like a man, or indeed feeling like a woman, can be sort of a deliscious feeling of being conscious of our gender and sexuality in a way that doesn’t degrade the other gender.

        But when a woman is rejected because she’s not hot enough, she may not feel less female. But she will feel without value, like she’s worthless. Because women in a patriarcah culture are assigned value based on their attractiveness to men. If a man rejects a woman because she isn’t educated enough, intelligent enough or Rich enough, I’m sure many women would be offended and hurt by this. But when it’s because she’s not attractive enough? That undercuts her worth as a person, because she’s mainly ascribed value based on hotness.

        I know many men value intelligence, maturity and competence, absolutely. But many women feel rejected by men, because they’re “too” intelligent and competent. If she’s “better” than him in these areas, it makes him feel less like man, because men are supposed to be better. If she isn’t attractive, mostly in a bone structure, age and body type way, and also in the way she performs (or doesn’t perform) femininity high heels, uncomfortable clothes, make up, playing the damsel in distress etc), nothing else she has to offer will matter at all. Can you imagine how hopeless that would feel? She’s been deemed worthless by the reigning value system, and to degree that she has internalized it (and honestly, who of us doesn’t internalize stuff like this to some degree?) she will feel worthless too.

        Travis, I’m wondering abut what you say, that it’s worse for men when a woman questions his masculinity (why aren’t you athletic, why are you anxious etc) than when a man does it. Would you be willing to qualify this as many men and not all men?

        I’m thinking that said in a joking way, I can definitely see it being worse from a woman, because many men poke fun at their friends. But also, it seems like the man card thing is very dependent on other men. Like frat boy stuff. I’m sure it would hurt the typical frat boy if a pretty girl questioned his man card and rejected him because of it, but if his friends, his peer group, decided to ostracise him, because he doesn’t conform to their standard of masculinity? My guess is that would be way way worse. Isn’t that where a lot of atrocious behaviour stems from, conforming and adapting (to some degree at least) to the peer group’s norms so you can be accepted, no matter how shitty they are?

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Travis and Donkey,
          Donkey Said: “But when a woman is rejected because she’s not hot enough, she may not feel less female. But she will feel without value, like she’s worthless.”
          Travis Said “I’m saying that if a man rejects a woman because she’s not, as Drew stated, the “Barbie” type, as demeaning and hurtful as that rejection surely is, it doesn’t appear to cut into her sense of IDENTITY. “
          Donkey- I have to disagree with you. Just like masculinity is measured in strength and power, femininity is measured in beauty and “Sweetness”. So, if a man doesn’t find me attractive (or at least a man I am attracted to, doesn’t find me attractive) does feel to me like I am less feminine.
          Drew- This DOES cut to the center of a females identity big time because who are we if we aren’t wives and mothers? If we are rejected, and our femininity is rejected then “we” are rejected.
          But what is just as bad for a woman as outright rejection (because for so long, and even now most are not the typical instigators for relationship) is no one ever really regarding her.
          I could tell you stories of what that has done to me emotionally in the past.
          But the point is, that rejection effects both male and female psyches significantly. I think that is because our understanding of who we are is largely grounded in our sexual identity.

          Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “Ok, obviously women respond differently to this. But in my opinion, this just cuts to the heart of it. For men, being a man, feeling like a man, being called a man is a compliment. Because men = better than women in patriarchal thinking.”

        Whoa, hold up there. Speaking just for myself, but I feel it would hold true in many circumstances with other males, that is not the heart of what i’m saying/thinking/feeling at all. I’m saying that if a man rejects a woman because she’s not, as Drew stated, the “Barbie” type, as demeaning and hurtful as that rejection surely is, it doesn’t appear to cut into her sense of IDENTITY. I’m not jibing with the whole “men = better than women” paradigm in this particular context. I’m saying that when a man is rejected by a woman because he is not stereotypically masculine, while at the same time he is receiving messaging from the female collective that what they really want is exactly what he’s offering, it throws his sense of identity into complete disarray. It’s not “you’re telling me I’m not a man so that must mean I’m just a lowly woman”, it’s “you’re telling me that being proficient in the things women supposedly want from a man equates to not being a man, so what am I? The status quo of masculine is not desirable, but neither is the newly interactive/relational/involved model of masculinity, so where does that leave me? Who do I need to be to be recognized as a man (which is important not because we see it as superior to women but because it is biologically what we are)?”

        “I know many men value intelligence, maturity and competence, absolutely. But many women feel rejected by men, because they’re ‘too’ intelligent and competent. If she’s ‘better’ than him in these areas, it makes him feel less like man, because men are supposed to be better. If she isn’t attractive, mostly in a bone structure, age and body type way, and also in the way she performs (or doesn’t perform) femininity high heels, uncomfortable clothes, make up, playing the damsel in distress etc), nothing else she has to offer will matter at all. Can you imagine how hopeless that would feel? She’s been deemed worthless by the reigning value system, and to degree that she has internalized it (and honestly, who of us doesn’t internalize stuff like this to some degree?) she will feel worthless too.”

        Now this is quite fair and gets right to the heart of the stuff Linbo’s been posting about men struggling with understanding what role they play in modern relationships when women have moved from theoretically being equal to men to actualization of it. I think that stuff is spot on. Men are no longer needed, nor desired, in the role they’ve filled throughout the entirety of human history. So what are we needed for? What do women need from us to take a chance on us? What do women need to feel fulfilled by us? What do women need from us to ensure the long-term viability of our marriage/relationship? When women (certain last standing issues like earned income disparity aside) can accomplish everything they ever needed a man for, hasn’t the adage “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” become reality? Is it any wonder we cling to our man cards? Anymore, it feels like the only lifeline we have available on which to cling.

        “Travis, I’m wondering abut what you say, that it’s worse for men when a woman questions his masculinity (why aren’t you athletic, why are you anxious etc) than when a man does it. Would you be willing to qualify this as many men and not all men?

        I’m thinking that said in a joking way, I can definitely see it being worse from a woman, because many men poke fun at their friends. But also, it seems like the man card thing is very dependent on other men. Like frat boy stuff. I’m sure it would hurt the typical frat boy if a pretty girl questioned his man card and rejected him because of it, but if his friends, his peer group, decided to ostracise him, because he doesn’t conform to their standard of masculinity? My guess is that would be way way worse. Isn’t that where a lot of atrocious behaviour stems from, conforming and adapting (to some degree at least) to the peer group’s norms so you can be accepted, no matter how shitty they are?”

        No, I already spoke to this (though I must confess, I’m only working from my own perspective). I believe it’s a far, far worse blow when a woman tells us she doesn’t see us as a real man than when a fellow male does it because, again, with me and the latter, we both have penises. Therefore, he and I, by right of biology, have equal footing to determine what defines a man. If I don’t meet his definition of a “real man” to the point that I am ostracized from him, I am not a literal island among men. There are other men out there that define their masculinity like I do and I can find a brotherhood with them. The dissenting male will judge us as “weak fags”, and in return, we’ll judge him as a “douche Cro-Magnon”. But when a woman says a man isn’t a “real man”, then it says “I don’t recognize or value you as what you fundamentally are. You aren’t simply undesirable, you’re invisible.” But by the same token, in complete fairness to your argument, I have never been frat boy material (in fact, there may be no strata of society I’m more repelled by at a primal level than frat boys and sorority girls other than wealthy white people…sorry, WWP give me all manner of the creeps), so maybe you’re on to something, but my knee-jerk counter argument to that is, in what world would a “typical frat boy” be considered not stereotypically masculine by women?

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis you said:

        “I’m saying that when a man is rejected by a woman because he is not stereotypically masculine, while at the same time he is receiving messaging from the female collective that what they really want is exactly what he’s offering, it throws his sense of identity into complete disarray. It’s not “you’re telling me I’m not a man so that must mean I’m just a lowly woman”, it’s “you’re telling me that being proficient in the things women supposedly want from a man equates to not being a man, so what am I? The status quo of masculine is not desirable, but neither is the newly interactive/relational/involved model of masculinity, so where does that leave me? Who do I need to be to be recognized as a man (which is important not because we see it as superior to women but because it is biologically what we are)?””

        It’s hard for me to put aside the whole man = better than woman thing when it comes to men being hurt/confused by having their man card questioned.

        But, trying to give it a fair go, what you describe does sound extremely confusing. I believe I see your point. It’s not just the “man = better than woman thing, don’t you dare question my manhood”. It’s also the “you say me (person who thought I happened to be born as male)= not real man. So what am I then? I need some kind of identity to make sense of the world, and most especially the dating/mating world, and you’re making it very hard to believe I even *really* am the gender I thought I was.

        You said:
        ” I believe it’s a far, far worse blow when a woman tells us she doesn’t see us as a real man than when a fellow male does it because, again, with me and the latter, we both have penises. Therefore, he and I, by right of biology, have equal footing to determine what defines a man. If I don’t meet his definition of a “real man” to the point that I am ostracized from him, I am not a literal island among men. There are other men out there that define their masculinity like I do and I can find a brotherhood with them. The dissenting male will judge us as “weak fags”, and in return, we’ll judge him as a “douche Cro-Magnon”. But when a woman says a man isn’t a “real man”, then it says “I don’t recognize or value you as what you fundamentally are. You aren’t simply undesirable, you’re invisible.””

        Very interesting. Again, I believe I see your point. A few thoughts:

        Reading this, my tentative conclusion would be that whether or not a man would feel more hurt/confused by a woman questioning his manhood than if a man did it depends a lot on how identified he is with the men who do question his manhood. If you’re not athletic enough for the jocks, and you really want to be a jock and hang out with your jock friends, maybe it hurts way more when a male jock deems you as not a real man than if a woman did it. You couldn’t protect yourself by labelling him as a “doche Cro-Magnon”.

        And whether or not it hurt more coming from a woman or a man, would also depend on a man’s/a boy’s (perceived) ability to find a brotherhood with a different kind of male friends. Maybe you don’t really want to be a jock that badly, but in your school, everyone is either a jock or a total lonely looser. There isn’t a chess club or a drama club, none of the other boys ever read a book. It would be hard to not care about the jocks if they are your only option for male friendship, and if you can’t find some other men/boys who like chess/drama/reading to both be your friends and to help you feel confident in being able and justified (sine everyone has a penis and all of that) to define masculinity the way you wish it, and label th jocks as douche Cro Magnons.

        To back up my claim: I have seen some fascinating studies on how hard it is for people to hold on their convictions, even when they’re really stright forward, when confronted with a group who feels differently. I could be wrong about the details, but I believe male college students were asked which line was longer or something like that, and the answer was obvious. But when the rest of the group (who were in coalition with the researcher) said they thought the shorter line was indeed longer, many of the guys changed their answers.

        Finally, I also believe women judged as unattractive also feel invisible, and can also question their ownd identity, not just her worth (women are supposed to be attractive to men, I’m not attractive = am I not a woman, what am I then?). But maybe not to the same degree as man would, I can’t know.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey said,

        “Finally, I also believe women judged as unattractive also feel invisible, and can also question their own identity, not just her worth (women are supposed to be attractive to men, I’m not attractive = am I not a woman, what am I then?).”

        Mmm, I’m gonna push back on this point. When a man rebukes a woman because she’s not a “Barbie”, he may use language that indicates he doesn’t DESIRE her as a woman but a) seldom, if ever, uses language tantamount to “you’re not what I DEFINE as a woman” (with, again, the possible caveat of women who lean strongly to the “tomboy” stereotype) and b) seldom sends messages that what he really wants is something different from the “Barbie” stereotype. We men send a shitty, immature message to women as to what we find desirable, to be sure, but we don’t propagate a mixed one.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Travis, regarding your last point, I will agree that I at least think it’s much much rarer that women get the “you’re not what I define as a real woman”.

        Though I have heard stuff like this “you know that woman who works on the 8th floor, if she can be called a woman…”. And often the person discussed is a female who… doesn’t perform much of traditional femininity when it comes to looks and/or level of assertiveness.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Oh, I have little doubt. All this stuff tends to bleed across borders. I’m just speaking the general trend around this man card thing and, though men have a lot to tend to regarding it in our own backyard, if women want to see the man card dispensed with as much as they say they do, encouraging them to take a hard look in the mirror to confront how they often feed, rather than starve, the problem.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Ok Travs,
          Im going to need to bring something up here. The Bottomline is the man card will destroy men. It will kill mens souls, it will kill connection, it can lead men to substance abuse and suicide.
          If youre the man carrying the man card, it is up to you to put it down. To hell with what the women want.
          It would be nice if the women could understand this, but we cant say continuing the game as is, is ok.

          Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis, You said “Mmm, I’m gonna push back on this point. When a man rebukes a woman because she’s not a “Barbie”, he may use language that indicates he doesn’t DESIRE her as a woman but a) seldom, if ever, uses language tantamount to “you’re not what I DEFINE as a woman” (with, again, the possible caveat of women who lean strongly to the “tomboy” stereotype) and b) seldom sends messages that what he really wants is something different from the “Barbie” stereotype. We men send a shitty, immature message to women as to what we find desirable, to be sure, but we don’t propagate a mixed one.”

        I’m going to push back at you pushing back :)

        As I said in my other comment, I relate to some of what you are talking about as a “thinker” woman. I have indeed been told that I am not a normal girl/woman because of it.

        I am not a tomboy in the sense that I look and dress traditionally feminine. This is about my personality and information processing.

        It was hell dating. Really, because I am not a “sweet”, supportive kind of woman. I mean I think I am a mostly kind and empathetic person but I love to debate and challenge ideas. And I love to make jokes.

        Men want you to laugh at their jokes, not to makes jokes. There is research on this to back me up by the way.

        Even if a man was attracted to the way I looked, (because I look “sweet”), they would call me Spock (which I loved!) or tell me I was like a guy or most weirdly call me by my last name. That’s one that happened a lot. A signifier of my loss of a woman-card. It was very predictable.

        I used to hang with a bunch of women and I used to tell them what was going to happen at a party in advance. Because the loss of my woman card was predictable.
        As soon as I opened my mouth because I didn’t have the woman card.

        Don’t get me wrong I had many male and female friends. I get along with people very well. I am just not a woman card holder. So in a situation where fast thinking is involved like a party where guys go by very superficial criteria, even if I passed the looks one I failed one the sweet and supportive one.

        And believe me Travis I researched and studied it so I could learn to do and say things to “pass” as a card holding woman if I wanted to.

        Laugh at their jokes, agree with what they say, smile with my head slightly tilted, play with my hair, ask their opinions, offer none of my own unless directly asked, and even then make sure it mostly agrees with theirs. It’s all about making the man feel good and that you do not challenge him. His man-card is safe.

        I told you in other comments that therapists have told me the same thing. That because I “intellectualize”, I am not allowing myself to be feminine. No woman-card for you Lisa.

        Or in childbirth, because I didn’t express emotions in a overt way, the nurse wanting to know if I needed to talk to someone. No woman card.

        Or the natural childbirth nazi’s telling me I was not a good mother if I wanted an epidural.

        Or if I expressed that I didn’t like my kid sometimes.

        Or that I hated being at home and liked working more.

        If you have a woman card, you say that you wished you could be at home but you need to work.

        There are hundreds of things that must be followed to be a real woman. They’re just different than the ones for being a man.

        They’re all bullshit.

        I have had a lifetime of people telling me I am not a “real” woman. It’s just because we don’t match the typical patterns for what people’s fast thinking code for masculine or feminine.

        It used to really bother me, it still does sometimes. But mostly I think of it as people using their fast thinking brain. And that they need to do some more reading to update their patterns to more mature ones.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Fair enough, Lisa, but dammit, I’m not letting the “men don’t send women mixed messages about what they find desirable but women do to men” thing go!

        OK, let’s be honest, you’ll probably produce volumes of data that prove I’m just a dipshit talking out of my ass and I’ll cave in like a precarious Jenga tower. But for the next few minutes, I own this shit, missy!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa, some of this stuff is truly appalling. Grrr.

        “Even if a man was attracted to the way I looked, (because I look “sweet”), they would call me Spock (which I loved!) or tell me I was like a guy or most weirdly call me by my last name. That’s one that happened a lot. A signifier of my loss of a woman-card. It was very predictable.”

        Wow, the last name thing is very illustrative. And it can go the other way too. Everyone male at work being presented as Mr. or Dr. Last name, and the females, doctors or otherwise, with just their first name. To signify she’s a woman, sweet and friendly and obviously she’s everyone’s friend/emotional labourer more than a professional, not a normative man who’s to be interated with as a capable professional and a natural part of the work place.

        “I used to hang with a bunch of women and I used to tell them what was going to happen at a party in advance. Because the loss of my woman card was predictable.
        As soon as I opened my mouth because I didn’t have the woman card.”

        Wow, it must really have happened many times! Grrr!

        “I told you in other comments that therapists have told me the same thing. That because I “intellectualize”, I am not allowing myself to be feminine. No woman-card for you Lisa.”

        OMG, I can’t even…! I mean, we all have different sides and everything, but this is atrocious.

        “Laugh at their jokes, agree with what they say, smile with my head slightly tilted, play with my hair, ask their opinions, offer none of my own unless directly asked, and even then make sure it mostly agrees with theirs. It’s all about making the man feel good and that you do not challenge him. His man-card is safe.”

        I just feel so exhausted readng this. I have many similar experiences. Though I’ve personally lucked out on the whole humour thing, I’ve made quite a few men romantically interested in me by being funny. It’s one of my go to let-me-try-to-charm-this-person-male-or-female skills. Though I’m guessing many have also found me unattractive because of it (assuming I passed the “test” in other areas).

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Crap, this is another one of those posts that ended up in the wrong location (Matt, your blog framework is killing us, Smalls!). Let’s try this again…

        Donkey said,

        “Though I’ve personally lucked out on the whole humour thing, I’ve made quite a few men romantically interested in me by being funny. It’s one of my go to let-me-try-to-charm-this-person-male-or-female skills. Though I’m guessing many have also found me unattractive because of it (assuming I passed the ‘test’ in other areas).”

        Screw that. Funny women rule! Some of the best memories of my relationship with my wife involve us trying to out-crack each other up.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        “I just feel so exhausted readng this. I have many similar experiences. Though I’ve personally lucked out on the whole humour thing, I’ve made quite a few men romantically interested in me by being funny. It’s one of my go to let-me-try-to-charm-this-person-male-or-female skills. Though I’m guessing many have also found me unattractive because of it (assuming I passed the “test” in other areas).”

        Yeah the humor thing is interesting. It all depends on what kind of humor it is.
        If you can make jokes and be funny but still be “sweet” then it is ok especially if your general vibe is sweet. One of the things I admire about you is you ability in comments to make people feel understood and appreciated even when you disagree with some of their ideas. So I am sure your humor is similar.

        But my humor can sometimes be based on something someone just said that didn’t make sense or kind of a one-upmanship who”s got the best line kind. Competition with a man makes you lose your woman card. That’s when they started calling me by my last name. Because I am respected but not “loved” anymore as a potential mate or even a real woman.

        But I would still choose respect over love. ;)

        And because challenging debate of ideas and jokes is so intrinsic to my personality, I just had to keep looking until I found a man who was secure enough in his man card that he was able to debate with me and keep my woman card in his mind.

        And I found him! We love that about each other. He respects my intelligence and my challenge and my jokes. He’s very funny so we make each other laugh.

        One of our years long debate and fight is over who is funnier, we often enlist outsiders to vote. He always wins over the kids with his fart jokes ;)

        I have to be careful that I don’t make people feel put down. Sometimes I make jokes because I can’t pass up the opportunity even though it might slightly make fun of someone. I did it on this blog with a joke about Gottman during the great Deanna/Travis/Lisa debacle of Spring 2016. It was unkind and I feel bad about it. My apologies to Deanna if she is reading this. It was uncool and I’m sorry. Especially because it wasn’t even that funny a joke :)

        One of the things I love about the comments on this blog is there is a lot of healthy debating and challenging of ideas but generally good natured with good jokes too.

        But I’m learning from you Donkey, I need more skills at making people feel that my challenge to their ideas or jokes is coming from a respectful and kind place. So we can debate ideas together instead of against each other and laugh together.

        Its all just a skill that can be learned and it makes a difference in how people feel.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Travis,

        “OK, let’s be honest, you’ll probably produce volumes of data that prove I’m just a dipshit talking out of my ass and I’ll cave in like a precarious Jenga tower. But for the next few minutes, I own this shit, missy!”

        You made me laugh out loud Travis so you win the joke competition for this thread!

        I still like my joke about the kids shoveling coal with an app so it’s still on for the whole post. ;)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lisa,

        One of my conflict avoidant behaviour that I’m quite ashamed of is not standing up for Deanna in exactly the incident you’re talking about. I’ve been wondering whether or not to voice this, and since you mentioned this yourself, it requires much less courage for me to say it too, and I anxiously hope you’ll still be my virtual friend Lisa. (and Travis!) :p

        I won’t go into what I agreed with you about, what I agreed with Travis about and what I agreed with Deanna about. Maybe this would have been a good thing to do, but part of my growth, frankly, is to not compulsively do this kind of emotional labour/mediating/making people friends again stuff.

        But whatever else was going on, and whatever else I should/shouldn’t/could have done, I felt the whole gib about it being ironic that Deanna had worked as a communication expert (or something like that) was rude and hurtful. I wish I had stood up for her on that, this I felt like I should have done. I’m thinking that would have been better left unsaid, or said privately between you and Travis if you had too. Then again, maybe some people would, everything considered, rather have them say even rude stuff to their face and not behind their back.

        Deanna seems much less conflict avoidant than me, but considering how uncomfortable I felt with the whole c-section thing and Matt and Travis (and I felt that was much less directed at me personally, and what was directed at me personally semed much less heated), I’m guessing it was very rough. I hope she didn’t get scared off. If she and Matt are friends, maybe he can convey both of our apologies to her, and she’ll feel safer to come back, if that’s what she wants.

        Funny is something I feel quite attached to being, (probably not so much here), so I’m a bit sensitve on this topic. :P I know talking about being funny isn’t very attractive or convincing though. :p.

        I believe I have a pretty diverse form of humour. I do sometimes poke fun at what a man said and without him getting hurt. But it’s very likely that I do it in a way that isn’t threatening enough to raise his defenses. And I probably do some conscious and unconscious screening (how well do I know him, does he seem sensitive to this, is this done in a way that likely won’t offend him and so on). Sometimes poking fun at someone, if it isn’t done in a way that offends/threatens can be flattering to them, because if they find it funny it makes them feel good that they’re the kind of person who can deal with this.

        My absolute favourite is dirty jokes. I mean I could be the national champion. I won’t write them here, because people close to me would probably be able to identify me straight away. 8) It started when I was a kid, liking fart and poop jokes, and it progressed into dirty stuff. Dirty stuff just pops into my head.

        Though fart and poop is still very funny. If I remember correctly, I said to my mom once “mom, look at the beautiful full moon”, and then I…you can guess what I did. 8) Poor mom, lol.

        In a relationship, I put a good dash of chunky peanut butter on my fingers, put them kind of close to his face and said to him “look what I found in my panties!”. I’m laughing just writing this, I thought it was hilarious. A good deal of men respond, or at least doesn’t mind, these kinds of things it seems like. 8) But probably, the ones looking for uber classy ladies will self-select themselves out of my way. 8)

        With some of my close friends, just speaking very frankly about what I’m really thinking and what I believe other people are thinking comes off as funny to them. I think it worked on you on the whole shit sandwich vs burger explanation thing. 8)

        Lisa, you said: “One of the things I admire about you is you ability in comments to make people feel understood and appreciated even when you disagree with some of their ideas.” Thank you! I can see that I do it sometimes, but I don’t always feel like I succeed in this. But maybe I do it more often than I think? :) That would be nice.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        I replied to your Gottman joke comment but it ended in the Brene Brown thread above.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey, LMAO! You’re my kinda girl! That peanut butter routine was foul! I love it! And all the stuff about poop and farts? That’s my bread and butter…well, not literally because these shit sandwiches we’ve been talking about are supposed to be metaphorical, right?

        You know what it makes me think about? Women who are petrified to fart around a man. Did you know that one of my sisters-in-law, who has been married for years, refuses to this day to fart around her husband, and even tries to hold off taking a crap in her own home until he’s out of the house or, at minimum, on the other end of it?! WTF?! Man, I don’t know about anyone else, but if you’ve got a complex about letting rip around me, I’m not the man for you and you’re not the woman for me. My wife and I try to Agent Orange each other on a regular basis. THAT’S love, man!

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Linbo said,

        “For what it’s worth, I think that your clarity of thought and your presentation of it come across as very masculine.”

        Really? Even after ‘filigree’?

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        At the risk of beating a dead horse, especially after reading Matt’s new post…

        Travis said
        “so those less stereotypically masculine struggle to ever secure an opportunity to make their case. I certainly realize that works the other way, too, but when a woman is rejected because she’s not “hot” enough, or sexually active enough, or whatever shallow “primal brain” qualifier you want to pick, I doubt that makes her feel fundamentally less like a female (set me straight if I’m off target). I am curious, however, if there is some equivalent of the man card for rejected women when the rejection is tied to them being a “tomboy”. ”

        I gave the short answer in a previous comment, but here is the long and the short of it. ..
        I do feel that women can lose their Lady-card. This is exactly how I felt (*warning personal anecdote ahead* ) a few years ago. I was still in the middle of just feeling like crap because I wasnt married. I mean really bad- like it hurt in my bones bad. Because after all- what is a women without a husband and children? I stopped at a gas station on the way to a friends house and some thug like character approached me all flirtatious. “REALLY?” I thought “You really think I would be interested in hooking up with you?” Big ding on the lady ego. (And yes, I guess this goes both ways, women want the alpha males to approach, just like men want a barbie doll and not a possible escapee from prison.) Who knows, he probably just wanted to borrow $5, I dont know. But it pressed on that pain just a little bit more.
        Then, I got to my friends house where Friend A and Friend B had already arrived. Someone says “can we move some chairs into the living room”..so, I pick up a chair and I move it.
        Friend B says “I’ll get my husband to do it.” …
        Rage!! Flame!! Destruction!!
        I felt like I was the most unflattering, unfeminine thing in the world. Like horse balls, or rat snot. Why? Because I moved a 10 pound item 20 feet into another room, and I didnt have a husband who was willing to do that. (And I am not the needy, uncapable type- I am used to doing for myself…I can hear your perverse thoughts, Matt! ..hehe. I dont even know if he reads this..: )
        For me it isnt that I dont look feminine- I do. and I dont have masculine gestures or body language (that I know of). It’s not because I intimidate men with my genius, – It’s just simply because I havent had a man love me to validate my femininity. I’ve never really been in the feminine role. And it does hurt- it can make you feel like a failure. I guess, really what I am thinking is that girls who arent taught how to be girly
        do run the risk of not attracting men. And yes, as far as I can see- women need men to help them feel feminine.
        So I know that what I just said is in contrast to what Matt wrote, “that I have to know I am “THE ONE””, .. I am not trying to make excuses but I believe my circumstances are a little different in this case. I was a very fat little kid into my teenage years and I didnt have a lot of support at home to help me integrate socially.
        Jr. high was a nightmare for me…I hardly ever received male attention at all until I lost weight, and then of course, I didnt know what to do with it..
        As far as Travis’s question about losing the Lady-card being tied to being a tom-boy. Yes, I think it definitely did for me , with my female peers. I was 11- I was barely even a tween yet, and would rather play with my hotwheels race track than put on make-up and think up ways to flash the pizza delivery driver (yes- that was a thing were I lived: ). I did not win big with that choice.

        Just so you guys know, I have learned to adapt socially. The last party I went to I was voted “funnest and sexiest” – and I didnt even remove any clothing! (I was really voted that because we were playing apples and apples and the cards I won were something about being fun and being sexy…we were just being silly.)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Linbo says:

    David Byrne is making mad dance moves- wherever he is…
    (Just had to throw that in there).

    Like

  8. bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

    I really liked this post Matt… and steam trains are cool! :)

    I see marriage so much like you said it here, only my husband didn’t. He still doesn’t.

    I shovelled and shovelled but the train just kept slowing down. I couldn’t keep up anymore because he thought that being the man (bigger bread winner) of the house gave him the privilege to shovel when convenient.

    He was the conductor, sometimes he would help shovel, but I was the main coal shoveler.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stoppppp this train

    Like

  10. Love these metaphors and thoughts.

    Like

  11. Linbo says:

    Lisa and Travis,
    I don’t think it is necessarily just for emotional regulation that women expect their men to be “manly”.
    But that could definitely have a part in it. Again, I think the socialization is so ingrained…and it could have started for practical reasons- men do the heavy lifting/ mechanical tasks. Women do the social/verbal tasks. The heavy lifting part at least makes practical sense. And boys do pick up language later than girls in childhood, so I think this is where it starts. Both women and men can be extremely judgey if you don’t exactly fit the mold. I know that scenerio both ways- men who think women should always be in high heels and skirts, and women who think men should be the strong,silent type who fixes the kitchen sink. But, I tend to think that is highly cultural.
    You were talking about women liking bad boys though- can you give an example? I will be blantantly honest and say yes- there is something about men in position of power that can intensely attract women (at least sexually) to them. I think that may be the masculine trait that bad boys are trying to reflect, an aire of power and control. Maybe that signals protection for us? I dunno. …but I do know that while that my be sexually attractive, that isn’t what many women want in their day to day lives. I want someone who is accessible, and who can engage. I’ve always crushed on creative/intellectual types- they are not always so “manly”…:)

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      I also meant to say that because it is socially ingrained, seeing anything out of (that looks different than) that context can be read as foreign and /or “wrong”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Linbo,

      I think there are different things going on
      at the same time.

      Since I’m researching how the brain works in an effort to rewire my pigheaded brain, I’ll frame it with that.

      Daniel Kahneman conceptually breaks the brain into types of brain. System 1 “fast thinking” is our unconscious part, System 2 “slow thinking” is the conscious cognitive part.

      Being attracted and falling in love and being married involves both. I haven’t researched this that much so this is me making up stuff with a little bit of real stuff I have read. ;)

      The fast thinking brain is attracted to polarity. This is based on Esther Perel’s idea that we are often sexually attracted to differences. There is research using smell that women are attracted to those whose genes are the most different.

      So that is why you get ruthless dating stereotypes. On the internet it’s even easier to see. Women will select for tall men (hence the name of this blog) and money. Men will select for young and attractive.

      System one “fast thinking” about mate selection going on there. Women look for protectors and providers, men look for fertility and beauty as status markers for them in their tribe.

      Other body language and behavioral things are also at play. Women are attracted to confident, assertive men.

      On a fast thinking level this tells her he can handle himself and that makes her feel safe for herself and her potential children.

      It also helps her to know that he will not turn into another child for her to raise. Because that is not sexy, amirght ladies?

      This is also where you get attraction to primitive makers for protection and providing (being able to fix things) Like classic sexy images for firefighters or handymen.

      On the flip side men are attracted to sexy nurturers.
      Classic images of sexy nurses or teachers orbiting maids. That codes support for him and sexual satisfaction with a beautiful wife on his arm for more status.

      On a primitive level, men are attracted to women who will support him by taking care of him and his children. Taking care of him when he’s sick and encouraging him when beaten down by the world.

      So “sweetness” and supportiveness are coded as safety for the males “fast thinking” brain. He doesn’t want her to nag or have contempt for him because that’s not sexy to him. Those are man-fail messages to his fast thinking brain.

      This stuff is mostly unconscious. Our fast thinking brains have patterns and images that we associate with these things that make us feel safe. It will vary somewhat by culture and personal experience too.

      The slow thinking brain is also involved of course but I’m wondering if there are any thoughts on this part. Does this seem right? Anyone disagree?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        And I think this stuff matters because it impacts the assumptions we make in a classic “dishes” discussion.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        I think that pretty much covers it. I haven’t read Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow yet. It’s still in my Amazon queue. But one of my friends just read it, I was going to borrow one slice of it for a near-future post, and now you’re talking about it.

        So many books. So little time.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Matt,

        Thinking Fast and Slow is my husband’s favorite book! We talk about it a lot in terms of our marriage. I think it helps more to understand how your brain works more than most stuff in traditional marriage books.

        And there are some gender differences in the brain but most of the real life differences have to do with different fast thinking patterns we absorbed over our life what it means to be a man or woman.

        I know what you mean about lots of books in the queue. I generally cheat and don’t read them all. I will listen to a podcast or a YouTube summary to get the general ideas.

        Hers a quick summary of the fast and slow thinking brain concept if anyone is interested.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        I picked up Thinking Fast and Slow today. :) Sounds really interesting!

        Like

  12. April Jagger says:

    Brilliant and well fleshed out analogy!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, I do love trains! They’re so romantic.

    I used to perceive marriage that way, as in we just have to shovel faster, but than a 90 yr old woman totally changed my perspective. She said marriage wasn’t hard work at all. You just set down your baggage and chose to love. That simple. She thought that what was wrong with marriage, were all the people trying to tell us how hard it was. It’s not hard, it’s easy. You just set down our baggage.

    It changed everything for me and I stopped shoveling. Why am I picking up all this baggage and shoveling like mad, when really all my husband truly needs from me is just that I smile? It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it changed everything. We’re all so busy trying to drive the darn train and it really is the crazy train, too.

    Like

  14. marilyn sims says:

    Linbo,

    You said, “but I do know that while that may be sexually attractive, that isn’t what many women want in their day to day lives. I want someone who is accessible and who can engage.”

    I found this in ‘The Will To Change: Men and Masculinity” by bell hooks.

    “Asked to witness a male expressing feelings, to listen to those feelings and respond, they (women) may simply turn away. There was a time when I would often ask the man in my life to tell me his feelings. And yet when he began to speak, I would either interrupt or silence him by crying, sending him the message that his feelings were too heavy for anyone to bear, so it was best if he kept them to himself ….I did not want to hear the pain of my male partner because hearing it required that I surrender my investment in the ideal of the male as protector of the wounded. If he was wounded, then how could he protect me?”

    “…Most men who are suffering a crisis of masculinity do not know where to turn to seek change…”

    Like

    • “I did not want to hear the pain of my male partner because hearing it required that I surrender my investment in the ideal of the male as protector of the wounded. If he was wounded, then how could he protect me?”

      This is so, so true. I know many women who wanted a more open, feeling, kind of guy and than when he became exactly that, they divorced him.

      Something I think women should really be asking ourselves, is why are we trying to get men to change who they are? Who they are came into being over centuries and it serves a vital purpose in the world, they are the way they are for a reason.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        IB,
        Hi there. You said “Something I think women should really be asking ourselves, is why are we trying to get men to change who they are? Who they are came into being over centuries and it serves a vital purpose in the world, they are the way they are for a reason.”
        Im not wanting men to change who they are. The fact of the matter is alot of men are taught to change their normal emotions into anger when they are still very young. Anger is about the only emotion they are allowed to express. And it is damaging to them. We as women would do a heck of alot of good by allowing men to be who they really are and who God made them to be.

        Like

      • marilyn sims says:

        Insanitybytes22,

        I don’t think most women are asking men to change as men per se— I think what they want is a change in response patterns. I think men, as they are socialized to do react to uncomfortable situations with women/intimate partners etc. as if there is a danger they must guard against. As if the Vandals are at the gate and the best reaction — not response — is to pull up the draw bridge and prepare for battle.

        Because the “man card” only allows a very limited type of emotional expressiveness, I think the default pattern for men is “either you’re for me or against me”. I will win or I will lose; there is no room for negotiation or compromise.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. marilyn sims says:

    Travis:

    “Women are not inherently more loving than men, women may give care and still be emotionally abusive. There has been such a strong tendency in patriarchal culture to simply assume that women are loving and capable of being intimate, that female failure to acquire the relational skills that would make intimacy possible , often goes unnoticed. Most females are encouraged to learn relational skills, yet damaged self-esteem may prevent us from applying those skills in a healthy manner. If we are to begin to create a culture in which feminist masculinity can thrive, then women who mother will need to educate themselves for critical consciousness. In the near future we may hope to have more data to show us the ways boys fare better when they have loving parents, whether together of apart who teach them how to be intimate. Meanwhile let us create the space where males who lack relational skills can learn them.”

    “The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity and Love” by bell hooks

    Like

  16. Lissy says:

    How much of this is immaturity? We all start out in high school, and are all asking ourselves, “Am I attractive? Do I have what it takes?” And maybe for the all those subconscious reasons in the prior comments, the boys who are athletic types and the girls who are thin and pretty are the desired ones. And we aren’t all trying to romantically pick them/be picked by them because we think they are swell people-it’s because if we are part of a couple with them, it says that we have arrived, that we have what it takes. It’s mostly love of ourselves, not love of the other person. Maybe because of primal biological urges, we jump into relationships with strong, healthy males/sexy females. And maybe, those that are not picked take whatever they can get out of fear that nothing else will come along.

    But then we grow up, we mature, and our values change. A few decades later we learn what traits we value, what traits correspond to who we are as humans, and what traits make for happy partnerships. Sometimes we learn this as our relationships fail and through years of living with what we finally discover we don’t want. It takes experience to know that the traits that make good life partners are not what we value as young adults.

    I dunno-it seems to take years of life for most of us to be comfortable in our own skin, and accept who we really are, and not keep comparing ourselves to who society says we should be. I guess it’s all part of the life journey…I remember a recent study that found that being cool in high school was the zenith of the cool kids life-it was all downhill from there for them as the rest of the kids matured and moved on to value more substantial characteristics than looks and coolness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I’m kind of writing about this very thing right now. What a great comment, Lissy.

      Like

    • Travis B. says:

      All quite true. Tying it back to the “man card” discussion, though, I still believe there’s a critical component in there unique to the male condition. I feel like in men’s expression of this form of immaturity, we at least send consistent messages that what we desire is the “Barbie”; all other candidates need not apply. As a result, women tend to know exactly where they stand, for worse or for better, in the wooing game. But men are told that men in touch with their more “feminine side” are sexy while simultaneously being treated as though it’s a turn-off. Men like me don’t know where we stand in the wooing stages, and alpha males don’t know where they stand in the long-term relationship stage.

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      Like Matt says, great comment!

      “And we aren’t all trying to romantically pick them/be picked by them because we think they are swell people-it’s because if we are part of a couple with them, it says that we have arrived, that we have what it takes. It’s mostly love of ourselves, not love of the other person.”

      Yes! We’re sensitive to status, even if we don’t define it in a tradtional way. A tall man increases a woman’s status in the group, a pretty woman increases a man’s status. In one group a man’s net worth would increase his woman’s status, in another one his level of education would do the same, regardless of his pay. Too think too much of money in tht group would seem crude and not intellectual. ;) And so on.

      And I do believe people try to improve/solve/get, not just the status stuff, the biological stuff, the what does my culture value stuff, but a lot of childhood stuff when it comes to who/what we’re attracted to. I know I overuse this expression, but I think it’s so fun so I’ll indulge myself: People really are often also (again, this isn’t the only thing going on) looking for mommy 2.0, daddy 2.0 and/or sibling 2.0 who will love them in all the ways their parents/siblings failed to.

      I was with someone, and he happened to call me a term of endearment that my mother also frequently used and uses. By gosh, I could just feel this intense rush of love and intimacy surging through me. It kind of freaked me out.

      You’re right, it takes so. much. time. for people to mature and learn and know what trats really matter. I really wish it didn’t take so long for us to truly grow up. I hope that as more and more people heal and mature, this stuff will get absorbed by kids, so they’ll know at 35 what their parents’ generation knew at 50.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        (The daddy 2.0 thing I first heard from Tracy McMillan.)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        The daddy 2.0/mommy 2.0 concept is the core of Harville Hendrix’s imago therapy.
        Are you familiar? Dr Psych Mom (Samantht Rodham) uses it a lot on her blog.

        We recreate patterns from our childhood in our adult relationships because we pick people who remind us of mom and dad (or other significant childhood figure). So we can use it to heal the original wounds.

        Many people find the Imago approach helpful. I agree with the first half and disagree with the second half of the premise.

        I think we recreate patterns from our childhood because we have no idea what it looks and feels like to be in healthy patterns. We lack the basic relationship skills so we recreate the dysfunctional ones we know that helped us survive a less than securely attached childhood.

        I don’t agree at all that we do it to heal our wounds. If we wanted to heal our wounds it would be smarter to pick someone who didn’t recreate our wounds.

        Maybe it’s all just a little too woo woo for me. I’m not a woo woo lover. ;)

        In my case, my husband has some similarities with my dad but not emotionally. My dad was not avoidant. So I thought I was choosing the best of my dad with none of the anger. I wasn’t looking for daddy 2.0 but I was not looking to repeat the dysfunctional childhood style either.

        So I chose someone who did not have anger issues. But because of my lack of relationship skills from my dysfunctional less than securely attached childhood, I didn’t recognize his avoidant style.

        And same for his side, he picked a woman who did not recreate his mother’s controlling style, but because of his lack of relationship skills and less than secure attachment childhood, he didn’t recognize my anxious style.

        And that’s how you can choose not to marry daddy 2.0/mommy 2.0 but still end up with a toxic marriage.

        If we had both been securely attached, it’s all good. If one of us had, they would have recognized the marriage needed help early to correct the imbalance.

        Because we both had relationship skills deficits and interlocking sensitivities, it took us years to figure out we needed help. Until it was almost too late to get out of it.

        I don’t think most people are looking for daddy 2.0/mommy 2.0 ( I don’t think you are saying this) they just lack basic skills and don’t even know they lack them.

        And that’s how you get stupid divorces.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Ahhh Lisa you said this:

        “So I thought I was choosing the best of my dad with none of the anger. I wasn’t looking for daddy 2.0 but I was not looking to repeat the dysfunctional childhood style either.”

        That was me. Actually my ex did it too. My dad was great in most ways – hard working and committed and dedicated to his family. Unfortunately he was also a workaholic and had a difficult time with the teenage girl angst and so when I was a teenager I didn’t see him much at all. In hindsight, I suspect that some of the male attention I sought after could have been avoided if he’d been around and more involved.

        I chose a man who was most definitely not a workaholic but at the time it didn’t occur to me that there are men out there who are very unmotivated to provide for their families, because I grew up with it being such a “men do this” kind of thing.

        So I ended up with a very emotionally available husband who had to pretty much be forced to go do the responsible job/providing thing even though that had been our agreement before we married. He was more than happy to sit back and let me run the show while he played his video games and that was completely shocking to me, having grown up with the opposite.

        Conversely, I think it was similar for him – he chose, in me, a woman who was very opposite his mother in terms of her faults. I suspect that there are aspects of me he didn’t anticipate, however, and perhaps positive characteristics that she had that I do not have.

        I think we often evaluate our potential partners/mates/spouses in light of our father/mother’s weaknesses but I know in my case, I completely didn’t even think to evaluate him in terms of my dad’s strengths, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, if that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          This is really well said and I think often underestimated in terms of how we get together, and also, how we push each other away.

          All the while, not knowing what we don’t know.

          Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      I think it is helpful to apply some behavioral economics here.

      Our fast thinking brains are using game theory. Being attracted to and trying to date the best possible option that will also agree to date us. The currency depends on the culture.

      As I said in my comments about Thinking Fast and Slow some common ones for women are height and status and money. Because they meet the need for the basic longing for protection and providing. Primitive yes but still applicable in many cases today since women don’t earn as much money and often care for children and elderly.

      For men, the common ones are youth and beauty and supportiveness. Still applicable today because we haven’t changed men’s culture so men find supportive, “sweet” women easier to help him navigate the man card dilemma. And a young and beautiful wife is a sign of his man card success.

      That is the first pass of attraction, the more driven we are by our fast thinking brains the more these will apply. High School is a prime example because our young minds haven’t had time to mature yet.

      Online dating is another because the limited information available and choosing among many options invites our fast thinking mind to play game theory to get the tallest guy and the prettiest girl.

      It apparently gets the fast thinking mating instinct involved so much that men think it makes sense to send multiple dick pictures to random women. WTF??????? Yeah quality women love that, good strategy to pick your next long term relationship. But that’s the most primitive example of your fast thinking. Not a lot of slow thinking going on there.

      How does the slow thinking ever get involved so we can make decisions based on something other than superficial status symbols?

      As we learn and mature and go on dates with bad boys who treat us poorly, we add to the patterns for what “good mate” qualities are, we change our fast thinking. Men decide that they enjoy having interesting conversations so add intelligence and other factors.

      We work to heal childhood wounds that cause us to choose partners that recreate dysfunction patterns. Then we can engage our slow thinking to recognize the emotionally closed off man or the damsel in distress woman. And choose someone else.

      The more mature we are, the more our fast thinking gets better at being attracted to people who we both find attractive but also could be in a healthy relationship with us.

      Then we get married and think we are done. But that is just the beginning of the work to keep getting more mature and adding better patterns of good relationship skills to your fast thinking. So we can respond non-defensively when the wife complains about the dish.

      And we work to understand what good relationships really look like so we can use our slow thinking to choose something different than what our parents did or what we want to do that we know will not give us a happy marriage.

      Like

  17. shannon says:

    Drew, I feel for you. You are suffering as a husband what so many of us suffer as wives.I often wished that marriages were approached like jobs. Know that sounds so unromantic, but life is a ton of work. In a job, if one person was a slacker, they would either be fired or reviled by other workers. If we saw marriage the way we see our jobs, it would be evident that small details, undone or poorly done or not done in the proper time frame relative to the entire project, have consequences that are not acceptable in the work place. If an employee were constantly late, couldn’t follow the bosses orders, dropped crucial detail, they would shortly find themselves fired. I bet most of the people that are causing problems in a marriage by slacking on the simple stuff, are at work, great employees who understand and perform to nuance and detail, good teamplayers, thought highly of by their colleagues. Maybe we should just all remember that in marriage, we are one another’s bosses (repellent as that seems on the surface) because we can all fire, or be fired, with no recourse, no explanation, by divorce. So simple, yet so difficult to obtain.

    I think I said this before, but both my husband and I own our own businesses which we operate in our home/building. Sometimes his work pays the majority of the bills, sometimes mine does. At the end of the day, there is not one business that is less important than the other. At times, we have to be involved in each other’s business. Up until recently, he treated mine as he treated me, while I treated his as I treat mine. We never had a fight about mine involvement with his business.

    Last thought. I think most businesses and jobs rise or fall on the importance not of the huge operation, but the level of detail attended to within the larger umbrella. Same with marriages. The fixes are the ones we employ every day in order to keep our jobs. Why do we not employ that same skill set, understood expectation, to our marriages? Imagine explaining to your manager or pissed off colleague, why you didn’t do something, in the language used to explain to your spouse? Sigh.

    Like

    • Travis B. says:

      Ironic. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said the business world should operate more like a marriage, and less like its typical demands of maximum effort from the employee in return for minimal concessions from the company.

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      Travis, Shannon, some healthy balance would be in order then. 8) Marriage and jobs should be more like the other when it means expecting fair and appropriate, but not exploitative, effort

      Shannon, I love your points

      “If we saw marriage the way we see our jobs, it would be evident that small details, undone or poorly done or not done in the proper time frame relative to the entire project, have consequences that are not acceptable in the work place. If an employee were constantly late, couldn’t follow the bosses orders, dropped crucial detail, they would shortly find themselves fired”

      “Imagine explaining to your manager or pissed off colleague, why you didn’t do something, in the language used to explain to your spouse? Sigh.”

      Colleague 1: Why didn’t you do x by y date, as agreed?!
      Colleague 2: Maybe I would if if you weren’t such a nagging bitch?!

      Boss to employee: I’ve told you to call if you’re going to be late to your duties. Why didn’t you do it?
      Employee to boss: I called last time I was late! Why can’t you ever be happy?!

      Colleague 1: I want you to do this, but you want something else. We need to work out a compromise.
      Colleague 2: Nah, you’re wrong, what you want is just stupid.

      “Maybe we should just all remember that in marriage, we are one another’s bosses (repellent as that seems on the surface) because we can all fire, or be fired, with no recourse, no explanation, by divorce. So simple, yet so difficult to obtain.”

      Yes (of course one shouldn’t be the boss and the other the employee, at least I wouldn’t want that).

      “Up until recently, he treated mine as he treated me, while I treated his as I treat mine. We never had a fight about mine involvement with his business.”

      Huh, I remember a commenter talking about this, was this you? That you take messages and everything when he needs it, but he doesn’t do the same or something like that?

      And this has changed, when you became utterly unwilling/unable (because of the family trauma that was happening)? If so, I would be fascinated to hear more about it.

      Did he just start shaping up (proving that he really did know all along what you needed)?

      Or did you have to walk him through it but then he handled it responsibly after that (perhaps proving that he didn’t quite know what you needed BUT also that he was unwilling to learn it)?

      Like

      • shannon says:

        I absolutely meant that we are each other’s bosses, not one the boss and one the employee. And how ironic that Travis says he has always said work should be more like marriage, when what happened to so many is marriage became exploitive of one partner, just like in the corporate world. Really, I mean that if “Marriage” is the business and husband and wife are both employees and bosses in the mutually owned “Marriage Company” , the work of life (as opposed to love, fun, emotion, vulnerability, support, understanding, romance) the work of life together would be a shared project with the same self expectations that keep us employed vs fired.

        It was me that wrote about my husband not taking messages. No, I did not have to walk him through how to treat my business the way he wanted his treated. He knew, he just did not bother to do. And he is not shy about being ashamed.

        What changed him was the change in me from the family trauma. I am not sure it was sympathy so much as it was horror that what he relied on from me was slipping away. Life as he knew it, with a strong, supportive person, was fading. Had he not been able to step up, I would have had to leave him to save myself, although I am not sure if I would have. It takes strength to leave someone. I might have just sunk into apathy or worse.

        7 years ago I had cancer. The bad kind, the kind that is considered “generally terminal”. I was given a 20% chance to make it through one year. Once the almost certain death stuff sunk in, I approached it the same way I approach everything, as a project with steps and options. What issues I had I handled well. I worked, I did yoga, I walked, I went out, I had people in. I was the same person I always was, just bald. My husband was great through all of this. He in no way let me down in emotional support, but remember I carried on as usual. He did not change in the ways he lets me down in life responsibilities, then or later, until I changed due to the family situation. So there’s no help for anyone there!

        I was fascinated by the discussion of male and female attributes as dictated by society, our culture, and what attracts us to each other. But I also thought, what about the qualities that are neither male nor female, vulnerable or tough, but eminently pragmatic. Those are directness (oh, god, is there anything sexier than a man looking you straight in the eyes and talking to you straight up) and introspection. I live for the times I can now say “I am not mad at you for this and this, I am upset because this is the repercussion on me” and he can say “yeah, that was stupid. Sorry about that. I can do this in the future, will that work for you? It actually helps in that we have stopped having exhaustive talks about things and are trying to say it all in more direct, less wordy, terms, without the emotional overlay. He is very aware that his hot button is “being caught out”. Now he can just say “Forgot exactly how to do this. Tell me again, okay”.

        So we all struggle on. The hard part is it takes both of us, most of the time, to be there. Someone once told me that a couple does not have to be 50/50 at any given time, it can be 90/10, but at the end of each week, it should balance on that. If it doesn’t, for a long time, the person who is doing the bulk of the work gets what compares to “Caretaker burnout”, that which is a recognized and treated condition of people who are taking care of their sick and/or elderly.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Shannon, you have really been through a lot. You’re an inspiraton. Thank you for getting back to me.

        Yes, I totally got the impression that you also meant both should be eac hothers bosses.

        “No, I did not have to walk him through how to treat my business the way he wanted his treated. He knew, he just did not bother to do.”

        How extremely shitty of him to have knowingly behaved that way (sorry, but I can’t put it in nicer terms), evn though I’m guessing you brought it up with him many times. I’m guessing he had many excuses for why he didn’t know or couldn’t do it at the time though. Would you care to share those?

        It’s good he’s ashamed of it now. Would you care to share what he has said about why he didn’t treat your business as well as you treated his? Was it lazyness, was it a way to establish his position as the more priviliged partner, the one most entitled to respect? Did he say how he could defend to himself doing this, even though he knew what was going on and that it was hurting you?

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        shannon said,

        “I mean that if ‘Marriage’ is the business and husband and wife are both employees and bosses in the mutually owned ‘Marriage Company’, the work of life (as opposed to love, fun, emotion, vulnerability, support, understanding, romance) would be a shared project with the same self expectations that keep us employed vs fired.”

        I’m very comfortable with this positioning. My concern with comparing marriages to businesses (and keep in mind, my background with businesses is limited to major corporations, not mom-and-pop start-ups) is that the power dynamic in all but the smallest businesses is never equilateral between the company and its employees, which I think is critical long-term for a successful marriage (exactly as you referenced, “a couple does not have to be 50/50 at any given time, it can be 90/10, but [ultimately], it should balance”). But from a mom-and-pop business standpoint, both parties simultaneously bosses and employees? Yes, that holds legitimacy in my opinion.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        We had/have a family business but I was exploited for many many years… HE was the boss. I was expected to act like a partner, but treated like a “labour” in context of salary. All of my spare time was duties to care for the home, care for the kids, personal finances.

        I felt like I was hired as a room and board nanny.

        Couldn’t do it anymore!

        Now after so many years of being told “you’d be nothing without me”, I’ve lost who I was. He’s said it so many times and when I’ve often confronted him on it, he says I’m crazy and he’d wouldn’t say that. He denies everything. It’s like he blacks out when he treats me like shit, and then he can just “forget” it ever happened.

        I don’t even know where to begin regaining my identity. A job. A life. I’ve been in a coma for 20 years. His coma. His perimeter of life.

        He controlled everything I did for myself. If I did anything without his permission, it was a major fight or silent treatment for weeks. (to the point of ‘sticky notes to communicate for work)

        I have been injured in the last 3 years and this added to my feeling helpless… hopeless.

        I left him last year. Still recovering from a major surgery, but I’m hopeful I will get stronger.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Wow, By George!
          I am in awe of you. Seriously.
          New life can be a struggle- but it’s YOURS!!
          You mentioned your not sure about getting a job? Are there any womens organizations in your area? They may be attached to shelters and such- but a lot of times they have vocational rehab assistance. Or look up “Vocational Rehab” in your area- they usually either can help find a job with your skill set, or they can help you find places to get skills training.
          You are better and more than you think you think you are!

          Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        I don’t think I’ll have an issue “finding” a job. I’m being hounded by a recruiting company often. I just can’t look right now, because I’m weak. Physically mostly, but mentally as well.

        It’s the recovery that is taking time. The unknown of permanent damage that I don’t know what to expect in the next while. Just today, taking a small 30 min walk wiped me out. I have no idea from day to day what my pain level will be and or how tired I will be. The depression also doesn’t help my situation.

        I also have 2 teens that I have every other week and I struggle with that as well. It’s been a big change for them and the age (especially my daughter), is going through some pretty massive social issues. At 15, my life was a mess, so I know how hard this must be for her.

        I bought a book recently. “The six pillars of self-esteem” by Nathaniel Branden.

        If I wasn’t so busy reading here all the time, I might get to read it more often! ;)

        Love these conversations!

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Me,too,!! with cant read anything else because I’m reading here.
          Yeah, that sounds like a pretty crappy-feeling place to be.
          Lots of stress from different angles.
          I hope it doesn’t last too much longer for you.
          I can pray for you and your daughters if you wouldn’t mind.
          Sending you blessings and peace. :)

          Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Thank you Linbo.

        Very kind of you. :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Bygeorge, I’m so sorry! :(

        What you describe sounds truly truly awful. It wasn’t the same situation, but someone in my life has had similar black outs when it comes to stuff they did. Sometimes they’ve remembered, sometimes they don’t. Crazy making for sure. I told this to a therapist/coach and he just shook his head with a little laugh (but a kind laugh). I got the impression that this kind of thing was quite common. At some point I more or less decided that I didn’t need them to fess up so to speak. I knew I was right on this (even if I know that memory isn’t a static thing, that I can allow for I still know the core of what happened).

        At least you were able to leave him! A part of yourself was still intact and could stand up for you and get you out of that harmful situation. That part will get bigger and bigger!

        Virtual hug should you want it! <3

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Donkey,

        I think I’ve said this to you before that I think what you say here, I relate to your words.

        I can’t say that ALL the years we were together were bad. I remember the first few years after my kids were born being pleasant for the most part. So a good 10 years was ok.

        It was when our company started making good money that it became clearer. The more there was, the more powerful he felt. The more he felt “achieved”, the less I became valuable to his eyes. He was King, I was his peasant. He was “worthy”, I wasn’t.

        To give you a small example. Say on a Sunday morning. We are all home and out of no where, he’s gone for a couple of hours. I’m with the kids at home, occupying them, cleaning the house and what not, and he comes back from going out for breakfast alone. His answer to this was… “I needed something at the hardware store to fix this. I didn’t think you’d want to come. It takes too much time out of my day for us to all go. This way, I can go and come back to my work.”

        Now if I had done something like that, the shit would have hit the fan! I think I can count on my fingers and toes how many days I have spent away from home for “me time”. I had the duties of the children, (for the most part and that was ok with me), but I had to schedule my me time only when they were not home. It’s a million things like that, that had a tole on me.

        His time was his time, my time was his time and everyone else’s time. Deviating from his perception of what I should be “for” him, the kids or the company with every minute of my life, was then an assault on my part. If I was “late” say when the kids got back from school at 3pm, even if he was home, this was “wrong” in his eyes.

        For a good 7 years of the end of our relationship, he spent most of his weekends away from home on a project, while I juggled the kids myself at home. His reasoning was it was “for the family”.

        He continued this behaviour and much worse examples for the last decade. The yelling got worse as well. Our children often intercepted asking us to stop. It was time to leave.

        Now that we are separated, this behaviour still repeats.

        He will fight me tooth and nail to not give me a dime for what we built together. I am not about to “give away” 20 years of my life, so that he can live off what was essentially OURS. He literally thinks by walking away, I should be starting over from nothing (because in his mind, I am nothing without him as he said it so many times).

        But he will deny it. Even if it’s clearly written in the legal paper work, his excuse is that it’s “lawyer” stuff. That it really isn’t how he feels. That he loves me and that he doesn’t want any one but me. Are you fucking kidding me?? No wonder… he just lost his slave!

        He will never see me as his equal… It’s so clear to me now.

        I do take blame for much of this. I should have not been so naive. I should have had boundaries. But when you have kids, there is that “hope” to hang on to what you feel should be. It wasn’t always bad. But when the many bad situations outweigh the good in mass proportion, the hope dies.

        And I was dying.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Dear Bygeorge,

        First of all, I definitely believe you when you say it wasn’t all bad. :)

        That being said, it seems like dehumanizing is my new go to word, but that’s what this sounds like to me (the parts that were bad, I’m not discounting your good/ok years!). Dealing with the kids is a hassle for him, but something that’s you’re just obligated to do. His time is his time, your time is his time and the children’s time. How he could seem himself as more worthy because the money was coming in when you were both making it, is just… effed up. I wish I could give you a step by step explanations of how this happens. I can only say, though we all can and do fall prey to this (and of course there are different degrees of it!), harmful social conditioning and all kinds of personal experiences and biases result in dehumanzation of others, especially if they belong to some kind of group we’re socialized to see ourselves as better than.

        If he hasn’t faced enough bad consequences over the years to make him realize his faulty thinking over the years, it just becomes more and more ingrained. And if he’s already dehumanized you to a large extent, he doesn’t really respect you, so it’s even more inconceivable that you could be right and he could be wrong. Sounds like even the divorce wasn’t enough to wake him up to the possibility that he didn’t treat you right., or that there was something he must have been missing, even if he didn’t yet know what it was. Goodness gracious.

        If I’m off base, then please feel very free to tell me so, or just please feel very free to disregard it. If you’ve been more on the codependent side rather than on the narcissistic side (Terry Real), you’ve probably accepted more influence than you should have, and I believe you must be extra wary of accepting what anyone else tells you is true without checking with yourself :) Like Lisa says, we must lean in and practice what we haven’t done enough of.

        Is there something in particular I say that you resonate with, or is it more a general thing? :)

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        “And if he’s already dehumanized you to a large extent, he doesn’t really respect you, so it’s even more inconceivable that you could be right and he could be wrong.”

        The respect I think I know now was never really there. In the beginning I really felt that his “promises” were real. Now I am starting to feel that they were his way of manipulating me. I fell for it. I was naive. He really does not think “he could be wrong”. He really thinks that this is the way “life” goes. I understand that he knows no better and really wishes that we could “make it work”. But he doesn’t see me. He does not empathize with me. And it’s not just with me, but with pretty much everyone who is part of his life, even our employees.

        I just can’t pretend that it’s ok like he wants me to believe. I have on many occasions tried to pretend for the sake of not fighting. Like a dog who pancakes itself in fear of the unknown. He has never hit me though. I want to make that clear. But it’s NOT ok to “dehumanize” like you said. Perfect word! ;)

        I’ve tried to have “calm” talks with him. Trying to explain how I was living HIS life, not OUR life. I’m somewhat traditional, but everyone deserves to be valued and respected, especially when devoting so much of yourself. We could have made a good even great team, but the more time went by, the more he pushed me off the ladder, while he climbed to the top.

        Flaunting “his” success while I regularly took out the trash. No one sees the amount of trash that goes to the curb every minute of the day because the time spent doing shitty stuff like that doesn’t have $$ attached to it. Nor does putting that glass in the dishwasher. When you spend 20 years taking out the trash and the one who apparently “loves” you can’t see it, it gets very demoralizing. I wasn’t just a wife and mom, but I was the backbone of our company in many ways as well.

        I don’t remember specifically what you have said on so many comments, but your general comments hit home with me. I think we have lived similar experiences.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Hello again Bygeorge,

        Thanks for talking with me. :)

        In my mind, traditional or not isn’t the issue, and I’m guessing you’d agree. My mom and her husband (my parents are divorced) have a more modern deal going on. They both work full time and they share the home responsibilites fairly. My mom has said he might even do more.

        But here’s a more traditional example from their life: They used to have a cabin that he brought into the marriage and that was mostly his pet project. So mostly his thing, but it benefited my mom too, since she liked being there. Sometimes he wanted to put a lot of effort into diy stuff there (he’s super handy and loves projects of all kinds). And on those occasions, my mom would often come along to take care of the in house stuff. Cooking, cleaning, the trash, you know the drill. My point? He apprecciated that, he did not take it for granted. He recognized that while he was working on something outside, she was doing more inside, and he knew he wouldn’t have been able to focus on his projects if she hadn’t done more of the everyday stuff. And he appreciated her efforts! So even though the set up was what many people would label as more traditional, there wasn’t any disrespect there you know?

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        That’s exactly what I wanted. I just wanted respect as his equal. His partner as he promised.

        When I see this clip of Beauty And The Beast, it reminds me of my husbands “take” on what life should be as partners. He often made me feel as if I should feel privileged to have him for a husband. Mind you he was not physically like Gascon or did he act vein like this, but his concept of being a good provider should have made me worship him. I didn’t feel like this in the beginning, it just got worse over the years. The more money we made, the more dominating and controlling he acted.

        Your mom and husband sound very happy together. I’m jealous. ;)

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        oops… vain not vein

        sometimes i don’t think when i type. my languages get mixed too sometimes. ;)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        You mention languages getting mixed up, Bygeorge, are you perhaps also somewhere in Europe like me? :)

        My mom and husband are pretty happy, but they also have their dificulties for sure.

        Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Linbo, my spelling is horrible in both French and English… I just don’t take the time. I struggle with my vocabulary in both as well. The French we speak is a different dialect from “proper” french in textbooks. Makes it difficult for our kids at school. (there are no English schools in my village) Even though my kids and their friends speak french with each other most of the time, it’s not the same.

        Donkey, I’m Canadian. :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          I struggle enough with just one language, I couldn’t imagine juggling two. I don’t know what I can blame for it, but my vocab has declined greatly over the last decade or so. At work I speak all the medical jargon, at church I speak all the religious jargon, when I’m at home there’s not much to say…
          The more social I am, the easier it is, for sure.
          Do people in your village speak your dialect?

          Like

          • Linbo says:

            Bygeorge, Donkey,Lisa-
            Even though a part of me worries about what I am going to miss out on, I think I’m going to take a break for a few days. So, if I don’t answer anything that’s why.
            Will see Yall later…😉😉😉

            Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Yes they do but depending on what part of the province or other province or different parts of the county, you might find different accents. One thing I noticed in this village is that the french “whine” (typically the kids). They tend to drag the end of their sentences. It’s strange to me and my kids have picked up the accent. It drives me crazy! Some kids more than others.

        When my kids do do it, I will correct them. I will have them repeat how to properly end the sentence without the the annoying “drag” of the word.

        I guess you can compare it to say “England” where different parts of the country speak with different accents and you might not understand them completely even if you speak English.

        A dear long time friend of mine visited me last year from France. It’s funny because even though she spent only a week with me, my accent started changing. I guess it made me feel more like I was relating to her more appropriately.

        Languages are fascinating that way.

        Like

  18. shannon says:

    Donkey, I laughed until I cried about your scenario of Colleague 1 & 2 /! I saw it like a Dilbert comic strip!

    No problem with me or the husband in calling what he did shitty. It was shitty, Drew nailed it, though, when he said that each time, the explanation seemed reasonable (at least to the explainer) but the aggregate sounds like a bunch of excuses and justification, to the one left holding the bag. Husband, and all the other people that do this crap, really do not see it, as Matt has said over and over. It is because they minimize it by looking at it one little incident at a time.

    As to what I have been through, let me rank it from least worst to worst. In between, though, I have had a good life.

    4. Cancer If I died of it, it would be #1, but I didn’t. There was nothing I could do about it, so in the aftermath, it ranks at the bottom end of Bad.

    3. Mother’s Suicide Despite the life long repurcussions,(sp) once it was done, there was nothing I could do about but live with it and miss her.

    2. Marriage issues There is a ton that can be done, simply, to address and make these right, but the fix requires both willing people. That it is so stupidly simple adds insult to injury. This ranks this high because the anguish is so avoidable. To be clear, I am talking about the ongoing little shit, the proverbial glass left in the sink.

    1. The current family situation This is like #2 on steroids, like one big wallop of all the little shit in one cosmic punch, also eminently fixable if the parties involved were willing.

    As to inspiration, I got mine when I shakily walked into my first chemo, only to see a kid who could not have been older than 12, hooked up to the chemo J-peg. It felt like being punched in the face by the fist of Perspective. I got my crap together in that instant.

    And now for a real life analogy of how people don’t see what they do. My neighborhood has had a recent plague of break ins, car jackings, assaults, which include guns. We made an escape plan should a break in occur. Last week, 3 am, door starts rattling hard. Wake up husband, go into urgent plan. He went into regression. First needed me to justify to his satisfaction what I thought was going on, then didn’t want to hurry, then was disgruntled at being told what to do. I have in my hand the car keys, my purse, a baseball bat, and the cell phone on which I am dialing 911. Time is of the essence to get out. I am thinking “do I leave him to get beat up while I escape and get help, or do I stay and get beat up with him”. He finds it easier to put both of us in danger than to see his shit. It’s not even personal! I am now a total believer in they don’t mean it, they just do it. How to hammer that out of them is beyond me. I am just lucky that we have crossed the Rubicon of husband getting it, be it during the fact or after the fact. I have hope that we can get to “before the fact”.

    He was damn chagrined the next day, but it takes feeling the pain of his actions or reactions to get a grip on not doing them. That is why, and I say it again, I am not particularly sympathetic to people trying to dodge their own pain. Because in their dodging and weaving, they give no quarter to the ones they are inflicting pain upon.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      I’m glad I made you laugh. :)

      1. Husband, and all the other people that do this crap, really do not see it, as Matt has said over and over. It is because they minimize it by looking at it one little incident at a time.”

      2. “He finds it easier to put both of us in danger than to see his shit. It’s not even personal! I am now a total believer in they don’t mean it, they just do it.”

      3. “No, I did not have to walk him through how to treat my business the way he wanted his treated. He knew, he just did not bother to do.”

      I’m a but confused, because in quote 3 you say your husband did know the right thing to do, he just didn’t bother to do it. And in the previous post about the leaving your wife after birth incident, you talked very eloquently about the deflection, and I really appreciated that. And there can’t be deflection unless there’s some kind of knowledge (albeit it may be unacknowledged and unconscious at the time) to deflect from. And you also talked about not believeing your husband’s excuses anymore, calling him out on his deflection and so on. But in quote 1 and 2 you seem to believe the explanation that they don’t know/don’t see it, though I definitely do not get the impression that you therefore think it’s ok.

      I guess I’m just trying to understand what you really believe, because to me it seems like these things are at least somewhat mutually exclusive? If you don’t think that, please explain. I would really like to understand your view. :)

      I believe that the “I just didn’t know” can be true. But if you think you’re right that your wife has to justify everything going on in a potential emergency for you to hurry up, and if you’re so wrapped up in your own way of thinking and believing that you don’t believe your wife is right when she tells you you need to stay, you don’t accept her influence because you don’t agre, you’re dehumanizing them to some extent, due to a selfish/entitled ay of operating at that moment at least (and again, we all commit or have committed this sin). You stop seeing them as an equally capeable and real and important person, and this allows you to believe your own stupid/selfish thinking, even when the other person, frankly, is right, or at least diserve equal regard.

      Virtual hug should you want it Shannon! :) I really appreciat your comments. Are you in the States? I ask because I’m in Europe and if you’re also here, it wouldn’t be impossible to meet up. That would be fun!

      Like

  19. shannon says:

    I just read these last posts to husband. He remembers the many times we had it out on lack of message taking, but his reason, going backwards, is he was just blank. He knows he did not do what he should, but when he should have done it, there is a blank.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      There is a… blank?! I don’t get it. :p He can’t remember the justification he used to convince himself with? Something else?

      Like

  20. shannon says:

    By blank, what he meant is when he is “caught out” for what he did/did not do, he has no recollection of making a choice to do or not do. His brain doesn’t weigh -” hm, I really should do this but what the hell, what is the big deal”, nor does it trigger “this really pisses her off when I don’t do it and it is no big deal to do it”. He is, literally, on auto pilot thinking about himself and himself only. None of this has anything to do with “does he or does he not know how to properly take a message”.

    In the past, when I would bring up these transgressions, be I calm and reasonable or very upset or anything in between, I see the blankness on his face but I couldn’t believe that either then or the next time or the next time or the next time it doesn’t kick in that, as Drew said, this is a pattern of behavior. He, on the other hand, since he doesn’t remember making a decision, didn’t really believe he had acted as he did because it was not his intent to hurt. Somehow, in all that, lack of intent starts to equal lack of action, and my experience, not being his, is not a real experience. Yes, it is darn well selfish, irresponsible, self centered. But it is not deliberate.

    When he hears/sees/senses me putting pressure on him, he has the habit of reacting one way. He has allowed himself to build a knee jerk, Pavlovian habit of “she upset, me shut down”.

    On a funny note, he actually accused me of “yelling” at him as I whispered so the thieves would not hear that we were inside. That was in the midst of it, not the next day when we talked about it. But that is how delusional this habit is.

    Why has this happened ? I would agree with Matt and Drew. They look at each situation as a one off, and because so many of the situations are the proverbial glass in the sink, they habituate their responses to be theWhen same “how can anyone be upset about such a little thing”. Then they forget it until the next time, rinse and repeat. By the time it is a problematic pattern, they have a non thinking habit going. Maybe we should call it an addiction, because that reflects how strongly they are bound to it.

    By not going back in time, talking it over, hearing and believing their partner’s experience of their actions, accounting for themselves, and planning, deliberating planning, a new response, they stay to the default reaction, until it leads to not staying with their thinking brain long enough to differentiate between the damn glass in the sink, or a vandals at the door, or a wife crying in the hospital.

    Going back and reviewing your shittiness in an unadulterated way is hard. (pain avoidance) Facing your wife and admitting to everything without excusing it is hard. Apologizing without the “but” is hard. And putting your brain to use to form other plans and options to fall back on is hard work. Yep, now we have selfish and lazy.

    The big difference now is that he believes me when I tell him what he did or did not do. He believes me when I tell him how that particular thing makes me feel. He has accepted that intent is completely different from outcome. He can talk about what he will do differently. I think all of them are big, but when someone says to themselves, this is what I am going to do (not “try” to do) there is a commitment to themselves that takes place.

    It is a paradox that by thinking about yourself, in terms of making a commitment to yourself, can make you be much less selfish.

    So I repeat. I do not hold it against people when they do incredibly shitty things. I hold it against them when they refuse to acknowledge, explore, account, apologize, plan alternatives. Except in my marriage, of course, when I bought the excuses wholesale until they ground me to the dust.

    Do you watch Scandal? Right from the get go, the characters say this “Say it” Say it”!

    Long ago, I worked for someone who talked about “making decisions”. He said two things. Pondering options is the process of making a decision, but making a decision is an act. Husband has made the decision to not be what he was, which involves knowing who he was in all its ugly glory. That I know because now we can talk about it without all those nasty defenses going up, with his clear eyes looking into mine, his head up, his attention focused.

    I have said I have little sympathy for people who avoid their pain, but I have great sympathy for people who are trying to face their pain, and that is what I see on these boards.

    I live in the States, but lucky you to live in Europe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I said it before… you really “get” me.

      This was good to read. On many levels. Thank you, Shannon.

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      Shannon thank you again, this is very clarifying and enlightening.

      If you’d be wiling, I would really appreciate you explaining how this, in your opinion, fits into what you also say about deflection. Im quoting you from the comment section of the previous post:

      “What I find interesting with this whole thread and personally is that just as the motherlode, the nugget, that little thing that is the basis for all the shitty stuff is approached, men seem to deflect. A little twist, a little wiggle, and they have successfully avoided the meat at the heart of all the problems.”

      “I read the entire thread to my husband. Just as I got to the real meat, he got up, went to the sink, and started running the water. I made him come back and sit down and called him out on deflecting.”

      “We kind of had to peel the levels of resistance off, one at a time. We once sat at a table and I counted, by number, the amount of times he tried to deflect. It was over 60 at one setting. The twisting, the turning, the wiggling, all to avoid the horrible truth, which is that there is no excuse for not admitting and accounting for your uglinesses.”

      If many don’t know what they’re doing, because they’ve become addicted to their own reactions and habits as you say, they’re on autopilot thinking of themselves/only believing themsleves, why would there be a need to deflect at all, if they really don’t now deep down they’re being a selfish and dehumanizing asshole? I’m thinking there must be at least some unconscious knowledge of that ugly truth, or else there wouldn’t be a need/tendency to deflect, you know? But if that’s true, then the whole not knowing thing can’t also be completely true.

      What do you think Shannon? (and anyone else)

      Like

  21. […] This essay originally appeared on Must Be This Tall To Ride. […]

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  22. All the good names were taken says:

    There’s just one thing with the steam engine metaphor that I think is a bit off.

    Dating is more like renting a steam engine, I think. You pick it up at the depot and you didn’t have to clean it or load the coal into the car that follows behind the engine, someone else did that for you. Someone has filled it with water and started the boiling. If you don’t like running the steam engine together, you’ll find out soon enough. But when you go out and it’s all Wheee! This is fun! We’re a team! Yay us!

    You bring that engine back, someone else is responsible for cleaning it and restocking it. Some mechanic tunes it up, someone else touches up the paint and gets it ready for the next people who come around looking to rent it for a while.

    Eventually, you or your SO has the bright idea that renting this steam engine is *really* fun and we should buy our own! Yeah, that sounds awesome! We have so much fun with this engine, if we had our own, we could go anywhere and do anything! We’ll save money! Everyone we know has their own steam engine and we’re old enough/it’s the next step/responsible thing to do/we love each other we can handle this.

    And so you move in together or get married, sign on that dotted line and are the proud new co-owners of your very own steam engine. Now the full weight of steam engine ownership and maintenance starts with all the “You should shovel that coal because I’m the one who bought it and I need a rest.” Or “would you please put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher when you’re done with them?” Or “this engine looks terrible, the brass isn’t shiny and why is all the paint scratched up?” “I haven’t had time to do any touch ups because I’ve been shoveling all day.” Continue on with the adding of extra cars and baggage and etc.

    Kind of like the difference between renting a cottage and owning one. You can rent a cottage for a week and the traffic, the bugs, it’s all just that one week, no big deal, we’re here to have fun! You buy a cottage, and you have to cut the grass every week, buy insurance, pay the electric bill, pay the property taxes, repair the roof, fix the engine on the boat, go up there every weekend and deal with the traffic. And you’ve got to love that cottage enough to put up with all the hassles in order to keep it. Or it’ll just become a place for critters until it collapses in on itself.

    Like

  23. […] That’s what it looks like to shovel the coal necessary to keep the train moving. […]

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  24. […] And then more kids grow up a little bit sad and a little bit confused and never see the way marriage is SUPPOSED to be. […]

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  25. Abby says:

    This is so darn good. Thank you for this blog. I’ve been binge reading all afternoon and I love it. I am encouraged to be a better wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. […] were shoveling coal to keep the steam train moving, but not without a lot of resentment and questioning of whether the effort was worth […]

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  27. howtobreakalife says:

    Maybe the coal was bad to begin with…lol. I’m trying to pick up the shovel, but my husband put it down for years and years and years and now that he wants to work in tandem, I feel like I don’t want to. It feels like it’s on his time frame. Sometimes a wife just gets sick of being last.

    Like

  28. […] can’t NOT do the work of the shoveling coal in your marriage every day and expect your spouse to not notice since she/he MUST shovel enough coal to compensate for the […]

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