You’re Right, Guys—You Can’t Make Women Happy

unhappy wife

(Image/Moldova Christina)

A common complaint among married men is feeling like their wives are always complaining about something—that they’re never happy for long and that nothing he does ever seems to be good enough for her.

I remember feeling that way for a few years before spending the final 18 months of my marriage sleeping in the guest room until she finally left for good.

I’m a pretty nice guy and most people seem to like me, and because of that, I always believed and acted as if she was the one with the problem.

I know how frustrating it feels to exchange your bachelorhood for a lifelong commitment to love someone else, only to be told over and over again that you’re doing it wrong.

I know how much it hurts to want your spouse to want you back when they clearly don’t.

I know what it feels like to want to die when they move out and choose some asshole stranger over you after a dozen years together.

Those are honest and real feelings I experienced in the months between her driving away permanently with our preschool-aged son in the backseat, and a court magistrate nullifying our marriage.

Because I hadn’t yet learned the critical life lesson that we can’t and shouldn’t always trust ourselves, I was confident that my interpretation of my marriage and wife’s choice was accurate. That, for whatever my marital shortcomings and mistakes might have been, in the final analysis she was MORE wrong for quitting on our family.

After all, I was happy being married to her. If she would have just stopped finding stuff to get pissed about, it would have been awesome.

But she was hard to please. She was ungrateful. She was the one with the problem.

It’s Not Your Fault, Guys—No One Taught Us Differently

The notion that “girls are crazy” or that women are “stuck-up bitches” or “hard to understand” or “always finding something new to complain about,” isn’t something me and my friends invented. We heard men and older boys and TV telling us these things.

Collectively, men are FAR from innocent victims in all this. But I have no doubt that MOST guys grew up believing this narrative—because situations with crying girlfriends, angry mothers, and stories from their guy friends about their experiences with girls/women seemed to reinforce these beliefs.

That girls/women are too emotional.

That they’re crazy and irrational.

Thought exercise: If you honestly believe a person you’re talking to is capable of temporary moments of insanity where they become hyper-emotional and their judgment becomes clouded to the point where they’re “wrong” or “misjudging” a situation, how do you handle a disagreement with them?

Most guys are set up from childhood to not only believe (as most everyone does) that our first-person experiences and emotional interpretations of them are a reliable guide for determining right and wrong, but many of us also believe that our girlfriends and wives are WRONG when they react emotionally to something we say or do, and during arguments.

I thought my wife frequently overreacted to something she was upset about.

I left a dirty dish by the sink, and she decided she wanted to argue about it. I thought it was irrational to elevate a dirty dish to a marriage problem.

And because I believed my wife to be irrational, I believed she was wrong.

Because I believed she was wrong, I was never really motivated to change.

She’s the one with the problem.

The Danger of Not Recognizing the Difference Between “Trying to Make Her Happy” and “Not Hurting Her”

A lot of people read my most-popular articles—either “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” or “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands”—and sometimes afterward men will tell me what a stupid dumbass moron I am because of whatever I wrote.

They think I’m advocating for men to start selling out and doing whatever they can to placate their wives so she won’t want to leave. To “make her happy.” They think I wrote that all men are dicks who deserve to be left and all women are victims who never make mistakes in their marriages.

I recognize these guys right away now—the ones still wearing the blinders they inherited from childhood. The ones that taught them that women are often crazy and wrong. The ones that might have even taught them that men are somehow better than women.

They confuse my message of “Stop hurting her” with “Do whatever the little missus wants and worship her no matter what,” and it’s sad because they and their families will inevitably suffer for it, but it makes sense to me because maybe I would have had a similar reaction back when I was still blaming everything on my wife.

Let the record show that this isn’t intended to be gender-specific. This dysfunctional conversation/argument dynamic can just as easily exist in a role-reversal scenario in relationships that look differently than mine did. But this is generally the kind of relationship I see and hear about most, and the kind I lived through.

The one where husbands and wives get caught in a Man vs. Woman vortex, and slowly hurt one another repeatedly for many years until their marriage fails.

Not from any one moment. In isolation, none of these past arguments seemed like a big deal as they were happening. Certainly not marriage-enders.

None of these moments were scary enough to trip the emergency alarms. Marriages have fights! You just get over it and move on! No big deal!

Until one day the pile of No-Big-Deal arguments gets so big that the floor collapses beneath you, and everything falls apart.

Most marriages don’t end because of something big and dramatic like a gunshot or bomb explosion.

Most marriages end from bleeding out after being paper cut to death. One, even 10, paper cuts aren’t that scary. But after tens of thousands, maybe you bleed so much that you die.

The #1 Thing That Ends Relationships

I believe, when you strip away all of the bullshit and psychobabble, that one idea sums up why more than half of all relationships fail:

Men frequently demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to recognize the pain they cause their wives or girlfriends and then fail to intentionally adjust the behavior to stop hurting them.

Empathy can often be hard for people to exhibit when we don’t relate to nor understand what someone else is going through.

His wife is telling him that something he is doing HURTS her—not unlike him punching her in the face or stabbing her with a knife.

Only the smallest percentage of men would ever actually punch or stab the woman he loves. The VAST majority of men take seriously their role as “protector,” regardless of whether his wife or girlfriend needs protecting.

“I would never hurt you,” men say to their wives or girlfriends.

He says it over and over again, and believes it with all of his heart. He’s being totally serious and genuine.

This situation his wife or girlfriend is describing during this most recent silly argument is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

She’s overreacting again. Making a federal case out of something that doesn’t matter. She’s saying this HURTS her? No way.

I don’t care when she leaves a piece of laundry on the bedroom floor, so how could it HURT her when I do it?

I don’t care whether she gives me a gift for our wedding anniversary, so how could it HURT her when I forget to do it?

I don’t care when she forgets something at the grocery store, so how could it HURT her when I do it?

I don’t care about Valentine’s Day and think it’s stupid that people make a big deal out of it, so how could it HURT her when I don’t agree to treat the day the same way she wants to?

I felt like my wife was getting lightly hit with a pillow but responding emotionally as if I was swinging a bat at her.

And I thought that was CRAZY.

I thought she was wrong.

I thought she was hard to please.

I thought she was acting like an ungrateful bitch for acting like nothing I did was good enough for her.

My wife thought I was either hurting her on purpose, or cared so little about her that I was refusing to change any of my behaviors that might help her.

When you tell someone that something within their control is HURTING you, and they not only demonstrate an unwillingness to stop, but also are telling you that you’re too dumb, too crazy, too WRONG to know what’s real and not real—what do you do?

Stay calm?

Put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay?

Decide to carry on as an intimate partner to the person who hurts you more than anyone else, and seems unwilling to stop?

Bad news, guys: You CAN’T make your wife or girlfriend happy no matter how hard you try. Not because they’re hard to please, but because all people must make peace with themselves before they can ever feel content and comfortable in their own skin. Until then, we’re all just fumbling around in the dark breaking shit.

But you CAN stop hurting her when she says “Hey. When you do that, it hurts me.” You can stop hurting her by treating her as if she’s insane for feeling hurt by something just because that same thing might not hurt you. You can stop hurting her by continuing to do whatever the thing is that she says is hurting her because you don’t respect her enough or take her seriously enough to eliminate the pain-causing behavior.

I’d like to see what happens when a sad and angry wife or girlfriend tells her husband or boyfriend about something that’s hurting her, and instead of telling her she’s dumb and crazy, he apologizes sincerely, and moves forward giving his best effort to not let that happen again.

I want to know how many of THOSE wives and girlfriends go “looking for something else to complain about.” I want to know how many of THOSE husbands and boyfriends feel disrespected and mistreated by a wife who never makes him feel like he’s good enough.

When you reduce your wife or girlfriend to a stupid, nagging bitch while she’s privately bleeding from hundreds of papercuts you’ve already forgotten about and never apologized for, maybe it makes sense for her to try a dramatic, emotional outburst to get your attention.

When you dismiss her plea for help repeatedly, maybe it makes sense for her to remove herself from the relationship in order to preserve her health and wellbeing.

And just maybe, when you take responsibility for the pain you might have accidentally caused, respect your partner enough to listen and believe her when she tells you about it, and LOVE her enough to make sure the painful thing stops happening—just maybe that’s where marital peace and healing live.

Just maybe that’s how you get to ‘Til death do us part.

I wouldn’t know, because I never actually considered that I might be wrong about her, and that I was not only capable of hurting her, but that I actually was.

I wouldn’t know, because I never actually took any responsibility during our marriage for hurting my wife. I never apologized, then followed it up with a behavioral change that would allow her to trust me again.

I wouldn’t know, because my marriage and family fell apart despite my insistence that nothing was wrong. My marriage and family fell apart long before I ever developed the humility necessary to ask the right questions.

If my wife repeatedly hurt me and every time I told her about it she blew me off and told me I could expect her to keep doing so, would I really agree to stay in the marriage?

Is it possible that the same situation can hurt one person, and not another?

If I was hurting my wife and she couldn’t trust me or feel safe with me anymore because I told her a hundred times that she was crazy and mistaken instead of believing her, wasn’t she SMART and WISE to reluctantly end our marriage?

It took many years, but the truth eventually hit me hard.

I’m not divorced because my wife was hard to please or that she felt I was never good enough for her. I’m divorced because when my wife told me something was wrong, I treated her like a second-class mental patient and all but promised to never change.

Sometimes I wonder what might have happened had I not.

Instead of wondering, maybe you can actually find out.

Isn’t she worth it? Aren’t you?

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419 thoughts on “You’re Right, Guys—You Can’t Make Women Happy

  1. Louie says:

    Awesome dialogue going on here! By far one of the longest threads of comments I’ve seen on a subject since following this blog. While I’ve seen some tempers flare and divisions begin the value of the comments is exponential for those looking for a path to relationship improvement. So my 2 cents worth…..some time ago,as I have mentioned in past posts, my beautiful Anne and I were on the ” outs” . With lots of love, forgiveness, soul searching and intense counseling we found our way back. During one of our more explosive sessions happiness was brought up. She said she wasn’t happy with our marriage,not happy with me, not happy with our future prospects. I shot back with ” I am not responsible for your happiness ” to that she responded ” but you have been participating in my un-happiness “. I was dumbstruck. Those days brought us both a vast amount of awakening and renewed awareness. Mine was in her words. If she can perceive me to be in league with the forces that cause her to be unhappy then why can’t I assist with her happiness? I mean what would it take from me? What would I have to change or start doing or begin fresh with? I had read a quote by Ralph Marsten…”Happiness is a choice – not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.” With that quote I looked at my participation in our happiness together as a journey of sorts. Choosing to be happy started the journey, encouraging Anne to view what made her happy and helping her to apply those things was how I participated. I knew that it wasn’t who I was that she was unhappy with but rather how I was that lead to that unhappiness. For her part she had her own epiphany about her role in my happiness/unhappiness. We learned new respect for each other, re established our boundaries and deal breakers, accepted each other’s views and yes influence. Blessings

    Liked by 2 people

    • gottmanfan says:

      Louie,

      You said:

      “ I knew that it wasn’t who I was that she was unhappy with but rather how I was that lead to that unhappiness.”

      This is key! To be able to know and communicate it’s not a rejection of WHO WE ARE but rather the roles we are playing in the RELATIONSHIP’S unhappiness.

      I’ve been thinking more about the idea of is it your job to make yourself happy or the other person happy etc.

      For me it’s easier to think of it as each partner contributes to the relationship happiness or unhappiness (using those terms loosely as commonly used).

      The adjustments we have to make will vary greatly by who we are married to. Is it my job to clean up more if it means a lot to partner A? Yes, if you are considering the RELATIONSHIP.

      If I am married to Partner B and they hate to clean and like clutter, is it my job to loosen up my standards somewhat? Yes, if you are considering the relationship.

      It’s what good parents have to do all the time. Each kid is different. There are basic things that stay the same because it is WHO you are. But ion adjust to meet the needs and styles of different kids. We don’t say it’s my extroverted kid’s problem to make herself happy because I want to stay inside all the time and read a book.

      Good parents will find a way for BOTH sides to adjust. Because it’s about the relationship. It’s our job to make the relationship strong. And that requires considering what role we need to play based on our differences as well as expecting the kid to adjust.

      Marriages, like any relationship requires that adjusting from both sides. Asking for change does not mean changing WHO you are. It is asking for changing how you show up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        This is exactly what I had to do with my VERY different daughter. If was our relationship that led me to discover how I was screwing up my marriage with the same mistakes.

        I could implicitly of explicitly tell my daughter it’s her job to make me happy (some practical truth there but if too much reliance on that, lots of therapy ahead).

        I could keep telling her “your happiness is your job not mine” and, of course, that is a true and important thing to learn. But that statement is incomplete.

        Because we are in relationships anc how we show up makes it easier or harder for each other to be happy. That is ALSO true.

        We are both independent and interdependent. Marriage is definitely both things.

        Why do we want to make it harder? It’s so illogical and yet that’s what we expect. We love this person yet we keep making it harder for them to be on a happy relationship.

        We expect to be able to do what we need to maximize OUR individual happiness under the mantra of “you can only make yourself happy.” The problem is we are not considering how that impacts the OTHER person.

        As Louie’s wife said “but you are participating in my un-happiness.”

        What we do will make it easier or harder for the other person to respond maturely. To lead to a better relationship.

        That was my big screwup. Most of it unconscious. I believe it is my husband’s big screwup too.

        The ways they do it differ and I don’t believe it’s always 50/50. But in most average shitty marriages BOTH people are making it harder for the spouse to respond in healthy, mature ways that lead to a happy marriage.

        Two of the best questions I found that work for me to get to a happier marriage are:

        1. What can I change to make it easier for my husband to give me what I am asking for?

        2. What is blocking me from doing that?

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Also:

          1. What can I change to make it easier to give my husband more of what he is asking for?

          2. What is blocking that?

          We have to make it as easy as possible for ourselves to change too.

          Like

  2. gottmanfan says:

    Here is some lyrics from another song that I think sums up many men’s point of view about how impossible it seems to make your wife happy.

    “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long
    The Notorious Cherry Bombs

    LYRICS
    She used to call me baby
    I thought she was such a lady
    But my how things have changed since times moved on

    I give her my last dollar
    Now all she’ll do is holler
    Oh my life has become a country song

    I’ve learned she can’t resist me
    By the way she always disses me
    And comes to bed at night with that cold cream on

    Sometimes I might feel frisky
    But these days its just too risky

    It’s hard to kiss the lips at night
    That chew your ass out all day long

    All day long
    It goes on and on

    If a tree fell in the forest
    And she didn’t hear it
    Would I still be wrong

    I guess I should admit it
    She ain’t never gonna quit it.

    It’s hard to kiss the lips at night
    That chew your ass out all day long.”

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      I add this to agree with Nate and Matt’s emphasis above that it’s important to point out things to change with “soft startups” and also to notice and appreciate as many postive things as you can.

      Otherwise it can feel like an endless stream of having your ass chewed out with no positivity ever in sight.

      Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        That is one of the things I have had to change. Everyone has their point of view that explains why they do things.

        My husband felt constantly attacked and no positivity like the song. I think this is a common male reaction.

        I could explain my reaction or why mine is “better” or more “accurate” or more “justified”.

        But really if wives want to live in a 2 person system with the husband considering our point of view valid even if he doesn’t feel it, we HAVE to model it. We have to walk the talk.

        And often wives have to do it first since they are better trained from girl culture to better know how to do it. We often just get blocked in a heteo relationship because of all the misreadings of meanings.

        Maturity is hard sigh. But if we want him to consider our point of view, we have to consider his.

        Why doesn’t my husband want to spend time discussing how improve our relationship? Well lots of answers to that but one of them is:

        It’s hard to when you feel like your ass is unfairly chewed out all the time.

        Like

  3. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Gottmanfan,

    I was re-reading some of the posts and, for some reason, some of the explanations, comments and asides were annoying me to no end. I began thinking about Carol Gilligan’s book “IN A DIFFERENT VOICE” I went to “google” it and found several reviews and also found a reference to another book titled, WOMEN’S WAY OF KNOWING”.

    Anyway,since I am still trying to think of new topics that I can suggest for Matt. do you think Gilligans book has anything to offer?. It does say boys and girls.differ in the path of their moral development. As far as the other book, I don’t know –are you familiar with it?

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      I am familiar with Carol Gilligan. Terry Real references her work often. I have seen videos and read excerpts but I have not read her books.

      I think anything you can add to the comments reflecting her work would be enlightening. Some may agree or disagree but that’s the point. 😀

      Like

  4. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Matt,

    I remember your statement about feeling challenged because you felt like you were running out of things to say.

    I’ve been “casting around”, “dropping hints” hoping someone would suggest fresh fields for you to explore. NO LUCK!!!!

    I didn’t want to suggest another book to read, but I’m afraid that’s all I have to offer.

    It’s Carol Gillian’s book, “In A Different Voice”. It was written way back in the “bad old days of women’s liberation” The story I remember most vividly is the one about the test male professors drew up to test the moral development of young children (about 8 yrs old).

    The professors painted for the children the story of a poor, and yet devoted couple who were farmers. They both had lived in the same little village since they were born. They had recently survived.a poor harvest due to a long-lasting drought. If they were careful, they could feed themselves through the winter and trust that the late arriving rains would mean better times.

    Unfortunately, the wife fell very ill and her husband had to scrape together every penny they had managed to save to pay for the doctor. There was nothing left to pay for the medicine that would save the life of his wife. On entering the local pharmacy, the husband faced the heartbreaking dilemna. Should he become that which he detested — a thief and also risk jail if he decided to steal the medicine or should he let his wife die.

    According to the professors, the boys scored higher on the test because they all answered “Yes” the farmer should steal the medicine.

    The responses of the girls left the professors perplexed, to say the least. The girls began to ask questions like, “Why didn’t the farmer ask the pharmacist if he could pay him when the crops were harvested the next spring? “Wasn’t there a church in the village, wouldn’t the pastor help the couple?” “What about the neighbors, couldn’t they offer some help — like taking turns caring for the wife while the husband worked in the village?”

    According to Carol Gilligan, the girls heard ,” Should the husband STEAL the medicine?” , whereas the boys heard “SHOULD the husband steal the medicine?”

    According to Gilligan, the girls were questioning the presence or absence of “the beloved community” .

    I hope you can file this under “FOOD FOR THOUGHT”

    Like

  5. somecallmejack says:

    I have been following the discussion here but not responding. In part that’s the result of an exceptionally busy period at work and in part because the comment/response structure on this page (and the number and frequency of comments) doesn’t work very well for me. That seems like an odd thing, because I make my living applying a professional degree to the art and science of marshaling words to advance my clients’ goals. I think the arrangement and formatting on WordPress pages sort of shorts out my brain. ;-)

    A while back I responded very positively to a comment from a woman who essentially told her husband “That’s a “B” response. You’re an “A” husband, and I expect better.” I still think that’s a brilliantly effective bit of relationship jujitsu, even if (or maybe especially because) it speaks to some of the most basic parts of human psychology.

    With that in mind, I was especially disappointed when my wife and I had a conversation that was essentially the inverse of that thought. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to work out and share some things about how I was seeing the situation with her parents (mid-90s, health problems, living in a single-family residential situation but trying to move to a senior housing community), which has been very difficult for everyone in the family. My wife basically told me that that was a very poor response, and when I responded that I was trying to explain where I was and how I was trying to improve my understanding of the situation and my responses, was told point-blank that I didn’t have what was needed to change.

    This has happened several times over the last two years, and in the past it’s been simply crushing. I could only deal with it by withdrawing and stonewalling. This time, I give myself credit for being able to breathe deeply and stay in the conversation, physically and emotionally, but it put me off my balance for three days.

    Ladies, if you want to shut your husband down quickly, just let him know how little you think of him and how unlikely you think it is that he’ll ever step up and grow up. This is not rocket science, by the way. I learned this 40+ years ago when I was working as a counselor at a summer camp for boys. You don’t need FMRIs and advanced degrees (or millions of TedTalk clicks) to understand this and make it work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack,

      You said:

      “I could only deal with it by withdrawing and stonewalling. This time, I give myself credit for being able to breathe deeply and stay in the conversation, physically and emotionally, but it put me off my balance for three days.”

      Amazing work! I am listening the audibook of It Takes One to Tango that you recommended. The work that you are doing is hard but is unilaterally changing the dance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        I love that book so much – I owe the author so much. I have probably read it more than half a dozen times in the last few months. My current two favorite guiding principles from the book:

        – Marriage is a choice. As long as I choose to be with my exasperating, lovable spouse, I need to be as all-in as I can be. (For a long time, I was somewhere between 1 and 1.5 feet out the door…)

        – Do something…do something new, something different. That injunction is so apt in my case. I realized that nothing I was doing was doing any good, so what’s the risk in doing something different. :-D

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          Jack,

          That book uses Ellyn Bader’s model as it’s framework. I mentioned before I spent a year doing online training with that model. So I could learn to be better differntiated.

          I definitely think it has a lot to offer.
          I like your second takeaway. I relate to that one a lot. Keep trying different things to change the system intelligently.

          I think because you are coming from a stonewalling default that I don’t share some of the takeaways may be different.

          I’m curious was your wife the “pursuer” in earlier parts of your marriage? Or was she always more avoidant as you describe her now?

          Liked by 1 person

          • somecallmejack says:

            Ellyn Bader – you mentioned training. How??? I’ve read In Quest of the Mythical Mate and Tell Me No Lies. I’d love to know more, though their developmental model comes pretty clearly through Winifred Reilly’s book.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Jack,

              I took a year or so of their online training for therapists. I told them I was not a therapist so I wouldn’t be listed as one to have people call me. (One poor lady did call me desperate for help, I referred her to the Atkinson place with does out of state help which Bader does not because of the laws in CA which is so frustrating).

              I often take therapist training courses to learn the information at a deeper level. Since I have to perform surgery on myself I at least want better tools.

              Anyway. The training consists of written information they email you periodically. But most of it is through listening to the calls where Ellyn (and sometimes Pete) discuss the info and use real client cases therapists bring to diagnose and detail the correct intervention. It’s the developmental model explained and practiced over and over.

              You have access to all the archives of all the calls (with a few videos) ever done. So you can pick topics that interest you.

              I found it helpful to pound the information in my head over and over. Very helpful to hear it applied.

              Their model is not ONLY differentiation as you know. Correctly getting the attachment part is important as well. And they spend a lot of time on calls talking about that too. As I said in other comments it’s chicken and egg.

              I really liked what she said about people who jump to the “practicing” stage without completing the differentiating stage. They think they are independent and healthy. Other people can think they are too. Even therapists. But they aren’t. They are just avoidant without the correct level of differentiaton to consider the partner. Healthy differntiation includes healthy attachment.

              That’s my husband’s stage and many men I think. Independence without interdependence is NOT healthy any more than staying stuck in enmeshment. That’s why is not just “only you can make yourself happy”

              The model details how we must go through each stage and come out to end up with a healthy, happy marriage which includes both independence and interdependence.

              I don’t have the link but if you go to their website on the therapists side there is probably something about the training.

              Like

              • Lisa Gottman says:

                Lots of women too who jump to the “practicing” stage of independence without completing the steps.

                As you can tell, those types of people bug the hell out of me (too emeshed I know, I know!)

                Because they often will declare, with contempt, that THEY are independent and mature while you are needy. Help yourself they declare, it’s not my job. “You can only make yourself happy!”.

                Like the people who were too important and too busy and “healthily independent” just passing the beaten person by in the Good Samaritan story.

                The Good Samaritan is the model of healthy differentiation.

                Who is my neighbor? Well certainly it should at the very least include your spouse.

                Liked by 1 person

                • gottmanfan says:

                  And let me stress Jack that I don’t think my rant applies to what you seem to mean when you say “you can only make yourself happy”.

                  There can be different meanings to that phrase based on the person saying it. I interpret you saying it as an effort to keep your role clear in your mind in dealing with an avoidant spouse. To focus on your role as being the unilateral change to the system.

                  That’s not what I’m talking about.

                  I am talking about the common use of people saying “you can only make yourself happy” to dismiss their responsibility in a relationship to consider their impact on the person.

                  To accept their influence.

                  Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  I think too that the common “you need to chill, I wish my wife could just chill out and not nag so much” is yet another version of

                  “You can only make yourself happy” wanting to jump to the independence “practicing” stage without including the differentiated healthy attachment stage.

                  Wanting her to “chill” so you don’t have to be interdependent.

                  Like

                • somecallmejack says:

                  Semi-OT, more later, but…

                  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone “correctly” (in quotation marks because I’m speaking from my own perspective) answer or explain the answer to the question “who is my neighbor”?

                  The answer has nothing to do with how you feel about Samaritans.

                  The point of the parabolic answer, IMHO, is (clearly) this:

                  Don’t ask who is your neighbor. _YOU_ are the neighbor – _be_ the neighbor.

                  And yeah, how about that spouse (who you chose!) ? ;-)

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Another thought.

                    I think most of us need to be the neighbor (in your terms) to ourselves. Use some self compassion and not yell at ourselves constantly at how much we suck and how others don’t love/respect/care/etc us.

                    Have self compassion and self soothe so that we have more resources available to be generous to our spouses and “neighbors.”

                    I’m not sure I understand your interpretation of “don’t ask who is your neighbor, YOU are the neighbor” maybe it’s too meta philosophical for my humble straightforward mind. 😀

                    Be the change you seek? Something like that? Perhaps you could translate it into a Star Wars/Star Trek analogy so my nerd mind could understand it better? 😜

                    I trust it works for you in a helpful way
                    even if we may think about it differently. (How is that for some fancy differentiaton?)

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • somecallmejack says:

                      Yes, be the change – same concept.

                      Funny, sort of, story. Things are kinda crazy in my wife’s life right now.

                      Me/us. ;-)

                      Very elderly parents, mother more or less dying, parents moving, a real stress-fest.

                      Selling a family house owned jointly with cousins, with tons of issues.

                      The usual (often to me semi-unbelievable) stuff with her college students.

                      This morning in the kitchen she sighs and says she feels like she’s having trouble managing. (!!!) I said: you need some compassion!

                      She said: I’m trying, but I just can’t find compassion for students who are doing stuff and expecting things this outrageous. (I think: OMG, you are just totally missing this, my love…)

                      I said: no, I don’t mean that you should have compassion on *them.* I mean you should have some compassion for *yourself!* Look at all the stuff you’re trying to do, give yourself a little bit of a break. :-)

                      As you said, be a neighbor to yourself. :-)

                      Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack,

      You said:

      “My wife basically told me that that was a very poor response, and when I responded that I was trying to explain where I was and how I was trying to improve my understanding of the situation and my responses, was told point-blank that I didn’t have what was needed to change.”

      It must have been so painful to hear those words.

      I know you probably know this but your wife saying that is her defense to protect herself.

      So much pain on both sides when our defenses hurt each other. Painful words, painful withdrawal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        “…both sides…”

        So true, and I know you know how true.

        This is a convenient place to say that my comments here over the last, I don’t know, year, maybe?, probably cast my wife in a bad light from time to time. And my journal post about being smacked while I was growing up may make people think about my parents in a bad light. None of that is true. We are all just doing the best we can with where we started. Think about what my father and his father grew up with. :-(

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          Jack,

          Oh I understand. I don’t think you have described your wife as a villain. We get caught in these patterns and we each are doing what we know how to do.

          Until we can figure out something better.

          And I understand about being “spanked”. I grew up like that too.

          Though my strategy was to make my dad laugh until he couldn’t spank me that hard. Or to debate the logic of my deserving a spanking.

          These too I have carried into adulthood with varying helpfulness as defenses. 😀

          Parents can love us and do the best they know how still cause problems that need to be sorted out.

          Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack,

      Another thought on your wife saying to you that you “didn’t have what was needed to change.”

      That seems to me something an anxiously attached person would say not an avoidant. Stan Tatkin describes that style as “allergic to hope” which often results in harsh words to there spouses. I relate to that one big time in the past.

      I say all that to wonder if your wife is not really avoidantly attached but a “burned out pursuer” who is anxiously attached. It matters because although they can look the same the underlying mechanisms are different and require different interventions.

      Of course I could be way off. And you probably know thought about this stuff. I throw it out there to give another interpretation of WHY she would say harsh words to your efforts to help. I’ve been in this position so I was thinking your wife might be coming from this position possibly.

      Here is a Stan Tatkin article that you may find interesting if you haven’t seen it already.

      https://stantatkin.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Allergic-to-Hope_Tatkin.pdf

      Liked by 1 person

      • somecallmejack says:

        Thank you…I am very familiar with that article! I think it’s really me, to a tee. And I think some of my unconstructive relationship habits are being a burned out anxious partner.

        But you raise a very interesting question. Put a couple under a lot of stress for long enough (like, say, 37 years) and lots of things happen. Behaviors change.

        I wonder if a lot of her behavior is dealing with what I wrote about above for all these years. All the hurt and anger and totally walled-off need-to-be-invulnerable stuff that I was (am) so wrapped up in. And trying (and I think succeeding) to protect our boys from that.

        Maybe moving that out into the open and confronting it will change a lot of things.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Yes, that’s what I meant. We change our patterns over time as we get burned out on the first set.

          The thing that puzzles me is that you describe defaulting to stonewalling and that is typically not associated with anxiously attached people. Who keep seeking proximity. And the “I’m a dissapointment/failure script is usually attached to the avoidant person.

          Of course, we are all unique mixtures of things. I wonder if gender scripts add avoidant features onto what is a base of anxious attachment in response to your wife’s behavior? Or do you think you exhibit anxious attachment in most of your relationships?

          We get pushed into positions depending on the stance our partners take as you know I’m sure.

          For example, I am am more likely to behave avoidantly or securely (depending on my skill level) with someone who wants a LOT of togetherness (cough, cough my daughter).

          I’m naturally pretty independent. But because my husband is MORE in need of auroregulation than I am I become comparatively anxiously attached seeking more interdependence than he prefers.

          None of which would be a problem if we had figured out how to successfully navigate these differences but we got stuck pointing fingers at each other because we didn’t understand what was going on or how to fix it.

          My husband changed patterns as did I after a while too. Common as you know like the “walk away wife syndrome” where the husband becomes activated and the wife is disengaged.

          Now that we are better, we have reverted back to the usual default to pursue/withdraw. Though we are working very hard to find healthier patterns of accepting influence from each other to stay out of the defaults.

          Liked by 1 person

          • somecallmejack says:

            I read a good explanation of what happens to chronically disappointed anxious/pursuer types…but of course I can’t find it right now. :-) It was a topic that interested me because I do find myself on both ends of that spectrum. The explanation had to do with the effects of long-term rejection (and anger; frustrated anxious/pursuer people can become very angry).

            Fear of abandonment and anger at people who mistreated you when you expected care and nurture. Blech, what a mess.

            Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Jack,

          You said:

          “I wonder if a lot of her behavior is dealing with what I wrote about above for all these years. All the hurt and anger and totally walled-off need-to-be-invulnerable stuff that I was (am) so wrapped up in. And trying (and I think succeeding) to protect our boys from that.”

          Maybe moving that out into the open and confronting it will change a lot of things.”

          If your wife is anything like most women dealing with a shut down man (including me) then the answer is:

          YES to the first and YES to the second.

          Liked by 1 person

          • somecallmejack says:

            I said above that I think this was the first time in ~2.5 years that my wife has really seen me, really believed that I am serious about this.

            It’s so crazy. I spent some time with my therapist today talking about this. I keep trying to say “it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t that bad, it was what people did.” I kept applying Burns’ cognitive patches.

            He finally said “no, it was that bad. Belts maybe, metal no, metal hard enough to bend it – no no no.”

            And I just want to flip back into “toughen up.” And separately I have this instinctive drive, maybe even a need, to not believe my parents could have been…

            Walling things off and sewing things down was adaptive, though. It was survival. I said this morning that I’d realized that I have been SO angry and my wife asked what that was like. She might have been wondering if she was in any sort of danger. I said it really isn’t kinetic, in the sense that it’s not going to get any kind of behavioral expression. It’s just there. It’s an awareness.

            My therapist has been experimenting with some of the methods in the back part of Schnarch’s newish book, Brain Talk. I think we might try some of those dialogs. Not necessarily ever put that into real life with my father (my mother’s dead), but do just do them between the two of us.

            Maybe this whole work will create some safe space for, well, for me, and also for my wife. (Not physically safe, but emotionally safe.)

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              I am glad you have found a therapist who is helpful to work through the anger.

              I know it’s hard to reconcile the damage done to us by those we trusted. Hard to fully be vulnerable with that unresolved and the anger living in the basement.

              It’s hard to judge pârenting standards

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Sorry the last sentence got cut off.

                It’s hard to fully judge pârenting standards by things we now (rightly) see as abusive. Many parents in the past did harmful things without understanding the harm because it was done to them or with the idea of making the kid stronger or teaching to obey authority.

                Some parents fully knew it was harmful and did it anyway. Some got pleasure at inflicting pain and control.

                I don’t know which category your parents are in. But as your therapist pointed out recognizing it DID harm you is important to acknowledge. To not brush it away because it’s hard to see your parents as abusing on you.

                From my experience anyway, it helps to acknowlege it to be able to have self compassion for yourself and the defenses we have that get in the way of loving healthy relationships with ourselves and others.

                Like

  6. somecallmejack says:

    This is a journal entry I wrote this morning. I shared it with my wife and I think that sharing this may have been the single most impactful thing that I’ve done in the 2+ years that I have been trying to remake myself and our marriage (after I gave up trying to remake her, but that’s another story).

    Rethinking Parts of My Childhood – I am reading (listening to) Terry Real’s book I Don’t Want to Talk About It. The book deals with how boys (and girls) are socialized in our culture, and male depression.

    Listening has brought things flooding back, and I am reframing some things.

    When I was young, my father would hit me (“discipline” me) with a belt. I remember the belt clearly – it was an alligator leather belt. He would take me into their bedroom and hit me with the belt.

    I was so stubborn. I would always steel myself against the belt. I didn’t want to let him know that he’d hurt me.

    Eventually the belt got “upgraded” to a shoehorn. He had a foot-long brass shoehorn, and he’d hit me with that. And I would never let him know that he had hurt me. He hit me hard enough that eventually that metal shoehorn got bent. And I would never let him know that he had hurt me.

    It’s not a sequential memory, but the next thing that came to mind was a memory of the door to my parent’s bedroom. I remember kicking that door. I kicked it so hard that one of the panels broke apart and pieces went the full length of my parent’s bedroom, which was at least 30 feet. There was so much anger in me.

    We used to laugh and joke about it, as if it was funny that he’d hit me so hard that he bent the shoehorn.

    But it wasn’t funny then, and it isn’t funny now. It isn’t funny at all.

    And the crazy thing is that even today, right now, part of me is saying: it was no big deal, it didn’t matter. Toughen up, be a man. NEVER let them know they hurt you. Stand up and take another one. Stand or die.

    And all my life, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, I’ve been running from the history that created the setting for this stuff. Like my father’s father’s mother, who threw her children’s Christmas presents in the fire. Like what I now recognize as all the contempt and scorn that my father’s mother poured on her husband and her children. Like the telegram my father’s parents sent him from England when he was a junior at Columbia, telling him that they were cutting him off completely. I have been running from this stuff, fleeing. Thinking if I can just get enough space between me and all that stuff, I will be safe and whole and happy. It seems that trying to flee didn’t work very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Jack,

      Such a moving journal of your memories! You learned to withdraw and steel yourself against the belt and never let him know he hurt you even when the metal got bent.

      Such strength of will! It’s a great superpower!

      But sadly focused in the wrong directions in certain ways.

      We learn things to deal with our early life that we carry with us. And often don’t even know they are causing us to do relationally harmful things in our present.

      I really feel for boys and men. That book by Terry Real opened my eyes and heart. What boys and men go through to be considered “man-enough” in their own head or in the judgement of others! It’s like emotionally being beaten with a metal shoehorn until no emotions are identifiable except “manly” ones like anger or indifference.

      I am so glad your wife was impacted by your sharing this. How you have directed that amazing strength of will to work stubbornly to reach her! Your superpower being used to repair your marriage.

      The adult man telling the little boy it’s ok to let people see your hurt now. You are an adult and it’s ok to show vulnerability. That’s what men do. You should be very, very proud of yourself.

      Great change can happen when superpowers are redirected to their true purpose instead of defenses.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Suzanne says:

    Hey Matt, I’ve just recently discovered your blog and think you nail it in terms of what a woman thinks. Love it, thank you!

    I too have a “great with the big stuff” and “shitty with the small important stuff” hubby… and while I still love him dearly, after years of all the shitty behaviours you describe, I am feeling like I have no option but to walk… This will be devastating for me, our kids and families but how long can you go on bashing your head against the same proverbial brick wall?

    My question is, do you have any advice for us girls still there, still invested in our marriages (albeit by a thread), still living in hope and how we might initiate change before it’s too late? I am trying to focus more on looking after myself, going out with girlfriends, getting more involved in my work and so on…but haven’t seen any change as yet. Help – I don’t want to end my marriage but can’t do this forever.

    Like

  8. marilyn sims says:

    To All:

    An article in the NYTimes written by Michael Ian Black (Op-Ed, Feb. 22) was titled, “The Boys Are Not All Right”. It was written in response to the shooting at the Florida high school that left 17 people dead and others seriously wounded.

    Yesterday (Mar.3) an article, “A New Model of Masculinity”, containing letters to the editor appeared in response to the original article.

    If you have a few minutes, please read it — IMHO I think you will find it not only pertinent to issues we discuss here, it might also provide “food for thought”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Karen mata says:

    I’m hear looking for a solution on anything I can do to help my husband and I. I feel rather pathetic but I don’t know where else I can turn too. My husband and I have been together 9 years and married the last 3 years, we have 3 kids together. I’m not trying to change him.. I want us both to be happy.. He says I don’t ever want to spend time with him, but I do spend time with him, watching a show like he wants to do, I’m happy to do all little things too, and S. It feels like he plays head games when he says I don’t want to spend time with him, I do everything I can to make him feel loved. He doesn’t do anything in return. He doesn’t show any interest in me or our kids, or do anything to make me feel cared about by him. We have talked about things, and he cried one time when he hasn’t cried in 21 years, we both stated things we could do better in our marriage. But that was several months ago and its back to unhappiness for us both or rather I think because he doesn’t talk or do anything with me. I am trying I don’t know what else I can do for us both to be happy. He wants to stay married he has said, but he always always has his phone to his face playing games, never interested in me or us, or our kids or our life we all share as family. I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I think he might have depression or anxiety but idk, I have those though. He won’t do anything about it, he has said he might have depression then goes to calling me names and saying I’m just crazy and acting stupid when I say I know that can be rough, and suggest one of us make him an appointment. I really feel like shit. What do I do to help me and him? Im usually happy other than this god damn shit whole marriage!!!! I just want him to god damn talk to me once in a while! And go out to feed the damn chickens with me, or anything. Life is to short. It’s been 9 years, I want it to be forever he is perfect, but he just has no interest in me. I need to not feel invisible by him, and he needs to feel loved but what else do I do? Can’t even text him to get his fucking attention. Sorry not sorry about my language. This is me being me and I’m being open here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen mata says:

      We have had the same old talks, it gets know where. We are both unhappy and think the other doesn’t care. We try try try but we always feel alone. Or rather maybe he doesn’t try he sits with his phone in his face. I’m trying to say he tries but really I don’t see it. I see it as him being a not good husband. Idk.

      Like

      • Keri says:

        Karen,
        I can completely relate. My husband and I were together for over 6 years before getting married. I thought we were in it for the long haul, both wanted the same things, etc. Turns out we did NOT want the same things, he wanted to coast in life while I worked full time, took care of our kids, our home, our finances, everything. He made choices so that his presence was optional – a big thing was that he constantly had his face stuck in his phone. Talking never improved anything. He wanted to do what he wanted to do and to hell with everyone else, including me. After 5 years of marriage I was done. We are now waiting for our divorce to be finalized and while I am sad that our marriage was not meant to last, I finally feel like I can breathe again and live the life I am supposed to. I am sorry you are going through this.

        Like

    • Kid Charlemagne says:

      Karen, sorry to hear about your troubles.

      Couple quick questions. First of all, when you say “he has no interest in me”, what does that imply for the normal physical intimacy of husband and wife? Are we talking about a “dead bedroom” marriage here?

      Secondly, I notice you were “together” for six years before you married. That’s an unusually long time! Was there a reason for waiting so long? Did one party pressure the other into it? And how was your relationship during those six years? I assume it was pretty good, or you wouldn’t have married him….is that correct? And was there a big change post nuptials?

      Like

      • Karen mata says:

        Hi, what I mean by not interested is he just don’t talk to me, he doesn’t text me back, doesn’t call, doesn’t answer a call, the only time he says anything on the text is I love you too, even on his brakes he doesn’t want to talk, he works 12 hr days and his drive to and from work is an hour long. I make sure he has dinner done and ready, that the kids are clean, the house is clean, I’ll even lay his work clothes out so he can sleep extra, and I put sweats and a towel in the bathroom for when he gets home and can shower. He has nothing to do with me unless a meal isnt to his standards then I get a what is this shit? He eats dinner playing his cellphone game at the same time. Goes to bed playing it, doesn’t say goodnight to me or the kids, i don’t even tell them to say goodnight to him anymore cause he gets upset and says “I’m trying to go to fucking bed, no one cares about my sleep” we share a room with our youngest, she goes to bed and she goes right to sleep and when I bring her in he says “this is why I need my own room, im trying to sleep” he is on his cellphone. He sleeps like a rock, He wouldn’t wake up even if he was sleeping. Oh and we are physically good, we have sex everyday sometimes more than once.

        Like

        • Karen mata says:

          Eventually I gave up trying to plan a wedding, he didn’t like anything and refused to be involved in the any of the planning. I told him well whatever, I won’t live in sin anymore, you need to find someone and we will just sign the papers. So that’s what we did. His parents as witness. The guy that did was his coworker, and he didn’t charge us, I found out a couple years ago that his coworker just did it for a case of beer.

          Like

          • Karen mata says:

            Our relationship was shit, he was never into me he talked about his x 7 times a day, eventually he saw he and had closure he called it that was like exactly two months after we started dating, then two months more he cheated on me with her, he slept over there and took a shower with her, and kissed her once he says. We kept on dating. I cheated on him, to get back at him I was mad and stupid. Then he fucked my sister to get back at me. Then it was fine for a while no cheating from either of us, played house nice. And he started being mean to me, playing Xbox call of duty 16 hrs a day working part time. We eventually had a son together. I worked full time. He got a good job finally. I applied for it for him. We both agreed I should quit mine. He worked, played Xbox, slept, and worked. Baby #2 came. Same cycle. I’ve always been attention starved. He used to call me names and that was the only attention I’d get. His sisters stayed with us sometimes, they don’t deny his name calling was out of line. We moved to a new town. No more name calling. Now he drives an hour to work and back. Things have always been shitty but not like we beat each other or yell in front of the kids, he don’t yell or call me names anymore, never hits the kids either. So it could be worse.

            Like

        • Kid Charlemagne says:

          “Oh and we are physically good, we have sex everyday sometimes more than once.”

          No doubt while he’s playing Call of Duty.

          You know, I’m not one to accuse someone of being a troll or making up a story. But this is asking too much. I mean, I’m wondering about married couples who ARE very content and happy together (and physically attracted to each other) – yet how many of them “have sex everyday, sometimes more than once” after being together 9 years, with 3 kids, and with the husband spending 12 hours a day at work, plus another 2 hours in the car? Ummm, I’m guessing the number is approximately ZERO.

          Then add in all the problems you’re experiencing in your marriage. Sounds like you two would be on the cusp of separating for awhile, but instead you can’t keep your hands off each other and you do it like rabbits…even though he “has no interest” in you.

          So I won’t say you’re dishonest, because I can’t know that. Instead, I will simply say that (assuming you’re being truthful) your relationship with your husband is so bizarre and outside the realm of anything I could even imagine, that I can form no opinion on it nor give you any advice.

          I’ll simply say “Good Luck”, and leave it at that.

          Like

          • Karen mata says:

            I just think it’s important to do that. But he does ignore me. He has seriously spent $1,830 on Pokémon Go. All he does is work and phone to the face, screw, and more phone to the face.

            Like

  10. Jerry Fender says:

    Dude, she left you because you’re a cuck. My god man, pull yourself up. You sound like a loser. She fell out of love with you period. I’ll bet the guy she lets bang her now leaves his shit all over the house and she could care less.

    Like

  11. These post are SO helpful to me in my relationship, but honestly? Sometimes it gets confusing for me. Because SO MUCH about your blog is about the differences in men and women…and so for as long as I’m reading your blog, I have to pretend I’m a man. Because thats how the roles in my relationships have always been. Everytime my boyfriend gave me the old nag treatment about clothes in the bathroom, dishes in the sink….ALL I can think is “why? why do you care? Why do they interfere with your life so much? Why are you making me stop playing the game I’m playing or reading reddit or doing WHATEVER I want to do to pick up something that isn’t hurting you or hindering your life?” When in truth its doing BOTH of those things. My boyfriends a real guys guys. But he was raised in a home that was clean and he wants to live that way. Thats how he’s comfortable. I’m not UNCOMFORTABLE in cleanliness, however, I was raised in a really messy home. Thats what I’m USED to. And so, I have been willing to let him live UNCOMFORTABLY, so as to avoid something that I viewed as tedious and boring…when in actuality, I should view it as an opportunity to SHOW my partner that I love him. Instead of saying it over and over again like a broken record.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. That’s Rich says:

    What if, you made repeated promises to change, kept them only superficially, got worse and instead of keeping your promises, made threats and kept those instead, blamed her for all of it and then apologised again…and again and again…

    Like

  13. ladyinthemountains says:

    Once again, I am impressed with your growth and hope you can find love again. It is so sad that by the time so many men realize there are problems, it is over for the woman. For me, I am having a very difficult time trusting a man again or my heart. Too many paper cuts by my ex.

    Like

  14. Female male man-thing, if she lets me. says:

    How far do we need to bend over backwards looking for excuses to women’s behavior when it’s poor? Seems it will always be a mans fault no matter what the situation, this is not ‘blinders from childhood’ it is about not reacting to her poor behavior and pretending its OK to behave like that. It’s not. But you want men to just accept that behavior as part of ‘being a man’. Unfortunately the high level you want to hold men to isn’t the same level you hold women too, which is why men are always the bad guy and women are always right.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m not excusing anything. I’m seeking to understand.

      In my experience, understanding WHY things happen goes a long way.

      I’ll try to state my position as clearly and simply as possible:

      I believe men (but all people, really, independent of gender) frequently day and do things that cause PAIN. This “feeling pain” component is so key here.

      You describe it as “poor behavior.” I describe it as someone in pain reacting instinctively to experiencing that pain. If I hit your hand with a hammer, I don’t expect you to calmly ask me to stop doing it.

      I expect you to have a mini freak out. It MAKES SENSE for you to freak out because I just hit you with a hammer.

      Now, let’s say every time you say “Why the shit are you hitting me with this hammer!? I thought we were friends!,” I reply with: “Why are you acting like such a little bitch right now? It’s not okay to freak out and yell about stuff like this! You’re being a lunatic. Stop making a big deal out of nothing!”

      You’re going to look me in the eye and tell me that it’s bullshit that I just hit you with the hammer. You’re going to think it’s CRAZY that I not only didn’t apologize for doing so, but denied that anything bad happened.

      How many times will that happen before you’re like “F this guy. I’m out.”?

      The reason this is so hard to talk about is because in these real-life scenarios, one person experiences a hammer, and other person experiences a pillow.

      She might say, “that hurts me, please stop.”

      She feels something legitimately painful.

      But when he lived the moment, he legitimately felt something minor. He thought he was swinging a pillow, or perhaps not swinging anything at all.

      When people are hurt, it MAKES SENSE for them to react like they’ve just been hurt.

      And what destroys marriages is when one person (unknowingly) causes pain, and then their partner tells them they’ve just been hurt, and then the other says: “You’re crazy. It’s stupid to be hurt by that. You’re wrong to feel that way.”

      One person experienced hammer.

      The other experienced harmless pillow.

      Neither of them understand that they’re literally experiencing the same event in radically different ways.

      And what I believe is that if both sides KNEW they were experiencing that moment in radically different ways, and that some things that seem harmless actually can cause major trouble and pain for others, that much fewer relationships would break.

      People don’t know this is a thing. You are one of them, it would seem.

      You see a pillow or some other harmless object. It makes sense that you think it’s harmless. It’s not your fault.

      But I’m telling you, that same “harmless object” is being experienced as a deadly weapon by someone else.

      And until you understand and believe that, you’ll never be able to fully connect with someone and earn their complete trust.

      Like

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