Marriage: A Global Epic Fail

Comments 43
Artwork by bytebullet at Deviant Art.

If seven out of 10 children flunked out of school or demonstrated a complete inability to adapt to the classroom and learn basic curriculum, everyone would lose their minds.

The top priority would be to fix this totally broken and dysfunctional system. There would be plenty of blame to go around. But the basic premise would boil down to: Ummm. Maybe we’re doing it wrong!

You think?

Education is already one of the most-important political and social issues of our time, and that’s with 90 percent of our students graduating high school or achieving an equivalent degree. About 34 percent earn a bachelor’s or higher degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

So, I got to thinking. And I came up with this: What the fuck, world!?


To be clear, 70 percent of marriages don’t end in divorce (but more than half do). According to Ty Tashiro, who wrote The Science of Happily Ever After, 70 percent of marriages end in divorce, or feature two people who resent the hell out of one another.

I’m just trying to understand! Plenty of people care about this. It’s impossible for us not to. Divorce affects 95 percent of us!

But there’s no national or global dialogue about the problem. I’m having trouble understanding why.

Maybe People are Out of Fucks to Give

But it couldn’t have started out that way. As a percentage, how many couples do you think wanted to get divorced on their wedding day? Like, con artists aside, we’re dealing in the zero range, right? Right.

So everyone REALLY gave a shit and was like “Hell yeah, let’s get married and love each other forever!!!” and then seven-ish years later were like: “Honestly? This is shitty. I hate my life. I have no more fucks to give.”

Then, BOOM. Divorce. And everyone’s sad. And all the kids cry. And we get boyfriend and girlfriend and step-parent drama. Everyone has less money afterward. It’s seriously so unbelievably horrible and shitty in most instances that despite trying hard, so hard, I can’t come up with multiple reasons why this is happening more than half the time.

There can only be one reason.

We’re Doing It Wrong

Just own it. You’re fucking shit up right now. I know you are. Because you’re a person just like me and even the really, really, really, really, really exceptional ones mess up.

If you’re part of the mythical 30 percent, you needn’t read further. I’m not talking to you. Just carry on being better at life than me and trust that I appreciate you more than you know.

The rest of you? You’re in this pile of shit with me and I’m begging you to start being part of the solution.

“Hey Matt! Why are you being all snide and cheeky today?”

Because of Scott, that’s why. Who’s Scott? Glad you asked.

I wrote a series of posts called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands and through the magic of SEO and social media sharing, a lot of people (relative to my audience) read them.

Vol. 1 gets read the most these days, and yesterday Scott read it. I don’t think he liked it, because he said: Fuck women! They can’t be pleased! No matter what you do, it’s never good enough! They’re intolerable, crazy and unreasonable! And I’ll never be happy as long as I’m married to her but hopefully I will be happy when I’m dead!

I’m paraphrasing. But he pretty much wrote that.

Some guy. I don’t know him. Maybe he’s awesome. Might be. He’s married with kids and wants to play golf on Saturday and to be left the fuck alone about it.

Which is fine. I’m not privy to his family’s wants and needs and financial situation and how the decision to play golf as an escape from them affects everyone psychologically and emotionally.

Scott could be anyone because millions of men feel this way. MILLIONS. Just like the millions of women who are frustrated with Scott because he doesn’t understand that it’s not the golf that upsets her. Maybe she feels like he values his friends more than his family and it hurts her. Maybe she feels like the money would be better spent on needs for their children and it erodes her trust. Maybe he’s so emotionally disconnected at home that she thinks he’s having an affair and every time he leaves for five hours it triggers inner turmoil because all she can think about is him being with some imaginary woman and: how is she ever going to make it on her own after the divorce?

It goes both ways. I don’t like to write about it because I don’t like to point fingers. Pointing fingers causes defensiveness and then things don’t get better. But sure, ladies. Let’s deal with it. You’re occasionally awful, too. Maybe give this a read and tell me whether it rings any bells: I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly, And It Wasn’t Fair.

I blame dudes all the time because they’re wrong more than you. On balance, I really believe that. But, yeah. You are also capable of extraordinary shittiness, ladies.

But I’m going to trust you to own it after your other half starts owning his. Someone has to fire up the healing train, and I’m perfectly okay with men taking the lead.

Here’s the Thing

We have to fix this. How? If I figure it out, I won’t have any money problems. I don’t have any answers and I’ve never claimed to. But I know one very important thing.


You’re doing it wrong! Right now. (Not you, 30 percent!) And I just want to know what’s so hard about doing it differently. Try a new way!

“If she is not happy with all that shit then we should fucking leave them,” Scott said. Scott’s angry.

Well, Scott, I’m fucking angry. Because your way is BULLSHIT. It’s a massive failed experiment (70 PERCENT, man!) and you perpetuating it is just about the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.

Getting mad? Leaving? Complaining? Cheating? Playing more golf? Putting your kids through divorce?

That’s your grand plan? That’s the solution to all your problems?

Try Something Different

So, I wrote back to Scott. Because I want him to try something most people don’t. I want him to take the road less traveled and save his family because that’s hero shit. And I said something like this:

We live in a world where everyone is always asking: “What’s in it for me?”

People get married with the idea that their partner is going to make them happy, and so often failing to ask: “What can I do to make them happy?”

And we wonder why everyone is feeling miserable and shitty all the time.

So, again, I ask: Why not try a different tactic? It might seem a little radical. But, desperate times, and all that.

You give all you have to give. Every day. And you make your marriage about the other person. About their wants and needs and happiness.

Expect and demand (kindly) the same in return. And then maybe you get everything and more you want while providing the same to your partner.

So you have two people. Two people who give to the other more than they take for themselves.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: No one’s doing this (again, not talking to you, 30 percent!) and everyone’s getting divorced or wanting to because their relationships are broken and shitty.

So maybe my way is worth trying. And yeah. It’s super hard. All of our human being baggage gets in the way of executing this plan to perfection. I don’t think it’s easy. I just think it’s worth it.

And I’m becoming more and more convinced this is how we can get a bunch of people to wake up in the morning not feeling angry and sad and lonely and shitty and afraid all the time.

This is how.

Give more than you take.

I did it wrong. And everything broke.

And now you’re doing it wrong, too.

But you don’t have to.

43 thoughts on “Marriage: A Global Epic Fail”

  1. I can appreciate your stance on the matter given what you have been through but there are some of us that view it differently.

    Is it better to have a violently aggressive spouse that punches you in your sleep? Kicks you down a flight of stairs? Screams until the wee hours of the morning?

    Having read those things did you immediately assume it was a man doing them?

    7 out of 10 people would. In this case they would be wrong.

    So while I can see the value in your case of wanting to save your marriage, its not a brush all of us can be painted with.

    1. To be sure, Mr. Chaser. Sanity must always prevail.

      For example, if your wife tries to drown your children, or your husband has sex with your sister, I am totally morally okay with ending the relationship.

      I’m not a very good communicator sometimes, because I must not have made this point very well.

      I think if people do things the right way, we don’t have violently aggressive, screaming and stair kicking. That’s PSYCHOTIC.

      And I really do think the sane solutions only apply to sane people.

      My hope isn’t that people repair their horrible 15-year marriages, even though that would be wonderful.

      My hope is that people just getting started can figure out how to never break it in the first place.

  2. {Exhale)…whewwwwww…….. that was…..passionate. I agree 100% and I feel terrrrible that I couldn’t give enough to keep him. I admit that I royally screwed it up for the first several years. But at the end, I tried. I really really did. LONG BEFORE he left, I saw the err (error?) of my ways and fixed it… too little too late I guess. And so, I’m part of that 70%. An unmitigated failure. I want other people to not make those same mistakes too… I HATE divorce! >:-{

    and I hate that I can’t undo my divorce. I can never be a part of the 30%…ever. :-/

  3. By and large I think you’re right. Give more than you take. That’d totally work if both partners did that.
    Except that there are relationships where only one partner does that. And the other person takes more than they give. And then the first person feels drained/abandoned/put-upon/burdened with all the responsibility, so they withdraw their giving. And then, guess what? Only then does the second person realise how much the first person was giving, now that they realise they’re not getting it any more. And they feel abandoned/unloved. And it was only because the first person was levelling the playing field.
    So maybe where we’re going wrong is right at the start. The need to talk about expectations. And then keep talking as things change – jobs/kids/homes. Maybe that’s what the 30% are doung right.
    That and BOTH of them giving more than they take.

    1. I think that’s EXACTLY what needs to happen, and in the case of the minority, is what’s happening.

      Thank you for articulating it. 🙂

        1. You and everyone else. That’s why you need both to participate. So you can get lifted up on the hard days. And it makes it so much easier to return the favor when called upon.

          You care. You’re trying. And that matters.

    2. Or instead of withdrawing, what if we talked first? Communication isn’t happening, because we’re too busy, we’re always on our phones, we’re worried about someone halfway across the country, instead of the person sitting right next to us.

        1. The Ginja believes in multiple forms of communication. And as there is no one seated next to her, you are the most important person at present.

  4. I don’t think we’re all getting it wrong, I think our current model of marriage itself is wrong and needs to be changed, I also think playing golf or whatever you’re interested in is fine as some people need some space to themselves but also be in a relationship. The reason we have less money when a marriage ends is because the joint assets have been split (we have the same money singularly) by living together we benefit from economies of scale.

    I know it’s very Germaine Greer (who by the way asked these same questions in 1970 and nothing’s changed) but I think some kind of community living is the solution, with shared child-care and elderly-care advantages, mentoring from other generations (not just a nuclear family), financial benefits of economy of scale and shared social opportunities (so you don’t get bored and lonely if your partner wants to do something for the day).

    I think this would also help with domestic violence issues which is a huge problem within marriages as every day (on average) more than 3 women are murdered by their husband/partner in the USA (according to the American Psychology Association

    One thing is for sure, it’s not working and it needs to be debated.

    1. There’s a modern Dutch community in the Netherlands who lives this way. I saw it in a documentary called “Happiness” once. Interesting.

      While I like your idea (seriously) and think it has a ton of merit (not unlike radical changes to tax law like a consumption tax, and making the business week four 10-hour days so we always have three-day weekends while still maintaining productivity), I’m guilty of believing people are going to keep wanting privacy and to live in their own houses instead of sharing goods in a tribal, old-world village sort of way.

      Rather than convince most of the modern world to fundamentally change the way they live, I’d just like people to take a stab at rethinking their own behavior.

      How would you even begin to have the conversation about a more community-based approach? It’s fascinating. I just don’t see how you even START that.

      Find other people who want to, and just start doing it? Maybe that’s the way. Lead by example. I’m going to think about that more. Fun idea.

      1. It’s probably the kind of idea to have over a few drinks and never follow up, I’ve got some friends who have also brought it up, it’s probably a bit utopic? (Like that the documentary you saw entitled it ‘Happiness” though).

        1. Apparently the Dutch score VERY high when polled about their “happiness” levels. And the filmmakers used this “alternative” style of living as a way to showcase how some people do things very differently and enjoy life more as a result.

  5. You are right…and you are wrong (in my opinion… obviously). You are right that something is wrong with marriage for it to have such a high fail rate but I disagree with you that it’s the institution of marriage or the system that’s the problem; it’s the people.
    In general, people are not being taught to be unselfish anymore. Selflessness is not a value our current culture embraces or promotes. Our society focuses on immediate gratification and every want being fulfilled. That does not prepare individuals to enter into a partnership that requires constant work and compromise to make it last. Add to that the unrealistic expectations that most people bring to a marriage and you have the perfect recipe for failure.
    Of course there are a million and five unique situations each with their own factors contributing to the longevity (or lack thereof) of the marriage but I think that’s the broad scale general problem…the people.

    Also, I understand where you’re coming from with owning more than your fair share of the fault in your failed marriage, however sometimes it seems like you put women on quite a pedestal in regards to marriages. In general women are just as terrible at marriage as men. They just are.
    Yes, in different ways but the problems with marriage are shared equally by women and men. It takes two to make a marriage and it takes two to break a marriage. Even when one person (except, of course, in abusive relationships) does something grossly and obviously wrong the other person is not blameless and needs to own their shit as well.
    Basically people suck at marriages because we’re all selfish bastards and women are just as likely to suck as men are…
    yup, that about sums it up.

    1. WRONG!?!?!?



      Sure, people are shitty. But they’re also amazing. They make miracles. Save lives. Serve the poor. Donate money and time. Teach. Inspire. Create. Heal. Hug. Love.

      Tommy Lee Jones said it best in Men In Black. I’m going to flip it around, though. “People” (the masses) are dumb. But a person is smart. There are billions (I hope at least two!) smart people. People who can be reached.

      Here’s what I believe. People don’t want to get divorced. And the VAST majority aspire to succeed and do good at things, including marriage.

      We just often lack the knowledge, experience and tools to get the job done.

      That’s a solvable problem.

      1. I don’t disagree that people can be amazing and unshitty but I think the general default setting is selfishness and it’s the day to day that matters most in a marriage.
        I believe that people think they don’t want to get divorced but they don’t really want to do the hard, day to day work not to either. It’s like my 15 year old son, he says he wants to get good grades & have a high gpa…but he doesn’t really want to put in the effort necessary to achieve that. So, even though he’s wicked smart & totally had the ability to do well academically, he fails classes & gets crap grades much of the time.

        1. No. People don’t want to do the day-to-day work.

          They have to be convinced it’s worth it.

          The pain of divorce and losing your children is very effective.

      2. P.S.- Is there such a thing as an unsolvable problem? I don’t think so. Just because we don’t have the answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. And I do love a good problem to solve.

    1. And of course your species is a nightmare and part of the problem. 😉

      As a guy, I can only talk about being a guy.

      I think men should be responsible for being good men. And women should be responsible for being good women. No finger pointing.

      That’s why I write as I do. Of course, internally, I thought I was right all the time and my ex-wife was getting it wrong or being unfair or being overly emotional.

      But I can only control me and how I react to things.

      Strictly in the context of a marriage, I think men are wrong more than women. Because MANY times, all it would take for the marriage to stay strong is for the husband to make his wife feel emotionally safe. Through fiscal responsibility. By including her in activities. By respecting her opinions. By genuinely trying to help make her days easier.

      Then, all the “crazy” things won’t happen in the first place, and everyone can just be cool and like each other. Yay.

      1. As time passed by, I also came to realise that (stupidly) a lot of it was about the division of labour, who was contributing what and how much, particularly when I wasn’t ‘working’ as such. When I look back on this now I think, how could it have come down to that?
        You’re right, emotional and financial security, inclusion, and respect are the things that would have made it work (for me, anyway), I guess for a long time I was lead to believe that those things were too much to ask.
        Thanks Mat for persisting, I think you’re going to make it work next time around.

  6. Awesome! How well said.

    Sometimes I try to write about what women are doing to to contribute to the decline in marriage, but the problem is, I did everything wrong, really was an unpleasant person, and yet my marriage has survived and thrived.

    Hidden in that statement is a clue however, I recognized that it was me and blamed myself, or perhaps blame isn’t even the right word, but the ability to stop blaming the other person for your own marriage misery and to take responsibility yourself is a huge step in the right direction. It’s also incredibly empowering.

  7. Always give more than you take and don’t expect to get equal in return…give out of love and don’t demand. True love is kindness and gentleness. It’s being there for the other when we would rather be doing something else. It’s compassion and seeing through their eyes. It’s sitting next to the one you love and wanting nothing because you have everything in your partner. It’s learning to control selfish urges and it’s learning to appreciate the little things in life.

    Sure, there are marriages that are going to end in divorce–those that are abusive and there is not a dang thing that can be done to correct those because some people should never be married but if you love someone enough to marry them then you should love them enough to give. 🙂 We are selfish individuals and demand. We don’t walk in the our partner’s shoes because we expect them to figure it out and to an extent they should want to. It’s not always easy but if we want to be happy, we need to work on being the best partner we can. Divorce is an easy backdoor. Matt, you are right. There are things that can be done to ensure a better marriage before it is too late :). Take care of yourself and keep on making positive strides in life. 🙂

  8. I guess that puts me in the lucky 30%. I chuckled when I read the part about “if you’re in the lucky 30%, you don’t have to read any further”. Don’t kid yourself, we don’t have it all figured out either!

    I don’t know what separates us from the other 70%. If there’s a magical formula to marital satisfaction, I haven’t figured it out yet. We’re coming out of a VERY rough period in our marriage – a period of several years of protracted unhappiness with each other. Finding our way back to happy has been a slow and often painful process. We just…keep trying.

    If there was abuse and addiction in our relationship, that would be a different story, but in our circumstances we are of the mindset that divorce is not an option and so we can choose to be happy together (and all the work that entails) or we can choose to be unhappy together.

    It’s a cliché, but you have to choose it every day. Sometimes, when things are really rough, you have to choose it hour by hour and moment by moment.
    We choose happy. Sorry. ..that’s all I’ve got.

  9. The Ginja appreciates your open, broken soul.

    Society now tells us “if it doesn’t make you happy, get out of it”, “don’t tolerate ‘toxic’ people in your life”. What does that mean? Someone is scarred and hurting and lashing out and you shouldn’t accept their broken souls? The Ginja follows a different adage:

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Insert that into your life. Put yourself out of the equation. We don’t need to receive anything from anyone. Take the I want (or Nemo “mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”) out of the equation. Some people won’t change. But you can change, and I can change, and WE can make a DIFFERENCE.

  10. We are all guilty, all of us. Marriage is hard, from the minute you say “I do” or “I will” or “Yeah sure” or whatever it is you say; marriage is hard. There will always be times when one partner is giving more or feels like it. I suspect Matt, we look for partners that balance us and fail to consider how we can balance them. We fail to ask the critical question you asked, ‘how can I make this person happy’. Maybe if we did, every single day our lives would be better, our marriages would be happier and we would fail less often.

    Well done.

  11. What would you say to a teenage girl who fell in love with the nerdiest guy in the world? He left and went to some prissy boarding school accross the atlantic. Hes never texted first and it drives her crazy? What would you tell the guy too?

  12. I think some people get married with the understanding that marriage takes work. There will be good times and bad times; however, with effort, the good outweighs the bad. Maybe the 30% go into marriage with an “I’m here to win” attitude. Also, maybe they understand that the grass really isn’t greener.

    My Ex suffered from the grass is always greener syndrome. He always had one foot in and one foot out of our marriage. Rather than talk to me, he took up with a woman he went to high school with. He gave her a window into our marriage all the while giving me a wall. I have no doubt he told her all that was troubling him. Meanwhile, he shut me out.

    Since my divorce, I have come to believe that my Ex is a disordered person. He is a pathological lying narcissist. If I am correct (and I am not a psychologist) then my marriage was doomed no matter what because you cannot have a successful marriage with a disordered person.

  13. You hit the nail on the head – give more – take less….. I always, and I mean always, enjoy the read and visit.. There is always something to take away and implement in my marriage. We are on 23 years and there are days when I am so close to being asked to go or leaving, but I hang on to the idea that there was once something there….. Yes give more and take less. Thank you for your words….. Have a wonderful week.

    1. I don’t know how to take that! Be thrilled that you’re fighting the good fight at 23 years, or troubled by all the near-misses.

      Far be it from me to act like I know ANYTHING about a 23-year marriage. But my best guess is that 100-percent of those have a bunch of hard years and close calls.

      Thank you so much for doing the hard thing and making it work. I find it inspiring.

  14. Pingback: When You Say ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ it Becomes Your Fault | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  15. Pingback: What Will I Tell My Son To Help Him Avoid Divorce? | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  16. Pingback: I Just Lost Half My Son's Life in the Divorce: How Can Our Sons Break the Cycle? -

  17. Pingback: No, the Affair Didn’t Cause the Divorce | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  18. I stumbled upon this page after finally realizing my fiancée is a fucking ass hat. He’s a jerk to the kids and he’s never home (i tracked his time with the kids at an average 27 min per day) I have to beg him for sex and he will still tell me no. I had a baby almost a year ago but I look good. I’m still getting hit on by guys (I’m 27) I’ve never thought about anyone else until recently and now I just want to get royaly fucked by anyone else but only if he walked in on my adulterous self so that I can see the shock and horror on his face and I would hope that seeing this would crush him into tiny pieces because that’s what he’s been doing to me for the past 3 years. I just don’t know how I can be any more clear than “im lonely, I’m sad and I hate this relationship.” I asked for counseling and he said that I’m the only one who needs it. I’m now writing this 11:33 at night and I’m alone in bed.

    I want to leave, I want to cheat or maybe just kill him in his sleep, but I still want to try. Is there any way I can make him see the light? should I just leave and hope he changes?

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.