An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands


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.

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

What Qualifies Me for the Job?


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.


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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264 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands

  1. Maddy476 says:

    Thank you for your kind and articulate feedback. Yes. I agree that communication is number one for sure.
    My ex was emotionally unavailable which seems to be a common problem with men. I’m not perfect so I don’t want that statement to come across as finding fault. How do we get men to become more emotional and women less emotional. I think fundamentally we are all the same. We need to accept each other’s differences and learn how to understand that we are just wired differently. I like to use sports analogies because I think it’s something men can relate to. I think if a professional athlete told a guy how to do something better, the guy would just so it and not ask questions. With my ex, I would ask him to do something and instead of trying to understand why it was important to me, he would dismiss my feelings and think I was nuts He would roll his eyes and turn and walk away. Clearly disrespectful. This is the same man that promised to love and honour and cherish me when we said our vows.
    There are certain exercises one must do to remain a professional athlete. No one questions the work involved or required. None of us seem to understand the same level of work is required to have a happy, healthy marriage. We just assume it will sustain itself. I say kudos to everyone trying to figure it out. I’m still trying.


  2. […] Hearing her tell it, you’d think I was a shitty husband. […]


  3. […] like being a good man and being a good husband can be mutually exclusive things, so too can love exist in the shittiest and most painful of […]


  4. […] Our marriages don’t fail JUST because we’re shitty at marriage. […]


  5. loren says:

    So what do you do as a wife of a crappy husband? My husband isnt terrible but i dont even feel like i should tell him how i feel anymore because he doesn’t listen and does whatever he wants anyway. We have child 2 on the way and im terrified because unless things get really bad he still does whatever he wants .. aka partying drinking smoking. My son cries when he leaves and it doesnt even phase him.


  6. […] Project ran one of my posts about this trust conversation (which originally ran as Vol. 10 in the An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series), and then marriage counselor, coach and author Lesli Doares read it at […]


  7. UpsetWife says:

    God, I wish my partner would wake up and start getting it like you have. I sent him your posts, after the millionth argument of the same thing, but I doubt he will even look at it. He just does not understand the damage he’s doing to our relationship and nothing I say will ever get him to understand. I’ve just gotten to the point where it doesn’t even hurt anymore, because our relationship is beyond dead. I’m just biding my time getting things in order so I can leave. It sucks. I hope for his sake he can wake up enough to not repeat the same mistakes with his next partner.

    I’m sorry you had to learn the hard way and at the cost of your family. Sadly, not enough men will read your posts and learn from your mistakes; they’ll just continue to destroy their own families with their selfishness. Because the men who truly need to read this won’t.

    My husband put such a bad taste in my mouth that I’m planning on just being a single co-parent for the rest of my life. And that doesn’t seem as sad and depressing anymore.

    Hope things work out for you, Matt. Glad you at least wised up post divorce and are trying to save marriages doomed by shitty “nice” husbands.


  8. […] It creates contradictions. Internal human ones that probably don’t make sense to anyone who has read the magical “These Are The Things That Make Sense” book, and are likely responsible for concocting the subset of people I call Good Men Who Are Shitty Husbands. Of which I was/am a member. […]


  9. […] And as a STAUNCH advocate of free speech, I’ve always been inclined to let comments stand. I’ve been called plenty of bad things, and those comments are easy enough to find if you feel like reading through 4,000+ on the dishes post, or any of the predictably cliché blame-shifting ones from butt-hurt guys in the Shitty Husbands posts. […]


  10. Taryn says:

    What makes a “Shitty Wife”? If I were to even share this with my mediocre spouse, he’d claim you’re taking all the blame by the sounds of this article (albeit, I feel you’ve hit the nail on the head). -wifey


  11. Bruce Lee says:

    I’ve been a shitty husband. My wife is craving for attention and sometimes I don’t know how to show her that I love here. I have put my family and friend ahead of her in the past and I do feel I’m holding on to this relationship via a thread. One more large messup and I feel it will be over. We have been together for over 10 years, married 2.5 years, we have 3 young girls under 8 and it would break my heart if my wife left me. I wouldn’t blame her, the things I’ve done to betray her emotionally, not standing up for her. I’ve never cheated on her but I might aswell have, doesnt seem any different to the hurt I’ve caused. Your first post has really resonated with me, maybe I do have a chance to save my marriage. I need to read vol 2. You’re right I think Im a good husband but I’ve been shitty. Going to work and being nice to the kids or trying to be supportive is not being a great husband. Being normal is not being great. I need to be exceptional where she’s excited about me. I’m sorry you had to go through this to write this. I must take away value from your writings to save my marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. JL says:

    I’m 29, the husband is 41. Been together nearly nine years. Lost my virginity to him, and he’s been the only one since.

    I always wanted a good romantic life and have always been considerate and highly giving in that department. Researched how to make him happy since I had no experience, always tried to make him happy. Him, not so much. He was with so many women before me (bragged about it to me), asked me to let him have threesomes, and basically treats me like old news (after only two months of being married he told me he was bored and that I was not sexy anymore because he’d had me enough). Mind you, I was a VERY attractive (thin & curvy) twenty-year-old, 4.0 grade average, faithful, energetic with so many hobbies. I’m still very attractive today, just not as young, actually weigh less than when we first met, but a little heavier than when we married. When he told me that, he was 32, sat at home all day after work, and was a divorcee whose income went straight to child support. I used to admire him because he was so great at his high-level job.

    Why did I marry him? At that time I was a very conservative Christian who believed that once you had sex with someone you were their mate. Did not believe in divorce or anything. Wanted one sex partner for my life. Waited 20 years for Mr. Right. I had an extremely low self-esteem but that wasn’t due to him. Stupid patriarchy movement and homeschooled. When I started seeing him my parents were furious and we lost contact. So, I was with him, alone, being told every day that I wasn’t smart, wasn’t sexy, was worthless. He said he’d kill me if I cheated on him.

    Several years later, after being thrown down and choked, having him place cameras in the house to make sure I didn’t masturbate while home alone (crazy, because he does it all the time instead of having sex with me), and not allowing me to have friends, I FINALLY LEFT.

    But, went back a week later because he promised counseling. We did seven weeks. Marriage improved. Yay.

    Two years later we had a baby. She’s the love of my life. Sex life became very slow (not my fault, he always pushed me away when I’d try and I’d often cry myself to sleep). Still, the house was peaceful, no crazy arguments.

    I recently moved halfway across the world for him to have a better opportunity in his family company (huge hotel company) in his home country (SE Asia). I’ve been lied to so many times that I am so tired. We left car debt and credit (in my name, because, guess what, his credit is horrible) card debt that he promised me he’d pay. Nope. No money! But he paid $8,000 for cameras and lenses, $3000 for a new drone, and $2,000 for Rottweilers. Plus sooooooo much more. He has a spending problem. Never spends on us, though. As I write this I hate him more! It’s hard to see my life lined up like this and see it all together. His income isn’t what we were promised (his family lied to us about the negotiations). He lied to me about how often I can go home, and did not pay child support to his first child for nine months (finally borrowed money because I threw a fit and paid it all off last month). He doesn’t even call his fist daughter, 11 years old. She wants him to but he’s abandoned her.

    Now, my choice is this: stick it out with a neglectful husband (he doesn’t even call me on his business trips, would rather watch porn than be in the bed with a loving wife) and father (completely ignores my child and just sits and smokes all day outside or is on the computer) or divorce, go back to the USA and be a single mom,working out $50,000 in debt?

    My parents are divorced and I have great step-parents. But, I was still scarred. I don’t want my daughter to go through the stuff I did. I also don’t want her to see my marriage and think that’s all there is in life. I just don’t know what’s best for my daughter. I don’t want her to go to public school in this country, and we can’t afford private schooling as we had planned, because, you know, lies.

    I’m dying inside.


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