Would You Leave Your Spouse Over Dirty Dishes?: A Lesson on Conflict Management

(Image/HuffPost)

We pulled into our parking space in Florida’s version of the “happiest place on earth,” and all of my insides were knotted up.

In my left pocket was the most expensive thing I’d ever bought—a pretty pear-shaped diamond engagement ring I’d been secretly paying off for months.

This felt like the place. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. She loved Disney. This felt like the time. The Fourth of July. She loved fireworks.

I wasn’t tense because I was planning a surprise marriage proposal. I was tense because we were fighting over whether the song playing on the radio was Duran Duran. (Shazam didn’t exist in 2003.)

It was. The song was “Hungry Like the Wolf.” I knew it. She didn’t. She told me I was wrong. I knew I wasn’t. So we had a little fight and probably said dickhead things to one another.

It wasn’t that weird for us to have a little spat and be temporarily mad about something silly. We never fought about anything “important,” as far as I could tell. Just “dumb stuff.”

Everything’s totally fine, I thought.

While the fireworks lit up the night sky above Cinderella’s castle, I slipped the ring on her finger and she said yes.

Ten years later, she divorced me because I left dishes by the sink.

I can’t remember whether Duran Duran was playing in the background while she drove away for the last time.

The Important Difference Between the Two Types of Relationship Conflict

As recently as this week, someone commented on the dishes article that went viral in January 2016, minimizing the significance of dirty dishes and encouraging people to learn how to let go of “the little things” in an effort to avoid conflict and have healthy relationships.

While I appreciate the spirit of his comment and those of the hundreds of other people also touting the merits of “letting it go,” as a happy-marriage philosophy, I respectfully believe they all share the same toxic mental condition that ailed me throughout my marriage.

It’s a diseased belief called I Know That What I Believe is Right, Therefore Anyone Who Believes Something Else is Wrong.

That’s the belief that ends every doomed relationship, and is more or less responsible for starting every major conflict—including the deadliest wars—in human history.

My favorite writer Mark Manson categorizes conflict into two categories:

1. Conflict of Preference, and

2. Conflict of Values.

A Conflict of Preference is liking rap music more than country music, or tacos more than sweet potatoes, or attending a symphony orchestra performance more than off-roading in a lifted pickup truck.

A Conflict of Values is belief in God versus atheism as a guiding life principle, the intention to have children versus not reproducing, or behaving charitably or greedily.

Preference is “I like Rocky Road ice cream more than strawberry ice cream!”

Values are literally WHAT WE ARE. “Our values are constantly reflected in the way we choose to behave,” Manson wrote in Who the F*ck Am I?: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Values (which is the best thing I’ve read on the subject of personal values).

It’s silly to fight ugly and end up divorced over Conflict of Preference.

It’s tragic—but possibly healthy—to end relationships in which there are an irreconcilable Conflict of Values. (Though I have some challenging questions for you about WTF you were thinking when you said “I do.”)

But what about when we can’t tell the difference?

It requires high-level mindfulness and self-awareness. And it takes both relationship partners valuing their relationship more than their individual feelings (until it can be determined whether those feelings are a result of preferential differences, or value differences).

I think many people get divorced because they have difficulty identifying whether conflict is a matter of preferences or values.

And I think many people believe my article She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink is stupid because they confuse my ex-wife’s and my differing preferences for where to set a used drinking glass as NOT being about values.

It was totally about values. Values, masquerading as something that didn’t matter.

It’s Not About the Dishes

Everyone who cries foul at my ex-wife after reading the dishes article is hyperfocused on the relative merits of setting a drinking glass by the sink.

After all, children are starving in Africa. Someone at work was diagnosed with cancer. The family on the news lost their home in the hurricane.

It’s easy to point at the glass as a minor thing. It’s easy to point to that glass and convince yourself that anyone who makes a big deal out of it has misplaced priorities and probably some emotional problems.

It’s easy to say those thoughts out loud when your spouse is irritating you because she seems to be suggesting once again that something you do is making her life worse. And it’s easy to feel angry when you feel as if all of your shortcomings are being highlighted while all of your contributions and virtues are ignored.

Why isn’t anything I do good enough for her?

Where to set the dish is a Conflict of Preference. But the way in which we treat our marriage partner is a Value.

Most of the time when relationship fights like this crop up over disagreements which might seem minor from the outside looking in, the injured party isn’t feeling hurt because of this one thing. The injured party is feeling hurt because, for them, this incident is another reminder that they’re married to someone who believes that their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are more valuable—that they matter more—than their spouse’s.

I can’t relate to someone who cares whether a drinking glass is sitting by the sink.

But I can totally relate to someone who feels hurt, disrespected, or disregarded because of someone refusing to thoughtfully consider our thoughts, ideas, emotional experiences, etc.

You ever have a good idea at work? One that would make things better for the company, the customer, or the employees? And then when you bring that idea to the table, it gets ignored, or discounted, or otherwise rejected by some self-important anal-retentive?

I bet you have.

It’s shitty. But I can accept self-important anal-retentives doing asshole things.

I find it infinitely less acceptable for someone who vowed to love and honor me as their partner for life to do that.

When romantic partners (too often the men in male-female relationships) dispute, challenge, reject, insult, minimize, invalidate the expressed experiences of the other, they are communicating the following:

  • My beliefs are true; yours are false
  • What I feel is right; what you feel is wrong
  • What I think matters more than what you think
  • Because you’re wrong, and I’m right, I’m never going to change my behavior
  • You say that this hurts, but I don’t feel hurt by it so you must be crazy. I’m not going to help you stop hurting because you’re wrong for hurting.

And the day I realized that I would never agree to marry or remain married to someone who said that or treated me that way is the day I made peace with my wife leaving me.

The day I realized THAT was what I had been saying to my wife every time we argued about glasses by the sink or fucking Duran Duran songs, was the day I realized that she did the right thing by leaving, and then I started writing the Shitty Husband letters. She owed it to her mental and emotional health to wake up every day and not have someone who had promised to love and honor her forever tell her over and over again that her real-life experiences weren’t worth my time and attention and effort.

A marriage is NOT a promise to endure neglect and abuse for the rest of your life.

A marriage is a promise to work cooperatively to mutually thrive for the rest of your life, and is currently the most successful model in human history for reproducing and raising healthy, socially adjusted children.

When someone refuses to cooperate to that end, then the marriage ceases to be a marriage.

It’s easy to miss because, after all, it’s just a stupid glass by the sink.

Or, is it?

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224 thoughts on “Would You Leave Your Spouse Over Dirty Dishes?: A Lesson on Conflict Management

  1. meridda says:

    another good one, matt…I swear that all the people who argue “what a ridiculous thing to get divorced over” never read the original article…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Marion says:

    Well done. I was upset by some of the comments on your last post, but didn’t know how to run interference for you. Good job running interference for yourself!
    The version of this conversation my husband recently had was about “being genuine”. He was acting like women shouldn’t be upset when men are “just being genuine.” I explained that women don’t get the opportunity to be genuine. We say whatever has to be said to keep the group happy. (This was after several events when I made it clear I would be going solo. He never noticed that I quit asking him to my events years ago. But I’d still have to convince him to go to his friends’ events whilst he complained about spending time with me. Lots of us wish we could relax instead of meeting our social obligations. I can’t always be expected to fake enough enthusiasm for both of us)

    Like

    • OKRickety says:

      Marion,

      I explained that women don’t get the opportunity to be genuine. We say whatever has to be said to keep the group happy.

      Every time I mention boundaries, it seems I get told I don’t understand them. So, for those who really do understand boundaries, does Marion’s statement suggest that women fail to set and keep their boundaries?

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Okrickety,

        As you know, I have written many, many times that in unhappy relationships women often don’t know how to set boundaries in a healthy way to bad behavior.

        For what it’s worth, men often don’t know how to set healthy boundaries either but are less culturally trained that their function is to adjust to make people comfortable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • OKRickety says:

          gottmanfan,

          I don’t think Marion’s statement was restricted to unhappy relationships, but was a general statement for women.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            Ok let me restate then to be more general.

            I have written many, many comments that women are often not good at setting healthy boundaries.

            For what it’s worth, men are not often not good at setting healthy boundaries either but have less cultural training to adjust to make everyone comfortable.

            Like

      • Mike says:

        Marion: “I explained that women don’t get the opportunity to be genuine. We say whatever has to be said to keep the group happy.”

        OKR: “So, for those who really do understand boundaries, does Marion’s statement suggest that women fail to set and keep their boundaries?”

        I’ve thought about your question. There was a LOT in Marion’s post that could be “unpacked”. I see “saying whatever has to be said to keep the group happy” as, ultimately, a choice. And indeed I believe I’ve met women who don’t make that choice. But not many. GF talks about “cultural training”, which is true, but I still believe that women have “agency”.

        So my answer to your question would be no, it’s not a boundary issue, it’s a voluntary choice. I think Marion was expressing disapproval of “being genuine”, and chooses not to do it. It’s not that she wishes she could be more genuine, it’s that she wishes her partner would be less “genuine”. It’s not her own behaviour she wishes to change, it’s his. Rightly, by the sound of it. And she switched to talking about “women” rather than talk directly about him and his “genuineness”. But I could be wrong about all of this.

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          I agree women have agency and it’s a choice. ALL of this is a choice people have agency to change. It is a choice to understand and resist your cultural training. It is imho important step to recognize that you and your spouse have cultural training that impacts how hard it east a particular choice is.

          I can’t speak for what Marion meant. I can speak for my own experience in terms of cultural training and expectations.

          As a woman you are expected to be accommodating to others in ways men are not. It is a constant thing for a woman to be expected to be the social glue to hold things together and fix what is breaking socially and emotionally.

          It doesn’t matter if your personality and temperament are not well suited for this job (raises hand here). It doesn’t matter if you don’t want the job (raises hand here). THAT is what gender roles prescribe so that is how society is set up to default to.

          I could give you lots of personal examples but I will just leave two words here: dance mom 😱

          Do I have agency over this to make a choice to set a boundary and not do those gender role make niceties? Sure. But it is difficult and costs something to yourself and others your love to buck against defaults. Believe me.

          It’s just like women who say about men “he could just choose to be more emotionally vulnerable and expressive.”

          Sure. They have agency and choice to push against their cultural training of gender roles to play strong. It’s important imho to recognize why it is hard to do that. It’s not easy and there is a cost.

          Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it as needed. Just to try to have understanding and compassion of what blocks those choices.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          You said:

          “So my answer to your question would be no, it’s not a boundary issue, it’s a voluntary choice.”

          I am not sure I understand your distinctions between boundaries and voluntary choices. I think of boundaries as voluntary choices.

          Could you explain what you mean in more detail if you have time? I would be very interested in your thoughts.

          Like

          • Mike says:

            I am not sure I understand your distinctions between boundaries and voluntary choices. I think of boundaries as voluntary choices.

            Could you explain what you mean in more detail if you have time? I would be very interested in your thoughts.

            I’m not sure I can explain much better. I actually think more in terms of “knowing” your boundaries, rather than “setting” them, because I’m not sure we get to choose them. “Setting” them in the sense of communicating them to others is optional, and could only happen after knowing them. Sometimes just knowing them is enough. They are very closely linked with values, which is another thing we can’t just choose.

            You described very clearly the social pressure on women to be “social glue” and on men to be “strong and unemotional”. I was thinking of those as choices, although as you clearly said, difficult choices. If someone chooses to attend a social function that they won’t enjoy, because of social pressures, I’d see that as them not having such a boundary (against doing that), but I guess you could argue that they’ve “failed to set one”.

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Mike,

              Interesting.

              I guess I see it as a two part process. One is more internal as you describe. What we think/feel/want/need.

              The other is behavioral. That may or may not be in alignment with what I think on some level/want or need.

              I think of it like 3 doors any of which one can choose to enter the boundary building. I can choose the VALUE door and set a boundary there

              No, I will not lie to say you are sick and can’t come because you are responsible for your choice not me. You tell your elderly aunt why you can’t come if that is what you choose.

              Or the Feeling Door

              Yes, I will attend this social function I don’t want to because it shows love to an elderly relative and love is the emotion I am choosing as my boundary.

              Or the Behavior Door

              I don’t want to go to this stupid function, I am angry I am expected to go but I will go because the long term costs of not going outweigh the benefits of saying no.

              These are not a formal theory just general. I think behavioral choices are just as valuable and can be just as effective as those based on “moral” or value choices.

              I use the behavioral stuff all the time to get myself to do relationship things that I don’t want to or don’t value “morally.” It’s how I get myself to distract from an argument when I know I am “right”.

              I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me but there it is.😀

              Like

              • Mike says:

                No, I’m not sure I get it. To me, a boundary is not set on one occasion. Something that happens on one occasion is just a “decision”. Boundaries are very long-running. So a boundary might be “I will not eat meat”. Rather than declining it on one occasion.

                As far as speech goes, “winning arguments” is not a moral value IMHO.

                “How to admonish another skillfully: Do I speak at the right time, or not? Do I speak of facts, or not? Do I speak gently or harshly? Do I speak profitable words or not? Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?”

                Facts is only one of the factors.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  You define a boundary as a value? That’s very interesting! I don’t know that I have heard it framed like that before as an exclusive definition.

                  How did you come to define it that way?

                  I am not arguing for a particular definition by the way. Semantic arguments are the least interesting way for me to spend time and energy😜 just interested in what works for you.

                  Solution Focused if you will—(I had a great therapist who used that model. She never argued with me just rolled to help me figure out how to get more of what worked).

                  I am all about what works on a practical basis. I think there are a variety of ways people can define and apply boundaries that will work for them.

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    gottmanfan,

                    From what Mike says, It appears that I am not alone in understanding boundaries differently from others. So I wonder if the concept of boundaries is a poor one for helping many people in their relationships. Just a thought.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      I think “boundaries” is like “love” or “discipline” or “character” or “submission” or “socialism” or lots of other words that are used in a lot of different ways.

                      It is hard to know what people mean when they use the term. Certainly it is informed by personal experience of the meaning we tend to assign.

                      I suspect Mike and I are thinking of the word boundaries differently more than we disagree about how a healthy person generally operates.

                      As I have said it matters less to me what things are labeled more than the idea is there and applied.

                      There is a lot of information out there for specific purposes on specific definitions of “boundaries.” for those who want more specificity.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Mike says:

                      Tricky one. I don’t think I quite “define a boundary as a value” but they are certainly closely related.

                      And they think they are a VERY useful concept if properly understood. However, many people use the word in different ways. I don’t think “setting a boundary” means telling anyone else what they can or cannot do.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I think of what you are describing as an “ethic” like choosing to not eat meat for ethical purposes.

                      I don’t think healthy boundaries tell people what to do. They inform people your position and the consequences—I will not eat meat is not telling the other person to not cook or eat meat. It is a consequence that the other person might feel a loss to not be able to share a steak or we have to cook separately.

                      Setting a boundary in my thinking would be if the person, knowing of my ethic to not eat meat, pressures me to eat the steak. I then might have to say I cannot eat meals with you if you continue this behavior. I am not saying they can’t do it. That is their choice. But there will be consequence based on the behavioral boundary of me leaving the table or not coming to their house if it continues.

                      I’m certainly not suggesting my way of labeling this is the right or only way of framing it.
                      It’s just what makes sense to me. I use Brent Atkinson’s framing because it makes sense to my flowchart way of thinking.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Mike says:

                      I agree with all of that.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Hey, we agree!

                      I will enjoy the moment while I can. 😀

                      Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Winning arguments is not a moral value? Another interesting statement!

                  I certainly don’t think they have to be but I do think they certainly can. I see “persuasion” as a very powerful tool that can be used for moral purposes —Martin Luther King, Jr for example I history. I have used it in my family to persuade them to provide more support to sick relatives. I have used it a lot for various “moral” issues.

                  There are a lot of moral issues in winning or losing arguments (and here I am using Okrickey’s preferred definition rather than squabbling over Duran Duran).

                  I think most couples ARE arguing over moral values. And it matters if you win or lose those. I agree, however, one has to weigh the costs and benefits of arguing over facts. And it matters how you do it I agree with you wholeheartedly there.

                  Like

        • OKRickety says:

          Mike,

          It’s not that she wishes she could be more genuine, it’s that she wishes her partner would be less “genuine”.

          That’s an interesting possibility. One that I think is detrimental to intimacy in marriage.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            It all depends on what is meant by “genuine”.

            If Marion’s husband meant women are upset that men are genuine as in saying and doing exactly what they want without thinking of how it affects others then no I don’t think genuine is the goal.

            That is what I interpreted “genuine” to mean in their convo and why she responded as she did. But we will have to hear from Mation what she meant.

            Like

            • Matt says:

              Wanted to chime in on this point. Because an idea that I think is important often gets lost in these conversations.

              None of what we are discussing here includes Judgment. I’m not trying to moral police anyone. I’m not trying to tell anyone what’s Right or Wrong, necessarily.

              I’m okay with people choosing to be assholes. I’m personally offended by it, but I accept that intentionally choosing a self-centered lifestyle at the expensive of a empathetic one filled with quality, mutually beneficial, emotionally connected relationships is a choice people are allowed to make.

              I’m simply here to say if you choose that path WITHIN a marriage or long-term romantic relationship, your life is going to be shitty.

              I’m not trying to convince anyone to believe what I believe about the optimum way to exist as a human being.

              I’m just trying to encourage people who might not think about it (like me for most of my life) to consider that if they bring their self-focused habits from their childhood and single life into a committed, co-habitive (<– might not be a word) relationship like marriage, everything is going to get poisoned and deteriorate into a highly unpleasant experience for nearly everyone involved.

              Some people never think about that until it's too late and everything hurts.

              People sometimes take these conversations so personally. I do too, especially when the conversation becomes about my personal life rather than the idea the personal storytelling is intended to convey.

              But none of this is about telling people they're right or wrong or good or bad.

              It's just "Hey. It would be so neat if you didn't get divorced like me. Here are things I did which led to my divorce. If you have an opportunity to not repeat those same mistakes in the interest of keeping your marriage together, I hope you'll consider this stuff."

              Liked by 4 people

              • gottmanfan says:

                Matt,

                You said:

                “None of what we are discussing here includes Judgment. I’m not trying to moral police anyone. I’m not trying to tell anyone what’s Right or Wrong, necessarily.”

                I agree it’s not helpful to think about it in terms of RIGHT or WRONG in the usual preferences as values discussions.

                I think it is very useful, from my perspective, to point towards effective goals of what WILL lead to a good marriage.

                I think we are saying the same things but in different ways. 😀

                Liked by 1 person

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              I said the following to Mike above but really meant for it to go here.

              Perhaps Marion’s husband’s “being genuine” is another way of saying that he is maintaining his boundaries.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Hard to say what Marion husband is doing. Calling Marion!

                I suspect since they are in an unhappy marriage that both sides are not maintaining boundaries in a healthy way.

                Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Okrickety,

                This part about complaining about having to spend time with her doesn’t lend itself to a hearty boundary interpretation on his part imho.

                “But I’d still have to convince him to go to his friends’ events whilst he complained about spending time with me.”

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  His boundaries may not be healthy but we only have Marion’s perspective, which is likely skewed.

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Well, of course. Everyone commenting here is presenting one interpretation of their relationship.

                    I do think that he may very well have been trying to set boundaries. That’s usually how it goes in this stuff.

                    We try and set boundaries but do it ineffectively to the goal of relationship connection.

                    Or we criticize and complain as an ineffective attempt to set boundaries and invite relationship connection.

                    Like

            • Mike says:

              GF: If Marion’s husband meant women are upset that men are genuine as in saying and doing exactly what they want without thinking of how it affects others then no I don’t think genuine is the goal.

              My interpretation was the same as yours, GF, which is why I put the scare quotes around it.

              Liked by 1 person

        • OKRickety says:

          Mike,

          Perhaps Marion’s husband’s “being genuine” is another way of saying that he is maintaining his boundaries.

          Like

    • Ttravis says:

      I’m increasingly aware of how difficult it is for women to “be genuine.” As an out and proud feminist, i do it more than a lot of women, but it’s always within a box of other people’s expectations— including those of other feminists! It’s very difficult to explain to most men the social sanctions that exist, the way we internalize them, and the effects they have on our behavior and relationships. Thanks for articulating this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gottmanfan says:

        I think gender role expectations are strong on men’s side too which women don’t get in the same way since we haven’t experienced theirs.

        It’s a big factor that explains why men think it is the goal to be “genuine” in a certain way.
        Genuine as in independent. Not impacted by what others want.

        Like

    • leslidoares645321177 says:

      Being “genuine” (reference to women being upset when men are “just being genuine”) doesn’t involve being self-centered and/or uncaring about others. Unless it does and that information should not be ignored. This is Matt’s point about being self-righteous in one’s own position and experience in a way that does not allow for alternatives.

      Like

  3. Rebecca says:

    I feel like putting “A marriage is NOT a promise to endure neglect and abuse for the rest of your life.” on a 2-foot by 3-foot poster and hanging it in my house so that my kids learn it and don’t spend a quarter century of their life in a relationship and marriage with someone who insists that their feelings are the ones that are wrong. Thank you for another amazing post.

    Like

  4. Mike says:

    So, Matt, what *should* you say when she says it’s not “Hungry like the Wolf” and you know it is?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I laughed out loud, Mike. Thanks for that.

      I write these stories really fast. And they’re shared in a vacuum, where readers don’t have the benefit of all of my memories, or the way I connect an silly argument about Duran Duran, with a silly argument about dirty dishes, with a silly argument about the merits of a book or TV show, with a silly argument about what we should do Saturday afternoon, with a silly argument about where I put my not-quite-totally-dirty jeans in our bedroom.

      The reason I view my argument with her about Duran Duran as me doing something wrong is because it was another of approximately 1,000 examples where I could have chosen to love and value my wife and marriage more than things that I was foolishly giving a bunch of energy too.

      In life, we have to choose what is worth caring about. We have to choose where to invest my energy.

      The running theme of my failed marriage was me investing my energy in the wrong places, and on the wrong things.

      I think it’s okay to argue facts.

      I think it’s not okay to value winning a fight at the expense of disrespecting the person you’re about to ask to marry you.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Mike says:

        I get that, Matt, but it needs the conflict skills of a greased ninja to get out of this hole.

        Continuing to argue doesn’t help, but pretending to concede is likely to sound condescending. Like if you say “I expect you’re right” or “it doesn’t matter, whatevs” you’re probably making it worse. Getting your head around this requires great presence of mind.

        David Deida, I believe, recommends “dancing the watusi” in situations like this, but that’s going to be hard when driving a car, and I don’t even know what the watusi is. I might recommend pointing out of the window and saying “LOOK! a … thing…” to create a diversion, and/or “accidentally” turning the radio to a different station.

        Liked by 1 person

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          In situations like that I try to inject humor. Like start singing “Hungry like a Wolf” in bad impression of a vampire or a rapper. The dumber the better.

          Or start talking about a time when you were so hungry that you ate so much buffet food you had to have some drive you home (true story for my hubby😜)

          Or ask a curious question about whether she would ever consider a dog who is half wolf for a pet?

          Or trivia like how much do wolves eat every day compared to humans?

          To your point about diversion it can be remotely related to the topic of wolves or hunger but redirect the aggression into humor or curiosity. It works better imho to have a transition however loose to whatever you are arguing about rather than an abrupt noticeable change of subject.

          I use this all the time because “accuracy” is my weakness. Gottman showed that “masters” at relationships add humor to conflict and of course have a 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio in CONFLICT (20 to 1 in regular convos)

          So when I feel my negative ratio go I up I divert myself to restore more positivity with humor or curiosity. That calms the nervous system too.

          Like everything else it is a skill to be aware and practice.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Geoffrey says:

          I remember an article from a while back on negotiation techniques. This was in the context of business but it applies to marriage and intimate relationships as well. Never argue facts. With the Googleweb at our finger tips (even in 2003)…

          Spouse-to-be #1: Hey [insert term of endearment here], let’s not argue about this. Humor me and Google Hungry Like the Wolf Duran Duran.

          Spouse-to-be #2: (Pause. Thumbs moving. Pause.) Huh..OK. You were right.

          Spouse-to-be #1: I appreciate you considering that I might have been right about who the band was.

          Spouse-to-be #2: And I appreciate you that you didn’t keep arguing your point and offered a solution instead.

          Spouse-to-be #1: (Smiles) Can I buy you a Churro?

          Spouse-to-be #2: (Smiles) Absolutely.

          Points to both Spouses-to-be for: Acceptance of Influence, Words of Affirmation, Vulnerability, and general lack of dickheadedness.

          And back to reality…

          The fuzzy grey line between Preference and Values is one that needs constant attention. It’s not always clear because…humans.

          This is a really good post and thoughts to chew on. There are many ways Matt’s anecdote could have gone.

          Some healthy: Boundaries, Kindness, Consideration, Empathy, Connection…

          Some not so much: Recriminations, Contempt, Insults, Kitchen sinking, Stonewalling…

          It is so, so important to continue working on truly knowing what is important to your spouse/significant other and what they value. It is equally important to work on what is truly important to yourself and what you value and how boundaries are a tangible expression of them – perhaps a detail that sometimes gets lost in these discussions.

          I know it’s a work in progress for me. Thanks for this blog and the ongoing discussion.

          Liked by 2 people

          • gottmanfan says:

            Geoffrey,

            Good points!

            I think you can discuss and disagree on facts as long as the emotional positivity stays there. The emotional undercurrent is the key thing to monitor not the content.

            So I agree that with the “never argue facts.” Argue being the key word.

            When it disagreeing shifts into arguing it is definitely time to redirect or apologize that things have gotten heated.

            Like

          • FlyingKal says:

            Jeffrey,
            “Humor me and Google Hungry Like the Wolf Duran Duran. ”

            Matt pointed out that this was 2003, Shazam didn’t exist, and I would venture to guess that anyone sitting in a car weren’t expected to have the entire knowledge ot internet instantly available at their fingertips.
            That’s all. Carry on.

            Like

        • leslidoares645321177 says:

          It actually doesn’t. A simple “well, whoever sings this song, I love/hate/whatever it.”

          That is neither a “concession” nor “condescending”. It’s a choice to end a non-productive conversation.

          Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Matt,

        “I think it’s okay to argue facts.

        I think it’s not okay to value winning a fight at the expense of disrespecting the person…”

        And right there you have summed up a big piece of what I did to screw up my marriage (and some other relationships as a bonus)

        It is weirdly hard to not focus on being right what you KNOW you are factually right or you can make an excellent legal case for being right.

        I think I used to be addicted to having to feel I am right. I am in recovery now. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

        • OKRickety says:

          gottmanfan,

          I think it’s not okay to value winning a fight at the expense of disrespecting the person…”

          I wonder if you realize how disrespected I feel when someone tells me I am wrong when I am actually right, and most especially when that someone is my wife.

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            I feel the same way so it doesn’t surprise me at all.

            Imho the issue is to understand that feeling disrespected is just one step in a complex interpersonal process

            The first challenge imho is to figure out the thinking that causes the feeling of disrespect. Those thoughts one can choose to keep or change.

            Assuming one chooses to keep the thoughts that lead to feeling disrespected, the next logical question is what the best next move is for your long term goal.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mike says:

            There is a problem with the words “feel disrespected”. “Disrespected” is not a feeling, it’s a thought. Feelings are like anger, sadness, joy, humour, surprise. If someone tells me “I feel disrespected when someone tells me I am wrong when I am actually right”, I understand that to mean “I think that that person does not respect me”. Which is a belief that could be true or false. There are problems with putting “I feel…” in front of beliefs, in that it can make them sound incontrovertible.

            Liked by 1 person

            • gottmanfan says:

              Mike,

              While it is true that disrespect isn’t one of the primary emotions, I personally think emotions are like colors blends of primary emotions are in themselves valid emotions just as purple is just as valid a color as primary color red. 😜

              But I agree with your great point about beliefs which is the main thing I was trying to say.

              Emotions, beliefs and thoughts etc are not incontrovertible. The same event can have many reactions by different people. Different meanings given.

              The trick imho is to recognize this without invalidating the other person or even yourself.

              It’s ok to “feel disrespected” by something. It is what comes next that is the most important imho.

              Like

            • OKRickety says:

              Mike,

              Indeed, “feel” is another word that can cause problems in communications. I understand that respect is not an emotion. Rephrasing, I should have said “I am hurt when someone ….”.

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Not to be nit picky but if disrespect is big an emotion than hurt isn’t either. 😜

                Which is why I don’t like getting into declassifying perfectly good emotions like disrespect (ok whatever EFT therapists lets call it primary anger if that is your Duran Duran moment 😜).

                The point imho is to recognize WHAT you are feeling and WHY.

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan and Mike,

                  Mostly I was removing “feel” (because it implies emotion to some [it seems it did for Mike], because “feel” is in the word “feeling [emotion]”). I switched “disrespect” to “hurt”, thinking it might resonate more with readers as it is the word Matt uses often to express what happens in marriages.

                  I agree with gottmanfan’s point but if a man says “I feel disrespected”, I think you know generally WHAT he is feeling. I suspect that many (perhaps most) men would be frustrated, even angry, if you were to start nitpicking at how he was trying to express himself in words. I doubt this would be conducive to a man changing his behavior (or continuing with counseling).

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Okrickety,

                    I have direct experience with that—the nitpicking about what defines an emotion.

                    EFT therapists doing that to me when I said my common emotional response was “disrespect.”

                    And yes, you are right it is highly annoying to have someone insist that disrespect is not an acceptable answer. 😜

                    The point imho, in both therapy and relationships is not to argue about such things but to try and understand the main gist of what the person is feeling and thinking.

                    I love to debate and have “proven” therapists incorrect in how they define primary emotions based on accepted research. But who cares about that in terms of practical advice of how to create connection?

                    If someone says they feel disrespected accept that and try to dive deeper for why that is and how it might be changed. Isn’t THAT the point?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Mike says:

                      The point imho, in both therapy and relationships is not to argue about such things but to try and understand the main gist of what the person is feeling and thinking.

                      Sure. This thing about feelings versus thoughts actually is something I really believe, and think is important, because it causes problems. But at the same time, I’m not going to start nitpicking clients over their word usage or arguing with them. This is nice, because it fits with the theme of the article: I actually think I’m right, but I’m not going to ruin the relationship with a client by clumsily arguing about it.

                      The distinction I am making, I’m sure you understand, is that a statement like “I feel sad” is a statement about me, and not one that can really be disputed. The same for the many various complex rainbow hues of feelings, as you mentioned. However, “I feel disrespected” implies “I think you don’t respect me”, a statement about the other person, which may not be true. “Disrespected” is a participle, a statement that something has been done.

                      If someone says that in a session, the other person might say “but I do respect you!”, as they are entitled to. And then a do/don’t argument will ensue. And actually, what was said was a manifestation of a confusion that may be part of their relationship difficulty: one partner assumes that if they “feel disrespected”, then it must be true that their partner doesn’t respect them. Which may or may not be the case. That causes problems.

                      The first challenge imho is to figure out the thinking that causes the feeling of disrespect. Those thoughts one can choose to keep or change.

                      In a session, I am likely to go in the direction of validating and clarifying the feeling: where in the body does it occur, what does it physically feel like, and so on. I will ask what it makes them think about themselves, and about their partner. What it would be like if it went on for ever. Often in this process they might start demonstrating the actual emotion: actually having the tears, or anger, or whatever, rather than talking abstractly about it.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I would understand and appreciate the argument you just made. Unfortunately that has not been my experience in EFT therapy where they simply insisted disrespect was not an emotion and I MUST be feeling sad.

                      I would respond that ok if you want me to pick one of the primary emotions it is not sad it is angry. Which is not what they want because I am FEMALE and therefore must be feeling sad and hurt and not angry. So they keep asking me if it was really hurt that I feel and not anger. They never ask my husband if he is feeling hurt. Never. Gender stereotypes anyone? It is not subtle.

                      Which makes me feel disrespected, oh sorry angry (and no I don’t feel hurt 😜)

                      I wish I was making this stuff up.

                      If I will not agree that I am feeling sad and hurt they proceed to tell me I am intellectualizing and afraid of expressing my emotions.

                      I get the human reasons why they do this. I get the wish for the big emotional breakthrough. I get the typical defaults. I know EFT therapy fundamentals so I know what they are trying to do and why.

                      They just are not doing it correctly. Anymore than arguing about Duran Duran or who is right about how I “should” feel.

                      It is so weirdly fascinating how they replicate bad relationship patterns. And yes, I understand how I participate yet sadly they do not.

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      That’s terrible. The natural response to being disrespected would be righteous anger, not sadness. And there is the word “indignant” too.

                      “they proceed to tell me I am intellectualizing and afraid of expressing my emotions.” OMG. Like you say, getting drawn in to participating in the same pattern. I don’t think I’ve ever said that to a client.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I recognize that I trigger these responses in therapists. I don’t give them the responses they want or expect. (And I am not all that out of the box.).

                      They don’t like that I know the model theory either. They think that is a weakness rather than a strength. They tell me (to translate to model language) I am being too “too down” rather than “bottom up”.

                      It is all so sadly predictable with the accusations of “intellectualizing”. My hubby and I have made it a drinking game. 😜

                      I am trying to see it now as identifying what I do that triggers it and makes them so damn defensive. I feel sad 😞 (ha ha 😜)

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      And I am not all that out of the box.

                      I disagree. :) As I’ve said before, I consider you to be a rarity of a woman. In my opinion, that’s a positive.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I appreciate the compliment but I think it is my style of presentation that is perhaps slightly different not my perspectives.

                      We all have strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is I am (I’m stealing this from Mike😜) a “complicator.” Complex systems require complex analysis.

                      I think the reason why we can dialogue together reasonably well is that we share a facts based logical style. I disagree with you on some fairly big items but your style is much more comfortable to me than others who agree with me but talk in more narrative, emotionally expressive or inspirational styles.

                      I honestly can’t figure out what they are trying to say sometimes. Which is not to my credit but it’s like translating to another less comfortable language for me than my native tongue.

                      Also confrontation doesn’t bother me if it’s done in a facts based style. I learn from good debates, helps me see things more complexly. Emotionally based debates are harder for me to stay regulated. Harder for me to understand.

                      I honestly think you have a lot to add here. You had a different pattern in your marriage than Matt describes which can be very helpful to understand. You can articulate your thoughts clearly (and with good fonts😜).

                      Also you interact with more red pill type men and often express similar ideas about women, feminism, marriage etc that are important to understand.

                      What motivates that point of view is as important as understanding why wives leave over dishes in the sink.

                      What causes divorce is complex and needs to be understood in complexity from multiple perspectives.

                      Way too long of a response.😜

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I appreciate the compliment but I think it is my style of presentation that is perhaps slightly different not my perspectives.

                      I realize your perspectives are different. But I don’t think it’s your style that I find significant (although I do appreciate it), but your willingness to consider other perspectives and treat them as viable even when they are at odds with your own. I think there are very few women who will even consider other perspectives, much less treat them as viable possibilities (and men may not be any better).

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Well thank you I appreciate the compliment. I work very hard to understand other points of view. I appreciate that parentheses you added! 😀 I do find it disheartening that your view of women is so negative. I think there are plenty of women who work hard to consider other perspectives.

                      This blog has a lot of hurt people so it is a skewed sample for both sides. More venting than introspection. (Venting can be helpful sometimes so not judging just observing).

                      Because I am so intensely convinced I am right a lot, I try and focus on how others might be right. It’s a way to try and course correct to get to better interpersonal skills. I frankly suck at staying in a 2 person system and not going into “fight mode” and trying to debate and win per this subject of this post.

                      So I use my Spock strength as best I can to compensate for my emotional intelligence weakness until I can improve that skill.

                      Other people connect emotionally, as is their strength, so don’t need to intellectually understand.

                      It’s a problem if you don’t do either. You must do SOMETHING to get to the end goal.

                      I hope to get better at the other side so I can choose which one is the best to use for a particular person. It’s all very exhausting, but any skill needs work to learn.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      You sound like a thoughtful therapist who has a better handle on things.

                      To be fair to these therapists, I probably am not the preferred type of client. Incompetence annoys the shit out of me.😜

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      One of the silver linings in this from my perspective is it makes me a little bit bi-lingual.

                      Because I often respond with a mixture of the typical male (disrespect) response with the female (pursue for connection) it makes it easier for me to see both sides.

                      Easier to understand that this is a system.

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      I agree it’s good to be bilingual. I’ve had to try to develop that, although perhaps you can detect my native language!

                      I dispute the gender thing. I see plenty of disrespectful women and pursuey males. And I think the research agrees: there may be a small difference, but not much.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I assume there is a difference in gender roles to some degree
                      by location. Perhaps where you live it’s less expected? You are in the UK as I remember.

                      Also, I wonder if the couples you see in therapy are less representative than the general population. Pursuer males go to therapy more than avoidant males would volunteer so may be overly represented. I remember Stan Tatkin talking about that as a factor. But who knows I am just rambling thoughts here😜

                      Interesting you see a mixture. Perhaps you deal better than average with less traditional types so they come back 😀

                      I would be interested in the research you reference since thus stuff fascinates me and I would like to understand more.

                      Tatkin says that anxious and avoidant attachment types have a pretty even gender split but that cultural gender roles push things too. So a male avoidant tends to be a supersized avoidant and a female anxiously attached supersized. Also, avoidant women are often mixed with a certain amount of relational training and expectations men don’t culturally have and vice versa for anxiously attached men push for more independence.

                      Obviously lots of individual exceptions.

                      From what I have read there is a gender difference in pursue/withdraw. I agree it is not as big as people present it but like all gender stuff the unconscious tends to default to stereotypes of all types unless careful.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      You said:

                      “I agree it’s good to be bilingual. I’ve had to try to develop that, although perhaps you can detect my native language!”

                      Do you mean it’s harder for you to understand the typical female point of view? Or pursuer?

                      How did you develop being bi-lingual? What helped?

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      I meant pursuer. What has helped is listening to pursuer clients and empathising.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      You take more of a withdrawer stance naturally?

                      Is that why it was previously more challenging to understand the pursuer point of view?

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      Oh yes

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I can relate to working to understand.

                      I did not understand avoidant styles. Avoidant people are my kryptonite.

                      I read a lot of stuff to try and be more compassionate. Understand the underlying motivations.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Hey great looking text blocks!😀

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike

                      you said: The distinction I am making, I’m sure you understand, is that a statement like “I feel sad” is a statement about me, and not one that can really be disputed. The same for the many various complex rainbow hues of feelings, as you mentioned. However, “I feel disrespected” implies “I think you don’t respect me”, a statement about the other person, which may not be true. “Disrespected” is a participle, a statement that something has been done.

                      I can completely understand the practical reasons why you want to avoid pushbacks from the other spouse in therapy. And I agree that it may be more likely with disrespect be sad.

                      The thing is that “ I am sad” is equivalent to “I am disrespected” in that both are emotional interpretations.

                      It is common in the typical pursue/withdraw pattern to have the withdraw person interpret a wife’s sadness as implying failure on HIS part. It is heard as criticism of his not being good enough, of nothing he ever does is enough, implied in her statement of sadness. Her disappointment in him is wrapped up in a that I am sad.

                      Or so my reading of EFT has told me of common male responses. I have some personal experience of the truth of that response too. Do you see this response in your clinical practice?

                      I am disrespected is imho similar but more about anger rather than sadness. Still all the usual stuff implied about disappointment and judgment but it will get a different script of angry defensiveness rather than shame defensiveness. I don’t think shame responses are preferable to angry responses but maybe that is my personality since I am not conflict avoidant as many therapists are in my experience. (Not saying you are of course—no idea).

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      It is common in the typical pursue/withdraw pattern to have the withdraw person interpret a wife’s sadness as implying failure on HIS part. It is heard as criticism of his not being good enough, of nothing he ever does is enough, implied in her statement of sadness. Her disappointment in him is wrapped up in a that I am sad.

                      Yes, this is true, and quite a profound point. And then we can unpack his feeling response to “never good enough”. It’s less likely to trigger a reply of “but that’s not true”.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I think it is more likely to trigger a “that is *your* job to fix” in certain avoidants though.

                      It validates an avoidant person’s worldview that they are not responsible for the emotions of their spouse.

                      I have seen it trigger contempt. “I take care of myself, why can’t you?.”

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      The other common reaction to “I am sad” or fill in the blank emotion which I gotten a lot of is “that is YOUR problem and nothing to do with me.”

                      I think that reaction is common with spouses who see their partners as “too needy” “too emotional” “expecting too much” etc.

                      And the reaction of the spouse will depend on their particular history and point of view. An avoidant spouse paired with an anxiously attached spouse is unlikely to respond naturally well to either imho. But depending on the defaults one might be more triggering than the other.

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      “The other common reaction to “I am sad” or fill in the blank emotion which I gotten a lot of is “that is YOUR problem and nothing to do with me.”

                      So I might say: sure. This is just information for you. You should know that when you leave the cup there, she thinks it means xyz, and then she feels sad. You don’t need to do anything about that. It’s just useful information, like the weather forecast, isn’t it? As you say, what she does about all this is entirely up to her.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      My point being I don’t think either response is objectively better or worse but one could definitely be better or worse depending on the couple dynamics.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      How do people typically respond when you give them that feedback? Frame it as information like a weather forecast? Does that work better with certain personality types?

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      With any luck, there might be the sound of gears turning inside their head. :-)

                      Like

      • Nate says:

        Hey Matt (and others),
        Those of you who remember me know my feelings on the dirty dish discussion. Just want to make one quick point – you choosing “to love and value your wife and marriage more than things that you were foolishly giving a bunch of energy too” is laudable, especially since you were factually correct. So I ask, wouldn’t your wife accepting a dirty dish left by the sink be an equal “concession” for the sake of loving her husband and marriage?

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Yes. The mistake is viewing it in a vacuum.

          Enter the whole Mars/Venus “Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti” thing.

          When we are ONLY talking about ONE instance of disagreement, yes. A concession on my wife’s part would totally be choosing me and our marriage over this one instance.

          When you hyperfocus on the dish, you miss the part where SHE ALREADY DID CONCEDE.

          Like, thousands of times. When she folded my laundry, and managed 98% of all baby-related things. When she took responsibility for making holiday plans, buying gifts for every wedding and birthday. For sending thank you notes. For always making sure the house was clean, and the pantry and fridge were full.

          You see, it’s NOT just going to the grocery stores (I was good at that).

          It’s NOT just preparing food (I was good at that too.)

          It’s way more nuanced than that. It’s having to be the MANAGER — having to be RESPONSIBLE for — making sure there was food in the pantry and fridge, or that we defrosted chicken for dinner in the morning, or that while she was at her dentist’s appointment or work meeting, I was taking care of something she normally took care of.

          If she didn’t ask me to do it, it wouldn’t get done.

          This is Emotional Labor. And when there’s a gross imbalance as there commonly is male-female relationships (and probably same-sex ones, really) — especially once children are introduced to the household — women are frequently left to take care of all of this invisible Life Management, because men are typically blind to it.

          The dish by the sink is a super, teeny, tiny thing.

          But it’s another in the list of a 1,000 things that women, wives, mothers feel as if they are RESPONSIBLE for because the men in their lives assume the same level of responsibility as children (none unless they’re asked or told).

          That creates the Parent-Child dynamic between a husband and a wife. Wife feels disrespected and resentful and neglected.

          Husband feels disrespected and as if she’s treating him like a child.

          Wife stops wanting to have sex because “who wants to have sex with someone childlike?”

          Husband gets bitter and withdraws and never figures out what she’s REALLY mad about because he’s blind to emotional labor, and every time she tries to explain it, he says: “BUT IT’S JUST A GLASS BY THE SINK, PSYCHO!!!”

          And then everything gets super-fucked and everyone gets divorced.

          I have a real problem with it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nate says:

            Thanks Matt,
            I can get behind this. My wife literally says the sames things you just wrote. I have been trying to better recognize and remedy the imbalance as she sees/feels it. I do need to say that I do not think “things” are as imbalanced as she states, which poses a challenge to trying to remedy the situation. It’s much easier to apologize and/or work to fix things when you feel like you’ve done something wrong. Intentional hurt and unintentional hurt ARE both hurt…but I think they should elicit drastically different outcomes in a marriage (or any relationship really). I also firmly believe that husbands do “let go” of many more hurts than wives. I implore the wives reading this to understand just how powerful your words and actions affect your husbands, for better or for worse. There is a very high probability that every time a wife feels hurt by her husband for not helping with the emotional labor (or other issue), that a husband feels hurt as well, you just don’t realize it. Most men will not as readily tell their wives how truly hurt they are, and it may present as anger during an argument as we mostly suppress these feelings. And trust me, I fully understand this is not physically or mentally healthy behavior, but we all know it’s common male behavior….be strong and supportive and don’t be a sissy! The fact is that women have a profound affect on a man’s overall well-being, just as we do for our wives. The cycle of behavior Matt outlines above that ultimately leads to a sexless marriage and eventual divorce is truly a “chicken or egg” scenario.

            Like

    • Lissy says:

      Mike-for us it was Stxy, Come Sail Away, before there were smart phones. In this instance, I knew I was right. I even could tell you what album it was on (Pieces of Eight, thanks to my brother who played it nonstop). Geoffrey has a great example dialog. But our issue at the time was for some reason my husband would argue even when he knew he was wrong about something. So for me it wasn’t a “conflict resolving” issue, it was a boundary issue for me on refusing to get sucked into a pointless argument. I basically said, look, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Arguing will not change who sang the song, so I am not going to keep arguing about it. When we get home we can look it up.

      Interestingly enough, sometime after that, he accused me of always thinking I was right. I pondered that for several days, and then came to the realization that if I was not sure about something, I might say what I thought it was, but would not argue my point unless I was pretty sure I was right. So anytime I engaged in an argument, I did believe I was right. Unlike him, who would argue for the sake of arguing. He just never noticed all of the times I remained silent and there was no argument.

      Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Hey Lissy!

        Why do you think it was important for him to argue ever when he knew he was wrong about something?

        Do you have any insight into his motivation for that? Is he able to identify why he does that?

        Like

      • Mike says:

        “I came to the realization that if I was not sure about something, I might say what I thought it was, but would not argue my point unless I was pretty sure I was right. So anytime I engaged in an argument, I did believe I was right.”

        Yeah, I have occasionally said that to people: Of course I always think I’m right about things. If I didn’t think what I said was right, I wouldn’t be saying it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. OKRickety says:

    Matt,

    It was. The song was “Hungry Like the Wolf.” I knew it. She didn’t. She told me I was wrong. I knew I wasn’t. So we had a little fight and probably said dickhead things to one another.

    So both of you actively participated in this Conflict of Values. I would suppose that both of you actively participated in many, probably most, of the other Conflicts of Values you had? I know that you consider you had fault in many of these conflicts. Regardless of who was right (if anyone), was your ex-wife also at fault in many of those conflicts? If so, then I think the following is extremely relevant:

    And the day I realized that I would never agree to marry or remain married to someone who said that or treated me that way is the day I made peace with my wife leaving me.

    Like

    • Jules1915 says:

      It’s possible that she had a significant role. But we can only control, own and take responsibility for our own thoughts, actions, words etc, and it is an inspiring example to see Matt doing exactly that. Reading his blog has helped me start learning to look carefully at my own mindset and actions in my marriage, and to take responsibility.

      Liked by 3 people

      • ayjaymackay says:

        Agreed! I don’t think it’s useful and it’s definitely not Matt’s point here, to point fingers. Simply to observe past actions through a lens of broader or different understanding in order to change future behavior.

        I think a lot of people just get defensive and extra critical because it reminds them of conflicts in their own lives that they are not willing to take any responsibility for.

        Like

        • OKRickety says:

          ayjaymackay,

          The pointing fingers  argument is a pet peeve of mine. I consider it a variation of “Don’t judge me”. In other words, one must be perfect themselves to be able to say anything about another’s faults or failures.

          I think a lot of people just get defensive and extra critical because it reminds them of conflicts in their own lives that they are not willing to take any responsibility for.

          I think people who take full responsibility for their own fault in their marriage and are working to improve have the right to recognize the other’s fault(s).

          I think each person should value being informed of their own fault(s) so that they have the opportunity to improve themselves and their marriage.

          Liked by 1 person

          • gottmanfan says:

            Okrickety,

            You said:

            I think people who take full responsibility for their own fault in their marriage and are working to improve have the right to recognize the other’s fault(s).

            I think each person should value being informed of their own fault(s) so that they have the opportunity to improve themselves and their marriage.

            I agree. Correct diagnosis is critical imho.

            Like

          • ayjaymackay says:

            >I think people who take full responsibility for their own fault in their marriage and are working to improve have the right to recognize the other’s fault(s)

            I don’t disagree but you really come off as telling Matt he should be blaming his ex wife instead of looking at his own role, when looking at his own role is the entire point of his writing.

            Maybe I’m just reading you wrong but it’s annoying to feel like people are telling him that his self-examination is wrong somehow.

            Like

            • OKRickety says:

              ayjaymackay,

              I’m sorry that you understand it that way. My view is that Matt blames himself entirely for the failure of his marriage. As to the fault of his ex-wife, I believe it likely exists and that it should be recognized, but I do not think she is entirely responsible for the failure of the marriage. I suspect there was significant fault by both parties.

              While Matt’s self-examination may well be entirely correct, I think it is healthy to examine the behavior of others in such self-examination and I don’t see evidence of that.

              Like

      • Ditto, to what Jules says. xoxo

        Like

    • Lissy says:

      OKRickety, I don’t think it was both people pointing a finger at the other, saying I am right, you are wrong, and you are crazy for thinking what you think!

      From what I have read, it seems that Matt’s response to his wife in conflicts was outward and external-to believe she was wrong and was crazy to feel like she did, and she should be the one to change her mind. I am sure she felt like she was right, too. But she did not did not seem to feel the same towards him-that he was crazy to think and feel like that! Her response was internal-she felt hurt that he did not think her feelings were valid.

      Does this make sense?

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Lissy,

        If that were the case, then it would make sense. But that’s not what I believe to be the case.

        Like

        • Mike says:

          I agree. The flavour conveyed by “said dickhead things to one another” is pretty symmetrical. (In this particular example).

          Like

      • Mike says:

        Lissy: “it seems that Matt’s response to his wife in conflicts was outward and external-to believe she was wrong and was crazy to feel like she did, and she should be the one to change her mind. I am sure she felt like she was right, too. But she did not did not seem to feel the same towards him-that he was crazy to think and feel like that! Her response was internal-she felt hurt that he did not think her feelings were valid.”

        I am a complicator, and I am inclined to think it’s more complicated than that. Thinking about the coffee-cup on the side thing, I got the impression she externalised her feelings about it at first … and then eventually gave up. Not that she kept it all inside. (And if she HAD given no external warning, that would be pretty unfair of her, but I don’t get the impression that was what happened). I suspect they both harboured negative judgements of each other. (Sorry to talk about you like this as if you were a case study, Matt, but you’ve made yourself into one!)

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          I don’t think there is any question, as is the usual case, both brought special relational dysfunctional gifts to the party.

          I’m in a Gottman quoting mood again. He could predict with remarkable accuracy who would divorce 6 years later by watching 15 minutes of how newlyweds treated each other when disagreeing.

          Matt is reflecting on the seeds of his future divorce in the way they treated each other over who wrote “Hungry Like the Wolf.” It is all so sadly predictable. I can look back and see similar early stuff in my relationship.

          Liked by 1 person

          • OKRickety says:

            gottmanfan,

            Supposing Gottman (or anyone else) could accurately and quickly predict divorce through any method before marriage, I greatly wish that my ex-wife and I had experienced that opportunity. In fact, I would want everyone to have that opportunity because I would like all marriages to be successful. (Note: I rather expect it would lower the marriage rate much further than it already is.)

            Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              Most people have very limited of any premarital counseling. Or even talk about differences in deep ways.

              It’s a surprise that the divorce rate isn’t higher to be honest.

              I tell people now to get intensive pre-marital counseling. So far I have had no success in people following through 😢

              Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        Lissy,

        I think what you describe is from the bulk of Matt’s posts.

        As you know it is the predictable escalation of the pattern to have one person ramp up the criticism/emotional intensity and the other side insist they are “too much” or “crazy”

        If his wife was like me, I did insist quite uhum strongly that he should change how he thought and behaved.

        Like the Duran Duran thing it doesn’t matter that I WAS right I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the situation to move towards a healthier exchange.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lissy says:

          Hi Gottmanfan! I think my analysis was more of a long term looking back type thing. I am guessing that the “externally processing” person who is so sure they are in the right and the other person is crazy never stops and thinks-wait a second…do I really want to be married to a crazy person?? They are not the ones who walk away from the marriage. The one who processes internally is the one who feels hurt and eventually chooses to leave the relationship to protect from being hurt. It’s not that they are perfect or without fault. I guess I am exploring not what they are doing in the conflict, but how they each think/feel after the conflict.

          So Mike and Rickety, you are right about the conflict-dickhead stuff said by both. I suppose I am thinking that after all was dickheadedly said and done, they did not share the same “summary”. While one is thinking of the conflict in terms of who is right or wrong, the other is thinking about the conflict in terms of how it harmed the relationship or altered their feelings towards their spouse in a negative way. Not that I think either was analyzing it at the time, but it seems like there are two different takeaways-external (my spouse is crazy/needs to get over it), and internal (I am so hurt).

          It’s not a question of who is to blame and who is the innocent victim.

          I

          Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Lissy,

            I see what you mean about the different takeaways. I might tweak it this way based on my
            own experience. I have been on both sides of these depending on the situation. Bottom line is imho the internal and external both think the OTHER person is wrong and needs to change. Does that resonate with you?

            Person A I am so hurt, sad, disappointed etc —They need to change to be more relational so I can feel cared for and appreciated as a spouse should be.

            Person B I am so annoyed, angry, disrespected etc—They need to change to be less demanding (or needy etc) so I am appreciated and supported as a spouse should be.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Mike says:

              My version would be:

              Person A – I just need my partner to listen, and do what they agreed to do. It’s like they don’t care at all. I wouldn’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over if it went in the first time. We need to get this sorted out, and quickly. It’s all in this book I read. Sometimes I don’t think they’ve ever loved me. I need emotional connection. They are not putting any effort in.

              Person B – my partner needs to calm down, not keep bringing up old stuff, not sweat the small stuff, they should know that I love them, please stop suggesting me books to read about relationships, least said soonest mended. I’m quite happy with them as they are, I wish they could accept me as I am, it doesn’t seem I can ever please them. I feel I come somewhere below the dog in the pecking order here.

              Liked by 1 person

              • gottmanfan says:

                Yes, I agree.

                The overall thing is both people think the other person is doing things “wrong.”

                Often, I think women don’t acknowledge that there are legitimate beefs on both sides. I hear it a lot framed as “men are just objectively doing things wrong and need to change“ when describing a problem of an interacting system.

                (I don’t think that is what Lissy is saying)

                Liked by 1 person

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  Often, I think women don’t acknowledge that there are legitimate beefs on both sides. I hear it a lot framed as “men are just objectively doing things wrong and need to change“ when describing a problem of an interacting system.

                  I consider that an excellent summary of how marriages are viewed today by the vast majority. (Note: That general attitude extends much further into society [or maybe it starts in society and permeates into marriage].) I absolutely hate this type of thinking!

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    I hate this type of thinking too because it confuses the issues.

                    I also think there are plenty of people who frame it as “women expect too much” or and don’t acknowledge enough of what men bring to the dysfunctional party.

                    My goal is always correct diagnosis. Which usually involves both sides to some degree (though not always 50/50.)

                    Like

          • OKRickety says:

            Lissy said: It’s not a question of who is to blame and who is the innocent victim.

            I think I agree, but I find Matt’s posts to strongly skew to considering the husband to be at fault and the wife to be the innocent victim. I believe the husband is likely at fault, but I believe the wife is likely at fault, too, and not just an innocent victim.

            Like

    • Mike says:

      I wish I knew how to do those neat quote boxes

      Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Mike (and anyone else interested),

        This blog (and many other WordPress blogs) allow html tags in comments. Here are some you might find useful:

        <blockquote>Text being quoted</blockquote> results in

        Text being quoted

        Note: I wish there was a shorter version for this, such as “q” instead of “blockquote” but I don’t think there is.

        <i>Text being italicized</i> results in Text being italicized

        <b>Text being emphasized (“bolded”)</b> results in Text being emphasized (“bolded”)

        These can be combined (just make certain to have both the beginning and ending tags). For example:

        <blockquote><b><i>Text being quoted</i></b></blockquote> results in

        Text being quoted

        If you want to try this out (or verify your formatting), I suggest using htmledit.squarefree.com

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Maddie476 says:

    Brilliant article as usual Matt. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In Italy, “governare” means wash the dishes, sharing duties, there are no duties for each gender, so make up your mind.
    Harley bike, beers and cigars…grow up, make sport and home duties with your partner.

    Like

  8. gottmanfan says:

    I like the framing of understanding that fights are about values even when they are small dumb things on the surface.

    One interesting statistic is that 69% of value disagreements in marriage are perpetual. You never resolve the difference. But happy marriages are able to talk about it/disagree about it/negotiate with respect and positivity. That is the difference.

    The thing about those who advise people to pick people with similar values is that even if you are aligned when you get married, people change over time. Stuff happens and you often change what you think and want.

    For example, two religious people who get married may have one person decide they are an atheist 5 or 10 years later or vice versa.

    Or one person may want more or less kids after they are married than the number they honestly said when engaged or after the first kid.

    So bottom line is we have to know how to navigate a relationship with differences big or small. How to treat each other with respect and love when their value or personality differences threaten our emotional sense of safety to our core.

    I couldn’t do it which is why I have had to learn how. Still learning.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. belessscary says:

    It’s never about the dishes. Or the jeans. The messy bed. The trash. Or text messages.

    It’s about respect. Appreciation. Understanding. Self-awareness. Love.

    You might win every battle but it’ll cost you the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. ayjaymackay says:

    Thanks for talking about how value disagreements can underlie those about preferences. I wasted a year or more trying to get my husband to do specific tasks thinking that that was what was wrong. That just leads to him feeling like he can never be good enough and me feeling like he isn’t respecting me because we’re talking about different things.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Matt says:

      Whoa. Wait.

      If you’re inclined and have the time, I would love to hear how you turned this conversation on its head, took an alternative approach, and what your experiences were.

      Since, you know, it’s like 80% of the conversation around here is trying to gracefully navigate these types of conflicts and conversations within a marriage and/or household.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. thingscarlaloves says:

    Reblogged this on Things Carla Loves and commented:
    “As recently as this week, someone commented on the dishes article that went viral in January 2016, minimizing the significance of dirty dishes and encouraging people to learn how to let go of “the little things” in an effort to avoid conflict and have healthy relationships.

    While I appreciate the spirit of his comment and those of the hundreds of other people also touting the merits of “letting it go,” as a happy-marriage philosophy, I respectfully believe they all share the same toxic mental condition that ailed me throughout my marriage.

    It’s a diseased belief called I Know That What I Believe is Right, Therefore Anyone Who Believes Something Else is Wrong.

    That’s the belief that ends every doomed relationship, and is more or less responsible for starting every major conflict—including the deadliest wars—in human history.”

    Like

  12. thingscarlaloves says:

    I feel like the people who don’t understand what you wrote just don’t want to. Like, it wasn’t a hard point to miss. And then there was a follow-up post to explain it further …

    Regardless, I get it and I love it. It’s sad that so many people misunderstand your point, because it’s (in my opinion) great relationship advice. I feel like it’s not much different to me picking up pineapple lumps every now and then in the grocery basket because my husband loves them. It’s not an every shopping week thing, but it’s an every now and then thing to remind me husband, however simply, that I was thinking of him. That I remembered he loves pineapple lumps. That I remembered it’s been a little while. That I was out, and he was on my mind.

    And he does the same thing. (The pineapple lumps are just like one example, and he’s better at all this than me!) My point is, sometimes it comes down to recognising what your loved one wants, needs and values, and reminding them that you actually see that.

    Like

  13. gottmanfan says:

    Here is an interesting article of a new book on this topic.

    Like

      • gottmanfan says:

        The most important part imho of the problem of why many wives eventually leave (or consider it.)

        When I spoke to the women they were all so enthusiastic, and passionate, and full of ideas.

        When I talked to their husbands they were really nice, but they were so clearly disinterested in the topic. … It wasn’t that they didn’t know that their wives are never frustrated with them. It just didn’t seem particularly important to them.

        I don’t mean to imply that they were cold to their wives, or indifferent to their wives. It just really didn’t register as such a big deal.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Insightful link that you shared there, thank you Gottmanfan.

          I’m almost a bit sad that it has to be studied. On this side of divorce, it’s all so incredibly obvious. In the thick of it, though, you’re swimming in a mix of resentment and guilt. As a woman, you genuinely believe that this is your burden to bear, so you trudge on, until one day something tips you further than you can manage.

          And you walk out.

          I feel a weird sympathy for the husbands left wondering what went wrong. As shown in the article, most seem oblivious. Mine was. I tried to be ok for a long time, like most women do, but when I couldn’t pretend anymore, I left. Maybe that wasn’t fair.

          Matt addresses this all quite a lot: Not being *oblivious* to your spouse. (Whether you’re the husband or the wife.) Paying attention, being mindful, being intentional.

          Liked by 1 person

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kirsty,

            Your experience is sadly common.

            I have “weird sympathy” for many husbands too. We end up in these patterns because we can’t figure out what is going on and how to fix it.

            I do think there is a measure of “creative incompetence” and “obliviousness as a skill” that I don’t have any sympathy for.

            Usually imho it is a combination of both on the “clueless” husband shocked that his wife left him.

            (And there are other things wives commonly don’t do right either fwiw)

            Like

            • OKRickety says:

              gottmanfan,

              (And there are other things wives commonly don’t do right either fwiw)

              But who talks about that? Seriously, where can I find such statements?

              Like

              • gottmanfan says:

                Come on man.

                I write 100 comments on these posts many of which talk about that in some form.

                I have referred you many times to Gottman who gives details. You can read Johnson or many others.

                If you are serious, the stuff is readily available.

                Like

                • OKRickety says:

                  gottmanfan,

                  As I’ve said, I consider you an exception. I seldom see that perspective from other women on this blog or any other blog that I read. But maybe I am blinded to it. Perhaps the experts say it, but I don’t see that it has generally filtered down to the general public (or, it seems, even to most counselors).

                  Like

                  • gottmanfan says:

                    Okrickety,

                    As much as I like to think of myself as exceptional ha ha I think blog comments are usually not representative but wildly skewed towards venting, particularly men/women type blogs.

                    I feel that way about men sometimes fwiw. Like when I read Dalrocks blog comments or Reddit. Not a lot of looking for fairness to consider both sides including the female perspective there either. Does that mean all men are like that? Or even that all those particular men think like that all the time? I don’t think it is likely.

                    I appreciate your willingness to consider it might be a blind spot. (We’ve all got them.)

                    Like

          • gottmanfan says:

            Kirsty,

            You said: “As a woman, you genuinely believe that this is your burden to bear, so you trudge on, until one day something tips you further than you can manage.”

            Could you elaborate more of why you think it was many women, as you did, it was your burden to bear? Where do you think this idea came from for you?

            Like

          • personinprocess says:

            Kirsty and Gottmanfan,
            This obliviousness and not knowing how to change…I dont think that is intentional. And I wonder if what is needed at that time is individual counseling. (Or really, it is needed way before that time…)
            My favorite for the last few years has been Dan Siegel, he developed and teaches “Inter personal neuro-biology.” The reason I like it so much is it really addresses so many significant issues that people face. It helps us understand trauma (and how/why EMDR works!) – and it doesnt have to be life threatening trauma’s, it explains what our brains do to protect ourselves from things like shame, etc. It links what our brains do to attachment with others and helps us learn how to be better attuned to others experiences as well as to ourselves.
            His whole concept is about how we can often cut off communications within the brain. We cut off the intuitive/emotional part, or we cut off the logical/rational parts, or we cut off the information coming in from the body.
            I think when men (people) are at this point, where he ( or they are) is pretty much saying “I dont know how to be emotionally present with you. I dont know how to change my behaviors, or even my motivations to make change” what it is likely demonstrating is an un-integrated brain.
            The prescription is usually counseling and mindfulness meditation.

            I think it is a very common experience for men to be cut off from themselves because of the social training that tells men they arent supposed to feel, or that they dont need others.

            Just a thought.

            Like

            • FlyingKal says:

              “I dont know how to be emotionally present with you. I dont know how to change my behaviors, or even my motivations to make change”

              My experience of trying to connect emotionally within a relationship has usually been somewhere along the line of “I really want to be emotionally present with you, and I am trying my very best to do it, but since I don’t have the same (lifelong?) experience and support in the area that you have, it seems like even my best efforts are never good enough or even steps in the right direction.”

              Have you ever been in the situation where you wanted really bad to learn to do something, like driving a car, or downhill skiing, or changing the oil, or whatever, and had your dad, or older brother, or boyfriend trying to teach you? Where even if he didn’t say anything, you just knew that every change in his facial expression, every twitch of a muscle fibre in his body meant that you did something wrong, that you just weren’t trying hard enough, or even giving it a MINIMUM of your effort?

              In my experience, you can very well try to flip that script in being a man and trying to work on your emotional flaws and insecurities.
              Whatever you do, it’s just really quite right. It just doesn’t quite go down the right path. For some reason, you’re just that little bit off.

              Like

              • OKRickety says:

                FlyingKal said: For some reason, you’re just that little bit off.

                That’s the perception. But what if we’re not really “off”, but it’s due to inherent physical differences between the sexes? If so, why should we fight so hard to change our true natures? I don’t think anyone thinks every man must be the same as every other man. Or all women be the same. So why do we think the sexes should be the same?

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  Okrickety,

                  I don’t think the issue is about wanting the sexes to be the same.

                  It is imho not to default to gender differences to excuse bad relationship skills.

                  Like

                  • OKRickety says:

                    gottmanfan,

                    I don’t think the issue is about wanting the sexes to be the same.

                    It is imho not to default to gender differences to excuse bad relationship skills.

                    I disagree, because I question the determination of which relationship skills are considered good. I think the definition of good skills may well be skewed, similar to how sexual frequency is generally controlled by the spouse with the lower desire. It doesn’t make the frequency good just because one spouse thinks it’s great.

                    Along the same lines, I think women generally do not believe that husbands get emotional connection through sex. But they believe emotional connection is achieved by sharing verbally. The so-called experts seem to accept the latter as important but consider sex to be relatively insignificant. It’s another case of distorted perspective.

                    Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      I am not sure I understand where we are disagreeing.

                      Imho Relationships skills imho are generic. Then you lay on the overlay of specific things you need for your own specific circumstances.

                      Relationship skills are like a map. Sand map for everyone. Where you need to go depends on your current location. That varies by individual.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I think I disagree that relationship skills are generic. It’s my perception that emotional connection is an example. Specifically, I think many Christian women “ministry leaders” teach it’s reasonable to expect, say, a minimum of 15 minutes of verbal connection every day in order to have maybe 15 minutes of sexual connection every week. And they believe the wife has the sole right to judge when the husband has reached an acceptable level of verbal emotional connection before allowing sexual connection. This approach seems to be supported by most church leaders. For example, Al Mohler, prominent Southern Baptist, wrote this (emphasis mine) in The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part Two:

                      Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed.

                      His intent is clarified later in the article when he says (emphasis mine):

                      Therefore, when I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.

                      In short, he says the husband must pay his debt to his wife (meet her emotional needs) before he earns the right to have sex with his wife.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I mean the goal of healthy relationship skills are generic. (Maybe “generic” is not a good adjective to describe but I’m tired) There are cultural and style differences in the expressions of the skills. But the LEGO blocks are the same.

                      People think and say all kinds of crazy stuff. Church people/leaders add a whole other layer of stuff on top of that. I don’t use that as the measure of what “experts say” which imho is a different category.

                      I can’t believe I am going to defend Al Mohler 😜 but I don’t fully interpret the excerpt the way you do. But I will read the whole article tomorrow when I have more time and get back to you with more thoughts.

                      You buttered me up with compliments to distract me from the pain of arguing about complementarian sex theology. 😜

                      I will think about it in more general terms to ease my suffering.😀

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      Ok I have read the Al Mohler article you linked.

                      I tried to see it through your perspective as someone who has been in sexless marriage and who got bad marriage counseling. From that perspective I can see why the sections you highlighted bother you.

                      Reading it without that framing my take is he is emphasizing the woman’s “right” that a husband “earn” access to sex in an attempt to pushback against entitlement attitudes he sees in and around porn. The title explains his framing it the way he does.

                      I think he is trying to persuade men to focus more of their wives well-being so that she would want sex.

                      Now, I think that can often be helpful. Necessary but sometimes not sufficient. In the sense that there can be other reasons why the marriage is sexless including that a wife can also have a sense of entitlement. (Or physical issues, or trauma, or bad information, shame etc etc).

                      As I always say, correct diagnosis is critical.

                      But I think Mohler is speaking more generally about the issue of porn use by a husband and the effect on attitudes of sex in a Christian marriage.

                      He is limiting it to one half of the system. I assume part of that flows from his Complementarian theology which holds men, more than women, responsible for whatever the status of his marriage is.

                      The husband is to be the leader in family matters including the sex life. Failure there is his responsibility to change. Under that theology, if he leads correctly she will follow as it restores the natural God-designed order.

                      As you know, I don’t agree with that framing but I do think Mohler’s husband framing is logical progression so not surprising.

                      I guess in that sense men not liking complementarian framing that holds him (“blames” him) for problems co-created is similar to women not liking being told (“blaming”) her that problems co-created are her fault for not being submissive enough.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      But I think Mohler is speaking more generally about the issue of porn use by a husband and the effect on attitudes of sex in a Christian marriage.

                      I think Mohler and almost all married Christian leaders over, say, forty are relatively ignorant of society today, especially when it comes to sexual behavior. Porn is berated but sexless marriage is ignored (or even justified).

                      I think he is trying to persuade men to focus more of their wives well-being so that she would want sex.

                      When it comes to issues in marriage, the standard Christian approach is for the husband to change his behavior and the woman will then respond in the correct way. I consider this patent ignorance of reality.

                      Under that theology, if he leads correctly she will follow as it restores the natural God-designed order.

                      That may happen occasionally, but I think that’s generally a pipe dream, at least today.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      I don’t quite understand what you mean.

                      1. Where is sexless marriage justified? That is what I don’t see you giving references for.

                      2. As I said I think this relates primarily to complementarian theology. I agree this is an “ignorance” for a lot of reasons including ignoring the system and assumptions of man as leader.

                      So we agree that complementarian theology of marriage is not correct? 😜

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      Here is a video of Sue Johnson talking about sex.

                      “Sex is a potent bonding activity” (around 5 minute mark on video)

                      Goal in happy relationships is “synchrony sex.”

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      To your point about Christian women “ministry leaders”teaching I don’t know what sources you are reading but that doesn’t agree with my
                      personal experience or pursuing popular marriage blogs written by Christian women.

                      For example, here is a recent post by J. Parker. Note the “access” section and the link to average male/female differences in sexual response (per another comment you made earlier).

                      But access to you and your body shouldn’t be so limited that it feels like the gate is chained and padlocked most of the time. You got married, sex is supposed to be part of marriage, and access is part of that.

                      If access has been seriously limited, I’m not telling you to shut up and go do it with your hubby.

                      Rather, you need to ask why you’ve been gatekeeping and address that underlying issue. (See Leaving the Path of Refusal from The Forgiven Wife.)”

                      https://hotholyhumorous.com/2019/03/4-things-your-husband-wants/

                      Similar ideas are regularly presented in Sheila Gregor’s blog, the Forgiven Wife, and other popular blogs written by Christian women.

                      Where are you seeing Christian women ministry leaders say women are *supposed* to be sexual gatekeepers?

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      Where are you seeing Christian women ministry leaders say women are *supposed* to be sexual gatekeepers?

                      I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and looking for examples. Unfortunately, I am not finding them, so, for now, I will put my claim on hold.

                      Perhaps the problem is actually with the male Christian leaders, such as the example I gave of Al Mohler.

                      Returning to the women leaders, it seems that they are not making a big impact on how Christian women view sex. In J. Parker’s case, she preceded what you quoted with this:

                      The issue of gatekeeping comes up a lot when speaking to hubbies. […] Plenty of wives are the gatekeepers of sexual intimacy in their marriage—controlling and limiting it denying access to their husbands.

                      She seems to acknowledge that sexual gatekeeping is reasonably common and husbands are aware of it and even willing to talk about it.

                      A more striking example of the lack of impact comes from Sheila Wray Gregoire (who I really want to like but instead detest). In 10 Things We Learned by Going to a Marriage Conference, she quotes one of her blog team as saying:

                      “I realized that my husband wanting sexual fulfillment meant so much more than just him wanting sex often and that it was more emotional for him than I had thought!”

                      One of her own group didn’t already know this. I think that is ironic.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I don’t know how to respond to this. You seem to want to keep your framing.

                      My reading doesn’t agree with you framing but I certainly don’t have any desire to spend more time reading complementarian views of sex so I will leave you to your views at this point.

                      I will only add this general thought:

                      There is a significant subset of wives with higher libidos than husbands (estimated at 1/4 to 1/3 depending on who you read).

                      So clearly this whole topic is complex—not a simple question of biological sex drives and women as gatekeepers because they don’t want sex or men find sex emotional or whatever.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      Yes, I want to keep my framing.
                      Don’t we all? I do think I stated I cannot find the support I thought I had. I think I am open to changing my framing but it will take time and examples. I like to have good support for my views, too.

                      Sex is certainly a complex and important topic. I wonder about the quality of the data on the libido aspect. I’m skeptical but we can leave it at that.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      It’s good you are open to changing.

                      I don’t think we all want to keep our framing. I have changed a LOT of the framing I started with. A correct diagnosis, as I always say, is critical to getting healthier and is my drive to change my framing to a more accurate one even if it is painful and disorienting to do it.

                      I think it is important to push ourselves to question our framing. To look for examples that disprove our framing as a good scientist does.

                      Especially the ones we use to create a narrative about our lives. Most especially the ones we think are right because they have emotional resonance. So no, I don’t want to keep my original framing.

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      This seems a bit like the debate we had recently: “You always think you’re right” versus “of course I do; if I didn’t think it was right, I wouldn’t say it”.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      How do you see it the same?

                      Imho there is a big difference between someone saying they are “right” and expressing their opinion of what they think or feel that is open to correction or other points of views.

                      I am not always good at the habit😜 but I do see it as the goal.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      Can’t remember the details of the “you always think you’re right” debate at this point (100 comments ago 😜) so I am curious what you see as the similarities. (Not trying to argue it isn’t similar or not).

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      It seemed to me that “wanting to keep your framing” might be like “thinking you are right”. People vary as to how much evidence it takes to change their mind. I don’t think it’s a case of “wanting” to hold on to one’s views, or “not wanting” to. It would take a lot to convince me the world is flat, and that’s not because I “want to” believe it isn’t.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      Thanks for clarifying.

                      I think that there is a spectrum of “wanting” to keep our framing on particular issues.

                      To use EFT framing we want to hang on to framing that makes us feel emotionally “safe” in some way.

                      How much safety we get from that framing is imho directly related to how much we don’t want to change it for emotional reasons.

                      In your flat earth example, it would take a lot of evidence to convince you and me because science has assured us the earth is not flat for our whole lives. I assume it doesn’t carry much emotional charge in 2019 for most people. We don’t “want” to believe. It is emotionally neutral to me.

                      But even there I remember how much people CARED when Pluto was declassified as a planet. It was emotionally charged because people learned there were NINE planets when they were young. Sang songs to learn them. They did not WANT the framing changed. It felt emotionally unsafe. The arguments were not about the “science” but about the change from what it has always been framed as in their lifetime.

                      Neil Degrasse Tyson talked about the number of angry responses and even death threats he got about the decision that Pluto was no longer consisted a planet.

                      Those people “wanted to keep their framing.” As Schnarch would say they are “high” desire.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I have many framings like that.

                      I remember how much I wanted to keep my framing that my husband was the primary one who needed to change.

                      It made sense to me. I could back it up with “facts” even.
                      It made me feel safe to feel I understood what needed to change. Sure I needed to change some things too. But my framing was HE was the main problem.

                      I “wanted to keep my framing.”

                      And WOW how hard it has been to give up that framing. I had to start with wanting to NOT want to keep my framing.

                      To look for ways that framing could be wrong.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      As I said to OKRickety, I think it’s helpful to do thought experiments on things we emotionally “want” to hang onto.

                      How would OKRickey’s narrative change if his main premise is not true. (If we can somehow empirically be 100% convinced it is not true)

                      If what he thinks about “experts” or “church leaders” or whoever saying sex is inferior to verbal intimacy or women are supposed to be gatekeepers etc is NOT true what changes in the narrative of his marriage/life?

                      I use that exercise a LOT to reveal my unconscious thoughts about myself and how I see things. And how much emotional weight I attach to certain framing.

                      That’s how I meant my comment not as saying I am RIGHT about his premise being wrong. I don’t have any desire to “prove” or “disprove” the details at this point to him.

                      I was just trying to talk about the process of identifying the “wanting to hang on to framing.” part.

                      Probably didn’t do a great job of explaining that but that was what I was trying to say.

                      Undoubtedly you two are better matched to discuss his points anyway.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      I don’t think I am presenting this clearly so let me get it another try.

                      I think there are TWO different levels

                      1. The “factual” accuracy of a premise or framing.

                      2. The “emotional” weight we give that framing.

                      I am saying that it has been helpful to me to consider both of those things separately.

                      One reason is that often the amount of “evidence” we need to confirm or change our framing depends greatly on how how much we emotional weight we give the framing.

                      I have often thought that scientists take the wrong approach in trying to get people to accept evolution or the safety of vaccines.

                      They keep arguing about the “fact” basis and treat the emotional weight with contempt. Contempt we know just ADDS emotional weight.

                      EFT does a great job in seeing relational connection as two parts.

                      The pursuer thinks their spouse doesn’t care and that is why they withdraw.

                      You have to empathize with the emotional weight they give that. How much just makes sense for them to think that.

                      When we can see the weight given and why only then can someone “take in” that the interpretation might not be fully accurate.

                      So that is what I try to do. See what emotional weight I give to certain framing and what purpose it serves. Then I can see with new eyes the “facts” of a different interpretation.

                      Don’t know if that makes more sense or confuses things more.

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      Yeah, I believe I understand what you’re saying and agree with it. Certainly in my work I am not often trying to change someone’s mind by rational argument! I think the concept of “unconscious” is also really useful here.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      Oh good! I am glad it was clear what I was trying to say.

                      I think CBT can be helpful in the right circumstances but I agree that often there are emotional or unconscious blocks to rational arguments.

                      You may be familiar with David Burns exercise where he asks people if we could push a magic button to change this would you do it? If not why? What would change once the button is pushed?

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      Oooh! And see Matt’s latest, very pertinent, post!

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      Can anyone say what these “relationship skills” are?

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Sure 😜 I will go first.

                      To me, it’s shorthand for what research shows creates a healthy relationship.

                      My framing is research so that’s my map and language Gottman, Atkinson, Johnson, DBT etc detail the emotional and behavioral skills (substitute preferred word here is you like) that create successful relationships.

                      The reason I love me some Gottman and Atkinson and DBT is it is presented in very concrete terms. Atkinson’s ebook lays them all out for a couple and frames them as skills you can learn. It literally tells you how. Self-regulation. How to set boundaries 😜 How to speak to your partner in conflict etc.

                      EFT, as you know has good research, to back learning how to emotionally connect. That too is a concrete process though framed as emotional.

                      Imho it’s a similar process of research of what you need to do to be mentally or physically healthy.

                      It’s not good for my physical health to smoke cigarettes research tells me. It is good to exercise. What type of exercise and how much is best also knowable etc.

                      Some people do these things naturally or have learned through modeling. Others have to learn what to do or not do (example, rumination is not good for your mental or relational health but you can learn to think differently for a different mental skill.)

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Mike says:

                      I’m not sure I have a good answer. I am a bit suspicious of “skills” and “tools” – I prefer “habits”. The reason is that anything that’s learned and “understood” by the rational part of the mind tends to go out the window when under pressure. As people have learned in a variety of fields, what you do under pressure is what you’ve practised over and over again. If I give a couple a rule, like “set a time limit on a difficult discussion”, they will understand and sincerely agree, but (for a certain sort of couple) when it comes to it, neither of them will stop, because they can’t bear to let the other have the last word, so it continues until 4am.

                      So my answer is going to be a bit Schnarchy: get to know yourself, what your weaknesses are. Learn to know what your emotions are in the moment, how to calm yourself, what you want, what your values/ethics are. Get in the habit of trying to figure out what you’re doing that’s making things worse. Be OK with the the possiblity that the relationship might have to end.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I agree with all of this! Fist bump 👊🏻

                      I can call it “habits” more frequently. I think perhaps you are right that the word habits might be more clear to more people for what I am trying to say.

                      As I said in another comment “habits” are not just behavioral as some think of the word. But attitude and emotional defaults. Atkinson makes this point very well I think.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Here is the Atkinson book I highly recommend. The title says it all.

                      https://thecouplesclinic.com/books/

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of that book:

                      You may reason that since he is the one who is behaving badly, he is the one who must make efforts to change. But study after study suggests that changes are initiated by the skillful reactions of those who are dissatisfied with their partners’ behaviors, not by the partners who do the objectionable things.

                      I find this very interesting, because I see it as suggesting an entirely different understanding of marriage than the one I think Matt provides. Specifically, the Glass by the Sink  story and Matt’s proposed response fits the first sentence. However, the second sentence clearly implies that the ideal response would have been for his wife to have skillfully reacted to Matt’s objectionable behavior. (Note: Perhaps Matt commonly found his wife’s behavior objectionable, but I don’t see it in that story and only occasionally otherwise. But he vociferously claims his own behavior was regularly objectionable to her.)

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      Ok, We are not going to try and refute Matt chapter by chapter are we?😜

                      The ideal response is for BOTH people to respond to each other with skillful reactions. And if one fails to do so, it is even more important for the other person to respond skillfully to that (which is not in conflict with Matt’s premise — no matter WHAT his wife did or didn’t do.)

                      Did you buy the ebook? I hope so, it is really helpful imho. I am interested in your thoughts of it after you digest the material.

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      I have decided to generally avoid addressing Matt and his posts directly, because doing so seems to strike a nerve for almost all of the regular readers/commenters. It’s fairly clear that he does not wish to interact with me. I think both cases are rather telling.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      “Telling” is an interesting interpretive word choice that I find telling. 😜

                      Regardless, on a practical level I applaud moving the conversation away from repetition.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Title: Developing Habits for Relationship Success: A Step-By-Step Guide for Improving Your Relationship

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      When we were discussing the meaning of the word “boundaries” a day or so ago, I searched in that book, but didn’t find the word mentioned in there. (Of course, he might be using a different term.)

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yeah, he terms it the “standing up process” aka “standing up for yourself without making a big deal of it”

                      The concepts of boundaries as I think about that word are articulated by his “standing up process” and others have similar concepts but call it boundaries like Brene Brown and Pia Melody via Terry Real etc.

                      Language is annoying 😜 So hard to verbalize things in words everyone agrees on the meaning. I am not hung up on the words as much as I try get the *concepts* right as much as I can.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      So much of what we need to learn to do is imho developing different habits.

                      True for relationships as much as it is for mental and physical health imho.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Here is an example of a simple habit.

                      Gottman calls it “responding to a bid” which means being responsive in concrete ways that affect the emotional current.

                      If my kid says to me “hey mom look at this picture I drew” or “I hate my teacher!” I can say a disinterested “hmm yeah” or “that’s too bad” while I continue to look at my phone or type on my laptop or cook.

                      Or I can develop the habit of pausing what I am doing and giving attention. Eye contact, questions, etc that convey interest. That convey that I CARE. It is a habit. You don’t have to be perfect just consistently pretty good. And repair when you screw up. “I’m sorry honey, can I see your beautiful picture?”

                      The same habits are true for relationships. If your spouse says “don’t leave the dish by the sink!” We never have sex!” You turn TOWARDS them not against, not away.

                      Interest in what this represents, care about them. Doesn’t mean you do what they say just that you start with habits of interest and care. Instead of disinterest and defensiveness.

                      It is a *habit* you can practice and develop. It is a behavioral as well as an emotional and attitudinal habit.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I have heard MANY sex therapists and researchers talk about that it is more common for males more than females to have spontaneous desire as well as to emotionally connect through sex. I can refer you to many of these sources if you are interested.

                      I think perhaps you are exposed to wrong sources for what the “so-called experts” believe. Who are the sources who think sex is relatively insignificant?

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      “I think women generally do not believe that husbands get emotional connection through sex. But they believe emotional connection is achieved by sharing verbally. “

                      Yeah, I certainly do encounter women who think their way of doing relationship is correct, and end up viewing men as a kind of defective version of women. They can be a bit dumbfounded when I explain it. (However, I can also hear a chorus of feminists pointing out that if society has swung a bit far that way, then it’s a small over-correction to times when women were viewed as a defective version of men, and a man literally could not be charged with rape of his wife, as he was presumed to have an entitlement).

                      “The so-called experts seem to accept the latter as important but consider sex to be relatively insignificant. It’s another case of distorted perspective.”

                      Here I think I disagree with you (or with your definition of experts, in which I do not generally include preachers). The two popular books on this for the public that I see most recommended are “five love languages” by Chapman, and “His needs her needs” by Harley. Both of those list sex as a need on the same level as verbal sharing, and go to lengths to explain that different people have different ways of receiving love.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Mike,

                      Marital rape is not just historical.

                      There are still states where marital rape is not illegal. I just read an article a few days ago when Minnesota passed a law because of one woman’s fight after being raped.

                      https://www.npr.org/2019/05/04/719635969/this-woman-fought-to-end-minnesotas-marital-rape-exception-and-won

                      I just read yesterday about a blog post advocating for Christian woman that they cannot be raped if married. Not a few people still believe this stuff.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      From the article linked: NOTE a DOZEN states

                      “Roughly a dozen states shield a spouse from prosecution in a rape case, including South Carolina, where a married victim has to prove a threat of physical violence within 30 days of the rape. Ohio lawmakers are also debating removing a marital rape exception on their law books.”

                      Like

                    • Mike says:

                      Oh my goodness. That’s appalling. I had no idea.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Yeah. It’s is appalling.

                      And underlines what all those pesky feminists (raises hand here) keep trying to say about historical and structural misogyny that persists in various forms.

                      (as a feminist, I also try to point out misandry that also persists in various ways)

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      gottmanfan,

                      (as a feminist, I also try to point out misandry that also persists in various ways)

                      That’s part of what I appreciate about you. But, while that fits in with some definitions of feminism, I think it is rather unusual in actual practice.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety,

                      I certainly think there are unsympathetic to men groups of women (including feminists).

                      And yes, women use bad communication habits, especially when frustrated.

                      I think the majority of feminists see advocating for change for men as critical. Certainly from a sense of equality for all. Also because we have boys and men we love that we want to see treated well. Also from a practical basis, change in a system is not possible unless all parties sign on. Especially those in power.

                      I think you see me as unique because of that blind spot again. Where you pay attention and hang out online perhaps? When I have more time I am going to link to blogs with more representative ideas and comments for you to peruse at your leisure.

                      Of course, not saying there are not man haters out there. But most of us are just tired so may not express things as well as we should 100% of the time.
                      Habits again.😀

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      Mike,

                      Both of those list sex as a need on the same level as verbal sharing, and go to lengths to explain that different people have different ways of receiving love.

                      I do not consider preachers to be experts on marriage, but they are influential in their world.

                      Regarding Chapman’s “physical touch”, I’ll speak for myself (but suspect many men would agree). I think considering sex to be in the same category as holding hands and hugging to be ridiculous, but I don’t doubt many women consider them quite equivalent. (Note: I think it’s interesting that some of the internet references to the “physical touch” love language mention sex and some don’t.) His perspective should not surprise me because it seems Chapman is more of a “preacher” than he is a trained expert on marriage.

                      Regarding Harley’s needs, it’s true that he shows sexual fulfillment as an emotional need. While people are different, I believe his studies show that men, on average, consider sexual fulfillment to be their Number 1 emotional need, but, on average, it is in the bottom 5 (of 10) for women. So, while Harley may know it’s very important to husbands, it does not seem to be recognized by most influencers in the Christian world.

                      In short, it’s my perception that Christian leaders and most Christian experts consider receiving love through sex to be inferior to other ways. And, from what I gather, I think it is the same in the non-Christian world.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety.

                      <blockquote “In short, it’s my perception that Christian leaders and most Christian experts consider receiving love through sex to be inferior to other ways. And, from what I gather, I think it is the same in the non-Christian world”

                      WHERE specifically are you seeing this?

                      I get your understandable sensitivity on this subject and the bad counseling you received. You personally received the message you propose as the general message.

                      But I read a LOT of marriage stuff and I do not objectively see confirmation of your perception that many people proclaim receiving love through sex in marriage is “inferior”.

                      What am I missing on an objective basis? Where are these sources? If it truly is “most” Christian experts and you consider it equally common in non religious experts there should be numerous well known cites available.

                      I only say all this because I consider you a fair-minded person who is able to consider things factually and who is willing to admit there might be blind spots. Most people imho don’t have those strengths.

                      Imho correct diagnosis is CRITICAL. Is it true what one thinks is factual? Or is it a result of our personal experiences causing us to see things a certain way? Confirmation bias etc.

                      We ALL do this. It’s how the human brain defaults to process things. I try to push against it as much as I can figure out how to do.

                      My question to you would be:
                      (A thought experiment)

                      How would things change for you if it is TRUE that most “experts” say that sex in marriage is important and receiving love through sex is as valid as other ways?

                      What changes in your narrative? As I said it is the kind of thought experiment I find helpful to understand my own motivations and narratives I have created from experiences.

                      (Not trying to be argumentative if my tone is not clear from my wording on this comment.)

                      Like

                    • OKRickety says:

                      Mike,

                      I said: The so-called experts seem to accept the latter as important but consider sex to be relatively insignificant.

                      Presuming Dr. Sue Johnson is an acceptable expert, here is what her latest blog post says in What does the Sex Recession tell us about today’s sexual landscape and emotional isolation?:

                      The best aphrodisiac may just be emotional connection, especially for women,….

                      I can easily see this being interpreted to mean that emotional connection is more important than sex, and very easily to mean that emotional connection for women is needed before sex. In other words, the attitude is what I described for Christian leaders, and I believe is common for many non-Christians, too.

                      Anecdotally, I recall my ex-wife saying my behavior was nicer when we had recently had sex instead of several days earlier. I believe that was because I felt more emotionally connected because of sex.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      Okrickety, some of my responses ended up at the bottom of the comments.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I noticed you quote left out the rest of the sentence (in bold) which imho is important the WHY.

                      The best aphrodisiac may just be emotional connection, especially for women, who are more physically vulnerable in sex and generally more sensitive to relationship cues.

                      I call sex that is enhanced by the sauce of emotional connection “Synchrony Sex.” Moving in synchrony – in attunement – primes joy in the nervous systems of bonding mammals.

                      Like

                    • gottmanfan says:

                      I can’t find the comment I wrote about Johnson’s main premise. Maybe it is somewhere other threads.

                      To briefly restate. Johnson’s premise does not say that emotional connection is more important that intimate sex (as opposed to wall-off sex).

                      She says that bonding is important. Sex is a bonding behavior that can enhance emotional connection.

                      But there needs to be emotional SAFETY to bond through sex.

                      How is safety defined and how do you get it is to me the important part of Johnson’s work.

                      But it is not a fair reading imho to say she in anyway says sex is less important.

                      The pertinent question to me is what do we need to do to prioritize sex as a bonding experience for both?

                      Like

            • gottmanfan says:

              PIP,
              Hey girl!!!

              I think all the stuff you mentioned is definitely a big factor for many people.

              I think there are substantial subsets of people where **entitlement** is a factor as well.

              That is what I mean when I say oblivious as a skill. “Oh did you want me to help? “ Do the kids need to be fed?” Or creative incompetence to screw up so they don’t have to do chores or do emotional labor etc.

              It is intentional so they don’t have to change. They do not internalize the discomfort and they feel fine just the way things are. There is a lack of empathy for their spouse. They **know** their spouse is suffering and still don’t want to change because they think it’s no big deal really or it is not their problem.

              This topic is why I love me some Terry Real. He identifies the grandiosity and entitlement that is a factor.

              Is it 100% ? No, but it’s a common factor It was a big factor in my marriage I can tell you.

              I had some of that going on too just to be fair (not on chores but other things).

              Does that resonate with you?

              .

              Like

              • personinprocess says:

                Hey! I suppose (and know) some who really do believe they are entitled, and don’t feel that they need to contribute at all- but the sense I got from Kirsty’s account was more of an authentic being at a loss of knowing what to do or how to change.
                I even got a sense of more slothiness vs. entitlement, but I don’t know- that was my impression.
                But bottom line, no matter what the root of their behavior, if it’s causing major disruption and they are not in contact with others emotions or their own, counseling applies.
                If the person is full blown narcissist (and they are out there)- then it really wouldn’t matter and your better off letting it go.
                But I don’t think that is the usual case.

                Like

                • gottmanfan says:

                  PIP,

                  I wasn’t speaking to Kirsty’s specific situation. You may be right her ex was not entitled and his obliviousness was genuine 😜

                  Based on my personal experience and reading, I think it is fairly common to be entitled and default to selfishness. I put myself in that category as much as anyone else. I have/had a mixture of genuine obliviousness with some good old fashioned Calvinist human selfishness depravity.😜

                  I don’t think it is usually about narcissism as a personality disorder. Imho it is more like David Scnarch’s term of “normal marital sadism.”

                  I don’t think this is gender specific though I think there is some hormonal (testosterone vs estrogen effects) and certainly cultural socialization reasons why it is perhaps more common for males.

                  Anyway that’s my take.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • personinprocess says:

                    I agree that people can feel entitled, and fall into self focused concerns. I think that is common, and unchecked can lead to a finally being told they were getting divorced.
                    But I do think once it’s at that point many people, apparently men more commonly due to the being caught off gaurd and obliviousness reported, have a sincere feeling of being at a loss of what they can do to make it any differnent.
                    I’m suggesting that a disconnect in themselves could be a part of the initial problem, but it is definitely part of not being able to correct the problem.

                    Liked by 1 person

  14. Karen McGill says:

    Hi Matt,
    I just want to thank you so much for sharing your writing and thoughts. I look forward to your posts, and I always find something really deep and meaningful. Thank you for continuing to share your gift for insight, outstanding writing ability, and hope for a better future for people in relationships. You share your thoughts because you really care and what you share has great value and real meaning if someone is open enough to really take to heart their failures and mistakes. My husband refuses to fill the ice trays and leaves them on the counter. It’s a slap in the face to me. Like a dirty glass on the counter, the ice tray represents all that is wrong with our no longer there relationship. But he refuses to see it, understand it, or care about it – it’s just an ice tray. But it’s really not. You are absolutely right. Thank you for what you do. It really does help me and I have printed off almost every single one of your posts. My boys are going to read them when they get into a serious relationship. It will be the one thing I ask them to do for me. So hopefully they will never be like their father. Seriously, thank you.

    Like

  15. personinprocess says:

    Matt, Can I recommend a book? Its called “The Mindful Therapist” by Dan Siegel. Im in the middle of reading it.
    I think there may be a lot of good bits in there for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] This is only a snippet of a Parents Article written by Matt Read Full Parenting Article […]

    Like

  17. ccc40 says:

    While I wouldn’t leave my spouse over dirty dishes, I do understand the entirety of this post. My husband and I got into a little spat that turned into him pointing fingers at me and making me seem like the one that needs change. I can acknowledge my mistakes however, I cannot seem to get pass always being put down, always being the negative, or I am always the problem.

    Like

  18. Mike says:

    “When she took responsibility for making holiday plans, buying gifts for every wedding and birthday. For sending thank you notes. For always making sure the house was clean, and the pantry and fridge were full. …
    It’s having to be the MANAGER — having to be RESPONSIBLE for — making sure there was food in the pantry and fridge, or that we defrosted chicken for dinner in the morning, or that while she was at her dentist’s appointment or work meeting, I was taking care of something she normally took care of. If she didn’t ask me to do it, it wouldn’t get done.

    This is Emotional Labor. … women are frequently left to take care of all of this invisible Life Management, because men are typically blind to it.

    I do hear this a lot from women – “Why do I have to be the one who organises everything?” but I’m not sure I entirely buy it. I occasionally push back a little on it: “would you really be comfortable letting go of the reins on some of those things?”

    A few decades ago, if my wife had given me that speech, I’d like to imagine replying as follows (although at the time, I’m not sure I could have been so coherent). “Darling, in my opinion you take responsibility for things far more important than defrosting dinner or vacuuming, or even our social obligations like sending cards and gifts, which is indeed important, and thank you. You also take responsibility for questions like are our children doing ok? Do they have suitable friends? Are they in the right school? And how are our respective parents doing, are they coping as they age? These to me are bigger matters that I trust you to manage. If you were immobilised for a few months for some reason, these are the matters where I might fail to manage without you. The laundry and vacuuming would get done.

    However, I also have a bit of a list. Looking at the long term future over say 40-50 years, are we likely to be financially ok? Are we spending too much? Is this house properly insured? When will it need a new roof? Should we have a burglar alarm? Is the company I’m working for in danger of going bust? When will the car need new tires, and where should I get them from? Ditto oil. And while we’re on that, do our sons know how to change a wheel or change oil? Are their bikes safe? I hope you feel that, without even needing to ask, I’ve “got” these things.

    I think we both do a lot of managing. If you want to move some responsibilities around, let’s discuss it.

    Like

    • gottmanfan says:

      Mike,

      “I think we both do a lot of managing. If you want to move some responsibilities around, let’s discuss it.”

      Here is the common experience imho:

      When women TRY to discuss it, it is met with defensiveness or rebuttal rather than an attitude of cooperation to look for change both find reasonable.

      And that ATTITUDE is the problem more than the specifics being discussed.

      You are approaching it from your perspective I get it. From my perspective, I am SO weary of hearing “gatekeeping” used as an excuse for the man to do nothing as men in comments and in real life commonly say.

      Even if she is gatekeeping, the mature response to that is not doing nothing or doing a half-ass job so she will leave you alone. It is to say “let’s figure this out together but I also need input. Here is what I think is a reasonable win/win solution, does that work for you?”

      PROACTIVE not defensive.

      The ATTITUDE and behavior of “accepting influence” is what is so often missing.

      And for the record, I would answer YES to “would you
      really be comfortable letting go of the reins on some of those things?”

      Many would imho if they were assured the husband is also considering her and others as well as himself (not talking folding towels but things around kids/family).

      Like

      • Mike says:

        “When women TRY to discuss it, it is met with defensiveness or rebuttal rather than an attitude of cooperation.”

        Well, yes, defensiveness is a big problem. Did you see my point that women can sometimes come at this from a position of what looks like blank unawareness of the things their husband is already being “the life-manager” of? I am trying to work from Matt’s premise that it’s not just the hours of housework, but who “owns” it and manages it.

        (I don’t know what “gatekeeping” means).

        Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          Yes, I saw that. Despite my 1000 comments, it’s hard to comment on it all 😜

          I am thinking of this more globally per the research more than anecdotally. (Though gotta throw in a few myself now and then 😀)

          Per the research I have read, if you add up the areas and hours of who “owns” things (including the stereotypical male things you mentioned), in heterosexual relationships wives own MORE. (This is *not* as true in gay marriages.)

          What Matt describes of his marriage is fairly average.

          Now, that may not be a problem at all if both people decide that works for them. People can be happy with all kinds of arrangements. That is not the problem.

          What is the problem is what Matt describes of their interactions. If one person is unhappy with the defaults it must be worked out together.

          That doesn’t mean one person dictates like a King or Queen to be clear. It is about mutual “accepting influence”. That is the KEY per the research of happy relationships.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          “Gatekeeping” is the term used to describe someone who controls how and when something is done.

          So if person A asks person B to “own” doing laundry then a gatekeeper would be monitoring that the laundry is done the way THEY think is right. Instructions and possibly criticism for deviations that are more style based rather than outcome based.

          The “gatekeeper” term is also commonly used to describe person a who controls when and how sex happens.

          Lots of other things too.

          Like

        • gottmanfan says:

          Mike,

          I agree that the wives you see in therapy that do not *acknowledge* their husband’s areas life management areas are not approaching it fairly.

          It doesn’t mean that the basic argument may be inaccurate that she does more (if they are average) but the WAY you argue matters the most.

          Part of which is acknowledging the contributions of the spouse and “accepting influence” for any blind spots. “Oh you are right I hadn’t considered that you own x thing”

          Like

  19. gottmanfan says:

    Okrickety,

    You said: quoting Sue Johnson

    “The best aphrodisiac may just be emotional connection, especially for women,….”

    I have read a lot of Sue Johnson. Here is her thesis: Emotional connection is the basis of love and safety.

    She does not negate sex as important. She says that if you are in a deeply intimate relationship you will feel emotionally safe to have better sex. You will feel safe to risk more.

    Women have, on average, different sexual responses and vulnerabilities than men. They, on average, require more sexual safety both physical and emotional.

    Johnson does not in any way say that men’s needs are lesser. She says that men ALSO need emotional connection. Some feel most connected through sex. There are reasons for that just as there are reasons women don’t feel the same. For both sexes, some reasons are style preferences or biological some are because of dysfunction/misunderstandings that need to be addressed.

    Like all gender stuff it is CRITICAL to separate out what is style and what is dysfunction.

    If someone can ONLY connect through sex that needs attention and change. If someone can NEVER connect through sex that needs attention and change too.

    Johnson’s premise is for **everyone to become emotionally fluent to not have rigid emotional blocks that prevent intimacy and connection.**

    Like

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