Making Sense of Your Emotions After Divorce and Beyond

guy hiding under desk - the great courses daily

It wasn’t quite this dramatic. ;) (Image/The Great Courses Daily)

I walked into my ex-wife’s house following a quick knock as I do a few times every week to pick up my son after work.

I had a bag of our son’s clothes with me full of specific items I’d promised I’d return, and when I walked into the kitchen to set the bag of clothes on the counter, I saw the red envelope leaning up against the bottle of whatever liquor she had bought her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. This is their third or fourth Valentine’s Day together.

You feel something when you see something like that. Even six years removed from marriage. You feel something.

Sometimes, I have these conversations with myself when I feel that something. Because, what does it mean?

Does it mean that I love my ex-wife and miss her desperately and wish we were still together?

No. She’s a fine human being and the best co-parenting partner and mother to my son that I could ever hope to have. But, I don’t sit around my house (the one she and I used to share) wishing that she still lived there.

There’s no evidence that she and I could have a good marriage—even now that I understand so much more about my failed marriage than I did back when I assumed all of our problems were her fault.

I DON’T WANT a shitty relationship full of uncomfortable conversations and conflict INFINITELY more than I want to be in another permanent romantic relationship that might be a stepping stone to another marriage. Regardless of who that other person is.

“Given all of the changes and strides you have made in your own growth and understanding of how things went sideways, is there the potential for reconciliation with your ex-wife?” a reader asked me in a recent blog comment.

I’ve received that question many times over the past five years.

There’s a faction of people out there invested in the story—my story. The almost-redemption story.

The shitty husband who is just like their spouse.

And if I can figure it out, maybe they can figure it out.

And if I can figure it out AND want to reconcile with my wife and maybe have a great marriage on the second try, maybe the dream is still alive for them too.

I hope they know their dream can remain alive regardless of what happens with me.

Because a beautiful marriage might be in my future, but there’s virtually no chance my ex-wife will have any part to play other than hopefully having a positive, peaceful relationship with whoever I would invite into our co-parenting inner circle. And that’s more than okay.

I think what I felt when I saw that Valentine’s Day card was shame.

Do I—in a spiritual sense—regret that I was a shitty husband and now we’re not married, and I have to drop my son off in the morning to be cared for by the guy sleeping with his mother? Absolutely.

Am I jealous? No.

It’s more nuanced than that.

It’s not pain. But it is discomfort.

I’m ashamed at who I was.

And just maybe, ashamed at who I am.

What’s wrong with me that all these years later, my ex-wife is in this super-stable relationship, and I’m still ordering takeout with my fifth-grader?

Trigger City Looks Nice Until You Hit That One Part of Town

The next morning my son didn’t have school, so I dropped him off back at his mom’s house before driving to the office. Her boyfriend was the only person who was going to be home with him for the first couple of hours that morning.

I neither hesitated nor thought twice about leaving my favorite little human in his care. I can trust him unequivocally to be good to my son and his mother.

If you don’t know how much that’s worth, you’ve never shared a child with someone who doesn’t live in the same house.

I have what I consider to be a mature, well-thought-out and healthy mental and emotional position RE: my ex-wife.

Married people with children have never thought about what it feels like to wrestle with the stress, fear, and anxiety that you encounter the first time you realize that your ex who you share children with are now in total control of what happens to them whenever they’re not with you.

They can date, live with, marry ANYONE and there’s not one damn thing in the world you can do about it.

When the divorce first happened, I couldn’t breathe.

Not the way normal people breathe.

I couldn’t sit still or sleep or think or talk or in any way behave however I perceive ‘normal’ to be.

Someone at work asked me about it. About the time I was adjusting to a new world where I felt like I had Iost half of my son’s already going-too-fast childhood, and where I felt like I’d lost ALL control over his safety and wellbeing.

If I can’t influence who she sees, how can I protect my son from the bad ones?

A huge percentage of the panic I felt back then was being stripped of that sense of control.

That slice of the Pain & Horror pie chart got tossed into a cauldron with all of the other stuff—rejection, embarrassment, fear, a sense of failure, emotional brokenness, and surely some other bad-tasting things I’m forgetting.

Holy shit, is this really happening? I quietly thought to myself while I recounted that story from six years ago. Because I started to feel it.

I’d just sit at my desk sometimes staring straight ahead on the verge of tears, trying to draw long breaths and hoping no one would notice or ask me any work questions.

Sometimes my hands would shake a little in conference room meetings. Every guy at the table had a wedding band on but me, and they were all super-interested in the work conversations just like I used to be before the world ended.

I didn’t speak. I didn’t make eye contact. I didn’t do anything except hide my jittery hands under the table and concentrate really hard on pretending to be tough and stoic so that I wouldn’t cry in front of my friends and coworkers.

Those were the hardest days I’ve ever known.

Those were the days where I used vodka as a crutch and started smoking again after having kicked the habit. Those were the days were I felt so dark and shitty and uncomfortable down deep where no medicine can reach, I FINALLY understood why some people give up. After a lifetime of not getting it, I finally “got it.”

If every second of your life HURTS—excruciatingly—and you lose hope that you can find your way back to where it doesn’t hurt (or tragically have never known a life without pain), then it makes sense to be more afraid of living than dying.

I wasn’t suicidal. That never happened. But I remember thinking that if some semi coming the other direction crossed over center and pulverized me that it would feel merciful.

That’s when I knew I was damn close to rock bottom.

After a lifetime of being afraid of lots of things, I wasn’t afraid of much.

It’s the super-power of grief. It’s the ONE cool thing about it. Everything sucks. Things can’t get worse. So—boom. A liberating taste of fearless living.

When we have things to lose (the best things in life) it makes sense that we’re afraid of losing it.

When we’re out of things to lose, it’s not super-neat that we suffered a great loss, but you are gifted a healthy dose of perspective that I think most of us need.

There were all of these things in life that I had wanted. That I’d made a goal. A certain amount of money. A certain kind of house. A certain kind of job. Etc. Material-ish things, in many cases, as a measure of having “a good life.”

But then I felt like dying, and it occurred to me that even if I had my dream home and the largest bank account I could think of, I STILL would have felt empty and broken in that moment.

There’s nothing we can buy or acquire to protect us from that feeling down deep inside where the medicine can’t reach. Once I discovered that important truth, I developed a healthier, more appropriate perspective on finances and material possessions.

I felt that feeling return.

The bullshit one that nothing but time can fix.

And all it took was me retelling the story to a couple of friends at work. It all came rushing back. The nausea. The anxiety. That feeling of tears welling in my eyes that I hope no one noticed.

I went for a walk, just like I did six years ago. Just a bunch of quiet deep breaths and the music in my headphones. Maybe no one will know.

The problem though is that I knew.

WTF is happening right now?

Our Scars and Stories

I was fine by the time night rolled around. I didn’t think about it over the weekend.

I’m only thinking about it now because I wanted to write this.

We have all of these souvenirs from our past lives. Maybe they’re tangible objects. Maybe they’re foggy memories. Maybe they’re razor-sharp feelings triggered by things we see or hear or smell or think about.

These souvenirs are comprised of both our scars and stories.

Our scars are proof that they happened. That we’re still alive.

Your ex-husband is seeing someone new, and you don’t like it, even though you left him AND would never choose to be with him again? It hurts somehow but you can’t explain why?

You don’t have to. Scars. Stories. Yours.

Your ex-wife is seeing someone new and it’s totally fine, but the memory of your wife leaving you, and losing control of your son, and all of those nights thinking about how much she was loving being with that other piece of shit while you sobbed at home alone on the couch makes you FEEL that all over again? Several years later? And you can’t explain it?

You don’t have to.

I don’t have to.

Scars. Stories.

Yours.

Mine.

Everything’s going to be okay.

Really, it already is.

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212 thoughts on “Making Sense of Your Emotions After Divorce and Beyond

  1. Am I jealous? No.

    It’s more nuanced than that.

    It’s not pain. But it is discomfort.

    Yes!!! This X’s 100!!! it’s a really a muddling of feelings that don’t equal their parts…. its’ not shame, or sadness or jealousy and yet it borrows from them…. discomfort!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Island Chick says:

    I have, in the back of my head, a top 10 list of people I’d love to talk to – you know, if, if, if. (Likelihood zero, but that’s beside the point) You’re on the list. Okay, your position shifts up and down as time passes and my focus changes but you’ve been in the top 10 for a long while now. It’s because of posts like this one – your willingness to strip yourself down to the real in public like it’s not. It’s the way you share with strangers about personal failures, pain, guilt, and confusion in a way many can’t, even with close friends and family. Perhaps even with themselves. Many like me. Your words are a sort of ‘hang in there’ line to those of us chewing over our own issues, surviving the damage and coming to terms with our scars in a world where it’s much more comfortable to hide or deny them. So, raise a glass of while I raise mine and we’ll toast to a conversation missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Island Chick says:

      lol – the post didn’t like my use of comment inside the less than/greater than symbols at the end. What I tried to post was – So, raise a glass of [insert name of your favorite beverage here] while I raise mine…

      Liked by 1 person

      • OKRickety says:

        You probably don’t care much, but WordPress thinks “<insert name of your favorite beverage here>” is a HTML tag, that is, it has a special meaning indicated by the use of <  and  >. For example, you can emphasize text like so: <b>bold</b> gives you bold. I find this handy (and cool but I’m a computer geek of sorts).

        Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      That’s a really nice thing to say. Like, really nice.

      Thank you.

      Being in someone’s Top 10 Convo list is amazing. I like it. Thank you for reading this stuff.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. […] (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); This is only a snippet of a Parents Article written by Matt Read Full Parenting Article […]

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  4. OKRickety says:

    I think I have an answer to something that has been nagging at me about your blog. Based on a response to me from a woman commenter somewhere (I don’t think it was here but it doesn’t matter), I believe that women respond more strongly to posts that express emotions. Here on this blog, you generally write in that fashion, and it seems that most women consider your posts significant. On the other hand, I suspect most men do not find your posts meaningful or helpful because of how you write.

    Does that matter? Only if it impacts your target audience.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I would politely suggest that your assumptions about the emotions of men are misguided.

      Men don’t feel fewer emotions than women. They hide them more.

      I might call that cowardice on a particularly non-generous day. I’d call it misguided stoicism in fake-it-til-you-make it way that is proven to destroy relationships the rest of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OKRickety says:

        I agree that men have emotions, and believe their impact on men is much different than it is on women. Whatever the case, I don’t think your writing style appeals to men generally, but I certainly may be wrong. Do you think those following your blog are mostly women, men, or about equal?

        Like

        • Matt says:

          60-40, to 70-30 women.

          But in a world where men were culturally inclined to read relationship content, and where they were biologically inclined to feel pain sooner in the relationships breakdown than their wives/girlfriends, I’d like to think guys would like it fine.

          I don’t have a target audience. I write the most honest things I know how, and the people who identify with it and grow from it is my “target” audience.

          The magic of the internet is that I don’t actually target anyone. The people who want it, find it. I don’t spam anyone or ask them to come.

          They just do. And for that, I’m grateful.

          Liked by 2 people

          • OKRickety says:

            “But in a world where men were culturally inclined to read relationship content, and where they were biologically inclined to feel pain sooner in the relationships breakdown than their wives/girlfriends,”

            I don’t think that’s reality. I also don’t think it ever will be reality, not because of cultural pressures, etc., but because men and women are biologically different psychologically.

            Supposing that to be achievable reality is setting oneself up for failure.

            Like

            • Island Chick says:

              I can understand why you’ve made that comment and certainly, there are biological differences. I wouldn’t underestimate the extent of the cultural conditioning, however. I grew up as the only girl among many boys and struggled for quite a while to make female friends. They seemed to pay more attention to subjects like relationships than I could understand a reason for. You know the joke – a couple is sitting together and the female is going through a long list of possible reasons why he isn’t saying much while he’s thinking how he’s pleased with the BBQ he purchased – or some such thing. I’ve always been the guy in that scenario. Hilariously, I worked through the differences with a guy friend who grew up as an only boy with three sisters. I think emotional illiteracy has been too easily accepted and expected in our boys and encouraged culturally in our men.

              Liked by 2 people

      • gottmanfan says:

        Matt,

        I am impressed at the gracious way you responded to this uhum “interesting” comment. Excellent example of responding non defensively. 👏🏻

        Liked by 1 person

    • gottmanfan says:

      Okrickety,

      We have had some excellent discussions on this blog’s comments.

      I am wondering if the phrasing of your comments might be different in your head when you wrote them then how they come across to this reader?

      “On the other hand, I suspect most men do not find your posts meaningful or helpful because of how you write. “

      I think if things were phrased more as a question it might be less unkind and critical?

      For example, the paragraph above could be omitted completely with no loss of your general question about “emotional style” and gender balance of the blog.

      We like to give each other unsolicited advice and feedback so I offer this in that spirit. 😀

      One of the reasons I write so many comments here is that I used to focus more on “facts and logic” and I didn’t put enough emphasis on being kind in my delivery. I think those that have a strength of logical focus can sometimes have blind spots in how it can be received as unkind in our delivery.

      I welcome feedback if you perceive I am unkind. Maybe this comment is not phrased well either. It’s hard for me to tell sometimes which is why I continue to practice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan,

        “On the other hand, I suspect most men do not find your posts meaningful or helpful because of how you write.“

        I think if things were phrased more as a question it might be less unkind and critical?

        First, I find it ironic that you describe my comment as “unkind and critical” because your statement (it wasn’t a question even though you put a question mark after it) was itself critical. Now, if you had said “it might be perceived as  less unkind and critical”, it would be gentler.

        And, just like I do not think you intended to be unkind to me, I did not intend my comment to Matt to be unkind. (By the way, I’m not offended by that specific statement or your general thoughts on this.)

        I think your response is the result of what I perceive to be a general difference between men and women, that women are more concerned about the feelings of others than are men. I believe that there are times that one must state the truth clearly and directly in order to communicate with another. Yes, that should be done in a loving fashion when there is a loving relationship involved. In this case, I consider Matt an acquantaince, and that’s not a relationship requiring love. (Believe me, if I hated Matt, it would be very clear as I am quite capable of expressing those thoughts.)

        I have considered your suggestion. I don’t really see it, so I doubt I will change much, but you may have placed the idea in the back of my mind and it may make a difference going forward.

        I think the real issue here is that neither you nor Matt agree with my understanding of how to appeal to men to consider the idea that men are the ones that have the greater need for change to improve their marriages. If that is true (and I presume you know I don’t agree), then I consider the logical response would be to desire that men would read this blog and recognize their need to change. In other words, the target demographic would be men who are married or desire to be married, and want to have good marriages.

        Although I don’t fit that “target demographic” (as I have no desire to date, much less remarry), I can see myself as close to it, because I have wondered what could have been different in my marriage, and thus to be a close approximation of such a reader. I know how I respond and I suspect I am quite typical.

        Based on my actual responses to the posts and comments, I have tried (and likely will continue to try) to communicate my thinking on how to have this blog appeal more to men. If I’m right and my thoughts are ignored, then the potential benefit of this blog will be diminished.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Hey Okrickety,

          I appreciate your feedback that my comment to you came across as critical and unkind.

          I have a **lot more** work to do to be able to know how to phrase things to communicate my content in a better way.

          I apologize that my comment was not well done.

          I think people who are able to be good communicators are skilled in knowing how to say “critical” content without being critical. David Burns is great at teaching this.

          I have improved but I still am not good so I continue to practice. I appreciate that you let me know I failed in my comment to you. Please feel free to let me know when any of my comments can be improved since that is my goal.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Okrickety,

          I guess we might disagree that the goal is to reach men. I don’t have any control over this blog reaching men.

          And Matt has responded with his stated goal in writing this blog.

          I read comments and try my best to understand the perspectives of people who comment. I try and practice my skills in communicating more skillfully since I *know* that is one of my deficits.

          And I try and add a system view and throw out random things that have helped me that may possibly help others.

          I have appreciated the dialogue with you and Kal, Jack, Mike, Uniballer etc who have added their experiences.

          I think that *most* of the things we need to be successful in relationships are not gendered.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Okrickety,

          You said:

          “I think your response is the result of what I perceive to be a general difference between men and women, that women are more concerned about the feelings of others than are men. I believe that there are times that one must state the truth clearly and directly in order to communicate with another. Yes, that should be done in a loving fashion when there is a loving relationship involved. In this case, I consider Matt an acquantaince, and that’s not a relationship requiring love. (Believe me, if I hated Matt, it would be very clear as I am quite capable of expressing those thoughts.)”

          I just wanted to clarify that the thing I am trying to correct in my skills is that I *do not* pay enough attention to being concerned about the feelings of others.

          This is necessary in good communication and dialogue per the research I have read. It is what I am trying to learn.

          Regardless of the relationship status, a good communicator stays in a 2 person mindset. When I communicate with a stranger it won’t be the same as with my spouse but there should still be a attitude of choosing words and tone mindful of the impact on the other person.

          My focus tends to be on the “truth and logic” of the content. And that is not sufficient for good communication or emotional intelligence. Which is why I am trying to learn to do things differently.

          Like

  5. OKRickety says:

    – “This is their third or fourth Valentine’s Day together.”
    – “the guy sleeping with his mother”
    – “she was loving being with that other piece of shit”

    From my perspective, these quotes are diamonds in the rough.

    Like

    • ttravis says:

      OKRickety– when you say these are “diamonds in the rough,” do you mean that these are the kind of things that appeal to men, unlike other more “emotional” expressions? Always trying to improve my dudespeak!

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Nothing like that. I think they provide significant insight about Matt and his ex-wife.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          You can just ask.

          I have a line. For privacy and respect’s sake.

          But if you are missing information because there are a bunch of old posts you never saw, then just ask.

          Like

          • OKRickety says:

            As you know, multiple men (including myself) have expressed that we think your posts are rather one-sided, specifically that men are almost always the ones at fault for marriage problems. I read those quotes as being more realistic, showing your ex-wife as being much less faultless than you commonly imply.

            I didn’t mean to hurt you. I honestly think that those statements are ones that many men, whether struggling in marriage or divorced, can identify with. In other words, those expressions of emotion (you can consider them unhealthy if you want) might result in more men considering your posts more carefully. If you are correct that men are the ones who would most benefit from your posts, then I would think you would want to consider that in your writing.

            Please feel free to delete the comment containing the quotes.

            Like

            • Matt says:

              None of that bothered me.

              I’m just letting you know that you are invited to ask me very specific questions if they will somehow provide context or better understanding for why things are as they are.

              Ironically, you just did the EXACT thing I cite as the reason I rarely write ‘negative’ things about my ex-wife.

              The entire point gets lost.

              Let’s get specific so there’s no misunderstanding:

              1. I was a shitty husband. Not evil. Not horrible and worthy of suffering. Just totally substandard at executing best practices of husbandry. Think of it like a career.

              You can be good at architecture. Or not good.

              You can be good at composing music. Or not good.

              You can be good at advanced math theory. Or not good.

              These are NOT moral judgments. These are not reflections of character.

              These are objective measures of being skilled and knowledgeable versus NOT being skilled and knowledgeable.

              I was bad at marriage. I was bad at being a husband.

              All of the data in the world demonstrates that that is the norm. MOST marriages that fail look like mine. That’s why 100,000 people a month read this stuff.

              Because I’m just a regular guy who was in a regular marriage and got divorced for the most common reasons ever.

              It’s less about “fault,” and more about “responsibility.”

              2. It seems (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re implying that because my wife left and started dating someone else (I found out 10 days after she moved out if the timing somehow matters to you) that she’s suddenly responsible for the marriage ending more than I portray in my writing.

              As if you hunting for reasons why what I write is bullshit and needlessly self-flagellating.

              But that’s such a weird and inaccurate and disingenuous thing to do.

              We slept in different bedrooms for 18 months before she moved out.

              Also. If I WASN’T a shitty husband, how could any of us know how my wife would have behaved in the closing years of our marriage?

              I would encourage people to stop looking for external circumstances to blame for life’s hardships. Even if external circumstances were true, there’s still nothing we can do about them.

              We get to control how WE think, feel, and behave.

              We get to control our words and actions.

              We control only our own choices. Nothing else.

              Thus. Everything I write is predicated on the idea that we can choose to love more, be more, give more in the service of others, and that I believe we will be rewarded (we don’t have to TAKE—life gives back) when we do.

              Finding reasons to discredit my writing by painting my ex as some sort of evildoer is both useless and fundamentally untrue.

              The only story that matters is our own. What can we do—right now—to grow 1% and be better than we were yesterday, and then do that again tomorrow?

              That’s what matters. That’s always what matters.

              Liked by 1 person

              • OKRickety says:

                We get to control how WE think, feel, and behave. We get to control our words and actions. We control only our own choices. Nothing else.

                Liked by 1 person

              • OKRickety says:

                Matt,

                ‘It’s less about “fault,” and more about “responsibility.”’

                Those two concepts are closely related. For me, it is easier to assume my responsibility when I understand where fault lies.

                “It seems (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re implying that because my wife left and started dating someone else … that she’s suddenly responsible for the marriage ending more than I portray in my writing.”

                I’ve always believed that your ex-wife had more fault for the end of your marriage than you portray in your writing. Not because I think she’s especially awful, but because both parties usually have significant fault for marriage failures. In fact, I consider your usual avoidance of writing about her fault(s) to be “weird and inaccurate and disingenuous”. So, believe it or not, those statements actually raised my opinion of you.

                As to your writing, I think it is intensely personal to you, and that is why you write with emotion. It works for some. I don’t think it works for others. If that is discrediting your writing, so be it.

                “We get to control how WE think, feel, and behave. We get to control our words and actions. We control only our own choices. Nothing else.”

                On that concept, I agree with you, although changing these areas is often much more difficult than it sounds.

                Like

            • Jeff says:

              OKRickety, I hesitated replying as I feel like I’m stepping into somebody else’s conversation, so I apologize if this is unwanted.

              If I understand your comments above correctly, you believe Matt is taking all of the blame for his marriage failing. I think everybody agrees that in a failed marriage, there is almost always fault on both sides. I understand that you are trying to point out that the guy is not always at fault, however it feels like you are swinging all the way to the other side and blaming the wives for all the failed marriages. I doubt you really feel that strongly on that, but I would agree that pretty much everybody would agree that a failed marriage almost always involves two imperfect people who have made mistakes and caused damage to the marriage. Speaking as a husband, if all I do is look to blame my wife for any troubles in the marriage, all I will do is grow in resentment and bitterness; and the marriage will definitely fail. On the other hand, if I’m trying to learn from my mistakes, I might have a fighting chance to save the marriage and be a better husband moving forward. It believe this is what Matt is trying to get across, and I think he is doing a great job.

              As for your comment about men not reading this as much as women, I agree that this is likely the case. However, I can tell you from experience that most husbands don’t seem to realize how bad their marriage has gotten until everything starts to blow up. Women are much more likely to be looking for relationship advice, so it does not surprise me that more women are reading here. However, as a husband who is desperately trying to repair my marriage, I stumbled across this site and have been reading it for months. I appreciate the fact that Matt is concentrating on the typical failures of husbands. I see a lot of the same failures on my end, and trying to learn how to improve in these areas is the only way to improve as a husband. Ultimately, my wife has to decide that staying in the marriage is worth it; and I obviously can’t control her decisions. However, I can try to be a better husband and try to show her that I am trying.

              All that to say, there are husbands out there who are reading this site and looking for answers to why they failed so miserably in their marriage. I really appreciate what Matt is trying to do, and from my view, it is making a difference.

              Liked by 2 people

              • gottmanfan says:

                Jeff,

                Thank you for adding your perspective as a husband trying hard to make changes.

                Liked by 1 person

              • gottmanfan says:

                Jeff,

                You said:

                “I can tell you from experience that most husbands don’t seem to realize how bad their marriage has gotten until everything starts to blow up.”

                If you feel comfortable, can you explain why you didn’t realize how bad your marriage has gotten until everything started to blow?

                Was it because the status quo felt reasonably comfortable to you? Or that you couldn’t interpret what your wife was communicating? Or something else?

                Like

                • Jeff says:

                  Gottman, I would say it is a little of both plus another factor that is likely unique in our situation. My wife early on expressed concern about our lack of communication. I found it extremely difficult to be completely open with my wife on what I was feeling. My wife tends to be driven much more by her feelings, and I tend to see feelings as more fickle. In that since, I think we tend to fall along the stereotypical male/female behaviors. I also grew up in a home where feelings were repressed, and conflict was avoided. I brought those into my marriage also, so when my wife wanted to talk about how I felt, I can honestly say that I felt clueless on how to open up in that way. I was also afraid to open up completely with my wife about anything that I thought would make me look bad, so I had walls up that she couldn’t break through. I noticed before we got married that my wife (at the time my fiance) could not accept that I could disagree with her. Needless to say, you had a husband who avoided conflict at all cost and a wife that would not accept her husband thinking anything differently than her. We were bound to have a major blowup at some point unless we learned how to deal with conflict constructively. In the first few years of marriage, we had a lot of arguments (almost always starting out on something small) that would end up with me withdrawing and her pushing for me to admit that she was right. They never ended well, and we almost never resolved any of our disagreements. After a while, she started to give up on trying to get to know me; and from my end things seemed to be a little more comfortable. However, we were growing apart; I just didn’t realize how badly.

                  My wife finally hit a point where she had enough and blew up on me telling me she was seriously considering divorce; and it felt like it came out of nowhere. I had no clue that she had gotten anywhere close to that point.

                  Sorry for the long answer, but in short I think I didn’t realize exactly what my wife was communicating because I was loving her in the way that I needed to be loved. I thought that should have been enough. Obviously I should have done a lot more reading on marriage before getting married. There are a couple other factors that I won’t go into that contributed to the strain. A lot of it has to do with pain that each of us brought into the marriage. I think every marriage has this issue to some degree, but neither one of us was handling it well. I will say looking back that it is very clear what my wife needed from me, and I feel like an idiot for not seeing it more clearly then. Does that make sense and answer your question?

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Jeff,

                    I am impressed that you are able to understand and articulate your marriage difficulties so well.

                    It can be so difficult when we grow up in conflict avoidant homes where feelings were repressed to understand what your spouse is looking for when they want you to “communicate” more.

                    And when we layer on our fear of failure it’s not surprising we find comfort in walls that prevent intimacy.

                    Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Jeff

                    You said:

                    “I noticed before we got married that my wife (at the time my fiance) could not accept that I could disagree with her. Needless to say, you had a husband who avoided conflict at all cost and a wife that would not accept her husband thinking anything differently than her. We were bound to have a major blowup at some point unless we learned how to deal with conflict constructively. “

                    Wow, that sounds exactly like my marriage.

                    It’s tricky when one person finds comfort in being “right” and the other in “withdrawal from pressure to agree.” A great combination for marriage frustration on both sides.

                    It really is uncanny how similar patterns often are.

                    Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Jeff,

                    You said:

                    “Obviously I should have done a lot more reading on marriage before getting married.”

                    Yeah man I think many of us feel that way. We don’t know what what don’t know then.

                    It’s hard to know that the small things that don’t seem like a big deal when you are engaged will grow exponentially as you add more time and stress and repetition.

                    I think that many people don’t get good advice or modeling either of what it is supposed to look like so we take the wrong approaches that make things work. I had so many different things told to me for how to think about marriage. Often contradictory.

                    It’s all pretty unclear until you get a correct diagnosis and then as you said it seems crazy that we couldn’t see it earlier.

                    What made it clear to you? What did you find helpful to seeing what you needed to do differently?

                    Like

                    • Jeff says:

                      Once I realized that the marriage was in crisis, I started reading anything I could on marriage; particularly articles on marriage reconciliation and what causes marriages too fail. This is when I started to better understand that everyone needs different things to feel loved, and I started to see just how damaging my walls were doing in the marriage and how cut-off my wife must have felt. This probably sounds silly, but I was clueless into the different needs that my wife had. I thought if I did the things for her that made me feel loved, she should feel loved also.

                      Honestly, I probably discovered more about myself than my wife in doing all the reading. I was not the type to self-reflect prior to this, so this whole period has been pretty eye-opening in a very good way. The counselors have also helped some, but honestly I feel most of my growth has come from reading and trying to understand myself and my wife. I had already started reading quite a bit by the time we started counseling, so a lot of what I heard, I had already read.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Jeff,

                      You said:

                      “This probably sounds silly, but I was clueless into the different needs that my wife had. I thought if I did the things for her that made me feel loved, she should feel loved also. “

                      It doesn’t sound silly at all to me. It is the key thing that blocks so many of us.

                      Once that block is removed, it’s all so much easier to make changes.

                      But, in my experience, still requires more hard work to figure out how to navigate those differences.

                      Like

                  • FlyingKal says:

                    Jeff, seriously, your wife had the habit of getting mad at you whenever you disagreed with her (“a wife that would not accept her husband thinking anything differently than her”), and then she blew up at you because you stopped trying to reach out to her?

                    As you say, every person brings pain into a relationship. But it cannot be the responsibility of just one person to make the communication work!

                    Like

                    • Jeff says:

                      FlyingKal,

                      I never said that I was the only one responsible for making communication work, but I am responsible for anything I did that contributed to the breakdown. It doesn’t do any good for me to focus on what my wife did wrong. I fully understand that we both made mistakes that resulted in a communication breakdown, but it is my responsibility as a husband to try and understand my role in that. It won’t do any good for me to focus on what my wife did wrong. If I do that, my tendency is to start justifying my responses and failures instead of addressing things that I did to contribute to the breakdown. Does that make sense?

                      Like

                    • FlyingKal says:

                      Jeff,
                      Thank you for your reply.
                      And yes, it makes sense in the way that I agree with you that we should refrain from focusing on what our partner eventually is doing wrong, and instead focus on our own role in the communication breakdown and our own improvement.

                      My point was just that if there’s an actual effort being made on both sides, there also need to be acknowledgement on both sides for that effort.

                      A person can’t consistently keep shutting (shooting?) their partner down and be dismissive of both their concern and the effort they put into the relationship, and at the same time expect the same partner to endlessly continue putting in the same effort. If that make sense?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Matt says:

                      Seconded. Context matters.

                      I have to trust people to be intellectually honest. I have no idea what people’s lives look and feel like.

                      But I’m with you.

                      The most naturally gifted kid in the class getting A+ grades has never, and will never, be as impressive as the most challenged kid getting A- grades through sheer will and effort.

                      Every situation is different. Always.

                      Like

                    • Jeff says:

                      For some reason I can’t reply to your latest response, so I apologize for responding here. I agree 100% with your last response. I’m trying my best to concentrate on myself and what I can be doing to improve the marriage, so I’m sure that it comes across as me beating myself up and not recognizing my wife’s part in all of this. The reality is I spend way too much time thinking about what my wife has or is doing wrong, but in my experience, this only results in my anger building and an increase in negative reactions on my part towards my wife.

                      There have been plenty of wrongs on both sides, but I’m doing my best to concentrate on what I know I can improve in, and try to empathize with my wife on the things that I did do wrong.

                      However, you are 100% correct that reconciliation requires both sides to acknowledge progress and effort, and to encourage each other in those areas. What you said made perfect sense, and I completely agree.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • FlyingKal says:

                      Jeff and Matt,
                      Thank you for your acknowledgement.

                      Jeff, yes I guess we’ve run out of “nestings” in the replies, hance the lack of Reply button.

                      “The reality is I spend way too much time thinking about what my wife has or is doing wrong, but in my experience, this only results in my anger building and an increase in negative reactions on my part towards my wife.”</i"

                      The reality for me is I think I've spent way too much time thinking about what I was doing wrong, in the way that I perceived that she never felt, I don't know, happy or content in our relationship.

                      Like

              • OKRickety says:

                Jeff,

                “If I understand your comments above correctly, you believe Matt is taking all of the blame for his marriage failing. I think everybody agrees that in a failed marriage, there is almost always fault on both sides. I understand that you are trying to point out that the guy is not always at fault, however it feels like you are swinging all the way to the other side and blaming the wives for all the failed marriages.”

                It is my opinion (and I don’t think I’m alone) that Matt’s choice to say little or nothing about his ex-wife’s faults leads the reader to think Matt is taking all of the blame for his failed marriage. In effect, he seems to be completely on the side that the failure is all his fault, and I see little to suggest he thinks her behavior was at all significant.

                I do strongly think that this perspective is so ingrained in most of the long-time readers here that any mention of wives’ faults is perceived as “swinging all the way to the other side and blaming the wives for all the failed marriages”.

                I understand, I REALLY DO, that blaming the spouse for all of the marriage problems is not healthy behavior, but it is extremely unhealthy to think that one’s own behavior is fully responsible for it, either.

                I also understand, I REALLY DO, that each of us can only possibly control our own behavior and thinking, and not that of anyone else. However, seeing our own faults and working to control one’s self should not prevent us from seeing the faults of others.

                “As for your comment about men not reading this as much as women, I agree that this is likely the case.”

                I think you (and perhaps others) are missing my point, which is that the men who do come to this blog may very well respond poorly to what they find because of the style of prose. I also think many men readers readily notice the heavy emphasis that it is men who are primarily failing at marriage, but there is very little mention of how women have fault, too. As you noted, most people know there is usually fault on both sides. It is my opinion that most men readers pick up on this emphasis and their immediate response is to suppose that this skewed perspective will lead to more blame on them.

                In my own experience, I have seen how common it is to only blame men for marriage problems. During my marriage, we went to four counselors at various times before we found one who actually thought she needed to improve, rather than the usual thinking that she had already properly dealt with all of her issues (believe me, she hadn’t) but I was the one who needed to be fixed. Based on what I have heard since, my experience is absolutely stereotypical.

                Like

                • Jeff says:

                  OKRickety,

                  I think we agree on there always (or at least in the vast majority of cases) is fault on both sides in a divorce. I get your concern that Matt’s writing isn’t authentic because he isn’t pointing out what his wife did wrong; but I agree with Matt that doing that would take away from the point of the writing. In my own experience, it doesn’t do me any good to focus on what my wife did wrong. My tendency if I do that is to justify my own actions, and I don’t end up dealing with and changing in the areas that I was causing damage. Does that make sense? I’m sure Matt could point out plenty of things his wife did wrong. Maybe I’m reading between the lines in a lot of what Matt writes, but it seems to me that he has acknowledged on multiple occasions that his wife did make mistakes and did hurt the marriage in certain ways. However, he chooses not to go into detail on that and instead focus on himself and areas that he can improve in. I believe that is the best way of approaching any relationship. Focusing on the negative in your spouse not only results in damage to your feelings toward your spouse, but results in an inability for you to accurately judge your own actions. At least this is what I’ve seen in myself.

                  I do agree that there is a lot of bashing on both sides of the other gender out there; and I don’t think any of that is helpful. Personally, I don’t feel that Matt is blaming all men for marriages failing, but I do understand what you are saying and your concern. Maybe it is a cultural thing, but I have always tended to assume the husband was to blame when I saw a marriage failing. I understand that both spouses are responsible for their part in the marriage, but (and again maybe this is cultural influences) it seems most marriages that failed seem to occur because the husband was dense for lack of a better term.

                  I will say that I have noticed the same issue with counselors that you have mentioned. However, this seemed to happen when individual counseling occurred instead of having the counselor meet with both spouses. I would strongly discourage individual counseling when marriage issues are involved for that reason. Balance is extremely important, and no counselor can give good counsel without that. That I will say I learned directly from experience. However, in the case of the counselors that we did see together; they all noted that there were issues on both sides. It would be rare for that not to be the case, so I would question any counselor that just concentrated on one spouse. Just my two cents on that.

                  Hopefully the above makes sense. I understand your concern about Matt not pointing out his wife’s faults; but I don’t think that does anybody any good. I am trying hard to look at the positive in my wife, and hearing someone else talk poorly about their wife and her issues only causes me to start to think negatively about my own wife. I have to concentrate on myself and the issues that I need to change, and it helps to read articles from another guy who is trying to do the same thing. Does that make sense?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • OKRickety says:

                    Jeff,

                    “Maybe it is a cultural thing, but I have always tended to assume the husband was to blame when I saw a marriage failing.”

                    Not only is it cultural, it is ingrained into our legal system, law enforcement, government agencies, and even into the churches. From what I know and have heard, that assumption is often inaccurate.

                    “…so I would question any counselor that just concentrated on one spouse.”

                    The counseling I did was almost entirely as a couple. I did not stay with the skewed counselors very long. And when the last counselor was not skewed, my wife did not work at it for long.

                    “Focusing on the negative in your spouse not only results in damage to your feelings toward your spouse, but results in an inability for you to accurately judge your own actions.”

                    I prefer to think “an inability” should be “difficulty”.

                    “…hearing someone else talk poorly about their wife and her issues only causes me to start to think negatively about my own wife.”

                    In my case, I strongly believe that my wife started hearing others complaining about their husbands, and she started to believe I had the same faults as those husbands. So, yes, that makes sense.

                    I don’t know why (perhaps it is due to the cultural viewpoint discussed above), but it seems to be incredibly difficult to get others to recognize that there is a significant difference between acknowledging that the spouse had fault in the marriage problems, and providing a litany of detailed examples. I think that often making that acknowledgment would be helpful. I imagine many readers would say that Matt has made this abundantly clear so it is not regularly needed. Using that logic, there is no reason to continue adding to this blog, because Matt has made it quite clear that he was a shitty husband, you can only change yourself, etc.

                    Like

                    • Jeff says:

                      You are right, I should have used the term “difficulty” instead of “inability”. My choice of words was too strong. It just makes it difficult for me to see my own issues accurately.

                      I do understand what you are saying about acknowledging both sides being at fault. It can be hard to balance pointing that out without getting caught up in it; at least for me. I would rather err on the side of being critical of myself and trying to grow in my weaker areas. I’m not unaware of my wife’s faults, just choose not to focus on them. Also, I have never been quick to point out anything negative about my wife to others. I have always believed, and still believe, that talking negatively about your spouse to others is always toxic to the relationship.

                      Thanks for sharing; I do appreciate your perspective. If nothing else, I’m a little more aware of my tendencies to assume things that are likely inaccurate much of the time.

                      Liked by 1 person

    • So, I find it interesting that the quotes that appeal most to you are the ones that have a bitter tone to them. I don’t know if that is how Matt intended them, but that’s how I heard them. A little bit of the old bitterness slipping out in the moment.

      If I’m understanding you right, these are the kind of ideas (feelings of bitterness?) you would like to see developed on this blog?

      Have I understood you correctly?

      I am having trouble interpreting what you mean by “diamonds in the rough”.

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        ourladyofblahblahblah,

        “If I’m understanding you right, these are the kind of ideas (feelings of bitterness?) you would like to see developed on this blog?”

        Not at all. I see these quotes as showing both Matt and his ex-wife much more accurately, a view that many will find much closer to their own experience. Matt’s choice to say very little about her faults causes me to suppose his opinions and beliefs about marriage to be highly suspect. Specifically, if Matt doesn’t recognize her part, why would I value his opinion on how to improve marriage? Additionally, those statements did not divert my attention from what he wanted to convey.

        I intended for “diamonds in the rough” to convey the idea that statements of this nature on this blog are rare and difficult to find.

        Like

  6. TL says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for not only responding to my comment in the previous post, but also for writing out a deeper introspective piece.

    Your writing resonates deeply with me. We are of the same cohort in terms of age, one kid, and geographic region. My spouse and I have been married for over a decade and we see to be just holding on for our son.

    I was the one who strayed and had so many maladaptive behaviors, but justified everything as I loved my wife and everything else was distractions. Luckily, I have been able to pull away from all of the destructive behavior for a number of years now, but the damage that it has left my family; most of all my wife, cannot be described.

    I truly want to be with her, but her own words and everything that I can tell she just wants to peacefully co-habitate.

    A month ago I found an app on her phone used to secretly connect people to trade pics/messages and she was embarrassed, but felt she did nothing wrong. I found records of hundreds of text messages traded to her married ex-boyfriend and late night phone calls to him. A few months before that I found them speaking on the phone late at night and she was the happiest that I have heard her in years.

    I am not sure where I am going, the words are just coming out. She’s told me that in order to be with me she has emotionally divorced me.

    It’s devastating. I know that I am responsible for everything that has happened.

    I am a child of an alcoholic and gambling addict and physically and sexually abused so my self-esteem and view of myself have never been normal.

    I think I am holding on to life so that I can ensure the same things do not happen to my son, but am seriously thinking about pulling the plug as soon as he is an adult.

    At least he will be cared for financially.

    Apologies for the rant. I just want to say thank you for your writing and sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      There’s too much here to do any justice to. Too many important things.

      I’m not going to do the cliche thing.

      I’m just going to offer these two thoughts:

      1. The longest gap I had ever gone in life without crying was between my uncle’s out-of-nowhere death when I was 17 and my mom and stepdad’s divorce when I was 29.

      I just had a mini meltdown. I assume a bunch of baggage from my parents’ divorce when I was 4 was still floating around in there.

      I was 29. Crying. It felt pathetic. But it was honest.

      It was because I was experiencing loss. Even at age 29, the idea of this foundational thing in my life going away broke me a little on the inside.

      Money’s irrelevant.

      Steady ground. Stability. Security. Confidence. Things that are reliable. Trustworthy. Things we can count on.

      That’s what matters to people.

      I admire that you’re doing what you feel is best for you son. Living for something greater than ourselves pays dividends. But don’t pretend that job ends when they start voting or being able to buy alcohol legally.

      2. Maybe you have a bunch of people you can talk to. Maybe you don’t.

      I’m around.

      Email. FB message. Whatever.

      I’m serious.

      Maybe there’s another door with some awesome things behind it. One that involves you holding your grandchildren someday.

      If you feel like looking for it, let me know.

      mbtttr@gmail.com

      Liked by 2 people

    • I am so sorry to hear this. Much admiration to you for sticking it out for the sake of your child, despite the state of your marriage.

      I hope you find a reason to keep living.

      Like

    • TL,
      That sounds devastating- in the slow death sort of way.
      I hurt for situations like this.
      When it seems like you are open to healing, and reconnection but she is not.
      In her mind I’m sure it seems like she is justified.
      This may be a dumb question,
      But have y’all dealt with it directly- the infedelity on your part from years ago?
      Have you done so with the support of a counselor.
      I know that good marriage counselors can be few and far between-
      And the focus would need to be on the healing- not the blaming.
      What do we need to do now to truly be there for each other.
      Again, I’m sorry you’re going through this.
      Sometimes all we can do Is work and heal ourselves.

      Like

      • TL says:

        personinprocess,

        From my wife’s perspective, all of the false hopes and restarts from my lying and inability to get it together to save us gave her no other choice but to shut off her emotions from me. We have been living like this for almost 7 years.

        Not a dumb question at all – we have “dealt” with my infidelity and lies via counseling, but I was too dumb and not in a position to take the gift of reconciliation at that time. I stopped the affairs and the prostitutes after discovery, but I maintained lies and was still hiding my sexual self acting out from her.

        So here we are.

        I want to be clear that I am not an angel and I am responsible for the condition of our marriage. My wife is the most amazing, kindest person, that I have ever met and I crossed the line more times than I can count.

        It has taken a long time, but I want “us” back, but it is likely too late.

        Liked by 1 person

        • TL,
          Sorry for the late response.
          Other than a few consoling words , the beat I can offer is work daily to be the man you know you can be.
          She may turn around, but even if she doesn’t- you still have you and know you can exercise your integrity.
          Best of luck to you!
          Hope to see you around!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Vince says:

    Over the summer my kids told me their moms fiance is moving in, makes sense being her fiance and all. He’s a cool guy, good to my kids and seriously that’s all that matters to me. The thing is even though I’ve moved on in every way, I could not help but feel something…I can’t explain what it was but I won’t call it jealousy or anger. I thought, “No doubt he will be a better husband than I ever was to her.” Maybe the knowledge that I blew it years ago and there’s nothing I will ever do to change the past yet this guy comes along and gets to write a new story. I hope he won’t ever be shitty.

    Matt, I’m glad to see you’re still blogging. Five years ago I found your blog and it was a HUGE help to me during one of the hardest times of my life to date. I’m newly married and happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve learned from you and have used the lesson to make my life and marriage better. Once in a while I ask myself, “Man are you being a shitty husband right now?”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Matt says:

      VINCE.

      You got remarried! That’s phenomenal.

      You are officially the first person I can remember reading back when this thing first started who was going through the same stuff, and then to come out the other side and find a new relationship on which to build and move forward.

      You’ve gone through the entire cycle.

      I love it.

      Thank you for writing and sharing the life update. I couldn’t appreciate it more.

      Cheers to you and your new bride. To your children. To tomorrow being better than today.

      Seriously. Thanks for this. Made my day.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Sue says:

    I have no words … but THANK YOU, Matt, for sharing this … ♡♡♡

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So, back in November, my son’s ex remarried and we – me, my husband and my son – were invited to the wedding. And we were very excited to go because we all like the new guy (even my son) who is so good to my daughter-in-law and my grandsons. When she walked down the aisle I cried, but not the normal tears of wedding joy. I cried because I could see how my son was struggling. He and his ex are still best friends and he was happy for her, yes, but at the same time I could tell that seeing her marry somebody else was tearing him apart. I was hurting for him.

    Like you, it’s been six years since they split and everybody has pretty much healed and moved on, so it really took me by surprise how difficult it was for me and my son. He and I talked about it afterwards and he described his feelings as “profound regret”. He knows it was his fault that the marriage blew up, and he knows so much better now how to be a good husband. That’s gotta hurt, wishing you could go back and do it better.

    Like

  10. gottmanfan says:

    While I can’t directly relate to your experience in this post I definitely know that feeling of deep regret over something I wish I had done differently.

    It’s so hard to get the balance of two different things.

    1. Recognizing and acknowledging that my life and others lives are forever altered and damaged to some degree. Even with full shit owning and making amends as best you can. Some things are not fixable as if it never happened.

    I don’t know if there is an English word for it. Regret, remorse, wishing we could turn back time and do it over differently yet accepting that we cannot.

    2. The second is to recognize that we are human raised by humans in an imperfect world. We screw up. Everyone screws up. And to learn from it and make different choices in the future. To feel hope for a better version of yourself and a future that may be different but will still be good.

    It’s the hope part I struggle the most with.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. gottmanfan says:

    I think it’s why so many people want to find blame in the other person.

    It’s so damn hard to sit with knowing that WE caused this damage. No matter what the other person did or didn’t do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OKRickety says:

      gottmanfan,

      “I think it’s why so many people want to find blame in the other person.”

      Based on your phrasing, I wonder if you have done much study of fault, blame, and responsibility. If you haven’t, I would recommend you consider it. I have tried to study it and find the concepts difficult, partly because, as I understand it, the general public doesn’t understand the concepts and often conflate these words.

      Like

      • Rickety,
        Good morning :).
        I hope you’re doing well. Winters can be hard. This one has been sooo long!!
        Even if the south. Unless your blessed on some Tahitian island somewhere, I bet you’re feeling the effects of it, too.
        Good news! It really is almost over! Whew!
        I got the chance to read over the comments and your responses.
        Can I say that more than anything what I see is you defending your position, sometimes by arguing things that don’t really have bearing on the main assertion to begin with.

        You make a statement (your opinion that Matt’s writing is ineffectual with males) , a few people respond back and your chowing to not validate their responses by arguing some other point that may or may not be super relevant.

        That’s not unusual for people to do. We have a need for out thoughts, opinions and beliefs to be validated and legitimized.

        Sometimes we have a need to choose that at all costs. At the cost of relationship, at the cost of our own wellbeing.
        Sometimes that’s heroic and legit- and the world needs people with such unshakable fortitude in their beliefs of what’s right or not.
        In this instance I don’t think unswerving devoting to our belief system will have any heroic effects.

        I see that you believe a few things- about the nature of genders, about Matt’s writing, about fault vs. responsibility.
        I’m just wondering if you have examined your motivations in asserting your viewpoints? Not that they all realize not welcomed, they are!) But, what do you really hope to gain?
        Do you want to change other peoples minds?
        Do you want to feel heard and validated in your experience?
        Do you want to learn anything new?

        I think understanding that sort of thing goes a long way in inderstanding ourselves , AND getting what we actually need/want.

        Hope you have a really good day and find a slice of sunshine somewhere :)

        Like

      • Also re: responsibility vs fault…
        You see this All the time in the health care industry-
        People born with congenital diseases, or just into shitty circumstances…
        The disease isn’t their fault. They did not intentionally creat it. But they have the responsibility to care for themselves I. The way the disease dictates.
        Diabetes I, Bipolar, even complex trauma can be viewed that way.
        There was no act that the individual took to create their situation, but- if they want positive outcomes it is their responsibility in act certain ways to lead to those outcomes.

        Same in marriage. It’s not anyone’s fault there is conflict. Conflict isn’t going to exist. But, it is everyone’s responsibility to learn how to navigate it to get to some positive outcomes.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          I like your health analogies so I will add another. I think in most shitty marriages the analogy is more like type 2 diabetes.

          You have things you are doing that combine with genetic predispositions to cause disease. You have things you are doing that combine with your partner’s issues to cocreate shitty marriages. It is how you interact with with each other’s relative weirdness that determines how healthy or shitty a marriage is.

          Conflict in marriage is not in and of itself is not a problem. It’s normal and healthy to have conflict in the same way it’s normal to have rises and falls in our glucose levels.

          But if we haven’t learned healthy habits and/or we choose to do unhealthy things and/or we are addicted to unhealthy things it’s important to know the things we ARE doing that are causing problems and that can be changed.

          People who are genetically blessed can get away with bad behaviors more than average people. Like people who smoke packs of cigarettes a day and never get cancer. People who have “healthy” partners can be guided and challenged to better behaviors (or divorce early before kids). People who have unhealthy partners can be dragged down more.

          How we respond to our partners equally raises or lowers their behavior as we make it easier or harder for them to behave maturely.

          Liked by 1 person

          • gottmanfan says:

            This is why it doesn’t matter WHAT Matt’s wife did or didn’t do on one sense. I get what he is saying. He is not saying that she didn’t have her own stuff that cocreated a shitty marriage.

            It is the *COMBINATION* of two people. Imho that does not mean that it is 50/50 though.

            One person can definitely be doing things that are the equivalent of smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day. Over time in an average relationship that will lead to disease.

            What would his marriage have looked like if he didn’t smoke? Or quit smoking early enough when his wife begged him to quit smoking so she had to breath in second hand smoke?

            That is all Matt is saying when he acknowledges he was a shitty husband. He is not saying that his wife wasn’t doing her own shit that caused his to want to smoke. That she didn’t smoke some cigarettes too.

            But if you stop YOUR side which is higher up the flowchart often things downstream are very different as we make it easier for others to choose healthier things instead of all their energy being focused on begging you to stop smoking.

            Liked by 2 people

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              ‘He is not saying that she didn’t have her own stuff that cocreated a shitty marriage.

              It is the *COMBINATION* of two people.

              True, but avoiding “her own stuff” does not show the reality of Matt’s marriage, nor that of most marriages.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                All I can say is that your goal is not Matt’s stated goal of how he chooses to write his blog.

                It seems that it helps you in some way to try and “rebalance the scales” in the comments by directly opposing Matt’s stated goals and positions.

                After many errors, I am trying my best to practice accepting others boundaries for what they want to do. In their blog and everywhere else.

                There is imho a difference between presenting one’s point of view with good boundaries and continually insisting the other person is wrong because they have a different point of view.

                But to practice boundaries once again I leave it to you on how you choose to write your comments. My choice is only in whether and how I respond or not.

                Liked by 1 person

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  As I said to pip, I really would like to help others’ marriages be better. If Matt’s goal for this blog is not specifically targeted at men, then that’s his prerogative. I don’t understand it, because I think it’s a logical conclusion of what he believes. It’s just one more example to add to my list of “things that I find perplexing”.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    One of my main issues in preventing good boundaries is it’s hard for me to accept things that others do that I don’t understand or that don’t seem logical to me based on their stated goals.

                    But the bottom line is boundarylessness is requiring people justify their decisions to me before I accept them.

                    So hard to give up that and just accept people’s boundaries as is whatever their reason or no reason at all.

                    It’s a practice I work on everyday. Including here.

                    Like

                  • So, Rickety- here is the back up question to my previous one. What would benefit would I get, or my spouse get, by viewing things your way?
                    How would that improve my marriage?

                    Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      pip,

                      “What would benefit would I get, or my spouse get, by viewing things your way? How would that improve my marriage?”

                      Before my marriage (about thirty years ago), I remember being taught that unreasonable expectations are a major cause of problems in marriage. I think that is even more true today. Author Terrence Real says:

                      “In the last generation women have radically changed and men, by and large, have not. This is not a criticism of men. It is a simple fact.”

                      That may not be a criticism, but he certainly does criticize men otherwise. More importantly, women’s expectations have greatly increased. It is my opinion (and I know very few would agree) that many of those expectations are unreasonable. Naturally, the result is that few women today are pleased with their marriages. I am reminded of the maxim “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” that I would paraphrase as “Do you want all your expectations met, or do you want to have a good marriage?”.

                      Lest I forget, let me clearly state that men also have unreasonable expectations that result in their dissatisfaction with marriage.

                      From my viewpoint, getting rid of those unreasonable expectations (both men and women) would improve marriages. Instead of focusing on the negatives of unmet expectations, one could be grateful for the positives provided by your spouse.

                      Like

                    • I think the problem here is what is considered unreasonable.
                      Women have changed, we are much more confident and have more of a say in the world around us.
                      We also know more now than ever that we are allowed to be happy and fulfilled. We are allowed to experience joy- just because we are human. There’s no earning it, it doesn’t depend on the approval of others , it’s not given or taken by anyone else.
                      We get to be ourselves and do things that matter to us.
                      When you say someone is being selfish, I understand that largely has a negative connotation- but the truth is it is healing.
                      When we are selfish, have care and concern for who we are- we are much better able to genuinely have care and concern for others.
                      Brene Brown notes the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried.
                      Caring for someone shouldn’t feel like an obligation. Enough of that can start to feel a lot like slavery.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      PIP,

                      “I think the problem here is what is considered unreasonable”

                      Totally agree.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • OKRickety says:

                      pip,

                      “I think the problem here is what is considered unreasonable”

                      I also totally agree. As I said, I know very few would agree with my opinion.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      You are only getting a half of what Terry Real says about the changing expectations about marriage.

                      You are assuming the expected changes are unrealistic and negative. That is definitely *not* his premise.

                      His work is on training men AND women to be skilled in all human emotions and relationship intimacy. That, historically we have culturally “halved” what we trained and expected of men and women. (And no he doesn’t say it’s all cultural. It’s about having the other half available to you to maximize so men can do “empathy” and women can do “assertiveness” appropriate to the situation.

                      And he wants us all to figure out how to know how to use our adult instead of our childhood adaptations. To know how to “adult” what including good boundaries looks like.

                      You may very well not agree with his premise. In fact I am pretty certain you won’t.

                      As I said to PIP, Atkinson’s ebook has a lot of similar ideas without the gender or feminist overlay.

                      Plenty of ways and styles to get good information that appeals to one’s preferences and needs.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      ‘You are assuming the expected changes are unrealistic and negative. That is definitely *not* his premise.’

                      I see one of his major arguments to be this: Women’s expectations have increased, and they are reasonable and good expectations. Men’s behavior has not changed to meet those expectations. This causes many marriages to fail. Therefore, avoiding marriage failures requires that men must change to meet women’s expectations.

                      Yes, I disagree with the premise that the expectations of women today are all reasonable and good. I think some are unreasonable and I think some are actually bad.

                      I perceive Real’s work to have a “feminist overlay”. I think that is unfavorable to getting men to work to improve their marriages. And, even if he believes both men and women need to change, he focuses first, if I remember correctly, on getting the man to change. Perhaps Atkinson and others take a better approach but I think they are greatly outnumbered by those who think men need to change greatly but women need little change, if any.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yes, no surprise a “feminist overlay” would not be your cup of tea. Just as the Mars/Venus gender stereotyping bugs the shit out of me ha ha

                      To be fair to Real’s premise though, he does not say that all the women’s expectations are good. (As I said he talks a lot about adjusting to adult expectations)

                      He thinks that expectations about being competent in creating and maintaining intimacy in relationships is good as parents and spouses.

                      This requires change from BOTH people. He talks a lot about changes that both people must make.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I’m not recommending you seat at the feet of Terry Real ha ha. Just trying to present his arguments in the way that presents his complete framing.

                      I am a firm believer it makes sense to choose resources that are the best fit for our personality and point of view. I don’t agree with everything Terry Real says, of course, but I like his relationship grid and the way he presents how to figure out boundaries. And the way he describes how to learn to see which behaviors/attitudes are adaptive parts that are not our mature parts.
                      Full respect living etc.

                      Those work for me, I ignore what doesn’t work. He uses a lot of annoying stereotypes too sometimes. But whatever. I practice my boundaries to be able to use what’s helpful.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      “I think they are greatly outnumbered by those who think men need to change greatly but women need little change, if any.”

                      This is where we have very different life experiences. It is *my* experience that women are the ones to be told they must adjust much more than men.

                      Of course this doesn’t invalidate your experiences. But I could give you lots of examples that are the opposite of your premise.

                      I think bottom line is there is just a LOT of bad advice out there. We have to wade through the muck to find what is truly helpful. And then find it in a style we can best hear it.

                      Luckily those resources exist.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      You said:

                      “From my viewpoint, getting rid of those unreasonable expectations (both men and women) would improve marriages. Instead of focusing on the negatives of unmet expectations, one could be grateful for the positives provided by your spouse.”

                      I agree with the main idea of this. One of the things Terry Real says is we must all do a clear accounting of our expectations and the inevitable ways our partnering with another person will not meet some of them.

                      Two parts.

                      1. We must figure out what constitutes “reasonable adult expectations.” As you said, most of us bring some unrealistic expectations that need to be adjusted.

                      The meat there is . That to me is far more of a helpful exercise.

                      I don’t think most of it is even related to marriage at all.

                      What does a healthy adult look like? What constitutes healthy expectations of ALL types, work, parenting, neighbors, family, citizen, etc

                      If one focuses primarily on gender on this blog it presents a lot of blocks to various people to get the basic ideas that are critical.

                      The 2nd part according to Terry Real is making a clear choice based on realistic expectations. To choose or not choose to stay with and accept your partner and grieve what you want but don’t get with this particular pairing.

                      The other side to this is each partner is expected to make reasonable adult changes to accommodate the other partner. It’s not “this is who I am, just accept me and change you expectations of me.” It’s both and.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      ‘The meat there is.’

                      Channeling Yoda? :)

                      ‘I don’t think most of it is even related to marriage at all.’

                      Yes, other relationships are impacted by unrealistic expectations, but marriage is the most intense, most intimate relationship that exists. It deserves the most attention.

                      ‘If one focuses primarily on gender on this blog it presents a lot of blocks to various people to get the basic ideas that are critical.’

                      I find it difficult to ignore gender when I repeatedly perceive the idea that men are the ones who need to change, not women. As a result, I try VERY hard to keep gender out of my suggestions. For example, I avoided gender in my example for pip of the selfish spouse and the unselfish spouse. (See, I do try to consider what others will think of my comments.)

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yes, ha ha I noticed my bad typing and decided I was channeling Yoda wisdom.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      Do you know how to imbed an image in a comment?

                      I keep trying to link an image of the relationship grid but it disappears. I can embed YouTube videos. What’s up with that? Do you have any WordPress wisdom you can impart?

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      I’m not sure how well this works in WordPress comments (size may be an issue), but, assuming you have an URL for the image itself (for example, https://images.unsplash.com/photo.jpg) and not just the web page, you can try <img src=”https://images.unsplash.com/photo.jpg”>.

                      Liked by 1 person

          • gottmanfan says:

            It is my understanding of the research that most people have deficits of various sorts.
            Which is why marriage can be the catalyst to forcing you to develop more maturity.

            Or it can the catalyst to becoming defensive and blaming or self loathing and depressed or becoming hostile towards “men” or “women” or thinking that “marriage” itself is the problem etc etc

            As I always say, correct diagnosis is critical. To see what is really happening and which parts are in your control to change and how best to do that.

            Liked by 1 person

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              “Which is why marriage can be the catalyst to forcing you to develop more maturity.”

              One of the few concepts I recall from Terrence Real’s books is the concept that marriage can be a crucible for us to remove the unhealthy parts of ourselves that we bring into marriage.

              Note: In looking for a quote on that topic, I see that Dr. David Schnarch also talks about a “crucible” as a means to improve marriages. I don’t think I have read much about his work, so I don’t know how good it is, but I may look into it further.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                David Schnarch does have a lot of excellent ideas about marriage being a unique crucible of fire. An opportunity to grow into more adult maturity.

                Terry Real and others talk a lot of this concept too. Growing into our adult self and leaving our adaptive child parts out of the driver seat.

                I don’t think marriage is the only catalyst towards growth. Parenting, a challenging job/school environment/ illness etc.

                But marriage often bring ups lots of unresolved stuff in unique ways.

                Like

        • OKRickety says:

          pip,

          “Same in marriage. It’s not anyone’s fault there is conflict.”

          I disagree. Suppose one selfishly insists on moving a great distance, knowing how much the spouse wants to stay put. I would expect conflict and I would say the selfish spouse has the fault. Even in lesser conflicts, there is almost certainly fault, usually by both parties.

          It seems many care more about their own wants rather than desire a positive outcome in their marriage.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Your conflict with PIP may be in different definitions of “conflict.”

            It is normal and inevitable to have conflicts with any combination of two or more people with inevitable differences. This is where it is normal and not anyone’s fault to have differences.

            It is HOW we manage those conflicts that is the difference between a good and bad relationship.

            If we manage them poorly as in your example, dialectical conflict of differences leads to battle conflicts and overt or covert fights.

            Merrim-Webster dictionary:

            1 : FIGHT, BATTLE, WAR
            an armed conflict

            2a : competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)
            a conflict of principles
            b : mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands

            His conscience was in conflict with his duty.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Rickety,
            I appreciate what your getting at here- there can be 1001 “what if’s” – … and it’s funny that you would name the desire of one spouse “selfish”, but the other desire not.
            Why isn’t the spouse that wants to stay put “selfish”?
            but bottom line is if there are two people in a room for an enough time, there will be conflict (or disagreement) at least.
            It’s how we deal with that conflict that counts.
            You can’t blame someone for being a different human being than you are.

            Liked by 1 person

            • OKRickety says:

              pip,

              One definition of selfish is “lacking concern for others”. In my example, I meant (but did not clearly state) that the selfish one was not concerned for the spouse’s desires, but the one wanting to stay did have concern about the other’s desire. In other words, the conflict was not handled with love.

              Like

              • I still don’t understand why the one who wanted to stay put could not also be said to not be concerned with the other persons desire is not also considered selfish?
                You note that they did have concern, but that didn’t change their desire or choice to affirm staying put?
                It’s also a common mistake to believe the other person “didn’t have concern”…
                if they didn’t really care, there wouldn’t be conflict because they would already be gone.
                Right?

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  pip,

                  Having and expressing personal desires is normal and good. Many probably call this selfishness. I think selfishness requires what might be described as treading on someone’s essence.

                  Yes, people often mistakenly think the other person doesn’t care about them.

                  People often stay for reasons other than caring about the other person. For example, to keep their social standing.

                  Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          PIP,

          I can’t speak for okrickety of course and maybe he will respond to you directly to answer your questions.

          1. My interpretation of many men who make comments here is that they have an accumulation of life experiences where “men” or “husbands” or “fathers” are held responsible for relationship dysfunction with far less accountability for the other side of the equation.

          2. Uniballer talked about the many Father’s Day sermons that are judgmental and harsh about men’s failures as contrasted with Mother’s Day sermons where women are given flowers and thanked for their contributions.

          3. Uniballer also talked about being blamed for doing *something* that caused his ex wife to have an affair.

          4. Okrickety has described going to 3 out of 4 marriage counselors that didn’t acknowledge *any* responsibility on his wife’s side for the marriage issues.

          5. Nate has expressed confusion about the oft repeated Gottman accepting influence statistic that women do accept influence while most men don’t. In his descriptions his wife doesn’t accept influence but shows rigidity in what she wants him to do. So the idea that shitty husbands are the main cause of divorce doesn’t make sense to him.

          6. Several men have mentioned the “happy wife, happy life” advice given often that a man must just give in to whatever the wife wants and accept all blame given to him.

          7. So it is with these accumulations of life experiences (and many others I’m sure I’m not understanding) they bring a vulnerability and sensitivity to feeling “blamed” for something they feel should be presented clearly as two sided.

          8. That sensitivity leads to a lot of emotions and emotional responses.

          9. I, of all people, know that emotional responses are often expressed in Spock like ways to avoid being called emotional. (There is absolutely nothing wrong with emotions or Spock by the way. It’s all in how we respond to those thoughts to make them positive or negative in our minds).

          10. So I get, at least in part, why it just feels like the one sided approach is just *one more example* in their life experiences of not being treated fairly.

          11. When we feel that, it’s natural to want to push back. To rebalance the scale. To restore some dignity and fairness in our own mind even in other people don’t agree with us.

          12. Because we are all viewing this stuff through our own unique lens it can lead to very different interpretations of what others read as “plainly” saying something else.

          13. It’s just another example of Matt’s main point of this blog.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Matt says:

            The Levels of Awesome on display in this comment are really quite something.

            Liked by 1 person

          • OKRickety says:

            gottmanfan,

            ‘My interpretation of many men who make comments here is that they have an accumulation of life experiences where “men” or “husbands” or “fathers” are held responsible for relationship dysfunction with far less accountability for the other side of the equation.’

            The “many men who make comments here” are just the tip of the iceberg.

            ‘So it is with these accumulations of life experiences (and many others I’m sure I’m not understanding) they bring a vulnerability and sensitivity to feeling “blamed” for something they feel should be presented clearly as two sided.’

            Here’s the kicker: When I (and others) state that here, we receive little empathy but are instead told that we can’t be right, we just don’t understand, we need to get with the program. When your own experience is quite counter to the perspective claimed as accurate, such a response is just one more nail into the coffin for our lives and marriages. The reality, however, is that others are the ones that don’t understand our experiences. Yes, the response is “just another example of Matt’s main point of this blog.”

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Okrickety,

              Yes, I understand that I don’t understand what you or Matt or PIP or anyone else writing or reading this blog bring from their lives to give meaning to the word symbols written.

              I think the trick is to see it in 360 degrees. That your life experience doesn’t invalidate those who are saying that you are not seeing THEIR experience or “average” experiences either.

              That is why the main point of Matt’s blog is critical to the whole thing. To really really get it in our heads that OUR experience is not the only way that is valid.

              And to level it up more, we must also be open to research of what is average that may not be what we experienced. And what can lead us to see what we can change to be healthier.

              There is both subjectivity and objectivity involved imho.

              Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              “When I (and others) state that here, we receive little empathy but are instead told that we can’t be right, we just don’t understand, we need to get with the program. “

              Even this is subjective.

              I have read many comments that were both unempathic and empathetic to men’s experiences.

              I think when we are sensitive to a particular thing we focus on what causes us pain more than what doesn’t.

              Just as I remember the many comments that I consider misogynist more clearly than those that are not.

              People on a blog like this are more relationally wounded than a blog about fishing or interior design.

              Lots of negative emotions expressed that open old wounds.

              Like

          • Gottman,
            I can agree I may not understand, or see things the same as Rickety or other men.
            And, unfortunately I have an emotional response to my perception of what they are presenting.
            They may be talking about something that is very real for them, but similar to the thousands (millions??) of women who “me,too’d“ aren’t being heard because it’s not a daily reality for me.
            My difficulty with the message is the exactly what we were talking about- a lack of willing to explore their own contributions and the lack of taking responsibility to do anything about it.

            Like

            • Which almost runs full circle, saying they are tired of being blamed.
              …I can’t judge anyone else experience. I have no idea what life and marriage is like for these guys.
              I don’t want to go through the laundry list of complaints and responses.
              But it does seem to me that the options are – either women are unbearably nit picky, fickle control freaks that can never be satisfied,
              Or they maybe weren’t listening or addressing the things that were going on.
              It could be a measure of both- and likely is.
              But bottom line there is t one person or party to blame.
              It can be exhausting to constantly hear negatives about some identifying trait (like “man”)…
              But honestly wouldn’t the better version of changing that stereotype be to speak positively of men and their contributions vs. being offended at/by women?
              I don’t have answers- just thoughts..

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                I think if we flip the scenarios it gives more empathy at least for me.

                I can imagine being annoyed reading a blog by a woman who declares herself the primary cause of her divorce because she was a shitty wife.

                In fact I have read those books/blogs.

                It is difficult because you know from your own experiences that you had a lot of shit thrown your way that isn’t represented. It’s hard to just ignore that and focus on what you are doing wrong.

                As I said to Anita, validation is huge for most people. Most especially men who are sensitive to feelings of “failure”. To be told you were the cause of a shitty marriage because you are a shitty husband is difficult.

                It’s not that it isn’t helpful to lots of men like Jeff.

                But I can understand why it’s painful and difficult to certain subsets of men to not have it presented as a system.

                Liked by 1 person

                • gottmanfan says:

                  But as I said to Okrickety, Matt’s goal is not to reach those men necessarily. His stated goal is to tell his story that many, many people relate to. And those who read it and find it helpful to make changes are better for it.

                  There are plenty of resources that present a system view for those who prefer that. It’s not like there aren’t *many* often free or cheap excellent resources out there.

                  The Atkinson ebook is 20 dollars. And that doesn’t break things down by “men” or “women” to make one side or the other feel blamed.

                  Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Or in fairness, there are many men whose wife is the primary cause not them.

                  Terry Real breaks it down into the blatant and latent problem. Who is causing more of the shit? It can be one person who is doing a lot more of problematic stuff in terms of relationships. It can sometimes be approximately 50/50.

                  But even in a interactive system some behaviors and attitudes are more dysfunctional than others.

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    Based on what I read from Terrence Real today, my opinion of him has diminished considerably. That’s just an observation (because I am well aware of how the explanation would be received here). My apologies to any who find this to be a teaser.

                    Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  “I think if we flip the scenarios it gives more empathy at least for me.”

                  That’s one big reason I appreciate your comments – I think you actually try to do that, and I think it’s extremely rare!

                  “To be told you were the cause of a shitty marriage because you are a shitty husband is difficult.”

                  It’s even more difficult to be told that by someone who wasn’t part of the marriage, but assumes the man must have been a shitty husband.

                  Like

              • OKRickety says:

                pip,

                “But honestly wouldn’t the better version of changing that stereotype be to speak positively of men and their contributions vs. being offended at/by women?”

                The last phrase confuses me (should it be “at/by men”?). As to the first part, I think expressing respect and gratitude for men would be quite a change from what happens currently.

                Like

                • So you want to help marriages by getting more respect shown to men?
                  Wouldn’t that be done by respecting men, including yourself, instead of blaming another gender group or person?

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    pip,

                    Primarily, men should get far more respect instead of men being blamed.

                    I wonder if you are conflating “blaming” with “recognizing the fault” of “another gender group or person”. There really is a difference.

                    Like

                • No, it should be at/by women.
                  If you think women have more causation (blame) in divorce, and shitty marriages then you are being offended by them.
                  Instead of pointing your finger at someone/something else and saying “this offends me” as a means to increase respect for yourself, why not instead focus on and promote the things that are really positive and great about ourselves?
                  That demonstrates much more self respect for others to see than showcasing others faults.

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    pip,

                    ‘Instead of pointing your finger at someone/something else and saying “this offends me” as a means to increase respect for yourself,….’

                    Pointing out another’s fault does not increase others’ respect for you. Nor does respecting yourself increase others’ respect for you. Others have to choose to respect you.

                    Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              PIP,

              I understand (I think).

              I am trying to see it from their perspective. As I’m sure we agree people have all kinds of different life experiences that influence their interpretations.

              I think it’s two different things.

              1. Trying to understand and as much as possible validate the experiences of certain men that feel that men are blamed more.

              2. I don’t necessarily have to agree with them that men are blamed more overall to agree that men are blamed at least some of the time in some situations.

              That’s the trick I am trying to learn. Hearing and validating doesn’t necessarily mean full agreement. Just trying to understand what their point of view is.

              As Terry Real says people are rational if you understand their point of view based on their history and framing.

              Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        Okrickety,

        What did you find confusing when you studied the concepts? Where were you studying it? I agree the terms are used imprecisely sometimes.

        I am trying to talk about the general concepts more than precise meanings of the specific words.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Here is info from Brene Brown’s research about blame and accountability and its relationship to vulnerability.

          “Blame releases discomfort and pain: We often try to fault others for our mistakes because it makes us feel like we’re still in control.

          “I’d rather it be my fault than no one’s fault,” says Brown. But leaning into the discomfort of mistakes is how we can learn from them.

          “Here’s what we know from the research,” says Brown, “blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability.

          Blaming is a way that we discharge anger.”

          Blame is faster than accountability: Accountability is a vulnerable process that takes courage and time. “It means me calling you and saying, hey my feelings were really hurt about this, and talking,” says Brown.

          People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit needed to hold people accountable. “Blamers spend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is,” adds Brown.

          It’s difficult to maintain relationships when you’re a blamer, because when something goes wrong, we’re too busy making connections as quickly as we can about whose fault it is, instead of slowing down, listening, and leaving enough space for empathy to arise.””

          Like

        • OKRickety says:

          gottmanfan,

          My study was all informal, on-line reading on the topic. The most confusing part for me is separating responsibility and fault. For example, the responsibility of a parent when the fault is that of their child.

          “I think it’s why so many people want to find blame in the other person.”

          Blame, however, is essentially someone else’s opinion of who is at fault. For example, one could blame George Washington for the Korean Conflict. It’s not true, of course, but often people will blame others even though they have absolutely no fault in the matter.

          In your quote, I think you are conflating blame with fault. People often want to find fault so they can blame that person.

          However, placing blame is seldom, if ever, beneficial. As Matt says, we can only control ourselves. Blaming someone is often done to avoid our own responsibility for our own thoughts and behaviors.

          Other related words are guilt and shame. When someone realizes they are at fault, they can feel shame or feel guilt. Shame is another way of avoiding our own responsibility. Guilt, however, can be a motivator to take responsibility and effect positive change in oneself.

          “I am trying to talk about the general concepts more than precise meanings of the specific words.”

          That’s a laudable desire, but if words and phrases are incorrectly conflated, as happens very often, then it will be very difficult to correctly discuss the general concepts and learn how to improve ourselves.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            See my comments about Brene Brown’s research for the definitions I am using.

            I guess I am not overly interested in getting into discussions of detailed definitions as the focus as opposed to a “good enough” understanding so one can focus on the broad concepts.

            I am not saying it is wrong of course. I just don’t find it a helpful use of my time.

            Like

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              “I guess I am not overly interested in getting into discussions of detailed definitions….”

              I wondered because of your statement. Perhaps you will someday. I have even greater interest in the related concept of authority and related practicalities.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                I am primarily focused on what I can apply. To the extent definitions help me apply something better I consider it worth the effort.

                For example, Brene Brown uses a different working defining of “shame” and “guilt” than Terry Real does.

                I prefer the framework of healthy guilt because it causes me to recognize I need to change. Brown doesn’t think guilt can be healthy but that is shame.

                On a practical level I don’t really care. A rose by any other name etc. Others might fight it matters greatly to them to distinguish between “guilt” and “shame”. We bring meanings to those words based on our experiences as well.

                The concept is what matters to me. Can I understand it well enough to apply x thing no matter what it is called.

                I understand others prefer more precise definitions to apply concepts or to facilitate discussions. This is simply a personality or utility difference between various people.

                I generally don’t find detailed discussions of nuanced definitions interesting or helpful. But that’s just my quirk and choice of time focus. It doesn’t at all mean they are interesting or helpful objectively or subjectively to other people.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  I meant to say:

                  It doesn’t mean that they are *NOT* interesting or helpful objectively or subjectively to other people.

                  Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  I wrote it backwards.

                  I prefer the framework of healthy SHAME (edited not guilt) because it causes me to recognize I need to change.

                  Brene Brown doesn’t think shame is ever helpful definition. Terry Real approves of the concept of healthy shame.

                  Whatever. I think whatever words help a person toward being able to move towards more health it’s all good to me.

                  I got into a long discussion once with someone who couldn’t find the concept of healthy shame possible. Only guilt could do that. I argued the opposite.

                  I think it’s more important for me at this stage to apply the theme of this blog and just accept other people’s definitions that help them.

                  It’s not that objectively never matters. Of course it does. But it matters FAR less than I want to apply it.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    I need to tattoo this on my arm to see it everyday.

                    Love of objectivity is the cause of many Spock style people’s relationship troubles.

                    “It’s not that objectivity never matters. Of course it does. But it matters FAR less than I want to apply it.”

                    Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    gottmanfan,

                    Because you speak positively about “healthy shame”, I’m going to appeal to Brené Brown. In The Difference Between Shame and Guilt, and Why It Matters, the writer quotes her as saying in a TED talk (he provides the link):

                    ‘Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.”‘

                    On her own website, she says in the article shame v. guilt:

                    “I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful ….
                    “I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.”

                    It doesn’t seem that “healthy shame” is a phrase that she would use.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I understand that Brene Brown doesn’t use “healthy shame”.

                      I edited my comment earlier in another comment when I realized I typed it backwards.

                      Terry Real is one of the people who talks about “healthy shame”. As I said in the other comments I relate to that better but it’s not a big deal to me that others prefer Brene Brown’s wording.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      The point I am trying to make is that wording is far less meaningful to me now that insisting on specific meanings of specific words.

                      People can call it whatever they want as long as the concept is there.

                      I tire of spinning wheels arguing about detailed meanings that others bring to specific words. If this was an academic paper it would matter to me more. Since it’s not I don’t spend my energy there.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      “People can call it whatever they want as long as the concept is there. I tire of spinning wheels arguing about detailed meanings that others bring to specific words.”

                      If the concept is important, then understanding may be hampered, even prevented, because of those different meanings. Sure, it can be overdone, but it is extremely important.

                      I am reminded of my ex-wife asking “Why do we need to talk about what happened? Can’t we just move forward?”. In my opinion, common understanding improves communication and relationships.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      I missed this response earlier.

                      You said:

                      “If the concept is important, then understanding may be hampered, even prevented, because of those different meanings. Sure, it can be overdone, but it is extremely important.”

                      I agree it is very important to have a general common understanding of what each person is talking about and the meanings we bring to words that may be quite different. Questions of “what do you mean what you say x”?

                      The other side to balance is not stopping the flow of conversation and getting off tract of the main point the other person is trying to make.

                      Like when someone is trying to get a point across and the other person wants to focus on proper grammar and detailed nuances of word meanings instead of focusing on the main idea of the message as the other person defines it. This is not generally helpful imho and frustrates the other person or leads to a debate over which word meaning is “correct.”

                      I have also been the person to focus on “illogical” or not “factual” parts of a message instead of staying with what the person is trying to get across in what I judge to be an imperfect way. I am trying to practice generosity to overrule my Spock tools in those situations.

                      Generosity and perspective taking are the appropriate relational tools to use in cases like that. Spock tools are great when appropriate but not when they block relational flow in a conversation.

                      I still slip often though as clearly seen in comments here. It’s a practice to get better.

                      I am going to put other comments on the bottom of the comments.

                      Like

  12. Astrid says:

    Not to put words in Matt’s mouth, but I think honesty and intentionality is important moreso than trying to achieve an end result (changing men). If audiences are not receptive to Matt’s truth about his own experiences, then that’s that. Matt, keep speaking on your experiences, those who will listen will have gained a valuable amount of information through your hard earned wisdom. Those who choose not to do so can make an identical mistake to yours- that’s their choice to make. Personally, I don’t have enough time in my life to make identical mistakes others have made. I’d like to make new ones and learn from others’ missteps.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. gottmanfan says:

    I’m moving my comments down here.

    One of the things I find useful about what Terry Real says is his focus on “full respect” living. This includes learning appropriate boundaries (Goldilocks level, not boundaryless or walled off).

    Then learning and practicing the 9 essential skills:

    The Nine Essential Skills

    1. Practice Healthy Self-Esteem
    2. Practice Healthy Boundaries
    3. Stay in the Circle of Health
    4. Practice Relational Mindfulness
    5. Go After What You Want
    6. Shift From Complaint to Request
    7. Respond With Generosity
    8. Practice Empowerment
    9. Cherish Each Other

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      And here is his list of the 5 Losing Strategies we need to learn to avoid.

      1) Being “right”
      2) Controlling your partner
      3) Retaliation
      4) Unbridled self-expression
      5) Withdrawal

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        gottmanfan,

        I think I found “Shift From Complaint to Request” to be a good concept. However, it has little value if your spouse doesn’t “respond with generosity”.

        I often wanted to ‘Be “right”‘. Later, it was easier to “Withdraw”. And eventually, there was no need to “Withdraw” because I never entered. (Note: Even seven years post-separation, that brings strong emotions. I wish I had never married!)

        Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      The relationship grid is the tool that helps me the most. I use that every day. Have to talk about that later when I have time.

      Like

    • FlyingKal says:

      Hi Gottmanfan,
      sorry to be late to the show…

      OKRickety wrote in an early post:
      ” I also think many men readers readily notice the heavy emphasis that it is men who are primarily failing at marriage, but there is very little mention of how women have fault, too.”

      My issue with a lot of the articles and comments is not so much about the little mentioning about women’s faults, but more about the little mentioning there is about the efforts that a lot of men actually put in their relationships.

      And how we often try to do the best we can with the tools we have, but the failed wffort is so often interpreted to have a malign intent, because society so often encourages us to view it that way.

      As an example. Jef (i think it was) wrote an early post about the different styles of communications he and his wife brought into their marriage. As he had been brought up in an emotionally repressive family, he fumbled with how to express his emotions. But that his wife had the habit of getting angry at hinm whenever he disagreed with her certainly can’t have helped in their situation. Yet, later on she starts to consider divorce because of HIS inability to communicate, nnot because of THEIR mismatch.

      We say that we live in a society that accepts men who can’t express their feelings. But if we at the same time repress them whenever they try, or try to learn how to, then is the blame for the failed communication really as one-sided as some try to make it out to be?

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Hi Kal,

        You wrote:

        “My issue with a lot of the articles and comments is not so much about the little mentioning about women’s faults, but more about the little mentioning there is about the efforts that a lot of men actually put in their relationships.”

        I think this is an excellent point.

        I think most husbands are doing what they can figure out to do and their wive’s dysfunction is to respond as if they are not trying at all. Or as you said to infer evil intent.

        Like

        • FlyingKal says:

          Gottmanfan,
          You are much too kind to me, as usual.

          But I think this may often be an underlying issue here, with the people who complain about what they perceive as “unfair” or “unbalanced” in Matt’s posting. I’m not asking for a laundry list of possible flaws in the personality of his ex-wife or the way she acted or handled things.

          But for a lot of people who come here to read, and who already are beating themself up for being a failure in their relationship, I think it would be a positive influence to acknowledge that even shitty husbands can sometimes perform a positive deed, even if the motives are misinterpreted…

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            I know your long term relationship wasn’t similar to Matt’s in key ways.

            The reason imho that women come here as don’t give their spouses an credit is because by the time you are at the divorce stage there IS often intentional withholding or meanness. I personally experienced it. What starts out as “clueless” can often turn into intentional cruelty. (And bad stuff on the other side too).

            This doesn’t describe your relationship but it’s a pretty destructive part of the end of the most common pattern.

            Both sides

            Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Kal,

        You said;

        “We say that we live in a society that accepts men who can’t express their feelings. But if we at the same time repress them whenever they try, or try to learn how to, then is the blame for the failed communication really as one-sided as some try to make it out to be?”

        Terry Real talks to wives about praising progress, praising the 15% improvement instead of pointing out what’s missing.

        The key imho is that learning is being attempted with good faith effort. And that effort needs to be met with encouragement not criticism. This is hard for both sides to do. Which is why it requires growth of maturity on both sides.

        Like

        • OKRickety says:

          gottmanfan,

          ‘The key imho is that learning is being attempted with good faith effort. And that effort needs to be met with encouragement not criticism. This is hard for both sides to do.’

          I very much agree. But I seldom, if ever, see that response from women. I intentionally wrote “from women”, because, as I understand it, the experts  such as Terry Real and Gottman seem to clearly state that men are primarily the ones failing. When you read posts and comments from women about their marriages, do you see them express gratitude for husbands changing, or do they complain it’s not enough? I perceive it to be almost entirely the latter, suggesting that women are not making the changes needed to have successful marriages.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            My understanding of both Real and Gottman is that they identify major changes needed from both men and women. They both describe it in system terms. The more spouse a does x, the more spouse b does y. (Real calls this the “more, the more” for shorthand).

            But you are right that they both highlight blocks that men often put up to changing the more the more. This is imho not negating the many changes that wives need to make.

            But according to research and my personal life experience, men’s defenses are higher up in the flow chart. It’s not even “worse” than the women’s stuff. It’s just that it blocks change if I don’t acknowledge there IS something to change.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Sue Johnson’s Emotinally Focused Therapy works from an approach that is very system based. It takes great pains to not call out one side or the other as better or worse. But to understand the vulnerability underneath all those bad behaviors on both sides.

            There are a lot of advantages to in couples where there is good faith effort on both sides. It’s when one side refuses to change or see the other perspective that Terry Real’s model works better imho.

            Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              Gottmanfan,
              There has to be good faith effort on both sides. YES!

              But what I’m trying to convey here is that there’s also another thing that has to be present on both sides.
              And that is that both sides have to be able to acknowledge when there actually IS a good faith effort on both sides.

              Otherwise I think it’s a pretty certain way to shipwreck.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                I agree Kal.

                So often we don’t see the effort the other person is making because it’s not in our preferred method or timing or style.

                That’s why I think Gary Chapman’s Love Language books have been helpful to many.

                If we understand that our spouse’s acts of service was an effort to show love that helps to see the effort even if you prefer another love language.

                We need to build on that to learn WHAT our spouse needs to feel loved and to see your effort to show love to them.

                It doesn’t help to say “my preferred style is the RIGHT way.”

                Which is common to both sides but I think is one of the things many women do.

                Terry Real says that men often present as overt grandiosity with covert shame. Women often present as overt shame with covert grandiosity.

                This is where you get the whole “my husband is my useless 3rd child, needs to be told what to do” which comes from thinking that you are RIGHT. And that leads to “righteous anger” in the response.

                Both sides have contributing grandiosity in the usual patterns.

                Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                The overt grandiosity/covert shame in husbands looks like not accepting influence because “who are YOU to tell me what to do and try and control me?” “You need to accept me as I am”. “You need to think about things the way I do” etc.

                The covert shame comes from feeling like a failure. Nothing I do is good enough for her. I will never be accepted or loved.

                Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            You said:

            “When you read posts and comments from women about their marriages, do you see them express gratitude for husbands changing, or do they complain it’s not enough?”

            Well usually when you are in a shitty marriage it’s because you are in these “the more, the more” frustrating dynamics.

            I usually see women express gratitude when they can SEE the effort their husbands make to address their individual and relationship issuesEven if it isn’t all they hope for.

            But when you are stuck in these patterns we each defend ourselves with doing more of what the other person doesn’t find comforting.

            I see the same thing on the other side. Husbands who will appreciate a wife’s effort that he can see to hear him about presenting things in a less critical way or have sex more often of whatever.

            Like

        • FlyingKal says:

          Gottmanfan,
          about the “15% improvement”.
          Many people (in the feminist/equalilty movement) will ironically reply that “You don’t deserve a cookie for being a decent human being”.

          So, it’s not so much that I expect praise for the small improvement, or even the effort I put in. At least not any longer.
          It’s more that I would appreciate not being suspected to always have ulterior motives or malign intent for whatever I do.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            I think both of these ideas have true.

            One shouldn’t expect great praise and wait for asking to do adulting.

            But when someone really is trying to change appreciating and praising small changes is very important.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kal,

            You said:

            “It’s more that I would appreciate not being suspected to always have ulterior motives or malign intent for whatever I do.”

            Yeah I think that is an excellent point. It’s difficult to not feel attacked and defend yourself when the other person is operating under the assumption you are “attacking” them.

            Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Kal,

        I relate to Jeff’s story in my
        own marriage. It was very hard for me to see withdrawal as an expression of defense of perceived attack. Or in a more positive way as a way to avoid damaging the relationship with another fight with nothing to show at the end but even more negativity.

        Many husbands use withdrawal in this way. It is just as much of an attempt to defend and protect the relationship as it is to defend themselves. It is usually not done as a way to hurt their wives even though that is often how the wives perceive it.

        The angry response to withdrawal just sets up more withdrawal as a response. You are right that my *response* as a result of my interpretation of withdrawal is something within my control and that I needed to change.

        This stuff requires change ok both sides.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          And it’s not just responses that need to change but also how and when wives bring up requests for change.

          Responding to a brief, softly stated, clear, request for change is far different than hearing a long list of criticisms.

          Like

          • Louie says:

            Sorry for butting in Lisa and Kal..but wow! This is a replay of the fowler times in my marriage . There were times when everything I said was perceived as an attack or lack of empathy or some kind of prepuse to my wanting out. Had conditioned myself to hold back what I needed to say to preserve our union . That in fact left me frustrated with bottled up anxiety bordering on fury and Anne with resentment and contempt. It seemed I had nothing to say no input and got lots of shifted blame . It wasn’t a nice place to be in . It took year of counseling and some back hand advice from my teacher and family priest friend before I was able to get to a point to be able to get it across to her .

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Glad to hear your perspective Louie!

              What were some of the things that you did that were successful in getting Anne to understand your point of view?

              Like

              • Louie says:

                Hi Lisa…well for starters I had to learn to see things from her perspective..not easy..but using my best empathetic senses. I got to a place in the journey that was navigable . Mind you I spoke of back handed advice from my priest, it was very uncharacteristic for a priest. He insisted that I take a firm stand and not accept what he termed as unintentional abuse. He also said that I have be firm but loving. With lots of prayer and introspection and holding my own dignity, setting aside anger and ego and viewing the issues with love instead of competition we started to make headway. It continues but worth every effort.
                On a side note I would like to just state without delving into the up comment foray regarding Matt’s writing perspective. I’ve only been writing and commenting on this site a few years. I will admit when I read the first “Open Letter to Shitty Husbands” I got all macho and thought ” this guy needs to stop blaming himself and tell us what his wife did”. I saw lots of pain in his writing and trying to see if he does unload on his ex I read all the open letters and the comments and his responses to the comments. That lead to my reading all the MBTTTR posts comments responses. I often read them over again and noticed the absence of his perception of his wife’s culpability. He empathetically wove the fabric of a relationship that had numerous issues. While some of the described behaviors seemed really tame they were the collective last straws. I can’t really judge how things went down in the Fray household , it’s not my place to , what I appreciate about Matt’s writings is his ability to stick to his intent. He is telling a story not unlike the ride of Paul Revere. Paul rode to warn of the potential for disaster by virtue of the presence of British troops. He wasn’t going to make disparaging or accusatory statements about the British officers. I know from his writing and some individual conversations on Facebook and here in comment response, that Matt is a man of good character and honor. He courageously speaks of his epiphanies regarding his own part in the marital demise. He hopes his self revelations will serve as a wake up for both men and women in troubled marriages. Matt , I believe, finds no value in vilifying the mother of his child. We may never know what both sides are and I believe we don’t need to know. We might want to take some of his experiences an apply to our own relationships as he does stir up some “A ha” moments. Sorry long winded I know but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Blessings to you all

                Liked by 1 person

                • Matt says:

                  The Paul Revere metaphor. Amazing.

                  Thank you for the thoughtful comment Louie, and for capturing the spirit of what I’ve tried to do writing here. Thoroughly enjoyed reading that.

                  Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              Nothing to be sorry about, Louie!
              Much like gottmanfan, I appreciate your perspective.

              Like

      • Louie says:

        Hi Kal…I read this particular post over again and it struck.a note in me. I fully understand and have been in these straits before. It’s truly frustrating. What I had to train myself to do in at these times was maintain my genuine. The who I am the guy that is true and loyal not only to my wife and family but to myself. I can only be responsible for me ..my beliefs and my point of view. If it is somehow misinterpreted then all I can do is remain on course. It will usually come to pass that my view was sincere and truthful. Holding a clear unwavering stance is always best . Compromise.when negotiating ,not in your beliefs shows your seriousness and that is powerful

        Like

  14. gottmanfan says:

    Here is a video where he explains the grid. I think it’s very helpful.

    Like

  15. Louie says:

    Matt… You know it’s been about 38 or so years since I have had an alcoholic beverage. My choice ( it turns me into Godzilla!) . But sometimes when I read some of your posts I want to seek you out and go on a bender with you…just jump in the bottle. I mean this in a good way. More celebratory than anything. You help touch nerves in me and help me re-live some of the shit storm of my early married years. As painful as some of those days may have been I’ve found my strength, my focus, my courage, and my reset Your willingness to share these painful and heart wrenching events from your life show many ,who believe that their lives are over, the sun will come up tomorrow. When you speak of the events of your pre and post divorce life I remember how things went down , how shitty things got, how we stepped up to the plate to come to the healing Anne and I needed. There are other avenues that have the same effect but your stories hit with the real deal. It was a very long time ago when we found our path back. There are still so many triggers…things that make me nuts, that keep me awake, that reopen old wounds and brings up old unanswered questions. But it also grounds me to the facts… we’re still together, we have each other, we have one another’s back, our family is growing and flourishing, we talk more laugh more love more. We are good together we aren’t going to accept the craziness and drama of our past as what currently defines us. Articles like this one are encouraging to the many suffering similarly. They are encouraging to me and I haven’t suffered the tragedy of divorce…but almost did. Long before I met Anne I was in a serious relationship with a young lady…I thought that we were happy, doing lots together and perhaps were going to end up together. 3 years into the relationship I asked her out and she said she needed to get up early for work and was tired. I was going to stay home that night but a friend of mine from school stopped by and wanted to catch up at a local bar. I walked in and you guessed it there she was with a guy that was not me. I said my goodbye and.moved on with my life. Regularly I would see them out and I’m not going to lie it bugged me. I knew I would be ok but I still had that terrible knaw. Fast forward 40 years and while campaigning for political office I stopped by the girl’s mom’s house soliciting votes. To my surprise the old flame answered the door. Small talk, how’s life etc. talked of kids and geographic regions and work and spouses. I told her that Anne and I have been married 30+ years and she introduced me to husband#4. While I don’t revel in others life strifes it made me realize that all those years ago ,up to that doorway reunion,I might have been given the best gift of all….the gift of peace

    Like

  16. opal says:

    I’m so tired. Tired of feeling like I’m never good enough. Tired of feeling like I am walking on eggshells. Tired of having to defend myself when he misunderstands me but I have to swallow the criticism from him because I’m being “sensitive” and “over reactive”.

    I stumbled on your blog long ago as a single woman and was happy to see that there are men out there who can see from a different perspective. Fast forward 4 years, I’m married, but it’s not the marriage I envisioned. On the good days, things are good. On the bad days, I feel like a war victim, with gaping emotional wounds and missing limbs. And every single time, it is me who has to “get over it” because I “took it wrong way”.

    I gave him the dishes post to read, hoping that can be a bridge for me to communicate to him the wall I’m facing, but he dismissed it as you being apologist. I don’t know what else to do. Of course I don’t expect a solution/reply, I don’t even know why I’m typing this. Maybe it’s just the need to be heard. It’s one of those things where on the surface, everyone thinks our marriage is great because he is a “good guy”. But as an independent, strong individual, there’s only so many times I can take feeling diminished before my self respect kicks in and walk away. I need my sanity back.

    Thank you for your blog Matt. At least I know it’s not really all just in my head.

    Like

  17. yeshuasbride1966 says:

    Divorce (or even a break up) is always difficult. Your blessed to get to go get your son and have some time with him. I’ve been estranged from my three younger girls (and my son too) for about twelve years.

    Like

  18. gottmanfan says:

    Okrickety,

    In the interest of precision, Terry Real talks about “appropriate” shame as helpful to change.

    I think about shame as “healthy” or not but that is not his terminology. They are similar in my mind. Appropriate shame is healthy shame because it is appropriate to point out behavior that is damaging and needs to be changed.

    This is the same concept that Brene Brown calls “guilt”.

    From a utilitarian point of view, it doesn’t matter to me that people call is different things if the concept is there. But I agree that in conversation we should have an understanding of terms to communicate effectively.

    I am practicing adopting the language of the other person when I understand we are talking about the same concept. This is a relational goal to not derail the conversation into debates over whose terminology is “right”.

    I practice this because one of my non relational defaults is wanting to debate what is objectively right. So I need to practice playing a different set of rules.

    Like learning to play with basketball team rules not competitive “horse” basketball game rules with each person taking separate shots.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      When I focus on debating who is “right” it is not a relational team focus which should be about passing the ball back and forth as a team.

      Others who are people pleasers and don’t stand up for themselves may need to practice the opposite of what I do. It all depends on what skills you need to improve.

      On which grid you are starting from in the Terry Real grid. Wanting to be “right” is starting from a one up position so I practice focusing on generosity towards the other person so I can get closer to the healthy middle of the grid.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        And I think people who start with Spock like “objectively right” emphasis often need to practice perspective taking to get better at seeing things from the others point of view that are logical within their own framework.

        So I practice that too. And fail and practice over and over.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          Here is a related though from Martin Seligman’s positive psychology among others.

          Use your strengths to improve your weaknesses.

          A Spock like person who emphasizes being right can use that to improve their ability to understand others perspective and know how to respond to others to improve the relationship.

          I read a lot of stuff so I can harness my Spock strengths. Intellectual understanding can be a way to become more emotionally intelligent.

          I just focus my “objectively right” thing onto my own knowledge and application of what the research says to do.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            I know others whose strength is empathy and emotional expressiveness.

            That can be a strength harnessed towards improving a weakness of not standing up or making clear requests.

            Empathy for themselves, empathy for wanting to prevent damage to the relationship. Empathy for helping others not to continue to violate boundaries but to get appropriate feedback.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            I failed in my comment to you earlier because I was focusing on what I judged to be “right” instead of focusing on staying in the middle of the healthy grid.

            So I violated boundaries by telling you what to do in a one up way on the grid. And I did it in an emotionally unintelligent way with declarations instead of curiosity.

            That’s why I like the Terry Real grid. It helps to diagnose which direction the defaults lie and which direction we need the practice.

            I am happy that you perceive that I try and see men’s perspectives since that is part of what I am practicing. I can understand it a lot better now that I have read a lot that explains it.

            I am still not good at perspective taking when I don’t understand it. Understanding is helpful but should not be a necessary condition. Baby steps.

            Like

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              Regarding the idea of knowing (and understanding?) men’s perspectives, what do you think of Shaunti Feldhahn’s work?

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                It has been a while since I read her stuff so I am not sharp on her stuff.

                But my impression is that she is good at articulating what men and women commonly “want” (in a specific demographic and dominant US culture anyway).

                She is not as good imho as presenting how those wants may or may not be healthy and required to change. It’s similar to me to the Mars/Venus books (though more palatable to me).

                What do you think of Shaunti Feldhahn’s work?

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  I have not read much of her work but I have read some of her blog. Generally, I think she understands men much better than most women (who, in my opinion, have a strong tendency to make up their own. often incorrect, explanations for men’s behavior). I suspect her research has led her to a position of empathy for men.

                  As to what she thinks is healthy or not, I am not certain, but I have a suspicion I would value her interpretation more than I would that of many others. For example, I just looked at her response to the latest APA guidelines for working with men and boys. In Toxic Masculinity or an Attack on Masculinity?, she says:

                  “The problem is: we have had so many decades of false narratives and inaccurate groupthink about men in media and culture, that even those who sincerely want to help men truly appear to believe the lies. So any approach based on those inaccurate beliefs—including many of the current “guidelines”—won’t touch the real problems and can actually make matters worse.”

                  Her response warms my heart. I think “She gets it” instead of my more usual response to the so-called experts of “What an idiot!”. I perceive that she recognizes correctly the prevailing societal attitude about men is “false narratives and inaccurate groupthink”.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    I have empathy for men and also think they need to make changes towards more health.

                    I have empathy for women and also think they need to make changes towards more health.

                    I don’t think having empathy means accepting the status quo.

                    This is where I appreciate Atkinson’s presentation. We must recognize and acknowledge style differences. And each person adjust as necessary to accommodate each other.

                    But there is another layer that is crucial to include. We must know what healthy behavior is. Unhealthy behavior is not to be adjusted to.

                    We must each examine ourselves to figure out where we need to change our parts that are unhealthy.

                    Things that only focus on style differences are woefully inadequate in relationship advice imho.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I have great empathy for myself for the nature/nurture reasons I ended up with the strengths and weaknesses I did.

                      Most of fixing my relationships was to identify the attitudes and behaviors that work to create healthy relationships and those that cocreate shitty relationships. (And also impede personal mental and physical health).

                      The stuff that needs to be changed can be changed with enough focus and practice. But first correct diagnosis is critical.

                      Like

    • OKRickety says:

      gottmanfan,

      While I recognize the practicalities of your approach and your laudable intentions in that regard, I still think it is important to know there are differences in the usual agreed definitions of words. If everyone actually knew the dictionary definitions, then that would eliminate most of the confusion. That would be my preference.

      That reminds me of a theory about spelling correctly. Specifically, the more often you see a word misspelled, the more likely you are to misspell it yourself. Presumably, you become uncertain on the correct spelling. I think the same would apply to word definitions. If they were always used correctly, then there would be far less likelihood of incorrect understanding.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Okrickety,

        It’s not that I disagree that definitions are not important.

        It’s that each of us bring subjective interpretations even to the words in dictionary definitions of words.

        And I ask myself what is the goal in this conversation? If the goal is helped by focusing on definitions then that is the right approach.

        Imho most of the time focusing on detailed definitions works against conversation in relationships.

        But that is a generalization and there may be times it would be helpful. I try and practice getting verbal and nonverbal feedback from the other person. If they think it’s helpful then great, if not I try and move on with a good enough understanding. Or I fake it until I can gather more info.

        Like

    • Jeff says:

      Sorry accidentally hit post. Just wanted to post this concerning something that I just recently realized that I was doing in my marriage. I can relate to some of the posts above that talk about one spouse assuming evil intent or malicious intent constantly. This was something that hurt deeply because I wasn’t out to hurt my wife. I have to admit that in many cases I responded in heated situations that caused damage, but my overall intent was not evil. Hopefully that makes sense.

      In addition to the above, and I think related to the above, my wife would not seem to accept my apologies for the damage that I did cause in our marriage. This has been an on-going frustration as she seems to assume the worst and doubt any good intentions on my end, including accepting that my apologies are genuine. However, in a conversation last night, I think a light bulb went off on my end. She was bringing up some of the things that I did throughout the marriage, and once again I apologized. She seemed to get angry again, and we started heading down the same path we always seemed to in that case. However, that is when she pointed out something that I wasn’t noticing before. She explained that when I said “I am sorry”, my emphasis was on the “am” in the phrase. In other words, the way I was apologizing wasn’t coming across as truly repentant, but instead I was coming across as trying to convince her that I have already apologized and she should be able to accept that.

      Anyway, I started thinking about what she said, and I realized that my focus in almost all of our conversations is trying to show my wife that I’m not the horrible person that she seems to see me as now. Everything that I’m doing is coming across to her as my defending myself instead of coming across as repentant, and to a large degree she is right. It isn’t that I’m not repentant, but my focus is on showing her that I’m not the horrible person that she seems to see me as. Not sure how to address this since I do feel that my wife’s current view of me is extremely negative, and I can’t apologize for things she feels that I’ve done wrong if I don’t agree. However, I think I realized for the first time last night just how my apologies are coming across to her. It makes a little more sense now why my wife is having a hard time accepting my apologies.

      Sorry, not sure this really fits in with the conversations above, but thought I would share since I’ve been going through this for quite a while and just now realized this. Might be helpful to somebody else who may be in a similar situation. I’m not the best at judging how my words and tone might come across, but obviously I need to be more conscience of this. Not even sure that there is a good answer to this, but will hopefully be able to bring it up in counseling. Anyway, just wanted to share.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        Hi Jeff,

        You said:

        “Anyway, I started thinking about what she said, and I realized that my focus in almost all of our conversations is trying to show my wife that I’m not the horrible person that she seems to see me as now. Everything that I’m doing is coming across to her as my defending myself instead of coming across as repentant, and to a large degree she is right. It isn’t that I’m not repentant, but my focus is on showing her that I’m not the horrible person that she seems to see me as. Not sure how to address this since I do feel that my wife’s current view of me is extremely negative, and I can’t apologize for things she feels that I’ve done wrong if I don’t agree.”

        I think you have had a BIG revelation with excellent insight into your motivations.

        I should exercise good boundaries and ask if you are interested in feedback but I will offer my own experiences as indirect feedback. I don’t know your situation if my approach will work or not but I will throw it out there.

        There are several resources I have found helpful in how to apologize when you don’t agree with some or even all of the other persons take.

        The key thing as you have noted is to fight our natural defensiveness. To want our side acknowledged and understood.

        David Burns has a helpful thing in his book Feeling Good Together. I will post more detail later. The crux is to work to AGREE with the other person. To understand it from their point of view not our own.

        When we do that the other person most often relaxes their need to defend their point of view.

        It is HARD to give up protecting and defending ourselves or “accuracy” as a goal. It is a practice to not need that. To give it up is a major point towards more maturity imho. But to focus on the other person’s pain.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          I had a recent situation with a loved one. She insisted I was at fault for not doing something sooner. She felt as a result of my wrong actions she had suffered.

          It was SO HARD not to focus on defending myself because I didn’t think her assessment was accurate or fair to all the effort I had expended. Her anger at me was difficult to respond to softly.

          BUT I caught myself and remembered all my David Burns stuff. What if I made it my goal to give up my need to defend myself.

          I agreed that she was suffering and expressed great empathy for her pain. I said I can understand that my not acting sooner had caused her pain and I was deeply sorry and apologized that I could have done things differently but didn’t.

          You know what happened? She softened and accepted my apology.

          I wanted it to be mutual but it wasn’t. She didn’t apologize back to me. I felt the next urge to defend myself since I was hanging out there unilaterally.

          But what is my goal? There is a person I love who is in pain. My actions have caused her pain. Unilateral apology meets my goal of validating her pain and recognizing I COULD have made a different choice that would have caused her less pain.

          It’s a practice to respond nondefensively. The goal in my case is to get some more maturity so that is to my benefit. And to repair pain and relational damage. That helps my loved one and also me.

          And all I have to do to get all that good stuff is not defend myself.

          Liked by 1 person

          • gottmanfan says:

            Here is a summary of David Burn’s techniques. The one I am talking about is the “disarming technique”.

            “The Five Secrets of Effective Communication can be remembered using the acronym, EAR:

            E = Empathy

            The Disarming Technique:

            You find truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems illogical, self-serving, distorted, or just plain “wrong.”

            Thought and Feeling Empathy:

            You summarize what the other person just said (Thought Empathy) and acknowledge how he or she is probably feeling, given what he or she just said (Feeling Empathy)
            Inquiry: You ask gentle, probing questions to learn more about what the other person is thinking and feeling.

            A = Assertiveness

            “I Feel” Statements: You express your own feelings and ideas openly according to the formula, “I’m feeling X, Y, and Z right now,” where are X, Y and Z refer to any of a wide variety of feeling words, such as anxious, attacked, hurt, or sad.

            R = Respect

            Affirmation (formerly called Stroking): You convey warmth, caring and respect, even in the heat of battle”

            Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        Jeff,

        I really appreciated your vulnerability in this comment.

        I have been in the position of your wife with not feeling my husband’s apology was sufficient. I still feel this way on certain issues and we are trying to navigate those.

        I am happy to give you a “wife’s” perspective that may be similar to what your wife is looking for if you would ever find that helpful to your cause.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff says:

          Gottmanfan,

          Thanks for responding. Your perspective is appreciated. It is becoming very clear to me that my biggest struggle through all of this has been to let go of my “right” to be understood. As you mentioned above, one of the hardest things to do is let go of that “right” when you don’t agree with the other person’s assessment of your motives/actions. It is particularly hard when you don’t know if the other person will ever understand your perspective. This is an area that I have struggled with the entire marriage, and I will need a lot of work/practice on this moving forward.

          I really do appreciate your feedback. What you are saying makes a lot of sense, and I know it is right. I like the term “The Great Death”. It does feel like that. This will definitely be the hardest thing I will have to do up to this point in my life. In a way I’m disappointed that it is so hard for me to let go of my own pride (my insistence on being understood) in order to understand my own wife’s perspective. I guess I’m getting a little more insight into just how selfish my heart can be. Thanks for the feedback and the information. It is much appreciated!

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Jeff,

            You said:

            “In a way I’m disappointed that it is so hard for me to let go of my own pride (my insistence on being understood) in order to understand my own wife’s perspective. I guess I’m getting a little more insight into just how selfish my heart can be. “

            This stuff is hard for most everyone. I don’t think of it as “selfish”, our brains and bodies are hardwired to defend us and we have to work to overcome it.

            And most of us didn’t get taught how to do this so both sides are contributing to really up the difficulty level.

            It is a monumental heroic act to unilaterally let go of defenses and being understood when the other person isn’t doing the same for you.

            It means a lot that you are working so hard to understand what you did wrong and how to repair your marriage. Many people are not willing to do the painful introspection necessary.

            You should be proud of yourself that you are fighting for your marriage and that you are willing to change yourself. I hope your wife can see all your efforts.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            It warms my heart that some of the dozens of comments I write with random information may help someone.

            Thank you so much for your kind words.

            Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Jeff,

            I have been thinking about how I can get better at giving up the need to feel understood, explain myself, feel respected etc.

            I don’t know if you relate to this or not but it helps me if I think about it as a sole exercise having nothing to do with the other person.

            Like I am “digging deep” within myself to climb an emotional Mount Everest. It is hard but it can be done with the right training, guidance, and hard work.

            Or swimming in the ocean to get to the shore after a boat wreck. You’re exhausted but you know you must keep going. Overcome the body urges to stop.

            Or overcoming the urge to scream at your kid when all you want to do is sleep. But you know you must stay awake to comfort your child.

            Anyway you get the idea. It takes a lot of determination to overcome physical and mental urges sleep or stop climbing or swimming. Defending ourselves is the same thing.

            Courage and grit that you already possess. Maturity we can develop. It’s really about what is inside us not about anything the other person says or does.

            It’s kind of thrilling when I can pull it off after so much effort. And the more I give up the habit of needing to defend myself the easier it gets the next time. It’s a process for sure though. I’m still working on it.

            Like

      • FlyingKal says:

        Hi Jeff,
        Thank you for sharing.
        I had a reply that was eaten by an accidental refresh command… I’ll try to rewrite it but I’m a bit pressed for time right now.Just that I think it fits pretty well into what I wrote about expected or presumed intent.

        I wish you all the best
        /K

        Like

  19. gottmanfan says:

    Here is an example of David Burn’s disarming technique.

    “Here’s how I might typically respond using the Disarming Technique plus several other communication techniques (Feeling Empathy, “I Feel” Statements, and Stroking):

    “You know, it was painful for me to read your comment, because I agree with you. You’re right. I am too narcissistic. It’s one of my worst flaws, but certainly not my only flaw. You were also right in saying that I’m often too critical of other schools of therapy. I do that a lot, and it can be very insulting. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you’re feeling angry with me, and for good reason.

    “Humility and respect are far more effective teaching tools than arrogance or putting people down. I want you to know that I deeply appreciate your willingness to let me know that I screwed up in that way yesterday!”

    I find that audiences respond incredibly well to this type of comment, and the morale on day 2 soars. Do you see why?

    The Law of Opposites works like this. If I genuinely agree with the criticism, and admit that it was painful for me to read it, the audience members see me as vulnerable and human, and hopefully even a bit humble and down to earth. Most people are quick to forgive if you speak from the heart and admit that what they’re saying is true.

    But this is extremely hard to learn, in part because our ego gets in the way! And the Disarming Technique really requires the death of the self, or ego–what the Buddhists called “The Great Death.”

    It’s also hard to learn because defensiveness is programmed into our human nature, and in addition, you may not “see” the truth in the criticism at first. And if you do this as a gimmick, it won’t be effective.”

    Like

  20. gottmanfan says:

    So the challenge would be how could you agree with your wife in your apology with vulnerability and non defensiveness? Unilateral disarmament.

    Like

  21. gottmanfan says:

    Harriet Lerner wrote an excellent book on apologies recently that also focuses on nondefensiveness.

    “Lerner: It’s easy to listen if we like what the other person is saying. However, we don’t listen well when we’re under fire because we are hard wired for defensiveness.

    Defensiveness is automatic and universal, but it’s also the arch enemy of listening, the arch enemy of the apology.

    When we listen defensively, we automatically listen for what we don’t agree with. We listen for the exaggerations, errors and distortions that will inevitably be there. A real apology demands that we listen differently—that we make an effort to listen for the essence of what the person is trying to tell us, to listen for what we can agree with, and apologize for that piece first.”

    Like

  22. gottmanfan says:

    More Harriet Lerner: (my bolding)

    “Let’s face it. Almost all of us are more invested in improving our talking skills than in improving our listening skills.

    Our desire to be understood is far stronger than our desire to understand the other person.

    Yet listening without defensiveness is the heart and soul of the good apology”

    Like

  23. gottmanfan says:

    Here is another complication in apologies. People can have different “apology languages”. (Gary Chapman of love language fame has another book about apology languages).

    My husband’s apology language is more about focusing on assurances about the future. He doesn’t find apologies for the past meaningful.

    My apology language includes needing to hear that the other person GETS the harm they have done in the past. Assurances to me about the future are not meaningful to me unless the past is included.

    See the disconnect? See why our apology languages create problems and frustration on both sides?

    I think disconnects are common and must be understood to apologize in a way the other person can be able to “move on”.

    And the recipient of an apology is helped to be more generous of an apology in a different love language if those differences are understood as the root and not evil intent.

    Like

    • marilyn sims says:

      Hi,

      Terry Real to the rescue (maybe). Remember his discussion about CNI (CORE NEGATIVE IMAGE). It helps to explain why disagreements seem to have no solutions and why arguments become circular firing squads. This is how he describes the interaction:…”neither partner truly engages with the other, but rather with HIS (HER) WORST FANTASY ABOUT THE OTHER…each partner’s negative fantasy leads to accusatory and defensive behaviors on both sides that only confirm their fears. Our negative fantasy is the ENGINE THAT DRIVES RELATIONSHIP VICIOUS CYCLES. Your CNI of your partner is that vision of him that you feel most hopeless and frightened about. You say to yourself, in those furious or resigned or terrified moments,’ “Oh my God,! What if he really is…..? (fill in the blank). or “What if she really is a cold-heart ed witch? Your CNI of your partner is your worst nightmare. It is who your partner BECOMES TO YOU in those most difficult, irrational, least-loving moments.” WOW!! talk about assuming the worst and evil intent.

      Liked by 1 person

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