The Eureka Effect: How to Save Marriages

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(Image courtesy of
(Image courtesy of

I was crying all the time and sleeping in the guest room. It was a real shit show.

My marriage was dead, but I didn’t know it yet. If I had known it, I would have never experienced the Eureka effect, which might be the most important thing to ever happen to me.

I was reading How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It (which I’ve made no secret is the most important book I’ve read on relationships), and page after page was explaining myself to me. Explaining my wife to me. Explaining my marriage to me.

It was my “Aha” moment. My “Eureka” moment. The moment I truly understood how radically different my wife and I were experiencing our marriage. The moment I could finally see things from her perspective.

I finally understood why all of our fights started and ended the same way. I finally understood why they were so predictable. I finally understood the most important thing there is for a man to know about his wife in a marriage.

She felt alone and abandoned. And that made her feel afraid and like she couldn’t trust me.

I finally understood the most important thing there is for a woman to know about her husband in a marriage.

My wife was not attacking me or telling me I wasn’t good enough. Just like my wife wasn’t actually alone nor abandoned.

It just felt that way.

She was trying to communicate to me how things I did made her feel disrespected and unloved, but she was doing it in a way that only made sense to her and not me.

That tends to make men feel shame. Like their wives are telling them they are not good enough. It fundamentally changes you on the inside when the person you love the most repeatedly tells you you’re not good enough, even if that’s not what she means to do.

I would get defensive because I always felt like I wasn’t guilty of the things she claimed. She would get angry because I WAS doing the things she said I was doing, even if I wasn’t realizing it. I wasn’t validating her anger and sadness and fear and it made her even more angry.

Then when she got angry, I would get equally angry in return.

We were a ticking bomb.

Because she was afraid and didn’t feel safe. The marriage had ceased to be a comfort zone for her.

Because I felt shame that I couldn’t make her happy and frustrated that nothing I did ever seemed to be good enough for her. I always felt like there was a new thing for her to complain about.

Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame.

How husbands and wives manage those emotions will prove the No. 1 predictor of whether their marriages will survive.

Wives who are afraid trying to talk to or fight with husbands who feel ashamed are going to fail at marriage a high-percentage of the time.

Something else important happened. Another “Aha!” moment. I realized that EVERYONE has the exact same fights.

There are always outliers and unique circumstances, but by and large, I realized that the reason these books can be written, read by millions of people, and have everyone nod their heads up and down is because these are almost universally true observations about people.

It’s so important to realize you’re not alone.


You’re not. No matter what it is you feel. There are many other people who feel it, too. And when you discover that truth, it changes your life because feeling connected is one of our most basic human wants and needs.

The Nine Dot Problem

Nine Dot Problem

The Nine Dot Problem is a classic spatial problem psychologists use to study insight and problem solving. There are nine dots on a page in a perfect 3 x 3 square. The object is to connect all nine dots using exactly four straight lines without retracing or removing the pen from the paper.

The psychologists who conducted the first lab experiment with this problem (Kershaw and Ohlsson) said that in a lab setting where participants are given a time limit of two or three minutes, the expected solution rate is 0%.

You, quite literally, must think “outside the box” to solve it.

How to Save Marriages

I think I experienced something that many (maybe even most) men do not. I experienced the Eureka effect in a very profound way on the subject of marriage and male-female relationships.

And the more I think about it, the more convinced I become: The way to save marriages is to help people have their own Eureka moments.

The question now becomes: How do we get people to have their own Eureka moment?

What is the most effective way to reach people?

I read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It because I was invested in trying to save my marriage. My biggest fear was losing my wife and having my young son growing up a child of divorce like I had.

Fear of loss motivated me.

I don’t know what drives other people, but because I know I’m never the only one, I can infer that there are a lot of other husbands and boyfriends out there who feel as I felt.

So, I start with them.

It will take insightful, creative thinking to change the way people behave in, and think about, their marriages. Habits and evolutionary hardwiring are tough things to overcome.

But there is a way.

I think we just have to draw outside the lines.

12 thoughts on “The Eureka Effect: How to Save Marriages”

  1. I had the AHA moment when I started to figure out that no matter what we fought about, it always boiled down to the same thing – I felt, as your wife did, alone and abandoned and he heard it as criticism and judgement. It was like we were communicating in completely different languages and always talking past each other.

    My p-doc recommended that we read “Feeling Good Together” (Dr. David Burns). It kind of teaches you how to communicate in a way that allows you to hear and be heard. It was a game-changer for us. It’s really good stuff.

    Not for the faint of heart though…it takes time and effort to put the principles into practice and master them. But, for us, it was totally worth it.

    You might want to check it out.

    1. Mindset is so important for this sort of thing. A bunch of people read stuff I’ve written here and it makes sense to them, but inevitably a ton of them say: “How can I get my husband to read this?”

      It’s so hard because a relationship requires two people to make hard, unselfish choices to make it work.

      It’s really no surprise we have such a high failure rate.

      I really appreciate this suggestion. I’m constantly trying to digest more information and get smarter. Thank you for the recommendation.

  2. I picked up a book at a truck-stop a few months back– actually written for wives, but that doesn’t stop me from reading it. “How to get your husband to talk to you”. Seems communication is a BIG problem. Men talk– sometimes we don’t shut up– but we don’t talk much to our wives. The book explained rather well why that might be. One thing: If I’m already wrong regardless of what I say, I’ll clam up. Silence will become my native tongue, and she will complain then that she can’t get two words out of me. That’s one example– the book had lots to say to help get communication going.

    1. I really think it’s that simple. It’s seems like such a small thing. I think the natural reaction is:

      “Is it really possible that something as seemingly insignificant as tone of voice and word choice be the cause most of my relationship problems?”

      And the answer is: Yes. That’s precisely what causes them.

      Thanks for chiming in, sir. Always appreciate your time.

      1. Oh absolutely Matt. The tone of voice and facial expressions speak volumes compared to actual words. Can be used as veiled weapons, seem innocent but the potential to be very damaging. I always liked this suggestion about how to cut down on the complaining about one another Choosing an battles wisely. The counselor said, each of you can complain to the other about something THREE TIMES A DAY- that’s it no more than the three. So if in the morning partner,leaves wet towel on floor. When you see it you can choose to complain/speak to them now about it,(no, screaming no violence) or think to yourself “what if I do this now and I need to use it for a bigger issue tonight? I’ll just wait and not say something. Surely there will be something more important to discuss later. I think it teaches us to pick our battles wisely. So as you say in your post If you must speak to partner on a issue with them – remember to curb the attitude and communicate with some compassion, not a harsh tone and scowl. There’s my tip to share.
        Great post as always!

  3. Hey, Matt, I read that book on your recommendation. Thanks it was very helpful! Wrote my next post about is and gave you a shout-out so check it out. Take care.

    1. Thanks for peeking in on this one, Tessie. I liked your post. It was introspective, and provided a really concrete example of applying your expertise elsewhere into your relationship with your ex-husband (and will be able to use in your next relationship).

      If every person had the same experience you just had, I believe we’d reduce the divorce rate by 90 percent overnight.

      Self-awareness combined with wisdom is a really powerful thing. I’m on the same journey.

      Thank you for reading that book. How I felt reading it is my guide for what I want people to feel when they read things I write. (With limited success.)

      It was a very powerful experience for me.

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