Why I Support My Friend Who Won’t Change for His Girlfriend

stubborn boyfriend walks away

(Image/worldlypost.in)

So, I’ve got a friend who appears unwilling to change certain behaviors or sacrifice some of his life preferences for his girlfriend.

He’s totally “a guy” in the way I think of the caricature or stereotype that exists in my head when I’m writing about shitty husbandry—not radically different from how I remember myself not too many years ago.

There are things he enjoys and wants to do in life. Some of those things have begun to cause conflict in his relationship as she expresses dissatisfaction with them, and he seems prepared to pull the plug after more than a year together.

And THAT is why I support him even though it might seem as if I’m advocating stubbornness or selfishness in relationships.

  1. He’s being honest with her about his boundaries.
  2. He’s being honest about his feelings toward hers.
  3. They are exploring these differences together, even if it hurts and exposes cracks in their relationship.
  4. He’s having the difficult conversation BEFORE marriage. He’s not moving toward forever-vows under false pretenses only to have marriage fights about these things later when more is at stake for all involved.

The Truth is Inconvenient, but Should Still Have its Day

How many of our life problems exist because we’re not 100-percent honest? Most, I think. So many of us are afraid to make waves that we let things happen without reacting to them in fully honest ways, and then dominoes of dysfunction begin to fall from there.

Sometimes it’s some little thing that barely matters. Other times, it’s the whole world, and afterward you don’t get to have your family anymore.

I don’t really care if guys are selfish pricks. Never have. I don’t think it’s an awesome way to live, and I don’t want to be friends with people like that, but on its own, I think individual people putting themselves first is among the least of our major societal problems.

Selfishness only destroys things when it’s deceptive or when its introduced into a group environment, like a team, or business, or friendship, or family, or romantic relationship.

“Hey Matt!!! Are you saying you think it’s more okay to be selfish when you’re dating than when you’re married?”

Yes. I think I am.

Do I wish they would have discovered some of these differences before their relationship graduated from casual dating to fully committed relationship? Of course. But the reality of human relationships is that we sometimes don’t learn every single thing about a person in a short time, especially if one or both parties are hiding something about themselves.

Most of us do it.

We’re a little bit insecure and we fear rejection, so we pretend to be super-tolerant of some aspect of this person we’re getting to know, when in reality, we’re intolerant of that part of them. We convince ourselves we’ll get over it, or it’s not a big deal, but these little things can sometimes turn to major things once we’re in the thick of our relationships and Truth crawls its way to the surface no matter how much one of us had tried to keep it hidden.

My friend offered me examples of things she was doing and saying that were getting under his skin.

I defended her where it seemed appropriate, but didn’t have to. He never blamed her for being her, and takes 100-percent responsibility for the predicted end of his relationship.

He’s now wrestling with the idea that maybe committed relationships just aren’t for him. As if he is—fundamentally—not cut out for them. Or realizing that he is simply unwilling to give up enough of his personal wants in order to have a healthy one.

That is INFINITELY more noble to me than the guy who secretly feels that way, marries someone he professes to love unconditionally but proceeds to spend 5-10 years with taking more than he gives before draining her spirit entirely, breaking a home, and maybe a few other things in the process.

I’m not celebrating selfishness. I’m not. I’m celebrating self-awareness and an unwillingness to make life decisions that border on deception or would set up something more painful and damaging years from now than a breakup now would be.

The Season Ticket Fight

Long before my friend met his girlfriend, he and one of his buddies split the cost of two season tickets to their favorite NHL hockey team.

They chop the season (41 home games) into thirds. One third, they go together. Another third, his buddy brings his wife or child. And the last third, my friend brings whoever he wants.

Once my friend began dating his girlfriend, she became the person he brought to most games.

And that has been the arrangement, which he thought was working out okay until she recently expressed an interest in attending more games.

He immediately started suggesting options.

Suggestion #1: Identify the one third of games on the calendar my friend didn’t already have tickets for, and buy single-game tickets for all the ones she wanted to attend.

She didn’t like that idea because she liked where they sat for the season tickets they have now (they’re awesome seats). She didn’t want lesser seats to ruin the experience, she said.

Alright, he thought.

Suggestion #2: Buy her own season tickets in seats she likes equally well, and bring friends with her on the night he’s in his regular seat.

She didn’t like that idea because if they were both going to be at the same hockey game, she wanted them to be together.

Okayyy, he thought.

Suggestion #3: Through a stroke of good fortune, it just so happens that a vacant seat right next to the two seats my friend and his ticket partner have is available. My friend suggested they grab that seat, so she could sit next to him for two-thirds of the season, and either attend the other games with the other couple, or sell the seat each night she didn’t want to go.

She didn’t like that idea because she didn’t like the idea of being the third-wheel when my friend and his buddy were at the game together.

In the end, she admitted that she wanted him to give up his season tickets with his buddy, and get new ones with her.

And that was all my friend could stomach. That was the end of his rope.

I defended her again, suggesting that it’s awesome that she wants to do things together and make their relationship strong. I reminded him that he doesn’t know every little part of her past and that maybe there are some insecurities he doesn’t know about. That maybe whatever hang ups she has about times when they’re not together are scars from previous life experiences where she felt abandoned or betrayed.

He understood, but not enough to care more about that than what he perceived to be needy, unreasonable, clingy bullshit on her part.

He said he felt deceived. She advertised herself as independent, he said. There were no signs of her feeling uncomfortable with the ebb and flow of their social lives and schedule for months. And then, something changed.

And he has a choice to make: Compromise with her in a way that will satisfy both of them (toward which he believes he put a good-faith effort), or stand his ground knowing it could mean the end of their relationship.

And he’s choosing standing his ground. To not compromise on something that will breed and foster resentful feelings inside him and poison his feelings toward her.

I don’t know if that’s worth celebrating or especially admirable in the context of my strong belief that Love is a Choice.

But I do know that he’s responsibly doing the thing I believe to be super-critical to marriage success, because I also believe there are MANY people who shouldn’t be dating each other.

The season-ticket fight is a microcosm of The Same Fight my friend and his girlfriend are starting to have—one likely to carry on through the remainder of their time together, until both of them fully understand what’s happening.

I’m not sure my friend is willing to put the work in on that one. In fact, he said basically that very thing.

And I’m afraid that’s likely to mean he’ll be single for as many years as he continues to make that choice.

Do I think it’s ideal? Nah. Noble? Not really. The optimum way to be? Of course not.

But do I respect and support his awareness and honesty in an effort to avoid broken homes and divorce down the road?

Damn right, I do. And no matter how inconvenient it feels to those who crave the same love and desire they give the person they’re dating, a bit more inconvenient truth would go a long way to making this world a better one.

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71 thoughts on “Why I Support My Friend Who Won’t Change for His Girlfriend

  1. jgroeber says:

    Were this a movie starring Jimmy Falon and Drew Barrymore involving tix at Fenway, they would both want to give up what they wanted for the other. But really, I’m with your friend. And a little bit, if I’m willing to tippy toe into sacred ground, I’d say I’m behind the guy who maybe left his wife after she delivered a baby. Because probably, for better or worse, that’s the guy he always was. She didn’t see it coming? (Every time my husband does something hugely annoying I think, “I knew it!!”) Although by leaving you, your ex made you into the guy who *won’t* leave next time. So there’s that. Maybe this friend and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend will turn into people who are actually willing to give up something important for the next person. (Although, honestly, she sounds pretty controlling about her sports experience. They were his tix first.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I see both people’s “arguments” and believe both are valid.

      I think her feelings run deeper than where a particular seat might be in a sports arena, but that’s purely speculative, and irrelevant if she’s unwilling to talk about whatever fears and insecurities she has.

      I’m not calling everyone liars.

      I’m just saying we’re not always as honest as we could be, choosing short-term comfort over sustainability.

      These two’s story isn’t written yet.

      I’m certainly rooting for them.

      Like

      • linds01 says:

        Matt, that is sort of how I was going to respond.
        I can see it his way, and her way, but I think they are layers away from hitting on what is really going on.
        I get what you are saying about being honest about who you are, over getting into a relationship just to get into a relationship (even though that can be very tempting at times..)
        Reading about your guy friend hit a huge nerve of anxiety for me, personally. (The sentence that says : “He understood, but not enough to care more about that than what he perceived to be needy, unreasonable, clingy bullshit on her part.”)
        That’s what I don’t get about you guys. It is so easy for you guys not to care, and not to feel. Personally, I don’t know what it takes for guys to really bond emotionally to women, that it is so easy to severe a relationship that has become a part of both of their lives. But, I do think that is exactly why women put on airs about being soo independent, and tough, and strong and sexy. I’m not saying women can’t or don’t function independently in their lives. Women are extremely capable, what I am talking about is veneer that is put on to cover up vulnerability.
        We cant be vulnerable- not if we want to get a man’s attention, or keep his interest.
        He doesn’t care enough is a huge red flag for her, but in all honesty is likely part of the reason she acted kind of manipulatively.
        Not saying it excuses the behavior- I’m all in about owning it, but likely (or possibly, at least) the subconscious thought process went something like this: Hey, we’ve been together for about a year now. Things are going ok. I’m feeling pretty comfortable…maybe now is the time to test the waters to see how much he really likes me/loves me/is committed. She was asking for more territory.
        The question as to whether how she asked for it (kind of underhandedly, and really asking him to choose her over his friend is never a good idea) was the reason for his emotional response, or was it that she asked for it at all is something they maybe they should look at.
        If it’s really her, and he really doesn’t care, well then- that’s that.
        But, I tend to think that issues like this can grow the relationship, if it is handled with openness and honesty.
        It could give them a chance to know themselves and each other better.
        She could have an opportunity to understand better why she wanted the tickets, and why she chose to go about it that way, and how that affected him. She could have the opportunity to change.
        And maybe he could have the opportunity to not be such a selfish dick. ( joking.. :)
        But, really- maybe he could have to opportunity to empathize with crazy-women-behavior.

        Great post!

        Like

  2. Simmis Mama says:

    I did the Same thing. My best friend, who is a Bad guy, tought about leaving his New girlfriend. He asked me for advice and my advice was to leave her just because of the reasons you list here in your Post. And he did it. And she was happy not to waste much time with him and to know immediately what was going on…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kate Unger says:

    Even in a healthy relationship, each individual is entitled to having time with their own friends. I think your friend did the right thing. She would have continued to take more and more of his “self” away from him. There is a time for couple time and a time for our own interests and relationships outside of that couple. I would never make my husband completely give up something with his friend to instead share that activity with me.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think the hockey ticket scenario is absolutely ridiculous personally. He was trying to compromise the situation, she refused (as many woman do when they want to get their way). Life, love and marriage is all about compromise. I don’t think your friend is too selfish, I think he needs to find a woman he’s more compatible with. Many woman say they’re one way and turn out different – most men just are who they are. A man doesn’t simply become a lazy ass, nor does a woman magically become a clingy crazy. If men and women would be more honest about who they are and what they want from the beginning, most relationships would be more successful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sambucaqueen says:

    Hats off to your friend! It sounds like she has some insecurities she needs to address.

    I recently met a young married couple (20ish) and I commented to the husband about his great collection of hobbies (movies, games). When I asked his wife what she enjoys doing in her spare time, she replied “I don’t have any hobbies. I ride on his coattails”. (*facepalm* Give it 10 years. I predict a Not So Happily Ever After for that couple.)

    Like

  6. anitvan says:

    I’m with you on this. This is bigger than just seating arrangements for a sporting event. This will be an ongoing issue for them. Not sure why the girlfriend was not able to be honest with him and ask directly for what she wanted but whatever the reason, that’s a problem. I think your friend’s instincts are good and he clearly has healthy boundaries. It’s not healthy to allow yourself to be manipulated and deceived for the sake of keeping the peace. Or even for the sake of being “loving” and giving sacrificially. That’s not loving, that’s dysfunction.

    Perhaps their relationship is such that your friend will be able to have an honest talk with her and explain HIS values to her and maybe they can learn a better pattern of relating based on mutual honesty and respect. If they can’t work that out, then they probably shouldn’t be together.

    Like

  7. chump says:

    I so relate to this post, and I 100% agree with you. It is SOOOO much more noble — and KINDER, in the end, to JUST.BE.HONEST, G-D-it. Yes there will probably be short-term fallout (in the case of your post, it may mean the end of their relationship), but in the end- everyone will be treated with the respect they deserve and can choose accordingly. Nobody will harbor ill-will or resentment because they have been misled (her) or buried their feelings (him), resulting in an unhealthy marraige and possible broken home.

    HONESTY!

    If only my husband would have told me SOMEwhere along these 22 years of marraige that he has always had a secret porn habit. (Yes, this seems like a different situation — but to me, the overarching theme is the same. JUST.BE.HONEST!!!) If only he had done the hard thing and been HONEST, somewhere along the way, I would still have respect for him. I would feel like yes—he DOES have my back, because he felt that I deserved the truth! See? …But no. He instead chose to NOT BE HONEST. He always hid his truth. And now I’m pretty darn sure that if I ever trust him again, I am a chump. Our marraige is on fumes. Pretty much over. I feel like I have wasted my life loving somebody who cares about their comfort more than mine. OUCH.

    JUST.BE.HONEST. Yes, initially it may sting. But the other person will walk away knowing that you RESPECTED them enough to gift them with your truth, whatever it is.

    The alternative is awful. And self-centered. And mean.

    Like

  8. When I first read the title I was ready to bash your friend until I read the article and then sided with your friend. I think your friend was very thoughtful by taking the girlfriend to 1/3 of the games and then offering her all off those reasonable options to go to more games sitting with or without him but she declined. Her request for him to give up tickets that he had with his friend before he met her is ridiculous. There has to be and needs to be compromise within reason. Our lives can’t and shouldn’t be spent every moment alone with our partners and will and should sometimes include other people unless both people are on the same page.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this post, Matt. That’s what having healthy boundaries is all about.

    I tend to believe we should never have to change who we are for a spouse, not the essence, not the substance of our character, not our interests. True, we do need to at least make room in the closet and compromise on a few practical issues, but beyond that, no.

    People really do marry, spend all their time trying to change their spouse, and then when he or she finally changes, they divorce! It’s kind of crazy, but it’s something we do. We try to erase everything that attracted us to them in the first place.

    I can’t really tell from your post, but I suspect the girl friend is issuing is a commitment test. She may not even be aware of it, but she’s trying to figure out how much influence and control she has, how important she is to him. It’s really not about who is right and who is wrong, it’s about trying to figure out where she stands.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tina says:

    Matt-

    I agree that your friend is right to giving this a hard look now. The truth though, is even if they hash it all out now – it doesn’t mean things might not go wrong for them in the future. When my future ex and I were dating I made very sure we had time together and time apart with our friends and insisted it be respected by us both. (My future ex thought I was a pretty cool chick because I didn’t try to prevent him from spending time with friends but in fact insisted that he do so) My views on that didn’t change over the course of our marriage but his did. One night a week out with the guys became every night and every weekend. And the guys stopped being the ones he played softball with or the ones he ran rescue with or even the guys at the races. They became the biker gang in our area. The ones that encouraged his affair because they all have a side b**ch

    Undoubtedly you are advising your friend well – unfortunately people do sometimes change in unexpected ways. And even so – I still cannot regret the relationship – because without it I would not have my awesome kids.

    Like

  11. Donkey says:

    I agree with you and, it seems, most people here. I thought your friend was both quite generous in bringing her to all of the games his third of the season, and in trying to work out a compromise with her. He actually put in effort into thinking of something that could work. I think Scott Peck stresses the importance that love involves effort, and your friend definitely put in some of that.

    (I think that’s why a lot of the shitty-husband behaviour hurts women so much by the way, because the lack of effort signifies a lack of love. It’s like with parenting, if you want to love your kid and feel love for them, but you can hardly be bothered to listen to them, pay attention to them etc (I understand no one can do that constantly though) do you really love them? I don’t think so.)

    But like other people have mentioned, this could very well be about something else entirely. Her own insecurities that have nothing to do with your friend, or maybe she feels (rightly or wrongly) that she has compromised more than him in other scenarious, and now she’s trying to even the score, so that she can feel like he cares for her/accepts her influence as much as the other way around.

    I read a quote somewhere, that it doesn’t matter that much what you do, it matters how much consciousness you put into what you’re doing. I like that.

    I honestly have little problems with folks who don’t want to commit, don’t want to live together/get married/have kids, be monogamous or whatever else. If what people want is no strings attached sex, I don’t have a problem with that as long as everyone is upfront about their intentions and act responsibly and all of that.

    I’ve been getting a lot better at telling the truth in my life, and letting the chips fall where they may. But I know I have quite a way to go.

    When all this is said though, we can’t know everything about our needs and dealbreakers and those of other people when we commit. Especially when we’re young/inexperienced/naive. And I do think it’s very possible for most couples (with often painful growth both sa individuals and as a couple) to get a good relationship with the one they have. The grass is greener where you water it and all of that. I think Sheryl Paul said once that it’s normal for a couple to need 10-15 *years* to get into a good stride as a couple.

    Like

    • linds01 says:

      I just want to clarify what I wrote above. I feel like I kind of rambled.
      I don’t think Matt’s friend is doing anything wrong; I can agree that being honest with himself and reassessing the relationship is likely better for everyone.
      I was just saying that it’s likely her behavior is related to some kind of anxiety. And that anxiety is likely caused by relationship issues in the past (whether her parents or hers), but it perpetuates a negative cycle.
      Whatever Matt’s friend does, is what he does- I really don’t have any feeling that he is doing right or wrong, but it brings up (for me), the issue in our society that we don’t understand the value and importance of those life long relationships. (Even in dating or committed relationships.) The value I am thinking of is that the relationship should be a safe place to mess up, to reveal yourself, and then to grow (both people and the relationship grows this way)Too often the focus on dating and relationships is on the externals- what looks good, what feels good, ect. And when it the relationship is old and stale, or becomes too much of a burden, then people get out.
      I don’t think we do honest vulnerability well, and I think it leads to no one growing and manipulative behavior.
      That whole growing and becoming part of the relationship is the most fundamental part of it, and the most rewarding. But we neglect it most of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        “it brings up (for me), the issue in our society that we don’t understand the value and importance of those life long relationships. (Even in dating or committed relationships.) The value I am thinking of is that the relationship should be a safe place to mess up, to reveal yourself, and then to grow (both people and the relationship grows this way)Too often the focus on dating and relationships is on the externals- what looks good, what feels good, ect. And when it the relationship is old and stale, or becomes too much of a burden, then people get out.”

        You make some great points Lindsey. I guess it’s just a hard balance to strike, and I don’t think we’re at a healthy place in our culture when it comes to emotional health and relationship health. So there’s lots of impetus on people to grow and heal, since we don’t just absorb enough of the healthy stuff from our parents, school, peers etc.

        It’s just such a hard balance to strike. Because on the one hand, I agree with you that we shouldn’t treat people and relationships as expendable. But on the other hand, it’s better to cut your losses early in before too much commitment has happened. I definitely want people to look really deeply into themselves nd try to work things out, and yet I don’t want people to be sucked dry by unhealthy partnerships until death do them part.

        And when it comes to vulnerability, like you, I want people to reaveal themselves to eachother. And we all have needs and we should be able to ask people close to us to meet them. But again, the balance is so hard, because what are needs you should take care of yourself most of the time, what are needs it’s healthy to ask your partner/friends to meet? I find it all quite confusing. I’m in favour of people really dealing with their sh*it, but then again, we are interdependent on one another. So yes, I’m a fan of vulnerability…but not in the sense that we abdicate personal responsibility. But again, what that responsibility is exactly, I can’t say.

        But for instance, let’s say I have separation anxiety and am in a relationship. It wouldn’t be fair to just dump all of that responsibility on my partner. I think it would be good that I were open and vulnerable about it, for sure. But then, I would also need to take responsibility for it myself, go to therapy and/or do inner healing (journaling, meditation,inner child work, whatever works). So that it’s clear that I’m dealing with my end of it, yet still being open about my issue. I think it would then also be nice if my partner were somewhat considerate about this. Maybe he wouldn’t think it’s necessary to talk to eachother every night when we’re apart, but he could do make that concession to soothe me. But I do not think it would be healthy for either of us if this person were to stop going on the occasional business trip, trip with friend or whatever because it makes me anxious. If he were away on business several days a week? If it wasn’t a huge sacrifize for him, maybe he could change his job. But if that was too much of a stretch, I’d have to learn to deal or we’d break up.

        And on the other hand, most people have some degree of separation anxiety (we wouldn’t like to never see our loved ones again), and who’s to say where the healthy needs that partners “should” accomodate stops and an unhealthy need that is mostly the indivudal’s responsibility to heal/deal with starts? I don’t know. There’s probably a grey area there too.

        Thoughts, Lindsey?

        Like

  12. linds01 says:

    Donkey,
    Yes actually I do have some thoughts :).

    You said “So yes, I’m a fan of vulnerability…but not in the sense that we abdicate personal responsibility. But again, what that responsibility is exactly, I can’t say.” and followed up with
    “…so that it’s clear that I’m dealing with my end of it, yet still being open about my issue. I think it would then also be nice if my partner were somewhat considerate about this…”
    Then you listed possible things your partner could do to alleviate the anxiety.

    The thing I think we miss isnt that I just need some shelter to hovel under, a place to curl up to feel safe and protected but never actually grow. I think the shelter helps the growth, it is a place that you know you are loved so that you can face the things in yourself, (and the world), not to avoid them or just to say that they are ok.
    So, it would never be the partners responsibility to make me feel better (although maybe, I hope, they would indecently :)…but it would be their responsibility to be aware of what is going on with you. Maybe ask about things regarding it, maybe point out things that we dont necessarily see ourselves. All of those things are relationship building, while maintaining our own differentiated selves.

    So it takes vulnerability and two partners who are legitimately seeking to become whole human beings.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      “I think the shelter helps the growth, it is a place that you know you are loved so that you can face the things in yourself, (and the world), not to avoid them or just to say that they are ok.
      So, it would never be the partners responsibility to make me feel better (although maybe, I hope, they would indecently :)…but it would be their responsibility to be aware of what is going on with you. Maybe ask about things regarding it, maybe point out things that we dont necessarily see ourselves. All of those things are relationship building, while maintaining our own differentiated selves.”

      Hmmm… I like this. Here’s Scott Peck, saying something very similar:
      “My wife and I draw the analogy between marriage and a base camp for mountain climbing. If one wants to climb mountains one must have a good base camp, a place where there are shelters and provisions, where one may receive nurture and rest before one ventures forth again to seek another summit. Successful mountain climbers know that they must spend at least as much time, if not more, in tending to their base camp as they actually do in climbing mountains, for their survival is dependent upon their seeing to it that their base camp is sturdily constructed and well stocked”

      It’s just… I think it’s often impossible to achieve this unless the people involved have a good deal of differentiation and emotional health and sense of inner security already. Not perfectly and always, but to quite a high degree. And until that is achieved I think many relationships won’t be able to serve as a nourishing basecamp for the individuals, but more as a crucible (see David Schnarch) for people’s growth to get there (unless people make a conscious/unconscious agreement to not challenge eachother’s growth and just stay unhealthily dependend in various ways).

      Here’s Peck again: “Great marriages cannot be constructed by individuals who are terrified by their basic aloneness, as so commonly is the case, and seek a merging in marriage”.

      And: “Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other”

      So I think commited relationships can and should serve as a basecamp/shelter that both are nurtured by and both tend to. But I don’t think this will be possible unless people also, individually, are managing to be a desent bacecamp/shelter for themselves. And until that is achieved by the individuals, the relationship will often be more of a painful crucible (unless they’ve consciously/unconsciously agreed to be codependent) than a basecamp/shelter. Although I would say there are basecamp and crucible elements both in less differentiated couples and more differentiated couples. But I think the feel of it would often be different.

      More thoughts Lindsey (or anyone else)? :) I like this discussion!

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      • Donkey says:

        (If it wasn’t clear how this tied into what you were saying about how the shelter helps the growth, Peck wishes for the basecamp so that people can grow spiritually
        .
        “[Marriage exists] for the primary purpose of nurturing each of the participants for individual journeys towards his or her own individual peaks of spiritual growth.”)

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      • linds01 says:

        “It’s just…I think it’s often impossible to achieve this unless the people involved have a good deal of differentiation and emotional health and sense of inner security already. Not perfect and always, but to quite a high degree. And until that is achieved I think many relationships wont be able to serve as a nourishing basecamp for the individuals, but more as a crucible (see David Schnarch) for people’s growth to get there…”
        The book I am in the middle of reading is “Wired for Dating”- it’s a “sequel” to the book “Wired for Love” that Lisa recommended. The author calls both the idea that “you have to love yourself first” and “you have to take care of yourself first” myths or fallacies.

        His reasoning is that no, we don’t learn how to love ourselves and others just by being by ourselves- we have to be in relationship to get that, and with the taking care of yourself, he says that in essence what you are then saying in the relationship is “I’m on my own and you’re on you own”- which may look like a relationship, but isn’t really a functional partner relationship.

        It’s kind of saying you have to be perfect, or close to it before you can have a relationship, but what the author is saying is that it’s the relationships that will help to make you “perfect.”

        There is no doubt that these kinds of relationships would be part crucible, but I that is part of what I was trying to say before. That is the growth and the change, and one of the fundamental reasons for, and where the best rewards come from.

        It still sounds idealistic, I know- Because we look around and we don’t see relationships working out in a way that fosters mutual growth. I think that is because of all the reasons that have been stated here before: we don’t look for long term compatibility, we don’t bother to ask very important questions about ourselves or the other person. We follow blue print models instead of being really ready. ect…
        But, I think ultimately its because what I’m talking about in sharing vulnerability doesn’t happen a lot.
        I’m not saying its a cure all, I think there will still be people we love that are co-dependent, or have issues they will be working on for the rest of their lives. But I think when it is addressed open and honestly, without judgement, there is a heck of a lot more space for that person to grow (instead of pretend, and lie and manipulate)

        The simplest way I can say it is, if you are interested in someone for a relationship, you have to be interested in their soul, and the growth thereof. (And that requires a level of vulnerability)
        That nurtures conversation, and better understanding for both parties, I think it produces more self initiation towards growth… in those ways it’s beneficial for the individual.
        The fact that there is conversation and interpersonal involvement in soul growth fosters relationship.

        It doesn’t make everything perfect (people will still have screaming kids, and there will still be arguments, and people will still do dumb things,) but I think it creates a stronger bond- and is the only way to have a real authentic relationship with real authentic people.

        I think Glennon Melton and her husband really demonstrate this very well right now.
        Two authentic people supporting each other, that builds a relationship. Those people grow, and the relationship changes.
        If you continue with the love and support, for the betterment of that person, sometimes that means that the old relationship doesn’t work anymore.
        It may change what it looks like.
        But the continued love and support is what makes the relationship, so even if it looks different that relationship is still present.

        Like

      • linds01 says:

        I would even go so far as to say that the ones you do share soul-growth with are the ones you will have the strongest most enduring relationships with.
        I think the issue is that we don’t often even factor that into the equation enough.
        But that is where everything is…

        Sorry, I think I speak stream of consciousness. I need to get better at preparing for specific things I want to get across. ..:)

        Like

      • linds01 says:

        What I lack in clarity, I make up in verbosity- sincerely sorry.

        I was just thinking of two other couples I know (1 I know, the other I have met but we really don’t know each other…) that demonstrate this acceptance and love (through being vulnerable and honest about who and where they are, and how that effects the relationship.)

        The lesser known one is Wayne Jacobsen and his wife Sarah. They both had their life turn upside down in their early 40’s, long story and it had a lot to do with their faith. But, that also spawned a huge change in Sarah, his wife. So he talks about having 2 wives in the same marriage- and that he sincerely loved the past Sarah, but even more so with the present Sarah.

        The there is Jim and Betty, who have known each other since Grade school and, got married right after high school. They are in their early 60’s now and are the most incredible people, with some incredible kids (That’s how I met them.) They are both truly dynamic people, who are their own selves and have had to struggle with their own issues, but have been able to continue to come together in love and support.
        But, they didn’t start out that way. I know more about Jim’s story than I do Betty’s, but there were some pretty significant trauma’s that he had to sort through.

        Me mentioning the Melton’s made me think about both of these couples. And it makes me think what they are doing right now is probably a sign of a truly, truly healthy relationship and marriage. If that makes any sense…

        So here is my final word on it, because I am supposed to be making a stupid table for my stupid research paper. (Spoken like a true professional, eh?)

        Relationship is the vehicle, Love is the fuel.
        Sacrifice (the crucible) is the disclaimer, and Wholeness is the destination.

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        We are slowly moving toward the great schism inherent to marital/family therapy….do we use a differentiation model or an attachment model? I am a big fan of who of Lerner, Schnarch, and others who advocate differentiation (ultimately the model comes from Dr. Murray Bowen). I completely recovered my marriage using this model and I strongly advocate it. But the reason why it works for me is because I tend toward enmeshment and need help becoming more independent. Another person who has a hard time with committment might need a sue Johnson/wired for love attachment approach. The reality is that people probably are wired to depend upon each other, but we also tend toward aggression as well. And as a mother I am extremely wary of anyone who advocates “care more” as a healthy approach because most wives and mothers I know show signs of caregiver burnout. so there isn’t one “correct” model…only ones that work differently for different people. We are all wounded in our childhood and we cope differently. The coping strategy I employ is first, love second. Schnarch is my hero and he is very clear (as is Bowen) that differentiation is NOT distance but instead the ability to assert boundaries WITHIN relationship. Meaning that relationship is a necessary component of differentiation. He says relationship is two diamonds polishing themselves. Properly differentiated people can be extraordinarily compassionate because they habe boundaries in place. Look up the difference between enmeshment and intimacy. That’s the key. The closeness you choose= intimacy. The closeness that is forced upon you = enmeshment. The goal of differentiation is to put boundaries in place so that you can choose healthy intimacy. The sue Johnson/wired for love model assumes mental health. But people whose earliest attachments are to abusive parents have to learn how to set boundaries as a precondition of relationship.

        Like

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        “Relationship is the vehicle,
        Love is the fuel.
        Sacrifice (the crucible) is the disclaimer,
        and Wholeness is the destination.”

        I might be a little bit in love with you right now, Lin. ;)

        Like

      • Fromscratchmom says:

        And to Cristine, that was an awesome comment.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lindsey, words are not fully forming in my brain at this point, sorry to not be more thorough. I really appreciate you having this discussion with me. Cristine, thanks for giving this excellent breakdown.

        “so there isn’t one “correct” model…only ones that work differently for different people”
        Agreed!

        “differentiation is NOT distance but instead the ability to assert boundaries WITHIN relationship”
        Yes!

        Isolation – interdependence – codependency

        Distance – intimacy – enmeshment

        We’re looking for what’s in the middle, and whatever will bring you closer to the middle, do that! In a way, like Cristine says, people who are more on the avoidance side could probably use some attachment influence! My argument would be that that would actually require differentiation, because they’re avoidant as a coping mechanism, and becoming more interdependent would get them out of the comfort zone. On the other hand, I would also say that if you tend toward codependency, differentiation will enable you to attach in a more healthy and profound way, a deeply important part of a meaningful life (not only in romantic relationships obviously).

        Linbo you said:
        “Relationship is the vehicle,
        Love is the fuel.
        Sacrifice (the crucible) is the disclaimer,
        and Wholeness is the destination.”

        This is very eloquent and feels deep, but I’m not quite getting it. If you don’t mind explaining, why do you equate sacrifice and crucible? And how is that the disclaimer?

        I get that the crucible is painful and in that way requires sacrifice to go through. But sometimes, if you’ve been sacrifizing too much, differentiation would be to stop that and rather deal with the discomfort and angst of people being pissed at you, withdrawing, acting like you wanting equal influence and as much of the benefits of the relationship (like freetime, not having to manage more than your share) is being horrible and selfish and demanding.

        Cristine, you said: “And as a mother I am extremely wary of anyone who advocates “care more” as a healthy approach because most wives and mothers I know show signs of caregiver burnout.”

        Thanks for bringing this up! Gottmanfan (and Matt and I, probably others too) have discussed this before. Gottmanfan said (I’m paraphrising) that if you tend towards selfishness, entitlement (often blind, which is part of the problem) “love more” is great advice. Or, less for self, more for others. If you tend towards giving yourself up, codependency, enmeshment, “more boundaries” is great advice. More self, less others

        I think Gottmanfan used the phrase tending towards narcissism and tending towards codependency.

        Cristine, if you feel like sharing, what are some of the things burnt out mothers and wives you know have done that has improved the situation (if indeed it has improved for the folks you’re thinking of?

        Liked by 1 person

      • linds01 says:

        Donkey,
        I agree, this has been a good discussion. :)

        I like this definition of a crucible “a place or situation that different elements interact to produce something new.”
        When those elements interact, with heat or some external circumstance, they usually lose a few molecules (or they denature). If they didn’t lose a few molecules they wouldn’t change.
        So, my answer is it doesn’t have to directly be a sacrifice that the other person is asking for, or that you are making directly for the other person.
        A lot of times there are still sacrifices because we know it’s the right thing to do, or it seems logical- and it really has nothing to do with the other persons preference.

        I can imagine that real life issues of “well, I did this, so I expect that you will do that” do come up. I mean, it’s life. Again, I can imagine, because my first hand experience is pretty limited, but I would hope for just plain generosity.
        I think its a bad road to go down when you start calculating what is owed.
        But, I realize that you cant not take an accounting if a partner tends to take advantage, or is not aware of what it costs you for things that are taken for granted.

        “That” talk, those boundaries and the respect of those boundaries should all happen.
        Men should not expect to be taken care of like children. Absolutely.
        So yes, boundaries, differentiation- all that needs to be established at the get go.

        But, there will still be personal sacrifice, and likely in larger ways than the day to day chores.
        That is the disclaimer- kind of like a warning. Kind of like, this will happen, ride at your own risk…it’s a reality.
        I think maybe most people are more scared of it than they need to be.

        There is a CS Lewis book (incidentally called “The Great Divorce” ) that is very interesting even from a psychological perspective, it kind of schowcases some pretty common ways us humans fail to grow.
        So, there is one character who has this lizard on his shoulder and it always says the most horrible things to him, but he is scared to death to give it up. It has become almost a comfort to him. ***Spoiler alert***when he finally does give it up, and is sacrificed to death, it transforms into something magnificent. (I honestly cant remember what that is thought!!)

        Anyway, the point is- sometimes what feels like sacrifice, isn’t a sacrifice at all, but the thing that will give you new life.

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        I completely agree….distance is just another anxiety-driven coping mechanism, like conflict. True differentiation is maintaining open, equal, honest communication in relationship, and “hanging in” when in conflict. I love Schnarch, Lerner, etc. but the best condensed version of the whole Bowen Family Systems Theory is Roberta Gilbert’s Extraordinary Relationships. She basically says that a perfectly differentiated person can communicate with anyone and even forgive anyone because their boundaries are in place and their self is not “reactive.” Meaning they can express their boundaries and even get a negative reaction from the person they’ve established boundaries with, and still manage to hang in in a non-reactive way.

        I will be honest. I took the exact opposite approach to improve my marriage as what is suggested on this blog. But see I am the wife, and the social pressures on me are just different. Some things I do:

        — I started back to school because being a stay-at-home mother was driving me insane.
        — I take one night a week to go out, see friends, or just read at a coffee shop solo to recharge.
        — I no longer take responsibility for my husband’s relationship with his parents. He does gift shopping, makes calls, etc.
        — I am very up front about what I want sexually.
        — I consciously try to let go of expectations regarding chores, the house, etc.
        — I challenged the enmeshment in my FOO so that I am just more differentiated all around.
        — I try to meditate when I feel conflict rising.
        — I stopped doing a lot of the mom stuff (baking, crafts, elaborate Christmas etc). When I do creative things it is for my own pleasure (I do pottery class).
        — When I get stressed I ask myself, what would my husband do in this case? And then I do that.
        — sold a house that was just too much work for us.
        — Sent my two kids on vacation with their dad and grandparents, and stayed at home to rest and relax alone.
        — I see a therapist and write rather than constantly try to get emotional validation from my husband.
        — I try to manage anxiety and conflict through action rather than words.

        …basically I’m the anti-matt but we are happier than ever!

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        linds01: Re: sacrifice….if the relationship is more important to you than the thing you are giving up, then it isn’t a sacrifice. It is just a choice to prioritize the relationship over the other thing. Differentiation is about owning your choices, recognizing that you are making a choice, and making informed ones. To use sex as an example, Schnarch says that the low libido partner always has control over sex. But their choice to be in the relationship means they have to choose to have sex even when they don’t want it, or better yet to create the conditions where they want sex. Because they chose to be in relationship monogamously. And on the flip side, an HL can’t complain about not getting enough because if they aren’t getting what they want, they can always leave the relationship. Both people have to own their choices. Thus the difference between enmeshment and intimacy. Intimacy is elected (“I am going to take a bubble bath and drink a beer because I know he wants sex but I’m not in the mood, but I’d like to see if I could be in the mood”), enmeshment is forced (“I’m not in the mood but I have to so I guess I will just lay here”). Also everyone gets to make their own choices. If this dude really doesn’t want to change his ticket setup, that’s his choice. The idea that accommodating someone will ALWAYS lead to growth is a one way ticket to resentment. A better model is, make the choices that make you happy. It could be he will drop this chick and live to regret it. So then the next time he is in a relationship and faces a two-choice dilemma (a Schnarch term for the dilemmas we inevitably face in monogamous relationships) he may make a different choice. Or he will drop her, be happy, and realize he isn’t one for commitment. Either way this person stands to obtain self-knowledge from the experience.

        Also I think it is best practice in relationships to look for third choices every time you can! Yes, there are times when you can’t do that (geography is a big one for us). Still, for the little things it can be a useful practice.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Lindsey,

        Thank you,it was clearer to me now. :)

        What I like to think of is healthy vs unhealthy needs. Every human needs food, that’s a healthy need. The emotional needs equivalent to food are healthy. But if you need 3 large bottles of soda to get through the day that’s not a healthy need. And, if we expect our partner to meet our unhealthy needs, the emotional equivalent of 3 bottles of soda a day, then that’s not fair or healthy, and we should take responsibility for healing that aspect of our lives ourselves (possibly with help from other people) If the partner can be supportive, that’s great. But we shouldn’t try to make them into a soda machine. :)

        However, if our partner isn’t willing to help meet some of the emotional needs equivalent to healthy food (but we can’t get everything from one person obviously), then a well differentiated person wouldn’t be destroyed by that emotionally (even though they may very well be sad), their partner’s refusal wouldn’t make them feel like they’re worthless. The person could negotiate, explore solution etc, but if that doesn’t work, a well differentiated person would be able to leave the relationship, recognizing that they must give and receive healthy needs elsewhere. And if we’re not reacting like a well differentiated person, it’s our responsibility to help ourselves get there, if that’s what we want.

        I definitely recognize that humans have attachment needs and that no one (at least I don’t think so) couldn thrive on a deserted island alone forever. My bestie in a way functions as a shelter for me. I feel quite safe that even if I were to severely f*ck something up, she would still be there fore me. I think all of us needs someone like that. But if we attach that need onto one person, thinking htat I can’t live/thrive without that particular person’s love/acceptance (so we feel worthless if a friend/family member/partner treats us badly, that’s both untrue and not healthy.

        More thoughts? :)

        Cristine,

        Thank you very much! I too am interested in third options! If you wouldn’t mind, are there some third options you’ve been able to arrive at in your own life, or the life of people you know that you oould share?

        Like

      • linds01 says:

        Cristine and Donkey-

        First Cristine, I love your what I am going to call your “self care list.” It’s great that you were able to see clearly enough to establish these things in your life, and have the fortitude to enforce them. But, I am not sure if it really is opposed to what has been said on this blog. Women establishing and enforcing boundaries is alot of times THE key work that we need to do. That is a big part of what I have gleaned here. It’s a small point, but I was just curious as to how it’s different from what Matt and others here have suggested. Is it just that Matt speaks from a males perspective?

        I know it sounds like what I am saying is that the guy should give up his tickets. I’m really not, though. I tend to be a bit theoretical, and so think about ideas in the most universal sense. I know that it doesnt always apply, and context has alot to do with how things actually play out, but that is just how I tend to think. (I have to practice at being pragmatic- and, maybe foolishly, I have chosen a career that requires it. But, it sounded good theoretically :)..lol. )

        I would agree that if he doesnt care, well- you cant make someone, but you can certainly hurt yourself trying. He doesnt sound like he really wants to make that commitment, and that is very valid.
        My thought though, was that it is also a very common scenerio to see mal-adaptive behavior (manipulation in this case) , and immediately withdraw yourself from the situation.
        That could be said to be wise for your own personal protection. But, if you look at it further, likely the fear that causes the maladaptive behavior is going to be reinforced.
        By leaving the relationship the real issue doesnt get addressed and it actually gets reinforced.
        Not saying that it is his responsibility to be that person, but we have to realize that without relationship things like that dont get fixed. Of course she also needs to be willing to see that the behavior doesnt work and want to change it..
        But often in our society we see an issue and we bolt. If we were more differentiated then perhaps we could remain in the relationship, but not in a romantic sense.

        I really like what was said about differentiation not being separateness,
        And Donkey I loved your soda machine analogy.
        I would like to write more, but I’ve got to go.

        Hope to read and respond more when I get back!

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        Linds02, Donkey:. Bowen theory posits that people are attracted to people with their same level of differentiation. To use layman’s terms, a mature person can’t handle relationship with an immature person and won’t seek it out. Clingy people and distancing people tend to attract each other because they are alike in their differentiation level (they both cope unhealthily with anxiety), but they manage in different ways. A more integrated person would have too much self-respect to be with a poorly differentiated person for very long. This gets back to the core concept that the relationship is a system. If a person decides to work on his or her differentiation (remembering always that differentiation is not distance, but instead the ability to remain oneself in relationship ), then the other partner will be forced to do it as well. This blog is a huge example because as soon as Matt’s wife differentiated from the relationship by leaving, he was forced to become more differentiated himself. Of course you might consider that by leaving the relationship she was distancing, not differentiating, but from what I can tell they have a good co parenting relationship so it would seem that they are still in a sense “hanging in” with each other although not as enmeshed as before.

        Like

      • Cristine says:

        Linds01: one more thought… does the dude who has the tickets have any responsibility to help his girlfriend own her clinginess/attachment issues? Or can he even do that? Two personal rules of mine are: 1. You can’t change another person, you can only change yourself. And 2. Boundaries are where you stop and another person begins. She has to want to change. Otherwise it is just an enabling, codependent cycle where he tries to give her what she wants and she doesn’t have any reason to change. Again with the differentiation…all he has to do is say “I love you and want to remain in the relationship but I’m not willing to change my ticket setup. I understand if you have to leave because of this.” All he has done is state his boundary. He isn’t forcing her to leave. She gets to make the choice herself.

        Like

        • linds01 says:

          Hey Cristine,
          I think the only real responsibilities he would have would be to differentiate, as you suggest, but he also had an emotional reaction. I think he needs to communicate what his response was and why (if he knows) – that way there is an open door of communication. I agree that she is responsible for changing, but the issue isn’t the tickets, its that she tried to manipulate and if that is never discussed then there will just be continued scenerios just like the hockey tickets, only different. …Or, is that one of your points with differentiation?- that he differentiates, she either also does (without talking about the behavior) or she leaves the relationship.
          There would be no discussion about feelings/behaviors ?

          Like

      • linds01 says:

        Cristine,
        Just to be clear any discussion about his feeling would be in regards to her behavior.
        It’s really a discussion about her behavior, he is just adding how it affects him.
        Sort of like an intervention of sorts…

        Like

  13. linds01 says:

    *the thing I think we miss is that it isnt…

    Like

  14. linds01 says:

    I may not have written that very clearly…
    The vulnerability in relationships isn’t so that they would help support the problem, it is a way to help change the problem.
    The relationship is the place the vulnerability can take place.
    It’s where we can are loved and known, and be encouraged to work our stuff out.
    And, I’m kind of thinking nothing actually happens in the relationship unless there is that vulnerability.

    Like

  15. Jeff Strand says:

    The girlfriend is being a clingy, high-maintenance pain in the you-know-where. If anything, I think Matt’s friend bent over backwards for her way too much, in all those options he offered her.

    He should just tell her he had the arrangement for the tix before he met her, and it is what it is. She needs to find something else to do on the nights he goes with his buddy. He needs to be calm and controlled, but firm with this. Basically, put her in her place. If he does so, she will probably relent…and then love and respect him even more, since he showed some backbone and some balls and stood up to her.

    So honestly, it sounds like one big shit test on her part. He can either pass the test with flying colors by doing what i laid about above…or he can next her and move on to a chick who’s more low-maintenance and easier going. That’s up to him.

    The absolute worst decision would be to give in to her. At that point, she will lose much respect for him and start viewing him as weak and desperate. She will see him as a doormat, and will either bail on him or start cheating. She’s desperately hoping he’ll stand up to her and put her in her place, and if he doesn’t she’ll not only be vey disappointed…but she’ll take it out on him and he’ll be the one to pay the price.

    Anyway, my 2 cents.

    Like

  16. I respect your friend for being honest, better now, than later. Most people are not giving up their egoism, before they have a kid and then it is necessary to do. So better now.

    Like

  17. fromscratchmom says:

    I agree with you, Matt, in celebrating his honesty BEFFORE marriage and/or babies. You can’t be everything to someone else and you won’t end up successfully supporting that person in life, if they are not willing to give or even if they are but you don’t recognize where they give and are only see where they are asking you to give. Who knows? Even if she did have more on her side of that than showed in that specific story, she may not have enough self-awareness about her side of things and her emotions and boundaries. Plenty of us are guilty of that sort of thing sometimes.

    I love what Donkey said with this bit, “Her own insecurities that have nothing to do with your friend, or maybe she feels (rightly or wrongly) that she has compromised more than him in other scenarios, and now she’s trying to even the score, so that she can feel like he cares for her/accepts her influence as much as the other way around.

    I read a quote somewhere, that it doesn’t matter that much what you do, it matters how much consciousness you put into what you’re doing. I like that”

    In the scenario described, it is nice for that guy that his side looks right and fair and just to most people, and most seeing that are of course not the nasty sort to just go off insulting her. There are people who choose to have no empathy ever and no imagination ever. IF someone fits in that category please let them it show before permanence sets in from marriage and or baby making.

    It isn’t wrong to be sensitive and giving. They may have been happier if he’d been able to help her explore why she was making that demand, to get at whether or not there were other ways he might be wiling and able to help her feel safer and better loved. OR they have have been happier together if she had already known this for herself and had been able to show it more effectively for having known it. But any attempt to control her (as the classic cretins would suggest to have some balls and get respect for having no empathy or brain OR to fawn over her and let her control him would have gone badly.

    It isn’t wrong to be so sensitive and giving that you give stuff up for the other person but if the giving and the “accepting of influence” in the relationship is unbalanced it will likely be a misery for everyone eventually. Some sensitivity and some generosity is going to be necessary in the long run if you want to be successful as a lover, not so much if you are just a taker. Whoever you are, show it honestly and openly early and often!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Thanks for the compliment Fromscratchmom. :)

      “It isn’t wrong to be so sensitive and giving that you give stuff up for the other person but if the giving and the “accepting of influence” in the relationship is unbalanced it will likely be a misery for everyone eventually.”

      I agree.

      And also (and I’m not talking about people being a-holes who are being completely unreasonable in not accepting influence etc), people have legitimate differences in how much they legitimately want to give and receive to their partners, and in what areas etc. I think Brent Atkinson calls this independence first vs relationship first. Some will wish to compromise/give and take on a lot (person A will get involved in person B’s hobby, person B will get involved in person A’s hobby), while some will be perfectly fine with each of them doing their own thing.

      Not that giving and receiving can always be perceived so easily and neatly of course, which can be problematic, because people don’t always see or wish to see what their partner is giving to them (and this can in itself be a sign of a selfish and immature mindset, which we all have to some degree, but some much more than others). And so when their partner wants them to do something for/with them, they think that’s unreasonable, because they wouldn’t expect that same thing back. But they might very well be forgetting what the other person sacrifices for them. Letting them have their preference with food, home environment, where they live, sleep envoronment, how much time they spend with extended family etc.

      And if a couple is mismatched in this area and they want to stay together, I’d recommend both stretch to meet somewhere in the middle. That’s a fair accepting of influence. Not that fairness can always be measured objectively or is the only aspect of a relationship, but in my opinion, there needs to be a decent balance.

      Like

  18. JM says:

    I wish my ex had been honest with me — he cheated instead.

    I don’t like how the woman in the season ticket’s example was completely dishonest the whole conversation either. If she had to ‘admit’ something at the end, then she was not being honest! And what a selfish awful thing she wanted from him! I suspect she knew and that’s why she hid it.

    Not everyone should get married and have 2 kids and a house. I was totally up front in wanting that, my ex agreed to me about all the choices we made together and only later ‘admitted’ what was really going on in his head! WTF. I would never have had more kids or bought the bigger house, etc.

    I think like with the GF, he liked a lot of how we worked together. And he and I were highly compatible in a lot of ways. He didn’t want to lose that so he decided he would take other things he wanted that were completely a violation of me and our marriage, so that he could also enjoy me and our marriage. Except it doesn’t work out that way — if she hadn’t admitted her dishonesty it would have been a constant source of resentment in their relationship.

    Like

  19. MarriedButNotCrazy says:

    Holy unreasonable, she is crazy. I hope he escapes.

    Like

  20. Magpie says:

    This ->”the guy who secretly feels that way, marries someone he professes to love unconditionally but proceeds to spend 5-10 years with taking more than he gives before draining her spirit entirely, breaking a home, and maybe a few other things in the process.” My ex said something totally off the wall as my world was crumbling and I was trying to keep things together. I called him on it and he said he’d always felt that way/believed that and if he’d said something differently before, well everyone lies at the start of a relationship. I didn’t, but that explained why he didn’t believe what I told him about my most intimate thoughts, goals & wishes. Later, when I hadn’t been able to keep all the pieces together anymore, he said that he believed in our vows and that I obviously didn’t. But our vows were based on his lies about who he was. Sigh. I should have done more research, he was a diagnosed narcissist and I just didn’t understand what that meant.

    Like

  21. SapphireYagami says:

    um, no offense but no just no

    “In the end, she admitted that she wanted him to give up his season tickets with his buddy, and get new ones with her.”

    why does he have to give up his season tickets with his friends and get a whole set of new ones just for her? he offered her 3 different suggestions and she didn’t like any of them. Look, I never been in a relationship let alone had a date but I’m pretty sure he brought hte tickets to have his ‘guy time’ and its nice she likes the games too but he doesn’t have to go to every single game with which im guessing that why he has season tickets. What was so bad about her going to the game with her girls and just having ‘girl time’?

    if i am missing something then point it out

    Like

  22. gottmanfan says:

    “He said he felt deceived. She advertised herself as independent, he said. There were no signs of her feeling uncomfortable with the ebb and flow of their social lives and schedule for months. And then, something changed.

    And he has a choice to make: Compromise with her in a way that will satisfy both of them (toward which he believes he put a good-faith effort), or stand his ground knowing it could mean the end of their relationship.

    And he’s choosing standing his ground. To not compromise on something that will breed and foster resentful feelings inside him and poison his feelings toward her.”

    The way I interpret their relationship based on the post is that they have the classic avoidant/anxious pairing.

    Everything is good for a while because they are in the beginning stages of falling in love, lots of hormones that change behavior to be more a consisting, understanding more wanting to accomodate.

    “Something changed” as the post says because they are entering the next phase of a relationship where your natural differences emerge. How will you deal with those depends on whether you fear abandonment or not, or whether you fear engulfment ir not. Ideally you’d be in the happy middle but this story doesn’t tell that.

    Matt’s friend is a fear of engulfment person. He values being independent and doesn’t want to be paired with someone who will threaten that.

    His response to the hockey ticket issue showed he has a reasonable response to that situation. That shows a willingness to compromise that’s good. But his response to her “anxious/fear of abandonment” response shows his avoidant “maybe I’m just not cut out for commitment at all thought process”.

    A person in the healthy middle would see her anxious response for what it is and deal with it as is not overgeneralize to ALL relationships because he fears losing independence.

    And,of course, the girlfriend would deal with the hockey tickets in a different way too if she were in the healthy middle.

    Anyway, Matt said in the opening parts of the post that his friend reminds him of a typical “shitty husband” so undoubtedly there were things he was doing to trigger the girlfriends fear of abandonment prompting her to be unwilling to compromise of the hockey tickets in a reasonable way.

    All of this on both sides is unconscious, but it seems like the other person has changed from the person you began dating. No, it’s just the challenge of the next phase of relationship. Here we see two people with different forms of soothing relationship anxiety that clashes.

    They both need to work of their fears to get to a better middle space. It’s harder to work on them when paired with a person that constantly triggers you so ideally you’d get to a much healthier place before a new relationship.

    But I think a proper diagnosis is helpful. He’s afraid of an intimate relationship. That would be triggered even if she didn’t care about the hockey games.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cristine says:

      Also pursuer/distancer dance and underfunctioning/overfunctioning because she is “underfunctioning” emotionally (“but you MUST take meee!”) and he’s overfunctioning emotionally (“I don’t need this right now”).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        You and Gottman fan were destined to be friends. (That’s a good thing.)

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Yes! Sounds like I could learn a lot from Christine.

        PS. Matt, you sure you weren’t supporting your friend just to get into more hockey games? Ha!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          We don’t live near each other! No NHL in Cleveland!

          (I looked into your comment thing, and I see a long one from you, and it’s not in any sort of moderation queue. I think it’s posted, and you just didnt see it because my comments section functionality blows.)

          Like

  23. gottmanfan says:

    Hey Matt,

    I had a long comment that hasn’t shown up. I did have one link so maybe it ended up in moderation.

    Do me a favor and free it from moderation so I don’t have to type and copy and paste all that again to release my random theories into the world! You know how theories cheer me up and heal me. :)

    Like

  24. gottmanfan says:

    My first comment disappeared into the Internet black hole so this is a second shorter version.

    I am a huge fan of David Burn’s “tools not schools” approach to therapy models and tools. Everything that is useful should be understood and used to help people. Different tools roll he helpful to different people or on different circumstances.

    Burns highlights the tendencies of proponents to turn into cult like efforts with hard lines of “pure theolgy” only accepted.

    So that I find amusing and horrifying about your attachment vs differentiation debates. David Scnatch (who has a lot of really great ideas) is highly undifferentiated and reactive when discussing attachment theory (ala EFT therapy). So ironic that the guy who pushes differentiation and accepting differences can’t seem to apply it with a different model than his. But hey we’re all human right? Or maybe he just lacks a secure attachment with his mommy lol.

    I think both models have good things to say and can help to get a person or relationship on a healthier track. Obviously, you need to have both the ability to be an independent adult and have good interdependent skills. The models both say that but emphasize different pieces or the order of getting there etc.

    I find it helpful to read and try to apply pieces of a lot of different model. Obviously, depending on a person’s starting point, the emphasis of corrective action will be different.

    Lesson here for me is that “experts” are just as crazy as everyone else but that doesn’t mean they don’t have useful things to say.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      When I said “your attachment vs diffrrentiation debates” I meant in in general not the excellent comments on this blog post.

      Like

    • linds01 says:

      “…”experts” are just as crazy as everyone else but that doesn’t mean they don’t have useful things to say.” – Lol. Truth! …Their crazy is probably what drove them to be experts…:)

      Like

  25. gottmanfan says:

    Here’s an except from Ellyn Bader’s blog on the couples institute website about differentiation vs attachment theories. She has more of a differentiation focus but also recognizes integrating both theories.

    “I focus a lot on integrating the best of these two theories. Couples therapy is most effective when the therapist knows how to use both attachment and differentiation based interventions and conceptualizations.

    For so many couples, attachment and connection occurs easily at the beginning of the relationship, when all the endorphins in the brain are supporting the intensity of “falling in love”. However, sustaining love is much more difficult. Primary attachment patterns from early in life become increasingly dominant as partners hurt or disappoint each other.

    For example, a woman with an avoidant childhood attachment with her mother may become increasingly avoidant in her marriage as she feels hurt by her husband’s deep involvement with his work. She may shut him out of her social involvements or withdraw into internet chatting. An aloof distance will begin to infect the couple.

    In a vibrant, growing marriage, as time passes, partners begin to define their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. During this stage, too many couples encounter moments of deep disappointment with one another. Sadly, unfolding differentiation frightens many partners because it signals that “we are different”. This often triggers primitive anxiety – fear of being left or cast out. In their attempts to calm this anxiety, partners often try to inhibit growth in one another. They misinterpret their differences and become increasingly self-protective, using unsuccessful coping strategies such as blame, withdrawal and resentful compliance.

    This propels them headlong into a developmental dilemma. Their self protective mechanisms result in undermining differentiation in one another, and they devolve into pervasive conflict avoidance or serious angry escalating, hostile-dependent patterns. They are hurt and reeling from the effects of competition, brutal accusations, intermittent accountability, passivity, and too little time together. To overcome this we must be able to help partners develop resilience, manage their inevitable differences, and find solutions that incorporate both partners’ desires.”

    Her order is differentiate to achieve attachment. Sue Johnson’s and Gottman’s are securely attach to achieve differentiation. Of course, these are oversimplified since in you need both. Some people are more comfortable or find one model easier to work or more helpful with than others. “Tools not schools”.

    Like

    • Cristine says:

      I’m always wary of the “attach to differentiate model” because it flies apart in the face of abuse or death, or abandonment. How does a person “attach to differentiate” from a parent who is neglectful or a spouse who is abusive? And how do we cope with the inevitability of death if we use attachment as a springing off point for differentiation? The last few pages of Passionate Marriage are very moving because he talks about saying to your spouse, “you go first…I’ll be fine.”. Sounds macabre, but it is quite beautiful the idea of being able to appreciate the temporal reality of our relationships here on earth. I will admit I prefer gottman’s work on parent/child relationship rather than adult/adult relationship. I think he has a ton of great tips (like the idea of flooding and bids), but it seems less unified and more cobbled together IMO. His “raising an emotionally intelligent child” is a favorite parenting book of mine. I am a mother and believe in the value of secure attachment between parent and child because it supports healthy differentiation for my child when he is an adult having healthy relationships with other adults. But even as a mother it is my job to let go a little each day so that he can differentiate from me and learn that skill for future relationships. For a good theoretical book that elegantly unifies attachment and differentiation theories I like “getting the love you want” by harville Hendrix.

      Like

      • Cristine says:

        Oh also this gets into mindfulness and CBT. The general idea of differentiation is learning to circumvent the old brain and use the neocortex instead. Same as CBT and mindfulness, which are both scientifically valid therapeutic approaches I believe…

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Christine,

        It sounds like you’ve read quite a lot of books and resources! I wish I had more time to respond because you have lots of interesting experiences and have made major changes in your life. You go girl!

        To your point of how you attach to differentiate in an abusive relationship. You don’t. In the same way you can’t have a healthy relationship with a person who reuses to differentiate no matter how differentiated you are.

        I have relationships like this. You can try and be as heathy and loving with healthy boundaries as possible but if the other person doesn’t do the same, it’s a shallow relationship. Sadly, people often can’t or won’t choose the hard work of differentiating.

        Obviously you need both people to be willing and able to be both differentiated and attached to form a truly intimate relationship.

        The quote from Snarch is not opposed to attachment theory in my mind. Sue Johnson talks about getting strength from relationships even after death. You are ok BOTH because you love yourself and because you know you are/were loved. That’s how attachment can lead to differentiation even after a loved one dies.

        I do this as I’m sure others do. I have many memories of being loved by my dead grandmother and father. It’s a form of attachment bond that helps me be differentiated because I know I was loved by them. There is security in that even though they are no longer here.

        Of course, it’s always a nice bonus to have people who are alive too ;)

        But hey, that’s just my take. I get a lot out of both theories. I don’t see them as being at odds really. Bottom line is we all need to be both differentiated and intimately attached to others.

        How you do this might very well be different than me. Depending on personality, family background, life experiences, etc.

        Whatever works to get there is good IMHO. Tools not schools.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        Christine,

        Just a couple of extra thoughts.

        You said: “Oh also this gets into mindfulness and CBT. The general idea of differentiation is learning to circumvent the old brain and use the neocortex instead. Same as CBT and mindfulness, which are both scientifically valid therapeutic approaches I believe…”

        Mindfulness and CBT and psychoneurological approaches are also used in more attachment based models. Brent Atkinson for example uses Gottman’s research and adds many elements of mindfulness to retrain the biology and retraining thoughts through challenging assumptions etc.

        Gottman himself talks quite a bit about “flooding” and how to practically reduce the automatic responses that get us into irrational fight or flight modes. Everything from breathing, taking a break, monitoring your heart rate and using monitors to learn to reduce the response etc. And retraining our thoughts to assume good intentions so that differences can be expressed as productive complaints rather than criticism that will so often trigger defensiveness.

        Also Stan Tatkin’s major emphasis is on the biological responses and how to refocus them.

        These things (CBT, DBT, mindfulness techniques) are tools that are layered on top of the models. Both differentiation and attachment models use them.

        Like

  26. linds01 says:

    What I am writing below is a little raw and real. I had to write it. I feel like I need to share it. (the reasons for that may become obvious if you read). And, while I was going to share it on my own blog, I thought here would actually be more appropriate.

    When I was growing up my mom was in a long term relationship with a man who refused to be close.

    After an emotionally enmeshed and abusive relationship with my father, I could see how this was a welcomed change to my mother.

    For us children it has turned out to be a nightmare.

    He refused to be close. Even though they were in a long term monogamous relationship, they refused to commit to each other. They refused to say we are a family. There was never any “we’re in this together.” He refused to commit to us kids, and in a way- so did my mom.

    What ended up happening was she tried to straddle two different worlds.

    She was the steady and consistent girlfriend to this man, but was an inconsistent mother to my sister and I. Maybe she was inconsistent in both, I dont really know. But she was definitely inconsistent with us.

    What I grew up learning was that it was very important to be independent. It was bad to need to others. We should not count on anyone.

    This is something she learned as a child, and was reinforced in a bad marriage . This message was the banner that she lived by and handed down to us children.

    My need and requests for physical affection, even just holding her hand when I was nine, was met with criticism.

    My need for attention, help and guidance was not met.

    I grew up alone.

    This hurts. It hurts so much.

    I feel like I am in trapped in a reality of isolation. I bang on the glass that separates me from others, but it just does not get through. I still cant reach them, I cant touch them through the glass.

    Because I want my life to be different, I am reading a book “Wired for Dating.”

    It is really good so far. It goes into the neuro-biology of dating and relationships, and also deals with some attachment theory .

    It depends on who you ask -I have been identified both as being needy and being aloof.

    What it comes down to it, I think I am a wave trapped in an island.

    Again, I am sharing it here because it seems almost like an imperative that I share it, not keep it to myself.

    I am sharing it here because, ha! you cant really touch me.

    Sad, so sad…

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Lindsey,

      I wish I could touch you right now and give you a big hug!

      You are so brave to be so vulnerable. It breaks my heart to think of you as s little girl reaching out for love and being criticized for it.

      I’m glad you were able to form a close friendship with your best friend and her family and give and receive love from them. Although I know you long for other relationships too.

      Its great your are reading wired for dating. I really like Stan Tatkin’s approach. So much of our anxiety and avoidance becomes “hard wired” biological responses and automatic thought responses that we are not even aware of. But they can be improved and things can change.

      Lots of love to you Lindsey! I’ll be thinking if you today. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • linds01 says:

        Thank you to both of you guys. Rewireing is difficult work. That feeling of being trapped in a certain reality is huge. I’m so grateful that I can express it here, with you guys.
        Taking the day to process.
        Love,love,love :)

        Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      Lindsey, thank you for sharing!

      I’m sorry for all of this pain.

      “I feel like I am in trapped in a reality of isolation. I bang on the glass that separates me from others, but it just does not get through. I still cant reach them, I cant touch them through the glass.”

      I feel like this too, a lot of the time. Even when there is love in various forms in my life, it’s hard for me to receive it because of some sort of block. It’s getting better as I reduce the pain/fear the block consists of (by getting in touch with it, grieving, taking care of myself etc), but the block is still there, though smaller and weaker. And hopefully crumbling faster and faster. :p And it’s very painful to feel disconnected from yourself/life/other people/animals.

      So, I probably don’t know exactly how you feel, but for whatever it’s worth, I think i feel something similar.

      Like

  27. Jay says:

    I haven’t Been caught up on your posts so prepare for the binge liking! As usual you’re right about this sort of thing.

    Like

  28. “In the end, she admitted that she wanted him to give up his season tickets with his buddy, and get new ones with her.”

    (brrrrrrrrp)

    What?!? Where how why what HOW does that make any sense?

    It’s not like he bought, and held, season tickets with his ex. In that case, I might understand.

    I might suspect that the things that were “getting under his skin” were warning jolts from his subconscious alerting him to a Really Big Problem. Bullet, Dodged.

    That said, though – I see where you’re going here, and frankly, I’m seeing a similar issue with the hubs. I think. I suspect/fear that the person I’ve seen emerge in the last two years is the person he’s always been – a person he suppressed for the sake of the relationship. A person, had I known him, I likely would not have married.

    Be the real you, all the time and unapologetically. It will spare a lot of broken hearts, crushed dreams, and caustic disappointments.

    Like

  29. Zoey Sarafine says:

    This is a form of control – by the female. I’m an “independent” woman as well, and I have girlfriends who do this to their boyfriends or husbands or partners. It’s a form of control and power to control that if not nipped in the bud, will only escalate.

    Like

  30. jessicanexus says:

    I think you’ve got to be yourself and do things you enjoy for a relationship to work. He’ll have things he likes to do that she doesn’t, and vice versa. It’s okay to do things separate sometimes.

    Like

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