The Scary Truth About Marriage and Divorce

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married couple arguing
(Image/The Huffington Post)

It wasn’t hard to spot the guys barreling toward divorce.

The message was camouflaged in symbolism, so it makes sense to me that the point was lost on all the cretins. Most critical responses to the “dishes” post were rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what was read.

A bunch of potentially well-meaning people internet-yelled: “OMG!!! She left him over dirty dishes!!! What a control freak!!! Don’t sweat the small stuff!!! LOL!!!”

I’m not disagreeing with them. I just can’t believe real-life human beings with functioning brains read that post and came away with: “Yep. It was literally about dirty dishes, just like the headline said!” But I was taught in my journalism classes to write for an eighth-grade audience, and those responses help explain why.

A bunch of other people internet-yelled that I am a sexist for various reasons: “OMG!!! Put on a dress you man-hater!!! Way to shit on your own gender!!!” or “OMG!!! You said in your post that men are good at stuff!!! As if women can’t do those things too!!!” or “OMG!!! Why does this have to be so gender-specific!? I’m the wife and I’m a slob!!! It goes both ways!!!”

Once I’d reached a certain frustration threshold, the immediate two minutes or so following a new comment like that were moments when being lobotomized or murdered seemed kind of awesome.

The most troubling comments came from married or formerly married men.

“I’m going to divorce my wife for making me read this crap!” or “So what you’re saying is men need to just agree to do whatever our wives want because of their ‘feelings’ no matter how irrational we consider them, and if we don’t, we’re assholes and bad husbands!?” or “Women are NEVER happy. If you start putting the dishes in the sink, then they will just find something else to complain about!”

My Modern-Day Marriage Theory

This is my big-picture and oft-repeated theory on modern-day marriage: Good men can be bad husbands. Good men can accidentally hurt their wives. Husbands and wives slowly, imperceptibly slowly, push each other away one conflict at a time. They, because of uber-complex and misunderstood emotional, psychological, biological, chemical, etc. differences, can both experience the same event, describe it MUCH differently afterward, without either of them being wrong.

Like a dish by the sink.

Maybe the guy sees a dish. Nothing more. No big deal!

And maybe his wife sees a blatant act of disrespect consistent with his other house-cleaning habits; and the way he criticizes her taste in music and things she wants them to do together on weekends; and the way he wasn’t there for her after she miscarried two years ago; and the way he’s never assertive in family and household management, leaving all those decisions to her, but shooting down her ideas every time it’s not what he wants to do; the way he expects her to know where one of his shirts is because he hasn’t done a load of laundry in four years, nor said ‘Thank you’ for not having to; or the way the two kids have homework that needs done, and little league games to be shuttled to, and special uniforms and outfits that need washed, and permission slips that need signed, and school lunches that need packed, and doctor appointments that need scheduled, and wedding RSVPs that need sent in, and gifts that need bought for that event, and how he always expects her to do everything just like his mother did for him and his dad growing up.

I believe most marriages end because of husbands who are unable to make that connection.

That something “stupid” and “petty” and “meaningless” like a dish by the sink can produce very painful feelings for his wife.

It doesn’t actually matter what the thing is. The specifics are irrelevant. One thing matters, and it’s the difference between happy marriages and shitty ones, or forever-marriages and divorce.

This: “When [insert thing here] happens, my partner and I feel very differently about it. Sometimes, I never realized it was even a thing to worry about because it seemed so innocuous to me. But now I understand that [thing you inserted] is meaningful to my partner. Because of how much I love and respect them, I am going to pay attention moving forward and demonstrate that love and respect.”

In what was perhaps a misguided attempt to explain the deeper meaning of the “dish by the sink” to male readers who were offended or totally missed the point, I offered the second half of my modern-marriage theory:

I believe that men understanding this dynamic and demonstrating concern for their wives’ emotional health through these tiny acts of love and respect, or by adjusting certain habits at home, will discover that their wives WON’T do many of the things husbands often complain about, like “nagging, bitching, overreacting” etc.

I think the “nagging,” “bitching,” and “overreacting” is a direct result of the emotional pain their wives feel. Because the husbands aren’t affected emotionally by things that their wives are complaining about, many dismiss their feelings and opinions.

There’s a dish by the sink, and she’s pissed.

All he can think is: “Ugh. How can she be so damn petty? I NEVER complain about shit like this, so she shouldn’t either. She’s totally unfair and irrational.”

He doesn’t think his wife’s opinion about the dish is valid, so he dismisses it and never thinks about it again until he repeats the same process the next time his wife nags him about some “meaningless” thing.

Some of these guys are assholes. I promise I know that. But I don’t believe most are. I think these are mostly good guys who literally don’t realize they are inflicting emotional damage on their wives. They are simply sticking up for themselves in a way that makes sense to them, and waiting in vain for the day when their wives realize “the little things” aren’t worth fighting over.

They miss the entire point.

Just like they did with the “dishes” post.

Just like I did in my failed marriage.

The little things ARE the big things.

Because of all of this, I believe men in a lot of ways are in position to fundamentally change the culture of marriage. I think if men entered marriage with a demonstrable mental grasp of this “dish” conversation, the relationships would never deteriorate to the point where “the little things” piled up into love, sex and marriage killers like they do now.

But What About the Guys That Are Good at Marriage?

That question blew my mind.

My parents divorced. One of the second marriages ended in divorce. My marriage ended in divorce.

I don’t know what good marriage actually looks like. Which is why I reverse-engineer it. I know what bad marriage looks like. Combine that with reading more personal marriage and divorce stories in my email and blog comments than most counselors and therapists will hear in a lifetime, and—right or wrong—I feel like I have a high-level understanding of how all this goes down.

That’s why I was thrown by one husband’s perfectly fair question: “What if I do all of that shit, and she STILL sucks?”

It made me stop and think. I can’t prove that guy is, objectively speaking, a good husband. But I’m a huge believer in math. Statistically speaking, there are some really great husbands out there. And some percentage of the time, they are probably married to monumentally shitty wives.

Let’s deal with some scary truths.

Every person who has been betrayed first trusted someone they shouldn’t have trusted.

We all have inconvenient thoughts and desires we bury way down deep and never talk about. (I don’t mean criminally deviant stuff, even though that is presumably true for some people. The thoughts don’t have to be “dark” necessarily. They can just be a common and naturally occurring sexual fantasy that everyone has, but since you’re married it’s a little bit inconvenient and a lot wrong. I know you get it. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.)

We’re all pretty selfish when our self-preservation instincts kick in, or even in everyday occurrences when the innocent actions of another negatively impact something we want to be doing.

We don’t know what goes on inside the hearts and minds of other people, including those closest to us, unless they share it.


At some point, we have to leave people to take responsibility for their lives and hope they’re being honest with themselves and others about it. It’s mostly out of our hands.

We should all have clearly communicated boundaries. Boundaries that are fair and reasonable and mutually agreed upon with those we have relationships with.

We should all enforce those boundaries with fair-mindedness and forgiving hearts.

Thus, we should all be able to recognize the Point of No Return.

When the line has been crossed one too many times, we should know it. Divorce shouldn’t be a cowardly escape for fear of self-sacrifice or an unwillingness to compromise. It should be in response to a clear and blatant and intolerable violation of marriage vows and those clearly communicated boundaries.

We all have those moments in life when we’re lying in bed in silent darkness, or driving to work, or standing in the shower. Where we are in some way face-to-face with the Real Us that no one else has access to.

I have no way of knowing this, but I believe it is in these moments that we discover who we really are. I believe we all KNOW whether what we’re doing is good or bad. Whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

“What if I do all that shit, and she STILL sucks?”

We’re often afraid to take responsibility for life’s biggest and scariest choices. But—face it—there’s only one person who can answer that.


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102 thoughts on “The Scary Truth About Marriage and Divorce”

  1. Great post. The husband and dropped our divorce two years ago, and it was a dirty shit slinging mess. We’ve learned that there will always be room to disagree, but very little room fall asleep pissed off. Every one of us has different seasons…the trick is to make sure you know which season you spouse/partner is in and be mindful of it when you fight.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Pretty awesome that you had intentions to part ways and here you are two years later choosing forever.

      Inspiring, really.

    2. Wow, that makes a lot of sense. Just opened my eyes. I never thought of it that way…in seasons.

  2. When I shared your original post on my Facebook wall I was surprised by the amount of men who, even after reading your article, held fast to the idea that women were psycho/whiney/controlling/unreasonable bitches. What was MORE surprising was the WOMEN who didn’t get it. Of these women I can (knowing them all) say with certainty that they just learned to thrive in that careless environment. They all said “I learned to pick my battles” which to me translated to “I don’t really count but at least here I know just how much I don’t count and won’t risk counting less to someone else”.

    I get it. We both (genders) do it but I find in my experience women start off yielding and molding to the requests of her man and end up unappreciated as a result because the men don’t realize how much they’ve changed for them, they only see what they’ve been shown from the get. Suddenly when women blow up because of that lack of awareness and/or appreciation men are left reeling with the thought of WTF did THAT come from?!

    Keep doing you. People are listening… even if I disagree with your take on loving someone else’s kids. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Tammy!

      I’m curious what part of the loving-someone-else’s-kids post you disagreed with. I may be forgetting some aspect of it, but I think that was about how as a single father, I used to get frustrated that by how restrictive the dating pool becomes when you eliminate people who don’t want to date single or divorced parents.

      Over time, I came to realize that people are allowed to have their own hopes and dreams and opinions and boundaries, and I was being a hypocrite for feeling frustrated with anyone who wasn’t interested in me on account of me having a son.

      My future wife (should there be one) will love my son.

      Random stranger deciding whether to date me does not. And I don’t think she should have to.

      Am I misremembering something?

      1. And if she doesn’t love him-please don’t marry her.

        Once a week I teach at an after-school program. I have had one boy in my class for the past 3 years. His mom died, and then his dad remarried a woman that seems like the ice queen. I have never seen her smile at him or even greet him when she picks him up. Not one ounce of warmth towards him but plenty of irritation that she got saddled with having to pick him.

        Now he walks home. Today I asked him how things were going with his stepmom. He just said, eh, and turned and slowly walked away. Broke my heart.

        1. That is a sad story.

          I have two amazing stepparents that I have known since early grade school. They are beautiful people who get cards and/or phone calls on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

          I have a good sense of what it looks like to love someone who is not your biological child. I am supremely confident in my ability to do it. And I am fairly certain I’ll know what it would look like between my son, who I adore more than I can describe, and anyone I would allow into his life in a parental or caretaker capacity.

          All that to say, I very much appreciate the sentiment of this comment.

          I am not the slightest bit interested in subjecting a woman to a child she doesn’t want, myself to a dead-end relationship, or my child to anyone unwilling to treat him with love and kindness.

          For better or worse, it drives all of my dating decisions. That’s not always convenient. But it’s always what’s right.

      2. Maybe I need to re-read. I may have read it during a particularly PMSy day. I’ll get back to you.

      3. I met and married my now ex husband after 13 years… But my response to your post about women who choice not to get to know you because of your son you’re better off. I say this because my ex husband had full custody of his two children they were 3 and 4 at that time and I too had a 3 month old daughter. We began as friends and then married he adopted my daughter (her biological father didn’t have the dad gene) believe me it was all party’s and roses it was hard especially dealing with the biological mother of the children.. Keeping my mouth shut and remind my husband to not say things in front of the kids and eventually taking over all the dealings with visitation. In our first year of marriage I made my husband go to a marriage counselor in order to to a 3rd party help to resolve the issue of that I wasn’t her best friend and always taking her side (personally she’s was and still is a piece of shit and has no business being a mother) but the problem was that the children didn’t need to hear that, she was their mom and needed to be apart of her life.. Even though I am not married to their dad they are still my children my son now 27 accurately moved out of the state we lived in to the new state I live in and lived with me my oldest daughter now 28 she still lives in our home state but comes to visit and I go back to see her and my two grand babies and have my grandchildren come to stay with me as well…. I wrote all this to let you know that she’s out there a good loving woman who will embrace and love you and your son. And you will meet her when the time is right…..all the best to you and your son…

    2. Tammy, I completely agree with your translation of “picking battles” and what it means about those women. I often wonder what makes some able to push themselves aside and others can’t, and so they start fighting for what they feel they deserve and aren’t getting. Sometimes it feels easier to be one of the “pick your battles” girls….

      Matt, your perspective reminds me a lot of Sue Johnson’s work.

  3. Oi! Sometimes it’s painful to read your honesty and insight. Facing our own stuff is hard, the stuff we desperately wish we’d done better at or not done at all. Facing the pain of the stuff that has been done wrong to us can be just as painful. How does one survive finally and permanently being proven to be worthless in the view of the man who promised “till death”? But I hope you’ll keep writing and sharing.

    I still believe just taking divorce off the table and committing to finding the help or insight needed to get the marriage relationship repaired and working is the far better choice in the vast majority of cases. My soon-to-be-ex certainly believes he communicated clearly and deserved better than he got. And it certainly looks like I did from my viewpoint and experience in the marriage. Worship of self to believe one must seek what’s best for oneself is a flawed paradigm that excuses anything and everything to people who have experienced pain and disappointment in marriage, or in other words every married person ever who is honest and who embraces that philosophy. We all have to learn to put the spouse we committed to ahead of ourselves. Maybe that will get turned around in our society someday.

  4. ““Yep. It was literally about dirty dishes, just like the headline said!” But I was taught in my journalism classes to write for an eighth-grade audience, and those responses help explain why.”…….that was pretty funny.

  5. I’m just going to say, reading your dishes article and this follow up, I was near tears. I felt like you were narrating my life. I understood what you were saying perfectly and I THANK YOU for saying it.

    1. I understand. I think most of us all feel pretty similar things in our individual relationships.

      It’s terrifying how common it all is.

      But it’s also very hope-inspiring for me to see how a shift in thought (ex. Smoking is bad for you; Oh yeah! Women should be allowed to vote!; Oh yeah! We shouldn’t send people to different schools because of their skin color!, etc.) could change everything.

      Maybe someday.

  6. You should challenge all the husbands out there to ask their wives if they see them as a partner or more like another kid to take care of.

    The answer to that question is VERY important. Once i percieved my exh not as a partner, but another kid to take care of (and a whiny, sulky do nothing kid that was more work than the real kids BTW), it was OVER. Sex was over. Respect was over. Likeability was over. That too often is a point of no return.

    1. The book “wifework” (which I will continue to sing the praises of on this blog – not that I wrote it or anything), cites a book by Janice Steil, 1997, as saying that when asked, most men describe their wives as their “best friend” but that most women describe their husbands as “another child” and experience true emotional intimacy only with other women. This might have been almost twenty years ago now but I haven’t seen any massive cultural shift in this respect sadly .

      1. That’s a very interesting social observation. Thanks for sharing that because I want to read about it.

        My oft-recommended relationship book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” touched on that a bit, too.

        The idea that men and women have certain emotional needs that tend to only be met by other men or other women (as applicable), and that couples often get frustrated with each other because of their failure to provide it for one another.

        Broken down in the simplest (and to some perhaps, sexist) terms: Men can’t be women, so their wives are sometimes left wanting. Women can’t be men, so their husbands are sometimes left wanting. And that causes relationships problems on occasion.

        It’s interesting.

    2. Right. The mom thing.

      It makes a lot of sense to me. I wrote about that in the last week or so.

      Thank you for reading this.

    3. Wifework is actually kind of saying the opposite. That men and women have very similar emotional needs but that wives generally meet their husbands needs adequately if not perfectly whereas husbands rarely meet their wives’ (emotional) needs at all, hence why women instigate the majority of divorces and why marriage and depression are correlated for women but not for men. (From the book – wives report levels of depression two to three times higher than unmarried women, and if they are unhappily married, three times higher than that of their husbands.) This is because women tend to put a great deal of effort into being supportive, encouraging and caring and men receive this but generally don’t give it back in the quality and quantity needed.

      I think the book quoted another study which showed that both men and women found it beneficial to talk to a woman about their problems. Neither found it particularly helpful talking to a man. So men tend to experience emotional intimacy with women, but women don’t tend to experience emotional intimacy with men. They have to seek it outside the marriage, from their friends or their children or else they become depressed, get divorced or one then the other.

      My own theory is that men don’t see this asymmetry of effort and they believe that the warm supportive experience that they are having in the relationship is just the result of chemistry between their wives and themselves. They therefore think that their wives are experiencing the same warm, supportive relationship and will continue to do so by mere dint of their physical presence in their wife’s vicinity. They don’t see that they are getting this experience because their wives are busting a gut doing the work to make them feel admired, supported, listened to, cared for etc and that because they are not actively engaged in making sure their wives feel admired, supported, listened to, cared for every time they interact with them, their wives are not getting the same relationship experience at all. So when the woman starts jumping up and down trying to get him to see that he needs to change he thinks she is making a fuss over nothing because he thinks she is experiencing the relationship in the same warm supportive way he is and that she is therefore picking at trivial things. He doesn’t get that he is receiving this huge amount of emotional support from her in various forms that she is not getting from him and that she is jumping up and down trying to get this from him so she can continue to function on a basic level.

      That said I am going to read the book you recommend for an alternative prospective – I’ve just read one by Deborah Tannen that was recommended on the dishes thread and while it doesn’t ring true in quite the same way as wifework did for me, I have taken a few things away from it.

      1. Thank you for that excellent explanation. It certainly rings true to me.

        Perhaps I misspoke RE: men having “emotional” needs met via their guy friends.

        I would characterize the guy side of it more in terms of being part of a “tribe” or “band of brothers” as they were on a high school sports team, or friends group, or membership or fraternity of some kind.

        When that sense of tribal belonging goes away, men sometimes experience depression in the same way you’re describing because the “family,” sacred and beautiful and ever-important as it is, simply doesn’t fill that missing “tribal” void.

        This is all very fascinating to me. Thank you very much for sharing ideas and book recommendations.

      2. Well put and thank you Wandathefish. Your theory is exactly how I felt in my last relationship.
        And, again, thank you Matt for the great post!

      3. Cool, I get what you mean Matt, about the need for friends of the same gender, especially when you feel they’re your tribe. I guess a lot of groups do kind of disintegrate when people start pairing off and having kids and I think men are sometimes more inclined to hide depressive symptoms than women. So it can’t hurt to be more aware.

        And thanks for the likes people – I’m so glad what I wrote resonated and I would be honoured to be quoted crowned butterfly! I have plenty more thoughts in this vein. I have been treating this issue a bit like an epic murder mystery that I must get to the bottom of for a few months now as I’m 34 and single and don’t want to be but I can’t find a relationship that I get anything out of beyond sex (despite not finding it too hard to find men who want more than sex and who seem to think they’re providing more than sex). Finding Matt’s blog (and Matt!) has been very welcome and may provide some puzzle pieces.

        Incidentally I’ve never been married and have never even lived with a man but my experience of dating and relationships lead me to believe that most marriages must be pretty soul destroying for the women in them. So I started looking for first hand testimonies of marriage and divorce experiences as well as academic research on marriage and divorce and what I found pretty much backed up my theory. All I’ve been able to see with most of the men I’ve gone out with or even just dated for an evening or two has been a future of depression and misery (there have been a few notable exceptions) and yet I’ve watched many of these men move on and seemingly find happiness with other women over the years. I’ve wondered if they’ve changed and always suspected it unlikely given the herculean efforts I put into trying to get them to before ending each relationship. So I wonder if their wives are getting any sort of happiness from the relationship at all or if they’re struggling with all the same issues I did. And if so why couldn’t they see these from date number 1 or from a few months in as I have always been able to?

        Some of the books I’ve read and some posts I’ve read suggest that men put in a lot more effort in the early days and things go down hill at some point but I don’t think this is true. I think in most cases there is a massive asymmetry of effort from minute one of date one but many women are blind to this because they aren’t focused on the right things. They are looking for intelligent, attractive, successful etc where they should be looking for relationship skills above all else if they actually want to end up happy. There are so many mini mysteries involved in this big metamystery, it’s hard to know where to begin.

        1. “and yet I’ve watched many of these men move on and seemingly find happiness with other women over the years. ”

          I suggest you read the book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottleib. She was a lot like you, had no problem getting dates most of the time, but couldn’t understand how she ended up single at 40. She missed the whole chance to have a family.

          Her book is an exploration of what happened. Having read it, I think she would say you are much too picky (technically, she would say you are a “maximizer” instead of a “satisfier”). She too found flaws in all the guys she dated, only to watch later while shrewder and less picky women were delighted to snatch them up and marry them. Over the years, she has watched these women build loving families with the men she rejected while she remained alone.

          Her research for the book showed her lots of other women have been making the same mistake – holding out for Mr. Perfect, finding too many flaws in the regular Joe’s they date to consider marrying them, and thus finding themselves old maids. The story of the book is all about her realizing her mistakes and trying to correct them, even at such a late date.

          Give the book a read and see what you think. Maybe it helps. Good luck!

  7. I’ve arrived at the point of no return.
    Thank you for this post.
    P.S. I’ve got the reading comprehension of a 36 year old.
    I’ll be 37 soon, so I should be good.
    Happy Wednesday!

    1. I’m sorry to see here that Nicole. I divorced my man-child at age 36.

      FYI, i remarried an adult, and it’s a whole new, wonderful world. He “gets it”: I don’t have to “help him help me”; he doesn’t expect a cookie for doing his fair share of housework; he doesn’t throw open the refrigerator and bellow that there is nothing to eat in the house….and then fail to do something about it. I could go on and on, but most of us with experience “mother/son” marriages get the idea.

      Being free from the manchild added years to my life. Being remarried to an adult gave me a few more years too.

    2. You’re welcome, Nicole? That seems like maybe not the right response.

      I’m sorry. It’s hard. Adulthood is hard. Marriage is harder. You and your partner have my sincerest best wishes, though, for the nearly nothing that that is worth.

      P.S. – Samesies. I turn 37 next month.

  8. I have a problem with your assumption that most or all the people who disagreed with you are headed for divorce. I realize you’ve been through it, and have read a lot of other people’s stories which I’ve no doubt is heartbreaking, but you’re short of being an expert. You give good advice, but I think you’re a little over confident. I’ve read some of the comments that disagreed with you and some of them are from happily married people that simply found some of what you’re saying flawed based on their own experience. People work things out in their own way sometimes, not just your way works. Your defensive attitude seems unprofessional.

    I hope you continue to write. Just without all the links back to the dish post and defensive rants about people who disagree with you. And I hope this comment makes you think, rather than making you more defensive.

    1. I want so badly for this to not “sound” defensive, because I don’t feel defensive about this comment. I’m not the least bit afraid of telling people when I do feel defensive.

      But there are a few things here that I’m a little bit “Wha-!?” about.

      First, I do not assume that anyone disagreeing with the post is headed for divorce. I said it wasn’t hard to spot the guys headed for divorce. It’s because they all said things like this: “Screw that bitch! I work hard at my job and when I get home I expect hot meals and appreciative blow jobs. I’ll put my dishes where I want to put my dishes because I’m the man of the house.”

      Secondly, I wanted to address the question a reader asked about what to do when he’s a good husband but his wife still, in his estimation, mistreats him. I didn’t know how to do that without referencing the “dishes” post which is what generated the question.

      Third, it’s a super-common practice on the Internet to link to the content to which you’re referring in writing. It’s one of the advantages digital content provides users and content creators over print publications. I know this, because–professionally–I spent 10 years as a print journalist, and I’ve spent the past seven working in digital.

      And lastly, the reason I use the word “professionally” there is because there is a massive distinction between the work I do professionally, and my personal blog here where I frequently make up words, break grammar rules, and cavalierly toss out masturbation references.

      There is NOTHING professional about this blog. I won’t even agree to let people advertise here because I’m not giving anyone the power to decide what I write.

      I’ve written more than 500 posts here, and I have zero dollars to show for the effort.

      This is a personal project. One that is near and dear to my heart.

      You’re invited to be part of it, and I appreciate very much your willingness to read things I’ve written and take time to comment.

      But don’t get it twisted. This is mine. And it’s not professional. And it may never be. And I’m totally okay with that.

      1. Well Said! Its your transparency that keeps me coming back – with every read I continue to find you insightful, witty, thoughtful, and gut wrenchingly honest. You are a man of integrity and that’s rare…keep doing what you do!

  9. Take heart Matt, the responders who thought your blog was actually about a dirty glass both before AND after reading are the people who have yet to, and may never, work on in depth self discovery/personal inventory . After reading your blog I thought “Finally! A clear as day explanation (by a man no less!) of exactly how women are feeling in their relationships with their male partners.” I fairly skipped over to my husband and asked him to read your blog carefully. I sat next to him with a smile on my face thinking that he would surely have an AhHa moment – he would finally “get it”. “Our arguments and resentful feelings will be diminished to practically nothing”, I thought. I was wrong. He finished reading and said to me “well I agree with him that it’s completely irrational, but I promise I’ll try to do better to put my dishes in the dishwasher”. My heart sank. That’s when I got it that to understand what you were saying, he, and any other reader, would have to be willing and motivated to do some real work towards personal growth and understanding. I’m married to a great guy. I love my husband. But at that moment I fully understood that he was never going to understand how I felt about the dirty glass. So, even if your blog didn’t help my husband and I in the way I believed it would after I first read it, it’s helped me to accept that it’s very unlikely that this guy is going to understand me the way I would like him too. But he is doing the best he can for the place that he’s in right now, and I’ve decided to appreciate that.

    1. Take his hand in yours, lock eyes with him, and tell him, “I don’t think I want to be in this marriage anymore.” That’s what did the trick for me. The universal human constant–we nearly always must be driven to the cliff’s edge, one foot floating in empty air, the other rapidly losing purchase, before all of our cognitive lights go on. My wife had told me what she needed a thousand different ways before and every attempt had passed ephemerally through my dim brain and ignorant heart like an x-ray. Until she said those words. Then everything became crystalline and I got my shit together in a mighty hurry. Turns out there was still a little purchase left at the edge of my marital cliff after all. But only *just*. I still haven’t figured out if I’m my own worst enemy for allowing things to get to that point, or my best friend for saving my own ass (and my wife’s peace of mind and heart) at the last second.

      1. I appreciate your honesty and introspection, and I’m so glad that your marriage seems to be working out. I’m wondering if you can help me understand, how come the thousand attempts your wife made did just pass through you? Having told tou so many times, how can you not have managed to understand that it mattered to her? If you did undertand, why didn’t you take her seriously? Did you, in your heart of hearts think that she wouldn’t leave you no matter what, and you decided that you’d rather have her continue to suffer than change yourself? Did you think that you were more important than her? Or something else entirely? I’m really not trying to bash you or be mean or anything, I promise. I’m honestly wondering what was going on.

        All the best to you, your wife and your marriage.

      2. It’s a totally fair question and I assure you I take no offense to it. We’re all here to learn and improve, after all. To be honest, my revelations are in no way shape or form different than what Matt has already pontificated on at length on this blog; oddly enough, I came to the same watershed conclusions as he did a mere ten days before his viral “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” post. Let me begin by saying I never once set out to be cruel or in any way hurtful to my wife. I’ve never stopped adoring her for a second of our marriage. If you had asked me earlier on the same day that she said she believed our marriage was at an end what kind of husband I thought I was, I would have eagerly and honestly answered ‘a deeply loving and affectionate one whose whole world revolved around his wife’. What I discovered after that day, however, after some deep soul-searching and confrontational introspection, was that my love for my wife was never the point in question. What was, however, was my RESPECT for her. I had to confront the repulsive truth that my marriage was hemorrhaging from countless wounds of disrespect, each of which I had unwittingly and unintentionally caused. Every time I mocked her Beyonce and Mariah Carey music. Every time I said something broken in the house could wait to be fixed. Every time I dismissed seeing a live Disney stage production with her because who the hell wants to pay $50 a head to see real people perform what we could see for free on our Blu-ray cartoon at home? Every time dirty dishes piled up to the sky. Every time I let the car go another 15,000 miles without replacing the oil. And on and on and on it went. But was it because I consciously thought I was better than her, or more important than her? Heavens no. It was exactly as Matt has said dozens of times over. It was a sense of, if these things are truly not of any interest or importance to me, surely they really aren’t for her either. If I have her listen to enough Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, surely she’ll understand how talentless and mass-produced Beyonce’s and Mariah Carey’s melodies sound. If she realizes it will take $250 to have those broken tree limbs removed from the backyard that we almost never hang out in, surely she’ll join me in shrugging it off. In other words, if she just looks at things the way I do, then she’ll chill out and realize that all those things she’s worked up about amount to just so much unnecessary energy expenditure. After all, she’s supposed to be “my other/better half”, right, so how could she like all this stuff I don’t like, or be so worked up about this stuff that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans to me? If she’s the other half of me, she’ll come around to my way of thinking any ol’ time now, and my way of thinking is so much more chill than hers, so it’s totally gonna rule when she gets it.

        Then, quickly, oh so instantly, the light goes out of her eyes and she looks at me with this sort of alien, creepy, numbed and deadened gaze and says those hellish words, “I don’t think I want to be married anymore…”, and immediately, it’s me who’s the one getting it. Finally getting it. “Holy shit, you mean those things really mattered to you?! Like, MATTERED mattered?” And there I am, like a billion other men, slack-jawed and dumbfounded that I was so desperately hoping she’d just start thinking like a man and chill the fuck out that I’d been totally missing that her heart was what had been chilling. You see–it’s not about I’d “rather have her continue to suffer”, or as wandathefish phrased it, that I “understood she was miserable and didn’t care about her unhappiness”; it’s that I never really thought there was a moment where she could be anywhere near suffering because of how inconsequential the things I discovered had been eating her alive seemed to me. And in that moment, it all came back to what Matt’s been trying so vigilantly, so importantly, to drive into the minds of his male readership: IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT IT MEANS NOTHING TO YOU; IT MATTERS THAT IT MEANS SOMETHING TO HER. And it’s not even an issue of “should it matter to her?”, “is it fair that it matters to her?”, “is it rational that it matters to her?”, “wouldn’t life be so much more chill and relaxed if it didn’t matter to her?” Maybe. Maybe unicorns and dragons really existed once. Maybe the Moon landing was faked. Maybe size really doesn’t matter. I don’t know. I just know that the point that is more vital than any of those questions is IT MATTERS TO THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON I’VE EVER KNOWN AND EVER WANT TO KNOW; THEREFORE, FAIR OR NOT, RATIONAL OR NOT, UNPLEASANTLY DIFFICULT OR NOT, IT MUST MATTER TO ME, TOO. Every day on this blog, I see men and women alike pushing back at Matt with, “Well, but what about this?” and “But how is it fair that this?” and “Have you considered looking at it like this?” and with all due respect to anyone who finds Matt’s philosophy hard to swallow, they can all go pound sand. My questions all stopped the moment that explosive, nuclear thought went off in my head. “It matters to her; therefore, it needs to matter to me.” And the question of whether my wife’s concerns are rational, fair, well-reasoned, high-effort, or “the best way to go about it” means much less to me than the fact that I vowed to devote the entirety of myself to her for our lives, so her peace of heart and mind is paramount to all other concerns or lines of inquiry.

        I never wanted to hurt her, or chip away at her emotional well-being. The very thought of that makes me ill. But I got lazy and I got selfish and I got unmotivated. I totally failed to realize that, whereas I was taking peace from not having to do anything and just relaxing on the homefront, she was in excruciating misery because she couldn’t take any peace on the homefront unless some effort went into it. And went into her.

        You know what part stings the worst? The part that makes me sick at the sight of my own face in the mirror sometimes? Not that I hate the music of Beyonce and Mariah Carey, but that instead of mocking it, I never sought to understand, to truly just open up and listen to my wife about what she liked about it. It’s not about me ever liking it; I’m sure I never will. But what does that music mean to my wife? How did she encounter it for the first time? What memories does she associate with it? How did it shape her? What is it that she connects to in it? This is just one example of dozens where I just crapped on something interesting or compelling to her because it never sparked my passion. Rather than trash something that’s a part of what comprises my wife, I could have learned more about her. I could have understood her on a deeper level, could have at least learned some sort of different perspective on something I don’t normally understand or relate to. I could have known the other half of my heart in a much richer way, but I didn’t have the maturity to even recognize, until it was almost too late, that my opinion about things that matter to her is a pittance compared to her truth about the things that matter to her.

        To Matt’s point, the world is chock-a-block with legitimate assholes, but I think if most married women had any idea how much their private pain has been caused without a single inkling of intention by men who love them very much but have just become totally blind to recognizing any reality or way of thinking other than the one they see through their own male lens, it’d knock the wind out of their collective sails. That much pain, disrespect and disregard has to originate from a place of knowing intention, right? But no. Most of us men are simply Homer Simpsons in a room with a big red button that could ignite the world and even the brightest among us has no clue of the annihilation we’ll cause by pushing it. I’m not sure if discovering that makes it better, or even more horrible, for our wives.

        1. Tens of thousands of comments on this blog. This one is my new favorite.

          So many uncomfortable and painful little truths in here.

          I’ll need to re-read this a few times.

          Everyone else should too.

      3. Travis – I have 2 sons. I mean no disrespect in my comments, but what you write scares the daylights out of me. How do boys grow into adults who think that the only things that matter are the things that matter to THEM?

      4. Travis B, thank you very much for the honest and thoughtful reply you gave me. I really appreciate all the details you put into describing your thought/feeling/perception process!

      5. Linda, I’m not sure I have a good answer for that. I truly believe I’m a good, moral, upstanding person who loves his wife, mother and children wholly and richly. I’m not sure what factors contribute to this sort of atrophying of basic human kindness and decency, but I do believe that they often cut across gender lines. Men arguably suffer worse from it, at least in the context of romantic relationships. but I’ll let the readers of textbooks about evolutionary, cultural and societal trends lend their expertise to that discussion. I do concede that being an only child may have exacerbated the issue for me. For my entire youth, I didn’t have siblings to help mold, shape, challenge or contribute to my perspective. I was my own island of tastes and opinions. Maybe that played a factor; I dunno. I still see this sort of ignorant blindness across scores of men who did grow up with siblings, so ya got me (*shrug*). I can’t give you assurance that your sons will never join our dunderheaded ranks and one day cluelessly trot themselves right on out there to that same cliff’s edge, but I do believe that, as their parent, if you’ve helped armed them with character, humility, grace, dignity and, most importantly, the ability to profoundly love with every ounce of themselves, they’ll have all the tools they need to save themselves from the abyss of their own making.

      6. Travis – Thanks for responding back. I have sons who display self-absorption and I always talk to them about it while I cross my fingers that they outgrow it. As a matter of fact, my mantra is “25 – 26 years old” which is my way of hoping that this is a phase not a character deficit. Maybe it has to do with relationship skills too.

      7. Travis B. Thank you your post. The last year of my marriage makes so much more sense. As does his too late busy work after I told him I was done and it was time for him to move out.

      8. “Take his hand in yours, lock eyes with him, and tell him, “I don’t think I want to be in this marriage anymore.” That’s what did the trick for me.”

        And it never crossed your mind to say “Fine, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out”?

        I guess I just have too much self-respect to fall for these kinds of classic “lower the boom” threat-point games. Proves again, there’s no shortage of beta boys out there.

    2. I’m with you in these questions Donkey. For all the talk about men and women speaking different languages due to evolutionary and social differences in so many cases it seems like the man just doesn’t care enough about his partner or her happiness. He can understand that she is miserable but it’s only a problem for him when he actually realises he is going to suffer as a result. Correct me if I’m wrong – I’m absolutely open to other perspectives and explanations but it seems like the woman was communicating just fine, her husband just didn’t care enough?

    3. I had the similar experience with my spouse. I got a rant about irrational emotional blackmail and unreasonable demands without boundaries. He so doesn’t get it, but he’s still a good guy, he’s doing the best he can, and I appreciate that. Conversely, I’m working on learning to see when I get so frustrated that I make him feel hopelessly unappreciated. I need to see that so I can call my girlfriends or go read a juicy novel and not expect him to provide what he’s clearly not able to provide.

  10. Matt:

    I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about this topic; maybe it’s the fact that I’m on the email list, but more than that it strikes a chord with me, having walked to the edge and looked down with my wife before pulling back from the brink. That period of emotional hardship kicked my ass enough to start delving into “the big stuff”… self-awareness, spiritual self-improvement call it what you will. What I discovered within a week was that I knew very little about myself, and I’ll wager that 99% of (western) civilization is in this boat. Who am I? What do I REALLY want out of life? What do I want to be remembered by? Are my innermost values and convictions aligned with my actions? It took a lot of thinking, some time with a therapist, and some quality time with a men’s group who knew all the bullshit blame-shifting lines to get me to the point where I’m living pretty true to my values most of the time. I’m grateful for what I have, and I’m absolutely sure that just because I believe something does not make it universally true. I’m less judgemental, and I am a far better listener. A fair amount of effort went into trying to figure out what went wrong in my marriage… I’m sure there are a lot of guys who can commiserate with me when I say that I was really trying to be the good husband, but that I honestly did lack, or lack access to, *something* in my character… that *something* is what the guys have who *get* the dishes post. The filters we all use to think, the ones that decide what information gets through to us and what slant that information is given as it’s stored, those filters were built in our early childhood and have in many (most?) cases been reinforced decade after decade. Those walls are pretty thick, and you have to want to tear them down pretty bad to overcome this “autofiltering”, and taking that wall down makes you vulnerable. Not just to other people, but to YOU, to YOURSELF, as you’re by far your own harshest critic. Looking backward there were a lot of times in my journey of self-awareness that I had to judge myself harshly in order to move forward… YES, I was an asshole at times, YES I hurt people, YES I somehow allowed myself to lose touch with the real me… and beyond that I needed to take responsibility for ALL my actions, even the ones that weren’t intentional. I do wonder if as a society we’ll ever get to the point where this stuff is taught early enough to avoid the pain of this type of misunderstanding which leads to so so so many failed relationships… I hope so.

    1. I appreciate your honesty. I have not lived your story, but I recognize a lot of what you’re saying. It wasn’t until my own life was pretty much shot to pieces that I started really really facing my stuff. Facing my own shadows, my own shortcomings, where I had hurt people I loved… My own fears and deep shame… It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

      That *something* you talk about, do you think it’s related to the remaining sexism in our society (and yes, I know that many gender norms hurt men too, and that race and class and all kinds of circumstances play in aswell)? That because men are considered the norm in our society (which though hardly ever said outright is demonstrated in a billion indirect ways) and have been for thousands of years, a lot of men believe on a deep level that their way of understanding and perceiving things just simply is the right and natural way, and if women agree with you that’s all well and good, but if they don’t, well they must obviously be wrong? Kind of like a fish being the last one to know it’s swimming in water, because it’s just so embedded in their life?

      1. Your question in the 2nd paragraph is really the crux of what I’ve been thinking about. In our last exchange I leaned on the old evolutionary standard explanation but I know that’s not right… in fact there have been many civilizations throughout history that are matriarchal not patriarchal. The ones that went on to conquer the world by force were, you guessed it, primarily (gotta’ remember Queen Isabella is the one that sent Columbus on his merry way) run by men so the version of history we get is probably as skewed as the rest of this whole issue. I’m seeking knowledge here, so grant me some leeway. In my last post I also opined that as men were neither inherently lazy or stupid, that there must be some other cards in play. Now, I agree that the whole indoctrination / filter construction CAN play a big role in shaping our behaviors: you learn to mimic behaviors you see as successful. However, I ain’t that guy. I’m a guy who did almost nothing with their Dad growing up because, well, Dad was busy doing important Dad things… making money, playing golf on the weekends, having a scotch and reading the paper when he got home from his important Dad work. Since I was old enough to realize the wrongness of this approach I’ve always said “I’m not going to be like my Dad. I’m going to do it better.” I have super role models in my wife’s parents, who were BOTH VERY actively involved in their children’s upbringing. Her Dad knew her friends, knew her interests, knew her feelings, was a confidant… all the things I aspire to. And yet… I still managed to make a shitty mess of things. Not that I’m touting myself as incredibly smart, but I’m reasonably so… college educated, liberal-leaning, forty-something guy who believes intensely in equality… or so I thought. I will admit that I also felt (probably still feel, but vastly less than in the past) peer/society pressure to act certain ways which, upon review, embarrass me at the least and pain me to think about relating to some instances. So, coming from where I came from, how did I end up where I ended up? It still doesn’t make (enough) sense to me to put it to bed.

        I guess my gut says there’s a missing piece here. Reading through all the comments to all Matt’s blog posts it becomes apparent that this is an issue of epidemic proportions… I’d almost say it’s the norm at least in North America. Maybe it’s like mental illness in the past… one of those topics we simply don’t talk about and hope it goes away. As issues like LGBT, mental health, and substance addiction have become mainstream topics, I think it’s time to shine a light on this dark place.

    2. Thanks so much Dave! If I understand you correctly, you believe upbringing, gender norms/indoctrination etc plays a big part, but there’s still a missing link for you. Please let us know when/if you figure out the missing link. 🙂

      I’ll just say that I don’t think it’s just as simple as boy sees dad not doing anything and therefore doesn’t do anyhting either, or that someone saw dad not doing anything and decided to do it differently (and of course, could be the mom not doing anything or drinking or whatever). All the crap we pick up is often very subtle and it sits so deep that I don’t think that just wanting and deciding to do things differently is enough in all cases in and of itself. Some mistakes my parents made have been relatively easy for me too avoid (so far at least!). But some of the shit I’ve done wrong and was heartbroken about and promised myself to never do again…I did again. Until I really started healing. But absolutely, I belive that with introspection, healing and so on people can learn to do things differently.

      An example that isn’t completely related: I grew up in a pretty liberal European country, with non-religious parents who never slut shamed me or anything like that at all. Yet when I started being sexually active (sorry if this is too much info!), I worried that I might burn in hell because I hadn’t waited until marriage! And it wasn’t just a fleeting thought. Again, I did not grow up in a religious family or community, yet that stuff somehow still got stuck in me in a pretty deep way. And I think it can be that way with a lot of other things too.

      But maybe you have already considered this, and for you and many others there still is a missing link. Again, I’ll be very curious to hear what you find out. 🙂

      Have a good day!

  11. I found your blog by accident awhile ago & have faithful read since then. But today would be the first time I’ve cried. It’s ok..It still happens.
    Your part about the miscarriage, the music choices & so on made me wonder if you had been a fly on the wall of my marriage.
    We’ve been apart for almost 4 years. Divorced as of this past September.
    He did those things & I literally grew to hate him with the pain I felt. Feeling more often than not that I wasn’t appreciate, understood, comforted or loved made me into the absolutely the most shitty partner. I tried to communicate how I felt. But he couldn’t understand. I’m sure my tears, yelling & bitching really didn’t help. Finally got to the point that I just didn’t care anymore. I gave up.
    Sorry this ended up more of a ramble than a comment.
    But thank you for writing your blog, thank you for your honestly, thank you for being you.

  12. If you grew up with parents that had a crappy marriage, odds are pretty good that you don’t have the knowledge/habits/emotional maturity/patience to have a good marriage yourself. There are exceptions, but not many. Add in the fact that the younger you get married the less you know yourself, and the odds are stacked against you. Then, throw in living hundreds, or thousands, of miles from family (even if they are messed up they can babysit? Maybe) and a couple of kids, and maybe some financial stress as well. Recipe for disaster. After my painful divorce I spent 4 years figuring out what was wrong with me so that if I ever got the chance again I wouldn’t screw this one up. Yes, it took every day of 4 years. Most people don’t want to go through that kind of pain so they go on to the next escape because it seems easier. And then they find themselves with a new face and the same problems because they did not emotionally learn from the last broken relationship.

    1. You are so right that people usually don’t do it but would be so much better off if they took time to heal, to process it all, to learn from it before moving on to a new someone to be with. I keep reminding myself everyday. And everyday I try to give myself credit for trying to be wise and healthy and avoid screwing up again or being bad to someone or sabotaging myself. My soon-to-be-ex just couldn’t stay and work on our marriage and couldn’t be alone and was with someone almost immediately after walking out on us here. I keep letting myself feel the validation that maybe I’m not the weak one or the more screwed up one or the overly emotional one, no matter how I’ve been painted over and over since I’m not the one who did that.

    2. All true, at least from my perspective. My parents had a crappy marriage, my Dad called the shots and my mom was a seething cauldron of barely concealed bitterness and resentment. Weirdly, though, my siblings and I actively resented my Dad for the way he acted as much as my mother did. One would think that logic would lead us away from that type of behavior, not towards it. I think that a great deal COULD be learned about oneself early on IF one had the required guidance and instruction. It’s universally applicable, and I’m sure there’s an age factor that increases the ease of the self-awareness journey as you get older and more beat up, but I still think that it would be incredibly useful to have some curriculum at the high school level that talks about this stuff as it could really affect kids’ future more than any english or science or phys ed class.

  13. Getting divorced

    I won’t say that I did all of that, but I made a really solid effort, and she STILL sucked. So one night a few months ago, she said she wanted a divorce, and I was too exhausted and spent, so that was that. As a control freak, she now has been making the divorce process hell so that she can try and grab back the control that she’s now losing because we’re getting divorced.

    I’ve begun thinking a bunch recently about what I did to get in this place and if I could have done something better, and to me, the dishes post still just says to me that one partner can end up having free license for emotional tyranny over another, and it’s why I don’t like that post.

    I think that really you can have a conversation about the dishes and that you both can understand where the other person is coming from: the dish left out for one means a lack of respect to one person, and to the other, it is simply a dish left out with no malice. Each side needs to work toward coming toward the middle – one party to let it go and not invest so much emotionally in the dish being left out, and the other in being more mindful to put them away because it’s emotionally hurtful toward their spouse.

    In my case, it didn’t matter, because my wife was always looking for the next flaw and never worried about anything she did wrong. I’d take care of the dishes and then it would be the groceries. I’d do a better job with the groceries and then it would be about how I got the kids to bed. It was always something, and ultimately, I came to realize that I would never fill up the emotional void she felt, and it was a waste of my time to do so.

    Divorce does suck, and I do think that people should work on it. I made a terrible choice many years ago to get married, and I’m now paying for it. My greatest regret is that my children will pay for it, too. I’m just bound to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and like you, I’m not sure where exactly that is.

    To me, the violation of the boundary was that I was getting blamed and accused of things that weren’t true, that everything I did was suspect, and the only value I had was that I was a babysitter, house cleaner, handyman, and paycheck. Oh, and I was at least in the placeholder of being a husband. But my hobbies, interests, values, and other relationships weren’t worth a shit.

    1. I think there is a legitimate debate to have about the difference between emotional abuse which you may have experienced (one form of which is the refusal to ever be satisfied) and the issues that arise when one partner is doing the lion’s share of the work in the relationship (or just has some small requests that they ask of their partner like putting a glass in the dishwasher). That said, I don’t think this blog is about abuse or that Matt’s wife was abusive as he himself states often that he doesn’t feel she was unreasonable. He also was not living in fear or with sky high levels of anxiety or depression. For that reason abusive relationships aren’t being discussed here but you might benefit from looking up “emotional abuse” or “psychological abuse” if you haven’t already? I’ve been in both types of relationship and they can sound very similar description wise but they feel quite different. You won’t know that if you’ve experienced one but not the other. You could also look up Lundy Bancroft – a book about emotional abuse written with a female audience in mind but that applies to anyone who’s been through that kind of relationship.

  14. completelyinthedark

    So of course you have a book deal now. Wait, self publishing and take a bigger chunk on the pie.

  15. Pingback: The Scary Truth About Marriage and Divorce | Bipolar Survivor ♥

  16. “What if I do all that shit, and she STILL sucks?” Giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he is, “..objectively speaking, a good husband. I’m going with a very simple truth, she doesn’t love him. Its not about the dish, or the laundry or the bills or the kids or his dirty socks on the floor etc., or the myriad little things that become monumental irritants.

    She has fallen out of love and probably finds his attempts to, “…do all that shit.” annoying because what she really wants is out but – she’s also a coward and doesn’t want to be the “bad guy” in the relationship so she finds a million reasons why he’s at fault so she can blame him when she ultimately leaves physically because she has already checked out emotionally….

  17. Thank you. I stumbled across your original blog when a friend shared it. So, I subscribed to your blog and thanked her. I cried when I read it, and again when I read this.
    I love my husband dearly, and we have talked so many times about how I feel “disrespected” and a last priority (Seriously, going on two years now), I keep asking myself how much longer can I keep begging for a change. Thank you for reminding me it’s really up to him. I will remain optimistic that the last talk took hold (I did paraphrase from the glass by the sink, thank you), but I’m also a bit more realistic now and yes, it would suck but I can be
    okay with it if it doesn’t work out.
    Thank you for sharing this with all of us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  18. Have you been pussy whipped or what? Why do you seem to blame yourself (and men) for why marriages go bad? Marriage is a partnership between two people. Its about loving the person you married and them accepting the person that you are. If a person does not accept who you are, then they cannot love you. We all need to change – both men and women in a relationship. Sorry but your posts just piss me off after the first paragraph

    1. I think you owe yourself an apology for reading them.

      I have a very specific reason and motivation for writing and storytelling and it’s not a particularly challenging concept.

      You intentionally reading things that piss you off after the first paragraph? THAT’s totally weird. Right?

      Get a grip. Stop reading my shit.

        1. If you are genuinely concerned for my wellbeing, as I am about your blog-post reading tendencies, then thank you.

          I promise I’m a happy person. I’ve been single three years. I have an excellent and friendly and cooperative relationship with my ex-wife. Our son is happy and healthy.

          I go to parties and concerts, and laugh every day.

          1. I don’t like divorce. This is how I help.

          2. I’m not blaming myself. I’m accepting responsibility. It’s such a manly and non-pussy-whipped sort of thing to do. I hope other guys will try it.

          3. What you aren’t seeing here is me blaming my ex-wife. I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not whining about how it’s someone else’s fault that something bad happened to me. I’m owning my shit and telling people about it because more than nine out of every 10 people end up in relationships and SUCK royally at it. It’s a crisis because of all the children involved who get hurt and grow up with no viable behavior modeling examples.

          4. The reason I’m happy and feel good and like my life is BECAUSE I don’t blame other people for my problems.
          I’ll let wives who failed write their own blogs. If this “pisses you off,” then it’s not for you.
          If marriage is about making YOU happy (rather than your spouse and/or children) then I respectfully submit that marriage isn’t for you at all.
          If you’re worried about being pussy-whipped or exerting some kind of dominance, or not getting blamed for relationship failure, then just stay single.

          Bachelorhood has it’s perks.

          If you want to marry? Do shit right.
          That’s what this is about. I’m sorry you don’t like it.

          1. Dont get me wrong – i like your posts but You just seem to be whipping yourself for the past. You dont seem to be exploring the other side of the coin. I know you were not the perfect husband – no guy can be. Its impossible to be perfect. Stop whipping yourself for the past. Its not healthy.

          2. Dont get me wrong – i like your posts but You just seem to be whipping yourself for the past. You dont seem to be exploring the other side of the coin. I know you were not the perfect husband – no guy can be. If they want perfection – tell her to get a robot. Its impossible to be perfect. Stop whipping yourself for the past. Its not healthy.

      1. Matt – a poster who suggests that someone is pussy whipped for taking responsibility for their part of a relationship’s failure is no person to comment on what is or is not healthy.

  19. I remember when I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. He thought we had a wonderful marriage and couldn’t understand how he could be so happy while I was so unhappy. I told him that of course he was happy. He got his way 95% of the time (or he hammered away at me about why he should get his way until I gave in just to get some peace). His logic and winning was more important than me and the family and he showed it every day. We ended up not getting divorced as this opened up a dialogue that helped somewhat. Men need to lay their competitive nature down when dealing with their wives. They are one. If the husband has to win all the time, the marriage loses.

  20. I love your blog, this is a great post and I DO get the hurt feelings behind making a fuss about the dishes (it is NOT just the dishes, the dishes are just a symbol of the overall attitude). HOWEVER, I still do feel that leaving dishes and similar areas of ‘neglect’ are NOT the same thing as dishonesty, betrayal, disloyalty, abuse, alcoholism etc. I also feel that being ‘neglected’ in that was is no excuse for going down that other path (dishonesty, betrayal, disloyalty). By that I mean, it is not right for a woman to think ‘he leaves the dishes in the sink, therefore it is OK that I have an affair as he is neglecting me’ OR ‘he never listens to me so I will just leave him without actually having “THE” conversation first (I am thinking of leaving you). I have a friend who is meticulous in her house and is forever frustrated with her husband for not following her house rules and other such things. She takes it as a sign that he does not love her enough to understand how much it upsets her. She is always threatening to leave him because she feels he does not care enough about her, yet in so many ways, he is a wonderful husband. What I mean is that she is making those little things out to be some really deep meaningful sign that he does not love her. The way I see it is that she is looking at a personality flaw rather than character weakness. Sometimes people are simply messy / disorganized / unpunctual / too chatty / too quiet and sometimes if we love those messy / disorganized / unpunctual / too chatty / too quiet people, we just need to accept there flaws as flaws and appreciate their true character.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth.

      Rest assured, I agree with you.

      Love is selfless, and forgiving, and patient, and kind, etc.

      We don’t murder our children because we LOVE them even when we don’t “feel” like it.

      That thought process, in my estimation, must be applied to our significant others. Love has always been, and always will be, a choice we have to make every day.

      I get accused of blaming men/husbands for everything. Nonsense.

      I only write about husband stuff because that’s what I lived and understand. I don’t lay the problem of divorce at men’s feet.

      I lay the responsibility of pursuing greatness and achievement and success within the context of marriage and parenting at their feet.

      If a man is willing to look me in the eye and tell me his wife and children are NOT his top priority, then fine. There’s nothing I can do about that guy except feel sorry for his family.

      But I believe MOST men will look me in the eye and tell me his wife and children are absolutely his highest priority.

      And that being the case, I don’t see how what I’m suggesting is out of line.

      Lead through humility.

      Put your wife and family first.

      Love hard.

      Enjoy the rewards that come from that and the forever-satisfaction that comes from being appreciated, respected, adored, desired, admired, etc. from your spouse, children, and those closest to you.

      But, nope.

      “Screw you, wife. I’m going drinking with the boys and going to my 8 a.m. tee time tomorrow. I choose me over you.”

      A person doesn’t have to speak those words to say that very thing.

      And many husbands, wordlessly, but loudly, SAY things like that every day.

      And it’s a tragedy.

      1. I get what you are saying and agree that it is a tragedy when that is the attitude. Whether the man or the woman, when within a marriage it becomes all about ‘me’ rather than about ‘us’, then something is going to give. Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. I really appreciated it and admire your raw honesty.

  21. I used to work with all guys, great guys. During slow periods, they would gather in my office and bitch about their wife’s nagging. So I did a list. One column was his name, one hers. I asked the questions, which went like this: who does the laundry? She does. Then I would break it down; doing laundry means 1.gathering it 2. getting it downstairs 3. sorting by color and texture 4. spot cleaning 5. multiple washes and multiple dries 6. folding it. 7. getting it upstairs 8. putting it away. 8 steps x 2 times a week for a total of 4 hours.

    Who takes out the trash? I do. Taking out the trash means 1. gathering it from 3 places
    2. getting it to the curb *3. replacing trash can liners 4. retrieving the can. 4 steps x twice a week for a total of 40 minutes .(* 3. maybe. They tended to look very surprised at that one so I have my doubts)

    Then, the “shared” duties. Who does the grocery shopping? We both do. Who 1. checks the supplies (she does) 2. writes the list (she does) 3. does the actual shopping (we both do*) 4. gets it out of the car (we both do*) 5. Puts it away** *3. turns out to mean that if shopping is done 6 times a month, he does it a lesser one once and picks up a few items 4-5 times.
    *4. means he helps unload the car 2-3 times, or about 1/2. ** 5. means “what, groceries need to be put away?”

    After I drilled down, even simplifying the list to just “does the laundry” “takes out the trash”, her list was twice to 2 1/2 times his. Consistently, man by man by man. As we were finishing one day and I was telling them that they are all d***k wads who will be divorced in 2 years, in comes the older supervisor, laconic, married for 35 years. The guys wave the sheets at him, saying “she (me) is trying to BS us that our wives will divorce us based on these stupid lists, but you (older guy) have been married for a long time, YOU tell us what the secret really is!” He looked at the lists, shook his head and said to me “they are blithering idiots and you are wasting your time”.

    They were great guys, though, and I loved them, and I was sad when all of them ended up divorced. Oddly, they were very, very tough on what guys were good enough for me. If a guy upset me by what he did or did not do, their response, and they meant it, was “point him out and walk away”. (I didn’t)

    1. This is awesome.

      To, I’m sure, the dismay of husbands everywhere, I think it would be pretty kick ass to be able to create some kind of visual infographic that broke down household tasks like you did there, with time spent.

      A graphical representation of “work.”

      Guys don’t get it. (I’m generalizing, of course. Some do.)

      Guy grows up. Mom does all.

      Guy goes to college, or moves on his own. Sort of lives like a slob until he meets a serious girlfriend.

      Guy gets married. Wife does the majority of the heavy lifting, while also contributing infinitely more to the household income than his own mother did, due to cultural and economic evolution.

      Guy NEVER spends one second of his life keeping a house clean and managed effectively on his own. Most of the time, he doesn’t even know what it looks like.

      I was mostly that guy.

      I live alone now, and I do everything less frequently than my wife did, and only make it very nice when I’m expecting visitors.

      And by “very nice,” I basically just mean the way it always was when I was still married.

      I’ve written about this unequal division of labor in the house, but until that “dishes” post took off, I didn’t realize just how HUGE of a problem this really is.

      And ironically, it’s often NOT about wives and mothers whining about all the work they have to do.

      It’s just how unappreciated all of that effort is by those they love most.

      Sooner or later, the tank runs out of fuel.

      Great comment, Shannon. Thank you so much. Super thought-provoking and illustrative.

    2. Yep. They can always see it in situations outside themselves. My ex is a fantastic sounding board for quite a few of the 1000+ women he works with, rational, reasonable, concerned and able to spot most of any man’s or woman’s true B.S. in the one-sided stories he hears. But bring it into his own home life and his insecurities, poor communication and general m.o. of never hearing or accepting opinions, views and experiences from outside of himself ruled the day and made him into an emotional abusers, manipulator and major problem not only to myself and my son but also to his own daughters and also in the way he spoke about his mom and in our early years even about his sisters. Major personal dysfunction!

      And it’s definitely not just the dishes. Acts of service ranks at the absolute bottom in my love languages. I’m the furthest thing from a germaphobe. And I wish I were a type A woman and better at all that super woman stuff! I’m so much the opposite of a nag (intentionally so) that it came up in one of the brief moments that he participated in marriage counseling for about three minutes that I needed to be willing to nag more so that he wouldn’t end up forgetting what I needed him to do and unintentionally hurting me. So everything in the dishes post was on that deeper level for me; zero of it applied in the specifics mentioned.

      It’s about that mode of operating where you can’t conceive of that person being a real human person and having their own personality, feelings and experiences so everything you can’t relate to or didn’t already think before you heard it is automatically wrong, is unreasonable or incomprehensible and/or dismissed so quickly and absolutely that he later has no idea that it was ever brought up to him. In my marriage that included a lot of belittling, a lot of sarcasm, a lot of labeling things as stupid, or crazy, or asinine. It also included a lot of emotional withdrawal and unavailability and blaming me because I so unfairly made him feel like a bad guy if I cried or showed I was hurt or withdrew and therefore wasn’t often turned on during certain periods of our marriage, or God forbid, if I actually told him I was hurting. I was accused of “guilting him” which he proudly told me in our first year of marriage his evil mom had trained him to ignore. After about 10 years something inside of me snapped. The next 8 1/2 years were me working my way out of depression and learning to focus on the good no matter what he did even though I still almost never felt loved while he was learning to hate me and was working his way up to leaving me and going out and finding a shiny new toy from among the many women out there hot to jump on a married man, a man who abandoned his family a couple of days ago while that whole family is at home with their hearts ripped out, still loving him, still wanting him to be safe and healthy, praying he’ll come back and commit to learning how to work on the relationships in the family. Now we are learning to accept it. And now there are lawyers involved. And now we’ll all be free of him someday, hopefully in the not too distant future.

  22. I enjoy reading your posts and am amazed at what some people think or don’t think about why your marriage failed. I have been married three times to the same man, who I am happy to say, we heading toward our 8th anniversary this June. As with any marriage, it takes two to make a marriage work and it takes to to make it not work. It’s easy to think that the blame falls all on one person, but women and men are wired differently, in most cases, and our thought processes are totally different when he comes to many topics. I applaud you that you are willing to put it out there for the world to see and I pray that as people read your posts, not only will they give pause – time to consider a different perspective, but that it will be an encouragement. You have been an encouragement to me and I thank you.

  23. Hey Matt, i can’t believe that some readers took the “dish post” so literally and misunderstood the content just because of a mere title. I just want you to know that i am your biggest fan and i believe if i can get to be mentored by you, my little blog will explode lol. Stay safe and write more.

  24. I think this is a response to my tweet.. Thank you! Well done. I am trying every day.. It’s hard. God bless, Matt.

  25. Just want say, this doesn’t just apply to marriage, I have had similar issues with friends who disregard important things to me and thinks its the right decision! It was a few little things, like not picking up the phone when I called her, and not listening to me when I talk about my problems and it blew up when she made my holiday celebrating my 21 year of life all about her and making me feel guilty for wanting to do what I want!

    1. I love that you are doing this blog, offering honest to god answers and not devolving into abusive or selfish advice.

  26. Thank you for providing some perspective on how some women are perceived by some men. My 20 year marriage ended in divorce after years of me and the kids begging and pleading and explaining every way we could that certain behaviors didn’t work. There were biggies like forgetting to pick up a child as well as little things like refusing to do something about his snoring that woke everyone up numerous times each night but to me it felt like he was saying, “No one else matters but me.” In fact, it was only when something directly impacted him that he did anything about it. I thought it was because he was an asshole, but it turns out it’s because he took every request as a challenge – a fight he had to win. It’s hard to make a marriage work when one person is just trying to win.

    I have friends going through marriage problems now and I’m sending them to your blog so they can see where their husbands are coming from. I’m not sure what to tell them in terms of HOW to talk with their husbands, but it’s helping a lot for them to be able to at least understand where their husbands may be coming from.

    Just wanted to say thanks.

  27. I’m a new subscriber and it was actually the dirty dish blog that inspired me to check out your other blogs. It was posted on Facebook and I admit that I sent the link to my boyfriend of 8 years, hoping he would read it. I don’t know that he ever did, but it was very insightful, and it also inspired ME to do those little things for him (like mop the floor immediately after our baby dumps his plate on the floor, because I know how much he hates messy kitchen floors) I’ve read a few of your blogs and you’re definitely onto something as far as your theory on where we fail in marriages.. Very wise. I look forward to reading more from you although I likely won’t comment much. I’m more of an observer.

  28. “What if I do all that shitty stuff, and she still sucks?” That statement tripped me out, because it appeared as though the wife was already doing a lot of the shitty stuff and he hadn’t changed. But she was still there, trying. Sounded like an excuse for him to not even bother trying. I hope he did because if he did try for at least 3 months straight things could have gotten better. People always respond to change. But if he saw no change, saw things still crappy then he can say at least I tried, I did my best and tried. I have no regrets. But to ask that question and not even try? Kind of sad.

  29. Women. Like vipers and skunks are things that exhibit visual signs that say ..danger..I have the power to either kill you or have your dignity and self esteem covered up in a banal fragrance at my convenience. Just because I can.and finish it all off like a gator when she takes the victim in the death roll.

  30. I really hope the author gets to see this as well as his not so well wishers who really shouldn’t waste the time because it’s lost on them:
    Listen up
    This is from the WIFE of a good guy who is a shitty husband for over +20 years
    And this post was right
    But no one understands what he’s saying
    If I’m not qualified to speak, then please enlighten me with directions to your yellow brick road.
    Dirty dishes? You think I could be married 20 years without dirty dishes daily?
    He was trying to tell you it’s not about the dishes, but the result feelings of disappointment, anger, etc.. REPEATED without fail regardless of their spouses REPEATED attempts to tell them = a couple divided over 1 silly thing. Now combine every other issue…
    I’m reading anything you guys write because I want my marriage and even though it’s me that’s justified in theory because I’ve shouldered it alone, so what? I need to communicate in a way that he can relate
    I give only the posts I know we are replicas of and only in little bits and in your words
    I can’t wrap my mind around why wives are online looking for answers from those same women with that same problem ?
    And i don’t the answers but I do know without a doubt
    Reading and posting more bitching wives comments only solidifies you delusion; all you have is a new group of supporters in the car with you as you all drive off the cliff
    Good luck
    (*and yes, I know this will not be well received , but then I’m here to save my marriage ! What if the husband gets better and your still you? Now who’s shitty)
    And thank you husbands
    I appreciate you

  31. Pingback: Should We Get Married? (Part 1) | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  32. Pingback: The Scary Truth about Divorce and Marriage – Motivational Moments

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