She Divorced Me Because I Tried to Fix Her Problems

Discover Your Why Torn Paper Concept

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In nine years of marriage, it’s safe to assume my ex-wife and I ate dinner together between 2,500 and 3,000 times.

We must have talked about things that didn’t upset her sometimes. We must have talked about things that bored her sometimes. Maybe we even talked about things that made her happy.

I don’t remember. Several hundred conversations, and I can’t remember most of them.

It’s hard to remember the moments that never made you feel.

Maybe that’s why the only dinner conversations I remember are the ones involving her saying that she didn’t love me or want to stay married, as well as a few conversations that I’ve retroactively applied emotion to, since I now realize that they’re on the official This is Why I’m Divorced® list along with me sometimes leaving dishes by the sink.

My wife divorced me because when she told me stories about her day, I tried to fix whatever she was telling me was wrong.

And for many people, that will seem sensible—to try to help someone solve a problem they’re having. For many people, the idea of turning a husband trying to help into a marriage problem will seem like the insane actions of an emotionally unstable wife who is always looking for something new to complain about.

I would have agreed with you 10 years ago. I mean, I DID agree with you 10 years ago. Because I agreed with you 10 years ago, I was a shitty husband who accidentally and obliviously sabotaged what could have been, and should have been, a good marriage. (Hint: Which is what almost ALL married people have. Two people who married each other on purpose, thoughtfully, and well-intentioned SHOULD have a good marriage.)

I Didn’t Understand the Why

My wife was telling me stories about her day—about things or people or situations that might have upset her—for ONE reason. Just one.

It was my wife’s way of trying to connect with me. To share her experiences. The ACT OF SHARING the experience with me, and me simply being present and listening to her was THE ENTIRE POINT.

My role was to listen.

When my wife told me about someone that bothered her earlier in the day, I would sometimes tell my wife that I agreed with the other person.

Not only did I deprive her of the connection-building exercise by simply allowing her to speak without judgment, but I piled on more pain and frustration by validating the words or actions of the person that hurt or upset my wife earlier in the day.

Let’s recap:

1. Something happened that my wife experienced as a negative. Someone said or did something that made her feel shitty.

2. The thing that helps her feel better is to tell someone who will listen without judging her for her honest feelings and actual experiences.

3. She wanted to tell the ONE person in the world who promised to love and honor her every day for the rest of her life, and the only other adult who lives under the same roof.

4. I took her outlet for a positive connection-building experience—the thing she needed to do to emotionally move past the shitty day—and made THAT shitty. The thing that is designed to make her feel good became something that actually felt bad.

5. I then took the extra step of sometimes TAKING THE SIDE of her adversary from her story. I sometimes listened to her account of the day’s events, and essentially told her that her response—emotional or behaviorally—was INCORRECT. I literally told her that she did it wrong, and agreed with the other person.

6. All she wanted was for someone who loves her to LISTEN to her. That’s it. Not hard. Just STFU and listen. And after several hundred times of NOT doing that, I ceased to be someone she could trust to confide in. I was no longer a feel-good resource for coping with the ups and downs of adulthood, because hundreds of previous attempts ended badly and painfully for her. She didn’t feel safe anymore. She didn’t trust me anymore. Because safety and trust are two words that don’t always mean what we think they mean.

The most dangerous part of human relationships is how subtle and nuanced these moments are.

The things that erode and eventually destroy that which is most fragile and dear and precious to us tend to be things happening within the blind spots of our daily lives. We’re not being neglectful or irresponsible by not noticing them. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to notice them unless we are actively and mindfully looking for them.

After thousands of conversations with my wife that didn’t go like I thought they would. After, literally, thousands of instances where my wife reacted to me or a situation differently than I would have expected, I NEVER—not one time—set out to really understand the reason behind it.

I was certain—I was so certain that I was right, and therefore, she must have been wrong—that I guess I just kept waiting for her to grow up and see the world as clearly and correctly and smartly as I did.

But she never did.

She finally had enough and left.

And then I cried a lot more than a man probably should and felt sorry for myself.

But then I grew up.

And I began to see the world more clearly. I learned to stop labeling what an individual experiences as being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Because if I was born to their parents and had their identical life experiences, I would say and do and feel all of the exact same things that they do.

Maybe my wife was wrong sometimes, too. Maybe she did things she shouldn’t have done. People ask me about that a lot, suggesting I’m too hard on myself. That there must be another side to the story.

Of course there’s another side. Here it is:

Imagine an alternative reality where when my wife told me stories about her day, I listened, and then told her that I cared about her experiences—that I was so happy when she had good things happen, and that I was so sorry when she had bad things happen—because I loved her and wanted to make sure she knew it. Make sure she felt it, because those are the things we remember.

Imagine if I’d done that.

Maybe all of those theoretical ‘mistakes’ my wife made would have never happened at all.

Just maybe.

Behind every misunderstanding is a reason. Behind every disagreement is a WHY. The Why behind why someone feels a certain way. And when we love the person on the other side of the disagreement—or simply on the other side of the dinner-table conversation—understanding that Why is EVERYTHING.

Find the Why.

Start right now.

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108 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Tried to Fix Her Problems

  1. Rebekah Verbeten says:

    One of the things I like most about your blog is that the topics so often can be applied to ANY human interaction. Parent/child, friends, other family…people are people, and while the stakes change somewhat, the underlying dynamics will be reasonably similar.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amen! One of the most frustrating things in the world is the “fix it” response. We usually just want connection, relationship, empathy, a demonstration of loyalty and affection, even. Don’t ever side with the bad guy in the story, either. That’s really awful.

    Like

  3. Hazel Pino says:

    I think this is why a lot of marriages fall apart or why people build resentment against another person. My ex husband had the same problem. He’d either always side with the other person or simply just not listen. I eventually stopped going to him because how you explained perfectly — “And after several hundred times of NOT doing that, I ceased to be someone she could trust to confide in. I was no longer a feel-good resource for coping with the ups and downs of adulthood,” — I couldn’t had described this more accurately!

    Like

  4. KB says:

    I can see how you get into fit it mode as that is probably your personality and you are thinking “I’ll help this situation by suggesting X”. In reality your spouse is hearing you say” You’re doing it wrong and should be doing X”. There is where the friction occurs and you’re blind to it by your own ego.

    Like

    • Todd W. Clark says:

      Orrr…the friction comes not from the man’s ego, but maybe, just maybe, from the woman’s ego. Ever consider that? I mean, lets get real. When something NEEDS fixing, spouses need and want the thing to get fixed. When its not about the fixing, its about understanding the need to not fix anything, but to listen. Who’s ego is running the show here again?

      Like

      • Matt says:

        Todd.

        I really appreciate you reading and participating in these conversations. But you have to stop with the Man vs. Woman thing. Please.

        I write about male and husband shortcomings because that is MY experience. I’m not going to blindly guess what women and wives think and feel when NOT in the kind of relationships I write about.

        You’re getting super hung up on this Who’s Fault is It? thing. I wish you wouldn’t.

        You (the royal you — not you specifically, Todd) are either someone who WANTS to be married and LOVES your spouse, or you’re not.

        If you (royal you) feel neither of those things, than the things I write are not relevant to your life.

        If you feel both of those things, than you are my intended audience, and my role in the world is to help people identify the accidental pains that they inflict on others.

        This isn’t a bunch of assholes doing asshole things for the sake of asshole-ism.

        This is a bunch of fundamentally decent, well-intentioned people inflicting unintentional (and often unnoticed) pain in ways they would NOT do if they fully understood that a broken family and divorce will eventually emerge from it.

        I’m not interested in fights. Who’s better or worse. Nothing like that.

        I’m interested in people asking: “What more can I give to help my partner or my relationship thrive? Because until I’m doing all that I can or should be, how can I ever know what my partner’s behavior and our relationship would look like when everyone’s needs are being met?”

        Anything less than that?

        It’s bullshit speculation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Todd W. Clark says:

          Matt- Appreciate the appreciation.
          BUT…respectively, I’m not hung up on the M v F aspect, or faults. Want to make that clear, as I did in another response. “I’m not interested in fights. Who’s better or worse. Nothing like that.” DITTO.
          Again, BUT…if the intention is to identify accidental pains that get inflicted, then the ‘2way street’ MUST be included in the discourse. And not to keep quivers loaded, but to empty them.

          Like

  5. Barb Gudgeon says:

    It’s sad when you can’t trust your spouse to listen and understand. The key word is trust, once that is gone, it’s almost impossible to get it back.

    Like

  6. Horsewhisperer87 says:

    Well Matt, just want to say another great blog!!! Please don’t ever stop. I can do u one better than u agreeing with the bad guy in your wife’s stories sometimes. My STBX would save the info and during an argument much later, throw the story in my face. Like “remember when so and so made u mad, well thiat is exactly what u do all the time and u deserve it”. So yeah, I learned not to give him any more “ammunition” and bottled everything up cuz I didn’t trust him not to throw it in my face later when he was trying to hurt me during an argument.
    What would it take to get men to read your blog as I fear mostly women read and we all just nod our head vigorously with tears streaming down our faces?

    Like

    • Rebecca says:

      What would it take to get men to read – I suspect that most of the men who would be willing to read Matt’s blog are precisely the men who DON’T need it, because they already function in a fairly healthy way and aren’t threatened by the idea that there are still things they could learn and do to make their relationships even more awesome. And the men who WOULD benefit the most from the blog in many cases would react negatively to it because they would feel threatened or blamed.

      I shared Matt’s blog while I was still married and fighting as hard as I could to try to get my ex to fight for the marriage too. His response was “That guy’s really harsh!”

      Then I shared Matt’s blog with my ex’’a best friend. That guy and his wife have been married more than 20 years, and it’s a healthy relationship with good communication.

      HIS reaction to Matt’s blog? “Wow, this guy is right on the money!!” Then he proceeded to not only read all of The Shitty Husband letters but then printed them out, had his 14-year-old son read them, and discussed them with his son.

      (Matt, btw, I hope you finish your book soon, but if not, please consider at least putting The Shitty Husband letters in some sort of booklet format that can be purchased. My kids are 6 and 4, so I have a few years before we start really having conversations on this topic, but I do want to share your insights with them.)

      Nod our head vigorously with tears streaming down our faces – that describes me exactly, too. I’m sorry you were made to feel so shitty.

      Like

      • kayelem says:

        Judging from the regular comments from men who read this blog and tell him he is a (insert insult referencing women’s body part) i’d say some who need to read it do so, and it helps not at all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Matt says:

          They only pretend to be “tough guys.”

          They hurt and bleed and fear and cry just like everyone else. They’re just too insecure to own up to it.

          I was exactly the same way. There’s a correlation between being a fake-tough dipshit and ruining marriage.

          Like

          • Todd W. Clark says:

            I dunno Matt. I havent seen the douchey comments, cuz i wont read them. They are worthless. But the ‘kafkatrap’ approach IS a logical fallacy. IE: those that dont agree they are shitty husbands must be shitty husbands. This BS is also worthless, and anyone with half a chipmunks brain can see that.
            As I have written elsewhere, I’m 100% in on the self reflection and look in the mirror approach. Its about the healthiest thing a person can do. For the most part. Until it starts to create cracks that undermine the established pysche. Constantly 2nd guessing oneself is a recipe for disaster.
            That aside, how many women, on here as well as the ‘outside world’ heed this same advice? Specifically, that of gazing into the mirror in order to see an honest person reflecting back…even when that reflection is uncomfortable, or just plain wrong? Not to mention the unbridled irony of the whole ‘its not about fixing it..its about listening & understanding’ approach, all the while looking to fix ‘shitty husbands’.
            I think a shit ton of men have had enough of the so-called bluepill bullshit…specifically, orbiting around womens’ constant adolescent needs and desires, most of which change with the slightest of breezes. The term gynocentrism comes to mind, as does the recent Gillette ‘short film’ hoopla. That type of feminism is just poison, not to mention stupid. Let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR here: this has NOTHING to do with any notions of winning any battles, or forcing women to be submissive in a ‘geisha’ sense. It IS about an honest and open commitment to relationships, child rearing, value systems and the like. The truth is, men have been self-reflecting pretty damn hard the last couple generations. Thats a damn good thing. What have women been doing during that time? Seems to me its been a lot of shifting goalposts. And in order to benefit what? Whom? Timesup indeed, ladies…you want serious relationships, with serious discussions? Then you better be prepared to look in that mirror.

            Like

            • Dylan says:

              To me, a significant part of self reflection has to be how you relate to other people. You can’t just say “I’ve done the work. It’s your problem now.” If you really believe on working on yourself, you should be able to take criticisms and adjust yourself to better fit into the relationships that you value. Obviously, there is a line to draw there, but that is on a case by case basis.

              Like

              • FlyingKal says:

                Matt wrote:
                “They hurt and bleed and fear and cry just like everyone else. They’re just too insecure to own up to it. ”

                And after reading an article about listening without judgment, I must say that comment sounds pretty darn judgmental to me… :)

                There’s a logical fallacy here that basically boils down to: Women always have a reason for what they do or how they behave, men are most often just stupid, mean, or lazy (or any combinatoin thereof).
                By this logic, any critique-worthy behaviour by a woman can be traced to her being poorly treated by a man, sometime, somewhere.

                I can admit I probably was once a shitty husband/boyfriend. But at least I looked in the mirror, listened intently and tried to improve.

                Like

                • Matt says:

                  I’m not inclined to consider how we respond to name-calling internet trolls and how we respond to the person we exchanged marital vows with an apt comparison, Kal.

                  But, touché, I suppose. I am philosophically against being an asshole. Something about red pill-slurping Internet tough guys just brings it out of me, I guess.

                  I guess I don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt without earning it with each individual, but it would be awesome if people would assume that I will always call bullshit on things that are bullshit, regardless of gender, marital status, etc.

                  Everybody suggesting I defend all wives and/or turn a blind eye to less-than-stellar behavior by women in relationships is either being intentionally disingenuous, or is missing a lot of information.

                  Like

                  • FlyingKal says:

                    Matt,
                    Written communication is often difficult.
                    I made a double-take at your comment, but perhaps I misinterpreted the gist of it. I also tried making my point about it somewhat lighthearted or tongue-in-cheek, but the comment and the smiley didn’t come through as I expected it.

                    I least of all consider myself a tough guy, internet or IRL, and I apologize for my misunderstanding.

                    Liked by 1 person

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Kal,

                  You said:

                  “Women always have a reason for what they do or how they behave, men are most often just stupid, mean, or lazy (or any combinatoin thereof).”

                  I am honestly puzzled that a long time reader of Matt’s blog can think that is his message.

                  Imho his message is: Everybody has a reason for what they do.

                  The reasons have to do with our socialization, biology, culture. Etc etc Matt writes of HIS point of view of why he did what he did in his marriage and his thoughts about why his wife did what she did in response.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    So applying that here I am struggling to understand why you point of view based on your personal factors lead to an interpretation of what Matt writes.

                    My guess based on what you have written is that your needs were overlooked as a child. And then your long term relationship was with a woman that made you feel like a piece of furniture despite your efforts.

                    So reading Matt’s blog feels like more of the same to you. I don’t know if that is close but it shows that we have to guess at other people’s point of view.

                    Matt has described his point of view many times. He writes of the man’s flaws (as he experienced it in his relationship it’s not universal to all men even as there are common patterns) because it is what HE experienced.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Kal,

                      Underneath the protests against Matt blaming men is a lot of hurt and anger and pain. At being used and blamed and ignored. At not even an acknowledgement from your ex that SHE contributed anything to the problems.

                      So much of anger in these blog comments imho are frustration and years of pain.

                      It’s especially hard to understand someone else’s point of view when we are flooded with our own past and current pain and little hope for a different future in which we will be deeply loved and respected.

                      At least all of this is true for me anyway.

                      Like

                    • FlyingKal says:

                      Gottmanfan,
                      My “rant” about how men and women, and our actions, are viewed differently was mostly aimed at what Dylan wrote:
                      “If you really believe on working on yourself, you should be able to take criticisms and adjust yourself to better fit into the relationships that you value.”

                      There comes a point, for quite a lot of people, when they realise that whatever criticism I take and whatever adjustments I do will never be enough to fit in the way my partner want me to.

                      Per some people’s definition, I was probably a shitty boyfriend. Not for lack of trying, but for my inability to connect, and figure out what she really wanted.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Kal,

                      Thanks for the clarification Kal. These threads are hard for me to keep track of which comments are responses to other comments.

                      By my definition of a shitty partner you don’t really meet the definition of a shitty partner.

                      Not to say that you didn’t have things to improve (as we all do).

                      You know what my definition of a shitty partner is? It’s in alignment with Gottman’s research. Someone who refuses to admit they have things to change and who doesn’t work on them in a cooperative attitude.

                      It doesn’t sound like you were in that category. It sounds to me like your ex partner was. Which is why you relate to Rebecca’s descriptions of her side of the relationship.

                      It takes two people willing to do the hard work of owning their shit and trying to change. Imho it is the willingness to do the work to change to get better relationship skills and become a healthier adult that is the difference between a good partner and a shitty one.

                      Imho it’s not as much about where you start from. Some people are lucky enough to start at 2nd base while the rest of us have to work harder.

                      What REALLY makes a shitty partner is someone who won’t acknowledge the changes needed or just half asses efforts to change.

                      Usually those people then blame the other partner for expecting too much or not being grateful for what they get. Sigh

                      Like

                    • Dylan says:

                      My response to Todd’s (your?) post was trying to be a reasoned response to what I read as some MRA bullshit that blanketly blames all women (i.e. blue pill, gynocentrism). I also took care to not make my response gendered. Every relationship is different, so I don’t pretend that what I said applies to everybody. Like I said, lines have to be drawn, and it seems like you rightfully drew one.

                      Liked by 1 person

              • Todd W. Clark says:

                Again..I guess i dunno…i must have a blind spot from all my red pill slurping, MRA bullshit, and internet toughguying. Funny, tho, as I am none of that, nor do I consider myself influenced by any of it.
                Ya know…this is a good site..it seems to be about dialogue and conversation. Except when dialogue and conversation ends up being ridiculed or just plain ol shut down. I believe I mentioned men have been doing a shitton of self reflection the last few decades. Maybe not enough, but anyone who would deny that’s the case is delusional.
                So my point is/was that, often times (aka the default position), for the most part marriage counseling, blogs, and, yes, feminism, takes the position that men need to self reflect in order to ‘do better’. And, more importantly I think, to show they are willing to do so and facilitate change when warranted to improve relationships, et al.. No doubt this is beneficial to all: men, women, children, therefore society. No argument whatsoever. Can we all agree on this? I would think so. Then I really wonder why bringing into the dialogue those aspects of the conversation that focus on where men don’t need to change is so quickly derided? And…get ready for it! Where women DO need to change (gasp!). Why is this unequivocally considered MRA bullshit? Or whataboutism? Or some other equally derogatory slight? Absolutely men are afraid, hurt and in pain. Wht TF is this the case? Seems to me thats a pretty goddamned significant part of this conversation, is it not? Are men, good, honest, loving men, just supposed to endlessly capitulate to the women in their lives? And if so, in order for that to be healthy, wouldnt that need to be predicated on a presupposition that pretty much all women are at least angelic enough that this would warrant being the case? Now…does ANYONE believe this IS the case? Cuz it aint. For the record, and again to be absolutely clear: none of this is getting hung up on any “battle of the sexes” BS. What it IS, is introducing into the conversation that EVERYONE be held accountable, and that doing so in good faith and honesty is the endgame. If thats slurping red pills, then keep em coming…because that conversation is the future, and more importantly by many of orders of magnitude, it is the pursuit of Truth.
                Thats about all i can muster atm, as ive been shoveling snow, raising sons, and providing for a family. But there is more to this conversation…I wonder what sort of response, if any, will occur.

                Like

                • Matt says:

                  Todd. You did the same thing Kal did.

                  You made my comment about you. Not about you. Promise.

                  Upthread, Kayelem made a comment about dickbags who have graced these comments through the years.

                  They were not in ANY way adding to the conversation. Regardless of whether you and I agree on stuff, your thoughts and ideas are welcome and appreciated.

                  Anyway, MY comments about red pill slurpers were about THOSE guys. Past tense guys who are not in this comment thread.

                  Not you. Not Kal.

                  Like

                  • I don’t give him that much credit.
                    And I’m not trying to be antagonistic, but honestly-
                    His words stated that men- (apparently all
                    men everywhere) have done the work, and if there is disagreement one is delusional.
                    Isn’t that sort of statement THE POINT of “the work”?? And shows the lack of it?

                    I don’t buy that this guy isn’t a red piller looking for a place to spread someone else’s thoughts that validate his own pain.

                    But this is your blog. I’m not trying to disrespect you or anyone else.
                    Just responding to what seemed obvious to me.

                    Like

                • Todd,
                  You seem intelligent. Perhaps sincere?
                  I honestly don’t know if your questions come out of a sincere (albeit frustrated) place or not, so I apologize if I didn’t give your comment enough consideration.
                  I am doing so now.

                  I likely shouldn’t begin by commenting on the “issues” I have with several parts of your comment.
                  That can seem critical and antagonistic.

                  But I do have a few.

                  Perhaps we can dialog and flesh them out.

                  I don’t see a lot of “shut down” here on this site, so I’m not sure where you are seeing it , and I can’t promise that I wouldn’t chose to disengage at some point (because I am not that great at not shutting down, personally…but I also don’t comment a lot, lol, so…)
                  But I can promise to end the conversation politely and with respect, even if no resolution.

                  What I’m gathering from your comment is you feel like the conversation is heavily weighted towards focusing on what men do wrong in relationships, and there is not enough attention paid to what women do wrong in relationships.
                  Is this correct?

                  And the explanations that have been previously stated seem to you an attempt to disregard this concern, and in some ways say it isn’t an issue?

                  Like

            • Todd W. Clark says:

              Again..I guess i dunno…i must have a blind spot from all my red pill slurping, MRA bullshit, and internet toughguying. Funny, tho, as I am none of that, nor do I consider myself influenced by any of it.
              Ya know…this is a good site..it seems to be about dialogue and conversation. Except when dialogue and conversation ends up being ridiculed or just plain ol shut down. I believe I mentioned men have been doing a shitton of self reflection the last few decades. Maybe not enough, but anyone who would deny that’s the case is delusional.
              So my point is/was that, often times (aka the default position), for the most part marriage counseling, blogs, and, yes, feminism, takes the position that men need to self reflect in order to ‘do better’. And, more importantly I think, to show they are willing to do so and facilitate change when warranted to improve relationships, et al.. No doubt this is beneficial to all: men, women, children, therefore society. No argument whatsoever. Can we all agree on this? I would think so. Then I really wonder why bringing into the dialogue those aspects of the conversation that focus on where men don’t need to change is so quickly derided? And…get ready for it! Where women DO need to change (gasp!). Why is this unequivocally considered MRA bullshit? Or whataboutism? Or some other equally derogatory slight? And what is so evil about discussing gynocentrism or the use of metaphors like blue pill/red pill? Are they so heretical as to be banished, despite being useful and elucidating?
              Absolutely men are afraid, hurt and in pain. Wht TF is this the case? Seems to me thats a pretty goddamned significant part of this conversation, is it not? Are men, good, honest, loving men, just supposed to endlessly capitulate to the women in their lives? And if so, in order for that to be healthy, wouldnt that need to be predicated on a presupposition that pretty much all women are at least angelic enough that this would warrant being the case? Now…does ANYONE believe this IS the case? Cuz it aint. For the record, and again to be absolutely clear: none of this is getting hung up on any “battle of the sexes” BS. What it IS, is introducing into the conversation that EVERYONE be held accountable, and that doing so in good faith and honesty is the endgame. If thats slurping red pills, then keep em coming…because that conversation is the future, and more importantly by many of orders of magnitude, it is the pursuit of Truth.
              Thats about all i can muster atm, as ive been shoveling snow, raising sons, and providing for a family. But there is more to this conversation…I wonder what sort of response, if any, will occur.

              Like

    • Dylan says:

      I can say there is at least one shitty husband here reading and trying to be better. Hopefully not too late.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. […] via She Divorced Me Because I Tried to Fix Her Problems — Must Be This Tall To Ride […]

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  8. Louie says:

    Connecting during these times are extremely important when being that best friend. I will admit that after our nearly 35 years of marriage maturing to a level of understanding that applies here is a challenge. Many times during our moments alone we have ” let off steam” to each other. Are those subjects of particular interest to the listening spouse ? not always…have we always shown empathy towards our spouse for their issue? not always…but have we grown to realize the importance of letting our spouse vent ?…oh yes! Our extended family dynamic is an ever changing subject matter supply source for these vents, they become like mythology’s Hydra. At times neither of us wants to hear the in law atrocities, the sibling rants, the rude cashier epic, or the coworker/ boss bilge. But at those times of frustration we realize we are being safe harbors for each other, places where understanding is free flowing and comfort is majestic. Sometimes I roll my eyes and that’s hurtful…I apologize, sometimes (like last night) Anne will get so caught up with the emotion of her rant that she slips and takes it out on me. I have broad shoulders I take it but let her know I’m not the bad guy and to back off…she apologizes. We’re pretty good at reading each other. We’re grown ups we handle this as grown ups and behave like grown ups. We know that the only thing we can make better for the other is what we can make better. We support and defend each other. We have each other’s back , we hold each other’s hand, we walk lock step. During times when malaise is brought to our family I’m generally the “blow my stack”take swift stern decisive action guy,Anne is the voice of reason..the calmer heads prevail person the don’t borrow trouble Angel. I’m certain we work well like that. I know she’s saved me from breaking a few laws. She has my back❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • FlyingKal says:

      You’re a good guy, Louie. Better than the most of us.
      But likewise important, as you point out, you walk lock step and have each other’s backs.

      Expecting virtually unlimited patience for yourventing from your spouse while only giving crumbs in return, I’m sure would wear down most people pretty quickly.
      My ex-gf would litterally keep talking/venting/blowing off steam in my direction until I somehow interrupted her. Every single day when we met at home after work, I got the feeling that she was happy to see me that lasted for about 5-10 seconds. After that I just became a dumping ground for her general negative outlook. And it wasn’t even that she was unhappy or dissatisfied with her job. On the contrary she probably would’ve been just as glad to be working 24h a day, as she most often would go pick upp her laptop and read her job e-mails when I couldn’t take any more of it.

      On the flip side, any kind of frustration that I occasionally felt the need to vent, she was very quick to shut down, telling me to stop crying and either deal with it or just get over it.

      Like

  9. gottmanfan says:

    I just read Ellyn Bader talking about the urge to problem solve for the following reasons. Curious if others relate to the motivations she lists.

    “There are many reasons partners move quickly into problem solving. A few are:

    They tend to be cognitive and intellectual and want fast solutions.

    They are defensive and don’t want to feel blamed.

    They disagree totally with their partner’s perspective and are trying to provide a “better, quicker solution” – and often one that doesn’t mean getting involved in messy emotions.

    They move into problem-solving to avoid “emotional contagion.” Problem solving is a safe way to avoid being pulled into the anger or sadness their partner is expressing.”

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Although it is stereotypically husbands who are the problem solvers instead of validating, it’s one of my issues.

      I think problem solving can be incredibly helpful but only after validating and making sure the emotional safety is there and the other person wants to move into problem solving mode.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Nothing frustrates me more than hearing someone complain about the same stuff over and over without making any effort to change something so I get the frustration that sometimes leads people to skip the emotional validating.

        Or the difficulty in just accepting the other person is entitled as an adult to do things that seem stupid or wrong to us.

        Like

        • Ttravis says:

          Gottman fan, I’m with you on that. I’m on my way to work now, so don’t have time for long note, but my question for the group is this: what about when your partner is talking about something upsetting and they DID handle it obviously wrong? Like, boss got angry at them for blowing another deadline so they hid the office coffee pot as retaliation. Or went out at lunchtime and got high so I could calm down. Or quit my job. (Not that this ever happens!) Do we sympathize with and validate everything that goes with that?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Rebecca says:

            I’m one of the commenters who talked about my ex not acknowledging my feelings or validating them. First off, I will say I’m in complete agreement about how frustrating it is when someone complains about something repeatedly and yet never does anything about it.

            With regards to your question, I would say the approach that I would probably take is to acknowledge and validate their feelings (I’m NOT saying validate their actions) in the moment when they are telling you about it. “Wow, I can see how upset you were in that situation (acknowledgment). You must have been feeling very angry/frustrated/disappointed/annoyed (validation).” And then at a later point in the day or the next day, when some time has passed, say “Hey, I was thinking more about what you said happened yesterday at work. It’s clear from what you said that you were very upset. What made you decide to handle it by hiding the coffee pot? Do your boss and co-workers often do things like that when they get upset?” Or “I’m concerned about you getting high in the middle of the work day. How can I help so that you don’t have to turn to that as an outlet for your feelings?” (Assuming that’s the first time it’s happened. If that’s happened multiple times, obviously there’s a bigger issue that this kind of conversation won’t solve.)

            So that second conversation works on getting to the “Why” and the understanding that Matt was talking about.

            And certainly there are times when my ex (or others) have disagreed with my response to something and communicated that to me. Sometimes it has changed my perspective, other times not. But regardless of whether my feelings seem right to someone else or not, I still have a right to them. They are mine.

            I read something written by a psychologist that said feelings aren’t good or bad, right or wrong. They’re just bits of information regarding how we’re experiencing what is happening to us. When someone refuses to acknowledge that – or worse, disagrees with it – it’s extremely painful. For example, I used to tell my ex that I felt unloved, unwanted, and undesired by him, and that if I was to suddenly be swapped out with someone else who brought home the same paycheck as me and did the same chores as me (didn’t even have to be another female, as he expressed no interest in sex and often refused my advances), I felt like he wouldn’t even notice. He would completely invalidate those feelings by flat-out saying “Your feelings are wrong.” And that was the end of the discussion as far as he was concerned. He was right, and I was wrong. Hence, we are now divorced. And as far as he’s concerned, he’s still right, I’m still wrong, and I wronged him even further by not being willing to continue for another 20 years with the way things were.

            Liked by 1 person

            • gottmanfan says:

              Rebecca,

              You said:

              “He would completely invalidate those feelings by flat-out saying “Your feelings are wrong.” “

              It is hard for me to understand that some people have seemingly NO IDEA how destructive this is to a relationship.

              But it is sadly common.

              I am so sorry. 😢

              Like

              • Matt says:

                More than common, I think.

                I think it’s typical. I think it’s more often than not, because it happens in every kind of relationship (family, business, social, etc.)

                We’re cretins.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Matt,

                  We took a DBT class that taught explicit steps of how to validate someone.

                  It opened my eyes that my husband **DID NOT KNOW** how to do what I thought were basic human things in response to strong emotions. Like saying “I am sorry you are feeling x” “ what can I do to help?”

                  This surprised me because he is able to navigate complex human relationships extraordinarily well in other contexts like work and certain family.

                  It sounds like you had similar skills to get along well with people.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    So the critical issue is being willing to admit we are NOT good and being willing to learn.

                    Far emotionally easier to just get defensive especially when we think we are objectively “right”.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Matt says:

                      Yes. Maturity and humility I didn’t possess in my 20s or even early 30s.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      In my experience the older you get the more stuff you learn you need to learn

                      – and get even more maturity and humility.

                      But at least you know you don’t know stuff. 😜

                      I do think there are many lucky people who are pretty good at relationship stuff including acknowledging they need their learn more because they have been taught early or especially seen it modeled in their family relationships.

                      Most of us have some good stuff but are missing key things we don’t know we are missing.

                      Some people see it when they have kids.

                      Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    gottmanfan and Matt (I suppose you will see this),

                    ‘It opened my eyes that my husband **DID NOT KNOW** how to do what I thought were basic human things in response to strong emotions.’

                    I suppose you have heard that when you assume  something it makes an ass  out of u (you) and me. Unfortunately, assumption seems to be a commonality in the comments I see so far here from most of the women. Assumptions that men should know this or do that. Does it ever cross anyone’s mind that men really may not know what you think they should know? Or that they may forget even if they’ve been told dozens of times. Is it really possible that a mature adult does not realize that men and women generally think quite differently? So your spouse’s thinking is very likely not what you think it should be?

                    What really irks me is that the spouse is blamed for their ignorance. In my opinion, the greater fault belongs to the blaming spouse, not the ignorant one. If you love someone, you should be gracious enough to allow for their ignorance.

                    Going to the point of the original post, I will give my perspective on how men usually want to respond to a problem by providing a solution. I believe that the vast majority of men will do that as their default behavior. When my wife, during my marriage, told me about a problem, I really, really wanted to provide a solution, rather than listen, validate, etc. as I had been taught multiple times. It was still incredibly difficult to try to listen, validate, etc. even when I remembered I should because it never really made sense to me. That is why I think recognizing and allowing for the differences between spouses is a key. It is not going to help a marriage to increase your resentment every time your spouse fails to behave ideally.

                    One practical action that helped in my marriage was for my wife to begin her sharing with a reminder that she wanted me to listen, not provide a solution. If one wants the marriage to work, then it would be smart to ask for what you want, rather than assume they will remember to do what you want.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      “Is it really possible that a mature adult does not realize that men and women generally think quite differently? So your spouse’s thinking is very likely not what you think it should be? “

                      Maybe my comment was not clear. I do not think validation is a gender thing though socialization often includes some training and different rewards for some social skills that may differ by gender on average. (And perhaps some nature too?)

                      But to your point about gender differences I am equally puzzled that my sister does not seem be able to perform **basic validation** either.

                      These are basic things that adults should be able to do as part of audulting in relationships. There are certainly style differences but that is not what I am talking about.

                      I am more amazed by the husband because as I said he has excellent people skills in many settings. However this does not include knowing how to deal with strong emotions in certain settings. It’s something he had to learn to deal with our kids emotions and to his credit he did because he saw the need for it.

                      (For example he would just wordlessly walk away from our crying or angry kid). He was open to my suggestions on how to handle things in a way that would help them with their emotions and problem solve as necessary.

                      The need for change in our relationship was not as obvious to him for a variety of reasons. And I had my own areas of relationship skill deficits that he could describe his amazement at too.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      You said:

                      “That is why I think recognizing and allowing for the differences between spouses is a key.”

                      I agree 100%.

                      The trick imho is to be open to and working to change while also accommodating inevitable differences.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      “It was still incredibly difficult to try to listen, validate, etc. even when I remembered I should because it never really made sense to me.”

                      I go through this literally every day with my kids, especially my daughter so I hear you.

                      As I said to Ken imho it is not that most women just want people to listen and do nothing else.

                      Interactive listening and validating as detailed in the DBT excepts I quoted are what most humans want in some form or another.

                      (I love some good collaborative problem solving! I don’t love people assuming I need them to tell me what to do in a parental way. I don’t think men like that either.)

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      You said:

                      “What really irks me is that the spouse is blamed for their ignorance. In my opinion, the greater fault belongs to the blaming spouse, not the ignorant one. If you love someone, you should be gracious enough to allow for their ignorance.”

                      Imho it is our job to become adults with competence in basic relationship skills. If we need to improve it is our job to do so. When our spouse points out an area that needs improvement it is our job to consider that seriously and do all we can to get better skills.

                      Ignorance is fine as a starting point. We all have deficits. Ignorance is not fine as a destination.

                      And of course I agree that the spouse should not be “blaming” or critical when pointing out deficits. Most people soften if they can see serious attempts are being made to change.

                      Also we are all ignorant of what makes our spouse feel loved and respected. It is our job in a relationship to work to educate ourselves to become competent.

                      Many of us are even ignorant of what we need to become mature adults. And that too needs to change.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • OKRickety says:

                      “And of course I agree that the spouse should not be “blaming” or critical when pointing out deficits.”

                      Blaming is very much what I perceive in the comments, primarily by the women. And I very much doubt that they are pointing out deficits in a loving fashion, either.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Well I freely confess it is one of my skill deficits I am working to improve. Gottman calls this a “soft start up” for what it’s worth.

                      Usually there is an interactive system of skill deficits, errors and immaturity to cocreate a shitty marriage.

                      Are you good at presenting something you are upset about in a non blaming non critical way or is that something you are working on too?

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      “Are you good at presenting something you are upset about in a non blaming non critical way or is that something you are working on too?”

                      Probably not good at it, but that’s largely irrelevant now as I have very few relationships. There are certainly no romantic relationships (the state I plan to remain in).

                      I doubt I was good at doing it during my marriage. However, I think the bigger problem was that at some point, after mostly failures in resolving issues, I gave up trying. And, as I’ve said before, she seldom tried to express her own complaints.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      You said:

                      “One practical action that helped in my marriage was for my wife to begin her sharing with a reminder that she wanted me to listen, not provide a solution. If one wants the marriage to work, then it would be smart to ask for what you want, rather than assume they will remember to do what you want.”

                      I agree with this too. Clearly asking for what you would like is important. Clarity in your own mind is important and clear communication is definitely important.

                      It is when there is clarity and it is met with defensiveness and stonewalling or passivity or control that is the issue Matt was speaking to.

                      (And on the other side it’s important to not be overly critical or harsh or controlling when asking for what you would like.)

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      “It is when there is clarity and it is met with defensiveness and stonewalling or passivity or control that is the issue Matt was speaking to.”

                      I perceive Matt’s point to be much different, and, most specifically, it is not an emphasis on clarity. He ends the post with this:

                      “Behind every misunderstanding is a reason. Behind every disagreement is a WHY. The Why behind why someone feels a certain way. And when we love the person on the other side of the disagreement—or simply on the other side of the dinner-table conversation—understanding that Why is EVERYTHING.

                      Find the Why. Start right now.”

                      If one doesn’t know “the Why”, then there is no clarity to be met.

                      How does one find out “the Why”? Looking at the post more closely, I don’t see that Matt’s wife ever told him “the Why”, that he was not providing what she needed. Oh, he says she reacted differently than he expected. That’s not telling him “the Why”. It seems reasonable from this distance  that he should have asked why. But, suppose, for whatever reason, he does not do this. If she is dissatisfied with the relationship and wants it to improve, doesn’t she have a responsibility to communicate “the Why”? Why, as Matt seems to consistently do, make it incumbent on the husband to be the one to figure out “the Why” and make the change?

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I agree the WHY is emphasized.

                      I think finding the why is important. It’s an important part of becoming competent in dealing with yourself and your spouse as I mentioned in a previous comment.

                      I was thinking of the part where Matt describes how he responded to his wife in conversation. He didn’t respond with good skills as he acknowledges.

                      We have both read a lot of Matt’s posts over the last couple of years. He detailed in other posts that his wife did express her dissatisfaction and ask for specific changes like activities together or reading books or trying to repair the hospital thing etc.

                      I have no doubt that his wife had her own skill deficits to bring to the table. But as Matt explains it it’s not that she didn’t **try** to communicate the WHY and ask for change.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      “… “his wife did express her dissatisfaction and ask for …”.

                      Honestly, I don’t perceive he has often stated this. I often find the posts difficult to read (I don’t like the writing style) but I would think I would remember it.

                      Quick commenting tip (unsolicited, I know): <b>bolded text</b> results in this: bolded text.     I’m not saying it’s easier than **try** but it is more elegant.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I’m curious why you read Matt’s blog since you don’t like the writing style and don’t seem to agree with many of his points or approach and you don’t intend to pursue another long term relationship.

                      I used to read certain relationship blogs that I disagreed with much of it and decided it wasn’t worth my time anymore.

                      What keeps you coming back here to read and comment? (Not trying to challenge just curious)

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      1. The posts and comments give me insight into what people think is important about relationships.
                      2. Some comments, especially yours, provide useful insights and information that might be useful if someone wants my personal advice.
                      3. I cling, probably in vain, to the idea that my comments might actually help someone else.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      You said:

                      3. “I cling, probably in vain, to the idea that my comments might actually help someone else.”

                      My unsolicited advice would be that you can help someone else by using your considerable intelligence and introspection and writing and font skills 😀 to share what you did wrong to co-create a shitty marriage. Your story is different than Matt’s and some people may relate to yours more. So rather than opposing Matt’s you could ADD yours.

                      I can understand regretting your marriage in light of the pain of how it ended. It is sad to me that you have given up any thoughts of future relationships. Not because people can’t be happy single but because it appears you have given up hope of having close relationship in general (including close friendships?).

                      I think this blog and its comments can be helpful to process and reevaluate the past so we can make changes to have a different more hopeful future. To not keep repeating old patterns or give up trying.

                      Unsolicited advice over. See here I demonstrate my default to unsolicited problem solving. I hope it didn’t come off critically since that was not my intention.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      Share about my marriage to help others? Hmmm…. (noise of thinking) … maybe, but I’m not convinced. I do have a blog, so far only used to allow easier commenting, but I have considered actually using it eventually. …(noise of thinking) ….

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I just looked over the last year’s worth of posts and still consider that Matt has very seldom stated that his wife specifically expressed her discontent or said what she wanted. I have a suspicion that this is a gender difference, that women read it and think it’s obvious she did, but men read it and have their doubts.

                      Bonus reason on why I read this blog sometimes: It reminds me that relationship expectations today are ridiculously high, and I would be an idiot to even consider entering into one with the odds that exist.

                      Not that I can change it now, but, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I would never get married. I greatly regret it.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      “I have a suspicion that this is a gender difference, that women read it and think it’s obvious she did, but men read it and have their doubts.”

                      In the three years I have been reading there are very specific things that Matt has written his wife asked for to express her unhappiness with the status quo.

                      Small things like the meaning of dismissing a glass left by the sink and bigger things like leaving her crying in the hospital after she asked him to stay with her after a csection.

                      She asked him to read a relationship book and he did not do so or offer an alternative. She told him she was unhappy and not in love anymore and he chose to respond to that by moving in to the guest room for 18 months.

                      Perhaps it would make sense to ask your question to Matt directly if you think there is some kind of interpretative difference. Maybe he would find it a good idea for a post if you think it is not clear to men.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I forgot to say that I looked at all of the posts in the last year and I consider it is seldom stated indirectly, much less directly.

                      If you, one of the few here who seems to have a less woman good, man bad  understanding of the dynamics of relationships, don’t think it’s possibly a difference in understanding due to gender, then I don’t believe Matt would, either. I sometimes use you as a soundingboard as I respect your opinion. (In other words, I objectify you. :) )

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I am sure there is a difference in how people read his blog based on our own point of view, knowledge, experiences including gender. I often relate to some of the “man’s side” (the problem solving fix it default for example) as well as some of the “woman’s side” so it is not universal in how individuals read it regardless of gender imho.

                      Where we were disagreeing is that there were not objective things that Matt has said his wife did to express her unhappiness and specific things she asked for.

                      I do know there are a subset of people who don’t speak up and don’t clearly state what they are thinking/feeling and ask clearly for what they want to change. This imho includes a lot of women and a lot of men too. I don’t believe Matt’s wife is in that category per what Matt has written.

                      The most common gendered pattern is the female pursue for change and the male withdraw. This seems to me the pattern of Matt’s marriage which is why so many (though not all) people relate to it.

                      In that pattern the female does speak up and ask for change (though often not using “soft startups” but critically) and the male responds defensively or passively. The cycle intensifies and gets worse over time. That is imho what Matt is describing.

                      There are other subsets of patterns that do not fit the most common pattern so some of the commenters think that Matt is not “right” because he is not describing what they experienced.

                      Or they find it difficult to see their dysfunctional contributions to the system because the things their spouse did were dysfunctional and they only focus on that.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Matt says:

                      Nailed it. ❤️

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • FlyingKal says:

                    Gottmanfan,
                    Wow!
                    (I tried to “like” your post, but I think there’s some blocker-setting in my browser preventing that.)

                    Anyway, I feel like I’m A LOT like your husband.
                    I want to connect emotionally to other people, and I’m really trying, but I don’t know how. Like I was never taught how or given the right tools for it.

                    At the same time, I feel like my relationship was a gender-swapped version of what Rebecca just described above. I think I spent most of our 5 years together feeling unloved and undesired by my girlfriend, but yet somehow she seemed to want me to be there like I was some kind of appliance and/or represented some kind of stability or familiarity in her life?

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Hi Kal,

                      From what I have observed in your comments here you are a kind person who has a lot of interpersonal skills.

                      All of us have things we need to learn and improve of course.

                      My unsolicited take from what you have described of your relationship it seems to me it was more about not recognizing you were being treated poorly by her and standing up for yourself.

                      That can be difficult when you don’t have the modeling or were not taught how to do it. When you don’t know what “normal” looks like. And especially difficult when the person you love is telling you it’s your fault instead of working together.

                      I have no doubt that you can learn whatever you need to connect. The hard part might be healing from the self doubt that your previous relationship has left in your mind. But that too can be learned. 😀

                      You come across here as such a warm and friendly person who has a lot to give someone.

                      Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            I think I am learning is the key is HOW and when you disagree or give feedback or set boundaries.

            To remember that this is someone you love who you are speaking to.
            Instead of turning it into a debate of who is right or wrestling for control. Or responding with contempt etc.

            What do you think?

            Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              Gottmanfan,
              I am replying to your other post here, just above this one, because the other one ran out of nesting…

              You are much too patient and kind with me, as usual.

              Yes, I would very much like to learn to connect.
              I’ve probably said this more than once before, but I grew up in a small village. i was the youngest in my family, and the smallest kid in the neighborhood. I learned early on in my family to “wait for my turn” to speak, and when I finally did no-one was really interested what I had to say anyway, just as long as I did what I was told.
              Playing with the other kids, I learned to play along the rules of others’, or not play at all. And as an adult, meeting and dating rather assertive women (“I run my race until someone stops me”), I’ve learned that merely pleading and/or asking for what I want won’t really get me anywhere. Even if we discuss the subject several times and seem to agree about it.

              Like

              • Rebecca says:

                FlyingKal,
                I don’t know much of your story, only what I’ve seen in the comments you and Gottman have exchanged here. You mentioned in one of your comments that your relationship sounded like the reverse of mine.

                Certainly we all have things to work on (definitely myself included!) but from what you’ve said, I’m not sure the issue is just that YOU have trouble connecting. It may be that the person (or people) you’re wanting to connect with are not open/available to the kind of connection you want. And in those cases, no matter what you do and no matter how hard you try, you can never make a connection happen entirely on your own. Connection always has to be a two-way effort.

                I would highly recommend Jonice Webb’s books, Running on Empty and Running on Empty No More. She writes about something called Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it impacts our relationships, and how to heal it. I suggest starting with the second book or the practical steps part of the first book. The 10 different types of parents are interesting but probably only a couple types will apply to any one childhood, so I found the rest of them interesting but not as helpful as other parts of the book.

                You might also consider doing a little research on Avoidant Personality Disorder. What you wrote about your girlfriend liking having you around like an appliance sounds like a characteristic of AvPD, which my ex was diagnosed with through extensive testing. They like having someone’s presence, but aren’t comfortable interacting with the person in a typical way. When I learned that, it explained so much about why I felt like I could just be swapped out and he never would have even noticed!

                Overall it sounds like you are at least somewhat self-aware and are wanting to work on yourself. Those are HUGE things. I wish you the best.

                Liked by 1 person

                • FlyingKal says:

                  Hi Rebecca,
                  I have also considered the “It’s not me, it’s them” angle of my inability to connect. And in some cases I absolutely believe so, too. Sheer probability would at least say so. But in my case it is consistent enough, over time, over different social situations, and over different groups of people, that I’ve come to be certain that the bulk of the problem is resting on my own shoulders.
                  I won’t bore you with examples, but I have loads and loads of experience. For instance being at different kind of social gatherings, where my friends are striking up conversations left and right with people they’ve never met before or with friends of friends, but where I’ve been met with one cold shoulder after the other.

                  Thank you so much for your kind words and for your recommendations, I will absolutely seek them out and study what can be applied to my situation.

                  Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              Gottmanfan, again-
              You wrote
              “That can be difficult when you don’t have the modeling or were not taught how to do it. When you don’t know what “normal” looks like.”

              But I should know what “normal” looks like. I see it all around me, almost every day. People, couples, respectfully listening to each other and honoring their agreements. People being able to read between the lines and helping each other figure out what their partner really mean, and really want. And I can’t believe I am so stupid, I am observing and learning but I just can’t figure it out!

              “And especially difficult when the person you love is telling you it’s your fault instead of working together.”

              TBH, The situation was not so much that she blamed me, but that she didn’t take my requests or “complaints” seriously. As an example, I think I’ve described here before how she had the habit of changing her mind about our vacation plans in the last minute. She also had the habit of ignoring or conveniently “forgetting” about any agreements that we made upon my requests. Repeatedly. About things like date nights, dinners, dance evenings. (Really anything that involved us doing things together as a couple.)
              Like, making love (I’m sorry if this is “too much information” territory).
              I gave her lots of attention and effort ( if that is the right word?), to make sure she was well satisfied, and after each time, more or less, she would say that it was soo godd and rethorically ask why we didn’t do this more often. Yet, trying to initiate something and seduce her, often felt like asking her to go to the dentist! Because she was so busy and had so much on her mind, like watching something on TV, or thinking about her mothers birthday in 3 weeks, or whatever. Or of course that I only had one thing on my mind. Because the last time we did it was only 2-3-4 weeks ago. The list can go on and on. Point is that I was never asking at the right time, or in the right way.
              I know I’m not very coherent when broaching this subject, and I’ve been snickered at a lot of times when I’ve brought it up, because this is presumably yet another area where it is so easy for a man to keep a woman satisfied with the smallest amount of effort and consideration. But for some reason I actually kept a diary or journal for the last part of my relationship. And I have shared some examples, very few and far between, with a few other people both men and women. Some reactions have of course been “Holy schmuck, what did you do to make her treat you like this?” but most of them have been “Holy schmuck, why did you stay so long with that?”.
              And the answer is that popular media tells us how easy it is for a man to please a woman. Basically, just be an adult, i.e. pull your own weight and don’t be a slob, and she’ll be all over you like flies on honey…
              So, I thought it was my fault. That if I just tried a little bit harder, at whatever I tried to do, at whatever she wanted me to do, then I could have that relationship I’ve always dreamed about. Two people sharing, agreeing and working together for mutual fun and satisfaction. But it’s difficult when you are constantly reminded that you really don’t know what the goals and enjoyments are for the other person.

              *sigh*
              I apologize for the wall of text. It’s over midnight here and I guess I got a little carried away.

              Like

              • Rebecca says:

                Kal,
                I hope you do have a chance to read those books and that they shed some new light for you. I’m not sure that what you’re describing about parties is inability to connect. I connect with people, but I’m also socially awkward and shy and will never be a person who enjoys initiating conversations with strangers at social gatherings. I’m much more comfortable in one-on-one events or with small groups of friends where we all know each other. Oh, well, it is what it is. Some people are super social, some people are not. I fall into the “are not” group, and I’m okay with that.

                Your last round of comments to Gottmanfan also mirrors my marriage in so many ways. You’re frustrated that you can’t figure out how to make your relationship be “normal”. Here’s what I’m observing from your comments: You express a need, she agrees with doing something to meet that need, and then she “forgets” and reverts back to her default behavior.

                And then as a result, your brain is sitting there going “She said one thing but did another = does not compute. I don’t understand what happened. I must figure out what part of the equation I’m missing that will make that compute.” And what winds up happening is you land on an “It must be me, because I can’t figure out what is causing the disparity.”

                When in reality, the disparity is that you are dealing with someone who says one thing but does another. Her actions are not congruent with her words. And whatever it is that is causing that incongruity, that’s within her, and it has nothing to do with you.

                My ex used to tell me that he enjoyed sex with me and wanted sex with me, but he would almost never initiate. (By almost never, I mean less than 20 times in total, in more than 20 years of marriage.) And a lot of times when I would initiate, he’d turn me down. Our last Valentine’s Day before we separated, our kids (toddlers at the time) were at his parents house. It was a rare quiet morning to ourselves. I wanted to make love. He thought we should clean the toilets. Said one thing, did another. More than 20 years of living with that broke me.

                “trying to initiate something and seduce her, often felt like asking her to go to the dentist” – I soooo relate to this! My ex and I were high school sweethearts and got married in college. We were both virgins, so I had no idea that what things between us were like wasn’t typical. It wasn’t until my next intimate relationship that I had any idea that it could be so completely different.

                Ultimately, what I’m still learning (I’m a slow learner sometimes) is that no matter how much I wanted to connect with my ex, I can’t do the work for both of us. And he isn’t willing to or able to for whatever reason. And ultimately the reason doesn’t matter, because the reason doesn’t change the “isn’t willing to or able to” part. So I can continue to blame myself for not being able to make it all happen myself and continue beating my head against a brick wall, or I can accept that it is what it is (so easy to say, so very hard to do), let go, quit pouring my finite energy into something that isn’t working, and move on. It sounds like perhaps you’re in a similar situation. What I’ve learned from all of that is that I need to work on creating healthy boundaries in my romantic relationships so that I don’t keep allowing myself to fall into relationships that aren’t healthy.

                Like

                • FlyingKal says:

                  Rebecca,
                  Thank you for your sweet reply. I can see so much of my own situation in yours, how we were treated much the same way.

                  I am also much more comfortable in one-on-one events or with small groups of friends where we all know each other. But in order to meet someone one-on-one, or to become part of that group of friends, you need to take that first step and reach out to connect with another person. And it is in that very first step that I fail so very often, and succeed so very rarely.
                  Funny thing though, is that I have quite a few women friends that I regularly spend time with, but it is a kind of friendship that would probably be desribed as traditionally “male”, as it is most often centered around us meeting up for doing different activities together.

                  Much of the reason I come here to read, and comment, is that I’m aware that I only have one side of the sory, namely my own. And I come her to read the posts and comments to try and figure out more specifically what I did wrong, (or if I even did anything right).

                  As I said, I was pretty much raised to believe that my opinion doesn’t matter, and just do as I’m told. Trying to be a better man requires work, but at the same time we’re told by certain media how low the bar is set for men doing that…
                  So I was always under the pressure that if I just tried a LITTLE harder, and did a LITLLE better, she would come around and everything would be just fine.
                  After all, she did say she wanted do to all that fun stuff I suggested. Not just right now…
                  And she did say that she loved the attention I gave her, and that she very much wanted to have passionate sex with me. Not just today…

                  I am also struggling to set healthy boundaries in relationships. But for a period of time I have mostly struggled to find relationships at all.

                  Like

                  • Kal,
                    I was really enjoying the thread, and hope I’m not being intrusive.
                    I can really identify with a lot what you mentioned in regards to social interactions, and yes even in taking on the responsibility of trying to make someone love you.

                    Earlier Lisa mentioned knowing what healthy looks like and you said you should know because good relationships have been modeled to you.
                    As Matt has mentioned before in other contexts what we see in relationships on the outside isn’t always what it’s like inside the relationship.
                    I think we can witness long, stable relationships, -we can even witness really good/life giving relationships and maybe see indications of its quality, but still not know what is good and healthy for ourselves in a relationship.

                    Maybe we should term it “knowing what healthy feels like.” …instead of “looks like.”
                    It is different for everyone, and we can’t begin to know what we need until we start looking at ourselves, and are comfortable making those needs a priority for ourselves.
                    I also identify with your social anxiety.
                    How you describe others at the party giving you the cold shoulder- I’ve experienced moments that were similar.
                    A lot of times it’s that our anxiety is so high that we really aren’t able to interact and engage.
                    Our attempts to interact can seem half hearted and DOA.
                    I would intentionally avoid groups, I would even avoid eye contact at the grocery store at my lowest point.
                    It’s a real thing, and it’s a barrier that can keep us in a cycle of low self worth and low quality relationships.
                    Finding those few friends that just accept you- that you can express yourself with, who respect you and then believing in who you are when with them can bleed over into other interactions.
                    Also, working on why you believe what you believe about yourself and changing the narrative can help those sort of interactions change.

                    I remember “accidentally” being in a social situation with a stranger that was very spontaneous …and later asking myself what the hell I was so afraid of before.
                    Why would I not say what I was thinking when with a group from work, or reach out to a stranger who was about to sit in something at a restaurant?
                    Because I had years of a narrative keeping me from creating any new possibilities. I had a narrative that was hyper focused on me and my flaws.
                    Anyway…- that was a bit of a ramble fest.
                    I just wanted to reach out and let you know that you aren’t alone in some of the things your experiencing.
                    The work to re arrange these things is so much more rewarding than just having someone who can really be a partner to you.
                    That may or may not happen- but in the meantime you can experience true joy and freedom.
                    I’d say seek empowerment and self expression, and the right relationships will have a better chance once those things are a strong reality in your life.
                    Hope you have a pleasant Monday!

                    Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Kal,

                No need I apologize for the “wall of text” especially to the person who writes many, many many comments.😀

                You said:

                “And the answer is that popular media tells us how easy it is for a man to please a woman. Basically, just be an adult, i.e. pull your own weight and don’t be a slob, and she’ll be all over you like flies on honey…
                So, I thought it was my fault. That if I just tried a little bit harder, at whatever I tried to do, at whatever she wanted me to do, then I could have that relationship I’ve always dreamed about. Two people sharing, agreeing and working together for mutual fun and satisfaction.”

                I can understand your frustration. I don’t think the narratives that men or women are simple to please are helpful or correct. Humans are messy and complicated.

                My job in the last few years in particular is to figure out how what healthy relationships function and how I can change to be healthier.

                As you said it isn’t enough to observe other people that look healthy. And what media presents as healthy often isn’t healthy.

                What helps me is to focus on things that are rooted in science. I have found that very helpful as a North Star.

                Things like the Gottman’s work. And Sue Johnson’s EFT and the Atkinson ebook as a few examples of relationship guidelines that are empirically
                based.

                I know different things help people though. It is true imho that MANY things that are presented as the way to a healthy relationship are simply not healthy.

                Imho correct diagnosis of the goal is the most important thing.

                Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Also one thing I am trying to learn to do is to lead with what you can agree with instead of what you disagree with.

            So I think leading with what you can empathize or validate goes a long way too.

            We can validate someone’s pain and hurt even if we think they are doing the “wrong” things that are causing the pain. I have to use that one a LOT. Even with myself to muster up some self compassion at my own repeated “idiocy”.

            Like

  10. Rebecca says:

    Obviously I can’t speak for your wife, but in my case it wasn’t JUST listening like you mentioned in #6, it was also wanting my feelings to be acknowledged and in some cases, depending on the situation, validated.

    My ex (our divorce was finalized in November) pretty much never tried to “fix” my problems when I was sharing things with him. He would often listen, sometimes legitimately listen, other times “listen” in the sense that he’d ask how my day was, and then literally 5 seconds into my answer it would be clear that mentally he had already moved on and his attention was elsewhere.

    He almost never contributed to the conversation, and when he did, it certainly was not by acknowledging or validating my feelings. Mostly he would just sit or stand there waiting for me to be done talking.

    Even now, when dealing with things related to our children, it’s not uncommon for me to have to say “I just said words out loud. Can you please at least acknowledge that I’ve spoken?”

    The most sad and scary thing about that is that our children (6 and 4) witness that, and they do it to me now, too. After all, they see daddy doing it, so it must be okay to do that, right? So I’m working on teaching them that it is NOT okay, despite what daddy does. But we co-parent 50/50, so it’s a tough thing to balance and explain to them that just because he does it, doesn’t mean they should, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I didn’t mean to NOT include the concept of actively validating another’s experience in this conversation.

      I write quickly, carelessly and thoughtlessly sometimes.

      What you’ve shared here makes perfect sense to me and should be part of this conversation.

      Thank you for sharing, Rebecca.

      Like

      • Rebecca says:

        Your paragraph about “Imagine an alternative reality…” spoke directly to it, and I did get that from it. I tend to think that sometimes people skim when they’re reading and just hit the bullet points.

        What I was probably really reacting to was that in my head, I could totally hear my ex saying “But he SAID ‘ALL she wanted was to be listened to!! That’s it!! Just listen! I DO that, why can’t YOU just be happy?? Matt says right here that that’s all I need to do, and I’m doing it!”

        Clearly I need to work on not having arguments with him in my head that I’m never going to be able to win. I’m still working on that “I can’t change him, I can’t fix the marriage by myself, I must let go” thing… :-)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lisa says:

          “I just kept waiting for her to grow up and see the world as clearly and correctly and smartly as I did.”

          “But she never did.”

          Oh yes she did, which is why this happened…

          “She finally had enough and left.”

          Like

  11. Ken Mitchell says:

    This is one of the major sub-themes of the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. We communicate differently, about different things. Men talk to transmit information. When we’re talking about a problem, we’re asking for help about that problem. If we don’t need help, we don’t talk about the problem.

    When women talk, they’re looking for sympathy and encouragement, NOT asking for help. If a woman tells you about a problem, she doesn’t want help solving it, unless she SPECIFICALLY ASKS FOR HELP. If a woman is talking about a problem, a man’s role is to nod knowingly and make sympathetic sounds. DO NOT offer solutions. Women talk about ALL KINDS of problems that they are entirely competent to resolve on their own.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      I know many people find the gender generalizations in the Mars/Venus books helpful. I’m
      sure it matters how closely one fits into stereotypical gender norms so I don’t find some of that fits for me or my husband.

      I can say say that if I am representative of many women we ARE asking for help.

      Some of that help includes emotional intelligence in responding to hurt or anger or other normal human emotions. That is a solution to solve a problem of what to do when a person you care about is upset.

      Some of emotional intelligence includes *appropriate* problem solving and solutions. Usually framed as a question. “What can I do to help?”

      You are right that when a person offers one up solutions as a way to stop the conversation and remove the negativity it will not work well.

      Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      I find that men don’t like problem solving either when it’s done without emotional intelligence.

      If my husband is upset about his job and I start our offering him “helpful” solutions on how to solve his problem or tell him how I think he is wrong and the other person is right it will not go well either.

      I don’t think what women want is all that different than what men want. These are human needs imho.

      Like

    • JenBetween says:

      Umm.. as a woman, I feel it’s necessary to inform you, you’re wrong. Believe it or not, your reaction would be so fkn annoying to me(&so many others)… Believe it or not, SOME women actually ARE telling you things because they want& prefer your input( help/ validation/ reasoning) Just as men do- according to your response .. i’ve never read the book so I can’t debate the similarities. However, I am a woman and totally disagree with you. I definitely want a MAN that is secure enough to chime in and express himself. … everyone needs to face reality. Even the sensitive susie’s of the world. It’s like a lot men in the dating sector have become accustomed to throwing pity parties (assuming so they can feel heroic😑), but I can assure you, the stereotypical woman you’re describing would benefit from hearing the truth…. they actually NEED TO HEAR IT… rather than any fkn lip service guys serve up just to stay safely tucked away on Mars. Total copout/p***y move…. in my opinion.

      Like

  12. Sheri A. says:

    Good advice overall and there’s of course nuances, but I have beef about one sentence:
    “And then I cried a lot more than a man probably should and felt sorry for myself.”
    Would the amount of crying be OK if you were a woman? Why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Nuances, indeed.

      I’d tell you everyone familiar with my writing knows I’m being self-deprecating, and not pigeon-holing genders.

      “Don’t be a dick” is my core message.

      Gender stereotyping (which I used to do) is for-sure a dick move.

      Like

  13. gottmanfan says:

    Here are the DBT steps of validating that I found helpful.

    Level 1: Be Present

    Level 2: Accurate Reflection

    Level 3: Guessing about Unstated Feelings

    Level 4: Validate in terms of past history

    Level 5: Validate in terms of present events and the way most people would react

    Level6: RadicalGenuineness

    Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        “The First Level is Being Present. There are so many ways to be present. Holding someone’s hand when they are having a painful medical treatment, listening with your whole mind and doing nothing but listening to a child describe their day in first grade, and going to a friend’s house at midnight to sit with her while she cries because a supposed friend told lies about her are all examples of being present.

        Multi-tasking while you listen to your teenager’s story about his soccer game is not being present. Being present means giving all your attention to the person you are validating.

        Being present for yourself means acknowledging your internal experience and sitting with it rather than “running away” from it, avoiding it, or pushing it away. Sitting with intense emotion is not easy. Even happiness or excitement can feel uncomfortable at times.”

        Often one of the reasons other people are uncomfortable with intense emotion is that they don’t know what to say. Just being present, paying complete attention to the person in a nonjudgmental way, is often the answer. For yourself, being mindful of your own emotion is the first step to accepting your emotion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          “The Second Level is Accurate Reflection. Accurate reflection means you summarize what you have heard from someone else or summarize your own feelings. This type of validation can be done by others in an awkward, sing-songy, artificial way that is truly irritating or by yourself in a criticizing way. When done in an authentic manner, with the intent of truly understanding the experience and not judging it, accurate reflection is validating.

          Sometimes this type of validation helps the emotionally sensitive person sort through their thoughts and separate them from their emotions. “So basically I’m feeling pretty angry and hurt,” would be a self-reflection. “Sounds like you’re disappointed in yourself because you didn’t call him back,” could be accurate reflection by someone else.”

          Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          “Level Three is Reading a Person’s Behavior and Guessing What They Might be Feeling or Thinking. People vary in their ability to know their own feelings. For example, some confuse anxiety and excitement and some confuse excitement and happiness. Some may not be clear about what they are feeling because they weren’t allowed to experience their feelings or learned to be afraid of their feelings.

          Often, emotionally sensitive people mask their feelings because they have learned that others don’t react well to their sensitivity. This masking can lead to not acknowledging their feelings even to themselves, which makes the emotions more difficult to manage. Being able to accurately label feelings is an important step to being able to regulate them.

          When someone is describing a situation, notice the emotional state. Then either label the emotions you hear or guess at what the person might be feeling.

          “I’m guessing you must have felt pretty hurt by her comment” is Level Three validation. Remember that you may guess wrong and the person could correct you. It’s her emotion, so she is the only one who knows how she feels.”

          Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          “Level Four is Understanding the Person’s Behavior in Terms of their History and Biology. Your experiences and biology influence your emotional reactions. If your best friend was bitten by a dog a few years ago, she is not likely to enjoy playing with your German Shepherd. Validation at this level would be saying, “Given what happened to you, I completely understand your not wanting to be around my dog.”

          Self-validation would be understanding your own reactions in the context of your past experiences.”

          Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          “Level Five is normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions that anyone would have. Understanding that your emotions are normal is helpful for everyone. For the emotionally sensitive person, knowing that anyone would be upset in a specific situation is validating. For example, “Of course you’re anxious. Speaking before an audience the first time is scary for anyone.”

          Level Six is radical genuineness. Radical genuiness is when you understand the emotion someone is feeling on a very deep level. Maybe you have had a similar experience. Radical genuineness is sharing that experience as equals.”

          Liked by 1 person

  14. JenBetween says:

    Relatable…Great reminder that there are guys/people out there who actually get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jay Pyatt says:

    I think it appropriate to say, “Search YouTube for ‘It’s Not About The Nail'”.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Matt, something you might keep in mind, these are also really good parenting skills. Learn to actively listen, to validate feelings, and indicate you are for them,on their side. But don’t try to fix it! Don’t try to solve their problems. My kids are all grown now, but that is still a really hard thing to do. My son especially, really benefited from my just listening and indicating I believed in him. We all have an urge to fix it for our kids or give them advice or tell them what they should do, but they’re far more likely to make good choices if they do it on their own.

    Like

  17. FlyingKal says:

    How do you connect emotionally with a spouse, or a loved one?
    Do you connect by living mostly apart, and then during the precious moments you are together you spend most of it by being somewhere else, rehashing the things that happens while you are apart, most of which are more or less identical from day to day (“Commute today was terrible, it rained, project meeting went fine, we’re launching X in two weeks if supplier do what the’re supposed to do (which they never do), mom called, she went with her mom to the store because she was out of milk…” and so on and so forth)?

    Or do you connect by being together and present, physically and emotionally, listening to each other and what you both need and desire in the near as well as a more distant future?

    Active, attentive listening and being present goes both ways.
    Someone said that “IF you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the same result youäve always got.” I guess that too applies to both men and women?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kia Christina Heath says:

    Hey, Matt – Reads to me like you cried as much as any good man should.
    And learnt more than many will; to listen before you hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Todd W. Clark says:

    Matt- Appreciate the appreciation.
    BUT…respectively, I’m not hung up on the M v F aspect, or faults. Want to make that clear, as I did in another response. “I’m not interested in fights. Who’s better or worse. Nothing like that.” DITTO.
    Again, BUT…if the intention is to identify accidental pains that get inflicted, then the ‘2way street’ MUST be included in the discourse. And not to keep quivers loaded, but to empty them.

    Like

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