Male Dishonesty & Divorce: Choosing the Man Card Over Succeeding ‘Like a Girl’

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unexpressed emotion and dishonesty
Men lie constantly.

I think maybe everyone does.

Sometimes, they are classic bald-faced lies: “I didn’t do it!” Even though we all know he did.

Sometimes, they are exaggerated lies, like when basketball and football players’ heights and weights are inflated slightly.

And sometimes, the lies are so subtle and nuanced that most of us don’t even think of them as lies. There is no malice in the deceit. The deception is not to harm others, and in fact, may be to preserve another’s feelings: “No. Seriously. I think you look beautiful with your super-short haircut!” Even though he thinks it makes her looks boyish and hates it. 

But there are many other deceitful moments that seem harmless as they’re happening, and as isolated incidents, probably are. But they’re not isolated. They’re constant. Not “constant” in a hyperbolic way. “Constant” in a That Guy is Wearing a Mask and Hiding Fundamentally True Parts of Himself from Everyone way.


He wants his Man Card. Even if it kills him.

He wants it to be good enough for his father.

He wants it so he can feel accepted by members of his various tribes—friends, sports teams, fellow soldiers, professional networks, fraternities, hobby groups, social clubs, etc.

He wants it because he believes it will make him attractive to women.

There’s The Man Way® to do things. And all things must be done that way because I’m a man, not some wussy little girl! I’m doing it The Man Way!

And it’s a little bit funny because there’s no universally established Way Men Do Things. Everything depends on culture, environment and behavior models. Wearing Irish or Scottish kilts doesn’t seem “manly” to guys in cultures where men don’t wear kilts. Where I’m from, you’d almost never see guys in pink, and very rarely in purple. Those were “girl” colors. But now, it’s not only common, but fashionable, to wear pink or purple shirts or neckties.

In other words, The Man Way is a constantly moving target, and purely dependent on where a guy lives or the specific culture of a group to which he craves admission or acceptance.

Take beer drinking for example.

Some guys are strictly Budweiser guys. Hell, maybe they even want it canned. And they’re going to drink 10-12 Budweisers because Real Men drink a lot of beer! And don’t you dare try to give him some fancy-boy craft beer like he’s some uppity hipster or metrosexual.

And then other guys are strictly craft beer guys. And maybe they only want draft beer in a pint glass. And they’re going to drink like a refined connoisseur, and if you want an education on beer styles or brewing techniques, this Renaissance Man will tell you all about them. Don’t you dare try to give him some cheap-ass swill like Budweiser. Only Cretans drink piss like that.

But maybe the Bud guys will play along and drink stouts and IPAs in a crowd of craft beer drinkers, and maybe Craft Beer Guy will pound Budweisers out on the boat or golf course with the guys on a hot, sunny day.

And maybe they’ll be just a tiny bit dishonest about their real feelings in order to fit in.

It happens all the time. Probably with everyone, every day.

But when it happens with men because of The Man Card thing, our relationships suffer. When our relationships suffer, the rest of our lives suffer. We take more damage that we brought on ourselves. And then the even-more-damaged versions of ourselves repeat the cycle, but it only gets worse.

We wonder why. Because, we’re MEN. Strong. Logical. Correct.

We’re not little emo girls who sit down to pee, hit from the red tees, drive wimpy cars, play with smaller basketballs, go to the restroom in groups, or do girly things like cry and talk about our feelings.

Men get indignant. No one tried to feminize our fathers and grandfathers! They fought wars and built things with their hands! They’d slap a bitch!

Our identity has so many stakeholders, we think.

Our parents and extended families. Our friends. Our romantic partners. Our kids. And everyone we interact with.

And sometimes we’re not who we really are. We’re who we think we’re supposed to be for everyone else.

I think this is why most divorces happen.

I think the social skills “acceptable” for women to showcase are the life skills necessary to not have shitty relationships, full of fighting, dysfunction, infidelity or sexlessness or every other horrible thing couples suffer from before their eventual divorce.

Divorce damages men HARD. Harder than women, all the experts say, and there are a million reasons why, but the main one is this: As a general rule, wives do way more for marriages and families than men do, so when a marriage ends, it’s harder for a man to maintain his way of life because he can’t replicate nearly as many marriage tasks she performed as she can of his.

I don’t write it much, but I’m not afraid to: Women are demonstrably BETTER—more skilled, more knowledgeable, more capable—at relationship skills than men.

And since I can’t think of anything more influential or important to our daily existence than our relationships, the conclusion is simple:

Male behavior is mostly responsible for the divorce crisis, thus men are the key to solving it.

Step One: Stop Lying to Everyone (Including Yourself)

From The New York Times’ article “Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest”:

“I wanted the course to explore this hallmark of the masculine psyche — the shame over feeling any sadness, despair or strong emotion other than anger, let alone expressing it and the resulting alienation. Many young men, just like this student, compose artful, convincing masks, but deep down they aren’t who they pretend to be.

“Research shows what early childhood teachers have always known: that from infancy through age 4 or 5, boys are more emotive than girls. One study out of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in 1999 found that 6-month-old boys were more likely to show ‘facial expressions of anger, to fuss, to gesture to be picked up’ and ‘tended to cry more than girls.’

“‘Boys were also more socially oriented than girls,’ the report said — more likely to look at their mother and ‘display facial expressions of joy.’

“This plays out in the work of Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University. After 20-plus years of research, Dr. Way concludes that many boys, especially early and middle adolescents, develop deep, meaningful friendships, easily rivaling girls in their emotional honesty and intimacy.

“But we socialize this vulnerability out of them. Once they reach ages 15 or 16, ‘they begin to sound like gender stereotypes,’ she writes in Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection. ‘They start using phrases such as ‘no homo’ … and they tell us they don’t have time for their male friends, even though their desire for these relationships remains.’”

The article’s author Andrew Reiner, hits earlier on the ongoing trend of male and female students, as female academic performance has steadily increased through the years while male performance has not, and how the underlying reason is that young boys believe: Boys Do This, and Girls Do That.

“Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.”

Step Two: Redefine Manhood

Men get pissed at me all the time. They read one of my posts shared on Reddit, or linked to in some forum, or at The Huffington Post, or right here on this blog.

The message is always essentially the same.

“I’m tired of everyone blaming guys for everything! Look at you turning your back on your gender and pandering to women! Look at all these women showering praises on you, but I bet if you wrote about all of the things they do wrong, they’ll tell you what a sexist pig you are! The writer of this blog needs to clean his vagina, because his ex-wife clearly took his balls with her when she left! Women are the real problem!”

And I insta-pity them, along with their wives, girlfriends and children.

Because that guy has no chance. NONE. Not in his current form.

I mean, he might find a subservient wife to cater to his every whim and suffer in silence. He might find a trophy wife who appreciates his substantial wealth and enjoys those financial luxuries without him while he’s away on business. He might find a physical or emotional punching bag to make him sandwiches and give him on-demand oral.

But I don’t think that man can ever have what I perceive to be the foundational thing we need for a life of contentment—one where we enjoy being alive and don’t feel miserable every waking second of every day: Stable, healthy, loving, reliable, energy-giving relationships.

And as long as men collectively believe that The Things You Must Do to Have Healthy Relationships are “girl things,” then I think the institution of marriage is doomed.

If communicating effectively with our partners about the things we think and feel (preferably BEFORE marriage) is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then we have no chance.

If sacrificial love and a willingness to compromise or be influenced by our partners’ wishes is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then we have no chance.

If courageously taking off our masks that hide our real selves from everyone else and protect us from imagined rejection and judgment—if being truly VULNERABLE—with our partners is a “girl thing,” and therefore bad so we won’t do it, then maybe we deserve this fate.

Because the only way to kick ass in your relationships is, in many respects, to play “like a girl.”

And if you’re too much of a wimpy bitch to accept that? Well, you’ll always have your armchair where you can marinate in loneliness and anger while marveling at how young you were in that faded man-card photo.


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81 thoughts on “Male Dishonesty & Divorce: Choosing the Man Card Over Succeeding ‘Like a Girl’”

  1. like my great grandmother said ”why divorce them when you can bury them”
    (her husband died mysteriously and in one month dressed like yoghurt she married another guy-true story)

  2. It worries me when you write something like this, something that echoes what I’m secretly thinking because I really do want to be fair. Unfortunately too often I find myself rolling my eyes and silently chanting, ‘girls rule and boys drool’ which obviously isn’t the most mature view point. When I found out my third pregnancy was going to be my first boy I panicked a little. I clearly remember think, ‘Ew! What on earth am I going to do with a boy’ and yet he is my cuddliest, sweetest, most physically demonstrative child yet. Now that he’s 10, I keep watching, waiting for the change. Waiting for when he doesn’t want to talk. Waiting for him to shrug away from my hugs. Waiting for him to harden…and it’s crap. I don’t know if we should blame society, or hormones, but it’s crap either way because both of them really feel like enemies that I just don’t know how to beat. Women have spent so much time and energy trying to prove to the world that whatever a man does, we can do better, maybe it’s time men do the same thing

    1. My son is 15, and I am still the preferred parent. He may roll his eyes in public, but he still holds my hand when we take walks in the neighborhood.

  3. “Women are demonstrably BETTER—more skilled, more knowledgeable, more capable—at relationship skills than men.”

    This line made me laugh out loud at my desk at work because it’s not just relationship skills.

    I am in the midst of a (minor) child support disagreement with my ex-husband. After telling me it was a personal attack to demand he either complete the paperwork for a joint filing — he says he’s phobic about completing forms; I had given him two weeks to complete them — or be called into court to deal with the issue, he emailed me to ask how to figure out his weekly income as his paycheck changes week to week. This is man who graduated college.

  4. “Male behavior is mostly responsible for the divorce crisis, thus men are the key to solving it.”

    Oh amen, Matt! You’re very brave to say that. That rankles some I’m sure, that causes offense, but consider the fact that I’m still married and I can honestly credit my husband with that. I may have a lot of relationships skills, but I simply cannot do his part for him. That is beyond my ability. People can perceive that two ways, as shame and blame on men, or as an awareness that men actually hold some genuine power here, that their relationships are in their hands, that they can captain their own ships. One perception is a position of chronic victimhood for men, the other is empowerment. I prefer empowered men.

      1. You know, sometimes a commenter makes a statement that really stands out to me. You said this:

        “I simply cannot do his part for him.”

        Of course. How beautifully simple. I wish someone would have told me that a decade ago.

  5. Your wrong. There are values that are cross cultural when it comes to manhood. Self-determination, courage, strength- there are no cultures were not being weak, aimless, and cowardly is sign of being manly.

    also, alcohol raises your estrogen levels, and makes you more of a woman: you can’t drive and you don’t know how to stop talking 😛

    1. Travis,
      I think the whole point is that the buy in to “what it means to be a man” short-changes the actual man.
      You don’t have to be “aimless” or “weak”- most fully mature and differentiated people aren’t (that includes both sexes) to get rid of your man card. You just have to chose to be honest and own your self over hiding yourself to fit in and be what is the social expectation of masculine.

      1. Oh and PS- I’m going to let that estrogen remark slide since I have a sense of humor ;)…

      2. (I always feel regretful on several levels every time I say this, but…)

        Why are women so bad at parking?

        Because men always tell them that

        this: >————————————————<

        is 8 inches! 8)

      3. …as expected, I regret posting this in more than one way already, I shouldn’t have done it. I’m sorry.

        1. Donkey, You’re sounding like me! I get super self conscious and worried about how other people are going to perceive what I am saying.
          It was a joke, I think most people get that and will take it in good humor. I took the whole beer making men more like women because they become bad drivers and talk a lot as funny- even if a little sexist.
          I forgive you if it makes you feel any better.. 🙂

      4. Linbo, thank you, you are sweet. 🙂

        First, I wanted to post some stats about male and female drivers and accidents, and how some studies show that women actually don’t talk more. And a study that shows that if a man and a woman talk for the same amount of time, people will think that the woman has been talking for longer (isn’t that awful?!). But I just didn’t want to subject myself to the answers that tend to follow (though of course I can’t predict the future and don’t know how any one person will react!) after saying something like this (that I’m a humorless bitch or whatever). Or maybe I just really thought it would worsen my own mood, I’m not quite sure.

        So I decided to post this joke instead, as that has shown itself to be very effective in stopping “women are bad drivers hahaha” conversations before, without me being accused of being a humorless bitch. 8)

        In the right context, maybe there isn’t much harm in it. But I do regret posting it here though. because I do not want to contribute to the whole size of penis obsession that many people seem to suffer from. I do not want men and boys to have body image problems and think that they’re genitals aren’t ok! Guys, your penises are fine (unless, from a health perspective, you have an illness or something, then go see a doctor)! The whole size obsession is something that I feel is very objectifying to men, similarly as shaming women who aren’t super tiny or whatever, and I don’t want to feed into that!.And yet I did feed into it with this joke, so again, I’m really sorry, it was wrong of me.

        1. Donkey,
          I know exactly where you are coming from, and I admire your integrity. It’s true, in most situations if you actually stated the facts and why a joke was so awful most people would think you were a wet blanket. I do not think that about you. For me, I am ok with the humor to some extent. If the subject matter gets repeated over and over again I typically stand my ground. But, yes kudos to you for being forthright in standing up for what you really think and really believe. It is true, men- your endowment doesn’t make the man. The man makes the man. So be your whole self, so we can love all of you… 🙂
          PS- I think I know what study your talking about, the same one that indicates that men don’t like hearing womens voices because they are higher-pitched. And this may be why men will tune us out- and not actually listen.

      5. Donkey, I did that thing where you move two fingers closer so the stuff on your computer screen gets smaller, and then I laughed even harder.

        But I appreciate your recognition that any joke that is at the expense of making anyone feel insecure in their body isn’t nice, so I moved my fingers away and made the line really big. But then the joke wasn’t funny anymore….

  6. Clare Kennedy

    Sigmund Freud’s son has just be outted as a paediphile so I guess life’s ills never disappear…. And rear their ugly head… Shame no justice or loss was felt by him; only his wife to apologise and the stigma for his children will be generations long.

  7. “And as long as men collectively believe that The Things You Must Do to Have Healthy Relationships are “girl things,” then I think the institution of marriage is doomed.”

    I just wanted to mention that all these so called “girl things,” require tremendous strength and courage. Relationships are not for the faint of heart. So being vulnerable, willing to set aside your pride now and than, taking risks, these are all incredibly masculine things to do. We’ve somehow bent the man card, so some of the things we admire today as allegedly masculine, really aren’t masculine at all.

  8. Perhaps we should look further into the whole ‘man card’ issue from a woman’s perspective? Women (as in myself anyway) find the whole masculine side of our mates very sexy-most of the time. It’s what draws us in. But what keeps us (me) is the after life of a relationship-when lust is less and relationship is more?…-I dig it when my husband works on the car, does the dishes, cooks, spends time with our children without being hounded to. Biggest turn on with my hubby? When he is genuinely interested in what I’m saying. Manning up and shutting up. That’s tough for an alpha male-and most males I think. Maybe I’m the only woman that feels this way, but I don’t think so. Marriage changes things, but it shouldn’t change the way ones truth remains intact. It’s okay to grow after the I dos are said, it’s bad to hide that with little white lies. You don’t want to wash those dishes, okay! Just don’t tell me a buddy lost a buddy and he needs you just now.
    This is a great post, honestly.

  9. “As a general rule, wives do way more for marriages and families than men do, so when a marriage ends, it’s harder for a man to maintain his way of life because he can’t replicate nearly as many marriage tasks she performed as she can of his.”

    what do you mean by this?

    Another great post, BTW. <3

    1. This is the part I don’t understand: it’s harder for a man to maintain his way of life because he can’t replicate nearly as many marriage tasks she performed as she can of his.

      1. It’s because, despite my best wishes and intentions, I’m still capable of writing horribly constructed sentences.

        Here’s what I mean:

        This is obviously a broad generalization and does not preclude husbands from occasionally being the “better” spouse, based on specific circumstances.

        I’m Make Broad Generalizations Guy. I can’t help it.

        And since I write about relationships and divorce and stuff, I make them about wives/husbands, girlfriends/boyfriends, women/men.

        Sometimes, people take offense.

        It’s really hard to write things that somehow encapsulate every mathematically possible scenario in existence.

        With that said, I believe wives, while not flawless nor without responsibility in failing marriages, are the objectively BETTER spouse on a few fronts in the typical marriage.

        First, I think wives are better at Life Management (and Emotional Labor).

        I think most of the time, wives/girlfriends/women demonstrate more proficiency than husbands/boyfriends/men at things related to family budgets, long-term scheduling, meal planning, organizing academic and extracurricular activities for children, social calendars, sending birthday and Christmas cards, running errands for upcoming events, RSVPing, sending Thank You notes, remembering anniversaries, performing routine cleaning and house maintenance, like laundry, vacuuming, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

        And, second, I think wives/girlfriends/women are better at Relationship Skills which are absolutely CRITICAL to having healthy and lasting marriages, friendships, parent-child relationships, etc.

        Skills like:

        – Mindful, active, present LISTENING

        – Humble apologies or admissions of mistakes

        – Empathy (the ability to identify and acknowledge another person’s pain and share the feeling. NOT sympathy. NOT pity. Empathy. “I get it. I’m here with you.”)

        – A willingness to set ego aside for the sake of a partnership, and admitting they don’t have all the answers but want to figure them out together for the long-term health and stability of the marriage/family

        I think men, because of the whole Man Card socialization thing, equate FUNDAMENTALLY necessary and critical relationship things such as honest, vulnerable conversation; understanding the link between sexual appetite and physical/emotional labor things at home; being emotionally available for his sad or hurting spouse; with being Candy-Ass Girl Things.

        Maybe their grandfathers and dads and uncles and friends growing up all reinforced that: “You’re a man. Men do this.”

        Totally ignoring that all that shit is REALLY DIFFICULT. Like, extremely difficult. The amount of discipline, simple heroism, sacrifice, strength, perseverence, etc. needed to perform these skills at a high level is a lofty and noble place.

        The men who can do it are AWESOME guys.

        I’m not asking guys to not be guys. I’m not asking guys to be effeminate or stop doing whatever man stuff they like to do now.

        But I am asking guys to recognize that they’re accidentally negligent, and that it is in large part because they feel entitled to do or not do certain things that have everything to do with Man Card socialization.

        You can be an alpha-male badass who commands the respect and attention of everyone in every room you’re in, AND demonstrate a high-level understanding of what your partner requires of you to have a happy, healthy, stable relationship.

        The problem is NOT that guys recognize that relationship problems would go away if they changed a few simple things, but think: “To hell with that shit! I’m going to keep doing it this Man Way, because I love it when my wife is miserable, and getting divorced sounds awesome!”

        It’s because they really and truly have a hard-wired belief system, live accordingly, and don’t see their actions or lackthereof as being relationship or marriage-killers.

        Not one person in their entire lives EVER said anything like that to them, except for maybe a sad and angry wife he thinks is overly emotional, or outright WRONG.

        It’s a sad state of affairs.

        So, patented 13-million-word response you didn’t ask for…

        I think when men and women divorce, wives (especially mothers) move on and get along pretty well, because they were so accustomed to doing all of the emotional and logistical life management work anyway, that sometimes very little changes for them in terms of the day-to-day rhythm of life.

        But men?

        Sometimes, they’re shitty at laundry, and dishes, and meal planning, and keeping track of the calendar, and knowing where the kids need to be.

        Moreover, all this time, she had been meeting his emotional needs by virtue of being there in the house, and taking care of Life Things for him, and relieving him of many of the child-rearing stresses.

        But he wasn’t doing the same in return.

        If he has a kick-ass job, maybe he provided financial security, some of which went away. And maybe if he’s former special forces, or law enforcement, or a champion kickboxer, and she doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of self-defense, maybe she loses some sense of safety and security.

        Men lose more in divorce than women do most of the time, and it’s because (in my estimation) they didn’t give enough during the marriage.

        And the scariest part of this pattern of neglect and emotional abuse, is that the vast majority of guys are NOT bad men, or abnormally large assholes.

        They’re just guys who didn’t know better.

      2. Matt, your reply to Suzzy is spot on. Like you said, not for everyone, plenty of exceptions and role reversals and complicated situtions. But for many. Please consider making your reply a follow up post, as I personally believe it would be great for as many people as possible to see the details that you’re describing.

        I will concede, there truly are legitimate differences! Some people don’t care abut filth and/or messes, maybe they even prefer it. So if a husband truly would be fine having his place cleaned and tidied once every 6 months, then no, it doesn’t benefit him, maybe it even detracts from his quality of life to have his wife insist that he will help clean their place every other week/once a month or whatever. Many people are happy leaving their dishes by the sink, and that’s a legitimate difference right there. 🙂

        But if he’s suddenly faced with having to find kiddos sports gear in his messy house. where he now lives alone, and he can’t find it? Yes, that is a drop in quality of life. Same as when bugs infest his home and he has to deal with the stress and time and expenses of that, something that never happened when he was living with his never-happy-crazy ex wife who insisted they clean.

        Same with the stupid thank you cards. Maybe he doesn’t care one bit about stupid thank you cards (many people don’t, I don’t), he’s happy not to send them or receive them. But then if he doesn’t get invited anywhere and wonders why he’s lonely? Or when kiddo asks him why kiddo never sees their cousins on his/her father’s side anymore?

        And many men don’t get that women don’t really like to (so-called) nag. That’s a bunch of emotional labour right there. When she has to insist and delegate the housework so they both share it, it isn’t just because it’s too much for her to do alone, it’s also because many women won’t feel respected/loved unless her partner is doing their fair share. It’s like he doesn’t love her enough to be willing to do just do his part, like he’d have to do if he lived with a buddy, he uses her partly for her services kind of. So when she’s “nagging”, she’s also really trying to save the relationship/make sure the relationship survives. And then there’s the whole how to ask, is this a good time, no he’s watching the game, I’ll have to wait an hour but I know I can’t relax until this is dealt with, so really, my evening will be ruined. And then having to ignore the man’s sighs as he then communicates what a drag she is (and again to her, that he doesn’t respect or love her enough to do 50% and take part in the managing/delegating work), she has to either pick a fight or just swallow the shit sandwich of that implication.

        When they divorce, the woman (if indeed she was the one to do that) is free of all of that. She just has to figure out how to do the work (and most women know this better than most men) and then do it. No more managing his moods or worrying about how and when to say it,no more delegating and nagging and swallowing shit sandwiches. Not having to do that anymore can free up a lot of energy.

      3. Matt- As woman recently separated I can tell you my life is not pretty much the same as before – it is EASIER, way way easier – without my future ex.

        I can confirm too – based on family comments and complaints from him – his life is infinitely worse. .He seems to think I need to do something to fix this for him.

        Since he chose this seperation, not me, I will not. Not because I don’t feel a pull. I do. I’m an enabler. I have very poor boundaries. It’s what I need to fix and I’m working hard hard hard on it.

      4. I can also speak to this. When I asked for a divorce and my husband moved out, his life changed on a massive level. Granted, it had to because he was the one to move out but in so many ways, he had no idea all the little things that were just taken care of for him until he had to live on his own.

        On the other hand, my life changed very little (at least not until I had to go get a full time job, but even then it wasn’t THAT much of a change).

        It’s all those little things in life. Grocery shopping and laundry and the little emotional labor tasks and helping with homework and all that.

        I’ve always told people… think REALLY hard on how life would change if you were separate. Who would have to do the most changing and adapting? Is there one person who would have to deal with a lot of changes and one person who would mostly stay the same? Because that’s a good demonstration of an unequal balance in labor – emotional, relational, and physical.

      5. Yes to this whole series of replies. It was a million times easier when he moved out. My home workload was immensely downsized. Chores got done when they needed to get done. The budget was followed. It was quiet. The TV was not on 24/7. The emotional & kinship burden was decreased.

      6. Donkey said “So when she’s “nagging”, she’s also really trying to save the relationship/make sure the relationship survives.”
        I think this is a very important statement. The emotional labor involved in planning approach, and always considering how it will affect him, and trying to make it palpable to receive, …and then to be treated like having a problem is your problem alone…
        I like how you phrased this, and it ties into what Matt said about women being more in-tuned to the relationship health. She knows this is necessary but he doesn’t. She’s asking for attention to be paid to the relationship, that something needs to be addressed, but he reads it as dis-satisfaction and doesn’t want to deal with it.

        This is one of those times when you need a manslater. 🙂
        …(Matt, I think maybe you should include a quick translation guide for men and women somewhere in your book, or maybe in a future one…)

      7. Kevin Crawford

        Matt’s, then Donkey’s, replies to Suzzy’s request for clarity are so perfect – and important – that I’d like to see them expanded into a book chapter, or maybe a series of some sort…

        Btw, Matt – Quite some time ago I posted a reply to an article (on leaving a glass by the sink, I believe), that I hoped would spur some discussion – but I forgot to click “Notify Me of New Comments” – and have never been able to get back to it.

        Any thoughts on a button that will search for replies from a particular person’s own replies?

  10. Hey Matt,

    you’ve written on the man card a number of times, and this is the first time I’ll be commenting on it specifically.

    I know the man card is real, and I see it, but I’m not sure if the issue at hand is really the man card.

    We play all sorts of roles in our lives – too many to even try to list. And I think maybe the real issue is, for all of the roles we play we have a vision of that that role “should be”, and we often try to fill the role the way we believe we should be filling it instead of trying to find a way to fill it that feels right for us.

    And I think THAT is where the lie comes in.

    We do it with our genders, and frequently we do it with relationships.

    My belief – people who struggle with “expectations” may believe they are struggling because other people have these unfair expectations of them, but that’s usually a small part of the picture. What people are really struggling with is their inability to meet the expectation that they have placed on themselves, and in their frustration they mis-direct the blame at others.

    A while back you had a post where you talked about no longer caring about what other people thought of you, and how if someone can’t accept you for you, then that’s probably a good thing to find out sooner rather than later.

    I think living those words is a key part of happiness in life. Be you, whoever the hell that is. Don’t hide, and don’t put on masks for others. People will accept you, or they won’t, and that’s alright.

    Not to say that “you” can’t change or grow. However I think growth and change is almost impossible until you can accept yourself for who you actually are.

      1. Thanks.

        I know someone who grew up with a view of what a “wife” was supposed to be, and then sublimated her own identity in order to try to both be what she thought her partner wanted her to be as well as fit the role of wife.

        It kinda worked, for a while. But she found herself increasingly unhappy playing a role, until eventually everything just fell apart.

        The crazy part was, she resented her husband for it, and told him that he had never seen the “real her”. Even though she was the one who was holding that in, because she felt she needed to be someone else.

        Personally I suspect that had she been open and upfront with him from the beginning, they could have been very happy together. For some reason she felt she couldn’t be, and they she held that against him (when it was her choice and he had no idea that it was going on)

        I don’t really care about the he/she side of this, and who’s at blame in that case.

        But the important takeaway for me is that no good can ever come of pretending and just playing a role.

        Yeah, we’ve all got roles to play. But we need to find a way to play them that allows us to make them our own.

    1. Hey Drew,
      The thought that its really self derived expectations has crossed my mind before, but in the end-I don’t think it really matters.
      You said “We play all sorts of roles in our lives- too may to even try to list. And I think maybe the real issue is, for all of the roles we play we have a vision of how that role “should be”, and we often try to fill the role with the way we believe we should be filling instead of trying to find a way to fill it that feels right to us….
      And I think THAT is where the lie comes in.”

      I can agree with all of this, women have expectations for the roles they want to meet, too. So the expectations part isn’t gender unique. What is unique is that while everyone is subject to feeling as though they need to meet expectations, and whether they come from the inside or out, those expectations are not gender neutral for the most part. We can have the same roles, but the expectations for you vs. me in how they are carried out would be different.

      Men are expected to be strong, they stereotypically are supposed to speak less, they do not share their emotions, they are supposed to be good at math, and logic. They are supposed to like to build things. They are the stoic reasonable ones that have to “deal” with their wifes illogical emotions.

      Women are expected to be nurturing and caring, they are supposed to express their emotions, be good at English. They are supposed to comfort over challenge.
      They are still the “softer” sex, if not the weaker sex in the media.

      Of course not these sterotypes, are just that stereo types, but for the most part men will take on whatever role through the filter of being a man, and women would do the same.

      It becomes an issue when a person can see past their filter, to just be a person. In the case of men, sometimes they just need to express emotion. They need to know their emotional lives matter.

      The man card doesn’t allow for that, most of the time. If you are in a group of buddies where you can do that- then that is great! You are doing it right!
      But, for the most part, from what I hear and understand, that does not happen.

      1. You know, in some ways I’m a typical guy but in other ways I’m TOTALLY not. I see an emotional life as hugely important, and in all my relationships (friend, family or romantic) I think an emotional connection is pretty damned important.

        I definitely see guys who refuse to accept that they have emotions, and I don’t get that at all. I like the Brene Brown idea on numbing – you can’t selectively numb. If you are trying to shut down/ignore your negative emotions, in the process you will be affecting your ability to feel positive emotions.

        We’re a mix of all sorts of things, and if we want to be happy we need to accept that it’s alright to be sad too.

        As you said, emotional lives matter.

        1. Hey Drew,
          Thank you for dropping the “men’s” so it reads “emotional lives matter” (oh-lord, did we just come up with another T-Shirt slogan? And, of course I don’t mean to disrespect the full meaning of the original phrase because I genuinely do believe that black lives and all lives matter..). But, back to my point- right, recognizing that emotions aren’t male or female, but they are just a part of being a human being I think would be a profound change.
          The response I hear a lot when the man card is brought up is that women like their men masculine. Or that losing their man card would mean they were weak or girly. That just goes to show you that we interpret showing or even experiencing emotions is weakness, and is girly. That’s the entire problem right there.
          Having and expressing emotion (especially to those close to you) makes you more real, more available, there’s a deeper connection. It has nothing to do with the mans ability to be strong or logical,ect. If anything it would seem expressing emotions and being heard would strengthen you- not weaken you.
          I think people are afraid of emotions becoming over whelming, or uncontrollable. I think maybe most people are afraid of thier own emotions, because we perceives them as something outside of our realm to control. The point isn’t to be over run and controlled by your emotions, it is to be allowed to experience them and understand what they mean for us. (I’m thinking of examples of men who may experience physiological stress and changes without recognizing- o,yeah- that thing that just happened, it really hurt me.) With maturity we start to understand that we don’t have to live at the whim of emotion (unless we want to In that moment, and yes- what a joy that we can do that,too!). We can acknowledge our emotions, understand them and change things as needed.
          Basically, I think most of us are believe emotions are wild and erratic and the opposite of logic. I think it’s fear of emotions that keeps the man card around. But like with most things, if we accepted thier existence and understood thier purpose we could integrate them into our lives very well- and then live as whole human beings!!
          That’s my opinion anyway 🙂
          I really love Brenes thoughts and understanding on numbing our emotions. How could that not be true? If we numb out pain, we numb put joy.
          Thank you for responding back, Drew:) Forgive me, I think I started rambling there a little 🙂

    1. Exciting times, good sir. We have a chance to do something special Sunday.

      I don’t always love my fellow Cleveland Fan. I’m not always proud of the way they handle things. But, I am rooting so hard, not just for me, but for an entire city and region, because these fans have been crushed so many times for 52 straight years. (And we all felt it AGAIN when we lost Game 4 at home).

      But here we are.

      A one-gamer for the title, and the second-best player I’ve ever seen with a cold-blooded assassin thing happening for what seems like the first time, ever.

      Bogut’s out, and now they have zero tall men to scare LeBron or Thompson or Love down on the block.

      I don’t think we’re the favorites. I’d sure like to have homecourt for this one. But I finally believe we have a legitimate chance to win.

      It’s a strange feeling. But a good one.

      1. Ok, just because you guys talk so passionately about it, I am tuning into the live update streams of the game. Close so far for the Cavaliers. But, I am wondering if trailing behind one or two points is a little self sabotage.
        Wish I could actually watch the game, but so far this is pretty cool.
        (On another note- please, please, please excuse any jack-hole- ness on my part. Sometimes I am not right in the head…)

    2. Omg- friggin close. Intense game and I’m just watching the scores and other people’s comments. 3 min to go and a stinkin tie!!

      1. Me thinks they just broke the curse! Reason to celebrate.
        This might just be a weird introduction to Basket ball/sports for me… Pretty cool,thanks:)

      2. amazing game to watch. I like both teams, but was pulling for Cleveland more (especially after the stupid stunts Draymond Green from GS was pulling all playoffs).

        That run down block with under 2 mins? Probably the greatest defensive basketball play I’ve ever seen.

        1. I will remember five things.

          1. That play, because when Curry and Iguadola were running the two-on-one fastbreak, I knew they were going to go up two, and I knew that was how the Cavs were going to lose Game 7. But then LeBron did that. Most important play of the game, followed very closely by…

          2. Kyrie drains that dagger with 53 seconds left, which by no means ensures anything with Curry, Thompson and Green on the other team.

          3. LeBron looks like he breaks his wrist with 10 seconds left, and then he has to shoot free throws, and then makes one, which allows me to say: “Well. If we lose now, at least we’ll know there really is a curse.”

          4. LeBron’s triple-double, to finish the NBA Finals against the winningest team in history leading in all five major statistical categories for the entire series: Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Steals. Pretty good chance that will never happen again by anyone, ever.

          5. Clevelanders mobbing (safely, it seemed). Lots of unexpected fireworks in my usually quiet neighborhood. And next-level surrealness.

          Remarkable win, Drew.

          It hasn’t sunk in yet.

      3. I was too paralyzed to type last night. I appreciate you cheering them on, Lindsey. If the last three years taught me anything, it’s that the emotional energy I spent most of my life putting into rooting for my favorite teams was highly misplaced.

        I spent a lot of time putting things like that ahead of more important things. I think you understand.

        Part of me wishes the younger, more-innocent, more-exuberant me got to witness that last night and be part of the downtown madness.

        But the other part of me is happy to have a slightly better handle on my priorities.

        That said, people are — and should be — allowed to find joy in whatever naturally makes them feel joy.

        Ohioians, for reasons I can’t fully explain, put a lot of time and energy and passion into rooting for our favorite sports teams.

        Last night, that was rewarded. For the first time in my 37 years on this earth.

        I’m very happy for my fellow Cleveland fans.

        Even though he lacks context and appreciation, I’m happy for my son.

        And just because I can, I’m happy for me.

        Reason to celebrate, indeed.

        1. In 1994 Houston won the NBA championship ( I think that is what they won, at least…). We went from Choke City to Clutch City. I can image some of the images for you guys were similar to the ones I saw in 94. Everyone was going friggin nuts!- In a good way.
          I didn’t get the excitement at the time , but I think I am getting it a little now.
          I get what you are saying about priorities- even things like work shouldn’t be a consistent priority over marriage and family, BUT…I cant help but get how a collective experience like your home sports team winning- and winning big! also has tons of value.
          Seriously, I think I am getting why people get into sports history. Your son may not fully get the context now, but give him 20 years. It may be more significant, then.
          Anyway- congratulations! I get the feeling most everyone you meet today will be in a slightly better mood for this.

  11. “I think when men and women divorce, wives (especially mothers) move on and get along pretty well, because they were so accustomed to doing all of the emotional and logistical life management work anyway, that sometimes very little changes for them in terms of the day-to-day rhythm of life.”

    yes. agreed. “most of the time” what the bulk of what a woman loses is “just” financial support whereas “most of the time” the man is losing his housekeeper, maid, shopper, cook, social director, babysitter, etc.

    Thanks for the clarification. I really do enjoy your articles, and forwarded them to both friends and past counselors.

    1. That’s it exactly.

      A little more than three years later for me, and I still feel daily the impact of living in the house alone (even though I only have my son there half the time).

      I lost much support, and so divorce was really hard for me, emotionally and logistically.

      I lost much support, because I leaned on her (thoughtlessly and selfishly) to take care of all the things.

      All the things I (and millions of guys like me) derped through life blissfully ignoring until the chickens finally came home to roost.

      Cool of you to share my stuff with others, Suzzy. Thanks for that.

      1. You are welcome. 🙂 You say things that are so true that men need to hear. I so agree most men are fundamentally *GOOD MEN* but they just don’t *KNOW*. It’s really sad.

  12. I think this is a very important post, Matt, thank you.

    It’s a huge problem, for men, women, marriages and society at large, when the messed up man cards problems are just so widespread.

    It’s like, everything that’s associated with women, good or bad, is labeled girly, and therefore less than and shitty and shameful and off limits for (many) men. Of course it’s going to vary how affected different men are going to be about all of this though, as you say, what’s considered manly/ok for men will be different in different (sub)cultures.

    Taking responsibility for your physical and emotional health is associated with women, so that’s a man card fail for many.

    Succeeding academically is now associated with women and girls, so that’s also being considered a man card fail for many.

    I see plenty of opinions about how schools have failed boys. While I do think there’s some truth to this, kids (both girls and boys) learn in different ways and not everyone is strong in theory the way it’s taught and organized these days, I definitely think *some* of the reasoning about why boys do worse is mistaken (I read an artical about this, these aren’t my original thughts for sure). Paying attention in class is considered girly, so boys don’t want to do that (even if they don’t think the thought consciously). Same with getting good grades. That’s girly too. When people say that girls are better suited to theoretical learning or whatever, it’s like people have suddenly forgotten that before, academic achievement were associated with men, as women were thought to have inferior intellects. :p

    Sometimes I see stuff about how boys will only be interested in academics if there’s competition, and while I’m sure that’s true for some, same as with sports, not every boy will like competition, just like not all boys are athletic! I mean, people just come in all variants don’t they?!

    Same with emotional depth. It’s crazy that men somehow should be less capeable of this *inherently* (I agree that it’s often not encouraged though). Like I’ve said before on the blog, think of all the male poets and painters. And can you guys picture Rainer Maria Rilke as a competion loving, gregorious, athletic and loud little boy with hardly a sensitive feeling in him?!

    1. “It’s like, everything that’s associated with women, good or bad, is labeled girly, and therefore less than and shitty and shameful and off limits for (many) men”

      You know Donkey, something is incomplete is this post and I think you just hit on it. Girly things are also considered shameful and off limits for girls these days. “You throw like a girl, walk like a girl, fight like a girl” as if being a girl is a bad thing.

      I don’t think it’s the man card itself that is the problem, I think it is men that care about what other people think of them and they allow the world to define them rather than the situation in front of them. Women don’t deal with this as much, we have no status, no attainable cultural approval, or a good old boys club we can ever hope to join. Where is our privileged class? There is a girl-card and it’s kind of sad, but playing the girl card is actually a plea for mercy. I don’t think a lot of men recognize that, their man card is connected to power, ours is connected to surrender.

      I don’t feel bad about that, I feel kind of lucky. I empathize with what it must be like for men to live in a world where social approval is how you define yourself. Women probably just become an extension of that, trophy wives, status symbols.

      1. insanitybytes:

        “There is a girl-card and it’s kind of sad, but playing the girl card is actually a plea for mercy. I don’t think a lot of men recognize that, their man card is connected to power, ours is connected to surrender.”

        This may be the most profound statement to come out of this whole discussion (or maybe even *any* relationship discussion!) – but I feel it’s either not-quite-right in some way, or vastly incomplete and worthy of *lots* of expansion.

        The ‘not-quite-right’ thing may have at least a bit to do with the use of the words ‘surrender’ and plea for mercy’ for the girl-card equivalent; one might certainly interpret it that way in the case of the woman’s crying in an argument (or one could also consider it ’emotional blackmail’ – merely a semantic difference, or an actual difference? Not sure…).

        But it’s interesting (to me, anyway) that my ex-wife had a vicious temper (and held to the bitter end that she didn’t), also regularly used ‘the silent treatment’ weapon-wise, and never apologised – it was always me who had to do so (even when she was 100%, demonstrably, wrong), to remake the peace.

        Given that, it’s hard for me to justify those behaviors as ‘surrender’ or a ‘plea for mercy’ – and yet your statement seems instinctively true to me, on some level.

        Would we like to expand on this?

        1. Hmm, I suppose I see the girl card as a weapon of last resort, a last desperate act of the powerless. So the silent treatment, with holding affection, are all acts of the powerlessness, weak, desperate, trying to manipulate and control other people’s behavior because you can’t find the source of your own power.

          I usually think of the girl card in a more positive sense however, as in women simply use whatever resources are at our disposal in order to influence male behavior in a more cooperative way. It’s not about power and control over others, so much as it is about encouraging a more positive response and directing men towards meeting our needs. So surrender in this context is really about letting go, knowing your limitations.

          What a lot of men don’t understand is that the man card is about having power, while the girl card is about desperately trying to have some influence within that power. That’s why women often demand to “be heard” or try to emotionally blackmail a response. Men who are aware of this dynamic can suspend their competitive instincts which are usually about denying her any power, and instead help her to feel as if she really does have some influence.

  13. Reblogged this on CELONA'S BLOG and commented:
    “And sometimes we’re not who we really are. We’re who we think we’re supposed to be for everyone else.”

    “And as long as men collectively believe that The Things You Must Do to Have Healthy Relationships are “girl things,” then I think the institution of marriage is doomed.”

    Sharing from “”

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  15. Absolutely, awesome post! The content, writing, voice and funny-ass truths. I’m inclined to agree with most everything. ????

  16. Matt,

    I really, really loved the way you copywrited The Man Way. Your writing just gets better and better, and I have enjoyed this post just as much as every other post you have written…which is a whole lot.

    I was one of the women who posted on your Open Letter To Shitty Husbands about how much you struck a chord with me and my relationship. My husband was that shitty husband.

    Thanks to you (and a lot of other stuff, but definitely you) we are still married.

    This post, as with all your other posts, cuts right to the honesty that nees to be present in every relationship, and is starting to be truly present in mine. The honesty to share one’s feelings, to be yourself regardless of expectations or stereotypes, and the consequences of neglecting those two things. My husband used to be the kind of guy who could only use The Man Way, and in many ways he still is because he was basically trained to be. But, thanks to a lot of coaxing and loving on my part, he is finally starting to be comfortable understanding his more feminine side. But, it has benefited me, too.

    You see, I am a “tomboy,” which recently started a fight with another one of your commenters, as you probably had the misfortune to read. I was trying to help a guy named Jeff understand what you helped my husband and I understand, which is that we both have been pressured to fill gender roles that we don’t feel comfortable with. I like to keep my hair short, I hate shaving anything, I love to drink cold beers (I am a craft girl, myself) and I tend to be louder than “ladies” should be. Luckily, my husband loves and cherishes these things about me, just as I love and cherish his ability to be sensitive, sometimes so much so that he cries (*gasp* a man? never!). Our relationship is so nourishing because we know this about each other, and we even joke about how he likes to do dishes while I mow the lawn.

    I just can’t say how much I appreciate your viewpoints, and your diligence in sharing them. You always put things so eloquently, and your subjects always seem to correspond strangely with our most current issues. It is uncanny and I love it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  18. Hi Matt, I recently found your blog and feel like we have faced a lot of the same life challenges and share a similar thirst for understanding and improving ourselves. Albeit that you are quite a bit younger and have explored the landscape far more thoroughly and with more insight than myself.

    I totally agree with the idea about the greater loss being suffered by men. I guess this is reflected in the massively higher suicide rates of males after relationship breakdown.

    Perhaps this alone should be sufficient motivation for men to be educated and informed about the ways to improve their relationship skills.

    I would like to provide a slightly different perspective on the idea of responsibility for improving relationships. I sense that you embarked on a massive search for answers after the loss of your family unit and when the matrix like jigsaw puzzle pieces started falling into place you realised how easily you could have prevented it and have blamed yourself.

    This is what I did at the end of my first marriage too 8 years ago.

    My second ended 14 months ago after a 6 year relationship. Both endings have been post scripted by massive investments of reading and soul searching. The platitude of “if only I knew then what i know now” always rings loudest and stings the most when the loss is so substantial.

    I don’t think making men the scape goats for the divorce rates is fair or even practical .I think there are an equal number of unconscious females as there are males lacking insight.

    There are a few books you may have read already, that I found very insightful and have provided a lot of understanding of myself and others in relationships. Dr Willard F Harley’s “love Busters” and “His needs her needs”. Dr Robert Glovers “No more Mr nice guy”. And Corey Wayne’s “How to be a 3% Man”. Most recently I have been reading / listening to Eckharte Tolle, he is a true inspiration and is probably largely responsible for maintaining my sanity and inner peace over the last year’ i highly recommend anything from him!

    All the best and keep up the fantastic writing and insights you provide.


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