What You Don’t Know Actually Can Hurt You

dice optical illusion

(Image/Zako.org)

Disclaimer: I might be clinically insane.

That needs to be said upfront, because it’s mathematically possible and I have no official medical diagnosis to prove otherwise. I’ve never been in anyone’s head but mine, and there’s a pretty good chance mine’s a little more whack than yours. I’m not sure.

So that’s my big caveat–that I might be totally bat-shit crazy, because I don’t assume (about this) that just because I experience life this way that you also do.

But I’m betting there will be someone–maybe you (hi!)–who’s also a little bit nuts. Maybe they’ll get it and think it matters.

I am–by far–the wimpiest version of myself while flying on airplanes.

It’s not the kind of thing you can observe. I maintain a calm appearance because I want to look like a cool customer.

But sometimes I’m not.

There are moments while flying where my body feels involuntary jolts of fear. All those “DANGER!” chemicals your brain produces during life’s least-calm moments. I sometimes experience that on routine commercial flights.

I know it’s irrational. Super-irrational.

There are more than 100,000 flights every day around the globe. In the United States alone, there are more than 5,000 commercial jets in the sky at any given time. And how many non-terrorism-related U.S. commercial flights have not made their destinations in my lifetime?

Honestly, that ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996 is the only one I can think of. Even a 2009 US Airways flight that hit a flock of birds and suffered total engine loss managed to land safely on the Hudson River in New York (an incident dramatized in the film “Sully”).

If you believe in math (and I totally do), it’s literally less than one in a million that something super-scary or dangerous happens on commercial flights.

And yet, there I sit, doing my best to wear my best Super Calm Guy face (I hide the fear pretty well), but on the inside feel all kinds of nerves whenever:

  • The plane changes altitude significantly.
  • We make any major directional turns.
  • The plane bounces significantly from turbulence.
  • I hear that ding-noise that is probably just some random passenger asking for scotch or a pair of headphones, but which my mind always assumes is the pilot calling the flight attendants into the cockpit to warn them of imminent danger and to keep it a secret from the rest of us to avoid panic.

I stare at my phone. I read the same sentence in my book over and over. I maintain eye contact and a calm demeanor with anyone seated next to me I might be talking to.

But on the inside of my chest and stomach, I feel involuntary fear and anxiety as if I’m going to die any minute now, and my son and ex-wife are going to get stuck rifling through my house at the estate sale, with my ex-wife secretly celebrating my untimely passing so that our little boy no longer has to live in a house which clearly hasn’t been dusted or vacuumed in the corners for far too long.

When I was little, I used to have a reoccurring dream of falling–the kind that likes to happen shortly after falling asleep. It wasn’t a peaceful fall. The ground was rushing toward me, and I was afraid.

Of course, like in the dirty dreams where you never actually get to do the deed, I’d wake up before I hit the ground, and just sit there waiting for my heart rate to return to normal.

The Power of Information

I spent last week in Las Vegas for work, and because my company’s travel department hates me apparently, it had me fly through San Francisco on my way back to Cleveland. From Vegas. Don’t get me started.

I flew on four planes. I’ll fly on four more to get to and from Mexico within the next two weeks. I have a fair amount of air-travel experience. Nothing bad has ever happened.

I’m not afraid leading up to the flight. I don’t worry about it, nor dread it. I just have an uncomfortable physical reaction to certain aspects of air travel that are exacerbated by my overactive imagination.

If I was sitting in the co-pilot seat and the captain said to me: “We’re about 100 miles away from a large storm system, but we’re going to increase our altitude by 5,000 feet and veer off to the right, and we’re going to miss the storm by several miles,” I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have any anxiety about these two maneuvers I was anticipating.

If I was sitting with the captain, and he said: “I know turbulence is uncomfortable, but it’s a normal part of flying and there’s nothing to worry about–even when it’s really bumpy–here’s why…,” I’m pretty sure I’d be cooler than how I normally experience it.

It’s not just knowledge or information that eliminates the irrational fear. Sometimes, something significantly distracting overpowers it. I fly at least once a year with my young son. I don’t feel fear when I’m with him up there. Maybe because I feel like it’s my job to be brave for him, so I accidentally am. Or maybe because the rational part of my brain acknowledges the obvious: If this was legitimately risky, you would never have bought the tickets, and you certainly would never put your son in danger, and maybe that’s the thing that offsets that unpleasant panicky feeling that sometimes crops up.

What Don’t You Know About Your Spouse or Romantic Partner?

You’re probably not like I was. You probably don’t concoct paranoid thoughts and feelings about your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend and then have unpleasant physical reactions to them.

But that was me during the final 18 months of my marriage while I slept in the guest room wondering what my wife was doing, who she was talking to, who she was thinking about, and what she really thought of me.

The final few years of my marriage messed me up pretty bad. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine, because I repeatedly lacked the courage to directly speak my thoughts, feelings and fears to the one person who mattered.

We don’t always speak or behave honestly.

We feel angry. Sad. Embarrassed. Paranoid. Jealous. Ashamed. Insecure. Afraid. But we don’t communicate that to our partner. Since we feel it so profoundly, and they “know us” so well, we assume they know it–or they should if they actually cared.

We don’t effectively communicate truth, and then when our partners don’t do what we silently hoped they would, we feel even shittier–whether that’s sadness, anger or disappointment.

We have brains and our brains are funny things.

Our brains have been doing their thing for however long we’ve been alive, and our brains learn how to tell us stories to fill in gaps. It’s how we can often catch moving things sailing overhead, or instinctively stop or dodge to avoid collisions in vehicles, or on foot.

We don’t need 100-percent of all information to guess accurately.

When we’re inside, but it’s raining outside, we don’t need to experience being rained on to know we’ll get wet.

We’re good guessers most of the time. Seriously. We’d be dead if we weren’t. I’ve never fallen off a cliff, but I’m skilled at guessing what would happen if I did, and taking steps to avoid it.

We’re excellent at observing the world around us, and avoiding danger.

But not always. We don’t bat 1.000. We strike out sometimes. Maybe not even half the time. But sometimes. And sometimes we do it in our relationships when our busy minds start guessing what our partners might be thinking or feeling, and then having psychological and emotional reactions to those guesses without confirming truth or accuracy one way or another.

YOU CAN’T TRUST YOURSELF.

No matter how good we are at not dying, and no matter how effectively we navigate our interpersonal relationships with friends, co-workers, and families of origin. We can’t trust ourselves, because the fact is, we’re WRONG a lot.

We just are.

You’re wrong about what your husband thinks and feels.

You’re wrong about what your wife thinks and feels.

You’re wrong about what your parents think and feel.

You’re wrong about what everyone at work thinks about you.

You’re wrong about what your children think and feel.

We’re all wrong about a countless number of things which all of us lacking the power of omniscience can’t possibly know.

But our brains guess anyway. Our brains always guess, and without a crap-ton of discipline, mindfulness and wisdom, we tend to mentally and emotionally FEEL whatever conclusion our brains settle on.

I have no way of knowing what would have happened had I walked another path. It’s not something I think much about.

But, through the prism of hindsight, I feel confident saying that a major, major, major contributor to my failed marriage and broken family is, simply…

A lack of information.

Either I thought and felt things that weren’t true, and perhaps reacted to those false conclusions, OR my wife thought and felt things that weren’t true, and in many instances, it was my fear or stubbornness that allowed that to happen.

I was so busy pretending to be tough and courageous, that I was hiding all of my weakness and fear.

I hadn’t yet discovered the truth: It IS being tough to be vulnerable and honest. It IS brave to push through fear and tackle things head-on.

Like when I calmly am there for my little boy in the seat next to me on the airplane and everything’s okay.

The most important things and people in our lives are too significant to leave to mistake-prone guessing. Yet, many of us do, and after months and years of that, our worlds end for a little bit until we pick up the pieces again.

Sometimes things are worse than we think, and we don’t really want to know the truth even though the solution lives in that truth.

Sometimes things are better than we think, but we have no idea because we want to pout and be mad, or because we’re too embarrassed to say or ask what’s on our minds.

When we don’t have enough information, we draw incorrect conclusions that lead to us thinking, feeling, saying and doing things we otherwise wouldn’t.

And maybe sometimes that doesn’t really matter.

But sometimes–it’s the only thing that does.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

76 thoughts on “What You Don’t Know Actually Can Hurt You

  1. somecallmejack says:

    “The final two few years of my marriage messed me up pretty bad. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine, because I repeatedly lacked the courage to directly speak my thoughts, feelings and fears to the one person who mattered.”

    Dear Lord, you just triggered me about the way someone feels when tasered. Hand me a shovel and I’ll just bury myself right now.

    (Full disclosure, I’ve never been tasered, but I have voluntarily connected myself to a pasture-sized electric fence generator that only had a few yards of wire attached with no weeds or grass to leak to ground, so I think I have a very good idea what a very high voltage shock feels like.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. somecallmejack says:

    OK, that was a useless comment. I’m sorry, it just sort of erupted. But here’s a little more thoughtful response from my own experience.

    I have been almost fatally bad at failing to speak up with an honest and level head about my wants and desires in all parts of my life (60 years). And this has caused almost immeasurable problems and pain for me and others. It is such a trap.

    One of my ways of dealing with my inability to ask for what I wanted was to make up rules. “My wife should do X.” “My kids should do Y.” “My colleague should do Z.” Of course these “rules” didn’t exist anywhere but in my head. I invented them to protect myself from having to speak honestly and expose myself to the risk of getting ‘no’ in response.

    Depending on which day of the week you ask, but probably at least several days each week, I would tell you that this is my greatest handicap in relationships (of all kinds). :-(

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      What was/is blocking you from speaking up? Have you been able to figure it out?

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        Other than just being a chicken? ;-) Seriously…only guesses.

        Growing up in a household where there was no validation for differences and “other,” I think I learned (or maybe I just taught myself, which is different) that what you wanted was somehow wrong if it didn’t coincide with what was available. You were (I was) supposed to make do with what was and there was something wrong with wanting something else/something different.

        I still struggle almost fatally with the idea that it’s legitimate for me to get what I’d like.

        And the result is that I haven’t, and if I don’t figure this out pretty damned fast, probably never will, since time waits for no man and especially not for someone my age. But I really worry about the impact on my wife and kids (adults!), too.

        It is very complex trying to telescope a lifetime’s work into a few years.

        Like

        • Lisa Gottman says:

          I’m curious what is blocking you from doing it now?

          Since it seems you can now identify it needs to be done and you seem to be very motivated to do it.

          Like

          • somecallmejack says:

            The fact that I still struggle under the burdens of childhood patterns and decades of lather, rinse, repeat. :-/

            Liked by 1 person

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              Jack you said:

              “I still struggle almost fatally with the idea that it’s legitimate for me to get what I’d like.”

              I am really intrigued by your situation.

              You are clearly very intelligent and motivated.

              You can now identify your patterns and the goal of what behavioral things you should do.

              You understand how important it is to change to a new pattern.

              But there is a block to getting from point a to point b that prevents you from changing behaviorally. (I have things like this in my life too by the way).

              I won’t insult you by suggesting “solutions” since you are so well read I’m sure you have tried different techniques and approaches.

              I was just wondering if you would be willing to share what things you’ve tried that did help and what things had the opposite effect.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                I mean specifically to the concrete entrenched thought that it’s not legitimate to get what you want.

                That seems like a thought that could be addressed through CBT and behavioral changes with DBT.

                I have a couple of similar ones so I relate to how entrenched those kind of ideas can be.

                Like

                • somecallmejack says:

                  Lisa, I will try to respond to your immediately preceding comment later. Here, I will just say that I think CBT has a lot to offer. I have read a lot but there are limits to what you can do yourself. I have had some work with a CBT therapist scheduled, but life got in the way, so it’s probably off until early next year.

                  Having said that, I’m not 100% sure that the problems you asked about above are really things I see CBT as addressing, but your question suggests that looking into that might be smart. Thank you!

                  Like

                  • Lisa Gottman says:

                    I have found CBT helpful especially with specific concrete thoughts.

                    I have one that’s sort of similar to yours. It’s “no one chooses me”

                    It FEELS true. I found list stories and reasons here for why I am often convinced it is true.

                    But that’s the thing. Our brain has a negative bias and also we create stories to make sense of things.

                    CBT is helpful to challenge the “truth” of that. Is that the only way to look at things? Lots of exercises designed to find the distortions in the thought. Black and white thinking. When I focus on that I can list lots of opposing examples of times I have been chosen. It’s not accurate to say that I’m never chosen. It’s my “fast thinking” default though.

                    Using tools like CBT with exercises puts down new tracks in the brain to stop the automatic thoughts. It’s work at first because I have to use my “slow thinking” to challenge my “fast thinking.”

                    And that goes back to the idea of naming emotions that are caused by the thoughts. Change the thoughts and the emotions can change.

                    My husband has panic disorder and has had great success with using CBT to challenge his thoughts that contributed to the panic attacks.

                    Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) incorporates a lot of CBT and adds mindfulness and behavioral changes. It’s very effective to change the types of issues like knowing a goal but not being able to change because a block overwhelms.

                    DBT is what my husband and I are doing now in a group couples setting. We both have some blocks that require specific help to change patterns.

                    Both DBT and CBT are well researched and effective for the types of things we are talking about. Maybe it might be helpful to your situation too.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      As an aside, one of the cognitive distortions identified in CBT is what Matt’s post is talking about. “Mind reading” where we think we can know what people are thinking (seldom accurate) or we expect other people to read our mind without telling them.

                      That causes all kinds of relationship problems.

                      Like

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      Also what you said about the “rules” you create in your head is a classic CBT distortion. It’s one of my favorites too. The “shoulds” I am very convinced of for myself and others.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Lisa Gottman says:

                      List of Cognitive Distortions

                      (Source: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company)

                      “1.) ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

                      2.) OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

                      3.) MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

                      4.) DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

                      5.) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

                      A.) MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.

                      B.) FORTUNE TELLING: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

                      6.) MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”

                      7.) EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

                      8.) SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

                      9.) LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him” “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

                      10.) PERSONALIZATION: You see your self as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.”

                      Liked by 1 person

    • Louie says:

      Totally understand Jack….just know that even at our age these types of thoughts and beliefs are “fixable “. One question I ask myself is ” what is the risk in being open vs having me be outed by my own actions later?”. And I, now that I’m older and have few filters, say to my self, “what are they going to do? Execute me?” And boom…you’re either the cool old guy that should be heard and respected or the somebody should lock up that old goof guy. In mynview either is win win.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rene says:

      I must say it is incredibly interesting to read your comment. I suffer from the same inability to speak up and communicate, you might have written straight from my thoughts. I have also for a long time known my problem, why it’s important to overcome it, and have even many good guesses as to what contributed to lead to me becoming this way. However, still, when I KNOW I need to address something and actually really do WANT to address it, I will go so far sometimes as to write down everything that I need to say and make a time and opportunity to do so…but when the time actually arrives, I will simply let it pass. It is almost like a physical inability to speak. It is very hard to unlearn as it is so ingrained in the way I deal with my problems, just to internalize and never confront.

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        Yeah, I don’t know how to say this quite right. I can plan and resolve and script and tell myself I’m going to do it but in the moment it just doesn’t happen.

        What I want to say is that it seems just pathetic. I don’t mean that in a self-hating kind of way (at least I don’t think I do). It’s just inexplicably sad. I should be able to do better. So maybe I actually do need to apply some self-compassion.

        But that’s a separate problem.

        Like

  3. Louie says:

    Matt …. I know I sound like a broken record but …..in our relationships we fight our spouses, outside influences and the big one..our selves. I have moments when I feel like I should be wearing a shirt with a big “S” on it and a cape. Untold numbers of people in my family,community,work, and school system come to me for help and advice. I sort of like to help, but I feel often times, that I have no one to turn to. I didn’t talk to Anne for the longest time about my fears and frustrations, it was part of the wedge that preyed us apart…my super-macho big shoulders tough guy needed to realize that I was co joined to the one person that cared and was to be my partner…that anything I couldn’t solve on my own could be in concert with her. I’m open now because after our struggles it was awakened in me that we are better together. We have been side by side against family members on both sides….she was my rock when I ran for political office, I have defended her against her abusive mom and we have both worked hard in our community for the defenseless and needy. It’s a liberating thing to open up be vulnerable and communicate.

    Like

  4. Lisa Gottman says:

    Matt,

    I don’t think you’re crazy at all. I go through a similar process everyday. I am anxious or afraid of things that I intellectually know are VERY unlikely to happen. Or I feel intense social anxiety over stupid things.

    You know what helps me? Trying to understand how our brains work. I think we like to think that we are driven by our intellectual understanding of things. I think men in particular are raised to see themselves as driven by logic and not emotions.

    The problem with that is that’s not how human brains operate.

    So much of our experiences are driven by what behavioral economist Daniel Kinneman calls the brains “fast thinking”. Our fear of flying is driven by this. We feel the emotion of fear that it’s not natural to be flying through the air.

    Our “slow thinking” knows the facts that statistically it’s very safe. So we feel a lot of conflict on certain topics that vary by person. Fear of flying is a common one.

    One way according to Dan Siegel one way to soothe the conflict is to “name it to tame it”. If you can identify and name the emotions and not fight or suppress them it can coordinate the brain better. Your emotional lymbic system can be integrated better and soothed by the cortex like adult soothing a scared child.

    The problem is that for many people they can’t identify their emotions. And there is a LOT of shame for certain emotions like fear that they classify as weak. So instead of naming to tame it we try and suppress it which actually makes the situation worse.

    Because now the limbic brain is freaked out even more because of the conflict.

    At least that’s how it works in my brain.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      I think the is exactly what happens in relationships too.

      We FEEL all kinds of emotions. Being rejected by your partner is a true emotional threat that cause our brains to activate our arrousal system. We get flooded with stress hormones. We can’t think logically.

      Now many of us, and a LOT of men cannot then do what would help to calm things. Name it to tame it.

      Why?

      Because they haven’t been raised to identify what they feel. They have often been raised to do the opposite and suppress what they feel. With anger as the only “masculine” allowable emotion. But good men don’t want to be angry and violent so they often suppress that too.

      Gottman’s research shows that men get more physiologically “flooded” than women in arguments.

      What to do what all that emotion and hormonal arrousal? Like the fight, flight or freeze. Often they shut down. 85% of stonewallers are men.

      There is a lot of shame we all but especially men feel for acknowledging vulnerability. Much less identifying vulnerable emotions and expressing them.

      Unfortunately those are exactly the things that are needed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • somecallmejack says:

        Yeah. Game face even if you slay me. Never wince, never cry. Never feel. It’s all weak and dangerous and unmanly.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        I just want to add that I relate more to “men” in many of these relationship gender things. The desire to be driven by logic. The shame over being driven by emotions. Getting flooded. I get it I really do.

        I do have the advantage of not being shamed as “not a man” (though I got lots of other shit) so I know many men were driven to suppress their emotions in ways I can’t fathom.

        My husband is a typical guy with not being able to identify his emotions. He is very smart. Very introspective. But he can’t tell you what he feels in many cases. It blows my mind. I can’t relate since I can identity my emotions easily. This difference causes a LOT of problems.

        But at least now I understand he’s not faking that he doesn’t know. But it’s a real block to effective communication.

        Like

        • somecallmejack says:

          Sigh. Yes to all that. And then when you start figuring out your feelings, which can be both hard to do and sort of scary, you (I) have to deal with one of the many potential cognitive distortions – treating feelings as facts. I wind up having to tell myself a lot that feeling X does not make X a fact. It’s hard to bring these things up to the surface and then feel like you’re almost worse off because you’re feeling angry/hurt/rejected/shamed/whatever and you don’t know what to do about it.

          I am a real fountain of cheer today… (:-|

          Like

    • somecallmejack says:

      Very short little response, need to run for a call…but here’s a mantra for the first part of your comment. And even I can believe this:

      I can handle it.

      I used to worry incessantly. I still worry quite a bit, but I am definitely, clearly, getting better. When I’m tempted to fret and stress out, I think: you can handle this. And when part of my head talks back, I remind myself that the objective evidence of many years is that (1) I *do* handle it and (2) fretting like crazy and trying to pre-vision every twist and turn and contingency and variation never, ever helped.

      You can handle it!

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        What helpful for me is a combination of being wiling to admit to being “human” i.e. vulnerable. To admit to myself and others that I NEED people. No man (or woman) is an island as the poem goes.

        I think that is a hard thing for many people to admit.

        And once that’s admitted its balanced with I am also enough by myself. As you said I can handle it. That also is hard thing.

        For me the two opposing things need to be there. Not rigidly but flexibly. I’m working on it.

        Like

  5. Natasha says:

    Weellll, I’m never setting foot on a plane now.

    Like

  6. Thalea says:

    Our brains are funny because they’re constantly making files and associating things with these files, like what you said about going outside in the rain and getting wet.

    A great analogy I’ve heard is the cat on the hot stove. When a cat sits on a hot stove once, it will never do it again.

    But it will never sit on a cold stove, either.

    I wonder what it was in your brain that convinced you it was better to stay silent for 18 months, what stove you thought you would jump onto by asking some hard questions. Because people generally won’t hold back completely from jumping onto the stove unless they’ve already got a hot-stove file somewhere in their mind already.

    Good post :)

    Like

  7. Quinn says:

    My mouth twitched when I read that you fear the call bell. You know, turbulence is one of the least worrying things that can happen on a flight? Take off and landing – those are the most dangerous parts of a flight statistically speaking. That’s when the accidents happen. You’re welcome in advance for your white-knuckling your next plane ride at take-off and landing….

    Okay I’m pulling your leg. Seriously though, don’t worry about turbulence. My grandad was a pilot and he taught me well; turbulence feels scary but isn’t, take off and landing feel fine but are usually where human error has a chance to shine. Still one of the safest ways to travel!

    I totally agree with your statement that we expect those who love us to just *know*, to just *get it*, to somehow read our minds and our moods. I also agree that communication is one of those things everyone has heard is important but is harder to really put into practice. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved this, Matt:

    “It IS being tough to be vulnerable and honest. It IS brave to push through fear and tackle things head-on.Like when I calmly am there for my little boy in the seat next to me on the airplane and everything’s okay.”

    Now see, that’s all women need from men in a nutshell. Be vulnerable, tackle
    things head on, and reassure us that everything will be okay. :)

    Like

  9. This was a biggie for me….a recurring theme in the last few years of my marriage were me reminding my husband that he was reacting on an assumption of motive on my part but by the time I got a chance to clarify, the idea of my villiany (or whatever he dreamed up) was embedded in his brain as truth….so frustrating. nice to know I’m not the only one….I wish he would’ve just asked me….”are you doing this because_______?”

    So simple….and yet……(sigh)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. somecallmejack says:

    Lisa (moving this back out to the LH margin)…as a start at a reply to your questions.

    One of the patterns that we have, my wife and I, is that as a result of childhood attachment patterns and maybe other reasons I tend to over-state negative views, hoping that someone will jump in and say “no, it’s not that bad, here’s how I see it.” My wife, on the other hand – and this only came up when we were doing some therapy together (not currently ongoing), and it remains a huge surprise to me six months later – is an extremely literal person. So if I say “this is a disaster” she sort of leaves it at that, at least as far as understanding (or thinking she’s understanding) how I see things. And the result is that I/we get stuck there.

    But there’s this sort of damned if you do/damned if you don’t problem, because a lot of times if I say – well, for example, if I say “I don’t think this part of our marriage is working well and I’m really devastated about that” I really need her to let me know that I’ve been seen and heard. Not that she agrees, and not that she as a plan to fix it, just that she registers that that’s my current experience.

    This isn’t coming out clearly and I need to run for a train. I’ll try to fill this in more later…

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Hey I totally get that pattern because we have that one too. Fist bump for shared frustration!

      I am like you in that the language I use is expressive of how I feel at the moment. The phrase you used “this is a disaster” is meant to convey the depth of emotional distress not an accurate assessment.

      My hubby is like your wife. He’s not very good at mind reading ha ha so he takes what I say as expressing what I truly think. Which freaks him out because the language is so black and white.

      I used to argue with him that he “should” be able to determine what I really mean. (Should statements)

      But then I had a therapist tell me that if I want to be effective I need to use techniques and patterns that are effective for communication.

      So I am having to do a lot of slow thinking to change my patterns of language. That’s why I’m back to using the CBT stuff.

      I often naturally express things with black and white language. That’s something that can be changed. It takes hard work but I’m getting better at it. It does make a difference too. It’s much better for me to take responsiblity for somethjng I can control rather than being frustrated at his repeated failure to read my mind ha ha.

      You mention attachment patterns. That also factors in as you know with language. Anxiously attached people will hear the same words very differently than avoidants. All the more reason to change language.

      My avoidant husband is allergic to my bids for connection/reassurance that I use stuff like “it’s all a disaster”. He hears that as criticism and it overwhelms him. Shuts him down rather than the response I sought it produces the opposite. Better to change the bid to something that gives him a shot at giving me what I want rather than making it harder for him. Maybe that’s what happens to your wife? (Or is it something else)

      Anyway just rambling some thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        Oh goodness.

        “I am like you in that the language I use is expressive of how I feel at the moment. The phrase you used “this is a disaster” is meant to convey the depth of emotional distress not an accurate assessment.”

        Almost fell out of my chair. This is so correct, for me too. I had never thought of it that way. I may send that to my wife as an explanation of what I haven’t been able to consciously formulate.

        Like

      • somecallmejack says:

        Attachment complications.

        There is a fascinating (to me, at least) article by Stan Tatkin on what he calls the “angry resistant” individual. I don’t like the label at all, but in this article he accurately describes a lot of how I interact and the very dysfunctional ways that I often seek reassurance and security (which understandably don’t work well or often):

        http://www.mishpaha.org.il/kvatzim/pdf/Tatkin_Allergic-to-Hope.pdf

        Like

        • Lisa Gottman says:

          For some reason I can’t “like” comments on here on my phone so I will reply and say that another l fist bump is in order. I am all about being the angry resistant style.

          Which is funny in a way because once I understood a correct diagnosis that style will produce the OPPOSITE reaction from what it’s seeking to do. Funny how communicating “you are a piece of shit, now I expect you to reassure me” doesn’t make the other person feel warm and nurturing towards you.

          Its very helpful to correctly see it as being in a one person system as Tatkin describes. I’m only thinking about how it affects ME. Even as I think of the other person is the selfish one. Irony there.

          Of course all of this is pretty average so there’s no logical reason to get all shamy about it. Correct diagnosis leads to clarity. Then I can figure out the right correction.

          Which is to get into a TWO person system. Consider what I say or do will impact the other person. What makes him feel safe? When do I need to respectfully stand up for myself? What is effective for both of us to be in a two person system instead of two seperate one person systems? Thats the question that requires the focus.

          It’s all about what is effective not what “should” be. That’s for me what works to refocus myself out of a one person system. Everybody has different quirks. We need to become experts at our own and our partners quirks. That’s what people in happy marriages do. Atkinson talks about becoming masters at soothing ourselves and our partners. As always the other side of boundaries has to be balanced too.

          Liked by 1 person

          • somecallmejack says:

            “Which is funny in a way because once I understood a correct diagnosis that style will produce the OPPOSITE reaction from what it’s seeking to do. Funny how communicating “you are a piece of shit, now I expect you to reassure me” doesn’t make the other person feel warm and nurturing towards you.”

            Oh yes. Or even just “this whole situation [which might not be the marriage but just a vacation or getting to a family function] is a disaster, now reassure me.” This happened a lot over the years in our house, until this summer, approximately. Interestingly, my wife picked up immediately on that Tatkin article I linked to, but neither of the therapists I’m talking to/working with really picked up on it – which is OK, but sort of curious.

            “Its very helpful to correctly see it as being in a one person system as Tatkin describes. I’m only thinking about how it affects ME. Even as I think of the other person is the selfish one. Irony there.”

            As another bit of chipping away at answering some of your earlier questions, I grew up in a family that was a group of one-person systems. And yes, I found that phrase helpful, at least as a diagnostic step rather than a therapeutic step. I have been trying to actualize the concept of “other” but it is not how I thought the world worked.

            “It’s all about what is effective not what “should” be. ”

            I should probably get that tattooed on my forearm. This stuff is hard under the best of circumstances. It would be hard alone. ;-) Trying to get traction and forward progress in the real world, with a real spouse who has a different history and different views and a different attachment style is really hard. Really hard. :-(

            Like

      • somecallmejack says:

        I was going to respond earlier on your mention of CBT. I encountered Burns’ book “Feeling Good in Relationships” this summer and then read “Feeling Good.” I was dumbstruck when I got to his chart of ten cognitive distortions because every one of them is part of how I relate to the world around me, and quite a few are essentially foundations of my cognitive intake and processing.

        For a while I was playing a sort of game, like the game you maybe used to play as a kid on trips in the car where you had to spot the yellow convertible or whatever.

        My version was “spot the cognitive distortion” and was actually pretty effective, because often when you tag them, they fade, and I assume that if you do it often enough they actually do begin to stay faded. Not that you’re likely to ever really be done with them, but you can learn to live with them without being harmed or harming others.

        How long have you been using CBT?

        Like

        • Lisa Gottman says:

          I love me some David Burns! He is one of my relationship expert people that I imagine are my family. Burns is kind of like my kindly old rambling grandfather. He has an interesting new podcast (I think it’s called feeling good if you’re interested) that describes a lot of his various techniques with examples. I really like his new T.E.A.M. Approach because it is all about using objective measurements and techniques and feedback from clients. Sigh don’t get me started on how bad most therapy is.

          How long have I been using CBT? Well off and on for 20 years. I fully subscribe to David Burns “tools not schools” motto. All the therapy models are just tools. I read and study a lot of them so I have a toolbox full of them to apply to a particular issue that tool works best for.

          I often quote John Gottman here for example because he provider a tool of objective measurement to have a balance to everyone’s anecdotes. Stories as a tool matter too of course. You need to correct tool for the correctly diagnosed problem IMHO.

          So I try to read a lot of different approaches to get more tools for me to use to understand why people do what they do and how I can get to a healthier place.

          Obviously some things resonate with each of us more than others based on our unique backgrounds and personalities etc.

          I actually find CBT kind of annoying because it often feels to me like the grammar police. But it’s still a useful tool I am forced to drag out when the problem calls for it. My hubby likes CBT and is not angrily resists to it as I am ha ha.

          So I try and fill my toolbox with as many tools as I can buy start with the important thing of a correct diagnosis. I find THAT is so often the issue. The overall problem is not being correctly identified so the wrong tools are used that often make things worse.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Lisa Gottman says:

            “Some years ago the head of the Industrial Engineering Department of Yale University said, “If I had only one hour to solve a problem, I would spend up to two-thirds of that hour in attempting to define what the problem is.””

            Like

          • somecallmejack says:

            I was listening to his podcast this summer/early fall. Should go back to that.

            Reading and trying to apply CBT made me think that possibly conventional couples therapy really is, I don’t want to sound harsh, possibly a bit of a hoax. Having said that, maybe there are some layers of communication skills, for example, that can best be worked on with two people in the room.

            And thinking about Terry Real, maybe there are times when it’s helpful to have the spouse/partner observing the work and effort and blood/sweat/tears that the other is putting in so they can see how seriously their spouse or partner takes things.

            And there are probably phases of affair recovery where you need both of them in the room…

            But on the whole, people frequently say that you can only change yourself (and even then, only if you’re diligent and, probably, lucky). So why did we need two in the room again? ;-)

            To expand humorously on your tools analogy, if the dishwasher is on the fritz, I don’t need to poke around with the clothes dryer to ‘fix’ the dishwasher. Or something like that… ;-)

            Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              My experience is that most couples therapy is just bad. This is where Terry Real is my spirit animal. He calls that out quite blatantly.

              Now in their defense coupkes work is the list challenging therapy to do well.

              It requires, in my opinion, the ability

              1) correctly diagnose the issues,

              2) communicate who is responsible for what (not the old it’s always 50/50 bs)
              while also

              3) joining in the truth to show the hope of a new path

              4) identifying effective tools

              5) coaching how to learn and apply those tools

              6) Seek feedback at how effective therapy is and adjust as needed.

              The problem, in my opinion, is that many therapists either don’t think that is the goal or get overwhelmed and prefer individual therapy. The stats most couples therapy is not effectively done.

              There are good therapists out there. But they are not common.

              Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              As I’ve said before I don’t agree with the statement that you can only change yourself.

              Obviously you can’t humanely control someone but you can change the system and therefore change someone else.

              And that’s why 2 people are needed in the room for certain things.

              As soon as I hear a therapist tell me you can only control yourself, I know that’s not going to be effective therapy because it’s IMHO an incorrect diagnosis.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                I’m being sloppy with my language. This is not universally true.

                I agree with your comment that a lot of therapy is best done individually (I think because of the limits of lost therapists).

                A lot of work is done individually. I agree with you.

                Liked by 1 person

                • somecallmejack says:

                  This is really (yet another) completely separate topic, but one of my frustration-temptations (one of the things that tempts me to be frustrated) – that I’m reasonably good at overcoming because after all my wife and I are completely entitled to different wishes, preferences and approaches to things – is that when I tried to get us both working with someone, it really didn’t work for her. We tried a couple of therapists. One was a disaster, the other was very good (and I am still working with that one, but alone).

                  To go really off-topic, I envy people who figured out that they needed to evolve, or become a real adult or however you want to say it, at a much earlier point that I did. I think one problem I have now is that I have a hard time accepting what feels like the loss of all the growth and progress and love-building and -nurturing (and better parenting) that could have happened, but didn’t. I have gotten to the point that I think I recognize that I need to accept and let that go, which means grieving it in a healthy way, but unfortunately I have never found a way to uncork whatever it is inside me that would allow me to grieve losses.

                  Makes me feel like a real case. (:-( BTW, I’m not fishing for fix-its or sympathy, really. Just sharing where I find myself. In a way, a forum/format like this is a really safe way to do that.

                  Like

              • somecallmejack says:

                Interesting – I was starting to think “semantics” but I think you’re clearly disagreeing, at least in part. But I think there’s a lot of truth in the dictum that you can only change yourself. I spent quite a bit of time at the start of this journey trying to convince my wife that if she would just think and do things differently we’d be happier (by magic). Didn’t work, and was actually very counterproductive. I think we’re still trying to unknot parts of that, so in effect it actually set us back quite a bit.

                Which is yet another frustration but also a different topic.

                Like

                • Lisa Gottman says:

                  Oh I need to make it clear that people will make their own decisions on how to react to the changes in the system. It very rarely is exactly what we want which is often based on what fills our undifferentiated needs.

                  What I’m talking about is what David Burns outlined in his book Feelmg Good Together. When we respond to people in healthy effective ways that changes to a very different outcome than if we respond how we naturally do when in our one system mode. It may not be what we would want exact but it’s very often a much healthier response.

                  You’ve read that book I think?

                  This is what Matt is describing in many of his blog posts. If a dishes by the sink issue comes up how one responds to that will change the response of the other person.

                  The reason it’s not just an individual thing is that you have to really been aware of how the other person is hearing and reacting and keep adjusting accordingly.

                  Liked by 1 person

  11. somecallmejack says:

    Yup, Feeling Good Together, then Feeling Good. A different sort of lather, rinse, repeat. :-) And yes, I ‘get’ the dynamic, variable nature of the equation.

    Like

  12. Pajama says:

    Hello everyone,

    My name is Nick and I’m a shitty husband for sure. My wife and I don’t typically fight every single day but tonight was different. I need help. It was her birthday, and I didn’t do anything specifically special for her. She had talked about getting flowers delivered at work but said it was too expensive and said she didn’t need them. Being a shitty husband, I said, “OK!”, and went on my way. On our way to dinner she finally let go and let me have it. I totally deserved it though. We got to the place and just went home. I feel like such a terrible person. She’s not even crying, she’s just watching a video on her phone. She’s been so used to being let down by me in our almost 8 years of marriage she’s just apathetic, and I think that might hurt worse. I need to turn our marriage around and be a better husband. I’ve been browsing the website for a little while now and I am a shitty husband to a T. I’m afraid to make plans or decisions and let her do all of that. Something happened tonight though and it finally started to feel like how I might be the issue. I’m aware of my problems now, but she feels like I don’t care about her or our marriage anymore, and I honestly do. I wish so bad I could go back and do something small tonight to let her know how much I care about her.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Hello Nick,

      You have taken a big step to realize the ways in which you have been a shitty husband. That’s a big piece of the solution you’ve already started.

      You have a lot of positive things going:

      You obviously care deeply about your wife and marriage or you wouldn’t be bothering to read Matt’s blog or post comments.

      There are a lot of people here that can offer you insight into what your wife may need to turn the marriage around. And what you may need to do to change things for yourself for the better.

      So that’s the good news! You see the need to change and there are people here that can point you in the right direction.

      Here are a couple of questions for you about the birthday specifically.

      Did you apologize to her? Can you tell her you want so much to celebrate her birthday and plan something.

      It doesn’t have to be expensive. Flowers from the grocery store with a nice card. Plan an evening for her with things she would enjoy. This would be meaningful because you said she has to plan everything now.

      Tell her you have read this blog and realize now how much of a shitty husband you have been and you are going to do whatever it takes to be the husband she deserves.

      Maybe you could find one post and print it out for her to read. Ask her if she had felt the way the post describes.

      I think it is fantastic that you have admitted that you are a shitty husband and you have been strong enough to ask for help. That shows you are the kind of man who can be a great husband if you are willing to dig deep and work hard.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        I forgot to add that a deep apology is needed. Not just a quick I’m sorry. Don’t mention the fact that she sent you mixed messages of telling you not to send flowers.

        She is based on what you described in a very frustrated place.

        That’s what needs to be acknowledged. And at this point you need to make unilateral apologies and amends. To show her you REALLY are committed to doing things differently.

        Tell her you want to be in a great marriage and you have been a shitty husband and you have caused her pain. And that is going to change no matter what you have to do to be different.

        She is worth it.

        Ask her what she wants/needs to feel loved by you at this point. Show your commitment to her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • somecallmejack says:

          I want to reiterate that. Unless your wife explicitly tells you otherwise, when you apologize, tell her that (1) you understand that you hurt her, (2) you’re sorry you hurt her and (3) you will try really hard not to do it again.

          Do *not* explain or defend or rationalize or qualify. Do not cite any sort of justification or provocation or excuses.

          My wife, to my surprise, wants me, has told me that I should, explain why I did something because it helps her to understand what’s going on. I think that in the context of apologizing that’s really unusual (but maybe we will find out otherwise in the comments here).

          When she explains in an apology to me, it frankly really hurts and triggers me. It completely nullifies the apology, and I think most people feel the way I do. (We’ll find out…)

          Like

          • FlyingKal says:

            “Do *not* explain or defend or rationalize or qualify. Do not cite any sort of justification or provocation or excuses.

            My wife, to my surprise, wants me, has told me that I should, explain why I did something because it helps her to understand what’s going on. I think that in the context of apologizing that’s really unusual (but maybe we will find out otherwise in the comments here).”

            I admit, this is so strange to me.
            If I fail to do something, perhaps something so common as getting home from work in time for something. It makes a world of a difference to know if I was late because of something out of my control (I got an assignment or a phone call in the last minute that I had to tend to, I got stuck in traffic because of an accident, I stopped to help an old lady with a flat tire…), compared to if I just didn’t care enough to get out of the office in time.

            I realize everyone’s different, and my example is perhaps a bit harsh. But personally I feel that the context is important.

            Like

            • somecallmejack says:

              Hey Kal – not sure which is strange, my feelings or my wife’s? What I read in “the literature” is that what I want/need/prefer is more representative, but who knows…

              What I do know is this – I can explain why explanations and excuses just trigger the $h!7 out of me, or I can try.

              The issue for me is that when you say “Well, I’m sorry I was late, but my boss grabbed me on the way out the door to talk about that new project, and traffic was really bad on the Turnpike, and … ” it makes me feel like you just totally explained why MY feelings DON’T MATTER for cr@p. It makes me feel like you are telling me I shouldn’t feel the way I do, and that I’m wrong to feel that way. It makes me feel like my feelings and expectations (that you’d be on time for that special occasion) just don’t matter, at least not to you, and they’re not supposed to matter to me.

              In a phrase, it makes me feel *invisible.* *Unrecognized.* Like *I don’t matter.*

              Childhood stuff. Stuff I need to work on. But even though it’s primitive it has all the energy of a lightning bolt for me.

              And to bring this back to the first post on this blog, I expect that’s pretty much what Matt’s wife was feeling when he left a glass in the sink? Matt, please chime in.

              Sigh. I’m a mess. Work to do…

              Like

              • FlyingKal says:

                Hi Jack,
                i said that the concept was strange to me, not that your feelings, or your wife’s, were strange. And I don’t have a clue who’s the more representative for the majority among us. This is just how I feel about it.

                I too have a mess of childhood stuff I need to unpack.

                And yes, I understand how “I was late because REASON(TM)” may feel like you and your feelings matters less than the task/excuse at hand. (Not just “you” personally, but “general you”).

                But what I tried to say is, for me personally, a general apology without explanation “I’m sorry I forgot/I apologize for being late.” tells me that my feelings do not matter at all. Like, you didn’t even have anything else to do, or anything else on your mind, you just didn’t/couldn’t bother to be here on time.

                Also, there’s distinctions for different kinds of “special occasions”.

                Bottom line here is that (comparing with your previous post) I’m just saying I am less like you and more like your wife in that I prefer some kind of explanation with an apology, and I also tried to paint some kind of picture as to what my line of thought is. I apologize and I am sorry for making a bad job out of it.

                Liked by 1 person

                • somecallmejack says:

                  OK, that got an out-loud laugh, if a quiet one. :-) No apology needed but fully accepted with thanks.

                  Maybe the takeaway is that we need to “learn” ourselves and we need to “learn” our partners.

                  Frick, it’s hard work.

                  Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              Kal and Jack,

              I’ll add my 2 cents here. I think there is some variation on how people like to be apologized to. I think, though, for the vast majority if an explanation. Is included it has to be AFTER validation of the recognition of the pain or negativity.

              Most people want to make sure you recognize harm has been done. That is fully recognized and not dismissed. An apology that repairs had to accomplish that first.

              Then an explanation can be given to make sense of why it happened. And the reassurance given that steps will be taken to make sure whatever the offense was will not reoccur as much as humanly possible.

              I will say for myself that if my hubby “apologizes” with either a quick I’m sorry that seems to be more for him to quit talking about it that doesn’t help.

              It also doesn’t help to give an explanation as a get out of jail free card.

              Why?

              Because both those approaches don’t recognize or acknowlege the damage done to ME. They are about him “getting out of trouble.” Putting it on me as the unreasonable one.

              So I like explanations. It helps me understand what went wrong. Could be things out of his control like a car breakdown or altruistic like helping someone. Could be he just messed up as all humans do. Could be he got mad at me and did it to spite me. Whatever.

              What I need to repair is a recognition of the damage done to me either intentionally or unintentionally. An apology for the damage. Not a dismissal or gaslighting (“don’t make a big deal of everything” or “I can never please you”) or selfish one person system.

              I want a two person system. What you do affects me. Good or bad. If I hurt you (even if the same thing wouldn’t hurt me) I need to SEE that. And find a way to make it OUR problem to solve. Together.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                I think explanations do not repair without first fully recognizing the and apologizing for the damage done.

                Maybe jack because our your family background has had too many explanations only excuses given rather than true apologies and that’s why you’re allergic to explanations? I don’t know.

                Gary Chapman (the guy who wrote the book of love languages) has a book on apology languages that I discussed with my hubby one time. Bottom line for me is how we hear apologies and what we need to restore safety will vary some by culture and family history.

                I for example hate someone to say “I love you” or “I’ll pray for you” as an apology or response to pain. Too much family history for me with people using that as an excuse to do nothing else. They make that their get out of jail free card to move on. It’s about THEM without seeing me at all.

                Other people who don’t have that history may find those words soothing.

                Like

              • FlyingKal says:

                Hi Lisa, and thank you for your thoughts.
                I already wrote an answer to Jack, and I agree that we all need some kind of recognitiotn and acknowledgement for the possible harm being done.

                I am perhaps weird, but as I said to Jack, my view on the concept is something like this:
                If you tell me “I’m sorry I’m late, but I did/had to do X.”, that tells me that at the time being you felt that doing X was more important to you than being on time. And taking into consideration BOTH the dignity of X, and the impact of you being home late (ex. Do we have plans for a specific time = Important. Are you just going to watch TV while I make dinner = Not really that important), I can value the situation in some kind of cooperation with you.
                (perhaps a really weird or badly performed example, IDK…?)

                But if you only tell “I am really sorry for being late.”
                Then it feels to me like you being home on time was literally less important than nothing.

                I am sorry, but that’s just how my less-than-ideal brain works. And I only wrote about it in the first place because Jack wrote “I think that in the context of apologizing that’s really unusual (but maybe we will find out otherwise in the comments here)”
                It is possible that I misunderstood his comment…

                Liked by 1 person

                • Lisa Gottman says:

                  Kal,

                  I think I didn’t communicate my thoughts well in my comments. I agree with you. I am like that too. I would guess most people are. I don’t think it’s unusual to want an explanation for what happened. It restores safety when done correctly. “Yes, I can trust this person.”

                  Of course it depends on the context as you pointed out. If someone is 5 minutes late a simple I’m sorry is fine. If it’s something important there needs to be a deeper apology which I think for most people would include some explanation (not an EXCUSE) for why they failed to meet something important.

                  I don’t think you and I are unusual in wanting explanations.

                  I think often explanations are incorrectly used as excuses to “get out of trouble” not to repair the relationship and that’s what my previous comments were trying to say.

                  Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Maybe Louie and others can give you some guidance too?

        Like

        • Pajama says:

          Thank you so much for the reply. Yes, I’ve apologized but I don’t think she was interested in hearing it at that point. I was so ashamed of the way I’ve acted it was physically painful to be in the same room. I tried talking to her about this blog post to to let her know I’ve seen the error of my ways. However this is unfortunately not a new fight for us. I’m getting off work early today and take care of some house chores and have flowers and a card for her when she comes home. I will take your advice and keep you updated.

          Like

          • somecallmejack says:

            Cards and flowers and house help is great, probably essential, but the real thing IMHO is: listen. Pay attention. Don’t try to “fix” what she says. Don’t feel threatened by it (very hard), or shamed (even harder). Listen. Validate (“I hear you saying…I understand…that makes sense.” <- you DON'T have to agree with the other person to be a good partner and listener!). If appropriate, discuss remedial actions/next steps. ("I will stop talking that way." "I will stop leaving socks on the stairs." "I will not leave your car with less than 1/4 tank of gasoline." Whatever.)

            Like

            • Lisa Gottman says:

              Good points!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Pajama says:

                Thanks so much everyone for your advice. It’s good to know I’m not the only one out here. I’m going to try and sit down and have a discussion with my wife tonight about all of the above. However actions speak louder than words so I’m really going to have to step it up. Again, everyone here has been so helpful and offered so many pieces of advice. I sincerely wish you the best in your marriages and will keep you updated.

                Like

        • Louie says:

          Lisa, thank you for the vote of confidence , it seems from the times of our posts we were writing at the same time..and from the jist of our posts on the same page . ..I’m honored to know you think this highly of me….sincerest thanks

          Like

          • Lisa Gottman says:

            I am in awe of men like you who can recognize their shitty husband ways, dig deep to do the hard work, and are committed to continual effort.

            I think so many men think it’s impossible to understand and please women or they go into deep shame and shut down.

            You’re an example that it s possible to figure this stuff out and earn trust again.

            Liked by 1 person

            • somecallmejack says:

              …which does not mean it isn’t frickin’ hard and sometimes very discouraging…which is my current mood/feeling. Who says men don’t do feelings?

              Like

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                It is a long hard slog to course correct years of damage.

                It’s understandable to feel discouraged when it seems like it should be easier than it is.

                I think it’s great you’re acknowledging the negative feelings. (Not great that you are feeling discouraged of course)

                Liked by 1 person

    • Louie says:

      Hi Nick…well… I hear everything you’ve saying . I’m glad you posted . While I’m no one to give advice maybe some of the things that I realized as a shitty husband might help you . Start with forgiving yourself . Understand that you had blindspots , you may not be so good at reading her, you have different perspectives , you took her literally , you don’t get the surprise element . There’s a jewelry store that advertises on the radio here and the theme of the ad is ” a special gift is one that she didn’t expect and that it’s for no particular reason and it’s just for her ” . As simple as that sounds it has powerful meaning . It doesn’t have to be jewelry or anything material , it could be a compliment , a day just to herself , something that would make her happy that you would fully participate in , taking the initiative to do one of her chores for her, having a regular date night and letting her pick what you do. I don’t know your relationship dynamic but I’ll ask you , what did you do when you were courting her? What made her happy to be around you , what made the relationship work ? What little things did you do together ( to-get-her) (see it?) What did you love the most about her that you would ask her to be yours for life ? What did it for her about you that she said yes ? The language of love isn’t some sappy 1930’s movie script . ..it changes and builds and grows and becomes addictive at times. Look , it sounds like you are really sorry about things but you can move forward . Start by talking to her, let her know from your heart how much she means to you , prove to her that she was right when said yes . She ,right now is doubtful as to if she can trust you. Trust that you are on her side and have her back, trust that you won’t play with her feelings , trust that she can count on you for support and strength and courage and putting her first and trusting that you truly love her. Loving relationships are not for whimps they belong to the brave, the steadfast , and the honorable . You’re showing your honor buy reaching out , and it took courage to so and admit you screwed up , and how you move on this will prove your steadfast commitment . You can’t turn back the hands of time , but you can wind the clock . Peace to you and your family

      Like

  13. FakeStories says:

    Dear Matt,
    This was a cool blog to read, it was interesting and I couldn’t stop reading it. I like how you explained that you are always cautious about things and that you are always thinking. Thanks for sharing your point of view on plains. I like to see how you and me almost think alike.
    Carlos

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Very interesting, glad I found you.

    Liked by 1 person

Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: