We Put Everything Ahead of Marriage and Then Wonder Why It Fails

Comments 38

downward spiral staircase

Let’s play a game.

Serious multiple-choice quiz:

1. What educational subject interests you most?

A. History

B. Math

C. Science

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

2. Ignorance in which subject matter will negatively affect the greatest amount of people?

A. Military History

B. Physics of Sound

C. Creative Writing

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

3. The lack of demonstrable skill in which area of life will negatively affect the greatest amount of people?

A. Drafting

B. Web Development

C. Trigonometry

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

I about had an aneurysm when I learned that divorce affects 95 percent of the population. That seemed high. But the numbers bear out.

Here’s the breakdown (in the United States): 54 percent of adults (18 and over) are married, 20 percent used to be married, and 21 percent desire marriage.

Name another social issue (so, not the environment, energy policy or our food supply) that affects 95 out of 100 people. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’ve complained about it before, because I sometimes complain: WHY ON EARTH DOES IT SEEM LIKE NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS?

Listen, I know there are a million books and websites and therapists out there working on marriage and relationship counseling. That’s not what I mean. I mean, we get so uptight about trans fats that they’re illegal in many places. We’ve made it weird and political every time we have to choose between saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” because we don’t want to offend people with differing beliefs. There’s a blood donation van that parks outside of my office building several times per year as part of a coordinated nationwide effort to grow the nation’s blood supply.

We care about childhood obesity. We care about getting our pets spayed and neutered. We care about reducing plastic bag use because sometimes they kill wildlife when not properly disposed of.

And that’s fine. You’re not going to hear me suggest we shouldn’t have those conversations. I just can’t figure out why helping people develop relationship skills and educating them on HOW to foster and sustain healthy relationships ISN’T a thing society seems overly concerned with.

It’s insane. It’s lazy. It’s foolish.

And it’s creating generations of dimwits procreating other dimwits who will perpetuate the dysfunction and fuckery.

I started thinking about this because of an insightful comment by @rougedmount on a previous post, where she points out that when wives feel like mothers to their husbands (picking up after them, managing their calendars, reminding them of things they’d forgotten, etc.) they also lose sexual interest in them.

Makes sense to me. Parenting isn’t sexy.

Something interesting happens after that, and if everyone who was married knew it—or better yet—if everyone who was going to marry someday knew it, our marriage success rate would skyrocket.

A Marital Downward Spiral

Sex is very important to people. I don’t know why we are wired as we are sexually, nor why it seems like men and women sometimes experience it so differently. I only know that we are. I also know that a man having sex with his wife accomplishes many things for the husband: 1. He feels sexually satisfied. 2. He feels desired by his spouse. 3. He feels chemically and emotionally more connected to his spouse.

Thus, NOT having sex with his wife has an opposite effect. He feels sexually dissatisfied. He feels unwanted by his spouse. He feels chemically and emotionally disconnected.

Usually, bad things happen afterward.

Maybe he starts jerking off to internet porn all the time to feel satisfied. Maybe he starts flirting with someone at work to feel desired. And maybe because he feels chemically and emotionally disconnected from his spouse, he thinks he can justify inappropriate marriage behavior because She doesn’t want me anyway!

Emotional intimacy is very important to people. I don’t know why we’re wired that way emotionally, and why men and women seem to often experience it differently. I only know that they are. I also know that a man connecting emotionally with his wife typically accomplishes many things for her: 1. She feels safe, respected and loved. 2. She feels desired by her spouse. 3. She feels comfortable connecting sexually and WANTS to, because she genuinely desires the man who makes her feel these things.

Thus, NOT connecting with his wife emotionally often causes her to feel unsafe having sex with him, or simply so hurt and turned off, that she can’t want to.

The art of seduction between the two genders is so dramatic that most men never figure out that what works for them (her lying naked on the bed with a “do me now” look on her face) would almost NEVER work in reverse.

Seducing one’s wife and/or her initiating sex usually begins with her feeling cherished, respected and validated, so that she can feel emotionally connected, so that it feels good to have sex. I’m neither female nor a wife, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feel good to sleep with someone when it feels like your partner doesn’t like or respect you, which is how many wives feel.

Life tip, guys: Your wife doesn’t want to be your on-demand human masturbation device.

So, she’s craving emotional connection, but he’s not connecting emotionally. In fact, he’s withdrawing because she has cut off his sex supply, which feels like prison since he promised never to sleep with anyone else. More importantly, he doesn’t know that thoughtfully asking about her day and listening to her answer, or keeping his laundry picked up off the floor, or putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher is DIRECTLY correlated to how bad she feels and why he’s no longer sexually active.

Because even though he seems like part ape, he actually craves emotional connection, too. He’s just weird and man-ish and doesn’t verbalize it effectively. His solution for recreating emotional connection is to have sex because that’s what makes sense to him. But she can’t or won’t. Because she no longer feels safe in her own life, and she often feels used, like he’s only interested in her when he wants an orgasm.

She rejects him because there’s no emotional connection (which produces a physical connection).

He rejects her because there’s no physical connection (which produces an emotional connection).

And they continue to push one another away and grow further apart, eventually seeking physical and emotional connection in new places, because Screw Him/Her! They don’t want me anyway!, which they both feel about one another at the same time for very different reasons.

This happens every day.

The wife feels emotionally and physically abandoned in her marriage, and she will eventually leave because it hurts too much, and/or she will find herself emotionally connecting to a man who isn’t her husband showing her the kind of attention and interest she craves (though his motivations are typically physical).

The husband feels physically and emotionally abandoned in his marriage, and will eventually have a meaningless affair or start sleeping with someone from another broken relationship after they connect emotionally while complaining to one another about the state of their marriages.

And if she just understood that when he absent-mindedly left the toilet seat up, there was no disrespect or malice in the action; and if he just understood that taking whatever life steps are necessary to NEVER leave the toilet seat up will help his wife feel emotionally connected, which will then improve his physical relationship, creating a cycle of fostered love and connection rather than a slow descent into divorce and shittiness; millions of people’s lives would benefit from all the good that comes from great marriages, and from the elimination of all the bad that comes from divorce.

This affects 95 percent of everyone.

So, I ask again: Where’s the social outrage and call to action? Where are our parents and educators fighting for our children to learn the life skills and truths about relationship psychology that will help make things better?

Because I’ve spent a lifetime hoping problems would magically go away on their own.

As it turns out, they never do.


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38 thoughts on “We Put Everything Ahead of Marriage and Then Wonder Why It Fails”

  1. Love this. Matt, I know you and I have talked about this before in the comments sections, but to me the core skill that is never taught (and needs to be, as it truly is a skill that can improve with time) is communication.

    You’ve captured in this what I see as the best/worst part of the situation. The woman is craving things that are missing, and often finds them in another guy – who actually listens and seems to care in a way that her husband no longer does. This guy listening/caring has a dual effect of having her justify to herself that yes, there IS a problem with her husband because this other dude will listen. So it widens the marital gap while creating an emotional connection between her and the other guy. btw – sometimes this isn’t even a real person, but an idealized one created by her imagination or colored memories of past relationships.

    At the same time the husband is feeling lonely/invalidated, and the same thing happens with him. He notices when women do actually pay attention to him and seem to show some attraction to him. And that becomes proof that there is something wrong with his relationship with his wife, while causing him to invest more of his energies in a friendship/relationship where he *does* feel valued.

    So they both pull further away.

    In the meantime, the new guy that is “listening” to the wife is on at least a few levels thinking booyah, she’s hot. I play this right and I’m going to score. While for the husband, he’s only feeling more valued because he’s putting more of his energies into his new relationship.

    People may not be looking for an affair, and it may never become physical on either side. But as they check out of thier marriages and start to believe things will be better elsewhere, the damage is done.

    And they both likely could have been happy together if they just communicated better what they actually wanted/needed from each other, let go of things instead of letting resentment build, and continued to put energy into each other.

    Pretty sad.

    1. Yeah. Ridiculously sad.

      The analysis of the average relationship breakdown and divorce is so painfully simple that it’s almost difficult to seriously accept that it’s true.

      “So, wait. You’re saying that when he comes home from work tired and doesn’t devote energy to listening to his wife’s story about something that doesn’t affect him; that can cause her to question his love and commitment to her?”


      “And that when they argued about how she felt like he was calling her stupid when he made fun of the reality TV show she was watching, and he suggested she was making things up in her head, and then he left her alone on the couch and went out to the garage to work on his car, they were beginning a cycle of misunderstanding and miscommunication that will END THE MARRIAGE? Just because of the listening thing, and not finding common ground on TV shows and how to behave after a spat?”


      “Doesn’t seem complicated enough.”

      Which is why no one sees it coming. We all think these little disagreements or differences are so harmless and meaningless that we never want to devote a bunch of energy to them.

      Men get pissed at me for saying it, but I stand by it. We mess this up WAY more than our wives do.

      Because they DO try to talk to us about these things (to your point about communication, they do so ineffectively, but they STILL try because they recognize the problem.)

      But what do we say? We tell them it’s nothing. That they’re overreacting. That they’re making something out of nothing. And THAT’S if we’re nice.

      All the dicks tell her she’s a stupid, nagging, ungrateful bitch who needs to leave him alone because he’s a man and had a hard day doing man things.

      It’s well beyond sad.

      It’s tragic.

      1. I think you’re wrong. I mean, you get a lot right, but I disagree with your comment that men mess up marriage and relationships way more than women do. Women suck at relationships just as much as men and we fuck them up just as often but we tend to do it differently, maybe more subtly. Obviously you’re writing from your experience and personal perspective so it’s easier for you to point out what mistakes men tend to make and you’re more credible when you do but women need to own as much of the burden of blame for relationship failure as men do. As much, not more or less.

        The faulty communication dynamic that you describe is absolutely accurate but one piece that’s missing is how women help create the pseudo-parent relationship with their partners. It starts long before the toilet seat being left up starts to annoy and offend her.Many women want things done a very specific way and fail to realize that when they don’t accept or incorporate how their partner does something they are treating them as less than an equal parent. Everything has to be just so whether you like it or not. Weddings are a prime example of this. Everyone talks about the bride’s “big day”; it’s not uncommon for women to act like three year olds when planning their weddings. Somehow, though, this behavior is considered socially appropriate. Instead of focusing on two people joining forces and starting a new life, the emphasis is placed on the wants of one. From a young age women are taught that it’s okay to treat men as inferiors in relationships. Every meme featuring a father with a shotgun propagates this. “You’d better treat my daughter like a princess!” Why? Because your daughter’s wants and needs are somehow superior because she’s female? No! It should be “You’d better respect my daughter and treat her like the intelligent, capable human being she is… And she better damn well do the same for you.”

        Communication problems are probably the root of most (typical) divorces and marital problems but women need to recognize the ways that they perpetuate the problems as well.
        Maybe there should be classes in middle school that teach better interpersonal communication dynamics. More aware and considerate individuals armed with better tools for communicating and understanding that other people view life differently than they do would not only change marriage, it would quite possibly change the world.

        1. So much of what I think about and write about is predicated on my idealistic scenarios I invent in my head.

          I don’t know how to not do that.

          I’m of the opinion (and the way for me to change my mind on this would be to have a relationship in which I practice what I now preach every day and STILL feel as if I’m being treated unfairly by my partner) that when a man LEADS in this relationship–proactively doing all of the things a husband must do to help his wife feel cherished, respected, protected, desired, etc.–that all of these little scenarios we talk about never crop up in the first place.

          Here’s my challenge to everyone in the world: Show me the man who demonstrates a thorough understanding and respect of the female mind, behaves in ways that clearly demonstrate love and loyalty, with unselfishness, thoughtfulness, reliability, steadiness… all of the things wives REPEATEDLY say they want and need from their partner (and assumed they were getting when they said “I do.”) I’m not talking about a pushover. Women aren’t attracted to doormats. I’m talking about a strong, boundary-enforcing man of self-respect who is mainly successful in his professional endeavors, is intelligent, has healthy relationships, and is–objectively speaking–a confident, likable, attractive (not just physically) human being.

          Show me THAT guy, and then show me his wife being an unruly bitch who nags and demonstrates immature, controlling, bitchy behavior.

          I’m not saying my example is reasonable. Humans are flawed. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist.

          I AM saying that the thing I NEVER see is the man striving for greatness as a husband and father, and putting his wife first, and having the result of that be some totally dissatisfying and horrible marriage.

          I’ve never seen it once.

          I know wives need to do better. All people need to do better.

          I just want men to raise their hands, say “This is on me,” and live heroically.

          There is no immediate gratification in doing so. There will be no award ceremonies or parades.

          There will just be decades of a great marriage, stable family, feelings of security, setting the example for children and those friends and family connected to them.

          And they will die one day, regret-free, having shown their children how to live and love properly.

          Free of guilt. Free of shame.

          That’s what a man is called to be.

          A leader who, by example, puts others first, and accepts responsibility for the results.

          I’m not challenging anything you wrote here. I agree with all of it.

          But that needs to exist independently of what I just wrote here.

          Husbands CANNOT think “Well, if she’s not going to try, neither am I!!!” and then fail his family.

          Husbands must never fail their family, no matter what.

          I believe it’s our greatest calling.

          A gentleman holds the door for the lady behind him.

          Similarly a man who leads puts the needs of his loved ones ahead of his own. (And IDEALLY, his partner is returning the favor–replenishing his energy–and WANTS to because of how good he makes her feel.)

          1. Yes, husbands cannot adopt the “she’s not trying so why should I” attitude and neither can wives. Someone has to start somewhere. I appreciate that you’re calling men to do that: to start by taking accountability for their actions, attitudes, and failures to act. But it’s a message that applies to everyone across the board: Own your shit, call it what it is, and take steps to fix it. When you say it’s on men more than women to do this you’re taking away some of the accountability for women. One of things I liked about your recent response to an exhausted wife (or whatever you called her) is that the actions you suggested involved on her working on her part of the problems and her approach to them. Because YOU are the only person you can change.
            When you start assigning blame there’s a shift away from a productive, problem solving mentality. It’s never good.

            PS- I know that wasn’t your initial focus, maybe it just stood out to me because I’ve been dealing with an excessive amount of blame shifting lately. Anyhow, carry on…

          2. Those are valid criticisms.

            I just, until further notice, feel strongly that I shouldn’t be pretending to know what it’s like to be a wife, and therefore should avoid commenting on the wife experience entirely.

            I’m big on not pretending to know what it’s like to be other people. It’s a good life lesson.

            I’m also big on accountability and appreciate very much that you demand the same from the female half of marriage. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Really well said, Matt. 95%, wow. I can see the truth there however, there’s not a single person I know that hasn’t been negatively impacted by either divorce or else by their parents divorce or perhaps both. Relationships between people are pretty much a universal part of the human experience and marriage can certainly be one of the most challenging. We pretty much teach people nothing about how to go about it.

    Something that really does aggravate me, we live in a sex obsessed culture, so people are more likely to know about the many odd manifestations of sexuality that one might see on SVU or CSI, serial killers, porn, rapists. How to have a healthy sex life however, how to create intimacy within marriage, is pretty much nowhere to be found.

    It took me a long time just to realize that men need respect in order to feel loved and that sex means something different to them than it does to me. Just discovering those two things was huge. I’m laughing here, because it’s downright comical and tragic how I had to learn this, but we used to have a dog that humped everyone’s leg and one day this dog trainer came up and said to me, “he does that becasue he’s trying to assert his dominance and win your affection.” Ha! Okay, so men are certainly not dogs, but there are some similar themes going on there. Men seek intimacy, affection, connection too, and often have the same problem figuring out how to go about it properly.

    1. For all of my blustering about how important educating young people about this stuff really is (and it IS important), it’s hard to not succomb to little bouts of cynicism here and there.

      I mean, we teach safe sex and pass out condoms and teenagers still get pregnant and contract STDs.

      We teach people how to drive, and people die in car accidents every day.

      We teach people history, and people still repeat humanity’s gravest mistakes.

      I can imagine no scenario in which some guy like me could have walked into a classroom with the 16-year-old me and somehow infused me with the knowledge I’ve gained by living through a marriage, making all the mistakes, and suffering the consequences.

      I’m not saying I believe there’s no way to do it. There’s always a way.

      But maybe the reason not a lot is being done is because pretty much no one has figured out how to do it themselves, because being a human being is super hard and messy and complicated sometimes, and zero people are technically qualified to show people how.

      1. The conversation has to start long before puberty. The conversation (modelling) has to start from day one. When the child is brought home. Especially within the first few years of life. To witness two grown adults communicating with affection, while not always agreeing with one another, but respecting each other.

        Wow! What a simple but complicated concept!

        To witness both parents taking responsibility for their share of the family life which includes domestic responsibilities around the house without negativity or hostility.

        Why is this so hard?

        I am trying to teach my sons (almost 5) how to take responsibility for their actions and the items they use (ie. Putting toys away when they’re finished with them, plates to the kitchen, paper/wrapping etc to the garbage). It is like trying to run up a downward escalator when your partner is not also invested in those lessons.

        Dad isn’t picking up his stuff, why should I? Dad isn’t requiring us to pick up our toys, then we won’t.

        It is maddening and yes, it absolutely tells your wife/partener that you don’t value or respect her and that you’re not in it together.

        End raging rant. Lol

        Thank you so much for your posts. I really appreciate the insight to the male perspective that I never would have had otherwise. It really does help.

        1. Thank you, Sara. You just touched on a real-world example that is INFINTELY more sensitive and signficant than stupid dishes by a sink.

          That when one parent is working dilligently to infuse their children with the life skills and information they need to grow up and have successful adult lives, but their partner seems to undermine those efforts at every turn, you can crank up the disconnection speed a few hundred percent.

          I NEVER — not even once — verbally or intentionally undermined my wife RE: raising our son.

          But did I inadvertently do so through negligence, forgetfulness, laziness, or choosing to speak or behave in a way counter to what you describe above?

          Of course.

          So many people have accused me of succumbing to victim blaming and “giving women a pass” for all the things they do wrong, or for not equally respecting the men’s wishes.

          Bringing the subject of parenting into the conversation makes this a less universal problem, and more niche.

          But it also greatly emphasizes and enhances the point I’d tried to make with the “dish” example.

          I really appreciate you bringing it up.

          I really appreciate you offering part of the solution.


          Quite the task, waiting for two differnet sets of parents to do it correctly AND have their children meet and marry more inherently knowing how all this works.

          But I guess that’s why we only worry about right now. One conversation at a time.

          Thank you for being part of this one.

  3. All of this is very true and when it’s happening it hurts so much it seems impossible to discuss calmly and rationally and therefore continues to escalate to a point of no return.

    I know people mention the toilet seat a lot but that’s not the big problem for me, being expected to do all the domestic chores (with no acknowledgement or appreciation) is a huge problem though, traditional gender roles have a lot to answer for, everyone needs respect and doing someone else’s cleaning etc is very demeaning. Women need to work and be paid equally and domestice chores need to be shared equally, this includes affordable childcare and maternity leave and changes in other basic societal epectations. Until this all changes there will be dissonance between the sexes and the natural flow-on is marital problems.

    I remember thinking “he can’t really expect me to do everything around the house while he does nothing because he loves me.” When I realised he did actually expect me to do everything at home and after we had children that included everything to do with them too – the obvious conclusion was that he didn’t love me, the resentment built and that’s when I didn’t want to have sex with him anymore, it’s pretty simple stuff…

    1. Right. All of that makes perfect sense to me now, in a way it didn’t a decade ago.

      I’m with you on the toilet seat thing. I probably shouldn’t have used it as the example. It was really just a metaphor for ANY common thing husbands might do that repeatedly frustrate their wives and lead to feelings of resentment and abandonment (and usually divorce.)

      I have no idea how other kids grew up.

      But I do know that not a lot was asked of me on the chore front, and I had a really shitty attitude about it on the rare occasions WHEN I was asked to do things I didn’t want to do (mow the lawn, pull weeds, rake the leaves, empty the wastebaskets, etc.)

      Maybe I am genetically programmed to choose play over work.

      Maybe I am conditioned to default to others taking care of things for me.

      Maybe both.

      My mother did a pretty fair job in several areas. I’m not displeased with who I am. But some of the my life-maintenance habits leave quite a bit to be desired, and I wonder if my mom’s inclination to do all the housework pretty much all the time, and leave me to nothing but homework and social activities might have caused more harm than good.

      More specifically, I wonder to what extent all of the husbands who require nagging to even THINK about housework, are a byproduct of home lives where their mothers did all the work at home (because that’s how they remember it in their houses growing up), or where their fathers had a 1960s-Mad Men-esque way of doing things and that was their example, or like me, were sort of coddled and babied a little in the context of always having laundry folded, and never having to vacuum, or do dishes, or clean bathrooms, or dust furniture, etc.

      I have a hard time believing its some sort of biological condition.

      I think it’s a learned behavior, reinforced by some outdated cultural conditioning, and now it causes LOTS of problems in modern-day marriages and long-term relationships.

      Hopefully, this is an aspect of relationships we are not still taking about 30-40 years from now.

  4. Yes. Just YES. You once again just get it. Wish a certain someone else would “get it” but he doesn’t and refuses. Good read as always 🙂 You are awesome and an even awesom-er (is that a word?! LOL) writer.

    1. I don’t believe “awesom-er” is in the dictionary but I think making up words is perfectly acceptable so long as it’s clear to readers what you mean. And an awesom-er way of doing things.

      I accept your kind compliment. Thank you.

      I’m sorry to hear you still feel frustrated by all of that, and that things haven’t improved.

      Some people (and I’m one of them) tend to only learn “the hard way.”

      And even then–statistically speaking?–most people don’t learn enough. Second marriages fail at a statistically higher clip than first marriages even after people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

      And I wouldn’t care much if there weren’t victims.

      But there always are, including the future versions of the selfish and guilty. The ones filled with wisdom and regret who genuinely deserve a reboot.

      Only it’s much too late. Because there’s no such thing as time travel.

      I continue to wish you and your family my best.

      Please be hopeful. Because it’s real: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/01/fear-is-easy-hope-is-real.html

  5. This is a well written and balanced post, Matt. You struck the point that there are a lot of things a man can do to emotionally support his wife, and those things are dead simple. Sometimes those things are too easy to take for granted. Nobody is perfect, of course, and it is easy to think you are covering all the bases when you might not be. Due to that, I recommend regularly practicing direct gratitude to open the lines of communication without the risk of ill feelings.

    What I mean is this. Once a week (maybe more, maybe less depending on the health of your marriage at the time), find one to three _specific_ things that you are grateful for your wife doing and tell her those things. Usually, this will prompt her to do the same for you, but don’t be offended if it doesn’t as marital health will fluctuate, although I hope it is always improving for you. Regardless of the response, follow that up by asking her if there is anything you could do better or could do to make her life easier on a daily basis, and then listen to her reply and act upon it.

    I am not a therapist or a professional in marriage. Rather, I am a husband who can always be better, and I try to find ways to be better when I can. There are days when I am shitty. There are days when I am a superstar. I wanted to share this idea as I have found that it works really well for me and my wife, and it brings us closer together even on a tough week. It keeps us talking and keeps us apprised of the changes going on with each other because, let’s face it, this week’s emotional needs may not be the same next week. Best to check-in and see what needs to be adjusted.

    I hope that helps someone. Please keep writing, Matt. You are good and gettin better with each article. Be well.

    1. I think this is spectacular advice.

      Gratitude has always, and will always, be the prerequisite to happiness. That applies as much to how we feel about our careers, social status and material possessions, as it does to our relationships.

      Though, I think it’s safe to rank our marriages as more important than those other things.

      Thanking those we love for the things they do, or are, demonstrates we are paying attention, and eliminates feelings of resentment in people who feel like they give and give and give without acknowledgment or getting any return on their investment.

      We should start and end every day feeling grateful for our life’s blessings.

      We should start and end every day demonstrating authentic appreciation for those we love most.

      Little more than laziness and selfish distraction keeps us from doing so.

      Thank you for the kind words and thoughtful advice for people looking for actionable things they can do right now to strengthen and/or heal their relationships.

  6. Hey, Matt, I’ve been following for awhile and appreciate the hard work you expend to help people. I value the pain you’ve channeled into this blog; it is not wasted. I pray that millions of people read your words and that they can learn from your experiences rather than having to reach that pit of despair themselves.

    This post prompted me to comment because *there is hope* on this front . . . there is a lot going on right now in education and child development research on the topic of social-emotional awareness.

    Here’s a link to more about the topic: http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies/

    Social-emotional skills are things like recognizing own emotions and dealing appropriately with them, recognizing the emotions of others, being able to delay gratification, making wise decisions, and good communication skills. Studies are showing that teaching ONLY these skills in preschool leads to a better academic outcome than teaching pre-academic skills (numbers, letters, etc.) in preschool AS WELL as a better LIFE outcome (less time in prison, healthier relationships, more satisfying life overall). Read about the marshmallow delayed-gratification test administered to kids in the 1960s that showed that kids who could delay gratification (only ONE aspect of social-emotional wellness) a little bit tended to have better overall life outcomes (educational attainment, SAT scores, even body mass index scores!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment

    It’s hard for families and educators to choose this path, though, in spite of the research, because everyone is so driven by measurable achievement.

    I am a Speech-Language Pathologist who works with children who have diagnoses of various kinds (Autism, ADHD, behavior difficulties, sensory challenges), and social-emotional skills are among the most important we teach.

    You’re right; without these skills, we can’t have successful relationships or happy lives, but most people ACT as if we believe that math and science are more important.

    To all you parents out there, make sure that you have your kids in programming where these skills are taught and make sure you’re teaching them yourselves. There are lots of resources online to help guide you. You are impacting more than just your kid’s childhood; you could be saving her marriage and giving your grandchildren a more stable and functional family unit.

    Keep up the good work and many blessings to you.

    – Christie

  7. where to from here

    Today – having had enough of this kind of life – I googled “my husband is an arsehole” and this blog popped up first on the list. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t the problem or the cause of my marital problems and reading your first blog just brought me to tears because finally someone understands me!
    I am past trying to repair anything with my husband. I no longer have the energy to apologize and run after him when he’s giving me the silent treatment or stomping around the house because I have done something wrong but have yet to figure it out because I have yet to master the art of mind reading.
    It is now the New Year – he wants to begin healthy eating and dieting etc. So it is now my responsibility to ensure that he wakes up to a freshly blended smoothie plus one for lunch packed in ice. I am to arrive home early so I can steam his veggies and fish for him for dinner or make a broth or soup. All of that on top of ensuring my kids arrive at school on time and are picked up, the house is cleaned, his work clothes organised and ready, his towel ready in the bathroom for his evening ablutions, etc.
    I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day and then he comes in at around 1:30am after being on the phone or internet the whole evening turns on the lights and asks if his towel is in the bathroom. If it is too hot or he cannot sleep, he will ask me questions about small, unimportant stuff and expect an immediate answer as if though I was lying there just waiting for him to come and make conversation; or he will toss and turn shaking the bed until I eventually wake up.
    If he demands sex but I do not respond accordingly because I am still half asleep the cold treatment starts. If he wants sex, I have to do all the foreplay and make him ‘ready’. He gets mad because I do not initiate it anymore – but deep down I want to rip his dick off – I loathe touching him and hate it when he tries touching me – I hate it…I force myself- I have even thrown up because that is how much I detest pretending that I enjoy being his orgasm release machine.
    If we do end up doing something he thinks I like – he will complain and bitch about the whole thing and I end up asking if we can just go home. I dread my birthdays and Mother’s Days – I have even asked for just cards because I don’t want him to feel obligated to do things for me – I don’t enjoy them. Last year on my birthday he decided he would host a barbecue and invited his family and friends…I had to cook, do the washing up and stayed home baby sitting while they went out. On Mother’s Day he woke up and saw that I had prepared something for my mother and was so mad that he locked me up at home and took the kids to the beach and made sure they knew I was to blame for them having a miserable Mother’s Day. He was still hungover from the night before arriving back at 7am in the morning. This Christmas I received a toaster, a set of cutlery and kitchen knives and a vacuum cleaner and I had to pretend how grateful I was considering the whole year prior he kept noticing these things needing replacement at home – yet I was too stingy to pay for them myself.
    I see he hates me – just because I once commented on him constantly supporting his mother. He will be gracious and overly generous with his family and friends, but if I ask him for $350 for example for bills, he will give me $250 and talk about how much money he wastes on me for the next couple of months.So I am constantly juggling money to make up for the shortfalls when I ‘ask’ him for money – and I hate having to do that too…every time!!
    He keeps telling me if it were not for him I would be nothing and that I need to pull my weight in providing for the household as well, as he has had enough of being the main breadwinner. He has enough money to go out and buy whatever he wants whenever. What I earn a year is what his bank balance is currently.
    If he finds out that I have money saved away he will pounce on it and empty it out. I never used to resent him for that because I felt whatever is mine is his – but now I have NO guilt whatsoever in hiding my savings account from him.
    I am home alone every Friday and Saturday nights and whole of Saturday…he is busy catching up with friends but needs me at home on Sunday when he invites his family over for dinner – Sunday ritual.
    If I go visit my family – he asks if i have been spending his money on ‘buying shit’ for my family – I honestly do not know how to answer that because the possibility of this happening is just….
    I have tried my best to hide this from my family and friends by not inviting them home as it becomes too embarrassing how he treats me in front of them and I end up having to apologize to them on his behalf when he insults one of them too.
    He tells me no one will get killed when I cannot attend a friends wedding because he needs to attend another appointment and I need to babysit at home.
    I know these red flags should have warned me earlier but I thought I could take it on and he would eventually change if he loved me. Now 18 years down the track I can’t carry this burden anymore – I feel old and exhausted – I have only so many years left of my life to live. I no longer feel like a wife or mother – more of a carer, a giver, free labor…
    I have changed – I no longer believe in love or happy ever afters, I don’t believe there is any man out there who could possibly just understand me or be better than my current husband. I am stretched beyond breaking point and past the point of caring. I realize if no one is going to make me a priority – I need to do so for myself.
    It is no longer about seeing how much more I can take – it is now more of – when would be the best time to leave?

      1. where to from here on

        #Adifferentperson – thank you vey much for this…I am slowly making ammendments and taking baby steps towards moving out…it hurts and I am so worried how my children will take this but it has become obvious over the par couple of weeks that my husband was investing his time and better moods in a relationship with a very close family member. They have both denied there was anything sexual but she has always been around him…gone where he goes…even interstate and they will spend hours on the phone or together including weekends. When something happens in each other’s lives they are the first to know about it. It doesn’t explain away the bas behaviour…just goes to show that he can be nice…just not to me!

  8. I was going to write something chirpy here about how much I love your voice in these posts. You’re flip and outraged and sad and a little bit laughing at how ridiculous humans are. (And we are.) It makes hard messages easier to digest. And also, I was going to point out that we all have to eat, get a roof over our heads and not die of heart disease, but we don’t all have to be married, we just don’t. But then I read the comment above and it made me so sad. There is so much sadness out there. Especially around marriage.
    You do a good thing making space for these conversations, putting yourself out there.
    I wish better for everyone. (Also, date nights. For the love of all that’s good and holy, we all need date nights- even if it’s a pizza on the floor (screens off) after the kids are in bed. It doesn’t fix everything, but it at least puts you on the same team.)

    1. You know. This was really nice of you to say. Thank you.

      I suppose these are really hard conversations to have, and maybe my tone does help bridge the gap between the stuff we feel comfortable discussing and the stuff we do not.

      I’ve never thought about that before. But if it’s true, that’s probably something I should feel good about. Thank you for saying so.

      RE: Date nights

      Without treading too far into TMI Land, I always had a fundamental problem with “planning” physical intimacy. You know, scheduling it.

      Like, are you kidding? Where’s the fun and adventure and passion and romance and whatever?

      I thought everything had to be spontaneous and inspired by uncontrollable feelings.

      And then I grew up… after it was much too late.

      Feelings come and go, and wax and wane. The more good decisions we make, and the more we build intimate bonds (physical and spiritual) and our partner, the more often good feelings come, and the longer they stay.

      So, yes.

      Date night.

      The subject matter of the very first (and really awesome) post I ever read from you, Mrs. Groeber.

      I won’t have another long-term relationship without them.

  9. Everything you said in the part ” marital downward spiral” what if the roles were reversed and the female was feeling the way you expressed the male to be feeling. This is exactly what’s going on with me and my fiancé: we had a son a year ago and he was very honest in the past we had a lot of trust issues and in time with a lot of reassurance I was able to move on: during that time I feel he built up resentment and is unable to connect with me on a intimate level. I’m always available and wanting to have sex and he always declines. There’s no cheating going on. He says he feels pressured to have sex and expressed in therapy he wants to work on other things in our relationship that he finds more important than sex right now. I’ve held off and dealt with the barely existent sex life we have but it kills me that I cannot only have sex with the man I love but I can’t connect emotionally intimately at all. It’s so hard. It has nothing to do with my looks I know that trust me. I just don’t get it anymore. I’ve given up I feel extremely lonely and unimportant I have temptation to seek someone else…. To fill that void. But I don’t nor will I ever bc I know the pain it causes and I know I’d feel extreme guilt afterwards. I won’t dare tell him that but I wish he knew it’s gotten to this point. I canT stand to lay in bed with someone I love and can’t reach over and touch him tell him I love him cuddle have sex whatever because he is so unavailable you can just tell in his tone of voice he wants to be left alone and go to sleep. I’m lost confused lonely and have no clue what to do now

  10. I found your blog today after someone posted it to a ” Laundry Help” type of Facebook page. I’m obsessed and totally think you should write a book. It will be a bestseller; guaranteed.

    1. Yes, please! You have an incredibly unique voice and point of view. I see spinoff training courses and lecture circuits. . .

  11. Made me cry. I was beginning to think I was the last person left on the planet that truly believed that human beings and marriages are not supposed to be disposable, despite how hard they can become. I guess that’s just part of the process of grieving after being dumped (and at the same time hearing all the insanely divorce friendly “stuff” our society is so rife with.) Maybe there are some people whose spouse has not yet made the move to permanently forsake the marriage who can wake up to this very good advice.

  12. You have figured it out… My god… And for being so articulate… Much of the pain earlier in my marriage has been exactly from the issues you have talked about. we have resolved it indirectly and through many events that went the right way, but it would have been easier if we both got to read this.

  13. I think we learn rather slowly. But why blame parents/teachers/educators for our problems? They have helped us enough already in making sure we have a healthy mind-body. They have enabled us to have independent, intelligent thought. I think we owe them some gratitude to start with.

    We have had plenty opportunities to learn all these through various interactions and episodes in our lives. Sadly, being slow, we are still work in progress. For yourself, it took the episode of a divorce to drive home some more learning. Tragically, you continue to blame the parents/teachers/educators/…From where I see, you are beginning to better understand only now. Thanks to your post, it helped me re-evaluate and understand where my learning stands, as of today!

    1. Why blame them? Because they know some of these things and choose not to tell young people.

      People with the power to right wrongs have a responsibility to.

      Just my personal take.

  14. My wife doesnt feel cherished. That’s been clear for some time now. I’ve been taking care of the dishes for a while now. Also the garbage, the diaper genie, the vacuuming, the driving, the snow removal, etc. I take care of the baby sometimes so she can do her thing. All this on top of working fulltime, being the breadwinner, paying the bills (which I do not throw in her face). My wife is still miserable. I don’t complain when I do these things either, I just do them, and then I ask if there’s anything more I can do. I’ve gotten totally unsolicited comments from people that I’m doing a great job as a husband/father. My wife still hates me and wants to leave. I’ve apologized repeatedly for being unkind. She still hasn’t forgiven me. I was vulnerable and asked for a cuddle and told her how I miss and want and love her. She told me she still kinda hates me. I’ve backed off of trying to explain myself and being defensive. She keeps bringing up what I’ve done in the past. I stopped staying up til 4:30AM (I get home from work at midnight) watching TV and looking at porn. Now it’s reading and prayer and I try to be in bed by 2AM and if I have to be up by 7 some days like today I do that. I want to work on saving our marriage. She tells me she doesn’t “have the emotional bandwidth” to do that.
    She says I’m too serious now and I need to lighten up. I guess I need to work on that now. Meanwhile she doesn’t have to work on anything.

    1. Sorry, but this caught my eye. ‘I take care of the baby sometimes’. Presuming you are this baby’s father, then that is a weird thing to say. Bringing up your own child is called parenting, and for that you are on duty full time whilst at home. It’s not something you ‘help’ your wife with now and again as a favour!
      So, you hurt your wife by indulging a porn habit and taking her for granted, you’ve turned yourself around (kudos for that bit), but now you’re resentful she hasn’t gotten over it on a timescale YOU deem acceptable and won’t put out for you yet. Are you hearing what I’m hearing? You don’t sound like you genuinely want to mend things for the long haul, whatever that takes. You sound like a toddler, ‘I said sorry, why can’t I have my biscuit back now?’ I think you need to read this blog again.

      1. Wow, you really read a lot into the way I worded that sentence. And you assume a lot. I am well aware that I am a parent. It is in fact the most important thing in the world to me and the primary reason I am fighting to save my marriage. I love being a dad and I want to continue to be a dad all the time forever and not just on weekends.
        I guess the second half of the ‘I take care of the baby sometimes’ sentence didn’t catch your eye as much. I do take care of the baby every day (when I’m not at work). I’m talking about taking care of the baby expressly “so she can do her thing”: like go to yoga, shopping, hang out with her friends, etc.
        I don’t know what you mean by saying that I’m resentful because my wife “won’t put out” for me yet. If you’re insinuating sex you’re way off base because that’s not even where my mind is at.
        I by no means expect that my wife should forgive me the first instant that I first say sorry. But if I’ve sincerely apologized AND amended my ways I wouldn’t consider that toddler like behavior. I don’t know how an acceptable timescale is determined for an offended party to forgive. I only know that we can’t reconcile until she decides to forgive. And I don’t think it’s cool that she should hold it over my head and punish me forever. But in any case, I’m still here trying to work on it, suggesting counseling, saying we can fix this, not giving up hope.
        I find the toddler accusation so ironic because my wife’s main complaint now is that I’m too serious and not enough fun. Also, I’ve watched my wife LITERALLY throw a tantrum like a two year old. And then she pretends it never happened. At what point does she have to take responsibility for her actions?

  15. My man isn’t getting why I lost my sex drive. I tried to direct him to read your blog about the dishes, but he said very little after skimming over it. I’m not a controlling, condescending bitch. I try to break it down for him, the reasons that I feel so unappreciated. I hope your x wife reads your blog, and sees how much you care about the ways you didn’t show her appreciation. You deserve a second chance, in my opinion. I don’t know what your belief’s are, but I’ll say a prayer for the both of you to see how you could mend the relationship.

    My man, who lives with me, for the past 5 years but he never popped the question, shows his love by fixing the vehicles, or cleaning the stove pipe in our wood stove, or fixing any mechanical thing that needs repair. Sometimes I’ve taken his contributions for granted as well. The difference is, any time I get naked, he still gets aroused. Until he appreciates all the things that I do, to make the house a home, (including feeding the fire on a regular basis) I don’t think I will desire him in the way I once did. I don’t desire anyone else, because he is good hearted and kind, and I still find him physically attractive, but his approach to love-making is anything but seductive, and I don’t know what to do to re-kindle my desire for him.

    1. Have you tried talking to him? Telling him exactly what you said here? Men are not mind readers you know.

  16. I appreciate your perspective and your insight. However, I I have to disagree with you regarding the sexuality of men. I found myself in a marriage where my husbands libido was nonexistent. For many years I thought it was me. Then I realized it wasn’t. What I really desired was intimacy not just on a physical level but an intellectual, emotional and spiritual level.
    Now I realize I married an emotionally unavailable man. I tried everything I could. I invested 18 years. I said I wanted a divorce,one night. We talked about it in the morning. Both of us felt relief. I cried all day letting go of anger and feeling sad. He went around whistling. I know it’s the best thing. Part of me feels excited about my future. Part of me feels sad. Part of me feels angry. Currently we are cohabitating with our 16-year-old daughter and cannot financially afford the divorce. I appreciated your article about the dirty dishes in the sink. It absolutely is a symbol. Thank you for writing about your experiences.

  17. Pingback: We Put Everything Ahead of Marriage and Then Wonder Why It Fails | Women Unveiled Blog

  18. I’ve often thought the same exact thing. Another excellent post.

    I’ve said it before and will say it again: You should write a book. I think you can make a realistic and positive impact on so many lives and relationships.

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Matt Fray

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