‘Should I Divorce My Wife?’

Comments 197
man drinking alone at bar

You two are fighting a lot, sleeping in separate places, not having sex, nor really even talking to each other any more than you have to.

You haven’t felt like yourself—the person you remember being growing up—in months. Maybe years.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how you got here.

That’s probably because no one thing caused this. It was a series of many tiny, mostly undetectable moments over the course of months and years, many of which you’ve forgotten about. There may even be things you don’t realize are on the Reasons Why This Is Happening list.

Maybe one of you had a sexual or emotional affair.

Maybe someone very close to one of you died.

Maybe you lost a job or are having financial difficulties.

Those tend to be the big things that camouflage all the little things.

Maybe addiction problems are driving a wedge between you. (Maybe even stuff you don’t consider to be addictions, like video games or pornography.)

Or, maybe you’re a little bit like me and can’t pinpoint exactly where everything went off-track. You only know you’re several years into this marriage and none of it feels like you thought it would back when you said “I do” in front of everyone who mattered.

There’s no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or a specific One Thing that kills a marriage. But the laundry list of “little” things that break relationships and the hearts of those in them all tend to live in the same bucket, and look and sound the same as everyone else’s story.

In other words: No matter what your particular set of shitty-marriage circumstances looks and feels like, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one.

I Was You Once

I don’t talk about it much. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. The time I considered divorcing my wife.

Maybe because it doesn’t fit the narrative of her leaving me and the gargantuan cloud of fuckness that infected me for a long time afterward because it turned out to be the last thing I ever wanted, and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

It was, like, bad.

I cried sometimes and felt like a massive loser and failure. Like I’d let everyone down. And to this day, I have significant shame issues any time a life situation forces me to acknowledge my failed marriage to someone new.

My little boy. My parents and family. Her parents and family. Our friends.

And later, any married person.

It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed all of them, or like you don’t measure up to all the people who didn’t mess up like you did.

(It gets better when you realize that they actually DO mess up and simply mask it well, OR mess up at other life things that you have a good handle on. You’re a human being with inconvenient thoughts and feelings, as well as certain fears, anxieties, insecurities and personal vices. Everyone has that same list of suckage. It’s the minutiae that varies from person to person. You’re not a freak or fundamentally different than anyone else. Promise.)

So, yeah.

I totally considered initiating a divorce with my wife.

I was sleeping in the guest bedroom. She wasn’t particularly nice to me. She didn’t make me feel good. She wasn’t interested in doing anything with me. We never touched one another. After several years of marriage, she’d sometimes leave for work in the morning or go upstairs to bed at night without saying a word to me.

It hurt.

I thought she was a cold, cruel, unforgiving shell of a human being who didn’t like nor love me.

I didn’t think it was fair that I felt the way I did because of how she was treating me. I didn’t think it was fair that she had advocated to get married when I was still young and scared only to be acting this way now. And it seemed obvious that being single again, or maybe with someone else, would drastically improve my day-to-day life experience, mentally and emotionally.

If we didn’t share a beautiful son, and I hadn’t spent the previous 30 years vowing to never get divorced like my parents, I’d have walked out like a huge moronic asshole, and spent the rest of my life telling people over bar drinks what a raw deal I got, and how unlucky her next boyfriend or husband will be.

The Hard Questions

It took me a long time and a bunch of misery and depression to piece the mystery together. To be able to tell the REAL story.

And had it never hurt, maybe I’d have never asked myself the right questions: What have I done to cause this? What could I have done differently to avoid having my marriage and family fall apart? How much of this might have been avoided had I made better, less-selfish choices?

Those are hard questions.

Not if you lie to yourself and others like I would have had I kept blaming my wife for everything and feeling sorry for myself like a helpless butt-hurt victim.

They’re hard questions when you’re willing to tell yourself the truth, even if it’s inconvenient.

Those are the answers that gut you from the inside. They’re the ones that make you throw up with tears streaming down your face.

All those times you told her she was crazy or wrong simply because she disagreed with you. All those times you chose video games and poker night to sitting next to her. All those times you chose fun excursions with your buddies and left her alone, yet never invested a similar amount of time and energy to planning fun things for her and you to do together. All those times you jerked off to porn or thoughts of someone else instead of investing that desire and energy into the person you once loved and wanted so much that YOU asked HER to marry you.

They’re the uncomfortable truths.

The ones that keep you up at night and generate all those What Might Have Beens.

A stronger, more courageous, and all-around better version of yourself emerges once you’ve asked and answered all the hard questions.

Because it typically turns out that you weren’t the stupid idiot who married the wrong girl.

The inconvenient truth is typically that you were the stupid idiot who didn’t know that all those things you were doing instead of paying attention to your wife and marriage were a lot less harmless than you’d thought.

All those things you thought were stupid and petty and nagging, yet would have been so damn easy to accommodate with a tiny bit of graciousness and unselfishness, weren’t so stupid and petty after all.

You didn’t know it would all lead to this moment right now. Standing there with puke on your chin, snot dripping from your nose, and salty tears you never realized were trapped behind those red eyes.

And then it happens. Something unexpectedly good in the midst of all the soul-sucking shittiness.


Because now you’ve got a real chance.

Should you divorce your wife?

Who can say?

Before we start to guess, I’d ask you to first take off the mask and make yourself really uncomfortable playing Devil’s Advocate against your self-preservation instincts.

You’ll know you’re on the right track once you start to squirm. You’ll know you’re in the right place once you identify the moments that seemed so benign and unimportant at the time, but actually changed the whole world.

The kind of moments that might crop up again, and give us an opportunity to right a few wrongs.

An opportunity to be courageous.

An opportunity to be men.

Should you divorce your wife?

We can talk about it later. Though the truth is, when the time is right, you’ll already know the answer.

197 thoughts on “‘Should I Divorce My Wife?’”

  1. “All those times you chose fun excursions with your buddies and left her alone, yet never invested a similar amount of time and energy to planning fun things for her and you to do together.”

    This made my heart hurt for you, for her, for both of you. I wish I could give you a hug.

    *virtual hug*

    1. Thank you, Quinn. For her, please. I got my comeuppance. What hurt was the realization that all along it had been self-inflicted.

  2. Amazing entry Matt. Thank you so much for writing this. This one just hit so close to home.

    1. I was writing a different post when this one sort of, just, materialized. So I’ll need to refocus on my original idea relatively soon. 🙂

      Thank you for reading, and the nice comment.

  3. “Before we start to guess, I’d ask you to first take off the mask and make yourself really uncomfortable playing Devil’s Advocate against your self-preservation instincts…”

    Amen, Matt. That’s also really good advice for marriage.

  4. Matt,
    This is the only blog I follow. And I don’t usually comment just sit back in the shadows and take it all in. However, unfortunately I can relate to all your blogs mainly because I’m pretty sure my relationship and yours are identical. Everything you say is true and made a little light bulb go off and have me thinking I am married to a man just like you “were”. Yet a light bulb would never go off in his head because he is you before your divorce. I could keep you writing for many years! Sadly, you would be able to blog for years on just the stuff I’ve dealt with living with “you”. The other you! Thanks for writing, I do enjoy seeing I’m not alone.

    1. I write these things because I don’t want you to hurt. I don’t want him to hurt. And I don’t want any children that might exist, or perhaps will one day, to carry the burdens that come with a life where foundations aren’t as sturdy as we’d all prefer.

      Here’s to you and yours.

      1. I get it truly I do. Unfortunately, it’s like yelling at the kids who came to practice about the ones that didn’t! The old “preaching to the choir”. The people who should be reading it are not. Although if my husband were to read it he wouldn’t relate to it whatsoever. Seeing with “blinders”. I’ve dealt with it for 37 years! Foundations are never what we dream, but we can hope life lessons are learned by it all. Just like you! Keep writing!

  5. Beautiful article Matt. Well said. part of me wants to send it to my soon to be ex-husband and his new girlfriend. I hope she knows what she’s getting.
    I can laugh now at the time he wanted to bring his best friend on our anniversary golf weekend. He didn’t understand why I was mad. Multiple this stupidity x 100.
    I’m happy now and looking forward to my future. I’m just mad at myself for waiting so long. If my ex is enough for her, great. He wasn’t enough for me and I deserve better. Such a great feeling to know that and be ok being alone. I’m less lonely being physically alone than when we were together.
    Keep up the good work. I always share your work with friends going thru same thing and for engaged, heading to the alter. Maybe there’s still time 🙂

  6. I agree that things just accumulate over time and regardless of who initiates a divorce, it’s never easy. One of the two people involved end up in shock at first and in denial. After some time has passed, you finally can admit to yourself that there were things that you didn’t want to “see.” But, I agree that situational stress plays a huge part in it. Stress (circumstantial or whatever) can put a strain in a marriage and some people can weather, but other people it just tears them apart.

  7. My 61 year old husband, who has many positive qualities, lacks the knowledge and, quite frankly, courage to go beyond anything but the most superficial level when relating with others. There is essentially no evidence of introspection. He feels sorry for himself, and doesn’t understand the concept of empathy. I know he yearns for connection, and is very lonely. He faithfully and repeatedly applies the skills he obtained while earning his man card, (skills that served him well many years ago), hoping he’ll get different results. It’s tough to watch.

    1. Well…this 58 year old husband speaks to you and your husband and says it is never too late. Surprising, surpassing bolts of grace and light can suddenly change your world. Can’t do anything about the locust years, but we have today and that is enough.

      1. I’m happy for you Jack- and I am still with my man because I have faith in his potential. Your response has given me hope. Blessings to you and your wife.

        1. And to you both. Life and love, connected love between husband and wife, parent and child, there are probably all that matters, really, as we lie dying. My opinion, at any rate. (:-/ The face is because I don’t think I’ve done a very good job at that…

      2. Can I ask what drew you into the conversation? Not this one on MBTTTR, but the one with yourself; the one that has you reading relationship blogs/books, seeking new ways to address the marital chasm, and enacting new behaviors out of your own volition?

          1. Well, m’friend, I can channel Brenee Brown as well as anyone, so before I get vulnerable withya, I gotta ask: what’s the answer??? =8^D Just kidding.

        1. Well, notwithstanding snappy (but not snippy) answers elsewhere 😉 that’s sort of hard to answer.

          Early this morning (I get up at 3:30) I was reflecting while waking up mentally that a lot of the questions, and answers, I’ve been focused on (hyper-focused, really, possibly almost obsessed with) for about a year and a half have actually been going around in my head and in my life for a long time.

          To the extent that this feels to me sort of like a Damascus Road event, I think it’s because a lot of threads sort of magically wove themselves together for me and I could see the fabric and the pattern.

          And seeing that, with our astronomically brilliant (is that ok as a superlative?) sons out of the house and engaged in their own lives, I think things sort of coalesced slowly but inevitably and there was the writing on the wall. The message asked: is that all there is? Disconnection, alone-while-together-ness? What words would you like to hear if you could listen to what your family and friends said about you when you had died? Maybe that’s the answer. I got to the point where I realized that I was well past the half-way point in my life, and I got some very cold chills. A vivid sense of mortality can do that… “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (That’s for Lindsey. 😉 )

          So I read and read and still read, probably too much. Recently realized that I’m doing what I think of as the Facebook thing (that is, comparing) when I read the clinical success anecdotes in these books, so being careful about that. Suggested counseling, wife nixed, went myself and still going. Suggested joint counseling again last spring, nixed; suggested again last summer, accepted but counselor was a very poor fit so we stopped that; suggested again this winter and we’re doing it though my wife really doesn’t like the process. It’s funny, she’s got much more EQ that I will ever have…I think it’s her early social work background? – she doesn’t really trust the process, perhaps, or doesn’t like being the subject of the process? Not really sure and have decided it’s truly not my issue to diagnose or solve! The greater point is that we are different people (which is a whole topic by itself: accepting her as Other, appreciating that and not needing to change her Otherness or make it conform to my expectations and preferences.)

          One of the challenges is habits, personal and interpersonal. We will have been married 36 years this summer. I would tell you that we really disengaged 10 years ago, but my wife would say 20. That is so long…so many habits – and most men are really creatures of habit, it’s how we manage space, time and variability. And there are lots of habits and expectations between us, too. Homeostasis is very hard, very uncomfortable, to shake up.

          Just focusing on myself, one of the problems is that the deeper you dig and the harder you work at trying to see and understand things, the more really unattractive (to me) stuff you dig up. Schnarch talks about the willingness to endure discomfort for growth, but he doesn’t talk about stuff that just makes you want to wretch, and staying put and open when that happens is very, well, difficult and can be very discouraging.

          That’s all sort of color commentary. To bring it back to you, I have no suggestions, but a vignette from my/our life. It’s pretty obvious that you love your husband. I am clear that my wife loves me, although trying to figure out how to accept and believe that is hard, especially when it doesn’t come in the form of what would be my own “love languages.” So I wish that 10 or 20 years ago she had tapped on my forehead and said: “hey, where are you? I miss you, I miss us. What’s going on? Come back.” I have expressed that wish, and her answer is that she didn’t think I could have heard it or responded to it.

          My answer to you would be: *if you don’t ask, how do you know?* Maybe nothing happens – you are not worse off than when you began. Maybe a miracle happens – they actually do happen, even if things are not easy or fast when then do. (long groan)

          Maybe she’s right? We’ll never know. Things would have been a world easier if we hadn’t let all that time go by. Ultimately, historical counterfactuals are futile. But there is today – carpe diem?

          1. I should make myself write these comments on my phone. There would be a lot fewer words!!!!!!! 😀

          2. Aww-thanks for the shout out ,Jack. (I’m not always so preachy/churchy – at least not as much as I used to be). I love what you say about seeing her as “other” – we miss that so often.

  8. Matt,

    A few days ago my wife got in the car and drove 600 miles away. To be close to her friends, to work a job she loves, to raise our toddler alone, and to not have to live with me. She was saying she was going to for months, but some part of me couldn’t accept that I was that bad a husband.

    Between hunting for apartments with half the rent I’m paying now, I googled “am I a bad husband” and found your “why is this happening list” and your post “Your Wife Thinks You’re a Bad Husband Because You Are One.”

    I have never felt so alone and like such a failure in my entire life. Thank you for helping me (and I assume assholes like me) find some perspective about their life.

    I don’t follow blogs, I will be following yours.

    1. Hey Jason. You’re using language that I use in self-depricating, and hyperbolic ways, but that I would encourage you
      to not use while describing yourself.

      The kind of person who is so upset about losing someone they love that they turn to the internet for answers, and care enough to invest themselves in self-discovery and anything that can “fix” this or prevent it from happening in the future…

      Well, you’re just not an “asshole.”

      You’re someone who got things wrong, and literally didn’t realize how serious they were until you had a new piece of evidence and information.

      Now, you know. And it knocks us off balance.

      This is a sad story, sir. One I wish I could help you with.

      There’s so little I, nor anyone, can help you with during this.

      But please say so if you think I can somehow.

      Her leaving is penance.

      You’ll receive no additional judgment from me. Promise.

      Wishing you well during one of the most brutal and difficult life situations imaginable.

      Rooting for all involved. Thank you for caring and for being accountable.

      That’s what separates the assholes from those who aren’t.

      You just aren’t.

    2. My heart hurts for you – experiencing the thing I never could put my husband through. I don’t know if there’s hope in your situation but if there’s is still love there and deep down you are that man she wanted to share her life with – tell her you see, give her the space to heal her hurts and do your work (while telling her you are doing it). Give her time to find the woman she was once and to do what she needs to do wth whatever she brought to your issues. You will always be parents and for your child must always have a relationship – even if not together, make it the best it can be for that child you both love. And if it is the best relationship and is to be together it will be so. And if it isn’t to be you can both know it and have peace. Be the best person you can be – the best gift you can give to yourself and to others. You are not alone.

      1. STH, I want to say: you are beautiful. And I want to say also that we can all be beautiful, too. Thanks for that.

        1. Namaste – that which is glorious and good in me salutes that which is glorious and good in you. Sometimes, sadly, people don’t know what is glorious and good in them. And even sadder, some people just get worn out trying to help the other know that.

    3. Jason, Hey man I just want to say, (you may not see this since this is an old post) that you’re not alone. Your first paragraph is nearly identical synopsis to my story, save for the toddler part.

      I can’t follow my wife, easily, as I have a farm with lots of livestock you can’t just walk away from. Although I considered ways that I might be able to relocate to where she’s at, for the sake of trying to work it out. (She says she will never come back here)

      My wife left on Jan 27, ’17. I will never forget that day. Since then, I’ve been working tirelessly trying to hold my life and responsibilities together without her, all while accepting what happened, owning it, and putting my life on a 180 degree turnaround hoping to convince her to get us another chance. I believe that she sees the progress I have made and continue to make, but the damage has been done- and she’s not willing to take another chance somewhere other than ‘back home’ again.

      She has been slowly separating herself from me in every imaginable way, and things have never looked more hopeless. My counselor and I, along with my other closest advisors, have begun the process of accepting the fact that this is really over, and after months of receiving no inkling of desire form her to want to reconcile, in spite of my efforts, and really, no communication from her, about anything whatsoever, I am now reluctantly preparing to pull the trigger on the divorce filing myself. Being in different states, it would be beneficial to me to file where I am at as the settlement stuff will be complicated with the farm and whatever shared assests are involved. Otherwise, I would hold out forever just on the hope that there is ‘a chance’.

      That’s how I ended up on thi blog entry, tonight- I am trying to work it through my mind that I may have to be the one to pull the trigger.

      I have never felt like so much of a failure. The regrets are many. I keep trying to pump the brake pedals.

      You’re not alone in this, Jason.

    4. have you tried asking her what the problem is/was? One thing to have issues, its another never to mention them to the other person and just bottle them up, then split. Not really fair not to give the other person a chance to fix it.

  9. I’m 46 years old and write my own blog. I hope to improve and get as emotionally stomach-churningly real as you have. You made me cry because I have just read my own diary in your own writing.
    I’m not yet divorced but separated and out of home. I am still raw after 6 months of not living in the szme house as my 2 kids.
    I have no answers but you are definitely helping me at least know where i can find them – in myself.

  10. This is me, the wife of the ADHD guy in denial. I’m the one sleeping in the couch. The one tired of being left aside because of tv and video games. The one continuously blamed for everything that is wrong with our marriage, if only I did more for him – if only I was nicer, more loving, more caring, more intimate – then he could be nicer to me. The one tired of crying. Tired of trying to fight – alone – for our marriage and family. Yeah. I’m that wife.

    1. This is me, wife of the ADHD guy diagnosed 8 years into the marriage. He is treated but struggles with a lifetime of habits and avoidance of hard and carrying buckets of shame resulting in marriage breaking behaviours. This is me who used to think if I did everything to help him be happy he would be. Wrong, he has to be that himself. This is me who’s finally establishing boundaries and sticking to them – and finally able to be compassionate without losing myself in the chaos. We’re far from fixed but I no longer cry and sleep much better than I have in years. Have some great resources I’ve used over the past few years if you’re interested.

      1. yes–I am interested in any resources you’re willing to share…(chances are, I’ve read them all already). any chance we are married to the same man?

        1. anything is possible – he does have a private life I’m not invited to 🙂

          I looked at Melissa Orlov’s website : https://www.adhdmarriage.com/content/melissa-orlov but found the anger in the forums off putting

          I really liked her book – the couple’s guide to thriving with ADHD, we planned to read it together ….. I stopped waiting and read it myself 🙂

          Emotion focussed therapy (Sue Johnson – author of Hold Me tight) – maybe didn’t fix everything but got us able to talk and connect kindly


          1. thank you so much…! I actually have Hold Me Tight, but I haven’t read it yet and I forgot about it until you mentioned it here…i’ll check out Melissa Orlov too…thank you!

          2. I would drop a footnote on Hold Me Tight, which I think is an excellent and very readable book: to me, it wasn’t clear that some of these things don’t happen by magic. So my note is this: remember to ask (with love and patience and respect, but also with clarity) for what you want from your partner.

          3. We did EFT twice – once years ago while still overwhelmed with 3 kids born in 3 1/2 years and was cut short by family of origin crisis that we really pulled together on then drifted apart again. Redid with big marriage crisis over last two years and got much further and better able to voice our true needs. Resulted in six month “constructive separation” to work on our own stuff and we’re six months into trying again with new approach. It helps. He no longer calls me defiant 🙂 and I’m no longer a martyr ? A great therapist helped and she’s who turned me on to Brene Brown.

          4. That’s cool. With a skilled therapist, I think EFT could really do a lot of good. In my mind, I’m mixing a little EFT, a little attachment theory, a little Schnarch and some practical tidbits from various other sensible places – and retiring, very rich. 😀

          5. STH, I replied to you, but I don’t see it on here…or your response to me–I can only see your response in my email…maybe I just don’t know how to navigate blogs…anyway, thank you for the suggestions!

  11. This is so good. So, so good. I’ve made no secrets about my struggle with marriage. It’s so hard today. Seems so unnecessary, except for those tiny beings who, through no fault of their own, want their mama and daddy to be together. My husband and I wake up every morning and make it another day. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. Thanks for writing this, Matt.

    1. Oh, I so so so wanted it not to be hard. I think I needed the affirmation, the confirmation, that things were good and right from things not being hard.

      The thing is, that it was always going to be hard. One of the hardest, most difficult things I wrestle with all the time now is accepting that it can be good and hard at the same time. Diamonds are formed under colossal pressure…

    2. Do you think somewhere out there, Toni, are people who don’t experience it as being “hard”?

      Because of hitting the chemistry lottery between the two people, or because of an individual’s personality makeup?

      Is marriage inherently difficult? Or do we make it difficult?

      These aren’t rhetorical, nor are they meant to challenge you or suggest I think you know the answers.

      And in the end, maybe we figure out it is always hard, no matter what.

      Then the question becomes: Is something wrong because it’s hard? Should we not do things because they’re difficult?

      No matter what, I think it’s awesome that you’re fighting the good fight. Thank you.

      1. I’ve asked myself those questions a thousand times!

        I think some of us, I guess those who live life more for the “show” of it, if that makes sense, are very content with their marriage no matter what. These people are usually more interested in status (which their spouse provides), or in religious upholding, or some other reason besides relationship (like me, for example, who is just deathly afraid of divorce damaging my kids like I think it did me, although for the record, my parents divorce didn’t damage me, but the way they behaved after).

        Then I think there are those who really want to have that connection, and either they married the right person and got it (awesome for them), or they didn’t marry the right person (for whatever reason), and they’re left with the choice to “die” to self or to leave in the hopes of something better. I’m currently in the dying to self part in this season and my husband has done whatever he can to help me through it, other than become someone I want him to be, which we all know is impossible.

        I’ve seen my share of twenty-plus-years marriages, and all of them seem to fall under one of those examples.

        Did that make a lick of sense? I’m a rambler.

        1. “Then I think there are those who really want to have that connection, and either they married the right person and got it ”

          It often looks that way from the outside – not so sure it really is that way on the inside, though…nearly all of us keep secrets…

          …and I am sure that it is not so much finding the right person as being the right person…

          …trying to get back to giving from an open heart after years of disappointment and resentment and frankly stopping trying (yeah, Grammar Police are coming to get me!). Trying to rediscover curiosity and appreciation for who my wife is. Trying to give freely rather than keep score.

          I want to throw something out here that I think is related. I have read a lot of “relationship” books at this point, probably too many. There is a weird comparison thing that I think is going on in my head reading the little case history anecdotes that authors like to use to illustrate their points.

          I think I am reading those and constructing a sort of therapy version of the ‘happily ever after’ story (lie 😉 ). I read the little anecdote and think “they started out in deep $h!t but they turned it around neatly and everything worked out.” But you can’t really tell how many tears and dark nights and all the rest paved the road forward for them, or how long it took. Even Alisa Bowman’s excellent book Project: Happily Ever After leaves me thinking ‘she did it in three months [or whatever the timing was], how the heck come this feels so much harder and longer than it took the two of them?’

          I admit I think to myself and have asked my therapist “how can it possibly be this hard, and take this long?” I’ve been really focused on this project for a year and a half now. Some days I just wonder where the energy will come from or whether there is any more to give. But somehow here I am, still.

          1. I get, Jack. I know no marriage is perfect. But it does seem that some have it a whole lot easier than others, and that’s probably because they knew who they were going into marriage, and they married to gain something instead of running away from something else. Just my opinion.

          2. I think you’re right, Toni. Some us start the race further back, certainly. 🙁 But it’s not a pass-fail exercise, in the sense that there is no one correct answer, no single right way to make a marriage work. I think we make love more than we find love. It comes out of who we grow into being rather than being something we just stumble upon – my opinion. 🙂

      2. Oh, and yes, I think marriage is inherently difficult, especially today when there are MOUNTAINS of expectations in regards to love, career and parenting. We are making it impossible to achieve happiness. Nothing is good enough.

          1. I guess that’s where the “dying to self” come in. But it’s that much harder when you’re the only one doing the dying. My husband is a wonderful person, provider and father. But he is never going to be on my team, nor I, his. We married for a good reason, but a wrong reason, which is crazy-odd but entirely possible. I just live each day as it comes and with zero expectation of the future. But with that comes the fear that there isn’t a future and that you will have wasted your whole life on the wrong goal.

            Sorry. Rambling again. Been thinking about this very thing the last couple of days/weeks/decade.

          2. I feel a little sheepish asking, but: have the two of you talked about this, really honestly, from your hearts? If that’s really too hard, have you thought about finding (and you’d probably have to work to find, and probably try a few before you did find the right one) a therapist to help mediate and guide the conversation?

            You might find there is much more there than you had appreciated in your grief and frustration and tiredness.

            One of the other really hard things I am still fighting with myself about is how I feel about my fairy tale vision (in a good sense, mostly) not ever going to happen. My sis year old self throw absolute fits about this. It feels impossible to reconcile myself to this loss. But, to borrow a bit of your phrase, if I let it die, which I am really trying not to let happen, if I find a way to let it die, something beautiful and _real_ might rise from the ashes of my false and faulty dreams.

            Trust me, I totally feel your pain, all the way from my fingernails to my heart to my bones.

          3. We’ve been married almost sixteen years. We barely knew each other, were all of 20, and got married after we had a child. Everything about him looked good on paper and I believed he would save me from what I was running from. But it didn’t work out that way at all. And now we have four children and have fought so hard to make this work. He thinks we are finally in “a good place.” “Default mode” he calls it. He doesn’t know I just kind of died and gave up.

            I don’t write any of that to make him sound like the bad guy. Like I said, he is a wonderful provider and father and really in many ways a great husband. But it is what it is.

            My dad says if I just stick it out, eventually I’ll be happy again. The problem is that I don’t remember the happy to begin with, and it doesn’t seem to me like any of the people telling me to be happy with my marriage are very happy with their own.

            Still, the thought of doing to my babies’ hearts what was done to mine is unconscionable to me. Thanks for listening. I really do believe in marriage for the sake of children. It just seems to me that someone is going to have to let a lot of dreams go. But maybe I’m too cynical?

          4. Well, 35, almost 36, here…

            Could say lots, will settle for this thought, just a personal mulling, not even really an opinion…

            I don’t think you’re too cynical. I do think that a lot of us, I don’t know how many, probably _do_ have to let go of dreams. In Mark Manson’s terms, I have begun to think that my vision/goal of what our marriage should look like is a “$h!tty” goal. In the sense that in my mind it’s a sort of static goal rather than an organic journey, and also in the sense that it’s unrealistic, divorced (pun intended, if that’s what that is here) from the reality of who my wife and I are. And although I am aware of this and working on it I have to tell you it is a very bitter thing.

            You probably don’t need more blogs to read, but Julie Marah has some interesting posts on how our spouses can’t make us unhappy – how we think about our spouses and our marriages can make us very unhappy. And appreciating the difference can, well, make a big difference. I’m working on that, too, but it’s mind-bending stuff (probably has to be).

          5. I believe that’s true. But for someone whose idea of happiness was “this” and what I have is “that,” what I’m left with is acceptance, which at times feels a whole lot like settling into a life that is not my own at all. It’s like separating yourself from yourself and walking through day-to-day life as a zombie. Anyway, it is what it is, and my kids are incredibly happy, so I am happy, too. ?

          6. Yeah.

            I think we can find another path, something other than separating ourselves inside and becoming a zombie. I don’t have the secret sauce for this, but I do think there is something there other than playing the walking dead. C.S. Lewis made a lot of the difference between happiness and joy. I think we can find joy in this situation, and that turns out to be real and substantial and lasting, where happiness is honestly shallower and more transitory.

            Random thought that you seem to know, but just in case – what we focus on grows. Focusing on the good and beautiful in our lives, being thankful, can change a lot, especially if we do it intentionally and consciously. You and I have a ton to be grateful for. I need to spend more time focusing myself on that.

          7. Yes, yes, yes! Totally agree. Focusing is the daily struggle, but it is my main goal. Focus on the good. Thanks for a great conversation. ?

          8. Backing up one step because the replies are getting too skinny.

            Thank you – same… About our kids – they are a consideration that never goes away.

            We had a huge number of friends/kids’ friends’ families divorce during high school/college years. I can tell you that there is probably never a time when splitting up doesn’t affect your children, though I certainly accept that some marriages are so bad that the net result is better, but I think that is a minority of cases.

            I so wish we had been able to show our kids a strong and friendly love when they were younger (they’re 26 and 28 now).

            But since we didn’t, I would really like to show them that two people can fall in love and get married, basically (shorthand) fall out of love, then find/make/rediscover love again. I’d like to show them commitment and grit and real life love.

            I don’t know if we will actually succeed, but I’d like to. (:-|

          9. The fall in love and get married part is where we break paths, Jack. Think of my marriage as more “arranged” although we did choose it. We just didn’t know any better. We both acknowledge that we weren’t in love; we were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. That being said, I do love him, especially when I make myself love him. Same for him, but some days are easier than others. When I read posts like Matt’s it dredges all those feelings up. Maybe I should stay off your blog, Matt ??

          10. “Arranged” – Toni, not ideal, sure, but it’s a fact, not a destiny. I truly believe that falling in love has nothing to do with long-term love in marriage. It may even work against it, because all those raging hormones make it very hard to really understand what you’re doing. As I said before, in my opinion, marital compatibility and potential happiness and love really just come down to this: are you committed to doing the work, on yourself and us, that will need to be done to respect and value and in the end cherish each other? That’s not the same as finding a soul mate – or maybe that’s who our real soul mate is?

          11. It occurs to me as I’m reading these comments how significant a person’s individual values are to these conversations.

            In a big-picture, general way, I value the process of reducing the frequency of divorce. That’s sort of the underlying mission of all of this. Under the premise that two people got married on purpose, love one another, and WANT to stay married.

            But when I take a step back, and focus on just one individual person in one individual marriage?

            I’m forced to consider whether someone might value other things more than keeping their marriage together.

            I have written before how I believe it’s dangerous to let our FEELINGS guide our marital decision-making. Because our feelings are such a moving target, and somewhat unpredictable, given that we can’t be sure what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s the premise of my Love is a Choice position. If we do whatever we feel like doing, marriages will never last.

            That matters to me because I value keeping marriages together.

            But what if the individual pursuit of emotional peace is what someone else values most? And before they were married they believed marriage would provide it only to discover it did not.

            There are individual moral judgments we’ll all privately make about others’ decisions. We’ll agree or disagree. We’ll condemn or accept.

            But if I value keeping marriages together at the expense of emotional peace, and someone else’s life mission is to try to achieve emotional peace and a dysfunctional relationship prevents that?

            I want little kids to have their parents together because I believe that’s what’s best for them.

            I want couples to learn new tools to succeed in marriage if they want to succeed in marriage but don’t currently know how.

            But I don’t want people to spend the rest of their lives in total misery. (Not that I believe most of us can easily know what will or won’t cause it.)

            And I don’t want people to value what I value.

            I want people to value what they naturally value, and pursue a life that aligns with those values.

            I don’t know if that even made sense, nor whether this was an appropriate place to say so.

            It’s simply the thought that came to me 47 years ago, when I started writing this comment.

          12. OK, Matt, that last reply made me actually laugh. 😀 Dunno. It’s very easy to say: cut your losses, get outta town, ditch that bastard. There is that old problem: wherever you go, there you are. Unless you’ve done a lot of work, you have derailed a stream of history and put at least a wrinkle in The Force. Maybe I’m writing so much about trying to seek and hold onto the good because I’m really writing to myself. Come to think of it, I bet that’s right, but it doesn’t change the value of what I think I’m saying, though everyone gets to judge that for themselves. 🙂 But…

            What I really wanted to mention, and this particular post of yours is a great place for this, is that I picked up a recently published book yesterday that I think is really a great book and a great fit with what I guess I’d call your mission. The book is called _Loving Bravely: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want_ by Alexandra Solomon. It’s very wise and very accessible. Significantly, it grows out of her course at Northwestern University, “Building Loving and Lasting Relationships: Marriage 101.” I thought of you when I heard about that course because like some here I acutely wish I’d known a whole lot more than I did when I was young and dating. Amazon’s “look inside” feature gives you a good chance to see what the book offers, or you can visit the author’s website. I speed-read my way through it yesterday and started again more slowly this morning.

          13. And that, Matt, might be my favorite comment/thought ever. I judge people who get divorced. I just do. My parents’ divorce was HORRIFIC, so I judge ALL divorces that way. So yes, I’m in a season of “I don’t want to get divorced” not for MY sake, but for the sake of everyone around me. I struggle with that decision from time to time, mainly because I have a huge fear that I will be the one to sacrifice all this time, just for Clayford to finally decided when the kids are grown that I was right and we aren’t compatible. But deep down, I know
            I’m making the right choice for now, both for my kids, my husband, and my own value system and peace of mind.

          14. Ok, so what I wrote below, I wrote a few years ago. I recently ran into it while I was rummaging around in the old “notes” section of my facebook account. .

            There is religious content in it, which is just a part of how I think at times. So, just know that if there is a deep aversion to it, I dont mean to offend anyone.

            I decided to post it here because of the last few comments.

            “As usual, I am off topic. I’m not thinking about same sex marriage, I’m thinking about divorce.
            The majority of marriages I have known in my adult years have been great examples of what the union can be and what it was meant for.
            I have many other examples of the traps and pitfalls of marriage from my childhood. After all, I did grow up in the middle of a sort of revolution where it became quick and easy to get a divorce. Divorce became a threat in the middle of arguments and an open option if it seemed like things weren’t going your way, or it wasn’t what you expected.
            Divorce of course has many repercussions and consequences for everyone involved, and I have seen it used and approached in ways that absolutely corrode the hope for unity all together.
            On the other hand, I have also seen people so tightly bound to the righteousness of staying married even though the actual marriage has been stomped on and put through the shredder.
            So, that’s where I wonder what the real heart of God is.
            I know what the bible says about divorce. It says God hates divorce, and Jesus says explicitly that Moses allowed it only because of our hard hearts.
            I don’t think He wanted the legal union to stay intact while the marriage of hearts and minds had long ago been dissolved.
            But, I think he wanted a true marriage of hearts and minds.
            When we give to one another, whether we get something back or not, we ” make a way”, we clear the road, that can allow for a way to grow together and not apart. The other persons needs are also your needs, their desires are your desires. There is a unity in mind, heart and purpose.
            The two have a chance to become one.
            Here we are on the eve of Resurrection Sunday, being the benefactor of the most gracious gift known to man-life that is truly Life.
            Divorcing His own self will,He gave of Himself so that we could know His Love and be joined with Him in the unity of the Spirit.”

            There definitely are other values that can take precedence over marriage as an institution.

            Typically I would say that living in misery and strife, or living outside of your values are things that compromise health, wellbeing and the like.

            Marriage like that is a farce.

            However- there is a difference between living in misery and strife and making a conscious decision to experience suffering for love.

            Many of us have the opportunity to reach Maslow’s “Self actualization”- I think as each decade passes the more and more that opportunity exists for us in America, or other industrialized countries.

            And if that is the case, there is nothing wrong with achieving that. I am certainly one to champion people reaching their full potential- I would even say that is God’s desire.

            But the truth is that while that may be a reality for some, it isnt a reality for everyone.

            Suffering still exists. It will always exist. Same with pain.
            It is never going to go away. Even for those who reach “Self actualization”…

            So, my thought here is this…(and I am sure really isnt anything new or profound to most/some/all of anyone who reads this)

            When we think about relationships, and marriage- LIFE!
            there needs to be space not only for “How can we make it better/easier/more fulfilling”, but also for “How can we suffer well in it? ”

            Because we are going to suffer. We can suffer alone, or we can suffer together, but we are going to suffer.

            Does everyone need an anti-depressant now??

          15. “But deep down, I know I’m making the right choice for now, both for my kids, my husband, and my own value system and peace of mind.”

            There really isn’t anything more to say. When we reach that place, we can still have doubts, but we can return and be at peace with our truth and our values and ultimately with our best selves. Blessings.

          16. Toni,
            I probably shouldn’t butt in. I feel like I can appreciate your struggle. It sucks when you aren’t happy with your life. It’s similar with people who have chronic depression, or live in existential angst of “What does it all mean?”
            No body has a good answer for that. The best any of us can do is collect moments, try to remember the moments that you feel good, normal, light and know they will come again.

          17. Thinking about your comment, Lindsey…I have struggled with times of sadness much of my adult life, sometimes so deep that I thought it would wash me downstream, broken, and carry me out to the sea to sink. I still have those times, but I realized and have come to accept that this is me, so I let it wash over me and run downstream, rather than trying to dam it up and hold it back. This has made a world of difference. Toni, I think I know how you feel. And I think you know this, but maybe just as a reminder, it’s ok to show yourself some compassion for how you feel. It’s ok to let Toni be Toni.

          18. Jack, I have to say Amen to that. Even though I get having to hold on to moments through suffering, I wonder Toni, if you consider it suffering? I respect your choice, and the reasons why. And, I am nobody to say anything about that…But, I have fairly recently become the proponent of idea of living out of who you truly are to have the life you really want…blah, blah, blah.. :). I mean, I believe what I just said is true.There are plenty of benefits in becoming empowered over your own life and destiny. And lucky me that I am free enough to see what happens with that…but, in all honesty- I don’t think there is anything that God cant do or undo, I don’t think you can miss what he has, and who He is no matter what our circumstances look like around us. And, speaking of moments- those moments when you know Him and close to Him are worth years of whatever muck you have to stand in. ..Am I making sense, or do I sound like a crazy person?…

          19. I read this blog post yesterday and had opted to not comment as usual, even though I had some feedback to offer. But I thought about it a lot last night. And then this morning I clicked on it again as I was looking through all the other posts. When I clicked on it just now, this comment jumped at me because it has to do with the very thing I was going to comment. When you said that you were always doing all kinds of activities except spending time with your spouse but then said how devastated you are by the separation, it made me think exactly that: “I didn’t want or appreciate what I had and now that I’ve lost it, I want it.” But I’m certain that if you got it back, you would realize you really don’t want it. “I already have what I want but it’s not good enough. I want more.” “I want it all and on my terms.” “I want nothing if I have to compromise one bit. But I will complain if I can’t have my way or any of it.” “Something is better than nothing.” “Nothing is the worst option because that means that I failed at it and I wasn’t as good at it as everyone else.” “Either way, nothing is good enough.” Is love and marriage about Keeping Up with The Joneses or is it about finding the other part of you that makes you whole? Jack is right. It’s not about meeting and marrying the right person. It’s about being the right person. Happiness is not an exterior venture; it’s obtained from within. No marriage in the world can offer happiness to someone whom has yet to find it within.

          20. That is really good stuff. I have no idea if you were commenting to me, as I’m not separated and don’t have plans to be, but that was an awesome comment. But I think the “finding happiness within yourself” is easier said than done, and what does that mean exactly, anyway? I’ve never understood that.

          21. I’ll throw a couple of thoughts out since I’m in comment mode this morning. 😉

            One thing is being, or getting back, in touch with the things that fire you up, turn you on, make you smile – you know, the things that often get lost after a decade or two of marriage and parenting? It doesn’t have to be saving orphans in the Philippines. For me, it’s playing music, probably my #1 personal core need/activity. It feeds me from within, which is something my wife and my kids and the person I fantasize about coming into my life and making me happy can never, ever do. 🙂

            Another thing is just getting to genuine acceptance. Very Eastern, very hard for a very Western old fart male like me. Accept who you are, the stuff that shines and the stuff that’s ugly. Accept your spouse, remind yourself that amid the ugly they shine, too (you seem to be pretty good at that, btw). Accept – this is the thing I find so hard and you seem to, too – your marriage as it is right now. “I accept that I am desperately unhappy with the state of our marriage. I wanted something different, better, lighter, happier. But it is what it is.”

            I have not really gotten to that stage, and I really rebel at the implication that that might mean I can’t “fix” it to make it more in line with the dreams of my heart. But I think and at the same time I fear that maybe the real relationship with my real wife might actually better than what I made up in my head. That doesn’t mean that I don’t choke, and choke up, when I think about actually living that. I’m a six year old in the life of a 58 year old…

          22. Part of comment was for you (about finding happiness within) and the other part was for Matt (about not really wanting what was lost). 😉 I agree with Jack’s response below. As for what it means to me to “find happiness within yourself”, it’s as simple as knowing clearly whom am, what I want and where I’m going whether that’s as a single person or married. When we find happiness within no one can deter us from knowing who we are, what we want and where we’re going. You know you’ve dounf happiness within when you’ve stopped second guessing yourself, stop putting yourself down and start seeing your mistakes as opportunities for growth. A spouse isn’t needed for any of that. A spouse is supposed to simply complicate what you’ve already established; not complicate it. If you find yourself always longing for more it’s because have yet to fall in love with what all ready is. You are already a kind-hearted, smart, funny, soulful, noble, playful, loyal, etc… Being a good mother and wife are just things you do, they don’t make you who you are. Regardless of whether you’ve opted to marry and give birth or own a bunch of stuff that society dictates as a “must in order to be happy”, Toni is still kind-hearted, smart, funny, soulful, noble, playful, loyal, etc…and knowing, understanding and accepting that will bring you happiness from within. 🙂

      3. Is marriage inherently difficult? Or do we make it difficult?”

        I know for a fact that I make it much harder than it probably needs to be. I resist change and growth so hard. Miraculously it still takes place, largely because of the inspiration from sites like yours and the community gathered around here.

        But, and this is just my own opinion, it was always going to be hard. Two individuals trying to grow up themselves, and doing it together. How could it ever be other than hard? If nothing else, we would not value it so…

      4. There’s good “hard”, and there’s bad hard. I’ve been in both kinds of relationships (not marriages so maybe that disqualifies me from answering, but long term relationships so I’m still going to), and one was bad hard. I cried a lot. I felt really alone. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind and most of the time I felt like we were fighting each other for our relationship. When I would explain what I wanted and needed my partner would tell me I read too many books and that what I wanted was “an unrealistic fantasy” that only existed in fairytales.

        The relationship I have now is completely different. Not only is it better than I ever knew relationships could be, but if we fight, we’re fighting together, not fighting each other. Scrubs never makes me cry. I never feel alone because I know someone always has my back the way I always have theirs, and I’m never made to feel crazy even when I know I’m being irrational. I feel supported and loved, even when we disagree. We’re teammates instead of adversaries.

        If I had never met Scrubs, I wouldn’t know a relationship like this is possible. My parents are not good rolemodels for marriage and probably contributed to my allowing myself to be treated so poorly in my previous relationship. I never knew a relationship could be so healthy. I think when we lack experience, we settle and tell ourselves that all long-term relationships are “difficult” and “hard work” and all couples fight. We soothe ourselves with the thought that what we’re dealing with is “just real life”, because it’s frightening and heartbreaking to leave. I’m glad I left though. Staying would have destroyed me.

        Obviously I can only speak for myself and my own experience, but from anecdotal evidence … it’s not always hard.

        1. Quinn, what you just said, someone having your back, that’s the ticket right there.
          People can disagree and still work with one another. That is not the type of “hard” that causes marriages to crumble though. The “hard” that causes marriages to crumble is when you do not try and back one another up and you consistently work against one another.

          I have always said, having someone just have my back, is all I’ve ever wanted out of a relationship. Even when I’m irrational. Sometimes I think it comes down to luck. Being in the right place, at the right time, usually being a bit older(because I think chances of successful relationships increase with age) and meeting someone who doesn’t want to jump off a bridge when they are faced with all your flaws(and we ALL have them).

          1. Yes. We need a teammate. We all have flaws. That’s exactly it. You just have to find someone whose flaws align with yours. Sort of like that quote: “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

          2. Compatibility…here’s what I am coming to think. Compatibility is not a “thing,” not a condition or a state of facts.

            I think compatibility is the attitude that says “I will try to know you as you are, love that person, wish the best for that person regardless of the cost, and do the work it takes to make us both our best selves.”

            TLDR: compatibility is a commitment to doing our work in tandem with our partner, staying at it, having some true grit.

            Saying this doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near really living it, though… 🙁 But I aspire.

          3. I really tend to think compatability is more a natural born thing. It’s who you are fundamentally fitting nicely with who someone else is. The problem is it takes a while to get there. I mean, I wouldn’t show up on my first date with someone and say “Hey there, my name is Natasha. A couple of years ago I dealt with post partum depression and anxiety. I laugh REALLY loud and make inappropriate jokes. I love animals, I even have pet chickens, but if my cat brings me a dead mouse I’m absolutely terrified and won’t clean it up( so that’s your job!) and in my 37 years on this earth I’ve been too scared to ever get on a plane!”. Sound appealing? Not so much. We mask it though so that people see something in us. So that people like us. However, that core self,it’s still there. It will eventually come out. I think the best we can do is put our honest foot forward and just cross our fingers eventually someone comes along that thinks the honest version of ourselves is pretty rad.

          4. Right on the money Quinn. I really think MANY things can be brought back to something as simple as a Dr. Seuss quote.
            It’s one of my favorites!

        2. You know, Quinn. This is awesome.

          But I think sometimes that there are two kinds of people in the world:

          The first are the people who do things wrong, and know it. Because they do it on purpose, or because it’s easier to do it wrong, and for whatever reason, “easy” matters more than casualties.

          The second kind are the people who do things wrong through a fundamental lack of awareness. Maybe they’re lazy. Maybe they’re deaf. Maybe they’re blind. Maybe they’re inexperienced. Maybe they’re uneducated.

          But they lack understanding and awareness about something and it’s causing damage.

          Some people figure it out. Other don’t.

          And just maybe, Quinn, relationships will always be hard for people like that.

          You can’t know what you don’t know.

          And if you never figure it out, maybe it can only be hard.

          On a personal note, I fear that I might be one of the people for whom it can only be hard.

          Because I’m uniquely gifted at forgetting about the things burning on the stove while I’m over here chopping vegetables.

          I’m trying to do something productive. I’m even taking all the appropriate steps. My intentions are in the right place. I’m going to prepare a good meal.

          But, because I’m me, and no one gave me the nudge, the sauce I made is scalding in the bottom of the pan, or the bread I put in the oven is now overbaked.

          One little thing, sort of spoiling the entire plan.

          That’s me in a nutshell. And I think there are millions and millions of me.

          And the longer I immerse myself in these thoughts and conversations, the more I wonder whether this is how it’s always going to be.

          Maybe when you can’t always do three things at once with mindful awareness and grace, you always spoil some small component of the meal.

          And maybe that can be tolerated once, or five times, or even 100 times.

          But sooner or later?

          Maybe your guests simply won’t want to eat anymore.

          Just maybe, when you’re that person, things are always hard.

          I want to be wrong.

          1. Matt, do you think some people honestly don’t believe what they’re doing is wrong? Like, not so much that they don’t care as in they legitimately don’t see a “wrong” done? What do you do with that? Where do you go from there, when you can’t argue that the action in and of itself is wrong, but just that it’s not the action you want your spouse to do?

            Just an example: Clayford loves loves loves Ole Miss baseball/football, etc. He thinks that the greatest date in the world is to go watch a baseball game. And I go and I enjoy it.

            When my favorite thing to do (ride a bike, maybe, or hike, or watch a documentary- I know, I’m a nerd and he’s not) is suggested, nothing happens. There is no effort.

          2. And I have a really random example, but for our marriage it’s everything: parenting, living in a certain place, worshiping God- I mean everything that we are t-totally opposite in, where I’m really, really trying and he’s content just to do his thing.

          3. Right, Toni.

            It’s dishes by the sink.

            Doesn’t matter to him, so he doesn’t think it should matter to you.

            His logic is: Let’s let everyone do what they want, and everyone will be happy. And because he isn’t asking you for certain things, or “complaining” about how you’re doing them, he believes he deserves the same treatment in return.

            And I think that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

            The problem is, the “dishes” HURT. They cause pain. Real, actual pain and damage.

            It it okay to hurt your spouse? No one would say yes.

            Is it okay to hurt your spouse accidentally? Most would understand, if you apologize and never do it again.

            Is it okay to REPEATEDLY hurt your spouse, and respond to pleas to stop by saying: “Ehhhh. You’re overreacting again. I don’t experience what you experience, soooo… piss off, I’m going to keep doing it this way, even though you say it hurts.”

            I think most people would agree that hurting your spouse by refusing to take action is wrong.

            Here’s the sad reality. (You already know this, so don’t mistake my wordiness and thought vomit for pontificating to you, Toni.)

            He thinks you’re complaining about pain from him throwing cotton balls at you. You’re saying they hurt, and he thinks it’s crazy because cotton balls don’t hurt when they hit you.

            He doesn’t know that it’s possible that what he experiences as cotton balls, can be hard, heavy stones to others.

            And I don’t know how to convince him or anyone like him because I STILL don’t always recognize that what I see as cotton balls are cutting and brusing and breaking other people.

            Even still, I miss this sometimes, because I trust my eyes and brain (when I really shouldn’t quite so much).

            It’s horrible, Toni.

            It’s the story of virtually every broken marriage and family.

            And I want desperately for it to not be.

            And I want desperately to believe that I can overcome the thoughtlessness that can allow what feels like such benign thoughts and behaviors (but are actually dangerous and damaging) to affect people I care about, and poison my relationships.

          4. 🙂 You want to be perfect – ain’t happ’nin’. 🙁 But your are lovable was you are. Perfection isn’t required or even possible. Being aware and caring is enough – you are enough, man. Self-compassion, mon frere!!!!

          5. Hope it’s ok that I jump into this conversation Tonifoverby and Matt.

            Matt, you said: “Doesn’t matter to him, so he doesn’t think it should matter to you. His logic is: Let’s let everyone do what they want, and everyone will be happy. And because he isn’t asking you for certain things, or “complaining” about how you’re doing them, he believes he deserves the same treatment in return.”

            This could certainly be the case, I’m calling this possibility 1. He doesn’t care if you. Toni, come with him to the football game or whatever, so he thinks you shouldn’t be bothered that he won’t do your favourite things with you. Even if this is the case. Like Matt, I think it’s fundamental that we make a solid effort to do the things that are important to our partners even when we don’t get it.

            I’m wondering though, Toni, if this is what’s going on in your case. Of course, feel free to not answer if you don’t want to. It could be that what’s going one is possibility 2: He wants you to join him in his preferred activities but still doesn’t join you in yours?

            I’m just curious.

          6. It’s so much more complicated, but that is definitely part of it. The background of it is that we never dated long enough to know the other’s hobbies, and when we got married, my life was consumed by our then-2-month-old, so it seemed like I didn’t have a life (meaning he played golf, video games, etc, while I took care of our son-and that’s not to say he was absent by any means, just to say that he had friends/hobbies and I didn’t).

            In his defense, his parent’s marriage was one where the mother gladly devoted her entire life to her children (still does) while the father did whatever he wanted to. And now that we have four children, I stay home while he works a very stressful job that provides very well for us. So for me to dare demand that he spend his free time with me would be wrong.

            I guess my issue is wondering why he doesn’t want to, but when you have nothing of value to offer your husband other than sex, then that’s what you get. I don’t mean that in a negative way, although I get how it sounds. I also get that talking like this makes it sound as if I don’t love him, but I do. I love him because he is a good person, but not a person that 36-year-old me would have chosen to spend my life with. Just-turned-20-years-old me didn’t know any better.

          7. Hey Toni –

            “He had friends/hobbies and I didn’t” – not ideal, but that’s just a fact, and a historical fact, NOT a lifetime sentence imposed by a court of law! That was then, this is now – you are clearly a bright, sensitive, curious, courageous woman. This is something in your control!

            Why doesn’t he want to? Well, not all of us are brain-dead. Some of us are merely sleeping. Your husband might be in that category. Wake him up and see what happens? Caution: sometimes this takes a while. The sun sometimes comes up very slowly in the East.

            “So for me to demand…” Well, yeah, maybe put that way. But it is absolutely NOT wrong to say “hey babe, I love and value you and the kids and our life as a family, but I would really like it if…” Or “when you ______, it makes me feel _____. Can we talk about doing something about this?”

            I “get” that getting married at that age and especially under those conditions isn’t an ideal take-off path. I “get” that 15 years later you two have serious space between you. I don’t believe for a minute that two basically decent, caring people, which you guys seem to be, can’t figure out how to reach out to one another across the gap, even if the gap feels like a canyon, and find some unexpected warmth and joy and team-ness. It isn’t easy but I don’t believe it was ever designed to be easy.

            Reading these comments, guys come in for quite a bit of knocking. 😉 Maybe some of them really are terminal but I don’t think that group is as big as you might think. We men mostly want the same thing you women do. We grow up in a culture that totally militates against opening ourselves up to ourselves and to you. And then a lot of times when we do, you, our wives, sort of freak out – you say you want vulnerability and feelings but often you seem to want us to be like invulnerable statues of heroes in some park, and the problem with them is that they’re all stone cold dead, literally.

            Even if we pay attention and read the books and talk to the therapists (and our wives) and do the things that we really should be doing, you cut off our dicks, sometimes literally. 🙁 I really hope you don’t take even a bit of offense, but I want to let you know that this can be literally a life and death work for us. Probably for you, too. Dear God, it’s so hard to find compassion and real love and a tender touch. 🙁 Sorry…and the last two paragraphs really aren’t directed at you personally at all. But this is –

            We do our best, each of us. Sometimes better than other times. You do actually deserve better than what’s happening right now, but you are not a victim, you are an author. Grab the pencil, write a script. Talk to your husband from your heart, gently, because we get scared easily by this kind of thing – it makes us feel a lot of shame and guilt and we defend against that by stonewalling and finding ways to get angry. Write gently because it’s easier to erase and start again if you do.

            Maybe I’m wrong and your husband is a terminal jerk. I don’t know. But maybe you don’t really know either? From reading your comments, I think there’s more hope here than you can see at this moment. What’s “now” is not what’s going to be “forever.” Give it a shot…at the worst, you are at least not likely to be in a worse place than now. 🙂

            Goodness, sorry to ramble.

          8. Hmmm…I think the Gottmans suggests that both the “Masters” and the “Disasters” throw things at each other regularly – it’s unavoidable living together. What separates them in their results and happiness is that the Masters can be alert after the fact, and make appropriate repairs.

            Matt, you simply are not going to be able to live without putting dents in the people around you, it is not possible. What you can do is care before and after the fact, and listen and be alert, then reach out and repair. 🙂

          9. I think that’s an effort thing.

            Laziness conveys to a partner that she/he isn’t “worth” enough to be shown love and attention and effort.

            It’s WRONG to make your partner feel unloved, neglected, etc.

            That’s not what I mean. I think any two people can agree on basic rights and wrongs, and if you find yourself married to someone who can’t agree on right and wrong, it’s probably more the result of a fundamental lack of communication than any sort of philosophical misalignment.

            I’m talking about awareness.

            Because I’m me, I overlook things. I forget them.


            Friend comes up to me at work and talks to me about a poker tournament or a football game or whatever. And then maybe I get excited about it and make plans to play in a tournament or attend a football game.

            In a relationship, that SAME amount of effort and energy should be dedicated to finding a mutual activity to do with your spouse.

            If she doesn’t like poker or football, perhaps I can invest spending time with her on the things she DOES enjoy.

            I think an even wiser solution is to spend time and effort on DISCOVERING new and exciting things together. Don’t try to force something down one another’s throats. Just discover a new thing that’s equally great as a team.

            So, in real life, it’s easy for me to think of poker and football and any other thing that is naturally interesting to me.

            And it’s hard (I’d have to develop some kind of reminder system to pull it off) for me to think of things that don’t naturally appeal to me or interest me.

            Like, in my day-to-day routine, it would take something random and coincidental happening for me to remember some activity that isn’t organic to my personal interests or life habits.

            It’s not that I think of it, and then don’t care.

            It’s that I never think of it.

            And I think that’s EVERYBODY, but the all the little details change from situation to situation.

            We make people feel shitty because we don’t care about the same things they care about, and then THAT makes them feel disrespected and uncared for.

            The key, and I think this failure is more commonly seen in men than women, is to RECOGNIZE that this cycle is what makes a human feel unwanted and unloved, and then design whatever personal system is required to prompt an appropriate response or action.

            I don’t believe most men want to make their wives feel neglected an unloved.

            I just think many men get so busy focusing on what’s in front of them, that they forget to take a deliberate timeout to specifically think about all the things they never sit around thinking about.

            And in the context of marriage, the No. 1 thing should probably be: “How can I make my wife feel loved, safe, validated, respected, honored, secure, etc.?”

            One of the best ways to figure that out is to ask.

            The second-best way to figure that out is to try a bunch of things thoughtfully, and pay attention to what things work and what things don’t.

            Then, avoid the things that don’t. And make part of the daily routine to do the things that do.

            It seems so easy, and so simple.

            But, real life shows us it’s not.


            It’s not that people don’t believe what they’re doing is wrong.

            It’s that they’re not aware in real-time that something they aren’t even thinking about is harming other people.

            It scares me.

          10. I think you’re wrong, Matt. In my own history, I am extremely self-aware. Like, I am self-aware to a fault. My ex on the other hand was (and is) completely and totally lacking in awareness. Not only that, but he lacked the awareness to KNOW he was lacking in awareness. Yes, I think relationships will always be hard for him, because he is unknowingly selfish to the point of tunnel-vision; only his feelings matter, and his partner’s feelings only matter in relation to how they impact on his own. It’s hard to make a relationship work when you’re only seeing it through one lens.

            But while you might lack awareness, you don’t lack the awareness that you lack awareness (we’re reaching inception levels here, sorry). You know this is something you struggle with, and that alone gives you a foothold that most of those second types of people never find. If you know that you struggle with, for example (let’s go back to the kitchen), multi-tasking and time-management, then what will make things easier is finding someone who is willing to work with you and give you a gentle nudge when you’re letting the pie burn. Nobody is perfect. Maybe she sucks at chopping carrots, while you are a chopping wizard. Instead of letting resentment fester, ideally when problems arise in the kitchen this person will place her palms calmly on the table and say, “Okay, let’s figure this out” and then between the two of you, you agree on ways to keep your issues from torpedoing the relationship. Checks and balances if you will.

            I don’t know, I think you’re being very hard on yourself. Think about how far you’ve already come in this short time. Compromise and agreement with someone whose kitchen skills compliment your own is all you need!

          11. I agree, Quinn. I’ve done a lot of reading on ADHD relationships, and the core of the material is pretty much always what you just said.

            I think you’re right. And I do have some Inception-y levels of self-awareness.

            I always come back to the part where people accidentally hurt one another.

            You can accidentally hurt someone because you never even thought of it (and the lack of thoughfulness can ALSO hurt certain people, as if they weren’t worth being considered).

            And you can accidentally hurt someone because you don’t recognize the behavior as harmful, and your natural inclination is to disagree with and dismiss anyone who would point to the same thing you’re seeing and experiencing and tell you it’s something totally different than what you see and feel.

            There are certain levels of empathy people can achieve to get over that.

            But, damn.

            It’s a lot.

            Over time as it builds up? Each time causing a little more hurt than the previous time for one, and a little more anger for the other?

            In the end, I keep coming back to love being a choice.

            People are entitled to value whatever they choose. But IF keeping a marriage together is the thing they value, then I truly believe the bottom-line element that must always persist is deliberately choosing to love (through action) every day, no matter how inconvenient it is, and not matter how much we “feel” like doing it.


            A thing we choose to give someone unconditionally.

            Two partners doing that will never fail.

            Hard as shit. Painful.


            But they won’t fail.

          12. Trying to figure out best place to throw in what keeps coming up in my head as I read this. Back to Brene Brown. Guilt = I am a good person and I did something wrong and it can be a driver of change. Shame = I am fundamentally flawed and unworthy and can be a driver a disconnection (addiction, numbing, avoidance, perfectionism, narcissism, enabling etc). If you are hiding deep dark “shameful truths” about yourself you can never truly connect. The important thing is knowing the judgement is in your head and without giving your partner a chance to change your mindset – to love you unconditionally as you would your child – you can’t connect and love.

            My husband is scary smart and talented but a lifetime of untreated ADHD has left him vulnerable to any type of perceived judgement or visible flaws and so keeps secret things he’s afraid I won’t accept. I’m pretty smart, excessively educated, professionally successful and mentor to many peers – and I screw up and frequently ask for help and apologize for my weaknesses at home and at work and work hard to change and grow. I imagine that annoys the hell out of him.

            Just thinkin out loud 🙂

          13. It’s interesting, reading some of these comments about ADHD… our marriage counselor keeps referring to hubs as having “ADHD tendencies”, but he has never been diagnosed. (I’m actually a licensed therapist, though no longer doing direct practice, and it does fit—sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees) So tonight I asked him what he thought about our therapist’s comments and if he thought he might, in fact, have ADHD… he replied “just add it to the list…” (of things that are wrong with him—Totally not how I intended it, but he takes most everything as criticism. If I ask him to scratch my back and say “more to the left” he hears that as me calling him a failure–that he can’t even scratch a back right). Anyway, I said that if he has ADHD, it actually makes me have more compassion for him and not take his behaviors so personally…not to let him off the hook completely…(but there’s probably a reason he married a therapist.)

          14. Matt…you are sort of replaying a bit of the conversation my wife and our therapist (who is different than my therapist, just throwing that out 😉 ) had last week. Near the end of the hour, the therapist said “how about a little mercy for Jack?”

            There probably _are_ millions like you, and maybe that’s a sign: it’s not a moral failure, it’s not a relationship disqualifier. It’s just part of you, a beautiful you. A cherishable you who can miraculously burn the sauce onto the bottom of the pan at the same time he’s overcooking the pasta BUT is leading a community that is healing people around the world in ways he will never personally be able to count or comprehend.

            So, give yourself a little mercy, compassion and love. 😉

          15. This is a nice note, Jack. Too much credit, I think.

            But very nice. And I promise I see the relevance. Really appreciate it.

            [For the record, I’m a pretty solid cook. That was just the first metaphor I could think of. :)]

          16. I echo Jack’s sentiments – not too much credit, Matt. You have shared your “shame” and definitely found you are not alone in it and created a place where ideas can be shared and explored and support is given to and by those who struggle. People can voice important feelings without shaming their partners in the real world – things said to friends and family can never be unsaid and I know they will never see my partner the same way. I am personally finding my need to communicate on these subjects fulfilled in a healing way. I am addressing my husband completely differently (and kinda freaking him out I think). People will come and go as they need this in their lives. Don’t minimize it. We all need to make the world a better place for others and I’d say you’ve hit it out of the park.

      5. “And in the end, maybe we figure out it is always hard, no matter what.”

        Yeah, I really think it is.

        I mean, maybe not every-second-of-this-is-misery hard, but even good, solid, functioning marriages have moments and even seasons of hard.

        We never stop being selfish, right? There is really no end to fighting against our own selfish nature, not if you wanna stay married.

        The fact that marriage is supposed to be until one of you is dead probably has a lot to say about just how much selfishness we need to have trained out of us.

        Just saying.

        1. I think thee’s misery-hard and constructive-hard and probably a lot of other flavors. As far as selfish goes, yeah, my spouse is super-selfish. I guess you are pretty selfish? Me, it’s not so much of a problem, really.


          Seriously, an interesting reminder. If I were not married, I would have to confront the fact of my selfishness and its consequences an awful lot less…food for thought.

          1. Word.
            That is true Jack. But, still not very comforting for those who don’t want to live entirely unto themselves. That just means we stay selfish and add oblivious. ..:)

          2. Lindsey – uhhh, yeah, that was my point… 😀

            Kinda like going to the dentist. Most of us really dislike it, and if often involves some degree of pain, but you need to do it to be healthy. :^)

  12. Julia, know that you’re not alone! I’m that wife also! The wife that has no opinion worth saying aloud, the unimportant one, the one that no matter what she does it doesn’t count cause it doesn’t bring anything to the table! He is right, never wrong. Will not concede to any type of failure. If it didn’t work out it is yours or someone, anyone’s fault but his. I’m exhausted. Not sure what to do or how to even go about doing it. Keep pushing forward until the wheel breaks! I hear you!

    1. Thanks Kat. It helps to know I am not alone, albeit with support from strangers online!
      I have told no one around me about how how feel – except for my husband who dismisses it as being my own doing. I am embarrassed and ashamed. Embarrassed and ashamed for having a failing marriage, for not being able to fix it and, honestly after years of getting blamed, feeling responsible.

      1. It’s this odd battle in my mind, battle between feeling powerless in getting my husband to notice me, to wake up and acknowledge what is going on and do something and between he must be right and it’s my fault but I have no idea what else to do. Does that make sense?

        1. Well it does to me! But at what point do we say enough is enough and move forward? It certainly is a mind and emotional struggle. And if you have small children it involves all.

  13. The scary thing Matt, is that the description of your relationship with your wife at the end could be written about me and my husband. When I say identical, I mean IDENTICAL!! I see the train approaching. I’m just bracing and waiting. Unfortunately, I think we are too far gone to avoid the impact. But somehow, your situation gives me a foreshadowing or forewarning (depending on your perspective) of what is to come. I only hope that we will be able to come to a place of peace and friendship someday.

    1. There’s power in realizing your frustrations and problems aren’t unique to you, and that there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with you.

      You’re dealing with the same stuff millions of people deal with.

      I hope that inspires optimism and hope for you.

      The most common problems offer the most common solutions and workarounds. But believe me, please, when I say I understand what you mean about too far gone.

      I remember.

      No matter what happens next, you’re not alone. Rooting for you and your spouse.

  14. Wow- there is a lot here. I have been keeping one eye on the conversation and one doing busy work. I’ve wanted to say something like three times, but again- there is a lot here.
    I wanted to respond to Matt’s bad dinner analogy.

    It seems to me that if people gather for dinner, its not for the meal but to be with the host and the other guests. The meal (though important) is secondary to the relationship that gathers around it.

    So, if you burn bread- or you forget to call, or show up late, or put the dish by the sink instead of the dishwasher, it is only one part of the entire experience of the meal.

    I don’t see the food as the whole relationship…the food is sort of like our expectations. How we want the household to run, what makes us feel loved, what makes life easy or hard for us. Expectations are important, but they aren’t the relationship.

    You can grab take out on the way if you really cant stomach what is being served. But, you probably wouldn’t go to someone’s dinner if they really just didn’t give a care.

    I read this article https://www.gottman.com/blog/turn-toward-instead-of-away/

    I think it really pinpoints THE thing that would make a substantial difference.

    This is what actually builds relationships, and if two people are willing to be present, and respond to “bids” then that builds positive feelings about the relationship. …If you turn towards each other, I feel like there would be a lot more knowledge, and understanding and affection between two people.

    So, I believe Gottman- who wouldn’t believe Gottman?

    I feel like it could be protective in many relationships, it can be a bit harder in strained relationships, and I may not appreciate the difficulty involved for people to practice this who have “busy” minds- but it seems to be the necessary thing to keep the relationship, and to make it a good one.

    I day dream about meeting up with my Hawaiian shirt, black-socks-with- sandals, wearing 70 year old husband for some shuffleboard one day.

    I wish you guys would just cooperate!! : P!

    1. Oh yes, a great article and a great principle – and one that probably has alchemic properties.

      What just completely bums me out is when I just miss those bids, when they go right by me, unnoticed.

      You wonder: am I actually braindead, not just snoozing? Am I unsafe for a relationship?

      And the answer is probably: no, you’re not braindead, you’re not terminal. You’re just not perfect, and expecting yourself to be perfect is crazy, so just turn again and make the repair. Matt, are you listening? 😉

    2. okay, rereading the gottman article (again)…so, when my hubs effs up, and he knows I’m upset, he gets very boyish and cutesy and says “do you love me?” or “can I have a kiss?” i usually say yes, or give him a kiss, because i dont want to “turn away”. however, this often infuriates me, because i feel like i’m not being true to myself, and he’s totally trying to get me to say “yes, you’re still a good boy” (pat on the head), which keeps me in mom role and him in child role…I guess I need to just stop and say “yes, I love you–but I’m still really upset about ___” or “I don’t feel like giving you a kiss right now, because I’m upset, but if you’d like to talk about things, I’d be happy to connect with you that way” (pretty sure he’d run for cover at that point)….oh boy–lots to think about!

      1. Merrida,
        I think boundaries are important to uphold.
        The turning towards is really the day to day behavior. It’s what the actual relationship is.
        If he is turning towards you trying to make repairs, great- but you’re still infuriated.
        Talking about the action/behavior and telling him it is causing damage I would think is still important to address. You could bring up Matt’s awesome throwing cotton balls/ feeling stones analogy.
        And ask him just to recognize that it’s painful.
        But to note. Humans are lazy. We would rather not alter our behaviors.
        Maybe making a plan- instead of doing X stop first and do something else, reinforcing it together, non punitivly (sp?), but as a team could work.
        I should make a disclaimer here that I am idealistic most of the time.
        People can be difficult, stubborn and just plain hard. But we can continue to hope.
        He needs to know this is as much work for you as it is for him- but that you’re willing because you care about him and the marriage. Ask him for the same.
        …I’m just letting my fingers fly here, I hope it’s helpful.

        1. Just throwing a few things out into the stream here.

          I think you are so right about the turning toward. You can have all the conflict in the world if you pay attention to one another and deal with each other with interest and caring (and some compassion and tenderness). What sort of freaks me out a bit personally is that the Gottmans rate a clean miss the same way they rate an intentionally ignored bid. So when you see yourself doing that in retrospect, you can really wonder: am I just not suitable material for the kind of relationship I’d like to be part of?

          Also – something I learned some years ago that might have been the original turning point in my life was that the pain I feel today is not forever. I like cute taglines (it’s my inner black preacher – a term of respect from me) and my phrase for this is “don’t confuse location with destination.” I may be in deep $h!t today, but that’s just today; it doesn’t mean I’ll be there forever.

          I think I had a minor (or maybe it’s major) breakthrough recently when I realized I could apply this lesson, which literally almost cost me my life, to a lot of other things that happen in our lives. Long wind-up; here’s the pitch: spouses may be in different places for a season. It’s worth asking whether we, I, you, can see and accept this as a season rather than as a permanent condition. That’s a very personal question and I have no advice on that – I struggle to figure that out myself…

          1. very good point–thank you jack. one of my favorite adages is “don’t make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling”…I agree we move in seasons, it just seems like the same thing over and over and over….but I guess that’s what seasons do?? this is all so very helpful!

          2. Jack, great point. One of my things about relationships is they have a rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm changes- sometimes it doesn’t sound or feel like Rhythm at all.
            I can say (from my very distant perspective of not actually having to live it out) that there needs to be allowance for each partner to grow and become, they need the space to do that. And as long as nothing harmful is going on, and hopefully some small continuation/reassurance that both are still in it- experiencing times of not clicking, or what feels like distance, or whatever, I think is to be expected.
            I tend to think it is when youre older and can look back at the times of distance, while currently in a secure space with your spouse, is some of the sweetest fruit. …I think that is what most people hope for.
            It can feel so heavy during those times of distance, though. And people start to doubt.
            Maybe those are the exact times one should reach over to their spouse and exchange some love. But. I know in those times even that can feel impossible.

          3. well, this is probably the last place I should write this–on a public forum, but my husband just called me at work to tell me he’s quitting couples therapy and that he’s done (with us). I was afraid if I began speaking up and asking for what I want, he would say “forget it”. I guess I was right….I’m not sure what to do. I’m a mess. it would be so easy for me to say “no! i’ll stay silent–you can do whatever you want, just stay” but I don’t feel I can do that, and stay true to myself…

          4. Merrida,
            I am so sorry. I can only imagine the shock of that.
            The truth of the matter is if he is willing to let you go for asking to get your needs met, it doesn’t sound like it is worth saving.
            I am really, so, so sorry.
            And I’m being ballsy with my word’s- but seriously- YOU ARE WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!!!!
            You MUST love you!!!

          5. Called you at work to tell you that? Couldn’t wait until you were in the privacy of your own home?

            One wonders why.

            The only reason I can even begin to imagine what you might be feeling is because I remember that feeling, and it was the beginning of the single-toughest period of my life.

            There are no words that can help. And I am so sorry for that. But you are not alone.

            I don’t know how I (or we) can provide useful support for you, but please don’t be afraid to ask.

            Sending you all of the good thoughts and prayers I can. To keep you steady and true to your principles, and that you may achieve a calm mind and heart during a horrible time.

            e-hugs. I’m so sorry.

          6. thank you, matt…hubs is super impulsive, so he may act like everything is fine tomorrow, but I cant let that happen without talking about it. I know you’ve been through this–the difference is I think I was in your wife’s role– I’M the one who’s been unhappy–he’s always said what an awesome wife I am and how happily married he is–that is, until I started having boundaries and asking for what I need. he can’t take that, so now he wants to leave. I’m not sure if he’s hoping i’ll beg him to stay? or if he really wants to leave. I’ve made it clear that I want to work on things–I think the work is just too hard for him, so he’s ready to bail. I don’t think he’ll be happier without me, but maybe he needs to try it to find out? I’m just sick to my stomach…at least i’ll probably lose a few pounds (dumb joke). thanks for your support…

          7. That’s a super scary and difficult thing to go through. I am going through something similar this week, although not the same background.
            It’s important to remember that your feelings ARE valid. Until your partner sees that, stick to your guns. Everyone has their issues but when people are completely unwilling to hear concerns, there is a fundamental relationship issue(and a lot of the time, it comes back to them).

            My thoughts are with you! I think it’s great so many people are able to open up about these things.

          8. I’m sorry you’re going through something similar…thank you for your support. hopefully we can support each other through this…

          9. this just popped up in my email from zenhabits:  If this moment is filled with fear, uncertainty, immense change, or anxiety … see this as a powerfully important moment to turn towards these feelings, to see that you’re reacting to the great groundlessness of your life at the moment, and to start to learn to embrace this groundlessness, not as something to run from or push away or be reactive towards … but to get comfortable with. If you can find peace in the middle of groundlessness, you open up to the ever-changing nature of life, and can be at peace no matter what life throws at you.

            I’m going to try embrace the groundlessness…but its hard…

          10. Groundlessness IS hard. However, when change is necessary, it’s an inevitable aspect.

          11. It seems to be a relatively safe place to share stories and talk about how we feel. Atleast, that’s why it appeals to me

            Sometimes the blog posts are okay too;)

            I am no stranger to marriage problems and all I can do now is concentrate on other important things in my life! Kinda like the old saying, you can lead a horse to water……

          12. I’m so so sorry Meridda and Natasha

            It’s so easy to say from the outside Meridda, but if he leaves you because you’re finally standing up for your needs, he isn’t willing to work on things and you are? Doesn’t sound like a relationship that’s healthy for you to be in at all. You’re worth so much more than that!

            Ask yourself, what would you want your best friend or your daughter (real or imagined) to do in this situation?

            Could you go to counceling/coaching on your own?Tell them what’s going on, tell them you ideally want to save the relationship, but not if that means you don’t get to have needs. And then, with their guidance (if it’s helpful to you), take it from there.

          13. yes–I am in counseling on my own, and yes, I DO think of my 14 yo daughter and what example I am setting for her…my therapist is already in favor of me leaving him (I think–subtle slips), but I want to make it work. I don’t want to fail. its a real dilemma…thanks for your support…

          14. May I but in here knowing absolutely nothing about these situations? Something that I have come to resent, all the times people told me to divorce my husband, therapists, pastors, girlfriends,my own family. I look back and that still makes me angry,I needed support, encouragement,someone to listen. but instead what I always got was,divorce him,sometimes even for the sake of the children,as if my very marriage was somehow harmful to them. There was never any abuse, nothing to inspire that reaction in anyone,and yet I must have heard it a thousand times. It’s been 31 years now and I am so glad I never heeded any of that advice.

            I would have appreciated some encouragement, perhaps a reminder to take care of myself. That’s really all I ever needed, but instead I just got this never ending mantra, “divorce him.” I’m so glad I didn’t.

          15. Wow! If you feel willing, I think it would be a huge contribution to this discussion if you could talk about why you feel that way.

          16. Well, a couple of things give me pause here, people are equating feeling hurt with emotional abuse,which then translates into “he is abusing you, you need to leave him.” That’s huge leap. Hurt feelings are not necessarily abuse. It’s not as if divorce magically wipes away all the hurt feelings anyway. Second I read, “I want to make it work” and rather than anyone honoring that, I hear a lot of “set boundaries and leave him” advice. Allegedly a therapist is also in favor of that. Unless someone is in imminent danger, a therapist should never be pushing for what they want,they should be supporting their client choices.

            All that actually triggered some memories and a some anger about all the times I heard similar things. If I had not fought it, I would not be here having the forth, fifth honeymoon, Marriage can be good and I would have lost all that if I were vulnerable, less defiant, and had listened to “advice.”

            Feelings are going to get hurt,personalities are going to clash, but none of that necessarily indicates abuse.

          17. Ib,
            I want you to know I get where you are coming from, and I am not entirely comfortable with giving out “advice” about things I really don’t know a lot about.
            But, I think can state that if something is hurting you, you need to do what you can to stop that or change in- or accept it and live in it.
            But living in the pain afflicted by someone who just doesn’t really care to change it, or help you, it is 1000 times worse to endure.
            That to me is needless pain.

            That’s just where I am and how I feel.

            But, like I do in- I can appreciate where you are coming from. If it is someone just needs relief from “too much” I get encouraging them forward.
            But this doesn’t sound like that.

          18. thanks you all for your responses…ib22, I think what you’re saying is sometimes you just want empathy, not advice–is that right? I can definitely relate. for me, it can help when people say “if you end up divorcing, you’ll be okay”, but people saying “just leave him! he’s an asshole!” doesn’t fee good, even if he’s being an asshole–its like I can say that, but I don’t like it when others do…

          19. Merrida,
            Ultimately I believe you know what is right for you. You can’t listen to anyone exception your own heart and mind.
            I will tell you – if it comes to an end you didn’t fail.

            From the tiny bit you shared, year-round it sounds like a manipulative move to get you to not push him/it.

            If you are really close to the door and are prepared for it- call him on it.

            Let him know youre serious.

            I am in no way saying doing something you aren’t prepared for.
            But if the choice is status quo, at the expense of your health and well being then there has to be a change in the status quo.

            There needs to be a change.

            That doesn’t mean it has to be divorce, (Lord knows no one likes divorce.)

            But if youre being harmed- emotionally, mentally, spiritual- you have to stand up for yourself

            Much love and supports going out to you.

          20. Yeah, if it were me I’d try to work with a coach/councelor and see what I could do to try and save the marriage, while also gaining clarity on my own boundaries and bottomline and keeping that in mind. That’s me, you must do what you feel is right for you.

            Whatever you choose, best wishes!

          21. Meridda,
            So listen, I do just want to say that my whole “call him on it” is what I would *want* to do if I were I the situation. ( I try NOT to just blurt stuff like that out, because I can see how someone can easily begin to feel bombarded with everyone else’s opinions. So, I hope it didnt come across that way. )

            I was thinking on my way home -and I ran across another one of your comments about the possibility of him having ADHD…and Super sensitive to criticism.

            That is a tough one, for sure. Would he be at all willing to get help/treatment?

            The good things about a diagnosis is- it means #1- youre not the only one, and #2- there are some things that can help it.

            I know there is still a lot of ego defense. I hope he can hear and accept that getting help is really for HIM, in so many ways.

            Anyway- I hope you can have a somewhat peaceful night.

          22. I didn’t take it that way at all—I HAVE to have a voice in this going forward. That’s why I feel so scared—because he’s used to me backing down whenever he gets like this and I just can’t this time. I totally agree about the ADHD diagnosis and I’ve told him those same things—maybe he just needs some time to process (another telling sign) When he called today, he said he was sick of seeing all the books and stuff around the house about relationships and he saw this blog post on my laptop—maybe he thinks I was searching how to get divorced and he wanted to beat me to the punch?? I told him I read this stuff because I want us to succeed. He just takes it as a personal offense. Thanks for your support. Hoping I can get to sleep before he gets home. We have therapy tomorrow if he doesn’t bail.

          23. It may not be necessary to write this, but I’ve thought about it a few times today, so thought I would go ahead.
            I don’t really even much like couching ADHD as an illness or disorder. It’s a disorder as much as it does literally disorder ones life and functioning. Which can vary widely- and many times it had less to do with adhd, and more to do with how we learned to cope with it.
            I have heard it talked about in terms of just “a difference”- as actually a hyper focus, on particular things…which I guess could make it difficult in a world/society where the majority just doesn’t function that way.
            It could be similar to the analogy of being a cyclist on a road made for cars. (Certainly one is not better than the other, but just because MOST people drive, the infrastructure caters to them…)
            Just some thoughts…

          24. On the ADHD front – I have much compassion for my partner’s delayed diagnosis and what his life experiences and learned protective behaviours did to his self esteem and lifelong low expectations of him from those around him. I always told him I could see what he could achieve and wouldn’t let previous expectations or lack of them limit my view of him. That being said – setting and reaching reasonable goals for himself is in his power, not mine. It has been very hard for him to reevaluate his life separate from my professional success that has allowed for the comforts of our family. Very hard for a man and our societal definitions.

            My error had been making myself small at home for his benefit and not being clear and kind about my boundaries. Individual and marital therapy helped. Talking to friends didn’t – they care too much and don’t want to see me hurting. Poor bugger didn’t know what hit him when I sincerely offered to buy him out of the house I paid for and give him half of my retirement savings for peace of mind and heart. He couldn’t hear the subtle stuff. Needed a sledgehammer to get through.

            Having a son likewise affected he’s has been very engaged to take action on it now in terms of teaching son to manage and succeed. He can’t not do it just because no one knew to do it for him.

          25. ” It has been very hard for him to reevaluate his life separate from my professional success that has allowed for the comforts of our family.” Do you mean it is more difficult to know what to work for, or what goals to aim for if the material stuff is taken care of?

            ” Talking to friends didn’t – they care too much and don’t want to see me hurting” – I”ve been a friend before 🙂 . … But, yeah, I can see how condemning anyone for their behavior isn’t necessarily supportive, or helpful.

            Life is hard. We all have stuff we have to work out. Its a thousand times more bearable if everyone can be honest and own their crap. I think it can even make relationships better- because you can be an encouragement and confidant in the personal work he has to do, and vice versa.
            I mean, ideally that would be how it worked. – and it would be awesome.

            Hoping for that awesome to be a daily reality for you guys.

    1. Still Trying… that makes me so sad! “Marriage doesn’t mean the end of lonliness.” I have really appreciated some of the things you have written. Cheering you on…:)

      1. My heart breaks for him every day when I see him watching the joy and fun the rest of us have. Some days we see flashes of him break out of this and I think that’s what keeps us going.

        1. Still trying, can I ask – does he isolate himself?
          It may feel like a little bit of relief if its not just you. ..
          I think it would hurt me more if someone I loved retreated from just me. That’s just a whole additional layer of rejection with that. (Even if he is doing it for his own safety, or whatever.)

          1. He’s very social and charming on the surface but it maintains the image he’s so attached to. When the door closes or he hangs up the phone his voice changes. Few friends and those he has are private or even secret. Kids know to interact it’s mostly only on a topic he’s interested in. Having a very intense talk with daughter the other night about her drive to get good marks that I felt might be for the wrong reasons. We were going somewhere really interesting and she was expressing herself well and he got up, went into other room and lay on couch to watch tv or play on phone (a frequent escape). My heart broke for her. If it’s because he doesn’t know how to do it or what to say, hang around and learn but it comes off as disinterest to the kids. Kids tell me much and I encourage to talk to him so I don’t feel like I’m keeping secrets or I get their permission to share for them. He needs to know what they are experiencing and living but I also see in his eyes how sad it makes him that I know things about them he doesn’t. Sadly his hurt comes out as anger and irritability. It’s kinda like hugging a porcupine – very carefully.

  15. So, Ive been thinking about this and would love to hear what others may think about it. I started “talking” about it on Drews Blog.
    It ties into the idea that our marriage partner is supposed to meet all of these roles and expectations- we somehow end up completely missing the person.
    I wonder if that is because we focus all out attention on this one relationship.

    To be clear- I am not talking about polyamourous relationships.

    I am just talking about other close relationships.

    Families used to be a lot bigger, there were many connections. And while I am sure that doesn’t necessarily mean people were anymore close or loving, I wonder if we have lost touch with knowing how to have relationship in our small nuclear families.

    I wrote this below that is a little haphazard … I couldn’t quite nail down what I wanted to say. I revised it a little…but the main ideas are there.

    I would love input on what others may think. (Jack? Still Trying?)

    …honesty and vulnerability and being real from the get go is so important- in ALL relationships. This is the bottom line truth that I have rooted myself in.

    Humans need love and intimacy, we need belonging.
    We tend to seek that from one person who holds certain qualities that excite us. This is our cultural “norm.”
    That excitement tends to wane over time, and likely our expectations aren’t exactly met. And in the push and pull of trying to get our needs met we tend to hurt each other pretty badly.
    I have decided to love. I want to love for the sake of loving.
    I trust that there will be others who will love me back.
    I feel like when I am doing that, when I am loving others around me unconditionally, and engaging in relationships (friends, family, co-workers) and have those that are based in love and mutual give and take, etc. The urgent, great need for that individual/romantic love isnt such an intense driver of my motivations. (Because love is one of the main drivers of most behaviors, in one way or another.)
    Being in loving relationships helps me to not put my energies into finding or securing *the love* that we want.
    Instead being in loving relationships helps us to create the love we all need.
    I hope that makes sense…I feel like I am circling around the idea and not striking it on the head…but I think you’ll get what I am saying.

    …those relationships arent to the exclusion of romantic love. Meaning- “I am going to love everybody, so I dont need a romantic love”- I dont mean that at all.
    But, when we are loving and around love, we do less to sacrifice ourselves, and we understand what love really is. ..And it becomes less urgent, less “me and mine” focused.
    I think that just sets us up for better relationships overall.
    ..It sounds like I should be wearing tie dye and a daisy chain, doesnt it? Lol ?

  16. Am an enabler (if you haven’t figured that out yet :). Husband showered me with warmth and affection that I didn’t feel I could ever get or deserved. He is phenomenally talented but lacks the self esteem to produce and complete. I saw what he could do in a way he couldn’t see himself. We moved away from family and friends (circumstances of work) but created one here with good people around us. Add three kids in 3 1/2 years, exhaustion, overwhelm, little on the fun meter, roles we’d agreed to with no peer support (not many stay at home dads here and few financial head of household women) and you have a perfect storm. Both retreated to self protective behaviours as we were both unskilled in protecting each other. Add some probably unintentional boneheaded moves – actually many.

    We’re still here because deep down we love – he sees things in me and vice versa that are respected, loved and we want to nurture in each other. I’ve worked hard, I have interests and activities outside the home out of work that I work around family’s needs. I’ve done a lot of psychological work and don’t need my husband to complete me. His definition of self requires many of the accessories my work provides – which I was happy to do (provide, not define) but it’s his job to be happy with himself and what we have.

    I’m busy teaching our kids to love themselves by living honest, connected, productive lives that make the world a better place. I’m focussing on living the example I want to set for them. I’m apparently a little intimidating to men. I think I made myself little for a long time when I realized how small he truly felt. It just got too hard to be one thing in the house and one thing in the rest of the world. I know he loves me but it should make me feel good about myself. He loves me because I make him feel good about himself.

    Maybe doesn’t answer your question, but that’s what came out ?

      1. Thank you for sharing this. I am nodding my head a lot..:).
        Your capacity to love and empathize is beautiful.
        But, I agree that cant be at the expense of loving yourself.

        No, I couldn’t tell you are an “enabler” 🙂 ….I wonder if that is really just over-functioning/under-functioning?
        I have been in the role of both, and as odd as it sounds it feels better for me to be in the over functioning role.
        When I was in a relationship that I was under functioning in I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I somehow ended up almost regressing emotionally- I felt needy and helpless, because I was treated like I was. The whole relationship was this person “taking care of” me and my hurt. It felt nice at first, but then the biggest emphasis was the thing that made me feel the weakest. That was who I was when we interacted.

        I don’t mean to say that has any reflection on your relationship. But, it is an interesting phenomenon in relationships.
        It is easy for me to take on the over over functioner role, too, because I do care, and I want to help. And that can look differently in different situations. It can be over functioning in a practical sense or an emotional sense.

        It is always a little difficult talking about these things in a forum like this. I really don’t want to come across like I am saying I know anything about your relationship. I really appreciate your honesty and what you share. These are just things I was reminded of.
        Maybe they apply, maybe they don’t. – I just hope me sharing that doesn’t offend .

        Hope you got your second cup of coffee :). I’m not alive until my second …or third…

  17. I am grateful for this blog and forum. We are all wandering the wilderness, baring our shame, connecting with others and distilling ideas. I wish that my husband had same. I’ve tried to share some of the entries but he doesn’t bite.

    Matt’s writing has helped me refocus my perceptions and communicate more effectively in my relationship. And I can talk freely. When I found he’d publicly displayed our dysfunction by having prolonged secret friendships with women I thought we only knew as acquaintances I was humiliated and I reacted in anger and discussed it with my friends. Hell hath no fury and one good humiliation deserves another. (see above references to boneheaded moves). I still need to work out my thoughts and this place allows me to do so while respecting his privacy. For the record, now instead of wondering what he does all day and who he’s going out for coffee with while I’m at work and kids at school he has a job. And I think it’s helping him feel better about himself. Its certainly helped me 🙂

    1. I can relate to all of you so much…so I guess my question for matt is this: you’ve told us what you could have done differently and what you’ve learned from your experience, but since so many of us seem to identify with your wife, what do you think she could have done differently to help the situation? it seems like a lot of us are telling our husbands how we feel, what we want, etc, and are ignored…I showed hubs the dishes by the sink article and it really hit home. for a while. then everything went back to how it was. I’m really on the verge of separation, but I don’t want to give up. how do I decide when enough is enough? we’ve been married 22 years, together for 29. I feel like an idiot for thinking anything would ever change. but I really think that if we separated, my husband would say “well I didn’t know you were THAT upset!”

      1. Meridda, if I may make a few suggestions:
        1. Check out Brent Atkinson’s e-book. It will teach you quite concretely (not just “share your feelings about this issue” to stand up for yourself respectfully and effectively, with not just words, but eventually actions that will get his attention.

        2. Check out Jack Ito, Clowd and Townsend (or anyone else that can teach you about practical boundaries) for practical boundaries when someone isn’t willing to listen, compromise etc. You can use those to at least somewhat protect yourself from harmful/hurtful behaviour, while still staying in the relationship, even if he doesn’t change his behaviour (but maybe he will) They do have a bit of a different approach than Atkinson, so maybe one will appeal more to you, or you’ll want a mix.

        Ie: “I don’t like it when you call me x and I want you to stop. If you don’t stop, the next time you do it I’ll call you out on it and end the conversation right there, no matter who’s present”. And then follow through.

        Or: “We have a disagreement about clutter in the house. I want us to brainstorm solutions so we can agree on a solution/compromise that will be respectful of both of our preferences in the home. Are you willing to brainstorm with me? If yes, great. If no, then anything of yours that you haven’t picked up come bed time, and that I don’t think should be where it’s lying, I’ll throw in the junk closet in the hallway. When that closet is full, I’ll just throw what’s there in the trash without looking. If you’re not happy about that, I’m here and ready to dicuss possible solutions that can work for us both.” And then follow through.

        If you haven’t consistently tried this kind of thing (and maybe you have, I don’t know of course, or you’re not willing to for whatever reason), it could be worth a shot if the alternative is divorce or continued married misery.

        Best wishes to you!

        1. thank you so much! I’ve not read any of those authors! I have tried some of those conversations, I just don’t usually follow through…and I KNOW this stuff–just doing it is hard…I was raised not to have a voice, and to stay quiet and small…but I’m working on it. thanks for the suggestions!

          1. You’re welcome!

            Always so much easier to solve other people’s problems. 😉

            I’m not religious, more of a spiritual person. Cloud and Townsend’s writing is heavily influenced by their Christianity (Jack ito is also Christian but from what I’ve read it rarely shows up in his writing). Now, this didn’t bother me, just a heads up if religious language is something you like/don’t like.

            Here’s the link to Brent Atkinson: http://thecouplesclinic.com/

            I struggle with boundary problems too, with some people in my life. Honestly, I’m seriously considering finding a coach/councelor that can help me with this. Figuring out appropriate boundaries for various issues. Based on both my most important needs and values, and wanting to be open to finding a compromise/third way where someone elses differences aren’t really wrong (but sometimes, something really is wrong in my value system and I need to find a more appropriate and realistic boundary from that stand point). And, maybe most of all, I’d need the coach to lend me strength and accountability. I just don’t think I can do it on my own, some of the stuff I’m dealing with.

            Personally though, I haven’t found a coach/councelor yet that I feel is a good enough match overall for my needs, area they specialize in, how they structure their services, price, whether I feel they understand my issues snf needs or not… So I’m still on the lookout. Could be that I’m kidding myself, that I’m really just practicing avoidance.

            So if you know of a good boundary coach online, I’d be happy to hear about them. 🙂

          2. well, have you heard of Brooke Castillo of the Life Coach School? she has a good podcast on boundaries…not sure if she does individual coaching or not, but you might want to look into it…I’m already in individual therapy and couples counseling…the couples therapist is helping, but he’s out of network, so too expensive to see more than once a month or so….its a loooooong process…
            thanks for your input!

  18. So, it’s the middle of the night, I had a large coffee while working late and a yogurt and a bowl of chips later (Keeping’ a healthy balance) I’ve been wondering if I’d be offended if my husband was as open about helping me overcome my “challenges”. I’m a little obsessive, have very high standards, want open and honest connection to a fault sometimes – all likely from my own genetic anxiety and family of origin stuff. At what point is it pathologic and unreasonable ?

    To what extent is your partner obligated to engage in your need to have everything “important” done so when the catastrophe happens the bills will be caught up and everyone will have clean underwear ? Does the bar you set for yourself as an example for kids to learn from have to become the bar for him ? Is it offensive to offer what you see as helpful parenting feedback when you see rifts occurring with teenage daughter ? How did this also “flawed” individual get the reins – did he give them to me or did I grab them ? Am I selfish for walking 18 holes of golf alone once a week (as a mental health intervention) ?

    How would I be described from the other chair ?

    I’m still pretty content with myself – just thinking about how hard I must be to live with sometimes and I miss how he used to kindly reality test each me as I did him. I should tell him that. I don’t feel as perfect with a bowl of dill pickle chips at 3 am. But I did start the dishwasher.

  19. I always say “If you’re going to be awake at 3 in the morning, you might as well be awake with dill pickle chips.” I think, actually, 3am introspectives are their market niche. Crafty Devils.
    (Just being silly) :).
    I’m going to throw out Brene Brown again – “The gifts of imperfection” has chapters related to parenting, too- which is what made me think of it.

    Those are hard questions youre asking.
    But, sounds like they are good and necessary ones.

    1. My boys – sons – are long out of the house at 26 and 28, but i read (listened to, actually) her _Daring Greatly_ and thought that the section on parenting in that was excellent, too, and still somewhat applicable in my life.

      1. Well- now I’m not sure if it was “gifts” or “daring” that I am thinking about …better read both for good measure.. : P 🙂

    2. Funny exchange with husband today re parenting. Talking about how I’m dealing with my guilt about being a little absent in parenting. I had left them in his full time stay at home dad care not realizing how overwhelmed he was by it and how his self protecting escapes didn’t always do the best by them. I have to take some responsibility for not realizing he bit off more than he could chew while I was establishing my practice with three toddlers at home.

      I am working hard to make that up to them. I have taken responsibility with kids for my errors and flaws, they know I do the best I can and are old enough to understand that just as I love them unconditionally, so they can kindly do with me. I’m learning much from them about what THEY need from me as a parent and trying to give it wholeheartedly.

      His reply “that must have been hard to acknowledge and identify it”. My reply – no, it was liberating, it didn’t happen just today, and I reinforce it every day with my choices and actions.

      I also told him I’m trying to do the same with him, which he said he’d noticed. Finished with my hope that he can hear and understand what I need too.

      Still trying hard ?

        1. ..my quotations around “your best”, meant to imply “everyone’s best”, or the proverbial “your best”..not trying to imply that your efforts aren’t your best.
          I think that conversation is awesome, and healing.

          1. I got what you meant the first time. I think historically I deferred to his some of his parenting approaches so as not to contradict how he did “his job” and while I was working my ass off in mine things happened that I’m just learning about from the kids. Unfortunately, time has shown me that some of those approaches affected how our kids see themselves and they are receiving contradictory messages at times. I feel strongly about my messages and am getting better about acting in ways that reinforce them and show him the difference between parenting and disciplining. More and more I learn what a scary house he grew up in.

            I am hoping that he sees how kind and accepting they are and trusts that they will be the same with him. One of the things that helped me let him move back in was baring himself to apologize for the behaviours he had put us through. As he slowly puts his money where his mouth is we all remain wary and I know how much that hurts him. He’s big enough to look after himself, and if I’m forced to make a choice it will be the hard one for my kids who aren’t. It’s never been about me. I think he’s starting to get that.

            How hard is it for a man to be with a woman who is financially and personally capable to be independent when all she wants/needs is for you to be happy with yourself and love your children and family and be able to put their needs (often quite simple) first more often than not ? I guess in our case unhappy with oneself became the barrier to putting others first/letting them in. My friend says it would be way easier if I didn’t take down so many levels and just let it go. But then I wouldn’t be me I guess. And he’d be sitting sadly in the dark somewhere instead of me listening to them all laughing playing video games in the basement.

          2. STH, this is my situation exactly: “How hard is it for a man to be with a woman who is financially and personally capable to be independent when all she wants/needs is for you to be happy with yourself and love your children and family and be able to put their needs (often quite simple) first more often than not ? I guess in our case unhappy with oneself became the barrier to putting others first/letting them in”.

            its so hard….

          3. “got what you meant the first time”- cool. :).

            “My friend says it would be way easier if I didn’t take down so many levels and just let it go.” I’m not 100% sure what “take down so many levels” means, other than maybe discussing every point?

            “I guess in our case unhappy with oneself became the barrier to putting others first/letting them in”-
            This is one thing I find is so often the reason we seek relationships, and what interfers in them at the same time.

            I keep trying to find the boundary line between our need for each other and our need to assert boundaries. Between the need to take care of each other, even being the person that helps to heal parental emotional wounds, being the one who loves unconditionally, and our need for “an adult” partner. …I think there are parts of me- I don’t know if it is the same for other women, that does want to be the one to hold hold him while he is sobbing. I do want to be that comfort to him, even if it is reflective of a mothers love and is ok to give to your lover/partner…(I think it is the expectation for all needs to be automatically cared for that is the trouble when considering “she feels like his mother” issues.)

            I believe the best way to grow, even as adult, is within a loving family.
            When you haven’t experienced that before, it is very hard to be a part of that. Even if you want to be. It can even be hard to see the love that is being given, and difficult to respond in a way that seems or feels natural.

            I think it is , sometimes unfortunately, true that most of us get married and have kids before we truly are mature adults, but then it may also be so that getting married and having kids is how we become mature adults.

            If we could all just take each others hand and “walk each other home.” I think we would be more compassionate towards one another. (As long as they are walking the same way with us.)

            Anyway- sorry if that veered off topic a bit..:)

          4. P.S.- I may have watched too many movies this weekend- bring me back to reality, please!! (Tell me if I am being too gooey.)

          5. I think that made much sense and was lovely 🙂 His needs are almost simple for me to meet, mine are also but require an openness and honesty and presence that is a struggle for him to maintain 24/7 – I don’t need it 24/7 but I need It to be available when I ask and even when I shouldn’t have to. He knows that I am here any time – I don’t know when it’s convenient for him to have us and we all feel that.

            Re: too many levels – my female friends think I’ve supported his “entitled ass” way too long and he should be out in the real world learning hard lessons instead of me gently nudging him into adulthood one issue at a time.

          6. “but I need it to be available when I ask, “-yes, that seems simple and fair.
            That’s how I think we should approach most of our issues, emotional or otherwise in a partnership. We have to be the ones to care for ourselves first, but when we need help- if we are struggling, or just want some encouragement, please be present and available. – or tell me when you can be!
            I don’t know how you feel about your friends words, but I think “entitlement” is the big huge unmistakable issue in many relationships. Men have just had more power and say, they are given more control over their lives even as kids than women get. ..(Never knew my Gloria Steinem loving mom was a sexist until she paid for s car rental for my step brother when he visited them- “so he wouldn’t be stuck at the house.” That was never, ever, ever, ever…ever offered to me. And she freely said it- “He’s a guy.” …but I digress. The point being that men have been given more power, control, freedom- whatever you want to call it and feel like it is a natural right. ..The problem is that it usually costs someone somewhere something for what is believed to be “just how it is”.

  20. My husband texted me from his brother’s couch last night. Words that describe who he is and how he views me…”regardless of you’re perspective, I did nothing wrong”. The funny thing is he had been feeling attacked and criticized by me when I made it clear by saying, “I’m not saying you did anything wrong. This is my fear and my anxiety.” I just asked him to be more considerate of it and call me more when he’s out of town. But, shame on me for having feelings that get in the way of the “biggest night of his life”. Shame on me for being a little annoyed that I couldn’t be there because while he has been focusing on getting his dreams, he’s been making 10k per year and using my dreams to financially support his. While in the meantime, I may lose my business, house, and car.
    The worse part is, he’s not a snotty mess on his brother’s couch. He’s going about his day, continues to tell me that he’s working on his issues, but I’m incapable of working on mine.
    And, it’s funny how I got to my blog. You like one of my tweets. A tweet I posted, in hopes he’d read it..
    What I want to know is, at what point in my life did I think this was okay to be treated like this? He never treated me well. And, why do I still want our marriage to work?

    1. I’m so sorry to hear of your situation. It sounds exactly like mine was. I can relate. Based on my own experience , he doesn’t get it, nor will he ever get it. I encourage you to leave. I finally snapped and left. It’s coming up two years and I’ve never been happier. You will be less lonely and will enjoy life on your own terms without the fighting and drama all the time. I would also suggest reading “the Emotionally Unavailable Man” by Patti Henry.
      You cannot change him. Help yourself and get out and live your best life. Good luck.

    2. Elaine McIntosh

      I also wanted to add that you are enabling him. I did it too. I just couldn’t see it til I was out. I was tired of supporting him. He was unemployed half the time because he had entrepreneurial fantasies. Sorry, it’s time for him to grow up and support himself. I hope you can support yourself and get out. I urge you to start making a plan. I use to lie in bed at night praying for the courage to leave. Once you make the decision to leave, you are free. It feels amazing !!!

      Sent from my iPhone


  21. “I cried sometimes and felt like a massive loser and failure. Like I’d let everyone down. And to this day, I have significant shame issues any time a life situation forces me to acknowledge my failed marriage to someone new.”

    So, are you working on healthy resolution of this shame issue? After all, isn’t one form of personal growth the result of learning from your mistakes and choosing to behave better in the future?

    [Note: I think it would be easier to do this if you would relinquish your seeming insistence on taking the full responsibility for the failure of your marriage.]

    1. I think we have different definitions of taking full responsibility for things.

      You say it like I take all the blame. Like I think it was entirely my fault.


      I think messed up a bunch of times, mostly accidentally, and that if I hadn’t, I’d still be married.

      Sorry if you think that’s unhealthy, or as if I’d be better off blaming other people for my life circumstances.

      I don’t want to share with you what I think of people who blame everyone else for all their problems.

  22. Very nice job capturing the mood of that window of time / state where you’re considering what appears at the time to be an unthinkable option. But yet you’re thinking about it…

  23. This is such a well written post and hit home to me on so many levels. I applaud you for looking within and not blaming others for your flaws. That’s a level of maturity that so many have a hard time reaching.
    ~Staci Beth / fromhedoublehockeysticksandback

  24. Damn. I’ve been debating for years even took time off work and home. Just so I could clear my head. I have 3 kids and its very hard to me I’ve always said I’m doing this for my kids. But really all I can say is. If there’s no love attention move on. Do not make your life miserable and then regret the time you missed on. Your kids are always there. become responsible and just call it good. Move on. Have fun. We only live once. That’s indeed true. Note if your divorcing give your self a long break and don’t get In the same boat once again. It’s hard not saying I’m cruel. I still love my wife but I’m going for it

    1. As a woman, I say “congrats”. Move forward. Try to be friends for the sake of your kids, they come first but don’t stay for your kids. No one should settle for crappy relationship. Kids are better in two separate Happy homes, instead of one miserable home. It also will teach your kids not to stay in a bad relationship.
      I did it and I’m 10x happier.
      Good luck.

  25. I’m pretty new to the blog business but so glad I stumbled across yours. I’m reading all of the things I need to read, and share with my husband. So far much of what you write is our struggle and he just doesn’t understand like I do. Like you do. ????

  26. Dr. Loyd Aspen

    I really don’t deserve it. I believe she was never really in love with me to begin with. Looking back, I can see she used me to “rescue” her. She was giving as long as it served her purpose. Now, she is still using me. TRUTH! She is a taker and not a giver in an intimate relationship. If she gives it’s always for a bigger take. I’m sick of being used and discarded. I am responsible for my own happiness. Therefore, I will not divorce her. I will simply not indulge her. I’ll give her a month at most before she decides to quit. I will be happy to help her.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.