Tag Archives: Gender roles

Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes

But that ain't the truth. The truth is, you are the ignorant. And I am the tyranny of shitty husbands. But I'm trying real hard, guys. I'm trying real hard to be the shepard. (Image/Miramax)

But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, you are the ignorant. And I am the tyranny of shitty husbands. But I’m trying real hard, guys. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd. (Image/Miramax)

I thought it was obvious that my wife didn’t—literally—want a divorce because of some dishes left by the sink.

I assumed no adult could possibly believe that. I was wrong.

Because many people gave the post the TL;DR treatment, or I did a lousy job of writing it, or they lacked the intellectual capacity to understand it, or never bothered to ask themselves the right questions because life is more comfortable when we’re secure in our personal beliefs, a frightening amount of people missed the point entirely.

My post “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” spent time as one of the most popular things on the internet over the weekend. As of this writing, it has been read more than 2.3 million times.

For context, my previous most popular post had been read about 100,000 times. Over the course of 2 ½ years.

As a writer, you’re like Cool! People are validating my work! But then the comments start rolling in.

“Be a man. Pussy.”

“Your wife was a nagging shrew and you’re better off without her if she would leave you over something petty like a glass by the sink.”

“You’re STILL missing the point if you think she left you because of dishes!”

“You’re a sackless fag.”

“You’re sexist because you wrote that ‘Men are capable of things’ as if women couldn’t do those things, too!”

“You’re sexist because you write about how horrible men are, but never talk about how women can be the problem too!”

My personal favorite was the Canadian high school girl who tweeted that my wife left because I write like “a whiny teenage girl.”

That was discouraging.

Things the Post Wasn’t About

It wasn’t about me.

It wasn’t about Men Vs. Women.

It wasn’t about encouraging men to be subservient husbands.

It wasn’t about propping up wives as the all-knowing and wise queens of how to structure relationships.

It wasn’t about complaints suggesting my wife nagged me over inconsequential things.

And for Pete’s freaking sake, IT WAS NOT ABOUT THE DAMN DISHES.

The “dishes” post has a thousand comments to the contrary, and each time I approved one of them I wanted to set myself on fire just a little bit more, because THAT—along with reading another new asshole call me a “mangina”—would feel infinitely less frustrating than all the people screaming on the internet while the entire point sailed a thousand miles over their heads.

Things the Post Was About

Understand something, please. Until five seconds ago, a thousand people AT MOST, were reading my posts. This “dishes” one? It was read 236 times the day it was published. And all of them “know” me, in that they’ve read dozens, maybe hundreds, of my posts, so they recognized the metaphor immediately.

Here’s my entire thing: I’m a child of divorce, and a few years ago I got divorced myself. I think divorce is very, very bad.

While I was trying and failing to save my marriage, I began a journey of introspection and self-discovery. I wanted to understand what I had done to help break the marriage, and discover tools to repair it OR at the very least, to make sure I wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes in a future relationship.

I read books. I read articles. I spoke with married people. I spoke with divorced people. And I started writing down ideas and publishing them.

More and more and more, people were saying: “Yes, this! You GET it!”

And if you read through the comments in the “dishes” post, you’ll see that the vast majority are echoing that.

I’m no smarter than anyone else. I’ve simply heard the same divorce stories so many times now that, combined with my not-too-distant memories of my marriage, I’ve been able to identify terrifyingly common behaviors by husbands and boyfriends that mirror my own that I now understand to be marriage and relationship killers.

As someone passionately against divorce, I feel compelled to share these ideas.

I am NOT a “Get Married” advocate. It’s clear most people are doing a terrible job in the partner-evaluation process, and overestimating their abilities to function as marriage partners, which mostly has to do with how we can’t know what we don’t know when we’re young.

And the adults shelter us from the ugly truth.

Mom and dad don’t tell you how they fantasize about running away, or sleeping with someone else who makes them feel desired and respected, or just how much more sad they feel today than they did when they were young. It’s because they want to preserve our innocence.

Our education system, shamefully, avoids the topic altogether.

But I am a “Stay Married” advocate. Unless we’re going to ban marriage or eliminate long-term monogamous relationships altogether, I think it behooves us to improve an institution that affects 95 percent of people AND fails more than half the time.

People thought the “dishes” post was about me and wanted to critique my marriage based on a headline they misinterpreted.

The “dishes” post is about trying to help husbands get from oblivious to enlightened RE: Why Their Wives Seem to Care About “Little” Things We Don’t Care About. Men don’t understand how a stupid glass by the sink could actually hurt. That sounds insane to him. Until he figures out how to believe it’s happening anyway, and then care about the glass BECAUSE he cares about his wife, these totally cliché and annoying Man Vs. Woman, But That’s Not Fair!!! whine festivals will continue.

People accused me of sexism.

I only write for husbands and about being a husband because that’s what I know. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, wife or mother. I’m going to leave the role-reversal writing on these topics to the people who do know what it’s like.

And OF COURSE sometimes wives are the dish-leaving culprits in a marriage! But that’s just not relevant to me writing for guys like me.

Husbands who are frustrated with their wives’ cleanliness habits are not likely to identify with my marriage whatsoever.

People accused me of preaching submission.

Hahahahahahahaha!

I’m the most stubborn mule I know. It’s a damn shame you can’t hear my high-and-mighty Piss off, you’re not the boss of me! voice. That was my ex-wife’s favorite. (Not.)

The most important lesson I’ve learned post-divorce is how critical it is for human beings to have well-communicated, strongly enforced boundaries. Boundaries which are ideally discussed and mutually respected during the dating process and long before anyone agrees to marry.

No, men. Your wives should never be domineering tyrants. But there can be no question that if you’re married to one of those, it’s because you allowed it to happen AND failed to demonstrate competence—either in the life areas which she now must control, or in the preservation of your self-respect or enforcement of your boundaries.

Wives are not better than husbands. Women are not better than men. (Nor the other way around.)

But I see a hell of a lot of men getting marriage wrong, and this is my way of trying to help.

All the evidence in the world that men are getting marriage wrong lives in the comments section of the “dishes” post.

The “dishes” post that wasn’t really about dishes at all.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

mrmom“So what you are saying is, I need to help you around the house and with the kids whether I want to or not?”Husband, searching for answers after wife left him yesterday, taking their two children

Now you’ve done it.

I told you it was going to happen. And I was right.

Not because I’m smart. Not because I’m psychic.

But simply because I’ve been where you are and tend to learn from my mistakes.

You didn’t think she was going to leave.

We’ve got kids!, you thought.

We have the house!

We have our friends!

She’ll snap out of it!

She loves me!

Surprise, asshole! Love isn’t enough. And neither is all that other crap.

Maybe some people will take the beating forever. I don’t pretend to know everything.

But most won’t. Once life really turns to shit and there’s nothing left to lose, a person sheds a whole bunch of fear. They rise up. Fight back.

Your problem is you only see the world through your narrow little prism.

You don’t realize that she doesn’t think like you. She doesn’t feel like you. And the radical changes taking place are under the surface. On the inside of her. Invisible to anyone not paying attention or unwilling to listen.

Invisible to someone just like you.

And now she’s gone.

Shit Just Got Real

Writing these Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts, I always have a few specific men in mind. Guys I have met or know in real life. Guys I know are guilty of the EXACT same crimes that doomed my marriage.

Because once you get divorced (and publish your life on the internet) people have a tendency to start sharing private details of their lives with you.

Well, one of those shitty husbands just got left yesterday.

The results were predictable.

After untold hours of conversation, marriage counseling, and repeated warnings of discontent and requests for change, he was still in total shock when he came home to find his wife and two children gone.

Even though this is an untrue generalization, it often seems that only a man could be capable of such dense, negligent behavior.

Believe me. I know.

Every marriage is different. And the marital sins of a husband are going to vary from relationship to relationship, depending on a million different factors.

Some men travel for work. Others don’t.

Some men make an enormous amount of money. Others don’t.

Some men cheat on their wives. Others don’t.

Some men know how to be good fathers. Others don’t.

Some men satisfy their wives’ sexual desires. Others don’t.

This particular husband’s marital sins seem to mostly revolve around doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no regard for how his decisions might affect his wife and children.

You’ve heard it, seen it, done it or experienced it all before. It looks something like this.

Wife: “Hey, I have to get up early tomorrow and take our daughter to her doctor’s appointment. So, you’ll have to make sure our son gets to school on time.”

Husband: “Yeah, sure, no problem.”

Wife: “That means you can’t stay up all night watching football or playing video games with your friends. Every time you do that, you sleep in all morning.”

Husband: “I got it, Mom. Thanks. I’m trying to watch this, okay? While I appreciate your concern, I’m perfectly capable of making my own big-boy choices.”

Wife: *deep breath* “Would you please put the dishes that are in the sink in the dishwasher and start it before you come to bed? I’ll take care of the rest when I get home tomorrow morning.”

Husband: “Yeah. I’ll get it.”

Wife: “Thank you. I love you. Goodnight.”

Husband: “Sure. Night.”

Morning comes.

Wife leaves to take daughter to doctor’s appointment. She notices the kitchen is exactly the way she had left it. There is an open bag of chips and two empty Dr. Pepper cans on the floor by the living room recliner.

That lazy sonofabitch, she thinks.

Husband watched football until 11 p.m. Then he played Madden and Call of Duty for four hours.

Tired at 3 a.m., he forgot to set his alarm.

Wife comes home at 9:30 a.m. after dropping daughter off at school. Six-year-old son is in living room watching television and eating a Pop Tart—totally not at school. Husband is still asleep, oblivious.

Fight ensues.

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I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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About Helping Around the House

“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 kind of thinking still surprises me, even though it shouldn’t.

This is, literally, what the husband said to the wife who left him. He promised to change and she told him she didn’t know if she believed he was capable. So, he asked THAT.

I wish it was weird that so many men think like this. But so many do.

Dishes. Cleaning. Child rearing. Laundry. Cooking. School stuff.

That’s women’s work!

So many men feel this way.

And I think I know why. I think it’s because these men used to be boys. And when they were boys, one of a few different things happened:

  1. Their mothers coddled them. Did their laundry. Did all the cooking and cleaning. Waited on them hand and foot, much like they did to their fathers.
  2. Their fathers had this chauvinistic mindset which THEY learned from their fathers. And because sons almost blindly hero-worship their fathers, they took on this same philosophy.
  3. Or, both, which REALLY validates this way of life in the mind of a son during his formative years.

It’s classic old-school thinking.

I’m actually reminded of it every day. I live in a suburban neighborhood that was developed during the 1950s. Some houses, like mine, have two-car garages because of later modifications or new construction. But most? They have a one-car garage.

And that’s because in the 1950s, families only had one car. They only needed one car. Because the father went to work in the family car while the wife stayed home and raised children.

And even in 2014, there is still much of society that shares that mindset.

Men are hardworking breadwinners away from home.

And women take care of all that easy stuff—EVERYTHING else. And don’t forget the blow job before you get back to ironing my shirts, sweetie!

While I never shared this mindset—ever—I am a product of a mother who coddled me.

My laundry was always folded and in my drawers or hung up in my closet.

The house was always very tidy.

Breakfast and dinner were always on the table. Mom did all the cleaning, too.

Making my bed in the morning was my only chore until I was old enough to help rake leaves and mow the lawn.

My mom is the oldest of eight kids. She has been taking care of others for as long as she can remember.

While I have stepsisters who I grew up mostly apart from and a half sister 14 years younger than me, I was essentially raised as an only child.

I didn’t have to do anything except homework, then whatever I wanted.

That’s the math formula for creating me—a guy who had a very difficult time adjusting to the responsibilities of a full-time relationship, and eventually, marriage, because I had never been asked to do those things before.

I would encourage parents to think about this when raising children. Might be the difference between raising mature, responsible people with successful marriages, or immature, negligent people whose marriages are doomed to fail.

Guys: You must help your wife with the responsibilities of raising children, which includes the tasks of keeping a house in order—laundry, cooking, dishes, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc.

Don’t? She’s going to leave.

She will, man.

Love in the Time of Selfishness

The answer is: Yes.

You have to help around the house and with the kids even when you don’t want to.

But here’s the REALLY important part you need to be thinking about.

You don’t need to help around the house and with the kids just because your wife doesn’t have time to do it all. In truth, she probably can figure it out. A mother’s multitasking capabilities are unparalleled in the world.

What she does need is to have her wants and desires validated by you.

She needs to feel safe.

She needs to feel loved.

She needs to be able to trust you. Not in a don’t-have-sex-with-other people sense. But in a I-can-count-on-my-husband sense.

She doesn’t just want you to do laundry.

In fact, she may literally not want you to do laundry because you’re apt to mess up her clothes by drying things you’re not supposed to, and do a lousy job folding everything.

What she wants you to do is observe, appreciate, and respect the enormous amount of effort she puts in to making your lives what they are.

She doesn’t even need you to thank her and buy her stuff, though that would be a very nice, thoughtful thing to do.

But when you can’t even do the little things she asks you to do, she’s not angry because she has to do that work also. She’s angry because you don’t respect her enough to perform such a simple task, even after saying you will.

THAT’s why she feels unloved. Because she can’t trust you. You’re unreliable.

Because every chance you get to SHOW her that you love her, you choose yourself over her or your family.

She’ll eventually have an emotional reaction. Maybe she’ll yell. Maybe she’ll cry.

You’ll think she’s crazy. You might even tell her so. Maybe you’ll tell her again that the things she thinks and feels are stupid.

Please don’t do that.

She doesn’t like yelling.

She doesn’t like crying.

She doesn’t like feeling alone.

She doesn’t like feeling abandoned.

And she is not out to get you. Or make your life worse. She knows that you two are currently living in ways which are unsustainable. She knows that this can only keep up so much longer, and then it’s all going to break. She knows your marriage is in grave danger.

And you just keep choosing to play golf.

Or to go to the bar.

Or to play video games.

You just keep choosing everything except your marriage.

It might be too late already. Sometimes wives check out. And there’s no turning back.

I’ve seen that play before. It stings.

But maybe you still have time.

Maybe she’s still in the house. Holding on.

Or maybe she left but you still see a glimmer of hope.

Use that fear of loss. Channel it. And use it to fuel your personal growth.

Because that’s the only way this has a happy ending.

If you grow. Not necessarily change. But evolve.

Ask yourself: Am I really happier without her?

Maybe! I don’t know how you experience the world.

I only know my life got infinitely shittier once my wife and son left.

Seriously.

And if you’re like me? If you, deep down where it counts, want to keep your marriage and family intact? Then it’s time to do the hardest thing we do as human beings.

Change.

  1. Stop deflecting blame. Accept responsibility for your role in the breakdowns. Big or small, you have some.
  2. Apologize. Mean it.
  3. Learn about your wife. There are great resources out there.
  4. Pray. If you’re not a believer, just look to the sky and say: “Please help.”
  5. Choose to love. Vow to give more than you take in your marriage, every day, forever.

I know you’re selfish. I get it. I am, too. I know this is intimidating. I know you’re so selfish that you’re asking yourself whether divorce might be easier than putting in the work.

Maybe you’ll need to learn the hard way, like me.

But maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll realize that divorce is not easier than putting more effort into your marriage.

And I’m telling you, you can do it.

You still have time.

To be a soldier.

To change yourself.

To do something heroic.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

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The Fantasy Life

Fantasy football trophy

Let the record show that I am skinnier than this guy and do not own an incredibly rad old-school helmet.

Because I’ve been busy getting divorced and stuff, I was woefully ill-prepared for my fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza these past few days.

There are only three kinds of people in the United States:

  1. Girls
  2. Men who don’t watch football
  3. Everyone else

And everyone else plays fantasy football.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football is a game in which a bunch of guys (and sometimes a super-rare, almost-mythical girl) form a league with typically 10-12 players. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

And what we do is draft players—real-life football players—to play for our fake fantasy teams.

As their performance on the field goes throughout the NFL football season, so goes the relative success or failure of your fantasy football team. If they play well, your team does well.

Fantasy Football Tip #1 – Do NOT draft Danario Alexander. Someone did that in both of my drafts. He tore his ACL and is out for the year. When you draft guys who will not play this season, you look like an asshole.

Fantasy football is almost universally hated by wives.

Non-football fan wives simply can’t understand why their husbands would spend so much time poring over football stats and watching relatively meaningless games for the sole purpose of fake-managing a fake team of players.

Ladies, it’s not so different from how men feel about women who go to the bathroom together, or your propensity to watch television programs that exploit fake-tanned, catty, drunk women who spend every episode bitching about their husbands and/or one another.

Did I just totally nail every episode of Real Housewives of <insert random place here>, ever? I bet I did, and I have never seen one.

Let’s chalk this up to gender differences.

Boys Have Penises, Girls Have Vaginas

Men are different than women.

Always have been.

Always will be.

We have known that boys and girls are different since the dawn of pink “It’s a Girl!” balloons versus blue “It’s a Boy!” ones.

This idea was made popular by John Gray in 1992 when he published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

I can’t emphasize how important I think this fact of life is, particularly in the context of making a male-female romantic relationship work.

Fantasy Football Tip #2 – Every year, a running back or two comes out of nowhere to have a big year. This year’s guys are going to be St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard.

Men, respect women. They’re not dumber than you because they don’t understand the rules of football, or why we like it, or because they tend to be driven by emotional swings more than we are. The female’s fear response, while a source of stress for you, served as an early warning threat system throughout our early ancestry, alerting tribal and other hunter-gatherer communities to danger. We might be extinct and unable to drink beer and play fantasy football without this system. RESPECT it. Understand and appreciate it. And work hard to alleviate whatever fear she feels, even if you consider her fears irrational. The chemical response to fear didn’t disappear just because we all live in relatively safe houses, condos and apartments now.

Women, respect men. We’re not dumber than you because we don’t understand why it costs so much to have your hair done when we’re unable to tell the difference anyway, or why you like shoes, or because we do the same thoughtless thing over and over and over again even though you’ve asked us not to. Like what we do with our clothes when they’re not put back in the closet or dresser, but are not yet dirty enough to be tossed in the laundry. (This is very common with guys and jeans.) Nor are we emotionally stunted because we don’t handle conflict in the same ways you do. In fact, we feel one emotion VERY strongly. And it will help us if you learn to understand it.

Shame. We feel shame. In profound and relationship-damaging ways.

If you’re complaining about something we do, big or small, we feel shame. Because it suggests we’re not good enough at something. We’re failing you. We’re not providing for you. We are inadequate. And most of the time, you don’t even mean it that way. You just want us to be better for the health of the relationship. But this is important.

You don’t want us to feel shame. Because when we feel shame, we withdraw, almost involuntarily. It is ingrained in our DNA as much as your fear response is ingrained in you.

And if you’re the kind of person who chases and engages men who are trying to withdraw, and/or interprets that withdrawing as a sign that he doesn’t love you or respect your relationship, then you’re already halfway to your breakup or divorce.

Ladies, I know that same little thing done over and over eventually adds up to a big thing.

Not putting dishes in the dishwasher. Leaving clothes laying on the floor. Not putting the toilet seat down.

That those thoughtless actions (or inaction) directly correlate to how loved and respected you feel. And that you deserve a better effort from us to respect how doing or not doing something little might make you feel unloved or like your feelings don’t matter.

And guys, I understand how frustrated and helpless and shamed you feel when your female partner has an emotional reaction to something you did without bad intentions. And turns it into “You don’t love me.”

Fantasy Football Tip #3 – Kenbrell Thompkins. Draft him. DRAFT. HIM. He’s a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Those same Patriots who lost Wes Welker to free agency and Aaron Hernandez to a murder rap. Danny Amendola will assume the Welker position. Thompkins is going to do most of the damage outside of him until Rob Gronkowski returns from his injury. You’re welcome.

I know what it feels like to NEVER be good enough. No matter what you do, it sometimes feels like she’s always telling you that you’re not good enough. You feel unappreciated. You feel like you’ve changed so much to accommodate her wants and needs and STILL she wants more and more and more. Like she only focuses on the bad, and whatever good you do isn’t worth acknowledging.

We all need to learn to respect these gender differences. If we can all find a way to do that. To truly learn the ins and outs of one another’s differences (and it’s not rocket science! Everyone can do this.) Then we can have peaceful, satisfying, and sustainable relationships.

I believe this strongly.

Fantasy Life Tip #1 – Read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I don’t care if you’re married, about to be, think everything is great, single and want to be married someday, or believe your relationship is beyond saving. READ THIS BOOK. Might save your life. Better yet, you might save someone else’s. No joke.

The Return of Normalcy

This is the 20-year anniversary of the fantasy league my friend started the summer before our freshman year of high school.

I won the championship last year for the first time in 19 tries. We have a little bobble-head football player trophy to commemorate the victory. It’s sitting proudly on my fireplace mantle.

To prove that almost all men have at least a little misogyny coursing through their veins, we also have a sombrero with the word “LOSER” dangling from it along with a dozen or so tampons. You get your photo taken in it if you finish in last place.

“Normalcy” is probably not the right word, actually.

I still live alone half the time, and as a single father the rest.

My son started kindergarten today. I wasn’t there to walk him in because it wasn’t one of “my days” with him.

And I’m legally single again. It all still feels so strange sometimes.

But that said, I’m better than I’ve been since Easter.

Fake Rich Guy is a memory. And that has eliminated about 90 percent of the anger and stress I have been carrying around.

And it was a simple thing like a fantasy football draft with some old friends that showed me just how far I’ve come.

We drank. We ate. We laughed. We mocked picks. We envied others. We used bad words and told off-color jokes. And we talked about football.

Normal stuff.

Stuff I used to do back when there was balance.

Pleasant diversions.

And it was beautiful to get a taste of that again. A taste of normalcy.

I’m eager for more.

And for the first time in several months, it’s more than just a hope.

It’s an expectation.

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