How the New Math vs. Old Math Debate is a Lot Like Your Marriage

math formula for finding true love

(Image/The Kim Komando Show)

Those of you living outside of the United States might not know this, but in 2009 the federal government launched a new initiative to change the way math and science are taught in schools.

It’s called the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and from its inception through today, it has been a highly politicized issue in the U.S. because many people—possibly even MOST—absolutely lost their shit over this.

“Have you seen this new math? What the hell was wrong with old math? Numbers are numbers. Facts are facts. Why do we have to make it more difficult than it needs to be?”

I was one of those people.

I find the methodology of solving 35 x 12 using Common Core standards to be excruciating.

What makes the most sense to my brain when I look at that math problem, is to solve 30 x 12 and 5 x 12, and then add those two answers together to solve for 35 x 12. I can do it in a few seconds in my head. The answer is a subtle pot-smoking joke. Done and done.

But the way it’s taught in school today, is like a dozen extra steps that seems SUPER-tedious and unnecessary when you learned how to solve multiplication problems the way I just did.

Without a doubt, solving 35 x 12 my way is faster, simpler and more efficient than the way they teach it in schools today. Many people agree with that, so we all came to the conclusion that our way is better, and Common Core standards are bullshit.

This is how we form our beliefs and opinions about EVERYTHING. We have our way of doing things, or our favorite things to eat, or watch, or listen to, or wear, or drive, or participate in, or whatever. Taking that a step further, we have our beliefs. These are the stories that make the most sense to us, and much of our behaviors, thought processes and emotional reactions happen as a result of those beliefs.

Just like the person who sees this new, and different, and tedious, and annoying, and frustrating way of solving math problems, and teaching children; a person also sees beliefs, emotional reactions, and behaviors in their relationships that feel equally new, different, tedious, annoying and frustrating.

When we see these new ideas or ways of doing things, that are neither comfortable nor in alignment with what we’ve previously done or believed, we spaz about it and act like it’s wrong.

My easy way of doing math is NOT wrong. It’s obviously superior to this new dumb way of doing math. THUS, my way is better, and everyone who disagrees is a huge moron, and everyone teaching our children in school are a bunch of stupid jerks!

Here’s the Reason Why ‘New Math’ Exists and How it Could Change Your Life

I’m not a mathematician, nor an educator. So I can’t give you the most precise mathematical terms.

But here’s how I understand this, and since learning the REASON for doing this, I have instantly recanted and regretted every ignorant statement I’ve made about this so-called ‘New Math.’

There’s the way most of us learned in school. The way everyone in my approximate age range thinks is the ‘best’ way to solve math problems. Because it’s fast and easy and efficient and less work and STILL correct.

And then there’s this new way. This Common Core standards way.

And the REASON for this new way is simple: Children who learn to solve math problems THE NEW WAY—while requiring more effort and energy right now—will more easily be able to transition to advanced mathematics.

All the shit I can’t do? Advanced calculus and physics? In 25 years or less, a whole bunch of higher education students will have embraced advanced math because it will come more naturally to them, instead of abandoning it as I did early in my college years.

Sure, I can solve 35 x 12 way faster than my grade-schooler’s teacher wants him to, but my son has the opportunity to fundamentally understand advanced math concepts that many Americans currently lack (which is why so many other countries outperform the United States both academically and economically in the fields of math and science).

Educators are doing it the hard way. The long way. The slow way. To infuse a cultural change into the American education system that could one day see American children in greater numbers helping to solve the world’s greatest problems (feeding the growing population, extending battery life of mobile devices and electric vehicles, finding solutions to energy problems to power people’s homes and businesses).

And that’s when it hit me.

I’ve been fighting this ‘new,’ ‘dumb’ way of doing things all of these years because it seemed harder and unnecessary.

But THIS is what it will take to properly educate our future scholars who will be able to advance INFINITELY further into the fields of math and science than I could have ever realistically hoped to given the way math was taught to me.

In isolation, it seems stupid to teach little kids this tedious, harder, more complex way of doing things.

But when viewed through the big picture, so many of these kids will be able to excel in ways us old complainers who think “our way” is the best way never could.

And isn’t that worth it? Isn’t that SMART and sensible and wise? Isn’t that disciplined and—minus the logistics of finding educators who can teach “New Math” effectively—an incredibly intelligent way of addressing a current and future problem? The potential absence of highly educated mathematicians and scientists capable of contributing positively to the world?

And.

Just maybe, our knee-jerk, ignorant, short-sighted reactions to others and discomfort and newness and ‘different’ in our romantic relationships, and in our experiences with other people, works exactly the same.

Just maybe, making the decision to practice doing things in a more tedious, annoying, difficult and time-consuming way won’t feel so good now, but can set us up for a future of taking ourselves and our relationships to places previously believed impossible.

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115 thoughts on “How the New Math vs. Old Math Debate is a Lot Like Your Marriage

  1. Katia says:

    That video was infuriating though I do take your point. :)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      My knee-jerk reaction was to absolutely trash her method of solving that problem.

      But then I started asking better questions and reading about the rationale behind this multi-step process to solving math problems.

      I get that it’s RIDICULOUS for a problem like 35 x 12.

      But it makes sense to me that when you know how to solve math that way, perhaps you could more easily solve advanced math problems that I couldn’t possibly solve, with many more numbers, much larger numbers, etc.

      I just thought it was a good thought-exercise for being less douchy about our personal beliefs, and how that adversely impacts our relationships.

      Like

  2. Jamie says:

    The method video is like the “billboard” method I learned in private school! I always liked it better than the regular one.

    Off topic, I know, but I just needed to say it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      That’s interesting. I don’t have a frame of reference for learning math in any other way than I did, but I find the conversation pretty fascinating on a handful of levels. Thanks for sharing, Jamie.

      Like

  3. Linda says:

    This is so informative and brings to mind the lessons of Mr. Miagi… “paint fence, sand floor”. Thank you for the reminder and the explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OKRickety says:

    “Advanced calculus and physics? In 25 years or less, a whole bunch of higher education students will have embraced advanced math because it will come more naturally to them, instead of abandoning it as I did early in my college years.”

    As someone with a degree in Physics and a minor in Math (received well before 2009), I strongly doubt the claim that Common Core is going to result in the improvement claimed by the so-called experts. But thanks for the many laughs while watching the video explaining it.

    As to romantic relationships, I think the problem is the failure to understand and follow the core concepts truly needed for success, not a redefinition of the core concepts to fit a newly imagined paradigm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I really don’t want to waste too much more time discussing math which wasn’t supposed to be the point here, but it seems worth mentioning that this is something that will bear out one way or another.

      The data will be the data.

      There’s also a conversation to be had about effective teachers. That’s not a skill thing. That’s a knowledge thing. To teach math entirely differently than math had been taught in school for decades, the teachers themselves would have to literally relearn their math-solving methodology (and be good at it), OR schools would have to replace their math teachers with entirely different teachers already well-trained in this “new” form of solving math problems.

      There’s no reason to believe every public school in America has math teachers who excel at instructing elementary and middle school children in Common Core math.

      So, there aren’t going to be many absolutes here. We’d need some kind of legit A/B test to know for sure.

      I almost don’t care (minus the part where it would be awesome if American students excelled at math like students do in other countries).

      What I DO care about is the idea of rethinking our biases and assumptions, because we — all people; even really smart ones like you — are wrong about most things most of the time.

      And when we exercise humility and seek understanding, I think we can better bridge the gaps that exist between ourselves and others — namely our spouses per this conversation.

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Matt,

        “When we see these new ideas or ways of doing things, that are neither comfortable nor in alignment with what we’ve previously done or believed, we spaz about it and act like it’s wrong.”

        “What I DO care about is the idea of rethinking our biases and assumptions, because we — all people; even really smart ones like you — are wrong about most things most of the time.”

        I think the crux of our disagreement is your presumption that the experts, the cognoscenti if you will, have gotten new knowledge and are thus closer to the truth, while I, on the other hand, am greatly skeptical of such claims, especially when it involves human relationships.

        As you say, time will tell. Unfortunately, the stakes are high, and the results will be long-lasting.

        Like

  5. dufmanno says:

    Since I’m an old school teacher (over 40, mean and hates changes in curriculum) I want to see common core math die a fiery death in a lava pit. I’m great fun at parties.
    I get the relationship comparison but the more people I talk to who try various new and enlightening methods to invigorate, save, or reroute a partnership that’s careening out of control or dying a slow death for the sake of building a new skill set seem to get the same result as common core math. Confusion, resistance etc.
    I’m starting to think aiming low with expectations and refusing to make every problem a hill you’re willing to die on might be the key for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      I’m fully onboard with individuals choosing to lower their expectations. I work pretty hard at getting along with people, and I’m pretty good at it most of the time.

      I, for the life of me, can’t figure out how so many people end up MARRIED with no earthly idea what sorts of things can upset their spouse so much that they’ll want to divorce… but it’s clearly happening, everywhere, all the time.

      I mean, are all of these people HORRIBLE and impossible to get along with, but someone is agreeing to marry them and have kids with them anyway? That seems so unlikely to me.

      We have an obligation to all people to not do shitty things to them just because they happen to be in our vicinity.

      I think we can safely multiply that idea times a few thousand for the humans who live in the same house as us to whom we’ve promised to love forever.

      If someone is experiencing a negative as a result of the actions of others around them, and every time they report that negative, the other person tells them to go eff themselves in not so many words?

      I could never see that — that dynamic — when I was married. But today, I see it all the time, everywhere.

      What if — just for the people we love — we don’t tell them to go eff themselves? What if we listen, understand the reason why whatever we’re doing is a negative for them, and then cooperatively work to eliminate that negative condition?

      Or, simply put, not be stupid dicks to each other.

      I love the humility with which you’re thinking about current or future relationships. But I also don’t believe you intentionally manufacture pain or hardship, simply to create conflict in your personal life. I don’t think very many people do that at all.

      I think people genuinely feel hurt by things, and I don’t think an effective response to them is to sit down and STFU.

      Especially if we promised to love them forever.

      As hilarious as you are, and the idea is, I don’t think lowering your standards to accept treatment or conditions that violate your sense of right vs. wrong has a very happy ending.

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Matt,

        “I mean, are all of these people HORRIBLE and impossible to get along with, but someone is agreeing to marry them and have kids with them anyway? That seems so unlikely to me.
            […]

        “I think people genuinely feel hurt by things, and I don’t think an effective response to them is to sit down and STFU.
            […]

        “I don’t think lowering your standards to accept treatment or conditions that violate your sense of right vs. wrong has a very happy ending.”

        As long as people continue this notion that their sense of right vs. wrong is more important than that of others (I think that is a form of selfishness) and their own feelings are supremely important (selfishness again?), then I don’t see how anyone is surprised that marriages, etc. have difficulties and many do not last.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Tricky territory, sir. I think I understand what you mean, and I think without specifically saying it, you’re hinting at the merits of living by guidelines that are spiritually inspired, and much bigger than humans.

          I think when two people get married and make THAT their mutual focus. Putting their faith and humble service at the center of their marriage and lives, that history has shown many, many, many couples and families that go the distance, and thrive.

          No arguments, there.

          But I have to live in the real world where, mathematically speaking, MOST people will not believe the same things as any other group of people.

          And I think everyone deserves to have a peaceful, healthy, safe, loving, stable home — particularly children.

          Thus, my issue with what you just shared is that a person who always defers or submits to someone else subjects his or herself to abuse, when the OTHER person’s sense of right vs. wrong fundamentally harms them.

          What you call selfishness here, I might call healthy enforcement of personal boundaries.

          Like

          • OKRickety says:

            Matt,

            Yes, I do indeed believe that the Christian worldview is the ideal for all of our lives. Ignoring that, I think a fundamental tenet necessary for civilization to thrive is the willingness to subjugate our own desires for the sake of the whole. In the same fashion, successful marriage needs both individuals to be willing to do the same for the sake of the marriage. As long as self reigns supreme, then don’t expect other relationships to thrive.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Matt says:

              Okay. That was specific and I like it.

              I agree with no qualifications to all of that RE: the need for selflessness and serving something greater than ourselves.

              Help me understand anything I’ve written or said that, in your estimation and interpretation, conflicts with what you just said in your comment.

              Which again, we are in total agreement about.

              Like

              • OKRickety says:

                “Thus, my issue with what you just shared is that a person who always defers or submits to someone else subjects his or herself to abuse, when the OTHER person’s sense of right vs. wrong fundamentally harms them.”

                The first part presumes abuse. While submission to another can lead to abuse, it is not a certainty. Love from the other person is the ingredient that should prevent abuse from occurring. Hence submission is always risky. Does one risk the individual hurt, or instead retreat from relationship and thus risk the relationship?

                The second part is subjective. If right vs. wrong is based solely on one’s own perception of truth, then feeling hurt is not based on a consistent standard, but on the individual’s understanding at that moment.

                It seems to me that you are placing one’s individual boundaries, based on an uncertain standard, to always be of greater importance than the health of the relationship.

                It is my position that there needs to be consistent standards, ideally identical for both, and a desire to maintain a healthy balance between the desires of the individuals and the health of the relationship.

                Like

                • Matt says:

                  Do you believe it’s possible for one person in a relationship to feel hurt by something that doesn’t hurt the other?

                  Do you accept that as a reality for individual people? (Please don’t read a combative tone in these questions. I promise that’s not present. I think this is an important conversation. And I think you’re objectively smarter than I am. I really do want to understand.)

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    Not only do I think it’s possible, I think it is likely to happen in reality. But the individual responses are what matters. If one (or both) chooses, as dufmanno said, to die on that hill, then the relationship suffers.

                    That is what I see in the glass by the sink post. It seems you believe you both decided to die on that hill. Either one of you could have submitted to the other’s desires but you both chose otherwise. I don’t think that molehill was that important.

                    That account resonates with me because, strangely enough, I also like to keep a glass for repeated use (in the refrigerator, however). I think my ex-wife found this peculiar (I don’t disagree), but, as far as I know, she was not hurt by it. If she was continually hurt by this behavior, I did not know it (but this is possible because she often did not communicate well) . If I knew that to be the case, I think I would have ceased, admittedly reluctantly, to keep a glass in the fridge. It wasn’t a molehill I was willing to die on.

                    I recognize that enough molehills do indeed make a hill, but that should only happen if one party is so unloving that they win all the battles. That would certainly be awful.

                    However, looking at the number of divorces, it seems there are many hills both spouses are willing to die on. There shouldn’t be. It seems to me that many marriages are suffering from two related reasons: A failure by both parties to be fully committed to the marriage, and the belief that personal happiness is of paramount importance. Again, I consider these reasons to be rooted in selfishness.

                    Like

                    • Nate says:

                      Geez the “cup by the sink” conversation always pulls me back in. And hello to all who are reading, some I recognize and others who I do not…Anyways, OKRickety seems to align with much of what I feel and comment about. The fact that I prefer to leave a cup out for continued use, regardless of the fact that my wife dislikes it, does NOT mean I am purposely (or even unknowingly) hurting my wife. My wife may in fact feel “hurt” by this, but the “hurt” person’s feelings do NOT HAVE to be accepted as the only important/relevant/acceptable, etc. feelings in a relationship. I contend that if a person feels hurt by a cup left by the sink then the couple’s ability to find harmony on a grander stage is virtually doomed. Could I not make a similar argument about being “hurt” if I concede, and never leave my cup out? As I’ve said many times before, can’t a cup just be a cup with no bigger, deeper meaning? Seriously, I drink a lot of water. That’s it. Plain and simple. Should I dirty a new cup every time I want a drink of water?

                      Also, Matt, I totally see your parallel to common core math, and fully agree that it has nothing to do with actual math. Addressing problems and/or conflicts with a multitude of methods is what I believe you are saying. This fully aligns with my continued difficulty in accepting that, just because one spouse wants “something” to occur a certain way, does NOT mean it is the only acceptable way.

                      Like

                    • Matt says:

                      If I may…

                      The glass/cup thing is really, truly a metaphor.

                      Someone who ends a MARRIAGE because of one isolated irritating behavior isn’t someone I’m going to have much in common with.

                      The dish is irrelevant.

                      The reason many wives (often mothers) become deeply resentful, depressed, sad, anxious and want to divorce their husbands is because of that pattern of behavior.

                      The pattern of “I don’t care that this bothers her. This is the way I like to do things, and I don’t care that she prefers a different way.”

                      Because it’s not just the cup/glass.

                      It’s a THOUSAND things. Whether you ever mindfully plan activities for just the two of you. Whether you thoughtfully take the lead to manage things at home big and small so that she isn’t stuck doing it all. Whether the lion’s share of childcare falls to her, and how she perceives the level of appreciation for the fact that she carries all that so you don’t have to.

                      There are countless others.

                      These are the pinpricks.

                      And once you get pinpricked enough, you bleed out and die.

                      OKRickety hints at the idea that this might be selfishness. That it doesn’t qualify as abuse.

                      I’d call it neglect.

                      I’d say, when you promise to love, honor and serve someone for life, and they are telling you something HURTS them, and you don’t care enough to help them not hurt anymore?

                      In the context of marriage, that is neglect.

                      Neglected people who feel unfairly mistreated will seek new living arrangements once the pain pile gets big enough.

                      It DOES NOT MATTER how rational we think someone else’s feelings are.

                      I’m a Cleveland Browns fan. I love them. I can’t understand how other people can like all the other evil shitty teams. It seems irrational. It doesn’t feel right.

                      But I am intellectually aware that how fans in other cities feel about their team is similar to how I feel about mine.

                      Other human beings in ALL walks of life are deserving of that same mindful empathy. But especially our wives.

                      How about this?

                      We can play around with philosophical conversations all day. But the pragmatic, cold, mathematical reality is that when men do this, women leave and then there’s more divorce and sadness and crying little kids.

                      So. Since we don’t want divorce and sadness and crying little kids, we mindfully listen to our romantic partners tell us what hurts them. And instead of challenging them, we work cooperatively with them to eliminate the pain.

                      Unless I’m really really really really really really dense and stupid, this seems like a fair thing to ask of a married spouse.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      Matt,

                      “The glass/cup thing is really, truly a metaphor.”

                      I’m not certain it is a metaphor but, nonetheless, it is certainly an example of a molehill, a pinprick, etc. Unless I completely misunderstand, one of your major complaints is that many pinpricks make the ship of marriage sink. (I think Nate gets that, too.)

                      However, I agree with Nate that hurt is two-way street. One spouse may hate eating vegan, and the other may hate eating non-vegan. This example is not a matter of morality, but of personal preference. If one spouse always gets their desire, then, sooner or later, the relationship will wither.

                      The reason many wives (often mothers) become deeply resentful, depressed, sad, anxious and want to divorce their husbands is because of that pattern of behavior.”

                      Yet again, you default to the scenario of the woman being hurt. I dislike that because it is not necessary. I also suspect it makes it far less likely that most husbands will hear what you want them to hear, especially when you say that this scenario is almost always the case, essentially blaming the husbands and excusing the wives.

                      Now why might wives be the ones who are prone to hurt? Men and women are different, regardless of what the experts  claim. Let’s suppose that women are far more naturally prone to the response you describe. Now add in the common acceptance of victimhood and divorce, and the ability of women to live on their own, through any combination of employment, government assistance, and alimony/child support. In my opinion, that puts women in a position where they can easily choose to be hurt over molehills, knowing they have a place of safety waiting.

                      From this position, women can easily ignore rationality, allowing their own feelings to determine their behavior. I call that selfishness. Consequently, we have arrived at the current state of marriage. Yes, it has changed, but I do not believe it is a change for the better.

                      Of course, I do not think men are perfect, but I do believe that most men are less resentful of the concessions they make for their marriages. They are inclined to work when they would rather be playing. But men do have their limits on how much hurt they will take.

                      “Since we don’t want divorce and sadness and crying little kids, we mindfully listen to our romantic partners tell us what hurts them. And instead of challenging them, we work cooperatively with them to eliminate the pain?”

                      A wonderful concept but one I do not believe my wife embraced. The one thing that hurt me most in my marriage was my wife’s attitude toward sex and my desire for it. I expressed my hurt many times but her behavior changed little. She said she was very satisfied with our sex life. That is selfishness.

                      From what I have read, my situation is not unusual. But more importantly, I believe any marriage would have multiple areas of conflicting desires. There is no reason to consider, as you seem to do, wives’ desires to be more important than husbands’ desires.

                      Maybe you were an ignorant ass, who always forced acceptance of your own wishes, rather than considering your wife’s desires and the hurt she experienced. But, even if you were, please do not insist that your paradigm is true for all.

                      Like

                    • Matt says:

                      Starting a new thread at the bottom for readability’s sake…

                      Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    Before I forget, the fact that someone feels hurt by something I did does not qualify as abuse. For that matter, we are each individually responsible for our emotions. For example, no one can make you mad. Mull that over for a while if you’ve never heard that. As hard as I found it to accept, I believe it is the truth.

                    My definition of abuse is this: “to treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly”. My definition of cruel is: “willfully causing pain or suffering to others”.

                    Like

  6. Ryan says:

    You are really not qualified to have an opinion on this and I sincerely doubt that anyone can credibly say what will be true about today’s students in 25 years. Multiplication is a single operation and there are more than a few ways to conceptualize it. Neither way is better and each individual student will find one that they prefer.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I am not qualified to have an OPINION loaded with totally honest and accurate I’m-not-a-mathematician qualifiers?

      Two questions:

      1. Do you say things like that to people you have relationships with?

      2. How’s that working out for you?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. T says:

    As someone who learned “old math” and really struggled to move into even algebra, I saw the way they were teaching my niece “new math” and my first thought was “this will make it easier for her to transition to algebra.” My sister and her friends were moaning about it and maybe it’s true the kids aren’t set up all that well in the basics of numbers (I don’t know), but I only wish I’d been taught math using these methods.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      It was truly not my intention to get into any kind of debate about the merits of teaching math one way vs. another way. It’s so far outside of the scope of what I do here.

      But what really interested me, and made sense to me, was the idea that learning math this ‘tedious’ way with all of these seemingly extra and unnecessary steps — while totally annoying for 35 x 12 — could absolutely be an asset when learning highly advanced math.

      That it would provide a building block most older adults are currently missing (and which explains why so few of us are math experts).

      But mathematics was never really the point.

      It doesn’t really matter whether old math or new math is better or worse — it’s not particularly relevant to this conversation.

      What IS relevant is that when I was presented with new information, I was able to think differently about a preconceived notion and biased assumption that I had.

      When viewed through the prism of sacrificing now (tedious math) in order to achieve a desired outcome in the long term (more students having the fundamental skills to advance much further into the field of mathematics), I think it’s pretty obvious how we can make that same connection to how we think about our relationships.

      Our partner says or does something that doesn’t fit neatly inside of our This is My Favorite Way to Do That boxes, and then we treat it as if it’s wrong.

      Maybe it causes a fight. Maybe it causes hurt feelings. Who knows. But something connection-killing, and not the other way around.

      And I think if we can train ourselves to rethink these biases we all have, and seek to understand the WHY behind our partner’s preferences — just like I did about the old math vs. new math debate — then I think a lot of important personal growth and relationship-strenghtening can result from that.

      Really appreciate you reading and commenting. Thank you very much.

      Like

      • T says:

        Yes, you’re right that the point isn’t the math. And I guess part of what I was trying to say (not very well, I think) was that, not only is it possible that I/we were missing transferable (math) skills, but there are different methods of learning that work for different people (I read someone other than me say that this method would have worked better for them to learn math period). Maybe some people learn better with common core and maybe some people are wired better for “old math” (does it have a name?). So not only is it worth reevaluating the things we believe or being careful to not knee-jerk react to change, but maybe also making room for people’s differences….

        Ugh. Sorry. This sounded better in my head…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          Worked for me. I totally agree.

          If I could design school, I would mandate that every subject be taught five different ways, and students would choose the path and method that testing showed was the path and method that would help them learn and succeed the most.

          No question, the same information can be transferred from one human to another, but the method of communicating or transferring it successfully will vary from person to person.

          Just like the 5 Love Languages, I suspect there are various methods of learning we could assign to various personality types that would prove most successful.

          And I think we should be pursuing exactly that.

          Like most things in life, money (or a lack of) tends to ruin stuff. :)

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Louie says:

    Well presented as usual Matt. The number of parallels that relate to relationship issues in this piece abound. As the former president of my local school board, I was inundated with mountains of literature, countless hours of seminars and presentations and strategic planning for the the implementation of Common Core. I drew a number of conclusions about the plan . First being that much of the impetus of its formation was that American children were not doing as well as European and Asian countries children on standardized testing. I thought Why? For starters, not every child in said other countries gets the opportunity to attend school, mostly the “best and brightest ” ( which in my view is draconian) here we mandate it for all. So our all of our children are judged by a specific selection of kids elsewhere. But isn’t that like a love relationship? Should not those beginning a romantic journey have the skills for success? Should not those be the “best and brightest “so to speak. I’m not suggesting an intrusive permit process be implemented to test the worthiness and ability of romantic couples before they move forward. But I would like a better way of getting couples educated to complexities of romantic interaction. The common core allows for parents to “opt out” of testing for their children. One year we had a 56% opt out rate for one particular cohort of children. Hmmm…. sounds like a divorce rate. When asked why the parents chose to opt out the general feeling was that the child was under undo stress over the test and the belief that the instruction leading to the test was confusing and ill presented but few asked for conferences with teachers and principals. Hmmm… sounds like the love struck couple with few coping skills or lack of ability to communicate that find themselves in relationship peril and don’t work together for answers. One other piece was an information warehousing system that would track the child anywhere in the country to provide recent relevant data about the individual child’s testing and retention history. New York State ( where I’m from) joined with 10 other states to enroll in this warehousing. Slowly each state bailed out because of parental protests.( much had to do with the company contracted to do the warehousing). Valuable information resources were ignored as a result. This is just like knowing you have a problem in your relationship and not seeking help ,guidance ,council or opening up lines of communication. I’m old school for sure…proud of it perhaps….I’ve been married to the love of my life for nearly 35 years…but that wouldn’t have been so had I not sought help and information and council….which is not old school. Preparing for life’s journeys is not easy and takes determination, courage, good communication and a host of “nitty gritty ” work to be successful.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Louie says:

    By the way Matt…..I hope you and your family are well. I wish you all blessings for Christmas and a happy New Year as I do for on this blog

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      You’re the best, Louie. Thank you for checking in and sharing your personal stories. I’m grateful for your wisdom, humility, kindness and support that you offer to me and everyone you engage here. It means a lot.

      I wish you and your family the same. A very happy and blessed Christmas and New Year to all of you.

      Like

  10. Matt says:

    @OKRickety

    I think you think I assign more ‘blame’ to men than I do. And I think you think I assign ‘victimhood’ to women to a much greater extent than I do.

    I also think, because you inferred it, that you believe I think what happened in my marriage is exactly how it is in 100% of other people’s marriages. Which is an insane position for me to have, and I kind of feel as if I deserve slightly more credit based on how many things you’ve read here.

    I don’t think men are to BLAME more than women. I think as a matter of mathematical fact, the most common divorce story is the one that I tell, and the one you’re talking about here.

    And, I feel like you’re among the very last people I should have to reiterate my positions to.

    Let’s start with some basic assumptions, please.

    1. Two people married on purpose without coercion. They more or less knew what they were doing, and chose it.

    2. These two married people genuinely care for one another, and promised to love, honor and serve one another all the days of their life. (Because I’m not going to waste my time and energy on people who DON’T care about one another and didn’t marry with any sense of honor or integrity.)

    3. These two married people hurt each other, but not intentionally (see #2) and CERTAINLY not with the present-tense understanding that if they don’t STOP hurting each other, divorce or a terrible marriage is essentially inevitable.

    Can we please assume decency and the presence of love in these conversations? Because I don’t find it useful to talk about all of the people with fundamentally bad intentions about their spouse, marriage and family. Those are not people whose life experiences align with these conversations.

    And now I’m going to say it as clearly as I can.

    A man commonly marries a woman. They are typically in their late 20s.

    They pool resources, share a roof and a bed, and start their life journey.

    And the most common story of a marriage going from good to bad is that the woman in the relationship starts to experience a bunch of tiny negative emotions that slowly pile up through the years, until her emotional and mental health are so affected that her personality changes.

    The genesis of these tiny negative emotions can be traced back directly to her husband’s behavior. No matter how decent and well-intentioned and intelligent and earnest he is in his efforts to be quote-unquote “a good husband.”

    You and I’s default emotional disposition, I believe, would be to react to any one of these tiny moments in this man and woman’s marriage like the man would. As if what he’s doing is normal and okay and unworthy of escalating to a marriage crime worthy of fighting and hurt feelings and divorce.

    These things would seem innocuous to us.

    *** PAUSE ***

    I have to believe that at some point in your life, something has upset or hurt you, that didn’t hurt someone else around you.

    I really like using sports fandom as an example.

    When the Cavs got rolled in the NBA Finals the past two years, or when the Indians blew a 3-1 lead against the Cubs in the 2016 World Series, I was UPSET. Because I’m a Cleveland sports fan.

    Other people didn’t care. Other people were unaffected emotionally. Hell, some people LOVED it even though I was hurting.

    Fans of other teams, or non-sports fans, in my estimation, should NOT be made to feel responsible for my emotions about Cleveland sports teams.

    But, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect your wife to be mindful of those moments?

    Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that your wife would not ask you to run to the grocery store to pick up milk during the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, or during the 4th quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I absolutely think the woman I married would have the werewithal to be sensitive-ish about this high-stakes moment RE: my sports fandom, which is significant for me even if it isn’t significant and emotionally impactful for her.

    I think it’s easy to understand that I FEEL that football and basketball and baseball games are more important than my wife did.

    And that if my favorite team came up short, it wouldn’t be very kind or loving of her to walk in the room, and mock my pain, or disregard it as something silly and meaningless simply because she didn’t have the same rooting interest that I did.

    And THAT is what marriage is for many women. THEIR things — the things that affect them emotionally, but don’t necessarily affect their husbands or children emotionally — are frequently disregarded as silly and unimportant.

    I think men FREQUENTLY walk in on their wives metaphorically watching their team’s fate hang in the balance in a high stakes moment, and we change the channel and ask them to run to the store for food, and never apologize for the thoughtless move, and frequently demonstrate a lack of gratitude for the personal sacrifice they made fulfilling our request — or better yet — fail to demonstrate gratitude for the ANTICIPATION of our wants/needs and doing things for us without us ever asking.

    Because very few wives are given that same level of thoughtfulness and courtesy and effort in return.

    Maybe that’s not how your marriage was.

    But that’s how mine was.

    And that’s how millions of other people’s are.

    And the biggest change that can be made to positively impact this condition is, in my estimation, men recognizing this behavior in their own lives — being AWARE of it; acknowledging it and striving to do better — and then I think the trickle-down effects of that are wives feeling less resentful, more loved, as if they can trust their spouse to love them and be their partner for life. Wives who want to have more sex with their husbands, who respect them more, who are more proud of them, and grateful for them, because there is mutual love and acts of service present in their everyday lives.

    How about we start pointing fingers at the ‘average wife’s’ shortcomings AFTER we clean up this first problem?

    Or, is your position that a wife is undeserving of this level of love and care? And that the women (and men — that happens too) who report this marriage-killing condition in their homes are somehow mentally ill and unworthy of us giving their expressed concerns any time, effort or energy?

    Liked by 2 people

    • gottmanfan says:

      Matt

      I *really* like your sports team analogy. So helpful!

      “And that if my favorite team came up short, it wouldn’t be very kind or loving of her to walk in the room, and mock my pain, or disregard it as something silly and meaningless simply because she didn’t have the same rooting interest that I did.”

      Gender and biological sex with all that entails plays a big part in most heterosexual relationships. I agree that what you describe is a very common pattern. And there are common patterns around sex that okrickety describes too.

      I also think that MOST people default to shitty selfishness in relationships. So not taking others differences into account in a healthy way shows up in all kinds of relationships. Siblings, inlaws, neighbors, roommates, work etc etc.

      Lots of shitty relationships between females too as I know you will agree.

      So gender plays a part just as other cultural and biological differences do.

      It is difficult to navigate things we disagree on. Things we give different meanings.

      It takes learning to know how to do it. It takes intentional effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt says:

        Thank you. I did too. So I just reworked part of this comment to use as a Facebook post because I think it’s a highly relatable scenario.

        Surprised I’ve never used it before now.

        Awesome to hear from you. As always, your time and shared wisdom is much appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan,

        “I also think that MOST people default to shitty selfishness in relationships.”

        That’s what I have been contending. It’s typical human behavior. Both sexes do it. Which is why Matt’s contention that husbands are the root cause of their wives hurting is so irritating to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          What’s doing it, the air and water?

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Okrickety,

          Imho there are two parts of the issue.

          I agree with you as I said that

          1. Most people have typical default “selfish” behavior. Most of us have relationship skill deficits.

          2. I disagree with you (I think) and agree with Matt that in many heterosexual relationships the man provides less of what Gottman calls “accepting influence” than the wife. On average, it is not 50/50 in that area. That is what has been shown in Gottman’s research.

          The husband’s inability to accept influence creates a cascade of problems that combine with the wife’s to co-create a shitty marriage.

          The wife brings plenty of stuff to the party too to be clear. It is a system.

          Matt’s basic premise is just trying to get across idea that men need to accept influence from their wives.

          I understand it is difficult that it is not presented as a system. I agree that it would be better imho if it was.

          But his basic premise is backed up by Gottman’s research and not just a reflection of his personal marriage. And of course it may be different than your experience since we are talking averages.

          Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Something I have been thinking about recently is the different meanings we give to holiday celebrations. It is a common source of problems in marriage.

      How do we work out how to deal with differences?

      Do we decorate a lot or a little or none? How much time do we spend with family? Whose family?

      How much money to spend? Etc.

      This stuff causes problems and “hurt” often because we come from different family cultures.

      Like

  11. OKRickety says:

    Matt,

    I wish the WordPress theme you use handled comments better. However, I use the WordPress reader (available to those with blogs anyway) as it makes your blog comments much easier to use and read.

    Which is an insane position for me to have….”

    I think you have said that you have very often gotten that response from male first-time readers. Do you really think they respond that way because they imagine you have that position? I don’t. You may not think it true for 100%, but you clearly state that men are by far the biggest offenders in marriage, and place the blame for marriage problems on them.

    “Can we please assume decency and the presence of love in these conversations?”

    I think I am doing that, but the reality is that people don’t always behave according to their intentions.

    “And the most common story of a marriage going from good to bad is that the woman in the relationship starts to experience a bunch of tiny negative emotions that slowly pile up through the years, until her emotional and mental health are so affected that her personality changes.

    “The genesis of these tiny negative emotions can be traced back directly to her husband’s behavior.”

    That is the most commonly heard story (because women are far more likely to talk about it than men). However, I contend that it starts before that: It begins with the selfishness of both parties.

    “As if what he’s doing is normal and okay and unworthy of escalating to a marriage crime worthy of fighting and hurt feelings and divorce.”

    It will depend on the issue. Some are important and some aren’t. But, with today’s victim mentality, perceptions of importance are greatly skewed.

    I have to believe that at some point in your life, something has upset or hurt you, that didn’t hurt someone else around you.

    Yes, and I provided the example of my married sex life.

    “But, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect your wife to be mindful of those moments?”

    Yes. That would seem a reasonable expectation, but it’s not what I got. I doubt anyone would be surprised that I think that sex was far more important than something like leaving a glass by the sink.

    “And THAT is what marriage is for many women. THEIR things — the things that affect them emotionally, but don’t necessarily affect their husbands or children emotionally — are frequently disregarded as silly and unimportant.

    And the reverse is also true for men, but seems to be considered of little importance.

    “Because very few wives are given that same level of thoughtfulness and courtesy and effort in return.”

    You have a much higher opinion of women’s motivations and behavior than I do.

    “How about we start pointing fingers at the ‘average wife’s’ shortcomings AFTER we clean up this first problem?”

    Do you want improvement, or do you want a stalemate? In the real world, human behavior is not that simple. I think you base your paradigm of marriage primarily on your own marriage and the feedback you get (I would guess at least 75% of it involves women telling you how you are so correct). What is the problem with wives acknowledging the possibility that their hurt is unreasonable, or, even more astounding, that their behavior is causing their husbands to hurt, and consequently deciding to modify their response and overall behavior? Why must the woman be right, and the man wrong? That’s what we have with the #metoo movement. Believe without reservation that the woman’s claim is true and the man is guilty. That is a recipe for disaster.

    I believe Michelle Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and author, maintains that a change in behavior by either spouse causes a change of behavior in the other spouse. Since it works both ways, why shouldn’t the wife be the first to change her behavior and see if there is improvement in the husband’s behavior? (For example, my ex-wife said that I was much more pleasant to be around when we had recently had sex.)

    I think you believe that in most marriages the husband is the problem and the wife has essentially no fault. On the contrary, I think both spouses have significant fault and significant hurt in most marriages. It’s how they work through it that results in success or failure.

    It is my opinion that society today believes men are generally a problem. I have a strong suspicion that most men have grown grievously tired of hearing this presented as the whole truth.

    “Or, is your position that a wife is undeserving of this level of love and care?”

    A wife should be loved, but love is not necessarily doing whatever someone desires. True love will do what is best, and that may well cause hurt.

    One of our biggest disagreements is what we consider the major cause of marriage problems and divorces today. I consider both to have significant fault in handling hurt, rather than the husbands’ behavior is the “first problem”.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Okrickety,

      You said:

      “I doubt anyone would be surprised that I think that sex was far more important than something like leaving a glass by the sink.”

      And there is the issue. “Sex” is more important than a “glass left by the sink.”

      I think the issue is that x thing is almost never inherently more important than y thing. It is highly subjective depending on our personal meanings, biology, values etc.

      Where we get into trouble is trying to argue that x thing is inherently more important than y thing.

      Instead of caring that our partner cares about x or y thing. And so we care about them because they do.

      And I agree that it shouldn’t be one person always getting their way. I don’t think what Matt writes is saying that. Only that we should always CONSIDER the other person.

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan, (I wondered where you were)

        ‘And there is the issue. “Sex” is more important than a “glass left by the sink.”’

        If anyone seriously considers “a glass left by the sink” to be more important than “sex”, then I think they they have no business considering marriage. If I ever create material for pre-marital counseling, I’ll consider including that question. If either party agrees that sex is less important, I’d recommend the marriage be postponed or canceled.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Okrickety,

          I agree that sex is an important part of marriage and should be fully discussed before and after the wedding. Why do you think that sex is more important than a glass left by the sink?

          The glass represents a LOT of things that are important to many people. A few examples Respect, love, closeness, intimacy, partnership etc.

          Just as sex represents a LOT of things that are important to many people.

          The whole point imho is to see that what *I* find meaningful is not better or worse than what my spouse finds meaningful. Not to argue with them that MY thing x is inherently more valuable than THEIR thing y.

          Now I think you get this basic concept so I am trying to get why you would think that sex is inherently more important than whatever the spouse is saying is important to them.

          The goal imho should be for both people to value what is important to each other without it having to be judged.

          Like

          • OKRickety says:

            gottmanfan,

            I consider sex to include “Respect, love, closeness, intimacy, partnership”. If either spouse does not agree, then I don’t see how marriage is going to thrive. I know I would not want no part of it.

            How important is sex in marriage? I have read that marriage counselors consider lack of sex to be a very accurate indicator that the marriage is very unhealthy, if not on its deathbed.

            I avoid Christian beliefs here, but I believe the teaching that “the two shall become one flesh” is saying sex is integral to uniting the two individuals in marriage.

            Like it or not, I believe sex has a special status in marriage relationships. Nothing else incorporates all of the important aspects of the relationship.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Okrickety,

              “I consider sex to include “Respect, love, closeness, intimacy, partnership”. If either spouse does not agree, then I don’t see how marriage is going to thrive. I know I would not want no part of it.”

              I agree. Sexuality in marriage, however expressed, can make a marriage happier or cause great pain if there are differences that can’t be navigated. It’s not usually
              the differences themselves that are the problem but the inability to constructively deal with them.

              If I understand you correctly it is your theology that concludes that sex is the most important thing in marriage?

              I wonder how you feel about Harley’s approach since he does not elevate sex above other needs in marriage. (He is an Evangelical Christian as well).

              Like

              • OKRickety says:

                gottmanfan,

                I hadn’t thought of it as a theological basis, but, yes, I suppose that is the primary reason. I also recognize that I also consider sex to be an important physical drive.

                I am surprised to see Harley is Christian. I think I had looked before. He is very discreet about it.

                However, I do think you are incorrect in saying Harley “does not elevate sex above other needs in marriage.”. The book His Needs, Her Needs  shows “The First Thing He Can’t Do Without – Sexual Fulfillment” in the Table of Contents. I understand that to mean it is the number one need for husbands. And, as you probably know, Sexual Fulfillment is not in the top five needs for women (on the average).

                I believe this reflects a significant fundamental difference between men and women. But, to my utter amazement, it seems that no matter how clearly this fact is stated, women just do not believe that it is true. They believe that sex is just as important to them, and, since it’s not their top need, they are certain that sex cannot be that important to marriage.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  I like a lot of Dr Harley’s ideas and find them useful.

                  However his top things are not based on empirical research and are based on surveys he did in his clinical practice and anecdotally from his practice. I think of them like Dr Chapman’s love language categories also based on his clinical practice. They are useful as broad categories that may not apply individually.

                  But the MAIN useful thing in both Harley and Chapman is the main idea of this blog. People have *different* needs, desires, ways of thinking about things. Really getting that into our heads is the key to real relationship transformation imho.

                  We need to understand how to navigate our differences with our spouse so that both people feel loved and valued.

                  In the research on sex I have read males (including previously mentioned Michele Weiner-Davis) in heterosexual relationships have a higher libido about 3/4 of the time. Which means that 1/4 (didn’t even need common core math ha ha) it is the female who has the higher libido.

                  For both biological and cultural reasons it is usually men who have higher libidos. But it is by no means all men or all women. And it can change within a relationship over time to the lower desire person becoming higher desire or vice versa. Stress and medications trauma and pain can also alter libido as you know.

                  Again it is a common pattern but not representative for a fairly large subset that do not have that pattern. I am amazed at the people who refuse to believe otherwise. So I guess we both are utterly amazed ha ha

                  Sex and gender is a complicated brew of nature and nurture. Clearly there are differences on average between men and women but I am suspicious of anyone who claims simplicity in discussing them. Complexity is built into the cake.

                  Like

                  • FlyingKal says:

                    Gottmanfan:

                    “In the research on sex I have read males (including previously mentioned Michele Weiner-Davis) in heterosexual relationships have a higher libido about 3/4 of the time. Which means that 1/4 (didn’t even need common core math ha ha) it is the female who has the higher libido.”

                    Not necessarily so.
                    It could be a more or less significant portion of that 1/4 where their respective libidos are (about) at the same level.

                    Also, there’s a lot of opinions trying to spin or circumnavigate the libido issue, as to try and make it seem less important than it possibly is.
                    There was a notice in my newspaper today about a national survey on sex satisfaction. (In Swedish, excuse me for the translation)
                    Title read “Men more dissatisfied with sex”
                    Notice: “Men are generally less satisfied than women with their sexlife. In a national survey said 27% of men that they are very or moderately dissatisfied with sex, while 20% of women answered the same. However, 45% of both men and women are very or moderately satisfied with their sexlife. A sex- and psycho-therapist (*) comments that the higher dissatisfaction rate for men could be due to prejudice, because men are expected to want to have sex all the time.”

                    (*) I don’t know if the translation of the job title makes sense, sorry…

                    I mean, here we have some sort of survey asking people how they feel. But men giving the “wrong” answer are basically told by the surveyors that “You’re not really feeling dissatisfied, you only think you are because, society…!”
                    Isn’t that in some way denying men their experience of their own feelings and their efforts to put them into words?

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Hi Kal!

                      You said:

                      “Not necessarily so.
                      It could be a more or less significant portion of that 1/4 where their respective libidos are (about) at the same level.”

                      It is so hard to get all the ideas across well in these comments when I write them.

                      The research I have read and the training I have taken on sex is that in about 1/4 of heterosexual relationships the woman has the HIGHER libido than her male partner.

                      It is true that some people have matched libidos. But in reality one person usually has a higher desire for sex or more quantity than the other. And that can change over time for lots of reasons.

                      A husband stressed at work or on medications could change from the higher libido person who wanted sex several times a well to the lower libido partner as his spouse remains consistent at wanting sex once a week.

                      The general point is that while there are population averages they are subsets of people who are different then the common pattern. Just as in height variations between men and women. On average men are taller but there are significant subsets of some women who are taller than some men so it is not accurate to say that all men are taller than all women. And there are men and women who are the same height. But in most couples one person will be taller than the other.

                      I am confused why my comments read that I am trying to deny that men on average have higher libidos?

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Kal,

                      I am not totally clear on the article you presented. Are you saying because that the quoted therapist was dismissing the 7% difference between men and women as due to prejudice and not reflecting their actual dissatisfaction?

                      I agree that men are often not given enough validity of their experiences. I think sex is a complicated issue to discuss well.

                      Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  What I meant about Harley not elevating sex above other needs is that he doesn’t state that sex is more important for a marriage than quality conversation. He says that it is the men’s #1 need but doesn’t say it should be the marriage #1 need.

                  The marriage #1 need is to find a way to meet both the spouse’s top needs. If a man needs sex and a woman needs quality time and conversation you find a way to do both. Have dinner with good conversation and then have sex later. Win win. Not fighting over which is more important.

                  Every day you are presented with different points of view that have to be navigated. Small and big. They all matter. Because it is our attitude that matters.

                  Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Okrickety said:

              “I consider sex to include “Respect, love, closeness, intimacy, partnership”

              I agree that is commonly included in the meaning of sex for many people in relationships. My comment must not have been clear.

              I was trying to say that just as for some or many people sex has those meanings (as well as others depending), other things including a dish can represent those things too.

              That is why trying to argue that x thing is more important than y thing can be so destructive as an attitude.

              If it means something important to the person it means dismissing something deep. Not just a dish. Not just a sex act.

              It can come to represent that you do not care about what matters deeply to me. That is why it all matters. The attitude of caring about your spouse is the thing.

              Finding a way to work with each other when we me disagree on the meanings without treating it as if it doesn’t matter.

              Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          The binary thinking on display here scares me. You’re better than this.

          Like

          • OKRickety says:

            Matt,

            I’m not sure what you see as binary, but I have very strong beliefs on certain subjects, marriage and sex being two of them. If it helps any, the likelihood I would enter into a romantic relationship again is about the same as that of snowfall in Houston in July.

            Like

            • Matt says:

              I just think that — because you would never make any kind of connection emotionally between a dirty dish and sex — you’re dismissing that the two things commonly are connected for others.

              Gottmanfan already said it.

              And can’t be emphasized enough.

              In these mathematically average relationships we talk about, there are a series of what you and I might call “minor infractions” that occur.

              We don’t act enthused about spending a weekend with the in-laws. We leave a load of laundry in the dryer, and never once consider it’s there. We need new lightbulbs for the bathroom vanity, but instead of volunteering to go to the store to acquire them, we add it to the grocery list, assuming our wives can just grab it when she’s out shopping for the family over the weekend.

              These are the things that make people (often women, per years of married couples data) feel unappreciated, unloved, disrespected, and resentful in their marriages after many years.

              People who feel unappreciated, unloved, disrespected, and resentful in their marriages tend to NOT want to have sex with the people whose behavior is most directly linked to developing those feelings.

              So.

              Sex vs. Dirty dish. One being more important than another.

              Binary. Black and white.

              But it’s not that simple.

              The sex will ALWAYS go bad for couples who don’t fundamentally get this emotional connection about the dirty dish that can potentially (and usually does) exist.

              It’s not as simple as saying one is more important than the other. That’s what got me divorced. That kind of thinking.

              The most responsible response in my estimation is for men to recognize the role they play in creating emotional anguish, fear, uncertainty, disrespect, mistrust, a lack of safety, etc in their wives.

              And then men must accept responsibility for NOT doing those things, and effectively communicating that infrequent incidents to that end DO NOT = disrespect, a lack of love, etc.

              And then, finally, we can evaluate sexually behavior and desire fairly.

              Because it’s a false dichotomy if you think women who fundamentally feel a lack of sexual desire due to very specific and influence-able reasons should be lustily throwing themselves at their husbands, despite feeling years of sadness and anger piling up because of the small moments, like the dirty dish.

              It’s not one versus the other.

              It’s one BECAUSE OF the other.

              Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Okrickety,

      You mentioned Michelle Weiner-Davis. I think Matt is describing a common pattern the result of which she coined the “walkway wife.”

      For those not familiar below is an article where Michelle W-D describes why it happens.

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/divorce-busting/200803/the-walkaway-wife-syndrome%3famp

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        This an a partial answer the question you posed of “why shouldn’t the wife be the first to change?”

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        From the Weiner-Davis article

        “During the early years of marriage, a woman tends to be the emotional caretaker of her relationship. She makes certain her marriage remains a priority, insisting on quality time together, meaningful conversation and shared activities. When a woman feels close to her husband, all is right in the world. However, if the marriage takes a back seat to other commitments, she pursues her husband for more connection by having frequent heart-to-heart talks. If these tête-à-têtes are successful, the marriage blossoms. If not, her complaints are no longer confined to her feeling unimportant. She begins to find fault with many other aspects of their relationship.”

        In the common pattern Matt describes, the wife has tried to change the system but has not gotten a response of “I care because you care.”

        So that’s usually how you get into the shitty marriage where each side doesn’t care for x thing that is meaningful to the other person sex included.

        Like

        • OKRickety says:

          gottmanfan,

          ‘In the common pattern Matt describes, the wife has tried to change the system but has not gotten a response of “I care because you care.”’

          Weiner-Davis also: “Exit strategies often take years to execute and during that time women are focused on fortifying their resources, not fixing their marriages.”

          It seems to me the wife didn’t try to “change the system”, or “fix” the marriage. She tried to get the husband to change to meet her desires. That’s selfishness, not love.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            You said:

            “It seems to me the wife didn’t try to “change the system”, or “fix” the marriage. She tried to get the husband to change to meet her desires. That’s selfishness, not love.”

            I think romantic love has to be good for both people to work. So there has to be a way for your needs to get met to stay happily married.

            Dr Harley talks a lot about this as you know.

            It’s not selfish to want to get your needs met. It can be selfish in how you approach it. It is definitely selfish to ONLY consider your needs without caring how you are impacting the other person.

            I think Weiner-Davis is describing the usual common pattern in a different way. That many wives try to establish a 2 way mutual “let’s care about each other’s needs” and get stonewalled with “I don’t care about that” or “you shouldn’t care about that because a b or c.”

            So they give up and plan their exit.

            Like

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              Yes, it is reasonable to want your needs met. However, it’s selfishness when you insist on it, and even more so when you insist on having your wants met.

              In my own marriage (and I have heard this from other men), we tried marriage counselling multiple times. It took about four counselors before one was willing to consider that she had some fault. And, when that happened, she lost most of her interest in counseling.

              That suggests to me that wives are not interested in changing, but only in the husband changing. If he doesn’t change to her satisfaction, then “they give up and plan their exit”.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                What do you think your ex-wife would say as her side of the story?

                I am not questioning your account to be clear. Just wondering what her thinking was.

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  I think she became convinced I was abusing her emotionally. There were other beliefs she had, such as that I was suicidal at times. Overall, she reached for any straw that would remove any fault from her and place it on me.

                  Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Do you think the marriage counselors were competent? So many are not sadly.

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  In my experience, the counselors all followed the cognitive behavioral approach. Their competency is questionable for one reason: Until the last one, they supposed that I was the problem and that my wife’s problems were entirely the result of my behavior. I have heard from many other men that their experience was very similar. In one case, a man told me his wife would blatantly lie to the counselor, and when he confronted her on it immediately after the session, she denied that she had made the false statement in the session.

                  I think my marriage would have benefited from Solution-focused brief therapy. Talk is cheap and, although I kind of enjoy it, I think it is slow and has no focus.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Solution Focused can be good I agree.

                    Few counselors are fully trained in how to do effective couples therapy. Most of the time when people get marriage counseling it is not with someone who knows how to do it well.

                    Just curious, were you at the time able to acknowledge things that you needed to change? I understand it is difficult to do when the other person is saying you are 100% of the problem.

                    Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I really don’t recall what the counselors thought I needed to change.

                      I think the only time counseling has been helpful was dealing with my relationship with my father. I believed that I could never please him. I expressed my thoughts and feelings to him. He didn’t really change, but I was able to decide I had made a good effort and to put that concept behind me. It was never terrible, but we get along better now and I am greatly emotionally healthier.

                      Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Okrickety,

      In short, I agree that both people usually have issues that cause a shitty marriage (or any 2 person relationship really).

      It’s seldom the husband who is 100% to blame.

      But it’s also true that there ARE gender patterns that have been shown that often husbands do cause problems more than the wives in the way Matt describes.

      Gottman has decades of research in a variety of cultures to support this. This seems to be where you disagree?

      This is where I agree with a lot of your comments general ideas too.

      Well of course we are talking about averages here not individuals.

      As I’ve said before if a person responds with arguing that you are wrong for wanting x that will lead to a shitty marriage.

      Both men and women do this. No question. I like to debate so I default to this a lot. I like to think of things as logical or not. Or right or wrong etc.

      I think women do a version of this too that can cause problems. It’s a litmus test of “do you care or not”

      So yes, problems on both sides. But it’s also true the commonly imho for cultural reasons men have an extra layer to bring to to table on that particular issue.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        “This is where I agree with a lot of your comments general ideas too.”

        I meant this about your comments that people usually need to work on their own emotional regulation and push against default thinking that the other person “makes us” think or feel or do things.

        Like

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan,

        ‘It’s a litmus test of “do you care or not”’

        In some quarters this is a called a “sh-t test”.

        “…men have an extra layer to bring to to table on that particular issue.”

        It’s my opinion that the extra layer expected from men is because, in the last 50-70 years, women have added an extra layer to their expectations of marriage. And, no, I don’t think those changes have improved the state of marriage.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          OkRickety,

          No question expectations for marriage are dramatically changed in the last 50-70 years.

          The definition of what marriage is for has changed dramatically. Lots on interesting reading on this topic.

          What do you think the changes that you perceive women to have added are?

          I’m curious what your expectations were when you got married. Do you think men getting married today have different expectations than you did?

          Like

          • OKRickety says:

            Some of the expectations of marriage women have today are: I can spend my money the way I want,I don’t need no man,I deserve to get what I want,my husband is not my boss,I am not my husband’s mother,If I don’t want to do it for you, that’s your problem,
            My expectation was that we would soon have children, my wife would be a stay-at-home mother who took care of the day-to-day tasks of the home, we would enjoy sex regularly, we would be a Christian family, and we would grow old together.
            Few men then would have had those expectations. Even fewer would today.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Why do you think your marriage failed? (If it’s not too nosy)

              Do you think it was primarily that the expectations you listed were not met?

              Like

              • OKRickety says:

                gottmanfan,

                My expectations were met except for regularly enjoying sex. For the last few years, I didn’t enjoy sex even when we had sex.

                She wanted the divorce, not me. She claimed at the time that she had made an idol of (our?) marriage. I can’t see how that justifies divorce.

                In my opinion, she had too much free time on her hands with our children in school, and she became extensively involved in Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step group for not just alcoholics but generally whatever you think is an issue. In the process, I believe she followed the herd mentality of victimhood and became convinced that I was abusing her. As far as I’m concerned, she showed signs of delusion.

                In fact, she initiated our divorce while in the process of a 12-step study. As you may know, part of that process is recognizing your own faults and making amends to those you have hurt, and also forgiving those who have hurt you. Somehow, it seems ironic that she chose to end our marriage while engaged in that study.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  It sounds like a very difficult and confusing divorce since you didn’t want it and the reasons didn’t make sense to you.

                  Can you look back and see where things first seemed to get off track?

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    gottmanfan,

                    Well, I think the root causes were laid for both of us before we ever met. I think her issues were more significant and caused the bigger problems. Specifically, she was sexually promiscuous in college, was raped twice, and had one abortion. She hid this from me until about ten years into our marriage.

                    I think our marriage had the first big issues starting when our first child was born three years after the wedding. She was a competent mother but did not have the physical or mental energy to be both a mother and a wife.

                    I don’t think our marriage ever recovered from that point.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      It is very difficult to be with a spouse who has been abused and hasn’t had treatment. Was it difficult to know how to respond to her in a helpful way? Hard to understand why she didn’t have the mental or physical energy to be a mother and wife? Hard to feel empathy for why she hid it?

                      I can imagine these would be very very difficult to deal with.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      You can’t help someone who denies that there is any problem still existing. I think that’s why she hid it from me. I suspect she only told me because a counselor insisted on it. I think her method of handling the truth was to push it back out of sight and pretend it never happened.

                      Here are two instances suggesting she was not healed: 1. She was working through a book with some questions for each chapter.
                      She refused to even read the chapter on sexual abuse/trauma. 2. Our last counselor asked her to write a letter to her parents about her abortion (they were involved to some degree). In our next session, I think she refused to even read it. I did read it at some point. In it, she almost immediately moved to a third-person narrative.

                      I think both of those cases demonstrate that she had not really healed from them.

                      I don’t know how much her past impacted our sex life, but I suspect it was too much.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      It seems quite clear that her trauma impacted her deeply.

                      I think you can help someone who denies it.

                      By understanding why they are using denial to protect themselves from trauma. And by having *great* empathy for them. And seeking ways to support them without judging them. This is hard no doubt.

                      Hearing your story I have empathy for you both.

                      Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      “The habit of criticism is hazardous to any relationship. As I write in Marriage Rules, remember this above all else: No one can survive a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired. We love people who make us feel good about ourselves.”

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan,

        ‘It’s no surprise that women have a different response to the concern: “If they are so bothered by criticism, why don’t they pay attention to it? “’

        That implies that women think men should change their behavior because of the hurt they experience when they are criticized by their wives.

        Matt argues that men should change their behavior when wives are hurt by the husbands’ behavior.

        So, no matter who is hurt, the clear commonality is that men are the ones who should change their behavior. Wives, however, are free to continue on their way. I am not surprised this isn’t working out well.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          I do not think that Matt writes that men should change and wives shouldn’t.

          His premise is that wives already change much more for their husbands than husbands do. And that husbands should improve the skill of accepting influence.

          That is point 2 above that agrees with Gottman’s research.

          To the extent that Matt is writing that husbands should change it is also because he is writing from the perspective of trying to get men to see what he couldn’t see before he got divorced. He is not writing about the wives stuff.

          Again I think it’s helpful to see it from both sides. To see it as a system. To see which things are causing which responses. It varies individually of course but there are common patterns.

          Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      From the article:

      “A greeting card asks:

      “If a man is alone in the forest with no woman to criticize him, is he still a schmuck?”

      Men typically find the card funnier than women do. “That’s my experience exactly!” is a common response. “I can’t do anything right. I’m tired of being the target of nagging and complaining.”

      Like

      • FlyingKal says:

        A locla variation to that one around here is:
        “Women may have many flaws or faults, but Men really only have two:
        – Everything they say.
        – Everything they do.”

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Kal,

          I am interested particularly in your experience since you are coming at it from a different cultural background than most of us here.

          In Sweden, is that a common male experience to feel that men are criticized all the time in relationships? I assume from your quote it is.

          Like

          • FlyingKal says:

            Gottmanfan:

            In Sweden, we have very much influence from U.S. culture.
            Based on the experience for myself and the circle of my closest friends, I would say yes, it is a pretty common experience.
            I think we have a pretty long history of being among the leading countries in the world regarding women’s liberation and gender equality.
            Yet, off the top of my head I think we have about the same divorce rate as U.S. and most other western democracies. Albeit the situation for single parents after a divorce might be radically different here.

            Like

  12. gottmanfan says:

    Okrickety and Matt,

    Okrickety said:

    “I think you have said that you have very often gotten that response from male first-time readers. Do you really think they respond that way because they imagine you have that position? I don’t. You may not think it true for 100%, but you clearly state that men are by far the biggest offenders in marriage, and place the blame for marriage problems on them.”

    Imho there are several reasons that male first-time readers respond defensively to Matt’s blog.

    1. Most people that read this blog have experienced a shitty relationship so we read the blog and comments with baggage from the damage. That’s why you see so many comments with negative global views of men, women, and marriage.

    2. Matt presents it from what he did wrong so it focuses on the husband’s faults and what he needs to change. Which feels unfair and unbalanced to men who don’t see the other side presented. It is humanly difficult to not focus on “yeah but what about the other person’s issues?”
    “Why am I the only one who has to change?” To not focus on that takes a lot of self regulation that most of us (including me) find take a lot of practice and discipline and a mindset change to focus on what we need to change even if we feel it is more the other person.

    3. Finally, I think some male readers demonstrate a lack of “accepting influence” in their responses to this blog. They demonstrate the point of Matt’s blog.

    Instead of responding with curiosity and agreeing with what they agree with and discussing areas of disagreement, they defensively reject his point of view. Insult him etc. Take it personally.

    4. Now of course there is a spectrum here. Not all men etc

    4. As I’ve said many times, women are not angels. They lack key relationship skills etc. I have personally demonstrated a lack of maturity on this blog which proves that point and highlights some of what I contributed to my shitty marriage.

    5. But, on average, men respond to things they find critical of them in ways that block productive interaction more than women do. This is demonstrated in research and the comments here regularly. It is imho one of the reasons why there are less male commenters in general too.

    6. Let me reiterate that women create shitty relationships too. Lots of bad stuff too. Lots of not knowing how to respond correctly too. I am just speaking to the block of how criticism is received. That is often early in the flowchart that prevents further progress. If someone denies a problem it’s much harder to improve it. And that is what Matt’s general point is.

    7. I am open to all constructive criticism on these ideas. I am still learning. I am deeply empathetic to how hard it is to hear criticism. And the reasons why it is often harder for men than women. I have had to learn this is dealing with my husband. Still learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FlyingKal says:

      Gottmanfan,
      Hello again and thank you for your lengthy (i.e. well thought-out) responses.

      I have a question, that you comments about “accepting influnce” and Matt’s comments about the women’s responsibility and/or behaviour made me start to ponder.
      If what you cite Gottman saying is an objective truth, that men accept influence to a lesser degree than women do, and because of that a lot of relationships and marriages turn sour, then why is that so?
      Could part of the reason be that women accept more influence already during the courting phase, before the marriage, be part of the equation why it doesn’t work out in the long run?
      I mean, she gets irritated by the glass by the sink and tells him so when they’ve been together/married for 3 years? 5 years? But he doesn’t understand the gravity of it? Because she’s never said anything about it before, so how important can it really be? While for her it’s another straw on the donkey’s back.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Excellent questions Kal! Let me rephrase to help me think.

        Let’s assume for our discussion that Gottman is correct.

        1. Why do more men accept less influence in heterosexual relationships than women?

        2. Could part of the reason be that women accept more influence during the courting phase? She didn’t say anything about things she was irritated at early in the relationship so it builds up.

        3. When she does say something later he doesn’t get why it’s a big deal because she never mentioned it earlier?

        Does that seem like I’ve gotten the main ideas?

        Like

        • FlyingKal says:

          Gottmanfan:
          Yes, I’d say you’ve got the gist of my question :)

          The reason I ask is because in my experience, a couple of years into a relationship, the partners have most often settled into their roles, pretty much.
          Then, I think one person bringing up a need for change in the other person, a need that might have been boiling under the surface for a long time and hence giving a greater meaning to the person contemplating it, while the other is completely oblivious, presents a much bigger effort for the required change, than it would have if it had been aired out from the beginning?

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            You bring up what Gottman identifies as the biggest thing that women get wrong in heterosexual marriages.

            They do not bring up changes that need to be made from their perspective early in the marriage. Early enough so that there is good will to be able to change. And of course there are constructive ways to bring this up as opposed to you are a loser ha ha.

            This is usually after courtship. While dating, most couples are drugged up by love hormones and acting in ways that consider each other more than when the routine of life settles in.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            According to Gottman here’s how it works:

            35% of men accept influence in marriage. When the wife brings up the dish they are able to discuss and work it out in a reasonable way that works for both. They on average have a good marriage.

            65% of men do not accept influence. When the wife brings up the dish, he dismisses it or argues it is not important.

            If the woman accepts that and just adjusts they will eventually have an unhappy marriage and get divorced.

            If the woman does not accept that but sets boundaries around the WAY THEY WORK OUT DIFFERENCES and does not adjust in most cases they go on to have a happy marriage. Or they get an early divorce before kids.

            The key is not the stupid dish or sex or a b or c thing. It is *not accepting* that you have not figured out how to navigate your differences.

            So it is the combination of a husband not accepting influence with a wife just adjusting to that that creates that most common divorce pattern.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              This is of course simplistic.

              There are relationships like yours that do not fit the common pattern.

              Why the common pattern happens is what we are grappling with? Why in 2018 do we see these frustrating patterns? Why is it so hard to even get beyond arguing who is more to blame men or women to even discuss possible solutions?

              I appreciate Kal that you are open to discuss these things with a open mind and curiosity. And to present your point of view adds richly to the blog comments.

              Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            As I’ve said many times before, all of us have to have a complete set of relationship skills to have a healthy marriage.

            For nature/nurture reasons there are common deficits that skew certain deficits by gender on average.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Men often don’t know how to respond either when women don’t accept their influence. This is usually later in the marriage when things are zero sum.

              Often they will adjust too to treatment they should not adjust to.

              Both people should not accept the inability to work out differences.

              The Atkinson ebook I am always linking has detailed information on how to respond when people are not accepting influence to navigate differences.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                ALL of this is imho just to focus on what is the key to a good relationship?

                Imho it is this. How do we figure out how to deal with our differences?

                That is what imho it is all about. Marriages that are good have figured it out. Marriages that are shitty have not. Marriages in between consist of figuring it out for some topics and not others.

                The only reason imho why men not accepting influence is what Gottman identifies as number 1 factor in an unhappy or happy marriage is because it blocks progress on navigating differences.

                There are plenty of things that women do that hurt navigating differences. But on average they are lower down the flowchart.

                If someone says I am concerned about x thing and the other blocks that issue of difference remains unsolved and builds. Add up years of small and big items and differences seem impossible to change.

                That’s why a small thing that isn’t a big deal itself can represent an inability to work things out and trigger hopelessness about a good marriage.

                Like

                • FlyingKal says:

                  I’ve contemplated that scenario quite a lot, and I think it’s odd, kind of.
                  I could never figure it for myself. But I’ve seen so many people 2-3 years into a relationship where they seemed to be bickering about just everything. And so many times I’ve thought to myself that this isn’t going to last.
                  Yet here they are 10, 15, 20 years down the line, with (almost) grown kids, seeming happier than ever. But still bickering about the same things…?

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Kal,

                    Yeah I have seen those couples too. I think there are some couples that “bicker” as a style and it works ok for them since they have other positivity and fondness in the relationship. I know a couple quite well like this.

                    For other kinds of couples I have seen the bickering representing increasing negativity so those people may stay together but they lack trust in each other. Often but not always those people get divorced years later.

                    Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Just to mix it up from Gottman here is research Don Baucom with similar ideas.

                “At the other extreme, research at the University of North Carolina’s Couples Lab warns us not to expect too little of marriage. Donald Baucom advised us that people get what they expect, and when expectations are too low, unacceptable situations often result. Specifically, these findings were relevant to anyone in abusive relationships. Those who continue to tolerate emotional, verbal, or physical abuse will likely continue to be treated badly. This research emphasizes that we should at the very least expect kindness and respect.”

                Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Another thing to add:

        Not accepting influence can also look like indifference or passive aggressive.

        Agreeing to do something to avoid conflict and then just not following through. Or indifference with bare minimum response.

        It doesn’t have to look like overt “I think you are crazy to think that.” to give the same effect.

        I prefer overt and direct so it much harder for me that my husband’s version of not accepting influence defaults to the passive and indifferent variety.

        Like

    • FlyingKal says:

      Gottmanfan:
      I ran out of nesting above, so I’ll put a comment here.

      About my 3/4 vs 1/4 higher libido comment:
      You wrote: “I am confused why my comments read that I am trying to deny that men on average have higher libidos?”
      I’m sorry, my comment didn’t come through the way I intended it.
      I didn’t mean to imply that you tried to deny that men on average have higher libidos.
      On the contrary, I tried to point out, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the difference could well be even higher than 75% – 25%.
      But it wasn’t important so let’s drop it.

      About the quoted survey, and the therapist’s comment on the result:
      You wrote: “Are you saying because that the quoted therapist was dismissing the 7% difference between men and women as due to prejudice and not reflecting their actual dissatisfaction?”

      I admit I can be wrong, But that is my interpretation of the therapist’s comment to the survey, yes.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Yes I agree with your assessment of the comment in the article. It’s strangely dismissive of what is not even that big of a percentage difference.

        I would read those percentages and say that overall it’s the survey percentages show remarkable similarities between the men and women. Not to dismiss the 7% difference but just overall the experiences seem fairly similar in the categories as reported.

        Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Kal,

        You said:

        “About my 3/4 vs 1/4 higher libido comment:
        You wrote: “I am confused why my comments read that I am trying to deny that men on average have higher libidos?”
        I’m sorry, my comment didn’t come through the way I intended it.
        I didn’t mean to imply that you tried to deny that men on average have higher libidos.
        On the contrary, I tried to point out, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the difference could well be even higher than 75% – 25%.
        But it wasn’t important so let’s drop it.”

        Sorry, I think I misread your original comment then. My apologies.

        Like

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