Some People Are Women, Others Are Men, and it’s Getting Hard to Talk About

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gender identity male female
(Image/Angelus News)

My most popular articles tell true stories about my failed marriage and also tend to include a bunch of my own assumptions about “typical” male-female relationships.

Because of things I’ve experienced, observed, read, and heard about, I perceive there to be common male behaviors and common female behaviors, and sometimes when writing relationship stories—I will say things like: “Husbands often do this… and wives often do this other thing.”

I do it throughout the oft-read Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts, and this very gender-oriented way of storytelling—for better or worse—is featured prominently in the only thing I’ve written that has been read millions of times: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.

I am a straight, white male who was raised in a small Ohio town, and totally immersed—from birth through high school—in conservative politics and what some people like to call “traditional Christian values.”

I used to think it was all very good. Common. Normal. The majority.

I always found comfort in being part of the “majority.” If MOST people believed something, then that must mean that believing that is good. The right thing to do. I am part of the group that is “most correct,” I reasoned.

Of course, I didn’t have access to any sort of data that could reliably tell me what “most” people thought, believed, felt or did, anyway. Nor was I wise enough to even ask the question. SO MANY people were “like me” where I come from that it never occurred to me to question things I was taught or any of the common beliefs of the people who lived where I lived.

Things are much different now.

I don’t live in a place where groupthink is as prevalent as it was for me growing up.

At 38, on the heels of my divorce that forced me to rethink everything I have ever done or believed, today I’m much better about questioning information I come across.

I always want to know WHY. Every one of our beliefs should have a WHY behind it. A REASON. There’s great danger in a bunch of people who believe things but can’t provide an explanation for WHY.

I’m less certain today about the things I think and feel.

Uncertainty isn’t comfortable. Uncertainty probably isn’t very attractive. But it damn sure reduces your asshole quotient. Since no one can know all things, behaving with certainty means you’re totally wrong (and a huge asshole) at least some of the time.

I don’t assume I’m correct about everything, but I always have a REASON for how I came to a belief, and if I discover that my reason for a belief is bullshit, I’m not afraid to abandon it in favor of a better idea.

I’ve learned to embrace the philosophy of Letting the Best Idea Win.

In every conversation, debate or argument between me and someone else with conflicting ideas, there can be only three possibilities:

  1. I’m right.
  2. I’m wrong.
  3. There is no objectively correct answer.

Many people behave in debates as if winning or losing are the only two outcomes. I tend to think everyone loses most of the time. I don’t think “being wrong” is the same thing as losing. Here’s why:

  1. If I’m right, I get to share a better or important idea with the person I’m talking to.
  2. If I’m wrong, I get to learn a better or important idea from the person I’m talking to, and stop believing something that’s untrue, harmful, or otherwise moronic.
  3. If there’s no objectively correct answer, fair-minded and reasonable people can always conclude that an individual’s life experiences shapes their beliefs, and that ANYONE who lived an identical life would have drawn an identical conclusion.

Is it Wrong or Dangerous to Identify Gender-Based Stereotypes in Stories Designed to Help People Improve Their Relationships?

A bunch of people (who might be correct) think I’m a complete idiot douchebag because of what they perceive to be cavalier use of “gendered” descriptors for human behavior.

If you also think I’m an idiot douchebag, you’ll take great joy in reading this MetaFilter thread about the “dishes” post that went viral in 2016.

It’s offensive for some men who are awesome about keeping their house clean, and mindfully comforting their romantic partners, and expertly managing their children’s many needs to read me write the equivalent of “Men are often thoughtless and selfish, dumping a bunch of housework on their wives, which inevitably causes wives to resent their husbands and eventually leave them.”

It’s offensive for some women who are sensitive about gender-based stereotyping of any kind to see it being done. The female experience for them has been one of being shoehorned into certain roles and stereotypes for no other reason than their gender. Women are still sometimes referred to as “minorities,” even though the human sex ratio is essentially 1:1 in almost every country and culture on earth.

I get this. Totally. I don’t like people labeling or telling me who I am either.

And I absolutely understand that this type of stereotyping and generalizing has categorically marginalized huge groups of people through the generations, because of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.

“Marginalized” is probably too soft a word for some of the atrocities people have experienced at the hands of the “majority.”

However, I can’t stop asking this question:

While gender-based stereotyping might seem ignorant or misguided to people whose life experiences were much different than mine, is it WRONG or BAD for me to make the observation that “Men often do this, and women often do something else”?

There is no malice intended in my observations that men frequently demonstrate a lack of awareness and empathy in their conversations and behavior at home with their wives. I honestly believe this is the most common scenario. That this is true most often.

There is no malice intended in my observations that women frequently feel sad, abandoned and afraid—and later, resentful—in their marriages because of this common male lack of awareness and empathy.

I am not judging men. I don’t believe women are better than men. But I do believe that women frequently demonstrate superior relationship skills to men like emotional intelligence, empathy, efforts to communicate, and stronger home- and child-management skills as mothers.

I believe that’s true. That doesn’t make anyone good or bad. It simply makes me correct or incorrect—and I honestly don’t know which I am in this case. This is what I think. Not what I know.

I am certainly not judging women. I don’t believe men are better than women, particularly in the context of male-female romantic relationships in cohabitation, marriage, or parenting. But I do believe that men are frequently innocent of intentional wrongdoing in their troubled relationships. That they are predominantly good men with good intentions who honestly love their wives and families, but mindlessly do or do not do things that hurt their wives, and often results in painful break-ups and divorce.

I believe this is true.

I believe anyone can look around and see this for themselves in their own families, and neighborhoods, and workplaces, and religious or social groups, and among the professional relationship therapists who have spent years listening to the same kinds of stories I tell, and who hear all of the same stories I get in my email inbox and in these blog comments.

Another Viral Example: ‘You Should’ve Asked’

Someone awesome and clever created a comic that I believe encapsulates the spirit of several of my posts like the “dishes by the sink” one, or how making your wife or girlfriend feel like your mom by managing your life and cleaning up after you all the time is a common recipe for the death of sexual attraction, and often, the relationship.

This excellent piece called “You Should’ve Asked” is a must-read.

I think the creator (her name is Emma) did an incredible job of capturing this Common Relationship dynamic I’m always going for, but I think she did a better job than I do of not assigning blame or shaming anyone in the process.

I was struck by how many people criticized the piece because they perceived it to unfairly stereotype genders in much the same way people have criticized me.

Does content like “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” and “You Should’ve Asked” cause more harm than good by being too gender-focused? Or do they do more good than harm by raising awareness to relationship issues so common that millions of people read and share them?

I am a guy. Because of this, I write for guys and feel comfortable talking about “guy things” in the same way I perceive them to be true. I don’t pretend to understand what women experience outside of the many books, conversations and stories I’ve read or heard.

I was a husband. Because of this, I write about husbands.

I write stories that I hope resonate with many people, and I don’t know how to do that without describing situations I believe to be most common—most statistically likely to have been true for the average reader.

But, if this isn’t obvious to you already, I believe sexism—which I hope is mostly unintentional—plays a prominent role in the fundamental breakdown of the common marriage, as I tend to describe it.

I defend my stereotyping (right or wrong) because I am rarely making value judgments about men and women.

I think it’s fair and reasonable to identify things as being DIFFERENT, without the underlying assumption that one is better than another. Equality is NOT “Everyone’s the same!” Equality is “Everyone has equal value.”

And I believe that strongly. That all people have equal value, regardless of how many differences we can identify.

I think, whether it be because of cultural conditioning and exposure to mass media or something else entirely, that men frequently demonstrate behaviors common to most males, and that women frequently demonstrate behaviors common to most females.

I don’t know why this happens, though I have foolishly suggested that evolutionary science might have something to do with it because I’m an idiot who occasionally talks out of his ass.

But I think it’s less foolish to observe things that happen around us, and then use those observations in stories designed to hopefully help people discover something important about themselves, about their partners, and about their relationships that might otherwise deteriorate and end painfully without that story resonating with them. Without stories that feel a lot like their own experiences.

Sometimes people see themselves in the words, and everything changes for them. Sometimes kids don’t have to move between houses and cry. Sometimes two really good people who honestly love each other don’t spend years accidentally damaging one another’s hearts and minds, because they finally SEE what’s really happening.

I want to believe that the stories told here have done more good than bad.

If there’s a way for me to do more good and less bad, I also want to know that.

But this criticism and question needs dealt with.

No matter how “common” it may seem to me or anyone else. No matter how easy it is for me to justify using a Mars/Venus backdrop to relationship stories. No matter ANYTHING else: Do we hurt others, and ultimately cause more harm than good when we use words that categorize or label or attempt to define a group of people because they’re connected by a shared trait?

I don’t know.

But if I can do better, I must.

If we can do better, we must.

54 thoughts on “Some People Are Women, Others Are Men, and it’s Getting Hard to Talk About”

  1. Excellent post, friend. Here’s the thing: Where do we stop? Do we completely strip gender identity for the sake of not offending someone? I think not. Not all pizza is tasty, but if I have a slice on my plate, my past experience and perception tell me that it will probably be delicious. That’s nothing against non-tasty pizza. I’m not dismissing its presence.

    I can appreciate the reality of those who have different realities than me. I hope that they can appreciate people like you and me who have had our own experiences as binary, straight men. We can speak of and amongst and to others like us, or even those unlike us, who care to hear or read what we have to say.

    I act with mindfulness and kindness as often as I possibly can. I won’t be concerned if acting in this way still “offends” some who don’t see the world as I do. For blogging’s sake, I hope that you won’t be concerned either because I suspect many men (and women) can relate to your work.

  2. “I don’t know.

    But if I can do better, I must.

    If we can do better, we must.”

    Words to live by, in every respect.

  3. Can you even imagine having to disclaim every thought you ever had in written form? Gee whiz….I’m sorry but I don’t have room for those who aren’t reasonable and who get all snarky about that .00001 percent that is being excluded. I’m open to the discussion, but PEOPLE, come on, be reasonable….Most of those comments are just folks who get satisfaction in being a jerk…. Was that mean? I probably could have said it nicer but I just don’t wanna use the 500 extra words to cover every tender persons sensibilities.

  4. You will never be able to please everyone. You have had much success with your blog so keep doing what you are doing. You obviously touch many.

  5. Interesting,Matt. Cute cartoon,too. She did a good job with that one.

    So,not trying to be a pain here, but submission is actually how you set down all that mental labor and enable men to take responsibility for their household. Men have a tendency to avoid responsibility,women have a tendency to take on responsibility that isn’t even ours. You wind up with emotionally over-burdened wives and men as children. Tends to kill your sex life, too.

    It’s puzzling to me that you continue to insist that sexism is somewhat unintentional. I really want to believe that, too. I want to believe that men just don’t know better, and maybe they don’t,maybe they’re trapped in self deception and can’t see it. It’s just that the amount of outright disrespect poured on women,the total disregard for our feelings,the dismissal as if we are complex creatures and understanding us amounts to rocket science or something,doesn’t work for me. I ain’t buying it.

    And I ain’t buying it because I know a whole lot of men who aren’t like that at all. They aren’t particularly smart or self aware, they just know better,and they treat women differently, gently. I guess that sounds “sexist,” but in truth that’s what most women want, some gentle care.

    1. I don’t mean to imply that I think SEXISM is unintentional. I think there are a bunch of sexist morons out there who are VERY intentional about it. They’re quite easy to spot.

      Intentional sexism is misogyny. Accidental sexism isn’t rooted in hatred or bigotry or the end goal of inequality.

      I think many good men are “accidentally” sexist because maybe they grew up in an environment that was very Dad Goes to Work, and Mom Stays Home and Cooks and Does Laundry.

      That’s accidential sexism, IB.

      That’s not malicious. That’s not a man thinking he’s better than a woman. That’s a man who had behavior models that are probably not so good for people who got married in the past 20-25 years.

      You used the word “disrespect.” There’s a SHIT-ton of disrespect between two spouses, and probably any two people you throw together in the same home.

      Sexist guys think they are smarter, wiser, better than their female partners.

      Accidentally sexist guys think they are totally equal with their partners, but neglect to meet them where they need to be.

      That OFTEN manifests itself in the household division of labor RE: chores and child-rearing.

      But it can just as easily be in how much or little we listen, or ask good questions that show interest in our partner’s lives, or how we react to our partner’s wishes, ideas, opinions, suggestions, requests, etc.

      An accidentally sexist guy experiences his wife’s differences, and through a lack of awareness, perceives HIS way to be “better” than her’s.

      That’s not a fundamentally egregious show of gender bias. It’s just some cocksure moron being so certain of his correctness that he accidentally feeds these long-standing and harmful stereotypes, which tend to lead to hurt feelings, fights, and a whole bunch of divorce.

      1. “An accidentally sexist guy experiences his wife’s differences, and through a lack of awareness, perceives HIS way to be “better” than her’s.”

        LOL! Matt, I don’t wish to be unkind,I don’t wish to imply that sexism is some great horror, because I really don’t believe it is,not in this context. But what you have
        just describes is plain old sexism.It’s not accidental. It’s not a lack of awareness.He believes his way is better because he’s a guy and she isn’t. She’s inferior,not as smart as him,not as aware as him,not as right as him,not as qualified as him…

        Personally, I tend to believe that if we can just be honest about this aspect of men,stop wrapping it in shame,we can work together,we can adapt to one another. Sexism need not be complete disrespect,it need not be demeaning to women. Corny example,but I hand my hubby jars to open for me.He’s stronger, better at it, he can win the war with the jar. In turn his “sexism” protects me from having to go out and reach into the septic system when the drain is plugged.

        1. I have to respectfully disagree here. I’m a woman. I’m married. I have 3 sons. I’m a feminist. I preface my response with all of these roles I play, because they give context to my response and to my opinions. I should also say that I’m 41 years old, so I’ve been around the sun a few times.

          All that being said, sexism is not present in those moments when you ask your husband to open a jar or when he cleans the septic system. You ask him to do those things because he’s better suited to do those things. Men physiologically have more muscle mass than women, thus making them better candidates for tasks that call for a little more muscle. Sometimes, a woman can open a jar for a man. All that means is that in that moment she is more suited for the job. This isn’t sexism.

          As for that septic system situation, it’s not sexist for you to want your husband to take care of it, it only means you don’t want to do gross things. As long as he doesn’t have a problem doing it instead of you, then sexism is not present. It is only sexism if you insist on him doing it because he’s a man.

    2. “Men have a tendency to avoid responsibility,women have a tendency to take on responsibility that isn’t even ours. You wind up with emotionally over-burdened wives and men as children.”
      THIS. This is one of the truest things I have ever read. Literally.

  6. If there is a problem so common that you CAN draw a stereotype from the situation, then to my mind, no, it is not damaging to call out that problem with the ‘person xx tends to do this and person xy tends to do that’ kind of format. I imagine a fair number of the bad reactions are from people who don’t want to too closely examine an uncomfortable concept. I came across an article the other day and the fact that I viscerally didn’t like it was a major flag that it was something I needed to ponder.

    ‘But I’m one of the good guys’ seems to be one of the common responses. Since when is good enough? My husband and I used to have a lot of conversations about not settling in our relationship. ‘Good enough’ should not be the status quo. Athletes never quit training. Professionals never quit learning about their area of expertise. Why would it be okay to stop working to improve the most important voluntary relationship of our lives?

    1. I agree with this, we should always be fighting for our close relationships to be great and to treat people around us with respect, (listening to, emotional labour, all the htings I quoted below) and sometimes even the most stable legal set in stone oath can break and not work, and who doesn’t want to keep their close relationships stable and their spouse happy? it shouldn’t be a debate

  7. Separate thought train…WE. ARE. DIFFERENT! Why has it become a bad thing to recognize that male and female are fundamentally biologically different? Men and women are not the same. As a biological sciences person this approach drives me nuts. Acknowledging that does not mean saying all men are the same as each other or all women are the same. But there can be general underlying trends.

    Turning off rant now… 🙂

  8. The gender stereotypes you use are frequently true. However, you never claim that they fit every single person/situation, and clearly state this is just how you see things and it’s possible you are wrong. Should you not talk about the marriage killing behaviors that are stereotypically gendered? For those that read here and cry with relief because someone else gets what they are going through and can describe it clearly, or say, Damn! I get it now! I never realized what I’ve been doing! …I bet they would say it’s worth being wrong some of the time if you are right most of the time.

    1. I’m asking an honest question here: Do the ends justify the means? Slippery-slope kind-of stuff.

      But you say nice things, and I appreciate it. Thank you, Lissy.

      1. I’m not sure this is an ends/means situation. How do you see that applying here?

        I agree with Lissy that you contextualize what you are saying. You write what you know, and don’t pull punches on yourself regarding the stereotypes you fell into unintentionally. If the stereotypes are not challenged, how can we break them? Especially when you start by saying this is a trend, not a rule.

      2. I think what you are doing is descriptive, not prescriptive. Can you tell what percent of the population you are accurately describing? No. Are you accurately describing enough of the population to be able to “stereotype” it? I believe so.

        However, I would strongly advise you to stay away from saying things like “men/women are wired to..” or “most men/women….” Because to the person who does not fit that mold, it seems like you are making a moral judgement-you should be like this, but you aren’t, so you must be defective. Then your message becomes lost as people respond to the details and miss the forest for the trees.

        I read the metafilter comments, and it’s sad how many people could not get the general gist of what you were trying to communicate.

        “All men aren’t like that!” The point wasn’t that all men are like this. The point is that one partner, usually male, is doing this disrespectful thing to their partner and if it doesn’t stop, bad stuff results.

        “It’s not just the men-my wife/gf/mother is the one who leaves glasses all over!” So even if the gender thing is reversed, the basic point is still the same…one person is doing something that is disrespecting the partner and harming the relationship.

        “You are a mysogynist!” Well, Since I am male and my wife is female, that was how it happened with us, and I am finding that’s how it is with a lot of couples…but if you are a gay couple and the shoe fits one of you…

        What I didn’t read was people finding truth and then applying it to their particular situation. If the situation was not exactly the same, there was no wisdom to be had. Maybe it’s a product of our educational system-innovation, creativity, and making random connections are really not encouraged.

        Nevertheless, maybe you should start describing different personality types, not men/women. Having less non-essential things for people to take umbrage with might give the message a greater chance of being seen for what it really is.

        1. Do you think slightly changing the presentation would actually reach some of these people? My guess is that they would still find some tiny detail to support the ‘that’s not me’ attitude.

          One thing I like about how Matt writes is how he doesn’t try to soften his message until there is no message left. I believe that for some topics, we need to be made uncomfortable. But like he writes in the request for advice articles, all the information in the world won’t help until someone is willing/wanting to make a change.

          1. For some, the “men are wired like this/women are usually like that” is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Would it help if the presentation did not include it? Who knows! For many people, it’s an extra layer of onion that has to be peeled back before reaching the center.

            I personally believe any two people can find common ground based on their unique personalities/likes/dislikes/strengths/preferences. There is another relationship blogger who has realized that it’s not men vs. women-it’s different personality types, and he goes with that. So he doesn’t limit the scope to men/women relationships. You can apply it to gay couples, non-romantic partnerships like family and roommates, etc., even though he mainly wants to help couples.

            In a way, I envy gay couples, because they have to figure out the issues like housework not based on who has what in their undies, but based on communication and personal preferences.

      3. To answer your question, Matt, I think it does.

        I saw that coming come up on my Facebook feed. I reposted it and what was really interesting was the difference in the TYPES of comments that I got vs. the person who originally posted it on my feed.

        I’m not entirely sure why – she got a lot of supportive discussion and I got comments telling me the comic was BS, basically (including one man who is both childless and has never been married).

        So there’s some thoughts there for me to muddle through, but the point is, this was two different groups of people reading the same content. One group got the knee jerk “This is BS it doesn’t even talk about when a woman makes a man kill spiders for her” kind of reaction and the other group got a great honest discussion out of it.

        All that to say – you never know who you will reach. I think it’s worth it.

        FWIW I do agree with Lissy that you may want to rethink certain things (like maybe saying “most men” instead of “men” or something like that) but at the same time I swear I do an eye roll every time I see someone in the comments do the “BUT NOT ALL _____ DO ______!!!” because it seems to me that it should be implicity or assumed that OF COURSE this doesn’t apply to everyone across the board…. and take it for what it’s worth. I guess I don’t feel like you should feel you have to specifically say that each and every time.

    2. This, persoanlly I’ve had some of the Bad Husbands problem with my former best friends who are girls, and if I can understand it on that level, I don’t understand how people can be confused or enraged on other levels, maybe they are some women who don’t listen and leave their things around the house ,and maybe they are some men who run themselves ragged trying to keep it together and be attractive until they can’t anymore, so what, as a grown up human being, people should be able to see that no matter the gender these things happen, and they shouldn’t happen, especially with loved ones, whether they be spouses, best friends, life partners, de facto spouse, gay relationships and otherwise

  9. If you write about something that men typically do, like leave dishes in the sink or ignore his wife’s opinion, and it strikes a nerve with a person, who is probably man, maybe he should evaluate himself instead of trying to deflect anger or blame. I’ve been reading for about 6months now, and the people who get angry are people who need to change.

    My husband is great, but he does leave dishes in the sink. We made areal that dishes were his job and i still do dishes more often than not. My husband also doesn’t take my word for anything. I keep telling him i smell poop in the basement. We have cats and one refused to go in the litterbox. Also, our toilet was leaking toilet bowl water all over the place for who knows how long and smell it. He only believed me when the seal broke and water got all over our furnace.
    He does try. But it’s comforting to read that I’m not crazy, you know?

    1. Who’s voice is more important? The (mostly) ladies who find validation-see? I’m NOT crazy! The ones who read and make the changes and save their marriage?Or the people who don’t get it or disagree or pick it apart?

      1. I think the most important voice is the one who speaks the truth. No, not all mean leave the dish in the sink. No, not all People who leave the dish in the sink are men. My point is, if you (general) leave the dish in the sink and your partner says they feel disrespected, then you should figure out a way to make sure your partner doesn’t feel disrespected by you.
        For some women, what Matt says validates what they’re saying. For some people, no matter what you say, you will never get through to them. But that shouldn’t stop someone from speaking the truth.

        1. And other people don’t matter when it comes to my relationship, you know? It doesn’t matter if my dad was a chauvinist who treated my step mom like crap, or that my husband didn’t know his mother. We both get to decide how our family and house is run. There are so many aspects of life and marriage and relationships. Everything is a tangle of crap every single day, with every person i know. I’m trying my hardest to treat the people i promised to take care of the best way i know how. Those people are my husband and children. I’m trying to make it work with him and for them.

          All i see is Matt trying to make a difference and the people who complain about it just don’t want to hear the truth.

  10. Men are men. Women are women. Vive la différence! I was drawn to your blog because you share your male perspective regarding women, and as a woman, this is invaluable to me. There’s no other way for you to do that than to share what you think/feel/know as a man drawing on your experience with women. I don’t see anything here about stereo-typing genders. You identify painful issues–and offer genuinely helpful solutions– so often encountered between the sexes, in a way that is compassionate, aware, and fair. For me, this isn’t wrong, bad, or harmful. It’s right, good, and healing. I admire your courage in writing a blog like this, Matt. You are brave to be so open and honest and then field everything that comes at you, positive or not so positive. It is my hope that you go right on doing what you do so well, using your experience to help guide both men and women into better, healthier, happier relationships with one another. My two cents. 🙂

  11. I agree that men and women are different but I have never bought into that notion in every sense. The problem with that statement is that it is being used as an excuse to be inconsiderate, uncaring and selfish. I have been on the short end of the “I just can’t figure it out for myself because of my gender” stick far too many times and it is very destructive.
    We are all human beings and we all have some capacity to love, be kind and considerate and to learn. I believe much of the differences are learned behaviours and conditioning and, just as anyone can learn to be self-centred, one can also learn to be selfless. This article is great example of that. I’m a grateful for you, Matt, and the example you set for all of us.

    1. ^^^ I agree.

      We are ALL selfish and self-centered – often unintentionally so – and is it any wonder that our selfishness manifests along gender lines? Sexism isn’t the root problem here, sexism is simply one of the myriad ways that our innate selfishness is expressed in the world.

  12. Geez, Matt, those metafilter comments are brutal!

    How *dare* you form your own opinions based on your own experiences and your own observations!


    1. The “dishes” post introduced me to ruthless commentary from internet strangers last year. It was hard at first.

      I take it much better now.

  13. The way I see it, you write what you know. Is your situation and your point of view a blanket that covers every single failed relationship? No. Does it cover a lot of many failed relationships? Probably. So….if a person cannot resonate with your point of view, it is not that you are wrong, it is just that it does not reflect their situation. I’m so tired of people getting pissed because your situation doesn’t fit their situation so you must be wrong. Ugh. I don’t think you have ever said that your situation is THE only reason relationships fail. What you have to say and the lessons you learned are valuable to anyone who finds themselves in a relationship that is falling apart.
    Also, if people find themselves getting defensive about your lessons, then they need to check themselves. Maybe they do have the same issue, but don’t want to or can’t admit it. I told a woman on a quit smoking website off because she told me to stop being so hard on myself and maybe it was it just wasn’t my time to quit. Not my proudest moment, but I learned a lot about myself in that little outburst.

    To make a long comment short…keep doing what you are doing. Please. You have lessons that people need to hear, lots of people.

  14. Again Matt….great post and again I agree with what Dawn says. What I get from your posts is more of a guide, an awakening of sorts, a point of development. You write from a point of view and experienced based course. You have more than done your homework and it shows. Look there is always going to be those that have issue with content. You basically are giving warning and guidance based on the tragic turn of events from your Life. You needn’t be apologetic .I admit when I first started reading this blog I thought you were being too hard on yourself and not assigning any culpability for the demise of your marriage on your wife. I show all of your posts and my responses to my beautiful Anne and she generally agreed with me and always asked for your wife’s side of the story. later we both came to the realization that that wasn’t the issue. What we now know is that no matter what the other side of the story is this blog is not about identifying the “enemy” in a relationship but rather identifying the possible threats to said relationships. You write what you have discovered in your own situation and have done research to expand the identification and possible early intervention to stave off any future such tragedies . Unless you can live 2 separate gendered lives in one relationship all you have to work with is realization, empathy and applying solid foundational practices to fix any deviations that could cause pain and demise. You are doing fine sir …please carry on the fight (you know I like a good epic). You have helped countless numbers that may never give feedback….but are most likely extremely grateful….Blessings to all

    1. I’m seeing this comment and question out of context on my WordPress app. Would you please clarify what you’re asking? Where do I stand on what, exactly?

      1. I’m sorry I should be more clear. My question refers to this section of your blog post, “course, I didn’t have access to any sort of data that could reliably tell me what “most” people thought, believed, felt or did, anyway. Nor was I wise enough to even ask the question. SO MANY people were “like me” where I come from that it never occurred to me to question things I was taught or any of the common beliefs of the people who lived where I lived.

        Things are much different now.

        I don’t live in a place where groupthink is as prevalent as it was for me growing up.

        At 38, on the heels of my divorce that forced me to rethink everything I have ever done or believed, today I’m much better about questioning information I come across.

        I always want to know WHY. Every one of our beliefs should have a WHY behind it. A REASON. There’s great danger in a bunch of people who believe things but can’t provide an explanation for WHY.

        I’m less certain today about the things I think and feel.”

        It seems your beliefs in God have changed, what do you believe now?

        1. Thank you.

          I would stop short of saying my beliefs about God have changed.

          I was speaking MUCH more to cultural things I experienced related to race, related to people from other countries, related to people with different beliefs, related to people who have different lifestyle choices.

          While HATE was never the motivating force behind any ignorant or close-mindedness I, or anyone else demonstrated, there was a pervasive sense of We Do Things This Way and it’s RIGHT. It’s TRUTH. Don’t Be Fooled by All Those Other People With Different Agendas. They’re Not Like Us. We’re Special.

          I grew up surrounded by Republicans. Where I am from, Republican = Good and Democrat = Bad.

          Where I am from, Christian = Good (and I very specifically mean, practicing, regular church-going Christian), and Muslim/Athiest/Hindu/Buddhist/Wiccan/etc. = Bad.

          Where I’m from, Straight = Good, Gay = Bad.

          Where I’m from, Americans = Good, People from other Countries = Less Good

          Where I’m from, it is not overtly stated, but there is for sure a sense that if you’re a white guy like me, you mostly want to live in neighborhoods, and go to malls, and send your kids to schools where other white people go.

          Racism is probably the thing people around me were least-shitty about. I did witness overt hate. But I witnessed ignorance. Nobody bothered to teach me that skin color wasn’t the reason certain groups of people dressed, spoke or behaved a certain way. But that culture, behavior models, education, community, etc is what influences human behavior.

          God is a MUCH different and infinitely more nuanced conversation.

          Many many many many many bad things happen in this world in the name of God and religion.

          People have Super Beliefs. Absolutes.

          And these Super Beliefs are very dangerous strictly from the standpoint of a diverse human population coexisting peacefully. Because anyone who disagrees with a Super Belief is a threat.

          And if your Super Belief is that NOT believing your Super Belief will prevent you from entering eternal paradise in an afterlife, and that all non-believers are a threat to you and your children/friends/etc…. Then there’s no limits to the lengths you’ll go to eliminate the threat.

          If someone doesn’t believe what I believe, and that makes them dangerous to all of humanity, then I now have moral license to do ANYTHING to that person, including murder them. Because, my Super Belief is more important than anything! Nothing else matters!

          I used to believe Christians didn’t do this because I didn’t really see or hear overtly horrible things minus this one very dangerous idea that “What We Believe is Correct, the Truth, and Morally Righteous and Just.”

          When you believe THAT idea, there’s no end to intolerance.

          And, for me, Intolerance is very bad. The day I meet a flawless, amazing, inspiring, charitable, friendly, kind, intelligent, good-humored Intolerant person is the day I’ll rethink my position on this.

          God is something else. God — or the concept of a supreme being or Creator — is bigger than us.

          I grew up Christian. Catholic, specifically.

          I still go to church, but not always. And not without more questions than ever.

          I don’t necessarily believe everything I was taught growing up about Catholicism, and that isn’t always well received from my fellow Catholics.

          To question is to be weak in faith. To not exercise faith is to be a lost sheep.

          But I have no idea how to not be myself. I don’t know how to lie about the doubts and questions I have that I didn’t as a child or even young adult because I never saw reason to doubt the validity of the stories I had been taught and told my entire life. (I think this is everyone, by the way, which is why intolerance is so annoying — it’s by sheer happenstance that we are born into the families and cultures and belief systems we are taught. Thus, intolerance is some next-level bullshit. Because WE would be the thing or person we are intolerant of had we only been born into their world and shared their experiences.)

          So here’s my take on God at 38:

          I. DON’T. KNOW.

          I know nothing. Zero things. I believed many many things in life that turned out to be untrue or at least majorly flawed.

          The only intellectually honest thing to say is: I don’t know.

          The best people I have ever met (a subjective statement, I’m aware), we’re godly people. Humble, faithful people, not all of whom subscribed to the same God story, mind you, but who believed in a benevolent, Life-creating force out there that transcends time and space.

          They are grateful people. Humble people. Steady people. Loving people.

          They choose good. Hope. Treat people kindly. Lift up those are down. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Care for the sick. Give to those who have less. And simply love hard indiscriminately, in the name of their faith, as it is their foundation and guidepost.

          I have no idea what happens when we die.

          I have no idea Who or What started all this, nor Why.

          But I think I know that being all of these good, charitable things that help people is BETTER or MORE CORRECT by every possible measurable standard, than murder, rape, deceit, violence, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, etc.

          Jesus, REGARDLESS of whether he was actually divine or the Messiah, set a pretty amazing example of one should treat themselves and one should treat others.

          “Christians” have done IMMENSE harm. But people who follow Christ’s teachings and model their behavior after his… in my humble opinion, NEVER have.

          People confuse the Christian label with what it means to emulate Christ.

          I don’t like many people who label themselves Christians because I perceive them to be the worst kinds of hypocrites, and perceive them to cause enormous harm to people who truly live a faith-filled life doing good, but are treated horribly because did the actions of the assholes.

          I am something else entirely. I aspire to live Christian principles but fall horribly short.

          I want to believe in a spirit-infusing, strength- and grace-giving Higher Power, but am forced to admit that I don’t actually know.

          What do I believe now?

          That Absolutes are dangerous.

          That Certainty is dangerous.

          That Intolerance is dangerous.

          I believe that loving people and exercising humility and gratitude are fundamental to being a good person.

          I believe there is a lot of darkness, and it’s each and every one of our jobs to light up as much of that as possible.

          I believe we should love and respect ourselves.

          I believe we should forgive.

          I believe we should Hope.

          So, that’s what I do.

          I doubt and question.

          But I also try to love. I try to hope. I try to seek.

          Something is True. Not sure what. But something is. And I believe we owe it to ourselves and humanity to search for that Truth with open minds and hearts.

          1. That’s a very thorough answer. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree with you in that many people call themselves Christians, but do not practice being a Christian. Which is what you explain here:”People confuse the Christian label with what it means to emulate Christ.”
            I’ve heard the war argument as well in support of no religion, sadly it’s people that cause wars not religion. People use excuses to do the things they do, that will never change because people are inherently flawed – EVERYONE is flawed. No one is the exception which is what practicing Christians believe. We are ALL in the same boat. Being flawed plays out in a number of ways which you mentioned by labeling some as hypocrites, having sexist ideas that supersede kindness etc. By reading your answer I.DON’T.KNOW, but then reading the qualities you admire it sounds like you adhere to the values of Christians, but deny God’s power and influence in accomplishing those qualities in life. You put more faith in your ability to have those qualities versus God’s ability through the Holy Spirit.

          2. My defensive answer is to say that I don’t presume to understand the mysteries of the universe and Absolute Truth.

            I am hopeful and prayerful that if indeed God is the Almighty and All-Knowing Being about whom/which I was taught, that God will totally understand why I am where I am spiritually and philosophically today. And if judgment is on the table, that God will see good I tried to do and the light I tried to bring.

          3. Only God knows the mysteries of the universe. I didn’t mean to make you defensive. I do hope you seek your answers from God’s word directly versus relying on what you were taught. Let me know if you would like a solid resource for sermons that are heavy on scripture. I pray that God reveals Himself to you. You can email me at [email protected].

          4. Hey, nonny, nonny

            Matt, Thank you for sharing this. I know you don’t share about your beliefs often. It was beautifully written, and I believe what you are describing is a very good place to be.

          5. Matt …if there is anything I’ve learned over the 58 years I’ve been a practicing Catholic is simply that religion is man made and faith is God given. I too , after years of being involved in the Catholic Church,going to a Catholic High school,teaching pre Cana, confirmation, youth groups, and being an alter boy from 1967 to 1977, have had doubts about the methods of practice. It boils down to common sense. When I would ask the how’s and why’s my mother and grandmother would instantly begin a novena for the reconciliation of my soul. We are correct in questioning. The very premise of truth is to question. The common sense part is in fact the “what would Jesus “do rhetorical. I work in the casino industry and I work with a vast number of different cultures and religions. Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Budist, Pagan, Wicca and who knows what else. We all get along fairly well and understand our common denominators. Faith is a matter of enlightenment, religion,purely subjective. We are good to each other,respect each other we have each other’s back and by that show our love and commitment…..that goes a long way in any relationship.

          6. “I believe we should Hope.

            So, that’s what I do.

            I doubt and question.

            But I also try to love. I try to hope. I try to seek.

            Something is True. Not sure what. But something is. And I believe we owe it to ourselves and humanity to search for that Truth with open minds and hearts.”

            LOVE. And did we grow up in the same town? 😉

  15. Do we hurt others, and ultimately cause more harm than good when we use words that categorize or label or attempt to define a group of people because they’re connected by a shared trait?

    That is the question you are looking to have answered. Short answer – no, I really don’t think so. We don’t hurt people.

    If the words apply – we apply them to ourselves and hopefully develop insight into hurtful behaviours and change them or reinforce the good things we do.

    If they do not apply in a situation other than yours (because that is what you are exploring) it should open a reasonable insightful dialogue that may add to your insight (and that of your readers).

    Those people who are always looking for a debate or argument (haters gotta hate) will always take umbrage – I take advantage of that phrase whenever I can, I like it ?

    My experience as female breadwinner with stay at home husband blurs some “gender expectations” but I can tell you that it WAS some avoidance of addressing stereotypical gender roles and expectations that were our downfall. We thought we were specia and open minded and things like that DIDN’T apply to us. Well, they did.

    Our rebuilding has included acknowledging and embracing our differences and blending our roles based on our individual strengths not our genders. Our upbringing and age has taught us the language of gender – it is our lot. We are unravelling the history taught to us by our gender divided parents (born in the 30’s). It is our children who may be able to take this forward on different lines as gender and definition is evolving.

    We are who we are and experience what we experience. A little wordy for me but addresses your question in my head. You don’t hurt anyone by writing what you write. You make them think and ideally in fracturing relationships you make them talk before the chasm gets too big. ?

    1. Edited as I reread :

      Our rebuilding has included acknowledging and embracing our differences and blending our roles based on our individual strengths AND our genders – I really don’t think we can get away from our socialization as children of the 60’s.

  16. Matt,
    I have often read, and have always enjoyed your posts here. The ones that provoked comment from me in particular impressed me because you chose to pose questions, rather than to purport to give answers. It is a common theme among your body of work.

    In the course of doing this you have made observations that, given their popularity, have proven to at least touch upon common threads of universality within many of us.

    Those threads provide anyone who can recognize them with an opportunity to experience the sort of “paradigm shift” necessary to step outside their illusions.

    Some people are so attached to their “pain body” of identification with a particular repressed group, (men or women, for instance) that they cannot resist the opportunity to defend themselves, and will never miss the chance to misrepresent or misinterpret your words.

    That is just a pathetic attempt to wallow in the misery with which they identify, and call attention to themselves. If they were in fact as enlightened or evolved as they would purport themselves to be, they would understand that.

    Categorization is a slippery slope, but both Science and Psychology rely on it to make observations about trends, and tendencies, as well as to predict possibilities about future phenomena. Beyond that, “In naming me, you ‘thing’ me out of existence by objectification.”

    I get it, and so do you.

    None of us are above occasionally being ‘douche-bag/shithead/assholes’, but if we withhold our speech for fear of criticism, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be proven wrong and learn, as well as to share our wisdom as well as our shame with other beings of like mind (a point you made earlier in this text).

    I do not agree with every single idea you have presented in your posts, but I appreciate your candor and courage in expressing them.

    The ability to generalize phenomena, as well as empathy are essential parts of both sentience and sapience, which although not exclusively human, are shared with the great apes, dolphin, orca, and elephants.

    Keep up the good work and words, my friend.
    Chazz Vincent
    (a fellow douche-bag/shithead/asshole and apex member of the food-chain)

  17. Reading Matt’s answer about faith was quite enjoyable. I rather approve! My background is actually the precise opposite,I come from the far left, devout atheism and quite a bit of dysfunction.

    I really liked what Matt said here too,”To question is to be weak in faith. To not exercise faith is to be a lost sheep.” Yeah, that is a blight on the potato of the church. People tend to wear masks, worry about keeping up appearances,and fear revealing their authentic selves. Not all,of course, but it’s a real problem. Heaven forbid we ever speak the truth about ourselves, God might see. 🙂

    As to labeling men men and women women, at one point in time I really did not understand that. I grew up being told that gender doesn’t matter,that we’re all the same,that to observe any differences is actually a “sin” in a secular sense. It really made a mess of marriage because I kept expecting him to act like a woman should,which left me with an extremely defective looking human. He behaves, acts, thinks, responds to me like a man. As a man he gets an A+, but as a woman it’s about a -2. He forgets things, he doesn’t care about details,he invests little emotional labor,feelings tend to puzzle him. There are a whole bunch of things I do way better than him. But he has a set of talents all his own. So,I am in favor of gender stereotypes,not as mandates, but as biological reality.

  18. What I think Matt, is that you explain yourself too much and there is no need to. For someone like yourself who has helped countless people from divorce and just as many (such as me) who are going through it trying to survive.
    You and your writing have been like a friend to me. I have also seen your writing improve remarkably to where it is now which is a testament to your hard work and many hours of writing and rewriting I do not doubt.
    There are so many people out there who just complain about everything they see or read. The same people are often as ignorant as whoever or whatever they are objecting to. Why can’t these people sometimes just accept and be grateful about ‘what is’, instead of living to argue about ‘what isn’t’?
    Thankyou Matt, for everything. I hope you continue to write & inspire people to think.

    Michael Shortland

    1. Mr. Shortland…. I truly hope this email finds you and your family well. Bless you sir and keep the faith and the fight

  19. wait! you get slack for your women focused discussion and opinions, thats surprising /s….but it really isn’t, here you are, doing good work, defending marriage and describing in detail how to keep your wife hot for you, and how to have an adult relationship, and how to acknowledge your failings in relationships, and how to make a person feel special/noted/like their being listened to and of course people are offended, especially the people who need, NEED to hear it, they’d rather indulge in flat out self destructive easy fixes which border on abuse, fake personalities they do not have and wanting for times past, if they want to refuse to listen, and then end up divorced and undatable, that’s on them, you make perfect sense, and most of the time handle yourself with dignity and respect, nobody’s perfect, but this blog is pretty close. If I were the marrying type, or knew more marrying types, I’d send them right here!

  20. Pingback: Favorite WordPress Post/Blogs June 2017 | The Randomness of Hana Nana

  21. Carry on. That’s my predominant thought, even as I read through the comments and leave a few of my own. What you do and say helps people. You aren’t sexist. Your observations of gender roles aren’t wrong. They do play into stereotypes, but I believe that stereotypes are rooted in truth. People fight against stereotypes because we don’t want to believe we can be so easily pigeonholed.
    Newsflash for some of you: we can be. We are animals. We do have predictable behaviors.
    The fact that you write about it, in my opinion, makes you honest and brave.
    I love your writing. I appreciate your honesty.
    Carry on.

  22. I’m not here to question your observation about “men leaving dishes in the sink” or men in general being worse partner material than women are.
    But having worked several years in the industry with test and evaluation, there is extensive experience that we mostly just tend to observe what we are looking for.
    (Not being a native of english language, but I think the this refers to what you would call “confirmation bias”)

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