You Don’t Understand Me for the Same Reason Couples Divorce

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Some things simply get lost in translation. (Image/
Some things simply get lost in translation. (Image/

I wrote a post exactly three months ago today which was so popular and relatable to the average married couple that several million people read it.

It’s so popular that it has remained the most-read post on this site every day since, quadrupling MBTTTR’s daily traffic from pre-“dish” post levels.

The reason it became popular is because people read it, recognized their own lives, and wanted to share and talk about it with others.

And even though She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink mattered so much to so many, it yielded and continues to elicit radically different reactions from readers:

“I like that this guy got to the deep issue of respecting his wife. It takes a lot of self-reflection for a man to understand that little things like this can really hurt a woman.”

“This will contribute to saving my marriage. I read it, felt like I understood him better. Then read it to him, and now (I think) he understands me better. Thanks!”

“This article is a heap of stink. A woman divorces a man because of him not putting a glass away makes her feel insecure and not loved. It may make her feel that way but to the point of no return and a broken marriage? Get real.”

“Your wife’s petty and you’re justifying it to your own detriment.”

Some readers identified with my ex-wife. Others identified with the me from five years ago. And another group thought the entire thing was a huge time-waste.

Millions of people read the exact same words, but describe it differently.

Millions of people see a dirty glass sitting by the sink, and describe it differently.

Sometimes, when two people describe the same thing differently, they will debate who is correct. “I’m right. You’re wrong. Let me explain why since you have a small, idiot brain.”

One person sees the dish and KNOWS it’s a freaking dish sitting by the sink. No more, no less. If one of the cars got wrecked, or one of them became terminally sick, or a Nigerian 419 scammer cleaned out their bank account, the last thing either of them would care about is a dirty dish.

The other person sees the dish and KNOWS it’s a thoughtless, disrespectful, negligent act of emotional abuse, and if repeated enough times, will be the death of their relationship. And what could be more important to a couple who shares homes, beds, resources, children—entire lives—than to protect that relationship?

It’s a matter of perspective. A matter of mutual respect. A matter of the life skill I perceive to be the most-influential factor in which couples make it, and which do not: Empathy.

I’m Either Sexist, Racist and Anti-Semitic, or… I’m Not

Yesterday, I published a post titled “Empathizing with Hitler…” and I think a bunch of people freaked out about it but didn’t say anything, maybe because I’ve built up a bunch of goodwill credits with them.

I think it is probably the most important post I have ever written, and it had an intentionally shocking headline, yet low readership and engagement, and I think maybe it’s because many people saw those words, jumped to conclusions, and chose to do something else.

Including the words “Empathizing with Hitler” in the headline was probably unwise. But when the goal is to help a man understand what the word empathy REALLY means, and what empathy REALLY is, I find the headline totally defensible, and still haven’t decided whether I’ll change it.

I do not empathize with one of the biggest mass murderers in world history. I do not in ANY way condone, respect or agree with his political and ideological beliefs or actions.

I simply thought a guy like me might be able to read it and make the connection I wanted him to make: Empathy probably isn’t what you think it is. Here is what it ACTUALLY is. Even evil mass murderers can find people to empathize with them. Because empathy is not a feelingsy emo noun, and you don’t have to feel like a “girly pussy” for being empathetic. Empathy is a SKILL. An action. We empathize when we relate to other people in a way that connects us like we do with our high school sports teammates, or childhood friends, or other people in our hobbyist groups who like all the same things we do. We FEEL “me too” and that creates an important connection. It’s EASY to do with people who agree with us on everything and like all of the same things we like. And it’s REALLY HARD to do with people who disagree with us and have different goals, like our wives and girlfriends sometimes do. Which is why if you don’t want to lose your wife and kids to divorce, it will make your life better to become a stud at deliberate empathetic behavior.

I despise the term “African-American” as a generic label for black people (unless I can be certain the people are actually American).

We don’t call white people “European-American” even though most Caucasian American’s ancestors were European. I don’t know WHY we don’t say “European-American” but one good reason would be because that white person sitting over there might have grandparents from Australia, or New Zealand, or South Africa.

Ever see actors Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, or Lenny Henry in a TV show or movie? They all have fantastic American accents, so if I didn’t know they were British, and then saw one of them at LAX, maybe I’d elbow my travel partner and say: “Hey! Look! That’s totally Stringer Bell from The Wire!”

“I didn’t watch The Wire. Who are you talking about?”

“The African-American gentleman standing at the gate directly across from us.”

“Oh! That’s Idris Elba from the show Luther! He’s in lots of stuff! He’s actually not American. He’s British.”

And now, even though I was trying to be sensitive or whatever, I was actually being an ignorant and presumptuous D-hole.

One of the many blessings of the “dishes” post doing its thing and growing readership here, is that I have a handful of new people I’ve been able to get to know through the comments.

One of the most awesome is a Gottman fanatic named Lisa. And earlier today, she asked the following:

“As you know, I write all these annoying comments about how men and women are not as different as presented. That many of the things you describe are human and not really at their core pink and blue experiences.

“I fully acknowledge it’s important to understand nature/nurture reasons men and women see the world differently in the same way it is important to understand why blacks did whites see the world differently. But I think it is damaging to our common quest to help men do the hard work of learning empathy skills to perpetuate the idea that men and women are just fundamentally different in more ways than we are alike. I think the opposite is true and it makes it easier to empathize with someone you view as essentially similar even if the details are different.

“The underlying human needs are the same, we all want to feel respected and valued. Anyway, I empathize greatly with your own personal journey. I’m constantly humbled by my own inability to let go of my sense of rightness to empathize with others’ points of views. I greatly enjoy your blog and ‘seeing’ you transform your understanding of relationships. It inspires me to keep learning and struggling to change to be a more emotionally intelligent woman.”

At no point in reading this did I feel as if Lisa was attacking or criticizing. In fact, I’m certain she has my best intentions at heart and wants me to be the best-possible person and writer I can be, both for me and for anyone who might read things here.

I nonetheless felt a few pangs of diet-PTSD following the explosion of the “dishes” post.

Because of my personal experiences and worldview, I have written MANY posts through the prism of Men Commonly Think and Feel This & Women Commonly Think and Feel That, which several people have suggested is, or explicitly labeled it as, sexist.

Maybe it is. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m never afraid of asking myself hard questions and challenging my own beliefs. I’m also not afraid of explaining why I think and feel things, which is why shortly after the “dishes” post, I wrote I Guess I’m a Little Bit Sexist.

Lisa said, “…I think it is damaging to our common quest to help men do the hard work of learning empathy skills to perpetuate the idea that men and women are just fundamentally different in more ways than we are alike. I think the opposite is true and it makes it easier to empathize with someone you view as essentially similar even if the details are different.”

Why I Write the Way I Do

I might be getting worse at this as I grow more confident in my personal understanding of human psychology and emotional health, but my goal has never been to tell someone else how to think or what to believe. Not ever.

My goal is to accurately explain what I believe, how I arrived at those beliefs, and WHY I still maintain them. I’m not afraid to be wrong because if someone can demonstrate that I am, then I get to eliminate another false or incorrect belief and be a smarter, better human being afterward. Everybody wins.

I’m confident that when I say: “I think this, and I think this because…” that I’m reasonable enough that many people will agree with me, or at least understand me, which is enough. (Empathy!)

I don’t believe it is sexist to say that men and women are different. I think cars and trucks are different. Both machines are vehicles. But they are different kinds of vehicles. One is not better than another, though depending on the application, one might be a more appropriate choice.

Being different IS NOT the same thing as having more or less value.

Men are generally stronger (in terms of physical muscle mass only) than women. Men tend to demonstrate stronger spatial skills. They usually have penises.

Women generally demonstrate greater academic proficiency, better memory and stronger social skills. They usually don’t have penises.

Different. NOT better or worse. Simply, NOT the same.

And that gets complicated because the word “same” and the word “equal” can be synonyms. And there is NO question that women have long had to fight for equal treatment in too many life areas to list.

And women who have been fighting this exhausting fight in mind-blowingly subtle ways every day of my life sometimes take issue with me framing my stories through the gender divide.

I’m not insensitive to, or oblivious of, that fight.

Maybe this won’t always be true, but from the moment I wrote the first An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands post, this blog has been about ONE thing: Helping married people stay married if they want to.

I wanted to stay married, but everything was shitty and broken, and when I took a super-honest and uncomfortable look at my life and choices, I realized I always possessed the power to prevent my divorce, had I made better choices. Marriages don’t usually end from one loud and bright defining moment. They end from a million little moments so subtle and seemingly insignificant at the time that most of us don’t remember them.

Today, I think I know a lot (not relative to brilliant PhDs and therapists, but relative to the common man) about relationships and how they fail. People have shared thousands of stories with me, so now it’s easy for me to identify typical patterns because I have such a huge data sample.

Here are my non-scientific conclusions:

  • Husbands commonly make certain mistakes in marriage, and even after his wife expresses disappointment several times, he still will continue to make the mistake not realizing how important it is that he stop (if he wants to stay married and truly loves his wife—which I believe most husbands do).
  • Wives commonly feel the same feelings as other wives resulting from the same types of behaviors from their husbands.
  • Husbands commonly express thoughts and feelings to wives during fights which mirror those of other husbands in other marriage fights. It’s common for wives—whether they live in New York City or a little town in South Dakota or Canada or South Africa (my experience is limited to English-speaking countries)—to reply to those common husband arguments in ways similar to other wives all around the world. In other words, in my experience men predictably display certain communication habits and thought processes while women predictably display different and conflicting ones.

Dr. John Gray got super-famous in the early 1990s when he published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus (which I’ve never read) because this metaphor made sense to millions of people. I’m assuming the ideas in the book saved a bunch of relationships. I can’t be sure.

I was Common Husband Guy every day of my life until some random day during my 18-month stint of sleeping in the guest room while my marriage died slowly and painfully. Finally, the discomfort of my life outweighed my stubbornness and pride, so I began a search for answers.

I read a bunch of things on the internet. I had lots of private conversations with husbands and wives. I went to the bookstore to grab books that I thought might help me find some answers.

Standing in the “My Marriage is Totally Screwed and I’m Obviously a Piece of Crap Husband” section of my local bookstore, I spotted How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I’d never heard of it or the authors. I went home that night and started reading it.

It blew my freaking mind, because page after page was explaining my marriage to me.

The truth hit me hard and fast: If this book can so accurately explain why my marriage ended while providing examples of how things I did and said hurt my wife, while things she did and said hurt me, and we both slowly drifted apart, then that means this must happen to other people all the time.

That is the moment I subscribed to Men Often Do This, and Women Often Do That, and it helped my brain make sense of things.

Maybe men and women are different because of a gajillion years of cultural influence, socialization, societal beliefs, etc.

Maybe men and women are scientifically hardwired to internally operate differently. That doesn’t seem THAT hard to believe to me that biology could be a factor. One has a penis. One has a vagina. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. They’re just, different.

I’m not sure the Why matters to me.

Recently, I’ve concluded that I’m committed to continuing my personal education on gender differences because I’m interested in the pursuit of truth, and I don’t want to spread ignorance or perpetuate myths, ESPECIALLY if they’re needlessly offensive or demonstrably untrue.

But my goal remains the same: To help men be better men and better husbands, because that will help them stay married.

I focus on men, because I’m convinced—no matter what the reasons may be—that women ARE better than men at competently demonstrating relationship skills. I think men accidentally self-sabotage themselves and their marriages, and are in turn mostly responsible for our world’s staggeringly high divorce rate.

And I think if I tell my story, through my eyes as Common Husband Guy, that some percentage of male readers will see themselves in the story as I did while reading the How To Improve Marriage book back in that guest room.

I know that women must practice empathy every bit as much as men should. But I also believe they’re (generally!) already better at it than their husbands and boyfriends. And I’m thoroughly convinced they don’t mind discussing it and trying to better understand it.

But I think men might mind discussing it. I think men might resist trying to better understand it.

Because men will go to great lengths to never appear weak. Great lengths.

And the truth is, we’re all weak sometimes. Some are just less honest about it.

The day everyone learns how important empathy is to their quality of life will be the day much of this stops being a problem.

Because the presence of weakness is simply another opportunity to strengthen something. And when we make enough pieces strong, we get to come out of hiding, stop faking it and walk tall.

Not like men or women. Like people.

Not like you or me. Like us.




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203 thoughts on “You Don’t Understand Me for the Same Reason Couples Divorce”

  1. “They end from a million little moments so subtle and seemingly insignificant that most of us don’t remember them.” That might be the truest thing I’ve ever read on the Internet.

    1. And, hopefully the scariest. Because it’s so hard to communicate to people that something is bad and dangerous when, as it’s happening, it doesn’t always feel bad or dangerous.

      Even worse? I want to communicate it to a group of people ACTIVELY AVOIDING the conversation because they’re oblivious to its significance.

      It’s a problem. Thanks for reading, Mandi.

      1. I feel like I need to start a trending hashtag called #mattisms or #mattwisdoms because more people need to read these words.

      2. “I feel like I need to start a trending hashtag called #mattisms or #mattwisdoms because more people need to read these words.”


      3. Hate to admit it, but I do have a “Matt Says” document from quotes copied and pasted. …So, were already half way there..; )

  2. I missed the “Hitler” post, not because I was avoiding it but because I was super busy when it came out. But much of what you say in this one is so true, and much of the misunderstandings in the world are due to people jumping to conclusions instead of practicing empathy and listening to what someone is really saying. Another great post, Matt! And I love the signs above: “Don’t treat me like a potato, my angle.” Gotta share that one with my husband (he’s a linguist).

  3. Call Me Fed Up

    I cried when I read the Sh*tty Husbands articles. It was such a relief to know I wasn’t alone in feeling this way – being told by the man I love very much that I am over reacting and basically to suck it up and deal with life because I have it pretty good. He tells me that’s not what he’s saying but when he gives me a “pep talk” all I hear is STFU biotch. But of course I’m over reacting because that isn’t what he means, even though he says the exact words…,,*repeatedly*.

    He deleted the article link without reading it or my comments because he felt attacked. When he feels attacked, he attacks back. It’s ugly and we’re in counseling and still having the same, anger-and-resentment-based arguments.

    I shared the articles on Facebook and my girlfriends shared them like they were droplets of water in the desert. He still doesn’t understand and thinks I’ve publicly criticized and shamed him. We’ve been in counseling for a couple years and I don’t have much hope at this point. When do you know when enough is enough?

    1. …after you’ve read the book Matt suggested. I’m only on the third chapter and already I’m rethinking my divorce.

    2. Matt,

      It’s too much really! You’re asking me for a Gottman book referal? I must really sound sad and pathetic. But hey I’ll take it!

      I really like the newest book as an intro. It’s written by both of my fantasy parents. The Man’s Guide to Women. It’s intentionally a quicker, easier read than his other books. The mysteries are all revealed in there.

      P.S. I’d like to say you are exaggerating about the therapists but I have really literally been told that my real personality is not acceptable for a woman. I know from reading lots of books that that is complete bs but it’s still hurtful to be told that over and over. But that’s why God put the Gottman’s on the planet! And Cheetos!

      1. ESPECIALLY Cheetos, Lisa.

        I may spend some of this evening in a bookstore, so I’m going to add that to the list. Thank you very much.

        Last book question:

        You have become pretty familiar with the stuff I think and feel and write about here. I think you “get” me probably as well as two internet peeps can.

        What would be your #1, regardless-of-specific-topic, all-time-most-amazing book recommendation to me based on how much you love it relative to what you think you know about me?

        Because I’ll want to take a look at that one, too.

        Deanna suggested I add a Books I Like page or something to this site. I think that’s a good idea, and might be a place for others to share book recommendations with one another that are specific to a particular convo we might be having.

        My book stack is stupid and obnoxious and not shrinking fast enough because I’m a lame ass about prioritizing my time.

        But that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to get more. *shrug*

        1. You’re very funny. I can’t believe that’s a real book. Is it satire or intended seriously?

          I ask because I know you’ve obviously read it a bunch of times while smearing goat blood all over your face and clothes, and trying desperately to spin your Barry Manilow vinyl in reverse to hear secret dark messages.

          At least, that’s how I imagine it happening.

      2. This question makes makes my head explode! I am simply incapable of picking one book. Do you find books have personalities and turn into your friends? No? Ok well, I’ll just keep that inside my head next time.

        I have to say that I really like the Gottman’s book I recommended earlier for you. It is in mission with your prime directive to help average guys understand their wives and understand empathy (what they call attunement). I think you’ll like it.

        I have about 20 other books. I don’t really have one best friend book wise. But another really mind blowing book to me is one I’ve seen Ativan recommend here. It’s David Burns book Feeling Good Together. It’s about all relationships and really tells you HOW to develop the skills of taking others perspective, and not being defensive, having empathy.

        It really has the lessons we should have learned in school but it’s very practical and encouraging. It is my model for responding non defensively and admitting to the other persons perspective. It is magical how that almost always changes relationship dynamics including marriage.

        If I could master those skills, I would truly be emotionally intelligent and have healthy relationships. Practicing one blog comment at a time.

        P.S. Thank you for your empathic response today. Very kind of you!

        1. Awesome, Lisa. Thank you. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll own it before the day is out. The magic words were: “the lessons we should have learned in school.”

          That’s something I’m really passionate about (that this entire big-picture convo is one people should be having in their youth as part of education).

          I’ll be excited to take a closer look. (If you read this Anita, please don’t be offended that I didn’t remember you suggesting it. All part of my world-class memory and focus!)

        2. I’m so glad you found it helpful 🙂 I’ve said it before, it was a game changer for our marriage. Actually, it changed how I approach conflict in ALL my relationships.

          Mastering the skills is not for the faint of heart, but SO worth the effort. These are skills that anyone can learn and apply to any relationship.

        3. Well. I don’t have David Burn’s Feeling Good Together. Biggest Barnes & Noble I’ve ever been in and they didn’t have it. Bummer.

          However. In a very fatey kind-of way, I stumbled on a book called simply “Emotional Intelligence.”

          It was too serendipitous for me to not buy after a quick check with Amazon showed positive reader feedback on it.

          I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the Burns’ book, or order it soon online. 🙂

      3. The Satan book is actually a Kaballah approach to understanding your ego and how to overcome it. Sort of like self help with a click bait title.

        Better title than Hitler though.

      4. Hey, you should start preparing for Career Day at your son’s school. Every year you could talk to his class about how to not be / marry shitty husbands. Think of the potential impact… (you don’t know if I’m kidding or not and I like it that way). 🙂

      5. My heart goes out to you, Lisa! First, let me point out that I’m a retired psychotherapist and I totally get your frustration with finding a good therapist. Second, I would like to tell you that I too have been told repeatedly throughout my life that I “intellectualize” as a defense against feeling things. BS!! Do people sometimes do that? Yes. Are all people who are trying to sort things out intellectually doing so to avoid feelings? NO!!!

        I use the brain God gave me to figure out why I feel the way I do, and that helps me to change my behavior, to understand my spouse and friends, to understand myself, and a bunch of other valuable things. Keep right on theorizing if that works for you.

        And I suspect that it does because I’m hearing a lot of good solid introspection and psychological astuteness in your comments. As I do in Matt’s posts and his comments as well. I love reading what both of you have to say!

        1. Kassandra– I don’t know if this comment is going to appear in the right place in the thread, and it’s a bit off-topic, but can you recommend some reading about the idea that “thinking” is not always an “intellectualizing” defense mechanism? Would love to get a better handle on that one. Thanks!

          1. Honestly I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything written on that, and a quick web search just brings up more garbage about thinking VS. feeling, as it they are enemies of each other, or at least mutually exclusive.

            Freud THEORIZED that intellectualization was one of the defense mechanisms humans use to avoid dealing with internal conflicts and uncomfortable feelings. And I suspect that this happens sometimes.

            The problem is that we don’t know what is going on in other people’s minds and hearts so no one, in my opinion, has the right to say that someone else is intellectualizing. Someone like Lisa or me who is using thinking to help us sort out our feelings and understand what is going on in our lives and our relationships, we may look the same on the surface as someone who is truly intellectualizing. So it would be far more appropriate for a therapist to ASK a client if perhaps they may be intellectualizing, rather than telling them that they are.

            And now that I’m thinking about it, in 20 years of doing therapy I can’t remember a single time when I felt a client was intellectualizing. I ran across most of the other defense mechanisms in my work, but can’t think of any examples of that one.

            And also, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m a little suspicious that Freud himself might have been an intellectualizer. 🙂

            Oh, and I’m ENFJ (but just barely E; I’m on the cusp on that continuum). I’m very much a feeler, but I still use my brain to figure out what I’m feeling and why and what the heck I want to do about it.

      6. Ativan,
        You inspired me to reread it after I saw you recommend it here. I had read it a few years ago but, of course, forgot to practice most of it. It is really a book I need to reread every year so I can keep the skills fresh in my mind.

        It takes a lot of energy but so worth it to improve. And like you said it works for all relationships.

        Do you have any other favorite books to recommend?

        1. Lisa, the book that impacted me the most, in terms of how I view marriage was gifted to me by a dear friend, a “blog-friend” whom I’d never met in person, but who reached out to me at a time of crisis in my marriage. The book was called Sacred Marriage. I forget the author, but I think he was a pastor, but the book was very definitely written by a Christian for a Christian audience. You don’t really have to be religious to get something out of it though. The premise of the book is that marriage is not so much intended to make us happy, but rather to make us better people.

          This was rather foundational for me in terms of understanding why making marriage work MATTERS. What I learn within the context of my marriage then radiates out to others around me.

          I’ve read plenty more, including some GOTTMAN (lol) but Feeling Good and Sacred Marriage are sorta the foundational framework within which the others get weaved. The first taught me how to better relate to others in my life, the second taught me why it matters so damn much.

      7. Kassandra,

        Thank you for your kind comments. I would have loved having you as a therapist! Such a great point of views and I get along great with ENFJ’s. I view Myers Bruggs as a spectrum anyway. I’m kind of an INTJ intellectually but an ENFJ emotionally. Not many people are rigidly one thing. Or at least healthy people. Except my husband who if you look up the description of an INTP you see his face. It’s really uncanny how much it describes him.

        I like what you said about intellectualzing vs using your intellect to process your feelings. That is exactly how I think about it. I guess the discouraging thing for me is that it really is a Superpower, a special gift. My theory is everybody needs to figure out and celebrate their Superpowers. If you’re Aquaman, swim proudly don’t wish you were The Flash. Some people’s superpower is their ability to understand and help people, some people feel alive in nature, some people love to invent things. Some people have awesome blogs. Whatever it is, it’s great.

        I know my ability to read books and understand things to apply in my life is a Superpower, a good thing not intelectualizing because I’ve changed things this way. I’ve gotten over crippling social anxiety through books (because I couldn’t find a therapist to help me). I’ve changed my whole parenting style through reading books, I’ve changed my entire theological perspective through books, and I’m in the process of changing my marriage largely through books. I’m not saying it works for everyone just that it does work for me.

        Somehow it makes me feel better knowing you acknowledge processing your feelings similarly.

        It’s just so weird to have my Superpower spit on as dysfunctional rather than celebrated as a good thing. But that’s what happens over and over. But I’m trying to take some responsibility and see how much can be changed by talking about it differently.

        Our marriage counselor was more open than most so we eventually convinced him to change his perspective. We did tell him we were starting a pretend drinking game everytime he said something like he was concerned we were intellectualizing. Pretend to take a drink, everytime he would ask me if I was emotional enough, another drink. He does have a good sense of humor so he did eventually understand how often he was saying those things.

        1. Lisa, I’ve never met you but I adore you! I love the way you look at things. Superpowers! Yay! I also love the way you and your husband used humor to get the counselor to see the error of his ways. I have a strong suspicion that your marriage is going to survive and eventually thrive. I’m a feeler so I can’t resist… I’m sending you virtual hugs!

      8. Anitvan,

        I’ve heard of Sacred Marriage but I’ve never read it. It sounds interesting. I’ve read a lot of Christian marriage books but somehow missed the best one apparently!

        It sounds like it’s based on the differentiation model? The idea that marriage causes us to grow up into maturity? Anyway I will check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

      9. Matt,

        Is that Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence? If so, that’s a great one to read!

        I almost picked that for the impossible one book recommendation instead of Feeling Good Together.

        I’m not surprised B&N didn’t have it, (even though of course Amazin does). For some reason it never got super popular even though it should be one of the most read self help books out there.

        I’ve heard David Burns lament it because he thinks it’s one of his best books and it never got the same popular response as his best selling Felking Good book about cognitive therapy and depression.

        Its like your Empathy post though he can’t even blame Hitler. One of your very best posts! But I’m sure you have many more great ones to come and maybe more men will be inclined to read posts about emotional intelligence.

        1. I’m not at home so I can’t confirm but that sounds like the right name, Lisa. It was in the space between the bookstore’s outside door and inside door.

          And after reading you use those words, Life mandated I buy it. So, that one was for you. And I’ll look forward to learning from it. 🙂

      10. Kassandra,

        You wrote:

        “Lisa, I’ve never met you but I adore you! I love the way you look at things. Superpowers! Yay! I also love the way you and your husband used humor to get the counselor to see the error of his ways. I have a strong suspicion that your marriage is going to survive and eventually thrive. I’m a feeler so I can’t resist… I’m sending you virtual hugs!”

        Thank you so much for your encouraging words and virtual hugs! I’m about 60/40 thinker/feeler so I gladly receive them. I am quite sure you were/are a gifted therapist. Just the few comments you’ve posted here have helped me so much. And no copays!

        It gives me the hope that there are good therapists out there that would take your approach so I may renew my search a little later.

        Honestly, it’s worse than dating!

        The attraction of shared philosophies on their website,

        the giddy first meeting hopes

        the first, “we’ve gotta talk” about resistance

        then the dreaded “it’s not me it’s you” you think too much breakup

        Finally the descent into post breakup Doritos, Ben and Jerry’s, and Snickers

        But I choose hope as Matt says! You’ve given me that Kassandra and I sincerely thank you.

        P.S. Is one your your Superpowers giving people hope? I bet it is.

        1. Wow! I never thought about it before in those terms, but yes, Lisa, that is probably my greatest strength as a therapist and as a friend, to give hope. I’m always looking for the positive spin on things (and I’ve been accused of being a Polyanna more than once, but so be it). I’m so happy that I gave you hope!

          I love your comparison of finding a therapist to dating. LMAO So totally true! I’ll carry the analogy a step further; when you find a good match, it is such a feeling of relief and rightness. You think, “Ah, this person truly gets me!” It feels great! I (not to overuse the word but…) hope that you find that, but I know there’s a lot of mediocrity to wade through out there. And some of it is subjective, whether or not you “click” with that person. Good luck!

      11. I’m a bit late to this party, but… My favourite Gottman is “Seven Principles”. I like it much better than “Man’s guide”.

        And I’d always recommend (for men) Terry Real’s “how can I get through to you”. I have to say, if the Gottmans are Lisa’s fantasy mum and dad, then Terry is my dad.

  4. I both agree with Lisa and disagree. She’s correct that both men and women need to be treated with respect which creates the need for empathy. Both my husband and I entered marriage with a need to develop empathy. However, we are still a sexist society where girls are raised to be wives and mothers more than men are raised to be husbands and fathers. So I figured out empathy and focused on treating him with respect. I assumed that would inspire him to treat me with respect. Instead it made him easy not develop empathy. Your recent post gave advice that women enforce boundaries early and often. I agree and feel like I stated boundaries early. Once again, sexist society influencing men to dismiss women as nags when they don’t understand us. I own the next mistake of believing him. I’d make a few attempts of explaining my boundaries, but it fell on deaf ears. So I’d remind myself he’s the most wonderful man I know and suck it up. Obviously, he wasn’t capable of being emotionally supportive in every scenario. It eventually reached the point where I questioned why I’m investing so much energy in ensuring he feels cherished when I have to deal with most of my emotional needs on my own. I’m now focused on enforcing boundaries often and respectfully. I’m no longer willing to own his fear of being controlled by a wife. I am not a controlling person and will no longer pay the price for other people’s behavior. (Not blaming society for that one. I just realize he’s dealt with a lot of controlling people in his life.)

    1. Hey Marion,

      Sounds like you’ve been though a lot. I guess we might disagree with the definition of setting EFFECTIVE boundaries early. It was my inability to do this that screwed up my marriage. It involves action when words don’t work, early in the relationship. Moving into another bedroom, asking for marriage counseling, all done BEFORE children if possible. That is what women often screw up when their husbands make the common mistake of being defensive and not willing to compromise. Both sides bring dysfunctional relationship skills to the table in common marriage problems.

      I wish you well and I hope things improve in your marriage.

      1. Thanks for the concern. I agree with effective boundaries. It’s harder to implement when you’ve been raised in a family that emphasized traditional gender roles. I was taught that I was literally going to burn I hell if I didn’t obey the head of the household. That traditional marriage worked for my parents but cannot work for me. That’s why I choose my husband. He’s a wonderful man who understood I wanted an equal partnership. However, once we were married he acted as if only his perspective mattered. I’ve struggled with how not to take personally. It felt like there were only two possible explanations. Either he’s a bad person, which I’ve never been able to believe. Or he didn’t think I was worthy of better treatment. Matt”s proposing another explanation. My husband is a great guy who doesn’t have the necessary skills or insight to be a good husband. I don’t feel like Matt”s explanations are propagating gender differences. He’s just explaining how we got here in a way that might make it possible to get to where we want to be. And I’m learning more about boundaries and how to enforce them in a way that is respectful of everyone. Hopefully, discussing our inner truths is helping with your journey also – even if we don’t agree on everything.

      2. Marion,

        Thanks for your reply! I actually relate to your life story. I also grew up in a very religious environment with traditional gender roles equated with God’s design. I also chose my husband to not follow this pattern and I was dismayed when he wasn’t listening to me and I relate to your internal reasonings and the relief I felt when I realized it was all because of a lack of skills on both sides (in my case). Totally relate to pretty much everything you said especially how it’s hard to know how to set effective boundaries when you’ve never seen it modeled or been taught how to do it.

        You know having my random comment highlighted in this post has given me great empathy for how Matt must feel when people respond to what he was not intending.

        Clearly, I did not communicate in that comment what I believe or what I was trying to say. I do believe men and women are different. Absolutely. I was trying in that comment to have Matt consider reframing the way he presented empathy to men to make it less intimidating to them to learn a “girly” skill.

        To reframe it as emotional intelligence (Matt didn’t post that part of my comment) of which empathy is a part. And to frame the different way that men and women see the world highlighting the underlying commonality of human needs for respect and being valued. As he did in that brilliant post about his job, this is his my wife must have felt.

        I suggested this not to be politically correct but because on a practical level I think it would help men to have a better shot at being successful at empathizing with their wives by making women seem less alien even though the external differences of wants and needs might be different (like wanting to have the house clean) the underlying needs are things he can relate to (feeling respected and valued).

        That was ALL I was trying to say with that comment. But clearly I worded it in a way that communicated that I was asking for Matt to say that there are no differences between men and women or that I believe that. That I was asking for some androgynous politically correct way of talking about marriage problems. Totally not what I meant and it’s only my deficiencies as a writer that caused the confusion.

        Anyway, thanks for your comment. I hope I didn’t miscommunicate in my first comment to you. I certainly don’t intend to present myself as having it all figured out. I’m trying to learn every day how to build better relationship skills to improve my marriage. I come here because I need new ways of thinking about it all to help me keep changing.

        1. You are, in no way, deficient as a writer, Lisa. I’m confident your ability to communicate your meaning is much stronger than my ability to read a long comment, and take it all in as intended.

          My ADHDness (not an excuse; just a reason) makes me particularly skilled at honing in on a portion of something that I read or hear, and borderline-ignoring the rest.

          Active, mindful, present listening is one of the most valuable and important skills a person can have. Rare is the man who has mastered this, and applies it to his relationships with his wife/children/girlfriend/friends/etc.

          I, too, have that problem in real life (but am working on it always), but I certainly have it here where I’m sometimes bombarded with notes and comments and emails and text messages, and I try to keep it all sorted out, but am mentally ill-equipped to do so.

          You wouldn’t believe how many friendships have suffered because of my propensity for not responding to email and text messages. Too much info puts my brain into shutdown mode. Only mindfully taking a breath and tackling something with intention overcomes it, as I tried to do here.

          You are excellent. Your writing is excellent. You are smart and kind and generous. You are participate actively in these conversations for no other reason than to help people (including me) and with humility, listen to others here as well.

          You, quite literally, walk the walk RE: Things Men (including me) Must Learn to Do to Succeed in Relationships.

          Your contribution here couldn’t be appreciated more, and I hope and pray you didn’t take that post yesterday as anything more than a prompt for me to share thoughts on a handful of topics that come up here sometimes.

          I’m sorry for ignoring the “emotional intelligence” component of the comment, and I think that’s a pretty solid label for what we’re all trying to figure out here.

          That post was not meant to single you out. You asked a very fair question (which I also misinterpreted, apparently) and it served as a valuable writing prompt for a handful of topics.

          You are very much appreciated, and I apologize if anything about yesterday’s post conveyed that poorly.

      3. Matt,

        Thank you Matt for your kind words. They made me cry and not in a politically correct androgynous way. A full out pink and girly cry!

        I have had such a shitty week! Really, the kind of week where the biggest highlight was coming to this blog and advocating empathy for Satan.

        It was the only thing that made me laugh this week. So I thank you for that and for your kind words in your comment.

        Can I let you in on a little secret? Part of the reason I started commenting on Facebook posts and blogs is to practice my emotional intelligence skills that need improving in real life.

        So I started a few months ago posting comments to see what kind of responses I get based on how I phrase things. Facebook is the best because you get objective likes to track your progress.

        You know what I found? I have the same problem online as in real life. A tendency to phrase things in abstract ways that come off as know it all even when I don’t mean it that way. So I’m trying to learn to talk in first person stories more.

        Your blog is really good because it has an unusually good mix of intelligent commenters and you are a very gifted writer. AND we disagree enough that it challenges me to work on my gender sensitivities from childhood. Being told I’m not a “normal” girl. Boys are like this, girls are like that because God says so.

        I am trying to learn to be kind and generous even when triggered. So I practice here where I can delete my first comment and type a second kinder version. LOL

        I practice being told over and over that I am too “theoretical”. Do you know how many times I’ve been told that on my life? I got told that twice in real life just this week. So flipping frustrating to me! But I practice reading people write comments to me that say my “theories” mean I don’t really care about fixing my marriage or helping men save their marriages. Or are meaningless or distracting.

        I practice responding to that in a kind way here because I am not able to respond to it kindly when it happens to me in real life. As it did on Tuesday night in my group therapy (that I accidentally signed up for because I though it was a Brene Brown book club).

        The therapist told me that yeah it’s fine to think about things but really it means I’m not in touch with my emotions. And she told me that my joking about serious things was unhealthy. That’s why I empathize with Satan Matt! I find it very healthy to empathize with the unholy Trinity of Hitler, Satan, and Reba after being told I friggin think too much for the 1,000,000 time in my life.

        So I consoled myself with my fantasy Dad, John Gottman, whom I am quite sure would be proud of my thinking a lot and love of research. And then the next day, I was told by our marriage counselor that both my husband and I BOTH think too much and are not in touch with our emotions. And that my awesome Lord of the (marriage) Ring jokes reflected a lack of not caring about fixing my marriage.

        Luckily my husband has more emotional intelligence than I do in this area and was able to help him understand. But then my husband as a male and a Professor doesn’t get told nearly as much as I do that he thinks too much.

        Anyway, I admire your ability to handle all the comments and posts on this blog. I have no idea how you do it with ADHD. You do remarkably well creating awesome posts every few days and being very active in the comments.

        This is way, way too long but I’m too tired to edit it. Thanks again Matt for letting me practice empathy on your blog. I have learned a lot from doing that as well as the actual content.

        1. I read and appreciated every sentence in this comment, Lisa.

          No such thing as “thinking too much” in my estimation, though I think it’s fair to say we are often our own worst enemies when we do the “overthinking”/anxiety thing where we start caring what others think about us, or we are missing info “Why didn’t they call back!?” and we start guessing in our own minds possible answers, and then worrying about all the negative possibilities.

          We do that all the time, and then push others away. Maybe I did that a little with you and this post after not fully grasping your well-intentioned (and totally kind-worded) questions.

          The empathizing with Satan joke was a small little source of joy for me as well this week. Thank you for bringing that one to the table.

          I didn’t mean to lump Reba into the Unholy Trinity, but now that she’s there, I vote we leave her there for its comedic value.

          (Did you really sign up for a group therapy class because you thought it was a Brene Brown book club? Please say yes.)

          1. “(Did you really sign up for a group therapy class because you thought it was a Brene Brown book club? Please say yes.)”

            Best chuckle I’ve had all week.

      4. I wasn’t being politically correct when I said I agree with you. Most everything you say sounds like things I’ve said to my daughters. In hindsight, I realize I spent my time describing how I might disagree with you. Matt”s blogs have been helpful and therefore I may be protective of him. Knowing more of your story, I’m now protective of you also

        Also, I want to clarify that I realize that I need to develop skills also – not just my husband. Matt”s fish analogy has helped my perspective. I truly want my husband to feel cherished and have comfortable waters to swim in. Still trying to figure out how to do that without him taking the water for granted. This blog is providing helpful adjustments to my perspective and wish everyone here the best.

      5. Yes, I really did sign up for group therapy because I thought it was a Brene Brown book club. Lol. In my defense, the person who wanted me to go with her told me it was a book club. And it focused on reading The Gifts of Imperfections so it sort of was except you were also expected to tell all you most painful childhood memories. Fun!

        I know what you mean about the kind of thinking too much you’re describing. I do plenty of that kind of rumination too but that’s not what people are talking about. It’s just my way of processing information is more abstract and theoretical than the average bear.

        Do you know Myers Briggs personality types? It was one of the books I read to understand what was happening in my marriage. I am an INTJ female, which is the least common for women and that is why I get the thinking too much stuff all the time. My love of abstract theories to talk about and explain things is just boring or useless to most other personality types.

        And therapists are the worst, because they tend to be “feelers” who value emotional processing and so I get the “thinking too much” not enough emotions from every.single.therapist I have ever been to.

        Ive basically given up and just read books and do my own online therapist training so I can learn what they are supposed to tell me. We had to go through 8 different marriage counselor before finding a good one. And he STILL told us we think too much!

        You would think as professionals they would be able to work with all personality types but I guess they’re just human. I find “feelers” incredibly frustrating because they don’t respond to logic or facts or research at all. I don’t even know how to talk to them.

        So my version of telling them they think too much is that they are illogical. That’s why I often relate to the “husband” in a lot of marriage books that describe the “feeling” wife vs the “thinking” husband. But of course many, many people relate to the more typical gender averages.

        Personality type differences are one of the most helpful things I found to understand some of the differences between my husband and I. I thought that since we are both “thinkers”. It would be easy but it’s much more complicated than that.

        One of the many reasons I’m fond of John Gottman is my husband is the same INTP personality type. So it’s funny to hear him talk because he sounds like my husband. Twenty different possibilities to explain things. Pick one man! LOL

        1. I think I can understand how maddening that experience must be, Lisa. You’d think all therapists would be super-careful about not telling patients that “Being yourself is wrong; be someone else and then all your problems will be solved.” I’m sure I’m exaggerating. But that’s what I hear when I read you say that every therapist accuses you of not doing life correctly.

          If you could only recommend one Gottman book, which would you choose as an introduction to his mind and research?

        2. “And therapists are the worst, because they tend to be “feelers” who value emotional processing and so I get the “thinking too much” not enough emotions from every.single.therapist I have ever been to”

          Ahem. I am a therapist who started out, many decades ago, with a Maths PhD. As far as I’m concerned, there is no thinking too much. So there.

      6. Matt,

        It’s too much really! You’re asking me for a Gottman book referal? I must really sound sad and pathetic. But hey I’ll take it!

        I really like the newest book as an intro. It’s written by both of my fantasy parents. The Man’s Guide to Women. It’s intentionally a quicker, easier read than his other books. The mysteries are all revealed in there.

        P.S. I’d like to say you are exaggerating about the therapists but I have really literally been told that my real personality is not acceptable for a woman. I know from reading lots of books that that is complete bs but it’s still hurtful to be told that over and over. But that’s why God put the Gottman’s on the planet! And Cheetos!

    2. ..btw, don’t let the God part of that overview turn you off. While Gungor is a Pastor he’s not your typical one at all (look him up on YouTube). The book is very practical in a human/worldly way so seriously, don’t put too much stock in the overtly religious slant – unless of course that’s what would you prompt you to read the book. Either way – I really do think it’s a valuable resource. And now I’m going to dig out our results and remind myself that there is an underlying reason for marrying this man twice.

    3. Marion:
      You said: “So I figured out empathy and focused on treating him with respect. I assumed that would inspire him to treat me with respect. Instead it made him easy not develop empathy. ”

      Thank you for bringing up something I find very important! I feel that many people (including Matt, sorry my friend) miss the boat when they say that love and a healthy marriage is about giving. That’s what a lot of women do (I’m sure it happens to men too, when the woman is the one not accepting influence, but that is a rarer case), but it’s NOT reciprocated. She accomates his needs, she takes on more of the housework, she does him all kinds of favours when he’s in a bad mood in addition to her already larger workload, she buys him clothes because he hates shopping, she stops making food he doesn’t like, she compliments him, makes him a special meals, she buys him a present so on. She gives and gives and gives and gives. Does she hope he’ll be inspired to give back? Yes. But that doesn’t happen a lot of the time. He gets worse!

      I think giving more than you take is great advice if you’re the partner not accepting influence (usually the man). Though if that’s the case you’re probably not aware of your selfish behaviour, so it seems kind of unlikely.

      And I also think giving is good advice in an already healthy relationship where both people’s needs are respected, in that case your partner is more likely to both appreciate and not take advantage of your giving. And also, you can give when you know deep on your soul that if your partner were to start/resume being a jerk, that you can and will leave them without feeling like your life will collapse.

      Lisa, I do have a different opinion with you here (but your opinion did not come across as know-it-all-y to me that’s not the case ;)), you say: “I relate to your internal reasonings and the relief I felt when I realized it was all because of a lack of skills on both sides (in my case)”.

      I do believe relationship skills are involved and can be learnt. But I just don’t think it’s…morally neutral, like the skill of learning to play the piano is (I’ve said this before). Accepting influnce is a skill people can learn, yes (and in girl world this is taught and learnt), but I also plainly think it’s selfish/self centered to not do it, even if that isn’t the intention, and even if that’s what you’ve been taught. I just can’t let that aspect go (and I have my own failings here so I really don’t mean to single anyone out).

      I think a lack of boundaries is also a skill-deficit, and you’ve helped me see this. I believe many women feel like if they’ve said it over and over there’s nothing else she can do other than suffer through it or divorce, and being introduced to the world of boundaries is a whole new world. But I think it also has to do with co-dependency/needy-ness. It’s not just a neutral skill, there’s some emotional deficiency there aswell.

      I think it was Anitvan that first mentioned codependency here, at least that I saw. You brave soul Anitvan!

      1. There’s a lot of excellent stuff here. Please don’t take me not addressing all of it as me ignoring the other good parts.

        I’m new to emotional labor. That was a gut-punching eye opener. One I need to keep thinking about, observing, talking about.

        But I want to clarify a couple things RE: generosity and a give-more-than-you-take attitude.

        Because I’m something of an idealist, I take things for granted when dealing in the theoretical. And then I don’t communicate clearly.

        I believe in generosity. Whether you believe in God or karma or mental vibrations, I think there is adequate evidence that Generosity (a a general attitude of wanting to give more than we take) is a Life Best Practice.

        I think business, not relationships, is where it’s the most impactful (easy to observe).

        It’s counterintuitive at times to, in business, make decisions that “cost” you money.

        The temptation can be great in business to simply charge the most one can and take advantage of the unaware or manipulated customer, or to disguise the truth in order to “sell” a product or service that isn’t actually as amazing as advertised.

        The truth always comes out.

        Not unlike my strong belief in unapologetic and almost uncomfortable honesty in dating working as a natural compatibility filter and boundary enforcer which yields greater long-term relationship success, I think the same is true in business.

        We WANT to land the client. Badly. But once we’ve asked good questions and truly listened to their pain points, we learn that we’re NOT the best solution to their problem.

        So, we tell them: “So listen. We’d love to earn your business but the truth is, we’re not the best solution to your problem. We are experts at X, but we think the best thing you can do is Y. There’s another company which is amazing at Y. You should work with them instead because we want you to succeed.”

        THAT contradicts the Sell, Sell, Sell mentality of many businesses. Generosity can at times look like anti-business.

        But here’s what I believe:

        There is adequate evidence that the Generous Approach to business, where you simply tell the truth all of the time even if it works against the short-term bottom line, will yield WAY more success over time than the Selfish Approach (sell as much as possible at all costs, including misleading customers and upcharging them for things they don’t need.)

        Taking it back to relationships, I think the same “life rule” applies. Many people call it karma. I don’t know of a better word.

        In life, you get what you give. In life, the world delivers to you what you contribute to it.

        I’m saying the: “What’s in it for me?” attitude will NEVER EVER be more successful long-term than the “What more can I give?” attitude.

        There’s a caveat, of course: It can only work in a relationship when boundaries are enforced, otherwise it ends up being what you described: a vampire situation. Where one person sucks the energy while the other gives it. It’s unsustainable.

        What I propose instead is that we not marry people who demonstrate a Take attitude. Who don’t live like: “What’s in it for me?”

        Instead we are honest, know what our values are and live by them, and enforce boundaries, so that we are not compromising on the behaviors we will tolerate.

        By the time you’re married, most of the things that destroy marriages will have been dealt with. They won’t be surprises.

        That’s all part of my fairy tale Ideal World where everyone does things the right way. And I understand we don’t live in said world. But I still think we should design systems and organize life around whatever we deem best practices or “the right way.”

        The simpler way to say that is, I need to trust people to NOT marry emotional vampires. Because that’s a horrible idea.

        That’s the same as going into business with someone who will always make the same amount of money as you KNOWING they will be doing less work with less quality and effort. It’s unthinkable. No one would knowingly sign up for that.

        So, concluding…

        Operating under the assumption that a viable partnership was there to begin with…

        Generosity > Selfishness

        It’s counterintuitive. I know it is. We give and give, and are worried that we’re losing something by not always seeing the return.

        I submit that there will (in an ACTUAL loving relationship, where two people fundamentally value and care for one another) ALWAYS be a return, such as there is in business.

        That client you helped for no charge just because you care? THAT is often the client who moves to another company and gives you tons of new projects and money three or four years later.

        You give more than you take and you lift your partner up. You demonstrate sacrificial love. You pour yourself into them, taking joy from the giving because it feels awesome to give.

        And then (if boundaries were/are enforced!) your partner is doing the same thing in return.

        No vampire situation. You are BOTH giving more than you take, replenishing the lost energy of the other.

        One final key point. I mostly direct this messaging to husbands who are complaining about their “ungrateful, nagging” wives.

        They don’t want to be generous. They say: “I work harder than she does, so she can pick up my dirty dishes and not complain about it,” or “my wife is such a bitch to me all the time, why would I want to spend more time with her?”

        And I want men to have the attitude that someone must go first.

        Be generous. Go first, guys. And I’m saying that by going first and having an attitude of generosity toward your spouse will in many instances “solve the problem” because their wives WON’T “nag” or be “bitchy” to him anymore.

        I’m saying give to get. (Not as a boundary-less doormat.) I’m saying give to get in a sustainable relationship where wants and needs are usually being generously met by the other.

        I’m saying it’s counterintuitive, but it’s still true in Life:

        When we give more without demanding or expecting anything in return, life rewards us abundantly.

      2. Thanks for clarifying Matt (and for generously overlooking my spelling errors and typos). Seems like we agree.

        We can strive to be generous, and ALSO do our best to surround ourselves with generous people, be it in business or marriage. We don’t have to be generous to the point of being self sacrificing doormats.

        I just have to say though, everyone can be a vampire. Shitty husbands are vampires in some ways. I’ve been shitty and a vampire in some ways too.

        I think it’s tricky when it comes to the expecting something back part, at least in defining what we mean precisely, even if I think we agree. If you’e in a healthy relaionship, maybe you take on your partner’s chores and buy them their favourite bottle of wine one week. You do that to show them love, you don’t expect them to immediately do the same or something simliar back. But on a general level, you DO expect them to treat you with kindness and respect, and I think THAT kind of expectation is appropriate.

        Your business example, you don’t expect the potential client who you recommended go to another company to necessarily bring you clients and projects just because you were honest and generous with them. Being generous and honest is good life practice as you say and definitely feels like the right thing to do in your example. But if this client keeps on and keeps on calling you for free advice on where to go for this or that service, and those services don’t include your business? At some point I think it would be appropriate to stop being generous with your time and advice and in fact start expecting something back (money!) for the services you provide, or else stop providing the services to this person for free. I’m guessing you agree with this.

        Have a nice day. 🙂

      3. Donkey,

        You said:

        “Lisa, I do have a different opinion with you here (but your opinion did not come across as know-it-all-y to me that’s not the case ;)), you say: “I relate to your internal reasonings and the relief I felt when I realized it was all because of a lack of skills on both sides (in my case)”.

        I do believe relationship skills are involved and can be learnt. But I just don’t think it’s…morally neutral, like the skill of learning to play the piano is (I’ve said this before). Accepting influnce is a skill people can learn, yes (and in girl world this is taught and learnt), but I also plainly think it’s selfish/self centered to not do it, even if that isn’t the intention, and even if that’s what you’ve been taught. I just can’t let that aspect go (and I have my own failings here so I really don’t mean to single anyone out)”

        As usual, you bring up some excellent points in this comment.

        1. When I use the term relationship skills I am really thinking of “being good at relationships”. It includes specific skills like boundary setting but you can really be “good at relationships” by just applying random skills. So I agree with you wholeheartedly.

        2. It’s similar to emotional intelligence I think. To be emotionally intelligent I have to know and effectively use all kinds of skills like empathy but it is also an attitude and healthy understanding of how to regulate my own emotions and what it means to be healthy.

        3. I’m learning that to be good at relationships requires being a healthy adult. I agree with you that co-dependency is not a sign of a healthy adult. Nor are lots of other things I’m regularly guilty of like defensiveness or contempt or being a know it all 😉

        4. I have found it helpful to frame it in terms of skills to make it understandable and less intimidating for how to become a healthy adult. I think the strength of Gottman’s stuff is he identifies the attitudes and behaviors of healthy and unhealthy spouses. It makes it easier for me to see what the goal looks like and the cautionary tale on the other side.

        5. But the downside is it tends to focus on skills and behaviors. It is helpful for me to understand that contempt can be as simple as rolling my eyes and that this is really toxic not benign. But I’ve had to look elsewhere to figure out how to change my overall attitudes about life, love, and marriage. To figure out what a healthy adult looks like. In my case I read lots of different perspectives because each one loosens up my pigheaded notion that I am right.

        6. I don’t relate to co-dependency but I know this is very, very common for women because of nature/nurture do and I definitely agree with you that it needs to be seriously considered when talking about giving to your spouse. As you know, it is very, very common for men to experience a deep sense of fear of losing their man card and I think Matt does a great job of explaining how this prevents many men from giving to their wives because they don’t want to be perceived as an “emasculated pussy” by constantly giving in to her “irrational demands.”

        7. Very common examples where I think the real issue is not having fully “grown up” to be a “good enough” healthy adult. Hey, I’m a toddler emotionally in many areas! But at least I’m starting to understand what a healthy adult looks like. Framing it in terms of behavioral relationship skills was helpful to me to start to SEE how really healthy adults act in concrete terms.

        8. They have good boundaries as you talked about but they also don’t make people the enemy for having to do this (as I tend to do).
        They are kind and generous but not naive. They give people the benefit of the doubt but they don’t sign up for regular blood donations from emotional vampires. Or as I like to call them emotional booty calls 😉

        9. I think I represent a ton of people that need the concrete stuff because I have NO friggin idea what a healthy adult looks like in real life. I’ve know I’ve met them but thought THEY were the unhealthy ones! Lol.

        10. But I completely agree it is not enough to focus on changing the behavioral stuff without changing the underlying emotional and philosophical ideas about what love for yourself and others looks like.

        P.S. Maybe you can give me a quantative know-it-all annoying score (1-10). I would appreciate your honest feedback! And by the way, I have never seen a comment of yours as know-it-all so you’ve got awesome superpowers there!

      4. Donkey,

        Typing on my phone so it missed the critical T in can’t in point 1. I don’t think applying specific skills are enough is what I was trying to say.

        1. When I use the term relationship skills I am really thinking of “being good at relationships”. It includes specific skills like boundary setting but you CAN’T really be “good at relationships” by just applying random skills. So I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      5. Donkey and Matt,

        You both bring up excellent perspectives on this! I’d like to throw my thoughts into the mix.

        1. I’m going to use a lot of gender generalities to talk about common patterns so I might just have to write an annoying comment to myself decrying the perpetuation of gender stereotypes (terrible phrase Matt by the way I totally understand your response to it, I really was thinking in abstract terms when I wrote that not about your blog, 🙁 my apologies).

        2. I almost recommended Terry Real’s book The New Rules of Marriage in my impossible 1 book challenge. He really does a great job talking about the gender differences for nature/nurture reasons in marriage and the need to offer DIFFERENT emphasis to correct imbalances.

        3. He puts things in different quadrants in terms of self care and other care. A healthy adult has a good balance, they take care of their needs appropriately and also generously (but not naively) take care of others needs.

        4. But in our culture, because of nature/nurture, men and women often become unbalanced in different ways. Women tend towards what I’ll call “co-dependency” for ease. Men tend toward “narcissism” (not real narcissism just for ease of conversation here).

        5. Men tend to become unbalanced toward not giving enough, not accepting influence from third wives. Women tend to become unbalanced toward giving too much, not having healthy boundaries, and taking care of her needs last.

        6. Neither of these are healthy. And the combination is the gender imbalance of relationship skills I talked about in my other comments. (Not just skills but not being good at relationships).

        7. This combination leads to stupid divorces because he doesn’t accept her influence and she adapts to it instead of correctly prioritizing her needs. A few years down the road they divorce.

        8. The remedy to this gender imbalance if to over correct to bring the scales in balance. So Men need to be taught to be courageous and give unilaterally to your wife. Worry more about losing your family than losing your man-card. Understand we have different perspectives. Be first, don’t wait for her! Excellent advice to correct for narcissistic man-fail messages! It brings him to a healthy adult balance.

        9. As Donkey points out this same advice can be unintentionally toxic to “co-dependent”. women. They need to be taught to not feel guilty for taking care of themselves, set healthy boundaries. Do NOT give always unilaterally, give some to yourself too and stand up for your needs in a healthy way. Do not adapt to being treated unfairly. This brings the balance back to a heathy adult level.

        10. Healthy adults do not show a lot of gender differences in their relationships. They both accept influence and are willing to compromise. They set healthy boundaries and they take care of themselves and others in an appropriate way.

        11. Just my take, I could be wrong.

        Donkey, I know this one was higher one the know-it-all scale so I’m adding point 11 to cover my sins. 😉

      6. Lisa, all of your points were very clarifying. I feel as though I understand you better now. I’m not as enthralled (although I do like him) with Gottman as you, but I didn’t think much of this because I know that people can resonate with different things and still more or less end up in a similar place. It seems like the skills-focus was very enlightening for you, and it also seems like you’re also focused on the how to become an emotionally healthy adult, which is where most of my own interest is at the moment. I guess I’m just happy you think in similar ways. 🙂 I did not think your replies were know-it-all-y at all. Perhaps becaue your communication is good and/or because I found it very easy to agree with most if it.

        I must say that any communication pointers I give to you must be considered as a peer to peer thing at most because I would be very uncomfortable thinking of myself a your communcation superior. You mention not being a good communicator when pressured and triggered…. Girl…this is my problem is awell. I roll my eyes, I sigh, I have shitty and condescending tone. But honestly, this improves as I’m becoming more emotionally healthy.

        Here are some thoughts about know-it-all-ness:

        1. Again, women are accused of this a lot, so take any criticism, internal or external with a critical mindset.

        2. …but again, sometimes there is SOME growth there.

        3. Strive to be polite, clear and respectful, and to the best of your abilites, make it look like you’re talking to someone who’s your emotional and intellectual equal, even if you don’t believe that’s the case and perhaps you’re right. :p

        4. Throw in some qualifiers (in my opinion, perhaps). Women especially are sanctioned when we don’t do this, but we’re sanctioned when we do it aswell (because then we’re not confident enough), so just make some effort and move on.

        5. Throw in some pleasantries (have a nice day, thank you for answering, you make a good point, sorry if I was too harsh). But again, same as in number 4, you’re damned if you do it too much and you’re damned if you don’t do it enough.

        6. Include some personal failings,

        7. Balancing number 3, 4, 5, 6 basically amount to a buttload of EMOTIONAL (and mental) LABOUR! Ok, this is going to sound obnoxious, and I’m truly stupid in plenty of ways (notice my inclusion of personal failings everyone) but when in a professional/academic or personal setting I’ve had to explain to some idiot (at least they were an idiot regarding the issue at hand) why he or she actually is wrong and their way will quickly lead straight to somewhere shitty/a bad grade on our group assignment without making it clear that I think they’re stupid, that takes a lot of ninja emotional labour skills. Yes, sometimes we just have a hard time accepting that people are different. But sometimes other people are wrong, and you just need to stand your ground/decline to engage/respectfully disagree.

        A good conversationalist/communicator regardless of gender does this kind of emotional labour well, but again, it’s even harder for a woman to balance stating her opinion clearly, being respected, being pleasant and personal and respectful enough without going overboard and being too apologetic, too personal and so on.

        That is one of the things I REALLY appreciate on this blog, it’s one of the very few places where I feel like I can disagree with a man, even on issues relating to gender at that, and more likely than not, he will NOT be hostile and shame me in some more or less subtle gendered way.

        8. So to conclude, be clear, polite, respectful and a bit pleasant and/or personal, but like Matt said (that someone had said to him), you can be the juiciest peach but some people will still not like peaches. So don’t drive yourself crazy trying to perfect all of this, thinking that you’re somehow always worse at communication than other people. That’s not true. You can’t please everyone. You like the way I communicate, but I have a feeling that many people find me irritating and dominating and I just rub them the wrong way. There’s probably some truth there aswell, but also, I may be a peach and they don’t like peaches. Sometimes people just don’t want to talk about whatever you want to talk about, and they find you annoying for that reason. Sometimes they want to talk about their opinions and not your facts, and that’s the “problem”, not your way of delivering it.

        …and I wasn’t done. I’ve been trying to think about when I feel like someone is know-it-all-y, but I’m having a hard time defining it.

        A. If I feel like someone adresses me as though I’m less intelligent, that triggers me a lot, even if they don’t mean it that way. But then again, sometimes I need to have things laid out more simply than the other person can probably conceive of should be necessary. Then THAT person (if he or she wouldn’t want to make me defensive) would need to do the emotional and mental labour necessary to explain things very simply while still making me feel like I’m a smarty.

        But then again, sometimes I really do respond to bluntness and would appreciate people removing the polite filters. I’m thinking about David Schnarch as I’m writing this. He can be blunt, but at the same time he doesn’t underestimate his readers (at least not in the book I read).

        B. Sometimes I feel people can be know-it-all-y if they write an opinion they obviously believe is right in capital letters. But this may often just be because I think that they of all people should agree with me (I think that were the case with one of your comments Lisa that I found a bit know-it-all-y), and they’re saying something I don’t agree with. 😉

        If someone writes something in capital letters that I do agree with, and especially if I think it is important, my thinking is more like: PREACH SISTER/BROTHER! YOU’RE AWESOME! I’M SO HAPPY THIS WORLD CONTAINS PEOPLE LIKE YOU!

        And of course I use capital letters myself.

        C. I think you’re good at this Lisa. You often compliment something I’ve written/a point I’ve made, and honestly I’m such a sucker for compliments and praise that when you or someone else compliments me that goes a long way in making me have good will for that person and how they communicate, if any good will is indeed necessary. Matt is also good at this. Like when Matt wrote in this thread that I shouldn’t take his not adressing all my other points as to mean that he didn’t find those points interesting/valuable, because he did (he was much more eloquent, but I can’t make myself scroll up to find the quote). Being proactive and nice and generous like that is emotional labour! I just want to be very clear that it’s not just women who do it, not at all.

        You apologize quite often it seems (sometimes I think you do it too much, perhaps because I like you and don’t want you to take on too much responsibility or whatever). I have never seen you go off on a personal attack. You often include something you’ve misunderstood/done wrong.

        As usual, practice makes us better. I want to be able to apply ninja emotional labour skills when I want, I want to be healthy enough to not,be triggered into rolling my eyes and getting defensive and contemptous, I want to be healthy enough to be able to stand my ground when necessary and to say/think/feel “I will not enact the labour to explain” without feeling angsty about not performing to the standard of some effed up social conditioning.

        …and use your own good judgement with everything I say, I’m sure one of the books you have could hand me my ass on a platter regarding communication skills.

      7. Donkey,

        First, thanks for your thoughts on less know-it-all more feeling-good-together.

        1. You know the Gottman thing is funny. I can see how you and everyone else think I am enthralled with him but I’m really not. I respect him greatly but he’s not my guru.

        2. I read and comment on other blogs and Facebook groups. I almost never quote Gottman on any of them. As I said in my other comment, Gottman’s general population stuff is limited in application. I think it is best used for general education with teenagers, premarital counseling or early in relationships when things are reasonably good.

        3. It does give a model for how happy marriages function and how marriages that eventually divorce go wrong. And he does have useful nerdy statistics and well respected finding based on his mad math skills. But it’s not really helpful to help me figure out HOW to get there or how to fix a really broken relationship.

        4. I quote him on here a lot because Matt poses questions in his posts explicitly or implicitly. Take the question of who is better at relationships men or women? How do you go about answering a question like that without it being based on subjective experience or stereotypes? My instinct is to go to Gottman because he deals in numbers and objective, quantifiable results. I can look at his big data findings and make an argument based on science. My background is Accounting and Finance. I understand numbers, I trust numbers by a verified source. Is it the the only possible answer? No, it’s not but it’s one that at least STARTS at an objective place.

        5. I could give my own answer or quote other experts like Schnarch, Real, Johnson, Hendrix, Burns, Siegel, Atkinson, Tatkin, Baucum, Perel, Lerner, Bader, feminist, red pill, the Pope, Evangelical Christians, Liberal Protestants, Muslim, Jewish, Buddist, LGBT, Asian, African, American, European, any number of people and groups have their own ‘take” on it. I’ve read samplings of most of them as I’m sure you have. They are all worth considering and adding to the understanding absolutely. I appreciate that you often provide additional perspectives to consider.

        6. From my perspective, Gottman (or another respected researcher like Johnson, Atkinson, or Baucum) is the place to start. I quote Gottman because I am most familiar with his numbers and I can quote them on random comments without doing more research. But of course, that is my preferred “thinking” style that many people find useless and annoying. So there you go. But I do think it is a perfectly VALID style. I figure if I find it helpful other people might too. And sometimes, I quote numbers because someone is putting a subjective opinion out there presented as fact that does not agree with the science. And that annoys me. That’s probably where my know it all stuff comes in. I could tell you childhood stories about why that annoys me but this is too long already.

        7. I have never found Gottman’s work helpful to figure out how to think about what a healthy adult looks like. That’s not his purpose. He’s primarily a researcher, which is why he’s useless to answer questions about dating. No data available. (my husband is a researcher and is just like this) Not even worth a guess to philosophize. So that’s his strength and his weakness.

        8. The one exception to this is he speaks quite eloquently about honoring women’s dreams. About challenging men to honor women’s dreams. About actively seeking out their wife’s dreams and not allowing her to inadvertently sacrifice her dreams for his. I respect his commitment to this and to using his math and research Superpowers to help people with their relationships.

        9. I’m not sure which books you have read, but his best books are the least popular ones. The Science of Trust is mind-blowing. He uses game theory and other geeked up stuff to understand trust levels in various countries and how trust impacts economies and relationships. His work with in abusive relationships is groundbreaking. He follows the numbers with no political correctness. (remember the quote about women hitting 71% of the time?). He works on developing programs to effectively change violent relationships. He and his wife developed a program after the birth of a first baby because relationship happiness plummets. They use these programs in low income situations to keep families together and prevent child abuse.

        10. I realize that my comment to disavow my fanatical love for John and Julie Gottman has gone hideously off track and turned into a love letter. But I so admire people who use their Superpowers to help people. That’s my weakness. You know why he’s is my fantasy Dad? My real Dad, long dead, saw my book learning, theory loving Superpower when I was a little girl and told me it was great even when other people thought it was weird. And when I get beaten up emotionally by someone telling me “I think too much” I think of my real dad and John Gottman who was probably told he “thinks too much” too but has used his Superpower to help so many people. And it makes me feel a little bit more loved and less rejected until the next time someone tells me. So that’s probably why I quote him so much on this blog too.

        11. So there is my accidental group therapy that I thought was a comment respond to Donkey. 😉

      8. Donkey,

        Thanks for your tips on less know-it-all communication.

        1. First, I do think you are excellent at this on this blog. It sounds like you have worked hard on your skills and I think your ninja skills are quite evident in the nature way you respond to people you disagree with.

        2. Some of the comments I have written here do not reflect my real life personality. I am a very direct person. By that I don’t need aggressive or rude but just very direct. I don’t understand subtle points people are trying to make and just prefer you ask me or tell me if you think I’m wrong if it’s relevant. That’s funny that you mention David Schnarch. He’s a little curmudgeonly but I far prefer his style to people who I can’t trust that what they say is what they really mean.

        3. Having a direct style has pros and cons on the one hand, you can rely that what I tell you is what I think. If I say I think you’re awesome, I really do mean it and am not trying to butter you up or be conflict avoidant. On the other hand, a direct style can be jarring to some people and doesn’t include a lot of niceties some people prefer, especially from women.

        4. And most especially, when I disagree with someone a direct style can come across as rude or know it all. And the stronger I disagree the more intense it is. Sometimes I really do equate someone who gets facts wrong as an idiot. No question it’s a flaw and a downside to being an abstract thinker. I focus so much on the facts I forget there are people’s feelings involved.

        5. So I’ve been trying to learn to keep my direct, honest style that I like but soften it with more emotional intelligence. I’m pretty good when I’m not triggered but like most people under stress, I revert to my old brain wiring.

        6. A lot of the apologizing you noted is me trying to practice and learning to do a softer style a la David Burns Feeling Good Together. It’s not that I go around in real life apologizing all the time. I am struggling to learn the skills and am leaning towards the “apologize and take responsibility” side to things on here.

        7. I know I can come off as a know it all in certain circumstances. Not most circumstances really in real life. Usually situations where there is an “authority figure” saying subjective things presented as fact. Like therapy, or church settings, or judgemental moms or sometimes blogs. That brings out my Evil Villian Superpower- Judgmental, Know-It-All, Pighead. I don’t even like me when I’m like that. I totally understand why I annoy people in that mode.

        8. So I’m trying to separate out the good Superpower Lisa who is good at analyzing information that some people just may not prefer from the Evil presentation of that as Judgemental, Know-It-All Pig Head. That version’s only good use is to be turned into delicious bacon.

        9. I like the feedback about capitalizing things. I can see how I need to be careful when I disagree with someone not to do that. Makes sense. THANK YOU!

        10. The emotional labor is so so true. It’s exhausting to have to try and write a bunch of warm fuzzies to someone who clearly is defensive and not accepting influence. I admire your ability to do this. I think this is an are where our personalities might diverge. I just am really not going to do that for anyone except family or someone holding a gun to my head. ;). I admire you and others that can. My husband is great at that. So he talks to hotel managers that screw up our reservations instead of me. ;). I am always amazed at what he can get people to give him. It’s a great Suoerpower. I know I just don’t have it or want to spend my limited willpower to get it.

        Thanks again Donkey I value your feedback.

  5. I really loved this post because it spoke specifically to the value I as a (hopefully former) shitty husband take from your writings. There are hundreds of people here, both men and women, both happily and unhappily married (and in some cases single!), both extremely knowledgeable and comfortable talking about relationship dynamics, as well as clueless and uncomfortable about same. As such, it seems this diverse crowd takes many different things away from MBTTTR, and all these people desire for it to offer a certain type of value to their own individual sensibilities and situations. For me, the key tremendous and inestimable value MBTTTR has brought to my life is related to the issue of whether this blog is intended by you to lean more heavily on “let’s ruminate on the differences between the genders–both biological and sociological–then hold them up to the scrutiny of expert research and case studies to see how they may or may not hold water” theorizing or, to use your words, on “helping married people stay married if they want to” brass-tacks practical application. What I need is the latter. What I take from your writings is the latter. What has produced both qualitative and quantitative improvements in my marriage is the latter. So I was delighted to see you make your personal interest between a focus on theory vs. practical application clear. As I mentioned in a comment on the “Hitler” post, from my perspective, electing to focus on the similarities between men and women, versus the differences, has very limited practical application on a blog centered on the issue of “my wife and I can no longer see, care about, or rely upon, our similarities, because now our whole world together feels like nothing but differences.” It is the differences, even if they represent a minority when juxtaposed with our similarities, and even if they are merely perceptual ones, that are driving marriages apart, not the ways we consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, are the same.

  6. Dude, I loved your cars vs trucks analogy! In my 38 years on the planet I don’t think I have heard the differences/similarities between men and women explained so well and so simply at the same time. I just wanted to let you know that I am going to steal that and use it in future discussions with friends and family. Keep up the good work, don’t let those that disagree or don’t understand you get you down, for every one who thinks you suck and tells you there are 10 who you have helped and haven’t said a word.

    1. Sorry I missed this one. Thank you. I think there are way too many people who equate the concept of “being different” with “being unequal in value.” And they’re not even close to the same.

      There are colors. Many are different.

      There are vehicles. Many are different.

      There are architectural styles. Many are different.

      There are story genres. Many are different.

      Any two colors or vehicles or design styles or story genres will be different from one another. Value will be determined in a Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder sort-of-way.

      Their intrinsic value is equal across the board. Just like with people.

      Always equal. Rarely the same.

      1. Exactly. When I was teaching there were always students who looked at another student or group of students as “different”. They even say the word as though it’s a bad thing, with that hint of disgust I’m their voice. I have tried many ways of explaining that different doesn’t mean bad or wrong, it’s not something that should be looked at as bad or even odd. This explanation will hopefully help some kid, in the future when I’m teaching again, realize that it’s ok to be different, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not something to be ashamed of, or fear.

  7. Hey Matt!

    Thanks for the shoutout. I think maybe the way I poorly phrased things might have miscommunication what I was really trying to say. I don’t think you are sexist!!! I was trying to point out that how we frame things primes people one way or another. Using Hitler for your title gives a different response than the far better choice of Satan 🙂 for example.

    There is no question that AS GROUPS men and women are different. You see these common gender patterns emerge in dysfunctional marriages. I agree with you! You know what is not being considering in that analysis though? What gender patterns exist in happy marriages? Here we must consult my fantasy Dad, John Gottman. You know that Tolstoy quote about happy families are all the same, only unhappy families are happy in their own way (or something like that :). The relationship skills in happy marriages are remarkable similar in most ways. There each know how to have empathy and share power and compromise for each other. They each know how to effectively set boundaries and stand up for themselves when necessary. I would submit to you that while men and women are different (we agree!) it is a dysfunctional lack of relationship skills that causes each side to say “I have no idea how to make him/her happy” or “what can you expect he is just a typical selfish man or she is just a typical irrational woman”. Men and women with good relationship skills do not view the other gender this way. They are skilled at empathy and perspective taking and skilled at knowing how to regulate themselves and their partners. THIS is what the research says not my opinion.

    Ok let me be empathetic here to your point of view. I absolutely think your experience is sadly common. And you have worked super hard to try and understand what happened and take accountability for your mistakes. And you are a gifted writer that changes people’s lives through your blog. Who saves marriages and keeps kids from crying because they miss their Dad. Your friggin Captain America at far as I’m concerned! Using you gifts to help others, no higher purpose than that.

    I added my poorly worded phrasing to try and suggest one piece to consider for your growing list of ideas. The idea that emphasizing the commonalities between us as men and women helps to encourage lightbulb moments like. Hey maybe she feels like I do at my job when I get frustrated at the way my bosses don’t take my needs into proper account. I loved that post! Because of nature/nurture women will often express different superficial needs (cleaner house perhaps or more emotional connection or fill in blank). But what I am suggesting is to emphasize that these are really superficial differences. The common human need is for our needs to be respected and valued that need to be empathized with on that level. As you say, it’s not about the dishes.

    In my reading and experience, emphasizing the differences only adds to each side throwing up their hands and giving up even trying because who has the energy to understand something just completely alien? But the point is it’s NOT completed alien, the whole point of empathy is finding the part that you can understand and relate to. If men feel, women are just SO different from them, that just makes it easier to give up before trying because it feels like a setup for failure. And we know from reading your blog that men don’t like that :). If we emphasize the commonalities of the motivation while also accounting for some differences, it seems much more likely to be achievable.

    Just something to consider in the same way a good mechanic will have the skills to work on a variety of cars and trucks because they have engines.

    1. Here’s the correct Tolstoy quote

      “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

      I had a typo in the original post (@&$& autocorrect!)
      That took away from my whole point. Gender differences are MUCH MORE pronounced in unhappy marriages. The happier the marriage, the less dysfunctional gender differences in relationship skills exist. Not because everybody is androgynous. The superficial gender stuff is still there. She wants emotional connection and dishes in the dishwasher, he wants more sex and less conflict. My whole point is those gender differences are not the problem. It is the gender differences that result in poor relationship skills (men more flooding and stonewalling and withdrawing) (women poor boundary setting, harsh complaining) and contempt for both genders that lead to divorce. If you both have relationship skills, you can empathize why she wants the dish out away, why he wants more sex and work together to get each other’s needs met.

  8. You know what’s fascinating about gender and empathy? It depends on motivation and priming. Lots of self-reported studies say women rate themselves better than me do at empathy. But if you test empathy the results depend. If you prime men and women with the “fact” that women are better at empathy. Hey, women are better. If you say both are good, men improve but women still outdo them. But, here’s the magic, if you offer men cold, hard cash everything changes and they are just as good as empathic skills as women are. Priming matters is the take away. Which is why I repeat my sad call to prime men to see women’s motivations for respect and value as similar even if the outward stuff is different. This sets them up to think they CAN understand women. If we prime with a Mars/Venus approach, it makes understanding and emphasizing seem doomed for failure for the average guy.

    Here’s one study that talks about priming and empathy. Highly interesting if you are procrastinating on your taxes.

    This study finds similar results as other priming studies such as higher test scores when you prime with the “fact” that certain groups like women or blacks perform well on this test. The opposite holds with negative priming.

    1. Once I went up to a pastor who, as the collection plate was being passed around, was patting everyone on the back about how “unbelievers” don’t understand giving to the church. I respectfully disagreed-they sure do understand giving to what is important to them. He was actually a little pissed, it seemed, because he kept saying, no, they don’t understand it, and I kept saying, if you frame it as “giving to a cause you support”, they not only understand but do the same thing. He did not want to see the similarity because he wanted the people to believe they were superior…

  9. Well said, Matt. You’re brilliant. I missed the “Hitler” post, the other day, but I just read it. I loved it. Click bait headline, well done.

    Empathy can be a very challenging thing for men, whether you blame biology or culture, it just is what it is. Women tend to be a bit more skilled when it comes to empathy, whereas men have to learn these skills. Also men can be very compartmentalized, focused in on one thing, rather that what is actually being communicated. Your dish on the sink for example, it’s not about the dish, empathy calls us to listen to the language of the heart that is being spoken.

    I think cross gender communication can be challenging for all of us. I can empathize a great deal with men, but I have to really focus on what it is like to walk in their shoes, about the issues they face, about how they perceive the world, but even then I can never really get it perfect because I am of course not really a man. It also takes a lot of work because often the words being spoken are not what the heart is trying to say.

  10. Matt,

    You said:
    “I focus on men, because I’m convinced—no matter what the reasons may be—that women ARE better than men at competently demonstrating relationship skills. I think men accidentally self-sabotage themselves and their marriages, and are in turn mostly responsible for our world’s staggeringly high divorce rate.”

    Here is where our disagreement lies and where the research DOES NOT support the idea that women ARE better than men at competently demonstrating relationship skills. The research shows that men and women BOTH are often bad at relationship skills. To end up with the common dishes divorce scenario, a man and a woman BOTH have to have contributed lousy relationship skills. Gender differences here matter because often each gender sucks at different skills. Because of nature/nurture men often don’t accept influence (are defensive, less willing to compromise). They are more easily flooded with stress hormones during conflict which often results in them stonewalling and withdrawing.

    Because of nature/nurture women often don’t set boundaries EARLY in the relationship, they make too many dysfunctional adaptations to negativity in the relationship. This does not allow for conflict and compromises when things are good and possible marriage counseling to learn healthier skills. Because women do this, it delays the average of FIRST calls for marriage counseling until 6 years into the relationship when it is often too late to repair. She’s mentally checked out and ready to go before he gets a chance to seriously change. Women are also more often responsible for harsh critical startups to conversations which make it difficult for the average guy to respond non-defensively.

    This is the nonfactual information that I see being presented so often as fact. BOTH genders because of nature/nurture tend to lack critical relationship skills for a variety of complicated reasons including never actually seeing good relationship skills in practice in their home.

    Contempt is the most important factor predicting divorce, it is an equal opportunity employer if you will. Women are not less contemptuous of men. I’ve often seen it in the comments here. Speaking in generalities, men are better at boundary skills, at not adapting to negativity, women are better at not stonewalling and withdrawing. But to have a happy marriage and to be an emotionally intelligent person, the skills have no gender. Emotionally intelligent men and women are remarkably the same in terms of relationships, they set good boundaries, are willing to empathize(not be defensive) and compromise to get each others needs mets. They are good emotionally regulating themselves and knowing how to help their spouse when they are upset.

    P.S. I still think you’re friggin Captain America!

    1. I’m not saying women, by virtue of gender, are better, NOR that men are incapable.

      I’m saying, the evidence shows me that women typically demonstrate greater relationship competence than men.

      The reason only matters if it can help us all be better people.

      Women are better at relationships. That is absolutely my stance.

      Men CAN be great. We just need to learn how. And care enough to fight for it.

      1. Actually some of the research that supports your claim that women are better at relationship skills was done by Gottman and his wife. Just sayin’.

      2. Kassandra,

        Ok now you’re taking about my fantasy parents, John and Julie Gottman!

        As you know Gottman’s research shows that men are less likely to accept their wives influence. This is the sucky male tendency.

        Gottman’s research ALSO shows that women such at dysfunctional it adapting to their husbands not accepting influence instead of effective boundary setting early in the relationship I quoted the details in a couple of other posts from his book The Marriage Clinic.

        So Gottman’s research equally attributes relationship dysfunctional skills to both genders. But if you have better information ii would be sincerely open to learning it.

      3. I’ve got insomnia probably because of all this Satan talk I’ve been doing lately so I am going to take this opportunity to respond to your comment because clearly I haven’t posted enough comments yet on this post.

        1 Ok Matt hold on because this may shock you but I’m actually going to agree with you! Women are better at certain key relationship skills.

        2 Because women are more likely than men to be willing to accept influence (not be defensive and be wiling to compromise). 65% of men are not willing to do this. So by math alone, men are suckier than women at this critical relationship skill that Gottman’s research says is the key to happy marriages.

        3. If a woman is married to one of the 35% of men who will accept her influence. It’s all good, most women will accept his influence and then you have the basis for a happy marriage. So that’s why I agree with you that men are the suckier ones that screw up more marriages in this sense.

        4. I think you agree with me based on your post about what wives can do, that women also suck at key relationship skills. One of the critical ones is how to set boundaries and deal with her husband early in the relationship if she married one of the 65% of men who don’t empathize and accept her influence.

        5. This is why I make the comments that men and women both suck at relationships skills but usually different ones. Men usually are better at the not adapting to negativity crap and setting boundaries if things don’t work for him. Women suck at this and it leads to stupid divorces because so often (65%) she is married to a man who does not naturally empathize or accept her influence. He must be forced to pay attention early in the relationship.

        6. Since women so often lack these early boundary setting skills, she dysfunctionallly adapts to her husband’s dysfunctional not accepting her influence ways. But this eventually leads to her intense unhappiness and stupid divorces.

        7. So it’s a chicken and egg thing. But in this case, Gottman’s research answers the eternal question. The key factor is a man accepting his wife’s influence. If he is able to do that, the wife doesn’t need to rely on her sucky early boundary setting skills to force him to accept his influence.

        8. So yeah, put in these terms I agree that imen are suckier at relationships than women. Or put another way, their inability to empathize and therefore accept their wives influence is the most critical piece to stupid divorces.

        9. But since it is super, super hard to change our man card messaging any time in the next 20 years, it falls to women to make sure they know that their ability to learn boundary skills to force their husbands to see the importance of accepting their influence. That Is also a way to prevent stupid divorces.

        10. In fact, I would suggest it is the more practical, less theoretical method since women are more likely to accept influence from relationship books and blogs in the first place and don’t have to deal with the whole man card thing that makes it so threatening for men to change. They usually just aren’t told the right things. So they put a lot of effort in and then get stupid divorces when it doesn’t inevitably doesn’t work.

        11. But I know you can and have reached men through this blog and every marriage saved is amazing! You’re friggin Captain America!

        Emotionally intelligent people have all these relationships skills. They are equipped to deal with all kinds of people and situations. Two emotionally intelligent people who are reasonably compatible will have a happy marriage.

    2. I feel ya in this response LisaR. For whatever reason I don’t think I fall into the ‘typical woman’ framework when it comes to relationships. For example, I was reading an article that quoted Gottman the other day with this diddy: “With the above example, as soon as you get annoyed about the dirty dishes, you might say: “Honey, I’m feeling frustrated that you haven’t washed the dishes for a few days. We agreed that you would take that on, and when you don’t do it, I feel like more work is being put on my plate. I would like it if you could get them done by tomorrow. Will that work?” (source:

      My husband happened to be in the same room so I read it to him and asked how he’d feel if I said those exact words to him. His response? “I’d wonder who the hell you were.” Because I can’t, for the life of me, imagine patronizing him in such a condescending tone. Likewise, I can’t wrap my head around him actually getting up to do the dishes sans disdain and contempt if this were my approach.

      So, I shot Matt a quick message and told him what I was thinking. He responded “I have a hard time understanding how such an exchange could yield the kind of resentment that could rise to “endangering our relationship” levels.”

      And yeah, if this was a one time exchange he’d be right. It would be ludicrous to think this one episode would trigger divorce but if some relational guru is suggesting this as an appropriate response to the ‘simple disagreements’ that heaped on themselves over time are what break down marriage, and both myself and my husband are thinking “um, no – that would be 100 times worse than her doing the dishes and ‘taking one for the team'” then it stands to reason somewhere along the lines someone isn’t falling into line categorically.

      And in this situation – and a lot of the time I read these posts & comments – I think ‘shit, I’m not a normal woman’ and then wonder how THAT lines up with the actual issues in my marriage.

      The last two sentences of your response are key. Regardless which restroom I use, I’d do well to focus on mastering those things; doing so could only help to strengthen my relationships with PEOPLE on the whole. So, thank you.

      1. Deanna,

        Yeah I agree with you that I couldn’t say those lines with a straight face either. I think you have to work with your natural personalities and whatever way you can say it without the other person feeling attacked works.

        You seem like a strong woman with a good sense of your needs so saying it that way would be ridiculous. It’s like trying on someone else’s style of clothes. I’m not a pink, feminine style of dress or conversation but I had to learn a way of talking to my husband that he didn’t perceive as attacking him in a critical way. For him it was more about my tone of voice rather than the words.
        I could say nice words but I would say them in an annoyed irritated tone of voice. And that bothered him. If it hadn’t it would have been fine.

        But everyone is different so we had to experiment and see what works for our personalities. For us, we do a lot of joking around and sometimes even say stuff like the quote above but in a mocking kind of way.

        Works for us but everybody has to figure out their style.

      2. Deanna,

        You are a normal woman! You may not fall into the “average” women category but who wants average anyway?

        That’s why marriage advice can sometimes really suck for personality types that are a little less common. But it’s just like being left handed. Perfectly normal but not average.

        Don’t let that I’m not a normal woman crap rattle around in your head. Like you said, take the general principles and do it in a way that works for you and your husband.

      3. Maybe I should have said “typical woman”. It’s cool, I know I’m an enigma. I hate to shop, I don’t do the makeup/hair thing. Seriously, other than having no sexual attraction for women I’m basically a man.

  11. I think this is a perfect follow up to yesterday’s ‘absolutely and positively bestest writing you have ever done. Title and all. I say that because even with all the other posts of yours I’ve read – yesterday’s hit home with me in every aspect of my life. And you should never write any other way than from your own life story, what you have to draw from…the pain of watching your family slip away while you sit scared shitless unable to fix that which was broken. (At least that’s how I felt) It is often from a place of such pain that the most growth comes. From your eyes as a man. I wouldn’t read a thing of yours if you did it from a woman’s point of view because you don’t menstruate. It would fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.
    If there is true and honest empathy contempt will not have the opportunity to build, silence will be there because it will be the healthy kind and not a deadly silence that comes before the tornado of divorce roars into lives of good people, tearing families to shreds.
    Anyway…that’s my dribble on it. My opinion may not count for much to some, but like you, I’ve felt that pain. I’m blessed enough that we are still married. And every day I thank GOD that he helped me see how lacking I was when it came to empathy.
    Well done sir.

  12. I didn’t read the Hitler post because of the title. And I still don’t want to read it- because of the title. Sorry.

    1. Honest question. Would you read it if it had Satan instead of Hitler in the title?

      1. Matt,

        I know I annoy you with my gender comments but we’ll always have Hitler vs Satan. :).

    2. Matt made a really good point in his Hitler post, “It’s important to disassociate the concept of empathy from good vs. evil, or right vs. wrong.”

      Here’s why I often argue that women are better at empathy than men are. Because we’ve had to be. Because we’ve had to learn how to read men, good or bad, as a matter of survival.

      You can empathize with an abusive or violent person, if fact it’s very wise to. Empathy isn’t about compassion or sympathy, it’s about trying to understand what they are feeling and where they are coming from. Kids who grow up in abusive homes can actually develop hyper-vigilance, hyper-empathy, something that actually begins to represent a sixth sense or second sight, because their circumstances have caused them to empathize with those who represent potential danger. It’s how they protect themselves

      Boys, men, are certainly abused, but they really are less likely to have tuned in to empathy and what it is because their survival has rarely depended on it.

      1. Excellent point Insanitybytes22!

        And it’s not always a point of blatant abuse, it cab more a general dominance thing.
        Like, gay people know more about straight culture than vice versa, because straight culture is both what dominates society and what everyone’s exposed to, and because they HAVE TO learn to survive. A religious minority knows more about the religious majority in their country than the other way around for the same reason and so on.

        Even if women are not minor in numbers, they have been minor regarding power on most levels of society for millenias. So women generally know more about men than the other way around, both generally and in personal relationships, because the male perspective dominates our culture, the man usually has more power (accepts less influence and gets away with it) in male-female relationships, so women have to learn to survive (I learnt this first from Harriet Lerner).

    3. I can’t help but think of the whole “judging a book by its cover” cliche. I can’t imagine the things I’d have missed out on in life if I rejected them at first glance.

  13. It’s just that all this stuff is hard to read and think about. Important, yes. But difficult. If we see ourselves in this it’s difficult and sad and if we don’t, it’s still sort of exhausting. And you’re getting better and better at parsing the minutia, going more deeply into what’s happening and how it relates to society and gender and the power structure of marriage. So if you don’t see people commenting it might not mean you didn’t strike a chord, and sure, it could mean that you lost us in the weeds, but it could also mean we’re deeply contemplating.
    (And a fun fact: I wrote a Scary Mommy post (Date Night: It’s Nicer Than Divorce… no need to read but I thought you’d applaud the title) similar to the Turbines one but with a more humorous tone (I thought) and I can’t tell you how much heat, snark, venom that people have thrown at it. And then one woman tagged her husband on it and asked for a date night on FB. And he replied yes. And in all the miasma of all the empty weird attention, there was this sweet, ostensibly real, positive interaction, and it made it all worth it. And you have piles of those that are so deeply felt, Matt. So forget the haters and the crickets when they chirp (unless there’s something you’re eager to learn from them.) Even one couple connecting over this blog is pure genius. You go.)

  14. Matt,

    This will be my final comment in at least the next hour and since I’m feeling a bit down now that I’ve realized I must pay our incompetent government a s@&@ load of money this year, it might be a little more melancholy than my usual happy comments quoting my fantasy Dad, John Gottman or encouraging you to empathize with Satan.

    I envy your writing gifts. I often can’t seem to communicate verbally or in written form that conveys what I am trying to really say. Or maybe I do and people really do just fundamentally disagree with my ideas. No, I’m choosing hope, I’m choosing to believe I’m just a shitty communicator. A good person who happens to be a shitty communicator.

    So I want to bullet point my ideas and see if that helps. At least it will look better. Choose hope.

    1. I do not think you are sexist. I do not think people who think men and women are different for nature/nuture reasons are sexist.

    2. I think men and women are different. There are more differences within groups than between groups so when we talk about “men” or “women” it will only describe a subset but it is often useful to do this in explaining common gender patterns.

    3. What you experienced in your marriage is a common dysfunctional pattern in relationships. That is why when you read the book How To Improve Yiur Marriage …it was a lightbulb moment. I have also read that book. (It was interesting but less helpful to me because my husband and I are slightly outside the average gender norms-two logic and theory lovin nerds who fell in love 🙂 Which is why I write annoying comments about gender on your blog.)

    4. Your dishes post was a personal reflection on these common gender dysfunctional patterns. It was the perfect storm of a provocative title (although adding Satan would have been a nice touch) and good writing. It went viral because so many people recognized themselves in it.

    5. You have used your writing gifts to help yourself and now are helping many others. Friggin Captain America! I know you’d rather be Batman but Captain America is sincere and pure of heart in wanting to fight bullies. In your case, the bully is crappy divorces that happen for stupid reasons. Just because we aren’t taught good relationship skills.

    6. Now here our paths converge. I could make myself Black Widow that would be cool. But since I’m writing this I’m gonna be Friggin Wonder Woman! Ok now I come and read your blog and I like it. I like the great writing, your Captain America quest to help husbands prevent stupid divorces. I like the intelligent comments. I am inspired to help the Marvel/Justice League crossover cause of educating men and women to prevent stupid divorces. I quote fantastic researchers in an effort to throw the lasso of truth into the mix. Not to over theorize or call anybody sexist but to make sure we are all basing our antidotes to stupid divorces based on the truth or the closest we can come to in group averages which is scientifically based peer reviewed research. I spent years in an unhappy marriage because I didn’t know the Truth.

    7. I am a shitty communicator. I find it hard to write things in a way that communicate my sincere empathy and respect for the other person while also throwing out the lasso of truth and quoting research.
    Donkey is so much better than I am at that. Donkey, where for art thou? Or maybe this is blog just has a different vibe and I annoy people here with my Gottman quotes. I don’t know.

    8. One of our key differences is that I disagree with your assessment that women are better at relationships. I detailed it in one of my 567 comments on this post. But I believe the lasso of truth indicates that women and men suck equally at relationship skills that commonly lead to divorce. This is not theoretical pie in the sky stuff. It matters if we want to vanquish our common bully, stupid unnecessary divorces.

    9. But this is counterintuitive to most of us, including me before I read the research. Understanding the Truth saved my marriage. When I saw the common female relationship mistakes I made and was making it gave me hope. It also made me mad because I preferred to blame my husband (and men) but the lasso of truth reveals that stupid divorces happen because men and women suck at different relationship skills.

    10. So full circle, I agree that men and women are different. But to prevent stupid divorces we must focus on which of these differences are critical to understanding the cause of stupid divorces. It is not the MarsVenus differences that cause stupid divorces. It is the gender differences in relationship skills that cause divorces. That is what we should focus on to defeat stupid divorces. Men and women are like cars and trucks but their engines are remarkably similar that is the commonality of human desire to feel valued abs respected.

    Well, I must fly off in my invisible plane now.

    1. Wow. This is amazing, Lisa Gottman. And you are anything but a shitty communicator. I’m going to ponder this pretty amazing comment. Well played.

        1. Ha! No. Seriously. I’m just in the thread and I tripped across your comment and so much of what appears in comments is disagreeable or ill-thought out (not here and not today but in the world of blog comments) and this was just so on and thoughtful and I left in a better place because of it so I wanted to say that, but there was no ‘like’ button. (And maybe I’m channeling your mother if she’s a forty-something mom of four from New Jersey? But that seems both weird and unlikely.)

      1. Jgroeber,

        1 Thank you for your kind words.

        2 Maybe bullet point are my magical communication device!

        3 You’re a mom of 4 who still pulls off date nights and writes about it on scary mommy? You’re Friggin Wonder Woman!

        1. And she weaves magic with storytelling. Jennifer captures life moments with writing in ways you don’t often see. (She’s also exceedingly kind.)

          Jen’s writing is a joy to read even though we have seemingly so little in common. But that’s really the magic of what she does. She pulls the humanity out of a moment and delivers it in sentence form. And then other people get to live it too.

          1. ‘Like’ button for both Matt and Wonder Woman. (*Blushes*) Now, I’m off to clean up all the dishes on the counter. (Oh, wait…)

    2. Lisa, I love this comment! You do not suck at communicating at all.

      As for the Gottman research, I was thinking of his earlier research when he first started looking at healthy relationships. He made the point, and it rings true for me, that women (in general) pay more attention to the health of their relationships and they are better at analyzing what’s wrong. He said that healthy relationships are the ones where the men recognize this and let their wives lead the way when it comes to the relationship, i.e., don’t get defensive when she says, “Honey, we need to talk.”

      I think your comment below says it all. Women and men suck at different relationship skills. I would add one to the mix that women are bad at: confronting an issue when they know it will likely set off an angry exchange. Women tend to avoid anger, even when there is a good chance that once the angry dust settles, the issue will get resolved. (Maybe I’m most aware of this skill because it’s one that I suck at.) And maybe this is what you mean by not setting boundaries. However, I think of boundary setting as saying what I will and won’t tolerate. I’m good at that. It’s the subtler issues I tend to avoid so as to not start a fight (and my husband is not the angry type; it’s not like I think he’s going to hit me or anything).

      1. By comment below, I meant toward the end of the comment above. Okay, that’s probably even more confusing. 😛 It’s getting late. I need wine.

      2. Kassandra,

        Hopefully you’re enjoying your wine now.

        I agree with you that Gottman often says that men accepting influence from their wives is critical to marriage success. Women are often more attuned to relationship negativity and here is where the problem is when a man does not accept his wife’s influence. As you know this is a common problem which is why women MUST know how to effectively deal with it. Here’s a comment from another post explaining what I mean.

        The quotes are from John Gottman’s book The Marriage Climic summarizing his research. The non quotes are my commentary (reposted from a previous comment to Donkey)

        “In marriages that wind up happy and stable, newlywed wives notice lower levels of negativity. I call this effect the marital “poop detector”. In other marriages wives adapt to and try to accept this negativity, setting their threshold for response at a much higher (more negative level). “Our research shows this kind of adaptation to negativity is dysfunctional.”

        Why do people wait 6 years after problems surface to get marriage counseling, until it’s almost often too late to fix? They’ve raised the negativity level they tolerate too high. And here the WIVES are the critical player.

        “Our finding also suggests that wives in ailing marriages play a key role in fostering the delaying process by adapting to their husbands negativity. In marriages that work, wives don’t make these adaptations.”

        Bottom line- two pieces to the equation in our typical dishes example 1. husbands not accepting influence, 2. wives adapting to it and delaying boundary setting too long. Both are dysfunctional and lead to divorce. We all need two relationship skills accepting influence and setting boundaries when partners don’t or won’t. Both sides need to do their part to make a relationship work.

        Here’s my own real life example:

        Lisa Gottman on April 6, 2016 at 5:20 PM
        I agree with Matt that boundaries should be set in dating and that serious premarital counseling should precede marriage. But since most people don’t do that, the real work begins after marriage. Here’s what I should have done when we both were wearing our pink glasses (like your term). I’ll use bathrooms as my example. So when we got married, my husband had never seen equal distribution of chores modeled or expected. I grew up doing chores and we both theoretically believed in an egalitarian marriage.

        The typical patterns started early, my standard are pretty low so I have it easier than a lot of women ;). But at some point toilets must be cleaned. My husband didn’t do it voluntarily and would wait to be asked and then do it grudgingly like he was doing me a favor. It continued to be a problem and discussing it didn’t help. I should have pressed the STOP button there and said this is not about bathrooms this is about our taking each other’s needs into proper account and being willing to compromise.

        If he was willing to do it then, great. If not, I should have said I am moving into the guest room until we can take this seriously. Not to punish you but do that you understand how serious this is. It is NOT about the bathrooms.

        I am not trying to manipulate you only trying to get you to see in a physical form how serious this issue is. If he is willing then great. If not, proceed to asking for marriage counseling. If he’s not willing then I would consider separation as another STOP signal. The point is not to make him the bad guy but to get him to understand how serious it is and treat it accordingly. I can look back and feel confident that my husband wound probably have understood when I moved into the guest room because he still had the pink glasses on and he wanted to make me happy. He just didn’t understand the talking part (a la Matt’s dishes posts).

        Now if he didn’t respond to any of those things in our first year of marriage and was not willing to go to marriage counseling, it would be important for me to know that and be able to make a decision on staying married before I had children.

        Anyway, just my take based on what I’m learning and what I wished I had known then.

        1. Thank you, Lisa, the wine was delightful.

          So it sounds like we are saying the same things, sort of, re: boundary setting. I think fear of an angry scene is often what keeps women from setting those boundaries. It’s easier for her to say, “Oh, this is one of those things I need to accept; after all, marriage is about compromise.” So she raises her threshold of acceptable behavior instead of drawing a liner in the sand.

          Also women have a tendency (again, generalization here) to question themselves more than men do. If she sets a boundary and he pushes back (which he often does) implying that the boundary is unreasonable, then she starts thinking he’s right and she’s wrong and tries to adjust rather than insisting he take her boundary seriously.

      3. Kassandra,

        YES! You said it better than I did in my lengthy comments. Women are generally not taught to hold boundaries when it’s small things. They have a tendency to just adjust to it. And that is what sets up the marriage for eventual divorce because the small adjustments add up over time, especially after kids add to the adjustments she feels she has to make. Until the final accumulation of small things tips over into a loss of love and contempt for her husband.

        And meanwhile, her husband doesn’t even realize the sacrifices she is making in the adjustments and is blindsided by the depth of her unhappiness.

        So yes, I agree with you and I like the way you phrased it!

        1. Matt, you really need a “like” button. Thanks, Lisa, for the compliment. And I think you said it very well indeed. Just agreeing and adding another piece perhaps. 🙂

    3. Coming late to this post and this comment thread, but want to agree wholeheartedly with Lisa and add:

      “Men and women are, of course, different. But they are not as different as day and night, earth and sky, yin and yang, life and death. In fact, from the standpoint of nature, men and women are closer to each other than either is to anything else – for instance, mountains, kangaroos, or coconut palms. The idea that men and women are more different from one another than either is from anything else must come from somewhere other than nature. . . Far from being an expression of natural differences, exclusive gender identity is the suppression of natural similarities. It requires repression: in men, of whatever is the local version of ‘feminine’ traits; in women, of the local definition of ‘masculine’ traits. The division of the sexes has the effect of repressing some of the personality characteristics of virtually everyone, men and women.” (Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women,” 1975)

      The “repression of natural similarities,” I’d argue, is what causes “the gender differences in relationship skills that cause divorces.”

      I think this is ultimately a more hopeful model that “biological,” “hard-wired,” or “caused-by-venus-and-mars” differences. Differences encoded at a cellular or planetary level are quite resistant to change– that’s why Gray’s book is basically an instruction manual to men on how to fake an interest in their wives’ mindless babble. But similarities that have been repressed can be recovered, worked with, and made productive. Matt– and many other commenters here– testify to that every day.

  15. Matt, I think the reason it’s so easy to see it and even to sometimes focus on the fact that men and women are different is really the same reason that some people feel the need to fight against that fact. It’s because most generalities of personalities and of personal strengths and weaknesses are both truth based and yet also naturally subject to exceptions.

    I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m a driving instructor. At the risk of upsetting people I’d say that the most common reason when men are bad drivers is some combination of a lack of self-awareness and the need to believe they are strong and great and invulnerable…you couple that with a lack of understanding of the importance of developing good driving habits and you have the perfect storm. Generally speaking men who are bad drivers think they are great drivers but everyone in their circle thinks the opposite. And it totally explains why young men have the incredibly high and easily demonstrable high accident rate they have and the resulting high rates on their insurance premiums. But I regularly see exception to the rule. There are young men in the world who totally get it that cars and driving carry inherent risks and that they themselves have to be intelligent and responsible.

    I’d also say that it’s a fairly common explanation of why women are sometimes bad drivers that their natural capacity or the set of strengths and weaknesses they bring into the learning to drive challenge includes weaker visual-spatial reasoning. But once again I regularly see exceptions. The best visual-spatial reasoning, bar none, that I have ever seen, in a student, was a young woman and one of the worst I’ve ever seen was a young man.

    This dichotomy will forever lead to debate about the generalities and their exceptions. But then again the debate is totally worth it! Look at all we’ve all learned from you and from Lisa Gottman!

    1. You know, right after I posted that I realized, I think I mentioned it once before. Oh dear and Yikes too. I’m super tired after a long day of 8 hours straight on the road with teenagers. Sometimes you’ll have to excuse my fumbling. *blushing*

      1. You must have nerves of steel to be a driving instructor! Pretty cool. I’m glad you mentioned it because I must have missed the other reference.

        Your observations about gender differences are very interesting. Are you teaching mostly teenagers? I wonder if some of the differences have to do with the incomplete brain development for accurate risk taking that doesn’t fully form until the mid twenties. Obviously, the testosterone differences between young men and women play a big factor too.

        I really am not someone who believe men and women are the same. There are many nature/nurture differences. I wish I could say I buck the stereotypes but sadly I am terrible at parking. I am happy that my teenage son is a very conservative driver so he is happily an outlier there.

        I bet you have some interesting stories to tell! I admire you. I don’t think my heart could handle it. I barely survived teaching one teenager.

  16. Fromscratchmom

    Thank-you, Lisa! I do mostly teach teens, but not exclusively.

    Because it’s a job that few people are willing to do and some driving schools including the one where I am employed have a hard time getting enough good instructors on the payroll, we have two perks I really appreciate. We get to choose yes or no to certain demographics of clients. And we get to choose when and how much we work as long as we tell them in advance so they can schedule the drives and as long as we deal with it ourselves and do our best to accommodate the clients and make them comfortable with it on the (of necessity) rare occasions when we decide to reschedule someone. So most of the instructors at our school refuse to take adult students. Adult students typically do not listen and follow instructions well and they seemed to have missed a critical opportunity along the way when the natural brain development that teens are experiencing would have worked well with the experience of training their skills and their visual-spatial reasoning to become good drivers. Most of them probably can learn but it is certainly a much rougher road for them and for the instructors trying to help them.

    Having said all that I do sometimes teach adults but I generally refuse to take males over the age of twenty. That just never goes well…or I could say my nerves aren’t that steely! lol. I’ve worked with women who are somewhat struggling or who are good with English as a second language, generally in their twenties or thirties. I worked with one woman in her thirties who grew up in London and had a terrible time staying on the right-hand side of the road. I’ve worked with quite a few young women who just waited late because of nerves or something similar, between 18 and 28. And I have worked with young men who have special needs making driving more challenging, although with the current state of epidemic levels of certain specific challenges and those first kids of the increased rates of those diagnoses coming into their late teens and twenties, the parents are all determined that they can and will be drivers which means they’ll get them to a passing test somehow, someday, whether it’s safe or not, so I do what I can to help them become safer. In fact, I currently have a young man, about 19 or 20, who I’m trying to help who is making me wish I could borrow a brain from an occupational therapist for a couple of weeks!

  17. Hey Matt,

    Just to chime in on the gender debate, beyond the whole penis/vagina difference I really don’t think men and women are inherently that different. There are differences, but I attribute those more to socialization than anything else. And to me that’s why we can never really categorize men and women. There are a ton of traits and characteristics out there, and some have come to be defined more as male or female. But you always see exceptions. No guy fits perfectly into the man box, and no woman fits perfectly in the woman box.

    That being said, understanding some of the more common behavioural patterns can be very helpful in understand our differences and struggles.

    At the end of the day though, it’s really the differences and struggles that matter more than where they come from. Same sex relationships run into very similar problems as male/female relationships. And the success rates of intercultural relationships isn’t materially different from people of the same background to my knowledge.

    It’s really a question of what are our differences, how do we work to better understand each other, and can we accept and love each other in spite of those differences.

    In relationships needs and wants will never match perfectly – there will always be gaps. And because needs/wants aren’t fixed, even if we did meet that magical unicorn of a person who was the perfect match, that would only mean they are the perfect match TODAY. Tomorrow? No promises. The odds of people changing and growing in the exact same ways over time are pretty damned small.

    The real relationship skill then is accepting that there will always be gaps, and that’s alright. And then learning how to continue to love each other in spite of those gaps (which is where boundaries become extremely important).

    I see this as needing accommodation on *both* sides, always.

    Any time one side feels they are the only (or primary) one accommodating, over time resentment will build. We should never be keeping score, but we should always feel valued and important in our relationships.

    one of your statements is that “women ARE better than men at competently demonstrating relationship skills”. I happen to think that the way women are raised tends to place more value on some of the characteristics that become positive in relationships. But there are also some things about the way women are raised that are detrimental to their relationships.

    Because all couples are different there is no quick and easy road for couples to be happy together. But I think we can make general rules.

    As you said in your last post, empathy is one of THE keys in successful and happy relationships. Another of these items (which you touch on in this post) is the acceptance that person A and person B have different thoughts and beliefs, and that this is alright. I don’t have to agree with you on everything and you don’t have to agree with me on everything.

    I think there are three general relationship rules that can improve any relationship:

    1) love each other. Not just in words, but through our actions. Each and every day.
    2) don’t be selfish. Most of our problems come when one person is thinking primarily about themself. Once you are in a relationship you are part of a we, not just a me. And the we has to matter.
    3) communicate. Talk to each other. We’re going to piss each other off, and we’re going to hurt each other. That’s part of what a relationship is, and that should be alright. But we need to be able to tell each other when we are hurt, and we need to know the other person will listen.

    Three rules. Love each other, don’t be selfish, and communicate. If we keep those in mind and recognize when we aren’t doing them, I think a lot of relationships would be happier.

    1. There’s a lot here, all good, and I can’t address it all.

      But I just want to clarify one more time…

      I don’t belive women are better at relationships BECAUSE they’re women.

      I believe, in terms of practical application of talking to guys about how to better understand why there are so many differences between he and his wife in terms of communication and response to conflict, there are broad generalties that MOST husbands and wives will be able to relate to.

      Nothing has, or ever will be, one size fits all. And I imagine for therapists/counselors/coaches meeting with couples, it would become apparent semi-quickly to what extent the conflicts in an individual marriage, or inside one member of it, fit into these broad themes, or whether they did not.

      I assume I can write down an example of Things a Husband Does, and then an example of How His Wife Reacts right off the top of my head, totally fictionalized, and about 80-ish percent of married heterosexual couples would say “Yep! That’s us.”

      I’m always approaching storytelling (when it’s designed to be more than a just-the-facts report, or me sharing something personal) from that perspective.

      To bring it back… I fully buy into the idea that cultural socialization may have WAY more to do with how today’s men and women coexist in relationships than anything inherently biological.

      I don’t pretend to know, and I don’t think it’s hugely important to know.

      But I think it’s hugely important to know that Wives Commonly Think and Feel This Way about X, Y and Z if you want to succeed in your relationship.

      Any man practicing active listening and empathy with the mindset that his wife fundamentally experiences certain situations and conversations differently than he does will organically discover for himself the parts of her that don’t fit into any sort of generic personality or gender silo.

      I think we discuss a lot of heavy and nuanced shit around here, and I love it.

      But most guys out there HAVE NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT ANY OF THIS, EVER.

      I can’t overstate the power of the moment when my brain fully comprehended that my wife’s brain was totally different than mine, and that a dish by the sink could have a profoundly emotionally painful impact on her, while not even registering with me, and that it was NORMAL and OKAY and COMMON for that to be the case.

      I don’t think most men do that.

      I think most men live inside their own heads only, and assume his wife operates internally (thoughts and feelings) just like he does.

      When you assume that, a wife acting emotionally makes her seem CRAZY. Then we treat her that way, and make it worse.

      When you KNOW that your wife having an emotional reaction to something you didn’t notice is more the rule than the excepion, THEN you can practice empathy in a powerful, connecting way that will change lives.

      I don’t think this is true. I know this is true.

      Just in the past few months, I’ve learned to accept that a lot of people won’t always understand my intended meaning when I write or speak.

      A person would drive themselves crazy worrying too much about it. So, I think we just keep saying the things we want to say in the ways that make sense to us, and be grateful for those who do connect with it.

      I think your three rules won’t just make relationships happier… they’ll save them.

      The part that scares me is the part where people (really good, decent people, too) don’t necessarily know what “love each other,” or selfish behavior, or effective communication even looks like. They think they do, though. Right up until they’re signing divorce papers with the Notary.

      1. Hey Matt, I’m pretty sure you know I’m in agreement with you on 95+% of the stuff in, oh, pretty much all your posts.

        and the parts that I’m not on board with are generally parts that don’t really matter.

        The only reason I’m harping a bit on the socialization side of things is because I think it applies to all relationships, regardless of who is in them.

        The way men and women are socialized tends to be quite different, and even if parents attempt to treat their children the same media messaging towards men and women is really different.

        But from what I know, even same gender relationships run into EXACTLY the same problems.

        So your fictional scenario you could come up with is perfect, and I think you are right – and it applies to everyone.

        At it’s root, it’s about differences regardless of where those differences originate (gender roles or something else).

        I’m absolutely not discounting anything you are saying. In fact, I’m in full agreement on it.

        I think it comes down to basic communication 101.

        1) I have a message to convey
        2) that message gets encoded by me – through my lens of knowledge and experience.
        3) the message gets sent in some way. Maybe verbal, maybe written, maybe just body language.
        4) the receiver decodes the message, through their own lens of knowledge and experience.

        Problem 1, we assume everyone else thinks the way we do (and there’s at least a little part of us that views anything different as “wrong”)

        Problem 2, messages tend to get very lost in the encoding/transmission/decoding process. The dirty dishes mean something completely different to each of us, and when one person tries explaining what it means to them the other person literally can’t understand where they are coming from.

        Empathy and understanding are key, and we need to continue to work on them every day. And not only do we need to work on them, but when we get upset by something someone else has done we need to check ourselves and remember that we are getting upset due to the meanings WE have attached to the problem item. And those meanings may be completely different from the meaning attached to the person who took the action.

        Anyhow, keep fighting the fight.

        1. You’re absolutely right. And it’s been awesome to hear from members of same-sex relationships who have said that it applies to their lives as well.

          I, in no way, mean to exclude anyone with my examples. I’m just trying to speak to “guys like me,” and not point fingers at anyone else. I trust people to recognize for themselves when something is applicable to your personal life.

          But there’s a separate conversation to be had about gender on a macro-level, and I’m totally coming around to the idea that socialization has as much or more to do with “gender differences” as anything.

          Anyway. This was an awesome comment, Drew. Lots of super-smart stuff about how we perceive others through our dumbass, self-centered filters.

          Thank you for all of your contributions here, Drew. As you know, there aren’t a ton of guys out there who want to engage in this conversation. It’s a huge deal to me that you do.

          1. I love how you said “we perceive others through our dumbass, self-centered filters.”

            That at it’s core is the issue, and it’s crazy in some ways because OF COURSE WE DO. We only know what’s in our heads. We only know our own wants and needs, insecurities and pains.

            We have no real visibility into anyone elses heads, and I think that’s why people have such a hard time when things happen that cause the image we formed of the other person to break down. They aren’t who we thought they are.

            In reality, that could be a good thing. That could be an opportunity to get beyond our own interpretations of them and try to find out who they truly are.

            Due to the hurt though, we often don’t. Instead we shut down, and walk away.

            But until we start to accept that there are other ways to look at things, other ways to interpret things and that our way isn’t necessarily the right or the only way, the issues will just persist in any subsequent relationships.

            That’s why I hate to give up, and can be a bit stubborn about trying to make existing relationships better.

    2. I don’t know how it works for guys but as I approach 40 I can say that I’ve had a handful of conversations with other women close in age (many older) that have revealed not knowing who they are; what they want and I can completely identify with them. I eluded to mid-life-crisis as a possible reason for my current marital situation and no one responded. Maybe because it’s cliche or maybe no one cared enough to chime in. Either way – I’m bringing it up again because when I think of those conversations I can’t help but tie it into what you’ve just said ZDrew.

      “We only know what’s in our heads. We only know our own wants and needs, insecurities and pains.”

      But what if we don’t? I mean, what if after years of being a wife and mother and employee and sister and girlfriend and daughter and whatever else we’ve been we honesty have no damn clue what we want, much less what we need, what we are insecure about and why and if we are, in fact, in pain? What if this is just how you’re supposed to feel after 40 years of life?

      I can totally see how folks like me, free of the day-to-day nonsense of being a mom can look at their biggest kid and think “Is it time to push you out of the nest too?” because the pipe dream of finding ourselves again is as soothing as it is scary but you know what is even scarier than that? Taking care of a man-child all the rest of the days of our lives. At least it is for me.

      1. Hi Deanna,

        what I meant was that we can only tell about what is going on in our own heads and not in others. But…

        You bring up a whole bunch of other really important stuff about midlife-crisis – which I believe is often a form of identity crisis due to the different roles we play over the years and a sense that we have lost “ourself”. I have a lot of thoughts on that topic – more than I can really get into here. I do think the pressures on women with family/jobs/marriages etc often lead to them sacrificing too much of themselves in a belief that it is what is best and what is expected of them, and that often around mid-life they wake up one day and kind of go “what about me? when you take away the different roles I play, who exactly am I?”. And when this happens there is often a sense of loss that can cause marriages that are otherwise quite strong to fail.

        I have actually written fairly extensively on this over the past few years, and have a few posts coming down the pipe on this very topic. It’s bad blog etiquitte to try and promote my own stuff on Matts site, but if you are interested in specific posts send me a message and I can point you to some posts you may (or may not) find value in.

        1. It’s not bad blog etiquette with me, Drew. People should be reading things that entertain and/or interest and/or provide value for them.

          Since I’m such a turd about actively participating in your space, the least I can do is be a vehicle for you to show people who you are and what you write and think about.

          Please don’t ever feel uncomfortable sharing relevant links to your content here, Drew.

      2. I just put you in my Feedly reader. I’ll start following along…

        Originally, I thought my husband was having a MLC but after responding to your comment I realized I could very well be too. Thing is, it’s kind of exciting. I feel like I get a do-over and get to go back to the day before I “pissed pink” (my politically uncorrect way of describing the joy I felt finding out I was pregnant – I use the word ‘joy’ very loosely) only with more experience, money and baggage.

  18. I didn`t read the Hitler post because I don`t like when people use click baity titles to get people to read their posts.

    I recognized it for exactly what it was – a click baity title. If your article was as amazing and eye-opening and relatable as you (and others) obviously think it is, you wouldn`t have needed a click-bait title like that to draw attention to it.

    I don`t understand why you`re feeling the need to write a post justifying your post from yesterday or the use of the title? It`s your blog – you can write what you want. But you also need to just learn to accept when something backfires or doesn`t give you the results you here hoping for.

    No need to write a huge diatribe justifying or explaining yourself. For whatever reason (probably a number of reasons) your post didn`t perform as well as you wanted. That`s really all there is to it.

    I suspect a number of people simply chose not to comment because they`ve seen how you react to criticism or comments challenging your thoughts and opinions. A woman challenged you on a recent post about why you refer to men as “they” and you basically brushed her off with a “you’re just trying to start trouble – I can accept that.” No, she was asking you a question and expressing herself, maybe even offering you a bit of insight. You seem (from what I’ve read) not to respond very favourably to those who challenge or disagree with you.

    I’m divorced (have been for a long while) and I never plan to marry again because marriage just isn’t for me. My marriage ended because we were both assholes – not one more than the other. We were BOTH assholes who contributed to the total, utter train wreck that was our marriage. I was a shitty wife and he was a shitty husband. And it didn’t have anything to do with dishes or socks left lying next to the laundry hamper.

    I think it’s great that you’ve learned so much from your divorce and want to share it, but at the end of the day, you’re a guy who went through a divorce. You’re not some relationship guru or counselor or anything of the sort. You’re a man whose marriage failed.

    You want to share your experiences and lessons learned, that’s great. But when a post that you think is so utterly brilliant that it should break the internet doesn’t perform well, just let it go and write something else.

    1. At the risk of being interpreted as “responding unfavorably”…

      1. I think calling the headline “clickbait” is a bit like how most people don’t know what the word empathy means. Clickbait earned its name enticing people to click on web pages to increase ad revenue, and by failing to deliver on a headline’s promise. I don’t want anything from anyone. And I didn’t think it would “break the internet” or that it was “brilliant.” I thought it was IMPORTANT, because I have very recently come to believe that when you keep digging further down the levels of human behavior in relationships, the foundational thing that can make the biggest difference for who makes it and who doesn’t is empathy. And I think guys need to get what that is before they can do it. I think guys think empathy is an emo feeling, rather than something we do. Using shitty Hitler’s name was the most extreme person I could think of to challenge that assumption.

      2. Deanna asked me why I referred to men as “they,” and I didn’t brush it off. I changed them all to “We” because I agreed with her, and I accused her of causing trouble because she DOES intentionally cause trouble. She’s a well-intentioned instigator, challenger of the status quo, and wants me to write stuff that actually helps people, so she calls me out when she thinks it can be better.

      3. I didn’t feel the need to write a diatribe yesterday. I simply wanted to. And as you’ve reminded me that I can write whatever I want here, I’m surprised you’d discourage me from doing so.

      You said I don’t respond favorably to disagreement or challenges. That’s certainly true from time to time. I’m overly defensive and quick to say why.

      I care about the things I write here. I don’t do it for compensation (this blog is a financial negative for me, yet the thing that gets most of my energy).

      I do it because I like to write and I really want other married dads to not lose their wife and kids.

      Wednesday’s post wasn’t designed to “break the internet,” (and I’m wholly discouraged you think I’m that cocky). It was designed to share something really important to married dads who love their families and don’t necessarily recognize the danger they might lose them.

      It’s not brilliant. But it does matter.

      1. I am well aware of why you write, as I mentioned in my comment. I think it`s commendable that you want to share your experiences and maybe prevent others from suffering the same fate as you.

        I expected your sarcasm (“at the risk of responding unfavourably”) and that’s kind of what I’m talking about. You can argue the definition of click-bait with me all you want. You did want something from people – you wanted them to read your post and comment on it, provide feedback, share with you, etc. No, you weren’t asking for money or anything, but you certainly were expecting something from readers. Then when you didn’t get it, you wrote a post in defence of your use of that headline AND used a title in which you accused readers of not understanding you (for the same reason couples divorce).

        I don’t truly know if you’re cocky because I don’t know you in real life. But I’ve read enough of your blog to be able to state that I do think you come off as cocky at times. You’re not an expert on failed marriages just because yours failed.

        I’m divorced and don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. People ask me what it was like, I tell them (it really wasn’t that big of a deal for me, though I accept for some people, it is) and then I say, “But that’s just my take on it, take or leave it.”

        Marriages fail for a variety of reasons. In my case, I enjoy reading your epiphanies and your observations, but they don’t resonate me because my marriage failed for its own reasons, none of which have much to do with the reasons yours failed. I can’t relate, but I do enjoy reading about what you’ve learned on your journey.

        I also disagree with much of your viewpoint on men and empathy. I know plenty of men who are empathetic (way more empathetic than I am, for sure!). As much as men need to learn it, there are plenty of women out there who could stand a lesson on empathy too, especially when it comes to their relationships with other women.

        Empathy is a two way street and when it isn’t, there’s bound to be a problem in any relationship.

        I wasn’t trying to start an argument or put you down, I was simply explaining why I chose to steer clear of your post, regardless of how well-intended and meaningful the message was.

        1. All of that is quite fair.

          I don’t react when people disagree with me. I react when I perceive something as being unfair.

          Only I can know my intentions. When I feel they are misunderstood or misrepresented, it feels unfair (and maybe that’s a flawed way to walk through life, but that’s my honest take).

          I don’t mind if you think I’m cocky. Frankly, every single post for the first two years I wrote here had at least one person say “Oh Matt, you’re too hard on yourself! You need to be kind to yourself!” so it’s actually a little refreshing.

          You’re right. We don’t know each other, so you have no way of knowing whether I’m cocky. Humility in a virtue I deeply admire and aspire to, and believe people think of me that way, but who knows. If you think it, others do too.

          I might use the word “confident,” or maybe “empowered.”

          I’m not confident because of my brain, like I think my thoughts are so amazing.

          I’m confident because I have MOUNTAINS of emails and blog comments and conversations and book content that all forms this puzzle in my brain, and I think this puzzle provides a reasonably clear picture of how the average guy in the average marriage messes up (just like me.)

          I know women cause relationship problems and have room for growth. I promise I know.

          I mostly stick to writing for men because I think it’s way out of line for me to pretend I know what it’s like to be a wife and/or mother. I do not.

          I know what it’s like to be a guy who dicked up his marriage accidentally. And then I’ve spent more time than 95% of other people learning about why, and I really want to share it with people.

          My parents split when I was 4. It was hard for me.

          One of my parents’ second marriages ended right before my son was born. It was hard for me.

          My wife and I split when my son was 4. It nearly killed me. I’m not exaggerating.

          I don’t think enough people in the world sit around thinking about how to improve their relationships, and I don’t think enough people give credit to just how critical our relationships are to Whether Life Sucks, or Is Awesome.

          Bad relationships make life unpleasant across the board. Good relationships change EVERYTHING.

          I know I’m just some asshole nobody. Fully aware.

          But an asshole nobody can reach other asshole nobodies sometimes because asshole nobodies typically find Super Smart Somebodies to be “not like me.”

          I beg you to believe that I believe the following:

          I DON’T MATTER.

          But the things I write about? Short of Meaning of Life subject matter, I don’t think anything is more important.

          Anyway, you’re more than entitled and welcomed to challenge me, disagree with me, call me a stupid asshole, whatever. And I apologize if my reactions bother you. You wouldn’t be the first person to say that to me.

          I have little problem with criticism.

          I just usually get defensive when I feel the truth is getting lost within it.

          I hope you have a great day and weekend. It was cool of you to write back. Thank you for that.

      2. I can’t help but think so much of the (in my opinion, rather absurd and overcooked) sturm und drang around the title of the co-called clickbait post might have been mitigated had just a few qualifying words been added to the title: “Empathizing With Hitler (of All People)”.

        1. Right! Just one extra brain involved in publishing this stuff would go a very long way.

          This is why writers have editors.

    2. Ahem, I’d like to clarify. He did not brush me off. Matt & I are friends – outside of this blog – and he was right. I WAS stirring the pot. But sometimes his pot needs stirring because that is what friends do to keep each other on their toes – serving up a great game. I want Matt to succeed in his quest to help save shitty marriages. And his ability to humble himself and admit when he screws up goes a long way to demonstrate to other men (other people, really) that it really is okay to be wrong. To admit when you’re wrong. To see that lightening does not strike if and when you are wrong. So, I’m a little frustrated that your comment undermines exactly what so many of us value in his writing; in him as a person.

      1. I wouldn’t really have any way of knowing that the two of you are friends, I’m only commenting based on what I read. He called you a pot-stirrer because you challenged him. That’s all I saw because I don’t know the intricacies of your relationship with him.

        Now I know your friends and that’s cool. But as someone on the outside looking in, it seemed like he was in defence-mode, again, because someone challenged something he wrote.

        My comment isn’t meant to undermine, especially since Matt is clear from the get-go that he knew his title would probably offend some and steer others away.

        Yes, he did admit he was wrong, but then uses a title that suggests that the readers who stayed away are guilty of not understanding him. I don’t much care to understand someone who uses a title like that to drive readers to (or away from, in this case) a post.

        Matt’s quest to save marriages is a noble one, for sure. I think it’s great that his posts resonate with so many people and even if one marriage is saved from the lessons learned through his writing, then he’s done what he set out to do.

        I’m not questioning that. Not at all.

        1. Shit… one more clarification before I totally shut off my defenseness for today (or until the very next time I get defensive in a few minutes)…

          The dumb “Hitler” headline was NOT the impetus for me writing that post. The primary trigger was Lisa’s comment from an earlier post (which it turns out I ALSO misinterpreted a bit) calling into question my use of Men Do This, and Women Do That talk.

          I get defensive about that because I think it’s a highly effective tool for helping men get their heads in the right place about healthy communication wtih their wives.

          Sometimes, people think me doing that is me perpetuating sexism, and I’m not inclined to take that accusation silently.

          To be clear, Lisa didn’t even come close to accusing me of sexism.

          But her question made me remember all the times people did accuse me of it when that “dishes” post was getting mountains of feedback.

          So, anyway. This wasn’t supposed to be about the “Hitler” headline, or about any one thing in particular.

          I just kind of wing all this shit, and sometimes people care, and sometimes they don’t.

          I didn’t think the “Hitler” post (and the fact that I’m calling it that demonstrates what a shitty headline idea that was) performed below my expectations because I thought it was going to be popular.

          I thought it performed below expectations because I know how many people usually read and/or engage with posts normally, and that one was the least-read and least-engaged post in quite some time.

          The use of a horrible person’s name in the headline is probably why.

          Moving forward, I’ll likely exercise more prudence and wisdom when choosing headlines. One hopes, anyway.

      2. I suppose this is a prime example of two people experiencing the exact same thing and coming to completely different conclusions. Context is key, as you’ve pointed out. I laughed when I read his response to my comment – a comment that was sincere, I really was asking him if he felt superior to or no-longer-like the men I know for a fact he’s trying to reach. My pot stirring is always intentional and valid. I’m not a pot stirrer for the sake of pot stirring. So I appreciate your sincere response here as well. My point is, though, that you’re going to read what’s written here (or anywhere else for that matter) through your own filter of experience. Regardless of his intention, you’re going to see it through jaded eyes. We all are to some extent. I’m curious, knowing you disagree with what he’s writing as you’ve pointed our yourself, why you bother coming back?

      3. I just told Lisa Gottman that I feel like a ten pound bag of shit for how I’ve probably come off to her in the past. Well, make that a twenty pound bag after reading this. I don’t pretend to understand the virtue of how you speak to Matt–it’s certainly a more acidic tone than I would tend to gravitate toward–but it clearly works for the both of you. Sorry for my earlier words that you don’t seem to hold Matt’s opinion in high regard; it will help me immeasurably going forward now that I understand that you are friends and know each other outside of these forum walls.

        Still gonna call you out on pot-stirring, though. (*blows raspberry, then runs out of the room*)

      4. Feel free Travis – I welcome the call-outs. It keeps me from getting too high on myself. Acidic…that’s a new one. I’ve been called much worse. Listen, there are plenty of people here injecting Mr. Fray with oodles of sugary sweet accolades – he needs a dose of acid to balance that out from time to time. He knows it comes from a place of respect which is why he has no issue dishing it right back or ignoring me completely. Yesterday, for the first time, my husband read through this site and you know what? He didn’t read Matt’s post at all. Instead, he read all the comments and it was only a few seconds into the first he started shaking his head in agreement and then (although he complained of the many times he had to scroll down on the screen) he finished reading them all. The only negative thing he had to say was “you guys are all too long winded” but I’ll take that.

        As far as how I take Matt’s tone – I think he has so much more to offer. He’s only scratched the surface. I don’t want him to get stuck here – in a comfortable spot rehashing the same thing over and over and over. I respond to him in a way that I hope pushes him to think beyond himself and uncover the deeper messages he’s yet to convey. I think as helpful as his writing has been thus far, we haven’t even begun to see what he’s capable of.

      5. “The only negative thing he had to say was ‘you guys are all too long winded’ but I’ll take that.”

        LMAO! You know, my wife’s said the exact same thing the handful of times she’s looked around here. But that beautiful balloon never rises up high without a lot of hot air getting blown, ya know?

  19. So when you had your bookstore epiphany what exactly was going on in your marriage? Were the divorce papers filed? Had ‘she’ already moved on? I know you go to great lengths not to tell your ex-wive’s side of the story here but in context, I do believe it would serve your cause to help us know how we can prepare to navigate the waters ahead by understanding the conditions of the storm you were in. I’m not asking for details – just an overall report on the weather at the time.

    Here, in this post, you give a clear picture of what you did after that ‘aha’ moment as it pertains to what ultimately became MBTTTR. All of the frustration I’ve displayed in the comments here and in our personal exchanges comes back to “okay, but what did YOU do. What did Matt do, the shitty husband – not the cool blogger, once he’d had his revelation of supreme shittiness.

    What I’ve never asked but really, honestly think is so beneficial to “the rest of the story” is, then, what did ‘she’ do in response?

    Because, if you realized there was something to be done to save your marriage I want to know why you didn’t do it. Or, if you did I want to know if the efforts were rejected. Obviously, if that’s the case I’ll never know why but that’s okay. See, I do believe that I can speak for the majority of the women readers here when I say we come here initially because we need to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

    While it’s nice to know what you think (because it’s in line with what we think and that’s how, my friend, you accidentally get the wives you never meant to reach on your side) the main reason “my husband is a shit guy” ranks #1 in your search result isn’t because we need another person to agree with us.

    We are desperately trying to figure out our next move.

    So, it’d be really helpful to know what yours was when you were at the exact same pivotal point in time.

    (and if I’m way off base and none of the rest of the chicks ’round here think like me – so be it – but you might help save ONE marriage (mine) by responding sincerely)

    1. For context, this blog used to read like a real-time journal, and all of this stuff was discussed in great detail. I’ve told the story 50 times. So that’s why I don’t really get into that anymore. It’s like an “old news” thing to me.

      But let me try to answer your question as concisely as my wordy little brain will allow.

      We were married in 2004 after dating three years and knowing each other for seven.

      Everything was mostly cool because we’re both pretty good, pretty smart, pretty kind people.

      But we fought sometimes as husbands and wives do. I did all the typical Husbands Often Do This stuff you’re reading about now in that book, and she did all the typical Wives Often Do That stuff in response.

      There are two levels to that. The actual behavior. Things I did and said, and things she did and said. And how we responded emotionally to those things. I withdrew guilt-and-shame style because it seemed like she was never happy, and she grew resentful and colder because I had totally abandoned her emotionally inside of our marriage.

      It got worse when we had a baby. There was PPD, and I was both ignorant and insensitive to it.

      And it BROKE when we lost her father a couple of years later.

      It was totally textbook. The book you’re reading, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, absolutely NAILED it, right down to the loved one dying and triggering the final blow.

      Our relationship had been on life support. She knew it, but I didn’t.

      Then she had to grieve an ENORMOUS personal loss while living with a husband she didn’t feel was capable of supporting her or could be trusted with her emotional wellbeing. I had repeatedly, for several years, demonstrated an inability to be present with her, to put her first, and to empathize.

      A month later, she told me over dinner that she didn’t love me or want to be married anymore.

      I moved into the guest room and pouted for months. Eventually the pain and discomfort at home mounted enough where it was time for me to take some kind of action. I needed to “solve” the problem. In my search for solutions, I read books and articles, and had conversations that changed my fundamental beliefs about myself, about marriage, about what love is, and about what it takes to make marriage last forever.

      I felt I was a new man, and I wanted to demonstrate it. I started doing the Love Dare challenges without talking to her about it. A series of daily challenges designed to help a partner actively love his/her spouse without the expectation of being rewarded or receiving anything in return.

      I was, quite classically and typically, doing the emergency Super Husband Mode thing after she had long-ago emotionally checked out (because it took her emotionally checking out for me to recognize the gravity of the situation).

      This is what MOST divorces (featuring two people who accidentally drive one another apart, despite wanting — philosophically — to stay married) look like.

      What I didn’t understand is that she was already gone. She was patiently sticking around to see if the emotional part of love would magically return one day. OF COURSE that was never going to happen but she (nor I) had any way of knowing that at the time.

      Eventually, she made the choice to leave, as most wives do after being apathetic, non-affection roommates with their spouse for close to two years.

      Guys say: “But I’ll change!!!” all the time to try to keep his girlfriend or wife, but then he never actually changes. Guys have Boy-Who-Cried-Wolfed their partners too many times, and there was no compelling reason for my wife to believe that if she stayed, it wouldn’t feel as horrible as it had felt for the previous few years.

      So, she made the move, which I’ve learned is the vastly more common scenario than what it appears you might be doing, Deanna.

      Asking yourself questions and rethinking your relationship.

      If that’s really what’s happening, I’ll look forward to talking with you more about it.

      I’m curious to learn what you’ve read that triggered your sudden reconsideration about your marriage.

      Because whatever information did that is some powerful, powerful shit, and I want to familiarize myself with it. Please and thank you.

      1. Because I know people are following this exchange and because I know they can’t possibly know the details behind my story I’ll redundantly share that I was in this situation once – when I left my husband in 2008 – in exactly the same manner your wife left you. First, emotionally and then physically. So I’m tracking with your story right up until the last couple of paragraphs. With exception of one part I can absolutely put myself in her shoes and honestly thought while reading “Okay, so he was Dave”. The part I got hung up on was: “…to see if the emotional part of love would magically return one day. OF COURSE that was never going to happen but she (nor I) had any way of knowing that at the time.”

        Why of course? Are you saying that magic never happens? Because even if it takes a whopping 7 effing years to come to fruition I’m proof that it can happen.

        Maybe it didn’t look like magic at the time (you know, overworked single mom trying to prove herself in a man’s world of her own choosing meets great guy she rejects and then never hears from again because you know – he died) but I really do see it for the divine intervention that it was. And so as I sit here, 6 years later, divorce papers spread around me, I can’t help but wonder how the hell I got back HERE again.

        And your posts help me see it, somewhat, from the other side. While I can see Dave in you there are a lot of things he is that you aren’t so I won’t ask you to try to speak to things you know nothing of. But I am so very grateful that you’re willing and able to share what you can and do. And it’s awesome that you take my questions (even when I’m not being the nicest person when I’m asking them) seriously.

        To answer your question – it wasn’t that I read anything. Although I am the one who filed for divorce again I’m not the one who wants it. I’m just tired of pulling his puppet strings and knew he wasn’t going to pull the trigger himself. Talk about being conflicted. What happened since last we spoke is that I shared some information with him that caused him to fire his attorney. That opened up a line of communication that had been severed. On one hand I could totally take advantage of him (emotionally, financially) and probably be justified in doing so. On the other, maybe what I think he wants me to do but is too yellow bellied to do it himself isn’t what he wants at all. I’m not clairvoyant. But I’m tired.

        The rethinking comes from settling in between this rock and hard place knowing what my life was like the last time I was in your ex-wive’s shoes. Now I know that I wasn’t really any happier there than I am here. And that makes me a little more intentional in my moves.

      2. One of the things I have come to believe about long term relationships is that sometimes the “feelings” of love do go away. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship needs to fail, or the love is gone.

        I know love is supposed to “feel” great, but I think there’s a hell of a lot more to it than feelings. This is one of the areas that I think a focus on happiness does so much harm to people. You won’t always feel happy. You won’t always feel loving.

        Life has a way of getting in the way of those feelings sometimes. And things like anxiety disorders and depression (which 20-25% of the population experience) can get in the way of these feelings.

        It’s a crappy spot for both people, and requires treading carefully. But I think almost as many marriages are lost due to misinterpreting the causes behind lost feelings as there are due to all the other communication issues we talk about in these pages.

    2. ZDrew – I concur. I’m sure this will be another “I’m just not like the rest of them” example but in my situation I’ve never had feelings for my husband – not in the “I love you” context. And yeah, a lot of people are going to think “well why in the heck did you marry him at all – nevermind twice – if you didn’t love him??”

      So I think it’s fair to acknowledge that 1) Not everyone agrees on what ‘love’ is 2) Not everyone makes decisions based on their heart and feelings – sometimes doing the ‘right’ thing comes into play and 3) Sometimes smart people do stupid shit. It is what it is.

      The fact of the matter is that we are here – regardless how we got here – and now a decision has to be made. Since it’s inevitable that we aren’t going to remain here forever where do we go next and do we go there together. That’s where my rethinking comes in. I guess I’m grateful that in WI there’s a mandatory 90 day ‘cooling off’ period before the divorce can progress. When I divorced him in IL it was done – start to finish – in 3 days. We seriously heard the gavel hit the block, looked at each other and said “what do you want to do for dinner?” To say we weren’t prepared to be divorced is an understatement.

      My situation is so different than I imagine most of the folks reading here have experienced. For as long as I’ve known my husband we’ve had a kid. We never dated. I only know him in the context of ‘man that helped me raise my child’ and now that our kid is leaving the nest we have to decide if we like each other. And we don’t have anything to base it on because we never knew each other before moving in and playing mom & dad together.

      Part of that revelation is frightening. To fully realize you’ve spent the majority of 18 years sleeping next to a complete stranger (albeit, quite competent business partner) is emotionally overwhelming. But part of it is liberating. To know that at 39 years old you have the opportunity to finally meet the man beneath the “Super Dad / Super Provider” facade – there’s something very intriguing about that.

      And yeah, I guess I’m all woman when I think of the latter. What if this guy is actually everything I’ve ever wanted in a man but didn’t know I had under my roof the entire time? What if he always could have been my perfect match but my overbearing need to be right and in control pushed him further into hiding? Of course there’s the totally realistic chance he’s going to wind up being the sucky, non-communicative, boring and seemingly lazy dude I bitch about to my mom and girlfriends and pretty much anyone who will listen these days and stalling the pending divorce actions would just prolong the inevitable.

      As Matt’s pointed out people who are married are probably the kind of people who value relationships and since I’m married – twice – it’s a pretty safe bet I’m going to want to be in a relationship should this one end. So, maybe I’m stupid or naive or lazy in thinking that maybe it’s not as much work to fix this one as it would be to start over completely with someone new. I no longer believe, as I did at the conclusion of our first marriage, that I’ll “find someone better”. All I know is that there’s a lot to be said about a guy who marries a girl he hardly knows because she’s pregnant. When he finds out that their child probably isn’t even his and chooses to stay – that says a lot about his character. And after she walks out on him because she’s bound and determined to do it on her own he’s there – many years later willing to give it another shot?

      Dude is either some kind of crazy or some kind of awesome. I just don’t know which yet.

      1. I want to hug you so much for this. Thank you:

        “As Matt’s pointed out people who are married are probably the kind of people who value relationships and since I’m married – twice – it’s a pretty safe bet I’m going to want to be in a relationship should this one end. So, maybe I’m stupid or naive or lazy in thinking that maybe it’s not as much work to fix this one as it would be to start over completely with someone new. I no longer believe, as I did at the conclusion of our first marriage, that I’ll “find someone better”.

      2. Hopefully it’s clear that I’m not a big fan of traditional gender roles, and I see strengths and flaws in the ways that both men and women are socialized.

        I believe in love, commitment, monogamy and all that stuff. And it’s a big part of what I espouse in my personal philosophies. I think one of the biggest failings people make in relationships is taking each other for granted over time, and not doing enough to continue to nurture and grow the relationship. So a bit part of that to me is trying to keep the romance alive.

        *gasp*, yeah, I said it. I’m a guy who wants some romance in his life. And I don’t always want to be the one to have to provide it. I see it as an equal responsibility for men AND women to keep it alive in their relationships.

        Now here’s a gender based pet peeve of mine (if it makes sense, great ,if not ignore accordingly)…

        I think women are often sold a VERY broken notion of what romance and love is. And I think some of the things sold in romance movies/novels/tv etc is both unrealistic and unsustainable. It’s sold to men too I guess, but often the main demographic for this stuff is women.

        Anyhow, the reason I mention this ties to my earlier comment. We don’t all experience that fuzzy “in love” feeling, but commonly people do in the early stages of relationships. And when it starts to fade, people often start to say – hey, what’s wrong? I’m not “feeling” in love anymore? I guess that means somethings wrong with my relationships. I guess I don’t love him/her anymore. Especially when billy the pool boy over there can still get my heart aflutter (or Jill the pool girl if you prefer). If I am feeling that kind of stuff about the pool boy/girl but not my partner of many years, then I guess the love is gone.

        And because people have these thoughts, then start to withdraw, and disconnect. And then the relationships really IS in trouble.

        Love has many different forms, and evolves over time. Yeah, it would be great if my partner and I still went at it like we did when we were 20. But life is different, and we are different. Kids get in the way, as do jobs, and responsibilities in general. That sucks, and I definitely have times that I miss the old days. And yes, we both can and should do things to keep the passion alive so we don’t feel like we’re just roommates. But when that’s harder to do, it doesn’t mean something is wrong or that the love is gone.

      3. I’ll tell you what I know to be true. If you don’t respect me out in the living room, I will reject you in the bedroom. Every. Single. Time. Once women outgrow the Disney-based notion of being swept off of their feet they come to realize that their husband actually SWEEPING the floor beneath their feet is hot. Of course you’re not going to do it the way she’d do it but if you picked up the broom and did it of your own accord? That’d put some fuzzy feelings into her head. I don’t know where men have gotten the notion that women are hard to please because every single married woman I know wants the same thing – appreciation.

        That’s it. Not diamonds, not pearls, not trips around the world. Appreciation. Sincere, thank you for bending over backwards and doing all of the little things that I never see and can’t even begin to realize get done on my behalf and for my benefit, my lovely wife. Thank you for putting yourself last, every time, so that the rest of us are taken care of. Thank you for the time and energy and effort you spend on learning new things or trying new things or giving up things for the greater good of our family. Of course you don’t have to say all of that – it’d be nice but she’d be overjoyed with a simple Thank You.

        Hell, I’m willing to bet you could get away with a a glass of wine/beer, a chocolate bar and a foot rub – no talking involved. So long as the sentiment was sincere. Maybe it’s because it sounds too easy that most guys won’t believe it’s true – she doesn’t really need a grand, sweeping motion on her husband’s part – just a smidge of actual movement in the right direction is enough to get the romance bus moving again.

      4. Hi Deanna,

        You mention “Once women outgrow the Disney-based notion of being swept off of their feet they come to realize that their husband actually SWEEPING the floor beneath their feet is hot. Of course you’re not going to do it the way she’d do it but if you picked up the broom and did it of your own accord? That’d put some fuzzy feelings into her head.”

        My experience (both personal and secondary) is, that’s not actually true. That may be true to women who’s husbands/partners are the type that doesn’t really help out much. But for those who do consistently help out? As Matt has written about, due to hedonic adaptation over time the wife is just as guilty of taking things for granted as the husband. When someone doesn’t really help out, people notice when they do. When they consistently help out, it becomes the norm – and it stops being noticed.

        We’re all guilty of it, so the fuzzy feelings need to come more from a recognition and appreciation of what we DO have, instead of a focus on what’s wrong or missing.

      5. Don’t get bogged down with the detail of what I said, hear the overall message. Appreciation goes a long way. We women aren’t looking to be rescued, we don’t need men to save us. We want help and we don’t want to have to ask for it repeatedly. A partner who is paying attention should be able to anticipate the other’s needs. And if they can’t then they should at least be open to inquiring within. The other party shouldn’t maneuver covertly and should be open to dialoguing their needs as well. When that happens? When two adults who willingly entered into marriage behave like committed adults? That’s when fuzzy feelings return and flourish. The minutia means very little.

      6. Zombiedrew2, I actually found it very touching that you also want to have romance provided for you. Because of nature/(or mostly nurture as I usually believe), men and women often express different needs in a relationsip (although I think the men-always-want-sex-women-don’t is largely a myth). Part of the work is to accept this, for sure, and individuals of any gender are so different in their various needs. But really, I think it’s nice when a man shares the stereotypically feminine need for romance. That he would like to have someone buy him pretty flowers just because, that he wants a sweet note left in his backback or whatever.

        Ok, I don’t remember exactly what or where, but I believe it was somewhere in the giant emotional labour thread that went something like this (sorry if I’m wrong, but I think the point is still valid): Women can be partial to gay love stories and gay porn for this reason: We want to believe that intimacy matters to you, that if women weren’t around you’d still express love, you’d still be interested in human intimacy.

      7. Donkey said,

        “Because of nature/(or mostly nurture as I usually believe), men and women often express different needs in a relationsip (although I think the men-always-want-sex-women-don’t is largely a myth).”

        Boy, I’m right there with you, Donkey. That’s the one common male/female stereotype that’s always rung completely hollow to me. My reasons are totally anecdotal, I’ll grant, but I’ve had five sexual partners in my life (less because of any freakish, Conan O’Brien-level unattractiveness and more because, even as a teen, I’ve always been wired to pursue long-term relationships) and only one of them demonstrated stereotypical “not tonight, honey, I’ve got a headache” female cold-fishery. The other four, pretty consistently, were rabid clothes shredders*. It’s easy for me to see how a wife’s sex drive might evaporate if she begins to perceive her husband as just another kid she has to pick up after, but I staunchly believe that many (most?) women’s natural sex drive is every bit a man’s equal. Quite possibly moreso.

        * Yeah, I know y’all are wondering so, yes, you can breathe easy on my behalf; my wife is one of the four. In fact, she pretty much dominates that category of women in my life. Frankly, I’m just hanging on for dear life most of the time.

        1. I’m with you, Travis. COMPLETELY hollow.

          I think when wives feel “seen” and “heard.”

          She is acknowledged for all she gives and does. She is shown respect in word and deed. She has 100% trust that she sits at the very top of his My Life Priorities list (balanced with children and faith-oriented things, as is appropriate to each individual)… and quite importantly… that she feels desired and pursued… there would seem to be little measurable difference in drive between the genders.

          Thanks for the laugh at the end there. Good stuff.

  20. Lovely lady Lisa G:

    1. You killed it with your 11 point and 10 point summary of…all the things. Excellent!

    2. Thank you for saying that you think I’m good at communicating with respect and empathy while stille saying researchy-stuff! I do think I succeed sometimes, but I have my share of comments here that I definitely feel were too snarky or harsh. My rude mouth got me in too much trouble when I was younger, so I learned to bite it hard. I think a lot of what I said/how I said it came off as condescending, and I believe I still come off that way sometimes. Probably especially when I’m triggered. Frankly, to some extent I try to avoid people who piss me off too much (or else keep the relationship as superficial as possible), but of course, people close to us will usually trigger us a lot. 🙂 I think I employ some of that filtering here to, if I don’t feel I can be polite enough, I don’t write anything (although as I said, the filtering isn’t perfect).

    As for being a know-it-all. Boy howdy. I was that kid that sat (almost) in front of the class, raising my hand all the time and asking and answering questions non stop. It’s a miracle I didn’t get beat up (although I did meet my share of social sanctioning for being/appearing brainy, ugh).

    3. I think you’re a great communicator! I don’t understand why you’re so self deprecating about it at all. You’re clear, intelligent and polite. Your communication is great!

    If I may be very honest? Once or twice I have felt that a comment of yours seemed a bit know-it-all-y. But honestly? I’VE FELT THAT ABOUT MANY COMMENTS HERE, INCLUDING MY OWN. It just happens sometimes, and it has a lot to do with what each person feels triggerd by. It’s almost like, move along, nothing to see here. We all get cranky sometimes, and we all come across as a know-it-all every now and then. No biggie. I hope I’ve been able to communicate this in a respectful and empathic way that makes it clear I do the same thing too. 🙂

    I do think feedback that we come across as know-it-alls can have some truth in it. Yes, sometimes there’s some of potential growth there (and I speak from experience, still working on this). But I also think that a lot of it has to do with shaming theoretically/academically intelligent people, especially women, who express themselves clearly and confidently. It’s not a crime to have an informed opinion and express it, and it’s not a crime to have an informed opinion and express it and a vagina. To the degree that that is the problem people are having, well…. they’re wrong. They are. To the degree that that is the problem, the growth for you would in fact be to know on both an emotional and intellectual level that they are wrong, and to be able to live with the fact that many people are shitty and wrong in this aspect, but they still think they’re right. (Did I just express myself too know-at-all-y-there? Oopsie. If you, dear reader who may or may not be Lisa, wouldn’t react negatively if I were a man saying this, then the oopsie probably belongs to you, hehehe)

    4. I think it’s VERY shitty how people have told you that you’re too “thinking” and that that somehow means you don’t care about your relationship?! WTF?! How can someone come to that conclusion when you’re spending SO much time learning about how to have a good relationship with your hubby?! That is beyond me. It’s not true! I would understand it if you were too focused on this, to the detriment of almost everything else. Like, the stereotypical man who feels that he works so hard to make money for his family that he doesn’t have to do anything else (housework, quality time, affection etc). Simlarly, if everyhing you were doing were to read theory to the point where you were neglecting your part of the shared work, not showing love in other meaningful ways, then that would be a problem. But I don’t believe that’s the case at all!

    5. I’m an INFJ, also a rare type. Though I do have to say, I really think we ought to take the Myers Briggs types, and every other type of category people invent, with a grain of salt. Sure it can be useful, but no category is perfect. And I say that as someone who feels (embarassingly) attached enough to “my” type that I don’t want to take the test again in case I get another result. :p

    We’re all different. Some people are practical, some are creative, some are thinking, some are feeling. It takes all kinds! It’s great that you’re a nerdy fact lover! It’s just great. Where would this world be without you guys?! Further back, that’s for sure. Maybe we’d still perform lobotomy to heal depression or whatever. Don’t let the action-people or the touchy-feely types tell you that their way is better. It’s not. On behalf of the “F”s, let me apologize for the insensitivity and self-centeredness “we”‘ve showed you. We ought to know better!

    I get the “you think too much” too. And I get the “you feel too much, you’re too sensitive”, (I’m guessing some of the last kind of comments come from “T”s. ;)). Sometimes it’s true, I neglect other important parts of my life while I think and/or feel, and sometimes I’m just indulging anxious loops. But sometimes it’s just the way I am, which is just as valid as someone else’s way of being.

    Yes, I think a lot. I like learning academic and theoretical stuff. Yes, I feel deeply. Sometimes it’s a problem, but it’s pretty great too. I can see a tree (ok, sometimes I even hug it and I’m not joking) and I cry because it’s just so beautiful and I feel our (me and the tree’s and everything’s) common essence of Life and it’s miraculous. I have a rich dream life that can blow my mind at times (kind of sorry but not really for my lack of humbleness there). I have a lot of depth, which definitely often benefits people who want to talk about their shit with me. To some people all of my feels and dreams seem airy fairy and irrelevant, but they’re not.

    What I will say though, is that many if not all, would do well to incorporate just a LITTLE bit of their non-preferred way of operating into their lives. Not that you shouldn’t be an excellent nerdy fact lover, or that my step dad shouldn’t be fantastic at making all kinds of projects come to life, or that I should cut myself off from my feelings and rich inner life. But to use myself as an example, I can’t just spend my life hugging Brother/Sister tree, interpreting my dreams and reading interesting stuff. Sometimes I need to make a decision and DO something. Sometimes I need to assemble something from Ikea. Sometimes I need to deal with the facts of my external life, engage with my external life, and my prescious feels will just need to take the backseat for a little while. 🙂

    6. Quickly, the book Wandathefish recommends (Wifework) is supposed to include a lot of research that shows women are better at relationships (if i remember correctly, haven’t read it, sorry if I’m inaccurate Wanda and everyone).

    I have more comments to make on this post/some of the comments (a shocker, I know), but I need to go now (don’t want to, woe is me!).

    Thank you everyone, I learn so much here!

    1. Welcome back Donkey!

      I’m missed your comments!

      First, thanks for the kind words. I certainly do mean what ideas saying in terms of your good communication skills. And I absolutely KNOW that I come off as a know it all even when I don’t feel that way because of the way that I say things or write things. One of my efforts in writing comments is to learn what I’m doing and how to change it. Please, you’d be doing me a favor if you could point out when I come across this way. Because I am tone deaf to it and am trying to get objective feedback. I’m getting better I think but still a long way to go.

      As to Myers Briggs, I know it’s not what scientists use. As you know they use the big five. But MB has been helpful to me to help me finally understand why I just do not relate to many women. I just couldn’t understand why people don’t like talking about ideas or books or politics, I find “S” topics boring. Like the details of recipes or kids schools etc. And I soon came to realize that many people find my way of talking mind numbing boring an a waste of time.

      I couldn’t understand why so many people liked those Mars/Venus books because they just don’t describe me or my husband. But understanding that both of us are a tiny percentage of the population finally made it make sense. Oh, many, many people ARE like that. It was like my lightbulb moment. Because I used to hang out with people more like me at work and friends, I started to think we were the average.

      When I got engaged, I was thrust into “Pink World” where somehow I was supposed to do all the work gladly. When I had kids, I was thrust into “Mom World”. Here’s a good example of the thinking/feeling thing. I was going in for our first sonogram, I had been nauseous so I knew I was pregnant every second. When I saw his parents picture, I wasn’t filled with emotions because I already KNEW I was pregnant. A lot of my friends found that moving and to me it was a medical test. That’s what I mean when therapists tell me I think too much and am not emotional enough. Particularly as a woman.

      When my son was born, everyone kept telling me it was natural to be filled with these inborn maternal urges. I felt none of that. I loved him intellectually but was not filled with love “feelings”. It was not Post partum depression , that’s just how it works. I usually relate to the “father’s” point of view. Nobody expects them to be filled with “feelings”

      Anyway, of course, I love my kids. We are very affectionate and loving with them. It’s just not in the stupid Hallmark card way that I am told I must FEEL because I’m a woman. I am very typical of a woman emotionally its just how I process information that is unusual. I cry easily and often for example except when I’m mad which is how I am when therapists tell me I’m in my head too much because I like to read books. I get mad and tell them maybe they’re not in their heads enough and read a book instead of telling me a bunch of unscientific crap. Ok I don’t really tell them this because I’m trying to be more mature. But I do tell them that anger is an emotion and I’m feeling it now.

      So I must apologize for going off on “feelers”. Of course it’s not accurate to classify all “feeling” types with such a villainous brush. That’s my emotional response to stupid stuff I’ve been told. Many, many feelers are quite logical in the way I understand logic. You seem quite logical. I did peg you for an “N” person for sure. And the feelers that aren’t “logical” in the way I understand have their own legitimate way of making decisions.

      Ironically, my daughter is a “Feeler” and in that non logical way. It caused great problems in our relationship a couple of years ago and I had to really rethink everything to accept her as she is. That’s when I started teading personality books. To try and understand her better. So that I could fully accept her and love her. She’s a ESFP. Literally the opposite of me. Super extroverted. Omg. It’s friggin exhausting for me but I love her and I want her to feel loved for all her glorious ESFP ness.

      I have to leave in a few minutes to go to a Dance Mom meeting. If you knew me you would know how much I would rather be tortured and water boarded before being a Dance Mom. But there you go, that’s the definition of friggin adult love. Gotta be a Dance Mom! I was a Robotics mentor for my son, I understood that. A room filled with nerds who think too much. Nirvana! My people!

      So that why I studied Myers Briggs. To understand my daughters superpowers. And she’s awrsome! A force of nature really! She inspires me, because when she has a dream, she’s relentless. What an awesome superpower for a young woman, though challenging in a teenager ;). And then I used MB to understand my husbands INTP ways. J people I understand, they have definite opinions even if know it all pig headed opinions, P people see 15 different possible answers. Drives me crazy. But there you go adult love again. Just like being a friggin Dance Mom!

      Well too much rambling. Glad you’re back.

      1. So sweet of you to ask about me (aww, all the feels lol!).

        I’m so grateful for the story about your sonogram, and HOW you love your children. I am so sick of all the feeling-shaming in our society. You don’t have enough, they aren’t the right ones, you have too much etc. It’s so damaging. Ok, I may be an F, but I often find myself having the “wrong” feelings or none at all. I believe we’ve grown up with a very polarized way of thinking in society. Tere are good people and bad people. Bad people do not deserve love. Good people feel sad when their grandparents die. Good people are always happy for other people. Good moms are ecstatic about their sonograms and weep with joy on at least a weekly basis over how amazing her kids are. Of course the programming is more subtle than this. The more subtle, the more damaging and effective I believe it is.

        Little kiddo may feel “I know I should feel sad that grandpa died but I actually am happy that I don’t have to see him anymore because he was a bit scary and wouldn’t let me watch TV and I would rather stay home…but this is bad. I shouldn’t feel this. I am bad. No one must know”. And then kiddo perhaps start saying how very sad she/he is, to cover it up. And then other kiddos who feel something similar to what the first kiddo really feels, think they’re the only ones.

        And it just goes on and on. Adults who don’t squeal with joy over their babies existence now go through the same kind of reactions. We can reject the thinking, but that isn’t always enough to be FREE of the programming. People who aren’t constantly in love with their partners worry that they’re in a wrong relationship, they feel a lot of shame. Whenever we have a violent thought, we believe we’re deviants. Ugh! Sick of it! Sometimes a family member causes me (or rather triggers in me, to take responsibility) a lot of pain. Honestly, sometimes I wish they’d just die so that I would be free of the problems. There you go. There you go. Does this mean I’m an evil person, a violent psycho waiting to happen ? You know what, I don’t think so (To any concerned authorities, I’m not making plans or anything! Nothing to see here! I just have the thoughts sometimes, lol!) If people I’m bugging have these thoughts about me sometimes, that’s actually ok. I went to a workshop once where we had several rounds of people saying “no one can know that I…”, it was very freeing. 🙂 Someone I know who’s mother died admitted that she thought “Ugh, did she have to die exactly when I was on holiday so that I needed to cut it short?!” A perfectly nice, actually a very loving and generous individual.

        There’s a taboo in our society that says a man should never hit a woman. I agree, of course he shouldn’t! But if a man sometimes FEELS like he wants to give his partner that he’s having a frustrating fight with for the 10 000 time a bitch slap? You know what, I don’t think he’s necessarily a very damaged individual.

        I loved the point you made earlier that even though the superficial gender differences may be present in a relationship (he wants sex, she wants emotional connection), the DEEPER human need of having ones wants and needs respected and accomodated is the same. Thanks for articulating that!

        And asking if jgroeb were your mom made me laugh, hehehe. 8)

        Since you wish it, I actually can tell you if I read something you write that I feel come across as know-it-all-y. But please know that I really do think it depends so much on what each person is triggered by. I feel like I should ask you to do the same for me… but I don’t know if I can be bothered to be bothered when I do come across as know-it-all-y. :p

        If we know eachother in real life though, I would ask you to tell me when I’m dominating the conversation too much and being too self centered, and when I raise my voice (I often do that when I’m engaged, even if I’m not angry, I don’t think it’s very attractive ugh) too much. Do you live in the States? I’m in Europe. I know Wanda is from the UK, I sometimes toy with the idea of taking a trip and meeting up with her for a cup of afternoon tea and a chat, lol. If you’re somewhere in Europe too it wouldn’t necessarily be impossible for me to take a trip sometime in… the next decade, lol.

        Good luck at the Dance Mom meeting, boy howdy!

        1. Donkey, this is right on, and so rarely talked about. It’s one of the things I like most about being an older mom– it’s easier to resist the thoughts that “I must not hate my child, even as she is waking up saying ‘I’m hot’ for the third time in the middle of the night before I have a major presentation tomorrow!” This kind of self-policing of feelings and their expressions feeds alienation and anti- intellectualism. And it’s just as bad in feminist circles as elsewhere. Thanks for bringing it up.

      2. Thank you Ttravis! (I’m sorry for all my typos, I’m not from an English-speaking country, and even so I promise I do no better most of the time, lol, but there’s just so much I want to say and I often just can’t be bothered to proof read or check words I’m not sure about).

        The feminist thought police can be very strict for sure. Maybe you’re a feminist who likes keeping a nice home or looking stylish, or a feminist who like’s rough sex (yes I just said that) or anything else. Maybe you don’t want a demanding career and are happy that your partner earns more so you don’t have to stress about money. And all kinds of small and big things. Of course, many feminists are intelligent and mature people who are fine with human variation within whatever cultural conditions we’re living in, but many aren’t. Maybe you do want many of the traditional feminist things, but your relationship isn’t perfectly egalitarian and you face a lot of shaming for not being a good enough feminist.

        I don’t have kids, but the mommy thought police can be VERY strict too, it seems (though of course, many mothers are fighting against it). Sigh. For what it’s worth, I think it’s perfectly normal to hate your kids every now and then. :p I’m very glad if you’re able to not stress about any similar thoughts and feelings you may have. But this is one of the reasons I’m very ambivalent about kids. I don’t know if I could face all the external and especially internal pressure to be a good enough (which seems to mean nearly perfect and ever loving calm and happy) mother.

      3. Donkey,
        I do live in the States. That’s why I write labor instead of labour. Lol. I wish I was planning a European vacation to meet up with you and Wanda. How cool would that be? Maybe someday.

  21. Coming late to this post and this comment thread, but want to agree wholeheartedly with Lisa Gottman, ZDrew, and the Donkey and add:

    “Men and women are, of course, different. But they are not as different as day and night, earth and sky, yin and yang, life and death. In fact, from the standpoint of nature, men and women are closer to each other than either is to anything else – for instance, mountains, kangaroos, or coconut palms. The idea that men and women are more different from one another than either is from anything else must come from somewhere other than nature. . . Far from being an expression of natural differences, exclusive gender identity is the suppression of natural similarities. It requires repression: in men, of whatever is the local version of ‘feminine’ traits; in women, of the local definition of ‘masculine’ traits. The division of the sexes has the effect of repressing some of the personality characteristics of virtually everyone, men and women.” (Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women,” 1975)

    The “repression of natural similarities,” I’d argue, is what causes “the gender differences in relationship skills that cause divorces.”

    I think this is ultimately a more hopeful model that “biological,” “hard-wired,” or “caused-by-venus-and-mars” differences. Differences encoded at a cellular or planetary level are quite resistant to change– that’s why Gray’s book is basically an instruction manual to men on how to fake an interest in their wives’ mindless babble. But similarities that have been repressed can be recovered, worked with, and made productive. Matt– and many other commenters here– testify to that every day.

    1. Powerful book quote, Dr. Travis.

      While I’m in Ask-About-Books mode, Dr. T, will you please tell me which book you consider to be the holy grail, most-influential, and Absolute Truth as you see it, on gender?

      Because I’d like to read it.

      Nice to see you pop in! Hope you’re well.

      1. Honestly, most of what I know about gender I learned from reading Archie comic books in junior high, smoking pot in high school, and listening to the Replacements in college. The rest is all details.

    2. Travis,

      That is a brillant comment! I think it is so helpful to think of it as restoring what has been suppressed.

  22. Hi Matt,
    Forgive me if you’ve covered this topic in another post, but I would be interested in reading what you have to say about apologizing and why it is so difficult for some.
    Thank you!

    1. I would never try to write authoritatively about that. I would simply write why I sometimes had so much trouble with it.

      It will probably be super dishes-by-the-sinkish, but I think that could be a fun post.

      The bare-bones short answer (this is all guessing based on what I remember) is that husbands GENUINELY believe they’re “right” and their wives are “wrong.”

      It is HIGHLY uncomfortable and counterintuitive to apologize for things for which we are not sorry.

      If I do something I think is innocent and perfectly okay, and you demand an apology for it, I won’t be inclined to comply.

      That’s basically what happens in most of these marriage spats, I think.

      A resistance to apologizing for fear of legitimizing a complaint we don’t believe should have been levied against us in the first place.

      It all goes pretty bad from there.

      I hope I can write that soon. 🙂

      1. Yes – I most definitely await a post that addresses the topic of apology. Your reply refers to the type of apology which one truly believes is not merited (the ‘spat’ type), but please address the other kind of apology as well; the one that isn’t forthcoming for a host of other, more complicated reasons (the relationship-killer type).

  23. I never found you sexist, mostly because as a woman, who used to suck at look after herself and then grew up ten years too late. I know woman and men, all and both can screw up and be slack and all that bad stuff. Heck, my most dysfunction, messed up, getting nothing out of it relationships where with fellow woman.

    Knowledge of self = knowledge of world, even spending a lot of time figuring out how you screwed yourself out of a good thing.
    Knowing myself, I know, I need a social life, I need time to create, I can work 5 hour days, I have tired myself out nurturing everybody, I get a lot out of guitar lessons, I am an ENFP, I am hyper, I have depression and anxiety, I hate feeling manipulated (even in a good way), my motivation needs to come from caring for myself, I have decent social skills, I get along with artists, et cetera, I got quiet a list of things I prefer, things which work for me, and things I can do.

  24. Loved this. But then, I’m always impressed with your intuition and ability to convey it through words. I even like your soap-box bunny trails, haha. You just keep doing what you do, Matt, because you’re being real and honest and truth-seeking. Sometimes we go through the things we do – not for us – but for someone else. It’s shitty, but that’s being human. If we can learn from our mistakes, then maybe we can teach someone to avoid that same road.

    All the best.

    1. This was awesome to read. Thank you so much.

      “Soap-box bunny trails.” I really like that. It’s precisely what they are, but I hope as tangenty as they may seem that you and others, at least sometimes, make the same connections I do. How all the threads intersect.

      Have a great weekend, please.

  25. Well, don’t I feel like a ten pound sack of shit now. Lisa Gottman, allow me express true regret at anything I’ve ever said to that has helped contribute to a sense that your communication style is in any way unwelcome or unproductive around here. I won’t sugarcoat the truth that I’ve often struggled to turn your insights into something actionable in my own marriage, and I’ve taken umbrage at what on rare occasion feels to me like an attack on Matt’s philosophy, or a dictation at what he should be writing about and how. Now discovering in very raw, human and vulnerable terms that the latter is never your intention makes me feel shameful at some of the more fractious comments I’ve shared with you in the recent past. I may have no more emotional currency left in your bag from which to draw, but in the interest of offering my honest, well-intentioned insights regarding your inquiries about why you perceive being misinterpreted, either in terms of content or tone, I’ll hope for the best.

    1. Firstly, and most critically, let me state that you are NOT a poor communicator. Your posts are always suffused with thorough data, proper use of spelling and grammar, well supported arguments and good humor. And here’s a kicker–even though, as mentioned multiple times before, I usually struggle mightily to turn your theories into my actions (and I so wish I knew how to italicize this next part), I always, always continue to thoroughly read your posts. They always make for compelling, thoughtful discourse, and I at least have enough humility to recognize that my inability to use most of them in a practical manner may be much more a reflection of failure on my part than yours. Though I’ve probably given you precious little reason to believe this, I actually find theoretical discussion very interesting, but I’ve discovered my interest in it tends to live or die based on whether it involves something in pressing need of resolution. So I’m happy to talk at length about theories regarding the origins of the Universe, the existence of God, morality, politics, and yes, even human psychology and relations. For me, however, and I recognize that this is driven by a heavy amount of emotion, when confronted with the immediate threat of the dissolution of one’s marriage, I still argue that actionable information is needed toot-sweet because time is of the essence. The time for arguing the finer points human psychology, societal influences and sexual politics can come later. I have discovered, though, that now that I have righted the worst of my unintended sins in my marriage, I have greater opportunity to afford your theories more of their fair due. In simple terms, it’s as though Matt’s philosophy is what I needed to save my marriage, but your philosophy may, more and more as time goes on, be what I need to keep it healthy and running strong.

    2. Speaking of your writing versus Matt’s, I do admit that it’s often jarring for me to move from one of his articles to your comments about it, and upon reflection, I’ve realized it’s simply because of profound stylistic differences between the two of you. It’s like reading a short story collection comprised of the works of random authors and moving immediately from a Mark Twain story (Matt) to an Arthur C. Clarke one (you). Both great, insightful, worthwhile writers, but they don’t necessarily make for a fluid segue when set side-by-side. I will say that I do feel, after having desperately searched every corner of the internet for marriage advice a few months back, there is a surplus of the type of writing about relationships toward which you lean, but I failed to find anyone else providing these types of critical insights in the kind of regular, everyday, “from one guy to another” manner in which Matt traffics. In fact, with no hyperbole, I equate Matt in many ways to my all-time favorite author, Stephen King, in that they both excel at conveying very deep and profound truisms in a very laid-back, conversational, layman’s voice. Frankly, even as I can claim to be a champion of scientific process and method, there tends to be a part of me that looks at these so called experts, the Gottmans of the world, and says, “Yeah, whatever, eggheads. And how can I be sure your personal life isn’t a complete train wreck behind closed doors?” These experts learned their theories via case studies and clinical data sampling; Matt learned his through drowning in the real shit I found myself swimming through all too recently, so on a very subjective level, he just feels a lot more legit as a source of relationship advice than anyone else to me. The School of Hard Knocks principle, I guess. All this said, again, now that emotional equilibrium is starting to settle back into my own personal life, I find that I’m becoming increasingly comfortable exploring relationship dynamics from a more logic-driven angle, so I certainly hope no pushback you’ve ever received from me has contributed to you doubting the value of your contributions here.

    I’ll offer you this last tidbit to be taken or discarded as you see fit: I doubt you mean to but your posts often read to me like a) you’re shilling for the Gottmans and b) your interpretation of their writings is absolute. The interesting thing in saying that is that I feel like I’ve suffered from the exact same qualities in my writings here. You are passionate about the Gottmans’ research; I am passionate about Matt’s advice to “everyday men”. As such, you and I both have a tendency to fall into respective “our guy is the best at this stuff!” camps. You and I could probably both be served by dialing down our “favorite athlete” fervor, but at the moment, I’m more inclined to say, eff it, we have nothing to apologize for–let’s keep spraying our enthusiasm for our guys all over everyone else’s hydrants! The one area I will stand by some constructive criticism is to just take care to ensure that the way you position theories from experts like the Gottman’s doesn’t come off like you’re their self-appointed spokesman. I’ve been bit in the ass by this tendency at least twice in recent history, feeling convinced that I fully understood Matt’s intentions with something he’d written, or this blog entire, and could therefore speak to same in passionate support, only to discover from the proverbial horse’s mouth that I was off target. Trust me, it’ll be a while before I spout my mouth off again about what Matt is so clearly and obviously doing here and so clearly and obviously why. My profound appreciation for what Matt’s writings have brought to my life have sparked a type of excitement in me that has occasionally caused my body frame to swell beyond the limits of my britches.

    I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you challenge my thinking. I’m glad any of this matters to you. I’m glad that (as someone who relates because I’m considered by every friend and family member–as well as myself, frankly–to be the “girl” in my relationship), you’re vulnerable enough to expose your struggles with stereotypical gender dynamics, and feeling like an outsider. I’m learning, little by little, to trust that, when commentators like you and Deanna push your needs, perspectives and personal tastes upon Matt, he feels strongly enough about his vision for MBTTTR that I don’t have to worry about it evolving into something less useful to me than it has been. You will continue to frustrate me. You will continue to confound me. But I will continue to read everything you contribute here, and I will learn from it, be shaped by it, become a better husband because of it, so thanks for making that contribution to my life, and presumably others’, whether I’m always eager to swallow your medicine or not.

    By the way, just to get on the popular kids’ train, though it’s been a few years since I’ve last taken a Myers-Briggs test, I came up as ENFJ, though the “E” is borderline. Every single time I’ve taken the test, it literally comes up 51% extrovert, 49% introvert. I respond pretty strongly to most of the stuff I’ve read recently regarding the new hot pop psychology term “ambivert”.

    1. Travis wrote:

      “I will say that I do feel, after having desperately searched every corner of the internet for marriage advice a few months back, there is a surplus of the type of writing about relationships toward which you lean, but I failed to find anyone else providing these types of critical insights in the kind of regular, everyday, “from one guy to another” manner in which Matt traffics. In fact, with no hyperbole, I equate Matt in many ways to my all-time favorite author, Stephen King, in that they both excel at conveying very deep and profound truisms in a very laid-back, conversational, layman’s voice.”

      *head explodes*

      Assuming the things you write are true, it means no matter what happens from here, I once did the thing I set out to do.

      And THEN the man said “random blogger guy executes delivery kinda-sorta like the modern era’s greatest novelist.”


      Cheers, Travis.

      1. It’s not too big of a reach. After all, it could be argued that divorce is the greatest horror story of them all.

    2. Travis B.

      We certainly view things from different perspectives but I value your opinions and your success with turning your marriage around from DEFCON 1 as you call it 😉

      1. Honestly the Gottman thing is more of a joke. I can see where I would look like a fanatic because I changed my last name to Gottman (because there were too many Lisa’s) and I quote him but he is NOT my ultimate guru. Just like the empathizing with Satan thing was a joke and I really am not satan worshiper. I do like his (Gottman not Satan) objective statistics and maybe I over quote him because of my “thinking” need to try and get some tiebreaker objective science to everybody just arguing their personal stories endlessly. And people declaring subjective opinions as fact, drives. me. crazy. Partly my style, partly childhood crap inexplicably not cleared up in my recent accidental group therapy I signed up for because I thought it was a Brene Brown book club.

      2. That frustrates me to no end like the theoretical stuff frustrates you. Clueless men cause divorces, no women can’t recognize a good man to marry to begin with, no men and women are just so different that’s why, no it’s the Patriarchy, no fill in the blank. Endless. You know what they say about opinions … I personally have 3 opinions on any given subject 😉 All of which I can argue passionately. At least with research we can start with what big populations of people do that stay married and what they do that get them divorced. Yeah, why don’t we at least START with that? Just like we figured out that smoking causes cancer. Yeah, just like medical stuff we can also do it with relationships. They are not mysterious. They can be understood in an objective way. It saves so much time and energy and prevents stupid divorces. But again, this is my preferred style and not yours or many, many other peoples.

      3.You don’t need to feel like a 10 pound bag of shit (maybe a 12 ounce travel size? 😉 Honestly, your reaction to me is incredibly common and I get it in real life as well as on other blogs and Facebook pages. I am really trying to figure how to change the way I present my views in a way that is better received by more people. You actually remind me (as much as I can discern from your comments) of my brother in law. He is a good man, I admire many things about him but we have had almost the exact conversations in real life that you and I have in comments here. Why waste time with theory when action is required? Because you need to start from a correct understanding and not some person’s random experience that may not apply to you.. blah, blah, blah. He finds my love of discussing ideas and theories to solve problems a waste of time and energy. So do most people apparently. It’s fine to disagree I just don’t want disrespect and contempt for my preferred style.

      4. He’s very contemptuous of my style in a pleasant sort of way and frankly that’s what I react to in your comments. Maybe its not fair to you and I’m reading my brother in law into your comments. But it’s just the contempt for my point of view that I would like to see changed. Now, I hesitate to write this because if you’re like my brother in law you will respond defensively and deny the contempt, perhaps even call it “overcooked” 😉 And if so, it’s all cool, really, because I understand where you’re coming from really I do. Just erase the last few sentences and forget it happened because I don’t have the energy to fight yet another person who thinks my way of doing things is worthless. Ok, I shouldn’t have written “worthless” because that’s going to make you defensive and you’ll point me to all the complimentary things you said in your comment. These are not good communication skills which is why I AM a “shitty communicator” 😉 This is the exact stuff that David Burn’s Feeling Good Together tells me NOT to do. But I’m trying to get better, because frankly it’s one of the reason my husband found it hard to work out disagreements with me. It’s not a self esteem issue, I really AM a ‘shitty communicator” under pressure or when triggered. But it’s a skill that can be mastered like any other with enough practice.

      5 It is frustrating to me that I feel like I empathize and understand the “other” view point far more than they understand my style but that is probably more of a function of having an uncommon style. I feel like I understand where you are coming from pretty well, your passion for saving marriages, reaching men at DEFCON1, helping them understand what they need to do, your passion for Matt’s blog as vehicle for all that, your frustration that if it’s too theoretical it could confuse and allow men to dither away the limited window of time they have. I get it. I’m just not sure you can articulate my point of view for why my approach would also help people at DEFCON1. But I could be very wrong there.

      6. I don’t know why my comments make you think I’m trying to get Matt to change his blog style. Maybe it’s my dreaded know it all thing I’m trying to change. Maybe it’s my annoying gender comments. Maybe it’s throwing out things to bring a more well rounded picture to facts presented. I don’t know. I can tell you that’s not my intention. Honestly, I’m just throwing out comments to process my own thoughts and add to the mix of comments on the post at hand. Sometimes I throw in random maybe unfunny Reba or Satan jokes. And I quote Gottman.

      7. I will take the Arthur C. Clarke comparison, very cool. There is another commenter here ZombieDrew whose comment style and blog style is pretty close to mine. Does he annoy you too? Just curious and this is only in my quest to not be a “shitty communicator” I honest to God am trying to figure out how to reduce my general public annoyance factor. Maybe he’s less know-it-all, maybe that’s the difference?

      8. Anyway, Travis I hope we’re good and that I haven’t said anything too over the line in my “shitty communicator” triggered state. It was not my intention. I enjoy your sense of humor and I read everyone of your comments too.

      1. I read this entire response chuckling–not condescendingly, mind you, but in a “ya know, this lady’s all right” way. 😉

        No, I actually don’t remember ever being irritated with ZombieDrew, but at first blush, I can’t exactly say why not. I would have to say, for me, I haven’t really associated the same commonality between his style and yours that you perceive. Maybe I’m just delighted to see such thoughtful introspection and dedication to the ideal of being a better husband from one of the precious few males who regularly shows up to engage in the discussion here. Maybe it is this “know-it-all” factor you mention (though I’m not really comfortable with that label as I don’t believe it’s entirely fair to you, but I’m pretty sure what you’re getting at by using it). I’ll keep an eye out as the discussion rolls on to see if the reasons become more evident.

  26. Zombiedrew’s blog is more Arthur C. Clarke than Mark Twain. I like both Zombiedrew’s and Matt’s blog very much but they are somewhat different styles.

    1. And Zombiedrew writes a lot of comments about gender roles and how meaningless and destructive they are. He’s much more radical than I am 😉

      1. Radical, really? I’m not actually totally against gender roles, I just think they cause a lot of problems in both relationships and in peoples own self-images. Plus they create a lot of pressure to be a “certain way”.

        Man, as a kid I hated gym. I was awful – one of those kids who was picked last for most team things. My sister was the same with gym, probably due to growing up in a household that didn’t promote sports.

        I think the pressures on us and what it did to our self-images was totally different though. It was alright for a girl to dislike gym. For me though? Man, something was WRONG with me and that made me feel even worse about it.

        (interestingly once I got older and grew into my body I developed a passion for basketball, and am a passably decent player, still playing mens league into my early 40’s).

        Guys have it relatively easy though. I look around at all the pressures on women to look and be a certain way, especially with things like self image around their bodies. It saddens me but doesn’t surprise me that a lot of women seem to believe that they aren’t enough and that they need to be more.

        Anyhow, there’s good and bad in gender stuff. The bad I see is mostly in setting imaginary standards of what a guy or a girl *should* be, and then measuring us against that standard. I think we all do it even if it’s only subconsciously – both for ourselves and those around us.

      2. Hey Zombiedrew!

        I was kidding when I threw in the radical thing!
        I hope you didn’t think I was serious because you write very balanced, thoughtful comments about gender roles. I agree with you pretty much 100% on what I have read that you’ve written on this general topic especially in highlighting the arbitrary way we divide character traits into “masculine” or “feminine” boxes.

        I often feel as a woman that I must be even more careful to say I agree with biological differences between men and women because it seems common to read pushback against too much biological emphasis means I think there are NO biological differences. (and here I’m just thinking generally not just about this blog’s comments).

        Because of this, I think a man will be listened to in a different way and has more scope to say that there are nuture factors at play and I appreciate your intelligent comments.

    2. Upon further rumination, I could see where ZombieDrew’s communication style here (sorry, I haven’t perused his blog, there, fine, it’s out in the open, so sue me, gawd, these people, I can’t even) reads like a bridge between your style and Matt’s, with a heavier emphasis on scientific research and historical analysis than Matt’s typical post, but more romanticism, inspiration and raw emotion than your typical post. He does strike a pleasant and effective balance, even if Matt’s writing still speaks the most clearly to my personal tastes.

      1. You mentioned in your first post that there are many relationship blogs that cater to my style.

        Can you give me the name of one? Cause if sure like to go there. 🙂

      2. When you get a chance it might be worthwhile to pursue ZombieDrew’s blog. You mentioned that Matt’s blog was the only one that offered a “regular guy” perspective on marriage. Even though they have slightly differently styles, they are both regular guy blogs that could help men understand how to be better husbands.

      3. Travis I’m starting to get the impression that you might not like my style. 🙂

        If you’re ever interested in feedback on your style, let me know. I’d be delighted to share my detailed views with you.

        P.S. Just another example of “shitty communicatior”

      4. “You mentioned in your first post that there are many relationship blogs that cater to my style.

        Can you give me the name of one? Cause if sure like to go there. :)”

        Sorry, my comment wasn’t geared specifically to blogs, just to the fact that the internet is chock-a-block with expert/professional advice and tutorials about saving marriages and keeping relationships strong. I didn’t seek out a blog in particular when I was looking for help through my marital crisis; it just so happened that what I needed came in the form of one.

        “When you get a chance it might be worthwhile to pursue ZombieDrew’s blog. You mentioned that Matt’s blog was the only one that offered a “regular guy” perspective on marriage. Even though they have slightly differently styles, they are both regular guy blogs that could help men understand how to be better husbands.”

        It’s been on my to-do list but, ironically, this blog already threatens to eat up an excess of time more importantly spent in my wife’s company as it is, LOL.

        “Travis I’m starting to get the impression that you might not like my style. :)”

        *gulp* Uh oh…(*steps back carefully from the edge of this cliff*) Seriously, that’s not quite the case. It’s more like Matt’s writing is a gummy bear vitamin and yours is a vitamin injection. They’re both good for me, but his is a lot easier for me to take. 😉

        “If you’re ever interested in feedback on your style, let me know. I’d be delighted to share my detailed views with you.”

        (*in a frightened child voice*) Mommy, this lady is scaring me…

      5. Travis,

        I do enjoy your sense of humor! Thanks for making me laugh. And what women wouldn’t be charmed by being compared to a vitamin injection? I actually do kind of like it in a World War II sadistic doctor kind of way. Yeah, I can go with it!

      6. Travis, you haven’t perused my blog!!!! Gasp!!!

        Actually I’m not offended at all. I’m an aquired taste. And based on my readership numbers not something that many “get”. Which is fine, cause I write for me anyhow.

        We all have egos, so I’m sure anyone blogging hopes to expand their readership. But the day I start writing for something other then what I believe is the day I stop writing.

        For anyone who IS kinda interested though, here are a couple of my favorite posts (only cause Matt said I could):

    3. Arthur C. Clarke? Really? Hmmm, I’m not entirely sure how to interpret that but I’ll take it as a compliment.

      I’m not really sure what style my blog would have, and I guess it depends on the topic I’m looking at. After having my own marriage fail rather spectacularly and unexpectedly I started with the following questions (stolen from my about page):

      Everyone who gets married wants and expects it to last. So why do so many fail? And for those that don’t fail, why do so many people end up unhappy or in a marriage that isn’t satisfying? What are we doing wrong?

      And then I started trying to come up with my own answers on those things. Mainly through reading books and blogs, and talking to people. Matt has said he can probably describe a fictional scenario around a struggling relationship that most people will find themselves nodding their heads to, and I found the same thing. All of us in relationships have different backgrounds and different challenges, but there is a lot of core stuff going on that seems to affect everyone in some capacity.

      Yeah, there’s all the taking for granted, lack of appreciation stuff that happens – which is huge. But another thing that seems massive to me is issues with identity. And in my experience that’s an area that more women struggle with then men.

      This may sound crazy to some, but I think a strong sense of identity and self-love are key elements to healthy relationships. When people don’t have a strong self-image or sense of identity they are much more likely to be unhappy, and “normal” relationships issues often become the scapegoat for that unhappiness.

      I guess one of the main differences between Matt and I (stylist flourishes aside) is that I actually think a lot of relationship issues have very little to do with the relationship (ie the other person). I’m one the other side of 40, and I’m telling you over the past few years I’ve seen a lot of peoples marriages both fall apart and find themselves on life support.

      A lot of it seems to be related to these identity issues – often where one person feels overwhelmed with all the different roles they have taken on in life (parenting is a huge one), and in all these different roles they feel they have lost sight of why THEY are. So they are searching, and questioning not only who they are but also what they actually want out of life. And whether or not that is actually compatible with the life they have already built.

      In my part of the blog world I pick topics and then try to explore what I think they really mean – to me and hopefully to others. Things like love, commitment, marriage, happiness, communication, sex, fading passion, stress, depression and anxiety (both of which I believe are huge contributors to struggling relationships), falling out of love, affairs, identity. All sorts of fun stuff. Well, it’s fun to me anyhow.

      I guess the Arthur C. Clarke comment comes in because I’m fairly analytical in how I look at things. I still try to have some fun, but some topics are harder than others to do that with. Some some posts are lighthearted, others look at things in a more romantic/wistful way while others are a bit heavy.

      1. Hey Zombiedrew!

        I was just trying to get you to join me in the Arthur C. Clarke club because it was lonely by myself. 🙂

        I really enjoy your blog! I haven’t read all the archived stuff yet but I appreciate your exploration of many different big picture topics and using a factual source to riff off. I guess that’s where I was basing our common Arthur C. Clark connection.

        Matt has links to sources but usually bases his posts on his own experiences. Yours is more exploring a particular topic with fact base references. Both are good! Travis and I were discussing his preference for the Mark Twain story based style and his relative dislike for my research based style. I guess he feels you’re in the middle. It’s all subjective so who knows? I was just trying to figure out why my style irritates him but yours doesn’t.

        I don’t know if you saw more other comment about the difference in the instant comment posting but I think that may have something to do with it. Just a theory. I read other blogs where the comments are moderated and they seem to have less activity maybe because of the delay in the comments. But I can only imagine the comments people get so I can understand the need or desire for moderation.

        I think your blog is awesome and I’m looking forward to catching up on the archives.

        1. Ha, mine doesn’t because he hasn’t read anything on my blog. Don’t worry, as soon as he reads anything the dislike will show up in full force 🙂

          I did see your comment about the instant comment posting and I’ve adjusted that setting (wasn’t aware of it actually). Thanks for that.

          As for less activity, it could also be just that Matt’s a better writer whose stuff is more accessible.

          I’ve had comments in the past from people suggesting ways I could change my blog that would potentially draw better audiences. I’ve listened to things that made sense to me, but at the end of the day any blogger our there has to write in the way that feels natural to them.

          Like yourself, I come from a fairly analytical (Arthur C. Clarke) mindset, and that’s definitely reflected in my writing.

          I try to add real world experiences where possible – either my own or stories of people close to me.

          I accept that my approach isn’t for everyone though, and that’s alright. Been doing it for over 2 years now, and recently passed 20,000 views. I’m sure some people get that in a week, but hey, I hope that at least one person sees my stuff and thinks, or holds on when they are having a hard time. And if not, that’s alright too.

  27. Matt ❤️s Hitler
    No but really, I thought it was smart that you referenced your most popular post to recover from the Hitler post. Or I just might be a little jealous that your such a popular blogger (no really I’m cool with my 1-3 reads on a good day)….I will say you hit the nail on the head when you tapped into empathy.
    Live there.
    It will get you far you smart, proofreading, thought provoking, blogger dude ???.
    Now enough procrastinating for me as I need to go battle death hill with my dull bladed (can’t be a word) lawnmower and search for jobs.
    Divorce club sucks!

  28. There are so many comments, but as someone who rebuilt her marriage from the ground up I want to suggest four key books.

    1. The Dance of Anger. This would be helpful in breaking down the gender binary because it reframes common relationship issues as overfunctioner/underfunctioner and pursuer/distancer and intimate/enmeshed instead of male/female.

    2. Getting the Love You Want. Explains why we choose our partners based on our attachment style and parent-child bond.

    3. Mating in Captivity. Basically uses basic relationship theory and applies it to sexuality, explains how to bring eroticism back into the marriage. Hint: it isn’t date nights, but alone time that brings back erotic potential.

    4. Passionate Marriage. As far as I am concerned this is the gold standard for marital relationship books. All about eradicating codependency through differentiation (basically learning to set healthy boundaries with family and spouse, learning to “hold onto yourself” when the spouse sets boundaries you don’t like, how to acknowledge two choice dilemmas in marriage and accept them) and a lot of extremely awesome sex advice. I’d be buried with this one if I could be.

    5. Uncoupling. This book explains how marriages fall apart and the predicable patterns of marriage dissolution. Usually when the pursuer (the person who wants change) withdraws completely (all Pursuers will eventually) and blindsides the distancer. Then both people will re-create their marital history in order to conform to a narrative (“he never listened”/”she’s a nag”) in order to cope with the loss. This is a sociological study.

    If anyone gets anything out of this comment, I’d love to hear it! These books saved my life. And they all either reference or are referred to by Gottman. All written by PhDs and none are especially religious.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing these recommendations, Cristine. All sound particularly fascinating and useful.

      1. Glad to help! If you ever want a guest post from the perspective of a woman who remade her marriage, let me know! For me it involved becoming more like my husband! Caring less about the little things, talking less, setting more boundaries, making sex more about pleasure and less about relationship maintenance.

  29. I am just curious on what day is your birthday.

    Your posts are very clear, well-written, and go to the true essence of the problem. It really is the little, tiny disappointments that you don’t voice anymore because then it seems you are supercritical of your spouse. Funny, my Dad is upset that my mother recently divorced him even though they were living separately for 20 years. He said he doesn’t know why she divorced him, said she liked to start up mess and argue with him for no reason. I asked him, we’ll did you find out what she was upset about? I had to press him to get an answer. Neither my parents were perfect, but I think that never once did he tune into what exactly my mother has been upset with him about over these years speaks volumes on why he is divorced and still feeling blindsided by it.

  30. I stumbled onto your blog and am completely hooked, this post alone speaks volumes to me. I was nodding my head in agreement while reading it. I have read many relationship books, I “communicated my needs” and I tried new ways to connect with my ex from engaging in his interests to trying to be the model corporate wife. At first it was to strengthen our relationship, than eventually to save our twenty year marriage.

    But one person can’t read the books and work the ideas and expect to save it.
    You both need to put in the work and the time and the empathy. You both have to invest yourselves. I described it as the heavy lifting.

    And as much as he had told me, sometimes exasperatedly requested of me, in the early days to “just tell me when you’re upset with something I do, don’t keep it inside” the times I did express my hurt or disappointment it was met with either cool, stonewall-like distance or angry denial and ugly confrontation.

    I guess I was saying it wrong?

    Empathy is hugely underrated, as is kindness, in relationships. It is the littlest of things, the dirty dish on the side of the sink or staying late at work without a phone call, that slowly crack and chip away at our connections. Slowly diminish our trust and security in each other, and in our relationship.

    I have written about the way that divorce is happening all around us is an epidemic, the stories are so similar it’s sad, and your post pretty much supports that idea. There is something truly basic missing from relationships, at its core, that begins the slow decline of a connection between couples. Thanks for putting it into words for me.

  31. Reblogged this on Crazybutttricia and commented:
    I connected almost immediately to this post, and his writing is wonderful and genuine. To say that I feel somewhat “validated” in my belief that the way divorce begins and plays out these days is an epidemic may sound self-centered or egotistical, but really it just made me feel that I wasn’t alone in my thinking, or that it isn’t all just my own view or my singular experience leading me to that conclusion.

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Matt Fray

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