The Lazarus Theory: Bringing Relationships Back From the Dead

ECG heart monitor

(Image/stock-clip.com)

They say the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference.

I don’t believe that. I think hate is love’s antonym. But if I’ve realized anything in life that could be described accurately as wisdom, it’s that what I believe doesn’t mean anything.

Your beliefs are crap. Sorry. I don’t mean your beliefs are untrue. They may be 100-percent true. I mean simply that us believing something doesn’t make it true.

Examples of common beliefs which are in dispute or known to be false:

A jolly and overweight man named Santa Claus delivers gifts to children worldwide in a flying sleigh pulled by magical reindeer in one night.

Bill Cosby is a good guy.

Bats are blind.

It’s hard to admit because we love to believe we’re somehow in on The Secret, and all who disagree are incorrect dumbasses.

All religions, political affiliations, fields of study, or groups of any kind and size—including two-person romantic relationships—are comprised of human beings who believe things. Some, possibly most, of those beliefs aren’t true.

It’s terrifying to consider the implications of believing in things which might not be true. Devout members of every organized religion on Earth are totally convinced they have unique knowledge of Absolute Truth and the mysteries of the universe. Impassioned atheists think people who believe in God are totally insane and irrational. Like you might feel about a 50-year-old educated adult convinced of the Tooth Fairy’s existence.

When you challenge your core beliefs, the very foundation of your life shakes and you feel unsteady.

The devout might wonder: What if everything I believe is a lie? What if that other belief system is true?

The atheist might think: What if I spent my life denying the existence of that which gave me life? What if I’ve been wrong this entire time?

I think astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best, and I’m more than okay with you replacing the word “Universe” with “God” because Tyson’s oft-repeated statement applies to both:

“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

The thing that always makes me feel better is this: The truth will always hold up to hard questions and scrutiny.

The Death of a Marriage

My wife didn’t think I loved or respected her as a husband should because my actions and words throughout our marriage didn’t reflect what she believed to be consistent with the behavior of husbands who love and respect their wives.

I didn’t think she thought “correctly” during our disagreements, defaulting to a position of believing her to be illogical, and therefore—wrong. I didn’t think I was responsible for her emotions (and there are healthy boundaries to be enforced on that subject), but when you’re not even speaking the same language, it’s really disheartening to learn later that things you did which said “I’m going to go do this other thing right now, since you don’t like it!” translated loosely to: “You don’t matter, and I value mindless distraction more than I do all of the things you think and care about!”

Everyone was wrong.

But we believed things. And our daily choices reflected those beliefs, and slowly but surely, killed our marriage. Not with a bomb, or a gunshot or a violent stabbing.

But a slow, indiscernible poisonous drip. So slow, we never realized we were dying.

We just woke up one day… dead.

The night she told me she didn’t love me nor know whether she wanted to remain married wasn’t the night the marriage died. It’s simply when I finally got around to checking for a pulse and realized there wasn’t one.

As the more astute member of our marriage (and I believe wives are just that—the ones typically in tune with relationship health), she’d figured it out a long time before that. Maybe she was just too afraid to say it out loud.

At first, I did the thing I always did—acted like a victim and someone who was getting totally hosed since I never did anything wrong.

Then I retreated to the guest room, saying I wasn’t comfortable sleeping in the same bed as someone who said she didn’t love me nor wanted to stay married.

Every day was bad. The walking dead. Roommates wearing masks for a little boy at home and everyone else we knew.

What were we holding on for?

We wanted to bring it back to life, I guess.

Can a Dead Relationship Come Back to Life?

Tina said: “Would love to hear your thoughts on if marriages can ever be brought back from the brink to a healthy place.”

Here’s a common marriage or long-term relationship scenario:

Two young people meet in their late teens or early twenties. Everything’s all feelingsy and lusty and wonderful as such things typically are. They’re at the age where people meet “The One.” They’re following The Life Blueprint. This is just what people do!

She dreams of a beautiful wedding and family life together. He realizes he needs to settle down at some point, and she’s really great, and maybe they share the same general life goals and long-term plans.

He starts giving up some of his young bachelor activities, which may include parties, something sports-related, or any number of hobbies.

He spends less time with his buddies, and more time with her. Maybe his friends chide him for being “whipped.” Maybe when he chooses a night out with the guys, she protests because it makes her feel like he’s only thinking about himself and not “us.”

Sometimes they fight. The trigger might be different each time, but may ultimately prove to be the same fight they always have for the rest of their relationship.

Both of their boundaries are being violated, but they lack the maturity and wisdom to identify or discuss them peacefully. They don’t know these problems won’t magically go away and that their lives will suck as a result. No one ever talked to them about any of this before. His guy friends say: “Girls are just like that, dude! Mine’s the same way!” And her girlfriends say: “Do you love him? I know you do. He’s totally the one!”

She’s more eager to seal the deal than he is. It’s a security thing, and maybe some of her friends already have rings. He’s hesitant for a variety of reasons, ranging from fears of being “tied down,” to self-doubt, to financial concerns, but in the end thinks: “I’m more afraid of losing her than I am of marrying her.”

He gets a ring and proposes and she says yes.

They marry, assuming they’re doing so for life, with good and honest intentions.

Routine develops. She starts noticing ways in which she’s forced to work harder because of him if she wants her life and house to look the way she wants them to. She tells him about it. Leaving his pants on the bed. Leaving his socks on the floor. Leaving his dishes by the sink.

When she says something, he thinks it’s irrational nagging. She’s so ungrateful. How many MORE things do I need to change about myself before she’ll finally be happy?!

When he continues to do the things that cause more work for her, she thinks it’s because he doesn’t love her or value the marriage.

It feels like neglect, and morphs into resentment. After the same fruitless argument over many months and years, she starts to feel like his mother, and loses feelings of attraction for him.

Her resentment and sexual disinterest makes him feel as if she doesn’t love or respect him.

The next bad thing that happens—a major health or financial blow, or life trauma like a death in the family—will be the nail in the coffin.

The love withers on the vine. Then dies.

Then sometimes this funny little thing happens: the husband who had his head in the sand for most of his relationship now realizes his marriage, family and very way of life, are in jeopardy. He freaks. Because even though his wife doesn’t believe it, he really DOES love her.

He goes into Super Husband Mode, where he eager-beavers around the house every day in a last-ditch effort to show his wife he can be a good husband.

Sometimes, it’s genuine.

Sometimes, it’s bullshit.

In my experience, she’s unwilling to gamble any more of her heart or years away, regardless.

And then—like some smoke that he tried too hard to hold—she’s gone.

The Lazarus Theory

The second most famous resurrection story in the bible involves a man named Lazarus. He was a friend of Jesus and got really sick. His sisters tracked down Jesus, asking him for help. He sat tight for a couple of days, and then made the journey to Lazarus’ town. He eventually arrived to learn Lazarus died and had been laid to rest in the burial tomb four days earlier.

Lazarus’ sisters weren’t keen on the idea, but Jesus told some guys to roll the stone away from the tomb. As the story goes, with a crowd of mourners surrounding the tomb, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out. “Lazarus, come forth!” he commanded.

And, per the story, Lazarus—dead four days—walked out, alive.

As far as I know, people who die mostly stay that way.

I’ve never seen anyone flatline and then come back to life, though I’ve heard stories. Some are probably true.

Marriage is really hard. That’s why it fails half the time even though people wish it didn’t.

I was in a dead marriage that I wanted to come back to life. It never did.

I hear story after story after story from blog readers. Usually, a sad, angry or indifferent wife is exhausted with her shitty husband and ready to leave. Sometimes, I hear from a distraught husband who is trying and failing with Super Husband Mode.

It’s too little, too late.

I’ve heard of sick relationships being nursed back to health.

But, dead ones?

Guys write me and say: “I really DO love her! I’m freaking out, and I’m trying really hard to save our marriage! Do you have any thoughts on how?”

It makes my stomach hurt a little, because that was me a few years ago. Sometimes I say I’m sorry. Sometimes I offer words of encouragement. And sometimes I tell them the truth: I HAVE seen a few dead marriages get a second chance, but it came with a price—one of them had sex with someone else first.

I’m sure there are outliers, and people who buck the trends or overcome the odds. I just don’t see it often.

You see, it doesn’t matter what’s true. It doesn’t matter that, unless you’re going to stay single for the rest of your life, there is no compelling reason to try and replace your partner under the false belief that the replacement might somehow magically not present conflict or emotional turmoil. (Second marriages fail more often than first marriages.)

It doesn’t matter that the marriage died because of years and years of the husband and wife believing things about one another’s words, actions and intentions that were never true.

With love, it doesn’t seem to matter what’s true. It only matters what people believe.

But our beliefs are crap. We are constantly missing information about what someone else—even someone close to us—thinks, feels and believes. So our brains fill in the blanks with guesses, and our bodies feel whatever those guesses are.

He doesn’t love me. She’s illogical and overly emotional.

We believe so many things.

There’s the way things are. And there’s the way things should be.

Do things come back from the dead?

I’ve never seen it. But I’ve heard stories. Some are probably true.

Can an extinguished flame be rekindled? Can a broken heart be healed? Can a dead love be brought back?

I’ve never seen it. But I’ve heard stories. Some are probably true.

But on this particular topic, it doesn’t really matter what’s true.

Only what you believe.

Can you? Can’t you?

Choose.

…..

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178 thoughts on “The Lazarus Theory: Bringing Relationships Back From the Dead

  1. Maria says:

    I didn’t get any of the super husband effort. Can’t be saved if one person refuses to try.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      The scariest part of marriage, by far. You can do EVERYTHING right for years and years, and if a partner, for any reason, changes his or her mind, it’s over.

      Marriage is one big thing made of two parts. One part fails, and then the big thing does too.

      It’s neither easy nor fair.

      Like

      • JM says:

        And I had never thought that someone who made a promise would actively undermine it (cheat), and how that would erode any actual intimacy in the marriage. If the maggots had gotten into Lazarus I don’t think he would have come back.

        I was such an in love, naive fool. Not easy or fair indeed.

        Like

      • kantal113 says:

        What’s even more upsetting is when everything seems to be going right, great even- better than it has in years, and then your husband decides to change his mind. We had been working so hard for years. I’ve been waiting for my husband to finally figure out his issues and be the man I know he can be. YEARS I waited for him because I am that devoted and was that certain he’d figure it out.
        He finally figures it out, and a few months later and after three of the best weeks in our marriage, he tells me he wants out.
        WTF am I supposed to do with that?
        Unfair is an understatement.

        Like

  2. Tam says:

    One word, brilliant, gets it said Matt. We get to choose what we choose to believe. It’s never about them, although so many think it is. Who’s in control of your mind if not you? Love your posts. Thanks. Now back to my Friday night, but just wanted to acknowledge that I connect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. zombiedrew2 says:

    You know, from the guys perspective some of us actually proposed not because we were “more afraid of losing her than I am of marrying her”, but because we actually believed we were ready for marriage and knew that we wanted that to be with the person we chose.

    Other than that though, yeah, a lot of the story here is similar for many people just because marriage is hard.

    As for the question of “can things be brought back from the dead” let me tell you a story about my plant.

    Yeah, my plant.

    I got my first apartment at 19, and heading home from school I picked up a little ficus branch that some old ladies were selling for a church fundraiser. The things was about an inch of two tall, and had maybe two leaves.

    Over a few years, I changed apartments a number of times and brought this plant with me everywhere, and eventually it grew into a reasonably nice little tree, with three main branches.

    One time, I moved during the winter (winter here is brutal), which is really bad for plants.

    Over the next few weeks, my tree pretty much died. It lost all it’s leaves, and those main branches died and rotted. My roommate told me to just throw the thing out – it was dead he said. But for some reason I didn’t give up. I left the dead branches there and kept watering it.

    After a while, new shoots came up from the soil. See, the “tree” was dead – but it’s roots weren’t. The branches all broke away, but new branches came up.

    That was around 20 years ago, and I still have it. Now it’s a pretty awesome tree – around 6′ tall.

    Thing is, it’s not the original tree. The original died.

    but because I kept the roots alive and didn’t give up even when everyone told me to just throw it out, I now have a beautiful tree that is part of the old one, but is completely different.

    True story.

    I think the same happens with relationships. Once dead, they’re dead. They will never be the same again.

    *but*

    if both people are willing, you can build something new. It’ll be a bit different, but it can be just as beautiful.

    Some readers here know my story. I didn’t give up on my tree 20 years ago, and I’m doing my damndest not to give up on my marriage.

    I know the marriage I had is over. I know *that* marriage is dead.

    But I still believe I can have a new, different marriage with my wife. And my hope is, it can be just as beautiful.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Matt says:

      Metamorphosis and Reincarnation both were obvious themes I almost included in this post. I didn’t not do so deliberately. I just sort of finished it and hit publish, as I always do.

      But yeah. Totally.

      You wouldn’t technically resuscitate a failed relationship. You’d create a new one.

      That’s a pretty great story, Drew. I appreciate you sharing it.

      I’ll also appreciate you cheering for the good guys in Game 4 tonight. We’re probably going to need it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Have to admit, with the struggles in my marriage that tree (and my kids of course) are the main things that keep me going.

        And yeah, I’m hoping things get tied up at 2-2 tonight.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          I wasn’t trying to be flippant, either. When I say great story, I mean it. I think I can appreciate the power and emotional investment you might have in such a symbol of your life for two decades, plus.

          I’m glad you shared that.

          Like

    • Donkey says:

      Drew, I’ve heard similar things said by other people before. That people can have several different marriages over a lifetime, but with the same person. :)

      Virtual hug!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Linbo says:

      Drew, I love this. As an avid plant rescuer I know this is true.
      Thank you for not being cynical and believing in your marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Loura Shares A Story says:

      Beautifully put! I too, have a “new” marriage, just like with your tree. :)

      Liked by 4 people

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      ZombieDrw, that was perfect both in concept and in the expression. It’s exactly what I believed should have been possible. Nix that. The history of those who chose the opposite (or were married to those who chose brokenness) is irrelevant to the future of the real marriage commitments. It is possible. Wherever and whenever two people honor their commitment and choose it, it’s not only possible but also beautiful and triumphant.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had one of these trees with my ex. It was some sort of palm. During one of our moves, the head snapped off of it.

      Since I was the only one who took out the trash, and it was heavy, it sat – unwatered, in a pot that was in a plastic garbage bag, for a couple months.

      Finally got him to pitch it…and we noticed not one, but TWO, small green shoots on top. Yep, that tree laughed at its beheading and grew two heads.

      But the marriage died.

      Not sure this story has any value, but it was a super cool tree. Interestingly, the guy who broke it died in a freak accident – it was after his funeral we noticed the tree had come back to life.

      Like

  4. Carlene W. says:

    Matt, I enjoy reading your posts, knowing they come from where you are at. From my personal experience on marriage, I can tell you that a marriage can be brought back from life. My husband and I have been married three times to each other. Two divorces in between. We weren’t on the same page the first two times either. God has grown and stretched us to where we are today-blissfully content. In love with one another, through all our faults and flaws. Living in and showing grace to one another. You are right in saying that everyone has their own belief systems and everyone has a choice. Choices can determine destination. Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • zombiedrew2 says:

      “Choices can determine destination” – I like that.

      Kind of like “you are how you act”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Drew- I would say even more you are what you believe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Carlene W. says:

        Thanks. I have learned that every choice I make has a consequence, good or bad and ultimately leads to a destination of some sort. The way I share online, in person, in my home, with friends, at church, is all the same. No surprises, no guessing who I am to which people. Being your true self and doing the best you can is all anyone can ask.

        Liked by 1 person

        • zombiedrew2 says:

          I completely agree with that philosophy. I’m amazed a how often people will say/do things behind the relative anonymity of an online profile that they wouldn’t do in public. It often makes me wonder who the real person is, and which one is the persona.

          I’m pretty much the same person everywhere. I definitely adapt differently to the role I am playing at the moment (Drew the dad is a bit different from Drew the co-worker or Drew the buddy). But I don’t think anyone who knows me would be shocked by anything I do, not matter which role it is. The core me is pretty consistent.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Inspiring! Thanks for sharing! :)

      Like

  5. revengestar says:

    Whatever you attempt to bring back from the dead is soon going to be a zombie smelling bad and full of worms. They are real flesh and blood girls out there, why you need that wife anyway

    Like

  6. Linbo says:

    Matt,
    Hello.
    There are a few things that I am thinking.
    Lets start with belief. I think believing something is everything. Believing something 9/10 makes it true- because we make it true.
    It’s not always really great beliefs that we have- like someone telling you “You mean a lot to me.” and not believing that.
    But we do that- because of the stories we have manufactured in our minds.
    They don’t have to be fact, or reality- definitely, but believing something usually lends itself to it becoming a reality.
    What you say about one belief being greater than the other- “knowing the secret”, yes I totally agree that is one of the biggest tragedies of our time. (Maybe all time? I don’t know).
    Honestly, I have come to the conclusion that mankind has to operate in some sort of belief system to make sense of the world.
    I have made it a personal pledge to never try to unravel somebody elses belief system- especially if it is working for them.
    I have my own beliefs, that I hold dearly- but I am flexible in trying to understand how that plays out in my life and the world.
    Beliefs play a pivotal role in relationships. Because say- if I don’t believe somebody cares about me, I am likely to act in a way that demonstrates that- be it mis-trust, contempt, whatever.
    So in communication understanding what you believe, and what someone else believes is incredibly important.
    Here is the other thing, and something most people don’t do- is allowing your beliefs to be changes. You cant do that unless you ask about what you are believing in a given situation.
    You believe that 50% of married couples get divorced, and an even greater number divorce who get married again. You have evidence to back that up. It is a statistical fact, and the more people believe in that fact, the easier it is to perpetuate.
    The question shouldn’t even be about what every other couple in America, or the world, is doing- the question should be what you believe about your marriage/relationship/purpose in life etc. Because THAT is going to be the deciding factor.
    I’m not saying there aren’t real issues that need to be addressed, but believing in one another and believing in the relationship will be what makes the difference.
    I believe you are incredibly smart, I believe you are an outlier in that you took something devastating and decided to grow in it. You have already beaten a lot of odds just in that.

    I love Drew’s tree story, and I’ve heard similar ones. I am sorry, and I know it hurts that you didn’t get to experience that with your ex-wife. I can assume that can bring up a lot of regret.
    Here is the other thing I wanted to say- I don’t think that you are to blame.
    I hope I don’t make you angry when I say this- but it almost seems like see wasn’t ready, either. It hurts me (because I am a hopeless sap) that you don’t get to have a second tree with your first wife.
    But, I honestly hope you get to have a second, and maybe third tree with someone else.
    You may not be feeling that- I would guess in a big way you are not. That’s fine. (And I wont say anything like that again if it will help), but I do hope when the time comes, you suspend your beliefs and allow yourself a new life.

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      *you aren’t soley to blame.

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      “I have made it a personal pledge to never try to unravel somebody elses belief system- especially if it is working for them”

      Would that also go for the Steves of the world (and we can all be Steve), male or female, who think they are Jasons and that she shit sandiwches they’re serving definitely are burgers? :P I’m honestly curious as to your thoughts about that. Especially if a particular Steve are serving you shit sandwiches and you’re trying to have a healthier relationship with him or her?

      As to your main points, I agree with you, our deeply held beliefs (conscious or not) shape our realites sooo much. As you say, we often make them true. Look for evidence to support our claims, act in ways that will “help” confirm them.

      You said: “Because say- if I don’t believe somebody cares about me, I am likely to act in a way that demonstrates that- be it mis-trust, contempt, whatever.”

      Totally!

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Donkey, you asked : “Would that also go for the Steves of the world (and we can all be Steve), male or female, who think they are Jasons and that she shit sandiwches they’re serving definitely are burgers? :P I’m honestly curious as to your thoughts about that. Especially if a particular Steve are serving you shit sandwiches and you’re trying to have a healthier relationship with him or her?”

        No-not al all! I was referring to religious beliefs,really. I wouldn’t try to unravel somebody elses religious beliefs- that is true even for those who most would think are legitimately delusional. What’s the point, if they are not hurting anyone?
        In the case of the Steves of the world, they would fall under the category of “it’s really not working for you.”- because it is effecting thier relationships- and likely other things in their life.
        In fact thinking about it, “bad beliefs” are probably some of the biggest factors in how Steve operates.
        Maybe he is consistently late to a work meeting because he believes he doesn’t have important input, or just the opposite- that he won’t really be informed by the meeting. Or maybe he self sabotages in relationships because he doesn’t think he is good enough, or believes that relationships are just a way to be controlled…there is no end to the list of could be’s.
        These are exactly the ones that need to look at what they are really believing, and ask if that belief is really helping them. It’s still not easy to change- you need motivation,ect.
        One of my “bad beliefs” at the moment is that the small things don’t matter. A few potato chips, a bowl of ice cream, a second margarita, plus not breaking a sweat in 2 weeks…these things don’t seem like a big deal, but added up they can have big effects. They are so small by themselves it’s easy to think “I’m doing fine”, but there are consequences later. …Just an example.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Of course, the really bad belief that is associated with what I just described is that I’m a failure if I gain weight.
          This is a serious issue for a lot of women, and to be honest- I find myself debating whether I just need to “love myself where I am”, or “love myself enough to change”…
          So, these belief systems can be really complicated and convoluted…

          Like

  7. Linbo says:

    And sorry if I got a little too personal.

    Like

  8. “They say the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. I don’t believe that. I think hate is love’s antonym. But if I’ve realized anything in life that could be described accurately as wisdom, it’s that what I believe doesn’t mean anything. Your beliefs are crap. Sorry. I don’t mean your beliefs are untrue. They may be 100-percent true. I mean simply that us believing something doesn’t make it true.”

    Kind of funny, Matt, but just completely reverse this paragraph and you’ll know where I stand. Hatred really is just the flip side of love. It is passionate, intense, and connected. That’s what love is, a connection. Indifference is the absence of any connection at all. People can have pretty intense relationships with one another,often negative ones, based on hatred. You can’t have a relationship based on indifference.

    Us believing in something really does have away of making it true. So what is truth, what is reality? To some extent it is exactly what we believe and what we than proceed to create. We can’t control it all, but our beliefs, true or not, conscious or unconscious, have a tremendous impact on what happens to us.

    As to Lazarus and dead relationships, I do approach marriage that way, as if it were dead and must be revived. I never really thought about it, but that’s it exactly. There is no sense entitlement, no idea that it stays alive because alive is just normal. Dead is normal, the absence of relationship and connection is normal. So if you want life, you have to bring it, you have to spark it, you have to create it.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      “As to Lazarus and dead relationships, I do approach marriage that way, as if it were dead and must be revived. I never really thought about it, but that’s it exactly. There is no sense entitlement, no idea that it stays alive because alive is just normal. Dead is normal, the absence of relationship and connection is normal. So if you want life, you have to bring it, you have to spark it, you have to create it.”

      Really, are you that disciplined about it? If so, I’m very impressed. I get the not taking a good marriage for granted thing so we know we must continuall put in effort to keep it good, but treating it as if it were *dead*, not even assuming some kind of basic human connection? That’s hard core, lady. 8)

      “That’s what love is, a connection. Indifference is the absence of any connection at all. People can have pretty intense relationships with one another,often negative ones, based on hatred. You can’t have a relationship based on indifference.”

      I tend to agree with this. If there’s hate, there’s still a connection, not a lovely connection, but a connection none the less.

      If there’s indifference, that line of connection has been severed. Which I often think is worse for humans, to just not see ourselves mirrored in another in any way shape or form, they’re just… indifferent.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. gottmanfan says:

    Ok I am totally counting on a dead marriage coming back to life here. So yeah I believe it is definitely possible. In fact I know it is possible.

    And it’s possible as an individual too. Same thing.

    The old version of me is dead. Had to grieve her and let her go because she believed things that got in the way of true flexibility and mental and physical health and good relationships.

    Sometimes I miss her but mostly she is just a fuel empty piece of the rocket I had to discard as dead weight to keep flying through space toward my destination.

    And her dream or how life was supposed to be just didn’t come true. The blueprint was no good. Most of it was due to things outside my control like deaths and illness and other people’s choices. Yeah I still grieve that blueprint.

    But I can find a new blueprint. I must find a new blueprint. There’s ALWAYS another blueprint.

    That is the key for me to hope. Believing in the existence of many many versions of myself and my marriage and my life. There are no soul mates and there are no soul blueprints.

    If I don’t tie my self identity and self worth in any of those blueprints I have freedom to change and be flexible.

    To bring my marriage back from the dead as I have brought myself back from the dead.

    And I have been dead emotionally. So depressed and anxious with PTSD I couldn’t function. And although not perfect, I am not dead anymore. And still working to get healthier.

    It is possible because if one person can do it another one can. It has been done. It can be done.

    And like one of my favorite books says Talent IS Overrated. Persistence and directed focus.

    I just need the “courage to continue” per the Churchill quote. Discouragement is normal. Failure is normal.

    And like in The Martian, for me it means sciencing the shit out of it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Thanks for sciencing the shit out of it out loud where we all can benefit. 8)

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        I am on a David Burns kick now. A lot of great stuff there with outcome and process resistance. It answers the questions of why we don’t do reasonable things.

        Gotta solve that first.

        Thanks for your comments that help me see things more clearly. 😀

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Would you say David Burns and Brent Atkinsons are similar in how they approach conflict resolution?

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Somewhat similar but Burns puts more emphasis on what I will term being egoless is conflict. This is good for me because I am not conflict avoidant.

          I think if one tends towards not being able to speak up for themselves, Atkinson’s emphasis might be better.

          I love David Burns “growth” mindset! He strives to just keep learning how to be better as a therapist and person and constant feedback is an important part of that. But you have to have a strong sense of self and be able to do it without it crushing you so some might need to reinforce that first.

          Like

      • Linbo says:

        I second this in a big way, Lisa.
        I love your clarity!

        Like

  10. jgroeber says:

    Beautiful one, Matt. And zombiedrew2 deserves a shout out (why no like buttons on comments, I wonder?) Maybe the trick is it’s always a new tree (to grab Drew’s metaphor.) Marriage always needs some pruning and replanting and fertilizer. Every day. Maybe we need to treat marriage more like a living thing that’s new every day in the first place in order to not end up trying to resuscitate something dead down the road. (I’m going to mull that over. Thank you for that.)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this. I have somewhat of a Lazerus story. I think. My husband was as described here exactly but instead of just typical arguing and growing away from one another, he went completely off road, moved out, cheated (a couple times), drank heavily, and really did the job of sending the message in actions that he did not want to be a husband (or a full time dad for that matter) but in words said a ton otherwise.

    It wasn’t until our divorced was almost final that he had his ephiphany of “holy shit. I just lost my family”. I moved forward with the divorce but I never, not for one second, stopped loving him. But. Our love was dead to me because of how rouge he went.

    I did a lot of soul searching and realized where I failed the marriage, how I could have done things differently. We are now dating again, 19 months after our divorce was final. Which is weird. And so much trust is gone…but we love each other so we’re working at it.

    Not sure if it’s bag from the dead or not quite yet but it does feel different.

    Anyway, thanks for this piece. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. OKRickety says:

    “They say the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference.”

    Love and hate are opposites. In the case of marriage, hate means you still care what the other person thinks and does and says. Hate can motivate and result in positive change.

    Indifference (Why bother? Who cares?), however, is poison to a relationship. When it reaches this stage, it will be difficult to heal that relationship. Maybe either love or hate would be an antidote to the poison of indifference.

    “And sometimes I tell them the truth: I HAVE seen a few dead marriages get a second chance, but it came with a price—one of them had sex with someone else first.”

    Matt, you sure left that thought hanging out there. I’d like this idea to be expanded. Perhaps sex caused hate in place of indifference and motivated change? I know you say it’s the only way you’ve seen it happen (multiple times), but are you suggesting that this is the only way dead marriages are restored? I would like to think that there are other, better ways for this to happen. But maybe it’s easier to get hate into the relationship than it is to get love. If so, I don’t doubt that extramarital sex may be a very effective way to do that. I just believe it’s wrong and would rather see another avenue to restoration.

    Like

  13. Liza says:

    Its always plausible, anything can be resurrected but it’s a very much two person effort on purpose, listening, growing together, pressing a refresh button, thing.
    When I think of people I would “take back” but I’d need something more to feel that safeness to even start to try, again. I would have to love or have loved you A LOT to even consider it though.

    Like

  14. Tina says:

    Thanks for this Matt. I’m really not sure what I think about this but your post sure prompted a lot of food for thought. I deeply and passionately believe people CAN change and that with God ALL things are possible. So that seems to predispose me to a belief that marriages can be “resurrected” right? However, I also believe that God does not ever override our free will and although all people can change most will not do the work necessary to. And so I fear that most “resurrected” relationships are just slowly rotting zombies fueled by wishful thinking or willful denial and doomed to fall apart into a gruesome stinking mess.

    If I look specifically at my own case, If I am being honest with myself, I don’t really want to resurrect the marriage I had. Why would I? We were both so very unhappy; me to the point of a major depression, him to the point of an affair. But to start a new more healthy and fulfilling relationship, with the same person, the father of my children, the person I vowed to love, honor and cherish until death do us part? I hope that is possible. I’m not sure inf I believe it though.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      “although all people can change most will not do the work necessary to”

      Very true. At least many won’t.

      Like

    • Linbo says:

      Tina and Donkey,
      I just want to be clarify:
      In a previous comment to Tina, I was typing out loud and said something to the effect that maybe her husband was acting out because he was “hurt”. ..I don’t really like how I put that, and I am sorry.
      Matt mentioned that there needs to be definite boundaries around taking responsibility for your partners emotions.
      I agree with this 100%.
      Women are typically the automatic empathizers- I know I am, and that is a lot of what keeps us in the same dysfunctional situation.
      But, for me, and the reason I mentioned that in the first place is because understanding the cause of some behavior helps me to not take on the emotional burden of it. (Such as he had an affair because I did something wrong).
      I am thinking my wording in the original comment didn’t help with that.
      What I was trying to say, was that maybe he was acting out due to his own emotional garbage that he doesn’t even understand very clearly. What I was calling “hurt” was some emotional discomfort. (Which would be good to bear for most of us!!)
      I don’t think trying to understand the reason for a behavior releases him of responsibility, but (for me at least) it can help look at things objectively.

      Donkey, you may notice that I tend to empathize, and it sounds like I am excusing behavior (And not setting boundaries). I think I do this for the most part, as I mentioned above, to seek the reason “Why”- not to make the person unaccountable, but so that maybe there can be a solution. It also helps me to empathize so I don’t react with negative emotions to the situation.
      Woops- wow, that is rationalization, isn’t it?
      I like that I am empathetic. I think more people need to be empathetic at times, but it does become rationailization if the behavior is repeated again and again. or the person really doesn’t want to change.
      Boundaries need to be enforced before we get there.

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        “But, for me, and the reason I mentioned that in the first place is because understanding the cause of some behavior helps me to not take on the emotional burden of it.”

        I can agree with this. And there’s also something about understanding that makes it easier to accept things, to move on. And aslo to validate my own truths sometimes, and see more clearly my own reasons, conscious or not, and see if they are fruitful/healthy/functional/messed up or not.

        Part of the reason I spend so much time here is because I want to understand things. :)

        I think part of my growth though, is to also learn to be comfortable with not knowing, with uncertainy also in this aspect, and move on with my life and my truth as best I can anyway.

        “In fact thinking about it, “bad beliefs” are probably some of the biggest factors in how Steve operates”.

        …like the belief that he or she is a Jason and so everyone else is wrong, no need to accept their influence or to do some soul searching. 8) (and again, I’ve been Steve too)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Donkey- yes and yes..:)
          Me,too- about spending so much time here. It has really been an education in itself- you people are great:)

          And exactly about Steve not realizing he isn’t a Jason. I’m still Steve like 75% of the time- but Im trying to see my Stevieness objectively…:)

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        Yeah, I very likely AM still Steve in many ways, not just have been. 8)

        …but that isn’t everything though, in my opinion. Part of the growth is also to realize where we are Jasons and own that too. :) (And Dick and Bill and Alan…)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Donkey,
          True- we should acknowledge where we get it right (Jason), where we are a complete mess (Alan), and where we’ve pretty much decided “this is what it is- deal with it.” (Bill) –
          And really being a combo of that is sort of more appealing than just being one or the other, don’t you think?

          Like

      • Tina says:

        I agree understanding is important – just ah him owning his feelings and choices are as important as me owning mine. This is the first weekend he’s kept our son overnight. I’m not handling it well. I blew up at him on the phone on Friday threatening not to let our son go (I did and I apologized) and then again today when I saw him out riding his motorcycle with our son nowhere in sight.
        I’m so tired of being torn between pain and anger – I just want peace.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Oh my goodness, Tina!
          That has to be incredibly frustrating. How old is your kiddo?
          I’m thinking about child welfare laws, and if the kids not safe- no go on the visitation. (but, this could soon become another area for contention)
          Im also curious as to where we you/he that you saw him on his motorcycle. Did he ride passed where he knew you would be?
          That could be completely intentional. He may want you to have an emotional reaction.
          Save your energy!!
          I know it is exhausting to fight. It doesn’t feel like it gets anyone anywhere.
          I’m sorry to hear what a crap head he is being (is it ok if I call him crap-head? Sometimes it just makes people feel better :).

          Like

      • Tina says:

        Linbo-

        I was on my way to a friends house – I have no idea where he was going. There really is no way he could have known I’d be in that area at that specific time. He left our son with his mom so he was fine. I would never have expected him to be otherwise – just riled up that I have to give up time with my so so he can not spend that time with him.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Tina,
          That is certainly understandable. Seems like a misappropriate of time, energy, concern on the part of your husband. Sorry about that.
          People don’t always do the most logical things, or the things we think are right.
          Still- save your energy. Spend it on something that will bring you some peace or lifts you up.

          Like

  15. Not sure why this popped into my head. I remember you saying in a previous post that your wife is currently in another relationship but I was wondering if she was a reader of your blog? If she is, has she ever commented on what you’re writing about to you?

    Like

    • Matt says:

      She has read some or all of the blog. We don’t discuss it.

      She’s private and sensitive about it. I’m pretty sure she wishes it didn’t exist, but she also seems to believe that it’s coming from a place of sincerity.

      It doesn’t cause conflict today as it did a couple of years ago.

      But in terms of thoughtful, in-depth conversation RE: the content? We have never dug that deep. I suspect we never will.

      Like

      • I can see where she’s coming from, having your life on display like this can be a bit rough. It would be nice to know about her views on the content though. Kind of an author’s hit or miss discussion, you got it right here you got it wrong there kinda thing. But if she wishes to remain private about things I respect that.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          That would be a pretty amazing thing, actually. Back when we fought about this, I gave her the floor to post whatever she wanted (not that I’d be able to prove she actually wrote it), but she was totally disinterested. She’s just way more private and uncomfortable airing personal stuff.

          I was too, to a certain extent. But when you fundamentally break, you stop giving a shit about things like that. When all of these other things in your life become uncomfortable, things which used to feel uncomfortable get slotted into their appropriate place.

          After a lifetime of caring a little too much what people think (I still have this problem), this has been a good personal exercise for me.

          But it really became about everyone else a long time ago. I still don’t know what it is here that helps the occasional person process their relationships with more clarity. But I’ve been told so many times that it does, that the “why” part doesn’t matter.

          Marriage is hard, but worth it. Especially with children.

          Divorce is worse than I believe the general populace gives it credit for being.

          This gets to be the cause I care about, and maybe somehow help someone a tiny bit along the way.

          Maybe even myself.

          Like

          • I think the clarity comes from people recognizing bits of themselves in you and your writing. Reading your posts is like sitting down for coffee with a friend who has been through things that you haven’t. They are able to point out things they see you doing that they did and recognize that that was one of the wrong steps to take. The advice comes easier from a friend, or in this case a friendly tone, than it would from a professional who has studied these things but has never been through it before.
            We relate to you, we see bits of ourselves in you, we connect with you because you are like us and we are like you on some level, no matter how small. That is the only “why” that matters.
            Keep doing what you are doing the way that you’re doing it and the help will come, both for us readers and for you. You’re on the right path.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Linbo says:

            “This gets to be the cause I care about, and maybe somehow help someone a tiny bit along the way.

            Maybe even myself.”

            *Like*

            Like

            • Linbo says:

              Matt,
              Since you appreciate clear communication, (and I tend to under communicate), I thought I’d clarify that I *liked * your statement because it honored us commenters- not that you have a need to increase self esteem or anything.
              I’m taking a break from studying how first messenger Neurotransmitters initiate early genes such as c.Fos and c.Jun. Riveting stuff – really, (it’s in part what starts turning genes on and off, and what helps to create some psychiatric issues) but a bore to study…my mind wandered back to my last comment. Hope you (and everyone else )are having a great Saturday :) …
              I also liked your comment about how being broken kind of puts things in perspective- and you are more willing to “be real”- to complete strangers, no less.
              For better or worse, underneath all the Instagram happiness and luxury cars everyone feels some level of vulnerability. It just takes one person to express their own- with clarity, and authenticity like you do for others to not be so afraid of thier own.
              So, ditto to what Pilgram said.
              Back to the books…

              Liked by 1 person

  16. I never got SuperHusband Mode with my first. With this one, I did – and he’s sustaining it.

    Our marriage wasn’t dead, but it was gravely ill and I didn’t even know it….

    But I haven’t given up yet. Because overall, he’s a good guy, he makes my life easier, he’s a good companion….

    Time will tell if that is enough.

    Like

  17. I think he was ready to leave, but started doing more annoying things so I would get fed up. Then the blame would be on me. I mean who in the world gets in their wife’s car drives until it’s on empty. Then gets in his own car. Ok, it’s on me I need to leave 30 minutes early to put gas in my car and my lunch for work has been eaten.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Geez, he did that?! Ate your lunch and drove your car until it was empty for then to use his own car?!

      You know what, I really am against violence and corporal punishment and all of that. But when I hear about things like this, I can’t help but at least wish that some stout uber confident grandmother with an arm of steel would just put him over her lap and spank him until he remembers some manners!

      You know, there are astounding amounts of shitty things people do, seemingly without knowing they were/are shitty (and yes, I’ve done shitty things too). All this to say that I’m just not ruling out that possibility. Not that that would make it better at all, then it’s just about having more of a self centered/narcissistic mindset that lets you not realize how crap those things are. .

      But anyway, you may very well be right of course, you’d know that better than me, and I have heard about this “approach” before. Treating your partner/spouse crappy to get them to dump you, so you won’t have to say the hard words, do the paper work, be the bad guy and so on. Awful awful stuff. Truly, there are many ways of leaving a relationship. It definitely isn’t always the one who says the words who really stopped truly being committed. Commitment is about action and effort, not just staying together and not sleeping with other people.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. gottmanfan says:

    But what has been really helpful to me in this round of Burns is about examining the reasons why I don’t do reasonable things. What is causing that?

    And he rightly points out that resolving that directly is critical to change.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      I mean why in this post can’t people in bad marriages treat each other more lovingly and politely? There is a very certain amount of information that is missing yes.

      But in most cases there is also just an unwillingness to do what we know would be helpful. Why would someone do that? That is the big question to be fixed.

      It sometimes has to do with a certain way that we frame things that involves our self identity.

      For example, a man would resist accepting influence and changing in a way his wife wants because he equates that with being “whipped” and being controlled by her emotions.

      It is tied to his sense of self as a person and a man. And THAT is what is causing the resistance.

      Of course, harsh startups and tone of voice make it harder or easier but that’s not the REAL problem.

      It is that underlying belief that needs to be confronted. Is it true? Is there another way of looking at it that is also true?

      That is why behavioral stuff only helps so much. Insight only helps so much. Because you must be willing to change.

      And if you believe that changing will cause you to lose your self respect in fundamental way, the changes will be halfhearted and resented.

      So that’s why Burn’s stuff about resistance is so important. There are different patterns he’s identified for common problems like depression anxiety relationship’s etc.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        This is part of me trying to science the shit out of my own resistance to change😀

        That’s what I have identified lately. My own resistance to do what the researchers show people in successful relationships do. Why would that be happening?

        Well I have some beliefs that doing those things in the environment I am in would be giving up my sense of self worth. And I am resistant to doing that.

        Is this true? Is there another way to look at it that is also true?

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa, Question answered – thank you! That sounds like some really compelling stuff!

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        David Burns talks about an exercise called the magic button. Would one be willing to push the magic button to fix the situation.

        I many cases, the answer surprisingly is no.

        For me it all depends on what I have to change to push the magic button.

        For example, if someone said I would have to wear a full burkah every day to have a happy marriage I would not be willing to push the magic button to fix it. (But depending on culture and circumstances others would)

        If someone says I would have to be unilaterally submissive and he makes all major decisions, I would not be willing to do that.

        You can keep going down the line until you reach where I am now.

        If I am required to do more of the work and be more “egoless” than he is to fix our marriage and even the marriage counselor tries to push that on me, am I willing to do that to push the magic button.

        And here we have found the source of my resistance. That I equate doing “more than my share of egoless stuff” as being forced to wear a full burkah.

        It is a matter of justice and self respect to me so it makes sense that I resist it. Especially for me.

        But is that belief linking the two true? Can I find another way to frame it? Or does it just require setting a boundary and not being willing to do more than half?

        I don’t know the answers but at least I know a big piece of why I have not been fully able to do reasonable things.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Lisa,
          It would be hard to push the button if it required changing an essential part of your identity (like a sense of justice).
          So, yes- looking at how that part is being triggered and if the thing that is triggering it is actually true is the better way to go.
          It’s almost like pushing the button in that case would add parts to who you are instead of saying parts are bad and need to be changed.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            I think it helps to identify what the “real” issues are so they can be directly addressed instead of people telling me to focus on being more vulnerable in my presentation.

            That is good but that is not my “real” problem do its a waste of time and effort.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              It is good I have this willingness to stand up for myself. It is good I have boundaries and deal breakers.

              I don’t have to give this up just try and identify a way to improve my marriage that frames it properly.

              Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Similar to your alcoholic example. Instead of focusing on all the reasons why being alcoholic is bad the focus in that case needs to be about recognizing what is good about it and finding ways to substitute other good things.

            Like

      • Donkey says:

        “If I am required to do more of the work and be more “egoless” than he is to fix our marriage and even the marriage counselor tries to push that on me, am I willing to do that to push the magic button.

        And here we have found the source of my resistance. That I equate doing “more than my share of egoless stuff” as being forced to wear a full burkah.

        It is a matter of justice and self respect to me so it makes sense that I resist it. Especially for me.

        But is that belief linking the two true? Can I find another way to frame it? Or does it just require setting a boundary and not being willing to do more than half?”

        I’m quite justice oriented myself I believe. so your resistance makes sense to me. It’s hard to decide if something is worth it if it’s…very unfair. Especially when it comes to love relationships, where we want to nurtured and loved and respected, where we hope for equal regard.

        Some more positve thoughts:
        – If more effort is required of you in conflicts (and I know conflicts aren’t just short term arguements!, could that be ok, if it helps you end up in a general place that is fair to both of you?

        – Could your husband maybe eventually agree to do something else/let you have your preference on some other thing, to balance the scale?

        – Could the extra effort you put in end up benefiting solely you aswell, not just your marriage and your husband, as in being more differentiated/healthy/confident/at ease/something else positive in other areas of your life?

        – It’s hard to decide if something is worth it if it’s…very unfair. Especially when it comes to love relationships, where we want to nurtured and loved and respected.

        You say even your marriage councelor pushes you to be more egoless and do more work than your husband. This raises my hackless, I must say.
        Why do you think he/she does that?! I hope it’s not a conscious/unconscious woman must do more of the emotional labour thing?! Does he/she feel like your husband does more of something else, so this is where you should take one for the team, or does he/she sense that you’re more willing to do it than your hubby, so that’s why he/she pushes that burden onto you?

        Thanks for sharing all of this, Gottmanfan, both the personal things and the more researchy things. It benefits a lot of people that you’re an external processor! :)

        The Burns stuff about resistance sounds great! I saw that my library has some Burns book available, I might check them out, even just for the resistance insights.

        I’m certainly not new to the concept of resistance, but it’s very important. Sometimes it can feel like a bit of waste of time to me to deal with my resistance on whatever subject, but honestly, that could just be a subtler form of resistance/ self sabotage. :8 It often cuts right to the heart of important stuff, and so it’s NOT a waste of time.

        “And it is not what therapist think of as “resistance” like people not wanting to change.”

        I think this can be very important and pervasive too though, in many cases. Like David Burns talk about, why wouldn’t some people want to push the magic button, even if the button was easy to push.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Hey Donkey,

          The resistance stuff that I am researching is from his more recent T.E.A.M approach. Might be easier to google that or resistance to get the information because I don’t think it is in his general books although Feeling Good Together has some stuff I think.

          Here is a link to an article I am reading. I will post other links separately so the comment doesn’t get blocked.

          https://psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/213/living-with-the-devil-we-know?page=1

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Donkey,

          You said “Some more positve thoughts:
          – If more effort is required of you in conflicts (and I know conflicts aren’t just short term arguements!, could that be ok, if it helps you end up in a general place that is fair to both of you?

          – Could your husband maybe eventually agree to do something else/let you have your preference on some other thing, to balance the scale?

          – Could the extra effort you put in end up benefiting solely you aswell, not just your marriage and your husband, as in being more differentiated/healthy/confident/at ease/something else positive in other areas of your life?”

          The last option you mentioned is the one right now that I can focus on with the least amount of resistance so I’m trying to use that approach.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Donkey,

          You said”You say even your marriage councelor pushes you to be more egoless and do more work than your husband. This raises my hackless, I must say.
          Why do you think he/she does that?! I hope it’s not a conscious/unconscious woman must do more of the emotional labour thing?! Does he/she feel like your husband does more of something else, so this is where you should take one for the team, or does he/she sense that you’re more willing to do it than your hubby, so that’s why he/she pushes that burden onto you?”

          Girrrrrl, let me vent.

          I’ve talked in other comments about my previous experience with many marriage advice and counselors both religious and secular that express thing in overt and subtle ways that the woman needs to do more.

          Be more careful, more respectful, do more both emotional labor and physical labor in maintaining and fixing the marriage. Very very common.

          Why do I think that is? Lots of reasons but a few common ones.

          1. Many frame male/female differences as hard wiring and therefore think that men are simply less capable of doing the same amount of work, same amount of vulnerability and empathy. So it is “natural” that a woman should be expected to do more. They often frame things that are dysfunctional as descriptive of normal differences.

          I have found this common in religious settings but it has shocking to me to find this common in non-religious marriage counseling.

          2. Some of the reasons it shows up in non-religious marriage counseling is because in my view unconscious bias ala Daniel Kahneman’s fast thinking sexism. All of us (including me) have these biases even though we try not to. We have to consciously set up systematic ways to overcome this and most marriage counselors don’t.

          3. Many couple who end up in marriage counseling show exaggerated gender patterns. As I’ve said before, the healthier you are the less of these dysfunctional gender differences exist.

          Marriages where a man can express his emotions and accept influence without fear of being “whipped” and a woman can set boundaries and stand up for herself without being contemptuous and harsh are happy and they don’t show up in marriage counseling.

          4. So some of their gendered stuff can “work” even if the framing is wrong. So they are resistant to challenges of their framing. They will tell me I am being “resistant”. And they are right but it is to their sexist framing not to not wanting to improve or work hard.

          5. And when I try to explain why they will tell me I am “intellectualizing” and because I am afraid to be vulnerable. This is how they are trained to think about resistance and thinking/feeling.

          6. They overestimate their empathy and effectiveness. That is the “t” in Burns TEAM model. The necessity of testing feedback because it has been proven that therapists are terrible at being able to assess how they are doing. He has short forms before and after session that evaluate what what helpful what was not so it can be adjusted.

          7. This is almost never done. In fact most therapists respond to any kind of feedback as resistance.

          8. So even though I really love the Atkinson stuff and Jason is better than other ones I’ve had he still follows a lot of the same patterns and defensiveness at feedback and asking for change.

          9. He falls into predictable patterns by asking me to do more both for gender reasons and also because I am not avoidant. It is far easier to ask me to do more because I am responsive.

          Avoidant people are harder to deal with and so its just easier and lazier to ask the anxious person to do more.

          10. I understand all that and am somewhat sympathetic. The thing I am NOT sympathetic to is how often they just misdiagnose me. That is inexcusably lazy to me.

          Does it seem like I am a woman who is afraid to speak up? Who doesn’t speak up? I just have no idea why they insist of that diagnosis when it is the opposite of what we have both told them AND they get irritated that I stand up to them and speak up. How is that diagnosis even logical? I mean I have a LOT of issues but that’s just not one of them.

          It’s just lazy. And I hate laziness in people I am paying for their help.

          And it’s lazy that he said that I would have to lead the way with vulnerability because my husband as a man isn’t able to do that. Lazy because both of us have told him that is not the problem. He is able to be vulnerable. But he is resistant. That is the issue. The resistance not the inability.

          And it’s lazy to think the I “need to lead the way” because of this wrong diagnosis.

          Oh well there’s more but I’ll stop. We are probably going to quit using him and try to work through stuff ourselves for a bit.

          The worst part is he didn’t demonstrate a lot of the skills in the Atkinson book that he is supposed to be teaching us.

          And that is why I love Burns because we are all like that. Even when we try not to be. So we need to acknowledge it and find ways like testing and feedback to prevent being ineffective and/or sexist.

          Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Donkey,

        Here is a link for a new podcast series where Burn explains his new T.E.A.M. approach.

        He has one on measurement and empathy already and will have one on resistance in the future.

        https://feelinggood.com/category/podcast/

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Donkey,

        There are several short videos on YouTube with Burns talking about resistance if anyone is interested. This one is about the magic button why an anxious person might be resistant.

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        One more Burns link. This is an article where he talks about outcome and process resistance briefly.

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200901/seven-questions-david-d-burns

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Donkey,

        I always appreciate your questions and suggestions. You have a gift for specificity for clarity.

        Ok thanks for these comments. I am still identifying my issues that are causing resistance so my answers are tentative. But at least I have figured out what I need to research next to be able to proceed onward.

        You said “I’m quite justice oriented myself I believe. so your resistance makes sense to me. It’s hard to decide if something is worth it if it’s…very unfair. Especially when it comes to love relationships, where we want to nurtured and loved and respected, where we hope for equal regard.”

        Yes I agree. For me I have the challenge my belief that it is “unfair”. Is that true? I’m framing it in a very specific way that makes me feel that way but there are other ways to frame it. Like differentiation.

        If I focus on only what I need to do to learn to treat people well with no thought about what hubby is doing that does not trigger my unfairness thing.

        But much marriage advice especially to women is not framed this way and I have a lot of baggage around it that I’m trying to deal with. Mostly I think it’s easier and smarter for me to work around it with a different framework rather then trying to change my thinking.

        Like trying to get myself to think like to be “each partner gives 100%” or Schnarch’s framing about the high desire person having more responsibility. Both of those trigger my unfairness baggage and trigger resistance. Much less one that has ANY gender component. That is double triggered, double resistance for me.

        Work smarter not harder. You know?😀 It’s like I have having a trick knee. Instead of trying to tough it out and jogging as exercise.

        I think it’s smarter to work with your sensitivities not against them. Like doing swimming for exercising and nested of jogging so your knee isn’t constantly inflamed.

        My gender stuff is my trick knee. Gotta find an alternative framing that doesn’t leave it constantly inflamed which still continuing to work on my gender baggage.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        Ok- so I just watched the video. It seems like the outcome resistance you are talking about is that some (maybe most) people don’t really want the situation to change. They are somehow comfortable with it. So even if a magic button was pressed and no work was involved, they wouldn’t change it.
        It reminds me of the concept that we are attracted to things that aren’t necessarily good for us, but to things that are familiar to us in some way- again, because we are comfortable with a particular dysfunction.
        I can see how that would cause resistance.
        Applying it to the alcoholic scenario- all of a sudden he would have to learn how to deal with issues he never had to deal with before, in a constructive way.
        I think in the end- its the actual work that helps you prepare for the new situation.
        Magic buttons wouldn’t work, because it is the process that allows them to deal with the new outcomes.
        I don’t like my old dysfunctions, I want to try some new dysfunctions! Lol :)

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Yes you’re right. The other thing he talks about that isn’t on that video is to think about resistance as a possible value or good principle.

          Like in my case I resist some of these changes because I have strong values about gender equality. He then lists all the “good” reasons and does a cost benefit analysis with the “bad” reasons.

          Maybe for an alcoholic a good reason would be a strong sense of loyalty and friendship which is why it would be hard to give up going to the bar and hanging with his friends.

          Or it could be a reflection of his strong desire to be a good spouse and parent but because he feels like a “failure” in that area it leads to drinking.

          I really like how Burns emphasizes looking for the positive values underneath. Is that similar to motivational interviewing?

          Like

          • Linbo says:

            Well that’s frustrating! I just hit a magic button and lost my comment!
            Writing it again…

            Like

          • Linbo says:

            Amen- resistance can be a good thing. otherwise you’d just be taking someone elses prescription for a good life and trying to apply it to your own. It doesn’t always work.
            Believe it or not, I agree that just because your an alcoholic doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It destroys your body, but Ive known a few functional alcoholics that were really great people. They knew thier weakness and it made them more human.
            As far as MI goes- there is plenty of talk about “resistance” in the literature. But it’s really just supposed to be a place to start asking questions that could lead to self reflection and maybe nurture a path to change. In nursing most of the folks who have MI interviews are so wrapped up in a lifestyle it lands them in a hospital. A lot of times they never ask the questions themselves, or know any other way. But, honestly- nurses can be the worst at saying “theyre resistant” or “they’re non-compliant”. We really are trying to get away from using that latter term. Because if they are non complaint with OUR plan, no F’ing wonder -:)

            Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          There are other scenarios talks about too with the magic button. Like he asks people to think about someone they REALLY don’t like. Then he asks if they would push a magic button to be able to be friends with that person.

          Most people say no. They wouldn’t push the button. Why not? This is the one more applicable to not being able to do reasonable things in marriage.

          Like

          • Linbo says:

            Lisa,
            Yeah- I’m pretty sure that once you Dis-like a person it gives you a sense of power over them to maintain the dislike.
            I guess it could be useful if the person was really bad for you, but for the most part I think we just like to feel self righteous and we can feel vindicated by not liking the person who offended us.

            Like

    • Linbo says:

      Lisa,
      I know this “not doing reasonable things” well! And, yeah- I don’t think its conscious resistance saying “I chose to do this really stupid thing that can hurt my loved ones and myself”- tell me if I’m wrong, because I haven’t read Burns, but my thought is apart from the reptilian brain reaction we, maybe we repeat unreasonable behaviors out of a sincere lack of alternative behaviors.
      I see this in alchoholics a lot- they don’t want to drink, but they never developed other things they could with themselves, so they default to drinking again. – am I anywhere close? If not I’d love to hear the premise. :)

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        I just starting reading it so I’m not sure of the details of it. The guy who developed motivational interviewing for addictions was partly inspired by Burns stuff on resistance as I understand it.

        The lack of alternative behaviors to drinking does speak to why someone wouldn’t want to give up drinking. It does provide a positive thing. So that logical resistance needs to be directly addressed.

        What I like about MI and Burns is they aren’t blaming when they deal with it. It’s just part of the process not some lack of moral character to just decide and then do.

        Setting goals and figuring out how to be successful.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          I meant this in the thread of Linbo’s questions about alcoholics.

          Like

        • Linbo says:

          Lisa
          “Setting goals and figuring out how to be successful”…
          This may have more to do with behavior, definitely, but I am in a battle with myself about this very thing.
          I had a set of habits for over 10 years- exercise, being productive around the house, at work, in school… A combination of things happened (working nights, hurting my knee, getting burned out with higher education ) that my motivation and productivity has all gone downhill.
          I have picked up other habits over the last two years (watching more TV, waking up and sitting on the couch for way too long!!- some days I just start working on my laptop and the next thing I know it’s noon.). They aren’t super bad habits- but they all kind of feed into each other and make me feel really lazy. I keep trying to motivate myself to get back into my old habits- but it feels like a wet lighter- the flint just won’t spark! I just need to do it-and then do it again..
          I feel like it’s sort of the same thing – I’m not outwardly resistant, I want to do the good habits- but it’s easy to put them off. I think it may be because the new bad habits are actually childhood habits and they still have a lot power and influence over my choices.
          Anyway- so to go off on that. I wonder what the magic button would be for me to change this…again, I wonder if it is more about adding components vs taking them away.
          I am going for a walk and then need to study, but will check in later. Sorry if this seems to be a little of subject!

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            No it’s on topic. Burns has two different kinds of resistance. Outcome resistance which is more “would you push the button?” Process resistance is “am I willing to do the things necessary to change?” If not, why not?

            In his research, a willingness to do the homework is the key thing to change. If people don’t, they won’t make significant changes.

            Why don’t they? That’s the thing that needs to be directly confronted.

            Maybe there might be two different things in your case. Curiosity is the right thing not guilt in my experience.

            Lots of layers to it as you said, childhood stuff, beliefs, comfort with the familiar, lots of stuff.

            I haven’t read enough to comment more.

            Also, I think I may have phrased the thing about goals and behavioral change to read like it was a bad thing. It is critical to success. But we often set the wrong goals because we don’t address the resistance first.

            That is why therapy usually fails according to Burns. And I’m sure it applies to addiction treatment and medical issues and physical fitness too.

            Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Hey Linbo, my answer ended up somewhere else😱

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa- you said “curiosity is the right thing, and not guilt.”
        I know you are right. I recently read something from a neuro-psychiatrist who talked about motivation, and yes her thing was being curious about something is the greatest motivation. It sort of incites play. She mentioned that curiosity even wins out over my own default response of “it has intrinsic value.”
        Sometimes getting out there and sweating does have intrinsic value for me, it feels good- you get into a zone and you feel like you can go forever. Then there are days that it is entirely too much trouble to put on my shoes and go. The more of those days that pass, the easier it is to “stay down.”
        The question becomes why am I choosing to do that? I feel the effects of it in other areas, and that is when I go into guilt mode.
        Which just puts me in a place of not liking myself very much.
        Anyway- I went and ran for 20 min- not very far, and not very fast, but I did it. It feels good, and I am making a determined decision to do it again soon.
        I just need to find some way to make it super fun and interesting, no? ; )
        Just as an interesting aside- she did imaging studies to see what motivates people and found some classic motivators- like money, actually trigger fear and anxiety in some people (I may fall into that cohort!). She also found some people to be self motivated really easily, and others needed some kind of prompting- but (Good news) everyone she studied was able to become motivated.

        About pushing the button- I hope my short answer didn’t miss the mark. I think it could have. Your sense of justice is a real virtue, and I know it also extends beyond yourself. With all superpowers, we must learn how to use it for good instead of evil :).
        Obviously the same thing can be said for people like me who are way too empathetic for their own good at times.
        But, that (the justice thing) may not even be what is really the deep down thing. So please pardon my words if they came across as abrasive, uncaring, judgmental or just off the mark.
        I honestly value you as a person- and not just super powers ( even though your super-science-the-shit-out-of-it way of thinking is pretty super!! :) and I want you to know that.
        Have fun with your reading and exploring- I’d love to hear more details.

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Linbo,

        Good for you to get out there running!

        Thanks for your kind words. Right back at you. 😀

        Like

  19. gottmanfan says:

    And it is not what therapist think of as “resistance” like people not wanting to change.

    Like

  20. The Guat says:

    The story you write here has a lot of nodding over here on this end. Most of it played out just as you said. But I haven’t got the Super Husband Mode yet. He didn’t come to that realization on his own, and even when I asked him this is what I need from you because everything you’ve done so far translates into the you’re wife is irrelevant category. He still didn’t try. It’s a sad and tough situation when only one person chooses to try and the other doesn’t. It’s sad when you know that after everything that has happened, one person is still making a choice, giving chances but the other person doesn’t take them. It’s sad to lose your best friend to a slow death and you see it happening and you try to stop it. But I guess you can’t make someone try no matter how hard you try. Good writing … I hope it helps someone turn the corner, helps someone get to their A-ha moment sooner. Plus it was interesting to read that your ex has read some or all of this. I understand the privacy part on her end.

    Like

  21. Donkey says:

    Gottmanfan, I’ll reply here just because it’s easier.

    You said: “I’ve talked in other comments about my previous experience with many marriage advice and counselors both religious and secular that express thing in overt and subtle ways that the woman needs to do more.

    Be more careful, more respectful, do more both emotional labor and physical labor in maintaining and fixing the marriage. Very very common.

    Why do I think that is? Lots of reasons but a few common ones.

    1. Many frame male/female differences as hard wiring and therefore think that men are simply less capable of doing the same amount of work, same amount of vulnerability and empathy. So it is “natural” that a woman should be expected to do more. They often frame things that are dysfunctional as descriptive of normal differences.

    I have found this common in religious settings but it has shocking to me to find this common in non-religious marriage counseling.

    2. Some of the reasons it shows up in non-religious marriage counseling is because in my view unconscious bias ala Daniel Kahneman’s fast thinking sexism. All of us (including me) have these biases even though we try not to. We have to consciously set up systematic ways to overcome this and most marriage counselors don’t.”

    I believe you’re right about this Lisa! I find it, very disappointing that many marriage councelors don’t do the work to overcome their unconcsious biases/fast thinking sexism though. I mean, they of all people should know better. Grrrr!

    You said:
    “3. Many couple who end up in marriage counseling show exaggerated gender patterns. As I’ve said before, the healthier you are the less of these dysfunctional gender differences exist.

    Marriages where a man can express his emotions and accept influence without fear of being “whipped” and a woman can set boundaries and stand up for herself without being contemptuous and harsh are happy and they don’t show up in marriage counseling.

    4. So some of their gendered stuff can “work” even if the framing is wrong. So they are resistant to challenges of their framing. They will tell me I am being “resistant”. And they are right but it is to their sexist framing not to not wanting to improve or work hard.”

    Can you give an example of their gendered stuff that can work, even if the framing is wrong? I assume the wrong framing would be something like “men are not able to empethize as much, so women must do more”, like you mentioned.

    You said:
    “4. So some of their gendered stuff can “work” even if the framing is wrong. So they are resistant to challenges of their framing. They will tell me I am being “resistant”. And they are right but it is to their sexist framing not to not wanting to improve or work hard

    5. And when I try to explain why they will tell me I am “intellectualizing” and because I am afraid to be vulnerable. This is how they are trained to think about resistance and thinking/feeling.”

    Ugh, very frustrating! Like you say, and David Burns is a fan of, the should get feed back. Again, marriage councelors of everyone should be open to this. 8)
    Have you considered showing the councelor some of the conversations here about all of this? Gender bias, wrong framing, resistance to challenges of their framing…

    You said:
    “8. So even though I really love the Atkinson stuff and Jason is better than other ones I’ve had he still follows a lot of the same patterns and defensiveness at feedback and asking for change.

    9. He falls into predictable patterns by asking me to do more both for gender reasons and also because I am not avoidant. It is far easier to ask me to do more because I am responsive.

    Avoidant people are harder to deal with and so its just easier and lazier to ask the anxious person to do more.”

    Grrr! But you do think the gender reasons of your councelor are because of fast thinking bias? Not because his slow thinking is that men are less able to work at relationships or whatever?

    You said:
    “10. I understand all that and am somewhat sympathetic. The thing I am NOT sympathetic to is how often they just misdiagnose me. That is inexcusably lazy to me.

    Does it seem like I am a woman who is afraid to speak up? Who doesn’t speak up? I just have no idea why they insist of that diagnosis when it is the opposite of what we have both told them AND they get irritated that I stand up to them and speak up. How is that diagnosis even logical? I mean I have a LOT of issues but that’s just not one of them.

    It’s just lazy. And I hate laziness in people I am paying for their help.

    And it’s lazy that he said that I would have to lead the way with vulnerability because my husband as a man isn’t able to do that. Lazy because both of us have told him that is not the problem. He is able to be vulnerable. But he is resistant. That is the issue. The resistance not the inability.”

    Geez, so he did come straight out and said it?! That your husband as a man isn’t able to lead the way with vulnerability?! Crikey. Like you say, this is lazy. I totally agree, lazyness in people we pay to help us is just…crap. Well, at leat you and your hubby agree on this though. I am somewhat surprised that an Atkinson councelor would both say this and recommend this. From what I’ve seen, their work isn’t THAT focused on vulnerability, especiall when it comes to conflict resolution. Just mutual respect kind of, asking and giving equal regard. I know that can be vulnerable enough though. But still. Would you mind sharing a bit more what the councelor means about leading with vulnerability?

    And I’m surprised about the gender stuff too, needing to lead the way… From what I’ve seen of Atkinson, it seemed like their approach was very democratic, relationships function best when people have equal influence. Maybe this is partly wht you meant about him not really knowing the Atkinson stuff well enough?

    You said:
    “And it’s lazy to think the I “need to lead the way” because of this wrong diagnosis.

    Oh well there’s more but I’ll stop. We are probably going to quit using him and try to work through stuff ourselves for a bit.

    The worst part is he didn’t demonstrate a lot of the skills in the Atkinson book that he is supposed to be teaching us.”

    You are right, it is lazy. Like you, I get honestly kind of discouraged when I talk to experts of some kind and they seem to know less than me. Wtf? This honestly isn’t humblebragging, there’s plenty of styff I am plenty ignorant about. What I especially don’t like is when they seem to believe there’s no chance they could be wrong, that they know everything about this. I’m sorry, but if you don’t know that you don’t know everything, even in your own field, that you’re not always right, that different evidence/practices can emerge in the future, your education has failed you, I’m not kidding. You shouldn’t have been allowed to graduate without this knowledge. And yeah, it’s disappointing that he didn’t know the Atkinson stuff well enough. Maybe some other councelor of theirs could work?

    You said:
    “And that is why I love Burns because we are all like that. Even when we try not to be. So we need to acknowledge it and find ways like testing and feedback to prevent being ineffective and/or sexist.”

    Do you mean, sometimes being ineffective, sexist, or whatever? If so, yeah, you’re right. Kudos to Burns for shining a light on this!

    And I’d like to echo Linbo’s sentiments, I appreciate you as a person, certainly not just for your superpowers! <3

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Donkey,

      You said “Can you give an example of their gendered stuff that can work, even if the framing is wrong? I assume the wrong framing would be something like “men are not able to empethize as much, so women must do more”, like you mentioned.”

      A lot of these I’ve talked about before but just to recap a few.

      1. Making the man the “leader” in the relationship works because it gets out of the pursuer/withdrawer pattern.

      2. Making the woman work super hard on her tone and soft startups because his ego is super sensitive to criticism. And it’s her fault if he doesn’t respond well. It can work but what about her ego?

      3. Making the man to be a “logical” problem solver “thinker” with the woman the emotional talk it out “feeler” ha ha so many stupid jokes they make based on these stereotypes.

      These are ok as descriptions of common patterns but I have to constantly push back against them because they are NOT true for us. Why do I have to tell them this over and over?

      One time fine, I get it the tendency to play to averages is human and the advice about respecting differences is good. But they never acknowledge other possibilities upfront not based on these stereotypes which is why it’s problematic in framing. You know like acknowledging a “thinker” woman like me or a “feeler” man. Or a woman who is a problem solver or a man is not.

      It is important to acknowledge and ask to figure out what the particular couple is like. And not assume I am more empathetic because I am female. Or that I don’t stand up for myself. Or that I have silent resentment (silent? Ha) and my hubby doesn’t. Sigh.

      That’s why it’s frustrating with Jason. Although he’s better than the others he still falls back into these kind of patterns. Even though Atkinson’s book does not have any of these gender stereotypes. None.

      We have pushed back. He doesn’t disagree. He just does it again next time. In a different form. Our main problem is just a lack of structure. No defined homework. Just “chatting” the last few weeks on our calls.

      Not helpful. So hubby and I both talked to him with feedback of more needed structure. He was defensive kind of blamed me (of course) and never owned his shit.

      He did try and assig us homework via email.
      I just sent him an email back saying he was not giving us equal homework. He chose a his and hers approach. Sigh. And of course he assigned resentment work for me and not John. I’m just tired.

      Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Donkey,

      You said “Geez, so he did come straight out and said it?! That your husband as a man isn’t able to lead the way with vulnerability?! Crikey. Like you say, this is lazy. I totally agree, lazyness in people we pay to help us is just…crap. Well, at leat you and your hubby agree on this though. I am somewhat surprised that an Atkinson councelor would both say this and recommend this. From what I’ve seen, their work isn’t THAT focused on vulnerability, especiall when it comes to conflict resolution. Just mutual respect kind of, asking and giving equal regard. I know that can be vulnerable enough though. But still. Would you mind sharing a bit more what the councelor means about leading with vulnerability?”

      Yes he did say that. And what blows my mind he said it after many weeks of taking to us. Where we both had said my hubby is fully capable of being vulnerable and empathetic. And he STILL said it.

      Atkinson’s conflict work is based on a lot on Gottman’s research so the vulnerability he was talking about was essentially about soft start ups. You know talking about how much I miss you and I’d really love to spend time with you. etc.

      Jason accuses me of intellectualizing (explaining logically why I need/want something) instead of using vulnerable soft startups. Well of course I do. I choose to do it that way as the best option I have available at the moment.

      I don’t usually do the other thing not because in our anxious/avoidant relationship it triggers my power/gender stuff. To do that with an avoidant person feels like BEGGING for scraps of emotional connection.

      Because of the negative emotional love bank, our history and his own sensitive issues he is resistant to respond my empathetically to me right now. Even if I can do it the textbook way.

      Considering all that, it is not logical to me to use the vulnerable approach right now. Not because I don’t understand the theory of it or because I am incapable, but because I know it will cost me something and I’m already depressed and he will not be empathetic anyway.

      Why would I choose to be vulnerable under those circumstances? It’s like paying money to play a game you know you cannot win. Doesn’t make sense to me.

      But of course Jason interprets it as resistance or silent resentment or some other stupid thing even AFTER I explain my reasoning and use examples.

      Sigh. It’s time to move on. I like the book so we’re going to use that for sure so it’s not a total failure. But it is frustrating.

      But hey I’m still sciencing the shit out of it so it will eventually be ok.

      Like

    • Linbo says:

      Donkey,
      I am going to start getting self conscious :)! Maybe that’s a good thing, though- maybe it will kick me into high gear so I can kick butt and take names academically. But the truth is our educations HAVE failed us. Most universities are interested in tuition and research grants, NOT excellent education. Its a business. Most of the work we do is largely self study, there isn’t a lot of leadership or guidance, and if you ask for some you are not looked on kindly.
      Most counselors or therapists aren’t experts. They may have higher degrees, but they aren’t experts. I wont be an expert when I graduate- far from it. Maybe after 20 years in a particular area I will be an expert, but no way right out of the gate.
      I think you guys do get a lot more expert advise/education/information from reading real experts than you ever will from a therapist.
      Therapists are good maybe for mediation, or to help with communication with couples.
      They don’t get paid for outcomes, either- (although more insurance companies require therapists to go by a prescribed outline for common issues like depression or anxiety in individual therapy, I don’t think there is such a thing for couples.)
      Ugh- this is really disenheartening because basically- where do people go to get real help?!
      Lisa- I feel you. I think I am getting your frustration.
      Maybe there would be a difference if you found a couple who did couples therapy?
      But here is something else- you don’t have to solve it all- you don’t have to fix it all.
      Sometimes it is just good to rest. Go rest on your hubby’s shoulder and tell him your tired. (I am just saying that because sometimes that is what I want to do.)
      <3 to you!

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa, Derpy, derp, derp- I posted my comment before I read your last comment about you not being able to be vulnerable.
        :/.
        Would the head on the shoulder count? Would your hubby really draw away from you if you did that??

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Well I am not really a physical touch love language person anyway. But the reason we need marriage counseling is because things are shitty.

          Better then they were though so I just keep on learning and applying.

          Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Linbo,

        I hear you but I think mental health is just typically badly structured and not well set up. They are not trained to do effective therapy.

        While I think there is a bell curve of good and bad medical doctors and I certainly have my frustrations there, at least it is better than mental health therapists because you expect to get some kind of specific intervention to help you get well.

        Not just chat and be blamed as resistant if you don’t agree with their ideas.

        And I am not alone in thinking this.

        And couples counseling is the worst. I am a researcher. I have researched counselors before we went. Well thought of, recommended marriage counselors some that teach and train students. Or who had the highest Gottman or Johnson training levels.

        They still just wanted us to sit on a couch and chat about what we don’t like about each other. Or they just totally didn’t know what to do to help. Or they weren’t empathetic.

        Like Donkey says I knew more than they did. WTF? This does not comfort me believe me. I have just read a few books.

        There are good people out there. I found an excellent CBT person for my son eventually and I worked with a good solution focused person once.

        It’s the systems fault not the individuals really. They are trained that way mostly.

        And we pay cash now this is not using insurance. It’s very expensive which is frustrating.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Gottmanfan,
          I absolutely agree mental health it is structured badly. It can be so hit or miss, and “treatment failure” can be chalked up to “personality differences” or “resistance”. It is kind of (REALLY!!) sucky.
          Prescribing medication is a little more black and white, but even with psycho-pharm there is so much that is unknown that we usually cant know before giving a medication if THAT is the medication that will work. So sometimes there is trial and error, and it definitely can cause a lack of trust between the practitioner and patient.
          Do you ever just play along, even if you disagree with some of the elements of it?
          Like, are you going to do the resentment homework, even if you don’t agree that is an issue?
          I have a feeling that you do- I am just asking, because whether they are right or wrong there may be something of value, or you may have some kind of aha moment.
          I agree I don’t like chatting too much. I see the purpose- so they can get to know the personalities,ect, so that they can understand the dynamics of the relationship better.
          And sometimes in individual therapy it is good just to process verbally, but there comes a point where talking is just talking and there is no forward movement.
          That is one of the reasons I have started liking CBT more than I used to. (I was always in the camp of- “change starts from the inside” camp. Which can be true, but sometimes it happens simultaneously, or even secondary to action ..)
          EMDR is another one that I really like. It is for PTSD, and doesn’t really require a lot of talk therapy (and no homework!!) . It makes it a lot easier to chose a counselor if you know you don’t actually have to spend a lot of time talking to them : P. Lol :)
          Anyway- I agree mental health isn’t all its cracked up to be.
          I just hope we aren’t all traumatized by it :)

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Do I ever just play along? Well wouldn’t that be nice if I had that ability? Ha!

            I do play along in the beginning more because I understand there is a learning curve but after we have already explained things and they keep saying the same wrong things I quit playing along.

            Because we should be working on the real problems we have not the ones he thinks we have. And we should be using the book the counseling is based with the exercises as homework. Not just chatting ineffectively.

            It’s very expensive to chat. I like chatting really I do. But I don’t like paying $150 to chat and it makes absolutely no progress for us.

            So after a certain point I quit playing along and we try to give feedback for more structure. This has happened the last two times. And they don’t like it because they think they are great at chatting and it’s really helping (doesn’t matter what we think).

            Or this one blamed me. He said he couldn’t interrupt. Whatever. I know that isn’t true based on the training I receive sad I also had told him to interrupt me at will We wanted an active therapist.

            It’s just a frustrating expensive thing. And I told the guy I don’t need two men to be frustrated with. 😀

            But I know from the marriage training thing I take that I am a very difficult type for them to deal with. A lot of therapists are conflict avoidant from what they said.

            Since I am a non-trusting angry (after the chatting anyway) client, they aren’t very good at dealing with me effectively. It takes a lot of differentiation on their part. And they don’t put structure in place for it like written feedback.

            The individual chatting style can be helpful to some people. 30% of the effectiveness of therapy is based on the empathetic relationship. Empathy is important but not sufficient. That leaves 70% that needs to be changed from something else.

            Some of it is personality I think. I was in two group things. We sat and told our stories and I said great now when are we going to figure out solutions?

            And both times the therapist said the value was in telling our stories. Well I’m sorry for me I need some concrete solutions. It doesn’t make me feel all that much better to tell my story. In fact it usually makes it worse without solutions.

            But maybe for some people it does help them more than me. I am open to that.

            But the research shows interventions are much better than just chatting. And I like Burns tools not schools motto. You should be familiar with a wide variety of techniques and approaches and tailor it to the individual client. And ask for feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

            Why it’s not done that way is mystifying to me.

            Like

            • Linbo says:

              I’d say a lunch with a friend is far more beneficial and a lot less expensive than $150 per hour chat with a therapist at times.
              Honestly, Lisa- I just think most people don’t spend the time researching, and they don’t think quit like you do. They are happy to go along with the therapeutic status quo and not question it.
              If nobody questions it, there is no reason to change it.
              This is that whole disagreeability thing we mentioned before.
              You don’t look at a piece of crap and call it chocolate, no matter how many people insist it is chocolate.
              The bad part about that is you are just more aware of what isn’t right with the situation.
              If everyone would play nice, and stay dumb everything would be just fine!!
              Lol – not really. We would still have a 50% divorce rate, and that isn’t “just fine”…
              This just makes me think (again) that we really need to take mental health education (or really interpersonal skills, etc.) and make it more widely known- common knowledge, so that therapists would be less needed and there would be less consequences when we did.
              Why do we need trained professionals to know how to relate to ourselves and others???!!!
              Because it isn’t talked about, it isn’t addressed until it hurts.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Yes I agree with you but I don’t think my experience us unusual with therapy. I heard a podcast by Robert Taibbi who wrote a book about how to do the first session effectively

                He was taking about the same stuff I am Burns are. The average person only goes to 5-8 sessions and then drops out. Because they don’t get helped.

                I didn’t start out as s researcher thinking about all this stuff. I went to see a therapist for depression and anxiety and thought she would help.

                I quit after 2 years not that much better. I was naive. I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like. But after a while I knew it wasn’t doing that much to get me better.

                That’s when I started reading books. That’s the cycle. I try and get help for things. I go and do what they say and it is not effective. And so I read more books.

                I just want to better. I don’t want to have to learn all this shit. I don’t know why I can’t find a good person who is effective.

                And as I said marriage counseling is the worst. Do I read more books and I learn the training stuff for marriage therapists.

                I don’t want to do any of that. I want to spend my time money and energy on something else.

                I want to fix my shitty marriage. So does my husband. We have money to pay, we are willing to do the work. We work with people on Skype in different locations.

                And that why it’s heartbreaking and depressing to keep living in a shitty marriage because we can’t find help.

                It makes me cry sometimes.

                But all I can do is try and science the shit out of it. That’s all I’ve got at this point. It shouldn’t be this way. I understand totally why people just give up and get divorced.

                Like

                • Linbo says:

                  Aww, Lisa. I am sorry. I know it is frustrating. I wish we did have magic buttons.
                  I want to say something obnoxious and advise-giving like but I have idea what it is really like to live in your shoes.
                  Can I ask if you guys spend time together where youre not working on the marriage? Is that even possible right now?
                  What did it look like while you were dating? Would either of you be up for doing something fun and romantic together- just one night forgetting the issues?

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Thanks Linbo

                    You know when Matt writes about sleeping in the guest room and crying and just being broken? That is what I was like last year all the times and sometimes now.

                    But I had to keep functioning to not screw up my kids. And I can’t tell people because I have an unfortunate collection of avoidant people right now. And critical people who think mental illness is just something you can chose to think positive about to cure.

                    When I was in the worst of my shitty marriage it is just the most loneliest and unhappiest I have ever been. And I’ve had some deep depression before.

                    So I’m not sure what you imagine it is like but a really shitty marriage loses all normal functon.

                    There’s no ability to just do reasonable things anymore. To even be nice to each other like office mates.

                    He basically ignored me. He couldn’t stand to spend time with me. And he’s avoidant so he is better equipped for it.

                    What to do about it? As I’ve told you I tried to see various counselors and they sucked. We tried to see marriage counselors and they made it worse. I got sick and depressed. He still ignored me.

                    So no there was not the option of “forgetting issues” and having fun. If we tried it made it worse because we’d fight or he’d ignore me and I’d get even more depressed. That’s what anxiously attached people do.

                    So the only superpower I had left was my research ability. That’s it. Everything else I had exhausted and I almost agreed for him to move out because I was so tired of feeling like shit all the time.

                    But I knew all of our issues are fixable so I didn’t.

                    So I’ve been researching and learning which is my shit to own and which is his. And how to fix it.

                    But when you reach a negative love bank status you can’t spend time together or take a night off or anything like that. Because the hurt and anger and resentment is so deep it oozes from your pores. From both of us. It’s almost a form of hatred. And not the sexy kind. Just loathing and contempt.

                    Things have improved a lot since then. I have learned a lot and changed a lot. He has made changes too. We can do things together for fun now sometimes like go to see a movie or go to dinner. But things still are not “fixed”. I thought they were better than they are. Sigh.

                    There is no empathy for me from him. He says that directly. That’s why we need a third person to help us. That’s pretty hard to hear and experience. I’m a shitty wife too from his perspective.

                    He had a lot of silent resentment (irony there) and because I have changed the system he had to change his pattern. He’s more overtly angry now. Which frankly I prefer. Can’t stand passive aggressive avoidant people.

                    I’d much rather you just tell me you have no empathy for me. Then I can intellectualize it but not be vulnerable.

                    He would prefer to do more “fun” things I’m the one who would prefer to fix the problems. As Drew can tell you, its frustrating to be willing to work on things and your spouse isn’t.

                    In my view his being avoidant has made this much much harder instead of just really digging in. Of course he sees it differently.

                    But you will note I am the one reading the books not him. And that pisses me off. Why is that? We have a LOT of fights over that kind of thing. I don’t care what he does to improve things. It doesn’t have to be books but it needs to be something it seems to me.

                    So yeah I am not super excited about doing “fun” things when I don’t see a lot of mutual effort to fix this miserable shit but I try and do it for him to improve his positivity ratio.

                    And that’s my resistance I am trying to figure out how to change.

                    But there’s no desire for me to put my head on his shoulder. Nor would he be empathetic to my tiredness.

                    What I know from the books is this. None of that shit even matters. It’s simple. You figure out the problem, figure out the solution, figure out how to apply it and just keep working.

                    And I’m going to research a better marriage counselor option.

                    But it still is shitty and lonely and depressing and makes me cry.

                    Like

      • Linbo says:

        Youre doing a good job Lisa!
        Keep being hopeful! :)

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Linbo,

        “Honestly, Lisa- I just think most people don’t spend the time researching, and they don’t think quit like you do. They are happy to go along with the therapeutic status quo and not question it.”

        See this is where I might disagree. Do you know how many people even try marriage counseling before getting divorced? Not that high a percentage.

        And those that do are MORE likely to get divorced.
        Part of that is because of one partner already checked out but a lot is because it is just shitty quality.

        Same is true for individual counseling. While that number is better. The success rates according to Burns are LOW. Much lower than they could be with known techniques.

        People don’t go or drop out after a few ineffective sessions. People who are suffering with treatable things just suffer because they can’t get help.

        I an not unusual in not getting helped. My only unusual thing is perhaps I can desperately resort to researching things to help myself a little.

        But it’s like hiring a contractor to remodel my house that is incompetent and having to research how to take out load bearing walls and move the staircases do the house doesn’t collapse.

        You really don’t want to have to teach yourself that shit when it’s life or death on the line.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Lisa,
          I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying most couples that DO go to therapy ( I didn’t realize most did not seek therapy) don’t question whether it is being helpful or not. Like you mentioned, you didn’t know what to look for until you had a few not so great attempts.
          What I was thinking is that most go, spend 6 months, 1 year, 2 years doing what the therapist says and not really getting anything out of it, then they end up divorced because it wasn’t helpful.
          I was saying that you are researching, and that you are asking for things that you feel would work better for you- and so it makes you more aware of the issue of ineffectiveness.
          I wouldn’t doubt that couples who go to therapy (And aren’t helped) would get divorced at a higher rate- because they feel like they are helpless, or they have the wrong partner, or marriage is just crap. – And that is exactly because they sought help and didn’t find it.
          I think we are agreeing about this issue.
          I know you don’t WANT to do all the crap you have to do (As far as research, ect.) my point is that you do it- you educate yourself.
          Sometimes that is like eating the forbidden fruit- now your eyes are opened and you see how ineffective it is.
          I wish that there were better ways, I wish there were fool proof ways. But youre willing and youre doing the work.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Oh I’m sorry Linbo I did misunderstand you.

            Yeah it’s sad because most marriages CAN be saved. If people are willing and have the right help.

            And more people would be willing to do the work if they knew the the therapist could really guide them.

            Like

        • Linbo says:

          And I agree, that by time couples go to therapy- they don’t need something that “may work”- it makes it all a gamble, when there really is a lot on the line.
          I wished our society would take it more seriously. But, we seem to believe that were all these independent super stars who can figure it all out independently.
          Sometimes we can, but it can come at a high price.
          I’m really sorry if you are feeling frustrated. :/

          Like

        • Linbo says:

          And, I was using the term “disagreeable” as a good quality. – it means you don’t accept crap. That is a good thing! Bad name, but a good thing! What else can we call it?

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        Linbo:
        I highly doubt you’re the kind of person who thinks they’re right about everything. :p …but I could be wrong, hehe. ;)

        Gottmanfan:
        Imma pitch myself to you here. I know you’re rightfully wary of avoidant people. And I do have some conflict avoidance, and I do practice some avoidance in my life. But honestly, I don’t think I’m avoidant in the sense that would bother you. :) As you know, I’m not on Facebook these days, but feel free to email me if you want to chat! I check the address I gave you regularly.

        Depression and anxiety and marriage troubles, all of it, won’t scare me away! Honestly, the last years have just been about trying to piece myself together.

        On a lighter note, the marriage councelor thinks men are less capeable of empathy, huh? Well, if that’s the case, maybe he should get paid less than his female co workers, since he’s lacking in this crucial skill. :D Honestly, that probably would improve his empathy on some issues. I will give him though, that the culture probably teaches empathy skills more to women, in general. But the solution then isn’t to make women do it even more, the solution is to get men to do it too! Just as the culture teaches men more assertiveness skills, the solution isn’t to get them to do it even more. The solution would be to get women to do it more!

        Irony ahead: I’m sure the marriage councelor didn’t *mean* to be sexist though, and he didn’t *mean* to not listen to both what you and your husband say. And he didn’t mean to not believe you when you’re calling him out on his biases. Doesn’t that make it all better Gottmanfan?! :p Err…

        Honestly, I do believe intention matter. AT FIRST, AND IN SOME SITUATIONS. But after a while, if you’ve said something over and over and the other person doesn’t listen/accept influence, no, then it doesn’t matter anymore.

        Everything considered I hereby submit a notion to demote your marriage councelor from Jason to Steve. I don’t care what his driver’s licence says. Take note people, Jasonhood isn’t a static thing, we can be Jason in some aspects and Steve or Dick or Bill or Alan in others. And yes. our Jasonhood is something we can loose, as has now happened with the marriage councelor in my mind. He could earn his Jasonhood back though, if he accepted some honest feedback and took a reaiity check and adjusted accordingly.

        I do hope you and your hubby give him some honest feedback, full respect living style, preferably. It would be good for him as a therapist, and good for his clients. I know I haven’t been fully respectful of Steve the marriage councelor here, so I do just want to acknowledge the point again, that we’re all susceptible to be defensive when someone challenges our beliefs, our framworks and so on. We should all get a reality check every now and then. I don’t want to point fingers and shame Steve the marriage councelor as being inherently worse/less capeable than me, as if I haven’t done similar crap and as if I’m not capeable of doing similar crap. I certainly have and I certainly am.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Thanks Donkey,

          We have both given him feedback. First about his referring to us as “intellectualizing”. I give him credit for that one because he did adjust and say it far less often. Though he still says it regularly. My hubby has regularly asked for more structure.

          And then my hubby sent him an email asking for more structure. They discussed it at length too. I then followed up with a direct conversation for an hour with Jason with feedback both why we needed it and that I needed him to push hubby as much as me to get me out of the pursuer role and also for fairness.

          I sent a follow up email with feedback about the unequal homework. That was a few days ago.

          So I agree with you that he doesn’t mean to be sexist. And by the way we both gave him feedback on that too and he did cut back. That’s why I said he’s better the. The others because he does adjust to feedback somewhat.

          My hubby’s big frustration is that we have this great Atkinson book full of exercises and we should use our time doing those. Having specific homework and reviewing. That’s the kind of thing the burns research shows is the difference between success and failure. We’ve tried to make it more structured ourselves. We’d say ok today we’d like to do this exercise but it doesn’t stay on track and that is the therapists job. We’ve asked him and said several times we need a very active therapist.

          One who interrupts and says ok let’s get back to the exercise. I know this is possible because of the training I have taken and videos I have seen. But instead of getting back on track with this feedback he blamed me and gave lame excuses. Sigh.

          Well anyway. It’s ok. It’s just a setback. I am trying to use it to learn to deal with people who disappoint without being harsh with them. So far I think I’ve done ok with him. I’ve been direct, maybe a little harsh when he started giving me excuses. But I’m still not using the Atkinson model effectively yet when stressed but then again neither is he.

          And frankly I don’t need that kind of practice much less pay for it if I want people to blame me and not own their shit I’ve got plenty of people I can call for free. 😀

          Like

      • Tina says:

        Gottmanfan

        You said “When I was in the worst of my shitty marriage it is just the most loneliest and unhappiest I have ever been. And I’ve had some deep depression before.

        So I’m not sure what you imagine it is like but a really shitty marriage loses all normal functon.

        There’s no ability to just do reasonable things anymore. To even be nice to each other like office mates.

        He basically ignored me. He couldn’t stand to spend time with me. And he’s avoidant so he is better equipped for it.”

        and it was like you were describing the last 2 years of my marriage. He spent ever conceivable moment he could away from me – I was deeply deeply depressed. and he basically abandoned me. As I started to crawl out if it and expressed some displeasure at how much he was gone (in admittedly harsh and shitty ways) so he cheated. And I STILL begged him to come to counseling. But he was sure getting rid of me would make him happy so here we are – apart but not yet divorced.

        I wish I believed there was hope for us. But really, now, I am the problem – he is perfectly polite and I am so filled with hurt and anger I can hardly manage to think of him with out losing self control no less seeing or speaking to him.

        I guess at some point I wonder if you can even stop doing damage no less fix things.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Tina,

          I am sorry you relate to the loneliest and shittiest part of my marriage because I know how incredibly painful it must have her for you.

          It is a common pattern. The avoidant husband/anxious wife. He is able to be “perfectly polite” which makes you look like a crazy person.

          I obviously don’t know your situation but this is a common pattern that can be “fixed” if both people are willing and you get the right help.

          For your own sanity if you haven’t already, I would read about the pursuer/withdrawer pattern or the anxious/avoidant relationship styles. The way you are feeling is very “normal” for being in that pattern. You are not “crazy” for being so angry.

          He is also probably feeling some version of the typical withdrawer “she’s never happy and always criticized me, is disappointed in me””why should I even try?”

          And because he’s avoidant, getting out seems the best way to eliminate the misery. Or cheating. Or maybe he’s simply not willing to do the work involved.

          I wish you the best Tina. I know it must be very hard to go through this.

          Like

  22. kantal113 says:

    Any advice for a woman whose husband has decided he doesn’t want to be married anymore and says he’s not in love with her, yet still treats her like he is and does? We have had so many ups and downs in our 7 year relationship, I’m used to it, but this time he’s serious and I’m terrified. I love him so much and can’t fathom my life without him in it.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’ve seen this in my personal life and heard several stories.

      This is why I mention hedonic adaptation so often. People don’t think about it, because it happens without us noticing.

      We get “bored.” We adjust to everything including the people we love most. Then we stop “feeling” the love.

      That’s also why I harp on love being a choice. We wake up every day and decide to love.

      If everyone does what they FEEL all the time, zero marriages will succeed, zero children will be properly nurtured when they’re crying in the middle of the night, bills won’t get paid, lots of people won’t show up for work.

      And I always say it’s totally stupid to end a relationship because of a lack of “feeling” UNLESS the plan is to remain single for life.

      If people are going to enter another relationship, then hedonic adaptation will take hold there too. And if we don’t choose to love, then the cycle of brokenness continues.

      Sometimes feelings matter.

      Sometimes they don’t.

      Love is a choice.

      I hope he wisens up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kantal113 says:

        Thank you, Matt. I somehow forgot about hedonic adaptation.
        I agree that love is a choice. I have been so madly in love with this man that he’s all I think about, and I have also been at the point where I wanted him to go (years ago), but I always chose hope and love.
        We have so many wonderful things going for us. It hurts me so much that he’s just choosing not to love anymore.
        Thank you.
        I also hope he wisens up, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen this time. :(

        Like

  23. Sue says:

    LOVED this …

    Heartbreakingly insightful …

    Like

  24. Steve says:

    Wife = More astute member of the marriage? More in tune with the health of the marriage? Don’t think so. In my own experiences, 3 out of 5 married women i know didn’t see it coming, 1 out of 5 did and the final one is thinks it’s all good when we are exactly like your slow death example

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Fair enough, Steve.

      It’s hard to overcome personal experience. I’m guilty of that, too.

      I’m using my personal experience with marriages I’ve witnessed (or been involved in), a data sample of several thousand blog comments, and books written by relationship researchers.

      My opinion, based on those things, is that wives/girlfriends have a better mental grasp of relationship health than men do.

      More specifically, I believe there are behaviors common to successful relationships and behaviors common to unsuccessful ones.

      And I believe women are much more likely to display competency in the area of “good” relationship behaviors than men are.

      My conclusion: Women are BETTER at relationships than men.

      And I don’t think it’s close.

      Like

  25. ruralbethany says:

    I haven’t even read any of the other comments yet. Before I do that and derail my thoughts, let me say that this is something I deal with.

    My ex is very repentant. Or so he seems to be, and since it’s been about a year & half I’m pretty sure it’s probably legitimate. People ask me sometimes why I can’t just forgive him because he’s so sorry. It just isn’t that easy.

    My gut instinct kicks in. I’m not attracted to him, the thought of being with him romantically is off putting, and I think the reason why my subconscious would never let me get back together with him is because I am 100% certain that he would just fall back into old habits. Maybe it wouldn’t be “as bad” as before, but the truth is, life is a lot better for me without him in it. Perhaps I’m being selfish, since we have kids involved, but that’s the truth.

    I personally didn’t ask for divorce until I was 100% certain that nothing really would change.

    I think it all goes back to hedonic adaptation. Right now, he’s in crisis mode. Or, at least he was last year, I think he’s kind of used to it now. But I can tell you one thing. If I went to him and told him I still loved him and I wanted to work things out (which is not the case, but let’s pretend) he would be over the moon. He’d jump into Mr. Romantic mode and Superhusband. He’d want to renew our vows. he’d do all kinds of things to prove to me that he would never abandon me again. And that might even last a few years.

    But you know what? I am in my mid-thirties, I have a good 40 or so years left on this planet. I do not, for one minute, think that hedonic adaptation will NOT kick in for him at some point. No, at some point he’ll loosen up, relax, and start the old habits right again, at first thinking he can control it, and before you know it, it’s right back to where it was before.

    Maybe if I wasn’t so completely certain of what would happen, I wouldn’t be so completely dead to him, emotionally. But let’s face it – I spent the last decade with the guy. He has patterns of behavior. We have patterns of behavior together. I’m also uncannily good at predicting outcomes of things. So that’s my answer.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Just out of curiosity…

      What would happen if he articulated all of this, acknowledged the patterns and how they contribute to bad things, and vowed that when said behaviors rear their head, and you mention it, that you cooperatively combat them through whatever means are necessary to keep love alive?

      In other words, if you believed him to be self-aware and to KNOW what you know, would it be any different?

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Matt,
        This is a really good question. I am not sure if a promise to not do anymore damage would be enough. There has to be serious repair done, and that means the woman has to trust, to be close enough to repair the damage. It can be risky.
        But, for what its worth, with what I see and know of you, some may be willing to take the risk.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        It’s so hard to say. I suppose in theory, yes. But I think it’s pretty much impossible for me to even imagine trusting him, or even wanting him in my life in a role other than what’s necessary for the kids.

        I think because I know him well enough to know that to him, “knowing” what he needs to know isn’t actually enough for him to do it. He works really hard to retain status quo in a crisis, but when things are comfortable then he becomes really self absorbed. It’s the unfortunate truth, but he is pain motivated, if that makes sense.

        I can’t remember if I mentioned this before – but in 2007, I separated from him for this same thing. We were separated for 10 months. He was a broken man. Contrite, repentant, was willing to do whatever it took to put his family back together. I took him back after 10 months. And yes, for several years he did better. Not great, but good enough that I had hope he’d grow out of his things.

        And then it got worse. Way worse. Bigtime neglect of the family. It became intolerable. I fought for two years until a big catalyst/dealbreaker came, at which point I felt a very clear release from God from my marriage at the end of 2014.

        We’ve been there already. I already took him back once.I believe his promises. He believed his promises.He meant them. I do not doubt that he meant them then, and he would mean them now. The problem is, in this particular instance, he displays addictive behavior towards certain things (specifically, being on stage in front of an audience), and the “rush” he gains from it just kind of becomes his driving force, no matter his intentions towards the wife & family waiting for him back home.

        tl:dr Really what it boils down to is that I think some people, while they may be very sorry for their actions and quite repentant, knowing what they *should* do isn’t enough motivation for them to actually do it.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        I just typed out this addendum (long, as usual for me) but my internet crapped out and lost it.

        So here’s the summary: One thing I want to mention is that while I firmly believe that my ex and I could not have a successful marriage together, doesn’t mean I don’t think he couldn’t with someone else.

        What it boils down to is this – if I took him back, in his conscious mind he’d be so excited and grateful and I’m never going to do that again and I’ll make my marriage a priority, etc.

        But, subconscious behavior wins out. Because it would have been just ONE more time out of hundreds that I forgave him. that I “got over it.” And ultimately I think that it would lead him to subconsciously take me even less seriously than he did before, which was an issue. I’m not the kind of person to nag or demand. I quietly make my point. I don’t force behaviors and I don’t push and I let grownups be grownups and make their own choices.

        So I think in the end, he’d just revert back to old behaviors – with ME. because what’s the lesson learned? Make Bethany mad enough, she’ll separate from you for a while but then she’ll get over it, so just make a lot of promises and surface changes to placate her and you’ll be fine, she’ll never ACTUALLY follow through with it.

        On the other hand, I think if he met someone new, he could see our marriage as a sort of object lesson. Like, “I let my selfish ambitions take over too much and I lost the wife of my youth because of it, I am NOT going to do that again!”

        Like

  26. Linbo says:

    I’m about to leave for a night shift. They’re not that bad,really- but there is something about watching the sunset before you get dressed to go to work. It’s lonely. For some reason, turning that one light on in the hallway before leaving and seeing how the shadows are already consuming the corners of the far room- it feels so empty. When I leave the house there is no other soul who roams (save my 2 dogs, but they’re really lazy so I wouldn’t say they “roam”anywhere :).
    For some reasons night shifts make me miss family. Even though, I don’t have an actual family to miss.
    I’ve gotten really used to the companship the folks here have brought me over the past several weeks. Thank you guys. Some people may say that it’s unhealthy, but I think it’s incredibly helpful. I apologize to anyone with whom I overstep my bounds. Feel free to set me straight, and know that it’s coming from a place of caring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linbo says:

      Sorry- I don’t know what that was, except moodiness in a public forum. Add it the chronicles of other weird behavior. Hope everyone has a great night! :)

      Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        I’m glad you feel comfortable that you can tell us about it :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Thank you, Bethany. I’m just kind of beating my drum- thanks for beating back. :)
          It’s slow so far tonight.
          On my way in I started thinking about what the hospitals must have been like in Florida. Compared to the pain right there, my life is NOT bad.
          Should get back to NOT being on my phone..:).
          PS- I read your response to Matt- that subconscious stuff- I wonder if that is the “shadow work” Donkey mentions. I wonder if that is the stuff that keeps people in a miserable half-way existence. …I may go check some of that stuff out.
          Blessings to you :)

          Like

    • ruralbethany says:

      Shadow work? I must have missed it, was it in this post or a different one?

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Hi Bethany,
        The original “shadow/shadow work” was something Carl Jung talked about. It is basically the parts of us who we know aren’t acceptable, so we hide them and deny them. But they pop out anyway- in projecting hate on others for the exact same things we deny about ourselves. If you google it you’ll likely come up with language that talks about evil and Jekyll and Hyde stuff, but I think it can be applied to “lesser crimes” like selfishness,ect. The shadow in the Google examples talk about inherent human qualities that are negative- like anger or hate. But, I am pretty sure that any other issue that comes up that threatens our psyche can become part of the shadow. For the most part- the work is to get to know the shadow parts, so they don’t have subconscious control over behaviors/thoughts/feelings. This is a very rough and rudimentary explanation. I don’t know it that well. I used to love Jungs dreams and symbols, but moved away from the who collective conscious/unconscious stuff, even if some of it is still intriguing. The shadow is supposed to be part of the collective unconscious.

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        interesting!

        His behavior reminds me of something that (interestingly) he used to get really irritated about regarding his mother.

        She used to love to talk talk talk and tell stories, stories about people you’d never even met that she’d told a million times before, etc. One time he was so frustrated after being on the phone for about an hour of nonstop talking that he said “She knows perfectly well that people are tired of listening and don’t care, but she just wants to talk anyway, and so she does. She just doesn’t even care!”

        And it’s interesting because that’s kind of how it always felt to me. He knew perfectly well what he needed to be doing (or, rather, shouldn’t be doing) but when it came down to it, he cared more about his own desire to satisfy this craving than he did my needs and the family needs, so he justified his behavior to himself as much as he could and pretended it wasn’t a problem. Ignoring it. That’s very shadowish, I would say :)

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Hey Ruralbethany, I don’t quite remember where I talked about it, sorry.

        Like Linbo says, the shadow is anything we dont want to or haven’t acknowledge for any reason. Could be selfishness, hate, rage, sadness, fear, but also joy and talents and strength and life dreams (maybe it didn’t feel safe for us to be too happy when we were kids, or we weren’t allowed to love being on stage for instance, as that was judged as too shallow). Inner child work is very much related, as we can think of the feelings that were stifled as inner children that weren’t accepted or properly nurtured or whatever.

        We can talk about a collective shadow, yes, but also just our personal one.

        I also think of shadow work as working with difficult feelings. Asking what is this sadness about, what is this anger about. Sometimes there are no answer, we just need to sit with the feelings.

        To me, the most important part isn’t what we call it, how we define it. The important part is owning in some way what we haven’t fully claimed, what we’ve deemed unacceptable, and that we feel our feelings, even the “bad” ones. Journaling can be great tool, for example.

        Like maybe we feel anger about something, maybe unfairness with our sibling growing up, but we swallow it again and again and again, getting into a habit of not standing up for our wishes. Until suddenly we find ourselves driving, some jacakss cuts us off and we loose our shit, pardon my French, completely and just go ballistic with road rage. Better to acknowledge and assert ourselves in appropriate ways. :)

        Better to acnowledge that we also want to be on stage and hear the applause that’s just for us, and take steps to make that happen (or figure out how we can meet a maybe deeper need, say, for feeling worthy and seen if that’s really the issue) than to go around shaming and hating (this is projection) artists for being so shallow and self indulgent or whatever.

        Shadow work/inner child work/working with painful feelings /working with my disowned parts have been instrumental in my healing progress, forgiving myself and others, getting over a lot of shame, feeling worthy. And yes, it has been instrumental in learning how to truly overcome some of my destructive habits (and just be really really sorry and do better for a while, like happened with your husband) that were definitely hurting other people too.

        In my mind, all parts of us, all our feelings want to be seen and acknowledged and loved, just like children (hence inner child work). We can hold our parts, our feelings in our metaphoric loving arms, like we would with a crying baby. And then we can take some kind of loving action if necessary, as a mature and loving parent would (we don’t act on all our feelings and thoughts obviously, just like we don’t let kids do everything they want either). :)

        Some names if you’re interested:


        – Debbie Ford (I have the book “Why good people do bad things”, it was such an important shift for me reading that :))
        – JP Sears (great at inner child work!)
        – Sheryl Paul (conscious transitions)
        – Margaret Paul (inner bonding)
        – Teal Swan (has a lot of different stuff, some of it is very new age/woo woo, but she also has great inner child work and shadow work, examples of questions you can ask yourself. She has many videos on youtube, you can see if some resonate. Like I’ve said before the video “Building walls to keep pain in” or something like that is a personal favourite of mine)
        – James Hollis (I have the book “Why good people do bad thing”, yes same title as Ford and “the Eden project”, he’s quite…scholarly)
        – John Bradshaw (pioneer within inner child work, I believe)
        – Carl Jung
        – Plenty others

        I just want to say again that this isn’t something you have to be very interested in Jungian psychology (lke I am) to get use from. Just search for shadow work for beginners, inner child work for beginners or something, I’m sure you can find something to get you started on your own, if you’re interested.

        Ok, I’m basically just going to keep talking about shadow work and inner child work, so don’t feel pressure to read any further. :)

        If something upsets you a lot, that’s a good place to start. Maybe you’re very bothered by being interrupted, you could explore that further. Asking questions like “what would that mean”, “why would that be/why is that so bad” (Teal Swan suggested these questions I think).

        Maybe it comes down to having felt as a kid that other family member were allowed to do their thing at expense of you, but as soon as you just asked for fairness, at least in your mind, you were shamed/shut down, accused of being selfish. The gift from the annoying interrupters could be to help you claim just a little bit of their selfishness/inconsiderateness, basically a healthy kind of taking care of your own interests too (instead of seething with resentment or blowing up or whatever).

        I’m preaching here, shadow work has been very powerful in my life, the gold is in the shadows! True grief is very healing, it’s like detox for our emotions, it’s like a very bitter but healing medicine.

        Maybe you’re extremely bothered/obsessed with harmful behaviour done by others. That could be a way to release ourselves from feeling the shame of our own bad behaviour, a kind og subconscious (at least I’m not *that” bad), and it helps us avoid our shame. But there’s healthy shame and toxic shame though, so not all shame is appropriate certainly, and not all shame is bad. Healthy shame is grieving how we’ve hurt people, making amends and then moving into self forgiveness and doing whatever we can to behave better in the future. But shame/painful feelings can also become a very intricate way of protecting us from “other” kinds of painful feelings that when we were kids or whatever felt insurmountable. JP Sears is excellent at this stuff.

        Inner child work, for me, often related to feeling the pain (grief, anger) that felt too scary to feel as a child, so we numbed it out with perfectionism, with work, with kids, whatever. In addition to feeling the pain, also taking loving actions on our own behalf. Like being a loving parent towards ourselves. :)

        I could go on and on. :)

        I have found shadow work/inner child work/grieving at least as important to my wellbeing as gratitude. Maybe more, if I had to choose, though of course it’s not like that for everyone. Positive psychology is important, but it’s not the end all, be all, at least not for me. It can also be a way of avoiding our pain (spiritual bypassing), of abandoning our inner children yet again, if you will.

        To finish off, I just want to ecnourage everyone to do what works for them. If cognitive psychology or positive psychology or whatever works better for you, than do that. But don’t discount shadow work/depth psychology/inner child work either, and you don’t have to be as passionate about it as I am to benefit. 8)

        Like

      • ruralbethany says:

        Donkey you are a veritable cornucopia of information! Thank you for that. I need to digest it a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Donkey says:

    Does anyone feel like a little pick me up is needed? And you have a bit of a childish sense of humor/aren’t very easily offended? If so, listen to this prank call (it must have been done by Wanda Sykes). For real though, listen at your own responsibility, if something can make you die/hurt yourself with laughter it’s this. I normally don’t like prank calls at all, I feel so bad for the “victim”, but this one isn’t like that. :)

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Pahahah! That is pretty dern funny!

      Like

      • Donkey says:

        Right?! :D

        Spoiler alert ahead:

        STEAM IS COMING OFF OF IT!!!! Hahahaha!

        Hope you’re in better spirits today, Linbo. Wish I could pay you and your doggies a visit. :)

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          “It’s as big as my arm!” 😝!
          Paying a visit would be so great!!
          We can interpret dreams and go hang out in Austin!! That may be the best time you can ever have!- and I know people (not important people-just awesome people :).., so lots of fun to be had indeed!
          Really, Id love for you to come have a visit sometime!

          Like

  28. carboat01 says:

    I’ve been following your blog for months now. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it, but I’ve enjoyed every step of the way, along with going back and reading the older blogs that I had missed. Reading your stuff, always has me thinking “man, this guy gets it!” I’ve never commented on a blog before, but I figured I have nothing to lose.

    I’m divorced with kids. And like you mentioned, in my marriage, routine set in. I felt like I was the only one working to make the house and life I wanted for us. But I didn’t nag. Instead I stayed quiet because for the most part of our 7 year marriage, I was a stay at home mom and didn’t feel like I had the right to nag when he was the one bringing home the bread (so to speak). So I just retreated….for years. Until one day, I had enough. And I let it all out. At that point, he did like you said and went into super husband mode. But it was too late. All the feelings I once had were gone. And his extra efforts at this point made me resent him even more. So ultimately we divorced. That was 4 1/2 years ago.

    Moving forward, after the divorce I did a lot of soul searching. Rather than try to blame my ex for the failed marriage, I looked within to see where my flaws were. I knew that lack of communication was the missing link and I vowed to never let that be a relationship issue again. I’ve now been dating a guy (who is also divorced with a child) for almost three years. And I speak my concerns to him frequently. I’m sure it comes across as nagging, but I want him to know how I feel and what makes me happy and sad. I even made him read your Dirty Dishes blog so maybe he would “get it” too and realize it’s not about the dishes. He says he gets it, but I never see any changes.

    I guess my question is, at what point do I throw in the towel? He says he loves me, he says the things he is doing and working for are for me and the kids. But it always seems like it’s just talk and no action. I want to get married. He knows this. I’m old fashioned though and believe he should be the one popping the question. And honestly, I’m tired of waiting. We don’t live together. We both have our own homes and pay our own bills. But he wants me there all the time and then doesn’t understand why I get frustrated having to run two houses. He wants me to take care of his son when he’s working, but doesn’t even want to give me a key to the house (and instead makes me use the spare key every time I come over). I don’t know if his love is more a control thing or genuine. And whenever the topic is brought up, he always plays victim and claims I’m never happy. When is enough? I love him, or I wouldn’t even be trying to discuss the things that bother me with our relationship. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      1. Thank you for reading and for your kind words.

      2. Boundaries within your relationship aren’t for me to comment on. I think some people quit too easily, and I think some people hold on too long. And I’m sure I’m totally wrong some or most of the time. I believe STRONGLY in vigorously enforced boundaries. I think if you think something is bullshit that you should treat it like bullshit and be willing to walk. Because I think lots of men, for whatever reason, jump into action when there’s fear of loss, and putting that on him before marriage, instead of 5-10 years in, seeems to me the better choice. But again, well beyond my place to opine outside of non-specific generalities.

      3. The one thing I’m super-sure of is that he DOESN’T get it, even though he said he did. And if he does get it, then it’s safe to assume he doesn’t much care. If you’re correct that “doesn’t understand why I get frustrated having to run two houses. He wants me to take care of his son when he’s working, but doesn’t even want to give me a key to the house,” though this is the major red-flag one…

      “And whenever the topic is brought up, he always plays victim and claims I’m never happy.”

      One of two things is true.

      He doesn’t get it, because those are the words of someone who refuses to accept responsibility for his actions.

      OR. (And I’m not suggesting this is true!) You are never happy, and your requests/demands are unreasonable.

      In EITHER case, shouldn’t you be allowed to decide what you’re willing to accept as tolerable, or reject as intolerable behavior in your relationship?

      I think so.

      And equally, I think he then has the right to agree or disagree to adhere to your qualifications.

      “When is enough?”

      Everyone gets to decide for themselves.

      But I think the answer is:

      Whenever you are convinced he KNOWS, through and through, what your wants and needs are, but refuses to meet them; OR when you are convinced he is incapable of understanding them, or willing to try.

      I think most stupid divorces happen when the wife is wrong about her husband’s beliefs. She thinks he doesn’t care and doesn’t love her, but most of the time, he just doesn’t know because they speak different languages.

      I really mean that.

      But in this instance, it sounds like he can’t quite claim the same level of ignorance we see from all the derpy husbands.

      He said he “gets it.” I guess we can hope that’s not actually true.

      Love is a choice. I hope you and the children get what you all deserve. And I wish you guys many years of health and happiness.

      This relationship stuff is REALLY hard for guys to grasp. It doesn’t seem like it should be. But I know so many smart men that don’t see the breakdowns, nor understand how they’re contributing to them accidentally, that I see it constantly playing out as you’ve described.

      If we keep talking about this stuff enough, maybe all that can change one day.

      Good luck to you all.

      Like

  29. ruralbethany says:

    I actually thought of an analogy this morning about whether or not a marriage can be brought back from the dead. I thought I’d share, since I know how we all love analogies :)

    It’s like an engine. Not just any engine, but an unhealthy engine. One that isn’t been taken care of and, let’s say, it burns oil.

    Now, we all know that engines require oil. If the engine continues to burn oil and no more oil is added or the issue isn’t fixed, eventually the engine will run out of oil. Some engines have a failsafe built in – if they reach a critically low oil level, the engine itself shuts down completely and will not start back up until the proper amount of oil has been added, at which point you can start using it again.

    On the other hand, some engines don’t have the failsafe. They just keep going and going and going until the oil is gone. And then what happens? The engine siezes up and it’s toast. You can’t add more oil and have the engine work again – it’s literally done and dead. No reviving.

    I think that marriages can be like that. SOmetimes, if there are good boundaries in place, a failsafe, so to speak, it can potentially be revived again.

    On the other hand, sometimes, the “low oil” light warning is the warning that you get, and if you ignore those warnings, eventually you’ll have a siezed up engine that will not go again no matter what you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Jack says:

    This is primarily for Lisa (Gottmanfan) – I really admire your (plural, it seems) grit. What do you do with your shitty marriage when your partner refuses to dig in and do any work? No to counseling…no to books…no to any kind of explicit goals or methods. When you’re in a marriage that hasn’t had friendship or touch of any kind format least ten years, and your partner insists that lots of people she knows are very happy in marriages just like that (with the implication that I should be, too, and that my opinions and desires don’t count at all).

    I have really re-made myself (actually, in many ways, gotten back to what was best in me, but an improved version) in the last nine months. I’ve disrupted the heck out of the system, to no real effect. I go to counseling…I read books…I change how I act, talk and think…not much happens. My operating principle for a while now has been “be the spouse you would like to be married to,” but it’s REALLY hard to keep that up under the circumstances.

    I am fast reaching the point where there remains only one thing to which she cannot say no. I am stubborn and I don’t want to be a quitter, but at some point, it’s just too much/too obvious.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack,

      Well being pigheaded has a plus side and appreciate you terming it “grit”. I am sorry you have put so much effort into changing and your wife is not responding. Frustrating!

      You situation sounds a lot like Drew who often comments here. His wife is avoidant and doesn’t respond to his efforts in ways he would like either and he is grappling with his boundaries. His blog is thezombieshuffle.com and he is very responsive to comments if you ask him his opinion in your situation.

      A couple of things I will throw out from my limited perspective.

      “My operating principle for a while now has been “be the spouse you would like to be married to”. I’m not sure if this is the case here but it may be like different love languages, the behavior of the spouse you would like to be married to might be quite different than HER preferred behavior in a spouse. Something to think about.

      I know I made the mistake of treating my husband in the way I would like to be treated (what I thought ALL people would) and he didn’t really change. Because he didn’t really value those things as much I did. They were fine but not transformative because they didn’t change our basis system.

      If you are the pursuer in a pursuer/withdrawer pattern, changing the system means STOP pursuing. I had to focus on deciding what my needs and boundaries were. And then definitely saying “this is what I need to stay in this relationship”. Not in a ultimatum kind of way but more from a self defining way.

      This is what Drew talks about. Deciding what the pros and cons of the relationship. Figuring out what your needs are. Working as much as you can independently to get your own needs met without “waiting” for a response.

      Working on my own immaturity and lack of relationship skills without focusing as much on his issues. That’s the differentiation process.

      It’s friggin hard. But once I stopped pursuing as much the system changed. He actually got angrier which was a surprise but at least something new. You never know what the change will be when the pursuing stops and boundaries are set.

      The last piece that is important is boundaries and deal breakers. Not sure what they are for you, everyone is different. But I have to do a lot of soul searching to figure out which of this shit is stuff I simple set boundaries around and do not accept. For me that was about continuing to get better through some form of help.

      I had to let go of a lot of my desired way to do it. Frustrating! But my hubby is willing to do stuff to improve things even if it is much much slower than I would like. But I had to set boundaries too to REQUIRE movement.

      I don’t know if any of this is relevant to your situation but I admire your willingness to work on your marriage and hope you can find ways to get out of the pursuer pattern with an avoidant spouse. I know how mindblowingly painful this is. And a waste of energy that actually makes things worse even as you are trying so hard to make it better.

      Grit is good but smart grit is better. :) knowing when to be gritty and when to say THIS is my boundary, my deal breaker.

      One book I am reading now that I have found helpful is Jack Ito’s Connecting Through Yes.

      Best wishes to you.

      Like

      • Jack says:

        Thanks, and to you. I _so_ appreciate your replies here, esp your reply to me.

        Ha, laughing a bit, because I’m _not_ a pursuer, I’m a big-time avoider. Scratch that, a working-on-reforming-myself big-time former-avoider! That is part of the $h!t that I have to own in our relationship and our long journey to where we are. Not all, of course, excavating all the cr@p in my life would probably require the finesse of an archaeologist and the horsepower of an industrial contractor like Bechtel. :-( At any rate, a job for the rest of my lifetime…

        The thing that is currently driving me really crazy is my wife basically controlling 100% of the dynamic by simply saying either “no” or “no, only my way” to every suggestion, proposal and opinion. But we have been making a mess of our marriage for much longer than most of you. :-( Habits get really deeply ingrained and changing – even deciding that you WANT to change, forget actually doing change – can be threatening, exhausting and painful, among other things.

        Smart is better…have read some of Ito’s stuff and will look at the book you suggested.

        The thing that you mentioned that particularly got my gears turning was boundaries. Any further thoughts, suggestions or ideas in that line would be very welcome. That feels like something that might be a great next step. I’m frankly running out of time and energy. I wanted to ask where you get your energy, but maybe it makes a difference if you feel you’re both actually working on the same project, even if you’re working form different plans and doing so with different tools. (What a “guy” metaphor…)

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Jack,

        You’re a reformed avoider not a pursuer? Well how interesting! Good for your for making so many changes that I incorrectly assumed you were a pursuer. That must take a HUGE amount of energy.

        Where do I get my energy? Well you may be different but for me I have to correctly diagnose the problem. After reading a LOT of stuff I realized the problem was not what I thought it was.

        Frankly I kind of preferred it when I thought he was 85% of the problem (you know because I was so mature I could at least acknowledge my small piece HA!)

        Very humbling to realize how immature I was/am in many ways around certain relationship skills.

        We all have our pros and cons. I can stand up for myself just fine. I just make the other person “the enemy” when I do it. Surprisingly (ha!) I discovered that’s not really mature.😀 And doesn’t really help a marriage.

        So I have found David Burns book Feeling Good Together book very, very helpful. I highly recommend it. I’m kind of on a David Burns kick now. Reading his new TEAM stuff. His website is http://www.feelinggood.com

        Brent Atkinson’s ebook (www.couplesclinic.com) is excellent in being VERY structured about boundaries Flow charts etc about how to “stand up for yourself without making a big deal of it”.

        I get my energy from KNOWING all this stuff if fixable( based on my reading and studies). From KNOWING my immature lack of skills both helped create this problem and is preventing it’s resolution.

        That is within my complete control. My own shit you know? When I figure out more stuff I need to change l, I get discouraged but then get to work on fixing it.

        It helps being a problem solver. Is that you too? It’s all just a puzzle to be solved. There are answers for what to do, how to change, what the end goal is. You have to wade through a lot of crap and expect failure but keep working. Smart grit is good here.

        You can’t make another person change. True. But you can set up the environment that makes it as easy for them to change as possible. And give them clear understandings of your needs and boundaries.

        Don’t know if that helps or not. Maybe you could ask a general question to crowdsource on the latest post about good boundary resources too.

        I’m amazed that an avoider is resding books and putting such energy into it. Real change there man. Hats off!

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Jack,

        http://thecouplesclinic.com/resources/books/

        Here’s the link for the Atkinson book I was talking about. He has some free stuff on his website too.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Gottmanfan, I’m just jumping in here. What are your main love languages? :)

        And kudos to both of you, Gottmanfan and Jack, that you’re working so hard on your marriages/relationships. And to anyone else who’s doing it too.

        Jack, you said further down: “The funny/not so funny thing is that I would honestly say that I, who really want a healthier relationship but am willing to end a relationship that doesn’t show any progress toward health, am more committed to the relationship than someone who would never, ever consider walking away but is willing to go on indefinitely with a relationship that has reached room temperature”

        I can agree with this. A relationship requires effort of some sort, even if the effort people want and/or put in isn’t always the same. Just because someone is willing to stay married/stay together/not sleep with other people/live under the same roof, doesn’t mean they’re the more comitted partner in my mind. Often people blame the one who breaks it off (and of course sometimes people leave for no good reason or prematurely), but there’s always a story of what happened (or didn’t happen!) before that, you know, of who tried and tried (and again, effort can look different for different people) and, sometimes, who didn’t. There was even another discussion on the blog about how some people purposely behave like assholes to get their partner to be the one to file the papers/say the words. UGH!!!

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          My love languages are 1. acts of service (I don’t care what you say its actions that matter to me)

          2. Quality time taking about abstract or deep stuff :) not the weather or kids details.

          3. Gifts (that shows you “get me” it’s kind of an acts of service thing.

          4. Physical touch (not against it just not as important to me as others you know cause I unhealthily “intellectualize”

          5. Words of Affirmation. Not that I don’t like nice compliments but it’s just words and often people don’t say what they really mean anyway.

          Hubby list is 1. Words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch, acts of service.

          Notice the problem. Our number ones are LAST on each other’s lists. Yeah. That explains part of the natural disconnection. And why it’s hard to change.

          What are yours Donkey? And did you have something in mind when you asked?

          5.

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        Gottmanfan I was both curious and thinking that since you’re having a rough time maybe I could show you some love in some way! :) <3 Maybe to keep chatting is my best bet? :)

        I think my love languages vary somewhat. I think for friendship, quality time in terms of deep conversation would be number one (hehehe, we're reasonably compatible there!) Maybe then physical touch and words of affirmation .

        In a romantic relationship, I think it would go like this:

        1. Physical Touch

        2. Words of affirmation (very closely tied for first though. I'm probably more susceptible to flattery than you, but it would have to feel genuine to me)

        3. Acts of service (as you know fairness is very important to me, so 50/50ish or 100/100ish or equal influence would definitely be extremely important for me to have. I see it this way, after the very very very crucial baseline of 50/50ish or 100/100ish is met, I'd rather have some kudos and kisses than to have someone start doing my chores too. :) Though they of course would be welcome to those too. :p)

        4. Quality time

        5. Gifts.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Donkey and Gottmanfan,
          Donkey- you would rather have quality time with your girlfriends over your mate? That is interesting, is there a particular reason for that?

          Gottmanfan, so if someone one where trying to show you love in all the wrong ways, could that count as works of service? (As long as they figured it out in the end?)

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Aww thanks Donkey. Very thoughtful of you. 😀

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        Linbo,

        Thanks for paying an interest in my love language situation. :)

        I don’t really know why quality time is more important for me in friendships than with a mate. I think it’s just how I work kind of, no deep philosophical reasons. For me, quality conversation is what is the most important in friendships (along with loyalty and caring, can’t have my friends posting all the crap I tell them on facebook and so on. :p)

        In romantic relationships, for how I feel most special and loved in a romantic kind of way, physical touch and words of affirmation seem to be what does the trick. Again, I wouldn’t mind some cuddles and compliments with my friends either (most of my friends aren’t really huggy though, sigh, I don’t get it).

        I think it also relates to being understood. I think this has been quite important for me, but in romantic relationships, there’s just so much room for misunderstandings and being triggered and unfair expectations, so I’ve kind of given up on this need in romantic relationships, you know, to some extent. :p So quality conversation (where I feel understood, amongst other things) is more important for me in friendships. Like I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a reasonably warm blooded woman. 8) One of my friends on the other hand says that her libido isn’t very high. But this doesn’t interfer with our friendship though, I can still understand her very well, she understand me very well, and we can have good onversations. But in a romantic relationship, a large difference in libido would be more triggering probably, and then it would be harder for me to just have a nice voncersation with the attitude of “wow you’re libido is low, how fascinating how we’re all so different” kind of. Am I making sense? Though I would still need to be able to talk with my mate abviously.

        There are many things I prefer to do with other people (eating out, going to a movie or a play), and of course, sometimes I just want to meet people or I get lonely. But honestly, plenty of stuff I’m just fine or even prefer doing by myself, so quality time in that sense isn’t *that* important to me..

        But all in moderation though, though I’d probably do well with a mate who spent quite a bit of time alone or with his friends, if it was very skewed so that he spent very little time with me, that would be hurtful to me.

        How about your love Languages Linbo? :) Physical touch is high up for you too, no?

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Hi Donkey,
          I can get why the love languages may be different with friends. You can still have tons of genuine interest in a friend who may be different than you- but you aren’t looking for them to be compatible enough to fit your needs. So, I guess in a way you are a little bit more allowed to just appreciate who they are.
          You also said “I think it relates to being understood. I think this has been quite important for me but in romantic relationships, there’s just so much room for misunderstanding and being triggered and unfair expectations that I have kind of given up on this need in romantic relationships, you know, to some extent.”
          I was thinking that this may be one of the underlying reasons. Especially if you’re talking about quality time like Gottmanfan mentioned- that of talking about deep and abstract thoughts. Honestly, I love these kinds of conversations, too. And yes, sometimes it is easier to talk about big abstract ideas with people you don’t have to live with practically. But, it would still be nice to share those things at times. So, I hope you find someone who opens up space for that.
          I think my love languages are quality time and physical touch as equal top contenders. But quality time could just be making dinner together or talking about our day. I like deep conversations, but they require energy and sometimes it is good just to really relax with your partner and just be present and loving. That is my favorite- present and loving…
          Then words of affirmation, services and gifts being last.

          Like

  31. Jack says:

    Thanks, Lisa. I had found my way to the Atkinson site and book, as well as the Burns web site, last night via your comments above – good stuff. Had not run across thezombieshuffle – good stuff there, too – thanks.

    I recognize that cycle – work, rest a bit, additional (self-)awareness, discouragement, dig in and work some more…

    I don’t know your age (and you don’t need to post it here), but we are in the back half of the back half of our 50s so I have to say that time does not feel the way it did even ten years ago.

    I have more or less concluded that I’ve done enough to satisfy what I think my faith requires (which should be in quotation marks, I guess), and I think I’ve done enough to satisfy what I “owe” to my wife. I just don’t think I’ve finished what I owe to myself. That probably sounds weird – oh well. It’s sort of the same reason I haven’t had an affair and plan not to do so…

    The avoider in me is a lot of why we are in this quagmire, so it really has to be one of the things that gets addressed. I don’t say “fixed” because I doubt it ever gets eliminated, but awareness is a big step forward. But you’re right, in the first couple of months of really engaging this I lost 23 pounds, 185 -> 162 average morning weight, most of which has stayed off. ;-) Seriously, I attribute it to the stress (which is ok, since it is for a good goal and was a decision I made, rather than one someone backed me into!).

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack, I’m closer to your age than most commenters here so I get the time reference.

      But then again, if we can change substantially the future is different. At any age. And it’s even better to face the future with healthier relationship skills. Being avoidant is not good for any kind of relationship, kids, friends, coworkers, whatever.

      So all that stress is for a higher purpose. You may not be “fixed” but it sounds like you’ve learned to not avoid difficult stuff anymore.

      Hope the resources help give you some more new steps. But eat some Doritos while you read them so you don’t lose more weight. 😀

      I don’t know your situation obviously but focusing on boundaries sounds like it might give your wife a chance to see you are really serious. Sometimes, people can be mindblowingly oblivious even when told over and over.

      Or if they do understand the unhappiness they may not believe there are consequences for not changing. At least they can be given a clear choice based on your needs and boundaries when those skills are learned and applied.

      Like

      • Jack says:

        Amen to all of that. Too bad some of are such slow learners. :-/ Better late than never, though. Carpe diem.

        Oblivious, yeah. Me, too. Though I think my wife and I have found whole new quadrants of the galaxy on that front. :-/

        The funny/not so funny thing is that I would honestly say that I, who really want a healthier relationship but am willing to end a relationship that doesn’t show any progress toward health, am more committed to the relationship than someone who would never, ever consider walking away but is willing to go on indefinitely with a relationship that has reached room temperature.

        It’s very hard. Part of my head really wants to be a better human being. Another, closely related, part really wants to be a better partner. And yet another part is really angry (in a cool-headed way, no slamming doors or things like that), resentful, hurt and mistrustful. I think that’s part of what is on me to come to grips with and resolve before I yield to what these days often feels like the obvious.

        This reply is sort of in a random (dis-)order. I wanted to mention something that your mention of the Burns book brought to mind. You talked about books and “exercises,” and I really liked the excerpt from the Burns book that I was reading last night. But this is not a joint perspective. We are still grappling with the aftermath of my asking my wife to read the section on “hugging till relaxed” in one of Schnarch’s books (_Intimacy and Desire_, I think). It turned out that my wife feels that that has ruined (her word) hugs (which is the only form of physical contact we have been able to restore – and is probably a step in the right direction, but holding hands, kissing and anything more is still more than out of the question).j

        FWIW…life on life’s terms!

        Like

      • Jack says:

        Wow. Just got a copy of the Atkinson book. Amazing. I guess that will keep me busy for a while. :-D

        Liked by 1 person

  32. Jack says:

    The Atkinson book is amazing. The problem is I’m having trouble applying it.

    Lisa, how long have you and your husband been trying to raise Lazarus?

    I am getting to the point where I wonder if we didn’t let things to too long, let this marriage get too cold.

    It’s so odd, because neither of us is mean or abusive or addicted. You think: we should be able to make this work again, or maybe just, we should be able to make this work (even if it never really did before).

    But there are so many old habits.

    And I am not sure that we have anywhere near the same idea after all these years about what we want a new “us” to look like. In other words, if we were dating, I’m not sure either of us would want to go on a second date. Maybe not even a first date…I think what we want out of a relationship is very different now.

    There’s no affection, no arousal, no smiles. No warmth, no connection, no touch, just a dark, cold empty space. There’s nothing special about the other person, nothing “chosen.” There isn’t even anything worth arguing about, which seems like a bad sign. When I look at our marriage/relationship as a system, it’s not so much that it’s dysfunctional, it’s more like doesn’t really function at all.

    It seems like our problem isn’t the “I love you but I’m not in love with you any more” problem. It seems like it’s more like “I am not in love with you…I don’t love you…I don’t really like you, especially…I just don’t care.”

    Even when the topic of divorce has come up briefly, neither one of us seems particularly alarmed, which also seems like a terrible sign.

    I find myself in a quandary. I know I have many things to work out. In particular, I know I have major problems accepting love and care. I suppose I could wonder whether I’ll ever really figure that out (and I do wonder that from time to time), but it really seems like this relationship is not going to be the place where I’m going to figure that out.

    As we exchanged earlier, time is not your friend when you’re at the high end of your 50s. The bad habits are so deeply engraved. And what might have seemed like a lot of time to straighten yourself out when you were in your 30s or 40s does not feel like that on the edge of your 60s.

    It’s hard to figure out, especially when the two of you can’t even agree on how. You guys seem to have somewhat the same problem, but at least you both have been to see therapists and you get the chance to come home and agree that X or Y is fairly useless. We don’t even get that far, so I don’t think either of us has the feeling that there are real repairs underway. And, as I said, I don’t think we agree on what the repairs are supposed to produce.

    But there’s that other problem, knowing that I really need to fix myself, and not wanting to quit before I’m reeeeeally certain there’s no hope. And at the same time, thinking that there’s just not enough relationship here to heal that stuff.

    Unless I’m wrong and there is, and I’m just not seeing it… (:-[

    Like

    • Jack says:

      Responding to myself…wow, bleak. Since I wrote that I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. Several things I’ve known or recently discovered looking at myself snapped into a coherent focus for me this week.

      I’ve been operating on the general theory that when a marriage is troubled it’s probably both partners who are making it difficult. So, I’ll fix my stuff and you should be fixing your stuff.

      But the picture I see right now, or I guess I should say what I see in the mirror now, is so vividly my own stuff and such a big issue that it would be stupid and unfair to make any decisions about the future of our marriage until I get a grip on this stuff.

      And there’s this sense of “wow, she really could have justified walking away, this stuff is not nice” – and a sense of thankfulness.

      It would be a lot easier to walk away because then you could just say “hey, that’s me” and ignore it while you were living alone. But if you’re staring at stuff that can really only get fixed in a relationship, and if you want a healthy relationship, the best thing to do seems to be to dig in right now, where I am, and get to work.

      Yeah, marriage is hard, very hard. I guess I should take that up with myself, since I seem to be the one making it hard…

      Time to write a new and better story with my life. It’s not too late…

      Like

  33. Tguthrie says:

    That pretty much sums up my marriage of 12 years! The death of both my grandparents within 3 months of each sealed ours because at that point in our marriage ( almost 2 years ago) I thought if I can survive the death of the two closest people I have in life, then I can survive a divorce. He left me and our 3 children right after the death of my second grandparent and was gone for a year and 3 months before I finally filed for divorce. The first 7 months he was gone there was no communication except about the children. I asked him not to leave, asked him to come home, wanted to talk to him, try counseling or anything at that point to save our marriage. He responded to nothing. I told him I wasn’t in love with him anymore and that I was giving up after all that time. Again, no response. I was dying and was just a shell of the woman I was taking medicine just to get through it. Then somehow, I ponied up the courage to file for divorce shortly after he had a minor heart attack (at age 42). That was in April of this year. Now after all this time, he is putting up the heroic “I’m fighting for our marriage and I won’t let you go”! After 15 months of separation and years of marriage with a selfish man that was anything but ideal. Our divorce hearing keeps getting extended all the while he fills our children’s heads full of nonsense about how it’s Mommy’s fault our family is being ripped apart because Daddy is trying to save it and she is refusing to give Daddy a chance. You’re right, I’m not willing to sacrifice any more time or heartache into a dead marriage. He says the love can be restored and our marriage can be saved but I am choosing to say no. Just like he did. I allowed him that right to choose and now he refuses to allow me to do the same by trying to force me through manipulation and constant texts and messages sent through the kids and stalking and madness. Enough is enough. In the end, the pain of my marriage became greater than the pain of divorce. I want my life back.

    Like

  34. […] Few relationships come back from the dead. It’s a pill that’s hard to swallow. […]

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