The Worst Thing Wives Do

crime scene

(Image/iStock)

During our first year of marriage, my wife was so unhappy living in Florida that she wanted to move back to her parents’ house a thousand miles away and live with them instead of me, not knowing when or if I’d find a job back in our home state that would allow me to move there and be with her.

If anyone’s curious about when I started losing self-assuredness and questioning my self-worth, now you know.

Long before I was accidentally (but egregiously) a shitty husband, I was just a young guy trying to figure things out.

I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. The younger me spent a lot of time coasting through life, living for the next fun thing, and almost no time thinking about how my actions affected others, or what I could do to be a better person.

I was a young newspaper reporter, just a few years removed from college, living in a Florida beach town and writing business stories at a daily newspaper.

We got married when we were 25. In front of a few hundred people in a pretty Ohio church where people came from all over the country to support us. Family. High school friends. College friends.

It was a good day. A good day that represented everything we wanted our life to be after discovering that whatever good the sunny beach life brought us didn’t outweigh for us the negative consequences of missing the company, support and comfort of being around long-time friends and family.

As easy as it was for me to find a newspaper gig in the economically vibrant conditions Florida enjoyed in 2002, it was excruciatingly difficult to find newswriting jobs in the economically depressed conditions Ohio was experiencing a few years later.

Many people don’t understand the challenge, but I’ll explain it. Before financially viable online journalism existed, a newspaper reporter had the following choices: 1. Get a job with a city’s daily paper (of which there is usually just ONE). 2. Get a job with a business or alternative weekly newspaper. 3. Get a magazine job. 4. Abandon journalism.

I was just 25, and the macroeconomics of print journalism’s future hadn’t become obvious to me. I still believed I’d ultimately end up as a reporter for a large metro daily newspaper in one of the Ohio cities, or maybe even land an Ohio-based gig with The Wall Street Journal, the paper with which I was totally smitten.

But we have to walk before we can run, so while I had already begun forging relationships with editors at the big papers, it wasn’t realistic to think I could jump right from my first reporting job at a mid-sized daily to a major metro paper without a few years at another mid-sized paper first.

I stayed in touch with editors at all the viable papers, sending them front-page stories I was proud of, and keeping my name and resume in front of them.

Every so often, I’d be invited to fly up for a job interview.

That was exciting at first. My wife would light up with the possibilities. We’d tell our parents. We’d tell our friends back home. We’d poke around at real estate listings that were totally out of our price range and dream a little dream of a fairytale life where everything was perfect and beautiful.

Then, one by one, I’d fly back to Florida from each interview hopeful that this time it’s going to work!

I liked making her happy. I liked giving her things. I liked feeling as if she was proud of me.

But, of course, one by one, I’d get news that the newspaper was going to hire someone else. Someone who lives closer. Someone who better understands the banking industry. Someone with previous experience covering city hall. I either didn’t have enough experience, or I was going to be too expensive for the Ohio economy.

And one bit of bad news after another, she was crushed.

We were up here. High. Hopeful.

“Thank you for your interest in career opportunities with our company. We’re sorry, but at this time we’re moving forward with another candidate. You’re going to be an excellent reporter someday! Please stay in touch! We’ll be sure to keep your resume on file.”

Then we were down here. Low. Disappointed.

Close family members fighting scary health problems piled on the pressure. She felt helpless and far away.

Every failure to get a job offer represented me failing my new wife. I couldn’t give her the thing she wanted most: Home.

The High Crimes of Wives

I’ve written twice about what I’ve identified as the worst thing I’ve ever done to my wife. The second time, people got really upset with me about it.

It helped me (and hopefully all the male readers) understand just how big of an emotional trigger the subject of child birth and husband support actually is.

From the discussion came a question I’ve been kicking around since:

Taylor asked: “Question Matt: this abandoning wife in childbirth is evidently a very common husband sin of cosmic proportions; what is the wife equivalent? I’m guessing there is at least one really common wife sin of cataclysmic proportions that women just don’t get that is comparable to the shitty husband cop-out we’ve been discussing.”

I’m not comfortable speaking on behalf of men on this one. I’m not confident there is a critical mass of husbands who ever experience the unique circumstances which brought this on.

As always, I only know what happened to me.

Symbolically, What is Marriage?

Everyone has their own take.

Here’s what I thought it was: Two young people leaving the nests of life with their parents, and building a new nest with each other.

If you and your parents are the innermost ring in your life, when you marry, your spouse replaces them as the innermost ring. Then, your parents move out to the second ring in our little personal Who Do We Love Most? solar systems.

That’s what I was taught. That’s what I believed. And that’s how I felt inside.

One day, she looked me in the eye and said she wanted to move a thousand miles away to go live with her parents in Ohio and leave me alone in our Florida apartment.

I died a little inside.

In our first year of marriage, and at a time when we didn’t have the financial resources to buy airline tickets.

I didn’t have the gut-level emotional reaction I had during our separation and torturous march toward divorce, but—for me—that was very bad.

Very bad.

So bad, that—not unlike how I imagine my wife might have reacted had a crystal ball owner told her she was marrying a guy who would leave the hospital the night of her only child’s birth—if someone had told me the person I wanted to marry would choose her parents over me within the first year of marriage, I would not have married her.

Maybe we can chalk it up to young people not knowing how to express themselves honestly or ask the right questions.

So, what does that mean? What do you call that?

I’m not sure.

The person I had mentally, emotionally and spiritually replaced my parents with, didn’t do the same for me.

It made me feel as if geography and her parents were more important to her than her marriage. It made me feel something less than loved. It made me feel as if she didn’t trust that I could ever be enough for her.

Maybe those things are true. Maybe they’re not. I know better than to presume I know what other people are thinking.

I didn’t think I was committing a major crime when I left the hospital that night. I didn’t know that would be such a defining moment in our marriage. No matter what you think, I didn’t know.

I’m quite certain my perfectly decent and well-intentioned wife didn’t think she was causing significant emotional harm by wanting to be with her family, which because of health issues, was for more than just selfish reasons. I don’t think she knew that would impact me as it did.

We were just kids. Kids dreaming our dreams.

So, what’s the crime? Making him feel as if he’s not enough, and intentionally or otherwise, rubbing his nose in it.

She couldn’t trust me to be enough. And in the end, I suppose I proved her right.

And now we dream new dreams.

…..

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120 thoughts on “The Worst Thing Wives Do

  1. tonifoverby says:

    I blame parents for this as much if not more than I blame children. There should be a clear understanding that unless there’s some kind of grotesque physical abuse or grandchildren are going to be left completely homeless on the streets, married children cannot return to the nest once a ring is on the finger.

    My husband’s family was NOT ready for him to grow up and as a consequence, he did not hold a job the first three years we were married. Meanwhile, I raised two children, went to school and worked full-time. His parents constantly gave us money, which I hated and he gladly accepted.

    Now he is an amazing provider, but the trust we should have built in those first years of leaning on each other will be forever broken. You simply can’t get that back once it’s gone.

    Someone said we go into marriage expecting what we see our parents already have. I agree. We should tell our kids more about our early days of eating pork and beans from a can and being dirt poor. Then maybe young married people wouldn’t expect to automatically live in a $300,000 home with a country club membership. Those things have to be earned. My husband and I have been married 15 years and we are just getting to a place of buying wants instead of just trying to survive.

    Like

    • tonifoverby says:

      Oh, and I love this, Matt. As always!

      Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      You know I agree that parents need to set a firm boundary that the couple is the primary relationship once they are married.

      It is amazing that you have been able to build a good marriage considering the start with being so dysfunctionally intertwined with his parents.

      How were you both able to develop a healthier balance with his parents?

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      • tonifoverby says:

        Oh, we haven’t. Four years ago we moved two and a half hours away from them (we lived just down the street for 8) and that helped a little. But honestly, the problems will always be there. It really doesn’t ever go away.

        We are only together now because we’ve both chosen to be. He is the type of father who doesn’t want to miss his kids grow up, and I am the product of a horrific divorce so my thoughts are never far from those memories. It truly is a choice; when people used to tell me love and marriage was that way, I never believed them. But it’s true.

        There are days that makes me really sad, and there are days I’m proud that I’m trying to give my kids better than I had.

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        • gottmanfan says:

          Do you think the issue around your inlaws has to do with your husband not being able to set boundaries or does he enjoy it this way?

          Is it like Everybody Loves Raymond? When the crazy in laws come over?

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          • tonifoverby says:

            I wouldn’t say he prefers it that way as much as I’d say that’s all he knows. His mother’s relationship with his father/her family was exactly the same, and not long into our relationship she told me she raised her four kids to be closer to their siblings than their spouses. It is what it is.

            I should say that I’m just as guilty for allowing it. My husband and I put the cart before the horse so we not only didn’t know each other, we didn’t have time to really discuss the ins and outs of marriage.

            I think they felt bad for him (I don’t fault them there) and so they babied him without realizing it was killing our marriage.

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            • gottmanfan says:

              “She raised her four kids to be closer to their siblings than their spouses”

              Ok theres some weird parenting philosophy going on there.

              I’m surprised they’re not all divorced.

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              • tonifoverby says:

                I don’t want to barrage Matt’s blog with comment replies, but I will say she is a sweet woman who really adores her grandkids. I was angry for a long time, but I am certainly far from perfect and try to dole out as much forgiveness as I’d want someone to forgive me. 😉

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    • Julie Joaquin says:

      I read all your comments and had to say something. My parents never divorced. They didn’t separate till I was in my mid 20’s. That was right around the time I thought they might actually love each other. As long as I can remember I always thought my parents should divorce. I was closer to my father so I always offered to help him pack. My parents never loved each other. Old fashioned and raised in another country they did what they thought was right and stayed in their loveless marriage for 20+ years. I never saw love in my home. I saw partnership like the way you run a company. I saw other parents and families and by 7 was begging them to divorce. I wanted to see my father happy and I could tell that my mother wasn’t it. They slept in different rooms and they weren’t affectionate, just respectable. I knew they stayed together b/C if me and felt it was my fault everyday. Thought what his life would be like if I wasn’t born or if I was gone.

      What I’m trying to say is…Even though you may think divorce is horrible from what you experienced. Living a lie isn’t great and your children will see through it. If you both decided to just go with the flow couldn’t you make your divorce not so traumatic?

      Just thought you’d like to know from someone who experienced the other type of divorce. Either way with have an effect on your kids. You just need to think about what your teaching them.

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      • tonifoverby says:

        We’ve contemplated this very thing. We’re taking it day by day. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I love to hear how others fared with the parents divorce. <3

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  2. Pamela says:

    You are a great writer, not because the information you share has actually happened to you, but I like the way you articulate yourself. Just from reading a few of your posts that you seem to have done a lot of self reflection and grown from your experience.
    What I have learned in my short time of marriage (3 years married, together for almost 9 years) is that man value assurance, words of affirmation and anything that will build them up and not tare them down. Something that I struggled with in the beginning of my marriage but I am more aware of how I speak and what I say to my spouse. Women value security. Feeling physically, emotionally and financially safe with the one they love.
    However, I do also realize that not everyone fits in these categories and not everyone is perfect. I have learned to have no expectations in my marriage (beside basic morals and values on how one should be treated) so that everything my husband does to improve our life situation is a pleasant surprise and not an expectation.
    I am not going to lie though, it is hard and sometimes I complain about things that he can do better. Because I know this truth though, I am always ready to catch myself before I say something I will regret.
    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. TANSTAAFL2 says:

    For me, the worst is when she attributes to maliciousness – slights and offenses which are, in reality, due to ignorance, inattention, or good intentions that missed the mark. There’s nothing like knowing the woman you love and married will, every time you do something she doesn’t like, jump to the conclusion you did it just to be an asshole and piss her off. Consider what it says about what she thinks of you when that’s her default – that she’s more ready to think the worst of you than she is to think the best (or even neutral) of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      This is very interesting, thanks for sharing! I believe Matt has mentioned similar things before. And if the jumping to bad conclusions is something that deeply hurts husbands, then wives absolutely need to be mindful of that, even if they don’t really understand. I see this as a legitmate difference.

      I don’t know how closely you’ve been following the conversations on this blog, but I would encourage you to read the comment section on Matt’s post “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose”. Because from many women’s perspective, intention really doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s honestly better if her husband admits his intentions were straight up selfish.

      To give an example, let’s say you’re responsible for laundry for the kids. But then you forget to clean the clothes they need in time, several times. It really doesn’t make it better for her that you didn’t mean to. The fact of the matter, from her perspective, is that you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. After it happened the first time, you didn’t bother to extend the effort necessary to change internally or externally whatever you needed, to make sure that didn’t happen again, to make sure you were being a responsible/respectful husband. To make sure that you take responsibility your part of the necessary work so that she knows she can count on you, so that she can relax and only worry about her part and not yours too, and so she doesn’t have to deal with the extra stress you not doing what you promised has caused for her. Like maybe your kids were crying and yelling at her because everyone else had their clean gym clothes and not them, and she felt judged, internally or externally for being a bad parent. And the general principle is very important, she needs to know she can trust you to do what you promised.

      By the way, I hope it’s obvious that I’m talking in generalities here, I obviously can’t speak for all women, and I know absolutely nothing about your personal circumstances (apart from your above comment). So it could very well be that what I’m saying in’t relevant for you, and in that case, just ignore it. :) But still, this is how many many many women on this blog feels.

      It’s like if someone drives while being drunk and then they hit someone. “I didn’t mean to” sounds hollow in wives’ ears, because that’s not the point. The point was that you shouldn’t have been driving dunk/ you should have done whatever necessary to make sure you follow through on your word. Obviously everyone messes up, but if the small things are repeated, that’s a major relationship killer.

      Why is it sometimes better if the husband admits he just couldn’t be bothered to change or whatever? Because at least then there isn’t, from her perspective, the arrogance and entitlement of wanting to be perceived as the good guy even when your actions are selfish/inconsiderate. At least you fess up to being selfish, instead of, really, not doing what you need to do to hold your end of the bargain and not unfairly burden/disrespect your spouse while still thinking you should get a pass because you didn’t mean to. It’s like showing up late for work, causing problems for your co workers. I didn’t mean to after a few times doesn’t matter. From their perspective, you’re not doing what you need to do t make sure you’re not late.

      I’m sorry if this comes off as a rant, again, I truly don’t know what goes on in your life. :) And maybe you got it after the first example, sorry if the following ones came off as condescending, that wasn’t my intention (hehe). But this is a perspective on intentions that I can confidently say many women share.

      Hav a nice day/evening!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marion says:

        Agree with you totally donkey! Also, when using the phrase ‘I didn’t know that would hurt you,’ ask yourself – ‘Did you care?’ Sometimes, we just have a different perspective than our spouse. And, of course, we all have self-absorbed moments. But if you’re not willing to focus on how your actions impact someone else – don’t get married.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Thanks Marion! :)

        Have you looked at the comment section I mentioned? It was very enlightening for me, so I do recommend it (I was very active there, what a shocker right?). Key words: Steve, Dick, Bill, Jason, shit sandwich vs burger, intentions, gaslighting effect.

        Like

  4. RD94 says:

    “Better for worse, richer for poorer…” marriage is a team effort. In these last few posts, I’ve seen you putting yourself down repeatedly. Yes, we all do things that are confusing to others, and wrong. It’s called making mistakes. It takes TWO people to create drama. Sorry for this, but I really think you just chose the wrong partner, mate. She doesn’t seem to have ever been into making it work, addressing the issues, and trying to improve things. Did she have a very lucrative job that she had to quit so you could pursue yours? — or were you the primary bread-winner? I’m not meaning to make this sexist, but you should go with whom gives you the best chance of financial and life success. That’s just common sense. If I were with a woman who did far better than me, I bet you I wouldn’t demand she make concessions for me and what I want. The more I read what you write, the more I believe your ex was a total and complete unappreciative, spoiled brat. Swap that last noun for another one that starts with “b” if you wish, because I think it applies. Sorry. Look into MGTOW, mate.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      “were you the primary bread-winner? I’m not meaning to make this sexist, but you should go with whom gives you the best chance of financial and life success. That’s just common sense. If I were with a woman who did far better than me, I bet you I wouldn’t demand she make concessions for me and what I want.”

      Respectfully, I disagree. I give you credit for making it gender neutral though. But honestly, this is a matter of perspective. For you it seems like common sense to go with whoever has the best earning potential/whoever makes the most, if I understand you correctly. If someone is in very bad financial shape, that’s probably true in many cases. For other people though (oftentimes people who are just as intelligent as you), they feel and think just as strongly that common sense would be to give equal regard to people’s wishes, regardless of who makes the most. They place less value on optimizing their finances. (I learnt alot about legitimate differences from what I’ve seen from Brent Atkinson, if you’re interested).

      So who’s right? No one, in my mind. It’s just a personal preference.

      Like

    • Cristine says:

      Just FYI, if people are talking about MGTOW in the comments this means the MRAers and red pillers are on the way. Once they take over a forum it is basically poisioned so I would cut that stuff out with the quickness if you want to maintain open dialogue.

      From my own husband’s mouth I understand why this vote of no confidence is so devastating. That being said, I do have to wonder two things:

      1. How can you equate something said to something done? Did she actually go to Ohio? Could she have alleviated her loneliness by driving up there for a week and visiting family? Would that have been threatening to you?

      2. I appreciate how you focus on yourself in this blog not because I like to see a man horsewhip himself, but because it aligns with a fundamental self help truth: we can only change or know ourselves. So I’m a little disappointed to see you discuss the actions of another. I think a wiser course of action would be to have a wife describe her regrets. Also as an ACD, I hate to hear my parents criticize each other.

      Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Sheesh, come back from a vacation and Matt welcomes you back with a punch-to-the-gut heartbreaker. Wow. Like Sue, this one makes me want to grab a stiff drink and hug a puppy. I will say that, though I agree with you and Cristina that this blog’s value hinges on the fact that it stays resolutely in the “what men can do, and are responsible for, to keep their marriages strong” camp, and rarely strays into supposition or conjecture about what motivates the “other half”, I think this rare exception was handled gracefully and resonantly, specifically because it makes no judgment call on the moral validity of your ex-wife’s actions or thought processes, and in fact, fully defers to the fact that she probably had no ill intent. It is written in the non-accusational style that most communication experts recommend, which is simply, “when you did [x], I felt [y].”

        Personally speaking, though I’m not fully convinced at the moment that this is the worst marital “crime” a wife can commit (outside of the biggies, like infidelity and drug use, of course), I have been on the receiving end of that perceived message of “you’re a failure as a man, a father, a husband and a provider” before and it does cut very deeply indeed. Thanks for writing this–it’s one of the precious few instances where you’re putting some onus on wives that I think carries some fair and legitimate merit and may act as a crucial eye-opener for much of your readership.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Hey, Travis B.! Glad you’re back!

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        Travis: I’m definitely a wife who is guilty of throwing down a verbal gauntlet. So I am guilty as charged. I don’t think the answer is for wives not to express themselves though. There are times I have told my husband I was thinking about divorce…because I was thinking about divorce and he deserved to know what was happening. I think the answer is for wives to be more emotionally self reliant and to lower their sky high expectations. The times I was truly justified in throwing the gauntlet… I got results, because I deserved them. When I was throwing tantrums, it never worked. My therapist helps me to choose my battles wisely and focus on maintaining boundaries instead of being endlessly critical.

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  5. Sue says:

    This sort of broke my heart to read … and perhaps some day I can apologize to my ex husband for the times I let HIM down and made him feel unimportant and not enough …

    A relationship IS a two-way street, and it is good (although rather uncomfortable and ouchie) for me to face the moments/times/ways I let HIM down …

    I thought I HAD faced and acknowledged those … but I now suspect that I missed a few …

    Once, again, THANK YOU, Matt, for making me think and probe deeper …

    Like

  6. You are right on the money here. Men want to feel appreciated, they want to feel like their best is enough. It’s precisely this right here that I try to be an appreciative wife to my husband. I *try* so hard to hide my disappointment, especially the ones that he can’t help. And I think for wives, especially after we have children, the ‘breadwinning’ bit is most important as after we have children, our earnings decline as well. Most women cannot work the same way and earn as much as pre-baby and we expect our husbands to know this and pick up the slack without our saying so. Because how do you tell your husband that you need to step up your game even more and make enough to cover the shortfall. In this economy some men just can’t, no matter how hard they try, but bills have to be paid, expenses have to be met, and as women, we get frustrated when things don’t go our way for too long.
    But yes, making your husband feel like he isn’t enough and maybe he’ll never be is a really shitty thing to do and should be avoided at all costs if you want to avoid divorce.

    Like

  7. But can a spouse or partner, however wonderful and loving (and loved) ever be enough for personal fulfillment? I personally think one of our weaknesses, as women and men, is to believe that fulfillment hinges entirely on the most intimate relationship in your life. The happiness of marriages are not immune to external pressures and desires bound up in a person achieving roundedness via friendships, ‘community’ (whatever that is perceived to be), a sense of belonging, the full expression of one’s personality etc.. I can well believe the punch in the gut this desire she had to return to her home place this unleashed, yet what’s missing are the other missing elements of life that compounded her unhappiness, and ultimately conspired to contribute to erosion of your marriage.

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  8. anitvan says:

    My husband tried to tell me for years how I often made him feel “less than”. Sometimes it was unintentional, other times, yeah, I was getting in a little dig at him, and yeah, I knew it, but I would never acknowledge it to him, I got defensive about it and would turn it around so that it was all his fault.

    Eventually, he checked out of the marriage emotionally. And then one day he told me that he didn’t think he wanted to be married to me any more. THEN, I started listening because holy crap, this is serious.

    Any of this sound familiar?

    That’s why I started reading you, you know. Not because I had a shitty husband but because I was a shitty wife.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Hey Anita we are two members of the shitty wives club!

      Like

    • Oh cool, there’s a club for crappy wives? :)

      Like

    • Tina says:

      I was a crappy wife – and my husband was a crappy husband. Making him feel like his best was not good enough was something I did. Not in regard to bread winning – I always appreciated how hard he worked and said so. But I always thought his efforts to be a partner around the house and his efforts to spend time with and be responsible for / to his kids were not good enough. Looking back I think I may have had unreasonable expectations for help around the house. So another fault for me to own. The question I have though – and don’t know how to ask without sounding shitty – is what if his best really IS NOT enough. Because my husband’s insistence that he was doing the best he could with the kids was really pathetic if it was indeed his best.

      Example – His idea of doing something with them is to (maybe) let them ride with him when he goes to the races (if he doesn’t ride his bike or with a friend and have them ride with the friend’s wife.) – then sitting them with a friend’s wife for the 3 hours they are there while he roams the track or is down in the pits with his buddies. Then they (maybe) ride home together.

      Am I crazy to say that is not acceptable as the only time he spends with them – even if it is his actual “best effort”?

      Like

      • anitvan says:

        Hey Tina,

        Maybe it genuinely *was* his best effort…maybe he honestly doesn’t know any better.

        What you describe sounds to me like his parenting style is parent-focussed; he may think nothing of it because *he* is getting what he wants from his interactions with the kids. Little buddies to hang out with when it’s convenient for him.

        No, you are not crazy. His best effort would look a whole lot more child-focussed, because that is what is in the children’s best interests.

        Maybe he doesn’t know any better. Maybe he just doesn’t care.

        How do your kids feel about their interactions with their father?

        Like

      • Tina says:

        They are pretty dissatisfied with their time with him. They ask (sometimes beg) not to go. He complains that they do not enjoy time with him but does nothing to change – its not his fault – its mine.
        I just don’t get how someone can say over and over how much they love their kids then be so oblivious to them.

        Like

        • anitvan says:

          I’m sorry to hear that. It must break your heart. For whatever reason, he IS oblivious. He probably does recognize the distance growing between himself and the kids but notice how he projects that on you instead of asking himself whether he might be doing something to poison the relationship? I mean, c’mon, nobody’s THAT good – everybody’s got a little room to improve, and if he’s not asking himself where he could improve the relationship, and working towards that, then no, he has not made his best effort. That’s a fail, IMO.

          Sigh. The sad thing is, there’s not a lot you can do about this, and you will drive yourself crazy trying to fix it. Your efforts are better directed at YOU. Take good care of yourself so you can do what you need to do for your kids. What your husband does is outside of your control, so focus your efforts on what you CAN control. And that’s you, sweetie. :)

          I really wish you the best with this. It’s a tough one.

          Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        That is my question also! Because one of the last things my ex said to me when I asked for divorce was that I’d made him feel emasculated for various reasons that basically made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. And the truth is, I was disappointed in him, pretty much all the time towards the end.

        The kicker here though is that in the beginning of the marriage, I adored the crap out of that man. he was the most amazing thing ever. It wasn’t until kids arrived that things went downhill, because he became more self involved and by default, I had to sacrifice more of myself because of being a mother. I started to become resentful and I think it was pretty much downhill from there.

        In the end, he wasn’t actually giving me his best, so I can’t beat myself up for feeling like he was a disappointment – because he WAS. And not because he was giving it his best shot and just somehow missed the mark, but because he was systematically focusing his best efforts on the things that made him feel good. He wasn’t actually giving his all to the marriage or to the family. He will readily tell you that now, but at the time I know he would have acted very hurt, upset, and attacked if I suggested that he was somehow not giving his “all” to me or the family.

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  9. gottmanfan says:

    Wow Matt that is rough! I can only imagine how shocking and painful that must have been. Utterly life altering.

    It was a betrayal of trust.

    You ask for “what that is”. That is a betrayal of the marriage as the first priority.

    Not the parents, not the kids, not work, not the whatever else. The relationship is the first priority once you are married. Absolutely crucial to a healthy marriage and family to get that right.

    And if it isn’t as demonstrated here that’s a big betrayal of trust so I understand why you listed that as the companion to the leaving your wife after a c-section. And I think you are right.

    How can a spouse trust that you will work together as a team through sickness and health, richer for poorer etc. if their individual needs are prioritized rather than the relationships needs?

    You can’t so you transition to a “watch my back zero sum” mode since you can’t trust they really have your back.

    Like your c-section story I am sure there are reasons your wife made that statement and she most likely didn’t intend to wound you in the way it naturally did.

    But it doesn’t matter it is still a betrayal of trust.

    An unforgivable sin that can be made forgivable if acknowledged as unforgivable and by asking for forgiveness.

    Even big betrayal of trusts can be forgiven and repaired.

    But they have to be acknowledged first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tina says:

      I totally sucked at putting the relationship first – so did my husband. I put the children before us and he put – well just about everything before us. I so want to let myself off as the lesser “sinner” here because I was prioritizing the children vs poker runs or racing or playing video games or porn but its really the exact same betrayal. Gosh you guys have a way of really making me look in the mirror!

      Like

  10. “So, what’s the crime? Making him feel as if he’s not enough, and intentionally or otherwise, rubbing his nose in it.”

    Well said, Matt. Contempt, lack of trust, disrespect, whatever you want to call it, it really erodes men’s confidence. Hidden in there somewhere is disloyalty too, the kind where you place family, friends, geography, activities, even children, before the relationship. I know finances are huge for men, there’s a lot of identity wrapped up in being able to provide and it can be very easy to crush men’s spirits there, too.

    Like

    • Travis B. says:

      insanitybytes22 said,

      “I know finances are huge for men, there’s a lot of identity wrapped up in being able to provide and it can be very easy to crush men’s spirits there, too.”

      The worst part about it is that it is something so vital to many men’s sense of self-worth and identity, and yet it’s only something we can, at best, influence, rarely control. A woman can fully effect and affect so much of what traditionally defines her self-worth and identity (mothering, home care, etc.), but a man can’t make himself be hired. A man can’t make upward job mobility happen at his whim. A man can’t force his employer to provide a higher salary. A man can’t snap his fingers and allow the forces of a damaged economy to wash pass him untouched. If being able to provide for his family lies at the center of a man’s worth, then his worth has been surrendered almost in total to people and forces outside of his control. As someone who was once fired from a beloved job and began to see bills mount up and debt increase while one potential employer after another politely declined to take me on, i can say fervently that it is devastating state for a man to endure without feeling like the most worthless failure and insignificant representative of his gender.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        Hey Travis! I got this WordPress app but I still can’t put the comments in the right place. I responded to you below.

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        Can I just say, re the “can women or men control the (traditional) status markers” debate…can we just say that clearly we cannot because if we could we would? There’s no man who would choose to under earn, and there’s no woman who would choose an unruly child or cellulite at 25, etc. They’re status markers because they’re unattainable. The reason we have a hard time emphasizing across the gender line is because we haven’t socially been exposed to the pressure the other gender has been exposed to. Although I do believe that is changing (I say this as an SAHM who often feels like a waste of space for not earning anything).

        Liked by 1 person

    • OKRickety says:

      IB, Since there’s no “like” on these comments, here’s my Like, my +100, my kudos. Well said!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Monthemoon says:

    This is quite funny, because my ex did both “worst things” you’ve mentioned in your posts to me. The day our child was born, he was not allowed to stay in the hospital at night (hospital rules), so he left home. The next day, when dads where allowed to return, he wasn’t there from the moment they were allowed to reenter. He arrived one hour and a half late, and the hospital was barely 15 min drive from home. I had had a c-section and couldn’t move from bed, not even to pick up my new born baby from the cot next to me. I needed him. I could see other new mums around me. I was the one who stayed alone the longer. And we had our child in a country that is not ours, so I had nobody else who could come and be with me. I felt so abandoned… I couldn’t understand why he was late (reading news, talking to family, chilling out?). I thought he was late because he was tidying up the house for when we returned, but when he finally arrived to the hospital he confessed the house was a total mess. I felt destroyed on the inside. How could he leave me alone like that? What could have been more important than being with me?
    After I was sent home (36h after giving birth), barely able to walk without suffering because of the stitches, my mum took a plane and came 3 days to help around. And she did help a lot. She cleaned, cooked, etc so I could rest and concentrate on my new role. After that she left and his parents came. His mum doesn’t cook. So there I was, 4 days after a c-section cooking for 4 adults. And my now ex would leave me alone at home with the baby to take his mum out for a walk or something every day because “she was bored all day at home”. I felt abandoned again, rejected over his mother after such an important moment. Sadly it was during those 3 days she was there when I realized that our relationship was doomed. Turns out I was right.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      I’m so sorry, Both of these things are awful! Has it been a long time since you split up? Hope you’re doing well these days.

      Like

      • Monthemoon says:

        Hi Donkey. It’s been nearly four months now, and due to circumstances still living together. But I’m glad I’m moving out at the end of this month, finally. Can’t wait to start my new life without him on my everyday. Thanks for asking :)

        Like

    • genepavlovsky says:

      Sad to hear about your story! Did you talk to him about the fact that you need his attention, and asked him why does he spend time with his mom rather than you? It seems pretty strange! How was your relationship before that? I know you feel betrayed and pretty bad about situation, but is there any chance you could still save your relationship? Consider your new baby (boy or girl?) when you make decisions like separating now.

      Like

  12. I think you’re on to something. I fear that I make my partner feel that’s he not enough but it isn’t because I feel that way about him. I just can’t seem to allow myself to be that vulnerable and put the trust in him not to drop the ball. If that makes any sense at all. This has given me a lot to think about. I need to have a little faith

    Like

  13. Linbo says:

    Matt,
    I hate that happened. I can imagine what that felt like. I see your value and worth. I know everyone else here sees it, too.

    Like

  14. OKRickety says:

    Matt, after you have stated so many times how you were a shitty husband, I’m glad you recognize that there were times that your ex-wife was a shitty wife.

    Like

  15. gottmanfan says:

    Hey Travis! Glad you’re back from vacation so I can get back to the business of disagreeing with you. 😀

    I agree with a lot of the general ideas of your comment that men put a lot of self worth and identity on their jobs.

    I agree and think this is partly dysfunctional.

    I disagree that “a woman can fully effect and affect so much of what traditionally defined her self-worth snd identity (mothering, home care etc.)

    Ok I might be a little sensitive here but I am not sure that mothering and home care either define my self worth or identity. Most definitely home care does not. 😀

    And if there are women that do I would say that is partly dysfunctional.

    And much of the theme of this blog as a shitty husband that got divorced because he did not accept influence from his wife at key times, tells you how little women can affect and effect their domestic life to function the way she would like.

    And of course fatherhood is important (or should be) part of many men’s life as are careers for many women.

    But I can really imagine no one likes to be told they are a failure so I totally agree with you there on how bad that is. No wife should ever say that or imply that.

    But hey glad you’re back! Proceed to disagree with me to get back to old times. 😀

    Like

    • mysafariblog says:

      @gottmanfan said – I disagree that “a woman can fully effect and affect so much of what traditionally defined her self-worth and identity (mothering, home care etc.)

      I’m completely with you. If my self worth was tied up with mothering and home care, I would have no self worth. I’m 31, single and have no plans to have children. My house is tidyish, but that’s about all you can say about it. It actually offends me that in the 21st century I should be defined by my “womanly skills” – having and bringing up children and keeping the house nice. I refuse to be defined by those roles. I am a fantastic daughter, sister, friend, personal trainer and massage therapist. I work in a job I don’t like so that I can put myself through university and do the things I love. There are a thousand facets to me that make up my self worth; I’m not going to be defined by just one, and definitely not some prescribed traditional formula that no longer applies (if it ever did)

      Like

    • Travis B. says:

      Gottmanfan said,

      “I disagree that ‘a woman can fully effect and affect so much of what traditionally defined her self-worth snd identity (mothering, home care etc.)’

      Ok I might be a little sensitive here but I am not sure that mothering and home care either define my self worth or identity. Most definitely home care does not. 😀”

      Please keep in mind that I used the words “traditionally” define. As in the classic 1950s roles of women (the bulk of active parenting and the overseer of a clean, organized home environment) and men (the financial provider and pillar of constant strength) that even now we often struggle as a society to shed ourselves of. You, personally, may not define the role of a wife in these terms, nor should you, but as we’ve seen from no end of comments even on this blog, many still do. And we know that that damnable man card sure is hard to shake from a man’s grip, too. Should men, in an environment where women make up half (or more) of the workforce be made to feel such profound shame and indignity, from within and without, when they’re single-handedly not able to keep their families in the upper middle-class or higher? Certainly not, but they all too often still are.

      “And much of the theme of this blog as a shitty husband that got divorced because he did not accept influence from his wife at key times, tells you how little women can affect and effect their domestic life to function the way she would like.”

      Granted, but she is still the driving force of control in that context. In other words, she’s the boss who may be saddled with a shitty employee. But in the case of breadwinning, men ALWAYS have a boss, ALWAYS someone they must answer to, ALWAYS someone else controlling the purse strings, so it’s a type of damnation (and certainly dysfunctional) to have one’s core sense of identity wrapped up in something one can never independently control.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        I don’t think we live in that 1950’s world.
        anymore. I don’t think women define their self worth the way you think.

        I am not discounting the burden many men feel to provide for their families. But there are many many many two earner households.

        Where the women are the breadwinners too. And there are some household where’s the wife is the primary breadwinner.

        As I remember Matt’s story his wife also worked full time. Could be remembering that wrong though. The problem is he had a career that was mtied to very few locations making it hard to move where they wanted.

        My husband has a career like that too while mine is not tied to location. So I share the ex wife’s frustration (though certainly NOT her response).

        Men don’t ALWAYS have a boss and women don’t. That just doesn’t describe most American’s lives. Do not force me to get out the census records. 😀

        And women are not the boss at home. That is the whole problem this mindset! She is the “driving force”! They should be a team. Most women want a team!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          You remember correctly, Lisa, RE: wage earning. Predominantly 50-50, 60-40 at most. I always thought of it in terms of equal partnership.

          I don’t have all of the context here, as I haven’t seen the entirety of Travis’ commentary (welcome back, good sir), but I certainly agree with what you’ve written here. I think MOST households in 2016 lean 50-50 partnership. It’s all part of the death of the middle class (and death of the traditional family?) that’s been happening in the United States.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Well good then I won’t have to involve the census. 😀.

            Like

          • Linbo says:

            Matt,
            I’m curious as to why you would think equal bread winning may be the death of the American family?
            Is it the fact that so much time and attention by both parties has to be concentrated away from the home?

            Donkey2, are you new and improved :)…I still like you just the way you are :)

            Like

            • Matt says:

              Equal bread winning is NOT the death of the American family.

              Wives work more today for two reasons — the patriarchy is disappearing, but more of a factor, I think, is that economic conditions mandate they do to maintain the same middle-class standard of living middle-income families enjoyed in the 1960s-1990s.

              The middle class is disappearing, and the “traditionally” structured family (which we will eventually stop calling “traditional”) is disappearing.

              I didn’t mean to suggest that one has to do with the other, necessarily.

              While I may see value in a parent staying home with a child from a human-bonding and development standpoint (and that has historically been mom), I in no way denigrate or discourage working mothers. My mom worked, and my son’s mother does too. Both are excellent parents.

              Wage earning, in my opinion, should be merit-based.

              I trust you don’t think I believe the female gender is somehow inferior to men, professionally or intellectually.

              Like

      • Donkey2 says:

        This is still Donkey guys, I have so much trouble getting my comments posted, so I’m trying something differet.

        Hello Travis, hope you had a good time! :D

        The blog is eating my comments, I’m sorry if something similar shows up several times.

        Sorry, but I do think you missed the mark here, Travis.

        I do not doubt at all the pain of loosing a job and not being able to provide financially, seeng bills pile up and being rejected over and over again by potential employers.

        But many markers of tradtional successful womanhood is out of a woman’s control, she can only influence.

        The location, the house, the furniture and decor is dependent on finances.

        Attractive clothes and grooming for herself, nice clothes for her children are also dependent on finances.

        She can do her best to be a good parent, but she can’t make her kids be well mannered and loving, either at home and in oublic.

        She can’t make her husband be successful.

        She can’t make her husband treat her with respect and consideration, or indeed desire her sexually.

        Even with a lot of effort, diet, lotions and potions, not everyone can look like Halle Berry or Betty Draper. Not everyone has a cute face an body by society’s standard, no matter the effort.

        Women can’t stay wrinkle sag free looks-25 for ever, no matter the effort. We won’t all age like Christie Brinkley.

        Many women struggle with infertility, or they’re not able to have a natural birth and breastfeed like they had hoped for. All of this can be absolutely devestating for many women. Not everyone obviously. But many.

        My point is, plenty of the traditional markers of successful womanhood is definitely out of her control.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          (FYI, Donkey. One of the things I’ve noticed is that I have to approve any comments which contain multiple links, as that triggers SPAM filters. So, some of the time when your posts aren’t showing, it’s because I haven’t seen the notification yet.)

          Like

      • Donkey2 says:

        Hello Travis, hope you had a good time! :D

        I think the blog is eating my comments, I’m sorry if something similar shows up several times.

        Sorry, but I do think you missed the mark here though, Travis.

        I do not doubt at all the pain of loosing a job and not being able to provide financially, seeng bills pile up and being rejected over and over again by potential employers.

        But many markers of tradtional successful womanhood is out of a woman’s control.

        The location, the house, the furniture and decor is dependent on finances.

        Attractive clothes and grooming for herself, nice clothes for her children are also dependent on finances.

        She can do her best to be a good parent, but she can’t make her kids be well mannered and loving, either at home and in oublic.

        She can’t make her husband be successfull.

        She can’t make her husband treat her with respect and consideration, or indeed desire her sexually.

        Even with a lot of effort, diet, lotions and potions, not everyone can look like Halle Berry or Betty Draper.

        Women can’t stay wrinkle sag free looks-25 for ever, no matter the effort. We won’t all age like Christie Brinkley.

        Many women struggle with infertility, or they’re not able to have a natural birth and breastfeed like they had hoped for. All of this can be absolutely devestating for many women. Not everyone obviously. But many.

        My point is, plenty of the traditional markers of successful womanhood is definitely out of her control.

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        This is from Donkey but I am posting it for her since her comment wasn’t posting for some reason.

        Here it is: Hello Travis, hope you had a good time! 😃

        I think the blog is eating my comments, I’m sorry if something similar shows up several times.

        Sorry, but I do think you missed the mark here though, Travis.

        I do not doubt at all the pain of loosing a job and not being able to provide financially, seeng bills pile up and being rejected over and over again by potential employers.

        But many markers of tradtional successful womanhood is out of a woman’s control.

        The location, the house, the furniture and decor is dependent on finances.

        Attractive clothes and grooming for herself, nice clothes for her children are also dependent on finances.

        She can do her best to be a good parent, but she can’t make her kids be well mannered and loving, either at home and in oublic.

        She can’t make her husband be successfull.

        She can’t make her husband treat her with respect and consideration, or indeed desire her sexually.

        Even with a lot of effort, diet, lotions and potions, not everyone can look like Halle Berry or Betty Draper.

        Women can’t stay wrinkle sag free looks-25 for ever, no matter the effort. We won’t all age like Christie Brinkley.

        Many women struggle with infertility, or they’re not able to have a natural birth and breastfeed like they had hoped for. All of this can be absolutely devestating for many women. Not everyone obviously. But many.

        My point is, plenty of the traditional markers of successful womanhood is definitely out of her control.

        Like

      • Travis B. says:

        gottmanfan said,

        “I don’t think we live in that 1950’s world anymore. I don’t think women define their self worth the way you think.”

        We fully agree on the first sentence and fully disagree on the second. As a man, I may be in a specious place to make such a statement, but I look to the flood of mommy blogs, the robust sub-culture of mommy shaming, and the wave of commentary just on this blog alone from women flat-out saying that when their spouses don’t help them keep the house in order, it cuts to their very sense of self-worth and identity as supporting evidence. There wouldn’t have even been a need for the watershed “dishes by the sink” article if women didn’t continue to feel a compulsion (from whatever source–society, how they were raised, etc.) to make sure their houses are clean, in order, something they can feel proud to show off to the outside world and ultimately reflective, to an appreciable degree, of their worth as a woman. I saw just that very thing said numerous times by numerous women in this very blog’s comments. You can’t take it back now because it’s inconvenient or unpleasant to hear.

        “And women are not the boss at home. That is the whole problem this mindset! She is the “driving force”! They should be a team. Most women want a team!!!!”

        This was a fault of clarity in my writing. When I talked of the woman being the boss, I only meant it to apply to those two qualifiers, housework and parenting. I believe you yourself have often spoke of the fact that women have the unfortunate tendency to dictate the terms of what defines proper day-to-day child-rearing. Obviously, the same generally applies to home care because for men (speaking in our broad gender generalities) the day-to-day work of house chores, as well as parenting, has TRADITIONALLY not lied at the heart of a man’s sense of identity and self-worth. Is society’s definition of what defines masculinity and femininity changing? Of course, as we’ve all spoken at length about on this blog quite recently, but some of these long-held “truths” about men’s and women’s roles are proving to be a real bitch to shake off. It’s like we’re all trying to meet the needs of our 1950s expectations and our 2016 ones and they couldn’t be less compatible.

        “Men don’t ALWAYS have a boss and women don’t. That just doesn’t describe most American’s lives. Do not force me to get out the census records.”

        I couldn’t disagree with this more vehemently. Even CEOs typically report to shareholders. There is ALWAYS, 100% of the time, someone who has to give you the job, unless you intend to run your own start-up business, which isn’t desired or practical for literally billions of men, and even then there are regulatory issues one must contend with. There is ALWAYS someone you report to, who gets to make the call of whether you’re worthy of promotion. There is ALWAYS a finite amount of available positions to allow for upward mobility at any given moment. There are ALWAYS market and economic factors that can restrict a man’s (and, yes, a woman’s, but in this post, the emphasis is on what defines a man’s sense of self-worth and identity) ability to be gainfully employed. No census record is going to convince me otherwise. If there are people out there that are fully in control of their own hiring, their ability to move up the corporate ladder, their salary, and their ability to prevent their own unemployment, then I believe that they represent a sliver of a fraction of the proverbial “one percent”, so they’re too much of a meager outlier to be germane to this discussion.

        This is unfortunately another one of those (personally aggravating) moments where my forest is being missed for all my ancillary storytelling trees. Take all of the references to females from my original post wholesale and the salient point I was trying to make still shines through. Very often, men’s (rightfully or wrongfully) sense of identity and self-worth is tied up in being able to provide financially for their families (and when you see how Matt’s wife reacted to his occupational struggles, you can get a good sense of why that might continue to be), yet they are able to control NONE of the factors that lead to them being able to successfully do so. In short, a vital part of their core sense of self is controlled by outside forces. That’s all the point I mean to make. So when wives react as Matt’s did (“Making him feel as if he’s not enough, and intentionally or otherwise, rubbing his nose in it.”), so long as he is putting in authentic effort, it comes off as quite cruel, because, at best, it’s only something he can help influence, but not at all something he can single-handedly make manifest.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          I really don’t want to fight Travis 😀.

          But I think you might be confusing someone else’s comments with mine. I have talked about maternal gate keeping yes I agree with you there. Although I personally do not relate to it and never did it.

          These are DYSFUNCTIONAL. That is my point.

          My point about the bosses is to say that WOMEN have bosses too. WOMEN work. Even if they take some time off to be stay at home moms. And by the way this is a class based thing. Most women can’t afford to be stay at home moms or write mommy blogs.

          The heart of what you were saying I agree with.

          Men feel a burden to define themselves by how much money they make. Yes! This is still often true.

          This is DYSFUNCTIONAL.

          Matt has replied that in his case they spit their financial burden equally. What you are taking about was not part of the reason his wife wanted to move home.

          It was because his dream job of working for the Wall Street Journal required moving to advance. She moved to Florida in support this dream.

          And hated Florida and wanted to move back.

          I am not in any shape or form condoning her saying she wanted to move without him but it was NOT about Matt being the sole provider

          Or that she didn’t have a boss and he ALWAYS did.

          Like

        • Linbo says:

          I have to agree with Travis in regards to women TYPICALLY do make their ability to housekeep and have well behaved children a marker of thier worth and value. I think its a subconscious thing in someways. But yes- I’ve had the thought “they will never like me if they knew my kitchen is a wreck.”
          I know that is true for some women I know as well. It may not be universal, but it does happen fairly often.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            I am not saying it is not something they do not value I am disagreeing that those two things are the source of women’s self identity and worth.

            Are those things the source of your self identity and self worth Linbo? Or do you define you self worth in other ways?

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              There are many things to base your self worth in. Faith, work, money, family, intelligence, prestige, education, career, number of followers etc. I don’t think most women base their sense of self worth and identity in what their house looks like or their children primarily. I am not saying they don’t value those things. Just as many women value their careers.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                And my bigger point is it is dysfunctional to place your self worth and identity in ANY of those things. One should have self worth and identity without ANY of those things.

                That’s how you end up feeling worthless and depressed if you are laid off or your children grow up or your house is a mess or you don’t get the promotion you wanted.

                Healthy adults who don’t base their identity and self worth in those things are sad when these things happen but ok because their self worth and identity are not tied to them.

                Liked by 1 person

            • Linbo says:

              Gottmanfan,
              No- they are not the single source of my identity and worth. If they were Id be in a mess of trouble. :)
              But I do believe a part of women’s self esteem and maybe even pride come from everything being in place and looking nice.
              So, anyway- I’m with you. Not in the mood to argue. I get what you are saying – women don’t (or shouldnt) derive who they are by their roles
              and neither should men- because there are always elements out of our control no matter what our role and function.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                This particular line of thinking always reminds me of John Piper which is one reason I hate it so much.

                Because I think it prescribes things that are dysfunctional as intrinsic parts of men and women’s “wiring” and the natural order of things.

                I am sorry if it came off as argumentative. I am really arguing with Piper in my head.😀

                Like

                • Linbo says:

                  Gottmanfan,
                  It reminds me of Piper, too. I was going to say something to the effect of “at least that is common among Piper fans and Stepford wives.” :)

                  Like

      • Travis B. says:

        Donkey2 said,

        “Many markers of traditional successful womanhood is out of a woman’s control.

        The location, the house, the furniture and decor is dependent on finances.

        Attractive clothes and grooming for herself, nice clothes for her children are also dependent on finances.”

        The difference is she can control WHAT SHE HAS. And, yes, if she couldn’t get housing in the first place, or clothes of any quality on her back, I would fully expect that to cut to her sense of self-worth and identity, no just as a woman, but as a human being. Only that would be a fair corollary with a man not being able to find a job even with education and effort.

        “She can do her best to be a good parent, but she can’t make her kids be well mannered and loving, either at home and in public.”

        That’s not my point. My point is that she controls the act of parenting (even from the critical standpoint of choosing to become one in the first place), not its outcome. A man/person does not control becoming an employee. Someone from outside has to allow for that.

        “She can’t make her husband be successful. She can’t make her husband treat her with respect and consideration, or indeed desire her sexually.”

        Also not germane to my point because we’re talking about what the respective genders control internally; in other words, “the shit we each own”. One cannot control or own another person.

        “Even with a lot of effort, diet, lotions and potions, not everyone can look like Halle Berry or Betty Draper. Women can’t stay wrinkle sag free looks-25 for ever, no matter the effort. We won’t all age like Christie Brinkley. Many women struggle with infertility, or they’re not able to have a natural birth and breastfeed like they had hoped for. All of this can be absolutely devastating for many women. Not everyone obviously. But many.”

        I’m with you here. This is something where direct effort does not always yield an effective result, and one can be judged harshly and unfairly for it by the opposite gender, so now I think we’re talking the same language. So imagine how you would feel if a husband wanted to leave you because you didn’t fit a particular image or body type, or because you can’t give him a child. That’s the corollary with how it feels to have a wife want to leave your home when you’re doing the best you can to provide financial security and a certain level of lifestyle and it’s just not happening the way either of you desire.

        “My point is, plenty of the traditional markers of successful womanhood is definitely out of her control.”

        Great! Though I still stand by my assertion that the specific qualifiers I mentioned (house work and parenting) are ones that women tend to have to control (at best), or insist on controlling (at worst), you’ve shown with some of these other examples that women do have points of experiential relation to how a man must feel when he is judged harshly for something at the core of his sense of identity and self-worth that is so fully out of his direct control. And if you can relate to it, then empathy is right around the next corner, and maybe a few more marriages can stay strong during trying times.

        Like

      • Donkey2 says:

        Hi again Travis, thanks for getting back to me.

        I said in the beginning of my post: “I do not doubt at all the pain of loosing a job and not being able to provide financially, seeng bills pile up and being rejected over and over again by potential employers.”

        …so I think my empathy is pretty good. :) Not perfect, but not too shabby.

        I was just saying that I disagree with you that women have so much more control over important identity markers associated with traditional womanhood than men have over their identity as providers. That’s all. I will admit that I find it somewhat triggering when people talk about how a male traditional role is harder/more stressful/more pressurefilled/less in your control than the traditional female role, especially when it appeas that they’re not considering important facts. Like pregnancy, birth and so on. But you seem to agree with me on this, so I guess regarding the main points we’re on the same page. :)

        You said: “So imagine how you would feel if a husband wanted to leave you because you didn’t fit a particular image or body type, or because you can’t give him a child. That’s the corollary with how it feels to have a wife want to leave your home when you’re doing the best you can to provide financial security and a certain level of lifestyle and it’s just not happening the way either of you desire”

        Yes I agree, those things are similar, and I would feel like absolute shit if that happened.

        But like Gottmanfan says, that wasn’t exactly the case here. She says:

        “Matt has replied that in his case they spit their financial burden equally. What you are taking about was not part of the reason his wife wanted to move home.

        It was because his dream job of working for the Wall Street Journal required moving to advance. She moved to Florida in support this dream.

        And hated Florida and wanted to move back.

        I am not in any shape or form condoning her saying she wanted to move without him but it was NOT about Matt being the sole provide”

        So the not providing well enough already wasn’t the main issue here. Though of course, it’s not that far off, because Matt did face rejection as a provider because it took a long time for him to land a job where she wanted to live. But not already providing well enough didn’t seem to be the issue. But just to be clear, that doesn’t make your point invalid though, if a man truly does his best to provide and he just can’t satisfy his wife and she leaves him, that would be extremely hurtful, on a similar level as a wife who tries her best to get pregnant and can’t and then her man leaves her (and just for accuracy’s sake, it’s not always the woman who has a fertility problem if a couple can’t conceive).

        I’m not quite clear on Matt’s story though. If she talked about wanting to move home and then he tried without luck for ages to get a job, and despite these efforts she said she’d rather go live with her parents whether or not he’d ever find a job, that would be very close to what you’re talking about Travis, not being satisfied with the man’s effort to provide despite his best efforts. But again, Matt’s story isn’t relevant for your main points.

        This is perhaps less relevant to the main discussion, but I don’t really understand why examples such as not being a “good” parent with successful and well mannered kids even though she tries her best aren’t valid, when that (well mannered succesful kids) is an important identity marker for successful traditional womanhood? Similar as trying to provide but not succeeding? Maybe not similar as if the man can’t get a job at all, but if he can only get a low paying job?

        You seem to have some criteria in mind that gives a pass to some of my examples but not others. And while I understand somewhsy, I don’t understand completely, and I would like to. Would you mind, to satisfy my curiosity, to further explain what you mean?

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Ok – I’m going to throw a wrench in this by being the outlier. I work full time. My annual salary is 2x my husbands. I have had all the pressure of HAVING to stay employed or else our lives would collapse AND having to be the primary house keeper / child carer.

        When my husband was out of work I was endlessly supportive of him trying to find work. To the point of moving and changing my job so he could. I’ve always had a boss and the pressures that come from being able to at best influence my success at work. I know how hard the working world is – I’ve never judged my husband to be anything but a success in it. I believe and told him constantly – his being out of work was a function of the market – NOT of his value as an employee.

        But his willingness and effort at being there for our kids and helping around the house – yep totally guilty of being judgemental there. My self justification on that is I have to do both – why should he not? I totally get that self justifications are not helpful – they don’t improve the damage done to the relationship. I need to own that I was judgemental and shitty and made him feel awful. I have to own that.

        What I can’t get past is that his “best” with regards to our kids really was awful – still is. What do you do in that case?

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Tina, I think from what you described your husbands wasn’t great at spending quality time with the kids for sure.

          I think it ok to acknowledge that. Just like one could acknowledge the problems that drinking too much or having affairs cause damage and are not ok.

          Someone can love people but still be shitty.

          This is why we need to figure out responsibility for things so that we can set boundaries but also not be contemptuous. And I don’t think all marriages are 50/50 at fault. Sometimes one person DOES cause more damage.

          But we must figure out how to acknowledge that without thinking we are “better than”.

          Easier said than done I know.

          What do you think?

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        P.S.- Gottmanfan,
        You didnt come across as argumentative!! You and Travis seemed to have opposing views, and you made the statement that you weren’t trying to be argumentative to Travis.
        I was agreeing with one point that Travis made, and so didnt want seem like I was arguing with you, or ganging up on you.
        I think alot of my communication today has been a little bit off. Sorry :)
        I always appreciate your input!!
        (We can gang up on Travis later ; ) hehehe…) .

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          I think I was not communicating that clearly. I had too many ideas in my head and they got mushed together.

          I agree that men and women often base their self worth and identity in jobs and houses and kids.

          Often there is still some traditional breakdown by gender even if it’s not nearly as strong as in the past because we are often judged by theses things.

          So I agree with you and Travis in that sense.

          But I think it has changed and many women also value their career. They have bosses just like men.

          And we all equally at the mercy of outside sources from bosses to teachers to parents to inlaws to the weather. I don’t think women have control of these things any more than men.

          But most of the focus we put on all that stuff for our self worth and identity is dysfunctional and needs to be challenged continually.

          Of course we should be sensitive to our spouses and others areas of dysfunctional self worth. Just because a woman shouldn’t base her self image or identity on her beauty doesn’t mean it is ok to tell gets she’s ugly.

          So I agree with Travis that it is especially cruel for a wife to shame her husband for not being a good provider. Because he often does have sensitivities there.

          But I don’t think much of that seems to relate to Matt’s story which seems to me to really be about not separating from the patents and violating the marriage as the primary relationship.

          The job was just a detail to the story not the cause.

          Now the stuff Travis is talking about would be relevant probably to Matt’s story about being laid off and how that strains the marriage and self esteem.

          Hopefully that’s more clear. 😀

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        But then again, Captain America may not like that, so… :) Lol :)

        Like

    • Donkey2 says:

      Gottmanfan said: And my bigger point is it is dysfunctional to place your self worth and identity in ANY of those things. One should have self worth and identity without ANY of those things.

      That’s how you end up feeling worthless and depressed if you are laid off or your children grow up or your house is a mess or you don’t get the promotion you wanted.

      Healthy adults who don’t base their identity and self worth in those things are sad when these things happen but ok because their self worth and identity are not tied to them.”

      Yes yes yes!

      Like

  16. Marika says:

    You are an incredibly honest writer. Every time I read your words, my gut twists just a bit, as I am sure I relive some very painful and stupid moments in my own journey also. And how comforting to see the man’s side is as painful and devastating as the woman’s. Too bad we still haven’t learned to be on the same side.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Donkey2 says:

    Hey Matt!

    Yes, I’ve noticed the links thing too. But with the (many!) comments that haven’t shown up today, I didn’t include any links at all! I tried different browsers, turned my computer on and off, and I don’t have any more skills than those, hehe. Would you mind taking a look at what you can do? Would it be easier if I sent you an email from the adress that’s attached to the Donkey username?

    You see, I’m not real happy with my Donkey2 deal (which has a fake email even, sorry), I miss just being Donkey.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m so sorry. I think it’s my fault.

      I think I tried to trash one of your duplicate comments, hit “Spam” instead, and then the admin flagged all your comments that way moving forward.

      This is totally my fault, and now I owe you for TWO things!!! Gah!!!

      I apologize for the inconvenience. All of those comments should be showing now, and moving forward the Donkey2 name should be unnecessary. *toothy grimace eek-face smile*

      Like

      • Donkey2 says:

        Thanks for looking into it Matt. No worries at all, I’m just glad there’s some reason that can be fixed! :)

        If you have some control over it, you can just delete/not show those previous comments from Donkey. They’re all basically the same as what’s already here multiple times, or just testing if it works over and over. :p Doesn’t add much to the conversation (and frankly, I’m a bit embarassed by the desperation to express my opinion that they show, so I just don’t need 10 or so comments shouting it loud and clear). But no worries if they do show up though, I’ll live. :)

        I’lI try to post again as the original Donkey in a while and see if it works. And if it doesn’t, I’ll let you know. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Donkey says:

    This is Donkey testing her original identity again. 8)

    Hehe Linbo, new and improved you say? :)

    Linbo, are you and I good? I hoped because of my disclaimer before my angry post yesterday that you wouldn’t feel devalued by that long pissed of comment, but perhaps I didn’t succeed well enough? I truly was not trying to disrespect or be angry at *you*, I was just wanting to express my anger and frustration at the subject.

    You suggested a question further up to Zombiedrew (in the previous post) something like “I seem to have a problem checking the acount, could we brainstorm solutions together?”. I’m paraphrasing, but something like that, no? I just wanted to say that I would react VERY differently to that, than if *I* had to remind someone for the 4th time and they got upset with *me* because my tone wasn’t perfect. :p Asking for help in this shows an awareness that they both have a responsibility and that there’s a problem. Again, I think we should strive to figure our own stuff out, but of course, every now and then we could use some help and accomodation, and that’s FINE! Just…. I don’t want to have to brainstorm solutions to remembering to check the account, and to remember to take out the laundry, how to make lunches, how to remember the kids birthdays…. you catch my drift. ;) Then I guess some higher order brainstorming in how that person could help themselves grow up or what boundaries I must set would be more appropriate. :p

    But honestly, this could be worked out too. If someone has very little idea on how to do housework or basic planning or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a no go. It just depends on how the person deals with it. If the person was googling “housekeeping 101 courses in my area”, “books about houskeeping and planning for beginners” and basically just taking responsibility for their lack in this area, that could work! Instead of expecting me either to pick up the slack OR to educate them in all of this (not that I’m Martha Stewart mind you, or that I have all my sh*t together! I do not have all my sh*it together!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linbo says:

      Donkey,
      Definitely we are ok!! I didnt take offense at all.
      What I was trying to say, is I know that relationships do tend to start going down the same rabbit hole as this couple. And it seems like a never ending battle without resolution.

      IE- A check bounced x1- maybe it was a fluke. No issue was made of it.
      A check bounced x2- “Hey dude, what’s going on, can you be more careful please?”
      A check bounced x3- Dude did it intentionally because he felt demeaned by his wife (Remember pre-school, reptilian brain. It just hurt, period and it doesnt need to make sense.) You can check the box for passive aggressiveness right here.
      A check bounced x 4 – Wife is kind of gritting teeth while saying ” You have to do something about this.”

      The author may have completely intended that the woman needs to change her approach, but I content that is a bunch of horse shit.
      The whole issue of how we approach problems needs to shift- not only one individual changing their approach.
      A plan needs to be made so that approaching problems doesnt start the reactive process.
      We can do this with business problems (although, its a given we can leave business problems at the office).
      My point is, we need to address how we approach a conflict.

      I hate it- I feel flushed, my heart starts racing, I am deeply embarrassed when someone comes up to me and tells me I did something wrong. It doesnt matter how sugary sweet the person is. That is going to be my initial reaction most of the time.
      Can I hear anything they say after that? No, probably not- because my reptilian brain is spitting out all kind of messages that tell me I may soon be extinct.

      So, my thought is – approaching it and saying “Honey- I have an issue with x,y and z and I would like to talk about it later.”
      Will give some space so maybe I wont be feeling so anxious that I dont really hear or believe what the person is telling me.

      I can think about what they just approached me with, without alot of details about it. This could be an anxiety building time, but hopefully if this is an established “protocol” it wont build up dread, but will allow time to assess what has been going on that has contributed to whatever the issue is.
      It can allow me to remind myself that I am loved, the relationship is bigger than the issue, and that I have an opportunity to improve myself and my relationship.
      But, there shouldnt be too much time in between. Maybe a day or two at the most.

      I can hear the complaint. I get the chance to give my take.

      We go away again- so we can come up with solutions and so we can assess our own discomfort level, and be honest about it. This may take a bit longer.
      And the ongoing relationship doesnt cease just because there is an issue being worked out. It continues, while we trust that we are both working on solutions.

      We come back together and listen to each others solutions. We have to be willing to compromise and see each others perspectives. Their answer may not be your answer.
      You can offer your answer and see if they will accept and agree 100%, but likely there will be parts and pieces that both individuals offer.

      The change can be implemented, without the fear of punishment if I screw up again -for whatever reason.

      Ect. ect.

      Im trying to think of ways to make conflict less traumatizing and triggering….

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Glad we’re good! :)

        I definitely think that having some agreed upon protocol to handle conflicts/problems/complaints could help many. The known structure would help make it less triggering, and maybe set limit for how long they’ll talk about it. I really like the idea of a weekly half hour meeting, and the structure could also make it clear that it’s both people’s jobs to think of one solution each until the next week or whatever. But again, people most be cooperative for it to work. I really like what I’ve seen of Brent Atkinson. Partly because it helps empower the person who has an uncooperative partner to assert themselves and still be respectful. I’d guess, though I don’t know, that David Burns Feeling good together has similar ideas too. And other author/thinkers. :)

        Like

    • Tina says:

      Glad to see Donkey 1.0 has been re released. Not that donkey 2.0 wasnt just as good but there is just something about the original ya know?

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Classic Donkey. Lol

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Aww, Tina, what a sweet comment! :) Thank you!

        And thank you, Gottmanfan!

        Tina, in previous comments, you said:

        “The question I have though – and don’t know how to ask without sounding shitty – is what if his best really IS NOT enough. Because my husband’s insistence that he was doing the best he could with the kids was really pathetic if it was indeed his best.

        Example – His idea of doing something with them is to (maybe) let them ride with him when he goes to the races (if he doesn’t ride his bike or with a friend and have them ride with the friend’s wife.) – then sitting them with a friend’s wife for the 3 hours they are there while he roams the track or is down in the pits with his buddies. Then they (maybe) ride home together.

        Am I crazy to say that is not acceptable as the only time he spends with them – even if it is his actual “best effort”?”

        “But his willingness and effort at being there for our kids and helping around the house – yep totally guilty of being judgemental there. My self justification on that is I have to do both – why should he not? I totally get that self justifications are not helpful – they don’t improve the damage done to the relationship. I need to own that I was judgemental and shitty and made him feel awful. I have to own that.”

        If you’re interested, here are my thoughts. You decide for yourself what’s true and useful for you though, obviously:
        I’ve been pondering things like this quite a bit lately. This won’t come off as very nice towards your husband. I’m sorry if I come across as disrespectful, I’ll make an effort, but I just can’t think of a perfectly nice way to say something I think is a quite ugly truth.

        You both work. Let’s say that in addition to that, you do 75 % of the total workload with kids and house (I don’t know the exact number of course, but you said you do more, so hopefully this isn’t too far off). He says he’s doing his best when lets them ride with him to the races and then drops them off at someone elses house for a few hours while he does his thing.

        If he honestly thinks this is his best, here’s what I have concluded is going on: His thinking/whole mindset is deluded. His entitlement and self centeredness and not realizing that sometimes he’s the one at fault/he’s the one who’s not seeing the reality of things clearly and must adjust accordingly has been very very deeply ingrained. At least when it comes to this area. Some people, because it’s scary and uncomfortable (but this is true for everyone) and entitlement and lack of serious enough consequences have developed this unconscious way of operating that they should never have to change anything beyond their current comfort zone (or ability to tolerate some discomfort/inconvenience, if that’s a better way of putting it). They don’t get that sometimes their comfort zone isn’t really where it should be, and indeed that they could change it, just as other people oftentimes chane theirs. So they think they’re doing their best. But really, they just don’t want to stretch and grow in this area. Granted, the entitlement to just do your thing and not face reality and adjust and see that everyone else must do this too, might run so deep that it may even make them kind og blind to this reality, so they don’t even see that he could and should change his mindset. Just like people do all the time.

        He and his wife both work, his wife does plenty more with the kids and house, she says this to him, and he still thinks he’s doing his best when he lets the kids ride with him to the races before he drops them off with someone else and then he spends the next few hours without them. A pretty simple improvement would be for him to drop the races and spend that time with his kids instead. For him to not see even this, there must be some hard core priviliged blindness, self centeredness, grandiosity can-do-no-wrong-ness and narcissistic ways of operating that str ingrained in his head.

        (And let me just be clear. Most of us, if not all of us, have had some degree of this kind of thing. I’ve dehumanized people because of my priviliged blindness and self centeredness in areas too. When I’ve realized in hindsight what I’ve done, I’ve wept with (healthy) shame of what the f*ck I’ve been doing. So this isn’t just me pointing fingers at your husband saying he’s unique in this.)

        In my mind, this is not ok. How many humbling and difficult experiences have most of us faced in order to grow up and face the reality of our actions and how we operate in the world, indeed how other people operate, what kind of sacrifizes other people have made for us or for their families? It’s certainly not impossible for humans to face our faulty and selfish mindsets and change them. I get that it’s hard, if it’s very ingrained. But that doesn’t make it ok and impossible. His “best” could definitely improve if he was willing to see his mindset in this area for what it is and change it.

        I liken it to someone who can’t stop cheating, while their partner remains monogamous. “But I’m doing my best, I’m doing my best, it’s not fair for you to think it’s not good enough in this area!”

        Err, what?!

        1. My claim is that most people could learn to not cheat. They could stop drinking at parties, go to therapy, whatever. But yes, if would often require facing some painful truths and changing the mindset.

        2. If a person *really* can’t be monogamous, then I don’t think that in itself makes them a bad person. But then they need to get this truth out in the open. They can’t then expect people to treat them as if they were monogamous just because they’re doing their best.

        Same with a person who won’t do their fair share at home and with the kids.
        1. Most people could vastly improve, if they faced and change their mindset and their actions in this area. Not everyone will be Matha Stewart and Mary Poppins, but many could vastly improve.

        2. If someone really and truly can’t (and this is rare, with a change of mindset and actions, plenty could be worked out, and I’m not talking about cases where people have health problems or whatever that gives them less ability to do less), then that truth needs to be acknowledged. They can’t then expect their partner to treat them as if they’re being fair partner, as if they’re fairly sharing the burden, when they’re not.

        Let me just throw out a few caveats here. I like to live in a tidy and well organized place. If someone else doesn’t, that doesn’t make them wrong. Plenty of people live happy, messy lives (see Brent Atkinson if you’re interested in legitimate differences).There probably is a limit when it comes to hoarding and bugs infestations and things like that though. But anyway ,this kind of difference within a couple would need to be treated as a legitimate difference, and a compromise needs to be worked out. It’s not fair for the messier person to just say “you do all of it if you care” and then just do what they want. No. A compromise most be worked out.

        And sometimes, and this I truly believe although it’s hard to accept sometimes, that things that are easy for us is hard for someone else. I had an easy time learning how to read. Someone who has dyslexia will have a harder time, doesn’t mean they’re not doing their best. I friggin hate diy stuff. My friend does this well. She’d paint a bed better than I would, I could still be doing my best at that time. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t improve though.

        This being said though, I do want to stress that sometimes, often really, the mindset really is the problem, and people could vastly improve if they faced their faulty/selfish way of operating and decided to learn and improve. Some people will be better than others at organizing, housework, keeping a job, whatever. Doesn’t mean that other folks can’t improve their functioning in these areas greatly if they tried and stretched their comfortzone, both internally and externally.

        To finish off, whether or not we think someone can change their mind isn’t the end all, be all. We can present things and practice boundaries and make compromises in ways that will hopefully get them to give us more of what we want (Brent Atkinson ad Jack Ito could be good resources from what I’ve read of them), more of what we believe is both fair and possible. But if despite our best efforts, they insist they’re doing their best and won’t budge, we need to decide if we can live with that or not. If we’ve done all we can, it doesn’t matter that much whether they can’t or won’t, we must then decide what we can live with.

        I talked about it with Zombiedrew yesterday, personally I don’t think I would be intrinsically opposed to living apart from someone for example, if they were super messy and I was not and we couldn’t work it out living together. Get’s more complicated with kids though. Not everyone would be ok with this (maybe I wouldn’t be either, I don’t really know).

        This comment is too long, sorry, and I know it’s not all clear and concise. Feel free to ask if you want clarification of something I’ve written (not that I have all the answers obviously, just if you were wanting to understand something I said that wasn’t clear.)

        Virtual hug to you Tina, should you want it, and best of luck with everything!

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Tina,

        I read a comment from Zombiedrew2 where he said that his grandma used to say (and she got it from her dad? Don’t remember exactly), that “I know what I think, but what do you think?” (or something similar)

        So, now we know what I think. 8)

        But what do you think?!

        If you feel like sharing. :)

        Like

  19. Tina says:

    Donkey and Gottmanfan

    I appreciate you sharing what you think and I don’t mind sharing what I think but the situation is complicated (isn’t everyone’s!) and I don’t want to treat Matt’s comments section like my own personal therapy space. To give the short – ish version, I kept trying to find a way to change myself to make him and us happier and never could. I let my boundaries get pushed so far aside it was like I had none and I became very bitter and resentful toward him which further poisoned the relationship. I finally stopped letting everything be about him because I was just too exhausted and depressed to keep carrying on and tried to reinforce some boundaries (and I did this in harsh and unkind ways not helpful ones) which made him unhappy and he chose to deal with that by cheating.

    Our kid and household chores load is complicated by the fact that one of our kids is special needs. The coordination and logistics around that are huge. Also our daughter is in fact my step daughter and so there is another co parent in the equation and that adds complications to logistics as well as values conflicts etc. It’s easy for me to see my grievances but less so to see his. He’s said I was too controlling of him – I don’t understand that because as far as I can see he did whatever he wanted when ever he wanted. He says I think I’m better than he is. I struggle to see that as well. I don’t think I’m better. In fact I can name a number of areas where I look up to him as “better” But in total we are simply different but both of value. In what is a huge core value to me – being an involved and responsible parent – I do feel like he didn’t even try,. Not that he was incapable – that he was unwilling. He knows how to change a diaper he just won’t. He is good a playing with his son – he just doesn’t want to unless there is nothing else he’d rather do. He’s aware of the things his kids are interested in – but they don’t match his interests so he’d rather make them do what he wants. He’s aware of the care and attention they need – he just prefers that someone else – anyone else provide it.

    We are seperated now. I strongly resisted the seperation but I have to admit (despite still missing him and “us” at times) I am much happier without him than I was with him. If not for the kids I would probably be moving on without much thought or reflection. I’m glad I am not – that I am taking the time for reflection and not just because of the kids. All the failures in this relationship are not his. I want to know that I have seen and owned mine. Mostly because I want to grow from this and not repeat the same mistakes but also because if there is anything here that can be salvaged I feel like I should be trying my damnedest to find it and save it. I promised forever and I owe my kids, myself and my husband my 100% effort. I just feel like I am still missing something – that I am letting myself off too easily here – that there is something I should have done differently that might have (or still could) lead us in a different direction.

    Am I making sense or have I confused you guys as much as I confuse myself when I ponder all this?

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Tina,

      It makes sense. Is he willing to be accountable for his mistakes and work to make changes?

      Have you talked with a marriage counselor?

      Like

      • Tina says:

        No – he hasn’t made any just ask him. I’m just the bitch that has made his life hell and poisoned his kids against him. Sigh. I know there is no coming back from where we are at unless his attitude changes but whether it does or not I still want to know and own my errors and grow.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Again, I like Brent Atkinsons, helps us get clear on legitimate differences and, very importantly helps us learn exactly how to stand up for ourselves, every step of the way, in respectful ways, when our partner isn’t accepting our influence/and our is being disrespectful. But that is perhaps more relevant if a couple is still together. Still, worth it to check out the free excerpts maybe, to see if it’s for you.

        I think Jack Ito deals with cases where the couple is already separated, and where one person is or has been….behaving quite badly. Ito seems to have experience with selfish spouses who can’t see their own selfishness. He is practical and no nonsense, and yet seems very insightful too me. You can talk with him alone, your husband wouldn’t have to be involved with it. (I won’t include a link, because then my comments often get delayed, but if you search for coach Jack Ito you’ll find him quickly).

        Both Jack Ito and Brent Atkinson emphasise a firm but loving approach, is my impression.

        As always, I love my differentiation man David Schnarch, but I’m not sure how helpful he’ll be as a last resort to try to save the relationship. I think someone like Jack Ito would be more helfpful in that case. But you be the judge of what’s useful for you, plenty of other resources too, of course.

        A new philosophy of mine is that we must learn to make it as easy as possible for people to accept our influence, and if necessary, make it hard for them to not accept our influence. And if they still don’t, well, personally I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t give me equal regard if I don’t have to. Of course we must learn to stretch and grow ourselves, accept differences and all of that, for sure, but it’s not healthy, in my opinion, to give up too much. We are individuals with our own needs and preferences, we can’t just ignore that reality.

        Like

    • Linbo says:

      Hi Tina! I’m Linbo. You making perfect sense and I bet you a lot of others can relate to what you are experiencing. These things are so complicated because people respond emotionally to things and they don’t even know why. I am thinking about your husband responding by cheating when you started setting boundaries. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I’m not excusing his behavior but it seems like he was acting out – because he was hurt. That’s just my thought- I have no idea if that’s true. Brent Atkinson is my new favorite thanks to Lisa and Donkey. It talks about our fight or flight responses ect. What are some other resources Lisa? Donkey?
      Tina- this place is great to talk. I don’t think Matt minds at all- so I say that to say, it’s perfectly welcome and normal to need to express this stuff. You found the right place :)

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Linbo – surprisingly, the cheating is the easiest part to understand. It hurts like hell but I do get it. I made him feel unloved and unvalued and he chose to go looking for someone who would make that feel better. I get that. I think it was the wrong choice for how to deal with the situations obviously – but I get it. What I don’t get is what I could have done differently before that. It feels like the only choices I had were eat shit sandwiches forever or end up where we are now. Maybe that is the case – maybe he would never have accepted influence from me but I can’t help but wonder if I didn’t miss some crucial time or some different tactic that could have made a difference. That’s where I think I keep getting stuck. Even if he is never willing to go to counseling to try and repair the marriage I wish he would consider it so we could do a better job relating as we co parent. I mean we are bound together forever to some degree by two kids.

        Like

  20. Mike says:

    I’m in pain every time I read your stuff. Early in our relationship my soon to be ex started with various threats having to do with some form of ending the relationship or fundamentally changing it. It rocked me and I asked her to stop doing that since it hurt so much and confused me so much. Can’t speak for her, but it felt as I confirmed for her a weapon she knew would get to me. She used that weapon for years to come. Tough to have faith when someone is threatening to pull the rug out. Then she had the, “You never seemed into us,” excuse built in. Those were tough years I don’t want to relive, but easily go back there when I read posts like this.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      I think we should only say “If this doesn’t change, I’m out/our relationship will change significantly” when it’s the truth. Then it’s just honest communication. But if it’s used as a weapon, as it seems was the case in your relationship, that’s very toxic. Not good.

      But could this be the only way your soon to be ex felt she could get you to accept her influence? I’m not saying that makes it ok, it’s not ok, I’m just wondering if that could also be somewhat true.

      Like

  21. Wow….this post gives me all the feels I used to feel early on in your writing..when life was raw for me on the daily. You have a way of doing that. You are so right about wives making their men feel “less than” in this day and age. Little do we know, we are making a mess for everyone (including ourselves) by belittling the one we should be holding in highest esteem. We don’t see that the greatest power we possess for a happy and purposeful life, hangs on boosting our men toward their potential. Thank you for this. I know you are reluctant to blame your ex for any part (though we all know it’s RARELY one person’s fault 100% in the failure of a marriage). You’re so good to share your story; your journey and I believe this was very true for you. I hope your next wife sees and reminds you often of all the good you have done in this world! And until then, all us groupies will remind you with every post. :) XOXO

    Like

  22. gottmanfan says:

    I meant to say that men and women often base “part” of their self esteem and identity in jobs and house snd kids.

    Like

  23. Autumn Grayson says:

    It really helps to know about things like this.  I want to do everything I can to make sure my relationship with my boyfriend stays good, especially if he and I get married some day.

    I think I’ve worried about this issues in his article before, though I would not have described it in the same way.  Right now, I am in my early twenties and still living with my parents mostly because they need my help.  That’s sorta ok, but in many ways they are rather reluctant and resistant to the idea of me moving to a different city.  I think my boyfriend understands my situation, but I do worry that in the future it can put stress on my relationship with him because on one hand if my boyfriend and I get married I would want to be able to at least consider his dreams and goals on where he might want to live, but on the other hand my parents can be downright resentful of the idea of me not living in the vicinity, and trying to tell them how I feel just causes fights.  I feel like in many ways I might be forced to choose between them and my boyfriend some day.

    I don’t know if there were any pressures like that in your relationship, but I would be interested in seeing a post about navigating things like that if you ever wrote one.

    Like

  24. “if someone had told me the person I wanted to marry would choose her parents over me within the first year of marriage, I would not have married her….The person I had mentally, emotionally and spiritually replaced my parents with, didn’t do the same for me. It made me feel as if geography and her parents were more important to her than her marriage. It made me feel something less than loved.”

    Wow…flashback….

    After yet another instance where my needs were stuck on the back burner (Mother’s Day, I think…we had kids at this point and I was expected to go help his mother with something vs just relaxing a little):

    Me: I understand that the kids are our priority. But I feel like I am always coming in last place.

    Him: …My mother won’t be around forever.

    Me: So I need to wait for your mother to die before being a priority?

    Him: (silence)

    Mind you, his mom was still working, still gardening….not in hospice.

    I feel this so hard.

    Like

  25. Taylor says:

    Thanks for answering my question, Matt. That makes a lot of sense. I think choosing Mom and Dad or geography over commitment to one’s spouse and the marriage relationship is a total betrayal of the love we promise to our spouse in marriage. I can see how that would rip the guts out of you. Thanks for sharing your experience in order to warn the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for asking it, Taylor. I hope this didn’t come off like me pointing a finger and saying: “This was a betrayal!!!!”

      Maybe it wouldn’t bother some people. And INTENT matters very much to me, and I don’t believe the intent was to cause pain. People we loved were sick and it was hard not being with them. That played a factor, and is not without merit.

      But in a nutshell? I think anything a wife does to a husband which conveys the message: “You’re not good enough” when she doesn’t necessarily mean it, is a pretty big problem.

      This is NOT (not even a little bit) a defense, rationalization, or justification for any of my poor choices or substandard behaviors in my marriage… but it’s also not hard for me to understand how a man would stray if, for years, the message was always would a crappy dissatisfying man he is, while someone else is telling him how amazing, smart, sexy, etc. he is. (Again, not that he should ever be having a type of conversation in which such things are said.)

      If everyone mindfully avoids the “crimes,” we have an infinitely higher chance for success, I believe.

      Like

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