Sorry You Asked

Comments 85

Achilles heel statue
(Image/Beth Clayton)
I took down the MBTTTR “Ask Me Stuff” page because someone email-yelled at me about a large amount of unanswered questions last week, and I think she’s right.

I am not discouraging questions moving forward, nor do I want to give the impression that I’d prefer that people not reach out. I hope people who want to will continue to in comments or by email.

But the pile of unanswered questions might be causing harm, and that’s something I needed to fix, because I could.

Here’s the strongly worded email I received which prompted me to make the change. (There are more bad words than even I usually say, which I’m guilty of liking.)

I wasn’t going to share it, but it’s pretty good, so I’m going to. Different people always react differently to things, so I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say.

I found your blog this past weekend like so many other women do…out of sheer desperation. I understand you have a day job and have your son 50% of the time. However, get ready, because you’re about to get your ass ripped.

You put this blog online and encourage comments. You say, “Ask me anything!” and then you NEGLECT to respond or answer your comments for MONTHS AND MONTHS AT A TIME!!! WHAT THE FUCK, MATT!!!!

What the fuck is wrong with you?! You have all these earth shattering realizations as a failed husband after your wife leaves you, and then you blog about it only to then NEGLECT the very women who reach out to you for help afterwards?! WTF DID YOU EXPECT TO HAPPEN AFTER YOU STARTED BLOGGING ABOUT SHITTY HUSBANDS?!

It is morally reprehensible for you to leave these wounded wives out there hanging FOREVER WITH ZERO ANSWERS bc you’ve just decided to abandon them like their husbands have. The second you took up your cause and ASKED FOR PEOPLE TO WRITE TO YOU, you owed them an answer back, even if you don’t have the answer to their specific problem(s).

Reading your blog initially gave me hope, but once I saw you left your small following hanging month after month after MONTH without responses to their numerous comments, I saw you fundamentally haven’t changed as a man. You really don’t care about these wounded, abused, desperate women calling out to you for help. You rarely reply to ANY comments on your blog and when you do it’s months after their desperate pleas for your feedback. It physically sickens me as a woman, a fellow Ohioan, and a wife of a shitty husband, although I must say my own husband puts you to shame. He’s a much better husband than you could probably ever be.

You should be fucking ashamed of yourself. I personally don’t give two fucks how busy you are, or what your excuses are for not replying to these comments in a more timely manner. You took it upon yourself to request feedback. You knew what that would mean.

Do these desperate women a favor and delete your blog because all you’re doing is disappointing and wounding these exasperated and desperate women more than they already are. These women, more so than anyone else, deserve more than to be simply ignored…especially by you, of all people. You’re exacerbating their pain by not replying to their comments. Asshole. As you would say.

Most Sincerely,

Wife of a “Shitty Husband” and former reader of a “Shitty Blogger.”

P.S. You’re an Asshole.

The “P.S. You’re an Asshole.” was a nice touch, I thought.

Because I AM kind of an asshole, my initial reaction was to respond with: “Thanks for the feedback. Now please go fuck yourself,” which is precisely the sort of instincts that will get you divorced and make strangers hate you. I DID NOT respond with that, which is a decision I’m pleased with.

However, I did go instantly into Defense Mode: Who the hell is this, and why does she think it’s okay to talk to me like this? I tend to get defensive anytime someone finds fault with, or takes offense to, something I did or didn’t do, as if I can’t make mistakes or as if all of my actions are somehow flawless and above reproach. It’s a bad habit that probably keeps me from growing into a better human being, and I know it’s a VERY bad habit for two people in a relationship.

If I’ve learned anything about what ended my marriage, and what ends many relationships, it’s that saying and believing “It’s not my fault!” a bunch of times will earn you a divorce, and you’ll probably deserve it EVEN IF the thing is really not your fault.

If your marriage isn’t more important to you than your ego, and if wanting your spouse to feel good and loved within your marriage isn’t more important to you than winning some meaningless fight, your relationship is going to be shitty anyway, and if it doesn’t end, you’ll probably both want it to.

I sat on the angry note for a day, and read it four or five times, because

  1. When you live in discomfort long enough, it loses its edge, and you can operate more effectively within it. Like weightlifting or yoga for your mental/emotional health.
  2. The truth hurts.
  3. Because the truth hurts anytime it’s inconvenient, I’ve learned to recognize the feeling, and I suspected she was right. After some reflection, I decided that she is. I shouldn’t solicit questions if I’m going to leave them hanging with no responses, PARTICULARLY if a lack of response could in any way be piling on to an already painful experience. In other words, I realized pretty quickly that just because I thought she was overreacting doesn’t mean she was.

She was going to bat for a bunch of people scared and hurting as they feel their marriages and families falling apart, and might think there’s a lifeline bit of information out there that might save them. It doesn’t matter that they shouldn’t ask me. It doesn’t matter that I can’t help. It doesn’t matter that no one understands what my life looks like logistically. No excuse or reason I can offer matters.

  1. Someone hurts.
  2. When I did or did not do something that I could have to make it better, by default, I was making it worse. It doesn’t matter that my intentions weren’t to do that. It doesn’t matter that I might disagree with someone else’s opinions. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe they SHOULD be hurt. They still hurt anyway. Those with the ability to do something good, should. Always. It’s easy for me to rationalize that I don’t owe to blog readers what husbands owe to their wives. DOESN’T MATTER. I was wrong to provide an environment for people hurting from the very thing I’m trying to help reduce instances of, to hurt even more because when they called out for help, no one ever came.

In marriage and relationships, sometimes our spouses or partners call out for help. If we’re not going to, who will?

Inevitably, someone will think knee-jerk reacting to ONE complaint is a bad life strategy. That’s probably true. But before we all thought of him as a huge creep who drugs and sexually assaults women, Bill Cosby said something important once, that I now wish I could attribute to someone else. He said: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

And that’s my life right now. I’m trying to do many things well, and while trying to juggle them all, every one of them suffers.

But, guess what? No one cares. Nor should they.

Here’s something I KNOW from my work by day as an internet marketer who works with big data: If one person thinks and feels something, a bunch of other people do, too.

They may not be the majority. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter.

I’m Sorry to Everyone Who Asked for Help and Never Even Got a Ring Buoy Thrown Your Way

I really do owe them all an apology. Unanswered comments. Unanswered emails. I can’t even fathom a guess how many of those there are. Too many.

It’s hard to explain myself to other people. Maybe everyone feels that way about themselves.

I get upset when people tell me that I don’t care.

That I don’t really care about families and people who are suffering. That I don’t actually mean the things I say or write.

And that’s because I do care. Very much.

I’m just shitty at several facets of communication that are probably exacerbated by ADHD and trying to do too many things—trying to please everybody, instead of just saying no more often.

My nine-year-old and I were playing video games this weekend. A cooperative one where two strangers were playing with us thanks to the magic of the internet. While trying to defeat a giant robot monster together, our little digital fireteam kept failing because we couldn’t get all of the players to stick together.

Many people who play these games use headphones and microphones to communicate with each other. I don’t do that because I’m 38 years old and there’s no way I’m voice-chatting with a bunch of 10-year-olds or other nerdy dads and moms playing PlayStation, and also because I don’t want my little boy hearing strangers say all of the inappropriate things he probably already hears me saying.

My son said: “You know why they’re doing it wrong, dad? Because you can’t communicate. How can we expect them to know what to do if we can’t communicate?”

It was—seriously—the wisest thing I’d ever heard my son say, and I told him so twice.

Seems simple. Communication. So simple, I think, that we don’t always recognize how significant a failure to communicate effectively can damage us and our efforts in whatever we’re working on personally or professionally.

It’s easily my life’s biggest Achilles heel, and probably always has been.

I’m sorry to anyone adversely affected by it—especially those who reached out during times of intense pain and vulnerability, only to be met with silence which probably felt just like: “I don’t care about you or your life.”

The angry email asked me to delete the blog. I’m not going to do that. But I thought this might be the first step toward reconciling something that might have been doing more harm than good.

I hope, someday, I’ll be doing some of these things much better.

85 thoughts on “Sorry You Asked”

  1. Osvaldo Emilio Pereira

    Ugh … if you can find the time, could you please try and take a look at the question I sent you, before the curtain falls? If not, I completely understand, but perhaps you could dedicate a posting or link to one (if it already exists) about how you process emotionally the guilt that comes from achieving the realizations you have come to, and what advice you give the now enlightened, formerly shitty husbands as their awakening occurs?

    1. Hey Osvaldo. You’re on my “Write this person back” list. I only know this because I recognize your name. Perhaps right here will be the best place to do that.

      I promise I will. Work beckons. But I’ll get back here to respond as soon as I’m able.

    2. I haven’t forgotten, sir. You’re experiencing perhaps my worst communication habit, though. When I anticipate a long, potentially complex response (or any activity that might take a lot of time), I put it off until I feel like I have the requisite amount of time to give it the attention it deserves.

      It’s precisely THAT thinking that makes me push off responding to “hard” requests. Responses that aren’t easy.

      It’s my problem, not yours, and I’m sorry.

      I’ve been thinking about your question a lot. We’re going to talk about it. It’s important. Very.

      Thank you for asking it.

      1. Osvaldo Emilio Pereira

        Thanks Matt, appreciate it. I am struggling to try to find a way to communicate with my now ex-wife after an exceptionally difficult divorce. I want to spend more time with my children, they have been asking for the same thing, I have tried emailing, writing, calling — for about two years — without success. I finally, and with great reluctance, hired attorneys to help me. When my ex-wife intuited I was going down this route, she called me to tell me I was a bully, that I should have worked with her instead of against her, and then proceeded to tell me every way in which I failed as a husband. The pain and anger around the past, how things turned out between us, continues to linger into the present. She is engaged to marry the man she left me for, I am in another relationship of lesser duration but which is very serious — in theory both of us have moved on. But anything that requires interaction and communication results in fresh pain and re-opening of the same wounds inflicted during the divorce. The divorce didn’t solve anything, it just froze in time, forever it seems, the anger, pain, and suffering we both felt, at least as far as our relationship is concerned. And we haven’t managed to separate our relationship with each other from our relationship as parents.

        I have six years of co-parenting left, and it is slowly dawning on me that it will be like crawling on broken glass during those years to do everything from arrange parent-teacher meetings to holiday travel and hand-offs. My ex-wife has very, very legitimate reasons for being angry at my failings as a husband. I have very, very legitimate reasons to be hurt with her for, amongst other things, infidelity, a bruising divorce, constant bickering over the kids, etc. But in her mind it’s all my fault, and I suspect she blames me in part for the decisions she has made, which she would not have made if I had been a better husband.

        I can’t believe we are in this position, I never wanted a divorce, and did my best to avoid it, and now I find myself still getting attacked verbally and emotionally whenever I try and communicate with her. And I need to communicate, because we still have ties as parents and financial obligations which need to be worked through. I don’t invalidate her feelings, I don’t try and minimize them, I try and explain things I think she has gotten wrong in interpreting my own behavior. I wish we could rise above it. She told my kids for example I never changed any diapers, I told my kids I changed LOTS of diapers, somehow that became I changed 50% of diapers. I just stopped and told her, I know I was a miserable husband, that I worked too much and didn’t help out enough with the kids because I was always absorbed by my job. I try to respond to the essence of what she is saying instead of the particular content, to hear the emotions she is trying to transmit instead of focusing on the particulars of her message, some of which I could seek to critique or correct, but which wouldn’t change one iota the validity of what she is feeling. But there is no reciprocity. I am a horrible monster and everything is my fault, and she is a victim. I take responsibility, apologize, feel swamped with guilt and regret, live in a semi-depressive state, and she effectively denies all agency and makes me the boogey-man. I want very badly to achieve peace and closure, but I don’t see how I can. And while that peace is lacking, I have only conflict and discord to look forward to. It’s so crushing and overwhelming at times, I don’t know how to cope — except perhaps by trying to ignore it and not think about it.

        I’d like to think that at some peace there will be healing, peace, acceptance, closure. But it seems we are far, far away from that outcome today.

        1. Dear Osvaldo,

          Your children have rights too, and in most jurisdictions their welfare is paramount. If your children don’t have a Guardian ad Litem to represent their interests independently, they should. Apply to the court to have a GAL appointed. Whatever is going on with you adults it is clear you and she can’t move on independently and the children are not having a voice.

          Childhood is an “honorable estate” in its own right and your children occupy that estate. They don’t have presence at the table, and their motto should be “nothing about us without us”. I’m assuming that you aren’t and weren’t a physical harm to their mother or to them, of course, but even if you were they would still need a GAL.

          This is grievous, of course, and you love them and your wife loves them and nothing else about your lives should be their issue. For yourself, get therapy to work out what the mistakes of the past represent to you and what you are or are not working out through them, and set them free of that work. It is possible too that some family therapy could be useful even though you and she are divorced, and with the GAL’s approval it could be mandated. But get them some independent representation, at the very least. It will help you and her step back from your joint hurt a little bit. Sunlight and air are good disinfectants.

          I hope this works out better – it will, eventually!

          1. Osvaldo Emilio Pereira

            Thanks Katherine for your kind reply. I live in the UK, in London, and I am not sure we have such representatives for children. I never was any kind of threat to my wife, or my children, and I think (from everything my lawyers have told me) it would be a relatively straightforward proposition to have the courts grant me more time with them. I had been hoping to avoid further litigation as it will only poison the well further between my ex and myself. Social workers would evaluate and interview the kids to get their preferences established, and that would only help me (they have both asked me to take their mother to court, if that is what it takes to get more time with me).

            I have been going to see a therapist for years. My therapist, having seen mountains of texts and emails from my ex, is convinced she has a borderline personality disorder. I don’t think that’s true, she just hates my guts because our lives turned out in a way that neither of us wanted — and it’s easier for her to blame me. And truth be told, like Matt, there was a lot I could have done better. A lot.

          2. I live in Oxford :-). How funny life is! Thank you for taking my note very much in the spirit in which it was offered.

            We have this ( which combines GAL services and several others.

            The sadnesses you and your ex suffer are real. But perhaps it would really, really help to resolve some of this by giving your kids a pathway of their own, supported by neutral, edcuated, experienced professional people whose sole interest is the wellbeing of your children, and who won’t take sides with either parent.

            I’m 60, married to a younger chap, we have one son, and all I can say is that growth through marriage is very, very painful sometimes. It’s not for everybody; I am not a perfect wife! 😉 Your ex’s apparent inability to see that she has had a hand in this is understandable, and not helpful, but as my late mother used to say, “You can’t fix grownups”. If you are fixing yourself that’s all you have agency to do. See what your lawyer says, talk to CAFCASS yourself, see what might work to help the kids, at least. It’s a starting point for getting a grip on Stuff.


          3. Osvaldo…my heart breaks for all who endure this type of tragedy. All I can offer is my own experiences. Mine turned out fine but it was because I was able to recognize my role her role and how we got to that awful place in our lives. It surely seems you have too. I will say that although you are hurt and sad please never forget that your kids are and will be watching. They will understand one day the courage and character that guides you and will love what you have been for them. They may break your heart at times but be strong it will all become better. You seem like a genuine good salt of the Earth gentleman…be willing to fight for your kids and yourself. I will pray for you and your family Sir. God’s blessings to you… PS… if you need to vent, talk, etc my ear is available.

  2. Yep. I can relate. I sent you a question and it went unanswered and I felt a little like” Maybe it just wasn’t important enough for him to answer.” A rejection of sorts.

      1. It was so long ago Matt, I can’t remember the question. I only remember how I felt when it went unanswered.

        1. Maya Angelou’s famous quote proving itself true, once again.

          Thank you for letting me know. I think I did the right thing by pulling that page if it will reduce instances of people feeling that way.

  3. OK, look, I’m a guilt-ridden, only-partly-recovered Nice Guy with a lifetime major in Perfectionism. That is really out of bounds. Your correspondent needs to realize this:

    Sometimes. You. Must. Fix. Your. Own. $h!t.

    Perhaps you correspondent is merely transferring some sort of dependency from her husband to you – I don’t know, I’m neither trained nor paid in this field.

    Short note sent in from someone in The Dept. of Thinking Positive and Looking For the Good:

    “Matt, it seems that not only are some people looking for you for affirmation or solutions that they should be finding in their own selves, but they are also completely missing the excruciating beauty (and yes, the Dept. means that exactly) of the community that has built up around this blog. The Dept. sincerely hopes that your correspondent will consider the high signal:noise ratio in the comments here. The Dept. reminds you that the cultivation and growth of this community is not something you have achieved yourself, even if you may be said to have facilitated it or to have provided the opportunity for it to spring up and blossom, so don’t get a fat head, mister.”

  4. P.S. Of course you got defensive – probably anyone who is still breathing would. The question would be what’s your second response? And please: just because someone blames you, and just because you feel responsible, does not mean your are at fault or that your are responsible. Lots of us have BTDT; that doesn’t mean we were right that someone else should rescue us. If nothing else, find a good therapist or coach who actually will be available when YOU want them to be.

  5. Well.


    I mean, I read that and felt second-hand shame at having not replied to the few comments on my last two posts, so I can’t imagine how you feel. Now I just remembered I have an e-mail pending that I should reply to, and suddenly I feel like I need to do that RIGHT AWAY, because yes that lady gave it to you straight and hard and possibly a little more aggressively than would have been preferred, but on one thing I agree with her 100%: if you invite questions or comments it’s your duty to reply. Even if it takes ages. Even if you don’t want to. Even if it’s a group ‘thank you for your thoughts.’ Personally that’s how I feel about my blog, although those who comment on my posts aren’t looking for advice or help (thankfully! I think the name of my blog lets them know there are no answers to be found in my tiny corner of the blogosphere), and there are obviously far fewer of them.

    You’ve got a great resource here for people Matt, and the thing is I’m just here because I like your writing and it’s thought-provoking stuff. Of course it’s nice when your comments get a reply on any blog, but I don’t NEED you to reply. I comment if I’ve had a thought or opinion I’d like to share while reading, not because I need anything in particular from you. However, a lot of the people who seek you out are here because they’re desperate for help or answers or hope. You invite comments and questions, and that’s okay, but I agree with this angry heroine of the unresponded that if you do that then you have to follow through. At least with the ones that need a reply. And I think you can tell who they are from the comment and the tone. It doesn’t have to be a novel (like this comment is turning out to be, sorry about that), but a quick reply can mean the world to someone when they think they might have found someone who can help.

    It’s a bit like someone stuck down a well who hears a voice asking if they need help. They yell out, “Yes please” and the voice asks them to reach up to them, that they’ll lower a rope… and then the rope never comes. They just sit there in the dark with their aching arm outstretched, fingers feeling blindly in the darkness, wondering if they’ll ever feel the fraying end of this rope, or if the person has simply wandered off.

    If I told you that story and told you the person had wandered off to, say, grab a bite to eat and play video games but they’d eventually come back, at some stage, maybe… you’d probably tell me that was a dick move.

    Obviously that’s not a perfect analogy but it’s all I’ve got because I’m starving and now you’ve made me want to go play Little Big Planet (was it Little Big Planet?). Sorry again about the epic length of this. Off I go now to make myself a toasted grilled cheese sandwich and reply to comments while I eat it….

    1. Great stufff, Quinn. I agree with her too, and with what you just wrote here.

      I set that up back in January 2015, and had a lot less on the proverbial plate back then. I should have recognized as it was happening, that it was getting unsustainable. But I don’t always “see” things that don’t hurt me. Which is why I thought this was a good opportunity to reinforce empathy and communication in this post.

      That shit matters. A lot.

  6. I think this person who blasted you is at that point in her relationship that I call ‘magical thinking’. If only this would happen, then everything will be fixed. If only so and so would talk to my spouse, then our problems would be fixed. I have been there many years ago (20). If only Matt would answer my question then I would have my spouse read it and he/she would see the error of their ways and our problems would be solved. Matt is really good at describing the problems in bad marriages in an engaging way, but no one has the magic formula for fixing marriages that have been progressively damaged for years. That’s why most of the marriages fail – the amount of work to fix them is too much, too painful, too costly and all consuming. Most of us, including me, aren’t willing to pay it.

    1. I need to defend her.

      1. We’ve had further correspondence, and she’s NOT some totally insane angry person out to get me, or anything. I don’t want to paint her that way. She’s fighting for the people who are hurting and feeling shittier when I don’t write back.

      She’s saying I am sometimes making a bad situation worse, through inaction, which is a metaphor for a lot of bad things in life.

      2. I think she was right to defend the people who are crying out for help. That she prompted me to take an action that, even if it won’t do any good, will at least not do more bad.

      Your general point is very well stated and I agree with it. But for this woman, she wasn’t angry for selfish reasons. She was angry for unselfish reasons.

      And selfless actions have merit, even when they’re a little harsh.

      1. And sadly, sometimes it’s the only way to be heard. I find the nudges that are obliviously unheard or unacknowledged build up and build up and build up until it’s an explosion that seems excessive and out of context. Humbling on this end (I hate sounding out of control) but useful if the intended insight is gained. Glad you “saw the message for the trees” – that’s hearing vs listening ?

  7. I love it Matt! I love the way you took the email seriously, admitted your flaws, and did what you could to rectify it.

    Take it from me however,none of us in the blogging world,or in life really, signed up to be Yoda. None of us can “fix” it by supplying others with the magic recipe. People have to take personally responsibility, take the wisdom they can use,spit of the bones that don’t fit,and get about the business of fixing their own selves.

    I have literally been down on the kitchen floor making snow angels,in a state of complete collapse while people have just continued to yell at me, “fix it, fix my whole life.” I cannot. I can only fix my own. People can be incredibly self absorbed,as if it is the job of everyone around them to make everything magically work out for them. Rubbish. We all have lives,too.

    1. If people had a window into my life and mind, they would totally get why I communicate the way that I do.

      But I think within the context of what was happening on that Ask Me Stuff page, and the sensitive nature of the questions and people asking them, taking that page down was the right thing to do.

  8. Ouch. Matt, you don’t need to apologize for anything!!! Any “wounded, abused, desperate woman calling out for help” should NOT rely on a blog to help her cope with her devastating divorce. THAT’S WHAT THERAPY IS FOR! I’ve been there and yes, I have been guilty in the past of the occasional “cry for help” post on FB. You know what? I decided to invest in me, go into debt, and seek professional help to understand why my marriage fell apart. If someone can’t afford it (I couldn’t but damn, it was worth every penny), there are support groups everywhere.

    For her to say “my own husband puts you to shame. He’s a much better husband than you could probably ever be”, stings me. (How dare she?!! – My initial reaction – trying not to judge). She is bitter, angry and hurt.

    Matt, I found your blog 2 1/2 years ago when I was going through my “rollercoaster ride”. Your blog has made me smile, nod my head several times in agreement (with the occasional wtf?) and shed a tear once in awhile. I’ve learned so much from the articles and books you and your readers recommend. Your writing gives me comfort. You have helped more people than you know, including myself. Thank you.

    I hope she gets the help that she needs to heal and then send you a written apology.

    1. Hey Mary. Thank you for the kind note. She actually did apologize. Unsolicited.

      Her heart was and is in the right place. She has my respect and gratitude for doing what she could to stick up for other people.

      It’s something I admire a lot.

      But don’t want to minimize all of the wise and/or kind things you wrote here. Thank you very much for reading and caring.

    2. Bitter, angry, hurt and desperate. What is wrong with relying on a blog to help her cope…? If that is the very essence of the blog why not…? Maybe she can’t afford therapy. Her outburst is excusable given the circumstances.

      1. I just want to reiterate once more than the angry note was NOT selfish. She wasn’t mad because I didn’t reply to her. She was mad on behalf of OTHER people, which to me, adds an air of honor and nobility to the occasion that helps to offset the harsh-ish tone.

        But you get it. Minus the part where you might not fully appreciate how challenging responding to every comment or email really is.

        But I agree with you that people are allowed to feel sad or angry about it, no matter what people — including me — think about it.

      2. Is that the essence of the blog? I don’t know. Perhaps expectations on what a blog’s purpose is different for everyone. (I saw Matt’s “Ask Me Stuff” as a means to generate conversational blog topics, nothing more.) Very interesting to see it from a different perspective. Thank you.

  9. Let me start by saying that it is totally acceptable and understandable to take down the “Ask Me Stuff” section. Your reader base as expanded exponentially since your Dishes by the Sink post. Wonderful!! But, I also imagine that it is extremely overwhelming.

    I totally understand the soul searching that you find yourself in. Wondering if, in your attempt to be a helper, you have inadvertently hurt. It’s common among all of the helping professions. Within all helping professional’s experience comes the realization that your clients or in this case readers, NEED. They need A LOT. And, there are A LOT of them! However, it is NOT your job to fix ALL other people’s relationships – ALL the time.

    You contribute with regular insightful posts that create a space for validation and personal growth. That is so fucking important! You are not meant to fill the void in every person who has been damaged by their relationship problems. You are doing good work. You are giving when you can. And you are acknowledging when you can’t. It hurts when you want to give more, but you just can’t.

    This is the essence of healthy boundaries. Taking down the question section is an act of self care. You NEED to care for yourself, to be able to help others. For the helping professional, this is in its own way a selfless act. (This is a tough practice to balance sometimes!)

    Enjoy your life, enjoy your son! Keep posting. It helps. Keep responding to posts when you can, and know that your NOT abandoning your readers.

    -This coming from a Therapist who knows the burden of the client in need

  10. I don’t pretend to know what this woman’s situation is. I don’t pretend to know what her intention was. Just as I have no business trying to infer what yours might be. I do appreciate that you have taken her complaint seriously, and beyond the initial reflex to respond defensively, have looked beyond her method of communicating to what the message actually was. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and find this to be at the very heart of your message. Take responsibility for your part in how you behave and how you communicate. Simple as that.

    Having said that, there is no need to pick up a hammer when a simple tap on the should will do. I left my first marriage almost 20 years ago and still reflect on ways in which those situations that seemed unilaterally his fault were made worse by how I chose to react to them. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have left my marriage, it just means that nothing involving 2 people is as simple as what only 1 person did. It has only been by examining my role, my behaviour, my reaction that I have been able to find myself successful in my second marriage and move past blaming someone else for the failure of my first.

    Don’t stop writing. Ever. Even when you don’t contribute to the post responses, you facilitate a space which allows for a whole community to collaborate on the solution. You’re a fantastic coach… don’t need to be the hero!

  11. Mary (aka sambucaqueen)

    Since you took down your “Ask Me Stuff”, I do have one question: When will you be writing a book? I have blogger Mark Manson’s book and there’s a spot on the shelf waiting for yours.
    (No pressure. I’ve got at least 30 years before developing cataracts. lol)

    1. I’m writing Chapter 3 of 12!

      Shooting for 2018. It’s all the behind-the-scenes logistics that I’ll struggle with most. For the same reason I’m shitty about replying to blog comments and emails.

      But it’s really, truly coming together now. Which I’m guilty of feeling excited about. Appreciate you asking about it. Love Mark’s book. If I write something that’s 30-ish percent of that, I’ll feel good about it.

  12. Graceful way of responding to the message and not the way the message was sent. And I’m glad she apologized upon further communication. Sometimes our emotions get the better of us and we put things more harshly than we intend to. I can see it being very frustrating to post something under a heading of ‘ask me here’ and not see a response. Curious as to why she would expect you to respond to all the blog post comments, though…is it common for bloggers to do so?

    1. That’s not something I can answer. I used to be awesome about responding.

      If you read anything from 2013 or 2014 (which I haven’t gone back to look at), I suspect you’ll see me replying to pretty much everyone, even just to say something silly like “Thanks for reading.”

      Once that damn dishes post happened, my daily traffic tripled, and that was at exactly the same time I was launching a small business with two partners.

      My son got busier with school things. I got busier with both work AND writing things, and before I knew it, I wasn’t replying to most comments or emails, and I was only posting to the blog once or twice per week.

      Life, I guess.

      BUT — that doesn’t give me license to knowingly leave something out there that’s causing harm to others.

      I’d never thought of it that way before, and this woman helped me frame it properly. Unpleasantly, to be sure. But in the end, I’d call it a good deed.

  13. Just wanted to chime in to say that I recently emailed you in a moment of deep desperation, and you sent a reply far faster than I expected. It was long, thoughtful, and far more insightful than anything a number of paid therapists have said to me. Like me, you may often be too hard on yourself (that could make for a good entry – how to know how hard to be on yourself). So keep on keepin’ on!

  14. WOW… I have sat here for a few minutes trying to imagine what it would take to motivate ME to write a letter like that to a total stranger … or maybe it’s easier to write like that to a stranger than someone you may someday have to actually face in real life. I don’t know, and I am certainly not going to diss her, because I don’t know HER, either … but I admire you for defending her and being willing to see things from her perspective and not just posting it to solicit outrage on your behalf from your loyal readers … You are a class act, Matt. Thank you for example in taking the high (AND more humble) road here …

    1. Too much credit, Sue. I’ve TOTALLY asked people to be mad WITH me at someone else without working harder to see their side of things.

      Since this idea — this “Try to see the world through the prism of another” thing — is pretty much the most important idea in the world in the context of raising the collective welfare of humanity, and making all of our relationships NOT suck, this was an opportunity where I needed to practice what I preach.

      Thanks for the nice words, but until I’m ALWAYS doing this, and not just when I agree with it, I still have more work to do than I care to admit.

      1. “Since this idea — this “Try to see the world through the prism of another” thing — is pretty much the most important idea in the world in the context of raising the collective welfare of humanity..”

        Something I find kind of funny Matt, I am actually recovering in the opposite direction. So while you are trying to see the world through the prism of another, for many years I only saw the world through the prism of others. Pretty typical of wives and mothers,we can totally lose ourselves meeting everyone else’s needs and feelings.

        When you get that dance right, get some harmony going on between men and women in a relationship, it’s a beautiful thing. I sometimes say guys need to learn how to listen and empathize better, women need to learn how to do it less.

  15. I had no idea you were actually working on a book. (Haven’t been here in a while. I guess I missed it.) I’m psyched about that fact! And I just want to underscore the messages of others that your blog carries such a powerful and needed message to the world and I’m so glad you didn’t take the advice to remove the whole thing. I agree that the invitation to ask questions and the realities of your life that made it difficult, if not impossible, to respond to those questions created an unfortunate mismatch. So I’m glad you listened to the writer and did the wisest thing you could do. But keep writing your blog, and keep writing your book. I’ll buy it, and I’ll also recommend it to lots of people. And, maybe most important of all, keep doing the personal growth work that you so generously share publicly with us all. Truly inspirational.

  16. Hey Matt, No need to reply to me! I did want to say I can see your critic’s point and I think you handled it well. We are human and of course we are going to feel defensive or dismissive when we are criticized. BUT you took the time to stay with the discomfort – to consider and to act within the parameters that you could. If you’d tried to dive in an recommit to answering everything you receive – that would have been the wrong answer. (It would also be the one I would commit to) Instead you took down the page soliciting questions you knew you would not be able to get to. You publicly explained why that was. I don’t really see how you could have handled it better. Give your self props for that at least. I say all the time – Its a given we are going to screw up. The only things we can do about that are A Try to keep the screw ups rare, B try to learn from each one so we are at least screwing up in new ways and C handle the fall out from the screw up as effectively as possible.

    PS Oh, and the times I’ve asked a question or commented in desperation you and this community have always given me a very fast response, Not a fix for my situation to be sure – but that is not your job. I have to fix my own life. Its just nice to have support, advice and a sounding board while I do.

  17. Gosh.

    Matt, I certainly never thought “Ask Me Stuff” was more than a general call, and I rather assumed you might get around to a quarterly or half-yearly review and answering session, with occasional replies as and when you could.

    Isn’t it funny how our baseline assumptions differ, one from another?

    I love your writing; I thought even the questions you took down were illuminating to read no matter what you replied; my professional life is about how masculine and feminine relationships and beliefs about them play out in development policies and programmes, and every single question and answer, every essay, gives me a really valuable – and well-written – insight into one man’s analysis of his own male behaviour. You help me, as a person and in my work.

    Thank you for that.

    As for the woman who wrote you: well, wowee. That’s a whole new level of accountability to ask for from a stranger who writes a blog, in terms of vocabulary choices! Not my style, but effective, I suppose. It’s helpful to read your analysis of the text and of your own reactions to it.

    Transparency: it’s a good thing. You do it well. Please don’t stop.

  18. Cops was on TV while I was reading this post. About midway through some guy with lots of face tattoos fell down saying “I GOT THE A D D!” as the police caught up with him…
    This has nothing to do with anything you write but I found the coincidence hilarious.

      1. Oh yes, the epitome of bad decision making. I couldn’t help but imagine Matt, complete with face tattoos, throwing his hands up in defense saying “I GOT THE ADD!” as this woman berates him with F-bombs and A-holes.
        (Not that that’s what he was doing here but it definitely makes me laugh.)

      1. Alright but you’ve got to be all wild eyed and frantic when you do.
        (And truth be told I do this occasionally too, especially with my kids’ teachers… I still don’t understand why they need so many forms and emails and crap.

        1. The schools still operate as if there’s ALWAYS a parent just sitting around the house in the middle of the day waiting to discover that they need to run to the store, buy supplies, and stay up all night finishing a project that young children couldn’t possibly do on thier own.

          Thanks a lot, School. I should send them a copy of the strongly worded letter I received.

          1. For realz! It’s especially not conducive to single parents like us with ADD tendencies. However, I would recommend waiting until your son is ready to never go back to the school before directing that letter to them. 😛

  19. Hello !

    Please never ever delete your blog.

    As a man currently trying to fix his relationship and become someone better, your blog is a priceless source of advice and I can relate so much to your life story.

    It is by far the best blog I have ever read on the subject and I reaaaaally need to read it again and again to help me finally understand :
    – what a women wants or needs
    – and why what I would naturally think / how I would naturally react will lead to more and more frustration on both sides and eventually a breakup, then to doing the same mistakes again with and other woman and so on….until I die alone and sad with my two cats, thinking I was right all along and no woman could ever get it. 😀

    So thank you for taking the time to put this blog together and write those articles.

    They are really helpful. And I don’t care if you don’t answer to this comment, your blog is enough to me.

    Thanks and please never delete your blog !

    1. ” then to doing the same mistakes again with and other woman and so on….until I die alone and sad with my two cats, thinking I was right all along and no woman could ever get it. :D”

      Hahaha! It’s like our egos want to have “HERE LIES THE RIGTHEST PERSON EVER!” on our tombstone.

      Takes a lot of discernment and bravery and growth to stand up for what our integrity really calls us to do and letting the chips fall where they may, and to also learn and accept that sometimes what other people think and want and feel isn’t wrong, it’s just frustratingly but legitimately different.

  20. I’ve said here a few times before Matt… I don’t know why you continue to justify yourself to these people that believe you owe them a part of you.
    Why can’t they be happy with what you have written in your blog without needing the extra personalised service of answering every single persons own particular angle on things? Where does it say that you are there to give more of yourself than you already have in any particular blog? It doesn’t.
    The absolute selfishness & rudeness of this woman is beyond words and if I were you, I would of gone with your initial reaction. She deserved no less.
    I thank you for everything you have written. No personalised service required. You bleed enough publicly to help others already. Anyone who can look beyond their own selfish needs can clearly see that.
    Michael Shortland

  21. Well Matt… I look at this like some of the others Here. First off you owe nothing to anyone. We chose be a part of the dialogue here and find community comfort and Awakening if you will with sharing our thoughts experiences fears trauma joys successes and failures. To be sure at no time did you sell yourself as a counselor, advice columnist or great sage on any of these subjects discussed. In reality we are all (you included,) damaged folks trying to heal and help. I believe we all have our own view of how this blog works for us. For some it’s a community vent space…for others a heroic attempt to save others, for some a lovelorn society page and so on. My point is that we are people that have been through a lot of bullshit in our lives…some ate recovering.. some in process..some bitter… some lonely and need virtual shoulders to cry on. Do any of us have any of the answers? Not a chance! You putting up the ask me stuff page was brilliant in that you opened up an avenue for those with fresh hurt and not so fresh hurt to share what’s on our minds … perhaps the rhetorical is far more enlightening than getting an exact answer… I’ve been in places where the young lady has been and it isn’t fun not being acknowledged but it is thought provocative and introspective to see hear yourself ask something you have been afraid to ask… hearing it makes it real and gives you an opportunity to self assess

    Thanks Matt

    1. Not to mention that with co-parenting ( Which takes 100% from both parents not 50-50), your day job,this blog and it’s branches, attempting to build a new life, writing a book, maintaining a Facebook page, interactions with your family and friends and so forth… you are busier than a one legged Man in an ass kicking contest!

  22. I never asked a question on that part but I have read lots of your posts. I have one question: once I get out of my own really shitty marriage, will you marry me? ?

  23. The problem is not really you but what you’re doing. Your 9 year old was right. People don’t know how to communicate and the more progress that occurs with texting and other social types of media and communication the more we all go on a down slide as humans. We blog, we comment on posts, we text but personally I’d throw that all aside for a real hug, kiss or just a verbal “I love you” rather than a emoji or sticker comment/text.

    1. Right? Catch-22. Like most things in life, tons of beauty and tons of suck to offset it. The internet has been incredibly positive AND negative RE: Our interpersonal relationships and communication habits.

  24. “those who reached out during times of intense pain and vulnerability, only to be met with silence” pretty much sums up the communication, or lack there of, in my entire marriage. Thank you for taking responsibility for how you responded, or didn’t respond. You hit it on the head too, desperate women were looking for answers and feeling unheard, once again.
    Thank you for saying you’re sorry. That’s a sentence that I have taught my boys, by the way. It’s one thing to apologize, but it’s another to know it’s heard, understood and accepted. That’s communication, hopefully they will remember that lesson in their adult relationships.

  25. It’s great that you were able to recognize the error in your ways, but why post her email?

    Seems to me like on the one hand you’re saying “sorry,” but on the other hand you’re just still butt-hurt about this lady calling you on your crap, no matter how she chose to do it.

    If you feel she’s right, and the purpose of this post is to apologize to those you’ve ignored and announce you’re deleting the “Ask Me” portion of this publication, then what’s your motivation for including her email in your post?

    Seems like you’re humbly asking for forgiveness out of one side of your mouth, yet seeking sympathy from your readers for getting rightfully bashed for something you royally screwed up out the other side. Doesn’t exactly communicate sincerity to me, man.

    Was this her only correspondence with you – this and her apology? If not, why not post the entirety of your correspondence?

    I’m not saying I agree with how she talked to you, but is it possible she went ballistic on you to catch your attention? I mean, obviously you’re pretty bad at responding to people.

    1. I’d say you’re misreading me.

      1. I’m neither butt-hurt nor complaining about it.

      2. I think it’s kind of awesome. The “P.S. You’re an asshole.” is priceless and has become something of an inside joke in my world.

      3. Transparency. That’s the email word for word. I’m a former journalist. More information, not less, is preferred.

      Including her name would have been shitty. I would never do that. But I think if you polled the 5 people who cared about this, they’d tell you they’d rather read it than not.

      I suspect you don’t care about it at all. But I appreciate you reading all the same.

      1. Maybe I am misreading you.

        You said in another comment that you had further communication with this lady, so I answered my own question.

        My wife is a writer who has published 11 books and has had hundreds of articles published in countless publications. If transparency is truly your goal, you’d have published the entire correspondence (not her name, but the other content) not just her initial email to you. That’s my wife’s perspective on it, and I agree.

  26. Hmmmm – I guess I come here to read what you write, comment and exchange with others when it applies with the full understanding that you thinking out loud while doing many other things in the “real world” and you are not a therapist. You’re “just this guy, you know” with worthwhile thoughts and insights that generate safe exchange between people struggling with the same things. I had an “ask you stuff” result in a blog post which generated more useful discussion around it. I’ve seen lots of “ask you stuffs” (sic) generate discussion on that page. This is probably an unnecessary post but I kinda felt the need to acknowledge that and agree your well intentioned attempt to communicate was a nice idea, but …… not particularly realistic. Go, work on your book. Minimize the distractions. I want to read it and leave it in the bathroom ?

      1. Thank you Jack – I’ve been aspiring to Officially Funny and felt trapped in Mildly Amusing for a long time. Perhaps the Douglas Adams reference was too obscure, but it made me laugh and that’s what counts some days.

  27. Proud of you, Matt. Sometimes we do harm in ignorance. Someone needs to tell us to stop. But “they” COULD extend more love and grace than is deserved and show our mistakes through a rebuke of kindness. There is an old proverb that says to rebuke your brother in love so that he might repent, and that you might show the love of the Father who offered forgiveness to you as well.

    I respect you for taking the humble path and recognizing your errors. I do NOT respect that woman for lashing out in anger. She could have easily sent you a polite email, and you would have come to the same conclusion you have today, because you’re intelligent, you DO care, you’re repented, you LISTEN, and you’re trying to make the world a better place the best that you can.

  28. I agree 1,000% with what Jackie said regarding “no need to pick up a hammer when a simple tap on the should will do”. Certainly there are times when it is necessary to be direct and blunt in a conversation, but the email you received wasn’t just that – it was flat-out abusive. Her overall message may have contained valuable insight, but in my opinion it crossed the boundary of appropriate communication and left that boundary in the dust.

    I’ve never taken your “ask me anything” page as a guarantee that you would respond to every question/email/comment. In fact, if I remember correctly, you explicitly stated on there that sometimes there are submissions you don’t respond to at all.

    Having spent more than 10 years in the highly emotionally charged world of the infertility blogosphere as both a blogger and reader of blogs, I don’t remember any blog where the writer responded to 100% of the comments all of the time. (I know I certainly didn’t on mine!) I was just grateful that they were willing to share their experiences with the universe, which helped me know that I wasn’t alone in what I was going through and feeling. It never occurred to me to place on them the expectation that they would respond 100% of the time.

    Whether or not you are able to respond to every single comment/question/email, you facilitate community and support. I commented on the post before this (I may have commented once or twice before that since discovering your blog early this year), and you didn’t respond to it. But guess what? Three of your other readers did! They offered insights and perspectives and support and encouragement, and I was just as appreciative and grateful for their responses as I would have been if you had responded. I didn’t feel disappointed that YOU didn’t respond; I simply felt grateful that THEY did.

    One other thing I don’t understand with regard to the message from the woman who emailed you: let’s assume you quit your job, forget about your son, and devote yourself 24/7/365 to responding to all comments/emails/questions, etc. Doing that is only going to snowball into even more comments/emails/questions, etc. So at some point, even 24/7/365 isn’t going to be enough time to devote to it, but yet it’s all you have at your very max. So you should shut down your blog then, just because you can’t expand the universe to create more hours in the day?? There are limits to what you – or anyone – can do.

  29. Hey Matt,
    Don’t let any anonymous person make you feel like you are responsible gor their well being. You aren’t! You aren’t their therapist.
    I am also ADD, so I get it. For us there just isn’t enough time for all of our intentions. Your blog has made me feel like I wasn’t a not picking bitch for wanting actual communication with my husband.
    Carrying on being a great dad and blogger!

    Peace & love,

    1. Thank you, Julie. This means a lot. Sometims when I’m pissed I remind people that I don’t owe anyone anything. They usually tell me I’m selfish afterward.

      I don’t know what to believe. Appreciate you, though. Always awesome when people “get it.”

    2. Julie, you nailed it: “…isn’t enough time for all our intentions.”

      Story of my life. ADD here too… and married to a Shitty Husband. *sigh*

  30. Hi Matt,

    I wrote to you once and you did respond. I never wrote back. Mainly because I was a little embarrassed about sharing my life, and things had gotten better.

    But thank you for writing me back.

    I never really thought about how much you must have to do on a day to day basis. I think that people in pain or in crisis can trend toward being selfish, mainly because when you’re in pain it’s hard to think about anything else.

    I also think that you need to take care of yourself first. That’s most important. I hope you are able to find a balance that works for you.

    1. Hey Amanda. Thank you. I’m glad I wrote you back. It tends to be a timing thing. If I’m checking my email and don’t have something I have to be doing right that moment, I tend to write back.

      Same with the comments here, actually. I started replying to you instantaneously, but then someone came to my desk mid-message and I only now got back to it. Also seeing it’s AFTER lunch. Damnit.

      I lose time like other people lose keys, remotes and cell phones.

      Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I don’t think I’ve found any kind of balance, but I’m always hopeful.

      Some day, perhaps.

  31. I am a mental health professional referred to your page by a colleague.

    The letter written to you was indicative of someone with a personality disorder.

    The proper response to people who would lash out at a stranger with such venom and with such extreme privilege and condescension is to delete and ignore and realize irrational people say and do irrational things and that isn’t your responsibility to address.

    1. Awesome of you to chime in, Dr. Scott. Thank you very much.

      I also have a personality disorder in that I’m embarassingly sensitive to negative criticism. 1,000 people can say I’m great, and 1 person can call me an asshole, and tend to give more credence to the person being critical.

      Something I’d like to believe I’ll conquer one day. Fingers crossed.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and contribute here. I really appreciate it.

    2. Also being a health/mental health professional I say if we were all diagnosed on a single unfortunate public outburst I think everyone has a personality disorder diagnosis. The diagnosis is in pervasive patterns and we don’t have enough information. Just sayin ?

  32. I have been married a long time. I have one piece of advice that I know to be true. Do not ever use sarcasm. It can be the death of a marriage because the whole reason for using it is to put down your spouse. Do that enough and you will find yourself single.

  33. Please don’t pull the plug your blog. Please, please, please.
    To expect one man to respond to every email and every comment…. seriously?!

    I can understand her hurt, her feelings of being abandoned by yet another lifeline, especially at this time of her life…. But your blog offers more value than any other marriage blog I have ever read. Not because I have a shitty husband and I’m perfect… But because you are REAL about what goes on behind those doors between two GOOD people who just stop loving right.

    Please, don’t EVER delete your blog!! This stuff is gold. Pure, pure gold.

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