It Doesn’t Jive Because We’d Just Assume Do Things the Wrong Way

Comments 229
Ptolemy's geocentric model of the solar system
Everything revolves around Earth. We can actually “prove” that. Right? (Image/Khan Academy)

Donkey wrote: “Matt has a post about leaving his crying wife in the hospital after giving birth/having a C-section. Lisa said her husband did something similar (he now can’t believe how he could do that, so credit to him and Matt both for having realized the extreme shittiness of that. Grrrr. Honestly, thinking about it just makes me feel some kind of immense primal rage).
“Do you have any idea as to the thought process of a shitty husband (who isn’t a Dick who gets off on abusing his wife) who makes that ok in his mind? That after 9 months (usually) of pregnancy and the woman, really, risking her life during childbirth/ C-section often suffering through a lot of pain, and then is also left alone with their newborn, it’s ok for him to go to get a good night sleep and leave his crying wife who’s begging him to stay alone?
“I can understand that some people wouldn’t be hurt by a dish by the sink and all of that (and we’ve already had the conversation about accepting influence even if you don’t understand), and I remember Matt saying it was hard for him to empathize with people’s physical discomfort that ha couldn’t relate to. I understand that men can’t really get how pregnancy/birth feels like. But still, isn’t childbirth very much accepted as a VERY Big Deal, a painful and stressful and high risk deal in our society, and that the role of the modern man is to support his wife however she needs? I would think leaving your wife alone after childbirth when she’s crying and begging you to stay would be just as obvious a faux pas as cheating (again, for me, I believe I’d rather have the father of my child cheat on me with 10 prostitutes than leave me crying alone in the hospital after having our baby).
“Matt, if you have any more explanations of your thought process you want to share, I would appreciate that too of course. I’m really just trying to understand the (faulty and frankly, like Lisa said, narcissistic) thought process, because I just don’t get it.”

I left my crying wife alone in the hospital like an asshole just hours after she delivered our son via emergency C-section.

It was a long and difficult labor for her. The doctor induced labor 26 hours and 24 minutes prior to the time of delivery, give or take a few minutes or a false memory.

The anxiety, fear, stress and physical discomfort my wife felt after nine months of pregnancy, followed by a long, painful, vulnerably exposed and at times terrifying delivery ending in emergency surgery, is something only a mother could possibly know.

I won’t pretend to.

But I can understand today in a way I did not eight years ago, what a betrayal and moment of abandonment that was for my ex-wife. She was in pain, frightened, and needed someone simply to BE PRESENT with her. To feel loved and supported. And she asked me to stay. Begged, even.

And I made a different choice.

After years of reflection and additional wisdom earned only by living longer, I can see and understand how much that moment damaged my relationship in a way I couldn’t at the time. I think it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Not only did I not recognize that moment for what it was, when my wife would bring it up later as an instance in which I hurt her, I’d actually get mad at her for holding grudges and using the past against me. I’d treat her like she was the problem because she had anger issues she needed to work out. Like there was something wrong with her, because clearly there is nothing wrong with me!

After all, everyone else liked me and thought I was a great guy. She must be wrong since she’s the only one saying it!

I didn’t do all of those things as part of some meticulously planned and conspiratorial attempt to inflict maximum emotional damage on my newborn son’s mother—the woman I vowed to love forever—nor did I defend myself in later disagreements as part of a thoughtful strategy to make her feel shitty, push her away and ultimately destroy my marriage, leaving my little boy with divorced parents and a broken home.

What was the thought process? 

There kind of wasn’t one.

I thought my choices were, if not “best,” at least reasonable every step of the way, and at any point in which there was disagreement, I believed I was correct, and that she was incorrect.

I Make Mistakes Like Every Known Human, Ever

For 1,500 years, early astronomers used Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the solar system to create astronomical charts. “Geocentric” means Earth is the center of the universe, and everything in the night sky is orbiting around it.

Today, we know this isn’t true. Nicolaus Copernicus got suspicious and theorized we were actually the ones moving around the sun. Later, Italian genius Galileo Galilei proved it.

But for 1,500 years prior, every educated person in the world believed the sun revolved around Earth. And it wasn’t because everyone was a bunch of stupid morons. Given the mathematical parameters and limited technology of that time, you can PROVE Ptolemy’s model.

For 1,500 years, every scientist, navigator, educator and thought leader in the world knew how the sun, moon and stars would move in the sky. They could “prove” it convincingly by accurately predicting what would happen next, even though EVERYTHING about their prediction model was based on something completely untrue.

(Note: The following is NOT directed at you, Donkey. I genuinely appreciate your question, and it’s my pleasure to write more about it, because it’s important. I’m simply trying to illustrate my point further.)

You’d just assume your husband or boyfriend cheat on you with 10 prostitutes as opposed to leaving you alone at the hospital after giving birth?

No.

You’d just as soon have that happen.

That doesn’t jive with your expectations of a husband and new father?

No.

It doesn’t jibe with your expectations.

Because I’ve had some wonderful editors through the years who have taught me things, I no longer make the common mistake of saying or writing “assume” when I mean “as soon,” nor do I make the even more-common mistake of saying or writing “jive” when I really mean “jibe.”

I learned the “assume” one in my early twenties when I was the editor of a semi-large university newspaper and working as a summer intern for a daily newspaper. I learned the “jive” one in my late twenties after more than 10 years of being paid to write things.

I didn’t use the two phrases incorrectly on purpose. I remember feeling quite a bit of embarrassment when I realized how many times I must have used each phrase incorrectly up to that point, and how some of the people who heard or read that from me knew I was an ignorant dumbass.

Until I was in a very specific, focused moment in which someone with more knowledge and experience than me corrected my mistake and helped me learn from it, I never even had reason to question the legitimacy of my word usage.

I KNEW I was correct. You know? Even though I was actually incorrect?

You Are Biased and Selfish Without Realizing It

That’s the first of eight reasons Why You Can’t Trust Yourself, according to one of my favorite writers, Mark Manson.

He writes:

“There’s a thing in psychology called the Actor-Observer Bias and it basically says that we’re all assholes.

“For example, if you’re at an intersection and somebody else runs a red light, you will probably think they’re a selfish, inconsiderate scumbag putting the rest of the drivers in danger just to shave a couple seconds off their drive.

“On the other hand, if you are the one who runs the red light, you’ll come to all sorts of conclusions about how it’s an innocent mistake, how the tree was blocking your view, and how running a red light never really hurt anybody.

“Same action, but when someone else does it they’re a horrible person; when you do it, it’s an honest mistake.

“We all do this. And we especially do it in situations of conflict. When people talk about someone who pissed them off for one reason or another, they invariably describe the other person’s actions as senseless, reprehensible, and motivated by a malicious intent to inflict suffering.

“However, when people talk about times when they inflicted harm on someone else, as you might suspect, they can come up with all sorts of reasons about how their actions were reasonable and justified. The way they see it, they had no choice to do what they did. They see the harm experienced by the other person as minor and they think that being blamed for causing it is unjust and unreasonable.

“Both views can’t be right. In fact, both views are wrong. Follow-up studies by psychologists found that both perpetrators and the victims distort the facts of a situation to fit their respective narratives.

“Steven Pinker refers to this as the ‘Moralization Gap.’ It means that whenever a conflict is present, we overestimate our own good intentions and underestimate the intentions of others. This then creates a downward spiral where we believe others deserve more severe punishment and we deserve less severe punishment.

“This is all unconscious, of course. People, while doing this, think they’re being completely reasonable and objective. But they’re not.”

What if We Assumed the Best About One Another?

I don’t pose the question as any sort of defense of the behavior I now believe to have been emotionally abusive.

But the validity of the question remains: How much better might our relationships be if, when something happens and we’re missing too much information to KNOW why it happened, we tell ourselves the most generous, best-possible story to explain it rather than the most cynical, or worst-possible explanation?

One of the most famous and important scenes in the Harry Potter saga takes place near the end of the sixth (second-to-last) book. You either know the story and what I’m talking about, or you should start reading the Harry Potter books right now. Yes, adults. Even you.

Seconds before death, a beloved character faces his killer and says “Please.”

It seems like a man begging for his life to be spared. But his life isn’t spared. Other characters in the book are horrified, as are the emotionally invested readers.

In the absence of information we later learn, the killing seems like the malicious work of an evil murderer. But once the story is told fully, we realize the killer was actually GOOD, and the dying man’s “please” wasn’t a mercy plea, but rather a request for his secret ally to kill him in order to protect a confused teenager from becoming a murderer or from suffering punishment for refusing to.

Not unlike the scientific community during the Ptolemaic period of astronomy versus the scientific community today, we believed one thing under one set of facts, and as more information was gathered, we came to believe something else, which turned out to be the truth.

I left my wife alone in that hospital because I didn’t know better.

It wasn’t my fault. It was simply my responsibility.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

We make choices, learning things along the way. Stuff happens, and we are all constantly interpreting the things happening around us with limited information. Sometimes we’re right. Much of the time, we’re wrong.

In this case, I was wrong, and am deeply sorry for the damage I caused. There are millions of guys out there doing these exact same things. Hurting their spouses accidentally, even when they are told their actions are hurtful. They STILL don’t know. It’s the Secret About Men Most Women Don’t Know.

But I can’t do anything about yesterday. I can only do something about tomorrow.

Life’s too short. I want to live it well.

That jibes with who I want to be. Because I’d just as soon be part of the solution.

By actually doing things the right way.

…..

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229 thoughts on “It Doesn’t Jive Because We’d Just Assume Do Things the Wrong Way”

  1. Hm, this is your first post I do not really understand. I’ll read it once more tomorrow. Perhaps my understanding gets better? …

      1. Hi Matt, thanks to you too. I think this is your key post for me. My husband stopped part of his support for me and my daughter when the child protection service tried to take our daughter away due to an unknown disease which they thought was child neglection (giving no food etc). This CPS problem is my blog topic but I don’t mention my husbands poor behaviour there or security reasons: in case my anynomity would be broken there should be written nothing bad about my family which they could use against us.
        I guess to understand my husband iff (= if and only if) I understand why you left your wife crying in the hospital after birth. Today I do not understand it. I think no mother or woman will understand it immediately. I’ll read your post again and again until I’ll get it! Perhaps I even need a hard copy ;-P

  2. “The anxiety, fear, stress and physical discomfort my wife felt after nine months of pregnancy, followed by a long, painful, vulnerably exposed and at times terrifying delivery ending in emergency surgery, is something only a mother could possibly know.”

    I think you’re awesome Matt, but I have to say I really disagree here. You ought to know! That’s what a husband and a father does, he recognizes and feels those things and he adjusts accordingly. Maybe he doesn’t know what it’s like to actually be her, but he can certainly deduce what it’s like without hiding behind, “only a mother could know.”

    That leaving your wife after birth, that’s a major one. I really can’t think of anything harder, certainly not an affair. You could have a dozen affairs but none of them would quite compare to that kind of betrayal. It’s a failure to protect button, a pretty powerful one. I’ve felt that before, it makes you go very cold.

    1. I agree Insanity. I am copying this comment responding to Donkey from another post because it really belongs here.

      Donkey,

      Just as a detail my husband did not leave me crying after my C section. So at least he has that going for him!

      One of my stories it that while I was lying in bed with an IV in my arm to try and induce labor, I suggested nicely he go home and grab his laptop to do some work since it was likely to be a long wait. (I’m thinking of his comfort). He was still not back almost 2 hours later from a trip that should have been 30 minutes.

      I was crying and mad when he got back because he clearly was not thinking of my comfort. But I would have been ok if he had really apologized in a way I could understand.

      But he said he was sorry he got distracted reading email. Shame avoidance caused him to try and move on quickly. (I understand this now, I could not understand anything then). And he’s right it wasn’t a true medical emergency. But WTF?????

      I can tell you that was a pivotal moment in our marriage’s decline. I couldn’t trust him in a really basic way. So I had to watch my own back with him. That’s the message he gave me in that hospital room.

      Ok, I have a message to men out there as a public service announcement.

      Your wife has to go into painful labor and or have major abdominal surgery to have your child.

      All that is required of you is to be in the room the whole time. That’s it. It is not optional for you to screw this up in any way. I mean really men it is not optional unless she for some reason explicitly asks you to go.

      Whatever your wife needs before, during, and after birthing your child should be the least you can do. Ask your wife what she needs and whatever it is just do it. Do not be selfish in any way.!!!! That is your role since you get out of pregnancy and labor. It’s a pretty damn good deal. I would have switched places in a second with the unselfish man role. I always try to be gender balanced in presenting shitty marriage problems but this stuff really doesn’t have another side.

      And all you men need to talk to your brothers and sons and friends and tell them this message. It really should be logical and simple. Do not encourage them to get sleep or work or whatever else they might think is more important. Tell them to be grateful they get the much easier role of unselfishly supporting their wife who has to endure labor and or a C section.

      If any man is reading this that has screwed it up on the past. Go to to your wife and beg her forgiveness with true sincerity. Do not think she has forgotten because I guarantee if you were not there for here fully during a miscarriage or pregnancy or labor or birth or postpartum depression there is still a gaping wound that needs to be healed.

      She can’t fully trust you unless she understands you really get how much you hurt her and how stupid and selfish you were. And most importantly how you will never do that kind of shit ever again.

      I will say my husband was my hero in the way he later handled a miscarriage at 11 weeks. Totally there for me in every way. I think back about how painful it was to open the mail and get these baby formula updates about “your baby is 16 weeks old!” when my baby was dead.

      My husband took those papers and called a bunch of people and made sure I never had to open one of those again. It fills me with such love and happiness to think about how he handled that because that’s how it’s supposed to be. When we face hard things both of us there to have each other’s back. No questions, no begging. Just what do you need? Ok, it’s done.

      1. Drew, Matt, and Travis,

        I think different things are being mixed up here. So I am going to try to separate them.

        I want to make it clear that I am writing this with my own husband in mind or generalities not Matt’s situation.

        1. I agree with you Drew that being vulnerable and in a relationship guarantees that we will get hurt at various points because we are flawed humans. I don’t agree that it is common for women to think otherwise.

        2. I have said in other comments that the research agrees and says that making mistakes is not the problem. The critical difference is if the couple can effectively repair the hurt.

        3. This is where owning your shit and apologizing for it without defensiveness is critical. If you can do that, repairing the wound happens and she can move on.

        4. The defensiveness and gaslighting and making it about her lack of forgiveness is what prevents her from the accountability needed for repairing a hurt.

        5. I think the average woman is willing to forgive her husband if he demonstrates true remorse for whatever he did. Telling her he really “gets” how he hurt her and he will take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

        6. That is how you effectively repair a wound. That restores trust. I know I would have been able to forgive my husband for leaving me alone in the hospital twice if he had been able to show accountability and apologize.

        7. Most women are TOO willing to try and forgive without accountability and repair. They tend towards codependency so will try and adjust to her husband’s lack of true apology. But that just leads to a divorce.

        8. Because my husband only gave half hearted apologies, I was not able to let it just go despite trying. That’s the Zeigarnik effect at work (the brain not being able to forget things not fully dealt with).

        9. He would get defensive and angry at me for not being able to focus on the present and holding a grudge. That compounded the problem because not only do I not get healing for the original wound but I am now being presented as the problem, making the wound deeper.

        10. In fact he thinks I owe HIM an apology for not forgiving him and bringing it up all the time. Even though he has withheld the tool I need to do that by being defensive and not saying

        “Lisa, I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I got wrapped up in my own anxiety and forgot about what was most important.

        Really being there for you when you were lying in pain in the hospital. I am so sorry I did that to you, it was unforgivable really. But can you forgive me?”

        And I would say “Thank you for saying that, that’s what I needed to hear. I forgive you'”

        11. That’s how “unforgivable” sins become “forgivable” by acknowledging they are unforgivable and asking for forgiveness.

        At least that is what it took for me and the research says it is what it takes for anyone to forgive and have a happy marriage.

        And most women hearing that will forgive and finally because it has been fully process be able to “forget” and move on.

        12. But when a husband focuses on reasons why it was understandable or reasonable like my husband originally did, that the mistake was “forgivable” it stays “unforgivable”.

        13. Of course most repairs in marriage are about differences in perspectives so don’t require the “unforgivable” apology. But the big trust violating ones, even if done with the best of intentions do require the ” unforgivable” framing in my view.

        Things like affairs, abandonment in sickness or in need, things most people would think are betrayals of trust. Even if you didn’t see it that way at the time.

        14. Almost anything can be processed and forgiven if there is accountability and a heartfelt apology and a willingness to forgive.
        I believe in forgiveness and grace. I am both giving it and receiving it with my husband as we repair our wounded marriage.

        1. For whatever it’s worth, I read through this carefully and mindfully, and 100-percent understand and agree with every single word.

          You’ve just broken down how to effectively communicate accountability and remorse to your wounded spouse in a way in which it can be accepted on a vulnerable level and perceived as sincere and trustworthy.

          Because my overall “shitty husband” behavior never fundamentally changed until I realized the marriage was dying/had died, no apology given (no matter how much I thought I meant it) conveyed trustworthy remorse, because it wasn’t supported by anything she could see or feel in all other aspects of our marriage.

          This is a fantastic explanation. And if anything I’ve said previously contradicted what you’ve written here, I hope you can trust that it is a communication breakdown (as Travis described earlier) and NOT me fundamentally disagreeing with these truths.

          These are true. If the average guy KNEW these things (as I believe I now do, but did not throughout most of my married life), then I believe MOST stupid divorces wouldn’t happen.

          Which is pretty much the thing I wish for most.

          Thank you, Lisa. You are truly skilled at dissecting discussions into bite-sized and fully digestible chunks.

          It’s a great skill with which to communicate with people whose brains operate as mine does.

      2. Matt,

        I’m glad it made some sense to you and that we agree on these fundamental ideas!

        Sometimes it takes me 30 comments to process and distill my thoughts. 😉

        I think this is such a difficult wounding topic. For you because of your divorce and for many women who experienced it and then never received the apology they needed to be able to forgive.

        I think it is important for women to understand the elements needed for true apology and repair too. In this case, so that she knows she needs to press the stop button and take dramatic action if her husband does not acknowledge and apologize.

        So many women don’t understand true boundary setting and just adjust as best they can until they can’t take it anymore and shut down and divorce

        But this doesn’t give the husband the dramatic wake up call he needs early enough to be able to really change and save the marriage.

        And the wife needs to know the “unforgivable” apology too because I’ve had to give one to my husband for emotionally abusing him with my anger.

        I used to give him reasons and explanations. But for him it was a big violation of trust.

        And it required me owning my shit and a deep apology and acknowledging the unforgivable nature of the crime for him. Asking for his forgiveness for an unforgivable mistake before he could forgive me and move on.

        It took a long time for me to be willing to do that because it would not have been an unforgivable crime if he had done the same thing to me.

        But that doesn’t matter, it matters that he thought it was. And to repair the damage I had to acknowledge that.

        So I’ve been on both sides of the apology and forgiveness. I am glad that we both are willing to do that hard work to repair all the damage we mostly unintentionally inflicted on each other.

        Last year I felt like a star of the Walking Dead I had so many unhealed wounds.

        I am a zombie wife trying to become human again!

      3. Matt,

        You know it occurs to me that this must be so painful for you that when you did recognize your error and and apologized to your wife that it was too late to save your marriage.

        That must be very hard to deal with. Maybe as much as a woman who never received the apology.

        My amygdala is feeling a little more calm today so I can see I was framing my comments in a way that felt blaming to you because I was trying to get the point across for the “unforgivable” part. (Although that was not my intent).

        I didn’t add the part about how acknowledging it makes it forgivable so I can see how that would make it seem like I was judging you for an unforgivable crime. So I’m sorry for that.

        I think since you agreed with my points there was a lot of miscommunication all around. It’s a tough subject to talk about and get the right words and tone.

        And while I was sometimes commenting on your actions (as opposed to the framing), I was I was really thinking of all the people in my family who have committed “unforgivable” crimes but never would acknowledge them or apologize.

        Because of was thinking of them it probably came off with a more “hostile” tone than I would ever mean for you. Because I know you understand that it was hurtful and would do it differently today.

        I don’t know if you had a chance to read my comments about the dehumanizing aspects to much of this but I think that is a huge factor for what makes these types of things such a violation of trust for many women.

        I was single a long time and a successful independent woman. I don’t think men (and maybe most single women or at least I didn’t) understand how dehumanizing this feels to a wife.

        I turned into a depressed, anxious, physically ill version that I didn’t recognize. I related to your description of your life after your divorce.

        Not caring if you lived except my marriage made me feel that way. My husband “accidentally” made me feel that way.

        As I said in my comments it is bigger than childbirth and involves having the flu, depression, grief, miscarriages etc. Any of life’s horrible things are made much worse to have a partner there but not available to help.

        It’s far worse than being single facing it alone. Because that’s how the brain works. If you’re single you expect to face it by yourself.

        Sue Johnson talks about this quite eloquently.
        How it drives us crazy (sometimes literally).

        It’s like starving and being able to see food behind a glass wall. Much worse psychological torture than starving in a room by yourself with no food in sight.

        I don’t think men understand this psychological torture wives often go through. It literally makes her mentally and physically ill, feeling like you’re begging for your humanity. To be treated as a human being.

        I wish men could understand that. It would make it easier to acknowledge the horrible pain. I know you must have felt something similar living in the guest room before you divorced.

        So you understand it in a way most men don’t because they’ve never experienced it. And it doesn’t seem so bad from the outside looking in. Because psychological torture is easy to dismiss.

    2. Wasn’t trying to hide! I was only trying to make the point, once again, regardless of how much I SHOULD have known, that I DIDN’T know.

      Because if it was true for my marriage, it’s also true for other marriages. And people should be aware of that reality, regardless of their feelings about it.

      It’s real. Maybe not normal. Maybe a statistical anomaly. Certainly indefensible.

      But, real.

      1. I must not be getting the distinction then because most of the post sounded like the old conversations about intentions mattering.

        I understand you didn’t know. I guess I still read a lot of focusing on the not knowing part being understandable or that you were a minor asshole with a different perspective than your wife’s.

        No, like me with my daughter, you were a major asshole with a completely selfish perspective. Like a a drunk driver running a red light and crashing into an innocent driver’s car.

        One sided asshole perspective. Not two sided perspective. Not like the different driver examples. One sided assholes you and I in these examples. It is not a matter of perspective at all.

        It’s not a matter of understanding or not understanding the other side. We were just simply selfish assholes.

        I can only say it this bluntly because I consider myself a bigger asshole in my case than yours.

        I hope you appreciate candor and I don’t have to put myself in the penalty box again because I really just trying to make my point clearly.

        And you are a lessor asshole than me.

        Here’s the asshole ranking in descending order.

        Satan
        Hitler
        Reba
        Me
        You

      2. Matt,

        These are sadly common stories. Not as common as the dishes stuff but too, too common. It is part of the whole sick way we socialize men and they talk amongst themselves that this is considered an option. I try to be sympathetic to men but I struggle on this one. Most especially the part about not fully acknowledging their full asshole ways after they’ve screwed it up.

        I think it was your male friends who advised you to go home and get sleep?

        Some of the most wounding things that couples therapists have to deal with in troubled marriages are stories around birth, miscarriages, and sicknesses. Husbands just don’t live up to their responsibilities in pretty basic ways. And then they dismiss their wives pain by telling her to get over the past. But she can’t because he hasn’t fully apologized in a way that she understands he gets what he did to her.

        It is the cause of a lot of stupid divorces and I know your mission is to fight that.
        So it’s important we frame the message to men very clearly. Don’t screw up, but if you do, absolutely no excuses or explaining reasons. Accept full responsibility and the language needs to be unambiguous.

        I think that was what you were trying to do in this post? But the framing and language sent a different message. At least to my reading.

        1. I was just trying to answer Donkey’s question!

          I didn’t spend an ounce of energy thinking about whether anyone would wonder whether I considered abandoning your wife at the hospital after birthing your first child as virtuous or responsible or awesome or understandable or any thing that does not = BAD.

          This isn’t about right and wrong or good and bad.

          This is about accepting reality. Someone else thinks and feels differently than us, and no matter how bullshit we think they are, it doesn’t make it less real.

          Donkey wanted to know how this could happen.

          The answer is: People with varied information, feelings, opinions and life experience will behave differently than those with dissimilar information, feelings, opinions and experiences.

          It’s a simple point, really. But perhaps an important one.

          This isn’t about judging my choices eight years ago.

          I’ve already been tried and convicted for that crime.

      3. Matt,

        I’m not trying to judge you for the crime from 8 years ago. We have all done shitty stuff.

        I’m just disagreeing with your assessment of the crime my husband did (we’ll leave you out of it) that says its not good or bad.

        That’s where we disagree. It was a morally shitty thing for him to do. It was bad. His reasons were bullshit. There is another story I could tell that he left the hospital to get sleep. That was also bad and his reasons were bullshit. It is not a matter of perspectives in my opinion. There is only one moral choice in some cases.

        We’ve all done stuff ok. I am arguing about the framing not what you did. Everyone does bad shit. What I did to my daughter was morally bad and shitty.

        I just think it is a moral framing not a perspective framing. Maybe you disagree, it appears you do. I think framing it as bad is important but I could be wrong.

        I apologize if my arguments about the framing came across like I was judging you for something you recognize as the worst moment of your life. I know you were just trying to be helpful to answer Donkey’s question.

      4. We all do shitty things, but at the time we did them for some reason we thought they were the “right” choice. Maybe our reason made sense and we felt was altruistic, maybe our reason was that we were a selfish asshole.

        Thing is, no matter how much we may wish life came with a rewind button we can’t change it. It’s happened. It’s a choice we made, and we need to live with the consequences.

        Ideally, we take all the choices we have made and learn from them. See what we’ve done, what was good, what was bad, and try to be better next time.

        In relationships people talk about not hurting the other person. Well, I’m of the opinion that if you are in a relationship you WILL hurt the other person. That’s kind of the nature of allowing people in. Once you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open yourself up to another person, you put them in a position that they are able to hurt you. And sometimes they will, because they are human. The only way to ensure you AREN’T hurt is to never let anyone in. Me? I’ll take vulnerability and accept that hurt sometimes comes with it any day. But to do that, you also need to be able to forgive, and to let go of the hurt when it comes.

        Some mistakes are bigger than others, and some create fundamental shifts in the relationship where things aren’t the same as they were before. And we each need to determine if we can accept the new, changed version of our relationships when we are faced with them. Or if the changes mean it’s time to walk away.

        But the mistakes themselves? If we own them, and use them to grow and learn? Then they weren’t really mistakes – they were just part of our journey of growing as a person.

        Matt made a choice, one I’m sure he wishes he could get a “redo” on. But life’s not like that. So there were consequences, and they weren’t what he probably wanted to have happen. Would he make that same choice today if faced with a similar situation? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t – but that doesn’t change the past.

        So all he can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward as best he can. And I think that’s what he’s doing.

        1. Kind words aside, Drew, there’s a lot of good stuff here.

          My favorite, and frankly one I’d never thought of, is entering relationships with the mindset that we WILL BE hurt sometimes, but that we will choose love and forgiveness in those moments. (Assuming these are common human failings, and not major crimes.)

          KNOWING we’re going to get hurt.

          Choosing vulnerability as the tradeoff.

          Love.

          Forgive.

          Excellent stuff, sir.

          1. Yeah, I guess I look at that differently than most. Most people take the approach that “if someone loved me they wouldn’t hurt me”.

            Sorry, I’ve probably hurt everyone I’ve loved at some time or another. And they’ve hurt me. I see that as part of the territory of allowing people in and being vulnerable.

            That’s why letting go of hurts is SO important. Shit happens. If you want to hold onto stuff that happened in the past, all you are doing is poisoning your future.

            Not saying you put up with anything. This is where boundaries come in, and if someone continually violates those boundaries then maybe they aren’t someone who is healthy to have in your life.

            But mistakes and learning from them are how we grow.

          2. Thanks. I know most people don’t share my thoughts on this one (and are instead in the camp that if someone loves me they won’t hurt me), but this one just makes a lot of sense to me, and feels right.

            Actually, this gives me an idea for a blog entry related to my experience selling my car this past weekend. Think I’ll steal some of my comments from above 🙂

      5. I don’t know, Drew. There are some ideas in what you’ve written that are a bit mixed up for me which I’m trying to parse. I’m 100% on board with you regarding Matt’s part in this (can’t rewrite history, the lesson he learned and how he uses it to inform his behavior going forward, etc.). But what of his ex-wife, and any lesson you hope the women in this thread take from what you’ve written? You said, “In relationships people talk about not hurting the other person. Well, I’m of the opinion that if you are in a relationship you WILL hurt the other person. That’s kind of the nature of allowing people in. Once you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open yourself up to another person, you put them in a position that they are able to hurt you. And sometimes they will, because they are human.” I totally get that and agree in large part. But are there not moral crimes that go beyond the point of acceptability? Furthermore, to really dig down, are there not moral crimes that a wife shouldn’t have to even verbalize as a boundary because it should be considered an axiom on grounds of basic humanity? When you say, “Some mistakes are bigger than others, and some create fundamental shifts in the relationship where things aren’t the same as they were before. And we each need to determine if we can accept the new, changed version of our relationships when we are faced with them. Or if the changes mean it’s time to walk away.”, you seem to be conceding to my point, but I feel like the women in this thread need something more than that. They want to feel like, even if they must resign themselves to the fact that they have a lot of work ahead of them dealing with their husbands’ derpy-derpness, they can depend on at least a minimum standard of being treated with basic human decency by the person who has sworn allegiance to their heart for life and, barring that, at least a rock bottom standard of being able to depend on an immediate and authentic apology. When the men on this blog, who usually show enough self-awareness and desire for self-improvement to give the female readership a sliver of hope for our gender, can’t provide even that threadbare assurance, it must be leaving them in crushing despair. There are ideas in all of this discussion that are useful to men to wish to avoid a similar nuclear moment in their own relationships, I grant you, but the way so much of it is being presented comes across so oddly cold and dismissive to the woman’s experience that I wouldn’t be surprised if every woman here is questioning whether our gender, whether taken on an individual-by-individual basis or in total, is even worth their time or effort.

        1. I am jumping on once again because I feel the “huzza” moment about to arrive.

          Nuclear shit we totally get – it is clear and obvious. No, Travis, it is the relentless, energy sucking, oblivious, not hearing, thoughtless, selfish, unself -aware derpy derpness that puts us in despair. My opinion. Women? I think this has been said in multiple ways throughout this thread, aka things like “my responsibility to manage his responsibilities” etc.

      6. shannon, I agree with that reading on a multitude of threads here at MBTTTR, but it’s not what I’m getting from this one. Maybe I’m wrong but, from my perspective, the nuclear crime is very much what’s lighting all the fires in this one.

        1. I’ve never blatantly disagreed with you (except for a couple of your recent music-fan “abnormalities” 😉 ), but I have to on this stance you’ve taken, about this story.

          I wholly reject the notion that my decision to foolishly and wrongfully leave that hospital room 8 years ago lives on some Unforgivable Crimes list.

          Context has always, and will always, matter. I’m telling you, if we hopped on the phone or met for drinks, you’d come around on this.

          I’m NOT defending it. I’m NOT saying it’s okay. And it’s TOTALLY inexcusable.

          But, it is ALSO the same thought-process which Shannon describes here. The oblivious, thoughtless, derpy-derp stuff I am ALWAYS writing about. It 100-percent is that.

          If I wrote this blog post nine years ago, and read all of these reactions, and talked to my pregnant wife about it, and THEN repeated the same thing all over again?

          THAT would live on the Unforgivable Crimes list.

          I’m not saying my wife, nor you, nor any reader here SHOULD forgive or excuse the decision.

          I’m saying there’s a universally accepted list of Things We DO NOT Do, EVER:

          Murder, Rape, Imprisoning Children in Basement Cages, Arson, Kidnapping, Punching Wives Because We’re Angry, Bank Robbery, Terrorism; Make, Distribute or Possess Child Pornography, etc.

          These are crimes of basic human decency, for which there is no excuse. (But even this is only My List. Jihadists think this list is bullshit. They think “terrorism” is a cynical label. They believe public acts of violence which kill many people to be part of a noble crusade. Children are taught that from a very young age. What seems obvious to us is totally counter to what many people in certain cultures and geographies grow up believing.)

          When I say I left my wife in the hospital, everybody pictures it in their head, and then forms opinions around that imaginary mental scene.

          That’s okay. I didn’t film and share it, and I intentionally avoiding diving in too far, because I AM NOT EVER going to dedicate energy to trying to alleviate myself of the responsibility of past mistakes.

          People say that I’ve done that here, and I simply disagree. I know how I feel as I sit here and type this, and no part of my emotional or mental makeup is hoping anyone will forgive or excuse a decision from eight years ago.

          If I was on a personal PR crusade, I wouldn’t write this blog at all.

          My mother reads this shit, for God’s sake, and near as I can tell, is frequently appalled.

          If context and having all of the facts, matters (and I believe it does).

          And if intention matters (not everyone buys that, but I still do, and I think you do, too — though I’m so pleased to now have a healthier perspective and understanding of just HOW PAINFUL the unintentional wounds really are).

          Then I fundamentally disagree with the premise that everyone is rightfully outraged in making moral judgments about a story I volunteered about myself from eight years ago, all while missing loads of information which only two people in the entire world possess (and even THAT is clouded by eight years of memory hemmoraging at this point).

          Shannon was pissed as hell at me in a roundabout way, but I think she’s mostly nailed it. Shannon “gets” me, because she’s essentially married to Me Eight Years Ago, and appears to have slayed the dragon with her marriage intact (which is really awesome, Shannon + Husband Kind of Like Me).

          In conclusion:

          Me Today making the choice? UNFORGIVABLE crime.

          Me Eight Years Ago making the choice? Derpy-derp shitty husband who got divorced due to repeated behaviors of obliviousness, but more to the point — and Shannon reiterated it above — FORCING MY WIFE INTO THE POSITION OF ACTING LIKE MY MOTHER.

          When two adults are in a relationship, and one doesn’t pull their requisite weight (or doesn’t shovel the requisite amount of coal), the other person must assume responsibility for the other, like a parent does a child.

          This “She Feels Like Your Mom” Thing is an epidemic.

          And everything I write ultimately centers around wanting people to See the Water all around us. To really be mindfully aware of the choices they make and how they impact those we love, and who count on us.

          I am able to do that today through the prism of hindsight and the past mistakes.

          And Unforgivable Crime?

          That is for my ex-wife to decide and ZERO others.

          For everyone else, it’s a matter of faith. No one else gets to tell me who I am. No one.

          People are totally allowed to feel however they want. Always and forever. They, like you, are allowed to have differing opinions.

          But I don’t owe anyone in this thread anything.

          Maybe myself? If I have more to learn still?

          Maybe.

          I owe my son. I owe his mother. That’s who I owe.

          Because I made a series of choices throughout my 20s, and into my 30s which lead me here.

          To a life no one wanted or asked for or planned for.

          I carry that daily. And I share it out of a deep desire to not see others live out those similar stories.

          People were/are upset because I won’t agree to their label for what that moment was.

          That makes sense. I’m not sure I’d agree to label an act of terror the same name as a lifelong Jihadist would. And maybe he would think I’m a dumbass for not agreeing with him, even after explaining it a few times.

          In conclusion…

          I wrote this post for just one reason, and not very many people wanted to talk about that reason.

          I wrote it because I was asked an honest and fair question. My answer–this post–was my honest response.

          The truth is the truth is the truth no matter how many people don’t like it.

          Husbands and boyfriends (and all other categories of human beings) ACCIDENTALLY hurt their wives and girlfriends, by behaving under FALSE ASSUMPTIONS.

          They really believe the sun, moon and stars revolve around the earth.

          But it’s 100% wrong.

          And sometimes they don’t understand that until it’s too late.

          And THAT is why most divorce happens.

      7. Matt,

        There’s so much I agree with in what you just wrote that it’s very clear to me that you and I are suffering less from an across-the-board disagreement with one another about all of this than a breakdown of communication. The lightbulb moment we’re respectively wanting each other to have is being missed. I can only offer one last time that I do not hold you in any judgment whatsoever for what you did eight years ago (well, I can’t help but hold eight years ago Matt in judgment, but most assuredly not current Matt). And I in no way, shape or form am trying to make the case that what you did is an Universal Unforgivable Crime, please believe that. I’m only saying that I feel the bulk of the women respondents are not being well served or acknowledged by the way the discussion is being framed by you and Drew. I don’t want to further speak on their behalf, because I’m grossly unqualified to do so, but my initial reaction to what you wrote, for the very first time, elicited feelings in me that seemed to match many of the women’s rather than mirrored yours. I believe Lisa really nailed it by indicating that the decision made by eight years ago Matt, as repellent as it may be on the surface, is much, much less the driver of the high emotions in this thread than the way current Matt chose to speak of/frame/contextualize it. And the only line in the sand of disagreement I believe truly exists between us here is that I don’t believe you’ve done proper service to your female readers. I don’t believe you’ve willingly surrendered to their experience, their frustrations, their feeling of dismissal, their influence. I don’t think what they’re crying out to you is connecting. I feel you’re entrenched in your intentions with this post at the cost of refusing to demonstrate acceptance of what you actually wrought. This is why I’ve said, in a rarity for you, this time around, for at least some of us, it doesn’t look like you’re walking the walk. I’m sorry we have to disagree on that point but, hey, to use an analogy which doesn’t come to me naturally (LOL), you and I still have a great mutual batting average!

      8. Travis, you said:

        ” When the men on this blog, who usually show enough self-awareness and desire for self-improvement to give the female readership a sliver of hope for our gender, can’t provide even that threadbare assurance, it must be leaving them in crushing despair.”

        I have to say, if I were in the wooing stages, making undying promises of love to someone – I would NEVER promise that I wouldn’t hurt them. In fact, I think instead I think I would tell them that I probably would hurt them at some point in time. Sometimes out of ignorance, and sometimes out of thoughtlessness. But I would always own my actions, and I would always strive to be better tomorrow than I am today.

        That’s about the best I can honestly do. And if that leaves someone with crushing despair? Sucks, but not much I can do about that.

        All I can do is try to be the best me I can be every day. And some days my me will be better than others.

      9. Fair enough, Drew, but I would counter that we’ve been dancing around two types of moral crimes in this discussion: the Mars/Venus variety (in which there’s at least some legitimacy in men saying they didn’t know any better) and the failure of basic human decency kind (in which ignorance is not an effective defense). When you tell someone you’re wooing that you will certainly hurt her at some point, I think it’s fair to expect her to read that as a heads up that there will be Mars crimes committed in the years ahead. I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate to assume she interprets that as meaning she should willingly prepare herself to endure crimes of basic human decency. I imagine that if the message from men to women is going to be, “Get ready for the fact that I’m so ignorant of even basic empathy that I will surely level you with some nuclear crimes in the years ahead, and I expect you to be okay with that, because I promise to learn from my mistakes.”, I fully expect women to reply in turn, “Screw you, pal! I know there’ll be some Mars/Venus bumps in the road from which we’ll both grow, but if you expect me to be the dissection frog in your life’s learning, you’re sadly mistaken!” I’ll say this in closing: if you can’t see how saying something like, “If that leaves someone [i.e. women] with crushing despair? Sucks, but not much I can do about that.” proves my thesis, then I’m not sure what else I can say on the matter.

      10. Drew and Travis I posted this in the wrong thread so I am reposting it here.

        Drew, Matt, and Travis,

        I think different things are being mixed up here. So I am going to try to separate them.

        I want to make it clear that I am writing this with my own husband in mind or generalities not Matt’s situation.

        1. I agree with you Drew that being vulnerable and in a relationship guarantees that we will get hurt at various points because we are flawed humans. I don’t agree that it is common for women to think otherwise.

        2. I have said in other comments that the research agrees and says that making mistakes is not the problem. The critical difference is if the couple can effectively repair the hurt.

        3. This is where owning your shit and apologizing for it without defensiveness is critical. If you can do that, repairing the wound happens and she can move on.

        4. The defensiveness and gaslighting and making it about her lack of forgiveness is what prevents her from the accountability needed for repairing a hurt.

        5. I think the average woman is willing to forgive her husband if he demonstrates true remorse for whatever he did. Telling her he really “gets” how he hurt her and he will take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

        6. That is how you effectively repair a wound. That restores trust. I know I would have been able to forgive my husband for leaving me alone in the hospital twice if he had been able to show accountability and apologize.

        7. Most women are TOO willing to try and forgive without accountability and repair. They tend towards codependency so will try and adjust to her husband’s lack of true apology. But that just leads to a divorce.

        8. Because my husband only gave half hearted apologies, I was not able to let it just go despite trying. That’s the Zeigarnik effect at work (the brain not being able to forget things not fully dealt with).

        9. He would get defensive and angry at me for not being able to focus on the present and holding a grudge. That compounded the problem because not only do I not get healing for the original wound but I am now being presented as the problem, making the wound deeper.

        10. In fact he thinks I owe HIM an apology for not forgiving him and bringing it up all the time. Even though he has withheld the tool I need to do that by being defensive and not saying

        “Lisa, I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I got wrapped up in my own anxiety and forgot about what was most important.

        Really being there for you when you were lying in pain in the hospital. I am so sorry I did that to you, it was unforgivable really. But can you forgive me?”

        And I would say “Thank you for saying that, that’s what I needed to hear. I forgive you’”

        11. That’s how “unforgivable” sins become “forgivable” by acknowledging they are unforgivable and asking for forgiveness.

        At least that is what it took for me and the research says it is what it takes for anyone to forgive and have a happy marriage.

        And most women hearing that will forgive and finally because it has been fully process be able to “forget” and move on.

        12. But when a husband focuses on reasons why it was understandable or reasonable like my husband originally did, that the mistake was “forgivable” it stays “unforgivable”.

        13. Of course most repairs in marriage are about differences in perspectives so don’t require the “unforgivable” apology. But the big trust violating ones, even if done with the best of intentions do require the ” unforgivable” framing in my view.

        Things like affairs, abandonment in sickness or in need, things most people would think are betrayals of trust. Even if you didn’t see it that way at the time.

        14. Almost anything can be processed and forgiven if there is accountability and a heartfelt apology and a willingness to forgive.
        I believe in forgiveness and grace. I am both giving it and receiving it with my husband as we repair our wounded marriage.

    3. I totally agree with the opinions of insanitybytes22. Matt, you know I have written to you before about the pain I experienced in my own marriage. Reading this post was the most painful for me because it hit home and it just makes me question the male species. I wonder how all these selfish men were raised? I can’t help wondering if it’s because their mother’s doted on them too much or where were their father’s to teach them what it means to be a man and a husband. Children do not raise themselves. To understand the role of a and a father. No one had to teach me how to be a good mother. To me, it’s common sense; however, I also had a fantastic role model. It scares me that I might be blaming the parents of these selfish men because I am raising two boys. If they ever did anything like that to their wives, I would kick their ass. I am a great Mom (not perfect) but I certainly wouldn’t be saying “there, there, it’s okay honey, how would you know you weren’t supposed to leave your wife at the hospital”. Yes, we are all human and we all make mistakes. Some are just too big to forgive. I read somewhere that when a spouse has an affair, it takes 5 years of apologies to the hurt person before forgiveness begins. Yes, forgiveness is a choice so I will say again, some things are unforgivable.

  3. Matt,

    I admire your vulnerability in writing about your worst moment for all to see. You are not unique.

    We could all talks turns in the comments if we were so brave and write our worst shittiest moment. Mine is screaming at my daughter and making her feel like I thought she was wasn’t good enough because I really did hate her at times because I was selfish and wanted her to be more like me. I think that is worse than your worse moment leaving your wife after her c-section. At least she’s an adult.

    I was a complete asshole to my daughter for a few months and I have spent a lot time and energy to make sure she feels complete loved and accepted by me. I have apologized for the shifty unacceptable ways I acted. It motivates me to never never treat her that way again. Hence my dance mom penance.

    There are perfectly logical reasons I felt entitled to act that way. There are reasons I could not see it sooner. There are things I didn’t understand. But it’s all bullshit. I was an asshole and that’s it. I should have known better and done better. That’s it. Part of owning my shit is having no excuses.

    I don’t live in internal agony about it because I have done everything I can to repair the damage and take responsibility for my unacceptable behavior. It is forever my worst moment (hopefully). And I have to just live with it because there is no excuse.

    Ignorance or intention are no excuse. I was just an asshole to her because I chose to be. Selfish asshole. I chose that behavior when I had a different choice available. Part of owning my shit is making no excuse whatsoever for my behavior.

    That’s just my take obviously everyone has to wrestle with things their own ways. But at least your worst moment doesn’t involve making your son feel like shit. So in asshole ranking I am worse.

    1. Humans will sometimes tragically, but often beautifully, be human.

      You’re one of the good ones, Lisa. Thank you for sharing pieces of your life.

    2. But I want to make it clear that, in my opinion, allowing yourself excuses is going to prevent making the changes you need to never allow yourself to do that shit again.

      Because whether you get married or have another kid or not there will be many big occasions when someone you love needs you. A funeral, sickness, surgery, teenage kid, elderly parent, whatever.

      Just like the way I treated my daughter has no excuses, leaving your crying wife who begged you to stay has no excuses. There are no excuses.

      1. I sure hope it didn’t sound as if I thought there was somehow a good excuse for this happening.

        The word “excuse” suggests it should be excused.

        It’s not an excuse. It’s a reason.

        It’s an explanation for how it happened. It is in NO WAY, a justification. I apologize if it read like one.

      2. Matt,

        I’m not trying to beat on you man. You have obviously done a lot of soul searching and feel appropriate shame and remorse for your “worst moment”. And as I said I’m a much bigger asshole than you anyway.

        But in the interest of trying to explain why the framing may be giving a different message than you intended I throw out these thoughts.

        This whole post would have been fantastic if it had been about a less serious topic. If you had used the Ptolemy framing around things that husbands and wives often see differently like how much money to spend on a house.

        There are reasons for both sides. You could argue that the one who wants to buy a bigger house with more debt is the Ptolemy side. Calculations abound but who knows what the housing market will bring and it could bankrupt you.

        But these are issues of different perspectives where it is proper to frame things as assuming the best intentions, human make mistakes, etc. YES! I agree with you.
        So much of what we argue about in marriage are really not reducible to one way is the right way.

        But sometimes there is only one right way. And the other way is not a different perspective but is morally inferior. it is what I like about Bill Doherty’s work on Values Therapy. When our choices affect another person there are values and moral choices involved.

        When a loved one is sick and/or in need, there are no different perspectives. We just unselfishly need to take care of whatever we can.

        Are there many people who don’t do that? Yes Does it mean they had their reasons? Yes But their reasons are bullshit. I don’t care about their reasons. I don’t want to hear about their reasons and how they think they’re right.

        In the same way I don’t want to hear men say how women deserve to be hit because they make him mad or I don’t want to hear about how kids deserve to be abandoned because the mom wants to be free.

        They’re bullshit.

        As ifonlymommy said, you were using a framing about Ptolemy and being human and making mistakes and assuming the best and Harry Potter that does not belong in this category of emotional abuse and neglect.

        This post should have been about how we can all be selfish assholes who abuse our loved ones.

        It’s a cautionary tale about how horrible humans can be. So, so easily. Like those experiments where most people will shock people in a lab because people in white coats tell them to. That’s what you and I being assholes is really about.

        How terrified we all should be about how easy it is to abuse people. Even people we love or actually most especially people we love because they push our buttons.

        And how easy it is for us all to dismiss it afterwards as a perspective difference or human error and we should all assume the best about each other. Or some other reason that’s bullshit.

        No, I don’t think that’s the message I take about my husband leaving me alone in that hospital room or me screaming at my daughter. It is to think the worst of my intentions and to know I am so easily capable of horrible things. Because I am human.

        But on the plus side I’ve also got that big old human brain and I can acknowledge it and plan against it. To know I default to selfishness and so I have to actively choose to be selfless.

        To know I don’t easily accept influence and so to seek the others perspective and make sure their needs are accommodated. To know I am so easily defensive and to not allow myself to have reasons.

        I think its just a matter of reclassifying things into a different category. I’m not Catholic but don’t you guys have different categories of sins with different more serious penance? That’s a good way to think about it for me.

        Anything that abandons a loved one in a time of sickness or great need is a different category than perspective differences. This is way too long but I am preaching to myself here. I am capable of great, great emotional abuse so easily. I can’t allow myself to forget it.

  4. I have to say here – my husband did have an affair. I was ready to forgive that and work on trying to rebuild our relationship. It wasn’t until he left me alone with our special needs son who was violently ill and refused to come home when I called him scared out of my mind that something was dangerously wrong that I decided it was over. The “be there to protect us / the children” thing cannot possibly be overstated in terms of its importance to a wife and mom. Refusing to be there for our son moved him from the “guy who made a mistake because he was unhappy – and we are both equally at fault for that” box in my mind firmly into “you are a shitty husband and a shitty father and I want nothing more to do with you”

    1. I truly understand this today.

      There are places inside us where wounds don’t mend easily.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Tina.

    2. Exactly same thing happened to me. It goes from “people make mistakes” to “You purposely devalued us”

  5. My husband did something similar after our first child was born. I had some reconstructive surgery done, after fourth degree lacerations from delivering our first child developed complications a number of months later. I was in pain, physically incapacitated, feeling vulnerable and completely out of control—and he left me crying at home in bed, alone with a baby, and went to work. He could have easily rescheduled that day. The person he was meeting would have completely understood the need to stay home with a wife who had just had surgery. For years I felt white-hot rage whenever I thought about it.
    Honestly I am married to a good man. He’s a very intelligent person in terms of both IQ and EQ. He loves me. He is an excellent provider and a wonderful father to our children. He believes in God and takes his duty as a human being seriously. If I can’t make it with this man, I won’t be able to make it with any man! Even so, I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times (years) when marriage was so excruciating that I secretly wished that one of us would die young.
    I understand now that my husband was completely overwhelmed by the stress of needing and wanting to provide for me and our baby. He was so caught up in doing what he thought was his duty that he was completely, abysmally, pathologically clueless about my reality. He just didn’t get it. Even though he should have known. Even though I told him. Today he is dumbfounded and embarrassed by his behavior back then and very sorry. He was a complete jerk. We both know it.
    I get what you’re saying, Matt. He’s not a woman. He never gave birth to a bay. He doesn’t possess my anatomy, let along my emotional makeup as a woman. He’s never had surgery on that part of his body or been that weak and helpless. He hadn’t ever seen anyone else go through what I was going through.
    But what makes me really “get” what you are trying to explain is having lived long enough to recognize the staggering magnitude of my own failures as a wife, as a daughter, as an in-law, as a friend, as a church member, as a parent, as a neighbor, as a member of the human race. I have thoughtlessly, unintentionally hurt so many people that I love over the years. I didn’t mean to! Sometimes I was completely unaware. I didn’t have the maturity or life experience. Sometimes I was insecure and cowardly. Sometimes I was overwhelmed; I just didn’t have anything to give and I shut down emotionally. I was depressed. I have chronic fatigue.
    Blah, blah, blah! It’s all true, but the fact remains that I have not been what I should have been or who I wanted to be. I have done what I ought not to have done and I have left undone the things that I should have done. I have hurt the people I love more deeply than any criminal on the street could have done, and I am truly sorry. I wish I could take it back and do it over again the right way.
    “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” When I recognize how screwed up I am and how desperately I have needed and continue to need forgiveness, it takes the white-hot wind out of my rage-filled sails.

  6. I am continually struck by the familiarity of the topics brought up in your blog. Over 27 years ago, my husband asked the physician attending the birth of our first child to delay a natural procedure that would have accelerated labor. This enabled him to leave the hospital and meet a coworker at a nearby gas station to hand over some printouts of their company sales figures. For baby #2, he left me and our newborn daughter waiting for a ride home (I’d been discharged from the hospital and it was clear my room was wanted for another patient) so he could finish a round of golf at the course across the street.
    For an exhausted and vulnerable young mother, behaviors such as this represent the height of insensitivity and selfishness. I know my husband was completely unaware of the damage his behaviors inflicted on our relationship. Moreover, he was dumbstruck by how much it hurt me, AND insisted that I was overly emotional and it was not a big deal. Ouch, ouch, and ouch.
    Over 27 years later, I am grateful beyond words to read your account of personal enlightenment as you reflect on a similar circumstance in your life. It is really important that married men have resources like this!

    1. Carolyn, I am so sorry for the heartache you have endured. It just makes me want to cry. Brings up alot of my own pain. Did you stay married to him?

  7. “I left my wife alone in that hospital because I didn’t know better.”

    I don’t mean to sound so harsh and judgmental, but I just can’t accept this. It just won’t reconcile. It would be too much like a wife saying, “hey, I just slept with your brother because I didn’t know better. It wasn’t really my fault. I just wasn’t thinking.”

    We’ve all done stupid stuff, thoughtless, inconsiderate, likely downright abusive, but we ARE thinking, we do know better, the truth is we flat out didn’t care. That’s why we did it, because we chose to perceive our target as not fully human, therefore not worthy of our respect.

  8. 2 cents in….Gulp, this changes how I view you, a little (no big deal, we don’t know each other at all). You left your wife begging for you to stay, protect her, love her, after the birth of your son and you just left. Then you made her feel like she had a problem for not letting it go…double gulp. That was just wrong. This baby boy was both of yours yet you left her alone. She was scared, Matt. I promise you she was and I’m sure she felt more alone in the moment you walked out that door than she ever had. This makes me sad. I can see her there, alone in that sterile room with this new baby boy. She wanted to share that with you and in that moment she most likely thought, she was in this parenting thing alone. So scary. I won’t ever cover what pain an emergency C-section can bring. You’d probably be crying like a little bitch for weeks afterwards. I’m sure she would have stayed by your side, without you ever asking. You probably would have expected nothing less from her.
    You may have written something to explain why you did this…I didn’t get that far. I hope you understand now how bad this one mistake was and that you’ve apologized repeatedly for it to her without any “buts” afterwards.

  9. Didn’t everyone also tell you that you should get a good night’s sleep that first night because you wouldn’t be getting sleep for the next 18 years or something? That’s not an excuse, but it is a reason… doesn’t mean you should have done that, but it’s hard to ignore sensible and rather true/good advice when it’s coming from people who have been there, such as doctors, nurses, and people who have already done the baby birth in the hospital thing… you were a new parent, you didn’t know that this advice wasn’t true, or that it wasn’t something you really should do… maybe you should have recognized the greater need here, that being your wife’s asking you to stay, but you were also told to do what you did by people you trusted. That’s an important part of this story I think.

    1. The important part of the story in my opinion is that he listened to anyone else but his wife.

      I get what you’re trying to say Ali that he had his reasons and one of them was friends telling him to sleep but that’s being an asshole in my opinion. Your wife just had a C-seciton and whatever she wanted or needed is the only thing that should matter.

      Unless a doctor is telling you to get out for medical reasons, a husband should doing whatever his wife needs. Handstands, sleeping upside down, staying up all night, whatever. it’s still a hell of a lot easier than 24 hours of labor and a C-section.

      And whatever else anyone else suggests should be politely listened to and ignored as white noise.

      1. I’m not saying that it’s a good reason, and yes, there were major things to attend to above and beyond that advice; however, I believe the point of the post was to answer the question ‘what was your thought process behind that action’ – and that was part of the thought process. That’s it. I’ve done the c-section thing, if my ex would have left I would have been fine with it, but that’s why we’re divorced. If it were someone I loved, I’d be rightfully pissed.

    2. Ali,

      If that was part of Matt’s thought process, that he decided it was important to get a good night sleep like his friends have told him, then yes, that would definitely be part of the reason, and I would be interested in hearing it. A horrible reason, but a reason none the less. 🙂

      I would then ask what the thought process was that made him decide to listen to his friends rather than his wife, since they gave conflicting advice, and since obviously his wife’s wishes should have been paramount in this situation, since she is his wife and has been pregnant/had a c-section and was looking after their newborn.

      Lisa, reading about how your husband acted after your miscarriage warmed my heart. Bonus point to him for that.

  10. Oh, and own this mistake without justifying it. The examples of people making mistakes in the past…cop out. Sure everyone makes mistakes, so what!It doesn’t make the fact that you did any better. I mean there was a time I wanted to cut my husband’s dick & balls off because he was such a terrible cheater. If I actual sliced all of it off (which I never would have, I’m not crazy) and then said, well other people have done it and I was just so hurt and lost that I didn’t “think”, make it better? Not even a little bit. No one would have cared about anyone else in history, they would just want to know what the hell was wrong with me.

  11. This is a powerful trigger for many women, Matt, being abandoned during childbirth, but I think what’s even more of a trigger is the subtle psychological abuse, the gaslighting. Not that you’re intending to do that, but the tone of your post offers up 3 very common excuses for abuse. There’s a lack of accountability.

    I think there’s a clue in your Actor/Observer analogy and also your Harry Potter reference. If it’s not your fault, than it’s hers. That’s how women’s minds usually work anyway. I can understand what you’re saying, you weren’t thinking, you didn’t know better, but to victims of abuse that’s always going to read, “so it’s my fault.”

    “if you’re at an intersection and somebody else runs a red light, you will probably think they’re a selfish, inconsiderate scumbag putting the rest of the drivers in danger just to shave a couple seconds off their drive.”

    Women are rarely operating in with that same Actor/Observer bias, especially not in intimate relationships. We will spin excuses for men until there just aren’t anymore excuses to spin. Many of us will not see “selfish scumbag,” at all, we’ll see ourselves as having caused the problem. Flat out, when men don’t take responsibility for themselves we do, and when the burden of trying to carry that load becomes too much, we offload you. It’s a matter of self preservation.

    1. I agree with this, most abused in intimate relationships do not ever the the shading of darkness and gaslighting until well after they are free.

    2. “Flat out, when men don’t take responsibility for themselves we do, and when the burden of trying to carry that load becomes too much, we offload you. It’s a matter of self preservation”

      Wow. Excellent explanation of why many women can’t see another option than to offload the whole man (yes, sometimes it’s reversed and everything). She can’t just lose the gaslighting/the responsibility that doesn’t belong to her/the shit sandwiches that he’s serving. That would be her first choice! But because he (in many cases, not all obviously) just won’t take responsibility/own the shit sandwhiches he’s served and stop serving them, the only way she can be free of the shit sandwiches/gaslighting is to dump the whole man. Sadly, in many case, though it doesn’t have to be like that, they’re a package deal.

  12. Insanitybytes22,

    I can only agree and I am glad that you so succinctly expressed my disbelief at the total lack of compassion shown here by a husband toward his wife whom he purported “loved”.

    Matt, this is in the realm (to me) of criminally negligent behavior — especially since you think there is some reason that adequately explains your behavior. NONE OF WHAT YOU SAID MAKES SENSE. THERE IS NO EXCUSE!!

  13. Matt,
    Don’t know if you particularly care to here another random voice on the subject.
    I know some of these comments must be hard to read. I appreciate that you are willing to be honest about this.
    Youre you. You screwed up, and have since seen the light.
    If you still have any question as to how that affected your ex-wife, then take the comments as enlightenment.
    Have you since apologized to her? Expressed to her how you get how that must have felt?
    You don’t have to answer those questions. But, if you haven’t , maybe these comments can help you make true amends.

  14. kirstencronlund

    These comments are a little hard to read. And if they’re hard for me, then I can’t imagine what they’re doing to you, Matt. To me, it seems like you’ve learned what you needed to learn from your actions of 8 years ago and that’s the important point.

    In terms of offering an explanation, I wonder if I can change gears a bit from what you suggested and take a stab at simple selfishness and desire to put your own needs first. I’m guessing we all have stories of having done this in relationships. I certainly have. We know deep down inside that we are acting selfishly but we do it anyway. I suspect there was a part of you in the hospital that knew that leaving your wife that night wasn’t the right thing to do, but you were probably tired and the idea of your own comfortable bed won out. Is there any truth to that? It’s not an excuse, but it’s an explanation – and one that I can more easily understand than you didn’t know it wasn’t the right thing to do.

    If any of this resonates, I have another thought about maybe why some relationships succeed and some fail. Angela Duckworth is a researcher who has studied something she calls grit. She defines grit as passion and perseverance for long term goals. And she has found that the grittiest people tend to find the greatest success – in spelling bees, in West Point boot camp, and in many other areas. Seems to me that a key component of grit is self-regulation, or the ability to delay gratification. Putting something else above the comfort of giving up. Given all this, I just thought of a hypothesis, which is: I wonder if people who are gritty with regard to relationships find more success there? Seems to make sense, right? They’d be more willing to set aside their own needs for the needs of the other person.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about how to built grit, but I have Angela’s new book sitting on my coffee table (http://smile.amazon.com/Grit-Passion-Perseverance-Angela-Duckworth/dp/1501111108/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463280211&sr=8-1&keywords=grit) and maybe I’ll find some answers in there.

    1. kirstencronlund

      Oops. I mean I can’t say anything about how to build grit (not built grit).

  15. Framing! That’s it. Lisa above mentioned framing and that’s what you are doing Matt, framing.

    I’m sorry to sound so critical today, but did you know that jerky men actually have web seminars about how to frame their abuse so as to control women? Seriously, and books have been written about it, too. It’s a somewhat instinctual male response, perfectly normal, but some have turned it into a dark art form. It’s especially irritating because women are vulnerable to framing, it messes with our heads.

    Anyway Matt, hey I used to bounce lawn chairs off my hubby’s head, so it’s not like you are the most horrible person ever. Stuff happens. We all have a dark side and you’ve done an admirable job trying to be honest about it.

  16. I think what everyone is getting at here is there seems to be a difference between the first part and the second part of your post. I was really interested at first – hoping to indeed get some kind of clue-in as to why husbands would do something of that magnitude completely ignorantly, and then the second part was almost like a completely different topic (people make mistakes, it isn’t his intention to hurt you).

    I don’t care about his intentions. Quite frankly, in my marriage I had a decade of “I never meant to hurt you”s that were extremely hurtful, abusive, and damaging. At this point, it is all said and done. There are things he said and did that he can never take back. Same on my end, I’m sure. Intentions don’t mean a damn thing to me anymore.

    And I’m not trying to hammer and judge you at all. But what I am honestly curious about is the why, and I still don’t feel like you’ve answered that even though you have posted on this sort of thing several times.

    Is this one of those “I derpy derped through life” moments? I just cannot fathom that a husband would derpy derp and do this thing.

    I guess what I’m wondering is – what is the thought process? I mean, it’s almost like coming across someone who is bleeding in the middle of the road and you just leave them there because of Reasons. What’s the thought process? When a wife is literally crying and begging you to not leave her, what thought process goes through your head that justifies leaving anyway? That’s the part I’m curious about, the part I’d like explained personally.

    I guess the one thing I can say about my ex that would at least explain a lot of this is quite simply that he never took me seriously, in the things I said or wanted. I’m still not sure why. I think it took him a year to accept that I really seriously wasn’t just throwing a fit out of anger (and I’m not particularly emotional, so throwing fits out of anger isn’t really something I do) and that I really did want a divorce. Even now, a year and half later, every couple months he tries to have a “come to Jesus” moment with me where I have to remind him that he needs to take me seriously and yes I am not interested in getting back together and no I won’t be and please stop giving the kids false hopes.

    So maybe that’s it? I mean do you guys just not take your wives seriously? Particularly if they are being weepy or whatever? That’s the part I don’t get. That’s the part that baffles me. I distinctly remember one of the very first moments of the end of our marriage when my ex had been gone for a week or whatever and I just went to him and cried (very out of character for me, he was always the more emotional one between us) and sobbed and just told him I needed him more and he was always gone and he was giving so much to his hobby and I felt abandoned.

    His response? He patted my back and made some comments about how I needed more of a social life. What an asshole. He didn’t take me seriously, not even a little bit. So is that it? Because I honestly can’t think of any other reason why a man would leave his wife and newborn baby in the hospital to go get some sleep, or other things of that nature.

    1. RuralBethany, you said:
      .
      “But what I am honestly curious about is the why, and I still don’t feel like you’ve answered that even though you have posted on this sort of thing several times”.

      “I guess what I’m wondering is – what is the thought process?”

      “When a wife is literally crying and begging you to not leave her, what thought process goes through your head that justifies leaving anyway? That’s the part I’m curious about, the part I’d like explained personally”

      This is exactly what I wanted to understand aswell. Like I said in a comment below, Travis B and Matt have managed to explain to me how a shitty husband can not know that x y z hurt his wife when she has said 10 000 times “x y z hurts me”. I was hoping to be similarly enlightened as to the thought process involved in justifying leaving you wife in the hospital.

      Matt, even though my curiosity has not been satisfied, I really appreciate you making the effort. Thank you! Like other people have said, you are very courageous in sharing your worst moments. This is not a competition in who’s worse/better. I have my share of horrid behaviour, truly. I’m just really really wanting to understand, to get better insight into the nitty-gritty of the thought process, like I believe I have with not knowing the dishes by the sink hurt your wife and similar things.

  17. Wow. I realize that abandonment in childbirth is a particularly powerful trigger to women. I’m one of them and that trigger has been pulled several times in my life, so I can totally identify with the rage and disbelief being expressed in these comments. But if anyone has been reading Matt’s blog longer than a month or so, surely it is obvious that he is not trying to justify the inexcusable but to learn from it. There are so many men–good men and bad men alike–who have done nearly the exact same thing as Matt did, and I think it is tremendously brave of him to confess and offer up his own experience as a learning experience so that other husbands can avoid causing this kind of damage.

    My in-laws lived with us for a few years when they were in very poor health. (It wasn’t an ideal situation but it was what needed to be done in that situation.) In hindsight I realize that I was really insensitive in some ways to what they were going through because what they were putting ME through was nearly unbearable at times. In hindsight I I understand better. It used to drive me crazy that they were always moaning and groaning, talking about their aches and pains and being so emotionally fragile. I was young and healthy and hadn’t had really experienced severe chronic pain, so I really thought they were being overly dramatic. I tried to be nice, but I didn’t take it seriously and a lot of the time I just checked out.

    Guess what! I injured myself last week while taking a self-defense class (Oh, the irony!) I have been in severe pain ever since. Every bump in the road almost makes me cry. I remember silently seething every time my father-in-law would complain about the bumps in the road while I was driving when he lived with us. Now I understand.

    It was a very difficult situation for all of us, those 2 1/2 years of having my husband’s parents live with us. But in hindsight I realize that we were all focused on our own pain and rather oblivious to the pain we were causing to each other. Sometimes life is just really hard. We can all be selfish and clueless–even the best of us.

    Question Matt: this abandoning wife in childbirth is evidently a very common husband sin of cosmic proportions; what is the wife equivalent? I’m guessing there is at least one really common wife sin of cataclysmic proportions that women just don’t get that is comparable to the shitty husband cop-out we’ve been discussing.

  18. Well, seems as though the badness of the act brought about many a feeling (: But I just wanted to say, people are asking about the thought process behind it, but don’t like the answer, or feel like the answer should be more than you’re giving… if you’re asking ‘what is the thought process’, you’re asking ‘what was the intention’ – intention is the thought process behind it! that’s why there’s a difference between Murder 1 and Manslaughter – intention. The former means you intended to kill – “I’m going to kill that person because x, y, and z” – the latter means your intention wasn’t to kill, but someone died. You’re not thinking “I’m going to kill them,’ but your actions resulted in a death. Even if you didn’t mean to. And just because you don’t like the simplicity of the answer, doesn’t mean it’s not true. You can try to force out another answer, but is there really an answer that would be satisfying? Not really. Matt did not intend to hurt his wife, but he did. Therefore his thought process was not ‘I’m definitely hurting her by my actions.’ sorry people don’t like his answer – doesn’t make it any less true though.

    1. Well Al, speaking just for myself it’s not that I didn’t accept the answer Matt gave. I don’t accept the framing of the answer.

      It is not a simple perception difference that causes a man (any man not Matt) to not support his wife in childbirth. I don’t have to have my gall bladder removed to understand that someone who just had that surgery needs support while in the hospital. If I frame it as something I must experience directly, then that excludes an awful lot of stuff. I guess I don’t need to stay with my husband if he is diagnosed with prostrate cancer because I can’t relate to that.

      Matt did not understand at the time that what he was doing was shitty. Now he does because he has done a lot of deep reflection and soul searching. He’s had so much pain and growth. I have had to do a lot of soul searching myself. I am not any morally better than Matt ok.

      I am just objecting to framing it as a simple perception difference like making a financial decision together. It was not that it was selfish shiftiness. That is what I am absolutely rejecting. It is not right to lump it into a category of unintentional clueless husband behavior like leaving a dish by the sink.

      I am not blaming Matt as a person in judgement. I wrote in my own comments that I have done worse things. We are all capable of much much worse things than Matt did. My disagreement is only about how things are being explained and framed.

      Remember how mad we all were about the stupid experts who said divorce is just a part of life? This is like that. It is not just a difference of perspective to leave your wife in the hospital alone. It is a moral issue. It is a right and wrong issue. It is just wrong. Just like it’s wrong to casually divorce when kids are involved or to have an affair.

      Leaving someone vulnerable in the hospital is not morally neutral. it just isn’t. It makes no difference whether the person intended it or understood it. My husband was an asshole to do it to me twice. But he understands what an asshole he was and doesn’t tell me it was a perception difference. And he knows there will not be a third chance.

      Just my take Al.

      1. “I don’t have to have my gall bladder removed to understand that someone who just had that surgery needs support while in the hospital.”

        I don’t have a prostate. Even so, if I was married and my husband had had his prostate removed, and cried and begged me to stay with him after surgery, it wouldn’t be impossible for me to understand that he was vulnerable and wanted me to stay.

    2. Hello Al,

      You said: “if you’re asking ‘what is the thought process’, you’re asking ‘what was the intention’ – intention is the thought process behind it!”

      I respectfully, but strongly, disagree. I do not believe Matt intended to hurt his wife at all, so I’m not unclear about his intention. RuralBethany said further up:
      “When a wife is literally crying and begging you to not leave her, what thought process goes through your head that justifies leaving anyway?”

      We know Matt didn’t want to hurt his wife! He says he just didn’t know better. We’re wondering what the thought process is that happens that allows him to not know better, to justify leaving her, even when she is telling him to stay.

      Matt and a guy who calls himself Travis B have said that even though a wife tells her husband 10 000 times that him leaving a dish by the sink hurts her, he still doesn’t know that him leaving a dish by the sink hurt her. They, through blog posts or comments, have generously explained it over and over, because I could not for the life of me understand how that was possible. Finally I was able to wrap my head around it somewhat. Basically their thought process was something like this (if I’ve understood it correctly): “I would never be hurt by something like that, it’s unfathomable to me that she would feel hurt by this. She’s wrong. I’m not trying to hurt her. She must be laying it on rather thickly, overracting, being emotional, being crazy. She would be better off being laid back like me”. And then they go on their merry way until the next time.

      Now, in the dish by the sink case, as in the leaving the wife crying in the hospital, the intention isn’t to hurt the wife. But, we now have the thought process that explains how they can hear her say “it hurts me when you do x” and not know that they’re hurting her when they do x (dishes by the sink, or other things).

      We are now looking for the thought process belonging to the “I hear my wife crying and begging me to stay after childbirth/c-section, but it’s still ok for me to go home and sleep/play golf”-thing. What justifies it in his mind?

      Have a nice day.

      1. I’m not objecting to any of this, Donkey, and (God forgive me for even uttering it), but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between what really happened and what some people think I’ve written here.

        I did NOT want to write anything which even flirted with defensiveness or justification on this topic, but I have to after seeing the “play golf” thing.

        This was NOT me being emotionally detached or aloof or whatever. I wasn’t playing video games and watching ESPN.

        I’ve only done this once, so other parents probably know better than me.

        But as a first-time parent, this was the advice I received:

        “There are MANY major decisions to make about your brand-new baby within the first 24 hours. Mom is exhausted and because of feeding, can’t possibly get proper rest. Because it’s critical that at least one of you be mentally sharp, you should try to make sure you get a decent night’s sleep.”

        More or less.

        This wasn’t me shirking new father responsibilities. This was me making an error in judgment about my wife’s feelings RE: vulnerability and emotional security.

        It had been discussed previously that I would leave to do this (though no one really knew what to expect schedule-wise). We were on 30 straight hours in the hospital.

        I was semi-frantic trying to sort out the logistics of meeting the medical courier after my son’s birth as we banked some of his cord blood, which people may or may not be familiar with.

        We didn’t have smart phones or widely adopted social media yet.

        In addition to trying to get a little rest for mental clarity reasons, I was notifying our family members and closest friends about the birth of our son and his mother’s health status, feeding pets, etc.

        I’m also me, so my head is going a trillion miles per hour. We have a newborn son.

        Whoa.

        We had medical decisions to make about what we were or were not going to subject him to RE: immunizations as a 1-day-old, circumcision, and the millions of other things all of the nurses and doctors ask you about while handing you forms to sign.

        I was unquestionably mistaken to leave that night. It remains a wound for her that I don’t believe has ever fully healed, and it took me until AFTER our divorce to fully realize it.

        But. This is also NOT what some of the commenters here seem to think it is.

        Once again… I am either a kind, thoughtful, reasonable, intelligent, fair person whose opinions you respect… or I am not.

        If you (anyone, Donkey — not just you!) believe me to be the former, then just a tiny bit of faith should maybe be in order.

        I did the wrong thing.

        But not in the manner in which some seem to think. And maybe that doesn’t matter to anyone else.

        But it does matter to me.

      2. I think I get it, Matt. There was a plan made, and you were sticking with the plan. That was your part, your job, in the birth. Your wifes feelings were just kind of collateral damage. (I’m not saying that harshly.) As a nurse, and this sounds awful, sometimes we have to acknowledge the persons emotions, but continue with the plan anyway (as long as it doesn’t violate anyone or their rights). And it truly is supposed to be “What is best for the patient/family.” If everyone was telling you that this is the best way to help wife and son, I dont doubt that you believed them and wanted to do just that.
        I think the damage comes in when she was telling you, desperately, that she needed you there. Its not unique to you. I have seen men completely dismiss emotional responses from women and children. I don’t think they are trying to be cold hearted, its more like they don’t know what is needed in that moment, they don’t know how to respond- and if there is a job to be done then emotions are just an obstacle to getting the job done. It’s easy to just dismiss or ignore them.
        I believe you that you didn’t realize the significance or importance of being there emotionally for your wife. Young men are the worst.
        Is that even close to what have may been going on?

      3. Hi Matt, thanks for trying to clarify!

        You said (I’m leaving out some spaces here): “I did the wrong thing. But not in the manner in which some seem to think. And maybe that doesn’t matter to anyone else. But it does matter to me

        It matters A LOT to me, the manner in which it happened. If it was a different thing than the husband who left his crying wife to go golfing, and it seems like maybe it was, I WANT TO KNOW! Really, please please please tell me as much of the relevant details as possible, because I am kind of desperate to understand how something like this can happen, and of course many of the details of the story will matter greatly!

        Anyway, now you’ve told me more about what was going on, and it seems like all the (important!) facts weren’t on the table, and perhaps still aren’t, because I’m still confused. And I know you’re under no obligation to explain to me or anyone else what happened. But if you are willing to further clarify, I would greatly appreciate it, and I do believe it would help other people get a more accurate picture of what happened.

        You said you were given advice that you should get good night sleep because someone needed to have mental clarity as there are many desicions that need to be made, and mom can’t rest poperly because she’ll be (trying to) breastfeed.
        Was this:
        1. From your friends, in a casual kind of way, like, yeah get a good night’s sleep, it’s going to be tough dealing with a baby and your wife will be tired because of brestfeeding anyway?
        2. From hospital staff who talked this through with both you and your wife, saying someone needs to be mentally clear so they can deal with all the necessary and time sensitive medical decissions after the birth?
        There’s a big difference between option 1 and 2.

        You said: “It had been discussed previously that I would leave to do this (though no one really knew what to expect schedule-wise). We were on 30 straight hours in the hospital.”
        Ok, what happened exactly? Had you and your wife previously agreed that:
        1. At some point, if it was possible and ok with her you could go home and rest?
        2. once the baby was born you Matt would go home, but then when it was time for you to leave, as per the agreement, she changed her mind?
        Again, there’s a big difference between option 1 and 2. If it was option 2 it would be much easier for me to understand why you thought you were doing the right/an ok thing.

        1. The advice came from older parents of multiple children. Co-worker mentor types. Not medical staff.

          As far as an “agreement,” I wouldn’t say that. There are a trillion things to think and worry about during labor and delivery and caring for a newborn.

          It had been talked about, but not in some super-formal, detailed way where she said “Yes, Matt. Great plan. I agree that we should do this.”

          But, it was discussed, and in my mind, was the established game plan.

          He was born 12+ hours later than we expected. Nothing went according to plan. Under the circumstances, she wanted me to stay.

          This is NOT fair or reasonable, but the best example of how I can remember feeling at the time is how we feel when our kids are scared because maybe there’s a monster in the closet.

          We love our children. We care about their feelings. But we have things that need tended to, so we don’t always shelve our plans to help our assuage our children’s feelings about the imaginary monster.

          But maybe we should.

          I KNOW a husband should vigilantly protect his wife’s emotional safety and wellbeing, especially at the most vulnerable moment of her life.

          I know this today. I didn’t know it then.

          My ex-wife really matters to me. We have a really solid relationship today as co-parents.

          She is private. She doesn’t love this blog’s existence. My sensitivity to her privacy is a major factor in my reluctance to dissect this to pieces.

          Here’s what I want people to “get.”

          Good guys mess this up accidentally but wouldn’t if they knew better.

          FACT.

          So we need to work harder at communication. Education. And not take for granted that people (often men) inherently know what the best thing to do is RE: matters of emotional intelligence.

      4. Donkey,

        I am going to answer for my husband that I think might also apply to other husbands. He loves me and had “good intentions” to support me Why did he leave me alone in that hospital?

        There is a flowchart we all have in our heads for how we make decisions. What you put in the top boxes determine the direction of the rest of the questions asked. Can you see the flowchart with the boxes in your mind? Good.

        Ok at the very top in this case of my husbands decision making box was
        Is this a medical emergency? Yes or No

        He answered no. So the flowchart directed him to ask other questions like, What do I need to do to make sure I can get through this without totally freaking out with my anxiety? He answered distract himself with work.

        (I knew this about him which is why suggested quickly going home to get his laptop to have with him during the long wait at the hospital)

        He got distracted reading emails at home, partly because he was freaked out a bit at the whole birth thing process. Being at home reading emails was a normal everyday thing possible because he was viewing the whole flowchart as a non emergency because that is the question he framed everything in.

        Framing is critical!

        Ok I am lying in the hospital bed alone. Waiting. The top of my flowchart does not have is this a medical emergency?

        It has How can we support each other to have each other’s backs because we are having a fricking baby?

        I answered my flowchart question by suggesting he quickly drive home to pick up his laptop since it looked like it would be many hours and I thought that would help him.

        I expected his flowchart to have the same or similar question. In fact his flowchart should have had only “Am I making this as easy as possible for her since she is the one in the hospital in pain?” That is the correct moral question just as much as is it wrong for me to have an affair?

        But instead his flowchart had a question that focused on meeting my needs only in medical emergencies.

        Framing is critical. The questions we put in the top of the flowchart affect everything else we do. Sometimes the flowcharts reflect differences in perspectives.

        Here they represent a fundamentally wrong and morally wrong question.

        His framing it that way allowed him to act like a selfish asshole by thinking of his needs over mine when I was the one in need of support in the hospital.

        And when he got back and I questioned his framing he wasn’t able to see then what an asshole he was because of his selfish choice because he incorrectly framed that response too.

        So he didn’t really apologize in anything other than a cursory way to get out of trouble.

        Because he had another wrong question is his apology flowchart still focused on the wrong question on the original one. His apology flowchart question. Am I justified in my behavior? Was it a reasonable thing to do in a non emergency? My question. Do you understand how much you hurt me and what an asshole you are?

        Which just added to the answer to my flowchart question for our marriage of Is he there for me? Can I trust him. No and No

        Is he capable of being a selfish asshole to me? Yes.

        Is he able to apologize and make amends when he screws up (as we all do)? No

        The framing and what we chose to put in the top of our flow charts are why people get stupid divorces.

        Further note. Anytime a man puts a question about Is he a nice guy and have good intentions? Do other guys screw up like this? Am I better than some other husbands? Are we all human with different perspectives and mistakes? at the top of the flowchart. That leads to defensiveness, gaslighting, and a lack of true accountability.

        But he can’t even see it because he’s focusing on the wrong questions.

      5. Donkey,

        These are examples of the wrong questions at the top of the flowchart in my humble opinion.
        That is why the responses to this post are so umm intense.

        “Once again… I am either a kind, thoughtful, reasonable, intelligent, fair person whose opinions you respect… or I am not.

        If you (anyone, Donkey — not just you!) believe me to be the former, then just a tiny bit of faith should maybe be in order.

        I did the wrong thing.

        But not in the manner in which some seem to think. And maybe that doesn’t matter to anyone else.

        But it does matter to me.”

      6. Thanks Matt.
        Monsters under the bed. That is a much more accurate way of saying what I was thinking. We kind of think “they’ll get over it” and if WE know there is no monster, or that no real danger then its easy for us to dismiss it.
        Lisa and Donkey do a pretty good job at putting your feet to the fire, so I’m not intending to do that, but what is obvious to women is that even if there is no monster, or no real danger, at that point their emotional well being is of utmost importance. So , now you know.
        You are forgiven, sir.

        1. Thank you. And yes, I do know. I might be misreading a lot of the comments, but this got super me-focused, but it was really supposed to be about others.

          About guys who were me eight years ago, and trying to find effective ways to help them make better choices.

      7. I think there needs to be a little more male perspective. I understand Lisa’s point that male or female everyone should know decent/moral behavior. But, I think there are so many things that color our understanding of “Right” and “Wrong” behavior.
        If it really were a moral absolute, it would never happen, except by serious deviants, but it DOES happen, so that means it is not an absolute. And I think being a male or female does influence a lot of our decisions. (Not saying it should be that way, or will always be that way- but it definitely IS that way now.)
        Have you thought about who you were 8 years ago? Have you thought about how you’ve changed and how your thinking has changed?
        Remembering who you used to be can open some doors into how other guys, who are who/how you used to be, are operating in the world and what it is they need to understand.
        Or a sledgehammer is sometimes effective.

    3. I disagree. I think he knew it was hurting her, he just didn’t care. He was tired and didn’t want to be there anymore. He hadn’t had surgery to remove a human being from womb, he had just been there to observe. When it was all said and done and the excitement was over he was ready to go.
      9 months over ✔️
      Birth over ✔️
      Meeting child over ✔️
      He’d completed his check list and didn’t care what she needed. I mean she BEGGED him to stay. He knew this was hurting her. It just wasn’t important to him. He was tired, he put his needs before hers on this very special day and there really isn’t any repairing that one. Birth of your first child is a huge life event and her memories, and happiness of beginning their family, were tainted by his lack of care.
      I appreciate his honesty but it would be nice to see that him get real with the truth regarding this event. He effed up, he knew it was wrong. Later when his wife mentioned it, he didn’t want to be reminded of what as ass he had been, he knew it, but didn’t want to talk about it anymore. It was over for him. He’d come to terms with it and left it behind because it wasn’t that big of a deal for him. He just wanted his wife to drop it because he didn’t like to hear the story of when he was an ass. Again, about him. She was, by bringing it up, begging for an apology. She was hoping that Matt would give her a heartfelt apology and be the man she needed him to be. We women usually give so many chances to the men when love. We try over and over again and blame ourselves for their actions. It makes us feel “less than” and honestly it seems this was our husband’s goal. Like they all watched the same, before marriage video, “Break her down to get what you want and have the freedom that you deserve”. It just doesn’t have to be this hard. We all know the difference between right and wrong. It’s as simple as that.
      *Matt, I’ve read lots of things you’ve written in your blog, so I know there’s more to you than this one event. This one event is a big one and learning why you did this, honestly may be one of the biggest healing experiences you have. This wasn’t an isolated event. This is the guy you most likely were in your marriage. I’m not sure it’s just a guess. I’d also guess that you’d rather not be that guy again. These comments are hard to read for sure but remember these comments are from the same people who praise your writings from others posts. Focus on he good and just work to repair the bad stuff left in the past. I think repairing it is the only way to heal. Maybe we all need to hear that you’ve done that. Maybe your ex-wife should be a guest on your blog to give her point of view. I mean you really only owe her something here.

      1. Ifonlymommy,
        Do you really think that is who Matt is? Even of that IS how he WAS can you give him the benefit of the doubt that he has changed.
        He didn’t just leave and go to sleep- he left and was making phone calls, etc. He was in his mind doing the necessary duties of a good father.
        He was a little clueless. IT WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO- absolutely. But, He has paid for it with his marriage. I think he has paid enough. If he still has more to learn about this, then allow him to learn it. He doesn’t have to be flogged about it.
        The comments so far have been enough of an indication that this was a deep, deep wound and is for many women.
        I’m just asking for grace and kindness. We all deserve that.
        Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

        1. I agree. Huge trigger, obviously! I do not think he is a bad person at all. I do think he may not have been the best husband. I think he agrees with that as well. Again to Matt, I apologize for being harsh. Continue down this blogger road. My only advice would be not to reference to past jerkoffskies when discussing such sensitive subjects. It didn’t help your case and lit a huge angry fire in me. No worries I blew it out ?. Take it or leave it.
          Thanks again, Linbo for opening my eyes. I was being a little, ummm….bitchy.

      2. If only mommy,
        Id like to apologize. I didn’t get to read the last paragraph. It just seems like everyone wants Matt to pay for their own experiences of pain. He is braver than most to even put himself out there, and I just didn’t think he deserved some of the comments (not all came from you).
        Anyway, I am truly sorry. This is obviously a very hot button topic for most.

        1. I agree that he’s brave. I don’t want him to pay for my experience of pain but maybe I am trying to make him understand where my husband didn’t. So you probably hit on something ?. I don’t know Matt personally, other than from his posts, but from those I feel, overall he is a good guy doing a good thing, I just want to give my point of view so maybe he could heal and perhaps help his ex-wife heal from this incident. To me it’s a big one. Isn’t his blog for him to heal and to help other understand behaviors, like his old ones, to better themselves, possibly repair their marriages. Maybe he won’t read anything helpful from anything I write but someone may have written something to open his eyes, or yours, or mine, who knows.
          Maybe I don’t understand why people who claim to love you, hurt you intentionally and even though I don’t “love” Matt, I do appreciate his post and maybe I didn’t think about my words were hurtful too. Thank you Linbo, you opened my eyes to my own unnecessary behavior. We are all flawed human beings navigating through this world.
          Have a great one!

  19. What a gut wrenchingly honest post …

    I needed to read this tonight. THANK YOU, once again, for sharing, Matt …

    God bless you in your journey of mindful self awareness …

  20. Alright, so… Obviously there are men who get it, and thankfully never have to leave their wives at the hospital to fully understand their responsibilities. And then there are good men who don’t or didn’t get it like you Matt, who have the potential to understand, but don’t fully realize what they need to until that horrible choice is both made and dealt with. My question to the world is: Is this just what it takes? Is there no way to get this unknowing young man to understand this very crucial information before this very crucial point? He slipped through the cracks and made it through adulthood without knowing because he didn’t listen, his mother didn’t teach him, the messages the village was giving him didn’t take, or whatever the reason. So then what, he just has to go through it, the unthinkable, to finally understand?

    I guess so.

    Well, there could be worse ways to learn. Is it forgiveable? Yes. Big huge damaging screwup? Yes. The deal-breaking kind? Yes yes yes! As a mother I want to say this kind of crap is just unacceptable period. But it happens. And you have to move on one way or another.

    I can’t help but feel a little discouraged with these things as a woman in the world today what with all the patriarchy. Is there an equal thing that women do to men that is just as bad and big? I’m legitimately asking here. In a matriarchal Native American society, did men still screw up like this ever? Was it like, I don’t need my man because I have the entire village of women here to support me and that’s just how we do it? What did the women do to men that society just kind of supported via lack of acknowledgement? Do people consider this a kind of society ill? I have to admit, I kind of view it in that vein.

    I salute you Matt, for trying to help other men get it, I’m just really really impatient. It seems like that’s the only way: more men teaching, modeling the right example to other men. Evolution and whatnot. I wish I wasn’t so impatient. With everything. With myself.

    1. B. McEntyre:

      You said, “…Is there no way to get this unknowing young man to understand this very crucial information before this very crucial point? He slipped through the cracks and made it though adulthood without knowing…”

      I’m in the group that screams, How is that possible?” How does one escape the lessons of compassion? How does anyone become an adult without grasping the concept of vulnerability? Matt’s second post goes (at least for me) a long way toward ameliorating the anger that had me enraged because I thought he was trying to justify or “re-frame” his behavior.

      Yet I am left with a despairing spirit because we, as women, seem almost powerless to break through the invisible barriers and change the voices that encourage, no, MANDATE, a dismissal of all things “feminine” located in the manuals for accomplishing “PATRIARCHAL MANHOOD” .

      I too am impatient for change. Men like Matt and Travis give me some hope that change is possible — no matter how glacial. In the meantime…..????

      1. “Yet I am left with a despairing spirit because we, as women, seem almost powerless to break through the invisible barriers and change the voices that encourage, no, MANDATE, a dismissal of all things “feminine””

        Hmm, well I suspect we never will because many of these behaviors are simply innate to men, so rather than railing against the patriarchy, we need to seek out what is sweet there and to heal our own wounding. The fact that these things are so triggering suggests we are lugging around baggage. Obviously Matt didn’t hand that to any of us. So, apparently women have a powerful fear of being abandoned and of not being heard, which makes sense, but perhaps there are things we can do ourselves to relieve that, rather than expecting men to change or worse, the entire world?

      2. Insanity,

        You said: “Hmm, well I suspect we never will because many of these behaviors are simply innate to men, so rather than railing against the patriarchy, we need to seek out what is sweet there and to heal our own wounding.”

        I do not believe these behaviors are innate to men. I think the whole Mars/Venus men/women thinking ADDS to this problem because men and women just expect so little of men. Demand so little of men.

        We’ve come a long way with changing our expectations for men as fathers. It used to be thought that men are just not innately nurturing. Are there shirt fathers? Yes but in the last 50 years modern parenting has completely changed to included nurturing expectations for fathers.

        And many, many men have stepped up to the challenge. Or to at least the new fathering goal that is not the same goal we had for fathers 50 years ago.

        The same thing needs to happen for expectations as a husband. The goal has changed for that too. For both men and women. It’s all very confusing. I get it.

        But what we all need to agree on is that men need to support loved ones in the hospital. Ok. That’s pretty basic right there. There is nothing innately male about not sitting in a hospital room.

        When we say they can’t do these things because they are make its not only insulting to their humanity but part of the problem of not allowing any excuses for this bullshit behavior.

        In the same way we don’t make excuses for men who abandon their children. We now agree as a society this is not good. We have laws to require their support. We garnish their wages. You go to jail if you don’t.

        Same thing here, we must continue to require men to be better to not allow ourselves to shrug our shoulders and say they’re men that’s why. To not allow them to say it’s because they are men or that they didn’t get taught basic human decency.

        We all make mistakes, this is about taking responsibility. It is both my fault and my responsibility when I screw up something really morally important.

        That has nothing to do with being male or female. We are enabling shitty behavior by not expecting true responsibility. By not expecting men to be decent humans.

        Not women but decent humans who don’t have affairs, abandon their children or abandon their loved ones in the hospital.

        And if they do, they completely own their shit and say it’s their fault they were an asshole.

        This is bigger than childbirth. This is the same thinking that allows men to abandon their wives when she gets breast cancer or their kid has special needs or his elderly mom needs help and he doesn’t step up.

        Nothing innately male in that. Just average shitty human asshole behavior.

        The fact that these things are so triggering suggests we are lugging around baggage. Obviously Matt didn’t hand that to any of us. So, apparently women have a powerful fear of being abandoned and of not being heard, which makes sense, but perhaps there are things we can do ourselves to relieve that, rather than expecting men to change or worse, the entire world?

        1. I agree. I don’t believe that behavior is innate to men either. That would be low balling men as a group. As proof, I do know many men who “get it” which validates how frustrating/confusing/surprising it is that there are so many good men that don’t. Thank goodness some are trying.

      3. Insanity you said”The fact that these things are so triggering suggests we are lugging around baggage. Obviously Matt didn’t hand that to any of us. So, apparently women have a powerful fear of being abandoned and of not being heard, which makes sense, but perhaps there are things we can do ourselves to relieve that, rather than expecting men to change or worse, the entire world?”

        This got tacked onto the last comment so I might as well throw some thoughts out on this too.

        Women have a powerful of being abandoned and not heard. I can’t emphasize enough that these are not female needs. These are basic human needs.

        The man who has a heart attack and needs emergency bypass surgery? I wonder if he would think its ok to be alone in hospital because his wife needs sleep.

        I have direct experience with this, my dad had a stroke. I had to ride in the ambulance with him because my mother wouldn’t. Women do this shit too just not nearly as commonly.

        I had to quit my job because my friggin mother wouldn’t be with him the hospital. Wrong questions at the top of the flow chart. His life or death was on my shoulders because she wouldn’t step up. He literally would have died.

        The hospital is not a place to be alone. Many medical errors are possible. I have personally caught life threatening ones that would have killed loved ones.

        My mom is a nice person. She loves me and my dad. But she acted like a selfish asshole and never took full responsibility for that. She did the best she could etc etc. It’s all bullshit.

        I can’t stand people who won’t take responsibility for their shit. Who push it off on other people for their own sense of goodness to remain intact in their minds. Men, women it doesn’t matter to me.

        Men do it more often in this area for a variety of reasons. Mostly because we let them not take full responsibility. We need to not let them. Many women eventually just vote with their feet and divorce him.

        My mother to this day insists that what she did was right. At least Matt understands what he did was shitty. He would do it differently today if faced with the exact same choices.

        But I hear my mother in the framing of not taking full responsibility. Different perspectives, being human, it’s not my fault just my responsibility. Most especially the questions at the top of the flowchart about being a good person who deserves the benefit of the doubt.

        Wrong bullshit question that pushes away true responsibility. My mother has a similar one. She seems incapable of taking true responsibility for what happened and her morally wrong choices. I have hope for Matt in the future. I choose hope.

      4. Lisa, I agree with you (in your disagreement with Insanitybytes22), these things are not innately male. I’ll try not to repeat your points, I’ll just say that over the course of human history, we’ve had patriarchy, matriarchy, egalitarian societies, demcoracies, theocrasies, tyrannies… Human nature contains many many possibilites. We’ve believed so much blatantly false stuff about what was natural or innately male/female over the years. And, our closest relatives (equally close) are the bonobos and the chimps. The bonobos are matrarchal and the chimps are patriarchal. Males are bigger in both animals.

        IB, you mention women needing to heal our own wounding, and I agree with that. But I also believe that for healing to be necessary, we have to stop being willing to have the wound inflicted. If necessary, yes, divorce the wound inflictor. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Ok, I can feel myself going off into a speech now, this isn’t really directed at you IB, more me stating my opinion, so please don’t feel like I’m ranting at you IB. 🙂

        I believe many women can’t fully heal from this until part of the healing is demanding a heartfelt apology from the guilty husband, or else she’s out. Or at least some very very very serious consequence. It really doesn’t take anything else than for him to accept her point of view, and in the case of labour/birth, hers is the only view that matters, and to apologize. And that if it ever happens again, she’s out. Or like me, who don’t have kids, but if I ever decide to try to get pregnant and have the opportunity to try, I have decided to make the potential father swear to not do this. If he won’t promise, I won’t have kids with him.

        I take marriage very seriously. I want people to work at it. But I take even more seriously women (everyone!) not being degraded and disrespected and mistreated. If she has to leave to not be disrespected so grieviously, then in my mind, that is the lesser evil. A disrespect and betrayal of the magnitue of leaving your wife after childbirth when she’s begging you to stay will, in my opinion at least, continue to inflict wounds on the woman if she’s living with the husband who did it and who won’t own it. It’s like, I believe many couples can recover from an affair. But if the one who cheated won’t see that it’s wrong, or they say that it really wasn’t that bad, or they won’t give a heartfelt apology? Doesn’t seem healthy to live with someone like that.

  21. monica poisson

    let us teach our sons about emotional abandonment so that our daughter in laws do not have to endure it

    1. It should be one of humanity’s greatest missions. Have these conversations LONG before dating even begins.

      Over and over again. Until it’s a fundamental part of our awareness and understanding.

      It can’t be overstated how important it is.

      1. Matt,

        On your previous blog, ” I Won’t Be Your Ally….” I left a post in the comment section that contained poem titled, “Children Learn What They Live”.

        It was a follow-up to the discussions about the need for increasing respect in relationships and also the corrosive effect of CONTEMPT.

        I was hoping it might prove thought-provoking and encourage some discussion among parents in some other blog dedicated to parenting issues because early intervention is needed if we are ever to change the incidence of relationship failure and divorce.

        I got no response–of any kind– good or bad. Did you get a chance to read it?

      2. Marilyn (are the lower cases intentional by the way, like bell hooks? :))

        I read it, I liked it, I agree. If we want to be good partners and good parents, we need to heal. When enough adults are healthy enough (when it comes to the stuff we’re talking about here), kids will just kind of absorb all of this, and they’ll have less healing to do, fewer shit sandwiches will be served and fewer will be eaten, responsibility will be taken quicker after the fact, and more heartfelt apologies will be made. This is what I believe. 🙂

  22. Matt, I think you got to your bottom with this, which I appreciate. I have some suggestions for your future writing and your personal future.

    You said you did it because “you did not know better”. Bullshit. You did. Your wife told you. So you now need to write obsessively and honestly about husbands honoring their wife’s words and give them no quarter on it not being their fault. Then you need to write about accountability and apology and what a mensch a man is who can do these two things, together. By themselves they are weak and unwhole attempts. Without accountability, you learn nothing about yourself and gain nothing to help keep you from doing it again. Lisa shows what real accountability is. It will hurt, a lot, for a long time. And that is good.

    Then you need to make this right. I am sure you did with your wife, but now you need to do it with the friends who so ill advised you. It will be hard, and they will resist and defend, but you need to push past that. And then write about it. Maybe you will lose a friend or two. That is great. That will show you what a wife feels like as she accommodates her husband’s shittinesses, weighing, weighing, weighing to save the relationship, like death by a thousand cuts.

    Men who read this. Where are you? Weigh in, will you? Despite the fact that sometimes you are unbelievable shits, we women still want to know what you think. If we do, maybe we can figure out a way to stop you short of the epic fail that Matt achieved.

  23. Matt, thank you for posting this. I think I truly get it. And I think others need to really think about stepping outside themselves when faced with this kind of situation, and I can appreciate regret (and wanting to prevent that pain for others) driving this message.

    So here’s my story.

    When I went into labor, I had what they call back labor – my baby was face-up, which can be quite painful. And my contractions didn’t ebb and flow – I essentially had one long, two-and-a-half-hour contraction. (The nurses were impressed.)

    I begged for pain medicine. BEGGED. My then-spouse told the nurse that I would not be needing it; that I wanted a natural childbirth.

    That was never, EVER the plan.

    It was HIS plan. Not mine.

    His desires were so bright and loud that they left no room for mine whatsoever.

    That baby will be turning 18 shortly, and I can still feel the anger emotion over it.

    We’re no longer married. And that was a definitive turning point. How do you get over someone deliberately causing you pain?

    I’m sure he thought he was doing what was best for the baby. I get that. I have to believe the intent wasn’t sadistic in any way.

    But what I heard, loud and clear, was how little my needs mattered.

    It was the frame and canvas for the artwork I was refusing to look at directly.

  24. Matt,

    I write here because I got overwhelmed with the long thread.
    Thank you for considering your ex’ wishes for privacy, I would not want you to reveal anything that would upset her. Part of my outrage over all of this, is on her behalf really. :p

    Thank you for clariying further. I’ll readily admit, I thought it was more like the golf thing. I thought it was “my wife has been through 9 months of pregnancy and a gruelling birth/c-section process, but gosh *I’M* so tired, I’ll leave her alone struggling with breastfeeding our newborn so *I* can get some sleep”. Nevermind that the exhaustion she was feeling must have been 1000 times worse.

    But it looks like it was something else, though it’s still not quite clear to me. It looks like it was at least some kind of agreed upon thing between you and your wife, that you would need to be mentally sharp for all the desicions and stuff, so you’d go home and get some sleep at some point? Is that right? That looks very different in my opinion. I hope that point gets absorbed.

    So, I’m trying to get clear on what you have said though.
    1. In your mind, the agreement was that you would go home to sleep after the birth of the baby, so you would be mentally sharp so you could deal with necessary stuff?
    2. But because so many things need to be decided upon/was happening, it wasn’t really said out loud that she was on board, it wasn’t really an official agreement?

    If number 1 is correct, that makes sense to me. Number two, if I have understood it correctly, doesn’t make much sense to me. Because wouldn’t she have had to say at least something like “yeah ok” when it was suggested that “I’ll go home and sleep after the birth/c-section so I can be mentally sharp for all the desicions that need to happen”, so that you could more accurately say that it was an agreement?

    Again, I don’t have kids, but I would imagine that for most women they would want to get clear on whether or not their husbands were going to stay with them the whole time or not. That’s why it seems odd to me that there wasn’t a clearer agreement of this. Or that in the absence of a clear agreement, the game plane would be anything else than “whatever the wife wants”.

    I get that you are NOT making excuses for what happened. I don’t think that. I just want to know as much as I can so I know better what I’m being outraged over, the degree to which I personally feel I should be outraged, and, really, what I’m trying to make sense of in my head. My understanding won’t be accurate if we’re talking about quite different things. We can all agree that cheating is shitty. But the amount of shittiness can be VERY different. It’s a different thing if someone had a one night stand at a job seminar with someone random from the bar, than if they had a three month affair with a colleege. And those things again are different from your spouse having a two year thing with you sibling in addition to a bunch of other short and longer term affairs.

    So I’m trying to understand what kind of leaving your wife during/after birth story we’re talking about in your case. It seems like I thought it was a worse thing than it was, but I’m still not sure, because I don’t know enough, where on the shittyness scale it was. 🙂

    1. Donkey,
      I have overheard several conversations among some of my friends that went something like “Didn’t we talk about this? I thought we talked about this?” Regarding some kind of agreed upon plan, when in fact they didn’t really talk about it.
      I’m not trying to give Matt excuses (even though it bothers me that people would be so willing to smear him.) because what I’m referring to is just as bad a habit as anything else that can ruin a relationship. But, yes- I have seen people who are busy in their own minds plan things, and even though it was brought up , it wasn’t fully discussed or at least one of the two didn’t think the discussion was over while the other one did…
      I’ve seen that a lot. And especially in the middle of a life changing moment- theres all kinds of thoughts and feelings…it would be easy to just assume that what he had in his mind was understood and agreed on by his wife. Especially if it seemed like the most rational thing.
      It is a sucky thing to have happen.
      Some times we just miss the moment, we don’t recognize it for what it really is.

    2. Donkey,

      I don’t think any of those things matter. Any agreements that were or not made. Why does any of that matter?

      Assume they had an agreement that he would go home and her sleep. That was in their birth plan. They spent 9 months saying this three times a day.

      It doesn’t matter. When she was crying, begging him to stay. The flow chart question should be a very simple “what does she need?”

      She needs me to stay. Simple answer. Done. I’m staying. Call someone else to arrange for the blood and feeding the pets or whatever.

      The real problem here is not even that Matt didn’t stay. He agrees that was shitty. The real problem is what happens after. The repair.

      You know what the research says? We all make mistakes, sometimes horrible shitty ones. But people who stay happily married effectively heal the wounds by taking full responsibility and making amends. That is the difference between people who stay married and get divorced.

      You know why his wife “held a grudge” and couldn’t forgive him. Why I couldn’t forgive my husband?

      Because of the Ziegarnik Effect.

      “The Ziegarnik Effect, in simple terms, is the propensity of human beings to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. (Like waiters remembering open orders but forgetting them once delivered)

      According to Dr. Gottman, “If a couple’s negative events are not fully processed (by attunement to each other), then they are remembered and rehearsed repeatedly, turned over and over in each person’s mind.

      Trust begins of erode… eventually, one is staying in a relationship, but that relationship is a veritable fountain of negativity (and that) cognitive dissonance is like a stone in one’s shoe.”

      As this process progresses slowly but surely, we begin to think of our partners with a universally critical eye, with suspicion and mistrust – we begin, even unconsciously, to vilify them.

      It is simply impossible for a wife to give her husband the benefit of the doubt and forgive him and move on until that open gaping wound is addressed and healed.

      That’s why they keep bringing it up. To heal it do they can move one. But the husband doesn’t allow that by dismissing her or not fully owning his shit. And some people will agree with him that we should forgive and not cast stones.

      But true forgiveness requires certain steps from both sides. You can choose to do it unilaterally but that will not result in a healthy relationship.

      It will inevitably lead to a stupid divorce.

  25. Wow, spend a day with the family away from a computer and someone types in all the nuclear codes and flicks the big red switch, huh?

    Well, even though everyone has clearly expressed their respective points of view, I do feel obliged to respond since the domino which initiated this whole cascade came from Donkey asking my thoughts on this issue, so I’ll begin from there. I can directly relate to part of Matt’s experience in that both of my children were delivered via C-section, too. Where I cannot relate to another part of Matt’s experience (and I’m sorry, buddy, I don’t intend to throw you under the proverbial buss, but the question was asked and it’s very important to me that this be a place of open and honest discourse) is that I wouldn’t have left my ex (just in case it’s never been clarified in earlier discussions, my wife is not the mother of my two kids) in the hospital alone for anything. Frankly, the one minor detail missing from Matt’s post that confounds me more that anything is, did your wife’s hospital room not have one of those pathetic couch beds for visitors?! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a maternity ward without them, so if Matt was going off of advice that he needed to catch up on his sleep, I’m struggling to understand why heeding that advice couldn’t have been done in the same room as his wife.

    Beyond that issue, I did take the issue of my ex’s pregnancy and subsequent delivery very seriously. I attended every single visit with the OB-GYN, participated in reams of pain control, breast feeding and other such workshops for expectant parents, and read the THE NEW FATHER: A DAD’S GUIDE series of books in full, along with WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING. It’s strange–I didn’t want kids at all, and was quite content living my life without them. I grew up an only child and, as such, had almost no contact with babies and toddlers during my youth. As a result, I often found those few moments when I was in their company to be alternately alien and psychologically assaultive experiences. Additionally, my biological father left when my mother was pregnant with me and the two men she subsequently married were ill-suited as father figures (the first because he was an alcoholic and the second because I was already seventeen by the time he married my mom, too late for him to offer much influence), so I felt I had no template from which to work as an example of what to do, or not do, as a father. But endorphin-fueled accidents happen (he he, in my case, twice) and, boom!, there I was with fatherhood barreling down on me like the tanker truck in Steven Spielberg’s DUEL, so the guiding principle that quickly became important to me was “if the only example your father showed was leaving when the kitchen got hot, then the one step you can confidently take toward being a worthwhile father yourself is to do the opposite–don’t leave; in fact, immerse yourself in the experience.” So I became deeply invested in the process. Strangely, and counter-intuitively, in the case of both children, but especially the first, my ex (who was eager to start a family) found that, immediately upon delivery, she was terrified of what to do next and withdrew from the process, paralyzed by the enormity of her dream becoming hard reality, while I (who was terrified about becoming a father) rushed right in with a natural ease that astonished me and took care of the majority of all baby maintenance during those subsequent days of healing in the hospital (including pretty much all diaper changes).

    I say none of that, and I’m dead serious about this, to curry favor with this audience of primarily females, or to offer any kind of tacit assertion that I’m superior to Matt in any way. Simply to say that, for this specific example, Donkey, I can’t offer you the perspective you are seeking. I cannot explain, justify or absolve Matt of this moral crime. I can give you this much–for me, a male, I too find Matt’s statement “I didn’t know any better” to be a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t jibe (see what I did there?) for me for most of the reasons the protesting ladies here have already stated. That seems like a gross absence of empathy that stretches well beyond the normal “dishes by the sink” pale we normally traffic in here. It’s hard for me to grasp how disconnected one would have to be from their spouse’s experience for his decision to seem normal or justified. It’s hard for me to watch Matt explain himself in the most problematically structured and conceptualized blog post I’ve ever seen him write (it is literally the only time I’ve ever read something he wrote and thought to myself, “Yikes, I think you’ve gone and made it worse, rather than better!”).

    But I don’t plan to hold him in any judgment because, as with all of us here, to err, sometimes royally, sometimes darkly, is human. I have committed two or three handfuls of moral sins in my past, too. I am simultaneously proud of myself that I have comparatively few past violations and disgusted with myself that I have any such offenses on my record at all. I feel that Matt has stumbled mightily this time out in conveying what I conjecture he set out to convey, but I also believe that, since we all have at least a few marks on our records which paint us as broken creatures who caved into our most vile tendencies, we must not overlook the salience of his closing statement, “I can’t do anything about yesterday. I can only do something about tomorrow.” One can choose to learn from their errors, or continue to feed them. Matt learned the hardest lesson of all–he lost what is most dear to him in the world, his wife 100% of the time, and his son 50% of the time, FOREVER. Now that he has clarified in no uncertain terms that, no matter how clumsily the original post arguably read, he is not seeking forgiveness nor absolution from anyone here, it seems clear to me that no chastising words from any of us could hold a candle to the despair that will likely own a corner of Matt’s heart forevermore because of that fateful decision he made all those years ago. This blog and the fact that every day of his post-divorce life has been driven by, and dedicated to, a powerful desire to be, and act in ways that demonstrate himself as, a fundamentally better human being is a testament to his sorrow, his regret, his remorse, and it carries weight because the greatest apology of all is the one that a person makes knowing full well it will never bring back what he destroyed. I’m interested in Matt’s past marital experience only insofar as it offers “flesh and muscle” to the bones of the concepts he writes about, but the Matt that I care about and enjoying knowing (in whatever ephemeral way any of us can know someone in the digital world) is the one who goes on from here. My greatest fear with this post, and many of the visceral responses it has received, is that for a number of readers, Matt is now being perceived as having forfeited his authority or worth in blogging about matters of strengthening marital relationships. If so, I think that would be a crushing and ill-conceived loss for both him and for his readership.

    1. Travis,
      Thank you very much for getting back to me, even if you couldn’t explain the thought process. 🙂 And thank you for your honesty here. Great job stepping up for your kids and the mother of your kids during pregnancy/during birth/after birth. Kudos to you.

      If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’m wondering if your kids live with you and your wife full time or part time? I’m just curious really. 🙂

    2. Just in case this isn’t ABUNDANTLY clear (and I fear it may not be), the only aspect of this post that comes anywhere near suggesting wives/girlfriends/mothers might be making errors in judgment is the section that suggests that, in absence of facts, people often jump to negative and cynical conclusions or explanations to complete stories in their imaginations.

      It’s a bad life habit people would be wise to try and break.

      Every example in this post… From Ptolemy to Harry Potter readers to people who make common grammar or figures of speech mistakes were designed to be illustrative examples of people being wrong about stuff because of missing information.

      Those examples were not intended to metaphorically represent irrationally angry wives.

      They were designed to metaphorically represent men who were TOTALLY WRONG, “and here’s the reason why.”

      Donkey wanted to know how a husband could do something wrong (and everyone here would do well to stop assuming they have a clue what it actually looked and felt like as it was happening. The inaccurate conclusion jumping is atrocious and at an all-time high), and THIS post is the answer.

      All of us are CERTAIN that something is true that’s probably not. Who knows what. We’re just mistaken often. About many things.

      This post was another in a long line of awareness raisers for women confused about why men sometimes do things a certain way.

      People clearly don’t like the answer. But it IS the answer.

      The way to fix it is not to get angry at Eight Years Ago Me.

      It’s to start thinking about how to properly prepare young men for relationships and marriage, and to convince young women to more strongly enforce boundaries RE: emotional betrayals.

      Sorry, People Who Don’t Like This Post.

      I stand by every word.

      1. “Every example in this post… From Ptolemy to Harry Potter readers to people who make common grammar or figures of speech mistakes were designed to be illustrative examples of people being wrong about stuff because of missing information. Those examples were not intended to metaphorically represent irrationally angry wives. They were designed to metaphorically represent men who were TOTALLY WRONG, “and here’s the reason why.” “.

        Huh, that wasn’t clear to me at all. So really, the faulty thinking you were talking about were mostly directed at men who didn’t understand that leavng your wife alone in the hospital is shitty?! Not directed at angry wives at all?

        You’re right, I do not know how it felt or looked like as everything was going on. I also now believe I mistakenly thought it was a worse thing than it was. Of course it’s not very nice to jump to evil conclusions about people.

        And here comes my “but”: Cause, here’s the thing though, this is what you wrote in your previous post about this incident:

        “I would never physically abandon my crying wife. But that’s exactly what I did. She cried. She asked me not to go. But I’m stubborn and moronic and had it in my head that I needed to be well rested for the days ahead per the advice of other fathers.

        I left my crying wife alone in a hospital room just hours removed from an emergency C-section where she struggled to breastfeed a screaming child who didn’t want to with nurses who made her feel like she just wasn’t trying hard enough.

        Why?

        So I could sleep, shower, send photos to family and friends, and revel in the amazing feeling of being a father to a newborn son.”

        This is the only information, given by you, that I and most others had available. And that information sounds VERY differently than what you’ve further explained in your comments to me. That you sort of had an agreement that you would do this, that so many medical desicions (as apposed to wanting to take a shower and send pictures!) needed to be made and dealt with quickly reagarding your newborn child so you had kind of agreed you’d get some sleep so you could be prepared for this.

        The thing you wrote in the first post that I quoted here sounds truly awful, as bad as someone who leaves his crying wife during/after labor to go golfing. That was what I was dealing with in my head. The thing you’ve explained further in your comments here, if indeed I’ve understood you correctly, does not sound nearly as bad, though still very bad. Again, like different kinds of cheating.

        1. I tell stories so that men can recognize similar moments in their lives, examine their choices, and make better ones.

          My job is to accept responsibility for the pain I inflicted on my wife as it is the responsibility of all husbands.

          I tried to say this another way last night or this morning:

          I think I’m a pretty decent guy. I might not be! My perspective is probably biased. But I try hard to be fair all of the time, and I feel like I have enough evidence that I am fair.

          Because I’m fair and decent and work hard at kindness, I almost ALWAYS have fairly reasonable explanations for why I did things. Like Ptolemy. He could literally “prove” false things with math so convincingly that it was The Way for 1,500 years.

          I casually write thing like “I was a stupid moron asshole,” because that’s how I talk. But it’s a bit of hyperbole.

          Because I’m not THAT stupid, and I’m self-aware and sensitive enough to know I’m not THAT big of an asshole.

          If you sat down and spoke to me, and we kicked around why X, Y or Z happened in the past, you may not agree with it, but you’d at least “get” it. Because I’m not some unreasonably insane person, and I wasn’t eight years ago either.

          When I write these things, I do so with the intention of owning my shit and hopefully compelling others to own theirs.

          I’m not going to qualify every detail of why I did something with a “yeah, but” which helps explain why I did it. Because THAT is not owning my shit. THAT is suggesting my ex-wife was irrationally angry.

          In the end, this really is another dish by the sink.

          The whys and wheres and hows and details all pale in importance to one super-critical truth for men who love their wives and girlfriends.

          The emotional security and wellbeing of those we purport to love MUST come first, even if it requires doing something we perceive to be inefficient, or a change of plan, or even just “not the best way.”

          There are moments when the No. 1 thing for the betterment of our lives/relationships/homes, is simply to put her wants/needs first because it demonstrates the love and commitment we feel in a way she understands, even if WE don’t understand it.

          There’s a lot of anti-Mars/Venus sentiment around here, and it’s heavily influenced me as I rethink how I write and think about these topics.

          But regardless of whether it’s nature or nurture, this is another one of those conversations that I think is helpfully served to many confused and/or oblivious men as a She Interprets Life This Way, and You Interpret Life This Other Way… And it’s totally natural and common… But it’s always why you always have the same fight over and over and don’t communicate well.

          Helping guys understand that something is true and real for his wife or girlfriend even though he doesn’t agree with it or experience feelings the same way, is a MAJOR lightbulb moment for a lot of men.

          Lastly. Yes. All of the mistake making in this post is about MEN making mistakes because of faulty information or a lack of it.

          None of it is me defending guys or myself and suggesting their wives/girlfriends are reacting irrationally to their bullshit.

          I’m saying the guys don’t know the bullshit is bullshit because Galileo hasn’t proved the heliocentric model to them yet.

          It’s important people get this. Because it’s real.

      2. Matt,
        I agree that we all take pieces of our experiences and plug them in to situations we don’t have all the information about. So, they read this and they are reading parts of their own story.
        I still think you are in the top 10% of the most awesome people on the planet. Even if I don’t know you that well at all :)…

        But, I’m wondering if you have asked yourself if there really are some things that you still need to ask yourself about this incident. NOT for an audience but for you.
        If in the core of your soul after some reflection, you know the answer is that you just didn’t have the understanding, then ok. But, I think (And I don’t know) people may be questioning your naked honesty about this one.
        Maybe that isn’t the full story. Maybe there are some things you don’t want to confront.

        I am not suggesting that is true, but because I am who I am, I would encourage reflecting on the event and maybe recalling what you were feeling/thinking ect.
        And this would be for you to understand more about yourself- that’s it. Not for anyone elses approval or anything.

        Anyway. Hope you have a good evening, Sir. Keep up the good work.

      3. kirstencronlund

        I’m sorry for jumping to the conclusion that you left your wife at the hospital because you wanted the comfort of your own bed. I see now that you were doing what others who should know what they’re talking about recommended to you. That’s a tough spot, and you’re taking a lot of heat about it. Sorry about that.

      4. Matt said,

        “This post was another in a long line of awareness raisers for women confused about why men sometimes do things a certain way.

        Sorry, People Who Don’t Like This Post.

        I stand by every word.”

        Firstly, I deeply apologize if I have been party to what you perceive as jumping to inappropriate conclusions. It was very important to clarify that, for me, unlike many other cases we’ve discussed in the past, I don’t relate to the decisions you made in this instance, but neither do I feel my decisions in life have earned me any right or privilege to judge them. As someone to whom you were likely directing the “People Who Don’t Like This Post” label, if it is to be considered aptly applied, my issues with it are constrained only to the construction of how it was written (the applicability of its analogies, whether the string between your intentions with this post and your readerships’ comprehension of it connected, etc.). I was loathe to even participate in the discussion originally because I feel the original line of inquiry was presumptuous at best, invasive at worst. I was able to proceed once I saw Donkey’s question as an exercise in relationship-dynamics thought, divorced (pardon the word choice) from the very real person at the heart of it, and shame on me for that. My full, open apology if I crossed any line of taste or appropriateness in contributing to the discussion. I take offense on behalf of anyone who lays their worst behaviors bare as a willing example to others only to be castigated for it. I hope this discussion hasn’t encouraged you to feel you should shield yourself from further such illustrative disclosure in the future. I, and many other readers, have come away from you post without any clarity around why you did what you did but, at least for me, that’s of no interest. What I care about is the lesson learned, the transformative growth made, and the quest to connect the dots for other untold masses of men before they make a similar error in judgment. What I hope every woman takes from this blog every day is that, maybe not for all men, but for many, WE ARE CAPABLE OF CHANGE. We may not be willing to change, we may be willing but in not enough time, we may be willing but utterly clueless how to manifest meaningful change, BUT WE ARE CAPABLE OF IT. Whether knowing that only offers women a pebble or a mountain of hope, it is hope.

      5. Linbo,

        You said: “I think there needs to be a little more male perspective. I understand Lisa’s point that male or female everyone should know decent/moral behavior. But, I think there are so many things that color our understanding of “Right” and “Wrong” behavior.
        If it really were a moral absolute, it would never happen, except by serious deviants, but it DOES happen, so that means it is not an absolute. And I think being a male or female does influence a lot of our decisions. (Not saying it should be that way, or will always be that way- but it definitely IS that way now.)”

        I always welcome the male perspective, I wish there were more male commenters on this blog to add to the mix. I agree that for both nature/nurture reasons there can be different perspectives added by men and women.

        But the right and wrong thing seems a little different to me in the case of helping a person in the hospital.

        If we for example, talked about affairs in marriage there would be different opinions depending on culture on whether that is right or wrong.

        The “culture” of this blog is pro marriage. It is anti stupid divorces. It is anti affairs because they are not helpful to marriages.

        I am adding another to the list. It is pro marriage to help loved ones in the hospital. Most especially the wife giving birth.

        There can be moral absolutes that are regularly violated. Murder is one. Child abuse is another. Rape. We can go on and on.

        This is at another level than those but still morally wrong. You do not abandon a loved one in the hospital. It’s a moral absolute. It’s is regularly violated but that doesn’t make change the moral rightness of it.

        Men might have reasons for why they think that is acceptable. I think I understand many of the common ones. Women violate this rule too as I explained in the story about my mother.

        But it is more common for men to violate this rule. I have my theories for why that might be. But you’ve heard it all before. It’s about men not accepting influence and narcissistic tendencies and being unwilling to do the hard work to own their shit and change.

        And women not setting boundaries and adapting to shit until years later you divorce.

        Don’t serve shit, don’t eat shit, own your shit.

      6. Matt,

        You said: “This post was another in a long line of awareness raisers for women confused about why men sometimes do things a certain way.

        People clearly don’t like the answer. But it IS the answer.

        The way to fix it is not to get angry at Eight Years Ago Me.

        It’s to start thinking about how to properly prepare young men for relationships and marriage, and to convince young women to more strongly enforce boundaries RE: emotional betrayals.

        Sorry, People Who Don’t Like This Post.

        I stand by every word.”

        I find this very interesting. That you stand by every word of the original post despite feedback from many people about what it was really communicating.

        I know I don’t stand by every word I wrote in my comments on this post. My tone on several of them was way too harsh. If this was on Facebook I would edit them and delete a couple.

        We all have our evil tendencies when triggered. Mine is to be harsh and sometimes contemptuous. You have said on other posts yours is to be defensive.

        Perhaps that’s why you stand by every word. Maybe not. Maybe you just think you communicated perfectly and not a single thing could be improved.

        I am not angry at Eight Year Ago You. I am disagreeing with May 2016 You that wrote the post that framed your 8 year old mistake as it is not my fault but it is my responsibility.

        I won’t repeat it all because I’ve written too many comments already. But I think part of the fix is to deal with correct ways of thinking about all this stuff with adults talking about it in life and on the Internet.

        So when women read something you write they don’t agree with, do they know how to respond? Do they cave when he pushes back and apologize for having a different point of view? Do they feel bad for you and tell you you’re practically perfect in every way? Are they too harsh like some of my comments? Do they say women expect too much from men? How do you respond? Are you defensive? Blame the women for not getting it? Stand by every word? Or super blunt and so critical that the Dali Lama would not be able to hear what I have to say like some of my beauties I wish I could delete?

        It really a microcosm of what’s wrong with our marriages right here on your blog.

        1. “It wasn’t my fault, it was my responsibility” is a deliberate turn of phrase and reference to a previous post which I linked to.

          I thought it was relevant.

          Me writing poorly insofar as people not necessarily understand my meaning, OR people simply disagreeing with it are both acceptable to me, Lisa.

          I reread the post a couple of hours ago. I realize I have two distinct advantages.

          1. I’m the only person on earth who is not my ex-wife who knows what happened.

          2. I’m the only person who knows what I was thinking about when I wrote every sentence.

          I get the impression many people didn’t know what I meant. Happens all the time.

          I get the impression some or many disagreed. That also happens all the time.

          I know what I happened. I know what I wrote.

          There are.conversations we have here where people can present a different point of view on a subject of disagreement and make me rethink my position or totally change my mind about something. You’ve done it yourself two or three times.

          But, as I know what I lived.

          And, as I know what each of.my written sentences were intended to convey even if others interpreted them differently, yes, I stand by every word.

          I’m okay but disappointed when people don’t understand. But it is a natural byproduct of telling stories. Everyone runs them through their own filters and experiences. I’m used to it, though I hope you believe I’m always trying to communicate more clearly. Editors help. I write and publish without even proofreading some of the time.

          And lastly, I’m okay with people disagreeing. I don’t require everyones approval to believe what I believe, or to tell my own stories.

          The disagreements and misunderstandings people have are PRECISELY what happens in marriage.

          It’s not wrong. It’s natural. We aren’t all the same.

          It’s just, human.

          I’m for peace and respect. NOT for universal agreement on all things.

          I’m inclined to spend a little less time trying to make everyone agree on everything, and more time on trying to encourage people to LOVE ANYWAY.

          Not everyone is the same, or agrees, or feels good all the time.

          No matter what, we can still make the choice to love.

          That’s what heals the broken. Love. Not the feeling. The behavior.

          If everyone wants to take their ball and go home because we didn’t see eye to eye on my word choices, THEN it’s a microcosm of what’s wrong with marriage.

          If we come back tomorrow and talk about something else, then I’d say it’s a microcosm of what’s right with it.

      7. Lisa,
        When I suggested we needed more male perspective it was in response to Matts statement that he wanted to find effective ways to help men like him (8 years ago) to know this was wrong and not do this, and I didn’t have any answers. I also suggested male perspective because this is a very visceral subject for most women.
        Its wrong- no doubt, but the emotional intensity of peoples responses to me didn’t match the event. A lot of anger seemed to be directed at Matt.

        Some things just cant be sliced into right or wrong. There are always extenuating circumstances that need to be asked. Example- A guy in my program got grilled by a bunch of classmates because he missed an email and spent the afternoon with his 4 kids instead of completing a project on time. Everyone in the group felt very justified in being an asshole to him because he was late in getting something in. But no one asked why. This is why leaving your wife in the hospital isn’t an actual crime- because every situation is a littlel bit different.
        Would I want that to happen to me? NO. Has something similar to that happened to me- sort of, and believe me I was thinking about that.
        It hurt like hell, because I was desperately trying to connect and they refused. Flat out refused. Looking back, I am wondering if he knew that is what he was doing.
        I believe Matt was clueless, and WRONGFULLY disregarded his wifes emotions as something she would get over. He had ideas about what was supposed to happen next and didn’t see the bigger picture, didn’t see the other side. He could have WRONGLY been thinking, “well the hard part is now over”, ect.
        It is a betrayal, don’t get me wrong. And it ruins trust. Honeslty I had never much considered the scenario, much less experience it so my emotional reaction may be less intense, but
        We can say uniformly that yes, men should be advised to listen to their wives in their emotional needs. Don’t abandon them- especially after your child is being born.
        It will ruin your life.

      8. Lisa and Matt,
        First I want to defend myself for defending Matt. I do not think he is 100% perfect. I think that among the average men the fact that he thinks and does something about owning his shit ranks him up pretty high in my book.
        But, along those same lines, Matt- what Lisa is saying here is what I was touching on earlier. Have you really revisited the scenario, is there something to learn there?
        I didn’t include the defensiveness, but yeah- I was wondering if the “I stand by every word” was more of a defense. I’m saying this as someone for you- not trying to pick you a part or demean you.
        Like I said before, if you really know without a shadow of doubt that your conclusion is the naked honest conclusion- then ok. If you don’t, then it may be worth re-visiting.

      9. But yes, lets come back tomorrow and talk about something else: ). I posted a question back in “ally” post (I believe), that I would sincerely like to get answered. I will repost it tomorrow.

      10. Matt,

        I don’t know what it says about marriage but I will be back tomorrow to read your thought provoking blog.

        You have real guts to put yourself out there post after post. I couldn’t do it. That’s why I write 30 comments on your blog instead of writing my own blog. I admire your courage and vulnerability.

        Obviously, this is a topic that affects a lot of people. Like you, I know what happened in my own life and the pain it caused. Not just with my husband but with my mother and sister and too many other people. It’s not just about childbirth but being able to count on people when it matters.

        It also matters to me in an abstract principled way to frame it a certain way. That causes a lot of intense reactions too because so many times the apology never comes.

        But we all have to figure it out for ourselves in the way that makes sense to us.

        You’ve helped me to understand a different way of looking at things. We don’t always agree but I always appreciate hearing your point of view.

        Ok, not today, but other days! I’m sure that my comments weren’t your favorite either today. 😉

        I come here because I am trying to learn how to improve my marriage and be a better person. I’ve got a long way to go on both.

        Your blog is helping me by making me think through big questions. I thank you for that!

        So virtual duck lips to you!

      11. Linbo,
        You said: ” I also suggested male perspective because this is a very visceral subject for most women.

        Its wrong- no doubt, but the emotional intensity of peoples responses to me didn’t match the event. A lot of anger seemed to be directed at Matt.”

        This is why I was trying to get it to be more than about childbirth. This is more foundational. Like the story I told about my father’s stroke and my mother not being there. And then compounding it by not owning her shit.

        This is a question of what our moral obligations are to loved ones who are physically or mentally sick or vulnerable.

        How do we ask and answer and frame that question?

        I agree with you that we have to ask questions and there are exceptions. But the general rule still applies as a default.

        It’s similar to the conversation we had around Mother’s Day. I respect the hell out of you for reaching out to your imperfect mother. Because it’s the right thing to do. If you decided not to do that based on your circumstances, I could understand that too.

        Default to black and white rules for moral ways to treat people, exceptions are inevitable but need to be well thought out.

        As I usually do, I was trying to expand it beyond men and women because inevitably all of our default unconscious biases cloud things. I have them as much as anyone else despite my best efforts. There is just so much data about our unconscious biases. All of us.

        Are they overreacting? Are men just innately incapable? Etc etc.

        It confuses and clouds the big picture as soon as men vs women enter the picture so that is part of why I resist the Mars/Venus breakdowns though there are gender patterns involved that have to be considered.

        Obviously in childbirth men vs women is built into the cake.

        As I said many times, I think the intense response toward Matt was due to the framing. The perception (rightly or wrongly) that there was a lack of true accountability because of the posts framing and certain phrases used.

        But there is also a frustration that women have to literally beg to have their husband’s accept their influence. And they so often don’t EVEN when it is something so black and white as abdominal surgery.

        That causes some intense reactions and anger too because it is just so friggin wrong. Morally wrong often with unconscious sexist biases underlying some of it.

        She’s “overly emotional” I need to listen to my own “rational” opinion or someone else’s opinion (I am talking generally not Matt).

        And the fact that your reaction was to think our intense responses didn’t match the event just shows how common it is to be dismissed or questioned even when the topic is being abandoned in the hospital.

        I appreciate your candor and I know you said you might be wrong. And of course we all have different filters so your take is based on your life experiences.

        It’s just all too sadly depressing. To feel like you have to fight for your dignity as a human being. To feel like that at times when it should be obvious like being in a hospital.

        And then to have your humiliation deepened to its lowest point by him not even acknowledging his shittiness. By making it about your overreaction and lack of ability to forgive.

        It is just dehumanizing and humiliating. That’s how I experience it anyway. To have to beg for your humanity. So many women feel less than human that’s where the intense reactions come from.

        I’ve heard a lifetime’s worth of being told that everyone is human and forgive and don’t cast stones. (I know you didn’t mean it that way) It is so often presented on a silver shit platter by those who just don’t want to own their shit.

        They put the burden on the victim to remove their debt. To unilaterally forgive their debt. And then they blame them for not being willing to forgive and move on. I could tell you all kinds of horrible church stories around this topic. Sunday School shit sandwiches with forgiveness Bible verses on the side.

        I developed my black and white flowchart style of thinking to stay sane in an environment where people did all kinds of Orwellian things with questions of taking care of people in the hospital. And being told to forgive with no apology offered.

        Let me tell you a little secret. One of my husband’s and my communication difficulties is the difference in how we frame things.

        I tend to frame things in very stark black and white terms. Flowcharts. Right and wrong.
        Not because I don’t know there are complexities and exceptions but because it is a way to understand an idea or principle that makes sense to me. To build on and apply in more subtle ways.

        This drives my husband crazy. That makes no sense to him to frame things in simple moralistic terms. He sees multiple possibilities for things. His way seems so vague to me.

        Never being able to say something definitive drives me crazy. It is inexplicable he finds thinking like that helpful. But there you go. Both are equally valid ways but very different.

        It is a huge problem in trying to even have a way to talk about the same problem. We are trying to figure out ways to get around it that don’t trigger each other. We often couldn’t even agree on what the problem was much less the solution.

        So I get that my way of looking at things is not helpful to all people. And It can cause me sometimes to be too harsh because things often seems simple to me in cases like this. When people don’t conform to my flowchart, it can be dangerously easy for me to think of them as “bad” not human.

        But on the other hand, it can be very handy to know what is the default honorable thing to do. And to be less swayed by my own selfish inclinations to not do those things. Of course not all the time as my shitty mom stories sadly illustrate. (see nuance!)

        And it’s also handy to not accept excuses from various people in my life who are feeding me shit sandwiches. Because the flowchart calls bullshit.

        And when people don’t own their shit the flowchart makes it simple for me to not take on the shit they are trying to hand me. That’s why stuff about intentions and reasons don’t matter to me.

        It’s helpful to resist typical female codependent style mistakes because the flowchart keeps it simple for whose responsibility things really are.

        So pros and cons. But the worst one is the harshness. Working on that one. It’s a pesky bug in my flowchart software brain. Not acceptable. My husband hates that too.

        PS I hope you had a great date last night!

      12. Lisa,
        Good morning. Let me start by saying written communication can be difficult, and may be even more difficult for some than others (namely me). So, lets agree to have lots of grace and forgiveness and assuming the best about one another, and ask questions when things seems unclear.

        As far as my comment about the response not matching the event…EEWWWW! Did I just throw a gas lighting grenade out there? I am sincerely sorry. What I was thinking, but didn’t say very well was that the anger being expressed at Matt did not seem reasonable. I stand by that because of this- people were equating Matt then to Matt now, and wanted to try and sentence him again. Or at least that is what it felt like to me. People may have been taking the feelings they had about a similar situation in their life and placed it on Matt.

        Yes, I agree that caring for the people in our lives when they are sick and in need is hugely important. It was a given at one point in time. I couldn’t accurately state when that started changing, but I do believe that when people started moving all over the country and globe family connections became longer distanced. Caring for your own when they are sick became less and less of a possibility, and less an less of an obligation. I still don’t know if I can say it is a moral obligation.
        If my mom were sick and my sister were the only one to take care of her- that would be more traumatic, it wouldn’t be comforting or helpful.
        Some people don’t want to be seen as vulnerable or weak, and so don’t want help while they are in the hospital.
        I know you prefer to reduce questions of morality to black and white, but I really don’t think you can unless the question is “should someone be available to help any person hospitalized”- I would agree that would be a moral obligation, but that person could be a paid provider and not a family member. (Didn’t say I think that is the best way to go, but it is a way to go.)
        I know you mentioned life threatening mistakes in hospitals, and I agree that is a possibility. I would always have someone be your point guard (I really don’t know if I am using that reference correctly, but it just sounds right : ) …Just somebody who knows what is happening, what the next step is supposed to look like, ect. Especially if the patient is in anyway sedated or medicated. But, that person doesn’t have to be a family member.
        Of course, if you are in the same town or in the same house as a family member who is in the hospital, then yes there is a way higher expectation and obligation to be there for your family members. If you are married to them- that is kind of like half of yourself in that hospital bed, so damn straight you ought to be there.

        I agree I think most people responded to his post as if he were shrugging his shoulders, saying it happened, I didn’t know better- and it was a long time ago, so what-ev’s.
        I don’t really think that is what he was thinking or feeling when he wrote it.
        I think it is incredible the way you and Donkey do seem to hold him accountable. I need to work that muscle for owning my own shit. But the accountability should be either about if he is in fact making it not such a big deal, or if he is reframing it in a way that makes it seem less important.
        I think youre right that the framing of it is very important- and that is not because he needs to justify himself to people who have been hurt by something similar, but because the men who may perpetrate such an offense need to know just how deeply offensive it is.

        I get your frustration about having to beg for your humanity, about others not acknowledging their own shittyness. Believe me I get it- I am a single female in a bible belt conservative town. Again, I am sorry I was a gas lighter.
        Do I honestly feel that intense about it? No. But that doesn’t mean that the expressed emotions are wrong. Again- my problem was more that they were targeted towards Matt vs. a general this is how that makes me feel.

        You said that “you’ve heard a lifetimes worth that everybody is human and forgive, and don’t cast stones…you also acknowledged that when I wrote that it wasn’t meant as a trite- forgive and forget. It was written in particular for “this man has already been tried and convicted”, we cant and we shouldn’t try to make him pay again.
        In fact, doing that could also be seen as a moral failing of sorts.
        The only person who is owed anger in this situation is his ex-wife, the only person who he should ask forgiveness, and give an apology is his ex-wife.
        I don’t know if he has done that, but part of me thinks that would have dawned on him. I don’t know.
        There is another type of forgiveness that is given that just says exactly what I profoundly believe- that his offense does not deem him unacceptable to human society.
        Shame is not a very effective way for people to change.

        Flow charts- I love! Even though I typically don’t function all the time in black and white. It is a good way to learn to empathize- by asking- what question are you answering? Where are you starting from and where are you expecting it to go?

        In boundary setting this is an incredible tool- yes, asking questions like
        “Is this something I am responsible for? yes go > , no go >
        “Does this establish an acceptable behavior? yes go>, no go >
        ect.

        I fight the fight against shit sandwiches with you! Really, I do. I may need to be a little more definitive in my answers and in my behavior. I have a ways to go. I have tons of ingrained things that tell me not to push, don’t be a problem, be easy and they will like you better, ect.
        But yeah, that doesn’t get you where you want to go- and what women deserve.
        The date was ok. No major sparks. He said “I brought you flowers” when I looked around for them he explained “I left them in the car.” WTF??
        But for me, the boundary to just not be available because someone was interested is an important start for me. I’ve had 2 other “suitors” this last year that start off really gung ho, and when I say “ok” lets go do this or that, they lose interest.
        I’m not trying to sustain interest by being mysterious or anything, but I am not going to invest my time, energy and effort into something that will likely fizzle. These boundaries are really for me, because I used to really want to in a relationship, so would bend over backwards to accommodate. But, I’m just not feeling that anymore. yay me!

    3. Yes Travis, A lot of us pushed the red button, some of us, as a matter of fact are still leaning on it.

      I am glad you returned to add some perspective and a caution not to ignite the flame that will destroy the house where a lot of us have found shelter, especially for our lagging spirits and sore souls (soles). I want the journey to continue.

      Thanks again.
      t

  26. “What I heard, loud and clear, was how little my needs mattered.” Bingo.

    Matt, you have really revealed yourself and you are getting beaten for it, but you have also opened up probably the foundation of all the problems in marriage, or as Lisa puts it, the first question in the flowchart. The discussion has been really interesting and informative, if probably tough on you.

    What you did in leaving your crying wife was certainly horrible, but that can be repaired, as in Lisa’s marriage. You did not doom your marriage by your bone-headed decision in the hospital. You doomed it by your multiple decisions to not take the blame and apologize for as long as it took to pay the penance you should pay and she deserved. An apology that absolutely puts the shame and blame on you, and only you. And that felt missing in your piece. The analogies felt like a whole series of little “buts”.

    My husband cringes every time he thinks about what he did to me over a serious operation. If he ever stopped cringing, if he ever defended himself on any level, if he ever implied that he was not a total shit at the moment in time, he would no longer be my husband. I have this thing about the oft used phrase “don’t shame and blame”. Hell, yes, everyone should take on the shame and blame they brought upon themselves, because without that, there is no deep realization of what they did, and without that, what they did eventually becomes who they are. Everyone can act like an asshole sometimes, but there is a difference between occasionally acting like one and actually being one. Donkey and Lisa both put this eloquently.

    If you have ever seen “A Year In Provence”, you have seen the ultimate apology. The home owner treats a worker poorly. The entire village of workers get into their trucks and parade off the work site, for good. The home owner begs them to give him another chance. Back comes the parade of trucks. Home owner opens the gate, and in front of all of them, says “I was wrong and you were right”. Our at home version of it is “I’m an asshole and I am sorry” or “please forgive me for being a turdhead”. Matt, make it a mission to help men apologize. And then to help them own what they did without defending themselves. The apology and the repeating of it, sincerely, needs to be in exact proportion to the crime. So what if you are still apologizing five years later for the biggie you (or me or any one of us) committed? I find it amazing that people say stupid things like “I already apologized repeatedly” or “that was a long time ago”. You did it, so you never get off based on the fact that a period of time, determined by you, or a number of apologies, determined by you, are enough. The victim gets to decide that. What you get out of that, besides being damned uncomfortable over your actions for the rest of your life, is to keep a relationship that has space for you to talk about that awful aberration without it further hurting the relationship. Which discomfort do you choose? Pick your pain, because one way or another, you are going to have pain. Otherwise, it sounds like the guy who murdered both his parents, then pleaded to the judge for leniency on the basis that he was an orphan.

    Someone wrote asking what women can do that doesn’t involve changing the lunks in their life. Having worked with almost exclusively men, this is what I have learned to do , and it is helpful. If you are getting overwhelmed/in a pissy mood/need to be alone/want something done, say it directly. Not please, not I am upset, not implication. Say “I am about to implode about the condition of this house/the laundry/the not put away stuff. It needs to be taken care of right now.. Say “I need half an hour to read and do not interrupt me” Say “This is happening one day this week, you can pick the day”. Say “I know you don’t want to, and I don’t care”. Sounds so tough and mean, but this usually happens after a soft pitch that got deflected. Oddly, men seem to appreciate knowing exactly where they stand and what they need to get done. That is how they are with one another.

    Keep up the good (and difficult) work, Matt. I think you have the courage to deal with all the comments you are getting, and that the discussion is the raw one that is not gone into in marriage. Instead of very tough talk, we divorce.

  27. To All;

    On thoughtless behavior:

    My aunt lived in small apartment and as a long-term, highly involved member of her church, she had received countless awards attesting to devotion and good works. Every flat surface in her space was covered. My aunt had been a widow for over forty years, and though she was not destitute by any means, she still had to be frugal.

    On Mother’s Day, her birthday, Easter etc. she would receive flowers and plants of all different kinds and shapes. She told me on one such occasion that she wished her friends and family would send her CASH instead. The apartment would be much less crowded and money was surely more needed than floral arrangements. I told my brother what she said. I was sure he would understand and abide by her wishes. He did not!

    I assumed he had forgotten so I told him again, emphatically, about her wishes. On the next holiday, a floral arrangement arrived from my brother with a note that read, ” Hi Auntie, Marilyn told me what you said about preferring cash rather than flowers, but, I thought I would send you these ANYWAY. They are so lovely, just tell Sophie to throw them out when they too get wilted and unattractive.

    MY brother is a good person. What gives!!!!

    1. Marilyn Sims, I strongly recommend you read the giant emotional labor metafilter thread. There are several stories about flowers there. :p It’s truly giant, but worth it. RuralBethany gave me heartful thank you for posting the link, and she said she wasn’t the same person after reading it.

      Here is the long version:
      http://www.metafilter.com/151267/Wheres-My-Cut-On-Unpaid-Emotional-Labor

      Here’s the short Version: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view?pref=2&pli=1

      And here’s a link to Crone Island (this is not about you being a grandmother or anything like that, you’ll understand if you read through the whole metafilter thread):
      https://croneisland.wordpress.com/

      I’m on a weird computer today, not my usual one, so please tell me if anything’s wrong with the links (if you’re interested in them, that is).

      Virtual hug and a virtual margerita/ tea/whatever you want, to you! 🙂

  28. OMG Matt, this one hit hard for me not because I can relate to the situation (I don’t have children) but because I chose not to have children when I married my now S2BX because I knew he would be a shitty husband. But me not bringing a child into this world for that reason….that makes me a shitty wife.

    1. Hello Sambucaquen,

      I don’t see how that makes you a shitty wife? Seems very responsible to me. Did you feel it was shitty to yourself kind of?

      1. I knew deep down, he would’ve been an absent father but hindsight is 20/20. He wanted kids (and secretly I did too) but I knew I couldn’t have a child with him….but married him anyways. Oh well, live and learn.

      2. Ugh, I’m sorry.
        We all do these kinds of mistakes when we feel desperate to be loved (that would be my guess/exerience, you may have had other reasons of course!). The things I’ve done, even though I really knew better, because I was desperate to feel loved… oh boy. I’ve definitely hurt other people in the process.

        I believe, as we live and learn, we’re raising the standard for awareness and emotional health in society, so it will be easier for the next generations.

        Virtual hug, should you want it. <3

    2. Sambucaqueen, I read you got an ouch from me talking about the 10 prostitutes. I hope I did not come across as minimizing the huge betrayal that infidelity is and the pain that it causes so many. I definitely would understand if you or anyone else would think the infidelity is worse.

      There isn’t a right or wrong as to what’s worse. The point is, both things are very very shitty.

      1. Thanks for the virtual hug Donkey. 🙂
        I think that everyone’s personal experience creates a different reaction (it was a wonderful eye opener “ouch” for me btw. I needed the reminder why I left my marriage in the first place. Us empaths tend to forget quickly).

        You are so right. Both things are very shitty and I don’t believe people make mistakes. People make poor choices. For some, over and over again.

        Hugs right back at ya!

  29. I think I’ve said this before, but women really do have high expectations of men. We expect them all to be Batman. So when they show signs of being human, imperfect, flawed, it can really push women’s buttons.

    There’s two ways took at that, that women are demanding and contentious, or that she holds you in such high esteem you’ve actually been handed a sacred trust, that she can see the potential in you even when you cannot. That’s a good thing, women call men to their higher selves, but we really have to be careful about managing our expectations and not completely eviscerating men when they fail.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you say here. Women should not expect Batman. That’s wrong. Women should expect fair and respectful treatment, and heartfult and complete apologies and shit owning when huge betrayals are made. That’s is right. Similar criterias for men. 🙂

      1. Donkey

        You said. “Women should expect fair and respectful treatment, and heartfult and complete apologies and shit owning when huge betrayals are made. That’s is right. Similar criterias for men. :)”

        Yes! I totally agree. Here are the basic life shit rules for both genders. Neediepoint it on pillows everywhere.

        1. Don’t serve shit.

        2. Don’t eat shit.

        3. Own your shit if you make a mistake and serve or eat shit. Do not repeat it.

        4. Do not be in a relationship with someone who cannot or will not do these things, most especially number 3. You will be treated like shit.

  30. Ok, Matt has generously tried to exlain to me three times now (the post and two longer comments), and I believe I have a clearer picture (though not clear enough for my tastes). I believe it wasn’t as bad as I thought, although still bad. If Matt doesn’t want to explain further, because he simply has other things he wants or needs to do and/or because he wants to be sensitive to his ex’s wish for privacy, that is certainly reasonable and I do not fault him for that at all.

    Given the way Matt had presented the story before though, I do feel quite confused as to why Matt seems outraged over the jumping to conclusions that are wrong and worse than what really happened, that many including myself have done. The first description painted a very different picture than his following comments to me. Not just less details, a different picture. To me itt seems like Matt was upset that, not knowing the whole story, we thought it was more like the first picture that had already been partially painted by Matt, than the second picture that had not yet been painted. I realize I’m sounding like a shitty husband here, but that doesn’t seem fair. Ok, I’m repeating myself here, I already said this to Matt (but if it was unclear what I meant, perhaps it’s clear now)

    I love Matt’s blog, he’s really doing a kind of public service here, and he’s being so generous with his personal life and wisdom and failings and time. He’s been personally sweet to me many times. I enjoy spending time here so much. I don’t want to hurt or disrespect Matt, have this blog be an unfriendly or inactive place, or indeed have Matt not like me. So Matt, given what I’ve said to you about the information I and others had at had and the picture that painted, if you still feel like there’s something I’ve misunderstood in an unneccessarily mean way (or anything else really), please do explain it to me (if it’s important to you).

    Even so, as conflic avoidant as I may be (especially with men, it’s just ingrained that I should please you and accept your point of view as the right one, plus to me, you’re scary when you’re angry), like Travis, I do believe we should strive to be honest here. So I’m not done yet. :p

    I’ve honestly felt a bit guilty and mean before for bringing up this c-section story up several times, since Matt wrote such and honest post (his previous one) where he clearly said it was probably the worst thing he’s ever done. I don’t want to pile on someone who owns their stuff and is truly sorry! 🙁 I’ve had some horrible personal failings in my life, and if people around me never stopped shaming me, after I had taken complete responsibility and shown true remorse, I would go crazy.

    …but I feel a bit less guilty today (and not because of anything about what conclusions we jump to). :p Becauce even though I can’t know Matt’s true intentions, so I could be wrong of course, I do feel, like Lisa and others, that in this post he’s no longer owning all of his rightful responsibility. I’m probably doing some of the same with my own personal failings, even though I’ve come along way in owning those shit sandwiches.

    “It’s not Your fault. Just Your responsibility”.
    No no no. No. No. To me this just screams being a way to get out of some of the healthy shame that comes with taking full responsibility. It’s both your fault and your responsibility.

    “I left my wife alone in that hospital because I didn’t know better.”
    No no no no no.Like other commenters here, I call bull. I mean, it’s technically true. I’m going to use Lisa’s hubby here as an example for a little bit, hope it’s ok Lisa. He technically didn’t known better. But had he only listened/believed/respected the information his wife was giving him, the expert witness really He. Would. Have. Known. The information was there, he just didn’t believe it. As always, I can be wrong, but that seems to me to be the problem, not that husbands don’t know. They would have and could have (not just should have!) known had they just believed/taken seriously what their wives said.

    It’s like being in court for hitting someone with you car because you didn’t stop at the red light. “I didn’t know I should stop at red lights” the guilty husband says. “Ok”, the prosecutor says “that should have been obvious, but ok. Even so, you had a police officer come to you and say “you must stop at red lights!” and still you drove on. You didn’t know because you didn’t believe the expert. If you had just listened to the expert, everything would have been fine. Why didn’t you listen to the expert?”.

    Guilty husband: “Uhm, I didn’t believe the police officer?”
    Prosecutor: “Why?”
    Guilty husband: “I thought I was right?”
    Prosecutor: “Why?”
    Guilty husband: “Uhm, I guess I think I know better than the police officer?”
    Proescutor: “Why?”
    Guilty husband: “I guess I think I’m smarter?”
    (If this answer is wrong, if the answer is really something else, then please do enlighten me.)

    (Back to abandonment after/during childbirth/c-section, I’ll leave Lisa’s hubby alone and speak in generalities now.)There’s the problem, I believe. The problem in this case isn’t lack of accurate information. The problem seems to be some husbands believing (even if they aren’t aware they believe it) that they are smarter/saner than their wife (at least on this aspect, but this aspect should be obviously her field of expertise so I don’t have much faith they’re appropriately respectful the rest of the time), so they don’t respect her enough to believe the accurate information she’s giving them.

    If y’all wish: The problem is (at least partly!) a lack of information given to husbands guilty of this by people whose thinking/observations they respect enough to believe over their own when accompanied with the facts. The facts/information aren’t enough. Again, if that were the case, they would have listened to their wives. They also need to believe/respect the source who’s bringing them the facts enough for them to change their thinking. And the husband it seems, often doesn’t have that kind of respect for his wife, in this area at least.

    1. Donkey,

      If you have a moment, count the times you have used the word “respect” in your post.

      I am feeling so frustrated, I am almost to the point of weeping. How many times will we have to re-visit this topic? How many times do women experience marital unhappiness because their partners cannot provide what is AT MINIMUM the most important building block for successful and happy unions?

      What now? How do we cure an affliction that seems congenital?

  31. I’m coming back to this after reading quite a bit this morning and thinking a lot about it. I, too, was shocked by Matt’s lack of understanding of his wife’s basic need for him after their son was born. When he mentioned in the comment thread about ALL of the things he had on his mind that he was trying to do right when he decided to leave the hospital helped make it a little more clear to me.

    My husband is an engineer, and I often think that he is a tangible thinker for that reason. I am wondering if what I see as an engineering quirk is something that many men share. For instance, last weekend my kids and I met my husband in the city where we will be relocating for his new job. The kids and I are still living in our current home and husband is commuting on weekends while staying with friends in the new city during the week.

    Last weekend, we stayed in a hotel together in the new city so we could go house hunting. Saturday, we had breakfast at a place I loved and I said something about wanting to have breakfast there again on the next day for Mother’s Day. I also told him that what I really wanted was to sleep in and have him take the kids to the breakfast place and get carry out for all of us. I used my words to tell him that was what I wanted and everything.

    Sunday morning, the kids of course woke us both up early. My husband got them situated watching a cartoon, and then told me he was going to go pick up the breakfast without them, because it was going to be such a hassle getting them ready and out the door.

    Had he told me that he wanted to sleep in while in the hotel, I would have hustled them down to the lobby as soon as they woke up. That was the first thing the really upset me. Then the fact that taking the kids was “too hard” also upset me, when time to myself was what I really wanted, and I had specifically told him that. Add to that the fact that I have no choice but to do the “too hard” shit during the week, since he’s in another city, it seemed like the definition of dad privilege.

    My husband is a good man who loves me. After we all went to breakfast together (which I told him I’d prefer to staying in the hotel with the kids while he got carry out), he took them to a playground while I went back to the hotel take a nap. I spent the time thinking about what the hell he was thinking, and I realized that he had focused on the tangible thing I wanted–breakfast from this particular place. That was something he could wrap his mind around and could do easily and well. Giving me time to myself was much less tangible and much harder. He was so focused on the “my wife wants this breakfast, so by gum, that’s what I will give her!” that he missed the fact that it was secondary, despite my using words to tell him.

    I get the impression that many men also focus on the tangible–I must provide financially for my family/I must get the cord blood to the courier/I must get some sleep so I can be rested and ready when my wife and new baby get home from the hospital–and get so caught up in the specifics of those tangibles that they forget that overlooking the intangibles kills love. These men think they are doing everything right and their wives are asking for blood from a turnip, when their wives are asking them to please just quit it with the tangibles, which would make it much easier to do the things that will actually help the women cope with childbirth/solo parenting/whatever is causing huge stress.

    What is frustrating is this is often put back on women as if they are too demanding or never letting anything go or expecting too much. Frankly, it’s exhausting. When our two-year-old got fussy during breakfast on Mother’s Day, I took him outside for a walk and cried, because I just wanted to be alone, and I felt like there was no way to tell my husband that again without it turning into a fight about how I was wrong for wanting what I wanted or bitchy for bringing it up when he was doing his best. He did then take the kids to the playground, as I mentioned, and they all came back with flowers for me, which was wonderful. But I felt like I couldn’t say that I was upset, I just needed him to notice that I’d been crying, or else we’d have a huge fight. I’m a pretty straightforward person, and feeling like I have to manage his disappointment in himself for disappointing me is just more than I can take.

    In any case, this is longer than I intended. I was just wondering if that tangible aspect of issues is what was going on with Matt 8 years ago.

    1. “I’m a pretty straightforward person, and feeling like I have to manage his disappointment in himself for disappointing me is just more than I can take.”

      This is the heart of emotional labour. It’s some messed up social conditioning through and through. Not only is the expectation that women should eat any shit sandwich served, we should comfort the man if he happens to feel bad about himself for giving us a shit sandwich. This is not ok. It’s hard to change alright, it takes time, but it’s a good fight, because this is not ok.

      1. Aww..man, Donkey- I’m so guilty of this!
        I have a friend who is now in her mid 70’s, she has told me so many times “Never feel sorry for a man.” …I am starting to believe her!

  32. Donkey,

    Thanks for responding, I’m glad you liked it. I’m not sure about your reference to the lower-case letters like bell hooks .Please explain if and when, you feel you have the time.

    1. It’s just that your nick name shows up, on my screen at least, as “marilyn sims”, not “Marilyn Sims”. I know bell hooks uses lower-case letters on her name intentionally, and I was wondering if you were doing the same for some reason (and if it’s important to you that other people write it the same way). 🙂

      1. Donkey,

        I didn’t realize/notice that. I have no preference, at all, and by the way I am a huge fan of bell hooks.

      2. Marilyn Sims, I already posted this, but it’s really important to me that you get this information should you be interested, so I’ll take the liberty of posting it again. Please forgive me if this is rude/intrusive.

        I strongly recommend you read the giant emotional labor metafilter thread. There are several stories about flowers there. :p It’s truly giant, but worth it. RuralBethany gave me heartful thank you for posting the link, and she said she wasn’t the same person after reading it. Ok, I’m done with the pitching now. 8)

        Here is the long version:
        http://www.metafilter.com/151267/Wheres-My-Cut-On-Unpaid-Emotional-Labor

        Here’s the short version: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view?pref=2&pli=1

        And here’s a link to Crone Island (this is not about you being a grandmother or anything like that, lol, you’ll understand if you read through the whole metafilter thread):
        https://croneisland.wordpress.com/

        I’m on a weird computer today, not my usual one, so please tell me if anything’s wrong with the links (if you’re interested in them, that is).

        Virtual hug and a virtual margerita/ tea/whatever you want, to you! 🙂

  33. Matt,

    I hope you understand that the “firestorm” released here was due in large part by what Travis mentioned in his post. That is, your attempt to explain your behavior, made things worse. Also, a lot of us, myself included, misread your intention — it was not an attempt to justify or excuse your behavior.

    I apologize for using the “nuclear option.” Your second post did a lot to fill in the missing information and lessen the “burn”

    Still I am unsettled because I cannot fathom your choice to leave.

    Please continue to write here. As Travis said, the loss of your unique voice would be quite a loss to the community of men struggling to find ways to be better partners.

    1. Thank you, Marilyn.

      I am nowhere near offended, nor am I upset about the strong reaction.

      1. This has been valuable to see how touchy and important of a subject this is. I haven’t decided what I think it means, from a writing standpoint, but clearly this subject matters. It’s powerful.

      2. It reinforces and further validates my ex-wife’s pain. It’s good for my understanding and growth.

      3. Men who read this and pay attention to the comments, if nothing else, will learn how big of a deal this is to mothers and will maybe help them understand and treat their wives or girlfriends more thoughtfully.

      Thank you for being part of the conversation here. 🙂

  34. I am going to channel my alter ego here, the Incredible Hulk. Hulk has a married sister. Husband does something really stupid and shitty. Hulk says “Dude, you are one mf asshole, don’t do it again”, big shoulder whack, guy to guy. Hulk then hears husband got pissy to sister about talking about stupid shitty thing he did. Turns green and beats hell out of husband. Why? Because shitty act can be forgiven, but doubling down on your shittiness – words fail me. That is why I use the Hulk’s fists.

    I really appreciate this whole posting and that Matt has opened up to all of us this way. Tthe most important sentence Matt wrote, to me, was “would get mad at her for holding a grudge”. My frustration lies here. We, as women, take responsibility for the feelings of our husband. We might cry and bitch, but we also leave a little skirting to save his ego, save his face, save his pride, save his sense of self. Matt is kind of our standard bearer, and maybe we, or speaking for myself, I, feel that whiff of face saving. But it seems that Matt is willing to bare all and trudge on, and for that, thanks, Matt!

    1. Shannon said: “We might cry and bitch, but we also leave a little skirting to save his ego, save his face, save his prise, save his sense of self”.

      I’m just going to copy what I wrote to Emily further up here, because it’s the same thing.

      This is the heart of emotional labour. It’s some messed up social conditioning through and through. Not only is the expectation that women should eat any shit sandwich served, we should comfort the man if he happens to feel bad about himself for giving us a shit sandwich. This is not ok. It’s hard to change alright, it takes time, but it’s a good fight, because this is not ok.

      Ok, I’m adding something. It’s not just men, it’s anyone with entitlement and privilige who uses it, knowingly or not. But in intimate relationships, not because of some inherent flaw in men but because if social conditioning, that’s more often the man.

      I appreciate your comments Shannon. 🙂

  35. Nothing says “You can’t depend on me-I don’t have your back” like…actually not having your wife’s back during a major life event. Maybe this is why it’s such a trigger for so many readers. A majority of married couples have children. So I am assuming a majority of lady readers here have gone through childbirth and they know what a huge deal it is for a husband to be there for his wife. Because it’s such a huge deal, for the most part it seems like leaving your wife to go home to sleep, play golf, meet a coworker, check your email, deny her pain meds/procedures, etc. almost always puts the couple on the path to eventual divorce. So maybe, Matt, you can take all of these responses, leave out the personal-to-Matt stuff, and come up with an awesome post on why this is such a crucial area for husbands to not screw up.

    1. Lissy,

      Hey there glad you’re back!

      I agree with your assessment. And also add this is bigger than just childbirth. There are several stories on here about not being supported for other surgeries and our kids needs.

      After the incident during labor checking his emails, my husband repeated and even worsened his track record. 6 weeks later our infant son was admitted to the hospital for having seizure like episodes. It was terrifying as you can imagine.

      My beloved husband thought we should leave our infant son by himself in the hospital overnight. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. He had the wrong question at the top of his flow chart.

      I slept in the little bed thing overnight because I was not insane. I caught many errors and questioned painful procedures on my infant son. I say this not to devalue doctors and nurses. But hospitals are not a place to be alone.

      The system is prone to error and the patient needs an advocate. Even more puzzling is his mom is a nurse and he has been around enough medial settings to know this information.

      The next day my husband showed up later after than we agreed because he overslept. I had had no breakfast and was waiting for him. And he gave me one of those half hearted apologies.

      He now looks back at those incidents horrified at how selfish he was as a 32 year old man. That’s why we are still married.

      He is a fantastic dad and you have to learn choosing other’s needs over yourself consistently to be a great dad. Other comments have discussed how many men are good dads but shitty husbands because the selfless transformation was incomplete.

      I had to set a lot of exhausting boundaries too to force him to confront his narcissistic tendencies. And I brought my own deficits and lack of relationship skills to the table in other areas like responding too harshly that I had to do this.

      And being contemptuous of someone who choses sleep over their wife and child in the hospital. Of course what he did was stupid and wrong but contempt is the most toxic thing I can add his errors to make it even worse.

      I don’t know how to change all this. This is bigger than childbirth. It affects so many areas. This is all about what happens when I get the flu vs when he gets the flu. I had to “beg” for help when the opposite was not true for him.

      Or when I was severely depressed and he just worked more. Or when I got physically ill and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He just worked more. So I had to figure out how to get well myself. Alone yet married. It’s bigger than childbirth.

      I don’t know what the right balance is. I know I don’t get it right yet because I get very, very angry at having to “beg” for basic things.

      It is humiliating and dehumanizing having to beg when I am sick or need help or are in the hospital.
      It’s part of why we were not happily married.

      Of course he has responded well sometimes. He was there for me during the birth of our second child. He learned! He was present during a couple of outpatient surgeries. I am rock solid sure he would be there if our kids got sick.

      But still uncertain for me because there are still things that need changing. Still selfish tendencies on his part and harsh tendencies on my part.

      Luckily he is willing to change and I am willing to change. We’re made a lot of progress and are still working on it.

      But the selfish thought processes are sadly common. Combined with unconscious gender expectations and stupid immaturity. It’s all so depressing that is still happening in 2016.

  36. Matt,
    “Good guys mess things up accidentally, but wouldn’t if they knew better”
    I get the reason/ explanation of how you handled things 8 years ago. I know you have mentioned this topic before but I appreciate it being a topic again.

    The concept of learning, growing and understanding our mistakes is how we get better.
    I applaud you for recognizing that you did not handle things well.
    And I applaud you for putting your personal experience out there so we can understand better and all learn and grow.

    I had a series of surgeries and my ex husband acted similar to you. He left me at home a day after I got home from hospital to go our cottage and be with friends and family.

    I have dissected this over and over in my mind and cannot fathom how he could leave– I was a grown woman crying at the door while he pulled away— no conversation at all.
    I felt abandoned and not important.
    I called him on his cell while he drove away. I was so angry. He viewed me as the bad guy “giving him grief”. He told his family I ” didn’t want to come with him”
    I have not been able to understand why he did what he did.

    This post helps me to understand he “didn’t know what he didn’t know”
    The difference between you and he is that you have learned from your actions.
    I am terribly sad to say that I don’t think he ever will.

    As one of the reasons he gave when he told me he filed for divorce was ” this has been too hard and when you were sick it really weighed on me”

    The words are frozen in my memory forever.
    I begged him to go to counseling and learn from our tough times but he refused.
    He wants it “easy”
    So does everyone, but life throws you challenges and you handle them the best you can.

    I think my ex is a decent guy, but he messed things up and refused to see things from any other perspective but his own.

    Definitely a “stupid” divorce.

    1. Shelly,
      I cant help but think you are in a better position now than to stay married to him. There are incredible layers of pain with what he has done. He is a chicken shit in my personal opinion. I don’t think you can call him a decent guy at all. He was completely selfish. I hope my words don’t hurt you. I tend to view people in really positive lights, even when they have demonstrated they are not worthy of it. Maybe that is because we need to hold on to some hope for humanity. But, like Lisa has commented we shouldnt have to beg to have OUR humanity recognized. I am really sorry for your health struggles on top of your husband disregarding you. I hope that you have or find others who are able to demonstrate love to you.

      1. Linbo,
        Thank you for your thoughts. I also frame people in very positive lights and always look for the good. Maybe I do this a little too much because I question now if I ever really knew my ex. I think I want to still see some part of the good in him in order to defend my choice to marry him. But thats for another post right?
        I truly believe in recognizing our mistakes and rectifying our actions.
        Not everyone is capable of being introspective. Im trying my best.

  37. Autumn Grayson

    Good post, and I understood it just fine. I think a lot of people might have a hard time with the idea because they look at the situation and think that it is obvious that the guy should be present at the child’s birth. At the same time, there are so many things that every person does that are along the same line. We all say and do stupid things to those closest to us. They may be obvious mistakes to those around us, but we won’t reconize them as mistakes until much later, if ever. I know there’s been plenty of times I’ve said things that sound insensitive to others, for instance, and people have gotten mad at me for that. Thing is, it can be hard for me to avoid those things because I was not saying those things to harm the other person. In fact, some of the things I say hold entirely different meanings to me than they do to other people. I reflect back on things like that and decide that if I want people to understand how it is for me when it comes to saying or doing insensitive things, then I can take a step back and understand why a guy might not realize he needs to be there for his wife during childbirth. Or why a guy might leave glasses by the sink. None of these things are good, but doing insensitive things without meaning to is an unfortunate yet constant part of human nature.

    Hopeully that made sense. I’m rushing this post in right before I go to bed.

    1. Hi Autumn. I hope it was clear that I was present for the birth of my son.

      But i think maybe you mean “present” in a more mindful and emotionally supportive way. And yes. In that case, it is obvious to most people.

      Your description of thinking about our behavior and how others react is, to me, the thing boyfriends and husbands should work on most.

      Thoughtful empathy.

      A simple thing, really. But it changes the world.

  38. “I do not believe these behaviors are innate to men. I think the whole Mars/Venus men/women thinking ADDS to this problem because men and women just expect so little of men. Demand so little of men.

    We’ve come a long way with changing our expectations for men as fathers. It used to be thought that men are just not innately nurturing. Are there shirt fathers? Yes but in the last 50 years modern parenting has completely changed to included nurturing expectations for fathers.

    And many, many men have stepped up to the challenge. Or to at least the new fathering goal that is not the same goal we had for fathers 50 years ago. ”

    Repeated for truth, if men are taught to care, to aknowledge, to see beyond themselves, they can do it. They can do it all day every day, heck most men do that when they are chasing after a girl, but somehow when married that goes OUT THE DOOR.

    Lissy is also right, you wanna ruin a good thing you have, check out like that, just stop caring/noticing/acknowledging the fellow human being in front of you and see how fast in unravels. Just don’t be there, and see if they take it, or accept your “explanations” and gaslighting. Maybe she might?

  39. Lisa, you are my absolute hero for posting your comment about all of the responses being a microcosm of our marriages. You are absolutely right. I feel hurt and confused, and I don’t really know what I’ve done wrong, what I should or shouldn’t apologize for, where I should stand more up for myself. I feel so scared that Matt and Travis won’t like me or that they’ll og off on me, I really hate conflict. I’m so grateful for this blog, and more specificlly, Matt having spent a lot of time and effort on trying to answer my question.

    I don’t like it when people make mean assumptions about me either. Ok, no one likes owning their shit sandwiches. But women eat shit sandwiches which should be owned by men way more often than the other way around, and they probably own shit sandwiches that don’t belong to them more often than they should. So I may very well be wrong, but in the interest of healing and practicing boundaries, I won’t own a few of the shit sandwiches floating around here until/unless I’m given more evidence as to whether or not I really was the one who served them. If no one answers me, well that will be uncomfortable in the whole unfished business psychological thing Lisa wrote about, and on a personal level of course, but I’m so tired of eating shit sandwiches I shouldn’t it, so given the information and understanding I have as of now, I’m standing up for myself.

    Matt:
    1. You complained about people jumping to mean conclusions. I explained how, given the information available to us, maybe it wasn’t so unreasonable of us. We only know what you tell us. You responded with (amonst other things) this (which I believe referenced your first post about the birth story).
    “I casually write thing like “I was a stupid moron asshole,” because that’s how I talk. But it’s a bit of hyperbole”
    “I’m not going to qualify every detail of why I did something with a “yeah, but” which helps explain why I did it. Because THAT is not owning my shit. THAT is suggesting my ex-wife was irrationally angry.”¨

    I don’t see how you can expect your readers to just know all of this. We don’t know when you’re exaggerating and to what degree, and when you’re not filling in the details and why you’re not doing that and when you’re exaggerting your bad qualites. Are we really so mean and wrong to jump to the conclusions many of us did? You wrote nothing that would suggest you think I made a fair point. Nothing like “yeah, I see given my first post and you guys not knowing everything I know, you could think it was more like the golf thing”. That hurts a bit. So no, unless/until that fair point is acknowledged and further explanations are given as to why (if indeed that’s the case) you still think I were being mean/unreasonable, I’m not owning that shit sandwich. And for the record, if anyone has been wanting to get more information, to know why/how something really happened, it’s me.

    Several people have mentioned, despite you being very brave and generous and laying this shit sanwich out for everyone to see, there’s still seems to be a bit of face saving, lack of complete responsibility in your post . You’re the only one who knows what’s going on. Maybe you’re not defensive at all. Like you said, you know what you thought when you wrote the words. But if you want people to understand you, why not accept that many people didn’t understand this post the way you wanted and that the misunderstandings probably isn’t just because readers jump to conclusions or don’t read correctly?

    Matt:
    You said:
    “Once again… I am either a kind, thoughtful, reasonable, intelligent, fair person whose opinions you respect… or I am not. If you (anyone, Donkey — not just you!) believe me to be the former, then just a tiny bit of faith should maybe be in order.”

    Frankly, I don’t accept the premisses. Like Lisa said, wrong question on top of the flow chart. No one is perfect. No one is kind, thoughtful, reasonable, intelligent and fair all the time. You can be Dick sometimes, Steve another time and Jason in other cases. Most people think good things about themselves. Some are more accurate than others, and everyone have their blindspot. You didn’t believe you were a shitty husband until quite late in the game.To be perfectly honest, this is a way to shut down the discussion that I don’t appreciate, because if I were to argue against you, it would then seem like I’m agreeing with the second option, that you’re basically not a good person. And then you don’t have to take anything *I* say in good faith.

    ……

    Travis, you said:
    “I was loathe to even participate in the discussion originally because I feel the original line of inquiry was presumptuous at best, invasive at worst”
    Are you talking about me wanting to know more about Matt’s thought process regarding why he felt it was ok to leave his wife? If that is the case, ouch. Matt, Travis, everyone, please tell me when I overstep your boundaries. I do not want to be presumptuous or invasive.

    But Travis, do you really think this is a fair characterisation? Given that Matt already had a post about this (it wasn’t like he had shared it privately with me!), and given all the diverse and frank discussion on this blog, was it truly presumotuous/invasice of me to ask more about his thought process? If so, please explain further. I’m not willing to own that shit sandwich as of now.

    Again, I might be wrong. If Matt and Travis or anyone else want me to own one or several shit sandwiches, I’m certainly open to talking about it further. I have apologized several times on this blog, so I believe I’m quite capeable of owning shit sandwiches. But I’ll require to have some of my most important points acknowledged, and I will require further explanations as to why/where/how I served the shit sandwiches. But as of now, given the facts at hand, my claim is that I did not serve them.

    Peace and love

    1. I must chime in here and say that had not Donkey asked the question she did, I would have, or someone else. I mean really, what an opportunity to get to understand what really goes through a guy’s mind in this context! How could you not? This is really helpful information!

      1. Thank you B. McEntyre! 🙂 I have the special gift/curse of asking many of the questions that most people are wondering about, but don’t want to ask. 8)

    2. Donkey Princess of Tulips,
      I don think anyone is pissed at you. I kind of wish I were more like you.
      I’d really hate to have to go to court against you or anything, because I don’t think you’d rest until you brought everything to light 🙂 But youre right- I think that is part of the shit sandwhiches women have been served. We are offered sub standard explanations and are told we are too whatever if we insist on more.

      1. *swooon* for the tulip princess thing!
        Thank you for reaching out in this sweet way, I really appreciate it.

        I’ve heard the court thing before. Thank you. 8) If I wasn’t conflict avoidant, maybe especially if I was someone who thrived on conflict, I like to believe I would be a total boss in court. 8)

        You said you posted a question on the ally post that you didn’t get answered (I haven’t seen the question). I rarely go back to old blog posts, unless they’re still very active or there’s something I want to reread (or is hoping that someone will reply to, hehe). The boundary thing you asked me about, I only catched because I coincidentally happened to be looking at that post for some reason. So, if there’s something you want me to answer (not that believe you’re only looking for my thoughts obviously), including the question you mentioned, it’s probably better to ask it on an active thread.

        Thanks again Linbo. 🙂

      1. Thank you very much Matt! This was very sweet of you, and very soothing for my currently anxious soul, and I appreciate it. I think you’re great too! 🙂

        And, for whatever else I said and think, I never wanted to shame you for this failing you’ve been so brave about. If I did do this, I’m truly truly sorry. I have similar, if not worse, failings.

        And I want to be clear, my pretty intense emotional insecurities and boo boos that get triggered aren’t the fault of Matt, Travis, anyone else here.

        1. Part of my penance for my past failings is getting honest feedback about them and sometimes re-living a moment of disagreement with my wife, and “ah-ha”ing once again.

          It’s happened hundreds of times in the past three years, and I’m sure it will happen hundreds more.

          I’m grateful to know what I know today, even though it was painful to arrive here.

          “Why?” is question we all want answered. For EVERYTHING.

          I hope you’ll never stop asking it to me, or anyone else, damn the consequences.

          I know you had some follow-up questions earlier. I can’t even promise I’ll get to them, but please try to bear with me. I’m juggling a lot of blog and regular-life stuff at the moment, and want to post something new today.

          But I care about your “Why” questions, and so long as I’m able to give you my undivided attention, it will be my pleasure to try and answer them.

    3. Donkey!

      Well, isn’t this interesting?

      I read these comments partly to see the personality and gender dynamics at play. It’s hard with just the anonymous written word to know if the characters are close to real life but I think the patterns are.

      Your Donkey character has transformed! From a conflict avoidant person to someone willing to put it all out there but not in a harsh way.

      A person unwilling to eat shit sandwiches! But willing to be wrong and apologize. That’s a powerful healthy change.

      Your brain is very interesting. Mine does flowcharts, yours seems to like very detailed information. I don’t think it was invasive considering that Matt turned your question into a post trying to help women understand.

      But because he was trying to describe of the nature of his worst moment thinking process, it “felt” very uncomfortable. Because a lot of us had issues with the framing. And we have various painful stories in our minds that cause emotional states in which we read all this.

      So in trying to disagree with Matt’s framing and language or railing against men being “allowed” to do these things, it might have come across as hating on Matt even when that was not how I read most of the comments.

      As part of my play when reading the comments, many of us probably did showed something of our relationship skill deficits in real life. That’s what my comment was trying to say not to “blame” people but hmmm isn’t this interesting.

      I know it’s true in my case, I get harsh when dealing with avoidant people or those I “think” (may or may not be true) are not owning their shit or taking responsibility. Most especially when they get defensive and next blame me.

      It’s a pattern I am observing in myself to break. It’s understandable based on my history and attachment style and personality but not very skilled. I am trying to observe it to learn to choose something different. To be direct but kind.

      So when I read other people respond differently to Matt’s I stand by every word post or the few previous ones, I found it fascinating. Lots of different styles of responses.

      Probably based on their history and personality and attachment style. I expected you to respond by apologizing. But you broke the pattern! Very good!

      Most especially it’s good if it represents growth in your real life. Your unwillingness to eat shit sandwiches and apologize for questioning the smell.

      We need to lean in to the opposite of our normal tendencies to find the right balance. My comment character a while back was very apologetic trying to lean in. But I’m trying now to find a more realistic balance. Practicing on the Internet for real life.

      Matt is incredibly vulnerable on this blog. Putting his worse moments out there. I can’t imagine how I would feel to have a bunch of people write comments about my worse moment as a shitty mom with stories about their own shitty moms.

      I know it would be a real struggle for me to respond well. We’re all human. And this is some really painful shit for Matt to remember his worst moment and lots of commenters to remember being left in the hospital alone.

      But I appreciate so much the wisdom and openness on the blog. Everyone trying to learn and change and be better. You’re doing it Donkey!

      1. Ok, I’m quite embarassed by the sheer number of my comments here, but not enough to stop quite yet.

        “Your brain is very interesting”. Why thank you! 🙂 It’s so fun when we’re fascinated by the workings of someone elses mind.

        “Your Donkey character has transformed! From a conflict avoidant person to someone willing to put it all out there but not in a harsh way.

        “A person unwilling to eat shit sandwiches! But willing to be wrong and apologize. That’s a powerful healthy change”

        “I expected you to respond by apologizing. But you broke the pattern! Very good!

        Most especially it’s good if it represents growth in your real life. Your unwillingness to eat shit sandwiches and apologize for questioning the smell.

        We need to lean in to the opposite of our normal tendencies to find the right balance. My comment character a while back was very apologetic trying to lean in. But I’m trying now to find a more realistic balance. Practicing on the Internet for real life.”

        All of it, so true. We need to lean in to the opposite of our normal tendencies, until we have a good Balance. Damn straight. 8) You’re absolutely right my first instinct was to apologize. But I felt that would be dishonest, and for me unhealthy, based on what I knew/experienced, and I decided I had to do something else, in the interest of actually growing and healing and *walking the talk*. Very much thanks to your comment(s)! Your bluntness is kind of like a lighthouse. :p

        It was scary and uncomfortable and sad, but I’m honestly quite proud of myself. I was long whinded, repetitive, not very eloquent and not perfectly respectful. But honestly, I felt it was a pretty good effort, considering where I am in my own journey. Ok this may sound totally obnoxious, but I feel quite inspired by this imperfect attempt at questioning the shit sandwiches and the ownership of them in a respectful way. If you’re a yellow belt, looking at a black belt might feel too unreachable. Seeing a green belt (maybe blue belt?) performance like I believed I showed there might be more helpful. 🙂

        I actually think I have discovered a practical skill there that will help me to not eat shit sandwiches based on instinct/habit/fear alone, when maybe they don’t belong to me. Quite simply, ask for more information. Respectfully, could you explain further why you think I just gave you a shit sandwich? Which part of this is a shit sandwich? Do you still think, considering a b c, it is a shit sandwich and that I served it? And like I did, say I’m open to discussing this further, but given what I know now I don’t think I should claim ownership of this shit sandwich. I could be wrong, and believe I am somewhat open to the possibility, but until I know more and until my points are acknowledged, that shit sandwich will not be owned by me. If people don’t want to discuss it further and/or won’t accomodate these requests, well, that will be uncomfortable and leave things unfinished, but again, in this case and with this information, I’m not claiming ownership.

        Of course, this kind of question can absolutely be taken to far! But since I’m lacking in this skill, especially with men, I need to practice it, so I think it’s good for me (when I don’t see the shit sandwich I served immediately!) to practice it. Respectfully. 🙂

        Thank you for the praise and wisdom and inspiration.

    4. Donkey said,

      “Travis, you said: ‘I was loathe to even participate in the discussion originally because I feel the original line of inquiry was presumptuous at best, invasive at worst’

      Are you talking about me wanting to know more about Matt’s thought process regarding why he felt it was ok to leave his wife? If that is the case, ouch. Matt, Travis, everyone, please tell me when I overstep your boundaries. I do not want to be presumptuous or invasive.

      But Travis, do you really think this is a fair characterisation? Given that Matt already had a post about this (it wasn’t like he had shared it privately with me!), and given all the diverse and frank discussion on this blog, was it truly presumotuous/invasice of me to ask more about his thought process? If so, please explain further. I’m not willing to own that shit sandwich as of now.”

      Please breathe easy, Donkey. You’re a valued member of the community here, your question is fair, and you should never fear me “going off on you”. If I ever do, you’ll have found me in a low moment, and it will say much more about me than it will you. Please feel safe with me. All I ever want to do here is learn how to be a better husband and overall male/human being; my days of wanting to just be “right” all the time need to be over.

      Firstly, I apologize that I characterized your original inquiry with words that, yes, admittedly read harshly. You are quite right that Matt opened himself up to this line of inquiry because he “put it all on the table” by writing about it in the past. I guess where this whole line of discussion has made me feel…well, icky…has come from two points. Firstly, I just feel that there’s an inherent unfairness in asking someone to account for something as egregious as Matt’s hospital decision when a) you’re not someone who was directly affected by his actions and b) Matt doesn’t have an equilateral way to hold you accountable for any moral crimes you’ve committed in the past. So I just feel that what Matt is enduring here is, to some degree, unfair. I do feel that your question had an element of taking the inch of vulnerability and naked honesty Matt has shared in the past and and pulling it out to a yard. It was a legitimate question, a question I believe was asked in good faith to increase your understanding of the male mindset, but yes, it was simultaneously presumptive and invasive because it was asking for Matt to pick at what he’s divulged is the worst scab in his marital history and bleed it out again for your enlightenment. I’m not accusing you of being wrong or out of line in asking the question, because I still suffer from the “male malady” of believing intention matters, and I truly believe your intentions were pure, but it was simply the type of question I could never see myself being comfortable asking. I wouldn’t feel right in asking Matt to comb through that kind of pain again for the sake of my curiosity. I hope that helps clarify why, for me, your inquiry was fair and legitimate while, at the same time, seeming somewhat forward and unsavory.

      However, Matt, man of good grace that he is, stepped up to the plate and offered a response in a return of good faith. I am in lockstep with many of the people here that the way Matt structured his response, as well as his response to people’s emotionally charged responses, is much more problematic than I’ve ever seen from him, and that bothers me to a large degree–it doesn’t feel like Matt’s really walking the walk this time around, and in a rare/wonderful/frightening moment of feeling what it much be like for women on a regular basis, I’m frustrated that he doesn’t seem to see or be willing to acknowledge it–but I also feel immensely bad for Matt (and anyone else who opens themselves up to show such emotional transparency and vulnerability, especially men, because, as you women all know, this is not a muscle we’re at all comfortable flexing in our own intimate relationships, much less for the whole world to see) because he gave of himself to his readership and was castigated for it. The criticism was, in many cases, fair (not in the presumption of what really happened in that hospital eight years ago, but in Matt’s current framing, analogies and word choices), but the tone of his readership’s anger and disgust is harder to absorb because it can’t be making Matt feel safe and encouraged to offer such naked honesty in the future. In my estimation, Matt was already punished for what he did by losing his wife forever, and his son half the time, so punishing him now with our harsh judgment flirts with open cruelty. I fear that, going forward, every time Matt comes to the keyboard to share of himself, he may be more inclined to listen to that self-protective editor in his head that says, “Don’t do it, man. You don’t want to set all the women off again. You did that once and you remember how it went. Just keep it light, surface-level. You won’t have to worry about being punished by the outside world for something you already hate yourself for.” We all lose tremendously if Matt starts listening more raptly to that voice.

      Secondly, in your original inquiry, Donkey, you asked ME to give my opinion on a matter with which I was not involved (again, all in good faith to learn and understand, I do recognize), and that put me in a very uncomfortable position because I knew that, unlike so many other things, this was not an area where I related to Matt at all (when your question seemed to presume I would) and one that I would like to hope is not indicative of the typical male thought process (I may be wrong on that one, I dunno), so there was no way for me to give my perspective without having to be critical of Matt about something that he hadn’t expressed comfort with, or permission for, me running off at the mouth about. I went ahead and did so anyway because I kept coming back to the thought of “we’re all here to learn and grow from one another, so I don’t want to deny that from Donkey”, but in retrospect, I feel like I owed it to Matt to let him know my thoughts about the issue first and secured his okay for me to give opinions about decisions he made in his own life for the greater learning good.

      In summation, I just feel like crap. I feel like crap because I think Matt has been put in a very unfair position by many of us, and his openness has not been rewarded. I feel like crap because Donkey never got an answer she could use and, on top of that, now feels like she has to go on the defensive for asking a question that was legitimate, yet charged. I feel like crap that Lisa Gottman is literally the most on-point I’ve ever seen her (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said, “Preach it, sister!” to my computer monitor reading through her posts in this thread), and her critique of how Matt has handled his responses to Donkey and the overall readership has been razor sharp (though, on a side note, I do tend to favor her husband’s overall ethic of moral relativity vs. her black-and-white mindset), which begs and demands support because her message (fighting for basic human dignity) is a critical one that deserves to be championed and yet, if I raise my voice in solidarity, I fear becoming part of that wave of dissent that could cause Matt to close himself off. I feel like crap because I feel like this entire post and subsequent comments thread is a long, emotionally raw list of moments where people who normally value, respect and care about each other have disappointed one another (and/or themselves). I love what Matt has created for us at MBTTTR and I suffer at the thought of anyone feeling judged, insulted, attacked or in any other way unsafe to be raw and open and honest and naked in a quest to save love.

      1. There are a million things here, Travis. Perhaps sometime in the next couple of days, we can find time to chat through where you thought my response was out of line.

        Because, again, I think it’s a translation and “tone” thing, which is REALLY hard to do via the written word sometimes.

        I may be wrong about this, but we’re a little bit too eye-to-eye on too many other things for you to not be 90%+ with me. (Again, just a guess.)

        Which means I failed to communicate some point accurately, which happens all the time. I was standing among a large group of Cub Scout dads freezing outside in freakish 35-degree weather, while the boys were engaged birdhouse construction or slingshot shooting or learning about plants and insects.

        Because I’m writing on the fly like that, there are almost certainly some incomplete thoughts which when combined with lack of tone (and more importantly, factual historical context of said events) could easily be thought of as something else.

        I don’t know. But this is follow-up conversation I’d like to have. Either in the comments here, on Facebook, wherever.

        Because if I AM out of line, I want to know about it. But not unlike most things I think and feel in real-time, I don’t believe I am. So if I’m currently believing incorrect things, I’d like to know about it.

      2. Matt, I appreciate it. I’ll stew it over because it’s hard to clearly see the hard line between simple stylistic differences (of which you shouldn’t feel you have to cater to my or anyone else’s tastes) and actual faults in driving your intended point home/respecting your audience.

        I will say this, because it hit me as viscerally as it hit Lisa Gottman, shannon and many others (and keep in mind, that’s a strange thing because you and I are cut from very similar average-derpy-derp-male cloth)–you should really focus and ruminate on the following exchange. I feel like the core of how your post’s intentions and many people’s perceptions of it forked in the road was summed up best in this simple comment from shannon: “You said you did it because ‘you did not know better’. Bullshit. You did.” Matt, your mantra of “It wasn’t my fault, just my responsibility” rings hollow for many of us this time, and again, I’m usually right there on the same page with you, so I hope this is cause for your concern. If you stand by your words that it wasn’t your fault (and that’s a touchy assertion to make here, ripe with the stench of avoidance), then I believe many of the women here aren’t going to be able to get to the point you wanted to make without a lot more case-specific clarity around them.

        Your constant friend in working through all this stuff,

        T

        1. Fair point, RE: “It wasn’t my fault, just my responsibility.”

          Lisa mentioned that one, too.

          I’m surprised people dissect my words so closely, but I’ll attempt to clarify:

          I wrote a post called something like: “It’s Not Your Fault, Men, Just Your Responsibility.”

          Let’s be honest: the word “fault” is one of those semantics whatevers.

          Like when someone asks “Can I use your restroom?” (with the classic response being – I don’t know! Can you?) instead of “May I use your restroom.”

          Maybe I should delete that stupid-ass line if it’s causing so much heartburn. I thought more people would “get” it maybe because I foolishly believe a higher percentage of regular readers will remember old posts.

          Maybe you’re a Wu-Tang Clan fan, Travis, or at least were back in the day.

          The Wu-Tang Clan made a bunch of phrases famous like “protect ya neck” or “36 chambers” or “cash rules everything around me” or “shaolin style” or some artist-specific nickname (Method Man had several, including Tical, Iron Lung, Meth, etc.)

          If you were someone who digested a lot of Wu-Tang Clan music, over and over and over again you would hear clever little references to past songs, or a turn of the phrase from some classic on “Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers.”

          Maybe that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t.

          My writing the phrase “It’s not my fault, it was just my responsibility” wasn’t me LITERALLY saying “Hey guys! None of this is my fault!”

          OF COURSE IT’S MY DUMBASS FAULT. You’ve read this blog, right?

          This was me, Writer Guy, borrowing a turn of phrase from a previous post “It’s not my fault, it’s just my responsibility” as an excuse to link to that old post (which more than likely only a few people will ever do, which is why simply deleting that line is acceptable to me if THAT is the thing people are reacting to.)

          Of course it’s my fault.

          The lion’s share of readers off this blog know me because of a post called “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink.”

          But, A. She DIDN’T divorce me because of dishes, and B. Fights over dirty dishes weren’t actually a thing. Maybe here and there, but I bet my ex-wife would have traded dirty dishes for 15 more-upsetting behaviors from me. Dishes were NOT a major point of contention in the relationship. I was just trying to illustrate a story with the dishes by the sink.

          The same thing is true here.

          I don’t literally mean it wasn’t my fault in the manner in which human beings use that phrase. It was ENTIRELY my fault.

          I was accidentally an emotionally abusive husband. My fault.

          I was selfish and thoughtless. My fault.

          I would angerily walk away from my upset wife sometimes during a fight I was trying to win (because I truly believed I was correct!) instead of choosing to LOVE her over WINNING some dumbass, meaningless argument. My fault.

          I sort of assumed incorrectly that the contents of this blog wouldn’t leave anyone believing I was somehow trying to alleviate myself of responsibility in that moment.

          Writer Guy was simply trying to play Method Man for a minute and no one got it.

          Final question: If that line was not in the post, would you feel differently about it.

          Or are you still taken aback by many other things you read within it, or in response to other comments?

          1. I have to admit Matt, when I read your post, I was not in the least bit “offended” by your reasoning for leaving your wife in the hospital after giving birth/having a C-section.
            My initial “ouch” was from Donkey’s statement: “I believe I’d rather have the father of my child cheat on me with 10 prostitutes than leave me crying alone in the hospital after having our baby”. I had a cheating husband. I don’t know how many times or how many women. I didn’t know it happened but I eventually found out and it hurt. It hurt bad. Other people reading the “10 prostitutes” statement would not have felt that “sting” unless it happened to them. I think any negative reactions from you “leaving your wife at the hospital” stem from how many people have experienced the same thing you have described.

            Please don’t ever stop writing and sharing your experiences. The reactions (both negative and positive) are a beautiful thing. We are all talking and learning stirring up raw emotions. and I love it. That’s priceless.

      3. Matt, sorry, no, never a Wu-Tang fan. My affection for rap ended right around 1992 (Public Enemy for life!). But I digress.

        I think you’re still driving down the wrong road. It’s not that your readership has a long-term memory failing (well, at least I don’t). I full well remember the “It’s Not Your Fault. It’s Your Responsibility” post and I agreed fervently with much of what you were saying in that post. It’s not that we don’t recognize the callback you were intending. It’s that we don’t feel that it is worthy of being connected to the issue being dissected here. I hate to have to draw a line in the sand on this but I cannot and will not (barring some amazing evidence of my wrong-headedness) accept that this represents another “dishes by the sink” moment. As we have discussed at epic length, you and I, among others, believe there is ample room to legitimately assert that men don’t understand the emotional and psychological pain we cause our wives day in and day out when we flippantly and callously dismiss their needs and influence in thousands of “dishes by the sink” ways because we honestly, truly struggle to view those incidences through the same lens our wives often do. It always comes back to a combination of what you wrote in the “Not Your Fault…” post (“The vast majority of men have absolutely no idea what it looks and feels like to meet a woman’s emotional needs, and no one has EVER talked about it with him before in his 20-30 years of life prior to engagement and marriage.”) and the idea that, if the tables were turned, we men truly would not have anywhere near the same reaction that our wives are having.

        But this time, so many of us are struggling with HOW YOU COULD POSSIBLY NOT KNOW BETTER. This shouldn’t be an issue of “nobody taught me how to meet a woman’s emotional needs”. This shouldn’t be an issue of “if the tables were turned, I wouldn’t have the same reaction.” This is not an issue of Mars and Venus. This is the most important person to you in the world, gender be damned (picture your son in your wife’s spot, if that helps crystallize it) going through something MASSIVE, something MAJOR, something that (at least on the basic biological level of having any kind of major surgery) YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RELATE TO. This is something which you had an obligation not just as a husband, but as a father, to have committed yourself to at least some basic level of self-education in the nine months leading up to that moment. To many of us, this doesn’t fall under the normal umbrella of a husband disconnecting from his wife’s needs. This moved more into the realm of a human being disconnecting from the fundamentals of being human and humane. This is so much bigger than dishes by the sink. This is something that feels like ignorance shouldn’t be allowable as any kind of a defense; it honestly brings out a sense of “I’ve understood you/related to you up to this point, buddy, but my God, how ignorant is TOO ignorant?”

        In simpler language, the vast, overwhelming types of behavioral crimes you talk about at MBTTTR, and which I’m all to happy and eager to support and defend on your and the rest of us derpy-derp husbands’ behalves, represent the “death by a million papercuts” variety. But this incident, sir? This was death by blunt force trauma. Your post and subsequent replies seemed to softshoe an understanding of that. I really hope this helps, because every time I have to write a response that, in effect, judges you for something of which I was not a part, and of which I wouldn’t have even known about if you hadn’t have been open and giving enough to share with your readership, I die a little inside.

        1. Ha. Fair enough, on all accounts.

          1. I did what I did believing it was okay as it was happening. It doesn’t matter whether anyone thinks ignorance is an acceptable excuse. I’m not making excuses. It’s simply a matter of fact. As it was happening, I thought it was okay. And if you stood right in front of me and could look me in the eyes and hear my voice as I walked you through it, I think you might find it more palatable than you currently do. I wouldn’t tell that story publicly for the same reason I generally avoid telling stories about my ex-wife to try and “balance” the story. A lot of people don’t like that. This is the way it must be.

          2. Even if you WOULDN’T consider it more palatable, I don’t think it matters.

          I DON’T THINK IT’S PALATABLE. I would not do this today. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever.

          I would never do MUCH LESSER bad things today.

          I would never do them because I understand the dire consequences of doing so.

          If you don’t find this example worthy of inclusion, I’m totally okay with that.

          But, FOR ME, it lives in the same silo. I am not CURRENTLY ignorant of the significance of it.

          I’m merely answering a question that was asked of me.

          How could someone do this?

          I tried my hardest to help people get it. Maybe some did. Maybe some didn’t. Maybe some people just didn’t like it.

          I’ll deal with all of those things.

          I’m NOT defending anything. Not one time. There’s no defense for a person’s worst crime.

          I’m generically attempting to answer a question posed to me about an eight-year-old incident, when I was, quite literally from an education and enlightenment standpoint, a radically different person.

          When I say “I stand by what I wrote,” I’m saying ONLY that.

          I stand by my explanation of how I (and other guys who may be like me) could make that choice at the time.

          My hope was that guys would read it as a warning, and wives would read it as a thing they could ask their partners about.

          I was hoping wives could be Galileo, proving to their partners that their incorrect beliefs about Earth being the center of the universe isn’t true at all, even though they’d spent their whole lives believing otherwise.

      4. Travis, Matt,

        I’m overwhelmed by the whole discusion and all of the comments (and I realise I probably bear the largest responsibility of us all for that).

        So this is just to say that I appreciate your responses very much, and I’ll respond at a later point because I just couldn’t do it properly now. My brain is shutting down on me, and I need to absorb stuff before I can say anything that hopefully will be meaningful to you. I might not post it here though, I might do it in whichever post is newest when I’m up for it.

        Personally, I’m in a pretty good place about everything now, so (not to assume anything, I know I’m not the centre of the universe) if anyone is feeling any worry that I feel rejected and hurt, that’s no longer necessary. 8) I feel fine now. I hope you’re both feeling, at least better, too. If not, and it has something to do with me, then I’m sorry about that, and hopefully we’ll be able to solve it when I can write a better response.

        I like and appreciate you both, and I definitely plan on continuing being active on this blog. 🙂

        Travis, I also believe I have arrived at a working answer. Two great mysteries have been solved (at least somewhat) for me in the process of participating on this blog. That’s a pretty good outcome in itself right there. 🙂

  40. Donkey, Lisa, you are both amazing. I read the entire thread to my husband. Just as I got to the real meat, he got up, went to the sink, and started running the water. I made him come back and sit down and called him out on deflecting. He apologized and said he wanted to hear what you guys had to say.

    Full disclosure. My family of origin did something so shitty that the whole family was wrecked. Since then, 2 years, I have lost the emotional reserve to protect husband’s ego, sense of self, etc etc. I drill down all the way on the shit sandwiches, relentlessly. The fights have been terrible. BUT, after 20 years, he is finally really getting it. I can do what I just did – call him out on deflecting – and he can say that I am right, sit down, and listen. He can hear that he is “just like that”. We can stop things from even starting, and we can talk about the hows and whys. It is quite wonderful. I just wish I had stopped the filters years ago, but then again, he may not have had the maturity or the wish to deal with it years ago.

    What I find interesting with this whole thread and personally is that just as the motherlode, the nugget, that little thing that is the basis for all the shitty stuff is approached, men seem to deflect. A little twist, a little wiggle, and they have successfully avoided the meat at the heart of all the problems. That, Matt, is what I have seen you doing. It took 130 comments for you to really begin to stop struggling.

    What Donkey did by putting herself on the line in order to push this conversation into its most difficult is not something readily done in a marriage, by the toughest and most articulate of women. The cost is too high. When I first just lost the ability to soft sell, my husband told me he was thinking about other women. I looked up from my book, thinking “the nuclear bomb just went off, he has nowhere to go from here” and told him to let me know when he was leaving. Then went back to reading. I did care, but with everything else going on, I didn’t care to play the game anymore. No energy. It is a paradox that one has to get to the point of not caring to elicit change in their partner. Not a very good road map for a successful marriage.

    Matt, like Donkey and Travis, I feel bad about making you feel bad about yourself, but I also see exactly what you do, in your own defense, that caused your divorce. You are putting yourself out there to do an incredible service for all of us. I can only say this. How does one know what they are doing is the wrong thing or the right thing? If it hurts, if it is uncomfortable, it it feels bad, it is probably the right thing, so stay with the feeling. Along with learning how to show care, how not to be selfish, how to account for oneself, and how to apologize, I would add learning how to withstand pain.

    1. Shannon, thank you so very much. It seems like you totally understand how difficult it was for me. In addition to wanting to heal and grow, and being inspired by Lisa’s post, I actually thought about you being so frank and brave when I wrote my “without further explanations, I will not own these shit sandwiches” post. As much as my (socially conditioned) instinct is to back off when Matt (and Travis) push back against me, I thought, actually, I want to write something that Shannon can respect. You inspired me. The deflecting that often happens when we’re closing in on the heart of the problem is spot on. You express yourself very well.

      I believe your story is quite common (although the details will vary). When the woman after so many years of pain (that can have different Sources), is absolutely and completely fed up, change is possible in some cases.

      You wrote: “What Donkey did by putting herself on the line in order to push this conversation into its most difficult is not something readily done in a marriage, by the toughest and most articulate of women. The cost is too high.”

      I offer you my heartfelt thank you for this. It’s so easy to talk about women needing to practice boundaries and stand up for themselves, but it’s very very very hard. It’s hard for me here, anonomously on the internet, having never met Matt in real life or spoken privately with him. We can all imagine how it is with women’s husbands/partners/fathers of their kids that they live with. The cost is too high, as you say.

      I’m wondering exactly what you mean though. Was it me pointing out:
      1.The problem isn’t lack of knowlege because the facts where there he just didn’t believe his wife, because knowingly or unknowingly he doesn’t respect her (in at least this area)?
      2. It’s unreasonable for Matt to be angry/annoyed/whatever adjective is most fitting that people jumped to conclusions regarding what was going on, given the information available?
      3. Something else?

      By the way, I’ll repeat my previous point, because this is the truth as I see it now. I believe I have the answer. 🙂 I believe number 1 is the heart of people failing their loved ones in situations like this. Like Lisa explained with her mom, IT’S NOT JUST MEN! This is not an inherent male thing. But men do it more often, because of social conditioning on both sides and because they get away with it.

      Lisa said, regarding the intense reaction (in addition to the framing that I will not og over again).

      “But there is also a frustration that women have to literally beg to have their husband’s accept their influence. And they so often don’t EVEN when it is something so black and white as abdominal surgery.

      That causes some intense reactions and anger too because it is just so friggin wrong. Morally wrong often with unconscious sexist biases underlying some of it.

      And the fact that your reaction was to think our intense responses didn’t match the event just shows how common it is to be dismissed or questioned even when the topic is being abandoned in the hospital.”

      Lisa, every word is so very true. I am no longer talking about a specific event or a specific blog post. This is the deep grief and hurt that many women feel because of the unfairness of their lives and often marriages. This is women yelling “PLEASE don’t humiliate and disrespect and dehumanize me on this thing of all Things, because I fear my spirit will soon, if no man takes responsibility for the shit he’s served, be completely broken as a person from all the shit that has been piled on me and/or I’ll completely give up on men and I don’t want to hate you because I very much love you and want you to love me!”

      Lisa said:
      “It’s just all too sadly depressing. To feel like you have to fight for your dignity as a human being. To feel like that at times when it should be obvious like being in a hospital.

      And then to have your humiliation deepened to its lowest point by him not even acknowledging his shittiness. By making it about your overreaction and lack of ability to forgive. ”

      It is just dehumanizing and humiliating. That’s how I experience it anyway. To have to beg for your humanity. So many women feel less than human that’s where the intense reactions come from.”

      Again, every word is just so extremely true. Let me repeat myself, we all dehumanize and disrespect. IB22, like she said, dehumanized her husband when she was bouncing lawn chairs off of him. I yelled at someone I was in a relationship with my language’s equivalent of “YOU’RE A FUCKING ASSHOLE!”. Dehumanizing. When I was in my early twenties, I smacked my sibling on the arm, in anger. Dehumanizing (and illegal). And I have many more serious and subtle and more profound and long standing dehumanizing/disrespectful failings.

      …but women suffer this dehumanization (again, because of social conditioning, not because men are inherently worse, I don’t believe that at all, privilige and all of that), so much more often, both in general and in their marriages. Again, the roles can be reversed, and it’s not like women never do it back. But the amount of it, all of it, is just so f*cking awful. Like you say, we have to fight for our humanity, our personhood, to be recognized, even when in the hospital! We can forgive even that, if we could just get an honest apology. But that doesn’t happen, we often just get dehumanized and humiliated further. At some point, it’ll either break our spirits completely, or we’ll walk away. It’s no wonder women aren’t breaking through the glass ceiling more often, sexism in the workplace aside. So often, a lot of women’s energy go into both keeping the family life running, AND for the people who haven’t given up, fighting the uphill battle of dealing with and stopping the dehumanisation and disrespect.

  41. I am kinda stunned by all the negative responses that this one is getting.

    Matt, when you say “I don’t know why I did that bonehead thing, it just seemed like a good idea at the time”, I BELIEVE YOU. I believe you as only a mother of a (now grown) child with ADHD could.

    I’ve seen it all, man, trust me! I don’t know how many times I’ve stood back and watched my kid stand there, with everything burning to the ground around him and wondering how the hell he didn’t see it coming.

    It saddens me, because he’s NOT an asshole. He actually has a big heart but not everybody sees that because they can never seem to get past his bonehead ADHD behaviour to see the other side of him.

    There ARE reasons why you do the boneheaded things that you do, you just haven’t figured them out yet. But you will.

    I really liked this post, as an honest reflection of where you are now vs. where you were back then. It’s not pretty, but it’s radically honest…

    Nothing that you’ve written so far indicates to me that you are in any way trying to evade accepting responsibility here. You’re simply saying that as of right now, you don’t have a lot of insight as to the “why’s”.

    I’m totally ok with that. As long as you continue to be honest with yourself, you will figure it out in your own ADHD-brained kind of way. Trust yourself and trust the process. The value is in the journey.

    1. Anitvan,

      I am sure having ADHD causes many difficulties.

      I don’t believe that all the men who were not there for their wives have ADHD (my husband doesn’t have ADHD) and I’m sure there are many men with ADHD who do not choose to leave their crying wives after a C section.

      I don’t think Matt is an asshole. I think he did an asshole thing which he is trying to fully understand.

      We all do asshole things. Matt is not unique. But they types and quality of asshole things sometimes vary by gender. This one is more common for men to do and often not take full responsibility for afterwards.

      That is the cause of many stupid divorces. We are trying to understand that dynamic as part of this blog’s comments.

      At least that’s my take.

      1. We all do asshole things. Matt is not unique. But the types and QUANTITY of asshole things sometimes vary by gender. This one is more common for men to do and often not take full responsibility for afterwards.

        As I said in a comment above to Lissy. This is bigger than just childbirth.

      2. Hey Lisa, let me clarify:

        I’m not saying ADHD made him do it. I’m saying his ADHD brain is a barrier that makes it hard for him to have insight into the reasons behind his choice.

      3. Also, it’s not my job to “fix” Matt’s thinking. That’s his to own and I would not rob him of the value found in that process.

        Ironically, “fixing thinking” is one of those things that tends to fall along gender lines as well. *gentle wink*

      4. Anitvan,

        Well of course you’re right Anita. But I am not trying to fix Matt’s thinking anymore than he is trying to fix mine by posting his strong point of views. Or Travis or Drew.

        I don’t agree with you that women do that more than men but I’m not researched up there so I could be wrong.

        But I do have a thing that my husband tells me to try and “fix” incorrect thinking wherever I encounter it so I have to agree with you.

        But I am trying to fix my own thinking too so it’s an equal opportunity fixing. 😉

        And sometimes that’s good because it’s helpful to question everything.

        I do think because I am kind of an abstract person that I push for the underlying assumptions to be questioned. For research to be consulted.

        My flaw is in not doing that also thinking of others feelings as they read things. I need a lot of work there.

        And sometimes people just disagree. That’s ok. We all have different life experiences and points of views. And are at different stages or whatever.

        Your experience with ADHD makes you understand that much better than I do as a factor. I’m sure you are right.

        My experience with people not owning their shit makes me push back against people using their “issues” which can someone just be that they are clueless men as reasons or excuses.

        I just want to hear people own their shit. I’m so tired of people not owning they’re shit. You’re right Anita that part of my shit is trying to get people to change their thinking.

        Good when used properly. Like standing up for people. Or when people are looking for different thinking as we often are on the comments here.

        But know it all, annoying, harsh, boundary crossing asshole when not used properly.

        Guilty as charged. 😉

        I’m working on it.

        1. Okay. Full-on defensive response I wanted to avoid, but need to ask:

          What is the thing that was written in this post that, in the context of everything I’ve ever written on this blog, comes off as not owning my shit?

          Because, and I’d prefer this not sound self-congratulatory, I feel as if I’ve done a representative job of owning my shit without pointing fingers.

          It is, in fact, at the very heart of most of what I write here. That I do it with that underlying principle.

          You and Travis (and probably a bunch of other people) think and said it.

          That I wasn’t taking responsibility for something.

          It would help me immensely if someone could show me what is causing those reactions.

          Please!

      5. Matt said,

        “Because, and I’d prefer this not sound self-congratulatory, I feel as if I’ve done a representative job of owning my shit without pointing fingers.”

        Along with the thoughts I just wrote you above, I think the missing piece is that, in not pointing fingers, a lot of people here feel that, in the case of this one post, this one incident, you’re not fairly or sufficiently pointing the finger at yourself. I still believe you were put in a lose-lose situation by addressing Donkey’s question, and you have no end of sympathy from me for it, but since you did choose to respond to it, I think this is how many people are feeling about your response.

      6. Well shit Matt you would ask this when I don’t have time to give a detailed answer 😉

        First of all I appreciate you asking the question to understand where Travis and I got our impressions.

        I have written my thoughts in other comments but let me just hit a few highlight. I can give you more details later if you would find that helpful. Hopefully Travis will chime in with his thoughts.

        I don’t mean any of this to imply you are an asshole or to be harsh. If it comes out that way that is my own shit at work.

        You own your shit in totally acknowledging this as your worse moment. You recognize now it was a shitty thing to do and you would do it differently if you could go back in time.
        Excellent shit ownership!

        When you are explaining your thought process at the time to Donkey the framing gets a little off track in my view. You use the same framing for this in your post as around the dishes example. This is representative of Matt 2016’s mind not 8 year old Matt.

        That you didn’t understand, that you have different perspectives, that you can’t know what it was like because you’re not a Mother stuff like that.

        You don’t need to understand or be taught to “know better” in this situation. This does not require knowledge just basic human decency. Framing it otherwise is not shit ownership.

        That you had a long list of things to do, there were no smart phones or social media. True when my kids were born too.

        All of that is true. But deflects from shit ownership. It is also not explanatory for your 2008 mind but your 2016 mind that you would list these these as relevant.

        None of that stuff matters at all in framing this issue. You just did the wrong thing. Many men have made similar stupid mistakes. Many of them are now divorced. They all didn’t own their shit.

        Because leaving a wife in the hospital is not something one needs to have been taught to understand is wrong. It is just dehumanizly wrong. It is not a perspective problem. Framing it that way is not owning your shit.

        It is the ultimate clear example of not accepting influence. Of not understanding the need to.

        Unlike the more subtle dishes example, which also gets accepting influence wrong because it requires understanding her point of view, it should be obvious that a wife in pain in the hospital is more important than sleep or a to do list or whatever else anyone told you.

        It was not obvious to you for reasons but it should have been. Presenting it as anything other than that is not owning your shit.

        And you compounded it by being defensive and not owning your shit when your ex wife expressed her pain later.

        Like I said I’ve done worse things to my daughter. My husband has done similar things to me. You are not unique.

        And I hear you repeating it in 2016 by framing it that you are a nice guy that needs to be given the benefit of the doubt. This question at the top of the flowchart prevents shit ownership. It’s gaslighting effect stuff.

        I am sure you are a nice guy most days in most areas. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you had good intentions or not. Focusing on these questions prevent shit ownership. Because you weren’t a nice guy that night and that’s all that matters in owning your shit.

        I don’t even know that I would classify my husband as a nice guy considering all the shit he’s done. What is the definition of a nice guy? How many shitty not accepting influence things including leaving your wife in the hospital is one allowed until they lose the title?

        The good thing is he doesn’t frame things in nice guy terms so he doesn’t care. It’s interesting to me because I don’t hear women frame things that they are nice girls and should be given the benefit of the doubt nearly as often.

        Usually when I hear a man do that it’s form of not owning their shit. It’s all you emotional women with your sad stories putting your shit unfairly on me. Uh no, I’m responding to you framing a big, big obvious problem in the same way as leaving a dish by the sink.

        Who cares if a person was “nice” 364 days and then had an affair the last day? Big mistakes matter more than many days of non mistakes.

        Framing it as a mistake is a very Steve like way of not accepting responsibility and gaslighting both your ex wife and your commenters for not giving you the benefit of the doubt. That is not owning your shit.

        And then after all the comments you wrote that you stand by every word you said. That’s not owning your shit. I think it would have been reasonable to say that perhaps you could have chosen a different way of presenting it if you think you are being unfairly judged. And then you added a blaming thing for us.

        Anyway Matt, honest to God I respect you. It must be so hard to deal with all this crap. I know it hard for me to deal with all my crap and try and figure out what I need to change and how to change it.

        I am sorry if any of this or my previous comments were harsh or judgmental. That’s my shit I’m trying to change. Maybe Travis can explain it better.

        1. This deserves a better response, and I hope I give you one later, but…

          That post was the following thing and NOTHING else. Just one thing.

          It was me attempting to help Donkey understand how a generally decent, generally intelligent, generally thoughtful person could leave his wife alone in the hospital, go home and sleep, and come back the following morning, even though his wife asked him not to do that.

          The above paragraph is the ONLY thing this post was, and nothing more.

          I WOULDN’T dare write the post where I try to psycho-analyze every detail, and to the best of my ability explain and defend my at-the-time thought process.

          This blog does not serve as a place for psychoanalyzing my past, because it’s not super-relevant UNLESS it’s something so common to the average male-female relationship, that it bears discussion in the pursuit of general enlightenment.

          But I’m not writing a diary here, and wasting energy afterward trying to defend past mistakes or any unclear writing.

      7. Matt, You said: “It was me attempting to help Donkey understand how a generally decent, generally intelligent, generally thoughtful person could leave his wife alone in the hospital, go home and sleep, and come back the following morning, even though his wife asked him not to do that.”

        I know and understand that. Sadly I do not need this education in the way Donkey does because my beloved husband did it to me twice. 🙁

        I understand the average male mind all too well on this topic.

        I’m not trying to psychoanalyze you more than anyone else I do my armchair analysis on 🙂

        You asked me why I thought you weren’t owning your shit. The answer is mostly framing it as a perspective dishes issue.

        The phrase not my fault just my responsibility I did recognize from the previous post so I did know what you meant by it.

        I disagreed with it then because of the focus on intention misdirected from focusing on the real problem of not accepting influence.

        I disagreed with this post for the same reasons. This is not a perspective problem it is a not accepting influence problem.

        Of course different perspectives make it harder to accept influence but that doesn’t relieve us if the responsibility to do it anyway. When we don’t, it on us to own that shit.

        That’s my premise. Maybe you disagree. You could eliminate the phrase not my fault just my responsibility and it would make it better but the underlying premise of perspective differences mattering before accepting influence is required remain in the post. Which leads me to think its not fully owning shit.

        Or maybe not, I don’t know man. Maybe you agree with my premise and I just don’t understand it correctly.

        I’ve been known to be wrong a time or two. 😉

        1. I totally agree with your premise.

          It was you who introduced me to that Gottman data about men not accepting influence. 35% do?

          Which means 2/3 of three do not. And wouldn’t you know it, two out of three divorces are initiated by wives.

          Probably not a coincidence.

          I have all kinds of notes to myself about all of these things we discuss.

          I am going to read every Brene Brown book, first and foremost (I have two of four). I’m going to read everything I can find on emotional intelligence.

          I’m going to read Wifework.

          I’m going to get to know Gottman’s work.

          And if I wrote this EXACT post AFTER doing all of those things, there’s a pretty fair chance it would read differently.

          I can only write my thoughts and feelings from May 2016.

          God help me if I’m not smarter and wiser in 2017, and more in 2018, and more after that.

          I don’t disagree with ANYTHING you wrote.

          I simply disagree that I’m not owning my shit. Because my shit is owned.

      8. Matt,

        Since you agreed with that premise than it was a problem in understanding the framing and language of the post

        In the way that you intended.

        Since Travis is a movie buff, I’ll say it like this. “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. Maybe on both sides. I’ll own a little shit here since I find this topic triggering. Although I mostly blame the framing that unintentionally have a different meesage than you meant.

        I am glad you own your shit. Shit ownership is so wonderful, isn’t it? So rewarding to sit around smelling all the shit own. My car filed with it, sitting on mounds of shit I own.

        Trying to figure out how to not keep producing the shit so I don’t have to own any more.

        I’m the Donald Trump of shit ownership!

        We’re going to make shit ownership great again. Gonna build a wall of shit!

    2. This was nice to read, Anita. Thank you.

      I think most of the negativity stemmed from A. Not having the luxury of knowing every nuanced detail (which I believe softens the entire incident a bit, without excusing it), and B. This is CLEARLY a major emotional hot-button issue, and it’s infinitely more serious than I even realized, but now do.

      And frankly, I’m grateful to now have that perspective.

      While I’d love to have the benefit of the doubt from everyone, I’m not incapable of understanding that to 99 percent of readers, I’m just some internet-stranger. No one actually knows me.

      It makes sense that people would feel exactly about me as they do about incidents or others in their lives which triggered anger or sadness in this conversation arena.

      I get irritated from time to time when I can tell that someone is incorrectly guessing my motives from eight years ago, but I’m not such a douche that I’m going to write things for public consumption and act as if people can’t accept or reject it as they see fit.

      I think there’s a large amount of misunderstanding on this one, but even that might not be true.

      I’ll just keep writing about stuff and see what happens. It was kind of you to voice your support, but I also hope people know that I don’t think there’s a person commenting here on some crusade to harm me.

      We all just want to make sense of our lives and do better moving forward.

      Some of the conversations are more difficult and gray-areaed than others.

    3. “I really liked this post, as an honest reflection of where you are now vs. where you were back then. It’s not pretty, but it’s radically honest…

      Nothing that you’ve written so far indicates to me that you are in any way trying to evade accepting responsibility here. You’re simply saying that as of right now, you don’t have a lot of insight as to the “why’s”.”

      I’m totally ok with that. As long as you continue to be honest with yourself, you will figure it out in your own ADHD-brained kind of way. Trust yourself and trust the process. The value is in the Journey.”

      Ok, I don’t agree with everything you wrote in your comment, but I believe you make a point that I agree with and feel is very important. It’s a journey.

      My most shameful behaviour, I’ve taken ownership if it, much much more than I used to. But I haven’t done it perfectly. I’ve done it to the point where I’ve been, in some instances, able to humbly apologize without making excuses, but as I’m thinking about disclosing them here, I can’t imagine doing it without writing a lengthy comment about the details of my emotional health, childhood trauma and so on. Yawn. And yet, I have made significant progress. I’ve owned the behaviours…quite well. IWhen it really hit me I started my journey of personal growth, I’ve hauled my ass to therapy, in large part because I want to make sure I never do anything like that again.

      And yet, I can’t just say it without any “explanations”. I would like to think that doesn’t make all the progress and amends and healing responsibility taking I’ve made meaningless. Like it then doesn’t with Matt either. I think I was unfair to him on this aspect at least. I’m sorry. It is a journey, meaningful progress is good. 🙂

      1. (…that doesn’t mean I no longer agree with some of the other things I wrote though. :p I’m especially thinking about the not my fault just my responisibility and whether or not the problem really is not knowing.)

        1. I just responded to Travis about this. I hope you see it. Is THAT really the trigger!?

          Because that was Semantics Dot Com happening there. With a hip-hop flavor.

        1. Well. With all due respect to responses in this thread.

          There was LOTS of presumptive and incorrect jumping to conclusions.

          Hell, that section bordered on psychic prescience in retrospect.

          I totally stand by that, too.

          That’s NOT in defense of me. It’s not. I’ll defend myself if and when people are unfair or demonstrate profound ignorance or when I feel that “Ugh, that’s some unfair bullshit” feeling we all get in the pits of our stomach.

          Maybe it was inappropriate to include THAT in THIS post, specifically, because of the touchy nature of the subject matter (which I didn’t actually know was as touchy as it is…).

          But THAT is excellent life advice.

          And I’ll scream it from the rooftops. Perspective MATTERS.

          And I think when we love people, we owe them NOT jumping to the most negative, worst-possible conclusion to fill in our mental gaps when we’re missing information.

          What was so ironic was that was what a lot of commenters did here. And that’s fine. I leave stuff out of my stories for privacy reasons, or simply because I overlook some detail I take for granted that might matter to somone else.

          But there is CLEAR evidence in here of a few people who I suspect have a nasty habit of jumping to false conclusions, FEELING the emotional response of that false conclusion (which is needlessly unpleasant), and THEN damage their relationship with the other people who they formed an incorrect conclusion about.

          Hell, I’ve done it plenty of times.

          Usually, mine is fear-based. When I don’t hear from someone via phone or text for a long period of time (long be relative to the specific circumstances), I start to worry that something might have happened to them, or that maybe they’re upset with me.

          And then, depending on the circumstances, I FEEL anxiety and fear, sometimes quite profoundly (particularly if I’m worried about the health and wellbeing of my son and his mother), and I’ll lose HOURS of feeling “good” or at least “normal,” because I’m needlessly worrying about something that isn’t real.

          Everyone is usually perfectly okay, and there’s some totally rational explanation for why there were no phone calls or texting.

          I’d be surprised if 80 percent of us couldn’t all relate to that in some way.

          I’m not trying to act like I’m smart or whatever. I’m clearly just a guy.

          But I think I have THIS specific part of life handled better than some:

          My baseline with others is almost always that they are well-intentioned, and then every interaction with them is positive and productive, and often pleasant, until the day there is insurmountable evidence they intend harm.

          A hopeful disposition is (I think) objectively better than a suspicious and cynical one. Generally.

          Perhaps I picked an inappropriate blog topic to discuss that.

          As you have probably noticed, I jump around from thing to thing. Speaking of, I need to get in the tank on the blog post I want to write today and stop responding for a while…

  42. How much better might our relationships be if, when something happens and we’re missing too much information to KNOW why it happened, we tell ourselves the most generous, best-possible story to explain it rather than the most cynical, or worst-possible explanation?

    Then how would the people who don’t know, learn? Let’s assume your wife wiped her tears and just said to herself, he must really be tired so I’m not going to make too much of a fuss. He’ll be back when he’s rested and THEN he can give me some support. Would you have figured out that this was a shitty move if she assumed the best of you in a situation that probably had a terrifying and traumatic effect on her? I think you are learning as much as you are today BECAUSE she left, because her crying didn’t work, expressing her hurt didn’t work- what worked was her gradual emotional detachment and later leaving, which THEN had a traumatic effect on you and you probably felt how she had been feeling for years, which maybe bred empathy in you for the first time (?). And to be clear, that worked for YOU. For some men, even leaving will not work. They will continue to unleash wanton pain on the people they claim to love the most. Ignorance is a tricky thing and only the user of the term really knows the truth. Are they really lacking empathetic skills or are they really just pieces of shit pretending to not know because let’s be real, knowing means DOING. Knowing means effort, knowing means there is no evading accountability. I’m so grateful to you for being open about your life- it’s given so many of us an opportunity to express and I know you are feeling the heat with this post but…

    I want to ask, if you are saying men/ppl don’t know what they don’t know… How do we bridge the gap between: I didn’t know I was doing this thing that hurt my spouse so damn much and having worlds crumble with divorce? If your world hadn’t crumbled would you be this enlightened? And without enlightenment, would you be so introspective today? Without this level of introspection, how could you have saved your marriage? How do we get the light-bulb to go off BEFORE divorce?

  43. To All:

    By Jove! I’ve got another piece of the puzzle… Words are powerful tools — the ability TO NAME what one is experiencing is LIBERATING and POWERFUL.

    Thank you Lisa for the word “framing” — thank you for the word “deflecting”. I have accumulated almost enough body armor to prevent the minor assaults that come from close quarter combat from being critically injurious to my internal organs — especially my heart.

    The close quarter combat I speak of is, unfortunately, intimate relationships. I am in favor of mutual disarmament, I believe in FULL RESPECT LIVING. However I am reluctant to shed body armament in the face of : contempt, disdain, dismissal, defensiveness, deflecting, framing, selfishness, compartmentalized living and RAMPANT IMMATURITY.

    I don’t know how we can encourage INTROSPECTION among young men; I don’t know how we can encourage FOREBEARANCE and ENLIGHTENMENT among young women– I know I must find the means to hold on to hope that such massive change is possible

    I am not sanguine about the speed we can muster in order to “course correct”. However, being able to read, connect, compare, support, name and define our world has changed many of us for the better.

    You ALL ARE CANDLE-LIGHTERS!!!!! KUDOS AND KISSES!!!!!!

    1. Marily, I appreciate your comment, and the kudos and kisses. I know I have not yet answered your cry for “what now, where do we go from here?!”, partly because I’m feeling somewhat emotioally exhausted from all of this (but I’m in a pretty good place about it), the healing and the growing pains, the reading and writing.

      I just don’t have a good answer. More men who care about this educationg themselves and others. More women practicing boundaries and healing and supporting themselves and eachother in any way they can. I’m so grateful for the internet, truly. Some men will accept the boundaries, some won’t see the light until after she’s out the door. Some men won’t see it then, some men will be bitter and long for the 50s.

      According to Gottman, 35% of husbands accept influence from their wives. That’s a significant minority at least! 🙂 I read something once, don’t remember what exactly, about only a vocal minority being necessary for social change or something like that? So there’s hope. 🙂 It’s slow and frustrating and everything, but maybe we’ll reach a tipping point and then it’ll happen more quickly. But it will require A LOT of effort and hurt and education and energy and time.

  44. Travis, Drew, Matt and any of the smart as a whip women out there:):
    So, I’m not sure if I should post this here since it does seem like a radical change in topic. However, considering what actually happened was an exercise in not accepting shit sandwiches it may apply. So, I am going to post it here before everyone gets involved in the next 100+ comment thread.
    Wrote this a few days ago, but would really like some input:
    From Brene Browns “Rising Strong”
    “The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
    The Reckoning:Walking into our story
    Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
    The Rumble:Owning our story
    Get honest about the stories were making up about our struggle, then challenge the confabulations and assumptions to determine whats the truth, whats self protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more whole hearted lives. (cant stress this part enough- how often do we fill in the blanks believing we already know what the other person is thinking/feeling, what are we experiencing that is coloring our perception ect., )
    The revolution:
    Write a new ending to our story based in the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.

    She refers to the Hero’s story as a metaphor as to how we struggle with conflict.
    There are 3 phases:
    1.)The call to adventure with “the inciting incident”
    2.) The protagonist tries every comfortable way to solve the problem- this act includes the lowest of the low…usually significant failure.
    3.) The protagonist understands what needs to be done, and is willing to prove it at all costs…this leads to redemption.

    In her own example, her call to adventure was a fight/miscommunication with her husband. Her rumble included being pissed and reactionary, and thinking of stories that “paid back” her husband. This was the most comfortable way to try to solve the problem. Her redemption was in figuring out that she needed to tell herself a different story as to why her husband was acting this way “one where Steve’s intentions were not bad”. So, she started asking herself questions: “Could I be that generous, Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself? What’s the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while skill acknowledging my own feelings and needs?” ..And finally the questions “What are the consequences of putting down the weapons and taking off the armor? What is he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person? …If I give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m wrong, I’ll be doubly shamed for being rejected and naïve.”

    It’s a really good book and can be applied in several different areas, but I thought it was fitting.

    I’d like a male perspective on this. (But anyone else could certainly chime in! 🙂 )
    Above I wrote some questions that Brene Brown asked herself during an argument with her husband- in order to put down her own armor and defensiveness so that she could tell a story where her husbands intentions were not bad.. To recap the questions went like this: ” Could I be that generous? Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself (I’m thinking “in the moment”) What is the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while still acknowledging my own feelings and needs? What are the consequences of me putting down my armor? What if he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person?”
    Her conclusion to the consequences of putting down her armor would be shame for being rejected and naïve.

    Brene Brown is all about vulnerability- about risking hurt to find connection.
    Do you think that contradicts what you guys are saying about putting down hard boundaries?
    I think women tend to want to connect and are more willing to be vulnerable, but you guys are saying that doesn’t lead you to respect or listening to your wives.

    Can you help me reconcile these two things?

    1. From what I’ve read by Brene Brown, she focuses both on vulnerability AND boundaries. So if you pick out a certain quote, it might look like she’s saying only one of those things matter.

      The key for me here is this: “What is the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while still acknowledging my own feelings and needs?”
      That second part relates to you being an equally deserving person. It’s not just about being generous towards the other person. It’s also about being generous with yourself. And it’s about being firm both with yourself and the other. Full respect living. 🙂

      And yes, we should try to figure out our own part.

      I believe many of her other questions are useful as to getting to the bottom of the emotional reaction. She might have been super scared/angry because she was scared she would have to divorce her husband if it turned out he’s really an insensitve person. That might be the fear fuelling the reaction.

      Everyone we’re close to will hurt us at some point. We can’t have connection without risking this. But we can also have boundaries. If someone contnually hurts you and is a shitty friend, you can stop seeing them. We don’t want to be friends with someone who behaves like this, or if it’s family, we can just keep the relationship more superficial. If your partner yells horrible things at you, you can tell him/her you’re willing to talk about everything, but not until you’re both calm and respectful, and then you can leave the room.

      And we must also, in my opinion, work on our own emotional security, so we’re not scared of being emotionally destroyed should someone hurt/reject us in some way.

      Some of my thoughts. 🙂

      I think (I might remember it wrong) I read something by Brown where she said that some of the most generous people are the ones with good boundaries. You can’t afford to be generous if you’re continually stepped on.

      1. Linbo and Donkey,

        Here’s a quick video talking about her surprise at finding the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried. I love that concept because it agrees with the accepting influence and boundary pairing.

        If we get those two things right, relationships work.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ecb6ExBaW80

      2. Donkey,
        Thank you for responding. I think Lisa’s video summed it up … Yeah, we have to have our own O2 mask on first.

    2. Linbo, I’m very sorry, but I had a hard time following your post in full because I wasn’t clear on where you were speaking vs. where Brene was being quoted, so you may need to rephrase your inquiry for me to properly chime in. In regards to this question, “I think women tend to want to connect and are more willing to be vulnerable, but you guys are saying that doesn’t lead you to respect or listening to your wives. Can you help me reconcile these two things?”, my quick and dirty answer is that men are not socially conditioned to see vulnerability as virtuous, productive or inherently masculine. It is a muscle that has atrophied for the bulk of the male species. We cannot reconcile a world where we are allowed to be vulnerable and still keep our “man card”. The struggle would be Herculean enough if only fellow men determined the criteria by which we get to keep our man card, but there is no shortage of women who, when the males in their lives show vulnerability, also react with “man up!/grow a pair!” revulsion.

      1. Travis,
        Thank you for responding. I didn’t see that at first. And sorry for my crappy editing.
        The main point was to lay out what an expert- both in research and in walking it out in life, was saying about vulnerability (Which is you HAVE TO , to have a really full life.) Full as in fully alive, not as in busy/schedule full life.
        But what I’ve been hearing is kind of the opposite message. – Refuse shit sandwiches and such.
        I get that men don’t like to show vulnerability, at least not to anyone except those they are most close with.
        And, I believe that Brene has also said a few words on the whole “women are the worst when men show their weakness” thing.
        The video Lisa posted actually does answer my question fairly succinctly.
        The answer to good relationships- knowing your boundaries, and enforcing them. That will likely create a safe space to be vulnerable.
        Thanks again for answering.

  45. Hey Lisa,

    Yeah, that part about “fixing thinking” running along gender lines? I may have just pulled that out of my ass *grin*

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for challenging thinking! I’m less comfortable stating categorically what that thinking should be. I think there’s far more value in allowing people to work it through for themselves.

      1. Instead I’m left trying rewire the pigheaded brain I have. 😉

  46. Matt,

    And the question then arises, “Why would you use ,”Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers to explain such a sensitive issue? Is this something that most of your readers, mostly women, would find appealing or relate to? No real criticism here, it falls under the heading I use for what puzzles me, “It seemed like a good idea at the time”

    1. I think maybe I’m just going to have to be me on this one and let everyone draw whatever conclusions they want.

      I explain things with metaphor. Perhaps quite poorly sometimes.

      So long as everyone understands a couple things, I’m cool:

      1. I don’t think leaving my wife at the hospital was okay. It was bad.

      2. If the SAME situation arose right now, with the me who writes here 8 years later, it would not even come CLOSE to happening.

      3. At no point was I intending to A. Defend the incident, or B. Pretend it was ANYTHING but a very bad choice of which I am entirely responsible for

      This was just me trying to answer a question.

      One thing I can’t do is make my brain operate much differently than it does, RE: writing, explaining, processing information.

      One thing I won’t do is attempt to change the way in which I write things.

      I am me, and everyone is totally free to accept or reject me and/or things I write here.

      That has always, and will always, be true.

      I’m a 37-year-old single father who spent my college years smoking pot excessively, attending semi-wild keg parties, and listening things like the Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG, the Foo Fighters, Tool and Dave Matthews.

      And you just referred to a group of people as “my readers.”

      Something vaguely resembling a captive audience.

      It defies reason that there is such a thing to begin with.

      But that thing exists because I’ve always been me.

      So, I’m afraid I’ve gotta keep on keepin’ on.

      1. Well, Matt, at least some measure of progress can be claimed. This post succinctly clarifies what you wanted to accomplish with your original post. Whatever anyone’s issues with its construction and conceptualization, you have now fully clarified the intention, and hopefully everyone can take value from that. I do think there’s still some ground left to cover, if you’re willing and see personal value in it:

        1) Now that the “I didn’t mean to hurt you, or cause you distress” element is clear to your female readers, I believe the are still aching for some sort of acknowledgement of their concerns and frustrations. So far, all of your responses have covered the vantage point from where you’ve been operating through this whole dialog, but I still don’t see anything where you’re recognizing and validating the place where you’ve brought your audience. This is the “I’m struggling to understand why this is affecting you the way it is, but I recognize that it is and how it’s made you feel is more important than me being right” part. This is the part where I can just feel the negative energy in the “room” radiating from several of your female readers fairly screaming, “Why, Matt, of all people, are you refusing to accept at least some of our influence here?”

        2) Though your chief concern with writing may be to purge something within (in other words, a productively self-serving exercise), the fact that you put it on a public blog must mean that a very close second-place desire is to communicate to, and connect with, people. You are quite right that you have years of proof at hand that the way you write normally accomplishes that goal in spades. I don’t get the sense that anyone is asking you to change your style (least of all me, who responds to it more strongly than any other source for these types of topics on the internet). It usually works. This time–and I think it’s critical to note that most of the constructive and negative feedback you’ve received from it has come from what might be labeled, Stephen King-style, your Constant Readers–the communication and connection element didn’t occur. Simply as a writer, it behooves you to analyze that and determine what elements made this post different. Not from a standpoint of you were wrong and your audience was right, but simply “how did doing the same thing people usually respond to so positively go so terribly wrong this time?” If you don’t feel that anything in the comments is valid, or serves you, as a way to become a better husband/male/human being, that’s your call to make, but surely the WRITER in you can find some gold at the bottom of this raging river. It may take some distance from it, since emotions ran hotter than usual all around, but I’d be stunned if that question isn’t buzzing around the back of your skull like a manic horsefly. When you feel like you can take a totally dispassionate look at this thread, I feel the answer you’ll be seeking already lies in the comments everyone has made up to this point.

        Again, EVERYTHING I’ve stated is being said with respect, affection and volumes of appreciation. Take and use what has the ring of truth to it, if anything, and feel free to tell me to piss off with the rest. You’ll still find me here tomorrow.

      2. Travis,

        I like your comment. Good points!

        Especially focusing on the writer’s point of view. Because you responded to the post’s framing similarly to me it has to be much more about the post not communicating what Matt intended rather than women being triggered by their stories.

        Still for me with abandonment in the hospital, like Jaws IV, this time it’s personal. ;).

        Just wanted an excuse to throw that in there. Jaws is my husbands favorite movie and we always joke about this time it’s personal from Jaws IV where the shark tracks down their family.

      3. Travis,

        Yes! This is very well put. Direct but kind. I agree with the premise.

        “Now that the “I didn’t mean to hurt you, or cause you distress” element is clear to your female readers, I believe the are still aching for some sort of acknowledgement of their concerns and frustrations. So far, all of your responses have covered the vantage point from where you’ve been operating through this whole dialog, but I still don’t see anything where you’re recognizing and validating the place where you’ve brought your audience. This is the “I’m struggling to understand why this is affecting you the way it is, but I recognize that it is and how it’s made you feel is more important than me being right” part. This is the part where I can just feel the negative energy in the “room” radiating from several of your female readers fairly screaming, “Why, Matt, of all people, are you refusing to accept at least some of our influence here?””

  47. Before I say what I have to say, I would like to recount something that may help people get perspective on my perspective, rather than seeing it as overly harsh.

    When I was a teenager, my mother poured gasoline over herself and lit it. I became the mainstay of the family of five as my father dove into his work and his girlfriends. My idea of tolerating pain may be a little tougher than someone else’s.

    My husband did something very shitty around a major surgery. It is not a problem for us because, just before anesthesia, he literally barged into the pre-op room. I cannot remember what he said, but I remember how he looked. I do not hold this against him or rub his face in this in any way, but what I DO do is use it an illustration when he starts down the road of the same pattern that created that piece of shitty behavior.

    Matt, what you did was bad, but I don’t have any problem with you because of it. None. What I have a problem with was actually put beautifully by Travis, who defended you. saying that you revealed yourself and now are getting punished for it by your angry readers. You set about this blog to discover what you did that caused your wife to divorce you. Travis’s defense of you is lifted, unbeknownst to him, right out of the interior dialogue of the wives as we seek to justify the way we are treated, over and over. That gentleness, that understanding, that forgiveness, that justification, that go easy on the guy – all those things are exactly what led us to the misery we tolerate from our men, and exactly what we are reacting to in the way you frame your responses to your post.

    As I say to my husband, the thing he did about my hospital visit is not the important part, it is just the most easily defined and discussed actual situation of the thousands of situations that are not so easy to describe in mere words. The problem is what caused that particular situation to unfold. Matt, from my point of view, you have complete forgiveness for your lapse to your wife on that front, but you are not off the hook on how you are handling our responses – because that is the problem.

    As I said, my idea of pain may differ from yours. Matt created this blog for answers, for help with his life so he does not have a repeat divorce. In doing that, Matt is completely culpable for all the pain that comes his way, because without it, he will not learn the real lesson. The mere fact that the women on this blog have tried and tried to push their truth through is enough to show that he is not quite there. We may seem pitiless. I cop to that. The lesson has to be learned and it will be painful. No one gets to avoid pain, sorry. I respect you, Matt, but I also completely expect you to hang in there and take it, blow after blow after blow. If you are sincere about what you are doing, which I believe you are.

    1. Shannon,

      Wow! I can’t imagine having to go through your mother setting herself on fire. You are strong to do what had to be done to help your family.

      It really makes me ashamed to be as messed up as I am considering my childhood was easy compared to so many commenters here. You have my admiration to figure out how to overcome that and move to a healthier place.

      It is great that you and your husband have the kind of relationship where he will now listen to you.

      What was the process that you both had to go through to get there? Any secret methods or tips to share?

  48. Travis,

    I am so glad you are sticking with us on this thread; your perspective is sorely needed and appreciated, Like so many times in the past, you have articulated what many of us are trying to convey but have somehow missed the mark and caused more confusion in the process.

    You said, “This time — and I think it’s critical to note that most of the constructive and negative feedback you’ve received from it has come from what might be labeled,
    Stephen King–style, your Constant Readers —the communication and connection element didn’t occur. Simply as a writer, it behooves you to analyze that and determine what elements made this post different. Not from a standpoint of you were wrong and your audience was right, but simply “how did doing the same thing people usually respond to so positively go so terribly wrong?”

    With that last question YOU ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT ( as least for me).

  49. Oh boy Lisa, I don’t know that I would recommend our “techniques.” It was really more like a battle to the death. Something else happened in my family 2 year”s ago, as bad as my mother but not in a sad way, but a bad way. Really bad. I lost all mercy. I stopped giving him a way out, understanding his frailties, giving him a pass. I was in so much pain that I stopped caring about the pain he had to go through to change, because nothing he was going through compared to what I was going through. Which is why I am not sympathetic to a call for mercy on Matt. We got down, that is the only way I can put it. When I caught him doing what he does, I nailed him. I gave him no quarter, none. I was like the best lawyer in the world, drilling down, but the worst, harshest, most horrible partner in the world. I dissected what he does – the half listening, the needing to be told three times, the changing the agreement without telling me, the half assed carry through of anything he did not want to do. The deflection. The poor me-ing to call on my sympathies. The desolation he emoted. The acting out. The incredible passive aggression. It was, for a long time, like I was the irate mother and he the asshole 12 year old. I just did not care how bad it got because everything was so bad for me, it paled in comparison. I taunted him to leave me. I made him decide what he was going to do. I held him ruthlessly accountable and would not accept anything that had the whiff of an excuse. The bomb would go off, then later, we would try to talk it out. Over and over. Baby steps, or maybe baby grenades would be more like it.

    He did not want to leave the relationship, and he is not a wife beater, so eventually, with tons of repetition, tons of showing him that THIS particular infraction is like one he could see, he began to see it. We kind of had to peel the levels of resistance off, one at a time. We once sat at a table and I counted, by number, the amount of times he tried to deflect. It was over 60 at one setting. The twisting, the turning, the wiggling, all to avoid the horrible truth, which is that there is no excuse for not admitting and accounting for your uglinesses. And that uglinesses, whether they result in leaving you at the hospital or putting that damn glass in the sink once again, add up eventually to HUGE uglinesses.

    One of the things that helped is that I was always up front and honest about what an incredible bitch I can be. No body watching or hearing us would have any doubt that I am a freaking angry, disappointed, haranguing fish wife. I stopped trying to look like any species of a good person because it was very clear to me that my “goodness” resulted in more of the same behavior from him.

    What helped is that I am his second wife. HIs first is a terrible person. He began to see as she treated him, he treated me. And, he has a child, now a grown child, who we both love, and he loves me. I was able to get under his defenses by asking if he would want his son to be treated as he is treating me.

    I said in my last post that I am not very sympathetic to people feeling pain. I think great pain is necessary to grow and I do not have a lot of sympathy for people trying to dodge it. I sympathized with my husband for two decades as things got worse for me.

    I actually wish that Matt would not move onto another post, because this is the one where the
    real bottom line is occurring. If Matt were my husband right now, life would be a shit storm beyond anything that has happened on all the posts. But if he hung in there, painfully, painfully, painfully, we would make it as my husband and I did. And to this, Matt gets a lot of credit, because it was his blogs that helped my husband see what he was doing.

    Husband just sat down and said this. He said he knew I would leave him if he did not straighten out. This , despite the fact that I always told him that I would not leave him. I felt stuck together with his son, with our property and our mutual business. He could not see my pain until it lit up sky and everything felt on the line.

    And he is a good person. It is entirely possible to be a good person who does a bad thing. The line to being a bad person is crossed when you won’t admit your badness. Again, that is why my sympathies run short. And I think that is what so many of us are trying to convey, but nice words just cannot capture such bad feelings, and we are hesitate to use the bad words. We try not to blame and shame that which IS blame and shame, as if not calling it was it is will encourage it not to be what it is. Maybe it will. But it doesn’t sound that way, in all these posts, that mincing words is working.

    Again, I don’t really advocate what I did. I was not in a position to curtail myself. It was the best I could do to get through each day without leaping off a roof. It is certainly a pity that it took a huge level of not caring to get enough attention to being cared for, but I am glad to be where we are now. I owe my husband a big thanks for hanging in with what most people would call crazy ass nuts, even as I know and he knows, it was not crazy ass nuts, it was volcanic emotion to volcanic issues.

    Many years ago, I knew a great therapist. I was dating a guy who told me that his crazy ex-wife once pulled off her shirt in the driveway as he was driving away to get out of another argument. Therapist said “she is not crazy. She is trying to be heard and he won’t listen”.

    1. Shannon,

      Well you have certainly been through a lot! The amount of energy you both have expended to get to a better place is unbelievable.

      You know I think our styles are probably pretty similar. You even used the same Incredible Hulk metaphor that I do.

      I think that what works depends on the combination of each persons styles. You figured out a crude but effective way of getting your husband to listen after what I am sure was many many years of trying more typical stuff.

      It worked because your husband’s style was willing to hang in there because he didn’t want to leave you. I’m sure you would have preferred and easier way though!

      That’s why it can be so frustrating because what works for one couple may not work for another to fix a dysfunctional relationship.

      It’s pretty easy if both people are willing and have reasonably similar styles. But usually that’s not the case.

      I know my husband balked at a fraction of the hulk style. He found it intolerably disrespectful and unlike your husband he would have just left. That was his boundary. I think it is reasonable in our case because he is just asking me to modify my delivery.

      I had to figure out how to set my own boundaries but respect his need for a less Hulky style. We’re still working on it.

      But I will not tolerate him not accepting influence from me anymore. That’s my boundary. I am perfectly willing able to learn to be less intense. In fact I welcome learning the skill because it’s helpful to have the ability to discuss things less intensely.

      So we’re both figuring it out. How much to tolerate from the other person because they’re human but not tolerating bad basic relationship skills.

      He’s avoidant so intense discussions are far more taxing than for me. I’m trying to learn to say things less intensely to help that. He’s learning to tolerate discomfort to stay engaged longer.

      If I was married to someone else with a different style, the changes would be different but the bottom line of accepting influence and good boundaries are the same.

      People with less than healthy family relationships or first marriages have to work harder to unlearn things and figure out what healthy even looks like.

    2. Lisa said,

      “That’s why it can be so frustrating because what works for one couple may not work for another to fix a dysfunctional relationship.”

      Exactly! I was reading shannon’s description of how she and her husband worked through their issues and thought, “You out cho damn mind, girl!” Her technique wouldn’t have worked with me for five minutes before I would have lost all my cool. When she says, “I am not very sympathetic to people feeling pain,” my blood chills–not because she’s in any way wrong to conduct her affairs the way she does, just because it runs sharply counter to my own psychology (which is probably why I don’t agree with her assertion that Matt deserves and should happily endure the worst of what he receives in this thread–in my mind, I think, “No, because he’s not anyone’s husband, family member or even close friend here; therefore, he has no responsibility to us and doesn’t owe any of us a damn thing.” but in shannon’s mind, she seems to be thinking, “I don’t care who he is–he opened his damn mouth, now he needs to shut up because we have some shit we need to say in return!”, LOL!) I am mighty proud of any couple, though, that finds the secret formula for them, so many kudos on that front, shannon. When it comes to saving marriage and protecting love for one another, I guess I’m pretty firmly in the “ends justify the means” camp.

  50. Pingback: How does he not know?! | See, there's this thing called biology...

  51. I want to clarify a few things. One, my Hulk analogy was to show that it is not the bad thing someone did that is the problem, it is doubling down on it by defending it. Recently, two very good friends divorced. He did something bad. She and I sat for 3 weekends figuring out a pragmatic fix and trying to save the marriage. He, however, never accounted for and apologized. That was it for her. After they signed the papers, they stood hugging and crying outside the bewildered lawyer’s office.

    Two, I do not have a “technique” and I was very upfront about saying how absolutely horrible I was. I was a relationship suicide bomber. Here is why it “worked”.

    1. I did indeed try every conceivable way to get my husband to understand over the years. I love the guy but he just could not get it.

    2. and probably most important though I do not recommend you try this at home. He watched his cheerful, competent, industrious wife, the one that can beat City Hall, figure out 5 solutions to almost any problem,go through cancer with aplomb, pull together a fund raiser for the neighborhood in 3 weeks – he watched that person, due to the family situation, dissolve into a person who wept quietly for hours, who avoided all social circumstances, including the grocery store, in case someone asked “how are you” and created a public meltdown. He saw a woman who did not sleep an entire night for a year and a half, and walked the house in the am for hours. He saw someone who was never depressed fight the urge to follow in her mothers’ footsteps and end it all. And there was nothing he could do about any of it. It took that for him to lower his defenses, put aside his ego, be ready to face some pain and put in some work.

    3. the afore mentioned divorce

    4. running into a good friend who was just divorced by his lovely, sweet, submissive wife of 30 years. Devastated husband said over and over that he did not understand, while mine said to himself “I do – finally”.

    And last, reading Matt’s blogs. Which is why this particular thread is so important. Can you all see that tensions are building, people are getting raw and real, and we all have a chance to actually rehearse how to maintain our current or future marriages without penalty of divorce?

    Regarding my comments about sympathy. What I actually said is “that I think great pain is needed to grow and I do not have much sympathy for people who try to dodge pain.” Here is why.

    Pretend I am your wife and you are my beloved husband. I have sympathy for you. I want our lives to be good and our relationship to be good. As problems come up, I talk with you about them. You don’t really like what I am saying or the way I am saying it. You back off a little or get defensive. I am sympathetic to that so I back off a little. I pick up on the expression you make when you don’t want to hear what I am saying. I hear the sigh that says “there she goes again, making a big deal of nothing”. So I leave off the real issue because I don’t want to upset you – because I am sympathetic to you. Things don’t get better for ME, though, so I push a little harder. You get more annoyed and push back. I feel I am making you feel bad about yourself and despite the fact that you kind of should feel bad , I am sympathetic to you and really don’t want to hurt you that much. So I back off again. Over time, my sympathy for you creates a situation where you don’t hear when I bring up something yet again how much it bothers me, because you don’t have sympathy for me. You hear some version of nagging. I die a little more each day until one day, I say the most painful words of all to you “I want a divorce”. My sympathy for your feelings, my desire not to hurt you, your wish to avoid painful discussions or avoid my pain, means that all along the road, we paid the pain forward, in the name of love and sympathy, until the bitter, painful, too late to fix it end.

    My husband reads everything I write and this blog. When he read your last post, Travis, in which you said I said something that was just inaccurate enough to change it, and when you add that I “seem to be saying “I don’t care who he is….” when in fact, I did not “seem” to be saying anything but what I ACTUALLY SAID, he said this. “This guy doesn’t get it. His ego is in the way.” He also said, re: your comment about losing your cool, that you at least are “honest about your limitations.”

    Please do not do those things. Please do not rewrite what your wife actually said. Please work to listen to what she really means by listening to what she actually says. Please do not shut down or lose your cool when you don’t like her presentation. Please do not unknowingly steer her to back off because you are getting impatient or defensive or hurt. When you kind of shut down your wife, she is going to follow your lead, out of love and sympathy, until she cannot anymore.

    Thank you, Zombiedrew, for putting it another way with your comments about being hurt.

  52. shannon said,

    “when you add that I “seem to be saying “I don’t care who he is….” when in fact, I did not “seem” to be saying anything but what I ACTUALLY SAID, he said this. “This guy doesn’t get it. Please do not do those things. Please do not rewrite what your wife actually said.”

    It isn’t rewriting. It’s paraphrasing. It’s deriving meaning from what you’ve written. Words alone hold no weight if they do not communicate. Now if I misinterpreted what you wrote, please feel free to set me straight because I don’t want my comprehension to be built upon a fallacy, but simply reposting your exact word choice does not demonstrate I’ve understood your meaning.

    “Please work to listen to what she really means by listening to what she actually says. Please do not shut down or lose your cool when you don’t like her presentation.”

    I’ve gotten much better with this, but I think it’s a fair boundary to set that I won’t be treated, or spoken to, like I’m a child and my wife is my mother. Again, if that worked for your marriage, I’m proud of you and your husband, but to Lisa’s point about varied relationship dynamics and the lack of a one-size-fits-all approach to repairing them, I don’t feel that approach would work for me anymore than the way your husband’s former presentational style worked for you. I certainly am struggling with what I read as a directive that the wife should be allowed to express her frustrations in any manner she sees fit, but the husband shouldn’t.

    1. Sorry, shannon, just in case it wasn’t clear, I’m not saying you’re talking to me like a child, only that the dynamic you and your husband worked through seemed to take on a mother-and-child quality.

    2. The second you stop listening because the tone the person took was patronizing or irritated or soft is the second you lose, my former, used to not listen to me for the exact opposite reason and you can only imagine how that wrecked what we had. Tone policing makes people stop talking to you and can end up making people even more frustrated and irritated.

      1. Emilia said,

        “The second you stop listening because the tone the person took was patronizing or irritated or soft is the second you lose, my former, used to not listen to me for the exact opposite reason and you can only imagine how that wrecked what we had. Tone policing makes people stop talking to you and can end up making people even more frustrated and irritated.”

        I would counter that if your spouse can’t speak to you with the level of respect they feel they should be afforded in return, it is at least worthy of consideration that “what you have” isn’t what you deserve. It’s not just my opinion–recent high-profile studies show that condescension is the number one indicator of likely divorce. Love dies without respect.

  53. I think you learned, you matured. You made a massive mistake there. Maybe it’s keeping you from making other mistakes now or even kept you in the past. Who knows. Everyone is fast to judge. I admit, I think it was pretty bad of you. But you seem to have truly realized it. You would not do it again. And that’s what counts.

  54. Reading this brought back a very painful memory, because my ex did something similar. His cult-buddies and their pet-project-of-the-week were too important to stay with me after giving birth to our second child. That really broke my heart badly, that and so many other things like it.

  55. I have an ex who was very emotionally abusive towards me for 5 years. We’re still friendly, and we’ve talked about what a real dickhead he was. He even admitted that the real reason our relationship didn’t work out was because of him, and is own insecurities about being with a person who he thought was too cool for him. His claim is the same as yours; I didn’t know I was being an ass hole dear. That’s just like saying, I know I murdered your child, and I’m sorry, but God will forgive me. Men can realise that they’ve been horrible people to their partners, but it doesn’t give us women our self esteem back. It doesn’t give us back all the time we wasted with stupid men. The hurt remains forever.

  56. Matt addressed wives feeling like their husband is another child, and Travis talked about his response to his wife treating him like a child as well as partners speaking with contempt in their tone. Here is what women have talked about to me and what I have observed over and over; 1. they have a hard time actually saying what they mean, because directness makes them sound aggressive/bitchy. So they imply and the husbands don’t get it. 2. They sympathize, as I explained before, so they back down at cues from their husband that he does not really want to go there 3. the husbands have no idea that their wives are treating them like a child. The wife gathers a huge amount of patience, the husbands feel nurtured and humored, and the wives then exchange “that look” that is less an eye roll and more a sigh. 4. the wives fail to get their point across in strong terms, aka tones of anger, resentment, frustration, contempt, so the husband is blind sided when she finally has had it. In other words, she keeps her tone and her words respectful enough that he has no idea of the seething resentment underneath. As bad a tone that can be described as contemptuous is, at least it is a clear harbinger of how bad the marriage has become for the wife, and a huge red flag that the end is coming unless the husband begins to truly get it. I agree with Travis and all the studies that condescending tones and lack of respect are harbingers of divorce, but I dispute that contempt comes first and the marriage fails second. Contempt /lack of respect is the grave of the sick marriage, not the disease of the marriage.

  57. genepavlovsky

    Matt,
    Not patronizing, just curious? What was the reason you didn’t stay there when you wife begged you to? My wife gave birth to our daughter in Thailand, where public hospitals don’t allow husbands to be present during birth. I was really trying to get IN there, not out of there. Luckily, right after birth she and the baby had a private room and I was allowed to stay there, even overnight. So we spent 3 nights in there, I just went out to buy some food and baby stuff and back.
    –Gene

  58. This story and overall blog resonates with me because I was (am) on the other end. After 6 years of happily dating, and a couple years of marriage, my husband gradually seemed to stop caring about by feelings, and being the helpful, considerate person he used to be.

    He left the hospital a few hours after our first was born, with my blessing, but then didn’t come back for 10-12 hours, and didn’t answer his cell. I was scared shit-less by then that something had happened to him, and now I had a baby that wouldn’t stop crying, and the lack of sleep for over 30 hours caught up with me. He went to a BBQ. He gave me a cursory apology, but didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. It was a huge deal.

    Life with a baby that didn’t sleep was tough. I was tired and cranky from the constant lack of sleep. He was kind and present, but barely changed a diaper, or helped me when I asked. In fact, he started asking me for more help than ever, even after I went back to work full-time.

    We accidentally got pregnant again a year or so later, and he went ballistic. He barely talked to me for a while, and never seemed close again. I was working full-time, tired and pregnant, and taking care of a toddler. He wouldn’t help with cooking, cleaning, kid stuff and would take off to go to concerts, networking events and more. He started complaining about everything. He started losing his temper and screaming about petty things. I was horrified and hurt. I’m sure I wasn’t perfect, but he eventually became extremely negative and hurtful, most of the time. He picked fights with me the whole time I was pregnant, and even in the hospital. I cried for a day after our 2nd was born.

    Fast forward several years of trying to make it better, counseling, ups and downs, and it’s still horrible. I work full time, and he’s been working barely part-time for a couple years. We are struggling financially, and can’t get along. He is completely inconsiderate now. I’m dying to leave him, but the kids and finances make it tough. I’ve given up hope that anything will turn around. It’s just a matter of time & money before I leave. Every time I save enough for a rent and deposit, we have some huge expense. Meanwhile, he says rude comments, doesn’t help much, doesn’t work much, complains all the time, and we sleep in separate rooms. It doesn’t have to be this way. He’s a jerk.

    1. Goodness. I’m so sorry this is happening to you two and your children.

      All of our stories look and feel a little different, but so many of the core elements are the same.

      These are hard days, and you have my sincerest best wishes trying to work through them.

      You have a shitty husband.

      I don’t mean “bad” or “evil” or “abusive” or anything like that.

      I just mean he is (I hope) obliviously thoughtless and me-first, and I’d like to think it’s a sense of entitlement he inherited honestly. (That’s how it was for me, and I assume, many others.)

      Shitty husbands are not always bad men. I think they’re often decent guys. But they just suck ass at all of the skills one needs to properly foster healthy relationships.

      I hope he figures it out.

      I hope all of us do.

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