“So what you are saying is, I need to help you around the house and with the kids whether I want to or not?” – Husband, searching for answers after wife left him yesterday, taking their two children
Now you’ve done it.
I told you it was going to happen. And I was right.
Not because I’m smart. Not because I’m psychic.
But simply because I’ve been where you are and tend to learn from my mistakes.
You didn’t think she was going to leave.
We’ve got kids!, you thought.
We have the house!
We have our friends!
She’ll snap out of it!
She loves me!
Surprise, asshole! Love isn’t enough. And neither is all that other crap.
Maybe some people will take the beating forever. I don’t pretend to know everything.
But most won’t. Once life really turns to shit and there’s nothing left to lose, a person sheds a whole bunch of fear. They rise up. Fight back.
Your problem is you only see the world through your narrow little prism.
You don’t realize that she doesn’t think like you. She doesn’t feel like you. And the radical changes taking place are under the surface. On the inside of her. Invisible to anyone not paying attention or unwilling to listen.
Invisible to someone just like you.
And now she’s gone.
Shit Just Got Real
Writing these Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts, I always have a few specific men in mind. Guys I have met or know in real life. Guys I know are guilty of the EXACT same crimes that doomed my marriage.
Because once you get divorced (and publish your life on the internet) people have a tendency to start sharing private details of their lives with you.
Well, one of those shitty husbands just got left yesterday.
The results were predictable.
After untold hours of conversation, marriage counseling, and repeated warnings of discontent and requests for change, he was still in total shock when he came home to find his wife and two children gone.
Even though this is an untrue generalization, it often seems that only a man could be capable of such dense, negligent behavior.
Believe me. I know.
Every marriage is different. And the marital sins of a husband are going to vary from relationship to relationship, depending on a million different factors.
Some men travel for work. Others don’t.
Some men make an enormous amount of money. Others don’t.
Some men cheat on their wives. Others don’t.
Some men know how to be good fathers. Others don’t.
Some men satisfy their wives’ sexual desires. Others don’t.
This particular husband’s marital sins seem to mostly revolve around doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no regard for how his decisions might affect his wife and children.
You’ve heard it, seen it, done it or experienced it all before. It looks something like this.
Wife: “Hey, I have to get up early tomorrow and take our daughter to her doctor’s appointment. So, you’ll have to make sure our son gets to school on time.”
Husband: “Yeah, sure, no problem.”
Wife: “That means you can’t stay up all night watching football or playing video games with your friends. Every time you do that, you sleep in all morning.”
Husband: “I got it, Mom. Thanks. I’m trying to watch this, okay? While I appreciate your concern, I’m perfectly capable of making my own big-boy choices.”
Wife: *deep breath* “Would you please put the dishes that are in the sink in the dishwasher and start it before you come to bed? I’ll take care of the rest when I get home tomorrow morning.”
Husband: “Yeah. I’ll get it.”
Wife: “Thank you. I love you. Goodnight.”
Husband: “Sure. Night.”
Wife leaves to take daughter to doctor’s appointment. She notices the kitchen is exactly the way she had left it. There is an open bag of chips and two empty Dr. Pepper cans on the floor by the living room recliner.
That lazy sonofabitch, she thinks.
Husband watched football until 11 p.m. Then he played Madden and Call of Duty for four hours.
Tired at 3 a.m., he forgot to set his alarm.
Wife comes home at 9:30 a.m. after dropping daughter off at school. Six-year-old son is in living room watching television and eating a Pop Tart—totally not at school. Husband is still asleep, oblivious.
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About Helping Around the House
“So what you are saying is, I need to help you around the house and with the kids whether I want to or not?”
This kind of thinking still surprises me, even though it shouldn’t.
This is, literally, what the husband said to the wife who left him. He promised to change and she told him she didn’t know if she believed he was capable. So, he asked THAT.
I wish it was weird that so many men think like this. But so many do.
Dishes. Cleaning. Child rearing. Laundry. Cooking. School stuff.
That’s women’s work!
So many men feel this way.
And I think I know why. I think it’s because these men used to be boys. And when they were boys, one of a few different things happened:
- Their mothers coddled them. Did their laundry. Did all the cooking and cleaning. Waited on them hand and foot, much like they did to their fathers.
- Their fathers had this chauvinistic mindset which THEY learned from their fathers. And because sons almost blindly hero-worship their fathers, they took on this same philosophy.
- Or, both, which REALLY validates this way of life in the mind of a son during his formative years.
It’s classic old-school thinking.
I’m actually reminded of it every day. I live in a suburban neighborhood that was developed during the 1950s. Some houses, like mine, have two-car garages because of later modifications or new construction. But most? They have a one-car garage.
And that’s because in the 1950s, families only had one car. They only needed one car. Because the father went to work in the family car while the wife stayed home and raised children.
And even in 2014, there is still much of society that shares that mindset.
Men are hardworking breadwinners away from home.
And women take care of all that easy stuff—EVERYTHING else. And don’t forget the blow job before you get back to ironing my shirts, sweetie!
While I never shared this mindset—ever—I am a product of a mother who coddled me.
My laundry was always folded and in my drawers or hung up in my closet.
The house was always very tidy.
Breakfast and dinner were always on the table. Mom did all the cleaning, too.
Making my bed in the morning was my only chore until I was old enough to help rake leaves and mow the lawn.
My mom is the oldest of eight kids. She has been taking care of others for as long as she can remember.
While I have stepsisters who I grew up mostly apart from and a half sister 14 years younger than me, I was essentially raised as an only child.
I didn’t have to do anything except homework, then whatever I wanted.
That’s the math formula for creating me—a guy who had a very difficult time adjusting to the responsibilities of a full-time relationship, and eventually, marriage, because I had never been asked to do those things before.
I would encourage parents to think about this when raising children. Might be the difference between raising mature, responsible people with successful marriages, or immature, negligent people whose marriages are doomed to fail.
Guys: You must help your wife with the responsibilities of raising children, which includes the tasks of keeping a house in order—laundry, cooking, dishes, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc.
Don’t? She’s going to leave.
She will, man.
Love in the Time of Selfishness
The answer is: Yes.
You have to help around the house and with the kids even when you don’t want to.
But here’s the REALLY important part you need to be thinking about.
You don’t need to help around the house and with the kids just because your wife doesn’t have time to do it all. In truth, she probably can figure it out. A mother’s multitasking capabilities are unparalleled in the world.
What she does need is to have her wants and desires validated by you.
She needs to feel safe.
She needs to feel loved.
She needs to be able to trust you. Not in a don’t-have-sex-with-other people sense. But in a I-can-count-on-my-husband sense.
She doesn’t just want you to do laundry.
In fact, she may literally not want you to do laundry because you’re apt to mess up her clothes by drying things you’re not supposed to, and do a lousy job folding everything.
What she wants you to do is observe, appreciate, and respect the enormous amount of effort she puts in to making your lives what they are.
She doesn’t even need you to thank her and buy her stuff, though that would be a very nice, thoughtful thing to do.
But when you can’t even do the little things she asks you to do, she’s not angry because she has to do that work also. She’s angry because you don’t respect her enough to perform such a simple task, even after saying you will.
THAT’s why she feels unloved. Because she can’t trust you. You’re unreliable.
Because every chance you get to SHOW her that you love her, you choose yourself over her or your family.
She’ll eventually have an emotional reaction. Maybe she’ll yell. Maybe she’ll cry.
You’ll think she’s crazy. You might even tell her so. Maybe you’ll tell her again that the things she thinks and feels are stupid.
Please don’t do that.
She doesn’t like yelling.
She doesn’t like crying.
She doesn’t like feeling alone.
She doesn’t like feeling abandoned.
And she is not out to get you. Or make your life worse. She knows that you two are currently living in ways which are unsustainable. She knows that this can only keep up so much longer, and then it’s all going to break. She knows your marriage is in grave danger.
And you just keep choosing to play golf.
Or to go to the bar.
Or to play video games.
You just keep choosing everything except your marriage.
It might be too late already. Sometimes wives check out. And there’s no turning back.
I’ve seen that play before. It stings.
But maybe you still have time.
Maybe she’s still in the house. Holding on.
Or maybe she left but you still see a glimmer of hope.
Use that fear of loss. Channel it. And use it to fuel your personal growth.
Because that’s the only way this has a happy ending.
If you grow. Not necessarily change. But evolve.
Ask yourself: Am I really happier without her?
Maybe! I don’t know how you experience the world.
I only know my life got infinitely shittier once my wife and son left.
And if you’re like me? If you, deep down where it counts, want to keep your marriage and family intact? Then it’s time to do the hardest thing we do as human beings.
- Stop deflecting blame. Accept responsibility for your role in the breakdowns. Big or small, you have some.
- Apologize. Mean it.
- Learn about your wife. There are great resources out there.
- Pray. If you’re not a believer, just look to the sky and say: “Please help.”
- Choose to love. Vow to give more than you take in your marriage, every day, forever.
I know you’re selfish. I get it. I am, too. I know this is intimidating. I know you’re so selfish that you’re asking yourself whether divorce might be easier than putting in the work.
Maybe you’ll need to learn the hard way, like me.
But maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll realize that divorce is not easier than putting more effort into your marriage.
And I’m telling you, you can do it.
You still have time.
To be a soldier.
To change yourself.
To do something heroic.
You May Also Want to Read:
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12
An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13
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