I Figured Out Who To Blame For My Divorce

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man and woman pointing fingers at each other
After an 18-month downward spiral of misery hallmarked by sexlessness, sleeping in separate bedrooms, and crying more than any middle-class white guy living in the United States should be allowed, my wife packed a bag and drove away with our preschooler in the backseat.

And because during those final months I felt as if I was trying harder than she was to make it work, I blamed her for ruining my life and taking half of my son’s childhood away from me.

I felt abandoned. Betrayed. Rejected.

I felt like she chose someone else over me because I wasn’t good enough.

Not rich enough. Not smart enough. Not attractive enough. Not sexy enough. Not tall enough.

Not ANYTHING enough.

Must be this tall to ride.

She moved out. And before I had time to figure out what hit me, she was with someone else.

I blamed her for breaking up our family. I blamed her for disrupting our little son’s childhood. I blamed her for the intense pain I felt in my head, chest and stomach. I blamed her for leaving me alone in a town where I didn’t have roots, but couldn’t move from.

I blamed her for ruining my entire life.

She did this to me.

The Skill of Blaming

When bad things happen in my personal life, my brain quickly creates stories to explain why those bad things are as much Not My Fault as mathematically possible.

It’s kind of incredible how instantaneously it occurs.

I’d call it a superpower, but maybe everyone does it. Also, I perceive superpowers to be tools used for good, and blame-shifting even as an involuntary subconscious process that happens before we even have time to speak or act, is not something I’d consider “good.”

I don’t have to try hard to do this.

Point to something you don’t like about me, or some aspect of my behavior or lifestyle you observe as needing improvement, and I can tell you a legit story about why it’s that way.

Only child.

Small-town Ohio.

Divorced parents.

Unforeseeable economic conditions.



Single father.


Something I inherited or some limitation created by someone else can usually be blamed for whatever The Bad Thing is.

Sometimes I even catch myself saying: “That’s not meant to be an excuse; that’s the actual reason” to people to whom I’m probably just making excuses.

I’d like to think I’m being honest when I say it.

But maybe I trick myself into believing my own bullshit before I ever get to the part where I challenge my own assumptions. Maybe I sometimes move on before ever getting to the self-challenging part because I’m busy or distracted or lazy. That’s probably how a whole bunch of false beliefs and general assholery happens.

I think I might thoughtlessly do what many humans thoughtlessly do: We rationalize and believe whatever story makes us feel most comfortable.

I’ve been thinking about blame ever since another writer pointed me in the direction of this Dr. Brené Brown video on blame. It’s excellent and you should watch it in an effort to keep your assholery quotient as low as possible.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZWf2_2L2v8]

When Blame is Good

I’ve been trying to work out when blame or the act of assigning blame might be useful.

If someone is wrongly accused of a crime or even just misidentified as having caused The Bad Thing at home, school or work, it seems like a good thing to exonerate the innocent by discovering the true cause.

Similarly, bad things sometimes happen on a broader scale, like a workplace accident, airplane crash or building fire. In these situations, some type of root-cause analysis and investigation is conducted to identify the reason The Bad Thing happened.

It’s good to identify reasons. To assign “blame” correctly, because then steps can be taken to learn from any mistakes that might have contributed to The Bad Thing happening.

There are very few items on my Reasons My Life is Better Because of Divorce! list that I just invented.

But one of them is: Now that I’ve identified several ways that my incorrect beliefs and asshole behaviors contributed to my divorce, I can now be confident that I’m unlikely to repeat them.

Which is a bigger deal for people like me than you might realize.

People who smoke a pack of Marlboros every day, and pound fast-food cheeseburgers and shakes for every meal are more likely to gain weight and develop heart disease, cancer or another potentially fatal disease linked to poor nutrition.

There was a time in history not so long ago where MOST people in the world didn’t know things like that.

Figuring out what to “blame” for the sickness and death was good. It was useful. It helped us collectively make better choices moving forward.

The truth is that blame is rarely good or useful. A better word for the good kind of “blame” is Accountability.

When Blame is Bad

I’m wrong more often than I want to believe (You are too. Sorry!), but I’m pretty sure blaming other things and other people for The Bad Things we encounter is almost never good.

Brené Brown says it best in that video above that you probably didn’t watch.

She said “I’d rather something be my fault than no one’s fault. Why? Because it gives us some semblance of control.”

And that very thought is, I believe, the one that helped me get from depression and borderline-suicidalness, to the place where I can find comfort and peace that my son and his mother have someone other than me who cares about them and looks out for their wellbeing.

When my needy, bitchy, nagging, unsatisfiable and overly emotional wife left me, I was a victim, and powerless to any of her personal-life decisions (which impacted me directly because we share a child). Everything was her fault, and I was miserable and kind of wanted to die.


When my unsupported, emotionally abandoned wife who had spent several years trying her best to help me understand how my actions and attitudes were harming her and our marriage (while I repeatedly denied it and refused to change) FINALLY worked up the courage to leave the relationship in the face of sacrificing so much time with her son, and suffering the personal-life fallout of all who would judge her disapprovingly for that choice…

Everything became MY fault. 

Because—despite tricking myself and others for many years—I had been a monumentally shitty husband.

And after coming to terms emotionally with the depths of my failings, my misery turned into power.

My despair turned into hope.

Because I finally, finally, finally understood how my actions had lead me to the place I was in, and I could feel the incredible power that comes with being in control of my own life again.

And when you understand how something you did or didn’t do lead to the worst thing that ever happened to you, you get to stop being afraid of it happening again for the same reason.

We can’t fix things when we don’t even know what’s broken.

Blame blinds us to accurate diagnoses.

Brown said: “Blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability is a vulnerable process.”

Similar to how The Gottman Institute has conducted incredible amounts of research and amassed huge quantities of data on which to base its relationship-counseling advice, Brown also has taken a research-based approach to helping people develop better relationship skills.

“Blaming is simply a way to discharge anger. People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable because we spend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is,” Brown said. “Blaming is very corrosive in relationships, and one of the reasons we miss our opportunities for empathy.”

And if you don’t exactly know what empathy is and why it’s important (I did not throughout the entirety my nine-year marriage), then you’ll be pleased to know it’s the one thing you can start practicing today that will literally change your life and those of everyone you interact with regularly in profound and positive ways.

Nine out of 10 doctors recommend it for curing a bad case of assholery.

When I blame other people and happenings for the bad things I experience in life, then nothing I do matters because everything good or bad that happens to me is out of my control.

The poor helpless victim that I am.

When I accept responsibility for all of my choices from an appropriate age of accountability through today, then everything I do matters because everything that happens to me is a result of something I can influence by whatever I choose next.

It’s the difference between anxiety and confidence; between despair and hope; and between a life where things just happen to us, and one where we decide what happens next.

It’s easy to blame everything on my ex-wife.

It’s hard to be accountable for everything that happened to my family.

But my most important discovery following the worst thing that ever happened to me is this: I can do hard things.

And so can you.

143 thoughts on “I Figured Out Who To Blame For My Divorce”

  1. While I can definitely take some blame for my faults in the marriage, I don’t take any blame for the upcoming divorce. That strictly goes to my soon to be ex and his girlfriend who has been intertwined in our marriage for many years mostly without my knowledge.

  2. I heard this children’s song recently and immediately thought of your blog…maybe you need a theme song ? Spotify Web Player – Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts

    Keep writing!


  3. How long have I been reading you, Matt? Four years now? I lost track.

    Out of everything you’ve written, this is my favourite.

    Feels like you’ve come full circle, man. Congrats!

  4. Boy oh boy, have we been working on this! I finally realized that my husband automatically gives some reason for why he did/or didn’t do something, and the problem has become that he believes his words, so his behavior was not changing, because he was not looking at the behavior, he was looking at the “reason”. Knee jerk does not even do justice to how quickly and easily he had a reason for everything, including really egregious stuff. I stopped hondeling him and starting calling him on it, but reasonably. I tried not to get my emotions into it, but tell him what he did, what he said, and the incredible power of words. Thing are changing. At least at this point. And, he went out and bought a book on Passive Aggression, with no prompting. Everyone with issues like the ones you describe, Matt, should look into Passive Aggression.

  5. Ahh, just beautiful, Matt. I love it.

    Here’s a difference that sometimes pops up between men and women, your response in the beginning is really common of guys, they blame everyone else. Women are less likely to do that, we internalize everything, we blame ourselves.

    That is such a toxic brew in marriage because guys usually want some control but the only way to get that is to accept blame, responsibility, and look towards your own self. That’s not bad at all, that’s actually what a lot of men’s hearts desire. Women on the other hand, generally want less control, less responsibility. So what do women do? Pick up the blame and responsibility for absolutely everything. Not what our hearts desire at all.

    I was struck by the fact that your ex wife even had to take emotional responsibility for your divorce, by being the one to drive away. Than the broken guys on the intertoobz, they go, “see, women are responsible for 90% of divorces.” Nah, we just bury the bodies and clean up the mess.

    I wish we could solve that one equation. Men, pick it up. Women, set it down. That simple, the recipe for a happy marriage, but of course it isn’t simple at all.

    1. WOW!! Your fist paragraph is so true and I never realized it until now. But True. Women do take blame and me assign blame. At least initially.

  6. Ever try to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want to change? Everybody else but him or her is to blame. Want to get in another bad relationship? Listen to that person blame others. I know a 66 year old man who still blames his dad for all his problems. Care to take a guess how well his life is going?

  7. My dad blamed my mom for their divorce until his dying day…that totaled about twenty years. I am convinced it ate his guts out, even though he was remarried to a lovely gal…. and my ex- basically blamed his dad for why his life was terrible and why he was leaving my family…and to be honest his life is terrrribly pathetic….bad choice after bad choice…. This was a great read and seems to stand true if I think about those who are experts at the blame game.

  8. Ever since I watched that video, whenever something happens that causes my blame neurons to kick in… another part of my brain fires up the memory of this video and instead of getting angry and blaming whoever it is I’ve almost decided to blame, I laugh and then, totally deadpan, utter the words, “Damn you Steve.”

    It has really improved my quality of life.

    On a serious note, I loved this post. I think holding yourself accountable is one of the hardest things to do, because we instinctively shy away from things that are painful; it’s simple self-preservation. It’s hard to take the bull by the horns and confront something you know is going to hurt like blazes.

    I think this post is really brave, and well thought out, and has something everybody can learn from. I know I am always reminding myself not to use excuses. It’s a hard habit to break.

  9. Nice one Matt. Introspection is hard as hell because it forces you to take a deep uncompromising look at yourself in the most unflattering way. Most of us can put this off for a while (as an innate defense mechanism) but at some point sooner or later, things come to a head and you cannot ignore it any longer. This is why self awareness is so important… the best way I have found for this is to find someone who you trust and encourage them to tell you the truth even when it stings. Trust me when I say that the sting you might feel from such an honest and forthright conversation with someone who loves you will be far less than the sting you will feel if you keep letting things go sideways and doing absolutely nothing about it. If you live long enough, it will (whatever it is) explode right in your mug. An ounce of prevention is worth an Airbus A380 load of cure! Thanks for sharing

  10. “But one of them is: Now that I’ve identified several ways that my incorrect beliefs and asshole behaviors contributed to my divorce, I can now be confident that I’m unlikely to repeat them.”

    Sadly, I think a lot of people never inquire into their situations, certainly not at a level that avoids repetition. 🙁

  11. I know how this is, today for instance I went to the doctor for something, and my wife and I talked over it before I went to ask him some questions, which of course I forgot to ask. When I got home she asked me and my first instinct was to put the blame on her for not reminding me before I left and then when she called me on it, I said she made me feel stupid. Well of course I was just acting out because I knew it was my fault, but I instinctively blamed her. Of course that didn’t sit well with her. I caught myself and went in to apologize and told her why I did what I did and that I did need her to help me. Matt thanks for all you share and given me advice to think on. It really has helped me go from that Shitty husband, to a recovering shitty husband, which has helped save our marriage.

    Thanks again.

  12. Great post. Someone recently highlighted how I had been enabling undesirable behavior. I was prattling on with the whole ” why does he treat me this way? And why can’t he just wake up and see how good he’s got it?” Discussion with one of my girlfriends. She said one line and it has given me such pause on many of usual actions /reactions. She said “What you tolerate, you encourage”. Now I admit until I heard that I have felt that I was attached to a damaged asshat. Someone I couldn’t count on, put himself first, a regular buffoon. Now I’m taking responsibility for accepting that behaivor. I’ve actually played myself victim. Like I realized that I have played a life game of chess for the last decade and set myself up to lose. I’m not much for victim blaming but I am thinking that a lot of the ridiculousness that has been playing out has been my fault.
    Some commenters above were getting into the whole man vs woman thing. I think there is some truth to that. I think woman are more likely to step aside and allow someone else to be the ass. I think men are more likely to demand what they want.
    I don’t know why-social conditioning? Girls are taught to play nice. Right up until the knives come out. But why live life without finding out how to be better. To step outside the role that you may be playing and live life truthfully.

  13. I love that you’re quoting Brene brown—I think of her work often when I read your posts! You’re definitely someone who has learned to embrace your vulnerability…

    1. I have all of her books and haven’t read one page of any of them yet.

      It’s terribly disappointing. I need to make time. She’s pretty fantastic.

  14. I do love Brene Brown. (I’m also detecting hints of Glennon Doyle Melton, yes?)

    This is a strange post for me to read; I came out of a very different perspective. I spent over a year trying to take ALL the blame (because it meant I could do something about the tumult in my life) and had to eventually come to the conclusion that some things are just flat out of my control.

    Also, have you heard the term “fundamental attribution error”? It sort of lays out a lot of what you’re talking about.

    1. Glennon is more me than Brene. A little messier. I have both of Glennon’s books and all four of Brene’s, but haven’t read any of them because I have serious time-management and/or time-availability issues.

      I have not heard of “fundamental attribution error” but as a digital marketer always looking to attribute results to specific data points, I think I probably get it on the most basic of levels. I’m going to go read about it right this second, just in case I’m wrong.

      If you read through this comment thread, you’ll see insanitybytes talking about the tendency of many women to assume more blame than is deserved.

      I had not heard that before but I believe her. There are probably all kinds of implications for that which I’ve never thought about nor discussed.

      Worth thinking about more.

      Thanks for the note!

    2. I’m caught up now.

      Fundamental attribution error is certainly something I’ve written about before without knowing the social-psychology name for it.

      It’s why we can sometimes be hypocritical without intending to be. The way we’ll mutter what a stupid, reckless, moron asshole that guy is who is driving too fast and running red lights… all while having ZERO context for why it might be happening.

      But if someone we love, like a friend, child or family member, is deathly ill in the backseat and we’re rushing them to the hospital, then we feel perfectly justified in doing the exact thing we were just condemning someone else for doing.

      Really important human-behavior thing we do. I appreciate you mentioning it and giving me some bonus food for thought this morning.

      1. I knew that I had read something to that effect here before, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember if I’d read the actual phrase. I’m glad you found it interesting. The first time I read about it I dog eared the book I was reading (a grave sin indeed).

  15. Taking responsibility for your actions is tough in the moment, but it’s so freeing afterwards because then you know that you can control your actions and change your outcomes.

  16. I think Tina’s post brings this discussion back on track, which is great, because Matt’s post is great. I’m replying as a new comment because the discussion has been so intense that replies have slid all the way against the right margin.

    Tina wrote, among other things:

    “As a woman that was cheated on I can tell you Andrew, it wasn’t until after I had dealt with a lot of my hurt and anger, that I could look at and really see what things I did that contributed to the affair. I take zero responsibility for the choice he made. I did not make him cheat. But I did contribute to the atmosphere that made it possible to make that choice. I had poor boundaries – I let him get away with all kinds of other assholery and I’m not satisfied that I handled things in an effective or useful way when I did try to address the assholery. The seeds of the problem were there from the very beginning of our relationship. Does that mean we were doomed? No. If things had been addressed early we both may have made different choices along the way and ended up happily together. (maybe not – but things may also have ended less painfully if they did have to end)”

    To me, this is a very fair and inwardly wise observation. No spouse ever “makes” the other cheat, it’s an independent decision that in my opinion reflects extremely poorly on personal integrity. There is always a better choice.

    But it’s almost never the case that cheating happens in a vacuum. Two people create a system together. If it goes off the rails and you blame your spouse, you are overwhelmingly likely to have something similar happen in your next relationship. That’s why this:

    “I’ll share that I was not happy to get to the place where I could see things in my relationship more objectively – its not comfortable – but its been useful so I understand why you are trying to share that view. But I certainly could not have looked at it in that way a year ago. Maybe not even 6 months ago. Timing matters. Empathy matters.”

    …is so important and wise (and it’s something Matt said in the original blog post). It’s painful and sometimes outright horrifying to look at the bad $h!t you brought to your marriage. But you can’t grow out of that stuff if you don’t confront it honestly. (:-|

    It’s a bit of a paradox. I sometimes think Matt takes too much responsibility, but I don’t know if there’s really an alternative. It isn’t constructive, for Matt, to say “and oh by the way, *she* did the following 17 things wrong…” You have to look into your own life and crap and do what *you* can do to fix *you* and then make choices about who you want in your life and on what terms.

    Phew, too many words…

  17. Thank you for this post and the video Matt. My new favorite mantra is going to be “Damn you Steve” (Right up there with my boundaries one – Not my circus not my monkeys)

  18. @Andrew

    The ability to step outside of our own narrow-minded view of the human experience in an effort to understand how different people experience things in radically different ways strikes me as the No. 1 way to:

    1. Connect with a partner, not divorce, and not break up a family

    2. Connect with a child and have a great parent-child relationship that enhances both of their lives

    3. Connect with family and have functional, close-knit relationships with siblings and extended family members

    4. Connect with co-workers and have great professional/social relationships in our workplaces

    5. Eliminate political gridlock and fighting

    6. Eliminate racism, sexism, and most other isms

    7. Eliminate religious wars

    8. Eliminate any war

    9. Broaden our own worldviews so that we are less ignorant

    In the end, I perceive our human relationships to be the No. 1 influencer on whether our lives are good and we can find contentment, or whether they’re crappy, and every day is a grind until we’re mercifully killed by disease or an accident.

    When I think about what ails people and causes all of the fear, violence, hatred, etc., ALL OF IT is rooted in one person/group believing one thing, another person/group believing something else, and BOTH being so sure of themselves that fighting over who is right and wrong becomes more important than forming an awesome, cooperative, mutually respectful relationship and helping one another out.

    People are choosing ideas over other people.

    I think we’re called to rise above that.

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re taking exception to from Tina’s comments, so I won’t jump to conclusions. But I think developing the skill of empathy is pretty much the most important thing we can possibly learn in order to achieve a life full of positive experiences rather than negative ones.

    And I think Tina’s son, if he accepts her influence, stands to have a much better chance of succeeding in marriage and life than I did.

  19. Pingback: I figured out who to blame… | See, there's this thing called biology...

  20. May I say something a bit out of context here? There’s a comment way above, about why we cheat that says, “Being an asshole. Or having huge personal issues. Nothing else “causes” anybody to cheat.”

    Everybody is accountable for their own choices,weaknesses,whatever, BUT, every couple I know that has survived an affair did not approach it from a place of revenge,anger, or blame, they perceived it as a joint issue, as two people having created this situation together. That’s tough, that would require a lot of forgiveness and humility, but that is the path towards healing and reconciliation. Both people in a relationship have to take responsibility, even when it appears on the surface that only on has gone astray.

    If you are not on a path to healing and reconciliation, that is fine, I am not judging anyone. I’m just saying if the goal is to preserve the marriage, than the attitude cannot be “it’s totally their fault, I had nothing to do with this.”

    There’s this one flesh concept in the bible and marriage is just like that, your spouse is a part of you. So if your arm were to like suddenly break out in a rash or something, one cannot just say, “not my fault, they just have huge personal issues,” at least not if you are trying to preserve the marriage.

    1. Inanity – I agree completely – and if my ex and I were to try and heal things this is completely where my head would have to be at. And honestly I can almost get it there – right up to the point when he again asserts he did nothing wrong ,it was all my fault and that expecting fidelity was just me trying to control him. Then it falls apart for me and I start to get angry again. So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it any more. I have always said – IF he came back and acknowledged his contribution to our issues and wanted to seek counselling so we could build a positive relationship it would be my duty (and hopefully eventually my pleasure) to agree. He’s never shown any inclination. Which is a shame for the kids sake – they still suffer over this. I’ve gotten to a place of contentment as single.

      1. I believe you, Tina. I have known plenty of people like that, too. When you really hurt your spouse, that is the time to show a contrite heart, some empathy, not to accuse them of being controlling or “too critical.”

      2. Humanity makes me crazy, starting with myself. 😀

        I have no idea what went on between you and your ex.

        I think that, in life and especially in marriage, it’s hard and ultimately unproductive to try to assign relative degrees of fault.

        I do think that, as you say, in marriage, tough spots are often, maybe almost always?, a co-created condition.

        When we wake up and realize our responsibility for how things have become, we have to do our own work and see how our spouse responds.

        When the other half rises to the challenge and jumps in, even great messes can be straightened out.

        But, oh man, when the other half just hurls everything back at you, and continues to do so, at some point you have a lot of data and some tough decisions.


    2. IB, your second paragraph is awesome. It seems so obvious that any marriage problem, not just affairs, is a joint issue, because marriage causes “the two to become one”! When the problem is their issue, not our issue, it is hardly surprising that marriages fail at such an alarming rate.

  21. I’m spending a lot of time with Brene Brown these days – looking at shame and how it has contributed to a lot of issues on both sides for us. So nice of you to include her 🙂 As always you distill many issues down to a common denominator. We are all flawed and protective of our inner child and will do anything to protect it. Sometimes at the expense of our partners and marriages.

    I plan this to be my tattoo no matter how things end up.


  22. They say “time heals all wounds” but I don’t necessarily believe that. Time has passed since my first marriage that ended in a divorce and it still hurts taking a deep “look” at why everything went wrong. We’re both remarried, but it’s still hard to see that we’ve both moved on and I still look at that relationship as a traumatic and painful experience. I think it takes time for some of us to really let go of the hurt, blame, and emotions surrounding that. Sometimes the pain never really goes away. It’s hard. Gosh, it’s really hard.

    Relationships are work and when one doesn’t work out, we have ourselves to examine. But, I think it takes both parties and there is fault of all sides. In the end, no one gets married and in a relationship hoping to “look forward” to divorce. Like “I can’t wait to divorce you one day.” Everyone goes in to relationships hoping for the best outcome. It doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes it’s circumstances and timing on all sides. Maybe we needed to learn from the hurt and grow from a previous relationship in order to become better people?

    In the 21st century break ups and divorces are so much harder to heal from because of social media. I miss the days when no one could look up ex’s and uncover what they are up to.

    I loved this post and just discovered your blog and am now following. I look forward to reading more Thank you for writing this. 🙂

  23. While everyone is justifiably praising Berne Brown’s books, I want to urge those interested to look into and do some reading and work on self-compassion (which will likely make you more compassionate toward others, including your spouse).

    It has been more powerful for me than Brown’s teachings.

    Still Trying Hard, I love that pic.

    1. As a student of dharma who tries to live the noble eightfold path I have found that compassion is one of the hardest concepts. I spent a long time mired in what Pema Chodron calls “fools compassion” before finding myself feeling ridiculously pathetic. I am learning self compassion, establishing reasonable boundaries and we are trying to reconnect from new places (for each of us). Hence the image above from Burning Man that speaks so much to me/us. Our true inner selves reach out and our conditioned responses jump out.

      My shame story that I have to own (as Brene would put it) is that I didn’t really start growing up in my relationship until my teenage daughter kept giving me “WTF?” looks. She had more respect and compassion for me than I did. I think I raised her well and now I need to live up to the bar I set for her 🙂

      1. Well, cheer up. I’m close to 60 and just starting figuring this stuff out about a year and a half ago. 🙁 Better late than never! 🙂

        1. Oh I am cheery – I have much to be grateful for and know it ! We keep plugging away and even though we are struggling to be partners we have much to like and respect in each other as people and three kids who need and deserve the best of their parents no matter what. We will always have a relationship and if it’s best not being partners we will get to a place that we both understand and accept it. With kindness and compassion.

  24. I have to admit, I only clicked on the youtube video. Amazing! I’m like that. In fact, I am going through some heavy marriage issues at the moment. Falls right into my current perspective of things. I never thought all of the this that you write about would reflect this part of my life. ( This is not to sound harsh or anything) It’s crazy insane how many of us struggle with the same issues. Anyway,hope your well!

    1. Human relationships = universal.

      I’m sorry to hear this Jenny.

      With a few exceptions, I always assume pretty much everyone around here is divorced.

      I am very sorry to hear that you’re experiencing some of the feelings and circumstances we talk about.

      I believe all of us get to that point somewhere along the way. And that’s why I believe that love is a choice that we make every day. Good times and bad.

      When we wake up and choose to love — even when it’s hard — we pass through the storm without it having cost us everything.

      Sending good thoughts and prayers toward you and your husband. You can do hard things.

      1. (sigh) But on the other hand, without conflict, we never break through to discover our spouse as Other, the beautiful otherness that goes hand in hand with the maddening, crazy-making flaws. And if we don’t, we never really get to a place of real love.

        There is no love or joy without great cost, although there can be great cost without ever getting to love or joy. 🙁

        Heckuva thought for a Friday.

        1. I liked this because I can honestly say despite the shitshow that has been my marriage over the last 2 1/2 years I know that we are both better people, setting a better example of adult behaviour for our kids. If we hadn’t imploded we would still be nodding and smiling and looking awesome to the neighbours. Still not sure how the story will go, but I see us both as better people for it.

          1. I would say that ours was one stage or another of a mess for a decade or more, maybe two, and that included the time when our sons were living here.

            Here’s a thing, though. Lots of our friends got divorced when our kids were in high school or college because, I guess, they thought at that point that it didn’t really affect their kids. Oh, wrong…you send or emphasize all kinds of hurtful messages when you divorce, no matter how old.

            On the upside, I think it’s never too late to send good messages (I really believe that). I have told both our sons, who saw us bickering and etc. for year, that we have had our problems but that we are working hard on them, and that I hope they will appreciate and understand that even if it took a while, their parents love each other and are trying, that it’s never too late. And their response has been really heart-warming. Well, more than that, but the words are a little hard to find. It clearly means a ton to them and I believe it will affect the trajectory of their lives and relationships.

          2. I must edit to say “public shitshow” for 2 1/2 years, the behind the scenes death by 10 000 paper cuts went on for ten years. We just didn’t know how to address it but both loved the family we’d created too much to break it open. We were definitely meant to create these three amazing beings (no exaggeration). Our kids accepted easily that we were taking “talking lessons” when we went to counselling and that we needed to figure out what makes us happy when we separated for six months. It’s never been about them and they know it because we told them so and have always worked to show them that.

          3. We (I mean we four) are, I think, so totally on the same wavelengths, for better and worse. It’s nice to feel some real kinship. We never formally separated, but we lived in separate bedrooms for years.

            One of the things I have only recently really understood is that now and always are not the same things. 🙂

            The next thing I’m working on, which is much harder for me, is trying to just relax in the moment and accept “now” for what it is, and enjoy it. Very hard. Shouldn’t be, but is…

        2. Jack and Still Trying Hard, I appreciate your comments very much.

          Jack, I love what you say about discovering your spouse as Other. Are you by any chance interested in Jungian-ish/depth psychology? 🙂 (I am) And I agree with what you say about it never being too late to send good messages. No matter our age, wouldn’t we (more often han not) love/have loved to see our parents address themselves and mature emotionally where they hadn’t before?

          1. Thank you, D. Haven ‘t read any Jung/Jungian things…right now, a major part of my next steps is to STOP READING non-stop about personalities and relationships. I think the last book I’m going to read for a while is the one I just finished on self-compassion, which seems appropriate for me/to me. 😉

            And yeah, so much. I realized a while back that there is a kind of background grief for my parent’s frankly shitty marriage. Since my mother’s been dead for three years and my father’s in his high 80s, healing that is only going to happen exclusively inside my head.

          2. Background grief sounds familiar. A big part of my path to become healthier and more mature as a person has been to grieve. On the bright side, I think a lot of profound healing can happen even if it’s only in our heads and bodies (but boy can it be a long, hard road).

            Ha, so interesting to hear about your next step to stop reading! I sometimes (but not at this particular time) come to the same conclusion, that that is what I need to do next. Reading about psychology, personal growth etc can be so useful, but sometimes it really is just another way for me to avoid and procrastinate, to avoid *actually* taking whatever baby steps I can to improve/heal/address/practice whatever I need to.

            What book were you reading about self-compassion, if you don’t mind sharing?

  25. Andrew,
    Hi again. So,Im reading over some of the comments I wasn’t able to read previously.

    You and I likely don’t agree 100% on gender things. There are quite a few people here that tend to agree with the view that you have put forth.

    I’m somewhere in the middle- and I can explain what I mean by that in a moment.

    But, in the meantime I wanted to address this statement

    “Women clamor for more responsibility than they ought, and when they are awarded it, they

    find that they don’t actually want it as much as they thought they did. Meanwhile, men are

    enabled to be passive and irresponsible because the question of whether or not a boy is

    prepared to become the “man of the house” is all but gone, in part thanks to the self-

    defeating feminist movement.”

    I am not sure where you are getting your information, or if it just a general sense of how you believe things are.

    But, honestly- women don’t “clamor” for responsibility.

    We have to pick it up because it was left there.

    I am not sure what you mean by “more responsibility than they ought.”
    That means there is some pre-determined measure of how much responsibility someone should carry because of their sex organs and hormones. …That doesn’t make sense to me.

    What does make sense to me is that every individual is born with certain genetic makeup that gives them a propensity towards certain traits, these traits develop in their environment, and are expressed throughout their life.

    Gender only effects the capacity of an individuals traits, skills, abilities by being placed in environment that either restricts or allows the development of those traits.

    If Jane and John were the twin love children of Paul McCartney and Ella Fitzgerald,
    Both Jane and John have the capacity to become excellent musicians, train at Julliard and compose mad masterpieces that make people weep.

    Being given the opportunities, the support etc. would be the most significant difference.
    (However, even in the absence of those things doesn’t determine that it still wont happen- ie, some people will get it done whatever the obstacle- and that isn’t gender specific either).

    My point with this is, as a human being, I want the opportunity to develop and express the things that are innate to my being AS A PERSON.

    Whether that’s art, music, philosophy, science, politics, or motherhood.

    I have a right to live and be everything I was meant to be. This is how I contribute to society. This is how I realize my purpose.

    It is very threatening to have someone say that because of my gender that I shouldn’t exercise the parts of me that make my life have value and meaning. It is very threatening for someone to say that my voice has no value, because I am a woman. It is very threatening for someone to say I have no seat at the table,and ultimatlely have no decision making capacity in my life and in how things affect me.

    I honestly believe what you see as “clamoring” are women who HAVE TO FIGHT in order to have their personhood acknowledged.

    I am a human before I am a woman.

    My brain started developing in the womb before my sex organs did.

    My ability to be a fully developed human being, should not have a negative impact on my relationships with men.

    I love others because I am loving.
    I respect others because I am respectful (most of the time)

    I do not in anyway condone or practice emasculating men.

    (Although “masculine” is a personal/subjective term and can mean any number of things)

    I am not so much a feminist as I am a (Christian) humanist.

    Men and women are different. But, when you subjugate one sex over another you are making the subjugated gender a slave or a servant to the other.God did not want us to enslave our brothers (or our sisters).

    We should serve one another.

    And, in truth- I can honestly only truly serve my husband if I am an equal to him. How could I possibly give more than what I have?

    In everything, but especially in personal relationships, I am all for “being yourself”, including expressing your masculinity or feminity.

    However there are behaviors that have been adopted as almost a mans “right” that undermine healthy relationships (where both individuals are doing well).

    Those things aren’t necessarily an expression of masculinity so much as an expression of the entitlement that men have had.
    These are the things that are disruptive to relationships.

    Matt gave examples in his last post about growing up watching the women cook,then clean up after a family meal while men sat and watched TV.

    Roles have changed,and I am personally very glad about that (because I have never found that I decided I didn’t want the responsibility I had worked for.)

    How can masculinity be expressed in our modern age that isn’t expressed as being “over” someone else?

    Because here is the thing- it seems to me that if there is a pure essence of something, then it exists outside of the context of anything else.

    (Take for example, God- He is himself whether the world exists or not).

    What is the essence of masculinity that would exist outside of time and space?
    What is the essence of masculity that doesn’t need other people to prop it up?

    I think if we can work that out, there woudlnt be so much struggle.

    1. Lindsey,

      What you are addressing here is the idea of wifely submission. We have covered this topic from every angle here on Matt’s blog, in prior entries. Scroll through some of the older posts and you’ll find a wealth of discussion on the topic.

      So it doesn’t bear repeating it all here. Therefore, I’ll limit myself to a quick remark and then a quote. The remark would be that assuming the traditional and Biblical role of a wife in marriage does not mean you are slave or servant, or of “no value.”

      You have equal worth as a human and as a moral being. However, a ship can only have one captain. Why do you think virtually every social order arrangement has a hierarchical structure? The copilot “submits” to the captain, the student to the teacher, the employee to the boss, the enlisted man to the officer, the motorist to the cop, the board member to the chairman, the nurse to the doctor, the musician to the conductor, the athlete to the coach, etc, etc, ad infinitum. The reason is, because A) It’s necessary and B) It works.

      Why would marriage, alone among all our social arrangements, be the exception to the rule? Isn’t this delusional thinking? If you are consistent, you should go into work and tell your boss that from now on you’re his/her equal, because you’re not about to be a “slave or servant” with “no value”. How do you think that would go over?

      And for the quote I promised you, here’s Pope Pius XI in his encyclical “Casti Connubii”:

      With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church.”

      1. Jeff I think it’s interesting that you seem to think the only thing that “bears repeating” are your own words.

        I posed some questions that could bring you into the 21 century.
        Questions that can help unite and not divide.

        But I don’t think anything outside of your own self means much to you.

        Espousing your own opinion over and over again is sort of like mental masturbation.
        It feels good, but you do it alone and it doesn’t produce anything.

        1. Lindsey,

          What I find interesting is that I talked about the subject that you raised, and did not get personal on you. Whereas you did nothing but attack me personally – you actually did so several times in your short reply.

          What do you think this says about you as a person, and about the strength of your argument?

          1. Everybody has problems, Jeff. Your lack of humility and accountability for yours in comments tends to be what people take issue with.

            I write shit to you all the time, and you never address it. You take one tiny component of a comment, often one that is germane to the conversation, say something about it, and scurry off.

            You do not answer challenges to your stated beliefs with intellectual integrity.

            It can only mean a few different things, and all of them are bad in the context of humans getting along.

          2. Matt,

            She didn’t state “challenges to my stated beliefs”. She insulted me and said that nothing outside myself matters to me. As if she even knew me!

            So I guess personal attacks are cool on here now, if you disagree with someone? Or what? What are the rules, Matt? Cause if personal attacks and insults like that are kosher, I have a few choice ones I can lob back her way.

            Or didn’t you say you would delete comments like hers, that contain personal attacks and insults to other commenters? Which is it? Or is there one standard for her and another for others?

            You need to spell out what’s allowed in the comments section so everybody is aware of it. I didn’t think personal attacks like that were allowed, but if I had that wrong I’d like to know it.

          3. Jeff,
            First of all, I am just going to say that there is a fundamental difference between how you and I view things, because where you see an argument,I see a conversation. (One that you felt the need to enter, and show your manliness by saying what I had to say didn’t matter.)

            Truthfully your frequently illogical “arguments” , the the tactics that you employ to present them (often assaulting people in doing so) are a waste of my time and energy to address.

            In other words your cowardly claim “she attacked me” isn’t even worth addressing. (IMHO).

          4. Lindsey,

            I politely added a couple quick thoughts and a quote to the topic THAT YOU BROUGHT UP. Your response, which everyone can see above, was a personal attack on me. And when called out on it, you don’t even have the guts to admit it!

            When you pull crap like that, expect to be called on it. Besides which, it’s a definite insight into your character. Maybe some things you need to work on? Because I can’t imagine that kind of behavior would stand you in good stead in a romantic relationship. In fact, I’m certain it wouldn’t.

      2. Gotta jump in and may regret it. Your comments work and apply to YOUR house. I’ve been both a nurse and a doctor – different complementary roles by definition – no subservience. I have been sole supporter of my marital household since the wedding. Worked in theory until husband realized did not have the self confidence and self definition to be in that role and so consciously and unconsciously behaved in ways that undermined our agreed to plan. We are working on that. Doing so requires neither to serve the other but to be respectful partners along side each other with clear direct communication of needs and wants. This is how we’re trying to make it work in OUR house.

          1. Thank you. More than luck – compassion, ongoing commitment and a lot of hard work on our marital and personal issues that got us where we did. We continue to try hard.

  26. Matt said:

    “She moved out. And before I had time to figure out what hit me, she was with someone else.”

    Doesn’t surprise me a bit. An ex-gf once told me, “No one ever leaves someone to be alone. If they leave, it’s because they already have someone new lined up.”

    And that’s esp. true when it comes to women.

    1. It’s quite possible Matt’s wife was further along in her personal growth, had BEEN processing the loss/death of their relationship and was READY to move on before he figured it out. We all learn and grow at different rates and in different ways. I think it would be inaccurate to generalize that people only leave because they already have someone lined up, especially women.
      For me personally, I have done without the aspect of authentic, intimate connection (not necessarily sexual, if you were wondering) for so long in my marriage that if the opportunity to be part of that were to present itself AFTER MY DIVORCE, I would be entirely ready to move on. I am not looking for it. In fact, I’m intentionally guarded against it for the very purpose of remaining faithful while I give God time and opportunity to work in my marriage. But I would almost certainly be ready to move on once a clear decision is made. Until that time, I am still open to repairing my broken marriage. It takes two though…

  27. I think I have been the “needy, bitchy, nagging, unsatisfiable and overly emotional wife” for the past 16 months, I hope one day I’ll get to be the “unsupported, emotionally abandoned wife”…Great post, thanks for sharing.

    1. One thing I have learned: today is really only today. Of course, if you stitch enough of them together, you may have a pattern that needs to be addressed – or that you ultimately feel cannot be either improved or accepted.

      What I’m trying to say is that even though you feel that your husband treats you as the “needy, bitchy, nagging, unsatisfiable and overly emotional wife” today, that doesn’t need to define your (singular and plural) future.

      Best wishes. Living is not easy…growing ourselves up is not easy…being married to someone else is not easy…you are not alone.

      1. Hi Jack, thanks for your insight…I was definitely referring to my post-separation relationship with my ex husband (I just loved the words Matt used to describe his perceptions of his ex because I’m quite certain my ex sees me the same). I am absolutely not the same person I was then…not even close.

        1. SB, sorry about not understanding the past/present difference! :-0

          At least, and this I know you know, however your ex sees you is really just his problem, not yours.*

          “Not the same person” – when people talk about being compatible, I think they often seem to mean “the same as me.” I think it really means, ideally, something like “willing to stay engaged, recognizing that we are two different people who want to cherish and support each other, while living closely with one another.”

          *That’s assuming you’re not still co-parenting.

  28. Matt! I’ll be honest. I wasn’t entirely “sold” on you when I read from your blog the first time around (though I did seriously love your writing style from the outset. It’s pure genius. You should author a book. I’d buy it.) But this….this my friend….this realization is avant-garde and a monumental emotional leap for you! I am so happy for you! (Not that you care but I figured since this is a public forum, I’d give my proverbial two cents.) Here is a bit of TMI. I was in a one year relationship back in 2006 that really felt more like fifteen years of pure hell. What kept us together was an unhealthy physical obsession with each other and the mutual comfort that we found in our utter disfunction. We both came from a broken home. We were both recently divorced. We both had mommy issues. You name it…the list was endless. Anywho, while I was in that interminable masochistic “relationship”, I blamed him and the whole universe for my misery. And then, somehow, one day after one of our five million break-ups, it kind of just hit me. I was an unmitigated ass. I realized then that it was all happening because I was allowing it to happen. No one other than me was at fault. I got up, walked away and regained my life. The year after our last break-up was the absolute hardest year of my life especially since he wouldn’t stop calling. But I did it and I never looked back. I realize now that I never loved him. What I was struggling with was that he didn’t want me the way I was and me, in all my immaturity, was trying to convince him otherwise. I know…foolish. Ugh, it’s still so difficult to admit that at loud. It always makes me feel so sheepish. The point is never hand anyone your self-worth. You are invaluable in the eyes of God. We each play a role is in this crazy universe; no matter, how small and insignificant we may think it is. I’m so glad you’ve taken matters back into your hands. Onwards!

  29. By the way Matt, if you enjoyed Brene’s video then you should definitely read “Daring Greatly”. I read it last year. I was at a point in my life where I was finally addressing my commitment issues. The book was wonderful! I highly recommend it. Her TEDTalks video about it is always a must watch. Let me know if you’re going to read it. I’ll join you. I could use a refresher. Enjoy! 🙂

    1. I’ve read them all during my last 2 1/2 years – recommended to us by our marriage counsellor. Just finished “I thought it was just me” ll the way through my only wish was it addressed the shame issues from a male perspective as they are so different. I understand she is working on researching the male experience now as understanding its origins and manifestations are of great use to us all. Her kindness, honest simple voice and presence of her own experiences make her work accessible to all women and I look forward to the same from the male perspective.

        1. Bought the Kindle+Audible versions last night, “read” the first 1.5 hours this morning. I think this is more powerful for me than “The Gifts of Imperfection.” Thank you!

        2. Thank you for your good wishes. We’ve graduated from the talking lessons – now at the stage of being as open and honest as we can and figuring out if we like and can live with what we hear. It’s a big leap for both of us, much shame and fear and vulnerability (hence my Brene Brown fixation) and lots of bumps. I fear I’m more open to it hence my wish/need for her research around men and in a hurry !! I’m much less naive and no longer assume best intentions. It’s changed our way of relating and I fear he liked me better being submissive.

          1. This makes me think of part of what I still don’t really understand about my wife. I’ve always (~ 37 years now?) thought of her as very strong, but when I’ve treated her that way it really doesn’t work. I still have an inordinate amount to learn about being a good husband and human bean.

            Another thought: one of the things I have had to try to seriously reprogram in my own head is my assumptions about others’, especially my wife’s, intentions. In the words of my therapist, I try to assume a positive intent on their/her part.

            Books on men (you didn’t ask and it hasn’t really been a focus of mine, for reasonably obvious reasons) – Shanti Feldhahn has a book on men written for women that I’ve heard is quite good (fwiw).

            Two people never move forward in lockstep. Of course, some people choose to never move forward at all. Best luck in your individual and joint work.

          2. Oh wow, you’re MUCH braver than I am. I really struggle with talking about my feelings; even more so with any hint of vulnerability. I wish I were as brave as you are to be able to open up like that. Yes, unfortunately, you’re probably right…he probably does prefer you still being submissive. But I’m sure he’ll adapt to your “awakened” state if he truly wants to make it work between you.

          3. “But I’m sure he’ll adapt to your “awakened” state if he truly wants to make it work between you.”

            I was going to say this earlier and passed, but will throw this out now. I think it applies from both sides but I can only speak as a man, or ultimately for myself.

            “Submissive” is probably more convenient (unless there’s passive aggression there, which is a distinct possibility?), but do you really want a relationship with a non-entity? I don’t – much better to have a relationship with someone who’s real. I would guess that a lot of men, and women too, would agree. Hopefully that’s the case for SB.

            But that takes lots of work. Curiosity, appreciation, patience, and being solid enough in your own life to stand up and contribute your own half. Sometimes it actually feels like a life and death struggle. I’m really not exaggerating but you probably know what I mean? And as I said, I doubt that two partners ever grow evenly, so it can feel even harder…

          4. Ah so much here 🙂 yes, in retrospect I sank to passive aggressive due to lack of skill and general overwhelm. Husband felt judged and rejected and hid much of himself (much family of origin stuff there). We are left with two fundamentally good people, some truly bad decisions on both sides and legitimate wariness and trust issues as a result. He’s working hard on figuring out who the solid adult version of him is if that makes sense and I’m working hard to get past some distressing actions and rebuilding trust. No one said life was going to be easy. And I stand by the fact that no matter what we were meant to create this family and these children. How we sort out the future partnership is evolving. I accept my contribution to out situation and am working hard on my stuff. I work hard to see and acknowledge the changes he is making. This blog came at a good time in our evolution as Matt’s words have helped me frame his honest confusion and be kinder instead of just thinking he’s a selfish eejit. It’s also helped me word my boundaries and expectations more in boy words ?

          5. It is spooky. You two sound much like us, though probably a lot younger, which is good. 🙂 Better to have more years to enjoy living with more rather than less of your $h!t sorted out, or at least clarified. 😉 Rooting for you guys.

          6. And I always make a point of smiling when I ask if he’s finished with the glass on the dishwasher before I put it in. Kids laugh as I always say to them “if you can put it on you can put it in”. They almost always put them in now. Matt’s piece about the dishwasher is one of my favourites. And I too wish you well – and we’re not THAT young, 17 years into marriage mid thirties – and we thought we were grown up . Oh how we’ve learned ?

    2. So, watching TED talks with husband yesterday. I had the remote so I snuck Brene into the lineup. He liked it. I just can’t seem to give up when I feel deep down he hasn’t had an opportunity to know important things that aren’t about computers, 3D printers and space. It also helps that it isn’t coming out of my mouth – I can see his shame so clearly but that’s what I do for a living. It would be wrong to give up unless we’re both communicating from the same playing field and still want to be apart. My friends and family can’t understand why I’m still married but know I’m a bulldog for truth and honesty and compassion and figure I know what I’m doing. I cannot do a wrong thing that can’t be undone – but I can do a hard thing if it’s right.

      Perhaps I’ll climb into his bed with my iPad tonight and we can watch another one and see what happens? Marriage porn ?

        1. Oh but it is conditional on no shame based secrets, distraction from reality with fantasies (secret emotional lady friends) and unhappiness acted out in irritability with awesome children. I’ve just worked really hard on my shame issues resulting in enabling behaviours and distance. I take responsibility for that and am working on forgiveness and boundaries with kindness instead of anger and judgement. It’s been pointed out to me that the Buddha was compassionate but not a fool. I musta missed that lesson.
          Adulting is liberating.

      1. “I cannot do a wrong thing that can’t be undone – but I can do a hard thing if it’s right.”

        Wow, that’s brilliant. I need that right now. Feeling in a fit of overwhelming negativity. 🙁 That is a good buck-up.

  30. As a relationship counsellor I loved this post. Blame puts us in a position of powerlessness and that never feels good. Following with interest 🙂

  31. Pingback: I Didn’t Trust My Wife Long Before She Stopped Trusting Me | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  32. Pingback: The Subtle Difference Between Shitty and Non-Shitty Husbands and Wives | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  33. Thank you sooo much for writing this. This has been me. Thank you for opening my eyes.

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