Tag Archives: Gender

I’m Starting a Cult Called “Your Gender-Politics Cult is Bullshit”

gender politics

Much of the fighting is ridiculous. Stop acting like you don’t want to sleep with each other. (Image/stephenwhitehead.org)

[15-minute read]

“Don’t call my cult bullshit, you pansy-ass mangina!”

Sorry, Johnny Men’s Rights. Maybe stop peddling bullshit.

“You tell ‘em, Matt! Radical feminism is the BEST!”

Or it’s not.

Equality is the best. NOT SAMENESS. Not advancement at the expense of others. Actual equality.

Equal doesn’t have to mean “identical.” Equal doesn’t have to mean “the same.” It can mean simply “has the same value.” We’ll get into that shortly.

A significant number of feminists (and some subsection of men’s rights groups) want just that—equality.

Fairness. Non-bullshitty fairness for everyone. I like those people and I hope they join my new cult.

Actions and words that lift people up WITHOUT tearing down others in the process are best.

Feminists and Men’s Rights Activists promoting equality for all while NOT being massive dick holes to enemies, real or imagined, deserve our support.

And since I think most people who angrily pit men and women against one another to perpetuate political and social gender wars are scummy shit-eaters, and also think being a cult leader sounds rad, I’ve decided to start one.

Join My Sweet New Cult – YGPCIBS

My cult is going to be awesome, so you’ll definitely want to join it unless you’re already in a gender-politics cult.

My cult teaches ideas that are unpopular with other gender-politics cults—groups that have a stranglehold on the hearts and minds of millions of people, including maybe yours and mine.

My cult has only one member so far because I just invented it five minutes ago, but all are welcome and encouraged to join—especially if you feel like there isn’t a place for you in one of the current batch of gender-obsessed political cults out there.

The name of our new cult is: Your Gender-Politics Cult is Bullshit, or for short, YGPCIBS.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Cult Leader Matt. (Hi!)

Yes, I have an agenda. I want our movement to inspire people. Before this is over, I want people who identify with Red Pill philosophy and members of the Women’s Liberation Front to be licking arsenic-free purple Kool-Aid® off of one another.

That’s not the primary goal, mind you. Our primary goal will be to reduce instances of assholery regardless of gender and politics (OR, if already in the non-asshole camp, to continue being awesome).

But just so we’re clear, the porny licking thing will probably be among the cult’s top-three objectives because we’re also going to be a bit juvenile.

‘Hey, Cult Leader Matt! Why Do You Think Feminist and Men’s Rights Groups are Bullshit?’

First, I do not think everything about all feminist or men’s rights groups are bullshit.

I do not think all of the stated beliefs and objectives of these groups are bullshit. And even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t think all individual members of those groups are bullshit.

But, I would say that I perceive an uncomfortably large percentage of any politically motivated gender-based group to NOT be committed to equality, but to winning.

The two groups we need to perpetuate the human species are at WAR with one another. And the hilarious part is that it’s for the same reasons the average couple struggles with communication and understanding one another.

I am firmly and strenuously committed to FAIRNESS. To justice. To actual equality. Not fake-equality.

“Hey, Cult Leader Matt! What’s fake-equality?”

I’ll give you an example.

I have a job where I sit at a desk and spend most of the time typing things on a computer.

All I need to do my job effectively is a laptop computer with internet access. Which means I can pretty much do my job from anywhere connected to the power grid.

But, if I want to keep my job, I’m not allowed to work from wherever I want. If I don’t sit in a designated spot in a specific corporate office building for 40-50 hours per week, they’ll eventually fire me.

That means no working from home. That means no working from coffee shops or restaurants. That even means no working outside on company property on picnic tables or whatever.

Why?

Because other people at the company have jobs with a function requiring them to be inside the building. You know, maybe they pack and ship boxes. Maybe they stock shelves. They can’t do those jobs while sitting outside.

And so, if those of us who can do our jobs from anywhere were to be seen working outside on picnic tables, or discovered to be working from off-site locations, “that wouldn’t be fair to all the people who can’t take a laptop with them and get their work done!”

That is fake equality.

Some bureaucrat decided to write a rule that “Everyone Must Be Treated The Same!” without accounting for the fact that all the company executives get an ass-load of financial and schedule perks unavailable to most employees, and that everyone in maintenance gets to work outside all the time.

Treating everyone as if they are “THE SAME” is fake equality.

Real equality is treating everyone equally.

I shouldn’t necessarily get paid the same as the company’s CEO. I shouldn’t necessarily get the same perks as someone who has worked here 25 years.

Parents don’t typically prevent their 18-year-old kids from activities just because it wouldn’t be fair to their 9-year-old siblings. That would be some next-level fake-equality bullshit.

Just like all the anti-men and anti-women political cults out there. They’re just like shitty parents and silly corporate rule-makers.

People are often NOT the same. This reality needs to be okay.

But, all people have equal value. And THAT must be a core principle guiding our treatment of others.

Anyone taking the stance that men—by virtue of their gender—are better than women, or that women are better than men, have been brainwashed and indoctrinated by an evil cult leader somewhere, and they need our help.

When discussing human equality:

  • Equal can never mean “the same.”
  • Equal must mean “of similar value.” 

The Inherent Danger of Us vs. Them

If the aim of a person or group is to gain advantage at the expense of another (outside of activities where competition is inherently involved like sports, business, job candidacy, dating, etc.) then I’m of the mind (and so it is decreed by YGPCIBS) that they’re doing it wrong.

YGPCIBS cult members will not blindly take sides in identity politics.

The same people crying foul about feeling stereotyped are the same people participating in grand-scale groupthink, and exacerbating a bunch of Us vs. Them nonsense.

The only possible end to an Us vs. Them conflict (that isn’t resolved diplomatically) is one side winning and the other side forced into shit-eating submission.

And if you believe all humans have value and don’t aspire to live your one life being a massive penis, then you’re going to want to avoid any zero-sum games involving human wellness.

I remember one male blog commenter writing: “Way to betray your own gender,” under one of my posts. That guy was totally being a massive penis, which I get because I’ve also acted like a massive penis. (I might be being one right now.)

Identity politics—the act of fighting for or against the agendas of a particular group of people—is one of the biggest problems in our world today.

So that guy who accused me of betraying my own gender because I told the truth about what I’ve observed in male behavior (and done myself) that I believe contributes to massive amounts of divorce and broken families—does he think I should side with every “group” of which I’m a member?

I mean, I’m also white. Does that guy think I should be a racist cock and join some “oppressed white guy” group that denigrates and fights against the prosperity of anyone who has different skin tones?

I’m also straight. Does that guy think I should start harassing gay people and maybe go commit some hate crimes against anyone who has different opinions and/or personal interests than me in the sexual-intimacy department?

Racism. Bigotry. Sexism. Misogyny. All of these are bad things that have no place in our cult because they violate YGPCIBS’ most sacred core principle: Don’t be evil assholes.

Here’s another thing: I’m exhausted trying to tiptoe around with my words when writing about male-female relationships. I blame all the bullshit cults for this.

There are millions of people out there who have never been exposed to the types of relationship discussions we have here. And if one of the ways to affect positive change in a couple’s relationship, or in someone in the dating pool, is to offer real-world examples that play on gender stereotypes, then I feel I have a moral obligation to do so.

Some of you may not know this, but in the United States, sugary carbonated soft drinks are commonly called one of three different names, depending on which region of the country people are from.

In the Northeast and on the West Coast, people call it “soda.”

In the Midwest, people call it “pop.” (Despite being born in Iowa and spending the majority of my life living in Ohio and Illinois, I’ve said “soda” most of my life.)

In the South, people inexplicably call it “Coke,” even if they’re ordering Pepsi or Mountain Dew or Sprite.

Customer: “I’ll take a Coke with that.”

Waiter: “What kind would you like?”

Customer: “Wild Cherry Pepsi.”

That’s insane, right? It’s a minor miracle Pepsi executives and stock holders aren’t regularly arrested for having violent outbursts every time they witness such an exchange.

I don’t call soft drinks “pop,” even though most people I interact with do. Is it wrong, offensive, insensitive, inherently harmful, or some other negative thing to say that most people in the Midwest call soft drinks “pop”? Even though it’s demonstrably true?

Of course not.

Now, if I say that everyone who calls Mountain Dew “Coke” is a dumb redneck, or that everyone who says “soda” is a liberal, elitist snob, could that be called harmful or wrong?

Totally.

It’s all about passing the Asshole Test. And you, Male Right’s Activist and Radical Feminist, are failing the Asshole Test. Or passing? I don’t know. Whichever one means: “You’re being an asshole. Please stop.”

Yes, I have written MANY times that I perceive the actions of men to be the biggest negative influence on relationship success.

That doesn’t mean women don’t sometimes (or even, often) suck. It doesn’t mean women are perfect. It doesn’t mean some men aren’t among the most honorable and wonderful people roaming this earth, because some totally are.

It just means that if you line up every single romantic male-female relationship in human history, I believe it’s the stereotypical actions of the common man that we can pinpoint as the root cause of relationship failure most of the time. (Beginning with their relationship, I mean. The ACTUAL root cause is all of the psychological and emotional baggage left over from childhood which they were too young to understand or do anything about. I’d blame the parents, except they ALSO didn’t know any better. Because their parents did the same thing. And so did their grandparents. And so did their great-grandparents.)

Men have a problem.

Math is math. Seven out of 10 divorces are initiated by women.

This is the part where the MGTOW guys cry conspiracy theory, and where The Red Pill guys try to pawn their alpha-beta and female-imperative nonsense.

Umm. No, dipshits.

If your wife left you, one of four things happened:

  1. You did a shitty job selecting a partner.
  2. You did a shitty job being a husband and/or father.
  3. You were two very decent and well-meaning people who accidentally hurt one another so much through the years, that she finally decided to pull the trigger because she was more afraid of being in a painful marriage than she was of living alone and/or losing time with her children. (1 & 2 may still apply.)
  4. You were the victim of an elaborate, pre-planned con carried out by your spouse over many years, and I’m sorry. That must be really hard. (But, 1 still applies for-sure, and maybe even 2.)

I’m tired of the cult of self-righteous, know-it-all feminists and butt-hurt men freaking out if I dare to suggest that men and women commonly display certain stereotypical behaviors.

If the path to understanding that other people often think, feel and experience things in radically different ways than we do comes courtesy of examples of what a person’s opposite-sex partner might commonly experience, and then a bunch of previously irreconcilable relationship differences can be reconciled, and fewer people feel miserable and like dying after a bad breakup or divorce, then I’m having a LOT of trouble identifying the downside.

That’s a worthy cause. This trying to help-people-not-divorce thing. It’s one YGPCIBS is committed to.

OF COURSE not every member of a particular group exhibits identical traits as every other group member. Gender. Religion. Race. Geography. Even identical twins developed from the same genome frequently demonstrate radical differences in personality and temperament.

We are all individuals.

I’m tired of the cult that is Men’s Rights Activists, including the MGTOW guys, and the internet tough guy Red Pillers and their bottomless barrel of bullshit.

You’ll find guys who label themselves as Men’s Rights Activists to be the least-annoying sect of the men’s cult scene because they have several good intentions and redeeming qualities.

They do a good job fighting for parenting rights for fathers, and for the civil rights of men who are sometimes unjustly crucified in domestic violence cases where they were actually the victims.

Men’s Rights Activists help draw attention to some telling statistics related to men’s wellbeing in 2017.

  • Men kill themselves five times more often than women.
  • Teenage boys kill themselves nine times more often than teenage girls.
  • Men are twice as likely as women to be alcoholics or drug addicts.
  • Men are four times more likely to be clinically depressed than women the same age.
  • Men are victims of the majority of violent crime (but they also cause the vast majority of it).
  • Men more often occupy the world’s most dangerous jobs.
  • During an emergency, it is still the cultural norm in virtually every society in the world to get the women and children to safety first, because men are deemed more expendable. Count the death totals from every military conflict in human history. Every tribe, undeveloped and developed nation in the world systematically sends their men to die first.

These are not insignificant facts. It would be intellectually dishonest and patently unfair to dismiss them when discussing men’s issues in 2017.

But then we also have the MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) clan and Red Pillers (which mostly exist in a loosely formed way on the subreddit  r/The RedPill).

MGTOW members reject any type of long-term personal relationship with women. No marriage. No cohabitation. Not even something like driving to pick up the child of a single mother. They avoid any action which they say “might be used in courts to turn him into her legal indentured servant.”

This is where all the butt-hurt Men’s Rights and MGTOW guys lose me, because they don’t accept any responsibility for their choices. They don’t own their shit.

I have an idea, assholes: DON’T MARRY PEOPLE WHO DO HEINOUS AND EVIL THINGS.

Hell, don’t marry anyone who annoys you a lot. Don’t marry anyone for any reason you can come up with! The fewer bad marriages we have, the better.

What’s so lame about their whining is that they never raise their hands and accept responsibility for:

  1. Whatever bullshit they brought to their failed marriage.
  2. Whatever poor judgment they displayed to MARRY someone so horrible.

That’s why so many of these guys like to go to the “ALL women do this!” card. It alleviates them of having to take responsibility for anything, or change any of their asshole behaviors.

Anyway. You get it. Many of them are dicks, and my YGPCIBS cult is better than theirs.

The Red Pill is a philosophy, and reddit.com/r/TheRedPill is its home.

According to an article in the NewStatesman, “the nearly 200,000-subscriber-strong subreddit describes itself as a place for the ‘discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.’  In itself, perhaps this doesn’t sound too bad.

“In practice, to ‘swallow the Red Pill’ is to accept the uncomfortable truth about reality. The phrase comes from 1999’s hit film The Matrix, in which the protagonist Neo must choose between the Red Pill – which would allow him to escape the Matrix but see the real, darker world – and the Blue Pill – continued existence in his comfortable, but ultimately fake, life.

“In r/TheRedPill’s instance, the ‘dark truths’ that the subreddit’s subscribers have swallowed are these: feminism is toxic, sexism is fake, men have it harder than women, and everything the media teaches about relationships is a lie. In reality, (the argument goes) women don’t want soft-centered men/chocolates; they want to be dominated, controlled, and manipulated. The most extreme Red Pillers even believe that women want to be raped [by “high-status” men].”

If any of you guys remember a blog commenter here named Jeff Strand (a fake name), he was a Red Pill guy. He remains the only person in four years of blogging here that I’ve ever had to ban from commenting, and it had NOTHING to do with silencing his dissenting opinions, and everything to do with him being an intolerably dark-souled shit-eater.

There are always extremes.

Layers.

Shades of grey, if you will.

I believe there are decent men out there who call themselves MGTOW or Red Pillers.

But I think their ideas are inherently dangerous, and jeopardize the futures of our sons and daughters.

I May Be a Shitty Cult Leader, but Our Awesome Cult Beliefs are Worth Believing (Unless They’re Not)

Here’s a summarized YGPCIBS overview, and my qualifications (or lack thereof) for being a cult leader.

No, I don’t know any good mind-control techniques. I Googled “how to be a successful cult leader” before writing this and according to the only article I read on effective cult-leadership, I’m doomed to be a shitty cult leader. Bummer.

Yes, I hope you send me ungodly amounts of money. I apparently need to build an elaborate cult headquarters somewhere to fit in. Maybe a remote compound. Maybe a high-rise office building. Just somewhere with a nice swimming pool and plenty of high-end tequila, please.

If you’re already in a gender cult, you’re inevitably going to hate YGPCIBS. Some of your reasons will be foolish and immature. (My cult believes things that challenge and contradict your cult’s beliefs). Some of your reasons will be totally valid and appropriate. (My cult called your cult “bullshit”—and meant it.)

A successful cult leader insists that her or his cult’s beliefs are THE ONLY WAY.

People who think they have discovered the magical secret to Life and the Universe—and that only they are RIGHT, and everyone else in the world and human history is WRONG—scare me. This is among the many reasons I won’t succeed as cult leader.

A successful cult leader asks for a suspension of disbelief. And sure, I want you to suspend your own beliefs for a hot minute to ask good questions and challenge any false beliefs you may have, but by joining YGPCIBS I don’t want you to believe aliens flying a spaceship near the Hale-Bopp Comet will magically beam you up to a VIP Comet Party that only you and your 38 closest human friends are invited to IF you kill yourself. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

A successful cult leader aggressively recruits new members. It’s totally possible this is the last time I ever mention YGPCIBS because I often struggle with follow-through.

A successful cult leader convinces you that you’re always wrong. But you’re not ALWAYS wrong. Maybe not even most of the time. You’re just often wrong. Like me.

A successful cult leader teaches a superhuman model of perfection, and promises to show you how to achieve that state of being. But there is no state-of-being destination for the human condition. The curse of “succeeding” as a human being is that one rarely feels successful, and the feeling is short and fleeting when we do. Successful people rarely think and feel that what they’ve done is good enough. They’re already chasing the next thing. Exceptional people don’t think they’re exceptional because they’re often in a constant cycle of trying and failing to achieve what might be an unattainable ideal.

I don’t believe we get to the top of a mountain one day and think Awesome! Now I’m done and can just feel great every day while I party and stuff! No. Mountain climbers look for higher mountains to climb, or more challenging ways to climb the dangerous mountain again.

A successful cult leader suppresses dissent. I encourage challenging questions. If I can’t answer them, it means I have more to learn.

Every disagreement has THREE possible outcomes and two of them are awesome:

  1. You help someone understand something they didn’t understand before.
  2. You learn something you didn’t know and correct a false belief.
  3. You cling stubbornly to a false belief.

A successful cult leader convinces the group members that they are special and that our specialness makes us better and more important than everyone else. But we’re not special. And it’s okay.

I won’t succeed as a cult leader because I KNOW that I’m not better than you. I know we’re not better than them.

I know that we’re all flawed and a little bit broken. That we’re occasionally weak and afraid. That we’re often selfish and thoughtless. That for every good thing we do, we also are capable of harming others even if we don’t intend to.

This world has ONE chance, and it sure as shit isn’t pitting the genders against one another.

The continuation of our species DEPENDS on men and women working cooperatively and having intercourse and stuff.

To make little humans and raise them to be the kind of people who want to be in good cults like YGPCIBS and not huge-asshole ones.

Many men—most men—have exceptional qualities. Awesome ones. Look for them. Appreciate them. Because the world needs them.

Many women—most women— have exceptional qualities. Awesome ones. Look for them. Appreciate them. Because the world needs them.

We need each other. Need.

And even if we didn’t, my hetero brethren and sisthren, stop being dishonest little sacks and acting like we don’t want each other.

Now, who has the purple Kool-Aid?

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Some People Are Women, Others Are Men, and it’s Getting Hard to Talk About

gender identity male female

(Image/Angelus News)

My most popular articles tell true stories about my failed marriage and also tend to include a bunch of my own assumptions about “typical” male-female relationships.

Because of things I’ve experienced, observed, read, and heard about, I perceive there to be common male behaviors and common female behaviors, and sometimes when writing relationship stories—I will say things like: “Husbands often do this… and wives often do this other thing.”

I do it throughout the oft-read Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts, and this very gender-oriented way of storytelling—for better or worse—is featured prominently in the only thing I’ve written that has been read millions of times: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.

I am a straight, white male who was raised in a small Ohio town, and totally immersed—from birth through high school—in conservative politics and what some people like to call “traditional Christian values.”

I used to think it was all very good. Common. Normal. The majority.

I always found comfort in being part of the “majority.” If MOST people believed something, then that must mean that believing that is good. The right thing to do. I am part of the group that is “most correct,” I reasoned.

Of course, I didn’t have access to any sort of data that could reliably tell me what “most” people thought, believed, felt or did, anyway. Nor was I wise enough to even ask the question. SO MANY people were “like me” where I come from that it never occurred to me to question things I was taught or any of the common beliefs of the people who lived where I lived.

Things are much different now.

I don’t live in a place where groupthink is as prevalent as it was for me growing up.

At 38, on the heels of my divorce that forced me to rethink everything I have ever done or believed, today I’m much better about questioning information I come across.

I always want to know WHY. Every one of our beliefs should have a WHY behind it. A REASON. There’s great danger in a bunch of people who believe things but can’t provide an explanation for WHY.

I’m less certain today about the things I think and feel.

Uncertainty isn’t comfortable. Uncertainty probably isn’t very attractive. But it damn sure reduces your asshole quotient. Since no one can know all things, behaving with certainty means you’re totally wrong (and a huge asshole) at least some of the time.

I don’t assume I’m correct about everything, but I always have a REASON for how I came to a belief, and if I discover that my reason for a belief is bullshit, I’m not afraid to abandon it in favor of a better idea.

I’ve learned to embrace the philosophy of Letting the Best Idea Win.

In every conversation, debate or argument between me and someone else with conflicting ideas, there can be only three possibilities:

  1. I’m right.
  2. I’m wrong.
  3. There is no objectively correct answer.

Many people behave in debates as if winning or losing are the only two outcomes. I tend to think everyone loses most of the time. I don’t think “being wrong” is the same thing as losing. Here’s why:

  1. If I’m right, I get to share a better or important idea with the person I’m talking to.
  2. If I’m wrong, I get to learn a better or important idea from the person I’m talking to, and stop believing something that’s untrue, harmful, or otherwise moronic.
  3. If there’s no objectively correct answer, fair-minded and reasonable people can always conclude that an individual’s life experiences shapes their beliefs, and that ANYONE who lived an identical life would have drawn an identical conclusion.

Is it Wrong or Dangerous to Identify Gender-Based Stereotypes in Stories Designed to Help People Improve Their Relationships?

A bunch of people (who might be correct) think I’m a complete idiot douchebag because of what they perceive to be cavalier use of “gendered” descriptors for human behavior.

If you also think I’m an idiot douchebag, you’ll take great joy in reading this MetaFilter thread about the “dishes” post that went viral in 2016.

It’s offensive for some men who are awesome about keeping their house clean, and mindfully comforting their romantic partners, and expertly managing their children’s many needs to read me write the equivalent of “Men are often thoughtless and selfish, dumping a bunch of housework on their wives, which inevitably causes wives to resent their husbands and eventually leave them.”

It’s offensive for some women who are sensitive about gender-based stereotyping of any kind to see it being done. The female experience for them has been one of being shoehorned into certain roles and stereotypes for no other reason than their gender. Women are still sometimes referred to as “minorities,” even though the human sex ratio is essentially 1:1 in almost every country and culture on earth.

I get this. Totally. I don’t like people labeling or telling me who I am either.

And I absolutely understand that this type of stereotyping and generalizing has categorically marginalized huge groups of people through the generations, because of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.

“Marginalized” is probably too soft a word for some of the atrocities people have experienced at the hands of the “majority.”

However, I can’t stop asking this question:

While gender-based stereotyping might seem ignorant or misguided to people whose life experiences were much different than mine, is it WRONG or BAD for me to make the observation that “Men often do this, and women often do something else”?

There is no malice intended in my observations that men frequently demonstrate a lack of awareness and empathy in their conversations and behavior at home with their wives. I honestly believe this is the most common scenario. That this is true most often.

There is no malice intended in my observations that women frequently feel sad, abandoned and afraid—and later, resentful—in their marriages because of this common male lack of awareness and empathy.

I am not judging men. I don’t believe women are better than men. But I do believe that women frequently demonstrate superior relationship skills to men like emotional intelligence, empathy, efforts to communicate, and stronger home- and child-management skills as mothers.

I believe that’s true. That doesn’t make anyone good or bad. It simply makes me correct or incorrect—and I honestly don’t know which I am in this case. This is what I think. Not what I know.

I am certainly not judging women. I don’t believe men are better than women, particularly in the context of male-female romantic relationships in cohabitation, marriage, or parenting. But I do believe that men are frequently innocent of intentional wrongdoing in their troubled relationships. That they are predominantly good men with good intentions who honestly love their wives and families, but mindlessly do or do not do things that hurt their wives, and often results in painful break-ups and divorce.

I believe this is true.

I believe anyone can look around and see this for themselves in their own families, and neighborhoods, and workplaces, and religious or social groups, and among the professional relationship therapists who have spent years listening to the same kinds of stories I tell, and who hear all of the same stories I get in my email inbox and in these blog comments.

Another Viral Example: ‘You Should’ve Asked’

Someone awesome and clever created a comic that I believe encapsulates the spirit of several of my posts like the “dishes by the sink” one, or how making your wife or girlfriend feel like your mom by managing your life and cleaning up after you all the time is a common recipe for the death of sexual attraction, and often, the relationship.

This excellent piece called “You Should’ve Asked” is a must-read.

I think the creator (her name is Emma) did an incredible job of capturing this Common Relationship dynamic I’m always going for, but I think she did a better job than I do of not assigning blame or shaming anyone in the process.

I was struck by how many people criticized the piece because they perceived it to unfairly stereotype genders in much the same way people have criticized me.

Does content like “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” and “You Should’ve Asked” cause more harm than good by being too gender-focused? Or do they do more good than harm by raising awareness to relationship issues so common that millions of people read and share them?

I am a guy. Because of this, I write for guys and feel comfortable talking about “guy things” in the same way I perceive them to be true. I don’t pretend to understand what women experience outside of the many books, conversations and stories I’ve read or heard.

I was a husband. Because of this, I write about husbands.

I write stories that I hope resonate with many people, and I don’t know how to do that without describing situations I believe to be most common—most statistically likely to have been true for the average reader.

But, if this isn’t obvious to you already, I believe sexism—which I hope is mostly unintentional—plays a prominent role in the fundamental breakdown of the common marriage, as I tend to describe it.

I defend my stereotyping (right or wrong) because I am rarely making value judgments about men and women.

I think it’s fair and reasonable to identify things as being DIFFERENT, without the underlying assumption that one is better than another. Equality is NOT “Everyone’s the same!” Equality is “Everyone has equal value.”

And I believe that strongly. That all people have equal value, regardless of how many differences we can identify.

I think, whether it be because of cultural conditioning and exposure to mass media or something else entirely, that men frequently demonstrate behaviors common to most males, and that women frequently demonstrate behaviors common to most females.

I don’t know why this happens, though I have foolishly suggested that evolutionary science might have something to do with it because I’m an idiot who occasionally talks out of his ass.

But I think it’s less foolish to observe things that happen around us, and then use those observations in stories designed to hopefully help people discover something important about themselves, about their partners, and about their relationships that might otherwise deteriorate and end painfully without that story resonating with them. Without stories that feel a lot like their own experiences.

Sometimes people see themselves in the words, and everything changes for them. Sometimes kids don’t have to move between houses and cry. Sometimes two really good people who honestly love each other don’t spend years accidentally damaging one another’s hearts and minds, because they finally SEE what’s really happening.

I want to believe that the stories told here have done more good than bad.

If there’s a way for me to do more good and less bad, I also want to know that.

But this criticism and question needs dealt with.

No matter how “common” it may seem to me or anyone else. No matter how easy it is for me to justify using a Mars/Venus backdrop to relationship stories. No matter ANYTHING else: Do we hurt others, and ultimately cause more harm than good when we use words that categorize or label or attempt to define a group of people because they’re connected by a shared trait?

I don’t know.

But if I can do better, I must.

If we can do better, we must.

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The Cancer of Misunderstanding

hieroglyphics egyptian

(Image/Pinterest)

Remember when we were kids?

Afraid of getting on the big roller coasters. Afraid of jumping off the high-dive at the local pool. Afraid of the person we liked at school finding out about it.

We think back now, and if you’re anything like me, you might wonder: Why did I care about all of that lamer crap?

I think the answer is: Because we were entirely different people then. Through the prism of hindsight and years piled on top of years of life experiences, we now laugh at our naïve, immature, foolish selves.

We were mostly doing the best we could. In any given moment, we were mostly just acting on whatever our beliefs were at the time. We still do that today. We believed things based on what we were taught as children, combined with our limited life experiences.

We were just kids.

True story: My son in third-grade lost a tooth a few weeks ago, and I half-expected him to tell me that he no longer believed in the Tooth Fairy. We also just had Easter, and while the words “Easter Bunny” were never spoken aloud, I’m not under the impression he knows I put the candy, toys and baseball cards in his Easter basket.

As an aside, I do question whether we are doing the right thing feeding our children stories about imaginary magical beings they will later learn were totally made-up. I wonder how that breach of trust and shattering of innocence that occurs might negatively impact them in other ways, but that’s beside the point.

My son is just a cute little kid.

How I think and feel about his words and actions are totally different than how I think and feel about the words and actions of other adults who I believe should know better.

Imagine if I talked to my son the same way I might talk to, say, a friend at work…

Me: “Hey buddy! Did you have a good weekend?”

Son: “Yeah! I lost a tooth and put it under my pillow, and the Tooth Fairy came and left me money! Awesome, right? But then it got even better. When I went downstairs Easter morning, I saw that the Easter Bunny had visited overnight and filled my Easter basket with some presents and my favorite candy.”

Me: “You’re shitting me, right?”

Son: “Dad. Language.”

Me: “Right. Sorry. I mean, are you being serious right now?”

Son: “Yes! The Tooth Fairy AND the Easter Bunny both came to my house in the same weekend! Isn’t that amazing, dad?”

Me: “Wait. Just wait. Let’s back up the Sanity Truck to the beginning of this conversation. You’re seriously not messing with me right now? You left a tooth under the pillow you sleep on, and you believe a supernatural fairy magically flew into your bedroom, pocketed your shitty old blood-crusted tooth, and then gave you money for it?”

Son: “Yes. That’s what happens, dad. When you lose a tooth and put it under your pillow at night, the Tooth Fairy comes and leaves you money.”

Me: “Rrrrrrright. A. I can’t believe you actually believe that. And B., I can’t believe you don’t think it’s TERRIFYING that some creeper fairy is buzzing around your head collecting gnarly old teeth and actually paying money for them. It’s pretty illogical, across the board. I can almost understand believing in Santa given how much we’re inundated with Santa stories and images around the holidays, but the Tooth Fairy? Good God, man. You’re like a Cro-Magnon special-ed student. Are you high on drugs right now?”

Son: “What’s a ‘crow magnum’?”

Me: “Don’t worry about it, Copernicus. I’m more concerned with the other thing you said. You think a giant-ass magic bunny that either looks like an actual rabbit, or possibly just a large two-legged rabbity mascot-looking thing ACTUALLY snuck into our house like Santa Claus and left you presents?”

Son: “Yeah.”

Me: “And this doesn’t terrify you, why?”

Son: “The Easter Bunny isn’t scary, dad.”

Me: “Whatever you say, genius.”

I would never speak to my little boy the way I talk to my adult friends or buddies at the office. And that’s because I’m intellectually capable of understanding that it makes sense for my young son’s perceptions and life experiences to be much different than mine, or pretty much any adult.

And here’s where I think it gets interesting: As easy as it is to recognize these totally sensible differences between what’s expected of children’s behavior vs. adults and adjust our language and emotional responses accordingly; we often appear HORRIBLE at recognizing that it is equally sensible for other adults to have radically different beliefs, opinions, and emotional responses than us to any given situation we happen to be in. Others’ unique life experiences can lead them to thinking and feeling differently than us, and that is in no way strange when you go through the mental exercise of how different you would have been had you been born with THEIR DNA, and born into THEIR family, living in THEIR town, going to THEIR church or THEIR school, and being taught THEIR beliefs.

Other people are different than us for various reasons.

The people we marry or have romantic relationships with are among those very-different people.

The Things We Don’t Teach Men: EVERYONE Loses Right vs. Wrong Debates in Relationships

Sometimes I’m smart and know things. Like indisputable fact sort-of things. And I’m capable of getting frustrated or overtly angry if I hear or read someone “being wrong” about this thing I know.

Sometimes I just think I know things, but actually don’t. A false belief like I used to have about the Tooth Fairy, or how afraid I should be of getting on a ridiculously fun roller coaster or of jumping off high-dive boards into swimming pools.

When we believe we are Right or Correct, or that our opinions are Better or Worth More Than, we often argue or debate the point with anyone who disagrees.

And that is often the person we married or have a serious relationship with, simply because they tend to be around the most often.

And I’ve come to believe that these arguments—which often turn into fights—frequently destroy adult relationships. Not only does it erode while we fight, but our poor sense of how to communicate and help manage our partner’s emotions can poison everything further.

I think the things we, societally, are directly and indirectly teaching (or not teaching) boys, and later reinforcing in men, are the primary drivers of these marriage-ending, family-breaking behavior patterns.

Men often demonstrate the desire to be right. Correct. Smart. Reliable. Trusted. Skilled. Best. Respected. (This is not all men all the time, just as there are millions of women who ALSO demonstrate these traits. We’re talking in broad generalities here.)

It happens to me all of the time. In friendly conversations at work, or with friends, or even right here with MBTTTR blog comments.

I still trigger easily into “I Am Right, Therefore They Must Be Wrong” mode, but fortunately I recognize this assholery much faster than I used to.

But most people don’t seem to think it’s an asshole move to debate Right vs. Wrong. About politics. About sports. About music or movies or restaurants. Some people LIKE debating. I’m one of them.

There are others who DON’T like debating because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

And this is where, in my experience, the VAST, VAST, VAST majority of men seem to totally miss the boat.

The Undetected Cancer of Not Understanding Each Other

If a wife or girlfriend is upset about us leaving a dish by the sink, we may spend hours—and even weeks, months or years—arguing the merits of the dish.

And this is a frightening symptom society should treat like cancer because THIS moment is the beginning of The Great Misunderstanding at the root of why couples always have the same fight.

Two people CANNOT get over a fight involving a major violation of trust when neither person actually understands what the other person is saying or feeling.

I wrote that a wife will ABSOLUTELY leave her husband and end her marriage over something as seemingly simple as him leaving dishes by the sink.

And a common reaction to that is: “What a petty, control-freak bitch! Why does HER opinion about where the dish should go rank higher than his? What gives her the right to break up a family over something that insignificant? Marriages are more important than debates about dishes! She’s the one who is wrong!”

Over and over and over again, people (mostly men) read about the dishes by the sink and the countless marriages that ended because of them or some other seemingly insignificant “crime,” and over and over and over again they fail to make the connection I’d hoped for, which is probably because of substandard writing on my part.

So we’re trying again.

I agree with you, Person Who Says Marriage is More Important Than Dishes, Thus Something So “Minor” Should Never End Them.

I’m on your side. I promise.

However. This has never been, and never will be, about who has the most valid opinion. We’re measuring Right vs. Wrong like morons. Like if we tried to measure human weight in Celsius degrees or sound decibels or kilometers per hour. We have bullshit data because we’re not using the right filters.

The Big Secret That Shouldn’t Be a Secret

It will never matter who makes the best or most-convincing or most-skilled argument.

That’s NOT why she’s leaving us.

You couldn’t out-debate her because Correct vs. Incorrect never even came into play.

It’s about this really important secret, and nothing else:

Something you did, said, or are actively doing, HURT her or is HURTING her.

Like if you were throwing rocks at her face, or striking her with a belt. Like if you were calling her vile names and telling her she was ugly and that you didn’t love her anymore.

Something you’re doing or saying is causing actual pain.

And the scary part is that you don’t know. We don’t know because it would never hurt us. Because it would never hurt us, we act like she’s weak. We act like her response is crazy or illogical or out of line with reality.

Then when she tells us about it, we don’t apologize and stop the hurtful behavior like we would if we were accidentally hitting her with rocks or belts.

Moreover, we pile on more hurt in the form of us puffing our chests in all of our “correctness,” defending our behavior, and implying or saying outright that she’s stupid or mentally unstable or a bad or mean person for feeling all of these illogical things on account of our perfectly reasonable and justifiable actions.

First, we inflict pain without realizing it.

Second, we are informed of the pain we cause, and we wave our hands dismissively and tell her she’s full of shit.

Third, we get angry when she won’t let it go, and flip it around into a “This is actually YOUR fault for being such a miserable and ungrateful bitch all the time” discussion.

Fourth, we stay angry that she keeps bringing it up and “nagging” us about something we think we’re “right” about, and make everything about us, and how she’s the unfair person ruining the marriage.

Don’t you see it?

I’m not blaming anyone for this. These aren’t the behaviors of evil people. These are the behaviors of two people who emotionally harm one another over the course of five to 10 years with little to no awareness of it.

We accidentally cut and bruise her with our stones and belts without ever realizing we’re striking her.

Then, not only do we NOT apologize for it, or attempt to change the behavior, but we often defiantly blame everything on her, and tell her that nothing is ever going to change because she’s got this whole thing wrong.

And if you keep saying it enough times, maybe you believe she’ll figure it out too.

Ironically, she feels exactly the same, right up until she can’t take the hurt anymore.

She might be able to handle the metaphorical stones and belt lashes. Because the years have scarred and hardened her.

But she’s sure as hell not going to take the blame for it anymore, nor dedicate the rest of her life to an intimate partnership that rewards her with: “Why don’t you cry about it, you nagging bitch? And by the way, I love you, honey. Wanna have sex later?”

Neither person meant to hurt the other. It just happens, and most of these guys have no idea how it’s perceived by his wife or girlfriend. Not until it’s too late. Not until she’s heartbroken and gone.

It’s one person being hurt and the other person saying through their actions, “I don’t care about the same things you care about. Also, I don’t even care THAT you care. Your stuff doesn’t matter to me.”

Because THAT ends marriages. Thousands of times per day.

And I think it’s tragic.

Because it’s essentially just a big misunderstanding.

And I don’t believe kids should have to cry and spend every night missing one of their parents for the entirety of their childhood because of a misunderstanding.

We can do better.

We must.

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Guys: Emotions Matter, Are Normal, and You’re Not a Weak Pussy for Having Them

man sad with grief

(Image/Aidan Nworks)

Author’s Note: I think the #1 problem in the world is how poorly humans manage their relationships. Even if you disagree, follow my logic, please. The biggest influence on whether our lives suck or are awesome is the quality of our closest relationships. For most of our lives, that’s the relationship with our spouses or long-term romantic partners. While it would be nice for everyone everywhere to get along—because of the huge problems caused by our Us vs. Them mentality—I still believe it all comes back to husbands and wives, or two committed partners in general. Human conflict is problematic everywhere. But when it’s two people who decided to pool their resources and have promised to love one another forever, and make and share children? It’s a crisis. The ripple-effect consequences know no bounds. Divorce breaks people, and then broken people break other things.

I think the #1 cause of divorce is relationship-damaging behavior by men who honestly don’t recognize it. Good men with generally good intentions who do things over and over again that damage their wives’ emotional and mental health. And they just don’t realize it in time.

How? Why? There are no easy answers. But I think the closest one is: No one knows. Just like people spent decades smoking tobacco without knowing it had dire health consequences.

I think we don’t teach our children the truth about adulthood. That we don’t teach our boys the truth about manhood. Not because we’re liars. But because we didn’t fucking know either.

This is the first in a series of posts about The Things We Don’t Teach Men (And How It Ruins Everything).

Things We Don’t Teach Men: #1 – Feelings Matter, Are Normal, and You’re Not a Weak Pussy for Having Them

“Why don’t you cry about it?”

“Be a man.”

“Stop whining like a bitch.”

“You’re acting like a little girl.”

“Toughen up, you pussy.”

Every one of us have heard it. Most of us even said it.

Men have been taught to keep emotions to themselves. Because expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. It’s “something girls do.”

It’s like the ultimate double whammy to healthy male-female relationships.

We cultivate emotionally stunted boys with dangerously flawed perceptions of what it means to “be a man,” AND we teach and perpetuate sexism simultaneously by shaming boys for doing things “like a girl.”

We make it BAD to be female, and then act all confused that misogyny and sexual abuse, or even just general displays of disrespect toward women by men are as common as they are.

Writer Paul Hudson in an Elite Daily article said it as well as I ever could:

“Men aren’t always accepted when they’re being emotional. For years and years, men have gotten bashed, personally and in the media, for being heartless, for not being understanding of women and the way they feel. Many women will still use this as an argument-squasher. The truth is, men didn’t allow themselves to understand the way the women they loved felt because they didn’t understand why women weren’t willing to follow the rules they were taught to follow.

“Don’t cry. Don’t pout. Don’t complain. Be a man — an emotionless, stubborn man. Again, not all men but most, I’m afraid.

“Men were taught emotions are a sign of weakness. Women were taught the opposite. So what are you left with? Men who believe women are weak because they’re emotional, and women who are pissed off they’re seen as being weak for something they were taught to embrace.”

For decades, psychologists studying human behavior would conduct studies about human emotion by surveying parents of children, or asking adults to self-report.

As you might imagine, that only further cemented our preconceived notions about emotions and gender.

Once the psych-research community started asking better questions, studies started to yield more interesting results.

And several studies have concluded that men are actually more emotional than women, even though men will say they are less emotional than they actually are, and women will claim to be more emotional than they are.

From The Daily Mail:

“Neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis who led the study said, ‘Gender stereotypes about men being stoic and women being emotional are reinforced by our day to day consumption of media and our social interactions.

“’We tend to oversimplify and exaggerate the perceived differences between men and women and are more likely to focus on evidence that supports our existing gender stereotypes.

“’This study suggests that men feel emotion just as much as women, sometimes more strongly, but are less willing to express these emotions openly due to expectations put on them by society.’”

Dr. Peggy Drexler also tackled this topic in: “Guess What? Men Are More Emotionally Fragile Than Women.”

Why This Emotion Thing Matters

Because truth and authenticity in intimate relationships matters.

Because fear and anxiety and shame cause us to wear masks and lie and hide parts of ourselves from the people who trust us to love and care for them.

Every man who fakes stoicism to appear like a tough guy because he thinks that’s what he’s supposed to be, or because he thinks that what his wife or girlfriend or whoever wants him to be is a fraud.

I don’t mean that in an ugly way. He’s not being deceptive with malice in his heart. He’s exercising self-preservation techniques to avoid rejection.

We want to be accepted by other males in our various tribes. At school. At work. On teams. In a contingent of soldiers, police officers, firefighters, etc.

We want to be accepted by our fathers. By our coaches. By our mentors.

We want to be accepted by the women in our lives. Respected. Admired. Desired.

So we put on our masks so our friends will stay our friends, and so dad approves, and so our wives or girlfriends won’t want to leave us for those super-tough and stoic guys who never shed tears or feel anything because we never knew that they were all either sociopaths or fellow mask-wearers who feel just as afraid as we do.

So we wear our tough-guy masks and mock or show blatant disregard for everything that doesn’t pass the Man Card sniff test.

And because a husband and wife will never achieve unbreakable status without the level of trust and intimacy that can only come from not hiding true parts of ourselves from the other, this emotion thing can play a significant role in the slow erosion of our relationships.

While we openly disrespect one another over who’s right and who’s wrong, even though nobody is either.

While we egregiously break hearts and tear one another apart in another bloody round of The Same Fight. The same fight we always have. The same fight couples always have.

More from Paul Hudson:

“Men have been taught to keep their emotions to themselves. I’m sure there are some men out there who were raised in a household that praised emotional honesty. But even such individuals had to have stepped out into the world and realized the rest of society and the culture we’ve built over the centuries prefers men to keep their emotions to themselves.

“We were taught to believe sensitivity is synonymous with weakness, which is exactly the opposite if you think about it. Sensing more, feeling more, experiencing more, understanding more, interacting with the world more, that is a strength, an advantage — not something to be ashamed of.

“Boys are taught to be ashamed of the emotions they experience, so they grow into men who are both emotionally confused and in denial. Emotions aren’t meant to be suppressed. They don’t necessarily need to be paraded for everyone else to see — even though there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with that — but they ought to be accepted and understood. Otherwise, the build-up can kill you.”

If it doesn’t literally kill you, you can bet your ass it will kill your marriage.

And those dark days following the end of your marriage?

Staring at a stranger in the mirror. Restless nights. Loss of friends and family. Deep shame and guilt. A powerful sense of failing at life’s most-important thing in a very public way. Fear of an unknown future. Stress about the loss of time with children and influence on their lives.

Those things can kill you.

Unless.

You choose courage. You take off the mask. You own your shit. You do a better job today than you did yesterday. You make things as right as you can. You love even when it’s inconvenient. And once you feel human again, you have the chance to start over—maybe alone, maybe with someone new, or maybe even in a second try with the mother of your children.

When you own your shit and trust someone enough to show them the things you used to hide, then—THEN—bonds too strong to break can finally form.

Not because you were a big pussy who showed too much emotion.

But because you showed more bravery than you ever have before. And everything was okay. You weren’t some weak-ass pussy, after all.

You were strong. Resilient. A warrior.

A man.

We hide the truth because vulnerability is hard. And our relationships suffer for it. And then everything and everyone in our entire lives suffers for it.

Let people in, even when it’s hard.

Because we can do hard things.

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The Things We Don’t Teach Men (And How It Ruins Everything)

father holding baby son

(Image/abc.net.au)

The world fails men.

We fail everyone, but we fail men in particular. And that failure leads to a countless number of men—some incredibly smart, talented, strong, brave, and decent men—achieving positions of influence where they inevitably perpetuate the cycle of collectively failing men, and by proxy, all of the women and children in their sphere of influence.

Husbands.

Fathers.

Big brothers.

Best friends.

Business leaders.

Celebrity influencers.

Politicians.

Coaches.

Educators.

Commanding officers.

Group leaders.

Classmates.

Teammates and tribesmen.

What men in these positions think, believe, do, feel and say affects countless people—the ripple effects of which can last for centuries.

Many of these guys are amazingly virtuous. Many are trying their best every day to live according to the values instilled in them. They’re simply following the examples of their male role models from their youth.

These aren’t evil men Muahahaha-ing and fist-bumping a bunch of other sadistic D-holes in the secret back room of their private male-only clubs. I mean, some are, but those dipshits aren’t hard to spot, nor are their crimes dangerously undetectable.

What is so dangerous about the world failing men is that we’ve created billions of very decent human beings who unknowingly walk around every day trying their God’s-honest best, but are accidentally napalming their homes and closest relationships.

It’s a problem.

Your Life Will Be Measured by Your Family and Friends—Not All That Other Stuff

Life is essentially a contest to see who can have the most people say truthful, authentically nice things about us at our funerals.

Men are taught that status is everything. It’s reinforced by women, because women are often attracted to high-status men. It’s reinforced by children, because children’s lives can often benefit in observable ways (financially and socially) from high-status fathers.

Men pursue wealth. Men pursue fame. Men pursue physical attractiveness. Men pursue business ventures, athletic competitions and hobbies where they succeed. Men pursue sexual conquests. Men pursue the accumulation of material possessions. Men pursue all of this shit that doesn’t mean a damn thing to ANYONE the second the doctor tells them they have terminal cancer, or discover their wife having an affair, or try to digest their child’s suicide note.

What men really want is to have PURPOSE.

And all of those aforementioned “successes” have a legitimate purpose in our personal lives. I’m not trying to trivialize success in personal ventures. It matters to all of us.

I’m only saying that most of us coast through much of life unaware of this obvious truth:

The #1 influence on how good our lives are is the quality of our human relationships.

No amount of money, possessions, career success, trophies on the shelf, notches on the bed post, nor fame can provide the peace and contentment we all crave down deep inside.

Fear. Sadness. Pain. Anxiety. Anger. Stress. Grief. Shame.

These are the mortal enemies of all of us, but surely for men.

When we put the people we care about, live near, and work with, first—selfless love, humble leadership, principle above profit—the only Life currency that actually matters starts to accumulate.

And then when we do that enough, more people will cry and share funny stories at our funerals instead of not give a crap we croaked because they kind of thought we were assholes anyway.

Most of What We Believe About Marriage and Relationships Is Wrong

It’s not our fault.

All we have to go in is our parents, who either divorced, or fumbled through marriage hiding most of the hard stuff from us because no one taught them any of this either.

Our marriages or long-term relationships (or lack thereof) ultimately prove to be the biggest influencers on our day-to-day lives. If our relationships are shitty, our lives are shitty.

Many men believe if they make money or experience personal success somehow, and showcase attractive characteristics while being generally nice and not cheating on their partners, that THAT is being a good husband and/or father.

Men think that being a good man automatically defaults them to “good husband” or “good father,” if they are married or have children. I thought the same thing.

But it’s a dirty lie we accidentally tell ourselves.

Good men can be colossally shitty husbands. You can have all the character and professional skills in the world and still demonstrate gross incompetence as a husband and father.

You can be a genius and still not know how to design and build skyscrapers or working space shuttles.

You can be a brilliant musician and still not know how to play several instruments.

You can be a GREAT guy and absolutely destroy your wife, causing her to cry for months and years before she eventually has an affair and/or files for divorce.

Men Have Done, and Will Do, Great Things

For all of the bad things men have done and will do in the future, guys are still pretty awesome.

For every horrible story you can tell me with a man at its center, I can share dozens more about guys who did great things—brave warriors, courageous leaders, wise teachers, loving husbands and fathers, genius inventors, inspiring artists, disciplined athletes, and brilliant thinkers who helped shape and change the world in positive ways with better ideas.

I still get the occasional note accusing me of man-bashing and betraying my own gender. The last thing I want to be is someone adding to the negativity.

What I’d like to be is a teacher because I think there are men out there who I’m capable of helping, even though I’ve always felt like an asshole trying. As if I somehow know more about life or relationships or anything than any other guys out there.

What’s worse than some know-it-all jerkoff acting like he knows more than you, or is in any way better than you?

Burning sensations while peeing? Traffic jams when you’re in a hurry? That whiny cartoon kid, Caillou?

Pretty sure that’s the entire list.

I’m not on any one group’s side. I’m on EVERYONE’S side. Men are going to have a lot to do with humanity’s future turnaround when the tenets of good relationships become common knowledge instead of the annoyingly huge secret they seem to be today.

Sometimes I Can Help, So I Must

I’m not better nor smarter than you. I’m probably worse and dumber.

But I might still be able to help.

Maybe not you. Maybe not your partner. Maybe not your friends nor family. But someone, probably.

I hit a couple of quasi-significant personal milestones recently.

I turned 38 about a week and a half ago.

We never feel as old as we are, right? That number doesn’t seem as significant to me as it did when my parents were my age. But 38-year-olds can know things. I’ve been eligible for the U.S. presidency for three years now.

Also, April 1 marked four years since my marriage ended. Four years that I have spent dissecting my failed relationship from every angle I could think of, and always asking: What could I have done differently that would have led to a happier result for my wife, son, friends and extended family?

If my divorce was someone else’s fault, then that means it’s a lottery. Dumb luck. It means I am a helpless slave and victim to the passing whims and fancies of whoever I date or marry, and have absolutely no control over what happens to me or my young son.

But if I’m responsible—and I am responsible—then there’s hope. I don’t have to be afraid of it happening again.

My marriage ending was the worst thing that ever happened to me. There is no close second-place thing. Yesterday morning while I was dropping my son off at school, he told me he doesn’t like Mondays because no matter which of his parents he just spent a fun weekend with, he knows he’s probably not going to see them again until Wednesday evening and that it makes him sad.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since. What that child has to carry because of me.

He’s in third grade, so he hasn’t asked me any hard questions yet. But he probably will someday.

That’s when he’ll realize that his father failed his mother, and by proxy, him. That I made his life shittier than necessary because I too often made things about me when they needed to be about them—him and his mom.

When we put others first, our lives are satisfying and filled with meaning.

When we put ourselves first, we damage others—often without realizing it—and that damage can change the trajectory of our lives and of those closest to us. And then we inadvertantly damage ourselves.

It can ruin us. Poison us. Break us.

Broken people raising broken children.

Broken fathers raising broken sons.

Broken men raising broken boys and girls who don’t always learn how to be whole again. Girls who may never learn what it’s supposed to look and feel like when a husband loves a wife. Boys who may never learn what it looks like to love and serve our families, to lead humbly, and how the rewards of unbreakable marriage and family is much greater than the short-term highs of their individual pursuits.

Boys and girls become the new men and women.

And then they don’t teach their sons the things they needed to know. So the boys grow up repeating the sins of their fathers.

Not because they’re bad. Just because they didn’t know better. Because their parents didn’t know. And their grandparents didn’t know. And neither did anyone else.

Marriage is difficult, and everyone “knows” it just like we know that fire can burn us.

Still we often learn the hard way while our relationships crumble around us just like we can only feel the intense pain of severe burning in the middle of the fire.

And too often, for a long time afterward.

NOTE: Some may cover familiar territory but the next several posts will cover topics I believe are The Things We Don’t Teach Men. The things we aren’t teaching people. Things that are critical to couples and families not breaking from within on account of a bunch of good people who just didn’t know better. Yes, it’s a huge pile of broad generalizations. But as the emails from guys “like me” continue to come in, I am always struck by how similar all the stories are. Time to talk more about it.

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What Men Should Learn From Straight Women Choosing Other Women

two women having dinner

These two ladies are just as likely to be business associates or friends as to be on a date. But whatever. Women seem to be choosing other women over men with greater frequency. Men should try to understand why. (Image/Legal Executive Institute)

I think women, with increasing frequency, are choosing romantic relationships with other women over men because of how poorly men perform the relationship functions women value most.

A few notes:

  1. Yes. I meant to type that.
  2. “…with increasing frequency” is difficult to quantify. Maybe we simply hear about it more than we used to because of a reduced fear of judgment, or because of the wide reach of the internet. University-based studies from 2009 through today suggest more females are self-identifying as bisexual or lesbian (15-ish%) than males are as gay (5-ish%), and that 60-ish% of females, regardless of sexual labels, find other women attractive (in a more-than-a-friend way).
  3. When I talk about “women” or “men” as groups, I’m talking about general, observable behaviors. I’m in no way taking the stance that all women or all men fit into a particular stereotype.
  4. I’m fully aware that certain groups of people believe homosexuality to be gravely sinful. I have as much respect for people adhering to their faith and personal values as I do for people in their romantic relationships, regardless of who they love. I don’t take kindly to the moral judgment of strangers, ESPECIALLY on matters of homosexuality because of the nauseating levels of hypocrisy from those who turn a blind eye to “straight-sex sinfulness.” I’ll be totally cool with widespread outspoken condemnation of homosexuality just as soon as the morally righteous outcry toward sinful heterosexual behavior matches it. Because only hypocrites like hypocrisy.
  5. I believe this trend will continue until men collectively commit to not doing all of the Shitty Husband things most of us (accidentally!) do, OR reject relationships with women, forsake family life, and go all-in on A.I. Ex Machina-like sexbots or whatever.

Women Know What Women Want

An excellent writer and speaker named Glennon Doyle Melton had a relatively high-profile separation from her husband recently, just days before her second bestselling book Love Warrior (much of which focused on her marriage to her husband) hit store shelves.

Yesterday, a friend texted me out of the blue: “Glennon is a lesbian. FYI.”

To which I replied: “Shut the eff up. Did she write it?”

“Yep.”

Glennon is now in a relationship with U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach, who became a national celebrity when the U.S. women’s team won the 2015 World Cup.

I was surprised because it still feels unexpected to me to see or hear news that a long-time married mother with children is in a romantic relationship with another woman, but outside of that, I find it totally unsurprising.

During some cursory Googling, I stumbled on this 2010 article from Psychology Today reminding me that Katy Perry, Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Anna Paquin, Megan Fox, and Drew Barrymore have all publically identified themselves as bisexual.

You’d have thought the world had ended in 1997 when Ellen DeGeneres announced her relationship with actress Anne Heche.

Now, no one cares. Maybe that’s why these incidents are more common today. I don’t pretend to know.

But I DO pretend to know that women generally demonstrate infinitely more understanding about what women want in their intimate relationships than men do.

And given how much I am bombarded with stories of unhappy wives in total agony from how their husbands make them feel, and how much Google traffic this blog gets from women searching for answers to things like “Why doesn’t my husband love me?” or “Why doesn’t my husband care about my feelings?,” it makes a lot of sense to me.

Here’s the hard truth most of these guys need to hear:

There is no amount of money or material goods you can provide to fulfill her wants.

There is no amount of physical fitness, strength, or life skills you can possess to make her feel safe.

There is no amount of penis length or girth, or sexual prowess you can possess to make her forget how bad she feels the rest of the time.

All of your money and your badass-ness and your porn-star-ness can easily earn you a big, fat “Umm, I like women better than you” if you continue to neglect all the things she says she needs.

I have bad news.

You thinking or feeling that her stated needs are unimportant, try as you might, will NOT magically make them unimportant. The things that matter to her, MATTER to her, even when they don’t matter to you. It’s surprisingly easy to float through life not realizing or forgetting that, and then getting divorced because of it.

What She Wants

Another Important Note: No one—certainly not me—knows what an individual human being wants. I’m just some divorced idiot who got all of this stuff wrong when I was married.

The most-effective way of learning the “secrets,” is to respect the first item on this list as if it will ultimately dictate the health of your relationship. Because something simple like LISTENING will.

1. To Feel Seen and Heard

This mostly means “to be listened to.” Not obeyed. Just, heard. Guys like me have an amazing capacity for caring about whatever we happen to care about in the moment, which results in us seeming disinterested or dismissive of something our partners are sharing. Global history is filled with stories of people who wouldn’t tolerate their voices going unheard. So they either revolted or fled. Divorce works that way too.

You know how a bunch of U.S. residents said they were going to move to Canada or Europe if Donald Trump won the election? Well, your unhappy wives are like the disgruntled citizens, and Canada and Europe represent a lesbian oasis of like-minded comfort and acceptance.

2. To Feel Safe

This doesn’t mean you can beat up the guy who gets handsy with her in a crowded bar, or that you can skillfully defend your home from intruders.

It means she feels safe in every way one can. That you can reliably be counted on to have her back and be a steady presence in good times and in bad. That you can be trusted. Not just with sexual fidelity, but all of Life’s tasks and hardships through the years. That you can be a great parent to her children, who she loves intensely and strives to protect. That you can provide financially, or at least NOT be a financial drain on the long-term stability of your household.

All of that feeds into feeling emotionally and psychologically safe and secure. It’s much more than just physical safety.

And to that end, you MUST be a safe refuge for her to discuss the things that matter in her life, including her relationship with you. She must be able to describe her hopes and dreams and stresses and fears WITHOUT you mocking or judging her for it. She must be able to tell you that things you do and say sometimes add to her stresses or fears without you attacking her out of defensiveness.

If she doesn’t feel as if it’s safe to speak to you, she won’t. Eventually, she’ll find someone who will. Sometimes, that person will be another woman who knows—in her core—how vulnerable and dangerous it feels to live with someone who frequently creates negative life experiences rather than positive ones.

3. To Feel Sexually Desired

This is VERY simple. When you two first got together, you said and did things that conveyed appreciation for how she made you feel, how attractive you thought she was, and that you were interested in her sexually.

The thoughtful actions you took and words you said authentically and transparently demonstrated that sexual desire.

The emotional and psychological damage adults take on and/or accidentally inflict on each other throughout the course of a marriage and the trials of adulthood can’t be overstated. Husbands and wives are like two countries who sign a Peace Accord with the best of intentions, but then through the course of normal life, accidentally fire heavy artillery at one another which occasionally lead to short-lived, but bloody, invasions.

We ACCIDENTALLY turn off our partners sexually simply by being ourselves and not realizing certain actions cause the deterioration of those feelings in the other person. No one WANTS to be unattractive to their partners. It just sort of happens when we keep having the same fight over and over and over again.

But when people are MINDFUL of this, and intentionally do things to make our partners feel loved and wanted, much, if not all, of the bad stuff goes away.

Because women frequently demonstrate more thoughtfulness and emotional awareness than men, it’s not surprising to me that other women more effectively convey feelings of desire than many men do.

4. To Feel Appreciated

Everyone likes feeling appreciated. Demonstrating authentic gratitude is a pretty solid Life tip, across the board. But there is a dynamic in male-female relationships that rears its head with great frequency, and is responsible for much of the broken families scattered out there. And that’s the dynamic where wives are forced into the position of managing most Life Tasks around the house. Keeping track of schedules. Packing school lunches. Making doctor appointments and transporting the kids there. Responding to party invitations. Buying the gifts. Planning meals. Acquiring groceries. Paying bills on time. Orchestrating social calendars and holiday plans. Handling school-related matters. Keeping the house clean. Managing laundry. Cooking meals. Washing and putting away dishes. And often going to work just as many hours as her husband.

Sometimes, after all of that, he leaves a dirty dish by the sink for her to clean up even after she’s asked him nicely to not. Sometimes, he continues to do it anyway, and calls her a petty nag for getting upset about it. Often, that guy ends up divorced.

Some wives want more ACTUAL help and to be respected when such requests are made.

But sometimes, wives aren’t even asking for more effort. Sometimes, wives and mothers take pleasure in the skillful management and service of their families and household.

And sometimes the only thing they really crave in return is genuine appreciation.

To not be taken for granted and treated like a housemaid.

Perhaps other women who have walked a mile in those same “housemaid” shoes understand how to never make the person they love feel that way.

‘You Mean You Want Men to Act Like Women?’

Nope.

I want you to learn how to anticipate other people’s needs and adjust your behavior on a case-by-case basis REGARDLESS of that person’s gender, or any other born-this-way quality they have.

That’s what Life’s most successful people do in every imaginable scenario.

Women, for reasons I won’t pretend to know, demonstrate greater skill and competence at anticipating and meeting the needs of others than men do.

Period.

And THAT skill is an incredibly important factor in relationship success.

Learn and develop it, and I think Life gets a lot better because I think the quality of our human relationships affect our lives more than anything outside of certain health conditions.

Ignore it? And I think you’ll spend the rest of your life alone or in and out of unpleasant relationships waiting for Life to bend to your will, only to eventually realize, it never really does.

Maybe some of these women always liked women more than men, and only now feel safe to pursue those relationships.

Maybe some of these women woke up one day after years of heterosexual attraction only to discover those thoughts and feelings had been replaced by new ones.

Or just maybe, a critical mass of women have tried over and over and over again to find a life of contentment and peace with various men through the years, only to have the few they trusted fully, disappoint, betray, or fail them.

And just maybe that pain was so great, that it’s just not worth it anymore.

And just maybe, while we continue to desperately cling to our Man Cards, women will continue to pursue the comfort and safety of other women while we complain to our buddies about their petty needs and fragile emotions as the dust collects on our furniture and we awkwardly fold another load of laundry.

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The Times When Wives Owe Husbands Sex

wedding rings wifely obligation

(Image/lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com)

I haven’t read the statutes or consulted an attorney, but it’s conceivable to me that a wife could owe her husband sex if she is employed by a brothel in a place where prostitution is legal, and her husband is a paying customer.

But even that’s debatable. Panera Bread once gypped my son and I out of the cookies we ordered and paid for with our takeout sandwiches. That was, like, three months ago and I’ve probably been back a dozen times since.

Does Panera owe me cookies? Do they?!?!

But seriously. The question of whether married people are obligated to have sex with their spouse is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.

Because the word “owe” isn’t limited to legal, enforceable or contractual obligations. It’s also defined as “to be under a moral obligation to give someone something.”

The most-fair question I can think to ask is this: In instances where two people marry in good faith, sincerely pledging sexual faithfulness to one another for life, could it be said that they have a moral obligation to fulfill one another’s sexual desires?

About Wifely Duties and Submission

The concept of “wifely duties” is rooted in the Christian idea of wives submitting to their husbands. There’s a better-than-average chance you’ve attended a wedding or church service where you heard it. It gives every champion of human equality heartburn. And I imagine it’s incredibly uncomfortable for women (and possibly some men) who’ve been abused at one time or another by a domineering tyrant. I grew up attending church on Sundays, have never been abused by a domineering tyrant, and it STILL makes me uncomfortable.

We should talk about that.

There are two things to deal with before continuing.

The Two Kinds of Sexism

There is overt and intentional sexism perpetrated by men who truly believe they are better than women, and actively work to raise male power and status at the expense of women.

But there’s also what I call Accidental Sexism. I think it’s secretly a major root cause of modern-day relationship failure. Accidental Sexism is what happens when men assume their wives will pick up after them, fold their clothes, cook them dinner, plan family and social activities, etc. because that’s how they remember it working in their childhood homes.

These men are NOT mindfully trying to demean and disrespect their wives. Bad people do that. Most people are not bad. These men are thoughtlessly replicating behaviors modeled for them in childhood, and then feeling unpleasantly surprised when their idea of being a good husband isn’t actually good enough for their spouses.

These men are good men. They care. Their sexism is unintended. They don’t even think their behavior is actually sexist, because “sexist” = “bad guy,” and they know they’re not bad guys.

The Perversion of Christianity

There are huge numbers of Christians who believe the public backlash against Christianity by non-Christians is tantamount to persecution.

This is happening because the actual meaning of the word “Christian” means different things to different people.

There’s the Christian label. A person who was baptized in a Christian church. They check a box on a form, and categorize themselves as Christians. People wearing the Christian label sometimes say and do asshole things. Something evil on colossal levels like drowning children in a bathtub or bombing an abortion clinic, or something on a more Everyday Asshole sort-of level like when I’m behind the wheel and mutter AWFUL things at other drivers that would make Jesus and my grandmother sad.

People see and hear these things and might understandably think: Ugh. Christians are assholes. That’s easy for me to understand because I also think people who do those things (including me and my non-Jesusy driving language) are assholes.

But there’s also what it ACTUALLY means to be a Christian, which at its core is basically: Act like Jesus.

Jesus was solid, across the board. And I’m certainly biased here, but Jesus is hard to pick on. I can tell you things about myself, my son, my parents, and my best friends that I think warrant criticism. But Jesus? I don’t have even one thing. I’ve known plenty of people with major hang-ups regarding Christian churches and faiths, but I’ve still never heard anyone say: “Jesus? That guy was just awful.”

Two dictionary definitions for Christianity:

  1. Treating other people in a kind and generous way.
  2. Being commendably decent or generous.

We’re not discussing theology here. We’re discussing “wifely submission,” and whether it has merit.

The PROBLEM here is that ignorant, sexist men co-opt Bible passages to suit their personal interests and justify spousal abuse.

The Bible doesn’t tell men to MAKE their wives submit.

The Bible tells women to submit to their husbands. The ball is 100 percent in the women’s court.

But there’s more to it than that, and lots of men like to ignore it because the truth is inconvenient.

The Bible ACTUALLY says: (Ephesians 5:22) “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”

Let’s deal in reality, because I like it better than Bullshit Land.

  1. Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians between 62-80 A.D. That’s at least 1,932 years ago for those of you counting at home.
  2. The assumption being that everyone paying attention to Paul’s writings were going to be “godly” people. People taking seriously the idea of “serving the Lord” in their personal lives.
  3. So, all of this submission talk was rooted in “serving the Lord.” The cultural norm in the year 72 was for women to follow their husbands’ lead. But the culture norm (and ultra-specific Bible-based expectation) ALSO was for these husbands to be GODLY men. Men of profound character whose family leadership was rooted wholly and completely in humbly serving God and “treating other people in a kind and generous way” or “being commendably decent or generous.”

The men who play the “wifely submission” card in 2016 are not humble. They are not “commendably decent or generous.” They are selfish and abusive, or at the very least, profoundly ignorant.

Conclusion #1: EVEN IF what Paul wrote nearly two millennia ago is the ACTUAL, not-to-be-ignored-lest-ye-be-damned Word of God, the instruction was not: Hey Women! You’re supposed to be your husband’s slave and do whatever he says no matter what! He’s the boss!

The instruction was: IF you marry a godly (holy, not god-like) man, follow his humble and loving lead.

Anything other than that set of conditions renders the agreement null and void.

Conclusion #2: EVEN IF those suggestions are culturally relevant in 2016, they only apply to two people who are married, practice Christianity together, and who entered the marriage with the understanding that, so long as the husband behaves as holy men do, that his wife will defer to him on familial matters. And just so we’re absolutely clear, “bring me a sandwich and give me a blowjob” cannot be even loosely connected to the Christian God of the Bible.

Conclusion #3: Virtually every person playing the Wifely Submission card either: A. Has a great marriage consisting of two people in complete spiritual and philosophical alignment with one another, or B. Is a HUGE, disingenuous, sexist, and profoundly stupid asshole.

So, When Do Wives Owe Husbands Sex?

Maybe the prostitution scenario in a business-agreement sort-of way. I’ll let legal experts weigh in on the legal definition of the word “owe.”

How about in the general sense of the word? I suppose if a wife promised to have sex with him in writing or verbally (and ideally while wanting to, and not out of obligation), then maybe she would “owe” him the way I “owe” my mom a phone call because I didn’t call her over the weekend like a good son.

But the real heart of the matter is this: Do wives owe husbands duty-sex by virtue of their marriage?

Are wives “morally obligated” to sexually relieve or satisfy their husbands’ urges?

If while attending a large holiday gathering with family and friends and children, a husband wanted to have sex on the living-room floor in front of everyone, would his wife be dutifully obligated to?

If during a business trip to New York a husband wanted his wife home in Chicago to have sex with him, but she couldn’t because there were 790 miles between them, would his wife be failing in her dutiful obligations?

If during hospitalization after being involved in a car accident which left his wife in a coma, or body casts, a husband wanted his wife to have sex with him, is she dutifully obligated to?

Too extreme?

What if she has the flu?

What if her best friend died that day?

What if the family pet needs taken to the emergency vet?

What if she ran a marathon in the morning and says she’s too tired?

What if she didn’t get much sleep because of a sick child and says she’s too sleepy?

What if she had a rough day at work and simply isn’t in the mood?

Or. What if she just doesn’t want to?

What if after years of feeling neglected emotionally and frustrated by constant invalidation, she doesn’t feel sexually attracted to him nor safe engaging in physically intimate acts with him?

Where does a proponent of Wifely Submission draw the line between Good Enough reasons and Not Good Enough reasons?

And who gets to decide? The man? Because he was taught growing up that being “in charge” at his house is his birthright by virtue of having a Y chromosome?

Sorry, Guys. You Must Do Better Than That

Nope. Being male does not, and never has, grant license for the sexual decision-making of another person.

The Bible doesn’t say it, and neither does anyone you’d want your daughter going out on dates with.

Remember the famous JFK quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?”

Great quote.

Applies to marriage. Marriage is NOT about what it can do for you, or more specifically, what your wife can do for you. Seth Adam Smith said it best in his fantastic Marriage Isn’t For You, which you should totally read if you haven’t.

Marriage is about what YOU can give to your marriage. It’s about how YOU can make your spouse’s life better. I feel comfortable saying that unwanted sex NEVER makes someone’s life better.

I can help you guys out with the whole sex thing, if you’re struggling.

The solution is amazing, because it benefits EVERYONE involved—you get to have more sex, you get to have sex with a wife who WANTS to have sex with you, your marriage is fantastic, your kids have an infinitely better shot at happiness, and you get to live a fulfilling life which benefits your Mind and Spirit, every bit as much as your penis (or Body, if you prefer).

Because you do not want your wife to have sex with you nearly as much as you want your wife to WANT to have sex with you.

It’s the difference between marriage and divorce. Between happy and miserable.

All you need is a little Magic Sex Potion. You already have the ingredients needed to make it right there at home. You just need the instructions for how to make it. (You’re welcome.)

Do our wives OWE us sex?

The question is totally irrelevant. Because if you’re even asking it, your marriage is a trainwreck.

YOU owe your marriage energy and effort.

YOU owe your spouse love and respect.

YOU owe your family humble, selfless leadership.

When you do these things, there’s rarely a lack of sex in your relationship.

Do our wives owe us sex?

As is too often the case, we’re asking the wrong questions.

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Guest Post: The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

woman being oogled and cat called

(Image/Odyssey)

Editor’s Note:

I’m not going to hold men’s feet to the fire for finding women attractive, and acting like it. We’ve been pummeled with pretty faces and/or sexually suggestive marketing messages since having the awareness to notice TV ads, magazine covers and highway billboards. Even if those didn’t exist, I think men would still feel physically attracted to women. (Because that’s the signal the storks need to deliver the babies, of course.) And that’s okay. It’s not wrong.

But treating people as “things” is. If the Universe saw fit to magically transport a starving child to a place just outside the front door of everyone with middle-class-and-up income levels, there wouldn’t be any more starving children. We’re all so good at Out of Sight, Out of Mind. I’m a freaking master.

Men sometimes treat women (who aren’t their daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, etc.) like things. Their very own animated masturbation devices to do with as they please. Not unlike Shitty Husbandry, I perceive this to be more the symptom of thoughtless action than calculated abuse.

My blog-friend Gretchen Kelly is an excellent writer, and last year she published the following post on her blog. It profoundly affected my understanding of the everyday female experience.

I forwarded it to a few of my female friends, asking: “Is it like this for you, too?”

They all said yes.

By Gretchen Kelly

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.

It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

So maybe they don’t know.

Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing.

Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

“It’s the reality of being a woman in our world. It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.”

We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.

We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell our friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.

But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.

“Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.”

It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.

The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on a regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to, that guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman.

We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.

So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.

…..

About the Author

Gretchen Kelly writes at Drifting Through My Open Mind. You can also see her work in The Huffington Post. Connect with Gretchen on Twitter.

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Decent Men in Indecent Times: Rape, Sex & Locker Room Talk

Harvey Two-Face Dent in The Dark Knight

(Image/Warner Bros.)

Not long before my high school graduation, one of my friends said another one of my friends raped her.

No witnesses.

A classic case of He Said, She Said.

Half of my classmates were at an off-site retreat. I was one of the student leaders, which was as much of a surprise to me as it might be to you.

In my first and only God’s-honest attempt at self-improvement and public vulnerability in an effort to help others before writing here, my two friends — let’s call them Joe and Sally — decided to make out in one of the retreat center’s private dorm rooms during a break between speakers.

In the middle of the next speaker’s talk, ANOTHER one of my friends assaulted the boy, in what seemed to everyone in the room like a bizarrely unprovoked attack. Chairs fell. Profanity was spoken. Students shrieked.

Some of the guys restrained the attacker. This was a scene none of us small-town, small-school Ohioans had experienced before. Padded hits at football practice and occasionally aggressive shoving during playground basketball games was about as violent as it got.

Word quickly spread as it does among high schoolers: “Sally says Joe raped her.”

I think maybe I didn’t want to deal with being the kind of person who could be friends with a rapist.

What do you even say to something like that? When I was a freshman, one of the sophomore boys was hit in the head with a golf club by some kid from another school. That other kid was convicted of felonious assault. And that was my first and only experience with felony crime until now.

Rape. Jesus. Rape.

On the Horrible Things You Can Do To People List, I always figured that was #2 behind murder.

And now, one of my buddies was being accused of doing THAT. We weren’t lifelong best friends or anything, but Joe and I spent a fair amount of time together outside of school our senior year.

He was nice, you know? Like me. One of our best basketball players. I’d never heard anyone say anything bad about him, never experienced anything bad with him, and didn’t know anyone who didn’t like him.

But now this.

Rape. Did he or didn’t he?

No one wants to pick sides, but I think everyone did.

He was kicked out of school and spent a month or so in jail. He’s probably a registered sex offender. I’ve never looked.

I only saw him once after that.

I stopped by his house after he got out of jail. I never knew anyone who had ever been in jail before. I sat on a porch swing with him on the back patio, smoking Marlboro Lights, and checking in on him.

He said it was consensual. That he didn’t know why she would do that to him.

Sally ended up going to the same university as me, and even ended up in the same residence hall our freshman year. I was always polite when we’d cross paths, but I never made any attempts to include her in my social circle.

I think, if I’m being honest with myself, I wanted to believe Joe more than I wanted to believe Sally. I think I wanted to preserve my emotional attachment to my friend. I think maybe I didn’t want to deal with being the kind of person who could be friends with a rapist.

I think, if I’m being honest with myself, had Bill Cosby only ever had one accuser, I’d have done the same thing with him.

I think, if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve been an unwitting participant in Rape Culture, a term I’ve only recently come to understand.

To be clear, I have no idea what happened that afternoon back on my high school retreat. But I think it’s safe to say that, in the moment, I leaned on the side of victim-blaming someone I also knew to be a decent person.

I think I believed at the time that she said Yes before saying No. So maybe that meant it wasn’t really rape.

I wish I hadn’t thought that.

The Locker Room Talk

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire last weekend after a recording of an 11-year-old conversation circulated globally. On the recording, Trump could be heard saying fairly vile shit about how he treats women he desires sexually, and how he can get away with it because of who he is.

He apologized for the language, describing the exchange as “locker room talk,” which I think he meant as: “Boys will be boys, you know? In private, we talk about sex like this. It’s not like REAL LIFE or anything. I don’t ACTUALLY sexually assault people, so it’s cool. Let’s talk about something else.”

I don’t know what other guys discuss in other places. I only know what I’ve said and heard.

And to be sure, I have heard, probably said, and certainly laughed at, HORRIBLE sexually explicit comments made about women — strangers or the wife/girlfriend of someone I knew.

Comments that would almost certainly be considered demeaning and offensive to the human being talked about, or which confirmed that the person to whom I was speaking, cheated on his partner and/or suggested the desire to.

Comments about her ass. Her chest. Her lips. Her face. Her flexibility. Her technique. Her whatever.

Sometimes “good,” as in they are desirable. Sometimes “bad,” as in they are not.

Pretty much everyone in my general age range has heard the lines, I suspect.

“Did you see her ass? Do you have any idea what I would do to that?”

“Did you see the tits on her? I want to put my face between them.”

“Oh man, did you see that butter face? Great body, though. Think she’d let me put a bag over her head?”

Or, maybe just some TMI commentary from one of the guys about what he allegedly did with whoever. Maybe some of it is true.

It’s pretty gross. It is. And it happens every day, all the time, with men of all ages, from the locker room to the corporate boardroom.

It’s common. And “common” things can sometimes make us feel as if they’re “okay” or “normal” like that one time when white people systematically enslaved people with different color skin, and it was somehow debated like an everyday political issue.

Because something is common does not necessarily make it okay.

Does the prevelance of lewd sexual banter exacerbate rape culture? To what extent has men’s collective silence contributed to the problem?

Thought of the Day

If Muslims of Middle Eastern descent “deserve” squinty-eyed suspicion and discrimination because most terrorists are members of that group, do Men, in turn, deserve squinty-eyed suspicion and discrimination because most rapists are men?

Expectant fathers sometimes actively root for their pregnant wives to have boys. It’s NOT just because they love the idea of playing catch with them in the back yard. It’s because of the old adage: “With boys, you only have to worry about one penis. But with a girl, you have to worry about EVERY penis.”

When she — whoever “she” may be — is just some theoretical piece-of-ass fantasy, men who engage in “locker room talk” will engage in locker room talk. But when that human being is someone they KNOW, everything changes dramatically.

Whether it’s a wife, girlfriend, daughter, mother, sister, cousin, friend — whatever. “C’mon guys. Don’t talk about my [Insert Person Who Matters Here] that way.”

And that’s pretty much always respected and honored in a Bro Code sort-of way, OR it’s said in a circle of such close friends that the biggest clown in the group can get away with ruthless jokes at the requestor’s loved-one’s expense, and everyone will laugh about it because “it’s just a funny joke.”

I don’t know that any of that is somehow defensible.

I just know that’s how it is sometimes when you’re “out with the guys” in the world I experience. It happens infinitely less as a father in my 30s than it did as a younger guy, for whatever that’s worth.

I can only assume this is an unwelcome and unpleasant component of Common Guy Behavior for many people, and something that could fairly be accused of contributing to rape culture.

But I wanted to make one thing abundantly clear: I have, not one time, seen or heard one of my friends or even just some dude I kind-of know say ANYTHING, EVER that wasn’t within the context of consensual sex.

It’s not okay to describe behavior consistent with gross sexual imposition or sexual assault, and chalk it up to “Boys will be boys!”

Want to know how big of a Shit-fuck McGee someone you know is? Just ask them about this.

“Do you think rapey comments and jokes, even in a locker-room setting are normal and/or funny?”

Anything other than “No” = Total Shit-fuck McGee. Sorry, but it’s true.

Even the biggest assholes I know and love don’t speak that way. Not in locker rooms. Not anywhere.

Do Wives Owe Their Husbands Sex?

If a man with a higher sex drive than his wife gets married, and then his wife denies him sex, is there ever a point where it becomes “acceptable,” or maybe just “understandable,” if he has an affair?

I have strong opinions about people who feel entitled to sex. That includes husbands and boyfriends who feel entitled to sexual gratification from their partners. That they’re “owed” it, somehow.

I’ll look forward to talking about it with you in the next post.

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How Colorblindness Can Destroy Your Marriage

(Image/ewao.com)

(Image/ewao.com)

What’s more damaging to relationships: Inventing problems that don’t actually exist, or denying the existence of those that do?

I felt like I was on another planet, sitting next to my wife in front of the marriage counselor.

Hearing her tell it, you’d think our marriage was a trainwreck.

Hearing her tell it, you’d think I neglected my wife, constantly choosing other things over her and our family.

Hearing her tell it, you’d think I was a shitty husband.

I knew she was wrong.

But I can’t be a shitty husband! Those are the guys who drink excessively, hit their wives or call them names. Those are the guys who gamble away the family savings account, are never home, sleep around, and do a bunch of drugs or whatever.

Right? If a bad guy showed up at the house, pointed a gun at us and said: “It’s either you or her,” I’d be terrified, sure, but I’m standing in front of her.

NEGLECT! That’s insane. What about all those guys who go out drinking with the guys every night? THAT is neglect. I don’t do things like that. So I can’t possibly be neglectful.

Our marriage couldn’t possibly be a trainwreck.

If our marriage was a trainwreck, SURELY I would want to get out of it, too. I mean, I don’t want anything to do with trainwrecks or subjecting myself or a child to anything horrible or dysfunctional.

After more than 30 years of living, I thought I had a decent handle on reality.

I had a clean bill of mental health. There was no reason to assume I was crazy or delusional. There was no reason to assume I was evil or out to cause damage.

In fact, there was every reason to assume I was a really nice guy who people mostly enjoyed being around. Given all of the horrible things that happen in the world, one might say my wife was lucky to have someone like me.

I had a hard time sitting there listening to her tell the marriage counselor all of the ways she considered me to be a substandard husband.

I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the really huge assholes out there, and how I wasn’t like them, and just how unfair it felt to sit there listening to her indict me in front of this stranger who doesn’t ever get to see what it’s REALLY like at home.

I was certain I wasn’t certifiably crazy.

I had ample evidence of people liking and trusting me.

It seemed clear by every measurable standard I knew of that I was a “good” and competent human being.

So if she’s saying there are relationship problems, and I’m saying there aren’t, my conclusion was that she must be mistaken. She had to be wrong.

Hearing her tell it, we had a lousy marriage. I took that personally, and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself about it.

When I was asked about the marriage, I only had good things to say. We were two good people who loved one another and could count on the other to always be there.

“In fact, the only things we ever fight about are these little things she wants to turn into big problems,” I’d say. “If she’d stop finding new things to be upset about, everything would be perfect.”

Thought Exercise: Guilty or Innocent?

Imagine being accused of murdering 30 people. Or of being a Columbian drug lord. Or anything really that is so far outside the confines of your reality that when someone accuses you of it, you can just laugh.

When people accuse us of legitimately outrageous things, we don’t generally get angry. You can’t say “Hey Matt! You’re an asshole because you tried to release a poisonous gas in that shopping mall in Berlin, Germany in 1973!!!” and get any kind of rise out of me.

I’ve never possessed poisonous gas (nor tried to harm anyone). I’ve never been to Berlin. And I was still six years shy of being alive in 1973.

It’s laughable. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t hurt to be accused of outrageous things.

So, what might it mean that when my wife accused me of being a shitty husband, that it did hurt and cause a bunch of discomfort?

I’m Going to Say This As Gently As I Can

You’re probably colorblind and it’s probably damaging your relationships.

Imagine the world before vision specialists were able to prove colorblindness is real.

How would two people looking at the same colored object ever come to an agreement on what they were experiencing?

Person #1 says it’s orange. Person #2 says it’s green. Person #1 says it’s yellow. Person #2 says it’s pink.

They’re both correct.

AND they’re both incorrect.

Because as much as some people don’t want to admit it, perspective, context, and frame of reference DO impact how true or false something is from time to time.

Maybe the reason you and your partner are both so certain of yourselves while you continue to have The Same Fight over and over and over again is because you’re BOTH right.

It’s frustrating when you know something is green but the other person insists it’s orange. But I think reasonable people can question whether those disagreements are grounds for breaking up marriages and families.

But what about when the “colorblindness” is about more than just identifying color?

What if the person who sees green is being hurt?

I’m not talking about bullshit hurt, either. I’m not talking about crying over spilled milk. I’m talking about situations where someone takes damage on the inside.

Is it really so hard to imagine a scenario where the person who sees orange ignores the person seeing green’s cries for change or help over something they can’t see, feel or experience for themselves?

When You Talk: Do You Want to Win, or Understand?

Another thing people don’t always like talking about is the topic of behavioral traits by gender. Some traits are prevalent in men. Others are prevalent in women. It creates arguments when people are jerks about it. I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying someone smarter than me noticed how men and women tend to communicate during conversation and it’s worth thinking about if you dislike divorce, missing your children, and frequent sobbing.

I was trying to read about football when Football Perspective’s Chase Stuart introduced me to communication concepts I’d never heard of before: The Rapport Dimension and The Status Dimension. In short, the “rapport dimension” is about using conversation to connect with the person you’re speaking with, and the “status dimension” is about looking awesome by sounding funny or smart or whatever.

As you might have already guessed, women more often use conversation as an attempt to build rapport with the person they’re speaking with. And men? Men often use conversation as an attempt to prove how brilliant and desirable and successful they are. Men often use conversation to increase their “status.”

Pardon the Inceptiony nature of this, but Stuart’s article references a Vox article about presidential campaigning which included a linguist’s observations that caught Stuart’s attention. From the Vox piece:

“’Listening is something women value almost above everything else in relationships,’ says Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown linguist who studies differences in how men and women communicate. ‘The biggest complaint women make in relationships is, “He doesn’t listen to me.”

“Tannen’s research suggests a reason for the difference: Women, she’s found, emphasize the ‘rapport dimension’ of communication — did a particular conversation bring us closer together or further apart? “Men, by contrast, emphasize the ‘status dimension’ — did a conversation raise my status compared to yours?

“Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies.”

Just like the people we love who are diagnosed with colorblindness, maybe we need to learn how to trust that some of their experiences are fundamentally different than ours.

We don’t say: “Haha, you stupid moron!!! Of course it’s orange and not green!!! Dumbass!!!”

We understand that they literally see a different thing. We have context for the disconnect.

We don’t assume we know what it’s like to see what they see.

So we ask good questions. We listen.

Not to “win” and look awesome. Simply to understand. To build rapport. To connect.

Maybe there’d be a lot less brokenness that way.

Maybe then it would seem like we’re all living on the same planet.

Maybe then it wouldn’t matter so much what colors we see.

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