7 Relationship Questions People Are Secretly Asking (and Maybe a Few Answers)

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Headwaters fountain at Texas Tech University. (Image/Pinterest)

Thousands of people find Must Be This Tall To Ride articles every day because of questions they asked the internet. I just conducted a semi-thorough inspection of the questions and keywords people typed into search engines to find articles here.

If you want to know what’s in someone’s heart, you need only know what questions they ask in privacy, or when no one’s watching.

These are the big questions that a lot of people are most often asking about their marriages and dating relationships.

1. Why is my husband an asshole?

This is the No. 1 question driving internet traffic to this website, and has been since 2013.

Those people usually end up here.

Variations:Why is my husband mean to me and nice to everyone else? Why is my husband such a jerk? Why is my husband such a piece of shit? Why isn’t my husband nice? Why is my husband an arsehole? Why is my husband an idiot? And of course, there are variations including the f-word being used as an adjective for most of these.

Answer: He might not be an asshole!

He might just suck royally at being married because he never learned how, and being married to someone who sucks at it feels exactly the same as someone being an asshole to you.

The most wonderful, charming, handsome, intelligent man in the world might still make for a VERY BAD choice to pilot your aircraft if he’s never had formal aviation training. We train pilots before giving them a pilot’s license. They learn about critical pre-flight checks and have extensive training on what to do during various trouble or emergency scenarios.

The brilliant and awesome guy isn’t an asshole just because he’s a crappy pilot during your first flight together. He’s literally not armed with the proper tools, skills, nor experience to be a good pilot.

The same is true of being a husband.

There are proper tools, skills and experiences that prepare men effectively for marriage. Only the smallest percentage of young men are exposed to and given those tools and skills in their youth to prepare them properly.

Or, maybe you actually did marry a huge asshole.

Sorry.

That was a poorly conceived long-term strategy, but we all make mistakes. Me, especially. This is preventable, and we’ll go over how in just a minute.

2. Why does my wife hate me?

Variations:What to do when your wife hates you. How do you hurt your wife emotionally? (Which I’m generously interpreting as concerned husbands seeking insight on behalf of their wives, and NOT a bunch of psychos plotting emotional abuse with Google research.)

Answer: Because she thinks you’re an asshole, regardless of how true that is.

She probably grew up with a mom and dad who fiercely loved and protected her, and she spent ages 12 through yesterday shooing away men who were trying to sleep with her. And after a LIFETIME of saying no to a bunch of suitors, and not believing anyone was good enough to replace her parents as the most-trusted people in her life, she finally chose YOU.

And whether it’s because you’re an abusive prick who is intentionally cruel to her OR because you’re a good guy completely in the dark about why she’s upset with you, her genuine reality and everyday experiences have her convinced that you are deliberately hurting her.

The guy she chose over dad and mom. The guy she shares a home and bed and bank account with. The guy she chose to be her children’s father. THAT motherfucker is literally her biggest threat and adversary every day of her life.

And then! On top of that, when she asks for your help, or tries to explain what she’s experiencing, she’s told what an overreacting, crazy, ungrateful, incorrect dumbass she is for making these wild accusations and having such poor emotional calibration.

Face it. You frequently choose other things over your wife and kids. She notices.

So. You’re either both evil or insane. Or, just maybe, you’re both actually really good people trying your best and are simply missing key pieces of information (like a marriage cypher) that would grant you the ability to talk to one another in ways that bring a greater sense of understanding and closeness, rather than perpetuating The Same Fight over and over and over again.

What do you do about it?

You love. Actively. Inconveniently. Even when you don’t feel like it. You choose to love even when it’s hard and not feeling reciprocated.

Will that save a marriage? Sometimes it will. Othertimes, things are broken beyond repair, and everything ends with lots of tears, depression, bad life decisions, and excessive alcohol use.

But you love anyway. No matter what. Because you promised you would.

And keeping your promises changes everything.

3. How do I deal with my asshole husband?

Variation:What to do when your husband says hurtful things?

Answer: First, let’s acknowledge that he might not actually be an asshole. Things aren’t always what they seem. Second, if he IS an asshole, you probably have some culpability in the decision to choose him out of the 3.5+ billion males roaming the earth.

If you’re still not married—Phew! There’s still time. That was a close one. Here’s how to know whether you should marry him.

The things one should do to prevent marrying an asshole in the first place tend to be the same things one should do to ANYONE who would treat you poorly.

4. How do I tell my husband I love him in a letter?

  • Step 1: Grab a pen and a piece of paper.
  • Step 2: Write “I love you.”
  • Step 3: Hand that piece of paper to husband.

Unsolicited advice: Writing a Letter to Your Husband Won’t Save Your Life or Marriage.

5. How do I lose my virginity?

God. Get your shit together teenagers (or all you I.T. guys who work in my building who are clearly eating too many Hot Pockets).

Variations:How do I make a sex potion? How to seduce your wife.

Answer: I’m not going to give you the answer you’re looking for, but I am going to give you the answer that will help you have an excellent, healthy and active sex life in the context of a monogamous relationship.

  1. This is how you brew magic sex potion.
  2. This is how to seduce your wife.

You’re welcome.

6. Why does my husband expect me to do all of the work around the house just because I don’t have a job?

Answer: This usually falls squarely within the He Doesn’t Currently Have the Tools Required to be a Good Husband department. It’s theoretically possible that I would agree with him (if he works two jobs, or 70-hour weeks and you don’t have children or classwork or any other daily life responsibilities, for example).

There’s no right or wrong way that works for everyone in terms the division of labor split. Everyone’s “fair” or “effective” will look and feel different.

But if one person feels strongly that there’s a disparity and that they’re carrying too heavy a burden, it doesn’t even matter how true or untrue it is. Your marriage will eventually fail, because all people fall when they no longer have the strength to carry things.

More than likely, your husband is an Accidental Sexist like I used to be. He grew up seeing dads, grandpas, uncles and big brothers going to work, and watching moms, grandmas, aunts and sisters changing diapers, cooking meals, washing clothes and dishes.

He grew up talking football and drinking beer with his buddies.

He experienced women drinking a lot of wine coolers, talking about clothes and reality TV, and reading bridal magazines.

That arrangement is “normal” to him. That is “the right way” to do things. It’s all he knows.

Don’t worry. He’ll either get his shit together once he gets help figuring it out, or he’ll figure it out while trying to do everything himself when he’s single again.

I work a lot at a job and they compensate me reasonably well for my time.

At home, I’m the only adult to do laundry, grocery shop, vacuum, dust, mow grass, take out the trash, manage the mail, and keep a calendar so I’m always on top of upcoming events for me and/or my young son.

My job is FUN compared to all of that shitty work at home.

I don’t always do it because I don’t want to. And that works when you’re a divorced single guy.

That will get you divorced when you’re married.

7. Is marriage counseling bullshit?

Answer: The way you’re using it? Probably.

Let me guess: Your marriage has turned to absolute shit and you can’t really explain how or why. One or both of you had an affair, or secretly wish you were. And now one of you is thinking about paying someone $300 an hour so that your spouse can unleash a laundry list of complaints about you and your relationship to a complete stranger, and have that person AGREE with them.

Sounds awesome. How do you think that’s going to end?

Marriage counseling is NOT bullshit in its purest form.

It’s only bullshit the way most people try to use it as a magical marriage-fixer after having spent the past several years accidentally destroying it and each other.

I believe people who use marriage counseling as a crutch for receiving validation in an attempt to convince their partner that they actually are the asshole they’ve been accusing them of being all along, that their marriages will fail.

I believe people who go to marriage counseling expecting the other person to accept blame and suddenly change their behavior will be both disappointed and divorced at the end of the process.

I believe marriage counseling can save a marriage only when a human being enters it seeking answers to the following questions: What are the things I’ve done—perhaps unknowingly—that have contributed to our shitty, failing marriage? What can I better understand or actively do to be a great spouse? What are the things I can do to make my partner feel loved, wanted, and safe in our marriage so that they WANT to be my spouse?

The Blamers and What’s-In-It-For-Me? people tend to eat mountains of shit.

The genuinely humble people willing to learn what things they don’t know tend to eat mountains of shit too, but THOSE people at least have a fighting chance to save their marriage or have a happy and healthy relationship later in life.

The blamers and me-first people are doomed to a life of repeating their relationship failures over and over again.

But maybe there’s another way.

Just like people consult doctors, pastors, nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches, teachers, etc. for guidance and advice, maybe people can start going to marriage counseling BEFORE marriage. And during the first few months and years of the relationship. Maybe they can always go.

Two happy people who love one another, seeking answers together for how to make life better for their partner.

Can you imagine it?

The closeness and gratitude that would foster?

The fuckness and anger that would prevent?

As a single, divorced father now five years after it all fell apart—I can.

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98 thoughts on “7 Relationship Questions People Are Secretly Asking (and Maybe a Few Answers)

  1. She probably grew up with a mom and dad who fiercely loved and protected her, and she spent ages 12 through yesterday shooing away men who were trying to sleep with her. And after a LIFETIME of saying no to a bunch of suitors, and not believing anyone was good enough to replace her parents as the most-trusted people in her life, she finally chose YOU.
    Face it. You frequently choose other things over your wife and kids. She notices.
    Yep, this is me. I don’t think my parents approved of any of my suitors and they probably thought my husband was the best of a bad bunch. It wasn’t all his fault that we didn’t make it. I think part of me chose him because I knew he wouldn’t leave me – I knew he loved me more than I loved him. Unfortunately, that meant that when he did choose other things, my love slowly died. I’m happier now and feel less lonely on my own than I was with him. Sad but true.

    Like

  2. Sweet post, Matt. Well done.

    Lurking somewhere beneath the issues you described is some really linear, black and white thinking, and it’s missing the whole concept of sacrificial love. That’s a cultural error on our part because we must be raising kids with this idea that they are either hated or loved. Either “in” or “out.” Either “good” or “bad.” So who you hate you simply reject, you throw out. The problem being, love is not punitive in that way, not unless you are being raised by narcissists who withdraw their love from you as a form of power and control. Unconditional, sacrificial love is really a hard concept to understand in a modern world heavily invested in the politics of personal destruction. You’re either for me or you’re against me.

    I like to explain to people that hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is actually indifference. So if your wife “hates you” that’s actually a sign of her still being emotionally invested in you.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Mike says:

    So right about marriage counseling.

    There is a great story by Steve Hauptman about how people go to therapy when their life plan, “plan A”, stops working. What they NEED is a plan B. What they go asking for is: help with making plan A work.

    https://monkeytraps.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/plan-a-2/

    (Disclaimer, I’m not Steve, his friend or family member or commercial associate etc etc)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mike says:

    It’s complicated though. Using counseling as “please help me make my partner change” doesn’t go well, but neither does “Fine. Just give me a list of everything I need to do and I’ll do it, okay?”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. julie3344 says:

    Thanks Matt. On the Eve of Mother’s Day, I see so many moms lame thing about how their husbands forgot ir dont care about doing something special. And really, it’s not about the holiday, but rather appreciating one’s partner every day. So many guys are ill equipped to thrive in a modern marriage. This is marriage where usually both partners work, have long commutes, and don’t have a ton of family or help nearby. This is a marriage that requires both partners to contribute 100% at home most of the time. The last generation of men really did their sons a disservice by not giving them the tools to thrive in marriage. Perhaps those men didn’t have the tools themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nate says:

    Just a thought and a question for discussion purposes:
    1. Thought – I acknowledge that most women possess better marriage tools to succeed in traditional marriages.
    2. Question – do we really think women have the tools that men lack for today’s modern marriage and do we think today’s marriages are the same as our parents experienced?

    With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and close to 50% of those couples who are still married living a marriage of convenience as opposed to love and happiness, that is 75% shitty marriages. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that a 75% failure rate is almost entirely based on men lacking the proper tools. Maybe women need to take a little more responsibility in marriage failures? And please don’t misconstrue this statement. I am not blaming women nor am I looking to argue with people. I think today’s marriages are simply different than our parents experienced. Today, most all couples both work which was not the case with so many of our parents. Traditional gender roles and stereotypes have been broken down over the recent years. It seems to me both parties are lacking the tools to succeed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think I would word it as “maybe women need to take a little more responsibility in marriage failures” as much as I think women (but it applies to everyone) need to take more responsibility for making marriage succeed.

      There are a million ways to slice this. All are conversationally rife with peril.

      I agree with your analysis that basically three out of four marriages are garbage. We have a sky-high divorce rate. A huge amount of still-married people are miserable. And it’s incalculable how many people never make it to marriage because their relationship fails before exchanging any vows or signing any documents.

      EVERYONE has a hand in this failure.

      My general take on relationship problems is that men cause them (unintentionally) to a much higher degree than women.

      This is not the rule. This is just the trend.

      It’s a fundamental lack of self-awareness and empathy required to live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, and raise the same children without inadvertanantly hurting the people you live with.

      Women hurt men all the time. They just do it in the ways everyone tends to universally recognize as hurtful behavior.

      The problem with men’s bullshit is that we’re mostly oblivous to it. It’s JUST AS HURTFUL to the wives and girlfriends experiencing them as the official Everyone Agrees This is Hurtful list, but because the men doing all of this accidental hurting are unaware, or worse, DON’T AGREE that it’s hurtful, these “little problems” men so commonly dismiss become THE THING that actually ends their marriage.

      In the end, wives think their husbands are stupid dolts or gargantuan assholes. (Did they magically become that way, or were they always exactly as they are but failed to evolve as changing life needs {children, money, intimacy} demanded it?)

      I think, in the most simple terms, women should be more understanding and patient with their husbands until such a time as their husbands demonstrates TOTAL understanding of the problem, and has the opportunity to develop life habits, and live a day-to-day life with this new understanding built into it.

      Usually, too much damage has been done before they’re ever given the chance with the full understanding of the problem.

      Husbands often don’t get it until their wives are already out the door or sleeping with somone else.

      Let me put this in the most-personal, straightforward terms I know how:

      1. My parents didn’t teach me ANY of this. Nothing. Not their fault. No one taught them either. Relationship behavior was NEVER a fundamental part of my upbringing or education in any way beyond me and my friends discussing how “crazy” our ex-girlfriends acted.

      I think most people enter marriage ill-equipped to succeed in it because they’ve never once learned anything meaningful about how to do it well.

      2. Young people are motivated to marry because A. Everyone else is doing it, and most of the adults they knew did it, and it just seems like the thing to do when you’re a kid thinking about your future, and B. There are A LOT of religious people, and most religious people treat sex as a highly taboo subject. Everyone wants to have sex, but the only place all of the kids raised in religious households can do it without feeling intense guilt and shame is if they’re married. I don’t know whether any studies have been done, but there must be MILLIONS of people who pursue marriage young in an effort to de-evilize all of the sex they’ve been fantasizing about for the past however many years.

      Summary: Most people just aren’t ready to be married.

      3. Had I known when I was 25 what I know now, I believe one of two things would have happened.

      I would have either:

      A. Delayed marriage because I would have fully understood how ill-prepared I was (and potentially lost my girlfriend/fiancee because of that), but may have also entered marriage on MUCH better footing if she was willing to go the distance, or

      B. Gotten married KNOWING that Behaviors X, Y and Z (which would later cause my divorce) made my wife feel pain, and since I never hurt anyone, let alone those I love on purpose, I would have cut that shit out pronto.

      And even if I still did it now and then, at least I wouldn’t have treated my wife like she was an insane person when we discussed things that were hurting her.

      It can’t be overstated how much bad can occur because of things we don’t even know to worry about.

      Ignorance is only bliss in life situations where others aren’t counting on you to help them ALSO achieve bliss.

      When you’re ignorant, and in your ignorance you are accidentally breaking things, it doesn’t matter how good you are, what your beliefs are, or how much love is present.

      Accidentally breaking things STILL breaks them.

      And broken things die.

      Most relationships fail, and they fail because of ignorance and misunderstandings and volatile emotions.

      Because both partners speak two different languages, so even when they’re communicating as well as they can, the other person isn’t getting the message clearly.

      NOT because one person is bad and one person is good.

      Just because two people — regardless of how good or bad they are — are missing the skills and tools they need to repair problems at home, or worse — never even realizing that something is in need of repair.

      Men want to fix things. But they can’t fix what they don’t know is broken, OR that is already broken beyond repair.

      I think it would be nice if more women were patiently finding the words and actions that create the breakthrough with their husbands until both of them have properly working translators and they can actually experience marriage where everyone understands one another and can anticipate more effectively the needs of their partners.

      I have to believe that could make a difference.

      But at the same time, when you feel BROKEN on account of the actions and words of the one person who promised to love and honor and protect and care for you, I can understand how much is it ask that broken person to exercise super-human levels of love and patience with the one person hurting (and seemingly betraying) them the most.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Cc says:

    Unrelated to the blog post comment here….

    Please tell me you have a podcast in the works. I would love to hear you talk about questions you get, beyond what you post on your blog.

    That’s all…thanks for all your insight

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nate says:

    Thanks for the solid response Matt. I can get on board with basically everything you said. You’ve outlined the basics of every marriage complaint I’ve heard from both men and women. You’ve nailed it. I have a couple observations. In response to your mentioning that men tend to hurt unintentionally/ignorantly while women hurt in the more traditional and obvious ways, I feel this is a serious issue that warrants further discussion. As you said, broken things die even if done by accident. But, if we are decent humans, accidents should be forgiven. The outcomes still hurt, and may be too much to recover, but at least the person who promised to love them is not purposely hurting his wife. But, if and when a wife purposely hurts her husband, either because she’s angrily responding in the moment or directly trying to get “even”, she is making the conscious choice to hurt her husband. Something she promised not to do. Further, I think most men forgive their wives for this, whether they even ask for forgiveness or not. This is where I have a major problem. I won’t and don’t pretend to be be perfect, but I also don’t try to hurt my wife when I get angry. Anyways, I don’t know how to correct this cycle…and clearly at least 75% of people don’t have the answers either…and it’s really depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I agree. And I used to use that truth to justify my behavior and feel like I was the “right” one.

      But I see it differently now.

      If I had told my wife dozens, perhaps more than 100 times that Behavior X HURT me, and she dismissed it and continued to do Behavior X, I would have considered the perpetual disrespect to be an intentional and harmful act.

      At some point, ignorance becomes abusive and neglectful if you’re not actively trying to prevent Behavior X from harming your partner.

      I’ve never claimed to have any solutions, so I’m right there with you.

      What I think I can do is help some people realize that Behavior X needs to be taken seriously and that it will end in a painful divorce if they don’t.

      As long as Behavior X is being taken seriously by everyone, couples have a chance.

      Liked by 2 people

    • “As you said, broken things die even if done by accident. But, if we are decent humans, accidents should be forgiven.”

      I agree with you that it’s terrible when one partner hurts another on purpose, whether it is in anger or revenge. Did I say things to hurt my ex-husband on purpose? Occasionally, yes. Because I wanted to provoke a response. ANY response, so we could start to communicate and clear the air. Did I regret it later? Of course I did.

      But how many times do you or can you forgive an accident? And when do the actions stop being an accident?

      I specifically told my ex a number of times that certain behaviors hurt me; sometimes he apologized, and the behaviors stopped. For a while. I told him I needed to feel like I mattered to him, and sometimes for a whole week, he would make an effort before going back to treating me like his roommate, the nanny, or the housekeeper. Other times he shrugged and basically said my being hurt was my problem, not his, and when he said that I felt worthless and unloved.

      The funny part about all this? He’s the one who walked away, not me.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Cc says:

        Wow……this reply explains exactly how I feel so often….Thank you wordsaremylife :)
        I have dealt with accidental hurtful behavior for years. I think, looking back over the last 10 years of marriage I can see that my love would often blind me to behaviors that were hurtful. I let things go because he “didn’t mean to”, but the behavior would come back in different ways. Now I see these accidents as something entirely different. Sure, he doesn’t mean to hurt me but how much effort was put into trying to not hurt me in the first place?

        As a mother and wife I put my husband and kids ahead of myself all the time, I think of how my behaviors will effect them, I make decisions based on what is best for all of us. I do this to attempt to avoid accidentally hurting them. Do I succeed all the time, no, but I am actively trying to do what’s best. It’s my doubt that my husband is putting in equal effort to help stop this from happening in the first place that is really breaking down the relationship.

        Liked by 2 people

        • CC,

          Yeah. He used to complain I never made plans to do things with my friends, and that’s why I was unhappy, when the reason it was hard to make plans with my friends was that we were all so busy trying to juggle the schedule’s of our spouses and children. Once we factored in all their activities, there wasn’t much time left for us for ourselves, never mind to get together with each other…

          Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      I think it’s easier to see when gender is removed. There are certain trends but in reality there are a lot of exceptions so let’s go with partners a and b.

      Some of the “accidental” or “unintentional” hurts are a result of a sense of entitlement from partner a of not having to care what the partner b thinks/feels/wants unless it makes sense personally to partner a.

      Empathy is NOT a requirement to accepting influence. It’s helpful, of course, but if one requires understanding of what our partners tell us they want/need to feel loved before we accomodate it explains a lot of that 75% number you are proposing.

      It is not an accidental or unintentional error if partner a feels entitled to ignore what partner b is saying.

      And that is why imho it is equally “bad” and aggressively non rational to feel entitled to these “unintentional hurts” as it is for the response to be an angry criticism or stonewalling or whatever from partner b.

      The tie breaker imho is when partner a insists they are more innocent because all the hurt is “unintentional”. Therefore partner a feels yet another level of entitlement-forgiveness from partner b and an acknowledgement that partner a is more innocent.

      Doing this shifts towards partner a doing double offensive things to partner b. Add in some gaslighting and you get triple the relational damage.

      Partner a and b can be male or female. I’ve been on both sides.

      Liked by 3 people

    • gottmanfan says:

      Or alternatively if we are going with the “accidental” “unintentional” framing lets apply it to BOTH partners.

      If we go with the assumption that partner A (let’s call him/her Chris) is unintentionally hurting their spouse partner B (let’s call him/her Jordan).

      Going with the usual dish example, Jordan asks Chris to please put the dish in the dishwasher. This doesn’t make sense to Chris because s/he doesn’t care that the dish is left out.

      Several choices here.

      1. Chris can just do it because it’s not a big deal either way.

      2. Chris can ask Alex why it matters specifically and explain his/her reasoning/preferences to seek a compromise that works for both.

      3. Chris can agree now and not do it later passive aggressively.

      4. Chris can refuse since it doesn’t matter to him/her despite Jordan’s expressed requests that it does matter to Jordan.

      There are more options but let’s roll with those 4.

      Options 1 and 2 are both relationally smart. Options 3 and 4 are not and will lead to a shitty marriage over time.

      (See next comment for part 2)

      Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        We are going to say that Chris using option 3 or 4 is unintentionally hurting Jordan because s/he doesn’t know that ignoring Jordan’s expressed requests to put the dish in the dishwasher.

        That’s what you are suggesting?

        Option 3 is passive aggressive. Option 4 is entitlement. Both are not good skills. Thinking about knowing what hurts people just confuses it imho. Thinking about intentions just confuses it too.

        It’s just about skills. Are you using good or bad relationship skills? Good skills lead to happy marriages, bad skills lead to shitty marriages. If you think you are using good skills but are in reality using bad skills you will still have a shitty marriage.

        Ok now Jordan has choices too in how to respond to Chris.

        His/her responses can also reflect good or bad relational skills.

        If Jordan responds with criticism for example this is not a good skill. It may very well also be “unintentional” or “accidental” in the sense of not knowing the hurt this criticism causes Chris.

        Maybe Jordan would not be hurt by the same criticism because of style differences.

        It doesn’t matter if it’s unintentional or accidental. Why? Because that is the wrong question.

        The right question is: Is this a skilled response that will lead to a happy marriage?

        Liked by 2 people

      • gottmanfan says:

        There are objective ways to determine which skills are “bad” and lead to shitty marriages. (For example Gottman’s 4 of criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt)

        There are objective ways of determining which behaviors are “good” and lead to happy marriages.
        Like accepting influence and standing up for yourself without making a big deal of up.

        The reason I like the Atkinson ebook is because it clearly takes research and details it into behavior and attitude lists. Do this, not that.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

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

          My usual link to the ebook Developing Habits for Relationship Success

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          For me focusing on skills makes it very clear what is causing a shitty marriage and how to fix it.

          It’s very freeing imho.

          It’s all about improving my own skills. Some of those skills are about how to respond in a relational way to my spouse who is not treating me well.

          Is it hard to learn new skills? Yes it is.

          But it is CLEAR what to do.

          Like

          • Mike says:

            No wonder you are a Gottman fan! “It’s all about skills”. My gut reaction is, if that was so, why would anyone ever want to get married? Is it just like agreeing to participate in a game of chess or something?

            I think rarely are people actually “refusing” to put the glass in the dishwasher, or “feeling entitled” not to. More typically, they just forget.

            My question to the man is, “how do you let her know she’s important to you”, and his answer may be “well I married her didn’t I?” or “I work 60 hours a week to support her and our children”, and he can’t understand why that doesn’t do it.

            However, I have to say it’s more often women than men who seem to lack empathy. Who are astonished to discover, in counselling, that their husbands also have emotions. Who knew?

            Liked by 2 people

            • Mike says:

              “I work 60 hours a week to support her and our children” – that answer used to sound good, but it’s going away nowadays, as so often they both work.

              And my reply to the hard-working wage earner might be “sure, you’re a good man, but I have the feeling you’d do that for any wife of yours. What is it about THIS wife?”

              Liked by 3 people

            • gottmanfan says:

              Mike,

              It’s always hard to have conversations like this. I talked about “skills” to get away from the idea of “intentions” and “accidental”vs “on-purpose” framing.

              Clearly talking about “skills” is weird to you? Like I’m saying emotions nothing to do with skills?

              It’s imho is about behaviors and emotions. Of course it is. They are both true. Why do we get married? Because we fall in love.

              Why do we fall in love?

              Well clearly part of it is that we both have enough relationship skills to treat each other well so we feel loved. Attitudes and behaviors lead to thoughts that lead to the emotions of love. And vice versa.

              Why does that same couple become unhappy later?

              Well some of it is is the hormones change after the brain automated things. A lot of it is what Matt talks about on this blog. We don’t have the full set of relationship skills (attitudes and behaviors that lead to positive emotions) to stay happily married.

              Often we have enough to be a good friend, neighbor, coworker and fall in love. But to be happily married (and parent a surly teenager) you have to have higher level skills (attitudes and behaviors that lead to emotions).

              “No wonder you are a Gottman fan!”As I said on a previous post comment I prefer Emotionally Focused Therapy and PACT to Gottman based couples therapy. I absolutely think emotions are powerful and key to a happy marriage. (Although to be fair to Gottman he does talk about emotions a lot too).

              I prefer attachment based theory that talks about emotions through the lens of the brain (Stan Tatkin is my favorite) We are hard wired to want connection but also to be self protective.

              It is those two things that are hard to keep in balance. How can we “protect ourselves” and also stay emotionally connected to another person who defaults to “protecting themselves”?

              That to me is the question too answer.

              People have different ways of answering that. You seem to like a more Romantic philosophy approach than I do. It’s just a style difference between us imho. The style isn’t important if it leads to the same outcome.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Mike says:

                “It’s just a style difference between us imho.”

                Yes, I agree with that, I don’t think we have a substantial disagreement. My remark about “no wonder you are a gottman fan” was not intended as disrespectful, I have a bunch of his books and recommend them to people … it’s a style thing, as you say… maybe I am a romantic. Gottman and his game theory mathematical “proofs” remind me of the lyrics of “the book of love”: “The book of love is long and boring, No one can lift the damn thing. It’s full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing. But I love it when you read to me” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_v_r1bYot8)

                Liked by 1 person

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Mike,

                  I am not a Romantic, sentimental person. That does not mean I am not very emotional. I am intensely emotional.

                  But I also like using logical flowchart ways of thinking to make sense of things. I like to use science to explain things to me. Which is why I like Stan Tatkin, Sue Johnson, Dan Siegel and yes John Gottman. I like those science approaches because otherwise it’s just a bunch of subjective opinions fighting for airtime. Particularly when sex/gender differences are thrown in. “Men are like x, women are like y” because that is what I am like, everyone I know is like x or y.

                  I am not saying that is what you are doing. Only that is what imho the brain defaults to. We default to what we know and experience as the TRUTH. We use what Daniel Kahneman calls “fast thinking” of common patterns.

                  To be in a happy relationship, to even understand how to get a happy relationship we have to engage “slow thinking”. In that sense, yes it is like playing chess.

                  But listen I fully know that my preferred style is just that. Just like some of the more Romantic stuff resonates with some people, not so much others like me.

                  It really is just about preferences. I do find it frustrating when people think relationships can’t be understood and there Gottman was a groundbreaking couples researcher. So there I am a gottmanfan.

                  I personally don’t understand how talking about skills in relationships is somehow missing the point.

                  But I absolutely understand my way is not the RIGHT way. It’s just one of many right ways to think about it.

                  But it also doesn’t mean that others preferring a more romantic views are not the RIGHT way either.

                  I see that point of view expressed a lot around romantic relationships.

                  It’s common now to think good parenting requires some understanding of how to approach things in a skills based way.

                  But in my experience we don’t use that same thinking for romantic relationships. That is commonly thought of to just happen through magical emotions. And is lost when the magical emotions disappear mysteriously.

                  So that is why, for me, I think about it in terms of skills. That includes emotional skills.

                  Liked by 1 person

              • Mike says:

                “Clearly talking about “skills” is weird to you?” Not weird exactly, but I’m more comfortable talking about “habits”. How does that sit with you? Some people have terrible verbal habits.

                Nobody wants their spouse to do the right thing (whatever that is) just because they’ve learned that it’s skilful – they actually want their spouse to do it because they care about them. (This is why, when people learn these skills, partners sometimes say yeah, but you’re only doing that because you learned it from that damn book!)

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Mike,

                  You said:

                  “Nobody wants their spouse to do the right thing (whatever that is) just because they’ve learned that it’s skilful – they actually want their spouse to do it because they care about them”

                  Well here again we may be saying roughly the same things but speaking past each other for style differences.

                  I represent a group of people who absolutely would want my spouse to do something because it’s skillful.

                  I want my spouse to be skillful at relationships. Not just with me but with our kids, friend, family, neighbors etc.

                  So yes, to the extent my spouse becomes more generally skilled the happier I will be.

                  Example: Let’s say for example my spouse defaults to defensiveness. Any request I make is going to be met with defensiveness as the first and strongest response.

                  I would LOVE it if my spouse worked on becoming more skilled at responding with less defensiveness.

                  I would love it if his motivation was not directly for me. But for him to become a more mature, more relationally successful person.

                  I would love it if he was directly doing it for me too. It’s all good.

                  But mostly I don’t care the source of the motivation. If the result is a push towards more maturity.

                  Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Mike

                  You said:

                  “This is why, when people learn these skills, partners sometimes say yeah, but you’re only doing that because you learned it from that damn book!)”

                  People that say that could be expressing either a need for more emotional validation from their spouse I agree.

                  Or it could be expressing their own lack of differentiation and immaturity.

                  I want it MY way regardless of what you want.

                  I think that is part of the sense of entitlement Nate is talking about from the wife’s position in the dish story.

                  Often I think it’s usually both of those reasons combined.

                  Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  I think talking about habits is good too. The Atkinson ebook I was referring too is actually titled Developing Habits for Relationship Success.

                  The way I look at it is that habits are the things we practice to get into our automatic brain. Could be good habits like brushing your teeth or bad habits like smoking.

                  Paying attention to habits is very important! Knowing how our habits are affecting our spouses is a skill I think.

                  The skill is in combining the knowledge of what the effects of particular habits are. How to develop new habits, how to eliminate old habits.

                  Using habits to have a happy marriage is a skill imho.

                  Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Mike,

              You said:

              “I think rarely are people actually “refusing” to put the glass in the dishwasher, or “feeling entitled” not to. More typically, they just forget.”

              We are using dishes as a stupid silly analogy here

              On Matt’s viral dishes post it’s all about a person who doesn’t agree to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Because they don’t want to be controlled or think it doesn’t matter to them so why should they do it.

              If someone agrees but forgets and nicely apologizes that’s a different post.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Here is a quote from Matt’s dishes post that is what I am talking about.

                This is NOT about forgetting. It’s about feeling entitled not to change for your spouse. That is what Matt is talking about.

                “Men want to fight for their right to leave that glass there. It might look like this:

                “Eat shit, wife,” we think. “I sacrifice a lot for you, and you’re going to get on me about ONE glass by the sink? THAT little bullshit glass that takes a few seconds to put in the dishwasher, which I’ll gladly do when I know I’m done with it, is so important to you that you want to give me crap about it? You want to take an otherwise peaceful evening and have an argument with me, and tell me how I’m getting something wrong and failing you, over this glass? After all of the big things I do to make our life possible—things I never hear a “thank you” for (and don’t ask for)—you’re going to elevate a glass by the sink into a marriage problem? I couldn’t be THAT petty if I tried. And I need to dig my heels in on this one. If you want that glass in the dishwasher, put it in there yourself without telling me about it. Otherwise, I’ll put it away when people are coming over, or when I’m done with it. This is a bullshit fight that feels unfair and I’m not just going to bend over for you.””

                Like

                • Nate says:

                  For the sake or argument, is the wife not feeling equally entitled that her wanting the dish put away is more important than the husband not wanting to? I have phrased this question a few ways on different threads as it hits home for me and I really think for husbands all over. Now, the quote is way too harsh and completely assholish, but the underlying point I understand. Wife wants dish put away. Husbands does not want it put away. Both people are allowed to feel however they feel. So why does this scenario ALWAYS, ALWAYS play out as the husband being an asshole and not accepting influence and/or not respecting or caring about his wife’s feelings? Why are the wife’s feelings deemed more important/worthy of accepting than the husbands? We are not talking about a major moral issue where 99.9% of people in the world agree…i.e. wife thinks murder is wrong, husband does not. Well, sorry dude but you’re wrong! Murder is bad, duh? However, there is no universal thought process that a dish must be put immediately away and not sit on the counter. We can talk about love languages, accepting influence, marital skills, etc. until we are blue in the face, and I agree there is a real place for all of it, but at the end of the day if feels like we argue for the sake of one person exerting a level of dominance over the other. Let’s face it, in practical terms of all the world throws at us, a dish on the counter is relatively minor. And I know the clap back will be that the glass signifies deeper issues but sometimes (most times) a glass is just a glass. For every glass a husband leaves on the counter there is the equivalent “glass” the wife leaves laying around. 9 out of 10 times the husband will not make an issue of it while the reverse is simply not a reality.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    I have answered your question a few ways too in various posts.

                    Yes, women can be entitled too. Yes, yes, yes. It’s not her right to tell her spouse he must do it her way all the time. If she is doing that she is entitled and is going to be in a shitty marriage.

                    Both people need to be in a two person.

                    Both people must care about what the other person feels.

                    Both people must know how to respond when their spouse isn’t treating them well with entitled attitudes. (Standing up for themselves without making a big deal of it).

                    As I said I have been on both sides of this equation.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Mike says:

                    I am still pondering my answer to the “isn’t this symmetrical?” question

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      You said;

                      “I am still pondering my answer to the “isn’t this symmetrical?” question”

                      I think it can be 50/50 mirror symmetry. But it often is not 50/50.

                      It’s a system so obviously there are interlocking sensitivities and responses.

                      But there is often asymmetry. It’s not often exactly 50/50.

                      And that is where whoever is the most skilled (good habits if that’s better for you) or has a healthy, secure attachment can pull the other person up to a better level.

                      If the other person is acting entitled and the response is entitled well there you go to 50/50 greased road to a shitty marriage.

                      If Chris is entitled and Jordan responds in a healthy way that is a new game. If it’s done well it can pull it into secure functioning. Or get them into counseling early. Or get a break up early before kids and too much damage.

                      But it’s not by either entitled or codependent responses to the original bad effort by partner A.

                      Usually imho there are particular damaging things each person favors for a variety of reasons. It’s not often imho a 50/50 thing exactly.

                      Like

                  • Donkey says:

                    “For the sake or argument, is the wife not feeling equally entitled that her wanting the dish put away is more important than the husband not wanting to? I have phrased this question a few ways on different threads as it hits home for me and I really think for husbands all over. Now, the quote is way too harsh and completely assholish, but the underlying point I understand. Wife wants dish put away. Husbands does not want it put away. Both people are allowed to feel however they feel. So why does this scenario ALWAYS, ALWAYS play out as the husband being an asshole and not accepting influence and/or not respecting or caring about his wife’s feelings?”

                    You are right, people are allowed to feel however they feel about the dish. A wife’s preference (assuming people’s health etc aren’t at stake) is not more important than a husband’s preferance. If she acts that way, she is behaving in an entitled way that is not conducive to good relationship.

                    But the reason why the scenario is always about the husband not accepting influence, is that in the vast majority of cases, that is the problem. As Gottman’s research show, wives accept influence the vast majority of times. Even in troubled relationships. It’s easy for husbands (and wives) to forget all the times when their spouse did accept influence, because then there wasn’t an issue, everything went smoothly. However, the majority of husbands (hetero husbands that is, gay men and lesbians accept influence just fine) do not accept influence. That is why we keep talking about that scenario.

                    Another thing to consider is that hetero women often end up doing more than their fair share of housework, which they usually resent. That probably factors into why they feel entitled to insist that the husband can at least put the dish in the dishwasher (the clothes in the hamper etc), even though in isolation no one’s opinion about where to put the dish is morally superior to another’s and one the respectful thing to do is to not act as if your opinion is obviously right.

                    Liked by 2 people

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Nate,

                    You said:

                    “For every glass a husband leaves on the counter there is the equivalent “glass” the wife leaves laying around. 9 out of 10 times the husband will not make an issue of it while the reverse is simply not a reality”

                    Hey I am on your side Nate. I think the “happy wife, happy life” mantra gets it wrong as it usually implies the husband has to just agree to do whatever makes the wife happy. Which is not a healthy marriage formula for both people.

                    But when the framing is 9 out of 10 times the husband won’t make an issue of things I can’t ride that train.

                    If the husband doesn’t care about x and therefore doesn’t want to change that *is* making a big deal of it.

                    If there are things he does care about but doesn’t bring up to his wife to change (which I think is what you meant) that is also going to lead to a shitty marriage over time.

                    Why?

                    Because it leads to a sense of unfairness. “I let things slide, why can’t s/he?” That *IS* making a big deal of it. If it wasn’t why feel it’s unfair?

                    So that’s the issue. It either has to be that a person can TRULY not care and therefore let it slide. Or they are making a one sided calculus of how much of a pain it’s going to be to be in conflict about it. So they decide to not engage. But it’s still “counted” in the Things I Let Go category.

                    And that is a problem since that leads to resentment of the spouses requests. The accounting ledger is still there I let go of all these things, why can’t you?

                    Does that resonate?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Nate says:

                      Sure that resonates. I know this is an oversimplified thought, but I really think we as married couples commit way too much time and energy to arguing about mostly unimportant stuff, i.e. the f-ing glass. And yes I definitely feel I let plenty of stuff slide and do think my wife should do the same. Nitpicking a spouse’s daily habits/routines every day just erodes the closeness they are supposed to have. I feel this is different than just dismissing my wife’s true feelings as unimportant. Because quite simply, if a wife is sincerely emotionally hurt by a glass on the counter then much, much bigger problems exist. There are enough major, shitty life events that arguing about the more simple things just eats away at the relationship. Imagine if 2-3 times per day you complimented your spouse instead of nitpicked them. I’ve told my wife countless times that I don’t need tons of compliments, and in fact could probably get by with none. But, and it’s a huge but, what I need is to NOT be criticized again, and again, and again. This goes back to the nothing is ever good enough feeling.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I agree that criticism is destructive to a marriage.

                      The thing I will throw out for your consideration is that your “let the small stuff slide” is a particular philosophical/personality approach.

                      It’s a good style.

                      The problem is it’s not the only legitimate style.

                      I am reading it as if you think it is only way to be successfully married.

                      And it’s not.

                      Couples can complain (as opposed to criticize) all day long and as long as they both have the same style they are very happy. It’s the meaning we give that matters. That style would see the arguing about little things as leading to working out differences. It’s a positive overall.

                      Couples can have more of your style too. Roll off the back style. The meaning they give to it is that THAT leads to more closeness.

                      The problems becomes when you are married to someone who has a different style. They are trying to get your attention to resolve things which means closeness to them and your still sees that as distancing from closeness.

                      There is the thing that needs to be worked on. How to understand the meanings you are both giving to things and how to work successfully with different preferred styles.

                      This assumes there is no entitlement on either side just style differences.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Matt says:

                      Nate is nailing the experience I perceive most husbands to have.

                      I have mixed feelings because those were also my first-person experiences, but I spend a lot of time and energy asking husbands to “see” the other side of this conversation because if they don’t, the likelihood of divorce is significant.

                      I struggle with making a moral judgment either way. Nate says it as well as it can be said.

                      But I also know that wives (or anyone) who are married to or dating men (or anyone) who have this as their core philosophy are frequently experiencing that as emotional neglect and abandonment, and will eventually seek refuge from those feelings.

                      I don’t think people have to agree whether something does, or SHOULD, matter or hurt.

                      I just think people need to be aware that the other person experiences it that way, and that, for them it’s all very horribly real whether we want it to be or not.

                      We need to KNOW that they’re suffering so that we can prevent it.

                      And I believe most people don’t know. Hence the phrase “accidental wounds.”

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yes I agree in general with what you are saying.

                      I am saying that the accidental framing needs to either be applied to BOTH people or neither.

                      I “accidentally” inflicted a lot of pain on my husband by criticizing him in ways that he found painful but I wouldn’t if it was me.

                      I think that’s why I don’t understand the need for only husbands to get the accidental hallpass.

                      If it’s a tool to get men to understand accepting influence ok I’m on board if that works. I’m a practical person.

                      But if it’s trying to understand that both sides often don’t know the pain we cause each other because we are not differntiated enough to see that we live in different emotional worlds than husbands accidentally hurting wives makes no sense to me. Either we both accidentally hurt each other or it’s all unskilled ignorance with no moral innocence.

                      I am cool with it all until the part of “accidentally” hurting someone is more innocent and thus demands forgiveness from the offended party who should see it as an innocent offense. This is what Nate was talking about. It’s a common idea from the “accidentally” hurtful person. Nate nails that idea too.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Matt says:

                      I would argue that husbands do not and SHOULD NOT get the hall pass.

                      I just think most people don’t understand what’s really happening behind the scenes as they’re experiencing these frustrating moments and that if they DID know it, they’d be able to navigate it more effectively and less painfully for all parties.

                      Side note:

                      Email me if you get a chance, please. Someone from Georgia Tech reached out to me because they want to discuss Gottman research.

                      They want to talk to you and just don’t know it yet. I’d like to connect you if you’re open to it.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yes, I agree with you on that. No one should get a hall pass (do they even have those anymore?)

                      I think most of us just have no idea how immature we are because we are trying so hard to be a good partner and we just don’t know how.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I agree that we all need to add positivity to our spouses life.

                      Yes!

                      Focusing on how to do that is a big part of what I am doing now in my marriage.

                      What he finds positive is not always the same thing as I do. So that’s again where we need to study and know our spouses.

                      Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Mike,

              You said:

              “My question to the man is, “how do you let her know she’s important to you”, and his answer may be “well I married her didn’t I?” or “I work 60 hours a week to support her and our children”, and he can’t understand why that doesn’t do it.”

              And that is the big question.

              The succinct answer imho is that to be happily married we must as Stan Tatkin says

              Take care of ourself and the other person at the same time.

              If we are “taking care” of the other person in a way that they don’t feel taken care of and loved then we are only doing the first part “taking care of myself”.

              That’s the entitlement.

              Doing things (even self sacrificial things) that only think about what YOU think matters.

              What the other person thinks matters or you aren’t really taking care of them.

              This is why the Love Language book is so helpful to many.

              If one person does lots of acts of service but their spouses love language is words of affirmation it isn’t “taking care of the other person.

              The words of affirmation person isn’t going to feel loved.

              We have to learn and listen to what our spouses need to feel loved.

              “Well I married her (or him) didn’t I?” or “I work 60 hours a week to support her(or him) and our children” is coming ONLY from their perspective.

              That’s the entitlement. We are in relationship to another person. It’s about BOTH people. Not just one.

              Liked by 1 person

              • gottmanfan says:

                One person system attitude vs two person system. Happy marriages require a two person system.

                Like the sports analogy a few posts back if someone is saying “I married them didn’t I?” Or “I work hard why isn’t that enough?” They are singles tennis not basketball.

                Like

              • Mike says:

                Yeah, that’s exactly what I was trying to say, hence my answer to the hypothetical man

                Liked by 1 person

            • Mike, you said: “However, I have to say it’s more often women than men who seem to lack empathy. Who are astonished to discover, in counselling, that their husbands also have emotions. Who knew?”…
              This will likely morph into another gender difference comment, but I am still stuck in that way of viewing things much of the time, at least for the time being.
              I am someone guilty of saying ” (Men) have emotions? Who knew!”, but I wouldnt say that is due to a lack of empathy.
              From my perspective its more often the case that men dont show or share their emotions, so women are left to believe they dont exist.
              You mentioned the stereotypical male response previously “well, I married you didnt I?”…ugh!
              I am aware however that more than likely his thought is “I am committed to you for life, that should show I care.”
              How it could be interpreted is that the general “he” obviously thinks that simply being married to him is grace upon grace and a continual gift…it sounds arrogant.
              More than that, though, it demonstrates many mens reluctance to demonstrate, or share their emotions to their partners.
              It doesnt always have to be about appreciation for each other either (though that’s nice), sharing what is going on that is frustrating you at work, or a moment you experienced that made you feel “fuck – yes”, goes a long way in connecting on an emotional level with your partner.
              I honestly think some of the men coming up now, that are in their 20’s or so have more of this as their reality. Yay! for that.
              But I know growing up my fathers emotional range was “Busy- Anger”…though I saw pictures of him acting silly with my older sister.
              I think the stress of life was too much for him, and he wasnt allowed to share that with anyone else.
              The man my mom chose to partner with after my father was “professional” and “Cool”…no emotion towards us kids at all.
              Even my first (And best) boyfriend from 3rd- 5th grade never shared his emotions with me. He was just always at my front door. (I guess that is the equivalent to “well, I married you didnt I?”)
              The only time I did ever get an emotional response from him was when he came by and I was in a hurry and I yelled at him. (Bad girl friend move.)
              So, my point is that women being shocked that men have emotions isnt necessarily a lack of empathy. How can we empathize if we DONT KNOW that men are even going through anything?

              Liked by 1 person

  9. There was another commentor a while back who I was having an exchange with about men being socialized as more independent, and how that flows over into not knowing how to be a partner. Or maybe a better phrase would be that it prevents proper attunement with your spouse.
    I think that is one biggest of the culprits in marriage.
    The reason I am thinking about it and bringing it up here is because, I think this applies to “accidentally hurting your wife.” …I do believe that is a real thing, I don’t think men are malicious A-holes, or even just A-holes, on purpose, but I think because men are taught to be strong, directive, single minded, achievement minded, ect. With that sort of thinking, It’s easy to miss the nuances of relationship.

    I sincerely do empathize with men.

    For the last 20 or so years, I feel as though I’ve lived similarly to how men are taught to live. Some (most) of it is accidental- I didn’t have much of a family of origin, and I had to work most of the time, so my social network has been somewhat small. (This is not unusual for men, either… )

    …I have worked most of the time… which, again is not out of the ordinary for men.

    I don’t have a family of my own currently, so I am only required to think about my own needs, and the needs of my pets. I have the option of thinking about other people’s needs but by and large I chose what I obligate myself to. I’m not saying men are selfish, but men are not taught to actively consider others, in general. They are supposed to provide for their family. Everyone else has to fend for themselves. As a provider one has to focus on getting your own needs met, first.

    I don’t have to do the emotional labor required to maintain a social network, except for a very small group of people, who make few demands on me. I don’t do Christmas cards, I don’t do thank you cards…

    I’m sure there are still more similarities, even if I can’t think of them specifically at the moment. …

    The result is that when I go to girl gatherings, like baby showers or wedding showers, ect. I feel like the biggest ouff because I am so unaccustomed to what is just “life” for them.
    They all speak the same language, understand the same meanings for things, and I am left feeling inept and Unequipped.

    I have noticed a difference in how I relate to people after 20+ years of “being independent”… and since men are taught to function and think that way , then I have no doubt there are similar effects when interacting with a group who has traditionally functioned so differently.

    Also, just an aside- I’ve become a complete wimp when I even get slightly ill. (No stereotyping there..lol.)
    There must be some correlation??

    My thought is that these behaviors are not “male” or “female”… I still consider myself feminine. …But I believe particular experiences or expectations can make different ways that we function.
    Empathy on both sides is supremely needed.
    But empathy requires awareness, and “ love” requires action.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mike says:

      Really interesting perspective – it’s not biologically male or female, it’s our culture’s male and female socialisation. And of course that’s changing, you are an example of that.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Mike says:

      “I have the option of thinking about other people’s needs but by and large I chose what I obligate myself to.”

      That sums it up beautifully, and many would argue that that’s the proper moral position for a person. How can one have unchosen obligations? In general, ie interacting with people in general, the fact that something is important to YOU doesn’t create an obligation on me to do it at all. Marriage in my opinion is different but many people have not thought about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mike, thank you for responding. In regards to electing you’re own obligations as being proper morally, I agree it’s different in marriage.
        The part that I didn’t elaborate on, because I assume it is understood, is that women feel as though they ARE obligated to please everyone. I think this too is socialized, but also has a biological basis. We carry babies in our bodies. The caring for others things is almost innate to many women.
        … even though I totally identify with the “being independent” part and am aware how that effects my social interactions, I still have a “natural” (?) inclination to care for others. I’m a nurse by trade, so I’m most engaged/alive when somebody needs something and I’m able to give it. But I practice that within the boundaries of my profession. My personal obligations are more limited. (But I do have them.)
        Along with women typically focused on making sure others are ok, comes the whole topic of boundaries.
        This is also something I still struggle with even though I practice relationally self sufficient and independent living.
        At this point I can’t tell if the reason I have to repeat myself, a little more directly each time, to service people is because they are willing to disregard what I just said because I’m a women; or if because I am a woman and am trying to not hurt your feelings, or be too harsh, ect that My messsge is not coming across well.
        (I had another in a series of incidents where I feel like I am having to guard my boundaries (with people I am paying for a service from!) last
        night, so it’s fresh on my mind.
        I’m saying all this, because – I agree in marriage there needs to be a shared understanding of “togetherness”… whatever one does is going to impact the other (like a life long 3 legged race).
        I think women are more inclined towards that socially, while men are not.
        I don’t think being one way or the other is better…what matters is learning how to step together, being intuned (and attuned) to each other. Women may be better practiced at this, but I think it’s completely possible for men to become that way, too.

        Like

        • Mike says:

          “The part that I didn’t elaborate on, because I assume it is understood, is that women feel as though they ARE obligated to please everyone.” Yeah, I get that.

          Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          PIP,

          You said:

          “I assume it is understood, is that women feel as though they ARE obligated to please everyone. I think this too is socialized, but also has a biological basis. We carry babies in our bodies. The caring for others things is almost innate to many women.”

          I believe there are sex/gender differences for both nature/nurture reasons in groups of people with huge individual variations.

          I think though that it’s important to not be too focused on women innately caring for others because of our biological role of pregnancy.

          Some of what has often been described as women’s innate nature as people pleasers, caring for others etc. is actually dysfunction.

          That leads to unhealthy lack of boundaries.

          Healthy women don’t feel that they ARE obligated to please everyone. Only unhealthy women feel that. That is part of what can commonly lead to a shitty marriage.

          Healthy women (and men) take care of themselves and the other person at the same time.

          They don’t sacrifice in unhealthy ways. They don’t sacrifice in unhealthy ways for their children either. They don’t people please.

          Imho healthy men and healthy women have the same relationship attitudes. The style might be different but the skills are not.

          The more unhealthy you are the more different it looks (again not talking feminine or masculine styles).

          Classic case of that story is men not accepting influence (cause men are “wired” that way to need to be independent) and women not setting healthy boundaries (cause women are “wired” to be caretakers).

          Healthy people learn how to be both independent and interdependent.

          Like

          • Points taken, and mostly agreed. But how about this.. women role as child bearers created a social expectation of such. ..that they would be the care givers, the nuturers ect.
            I agree that it can be unhealthy. ..and I get to see those unhealthy patterns in myself and correct them.
            So when I say biological and innate, what I mean is there was a biological reason we got the job as “mommy”..,and for centuries,.. millenia several hundred millennia, even that became who we were and what we did inside of our families. It was the social role, and became a part of the archetype for a woman (caregiving that is).
            I’m not anti-caregiving. I like to be needed. I like to help. Part of that is just my personality, I know men “helpers” as well.
            I like you take about removing gender as part of the equation..as you said, it does remove some unnecessary complication when it comes to how we just interact with each other, when it comes to making a happy, stable marriage.
            I guess I tend to just run into, and am bumping up against, how I don’t fit the mold.
            I’m taking it as an opportunity to assess myself and the society that does continue on with some of the stereotypical roles.

            My general point here though, was to clarify that women do tend to be the caregivers – and I mean just being more aware of other people’s emotional states, being more intuned with someone may need (anticipation of needs,even) ..more than men (Gottmans research etc.)
            And I’m stating why we are likely going to be that way.. our role as mothers in history.
            Not saying it’s an inevitability – just saying that’s what happened.
            ..and please forgive me. I tend to make up words like our beloved chief in command (Commander in chief- Lol.). O, bless my heart…

            Like

            • Ugg!…Tons of typos, and I was referring to my back asswards way of wording previous comments.

              Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              PIP,

              I think we agree on a lot.

              I like what Terry Real says that we often culturally “halve” human emotions into masculine and feminine.

              Caregiving is a human thing. Sure it can sometimes look different if done by a man who is a caretaker vs a caretaker. Gender is just one difference though.

              It looks different based on lots of cultural differences too. Ideas about good parenting vary by country for example. Or by generation. Or personality. Etc.

              Nursing too. I was reading recently how differently pain is managed in Germany than the US.

              it’s a great thing to be a caretaker. I think it would be great if we didn’t code this pink. Caretaking is a masculine thing too.

              Same for things we code blue. Independence is not just for men. Assertiveness, etc etc

              These are human emotions. I agree with Terry Real that it is dysfunctional to characterize them as pink or blue.

              Also what we see now and is described in Mars/Venus ways as common is not necessarily healthy.

              I agree that is what happened. A lot of misogyny happened. A lot of horrible treatment of men happened too to make them feel ashamed for human emotions.

              For what it’s worth I don’t fit into the molds at baby showers. Or as a dance mom. I don’t fit the mold here either with all my unromantic ideas.

              It’s just about averages.

              Like

              • “Nursing too. I was reading recently how differently pain is managed in Germany than the US.”…I’m almost scared to ask..:). Lol.
                (Not going to linger here, but the last 10 years we’ve started viewing pain control differently, too. The goal is not the absence of pain, when it used to be.) I’ll see if I can find something about your reference.
                But anyway…
                “Lots of horrible treatment of men happened too”..,
                Yep. ..and it deprives both sexes, and both individuals in marriage of the fulfillment of just being exactly who you are.
                I hope we get to a place where that isn’t such a thing someday.

                Like

  10. Nate, also (re: love requires action),
    I don’t want my words to sound harsh, but expecting that someone you hurt (intentional or not) to do the work of forgiveness feels burdensome.
    Like your saying “ok, I messed up…but can’t you (extend more of yourself, continue to tolerate painful actions, etc) “
    A lot of the times the answer is no. And it’s because there is nothing left to give.
    So, if you know that there are areas that you have hurt her, the only productive thing to do is correct that, consistently.
    I know you have expressed that you do correct your behaviors when it’s pointed out. …this may not apply to you at all.
    But if there are parts that you hold back on, with the belief that her pain is unreasonable ect. Then it likely could apply.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Donkey says:

    Writing here just because it’s easier.

    I think you nailed it Gottmanfan. I appreciate your clarity.

    Letting things roll off your back is a valid philiosophy that can lead to a happy marriage.
    Adressing annoyances (healthy complaining) with the goal of working things out in a fair way is an equally valid philosophy that can lead to a happy marriage.

    It’s difficult when people have different overarching philosophies.

    However, if both people understand that their style is no more and no less legitimate than that of their partner and act accordingly (accepting influence on both the specifics and on the overarching style difference – how much to adress and compromise on vs how much do we let go of), the marriage will probably be happy.

    If one or both act as if their way is the only right way (and thus communicate to their partner that their feelings and thoughts are wrong in addition to not accepting influence to seek a fair compromise), the marriage will not be happy. Unless they, for whatever reason (boundaries, therapy…) change towards a healthier middle.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mike says:

    Nate: “For the sake or argument, is the wife not feeling equally entitled that her wanting the dish put away is more important than the husband not wanting to?”

    Yeah, that was exactly my first reaction to the original article. She wants it in the dishwasher, he wants it on the counter, symmetry. She’s hurt that he still does it when he knows her preferences, in a persistent pattern, so she feels uncared-for or disrespected. He’s hurt that she still does it when she knows his preferences, in a persistent pattern, so he feels uncared-for or disrespected. Symmetry. She can tell that he “knows” he’s really “right”, that she’s being ridiculous, and vice versa, he can tell she “knows” her way is just “right”.

    And in my own first marriage, I would think: EVERY SINGLE THING in this house is me accepting your influence. The choice of carpets, furniture, bedding. What we eat. Where we shop. How the garden looks. What the children wear. Who we socialise with! What you say, goes, without question. What time things get done. How Christmas is celebrated. You decide, I “accept influence”. You tell me we need a shelf here? I’ll put up a shelf. I want the garage tidy, you want it heaped up with stuff? It’s heaped up with stuff. Tell me where we should go for our vacations.

    The only conclusion I can reach is that I happily lived with all of that, and I really do mean happily, not grudgingly but happily, because I had other bigger fish to fry, other things going on in my life. The household, the children, me, the garden, our social circle, was about the biggest thing in my wife’s life. She worked but it was just a job. That family stuff all mattered more to her than it did to me, and I knew that. And actually I was grateful that SOMEONE was keeping an eye on the household, family, social circle.

    And yes it could be annoying at times too. We had to agree for her to stay out the kitchen while I was cooking, which I loved to do, because although I’d have loved to have her in there to chat to, it upset her too much to see the middle of the process, with “things everywhere”. I just had to clean up before she came back in. Not that I am a messy cook. But I wasn’t doing it how she’d do it.

    Yeah, you could say that she was “equally entitled”. Was I hen-pecked, or was I skilful?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike says:

      The TLDR version is: Matt and Nate, the kitchen is HER territory.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        I think a lot of women would happily not have the kitchen HER territory. Or the bathroom or the laundry etc. Speaking for that group I would happily concede control for equitable chore performance.

        (and yes some women would like the kitchen as her territory. Billions of us out there so lots of variations)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Mike says:

          Yeah, apologies for my sexist remark, we got married in the 1970s and things were maybe different then. Mind you, it being her territory did not preclude equal chore performance!

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Mike,

            I think there are some women who really do want the kitchen to be their domain.

            I’m guessing those aren’t the women who are bothered by the dish left by the sink. They would just put it in the dishwasher since they would see it as their job to do that.

            Traditional setups are great as long as they work for both people.

            I am curious if it was your personal experience that you described that led to the conclusion that the tldr of the dish post is that the kitchen is HER domain.

            Or were you describing why you think women are complaining about the dish? Are hurt by the dish?

            I think the expectations for marriage is different than in the 70’s in many ways. I do remember my mom complaining about the dishes though even then.

            But of course yes you are right the gender expectations for certain roles was much stronger.

            Like

            • Mike says:

              “I think there are some women who really do want the kitchen to be their domain.
              I’m guessing those aren’t the women who are bothered by the dish left by the sink. They would just put it in the dishwasher since they would see it as their job to do that.”

              Oh, interesting, I was thinking of it the other way around! I.e if she thinks it’s her domain, then she expects her partner to follow her instructions in that domain.

              “I am curious if it was your personal experience that you described that led to the conclusion that the tldr of the dish post is that the kitchen is HER domain.
              Or were you describing why you think women are complaining about the dish? Are hurt by the dish?”

              Not sure about that. My “TLDR” remark was I guess intended to be mildly humorous. I was looking for a way to “break the symmetry” in the situation, to borrow a phrase from physics. Why isn’t this just his preference versus hers? As Gottman says, look for the underlying bigger meaning – why does the dish matter to her more than it does to him?

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Mike,

                You said:

                “Oh, interesting, I was thinking of it the other way around! I.e if she thinks it’s her domain, then she expects her partner to follow her instructions in that domain. “

                Yes I think you are right it could be a subset of that too.

                I think for many a lot of it is what Donkey referred to in her comment.

                That he could at least put the dish away since she has to do so much of the grunt work already. To set up a system that is convenient for the person doing most of the work.

                I think most women don’t want chores to be their “domain” they want to split things in ways that don’t feel unfair and disrespectful (the setup can vary by couple).

                But if they can’t get that, they at least want consideration of the system they use.

                Of course there are subsets of women who are controlling and entitled etc. too.

                Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Yes, why does the dish matter is imho the right question. For both people.

                And it varies by person what that dish represents.

                I think the “it’s her domain theory” is not the most common though imho as I said in my other comment. It’s more commonly about disrespect of being treated as less important imho.

                People argue over widgets. The widgets matter to some degree. But over time, all those widget arguments represent that I can’t trust you. Often on both sides. “Why can’t s/he let it roll of her back?” Why can’t s/he just listen to what I’ve told him?”

                And that is how you get to a seriously bad place when the trust and safety is gone.

                Like

                • Nate says:

                  Just a couple more thoughts for consideration:

                  1. We have been talking about the underlying meaning of the dish, but does anyone else here think the dish is nothing more than a dish that one person simply didn’t put away? Isn’t it possible the husband left the dish out without it being a personal affront to his wife?

                  2. In more recent marriages of people roughly 40 years old or younger, do we still think the argument that “the husband can at least put the dish away because of how much the wife already does” is outdated and honestly kind of insulting to husbands? I know this thread isn’t going to offer too much sympathy…but think about it at least. In marriages among my close friends, division or labor and child care along with actual paid employment is pretty even.

                  I would rather hear the dish argument go like this: queue crickets
                  You see, if a person is done with their dish they put it away like a normal, rational person who breathes air. If a person is using a cup they refill throughout the night, it can stay out until done with it.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Nate,

                    1. I absolutely think most husbands leave the dish out without it being a personal affront to the wife.

                    It’s just a dish. Or it could be not remembering to check the kids homework or call his parents or mow the lawn or put together a Christmas gift list or whatever. It is just a widget.

                    Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    1. It is what happens next that is the problem or not.

                    What is the ATTITUDE when the widget is brought to his attention?

                    There lies The difference between cooperation and defensiveness.

                    And the attitude of the other spouse matters too of course. Both people need to be cooperative.

                    Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    2. I would be so so happy if most hererosexual marriages were egalitarian in sharing chores – older or younger than 40.

                    Matt wrote this post and he is under 40 (ok barely but still ha ha) He and his wife both worked full time.

                    I can drag out research to demonstrate that fact if you like.

                    Since I’m tired I will just lazily point you to the NYtimes article I posted at the earlier.

                    It contrasts how gay couples approach this so has some data about straights too. It states that heterosexual women feel that the chore/childcare sharing is the most unfair.

                    Of course there are people like you and your friends where the work and chore load is distributed more evenly.

                    Even in that scenario that does not account for the “emotional labor” that is still more often carried by straight wives. Like who researches and coordinates the summer camps or sports/dance/club etc activities or does most of the holiday planning like Christmas or which chores need to be done. The mental project management if you will. There is research on that as well that it is NOT often fairly divided under or over 40.

                    I would be curious if your wives and friends wives say it all fairly divided including the management of it all. Or if they feel they have more. I would be SHOCKED if they said it was yes.

                    I am guessing that any woman who criticizes by saying “I have to do everything around here” isn’t feeling the load is fairly divided.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Nate says:

                      I agree that this is the key.

                      You said, I would be curious if your wives and friends wives say it all fairly divided including the management of it all. Or if they feel they have more. I would be SHOCKED if they said it was yes.”

                      Most of the wives I referred to feel they bear more of the management, but most (of course those in happier marriages) also acknowledge that their husbands take care of other tasks that basically even things out, i.e. shoveling snow in the Northeast, lawn care, home repairs, etc. They admit that having more help with the management tasks would be nice, but that they are not interested in pitching in with snow removal, etc., so thus the arrangement mostly works for them.

                      For us who have less happy marriages, myself and a couple friends who are actually already divorced, a good balance was never agreed to by the wives. This is an argument with no answer of course. Does my wife have unreasonable expectations of division of labor or do I not do enough? No one can give an answer to this so we fight. In my personal situation my wive navigates almost all the management responsibilities. Partly because she is legitimately good at it but, at least according to me, mostly because because she has control issues. She takes control of things but then complains that she “has to do everything”. It’s a no win situation for either of us. And I fully realize that we are likely headed for divorce. I want US to work on fixing things while she wants ME to work on fixing things. As I said, no win situation.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Nate,

                      I think that is a very hard place to be in, wanting to save your marriage and feeling like it’s a no win setup. Very painful.

                      Am I understanding it that your wife thinks you are 100% to blame? While you accept some percentage of it?

                      Honestly it’s pretty common after some time of frustration to think it’s all the other person’s fault. Harder to see our contributions of if we do it’s seem as simply a reaction to what the spouse does.

                      Is she willing to go to couples therapy with you?

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Nate

                      You said:

                      “They admit that having more help with the management tasks would be nice, but that they are not interested in pitching in with snow removal, etc., so thus the arrangement mostly works for them. “

                      I am wondering if the wives agree with this assessment. I’m guessing that it doesn’t “mostly work for them” based on averages.

                      Snow removal even in the Northeast that is not a daily 365 24/7 burden like mental managing a family with kids.

                      But I take your point. These husbands are putting in a lot of effort.

                      It’s again about perceptions not just objectivity. I wonder if it could be objectively proven that, all in, the wives really do a disproportionate share if the husbands would change.

                      I’m guessing that’s not usually the case.

                      It’s often that it will just shift to “ I don’t care about x things you do” or “I don’t think those are a necessary use of my time” “you are controlling” “you need to chill”

                      Some of all of it may be valid. Even objectively so.

                      And that’s why I agree with you it’s not typically helpful to argue about who is “right” even if someone can objectively show proof.

                      It’s more about emotionally caring that my spouse feels respected and loved. Both people. Dealing with style differences or who cares about what in a way that feels fair to both people.

                      That framing is what Matt is always trying to communicate.

                      It’s hard to deal with differences particularly when the other spouse doesn’t want to own any of it.

                      So what’s the answer?

                      First step. Getting the right diagnosis.

                      Both people have different perceptions of what is right, what counts, what is worth an argument etc.

                      I have such a hard time giving up my idea that asking what is objectively true is the way to go. (Of course you need some foot in reality)

                      But that’s the job imho. Job 1 anyway.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Nate,

                      You said:

                      “In my personal situation my wive navigates almost all the management responsibilities. Partly because she is legitimately good at it but, at least according to me, mostly because because she has control issues”

                      Does she feel that you are not treating her fairly? Does she feel unloved and disrespected?

                      That’s the first question.

                      If yes, what have you done to validate her concerns? Change your part? Get better at the skill of management (it’s just something that can be learned to be good at either now or after divorce Matt has had to do)

                      You may very well be right she has control issues on her side of the ledger.

                      That’s a different question.

                      It’s not “fair” that you may have to do more of the changing at first. BELIEVE me I know how much that sucks.

                      It’s the most flexible person who is able and willing that has to do more work.

                      My theory is the people commenting on this blog (aside from trolls) are the ones in that category.

                      I have to work really, really hard to be willing to go first to validate my husbands concerns knowing it will be unilateral.

                      It sounds like that is your position. You have to go first and do more if you want to save your marriage with the setup you’re in right now. More of the “emotional labor”.

                      Are you willing? Even if it’s unfair she will keep blaming you even as you are making hard changes?

                      That’s my block I work on everyday.

                      That imho is where objectivity comes in. To SEE the reality of the situation as it is and what is required to get it to change. And asking if we are willing to do what will change it.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Nate,

                      I think simplistically so what is required to change a troubled marriage with a reluctant to change partner required

                      1. Figuring out what the root problems are. Identifying the dysfunctional system you both create.

                      2. Figuring out how to change that pattern to a healthier one. It can be changed to some degree by one person. Making it as easy as possible for the other person to change.

                      3. Figuring out how to be willing to make those changes when my spouse is making it hard for me to change. When I want them to change.

                      Number 3 is my problem now that I am working on. I know what to do. I just need to get myself to be willing to do it when it feels so “unfair”.

                      I read something that said in between what we know needs to be done and real change lies courage.

                      It takes a lot of courage to be the one to say “bring me your worst criticisms, controlling, stonewalling etc” and I will stand strong and choose to respond in healthy, loving, respectful ways.

                      I say courage because it feels so humiliating to just “take it” and not return fire. It’s not about collapsing and doing what they want.

                      It’s about not fighting to be RIGHT. Giving up that requires a lot of courage imho. To be able to nondefensively listen to our spouses blame us and not fight to be RIGHT. But fight to be healthy. Respond in healthy ways no matter what they do.

                      That has been the single best thing I have done to change and improve my marriage.

                      (I don’t think either of us is codependent, if so their courage would be standing up)

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • What Gottmanfan is talking about is the nail hitting the head.
                      It is really easy to get tangled up in who is right. (Everyone does it). What has to be resolved by any individual who wants to be in a marriage is the decision to choose the “we” over “me”.
                      Maybe right now your wife is making the opposite choice.
                      That is painful.
                      But the only thing anyone person can do to help a marriage is put the marriage (the partnership) first.
                      One of my favorite commentors, Jack, has had to do this. It’s a hard struggle, and I would guess may not feel very rewarding at all.
                      But either your “all in” will bring your partner in too, or you’ll know you did your best, but for whatever reason your partner wouldn’t match you.
                      Again, this goes both ways- male and female.
                      Whoever wants the marriage has to raise the value of the marriage up to that level.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    You said:

                    “I would rather hear the dish argument go like this: queue crickets
                    You see, if a person is done with their dish they put it away like a normal, rational person who breathes air. If a person is using a cup they refill throughout the night, it can stay out until done with it.”

                    I agree that is your point of view.

                    We don’t argue about dishes. We argue about other things that I find important for a some reason and he doesn’t.

                    The issue is what does a couple do if they have a different point of view.

                    That imho is what this is all about. Differences.

                    How can both people work together cooperatively to handle different points of view.

                    The answer is not to dismiss the other’s “right” to care about something. It’s also not the answer to insist the other person care about something they don’t.

                    Both of those approaches try to deal with differences by forcing the other person to be more like them.

                    And that leads to more and more conflict.

                    The answer imho is all the shit I am always talking about. Recognizing the stupid dish or widget is really about learning how to successfully handle differences in a way that is respectful to BOTH people is the first step.

                    Liked by 1 person

                • Mike says:

                  I shouldn’t have to say this, but at no point am I suggesting that chores, or putting things away, are the woman’s “domain”. I was suggesting (tongue in cheek) that she feels ownership of the space that is the kitchen. That seriously is a different thing.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Mike,

                    I understand that is what you meant by domain

                    As I said that is one subset of women I agree see it as you say. Just like stereotypically it can be a man’s “domain” to take care of the cars or yard. Who don’t want others doing that stuff. That division can work fine if it is what works for both.

                    I speak for those who do NOT feel the kitchen is my domain in either of those definitions though.

                    My husband does not feel the other stuff is his domain either.

                    The kids are also not my “domain.”

                    Like

    • Matt says:

      This is a remarkable display of self-awareness and storytelling.

      Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Mike,

      You asked:

      “Yeah, you could say that she was “equally entitled”. Was I hen-pecked, or was I skillful?”

      It’s not the behaviors that determine if someone is entitled or hen-pecked or skillful imho.

      Two couples can have the exact same setup and one can be happy, one can be miserable.

      If a couple decides to specialize with one spouse taking all decisions about the house and one focusing on work it can be from a sense of entitlement or it can be a happy agreed upon division.

      Imho the attitude is the thing that matters.

      You describe yourself as grateful to her for her specialization. You agreed to whatever she wanted.

      You describe that as accepting influence. I might disagree there since accepting influence is NOT just doing what the other person wants. It’s simply being open to work together. An atttude of cooperation.

      So if the bottom line is you and your wife were happy than it’s all good whatever you call it.

      The problem imho is when accepting influence is framed as black and white I must do what s/he wants.

      Accepting influence could simply be working together to find a solution that takes into each other’s preferences of where to spend Christmas or how to organize work/home balance.

      BOTH people need to be considered.

      If a person can be fine with specialization and can do whatever the other person wants with no resentment more power to them.

      I think those are the people who can honestly say “happy wife, happy life” or “I’m grateful to my husband who works so I can stay home” or whatever.

      Many, many couples do not find that setup helpful. Because they want less specialization.

      And that’s imho where accepting influence is critical. An attitude of cooperating with BOTH peoples needs factored in as important.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      And yes I would say if your wife was unable to stay in the kitchen and chat with you as you were cooking because you were doing things “wrong” than yeah that problematic.

      Maybe it’s an attitude of entitlement that caused that. You could answer better about her underlying attitude. Could be anxiety too. Certainly it was strong enough to prevent normal interaction.

      Defintely something is missing to be able to treat you fairly in that situation. To be unable to cooperate together.

      Like

  13. gottmanfan says:

    Here are the 10 Rules from Stan Tatkin.

    Numbers 2 and 10 are another way of expressing the idea of accepting influence. Maybe that definition will be make more sense to people. Since it seems so hard to get away from the idea it’s about dominance.

    10 Rules for a Secure Functioning Relationship/b>

    1. Protect the safety and security of a relationship above all else.

    2. Base relationships on true mutuality:

    All actions and decisions must be in the best interest of both individuals in a partnership.

    3. Do not threaten to leave or end a relationship.

    This causes unnecessary fear and anxiety for both partners in the long run.

    4. Turn to partners first:

    A partner must reach out to his or her significant other in all matters of importance first, before reaching out to anyone else for support or guidance.

    5. Smile:

    Greet one another with kind eyes and a smile at the beginning of each day and with every subsequent meeting throughout the day.

    6. Protect one another from potentially harmful situations in public and in private, including hurtful words or threats that put the relationship in jeopardy.

    7. Coordinate wake-up and bedtime schedules so that partners are going to sleep together most nights and waking up together most mornings.

    8. Accept and forgive:

    Correct any injustices or harmful exchanges as soon as possible without placing blame on who started it or who is the greater perpetrator.

    9. Gaze lovingly at one another daily and make meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration and gratitude.

    10. Learn how to influence, persuade, and romance one another without using fear or threats.
    “The most important take-away, in a secure-functioning relationship, is to never threaten the relationship or each other. Ever,” said Dr. Tatkin. “Secure-functioning is when two people have each other’s backs and are looking out for each other as if their lives depended on it…and actually, their lives do depend on it. Secure-functioning relationships take off the table real fears about whether a relationship will exist tomorrow. That helps us sleep at night. It gives us energy to do other things.”

    Liked by 2 people

  14. gottmanfan says:

    Here are the 10 Rules from Stan Tatkin.

    Numbers 2 and 10 are another way of expressing the idea of accepting influence. Maybe that definition will be make more sense to people since it seems so hard to get away from the idea it’s about dominance. It is about cooperation.

    10 Rules for a Secure Functioning Relationship

    1. Protect the safety and security of a relationship above all else.

    2. Base relationships on true mutuality:

    All actions and decisions must be in the best interest of both individuals in a partnership.

    3. Do not threaten to leave or end a relationship.

    This causes unnecessary fear and anxiety for both partners in the long run.

    4. Turn to partners first:

    A partner must reach out to his or her significant other in all matters of importance first, before reaching out to anyone else for support or guidance.

    5. Smile:

    Greet one another with kind eyes and a smile at the beginning of each day and with every subsequent meeting throughout the day.

    6. Protect one another from potentially harmful situations in public and in private, including hurtful words or threats that put the relationship in jeopardy.

    7. Coordinate wake-up and bedtime schedules so that partners are going to sleep together most nights and waking up together most mornings.

    8. Accept and forgive:

    Correct any injustices or harmful exchanges as soon as possible without placing blame on who started it or who is the greater perpetrator.

    9. Gaze lovingly at one another daily and make meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration and gratitude.

    10. Learn how to influence, persuade, and romance one another without using fear or threats.
    “The most important take-away, in a secure-functioning relationship, is to never threaten the relationship or each other. Ever,” said Dr. Tatkin. “Secure-functioning is when two people have each other’s backs and are looking out for each other as if their lives depended on it…and actually, their lives do depend on it. Secure-functioning relationships take off the table real fears about whether a relationship will exist tomorrow. That helps us sleep at night. It gives us energy to do other things.”

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  15. gottmanfan says:

    These two concepts are what accepting influence is about.

    There must be mutuality. However it works out for two people best. The setup doesn’t matter. It only matter that BOTH people agree it’s good.

    You must be an expert on how to cooperate with your spouse so they feel they are being treated fairly (item 10)

    This is where *I* failed. This is where I am working hard to change. I still suck at it but improving.

    Anytime someone feels entitled to the idea that only their way is the only way or only their needs matter it will lead to a shitty marriage.

    10. Learn how to influence, persuade, and romance one another without using fear or threats.

    2. Base relationships on true mutuality:
    All actions and decisions must be in the best interest of both individuals in a partnership.

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    • gottmanfan says:

      In my ideal world number 10 would say

      Learn how to influence, persuade, and romance one another without using *judging*, fear or threats.

      Maybe Tatkin includes judging in fears I don’t know.

      But I think that most shitty average marriages are blocked from effective influence, persuading and romancing because of judging the other person as WRONG when they are just different.

      Even when they are wrong, it’s destructive to approach it with a judgmental attitude.

      So hard for me to give all that up. That’s my sense of entitlement.

      Protective in a certain way which is why imho it’s so commonly used. But not skillful or conducive to a happy marriage.

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  16. Donkey says:

    I feel so frustrated seeing people argue about why the dish shouldn’t even be an argument. I can almost assure y’all that it comes across as you saying to your partner (to some degree) that their feelings and thought processes are wrong while yours are right, you are a smarter and better person than them, you don’t respect them and you don’t care very much about their well being.

    Please just trust all the acclaimed research (check out Gottman and Atkinson), not to mention Matt’s experience, that says if your partner really cares about the dish you actually do need to come to some agreement about it.

    Y’all are so verbal and clever. Pease use that brain power on something more like this:

    The dish doesn’t matter to me and I don’t want to deal with it. The dish matters to my partner. Why don’t I want to deal with it? Why does it matter to them?
    Is it about the dish or is it about something else
    In any case – how can we handle this in a manner that takes both of our preferences into account?
    Do they care more and so I can do it their way or vice versa?
    If we both care about it, how can we resolve that?
    Maybe we can do it my way one month and their way the next? Communal cleanup every evening?
    I take full responsibility for all the dishes – they do something else or vice versa?
    I get my way on this and so we drop the dish issue but then I agree to do what my partner wants regarding the laundry on the floor or vice versa?
    If we have come to an agreement about this but the problem is that I forget – how can I deal with that? Dish bootcamp for a month where I have to pay a fine of 10 dollars everytime I forget? Alarm on my phone every hour until it’s automatic?
    If I feel hurt or angry dealing with all of these disagreementsr, how can we deal with that? Do I need some assurance from my partner that they like me and appreciate what I do contribute? Do I need therapy to heal old wounds? Do we need therapy? Can we agree that when we have resolved one of these differences we take a two week long break before we start on the next? Can my partner choose the top 5 things that matters most to them, we resolve those in a fair way but then we take a 6 month break and see where we are at?

    Rinse and repeat for all disagreements that matters significantly to one or both. Sounds like a lot of work, but probably beats years of awful fights and/or cold disconnected silence, not to mention a painful divorce. Most likely your partner will get more laid back and let more things roll of their back when they, after you have resolved some of these differences, feel safe that you will cooperate with them when they ask.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. benleander says:

    Sometimes people ask why their partner is an asshole because they really are. Sometimes the person asking is a jerk too. And sometimes you have the feeling that someone hates you because they do (or because they’re an asshole). ^^

    Like

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