The Myth of the Nagging Wife — It’s Invisible Burns That Actually End Marriages

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Burn victim with medical bandages
Sometimes we’ll find it’s the husbands, or men, in relationships whose invisible wounds aren’t properly cared for. Just not most of the time. (Image/RawStory)

We sometimes hear husbands complain about their stupid, bitchy, nagging wives.

Some of them probably are married to petty, unkind women who’ve been plotting all along to make their husbands’ lives miserable. Statistical probability and whatnot.

But that’s NOT who most women are.

Most women said yes to a man’s voluntarily offered marriage proposal.

This isn’t arranged marriage in medieval times. This is one adult voluntarily asking another adult to give up being single together to form a partnership and live together faithfully for the rest of their lives, share property and finances, and maybe have children together.

Maybe some people don’t mentally grasp the parameters of a typical marriage agreement, but I feel confident in speculating that most do. Most people know what they’re signing up for, and then they sign up voluntarily.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where we go wrong, but Dr. John Gottman and the Gottman Institute identify husbands (I’m paraphrasing): “failing or refusing to accept their wives’ influence” as the No. 1 reason for—and predictor of—divorce. For those who don’t know, the Gottman Institute is to marriage and relationships what FiveThirtyEight is to sports and political election data, with Dr. Gottman playing the role of Nate Silver.

The math is the math, and math is truth. Math doesn’t have an agenda.

Statistics can lie, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here, no matter how uncomfortable it makes all the men who want to be “right,” or want to “win,” or want to perpetuate the narrative that it’s not the common male behavior that needs adjusting, but it’s actually the female response to it that’s “wrong” or “broken” or “inappropriate.”

Husbands vs. Wives and the Battle of the Sexes

One of the most common complaints I get from male readers on several blog posts is the (totally false and misguided) accusation that I’m advocating that men be submissive in their marriage and do whatever their wives want.

It annoys me, but I can’t reasonably expect everyone to have read everything I’ve ever written (and remember it) to know what I think and am advocating at any given time.

What I struggle with most is when people frame the husband-wife relationship as adversarial. As if two people should agree to marry, and then spend the rest of their partnership jockeying for control in the household.

What about that arrangement sounds appealing, or as if there’s a chance for any sort of happy ending?

Advice: DO NOT MARRY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CONTROL YOU. And make sure you rule out that possibility BEFORE you marry them. Also, maybe don’t try to control others. That’s one effective way to avoid being a thundering asshole.

One novel idea is to actually LOVE the human being you are vowing to marry for life.

If we can start the conversation with LOVE assumed to be a foundational element in this arrangement, then I feel like there’s a chance to understand one another.


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I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.


Love is generous. It’s kind. It’s unselfish.

Love is not about winning. Love is not about power and control. Love is not about who’s right and who’s wrong.

Love is freely given in action, word and spirit—a conscious choice that is constantly being made—to support and communicate to a spouse or relationship partner how much value they have.

So, when talking about marriage, I begin with three assumptions:

  1. Two people loved each other and wanted to get married.
  2. Both people knew what they were promising—a lifetime of faithful love and support.
  3. Both people entered marriage with the best of intentions, setting out to have a good marriage that looked and felt like however they idealized it in their heads throughout their dating and engagement.

But Then the Invisible Burns Start to Hurt

There are various things men often do (or don’t do) that cause women to feel shitty in their relationships.

These behaviors HURT wives and girlfriends. They cause legitimate pain, the same as if you were punched, kicked, cut, stabbed or shot. A thing happens. Someone hurts because of it.

And it’s in THIS MOMENT that marriages die along with countless relationships that never reach marriage status.

This painful, damage-causing behavior isn’t happening because men are systematically plotting to upset their partners. It’s happening because many men don’t realize that these things hurt their wives. These men don’t realize it in most instances because that same situation DOES NOT hurt them.

It’s hard to understand how something we KNOW doesn’t hurt could hurt someone else.

Which is why I like the second-degree burn analogy.

If someone places their finger on our arm, it doesn’t typically hurt us. “Brace yourself, I’m going to lightly touch your arm with the tip of my finger,” is potentially a sentence that’s never been written or spoken before.

However, what if we have a second-degree burn that’s an open wound and THEN someone puts their finger on it?

That shit will feel like a horror show and we’ll want to stab them.

Point being: One event can occur and be experienced in radically different ways by two different people. In relationships, that often breaks down as husbands or boyfriends tending to do things one way, and wives or girlfriends tending to do things another. It’s not gender-specific, nor is it universal. It’s simply what we can observe while looking at vast amounts of data, and I think most of us can see it and feel it in various parts of our personal lives.

The Change We Need is for Men to “See” the Hurt

I don’t think men are bad. I don’t think men are intentionally hurting their wives or girlfriends.

What I do think is that wives have invisible second-degree burns, and then husbands and boyfriends are touching painful burn wounds that they have no idea are even there.

Their wives say, “Oh my God, that hurts me when you do that. Could you please stop?”

And then the confused and startled husbands reply, “All I did was touch your arm! Why don’t you make a bigger deal out of it? It seems like you’re always finding something else to complain about.”

And then she says, “When you touch my arm it hurts me.”

And then we husbands say: “God, that’s stupid. It doesn’t hurt when people touch your arm. You’re being crazy and overly emotional. Again.”

What happens next seems logical enough when you truly see this hidden, misunderstood and poorly translated interaction play out.

She feels unloved, neglected, abused, abandoned and unwanted by the person she loves most and who promised her forever. She explains exactly what’s hurting, and he tells her she’s wrong and making it up in her head.

He feels as if he’s being treated unfairly, receiving unjust accusations, not being given the benefit of the doubt, nor credit for all of the good he does, and all of the internal and external changes he’s made to be his wife’s partner for life. He ALSO feels as if his reality and intentions are being unfairly and inaccurately misrepresented.

Like clockwork, the relationship breakdown is inevitable unless there’s some kind of magical empathy breakthrough. Usually, there’s not, which is why MOST relationships fail. Most dating couples never make it to marriage at all. The ones who do, divorce half the time. And many of the couples that don’t divorce are hopelessly miserable and wish they weren’t together.

So guys, this isn’t about feminism or trying to emasculate men.

This is about ACTUALLY SEEING the mechanics of how relationships really are, and then adjusting accordingly even if it’s “inconvenient.”

We can do that by NOT getting married. And we can do that by NOT saying or doing things that hurt the people we claim to love and promised to love and serve for life.

It’s clearly difficult to see and effectively communicate this thing that too often ends our relationships—this inability to “see the hurt.”

But, when you finally do see it, you realize quickly enough that it was never very complicated.

221 thoughts on “The Myth of the Nagging Wife — It’s Invisible Burns That Actually End Marriages”

  1. You ALWAYS give the best analogies and make the perfect amount of sense. It also doesn’t hurt to mention (pun intended) that I literally just burned myself taking a dish out of a hot oven because I was so riveted to reading your blog on my cell!
    Ps sharing on FB!

    1. sh1ttyhusbandinIreland

      I am a gambling addict in recovery, and my addiction, along with my bad behavior as a husband, has my marriage hanging by a thread.
      Gambling made me secretive and fed my ability to ignore my wife’s pleading about my other behaviors. “It didn’t hurt me, why should it hurt anyone else,” words I never articulated, dominated my behavior. Bad driving decisions. Bad career decisions.

      My gambling addiction came out when I gambled, yet again, on the stock market, suffered a loss and hid it from my wife, until I was forced to share it with her. My wife, the most patient person I’ve ever known, rightfully laid into me about my addiction, my secretiveness, and my bad behaviors like lack of empathy, ignoring her, taking her for granted, minimizing her and believing that ‘if it doesn’t hurt me, it can’t hurt anyone else’.
      I love my wife. I love our life, and I know I’ve done everything to hurt it and put my marriage on a thin thread. I’m learning to be more open, and I’ve stopped gambling but I know addictions are never cured – you learn ways to control them and you learn to live without them, but they’re always just under the surface. Being more open, working on being a non-shitty husband, especially using the information MBTTR has provided, is saving me and my marriage. Thank you, Matt. Please keep it up.

      1. Wow you are extremely honest and self -aware. Good on you for admitting what you have done /contributed and trying to curb your shitty habits.

  2. Actually a third degree burn does not hurt to touch. The nerve endings are gone. Sorry for bein a jerk but I am an RN and I worked in a burn unit for ten years. Second degree hurts like a B. But thanks for the article as usual just experienced this. My husband did something that hurt me deeply and his response it wouldn’t hurt me so you are over reacting.

    1. You’re the best. Thank you for the education. I’ll make the adjustment. You’re not being a jerk when you educate the ignorant. This ignoramus appreciates any opportunity to learn and look less stupid!

    2. What I can’t stand, or understand, is why, when you tell someone who claims to love you that they have hurt you (seemingly unintentionally), the person would not then apologize and validate that. I am old enough to understand that what hurts one person may not hurt another, etc.

      What upsets me very much is when my husband does not validate those feelings and acts like I am overreacting. I then end up truly questioning if he even loves me at all.

      1. Boom. This right here, male readers. This is it exactly.

        And then, generally wives who honestly believe their husbands don’t love them will eventually find new things to do with their life.

        Believe it.

  3. Matt, I think one good point you have brought out over all is that we often DO NOT see what we are doing to others. We do come into relationships with good intentions. I don’t see that any woman marries a man on purpose to make his life miserable and then take him for all he has. Who would do that? One problem I do see, and this is just from experience, is that we enter marriage often with the idea that people will change. We marry them with flaws and then think suddenly they are going to be different. I do think women sometimes do want to change their husbands–whether or not you are religious, most women think they can polish a man. I don’t think they do that because they hate him but because women sometimes feel they are more polished than men and have to rub off their rough edges. Women should not enter into marriage with that expectation. With that said, getting back to your point about wronging each other, I think you bring out well that communication is the key and we actually do need to listen to what our spouses are saying about what is wrong because not listening causes things to escalate, go beyond our control.

    1. Concurred on all fronts. These are the things we tend to learn the hard way, or only after living long enough to see the patterns play out over and over again.

      We’re told how important “good communication” is so much that I think it loses its impact. I don’t think young people heading into marriage always know what that means.

      I’m not sure I know what that looks and feels like at age 38.

      You make great points here, all of which I think are true and contribute to the problems we collectively have.

      1. I’m sorry ‘love your blog but this…… been mArried 45+ yrs. blah, blah, blah…..
        Not this one.

        1. I find that interesting, because it’s my opinion that this post was typical of what Matt believes most strongly about the cause of marriage failures today. Admittedly, he stated it more directly (and used far fewer words) than usual.

      2. So accurate. This one made me cry. My marriage could have been different but it wasn’t and we have both moved on. Sad. We were a family. He just didn’t take care of me like I thought he would on so many levels.

    2. ” I do think women sometimes do want to change their husbands ….”

      There’s an old joke based on that possibility. There are three words that brides often think about at a wedding: Aisle, Altar, Hymn.

      1. “Women marry a man, and hope that he will change (i.e. that she will change him), but he won’t.
        Men marry a woman and hope that she won’t change, but she will.”

        That’s another old joke, possibly with more than a grain of truth in it, but probably not the one you were thinking of.

    3. Perhaps, just perhaps, we want to be married to “dating guy” who shows up smelling nice and being attentive and interested. Perhaps we want to be married to “ helpful guy” who jumps to help the neighbour with his interesting engineering issue around landscaping and backfill and levelling decks. Maybe we don’t want to “change him” at all. We just want him at his best, the guy we fell in love with. Not just around those things that interest him, but around those things that are important to us as well. And we are obligated to bring our A game as well. Not every day, we’re human. But slowing down, finding out what’s important to the other and making it important to us. It’s a two way street.

      1. For the most part, I would agree, that you marry the guy you fall in love with, but there are women out there that expect the man to change. They think they can fix his flaws. But even if a man lets down,, I personally feel that if you agree to marry some one, and they “let down” that you should stay married and try to work it out unless they are abusive. Whatever happened til death do us part? People unfortunately don’t believe in tht any more.

        1. Which is why, pamelaparizo, to the surprise and occasional dismay to outsiders, we are still trying hard. We’ve worked through some really boneheaded decisions, actions and disappointments with each other. Most of my female friends have said they’d have “kicked him to the curb” long ago – an expression I despise.

          He’s the father of my children and more days than not now he’s a decent partner and I think he can now say the same about me. The days we’re not good partners are fewer and farther between and no longer the full time life we were living. He learned to tell me what I was doing “wrong” for lack of a better word and I did the same. That’s adulting ?

          1. Well, with three kids in the mix it was never about me. His true change of heart and spirit came when I let him “go” have it all about him. He realized very quickly it was a lonely place and I wasn’t unhappy keeping the domestic load. Once we both realized we could do it alone we worked on wanting to do it together again with new rules and boundaries on both sides. We grew up a lot and I continue to credit discovering this blog for giving me what was missing – a compassionate understanding of a shitty husband instead of an angry view.
            I chose the road less travelled by and that had made all the difference ?

          2. I’ve been trying to formulate a response here but I think you said it better than I could when you wrote:

            “We grew up a lot and I continue to credit discovering this blog for giving me what was missing – a compassionate understanding of a shitty husband instead of an angry view.”

            I ‘get it’ about Matt’s perspective and purpose here but I really do not accept that one person, or one sex, is responsible for the slow motion pandemic of broken and hurting marriages. There’s an irony in (judging from the comments) this blog, which should be read by men, being read and cheered mostly by women.

            But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what your spouse is, or isn’t, contributing. You can only change yourself, or at least try.

            If both sides reach out with some compassion for another broken individual, who happens to be the person they chose to marry, miracles might take root and grow. (:-)

            This is not a starry-eyed reply. I have been in a very difficult place for a while now but every time they pass the oxygen mask I try to take a few breaths and get up again. (:-|

          3. I guess what this blog forced me to do was to live my “philosophy” of love and compassion in the hardest place. With someone I was deeply angry at and profoundly hurt by and no longer trusted. I had lost faith. I feared my mindful “zen” existence had all been a sham when the state of my relationship was the result. I had to go to a very dark place and all I can tell you, Jack – keeping pulling on the oxygen mask when you need it, find your sangha of like minded people, and keep the faith ?

          4. “He learned to tell me what I was doing “wrong” for lack of a better word and I did the same. ”

            I am almost literally fatally bad at that, which is a horrible handicap. I am trying to get better. We had a domestic collision on Sunday that took me almost a day to even figure out, then figure out how to present. And _that_ got a response from my wife that had at least 20 years of hurt and misunderstanding behind her side of this pattern. I, too, like the word “adult” and I use it a lot, mostly as a goal not a statement of fact. 🙁 (“I need to handle this more like an adult.”)

            Attacking or withdrawing doesn’t work. Coming back with open mind and ears and and mouth (but using your mouth respectfully) does work, though it is hard and can be very fearful.

            I am continually shocked by how often I expect my wife to read my mind. 🙁

        2. Also, at a more practical level, if you don’t try to work it out, what possible confidence can you have that the next relationship or marriage will be any different? Painful, frustrating, exhausting – yes, so very much. But if you just press ‘eject’ and then pop in a new disk (am I not giving away my age? – at least I didn’t say tape!), you probably just get the same d@mned movie with the same d@mend ending all over again. 🙁

          1. Jack and STH…. I don’t mean to bust in on this ….I am in agreement with so much that I have to comment. I apologize for being a story teller. Some here may have read some of my exploits regarding how Anne and I got together split up and got back together. The best thing about all of it was the growth we both were able to realize throughput the odyssey. On a number of occasions did my little angel say ” you put your best foot forward when we were dating ” well…I was supposed to…it’s like children, God makes you fall in love with them when they’re little so you don’t hate them when they’re teenagers. The same applies to couples in some sense. When we dated I was attentive thoughtful chivalrous and a host of other what I call smoocheresque behaviors possessed with her. After the wedding I admittedly believed that the game was over and I could return to macho assholery . I didn’t want to go anywhere with her I wouldn’t dance anymore ( something she dearly loves) I was condescending,critical lazy and not really focused on an “us”. She too had some morphing going on. The fact was we both did the courtship rituals to secure each other as mates. Well without growth communication and a whole lot of empathy and understanding I found myself living in the ” Pontiac Hilton “. She was done wanted out and didn’t want me to darken her door again. With lots of work ( counseling, talking ,arguments, prayers, and realizations) we were able to pick up the pieces… define our expectations our boundaries and deal breakers look at each other as we should have been looking all those years ago and now are disgustingly happily in love with each other. During a discussion the other day while running our dog “Moose”, she noted what was obvious but not really realized by me until that moment… ” I’m not that little 21 year old starry eyed innocent girl anymore ” …so true I said….you’re much better. We are much better. We have shared hopes and dreams….our daughter is most likely getting married in the next year….the prospect of being grandparents makes us giddy…our sons are not far behind in their relationships….they will all be ok…….they got to see mom and dad have their transformation and never give up. STH…when you talked of (paraphrasing) sticking it out with the father of your children and his decency as a partner and how that deepens and how you both decided that even though you are strong enough to do life on your own you concluded it was better to do it together , a huge smile came to my face. That is “getting it” as applied. You and Jack have my deepest respect….you are in fact nailing it

          2. Sometimes the kick in the ass is the best reset button…it was for me!….good luck and best wishes….

          3. And sometimes the effort to be soft and kind works better than the bat. The challenge is being present enough to know which to choose. I think we’re figuring it out. It’s a true skill and challenging dance that we take for granted with all the other challenges we face. It is, however, probably the most important one as long as we BOTH see it that way and keep US the priority as the only safe port in the storms of life.

          4. Loved this. Like Matt, you give me hope. My ex-husband didn’t (and when I am compassionate I think couldn’t ) get it. I’m in a long term relationship now with a man who can/does – but he will be the first to tell you it took him two failed marriages to get there. I’ve learned a lot too. We talk about how things were with our exes. I confess sometimes (though less often) we are just bitching. But much of the time each of us has insights based on the other’s perspective/experience. We old dogs can learn new tricks.

        3. If a man can’t “Adult” he shouldn’t get married. That’s my opinion. It’s NOT on the woman and his wife, to teach him how to be an adult, and he should be able to adult and maintain maturity and accept guidance as a fully grown adult, and as a husband? Just DO the job, and do it properly.
          I can’t fully adult and would never “marry so that I can have someone look after me”, where’s the pride in that?

      2. Yes! The guy I dated is NOT the guy I ended up with. To be fair – the woman he dated is not the women he ended up with either. Which is a great argument for Matt’s other theme -BE YOUR SELF when dating! Your whole real self – because your partner has the right to expect that same self for the rest of your married life. If the “best side” you are showing your prospective partner is not someone you can be 24 / 7 / 365 then you are false advertising. We need to see one another’s best and worst self and every one in between. Of course we should always TRY to be our best self for the people we love. But the reality is some days we just wont be. And the person they get on those days (the sorta good days, the blah somewhere in the middle days, the really not so hot days, the occasional truly off the charts bad days) should not be a surprise to them. Turns out that my ex’s “blah and not so hot days” self did not play well with mine – and vice versa. It wasn’t even just a “not so hot or blah” pairing. Put those two together (or ye gods our truly bad day selves) and we headed straight into off the charts toxic territory.

        1. Or, as one of my therapists said, “your Marketing Dept. was dating her Marketing Dept.”

          We got married a year or two after college. Honestly, I don’t think we had a great sense of who our selves were at that point. But maybe things were different back then – we were married in 1981.

  4. Love this. Great analogy. Quite literally an idiot proof explanation on the importance of practicing empathy in relationships.

  5. You know, that might be the best blog I have every read. You are so right and exceptional at explaining our point of view. It’s very difficult to discuss the hurt, as a woman I’m seen as a nagger, I’m not. I’m like you say hurt. A hurt which helped post natal depression sink it’s claws in, a hurt that myself and my male partner must both learn and understand. It’s not a competition either, thank you for stating that. Too often either ‘side’ get their back up over the subject.
    It’s a real pity, I see this ‘hurt’ in every single male/female relationship, it’s not needed at all. The tension and frustration is causes rips people apart.
    Honestly, what an excellent post. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m so touched by this post I reblogged it.

    1. Please. I’m flattered you wanted to share. Can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want their work shared.

      Anyway, thank you. I think I continue to understand these dynamic better, and I think I’m getting s tiny bit better at explaining what I think I know.

      I’m still missing the all-important next step which is: Now what should a person do about it?

      Still working on that one.

      My favorite answer is still: Love.

      That’s the thing I think I know that gets to be bigger than all the bullshit and noise.

      It’s not enough. But it’s a critical step.

      1. Oh I feel you, 100%. I wrote a similar post, I found it extremely hard not to point the blame finger or make it look one sided, but as a woman who are often the ones being hurt, it was all to easy for men to take offense to my post. So it’s really refreshing and heart wrenching to see that a ‘man’ can see it without feeling emasculated – which is never the intent at all.
        It’s very difficult to pin point the source of the problem,I do think gender stereotyping and roles plays a massive factor in hurt. As does the increase of women working, yet bare the burden of home making too. Not at the fault of either gender, more so society and the roles we force on each gender- if that makes sense, I always struggle to say what I mean.
        The answer for sure is love, yet as a couple with 2 full time jobs, a family, a house, etc etc, love is often over cast by stress and frustration. I hope, I really do, that if people like yourself continue to share and enlighten, then maybe there will be a shift for future generations. A shift to equality and a reduction of this invisible hurt. The reason it is so painful, for me, is the fight between love and just having ‘enough’ despite the knowledge that the hurt is unintentional.

      2. Matt, my therapist challenged me to come up with and define one word. The word with which I intended to live my life. Deep within me I knew the word before m she finished speaking.
        My intention is love.
        I truly believe you can’t go wrong in any life endeavor if you’re grounded in love.

        1. And it takes a certain perspective to get that love as a noun is one thing and love as a verb is another. And it’s the verb that is often the hardest but keeps our marriages/relationships. Ask not what your marriage can do for you, but what you can do for your marriage ?

  6. Reblogged this on Honest K and commented:
    One of the best blog posts I think I have ever read. Please, give it a read. So many couples struggle with this day in and day out, I know I have (do).
    Married or not, this ‘hurt’ drives couples apart and it’s heartbreaking.

    1. No, thank you. The entire point of writing here is to get exactly that reaction. Thank you for taking a second to let me know you did. Means a lot.

      1. Yes, good analogy!

        I think anytime someone can bring some objectivity to a subject that is usually just random peoples opinions being thrown around it’s super helpful to at least get something to anchor on.

        Then everybody can throw random opinions around about the data and what it means. But that’s a big improvement IMHO

  7. Good relationships are about connection not control. “Accepting influence” means we share power and take your spouse’s opinions and feelings into account. Why do women do this particular thing more than men? That’s another comment.

    Excerpts below are from from this article

    In a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, Dr. John Gottman discovered that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce.

    This critical skill is not limited to heterosexual couples. It’s essential in same-sex relationships as well, but the research shows that gay and lesbian couples are notably better at it than straight couples. See The 12 Year Study for more on this.

    It’s not that marriage can’t survive moments of anger, complaints, or criticism. They can. Couples get in trouble when they match negativity with negativity instead of making repairs to de-escalate conflict. Dr. Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work that 65% of men increase negativity during an argument.

    My point is not to insult men. It takes two to make a marriage work and it is just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect. But Dr. Gottman’s research indicates that a majority of wives – even in unhappy marriages – already do this.

    This doesn’t mean women don’t get angry and even contemptuous of their husbands. It just means that they let their husbands influence their decision making by taking their opinions and feelings into account. Data suggests that men do not return the favor.

    Statistically speaking, Dr. Gottman’s research shows there is an 81% chance that a marriage will self-implode when a man is unwilling to share power.

      1. Ha ha hopefully my maturity level has improved enough. I’ve been working hard on it but you know it’s a work in progress. ?

      2. And here I demonstrate how I missed a “bid” for connection as Gottmab would say.

        So thank you Matt for your kind words. I have missed the conversations here in your blog. I thought you did an excellent job writing this post.

  8. Pingback: The Myth of the Nagging Wife — It’s Invisible Burns That Actually End Marriages – A Walk with God, through Marriage, Family and Personal Life

  9. I’m sure there are some biological factors too but 35% of men DO accept influence so it appears to be very cultural. Girls are trained from childhood to play cooperatively and with relationships in mind. To take others needs into account.

    To take care of others often at her own expense which causes it’s own problems with poor boundaries that is part of what Gottman’s research shows women often get wrong that could correct the man’s not accepting influence if boundaries are set early in the relationship. But here women’s training is not helpful.

    Does it get ugly with mean girls etc? Oh yeah for sure. Women are not inherently “better” than men in my opinion, they just have different gender training and role expectations. You can see another difference in Gottman’s study of gay marriages. They accept influence and share power more. Partly, I think, because the normal hetero gender expectations aren’t the default.

    In hetero man training and culture it’s more often about not letting people control you. Not making yourself vulnerable to being in a one down position. A hierarchy, zero sum game. And fear of being mocked as being controlled by his wife and losing his man card. It’s a very real thing to fear. All those things make it harder for a heterosexual guy to default to seeing accepting his wife’s opinions and requests. They will be resisted because his training has taught him to resist being controlled.
    That’s why Matt gets all those comments from men. They are in the 65%.

    Excepts from the same article:

    This starts in childhood. When boys play games, their focus is on winning, not their emotions or the others playing. If one of the boys get hurt, he gets ignored. After all, “the game must go on.”
    With girls, feelings are often the first priority. When a tearful girl says, “we’re not friends anymore,” the game stops and only starts again if the girls make up. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman explains, “the truth is that ‘girlish’ games offer far better preparation for marriage and family life because they focus on relationships.”
    There are plenty of women who are unaware of these social nuisances and men who are deeply sensitive to others. In Dr. Gottman’s research, however, only 35% of the men were emotionally intelligent.

    1. For what it’s worth, I think the cultural/gender training/role expectations probably accounts for a huge portion of the difference, as you say. I have no qualifications for that, other than six decades on the planet, being a male observer of other males in many contexts, including some all-male contexts.

      1. Ok let me pick your male brain and six decades of experience with those mysterious men.

        Why are there 35% of hetero men who DO accept influence. What is the difference in their nature/nurture/cultural training than the majority who don’t? Any thoughts?

        1. I’m going to send you a response that’s sort of off the top of my head, though I’ve though about or at least around this topic. Two things have occurred to me, but they might be wrong or there might be much more meaningful answers. I bet Terry Real has some thoughts. But for what it’s worth:

          – some men are just more conscious, accidentally or on purpose. They may have been exposed to better examples from their fathers, or they may have encountered a mentor figure at some point who gave them a cue or at least a clue that they could – I think this is really important – that they could flex and accommodate without giving up their essential (“authentic”) male selves. You can teach this stuff, and some men get taught or at least exposed to this.

          – this thought is way out on thin ice, but maybe some men raised in what I’ll refer to for shorthand as the “Nice Guy” model (taking Glover’s model as a paradigm here) wind up accepting influence, but for the wrong reasons – for reasons that ultimately wind up generating frustration, resentment, anger, etc., and therefore don’t contribute to the number of relationships or marriages that benefit from accepting influence.

          I think a lot of less well-developed men believe that their essential masculinity is threatened if they accept influence. They categorize themselves as weak or hen-pecked or a (pardon me, but this is the word) “pussy.” It takes maturity and a deeper view of who you really are to realize that you can flex without breaking.

          My final note is just a quick reiteration of the fact that cultural changes over the last 50 years or so have really thrown a lot of this stuff into a cocked hat, for everyone but especially for men. I’m not fishing for any sympathy and I’m not ignoring the fact that there have been equally significant changes for women, but I do think that men in general came into these changes less well equipped to respond constructively, and also have in general experienced more of a “whoa, the floor I was standing on just disappeared, all the rules are gone/new” sort of change.

          1. Excellent points!

            Terry Real is my spirit animal!

            He has given me a lot of compassion for the double bind men can be caught in. Having to develop invulnerability to survive rigid standards for masculinity that still exist but needing to be vulnerable in relationships.

            Like you said with the nice guy thing too it’s very hard to get to the healthy Goldilocks middle.

          2. Sometimes I think if we could find just one thing for everyone, one thing that would heal all wounds, it would be compassion. But if compassion were on the periodic table of elements, it would be known as Unobtanium, I think. 🙁 A very rare mineral, almost priceless.

          3. Lol Jack ?
            I don’t read relationship theory. I read Buddhist and secular ethics and find the messages are same without gender tags. As soon as the male/female cards come down the hackles go up. Gotta defend my gender at all costs – clinging to a label that must be defended. Once we dispel the illusion of separateness and labels kindness and compassion are easier. ?

          4. This is an example of differntiation for me.

            What works for you (removing labels and the illusion of seperateness) would not work for me and vice versa I’m sure. And that’s perfectly normal since we are different people.

            I still have to work at that concept.

          5. I don’t know if we do or do not fundamentally agree on certain things. It seems like we have some differences.

            I do think is normal and average if we don’t fundamentally agree on lots of things and still be able to be respectful (as you always are) and not have to strive to get the other person to change to relieve the anxiety of difference.

            And thats the skill I’m trying to deeply learn and practice. It’s an area that has caused issues in my marriage that I need to improve.


          6. Good points – as usual 🙂 I have an unfortunate tendency to label pleasant interaction as agreement. I should look at that and give it a new name and understanding in my head.

            So we fundamentally agree to listen and I greatly respect the data you bring and your strong desire to hear and understand the views and experiences of others. It comes through in the questions you pose.

            I sit usefully corrected and will work on my precision of language – my husband would likely support that ?

          7. Lisa wrote: “not have to strive to get the other person to change to relieve the anxiety of difference.

            And thats the skill I’m trying to deeply learn and practice. It’s an area that has caused issues in my marriage that I need to improve.”

            Oh boy, yes, and how. Took me, well, until this year, an embarrassingly and maddeningly long time, to appreciate this.

            And yet if I am even slightly conscious, it’s so clear: why on earth do I need you to agree with me?

            And even as I type this I realize there are areas where I still let myself trigger myself that way (because that’s really how I think this works….my wife is not the person who is triggering me)…so yeah, I am still trying. Sometimes still trying hard. Wait… 😉 😀

          8. I could have written this, Jack. Minus the wife part!

            I come to these realizations and wonder why I ever cared about someone else agreeing with me. It’s so strange how powerful and easily triggered that urge is — the urge to “sell” another person on your viewpoint.

            I guess I’ve found a channel here for leveraging that weakness for good, but in the context of my personal life, I still very much need to learn to let others be themselves. I tend to be awesome at it with everyone except those closest to me.

            Which, as you know, is a problem.

          9. Sadly, tragically, true.

            But…I find this one relatively easy to address. I think it’s a pretty straightforward cognitive distortion. I just need to get conscious and ask myself whether I really need anyone else to agree with me to feel good about X. Most often the answer is no, I’m good.

            AND when that isn’t the answer, going back higher up in this set of comments, maybe it’s time to ask whether I should be accepting influence (from wife, kids, co-worker, whoever).

            Well…it’s easy to write this stuff. But this particular problem is one that I find easier to sort than many others.

        2. I’m not male, but I’d wager that a significant chunk of that 35% comes down to differences in nurturing styles from different parents. Could also be things like being raised by “non-traditional” means – meaning same sex parents, being raised by single mothers etc. I put non traditional in quotes there because I’d also argue that traditions have significantly changed over the years for different generations -so who’s to say what is traditional or not anymore.

          1. Hey Jen. Just saying hi. You are super OG here but I feel like I haven’t seen you pop up much for a few years.

            You were reading and commenting five years ago when I was telling immature dating stories and using this place as my divorce-recovery journal.

            It’s so good to see you. I think this is the second time in the past week or so that I saw your name pop up and just wanted to thank you.

            It’s really cool to see a comment from you again. 🙂

  10. Here is another thought since I’m on a roll: I don’t think there is a big gender gap in differntiation.

    So the idea that what would hurt you might not hurt me or what it would it mean to you if I ask you to put your dish away and you don’t is not the same as what it would mean to me. I don’t think women are better at that than men.

    That’s why in the dish situation a wife will be hurt because she thinks it means the same thing to him as it would if she refused to put the dish away. It means you don’t care about me because that’s what it would mean for me. I have such a hard time with that kind of stuff.

    And since women’s cultural training is to accomodate it prevents what SHOULD happen if something is important to her. To stand up for herself respectfully in a way that he can understand. Often that requires action not words with a person who isn’t good at differentation.

    But she keeps using words because that’s what makes sense to her and what she had been taught to do. So she gets labeled a bag and again doesn’t set boundaries.

    The cycle is in full play then.

      1. I wish that was theoretical to me. I know that because that’s what I have spent a year trying to learn. I am terrible at assuming what my husband does/thinks/says has the same meaning as it would if it was me.

        Ellyn Bader has a whole progression of healthy differentation. First level is enmeshment where you expect the other person to merge and be like you.

        That’s appropriate for a very early romantic relationship but after the new wears off and the good hormones decrease you must become more differentiated to recognize and navigate all kinds of differences by accepting influence from each other and knowing how to set healthy boundaries when appropriate.

        Most couples get stuck in the first stage. (Raises hand) so you argue about and get divorced over dishes. And it seems like you’re incompatible but it’s usually that you are missing basic skills that can be learned.

    1. My plant story would fit here – why did I seethe for ages about something that didn’t make a bit of difference and now I’m content as I did it myself. That was really MY problem and I made it his. Now that I’ve “staked my claim” and used the space he doesn’t disturb it – respecting my action, not my want.

  11. I imagine I’ll get labeled as part of the 65% of men who are emotionally unintelligent, but I struggle with the relationship inequity running along gender lines. As a man who regularly reads Matt’s blog as a way to better understand how my own actions and in-actions contribute to a struggling marriage, I am often blown away by the common belief that women are better than men. I know some will retort that I’m being too vague/overarching. Many women will say that they are not better than men but (fill in the blank reason reason why they really are).

    Do many men change after marriage when the initial courting stage has passed? Yes. Do women wish men would still court them? Yes. I ask how this is any different than how women act? Women certainly put forth their best, least confrontational, most sexual selves while dating. Do women change after marriage? Yes. My point is that both parties need to work hard and focus on each other and not what each one is getting…tit for tat so to speak. My trouble with this is that dialog on this site often reverts to men changing and women suffering because of it, with no mention of how women change. Do the women who have been hurt but this specific situation think they are same person as when dating? Is it possible that the man became less doting once the woman started being more controlling and confrontational and forgive me for being blunt, but withholding physically intimacy? I’m not absolving men of blame…just looking to the women here to self evaluate as well.

    I struggle with the notion that for a marriage to be happy the man must be willing to accept influence from his wife. Not that I don’t think men need to do this. I just believe the statement should be that “in order for a marriage to be happy both spouses need to accept influence from each other”. And I know another retort will be that women already do this…but I disagree. How many times have a husband and wife disagreed on something, i.e. social plans, child care, family visits, housework/projects etc., where the outcome was the man’s viewpoint? Certainly less than 50%.

    I want men to treat their wives like princesses, at least as much as possible in a world that throws plenty of hardships our way. I just think that the princess needs to also treat her husband like a prince.

    1. Heres my take.

      There are a lot of different things that need to be healthy for a good marriage. Broad gender numbers here of course there are individual variations.

      Men are better at some of these skills like not just accommodating but standing up for themselves and what they want or don’t want.

      Women are better at some of these skills like seeking compromise “accepting influence” and especially not escalating negativity in a disagreement.

      Both of these are necessary skills. The problem is that accepting influence and not escalating negativity had to be there as a foundation. If you don’t have that you can’t move to the next level of partnership. That’s why that is critical that a man be and to do that as well as the woman. Otherwise you can’t figure out how to deal with your inevitable differences in a win win way that makes both of you feel like you’re being treated fairly.

      If a man doesn’t do that initially and says it’s just s silly dish and the women doesn’t have the skills of being able to stand up for her opinions to be validated it will inevitably lead to unhappiness as the pattern continues.

      Men are usually able to do this better than women.
      So it’s a little of a chicken and egg thing. But both skills are necessary. And the accepting influence is critical. It MUST be there for both people. If the man has it it’s not a problem that she isn’t good at setting boundaries to force it.

      If you can connect and care about each other’s stuff it can be worked out. If you can both stand up for yourself respectfully it’s never about control.

      Above that foundation there are many other skills necessary for two people to have a great marriage. Some skills have gendered patterns some don’t IMHO.

      The gender differences only matter if it’s seen through a zero sum lens. If you are in a partnership you can get to a healthy balance of independence and interdependence.

      1. Well, I feel I should give due to the elephant in the corner of the room who is genderless. It’s ego – and I don’t mean elevated self esteem. It’s solid realistic compassionate boundaried sense of self. If that is intact it is hard to threaten. It is a difficult thing to develop – both in the children we raise and as adults if we lack it. Even harder to do in the midst of a challenging relationship.

        Many of these gender identified ego protecting negative behaviours exist on both sides. Maybe some more related to “female” and “male” personality traits. I’m hardly a princess and my husband is rarely a prince – we are just people wanting to be treated with compassion and respect. Our public masks protect our fragile egos. That which makes us fragile is so different person to person I cannot divide it along gender lines. It’s not US and THEM – it’s a collection of ME’s with our own mental circuses and monkeys. Just sayin’ ?

        1. I agree with you it’s about ego. The goal is to get to a healthy ego.

          And there is a gender difference is which side of the unhealthy ego we tend to fall. That we must fight against to get to the healthy ego.

          For many women, certainly not all, they fall into the trap of not having enough healthy self esteem. Feeling worthless, feeling their needs are to be on the bottom of the list.

          That’s why they keep accommodating even when it’s not healthy to do that. When what would be healthier is to move toward the stronger ego position in the healthy middle. Learn healthy boundaries.

          Many men need to learn to see the other persons needs. To let go of their own ego needs. To accept influence.

          When healthy men and women have the same healthy ego. And the same accepting influence and setting boundaries skills although the style maybe expressed slightly differently.

          I am not trying to pitt men against women. I’m suggesting that there are specific unhealthy things taught to men and women that can lead to unhealthy egos. Therefore the correction will often be different as well by gender.

          No one is “better”. It’s just that the struggles to get the healthy middle with a healthy ego are often different.

          Matt often says people should give more, love more etc. good advice if you need to come down to the healthy middle. The opposite advice is more appropriate for someone coming from giving too much, loving everyone but herself etc.

    2. Nate said;

      “I struggle with the notion that for a marriage to be happy the man must be willing to accept influence from his wife. Not that I don’t think men need to do this. I just believe the statement should be that “in order for a marriage to be happy both spouses need to accept influence from each other”. And I know another retort will be that women already do this…but I disagree. How many times have a husband and wife disagreed on something, i.e. social plans, child care, family visits, housework/projects etc., where the outcome was the man’s viewpoint? Certainly less than 50%.”

      Ok now here is an interesting point.

      I think it reflects two things.

      1. Many men also don’t know how to stand up for themselves respectfully. In many cases, especially in areas where traditional gender roles label it the “woman’s sphere” men will just go along even if they don’t want to. And yes certainly some women can boss their husbands around like another kid.

      That’s where the two skills have to be there together. Accepting influence means listening to each other and making reasonsable accomodations. If the wife isn’t doing that than the husband should not just accept it. Anymore than the other way around.

      I agree with you that there are certain areas that many women think of as their domain. And that can lead to her not accepting influence properly. The second skill then needs to be there to correct that.

      If he (like the wife in the dish scenario) just resentfully complies that’s toxic over time.

      1. But overall the research does show that men escalate the negativity in a discussion over dishes (don’t tell me what to do! You’re not my boss!)

        And that overall women are more willing to take his opinions and needs into their decision making.

        Of course there are exceptions to the general rule. And as I said it has much to do with different cultural framing about control.

      2. Your post illustrates why I think the word “influence” is perfect. It’s not blowing the other off, and it’s not being bossed around by the other. It’s interactive, and it respects the integrity of both parties.

    3. I may be guessing wrong here, Nate, but, based on reading this — and I agree with you on about 95%+ of this, if not all of it — I think you’re probably in the minority of men like me who actually invest mental energy thinking about these concepts and relationship health, in general.

      I’m making super-broad generalizations here, of course.

      Here are things I believe:

      1. MOST men never think about this stuff at all. It only comes up when their wives/girlfriends/partners/whatever ask them to start or stop doing something that’s bothering them, at which time 3.5 out of 10 will put effort into making that adjustment, and probably only 1 of those 3.5 will be mindful of the psychological and emotional implications of that for their marriage. The other 2.5 will just be doing it as a means of problem-solving.

      2. The remaining 6.5 will be mad at their wives/girlfriends/partners/whatever for being ungrateful for what they have and asking for more. These guys will be angry that they married someone who never treats them as if what they’re doing is enough. Who is always “finding something new to complain about.” Most of these 6.5 men WILL NOT have a civil, thoughtful conversation about any of it, because “talking about feelings” is stupid, girl stuff. Only beta-male pussies would engage in coversations about relationships and emotional intelligence!

      And because no one likes being a beta-male pussy, they stand their ground like General effing Custard after too many instances of their partners asking him “to talk” when he doesn’t want to, or to give up something he likes OR start doing something he doesn’t like in order to please her.

      3. I think men frequently chalk up complaints from their spouses as petty selfishness, rather than a genuine request for help. Perhaps some of that is in the delivery on the part of their wives and girlfriends. No idea.

      But I KNOW what healthy, connected relationships look like today in ways I didn’t while I dated in my youth, and certainly during the slow decline of my marriage.

      And when I identify the various pieces and parts that are missing from healthy relationships, it’s not hard to see where men are getting it wrong.

      Again, this shouldn’t be taken personally. It’s not personal. It’s not an attack on men. It’s not even, in a macro sense, a criticism of them.

      It’s a call for awareness.

      4. The reasons you’re not reading about the wives changing and/or failing to be influenced by their spouses here is because I don’t write stories about my ex-wife that say “My wife did X, Y, and Z in our marriage, and that was wrong, and maybe that’s the real reason we got a divorce, and none of this is my fault at all,” because then I’d never learn anything.

      I’m pretty sure my wife screwed up. I’m pretty sure ALL wives, women, humans, screw up.

      I’m pretty sure there are things wives — collectively — could do just like men to dramatically influence marriage in a positive way.

      But I can’t write credibly or with any first-hand knowledge of what any of that might look like. I don’t know. I ALSO can’t know what my wife would have done had I NOT been making some of these major red-flag mistakes. The day I meet a guy checking all of the Perfect Husband (or even just, Really Good Husband) boxes, and his wife is absolutely destroying him 24/7 and trying to make his life miserable, it will be the first time.

      The world needs women to advocate self-reflection and growth in marriage from the wife perspective, as well. I’m confident there are women out there doing that, and I just don’t know about it.

      I just happen to be in the sweet spot, mathematically. I am THE mathematical average of, like, every guy in America. I watch too much football, basketball, baseball, say too many bad words, do a super-meh job with my laundry, don’t get to the grocery store often enough, never send Holiday cards or Thank You notes, drink beer, let my 9-year-old watch more PG-13 movies than he probably should, and all kinds of other irresponsible things.

      I am just some dude.

      And Just Some Dude is the guy who is accidentally ruining marriages and families left and right out there in the world without realizing he’s doing so.

      And Just Some Dude — if he has just a little bit more information — will STOP accidentally napalming his marriage, I believe, because he really does love his wife and values his family over everything else.

      Just Some Dude’s problem is that no one ever explained to him in any way that makes sense that he’s LITERALLY hurting his wife with actions that seem harmless to him.

      Harmless actions don’t cause harm. He knows it. All guys do.

      All people do.

      People need to be less certain that their perceptions and experiences are the only Truth in the world. Because things that don’t seem real to us CAN BE real to others. If we tell those people that everything they feel, think and say is bullshit, how are we ever going to get along with them? If we say that to the ONE person we vowed to love and honor for life, how is that keeping our marriage vows?

      The way the world will save marriage is to teach and practice empathy in all walks of life. Parents must teach children. Schools must teach children. And adults must behave with intentional empathy, even if the emotional instinct is to not do so.

      And if we can start doing that, we may just rid the world of racism, sexism, bigotry, and political/religious wars along the way.

      Might be a pipe dream. But the alternative is to intentionally choose the wrong thing. And I don’t think most people operate that way.

    4. “How many times have a husband and wife disagreed on something, i.e. social plans, child care, family visits, housework/projects etc., where the outcome was the man’s viewpoint? Certainly less than 50%.”


      In my marriage it was more than 50%. In his favor. I learned very early on that if I told him what I wanted to do, it was brushed aside, so it was easier to ask for 2 or 3 options of what he wanted to do and choose from those. And withholding physical intimacy? That was him as well. He would go to bed hours after I did, sit on the opposite side of the sofa from me, and give me 2 second hugs whenever I asked for a hug while he would give close friends longer hugs in my presence.

      I worked full-time, took care of most of the inside housework and did most of the cooking, and took responsibility for most of the child care — finding day-care, scheduling appointments, staying home when our son was sick. I didn’t want to be treated like a princess. I wanted to be treated like I *mattered*. I didn’t want to be told I was being silly when I was frightened by a near car collision or that I was asking too much when I asked to be held or at least be given the same amount of attention as he gave other people. I wanted to be treated like his wife, the person he promised to love and cherish in front of a whole bunch of our friends and relatives, not the housekeeper/nanny.

      And the kicker? He was the one who ended our marriage. Not me. Him. I spent years working on my end of our relationship, trying to get back what we had when we first met and losing myself in the process until he announced he “loved me, but was no longer in love with me.”

      While not everyone’s relationship is like the one Matt had with his wife, many of us have been drawn to his blog it because it describes what we have experienced. Is the experience of every woman? Probably not, but for those of us who have experienced it, Matt’s words let us know we are not alone.

  12. Amen,Matt! I really appreciate this post. I would say the biggest problem is actually men’s contempt,reviling,hatred of women. Men don’t like to hear that because they allegedly love women, and yet being referred to as the “nagging bitch,” if even in their own minds, is clearly not love.

    I am actually not sitting here in judgment of men’s hatred or on some kind of shaming campaign. I have certainly hated men with an equal amount of enthusiasm. The problem is,you simply cannot love and hate at the same time. Also, “I go to work and come home most nights” is NOT love. That’s duty. You have to elevate your spouse in your heart and mind to a status worthy of respect, highly valued, treasured.

    Men also seem to have a really tough time with submission. They equate it with being inferior. In truth it simply means to “yield and receive,” as in to yield and receive love. One problem with men perceiving submission as inferiority,weakness,unmanly, and something worthy of contempt, is that we than say “wives submit” and we’ve gone and labeled her inferior,defective,weak in some way for simply being vulnerable enough to receive your love.

    Submission is a beautiful thing and the men who are perverting it, reviling it, fearing it, are screwing it all up. So, I’m simply going to have to demand that they submit to the fact that women must be loved, valued, have affection poured upon us. You cannot love while also sweating contempt from your very pores.

    1. You see this feeds into my earlier comment about most all of these relationship issues being two way streets. You say men have contempt and even hatred for women. You say men call their wives “nagging bitches”. True. Women feel this too towards their husbands…”no good lazy or just another one of her kids to care for”. True. In both cases this is toxic and works for no one, but is not exclusive to men’s behavior.

      I agree that men going to work and coming home is not the definition of love…it’s duty. So is the wife staying home with kids or doing traditional household chores. This is true of the reverse if the man stays home and woman works. It’s irrelevant. However duties are divided is how they are divided.

      Again, I struggle with the ongoing dialog that men don’t show enough love and affection towards their wives when wives are equally neglecting their husbands wants and needs. Example 1: man comes home from work in a home where the wife stays home with kids. Man is grumpy and sits down on couch while wife makes dinner and children become cranky. Wife gets upset (as she should) and feels resentment towards the man for not helping out (man’s fault). Example 2: Man comes home from work and is immediately hit with the “here, take the kids, I’m done for the day, your turn!” Man says that he worked today too. Man is then labeled as not understanding and wife grows resentful (man’s fault).

      Men have an awful lot to improve upon to make for better marriages. But is it so hard to agree that women do too? You wouldn’t think so reading the comments on this blog.

      1. Hmmm Nate – a lot of frustration comes through that you seem to be feeling. I hear you as a woman coming home from work to the stay at home husband having experienced both your scenarios often.

        Matt writes his male perspective as that is his and many comments are from women happy to hear that they could be understood differently than what they are experiencing. A lot of women who read this have “shitty husbands” and comments may reflect that and the emotion they are feeling in their own circumstance.

        I think the goal here is to explore ways to change repetitive patterns that perpetuate suffering in relationships. On both sides – sitting back, hearing others’ perspective, breaking down the US/THEM mentality that probably brought us here in the first place.

        We all have work to do. Not just the men and not just the women.

        1. Totally. It’s kind of embarassing how much work I have to do on the very things I write about. I’m still so easily triggered in any given moment when I feel I’m clearly right about something. It can take me much longer than it should to start asking myself the uncomfortable questions about whether I’m still doing the same things I did in marriage.

          Lots and lots and lots of work to do. When I used to write journal-like entries, the Constantly Failing Human really shone through in the stories. Now that I do much less of that, it probably seems as if I’m more put together than I am.

          Perpetual work-in-progress.

          1. Your last line sort of covers the point, but as I was reading I was thinking: this is never done, we are all in perpetual recovery. (:-|

            Except, I suppose, for those who have not yet realized that they need to do any work/recover from anything. (:-( You, Matt, are the evangelist.

          2. Hopefully not the kind that use all the church basket money to buy mansions and sweet cars. Nobody likes that guy.

            There’s no church basket money, so it hasn’t been a problem thus far.

          3. Welcome to Samsara Jack ? every day is Groundhog Day, another chance to try to get it right, figure out why we didn’t and start again tomorrow.
            Been studying all day and letting my prayer flags fly ! ?

      2. I thought I did write comments with lots of things women need to do differently. That was my intention anyway.

        I was starting with the Gottman research. That’s objective. One can disagree with the research of course but I start there.

        Of course I throw my random opinions to interpret Gottman’s findings too. And the data shows I wrote too many comments today. I’m sure men and women agree there.

      3. Well Nate, there is something to be said for keeping your eyes on your own plate. Women have issue too is not an answer nor a solution for men who unwittingly or unwittingly pour contempt over their wives and then struggle to figure out why their relationship has gone south.

  13. Omagerd! I’m tearing up! I love reunions.
    Just two things to say-
    It seems like the fairest fighting words there are is “you don’t understand me!”
    I think in the middle of an argument, that can be a point agreed on by both.
    And second:
    Lisa, (so cool you’re here!) You made a reference to mean girls when talking about boundaries.
    I don’t think, and I hate that the thought of, being boundaried = being “a bitch”.
    Can you explain a little bit of what you meant?
    I’ve recently encountered two adult sized females that totally exuded the ” mean girl” way of approaching others (including myself).
    It feels so toxic! And, If I could write a blog post about it I would call it “Hurting People”… but, I can’t write an entire blog post about so, so I’ll just gripe about it here. 🙂
    But, really- what were you meaning when you used that term in regards to boundaries.

    1. I am writing all these comments hurriedly on my phone so I think it’s reflected in poor phrasing.

      I meant to say that women aren’t all angels and better than men. That mean girls (and women) defintely exist.

      And that we all need to learn healthy boundaries as a key relationship skill. Women, because of our cultural training, are especially bad at healthy boundaries and need to learn that skill. To give themselves permission to even have boundaries and say no when it’s appropriate.

      Does that make more sense?

      1. Thanks Lisa, yes it makes sense. It just caught my attention and so wanted to clarify.
        I was just catching up on the comments and you mentioned (way up there somewhere) about women being socialized into being more compliant, etc.
        It seems like the belief that one has to be a bitch in order to not be taken advantage of (and that is what it is, essentially) is a knee jerk reaction.
        I think the mean girl/bitch attitude is a different result to the same socialization. It’s just more proof that a lot of women don’t know how to have boundaries in relationships.
        We comply and comply and comply then we finally have enough we see a need to do SOMETHiNG about it, and without tools, making everyone an enemy seems to be the best course of action, I guess.
        I wouldn’t doubt that some women do end up responding this way in a marriage when they don’t know what else to do .

    2. Hola, long time no read! Here’s a counterpoint. I don’t actually give a hoot if my wife understands me. I think it’s way over-rated, honestly.

      What I *do* care about is that she *hears* me, by which I just mean that she registers that I have a perspective or opinion that is (often) different from hers, and that I have that perspective or opinion in good faith and that it isn’t crazy or mendacious or a threat to her or her world view.

      Of course, I gotta give the same back to her. Easier said than done, unfortunately, on both sides. STH says “try adulting.” 🙂

      1. Hey Jack! I have graduated moved to a new town,and have a new job – Its like I live in the upside down right now. 🙂
        Here’s a point to your counterpoint. ..I still don’t think it then has to be about completely understanding the person…just a recognition that whatever is going on is being experienced in a different way.
        You don’t have to understand why it hurts, just that it does and try to respond accordingly.
        There may be a time when you understand better, but I don’t think it’s a requirement.

  14. Above Nate said, “I am often blown away by the common belief that women are better than men.”

    What does “better” mean? Because when it comes to relationships,emotions, feelings, women simply are “better.” Men are “better” at lots of things, too. Biology, culture, the way we are raised, all these things contribute to making us different and better in certain areas.

    If men are unwilling to respect a wife enough to recognize she is “better” at some things, than you’ve got this same problem, “failing or refusing to accept their wives’ influence” as the No. 1 reason for—and predictor of—divorce.” Why would anyone accept the influence of someone they perceived as being unworthy or not better in any area of life? I sure wouldn’t.

    1. In response to this and your comment earlier, please know that I agree that “the wife also being at fault” doesn’t solve the issues at hand. But it does tie into my belief that both parties need to take more responsibility and not operate as one’s “way” or thoughts are more important or “better” than the others. This leads to my use of the word better. When people fight, each person believes their viewpoint to be correct (except awful people who are just miserable about everything). I would say that each person fighting for their own thoughts feel they are correct and/or better. Not that one person is a better person overall…just regarding this particular issue. However, the common narrative on this site is how in basically every situation regarding relationships, that the woman’s viewpoint is better/correct.

      I realize my opinion is not the popular opinion and I’m not going to try to change minds. I really enjoy reading all the different viewpoints. That being said, please just think about this, and I’ll use the infamous dish example. A man leave a dish on the counter instead of the dishwasher or just cleaning it. Operating under the assumption that he does so not out of ill will, but because of pretty much any other reason. The woman is upset but not so much because she needs to place the dish in the dishwasher, but because she perceives this action as an intentional slight or indicative of the man’s dismissive feelings toward her. The narrative goes that the woman’s perspective is “correct” because she feels the way she feels and the man needs to identify that and acknowledge that, even if not important to him, it is important to her. This is a fair enough point. But, the narrative never goes that the woman should just leave the dish, and consider the man’s action nothing more than an action, completely unrelated to his feelings towards his wife. It is generally accepted that the man is at fault and the woman’s response/feelings are “better” in this situation.

      Am I making sense? All I want is acceptance that all things relationship related are two-way streets. Instead, men are generally labeled as lacking the proper skills to be a good emotional partner and women excel at it. It’s tough for a man to be held accountable to a set of generally accepted marriage standards/practices when women also develop the what the standards are. Of course women will be better in this scenario. i don’t want to be better or right or hold any level of dominance over my wife. But I also don’t want to always be “wrong” based on the notion that women are just better at relationships.

      1. I’ve been pondering this very thing all morning, Nate. I “need” the kind of discussion that goes on here. My husband has neither the language, the desire or the comfort for this type of interaction. When I really need to talk he listens, rarely has anything to add or comment on but just listens.

        My husband “needs” my company – watching tv beside each other, puttering together, doing the ladder climbing (has feet leaving the ground issues), chauffeuring the kids together instead of one or the other doing it. I accept when he tells me that I don’t engage in things with him – I just see the list and want it done NOW so divide and conquer. We’d end up doing things alone which hurt him a lot. I don’t like TV, but we pick a show and 3-4 nights a week we cuddle and watch – currently The Wire which is really quite good. He’s totally right on this one I now see.

        The dish on the dishwasher has been an issue since DAY 1. And it is with my kids. And I used to rant and pout like my mother as I was raised that leaving any sign of yourself behind was disrespectful to the one who kept house. My now standard response to him and my kids is “if you can put it on it, you can put it in it” – much more effective, less confrontational and I have to say I’m dealing with much less in the dirty dish department.

        I hear what you’re saying and I guess the important thing, on either side, is identifying the things that hurt for whatever reason, communicating them, and making them better. Somewhere there must be a shitty wife blog where the content would be about women sorting their stuff. Maybe I’ll start one as I continue my evolution. ?

        1. There are so many things that are (or that I am trying to keep) in the past that my wife and kids do (yeah, still do) that used to trigger these reactions. I would nag and yell and tell them I felt disrespected – and nothing changed. I gave up expecting change on these things and started just shrugging, literally. Everybody is happier…

      2. I hear you, Nate. Men are not always “wrong,”men are very often “right.”

        What they are not right about though, is how she feels and what she needs in order to experience your love. So the cup on the sink is just a cup, but it isn’t really a cup at all, it is evidence of a man who has no respect for her feelings at all.

        Of course there is some give and take in marriage, but to believe she just needs to over look how she feels and what she needs in order to give the guy the benefit of the doubt is to imply that she has no RIGHT to feel as she does. His needs become better,superior.

        You said, “the woman’s perspective is “correct” because she feels the way she feels.” That is right. She is the expert on how she feels. Her opinion and perspective is correct, because it is hers. If her feelings,opinions, perspective are ignored,dismissed or demeaned long enough,she will severe her emotional ties to you.

        1. The problem is: both are right. So often both stay stuck on their own square, which is a genuine tragedy, especially when kids are involved. Laurie Watson, who blogs at Psychology Today, wrote a piece some time back called something like “The Anti-Magi Gift.” He won’t sacrifice to give her what she needs, and she won’t sacrifice to give him what he needs. She doesn’t say so, but it’s a suicide pact.

          And so we just keep moving the cycle of broken hearts and relationships down the road, one generation at a time. It’s so sad, and so needless, and, apparently, so unavoidable. 🙁

          1. “The problem is: both are right.”

            Well,here’s the problem with that, they are NOT both right about how she is feeling. She is “better” at knowing what she is feeling, what is hurting her, than a husband is. As a man, you can’t simply decide this is some sort of 50/50 thing where you get to have a say in whether or not her feelings are valid.

            I’ve said this before, but simply honor and validate her feelings and you can probably leave all the darn dishes you want laying around. She wants to be seen, known, and heard, she wants to know she is important to you. It’s not about the dishes.

          2. “Well,here’s the problem with that, they are NOT both right about how she is feeling. ”

            Your are totally right. But to ignore how he is feeling is equally unproductive.

            I realize and agree that many of us (men) need to figure out that we have feelings before we can start to work on what they are with our spouses. But shutting him down (or as most men would probably say, and it’s not just a figure of speech, shooting him down) in the name of getting your feelings recognized may feel righteous but just isn’t going to work.

          3. “But to ignore how he is feeling is equally unproductive.”

            He is feeling like a morally superior creature who is not required to actually love his wife on account of the fact that she is just a nagging shrew or perhaps a hysterical woman who’s feelings are not valid. He is feeling entitled to leave his cup on the sink demonstrating total disrespect for her feelings….because they are not important to him. It is already all about him and his feelings.

            The sad thing is, his feelings are demonstrating his disrespect for her. His feelings are not going to be ignored at all, they are going to be heard and acted on when she files for divorce.

          4. As an avid fan of Dr Seuss – I feel I must call your attention to:
            The Zax”
            In The Zax, a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax meet face to face. Because they stubbornly refuse to move (east, west, or any direction except their respective headings) to get past each other, the two Zax become stuck. The Zax stand so long that eventually a highway overpass is built around them, and the story ends with the Zax still standing there “unbudged in their tracks.”

          5. LOL! I love Dr Seuss. The Zax is a fabulous analogy if we are fighting over who gets to go down the path first or what color to paint the house.

            The thing is, the essence of the “myth of the nagging wife,” is that we are actually fighting over whether or not she has a right to define what makes her feel loved.

            Matt said, “One novel idea is to actually LOVE the human being you are vowing to marry for life.”

            Sadly, many men have no idea how to love properly. The very act of denying that she has a right to her feelings is already not loving. She is not being asked to step East or West in this case,she is being asked to completely erase the nature of who and what she is. She is basically being asked to destroy herself.

            As Matt wrote, “She feels unloved, neglected, abused, abandoned and unwanted by the person she loves most and who promised her forever. She explains exactly what’s hurting, and he tells her she’s wrong and making it up in her head.”

          6. Or, the “male” zax refuses to yield to the “female”’s feelings or vice versa. A small step to the side by either one could solve the problem. In his case, hearing, accepting and acknowledging her feelings as valid and worth accommodating or in hers accepting that he doesn’t get it and finding a way to help him to. Both, however, need to want to and sadly once we get here no one wants to “give in” AGAIN. The 10,000 papercuts have killed our ability to love as a verb because we’ve lost the love as a noun.

          7. Ps – I’m not smug. It was being apart and really hearing how my husband wasn’t feeling loved by me and looking at myself and coming to terms with things that I didn’t realize I was doing to him that softened him enough to yield to me.

          8. It is this ^^^ post and the one below that ring a chord with me. I hear, many men hear, anger and blame and shame and defectiveness and insufficiency and disappointment and bitterness. Ya know what? No one likes to hear that, and men especially, and especially men in our culture, just won’t, can’t, hang around for that.

            I remain convinced that if we could each take that small step, extend not an arm nor a hand but maybe just a finger to the other we could heal these torn places.

            But it’s a lot to ask. I’m not being ironic or sarcastic or anything other than, well, I guess, a non-judgmental observer. Or trying.

            This stuff is very hard. Existentially hard.

          9. I used to stomp around the house waving my banner of “I’m not wrong” – origin from being youngest of 5 and family of heavy drinkers methinks. He softened when I learned to say “I’m not wrong FOR ME” – as I was triggering all his stuff from a lifetime of inadequate accomplishment (in his mind) due to delayed diagnosis and treatment of adhd. I learned to say it differently just as he learned to hear it differently. We both had to step out of our stories and have compassion for the other’s. But we had to break first – individually, as a couple and as a family. And we had to both want what was best for us all. And in many ways I’m not wrong and in many ways it turned out I was.

          10. I think you’ve hit on something important. To yield” actually means “to submit.” Many men seem to confuse “validating her perceptions and feelings” with “submitting to her feelings.” To validate and support someone’s perceptions is not the same thing as agreeing with them, surrendering all to them, yielding or submitting. It is simply honoring their existence, their presence, respecting their journey. Wife says, “traffic was so bad I want to kill people,” you can hear and validate those feelings without yielding to her feelings and helping her to clean out the trunk so she has somewhere to hide all the dead bodies. You’re submitting to her needs, not to her lead.

          11. Nuance and subtlety.

            It’s why it’s both so hard to understand and communicate.

            The difference between doing it “right” and doing it “wrong” is the most subtle of shifts in understanding and behavior.

            But the results can be 180 degrees different.

          12. Sometimes the clue that we did it wrong (even when it was right yesterday) are the subtle non verbal clues, stiffening, looking away ….. and in our rush we don’t stop and say “was that okay?” Or “I noticed something just happened here”. Aknowledgement of something like that can be better than and even prevent the need for an apology. Mindful presence

  15. Let me throw out an example from my own life about what accepting influence looks like.

    My daughter didn’t want to ride the bus to school. She wanted to be dropped off and picked up. I told her no that wasn’t going to work for my schedule and there is a bus stop literally across the street from us. My husband is aware of these convos.

    Later I find out my husband is going to drive her to school. I am befuddled and angry at this.


    1. On a practical level I will end up having to “fill in” on this arrangement often when he is out of town.

    2. It puts me in the position of the “bad guy” if I enforce my original boundary.

    But really that’s not the biggest deal here.

    The REAL problem:

    1. He completely ignored my previously stated opinions and stated boundaries.

    2. He operated as if we aren’t connected. We are just two completely separate people who don’t affect each other.

    3. He made a unilateral decision without taking my needs/preferences/
    wishes into account.

    4. He didn’t SEE me and how his unilateral decisions inevitably affect me.

    5. To him it was just a decision about dropping his daughter off at school.

    Now, what would accepting influence have looked like?

    1. He would text me and say “Julie wants a ride to school and I know you have told her no. I was thinking we might be able to work something out because it’s seems so important to her.

    But I wanted to make sure it was something you were ok with too since I know you want to teach her that her wishes aren’t the only consideration. (It does feel like we are a unpaid taxi service doesn’t it?)

    I can drop her off most mornings. Is that doable for you or can we discuss other possibilities?”

    And because I have been SEEN and my influence accepted I would have felt we were partners. In it together.

    And I would have responded back accepting HIS influence.

    “Yeah I can see what you’re saying. It does seem very important to her and if you’re willing to drop her off most mornings I am ok to fill in when you can’t.

    What do you think about after school pick up? Should we make her ride the embarrassing bus or find another way?”

    Accepting influence is not about one person getting the final say it control. It’s about partnership and being SEEN.

    1. Now what if I felt very strongly that she should just ride the bus?

      I can still validate his different opinion without agreeing.

      That’s something I’m trying to learn. Validation isn’t about agreeing! It’s just acknowledging the other person is entitled to whatever it is they think or believe or feel.

      So I would respond “yeah I can see what your saying. It does seem very important to her. And I understand that you want us to figure out a way to spare her the dreaded bus ride. And that you’re willing to drop her off.

      It’s always hard to know when to accomodate and when to set boundaries. I don’t think there is a “right” answer here.

      But I feel strongly that we should make her ride the bus. It’s time consuming for us to drop her off and messes with my schedule to pick her up. And in terms of life lessons I think it’s a small but good one to just get on the bus.

      How strongly do you feel about it?”

      Etc etc etc.

    2. Now to continue my story what do you think happened when I found out my beloved husband had agreed to drive our daughter to school after I had told her no?

      I told him I was frustrated and upset that he had done that without talking to me first.

      He told me it was not a big deal.

      He told me I could choose to not drive her independently of whatever he did. What did what he does have to do with what I do? Why am I trying to tell him what to do? Why am I upset over all these little things?

      He rejected my “right” to be frustrated and upset. He rejected my premise that it mattered. He made it about him not being controlled. Being able to make unilateral decisions.

      Is he an evil guy? No. He is just demonstrating what people do when they don’t know how to accept influence.

      I have certainly done it too. But honestly (my apologies Nate) he does it a lot more than I do. Not because I’m a more mature person (ha ha I wish) but because I think more in terms of interdependence as I have been trained to since childhood.

      1. The big question is how do you get through to a person who doesn’t accept influence?

        Anyone have answers? Theories?

        Like Edison inventing the lightbulb I have systematically identified all the things I can say does NOT work.

        I’ve found a few things that work but are beyond my maturity level to pull off.

        1. I think the term “accepting influence” suggests a power dynamic that is off putting to the male psyche. If we see each other as worthy valid equals it’s not an issue. Even at our worst – if a kid came to me with a question like the driving to school one I would give my opinion (walk, ride your bike or bus) and then say I would discuss with the husband and see what he thought and we would return with an answer. I wasn’t deferring to him I was including him and demonstrating that we were a unit. Neither having ultimate say. On big things and little things. This went to hell for a while when we didn’t communicate at all and I’m very glad to have it back.

          1. Ah….enjoying an Indian Summer middle of the night and the sounds of an awkward garbage collector here

          2. I tried to flesh my thoughts on that out a bit further up in response to one of Lisa’s posts. I personally like the phrase.

            “Accept” is voluntary. I don’t like being told what to do, but I can decide to accept something. It recognizes my power.

            “Influence” is, well, influence. It’s not control. I am not being dictated to or clobbered with an ultimatum. It implies mixing our feelings and agendas and desires. It dis-implies (yes, I get to make up words) all-or-nothing thinking (a favorite cognitive distortion of mine, sadly).

            It leaves me in a place of power (but cooperative power) and self-control and self-determination (yes, a lot of self in that) but it mixes it in with cooperation and partnership and team-ness.

            But maybe that’s just me.

          3. Still Trying Hard,

            Let me respond to your gracious reply to me further up here. I didn’t mean it as a correction to you but more as my inside my head written down about how you and I tend to favor certain ways of framing thing that are different. Different things that are helpful. Different ways of interpreting phrases. (Certainly many areas of agreement too).

            To a differentiated person this is obvious. To me it’s something I have I keep reminding myself. Here is a skill my husband is better at then me. I will be astonished at someone’s different point of view or approach and he will just look at me with amusement. “Of course, they think about it differently then you do.” Since he is better at this I am learning from him.

            It reflects a mental flexibility I am trying to learn. I am often too rigid. There seems to me in too many cases a “right way” to think or do something. It can be helpful sometimes for clarity but too far on the spectrum.

            Rigidity is not a good or effective relationship skill. Ha ha

            But it can be changed that’s the hopeful part for me. Just like stretching my muscles leads to better flexibility.

        2. Ms Gottman…..I can’t say for sure that I have an answer for your question as ..a) I don’t know for certain what your relationship is like…b) I have so many of the negative qualities that nearly lead to my marital demise c) I can’t determine what you have tried already…..but here it goes. I Try to be as reasonable as possible when discussing my point that I need to get across…I do my homework I terms of projecting the facts…I include those I’m trying to get to accept my influence in the logical outcome to include long and short term overall benefit…..I with, strength, conviction and confidence support my position in an unwavering manor. I listen to any counterpoint attentively and redirect firmly and respectfully. I also understand that I can be wrong after hearing out the deviation to my reasoning and do not show that I am infallible and am not afraid to rethink. I do so now as a learned behavior as I was a K.I.A. assbag for a long time . I am a firm believer that validating someone for their worth as a person as a human being as a loving partner is the best influence…being truthful steadfast and honor bound towards your lovers spouses significant others makes the influence part the natural part…..never easy but natural. Blessings to you and your family.

          1. On that note – my husband’s newly found skill of “mindful listening” without formulating a response at the same time has become one of his most attractive traits. After our 6 month separation of living spaces it took another 6 months of me in the guest room not angrily but keeping my boundary of feeling heard that cemented it. Our late night discussions were easier texted until we were more secure in the love verb. We are now rediscovering the love noun.

          2. So awesome ! You will find the path…I have faith that you are both Still Trying Hard….which is what really matters . ..bless you both

          3. ““mindful listening” without formulating a response at the same time ”

            Discovering that as a practical concept was a revelation. Good reminder to consciously apply that skill; thank you.

          4. I’m the first to admit I stopped living mindfully in my marriage. I was too caught up in the anger and stories whirling in my head. For a long time didn’t hear a thing he was saying as I already knew that he was awful and wrong and hurtful and selfish. Took me a while to see that “was” wasn’t “is” and I was overlooking dramatically changed relationship behaviours. He still has many irritating habits – but in retrospect dating with rose coloured glasses allowed me to ignore them. I gotta take responsibility for that ? but those didn’t break us – it was dealbreaking behaviours as a result of our disconnection. All regretted and atoned for. On both sides.

          5. I would almost kill for a couples group where people like you and your husband could share your journey with others who could do the same. Therapists and mens’ groups and books all have their places, but there’s a need I feel so much for a paired experience that is basically “yeah, we have dealt with/are dealing with the same $hit, and here’s what it looks like and how each of us felt about it and a couple of things we’re doing.”


          6. Hell Jack – he’d never go for that ? He humoured me and took a six week mindfulness training course and didn’t get it at all !! Thought it was about spending time thinking about his art projects. That was 2 years ago. I told him he got it all wrong, it wasn’t about him at all.

            His reaction showed me just how that sounded and I went back to MY practice and took the lens off him. He likes the peaceful place I arrive at and started joining me more often. In the present that is. I’m not sure how much he realizes I’m working my zen juju on him and the kids. They just like the space I create around me in real time – it’s the only thing I have control over.

          7. Thanks for taking the time to write. You have some great feedback. Let me see if I understand them.

            1. Be reasonable and do your homework to make sure you are factually accurate.

            2. With strength, conviction and confidence support the position unwaveringly.

            3. Listen intently to the other person.

            4. Redirect firmly and respectfully.

            5. Understand one can be wrong and are not infallible and can benefit from listening to other points of views.

            6. Validate their worth as a loving spouse and their significance to you.

            7. Be truthful steadfast and honor bound.

            Did I get it right?

            I would love to hear your further thoughts on number 4.

            Thanks for adding your insights!
            Writing comments on the Internet can be so frustrating because language it’s so hard to get your intended meaning across. Or at least it is for me.

            I meant the question generally. Not specific to me or my situation. Though I am certainly open to ideas since it’s a work in progress for sure. I mean it’s not like my husband would proclaim me the epitome of wifely joy ha ha. The bus situation happened a while ago. I threw it out there just as a concrete example other than the dishes.

          8. Thank you . for number 4… have you ever had those ,what I call car conversations ? You know where you develop your response to any counter response to your original proposal in anticipation of the perceived disagreement . While alone in your car, bathroom or wherever . It can go many ways and I try to choose the less argumentative form… . having number 1 down pat you can work out how to reclaim your position from a steadfast clear and knowledgeable stance. Now that ,to me speaks of commitment to cause and shows a courageous and honorable character . True also is allowing number 5 to be applied to yourself shows that level of character that breeds successful partnering . I’m not a dictator or a doormat . relationship has had and still has its issues angers and triumphs even after 34 years . …the end of the day we still proudly empowered by each other walk hand in hand . …hope I’ve helped

          9. Louie,

            “I’m not a dictator or a doormat”. That’s going to be my new catchphrase in my head.

            Yes! I think that healthy middle is the goal. To be clear on what you want and also flexible to include and adjust to what your spouse wants. When both people can do that the inevitable conflicts can be handled in a way that seems respectful and fair to each other. And when you do mess up you can apologize and repair it.

            Bravo to you to making so many adjustments to get closer to that middle. It’s nice to hear stories of people who have done that.

          10. I’d like to comment on #4 – redirect firmly and respectfully. That’s the toughest one to do when both are “right” in their own way. In some areas I’ve chosen to stay out of what I see as “wrong” as long as it has no substantial impact on home and family. If there’s no question it’s “wrong” but will have no damaging impact I allow natural consequences to occur. If the kitchen is on fire or I hear things that I feel can have negative impact on kids in particular – I will stomp my feet and say help me throw water on this or point out how something “could be” heard even if that was not intent and you might consider rephrasing it.
            Implementation of number 4 is dynamic – depends on the issue, the environment and the consequences of a wrong action. For a long time I had to be right and in control and that was MY safety issue resulting in my libertarian spouse bucking intentionally in anger and frustration. Relinquishing it across all spheres has been liberating and when I do need to redirect it is much better received.

          11. i’m going to jump in here with my own example that I had just this morning – apologies as I haven’t read further down the comment chain yet.

            My husband and I have been discussing an issue we have on and off for a few months now. For months, he’s been saying he’ll find a new job that would enable our family to spend more quality time with him. But despite saying that – there has been no effort put forth into doing it, and in the mean time, we all miss him and the burden of the household falls more on me. He knows how I feel, but has struggled to see how important it is to all of us. In his head, it’s such a minor issue.

            This morning – I decided to approach it a little differently. I stated my level of understanding of his perspective on the problem. And then I stated mine. (this is not new). I then stated that our goal for months has been to come to a compromise. And that the solutions that have been thrown out to come to a compromise are not in fact a compromise.

            His solutions have been for me to have patience with him so he can stay at his job until the new year. They are solutions in which I have to learn to suck it up and deal. And while I can do that if I’m really needing to – that ultimately – because I don’t feel like we’re at a compromise – it’s why this topic will continue to come up. (Even when i’m trying to not be a “nag”).

            In my head – the job he has requires him to commute over 2 hours every day, and is a low paying retail job. He stays because it’s what he’s known, it’s easier to stay put, it’s scary to leave, and everyone knows him where he’s at. He’s been there for 8 years. I can empathize with where he is at and why it would be hard to walk away. He’s struggling to empathize with me and the children.

            So rather than trying to ask him to empathize and understand me – i’m asking him to compromise with me. A real compromise, one where I’ll give a little, and get a little. And so can he. This conversation seemed to go well this morning – only time will tell and actions as far as this particular problem goes… but learning to communicate better with him in this way has been challenging, enlightening and has lead to more satisfaction and contentment for us both. I’m not a mind reader, and neither is he. So rather than laying into him about what’s bothering me – letting him know that i’m not feeling particularly satisfied with this compromise seems to be working a bit better.

  16. Still trying hard you said:

    “I think the term “accepting influence” suggests a power dynamic that is off putting to the male psyche. If we see each other as worthy valid equals it’s not an issue. Even at our worst – if a kid came to me with a question like the driving to school one I would give my opinion (walk, ride your bike or bus) and then say I would discuss with the husband and see what he thought and we would return with an answer. I wasn’t deferring to him I was including him and demonstrating that we were a unit.”

    You raised an interesting point based on the specifics of my bus story.

    Was it an example of not accepting influence that I gave a unilateral answer to my daughter without consulting him?

    In this case if retrospect I defintely would have asked him since it turned out to be a big issue.

    The reason I didn’t originally because it was one of the numerous little things we handle individually. I don’t think accepting influence involves asking each other EVERY decision you make. That would be overwhelming. It’s about knowing your spouse and which things they care about.

    In my daughters case she is a girl or many requests ha ha. Her love language is gifts. She expresses MANY requests every day big and small. It feels sometimes like being in a batting cage with baseballs hurling past you continuously.

    This week alone she has requested with urgency for us to adopt another child so she will have a sibling, which very expensive vacation option for spring break (Italy? Ha ha). Getting professional eyelash extensions, getting a spray tan. Driving her to multiple locations in a few hours. Etc etc etc

    Now like eveything personality it has pros and cons. I am proud of her ability to ask for what she wants clearly. That’s a great skill it just requires parental boundaries to learn the healthy middle of ALSO considering others.

    So when she declared she was not riding the bus to me it was just one of many many requests I field every day. It was an appropriate unilateral decision at that point in our situation because I am the one who would have been required to change my schedule to accomodate this request particularly for an afternoon pickup.

    My husband and I generally do a good job with sharing the work when we do triage among our daughters exhaustive requests.

    We both unilaterally say no to many of her requests every day. It’s when one of us says yes that then impacts the other person without their consent that the problem arises IMHO.

    1. STH and Jack,

      Regarding the language and definition of “accepting influence”. It’s always hard to get a phrase that encapsulates the complex idea of being certain and also flexible.

      I think people can use different language and mean the same idea as Gottman does. Often people (more often men) incorrectly think it mean rigidity and control. “Yes dear” like a doormat. “Happy wife, happy life” meaning her way is the only thing that matters. I agree with Nate and others that of course it matters what husbands think and want.

      Here’s some explanation of Gottman’s meaning.

      “Accepting influence is finding a way to consider another’s point of view as valid. It means that we see the issue from the other person’s perspective and consider how that person might feel about the situation.

      It requires that we ask open ended questions to find out the history around the issue, and search for what the issue means to the other person. Helpful questions to ask are: What is so important about this issue for you? What are your core values and beliefs here? Is there a story behind this for you?

      It requires that we have empathy for the other person. What are your guiding feelings here? This does not mean that one point of view is right and the other is wrong. Nor does it mean that we must give up our own position. Accepting influence is finding a way to say “Yes”, or “That makes sense.”

    2. So in my head I would be annoyed if my partner unilaterally said yes in a circumstance like this. It sounds exhausting without a united front. Behind closed doors we would’ve decided to say no to everything then discuss together what we would come back and say yes to after discussion and mutual agreement.
      This situation is a little more than having to discuss beans vs carrots with supper every day.

      1. Well yes. My lovely daughter is wonderful in many ways. But pârenting her is exhausting. It’s particularly exhausting for me because I am an introvert and she is a super extrovert. A whirlwind of emotions, ideas and requests.

        Spock is required to be a dance mom for heavens sake! What genetic craziness created this dilemma? (Shakes fist towards sky)

        I often feel as her mom like I am “walking” a giant Great Dane. Running with a sprained ankle, trying to keep up and reign her in as she gallops ahead. Happily heading towards the middle of a busy street.

        But I have to accept her influence too. Try to figure out how to do that while also setting boundaries. It’s the same stuff.

        1. My husband says being married to me is exhausting sometimes.

          Since I have the experience with my daughter of feeling like that it’s helpful.

          So I can empathize what it feels like for the average guy to be out of his comfort zone. Feeling bombarded with a bewildering array of emotions and requests and reasons that don’t make sense to him.

          Trying to navigate it all and still feel like whatever you do its met with criticism and another set of things for you to change.

          It’s understandable to just call it nagging and ignore it to get a little peace in your mind. I get it to some extent at least.

        2. “What bothers me the most about having any conversation around emotional labor is being seen as a nag,” says Kelly Burch, a freelance journalist who works primarily from home. “My partner feels irritated and defensive by the fact that I’m always pointing out what he’s not doing.

          It shuts him down. I understand why it would be frustrating from his perspective, but I haven’t figured out another way to make him aware of all the emotional and mental energy I’m spending to keep the house running.”

    1. “My husband, despite his good nature and admirable intentions, still responds to criticism in a very patriarchal way. Forcing him to see emotional labor for the work it is feels like a personal attack on his character.

      If I were to point out random emotional labor duties I carry out—reminding him of his family’s birthdays, carrying in my head the entire school handbook and dietary guidelines for lunches, updating the calendar to include everyone’s schedules, asking his mother to babysit the kids when we go out, keeping track of what food and household items we are running low on, tidying everyone’s strewn about belongings, the unending hell that is laundry—he would take it as me saying, “Look at everything I’m doing that you’re not. You’re a bad person for ignoring me and not pulling your weight.”

      1. As a man who doesn’t/didn’t need a girldfriend or wife to keep track of that, while doing half or more of the household duties, I still on behalf of being bestowed with a Y-chromosome always have two significant faults:
        Everything I do and everything I say.

        1. I remember a not so distant time when my husband would have said exactly the same thing. I wish the solution was uniform, simple and could be bottled and given away, not even sold. ?

        2. FlyingKal and any other man willing to answer,

          Would you be willing to expand on what it feels like to have eveything you do and say be considered faulty by his wife. I would love to hear more perspectives on the things wives can do differently (Hi Nate!).

          I would say you speak for how many men feel from what I’ve read. There is no doubt in the usual marriage dysfunction it’s a cycle. With both sides feeling unappreciated and disrespected.

          According to Gottman, women often use harsh startups like saying “why can’t you just put the dish away?” combined with harsh tone of voice and negative body language. Not that I have EVER done this of course. Ha ha.

          Since in hetero relationships women are bring up issues for change over 80% of the time (why? that’s another question to ponder ), I can see how that feels like constant criticism and a message of you’re not good enough to the husband for everything you say and do.

          You get stuck in a never ending cycle of negativity.

          P.S. You are statistically unusual in that you don’t rely on a girlfriend/wife to keep track of things and that you do half or more of the household chores.

          Often it’s chores because there is usually an uneven allocation or differences to be navigated. But the patterns of fighting could be about about anything sex, money, inlaws, whatever where unfairness is felt by one or both people.

          1. We need something further to the left for a response…but over here on the far right hand side, I will tell you that I do:

            – all of the bathroom cleaning
            – 95% of the dishes/dishwasher
            – all of the laundry
            – 50% of the grocery shopping
            – 75% of the vacuuming
            – maybe 50%, maybe less, of the dog walking

            My wife does all of the financial record keeping, but even she would tell you that she’s close to OCD about detailed records and would never let me near the books – which has been an issue for all 36 years of our marriage

            I don’t do these things because I’m henpecked, and I certainly am not doing them for sex, and I mostly don’t do them out of a need to control things. Basically, I am just trying to be a useful partner.

            To fill that picture out a bit, if it helps, we’re both just a bit under 60, our kids are both out of the house, and we both work full time now.

          2. OK, we’re not as far to the right as I thought.

            I’ll post more later.

            In the meantime, I will throw out for you that I feel like I’ve been a disappointment to my wife for basically our whole marriage, which at this point is pretty much a fixed way of looking at life that I am nevertheless trying very, very hard to change. On the other hand, one of the things I am trying to look hard at is how much of this actually originates in me, rather than in my wife. We are trying to untangle a lot of knots at the same time and consciousness is a work in progress.

          3. Curious Jack – has your wife told you in those words that “you are a disappointment”? With respect to your household chore activities (which would make me dance with joy) or some other aspect of your marriage which would be a whole lot more than just household duty sharing.

          4. I’m sorry you feel as if you’ve been a disappointment to your wife. I am one of those super efficient, OCD kind of people and it took a while for me to realize that I was actually making hubby feel inadequate, incapable, a disappointment. He really wanted to be pleasing to me and I didn’t always see his efforts. He started to feel as if I were disappointed in him, “not good enough” were the words he used. It’s very a hard these days, women don’t really understand how important it is that we build up men, that we encourage their confidence. It’s a double edged sword, because we wind up tearing down the very thing that attracts us to them.

          5. I think, usually, men try to pull their weight in a relationship, not first and foremost to just please their partner, but because they want to be a useful partner, as Jack puts it.
            If the distinction matters.

            And I also think there’s a middle road where you can acknowledge the good contributions to the relationship from your partner. Not bringing him down, not making him feel like he’s a disappointment to you, doesn’t have to mean that you have to worship the ground he’s walking on, if you know what I mean.

            The way I personally have felt inaduequate and a disappointment to my girlfriend, have been:
            a) Not acting like she is in any way happy to see me at home. First thing to bring up was always the most negative thing on her mind that had happened during the day.
            b) Focusing on the negative in any kind of “evaluation”. Yes, pointing out mistakes that “you’ve missed a spot” is neccessary in order to improve and do a better job next time. But if the only thing you hear about is finding that 1% where you missed somthing, while the 99% that actually turned out pretty good is ignored, then you will eventually lose your patience.
            c) “Her way or the wrong way”. Yes, I can put the plate in the dishwasher. I can also give it a rinse and a quick scrub and put it back in the cupboard. I was still doing it wrong.

            As a side note but perhaps related to the issue. I’ve never had kids and I’ve never been in a relationship with stay-at-home parent. But from experience among my friends, I think that perhaps some people get so caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind that they fail to see that the person leaving the house every morning to go to work, isn’t just slacking away but is actually doing their best to contribute to the well-being of the family as well?

          6. Lisa Gottman – sorry for the delay in responding but my god FlyingKal literally answered exactly as I would. It’s safe to say that as a man who does his fair share of chores, that I do NOT need compliments, praise or anything related to feel good about myself. What I need is to NOT hear complaints about a task I’ve completed properly. Flying Kal’s mention of “her way or the wrong way” is so true. To any women who are guilty of this – the quickest way to get your significant other to stop doing, basically anything you want him to do, is to complain about how he does it. There is a huge difference between a man who does little to nothing and the man who does plenty but not the exact way you want. Example, when loading the dishwasher I rinse all large food pieces and then load the machine. My wife would like the plates wiped down with a sponge. Sorry, this isn’t going to happen. We have a dishwasher for a reason. If I load the dishwasher only to have my wife complain, take stuff out, wipe down, and reload, then guess what? I stop loading the dish washer. Related example, occasionally my wife will mow the lawn when I couldn’t because of weekend rain or whatever. She does not mow the lawn the way I like and misses a few spots around the trees and stuff. Do I complain and redo the lawn? Nope. Why would I? It would only cause a fight, and now I don’t need to do one of my tasks. It will need to be done again in a week regardless so I just say thank you and go about my day. You see, it can be a “my way or the highway” type of arrangement. This all ties in to my original post about when a woman feel she is better than the man. This idea comes up in all kinds of small and large ways.

          7. Nate,

            Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. Let me see if I can find the commonalities of what you and Jack and flyingK are saying. Here are the main points I got from your comment. Please correct me if I misunderstood something.

            1. You do a fair share of chores so that’s not the issue.

            2. Your wives/girlfriend are critical of the way you do things because she would do it another way.

            3. So her way becomes the standard for the way a particular thing should be said or done. Your way is perceived by her to be inferior. It’s “her way or the highway”.

            4. She then communcates overtly or indirectly that you are disappointing her, or failing her in small and big ways.

            5. It feels like you can’t win and that it’s unfair that your efforts are criticized constantly.

            6. You don’t respond that way when she does things in ways you don’t like. You just roll with it instead of fighting about it.

            7. Since it feels like an unfair situation you respond by not doing the task anymore if it’s going to be met with criticism and with the attitude of her way is the right way and yours is wrong.

            8. Your conclusion is that your wife/girlfriend thinks she is better than you.

            Hopefully I got the general ideas. Now I’m wondering what is the best way I get out of this dynamic? What changes are required from you and/or your wife to get to a more postive interaction free from all the criticism?

          8. Hi,
            Quick remark on #7: I didn’t refrain from doing chores because the result was met with criticism. I usually make a genuine effort to improve myself, as long as it seems like a viable project. I (sometimes) refrained from doing chores because it just felt like an utter waste of time and energy, when as soon as I was finished she would start doing it all over again.

            I have lived by myself most of my adult life. I lived by myself for more than 5 years before I entered my first relationship. I very much managed to keep myself clothed, fed, clean and shaven during that time. I was nowhere near looking like I lived in, or out of, a dumpster, as you might have assumed I did, had you heard some descriptions about my behaviour from my girlfriend.
            I even managed dentist’s appointment…

          9. Well…..I’ve walked down that path an exponential number of times since that fateful day in April of 1984. I oftentimes had wondered what planet I was supposed to have come from. Everything from laundry to changing diapers to canned or frozen or fresh vegetables was scrutinized. You see ,situationally, the dynamic is one that is in constant delta. My lovely was the eldest of three relatively close in age children…I am the youngest of two( and a birthday gift gone awry as I was born 9 months to the day of my father’s birthday heehee) with 9 years between my brother and I. I feel as though I was raised as a second first born. My parents were solidly blue collar working together at our family business day in and day out. My brother and I had family responsibilities and weren’t really expected to be involved in household upkeep but we worked,from a young age,along side our parents. My wife’s dad was an alcoholic and put his family of origin first over his nuclear family and her mom was resentful and beat her kids regularly,out of her frustrations with her husband further abusing them by never letting them know they did well and criticized every chore they were tasked with. When I met my beloved we set out to work together and planned our wedding, worked to payoff as much of the wedding as possible in advance still found time to date have dinner talk on the phone interact with friends and family encourage each other’s passions and interests and a whole lot of really good love language stuff. Then the reality of starting a family together shifted the joys to dreads the day to day stuff didn’t meld on a fair or fun level we became bad at communication and selfish in our own special ways. She felt like I didn’t care and although I wasn’t an alcoholic I still portrayed some of the shitty qualities her dad had and our relationship had , in her mind, some of the resemblances of the shit show that her childhood was . She took to behaving like her mom, not the physical violence part but never good enough critical part. I shut down….she shut down….I got asked to leave. After a while in the ” Hotel Pontiac ” I decided to make changes…not in who is was but in how I was and am. It wasn’t rocket science it was actually easier to read the signals that to fight them. We sought counseling and with a new sense of commitment based on respect and communication and compassion we put it back together. We now see clearer what is troublesome and stressful for one another and intercede to help. A good example is, when our kids were born we decided that she would stay home with them until they started school…I worked 2 full time jobs to make that happen financially and she gave her all to give our kids the best. When our youngest started preschool she went to work as a high school disciplinarian….very large school very stressful. She had traditionally been the family treasurer…one day I got the mail and there were 2 bounced check notices and one missed payment notice…..I knew we had the funds but what went wrong? I called her and told her about it and she burst into tears…..I went to the school hugged her gave her an iced coffee and took the finance documents over…she felt relieved. When she got home that night all had been taken care of and the relief was evident from her face. We decided that night to never let the other drown and let each other know we are drowning. I once resented her criticism but I now know what was at work in that. We share quite a bit….I’m rubbish at laundry ironing and the like…and her idea of clean windows dishes etc and mine are far removed she has a tough time walking into grocery stores and cooking….I take care of auto maintenance and she is awesome at vacuuming I’m the outside guy and we share the ominous parts of the outside stuff. We refrain from criticism and instead know our strengths and forget our inkind weaknesses. I’m still a slob but I’m cute and she is sometimes clueless but absolutely adorable….we worked it out…together

          10. Louie,

            It’s so encouraging to read your story of how you worked it out together!

            You were able to understand yourself and your wife’s backgrounds to see why little things took on great meaning.

            I loved what you said in your other comment about choosing. When we understand what is happening, we can make different choices and get different results.

          11. Lisa,
            I’ve been distilling some thoughts around the subject of “accepting influence” and why we (men. Some? Most?) seem to revolt against it.

            But due to recent horrifying events, like the horrible murdering in Las Vegas, and NeoNazis rallying in my home town over the weekend (much like Charlottesville, but luckily without serious physical injuries on any part this time), I have a hard time collecting my thoughts around this and I feel pointless right now.

            Perhaps another time.
            I wish you al the best.

          12. FlyingK,

            I am sorry you are going through disturbing stuff near where you live.

            I would be interested in your thoughts on men’s views of accepting influence (what prevents it and what makes it easier) whenever you feel ready and have the time.

            Since that is a big theme on Matt’s blog I’m sure there will be other posts where it would be relevant.

            Take care.

  17. ladyinthemountains

    Once again, you hit a nerve. I remember so many times being told that I couldn’t be hurt, that I was unreasonable for feeling my feelings. I actually remember him physically poking a ad bruise on my leg and asking if it hurt. Of course it did, yet he continued to do it. I was unreasonable to be upset even at that.
    I wish that we could communicate better. I know that I try to share my scars with whomever I date so they know and I want to know their scars. We can try to avoid hurting each other and listen.

    1. ” I actually remember him physically poking a ad bruise on my leg and asking if it hurt. Of course it did, yet he continued to do it. I was unreasonable to be upset even at that.”

      FWIW, I think that’s just messed up, on so many levels…!

      1. ladyinthemountains

        Yup, and I stuck with him because I believed in marriage. I was a fool to stay. I am glad he
        finally left me and so are our kids.

    2. My ex best friend also did that, and she knew I was upset by certain behaviors (mainly, lack of transparency, going missing for no reason, and calling me a liar/dismissing my feelings which I actually said out loud) and she want and did it anyway and then I didn’t like her anymore!

  18. The overall consensus seems to be this: “IT’S HARD. SUBTLE. NUANCED.”
    I think about the reasons why it is so hard. The simplest answer is that most of it can be tracked to our early civilization days (and even pre-cave civilization) when the differences between men and women helped the species survive. Now, it’s making us fall apart.
    We only have several enlightened centuries (counting from the Middle Ages which destroyed most of the previous humanity’s achievements) vs probably tens of thousands years of savagery which made very clear which genes survived and why.
    I know that social programming is VERY important but I bet a lot of this works on a completely involuntary hormonal level. Just read the studies on infants where the several month old baby girls hold eye contact much longer than boys. I mean, nobody TRAINED them to do it, right?
    Also this is a clear win for the evolutionists – cause if God made us like this on purpose, then… OMG 😉

    1. Hi Elwood….I would like to add a perspective I’ve had for sometime regarding this. You are absolutely correct…..evolution , genetics,species survival, etc,plays a prominent role and countless studies will support your point. But I disagree that social programming is necessarily at work. I mean there is no particular rhyme or reason why we love and want to stay with the person we love ( save the procreation factor hence species survival). What we can make is choices…we choose to love, we choose to respect, we choose to honor, we choose to be conjoined, irrespective of social norms and expectations.That is exclusive of simple animal instinct….we as higher thinking creatures were created, I believe, to be superior to the hormonal and evolutionary forces. As far as the evolutionists are concerned…they may be right in some instances… but what God created was independent adaptive creatures that hold so much more than simple instincts. We have choices that for better or worse clash with natural inclinations

      1. Thank you for your insight. Yes, it is true, we are the species that make choices. However it is often too easy to forget that and instead go along the simplest, lizard-brained way.
        That was my main problem – why we are so fast to do cause damage in a relationship and it often feels “unnatural” do do otherwise?
        A possible answer – it is in fact a spiritual challenge! To rise above and… choose love?

  19. I’m going to put this at the bottom since it’s too narrow up top.

    Flying Kal wrote the statements in quotes.

    “The way I personally have felt inaduequate and a disappointment to my girlfriend, have been:
    a) Not acting like she is in any way happy to see me at home. First thing to bring up was always the most negative thing on her mind that had happened during the day.”

    I think this is such a little thing that makes a huge difference. To smile and start with a warm response when you say hello or good bye to your partner. It’s something I was screwing up and changed after my husband said the said thing to me that you did about your girlfriend. It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to drop but can make a huge difference.

    “b) Focusing on the negative in any kind of “evaluation”. Yes, pointing out mistakes that “you’ve missed a spot” is neccessary in order to improve and do a better job next time. But if the only thing you hear about is finding that 1% where you missed somthing, while the 99% that actually turned out pretty good is ignored, then you will eventually lose your patience.”

    Oh man yeah. Who likes to only have their imperfections pointed out? So irritating and discouraging. I’m guilty of this one big time.

    You know its helping me to get better at this by reading that the human brain defaults to negativity. We have to put energy into focusing on the postive. I think that’s why the research shows that gratitude exercises help. They force you to look for positives.

    c) “Her way or the wrong way”. Yes, I can put the plate in the dishwasher. I can also give it a rinse and a quick scrub and put it back in the cupboard. I was still doing it wrong.”

    This one is complicated I think. It has to do with navigating style differences. Tolerating anxiety. Different standards of judgment men and women face for certain things.

    It’s just so hard to not think that if its important to you it’s not the “right” way.

    1. Ms. Gottman,

      I am trying to collect my thought around this.
      In the mean time, I want to thank you for your very benign and curious response to my somewhat snide remarks upon my entry into this discussion.

      1. FlyingKal,

        First of all I live for snide remarks!

        I’m grateful for men that are willing to share their experiences and thoughts for how they experience relationships. What helps and hurts. I appreciate Matt’s willingness to explain his thinking then and now. Since we are all individuals the more men that can explain their experiences the better it is. My husband has a slightly different spin than Matt so it’s helpful to me to hear a variety of male experiences to understand him better.

        Thank you for being willing to take time to write comments. Your comments reflect a lot of what my husband has said to me so it’s helpful to get more insight into things that are sometimes difficult for him to articulate fully.

        Are you finding Matt’s blog helpful to understand your girlfriend’s point of view better? Or did you start reading for some other reason? Just curious. Please ignore if it’s too personal.

    2. Hi again, Ms Gottman
      (I hope I’m not being presumptuous in calling you that. If I am, please let me know. Also, I warn you that English is not my first language so my phrasing and choice of words might seem odd sometimes)

      I don’t know if anyone’s still reading this thread, but I’ve been thinking a bit.

      Regarding the issue of men “accepting influence” or not from others, like your husband in your example:
      First an anecdote, that got me thinking about this in the first place.
      We were a bunch of people gathered for BBQ at a friend of mine and his family (let’s call’em Pete and Anna). During the evening, an appliance in the house broke and needed tending to. I have some experience with this particular appliance, so I was “assisting” Pete with encouragement while he was trying to disassemble it to see what was broke. Finally, there was a piece stuck that wouldn’t come apart, and Pete got up and said “I need tool X to pull this apart”.
      I was like “Um, have you tried doing Y instead?”
      “No that won’t work! I’m going to do X.”
      “But I’ve seen this before.” i said. Calmly, I might add. “You should really try Y first, because if you do X you’re most likely to break it permanently so that it won’t be possible to put it back together again.”
      “No, X is fine, you’re wrong!”
      At this point, even Anna chimed in “Pete, perhaps Kal knows what he’s talking about…?”
      But by now I thought to myself “Dude, It’s your house, your appliance, your money and your responsibility. I won’t make any more scene out of this.” So I shut my trap and backed off, Pete did X and broke the whole thing, and Anna was all over him for being wreckless. But later on she was also on my tail for “allowing” him to do so.

      I think, very simplified, that men are brought up/socialized to act within a hierarchy, i.e. to be leaders or followers (perhaps not that binary, as one can be a leader in some aspects of life and a foloower in others). And as a Follower, you are not only expected to do as you’re told and accept your place in the “chain of command”, you are also to a smaller or larger extent held responsible for the fallout, even if you had no part in making the decision in the first place. Like, because I knew better, Pete’s bad decision was my responsibility, even if I had no authority to talk him out of it.
      Hence, some people will be reasoning that “Heck, I’ll catch the heat for bad decisions anyway. So it is better to be held responsible for my own bad decisions, than for somebody else’s!”

      Does this make any kind of sense, or am I talking pure gibberish?

      Issue 2, On the division of labour of household chores. Or perhaps more important the division of responsibility.

      A lot of women feel like they are the manager of the household. Even if they don’t have to do everything, they still have to supervise, lead and distribute the chores, and feel that they are resonsible for everything that falls between the cracks.
      “I don’t want to have to ask you or tell you!” is a sentiment that’s made a few rounds on the web.

      Now, as I said, I have extensive experience in taking care of myself, including running a household with everything that includes. For a couple of years, I was also in relationships (without kids, might be worth to repeat?) where I feel I did at least half of the household chores. (Measured primarily by whom had the most spare time to spend in front of the TV/computer/phone or meeting up with friends).
      The thing is, I can take full responsibility for a number of chores. Say for instance doing the laundry. Everything you put in the hamper(?) will eventually, in a not too distant future, turn up cleaned (and ironed) in your drawer/closet. But what I cannot do is to make you stop thinking about it, hovering over me and twice daily checking so I don’t forget. Even if I have for several years not skipped a beat on this responsibility of mine.
      Yes, I get that you need your red blouse by Thursday. You’ve told me twice already and I’ve got it under control, but since this time it’s important to you, I appreciate you reminding me.
      But what I don’t appreciate is that still after 5 years, you feel the need to frequently remind me that you’ll soon be running out of underwear(*), while you still have more than a week’s supply in your drawer, and I have never yet let you down in this area.

      (*) Or paying the bills, or shop for groceries, taking out the trash, or whatever.
      That is not you “Having to tell me”. That is you not being able to relinquish control, and that is all in your head and has nothing to do with me.

      As for why I’m reading this blog, I really can’t tell. I just kind of stumbled upon it.
      But TBH I read it mostly for the discussions in the comments section. Because franly most of the content in the article only makes me feel more bad about myself than I already do. But not for the reason that is written about, i.e. for being a shitty husband.

  20. Jack wrote above:

    “In the meantime, I will throw out for you that I feel like I’ve been a disappointment to my wife for basically our whole marriage, which at this point is pretty much a fixed way of looking at life that I am nevertheless trying very, very hard to change. On the other hand, one of the things I am trying to look hard at is how much of this actually originates in me, rather than in my wife. We are trying to untangle a lot of knots at the same time and consciousness is a work in progress.”

    This breaks my heart because I think it reflects what many men feel. They want to be useful ;as you said in your previous comment). They work hard to do things to be useful. And then are stuck in a cycle with their wives where they feel like a disappointment. They are TOLD they are a disappointment and are shitty husbands by their wives.

    It’s mostly I think we get into these dysfunctional self perpetuating cycles and can’t find a way out. We get more wounded and pull out the defensive stuff that just makes it worse.

    Some men don’t care and but I think most are just stuck in the quicksand and can’t get out.

    1. Yes…truly well-said. Not just men – I think some *people* don’t want to get out of the quicksand. I think a greater number do but have no idea how to start. And probably many who start become exhausted and quit eventually.

      Columbus Day is the official two year anniversary of my overt campaign to try to refresh and rejuvenate our marriage (1981). I realized some time back that there had been a lot of steps in that direction in the preceding few years that I did not recognize as such at the time, but were invaluable to me. And yet I feel I have only just begun, in the last couple of weeks, to understand our dynamic and our problem. I think this is the third time I’ve really tried to understand how attachment theories might explain our dance, and this time I think I’ve actually gotten some light. Labels really don’t do a human being justice, but in general my wife is avoidant, and I am preoccupied/ambivalent. We have spent our adult lifetimes triggering each other…you would have thought we might have figured it out sooner, but smart and wise are not the same thing.

      In any case, I’ve been preoccupied (in the normal, non-technical sense) for a couple of weeks, which is why some responses sort of gush out here while others feel like they need more mental focus than I’ve got at the moment. And I have no idea why I haven’t utterly run out of energy on this whole issue, especially because although I think my wife supports the goal, her way of supporting this endeavor do not ‘telegraph’ as support to me at all. It’s like my radio is on AM and she’s on FM. If (1) we didn’t have kids (adults, 26 and 28) and (2) I didn’t have a strong conviction that we were created to grow into better people and marriage is the best way to support that growth, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. As it is, I think we may have some very hard work to do and it’s not clear to me that we will manage to find a common frequency and modulation.

      1. Jack,

        You mentioned you are in an anxious/avoidant pairing. Oh man I feel you how painful and frustrating that is. We have that pairing too with yours truly as the lucky anxious one. I envy avoidant people. I know it sucks too but they can compartmentalize better usually.

        I know you’ve done a lot of reading so I’m sure you’re familiar with Sue Johnson. Her book was the first one I read where the lightbulb went off. I suddenly and finally saw what was wrong. I just could not understand it before.

        It’s like being sick and going for years with various doctors throwing out unhelpful ideas. Then finally you get a proper diagnosis.

        Many people in unhappy marriages are stuck in the quicksand of an anxious/avoidant pairing. What makes you feel safe feels threatening to the other person and vice versa. The more unsafe you feel the more you double down on what makes it worse.

        It’s a big challenge to get to a more secure attachment style unilaterally after being emotionally wounded for so many years (both sides).

        I think of it like learning to walk and talk again after being in a horrible car accident. Lots and lots of work but it can be done. I still limp and fall but I’m getting better.

        How do you approach becoming more securely attached and getting out of the quicksand of an anxious/avoidant relationship?

        1. “How do you approach becoming more securely attached and getting out of the quicksand of an anxious/avoidant relationship?”

          Well, that’s quite a question. I have the answer, but it will cost each person here $750K to learn. 😉 If I *did* have the answer, I could easily charge something like that, though? OK, seriously…

          I have been reading non-stop for most of the last two years. And I have been working with two (2!) therapists. One was supposed to be a couples venture but my wife kinda dropped out and the two therapists are serving very different roles for me so I have stuck with it.

          I did not find Sue Johnson’s books all that helpful. (But that’s a very personal judgment.) It seems to me that when her model works, it requires both spouses to be on board to a very significant degree. That isn’t always the case, and I think that’s often NOT the case in an avoidant/anxious pair.

          I read a lot of different books on attachment, including _Attached_. Not too long ago I read _How We Love_ by the Yerkovichs. *This* book, for *me,* I found very helpful. Why? Because the presentation/discussion of how pairings play out in real life seemed to me much more practical than other books, and because it corresponds closely to our reality as I have observed it.

          And that is very helpful, at least for now, because it has really given me clarity on the fact that the “problem” isn’t my wife and it isn’t me. It isn’t communication and it isn’t about all the topics and events that come up (which we actually do surprisingly well with, after all these years).

          What I am seeing, and I think this is progress because I think I’m seeing more clearly now, is that our conflict is over the very nature of the relationship.

          The Yerkovichs have a workbook that arrived today. I want to do the exercises and see where that leads me, because their concrete suggestions in the book were surprisingly practical.

          I will say that the Yerkovichs are much more positive and hopeful than Levine and Heller. I don’t think I’m over- (or, really, under-) stating their position when I say that they think that the only way that a committed avoidant/anxious couple can survive is for the anxious partner to give up all or a significant portion of their hopes for a close, intimate bond, and they flat out advise people dating in this pairing to break up and find a secure partner.

          Something I want to mention as a waypoint in my exploration right now, and something I’d love input on from anyone who feels motivated to offer any comments, is this question/problem:

          Mostly, the received wisdom in the relationship “help” world is that you only change yourself. If you read about the dynamics of an avoidant/anxious couple, it’s pretty clear that unless the anxious person is going to commit emotional suicide their avoidant partner is really going to have to move toward the center, too. So I am thinking about what my part is, what I need to do, but it seems at some point my wife is going to need to come part way toward me, too – and the issue for me right now is that I really feel I cannot raise that at all. I need to think about that.

          Oh, important point before I go – what I have found, for myself (and I may be a universe of one, but I doubt it) is that a very large portion of the unconstructive thinking (how’s that for a euphemism?) that I engage in and that plagues our marriage is made up of the ten cognitive distortions described by David Burns in _Feeling Good_ and _Feeling Good Together._ These have probably been more helpful in my efforts to improve our marriage than any “relationship” book. Highly recommended.

          Once again, too many words…thank you if you got all the way to the bottom!

          1. Jack,

            You have no idea how exciting it is for me to talk with someone who processes thins through there various books!

            I know everyone is different and there are various methods people use but for me I need to understand first and then I can change. Many people find that too theoretical or whatever but it’s what works for me.

            I have had such a hard time finding therapists who will work with this as a postive rather than accuse me of intellectualizing. Sigh oh well that’s another story.

            Ok now to your points.

            As you said what speaks to people is personal. I actually agree that Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight book is inferior to other attachment books. It’s just the first time I discovered the attachment model. I do like her LoveSense book because it focuses more on the research.

            You know what I like about Sue Johnson? In her interviews she will say that ANYTHING can be healed if both people are willing to give the time and effort and you have the right tools. I find that both accurate and hopeful.

            I agree that the Attached book was too pessimistic. I think it was marketed more for dating so maybe that’s why. Obviously it would be ideal if everybody married secure functioning people but it’s more important IMHO to understand the patterns early so they can be addressed.

            There are many wonderful people who had slightly or more screwed up childhoods or just random life horrors that left wounds. We can be happily married if given the opportunity to learn healthy love. So many of us are from the island of misfit toys in some way. But we can change!

            You know what phrase I abhor?

            You can only change yourself. That IMHO is simply not true. You can and do change people you are in relationship. It’s a system. You change yourself or the environment and it will change the other person. Like shaking a kalidiascope.

            It may not be the change you want. But change is inevitable.

            The question is how best to use that power. And how to accept the other persons choices.

            That’s why I like behavioral economics. So much of what we do is not conscious. Change can be effected by changing the environment so that the others unconscious choices change.

            In the case of an anxious/avoidant pairing, once you know what makes that person feel safe if you change the environment to feel safe they will unconsciously act more securely.

            Especially with an avoidant that in my experience works much better than overtly asking for change.

            Safety. It’s a big subject. Are you familiar with Stan Tatkin? Psychobiological safety. After being entrenched in a long standing negative pattern, avoidants feel threatened by their anxious partners unconsciously.

            Like you are a threat as much as a snake. They recoil from you even if they don’t know they are doing it. Once I understood that I have worked to expect that reaction and find ways to be coded as “safe”. Lots of warmth and space.

            I’ve never heard of the Yerkovichs. How exciting! I will check them out.

            I do love David Burns too. Are your familiar with his new T.E.A.M. Approach? I really like his “tools not school” and having many many yolks customized for the client. At least he wouldn’t tell me I intellectualize I think.

          2. So much I could say!!! 🙂

            Tatkin – yes, have read everything but the dating book (hoping that is and stays irrelevant). The contribution that he makes most notably (in my view) is that it’s more helpful to think about secure relationships than secure individuals. This makes sense when you look at how you or people you know function in relationships. An individual may be secure in their marriage relationship but insecure with a parental relationship or work relationship, or vice versa. He also wrote a paper a few years back that describes a very small majority attachment style which, in my view unfortunately, pretty much summarizes how I tend to operate. He also describes how such a person’s partner should respond if they choose not to bail out, but that hasn’t really worked its way into our marriage (yes, my wife has read the article).

            This may be sort of a tangent, but one of the facts, and challenges for me, in our marriage is that my wife and I process things differently. As I’ve grown up I realize that there really is no right or wrong way, just different, and that there’s really no reason why she should do things the way I do, and I shouldn’t expect that. So I tend to be very analytical and out-loud about issues and remedies and she is the complete opposite. That does leave a residual challenge for me, though, because it’s fairly easy for me to worry that she isn’t aware or doesn’t care, when neither may be true at all. Sort of like a language/comprehension handicap, I guess.

            I especially liked this in your post:

            “In the case of an anxious/avoidant pairing, once you know what makes that person feel safe if you change the environment to feel safe they will unconsciously act more securely.

            Especially with an avoidant that in my experience works much better than overtly asking for change.”

            I will meditate on that.

            “Island of Misfit Toys.” Yeah, that would be me. I think that’s why when I do quizzes on attachment style that include more than just secure/avoidant/preoccupied I tend to fall into several categories. Too many disparate issues from younger years. Which then triggers all the perfectionism issues and defenses in which I encapsulated myself, to protect myself and mediate my anxieties.

            I just picked up Donald Miller’s _Scary Close_. It’s a nice and different way to think about relationship dynamics and growing yourself up.

  21. Jo Annette Self

    I’m curious. Woman after woman, including myself, having read your blog, felt understood and vindicated by your blog and your own “enlightenment” on these issues. And that is no small gift. But how much of a difference is it making on the other side of the gender divide? How many men are having epiphanies in the nature of the one you had? Is it making a difference? Please say yes. Is it a small difference or something significant?

    1. Hey. Fair question that I can’t possibly answer.

      I estimate the male audience to be about 30-35%. One out of three.

      But for reasons I’m not sure about (and it might be as simple as subject matter in the case of this conversation) you’ll see women engaging in comments the VAST majority of the time.

      I have gotten more emails and FB messages than I can count either from guys or from wives who’ve told me their husbands finally understand them because of something I’ve written.

      I have no way to quantify any of it. I only know there are more male participants than ever in these conversations, and that I’ve gotten enough feedback to feel like I actually did something that mattered one time in my life.

      But don’t let the comments fool you.

      Women may comment 1,000% more often than men, but more guys are reading than you might think. The caveat being that many of them think it’s a bunch of spineless, sellout, feminist-worshipping bullshit. 😉

      Those guys will either find someone to beat down emotionally, or continue to have a neverending run of crap relationships. Perhaps they’ll figure it out someday.

      1. Matt…I couldn’t agree with you more on the reasons why more guys aren’t willing to participate in the conversations. The macho nonsense that is fed to the male ego is oblivious to the reality. The mythic “Alpha Male ” is mostly an entitled insecure slob not able to see past some perceived definition of male behavior. I was a boxer …a champion wrestler…a football coach and player….I’ve been a bouncer in a swill serving red neck bar…a construction worker..,a casino supervisor…and a host of high testosterone bullshit activities. While I’m proud of some of those activities and ashamed of others, I can say proudly and with confidence that my “Alpha” is my relationship. My “Alpha ” is my fatherhood, My “Alpha ” is my ability to be compassionate and give compassion . I’ve said before that this business of being someone’s husband ,father,best friend,lover, community activist etc. demands courage,respect,conviction,moral character,introspection, and a host of other things no least of all the willingness to fight all foes including oneself….. Open up guys…it shows you have balls!

    2. I just wrote a comment below that testifies to the fact that Matt’s take, info, observations, etc., have all helped me and H repair our marriage. Seriously, it can be done. My H was tired of resisting the need to see his side of the repairs needed and the things mentioned here over and over and over are the things he worked on. [It should be noted I had my own crap to fix LOL! and so I did.] In our case, the difference was absolutely monumental.

  22. marilyn a. sims

    To everyone:

    I realize the following breaks the thread of of comment and response which has been really informative and helpful, yet I want to offer something which may be important, or at least worthy of exploration. There is an article in today’s Washington Post titled, : We always spoke of our love in metaphors, but symbols couldn’t sustain our marriage.”

    The author is a woman writer and offers this, ” I sat under the roof of our house, wondering what I had been holding up….over the entire 12 years of our relationship. I should have been paying closer attention, I realize now. WHEN HE TOLD ME HE DIDN’T WANT THE ROLE OF HUSBAND, WHAT HE MEANT WAS THAT IT HAD ALWAYS AND ONLY BEEN A ROLE TO HIM”

    Questions flood my mind, “How could that happen? Was there intentional misrepresentation here? Was this a dawning realization? Was it the cause of his affair? Did the death of his father precipitate all or very little of this?

    I know we cannot answer those questions, yet I wonder how many husbands/wives find themselves, at some point, pondering how much of their lives are devoted to “role-playing” and the cost that inflicts on their closest relationships.

    1. Wow ! That is a great question….I’d like to read that article.
      I can only speak to my experience. Honesty has to be a deep part of any meaningful relationship. Without honesty we fool only ourselves and are lulled into a false sense of security in our relationship. Trouble is the lack of honesty is clear to the perspective dupe. We can give passes to our partners for somethings but the lack of honesty begets a further manifestation of a facade that can only doom not build. I have witnessed many couples who have accepted their partners truth deviations and lived with that only so long. It becomes a number of 800 pound gorillas in the room. Then the wondering if there is more truth infidelities in the background. Not being ones’ self in day to day life makes you repellent to social relationships….not being honest about who you are in a supposedly loving relationship is downright relationship suicide. But to I believe that expectations that someone might change because of another’s influence is in fact not being honest to yourself. So building mutual trust and respect through good communication is most important before embarking on a love journey. Do we stray off the path ? Of course we do…we’re human and are going to screw up. What makes the difference is how we handle and recover. On a cost basis…that is subjective….the uncommitted will cut their losses and run….the steadfast will learn grow and move forward

        1. Ouch, heartbreaking. Her ex-husband probably should never have gotten married. It seems to me that he wasn’t merely bad at it, he actually didn’t want to be anyone’s committed partner. Having said that, I don’t think men have a monopoly on that sort of pattern, though they probably somewhat outnumber women who act the same way. (That last being no more than a WAG.)

          1. marilyn a. sims

            Thanks for taking the time to read the article and to respond. I am still feeling appalled and incensed by the husbands behavior and “confession”.. I cannot understand what would motivate anyone to live 12 years as such a fraud.

            Someone famous once said, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” the longer I live the more I am convinced that the same could be said of religion and marriage,

          2. Hi Marilyn…thank you for suggesting that article…. Wow ! Please forgive my language but that husband was a complete asshole! As I get older I’m more incensed with narcissistic, self centered, egocentric vermin. He might have believed that his intelligence Had given given him license to be the particular brand of vile that he portrayed. I hate creatures that violate others with deceit and selfish behavior. He stole an innocent piece of his thankfully ex-wife. To use a metaphor , he lit the Molotov cocktail of relationship destruction. The hurt in the wife’s writing is heartbreaking. I want to give her an everything-is-going-to-be-alright hug. Hopefully when she changed out her wedding band for his house key she ment that to show strength ,healing and her commitment to herself respect. Thanks again for the article suggestion.

          3. marilyn a. sims

            Hi Louie,

            Thanks for taking the time to respond. On a happier note, there is an article in the STYLE section of todays NYTimes about a couple who have been happily “married” for 21 years — they have the kind of partnership that seems to have flourished “without benefit of clergy”. I salute anyone who travels that path, they are, to me, truly adults and members of a unique clan. The title of the article is,”The Secret of Marriage Is Never Getting Married.”.

          4. I read it…very good…to me the premise must always be from that particular perspective…Although I make no apologies for being traditionalist, the bottom line for me is no one no how no thing no situation will keep me from loving her till I draw my last breath. I was awakened this morning for the 12,346th time by the same beautiful hazel eyes…and I will cherish, love ,honor, care , respect, fight, etc. for another 12,346 or more

  23. I want you to know that not only did I just mention you in my latest post, I credit your insights and spot-on observations with helping me understand my husband and communicating to him what I needed. God it was hard, but we’re doing well and just celebrated our 26th year of marriage. He values me, he treats me well, he sees me. Funny thing is, I’m not all that interesting these days – I think anyway.

    Your Gottman references lead me to think about how important Gottman’s work was in our recovery. H’s contempt only appears rarely and I squash that crap right away. I don’t go away quietly and suffer. Then, it’s done and we’re back to life.

    Thank you, Matt. Thank you. Your work here has helped at least one couple get a clue and then get it together.

  24. marilyn a. sims

    To All: From today’s STYLE section of the NY Times, “The Secret to Marriage is Never Getting Married”

    “When I say I don’t believe in marriage, what I mean to say is: I understand the financial and legal benefits, but I don’t believe the government or a church or a department store registry can change the way I already feel and behave..”

    “Or maybe it would. Because when the law doesn’t bind you as a couple, you have to choose each other every day. And maybe the act of choosing changes a relationship for the better.
    But successfully married people must know this already.”

    “I wake up in the morning and I look at Hans and think, I love you. I choose you above any other person. I chose you 21 years ago and I choose you today. I believe you to be a constant in my life and I, a constant in yours. Loving you is the closest thing I have to faith.”

    The author is a writer who lives in Los Angeles.

    1.………..not sure if this will work as I am a technology dolt. I found this article informative, interesting,disturbing,and the comments left me wondering. I’m a fighter so I had numerous issues with some of the comments….I fully realize I had not walked in any of their shoes. I’m still rattled

      1. Hi Louie,

        I read the article and found that I am neither rattled, surprised nor disturbed by its findings.. I suppose it’s because of my life circumstances ie. long time divorcee (more than 30 years) and for the most part happily single. Those of us who contribute here I think realize the stresses parenthood and domesticity place on partnerships but too many couples (as we know) are caught unawares and unprepared for the pain that change requires. It also seems as though the TRADITIONAL trajectory of male and female life paths and patterns REQUIRE a kind of CRITICAL mid-course correction around the age these couples DIVORCE. It’s either change or die a slow death from a thousand tiny cuts and bruises. It seems simplistic to blame a kind of “mid-life crisis”, yet, I believe SOMETHING COMPELLING AND SIGNIFICANT often occurs during those years.

  25. I wrote some advice on keeping relationships okay somewhere on the internet, and here is one part of it:
    Learn how to look after yourself, your house, and things to make your house clean and functional, and do it even when your married, don’t be a weakling when it comes to “Emotional Labour” and house working, if you’re an adult, and not seriously disabled, look after yourself and your house.
    I have learnt that “nagging” is basically “Being asked to do things around the house” and some men, unworthy of marriage get very angry when told to clean up their acts, themselves and their house. Its their house too, and don’t make your wife hate being in your house….

    I used to suck at “Helping Out Around the House” and need to be “nagged” a lot, but I grew out of it. I expect every adult unless severely disabled to grow out of it. Its literally the least you can do to make sure everyone is happy and sane.

    Not even just emotional labour and helping out around the house ,but listening to the people you want to stay in your life, and not talking over them, and not calling them liars, and not ignoring them when they open up et cetera, even after 7 years (The 7 years itch is reallllll)

    All I can say is that you 1000% right and every man who wants to marry, and every woman who wants to, too, better start reading this block. Not a bad post on here.

  26. If a man can’t adult, look after a house ,and cook and clean, he shouldn’t get married, he doesn’t deserve it. That’s the cold hard mind blowing truth. You can’t clean up after yourself, you can’t cook when you’re lovers tired, you can’t clean up simple messes, you can’t file out forms, you can’t phone the doctor for an appointment, you can’t be a goddemn adult around the house, don’t get married!
    Mutual help,. and mutual emotional labour, and mutual noticing things which need extra help is how you ensure further love and affection. It’s simple, on paper.

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  29. Guys: if she’s still nagging, she still cares & is holding to a fragile hope you’ll change, so you still have a chance to get your act together.

    Don’t ask HER to make a list of what she’s asked you to do that you blew off. You can come up with a decent (if incomplete) list all by yourself.

    Load the dishwasher the way she’s asked forever: evenly spaced, dishes & plates facing the middle, silverware in groups. This small act shows you hear her, you care enough to do it. DO NOT ANNOUNCE IT like a World Cup championship. When you see the DISHES ARE CLEAN MAGNET put this dishes away without being asked, WHERE THEY GO.

    Don’t return the milk or coffee creamer to the fridge with 1/4 inch left in the bottle, and if you do don’t comment when she comes back from the store with out it. GO GET IT without fanfare.

    Don’t pile all the junk mail on the counter. You should know what she’s going to throw away by now but if you don’t have her show you. If you do that, you’d better follow through.

    Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, that’s what it’s there for. Don’t make her ask you to do it AGAIN.

    Clean your bathroom and don’t ask her to inspect it. You’re an adult, cleaning a bathroom is not that difficult. If you were a manager or supervisor in a market responsible for clean bathrooms, you’d know whether or not they’d been cleaned, yeah?

    If you really want to change but really suffer from a poor memory or you suck at keeping promises, have her program the chores into your smartphone. Of course, this places responsibility to completing the items squarely on you, and don’t say “My phone was charged.”

    Six things you can stop the nagging on this week. If you’re that into her.

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  31. It’s amazing how this was broken down. I wish i could share this with my husband.

  32. Jessica Woodhouse

    Oh my! I ended a 21 year marriage for exactly this reason! We must have had a million talks about it over the years. I would tell him over and over that even though he objectively believed he was right when we disagreed, a marriage has two people in it and BOTH of them have to compromise or things don’t work.

    I remember repeating these two phrases so often that I sounded like a broken record:

    “Everyone has a right to their own feelings, and the fact that you disagree with my feelings does not make them invalid.”

    “Sometimes in marriage it is better to be happy than to be right.”

    I think this is the core reason most women leave their husbands. In some marriages the fights are loud and awful. In other’s they’re quiet and avoidant. But one way or another it all comes down to the fact that many men believe two things that simply aren’t true.

    1. That if a woman’s feelings seem illogical they can argue her out of them.

    2. That once a woman commits to marriage, you can just lock in the relationship … and basically put it on set and forget forever.

    These guys will let years and years of polite and tactful requests for negotiation and compromise roll off of them like water off a duck’s back. By the time their wife or girlfriend finally gives up hope and packs her bags her reasons for leaving are written in flashing neon for anyone paying attention. Yet nonetheless these poor guys always feel totally blindsided and betrayed when their “nagging” wife stops talking and starts walking!

    I’m on decent terms with my ex’s second wife. And he once told her that he felt like he could never relax and had to be on his best behavior with her because I had just up and left “for no reason” and “with no warning” and he was still wracking his brain trying to figure out why.

    I nearly spewed coffee all over the place when I heard that one. I was like … “which part of FOUR YEARS of me begging him to go to marriage counseling was so confusing to him?”

    But seriously. This happened. And he’s an intelligent and well educated man who is fully functional in grownup society for most purposes. He simply did not see his wife repeatedly asking to go to marriage counseling as an issue significant enough that he should drop more “important” stuff and really focus on it. And he’s definitely not the only man I’ve known who has that blind spot!

    Anyway … good advice. And it applies to large as well as small issues!

    A lot of marriages could be saved if men were better at stepping back and saying, “Okay this specific thing she’s complaining about is dumb. And if I just stonewall long enough she’ll shut up. But if I do this about enough things eventually she might leave me. So if I look at our marriage AS A WHOLE … do I want to stay in it or get out of it?”

    I think of this minor crap in relationships like a ground game in football. Sure you can focus on the big hail May passes — the romantic vacations and so forth. But if you ignore the ground game you still still lose yard by yard … and losing is losing!

    So many men lose their marriages yard by yard … and realize too late that by the time a woman actually walks she is usually so checked out of the relationship that NOTHING will bring her back.

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Matt Fray

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