Tag Archives: Men

I Didn’t Trust My Wife Long Before She Stopped Trusting Me

Trust dissolving

(Image/equippingministries.com)

I trusted my wife with everything I thought was important.

I trusted her with everything that mattered to me.

I trusted her to honor our marriage vows. I trusted her to not kill me in my sleep. I trusted her to conceive, deliver and mother my children. I trusted her to not commit major crimes. I trusted her to not clean out our bank accounts and disappear. I trusted her to behave in mature, intelligent, socially acceptable ways when we were out together. I trusted that my wife was who she said she was, and that I’d made a wise and acceptable decision to choose her as my life-long partner in marriage, parenting, money, co-habitation, and whatever else the future may deliver.

But I didn’t trust my wife with everything.

I didn’t trust her on matters I didn’t perceive to be important, such as our respective preferences for different types of food or drink or music or movies or personal hobbies or weekend activities, etc.

Cheering from the stands of a New Year’s Day college football bowl game, I was emotionally invested in the outcome, because my favorite team winning mattered to me.

My wife thought football was a little bit dumb and boring, and was infinitely more interested in what I’d call sideshow attractions, like the marching bands and cheerleaders.

Sitting among 75,000 screaming fans, with millions more watching at home on TV, and feeling those intense moments of anxiety as the clock counted down with the game in the balance, and then—MAGIC—something unexpected and glorious happens to secure unlikely victory. JOY. Total strangers embracing with happy tears streaming down our faces. VICTORY.

My wife thought it was all a little ridiculous. A bunch of adults investing themselves emotionally in something silly like football. She loved the art and showmanship of the marching bands, baton twirlers and dancers, and there was nothing anyone could say, nor anything she could witness that would change her mind or make her conclude anything other than: football is stupid and marching band stuff is awesome.

I didn’t trust my wife’s opinions when they conflicted with mine.

And in and of itself, that’s probably not particularly weird or harmful. But when combined with the following truth, I think you stamp your divorce papers long before anyone ever realizes there’s a problem.

I didn’t trust my wife’s feelings.

If my wife was upset about something—independent of my involvement—it’s fair to say I defaulted to a position of: She’s overreacting again.

I didn’t always come right out and say that. If I wasn’t defending myself against some perceived criticism, I’d exercise as much diplomacy as possible.

But she’s smart and perceptive. If I didn’t agree with her conclusions, I usually said so, and tried to offer reasons why.

No matter how valid my reasons, or how sound my logic, or how well-intentioned I was being, this little song and dance usually resulted in another marriage fight.

I thought I was right. I thought she was wrong. And I believe Right should always win out over Wrong.

And in a vacuum, I still believe that. Right should trump Wrong.

But marriages are not vacuums.

Love matters.

And loving and honoring one’s partner and working for the benefit of her or his emotional health and welfare, is INFINITELY more important than winning arguments about marching bands vs. football, or the significance of leaving a dirty dish by the sink.

StillTryingHard asked:

“From the male perspective—what is the impact of loss of trust from the wife on the male psyche? How does this impair ability to function in the relationship and does the despair it causes just result in giving up trying to regain it? Not sexual infidelity loss of trust, but honestly worded and kind explanation of why the wife feels like the parent, how repeated secrets and their discovery makes the wife wonder what the next one will be and how learning of secret emotional relationships makes the wife hate his password protected always present iPhone.
“To what extent (as a man) do ‘you’ see it as the wife’s job to fix her shit? I know your answer—but around trust and facing loss of it, what do men need to hear to make it safe to be vulnerable to their vulnerable partner?”

A Different Kind of Answer

StillTryingHard asked for my take on the polar-opposite scenario in a marriage.

She asked me to talk about what happens inside the male mind when his wife demonstrates a distrust of him.

And I hope STH will forgive me for providing what might appear to be a counter-intuitive response (we can and should talk about this more in the comments!), but the above scenario and general mindset is what I believe the actual problem to be.

No “male behavior” encompasses all men, and no “female behavior” accurately describes the actions of all women. But men and women often display tendencies that cut to the heart of the whole Battle of the Sexes/Mars-Venus conversation.

Out here in the world, the Men Are Pigs brigade can blame men for everything while the Red Pill-Swallowing Manosphere can point fingers at women, and the consequences—on a case-by-case basis—might be minor.

Maybe it’s limited to an impolite exchange of comments on the internet, or a group of men swapping stories after a Saturday morning round of golf, or a group of women doing the same at the spa. It’s not ideal, but it’s mostly contained.

In a marriage between a man and a woman? Where the break-up will fundamentally change the lives of both people, their children, their finances, their friends and family, and unknown other ripple effects?

There, the stakes are a bit higher.

I don’t know that I particularly care about the women that hate men because they’ve had a lifetime of bad experiences with them. Doesn’t it make sense for certain women to have their guards up with men after the previous five or eight or 15 that they’ve dated/loved/lived with/slept with, etc. all turned out to be negative life experiences?

And isn’t that also true for certain men? If they’ve been lied to, manipulated, or cheated on by women they believed to love them?

We can’t make people like and respect each other, unfortunately.

But, in MARRIAGE?

What could POSSIBLY be ambiguous about publicly stated vows like “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad”? Or “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”? Or “until death do us part”?

We can be dicks to one another here on the internet or to strangers on the street with little immediate consequence.

It spreads hate. It extinguishes light. It perpetuates fear.

But we can do it, and in that moment, an individual’s life or group of family members’ lives might not be adversely affected forever.

But when we do it in our marriages, we break things inside others and ourselves that I’m not sure can ever be fixed.

I have a little boy in third grade. He’s my entire world. Almost every decision I make, big or small, begins and ends with him in mind.

Almost every hardship he faces—all of the little things that present challenges and anxieties and fears and pain in that child’s world—is a direct result of his parents’ divorce.

On occasions where that child is crying in my arms, he’s crying because of circumstances that wouldn’t exist if his mom and dad were still married.

And I’m sure there’s all kinds of blame to go around, but I KNOW why I’m divorced. I know who to blame for those tears.

My wife believed one thing.

I believed something else.

And instead of that being okay like it is when my best friends root for a different sports team or vote for a different political candidate, I didn’t trust her.

No matter how many millions of ways I DID trust her, I didn’t trust that when she told me that something was hurting her or mattered to her, that she was experiencing it accurately.

Didn’t seem like it would hurt to me.

Didn’t seem important from my perspective.

So, when she said something that didn’t align with my experiences, I didn’t trust her.

I didn’t trust her feelings.

I didn’t trust her feelings because they were different than mine.

You can get away with that with your buddies. With your co-workers. With people you want to argue with on the internet.

But when you promise to love and honor someone forever, you damn well better TRUST them when they describe their experiences to you.

Which Came First—His Distrust or Hers?

Men often display a need to be trusted and respected. Bad things tend to happen when they feel otherwise in their relationships.

But when you deny your wife or girlfriend’s right to experience human life in the way they do, calling them wrong, or stupid, or crazy?

When she can’t feel safe talking to you about things that make her feel bad?

When she can’t trust you to take care of her even in matters as seemingly small as a random conversation?

Cause. Effect.

When we love and honor our partners, we go first.

We don’t point fingers. We look in the mirror.

Trust can’t be a thing in a constant state of rebuild.

Trust must be in a perpetual state of accumulation.

Trust shouldn’t be something we react to.

Trust should be the thing we lead with.

These two articles are awesome, and helped me formulate my thoughts here:

1. Men Just Don’t Trust Women. And This is a Problem

2. 5 Stages of Distrust and How it Destroys Your Relationships

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‘Should I Divorce My Wife?’

man drinking alone at bar

(Image/Improvemant.com)

You two are fighting a lot, sleeping in separate places, not having sex, nor really even talking to each other any more than you have to.

You haven’t felt like yourself—the person you remember being growing up—in months. Maybe years.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how you got here.

That’s probably because no one thing caused this. It was a series of many tiny, mostly undetectable moments over the course of months and years, many of which you’ve forgotten about. There may even be things you don’t realize are on the Reasons Why This Is Happening list.

Maybe one of you had a sexual or emotional affair.

Maybe someone very close to one of you died.

Maybe you lost a job or are having financial difficulties.

Those tend to be the big things that camouflage all the little things.

Maybe addiction problems are driving a wedge between you. (Maybe even stuff you don’t consider to be addictions, like video games or pornography.)

Or, maybe you’re a little bit like me and can’t pinpoint exactly where everything went off-track. You only know you’re several years into this marriage and none of it feels like you thought it would back when you said “I do” in front of everyone who mattered.

There’s no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or a specific One Thing that kills a marriage. But the laundry list of “little” things that break relationships and the hearts of those in them all tend to live in the same bucket, and look and sound the same as everyone else’s story.

In other words: No matter what your particular set of shitty-marriage circumstances looks and feels like, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one.

I Was You Once

I don’t talk about it much. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. The time I considered divorcing my wife.

Maybe because it doesn’t fit the narrative of her leaving me and the gargantuan cloud of fuckness that infected me for a long time afterward because it turned out to be the last thing I ever wanted, and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

It was, like, bad.

I cried sometimes and felt like a massive loser and failure. Like I’d let everyone down. And to this day, I have significant shame issues any time a life situation forces me to acknowledge my failed marriage to someone new.

My little boy. My parents and family. Her parents and family. Our friends.

And later, any married person.

It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed all of them, or like you don’t measure up to all the people who didn’t mess up like you did.

(It gets better when you realize that they actually DO mess up and simply mask it well, OR mess up at other life things that you have a good handle on. You’re a human being with inconvenient thoughts and feelings, as well as certain fears, anxieties, insecurities and personal vices. Everyone has that same list of suckage. It’s the minutiae that varies from person to person. You’re not a freak or fundamentally different than anyone else. Promise.)

So, yeah.

I totally considered initiating a divorce with my wife.

I was sleeping in the guest bedroom. She wasn’t particularly nice to me. She didn’t make me feel good. She wasn’t interested in doing anything with me. We never touched one another. After several years of marriage, she’d sometimes leave for work in the morning or go upstairs to bed at night without saying a word to me.

It hurt.

I thought she was a cold, cruel, unforgiving shell of a human being who didn’t like nor love me.

I didn’t think it was fair that I felt the way I did because of how she was treating me. I didn’t think it was fair that she had advocated to get married when I was still young and scared only to be acting this way now. And it seemed obvious that being single again, or maybe with someone else, would drastically improve my day-to-day life experience, mentally and emotionally.

If we didn’t share a beautiful son, and I hadn’t spent the previous 30 years vowing to never get divorced like my parents, I’d have walked out like a huge moronic asshole, and spent the rest of my life telling people over bar drinks what a raw deal I got, and how unlucky her next boyfriend or husband will be.

The Hard Questions

It took me a long time and a bunch of misery and depression to piece the mystery together. To be able to tell the REAL story.

And had it never hurt, maybe I’d have never asked myself the right questions: What have I done to cause this? What could I have done differently to avoid having my marriage and family fall apart? How much of this might have been avoided had I made better, less-selfish choices?

Those are hard questions.

Not if you lie to yourself and others like I would have had I kept blaming my wife for everything and feeling sorry for myself like a helpless butt-hurt victim.

They’re hard questions when you’re willing to tell yourself the truth, even if it’s inconvenient.

Those are the answers that gut you from the inside. They’re the ones that make you throw up with tears streaming down your face.

All those times you told her she was crazy or wrong simply because she disagreed with you. All those times you chose video games and poker night to sitting next to her. All those times you chose fun excursions with your buddies and left her alone, yet never invested a similar amount of time and energy to planning fun things for her and you to do together. All those times you jerked off to porn or thoughts of someone else instead of investing that desire and energy into the person you once loved and wanted so much that YOU asked HER to marry you.

They’re the uncomfortable truths.

The ones that keep you up at night and generate all those What Might Have Beens.

A stronger, more courageous, and all-around better version of yourself emerges once you’ve asked and answered all the hard questions.

Because it typically turns out that you weren’t the stupid idiot who married the wrong girl.

The inconvenient truth is typically that you were the stupid idiot who didn’t know that all those things you were doing instead of paying attention to your wife and marriage were a lot less harmless than you’d thought.

All those things you thought were stupid and petty and nagging, yet would have been so damn easy to accommodate with a tiny bit of graciousness and unselfishness, weren’t so stupid and petty after all.

You didn’t know it would all lead to this moment right now. Standing there with puke on your chin, snot dripping from your nose, and salty tears you never realized were trapped behind those red eyes.

And then it happens. Something unexpectedly good in the midst of all the soul-sucking shittiness.

Hope.

Because now you’ve got a real chance.

Should you divorce your wife?

Who can say?

Before we start to guess, I’d ask you to first take off the mask and make yourself really uncomfortable playing Devil’s Advocate against your self-preservation instincts.

You’ll know you’re on the right track once you start to squirm. You’ll know you’re in the right place once you identify the moments that seemed so benign and unimportant at the time, but actually changed the whole world.

The kind of moments that might crop up again, and give us an opportunity to right a few wrongs.

An opportunity to be courageous.

An opportunity to be men.

Should you divorce your wife?

We can talk about it later. Though the truth is, when the time is right, you’ll already know the answer.

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Can Male Attractiveness and Good Husbandry Coexist?

black father and son

Does this guy automatically stop being attractive to his wife because he proves reliable and safe during their marriage? (Image/Breaking Brown)

When I was a kid, I liked big two-story houses with full basements better than other home designs.

Three stories of living space seemed better than just one. Having a basement seemed better than not having one.

Thirty years later, I’ve spent several thousands of dollars on waterproofing a basement, and walking up and down two flights of stairs to take laundry to and from my laundry room to the second-floor bedrooms. And I’ve also spent time in coastal Florida, witnessing the many benefits of one-story, ranch-style living.

Now I’m less certain which style of home I prefer.

I’ve long known that, with virtually every choice we make, we are sacrificing something to acquire another thing. There’s always a tradeoff.

But I didn’t always know how little true objectivity existed in the world. Even the most intelligent and skilled among us committed to the idea of measuring things objectively can’t really do it.

The closest we can come is to say that A is better than B when judged or measured by (insert metric of choice here). But that baseline metric? Even THAT was created by the subjective judgment of people along the way.

It can be a little headache-inducing if you travel too far down the rabbit hole, but I think this phenomenal (subjective!) answer on Quora does an amazing job of breaking it down.

What’s better?

Chocolate or vanilla?

Country or rap music?

Biggie or Pac?

Butter or margarine?

Winter or summer?

The color green or the color purple?

Some people like pulp in their orange juice while others do not. Some people like eating escargot while others do not. Some people like to be defecated on during sex. Neat. Sounds not-awesome to me. I can only assume most people prefer not being, um, dumped on.

In life and love, many things are subjective. Attractiveness—sexual or otherwise—is subjective.

We forget constantly that our personal experiences and worldviews are not Absolute Truth for everyone else, because to us, we have to use our imaginations (which are totally unreliable tools for predicting things) to try to put ourselves in the circumstances and mindset of others.

On the whole, humans are pretty shitty at doing that as demonstrated by the politics-related unrest happening today, and also by all 794 kajillion instances of human arguments/fights/wars/breakups/abuses/crimes/attacks that happened in the past five seconds.

All of that to say: Attraction is a subjective metric.

But despite its subjectivity, there’s evidence that some physical, behavioral and status-related traits in men are commonly considered more attractive to women than others.

A discussion took place yesterday in the comments of my last post and got me thinking about what I perceive to make a man more attractive to women in general, acknowledging there’s no accounting for individual tastes.

The Optimized Man

“I disagree with the premise that women go seeking other women because men don’t provide the things we need. The more sensitive, the more feminine a man becomes the less attractive he is,” insanitybytes said.

Human conversation, especially typewritten, can be funny. A single sentence can be interpreted several ways by different people.

I spend A LOT of time on this blog talking about how I believe men have to make MAJOR strides toward understanding why their wives are unhappy in their marriages, and then altering their behavior accordingly, if marriage is to ever return to a place where every wedding guest doesn’t secretly wonder: Are they going to be among the half who don’t make it?

Here’s something I’ve never felt, thought or said.

I’ve NEVER said that men should be more feminine. (Which—let’s be honest—is also a subjective qualification.)

From a personality standpoint, one might say that men and women should try their best to be most like whatever they were at the height of their mutual attraction.

I do not want men to change who they are. Every human has an equal amount of inherent value. I don’t have a lot of love for murderers, rapists, terrorists, hate groups, child molesters, etc., but—ideally—everyone who doesn’t present a clear and present danger to others would be recognized for their inherent value, and not put on a pedestal nor rejected based on each of our arbitrary standards.

But whatever. We’re all just a bunch of people with our own set of arbitrary standards, and when you line them all up next to each other, you can find patterns.

As a digital marketing professional, I know from very large data samples that certain people will behave on the internet in certain ways—whether that be responding to an email subject line, or clicking a link, or ordering a product.

As a random dude writing about relationship stuff, I THINK I know from personal and anecdotal evidence that most women commonly find certain male traits or behaviors attractive.

The Physically Attractive Man

  • is tall
  • has a symmetrical face
  • has a body-fat percentage around 12% (meaning you can be lean or stocky or somewhere in the middle, so long as your muscle-to-body fat ratio isn’t too far off whatever your 12% looks like)
  • wears clothes that fit (also a status cue)
  • has a deep voice

The Behaviorally Attractive Man

  • passionately pursues his personal goals
  • has a healthy and active social life where people are drawn to him
  • demonstrates confidence in the majority of life situations
  • showcases follow-through; his actions match his words
  • possesses leadership qualities
  • pursues physical health and fitness
  • has a sense of humor

The Status-Based Attractive Man

  • has the financial resources to acquire or experience the things people value, OR demonstrates the intellectual capacity to achieve it in the future
  • has a high-status position among friends, or at work, or in whatever groups or organizations he’s involved with

I’m sure I’m forgetting several. But really, it’s a silly exercise.

A sensitive, reliable, eager-beaver husband type may bore the hell out of many young, single women, but seem like a breath of fresh air to someone suffering at the hands of an aggressive and abusive dickhead.

But I don’t think we should confuse reliable, loyal or sensitive traits as feminine any more than we then we should consider promiscuity and betrayal as masculine ones.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In all things.

And I believe that many traits we generically and thoughtlessly label “masculine” are considered attractive by the general female population.

I think men (if appealing to women is a value they possess) should aspire to demonstrate as many of these attractive “masculine” traits as possible, and develop healthy self-acceptance and confidence surrounding any that his genetics prevent him from having.

But there’s a second component to all this, and I think it’s important.

Marriage.

The Attractive Married Man

I can only conclude that a married woman is attracted to the man she chooses to marry. However her personal ranking and value system works that out.

Our conversations about marriage here are not about people who marry for what I consider atypical reasons (money or young trophy wives or citizenship or cultural arrangements).

Our conversations here are about MOST people. The 80-90 percent who get married with the intention of having a committed partnership and/or family that lasts their lifetime.

How does THAT guy remain attractive to his wife in the face of her natural biological urges and the unfortunate realities of hedonic adaptation?

I think the baseline characteristics listed above should be pursued and maintained for life. Those things = attractiveness.

But a person can possess all of those things and become unattractive to someone if they represent any kind of threat to them, their children, or general wellbeing. It happens when a person brings harm to another.

People we consider beautiful literally STOP being attractive to us for many reasons, but I think Making Us Feel Shitty is probably No. 1 on that list.

And mislabeling behaviors like:

  • Listening to our spouse
  • Empathy for their pain
  • Respect for their thoughts and opinions
  • Helping with housework and parenting tasks even if our fathers and grandfathers didn’t
  • Occasionally choosing to invest time in our spouse’s interests over our own for the sake of togetherness…

Well. I guess I believe it perpetuates the Man Card problem that got us here in the first place.

A man should be strong. In all the ways.

A man should pursue “success.” However he defines it.

A man should be confident.

A man should lead.

A man should pursue good health.

A man SHOULD be “manly” in whatever ways his genetic makeup allows.

I have never, and will never, say that men should be more feminine in an effort to make their wives happy or succeed in their marriages. And I never will.

But most men simply do not know about the things they do thoughtlessly that cause significant emotional damage to their wives.

We can argue all day about whether women SHOULD be hurt by whatever those actions might be, and whether women should be equally responsible for adjusting their reactions to particular behaviors.

But the reality is that common male behaviors HURT wives.

Hurt wives become unattracted to their husbands. Unattracted wives’ behavior makes husbands unattracted to their wives.

And that’s when all the marriage-breaking shit happens. While everyone is all emotionally beat up and messy and volatile and imbalanced and without the support of the person they’ve long relied on and felt closest to.

Dudes acting “girly” won’t fix it. If this blog conveys emasculating men, then I’ve done a shitty job of writing it, or people have done a shitty job of interpreting it.

Perhaps a bit of both.

Men are men. Women are women. They often like one another and exchange I-Promise-To-Love-You-Forever Vows and make children together.

And so long as this human song and dance continues to happen, I think it’s in the world’s best interest that we make it as successful as possible.

A bunch of “Nancy-boy sissies” won’t help anything.

But a bunch of attractive men learning how to meet the emotional needs of their wives and avoiding the relationship spiral which results when men do not?

Like the people we’re attracted to, and the stuff that makes us attractive to them, I think that’s a world worth pursuing.

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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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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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The Taxonomy of Married Men, Vol. 2

loss of self-awareness

(Image/willemgous.com)

First we took Husbands, and split them into two groups — Good Men and Bad Men.

And this isn’t about “nice guys” versus “bad boys.” Non-conformist “bad boys” engaging in mischief with sometimes aggressive, daring and tough exteriors can still be very good men. We’re talking about character. Not personality type.

Women are often attracted to men who do bad things. But good, healthy people are not attracted to BAD people. (Think Adolf Hitler, not James Dean.) I’m comfortable saying that people should NOT marry, remain married to, or have children with fundamentally bad people.

(Read The Taxonomy of Married Men, Vol. 1 here)

So now we have Husbands who are Good Men, and we’re splitting them into two groups — Good Husbands and Bad Husbands.

Lots of good men are lousy husbands. Being a husband is a skill. Just like playing instruments, flying helicopters and performing heart surgery. A very good person can be bad at marriage. It’s an important distinction. Good husbands can’t benefit from anything I ever think or write, so we’re honing in on Good Men Who Are Bad Husbands.

We split them into two groups, as well: The ones who don’t know they’re bad husbands (which I guesstimate to be about 85% of all married men — yes, I’m serious about that), and the ones who DO know and are trying to be better (which mostly include men on the brink of losing their family, and in their desperate search for answers, realized as I did that they’d been accidentally messing up for all these years).

I’m operating under the assumption that no GOOD man could KNOW he’s a bad husband and intentionally refuse to alter his behaviors. Because that would make him a bad man.

Conclusion: Troubled Marriages Worth Saving Only Involve Good Men

I’m probably biased. I — perhaps delusionally — think of myself as a “good” man. I’m not always nice. I don’t always do the right thing. I certainly upset people now and then. But I know who I try to be, and I’ll share a humanity foxhole with anyone else trying to be this way too.

And I’ll go to bat for these husbands and fathers over and over and over and over and over again, if they demonstrate the humility and effort required to evolve on behalf of their wives and children.

And MANY men will.

The powerful influence of simple AWARENESS in our lives can’t be overstated. People are willing to change when they understand WHY change is needed.

Most men who repeatedly hurt their wives simply don’t know why the behavior changes are needed.

A good man armed with correct information changes the entire world for his wife and children.

Beautiful things. Hero shit.

And we should all be doing a bit more of that.

The Things Good Men Who Are Bad Husbands Don’t Know

For the same reason husbands sometimes believe their wives get disproportionally sad or angry over things that would never upset them (dirty dishes by the sink; Bree and Monica at work going to lunch without asking her to join, or simply his laid-back non-committal attitude about upcoming weekend plans), wives sometimes have trouble believing their husbands aren’t fully aware of how hurt they feel.

It makes sense, too.

  1. She’s told him a bunch of times already. Using the very language they both have spoken their entire lives. She doesn’t remember saying it in code, or anything.
  2. She FEELS it. The gross feeling. The feeling that comes when we feel disrespected or unloved or outright rejected. Things happen. She feels shitty because of those things. Those things = Pain. His inability to understand how these things that make her life miserable make just as much sense and are just as valid as his inability to understand how things he considers to be harmless can cause pain in others.

Every Failing Relationship (With Good People) is Rooted in Unawareness

Good people simply do not hurt one another on purpose. We don’t.

We do it thoughtlessly, and our crime is not the thoughtless things we do, but rather our lack of respect for our partners’ expressed pain and our unwillingness to put forth the energy to changing whatever’s required for the pain to stop.

It’s the idea that changes the world. But most people don’t know about it.

Marriages rarely die from big, dramatic things. It’s death by 10,000 paper cuts.

What most married people — OFTEN husbands — don’t know is that what kills marriages, precipitating affairs and divorce, are an incalculable amount of moments pushing two people apart so minutely that we can’t detect that shift. Some cancer and heart disease goes undetected until the symptoms show up and it’s too late to save us.

That’s what marriage is, too.

We don’t work hard to avoid things that end our marriages because they don’t hurt enough to register with us as they’re happening.

It’s The Undetectable Death.

If two spouses find themselves arguing or fighting (without resolution) about these things, then The Marriage Death Watch has already begun:

  • Time spent watching sports and/or managing fantasy teams
  • Time spent playing video games or on their phone
  • Time spent working at a job
  • Time spent tinkering in the garage or in the yard
  • Time spent on any individual hobbies or interests which don’t include the rest of the family

These things are felt and interpreted by the spouse who is hurting as rejection and abandonment.

Men are most often the offending party.

He would rather play video games than play with his children. They miss him so much, and he doesn’t care at all. It hurts me to see my children rejected by their own father, she thinks.

Here’s the other big one:

He’s never romantic. EVER. He never tells me I’m pretty or makes me feel as if he’s interested in pursuing me. I have to beg him to come to bed, and he usually says no. If the choice is between me and watching football, he always chooses football. I don’t see nor feel evidence that my husband loves me anymore, she thinks.

Sometimes fears, anxieties and insecurities start to rear their ugly heads. Very little good has ever happened as a result of the stories we make up in our own minds to try to make sense of why the behavior of people we love makes us feel so bad.

Is he REALLY working late tonight?

Is he REALLY going to the gym?

Is he REALLY “just friends” with Joanna at work?

All the sudden, a decent man who works hard, tried to keep his body in shape, and has a respectful and professional relationship with a co-worker, creates feelings of uncertainty and suspicion.

And then, sometimes another thing happens.

She learns that he’s jerking off to internet porn on the family computer or on his phone. It makes her feel ugly and rejected in ways she’s never felt before.

Oh my God. I ask him all the time to come to bed with me, and he always says no. We haven’t had sex in over a month. And now he’s getting himself off while watching THAT on the internet? He PREFERS strangers on a screen and his own hand to me.

If you live a secret life, no matter how innocent you consider it since you’re “not hurting anyone!,” your marriage will probably end, and it will totally be your fault.

Spouses SHARE life. That’s the design. And when you deny or hide parts of yourself — no matter how innocent or noble you think it might be — things will eventually crash and burn.

You can’t NOT do the work of the shoveling coal in your marriage every day and expect your spouse to not notice since she/he MUST shovel enough coal to compensate for the deficit you leave.

The Good Men Must Wake Up

Like Neo in the Matrix.

It’s a little bit harder to see the world as it really is. Life is less convenient. But it’s Truth. And good men seek truth.

We are unaware.

We either stay unaware or become aware.

Once we’re aware, we make good choices. Selfless ones, that put those we love ahead of ourselves.

What we see looks convincing enough. It looks real. So when the person next to us reacts differently than we would, we scream: “YOU’RE WRONG!!!”

And that’s what ends us.

The simple, hard-to-detect realization that they’re not wrong. They’re just different.

Wrong is intolerable.

But different is beautiful.

And once we see the beautiful Different instead of the ugly and hate-inducing Wrong, our relationships can thrive.

It’s a story I keep telling over and over again, and maybe everyone who gets it is bored by it, but it’s too important to not talk about.

It’s the idea that changes the world. But most people don’t know about it.

It’s not a secret. There are simply so many people who NEVER think about this, that the idea never spreads far and wide enough to impact the critical mass of humanity we need for this to always be top of mind.

But someday, that’s going to change.

And all of the good men righting their shitty husband wrongs will be the catalyst.

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The Taxonomy of Married Men, Vol. 1

taxonomy illustration

(Image/aiim.org)

Tax·on·o·my – /takˈsänəmē/ – The classification of something.

Here’s the breakdown:

1. Husbands

All husbands fall into one of two camps, which for the purpose of this exercise, require defining.

A. Good men.

A good man is the kind of person you’d let spend the night in your house without hesitation. A good man can be trusted to care for your children and pets. A good man is generally kind, honest, reliable, respectful, polite, loving and demonstrates loyalty and commitment to his family, friends, co-workers, teammates, etc. A good man is not perfect. But his Pros in the character department far outweigh his Cons.

B. Bad men.

A bad man does not care — even a little bit — how his actions affect others. He hurts people physically and emotionally without remorse. He cons people in order to take advantage of them. He lies. Cheats. Steals. Rapes. Murders. Abuses. He is toxic to himself and everyone around him, and his toxic behavior is intentional. His behavior can legitimately be described as EVIL. He revels in chaos, drama and dysfunction. He takes pleasure in others’ pain. A bad man is a constant danger to himself and anyone near him. His Cons far outweigh his Pros.

I am not going to waste thought and space on men who are bad. I lack the maturity and patience to explain to a stranger who is unlikely to be reading this or to ever care what I say, why knowingly marrying, or intentionally remaining married to, a BAD man are shitty life decisions.

2. Husbands Who Are Good Men

All good men who are married fall into one of two camps.

A. Good husbands.

A good husband performs the duties of marriage with skill and competence. His success is usually most apparent to his wife, who often feels loved and secure every day of her life, and who loves and respects him in ways she’s only ever felt for her children and her very closest family members. He is often appreciated by his in-laws, admired by his friends and neighbors, secretly or not-so-secretly wanted by women who covet the things he provides his wife and family in their own lives, and has very little drama or life stresses at home with his wife and/or family as a result of human conflict.

B. Bad husbands.

A bad husband is shitty at marriage. No matter how GOOD of a human being he is, he blows ass at the complexities of human relationships. (Note: This puts him in the 95% of everyone who at times struggles with the complexities of human relationships. This does not make him stupid or incompetent or unfit necessarily for anything good men are suited for. It just makes him bad at marriage. Throughout human history, good men have been bad at many things, like singing and dancing, or constructing high-rise buildings, or playing the piano, or carving ice sculptures, or solving advanced mathematics.)

I am not going to waste thought and space here on men who are good husbands. They’re awesome. I appreciate them. I hope you do too.

3. Good Men Who Are Shitty Husbands

All good men who are bad husbands fall into one of two camps.

A. Men who don’t know they are bad husbands.

Either these men don’t know they’re bad husbands because they don’t know what shitty husbandry is and/or no one has ever taught him that he’s one, OR anytime someone (usually his wife) says that he is, he doesn’t actually believe it. (Note: I believe, of all married men in existence, the VAST majority — I’m talking 85-ish% — fall into this category.)

B. Men who know they are bad husbands but want to be good.

This is a very bad spot to be in, because to arrive here, one usually has to have a miserable, failing marriage wreaking so much emotional havoc, stress and anxiety in our home lives, that we FINALLY decide to ask ourselves the right question: What can I do to help fix this?

An Earnest Search for Answers Uncovers Life-Changing Truths

One night at dinner, my wife said: “I don’t know if I love you or want to be married to you anymore.”

I reacted poorly and selfishly, making it entirely about me. I pouted and started sleeping in the guest room, from which point every day got a little harder and more difficult over 18 months before she chose to move out and end our relationship. But months before that, something in me snapped. I wanted to — needed to — understand why this was happening.

I knew that I loved my wife. I knew that I wanted to stay married. And I thought because I was a good man, and because we shared a son, our entire adulthoods, a home and many friends, that we should be able to pull through.

All you need is love! Right? RIGHT?!?!

Wrong.

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

One night, I found myself reading a book called “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It”. The book is written by two long-time marriage counselors who used their experiences with clients and years of notetaking to explain common marriage problems and how husbands and wives commonly experience them.

The experience of reading about random married couples having IDENTICAL conversations and reactions as my wife and I had a profound effect on me, and set the stage for the fundamental shift from who I was to who I am.

Here’s What My Brain Did Afterward

Realization #1

Wow. Our marriage problems are so common that generic, made-up stories in a marriage book totally NAIL my marriage. These exact same marriage problems are affecting almost everybody.

Realization #2

If these marriage problems are this common, that means my wife and I aren’t somehow fatally flawed. We’re not NOT soulmates or freaks unfit for marriage. These marriage problems are practically universal and we don’t have to feel ashamed for having them.

Realization #3

If nearly all marriages suffer these common problems, then that means it’s foolish to get divorced with the intention of replacing your spouse with someone else. Because these same problems will ALSO exist with that other person. If my wife and I love each other, our son, and both generally prefer marriage to being single, the most logical course is to work hard on this marriage, rather than trying to start new relationships as middle-aged divorced single parents only to inevitably have to work hard on THAT relationship, but with the added suck of all the family and friends breakage, and losing so much time with our children.

The Most-Asked Questions of Hurting Wives

It’s one of two, but they both mean the same thing.

Either “You get it! How can I get my husband to read your stuff or understand what you now understand?” or “What could your wife have said or done to help you understand this before it was too late?”

Tomorrow, in Vol. 2 of this post, I’ll attempt to lay out what I perceive to be The Things Good Men Who Are Accidentally Bad Husbands Don’t Know.

But since it will inevitably cover plenty of familiar territory, you can get a preview by reading what I think is among my most helpful posts, Cracking the Code: 7 Ideas That Would Have Saved My Marriage.

It’s hard to be the guy desperately trying to save his family while his wife has checked out of the marriage because she’s been beaten down emotionally so much through the years without him — a genuinely good dude who simply sucked at marriage — realizing it.

And now he KNOWS. Now, he gets it.

But she’s done.

Few relationships come back from the dead. It’s a pill that’s hard to swallow.

But the value of understanding where we went wrong, how to avoid being shitty husbands in the future, and how to teach our children to have healthy and functional human relationships can’t be overstated.

I have to believe all the good men will agree.

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Why Divorce Hurts Men More Than Women

sad guy after divorce

(Image/The Huffington Post)

First things first: DOES divorce actually hurt men more than women?

I think there’s plenty of researched and anecdotal evidence to back up that it usually does, but I have no idea. I typed it into Google and was greeted with a mixed bag of headlines on the first three results pages.

Does it really matter? I’m not trying to make the argument that divorce hurts men more than women. I’m more interested in sharing my take on WHY it does—in situations where it actually does.

The Obligatory Broad-Generalizations Disclaimer

The following is a broad generalization and should in no way be interpreted as me believing that wives are ALWAYS “better” at marriage than their husbands. Of course that’s not true.

I love the Cleveland Browns even though they always suck. Do they REALLY “always” suck? Kind of. But the Browns sometimes win too, just like there are guys out there who are phenomenal relationship partners struggling with female partners who aren’t.

It’s impossible to write things that encapsulate every mathematically possible scenario in existence, and this post is not suggesting that men or husbands are inherently worse at relationships than women, nor always the “worse” spouse in a troubled relationship.

I am Make Broad Generalizations Guy.

It’s hard to write about this stuff another way.

And since I write about relationships and divorce a lot, I often make generalizations about wives/husbands, girlfriends/boyfriends, and women/men.

Sometimes, people take offense. Sorry.

Men Struggle More After Divorce Because They Lose More Than Their Wives

I believe wives, while not flawless nor without responsibility in failing marriages, are the objectively BETTER spouses on a few fronts in typical marriages.

First, I think wives are better at Life Management (and Emotional Labor).

I think most of the time, wives/girlfriends/women demonstrate more proficiency than husbands/boyfriends/men at things related to family budgets, long-term scheduling, meal planning, organizing academic and extracurricular activities for children, social calendars, sending birthday and holiday cards, running errands for upcoming events, RSVPing, sending Thank You notes, remembering anniversaries, as well as performing routine cleaning and house maintenance, like laundry, vacuuming, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

Second, I think wives/girlfriends/women are better at Relationship Skills which are absolutely CRITICAL to having healthy and lasting marriages, friendships, parent-child relationships, etc.

Skills like:

  • Mindful, active, present LISTENING
  • Humble apologies or admissions of mistakes
  • Empathy (the ability to identify and acknowledge another person’s pain and share the feeling. NOT sympathy. NOT pity. Empathy. “I get it. I’m here with you.”)
  • A willingness to set ego aside for the sake of a partnership, and admitting they don’t have all the answers but want to figure them out together for the long-term health and stability of the marriage/family

I think men, because of the whole Man Card socialization thing, equate FUNDAMENTALLY necessary and critical relationship things such as honest, vulnerable conversation; understanding the link between sexual appetite and physical/emotional labor things at home; being emotionally available for his sad or hurting spouse; with being Candy-Ass Girl Things.

Maybe their grandfathers and dads and uncles and friends growing up all reinforced that: “You’re a man! Men do this!” while totally ignoring that all the “candy-ass girl things” are REALLY DIFFICULT. Like, extremely difficult. The amount of discipline, simple heroism, sacrifice, strength, perseverance, etc. needed to perform these skills at a high level is a lofty and noble place to aspire.

The men who can do it are AWESOME guys.

About the Man Card and Man Stuff

I’m not asking guys to stop being guys, nor am I asking guys to be effeminate or stop doing whatever man stuff they like to do now.

I am asking guys to recognize that they’re accidentally negligent.

I think it is in large part because they feel entitled to do or not do certain things that have everything to do with Man Card socialization.

You can be an alpha-male badass who commands the respect and attention of everyone in any room you’re in, AND also demonstrate a high-level understanding of what your partner requires of you to have a happy, healthy, stable relationship.

Men don’t necessarily need to stop doing things, or stop being things, that are a part of them as much as they need to START doing a few things that would totally change the climate of the modern male-female relationship.

The problem is NOT that guys recognize that relationship problems would go away if they changed a few simple things, but stubbornly think: “To hell with that! I’m going to keep doing it this Man Way, because I love it when my wife is miserable, and getting divorced sounds awesome!”

The problem is actually that many men truly have a particular belief system, live according to that belief system, and don’t see their actions (or lack thereof) as being relationship or marriage-killers.

Most guys have lived their entire lives without anyone having EVER said anything like that to them, except for his sad and angry wife he thinks is overly emotional, or outright WRONG during disagreements regarding her feelings and opinions concerning their relationship.

It’s a sad state of affairs.

Men Often Have More Life Skills to Develop Post-Divorce

I think when men and women divorce, wives (especially mothers) move on and get along pretty well once the emotional pain subsides.

And I think that happens because they were so accustomed to doing all of the emotional and logistical life management work anyway, that not much changes for them in terms of the day-to-day rhythm of life. They were always doing all of this Life work, anyway.

But, men?

Sometimes they’re shitty at laundry, dishes, meal planning, keeping track of the calendar, and knowing when and where the kids need to be, or what they need for those events.

Men often learn the hard way how difficult it is to manage all those things competently while juggling work responsibilities and whatever social life might remain once their wives aren’t there to plan that either.

Throughout the marriage, she had been meeting his emotional needs by virtue of being there in the house, and taking care of Life things for him, and relieving him of many of the child-rearing stresses.

But he wasn’t doing the same in return, which in addition to being exhausting for her, also made her feel like his mom which is why she stopped wanting to have sex with him.

If he has a kick-ass job, maybe he provided financial security, some of which went away for her after divorce. And maybe if he’s former Special Forces, or law enforcement, or a champion kickboxer, and she doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of self-defense, maybe she loses some sense of safety and security when she’s home alone or with children.

But mostly?

Men lose more in divorce than women and it’s because (in my estimation) they didn’t give enough during the marriage.

And the scariest part of this pattern of neglect and emotional abuse is that the vast majority of guys are NOT bad men, or abnormally large assholes.

They’re just guys who didn’t know better. But hopefully now, they do.

Because now, we have choices.

At least one of them is heroic.

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Male Dishonesty & Divorce: Choosing the Man Card Over Succeeding ‘Like a Girl’

unexpressed emotion and dishonesty

(Image/choosehonesty.com)

Men lie constantly.

I think maybe everyone does.

Sometimes, they are classic bald-faced lies: “I didn’t do it!” Even though we all know he did.

Sometimes, they are exaggerated lies, like when basketball and football players’ heights and weights are inflated slightly.

And sometimes, the lies are so subtle and nuanced that most of us don’t even think of them as lies. There is no malice in the deceit. The deception is not to harm others, and in fact, may be to preserve another’s feelings: “No. Seriously. I think you look beautiful with your super-short haircut!” Even though he thinks it makes her looks boyish and hates it. 

But there are many other deceitful moments that seem harmless as they’re happening, and as isolated incidents, probably are. But they’re not isolated. They’re constant. Not “constant” in a hyperbolic way. “Constant” in a That Guy is Wearing a Mask and Hiding Fundamentally True Parts of Himself from Everyone way.

Why?

He wants his Man Card. Even if it kills him.

He wants it to be good enough for his father.

He wants it so he can feel accepted by members of his various tribes—friends, sports teams, fellow soldiers, professional networks, fraternities, hobby groups, social clubs, etc.

He wants it because he believes it will make him attractive to women.

There’s The Man Way® to do things. And all things must be done that way because I’m a man, not some wussy little girl! I’m doing it The Man Way!

And it’s a little bit funny because there’s no universally established Way Men Do Things. Everything depends on culture, environment and behavior models. Wearing Irish or Scottish kilts doesn’t seem “manly” to guys in cultures where men don’t wear kilts. Where I’m from, you’d almost never see guys in pink, and very rarely in purple. Those were “girl” colors. But now, it’s not only common, but fashionable, to wear pink or purple shirts or neckties.

In other words, The Man Way is a constantly moving target, and purely dependent on where a guy lives or the specific culture of a group to which he craves admission or acceptance.

Take beer drinking for example.

Some guys are strictly Budweiser guys. Hell, maybe they even want it canned. And they’re going to drink 10-12 Budweisers because Real Men drink a lot of beer! And don’t you dare try to give him some fancy-boy craft beer like he’s some uppity hipster or metrosexual.

And then other guys are strictly craft beer guys. And maybe they only want draft beer in a pint glass. And they’re going to drink like a refined connoisseur, and if you want an education on beer styles or brewing techniques, this Renaissance Man will tell you all about them. Don’t you dare try to give him some cheap-ass swill like Budweiser. Only Cretans drink piss like that.

But maybe the Bud guys will play along and drink stouts and IPAs in a crowd of craft beer drinkers, and maybe Craft Beer Guy will pound Budweisers out on the boat or golf course with the guys on a hot, sunny day.

And maybe they’ll be just a tiny bit dishonest about their real feelings in order to fit in.

It happens all the time. Probably with everyone, every day.

But when it happens with men because of The Man Card thing, our relationships suffer. When our relationships suffer, the rest of our lives suffer. We take more damage that we brought on ourselves. And then the even-more-damaged versions of ourselves repeat the cycle, but it only gets worse.

We wonder why. Because, we’re MEN. Strong. Logical. Correct.

We’re not little emo girls who sit down to pee, hit from the red tees, drive wimpy cars, play with smaller basketballs, go to the restroom in groups, or do girly things like cry and talk about our feelings.

Men get indignant. No one tried to feminize our fathers and grandfathers! They fought wars and built things with their hands! They’d slap a bitch!

Our identity has so many stakeholders, we think.

Our parents and extended families. Our friends. Our romantic partners. Our kids. And everyone we interact with.

And sometimes we’re not who we really are. We’re who we think we’re supposed to be for everyone else.

I think this is why most divorces happen.

I think the social skills “acceptable” for women to showcase are the life skills necessary to not have shitty relationships, full of fighting, dysfunction, infidelity or sexlessness or every other horrible thing couples suffer from before their eventual divorce.

Divorce damages men HARD. Harder than women, all the experts say, and there are a million reasons why, but the main one is this: As a general rule, wives do way more for marriages and families than men do, so when a marriage ends, it’s harder for a man to maintain his way of life because he can’t replicate nearly as many marriage tasks she performed as she can of his.

I don’t write it much, but I’m not afraid to: Women are demonstrably BETTER—more skilled, more knowledgeable, more capable—at relationship skills than men.

And since I can’t think of anything more influential or important to our daily existence than our relationships, the conclusion is simple:

Male behavior is mostly responsible for the divorce crisis, thus men are the key to solving it.

Step One: Stop Lying to Everyone (Including Yourself)

From The New York Times’ article “Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest”:

“I wanted the course to explore this hallmark of the masculine psyche — the shame over feeling any sadness, despair or strong emotion other than anger, let alone expressing it and the resulting alienation. Many young men, just like this student, compose artful, convincing masks, but deep down they aren’t who they pretend to be.

“Research shows what early childhood teachers have always known: that from infancy through age 4 or 5, boys are more emotive than girls. One study out of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in 1999 found that 6-month-old boys were more likely to show ‘facial expressions of anger, to fuss, to gesture to be picked up’ and ‘tended to cry more than girls.’

“‘Boys were also more socially oriented than girls,’ the report said — more likely to look at their mother and ‘display facial expressions of joy.’

“This plays out in the work of Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University. After 20-plus years of research, Dr. Way concludes that many boys, especially early and middle adolescents, develop deep, meaningful friendships, easily rivaling girls in their emotional honesty and intimacy.

“But we socialize this vulnerability out of them. Once they reach ages 15 or 16, ‘they begin to sound like gender stereotypes,’ she writes in Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. ‘They start using phrases such as ‘no homo’ … and they tell us they don’t have time for their male friends, even though their desire for these relationships remains.’”

The article’s author Andrew Reiner, hits earlier on the ongoing trend of male and female students, as female academic performance has steadily increased through the years while male performance has not, and how the underlying reason is that young boys believe: Boys Do This, and Girls Do That.

“Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.”

Step Two: Redefine Manhood

Men get pissed at me all the time. They read one of my posts shared on Reddit, or linked to in some forum, or at The Huffington Post, or right here on this blog.

The message is always essentially the same.

“I’m tired of everyone blaming guys for everything! Look at you turning your back on your gender and pandering to women! Look at all these women showering praises on you, but I bet if you wrote about all of the things they do wrong, they’ll tell you what a sexist pig you are! The writer of this blog needs to clean his vagina, because his ex-wife clearly took his balls with her when she left! Women are the real problem!”

And I insta-pity them, along with their wives, girlfriends and children.

Because that guy has no chance. NONE. Not in his current form.

I mean, he might find a subservient wife to cater to his every whim and suffer in silence. He might find a trophy wife who appreciates his substantial wealth and enjoys those financial luxuries without him while he’s away on business. He might find a physical or emotional punching bag to make him sandwiches and give him on-demand oral.

But I don’t think that man can ever have what I perceive to be the foundational thing we need for a life of contentment—one where we enjoy being alive and don’t feel miserable every waking second of every day: Stable, healthy, loving, reliable, energy-giving relationships.

And as long as men collectively believe that The Things You Must Do to Have Healthy Relationships are “girl things,” then I think the institution of marriage is doomed.

If communicating effectively with our partners about the things we think and feel (preferably BEFORE marriage) is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then we have no chance.

If sacrificial love and a willingness to compromise or be influenced by our partners’ wishes is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then we have no chance.

If courageously taking off our masks that hide our real selves from everyone else and protect us from imagined rejection and judgment—if being truly VULNERABLE—with our partners is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then maybe we deserve this fate.

Because the only way to kick ass in your relationships is, in many respects, to play “like a girl.”

And if you’re too much of a wimpy bitch to accept that? Well, you’ll always have your armchair where you can marinate in loneliness and anger while marveling at how young you were in that faded man-card photo.

…..

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Empathizing with Hitler: How Being Aware of This One Thing Can Save the World

empathy

It’s so much more important than I ever knew. (Image/abigailleighphillips.com)

Settle down, kids. I don’t mean it like THAT.

I think I know why our relationships fail more than half the time, and how most men—even good-character guys who are easy to get along with—can be colossally shitty husbands and boyfriends.

Every day, millions of wives and girlfriends turn to the internet desperate for an answer to this question. Sometimes they find this blog and write me comments and emails asking various forms of it.

This question is at the heart of this blog’s existence and my personal search for answers because it’s the same question my wife—crying and desperate—begged me to answer during our marriage fights. It’s the same question many—maybe even, most—wives and girlfriends ask themselves about the men in their lives:

“Why don’t you love me?”

We husbands and boyfriends stand there dumbly because we’re at a total loss. How crazy is this chick right now? Why don’t I love her? I gave up (or am planning to give up) my ENTIRE LIFE to marry her, share the rest of my life and things and experiences with her, and have children with her. I say ‘I love you’ every day. EVERY DAY! How in the hell can she stand there, question my love for her, and expect me to take her seriously?!

We think she’s from another planet, and we tend to act like it. Even if we’re not being actively hostile, our inability to understand why she’s upset down deep in her bones, twists the knife even further.

She thinks we’re from another planet, and she tends to act like it, especially when she’s packing bags and moving out while we stand there like drooling oafs.

And why?

Because most of us don’t know what the word “empathy” means, or that if we worked to be as skilled at empathy as we are at driving cars, or playing golf, or whatever our primary work is, our lives would transform from shitty to awesome.

Important Things Men Don’t Often Understand or Think About

I think when we strip off all the clothes and trimmings, and let it stand there naked and exposed and broken down to its most basic form, the truth about common destructive male behavior in relationships stems from the following:

1. Men don’t know what EMPATHY is.

2. We don’t know it is the most critical skill to acquire in order to have good relationships and avoid divorce.

3. We don’t WANT to learn about it because it’s ignorantly mistaken for a feely “girl” concept that threatens our sacred identity as Real Men.

4. Behaving in ways that avoid the appearance of weakness (even though most of us secretly feel weak and afraid at times under our faking-it masks) trumps love-affirming behavior because we don’t realize our wives are actually going to leave us, and that it’s going to be way worse than our fear of looking weak.

5. Men are mostly unaware of this, like we’re living in The Matrix, and don’t see the world as it really is.

A Short Lesson on ‘Awareness’

Consider this parable from the late novelist David Foster Wallace: “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’

Men Are Unknowingly Empathetic, Just Like the Nazis

I used Adolf Hitler’s name in the headline for cheap shock value and in a Moonwalking with Einstein-sort-of way, but I could have used the name of anyone who sucks. Joseph Stalin. Pol Pot. Mao Zedong. Osama Bin Laden. Take your pick.

It’s important to disassociate the concept of empathy from good vs. evil, or right vs. wrong. Two evil people can empathize with each other. One good person could even empathize with an evil person if he or she wanted to. A compassionate Jewish widower could conceivably empathize with a Nazi man who lost his wife.

Empathy is NOT an emotion. It’s not a feeling. Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

“Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because in order to connect with you I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling,” said author and speaker Brené Brown in this excellent little video designed to help viewers understand the distinction between the words “Empathy” and “Sympathy.”

Every man who isn’t a sociopath (mental health experts say 4% of the population is sociopathic) probably exhibits empathy regularly, even if it’s only with a few like-minded people, like his guy friends.

Guys who are heavily invested in tribes (like friends or athletic and business teammates, brotherhoods, and enthusiast groups) likely behave empathetically in most interactions with fellow tribe members.

I’ve known and seen countless men who prefer to hang out with their buddies than their wives or girlfriends. It’s because there exists a MONUMENTALLY IMPORTANT connection with his friends that doesn’t exist between him and his significant other. He’s simply never been able to label it before. But it has a name.

It’s empathy.

“Empathy? Stop being a gay pussy, Matt, and start being a man,” a terrifying percentage of guys would think if they actually read this far into the post. But they usually don’t because they don’t know they need help. They don’t know they lack empathy in their most critical relationships, and they don’t know that it matters.

They just don’t know.

How do we make people aware of a nuanced concept so subtle that it escaped me for 36 consecutive years, including recently, while I was looking for it every day?

While wives Google: “Why doesn’t my husband care about me?” or “My husband is an asshole” (which this blog ranks #1 for), men want answers also: “Why does my wife hate me?”

All along, most of these men loved their wives. But because they lacked empathy skills and often never realized it was something to worry about, their wives BELIEVE their husbands don’t love them. Over time, wives retreat emotionally because it’s virtually impossible to perpetually love someone who perpetually hurts you. When she retreats, it often feels like hate, repulsion and disgust to her husband.

And sometimes it is.

Men, You MUST Understand What Empathy Is

Again, guys already do it! They sit next to each other at the bar, or on the patio table after a round of Saturday golf, and one says “Betsy is all over my ass right now to repaint the half-bath in the basement and she got all pissed off last night and this morning about us playing golf today,” and his friend says: “Ha! Join the club, brother. Val wants me to help her plan a Disney trip for us and the kids next summer that I don’t really want to take. They’re always complaining about something, right?” and then they clink their beer bottles together at 11 a.m., delaying their return home by ordering another round.

THAT. IS. EMPATHY.

And if you can figure out how to intentionally behave and speak to your significant other (and pretty much everyone!) with conscious empathy, you will transform all of your close relationships (spouses, children, siblings, parents), and then, like MAGIC, a bunch of drama and dysfunction will begin to disappear and life will suck less, and maybe even morph toward amazing.

It’s EASY to empathize with friends who think and feel and like all the same things we do. It’s why we have all of these naturally easy relationships with people who share our interests, temperament and circumstances.

It’s DIFFICULT to empathize with people whose thoughts, feelings and interests conflict with ours.

Empathy is a life skill which requires practice and repetition. So, first we learn that it’s a thing. We wake up. We become aware of the water. We learn what empathy actually is. Then we decide whether we care. (Since your life will suck more and your marriage will fail or be defined by misery if you don’t, I hope you’ll choose to care.)

Then we get started. With a real, God’s-honest chance to change the world.

More Resources on Empathy

Thanks to readers of this blog, I was introduced to Dr. Brené Brown’s remarkable research, writing and speaking on critical ideas most men aren’t actively thinking about. But it’s only because they don’t know how life-changing it would be if they did. Brown’s work kicks ass. 

Here are a couple things to get you started:

Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability

Brown’s online courses, COURAGEworks

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