I trusted my wife with everything I thought was important.
I trusted her with everything that mattered to me.
I trusted her to honor our marriage vows. I trusted her to not kill me in my sleep. I trusted her to conceive, deliver and mother my children. I trusted her to not commit major crimes. I trusted her to not clean out our bank accounts and disappear. I trusted her to behave in mature, intelligent, socially acceptable ways when we were out together. I trusted that my wife was who she said she was, and that I’d made a wise and acceptable decision to choose her as my life-long partner in marriage, parenting, money, co-habitation, and whatever else the future may deliver.
But I didn’t trust my wife with everything.
I didn’t trust her on matters I didn’t perceive to be important, such as our respective preferences for different types of food or drink or music or movies or personal hobbies or weekend activities, etc.
Cheering from the stands of a New Year’s Day college football bowl game, I was emotionally invested in the outcome, because my favorite team winning mattered to me.
My wife thought football was a little bit dumb and boring, and was infinitely more interested in what I’d call sideshow attractions, like the marching bands and cheerleaders.
Sitting among 75,000 screaming fans, with millions more watching at home on TV, and feeling those intense moments of anxiety as the clock counted down with the game in the balance, and then—MAGIC—something unexpected and glorious happens to secure unlikely victory. JOY. Total strangers embracing with happy tears streaming down our faces. VICTORY.
My wife thought it was all a little ridiculous. A bunch of adults investing themselves emotionally in something silly like football. She loved the art and showmanship of the marching bands, baton twirlers and dancers, and there was nothing anyone could say, nor anything she could witness that would change her mind or make her conclude anything other than: football is stupid and marching band stuff is awesome.
I didn’t trust my wife’s opinions when they conflicted with mine.
And in and of itself, that’s probably not particularly weird or harmful. But when combined with the following truth, I think you stamp your divorce papers long before anyone ever realizes there’s a problem.
I didn’t trust my wife’s feelings.
If my wife was upset about something—independent of my involvement—it’s fair to say I defaulted to a position of: She’s overreacting again.
I didn’t always come right out and say that. If I wasn’t defending myself against some perceived criticism, I’d exercise as much diplomacy as possible.
But she’s smart and perceptive. If I didn’t agree with her conclusions, I usually said so, and tried to offer reasons why.
No matter how valid my reasons, or how sound my logic, or how well-intentioned I was being, this little song and dance usually resulted in another marriage fight.
I thought I was right. I thought she was wrong. And I believe Right should always win out over Wrong.
And in a vacuum, I still believe that. Right should trump Wrong.
But marriages are not vacuums.
And loving and honoring one’s partner and working for the benefit of her or his emotional health and welfare, is INFINITELY more important than winning arguments about marching bands vs. football, or the significance of leaving a dirty dish by the sink.
“From the male perspective—what is the impact of loss of trust from the wife on the male psyche? How does this impair ability to function in the relationship and does the despair it causes just result in giving up trying to regain it? Not sexual infidelity loss of trust, but honestly worded and kind explanation of why the wife feels like the parent, how repeated secrets and their discovery makes the wife wonder what the next one will be and how learning of secret emotional relationships makes the wife hate his password protected always present iPhone.
“To what extent (as a man) do ‘you’ see it as the wife’s job to fix her shit? I know your answer—but around trust and facing loss of it, what do men need to hear to make it safe to be vulnerable to their vulnerable partner?”
A Different Kind of Answer
StillTryingHard asked for my take on the polar-opposite scenario in a marriage.
She asked me to talk about what happens inside the male mind when his wife demonstrates a distrust of him.
And I hope STH will forgive me for providing what might appear to be a counter-intuitive response (we can and should talk about this more in the comments!), but the above scenario and general mindset is what I believe the actual problem to be.
No “male behavior” encompasses all men, and no “female behavior” accurately describes the actions of all women. But men and women often display tendencies that cut to the heart of the whole Battle of the Sexes/Mars-Venus conversation.
Out here in the world, the Men Are Pigs brigade can blame men for everything while the Red Pill-Swallowing Manosphere can point fingers at women, and the consequences—on a case-by-case basis—might be minor.
Maybe it’s limited to an impolite exchange of comments on the internet, or a group of men swapping stories after a Saturday morning round of golf, or a group of women doing the same at the spa. It’s not ideal, but it’s mostly contained.
In a marriage between a man and a woman? Where the break-up will fundamentally change the lives of both people, their children, their finances, their friends and family, and unknown other ripple effects?
There, the stakes are a bit higher.
I don’t know that I particularly care about the women that hate men because they’ve had a lifetime of bad experiences with them. Doesn’t it make sense for certain women to have their guards up with men after the previous five or eight or 15 that they’ve dated/loved/lived with/slept with, etc. all turned out to be negative life experiences?
And isn’t that also true for certain men? If they’ve been lied to, manipulated, or cheated on by women they believed to love them?
We can’t make people like and respect each other, unfortunately.
But, in MARRIAGE?
What could POSSIBLY be ambiguous about publicly stated vows like “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad”? Or “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”? Or “until death do us part”?
We can be dicks to one another here on the internet or to strangers on the street with little immediate consequence.
It spreads hate. It extinguishes light. It perpetuates fear.
But we can do it, and in that moment, an individual’s life or group of family members’ lives might not be adversely affected forever.
But when we do it in our marriages, we break things inside others and ourselves that I’m not sure can ever be fixed.
I have a little boy in third grade. He’s my entire world. Almost every decision I make, big or small, begins and ends with him in mind.
Almost every hardship he faces—all of the little things that present challenges and anxieties and fears and pain in that child’s world—is a direct result of his parents’ divorce.
On occasions where that child is crying in my arms, he’s crying because of circumstances that wouldn’t exist if his mom and dad were still married.
And I’m sure there’s all kinds of blame to go around, but I KNOW why I’m divorced. I know who to blame for those tears.
My wife believed one thing.
I believed something else.
And instead of that being okay like it is when my best friends root for a different sports team or vote for a different political candidate, I didn’t trust her.
No matter how many millions of ways I DID trust her, I didn’t trust that when she told me that something was hurting her or mattered to her, that she was experiencing it accurately.
Didn’t seem like it would hurt to me.
Didn’t seem important from my perspective.
So, when she said something that didn’t align with my experiences, I didn’t trust her.
I didn’t trust her feelings.
I didn’t trust her feelings because they were different than mine.
You can get away with that with your buddies. With your co-workers. With people you want to argue with on the internet.
But when you promise to love and honor someone forever, you damn well better TRUST them when they describe their experiences to you.
Which Came First—His Distrust or Hers?
Men often display a need to be trusted and respected. Bad things tend to happen when they feel otherwise in their relationships.
But when you deny your wife or girlfriend’s right to experience human life in the way they do, calling them wrong, or stupid, or crazy?
When she can’t feel safe talking to you about things that make her feel bad?
When she can’t trust you to take care of her even in matters as seemingly small as a random conversation?
When we love and honor our partners, we go first.
We don’t point fingers. We look in the mirror.
Trust can’t be a thing in a constant state of rebuild.
Trust must be in a perpetual state of accumulation.
Trust shouldn’t be something we react to.
Trust should be the thing we lead with.
These two articles are awesome, and helped me formulate my thoughts here:
143 thoughts on “I Didn’t Trust My Wife Long Before She Stopped Trusting Me”
When you were discussing the football vs marching band thing, all I could think was, ‘Porque no los dos?’
For me I’m not sure I see this as a matter of trust – although I see that – but respect. Like, if someone tells you they feel a certain way, it’s disrespectful to dismiss it out of hand. You can acknowledge that you would feel differently in their shoes while still respecting the fact that they are their own person with their own way of reacting to things and their own reasons for reacting the way they do. If I disagree with someone, I respect their opinion even as I disagree. Thinking that their opinion is stupid or invalid is just divisive and exhibits a lack of respect for their intelligence and their experiences and their interests… It makes the other person feel like you think they are somehow less than.
I suppose it’s much the same thing really, I’ve just never worded it as trust before. Whatever term you use I do agree it’s poison in a long term relationship.
I hear you. I wouldn’t call a difference of opinion or of personal preferences a trust issue, per se.
But I think it’s the best “visual” aid for people experiencing life differently.
The problem is NOT that we disagree about things.
It’s as you said: That we sometimes don’t fundamentally respect other’s thoughts/feelings/opinions.
Perhaps I should have dug down one more layer in the post.
BECAUSE I conveyed disrespect for my wife’s different opinion, she experienced hurt feelings.
But my feelings aren’t hurt when people have different opinions than me. My feelings aren’t hurt when I’m having a debate with someone about something.
Her feelings were hurt by those things.
I didn’t honor that.
I didn’t trust her when she said that something she experienced differently than me was harmful.
HAD I trusted her when she told me about things happening inside her head and heart, even though they didn’t align with my experiences, my son would hurt less.
The person I love and cherish most in life occasionally suffers deep down where no one can help him.
And that happens because I didn’t trust everything my wife said — you know — if it was a little inconvenient because maybe I’d have to adjust some minor behavior, or more vigilantly exercise kindness.
I wrote 1,500 words, but I could have probably said it all in one sentence:
If you’re going to vow to love and honor someone for life, and agree to share everything with them, so too should you TRUST that what she/he says they’re feeling, is valid and meaningful.
Otherwise, you’re kind of an asshole, and your children will cry more.
This is such a good comment it should almost be added to the end of your post.
Would like to stress the text between >> <>what she/he says they’re feeling,<< is valid and meaningful."
I grew up in a family where conflict was totally unsafe, just out of bounds, and differences of opinion were viewed as A Bad Thing. So it's taken me 3.5 decades of marriage to begin to feel comfortable speaking up for what's going on inside.
My point is that what you said is so true, but in real life it only works if your spouse will/can tell you how they're feeling, and that is probably not something you can just take for granted, unfortunately. 🙁
Wow, didn’t know that >> and << were code. The part of the second to last paragraph that I wanted to emphasize was "what she/he says." If I don't tell you, you don't have any data to trust (or not trust) as valid and meaningful.
Love your comment. Not either/or but both/and! A whole lot of grief (real grief, not just slang grief) could be saved with that one perspective shift!
Wow…so much that could, and will, be said!
Two things come to mind immediately.
The first is a quote from the end of a blog post titled “Sexlessness – the Anti-Magi Gift”by Laurie Watson at PT: “‘Change, so I CAN change,’ argues the fool. Magi wisdom is a one-way commitment to love the other.” The post is about sexless marriages, but the principle applies to every part of a relationship. If you want trust – trust. There will be marriages that have irremediably broken down, but I bet that it’s a lot fewer than most of us think and an awful lot less than the divorce rate.
The other is part of Byron Katie’s doctrine that she calls The Work. I have some reservations about this, but I think there’s a lot of utility there, too. So, when I start thinking “my wife doesn’t trust me,” Katie’s model suggests that I should inquire whether that statement is true and whether I can absolutely know that it’s true. And even if the answer might be “yes, and yes dammit” suggests that I should try flipping things around and see where that leads me. So I examine statements like: “I don’t trust my wife” and “I don’t trust myself.” You can get a lot of introspective value out of that exercise. If nothing else, you can open some of the shutters on your, oops, I meant to say: if nothing else, _I_ can open up some of the shutters on _my_ mind.
That’s why I love the idea encapsulated in Laurie Watson’s blog post. Sometimes the question is simply: “Will I go first? What would it take for me to go first?”
thanks for the referral to laurie Watson–I hadn’t heard of her…
Great piece. It is completely destructive to dismiss other people’s feelings or perceptions, especially in a marriage. Even though we know people think and feel differently from us, when we’re actually confronted with it, we don’t want it to be true. But that’s the way we grow and in reality that’s what marriage is all about.
Thank you so much, Lesli. Always flattered when you take a moment to comment. Hope you’re well!
I always see frustrated people always say about their spouses that trust and respect should be earned. Yes, but it can be assumed that you already love and respect the one you took vows to.
I’ve heard things like “trust and respect are earned”, but I came to the conclusion that they are actually *L*earned (see what I did there?) Ok, that was cheesy- but, true.
When we say that trust and respect are earned we are already putting these expectations of behaviors on others- it’s as though people start with a deficit. Hence the feeling of frustration. Both for the people whose expectations aren’t being met, and the person always trying to live up to those expectations.
We learn trust and respect (and love) from our family of origins. ..That’s where we learn distrust, and disrespect and a bunch of different variations of love.
It makes some sense that Matt didn’t “trust” what his wife was telling him. If the relationships he had had up to that point didn’t require him to be sensitive to, or in a way – responsible for, the other persons emotional well being then what she was telling him WOULD be a completely foreign idea.
It would be like visiting another planet where speaking made the beings that lived there shriek in pain. Most of us would think – WTF?
He didn’t trust it because it was new or foreign (I think- maybe I am wrong…?).
Anyway, I think for the most part its learned- relating to other people, loving them,…and learning yourself, figuring out that you didn’t know what you didn’t know.
All in all, even though our blind spots can cause damage, we have to have compassion on ourselves and others.
Learning these things- the things you didn’t know you didn’t know is really for the individual. That should be the first and best reason to want to be open and honest with yourself.
It improves relationships 1000 fold, but it is almost MOST vital for the relationship with yourself (giving meaning, and quality to the individuals life.)
…Rambling now… sorry 🙂
I don’t look at my wife directly again, I look onto the God who gave her to me for help.It has been working for me
When we humble ourselves enough to live for, and serve, something greater than ourselves, then we also learn how to love our spouse and put their needs first.
All-around good things. Thank you for reading and sharing.
I think this website is unintentionally causing divorces.
Women come on here and find support for their side of things, and for their side alone. You have women on a petestal above men. It’s much like how wives get together and complain about their husbands and give each other support for being distant, passive-aggressive, withholding sex, and so on. You aren’t encouraging women to relate to their husbands, you’re encouraging them to dig in their heels and say “I’m right!”
I’m a woman, married to a husband who works between 40-80 hours a week, and I’m sick of the men are less than women perspective that has become so prevelant.
If you took a page of one of your posts and switched the genders, saying MEN should have their feelings trusted, MEN should have their interests supported, and women should give up some of their hobbies and interests because they’re married, how do you think that would go over? Because if you saw men and women as equal, then the advice would be equivilant. It should work both ways. You sometimes give lip service to this idea, but your general message is that men need to sacrifice more and appreciate their wives more, while women just need to tighten the hold on their own views. Men do all of the relating, is the message.
Some men are awful and some men are awful husbands too. But the type of man you describe isn’t. Working hard, paying the mortgage and all the bills, mowing the lawn, etc., he does because he loves his family and wants to take care of them. Many men aren’t good communicators when it comes to feelings, and of course should be encouraged to open up to their wives, to spend meaningful time with them, and to listen as well as talk.
But understand that middle age is a busy period for people, and a time when couples naturally have less time together. For the average couple, their children are young, the wife may work, the husband is working hard and trying to advance his position to make more money, there are many bills, and a home to pay for and maintain. Stress is higher than other periods in life. I’m not saying women shouldn’t expect warmth and companionship from their husbands, just that the expectations be realistic.
Ask yourself how much free time your husband has per week. Recognize he needs to relax and unwind. If he doesn’t want to go to neighborhood gatherings or walking around the park with you, then find something more low key. Watch a movie at home, order take-out, play a board game, do a puzzle, make love. If you want a lifestyle that includes a nice home in a nice neighborhood, the ability to work part-time or not at all outside of the home, for the kids to do activities, maybe go to private schools, go on family vacations, etc., then realize there’s a sacrifice the whole family makes for this. Less time available for the bread-winner.
Women seem to want a dog instead of a husband. They want him to work full-time or more, pay the bills, do all of the lawn care, and then do half of the household chores as well. This isn’t fair.
Most husbands are willing to make an effort. They want their wives to be happy. Don’t approach it as a demand or a complaint, and don’t expect a huge, immediate change. Don’t talk about your marriage to your girlfriends or your mother. Try to be understanding and put the bitterness away, then he will be more willing to make the changes you want. Just don’t expect the impossible.
And stop withholding sex. It’s one of the worst things you can do to your husband. Sex shouldn’t be a battle tool. Besides, if he’s getting regular sex, he will be much more willing to makes the efforts you need.
I call it like I see it, Ella.
I don’t blame men. I blame me.
And I don’t NOT blame women. I just don’t presume to understand what it’s like to be one.
If you don’t believe I defend men, or criticize shitty wives, I’d suggest you haven’t read very many posts from me. (Which is fine! I’m not owed your attention, certainly; but I’d ask you to consider that I’ve written hundreds of things you’ve never read before.)
Men can be AMAZING guys–great people–and still be totally shitty husbands because they just don’t know any better.
And that’s EXACTLY what I think causes the majority of divorce out there.
Really good guys getting married to really good spouses, but then accidentally getting it wrong for 5-10 years, thereby damaging relationships beyond repair, and leading to divorce.
These are the not the actions of evil people.
These are the actions of very decent people who just don’t know any better.
God knows I really appreciate you sticking up for guys and defending all the good men out there who are doing what they believe is right in order to love and provide for their wives and families.
Just because I don’t point fingers at others doesn’t mean I don’t believe other people are doing it wrong.
I’m going to be accountable for my actions, and I’m going to use my first-person storytelling to do so.
It’s fair to say I hope wives reading my stuff have the self-awareness and humility to do the same.
I have a small issue with your opening statement and I would encourage you to be careful before making such an accusation… “Causing Divorce?” really? I have been a follower of Matt’s for YEARS! and literally, I am the very woman who sees her part in her own divorce because of blogs like MBTTTR. Matt is shedding light on everyday – easily fixable issues that we all can relate to. Most of us are smart enough to see the root of the truth in each post’s point. Poor Matt can only write from his own point of view…it’s up to the rest of us to embrace those parts that will help us learn and grow. Surely we can’t expect him to disclaim and add qualifiers to every statement! And I certainly hope you aren’t suggesting he stop writing – Because where you “THINK he is unintentionally causing divorce”…I KNOW he is helping lots of marriages… so…. let’s maybe lay off the judgement a little and find a nugget of truth from here to be better and more fruitful people in our relationships. 🙂
I can honestly tell you what I read here, the interactions on the forums and the self reflection and adjustment of my approach may be saving my marriage. We don’t all have the “textbook” roles – I for one work full time, support my family and keep my home. My partner was never expected to do that. I can appreciate your thoughts for your home but not all that applies to other people’s experiences.
Ella, you’re right, Matt does present an unbalanced view. I can’t think of a single time that Matt has written about his wife’s share of the problems that led to the demise of their marriage. He has very stringently, I think, avoided badmouthing her in any way or pointing the finger of blame in her direction. In fact, I challenge ANYBODY to go back through the entire body of his writing and find even one example of doing so. Go ahead, I will wait, and if you can find one, I will eat this phone.
Matt doesn’t know this, but this is something I have long admired him for. I have secretly thought that it was one final, lovely gesture of husbandly love to protect her this way.
Matt, if I am wrong, please don’t disabuse me of my notion, ‘kay?
*shrugs* I don’t know, the way I see it, he can tell balanced stories or he can protect his ex-wife (her reputation, her privacy etc.)
Call me crazy, but I think he makes the honorable choice.
Thank you, Anita.
You’re such an incredible guy, Matt.
That is all. 🙂
Thank you, Linds. If I haven’t expressed enough gratitude lately for all of the time and energy you give to listening to, and offering support to, people in these comments, I hope you’ll forgive me.
It’s really awesome of you to be here trying to help others.
Well , if I were doing it to ingratiate myself then it would be a lot less meaningful- (though I am not sure how meaningful it is anyway…*trying* is the operative word ; ). This just seems like a worth while way to fill up some empty time. Ok, – really, I eagerly await your next post every week. I always love reading what you write, and believe this stuff is very important. Not to mention your commenters are super smart, informative, and seem to truly want to love the best they can. Who wouldn’t want to hang out here? So, it’s wins all around. …
I hope it doesn’t feel too awkward for me to compliment you- That’s what I was thinking, so I wrote it ; ).
You really are an incredible person in many respects. …I’m glad to get the opportunity to listen and participate. So there, take that! … <3.
This is something I noticed very quickly, too. There is the very occasional reference to ‘she could probably have done some things differently, too’ but no details EVER. That makes obvious the true change of heart and mind that has happened. Honor in action.
I don’t know any women who expect their husbands to work harder than they do. In fact, I barely know any women whose husbands earn more money than they do. Most people I know, the wife earns more money and puts in more hours at work, too. Usually the husband is happy to back her up with housework and childcare and the whole system works pretty well.
Ella, it sounds like your perspective is a somewhat rarefied one as it is based on marriages in which the husband is a successful, solo-act breadwinner.
I agree that in those marriages, where the husband is working successfully to provide a lifestyle that most people don’t have (“nice home in nice neighborhood…ability to not work…private schools for kids”)–it is less defensible for the wife to take the position that she should not be the CEO of the family and also look for opportunities to make sure her husband has as great a quality of life as possible. It’s also probably easier for the wife to absorb the inherent disrespect that men frequently have for women if she is, in fact, being supported handsomely by a man. After all, if your husband is a successful corporate lawyer, businessman or physician, and you spend your days supervising household help and playing tennis, it’s just hard to make the case that you are smarter, harder-working or more successful than him.
However, very few families are in that situation these days. In most families, the wife is working outside the home to maintain financial stability for the family, and then working her butt off at home too and it’s poison to the relationship for a husband to adopt the stance of automatic superiority that Matt is talking about. It’s also not ideal for a man to adopt that stance in a relationship where they are a sole, high-success breadwinner, but there are quite a few women who will accept that as a trade-off. That’s unfortunate, by the way, but it’s a reality.
Lots of women, over time, will decide that as long as they are having to work to bring in income, and then also having to bear primary responsibility for planning things in order to stay on track at home, and then ALSO do the bulk of the day-to-day childcare and housework, it’s really not worth the aggravation of having someone around who expects their wife to devote a lot of time and energy to helping them maintain an inflated sense of their own superiority.
its not causing divorce to notice women don’t have to accept mediocrity and men who cant and won’t look after themselves and actively help out and act like a grown up, and do their own emotional labour? Why is women not accepting mediocrity a bad thing?
The good news is that divorce can be for the greater good, and my two divorced aunts have become very happy since leaving their mediocre second half, who cheated or were just slack
Your last paragraph makes out men to be sex fiends who are controlled by their dicks and can’t just do the right thing? Are men really like that? or do they just allow themselves to be that pathetic
Nice one as usual here Matt. Seeing things through the eyes of another is crucial for relationships. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t invalidate the way she is feeling. That’s the big theme that I see throughout your posts. And most times guys, she just wants you to listen… you don’t have to solve anything (in the near term at least). A lot of times, she just wants to know that you care enough about her to make an honest effort to understand what she is going though. For instance, I can tell you that as a guitar player, a guitar makes no logical sense. It is this weird looking phallic symbol with a bunch of strings of varying girth stapled to it at near max tension. All that said, with a ton of practice and care, you can come to understand it perfectly. Thanks again Matt… I enjoy these.
While I have long since given up that my husband will change. And frankly, have given up the desire to fix it and am only looking for the right time to end it, I use your wisdom for other relationships in my life and I think that these ideas are relevant to all relationships. I apply much of what I read about in MBTTTR to my relationships with my children, coworkers etc. And I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn but I’m open. Thank you.
Thank you for saying so.
Evaluating my behavior in marriage has caused me to clean up my behavior in several other life areas as well.
I think there’s a place for saving a big, special place for our spouses in the center of our personal relationship puzzles, but I believe the tenets of healthy romantic relationships more often than not also apply to our relationships with our children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc.
Marriage is an amalgamation of every other relationship we’ve ever had–friend, business partner, family member, lover–all rolled into one. Anything that works in a marriage will work in those other relationships as well. Unfortunately, it’s the one that suffers the most because attention is paid to only some of its parts.
I think so too. Marriage, I think, is supposed to shape us into more loving people, period.
Well-written. And, as the first article you listed talks about, this is a society issue. Which might imply it should make it easier to forgive since good men are just behaving as they have been conditioned to. It actually makes it much harder, because all of society (including those we love and trust) have treated us that way since birth. It’s generally not the behavior during courtship, so we let our guard down. That accounts for the overwhelming sense of betrayal when our husband acts like our experience is skeptical before we even finish a sentence. WE START TO BELIEVE WE REALLY ARE LESS THAN. Most women then either become controlling nags in an attempt to be heard, or we pretend to be ok so we don’t inconvenience anyone. The kindest thing you can do for anyone is to try and see them for who they are. It is a requirement for your spouse and child. And it’s even more essential when your spouse or child is female. We are expected to do the emotional work in every relationship. We should carry clicker counters for every time someone yells at us to smile; even strangers are offended if we don’t comply. My husband is the most wonderful man I’ve ever met, but I need someone who will allow me to ‘Be As You Are.’ (Great song Mike Posner.)
” It actually makes it much harder, because all of society (including those we love and trust) have treated us that way since birth.”
Exactly! I mentioned in a comment below that distrust can be a real trigger for women. The stereotype we often grow up with is that we’re all deceitful, can’t be trusted, and of course ruled by our feelings which can’t be trusted because we’re all plumb crazy anyway.
Wow – in so many ways ! Flattered by the rapid response – sometimes the right question comes at the right time. A bit flummoxed (if that’s still a word) re: a lot of things this raised for me. I will percolate my thoughts.
What springs to mind is this – how can we “trust” each other when it is becoming more and more apparent that maybe we don’t really want to know each other any more ? How can we start getting to know each other again – who we’ve developed into, baring our secret selves ? It’s not a gender thing. Is it worth trying again when we got to this place before ? How do we get on the same page ?
We don’t point fingers. We look in the mirror.
Trust must be in a perpetual state of accumulation.
Trust should be the thing we lead with.
I remain humbled and tired of trying to be a better human ….. when can I stop ?
Will there at least be cookies or something as a prize ?
Ps – I know the answer – my marriage is the prize. I just like cookies too.
I was promised cookies so there better damn well be cookies!
This quaint little illustrative chart came in with “marriage minute” from the Gottman institute.. The very short blurb it was attached to talked about compatibility being overrated (that is, natural compatibility that doesn’t need any attention, or intention).
I wanted to share it, and the Gottman institute site for a resource.
The very bottom of the chart is building love maps. I read a little more about that, and I really love the analogy they give: its sort of like creating a sketch of your partner, you start with very faint basic shapes, then you fill in more distinctive features that coincide with the shapes, and then more detailed shading. You learn the person through building up of layers.
That usually starts at the fun and new parts of the relationship, but if I remember correctly, really its a continual practice. You just keep going over the lines until they become more indelible.
I was reminded of it when you commented about not knowing each other, or not wanting to know each other anymore.
Ugg. That isn’t a fun place to be. All too often the lines we know have become tiresome and uninspired.
I’m not going to try to be all Rah-rah about rekindling the desire to know one another- I just thought I’d share it.
I like the graphic – maybe put on the fridge ? Spending the evening looking at how/when circumstances made me untrustworthy ? I shall be deep in thought.
Amen, Matt! My marriage is good, but the number one thing that has threatened it over the years is pretty much this, “I didn’t trust that when she told me that something was hurting her or mattered to her, that she was experiencing it accurately.”
I call it, “not listening to your wife,” not that you have to agree, not that you have to accept responsibility, but you have to have enough basic respect to listen. To not listen can really trigger women, because men are our protection and if you cut us off from that, it’s a failure to protect. Which then leads to the next question,”So, what exactly IS his purpose in my life?”
It’s not just the emotional things either, but the light fixtures that shock you and he doesn’t believe it because he doesn’t want to have to deal with it. Or the car sounds funny, “no it doesn’t, it’s just your driving.” These things are like a drippy faucet, they convey contempt, even if contempt is not really the motivation.
This week I have been reminded a few times- in a conversation, and in an article about the phenomenon of men not listening to women.
There is some research about men not liking womens pitch (not tone, just the higher pitch) , and so tune it out.
A friend of mine shared with a conversation she is having with her incredibly great (at least is trying) husband about how he will either agree with a male counterpart about an idea that he dismissed from her, or how he will repeat the same idea she brought up but was again, dismissed.
He is awesome because he does really try to listen, and on this occasion he did hear, but it took several examples- repeated before he finally could see it.
Later I read this article:https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/20/blaise-pascal-pensees-persuasion/
The thing that is interesting is that people will agree with you, if you let them believe it was their idea. … so I don’t think that particular tendency is just male and female, it is also male-male. (Pascal is the one who observed this a few hundred years ago, so men were the ones he did observe)
My point with this is: yes, not listening, not believing what is effecting, and affecting your partner really erodes the relationship.
I would say that women do want security in their relationship and being dismissed feels isolating and creates disconnection.
I am sure that there are similar effects with men, too. But, again, statistically speaking women typically do listen to men (they accept influence easier), so men don’t typically reach the level of complete impatience that women get to.
For myself, it is something that I feel like we all need to become more self aware of- both for men who aren’t listening, and how women can point this out.
So today I am going to tell you are wrong, Matt. That guy you posted on Facebook, did not say it better. You are the superior writer. Just sayin’.
Maybe you could write a follow up post sometime on how to work to repair the breach in trust after the years of always dismissing her until however many years later she feels totally unsafe, unloved, and even abused. (12 years in my case of what I can now better recognize as emotional and spiritual abuse before something snapped inside of me and then I took years to get me under control again). Perhaps you could use input from some commenters who have been resurrecting their commitments. There are some women who value the permanence of the commitment and the permanence of what family should be for the sake not only of the kids but also the adults. I know some don’t ever want to fix it an dprefer to see it as gone or as outside of the realm of the possible. But some hold those values very dear.
Someday the abuser won’t matter as much anymore. Someday my choice to never allow myself to circle the drain with him again, to let his new toys have 100% of that role, will pay big dividends. Still working on healing here in Ohio.
“Maybe you could write a follow up post sometime on how to work to repair the breach in trust after the years of always dismissing her until however many years later she feels totally unsafe, unloved, and even abused.”
Something that occurs to me,the distrust is kept hidden and not acknowledged. That’s even more crazy making. The first article even mentions thinking and knowing he doesn’t trust women, but never daring to actually say it. So women can sense it, but because it is never said, it makes it all worse.
Actually to begin to heal distrust I would start with those precise words, “I realize you’re feeling totally unsafe, unloved, and even abused.” What an incredible acknowledgement of feelings that would be.
Heck, forget the husband (or the ex husband), we should all be saying that to ourselves. Once we acknowledge that truth, the next question would be, “So, what do I need to do for myself to start feeling safe, loved, and not abused?”
Nailed that one Insanity !! I’ve been working hard figuring when we “turned away” – the triggers on both sides that made us not trust each other’s best intentions. Can’t fix those ones but can recognize when it’s happening again, name it and deal with it.
Husband was raised in shame based house with no acceptance of how he really felt about things – I’ve seen it in action and it’s awful. So he tends to jump and look guilty even if he isn’t or hide things so that I don’t even get the opportunity to accept or not. Little things become big things.
Yesterday I said out loud in a reasonable way how something made me feel he was being sketchy and acknowledged that I have trouble trusting him still, he countered with “yes, you obviously do”. My reply – we both do and whatever we’re doing isn’t getting that part. Six months ago this could not have been our exchange.
Trust comes from being heard, acknowledged and accepted. I can’t expect what I don’t model and can’t demand what someone has never had and doesn’t have the skills to do.
Why why why didn’t I marry a perfect, well adjusted person with no family baggage like me !
Excuse me while I go grow a little bit more ?
Ps – I have heaps o family baggage which has likely caused me to find my kindred spirit with a man much like me many ways. Matt writes his story from his chair and I dare say more and more I see what a shitty wife my blinders have made me.
Kind of ironic, my marriage began to heal and get better once I accepted that I had married a man as messy as I was. Then I began to see all the ways I was actually a really crappy wife. Before that I had just focused on him, what was wrong with him, what he was doing wrong. We render ourselves powerless when we do that, because we can really only change the nature of our own selves, not some one else. That awareness probably started about 20 years ago and marriage is really good today, marriage has just gotten better and better ever since.
So I appreciate Matt’s focus on being a crappy husband, because understanding those things isn’t just a way to come to terms with divorce, it’s also a way to build a good marriage.
My current husband is the exact opposite. He listens, he believes me, he trusts that what I tell him is truth. Priceless…
I’ve seen some of this for myself. Men don’t trust the feelings of their partners and therefore don’t take them seriously. Their belittling of the issue actually comes off as belittling their spouse. That in itself is hurtful and can cause a great deal of problems, including the feeling of being unimportant. This also happens when the man cannot be confronted about his ideas. When a simple question or need for clarification arises and the man immediately becomes defensive and refuses to have a discussion, the wife feels insignificant. When a wife feels unimportant or insignificant, they will lose their drive to make the marriage work.
I’ve just started reading How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It (at Matt’s suggestion)…I think it goes along with this post…I don’t know if I would call is distrust, but a “not believing” (I know, that’s basically the same thing) But I’m certain my husband would say he TRUSTS me, he just doesn’t believe that my feelings are valid on certain subjects–ones that he has a different opinion on. so, back to the book–it talks about how men tend to feel shame when their wives ask for things, because it demonstrates (to him) that he has been inadequate as a husband. it could also be assumed that if his wife has a different opinion than him, then she must think his opinion is wrong–he resists this feeling, because who wants to be wrong? so he discounts her opinion so he can remain right. Fortunately, people can have different opinions and both can be right–football can be entertaining to one, and marching bands to another–neither is wrong. just like leaving a dish by the sink isn’t wrong–it just drives her nuts, for any number of different reasons…we don’t need to deem an opinion right or wrong, we just need to respect each others opinions, even when they are different from our own. I am loving the discussions that these posts generate–you have a great group of followers, matt!
This is from a fellow “Love Warrior”- though she probably wouldn’t like that title. She is definitely a fighter and one who is determined to have her marriage win.
“From Terry Real. His framing of the difference between healthy shame (remorse) and toxic shame (which in men particularly often leads to grandiosity) is very helpful.
This gives language to discussions we have had before of why I believe shame can be a good thing and that all emotions can be helpful if understood and used appropriately.
Also the quote “men aren’t afraid of intimacy; they’re afraid of subjugation” is a direct hit for our emasculation discussion.
“‘A Second Language
Healthy self-esteem is the capacity to hold yourself in warm regard, to cherish yourself, while fully recognizing your imperfections as a flawed human being. It’s a rare commodity in our anti-relational culture, particularly for men. In the world of men, you’re either one-up or one-down, winner or loser, dominator or dominated. Where’s the platform in this setup, I ask men like Peter, for healthy self-esteem? For that matter, where’s the platform for love?
Conventional wisdom has it that men are afraid of intimacy. But I don’t think so. I think many men, like Peter, don’t know what real intimacy is. They bring the one-up, one-down framework of masculinity into their relationships and read closeness through the only filter they know. Men aren’t afraid of intimacy; they’re afraid of subjugation. Many men read emotional receptivity as an invitation to be run over. But shame and grandiosity are incompatible with love. Peter needs a new space, a median space of loving truthfulness, of moderation and accountability.
The problem with toxic shame—the kind of self-flagellation Peter engaged in after verbally brutalizing his son—is that it’s a very aversive state. In fairly short order, most of us can’t stand the pain. “And where do you think we go to escape?” I ask Peter. “Right back up into grandiosity.
We drink, or run away, or rage. And the whole thing starts up all over again.” But, there’s a mature state of appropriate shame, in which we feel proportionately ashamed for our bad behavior and yet still manage to hold onto our essential worth as an imperfect human being.
“The common name for appropriate shame,” I tell Peter, “is remorse. You can tell the difference. When someone moves out of shamelessness and grandiosity into toxic shame, they feel like big shits. And in a funny way one form of self-preoccupation just replaces another. You know: ‘Don’t bother me; I’m too busy feeling like hell about what I just did to you.’
Real remorse doesn’t pull you in like toxic shame does. When you feel remorseful, your attention is on the people you hurt and their feelings. You’re moved to do whatever you can to make amends, to repair things. Can you feel the difference?”
Step by step, Peter begins the process of rebuilding his capacity for appropriate shame and legitimate self-esteem. We work on letting go of contempt, letting go of control, experience empathy and true remorse.”
Just a side note- I realize it does little share this with you in regards to a solution, or even an explanation for other peoples behavior.
One of the more frustrating (maybe most frustrating) things on the planet is seeing the problem and being powerless to change it.
In the example above “Peter” needed to come to the conclusion that something was wrong and that he needed to do something about that, that is the only way he would ever even be in a position to hear Terri Real’s explanation. ..It takes emotional understanding, even over intellectual understanding to be motivated to change (that is from my handy dandy psych textbook. ..:).
I just wanted to address that- I know you having and reading this doesn’t fix anything, (you likely are pretty well versed in a lot of this stuff) – ..it could help with empathy; I realize that isn’t where the problem lies, but sometimes that is the only thing we’ve got.. 🙂
This is whole article:
And ..ugh…I apparently have my own issues. I seriously spent a long time trying to word the last “signing off” sentence so that it didnt sound too harsh, too direct, or seem “leading” in someway. I apparently didnt t want to say what the link actually says, and that is empathy isn’t what someone who defending himself in grandiosity really needs-what is needed is the flat out honest truth and the willingness to stand by it.
I still don’t want to sound leading, – you know best. But, I felt like kicking my own ass for sending out the “more empathy” message.
Anyway- that is all. Have a great day! : )
Very interesting read. Thank you.
Okay Matt, as a result of this I’ve spent a few very productive days looking at how I became an untrustworthy (unsafe) person to my partner. Grow up a little more – check. Talk a bit about it, take responsibility for some specific things, be very soft and even plan an awesome date – much to his surprise and pleasure. I still sleep in the guest room – I consider us dating and we’re getting along better. I guess I’m hoping dating guy will come back – he really wanted to get the girl.
However, my fundamental question remains. And I probably know the answer ….. does someone take responsibility for actions (whether intentional or not) and change them JUST to make their partner/family feel safe? I know I’ve certainly evolved my approach and behaviours in a very positive way and he’s even commented on it. However, there’s still the more than glass on the dishwasher stuff that’s exponentially more hurtful. How does that switch get flipped? Does the insight only come with loss ? Or does it all come down to “that is not a priority for me today or ever” ? Or, is it “as long as you look at me like you don’t trust me I’m gonna keep doing my thing”?
And the more I think about it – Lindsey probably nailed it with toxic shame and grandiosity. So I guess the challenge is how do you kindly help someone gain insight and make the space safe enough to stop the dance. Boundaries, sleeping in the guest room while planning dates ….. leaving without abandoning.
I don’t take the credit for nailing it. Terry Real nailed it, and I also give credit to the one who shared it with me.
You may or may not be interested, but there is a small private FB forum that I think you (and Merrida as well) could get a lot out of.
It’s a little less anonymous, but it’s also private.
It’s a really good place to verbally mull things over with others who are doing the same thing. I really think you and a commenter there would benefit from connecting.
Promise these are good, intelligent and worthwhile people.
If you (and Merrida) would be interested in connecting, click my name and contact me there.
Hope you have a great day!
I meant “nailed it” by providing the very useful article 🙂 My problem is I kinda do this for a living (and apparently fairly well) so it’s hard to sit in both wife and counsellor chair at home. Hard and wrong 🙂
He liked our marriage counsellor and saw her alone a few times and she and I have no professional relationship other than I now refer a lot of people to her. I may gently suggest it might help to go back and see her alone again. He’s got stuff and it kills our relationship to work it with me.
I will check out the FB place – I feel much better keeping my thoughts away from my real world people as most are mutual friends and it feels disrespectful to him. And i was upset about some of the “private” people he went to for support (single women with their own problems) and so I think it best to keep it “virtual”.
Well, thank you then for nailing the application of it :).
Lol, at the risk of inviting myself, I really want to crazily wave my hand and yell, “Me too??? Pretty please with pop rocks on top?”
This is all so true, although I would say that in a lot of cases what you’re actually talking about is the husband being disrespectful of the wife’s opinion on something of mutual concern, followed by the wife developing a lack of trust because she can’t count on her husband to accurately assess a situation where she has expressed concern about something.
What really kills a relationship is the wife having the repeated experience of pointing out things that endanger her, the family. or her husband, and having the husband disregard her opinion because it would be a pain in the neck to address the concern, or because he feels like he’s smarter than she is, or that she’s just a big alarmist, or whatever.
All it takes is for a few bad things to happen that the wife warned about but was blown off by the husband, for the trust in a relationship to be completely evaporated. And if the wife is the one left picking up the pieces each time there’s a problem that could have been avoided by the husband trusting her, then there’s resentment in addition to distrust.
Looking the comments over, it seems to me that there’s a startling lack of male input here. Reading the comments is actually fairly discouraging. The theme seems to be mostly that men are hopeless as people and useless to women in a relationship. I want to throw out a couple of thoughts for reflection and discussion.
First, yeah, it’s hard to be a solid man today. I get it, hell, I have to try to live it. And I know it’s hard to be a solid woman today, too, and harder still to try to make it work together. I think there’s a lot of truth to some of the observations in the Terry Real article that Lindsay linked to. Men in our society are largely raised in ways that leave them with only two ways to relate to others, including women: run the show or run away. Does that make it hard for men to find a middle path where there’s relational give and take? Hell yes. Did you brother or husband choose that mold? No, to a large extent it’s formed by the expectations of social structures and relationships. And it’s unbelievably hard to break out of that hold. Have a little mercy. I can tell you that trying to break out of that mold is almost literally a life and death struggle. And not just a one-and-done struggle. It’s a minute by minute, hour by hour, daily, weekly struggle. I could be wrong, but I honestly don’t think you can appreciate the pain and grit and resolve required to even attempt to make your life over.
The other thought is that it may be worth looking at your own role in your marriage or other relationship. I would put my wife in this crowd and be confident that she is as smart and aware and sensitive and relationally talented as any woman here, but… I have been told over the last 1.5+ years, on quite a few occasions, that she needed to treat me in some way under some set of circumstances because I couldn’t handle things. In other words, I wasn’t strong/mature/loving enough. That is blatantly controlling behavior that is simply trying to keep your husband in a box. As recently as today she told me, while we were discussing my struggle to break out of the dominate/dismiss paradigm, that she didn’t think I would ever get out of that. So I ask you: what message are you sending the men in your life? And are you really looking at your role in these relationships? And if you really think you’re a better, smarter, more aware and loving person than my wife, I’m going to suggest you look again – or better yet, if your in a long term, committed relationship, ask your partner, if you trust him to give you the truth.
As an aside, it’s worth remembering that even if things suck right now, that only tells you about how things are right now. I think of myself a little like Rip van Winkle. I slept for roughly 57 years, which is a long time, but I did wake up. I “get it” that some people will *never* change and I also get it that sometimes we just. run. out. of. energy. But now and forever are not the same things.
It’s a little off topic, but I mentioned in a comment to another of Matt’s recent posts that while women tell us they want men to be vulnerable, in fact when we try to do that we get mocked or shamed by women, or women just run away – a lot of times they don’t actually want what they say they want. I actually don’t find that surprising, because in my own life I have come to see that I don’t always act in ways that are consistent with the things I say I want, especially how I want a relationship to work, so I’m not casting stones.
Take or leave as you choose. I think it’s worth taking a chance on vocalizing a bit on how things look on the other side before you write your husband off as untrustworthy forever. I’m not making excuses – just speaking up for a little empathy (which experience suggests is generally something that needs to flow both ways in a healthy relationship).
Wow, Jack! That is so worthy of a slow clap! :).
You said “Men in our society are largely raised in ways that leave them with only two ways to relate to others, including women: run the show or run away. Does that make it hard for men to find a middle path where there’s relational give and take? Hell yes. Did you brother or husband choose that mold? No, to a large extent it’s formed by the expectations of social structures and relationships. And it’s unbelievably hard to break out of that hold.”
A lot of what you are saying about the struggle to know what it is, and how to be a man in todays world I really have compassion for, and echo’s some other conversations I have been in attendance of.
I know that men are given this line that they are the ones that have to stone faced, and set in order to endure the hardships of life. And that everyone was depending on them to do that. You have to be strong in order to conquer, or defend…
What used to be needed in physical aggression turns into social aggressions, or competitiveness. Competitiveness isn’t a bad thing but if that is the only way you interact with other people then that flies directly into the face of things like cooperation, community, ect.
I don’t want men to be less masculine, but what I think mdmom was getting at is that that role isn’t as functional anymore.
And in all honesty, from my own experience the most painful experiences I have had in ANY relationship have been the times I have begged and begged and begged just for some cooperation, or some consideration- or just to let me know you are with me.
I think want women want is the person. We want to know who you are, we want interaction and exchange – we want to know you are paying attention.
A few months ago my best friend left me an uncorked bottle of wine at my front door for when I got home.
She knew I was feeling stressed, she knows I have trouble uncorking wine bottles.
We hadn’t even talked that week, but she showed up in that gesture that screamed all at once- she knew me, cared about me and was thinking about me.
You’re right I don’t think women always get how things said affect you guys.
Have you seen the recent Geico “bad quotes” commercial?
One is an older lady reading a newspaper saying: “Everyone has feelings…except Dan.”
That makes me laugh, but it also reminds me of how women tend to see men.
If you cant show weakness , if you cant show emotions and concern – then you must not have any.
There is a tons more that goes into It. There is a ton that goes into projecting an image of being a badass. Have a hot wife, who is fun and smart and has no problems. Because problems are a sign of weakness.
Ugh! THAT kills me.
I applaud you for your work, Jack. I know its hard and it’s awesome that youre putting in the effort. Constant and steady can create unbelievable shifts (like water over rocks).
I am curious about your observation that women run away from vulnerability.
Can you give me examples- I am not saying it isn’t true, I just am maybe still in the “not knowing what I want” stage.
What are the actions you consider “being vulnerable”?
What were the responses back? – And I wonder if the response isn’t out of shock, and NOT disgust, or dislike?
But, here is the final thing for me- it doesn’t really matter what the womans response is.
Men need to learn how to be vulnerable (being honest- even if just to themselves at first, about their emotions, being allowed to feel more than just anger.
Being open and honest about mistakes, about areas of insecurity, – Their real fears, worries and concerns within the relationship) for themselves.
What are we- 3D or 4D? I don’t remember…but, anyway- experiencing life in a way where you can share those inner parts of yourself is like adding another dimension to your being.
Experiencing joy, sharing joy- that sounds really corny, but I promise you – you don’t want life without it.
Anyway, Jack- as I said, I am applauding the work you do.
I am sorry you have to hear things that are so discouraging.
You can surprise her by proving her wrong ; ).
Another comment/separately for the sake of readability and discussion.
“What are the actions you consider “being vulnerable”?
Revealing how I feel, what’s going on inside. Revealing uncertainty, anxiety, ambivalence, hurt and frustration. Revealing myself, especially when it gets tangled up with some five or six year old version of myself, which can be very difficult to disentangle.
One recent specific example: we have (what looks to me like) dramatically different perspectives on counseling. I live in a world of knowledge and experience, and when I realize that I don’t know something, I get a colleague who’s an expert involved. And that’s my perspective on our gridlock/power struggle. We’ve dug so long and the hole’s so deep that I think we need an engineer to help us get out. I find this natural and very reassuring.
My wife does not, and it’s obvious all the time, in many ways – complaints about the cost, wanting to limit areas of discussion, concerns about the agenda, and others. To me (which is an important qualification), there isn’t a whole lot of “I understand that this is important to you and I’ll avoid taking opportunities to let you know all the things that I think are wrong or unnecessary about it. And the subtext is, or at least feels like, I shouldn’t feel the way I do.
These responses are more than just another adult’s perspective to me – they really set off a basket of triggers. So it’s often more convenient to simply stand up and take the bullets silently. On the other hand, maybe I’m just not giving her room to be The Other, to be different than me? It’s hard to know.
“Revealing myself, especially when it gets tangled up with some five or six year old version of myself, which can be very difficult to disentangle.”
I think I get what you mean- like revealing “Your past sins”, that you haven’t forgiven yourself for?
“My wife does not, and it’s obvious all the time, in many ways – complaints about the cost, wanting to limit areas of discussion, concerns about the agenda, and others. To me (which is an important qualification), there isn’t a whole lot of “I understand that this is important to you and I’ll avoid taking opportunities to let you know all the things that I think are wrong or unnecessary about it. And the subtext is, or at least feels like, I shouldn’t feel the way I do.”…yes, that hurts and is invalidating.
“These responses are more than just another adult’s perspective to me – they really set off a basket of triggers. So it’s often more convenient to simply stand up and take the bullets silently. On the other hand, maybe I’m just not giving her room to be The Other, to be different than me? It’s hard to know.”
That IS really hard to know.
My mom is one who cant stand intimacy. She lets me in enough to tell me the reason, but the practice is beyond her. At least maybe not in the ways I hope for.
She calls me and tells me about family members I have never met, and who she hasn’t seen in 40 years. She calls and she gossips, and that is her way of relating and being close. Do I really care what is going on with Uncle Buck? No. But, I’ll listen just to have a line of communication.
Different people deal with their emotion in different ways.
Even though gossip isn’t my thing, there HAVE been moments when there has been genuine connection, and I am grateful for that.
One thing I think is true is that in relationships when one person changes, the other will also change.
When you change, one part of the relationship changes, and eventually the other person does change along with it.
“Past sins” – no, I was thinking about all the kinks and dents and fill-in-the-blank-otomies (psychological and emotional amputations) that I came out of childhood with. For clarity, not blaming my parents or my upbringing – I am responsible for my choices and actions. But I make them from the person I am, who reflects in part the person I grew up as: intolerant of differences, highly conflict-averse, emotionally very self-contained and self-reliant, and completely bonded to perfection. It was my adhesion to perfection that eventually led to my first spiritual crisis (borrowing a phrase from Brene Brown, sort of) when I was in college. The last year and a half is sort of similar in some ways, but feels harder. Probably because this time you really do have to be saved by works, not faith?
“When one person changes, the other will also change” – yes, that’s what the books say. 🙂 When I started trying to breathe some new life into our marriage, it didn’t happen much, probably mostly because, in therapist-speak, I did so in a lot of “unskilled” ways. I hope I’m doing better these days – I am pretty sure that’s true. The task is so involved that I haven’t done any score-keeping on my wife, but she says she’s had to rearrange some of her attitudes and patterns. I think the reality is that if one person really changes and the other doesn’t (“asymmetrical development”), in many (but not all) cases one or the other gets frustrated enough that the marriage ends.
All I know is what he therapists say : (. I have no real experience in mending a marriage or growing in one.
But what I do think is true is that working on yourself to heal those wounds of your childhood needs to come before anything. (Did that sound like a dictum? Sorry).
I know there are a few different theorists that talk about “healing the inner child”, and there is a lot of validitiy to it.
One friend of mine talks about how we make unconscious vows when there is a breach of trust, or something emotionally wounding happens. Something along the lines of “I will never..” or “Noone will ever..” etc. and when we sense something similar (it doesn’t have to actually be similar, but just something we interpret as similar) its sort of that same 4, 7, 12 year old that shows up emotionally.
So, he’ll put it something like “so, you have a 10 year old running your life..”
I am not 100% sure how you heal the inner child, or allow the child to grow.
I think a lot of times it is just being aware- being aware of the emotions that are present and being willing to experience the discomfort, and try to use your logical mind (not in a spock sort of way- no offense to spock.. 🙂 but in a way that it can say, for example, “this person, is upset with me” but slowing down the reaction, just to allow yourself to feel what that is, and slow enough to really assess the situation for the present situation and not what your 4,7,10,12 year old emotions tell you it is.
I am starting to think that “facing” each other too much, and working and focusing on the relationship can be a stress and a strain in and of itself.
Working on you, and how you respond to things- how you live your life, the things you choose to participate in may be the sort of individual change that catalyzes (Sp?) the actual relational change.
Just some thoughts, and certainly not to the exclusion of changing your interactions with her , if that what has also been needed. ..
Either way- I am pretty sure, it just takes a long time.
And yet another. (!!!)
There’s this snip from the Terry Real article you linked to:
“As my male clients begin to move into recovery, to give their partners what they’ve been asking for all these years, most women don’t swoon in their arms in loving gratitude. They most often hesitate behind walls of anger and complaint, just as their men have predicted they would. But as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “First things first.””
I thought I’d quote that just to point out that this is, in my experience, clearly part of the relationship dynamic. I’ve been told quite a few times (and it’s true) that my early attempts to try to get a grip on myself and refresh our relationship did a lot of damage. I’m sure it’s true. :-\ It’s not pleasant to hear. And it makes me wonder why that needs to be said, and re-said. I think it comes down to the topic of Matt’s post, trust. How long does it take to rebuild trust? And just to put that in context, this isn’t a case where either one of us has become members of the AAA club (affairs, addiction and abuse). I can’t imagine how big a logjam we’d have if that were the case? Or maybe it would be easier, since there would be an acute crisis to concentrate everyone’s attention? Dunno…
The other thing I’d say for the benefit of the women is that you should be aware that from time to time (or maybe more often that than) after he tries to turn things around, your man may wind up feeling like the Tin Man – wondering if he really has a heart, wondering whether he’s missing the “relationship gene,” feeling like the only thing he’s actually good at doing is causing pain and frustration for everyone in the marriage.
This was actually my first reply – looks like it got lost in a Gravatar/WordPress switch. Apologies if this shows up 2x.
“And in all honesty…I have begged…just to let me know you are with me. I think what women want is the person. We want to know who you are, we want interaction and exchange – we want to know you are paying attention.”
Hmmm, where to begin. Well, for starters, “received.” I think that, if we dare to open the door a crack, that is what men mostly want, too. Mostly, though, it takes longer to realize it. I think most of frankly have to be beaten up a bit, some of us a lot (raises hand), to realize that.
“We want to know you are paying attention.” My wife, I guess I want to say “finally,” said almost exactly that to me a week or so ago. It got my attention. The problem is that to the extent that this is about skills, I am not sure I’ve really got them. And to the extent that it’s about habits, it sort of feels like trying to grow potatoes on Mars (movie ref).
As far as men just want sex on tap, maybe that was true in my 20s or 30s. If that’s what keeps you warm at night, and if that’s what’s going to make you feel good as your consciousness finally slips away for the last time, all I can say is to repeat the biblical dictum: you have had your reward. It’s as you said:
“Experiencing joy, sharing joy – that sounds really corny, but I promisee you – you don’t want life without it.”
Yep. But it can be excruciatingly painful and difficult and frustrating to try to open up. Life is safer inside my castle walls, even if it’s cold and lonely. :-\ That’s actually an interesting thought. The brave knight, the knight who touches peoples’ lives, isn’t the one who’s holed up inside the keep. My problem is that I feel like Don Quixote a lot more often than I feel like King Arthur.
“Received” right back.
Give me a few minutes and I will respond more appropriately.
Warm thoughts to you right now.
Awesome comment, Jack. I actually read this blog, well because I think Matt is an adorable writer, but also because I seek and desire a male perspective on things. Men tend to have a kind of clarity that I really appreciate and they also tend reveal their true selves much better when tucked behind a keyboard.
I’m happily married, but one of the things I enjoy doing is simply pondering relationships between men and women.
As to this, “while women tell us they want men to be vulnerable, in fact when we try to do that we get mocked or shamed by women, or women just run away,” you are so right. Biology has a way of intruding on what we think we want as women, so when we finally get the vulnerable, sensitive guy, our needs for protection, provision are now suddenly unmet.
I sometimes quip, “Batman.” All you have to do is figure out how to Batman. Strong, sensitive, vulnerable, impervious, with a really cool car, of course. 🙂
“Men tend to have a kind of clarity that I really appreciate and they also tend reveal their true selves much better when tucked behind a keyboard.”
G-r-r-r-roan. (:-| Laugh. Imagine that, authentic vulnerability, from the other side of a screen. Ironic sigh.
“Biology has a way of intruding” – oh yes. I instinctively feel that I want both feet on the deck and my stuff squared away.
It’s worth really examining what our needs actually are. That’s such a hard question, too. Are what you THINK your needs are, actually your needs? Where did you come up with these ideas, whose scripts are you running? Are your goals things that you think you can achieve by acquiring something, rather than being someone? How are you going to think about your goals? Will you suffer pain when they aren’t achieved, and will you recognize that you inflict that pain upon yourself, that it is not your partner or boss or children or the guy at the car dealership who’s inflicting pain upon you?
Authenticity from miles away, hidden behind a keyboard, sad but true. It is a bit like the romance of a masquerade ball however,were we are all wearing masks, in disguise, which ironically, frees us up to reveal our authentic selves.
“….will you recognize that you inflict that pain upon yourself, that it is not your partner or boss or children or the guy at the car dealership who’s inflicting pain upon you?”
You are quite right. Who is to blame for all our problems? Men usually. You can look at that two ways, one we hate you all, or two, we think you’re awesome, powerful, able to do far more in the world then you actually are. Since you have such incredible potential, if anything goes wrong in our lives,we simply expect men to fix it. Broken toasters, dead hamsters, completely collapsing psyche, whatever ails us at the time. It’s terribly unfair, I get that, but it is what it is.
I think a lot of what frees us up is not so much the electronic interface, but the emotional interface. I bet that if this group sat down for a while face to face so that we could feel comfortable doing so (I am thinking of Brene Brown’s dicta about vulnerability being earned here), we could share and discuss things at the same level, or deeper.
I think the thing that makes it dramatically, sometimes catastrophically, harder is when the conversation involves someone who is or at least could be critically important to our lives – like our spouse. You go from discussing nuclear physics as an academic matter to actually building the bomb, with all the attendant consequences. =8-0
Anyway, all we can do is try to engage life on life’s terms, with a little very and tenderness.
What I like is the “said”. The ability to communicate on these hard topics is the challenge and you put time and effort and thought into doing it. You value it and see it as worthwhile.
The closest I feel to my husband is not when he washes the kitchen floor, but on the rare occasions when he engages me on the subjects that are difficult – whether we agree or not. He lets me in to his thoughts and experiences so I can better understand and connect and FEEL connected. Prob is I usually have to get him mad to break through 🙁
Keep talking and engaging. I think the reason I do it here is that I can’t do it at home 🙂
Boo! on the last sentence! : (.
Oh it’s getting somewhere, I hope. I don’t try to get him mad anymore. I’m sitting with a peanut in my hand, quietly waiting for the chipmunk. I’ve asked some thoughtful questions that he wants to think about and get back to me. I hope I’m still here …..
I’m sort of in the same boat, (but different)- I wouldn’t be mulling these things over if my life were everything I wanted it to be, right?
…I know it’s a rough, rough struggle- and I don’t know if it just ends up that everyone just gives up the fight, but I love it when I see two grey haired old folks being really tender towards one another.
It’s like they know all the crap is just crap and being loving and kind to each other is the most important and best thing they can do.
I hope so, too, for his sake. 🙂 I do think that women are generally more adept here than men. Or maybe they process discussions faster. Funny but true vignette from recent life:
Weekend mornings we walk the dogs through the trails in the local conservation land, roughly 60-75 minutes, depending on the route. One morning as we’re walking and talking my wife made a comment that I really wanted to respond to. I really wanted to let her know that what she had said mattered to me, that I’d noticed and that it was important to me. (These are not things I do very well, btw.)
So we’re walking and I’m thinking, and considering, and trying to work out a response.
But it’s now half an hour later and my wife is still talking about the point, or some further development of the point. And I’m still trying to work on the original point while keeping track, barely, of where she’s been going, and probably not succeeding.
Finally, she asks, with some understandable exasperation, whether im listening at all. I sort of lost my cool, in a respectful (I hope) way. I exclaimed “but you’ve been talking for *half an hour!*” And she said “but you still haven’t responded to me, so I wanted to keep trying until you did.” All I could say was “I’m trying, but when you kept going I couldn’t keep up, and at this point I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. I’m still trying to respond to where you were half an hour ago!”
Two people who are reasonably alert and sensitive, relationally. One traffic accident. :-/. Your guy may be an F350, but he’s never going to be able to run around the track like a Formula One racer. For what that’s worth… 🙂
🙂 welcome to my world. I’ve definitely heard and considered and acted on his complaint that I talk too much. I now insert conscious pauses and spaces and request responses or thoughts on what I’ve said. He reports he is working on mindful communication. Certainly mindful listening has come a long way. It’s the crickets while I wait that kill me. ???
(I know they’re ants ….. I need to call the emoji makers)
We’re all in this together…? I want to respond to some of the other great comments above, but (this is almost funny) need to think a bit. But this response is easy and quick: I hope you didn’t read the word “complaint” in the text or between the lines in my reply just above. That’s really not how I see it, though I can see how it might look that way. I’m really just trying to throw a little light on how it looks from The Other Side. No good/bad, not need/need you not to, or want/wish you wouldn’t. Just different/let’s understand.
I’m with you, Jack 🙂
I used the word complaint in a non negative way – his complaint was legitimate – when I deluge him (if that’s a verb) with months of unspoken thoughts cuz the time is right, he has every right to complain 🙂 Next time I shall use the word constructive feedback.
BTW, Jack please feel free to contact me if you would also like to join us on the private forum.
I think I am like your wife here. I am a quick thinker, and it drives me nuts to get absolutely no response, whether it’s my husband or my children. So I have told them that they must communicate what they are thinking. “Give me a few minutes to think about this” or “Hang on a minute-I need to think about this before I answer” is perfectly fine. Without that, I have no idea what they are thinking, and it really seems like they are not listening when the only response is absolute silence.
Believe it or not, that actually occurred to me as a bridge, if not a ‘fix,’ so I try to do that so she knows I actually did pay attention and her thoughts actually are valuable to me. 🙂 Simple things are not always obvious! Extra points to you for letting your husband and kids know shat you want in these situations. Trying to be a mindreader is something I never get right and I bet most spouses are the same. 😀
So often, there are small, practical things we can do to extend goodwill and help de-escalate an already troubled relationship.
I think this is an example of a legitimate difference that can’t be “fixed”. You are not wrong for needing time to gather your thoughts and I am not wrong for being able to process quickly. We can meet halfway-you can communicate that you need time and I can be patient with that.
In my experience, it takes a lot of energy to reverse a downward spiral. And much less energy to get it going in the right direction, but that can only be done with new skills like being aware of stuff like this and figuring out how to handle it.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Oh, and yes. 😉 Emphatically yes.
“I hope I’m still here…”
All you can do is try. Wear the sword…until you can’t.
“I don’t know if it just ends up that everyone just gives up the fight.”
Glory, I hope not. (:-(
“It’s like they know all the crap is just crap and being loving and kind to each other is the most important best thing they can do.”
Yep, as I said earlier, what do you want your last thoughts to be? Really. Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
I was talking with a couple of men yesterday about life. I mentioned that I have tried to learn how to shrug. And I think I’m making progress, because not only can I shrug more often at things like (ahem) dishes left in the sink, but I am also learning to shrug when something that I do that probably should have gotten a shrug gets a different response. That’s some progress. 🙂
Jack, When I said “maybe we just give up the fight”, I meant the fight for our self recognition, and all the “causes” and “righteousness” that we put between each other.
I’m no better than the next guy at it, but I try.
When we can stop fighting for what we think is right, we may be able to start DOING what is (At least biblically) right- and that is just to love one another.
The conversation thread below is an example of fighting for a cause.
Maybe we can love in the midst of the fight?
Maybe one day I will really be in a place of humility and love. For now, I just have to be who I am so that I can become who I will be. (I had to throw a little bit of woo-woo in there.. 🙂 ) .
By the way- that I a beautiful verse. – And prayer.
Uhhh…it worked. 😉
To me, this is a reply though somewhat tangential. You can judge whether you think this is relevant at all. 😉
When I woke up to the state of things (I guess that means “the state of my life”), my complaint (nods to IB) was that I didn’t want to die without feeling like someone had really loved me. Recently it has begun to dawn on me that what I think I might better be worrying about is dying without having really loved my wife.
[ironic/facetious comment alert] Now that I’m getting straight on that, all I need to do is Google up the solution for that and have it shipped overnight so I can check that off on my bucket list. That’s the American way, right???
“The closest I feel to my husband is not when he washes the kitchen floor, but on the rare occasions when he engages me on the subjects that are difficult – whether we agree or not. He lets me in to his thoughts and experiences so I can better understand and connect and FEEL connected. Prob is I usually have to get him mad to break through.”
It can be so hard. There must be lots of people like me. I grew up in a family in which “different” was “bad,” and conflict was rigorously suppressed. I grew up thinking that the only sin was failure and perfection was the standard.
If you grow up that way, being able to sit in a zone of discomfort, disagreeing with your spouse while staying engaged with them and accepting as valid their different perspective and experience, while simultaneously respecting your own self and views, can be extremely difficult. It took me about 57 years to learn that skill, or even to realize that I needed to learn it. And I’m still working on it, probably will need to forever.
Sometimes only pain speaks to us and wakes us up. The problem is that results are unpredictable, but that’s true in any case, I think/
“Keep talking and engaging. I think the reason I do it here is that I can’t do it at home :)”
Here’s hoping that changes. I think it is actually a skill. It can be learned, and repetition strengthens it.
Oh, Jack, your comments about either run the show or run away describe many years of my marriage. To compound this, we were in a church that had strict gender roles. So he always had to be “the leader”. Talk about being put in a box!
Examples of how this worked out in conversations: Child A is having some behavioral problems. I ask husband of we can talk to her about it. So we start a conversation. Maybe he starts off. Then I say a few things. Now he is angry. It wasn’t where he was going with the discussion. So I sit there and say nothing. Then I start avoiding these interactions, because to be honest, I have better things to do than just waste time listening to a conversation that I am not really a part of. It used to happen in most of our conversations-I would say something that wasn’t “where he was going” and he would respond angrily, so I would just sit there and look like I was listening to his monologue. Then he would get angry that I wasn’t saying anything. That’s how this mindset came out in conversation.
Either he was the leader or he would just not engage in anything, so I ended up doing everything myself. Taking care of kids and household affairs, etc.
The truth is, when you either have to run the show or you run away, what you miss out on is being part of a team.
Keep up the good work. You can change. My husband finally did. Things are different now, but that’s a story for another day…
Truth. 🙁 Carpe diem.
The truth is, when you either have to run the show or you run away, what you miss out on is being part of a team.
That is a profound sad statement that resonates in my house …..
You know, of all the things that I feel are absent in our marriage, that sense of team-ness, coupleship, is probably what I feel most deeply.
Maybe I’m your husband? I don’t think so, but my wife might disagree. Or maybe I have different but more serious kinks, bends and dents. Not sure. There are days when I wonder how on earth we will navigate our way out of years of separation and this is one of them. :-\ Life on life’s terms…now is only now.
Jack, I appreciate what you’re saying here. I do think there are a lot of problems that go both ways or that there are plenty of women being unfair to their spouses. I also think healthy people tend to attract and attach to healthy people and unhealthy people tend to attract and attach to unhealthy people. Men and women both need to work from where they are at and where their spouses is rather than focusing on the faults or the hurts or on convincing all the married people they can reach that problems are just more proof of why to not get married or why they married poorly.
I can honestly admit that I think my husband and I were in some ways a couple of train wrecks when we married and that honoring him as my husband even when I couldn’t figure out any way to cause him to feel honored, coming back around to loving him even when I couldn’t feel loved or safe, and keeping on working on me when he did not appear to be willing to work on him were all good for me despite all the evil he ascribes to me and despite being contributing factors to how hard it has been to process through it all and survive and possibly recover since he embraced all his faults and that self-serving no one should ask you to stay if you are unhappy dogma that so much of modern culture preaches. But I also know I am a more, loving, humble, gentle, and patient person for having been through all this emotional and spiritual abuse and trauma.
Men may not have it easy. I’m sure they don’t. But neither does anyone on the other side of the coin. And what we do all have is guidance from above telling us that we are supposed to humble ourselves, put another person’s needs right up there ahead of our own (or equal to them in certain circumstances).
I wish more men commented here too. I kind of thought that might be possibly on the horizon not too many months ago. And I do think some certainly stay away because of female dominated conversation and a lot of push from some to define what men must be and how they should be men in order to be acceptable, things far beyond and different from what Matt brings up in his posts. It’s one reason I decided that it was a good and healthy choice for me to stay away a lot more and not use this blog comment opportunity for any of my emotions as much as I can hopefully avoid doing so. But I do want to copy and paste something for you that I wrote elsewhere that will perhaps enlighten some men as to just one woman’s particular point of view on men’s roles, a woman in a somewhat similar circumstance to Matt. I’m healing and trying to face my own faults after divorce. That’s similar at least. I’m also trying to remain just as brutally honest with myself about the realities of what I’ve been through as I am trying to be with myself about my own faults and failings.
“Men should be leaders. They should lead their wives in how to pray for each other, how to gently express spiritual concerns for each other and for the marriage, how to receive such concerns from each other, how to always prayerfully strive for better understanding when naturally sometimes a concern is not warranted but is from misunderstanding, when it is difficult to understand because of differing perspectives, when it is difficult to discuss due to differing communication styles.”
There are some women who are not seeking to be in charge. There are some who actually respect and appreciate a man choosing to be in charge. However despite not being even remotely feminist, many in that category will still struggle and be in pain in a marriage where a man follows a worldly, or self-serving or hurtful form of leadership. These women want good men. They want men who know that manliness is not defines or enhanced by dismissing the person you have vowed to love, cherish, honor. They know that manliness does not require such stoicism that emotions are taboo and uncomfortable nor is it an excuse to be so set apart from the feminine mind or from an individual woman’s communication style or relationship skills that she naturally feels unsafe and unloved within herself and within his sphere of influence.
I wish I had some words of wisdom for you for your particular circumstance, Jack. But it’s likely that anything I say about what *might* be going on when a woman think a man can’t handle something will either not fit you and your wife anyway or will be too easy to be misunderstood.
I pray that there are good men out there. And I pray that they find peace and comfort with good women as their lifelong partners.
Matt- you beauty of a man… ; ).
I am curious, and I think Lissy will be also, what happened to the conversation thread that involved myself, Lissy and “Hank Hill”?
You don’t have to, but if you wanted to share your motivations, and what this means, I know a few who would be interested in hearing.
Hey Linds. He was someone you “know” pretending to be someone else. And that dude ate up all his chances pissing on my living-room rug.
I don’t have time for that shit.
As that’s the first time I’ve ever unapproved comments, I didn’t realize your entire thread would disappear. I’m sorry about that.
That man’s intentions are not consistent with our mission and purpose here.
I can deal if it’s just once or twice or whatever. But perma-trolling is over.
I literally don’t have time to monitor all the comments anymore.
Had to be done.
Yeah, I kind of suspected it was him. There are not too many people with the heads that far up their arse. (Can I say that??? 🙂
Ding-dong, the troll is dead! – or at least blocked, right 🙂
I am proud of you for doing that- I know it goes against some of your strongly held beliefs.
But, I think there will be room for a lot more productive conversation.
Damn. Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water…
The funny thing is that I came back to encourage others on the day that “Hank” chose to talk about sex on tap.
Thanks, Matt, for moving quickly and decisively.
Matt, Just wanted to say that your entries are very insightful and eloquently written. I’ve been watching from afar for a few months but decided to go ahead and get my feet wet with some of the others on the forum. I’ve been having a hard time dealing with a marriage in crisis and though divorce is not on the table at the moment (that I know of), it could be anytime if she decides she wants to pull the trigger. Thanks for putting your feelings out there. -Tim
Really appreciate the note, Tim. And I’m truly sorry about what you’re going through at home. It’s the worst.
Nothing is steady when home isn’t.
There are a lot of good people around here, and I hope you find meaningful support in whatever ways might help.
Here’s to good things happening. We fail to recognize them more than we should, but good things often do happen.
Hi Tim, just checking on you. I do that when I can. How is the haze today? (if you want to share…)
Been AWOL on this post for a while… :-\ Lindsey, I wanted to take you up on your FB offer; what’s the best way to send you actual contact info?
Hey Jack, just contact me on my wordpress site. Click my name, and then “contact.”..:)
STH shared this little story, and I don’t think there is a better illustration of what happens in relationships at times. Especially love relationships -where we often seek out others because of our own needs.
Wow. Zing. Ouch. Smile. Sheepish, sincere. Guilty – hopeful?
It’s so freakin’ easy to get bummed out, or much worse (like, for example, furious and then divorced) because you get so fixated on your mind’s idea of love that you miss the love that’s right in front of/right beside you.
I know you know that, I just had to say it out loud, to remind myself. (:-)
Invited husband along to my regularly scheduled massage therapy appointment tonight. At a spa not a clinic. Steam room and cozy robes and couples room together. Quiet and calm. I think he liked it and was very pleased that I included him. I’m not purring and neither is he but maybe we never did ?. Still trying hard. ?
Just chatting with husband in quiet moment in kitchen. Talking about my quiet around relationship issues lately. Told him I had outlets now for thinking out loud – exposing my secret blog following anonymous new Facebook friends life. Crickets in reply as usual but demonstrating secrets don’t have to be secrets.
Good call! ; )
On reading this again, I have mixed feelings. (And yes, i realize that it is a synopsis of the story, and not the actual story) …
It seems like we enter romantic relationships with the hope that this person will fulfill our need to be loved. That is a reasonable expectation, I suppose.
I think when we meet someone who excites us and all attention is on them, and vice-versa it feels like that need is being met.
You feel loved at the moment.
But its a cyclical thing where one person is feeling so enraptured by the other that they give back with same amount of love, affection, etc.
Until the new wears off and then its like “O-hey….” and then on to something else.
Thats when people start to feel that the other isnt meeting expectations.
I dont like that the story ends with Mrs. Lovewright not seeing her approach as problematic.
Just accepting the damage two people do to one another, and calling it love because they just deal with it, isnt really the best.
I would have liked to have seen Mrs. Lovewright change her approach, and to hear Purrless, purr.
But, I do think there is a valid message in that just because someone isnt doing the thing that makes you feel loved, it doesnt mean that there isnt love.
It’s then just becomes a matter of communication and desire to meet that need.
Thank you. I was just identifying that behavior as distrust and it’s reassuring to see it identified here as that as well.
Madeline here. I’m new.
“…I didn’t trust that when she told me that something was hurting her or mattered to her, that she was experiencing it accurately.”
You’re a guy with no children, Part I
You’re sitting in a bar talking to a random guy who’s relaying the story of when his wife gave birth. He says “Man, it was incredible. I never thought it would be like that. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I was so overcome with emotion, I just cried when I held my baby for the first time.” Your response – ‘Dude. Really? You cried? Over a baby?’
You don’t buy it. You doubt the accuracy of the story.
You’re a guy with no children, Part II
You’re sitting in a bar talking to an old friend, guy you’ve known since kindergarten, he’s relaying the story of when his wife gave birth. He says “Man, it was incredible. I never thought it would be like that. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I was so overcome with emotion, I just cried when I held my baby for the first time.” Your response – ‘Man, that’s beautiful. I hope to have kids someday.’
The difference in your response is not because one experience was more relatable or because one guy was a better story teller – you haven’t experienced the birth of a child and they are the exact same story – but you question random bar guy but believe kindergarten friend. The difference in your response is because of who’s telling the story, trusted friend vs bar stranger. One version seems believable, the other not.
The reason you doubt random bar guy is not because you don’t believe the story but because you don’t believe the story teller. What’s in question is not the information. What’s in question is the credibility of the witness.
When your wife tells you her story of how she feels when you do X, and when she tries again using different words, when you fail to believe her and continue to doubt her story over and over, you are regarding her with the skepticism you have for random bar guy – to you, she isn’t credible. It has nothing to do with relatable details, things you have or haven’t experienced in your life – the reason you don’t believe your wife is that you question her credibility. You don’t trust the source.
This is a woman you claim to love, you said you’d honor but you don’t believe she’s capable of forming an accurate assessment of how she feels. And that even if you did believe her, her feelings are dismissed as irrelevant in the grand scheme.
And the ego of that, the arrogance, is truly breath taking.
Stay curious, keep moving forward.
Maybe credibility is coupled with accusations and intent. Dr Willard Harley uses an example of a husband who steps on his wife’s foot, maybe while dancing. Doesn’t really matter what they are doing, it happens.
She says ouch, that hurt. He says I didn’t mean to hurt you. Doesn’t really matter, it still hurts.
And that is where Dr Harley leaves it.
After some thought, that may or may not help, I came up with the following.
If that was where it ended and she said ouch and he said sorry, it would all be well. She would hurt, but be comforted that he is remorseful over what happened. But we humans tend to lash out. She might say, “are you trying to kill me?” A much worse approach. Now she isn’t talking about her pain, but his intent. And he doesn’t trust her because he knows he’s not trying to kill her, he accidentally stepped on her foot.
But instead of it being about her pain, his character is called into question.
And that’s when the fight gets started.
Now maybe he can keep his head and ask a clarifying question. But that takes some seriously emotional ninja awareness. Of course, the same could be asked of her.
Where things go wrong is when we stop giving one another the benefit of the doubt. One form of that trust.
If my bride only occasionally leaves her dishes on the counter or the sink, it is easy to give her the benefit of the doubt. She might have a busy workday or an early meeting. I can grab the dishes that bother me and put them in the dishwasher.
If I’m doing this for the 1000th time, while she is on summer break and I’m still working 40-60 hours a week, I find it much harder to give the benefit of doubt.
Now I don’t think she is trying to kill me, or even purposely be annoying. However, ouch, intent doesn’t change how it feels.
However, after the thousandth time, my response to the apology, if there is one, is that if you want to show me you are sorry, don’t do it again.
I don’t attack motive or character. Fiction the problem. Your dishes on the counter or in the sink instead of the dishwasher are a problem for me. Please wash them and or put them in the dishwasher.
But don’t get into the you should or shouldn’t feel. That dog don’t hunt. You wouldn’t accept it if I were to try that crap, so knock it off.
Not fiction the problem, focus on the problem. Like my man sized thumbs typing on this tiny iPhone.
1. I assumed you were going for “fix the problem,” but wasn’t sure. Funny that you clarified.
2. I really appreciate you taking time out of your life to think about these things, share ideas, and leave comments.
I don’t have time at the moment to engage in this particular conversation (I have a desk job with work deadlines today), so I do hope we get another chance.
You’re an excellent writer with a good sense of humor. (If your screenname mean what I think it might, we need to upgrade “good sense of humor” to something more befitting of such self-aware and vulnerable hilariousness.) There can never be too much of that around here.
Thank you for contributing. Means a lot.
Yes, I’m a 23 year survivor. One of my “boys” tried to kill me back in 1994.
They wouldn’t let me have it mounted in Lexan as a desk ornament. The thought was if someone said I didn’t have the balls to do something, I could have presented a down payment of sorts.
I write like the engineer I am 🙂
Reblogged this on A Walk with God, through Marriage, Family and Personal Life.
I remember my husband telling me how stupid I was for wanting a central vacuum so I could sweep up messes without getting out a vacuum everyday and making dust everyday. He told me in the worst way just how stupid I was. Eventhough we are working through our differences, I will never be able to let it go. I will work around it but as a human it will always be there to hurt me.
Your entire post is an example of the Zen riddle, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Can it really be that every failure of marriage is solely and uniquely due to a “shitty husband”? Or maybe this is your extended mea culpa to youe ex-wife, women in your life, and and an exercise in demonstrating your post-patriarchal neo-feminism? After my wife texted me 6 links to your volumes and I read those and read through your blog it occured to me that as a “shitty husband” I must have consumed something that actually made me so. And where pray tell did most of my sustenance come from in these years to make me “shitty” and give me the “shits”? Hmmm!
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