How Marital Affairs Happen: The Beautiful Stranger I Wanted to Sleep With While I Was Married

man sitting at bar drinking

(Image/Shutterstock)

Because I am sometimes a walking cliché who struggles with controlling negative emotion, I found myself sitting at a bar on a Sunday afternoon with a shot and a beer in front of me.

I’d walked out of the house after another fight with my wife who hated me. My marriage was complete shit and I’d convinced myself that it was mostly her fault. She’d suffered a difficult personal loss, and because her emotional calibration and mindset had the “wrong” settings, she wasn’t prioritizing our marriage over her sadness.

I’d been sleeping in the guest room ever since the night she told me over dinner that she didn’t love me anymore and didn’t know whether she wanted to stay married. That had been more than a year earlier.

Don’t love me, huh? Neat. Way to screw me over after I pledged my entire life to you.

Instead of exercising humility and putting all of the effort I could muster into understanding why my wife was unhappy, I felt sorry for myself and moved into the guest room.

I couldn’t explain how we’d arrived here—a depressed wife seemingly apathetic toward her husband and marriage, and a depressed husband trying simply to not suffocate. It felt like a problem that was too big for me. When things feel too big for me, I tend to avoid them.

Help always came during life’s hardest moments growing up. Maybe I thought my wife would snap out of it and we’d find a way back from this.

I’d been sleeping in the guest room for more than a year because I’m not sharing a bed with a woman who tells me she doesn’t love me and doesn’t know if she wants to be married to me anymore.

It seemed like a reasonable decision at the time if you don’t count the part where I was an adult male approaching 18 consecutive months of celibacy I’d never wanted nor asked for.

So, a Fuck this, I’m not going to sit here and take any more of this crap reaction came naturally when something she said struck me as extra bullshitty.

And then I did what all the sad and angry guys do in the movies.

I went to the bar to drink and smoke cigarettes, leaving my wife at home to care for our toddler and reflect on how her husband always puts himself first during disagreements, completely dismisses her thoughts and feelings when they conflict with his interpretation of truth, and consider a future where she wouldn’t have to put up with any of that.

I ordered a shot and a beer. And then another. And then another.

I’m good at drinking. I tend not to get sloppy drunk and stupid. Sitting there alone on a Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t planning on getting either sloppy or stupid. I was just trying to medicate enough to numb the tightness in my chest and throat.

I was probably doing a lot of staring at my phone and the bottom of my glass because I didn’t see them walk in. I only remember lifting my head and locking eyes with a beautiful brunette woman sitting with her friend on the far side of the bar.

I won’t be mistaken for a Gucci underwear model or anything, but considering it was a Sunday afternoon and the bar was mostly empty, I was the obvious choice for any women interested in meeting a guy.

After our eyes had met a few times, the two ladies invited me to the other side of the bar to sit with them.

I obliged.

Drinking alone isn’t any fun.

Her name was Donna. Donna’s friend was cute and friendly too, but I don’t remember her name. Just Donna.

She was beautiful. Educated. Fun to talk to and drink with.

But what really stood out—and why I still remember her today—is that she liked me.

She liked me. She wanted to meet someone who enjoyed cooking and weekend-afternoon orgasms which is totally a demographic of which I’m a member.

We spent hours drinking and joking and talking and laughing. Donna, me, and her friend I can’t remember.

Donna and I didn’t have an affair.

We didn’t make out, hold hands, or even exchange text messages after that. I loved my wife and absolutely wanted to be married to her for the rest of my life.

But no amount of alcohol could make me forget how horrible it felt to be home in my loveless and stressful marriage.

No amount of alcohol could prevent me from feeling the excitement of an attractive person demonstrating genuine interest in me after so many months of craving my wife’s affection and being denied it.

No amount of family values, codes of moral conduct, or of being philosophically against sexual unfaithfulness in marriage could stop this from being true: I wanted to sleep with Donna.

I did. I wanted to.

I was married. I loved my wife. We had a little boy at home. And I believed it was fundamentally wrong up and down the social and spiritual spectrum of acceptable human behavior.

Cheating = bad, is how I felt about it—no matter how painful and shitty my life and marriage felt.

So I didn’t.

But still. I wanted to.

She made me feel good, simply by paying attention to me, demonstrating interest in me, and expressing verbally and non-verbally that she liked me. All of that paired with her attractiveness was enough to trigger the feeling inside.

I wanted to.

This is How Affairs Happen

As many of you know, it was largely me—not my wife—whose behavior slowly led us down the sneakily disguised path to resentment and divorce. I didn’t know it back then while I was feeling sorry for myself and drunk-flirting with strange women at a bar. I managed to do that WHILE blaming my wife for the state of our marriage.

She doesn’t like me or want me anyway, so who cares? The rules are different now.

I really thought and felt that.

I’m telling this story because I think—save for various details unique to our individual lives—it’s a story that most people reading will understand and relate to. I think this story is a VERY common example of how marital affairs happen.

It’s not usually someone who loses all sense of reason and self-control and gives himself or herself over to lustful temptation.

It’s usually that someone in a committed relationship feels abandoned and alone and miserable inside their home and relationship. And THEN, someone attractive and interesting starts demonstrating emotional, intellectual, or sexual interest—and it’s how amazingly good that feels after months and years of being deprived those feelings that intoxicates people and lures them into submitting to the craving.

That feeling.

They want me.

A powerful drug. Appealing. Addicting.

I want more.

I never really understood how a husband or wife could sleep with someone else. But then my marriage turned to shit and I felt like dying every day, and then she eventually left and it somehow got worse.

And now I do understand.

When something hurts all the time, it’s easy to chase things that relieve the pain.

When we’re deprived of powerful wants and needs like food and water, we starve and dehydrate. Starving people will eat unspeakably disgusting things. Dehydrated people will drink desert sand if the mirage looks real enough.

When we feel deprived of love, attention, physical intimacy, respect—and then we get a taste of that elsewhere? It’s easy to want more.

Maybe if my wife had held on to our broken marriage for another year, I’d have cracked eventually. I don’t know.

I just know this: I messed up big-time in our marriage, and failed my wife and family. In 2017, I can see it clear as day. Despite that, I STILL felt genuinely like a victim. And in all my victimhood, I felt justified in letting my mind want sexual and romantic fulfillment, even if it meant wanting it from someone else. It seemed totally okay to me since my wife ignored me all the time when she wasn’t acting annoyed that I lived in the same house.

A Thought Exercise

I’m a reasonably evolved human being. Even when I was a shitty husband, I could still mostly be counted on to treat people well and make choices that wouldn’t hurt my wife or son.

I was the problem in my marriage, and STILL played the victim card inside of my head and chest.

So, what do you think the people are doing who are ACTUALLY being emotionally neglected and mistreated by their spouses?

There are women and men out there who are married to way bigger screw-ups than me.

What do you think the real victims of shitty spousal treatment are thinking and feeling when their hot co-worker flirts with them, or when their high school sweetheart reaches out to them on Facebook?

There are a lot of marital affairs happening. Too many.

There are also a lot of people who aren’t physically acting on their impulses… but they WANT to.

If your wife or husband doesn’t actually sleep with your best friend, or her work-trip partner, but they WANT to… how do you feel about that?

And we can choose to get all morally righteous and holier-than-thou about it, always pointing fingers at someone who succumbed to an affair as the reason a marriage fell apart.

Or we can tell the truth, even if it’s a little bit inconvenient.

We can talk about root causes. We can talk about all of the little things that did or did not happen over many months and years which resulted in two previously happy and in-love people becoming totally Bizarro versions of themselves who sleep with other people and feel morally justified in doing so.

It’s rarely about the sex.

It’s usually about human connection.

Affairs don’t lead to disconnection, per se.

Disconnection leads to affairs.

And then the world is a little darker and uglier than it was before.

But it doesn’t have to be.

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86 thoughts on “How Marital Affairs Happen: The Beautiful Stranger I Wanted to Sleep With While I Was Married

  1. Damon says:

    Matt,

    I wish I had found your site years ago. If I had been capable at the time, it would have saved my marriage and prevented the pain and anguish I find myself in now. There is nothing that I’ve read here that I’ve disagreed with, and as I watch the love of my life for 18 years reside in our spare room and remove her wedding ring and tell me she will never trust me again (due to emotional neglect and verbal abuse) your article explains exactly how she got to the point of disconnect that allowed her to abandon our vows. And as I’ve fought to save our marriage, and read all the self help books, and tried all the divorce busting techniques and watched her pull further and further away, I realize that it’s over and that I am far more to blame than her. She was/is a beautiful person inside and out and a gloriously competent and loving mother. My heart breaks for what I’ve contributed to as she tells me that her dreams have been destroyed and that staying with me is far more painful than the divorce. Keep doing what you do, Matt. I pray that people with marriages that can still be saved find your site and are somehow blessed with clarity that can change the trajectory of their lives for the better. Reading your posts is sometimes extremely difficult and they bring feelings of guilt and shame that aren’t easily ignored, but they are insightful and powerful. I hope you know how much good you are capable of.

    Liked by 11 people

    • Matt says:

      Hey Damon. Hard to read, because I remember how devastating it is when you feel like the light bulb has finally clicked, and you have clarity, but never get the opportunity to demonstrate it with the person you want to demonstrate it to.

      These are hard days and nights, and I remember them vividly.

      During what I imagine is one of, if not the, hardest moments of your life, you took time to think about other people in other marriages and hope that they can have better outcomes than you and I.

      Thank you for that.

      I’m sorry for what you and your wife and family are going through, as I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I hope you’ll take this better, stronger, wiser version of you into whatever life brings.

      I’m nowhere near where I want to be in life, nor am I even sure what that is or what it looks like, but my ability to SEE opportunities for empathy, and understanding how my bullshit can or does affect other people has made a profound positive difference in certain areas of my life.

      No matter what happens next for you, I hope you’ll experience the same thing.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Damon says:

        Matt,
        Very kind of you to take the time to respond. It’s greatly appreciated.

        Hardest moment in my life doesn’t begin to describe it, as you well know. This blog has been instrumental for numerous “epiphany” moments for me, and those are painful and convicting.

        As I’ve been subjected to watching the anguish on my 7 year old daughter’s face as the realities of our situation are visited upon her due to my failures as a man and a husband, the shame can be overwhelming. The knowledge of what she will have to endure as this process comes to it’s inevitable conclusion may be more painful than the understanding that this would have been easy to avoid.

        Too many men come to this realization far too late and that is more than a tragedy. I don’t want to be a good second husband to someone. My wife deserved me to be a good first husband and my daughter deserved to have an intact family as she traversed her innocent childhood to becoming an adult.

        Selfishness, pride, foolish ideas of what a “man” is supposed to be and junk left over from watching my father mistreat my mother and lacking the introspection to see it in myself; all of these revelations come at an unwelcome time. I’m late to my own funeral.

        You can’t say “I’m sorry” enough. It doesn’t sound sincere to a woman who has endured years of neglect although you are breathing your last breath every time you say it. The light has gone out of her eyes when she talks to me and there’s nothing that can be done to relight the flame.

        Men avoid reading your writings, or denying their truth, at their peril. Wives need to sit these guys down and force them to read what is written here and say “This will be us if we continue on our current path.”

        Regret is a horrible thing to have to live with. I hope all those men won’t have to endure it.

        Keep doing what you are doing. If you save one marriage, then that is a legacy you can point to with satisfaction. There are probably few things more meaningful in life than keeping a family together.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Louie says:

          Damon…life is a funny thing…please please please don’t ever give up. At my worst point I wouldn’t accept that this was over. You as I was were blind but now you see, coming to that realization speaks of courage and commitment. You have that understanding now. Fight for your wife sir she and you both sound worth every extraordinary effort. I pray often ….it helps, I’m not promoting any religion but surely an inner peace that infact breeds strength. I will add you and your wife and child to my prayers. Blessings to you.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for making my explanation for my husband’s non sexual female friends real. I’ve always known this was behind them but he lacks the ability to put it so clearly.
    I wasn’t fun to be with or happy to see him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love me, it was that he felt all those things that you described so well. I felt them too, but my “validation of worth” as it were didn’t come from a relationship. Never did. And I poured my energy into those things (career, kids, hobbies) – not a secret emotional relationship – which in many ways was equally destructive to us.
    The two years of anger and difficulty that got us back to a good place wasn’t romantic energy, but it was still energy. And we directed it to each other and not outside. We learned we both still cared enough to get mad and fix what was broken once we realized that not trying was an option that neither of us really wanted.
    Never thought I could forgive an emotional betrayal. He thought he could never make me happy. We keep surprising ourselves and each other and are enjoying each other’s company enough to not want to be anywhere else. Nice change.

    Ps – wanted to hit him with a bat again last week, not so much today 🙏. I’m sure he’d say the same about me some days.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Matt says:

      This would have been impossible for me as a teenager and young twentysomething, but I think if we can just focus exclusively on our own bullshit — on trying to right our wrongs, improve our weaknesses, honestly communicate our fears and shame and wants and needs — to partners willing to take it and give it back… if we can do that with a little more humility and gratitude… I think we can make our relationships really beautiful things.

      Like what you’ve described here.

      We have ideals in our heads:

      – What we see on TV.
      – What we THINK our parents’, grandparents’, neighbors’ and friends’ marriages are like.
      – What we aspire to or imagine as “What Marriage is Supposed to Be.”

      But then Real Life happens, and it’s never quite what we thought.

      Other than the super-routine things we do day-to-day, we’re all actually pretty awful at predicting what the ACTUAL experience of [insert literally any possible thing here] will be like.

      When we have expectations that are unmet, we feel let down or betrayed.

      I think there’s a place in this world — not for selling out, or lowering standards, or giving up on our dreams — but for realistically identifying and mindfully acknowledging that our partners are human beings who likely have many of the same “issues” that we do.

      We crave empathy and understanding for our bullshit. Anyone unwilling to provide that same latitude to someone they’re claiming to love has no business being in a committed relationship.

      Add this to the list of things we don’t teach children or young adults.

      Like

      • And just so you know, privately it still stings and hurts. A Lot. I run into a “friend” often who probably has no idea that I didn’t know they were meeting for coffee. And she doesn’t understand why I’m awkward around her. But now I can tell him when it happens so he understands why I may be a little off. I don’t tell him in anger – just that she’s a reminder of secrets that hurt me. And he listens. And isn’t defensive. And it gets easier every time. We can’t erase bad decisions but we can’t pretend they didn’t happen either and my feelings are important. And that feels good.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And PS – this is an outstanding statement – well done !

          We crave empathy and understanding for our bullshit. Anyone unwilling to provide that same latitude to someone they’re claiming to love has no business being in a committed relationship.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Still Trying,

      You said something really interesting I wonder if you would mind elaborating.

      You said that your “validation of worth” didn’t come from a relationship but from other things (kids, career, hobbies).

      I often wonder what are the differences between people who might be more likely to look to the opposite sex for a validation of their worth vs others who turn to other things like job, kids, hobbies etc.

      I think anyone is vulnerable to an affair in the right circumstances. But maybe the circumstances differ for different people?

      I used to think that people who had affairs were people of horrible character. I think that’s still true for a small group. But after experiencing firsthand a lot of horrible loneliness and rejection in marriage, I guess now the world now is far more full of uncomfortable gray. How easy it is to be vulnerable.

      I give you all kinds of credit for trying to understand your husband’s vulnerabilities that led to the secret friendships.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        And I’m generally saying opposite sex for the average hetero marriage.

        Like

      • Well, the short answer is I never was a “dater” so I didn’t have strong need to be romantically attached to someone other than spouse. And the last thing I needed was someone else to look after and that’s what men seemed like in the place I was at. I didn’t want the “cost” of having someone to “care for me” as I was all cared out.
        I have a 60 hr a week career and three kids and a house and myself to look after so I just put my head down and kept at it, stepping around him and being sad that this was what marriage seemed to be.
        Introvert at heart with some good quality supportive friendships/relationships and colleagues kept me upright and I got joy and satisfaction from them. I didn’t need a guy to make me feel special when my husband didn’t and he was getting his feel good needs met from people who only needed him superficially and easily.
        And the more I sat in it I realized that I was special enough and developed boundaries and self respect that allowed me to insist on better from him. And as he stepped up I learned to acknowledge it in a way that made him feel special too. He was furious when I implied infidelity in a sexual way by his behaviours. Once he got past his anger he realized it WAS how it looked and I think that was a big growing up moment for him. I told him I’d rather be one of his female friends than his wife. That sucked.

        Like

        • Lisa Gottman says:

          Still Trying Hard,

          Thanks for your reply. It define it makes sense to not want another guy to pay the cost of taking care of them. That’s what I’ve read a lot of women say why they remarry later and at a much lower rate than men after divorce.

          It’s great to hear you and your husband have made major breakthroughs to understanding and acknowledging the costs of the female friends being sought for emotional needs to be met.

          (I am a big believer in opposite sex friendships. But there is a boundary that has to be maintained as well as complete openness with spouses)

          Like

          • I never had a problem with his female friends – I was aware of them if they were not shared. It was the dual truth of one level of relationship I knew and another that was kept from me. These were women known to me, one we both agreed was a troublemaker and he agreed should never be alone in a room with her as she s known around town for same. Imagine my surprise when I found that one out.
            Another was someone we knew through friends as a couple, saw only at events with these friends and the truth I knew was that. I was unaware that they were meet 1:1 for coffee friends.
            In my book that’s the kind of thing you tell your wife. He played dumb until I pointed out these two were the only single attractive female friends. The others were not those two things and were often spoken about.
            I have male friends, I speak of them often and share what we talk about. I also never conversationally text with the married ones. Too much can go bad with that.

            Like

  3. pamelaparizo says:

    Matt, I can totally relate. You think this only happens to men? Not at all. I was in an abusive relationship going on 18 years. I was feeling so depressed I was suicidal. At the same time, I fantasized. I seriously needed someone to love me because I felt dead inside. So I became infatuated and thought–just thought–of having an affair with a young man I worked with. I thank God now because God used that man to bring me to Him. But yes, thinking is bad enough and yes, this is what leads to cheating. It could’ve ended up very ugly and messy if God hadn’t intervened. It’s sad that we let things come between us and our spouses. You didn’t deep down want an affair–you wanted your wife, you wanted her love. I wish we could go back to the days when divorce wasn’t so easy and people had to work it out. No fault divorce made it far too easy for people to see marriage as disposable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      On the contrary, I think it happens to women CONSTANTLY, just as you described.

      In my experience, men are infinitely more likely to express romantic/sexual interest in a friend or coworker than women.

      AND, men are more likely to be accidental “neglectors” or “abusers” in the relationship. Men, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, but recognize as actually happening in the world around us, seem to frequently behave in ways within a marriage that leads his wife to feel as if her husband doesn’t respect her, enjoy her company, or value her intellect. That he has no interest in her daily experiences, or her long-term hopes and dreams. That he’s not interested in activities to elicit romantic or seductive feelings that communicate that he wants her.

      She feels ignored, unwanted, as if she’s unattractive or “not good enough.”

      THAT is enough on its own to lay the groundwork for a wife who might respond to interest from another suitor.

      But it usually gets worse.

      Often the husband doesn’t invest in the marriage/family division of labor because he undervalues any work that doesn’t have a dollar-value or Man Card component attached to it.

      She may have felt shitty and low self-esteem and gobs of disappointment before, but at least there was physical attraction still. But NOW, his seeming inability to manage his calendar, contribute to childcare, preemptively take care of Home and Life chores that take those responsibilities off of his wife’s plate… causes her to develop parent-child relationship feelings toward him.

      He becomes a big kid who she has to take care of. She doesn’t want him touching her, because it doesn’t feel good, or even normal once her feelings become maternal.

      She doesn’t respect his inability to “grow up” and figure out how to contribute to the family and household, because she often does NOT measure “value” in terms of dollars earned.

      And the kicker… when she mentions any of this to him, he treats her as if she’s stupid, emotionally unstable, or flat-out wrong.

      He not only isn’t acknowledging her life experiences as valid, he’s not even giving her the time of day to explain them.

      It took me a while to get to this point…

      BUT.

      Unless you’re someone who feels beholden to a religious or spiritual vow — and God or some type of Higher Purpose is your driving force, can you even blame someone dealing with that for getting vagina (or otherwise pelvic) tingles when some smart, funny attractive person at work or wherever IS making her (or him) feel respected, admired, worthy, wanted, sexy, etc.?

      Once I realized how stupid and masochistic it sounds for a human being to subject themselves to a never-ending string of mistreatment and bullshit just because we’re all afraid of what our parents and friends will think if we break up or divorce, I feel like I can finally see it all as it actually is now.

      Again — I am NOT defending or condoning or celebrating sexual affairs or unfaithfulness.

      But unless you’re the kind of person faking happiness and conning your spouse only to be betraying him or her every chance you get — and are legitimately on the receiving end of months and years of your spouse breaking their marriage vows DAILY in word and deed — I more than understand why people seek romantic/mental/sexual fulfillment from someone who is NOT making them feel shitty every day.

      I’m not applying right or wrong to it.

      I’m just saying I get it now. And all married people should if they value love, happiness, stability, trust, etc.

      Liked by 4 people

      • pamelaparizo says:

        Well said, Matt. It always helps for us ladies to hear it from the guy’s end of things. Sadly, wisdom sometimes happens to us after the fact rather than during. :-/ I’m come to realize that the things a woman wants most is value and affection. Give a woman those and she will be happy with the small stuff. I think you’re miles ahead though of some men, who may never realize what they’re doing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In my situation, my wife cheated on me after 11 years while I worked for our family and took care of our newborn/toddler with ASD. She walked out the day before Mother’s Day 2017, and we had been married since 2005 June. I found out about the affair as I was cleaning up the MacBook Pro of mine that I intended to give her. I found all the texts, emails, pictures, etc. It was devastating. When I asked her, the reason she gave was “I wanted to leave for a long time.” Strange I am not sure that your wanting to leave is a valid nor even an acceptable excuse for your personality defect and choice to cheat. As if it was almost punishment, she chose a full-blown narcissist​​ and has been in months of therapy to recover from ​the hell of his abuse. I officially have our son all but 6 or 8 nights a month, when months are 4 weeks and 5 weeks long respectively. I am 2,500 miles from my roots and any blood relatives. In contrast, her blood family and roots are local. I remain hopeful that we can work it out. But at this moment, she feels that she needs to “fix herself” before that can even be considered. Which is a huge step forward from just a short few weeks ago when she was adamant that our chance to work on us came and went long ago. I wrote about how to get over an affair, perhaps you would like to read it. http://bit.ly/2lgPBnB

          Like

          • pamelaparizo says:

            I’m not sure who your comment was intended for.

            Like

            • you mentioned you appreciated a man’s point of view so I provided another one. I also wrote my exact feelings about the affair: http://herostyle.org/infidelity/

              Like

              • pamelaparizo says:

                Steve, I appreciate the pain you must feel after your wife’s betrayal of you. You are right that infidelity is a choice and it is not a good one. Infidelity hurts everyone involved. I hope you can tell through my account that I am grateful that God kept me from the same choice your wife made, though I did have lustful thoughts. I don’t feel necessarily though that everyone is a cheater at heart. It sounds like your wife did so because that is her nature, and that she would do it again without remorse. Matt did not want to cheat, he allowed himself to get to that point. Still not right, which he readily admits. Again, I think the percentage of people who actually set out to cheat is small and that most are led to that decision by the pain in their relationship and their lack of willpower not to. I feel that no-fault divorce is actually to blame because it doesn’t force people to try to work it out the way they once did. [Just a note that I did not read the entire letter because of the inclusion of the suggestive photo. ]

                Like

          • Lisa Gottman says:

            I cannot imagine the pain your wife’s affair must have caused you. The lies and betrayal including from her mother and brother!

            You are a hero to choose love and forgiveness as best you can under horrible circumstances.

            Thank you for sharing your story.

            Like

      • pamelaparizo says:

        Matt:
        Just a word about the division of labor thingy. You are wise in realizing that guys do need to look at that, because if women are going to have to work, they need help. They can’t do it all on their own and feel valued and loved
        .3+6.

        You are way too young to remember what it was like pre-Feminism. The man was the breadwinner (for the most part) and woman stayed home and took care of him and any children they might have. That was the division of labor and it worked very well until a couple of educated morons named Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem suggested that was oppression and we needed to go find ourselves. Oh, we found ourselves alright–with 2 jobs rather than 1. Whether or not men are Christian and believe in the submission model of marriage, it befits the man to consider his wife’s labor load. What’s the trade-off? Well, a well-rested woman who would feel like her husband cared about her (and would want to have marital intimacy).

        Like

        • pamelaparizo says:

          Sorry for the 3+6. My keyboard has a mind of its own.

          Like

        • Old Fart Lady says:

          Not all women WANT to be mothers or housewives. Or JUST mothers and housewives. And even pre-feminism, women still worked outside the house because they often had to.
          My mother, grandmothers, aunts- all born & grew up pre-feminism. The stories I heard from them about those times were hair-raising, and the reason I became a feminist when I was still in grade school.
          Oh, I used to have one grandmother who was the submissive, obedient, Christian mother and housewife. When I was very small, she used to actually frighten me, because compared to my other more vivacious female relatives, she seemed like a shell of a human being, with no personality, life, or opinions of her own.

          Like

          • pamelaparizo says:

            I do not know what environment you grew up in, but I grew up in LA and most of the women there were ok with being housewives and mothers. It’s not fun having to work and carry the load of the house too which most women do. I will just merely state that being a housewife and mother is not my design, it’s God”s. Very few married women except the most poor worked outside the home pre-feminism. Very few I knew did.

            Like

  4. “It’s rarely about the sex. It’s usually about human connection.”

    Amen, Matt! I don’t feel all morally self-righteous at all, just really sad that we people can get so hungry for human connection and relationship. What I’d really like to see is for us to acknowledge that and learn how to make it happen in our marriages.

    In my running about the internet trying to talk about love,it can be so frustrating because men really struggle with this. To make it worse, much of the church, the culture, is teaching men all wrong, trying to reaffirm ideas like love being only about duty,and men not really needing “girly stuff” like intimacy,connection,relationship. That’s all wrong and it contributes to these marriages that either outright abusive or cold and disconnected. Certainly women cheat too, but ironically, it often seems to be men’s issues with love that serves to drive them both apart.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Louie says:

      Sad but true…I’ve found that the really strong show their emotions , difficulties, fears, anger and construct new better stronger firmer more loving and honorable bonds

      Liked by 1 person

    • pamelaparizo says:

      IB, I agree about the men out there that think love=commitment and duty. I definitely think it would help men to learn how to express love from their hearts. That’s what we want. To know the guy cares. But along with that is that it needs to be consistent, because life out there will try to drive a wedge in. Jon at his convention, Kate at her painting. Men and women need that constant coming together and expressing love in order to maintain the relationship. If you don’t water most plants on a continual basis, eventually they shrivel up and die.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Louie says:

    Whew! …. I’m in awe. Matt and those that will indulge me, I have yet another story ( I know I know…another Louie epic..gag!) 27 odd years ago after not putting her first, being a selfish asshole, not respecting her, dismissing her, leaving her out, the shittiest of the shitty (me) was told in front of a priest friend counseling us, that a break was needed…a sorting out. Our priest was our teacher, performed our wedding ceremony, baptized our then 2 children and now found himself listening to our horror story. He said ” sometimes a time of separation is good for reflection and introspection and perhaps can give you both a new sense of understanding ” he continued ” this will only work if no other relationship with other people are formed ” he then said ” please know that you are both vulnerable and temptations will loom”. We agreed that no other dating relationships outside of our marriage would take place. Anne seemed perturbed at that.in some of her angry moments and shitty things she said …she told me that because I was her only that maybe she should go out and date, get intimate, try others. I was crushed by those statements. Pre-dating all forms of electronic social media, word of our separation traveled like wild fire. My college love interest called ” out of the blue” from New York City, the girl I lived with a few years before I met Anne succinctly called me to see if I was interested in a rekindle. The bar tender at the neighborhood bar I frequented before I got married and quit drinking professed her crush on me for all the years I was a regular there and told me that now that I know about the crush we should do something about it. While in some cases flattered , I thanked them all and stated that my love was for Anne. That I made a promise to God,her ,my future children, our families and myself that I would only share myself with her. I am a firm believer that they are ex’s for a reason,that my intended was who I married. That at no time would I break that bond…..did I want to? Hell yes! College girlfriend was sweet loving and fun, live in girlfriend was stunning and passionate, bartender girl was my female alter ego and we shared many interests…. each had their own draw and each gave me a much needed ego boost. Anne ,however,had been communicating with a man….a vile disgusting piece of human garbage that preys on vulnerable young married women in seperation situations…having a list of conquests that many frat boys would envy….he was someone I knew well….he was also a police officer. When I was tipped off by my wife’s then best friend I knew I had to take action, they were getting too close. I confronted him in an alley while he was on duty… I told him point blank to stay away from Anne, he placed his hand on his service revolver and said “I’m not near her” I looked at him and said “so you’re going to shoot me? ” ” go ahead I’m dead without her”. He got in his cruiser and before he sped off I said “make sure you heard me”. Ten minutes after that confrontation I stopped by my house to say good night to the kids…Anne knew of the encounter ( he called to complain to her). I said to Anne ” so he didn’t listen, well if that’s what you want and we are going to divorce then I’ll race you to the lawyers ” she said she didn’t want a divorce and would stop talking to him. She assured me that at no time did she have any physical encounters with him….but at one point wanted to. That hurt. But it needed to be as it was …. we began to pick up the pieces from there. I didn’t move home right away as I felt at some point she had to believe she needed me. The scoundrel tried his best to derail us…calling our house when she was home and not saying anything on the phone but she was able to hear the police radio in the background…once while still living in my car I went to an all night grocery store at 3am and while walking towards the store a police car came out of nowhere and stopped inches from hitting me…it was him…I Cooly stood there with my arms up and said ” hit me!”… he stalked me at the gym I went to parking his patrol car in the lot where I could see him plain as day..he later paid a visit to Anne’s former best friend in uniform and harassed her for tipping me off ( she was so rattled that to this day won’t speak to us). It was a battle…one worth fighting and I would do it again and again and again. My actions showed her I cared enough and with all my being….her naivety and innocence was shaken awake. We worked through our individual as well as collective shittiness . I adore her more now than ever. It’s a fight…and it continues…my memories of that time are still vivid and at times haunt me…I see the rat bag around town every so often that opens it up again. I’ve said it before your foes in the fight are your spouse..outside influences…and mostly yourself. Do the work to be the victor. Love to you all

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lissy says:

      Something really bothers me about this.

      “College girlfriend was sweet loving and fun, live in girlfriend was stunning and passionate, bartender girl was my female alter ego and we shared many interests…. each had their own draw and each gave me a much needed ego boost. Anne ,however,had been communicating with a man….a vile disgusting piece of human garbage that preys on vulnerable young married women in seperation situations…having a list of conquests that many frat boys would envy”

      Matt says in this post that he was attracted to a beautiful stranger, and he has also said in other posts his wife left him for a jerk.

      Is it true that you both have great judgement of character and beauty, and she naively can’t see what a jerk someone is? If she is such a poor judge of men, what does it say that she picked you?

      Why can’t you give her the courtesy of just saying she was interested in someone else, and you were willing to fight hard to win her back?

      I apologize if this seems like I am attacking you. I’m not. I admire your commitment to your wife and marriage.

      Is this some sort of face-saving man card thing?

      Like

      • Louie says:

        Lissy, thank you for your reply and your assessment. I do not believe you are attacking me…I think your questioning is forthright and prudent. We do not know each other well enough to attack or be defensive over anything here.I must say that I do not possess the intellect of most of the posters here, I am not armed with research based articles, information shared by posters obtained from reading Dr Gottman or the symposiums of Ester Pirrel and others, all I have are the experiences of my own life. From the traditions of my family of origin, the melding with my wife’s family, and our own microcosm. I can only offer what I believe to have some relevance to the subject at hand based on the first 20% of my marriage. I surly believe that there are similar stories out there, I believe that for every one person that comments here there are 10 or more that will just read and never comment but will take the diversity of our collective experiences and make some semblance of hope,healing and understanding. I too have to question her judgement as to why she picked me, but I would add that at a moment when I was not meeting the expectations and more broadly at moments in others’ lives when their partners are not measuring up the judgment thing gets clouded and the odd jerk will attempt to slip in under that cloud. People with interpersonal relationship issues tend to be vulnerable and lonely and try to see past obvious deviances in the vile. My sweetie is a very unworldly person, studious, never had a serious boyfriend, never had any sexual experiences before we married, not very street wise, but at a time when we were not being a loving couple she started to wonder about missed life experiences and opportunities. That in fact adds to one’s vulnerability. She was a good judge of men, just her vision was clouded. After nearly falling for the deception of a uniformed snake did she come to the realization that her original fears, thoughts and beliefs were in fact correct. The point of telling my story ( by the way every piece is either proof read or proof listened to by Anne before posting) is to offer hope and mostly to remind me of the struggles that had to be undertaken to be successful at ” us” . The courtesy of truncation of the details out of the story doesn’t help to put the real picture into perspective. Now I will admit that sometimes I write like a brainless imbecile and perhaps go on too far and longer than needed to make a point but in essence I try to put as much in so as to not be misunderstood . I can be wrong about that too. My point in telling this story in its entirety was to put a “real ” to it . Personified beyond doubt the intention we both had to step out at one point in our marriage but didn’t. The temptation of opportunity in a low point in life is powerful and far too often acted on. That’s the tragedy of it all. But sometimes we need to have and be a hero/ heroine and yes fight to win back the together part. I’m sorry if I was making this look like a classic Camelotish epic but it was real, it was scary,it was painful,and it did require courage from both of us. I have no reason to play man cards, the face saving would/should have come before the fallout,I am what I am , I’m good I’m bad I’m broken, I’m awesome,I’ve come back from the brink, I still want to be a better “us” and especially my part as a husband and father. 33 years of marriage still requires all the tools it took to get here to go for another 33 or more. Thank you,sincerely, thank you.

        Like

        • Lissy says:

          Thank you for your gracious response and explanation.

          I have always appreciated the way you publicly build up your wife in your posts. You are a valuable member of this community.

          Like

        • FlyingKal says:

          Louie,
          I want to thank you for your elaborate posts in general, and this one in particular.

          It’s sometimes tempting to want to cut corners when we share our stories, in part to save us some work, and in part because we might think that nobody will bother to read the full novel. But I’ve found that this will usually come back to bite us in the rear, creating more work by repeatedly having to spell out what we really meant the first time around.

          Thanks again, for a good effort, for a good story, and a good way to put it out there.

          Like

          • Louie says:

            Thank you Kal. I am hypersensitive to these types of tragedies in people’s lives. It pains me to see good people suffering as I have once suffered . I paint a rosey picture of my life with Anne but it wasn’t always so and if something I’ve endured can help someone I want it out there. I stumbled upon this site trying to fix myself as I am the only one I can fix and believe me it’s a daunting task . It has been a comfort and an inspiration and it has had its sad moments . You are very kind sir. I wish you and your family the very best .

            Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              Louie, I would say that the story you tell about your history with your Anne is anything but rosey, but your strength is that you do not hesitate to tell your story anyway!
              I am also trying to fix myself, because as you truthfully say I am the only one I can fix. But whatever I do I seem to be going in the wrong direction, so perhaps I’ll never know what my problem really is?

              Matthew writes a lot about all the ways men are shitty husbands. And a lot of women here sings his praise and agree how relatively easy it is for a man to be a non-shitty husband. Most you need to do is basically be a responsible adult,
              -maintain your personal hygiene and fitness level at some minimum standard,
              -treat her to a good experience of her choice every now and then (dinner, vacation, travel, dance, etc), –
              take your part of the responsibilty of bringing home a paycheck AND keeping things in order around the house,
              -be a patient, attentive and giving lover
              -and stand up for and support your woman whenever she needs it (i.e. no talking her down behind her back, etc.)

              Well, so far in my life I’ve mostly discovered you can be all that and a bag of dark chocolate, and I will still run up against “I’m not in the mood”, “I’ve changed my mind” or “I’m too busy, stressed out, need to see my mom for a cup of coffee” etc, etc, because you can do all the things that seem to be right, but then it will just be mysteriously decided that you are doing them for the wrong reason, i.e. you just want sex!
              Yes, I admit, I want sex. Guilty as charged. I want to be a fully functional adult. Part of that is taking care of yourself, doing your fair share of cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. but also having a desire for sex with the person who committed to you for not having sex with other people anymore.

              But living with a partner who has no desire for sex, or specifically no desire for sex with you, there is not a single word you can say or a single action you can take, that can not be twisted and pointed back at you for having ulterior motives.

              (Sorry. I didn’t mean for this to be so long. I just wanted to thank you, but the words just kept coming.)

              Like

              • Louie says:

                Kal…Never worry about how long something you need to say is here. We all have stories, opinions, questions and so much we need to share and every one understands this. You are a person seeking, as we all are, answers to the what’s why’s etc of our relationships. Some are tricky…some are less complicated than others but all invoke questions that the poster may not have an answer for so we are all seeking out other’s experiences to make sense of the pain heart aches nightmares and tragedies that haunt our lives. I truly wish i had an answer for you regarding the things that are troubling you. I can’t really wrap my head around the dynamics of your relationship from these posts. I know I have been where you are and it isn’t pleasant. All I have are further questions….does she have medical issues? Maybe unpleasant past experiences? Have you sought some individual counseling? You surely are doing everything right and more. I feel that this issues toys with a person’s dignity and self worth. I truly have been there. But I will say that identifying the underlying problem is crucial for a resolution to this . Blessings to you sir and your family

                Like

  6. Quinn says:

    When you’re lonely and unhappy and confused, the combination of attention from somebody attractive + sexual tension can be intoxicating enough to get you sloppy and stupid in a way that beer never would.

    When I did my time in a shitty relationship, I had moments like this. Moon-eyed moments so drunk with longing that it felt like all I needed was a gentle nudge to tip me over to the dark side. I never did, but I came close. As you put it…. I wanted to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Katelyn McGillaly says:

    Matt, Thank You. This could not have come at a better time. My husband finally ‘got it’ after I sent this blog. We have been at the brink of divorce and I could not get thru his defensiveness and anger. I sent this link as a last ditch effort (after sharing other blogs from you over the years). I got home from work and he apologized and cried. His childhood stuff is so hard to get thru and he just doesn’t want to deal with it and how it affects us now. Your writing is so heartfelt and honest and reading your pain has helped me to stay in it. You have been my link to hope that things would turn around. Thank you most sincerely. You have no idea how helpful and wonderful your writing has been over these years. When I’m especially down, I think ‘at least I’m not a guac-killer’ in reference to your hilarious date story about the bad guacamole order. And I always laugh to myself. Bless you and your family always for putting yourself out there. You really have helped other people.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Liz says:

    Thank you for sharing Matt! I found the reading very insightful and as someone currently struggling to connect with my significant other it’s a good way to remember to put things into perspective. It’s so easy to fall into it being the other person’s ‘issue’ when something shifts in a relationship, but the important part to focus on is the connection and getting that back, not growing the distance between one another until it’s a tumultuous ocean incapable of being crossed. I’ve appreciated learning from your perspective as you reflect. Thanks again :)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Louie says:

    I just read a very long piece titled ” Unpredicted infidelity ” on a board called GAG. It wouldn’t let me share it but it is a heartbreaking reminder of the negative outcomes of affairs . It speaks for itself .

    Like

  10. FlyingKal says:

    If your wife or husband doesn’t actually sleep with your best friend, or her work-trip partner, but they WANT to… how do you feel about that?

    Counter question: If your partner, whom you have promised sexual commitment and fidelity to, explicitly doesn’t want to sleep with you anymore, does it make a difference to you if he/she is also living in (perhaps unwanted) celibacy, or is porkin’ away with a best friend or hot work-trip partner?

    Like

    • Matt says:

      If someone doesn’t want to be married to their spouse, I don’t think anything I write about is going to matter much to them.

      In anything I write about marriage and divorce, I’d like it to be implied that at least one of the two people who promised “forever” and happens to be reading this blog actually wants the marriage to work.

      Like

      • FlyingKal says:

        I am sorry, call me dense or stupid if you want but that one went stright over my head.
        I thought it was implied that at least the one person sleeping on the couch (while pining for their once-intimate partner in the master bedroom?) actually would want the marriage to work?

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I don’t think you’re dense or stupid. It’s possible I’m missing something. I’ll try to clarify.

          You wrote this…

          “If your partner, whom you have promised sexual commitment and fidelity to, explicitly doesn’t want to sleep with you anymore, does it make a difference to you if he/she is also living in (perhaps unwanted) celibacy, or is porkin’ away with a best friend or hot work-trip partner?”

          And my response, probably poorly written while thinking about and/or listening to three different things was intended to say:

          YES. I totally think it matters and makes a different to a husband or wife whether their spouse is actively engaged in a sexual affair with someone else while they are married and living together.

          I guess it depends on context and boundaries, though. Perhaps there’s some super-laid-back, ultra-sexually open couple out there where both husband and wife “separate” inside the home, keep the facade of a marriage to their children and friends, but are both openly (between themselves) sleeping with other people.

          I suppose I assume that most people talking and thinking about this subject matter here default to a position of:

          Sex With People to Whom You Are Not Married = Bad for Marriage

          Keep in mind, I live in the U.S. where culturally, people tend to be on the conservative side, sexually, and probably even could be considered repressed.

          And that’s because most American traditions and cultural expectations are rooted in religious-based ideals where the default setting is that ANYTHING sexual that doesn’t fall squarely within the bucket of Married Heterosexual Sex is a very bad sin that will damn you to Hell.

          That scares children and causes all sorts of psychological and emotional “things” to people as they grow up questioning and feeling guilty about things they think and feel.

          I’m not here to say whether it’s right or wrong. It just is.

          And maybe there’s a disconnect between things I write that are rooted in that mindset and experience, versus the more–for lack of a better term–“liberal” philosophy on sex more common in Europe and other places throughout the world.

          Like

          • FlyingKal says:

            Hi,
            Thank you for your patience in answering me.
            I think I was rather unclear myself, as I was somewhat triggered by some parts in your article.

            (I realize now I wrote a whole novel below. I apologize for that!)

            I’ll try to clarity, as well.

            First, I meant that a partner may or may not be porking someone under your radar, that you not know about. I didn’t mean a situation where you were both aware of it.

            Second, I live in a small, western-oriented country in northern Europe. But although we hail ourselves as sexually progressive and liberated, I think if you scratch a little bit on the surface, most people are still rather conservative and repressed especially around questions of sexual nature.

            My background is that I was a slow learner around relationships. I entered my first one in my mid-20’s, I had a few short and rather painful ones, and haven’t had much experience since then.
            Anyway, My longest relationship lasted about 5 years, and after a very passionate beginning (at least to my limited experience), it very quickly dived into something I can only describe as being rather close to celibacy. We both worked full time, we didn”t have kids or anyone else to occupy our time, I did half the household chores or more, but she just never seemed in the mood, and always seemed to find other things to occupy herself with.
            Whenever I asked, or tried seducing her, it was always something else on her mind, or “Not now, I’m not in the mood” or “You’re only thinking about one thing!”.
            I really did ask her how she wanted meto improve, and I did everythink I could come up with to please her, whenever we actually got around doing it (perhaps once a month or less), And she would usually say afterwards someting along the line of “Oh, that was so great! You’re so good, why don’t we do this more often…” And all I could do was to bite my tongue to stop myself from blurting “Why don’t we do this more often? For a starter, because you turn me down like 49 times out of 50…” (Bitter? Who, me?)

            Whenever I tried bringing it up to discussion, if there was anything that she was dissatisfied with, she would claim that everything was fine and I was an allaround great guy. She just never thought about sex. Or she would word it a bit more non-committal as “Women don’t think about sex all that much, like men do…” and shrug her shoulder. Then she would tell me to just ask more often, but could never figure out how wearing her down even more and me being turned down even more often, could possibly improve anything…

            So, here we have two healthy soon-to-be 30-year-olds who love each other deeply, but have totally different things on their minds…

            Now we come to the basis of my first question to you. (About effing time, you say!?!):
            A few years in, I came to talk about our, by now, non-existent sexlife with a friend oe night. And his first response was “Do you think she’s doing it with someone else?”
            The question rattled me a bit, as I really hadn’t thought about that earlier. I had been so occcupied trying to fix my own flaws, imaginary or real (because as we’re told, what woman would turn down sex with a man who is honest, hard-working, and does his share and more of the housework, right…?)
            But I started thinking about it. She did quite a lot of over-night travelling in her job, so she would have plenty of opportuniy.

            But I came to realize, what mattered to me was that she didn’t want to have sex with me! Of course, if she was to get pregnant or get an STI from someone else, that would of course have a direct impact on myself.
            But as long as she was “just” turning me down, to me it meant that she was not attracted to me.
            If she was in fact attracted to someone else, or if it was true that she just never thought about sex or was asexual, I figured (then and there) wasn’t anything I could influence.
            Then again, I’ve always been kind of a backward thinker.

            Thank you, if you’ve managed to read this far without falling asleep…

            Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              Flying Kal,

              Can I offer another explanation for your situation?

              There are some general differences in sex responses by gender. Many women have “responsive desire”. They don’t feel the more typically male “spontaneous desire”.

              This sounds like what your partner is saying. It’s not that she is attracted to you. She just shows a more typical response for many women. She becomes sexually interested as a response to consensual sex. She does not feel sexually aroused BEFORE sex.

              This is important information for both the affected man and woman to understand. Men are not “only interested in one thing” they just have a different response pattern. Women are not rejecting you if they don’t show interest in sex in the same way you do. They just have a different response pattern.

              If you both approach sex understanding your differences you can change your thoughts and behaviors to set things up for both your responsive styles.

              http://www.thedirtynormal.com/blog/2014/06/16/i-drew-this-graph-about-sexual-desire-and-i-think-it-might-change-your-life/

              Like

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                Left out a critical word in this sentence.

                “This sounds like what your partner is saying. It’s not that she is *NOT*. attracted to you. She just shows a more typical response for many women.

                Like

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                “What this means is that about 30% of women and 5% of men experience their sexual desire as more or less exclusively “responsive,” while about 15% of women and 75% of men experience their desire as more or less exclusively “spontaneous.” And most of the other folks – about half of women – experience is as some combination of the two, depending on the context.

                So yeah. About half of people – 85% of women and 25% of men, for an average of 55% of the total population – don’t have spontaneous desire as their dominant desire style.”

                Like

              • FlyingKal says:

                Lisa,
                Thank you for your reply.
                Yes, I am aware of the (perhaps fundamental?) general differences in sexual desire and response between men and women.
                That was not the problem, or the issue.

                You write (emphasis mine) :
                “If you both approach sex understanding your differences you can change your thoughts and behaviors to set things up for both your responsive styles.”

                My question at the time was, how can I as one person work to improve on this issue, when the other person seems to be just as happy or content in keeping the situation as it is, and keeping me guessing on the current status of the day without any useful input “Yes, I know that’s what I told you yesterday, butu today I’ve changed my mind”…

                To perhaps put it a bit drastically, how do you initiate change with someone who, although they claim that the sex is great whenever it happens, they seem to be hiding behind their gender role of “not wanting sex/not thinking about it!” and even be comforable with that, in order to stifle any attempt to change?

                Like

                • Lisa Gottman says:

                  Hi FlyingKal,

                  It’s always so hard in these comments to understand and/or respond to complex situations.

                  I am, I am sure, not understanding the relationship you are describing fully. I hope my responses don’t come off as trying to provide simplistic answers to complex problems. Sometimes I throw out general resources that have helped me understand a topic better in the hope it may help someone else. Maybe the specifics don’t apply to your situation exactly.

                  To answer your questions:

                  I thought that the situation you described was an example of a couple who does not understand the differences between a subset of women who enjoy sex once started but who do not have sexual interest before.

                  This does not describe all women. Just some. It’s estimated that in up to 1/3 of relationships the woman has the higher sex drive than the man.

                  But stereotypes exist that reinforce the idea that women don’t want sex. Or that men do. Etc etc These ideas can really mess up relationship dynamics.

                  So I might be totally wrong in my interpretation but it sounded like your girlfriend had a responsive sex drive. No or little interest in sex before but enjoyed it and said so. She also had ideas that her sex drive was true for ALL women and that ALL men think about sex all the time etc.

                  These ideas are not factually true as you know. If one believe they ARE factually true that causes problems. Because there is no motivation to change it. It’s just the way it is.

                  It sounded to me (please correct if I am wrong) that you also describe some ideas about that if she asks you to initiate that is wrong. I totally get that being turned down so often is hard. My only point is that it’s kind of expected a women with a responsive pattern will not spontaneously initiate sex.

                  Instead it seemed to me it felt personal. Like she wasn’t attracted to YOU or that why would she want to have sex since you love each other, you do chores, she likes sex when it happens etc. There does seem to be a misunderstanding of what responsive sexual patterns look like. (Or maybe I’m not interpreting it right).

                  So that’s why I threw out all that stuff on different sexual responses. It seemed to me that both of you were operating with different expectations for what “normal” is. I apologize if I misunderstood.

                  I will address your other question on how one person can unilateralist address it.

                  Like

                  • FlyingKal says:

                    Ms Gottman,
                    Thank you for for reply.
                    I’m in a hurry right now, and I will be offline for a couple of days, but I will try to get back with an answer and some more thoughts around this on, say, Friday.

                    (Also, I don’t live in or come from an English-speaking country, so I have a question on etiquette. I would like to ask you if it is OK that I address you “Ms Gottman”? Please let me know if you have a more professional title, or perhaps just a less gender-specific one, that you would prefer that I use. Or do you prefer I just address you by name?)

                    Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Since you asked, addressing me with my first name Lisa is good.

                      Or if you prefer something longer it could be “she who annoys many people with random theories, models, and statistics to try and make sense of relationships.”

                      Like

                    • Louie says:

                      Lisa…I believe you to be passionate about this subject not annoying . You are doing untold good for many . ..keep inspiring

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Thank you Louis for your kind words! I think the conversations here are really great when there is a diversity of experiences and ways of seeing things. Your stories are a great inspiration to me and I’m sure many other people.

                      We CAN change. Substantially. And your stories are a great example of that.

                      Like

                  • Nate says:

                    Lisa – thank you as usual for your keen insight. I understand your comments about different sexual responses and the statistics you share. I don’t dispute them. What I really wonder though, is do women who do not have some sort of regular sex with their husbands (and the converse is true too) truly understand how soul crushing this is? When a woman has regular sex with her boyfriend, then fiance, and ultimately husband, and when the man is concurrently romantic, doting, etc., is it any surprise that when the woman just “turns off” sex after marriage, that the man turns off as well? Do women realize that most men want to be romantic and make their partners feel loved and wanted? Do women realize that when this sexual behavior just stops, that not only do we men feel defeated, we feel deceived…that our perfect partners were just using sex as some form of currency. We can talk for hours and days about division of labor and affirmation/acknowledgement and these are 100% legit…but I feel these issues ALL arise after sex is taken off the table. And, if and when the man brings this up, we are scolded as “only thinking/caring about sex”. If sex is not that important to one partner, that is okay. But, and it’s a huge but, the partner needs to be upfront about it. One partner cannot be sexually active for early stages of relationships and then turn it off and not expect their to be problems. And I have a big issue when it’s then pinned on the man as not meeting some sort of wants and expectations as the reason for the sex stopping.

                    Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Nate,

                      This is a big topic so I have more thoughts than time today.

                      But to answer your question “do they understand how soul crushing it is?” No, I don’t think they do in the early stages of the disconnect especially.

                      Why don’t they understand? Because most of us are not that differentiated. It’s hard to wrap our head around other people’s experiences that we don’t relate to.

                      Now, a secure person with good relationship skills doesn’t need to understand. You care because your partner cares. And you respond with lots of positivity and generosity. That’s what happens in the early stages of most relationships. That’s why you get married.

                      So what happens to erode that positivity and generosity?

                      There are different models to explain it. Most of us don’t have great relationship skills when triggered by something that we find threatening our vulnerabilities.

                      We get into what a cycle of criticism, withdrawal, contempt, and stonewalling to use John Gottman’s model. You each think the other person is at fault because you deemphasize your relationship errors and maximize theirs.

                      But in the average relationship, it’s usually a combination of ineffective relationship skills that produce the eventual mounting negative cycle.

                      We all have to be able to ask for what we want in effective ways. And also stand up for ourselves respectfully when our partner is not using good skills.

                      I have posted before Brent Atkinson’s ebook. It uses Gottman and others research and gives very specific concrete ways to respond effectively. I’ll post it again in another comment. I highly recommend it.

                      Now to apply all this stuff I just said about your question about a sexless marriage I’ll have to write another comment in a bit.

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Here’s the Atkinson ebook link.

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

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Nate,

                      Ok quick answer to your question about sex. First, there are over 7 billion people so when we say men and women there are HUGE subsets of people with different sex drives etc.

                      But let’s look at the subset you mention. A couple that was having regular sex but then the wife over time no longer wants to have sex ever or substantially less then the husband.

                      Let’s assume these are average people who aren’t trying to make each other miserable in a sadistic way. Over time though sex and probably other topics get entrenched into a demand withdraw pattern.

                      Let’s again assume that they both would say there is a reasonable division of chores and childcare and other similar issues.

                      What’s going on?

                      I like David Schnarch’s model here to make sense of it. On any issue of difference there is going to be a low desire person and a high desire person.

                      Could be about sex or budget choices or how much time to spend on work or family whatever.

                      It’s VERY easy to get sucked into a pursue/withdraw pattern. The high desire person feels so frustrated and rejected. The low desire person feels so pressured and frustrated.

                      The reality is the LOW desire person on any topic controls the issue. (That’s why many men use stonewalling when their wives use what they perceive to be criticism in their request for change.)

                      On most topics according to Gottman’s research the wife is the one requesting change most often. The man is the low desire person since he is not requesting the change.

                      In sex, for the majority, the wife is the low desire person. The man is the one with the higher need. This is made more difficult since he is usually not in the position of vulnerability of asking and being at the mercy of someone.

                      That’s just one small reason why some men find the topic of sex more frustrating.

                      And some women use it as a source of power. I don’t think that is most women.

                      Most of the time there are more brakes for her than the husband. And if she feels pressured that just makes it all the easy to fall into bad relationship skills too. Of not being generous.

                      Most of the time couples get caught in cycles of negativity they can’t get out of. It becomes more and more painful and hostile. Both people have to be able to use good relationship skills to get out of it. It’s hard.

                      I know this is not a complete answer. Just a few thoughts.

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      In other words in the situation you described the wife is doing sexual stonewalling.

                      Now maybe there is some frustration she is having with the way the husband is asking her. Too pressured, critical. Or there are other areas she feels she is being stonewalled by him.

                      But regardless of all that, it’s destructive to a relationship stonewall. That’s why it’s critical to know how to deal with this stuff in healthy ways.

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      And it’s also critical as the high desire person to know how to ask for change in a non critical “soft startup” way. And when faced with stonewalling know how to respond without escalating the negativity.

                      Super easy! Ha ha ha.

                      Like

                • Lisa Gottman says:

                  FlyingKal,

                  “To perhaps put it a bit drastically, how do you initiate change with someone who, although they claim that the sex is great whenever it happens, they seem to be hiding behind their gender role of “not wanting sex/not thinking about it!” and even be comforable with that, in order to stifle any attempt to change?”

                  That’s an important question. You are asking it about sex specifically but it’s the question that Matt says is generally the most common question asked by those reading his posts.

                  How can I initiate change with someone who (often using gender roles to justify it) doesn’t seem to want to change?

                  I can’t pretend to know the magic answer. But let me throw out some random thoughts for your consideration that have helped me.

                  I think it’s important to first understand what is happening. That’s why I find it helpful to read books, podcasts etc to understand the patterns. Why is he/she so resistant to change? Why am I so wanting it to change?

                  Once I understand the whys then it’s time to figure out the way out of the pursuer/withdraw pattern. Shake it up by changing MY thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

                  After that, emotional safety in asking for what you would like it critical. What makes my partner feel safe? So I can make it as easy as possible for a win/win outcome. Instead of asking/demanding for what I need.

                  I have to be able to accept their differences and answers. That is hard. Require a lot of maturity on my end. We all want the other person to change to make our lives easier. But in reality we have to be flexible and also figure out our deal breakers.

                  The biggest thing for me is to not make it personal. I know that sounds crazy in a close relationship but there it is. Your partner is responding a certain way because it’s about THEM.

                  Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be deeply connected but IMHO it has to start with not taking things so personally. Being generous in interpretion. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Giving a sense of safety.

                  All very hard stuff. All unilaterally done. There is a LOT one person can do.

                  Of course that’s not all there is. At some point, boundaries may require change. A professional guidance may be required.

                  But in all these topics, it’s not really about dishes. In this topic it’s not really about sex.

                  Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              Emily Nagoski had a lot of really helpful information in this book. She explains a LOT of differences by gender that can cause a lot of hurt and frustration if not understood for the science it is.

              These are broad gender differences of course. Lots of individual variations.

              Like

              • I’ve always said men need to have sex to feel close and women need to feel close to have sex.

                Like

                • Lisa Gottman says:

                  Yes! I think you are right that for many women context matters a LOT. I think it matters for many men too but women tend to have more “brakes” than men do for nature/nurture reasons.

                  It was interesting for me to learn that the biological responses can be different too. Responsive vs spontaneous.

                  It’s about relationship context but also about biology.

                  And just to keep it complicated not ALL men or women show the same patterns.

                  (There are a substantial subset that do not show that pattern.).

                  Like

                  • Lisa Gottman says:

                    As the stats in the quote show above, most men and women have some kind of combination of spontaneous and responsive sexual response. Most people need context (need to feel close to want sex)

                    I wish this stuff was more widely known. It could save a lot of misunderstanding and heartache and feelings of being abnormal and/or rejected.

                    Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Of course how much context matters varies as well as what context provides a sexual response.

                      Matt’s story shows he moved out of the bedroom because of the context of his wife’s response to him. I’m sure his wife had context too.

                      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lisa Gottman says:

    Such a sad and common story. Two well meaning people who both feel victimized, depressed, disconnected, and lonely. It’s hard to remember what it feels like to feel desired rather than rejected.

    Esther Perel talks about why people have affairs. I think it is about disconnection. Sometimes it’s like you describe. Disconnection from your spouse.

    Sometimes it’s about disconnection from yourself. After a loss or brush with death or just other lost versions of yourself. The road not taken. We all have to make peace with ourselves and our limitations.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        10:28
        “The vast majority of people that I actually work with are not at all chronic philanderers. They are often people who are deeply monogamous in their beliefs, and at least for their partner. But they find themselves in a conflict between their values and their behavior.

        They often are people who have actually been faithful for decades, but one day they cross a line that they never thought they would cross, and at the risk of losing everything. But for a glimmer of what?

        Affairs are an act of betrayal, and they are also an expression of longing and loss. At the heart of an affair, you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves or an attempt to bring back vitality in the face of loss and tragedy.”

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        12:39
        “Now, all over the world, there is one word that people who have affairs always tell me. They feel alive. And they often will tell me stories of recent losses — of a parent who died, and a friend that went too soon, and bad news at the doctor.

        Death and mortality often live in the shadow of an affair, because they raise these questions. Is this it? Is there more? Am I going on for another 25 years like this? Will I ever feel that thing again?

        And it has led me to think that perhaps these questions are the ones that propel people to cross the line, and that some affairs are an attempt to beat back deadness, in an antidote to death.”

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        “And contrary to what you may think, affairs are way less about sex, and a lot more about desire: desire for attention, desire to feel special, desire to feel important.

        And the very structure of an affair, the fact that you can never have your lover, keeps you wanting.

        That in itself is a desire machine, because the incompleteness, the ambiguity, keeps you wanting that which you can’t have.”

        Like

  12. Lisa Gottman says:

    Another explanation for affairs. An inability to safely negotiate differences between his much independence and togetherness makes us feel loved.

    Do you love towards or away when stressed?

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      “Bauman speaks to our nostalgia for unlived lives, unexplored identities, and roads not taken. As children, we have the opportunity to play at other roles; as adults, we often find ourselves confined by the ones we’ve been assigned or the ones we have chosen. When we select a partner, we commit to a story.

      Yet we remain forever curious: What other stories could we have been part of? Affairs offer us a view of those other lives, a peek at the stranger within. Adultery is the revenge of the deserted possibilities.”

      Like

  13. In my humble opinion having been a cheater prior to 30 years of age, and then being cheated on at 50 years of age, the issue of infidelity is simply the deception and betrayal. If you were honest and open with your partner it likely would not have happened. That said if you are interested in a raw letter to all those that are cheating and or thinking about it from your spouse, you should check out: http://bit.ly/2l3koUX

    Like

  14. […] citeam asta – How Marital Affairs Happen: The Beautiful Stranger I Wanted to Sleep With While I Was Married — Mu…, şi în esenţă, spune exact acelaşi lucru. Despre pericolul deconectării, despre dificultatea […]

    Like

  15. pamelaparizo says:

    Steve, I think your circumstance is not the norm. Most people actually do want to have a loving relationship and would only consider infidelity as a last resort for sanity. I know for me it was because of the highly abusive nature of my marriage. Honesty and openness meant nothing within the context of our relationship. I believe many of the statements here are correct in that it largely involves a distance created between two otherwise loving people. I do not condone cheating now at all, but to do everything they can to save their relationship.

    Like

  16. Louie says:

    I just need to vent a little if I may . I’m not sure if it was because of Halloween or just the way things align sometimes but something triggered my nightmares and haunts this week . This passed week was 27 years ago Anne and I decided to make a decision to go forward with our marriage and she asked me to move back home . Those were dark times full of fears, tears, anguish , and hosts of foul thoughts judgments worries and wonders . I’m not going to lie , I had gotten to a point where I was super sensitive was given information I didn’t want to know, grateful for the opportunity to try to get back together , and knew that I could recover and move forward with my life as a single person and was fully aware that my wife and I could have been writing our swan song. Thankfully the nuts and bolts of our relationship and lives are back in place and securely tightened . The nightmare of the events leading up to our separation and near stepping out of our marriage and probable divorce ruled the last few days and rented space in my thoughts . The guy that tried to get with Anne during our separation has bumped into me in several locations this week each time giving me a smirk . My old college girlfriend sent me a friend request on Facebook ( ballsy as clearly both Anne and I share the Facebook page). Memories that haunt trick or treated in my psyche and caused me to doubt and be quiet and aloof . That stuff made its exit this morning when I came home from work about 330 am … I crawled into bed and Anne still partially asleep laid her head on my back…..the shit show drained away as if a plug got pulled , our connection got me through and keeps me straight strong and feeling loved . Thanks for listening . . Blessings to you all

    Like

  17. Jacqueline says:

    Brilliant honest insight from a male perspective, emotional affairs are rarely talked about and way more damaging.

    Liked by 1 person

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