Why Couples Always Have the Same Fight

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(Image/Huffington Post)
(Image/Huffington Post)

There are always exceptions to the rule. People who never smoke sometimes die of lung cancer, and some smokers live to 95.

If he’s drunk and hitting his wife and kids, or she’s a serial cheater while faking a happy-wife façade; or addiction, mental health, or sexual abuse is involved in a marriage, this conversation changes.

But that’s not what usually happens.

What usually happens is two perfectly cool, sane, healthy, decent people get married—probably a little sooner than they should—with both innocently and naively believing it’s always going to feel just like it does right now. It’s basically just like being Forever Boyfriend and Girlfriend! We can do that!

They love one another. They pledge faithfulness genuinely. They exchange wedding vows with the best of intentions.

And then, like clockwork, more than half of them are totally miserable within five to seven years. One or both are having affairs, or at least thinking about it, because they just want to feel something again. He’s jerking off in the shower or to late-night internet porn instead of having sex with her. She’s crushing on pretty much any non-creepy guy paying attention to her and making her feel special because her husband never makes her feel important anymore.

They’ll eventually divorce, or possibly stay together “for the kids” in silent misery, ensuring that pretty much every day is shitty for the rest of their lives.

What the Fight Looks Like

Sarah asked me: “Do you have thoughts on WHY men are (typically) so quick to blame hormones when they feel as though the women in their lives are acting unreasonably? Is it that it can so easily be used as a copout (why look to yourself for answers when it is probably her problem)? Or is it that many men really believe we are total victims to our ovaries?”

And yes. I have all kinds of thoughts on why this happens. In fact, I’m pretty sure I know exactly why men and women seem like they’re always repeating the same fight over and over again.

And it shouldn’t be a secret because divorce is bad.

Here’s what I think happens:

She gets upset about something she thinks is important, but he doesn’t. It could be any number of things. Leaving dishes in the sink. Leaving laundry on the floor. Tracking mud through the house right after she cleaned. It doesn’t matter what the actual thing is.

What matters is that for the rest of the conversation, neither person is talking about the same thing, because neither person actually understands what the other’s (legitimate) problem is.

To the wife, this is just another example of him not respecting her enough to demonstrate thoughtfulness about how his actions affect her. It’s not really about the dishes or the laundry. It’s more about the general pattern of behavior.

But that’s not what he thinks the conversation is about.

He thinks she’s actually mad about the glass in the sink or the pair of pants he left on the nightstand.

He thinks: “What kind of insane person would want to have a horrible fight and ruin our night and make our marriage out to be a trainwreck over something as insignificant as laundry or a dirty dish? I am never this irrational! If she thinks laundry is more important than our marriage, her priorities are warped, and she must not love me.”

And she thinks: “I cannot trust this man. I can’t count on him. He does NOT respect me. He never apologizes for hurting me because he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He always tells me how what I think and feel is wrong or dumb. I have all these feelings and I know I’m not crazy, but he NEVER acknowledges them as important or worth his attention. He thinks ‘proving’ his point and winning our arguments are more important than my feelings. He doesn’t care. He must not love me.”

Both husband and wife settle on logical conclusions that make a lot of sense. But both are also totally mistaken! And the only way for them to figure it out is to learn the secret.

Most people get so pissed with each other, they don’t even want to. They don’t WANT to figure out how to make him or her feel better. Because THEY are clearly the problem! My next partner won’t make me feel this way!

Before long, everyone stops putting effort into the marriage. Some people start sleeping with someone else. A marriage can survive on life-support for a while, with just one person making a go of it. But once both quit, it’s effectively over.

Most of us just aren’t strong enough to handle the mental and emotional anguish we feel when our marriages fall apart. Nothing in our lives up to that point could have prepared us for it. It’s all very new and terrifying, and there’s no instruction manual for what to do next.

A troubled marriage CAN be saved.

But since most husbands and wives don’t understand how one another actually work on the inside, the marriage breaks down imperceptibly slow—especially to the husband who has yet to connect the dots about what his wife is really upset about.

If the husband thinks the only problems in his marriage are teeny little fights over laundry on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink, he’s liable to be blindsided by the news she’s unhappy and contemplating divorce.

Wives feel like they’ve been really clear about their feelings up to this point. Yet, husbands are like: Wha-!? Why didn’t you say anything!?

Wives think he’s dumb and oblivious and disengaged.

Husbands think she’s gone off the emotional deep end once again.


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Wives know their husbands are reasonably smart, so they can’t figure out how he could be so dense as to not understand her after hundreds of these conversations. She can only conclude that he doesn’t give a shit.

Husbands know their wives are reasonably smart, so they can’t figure out why she doesn’t acknowledge his perfectly logical conclusion: “Ummm. A pair of pants on the floor or an empty glass in the sink is NOT worth fighting over and further damaging our marriage! Why would she rather fight than keep the peace?” He can only conclude that she’s a little bit crazy.

He doesn’t know the laundry is linked to a hundred other things inside her, all of which erode her ability to feel safe and loved in her own home.

And she doesn’t know about his frequent feelings of shame and failure that stem from these fights due to his apparent inability to make her happy. If she’s always sad and frustrated with him even though he really does love her and really believes he’s trying his best, then he’s failing epically at the most important thing in his life. These constant feelings of failure are making him withdraw further. He’s losing self-confidence, because it seems obvious now that he can’t make her feel good anymore. She doesn’t look at me the way she used to. She doesn’t want me to touch her. She thinks I’m a failure.

If he doesn’t feel like he can succeed at home, or that he is even moderately respected or appreciated, he can never muster the energy the marriage needs.

The vicious cycle continues.

Unless something changes, the marriage is doomed.

[NOTE: I felt like I cracked a secret life code when I grasped this idea for the first time. I have to credit the book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” for putting me on the right path. Maybe it can help you or your partner, too.]

There’s a Better Way

The only way to fix this is for both partners to “get” it. To understand what’s ACTUALLY happening inside themselves and their partners. Because they’re speaking plain English to one another, and neither person knows what the shit the other is talking about. For the trillionth time.

There’s a fun little book called Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti which provides a lovely visual food metaphor to help people grasp the basic concept.

As a general rule, men are like waffles. Their thoughts and feelings are comprised of all these little individual compartments. And at any given time, he is dealing with the contents of one compartment, and one compartment ONLY. So when he’s talking about a pair of pants on the floor with his wife, he’s only talking about that pair of pants. All previous conversations are not part of this one conversation.

But his wife is actually talking about EVERY instance of something like this happening. She’s talking about the thousand other times because, generally, women are like spaghetti. And their minds and bodies operate in a way in which everything isn’t compartmentalized into individual boxes. Their thoughts and feelings all live in the same place where they are intertwined and wound around one another. It’s why the pants thing really matters to her. It literally hurts her. Because it proves you don’t love me or respect me, and I don’t have time to do all the laundry AND take care of everything for the kids because Kyle has a field trip Thursday and Valerie needs to get to her swim meet, and it hurts so much that I can’t count on you to make sure Kyle’s lunch and outfit and permission slip are taken care of, and tomorrow is the four-year anniversary of my dad dying, and yes asshole—it still hurts—because he was the person who always made sure I was taken care of, and then I trusted you to be that person for the rest of my life, and you don’t do it, and now he’s gone, and just—fuck you—for leaving me alone in my marriage.

Since the only consciousness we understand is our individual first-person experience, we all just assume everyone else sees and thinks and feels like we do. Your parents never told you otherwise, because they didn’t want you to know how many times they almost divorced or had sex with someone else. No one explains any of this shit to us in school because the Department of Education thinks obtuse triangles, The Grapes of Wrath, and the French and Indian War are more important than the information we need to have functional adult relationships.

Every couple who has the same fight over and over again (the vast majority, right?) needs to learn the science and chemistry of what’s happening during conflict.

Everyone’s having the same fight and no one can figure out why. It’s especially frustrating when they discover on their second and third partners that the same things keep happening no matter how many new relationships they try, because: Surprise!!! Wherever you go, there you are.

It never stops until a person makes the choice to try something else.

Thousands of years ago, we all lived in tribes and villages, and sometimes lions and bears and other tribes would try to attack, rape, pillage, and burn our communities.

Evolutionary science required that women’s bodies respond to threats the way they do to help warn of danger and protect the tribe.

Men were hunting and gathering and responsible for physically protecting the elderly, women and children in the village.

Evolutionary science required that men’s bodies respond to threats the way they do to accomplish that.

A lot of this stuff is hardcoded into our DNA because it was the only way for us to survive.

But now it’s 2015, and bears and lions and violent tribes tend to not attack us in our predominantly domesticated homes and schools and workplaces. All these involuntary emotional and chemical reactions we have to threats don’t help save our lives anymore because most of us live in houses with partners and children with virtually no chance of being mauled by a lion while we sleep in our beds.

All these natural tendencies humans developed over thousands of years now cause major communication problems between male-female partners who in no way benefit from the way their bodies chemically respond to conflict in their marriages.

Chemistry is powerful. I learned that in school while they weren’t teaching me how to be a good husband.

But we’re pretty smart. We are. And once we get it, we have a chance to recognize this little dance of insanity we do as it’s happening and stop it from growing into a monster.

We give ourselves a chance if we can at least understand what’s happening to us, and why we always feel a little frustrated and out of control.

We have no chance at all when we don’t know.

When we don’t know better, and just do what feels natural, everything breaks. You’re not the only person dealing with this. It’s happening to everyone else too.

And even when you recognize what’s happening and have a high-level understanding of it and what you should or shouldn’t do next, it’s STILL super-hard when you’re pissed off and your insides are all mish-mashed in fuckness.

In 2015, everyone who gives a shit knows how to lose weight. Simplest math formula ever.

Eat less + Move more = Weight loss

Yet, even though we’re the most enlightened we’ve been in human history, we still have a ton of obese people, rampant diabetes, and heart disease.

Even when you KNOW what should or shouldn’t be done, it still requires a level of commitment and discipline hard for flawed (that’s all of us) human beings to achieve.

A person shouldn’t eat bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes every day and wonder why they never lose weight. That’s essentially what married people do who want to have a happy marriage but never bother to try a new way of doing things, in large part because they literally don’t know that pounding the metaphorical burgers and ice cream is dangerous and unhealthy.

That if it goes unchecked long enough, they’re all going to get sick and die.

They don’t realize it until they’re sick.

And they don’t want to change anything until they’re already dead.


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95 thoughts on “Why Couples Always Have the Same Fight”

    1. Thank you, Alice. I know it was a bit long and tedious. Brevity is not my strong suit. I really appreciate you reading and taking a minute to tell me you liked it.

      1. I like that brevity is not your strong suit. Thank you for taking the long way ’round and illustrating your thoughts clearly (and cleverly). Even more, thank you for validating my own observations/conclusions.

  1. Wonderful post. !!! Your blog has helped me a lot in understanding my own marriage. I have been contemplating divorce for so long and so much of your writing has made sense to me. Thank you .

    1. What a nice note. Thank you so much.

      Marriage is hard. But after dealing with the fallout of divorce (the emotional part nearly killed me, and the logistical part post-divorce is fairly shitty), I know that divorce is harder and shittier.

      If I thought there was any chance that replacing a crappy partner could lead to eternal happiness, I’d be a proponent. But I don’t believe that. I believe people who just slowly watch their marriage wither on the vine, and then don’t feel happy, and run away to try again with someone else are going to experience the exact same thing all over again.

      It all seems so pointless. Just figure out how to do a good job at marriage. It doesn’t seem like that much to ask, and it makes everyone’s lives better.

      So I’m going to keep thinking about it and talking about it.

      It means a lot to me that people out there care. Thank you for being one of them.

      1. You are SPOT ON….. my friend Toni Overby who you should look up and follow on here also… Also made a valid point. We love your blog!!!! The problem is that men may KNOW the little things work but they don’t WANT to do them, period. If you get the time check out themomwod …. I’m behind on writing but I’m also freshly divorced mother of two. I feel like you have lived in my house and head!!!! Keep up the writing you nail it

    1. CLS: “men know the little things count but they don’t want to do them”
      THIS! So much this! Oh my goodness does my husband get angry at me when I tell him he doesn’t want to do the little thug that’ll make me happy.
      But that’s it too isn’t it, we don’t DARE try to be straightforward and logical about something so trivial in their minds. Men use logic, we women aren’t allowed to use it back.

  2. Stupid busy today and I only have a moment.

    I never quite understood the connection that you made between your wife’s dad dying and the divorce.

    Today I got it. I mean I FULLY got it.

    That was a fantastic piece of writing.

    1. Being as you have read more of my writing than the vast majority of people, you taking time to A. Compliment it with a little emphasis, and B. Explain how things you read before clicked for you today, means a lot to me.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting even though you were extra-busy yesterday.

  3. Wow! Mind=blown. I want to print this one too! And if you remember me, I have not given him the 12 volumes of “an open letter…” yet. Waiting for the right time. You just totally GET IT!!! I am positive that you are saving more marriages than you will ever know. And if not, you are at least giving some hope to people! I just want to cram everything you write into my husbands head!!! But I can’t…and I won’t lol. You are a very talented writer. Just sucks you in and you can’t stop reading. I told my SIL to read and she said she hates me because now she can’t stop reading lol! Thank you for writing this! Has a lot of personal meaning to me because of some of the things we argue about. 🙂

    1. I have a pretty bad memory, but I can usually remember two days ago. 🙂

      I’ve had some wives tell me that they did this and that he was receptive to it. But I just want to be on the record saying that I don’t think handing your husband a bunch of these posts is likely to have the desired effect.

      For a variety of reasons.

      1. Men are defensive, and he doesn’t want to be told, even indirectly, that he’s a shitty husband who makes your life sad and unpleasant.

      2. I’m divorced. He’s married. He’s ALREADY winning the battle of marital credibility based on available evidence.

      3. The words “shitty husband” in the titles can be really off-putting, even though I’m not really trying to attack these guys or tell them I think they’re bad people.

      I’m sort of acting like you don’t know your husband well enough to do this tactfully, and that’s bullshit.

      Here’s what I think the message to good men who are bad husbands should be:

      “I love you. And I want to be married to you. But every day you hurt me really badly and I don’t think you realize it. Everytime I try to explain it to you, it turns into a fight and nothing ever gets fixed. I found something that helps explain what’s happening to us, and I would appreciate so much if you’d take a look at it, because our marriage is my life’s highest priority. And if nothing changes, I’m afraid our marriage is going to die. I need your help. I need you. Because I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And if you read this stuff and then we can talk about it sometime, I think it can change everything for the better.”

      Or some shit like that.

      Here’s what it can never be: “You’re an asshole. You’re a shitty husband. Here’s the proof! See how right I am, and how wrong you are!?”

      I’m exaggerating, kind of.

      But I’ve gotten notes like that from people.

      Also, I get to see the search terms that bring people to this blog. It’s really depressing how much “asshole husband” and “piece of shit husband” lands people right here.

      I just don’t want yours to think you were on Google typing “piece of shit husband.”

      Because I’m sure he has some really great qualities, and if you can get him to stop doing some of the things that are hurting you, (hopefully because he WANTS to–he just needs to realize it’s happening and that you’re not misinterpreting him which is what he probably thinks) I’d like to think you’ll be able to genuinely appreciate all those great things about him.

      Thank you for reading and leaving nice, encouraging comments.

      It’s awesome that things I write sometimes matter to people. I feel super-blessed everytime someone says so.

      1. Thank you for replying again! My husband and I have been through A LOT of hard times. He has cheated, had affairs, has been physically abusive, is very verbally abusive, is never home, doesn’t help with the kids or any housework. Literally. I do EVERYTHING. And he has been drinking more and more. He denies being an alcoholic but I know better. I do have a career as a licensed nurse but due to having another baby almost a year ago I am not working currently. So he constantly throws in my face “You don’t work, I make all the money that you spend”… which btw is only on food, necessities, kids, and bills. I buy myself hardly anything. I am probably the lowest maintennance woman in this town. Anyway, what led me to your blog was something to do with alcoholic absent husband I’m pretty sure. But then I got to reading and could not stop. Because EVERYTHING you say is my life. Minus the alcoholism anyway. I tried counseling after the first affair he had, he wouldn’t go. So I went myself. Then I walked in on him cheating again with someone else a month before our first daughter turned 1. So I quit going to counseling. I should have kept going because she probably would have given me the support and esteem to stay away. But I took him back. Anyway, you don’t care about all that, everyone has a story. Back to the point… I have tried opening my heart and soul to him, telling him that “it hurts me when”…and “when you do this it makes me feel like…” It just does not work. He passes out while he is supposed to be watching the baby so I can get my other kids ready for bed and when I tell him to wake up, because you are supposed to watch her, he tells me to stfu and calls me the worst names imaginable. I am at my wits end here. The way you write your blogs are so intruiging (sp?) and I think that if he read them while sober, it might help because it is coming from a man for one. And secondly because you lost your marriage and full-time son. So you speak from experience. You’re not just some “nagging bitch” to him. I took screenshots of what you wrote, as to what to say to him if I decide to give him the blogs. And I promise I will word it how you did, maybe add in a few words as to sound like I made it up lol. Thank you for blogging and giving helpful advice!! You are wonderful.

      2. Sorry to add my comment to this thread, too but maybe it will give a different perspective. My husband and I are happily married. We’ve been married for 6 years. We are both still sort of young, too. I’m 28, and he’ll be turning 26 this month. I want him to read this so we can understand each other a little better. This small article really helped me to understand that people do think very differently from one another. We have had fights about what seemed so important to me but not to him. It’s always about the same things, too. I won’t get into the details but basically we aren’t understanding the thoughts behind the words. I think sharing this article with him, and just telling him to take the time to read it so we can understand each other better will hopefully be good enough for him to look at it. I know we are young and not all that experienced in the world but I think we can make it if we keep trying our best to learn from others and ourselves. 🙂

      3. I guess I am pretty harsh for doing it but I will use desperation as my reason… I asked my husband to read the open letters. It explained everything that I’d been trying for so long to make him see. He was humble enough to see past the title. He agrees it’s going to change and save our marriage. Forever grateful!

        1. Thank you for sharing that story, Louise. Always makes me feel good to read things like that.

          The title is certainly not meant to shame anyone, so I’m glad he was able to look past it. I appreciate his humility, and I’m so happy to read that you believe it could help spur fundamental change in your marriage.

          It’s the best kind of note I ever get. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for writing this. I feel like you were able to put my thoughts and feelings into the words that I have been unable to. I hope I can take your information and advice and use it to better my own relationship.

    1. Thank you for reading it.

      Relationships are hard. Always and forever. But no one wants to be single and alone all the time, so inevitably we pair up.

      Might as well try to figure out how to make it not suck. 🙂

  5. This. OK, ladies— retaining everything your hubby ever did wrong from the beginning of time until now only hurts you and your marriage. There’s a reason why all that stuff about forgiving and forgetting is written in scripture– because nobody–NOBODY– can handle bitterness and resentment for very long. It eats at you and tears your soul apart.

    Of course the same thing applies for the guys too— can’t be keeping a running list of all of your wife’s faults or you end up– one way or another– on the marital trash-heap.

    Today’s problems are sufficient for today. Let each day take care of itself— and don’t let the sun set on your anger.

    1. Indeed, it would be awesome if wives didn’t seem to have a running list of every instace of their husband disappointing them.

      Because of my general disposition toward forgiveness and moving on, easy-to-get-along nature, and subpar memory, I’ve always been incapable of thinking of some bad thing that happened three years ago, or even a few weeks ago and feeling pain and anger over it.

      I felt capable of some VERY scary things three years ago when my marriage was falling apart, but especially in the immediate aftermath of her leaving.

      It was so beyond the worst feeling I ever felt, I’ve never been able to explain it. I’m just counting on people having gone through the same thing remembering the horribleness. I don’t think it’s something you can know if you don’t know.

      And I only mention it because less than three years later, I’m just not capable of dwelling on those darkest days and feeling a bunch of horrible things and then pointing a bunch of fingers in an attempt to blame everyone else for my problems.

      Some people do that. Sometimes they are wives. Always, that’s bad.

      To paraphrase Alexander Pope who I strongly suspect was a lot smarter and wiser than me: Forgiveness is divine.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, sir.

    2. Perhaps everything from the beginning of time is all of a piece. Perhaps the problem is the pattern and not individual things.

  6. Well yes, exactly that. Exactly. You made all the connections, exactly.

    I think I told you this story once, if I did I will apologize. If I didn’t, feel free to use it, change it or whatever.

    Many years ago, when my marriage was young and I thought it was worth the effort. When my husband dropped his stuff everywhere, made stupid statements like ‘that is womans’ work’, about housekeeping. When I thought well, that is cultural and he will get beyond it when he learns there are two of us getting up in the morning and going to work. When he got up after me every single blessed day, but still refused to make the bed despite how important it was to me. When…well when a host of other things.

    I thought, I would try to make him see the light. Not with bitching, crying and complaining but something else. So I beat him home. I made a nice dinner. I put on something ‘sexy’ and lit the candles. After dinner I snuggled up next to him on the couch and kissed his neck. Then I hit him with this;

    “Honey, I love you. But I am not very happy right now. I understand you don’t see things in the way I do. I get it. But you don’t have to love what I love. You only have to love me enough to make the effort, to do them sometimes.”

    That statement got us talking, it applies to all sorts of things. From making the bed to seeing a movie. It is give and take though too.

        1. I promise to keep thinking and talking and writing about it, because I think if people worked on this as much as they would IF they knew ahead of time that not doing so was going to lead to divorce and all the pain that comes along with it, it would change the world.

          I was totally blind to this relationship dynamic for the better part of 11-12 years, and as a child of divorce was already extraordinarily sensitive to it. Making my marriage last was a HUGE priority for me.

          I was, just, ignorant. Blind. A little selfish and immature and irresponsible, too.

          The combo is deadly.

          I think this is what kills MOST doomed marriages. This accidental apathy (because I don’t think there’d BE apathy if everyone knew going in how bad it can get).

          Maybe if we just keep talking about it, something different can happen.

          Always hoping.

          1. wow you are wonderful and deep, might you be interested in being a guest on my podcast? Its for women/moms mostly some men do listen but it would be great to hear an experienced man’s perspective and would show us women that men are open and want to be aware of this as well.. let me know!

          2. I’m a little spazzy in-person. Not sure how that would play in a voice conversation. But I would trust you to know what works and what doesnt much better than I.

            We can chat about it if and when you feel like it. Thank you for asking. Please write any time: [email protected]

  7. Heather Brewsaugh

    Absolutely brilliant.

    I’m a new wife. Our marriage is a little over half-a-year old. We have a son who is four months old. This article has brought so much about marriage to light for me, and has completely changed my view of married life.

    Thank you so much for the insight.

  8. I think the both of you would have benefited from reading Nonviolent Communication, and then practicing it. It’s a relationship must have.

  9. I kind of thought I was an anxious/crazy person because of the way my thoughts work. Most of the time I am really thinking of everything. All of the things that stress me out are right there all of the time! It’s nice to know that other women might be thinking that way, too. It does help me realize why some thing seem like a huge deal to me but they don’t to my husband. He never seems as stressed or worried about stuff that affects both of us as I am. Thank you for sharing! I want him to read this, too!

  10. You made a comment that husbands will discredit anything you say, because how can you know anything? Youre divorced. But, as a husband that has recently gone through a divorce I value everything ive read here. I also read shes not fighting about the cup by the sink. You, as a divorced man, are maybe not more qualified, but just as qualified to give advice like this because youve been where im at, and have looked back on WHY it went wrong, HOW it could have been fixed. These post have really put things in prespective for me, and maybe i can still win my wifes heart back and save our love for one another. Thank you for taking the time to understand these problems, and write these blogs to help others. Thank you.

    1. From one of those “frustrated and almost out the door wives: I wish you the best. The “realization” many men find themselves facing in a relationship is absolutely key to keeping that relationship. Many times, it’s all you really need. Now the tricky part, can she do her part to find the love again? Can she get past her own ego and allow forgiveness and goodness back in to your relationship? That’s certainly my struggle. I shared the glass story with my husband a few days ago and he called the author a pussy and went on to tell me how it was all a load of crap, basically. Now today, HE sends me the link to this article. Is it progress? Is he really trying? Am I willing to open up to him again after so many failed proclamations of commitment? Will he MEAN it this time? Can I find it in myself to not hold on to the pain of the past when it feels like said pain has never been realized or acknowledged by my partner? Have I done too much to hurt him for him to be able to open up to me? Do I expect too much? Can I give him what he needs? So much uncertainty! If you want her, go get her! We’re all here rooting for you.

    2. It’s 2021 and you might not remember this comment, but I just wanted to know if you succeeded in winning her back? like I’m really praying for some sort of good news from this.

  11. I wish I could be the perfect wife for my husband. I wish I could look like Selena Gomez, a hot gamer girl, or a sexy cheerleader, but I don’t, I am me, and he accepts that…at least I think he does. We almost always fight about the same thing every time…my kids. We are two very different people, I accept that, I love him. He is the one I took the leap of faith for, and I am glad I did so. He is the one that tore my heart and life apart, but I loved, and still do, him that much, that I knew he was still the one. I will bend over backwards and break my back for this man. Will he do the same? I feel he tries…in his own way. I do appreciate it. Would I ever betray him like he did me, heck NO! I love him and every fight we have, sounds crazy, but I am thankful for. People question why I chose him…he is my Superman!
    Fighting hurts, but it is a part of the communication process that happens in a marriage…I feel it leads to stronger communication skills. Do I like fighting, absolutely not. And if you were to ask him, it’s almost always 99% my doing, or my kids lol. I’ve accepted it. I am me. Take it or leave it ?

    1. Marriage: it takes two people to have one, two people to work on it. Both need to put 110%
      Sure, some days are harder than others, but again, this is where communication is key. If there is no communication, maybe it’s time to fix it or walk the other way.

  12. I love your hilarious school references! Great read. It is also refreshing to hear a divirced person being positive about marriage. There is so much bitterness and anger after most divorce it is lovely to hear encouragement of working it through. Although I am not a strict religioua type , I do think the church helped support marriages during tough times in a lot of ways, that are no longer available in a largely secular society.

  13. I am sure you realize that often what the subject of the fight is about, is not really the troubling issue. The reason why the “proxy” fight keeps coming back up is because the real issue is not directly resolved. So you agree to put the cap on the toothpaste, or wash out that cup, but because one party thinks it’s trivial, he may forget his promises. Bang! Back to the fight. But never ignore a fight because it appears to be trivial. Sometimes people are embarrassed at their own irrational insecurities, and can’t even admit to themselves what’s really bothering them. Something you are doing is poking away at some old unresolved grievance with dad, or an old boyfriend, or the boss, etc. Dig for the real reason. No one really divorces over socks left on the floor.

  14. David S. Stover

    Hmmm, I think it was a good article, some of the best parts were reading the replies. Been married and divorced 3x might be interesting to email back and forth sometime


    1. Anytime, sir. I’m not always prompt. It’s even harder now with a trillion-percent uptick in interest and messages.

      But it would be awesome to learn anything from you that I could.

      I appreciate the suggestion.

  15. I love your analysis Matt. You have a gift for this. Thank you for sharing the insights you’ve gained. While I regret not understanding some of these dynamics decades ago, I am grateful to ‘get it’ better now.
    I have known some grief in my life so I was surprised when a relationship ending knocked me to my knees. It is like a death. But it’s comforting to know others understand. And best of all, how they’re working to be better people in the future.
    Thanks for sharing.

  16. I feel like I must be doing all the things wrong, because my relationships go to crap around the 3 year mark.

    It’s never over small the sort of small things you mention in your posts. It’s over things like them deciding they don’t like their job anymore, quitting and then staying unemployed for a prolonged period of time. (Current partner has been unemployed over a year. He quit on my birthday. A couple months after our 3 year anniversary.)

    I was raised by my father and uncles. Laundry on the floor, dishes in the sink, etc. don’t get to me as much as other women. Probably because I literally grew up cleaning up after a bunch of men. I know that isn’t a battle even worth fighting. I just pick up the stupid laundry and put the damn dish in the dishwasher when I’m putting something of my own away.

    Could my passiveness about the small things be setting my partners up to disrespect me on higher levels? Such as not contributing financially, disregarding direct requests to help me with major household/car repairs(repairing broken pipes, replacing an alternator, moving a stacked washer/dryer so I can clean the lent out of the vent). Not nagging after the fact, but “Hey, there’s no water in the house, because a pipe busted. We definitely need to take care of that.” *hours pass and he’s still watching Netflix* “Dude, for real. You’re not going to be happy when you need to take a shit and can’t flush. Showers are also pretty badass. We should go to Lowe’s and fix that shit like now.” *he grumbles and says he doesn’t want to climb under the house today, so I go buy the damn shit my fucking self.* “Okay, I got the stuff. Come outside and hold the flashlight and hand me stuff, please.” He says “Okay, after this episode.” *episode ends* Okay, let’s go.” I say. “I took a shower last night and we have jugs of water we could use to flush. We can do it tomorrow.” He says “Seriously? You would rather skip a shower and pour drinking water into the toilet than help me fix a broken pipe?” I retort. “It’s cold out there.” He quips. “Um, yeah. I know that’s why the pipe broke…”

    I could go on, but the story ends with me under the house fixing the pipe myself. Holding a flashlight in my mouth and freezing my ass off. Then who hops his happy ass in the shower the instant the water is warm? While I’m still covered in mud and spiderwebs? Mr. I Showered Yesterday.

    Repeat this same argument replacing pipes with anything else you can think of.

    Anyway. I keep thinking it must be me somehow, because the pattern certainly repeats. They are supportive, helpful, courteous and respectful. Then seemingly out of the blue, around 3 years in, they turn into lumps on the sofa or in the computer chair.

    1. Um…could it be a “boundaries issue”? By which I mean you sound totally badass and yet are getting some seriously subpar behavior from your menfolk. Perhaps they think they can get away with it? I’m not judging. But I do notice some of the most egocentric women have some of the nicest husbands. My guess is you need to focus more of your outrageous competence on figuring out the life you want to have and put the couch potato on notice if he doesn’t want to be a part of that future. If you’re the one with the job, I assume you control the checking account. Next time the pipes break, you coul to treat yourself to a nice clean hotel room (alone) until the house is habitable. He’ll figure out how to fix the pipe or move on to the next Sugar-Mama. I suspect we get the partners we believe we deserve and we only get better ones if we refuse to settle for less. This totally sucks when you’re both deserving of a good partner and super-nice but bad at making people respect your boundaries. Perhaps working on strengthening your own limits and creatively letting him experience the “natural consequences” of his inaction (by refusing to rescue him) will be easier than trying to reform him? But seriously, unless Dude has a documented disability, he needs a timelimit to get employed or move in with mom or his friends.

    2. My sister from another mister, I tell you what! I’m old fashioned enough that I actually enjoy taking care of those little things for my man… But your question on “does this lead to bigger things?” I sure think it does. My husband and I married young (me at 21 and he has just turned 19) he grew up surrounded by women who took care of him to the point that when I met him at 17 he didn’t know how to put his own laundry in the washer. I taught him. He couldn’t cook much more than boiling a hotdog or frying a pre-formed hamburger patty. I taught him to cook. (Which he actually enjoys and is really good at btw!) My point here is his transition from being a kid at home to college kid at his sisters place continued straight to being a father and husband in mine. As I said I like and thrive in the “taking care of my man” role. Wash his clothes, fill his belly, suck his… Well, you know what I mean. But eventually I found my self being scolded because everything wasn’t right there for him. For example He stopped even considering that he needed to wash and iron his fatigues to report for duty Monday morning…. I didn’t mind doing it, but damnet don’t EXPECT me to be the only one of us making sure you have what you need. Don’t sit there mindless to the needs o the family then get mad at me for not taking care of it already.

  17. Thanks for this read, im in a rut myself. Although im not married (im in a a relationship of 4 yrs) it seems as if we are starting to hit a decline with trying to keep things going. He says im the one to blame and that i fail to consider his feelings. But i also try to explain to him my reasoning and it’s just a thing that goes back and forth. Noone wins and we go back to square zero. It would be nice if we both came to an understanding!

  18. My question is how do you keep communication open with someone who is just not paying attention to what you are saying? If respect is so important to men why can’t they understand that when some one who loves you doesn’t respect you it hurts like hell? How many times can you say the same thing before you just give up or try saying it in other more drastic ways?

  19. Honestly this article makes me want to scream and cry, rip at my hair and then punch my husband in the face…. Why? Because he and I have been going through all of this with increasing severity for years. Everything you’ve written here is almost exactly what I’ve been saying to him, what I’ve been trying to explain to him for the majority of our 10 year marriage. I shared a similar article with him just recently titled something like: “She divorced me because I left my glass beside the sink”, his response to my share was the same bullheaded narcissistic self point of view I always get when I try to share this concept with him, when I say THIS is the problem you need to open your eyes to see before it’s too late! Before I can no longer find the patience to wait for you, or be willing to still find love for you when you finally decide to come around and make me feel secure in the knowledge that it’s US, not me and him and whatever piece of “strange” happens to cross his path. Except he continues to insist that the hurt and pain he causes through his rebellious antics involving spending, partying and women; along with the rest of my emotions, are totally unfounded, not real, and certainly not caused by him nor are they in any way his responsibility to alleviate. He holds himself totally non-accountable to how he makes me feel, which is really the worst part of it all. I can Handle him doing stupid shit, people do stupid shit all the time. I’ve also done stupid shit while dating and in our marriage, I’ll freely own up to that. What I can’t handle is his denial that he hurts me while he’s off being a fuck head. FYI: we are a military family and also have to deal with more than our fair share of forced and extended seperation. (He’s finishing up a 12 month tour in Korea right now.) during which he decides he can do what he likes with whomever he likes simply because I’m not around. claims that I have nothing to worry about, but that what he does is none of my business and I’m supposed to be content with that and trust that he’s not being way too friendly with whoever just smiled and winked at him at the bar. He says the way I feel is 100% my problem and that all I have to do for us to be happy is to stop feeling those feelings….(srsly?!) In his words: “the guy who wrote that glass article is a pussy” then shared with me the link to the song “I won’t apologize”…. And my heart is broken yet again by the stubbornness of his male brain.
    But this time, HE shared your article with me… That’s progress right? I sure hope so. You added more of the science behind the why we are the way we are, maybe that’s what got through to his uber-logical brain. But now it’s my turn isn’t it? My turn to accept that at least he’s listening to someone regarding this topic and not be or stay angry at him for not listening to ME try to tell him this whole time. That’s usually where my own ego gets in the way and continues the cycle. I’m mad and hurt that I can see all of this, that I try to explain it to him, then he tells me I’m full of shit or stupid and I don’t care about HIS emotions. Well, I’m sorry, but when youre married you can’t demand an emotional (non)commitment more appropriate for a teenage or casual adult relationship. He won’t see how his demands are killing me, killing my love for him. And I’ll tell u what, with everything he’s put me through I’m not sure I have enough love left to forgive him. I’m not sure if he’s got it in him to step out of himself enough to make me feel the love and trust and safety I need. Really, bottom line, I just need him to accept that he has hurt me, to own up to it and stop telling me that they way I feel isn’t real. But he shared this article with me…. So, maybe, just maybe. If your article is indeed the kick start he/we needed to finally stop spinning on this wheel of conflict, well, I’ll certainly owe you one!

  20. We used to call this maintaining a healthy love back by always putting more in than you take out. Best credits we can earn!!!
    And always remember, it’s the little things that are the glue that binds and holds a relationship together

  21. Seriously. Why don’t you have your own TV show? I’m new to your blog and am devouring the content this evening and thinking…this guys needs his own show.

  22. I don’t think my husband doesn’t love me when he waits for me to ask him to do something or doesn’t clean up after himself. It shows me that he just doesn’t “get it”. I ask him for help, I tell him that I want more than anything to not have to ask for the basics to be done around the house. It is after the 100th “conversation” about it and he follows through for a couple days and then back to the same thing. I need to trust that I have a PARTNER in this marriage and to have that he needs to do – with consistency. I have to keep track of all of the things involved in s family…doctors appointments, including his, kids activities and assignments, repairs, insurance, the budget, getting the house clean, the dog’s medicine.

    I see him as capable, but not motivated. He WANTS me to just tell him what needs to be done. But that is what I hate!!!! I need him to remember to ask the 8 yr old if she has homework if I am working late. To take out the trash when the lid will no longer close, To set a good example to our children by doing what needs to be done before doing that fun thing you want to do. And please, oh please don’t try to come give me a kiss on the cheek when I am doing dishes or laundry while he has been sitting on his ass for the last 2 hours and I am stewing over another time that…wow, so much for what you said 3 days ago about helping more by doing the dishes or swapping out the laundry more than 15 times a year! Gee, this rant is therapeutic…lol! I have 7 – 9 loads of laundry every week. That is about 400+ loads per year!! So when he wants a pat on the back for doing 1 load, honestly, it is not sincere praise. It is more like the praise you give to a child for remembering to flush the toilet. You want to encourage the good behavior, but you know it is for something they need to be able to do…those basic life lessons. So, unfortunately, I feel as if I have 3 children instead of just 2. That’s not a marriage. That makes me a single mother of 3.

    1. I so feel you on that one Jen!! My husband works his butt off at his job, but when he comes home…Xbox, phone, or toilet. He has always said “why should I do anything if the kids aren’t.” To avoid the fight, I just keep doing what I’m doing. I really want to say, “because you’re the damn adult.” He is my biggest child, and my kids, his kids, and his family, even know that. They always ask how I do it…I love him. I would love more than anything for him to take initiative and do things on his own, like take the trash out, clean the bird cage, sweep, mop, dust, clean out the fridge, sweep outside, etc, but he is one who prefers to be told what to do. It’s a good thing I love him, otherwise my foot would probably be up his you know what 😉

  23. Thanks for this! You are able to completely capture my thoughts and feelings towards my husband. I’d love if you could spend some time with him so he “gets” it! Lol

  24. Thank you for being so open and honest. I just spent about an hour reading a few of your posts after coming across “She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink” and could not be more grateful for the perspective you’ve provided. I am not married, but have plans to be in a couple years, and my boyfriend and I often come across the same issues. Your descriptions are so very relatable and really make me (the person who’s constantly tying the little things back to big things) see how insignificant a lot of it really is… Sometimes when you’re in the midst of it all it’s hard to remember that he’s seeing it in a completely different light. And cue the part where my way of communicating my feelings to him comes off in the completely wrong way haha. Anyway, thank you! I really enjoyed this.

  25. Hi there
    This is an incredible article. I stumbled across it via Mumsnet. I am married 16 years, the last 6 years have been pretty rocky and we are in counselling. Truth be told we would have walked away from each other a long time ago were it not for the kids. I really really want to make our marriage work, but even in counselling, my husband always seems angry and says that he cannot give me what i want, that i am never happy and always want more. I just want to be treated as an equal and with respect, and not to be spoken to with antagonistic, critical and often foul language, (his default setting when we disagree.) I am a calm rational person and i believe in compromise but am getting increasingly despondent that he will never actually change, he is intransigent. Yet your words on how awful divorce is scare the shit out of me and i dont want to go there either. Your article is extremely insightful and every husband should read it, but i know mine wont. Keep up the good work, its good to read this stuff, it somehow helps me make sense of some of the issues we have anyway.

  26. You’re a genius! Absolutely! Thank you for putting into words what I haven’t been able to. And for explaining the man’s side in a way I can understand!

  27. I am so happy to have found your blog – the one about dishes in the sink was the first one I read and it had arrived in my inbox via Tango today right after my husband and I had a big fight about him ignoring me while I was talking to him – for about the 1000th time. I emailed him the article and his only takeaway from your commentary was that I’m thinking about getting a divorce because he doesn’t do the dishes. I mean seriously. He missed the whole point. The waffle and spaghetti analogy was very helpful – although I’m afraid to send him this post because he will probably think I want him to not make waffles for breakfast and make spaghetti instead. LOL

  28. I’ve been trying so so very hard to get my husband to understand these things. I keep telling him I’m not happy. I’m lonely, I feel unappreciated, I feel like he never wants to listen to me.
    My father actually did die last year and that part of this blog that mentioned how the wife wants the husband to take care of her the way her dad did had me in tears. Your writing is so relatable it hurts.
    My husband is a good guy. He works hard and he tries. And I appreciate him for that. So much.
    I just wish that when I told him these things that bother me he wouldn’t take it as an invite to an argument neither of us want to have. I’m not telling him he’s necessarily doing anything wrong, I’m just trying to explain to him how I feel and why I think I feel that way, but these conversations always end with him feeling like he is failing me in some way and I don’t know how to fix that.

  29. One of your comments said maybe not to send husbands these blogs – I disagree because it does them good to see someone else write down what their wives have been going on about for years, so he knows I’m not the only one. I’ve put up with this crap for 35 years and even through losing half my family in less than ten years, no support through the grief let alone trying to do anything with the marriage, everyone else is put in front of me and I have to deal with him enjoying himself everywhere else or even in front of me. Despite constantly being called out on this for all of this time, my pleas have been ignored. I am both strong and stupid enough to still be here but the effects have been devastating. I certainly will send him all your blogs and if he doesn’t like the honesty, tough. Thank you.

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  34. I will continue with a”new” approach to hopefully reach my husband. Sometimes I see that it is working. Then something, either from myself or him or some outside source, occurs and I can no longer “see” it. I am getting all emotional again.

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  54. Good stuff in general. This is a test comment because another one of mine hasn’t shown up yet. I’ll add more if this sticks.

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  59. Before we got married we both cheated,three years down,my cheating is rehatched forgetting you cheated,my marriage is falling apart.we drifting apart and nothing I say makes it better.The day we said I do,I decided for myself we are starting a new clean chapter,but seemingly husband cannot and will not forgive&forget.
    Your post is eye opening and helpful.

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Matt Fray

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