An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands

man-shrugging-shoulders

I was a shitty husband.

And it’s not because I’m a massive jerk, or abusive, or particularly difficult to get along with.

I was a shitty husband because I didn’t respect my wife’s thoughts and feelings about things I mistakenly believed didn’t matter. When two people disagree, both think they’re right. Which makes the other person wrong.

But sometimes there is no “right.” Sometimes, there is no “wrong.”

You liked the movie. She didn’t. She likes salsa dancing. You don’t. Nobody is right or wrong. But we treat one another like that’s the case. That what I think and believe and feel is right. Therefore, you must be wrong.

I was a shitty husband because I promised her in front of hundreds of people we knew that I would love and honor her all the days of my life. In good times, and in bad. And then I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it in the bad times because I didn’t “feel” like it. Because it wasn’t easy or convenient.

For years, I put my wants and needs ahead of her’s. Not for the “big things,” which is all I thought mattered. I put me first in all the “little things.” Disagreements about housework, passively leaving her to manage our schedules, and the logistics of caring for our son.

She tried to talk to me about it. But I didn’t listen.

I thought she was nagging. Complaining. Being needy. Being a bitch.

I thought because I was a nice person, and that I’d made sacrifices for her, that I was a good husband. I thought because I didn’t do a bunch of bad things some guys do that I was a good husband. I didn’t realize it until much too late: Good men can be bad husbands. Just like good men can be bad at designing bridges, or bad at water-color painting, or bad at water skiing.

We don’t want to hear bad things being said about us. Especially from those we believe we sacrifice daily for. So when we do, we don’t listen. We justify our behavior. Rationalize it. Get defensive. And angry.

We disagree with them, and tell them they’re wrong. Sometimes we tell them they’re crazy. Sometimes we raise our voices or call them a name.

Divorce is the great social crisis of our time, and not enough people are talking about it. Two good, smart, nice people marry voluntarily, and deny it though they will, it’s a coin toss as to whether they’ll be married a decade later.

I tell my story so that maybe other people won’t get divorced like me.

[NOTE: I felt like I cracked a secret life code when I understood for the first time WHY my wife would want a divorce. It changed the entire world for me. I have to credit the book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” for putting me on the right path. Maybe it can help you or your partner, too.]

The Posts

Vol. 1

I was in a lot of pain and blaming my ex-wife in the immediate aftermath of her leaving. Vol. 1 represented the first time I began learning to accept responsibility for my very large role in destroying the marriage.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

Vol. 2

I got into a really preachy phase with my writing. I’m sure it was annoying because clearly I’m an asshole who doesn’t know anything. But my heart was in the right place.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

Vol. 3

I was at a party and I had a tiny crush on the married birthday girl, and I watched her husband ignore her all night (and already knew him to be a less-than-ideal partner). The whole scene made me sad because it reminded me of how I used to treat my ex-wife.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

Vol. 4

There’s a really scary phase during a couple’s slow descent to divorce that many husbands don’t realize is scary. When a wife finally snaps and decides to leave or have an affair, her personality often transitions from sad and angry to resigned and apathetic. An observant husband will notice the change immediately. But before she snaps, there’s a period of time in which she’s trying to save your marriage. She wants to be married to you, to love you, and to be together for your children. And in her last-ditch effort to reach you, you often dig in your heels in “manly” defiance. “Stop trying to change me!” If you love winning fights and getting your way more than you love your wife, then you probably deserve what’s about to happen.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

Vol. 5

Yes, guys. You have to help around the house. Not sure if you checked the calendar lately, but it’s not 1960 anymore. No matter how insane you think it sounds, she WILL divorce you for leaving a dish by the sink.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

Vol. 6

You can destroy your marriage by trying to be “nice.” By letting your spouse make all the decisions. You think it’s a nice gesture, letting the other person have their way. But really? You’re killing them, their respect and desire for you, and it’s all going to break one day. All because you don’t want to be responsible for making plans two weekends from now or scheduling the kids’ dentist appointments or planning family meals. Maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

Vol. 7

Men are generally very competitive creatures. I know I am. But despite that, men AREN’T competitive about marriage. And by that, I mean, they tend to not work hard to be the best husband and father imaginable as a measure of pride. They strive for greatness at work, or in a particular organization or social club or hobby. But men don’t seem to think being the best at marriage is a worthwhile endeavor. Considering it’s one of the most-important things we do in this life, and we have such a high failure rate, I wonder why that is.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

Vol. 8

What starts at an early age on playgrounds, turns into a relationship killer in adulthood. Men using jokes, sarcasm and mockery to belittle their wives and girlfriends both privately and publicly. It may not be intended to be cruel. It often isn’t. But the recipient of those “jokes” often feels as if it’s cruel. Beat her down long enough, and only one of two things can happen: She’ll leave you for someone who respects her, or you’ll break her and she won’t be the person you married anymore. Maybe she already isn’t.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

Vol. 9

Guys like “Me”-time. Maybe everyone does. But a lot of time when husbands and fathers do it, it looks and feels to his wife and children like he isn’t interested in them or that he’d rather spend time alone than with his family. When guys get married young, they often think it’s going to be just like having a permanent girlfriend. That marriage is basically just promising to never have sex with any other women. Sometimes, no one teaches us that marriage isn’t about us. That it’s actually for the person we’re marrying. No one teaches us that the key to sustaining love and happiness isn’t taking. It’s giving.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

Vol. 10

Wives sometimes turn into someone else throughout the course of their marriages. Men don’t like it because the person they married is gone. Women don’t like it because they lose the fun, innocent version of themselves they remember from their youth. Husbands lose their wives’ trust. Not over the big things, most of the time. Over the little things. Men won’t change, so their wives MUST. Resentment builds. And much of the time, everything breaks.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

Vol. 11

I think married couples who are sad and angry about their lives and relationships make the mistake of trying to “fix the marriage.” They spend all their time trying to figure out how “we” can do things different, and how the other person can make changes to make life better. But I think people need to work on themselves to fix the marriage. To look inside themselves and figure out how they can be their best self. Two people working to be the best versions of themselves have a great chance to succeed. Two people expecting the other to change on their behalf seem doomed to a life of sadness and frustration.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

Vol. 12

Cheating is never okay. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want it to happen to us. Almost everyone agrees it’s a horrible, destructive thing. Yet, it keeps happening over and over again. Even with a very decent spouse at home. Even with children and a seemingly happy life. I think it’s important for people to understand WHY this happens, so they can be more self-aware, and so that spouses can work to fill the voids people try to fill with extramarital affairs.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

Vol. 13

Maybe somewhere, there’s an example of pornography and masturbation radically improving marriages and relationships. Anything’s possible. But what often happens while couples are slowly drifting apart is that husbands turn to porn and masturbation for sexual relief. Some people don’t think it’s a big deal. I think I’ve seen and heard enough evidence to convince me that heavy porn consumption and masturbation, especially if it’s being hidden as part of a secret life, can negatively affect marriage, and not always in ways people think it will.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

Vol. 14

Of the many things I didn’t do that might have resulted in a successful marriage, my failure to mindfully plan fun activities and make tiny time investments to communicate how much I valued my wife and our marriage is probably the most egregious. There’s no excuse that doesn’t ultimately end with: Thousands of times I could have made a slightly different choice to focus on her and us, instead of me and whatever else. And I didn’t. Of all the things that could have saved the marriage, this would have been the easiest to do differently. In some respects, that makes this my greatest relationship failure.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 14

What Qualifies Me for the Job?

Nothing.

But I have a funny little brain and it works like this: There is nothing exceptional about me. Not a thing.

I am the averageiest average person alive.

I possess average intelligence, average physicality and average skills in many facets of life. I am average looking. I earn an average income. I live in an average house in an average town. I had an average upbringing. And now I’m just your average divorced dad stumbling through adulthood.

You know what I think that means?

I think it means A LOT of people can relate to me. I think it means that the mistakes I made and the things I think and feel are JUST LIKE all of the mistakes you make and things you think and feel.

And I’m willing to write it down.

And I have absolutely no idea why that helps people. But I know that it does. It helps people.

Shitty Husbands Abound

You know a shitty husband.

You are one, or you are married to one, or you were raised by one, or you’re friends with one.

Shitty husbands ARE NOT always bad people. Sometimes they are very good people who are simply not very good at being married.

You don’t have to be abusive or neglectful or adulterous or deceitful to be a shitty husband. You need only put your wants ahead of your spouse’s.

You do that enough times?

All while not listening to her pleas for help? Her cries for attention? Her desire for emotional and intimate connection?

She’s going to start having sex with someone else and leave you, or she’s going to WANT to, which is equally bad. It’s true.

These An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts are consistently among my most popular posts.

I like some of them more than others because some are poorly written. But what I’ve heard time and time again from frustrated wives and ex-wives (and some husbands and ex-husbands) is that they recognize the truth in all of this.

Male-female relationships tend to follow the same patterns and tend to result in the same conflicts.

And THIS IS GREAT NEWS.

Because if we’re all experiencing the same afflictions and symptoms, then we can all fix it with the same treatment and medicine.

Losing my family was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

I’m cool now because a lot of time has passed, and a lot of healing happened. But it was all very, very bad. And I don’t want other people to have to go through it. Especially children.

Not everyone is going to make it. We’re human, and we fail.

But there doesn’t have to be this much brokenness in the world. So many marriages fail that don’t have to.

It makes me sad. And I believe it can be better.

And this is my small contribution to trying to be part of the solution.

I hope you’ll join me.

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539 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands

  1. 15 years and he is still verbally abusive and he continues to stay gone partying all hours of the night. I am lonely every day. I have been used by him for far too many years. I am called a whore and a worthkess bitch. I have to foot the majority of the bills due to his reckless behavior. He never follows through with family plans and constantly disappoints our children. I have begged him to listen to my pleas if not my then the children’s. We deserve happiness and he is selfish. He is a narcissist. I no longer want to even try to work on our marriage. I want out of this hell hole!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeanne says:

      He’s not a shitty husband, he’s no husband at all. It will be tough but you children deserve better if not you.

      Like

  2. […] via An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands […]

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  3. Tired says:

    I have read through this site quite a few times over the last year, I feel like I have a pretty emotionally shitty husband. He’s not a bad person, works hard and provides financially. But when it comes to being there as a husband/friend it’s just non existent. Been married for about 13 years and I can’t recall the last time he’s said even something simple as “hi” to me when he gets home from work. He walks in the door and typically greets the dog and the kids if they are in the room and just basically walks by me like I don’t even exist. The only time he speaks to me is really when he has something to complain about or something relating to his work. He puts on this nice guy facade to pretty much everyone else he comes into contact with but I feel like he despises me because I never get that nice guy. Well, when he’s had a few drinks he pretends to be nice and interested in conversation but ultimately that’s just to get to bed. I feel overwhelmingly depressed, sad, lonely and don’t really have anybody to talk to about it but do find a little comfort knowing there are so many others living this life. I’ve devoted the last 10 years of my life to staying home to be with our kids while he’s had the opportunity to further his career so I’m just lost. We don’t talk or really communicate at all and when we do it ends up in arguments, I feel like I can’t even be myself anymore or speak my mind about anything so I just close up and say nothing. He’s on the couch tonight as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kat says:

      This made me cry. We’ve only been married for 6 years but the rest of what you said could have come straight from my mouth. I would have added that when I do speak my mind he just tells me that I’m stupid, especially if it has anything to do with emotions or how I feel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • J Robinson says:

      Sweetheart I hate to tell you this, but I think we are married to the same Shitty husband! I will add that he makes time for any and everyone or thing else except me. I am getting so tired of it and I hate started spending more time finding interest in things I like to do because the man does nothing at all with me. He used to make time for us, go on dates but now all we do is argue about why are the flower pots sitting st the beginning of the walk ? I’d love to say because I bought them and put them there Shitty husband!! The man makes no time for me His interest are the kids, football on tv; coaching little league football; talking on the phone to his brother all day on work breaks driving home , at home, in the bathroom if he isn’t on IG and sitting on the bed on the phone as we wind down. His words to me- what are you cooking for dinner, or complaining or whining like a little kid. I have to negotiate with car repair men, flooring guys, contractors, or whatever involves speaking to anyone about anything. It’s so sad because I am just so alone and he could careless. I texted him today because I want to go to a concert next month and 145 today and it’s 959pm and he hasn’t even acknowledged I even texted him. It will be one he’ll never forget bc it will be the last one he get from me. I’m so sick of this sad lonely space I feel sick have in my life. the man just doesn’t have intamcy bc he takes no pills and his errections are never it seems and he’s too proud to ask the dr or seek other alternatives to be able to be intimate with me and we are not quite 50 but for some reason bc he doesn’t have the desire he thinks I don’t. I don’t want to have an affair but right now I think I need to invest in pleasure party favor or two! Lol Ladies we have to pray for our shitty husbands before the become Suthors of another shitty husband blog!!

      Like

      • Dee J says:

        J Robinson, I have the absolute duplicate life that you have. I have to say I feel a little bit better just knowing that it’s not all in my head or that I’m expecting too much from him. The question is…Is there any way to change the course or is it too late??

        Like

  4. LindaJ says:

    Hi Matt. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog here, and find it practically eerie how well you describe these shitty husband situations. It’s almost as if you were eavesdropping in my (former) marriage.

    I do have a comment, however. In several places, you mention how guys need to “help” their wives with the load of running the home and raising the kids. I’m really not trying to be nitpicky or pedantic, but this is not the right wording. Help means assistance. Assistance is provided by assistants. And assistants are by definition not project leads. In a marriage, there are not just one, but two actual project leads. Help is provided by outside people, on occasion, such as babysitters or lawn services. People don’t marry the help. People do marry their complementary project lead. Or at least, that’s the expectation.

    Which brings me to another point–it really seems like many guys do not understand what they agreed to when they got married in the first place. For example, in the post where you quote an example shitty husband saying “So what you are saying is, I need to help you around the house and with the kids whether I want to or not?”, this dude clearly fails to understand that he effectively *said* that he wanted to take on that stuff when he said “I do.” She’s not asking for favors, she is asking that he follow through on what he agreed to do in the first place. Getting married implicitly states that you are on board for all the work involved in having a life together, and if they have a home and kids, he was obviously involved with getting those into the picture as well, so yes, those are also squarely on his plate. Maybe marriage vows should be written to be very specific and spelled out, so these dudes can absorb the message and know what they are getting into. Maybe something like “I, dude, agree to be a full-fledged part-owner of this marriage and all of the work it entails. I will participate fully, not simply ‘help out’. This will be a lot of work and it will not always be easy and not always fun. I accept that because I recognize that the gains I will receive from being a part of a genuine union such as this with my partner will far outweigh the losses over the long haul of the decades that we anticipate being together. So, yes, I, dude, do accept awesome woman here as my wife.”

    Thanks for your work here. I do hope it helps some couples avoid divorce and have improved marriages.

    Like

    • Maddy476 says:

      Thank you very much for pointing this out. There has to start being a shift in society. Maybe the concept of marriage all and it entails should be taught in elementary school.
      I try to keep explaining to my boys why they have to learn to do certain things around the house. I tell them “so your future wife won’t hate me”. i want to teach them how to be good partners.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Why does a husband pack a bag and leave (when you’re not at home) after 42 years together? I’m at a loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] the message I’ve repeatedly, and in multiple ways, attempted to share here. It is my greatest failure as both a husband and human being. My failure to treat things with care simply because they hold so much value for other people, even […]

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  7. lyn says:

    i feel like we are all in the same boat. i feels that my husband hates me . my biggest problems was and is after 20 years of marriage was his parents attitude that they continuously instil in him, not to help, not let me work, not give me money. all decisions on marriage to be discussed with them, not me. not allow to have marital home together, not allow to have children and to abort them, when i ignored them and went on with buying house and have children, his mum sets out to kill my toddler eg open front door for 13 month old to go out walking towards main road in front of house whilst she stood at door way 10m away from main road which are not blocked as our driveway is open without gate or fence. this happened despite my telling her baby is sorted and happily watching favourite cartoon. that she watch him whilst i go to the front drive to clean the car. also she opened the window next to my older sons bed and toddler climbed out and i somehow went upstairs and caught him in time. may be he have a guardian angel but the damage this china woman can caused to the downfall of my marriage with her and her husband constantly tells my husband to be a shitty husband. recently found 2 woman bra in our wash which is not mine and too big for my daughter who is 16. she is quite flat chest. i now have my shitty husband twisting words blaming me and shouting at me at every given opportunity if i were so much as to talk. so no, man are incapable of changing when the social media and newspaper do not bring it to light to shame them. so help us. i now know how the woman who jumped off the cliff with her 2 young kids felt like. especially when i am all alone in this country without my family and friends could be light weather friends.

    Like

    • lyn says:

      not only the above happened. when i was enterprising and went on to buy houses and worked hard to find tenant and to fill the empty house he bought, only to find that despite my paying deposits for the house and making money, he had put it all in his sole name and became abusive when i demand that i should have joint share in all properties which would have been sold at losses as he is a sucker to estate agent, more so because we are not english and the estate agents always i mean always undervalue. he had undersold a flat at 50000£ and no money to pay tax as he had borrowed so much on the flat that it had lost all equity and we owe money instead of earn. he fleece me off financially emotionally and when i was in car accident and very sick, instead of helping me to get better and get me proper care, he and his parents bribe my teenagers to get rid of me and said i am lazy when i was bedridden in agony and excruciating pain. he went out of his way to sabotage my kids education because his mum dont like me and dont want my kids to go to university so that her son dont need to have the hardship of financing his own kids and she shoved it to my face that her son is a university graduate and what am i, i was a grad but gave up my career and job because he is too cheap to pay for childcare but its a ruse to suppress me. now i know. its killing me to think i sacrifice everything and devoted my life to my kids and husband to have a man like that succumb to his mum and dad whim to suppress and fleece his own wife. he even wipe out my account empty as i trust him with my bank card when he said he needed money to pay off his debts which i have had the unfortunate duty to teach him to be diligent with money as oppose to his parents tellling him to spend it all including max the credit card, then he came back to me said he loves me and told me to pay off £60,000 credit card debts because his shitty china parents told him to spent it all and i have to pay for it despite having to give up my job to care for our 4 loving kids as he refused to pay childcare. its sickening they behave that way and think they got away with it. but i know not all chinese are like that. i am chinese from a different country and i have more in common with my nice local friends who devote and loves their husband and children. but i just cant deal with his abuse and blame anymore

      Like

  8. Monica says:

    I can identify with so much of this article. This is my life with my husband. It feels awful and I am at the end of my rope. I know we’te headed for divorce but I really hate to do that to my children. I’m just so incredibly sad and lovely.

    Like

  9. Monica says:

    In my previous post I meant to say,” I’m just so sad and lonely”, not lovely.

    Like

  10. Tanya says:

    I’ve been reading tvis blog what seems to be over and over again. A couple times a week at least.
    My husband and I have been together for 14yrs on the 16th. I was 18 when we met, he was 19. We were so young and naive. And captivated by what was amazing chemistry. But so toxic…so toxic I left when I was 20 for a trip to Italy. (It was amazing and to this day don’t regret it. But I ran half way around the world to figure out what I wanted and needed in My life)
    We officially married last summer. And of course everyone said “it’s about time”
    We have two beautiful boys ages 10 and 11.

    But i was that woman. I had an affair. And no one knew. But it was a ride awakening for me.
    Wasn’t filling the void of “sex” it was the friendship and connection that I enjoyed the most. My husband married me 6 months after he found out. (I was surprised too) but through counselling he realized what it was that drove me too it…and he was honest he said “I just figured she never would leave No matter how bad he treated me”
    He was anticipating marriage counselling thinking “haha my wife cheated he won’t agree with anything she says”
    But I’m fact…out therapist really layed it out to him. It doesn’t justify what I did. I carry that guilt with me daily.
    But I’m still unhappy. And something is missing.

    I want to leave but too much of a coward.
    I’m afraid to start life alone. And I think thats why I married him. I feel stuck

    Like

    • Uptohere says:

      The problem is you are a selfish twit. Divorce him. He deserves so much better than you.

      Like

      • Tanya says:

        No in fact I dont think he does. Our relationship has been physically emotionally and mentally abusive. I just stick it out because we have children.
        Not a twit. I’m an educated woman and know my faults and take full responsibility. I work hard in my career. Up until Nov working up to 80hrs a week in two jobs. Take care of our home..children…and Indirectly get spat on. He is a great provider in many ways. But like most woman its beyond providing such as the house and car and money in the bank. I work and support this home just as much . And do NOT feel entitled just bc I do.
        I did cheat. And everyday I feel that guilt.
        But with All do respect. Calling someone a Selfesh twit makes u no better than him and the many other woman tired of the verbal abuse that they feel stuck having to deal with.

        Like

        • Uptohere says:

          Read your first post again. You had an affair. You broke a sacred trust to take care of you and only you. You think you are more important than the marriage. You think you are a better person than your husband. You blame your spouse for your affair and for the unhappiness inside of you. You obviously have no respect for him and yet you stay because “you [are] a coward.” At this point you are using him to make you feel safe when he is not safe with you. That’s makes you a selfish and a twit. And I would say the same thing to him if he said the things you are saying. Not abusive. It’s a fact. Fix yourself or get out and give him the chance to find someone who respects him or at least the freedom of not having to have his life tied to someone who looks down on him.

          Like

          • ljk says:

            I would say ditto to the (50%) of men out there who cheat and the other 49% who want to cheat. You hide it and then lie about it so get out and do your thing and give your wife a chance to find happiness elsewhere (albeit temporary until the next one does it too) – oh, you don’t want to pay the child support so you stay and hide it- I thought so!

            Like

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