The Illusion of Incorrectness: The One Time Seeing the Other Woman Can Save Your Marriage

optical illusion old lady young lady

Surely, most of you have seen this famous optical illusion before. Many of us can see “both” women — the young woman facing the other direction, as well as the large-nosed old woman. But our brains tend to default to one or the other, forcing us to really “look” for the other perspective. Is it WRONG to see the young lady? Is it WRONG to see the old one? Two different conclusions, but NEITHER are incorrect. Both are right. This happens in life and marriage all the time, but we’re less quick to let others see what they see. We tell them they’re wrong. And then, sometimes, everything breaks. (Image/Gizmodo)

Megan wrote: “I posted your ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ article on FB and my one woman friend who always disputes the existence of sexism replied, ‘This wife could’ve learned that dishes in the sink actually isn’t an act of deep disrespect worthy of divorce just as easily as he understood she interpreted it that way despite his intention. I think he’s better off without her. Part of marriage is accepting small flaws rather than blowing them out of proportion. But I say this as someone who’s not a neat freak, nor married to a neat freak (thank God!).’ I’d be curious to hear your reply to that.”

I don’t think Bob Dylan’s music is all that great. I hear it and naturally don’t like it as much as music played by others.

I think shopping in retail stores on Black Friday is insane. I can’t save enough money to justify putting myself in the middle of those crowds.

I think bleu cheese makes everything taste worse. If I was kidnapped and starved by a gnarly hillside cave dweller who scraped a dead skunk off the road, ate it raw along with all of the bugs and grossness crawling on it, had a bowel movement, and then presented it to me as an alternative to a regular meal with crappy bleu cheese sprinkled all over it, I’d have a difficult decision to make.

But people like bleu cheese. A lot.

Black Friday is, I think, the second-most-popular shopping day of the year.

And Bob Dylan’s an absolute legend. I think we all can agree that on the Great Musicians Totem Pole, Dylan ranks considerably higher than Twenty One Pilots, GZA, or The Decemberists, yet the latter are all in my phone and listened to semi-regularly. I don’t hear much Dylan unless I’m somewhere and classic rock is being played.

I got caught up the other day reading a monstrous comment thread on Facebook underneath a Tasty video where a macaroni and cheese recipe called for cottage cheese.

People lost their minds. Some called cottage cheese an abomination. Others said they loved it.

Was anyone right?

The Worst Thing We Do In Relationships

Think about your life for a moment.

You are born. And then you have all of these individual experiences, feelings, educational opportunities (formal or otherwise) and emotional responses to things based on your specific makeup combined with all of those life things.

Now, whenever anything happens to you, you respond accordingly.

When you see a car driving on the street, you probably don’t think anything of it.

If a member of an indigenous Peruvian tribe living in the wilderness saw one, maybe they’d freak out like Brendan Fraser’s caveman character in Encino Man when he saw his first garbage truck.

Total indifference to a passing car AND being blown away by seeing a car — a machine you didn’t know existed — driving by for the first time are equally reasonable responses in context.

It would be weird if a 30-year-old American living in suburbia freaked out when a car drove by.

It would be weird if a person who had never seen a complex machine before paid no attention to a passing automobile.

But when we have the whole story (and we NEVER have the whole story), we understand why someone else responded differently to something than we would.

People draw upon their background and experiences to interpret information.

Everyone you meet will like you so much more, and you’ll be able to grow meaningful connections with them if you DO NOT trash and invalidate their memories and experiences just because they’re different than yours.

This exact same phenomenon happens in each and every one of our relationships up and down the spectrum, from parents and siblings, to friends and coworkers, to our kids and romantic partners.

I am divorced today for many reasons, but I think this is the biggest one:

I never honored, respected or demonstrated any real effort to understand my wife’s individual thoughts, feelings and life experiences during disagreements.

The patience and compassion I would grant to the tribesman in awe of seeing modern civilization for the first time, I denied my spouse. And I honestly don’t even know why, and can only guess it must have felt more difficult to agree with her and I have a nasty habit of choosing “the easy way.”

And here’s the REALLY scary part — I was honest, self-assured and felt confident I wasn’t doing anything wrong each and every time I did so.

I was doing one of the worst things a person can ever do to a loved one, and I was doing so without one shred of remorse because I didn’t know any better.

After doing so enough times, the worst thing that ever happened to me happened and I never saw it coming.

I was so certain of my opinions and personal preferences throughout most of my life that I thought I was doing my wife and other people a favor by challenging theirs. Like, if they just start doing things MY way, imagine how much happier their lives will be!

And even though I think it’s an asshole move, I think I still involuntarily do it almost every day in moments big and small.

That Certainness Will End Your Marriage

Here’s what I think most of us do. We think:

1. I’m of sound mind and body. I’m not insane. My choices and beliefs make sense.

2. That other person is saying that X made them angry or sad or embarrassed. But I experience X all the time, and it doesn’t make me angry or sad or embarrassed.

3. Because my choices and beliefs make sense, this other person disagreeing with them must be wrong.

It makes perfect sense that we do this. Which is why it’s so scary that it’s at the heart of virtually every human conflict in global history.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Anaïs Nin, author

We don’t have time to go over EVERY imaginable life scenario. Surely, there are times where facts and evidence should sway reasonable people toward certain conclusions.

But on matters which are CLEARY subjective — “That movie sucked,” or “Vegan meals taste amazing,” or “When the person I love repeatedly chooses to play video games or watch football alone rather than touch me or spend time together, it HURTS badly” — the future of marriage and healthy human relationships across the board is dependent on our ability to let people own those opinions and feelings, even when they clash with ours.

Everyone who isn’t an exact clone of ourselves with our super-specific set of emotional reactions, habits, beliefs and life experiences, might react in ways we don’t expect to something we do or say. They might enjoy things we don’t, or want to avoid things we want to do.

And if you tell that person that they are WRONG, or MISTAKEN, or FLAWED, or STUPID, or CRAZY, or otherwise INCORRECT because they don’t arrive at the identical conclusions that you have, you’re going to wreak havoc and dysfunction in all of your relationships.

That means, anytime you surround yourself with confident, boundary-enforcing, authentic people who care about you enough to always tell you the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, and you have a disagreement with them, it’s going to end with one or both of you walking away, perhaps causing irreparable harm.

And maybe there are people out there who thrive in isolation, but it’s my observation that the quality of our human relationships tends to dictate how good and pleasant, or how shitty and miserable, our lives are.

Megan asked me for my response to the woman who suggested my wife could have adjusted just as easily to my behavior and thoughts, as she expected me to do to hers.

The woman said I’m “better off without her.”

At the risk of putting words in this total stranger’s mouth, I think this woman said the equivalent of: “Because the husband’s feelings were just as valid as the wife’s feelings, and she failed to recognize it, this guy should be happy that he’s now divorced and only sees his son half of the time, because I can tell from this one metaphorical story that she is more trouble than she’s worth.”

In one Facebook comment, a stranger dismissed the value of my family and marriage because she disagreed with the premise of my blog post, or perhaps objected to her friend Megan liking and sharing it.

Make of that what you will.

We’re all a little bit blind, or at least colorblind, to the world as it really is.

We can’t know what we don’t know, and that’s nobody’s fault.

But once we KNOW, it becomes our job to stay AWARE.

Don’t forget. Remember. Every day:

Other people are different. My spouse is different.

They are not wrong or crazy. They simply arrived at a conclusion different from mine, and in the context of their entire life story, it makes PERFECT sense that they did.

I want to be friends with them.

I want to have good relationships.

I don’t want my family to break because I was an unaware asshole worsening each and every problem.

And then we go to work trying hard to understand WHY the people we know and love believe things different from us.

In the end, we become smarter and stronger. And we have great friendships.

And I think, just maybe, we have the kinds of marriages we set out to have when we first say “I do.”

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59 thoughts on “The Illusion of Incorrectness: The One Time Seeing the Other Woman Can Save Your Marriage

  1. “The patience and compassion I would grant to the tribesman in awe of seeing modern civilization for the first time, I denied my spouse. And I honestly don’t even know why…”

    Matt, may I suggest that this is something inherent to many men? I cannot dismiss it as just simple sexism, either, I mean a genuine biological inability to relate to women as full human beings without some intense effort on their part? Women can come to empathize with men rather easily, but men, oh no, they really struggle, often from this really defensive, protective stance. Harsh words, but that’s what it looks like a lot to me, so many men unwilling to perceive women as fully human.

    My husband had nine sisters, and he really likes women, which is part of the reason why I married him. But you don’t see that in a lot of men, you often see fear, defensiveness, insecurity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Matt says:

      I totally agree.

      Despite my best efforts to move away from couching things through the prism of “Men Do This, and Women Do That,” I think it’s clearly observable that women more often display skill and competency in the gray areas of opinion differences and empathy than men tend to.

      I didn’t always know what to call certain things, but this goes to the heart of my general feelings that men accidentally ruin their marriages more often than women do.

      It’s not a gender thing for me. I’m not saying they do it BECAUSE they’re men.

      I’m saying more men than women do it.

      That said, I think independent of gender, all people struggle with stepping outside of their own thoughts and experiences sometimes to see another’s perspective.

      Join ANY political conversation in America right now to see that fully on display.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. J11 says:

    Thank god I’m not married to a neat freak. BUT my husband tends to leave things undone, such as not closing cabinet doors, leaving lights on, moving things about and not putting it back in its place, leaving empty pop cans wherever. I mean the list goes on. And yes, I have very often felt so frustrated, angry believing he thinks it is someone eles’s responsibility to clean up after him, and how dare him.

    Honestly, after all the years with him, I now believe he doesn’t recognize his messes and is just absent-minded with some things, yet lazy approach to other things. I make my own messes, BUT I clean up after myself, always. Never do I expect anyone to clean up after me, ever. I love him and totally accept his “flaws”, likewise, he accepts mine. It’s not worth blowing things out of proportion.

    But let me tell you, when we have disagreements and things get heated, we both toss around the “yer such a slob”, or “oh yeah! well how ’bout that “room” you now affectionately refer to as YOUR hamper room, huh?”. It’s actually kinda funny, and then we laugh about it.

    Matt, seriously for whatever reason your wife took off, if it was because of all those little things that add up, just let it go. Would you take her back if she knocked on your door saying “I made a mistake hunzy bunz, and I want you back”? I think after all the time that has passed and all the insights you have gained, I doubt you would be better off taking her back. No way! But that’s my opinion.

    I realize that my little input here is not really the point to your post at all, but damn, I just had to address it. Love ya!

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      J11,

      I’m more on the neatfreak side of the spectrum (though I really think I’m quite moderate, but could be kidding myself obviously). I must admit that it’s quite hard for me to not see my way as more “right” than the way of the lovely slobs of the world.

      I’m trying to change that though, so you’d really be doing me a favour if you could explain what’s good about your style, and what would be awful about being married to a neat freak. :)

      My neat freaky-perspective. Isn’t it so much nicer when things are tidy? And even if people don’t care about that, only from an efficiency perspective, it can save so much time and stress to have a well organized place! You know where you can find things, you don’t trip over stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

      • J11 says:

        Here’s the thing. I am a neat freak to my own degree in comparison to most-of-the-time-sloppy husband, and I’m fairly certain I surpass most people in my own circle on the neatness spectrum. But living with someone who is roughly the opposite side of the spectrum, well… I’m forced to strike the balance. I submit that I have, from time to time, given myself permission to take a vacation from the tidiness just because I want to see how long it takes before he might FINALLY see the mess (his mess) that I clean up every day. Doesn’t last very long. I get depressed. So, I clean. And that’s perfectly ok with me. I think about when I was young and my mother insisted we clean up after ourselves, wash our clothes and be mindful of other people’s space, etc. I would see my brother’s bedroom and the cringe-worthly moments would quickly fade to, “eh whatever, he’ll get to it”.

        Yes, I am a neat freak in my own way. I accept that my husband will likely never be neat, ever. Never gonna happen. I love him regardless. And, I really don’t mind cleaning up after him…most of the time.

        Like

        • Donkey says:

          Thanks for getting back to me!

          I’m wondering though, if you’re kind of a neat freak yourself, why would you hate being married to one? :p

          You said: ” I think about when I was young and my mother insisted we clean up after ourselves, wash our clothes and be mindful of other people’s space, etc. I would see my brother’s bedroom and the cringe-worthly moments would quickly fade to, “eh whatever, he’ll get to it”.”

          I don’t think I quite get what you’re trying to say. Is it that your brother’s bedroom was messy but since it was his space you didn’t care? Or that you didn’t care because you know your mother would/could make sure he cleaned it up? Or is it that you think that your mother wasted a lot more energy than she should/could have on making sure everything was cleaned and tidied up? Or something else?

          Just trying to understand. :)

          Like

          • J11 says:

            I grew up in Chicago (not that it is even relevant) and there were strict rules applied in raising ‘the family”. Back then, the phrase “neat freak” would invoke the image of some over-zealous, extreme nit-picky type that literally picks up your crumb as soon as you bite the cookie while asking you to lift your feet so they can sweep. It was not uncommon to see clear plastic covers over a sofa. So it was just a saying that “she’s a neat freak” would conjure up those images. It reminds me of the saying “yard nazi”, you know the neighbor who constantly grooms his lawn and wants to groom your lawn too.

            I wouldn’t want to be married to “neat freak” in that sense. :) That’s all.

            Like

        • Donkey says:

          You say you usually don’t mind cleaning up after him. Would you say that, other than that, your relationship is fairly balanced when it comes to the overall workload (which would, to me, make sense of why you don’t mind so much cleaning up after him)? Or is it that you don’t mind because it just isn’t a big deal to you, or he gives a lot in other areas so you think it evens out? Or something else?

          I’m just curious, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to answer. :)

          Like

          • J11 says:

            I would say yes. You seem to understand. So, he’s my best friend and that’s Ok that he’s kinda messy. I’ve come to accept that not everyone is as neat. I’ve been known to start the cleaning up and dishes as a guest. I get the weird look sometimes, and the “awe, shucks! you don’t have to do that”. I take my shoes off when entering someone’s home. That just carried over from my youth and how we were taught.

            Like

      • nights7 says:

        Donkey,
        I know you were specifically asking J11 but perhaps I can give you some insight.

        I’m basically the anti-thesis of a neat freak. I do appreciate cleanliness but picking up is far from my top priority and I am more comfortable with a certain level of disarray. As a middle school aged kid I shared a room with my older sister who is extremely orderly. She color coded her school work by classes and kept it in alphabetical order…for fun! Things out of place drove her insane while I was more of a messy pile person than a folded-laundry-in-drawers person. She needed extreme order to think and function best but to me that felt like a sterile environment, not conducive to comfort and creativity. The two of us sharing a small space was really not fun. Our brains work very differently. Hers is a well laid out, precise and clearly labeled Excel spreadsheet while mine is more like one of those web plots with bubbles of loosely connected data and ideas scattered all over the page. I don’t notice the mess or realize how bad it is until I’m literally tripping over stuff and despite the appearance of chaos I tend to know where things are most the time. Anyhow, hope that helps.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donkey says:

          Thanks Nights7! :)

          “She needed extreme order to think and function best but to me that felt like a sterile environment, not conducive to comfort and creativity”.

          So, if theoretically speaking the amount of work for you would be the same, you’d still prefer to live with your level of mess rather than your sister’s?

          Like

          • Travis B. says:

            Donkey said, “So, if theoretically speaking the amount of work for you would be the same, you’d still prefer to live with your level of mess rather than your sister’s?”

            Not to force myself uninvited into the conversation, but in what context could the amount of work between these two conditions ever be the same? It never takes the same level of effort to allow disorder than to maintain order.

            I will say, as someone who is typically more comfortable with a level of let’s say “minor mess” than meticulous order (the latter representing environments that, for me, do not offer a welcoming or comfortable quality), that for me, the amount of work necessary to keep things in order is always more draining than the “pick me up” I’m supposed to get from the end result. This is something my wife and I always go round and round about after a spring cleaning. She: “Oh, but don’t you feel so much better now that it’s done?” Me: “Not nearly as good as I would have felt by spending the day reading, watching TV and napping.”

            Liked by 2 people

            • Donkey says:

              Travis, Nights7,

              Sorry if I’m not expressing myself clearly enough.

              I was trying to take the workload out of the equation all together, because I’m trying to find out if someone prefers a more messy place to a clean one even if, in a hypothetical scenario there’s no more work involved.

              So Travis, you may be right that there’s more work involved in keeping a place orderly and clean, but I was trying to remove that factor all together.

              I’m basically trying to get someone to confirm that some people really do prefer a more messy place to an orderly one, just as a personal preference, when workload is not a factor.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Travis B. says:

                I would say I’d prefer an immaculate, orderly place to a totally junked out one (there were times where my house looked like a bomb went off in it during its recent renovations, and it actually made me very depressed and irritable), but I would prefer an environment that had some minor disorder in it–a place that looked a little “lived in”–to either, because while the immaculate environment may be visually appealing, it isn’t physically welcoming or comfortable.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Donkey says:

                  Thanks Travis!

                  Like

                  • Travis B. says:

                    You’re welcome. But did that help? If so, how?

                    Like

                    • Donkey says:

                      It helped a little bit, in that it shows that some people do prefer “an environment that had some minor disorder in it–a place that looked a little “lived in”–to either, because while the immaculate environment may be visually appealing, it isn’t physically welcoming or comfortable”

                      I think I actually would agree with you on your preference here. In all honesty, it would be more helpful if someone could honestly say that they prefer an environment with more than some minor disorder in it. 8)

                      Like

                    • Travis B. says:

                      Well, that would be a hoarder and eww. To coin a Jeff Strand phrase with which I recently took umbrage, that would literally be “trashy”.

                      Like

          • nights7 says:

            Yes. Well, maybe slightly neater than the current state of mess I live in but definitely not as orderly as many people prefer.

            Like

  3. Eric says:

    I’m really struggling with these two paragraphs:

    And if you tell that person that they are WRONG, or MISTAKEN, or FLAWED, or STUPID, or CRAZY, or otherwise INCORRECT because they don’t arrive at the identical conclusions that you have, you’re going to wreak havoc and dysfunction in all of your relationships.

    That means, anytime you surround yourself with confident, boundary-enforcing, authentic people who care about you enough to always tell you the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, and you have a disagreement with them, it’s going to end with one or both of you walking away, perhaps causing irreparable harm.

    I totally agree with the first, but don’t see how the second follows. I value the character traits of the second-paragraph person; I think they are objectively healthy. Those are the people who I want around me. But I don’t necessarily see those people as the type to commit all of the first-paragraph offenses. What am I missing?

    For myself, I have had plenty of these moments in my marriage. I tend toward the former judgments: wrong and mistaken, and have never said (or even believed) that she is flawed, stupid, or crazy. We had a disagreement about this dynamic last week. She told me that she “can tell” when I’m thinking one of those things, that I don’t need to say the words. I granted that I’m not in such control of my non-verbals that I can prevent the thoughts from being revealed on my face…which, in the moment, I’m trying to keep blank.

    My point: I want to give her the space and grace to be her authentic self, and when that collides with my own differing perspective, the most I can often muster is neutrality, a tame acknowledgment that she has shared a thought. I get how that’s *not good enough* and I do look for opportunities to share a common perspective. But it’s my own authenticity that prevents me from providing a ringing endorsement of, ahem, “wrong” thoughts.

    In our conversation, I said that I truly don’t know how to respond in these moments. I know there’s a problem, and I own it. When I suggested that I was confident she didn’t want me to humor her by “going along,” she said, “Well, maybe I do.” Oy! She was “half kidding,” but only half. She wants deep affirmation in places that I struggle to go.

    “Just do it anyway,” I hear her–and others–saying. “Fake it until you make it,” you know? I have been hoping to find the place where both “sides” can live in generous acceptance, not just in begrudging stalemates.

    Thanks again for a provocative post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Hey Eric. Pretty great comment. Thank you.

      To be clear, I don’t believe authentic, healthy, boundary enforcers have too many dysfunctional relationships, or tell their friends and loved ones that they’re wrong or stupid or crazy.

      I think sometimes, when we mess up, we might suggest that someone we care about is wrong or stupid or crazy, and IF they are the kind of people I believe we should aspire to be — a person with enough self-confidence and self-respect to address uncomfortable disagreements — that we risk losing their friendship if we’re going to care more about “being right” than the health and welfare of the relationship itself.

      When we talk about this stuff, we paint with broad-stroke brushes. At least, I write that way.

      I cannot and will not opine on your specific relationship, nor would I ever presume to understand what makes your wife who she is, what makes you who you are, and why certain events or conversations trigger disagreement between you.

      This is less helpful to the people in tune with concepts like empathy than the majority of people who don’t have a clue that other people fundamentally experience the world differently than they do, because it’s insanely hard to get out of our own heads.

      I would generally say that husbands and wives repeatedly willing to work to see the others point of view, and who talk through things with mutual respect and a commitment to choose love and choose the marriage over “winning” an argument, can always survive.

      I think humans will ALWAYS disagree. I think we’ll ALWAYS have adverse emotional reactions when people do.

      I also believe in the Five Year Rule.

      “Will this matter in five years?”

      No.

      “Cool. Then it doesn’t matter.”

      The argument is not likely to matter in five years.

      The marriage? That always will.

      Super-grateful for you taking time to read and comment, Eric. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Eric says:

        Yeah, man. My own introspection is crippling at times. When I read stuff like this, it really kicks it into gear, and the endless analysis begins. This isn’t at all on you, because–as you said–you’re not talking about MY marriage…but I have to be careful not to take posts like this as a personal indictment: “How the hell does he know exactly what happens in my house?”

        Wouldn’t the attitude you’ve written about improve our societal discourse? The lack of this perspective is one thing that makes our two-party system so infuriating.

        “That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard!!!”
        “Wait, what? The other team thought of it?”
        “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard!!! You’re WRONG and MISTAKEN and FLAWED and STUPID and CRAZY and INCORRECT!!!”

        BTW I flipping love bleu cheese.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Donkey says:

      Eric,

      “For myself, I have had plenty of these moments in my marriage. I tend toward the former judgments: wrong and mistaken, and have never said (or even believed) that she is flawed, stupid, or crazy. We had a disagreement about this dynamic last week. She told me that she “can tell” when I’m thinking one of those things, that I don’t need to say the words. I granted that I’m not in such control of my non-verbals that I can prevent the thoughts from being revealed on my face…which, in the moment, I’m trying to keep blank.”

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing a great job! On the other hand, humans are very perceptive to attitude. Maybe you good folks could discuss some loaded things via email, maybe even on the phone could work, so no one has to see and be negatively effected by their partner’s attitude showing how wrong they thing thee other person is. And no one has to compromise their authenticity by trying to show that they think something that they don’t think (especially when they’re exercising the discipline of not saying that out loud, rolling their eyes etc).

      I think Brent Atkinson has said that as long as your words/attitude convey that you think there’s a possibility that the other person could be rigth, that can go a long way.

      So maybe you could remind yourself of the ways you’ve been wrong before in your life, when you thought you were right. You can ask yourself if, in this infinite universe, is there’s a possibility that you may be wrong and your wife is right? Or at least that there’s a possibility she could be just as right as you? Is it possible there are other reasonably sane, intelligent people who feel/think the way your wife does? Maybe that could authentically change your attitude somewhat. :)

      If you’re interested, here’s Brent Atkinson on legitimate differences:

      http://www.thecouplesclinic.com/pdf/F-Core_Differences_in_Ways_of_Maintaining_Emotional_Stability-Legimimately_Different_Ways_of_Navigating_Life.pdf

      Liked by 2 people

      • Eric says:

        I don’t know if I should cheer or cry at reading that doc. It’s so relevant and so applicable…but my wife and I are legit mismatched on EVERY one of those continuums. I suppose I’ll be encouraged for now; it’s not like I’m surprised.

        I am happy to see an explanation for the “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NAIL!” reality of our lives, and I’ll look for opportunities to put this knowledge into practice.

        Thanks for your input!

        Like

        • Donkey says:

          You’re welcome!

          Brent Atkinson has some really good stuff.

          As to you and your wife.. I’m sure you’re well matched in other areas! Political/religious views maybe? :) Kids or no kids?

          Best wishes for your marriage!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Matt says:

            I just finished reading that too, Donkey.

            Really, really, really good stuff.

            I feel like I have a solid handle on most of it, but it really opened my eyes to how conflicting styles in certain areas don’t just conflict, but actively prevent the partner’s natural style from occurring.

            Huge problems.

            That entire document summed up my marriage.

            The question I’m left with is:

            Are we WIRED to react these ways, and we just have to accept that some people do things one way while everyone else does things the other?

            Or, through education and mindfulness, can we learn to adapt some of the styles of others?

            Simply be being aware of things I am now aware of today vs. 5-10 years ago, I respond differently (more appropriately, I’d argue) to things than I once did.

            When we UNDERSTAND things. When we have lots of information and see things as they really are, we have less anxiety and questions, and I think as a result, behave in ways that bring people closer together, and avoid behaviors that drive people apart.

            The Atkinson document is rad. I need to bookmark that.

            Like

            • Donkey says:

              Thanks Matt!

              It was Gottmanfan (what a shock right) who first brought my attention to Brent Atkinson, so credit goes to her for that.

              I think as we learn and really get that other people often aren’t wrong in approaching life differently, that will help us be more flexible. That can be a long journey though. :)

              And as we mature and heal as people, we can learn to tolerate more of the opposite style, and not to treat it as wrong. The differences are basically different ways people regulate their nervous systems/emotional wellbeing, so it makes sense to me that when we heal/grow, our emotional selves/our nervous systems becomes calmer and/or more flexible.

              I think that’s what Brent Atkinson basically says. Learn that the other way isn’t wrong, grow and heal so that you can meat somewhere in the middle. And if only you are willing to meet in the middle, learn how to stand up for yourself respectfully, to maximize your chances of having your partner cooperate.

              By the way, assuming bad intentions is a faux pas, according to Brent Atkinson, just like concluding that your partner is wrong when it’s really just a legitimate difference (like the dishes thing) is a faux pas. So that was something for me to ponder! :)

              Liked by 1 person

              • Eric says:

                I’m feeling wistful about our courting phase: dinners and flowers and making out and snuggling and movie-watching and boundless longsuffering. Longsuffering? There was nothing to “suffer” because all was bliss!

                My six-week premarital class left me woefully unprepared; this is all my pastor’s fault. I needed a bit more Brent Atkinson and a bit less “Intended for Pleasure.”

                One dynamic–a la Atkinson–that I’ve noticed in my marriage is that the more strict-seeming wiring (me, in all cases) usually gets the shaft. I’m too OCD. I’m too inflexible. I’m too angry. I’m too peevish. I’m too uptight. I’m too aloof. I’m too independent. I’m too direct. The “softer” orientation (her, in all cases) wants a pass. She didn’t mean to. She meant well. She wants everyone to be happy. She’s being patient. She’s empathetic. She cares more about people than she does about stuff. The terms often feel pretty unbalanced.

                Speaking of questions that we’re left with…and this one’s rhetorical: How much of this Atkinson stuff is man/woman, husband/wife, Mars/Venus? And don’t even get me started on the Five Love Languages. Ugh. Why can’t my marriage be like the movies? Why can’t we be Brangelina? Oh, wait. Scratch that last one.

                Liked by 2 people

                • Donkey says:

                  “One dynamic–a la Atkinson–that I’ve noticed in my marriage is that the more strict-seeming wiring (me, in all cases) usually gets the shaft. I’m too OCD. I’m too inflexible. I’m too angry. I’m too peevish. I’m too uptight. I’m too aloof. I’m too independent. I’m too direct. The “softer” orientation (her, in all cases) wants a pass. She didn’t mean to. She meant well. She wants everyone to be happy. She’s being patient. She’s empathetic. She cares more about people than she does about stuff. The terms often feel pretty unbalanced.”

                  Hah! I would be more like you than your wife I think, so I can empathize with you quite well, I think. That’s part of what has bothered me about some of the shitty-husband behaviour that Matt has been so generous to lay out for us all to learn from. The focus on having good intentions. She wants dishes in the dish washer – she’s a nag/unreasonable. She wants to meal plan – she needs to chill out. (Sorry Matt, these examples aren’t meant to be personal attacks, I just lacked the imagination to think of something else). It’s definitely a faux pas, according to Atkinson to label your own preference in these things as better/more moral/nicer etc.

                  But then again, the more “softer” orientation can often be judged (even internally) by the harsher partner as slobs, immature, irresoponsible, lazy, inconsiderate, needy, wrong… No?

                  Brent Atkinson talks about how disagreement-related offenses are usually pretty evenly divided, it’s just that the partners usually employ different ones. And because of the different wiring (whether from nurture or nature) you aren’t as sensitive to the ones you use against your wife and vice versa, so each person don’t see how they’re failing to be a nice partner. (if I remember what I read correctly).

                  “Why can’t we be Brangelina? Oh, wait. Scratch that last one.”

                  Hehehe!

                  “How much of this Atkinson stuff is man/woman, husband/wife, Mars/Venus?”

                  I know you said it was rhetorical, but I’ll answer anyway. 8) Brent Atkinson’s stuff is refreshingly (to me anyway) gender neutral. I’m female and I relate more to what you say, and I honestly think the differences can go both ways. But I know there are male/female tendencies.

                  Good talking with you Eric!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Eric says:

                    I’m not sure how to exist in this space: a healthy, mutually respectful, edifying comment thread! Where’s the snark? Where’s the passive aggression? Where are the death threats?

                    Great input, and unexpectedly helpful…not unexpected because of you, who I don’t know, but just that it’s happened at all!

                    Of course you’re right that I judge the hell out of my wife all the time, with all the epithets you’ve listed. But it’s in the subsequent discussions where the deeper stuff is revealed: I acknowledge and apologize for my judgments against her, and she quickly gets over it…but rarely validates my assessments of her being judgmental toward me.

                    I realize all of this sounds so petty. I sound like one (or, um, all) of my kids who perpetually blame the others while avoiding their own responsibility. Because the opinions of random internet people matter to me, let me say that I’m a bigger man than that.

                    I appreciate the safe space to talk through this stuff. It truly is a matter of (marriage) life and death, and I take it that seriously. If you people keep contributing, I’ll have to start paying you $120 an hour out of pocket, since I’m sure my insurance company won’t allow me to code these chat sessions as therapy.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Matt says:

                      “If you people keep contributing, I’ll have to start paying you $120 an hour out of pocket, since I’m sure my insurance company won’t allow me to code these chat sessions as therapy.”

                      What do you mean by “you people”? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ERIC???

                      Death threats seem unlikely, but I’m sure we can muster up snark, passive aggressiveness, and some good old-fashioned childish and asshole-like insults, if you’re doubting that this is actually the internet.

                      This is totally the internet.

                      We can start sharing offensive Harambe memes at your leisure.

                      (In all seriousness, if you somehow find value here — presumably by the brilliant and thoughtful contributions of others, and not by my immaturity RE: feces vs. bleu cheese — it seems worth saying that I’m happy to read that. Your marriage and family matters. To me. And to some unknowable amount of other people tuning in. Thank you for sharing vulnerable pieces of your private life in the interest of trying to improve the lives of your wife and family. I can never express how meaningful it is to me that you’d do that here. Thank you.)

                      Here’s to you, your marriage, and your family, sir. It’s inspiring to see you fighting for it.

                      Only prayers and good thoughts for you and your family.

                      (And $120/hr. invoices and snark. Obviously.)

                      Like

                    • Donkey says:

                      Aww, thanks Eric!
                      Yes, Matt’s comment section can be pretty great. :) It was pretty shocking to me the first few times I participated here in disucssions with folks I even disagreed with, and everyone was all polite and civil.

                      You said: “But it’s in the subsequent discussions where the deeper stuff is revealed: I acknowledge and apologize for my judgments against her, and she quickly gets over it…but rarely validates my assessments of her being judgmental toward me.

                      I realize all of this sounds so petty. I sound like one (or, um, all) of my kids who perpetually blame the others while avoiding their own responsibility. Because the opinions of random internet people matter to me, let me say that I’m a bigger man than that.”

                      This does not sound petty to me at all, and I can relate quite well I believe. One of the things that I’m having trouble with accepting in my own growth journey, is that the skill of standing up for myself without making a big deal out of it (Brent Atkinson again), is a must, the same way being willing to compromise is a must. I don’t like that AT ALL!!!!, but who am I to argue with Brent Atkinson? 8)

                      So, I’d suggest that you’re maybe also somewhat lacking in the skill of standing up for yourself respectfully? Which causes you to be resnetful and think that your wife is selfish etc, which is not good for relationships, even if you never say it.

                      Brent Atkinson also talks about how to react effectively when your partner assigns more overall blame to you (maybe this is relevant to the apologizing situation). Now, this is a faux pas, no doubt about it! But apparently, people who achieve mutually respectful relationships know that this may happen, and they must know how to react effectively. So ideally you’d:
                      1. Acknowledge, as you do, that you have done something wrong, and apologize.

                      2. But then you add (calmly, without making a big deal of it, and that’s easier said than done) that from where you stand though, your wife also has done some things wrong. You should be able to list some examples when it’s appropriate.

                      3. Let it go. You can’t force your wife to apologize, you have acknowledged your part and have also stood up for yourself respectfully. This, combined with the other relationship skills Atkinson talks about, will maximize your chances of having a relationship where this doesn’t happen a lot.

                      I promise I’m not affiliated with him. :p

                      Atkinson’s stuff is awesome! Totally clear and super practical. But yeah, it requires a lot of maturity and emotional resilience to be able to pull it off.

                      Liked by 1 person

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Eric,

                  You said: “Speaking of questions that we’re left with…and this one’s rhetorical: How much of this Atkinson stuff is man/woman, husband/wife, Mars/Venus? And don’t even get me started on the Five Love Languages. Ugh. Why can’t my marriage be like the movies? Why can’t we be Brangelina? Oh, wait. Scratch that last one.”

                  http://thecouplesclinic.com/resources/books

                  My husband and I are using Atkinson’s ebook to work in our marriage. It really is a fantastic resource based on scientific research by John Gottman and Atkinson and others for what makes a successful relationship and how you can practically apply knowledge to improve your relationship. It’s only $15.

                  To answer your men/women question, I really like that the book does not approach it in a Mars/Venus way. Of course gender is one factor of many differences and the book tries to help show the way to dealing with all kinds of differences in a more healthy, loving, mature way.

                  I highly recommend it. It’s my husband’ favorite thing too.

            • J11 says:

              Just added to my Kindle. It’s epic.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. J11 says:

    I want to add something here. VERY often my husband is just plain wrong on some things, and I swear on the Book of Revelation he does it intentionally. I mean dead wrong! That is to say, he gets his facts completely bass acwards. And holy shite, he embellishes stuff all the time. To the point where I just pause and reflect on what he just said, then I start debating in my own mind, even to the degree of real-time arguments going on in my mind, all while he’s still flapping along! And I’m thinking to myself, “did I just hear him correctly? surely I must be losing my mind. There’s no way that what he just said is factual/true….”

    You know what I’m saying?

    I find it endearing to say the least. I get my facts wrong as well, BUT I know I do, since I can’t always remember the little details… the minutia. So i carefully choose my words wisely so as not to get the retort, “see I was right, ha ha ha! remember I said (fill in the blank) and you said (fill in the blank)”.

    It’s so feckin’ hilarious to argue about shit the JUST DOESN”T MATTER at the end of the day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      I’m HIGHLY in favor of facts and evidence winning the day when they’re relevant to a conversation or disagreement.

      But I just think maintaining perspective should always matter too.

      Either the marriage matters more than the argument, or it doesn’t.

      Only the people IN the marriage and argument could ever know for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. geminilvr says:

    Matt i love this post for so many reasons, especially this: the future of marriage and healthy human relationships across the board is dependent on our ability to let people own those opinions and feelings, even when they clash with ours.

    Like

  6. Lucinda says:

    Matt, I discovered your blog about a year ago and absolutely love it! I love that you bare your soul and talk about things that must have or had a lot of discomfort if not outright pain attached to them.

    I was a shitty wife to my ex similar to your stories of not hearing him and what he was trying to say, what he needed from me as opposed to what I was willing to give on my terms. I think a part of him gave a huge sigh of relief when I left him and finally a year later announced that I wanted a divorce. We have both grown since then and are the best of friends.

    In the beginning I thought we were perfect in so many ways but the little things just seemed to get bigger and bigger to the point that the slights felt bigger than us together. It is with great interest that I read your blog, in part to understand myself as well as him.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your brutal honesty! Please know that there are some women that use your stories as a looking glass for themselves, not just to see how their husbands can be better.

    Life is good and gets better daily! Doesn’t it?

    Liked by 3 people

    • J11 says:

      “Please know that there are some women that use your stories as a looking glass for themselves, not just to see how their husbands can be better.”

      Absolutely!

      Like

  7. Jimmy says:

    Learning how to effectively communicate as a couple and then how individual in a relationship learn to live with differences in priorities are huge challenges in any relationship.

    One of my pet peeves is leaving lights on when people aren’t in rooms. In my house there is a running joke that [fill in the blank] thinks I own the electric company because they left a light on. But, I’m not going to disown my kids or leave my wife over those things.

    And there are minor annoying things that matter more to my wife than they do to me, so I try the best I can in those areas and my wife grants me grace when I fall short.

    The communication part should only really come into play when you are talking about major things. And sorry, but lights and dishes and laundry aren’t major things.

    Those minor things feel like major things when one of the people in a relationship aren’t feeling loved. When a wife hasn’t felt loved by her husband for a while, that is when she “leaves him over the dishes”.

    But, is was never about the dishes. That was just the thing that was easy to point at.

    Like

  8. Autumn Grayson says:

    I think it’s interesting since the rules at my parent’s house growing up were to leave the dishes in or beside the sink.  But we were supposed to rinse the dishes off so they were easier to clean.

    I think that lady may be coming to that conclusion about the dirty dishes because she lacks context.  People can fight over dirty dishes left by the sink because they want he house to be perfect and nice, but I’m sure that many times it’s actually a deeper issue that makes them angry.  

    For me, if it was my job to clean the dishes, and I had a million other things to do, and my husband just left dirty dishes by the sink without rinsing them so that it increased the time I would need to spend washing dishes…  I would be angry.  Well, at first it would be ok.  But if I tried repeatedly explained the importance of rinsing dishes and he still didn’t rinse them, I would get angry.  I would be angry because his actions would show that he doesn’t care to listen to me and take 5 seconds to do something that would save us from all the time we would waste arguing.  It would show that he doesn’t respect my time and the work I put into cleaning things.  It would frustrate me because he expects to have clean dishes available to eat on, but won’t do one simple thing that would help me have clean dishes available faster.

    A wife could get angry about dishes by the sink for other reasons, too.  Maybe he leaves dirty dishes by the sink and her mother (or his mother)has a habit of coming over unexpectantly and has a habit of critiquing everything wrong with the house.  

    I’ve seen guys get angry over similar things, like if they feel that someone is doing something to disrespect their time and effort/wastes their time and effort.  I’ve seen them get irritated about having to fix clogged sinks or something that gets broken more than once.  Clogged sinks don’t happen nearly every day(probably more like once a year at the most in my parent’s house). If a guy can get irritated over something that happens once in a great while, why can’t girls get angry over things that happen every single day?  

    Both the guy’s and girls feelings matter.  Arguments wouldn’t escalate nearly as much if people would just listen and do what they could to help the other person.  It is careless dismissals like that lady gave to the dishes scenario that cause a lot of marital problems.  If it is petty to fight to get one’s spouse to put dishes in the sink, then it is petty to fight for permission to leave the dishes beside the sink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donkey says:

      “If it is petty to fight to get one’s spouse to put dishes in the sink, then it is petty to fight for permission to leave the dishes beside the sink.”

      I agree with that. And I often think it’s just the sum of things in general, not feeling heard/having your influence accepted, feeling overburdened . If person A feels that person B in general takes their preferences and needs seriously, and in general they have a fair workload, I think person A in many cases wold be able to let the dishes thing go (even if they’d prefer to have them in the dishwasher). But when it’s the dishes and the lights, and the laundry on the floor and the shoes in the living roomand the unbalanced workload all together and person A feels dismissed by person B at every turn…. It would be hard to not get pissed of and loose the warm fuzzy feelings.

      Jimmy over here said:
      “And there are minor annoying things that matter more to my wife than they do to me, so I try the best I can in those areas and my wife grants me grace when I fall short.”

      This sounds to me like a good example of meeting in the middle, that Brent Atkinson talks about. :) Or if he’s bothered by the lights and his wife’s bothered by the laundry on the floor, they could agree that each person owns the task they’re bothered by, so it kind of evens out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • J11 says:

      Reminds me of a video I’ll always love. I think you will too. It’s a few minutes long.

      Mum’s sarcastic top tip ‘infomercial’ could help cure your family of dishwasher dodging. “…explains and demonstrates the usefulness of a dishwasher and gets a dig in at her messy family at the same time.

      The stable owner smiles through-out the recording that has all the hallmarks of comedy gold before being interrupted by her husband who is not amused!

      http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/mums-sarcastic-top-tip-infomercial-6434309

      Like

  9. Donkey says:

    Eric, mostly for you:

    Some of the comments in the thread shows up as super narrow on my screen. I though I’d just post my latest reply (it’s the same as the one I’ve already posted) if it’s like that for other folks too.

    Aww, thanks Eric!
    Yes, Matt’s comment section can be pretty great. :) It was pretty shocking to me the first few times I participated here in disucssions with folks I even disagreed with, and everyone was all polite and civil.

    You said: “But it’s in the subsequent discussions where the deeper stuff is revealed: I acknowledge and apologize for my judgments against her, and she quickly gets over it…but rarely validates my assessments of her being judgmental toward me.

    I realize all of this sounds so petty. I sound like one (or, um, all) of my kids who perpetually blame the others while avoiding their own responsibility. Because the opinions of random internet people matter to me, let me say that I’m a bigger man than that.”

    This does not sound petty to me at all, and I can relate quite well I believe. One of the things that I’m having trouble with accepting in my own growth journey, is that the skill of standing up for myself without making a big deal out of it (Brent Atkinson again), is a must, the same way being willing to compromise is a must. I don’t like that AT ALL!!!!, but who am I to argue with Brent Atkinson? 8)

    So, I’d suggest that you’re maybe also somewhat lacking in the skill of standing up for yourself respectfully? Which causes you to be resnetful and think that your wife is selfish etc, which is not good for relationships, even if you never say it.

    Brent Atkinson also talks about how to react effectively when your partner assigns more overall blame to you (maybe this is relevant to the apologizing situation). Now, this is a faux pas, no doubt about it! But apparently, people who achieve mutually respectful relationships know that this may happen, and they must know how to react effectively. So ideally you’d:
    1. Acknowledge, as you do, that you have done something wrong, and apologize.

    2. But then you add (calmly, without making a big deal of it, and that’s easier said than done) that from where you stand though, your wife also has done some things wrong. You should be able to list some examples when it’s appropriate.

    3. Let it go. You can’t force your wife to apologize, you have acknowledged your part and have also stood up for yourself respectfully. This, combined with the other relationship skills Atkinson talks about, will maximize your chances of having a relationship where this doesn’t happen a lot.

    I promise I’m not affiliated with him. :p

    Atkinson’s stuff is awesome! Totally clear and super practical. But yeah, it requires a lot of maturity and emotional resilience to be able to pull it off.

    Like

  10. marilyn sims says:

    Donkey and Eric

    I read the Atkinson article and at first I thought he was glossing over the OBVIOUS GENDER RELATED ISSUES, as in the case of the Understanding First/Problem Solving First scenario.

    I was really, really wedded to the conclusion that it was the MEN were the ones who did not listen with empathy to their partner during stressful times and rushed headlong into problem solving mode — thus leaving her stranded and abandoned in a moment of need.

    Wellllllll, not necessarily.

    Donkey, you said, “I’m female and I relate more to what you say and I honestly think the differences can go both ways. But I know there are male/female tendencies.” I was surprised and pleased by your response because I found myself choosing “one from column A and two from column B” in the Summary of Core Differences at the end of the article.

    I also noticed that I was choosing “it all depends on the circumstances” as an answer because as in all human dynamics — context matters!

    I also agree that it requires “a lot of maturity and emotional resilience to be able to pull it (healthy relationships) off.”………..”and miles to go before I sleep.”

    Like

  11. […] out of it anyway. It’s okay if you alienate friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, because everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, and you should probably be around smarter people […]

    Like

  12. […] the answers aren’t always right or wrong. Because you love, want and miss whatever you love, want and […]

    Like

  13. […] another example of the two perspectives, and how two people can look at the same thing and describe it differently. How two people can disagree with neither being […]

    Like

  14. […] To seek Truth and create lasting connection. […]

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  15. Greta Lamfel says:

    Hi there

    I really enjoyed reading this article based on relationships and this stood out the most: Think about your life for a moment.

    You are born. And then you have all of these individual experiences, feelings, educational opportunities (formal or otherwise) and emotional responses to things based on your specific makeup combined with all of those life things.

    Now, whenever anything happens to you, you respond accordingly.

    Let’s connect? Visit http://www.healthyliving894.com

    Kind regards
    Greta

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] everyone’s brains work exactly the same. It is common for two people to view the same thing totally differently, which is why you’re having the conversation in the first place. Just because two people disagree […]

    Like

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