Why I Think Most Married People Get Bored and Stop Wanting Each Other

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bored couple
(Image/ZUMI Kenya)

Author’s Note: I’m not a doctor. I’m not much of an expert on anything. But I’m curious, and I think a lot, and I like to explain WHY I think things. I don’t want there to be any confusion about what I believe or the reasons that led me here. I don’t think I have anything to teach people necessarily. But I think we can teach ourselves things by going through certain mental exercises, and those lessons or conclusions will sometimes be different than mine. That’s okay. Until I’m certain I know everything, I’ll continue to operate as if I might be wrong about all of it. Because I might be. The only story I know is my own, so it’s pretty much the only one I tell.

It’s possible I’m the only person in human history to treat strangers differently than people I know well. I often do that.

I’m more patient with and, arguably, “nicer” to other people’s kids than I am to my son.

I don’t have words to describe what I feel when I think about him. He’s the cutest. He’s in 4th grade, and he’s my favorite everything. He also pisses me off all the time when he’s being a little dickhole. The person I love the most is ALSO the person who makes me angry most frequently. The person I love the most is ALSO the person I spend the most time with which leads to me lapsing into moments when I’m taking him for granted.

Maybe I’m a shitty person or a bad father because of those moments when I show an extra ounce of favoritism to another kid when I’m correcting my son, or tolerating behavior from another kid that I wouldn’t tolerate from my own.

Because I’m not a psychology expert, or even just a really smart person, I can’t explain with 100-percent certainty the WHY behind this.

I can’t explain why I’ll walk around in sweatpants with out-of-control hair in front of a woman who I want to like me and find me attractive, but won’t go out in public or even answer the door for a pizza delivery without dressing better.

I can’t explain why my manners are on full display when first meeting someone who hasn’t earned my respect, but I’ll be totally informal with someone I’ve known for years.

I can’t explain why I was often nicer to strangers than I was to my wife.

But it’s true. I was.

Before my son was the person I spent the most time with, his mother was.

Before my son was the person I loved the most but who could also upset me the most, his mother was.

She’s beautiful. Hot, even. And she is the person I loved above all things. She’s the person I cared about and valued most. She’s the person I shared all of my resources with and promised to be with for the rest of my life.

She’s the only person I ever did that for.

I loved that woman very much.

But I was still a dick to her when things weren’t going my way. I was still sometimes nicer to our friends who were visiting for dinner and wine than I was to her. I was still quick to dismiss something she claimed to care about based solely on me not caring about it like an egomaniacal douchebag.

I still was disinterested at times in going to bed with her, even though she’s sexually attractive and literally asked me to. Which seems insane, really.




I don’t know. I’m not proud of it. And I’m under no delusion that I’m all together.

Something might be fundamentally wrong with me. I might be a new or unique kind of broken. I don’t know.

But I think it might be something else. Let’s start here…

Hugh Grant Got Caught Soliciting a Miami Prostitute

Remember that?

Sure you do.

Hugh Grant. The British actor. Totally handsome dude. Presumably super-wealthy. I don’t think he had any trouble finding dates if he wanted them. Just a hunch. I’m theorizing that he wouldn’t “need” to employ the services of a prostitute to have his sexual wants satisfied.

But more significantly than all that is that he was married. And not just to anyone. He was married to the woman who—to me—was (purely from a visual standpoint—let the record show that visual stimulation and desire is probably the least-important aspect of “attraction”) the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Elizabeth Hurley. She’s 52 now and probably still gorgeous. In her early 30s, she’s what I would have designed with a Weird Science computer and a pointy-bra hat.

I was 21 years old back when this went down in 2000 and it seemed super-significant. My 21-year-old brain couldn’t process how Hugh Grant could intentionally choose to cheat on Elizabeth Hurley with some rando lady of the night in South Beach.

But I think I can now.

Personal decisions about hiring sex workers aside, I think I understand why any man or woman married to another human being wouldn’t see that person through the same prism as some star-struck 20-something who never met them before.

I Classify it as Hedonic Adaptation, But Maybe it’s Something Else

I think it’s an important idea to understand, because I think when people don’t know what they’re up against, they’re more likely to experience hardship and failure.

Hedonic adaptation is the psychological phenomenon of our brains adjusting to positive life changes and normalizing them, the consequences of which are losing some of the “highs” we used to feel when we first experienced them.

You get a pay raise. It feels good. You get used to the new pay. Feel just as poor as you used to.

You get a new car. It feels good. You get used to the new car. You let it be just as dirty as your old car.

I’ve written in many posts, including my most recent from last week, that I believe hedonic adaptation is a major contributor to relationship problems.

A kind reader objected to my use of the term hedonic adaptation.

I can’t be sure, but I think she was uncomfortable with the idea of comparing how we treat and feel about “things” with how we treat and feel about people.

As a recovering idealist, I totally understand where she’s coming from. It’s an insult to the sacredness of marriage and the intrinsic value of a human being to reduce a person—and certainly a spouse—to an object.

But I don’t think being uncomfortable makes it less true. I don’t think our brains give a shit WHAT the thing/person/experience is. I believe it’s a foregone conclusion that as familiarity and comfort with something grows, the likelihood that you’ll take it for granted through thoughtlessness increases.

I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that you will love or value something less. Just that you’ll “forget” how much it really matters to you. Like your ability to breathe or see or use your arms and legs. People tend to take them for granted until the least-fortunate among us lose one of them.

It’s not ideal. But it is the human condition.

I certainly don’t love or value my son less as I’ve “gotten used” to him being around. But I think those little chemical triggers that make young couples crush on one another and lust for one another when they first meet WILL, 100-percent, no-exceptions, lose intensity or go away entirely over time.

It’s TOTALLY uncomfortable to suggest to your spouse that you aren’t quite as attracted to them as you once were. I think that’s why most of us avoid discussing it. We love to avoid uncomfortable conversations and situations.

I wonder what would happen if we did things differently.


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Remember, much of this is superficial. And it’s not your fault.

None of us are actively sitting around TRYING to bore with stuff—certainly not our marriage partner. I don’t think I’m going out on much of a limb in suggesting that if we never got “bored” or lost the intense chemical reactions our bodies experience when we first meet a romantic partner, that we’d have about 90-percent fewer divorces to worry about.

This isn’t about how much someone matters. It’s not about objectifying human beings or disrespecting those we love.

It’s about acknowledging that we are programmed by nature to lose over time some of the naturally occurring emotional triggers that help us effectively communicate and convey attraction, desire, love, courteousness, patience, forgiveness, etc. to our partner.

We can’t deal in reality when we don’t know what reality is, or deny its very existence.

I think the people who have the best relationships are secure enough with themselves and one another to deal with uncomfortable things and topics as a team. As a partnership. To—together—ask questions and discuss ways in which they can demonstrate the love and care that they think and feel, even if it doesn’t quite look or feel the same as it did when they first met.

Here’s a free life tip I think my failed marriage taught me: Confidently discussing uncomfortable things together in order to promote a healthy relationship and marital harmony will benefit a marriage. I think the act of doing so together is WAY more powerful and bond-forming than being honest about our feelings can be damaging.

The husband and wife who can, with intellectual honesty, discuss and deal with the natural “boredom” or “loss of attraction” that might eek into a long-term relationship are going to be better off than the ones who pretend it isn’t real.

BE UNCOMFORTABLE and discuss things bravely, because being uncomfortable and discussing things bravely is the hard—but RIGHT—thing to do.

But It Could Be Other Things Too

I label this hedonic adaptation because it’s what makes sense to me.

But that doesn’t make me right, and even if I am “right,” hedonic adaptation wouldn’t be a catch-all for this phenomenon.

When you first meet someone, you are single. You are an individual with mystery and potential in their eyes, as they are to you.

The dynamics of that moment are RADICALLY different than when you wake up in the same bed for the 1,871st day in a row, looking and smelling your worst with two kids and a dog and a mortgage.

I’m not even trying to be cynical about this. The love and care you feel—the VALUE—you place on your long-term spouse, family and household is infinitely higher than the first night you met back when all the sparks first flew.

But there are elements of relationships that often “worsen” as circumstances, individual interests and priorities, and group priorities change over time.

Maybe it’s worse manners. Maybe it’s the absence of displaying sexual attraction for your wife or husband. Maybe it’s saying something a little bit mean, or offering a thoughtless or dismissive reaction to something she or he told you.

Maybe back on your third date, all of that would have gone much differently.

Comfortable Lies vs. Uncomfortable Truth

Maybe it’s not about the other person. Maybe none of it is.

Maybe it’s about us.

I was a confident young man when I met my ex-wife. I was going to win the Pulitzer Prize and be whatever I wanted. The world was mine. And so was she.

The years went by.

The confident individual became an unsure partner. The cool guy living alone became the uncool part of a couple.

Maybe we stop feeling attracted to our partners because once they’re our partners, and two I’s become a We, we literally stop being the people they were attracted to in the first place.

We LOSE ourselves when we give up our individual identities to be a husband or a wife. To be a mother or a father.

We turn into different people because we must.

So it’s not just boredom. Sometimes, attractive traits literally go away, and unattractive traits take their place.

Many of us spend years politely or fearfully not mentioning it. Maybe we grumble to one of our friends about it in a private moment.

Then years go by, and two people who were once inseparable are now total strangers.

It’s the saddest story of our time because it happens thousands of times every day and hardly anyone is doing anything about it.

But you can. You can be honest with yourself and the people you love, and you can talk about true things even when it’s hard.

Pleasant lies taste wonderful and are easy to hear and hide behind. But they’re poison.

Difficult truths taste bitter going down and kind of make you want to puke. But they’re medicine. They cure the sick. Mend the broken.

Difficult truths might save the whole world.

Maybe we just need enough courageous people taking the leap.

311 thoughts on “Why I Think Most Married People Get Bored and Stop Wanting Each Other”

  1. Well, Matt if you want my opinion all it really is, is plain old narcissism, self-absorption, pride, all stemming from a lack of humility, gratitude, and commitment. I don’t mean that directed towards you,I mean any of us moderns who live in a throw away, materialistic society, falsely led to believe that the next best thing is right around the corner.

    So,cultivate an attitude of gratitude about everything, especially your spouse, and suddenly they become brand new again. Any hedonistic adaptation that goes on really just stems from taking things for granted and from believing we’re entitled to the next good thing everyone else always seems to have.

    1. I’m so happy you said that. As I understand it, that is literally the ONLY thing we have to combat this.


      Genuine, mindful reflection on the good in our lives, and manifesting feelings of appreciation for those things.

      Without it, we’re doomed to a life of general dissatisfaction.

      Seems like something you’d read on a poster in grade school. Something easy to roll your eyes at.

      But it’s about as important of an idea as any I know of.

      Thank you very much for writing it.

  2. Matt, have you read Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari? He talks about people never getting married because we have so many options before us with online dating that we get panicky because we are unwilling to settle. Like we literally have the entire dating world at our fingertips with apps like Tinder, so we get tricked into thinking that we can sift through everyone until we find the exact right person for us, and once we do find someone we like, we’re always left wondering if there’s going to be someone better. It’s overwhelming and a huge reason why some people don’t settle down.

    I think that kind of mindset may also be a reason people treat their loved ones badly sometimes. This doesn’t apply so much to kids, but with spouses, it’s really easy to doubt the choice you made, especially after you get “used” to each other (for the reasons you mentioned in this and your last post), and ESPECIALLY if you believe in soulmates.

    Your post made me think, and that’s my favorite kind! Thanks!

    1. I haven’t read that but it sounds like a good read. I am familiar with (but forget the name) the psychological condition of having so many choices that you can’t settle, or delaying decision making for fear of making the “wrong” choice.

      Sometimes that doesn’t matter, like when we’re ordering at restaurants or deciding which movie to watch.

      Other times, maybe in the context of our lives, it’s the most important thing in the world.

      Thank you for sharing that. It’s really important.

      1. Elizabeth Voss

        Perhaps you are thinking of “paralysis by analysis”? Literally over-analyzing or over-thinking something so that a decision or action is never made.

  3. I can summarize this post in 6 words;

    You Don’t Laugh Together Any More.”

    If you can laugh together over things; if you can laugh WITH each other, rather than laughing AT each other; if you can find some simple joy in each others’ company, then your marriage will last over the long run.

    Stop laughing? You’ll soon stop loving.

    1. I’m not sure this is enough. I sure hope you’re right because I love my husband and want to turn our marriage around, but we have definitely been entering a danger zone for quite some time and we can still make each other laugh pretty regularly. I imagine that if and when we got nearer to D-Day that would put a big damper on that, but that would be a result of our marriage being on the rocks, not a cause. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences with the “fun friend” not being super reliable, or trustworthy, or considerate — and you can have the same problem within the context of a marriage.

  4. I think the process of adapting to an exciting new thing/person (what you call hedonic effect while I use the automatic brain framing is only half of the equation.

    You are correctly describing one half of why people start to unconsciously treat their partners poorly.

    What’s the other part of the equation that’s missing imho?

    The part where our spouses now represent an emotional threat to us. After we are married and the newness wears off we find ourselves interdependent with a flawed human.

    They now can trigger every sensitivity we have. Rejected for dates in high school? Yeah that may trigger a sensitivity to them saying they are too tired for sex.

    Family dynamics were too needy growing up? Yeah their constant expressions of “needs” for dishes to be done a certain way are going to provoke anger frustration.

    Family didn’t pay enough attention? Rejection of your sadness will trigger a feeling of abandonment.

    Lots and lots of triggers. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of them. We just think we are right and they are wrong. Isn’t it obvious to anyone who had a brain?

    Problem is you have different life experiences, biology, personality, triggers. So their reactions become more threatening. Who is this person?

    And that is why you get divorced over dishes.

    1. How do you prevent or reverse this?

      That’s what I’m doing now. It’s a process but we have made a lot of progress.

      You have to be aware of what feels emotionally safe or threatening for your spouse. It varies by person though there are categories that most people fit into. What feels loving/threatening to may very well be the opposite of your spouse’s. That’s why the 5 Love Languages is helpful to many. You just have to expand that concept.

      Once you see they are threatened by something. You stop and adjust and repair. Whether it makes sense or not to you. You study your spouse and learn how to love them.

      My husband knows I study him ha ha. But what he needs makes no sense to me so I have to learn it like a foreign language.

        1. I tried asking but most of us (especially men) can’t articulate fully what we need even if we can figure it out for ourselves.

          Plus most of communication is through body language and tone of voice rather than language anyway.

          And I was shocked to realized I didn’t really look at my husband much anymore.

          I think that’s common too. We automate the person. We think we know them so we quit looking at them to figure out how they are responding to us. When you quit doing that you don’t adjust when things are just starting to go off the rails and get back on track.

          1. That’s true, personally I don’t usually know what I really need until it’s been ignored or violated in some way.

            I’m opposite you though when it comes to looking at our partners. I read too much into things like tone of voice or minute changes in facial expressions. It’s pretty tiring, so am working on that. A balance between the two extremes would be good. 🙂

          2. Interesting!

            I didn’t phrase it well. I meant you are supposed to look at the other person th see if you can understand what THEY are feeling/thinking in some way.

            I agree it’s easy to superimpose what we think of them.

            Does that make sense? I can’t seem to articulate it well.

            For example, my husband will often get a “blank” look on his face that I used to interpret as meaning he was bored (which annoyed me).

            But after studying my lab rat more I realized that the blank look for him means he doesn’t know what to say. Which is different than being bored.

          3. But yes I can understand and relate in certain ways of how tiring it is to worry about your husband’s every reaction.

            For me the better I understand him the less tiring it is. Because I KNOW how to respond. What my next move will likely cause him to feel.

    2. Yes. All of this, and more.

      We must choose it. Every day. Or it can’t and won’t last.

      The part many of us get wrong is how painful we make it for our partners to keep choosing us.

      I don’t tell you enough how grateful I am for your thoughtful and informed contributions to these conversations. Thank you, a million times.

      1. Ahh thank you Matt! You just hit one of my love languages. I am so appreciative when people find all my research stuff helpful.

        I have gotten so much negative feedback most of my life about the way I process thing.

        So thanks! You made my day.?

        1. I have gotten so much negative feedback most of my life about the way I process thing.

          Has the negative feedback primarily been from women, men, or both? My expectation would be women.

          1. Both. On average, I am equally annoying to everyone?.

            1. Some of it is just that certain personality styles are more common than others so the majority prefers the more common style than mine.

            2. Some of it is I was using poor relationship skills. Wanting to be right etc. not considering enough how the effect on the other person.

            3. Some of it is not adjusting enough to the culture I’m in. I like to debate. Most people don’t.

            The first one will always be there in most environments I am in. The second and third I can learn better skills as I’ve been focusing on.

    3. Rebekah Verbeten

      So true! The whole experiencing something very differently than another person because of connotations and past experiences can really influence the course of a conversation. Like Matt mentions, becoming ok with uncomfortable topics (both speaking and listening) is a huge factor in staying engaged with each other.

    4. Hi Gottmanfan,

      I think the threat portion is more subconscious compared to the more overt action that we stop being intentional and deliberate about what we would like our relationship to look like. And therefore we become more negligent and leave the trajectory of that relationship to chance and consequence. At some point, presuming that we are with a partner who wanted to be treated well, we were capable of this fully during courtship, otherwise there’s very little hope in us securing that partner to begin with. This goes along with Terry Real’s assumption that almost no one is unable to control their contempt, disdain, rage etc. The devaluation of a partner is not an intentional act, it’s like entropy…that’s the state of nature, so to keep the partner in mind, to act well, to be respectful, courteous, caring, kind, thoughtful, those go against the grain of the eventual outcome.
      Of course, something has to give in that my energy isn’t infinite, my patience isn’t infinite, but when something has to give, I choose to exert as much as energy possible to maintain decorum and diplomacy with those closest around me. It’s a cost benefit analysis…those whom I have invested the most time and energy with, will continue to get the best parts of me when possible. I will have to live with those less imperfect situations where I am not the friendliest to acquaintances, where I may be curt to customer service, etc. We all have regretful moments, we just have to choose where we would like to allocate those regrets, and for me, I’m less willing to regret it during moments in which I do not act in alignment with my values, towards those whom I care the most.

      1. Hi Astrid, Glad to see you back!

        I agree that the threat portion is often unconscious. I think the stopping the things we do while dating is also mostly not conscious.

        We are just responding to new hormonal and environmental than we were operating in early in the relationship.

        I love me some Terry Real but I think he underemphasizes the neuroscience.

        People are able to control their contempt, disdain and rage in varying degrees. Most people can control it enough to not get arrested but maybe not enough to deal with stress without using poor skills with your loved ones.

        This is what I think Stan Tatkin, Brent Atkinson and Dan Siegel and even behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman do a better job of explaining imho.

        The biological threat level must be attended to and calmed. Because conscious choices can fully engage.

        Terry Real does bring some of that in with his inner child work. But imho is not capturing that much of the reason we don’t continue to treat our partners the same way after time is because of we “automate” each other and go into “fast thinking”. Since the spouse is also doing that the environment is changed.

        We don’t make the same choices because it is now a difference choice.

        1. I’ve read half of Thinking Fast and Slow…we seem to have similar reading lists, Gottmanfan! I’m making a separation between the animal hind brain and the prefrontal cortex, which often uses rationalization to then justify the behavior that is wrong to begin with. And as much as I have a background in neuroscience, and believe biology is important, I think we have more cognitive power than we exercise. I’m not fully convinced that we are unable to control rage, disdain, and contempt with our loved ones. To me, it’s that we don’t foresee the consequences of it to be something grave, and that we almost expect our loved ones to accept these transgressions as part of something that comes with the relationship. Imagine if we put emotional abuse, displays of overt power, inability to be open towards influence as grave as we do to the consequences of something like marital affair, we would be watching our behaviors more carefully. Sure it’s not ideal…we ideally should be acting in accordance with our values, but a temporary stick works to condition us to adopt non offensive behaviors towards our partner while we rehabilitate ourselves to develop the intrinsic motivation to act from within.

          1. Astrid,

            I agree that we can often control much more than we do. If we are cognitively aware that we NEED to exercise control.

            That is the part we are disagreeing on. Or maybe we agree and are just saying it differently I’m not sure.

            I think most people, unlike when confronted by police, don’t understand what is really happening in relationships enough to know they have to act differently. Especially in the day to day interactions that make or break most marriages.

            They misread the situation because, like Matt before, think dishes don’t matter. Or think you need to stand up more rather than soothe their spouse in certain circumstances or vice versa.

            IMHO a lot of it does have to do with not understanding how relationships work and what each person should do.

            There I think Terry Real’s approach has a lot of good things to say about how to do things differently. And I use his stuff a lot in my own thinking.

            But as I said IMHO he doesn’t put enough emphasis on the biology that “floods” us and in that state makes it very, very hard to access the prefrontal cortex where long terms goals can be accessed.

            If people were so great at using cognitive insight the jails would be far less full, people would treat their bodies better and not use drugs, alcohol, food or sex for short term relief. People would treat themselves and their spouses and kids better.

            And yet millions (billions?) of intelligent, well intentioned people don’t do those things. Even after they have gained insight into correct things they agree they should do. Why is that? That is the part Terry Real doesn’t answer fully imho.

            I think both sides need to be emphasized Bessel van der Kolk has a great book The Body Keeps the Score that maybe you’ve read too since we do seem to read similar books. All about the science of accessing the body to then be able to better consciously make good decisions and actions.

            I think generally Terry Real agrees with that based on things I’ve heard him say in podcasts and other trainings but he doesn’t emphasize it much in The New Rules of Marriage which is very much based on insight and cognitive choices alone.

            And his overall approach is much more insight oriented about the damage patriarchy does to both men and women.

            Even in that I think it helps to bring in more of the “fast/slow thinking” and “flooding” to explain why some of this persists.

            TLDR: I love Terry Real but need to combine with other authors that explain how the brain and body to allow or prevent good choices.

          2. I need an orchestra of authors to understand what is going on in relationships and how we can change.

            No one author gives the complete picture. I value Terry Real because his first book about men and depression really helped me have great empathy and understanding for men.

            His two books about marriage have a lot of great tools for understanding how cultural gender training impacts us all.

            I use the 4 quadrant power grid all the time. To try and be aware of when I am going up or down and stay in the middle. I’ve used it with my kids to explain self regulation.

            I use other authors to explain to me emotional regulation and soothing the body.

          3. Astrid,

            You said:

            “Imagine if we put emotional abuse, displays of overt power, inability to be open towards influence as grave as we do to the consequences of something like marital affair, we would be watching our behaviors more carefully.”

            I agree fully. The question people have different answers to is “why don’t we do that?”

            And how do we define “emotional abuse, displays of overt power, inability to be open towards influence”

            I think Matt’s blog and comments often grapple with just that. Matt had no idea he was doing those things because his definition of those terms was different.

            I think that describes a lot of people in shitty marriages.

          4. It’s not that I think other therapists aren’t important, it’s more that I find Terry’s teachings to espouse accountability and action rather than explain confounding behaviors, which while informative, the latter does not do much for results.

            Honestly, I think it’s not that we’ve ever not known that shitty behaviors could lead to an eventual end, again, we definitely restrain ourselves from doing so early in courtship. I think part of the culprit is cultural, and not just from a patriarchal standpoint, but from a fundamental concept of what we think relationships should be like. We have this “let it all hang out mentality” with our partners, the way that we were perhaps as children towards our parents, especially once we’re married. It’s like we no longer have to pretend to be likeable, or agreeable, now people have to love us for us, warts and all. It’s their job to do this for us, because we think that this is what they also would like us to do for them. But I think it is unrealistic for people besides our parents to bestow this gift for us. At some point your partner was a stranger whom you did not know, that’s not the same as our parents, when that’s all that we knew.

            Honestly, in most days that I feel the urge to be recalcitrant, I ask myself the question of, is this how I would act during the early days of courtship? And most of the time that answer is no. That’s how I would clarify what I mean by demonstrating emotional abuse, overt signs of power, unmovable-ness…if these negative behaviors would not be how I would act in the beginning of the relationship, then it should not be how I act when the relationship becomes familiar.

          5. Astrid,

            I think that for a variety of reasons, different people find different approaches helpful.

            It seems Terry Real makes a lot of sense for what you are doing to improve your marriage. His framing just works for you. I get that.

            I love my invisible friend Terry too and hear his voice in my head guiding me sometimes. “Come down from your one up position Lisa”. ?

            Your method of asking yourself “how would I act during the early days of courtship?” is working great for you.

            How are things going with the Terry Real trained therapist? Making good progress?

          6. Yea, I agree. I definitely don’t knock Gottman or Sue Johnson etc., just for me, it’s not accountable enough for daily practice. I like their theories, but they remain mostly as that.

            OMG yes, Lisa. I am over the moon with our Terry Real therapist. The best part is that I think my husband is also liking him, too! I think somehow deep down my husband likes being held accountable, and he likes knowing that someone will, because it means that they do expect something of him. My husband had said “I don’t even think I could bs him if I wanted to.” The therapist is prescriptive, and objective enough, and is able to get deep into the issues with us without rehashing the actual details of the fight, because let’s face it, it’s rarely ever about the dishes itself. So, we got deep real fast, which we uncovered that when it comes to him, I fundamentally do not believe he will take my needs into account vs. his in the beginning and that sets us up on this power differential where I would have to plead my case, like a lawyer would in front of a judge. And whereas my husband would then quickly say (like he has in previous sessions with other therapists), “well that’s how I grew up, the dinner table was a debate table where we would have to do that to gain favors with dad,” and it would stop there…our therapist said, “ok that’s how you grew up, and do you see that that doesn’t put Astrid at equal footing with you?…there’s only one throne there when there should be two.” I wanted to cry.
            I’m not passive by any means, I dialogue and form differing opinions (as you can tell here from this forum, too), but what I feel is absent is a dialogue with him, and instead it’s presenting evidence.

            And don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect at this and if anything I have a hard time bouncing back from situations in which someone has lost their diplomacy in conversations. My tendency there is to write people off (one up), and well i can’t do that with my husband. So, I’m learning how to stay despite the moments of disrespect. My tendency is also to not try again, which means, if we’ve had a fight about him not wanting to do something the first time…I’m not going back in that situation for a second or third time, again the writing off, and now I have to put myself in that lovely position of allowing him to take the same flight with me, knowing how much of a cantankerous person he was, and hoping that it won’t end the same way. That’s enough on my plate to work on. I know it’s not exactly a trauma, but to me there’s already enough of a history to avoid those situations like the plague…now I have to reverse that.

          7. Astrid,

            I am so HAPPY to hear your therapist is so skillful in helping you both and that you husband is responding to it.

            “Ok that’s how you grew up, and do you see that doesn’t put Astrid at equal footing with you.. there’s only one throne there when there should get two.” So good!!!

            I can understand wanting to cry to finally get someone who knows what they are doing.

            It’s good that you can see your stuff like going one up.

            It’s so great to hear good news like this! ?

          8. Astrid,

            You said:

            “It’s not that I think other therapists aren’t important, it’s more that I find Terry’s teachings to espouse accountability and action rather than explain confounding behaviors, which while informative, the latter does not do much for results.”

            I agree completely with this sentence if you mean “the latter does not do much for results” for you,

            If you mean it that other approaches don’t produce results for others, we disagree.

            There are all kinds of approaches that work well for other people but not for me. Lots of somatic, artistic stuff makes no sense to me but have gotten great results for others.

            I can’t tell if you meant it globally or personally.

            It doesn’t mean that everything is equally valid. There are approaches that are based on the opposite of what research says is helpful.

          9. Oh it’s personally although I will caveat, that what I mean is that I value things that change the outcome of something else, ie. result in action…that I think I have a much stronger feeling on in terms of it being more valuable. I don’t think it’s enough to simply have an epiphany when that epiphany doesn’t lead to changed behavior.

            With that said, if explaining why someone is the way they are, working through childhood unresolved issues, or any other method, like nature therapy, etc. helps to produce a more calm, balanced, aware, and responsive person, then by all means, go for it.

            I care more that people use these methods to change behavior, than I do about which method to use if that makes sense.

          10. Yes, it makes sense.

            I think often that people can produce action from understanding. It’s what a lot of therapy is all about.

            It depends on the goal.

            Sometimes that matters more then behavior changes. The action •••IS•••the change in understanding. To be able to then consciously choose what to do based on a correct understanding of the situation.

            I don’t want someone to behaviorally say “I care about you” if they don’t feel the emotions concordance with that.

            I don’t want someone to do “acts of service” for me if they resent it.

            The way I see it, you need changes in how you think which produces emotional change which can lead to different behaviors.

            Often, it’s the attitude or way of understanding something that needs to change. That then as a good classic CBT model tells us it naturally leads to a different behavior. Or at least a conscious choice not to change.

            My resistance to the idea of action only mattering is the whole “intellectualizing” criticism I often get. That seems similar to your point but I could be way off.

            For me, behavior is just one piece of the puzzle. It often changes naturally when someone changes their framing.

            And usually, it not the actions that are the real problem imho. It’s what is driving those actions. The actions are downstream from that. A symptom.

          11. I fear I have lapsed into focusing more of the parts we might disagree on more than the huge amount we do agree on.

            I am ridiculously over sensitive and undifferentiated when I think someone is saying that “intellectualizing” is useless. Long history there that I need to do more work on.

          12. Rebekah Verbeten

            “I am ridiculously over sensitive and undifferentiated when I think someone is saying that “intellectualizing” is useless.”

            As a person myself who has had more eyes rolled during a geekout than I care to think about, I feel you! Thankfully, my husband and I are well-matched in our…intellectual intensity?…so that aspect of our personalities hasn’t caused issues for us. My mentat tendencies do get on his nerves at times, but he’s gotten better at bringing it to my attention gently.

          13. Rebekah,

            That’s very interesting!

            I think we may have similar intellectual partnerships. My husband and I are well matched in our intellectual intensity too. Part of the attraction.

            But I have theories about everything. Lots of them. They are like unruly inmates locked in the asylum of my brain fighting to get out. Ha ha

            They want to play with other ideas!

            My husband is very intellectual but with less need for his ideas to have play dates with others. They play amongst themselves in his brain. ?

            He would often miss my bids for his ideas to come out and play. Misunderstand it. I think he gets it now.

            Does that sound similar or do you have a different setup?

          14. gottmanfan…gotta say I love your turns of phrase!

            I think I’m a mix of you and your husband. I joke about the round table in my head and the different facets of my personality or different sides of an argument that have a ‘conversation’ internally. I’m a stay at home mom, so I don’t get tons of adult contact, though I’d love intellectual playdates. Hence my excitement at finding my kind of weird in a few commenters here!

            I love the intellectual play comment. That’s how we started…kicking ideas about anything and everything back and forth. Of late it tended to be more that he’s stuck on his intellectual stuff and barely acknowledged my bids. He’s putting more effort into setting his stuff aside so I can share my toys.

          15. Rebekah,

            The “round table in my head” that’s a good one too. Robert’s rule of order or King Arthur round table style?

            There are a lot of great commenters here I agree. My kind of weird too. ?

          16. Rule of order? What’s that?! 😀

            More like your inmate riot most of the time…. Arthur’s table but with a food fight maybe.

          17. That’s totally fine. I think it’s more interesting to discuss where we disagree than it is to find where we agree. I do differ in that I think actions can and do produce mental changes. And in some situations, I don’t need for my husband to think that what I am saying has merit and that’s why he should follow it, I don’t think I would know the difference if he just did it. And at times, I would rather have that than get into a discussion of why…

            I know this about myself in that I am more consequentialist in my thinking and philosophy, obviously to a certain point. I also think sometimes, you have to do the action to understand the value that then produces a real intrinsic change. I used to hate homework, but still did it to get good grades, and that was an extrinsic motivation to avoid punishment etc…but sometimes the more you do something, the more your mind also changes to start finding the intrinsic reasons…like enjoying learning etc. Sometimes you can find the “why” while you’re taking on the task.

            I don’t think intellectualizing is useless at all, it’s just that for me, intellectualizing without some tangible change ie. manner, behavior, conduct, better choices, etc does not do additional good for the world so to speak. For example, my husband loves to tell me why he is the way he is, he delves into childhood, can cite numerous examples of how his childhood affects him etc., which honestly doesn’t really do much for me because he’s not answering the question of “is this who you want to be and if so, is this how you want to behave?”

          18. So when intellectualizing meanders into straight armchair philosopher territory you lose interest? Am I reading what the conversation has been so far correctly? I do agree that talking and reasoning only go so far. One of the things that my husband and I run into sometimes…we tend to talk things to death a bit.

          19. Yes, I agree with with you that “actions can and do produce mental changes”.

            I use that technique a lot. Figure out what actions to take and sometimes the emotions and understanding flow from that.

            It’s a dynamic algebra equation. If you know the answer side of the equation you can solve for x on the other side.

            If I know the behaviors I want I can do that and solve the other side. I often have to white knuckle behaviors until I can get the side to follow. That works too.

            Some people find that an easier or more meaningful approach. It varies by person I think.

          20. Astrid,
            Hi there! I hope my comment doesn’t seem intrusive. But maybe just to add a slightly different perspective, I am probably much more over on the emo spectrum than you may be. I do have my intellectual side, and certainly don’t live by every whim of my emotions, but understanding the place they have in all of our lives has been something that is important to me.
            I think I understand your point about wanting to see changed behavior, as sort of the bottom line for you. I get that, and I agree- in real life just understanding something doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it.
            A few things you described made me want to comment- first your description of your husband telling you about the stories of his upbringing as the “why”.
            Do you think that he is asking you to “See him”? …To his emotional need?
            I agree that it shouldn’t end there. That was a wonderful step forward for the therapist to point out that your marriage, and the interactions in it, is not the same as his relationship with his parents, nor are you a child needing to explain why your needs ought to be met.
            But, I wonder if that isn’t also asking you to see his vulnerability there.
            You do not have to answer that, it was just a thought I had, that likely isn’t outside of your ability to think of or understand.
            But it also brings up this question for me that I may not have a full grasp of.. let me preface this by saying all day long I interact with people who had significant deficits in being parented as children. Deficits in both love and discipline. I myself had great deficits in the same thing. I see so many broken people who suffer small, meager, and even painful lives because they weren’t nurtured and helped to grow.
            All parents fail their children in someways. Every adult has some sort of wounding, from something their parents were not able to provide (we’re all just human..). I don’t think it is the role of a spouse or significant other to take on that role entirely in the relationship, but I do think there are times that those needs can and are meant to be healed in our adult relationships by those closest to us.
            I’m not saying that bad behavior should be allowed, and ultimately it is the individual who is responsible to make behavior changes, but I tend to lean towards the idea that a partnership in healing those wounds can produce intimacy and a bond that allows great personal growth both in the relationship and in other areas of life.
            I am fairly idealistic, I know. But I am hoping (for all our sakes) that this sort of partnership is achievable and workable, and actually a beneficial way to go.
            I would love to get your (and other’s) thoughts on it. ..Are there times that we do, and should “parent” our partners?

          21. PIP,

            The whole premise of attachment theory in couples therapy is that we can and should help our partners heal through a healthy adult relationship.

            So yes, there are many who believe we do and should “parent our partners” in a sense.

            Those who favor a difffentiation focused model of couples therapy, like Terry Real, for example would not agree with that statement.

            I find value in both but would agree more with the attachment models.

          22. Thanks Gottmanfan,
            I hope it’s not one or the other. I think (hope) you can differentiated and also be able to care for the old wounds.
            For me Bowen is really good for getting out of family cycles that are usually started by one person’s needs and everyone bends towards that. ..I think maybe differential HAS to be established before we can help each other. Or maybe it’s like a stair step. A step of differentiation, a step of attachment.
            I really liked your book list. I’m more of an audio person, so I think I may download some of those titles and listen while I walk. I’m really interested in Dan Siegels book on the teenage brain. That may give me some insight and tools to help me survive my workday..:)

          23. PIP,

            I absolutely think it’s not one or the other. You need to be both independent and interdependent.

            The disagreement comes from how you do that.

            Differntiation models say, as my DBT class stated “you are each responsible for your own regulation.” The other person has no responsibility for helping you self regulate.

            My favorite model is Stan Tatkin’s psychobiological attachment model.

            That states that when you are in a relationship you are responsible to regulate yourself AND help regulate the other person at the same time.

            This makes the most sense to me. Both on a neuroscience level, emotional and a practical level.

            It does not abdicate self regulation and differentiation to say you are ALSO responsible to help regulate your partner.

            I am not familiar with the detailed views of Bowen although I believe he is more of a differentiated model. (Interesting aside, Gottman “hated” Bowen)

            Attachment models do not say that it’s healthy to be codependent. It’s about becoming more differentiated through secure connection.

            In my experience, those who tend towards an avoidant attachment style love ❤️ differentiation models and think that attachment models promote a lack of individual responsibility.

            Which is NOT what they say.

            This is what I personally have to go through every day with my husband. He loves differntiation models. Of course he does. It requires less change of him. It’s much closer to what he already does. Individuals playing singles tennis. Using individual sports rules.

            I am NOT saying differentiation models are “wrong”. They have a lot of great ways to get healthier.

            I am saying that avoidants imho would be perhaps better served with being open minded about attachment theory so they can lean in to team sports rules,

            This is also true for anxiously attached people like me. I have focused a lot of learning differentiated models to lean in to the other side.

            However, I think it is differentiated model proponents like David Schnarch who tend towards unhealthy contempt toward attachment models being helpful.

            I find that is often the case more than the other way around. My current DBT class teacher for example has said repeatedly it is wrong to think you can become more differentiated through a relationship.

            She says this despite research that disagree.

            This is much longer than I expected. ?

            Tell me more about Bowen. I am only very generally aware of his family system model.

          24. “It’s about becoming more differentiated through secure connection.” Yes to this!
            I think our neurobiology would agree that having that emotional security helps us to become more differentiated.
            It’s definitely both /and.
            I’m not an expert on Bowen, but I don’t think he would disagree, either.
            Family systems theory talks a lot about how to be in relationship without giving yourself up. He obviously values the staying in relationship part. He knows the family system is a part of growing whole humans.
            This idea also in Seigel’s research. In IPNB the premise is our brains have evolved in the context of family relations, so in that way we are “wired” for that connection. (There is an IPBN certification course I’m really interested in.) The sad part to me is that our social and family structures now will effect who we will be in the next few thousand years. :(.
            But, back to what I started saying … Bowen’s work really was about establishing boundaries so the individuals could function in a family.

          25. PIP,

            Glad you liked the book list! I am an audiobook person too. I am able to “read” a lot of books because I listen to them in the car or while doing mindless chores or grocery shopping etc.

            I also listen to a lot of podcasts of authors summarizing their book ideas and YouTube videos of lectures etc.

            What are your favorite/helpful books?

            I need to develop a bibliography of relationship books. To keep it all in one place for reference.

          26. PIP,

            I absolutely think it’s not one or the other. You need to be both independent and interdependent.

            The disagreement comes from how you do that.

            Differntiation models say, as my DBT class stated “you are each responsible for your own regulation.” The other person has no responsibility for helping you self regulate.

            My favorite model is Stan Tatkin’s psychobiological attachment model.

            That states that when you are in a relationship you are responsible to regulate yourself AND help regulate the other person at the same time.

            This makes the most sense to me. Both on a neuroscience level, emotional and a practical level.

            It does not abdicate self regulation and differentiation to say you are ALSO responsible to help regulate your partner.

            I am not familiar with the detailed views of Bowen although I believe he is more of a differentiated model. (Interesting aside, Gottman “hated” Bowen)

            Attachment models do not say that it’s healthy to be codependent. It’s about becoming more differentiated through secure connection.

            In my experience, those who tend towards an avoidant attachment style love ❤️ differentiation models and think that attachment models promote a lack of individual responsibility.

          27. I like your little of this then a little of that suggestion, PIP.

            Gottmanfan, I wonder if some of the ‘you are only responsible for you’ theories came out of abusive-type situations and counseling? Because in that kind of setup I can see the approach of not trying/being able to change the other person.

            In a ‘normal’ relationship, though, I see a need for both approaches. I can control my responses to his actions, but I should also be able to (soft startup) tell him when there’s something wrong. And vice versa. To my mind, kinda the point of having a life partner…someone to call me on my bs!

            Plenty more thoughts, but hard to type one-handed with a little on my lap! Will keep following the conversation.

          28. Yes, the partner has to be willing to hear it when you call B.S., and not everyone (maybe even not most people) are interested in that.
            I think it becomes abusive towards their partners, but I don’t think the people who don’t hear are trying to abusive (enter one main premise of Matt’s blog).
            Maybe abusive isn’t the right word, but still very destructive.
            Would be interested in hearing more thoughts, when you have some free hands :).

      2. Some of the solutions are the same though. Slow down and soothe your biological reactions. Be conscious and use “slow thinking” to lower the threat.

  5. Regarding the point of being nicer to strangers than to family, I think that is a learned behavior. Especially in disfunctional/addiction families, we learn to not let the neighbors know what kind of crazy nuthouse we got going on here. That’s how I grew up and acted in my twenties and early 30s – spending so much more time and energy making people who I didn’t live with like me. Family? They get the real me with all the anger and issues. After my divorce I vowed that if I ever got married again I would be the good person to those who shared my last name and the others can have the leftovers. When I spent time getting to know an acquaintance who had lost his family due to his alcoholism, he said that he used to think I was an asshole. I took it as a compliment! I learned to invest in the right people.

    1. A critical life skill, I think.

      I think about it all the time. Especially with my son. I can explain logically why I might be a little harder on him than someone else, or why he gets a less-filtered me than others might.

      But the immense value he has in my mind and heart means he deserves more from me than that.

      Just as his mother did. Just as all people I love do.

      This is among the many things I’m working on.

      Appreciate you sharing this story.

  6. Here’s another way to work around hedonic adaptation.

    You add novelty to the things you do or talk about. And then you savor that novelty with you spouse.

    Small things like going to different restaurants. Or watching a new tv show together and talking about it. Big things too of course help.

    But you have to be conscious to notice it and channel it WITH your spouse.

    I am practicing this skill. We were at the beach and it was lovely. I turned to my husband and said “this is just wonderful, I am so glad we came here!”

    This is not my usual thing to say. Ha ha

    But you know what? The research is right. It really worked. A big smile on my husband’s face and we have transferred the novelty of a beach vacation into brain novelty for our relationship.

    It still feels weird to me since I am not a sentimental person but it works so I’m rolling with it. ?

    1. I guess that’s the best thing to know to not have a shitty marriage. Marriage isn’t easy because humans are flawed.

      It takes a lot of work to get yourself to a more mature place and also figure out your spouse.

      We go wrong when we think it SHOULD be easy.

  7. Brilliant, Matt.

    Loving is a choice – we have to do it when we don’t feel like it, for the other person to feel loved. This reminds me of your wonderful post ‘The Recipe for Magic Sex Potion.’

    1. Wake up and think: I choose to love my partner today. I am grateful that she chooses me despite my flaws. I appreciate the many things she does for me. Write a note, send a text communicating what I appreciate about her.

    2. Hug her daily for six seconds (not less). Gets the feel-good brain chemicals to kick in.

    3. Listen attentively to her stories and be engaged. Your sex life will be better for it.

    4. Become an empathy expert/wizard and practice demonstrating it.

    5. Avoid at all costs anything that forces her to do something your mom would have done for you. Like cleaning up after you. It kills passion.

    6. Be kind. This isn’t ‘nice.’ Learn why she gets upset with you even though everyone else thinks you are a nice guy.

    7. Exercise, not because you think she likes toned arms and a flat stomach but because it demonstrates a few things which women respond to sexually: a) self-respect b) discipline and follow-through c) confidence.

    I typed this out as a review for me. What I want in a man!

    1. I hope the list works for you. Trying to adhere to these points never worked for me, though.
      I think lists, in general, never do. What you need to make a relationship work is two people who really want to make it work.
      One person can’t do it alone.
      One person can’t expect the other person to do it alone.
      Most important, I think: One person can’t make the other person want to do the work.

      1. Hi Kal,

        I agree that both people have to want to do the work at some point. Although one person can change the system to give the other person a clear choice and make it easier to change.

        I think lists like these are more about trying to clarify good relationships skills. Since culturally there is so much confusion about what is even healthy or can be reasonable to look for.

        At least that’s the way I look at it. I relate to some on the list more than others. Exercise for me is kind of weird to add to a list like this imho.

        1. Hi Gottmanfan,
          As usual, thank you for your kind reply 🙂

          I think the list rubbed me the wrong way because it puts all the focus on what one person is supposed to do, while the other? I don’t know, just being there by the virtue of grace and goodness is enough?

          I know that translated to my relationship, I did everything to my best effort to fulfill that or any other list of requirements. However I never got any useful feedback about what I eventually did right, or what the problems really was.

          1. Kal,

            Oh yeah I get it.

            You know Kal, based on what you have described your last relationship was with a woman who was lacking some pretty basic relationship skills.

            And then you got into a bad dynamic of you trying to change to get her to treat you as “good enough”?

            Of course I could be wrong. But the common dynamic Matt describes is just one iteration. There are different types of go off the rail patterns.

            It sounds to me you had a “shitty girlfriend”. Who didn’t treat you fairly. Give you feedback etc.

            I can totally understand why reading a list of things men should be/do would be irritating to you. It seems that you worked very hard. It’s horrible that bad relationships can scar us so much.

            Women can be shitty partners too.

          2. HI Kal.
            Yes when I read the aforementioned list I got,somewhat irritated as well. No offense to the poster as I don’t believe there was any meanspiritedness intended . I too have read with consistency , your plight with your past relationship . You did the hard work you tried to engage and be kind and loving , you had a mind set of confidence but were turned down at every level of commitment you espoused . Just being part of this community is the validity of your care and devotion . You sir were a warrior in this , my hat is off to you. What I’ve come to realize is that today’s society has emulated various degrees and levels of self entitlement that frankly speaks of, lack of maturity , lack of bonding committed focus , and a sense of false superiority by one person in a relationship or group for that matter . These are the people that eventually get kicked to the curb as they should be . This Saturday Anne and I celebrate our,34th wedding anniversary , are we a perfect couple? no, we are a forever evolving couple. I still have some things that get her pissed and there are things about her I blow my stack over but you know what neither of us have a list about how the other should be to have the honor of the other’s presence . We have boundaries and deal breakers for sure but have trust , commitment , communication , we know what team we play for, we walk hand in hand forward . We encourage each other to be what we as individuals require of ourselves and that part of the journey makes us both better . I’m hoping you have peace in your life sir, you surly work for it… blessings

          3. Congratulations on that anniversary Louie! We’ll hit 10 this summer…hopefully we’re both still around to hit your mark.

            Kal, I generally approach lists like that individually. Some lists are not well put together and others are. Depends on the focus. We talk with our kids about how neither my husband nor I are exactly what we were expecting to find in a partner, but the core traits fit well. I think people often put the wrong details on that kind of list and then are surprised when the person under the details doesn’t fit. Or like you, become unhappy when doing an Olympic gymnastics routine to fit the details isn’t (at the very least) acknowledged. In your situation, a list would most definitely be off putting!

          4. Thank you Rebekah! It was a struggle some of the time and a breeze other times. Its work…it’s care…it’s respect…it’s honor…it’s love. I like what you said to Kal. He’s done very honorable work for his relationship and has earned his freedom peace and restart.

  8. I really think there’s a large group of entitled, selfish adults and children out there and when they go into relationships and ultimately fail, we blame hedonic adaptation. How can we possibly think the people that fall under this category will succeed in honoring a relationship when respect and empathy have never been woven into their daily lives? We’re living in a society of instant gratification. People work less for things and expect more. Don’t like your husband? Easy! There are approximately two thousand dating sites to choose from. Not getting enough sex? Sweet, there’s also free porn. We talk here about solving hedonic adaptation but we kind of live in a society driven by it. Like it or not it carries over. No question.
    I’m less interested in finding out why so many relationships end in divorce these days. I don’t see that going away anytime soon. I’m more interested in raising strong kids who feel secure and loved even if relationships don’t work, and yes even if I’m nicer to someone else’s kid on some random occasion.
    I’m happy when I meet people that get it right. They’re easier to spot as I get older because they seem to be in the minority. The ones laughing together, holding hands, talking with great interest. They really seem to come
    from all walks of life too… some whose parents are divorced, some still together, some with single parents. It’s fascinating really that they all come to the same result in so many different ways.
    Thank you for posting this on a shit day for me. It helped.

    1. I think these concepts are the same for all kinds of relationships in various ways.

      I’m trying to teach my kids some of this stuff to apply to their lives.

      I don’t think people are all that different than they used to be in most ways. Many people lived in shitty marriages because divorce wasn’t an option. Pros and cons to the fact that it’s easier to divorce and women are less generally financially dependent on men.

      1. I didn’t phrase that last sentence well. Pros and cons to the fact that it is much easier to divorce than before. Easier because of changes in laws, more societal/religious acceptance and more financial independence for many women.

          1. And I agree. There are MORE options for those situations. However, what about the situations that are not abusive? What about those people that just choose not to love anymore? I had an in depth conversation about this with a male friend of mine recently. He said he doesn’t think it’s in our nature to love one person that it’s one hundred percent a choice. I agreed with it then and every time it’s been written here. However I think there’s also a deeper love within, like the love I feel for my children, that kind of drives my choices. It wouldn’t go away no matter what I chose and I commonly choose love because of that feeling. What about that? Is that even something that exists with a partner?
            I’m not sure. I love reading all the responses and all the different views. I love this blog and it commonly reaches into my soul…. and then it sometimes pisses me off. Maybe that’s just because I’m hungry:)

          2. Hey I get it Natasha,

            I find the blog and comments fascinating but regularly disagree with someone’s point of view COMPLETELYz

            I don’t disagree with your original comment completely.

            I agree that most people are unaware of how marriages really work. What it takes to be in a successful marriage by today’s definition.

            Expectations for most marriages 50-75 years ago were somewhat different than they are today. I agree with you there.

            It’s more about finding a romantic partner now. Less about finding a man with a good job who doesn’t beat you and a wife who can cook and care for kids.

            So that’s the issue imho. To be a good romantic partner requires a whole lot more intimacy skills than being a functional partner.

            And most people don’t have those skills and don’t know they don’t have them.
            So they think the issue is with the choice of partner so logically they feel the urge to get divorced and seek a “better match”.

            Since so many people come from families that weren’t able to model the deep love and commitment you are talking about it is hard to do.

            And our culture puts such emphasis on being independent not becoming “codependent” it reinforces a lot of bad relationship skills.

            So yeah I agree it’s complex.

            I also think a lot of our parenting ideas are screwed up too.

          3. That’s a big topic but I’ll just throw out a couple that relate to this topic.

            I think our current culture puts so much emphasis on parents (mothers especially) bonding with kids that it displaces the marriage.

            I am ALL for bonding with kids and paying attention to their needs of course.

            Often it is the husband’s that feel displaced. In our marriage it was me.

            Things like having your bedroom off limits. And greeting your spouse FIRST. And making sure you have adult time to talk uninterrupted. Energy is invested in the marriage not just the kids and their school/activities/etc

            Just a few examples.

            The other parenting thing that overlaps with marriage skills. It’s very hard to be differentiated. To allow your spouse/kid to be different than you but also be able to set healthy boundaries to protect yourself.

          4. Examples of the last part?

            I definitely understand the first part of what you said. Our children grow up. When they are grown what you have left is each other and that can potentially be a very sad place if you’ve invested all your energy into loving and raising children. However I should make mention some people do that on purpose. They put all their love into the kids because they don’t want to put any into their partner.
            The result is typically a disastrous end to a marriage and some very entitled kids.
            I think in general our society puts an extreme amount of energy on how we are raising kids as opposed to other areas like marriage. It makes me spit fire when I’m reminded daily of all the areas I’m lacking in that department which is a whole other story.

          5. Natasha,

            You asked for examples of this:

            “The other parenting thing that overlaps with marriage skills. It’s very hard to be differentiated. To allow your spouse/kid to be different than you but also be able to set healthy boundaries to protect yourself.”

            This is what I screwed up I had to figure out how to fix with both my parenting and my marriage. It’s foundation to healthy relationships of all kinds.

            Example: being able to tolerate the style of my very different daughter while also figuring out which parts I need to set boundaries to change. Small example. She’s incredibly messy. I mean mounds of clothes everywhere. I’m not a clean freak but the clutter drove me crazy. Big fights.

            Finally I had to figure out a way to accept that she just doesn’t care how cluttered/dirty things are and I need that to be ok. Different people have different styles. I quit trying to change her but enforced boundaries on certain levels to maintain my sanity. I matter too.

            The dishes post Matt describes is like that. It’s just so hard to get it in our heads that we have to accept that people have vastly different points of views but also be able to stand up for ourselves in healthy ways too.

            I see many parents either trying to force their kids to conform to their ideas of what they should be like/like to do. Or too much on the other side where they become employees of their kids.

          6. I can say that the pressure for mothers to spend time with their kids is immense. Sometimes, I’m not even sure how we are supposed to spend that time. After playing with the kids, reading to the kids, feeding/cleaning the kids, taking them to the park, I’d like a moment to sit and chill. There has to be an optimal amt of time to spend with kids in which if you go over that amount, the benefits level off. Seriously, kids need balance too.

          7. Totally agree Julie.

            The expectations around modern parenting are insane. The amount of activities and driving around etc

            And marriages often suffer as a result. Not to mention your own sanity.

          8. Let me say I agree with you that there are just so many men who are unwilling to do the work. I know there are women you but as I said many times the research shows it’s often men who don’t accept influence. Who block the wife’s request for more emotional intimacy.

            So yeah I get your frustration there.

            I am making progress on my marriage but I have had to do a shitload more research and work than would have been the case if my husband was less typical of many men.

          9. I would say yes that men do this more than women. I know some people shy away from generalizations when it comes to the sexes but some things… they’re just fucking true.

            However I will make mention, women are ending relationships more often. As you said earlier it’s becoming more acceptable in the eyes of society and we’re less reliant on another person to make things work.

          10. I tend to be over sympathetic when it comes to men in regards to intimacy issues. A recent fellow told me he couldn’t talk face to face to anyone about important issues. All his intimate conversations were done in the car while he was driving, so he wouldn’t have to look at the person while he was speaking. That’s a pretty deep reluctance to be seen.
            And I don’t think that is uncommon.
            It’s really easy for me to have the frustrations that most women do with men, but then I hear that and I realize there is some deep wounding.
            In personal relationships I don’t know how we can really address that stuff in ways that show them we love them, we care and we want to connect without it triggering our own pain.
            I applaud your work in that area.

          11. Person,

            Oh yes, I have empathy for men (most days anyway). There is a reason most men are emotionally shutdown since they are shamed for showing vulnerability from around age 3 and up.

            That just makes it so much harder to get through to many men to even SEE there is something that needs to change.

            It’s very frustrating.

            But as I’ve said in previous posts women often also lack key skills to set healthy boundaries early in the relationship.

            So that’s where many women end up having to do a lot more work than their husband (because he has less skills overall) when it has gone off the rails or they get divorced.

          12. So here’s a question- if women set boundaries early saying “I’m not going to tolerate that” and men receive a request to accept influence as a direct threat to their sense of self, so shut down and leave the relationship then their options are to either be alone, or be with a woman who has poor boundaries. I’m not sure if either help the man become any a better partner, or men in general learn how to accept the role as partner.
            I’m not disagreeing, just thinking out loud.

          13. Not sure how long you’ve been reading here but in the Atkinson ebook I recommend frequently there are specific ways to “stand up for yourself without making a big deal of it”.

            But yes, even if done skllfully some/many men will respond defensively. That’s why you have to do it early. If they are willing to get therapy together to work through it that’s another way.

            If a man just shuts down or gets defensive over and over healthy women move on. They don’t allow themselves to be with a man who can’t accept influence from her and work for win/win solutions.

            A lot of women don’t know that tolerating that fairly average male reaction is not normal. And they end up unhappy later.

            I was kind of in the middle. Fairly average for a lot of women.

          14. PIP,

            I realized I didn’t answer your question about the man’s side of changing.

            Defensive people only change when the cost of not changing is higher than staying the same.

            Because we as a culture and hordes of individual women just tolerate a man’s unwillingness to accept influence under the guise of “that’s just how men are” the cost never comes.

            When a woman he loves, early enough that he still cares, says this is not acceptable and it must change or I must leave the cost for staying the same becomes very costly.

            And he has a clear choice.

            When many men and women in our culture reinforce this pushback against bad relationship skills the cost to stay the same goes up and many men make the logical choice to change.

            Right now there isn’t a lot of cost for him to change until a divorce is imminent.

          15. Single women need to set these boundaries early in a dating relationship. Both to not waste your time and also to give certain men a message that they need to change.

            It’s their choice obviously. But if enough women gave that same message it becomes clearer.

          16. I’d also like to add in here that with further thought my conclusion would be that it isn’t a woman’s job to help or fix the man. That’s taking on a huge burden. The idea that we would have to be the one that has to help them may come from a place of mothering nuture, but that isn’t really the partners job. That should come from the parents when they are young and through daily socialization.

          17. PIP,

            I don’t think we should have to fix the man either.

            It’s about setting boundaries to give the person feedback and a chance to change. It’s always their choice.

            If you meant my comment about how do we change the cultural acceptance of men not accepting influence that does require people to change.

            Is it our job to fix it? I didn’t mean my comment (which I’m sure was poorly worded) that it was single women’s JOB as in responsibility to fix it.

            Only to answer your question of how will men change.

            If enough people (men and women) put boundaries up and don’t give positive reinforcement most men will be different over time.

            It’s not your job to change men. It’s your job to not allow people to not treat you well.

            However, imho we as a culture do need it to be everyone’s job to change the way we train boys and tolerate men’s not accepting influence.

            So I think it’s everyone’s job globally. I am doing my best to train my son and my best to set boundaries so my husband will be encouraged to accept influence more.

            If you don’t think that’s the partner’s job than I guess we disagree? That’s why I like Atkinson’s ebook which helps me see it is our job to stand up to our partner respectfully. They have to choice to change of course but we give them valuable feedback and enforce boundaries to make the status quo painful.

          18. And, of course, if once we set boundaries and they decide not to change than we have to do what we think best for ourselves and the situation.

            If a man refuses to change and you’ve done reasonable things than it’s not at that point our job to change him or stay.

          19. I wasn’t disagreeing with your comment, I was just finishing the train of thought on mine. ..The ” if we set hard boundaries then how do we help them ” question. The answer is that’s not my job. At least in a dating relationship.
            It would be my job to make sure I was happy in my relationship. So certainly, in dating and in marriage it’s my responsibility to set the boundaries that allowed me to make sure I was caring for myself. That includes boundaries about accepting influence. .. And besides,
            I’m really too tired to disagree at this point in the day. 😉 (That was a joke. Haha…:) )

          20. PIP,

            Totally ok to disagree of course.

            It’s hard to get full thoughts in these comments. I definitely agree that a dating relationship has less responsibility for requiring change than marriage.

            On a practical note and man I wish this wasn’t true, as Terry Real says many women are required to do a lot of work to require and help their men change.

            It’s not their responsibility I agree. But because of the way we raise boys and men often it’s just the way it has to happen or it doesn’t get done.


          21. This is a little off topic, but I thought it was worth making mention of.
            It’s not that I have a problem disagreeing , it’s just that I tend to think in questions vs. facts.
            I like to come from a place of not knowing, that tends to keep me open to understand things from various points of view- in hopes of gaining a more complete view. So, I can’t disagree if I’m coming from a place of not knowing.
            I appreciate your facts, incredibly. I appreciate your sense of right vs. wrong and the amount of research you seek out. It is helpful to us all.
            My ramblings aren’t so informative, but never the less they are how I come to a conclusion.
            And, since I’m off topic here , and I’m much more adept at confession vs. Mystery I figured I would go ahead and mention that I’m not new here ;).
            I am disassociating my name from my comments for professional reasons.
            As sad is it may sound, my therapist (yep, I’ve got one) asked me what has been the most influential relationship in my life over the last 5 years, and I had to name this blog . Woah. That sounds really sad! But f- it. It is what is it. It has helped me change and grow in ways I would not have expected.
            So, while some of my interaction habits may change, because my life has changed, I’m afraid they may just as likely “give me away”. So to save a bunch of awkwardness, I’ll let you guess who this is. ..I hope that doesn’t make awkwardness for anyone else.
            Ah, damn. Now it’s no fun without the mystery. 🙂

          22. Well shoot now I am going to have to gather clues to figure out your secret identity. ? I have a good guess I think.

            Oh listen I get that I can come across as black and white, like I think I have the answers to everything.

            Honestly mostly it’s that I forget to add social polite phrases that I was supposed to learn from Donkey. Things like “this is just my opinion” etc.

            It’s a flaw sigh

            But you PIP may be like other commenters that just have a different style. Just see and process things differently. Find mystery helpful.

            Totally cool to not process things the same way. Mystery methodology doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s not surprising my Nerd methodology isn’t the most helpful to others.

            It’s why I don’t find Buddhist framing helpful while others do. My brain just likes other approaches.

          23. You don’t come across as black and white, or harsh. It’s not just your information that is impressive, it’s the way you put it together. You make it applicable. Please don’t take my words as dipped in saccharine. They are sincere.
            Anyway. I’m out.
            See you around 😉

          24. Thank you PIP. I didn’t take it that you were being saccharine.

            I was agreeing with you that I can come across very emphatically even when I mean it as my opinion. Or as one way of interpreting things. On certain topics like men not accepting influence I really do intend to be emphatic ha ha.

            I get caught up in the ideas and forget to think about how it will be received by others.

            The reason this is applicable is it’s not very good to do that in relationships either. My hubby has more of a “see all points of view” process so it can be a block if I forget to add disclaimers that acknowlege there are alternative ways of seeing things.

            It’s just a skill I need to practice more.

            I do think you have a lot to add in your comments. Your style is helpful to get good questions out there for people to think about.

          25. This is not just about women setting boundaries with men but also the other way around.

            In my opinion Atkinson explains it well. We have to be good at being both independent and interdependent. Part of being good at being interdependent in standing up respectfully when your spouse is not treating your fairly.

            This applies equally for men and women. Men need to stand up respectfully to their wives when they are criticizing them for example.

            That way she can learn to improve her soft startup skills.

            Standing up to each other and setting boundaries as needed with the goal of improving the relationship.

          26. pip,

            I suspect your definition of “poor boundaries” is based on criteria that I disagree with. I think many men today are playing with the hand they’ve been dealt, one that is different than it was seventy-five years ago. That may mean being alone, but that may be the best result for them. However, the women with “good boundaries” may not like the consequences of maintaining those boundaries. I could be wrong, but I have my suspicions that the high expectations of women today will not lead to most women being happy.

          27. Rickety, this is a bit unfair because I would have to scroll through > 300 responses to review what I said to answer completely, and I didn’t do that, but I’ll respond anyway, because I don’t think my ideas have changed that much.
            I do think we may have some misaligned notions of what it means for women to be boundaried.
            Boundaries are used everyday. There’s a property line between you and your neighbor, that establishes where your neighbors property starts and yours ends.
            There are time limits that can be a non-tangible boundary. It’s when one event ends and another begins.
            Boundaries are a defined line that separates one thing from another.
            But they can also protect the contents of what’s inside the boundaries.
            Banana’s have peels and humans have skin, to keep the insides protected and in some ways, ordered as well.
            Boundaries allow us to live peaceably with others, and define what is ours.
            Having our own is important because even as a woman I have The God given capacity to exercise my agency in a world that is at all times influenced by human beings. (You mentioned change in your comment, and I want to respectfully say that yes, our society has changed drastically in 75 years. It’s even changed drastically in the last 30. And 75 years ago, was much different than the preceding 75 years. That is part of the natural world, and part of human society. The things that don’t change are things that are not alive.)
            I don’t think being boundaried is about “high expectations of women today.” …
            I’m not sure what exactly you believe are high expectations, but I can say from a woman’s point of view they are typically around keeping things that will harm them out and allowing the good things in.
            If women say they will not tolerate a behavior because it hurts them, then that is their right to say- even to their husband.
            She is the only person who can say what hurts her, and what makes her life hard.
            So when she says
            “ no” she is keeping a boundary.
            Then the other party, the one who hopefully has boundaries as well, gets to exercise their own agency to possibly change their behavior.
            This goes both ways, – men can set boundaries, and they often time do, it’s just more common for men to have firm boundaries and not be expected to defer (read about Gottmans accepting influence) while women are usually socialized to defer to others influence- so don’t have as strong boundaries.
            The whole thing here, though, is realizing that women have desires and dreams and aspirations just as much as men do.
            And in order for women to also “live the life they’ve imagined” they need to respect the things their bodies , minds and emotions are telling them and set a boundary in order to protect their well being.
            I know we’ve started a discussion way back about this.
            I don’t think the concept should be that hard to grasp, but I can imagine it may be hard to accept.
            I know you’ve brought up the biblical concept of two becoming one, and my question to you would be “which *one*”
            Are you the only one allowed to exist in the relationship, and she needs to defer?
            That’s not two becoming one, that’s one taking over the other.
            Two becoming one has to start with two- two distinct individuals making space for the other- both giving and receiving, both influencing a shared life and existence.
            If my partner can’t grow with me, and I have to sacrifice my life so that he can just take over mine, then I would rather be alone, and I don’t think I would have a lot of regrets about that.
            I am a happy and fulfilled human being, by being who I am to my fullest.

          28. pip,

            First, I was not directing my response to you at a personal level, but to the issue of what women generally should expect if the current situation continues.

            I think boundaries should exist for everyone in every situation and relationship. My possible (likely?) disagreement is regarding the criteria for what defines the quality of the boundaries, especially for women in marriages. For example, I suspect the vast majority of women in the USA today would consider the idea of submission to their husband to be unacceptable. In other words, their boundary is “I will not submit to my husband”. Note: Humor me if you do not consider this to be a boundary. I’m trying to explain my position.

            I’m not sure if either help the man become any a better partner, or men in general learn how to accept the role as partner.

            Suppose that a wife has the no-submission boundary above, but her husband has a boundary where he expects his wife to submit to him (I think this is valid, and Biblically correct). Now this should have been communicated before they married, but people make mistakes. Since it happened, would you expect the husband to ignore his boundary to “become a better partner”? I don’t think he should, but if they both maintain their boundaries, then there will be trouble in that marriage.

            In my opinion, you are advocating that the man is the one that should change. I see no reason for that to be the only option.

            Which brings me to the point that I attempted to make before. If women’s expectations for marriage have increased (significantly?), I would expect this to be reflected in their boundaries. If men’s expectations have not changed much, then their boundaries will be relatively unchanged. So, today, the boundaries will likely overlap and problems will result.

            If the woman does not maintain her boundaries, and she does this often in the marriage, then I would certainly expect her to be dissatisfied with the marriage. If, however, she maintains her boundaries and the husband his, then there will be problems.

            If the husband drops his boundary, then he is not happy. If the husband maintains his boundaries, then the woman is in a lose-lose situation. Either she has her boundary crossed, or there is strife in the marriage.

            So, has the rise in women’s expectations and boundaries resulted in an improvement in marriages? It doesn’t look to me like it has, nor do I think it will. Today, the consequence is that women need to accept that marriage is not going to be satisfactory, or reduce their expectations/boundaries so that marriage works. In other words, it is unlikely that married women will be able to both maintain their boundaries and “live the life they’ve imagined”.

            I disagree that change is inevitable, but, regardless, when change occurs and the results are undesirable, it seems rather ludicrous to insist that others must change to accomodate that change.

            I know you’ve brought up the biblical concept of two becoming one, ….

            I don’t recall saying that here, but I do believe that. Relating that to boundaries, then the important question is whether or not both parties’s boundaries are indeed biblical. If they are, then it should not be a problem for the two to become one.

          29. Rickety,
            I’m not going to go on any further after this comment, simply because it irritates the hell out of me and serves me no purpose in arguing it.
            I responded initially out of respect, and I am firmly stating that I am respectfully declining any further discussion on it.
            But I will state again what I originally said: women create boundaries to protect themselves.
            If the man in their life is more interested in his own creature comforts more than he is about his partners well being- there is already a problem in the relationship.
            Laziness doesn’t win over well being.

          30. pip, Now that I know who you are (i.e. the name you previously used here) and knowing how that went, I think I know what to expect.

  9. This could turn into a real bitchfest about our spouses. I’m in a constant state of want. Not for sex. That old ship done sunk in the harbor a long time ago. My husband doesn’t want me like that anymore, which is fine. I don’t want me, either. But sex is sex, you know. What I want is conversation. Deep, meaningful conversations. I want to talk about things that have substance, things that matter. I don’t want to talk about farts. I don’t want to talk politics. I don’t want to hear hours and hours of news or listen to him joke with me when I tell him that’s what I want. I know my husband has a brilliant mind. I just want him to show it to me again sometime. I miss that much more than sex.

    I guess this post hit a nerve with me. It made me cry. Sorry.

    1. I am so sorry. I don’t have anything helpful to say only that I feel for what must be such a lonely and painful place.

      Take care of yourself. You deserve it.

  10. I have two thoughts. First- just because it is more easily stated is this: I think it’s easier to have the hard conversations with people who are the closest to you when you are practiced at having the hard conversations with friends, acquaintances and co-workers. I think that is a part of having clear boundaries.
    Being honest about “where you are at”, what you feel and think etc. with people who intersect your life gives you practice when it comes to the conversations that carry more consequence.
    If the relationship means any thing at all, or if you value the person at all, honestly communicating is something that will help everyone continue in whatever the relationship is, or change what the relationship is to something more appropriate/ tolerable/ manageable etc. Or end the relationship all together.
    That’s my first thought. And it actually leads into my second thought .
    My second thought is something that I think this article touches on, but have been thinking about previously..
    (This is more in regards to dating and starting new relationships)
    How important is chemistry in romantic relationships?
    I’m struggling with that because while I want a healthy, full on, sex life, the “hook” for me is a desire for family, friendship, acceptance (both to me and by me…acceptance is really my super power.)
    If from the outset the attraction is “chemistry” and that disappears then how important is it?
    I know a common thought/theme in the romance world is the “fuck yes” relationship. There is a lot of encouragement to find a person who will push ALL your buttons (the good ones at least…).While yes, I need to be attracted to this person, people change over time, and of course the longer your with your mate the less “chemistry/ magnetic attraction” one feels.
    Matt also said a very important word “mystery” – I guess as far as hedonic adaption is concerned, that could be “newness”. Part of me thinks that what that really is, is all our own assumptions poured onto who this new Hottie in our lives is.
    We think they are this awesome creature because that’s who we make them up to be.
    The gist of my first thought is to basically be honest with who you are in all your relationships.
    In modern dating scenarios, since it’s mostly contrived and the only known interaction is mostly an interview, in many ways people can know honest information about you (reducing the mystery) without really interacting in an authentic way…not knowing *me, but still laying all their own assumptions on me.
    My point was (though I’m getting diverted in my own thoughts) is that being upfront and honest can tend to reduce the mystery and make people less appealing because I’m not allowing there to be mystery. I’m not allowing their fantasy of who I am to unfold. So ” no chemistry”
    But again…that illusion falls apart eventually and your left with what’s really there.
    So- my conclusion?
    We’re doomed as a species ; P.

    1. Here is my feedback.

      You need to be attracted to your partner in the intial phase. There is why we are attracted to some people and not others but I think you have to start with someone you find an attractive mate.

      There are different schools of thoughts of how much mystery you need. Esther Perel has a TED talk all about the need to maintain mystery.

      Others like Sue Johnson and John Gottman say that deep friendship and safety produce the best sex.

      My take is that the common element ties into this post. You need to remain conscious of your spouse.

      I have been married over 20 years and my husband is still surprising and a mystery to me. His differences maintain the mystery. Trust and friendship give the safety.

      So I think the mystery is kind of like being conscious to stay romantic. To not take your spouse for granted. And as I said in another comment to add novelty in experiencing new things together.

      I don’t like game playing and am a direct person so that makes sense to me.

      Others who enjoy flirting may like to emphasize the mystery part more. Perfectly valid too.

      Being conscious I think is the key. Chemistry can be created through behaviors. It’s not only about sexual attractiveness. Otherwise as you get older you’re out of luck.

        1. I’ve seen this, and actually thought about it as I was writing my comment. But thanks for posting it.
          It seems to be a natural thing for people to do, so maybe I’ll just let them next time 🙂

          1. Just to reiterate I don’t relate to Esther Perel’s approach. So I think if you prefer a more direct style don’t talk yourself out of it.

            Go with the style that suits you. And find someone who finds that sexy.

          2. I may be fooling myself that will happen, but there are so many additional reasons to just live out of who you are that I find this reasonable advice. 😉

          3. Oh well again it’s a numbers game. You seem a lovely, emotionally intelligent woman.

            There are many men in the world who would find your authentic self attractive. Just eliminate all the other men. ?

    2. I mean you have to use common sense. People who discuss their digestive issues on a date are gonna kill the mystery for sure ha ha.

      1. Ha ha! Nothing that descriptive or detailed. He actually did most of the talking, but I did clearly state some of my practical philosophical ideas . That may be an oxymoron :). I just explained some of the things I thought were important , that influence my decisions ect.
        I think just being over 40 and dating means I’m out of luck :P.
        But, I’m getting to the point that I’m OK with that.
        I absolutely think you’re right about not assuming too much about your partner.
        If we are doing it right (life that is) then we are going to be changing and growing. We are going to be engaged in things that make our lives meaningful and that usually always entails a little stretching ourselves along the way.

        1. And you are NOT out of luck just because you’re over 40. I say rubbish to that. Women in their 30’s and 40’s know what they want and confidence is sexy as fuck. In my opinion go do things that make YOU happy and the right people will come along.

          1. Natasha,
            I agree that you HAVE to be engaged in things that allow you to learn, grow and PLAY. In general developing relationships and community are incredibly important (especially as you get older…it’s no fun to imagine yourself fat and alone in a nursing home. My goal is to be the old lady everyone knows and loves at shady acres..) . So, you’re right that you need to go do things you enjoy, and you’ll meet people there. If I meet A person who becomes significant, then great. But in the mean time I’m learning that the value in doing what I am doing is in the doing.

          2. This is a great outlook. It’s something that I’ve taken to heart over the past few years. I have formed some of the most valuable friendships of my life over the past couple of years because of it.
            It’s a cool thing to learn what you love and what makes you tick… for me it was more relearning since I’ve been raising four kids.

        2. I think a woman over 40 has challenged dating that’s true. It’s also true that you can eliminate a lot of useless bad dates since you know yourself well and know what you want.

          If I were dating again I would look for a guy who is not avoidant. (See Stan Tatkin Wired for Dating). Or at the very least someone who knows he’s crazy like everyone else and owns his shit and is actively working on it. Matt, for example, has learned what he did wrong in his first marriage.

          IMHO there are more healthy women than men in terms of relationships. But if you want to find a long term partner it’s defintely doable!

          If it was me I would approach it like finding a good job or any other numbers game. It might remove the mystery but really it’s all about finding that compatible person. It’s a numbers game. Might need lots of resources and tries but in the right places for the type of person you are looking for.

          Plenty of unsolicited advice here. ?

      2. I think honesty can be pretty beneficial in the dating arena. Not bathroom habit honesty but lifestyle honesty.
        I think a fabulous intro might be “hey my name is Natasha. I am very unorganized, I cuss a lot, and I require role play in the bedroom”. I mean, what would I have to lose?

        1. Kid Charlemagne

          Love role play in the bedroom!

          If you are creative and have a good imagination, this can be so fun. And so sexy. As a wise person once said, your biggest sexual organ is the one between your ears.

          P.S. But the cussing a lot? Very unattractive and unappealing in a lady, a real turn off (unless it’s part of that bedroom role play, lol). You’d be well advised to work on that.

          1. Rebekah Verbeten

            That right there is a good reason for her to ‘lead’ with that tidbit…very good sifting factor for who is a good fit! Better than hiding it and really getting to like someone, then loosening up and dealing with the whole ‘you aren’t who I thought you were’ process.

  11. ladyinthemountains

    Thanks for another great post. It is so true that we end up taking people for granted and appreciating them. In order to make things work long term, we have to choose them over and over again- the good and the bad. Love is so much a choice. Communication is also key as you say. It is possible but it takes work and most aren’t willing to do the work because we want that excitement again. It is fun but it isn’t love.

  12. Kid Charlemagne

    “I still was disinterested at times in going to bed with her, even though she’s sexually attractive and literally asked me to. Which seems insane, really.”

    That pretty much explains it. As the old saying goes, if you’re not taking care of business he (she, in this case) will find someone who will.

    Hint: it was never about the dishes by the sink. She didn’t trip her trigger over the new guy, and subsequently blow up her family to run off and set up housekeeping with him because he’s so sensitive and so good at washing the dishes. There were other reasons. I could go into more detail, but in an effort to “keep it classy” I’ll just leave it there. I trust the reader can fill in the blanks,

    Guys, your woman doesn’t want a sensitive, in-touch-with-his-feminine-side, Alan Alda-ish, happy dishwasher and laundry-folder. What she really wants (craves, in fact) is a masculine, manly, aggressive, alpha male who knows how to make her revel in her womanhood by (among other things) ravaging her until she can’t take any more. If there’s a choice between these two types, she will chose the latter. Virtually every time. Except for possibly after menopause if she’s lost her sex drive, but that’s a different scenario.

    And I don’t blame her – I’m not one of those guys embittered by women. I’ve had my share of good luck with the ladies, and I get your average woman’s desire in this area. And I can relate – it would be the same for me, having to choose between a no-nonsense, careerist, somewhat masculinized woman who wears slacks and men’s style shoes, and talks like a dude…vs a smiling, bubbly, flirty, blonde with a nice curvy figure who wears cute dresses to show it off, and comes off as sweet and submissive. Could you blame me for running off with the latter, if I were given the choice? Men crave the feminine and women crave the masculine, it’s just how we’re built.

    P.S. If you want to confirm what I said in the first few paragraphs, DON’T ask a woman. Simply ask a man who is very successful with the ladies. He’s the one who will know, by definition – if he didn’t have it figured out, he wouldn’t be a successful ladies’ man.

      1. You don’t have to be respectful. He’s the exception to the be-patient-with-dissenting-opinions rule.

        His lack of reading comprehension and inability to grasp nuance and interconnected ideas demonstrates either gross incompetence (which I’d like to believe, but don’t), or malicious intent to spread his propaganda under a new screenname.

        He’s obsessed with being an asshole to women, and champions doing so as the ultimate secret to a successful marriage.

        Women being unconditionally loved and respected is a dealbreaker for him.

        Any idea that clashes with:

        Man is head of house. Woman has his children and defers all critical thinking and decision-making to man because she’s too dumb and female to contribute rational or valuable thought…

        … anything that ISN’T the Red Pill version of Father Knows Best is an affront to God, who–duh–created women to do men’s bidding.

        And his wife and daughter are sooooo happy and have the best life ever because he’s a big, cool, tough guy who wears the pants in the family and everyone does what he says, which is WHY they’re happy.

        It’s the way God intended it, Natasha, don’t you know?


        He promotes being an asshole despite multiple attempts at politely asking him to stop. He creates new ghost accounts just to comment here and spread his assholeness.

        It’s really irritating.

        So, again. Thank you for respecting other readers here. Almost all of them deserve it.

        K.C., here? Feel free to tell him to go fuck himself because this is the last time you’ll see this version of him here in the comments.

        But don’t worry, he’ll be back under some other name soon enough, I”m sure.

        1. You know Matt, I thought that was him but I wasn’t sure. I should trust my instincts more often.

          1. Great catch Matt! I caught myself speaking out loud, “This sounds just like _____.” Thank you for sparing us the pain of what we already know exists. <3

        2. You know Matt I thought I’d read that type of “toolism ” before . ..touting his wish list of alpha maleness.. Yes…calling him on his nonsense and then having him retreat with such wimpy shit like my punctuation and sentence structure . What’s the matter dude you run out of kleenex ? Please dude contribute or buzz off
          Matt you’re stronger more focused more honorable and far more alpha . ..fuck him and his pet weasel !

    1. This is dumb as hell. That whole alpha/beta thing was based on wolves in captivity and has never been reproduced in the wild let alone shown to be applicable to humans. But of course you’re too smart to listen to women. Whew. No man I know who is retirement home age and still happily married to their high-school/college sweetheart will tell you any of this alpha crap, and that’s the measure of success people on this blog are looking for. Sleeping around a lot isn’t that difficult and basically just requires enough confidence and perseverance to play the numbers game over a long period of time. That doesn’t make you a particularly desirable partner to any one of those women, and just because a woman is willing to sleep with you doesn’t mean you were ever considered marriage or even boyfriend material.

  13. leslidoares645321177

    Great article and comments.There is another factor at play. The 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. When we choose to be upset or annoyed with our spouse or child, it takes 5 positive interactions with them to balance out that one negative. Unfortunately, when we are upset, we aren’t in the mood to look for positives. In fact, bias confirmation almost guarantees we will only pay attention to info that supports our displeasure with them. Hence, the negative spiral.

    Actively looking for positive interactions, having an attitude of gratitude, is the antidote. It is a practice we can all adopt and get better at.

    1. Haven’t checked in with you in entirely too long. That’s on me. I hope you’re well, Lesli. Would be great to catch up soon. Hope you and your family are well. Thank you very much for chiming in here. Important things here. Namely for me. 🙂

  14. Hi everyone – I know I only post sporadically and most often do so offering the honest opinion from a man’s perspective. I’ll start by saying this is another solid article by Matt and the comments are mostly on point. My only real addition is that I continue to feel that women want and expect more change than is always realistic, and dare I say, “fair”. I understand the concept of accepting influence but it seems to be a one way street. And I know casual mention of the “woman needing to accept influence herself” is offered in the comments. But it’s usually a passing comment followed up with the man lacking this general ability and his wife being better at it, thus not needed as much. Again, please don’t think I’m advocating for both partners not needing to accept levels of influence and/or not needing some level of change. My point is more along the age old statement of a man wanting his wife to stay the same while the wife wants the man to change after getting married. And I come back to the dirty dish debate. If the wife cares a lot about the dish but the man cares absolutely nothing about the dish, why does the rhetoric go that the husband MUST care about the dish BECAUSE his wife does? Why doesn’t the wife need to NOT care about the dish BECAUSE the husband doesn’t care? I think many men would be much more open to accepting influence if they felt their wives that same. Wives on this post, please answer truthfully (even if not publicly on this post): what happens the majority of the time when you and your husband disagree about something? And I don’t always mean the “we’ve got to sit down and discuss the major life event” kind of disagreement. I’m willing to bet more times than not the outcome will be whatever the wife wants.

    1. I like this perspective. I think people in general tend to get caught up in nonsense a lot. Sometimes lll even go as far as to say sometimes women especially are looking for a reason to get upset and it truly does not matter what it’s about.
      However on the flip side I’d say over my adult life I’ve made a lot more concessions than the men I’ve been with because I’m the default “have to” person. Sure, I don’t like doing dishes, or laundry but I also don’t want bugs crawling all over my house or my kids going to school with shit stained underwear. I think men tend to be a shit ton more selfish than women. It would be nice to see it evened out a little.

    2. I really, truly understand this perspective Nate, and my personal experience of feeling this way makes it ring true for me.

      But my problem my entire life is my baseline belief that what I felt, thought, believed was “right.”

      I trusted my own judgment to a fault.

      I think the critical distinction is PAIN.

      I think, if we’re speaking in broad generalities about the common men/women or husband/wife differences, it’s that it doesn’t HURT the man to put the dish in the dishwasher, or wash it. Maybe it’s annoying to him because it seems tedious and unnecessary. Maybe he wishes he didn’t have this extra thing to be mindful of to avoid upsetting her. But the experience isn’t painful in a fundamentally damaging way.

      What I believe I’ve learned that I didn’t know during my marriage, is that when I “failed” my wife, or disappointed her in some of these moments of disagreement — in some of the moments where she was “overreacting” or “blowing things out of proportion” — she was feeling pain.

      Not annoyance. Not frustration. PAIN.

      I didn’t think the situation warranted being taken seriously. It was evident in my actions, and more importantly, in my words and behavior after she tried to talk to me about [insert disagreement -causing incident here].

      And I think that caused a few really significant things to happen.

      1. She kept feeling hurt repeatedly because these tend to be everyday sorts of moments. Every day, the opportunity for a “dish” moment to arise is frequent. These moments tend to be the “little things.”

      2. My response to her requests for help/change were met with resistance, and maybe even something approaching scorn or mockery. I didn’t agree with her, and I was happy to explain why. And I NEVER felt bad about it because I always carried with me the underlying belief that what we were disagreeing about didn’t matter. I never treated it like it mattered. Thus, never demonstrating to her that what she was telling me warranted my consideration, respect or concern.

      So where did that leave us?

      It left a wife feeling hurt with frequency. Actual pain. That built and built and built. The pain in year 5 felt worse than year 1. The pain in year 10 felt excruciating.

      It left a wife with ZERO evidence that the pain would stop because my actions and words indicated I wouldn’t stop.

      It left a wife feeling as if her husband cares not whether she feels pain and unconcerned that he’s causing that pain.

      She could only conclude it would never stop.

      So the final question is:

      If my spouse, who vowed to love me forever is causing me pain — is ACTIVELY HURTING me — and indicates he/she will continue to hurt me, and that he/she will not even acknowledge that I am hurt (adding to the agony)…

      If I can’t fundamentally trust my spouse to love me enough to avoid hurting me when I tell him/her that something they are doing hurts me, what is the sane argument for remaining in that relationship?

      The lynchpin in all this is the willingness to accept on faith that something hurts your partner even if that same thing wouldn’t hurt you.

      The differing preferences about the “dish” scenario between a husband and wife will never be an apples-to-apples comparison unless the emotional/mental PAIN experienced by both people is the same.

      I think it’s intellectually dishonest to suggest that it is.

      Thus, the simplest “fix” for this problem to stop 80-ish percent of these things from happening is for men to trust and respect their wives/girlfriends enough to believe them when they say something is “hurting” them.

      We need to learn how to view that reported hurt just as seriously as we would view it if someone was physically striking them to inflict pain.

      It’s not obvious. It’s nuanced. Which is why it’s so common.

      But we need to get through to people that this is a real thing, otherwise this husband/wife cycle of shit will never end.

      Appreciate you reading and commenting, Nate. I hope this didn’t sound combative. Not intending for it to. Just trying to convey my perception of the situation you described.

      It sounds like a lot of unnecessary mental and emotional work for the typical guy.

      But I believe it’s imperative to having a healthy and sustainable relationship, and that wives being loved and respected this way will NOT be “nagging” or “overreacting” because she will KNOW and TRUST that she is loved and cared for.

      She will know and trust that she’s part of something sustainable.

      When everyday hurts, and you can’t trust that you’re living a life that can last, everyday is hard, stressful and scary.

      That’s where my wife was and why she left.

      And I GET IT now and totally understand why she would make that choice. She didn’t screw me over or abandon me. She protected her long term mental and emotional well-being because she didn’t see any other options.

      And I tried in the beginning to blame her for that choice. And in retrospect, understand that she did the wise and responsible thing, and while my life is now harder, I am a better person for understanding why she did it, and how—no matter how unintentional it might have been—I was accidentally and unknowingly an emotionally and mentally abusive partner.

      Lots of people are. I hope and pray that won’t always be true.

      1. Thanks Matt and you weren’t combative at all. I struggle with this because, while physically putting the metaphorical dish in the dishwasher would not cause me any pain, knowing that my wife places the importance of said dish above the years of closeness/love/etc. is painful. As in, I know the dish is important to you but is it really the battle you die in? To me, the painful part is that the dish seems to trump all else we have and have been through…real struggles that we came out of together (fertility issues) only to be undone by the F-ing dish. And as I’ve said before, I don’t leave the damn dish out but the metaphorical significance is understood. And it never seems to be just the dish. I wish my wife, and implore all the wives reading this who still have hope for their marriages, would understand the significant, detrimental affect they have on their husbands when employing a “never quite good enough” mentality. Because let’s be honest, once the dish issue is corrected, there will be a new dish issue that needs correcting. I see this as the husband’s version of death by a 1000 paper cuts. Seemingly harmless comments like “the mustard goes on the third shelf not the second” add up over time. When the wife makes a point to tell her husband something is not quite right, even if said calmly and in passing, still have a negative affect on her husband. It’s not that I give a shit about putting the mustard on the third shelf. I will do that next time without a problem. My problem is that my wife felt the NEED to point it out. When a husband points out all his wife’s faults, he is considered controlling and/or abusive and a major asshole. When a wife does this it has become the expected thing to happen. Stupid husband messes up again and needs to apologize. Anyway, Matt especially, I am trying to get past my own feelings of being right (as you clearly pointed out were a problem). The difficultly is of course, I can’t convince myself I am wrong…

        1. I can’t and won’t argue with your first sentence, which sums up your response nicely in way I understand, relate to, and agree with.

          You strike me as thoughtful. As someone who fundamentally cares. I think the “dish” convo is better served to the average dude out there who has never taken five seconds to be mindful of about the dynamics of his relationship this carefully.

          You’re going Inception on this a little by taking a step further for guys (or any spouse/partner) who DOES care. A lot.

          I’m with you in that under all of my assumptions was he belief that the love and deeply significant act of choosing to marry one another is important enough to not be undone by things that don’t matter.

          Comes back to mutual respect and compromise and communication, I guess. I have more but a meeting is starting. Ugh.

        2. Our culture tends to make wives seem nagging and husbands seem dumb or forgetful. They are unhealthy stereotypes. The problem is that if a wife is the household manager, meaning she manages the finances, the family social calendar, plans the meals, the shopping, and doctor appointments, she is always looking out for the ways to make the home efficient. If you leave out a dish, that is one extra thing she has to mentally add to her list when her list is already long. A good compromise is to spend a little time talking through all the aspects of the home and assign responsibilities with an open mind to make adjustments respectfully. It’s much easier said than done but with two little ones, my husband and I have found a system that works.

        3. I have been lurking on this blog for a while now and Nate’s mustard story reminded me of Brené Brown’s great TED talk on shame. A great watch if you haven’t seen it.


          During the talk, she tells the story of talking to a man at a book signing.

          “I love what you say about shame, I’m curious why you didn’t mention men.” And I said, “I don’t study men.” And he said, “That’s convenient. “And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because you say to reach out, tell our story, be vulnerable. But you see those books you just signed for my wife and my three daughters?” I said, “Yeah.” “They’d rather me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us. And don’t tell me it’s from the guys and the coaches and the dads. Because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else.”

          She continues…

          “So I started interviewing men and asking questions. And what I learned is this: You show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, I’ll show you a woman who’s done incredible work. You show me a man who can sit with a woman who’s just had it, she can’t do it all anymore, and his first response is not, “I unloaded the dishwasher! But he really listens — because that’s all we need — I’ll show you a guy who’s done a lot of work.”

          As several posters have noted, it takes both partners to do the work. However, this notion of what shame means to men, and how it can be amplified by the women in their life is what, in my opinion, Nate is describing.

          What does it mean to “fall off the horse”? It’s means admitting you don’t know how to do something or where the mustard goes. It means not understanding something. It means being indecisive: not knowing what you want to do at every given moment. Not being able to solve a problem or fix something. It means saying you feel sick. Your feelings were hurt. It’s saying you forgot. Sharing that you are worried about something at work. Letting someone down or disappointing them. Being angry. It means never, ever making a mistake.

          No, it’s not about the mustard or the glass. Yes, it is about empathy and being heard (men). But it is also about being a whole mature and confident person and not letting fear of male vulnerability drive the dynamic (women).

          Sure, I’m making a generalization with a data set of one. And I am probably in the minority here in that it is more often my wife who escalates the negativity. And it is me who has issues with setting boundaries. Even admitting that reversal of “typical” roles is an act of vulnerability (or is it weakness?).

          1. Geoffry,

            Thank you for this incredibly insightful comment! And for being brave enough to step into the Arena as Brene Brown (quoting Teddy Roosevelt) would say.

            You raise a lot of excellent points!

            You said:

            “However, this notion of what shame means to men, and how it can be amplified by the women in their life is what, in my opinion, Nate is describing.”

            How do wives amplify their husband’s shame? What kinds of things do women commonly do?

            I remember reading Brene Brown quote about the guy who said his wife and daughters who would rather him die than watch him fall down.

            I don’t personally relate to that as a woman but it must be common. I wonder what it looks like to get the shit kicked out of men by women for being vulnerable. Have you had that happen to you?

            I would love it if you could clarify “not letting fear of male vulnerability drive the dynamic (women).” Not disagreeing just trying to understand.

            Regarding not being in “typical” roles it’s not as atypical as people think. But I agree that it’s harder for men to be in the positions the culture usually associates with women.

            Thank you for being brave enough to be vulnerable.

            PLEASE keep commenting! You could add so much to help us all understand how to improve our relationships and what more of how men experience things.

          2. Geoffrey,
            I somehow missed this comment, but am so glad I caught it now.
            I don’t know if women realize how they are reinforcing shame when they respond out of their anxiety that the male is somehow not in control.
            I do believe that it is one way one way we can we can all grow and mature.
            That seems to be women not being OK with their own vulnerability.
            The sooner we can all get to a place of acknowledging our own vulnerablity the sooner we can learn to love, cover, and protect each other, and maybe learn a much greater strength.
            Like Gottmanfan, I’d like to encourage you to add your input and questions.

          3. And I said, “I don’t study men.”
            “So I started interviewing men and asking questions. And what I learned is this …

            Not studying men is one of my pet peeves. But notice that when she did, she “learned”. Rather than assuming she knew all the answers about men, she actually talked to them to see what they actually thought.

      2. Rebekah Verbeten

        “It sounds like a lot of unnecessary mental and emotional work for the typical guy.”

        But it is mental and emotional work that women do ALL THE TIME. That’s why it becomes frustrating (or painful depending on repetition) to be ignored when asking for one topic to be considered.

        On the flip side of this is the never ending list of ‘dishes’ that is brought up. Part of the reason this happens is there’s no point asking for help with a bunch of things at once. That definitely isn’t going to happen. So the focus is on one thing until it gets better. Then the next thing on the list is up. To approach it any other way is wasting energy that is already in short supply.

      3. > “I think the critical distinction is PAIN.

        I think, if we’re speaking in broad generalities about the common men/women or husband/wife differences, it’s that it doesn’t HURT the man to put the dish in the dishwasher, or wash it.”

        I think the situation is more symmetrical than that. It doesn’t literally hurt the man to put the glass in the dishwasher, nor does it literally hurt the woman for him not to. What hurts her is what it implies about his attitude to her. And, in the same way, it is PAIN for him to be told he has to do this thing with no explanation, and a moral judgement attached to it (like “lazy” or “messy”), because of what it implies about her attitude to him.

        The literal situation is unimportant — I’d have thought that was obvious but apparently you have to keep explaining that over and over! I guess that “glass on the side” post dropped a small bomb on your life.

        But I think we have to recognise that men feel PAIN just as much as women do. That’s an idea that our society is very reluctant to allow.

        (I guess if I could choose a name for just this blog, it might be “SueJohnsonFan” !

    3. Nate,

      Since you asked for feedback let me give you mine.

      1. Women are screwed up too. Most men and women don’t have a full set of good relationship skills me included. Your wife most likely too from your description.

      2. When we talk about women accepting influence and men not it has to do with generally women not exscalating the negativity. And men do.

      3. Meaning if I get frustrated at my husband and say “I am so sick of being the only one loading the dishwasher!” He, like most men, will escalate it. “You are never happy, I do so much around here and it’s just never enough for you!” “Nothing is ever enough for you.”

      1. Whoops hit return too soon.

        4. A wife will generally match the negativity or deescalate it. That is the definition of accepting influence.

        5. Is if my husband says “I am so sick of being the only one loading the dishwasher!” I would say “I load the dishwasher a lot too, it’s not just you!” (matching negativity) or I would say “you do load it a lot that’s true (deescalating).

        6. Wives, on average, either keep it at the same place or cool it off. Husbands, on average, heat it up more.

        7. Those differences are what allow you to be able to discuss reasonable solutions or not as a later stage.

        8. To answer your question directly I am terrible at certain skills that my husband is better at (like soft startups) so I am not saying that I or most wives are full of relationship maturity.

        9. But YES I accept influence much more then my husband does. He escalates negativity in convos in ways I do NOT.

        10. And that Nate makes it a shitty job to try to figure out how to work around that. It blocks progress. It’s why it’s taking years to fix things and not months.

        11. The averages may not apply to you and your wife. They do apply to me and many, many wives.

      2. Oh I forgot to add about the stonewalling. If I express frustration about “dishes” my husband like many will also commonly shut down. Perhaps walk away. That’s another typical way of escalating the negativity

        85% of stonewallers are MEN. May not apply to you but it is common.

        And no I don’t stonewall my husband.

      3. The “accepting influence” term comes from John Gottman’s research. Here is a description of the differences in husbands and wives as I noted the men escalate negativity.

        “Gottman has found that the happiest, most stable marriages in the long run were those where the husband treated his wife with respect and did not resist power sharing and decision making with her. When the couple disagreed, these husbands actively searched for common ground rather than insisting on getting their way.

        He looked intently at what happened when the newlyweds discussed an area of conflict and also when they talked about the history of their romance. He found a significant gender difference in the data.

        Although the wives would sometimes express anger or other negative emotions toward their husbands, they rarely responded to their husbands by increasing the negativity. Most of them either tried to tone it down or matched it. So if a husband said, “You’re not listening to me!” the wife would usually say something like “Sorry, I’m listening now” (a repair that tones down the negativity) or “I’m finding it hard to listen to you!” which matched her husband’s anger but didn’t go beyond it.

        Sixty-five percent of the men did not take either of these approaches. Their response escalated their wives’ negativity.

        They did this in a very specific way: by trotting out one of the four horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling). If the wife of one of these men said, “You’re not listening to me!” the husband would either ignore her (stonewall), be defensive (“Yes, I am!”), be critical (“I don’t listen because what you say never makes any sense”), or be contemptuous (“Why waste my time?”). Using one of the four horsemen to escalate a conflict is a telltale sign that a man is resisting his wife’s influence.

        Rather than acknowledging his wife’s feelings, this husband is using the four horsemen to drown her out, to obliterate her point of view. This is the opposite of accepting her influence. One way or another, this approach leads to instability in the marriage. Even if the husband doesn’t react this way very often, there’s an 81 percent chance that his marriage will be damaged.”

    4. Nate:

      You said:

      “I’m willing to bet more times than not the outcome will be whatever the wife wants.”

      I am sure it’s understandable from your perspective. However, most women bend themselves into pretzels trying to get a man to even listen to her.

      The research also doesn’t agree with this premise.

    5. Nate, I haven’t read the other responses yet, so this may have addressed. But for me the accepting influence is about learning to be a partner. Forgive the generalization but men are taught to be independent and women are generally taught to be social. So when a man makes unilateral decisions, or doesn’t take into account how is action affect the partner or the whole family there needs to be a change. It’s not about a bad habit, it’s about not seeing how it affects everyone else.

      1. I would like to argue that instead of “men are taught to be independent”, men are taught to be members of a team, but also to strive to excel at what they’re individually good at for the benefit of the team.
        Think team sports like football, or the military, or go back to the village effort of hunting in the pre-historic age. In order for the team to succeed, every person involved (and historically this is heavily male-dominated) is given a more or less specific task, to perform to their best ability.
        So when his wife comes along and complain that he can’t do whatever chore he’s doing “his way”, he either doubles down to try and improve in his effort, or he shuts down and step aside because he thinks that “Fine, you do it your way if it is so much better than mine”.

        Because that’s the way things are handled in the social settings he is used to: When you are critizised for your performance, when someone comes along and think they can do your “job” better than you do, you either improve in your efforts or you step aside and are replaced.

        Food for thought?
        Is this somewhat coherent, or am I just rambling?

        1. Kal, no it doesn’t sound like rambling, but I think it still misses the point.
          There are some aspects of team sports that you can make analogous with a relationship, but the big difference is what is the goal?
          I agree men are taught to win, you achieve – largely in fear of being out done or replaced.
          It’s that fear based need to be dominate that is counter productive in relationship.
          I’m including a links to a podcast. The topic is really about men’s response to the #me too movement, but it touches on this. The other content in it may also be helpful.
          I’d love to hear what you think.

          1. Hi, and thank you for your answer.
            I haven’t watched the video yet so perhaps I come off as shooting myself in the foot, but I just wanted to give a quick note to answer your question.
            “What is the goal?”
            I think the goal is simply to have a happy relationship, and in many cases a care-free one (as far as possible).

            I didn’t really intend to make team sports analogous with a relationship. I was trying an analogue to try to… (sorry, having some trouble putting it together) expand a bit on the “men are taught to be independent” part. I don’t know. Perhaps men are taught to be “specialists”.

            But to continue the bad analogue:
            You take your position on the team, and you do the best you can. Everybody want to win, but more than that most of us just want to play. But if you’re not good enough, you’re not allowed on the field, you’re not even allowed to play.
            So when Nate’s woman tells him that he’s putting the mustard jar on the wrong shelf, over time what he hears is that he’s not good enough and could, or even should, easily be replaced?

            I think you’re right in that fear-based need to be dominant(?) is counterproductive in a relationship.
            But perhaps women at large aren’t aware how that fear is triggered, so it becomes counterproductive from both sides?

            Perhaps even less coherent?
            Perhaps I’m the only one seeing some kind of point in there?
            I don’t know.
            I promise to set aside some time to watch your video, though. Can’t promise when.

          2. Kal,

            Oh yes I get what you are saying now!

            It’s the pass/fail fear of failure we were talking about a couple of posts again. And yes, fear of not making the team or getting the promotion, or whatever is part of many men’s memory and interpretation.

            I agree most women don’t understand that they are triggering this sense of failure of not being “good enough” in men.

            All we see is our side of the equation. And you have to see both sides to make the math work.

            So yeah I agree most women have no idea that is what their husbands are thinking. No idea of the pain.

            As I said in my comment that I can’t post properly. Both sides feel they are being told aren’t “good enough”. And that is deeply painful.

          3. Hi Kal, I totally get what your saying (I think). This isn’t a man vs. Woman issue. It really is a human issue.
            I agree that maybe women don’t know what is triggering the man (or that he even is triggered.)
            I could hazard a guess that some women (of which I’m included) may try to push buttons in order to get a response even.
            But there’s the thing, it’s more than men being taught to “specialize”.
            But I am interested in that idea…being taught that their worth is based on one function, and then don’t understand when that doesnt win them the desired result.
            I think its more than just that they specialize, it’s then that it is understood that since it’s specialized they are alone in that function.
            It’s still very much a one person job, that they must do alone. And if they are preceptor or guarding, or whatever other sports jobs there are, totally on point, then it’s obvious if they lose, the problem lies somewhere else. – it was the other persons job to carry out another independent function , and *they* failed.
            Of course, when a team wins, everyone shares the glory. 🙂
            I don’t think women know what or when they trigger a man because it isn’t shared.
            Men don’t say ” hey- that really hurt my feelings”. That would show weakness and vulnerability, and that isn’t what men are taught to do.

          4. Hi PIP,
            As I said, I’m mostly trying to expand a bit on the “men are taught to be independent” part.

            I’m not saying that men are single-task creatures, only ever capable of doing one thing, one function in the grand scheme of things. There’s a myriad of situations in life, and any person is expected or required to handle a myriad of different tasks or missions.
            Also, you can lose a game as a team, still knowing that you and most other people on your team did your best, and still have a sense of safety and belonging within the group.

            It’s for a reason that one of the most well-known sport clichés from coaches is “We win as a team, and we lose as a team.”. (If you don’t want to outright admit that the other team was better than yours, you can always blame the refs…)

            It is when you specifically are told that you are not good enough, at your given task here and now, that you feel the foundation and security start to crumble under your feet.

            (I’m sorry I was interrupted writing this, and when I came back to it a couple of hours later, I’m afraid I might have lost any resemblence of a point I originally had. I’m just going to leave this here. Maybe it brings the discussion further, maybe it won’t.)

          5. Hi Kal.
            “(If you don’t want to outright admit that the other team was better than yours, you can always blame the refs…)” – LOL.
            Please know that I wasnt saying that men are only capable of one thing.
            But, I was saying that when *anyone* specializes it still sort of puts that person in a category of singularity. (I think I’m making up words, now…: ) )
            Since I specialize in one area professionally, people refer to me for this job function. It’s not that I dont participate in other areas, but I’m the one who makes the decisions in my area, somewhat independently.
            I work along side other independents, and we can confer about some things, but my point is even if it is called “being specialized”, there is a level of independence wrought in that.
            Generally speaking, when it comes to relationship dynamics men tend to specialize in the provider/protector role, and again generally speaking, then think their “job” in the relationship is done, so retire to the lazy boy to watch sportsball.
            Please note, I’m not trying to fan the flames of the idea that relationships are alot of hard work. I hate that idea. Im not saying men are constantly required to do MORE…
            But I do think in relationships, when there is no game to be won against a contender (there is no explicit beginning and end of a season, there is no final victory, except the reward of interaction, love, acceptance, support, growth and wisdom etc) there is something DIFFERENT that men are not taught to do.
            I think that thing is just learning how to be IN the relationship, and understand their contributions to it.
            Maybe the focus needs to shift from what I am doing for the other person, and instead what are we doing for the relationship?
            How are we making it mutually meaningful ? This isnt directly doing something for the partner (though that may be a part of it).
            None of this may directly apply to you.
            Most people get into relationships because it in someway gets them excited. Something is meeting their needs. When that goes away many people, men and women, dont find the value in continuing the relationship. Without all the feel good chemistry, interactions can become mundane or downright combative.
            The relationship has to be more meaningful that just meeting feel good needs.
            What other ways is it meaningful? Why is it important in each others lives?
            Maybe even just taking the time to talk about those things on a semi-regular basis can bring back feelings of closeness and gratitude.
            I dont claim to have any definitive answers, just thoughts.
            If you remember the point you wanted to make, feel free to share.
            (I do that ALL. THE. TIME. )

          6. Hi again, PiP.
            I know a lot of men who didn’t spend a lot of time in the lazy-boy watching sports, but instead never rested until the work of the day was done. My dad being one of them, and my role model in many areas.

            Perhaps what we, you and I, are both getting at is a fundamental difference in how men and women approach the division of labour and chores that need to be done in a relationship, to keep a family sheltered, clothed, fed, etc.
            If I’m allowed to talk in generalizations (and I guess I am, since most everyone else here is doing it… 😉

            Do you agree that women are fostered to work together (“to be social” as you put it yourself)?
            But what does that really mean? I take it to mean that for any task at hand, a woman will try to seek out a peer, or in the case of a relationship her partner to collaborate with, and try to work out the task or chore together, as they can also socialize during that time working together!

            But a man (brought up to compete and specialize to keep “his” place on the team) will see perhaps a list of 10 tasks that need to be done in total. And he will think that if you divide the tasks between you so that each one do what they do best or most effiicently, you will spend less time overall doing those chores, and then you will have free time to socialize.

            While the woman may see the chores as an opportunity to work together and socialize, he sees the chores as an obstacle that has to be overcome on the way to socializing. And doubly so the chores is somehow entering “her domain” where her attempts at socializing may very well come off as lecturing to him…

          7. Hey Kal,
            The division of labor is indeed an issue in marriage, from what I understand.
            But no, what I was talking about in regards to being social was about not being alone in the relationship.
            I prefer to do chores alone, but are we in touch with what is going on with each other?
            Why do we share a home, or a bed, for that matter.
            Is there connection in the relationship.
            That is the *different* that I’m talking about.

        2. Kal,

          I think you are hitting onto something but imho it’s about men are used to being in a HIERARCHICAL framing.

          Who is the best even on a team? Who gets to give people orders? Who wins? Who loses? Even within teams there is competition.

          This in my experience is the relevant cultural training.

          You are right of course that men often work together for a common cause. Lots of different cultural messages.

          The one that gets in the way of a good relationship is that hierarchical zero sum framing that is common in my reading and experience. Do you think it’s common?

          Women too are raised to belong to teams. School, sports, at work. So the team training is not unique to men

          Believe me my daughters dance team can be a brutal competition for who is best underneath all the sequins and passive agressive feminine stuff.

          But in general I think women are far less likely to use a zero sum hierarchical framing for two person relationships than men are.

          1. And there are big advantages for using a competitive framing. Often it’s a big help to achieving success in many areas. That is why men use it.

            It just doesn’t work in a modern marriage. That’s the problem. Men need to use a different skill set there.

            Lots of different skill sets for different circumstances. Have to be smart enough to know which one to use.

            Men don’t need to give up what works for them elsewhere.

          2. And as I’ve said many times women also have to learn full skills. They often just need to lean in from different directions.

          3. Hi Gottmanfan,
            Of course, any area I mentioned where men work in teams, they have a leader ordering them around. That’s kind of my point. You are given a task by someone, and expected to fulfill it. Or at least do your best trying to.

            There are lots of research how boys and girls are treated differently by parents already at the age of 2 or 3. In short it can be summed up to “Parents raise boys by giving them orders, but raise girls by conversating with them”. This is a generalisation too, of course, with a lot of variations. But it continues through the school system, and for many, in the military that for throughout the 1900’s was suffered by nearly 100% of young men but nearly 0% of young women.

            So a guy who has been raised by taking orders, and learned to perform his best by equal parts promises of a golden future and threats of being replaced, when that guy meets a woman who subsequently starts to tell him that most everything he does is not at the standard she is expecting, then what capabilities or possibilities does he have to not see her critique as a threat to their common wellbeing and future together?

            You may be totally right that women are far less likely to use zero sum games in relationships. In fact, I take for granted that you are right in this. Because they have far, far more often been trained and given the tools to do so during their formative years.

            I also agree with PIP who said above that “I don’t think women know what or when they trigger a man because it isn’t shared. Men don’t say ” hey- that really hurt my feelings”. ”
            I think in fact that many men often do say “Hey, that hurt my feelings.”. They just say it in a way or language that women haven’t learned to understand. Just like men haven’t learned to understand how to communicate in a relationship.

          4. Excellent points Kal!

            I think you are so right that boys are used to seeing someone “telling them what to do” as a form of telling they they aren’t good enough.

            I think even if women use good skills to request change (which they often don’t) men still interpret it as her “telling him what to do” and resist it. Or see it as sending a message about him not being “good enough” which is often not the intended message at all.

            I really think most of this is because we aren’t taught how to soothe ourselves and ask questions instead of assuming.

            Takes a lot of emotional regulation to do that.

  15. LOVED reading all of this … AND the insightful, thought-provoking comments …


  16. “I think the people who have the best relationships are secure enough with themselves and one another to deal with uncomfortable things and topics as a team. As a partnership. To—together—ask questions and discuss ways in which they can demonstrate the love and care that they think and feel, even if it doesn’t quite look or feel the same as it did when they first met.”

    Sounds so simple….unless you have a husband who clams up at the first sign of a “deep” discussion. So, I’m starting to realize I have to put up with it if I want to stay married. He’s not going to change his ways now. I made this comment on another post….”he told me early in our relationship that I can talk to him about anything. He lied.” That pretty much sums it up.

  17. I have no idea why I keep posting a comment it shows up and then disappears. Hmm

    I’ll just keep posting it and maybe it will show up 6 times later for emphasis

  18. Nate and Matt,

    Both husband and wife feel disrespected and unaccepted by the other. Stuck in a no win, never good enough state. Working hard with no positive response for all their efforts.

    Depending on the attachment style, they defend themselves in different ways from this pain. Often women will ramp up the critical protests to try and get her husband to treat her as good enough to listen to and accept influence.

    Husbands often will then defend against those criticisms of him not being good enough with angry responses or hopeless “why can’t she just let things go, when will it ever end?” withdrawal.

    Most of the time people don’t consciously understand they are fighting to be accepted as good enough

    They just feel bewilderment at why it has changed so much. Why it feels so horrible now. Why won’t he just listen to me? Why can’t she just chill?

    People don’t get divorced over dishes. They get divorced when they are married to someone they think is constantly telling them they aren’t good enough.

  19. Nate and Matt, part 2

    Her reasons aren’t good enough, her concerns aren’t good enough to matter. Her gratitude level for all he is doing isn’t good enough, her tone of voice isn’t good enough. Her emotions aren’t good enough. When will she ever be good enough? How can she ever be good enough? The only way for him to think she’s good enough is to agree with him that what she cares about isn’t that big of a deal.

    She’s never good enough by herself in his eyes. That’s the pain.

    I think many men can relate to feeling like their wife’s criticism makes him feel like he’s not good enough. That no matter what he does it’s never going to be good enough in her eyes. That the ONE place he can be accepted as himself and respected as good enough is with his wife in his own home.

    And when she criticizes him it’s deeply painful.

  20. Nate and Matt, part 2

    Her reasons aren’t good enough, her concerns aren’t good enough to matter. Her gratitude level for all he is doing isn’t good enough, her tone of voice isn’t good enough. Her emotions aren’t good enough. When will she ever be good enough? How can she ever be good enough? The only way for him to think she’s good enough is to agree with him that what she cares about isn’t that big of a deal.

    She’s never good enough by herself in his eyes. That’s the pain.
    I think many men can relate to feeling like their wife’s criticism makes him feel like he’s not good enough. That no matter what he does it’s never going to be good enough in her eyes. That the ONE place he should be accepted as himself and respected as good enough is with his wife in his own home.

    And when she criticizes him it’s deeply painful.

  21. Ok I am pigheaded but even I give up. I broke the comment up into three parts. They didn’t end up in order. Sigh

    It’s a good comment I think worth a read because it seems to me that men and women feel similar pain we can understand at a basic level. I would love to get feedback because I am trying to figure this out to better relate to my hubby’s pain.

    (Maybe all the comments ended up moderation as too long? Sorry for the mess Matt)

    1. Very good Lisa . …even out of order it proves relevant and hits home. What you were describing was the first 20% of our marriage . When I’m asked advice regarding relationship issues this very subject becomes part of the dialog . I often felt that I was doing what was necessary and needed for our fledgling family’s success . My intention was to work harder and gain more in fact it led to angst and strife and a subsequent shut down and near divorce . She too made my efforts seem as though they were targeted at destroying our relationship . That is wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing . We didn’t really communicate well. Each of us had a presumption of the other’s idea of moving forward was. It was really bad . We managed to get to a place of understanding . ..our 2 mottos in our family are ” less is more” and ” there is nothing we can’t fix together “

      1. Thanks for your feedback Louie!

        It really is sad that it’s so common. Both people trying hard but just have no idea what’s going on. Most people can’t pull out of it like you and Anne did.

        I think many men are really trying but it’s hard for women to see this because it’s often in the form of laying low to avoid a fight. And men don’t get that her criticism is often an attempt at connection.

        I attempted a lot of connection ha ha

  22. Her reasons aren’t good enough, her concerns aren’t good enough to matter. Her gratitude level for all he is doing isn’t good enough, he tone of voice isn’t good enough. Her emotions aren’t good enough. When will she ever be good enough? How can she ever be good enough? The only way for him to think she’s good enough is to agree with him that what she cares about isn’t that big of a deal. She’s never good enough by herself in his eyes. That’s the pain.

    1. Thank you gottmanfan, PIP and others for responding. I agree with so much, pretty much all, of what you are writing. The levels of hurts we all feel are very much real, whether our partners think we should hurt or not. Maybe this is where my personal struggle is at its peak. Again, while I understand the metaphorical dish analogy, can we at least discuss the idea that an acceptable solution is to accept that the dish really, truly is not a big deal nor a direct insult to our partner? Isn’t it possible that not putting the dish away is simply an act of habit, convenience, distraction, etc…and not a subtle (or overt) act telling our partner we don’t care or respect their thoughts and feelings? Can’t we as adult partners do a better job of choosing our battles. i.e. if my wife empties the small bathroom trash can, she never replaces the trash bag. I’ll find trash in the bin with no bag and it seriously grosses me out. I’ve asked her a couple times to please replace the bag or just leave the trash and I’ll take care of it. She does not do this for whatever reasons she has. I do NOT feel this is done to disrespect me. I am frustrated by it (for like 30 seconds) but don’t think she is trying to hurt, annoy or disrespect me. I just accept it and replace the bag myself when I find it. This is not a battle worth fighting and no good will come from further confrontation. You see, I do not want to change my wife. She’s of course, not perfect, but I did not marry her looking to “groom” her into my ideal image of a wife. The constant dialog on this blog surrounds men changing, accepting influence, and generally being better husbands. This is a great discussion to have. But how about we get to the root of why women marry men they are not satisfied with? Why are we always talking about how women need to help men change, and the companion discussion regarding whether a woman SHOULD HAVE to do this? I get that the dish scenario is annoying and occasionally can come to blows. But again, unless all these men are pulling complete 180’s after saying “I do”, why the constant barrage of change requests and “do better” requests? I’m not saying it’s okay for men to stonewall or respond to these critiques defensively and/or aggressively. But are you really surprised? We respond defensively when we feel we are being attacked. When a man puts down his wife with insults, name calling and belittlement, he’s being an abusive asshole. When a wife minimizes her husband by constantly trying to correct his behavior and repeatedly telling him he isn’t doing something correctly, she is heralded as setting boundaries and trying to get her husband to accept influence. I’m sorry but I call BS. Marry the person you love and love the person you married…not the person you hope they become. This will only lead to disappointment.

      1. I spend most of my time writing about my (and what I perceive to be largely men’s) failure to behave as I believe husbands should.


        You hit on a really important idea. I’ve written about it a handful of times, but I like a couple of the questions you asked here very much.

        Something about the way most of us are raised keeps us from knowing what we should know BEFORE getting married, and we mostly learn the hard way.

        Men’s tends to be this general lack of thoughtlessness and empathy.

        But women’s might be (theorizing out of my ass) being in a hurry to get married and failing to set and enforce her boundaries BEFORE exchanging wedding vows.

        That’s not an insignificant thing.

        1. Matt:

          “But women’s might be (theorizing out of my ass) being in a hurry to get married and failing to set and enforce her boundaries BEFORE exchanging wedding vows. “

          On the right track imho but women’s cultural training make us HORRIBLE at knowing how to set healthy boundaries particularly with men.

          It’s not just before getting married it’s the cultural ying to men’s cultural yang of not accepting influence particularly from women.

          It’s why the research on gay relationships show much healthier interactions. Better boundary setting, more accepting influence. Still lots of weird human lack of relationship skills but far less of the stuff that is culturally gendered.

          1. “It’s why the research on gay relationships show much healthier interactions.”

            Do they, really?
            Here in Sweden, we hit the 15-year-mark for legalized gay relationships/gay marriage a couple of years ago. And I read an article that with time, gay divorce is now on level with the ratio for heterosexual couples’ divorce. And the divorce ratio for woman-woman relationships are now the highest of the three.

            I will make an honest effort to find the article, and see what Google translate can make out of it.
            It was official statistics, though. Not some made-up MRA/red-pill pipe dream… 😉

          2. Kal,

            Oh yes that would be great Kal!

            I was referring to Gottman’s research in the US which showed that gay couples have share power much more than heterocouples. They accept influence more etc.

            There were other problems in the relationships though. Most people, gay or straight, aren’t taught good relationship skills so gay relationships struggle too of course.

            I wonder if Sweden, which has far different gender dynamics than the US, has different patterns.

            There is just still so much gender stuff here in the US imho. Some of it unconscious. You “expect” things you grew up with or have seen over and over as normal. Takes a lot of effort to make conscious choices.

          3. Gottmanfan,
            Hi and thank you for your questions!
            I’m not really an expert, but I will try and answer your questions. I’m going away over the weekend and i think I’ll be busy with other stuff and have limited computer access and time. I’ll try to get back next week, though. 🙂

          4. Kal,

            I have read that lesbian marriages divorce at a high rate. Of course gay marriage is new here so hard to get long term patterns.

            As I’ve said before women aren’t great at relationships either imho.

          5. Kal,

            Yes to more research! Bring it on!

            Also since you are from Sweden I would LOVE to hear how marriage is approached there that might be different than other places. Most of the commenters here are from the US and Canada.

            How do you think more egalitarian gender norms affect relationship patterns? Do you have less fights over who does what bases on gender?

            What do you think are some of the causes of break up of marriages and long term relationships in Sweden?

            Do you think people in general are not taught key relationship skills they need to be successful in relationships?

            Anything you would be willing to share would be appreciated!

            Humans are pretty similar but culture does make a big difference too of course.

          6. Agreed, this is definitely an area here I’m trying to work on. For most of my life trying to set boundaries with men earned me a hard slap across the face and not much else. For a long time I didn’t really set boundaries of any kind with nearly anybody because I didn’t know how. I’m trying to turn it around but it seems like part of the problem is that if people are used to you not having boundaries and you start learning to express them, then even if they’re extremely reasonable boundaries, those people will often presume them to be optional if you first assert them gently and then get offended when you reiterate them more firmly. I have gotten lessons on defining and defending healthy boundaries as part of therapy and this pattern has appeared pretty much everywhere, almost immediately after setting any kind of boundary no matter how commonplace or minor, because everyone was used to the doormat dynamic with me and they took it for granted. I’ve settled most of that tension at work, with friends, and with the family I’m still in contact with, although in some cases it did unfortunately mean saying goodbye to certain people. I love my husband and I don’t want to say goodbye to him, but he’s not into this new deal and I can’t accept the old doormat dynamic anymore. I find it extremely hurtful because he’s the one who’s seen all the workbooks laying around and he’s one of the few people I’ve told IRL about my childhood so he knows exactly why I need to do this. But instead of being happy that I want to try to save a marriage that’s been quietly and slowly hollowing itself out for years, he seems to think that me talking about that is the problem.

      2. Nate,

        You said:

        “But how about we get to the root of why women marry men they are not satisfied with? Why are we always talking about how women need to help men change, and the companion discussion regarding whether a woman SHOULD HAVE to do this? “

        You and Astrid and I had an extensive exchange on this very topic a few blog posts back. Do you remember?

        You agreed that you could see what I was talking about. That not expecting to change in a marriage and be accepted is an undifferentiated romantic fantasy ILLUSION.

        I could cite all kinds of theory to explain the stages of change needed to get from the “we accept each other exactly as we are” to the pain of differentiated stages of “ we are different, with different needs over time and that REQUIRES change to become more mature to deal with the differences. To get on the other side of it to a better mutually mature relationship.

        Both men and women MUST change!

        That is a requirement of a healthy marriage.

        I empathize this is a bitter truth as I said in my previous exchanges between us.

        The change is to become a better more mature version of yourself.

        See usual Atkinson ebook recommendation for more if interested.

        1. Nate,

          I reread this comment and I think the tone is off. I didn’t mean to come across as critical.

          It’s a process to figure this painful stuff out. I am right there with you. I have to go through things multiple times from different angles.

          Wish I could edit comments but please take this as my intention to applaud you for asking yourself and us good questions as we all struggle to figure it out.

      3. Nate:

        You said:

        “can we at least discuss the idea that an acceptable solution is to accept that the dish really, truly is not a big deal nor a direct insult to our partner?”

        Yes Nate. The dish is just a dish. The wife is often critical in her approach. Or maybe her requests are not reasonable. Or whatever other human error.

        This is part of the change a husband must make! He has to know how to CORRECTLY respond when his wife is not being fair.

        He has to learn good skills to be able to “stand up for himself without making a big deal of it.” He has to change if he doesn’t know how to do this. If he stays the same he will have a shitty marriage.

        The reason we talk a lot about men not accepting influence is because the man has not learned good skills. We ALL need good skills to be in good relationships.

        I ALSO talk a lot about women setting boundaries and learning to use soft startups. Wives must also change to learn how to “stand up for themselves without making a big deal of it.”

        1. Or maybe her requests are not reasonable. Or whatever other human error

          Typo ( or Freudian slip ha ha )

          I meant to write maybe her requests ARE unreasonable. Women are not saints and often lack skills too.

          We both need to know how to stand up respectfully to our partners shit.

        2. Nate,

          But to answer your question about why we were talking about having to change men around accepting influence is because it BLOCKS all other progress.

          That skill is the one that will allow or prevent you from being able to talk about stupid dishes.

          If you bring up a subject and a person bats it away defensively or walks away or says contemptuous things in response it’s GOING to be a shitty marriage. Or a shitty business meeting or a shitty family Thanksgiving etc.

          The other skills matter a lot of course. They all matter. But if you can’t even get to the negotiating table the war continues.

          It just so happens that men on average because of cultural training suck at that particular skill more than women. Women have other skills they suck at more than men like boundaries.

          As I said in my comment to Matt, it is the COMBO of those two skill deficits that guarantee a shitty marriage. Sometimes it takes years to become truly miserable after years of increasing frustration on both sides.

          That is WHY you must change!

          1. You’re better than me at explaining things. Seriously. You should do something with all that goodness. (Nudge, nudge)

            Meanwhile, I’ll remain grateful for as long as you’re sharing it here.

          2. Oh thank you Matt! I think we have complementary styles of explaining things.

            I appreciate you letting me write an obnoxious amount of comments on your blog. It really helps me to figure things out.

          3. I get that so much more than anyone who has never taken the time to write things out might.

            The PROCESS has this sneaky way of teaching you so much about yourself. It’s amazing.

          4. I WISH I was an internal processor like my husband sigh.

            I tell my processing theories to real life people until they cry out and beg for mercy “stop, I’m begging you please no more!”

            And then I must go online ha ha.

            But yeah I can understand how writing all this stuff over the years and responding to questions as you’ve done is transformative. In addition to the cognitive insight it activates the “slow thinking” part of the brain to help regulate emotions. That my theory anyway.?

          5. I didn’t take your tone negatively. I still struggle with fully accepting this rationale though. I agree that change is inevitable and both partners go through some level of changes, maturing, etc. Bathroom jokes were funny in my 20’s (still now honestly) but I rarely make them anymore because I’m 40. This type of change seems obvious and benign to me. I question whether more fundamental changes should be expected and/or required short of major life changes (illness, death, infidelity, etc.). A dish is just a dish as you said…but not when the dish causes a never ending bickering war over who hurts who and which partner gives more to the marriage. Now the dish has become the catalyst for marriage dysfunction. I contend that if the dish didn’t matter when dating and engaged, then it shouldn’t become so vital after wedding vows are exchanged? What part of the wedding ceremony allowed this fundamental change in thinking and behaving? And I truly understand that you acknowledge that women have flaws too. But again, if a woman’s fault is not setting boundaries, and a man’s fault is not accepting influence, they don’t seem very equitable. While not always easy to do, setting boundaries is telling your partner what you want, need and expect and holding them to a standard you expect and demand, a standard that may not have been in place when agreeing to marry your husband. This is a raw deal for the husband. Meanwhile the husband’s task is to accept influence, which is basically listening to, doing, and respecting what the wife says and feels. I can respect what my wife says without agreeing with it…or doing it. In this scenario the husband is said to NOT accept influence and therefore needs to change. Another raw deal for the husband. Other than setting boundaries, what fundamental changes does wives need to make according to wives in this thread? I ask not to cause controversy but rather to learn what faults women believe they have. I honestly don’t feel that not setting boundaries is a fault any man will name in his wife.

          6. Nate,

            You are asking good questions that represent common male perspectives.

            I will answer with expert opinion mixed with my common female perspective. Hopefully we can understand each other better.

            Question 1 you said:

            “I contend that if the dish didn’t matter when dating and engaged, then it shouldn’t become so vital after wedding vows are exchanged? What part of the wedding ceremony allowed this fundamental change in thinking and behaving? And I truly understand “

            This is where looking beyond the behavioral widgets are required to make sense of this.

            As an aside you seem to think you are doing everything right by not changing. Is that in the vows? I promise to love you and hold you to only care about whatever you cared about in 2005. Does that make any sense to you?

            If so we have a deeper misunderstanding going on.

            As I said before it is logical and to be expected that romantic love has stages. How you act and what you care about changed in each stage.

            I cared about different things after married than before yes because we are now in a new stage. My husband too cared about new things.

            We had to deal with inlaws in new ways. We had to navigate chores and and work and and time and money and all kinds of things in new ways.

            External and internal changes.

            Do you agree with this part?

            If so we can move on beyond widgets to the emotional changes. Let me know either way.

          7. By experts I meant research stuff.

            Although I am an expert now on the steps to clawing my way out of a shitty marriage. Ha ha

          8. Here are my two unasked for cents:

            To have a good relationship, both men and women need to accept influence and employ healthy boundaries when their partner isn’t treating them fairly. Hetero men, as a group, are lacking in the skill of accepting influence. That’s why many of us are harping on that. Though, notably, a significant minority do it well, 35% of hetero men. Hetero women are lacking in setting healthy boundaries. Both gay men and lesbian women are skilled at accepting influence. How they are at boundaries, I don’t know. I think hetero men often aren’t good at *healthy* boundaries either. They can be too rigid or too lax. But since they more often have wives who accept influence, it’s not as critical a skill.

            I definitely agree that there is a legitimate difference in terms of how much changing people want to do in their lives. But even so, people will change, or life will throw changes at you. There are so many desicions big and small to figure out. Kids, cleanliness level of the home, how to spend free time, what to eat for dinner, how often to have sex, what kind of sex…

            And I definitely agree that part of being a decent partner is knowing how to pick your battles. Focus on what matters most and let the rest go. I think many people don’t do this well enough.

            Worth noting, according to Atkinson, is that both men and women often don’t notice when the other person accepts influence. Because then everything goes smoothly, so nothing gets stuck in the consciousness as annoying/hurtful/disrespectful. Or because our own way of thinking about the mustard seems SO right and natural, so of course our partner would soon come over to our side when we say that we want it on the third shelf or whatever.

            I don’t know your situation. But if the reality is that you’re accepting too much influence to the detriment of the fair consideration of your own wishes, healthy boundaries are required.

            Something like: “Honey, I hear that where the mustard goes and that there are no dishes by the sink matters a lot to you. However, I don’t feel the same way about it that you do. So how about you tell me exactly what you would want to happen and why, if it were just up to you, and then I’ll do the same. Maybe after that one of us will have changed our minds. If not, then we can figure out a fair compromise that we can both live with”.

            And in a healthy realtiosnhip that pretty much what has to happen everytime the partners disagree about something (and they both feel strongly about it, no need to demand fairness if you don’t really care). And hopefully people are mature enough to pick their battles. But of course, if several years have gone by where people haven’t been making fair agreements, there will be a backlog. And small things will seem much more important than they would be if both partenrs felt fairly considered overall. Exceptions are made for the most important personal dealbreakers that you’re just not willing to compromise on. And sometimes that will mean people can’t live happily together.I believe that very often something can be figured out.

          9. Rebekah Verbeten

            “Worth noting, according to Atkinson, is that both men and women often don’t notice when the other person accepts influence. Because then everything goes smoothly, so nothing gets stuck in the consciousness as annoying/hurtful/disrespectful. Or because our own way of thinking about the mustard seems SO right and natural, so of course our partner would soon come over to our side when we say that we want it on the third shelf or whatever.”

            So true!!! I am a stay-at-home mom, so I do most of the shopping, cooking, etc. In the process of some of the ‘noticing stuff’ conversations I have specifically brought up that my husband has no idea how many things are his preference because I have chosen to make them so. As far as he knows, it just is.

          10. Nate:

            You said:

            “But again, if a woman’s fault is not setting boundaries, and a man’s fault is not accepting influence, they don’t seem very equitable. While not always easy to do, setting boundaries is telling your partner what you want, need and expect and holding them to a standard you expect and demand, a standard that may not have been in place when agreeing to marry your husband. This is a raw deal for the husband. Meanwhile the husband’s task is to accept influence, which is basically listening to, doing, and respecting what the wife says and feels. I can respect what my wife says without agreeing with it…or doing it.”

            Ok a couple of things. Setting boundaries involves RISK. It is not easy to do because the person may reject you or break up with you. That’s why many women don’t set boundaries.

            You are still using a zero sum framing. This is the problem in our understanding each other.

            Boundaries are set only to get back to a place where you can both work out a reasonable win/win solution. It’s not a temper tantrum to get what you.

            It’s to restore communication. It’s not zero sum to win.

            Likewise accepting influence is not zero sum. It is getting rid of the criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness and contempt so that you can brainstorm a win/win solution.

            Both of these skills are employed to have a good marriage that is win/win not zero sum.

          11. It’s never just the dish, though. If it was truly just the dish, the wife would happily put it away and never mention it again.

            I’m confused that you think that the wife learning to set boundaries is a raw deal for the husband. The wife is learning to express the needs that she’s had all along but have been going unmet because of her lack of boundary skills. If she didn’t develop them, the result is that her needs continue to go unmet and this simply results in a “surprise divorce” or a dead marriage that exists only in public and on paper. With bad boundary skills, your potential options are an unhappy marriage or a divorce. With good boundary skills, your potential options are a happy marriage or a divorce (if the husband deems the new boundaries to be unreachable/intractable). Of course a man will rarely mention bad boundary skills as a flaw in his wife; that’s because without a spouse with good boundary skills, most people are unable to see many problems in their marriage that already exist. Blaming the wife for learning to express her needs is either blaming her for having needs or shooting the messenger. Neither make sense.

      4. Nate:

        You said:

        “When a wife minimizes her husband by constantly trying to correct his behavior and repeatedly telling him he isn’t doing something correctly, she is heralded as setting boundaries and trying to get her husband to accept influence. I’m sorry but I call BS. Marry the person you love and love the person you married…not the person you hope they become. This will only lead to disappointment.”

        Ok, I am calling bs to your calling bs ha ha.

        Maybe I am beating a dead horse here but I think he’s still wriggling so here goes.

        It is BS to expect to marry the person you love and love the person you married if that includes expecting no change. Really, they should be exactly the same maturity level at 26 than at 46? The same character with learning nothing?

        I hope that isn’t true for me. I know my husband doesn’t want to stay the same person. We just argue about which changes to make.

        You seem to think women in mass marry men with secret agendas. Maybe that is some segment of women I don’t know. Maybe your wife really did deceive you. I’m sure it happens.

        But that is NOT the common wife experience in the typical shitty marriage Matt writes about. It’s not Nate. It’s really, really, really NOT.

        Loving someone maturely includes expecting and requesting change.

        Stuff happens in life that requires change. Kids, illness, war, bankruptcy, moving, loved ones dying.

        I don’t get why you think it’s a reasonable expectation to NOT change. Of course people change.

        You being in a shitty marriage has already changed you I’m sure. I know it has me.

        It’s up to us to DECIDE how to change. What is the best way to change. Not spend energy resisting change. Resenting change.

        Now listen if your wife is constantly criticizing you or wants the mustard and everything else to be exactly as she needs and won’t listen to you that sucks.

        But that requires YOU to request her to change. Not getting mad that she is asking you to change. Both of you need to continually ask each other to change as life requires.

        Of course you have to know how to do this fairly and maturely. That’s what all that boundary talk is about. That’s for both men and women.

        You need to ask your wife to change if you think she is treating you unfairly. But do it CORRECTLY which is motivated by improving your relationship. Not going back to a premarriage stage 1 love that isn’t coming back.

        It’s like puberty. Once you go through you you can’t go back. You only move forward to the next stage.

        That’s how I see it anyway.

        1. “Now the dish has become the catalyst for marriage dysfunction. I contend that if the dish didn’t matter when dating and engaged, then it shouldn’t become so vital after wedding vows are exchanged? ”

          This made me laugh, Nate. You “contend?” Well now, that settles that. “It shouldn’t become vital?” Well then, poof, I guess it isn’t. We have just willed it so.

          One thing we really have to do in marriage is to let go of our expectations. Get rid of all the “shoulds,” and “ought too’s,” and comparisons, as if we know how this relationship ought to go down. Nearly everything that didn’t matter during dating is now going to matter a great deal. That is a pretty consistent report across most marriages.

          So when we’re thinking our partner “shouldn’t do this” or “ought not to be this way,” we tend to get stuck in this injustice mindset, battle mode, defensiveness. They are in the wrong,so they have to change. In marriage however,it isn’t about right and wrong,so much as it is about addressing each others needs. Women often have a need to feel as if they have some influence over your behavior. That usually creates a sense of safety. To feel as if one shouldn’t have to respond to her needs,is going to make her feel even more unsafe,so she will probably just ratch up the criticism trying even harder to be heard.

          1. You said – “This made me laugh, Nate. You “contend?” Well now, that settles that. “It shouldn’t become vital?” Well then, poof, I guess it isn’t. We have just willed it so.”

            So apparently you being a DICK is okay? This further convinces me that my line of comments are not suited for this post. What makes your comment any different than the women hating blogs I previously said I have NO use for? Definition of contend:

            1. struggle to surmount (a difficulty or danger).
            “she had to contend with his uncertain temper”
            synonyms: cope with, face, grapple with, deal with, take on, pit oneself against
            “the pilot had to contend with torrential rain”
            engage in a competition or campaign in order to win or achieve (something).
            “the local team should contend for a division championship”
            synonyms: compete, vie, contest, fight, battle, tussle, go head to head;
            —> 2.assert something as a position in an argument.
            “he contends that the judge was wrong”
            synonyms: assert, maintain, hold, claim, argue, insist, state, declare, profess, affirm;

          2. And gottmanfan – I’m surprised you liked that comment by insanitybytes22. Disappointing…God forbid a man’s point-of-view be considered…which of course plays into so much of what I post about.

          3. “Contend,” Nate, it means to struggle, resist, argue, fight for your point of view. That’s fine out in the world, but within our marriages the goal is not “winning,” it is relationship and connection. One should not be struggling, resisting, or fighting against their spouse. That is like trying to poke holes in their side of the boat, failing to recognize that it is your boat, too. So you are not trying to win a battle, you are trying to support your wife’s ability to float.

          4. As she should be supporting my ability to float as well. If your husband planned weekly date nights, rubbed your shoulders and brought you flowers regularly, and then decided to stop after getting married, would you not “argue, fight for your point of view and resist” this behavior in him?

          5. No Nate. I would surrender, embrace the change, and preserve the relationship and connection. But I can only do that because emotionally I am assured that my hubby accepts my influence.

            Men tend to look at concrete things, like flowers, but what women usually need much more is emotional things, like knowing we are valued enough, that we are heard.

            If a wife feels valued and heard, she will support your ability to float. It’s just built in to who we are. Contented women lift men up and support them. Conversely however, if you simply perceive it as “it’s her job to support me,” she has nothing to give back to you. You are basically conveying that her needs are irrelevant, that she doesn’t matter, that her value to you is so insignificant, you see no reason to even bother to hear what she is saying.

            People don’t like this cliche, “but happy wife, happy life.” You feed her, right? You have to feed her emotionally too. If she is well fed emotionally, she’ll be more prone to want to give back, then to criticize.

          6. I really hear what you are saying but this logic is such a one-sided argument. I think there is a disconnect in women feeling they are heard vs. men doing whatever their wives say or else a fight will ensue. I stated earlier that there are plenty of times I clearly hear and respect what my wife says but clearly disagree with her. When this dynamic plays out the husband gets labeled as having typical guy behaviors, i.e. overbearing, self-centered and generally dismissive of the wife’s feelings. We need to differentiate between being heard and being obeyed. The happy wife happy life cliche supports without fail my reasoning, and I f-ing hate it. If the stupid, forgetful yet somehow lovable husband just does whatever his wife wants and apologizes for any and all things that cause conflict, the couple will be just fine…as seen in every TV sitcom ever made.

          7. Nate, what often seems so hard to convey to guys, is that women being heard is not the same thing as women being obeyed. If the word “obey” makes one uncomfortable, go with “accommodate.” It’s kind an old fashioned notion, but men used to understand what it means to accommodate women, to make allowances for her needs. You open doors, you create a sense of safety, you wipe your feet, you put your dish away, as if her needs actually matter to you.

            Today we’ve moved far away from that idea, so everything is now a battle for control, a competition, men versus women. You see this in feminism, you see it in MRAs, all these people who are mostly single or divorced, now dictating how they think the marriage narrative should go.

            From those who have been happily married for a long time however, an important component is actually sacrificial love, setting down your need to be right, learning how to accommodate some else’s needs.

          8. I believe IB is trying to point out the difference between a zero sum winning framing vs a win/win framing.

            Relationships turn shitty with a zero sum framing.

            And yes, you absolutely advocate for your needs in marriage. It needs to be done by both people seeking win/win for both.

          9. Nate,

            I like the general content of IB message. I didn’t read contempt for you into her wording but that may be because we are both long time commenters and I’m familiar with her phrasing.

            But in reading it again I can see how it can come across as belittling you (though I don’t think that was the intention).

            Listen Nate I know this stuff is so vulnerable for us all. And it might feel like a bunch of us are ganging on you.

            I apologize if that is the effect. I think you are asking good questions. And we are grappling with the answers.

          10. Nate,

            You said:

            “And gottmanfan – I’m surprised you liked that comment by insanitybytes22. Disappointing…God forbid a man’s point-of-view be considered…which of course plays into so much of what I post about.”

            Respectfully Nate you have escalated the negativity. “God forbid a man’s point-of-view be considered …” (see Gottman accepting influence comment)

            I apologized to you in another comment trying to deescalate. So that we could get back on track.

            Can we get back on track?

          11. Also responding to IB’s comment and calling her a DICK is escalating negativity.

            Hey I’ve done it plenty of times. We are all learning here. I only point it out to see the theories in action. Lots of stuff I do I’m not aware of.

          12. “Lots of stuff I do I’m not aware of.”

            I’m not sure one sentence has ever more aptly described me.

            That’s me. Lots of stuff I do I’m not aware of. Which makes every bad thing something of an accident, but can’t be used as a fallback excuse more than a couple of times when the lack of awareness is causing a problem.

            I’m not sure what the ultimate life hack is for fostering mindfulness (probably meditation, which I pretty much never do anymore like a dummy), but if people could find their own personal method for staying mindful of things to avoid the accidentally shitty things, we’d all avoid a lot of heartburn.

          13. Yeah. People have different things that work. Meditation is low on my list ha ha. I used to feel guilty about that but whatever.

            Embrace what works. I’m a nerd so it works for me to research what healthy looks like and figure out how to do more of that. Fail, improve and repeat.

            You are so right that being unaware is not an excuse to not work hard to do whatever works to become aware.

            I have recently tried something novel to add to my awareness of my shittiness – listen to people who tell me I’m shitty. Fail, improve, repeat ha ha

          14. You are correct, calling IB a DICK did escalate the negativity, but in fairness, I knew what I was doing. Her mocking my sincere post was a DICK thing to do. I’m a pretty level headed, well-mannered person…but I can be a condescending ahole if I choose to be. I excel in snark but want to keep it out of these more serious discussions. Look, in re-reading yesterday’s posts, I get it. I’m an easy target on this blog. I’m not “taking my ball and going home”. But I will likely step back a bit on my posts. This is simply because I have stated my thoughts and feelings as have others. I am in the minority on this blog and that’s okay. I do not expect to change the opinion of others on this blog. But I am also choosing to avoid further confrontation, as I have enough of that at home.

          15. Nate,

            I am glad you aren’t “taking your ball and going home”! I was worried you would quit commenting because you have a lot of things to great things to add with your perspective that represents many, many people.

            Please keep commenting. I can see that it wasn’t a big help to point out the escalating negativity. So yeah that wasn’t the right thing to do with your point of view in mind. I won’t repeat that again.

            Help me understand why you think you are in a minority on this blog. Because there are more comments overall from females? No question there but there are regular male commenters too like Louie and Jack etc.
            (And of course we have our resident male troll).

            Did you mean from the perspective of disagreeing with Matt?

            I think you would be surprised that if we dig deep I would agree with a fair amount of what you say. Women do a lot of stuff to screw up relationships too (I’m sure Matt would agree).

            Honestly, it’s hard to understand your point of view without specifics. It must be something much deeper than hypothetical camping it seems to me.

            You mentioned before women cutting off sex so maybe that’s a big part of the view of women becoming so different after marriage?

            Lots of stuff there to unpack. And yes, I agree women often don’t handle that fairly to men. Lots of missing skills there to handle wrong and cause a lot of pain.

            I appreciate so much your disgust with the misogyny of certain websites where men look for support. I certainly hope we aren’t adding enough of the male perspective here to make it seem like male bashing. I would appreciate feedback if my comments seem unfair to men.

            I hope you keep adding your male perspective here. Both to help us all learn to be better at relationships and also because the more men comment the “safer” it feels for men to jump in.

            Love to hear your point of view.

          16. Nate,

            Also regarding not being able to change people’s opinion on this blog, I can see why it seems an uphill battle to slog through all the people.

            I will say my opinions have been changed a lot by reading and commenting on this blog.

            There is such a diversity of people’s experiences. It’s easy for me to think MINE is the only one.

            You express how painful it is for men to feel their wives will never be happy. They will never be good enough. This is just something that is valuable for women especially to understand.

            I used to think my stonewalling avoidant husband didn’t care, didn’t feel any pain. I now know that isn’t true at all.

            I know that now partly because of men commenting on this blog telling me what is underneath all that avoidance.

            Your premise about men not wanting to change after marriage as women do I think? has a lot of that underneath.

            I haven’t been able to figure out the emotions of that enough. I think I have been focusing on the comments here too much on the upper level reality and it in this case gets in the way of “getting it” from your perspective that I think is what many men feel.

            So I will try to hear you in a new way without arguing the 20,000 feet stuff. You’re a smart guy who knows that stuff anyway. So what am I missing?

            I think my husband might agree with at least some of what you are talking about and I don’t yet get it.

            Maybe we could give you a little of the emotional stuff motivating your wife.

          17. Nate, I have a few minutes and wanted to reach out. I read the exchange with you and IB yesterday, but didn’t think you needed to hear any more opinions.
            Just from my experience commenting here, IB starts many of her conversations with that statement, and I agree I have felt condescended by it. However, I don’t think that is her intention. I think she is trying to be light hearted. Which, maybe she is right about.
            But also, I don’t think the value of what she was saying was completely realized.
            She said (paraphrasing, cause I’m way too lazy..) Something along the lines of, “OK we can agree that it’s stupid, and poof! I don’t get upset anymore.”
            I sensed a hint of sarcasm in there, didn’t you? ;).
            I think this is a very valid point, and a little bit of what I was saying in my comment on the last post (about emotions).
            An issue can be completely unreasonable and both parties can know it, but it doesn’t change the emotional response of the individual affected.
            Say I had a really close relationship with my make cousin. There was no sexual anything involved. But what if he or my own significant other got ragefully jealous when we got together?
            It isn’t reasonable, but it’s still very real.
            In real life, that person would likely have to do a lot of internal work to have any sort of food long term relationship.
            But, my point is if you saw someone you deeply cared about being so emotionally distraught you would remove the offending agent until it was better tolerated.
            Something with dishes, or mustard.
            Her reaction may not make sense, but it doesn’t make it any less real or important.
            Figuring out what is behind the mustard jar is important. ..
            And if there is something else that takes its place, it’s Really, and truly not about the mustard.

          18. Also, to be clear- I’m not saying the jealous person is *right*.
            But if you’re in a relationship with them, especially a marriage, both having empathy towards the person experiencing the emotion (b/c come on, it’s a thing..) While also setting clear boundaries about how it will be dealt with is important.
            But my point is, your can’t and don’t reason away emotion. More has to happen there.

        2. Understood. Just to be clear though, I’m not suggesting there be no change whatsoever, as stated in my example about bathroom jokes. I believe couples will grow together (or apart) as likes, wants, and needs change to varying degrees. My issue is when the changes seems to involve larger, fundamental changes that also end up being deal breakers. And in both my personal experience and that of friends and family I am close with, the request for significant change comes from the wife to the husband and not vise versa. If I was a big outdoors man when dating my wife and she camped and hiked with me and seemingly enjoyed herself and never complained about said activities, would it be acceptable for her to decide after marriage that these things would no longer happen because she doesn’t really like camping? After all, if I don’t accept my wife’s feelings about camping then I must not be accepting influence and am therefore causing her pain. What if instead of camping and hiking we were talking about physical intimacy? In one of Matt’s previous blogs the discussion involved dating as a sort of job interview where we present the best version of ourselves. I do NOT think women have this big hidden agenda against men. In fact, I think it’s done mostly unwittingly. But, and it’s a big but, experience has shown me that women are far more likely to change from pre marriage to post wedding day and therefore request the majority of changes in marriages. I do fully realize that you do not agree with this assessment and that is certainly okay. Your post are much more science based and researched than mine and I respect the hell out that. I also realize that my line of comments are probably not really suited for this blog. I read and post here because I legitimately enjoy Matt’s writing and the commenters…and I’ve found many other blogs that support husbands and they are women hating piles of rubbish. I just hate seeing my friends and close acquaintances and my own damn reflection staring at me with this defeated look in their eyes. Wives – I’m not sure if you truly understand that of all the things a man does and encounters in his life, you have the single most power to make or break your husbands. If your husbands are invested in your marriages, you more than anything else help determine their self worth.

          1. My personal opinion:

            If you were clear that you were an outdoorsy guy before marriage, I personally think that it’s quite alright if your wife doesn’t want to go camping with you. She doesn’t have to share your hobbies. If she were to demand that YOU never do it however, that would not be ok. But if the issue is that in her opinion you going camping very often so that your share of responsibilities and tending the relationship suffers, that’s a different matter.

            And, if it’s an important need for you to have her join you when you go camping, I think she should be willing to work out a mutually acceptable solution. Like, maybe she can agree to go campingwith you once a year. Or you can go on trips where you sleep in a tent while she stays in a nice cabin nearby and then you can hike together during the day. As long as you’re willing to do the same for her important needs that involve activities she likes but you don’t.

          2. Thanks but I think the most important part of my camping analogy was missed. My hypothetical point is that she did go camping with me while dating and seemed to enjoy herself and also never complained about camping. If she never enjoyed going she needed to tell me BEFORE we got married. I would then have had the ability to determine if this was a deal breaker for me prior to making such a huge and public commitment. Offering this information after the wedding is BS. I agree that she has every right to not want to go camping. But pretending to like it, presumably to not rock the boat, is a dishonest and generally shitty thing to do. Same would be true if we never went camping when dating but I always had a secret love for doing so. Then, after marriage, I basically demanded she go camping with me. That would be shitty of me to do and totally unfair. My wife should have been told prior to agreeing to marry me that camping was a big deal for me.

          3. Values and Boundaries.

            The greatest mistake we make as young people (or perhaps we never even had any, which is equally bad) is our failure to define what our personal VALUES are (the definition of who we choose to be) and making sure the person we marry shares those values. And/or communicate what our personal BOUNDARIES are (preferences for what we will or won’t tolerate, as an example) and then when our boundaries are being violated or otherwise shit upon, communicating that effectively to our partner, and most-importantly ENFORCING those boundaries by walking away from the relationship if they’re repeatedly disrespected or violated.

            I don’t know why this happens with the frequency that it does, but I mostly chalk it up to no one teaching us about these things when we’re kids, and not because our parents/guardians/teachers/coaches/etc. were trying to screw us, but because they ALSO didn’t know because no one taught them either.

            Endless cycle of prematurely entering relationships without checking all of the boxes that should have been checked beforehand.

            The responsibility falls to everyone. But Nate, I was talking about this with a friend a few hours ago….

            If the top marriage “crime” of men is typically thoughtlessness and a fundamental lack of empathy (which is what I think it is), then I think the top marriage “crime” of women is the situation you just described.

            Transparency and uncomfortable honesty MUST be used to discuss what’s okay and not okay with everyone before marriage, else major problems arise.

            I think everyone’s hearts are in the right place. I don’t think people are “lying.” I just think they don’t want to cause needless conflict, or disappoint their partner.

            Then, organically, problems arise when it comes to light that people omitted truth for the sake of politeness that may now be a major contributor to divorce.

            How do you beam that info into the heads of teenagers and 20-somethings and make it stick?

            Not sure. But it’s a project the world should be desperate to work on.

            I think it’s awesome that you sometimes comment here, Nate. And I appreciate it a lot. So, thank you.

          4. I think, that one of the more common phrases my ex-girlfriend said to me during our 5+ year relationship, and the thing that finally wore us down, was me trying to set up an event she’d said she liked to do (date, dinner, walk in the park, whatever), and that we had done frequently during our dating phase, only to have her turn to me with a kind of discontent/exhausted face and say “You know I’m only doing this for your sake, right…?”

          5. Oh ok I didn’t understand what you were saying about the camping.

            YES, I agree with you that misleading or lying to someone about things that are important is wrong. It’s shitty.

            I am the most direct person ever. You get no argument from me there.

            If your wife intentionally led you to believe she wanted a life FULL of camping and that was a huge thing in your choosing her and she knew that.

            Then yes I am on TeamNate. That was shitty.

            It can be worked through and forgiven but it is an offense to be sure.

            In my opinion though the offense would be in the lying about something important to you not in the dislike for camping now. You know have a perpetual difference to deal with on how much outdoor stuff to do.

            Every couple has them. So that’s not imho the problem it’s the dishonesty.

          6. Nate,

            You said:

            “seemed to enjoy herself and also never complained about camping.”

            This seems to imply it wasn’t an active lie but she went camping and seemed to enjoy it at the time. You assumed she would keep going with you and that you were both big into outdoors.

            Maybe more of a lack of clear expectations discussions and premarital counseling?

          7. I hadn’t read your other comment before I wrote the one you are responding to.

            I’m not sure why you think your comments aren’t suited for this blog.

            They are the exact right comments for this blog. You are a guy trying to figure out how to fix his marriage. Bullseye target. Lots of men read but don’t comment. You having the courage to comment is great!

            I DO agree with you commonly that women change more than men. Part of that is the expectations of gender roles. Most of it is the changes of pregnancy and motherhood. Women often change more than they need to because of poor boundaries.

            But this is where we disagree maybe. Men often don’t change ENOUGH. That’s the whole accepting influence thing again.

            Women ask for change 80% of the time in hetero marriages. You are correct. Why? Well there we go again. It’s back to a combo of things. Most of it is the way we train boys and girls to maintain relationships. Girls have to ask.

            I think accepting influence is not being communicated correctly based on your comments about the camping example.

            People do all kinds of stuff dating they don’t continue later. No, I don’t think you should lie when dating. But lots of men go to chick flicks with their girlfriends and not wives as a dumb example.

            The point of accepting influence is NOT to have to do whatever your wife wants. And YES it is acceptable as an adult to change your mind about lots of things. It is not acceptable to treat your spouse as if he doesn’t matter.

            That is the point. If my husband was a big outdoor guy and after marriage in stage 2 I didn’t want to go camping that requires an honest discussion. How much does it matter I go camping with you? Can we brainstorm a third option that works for both of us. Maybe a hike in a park.

            And no to answer your other question it’s not ok to just shut down sex without a convo about how can meet each other where they are at NOW and how can we change toward a goal that is good for both of us. It’s also not ok to say we had sex x times when we got married and there is no change allowed. Flexibility. Loving flexibility.

            That is what I mean about change. To be good at marriage we have to be good at negotiating change. Both people who love each other and CARE about the other persons opinions.

          8. Nate,

            You said:

            “Wives – I’m not sure if you truly understand that of all the things a man does and encounters in his life, you have the single most power to make or break your husbands. If your husbands are invested in your marriages, you more than anything else help determine their self worth.”

            This is good to remember when it looks like he doesn’t care. We are BOTH in each other’s care.

  23. Please don’t say your son is being a “dickhole”. That shows disrespect from you. There are so many other words you can use. Boundaries need to be made so family doesn’t accept family (both spouses and children) treating them as “less than” the cashier at Starbucks. If someone treats you this way and you ask them to change and they don’t, get up and walk away.

    1. I’m sorry, but I’m highly likely to keep using juvenile, slightly “inappropriate” language, because that’s who and what I am.

      If that type of language is a boundary-crosser for you, I’ll understand.

      Other people write and speak differently. While their communication and word usage usually are not disrespectful, I often object to it.

      So I totally get it.

      1. Do you see comments from me held hostage by the “dickhole” WordPress software?

        Can’t figure out what is going on with my comments that disappear.

        1. I snorted a little.

          I am not seeing your comments in queue, but I’m going to go into the admin and look now.

          Links can trigger spam filters, so that’s one possible explanation.

          Mentioning any of Jeff S.’s ghost account user names would also do that. 🙂

          1. Ha ha.

            No. I didn’t mention “the troll who will not be named” ha ha. Learned my lesson on that in 2016. I try not to repeat my stupidity but get new stupid stuff to do! ?

            Didn’t have any links either.

            The only thing I can think of it was too long. I tried to break it up into pieces but it is a mess if disconnection.

          2. There’s nothing in the comments admin from you!

            Some other weirdness is happening, and I don’t know how to help at the moment.

          3. It isn’t! I want people to share whatever relevant things they want to share. Promise. I just know that one of the things that will trigger comments going to spam that shouldn’t are ones with multiple links in them.

            In this case, it doesn’t look like that was happening.

            Link it up, PIP.

      2. Hey Matt! 🙂 Let me say that I think you’re getting pretty darned skilled at responding to criticism non-defensively on this blog. Many kudos! (Kudi?)

        1. The person who — totally rationally and maturally and reasonably — asked me not to refer to my 4th-grade child as a “dickhole” is NOT wrong.

          I have little doubt that in the official How to Be a Good Dad manual, there’s a section on not referring to your offspring as dickholes — even if they are highly unlikely to ever see it.

          “Dickhole” is not a nice word. It isn’t something one would typically say to or about the human being they love the most, so I think the earnest suggestion from them to me to use more responsible, grown-up language has all kinds of merit.

          All that said, I’m a guy who writes about relationship stuff, which frankly comes off as uncomfortable and unrelatable to many, many, many, many, many men.

          The use of profanity, juvenile insults, and all-around clownish behavior IS something many men (at least in the demographic I’m generally discussing) can relate to.

          I think it’s important to balance the heavy psychology, emotional health conversations with that subtext of being a real-life person who frequently messes up and/or intentionally behaves immaturely.

          There’s a gap, in my mind at least, between Guy Who Discusses Relationship Dynamics, and Typical Guy Who Has Never Even Thought About It as I was throughout the majority of my life and marriage.

          If anyone reading this was wondering why I use language or wording that is well known to offend people sometimes, THAT is why.

          Real guy screwing up his marriage accidentally — in my opinion which might be wrong — is likely to use bad words and feel less judged by a guy who uses the word “dickhole,” so that’s the primary reason I don’t filter out that language.

          But make no mistake — that is absolutely how I speak in real life.

          Probably gets me into more trouble than I realize. 🙂

          But thank you, Donkey. I want and need to get better at accepting criticism and discussing disagreements with grace. It means a lot that your perception is that I do that sometimes. Thank you for saying so.

          1. Matt, this is your unique and valuable genius– your ability (and willingness) to say things women say all the time in words that guys can hear and understand. I admire you and hope to channel your voice in a new class on Masculinity next year!

          2. Thank you, Dr. T. I continued to be flattered that you think it matters. Always good to see your name pop up here.

          3. I’m new here, just read your piece on how your son “accidentally explained” why your wife divprced you (followed the “lupushole” link here). Great writing & insights so far.

            I have no objection to whatever language you care to use in most contexts. However, I would say that using “ dickhole” about your son feels wrong. I think it would feel wrong if said about anyone who is hierarchically lower in social power—it would feel very different, for instance, if you said it about a peer, or even a superior.

  24. By the way last night in our DBT couples class one of the couples was in a heated argument about which type
    of dishwasher detergent is the right one to use. ?

    It was hard for me not to laugh thinking of this blog. People really do consider divorce over dishes. (And of course it’s not really about that).

    1. And the man said all the stuff many men do “why is this worth fighting over?” “Why can’t you just not worry about what this?”

      It really is all very predictable once you know the patterns.

    2. I’m a couples counsellor. The number of arguments I hear about dishwashers! Sometimes I think my best marriage advice would be not to own a dishwasher.

      1. Mike,

        You are a couples counselor?

        Well, I have some questions for you my friend ha ha

        So funny about the dishwasher arguments isn’t it?

        Gottman always says couples argue about “nothing” usually. Because it’s usually not about the widget really but what it represents and/or how to work together as a team.

        1. Very true. I only found MBTTTR a few days ago, so I am still trying to work out what I think about Matt’s “position” overall… And there sure is a lot of material to read here.

          1. Mike,

            I hope you add your valuable voice of experience here!

            It could really help a lot of people.

            I saw you are a Sue Johnson fan. She’s one of my favorites too.

          2. Let me add, when I saw your handle, and read your comments on various theoretical models, I assumed you were a couple counselor too without even thinking about it. Now I’m not sure.

            And, I also have my OWN marital situation to contend with. Knowing the theories doesn’t really help much with that. More likely the opposite.

          3. Mike,

            I am sorry to hear you are dealing with your own marital situation. It’s a painful place to be.

            And you are right that knowing theories doesn’t protect us. Like doctors who can also get sick.

            I am not a couples therapist.

            Just a nerd who has had difficulties finding a good couples therapist.

            So I read a lot of books and have taken a lot of therapist training. To understand the problem and how to fix it. I try and share what I learn here in the hopes it might help others be in less pain and improve their own relationships.

            I have learned from what others share here. There are a lot of intelligent and compassionate people here with different perspectives (with the occasional troll).

            Some people don’t find the theory approach helpful which is totally understandable. We all have different ways of processing things. It’s just what works for me and how I learn to change.

            I think you are right that just knowing the theories doesn’t solve things. It’s imho knowing the science and how and when to apply it. That’s why I learn a LOT of theories to get a variety of tools to choose from and a variety of techniques on how to apply. And I am learning a lot of different theories on how and when to apply things.

            To me it’s similar to medicine or physical therapy. You learn a lot of how the body is supposed to work when healthy. Then it’s clearer when it’s unhealthy.

            Then you learn how to diagnose issues and what interventions can restore healthy function.

            The theory is in service of the practical.

            The main reason I like Gottman is he applies this approach to relationships. They can be studied and analyzed and understood like any other subject. Sue Johnson’s book LoveSense also has a similar research approach to emotions and relationships as you know.

            I called myself gottmanfan (and sometimes Lisa Gottman) because we used to joke about how much I quoted Gottman when I first started commenting here. I did that because it was often a lot of arguing about Mars vs Venus stereotypical gender stuff with anecdotes. Gottman speaks to gender differences but with some research to back it up. And concepts to aid in discussion like accepting influence. So that’s why I talk about Gottman here a lot since the focus is often on gender differences. But also in differentiating between which things lead to healthy or unhealthy relationships.

            I also quoted Gottman a lot to mobe away from the damaging imho John Gray Men and from Mars, Women are from Venus framing that was often used. That approach describes differences but doesn’t ask which ones are unhealthy.

            Which to me is the key second part of a theory.

            It can imho help you understand what the goal is. So many people, including me, don’t know what a healthy relationship really looks like. How it should function.

            It’s not enough to describe something as it is and say “oh this is how men or women just ARE”.

            Thats like looking at a X-ray and saying “oh a lot of people have these black areas on their lungs, that’s just how they ARE”

            Uh no. If you know what healthy looks like you can differentiate between healthy and unhealthy. Benign variations and tumors.

            This is too long but I got on a roll ha ha.

          4. Although I highly respect Gottman and reference him often, his approach is not the most useful one to me right now.

            Stan Tatkin’s PACT has a lot of useful, practical interventions that I am currently working to apply. Since it’s based in neuroscience it’s full of the factual stuff as well as attachment theory. And the key concepts of how to treat yourself and your spouse in ways that minimize emotional threat make sense to me in my situation.

            As you may know, the basic premise of PACT is you take care of yourself and your partner at the same time.

            Which makes the most sense to me based on the science of how the body and relationships work when healthy.

            Sue Johnson imho can sometimes overemphasize taking care of the other person, differntiation people like David Schnarch and Ellyn Bader can imho overemphasize taking care of yourself.

            For me, the stated goal of:

            *taking care of myself and the other person at the same time* is the Goldilocks healthy goal.

            Hard to do of course. But have to start with what is the goal.

            As you said though in another comment it depends on where one starts from. I don’t usually start from a one down place of thinking I need to give more, “what is wrong with me?” place. I usually start more from a one up “what is wrong with this guy?” place. (One down starters might not find Tatkin the best first pass medicine.)

            The brain and body are designed to maximize threat to protect us. Sadly that often makes things harder in relationships.

            But, knowing that, can empower different interventions to produce different outcomes.

            I am working on it. Ups and downs but it’s showing progress. ?

            What do you find helpful as a therapist and as a person? (if you feel comfortable sharing)

          5. Mike,

            Matt tries to present his stuff with a certain type of husband in mind.

            He has reached many men that could relate to his story. And many women who feel validated by his giving words to their felt experiences.

            It can be confusing sometimes because it only presents one side of the vulnerability cycle. And uses gender differences that while often true are not always true.

            But imho it’s speaks to a lot of people because Matt is describing in compelling story method a common pattern of an avoidant man paired with an anxiously attached woman (to use attachment theory)

            Or a man who doesn’t accept influence paired with a woman who doesn’t set healthy boundaries (to use Gottman/Atkinson etc).

            Or two people who weren’t taught good relationship and self regulation skills, taught to consider their values and choose a partner accordingly etc (to use differntiation theory)

            I tend to relate to the first two points more than the latter but you get a variety of interpretations here.

            The avoidant man/anxious woman is a common marriage pattern as you know. It isn’t the only pattern so that is where some of the confusion in Matt’s story lies sometimes.

          6. Yeah — my native language is attachment, but I speak a smattering of all of those languages, and to add another: pop psychology speak, she’s called “controlling” and he’s called “passive aggressive”.

  25. i decided to reply here so the comments move back to the left of the screen. Gottmanfan – I do not feel this site or its comments are male bashing. I do however feel my opinion is the minority opinion because Matt created this site to own his own faults and consciously made the point not to blame his wife. My point-of-view is that I too, have faults to own but believe wives in general get more of a free pass when it comes to marriage problems. Since this site has mostly female commenters, the dialog follows more the path of how men are at fault and or deficient in key relationship skills needed for a healthy, successful marriage.Thus, minority opinion. I want so badly to own my own faults but get stuck on the notion that wives don’t need to do the same, at least not to the same degree. As I mentioned before, it seems inequitable that a wife’s biggest issue is not setting boundaries where a husband’s biggest issue is not accepting influence and changing. To me, a wife setting boundaries is important, but it’s not the “thing” she needs to do to help fix her marriage. A wife setting boundaries allows the wife to feel safe and stand up for her own important wants and needs…a vital skill of course. But what does this do to fix any hurt she has caused or resolve any conflict in the union? A husband accepting influence and changing is an overt act by the husband to show his wife the recognition of mistakes and the need to change certain behaviors to benefit the marriage. To me, a husband accepting influence and changing will have a direct, positive affect on his wife and also their marriage (this is a good thing of course). But, a wife setting boundaries seems to lack any outward action to also accepting responsibility for marital problems nor does it offer any solution to assuaging the husband’s hurt/anger/resentment/etc. Again, I know there is a general disagreement surrounding this notion.

    1. Nate,

      I would like to know what you think your wife (or any wife) could do differently that would make a difference to you (or any husband).

      How can she best demonstrate to you that she’s accepting responsibility for marital problems and assuage your hurt/anger/resentment?

      I am still in the trenches with my beloved hubby. And I sincerely am tying to figure out how to demonstrate to him in a way he that hits home for him that I know I have have greatly contributed to the marriage pain.

      He’s not able to tell me when I ask how to do this.

      You are articulate and seem to be able access what you would need.

      What do husbands want?

      1. Well, a truly thorough answer will take longer than I have right this minute. But I will offer a few things. In super general terms, I want her to be happier with all we have (material things) instead of focusing on the that which we don’t. We are your average middle class US family (house, two cars, etc.) I want her to see and recognize the 10 positive things I do instead of the 1 negative (I did the dishes, took out the trash, brought the girls to dance class and picked up dinner on the way home but didn’t empty the cat box. Guess what gets focused on leading to the inevitable “I have to do everything around here” comment.) Which leads to my next item: I want her to eliminate the phrases “you never…” and “you always…”. I want her to admit ONE thing she does “wrong” in our relationship. If I ever get her to admit one thing I would then want to hear her apologize for it. I’m still waiting for both. When I’m upset with her about something and broach the subject, it’s met with either refusal (her saying my complaint is unfounded) or with justification (well, I only snapped at you because you did x, y or z)

        It’s tough to interpret this since you are only getting my side of things. But, it’s what I have for right now.

        1. Adding to this…

          There’s no way of knowing how relevant or similar my experiences in my marriage were to Nate’s here, and I’m not attempting to draw any conclusions one way or another, but thought it was worth adding that this story Nate is telling here mirrors very closely how I remember feeling.

          Too much has happened since, and I question the validity of my own memories and feelings (trying to challenge my own beliefs and assumptions) more than I used… for me to know what’s real and not anymore.

          BUT. In those moments during my marriage when things were spiraling toward divorce, I FELT as Nate is describing here. Strongly.

          That while I wasn’t perfect, only the “bad” was recognized with no fair/objective recognition or acknowledgment of any good I provided/contributed.

          And, in terms of how we treated one another, I did not say things or behave in ways that demonstrated criticism or dissatisfaction with my wife (with me feeling defensive when being criticized being the lone exception).

          And–right or wrong–it always struck me as patently unfair that I always gave her the benefit of the doubt and didn’t try to escalate moments when I might have felt let down or disappointed, but was rarely provided that same level of patience or courtesy in return.

          I only wanted to say that because I think it’s VERY likely that some of the wives/girlfriends here have husbands/boyfriends whose perception of your relationship and at-home dynamics mirrors what Nate and I have said here.

          And it’s perfectly okay if you think it’s bullshit and unfair and incorrect for him to feel that way because of X, Y and Z reasons that are none of our business.

          BUT. As a married partner, I hope that it matters to you what might be going on in their minds and hearts at least almost as much as what’s going on in yours. If for no other reason than to understand them for peace-and-harmony reasons.

          If your husband/boyfriend has never volunteered it before, I’d encourage you to ask him — “Does it seem at times to you as if I only focus on negative things with you without acknowledging the positives, or expressing the things about you and our marriage that I’m grateful for?”

          If you have not, I think there’s a chance magic will happen if you do.

          1. Matt,

            You said:

            “And–right or wrong–it always struck me as patently unfair that I always gave her the benefit of the doubt and didn’t try to escalate moments when I might have felt let down or disappointed, but was rarely provided that same level of patience or courtesy in return. “

            This is another one I think my husband would agree with. I don’t really understand it to be honest.

            I guess maybe it’s kind of like the Atkinson style differences the “slow to upset” vs the “readily upset”?

            We defintely have that style difference going on.

            Would you say it’s something else more broad than a style difference since it seems so many men feel that way?

            I can’t quite figure out how a husband thinks about this.

          2. Thinking as I read through this comment stream I had a (minor) epiphany.

            I wonder if the emphasis on the *one* thing that wasn’t done is related to the constantly scrolling to-do list in the wife’s head. I know that when my gaze sweeps a room, I’m looking for the things that need to be addressed…the things that aren’t done. Something that wasn’t done, and now is, gets a ‘yay that’s done now I don’t need to think about it what do I need to think about’ kind of mental dialogue. And it is very easy for the ‘yay that’s done, thanks’ to remain in the mental dialogue.

            Doesn’t make it right, especially with the emphasis on wanting our own contributions recognized, but does this sound familiar to other female commenters? As nice as it is to hear, I’ve been working on specific thank yous whenever I can come up with an excuse for them. May as well tip the balance in favor of positive interactions, right?

        2. Nate and Matt,

          Thank you so much for taking time to give feedback.

          I can’t relate so much to being consistently defensive as Nate describes and not being able to admit being wrong or apologize.

          But the big one of negativity and of only picking out the “bad” stuff to focus and judge on you is something I think my husband wholeheartedly agree with.

          In fact, the three of you could grab a beer and he could describe at length all the things he has done that I don’t fully recognize, that somehow in my calculus don’t count. I only count the things that are missing or I think should be different.

          As he would say, I think I AM the “Moral Judge of the Universe” and he is found wanting. What gives me the right to set myself up as his judge? And why am I in sole possession of TRUTH? he asks.

          I am trying so hard to see this point of view. To understand that THIS is how I come across. To understand how it must feel from his perspective.

          It’s so, so hard. I understand why husbands have a hard time getting the wife’s point of view.

          So is the most easily implemented answer to add lots of “words of encouragement” (no coincidence a very common top love language for men?”)

          I appreciate your help so much Nate and Matt. I read a lot to try and understand men but it’s not as good as hearing from live specimens. ?

        3. Nate,

          You said:

          “If I ever get her to admit one thing I would then want to hear her apologize for it. I’m still waiting for both. When I’m upset with her about something and broach the subject, it’s met with either refusal (her saying my complaint is unfounded) or with justification (well, I only snapped at you because you did x, y or z)”

          Not to pick on your wife but I can understand why there is some confusion when we were talking about how men don’t accept influence. Although on average women are better at this it’s not always true.

          What you described here is an example of not accepting influence. No idea if it’s a newish thing or an old pattern but yeah can’t get much progress in a convo with the 4 “horseman” going on (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt).

          1. I was going to mention contempt.
            At the most innocent, a simple explanation is you can’t see inside each other’s heads. You don’t know what was done expressly FOR THEM. At the worst, it’s contempt.

        4. Nate,

          I want her to eliminate the phrases “you never…” and “you always…”.

          That is the stereotype for women. Stereotypically, men hear literally. For example, if a man has changed the baby’s diaper even one time, and she says “you never change the diaper”, he knows she is wrong (and she is), and will likely respond in a way that is detrimental to the relationship. What she really means is “it seems like you never change the diaper”. Just like the “glass by the sink”, I see two options:
          1. He can learn to hear what she really means.
          2. She can learn to literally say what she really means.
          In my opinion, the second is by far the better option. Rather than him having to constantly interpret  what she really means, she could demonstrate her love by choosing to change her behavior to a factually true statement. That would lead to better communication.

          I want her to admit ONE thing she does “wrong” in our relationship. If I ever get her to admit one thing I would then want to hear her apologize for it.

          That is very much like my marriage was. On one occasion where she actually admitted  she was wrong, she then asked “Aren’t I allowed to make mistakes?”. That is, no remorse, no apology.

      2. Just my opinion… for me, “demonstrating to him that I know I have have greatly contributed to the marriage pain” isn’t the point, although perhaps for Nate it is. The fear for the man typically is “I am not good enough, I can never be good enough, and it will go on like this for ever”. Bleak. His problem is that he’s in pain, but men are not allowed to admit being in pain, and he doesn’t really want to hear “I know you are in pain”. (This applies, by the way, at the stage where “problems” have broken out. There is of course the earlier phase where he isn’t in pain, he has no idea anything is wrong at all.)

        1. Yeah, I agree that’s the general pattern.

          My husband isn’t quite like Matt and Nate though he would agree with other points like the too much negativity. And as you said the “Bleak”.

          He freely admits he is in pain for example. Has always admitted it. And responds when I own my part in the mess.

          That’s why this stuff is hard to generalize. There are a lot of common patterns but individual variations.

          I relate to some of the “men’s” point of view for example. Like feeling more anger than hurt at being disrespected.

          Gender is just one variable. But the cultural training does make a difference no question with some biology thrown in too at certain points.

          My issue is, my husband, like many men, has a hard time explaining how he feels and thinks about emotional issues like our relationship. What specially he bothers him and what he wants to change etc. He has a hard time identifying his emotions.

          I am trying my best to puzzle it out.

  26. This is the weirdest thing I keep posting this one comment it shows up and then later disappears,

    Happened once before when I was trying to post the “everybody doesn’t feel good enough comment”. Obviously I post a bizillion other comments here no problem.

    There are no links or troll names. Anyone know any WordPress sorcery to explain this?

  27. Nate, (part 1)

    I wrote a comment earlier that somehow disappeared so I want to give it another shot. Trying to break it into small parts.

    The accepting influence/boundaries framing is just the way that makes sense to me to conceptualize what causes shitty marriages.

    It is by no means the only “right way”.
    So if it the boundary thing doesn’t make sense to you, you may very well have another perfectly valid but different way of describing what wives do wrong to create a shitty marriage.

    Most people agree that a good marriage involves treating each other with love and respect. There are lots of different styles and ways of describing that.
    Likewise, I think there are lots of ways of describing what causes a shitty marriage.

    1. Part 2

      Now I think some explanations are just dead wrong (see the above troll comments) but there are a lot of things that go into having a shitty marriage.
      And lots of different things to emphasize.

      Maybe your version would emphasize the lack of connection because of too much negativity and lack of appreciation and gratitude for each other?

      Some are explanations I use are macro generalities and averages. That is what I often talk about. Some are specific to each couple who may differ from the averages.