The Real Reason Why Women Leave Men

Comments 354
David vs. Goliath
(Image/Flickr User upside of inertia, via CC)

“Hey Matt! You’re a big, stupid idiot!

“How far do you want us to bend over backward to excuse women’s poor behavior?! We shouldn’t have to pretend it’s okay for them to act this way. What are you, some kind of feminist? You hold men to this high standard, but not women! This is why everything women do is fine, but men will always be the bad guys with you, you sackless loser.”

Signed, A Thousand Male Readers Who Think I’m an Asshole

Listen, guys.

I used to be you, so I very much understand where you’re coming from. I also used to be married, and now I’m not BECAUSE of just how much I used to be you.

We’re pretty sure we’re not crazy, so when our wives or girlfriends say or react to something that challenges our brain’s parameters for Normal Human Response, we conclude that something must be seriously wrong with them.

If you’re anything like me, it scares you. Bat-shit crazy is terrifying. Especially when you love them. You want to help, right? You want to help them think correctly and believe all of the true and wise things you believe, so that these weird and seemingly unnecessary arguments stop happening. I remember. I thought and felt those same things.

I was missing one critical piece of the puzzle, though. Unfortunately, that piece of the puzzle represented 80 percent of the actual image, so I was never entirely sure of what I was looking at and now, through the prism of hindsight, I understand that I’d spent my entire marriage guessing incorrectly.

This elusive puzzle piece that I was missing is absent in MOST marriages. I believe 100% that it is the greatest contributor to divorce and relationship break-ups everywhere.

I tried to share this magical, relationship-saving puzzle piece many times before.

In a story about colorblindness.

In a story about dishes.

In a story about painful second-degree burns.

And I’ve even shared this exact one in radio interviews and article comments.

I hope it makes sense this time more than all of the other times, because this life-saving truth is evasive.

This truth hides from you in plain sight. This truth is uncomfortable because it requires that we trust other people more than we trust ourselves, and we are understandably afraid of doing that. This truth is uncomfortable because it shatters our very perception of reality.

Other people hurt us. Other people don’t always have our best interests at heart. Others are more difficult to trust than our own eyes and ears.

I know what I saw.

I know what I heard.

I know what I felt.

Everyone feels that way. And since everyone is in constant disagreement with someone about SOMETHING, we can safely conclude that at least some percentage of us are getting it wrong.

No matter how sure we feel, we pretty much never KNOW things.

If you are so certain of what you saw, heard and felt that you argue with someone sharing a different account, then I have bad news: You are probably going to get divorced.

It really sucks, so I hope you don’t.

I’ll make you a promise, right here, right now.

If you’ll bravely open your mind and heart to honestly consider whether what I’m about to share might actually be the difference between you having a healthy, lasting marriage and wonderful family life vs. a depressing, shitty divorce that negatively impacts your kids and strains all of your family and social relationships; you might just find a bit of magic to transform your entire world and the lives of your partner and kids.

Because THIS is it.

This is everything.

The Simple Secret That Could Save Your Marriage

Most people are familiar with the bible story of David and Goliath. It’s frequently used to characterize any underdog scenario in life where an individual or competitive sports team might be facing seemingly insurmountable odds.

With apologies to Old Testament writer Samuel, I’m going to share three versus from the famous David-and-Goliath story, but I’m going to replace ONE word three times, because doing so might save your marriage, and I’m pretty sure Samuel would want that.

48As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a cotton ball, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The cotton ball sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a cotton ball; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

Holy shit!

Did you just see that, guys?!

Little shepherd boy David just smoked that giant Murdery Hagrid-looking sonofabitch right in the forehead with a small piece of balled-up cotton fibers and dropped him like third-period French!


That’s a bunch of crap, right? Bollocks? Nonsense? Stupid? Impossible?

This is where I need you to take the leap of faith. Please.

You guys ever see a movie or read a book where the story’s protagonist knows something really important and tries to tell everyone about it, but no one believes her or him, until something horrible happens later and everyone goes “Ohhh. Holy shit. Voldemort REALLY is alive, terrorists REALLY have taken control of Nakatomi Plaza, Freddy Kruger REALLY is murdering teens in their dreams, future murder bots called Terminators REALLY are travelling through time to try and kill various members of the Connor family! I should have believed them! Now I feel like a huge dick!”?

This moment, right now, is EXACTLY like those moments.

You’re being the huge dick who isn’t believing the person who really needs you to and who also happens to be the person who loves you, trusts you, and gives you more than anyone else in your life.

Sometimes, you see a cotton ball hurling through the air and bouncing softly off of someone else—usually your wife or girlfriend—which is then followed by them freaking out as if that harmless cotton ball actually hurt them.

What a bunch of drama-queen psychos.

We get so focused on their whiny bullshit over that cotton ball hitting them, that what they’re actually saying hardly registers with us.

We are concerned with their ability to process information within the framework of reality, right? How scary is it to live with a person who literally can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not?

And the secret—the one that can change your entire relationship and worldview is this: While you are seeing and feeling a cotton ball in your hand and hurling through the air, it’s not only possible, but likely, that your spouse or romantic partner is seeing and feeling a stone. Not a pebble. Not a tiny speck of gravel. A substantial, hard, shitty, ­­don’t you dare throw that at me, you prick kind-of stone like the one David slayed the giant with in the bible story.


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You Might Not Believe Me Yet, But You Should

What’s more likely?

That every romantic partner you’ve ever met or heard of is clinically insane or mentally incompetent, OR that both of you, despite living through the same moment, are experiencing it much differently than one another?

Here’s the part that ruins everything.

It MAKES SENSE for BOTH people to think, feel, say, and do what they do after a disagreement in which one person is getting pelted by stones by their asshole partner, but loves them and is trying to communicate that they need help from them; but the OTHER person is defending themselves like “OMG. Cotton balls! They were just cotton balls! Calm down, please. Why are you acting like a psycho?”

Do you recognize the danger?

Two good people, trying their best, both reacting TOTALLY NORMALLY to the events they’re experiencing.

It’s not always gender-specific, but so often it’s the men feeling under attack for something they’re being accused of doing or neglecting.

These guys’ wives and girlfriends are like: “Why would you hurl stones at me?! What is wrong with you? Don’t you love me?”

“I didn’t throw stones at you.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Umm, no I didn’t Kathy Bates in ‘Misery.’ How about we put down the sledgehammer and take a stress tab or something?”

“You’re not listening to me! Why would you want to hurt me? Stones hurt!”

“I didn’t throw stones at you. I threw cotton balls at you, and now you’re acting like a baby about it.”

“You’re such an asshole. Are you, or are you not going to stop hitting me with stones?”

“Since that ISN’T what happened—cotton balls; they were COTTON BALLS—I’m probably not going to stop. Cotton balls don’t hurt people. They’re soft and light, and bounce harmlessly to the floor, so please stop trying to turn this into something it’s not.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

Maybe there are tears. Maybe there is fear.

Maybe then, his defensive anger melts and his protective instincts kick in.

He runs to her rescue. She sucks when she’s mad, but nothing gets to him quite like when she’s sad.

“I’m so sorry, baby. I would never, ever, ever do anything to hurt you. Never. I’m really sorry. Everything’s going to be okay.”

You have a finite number of those moments, husbands and boyfriends (or whoever).

It feels like you’re having The Same Fight over and over and over again. It becomes routine. You get used to it. Because you get used to it, you don’t think it matters.

But it matters.

Because every time you have that conversation, she is becoming more and more convinced that you’re going to keep throwing stones at her. She’s going to keep getting hurt.

So, now she can’t trust you.

She concludes that you’re either doing it on purpose, or that you care so little about her, that you’re unwilling to help her not feel pelted by stones anymore. Has to be one of those two, right?


It does.

Stop throwing rocks at me, dick. I don’t care what you’re calling them. It hurts and I’ve told you this a million times, and you haven’t stopped, so I’m out. You’re mean, dumb or both, and I can’t trust you to be my partner. I can’t trust the rest of my life to you.


Because, after all. They were just cotton balls.

Just some little, harmless cotton balls that have never, and will never, hurt anyone.

God, she’s crazy.

I believe that if we can help more people understand that the various realities people experience aren’t identical—that one person can see and feel cotton balls, and that another person can see and feel stones—and that based on that fact, it MAKES SENSE for everyone to behave as they are, then people can accommodate for that in their communication with one another.

They’ll be able to meet each other halfway.

“Oh man. I had no idea, babe. Can you understand how crazy it seemed when you were freaking out about the cotton balls? Obviously, I would NEVER throw a rock at you. I would never try to hurt you on purpose. Ever. In fact, it hurts when you tell me otherwise. You’ve been feeling pummeled by stones this entire time! I’ve been hit by stones. That shit totally hurts. I get it, and again, I am so so so sorry, and I swear, if you just tell me moving forward that it’s another situation where even though it appears harmless to me, it’s physically harming you, I’ll understand what you mean, and we’ll be able to get through it without accidentally destroying each other.”

About 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women. Thousands, every day.

And for most of them, THIS is why they’re leaving. This cotton ball-stone thing.

All that you see, touch, taste, hear feels as concrete and tangible as anything else in our lives. Of course we’re going to default to trusting our first-person experiences.

It’s monumentally difficult to doubt our own interpretations enough to trust others’ conflicting accounts of what happened, especially when it makes us out to be assholes.

But, if you can muster the courage, the trust—the faith—to believe your partner when she or he tells you about something that doesn’t jibe with your perception of reality—I think you’ll discover that giant missing piece of the puzzle I referenced earlier.

The one that completes the picture and helps you see things as they really are.

It’s the piece that says Happily Ever After on it.

And it’s the story ending you and your family deserve.

354 thoughts on “The Real Reason Why Women Leave Men”

  1. You are ridiculously spot on. The analogy of the penny dropping after the fact, it’s taken a few years and countless ‘chats’, but only after having a child did my partner understand that women aren’t nagging psychos. Society has alot to answer for in the way it shapes us into roles, and some of that role is being oblivious. You do an amazing job of highlighting, what I agree to be, a major contribution to failed relationships. The last time I shared one of your articles I got into a bit on a discussion with a male friend over it, he fails to understand why a cup at the side of a sink would be enough to force a woman to leave a relationship. It still hurts my brain! I do hope more men, and some women, take your posts on board. I truly think it would solve a whole shit of relationship issues.

    1. Thank you, K.

      It seems entirely too simple to be the reason we have a global divorce crisis, which is why I think it escapes so many people’s notice.

      But that’s the thing. Right there.

      We have to convince people to NOT trust themselves about all things.

      It’s going to be hard. 🙂

      Appreciate you reading and commenting, K. A lot.

      1. Completely agree. I think it’s a pretty fundamental element of a relationship, yet as you say is over looked. Personally it was a huge source of resentment, and can still be. I see it in every relationship of my friends and family. Which is a real pitty.
        Not at all, I do enjoy reading your posts. You are so articulate and always hit the nail on the head 🙂

    2. Honest K, I do agree re the sharing and the fallout with male friends who then read the article! I’ve copped a few negative remarks as well, but I’m going to keep sharing. If I can help one person to see that cotton wool ball is a rock, then that’s awesome!
      Love your writing and perspective, Matt.

      1. Thank you for the kind words, and for sharing things I’ve written.

        I think these conversations or more effectively spoken than written, because of how nuanced so much of these discussion points are.

        I completely understand that there are a bunch of “Yeah, but what about…” retorts to things I write. It’s impossible to address them in every article, or even in comments.

        People make snap conclusions, and dismiss everything else. Life is more comfortable that way. I’m sure I do it all of the time about different subjects.

        But ultimately it’s exactly what you said. If I can just help one person learn how to intentionally “see” life through the prism of others — namely their loved ones — a bunch of positive changes can happen.

    3. It’s women like you that are a huge reason why men are saying screw marriage.

      1. @mike
        “Women like you”
        Uh huh. Like we’re some monolith that has it out for you personally, right?

        Do you know what really works to save marriages? Owning your own shit. You own yours (and ONLY yours); your partner owns theirs.

        You can continue to deflect and blame “us” for everything you find dissatisfying in your life, but I’M STILL NOT PICKING UP YOUR BIG OL’ DOOKIE.

        Matt is NOT asking that husbands carry their wives’ poop-bag as well as their own. He’s simply pointing at the big steamy turds that husbands sometimes leave for their wives to clean up and saying, Hey man, you shit on the carpet, don’t you think you should clean that up? OF COURSE the same goes for wives! What part of “personal” responsibility do you not understand??

        Matt wishes he had taken more personal responsibility for the problems in his (now defunct) marriage. For all I know, his wife was a big old bitch who refused to own her part. Yet I have never once heard him cast blame in her direction. Whatever the problems were in their marriage, he reflects on HIS part and refuses to deflect blame by publically discussing HER shortcomings.

        You don’t fool me. You’re not at all concerned about “balance” and “fairness” in Matt’s writing. You’re just interested in having a platform from which you can spew your hatred and blame “us” for your problems.

        Go back to your sandbox and play, little boy. You have nothing of value to contribute here.

        1. @anitvan That self serving unhinged post proves point exactly. I never said anything about men not accepting responsibility. My issue is that he never mentions his wife’s role in this and gives people the impression that men are the ones that are responsible for their failing marriages. Both sides are to blame and his wife would have probably gotten more of her needs met if she was a better wife and vice versa. As I said before, your irrational nature is all too common in American women today and it’s a big reason why marriage is losing it’s appeal to men.

          1. Mike, I want you to imagine me sitting here trying to roll my eyes far enough into the back of my head so that I can stroke out and die.

            So, to be clear: Not just a regular eyeroll, but like a HOLY SHIT, THAT GUY JUST HAD A STROKE AND DIED eyeroll.

            I just tried that and didn’t die, which is unfortunate because now I have to remember what I just read in your comment.

          2. @Matt

            Come on man. You know she’s unhinged. I wrote one sentence and she responded with a paragraphs long lecture. Can you do just one post, just one, where you describe how your wife contributed to things because she did and that will help a lot of women reading your blog make their marriages better. We all know how shitty you were. We get that.

          3. There are probably 50 examples of me being critical of something my wife did, or something I perceive wives/women to do less-effectively than they could be.

            But I tell you what. I promise to think about this some more.

            Maybe it will be a good post.

            I do appreciate you contributing here, by the way. Thank you. I just only agree with a very small percentage of what you’re selling so far.

          4. There are probably 50 examples of me being critical of something my wife did, or something I perceive wives/women to do less-effectively than they could be.

            I question that you have fifty examples, but, regardless, the ratio of critical-of-husband  to critical-of-wife writing is incredibly high. I believe it is much higher than 7:1, which I have heard is the ratio of positive statements needed to counteract negative ones in relationships. If I’m right, it’s not surprising that many of the few men who arrive at this site quickly decide that you are so one-sided that they complain. When those complaints are met with the insistence that you are a special type of man, one who has recognized the real truth as to why most relationships fail, I expect they choose to go away, never to return again. (Me, I’m either more stubborn or more stupid than most, so I continue to occasionally comment.)

          5. Mike,

            You said:

            “My issue is that he never mentions his wife’s role in this and gives people the impression that men are the ones that are responsible for their failing marriages. Both sides are to blame and his wife would have probably gotten more of her needs met if she was a better wife and vice versa.”

            I picked out the part of your comments that I think have excellent points to discuss.

            I might add that your point about the wife applies to commenters here. I agree that “the wife would have probably gotten more of her needs met if she was a better wife”

            Same for having your assumed need as a commenter met to get your points across.

            It seems to me you have some good points to make. I would be happy to hear them and consider how I as a wife might need to change. We need men to explain how they see things.

            But to get that need met, the commenter, like the wife, has to consider how it is heard by the other person.

            I would imagine it’s hard when it seems so unfairly one sided. But that can be pointed out in a way that gets the need of others hearing that point.

            The comments are often where the other side is discussed as Nate mentioned.

          6. We need men to explain how they see things.

            That seems to be a novel concept. It would be even more novel to actually consider that the mansplaining might be true.

            I would imagine it’s hard when it seems so unfairly one sided. But that can be pointed out in a way that gets the need of others hearing that point.

            Can that be done? It seems to me that political progressives say they are interested in constructive dialog, but they do their best to shut down any dissenting voices. In the same way, are Matt and most commenters willing to consider the perspective of men?

          7. Speaking for myself only in the context of this blog, I am interested in hearing from husbands who are in the typical shitty marriage Matt describes. This is the common pattern Matt describes with two well meaning people who can’t figure out how to get unstuck.

            I am interested in hearing their side to this story. Why they think their marriage ended up in trouble. What they think could be helpful to get it back on track. I am not particularly interested in hearing men or women blame each other even though it’s hard not to when we are frustrated.

            As I have said many times, this needs to be seen as a pattern created by BOTH people. It’s not imho helpful to focus only on one side of the equation in isolation of the effect of the other.

            It is helpful to have men and women express their perspectives on common patterns to better understand. Obviously, there are a lot of individual variations so sweeping generalizations don’t fit everyone.

          8. Well, here’s my version of why I was in a shitty marriage. My ex-wife avoided conflict, choosing to believe her own made-up reasons for my behavior. Rather than trying to discuss issues, she postponed it until it was convenient for her. The same was true for sex – she allowed it when she wanted it. This woman, who I may have seen cry five times in twenty years, accused me, the one who cried far more often in that time, of being emotionally unavailable.

            She very seldom admitted to mistakes, and even less often asked for forgiveness. She was extremely reticent about her past, only telling me about two rapes, one abortion, and general promiscuity after we had been married ten years.

            In the end, she blind-sided me with her divorce decision, while in the middle of a 12-step study with Celebrate Recovery.

            We have two children, 16 and 19 at the time. While I think she was an okay mother, I believe that our marriage was always secondary to them, and she had almost no physical or emotional energy left for the marriage.

            In short, the pattern is that she claimed to want closeness, but she was not open to it.

          9. That’s extremely painful and frustrating to be treated that way in a marriage.

            It sounds like it was very confusing too? She put up walls and distanced herself even as she said she wanted to be close. And then blindsided you with wanting a divorce.

            Were there signs early in the marriage or were things good for the first few years and changed?

            Looking back can you identify things you might have done differently in response to her confusing behavior and attitudes?

          10. gottmanfan,

            I don’t recall her saying she wanted closeness until late in the marriage. By that point, I didn’t believe much of what she claimed, because either her behavior was inconsistent, or I knew she was wrong about why I behaved as I did. My theory would be that she eventually realized she wanted closeness, but she wasn’t willing to be allow it.

            My biggest pain was the infrequent sex. I don’t think most women realize the emotional pain this causes men.

            There were problems from early in the marriage, and it got worse when we had kids. I didn’t realize the extent nor do I think she commmunicated it well. We tried to work on the sex frequency issue, but I don’t think it was ever resolved. I expect I should have done some things differently, but I couldn’t tell you what. Nor do I believe strongly that it would have mattered.

            I hadn’t thought about this earlier, but I can tell you that I was emotionally distraught about the state of our marriage, feeling very stressed about it. About a year before her blindside, we were in couples counselling, the first time a counselor considered her to have some fault for the marriage problems. We had been given an exercise to do, and one night I asked her if she was doing it and her response was “not really”. I was livid and left the house and walked for at least an hour.

            Soon after, I had an extreme eruption of psoriasis bumps. Then, a month or so later, I had a vasovagal response to emptying my bladder, and fainted. She called EMTs, who put a monitor on my finger, and I fainted again. The monitor showed my heart stopped for at least ten seconds. I now have a pacemaker to keep this from happening again. I will vouch that stress may not kill you, but it sure came close for me.

            It’s not surprising to me, but I don’t think my ex-wife showed any sign of tears or any other degree of emotion at any point during this experience. Another instance where there was no sign of emotional availability. I almost wonder if she hoped I would die.

          11. Wow that is so horrible that the stress caused your heart to malfunction. I hope you are ok now. Relationship problems are so powerfully negative both emotionally and physically. It takes a huge toll.

            I have a theory that many of the men who comment here are/were married to “avoidant” wives. Your ex-wife seems to fit the pattern including not following through on the couples counseling exercise. It is so maddening to be paired with a person who is outwardly indifferent and avoids taking active steps to make things better.

            They usually are distressed but numb themselves which looks like emotional indifference.

            It’s crazy making to be on the other side of that.

          12. Mike,

            I get that you are ANGRY and feel that men get blamed unfairly.

            Maybe you have good reason based on what you’ve experienced I don’t know.

            I do know it doesn’t help to use language like “your irrational nature”

            Let’s be rational. I like rational. Women like men like rational.

            Make your points using rational means. Explain your points. Let’s discuss.

          13. @gottmanfan

            This is why she was called irrational. I think the writing speaks for itself. I wrote one sentence and she jumped to all these crazy conclusions.

            “You don’t fool me. You’re not at all concerned about “balance” and “fairness” in Matt’s writing. You’re just interested in having a platform from which you can spew your hatred and blame “us” for your problems.

            Go back to your sandbox and play, little boy. You have nothing of value to contribute here.”

          14. Mike,

            Anita was responding to your first “strong” comment. It’s pretty strong I agree. I’m guessing in memory of a certain long time troll that spewed a lot of stuff about women here.

            Before and after the troll, we had a lot of good discussions here. No one wants to go back to the bad old troll days.

            I don’t think you are a misogynist troll. I think you are angry and tired of feeling men are always blamed. And expressing frustration at that with language that is too blaming of women.

            Can we call a mulligan? Start over?

            I would like to hear your point of view considering what wives can do better.
            I’m working to understand and change. Many of us are here.

          15. As a proponent of free speech AND verbal sparring, I don’t mind people having impolite conversations in the comments.

            But I think we can all agree that it’s not very productive. It doesn’t serve a positive end, and I probably shouldn’t engage in it.

            Anita tossed a few Molotov cocktails there. Because I’ve been reading her comments for four or five years, I find it endearing, but I can appreciate how different the experience might be for others.

            Some of your word choices, Mike, make me cringe because they live SQUARELY in the “These are the little things that cause divorce” bucket that I’m constantly trying to discuss and raise awareness to.

            Let me ask you for a favor, Mike.

            Before you hit publish, edit your comment and try to rewrite or eliminate any language that could easily be interpreted as “I think men are better than women” or “I think women are evil” or “I think women are a scourge on society” or “I have a very specific agenda to demean and invalidate women, and tell everyone that they’re actually the enemy.”

            If ideas shared and tone of voice used doesn’t send up red flags that you’re secretly a Red Pill/MGTOW guy out to win the battle of the sexes, then I don’t think you’ll find too many shitty responses.

            Again, I think it’s awesome that you took time to read and comment, and I hope you’ll continue to.

          16. uniballer1965

            MGTOW = Men Going Their Own Way – refusing to allow women to define the value and worth of men.

            Red Pill, goes along with the above movement for men. Based on the following movie quote, “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus

            The theory is the blue pill is traditional relationship knowledge and belief. You swallow the lie so to speak. Or you choose enlightenment and swallow the proverbial red-pill.

            I’m a skeptic, so while I’m skeptical of traditional thought, I’m also skeptical of MGTOW and Red Pill movements 🙂

            I’m a free agent, trust nobody. Or at least very few 🙂

            To be honest, I can see both sides. I can see why many men would gravitate to thse sorts of things. Who wants to be defined by others and told we suck at relationships and so on?

            Who wants to be told to express your emotions, but then not anger (an emotion) and not that way? Not saying there are not unhealthy manifestations of anger. What I’m saying is you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you want him to express his emotions and then tell him he cannot or should not express an emotion.

            Who wants to be told that sex and physical attractiveness is shallow, but conversation and inner beauty is what you should treasure? Again, allowing others to define who you are or who you should be.

            The problem is, many who adopt these philosophies just use them to become more crappy versions of who they were before.

            They go from Nice Guy to Jerk. What they fail to understand is the goal is to be a Good Guy. Yes, there is a difference between Good Guy and Nice Guy.

          17. I was going to attempt an answer to this, but you did a better job than I would have. Appreciate it, sir.

            Co-sign with pretty much all of it.

          18. Believe me when I say I DELIBERATELY chose those words with the intent of pushing your insecurity buttons.

            How did I do?

          19. Your comment was an asshole comment to make. And you have the nerve to call someone else irrational. You are brutal. Actually fryin my mind. Away and bile yer heid and give your mouth a rest, your arse is getting jealous

          20. If by “unhinged” you mean that I am a straight shooter and call out bullshit when I see it, then yes, I am.

            You’re correct, you didn’t say anything about men not accepting responsibility. You just went straight to blaming “women like me”.

            I hardly need others to vouch for me, but I can tell you that the people around here who know me well (Matt, what’s it been, about 5 years now?) will tell you I am about as balanced a person as you can find. I’ve got my shit together, thanks very much.

          21. Sure, K.
   is the link to my religion/theology blog and for my marriage blog.
            Fyi, I haven’t written for either blog recently, they are mostly archives at this point.
            I’ll warn you upfront, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea…I’m actually quite conservative when it comes to religion and marriage. And, as you have probably already figured out, I’m not afraid of expressing strong opinions ?

          22. Thank you ? I’m just interested as you are very articulate in your thoughts. I’m not conservative in anything, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading from another person’s perspective ?

      2. Men are saying screw marriage? Does anybody else hear the tiny violin playing sad sad music of sorrow? ?

      3. Let them not be married then? I’ve meet men who wanted marriage like stupidly young and I’ve met men who don’t. It’s nothing to me. It’s not a punishment for men who don’t wanna get married, not getting married.

        1. I do not want men to get married if they can’t: Clean Up A House, take on Mental Load and do Emotional Labour, Act Like An Adult and make his own phone calls and schedule, Help Out Around The House Without Being Explicitly Asked, house keeping, emotional intelligence, are good in a crisis (Don’t make it about themselves and engage with the person on their level), be able to help around the house without asking, (in daily/weekly chores), able to look after self, care about the women’s satisfaction/relaxation, and good at dealing with others emotions. It’s simple thing every person must be working towards as they turn 30 and baring severe disabilities, should be doable.

          1. Ideally I’d like this to be the pre-requisite for anyone getting married…the reality is far from that.

          2. Can we add some things to this list and remove the requirement that it’s a skill set for men?

            Act like an adult, fix her own car, kill her own spiders, live on a budget, able to change a tire, or perform an oil change and basic tune up on her car, remain calm in a crisis, honor him and treat him as an equal and not view him as another child, not take up more than half the closet or counter space in any bathroom, able to carry any bag she packs for a trip, read a map and be on time for any appointment or date she agrees to take.

            She can see the importance of the physical aspect of their romantic relationship and not discount his desires as base or shallow. Accept that his desire for a physically attractive spouse is no less important than her desire for an emotionally available spouse. Accept that is desire for a recreational companion is no less important than her desire for a conversational partner. Not be critical when he expresses emotions differently, or even different emotions compared to her expressions.

            I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea.

          3. You need to be writing this blog, but then you would not get the accolades from women who make up the majority of the readers and writers to this site.

          4. Let me ask you this…do men feel that as husbands, that they are also fulfilling roles important to the wife as well? Because when I read your list, I can say yes to all of this. So, can husbands understand the importance of taking an emotional temperature of the relationship, creating intimacy instead of going along with it, taking on the division of labor instead of being instructed to do so? Can fiances take on the responsibility of wedding planning without being asked or guilted into it? Can they of their own accord ensure not to only consider their own needs but also the needs of the spouse and to weigh those things before deciding what is important only to one person?
            I agree with you that if you’re doing all of this and she is not, then that’s an uneven trade off. But like I said, please consider that just like some women are not doing their fair share, some men are also not doing theirs and their spouses have legitimacy in asking for more because they give more as well. Their reality is just as real as yours. Findings exceptions and examples contrary to what Matt is speaking about does not mean that the imbalance and issues women have with men in marriage is not an issue.
            Further, if you believe that people are selfish and that is a general dictum you hold about humanity, then where do you stand in your assessment of yourself?

          5. “Let me ask you this…do men feel that as husbands, that they are also fulfilling roles important to the wife as well?” I believe we/they do. What I heard you saying is that women want strong, mature men. Men that can take care of stuff. Men who are emotionally available, and so on.

            “So, can husbands understand the importance of taking an emotional temperature of the relationship…”

            Sure, but we have to have accurate feedback. If we are asking and the answer is “fine” when things are not fine, it’s hard to blame the husband for misreading the situation when given false or incomplete information. If you give mixed messages, or subtle hints, don’t be shocked if he doesn’t get it. He’s not in your head any more than you are in his head. So when he’s taking the emotional temperature of his wife, or his relationship, give him accurate information.

            “…creating intimacy instead of going along with it, taking on the division of labor instead of being instructed to do so?” Maybe. The question is will she let him or will she go along with it. Is she willing to expand her definition of intimacy to include things from his side of the list, or does she only want him to expand his list without a corresponding willingness to grow herself? Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with asking. That’s how we learn what others need. If you need me to rub your back, or stop at the store, or kill a spider, I can think of no better way to express that need than to ask. If one holds on to the idea that if you have to ask, it didn’t count, then I hope you are initiating things from his side of the list as much as you would like him to initiate things from your side of the list.

            Intimacy means it’s OK to ask. Intimacy doesn’t mean you read each other’s minds. You may get it right, occasionally. You’ll probably be wrong more than you are right. Therefore, there really isn’t anything wrong with asking.

            Intimacy also means the other person can say NO. I’m not saying it’s always a good idea. But going on Matt’s messages to young people mini-series, it’s good boundaries to say no if you don’t want to do something. However, to get to no, one must ask. Something cannot be assumed or demanded if there is a right for that person to say no. Therefore, this whole doing things without being asked seems to me as a way to eliminate boundaries. If you want me to do something, ask. Use your words. Don’t pout, or be upset when I didn’t read your mind.

            “Their reality is just as real as yours. Findings exceptions and examples contrary to what Matt is speaking about does not mean that the imbalance and issues women have with men in marriage is not an issue.” Which is why it is important to actually use your words. If someone feels there is an imbalance, then say so. Ditto for your comments about considering the needs of others. Again, clear communication is needed. Can’t just sit there and take the approach of, “If he loved me, he would just know what to do…” and I’ve heard that sort of thing before.

            Just as porn is unrealistic fantasy for men, most of the Rom-Coms and Disney stories are equally unrealistic fantasy. I’m not saying husbands and wives should not do special things one for another. What I’m saying is most of us are not screen or novel characters with nothing to do but fawn over one another, with our without clothes on. We have jobs, kids, homes, and ourselves to care for. That’s the reality of life. Carve out moments of fantasy, but be gracious and realistic and recognize that they are moments, not the majority of life. I’m not saying life has to be dour either. But if you want a fantasy, make it fun. I don’t know many men whose fantasy is for his wive to treat him like she was his mother. If he didn’t get himself or others killed before you met him, chances are, he won’t after you marry. He might take risks you wouldn’t take. But that doesn’t mean he’s childish. It means he’s different.

            If he lets your 6 year old daughter choose her own outfit, the world will not end. She’ll learn to choose clothes. If you are concerned the other moms will look down on you, get her a hat that says Daddy let me pick my outfit today….

            “Further, if you believe that people are selfish and that is a general dictum you hold about humanity, then where do you stand in your assessment of yourself?” Oh, I can be selfish. I can forget to check to see that we have TP in the bathroom. (Apparently that is my job because I’ve done it for the past 10 years, so the one time we didn’t have it yesterday, and I’m serious about ONE time, it was my fault. It’s not like she’s not a 50 year old woman with a voice and can say hey, I put the last roll on the dispenser, would you go get some…. after you set down your suitcase from working out of town. Nope, just assume it’s my job and then get on my case for the one day in over 4000 now that there wasn’t a spare roll waiting. After all, the suitcases are stored in the basement with the TP, so a heads up to grab a package or two while I was down there would have been welcomed.)

            So yeah, I can be selfish, and petty, and focus on all the bad she does and think I’m a saint who walks on all forms of water. Just like every other human.

          6. This a really good and important comment, UB.

            And if I were to stereotype (which I don’t like doing, but seem to often end up doing), I would say that the whole Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti thing totally applies here.

            UB’s saying that men frequently try to gather information by asking a question, and the only realistic way to get that information accurately is if his wife or girlfriend answers the question using words and ideas that his brain can interpret.

            And sometimes, maybe women (and certainly some men) in that scenario don’t answer the question. Sometimes they say “they shouldn’t have to say it,” and consider the question itself an insult that demonstrates just how little the guy loves/values/etc. his wife/girlfriend.

            I’ve certainly heard that before.

            And as uncomfortable as some people are with the whole Mars/Venus thing, I still believe it’s a SUPER-effective way to help people identify the problems they have, because the circumstances are so common for so many people.

            My favorite analogy to use is translating machine.

            If I think my wife is speaking Portuguese, and I have my translator set to Portuguese, but she’s actually speaking Spanish, so all of the messages come in all mish-mashed and in ways I don’t get, how am I ever going to respond appropriate to whatever she’s saying (verbally or otherwise?)

            And I think — most of the time — that men and women don’t realize that they are often speaking two entirely different languages.

            That when she says “I’m just feeling really scared right now and need you to reassure me that you love me and our family, and that everything is going to be okay” but he HEARS and INTERPRETS it (because of his improperly tuned translator) that she said “You’re a bad husband who is a constant disappointment to me and my family, and I wish you would just leave me alone,” OF COURSE everyone’s going to feel sad and angry and messed up during and afterward.

            Of course they will.

            And that’s what happens.

            Because men frequently don’t know what their wives are ACTUALLY saying.

            And women frequently don’t know what their husband are ACTUALLY doing.

            And if every person, in every conversation could magically know what the true intention and meaning behind other peoples words and actions were, there would be SO MUCH less anger and fear and hate and bullshit in the world.

            But magic isn’t real.

            So the only way for two people to get through this is to REALIZE that they’re using faulty translators, and work together to figure out an effective way to communicate what they actually mean.

            It will change everything.

            But that’s never going to happen until people first recognize that they’re not even speaking the same language like they think they are.

          7. Let’s break this down…to (1) how wives should respond vs. (2) cultivating curiosity for husbands.

            1) I agree with you to a certain extent that if a wife says she’s fine, and she’s really not, that she should say so. So if a question is posed, and she doesn’t actually say what she means, then that’s on her.

            (2) However, I have seen the contrary, and that is a man believes that taking the emotional temperature, e.g. asking questions about the state of the relationship, working on the relationship, working on his own self improvement, or even attempting to of his own accord do things that are helpful around the house, noticing what needs to get done, etc. is not even up for negotiation. One that comes from an adamant side of “if you have a problem, then it’s up to you to raise it. If you have a problem, then it’s up to you to deal with it.”
            Part of understanding your partner and the relationship is the due diligence you put forth to doing some inquiry and observation, asking the questions, noticing things. I can only speak to my experience, but this is something that my husband is absolutely guilty of and something he has now stated. It took my walking away completely all of the emotional care I had given him for him to truly understand what it is that he benefits from. It’s a huge point of resentment on my part, not because I did it to show him the discrepancy and I wanted him to reciprocate. By the time I exited emotionally, I no longer cared if he would take responsibility for that. It’s a resentment on my part that he was so oblivious to the maintenance and care in the relationship that is necessary for it to stay functional. And that responsibility laid mostly on my shoulders, because his standards for a wholly sufficient relationship was already met.

            “I don’t know many men whose fantasy is for his wive to treat him like she was his mother.” No. I know plenty of men whose fantasy when it comes to emotional labor and perhaps even house labor is for his wife to do all of it and as long as his standards have been met, it’s the wife’s problem. I know plenty of wives who know that without their fight for a more egalitarian marriage, the default is to revert to the traditional, which is not something the wives I know, want. We are what stops our husbands from taking advantage of this whether knowingly or unknowingly. We monitor this, because the other person does not. This is exhaustive work. We cannot count the partner that we have to be a partner. At best, we can count on them as a person who does what they’re asked without much argumentation.

            As for the toilet paper, what happened when you pointed out to her that the toilet paper is dual responsibility, or that you didn’t know this was a job you were assigned to?

          8. uniballer1965

            “As for the toilet paper, what happened when you pointed out to her that the toilet paper is dual responsibility, or that you didn’t know this was a job you were assigned to?”

            I just said it was something she could also do. She said I’d been doing it for the past 10+ years, so it’s my job. End of discussion.

            I get the message that it’s not worth negotiating. I get no indication she’s up for any change. Once something is “settled science” for her, it doesn’t really change. Or at least that is the impression I get.

          9. Esmeralda I want you to be the Godmother for the next generation… if a man could do everything you said here (or even 60% of it 60% of the time) it would be heaven.

      4. Who cares? As long as the incels stop murdering women I doubt anyone really cares if you stop partnering up with women. If anything it would be a huge boon. Nobody wants to be Elliot Rodger’s wife, or the wife of any of his groupies either.

  2. There is a gender element here. Men are conditioned that their perception is reality and that it is ok to define reality for women. Enter mansplaining. Women says something, man translates it . . . “what she really means is … ” This happens in relationships. She’s being completely clear and instead of accepting her at her word, if he disagrees or is even slightly made uncomfortable by what she said, he simply redefines her reality for her. It is infuriating. And it happens in more than just marriages. It happens in church, the workplace, pretty much anywhere men and women interact.

    1. uniballer1965

      OK, but this isn’t uniquely male. My wife tries to define my reality all the time.

      Their is a big difference between “Ouch, that hurts.” and “You are trying to hurt me.”

      The first defines her reality, that hurts. Perfectly acceptable. The second, no less damaging than all the attempts men make a defining her reality. She’s trying to define his.

      That’s the problem I have with some of this.

      I don’t disagree that many of the things Matt cites are behaviors that should end.

      Where I have a problem is when it is suggested that it’s on men and if only men would….

      What other realities are defined for men.

      — Men are not as good at parenting as women. In fact, today I heard some political critter suggesting that it’s more important to keep children with their parents, especially with their mothers instead of separating them at the border.

      Hello, dad is no less important than mom. Stop suggesting an alternative reality that one parent has more value than the other.

      — Men are shallow or base or immature. I’ve seen enough clips of the Housewives of _________, to realize there is competition for that title on both sides of the gender divide.

      — Men are involved in affairs more than women. Well, unless the men are having affairs with other men, the math adds up to essentially equal numbers. For every man having an affair, there is a woman who is his affair partner. I doubt the number of same sex affairs is significantly higher on the male side of the ledger than on the female, so I contend, for all practical purposes, the both men and women are equally represented when it comes to affair participation.

      So please, men are no more likely to define a woman’s reality than women are to define a man’s.

      1. Their hypocrisy and inability to blame themselves for anything is what drives me nuts. They have these opinions of men that are completely off base. These same women have no problems with the phrase “happy wife, happy life” but then want to go on and on about this garbage.

        1. Thank you for trying so hard to explain these things, over and over and over again. Hopefully the men who want to get married, are capable of being an adult (and not using their wives as a second mother) and are eager/willing to do the emotional labour and mental load will see this and every article thus far.
          Your ideas are slowly turning mainstream and it’s so great.

      2. UniB,

        You said:

        “OK, but this isn’t uniquely male. My wife tries to define my reality all the time.

        Their is a big difference between “Ouch, that hurts.” and “You are trying to hurt me.”

        The first defines her reality, that hurts. Perfectly acceptable. The second, no less damaging than all the attempts men make a defining her reality. She’s trying to define his.”

        This is such an important point!

        You are absolutely right that it is not uniquely male to define other people’s reality.

        One of the hardest and most difficult things to do as a human is to NOT ascribe motivations and interpretations to other people.

        It’s a natural default to use our own frame of reference. If *I or other people I know did x thing it would mean y.

        You are telling me it means z and it’s hard for me to accept z as the answer. It is outside what seems “right” as a possible answer.

        But to be in a successful relationship or even conversation we MUST push back against this default.

        I agree that women do it a lot too. I do it a LOT. It’s a work in progress. One of the reasons I started commenting on this blog was to practice reading comments that make no sense to me and try to see it from other’s point of view.

        The last part of your comment is an example of that. My experience of things is quite different than yours. In my experience and reading there are a lot more people using the Bible to say women’s lack of submission is the root source of issues more than men being blamed.

        But just because that is MY experience does not mean yours is equally valid and I need to invalidate it’s legitimacy.

        Not everything is subjective of course. Facts matter. I would love to have a discussion about the statistics about divorce by demographic later but I’ll save that for another time.

        But so much of this stuff is honoring other’s points of views with curiosity and validity.

        So I want to wholeheartedly agree with you that women are often guilty of invalidating others and trying to define others reality.

        I’ve done that with my husband. I do it far less often now because I work hard to recognize when I’m doing it and change.

        This post is Matt’s attempt to get a certain demographic of men to recognize it. So they can work to change it.

        I wish it was more gender equal.

        1. UniB,

          Apologies for the important omission of *not*. Sadly, no edit feature in WordPress.

          “But just because that is MY experience does not mean yours is *NOT* equally valid and I need to invalidate it’s legitimacy.”

      3. How many times has she told you that XYZ hurts her and she wants it to stop? If she’s already told you that this thing hurts her, and you keep doing it, then it’s completely fair for her to say that you’re trying to hurt her. If I step on someone’s foot and they say, “ouch stop doing that”, and I move my foot, then it’s an unfortunate accident. If I ignore her and continue to stand on her foot, then I am indeed hurting her on purpose.

        Men are not as good as parenting — I would hope that this is mostly a social issue but there is some possible logic to the idea that the bonding hormones between infant and mother make a difference. I can’t claim to know since I’m not a mother myself. If it’s just a socialization issue then it’s one that will go away over time as men become more active parents, just as women being involved in the workplace has become de-stigmatized over time.

        Stop watching Real Housewives of whatever. Most women have never seen it and it’s actually pretty offensive to assume that most women are taking their cues from it. I’m not really sure what you were trying to get at with this thing, but comparing all women to a trashy reality show is nothing short of disgusting.

        For the final point, that’s not really how math or ethics works. Firstly, yes, there are bisexual men and of those bi men who cheat, I’d bet that most are in relationships with women and cheat with primarily men, due to social stigma. Secondly, there are quite a lot of free men and women so it’s pretty nonsensical to claim that a man who cheats is necessarily cheating with a woman who’s also cheating, or even that she knows she’s involved with cheating on the man’s partner. You’ve presented 0 evidence for this here (pretty typical for men cheating on women). I decided to look up some statistics on cheating and it seems that while a large percentage of young men cheat and think their relationship is unaffected by it, their partners disagree.

        1. Who said my wife was saying “Ouch…” That’s quite an assumption.

          I actually took that from an example in Dr Willard Harley’s writings about a couple dancing. The man accidentally steps on his wife’s foot on the dance floor. The bottom line includes what you suggest, saying he’s sorry doesn’t make the pain go away. But neither does assuming he’s trying to hurt her.

          The comments about the Housewives, I’d love it if my wife didn’t watch it. I think it’s trash. When we went to LA last month, we had to visit a couple of Lisa’s places at her request. Meh. I usually walk away when she’s watching it.

          Regarding the affairs, you cannot be so dismissive. When I was in the Army, I saw all sorts of women choosing to step out on their husbands when they were deployed.

          But even if she’s not married, if she knows he is, then she’s just as guilty of being a destructive influence on the marriage. My point is character is not a gender based trait. Good character and bad character are equally distributed along gender lines. Neither men nor women can hold some claim to the moral high ground.

          Finally, similar for raising children and relationships.

          Sure, if we allow parenting or relationships to be narrowly defined, I suppose someone could claim one gender is better than the other. But should it be so narrowly defined. What good do we do if we lift up the strengths of one, but denigrate the strengths of the other? After all, isn’t that a complaint women have? Society doesn’t value their contributions? Do we fix that by discounting the contributions of men?

          Why not value both?

          That’s my point.

          I hope this is more clear.

  3. Well said, Matt. One of the most important things for many women is be perceived as actual people, and to be empathized with. That’s how we experience love. A lot of guys just don’t get that. They have learned to disrespect women so we are often dismissed as crazy,or sometimes perceived as “mom.” Mom is sometimes like that non person who just unconditionally serves your needs, asking nothing in return. Well, wives are not “mom.” We have emotional and romantic needs.

    My husband, bless his heart, is a lovely man, but he would sometimes sling cotton balls. I’m a real fighter, so I would just fling them back. I noticed that the gentlest softball would deeply wound him, send him into a pout. I see a lot of men do that, they’ll hurl giant boulders at women, but have a complete meltdown if a woman isn’t treating him like Venetian glass. The problem with that attitude is that it displays a complete lack of empathy towards women and a belief that your own pain is far more important than hers.

    I’m a great fan of pouring great mercy over men, of trying to understand them. I remember a boy once who used to throw rocks at us. One day I just pushed him in a puddle. He was so devastated, so heartbroken and crying, that I actually felt bad. Here this boy had been leaving bruises and welts on us for weeks, now crying because his pant legs were wet. That mindset, that kind of emotional immaturity, seems to be a place many grown men get stuck in and never leave. I don’t know why.

  4. This is familiar. Both from my ex and, surprisingly, from a female co-worker who I say likes to live in a 360-degree, rose-colored cone of silence. Translation? If it didn’t happen the way *she* remembers it happening, it never happened. Makes for fun comparisons of meetings…

    Anyway, “Little shepherd boy David just smoked that giant Murdery Hagrid-looking sonofabitch right in the forehead with a small piece of balled-up cotton fibers and dropped him like third-period French!” is probably my most favorite sentence ever. Thank you.

  5. Spot on! What a beautiful way to re-work the whole Beach Ball Theory. We’re both looking at the same ball but we’re experiencing it VERY differently. You went beyond that to explain WHY, and you did it beautifully. I’m so glad I stumbled across your “Dishes” post awhile back as that was the catalyst for me to end my 5-year marriage back in 2012. It helped me understand my own feelings, which were deemed “bat-shit crazy” by my EX and it also helped me understand his perspective.

    I see so many men “translate” or “mansplain” their women. I also see many women of my generation (I’m 53) which NO respect for men. I’m blessed to have been raised by both parents, and I had a wonderful Father who, among other things, instilled in me a deep sense of self-worth and a deep sense of respect for the opposite gender. I got lucky there.

    But I sometimes struggle to wrap my mind around my man’s perspective on things. I think, while most guys push back at your for making men all out to be assholes, there’s responsibility on both sides of the narrative to reach around and understand the other perspective. Ideally, both partners can do that. I know I can. What I don’t know, yet, is whether my man can.

  6. The reference to wives initiating nearly 70% of all divorces always makes me wonder what the source for that is, Matt. My experience, and the experience of several of my friends, is that he leaves and says he wants a divorce but then never gets his stuff together to make it happen. So after he’s long gone and has given up on efforts to reconcile, the wife initiates the divorce proceedings to have the closure of an ending. If you’re looking at court data, it looks like the wife initiated the divorce when in fact the husband did.

    1. I don’t pretend to know. I have sourced the stat before in previous articles, and probably should source every stat, always.

      That said, nothing I write is for the man who WANTS to leave his wife, depending on the particulars.

      I am simply trying to help the guy like me whose marriage ended against his will, but was accidentally complicit in the marriage becoming toxic without ever realizing it.

      If a guy realizes it BEFORE his marriage is broken beyond repair, then maybe he and his family can avoid something I experienced both as a child and again as a husband/father.

      I didn’t enjoy it very much.

    2. So here is just one perspective on that. My ex and I had the same fights over and over. They were A) he would tell me he was going to take care of something then not. I was a nagging psyco and no fun. B) He wanted to spend money on something we couldn’t afford. I disagreed and I was no fun. C) He wanted to go out, have sexy time, etc and I was still pissed about A&B and no fun. (Some women give up and file for divorce here. I did not.) So he got himself a girlfriend because I was no fun. He thought I would file for divorce for him. (A lot of women give up and file here. I refused.) I insisted on counseling but he wouldn’t participate. After more fighting he left because I was no fun – still expecting I would file for divorce for him. I did not. But this is where most women who did not give up (or wise up depending on whose perspective you take) do file. I was so sick of being his mom instead of his partner and having to do every damn thing I insisted that if he wanted a divorce he could do all the work to get one. Two years later he finally did. I am the biggest bitch in the world – just ask him. I never cheated. I never even thought about getting divorced until he started insisting on it. I honestly don’t know anymore if that was admirable, stupid, stubborn, or what. Probably some of all I suspect. I was not always right I am positive because – always is practically impossible. I was nasty and bitchy at times I am positive. But I also kept trying. Trying to do more, trying to to better. Trying to explain why I was so tired and depressed and pissed off all the time. I know if he had ever said – you’re right its crappy that I tell you I will take care of things and then don’t it would have meant the world to me. I know if he had ever bothered to sit down with me and go over budget and where our money was going and helped me figure out what to cut so he could have whatever it was he wanted that would have been HUGE. If he had done more with the kids or of housework or of the invisible workload of family life (even just one not all three) I would not have been too tired and depressed and pissed to be any fun. I can’t say we’d still be together. Maybe I am as big of a bitch as he says I am and if he had done those things I would still have been unsatisfied and found other things to complain about. But I do know if he had done any of them I would have been floored, just blown away.

      1. Boy does this sound familiar! Except mine still hadn’t done the work to get the divorce after nearly five years and I decided I wanted to be financially free of worrying about how he spent money.

      2. I don’t do any of those things. Don’t spend money on myself really, do more than my fair share of the housework, am with the kids more than she is, work two jobs making most of the income and she’s still leaving and I’ve never cheated and never would. I’m not the most romantic guy but I am very giving and unselfish. She reads romance novels all the time and I honestly think that that has clouded her opinion of me. Bottom line though is that women will find a reason to leave a guy at the drop of a hat. I can say for sure that if this really does end I’ll probably never do it again. Men don’t show it but it does hurt when you know you are not perfect but you try to do right and then you still lose your family. If you are a single guy reading this please consider the pros and cons of getting married. It’s not all bad but you are taking a big risk and stand to lose a lot if she decides to leave.

    3. uniballer1965

      I’ve seen numerous sources that cite the figure is between 2/3rds and 3/4s, depending on the era studied.

      It is pretty real.

      There is a time component to it. When you look for a study called “These Boots Were Made for Walking” done in VA IIRC, early divorces, which most are in the first 7 years, are largely initiated by the woman.

      I believe, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, so I reserve the right to be wrong, that it is believed women initiate when they believe they have the advantages. They are still relatively young, so they will do well in the dating marketplace and she will likely get the kids.

      The numbers reverse in divorces in long term marriages. I believe those are largely filed by men. Why? Can’t lose adult children. He perceives (right or wrong) that his value in the dating marketplace is higher as he’s probably earning far more than he did when he was 20 something.

      But since a lot of marriages don’t make it to 10+ years, the math simply makes it appear that women file 6-7 out of 10 divorces. When broken down by length of marriage, the numbers are almost reversed in longer term marriages, where men are the initiators in over half if not 2 out of every 3 divorce filings.

  7. As usual, your writing is *spot on*. I just ended an 8 year relationship. Everyone (no one who knows the inside scoop) says I’m crazy for letting a great guy go. I’ve told him a million times, and he hasn’t stopped, so I tapped out. He knows I love him, and didn’t think I’d leave – but I can’t trust him to be my partner. I can’t trust the rest of my life to him. I’d rather be alone than in a frustrating and stressful relationship.

    1. That’s what you read here? That I think men are always wrong?

      I promise I don’t think that, nor am I trying to convey it.

      1. Well then why do you never mention anything that women do. You have them reading you blog thinking that you are 100% spot on and that they don’t have to do anything themselves.

        1. I don’t think you know what I’ve written, Mike.

          But the most direct answer to your question is that I’m against blaming other people for our problems.

          Until there’s no more room for personal growth, and we’re 100% certain that we are perfect and mistake-free, there’s nothing productive or beneficial about pointing fingers and blame-shifting.

          There’s merit in giving all you have to give and still falling short.

          I believe it’s weak and self-serving to play the victim card, which is what a divorced man would be if he spent all of his time writing about how women were responsible for the shitty things that happened to him.

          1. @Matt

            You are not playing the victim by highlighting your role as well as your wife’s role. The point you are missing in all this is that it’s impossible for a man to change the way you are suggesting if he doesn’t feel cherished and appreciated by his wife as well. A man may be content but it will be difficult for him to make changes for a woman that doesn’t inspire him to do so. You probably were a shitty husband but you probably had a shitty wife as well and you should highlight the fact that your combined shittiness is what lead to the destruction of your marriage.

          2. I 100% agree with 92% of that.

            (Everything after the first sentence.)

            You’re so right, Mike. You are.

            Again, pigeon-holing genders is dangerous and makes you wrong sometimes, but I think it’s demonstrable that Men and Women often behave differently, and respond differently to certain life events.

            And I agree that what the average man craves more than anything is to feel like his wife:

            1. Loves him
            2. Respects him
            3. Admires him
            4. Wants him

            Probably in that order.

            I’ve written about it several times, but have no efficient means of sharing those with you.

            Humans make mistakes. Women are human. Therefore, women make mistakes.

            I’m fully aware of this, just as I’m fully aware that there are countless examples of good husbands getting totally screwed by crappy wives.

            My premise is simple enough, I think.

            There are thousands of divorces a day that I believe are the result of a million tiny moments and behaviors that no one at the time knew would be the reason they would get divorced.

            I believe it works like cancer. If we KNEW behavior X would give us cancer, most of us wouldn’t do behavior X.

            If husbands KNEW behavior X would ultimately lead them down the road of divorce, most husbands wouldn’t do behavior X.

            These aren’t a bunch of shit-bag people I’m talking about. I’m talking about our friends and neighbors and family.

            I’m talking about the Everyday Couple you see driving in cars, walking in the park, sitting at restaurants, attending ball games and school plays, and every other thing we all mindlessly do.

            No one WANTS to do bad things and cause harm.

            They ACCIDENTALLY do it.

            And I believe the common husband version is what triggers the common wife version.

            If a wife didn’t feel emotionally neglected and abused by her husband (regardless of how justified or unjustified you consider those feelings to be), isn’t it possible all of the words, actions, decisions, you don’t approve of wouldn’t have ever happened in the first place?

            Isn’t it possible that if men didn’t commonly do Behavior X, the spiral of divorce shittiness would never start to begin with?

            Until I see evidence that women are accidentally destroying families left and right, I’m going to continue to share this story.

            Good men can be bad husbands.

            Just like good men can be bad at any life skill, like building bridges, or flying planes, or wiring automobiles.

            If he doesn’t know, he’s not going to be good at it.

            MOST guys fall into that category when it comes to marriage.

            I don’t see why everyone takes it so personally.

            Let’s just learn the necessary skills, execute them well, and teach our kids so they don’t repeat our embarassing marriage failure rate.

            What’s so bad about that?

          3. @Matt

            There’s nothing wrong with what you are saying. Here’s my point and I will use an example which may or may not pertain to me. A wife complains to her husband over and over again about not being romantic, planning dates etc, and being more proactive physically. The husband promises to work on things but invariable things don’t really improve. The husband is wrong and shitty because he did not meet his wife’s needs and made promises that he did not keep so she stopped trusting him. He failed to realize that his actions caused her to feel unloved and ignored. On the flip side, a large part of the reason the husband was like that is because he never felt appreciated himself and the wife was extremely emasculating at times. He felt like he deserved more respect than what he was getting. Additionally, the wife’s spending patterns severely damaged their finances to the point where spending any money on extra things like romantic date nights, random gifts, etc made him very skittish. So you see here that both sides contributed to the issues they had with their spouses. If the husband stuck to his promises more the wife would have trusted him more and been less emasculating and if the wife stopped spending so much and stopped emasculating him he would been much more proactive and willing to be romantic and plan trips/dates etc. IMO these are the types of conversations that people would be better off having if we really want to help save marriages.

          4. Amy,

            Imho men are resistant to being told to go first because they don’t feel that their reasons and concerns are taken seriously and validated enough as legitimate.

            I think it’s hard to change if you feel that you are being cast as the villain.
            When you feel you are working very hard to figure out what to do and it never is given credit. Only your shortcomings are. That’s a hard cliff to jump from.

            What you want is invalidated as irrelevant. It seems that the narrative is always focused on what the wife needs. The classic “happy wife, happy life” theory.

            I do not think that is what Matt is saying. But frankly I have heard it enough from other sources in various forums to understand why some men feel invalidated.

            So that’s my take on understanding the resistance. Maybe some men can jump in and correct things I may have gotten wrong from their perspective.

          5. Amy,
            That may be Matt’s intended point, but the point he is actually conveying is that it’s invariably men’s original “sloppiness” (for a lack of a better, comprehensive word) that is the driver for an unloving relationship and ultimately a divorce, while women do nothing but follow him down the trodden path.
            In short. Women always have a perfectly valid reason for what they do. While men usually act on, at best, being thoughtless, but usually being stupid, mean, or lazy just by default.

            And you ask why men are so resistant to this?

          6. Kal – is this tongue-in-cheek or a for real comment? Sure sounds like a clear cut case of putting women on a relationship pedestal and rubbing mens’ faces in shit.

          7. Some of the details are different, but I completely identify with the story you shared.

            Emasculating is a good word.

            I feel like I got chipped away at over the years, and it led to all sorts of mental and emotional insecurites by the time my marriage was ending. It was awful.

            Did my wife intentionally do things to make me feel that way?

            Or is it possible that I was chucking stones at her for 13 consecutive years and essentially calling her an idiot every time she tried to tell me about it? Is it possible that she was feeling super-wounded and then when someone really close to her died, she couldn’t find comfort, solace or safety in her husband because he’d spent the past 13 years throwing rocks at her, and pouting anytime she had the audacity to show emotion while trying to tell me about it? Is it possible that when you agreed to be someone’s partner FOREVER, and now that person makes you hurt EVERY day more than anything else in your life, and shows no signs of stopping, that getting a divorce is the appropriate and sensible option?

            And finally, now that I know exactly how I accidentally harmed my wife for 13 years, how can I, with intellectual honesty and self-respect claim that things SHE did were somehow responsible for the marriage failing?

            Isn’t it fair and reasonable to conclude that SHE would have been different if I hadn’t been causing her pain repeatedly, and being unreceptive to her pleas for help about stopping it?

            I KNOW what I did wrong.

            I don’t know what she did wrong. I only know what made me feel shitty.

            But I can’t be sure that those same things would have happened if I hadn’t been throwing rocks at her the entire time.

            So, pointing fingers her direction seems wasteful and selfish. It does no one any good.

            HOWEVER, is it possible that by me sharing stories about my marriage and how I perceived them, wives might read them and realize their husbands might be thinking and feeling the same way?


            So, as previously stated, I promise to give it some thought and see what happens.

          8. Mike,

            You are imho exactly right that usually it’s a pattern with BOTH people responding to each other in ways that increase the cycle.

            Over and over.

            I disagree with the concept that men should “lead” but that’s for another time. BOTH people need to change to become experts in how to love each other and set healthy boundaries with and for each other.

            Who leads or starts? Well often it’s who is willing to own their shit first. But it’s not a gender thing.

            Each person has to SEE that the way you prefer is not the only way. And that the more we push for our way it triggers the other person to double down on their way of feeling safe.

            Why is the man focused on in Matt’s blog?

            Well it’s his choice to do it that way to tell his story. From only his perspective. He recognizes marriage is a system.

            But often men don’t see their point of view expressed enough so they feel like it’s saying men are the source of all marital ills. Which isn’t true at all.

            I feel that way when I read the many blogs and books telling me it’s all up to women. Or the therapists who would tell me “it’s up to you as a woman to start the process” “men won’t do x” “women are just born to do y” “you can’t expect that much from men” etc etc etc.

            It’s all crap.

            Both people need to change. Ideally both people do it together. If not it can be changed by one person to change it enough to give the other person a chance to step up and own their shit too.

        2. I think what Matt is trying to do it shed light on a tricky subject, yet he is almost being attacked and asked to prove or provide extra ‘proof’ for every sentence. It’s not a blame game – that very idea is why posts like this become a fighting ground. It’s not tit for tat either. It’s about someone sharing when he sees to be a major contribution to a failed relationship and trying to show others where and why it went wrong. It’s not a case of bashing either sex. Yet it highlights that there is a vast inequality between the sexes in a huge number of relationships. People need to stop getting their back up and attacking either side. It’s pathetic – you attacked me as a person in your previous comment. Yet you do not know me, stupidly you become the stereotypical ‘male’ you so adamantly believe is not true. Think about that. You say females need to be held accountable, yet you fail to see that you are the one at fault here. One can say the sky is blue without explaining the grass is green. We don’t need to throw stones to be heard, when you start to be rude and aggressive your point will not be heard.

          1. uniballer1965

            Yet there are those who have listened to a wife, ex-wife or collection of women play the victim card, but we never see them get called out for it.

            I’m fully about owning my stuff. I really have no problem with it.

            My problem is with those who expect men to own all the stuff. There are writers out there like Ken Nair, who wrote a book that I think the title is along the lines of “Understanding the Mind of a Woman” who essentially says if your wife is engaging in marital misconduct, such as an affair, what did you do to make her do that.

            He writes that women only respond to what the men in their lives do. Therefore, if she’s behaving poorly, then check what you are doing as it’s the cause.

            And he is not alone in this line of thinking.

            I’ve sat in church and compared Mother’s Day sermons to Father’s Day sermons. The Reader’s Digest version is women walk on water and men need to step up their game.

            We honor mothers and scold fathers on their respective days.

            Wonder why men no longer go to church? Maybe it’s because we are tired of the one-sided treatment.

            Last time I checked,the Bible says ALL are sinners and fall short. It didn’t say only men. Odd that me, a layman gets this, but preachers, many with Doctorate degrees don’t recall that.

            Sometimes I think we are educated, but are not yet wise.

          2. Thanks uniballer – I’m not sure if you have been following here for a while or not but you will periodically find posts from me advocating from the man’s point of view. I try to accept points-of-view from both sides and you will find significantly more women who choose to comment than you do men. I think you are saying many similar things to me…that we know we, as men, make mistakes, but ask the women in our lives to accept the same. A common narrative here is that women are generally better at relationships than men. I have struggled with accepting this notion. I do fully believe women are significantly better at certain aspects of marriage. I just think we have different skill sets as opposed to a “better or worse” dynamic. One thing I do know fully to be true is that Matt posts from his own personal point-of-view, and not as a representation of all men. Because, as he says, he can only speak first hand to what he has learned, well, first hand. The comments section is where the debate takes place. Anyways, thanks for posting.

          3. Uniballer,
            I can’t agree with the premise of the book you mentioned.
            That would mean women have no other life outside of their relationship to their husband and that is false. That is benevolent paternalism which still treats women as someone that is less than a full functioning adult.
            So, no- we aren’t saying “men should own ALL *the* stuff”…
            It’s more about “Everyone should own ALL *their* stuff.”
            It’s even better when you can participate in helping your spouse work through their stuff, but the spouse has to own it first…

          4. uniballer1965

            I just read it. I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t agree. Yet, it’s a prevalent, and I agree, pretty offensive thought process.

            Offensive to both actually.

            To the woman, because it implies she has no agency. She is merely a pawn, responding to the whims of her husband. If he’s a bad husband, she’s the victim. If she cheats, she’s the victim for not getting what she needed in marriage and again the victim by being lured into the bed of another man.

            Also to the man, because if he ends up with a broken marriage, there are those who will blame him for his wife’s choice to do coke and the pool boy in sight of the children.

            I literally heard “Be more like Jesus and your wife will come back….”

            Really? Jesus wasn’t the irresistible “Breck Girl” blue eyed, lamb carrying smiling guy you can find pictured in elementary age Sunday School.


            Many were able to resist him when he walked the Earth.

            Yet there are those in churches who put that burden on men and then claim the men must not have been like Jesus, or they didn’t have faith, or anything other than perhaps the unfaithful coke snorting, pool boy blowing wife was a shitty spouse. There are also authors who write such books, getting paid by desperate husbands who buy them hoping to save their marriages.

    2. Most of society will say women are wrong all the time. If it hurts to have the shoe on the other foot maybe you should less of an ass, js.

  8. In the bible there are many instructions for men to love their wives, but over in Deuteronomy 24 there is another interesting reference, “When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”

    It’s how we get our modern concept of a honeymoon. In ancient days, men were commanded to take an entire year off to get to know their wife, so they could figure out how to bring her joy, how to cheer her up. That’s actually in the bible! Learn how to bring good cheer to your wife.It’s such a tragedy that in the modern world we don’t teach this kind of wisdom to men anymore.

  9. Another brilliant article Matt. Well done. And no I’m not sarcastic…… I really mean it. U dude have a wisdom inside you that should be compulsory for all men (and some woman) :).

  10. Hey Matt – you know my usual approach is advocating from the man’s perspective. That being said, I 100% agree with every word you wrote. Every single one. The only thing I want/need to add is that I think your article is incomplete. I beg of the women reading this to recognize your own “cotton balls”. When men sling camouflaged stones and then accuse their wives of being crazy they are eroding the foundation of their marriage…not to mention it’s a shitty thing to do to another person, especially one you are supposed to love more than all others. No excuses. This behavior needs to end. What I want women to recognize is how many stones they actually sling, albeit often in much more subtle ways. Nonetheless, wives may be slinging pebbles and not large stones, but if fired like shotgun buckshot the damage is palpable, and no different than your husband’s behavior.

    1. Hey Nate! I agree.
      In fact, there are two men that I would say are both MBTTTR “graduates”- and both currently divorcing. In both of these men cases (one I know in person but both are known to me a via another small online community) it was the wife who essentially withheld love.
      I wrote a small note to Matt naming the theme of this blog, which is wider than just divorce- and that is personal responsibility.
      These men are doing that work, (and made great strides in that so far) and it’s the wife who is not.
      Either way it ends up in painful situations.
      So, yes- women need to own up to this, too.
      Matt talks to men, because that is what he is. He knows what he was neglecting in his marriage, and is calling men to own up to where they are not taking responsibility.
      It’s definitely not a one sided thing. It takes two- and women, people in general, also have to take personal responsibility for their relationships.

    2. Fully agree with this!

      I fully acknowledge that *I* was usually the one throwing boulders in our marriage and then dismissing my husband’s complaints about it. It’s a bit of a long story as to how I finally woke up, but suffice it to say that when I did, I took responsibility for it and made the right changes.

      And do you know what? Soon my husband began to follow suit. I didn’t ask for it or demand quid pro quo. I simply led by example and after a while, he began reciprocating.

      I don’t want to put words in Matt’s mouth, but what is the harm in advocating for men to be the ones to lead here? Isn’t that sort of in the job description, for the husband to lead the household?

      I may only be a woman, but I still believe in that.

    3. Nate- I try to apply everything I read of Matt’s to myself – how did I as the *wife* in the relationship do this. Its easy for me to see how my husband did it to me. Its much harder to look at myself and see how ‘i did it to him as well. I fully believe we were both responsible for the failure of our relationship. I take zero responsibility for his decision to have an affair and then to insist on divorce. But what I told our children when it all came out is what I believe – we both equally share in the responsibility for things getting so bad between us it ever became a choice he could make. He owns responsibility for the choice – there were others he could have made. He could have left without an affair. He could have agreed to couples counseling. What could I have done? I could have held firmer boundaries in the first place – addressed little things before they became big things – so I didn’t get to the point where I was so pissed and depressed and exhausted that I was a miserable person to be around. When I let myself fall into pity party mode I tell myself “well he just would have cheated sooner if I stood my ground” But the truth is I don’t know that. I didn’t marry him assuming he’d run around on me if I said – yes I mind you going out with the guys tonight – I need you here to help me. But I never said that early on when he might have stayed and helped. I said sure go out – because it was no big deal to go out once and awhile , right? I loved him – I wanted him to be happy. But somewhere once in awhile became at least twice a week and then every night. Which really pissed me off and so when I said – yes I mind – it wasn’t a nice request for some help – it was a bitchy rant. To which he invariable replied – It wasn’t a big deal yesterday – why is it now all of the sudden? (Not only did I seem unreasonable – one day its sure fine the next its psycho lady – I am sure it also made spending time at home unattractive) Maybe if I had stood firm on the little things – before I had so much built up anger – and he had stepped up we’d both be in a better place. Even if he had not stepped up its possible that if I had not let myself get walked on – I would not have felt so bitter and been so shitty to him about it. (which then reinforced him not wanting to listen to me) I own the ways I let things spiral into crap. I think most long term commentors here do. But its hard to put the whole of our history in every single post. I don’t comment a lot – I mostly try to listen and learn. But the thread in this comment section about how “all women” blame men and never take any responsibility I can’t swallow. I am a woman. I do take ownership of what I see as my failings in my marriage. I may not see it all – people have a tendency to not want to examine their own failings. But I read here specifically to try and confront mine.

  11. Walter Hollander

    it always makes it easier to understand when a real live example is used…..and yours was a good one. as long at least a few semi-intelligent men read your blog, a certain number of them will be able to understand what you are trying to get across. i have been a steady reader ever since your magnificent post regarding the glass in the sink. for sure, you are helping (and have already helped) many men to understand what is “really” going on in our little brains. keep up the good work.
    a VERY happily married man. it does happen.
    49 years and love my wife more today than ever!

    1. Thank you so much, Walter. Really nice, motivating thing to read, and I really appreciate you saying so.

      49 years is phenomenal. Congratulations, good sir. Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

  12. Excellent article.

    Insanitybytes22 said it best

    “That mindset, that kind of emotional immaturity, seems to be a place many grown men get stuck in and never leave. I don’t know why”

    From my experience working as a post-divorce coach to mature men. Most men that need help are grown-ups but not mature men. These boy-men play to their male audience of buddies who try to outdo each other on proving their Alpha male status. They care more about what their buddies think about them and their exploits than what their girlfriend/wives do.

    There was a time when young boys were only allowed to wear short pants because long pants were for grow-ups. When they were deemed old enough they were allowed their first long pants and were expected to step up in their behavior.

    Young men who had already reached that stage were expected to act as role models and mentors, fathers set examples (yes I know, there were shitty father’s then too but they came from shitty circumstances)

    Today, too many boys grow up wanting to stay boys. They hang out with their buddies, belong to sports clubs, teams, gangs, cultures etc and they play out to outdo themselves in Alpha male behavior. When they are together they do throw ‘stones’ at each other and they are expected to suck it up when they get hit and it hurts.

    These boyish activities and attitudes are more important to them than traditional adult pursuits of finding a wife, starting a family, earning a living, establishing security for the future.

    When they get together with their girlfriends/wives they keep up the attitude but throw cotton balls instead of ‘stones’ (’cause they love their partner and don’t want to hurt them) and they expect them to suck it up just like he and his buddies do.

    The problem is not the boyish pursuits but rather the attitude of trying to outdo themselves in Alpha male behavior when surrounded by other males and continuing this when they get home and playing to the wrong audience.

    I am convinced that all relationships end when one or both partners stop meeting each other’s needs. You have to learn what your partner’s needs are, emotionally, physically and socially then live every minute trying to meet them… and learn which audience is most important to you.

    Do that in year one of your relationship (both men and women) and you’ll be doing it in year fifty, celebrating your 70th wedding anniversary.

    1. This is gold. I am so glad there are men like you coaching other men. I as a woman, loathe being burdened by this responsibility, especially because most men won’t even consider that their position might have left them insufficient to deal with a relationship to begin with. If that realization isn’t even being considered, there’s not much for a wife to do but to say keep this up and divorce is inevitable. In your experience, is there any explanation as to why when a woman says very clearly, look this behavior this is heading towards divorce…we keep going like this and I will file…and yet they can claim surprise, shock, disbelief, when the woman actually files? Did they think we were just crying wolf?

  13. Hubby and I were discussing this post and he had this to say about the cottonball/stone thing. He said, “You know, there are times that I may question whether it legitimately “is” a stone, but I never question the consequences. It doesn’t matter WHAT I hurled at you – if it left you broken and bleeding, that’s what needs to be dealt with.”

    My man gets it. He calls it “personal responsibility”…

    1. Anita,

      Your comment said:

      “You know, there are times that I may question whether it legitimately “is” a stone, but I never question the consequences. It doesn’t matter WHAT I hurled at you – if it left you broken and bleeding, that’s what needs to be dealt with.”

      “I never question the consequences.” This is an important point.

      We need to pay attention to the effect of our words and actions on other people. Instead of arguing that they shouldn’t be offended.

      It doesn’t mean we just walk on eggshells and do whatever they say. It’s just being aware of the effect on this person we love.

      We care about that right? Sometimes it’s hard to care since we are so focused on our pain.

    2. I think Matt had a post about caring BECAUSE the other person does, even if you couldn’t care less. My husband and I both have a few of these, where we grin and say ‘I’ll just go with the flow there, even if I don’t get it.’

      Makes for a much better baseline communications setup than always having to justify when something bothers you. Reinforces that your partner is listening and cares even when they don’t experience something the same way you do. Builds a safer framework for being honest so the little things don’t grow into big things that might become unfixable.

      It requires a lot of work on both sides. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really glad we were really good friends before we started dating…we started our relationship with a very different kind of communication style than what I’ve observed in most of my friends who started dating as a way to get to know someone. And we carried that into dating and marriage and we’ve talked a lot about how it has saved our butts a few times. We learned early on to deliver (and hear) hard truths…not gently, but…compassionately I think is the right word. Putting out a firm boundary without making a big deal about it but making it clear that it is important.

      We have a list of conversations we have over and over. We talk about a way to move forward that lasts a few days or weeks and then fades out. Rinse, repeat. But we both listen and make it known that we care. Ten years and counting in a couple weeks, so it works for us, at least!

  14. I really love your writing, and admire your mission to increase understanding in couples. This metaphor of rocks being mistaken for cotton balls misses the mark for me though. You are trying to show men they are hurling things they think are as harmless as cotton balls but are actually as damaging as rocks. This sounds like women are overly sensitive and can’t tolerate being hit by cotton balls and perceive them as rocks, at least that is what I imagine some men reading this will read. It isn’t what you meant, but yeah, God bless you for trying to illustrate this idea in the first place. Maybe if the men in the metaphor were reaching into a bag of something someone wrongly informed them was full of cotton balls, but had been full of rocks the whole time? How did the bag of rocks get wrongly labeled in the first place anyway? Honest mistake when you were misinformed about the contents of the bag, but once you know you were actually throwing rocks, (not cotton balls being perceived as rocks) the metaphor works better for me. I’m thinking about this way too deeply.

    1. Being a science person, I translate into terms of lethal dose or allergies. Other posts of Matt’s talk about the ‘because it doesn’t hurt ME, it shouldn’t hurt YOU’ approach. Like someone who is deathly allergic to peanuts being told just eat the pb&j because the person handing it to them just ate one and didn’t have trouble. The first time it would be an understandable mistake, but when you’ve told someone you’re allergic and they still try to give you the sandwich it can be a bit damaging to a relationship.

      I like your mislabeled bag idea, but it still doesn’t address the ignoring of the person’s reaction after the first time or two, which is where, I think, the greater long term damage to a couple will happen.

  15. Ok, so I’ll probably be late for work for this, but I feel like it may be worth it.
    I think the reason so much emphasis is put on men owning their shit, and making improvements in their marriage is mostly because there tends to be huge amounts of defense when there is even a small suggestion things may not be great.
    And, I’m thinking men feel these suggestions as cotton balls turned to stone.
    Is that correct?
    I picture a man and a woman building a house. She steps onto a spot that quickly turns into a sink hole. She shouts to her husband “hey! We’ve got to fix this sink hole!”
    He shouts back “you’re never grateful for anything!”
    The fact of the matter is, she is pointing out he sink hole because she wants the house to be firm and secure and perfect for you both.
    Denying the sink hole, because it may mean It’s not *already* perfect is ensuring that the house will fall apart.
    Is this making any sense?

    1. You see the men in the comments in near every post on this website. There is always at least three who are like “nuh uh, it’s not me”, over and over and over again. Being annoyed by the idea of taking responsibility for your half of the business is the first sign that maybe it’s time to rethink yourself. Maybe in some cases the women is not carrying her load, but I doubt it. Just listen to the advice, take it onboard, if it doesn’t fit or apply. Put it in the back pocket for future use.

      1. Why would you doubt women are not carrying their load?

        It is just as likely that women are not carrying their relationship load as it is men.

        You see, it’s your sort of biased thinking that gets my hackles up. This fallacy that women are better at relationships, so if it goes wrong, it must be the man.

        It’s BOTH of them. Many examples have been cited. Women choosing poor and/or destructive strategies to deal with the problems in their marriages, just as men do.

        Which is why you have men coming on here and saying, “Matt, ya dumbass, I’m owning my stuff. Please, don’t fall for the lie that women don’t have any stuff or even as much stuff.”

        Because if the lie is repeated often enough and people will actually believe that women are better at relationships than are men.

        Men and women bring their own relative strengths and weaknesses to relationships. They each can be good at things and bad at other things.

        Unless men are having affairs with other men, I think you’ll find their are as many betrayed husbands or boyfriends as their are betrayed wives. Another of the fallacies, that men cheat more. Really? The math just doesn’t work that way, unless way more men are having affairs with other men. And even if the other man or woman isn’t married, they certainly are not a paragon of virtue if they are having an affair with a married partner, now are they.

        So maybe we let go of the notion of any sort of moral high ground being occupied based on gender. Shitty people are evenly distributed across male and female populations.

        1. I said “Maybe in some cases the women is not carrying her load”. Heck the reason I dig this blog so much is that it answer questions I have about my female best friends and what went wrong in my young female friendships. Never mind men, I’m a kinsey 5 Bi and he still speaks to me as a survivor of shitty female-on-female abuse and toxicity. I know women can be BAD, unclear, hurtful, myopic, toxic and send mixed messages. Its also helpful if I get married in the future, what to avoid and what to grow as a broken human too.
          Coming on here, this website where he talks about ways men can improve and make their wives not lose their minds and then making it all about you and how your wife is really the wrong one, really distracts from the message.
          If it does not apply, ignore it. Don’t be offended somebody wrote advice which expects things from men.
          I don’t get why you have to join THIS blog about ways men make their relationships unhappy and their women sad and their divorce final and how men tend to not act like adults after they marry and that’s terrible.
          and complain about how it doesn’t deal with shitty women. We got a billion websites on the net about toxic harpy women who don’t put out and won’t listen. We got literally thousand of them, some of solutions, some with delusions, go there, and not here.
          Anyway, I’m a woman and learn a lot from this blog and suggest it to all men and women who want to actually have a marriage and have it functional and not end up divorced, and sad.

          1. uniballer1965

            Because there is a lot of false guilt heaped on men. This is not unique to women.

            I actually had a pastor ask me what I did to force my (ex) wife to have an affair.

            Seriously! The church was like sign this petition to preserve traditional marriage, but we are not going to do anything other than blame you for your unfaithful wife.

            If there are millions about bad women, then there are probably 10s to 100s of millions about bad men/husbands.

            Contrary to what many would preach, it’s not uniquely nor even predominately male to be a shitty person. People are selfish. It doesn’t matter what gender or sexual orientation, political or religious affiliation, people are selfish.

            So when someone gets up and says men are shitty, I kinda take offense to it. Especially after being told just that in response to an unfaithful ex-wife.

            So maybe we could concentrate on character and not make blanket assertions that it’s largely one camp who is making all the stink in shitsville.

  16. Matt. Here is an opposing view from a gifted writer like you.

    The Western World has quietly become a civilization that has tainted the interaction between men and women, where the state forcibly transfers resources from men to women creating various perverse incentives for otherwise good women to inflict great harm onto their own families, and where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders, and is a recipe for a rapid civilizational decline and displacement, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by a subsequent generation of innocent women, rather than men, as soon as 2020

      1. For some reason there is a filter at this site which will not allow me to add.html to the link above. For those who want to read the article add .html at the end of bubble. The link will end with bubble.html

    1. Frank,
      I think we may be coming from different places, but I agree that the relationship between women and men has been tainted. I value masculinity. I value my male friendships deeply.
      But I don’t think the resolution to gender conflict will come with just reverting back to the past. (Or by believeing that it is malice or evil that we exist in the society that we do.)
      I think it will come by trying to understand and respect one another.
      I don’t know if my response will mean much to you, since I’m a woman, but I don’t feel like men and women need to compete. I’m not sure what resources your referring to, or what state is forcibly transferring them to women. I have never had anyone give me anything, much less accepted something that was forcibly taken from someone else. I’ve worked my entire life, for everything I have- whether we are talking materially, relationally or emotionally.
      Having worked to where I am from where I started, I very rarely have a mindset of scarcity. (And that is what I am hearing in your message…as if there isn’t enough to go around.)
      We (human beings) are makers and creators (in the image of God, if that is something you believe in.) We have an amazing ability to change our world, and to also adapt along with it. (That is actually how both the natural earth and our brain works…we influence the environment, the environment influences’s kind of scientific fact. )
      I’m saying all that to explain why “transferring resources to women” is a faulty proposition logistically, (there is no shortage of resources), but also is ethically questionable if what you mean is women need to be dependent on men. No human was meant to be a slave of another. One genders life is not more valuable than the other.
      I believe you wrote what you wrote out of sincerity, but I also believe the framing is that someone took something that was rightfully yours, and I don’t believe that is true. Blame would be the natural outflow from a view like that, and that too is something I am reading from your comment.
      Women have the right to have all the opportunities, freedoms and liberties that men do.
      It is ethically wrong (in my book) to breach someone else’s right to these things in order to ensure your own. (Unless the other person was a criminal and a harm to society at large.)
      Again, I don’t know how value you will get from reading this, but it’s Friday and I am up way passed my bedtime, so what the heck- I thought I’d respond.

      1. Linds, I would agree that the relationship between men and women has been tainted but I would argue that it has ALWAYS been tainted. It’s just that up until recently, men have had “the upper hand” so to speak, and while historically there have always been women who “fought back”, it’s only been in the last century or so in which women have made significant gains in throwing off the tyranny we’ve historically been under. Western Civilization may have been the mechanism by which we threw off tyranny (and thus tainted our relationships in other, different ways) but the “taint” has always been there. It’s practically baked into the system if you believe the curses that were pronounced at the Fall.

        But tyranny is tyranny; it matters not if it’s a tyranny of the Right or a tyranny of the Left, the tyranny of man over woman or vice-versa – it’s still tyranny.

        And that, I think, may be what many men are reacting to. It’s not so much that they fear losing their ability to tyranize (which is what women often accuse men of, sometimes rightly, sometimes not) but rather that they will soon be under tyranny themselves.

        I was unable to read the article because the link doesn’t work, but I suspect that was where it was going. And they’re not entirely wrong. It’s something I worry about myself, that we are throwing off the tyranny of man only to replace it with the tyranny of woman.

        The solution of course, is NOT to return to the “old days” of the tyranny of men, nor is it to trade out one kind of tyranny for another. The solution is to root out tyranny WHEREVER it exists and rid ourselves of it.

        I fully expect both men and women to object to how I have characterized their behaviour as “tyranny”, and certainly not all men are tyrants, nor are all women, but there can be no denying that *systematic* tyranny existed under patriarchy and I think it’s entirely naive for women to think that we could do any better so long as we are using the same old power plays that men have been using for millennia.

        As always, it comes down to owning your own shit. For both men AND women to take a critical look at the ways in which we each contribute to systematizing a climate of oppression against one another.

        Easier said than done, I know, but a worthy endeavor nonetheless.

        But what do I know? I’m irrational, right? ?

        1. YES to everything you said here Anitvan (except that you’re irrational).

          YES YES YES!

          Full respect living all the way is my dream.

          I think if the system you’re living within is set up to allow you to be somewhat of a tyrant (knowingly or not), it’s very hard to…not be. Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man or gender non conforming or whatever. Because with that position will come large blind zones and lots of convincing arguments as to why your priviliged position will be right and just and necessary.

          While the fear of being tyrannized ourselves is understandable andm yes, sometimes realistic, I also think that people need to realize that others insisting on sharing the power we previously had too much of and they too little, is not the same as them tyrannizing us. When you’ve been priviliged in an area, equality will often feel like oppression.

          1. You certainly may! But it’s not coined by me, it’s Terry Real’s term.

        2. Anita, I can absolutely agree- and it’s even broader than men and women. It’s about anyone who is “other”…anyone who is different than ourselves.
          I agree that one group should not have power over another group.
          What is it exactly we are fighting for?
          Power itself can be a corrupting influence.
          Understanding, respect, freedom to be, and become, are essential needs that all humans *should* have a right to.
          That isn’t our history, as human beings.
          Fear of these things being taken away I believe is the motivation for needing power and control, and as one powerful white man said: “the only thing to fear, is fear itself”…(see, they aren’t all bad 😉 )…fear is the enemy.
          (Except when we are talking about heights. Fear of heights is obviously smart…;) ).

          1. I’m not entirely opposed to one group having power over another per se. For example parents exercise power over their young children, a usually benevolent power, yes, but power none the less.

            Power, when used responsibly, is in fact a blessing to those who are under it; corrupting that power, however, so as to make others *powerless*… well that’s another story entirely.

            Power doesn’t corrupt mankind…it’s the other way around.

          2. Children are de-facto dependent on their parents. They are not fully developed, so I can’t include them in my proposition.
            Even though, they are very definitely “other” ;).

        3. The Myth of Female Oppression : When you tell someone that they are oppressed, against all statistical and logical evidence, you harm them by generating discouragement and resentment. This pernicious effect is the basis of many forms of needlessly inflicted female unhappiness, as well as the basis for unjustified retaliation against men.

          All of us have been taught how women have supposedly been oppressed throughout human existence, and that this was pervasive, systematic, and endorsed by ordinary men who did not face hardships as severe as what women endured. In reality, this narrative is entirely incorrect. The average man was forced to risk death on the battlefield, at sea, or in mines, while most women stayed indoors tending to children and household duties. Male life expectancy was always significantly lower than that of females, and still is.

          Warfare has been a near constant feature of human society before the modern era, and whenever two tribes or kingdoms went to war with each other, the losing side saw many of its fighting-age men exterminated, while the women were assimilated into the invading society. Now, becoming a concubine or a housekeeper is an unfortunate fate, but not nearly as bad as being slaughtered in battle as the men were. To anyone who disagrees, would you like for the men and women to trade outcomes?

          Most of this narrative stems from ‘feminists’ comparing the plight of average women to the topmost men (the monarch and other aristocrats), rather than to the average man. This practice is known as apex fallacy, and whether accidental or deliberate, entirely misrepresents reality. To approximate the conditions of the average woman to the average man (the key word being ‘average’) in the Western world of a century ago, simply observe the lives of the poorest peasants in poor countries today. Both men and women have to perform tedious work, have insufficient food and clothing, and limited opportunities for upliftment.

          As far as selective anecdotes like voting rights go, in the vast majority of cases, men could not vote either. In fact, if one compares every nation state from every century, virtually all of them extended exactly the same voting rights (or lack thereof) to men and women. Even today, out of 200 sovereign states, there are exactly zero that have a different class of voting rights to men and women. Any claim that women were being denied rights that men were given in even 1% of historical instances, falls flat.

          1. No sir, this narrative surely does NOT stem from feminist propaganda, much of which I personally reject anyways, it comes from my own careful study of history. These are conclusions that *I* have drawn and are not anyone elses thoughts.

            You may disagree with the conclusions I have drawn but they are my own; I am perfectly
            capable of doing my own critical thinking, thank you very much.

            Do you deny that at times and in places women were denied the right to own property? That they were in fact at times considered to be the property of their men? That when divorce occurred, the children automatically went to the husband? Shall I regale you with all the practices of ancient Rome that historians generally agree were pretty misogynistic? If you’d like, I’d be happy to take you through the evidence (you know, ACTUAL evidence and not simply assertions) century by century and culture by culture. Complete with primary sources.

            There are two things I know really well dude, theology and history, and you’re on the wrong side of at least one of them.

          2. ‘Feminism’ as Unrestrained Misandry and Projection : The golden rule of human interactions is to judge a person, or a group, by their actions rather than their words. The actions of ‘feminists’ reveal their ideology to be one that seeks to secure equality for women in the few areas where they lag, while distracting observers from the vast array of areas where women are in a more favorable position relative to men (the judicial system, hiring and admissions quotas, media portrayals, social settings, etc.). They will concoct any number of bogus statistics to maintain an increasingly ridiculous narrative of female oppression.

            Feminists once had noble goals of securing voting rights, achieving educational parity, and opening employment channels for women. But once these goals were met and even exceeded, the activists did not want to lose relevance. Now, they tirelessly and ruthlessly lobby for changes in legislation that are blatantly discriminatory against men (not to mention unconstitutional and downright cruel). Not satisfied with that, they continue to lobby for social programs designed to devalue the roles of husbands and fathers, replacing them with taxpayer-funded handouts.

            As it is profitable to claim victimhood in this age, a good indicator is whether any condemnation by the supposedly oppressed of their oppressor could be similarly uttered if the positions were reversed. We know that what Rev. Jeremiah Wright said about whites could not be said by a white pastor about blacks, and we see even more of a double standard regarding what women and men can say about each other in America today. This reveals one of the darkest depths of the human mind – when a group is utterly convinced that they are the ‘victims’ of another group, they can rationalize any level of evil against their perceived oppressors.

            Go to any major ‘feminist’ website, such as or, and ask polite questions about the fairness of divorce laws, or the injustice of innocent men being jailed on false accusations of rape without due process. You will quickly be called a ‘misogynist’ and banned from commenting. The same is not true for any major men’s site, where even heated arguments and blatant misandry are tolerated in the spirit of free speech and human dignity. When is the last time a doctrinaire ‘feminist’ actually had the courage to debate a fair woman like Camille Paglia, Tammy Bruce, or Christina Hoff Somers on television?

            Ever-tightening groupthink that enforces an ever-escalating narrative of victimhood ensures that projection becomes the normal mode of misandrist thought. The word ‘misogynist’ has expanded to such an extreme that it is the Pavlovian response to anything a ‘feminist’ feels bad about, but cannot articulate in an adult-like manner. This reveals the projected gender bigotry of the ‘feminist’ in question, which in her case is misandry. For example, an older man dating women 10 years younger than him is also referred to as a ‘misogynist’ by the older bitterati. Not an ageist, mind you, but a misogynist. A man who refuses to find obese women attractive is also a ‘misogynist’, as are gay men who do not spend money on women. The male non-compliance labeled as ‘misogyny’ thus becomes a reaction to many years of unopposed misandry heaped on him first, when he initially harbored no such sentiments. Kick a friendly dog enough times, and you get a nasty dog.

            There are laws such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), that blatantly declares that violence against women is far worse than violence against men. VAWA is very different from ordinary assault laws, because under VAWA, a man can be removed from his home at gunpoint if the woman makes a single phonecall. No due process is permitted, and the man’s Constitutional rights are jettisoned. At the same time, half of all domestic violence is by the woman against the man. Tiger Woods’ wife beat him with a blunt weapon and scratched his face, only to be applauded by ‘feminists’ in a ‘you go girl’ manner. Projection can normalize barbarism.

            Rape legislation has also bypassed the US Constitution, leaving a man guilty until he proves himself innocent, while the accusing woman faces no penalty for falsely sending a man to prison for 15 years, where he himsef will get raped. The Duke Lacrosse case was a prominent example of such abuse, but hundreds of others occur in America each year. The laws have been changed so that a victim has 1 month to ‘decide’ if she has been raped, and such flexibility predicatably leads to instances of a woman reporting rape just so that she does not have to tell her husband that she cheated on him (until it becomes profitable to divorce him). 40-50% of all rape accusations are false, but ‘feminists’ would rather jail scores of innocent men than let one guilty man get away, which is the exact opposite of what US Constitutional jurisprudence requires.

            But, unimaginably, it gets even worse. Polls of men have shown that there is one thing men fear even more than being raped themselves, and that is being cuckolded. Men see cuckolding as the ultimate violation and betrayal, yet there is an entire movement among ‘feminists’ to enshrine a woman’s right to commit adultery and use the resources of her husband to dupe him into thinking the child is his. These misandrists even want to outlaw the right of a man to test the paternity of a child.

            So, to review, if a woman has second thoughts about a tryst a few days later, she can, without penalty, ruin a man financially and send him to prison for 15 years. ‘Feminists’ consider this acceptable. At the same time, even though men consider being cuckolded a worse fate than being raped, ‘feminists’ want to make this easier for a woman to do, by preventing paternity testing. They already have rigged laws so that the man, upon ‘no fault’ divorce, has to pay alimony, to a woman who cuckolded him.

            This is pure evil, ranking right up there with the worst tyrannies of the last century. Modern misandry masking itself as ‘feminism’ is, without equal, the most hypocritical ideology in the world today. The laws of a society are the DNA of that society. Once the laws are tainted, the DNA is effectively corrupted, and mutations to the society soon follow. Men have been killed due to ‘feminism’. Children and fathers have been forcibly separated for financial gain via ‘feminism’. Slavery has returned to the West via ‘feminism’. With all these misandric laws, one can fairly say that misandry is the new Jim Crow.

          3. Not really sure why you shared all this as a response to my comment…

            Would it help if I stipulated to the fact that men, as a group, do indeed suffer injustices in their lives as a result of feminist thought and practice? Would that help? Because i have no problem acknowledging that. I’m not blind, I can see what’s going on around me.

            Then do you think you could own your own part?

            Or are you just gonna continue to insist that misogyny is a myth?

            Cuz honestly, if that’s the case, I’m done. I have no interest in engaging with someone who’s not willing to at least be intellectually honest.

          4. I think there’s validity in the suggestion that gender equality in a legal sense has gotten to a more appropriate and equitable place than we’ve been historically, but what Frank shares ignores bro and rape culture, and the more nuanced and subtle forms of dismissing/abusing/neglecting/harming/discrimination that exist between “the average man” and “the average woman.”

            We worry about an 18-year-old young lady walking alone at 1:30 a.m., and we don’t really worry about the 18–year-old young man doing the same.

            For all the reasons that’s true is what MOST feminists are fighting for, Frank.

            You and I simply don’t know what it’s like to be a woman in a board room with 11 guys whose every action says “shut up, woman, the men are talking.”

            We have no idea what it’s like to have every interaction with the opposite sex tainted by the possibility or even likelihood that they’re primary interest in us is sex.

            Frank, what you know about is being whatever you are. And that’s okay. Whatever race, faith, political ideology, gender, sexual orientation, profession, geographic region, etc.

            All people who don’t fit into those same silos have RADICALLY different thoughts, feelings, life experiences as a result.

            More than likely, just as it makes sense that you are as you are, it makes perfect sense that they are as they are as a result of where they come from and what they’ve been through.

            It’s OKAY to not agree with people.

            But it also MUST be okay that people are different than us. We need to stop making DIFFERENT = WRONG.

            Because that’s what causes almost every human problem. It’s stupid and unnecessary.

          5. Out of a sense of fairness, I should also acknowledge the many truths that you wrote of that history DOES support (selected classes of men being denied voting rights/not just women; lower life expectancy for males, etc.) and how those realities are sometimes skewed and/or ignored by folks with an agenda.

            I’m not saying it doesn’t happen (spinning the facts, I mean), I’m simply saying that from a historical perspective it’s not the whole picture. Not even close.

          6. Hi again, Frank. There is alot to sort through here. But, can I start by addressing this statement first “All of us have been taught how women have supposedly been oppressed throughout human existence, and that this was pervasive, systematic, and endorsed by ordinary men who did not face hardships as severe as what women endured. In reality, this narrative is entirely incorrect. “…
            I get that your point is that we all faced hardships and that is was not directed soley towards women. That it wasnt some malicious male dictator saying “lets get these women.” …however, the fact that it wasnt “intentional”, or brought on by some level of purposeful callousness is exactly what oppression via a “pervasive, systemic” route looks like.
            When the system is developed around those in control, it makes perfect sense for those in control…but it often leaves other groups with a serious disadvantage.
            We can look at the distant past and say that every one suffered, but even in recent the 1950’s (possibly even until the 70’s, I cant remember exactly) women were not allowed to obtain a credit card without a husbands signature. We couldnt even get a bank account in some instances.
            Rape was not a legal possibility in marriage. I could go on. ..
            There were many ways that women were not able to exert their own agency in life. They were dependent on a male.
            What feminism is about, is about equal footing and equal rights.
            I am choosing to not take offense, but even your reference to me was gender specific.
            Yes, Im a lady. But, I’m also a Scot. And a boss to some people, and an employee to others. I am a volunteer, and an avid gardener. Now, I get that all you know about me when you addressed me was that I was female. But, my online name was there, which says a whole lot about me, but you chose to address me by my gender. I am more than just my gender.
            Recently a building manager at my new office building pointed me in the direction of the stairs, and called me “Hon”…
            That is an awfully familiar term for someone I met 30 seconds ago.
            Would he be as willing to call a male counterpart the same thing?
            I’m leaning towards a “no” on that. But, he felt that it was ok to do because I was female.
            That is sexism, even if it was not meant to harm.
            Sexism still exsists, much the same a racism does.
            Lets start there.

          7. The Western World has quietly become a civilization that has tainted the interaction between men and women, and you prove this statement true. I called you a lady, and you had to think it over if you were offended i.e. “I am choosing to not take offense, but even your reference to me was gender specific. Yes, I’m a lady.”
            How sad is it in American society where a man calls a woman a lady, and she may consider it an insult? “Now, I get that all you know about me when you addressed me was that I was female. But, my online name was there, which says a whole lot about me, but you chose to address me by my gender. I am more than just my gender.”

            You also wrote, “Recently a building manager at my new office building pointed me in the direction of the stairs, and called me “Hon”…
            That is an awfully familiar term for someone I met 30 seconds ago.
            Would he be as willing to call a male counterpart the same thing?
            I’m leaning towards a “no” on that. But, he felt that it was ok to do because I was female.

            That is sexism, even if it was not meant to harm.
            Sexism still exsists, much the same a racism does.
            Lets start there.”

            So let’s start. I live in the South. I have eaten in many restaurants, dinners etc., and the waitresses have called me Hon or Honey many a time. Did I get offended? No. I thought it was humorous and somewhat friendly. I didn’t fly into a rage and scream sexism, but is was your first response. You are looking to be a victim at any opportunity. This what 3rd wave feminism has brought to America.
            How it is I don’t have any problem with being called Hon and you do? And to show you the difference between how we think, you can call me Hon or Honey anytime you want, and I will not feel offended in the least.

          8. “How it is I don’t have any problem with being called Hon and you do? And to show you the difference between how we think, you can call me Hon or Honey anytime you want, and I will not feel offended in the least.”

            I think this is a beautiful example of what Matt means by cotton balls and rocks. Linds said it bothered her to be called Hon, and you immediately replied that it did not bother YOU to be called Hon, and implied that something was wrong with her if it bothers her. You then patronized her by saying she was free to call you “Hon”, because (obviously) there is nothing wrong with being called Hon since that’s how you feel about it.

            Perhaps the response Matt would have encouraged was “Huh. I never thought being called “Hon” would bother people, because here in the south people do it all the time. So while that would not faze me in the least, I have had people call me other things that did bother me. So while I can’t understand the specific example, I do understand the concept of being called something that feels demeaning.”

          9. Nice.

            Yes, Lissy. Co-sign.

            While I don’t place the criticalness of getting this right in ALL human encounters (people are allowed to be as polite or impolite as they want, or know how to be) as I do on marriage or a long-term romantic partnership (if you truly want it to last), this is indeed the perfect example of the cotton ball-stone thing in action.

            I appreciate you pointing that out.

            It can’t be overstated how many people will instantly dismiss the concept, and carry on. It simply CANNOT be recognized until it’s recognized.

            I feel sorry for all of the people who insta-dismiss it without thinking any more about it because that’s what I would have done, and totally why I’m now divorced.

            I understand why people don’t bother investing the mental energy in the idea. It seems too ridiculous to waste one’s time on. “Cotton balls don’t hurt.”

            Nothing more needs to be said for many people.

            And that’s why we’ll never eradicate shitty relationships and divorce. But reducing them, I think, is a fight worth fighting.

          10. Lissy I never thought about the other side of Hon. Being called Hon or Honey never bothered me, so I thought it was foolish for others to do so. I stand corrected. But my other point was that people seem to always to be looking to be a victim at any opportunity. Maybe she should have said I feed uncomfortable at being called Honey, and that would have solved the problem. But what about me, who has no problem with being called Honey. With such extreme behavior like her, she has poisoned the water on what used to be a friendly comment between a waitress and customer. Now, a waitress might not want to say such a thing.

            Another story I saw a man, cursed at by woman, for holding a door open for her at a hotel. This I saw in New York City about 20 years ago.

      2. Dear Lady, Please read the article, then tell me what you think. I am not the author, but agree almost 100% with its contents. The reason I have referred you to this, is this writer is way better than I in expressing ideas.

        1. Hi Frank. Please call me Pip, or Linds.
          The article link is not working. Can you repost it?
          I can tell you it will likely give me indigestion, but in the spirit of being open to understanding I will read it ; ).

      1. I know I’ve been a leeetle bit more assholey than is normal for me in the comments here the last couple of days, but omg I can’t stand it when people treat me as if I’m stupid or something!

        Seriously, do I come off as unintelligent here?? Cuz if I do, I’ve really got to up my game ?

        1. I only have a bachelor’s degree from an average public university, so I’m not sure I’m smart enough to evaluate the intelligence levels of others.

          Maybe Jeff knows!

  17. Frank,

    You said

    “So let’s start. I live in the South. I have eaten in many restaurants, dinners etc., and the waitresses have called me Hon or Honey many a time. Did I get offended? No. I thought it was humorous and somewhat friendly.”

    How are things in Texas? Hot there honey?

    There is a certain comfort in the constancy of your appearing on Matt’s blog.

    Like whatever is going on in this crazy world, the sun will rise and set.

    And here on this blog there eventually HONEY will reappear! A new name, new links to reference but it’s all so comforting in its certainty. Time and tides as they say. Or death and taxes. Matt and Honey.

    I do miss the classic housecoat thing though. That was my favorite of all Hon! ?

    1. @gottmanfan I appreciate the compliment, but I am not your type. I am sure if you keep looking you will find “The One”. Maybe he will call you Honey, since you seem to have a fascination with it. I hope you 2 guys will be happy together.

      To assist your memory, you will have to look long and hard to find the last time I commented here. I would guess it has been at least 6-9 months. So the sun rise, sun set theory fails, like most of your arguments.

      I put this in your blog “The Western World has quietly become a civilization that has tainted the interaction between men and women, … where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders…”

      What good do you think you are doing for men and women, when in every article you drone on endlessly about the flaws of men? After reading 10 of your articles, how many women would want to date much less ever marry a man after reading your rants against men? It is unfair to both sexes and pushes a narrative a victimhood for females which creates resentment by men. You vilify men while nothing is ever said about women, ever. Has it ever occurred to you that you could be wrong in your premise that men are the root cause of marriage failure? I bet not.

      I offer another male’s view similar to mine, Mike’s. And he is spot on.
      “My issue is that he never mentions his wife’s role in this and gives people the impression that men are the ones that are responsible for their failing marriages. Both sides are to blame and his wife would have probably gotten more of her needs met if she was a better wife and vice versa.

      “Can you do just one post, just one, where you describe how your wife contributed to things because she did and that will help a lot of women reading your blog make their marriages better.”

      “Their hypocrisy and inability to blame themselves for anything is what drives me nuts. They have these opinions of men that are completely off base. These same women have no problems with the phrase “happy wife, happy life” but then want to go on and on about this garbage.”

        1. I am not Jeff. But at least, now to you, I know there are 2 other men who think and write like me. So there truly is diversity in thought in this blog, which means is not filled with minions who parrot other people’s thoughts.

          Me being a Red Pill MGTOW? I am flattered. I will take that label rather than the effeminate Blue Pill Beta you wear. I dare you to read this blog about male advantages. Also, I would like to hear from women on this one as well. You will not like what you read.

          1. Frank,

            I read the quora article you posted. It is not sourced and some of it I believe factually inaccurate but I tried to get the general point you were trying to make in posting the link.

            If your main point is:

            1. Most men have many, many difficulties in life some of which are because they are male I agree with you wholeheartedly.

            2. There are many disadvantages to being male. Some biological (premature males die more than females for example). Some cultural (men are by far the ones who are sent and die in combat in wars).

            3. There are many sociological disadvantages to being male as well. Gender role expectations that may not be a good individual fit can cause bullying or less status and rewards.

            4. If your main point is that men get a raw deal often in life then YES I agree.

            5. It does not take anything away from the raw deal that women get to also acknowledge the raw deals men get.

            6. Sociologist Roy Baumeister wrote a book a few years ago “Is There Anything Good About Men?” with a very thought provoking way of explaining some of the raw deals that the vast majority of men and women have gotten historically.

            7. I don’t agree with some of his premise but it at least is an intelligent way of trying to address it rather than the “gender wars” approach. The main point is that “culture uses both men and women, but most cultures use them in somewhat different ways.”

            See next comment for more detail. Below is a link of a speech Baumeister gave summarizing his book.


          2. I never expected this from you. I respect you, and I hope you do the same. We can communicate as free men in a civilized manner. I think many of your ideas are very wrong, but thank God you and I can write these things. I do value your input, for it makes me go out of my comfort zone. We may some days agree on one of two things, and feel free to express them to me. I will do my best to understand them and then refute them. Have a good day and life.

          3. Frank,

            I appreciate this response!

            You wouldn’t be the first person to think my ideas are very wrong ha ha
            Long line there.

            It’s good to get a lot of different viewpoints and go outside our comfort zones I agree.

            I will do my best to understand your underlying points as well. I hope that everyone here in the comment section can treat each other with respect. Men and women.

            I will do my best to treat everyone with respect and I hope you will as well.

            Thank you for this most welcome response to my comments.

          4. Mr. Gottman Fan, thanks for summarizing the article; I tried to read it but the link appeared to be broken and I wasn’t able to access it, which is a shame because I genuinely wanted to read it.

            I too, affirm all that you have summarized. I always have. No serious student of history and culture would deny these things. And perhaps I just take it as a given that EVERYBODY sees it this way, that both sexes have had a raw deal, maybe for different reasons (ours stem mainly from “having the wombs”, men’s stem mainly from figuring out how to best protect the fruit of our wombs, and then womb-bearers themselves – that’s my opinion tho, based on history, anthropology and a smattering of theological conviction…just so you know where I’m coming from). In life, affliction knows no gender. There are advantages and disadvantages to being either sex.

            Arguing over “who has it worse” is not fruitful – agreed. For one thing, it’s entirely subjective and therefore impossible to objectively quantify. It’s always going to come down to perspective.

            My perspective is pretty simple…each sex is jealous of (or jealous *for*) the advantages they perceive the other sex to have in life. This kind of dovetails in with what Lindsey was saying about fear of scarcity. We all want what others have for ourselves. Historically – tho not exclusively – women have been disempowered (first biologically, then culturally) to accrue the kind of power, wealth and honor that men have been able to. Straight up, woman has been envious of that since the beginning. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying it IS. I won’t even begin to suggest what man might be jealous of; as a woman I simply don’t have enough insight into the male mind to make a determination, nor is it my place to speak for them (or anybody else, for that matter).

            These are some of the unspoken assumptions I have when I comment and I guess I haven’t done a good job of articulating them directly, which has only added to the confusion. I think perhaps I have given the impression that I do not have a high view of men when that is not at all the case. Not at all.

            But I take a dim view of those who would dismiss the very real disadvantages that either sex have come up against. I have to operate within reality and the really is that there are myriad ways in which men and women are shitty to each other. I have no interest in debating who’s had it worse because it simply isn’t germane; this is not a zero-sum game we’re playing.

            If we are unable to acknowledge “the other side” of our respective positions, then I don’t know how we can ever move forward together.

            And I’d really like to see that happen. Men and women, walking together and looking out for each other’s best interests. Full respect living, as Donkey would say. ?

            For the men whom I’ve made feel “unheard”, I apologize for coming across that way. I’ve been hearing all along. I’m just not so sure y’all have been extending the same courtesy, or at least that’s how it’s been coming across to me.

            Perhaps that is another assumption on my part that will prove to be wrong. Time will tell, I suppose.

            But I’ll tell you this much, I would be DELIGHTED to be proven wrong. It would be, I think, a real breakthrough and a basis for better understanding and honest discussion between us.

          5. Rev Anitvan,

            I am reposting the link. It works when I click on the comment. Let it know if this one doesn’t work for you and I will try and find a different link to post.

            As I said in another comment, I don’t completely agree with Baumeister’s framing or conclusions. BUT I offer it up as one example of how the disadvantages of men can be presented in a way that doesn’t blame women or dismiss the disadvantages that women have also experienced.

            There are many ways to present this without men resorting to redpill/mgtow/incel zero sum shit.

            Baumeister suggests ideas that I find uncomfortable. But are well worth considering too. Open minds are foundational. But even more foundational is using framing and language that is respectful I agree with you.

            There is a lot of subjectivity even in analyzing statistics and facts.


          6. Had a little peek at this particular article…he takes a stance similar to that of Jordan Petersen, whom I quite admire. (Please don’t clobber me for that!) ? Having just read it, I haven’t had a lot of time to digest it and consider the implications, but in general I can affirm his observations. It’s not the whole story – it’s obviously way more complicated than that, but it is grounded in reality, and that’s always a good place to start.

          7. Anita,

            I would be interested in your thoughts about Jordan Peterson. No clobbering.

            With the limited information I have comparing Baumeister with Peterson, Baumeister seems less of a gender essentialist and more of a big picture “this is how cultures ended up looking as they do.”

            But you may have much better info on Peterson than I do. I have only read a limited amount of things about him.

          8. Lisa, my interest in Peterson is more about his ideas on freedom of expression than the gender stuff. In the fall of 2017, he became embroiled in a controversy surrounding the intersection of transgenderism and free speech that occured at one of the two universities we have here in town.

            He gets labelled by the media as being somewhat redpill but to be honest, I don’t see it. I actually haven’t read a great deal about what others have to say about him, but I’ve heard him speak many times. I can understand why some might *perceive* him that way on the surface, which is a shame because it’s a shallow interpretation of the actual message, which is the importance of taking personal responsibility for ones life. And you know how I feel about that topic ?

      1. Frank, or whatever your name is, you exemplify the very things women and men should avoid in themselves and in others.
        I can list off the things that are deeply offensive, but it wouldn’t really matter because you would not hear them.
        I am blot sure why you comment here if this place is so vile to you.
        Differing opinions are welcomed, however I would think the value of that is to shed greater light, not to hold one opinion up at THE correct one.
        You seem to want a space to monologue about your beliefs.
        Wordpress is easy to set up, I’d encourage you to do that.
        Otherwise, I don’t expect you will have too much dialog that leads anywhere except to this exact same place.
        Which isn’t helpful to anyone.
        …Who awakened this troll from depths? Can we say a chant to banish him back to the murky bottom from which he came?
        Jeff, if you would just but open your eyes and ears and treat others as human beings it wouldn’t be so bad.
        But you act more than just a troll- you act like an ogre.

        1. Dear Lady

          I am no more a troll than you. Just because my views are different than yours does not make yours better and mine less. And since it is my sex that is constantly under attack in this blog, I finally had enough after months of reading endless attacks on the flaws of men, and so I wrote. Mr. Gottmanfan at least read the link I placed here. (I have attached it again, if you want to know why I write the way I do.) Read it and then tell me about how men have so many advantages. I am more than willing to read any link about oppression of women.

          But I ask you, why are you so afraid of a view, which I back up with evidence and not personal stories? I offer links to support my views, not personal experiences and claim them to be true to all of mankind.

          Do you really want censorship? You don’t here me calling for that, but you have no problem with it. (see below)
          ” Who awakened this troll from depths? Can we say a chant to banish him back to the murky bottom from which he came?
          Jeff, if you would just but open your eyes and ears and treat others as human beings it wouldn’t be so bad.
          But you act more than just a troll- you act like an ogre.

          Who is the troll now? “I say censor anyone who does not think like me, says the mighty personinprogress” “ Sine we all look alike we must all think alike.”

          By the way, I am not Jeff. These are my words, not his.

          1. Frank,
            I truly don’t mean to be harsh, but my message is the same whether it’s you or the previous troll. It has nothing to do your gender and everything to do with your tactics.
            I find them irrational. (Not to mention domineering, and oddly enough at the same juvenile.)
            I do hope that you get something out of the comments section, and by dialoging. But, for me, I don’t have time, energy or desire to engage further with you.
            Best of luck.

  18. Here is Baumeister’s concluding remarks summarizing his ideas.

    “To summarize my main points: A few lucky men are at the top of society and enjoy the culture’s best rewards. Others, less fortunate, have their lives chewed up by it.

    Culture uses both men and women, but most cultures use them in somewhat different ways. Most cultures see individual men as more expendable than individual women, and this difference is probably based on nature, in whose reproductive competition some men are the big losers and other men are the biggest winners. Hence it uses men for the many risky jobs it has.

    Men go to extremes more than women, and this fits in well with culture using them to try out lots of different things, rewarding the winners and crushing the losers.

    Culture is not about men against women. By and large, cultural progress emerged from groups of men working with and against other men. While women concentrated on the close relationships that enabled the species to survive, men created the bigger networks of shallow relationships, less necessary for survival but eventually enabling culture to flourish. The gradual creation of wealth, knowledge, and power in the men’s sphere was the source of gender inequality. Men created the big social structures that comprise society, and men still are mainly responsible for this, even though we now see that women can perform perfectly well in these large systems.

    What seems to have worked best for cultures is to play off the men against each other, competing for respect and other rewards that end up distributed very unequally. Men have to prove themselves by producing things the society values. They have to prevail over rivals and enemies in cultural competitions, which is probably why they aren’t as lovable as women.

    The essence of how culture uses men depends on a basic social insecurity. This insecurity is in fact social, existential, and biological. Built into the male role is the danger of not being good enough to be accepted and respected and even the danger of not being able to do well enough to create offspring.

    The basic social insecurity of manhood is stressful for the men, and it is hardly surprising that so many men crack up or do evil or heroic things or die younger than women. But that insecurity is useful and productive for the culture, the system.

    Again, I’m not saying it’s right, or fair, or proper. But it has worked. The cultures that have succeeded have used this formula, and that is one reason that they have succeeded instead of their rivals.”

  19. There are many ways to frame why we have the systems we do and who benefits and suffers.

    Baumeister offers one explanation that doesn’t resort to gross misogyny to make the case for men.

    I may formulate a different one than Baumeister but at least his is thought provoking and invites discussion unlike extremes of redpill/mgtow or on the other side those who proclaim men are inherently bad.

    Frankly (no pun intended ha ha) , I find explanations and arguments that proclaim either men or women superior repugnant.

    To the point of Matt’s blog, I have written numerous comments detailing women’s typical failings in the average shitty marriage. Although there are huge individual variations, certain gendered patterns are common that is true.

    But it’s also true that there are far more basic things that have nothing much to do with gender that both people in shitty marriages need to change.

    1. I agree that in a marriage (which this blog is sort of about) the day to day things that come up are not isolated to one gender or the other.
      I think this keeps coming up is obviously two things…
      Matt’s point of view in naming his own faults in the marriage. People feel this is lopsided.
      However, he has said ump-teen times that he can’t, with honesty or honor, write about any one else’s issues.
      And second, Gottmans research that says more men than women don’t be accept influence, and that is one reason for marriage failure.
      The things the author you quoted mentioned are significant issues in the male psyche. ..And I can’t help but see the red pillers are doing the same things as a tribal brotherhood where all that flexing and need to be alpha is a top priority… so even the things he is saying are reasons men struggle are not helped there, but sustained.
      The the things he cited I do believe are real issues that hurt men, but again, blaming others for it does little to change it.
      Changing the behavior that creates those things can help.
      Anyway, still my only partially articulate self…but hope you get the gist…

      1. I understand why Matt writes from only his point of view. Because of that framing it only presents one side of the pattern. One side of the teeter totter.

        And because it is gendered, men will not see their very real hurts/irritations/unmet needs/whatever being presented in a way that feels balanced.

        It’s just a natural side effect of a narrative choice that Matt makes for his blog. He clearly understands and states that it’s a system. But the compelling emotional narrative is written for the wife’s side usually.
        I totally respect he doesn’t want to tell stories about his ex and the mother of his son.

        But I get why it feels unfair to some men. Because the comments will often echo the wife’s side.

        So balance is good in the comments as much as possible imho.

        And yes of course my beloved John Gottman’s research shows gendered patterns. He also shows the stuff that women tend to screw up too and that also needs to be part of the balance.

        I’m not sure I understand what you were saying about the Baumeister stuff in the last part of your comment. But it may be because I’m tired. ?

        1. @gottmanfan

          Here’s another case where a faulty assumption of mine comes into play.

          The attraction of Matt’s blog for me has never been “Oh I see my husband in what he describes”, it’s always been “Holy shit, THAT’S ME!” I’ve always been able to relate the lesson he’s trying to share to MYSELF. Find the “me” in his story. It was cool to follow along with his progression towards healing and growth, which often mirrored my own, pace for pace. I recognized immediately that Matt was embracing the power of “owning your part” and it felt like I had found a kindred spirit.

          I guess a part of me is bewildered when I discover that not everyone views what he writes in that spirit.

          Male or female, if you’re going to get anything out of this blog, the teeter-totter is ALWAYS gonna be lopsided and it’s always gonna be pointed towards YOU. It doesn’t attempt to address the blame that falls on the other person, because that’s THEIRS to address. We simply have no control over whether the other person is willing or able to address their part. All we ultimately have control over is how we address our own.

          1. Anita,

            You have very good insight into yourself. Among other superpowers. ?

            As you said since you have been following Matt’s blog since it’s infancy you have a different relationship with what he writes than people who read it cold or came to it after the dishes post went viral.

            And also because you relate to his position and see yourself there but are also a wife you occupy both sides of the gender teeter totter to be able to see both sides.

            And your values push you towards owning your shit. And that helps the defensive reflexes.

            Just a few ways I can see why your experience might be different.

            I think for most people intense validation is a HUGE part of the first step in being able to risk change.

            So many women have commented that they feel validated by Matt’s posts to explain their point of view that they sometimes couldn’t even identify themselves. And the validation alone was healing in some way.

            So I think many men that comment here are saying in effect the same thing. They want THEIR side to acknowledged as well. Their pain and frustration acknowledged.

            Like you I sort of straddle the teeter totter. Also as I said in another post I also know how intensely shitty it is to be expected to change by only focusing on what *I* need to do without validation. And to hear critiques of all the stuff I am doing wrong despite intense effort.

            I think you have a superpower if you can change by focusing only on yourself without much validation. Honestly that is awesome superpower!

            But most people can’t do that very well. It’s normal to need validation. I put myself in that category for sure. It’s hard to own my shit even after 2000 pounds of validation of what a shit sandwich ? I am being served. Much less with just a critique of all I am doing wrong.

            So that’s why I am understanding of men who want it to be more balanced before they can hear what they need to change. I am right there with them.

            What I am not sympathetic to is asking for balance by blaming Matt or women or insulting people personally. I get the temptation (see my past immature comments) but yeah that’s where a boundary is required.

            So much of what we do to screw up our relationships shows up in small ways too. Like how we ask for what we need. Or how we express our opinions. Or how we set boundaries

            I can see myself repeating my patterns here. I am trying to see that and figure out how to respond differently.

          2. Lisa,
            That’s fair enough, and a good learning point for me – that although validation isn’t terribly necessary for me, it is intensely needed for others.

            It is something I will try to be more cognitive of (and sensitive to) when I comment.

          3. Anita,

            Your ability to own your shit unilaterally is a superpower!

            And I can imagine also a burden since you have to give out a lot of validation and patience to others for them to consider change.

            My superpower is that it doesn’t bother me that much to admit that I suck. To own my failings because I see it as something that can be changed.

            I didn’t realize that is hard for most people to do. Very threatening to a lot of people I am always surprised to learn.

            I was confused that other people didn’t possess this power. I thought it was average. And I would be angry that it was not reciprocated because I didn’t realize the difficulty level involved.

            Now that I have adjusted my view I can both appreciate that this is one of my strengths and also find ways to make it safer and easier for my hubby to admit he is not doing things the best way.

            The secret for him? Lots and lots of validation. Validation of his successes and his effort when he doesn’t get it quite right.

            Which as Nate and Matt point out is a common thing husband’s want. They often write comments about how discouraging and unfair it feels to get little validation and a lot of criticism.

            I need lots of validation too. But in a slightly different way and different topics. We have to become experts in our spouses. And accept that they are different and need different things. So hard to get that fully and practice it.

            I am not naturally good at validation. But it’s a skill like any other that can be learned.

  20. Frank, Since you have stated that you are not Jeff, I hold out hope that you could present and advocate a male point of view in relationships in an intelligent way.

    There is a fair amount of diversity of opinion in this comment section. If we could get beyond the “who has it worse” arguments I think more time could be spent on understanding other points of views and ideas for how to prevent and fix shitty marriages.

    I would gladly hear from you and Mike and Nate and Uniballer and any other male what your experience has been like.

    As I said to Mike, marriage is a system and requires understanding the common things on both sides of the table.

  21. From a female perspective whose husband has finally begun to understand the stifling effects of masculinity, I think it’s clear as night and day to me when such compensating factors are in place in a person. The problem is that to make most men realize of what is truly happening, requires them to actually be curious about it in the first place. You have to have some sort of humility that the position that you hold might be wrong, and unfortunately for most, because it is so tied to their identity, it is difficult to extricate it. I akin this to..Plato’s allegory of the cave. To be able to step out of the cave and see the forms rather than the shadows, you have to have some doubt in your head that what you see currently isn’t all that there is to see. If that’s missing…well good luck.

    I mean honestly, I think it is personally too late for most adults, but that’s also because I’m not one to want to influence people, because I think adults need to figure out their own shit out- the access is there, you just have to want it badly enough and to be curious enough. And you probably should do it before you inflict harm on people who you commit your life to.

    As for me, I can really feel like we’re out of the woods, after years of psychotherapy, my husband finally gets it. I wasn’t raised in this traditional masculine way. My dad is quite in touch with his emotions and is able to express how and why he feels. I assumed most men were like this. My husband saw this example this past weekend when my dad confided in us about his own insecurities about his future and how a dialogue ensued from that, lots of curious questions, and empathizing, and identifying, etc. My husband later on commented at how much he really admired this and how he’s never witnessed anything quite like it. This type of discussion is my normal. This is how I grew up- I don’t know much else outside of it.

    Matt, it is largely thanks to you as well that I started to realize this isn’t a one off issue, but rather a systemic, and pervasive issue afflicting most heterosexual marriages and to a lesser extent, same sex marriages. Oh and hi Gottmanfan!

    1. Astrid, your family gathering= my greatest fantasy.
      I’ve actually had the privilege of being a part of family discussions similar to what you describe, on a few occasions.
      I do know a handful of men that are excellent fathers and men. It seems like people miss what that means- involvement in the other family members lives, being open to sharing what’s real for them.
      There is a major sense of security by knowing you know your partner, or father.
      At least that’s what being an excellent man means to me.

    2. Since I know you are a Terry Real fan this quote seems appropriate to your point about realizing it’s a systemic thing.

      “The things you learned about how to be a man, whether you wanted to or not–the things that were imposed upon you as a boy–be strong, be stoic, don’t be too emotional, don’t be too dependent, don’t burden other people with your stuff–will, by today’s standards, ensure that you’ll be seen as a lousy husband.”

        1. Thanks @personinprocess. I don’t know if it is cultural or not, or maybe it’s the fact that my dad wasn’t exposed to patriarchy even in our culture because his father passed away when he just turned four and he was raised by an admirable mother. I think this is why I am so allergic to having to deal with the gap in relational skills that I find myself loathing even having to explain what that is all about. True it’s probably not most men’s fault, but it certainly also isn’t my cross to bear either.

          @Gottmanfan- yes I completely am thrilled by the Terry Real therapist and I agree that most women actually vacillate between the resentful nagging and, what Terry calls outwardly accommodating. I think in a way many of them take on the role of a mother to their husband and that’s simply not attractive. I for one, not wanting to be a mother, find being put in this role as a wife to be burdensome.

          The point that is still hard for me to grasp is this…if men don’t really want to learn the relational skills that are so critical to staying married (as evidenced by 70% of women initiating divorce), and then they find themselves in a marriage where their women pushes them to do so, why don’t they just exit? If they truly believe that what the women are asking is unreasonable, downright crazy, etc. etc. then why not just exit? Is it because of they want or have kids? If so, what is there that keeps childless/free men from divorcing?

          I think Terry Real is right on point that we (women) are raising the standards of what we accept in marriage, because we now can. I don’t understand why the logic here for many is to say, well why can’t we return to old times? We can’t because women now are no longer obliged to be married. We can be self sufficient and for us to make the choice to give up some of that freedom, we want connection in return.

    3. uniballer1965

      I think ALL parties have to have humility and consider the notion that they may be wrong.

      I frequently say I reserve the right to be wrong.

      I don’t know it all. But I know a fair bit of stuff and even in my 6th decade of life, can still learn.

      How about we start with the notion that masculinity is stifling? Is it? Or is it just different from femininity? From my little corner of the internet, I see people suggesting that women, as a whole, I’m confident even those who hold this view would allow for exceptions, are better at relationships than men.

      Again, really? First off, if close, intimate relationships require some level of humility, seems an odd place to start from, gender A is better at them than gender B. Let’s take out the male and female aspect of it for a moment.

      Second, do women have trouble-free relationships with other women? To hear my wife talk about it, it seems friendships with other women or even mother-daughter relationships are fraught with problems. Logically speaking, one would expect such relationships to be easier and they would go smoothly relative to male-female relationships.

      Therefore, I call into question the conventional wisdom that women are better at relationships than are men.

      Note, I’m not saying men are better than women either.

      My position has always been that we each bring a set of relative strengths and weaknesses to the relationship. Not better, not worse, just different.

      I’m ok with Matt suggesting he was a shitty husband. He can speak about that to his hearts content.

      I’m less ok with Matt suggesting that men, in general, are shitty husbands, or that wives, in general are tortured saints for putting up with our crap.

      If he wants to suggest HIS ex-wife was a tortured saint, I think he can speak to that as he knows his contribution and hers. However, I’m not comfortable with blanket pronouncements that men, as a collection are… or women are …..

      Owning your own shit should come with the limits that you cannot project your shit on to a general population. If one is owning it, then it stops with them. Labeling all men, or the majority of men or even one other man seems to be exactly the opposite of owning your own shit.

      Maybe it’s the Mr Spock logical side of me that has trouble with this. And I’m the first to admit that I reserve the right to be wrong, inconsistent or even have faults in my logic.

      But at first glance, I have a very hard time with what passes to be conventional wisdom and ownership from time to time.

      Unless of course you want to say men and women each have their own relative strengths and equal abilities to be shitty people in relationships. They may manifest differently, since they are different. But from a character and perfection standpoint, there is no moral nor relationship high ground that either gender can claim to occupy.

      1. Uniballer,

        You said:

        “Unless of course you want to say men and women each have their own relative strengths and equal abilities to be shitty people in relationships. They may manifest differently, since they are different. But from a character and perfection standpoint, there is no moral nor relationship high ground that either gender can claim to occupy.”

        YES, that paragraph is exactly what I want to say>

        It is exactly what I HAVE been saying in many comments.

        I don’t agree with whoever it is that says that women are “better” than men at relationships.

        1. I don’t think women are universally better than men at relationships. Terry Real says, there’s often a latent partner and often a blatant partner. And often, the latent partner’s role is being in the presence of the blatant partner. I don’t believe the ratio is 50:50. I also believe that Terry is on point when he says, you have to address the blatant partner before the issues of the latent partner can be addressed.

          It’s hard for me to argue when I see Gottman statistics about influence as being a critical component to having a strong marriage and for it to be followed by, in his studies only 35% of husbands were open to influence, while most wives even those in unhappy marriages usually accept the husband’s influence. Gottman is also doing predictive modeling at this point, not just retrospective studies that is demonstrating the effect of influence on marital stability. Could Gottman be wrong? Sure, he’s human after all, but he is less likely to be wrong about his theory when backed with decades of research.
          Also, this idea that we cannot say most men have deficits in relational skills, because we have outliers ventures into splitting hairs and feels like the #notallmen hashtag, because we have outliers, because we have people who don’t fit the mold, therefore we cannot say what seems to be statistically significant numbers and findings. That to me misses the point.

          1. No one has quoted Gottman’s accepting influence statistic on this blog more than me ha ha.

            I am not saying Gottman is wrong. He ALSO says that women allow shit in marriages that create shitty marriage. That show up in divorces later on.
            This is ALSO a critical skill. This ALSO demonstrates that women are not good at relationships.

            There are recent statistics that show a huge difference between the percentage of lesbian divorces vs marriage between gay men. Lesbians divorce at a much higher rate. So clearly it’s not just men who are the issue all the time in marital dissatisfaction to result in divorce.

            I know it is you anecdotal experience that your female friends and coworkers have good relationships.

            I don’t think that reflects the general population. It certainly does not reflect my anecdotal experience.

            I am frankly so WEARY of the “who is worse” arguments on this blog. It’s such a block to moving beyond it to discussing ANYTHING else.

            I, in no way, deny there are gendered patterns. I have been quoting gendered patterns via Gottman and Terry Real and others on here for 2 years.

            However, it is imperative in my opinion to bring in BOTH sides of the tetter totter. It is not just men who have relationship deficits that screw up marriages. I quote shit to try and bring that in too. The stuff that women often do.

            I quote Atkinson all the time who makes no gender distinctions because most of the time both people lack key skills in a lot of areas.

            Your marriage may represent where your husband’s lack of skills were the sole problem, I don’t know.

            But on a bigger picture basis that is not true. It’s not true in my marriage either. My husband sucked at certain things and I sucked at certain things. Do I think it was 50/50? No, I do not I think he screwed up more. . He would argue I screwed up more.

            I am at the point now I just do not give a shit. I just want both of us to own our shit and fix it.

            And I would just LOVE it if we could all stipulate as a foundation Uniballer’s last paragraph as a discussion starting point. Otherwise it’s just Groundhog Day over and over every post.

          2. “Your marriage may represent where your husband’s lack of skills were the sole problem, I don’t know.”

            Albeit anecdotal, my marriage represents many of my girl-friends marriages. They are, as I have found out, simply much more tolerant and patient at having to deal with similar circumstances. I know this is what even our previous therapist had suggested. I could be more patient, and kind at his “negative bids”, and be a mother like figure who points out what a kid has done wrong, who knows it may make my husband realize it one day, but for me- that’s not what I would call as being in line with the type of marriage I want. Personal accountability is first and foremost and behavior is how you judge what is acceptable and not.

            But you’re right, I don’t think it’s statistically significant- I have a sample size of maybe 10 of which I know somewhat intimately the stories they tell. Three of those are therapists/psychologists, one is my best friend who is a marital therapist, so maybe I am privy to at least a few more overarching stories.

            I don’t think it’s telling the story fully when we say that we both suck in equal and different ways. And again I’m not saying that we don’t have anything to work on, but I think what we have to work on, or at least what I have to work on are from the resultant of what has happened. This to me is vastly different from the person who has to work on something regardless of if the partner is present. I could change my circumstance, and the problems would disappear pretty much overnight.

            The statistics about the lesbian couples divorcing to me bolster the idea that women expect more out of unions and are wiling to walk away if such unions do not pan out. I think it is clear that our expectations have risen and that we’re asking for more. Terry Real champions the idea that more intimacy and connectedness is what is needed, but that again he says that the way in which women go about it is usually not helpful. And maybe this is me empathizing with more women, but after years of asking for more connection, to be met with defensiveness, dismissiveness, then maybe empty promises and or outright contempt, I can see why women resort to escalation. I found myself starting to get to that, and found it to be at odds with the type of person I wanted to be. That’s why I knew, I’d walk away, if things weren’t fixed and I’d end up violating my own self if I end up resorting to nagging, yelling, etc. as my normal behavior.

            And yes, I would say my husband screwed up more and he would agree (well he’s admitted this) he screwed up more. So maybe I’m the outlier.

          3. Also, Terry Real talks a lot about how grandiose women are even more difficult to deal with than grandiose men.

            Women are often the blatant in a blatant/latent pairing. The stereotypical pattern of blatant man, latent woman is not always the case.

            It’s pretty common to have a blatant wife who thinks she is “better” than her husband. That ties into Gottman’s contempt as toxic. Who expects the man to just adjust to what she needs.

            This is another area where women can be shitty in relationships.

            I, as may come to no surprise to anyone here, used to think my husband was not doing things the “right” way. That *I* had the “right” way.

            This is a common shitty relationship thing many wives do. This is what may be the wife’s part of the dishes issue. If the attitude is that there is ONE right way that just invites a defensive response from the husband.

            This is why many men on this blog push back with “isn’t his views of the dishes equally important?”

            It’s complicated of course. There are real reasons why a wife may think her way is “better”. And maybe it is logically speaking.

            However it is toxically shitty to think that his style is wrong. It’s human to do that of course. Our brains are wired to default to that. But we have to fight it to have a good marriage.

          4. This is why many men on this blog push back with “isn’t his views of the dishes equally important?”

            His view is of course important. The problem to me isn’t that his view isn’t important it’s that it fails to start from the beginning. A spouse requests something of the other (in this case the husband) that is important to her. I would have held the same thing in equal regard if the husband said, please don’t touch my tools in the garage- I am still working with them and she goes ahead and puts them away.

            So back to the example, she made that request to begin with. And now it is his choice to counter, accept, or negotiate given said request. This is to me the fundamental mismatch of marriages that leaves one person resentful and the other wondering why. The influencing functions of the spouses are not equal. I think this ties somewhat into Gottman’s concept of metaemotion.

            To me, I don’t claim this to be right- it’s only how I function- (Gottman claims that you can either avoid influence, negotiate for half, or move straight into persuasion), if my spouse requests something of me and that request is reasonable and doesn’t “kill me”, I would like to honor that request. It is important for my partner to know that when he initiates a request, there is full consideration given to that request. And a no, is an answer that I would give, only after serious consideration of which what I’m about to do will somewhat throw off my own balance, etc.

            I give an equally “unimportant example” of my husband needing our bedroom door closed before we go to bed because to me this is kind of like the dish in the sink. I assume and maybe Matt will correct me, that he is not intentional about leaving the dish not in the sink. e.g. it’s not like he has assigned a place of “not in the sink” as the place he wants to put his dish. To parallel to that, the door is left open, because I don’t close doors, not because I intentionally want the door to be open. I am not fighting for a reason as to why the door needs to be open.
            So this is why to me the discernment of the dish in the sink is so clearly an idea she is invested in, and that the response is dismissiveness that makes it damaging. He does not have a good reason for wanting the dish to not be in the sink, just like I do not personally in this scenario have a good reason for wanting the door to be open. And yet, despite not having a good reason for it, in the dish scenario, he has fought her on it. Is he wrong for putting the dish not in the sink? No. Is she right for needing the dish in the sink? No. There is no right or wrong here, but it is clear to me who cares more about where the dish should be placed.
            It is clear as day to me, who cares more about how the bedroom door needs to be when we go to bed at night. So why fight him on it?

            To me, these types of arguments are fundamentally unnecessary, because clearly one party is much more invested in the outcome happening, so what is the big deal with the one party who does not have much invested, to do what the other party asks? It isn’t about that the husband’s opinion doesn’t count. It’s that the requestee was not even invested in such an idea, and yet is fighting the requestor. Be this man or woman, it doesn’t matter.

            Necessary arguments to me are when two people believe equally in the importance of the outcome happening. Those are the real struggles because both are intentional and can provide reasons as to why that particular thing is important to them.

          5. Astrid,

            Let me pick your brain on something.

            How do you prevent going one up when someone is “worse” in relationship skills than you are?

          6. uniballer1965

            Who said men don’t have deficits in relationship skills?

            I’ve said BOTH men and women have deficits in relationship skills. I’ve said each have relative strengths and weaknesses. Another way of saying that is each has strengths and deficits.

            Also, regarding the 70% divorces filed by women, I think that is due to WHEN they are filed. As I said elsewhere here. In marriages where the wife is young and believes she has an advantage, it is the woman who files for the divorce.

            Longer term marriages, the figure is reversed.

            So is there a power/advantage component to this?

      2. Uniballer,

        If you are responding to the Terry Real quote about the things that are taught to be a man will make you a lousy husband, this is just one piece of the puzzle.

        As I said in a lower comment, women are ALSO taught things that make them a lousy wife.

        They are often different things but lead to a shitty marriage.

        There is no problem in my humble opinion with “masculinity” as long as it isn’t teaching that boys and men must disavow emotional expression and skills as unmanly.

        In the same way, there is no problem with “femininity” as long as it isn’t teaching that girls and women must disavow full emotional expression and skills as not appropriate for females.

        Healthy people have different styles but a full range of skills and tools available for use as appropriate.

        Traditional masculine and feminine styles are absolutely fine as long as they don’t halve “human” emotions and behaviors. And as long as individuals that do not naturally fit into average gender roles are not forced into them. They are just averages and not norms.

  22. I think discerning what constitutes depth in relational ability is much more objective and can be measured rather than just the gray area of “we’re different”. If we cannot agree that we can say oh someone is better at this skill than another person, then there’s going to be very little discussion that we can have that would allow us to explore this further. I believe relational skills, the ability to emotionally regulate, the ability to be introspective, and the ability to respond, negotiate, and accept influence are all skills. And because of that, I believe there’s a gradation of what is considered elementary vs. advanced and everything in between. I do not expect a toddler to know how to react properly when her teddy bear goes missing because I know full well that they do not have the ability to emotionally regulate, nor do I expect a preschooler to remain composed after the teacher gave her a task she did not like. For adults however, who should have the ability to emotional regulate and reflect, I expect a much more developed response-ability instead of reactivity.

    It is as objective as saying Tiger Woods is much better than golf than I am. Does it make him better as a human being? No. So, I am not saying that men are better than women or that women are better than men, which you and I agree that you cannot universally say that person A is better because he/she possesses a skill another person does not have. I don’t think that’s a moral high ground- to me we are arguing about what makes relationships happen whether or not it’s romantic or platonic or professional.

    I could expand more, but at the risk of getting into a tangent, what parts of “being relational” skills do you believe that a man’s ability is just different than a woman’s? Can you provide examples? And since you have claimed that you reserve the right to be wrong, have you thought about what that would mean for you if you indeed found out that you were?

    Second, do women have trouble-free relationships with other women? For me, absolutely yes. The reason why I have been touting for things to change is because of the depth, respect and admiration that I have experienced with my girl-friends. The reason why marriage is so challenging is because I feel my own hypocrisy in that if any of my girlfriends had done what my husband had done (acting below the line of respect), they would no longer partake in my life. Those who have displayed emotional immaturity, yelling, blaming, etc. are no longer in my life. Respect and diplomacy is the baseline standard of what I expect of those that get to stay in my inner circle.

    1. uniballer1965

      Different skills are needed at different times.

      Dr Robert Epstein claims there are seven essential skills for a romantic relationship:

      1. Communication
      2. Conflict Resolution
      3. Knowledge of Partner
      4. Life Skills
      5. Self Management
      6. Sex and Romance
      7. Stress Management

      I’d say that list is pretty evenly split between men and women. I see areas where women may genuinely have the upper hand, like communication. (But I also believe that more communication doesn’t necessarily mean better at it.) I see areas where men may have the upper hand. I see areas where it may be a push. I know in my home, life skills is an area where I have the upper hand. Having been the son of a single mother and a bachelor for the first 33 years of my life, I can do all the so-called woman’s work. I’m a decent cook, I mend my own clothes, clean, etc, and change the oil, fix the cars, fix broken appliances, etc. My wife, typically only the stereotypical “woman’s work” for her.

      Ditto for stress management. When we got lost in Florence Italy, I wasn’t the one screaming and freaking out. I’d like to think that men may gain the ground we lose in areas like communication in other areas like Stress Management. The ability to be less emotional, or to at least put emotions in their box for the time being can translate into less stress.

      Sex and Romance, kind of broad, so I’d like to think that both can have some strengths here. I’m pretty sure I’m the Sex expert and my wife is more the Romantic. I am an engineer after all.

      Conflict resolution, hmm, again, some relative strengths and weaknesses here. I’m the one who asks to table a topic if it’s getting heated with an honest commitment to returning to it after some contemplation on it. I’m the one who sees when we are getting no where, or feelings are getting hurt. I don’t know how that translates to men in general, but I think it does reasonably well.

      Knowledge of partner. I’d like to think that’s a push area. I’d think men and women know what each other likes and doesn’t like. Seems both have no problem pushing one another’s “buttons” if they want to, which implies some sort of knowledge.

      Self management. That’s things like keeping one self in shape, attractive, employed, etc. Seems to be no shortage of either gender who fail at this. I see all sorts of out of shape people in the world and I see both men and women in reasonably equal numbers at the gym where I work out. We do have more men who go on our weekend bike rides, but that doesn’t mean women are not exercising and staying fit via other means.

      It is said that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti in one relationship book that I recall. I tend to believe that is true. At times, the relative strength of having all of that stuff together in a pile, mixed up like spaghetti serves the relationship well. She can often see better than he can a multitude of things at the same time.

      However, there are times in a relationship, say during a crisis, where both parties may be better served by his superior ability to compartmentalize. Times where focus on the problem and its solutions will best serve the relationship.

      Neither skill is superior to the other. One is no less shallow, relational speaking, than the other.

      Further, who is to say which skills and traits go deeper?

      The comparison of Tiger Woods to humans is an apples to oranges comparison. A more apt comparison is say Serena Williams and LeBron James. Who is the better athlete?

      That’s more along the lines of how I see the comparison of men and women in relationships. Comparing athletes to athletes to athletes. Comparing both partners in a relationship. They are both good at their craft.

      So yes, I contend that men and women bring different relative strengths and weaknesses to the relationship. You can find circumstances where one may be more useful than the other. But you can find other circumstances where the reverse is true.

      As I’ve said before, if both were the same and brought the same strengths, one would be redundant.

      1. Uniballer,

        I am going to leave you and Astrid to discuss your points further after this last comment. Carry on ?

        I agree with your general point. However, imho it’s important to acknowledge gender patterns without interpreting them through the lens of stereotypes.

        The ability to “compartmentalize” can look the same from the outside as being passive aggressive or avoidant. The first is a healthy style, the second two are not healthy and lead to shitty relationships. Men being like waffles can be descriptive of dysfunction as much as a healthy style. And it’s critical to differentiate that.

        Likewise, stress management with the woman “screaming and freaking out” doesn’t represent a healthy style either.
        And women being like “spaghetti” can represent either a healthy style or dysfunction. It’s not good to just say oh a woman is overly emotional. No, it’s a sign of an unhealthy lack of self regulation. That should be changed.

        So those very strict gender roles like the book you reference and the classic mars/Venus books do more damage than good imho. Because they do not ask what is healthy in describing what is common.

        When is it appropriate to be emotionally compartmentalized in a marriage? How can you be emotionally expressive and still be responsible for self regulation? These are important to ask and answer. Imho the healthier you are the closer the skills are and there will be less dramatic style differences.

        And as a woman who more often relates to the stereotypical “male” things like logic and problem solving in Christian marriage books with strict gender roles it’s just annoying to have it framed as “designed that way,”.

        I have no problem if it’s framed as here are the bell curve averages and more men or women fall into x things. Lots of cultural influences here too to be acknowledged as well as biological.

        Anyway, carry on. Just wanted to throw these thoughts out there.

        1. uniballer1965

          “When is it appropriate to be emotionally compartmentalized in a marriage?”

          I think of the cartoon where the old man is visibly angry at what is presumably his wife. Yet he is still holding the umbrella over her head, protecting her from the rain.

          He is able to put his anger in that compartment, but still show care for her, even if he is angry with her at the moment.

          That’s what comes to mind when I think of appropriate compartmentalization.

          1. Good cartoon!

            That is what Terry Real would call expressing your anger without ACTING OUT your anger.

            Telling the other person “I am angry that you did x but still remembering that you love them and working towards restoring connection.

            Using this cartoon’s definition of compartmentalization this is a relationship skill that BOTH people must have to be happily married.
            This is not imho a gendered skill.

          2. uniballer1965

            I’ve been known to say I love you, but I don’t like you much at the moment.

          3. Excellent line.

            The “at the moment” part is really good. It shows it’s temporary.

            How did you wife respond when you said that to her?

          4. uniballer1965

            Nothing was said.

            At least she didn’t say, “Well, you can choose to feel that way if you want…” which I’ve heard her say on numerous occasions.

            So the tacit message I get is if I feel a certain way, it’s because I choose to, and she takes no responsibility for her contributions to the circumstances. Which makes the whole, “husbands are shitty” trope a bit hard to swallow.

            Also makes the “women are better at relationships” or caring, or you name a number of nuggets of conventional wisdom equally hard to swallow.

          5. Well, that would be very annoying and disappointing to have your “bid for connection” rejected with silence.

            And yes, some men who come here like you and Nate describe wives who are not using good skills in key ways.

            It’s incredibly hard to feel like you are working to own your shit and be married to someone who wants to blame everything on you. Who seems to take little responsibility to change.

            And then to read and hear “women are better at relationships” yeah I can see how not fitting into Matt’s story as the “shitty husband” he describes. It’s just one pattern among many. But you are right many people default to the “women are better at relationships” which I don’t agree with or think is accurate.

            It might be quite true that in your relationship in key ways you are “better at relationships”.

            I think the person, male or female, who tends to be more relationally skilled often has a hard time knowing how to deal with the other person who won’t own their shit.

            And that’s where things can go on too long. Trying different things because you hope they will wake up and start acting more responsibly.

            But in my experience, approaching it that way is not skilled. And leads to resentment.

            Maybe that’s part of your story as the spouse? Maybe something else? I am still discovering ways I got into this mess. And how to reverse it. I am
            looking to steal any insight you have. ?

            The focus on gender imho gets in the way of seeing things clearly often. Because as you said it’s hard to hear stuff that is the opposite of our lived experience and make sense of it.

            It feels so insulting to all the pain and injustice inflicted to then not only have it unacknowledged but also just factually wrong.

          6. Yes, but deciding I just don’t want to work on it is so freeing from time to time.

            Sometimes, I feel like just burning the whole thing down. But acting on that is a whole other matter.

            But I really think it might take such a drastic act to get the message across.

          7. Uniballer,

            You are right that sometimes it does take drastic action to shake things up from the status quo.

            Some of it too is how many years the pattern has been going on and how comfortable the spouse is with the status quo.

            If they are comfortable it does require something to make them uncomfortable enough to consider change.

          8. Makes sense. Broad generalizations that I believe ring true for most people, but certainly not all.

          9. Matt,

            I think it is the definition of “better at relationships” that is the point of disagreement?

            It’s clear on a broad strokes basis many women are better at some parts of relationships. But they lack other parts.

            Most people when they say women are better at relationships are defining it too narrowly. That definition does not include all the things necessary to have a good relationship.

            And men often prefer a different style of relationship to begin with. So the definition is based on being good at HER preferred style of relationship.

            I am thinking about this because I think this is exactly where I went wrong.

            My hubby wanted a Atkinson “independence first style relationship. I wanted a “togetherness first” style.

            Yes I am better at a togetherness first style. Better at relationships by that definition.

            But the whole question needs to be questioned. Why is MY style the one to use for our marriage?

            He is “better at relationships” in his preferred independence style than I am.

            The bigger issue is that we were both trying to get each other to agree with our definition. Instead of working together towards a common style.
            And that is a HUGE part of why people have shitty marriages per Atkinson and others.

            So that’s why I now see it as neither of us being better at relationships. And that is also true for the broad generalized men and women.

            We are using the wrong definition in declaring women as “better at relationships” than men imho.

          10. I’m certainly okay with that idea.

            I use all kinds of lazy hyperbole in my writing, which is why I need to do more things where I speak (talks, podcasts, videos, whatever). There’s something satisfying about allowing tone, inflection, hand gestures, etc. to help one make their point most effectively.

          11. I am writing to figure this out ha ha.

            As you know I used to emphasize quite a bit the whole men not accepting influence thing. And of course that is a big piece to add.

            But some of Gottman’s finding men accepting influence as a critical factor in a happy marriage reflects that women lack skills to know how to deal with it when he doesn’t.

            It’s like grading who is the better writer by counting the number of vowels used. You must have ALL letters to write paragraphs.

            Women are better at using vowels ok maybe so. But men are better at constenants under this tortured analogy.

            We all need 26 letters or skills to focus on what to write rather than trying to find words with our limited choices.

            There should be no gender differences in having skills.

            Does that make any sense to you? Ha ha.

            I just see how many skills I was/am missing even though i would fall into the “women are better at relationships” thing.

          12. Matt,

            I think it would be awesome if you did more talks, videos and podcasts!

            Your story and writing reach so many people. Help so many people.

            I hope my uhem impassioned efforts to consider that women are not really “better at relationships” doesn’t come across as criticism of your writing.

            I wish I could write as well as you do.

            I have expanded my view of what being good at relationships really means since I began writing comments here. And that helps me see so much that I am women in general commonly do wrong.

            And there is a LOT of stuff women do wrong. Not just in marriage but in family relationships or friends, work etc. Mean girls is a thing for a reason. Mommy wars, fights over who is allowed to call themselves feminists or women who hate feminists etc etc.

            Anyway, I will attempt to water my baby “I am grout” differntiation if you disagree and feel that women are better at relationships.

            As you can see from my comments, my ability to handle the discomfort of people I respect that disagree with me is still in its early Jedi Training phase ?

          13. You’re the best, and I appreciate your contributions here very much regardless of how much you agree with me. Promise!

            Thank you for the kind words!

          14. I wish I could write as well as you do.

            Speaking for myself, I like your writing far more than Matt’s. You are far more direct (as well as less wordy), and, more importantly, I think you have a far better understanding of marriage issues. You are certainly much less one-sided in regard to where the fault is located. So, rather than being so busy with self-immolation like Matt, so chivalrous that he will not speak negatively about his ex-wife, you recognize that problems exist on both sides and are willing to address both sexes.

            Coincidentally, before getting to this comment, I was considering suggesting that you mull over the idea of writing posts on this blog if Matt was still open to the idea (I know he did consider this at one point). I am reasonably certain that your writing would have far fewer complaints about husband-bashing.

          15. I thank you for the compliments. I think we may have similar personality types (INTJ here) and that explains why our styles might be more similar.

            I appreciate the narrative story telling style that Matt does. It is in my mind the music and my style is more lyrics. Complimentary not opposing. He is better at conveying emotions that many people can relate to that moves them to try and understand.

            Matt has said that he writes the way he does for a particular audience. Men like him prior to his divorce.

            He has gotten feedback from many that it has been successful for many marriages. And although he it is not his primary purpose, his narrative explaining the wife’s point of view has been expressed as healing by many women.

            I think you and some of the other male commenters are a different subset who need a different type of approach so it’s understandable that you don’t relate to his narrative.

            I think Matt is clear who his approach is designed for and that it doesn’t cover everyone. There are subsets of women who are not in the same category as Matt describes in his typical shitty marriage.

            I think in the comments there is space for other types of marriages to be covered. I try and write more broadly to cover how both sides cocreate common patterns. And how women have skills deficits as well.

            And to bring in some science and theory so we can see the big picture of how shitty marriages happen and what can be done to fix them.

            I get frustrated when women blame men and vice versa. Or ascribe it to hardwired things that can’t be changed. It’s imho a waste of energy and blocks true understanding of underlying causes.

          16. Also, since Matt spent 10 years in journalism, I am confident he could write in a more fact based style if he wanted to. He consciously is choosing to approach it in a story telling way.

            I am curious why you frame it as “self immolation”. And “chivalrous” to not speak negatively about his ex wife.

            Are the strong emotions coming from a sense of injustice that he chooses to present it from his side only?

            That makes it hard to not personalize it to feeling blamed for your own marriage failure despite the differences in circumstances?

            Just guessing, might be way off for your reasoning for the stated strong negative reactions to his writing.

            Matt and I disagree somewhat for how much responsibility lies is on husband’s side of the balance sheet. But I don’t think his approach is intended to say that it’s 100% the husband’s fault and the wife isn’t responsible also.

            From my point of view, I agree that a more balanced approach might be more effective in reaching more men but that is not Matt’s choice for his blog and I respect his choice. (Ok I am still working on it-so much immaturity over here in my head?)

            And he has reached many men with his current approach. I respect that a lot.

          17. gottmanfan,

            He consciously is choosing to approach it in a story telling way.

            I have the perception Matt wants to influence men, and I doubt most appreciate his writing style.

            “Self immolation” because he seems to be sacrificing himself as solely responsible for his divorce. “Chivalrous” because he acts as if there is no higher aspiration than to protect her. I have strong emotions (thinking?) because I believe the world generally presumes that men are almost entirely at fault for their divorces. The last thing needed is for a man to add fuel to the fire. In case you haven’t noticed, the majority of regular commenters here are women who eat that up like candy.

            It’s not a problem that he presents his side only; It is a problem that he is so insistent that most problems in marriage are due to men’s behavior.

            But I don’t think his approach is intended to say that it’s 100% the husband’s fault and the wife isn’t responsible also.

            I don’t think that is his intention but it is clear that he thinks it is close to reality. His approach is, in fact, very unbalanced. His, and I think many commenters’, ignorance of this truth is astounding. This is regularly demonstrated when a new male commenter notes this and his claim is immediately roundly denounced as a falsity. I ask you, “Why do so many men make this claim if it’s not true?” I have a strong suspicion that a large percentage of the male readers who visit this blog quickly come to this conclusion and never return because they see this blog as just one more place where men are denigrated.

          18. If you were designing a blog to influence men about marriage what would it look like?

            What do you think would best serve them towards the goal of creating healthy relationships?

          19. A key part of being good at any kind of relationship is to be differentiated enough to really accept differences.

            To be able to be good at the discomfort of someone who often wants completely different things. Or even a different kind of emotional attachment.

            So that’s why part of the wife’s issue in the dishes story is to be able to accept that the husband does not care about the damn dish.

            And even next level up that he doesn’t care that you care.

            What does she do with that? This is common to ALL relationships that people will act in their own self interest sometimes.

            If she is truly “better at relationships” she knows how to maturely deal with this situation. If she doesn’t it leads to a shitty marriage.

            I don’t think most women know how to do this. So they aren’t “better at relationships” than the person acting in their own self interest.

            Just musing here. It’s important for me to see this system clearly. So it doesn’t lead to contempt.

      2. I think to me relational skills is knowing a) how to do these skills and b) when to exercise these skills. In order to know the latter, to me you have to know let’s say…
        when expressing emotions is appropriate and when it is not. It is not about not expressing them, or even minimizing them. It’s being able to say, holy shit we’re lost and I am anxious because we don’t know the language rather than dismissing the feeling completely when it’s there, and yet not losing your shit when you’re lost. And then to move from that I am anxious feeling to what can we do. To me, it’s a both and not an either or.
        The fact that you recognize when to table a conversation when you’re getting heated, and then a follow through, is an indication that you are very much adept at this particular relational skill of emotional self management. This is why I argue that there is gradation…we’re moving from someone who cannot bring up a problem, and then will wait until they blow up or someone who blows up everytime they bring up a problem, and then there’s a happy medium, someone who knows and is very in touch with the emotions he feels and can take appropriate action from it and announc an intention to return to the conversation and follow through with it. The former two are reactivity based responses, whereas the latter is response-ability (pun intended)

        Maybe the golf analogy is not entirely correct. Sure we’re both athletes, but we’re both playing now the same game. My argument is that when it comes to relational skills (that’s different to me than marriage skills, which is relational + all the above that you speak of), women are usually more equipped to transition from a single life to a unioned life in regards to relational skills. I’ll even say it this way, maybe not most women, but the women in my life are for the most part more equipped at this than what I believe their husbands are.
        So maybe when it comes to just relational skills, we’re talking about an ice skater vs. a snowboarder who now has to learn how to surf. The parallels of snowboarding to surfing is a bit more tangible than an ice skating to snowboarding.

          1. I was referring to your example of knowing when to pause when a conversation is getting heated as a mark of emotional maturity.

          2. uniballer1965

            Just wanted to make sure you were not assuming I was the party getting heated. It read that way, but I wanted to ask the clarifying question.

            I am the one using becoming overwhelmed from the response and need a break to get a grasp on the emotional onslaught I just experienced.

          3. No I wasn’t assuming that, it was referring back to the idea that it’s commendable to have learned the skill to know when something is heated and to ask to step back. Thanks for clarifying.

  23. As I read this post I do so next to an unfolded basket of clothes that has been on the table since Sunday. So far this week I have already clocked 24 hours at work with 26 more to work. My husband 15 hours with maybe 15 more to work. But guess who will have to fold these clothes or at least remove the basket from the table!! Any guesses? But I was told to stop complaining he cooked dinner last night. Taco’s 20 minutes time tops. Insert eye roll.

    1. uniballer1965

      So don’t fold his clothes.

      Heck, I’ve had the crush the bottles before you stick them in the recycle bin discussion 100s of times.

      Now, I just leave them in there. I’ve said if you want me to take them to the bin, you’ll crush out the air and then cap them so they don’t take up as much space. I don’t drink soda, so I’m not the maid for my wife or kids. The bin is only collected every fortnight, so it fills up quickly with air if the bottles are not crushed. (The kid is almost 26, so there is that irritation as well. The 24 year old and the 19 year old have gone their own ways. I just might be the next to leave.)

      So they pile up in the kitchen.

      For the sink and dishes, in our house, the roles are reversed. My bachelor pad was much more clean and neat than my marital home is now.

      So yeah, people can be slobs. Sorry your husband is one.

    2. Sheila,

      You sound very frustrated at annoyed at the discrepancies in work load. It’s what comes next that requires good skills.

      Many women just keep doing the same things without setting any practical boundaries to encourage/force a change to the status quo. Nothing changes and the resentment grows. This is how shitty marriages happen and continue. Why women leave over dishes in the sink.

      This is one of the key things wives screw up. I know I did.

      I didn’t set enough practical boundaries early enough to stop the cascade of resentment into contempt and semi hatred.

      It changed me into a person I didn’t recognize.

      Obviously I don’t know your situation but the pattern is common.

    3. Sheila,

      But it’s incredibly annoying to work so hard and ask for reasonable effort on his part and be told to “stop complaining”


      Yeah time for the next step.

      1. Or to be told, you can choose to feel that way. Or if it’s so important to you, deal with it.

        All things I’ve heard.

        What I’m saying is I sympathize from a similar place, that’s all.

  24. How do you prevent going one up when someone is “worse” in relationship skills than you are?
    This is a good question, and I think for me it’s that I think it is fruitless to be one up. I fundamentally believe that the worth of a person does not have anything to do with what they can or cannot accomplish. I look at people as having chosen values in accordance to mine or not, but I make no assumptions about whether or not those values are better or not. What I want is people who parallel my value system because it reduces the potential for incompatibilities, but just because one doesn’t, doesn’t signal my superiority to that person. As we’ve previously discussed, to me there’s a large difference between discernment, and judgement. There are people in this world who don’t value having to learn relational skills. I don’t think of them as less than I am, but we’re more likely than not, going to be incompatible.

    So maybe, the way that I can answer this is that I also expect people to not go one up on me when I lack a particular skill in relevance to another person. For about 95% of cases, I do not feel inferior to that person. I’m simply lacking or not as well versed in what they know, and with effort I can get at least somewhere close to it. I will first acknowledge it’s a skill I either have or don’t have or where I may sit in between. I am well aware of Dunning Kruger, and I try as much as possible to move from unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent. At least from the latter, I will have a starting point.

    Which usually then leads to the next question, if such skill is important to me, what can I do?
    I also remind myself, it’s a skill, to be learned, of which I have not yet learned and then I focus on the action to gain that skill. Also, I would say I actually take the other person’s evaluation first (especially if they are considered an expert), to be de facto, unless I feel confident enough that I can counter their assertions.

    I feel highly confident now, precisely because I was, in my previous relationship, the person who most likely partook significantly (70:30)? in the destruction of that relationship. (e.g. I know my starting point) I also feel confident, because I’ve made significant efforts, to learn these skills, years of psychotherapy, yoga, mindfulness, brainpickings, the school of life, philosophy, countless books on pyschology and marriage, discussions with people who value relational skills, TedTalks, etc. etc., Gottman weekend. For the past year and a half or so, I think I moved from unconsciously competent, to consciously competent. No, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else for me to learn, but it would take a catastrophic thing to make me change the world view that successful relationships aren’t based on learning such skills and that we’re all at the same level of having relational skills.

    I don’t usually get to the one-up position, because I believe that people have the ability to learn these skills if they want to. My frustration esp with what I’ve encountered is when someone claims to a) value these skills but b) don’t put much effort into learning what it means, or c) seem resigned to the idea that they can get better at it. This is where we sat for a long time. My husband was consciously incompetent and admitted to that fact, but stayed in paralysis rather than moving towards gaining the skills.

    This to me is where I found my grandiosity and I became increasingly a person I didn’t like because of it. Which is why to me, I was willing to walk away if I couldn’t stay in a situation with what looked like at the time, a permanently increasing relational skills gap, without getting to the high and mighty position.

      1. Thanks Matt! I hope that this provides how I saw your dish incident and why I would have countered with that argument. Again, not to say that this is right, but I fundamentally believe in influence and accepting influence. And I believe that that mismatch of how much we want to accept and exert influence is why many couples struggle with what seems to be “small” issues like the dish.

    1. Astrid,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. So much of what you describe in different terms I think of as fixed vs growth mindset.

      If successful relationships are just a set of skills that can be learned that leads to a very different outcome than those who see it as fixed.

      A fixed mindset of relationships are people who think they just need to find their soul mate and then no further changes are required.

      Or people who say “this is just how I am” for x reason. (Family of origin, gender, age, circumstances or whatever).

      I think it’s harder for a person motivated by working hard to improve themselves via a growth mindset to not stay non judgmental of those who don’t seem to put effort into changing.

      I was listening to Brene Brown’s latest audiobook about adopting the “people are doing the best they can” mantra.

      It’s another way to prevent going one up. Also focusing on differentation and good boundaries.

      To be able to nonjudgementally ask for change, set boundaries if necessary while at the same time staying out of a one up position.

      It’s a work in progress in my brain for sure.

      1. I think it’s harder for a person motivated by working hard to improve themselves via a growth mindset to not *BE* judgmental of those who don’t seem to put effort into changing.

      2. Yea I remember this quote from a really long time ago.

        Challenge your partner. Unconditional acceptance is for infants. The Shechtmans assert that caring for your partner means holding him accountable for living up to his best vision of himself and continuing to grow. “Challenge is a vote of confidence, a sign of respect,” they say. “Conversely, accepting people exactly as they are is a form of abandonment. The message you send when you unconditionally accept a partner’s self-destructive or self-defeating behavior is that you believe she can’t do better. Ultimately, this defeats the marriage itself. When you don’t challenge your partner, you are essentially giving up on her.”

        I do think that growth vs. fixed mindset is an inherent compatibility that I would not want to deal with having to converge in any type of close personal relationship. To me, it’s an entirely different worldview that is sure to be ripe with frustration and resentment. Also, I believe in growth, but I also know I am limited in my capacity to deal with those that don’t know what they don’t know (unconscious incompetent), whether it be male, female, coworker, friend, etc.

        My biggest issue with remembering people are doing their best is that sometimes their best is still not good enough for the outcome that I want. Intentions mean very little when the outcome is far less than what you had hoped to begin with. I’ll never truly know someone’s intention, what I can see are their actions. Yes, when there is gray and room for misunderstanding, sure you can give the benefit of the doubt, but when it’s blatant and obvious, I can’t sit there and say oh he’s just doing his best.

          1. No, I think believing someone is doing their best is not helpful in mitigating my disappointing feelings of that person’s action.

        1. Astrid,

          You said:

          “Challenge your partner. Unconditional acceptance is for infants. The Shechtmans assert that caring for your partner means holding him accountable for living up to his best vision of himself and continuing to grow. “Challenge is a vote of confidence, a sign of respect,” they say. “Conversely, accepting people exactly as they are is a form of abandonment. The message you send when you unconditionally accept a partner’s self-destructive or self-defeating behavior is that you believe she can’t do better. Ultimately, this defeats the marriage itself. When you don’t challenge your partner, you are essentially giving up on her.””

          So true!

          Marriage is hard because it requires so much change from us. But if we can figure it out it makes us more mature, kinder people.

  25. But some of Gottman’s finding men accepting influence as a critical factor in a happy marriage reflects that women lack skills to know how to deal with it when he doesn’t.

    This, I absolutely agree with. Personally speaking, I choose close relationships where I know the ability to influence and be influenced is there. My one tried and true method to dealing with what happens when someone doesn’t even consider my opinion to be worthy of consideration is to exit that relationship, especially if there’s been effort to at least mend that gap. I agree. I don’t know how to deal with it in a manner that does not leave me feeling resentful. It’s not that I think that people should have the capacity for accepting influence, but again, it’s that I want the people in my life to have that. Otherwise, to me, if my opinion is not worth careful consideration, and I too, don’t value the other person’s what is the point of the friendship/relationship?

    1. Exiting a relationship is one way of dealing with someone who won’t accept influence it’s true.

      If one wants to stay in a relationship with people who either occasionally or often don’t accept influence then the skill of “standing up for yourself without making a big deal of it” (as Atkinson calls it) is critical.

      Most people have others in their lives that they prefer not to cut off like spouses or family. Or they are in situations where it is difficult to exit like jobs or neighbors or parents of your kids friends etc.

      Regardless it is a skill that adults should possess to operate with emotional intelligence.

  26. Yea, my limit is at occasional, it’s fine to stand up for yourself without making a big deal of it e.g. of course someone will at some point inadvertently not understand, etc. but often like daily or even weekly or let’s say 30% of the time? No, I draw the line at probably about 10%. That goes to me for family as well. I think of situations as much more malleable, temporary, and perhaps circumstantial/conditional, than perhaps they really would be for some. I can’t change the people that I’m with, but I can change the people that I’m with. Change being the homonym here.

    I started to realize that irreversible decisions (marriage and kids) to me are difficult, because there’s very little that I want at all costs that I am willing to regress overall from my current trajectory. To me, the desire is tied to the sacrifice/work/demand involved. Thinking out loud, maybe this is what my friend meant by irreversible decisions need to answer the question of do you want it first, before figuring out how or if you can cope with its conditions. It’s a heart matter to her, and I to this day, I don’t think I’ve approached life in that way.

    1. Astrid,

      You said:

      “I started to realize that irreversible decisions (marriage and kids) to me are difficult, because there’s very little that I want at all costs that I am willing to regress overall from my current trajectory. To me, the desire is tied to the sacrifice/work/demand involved.”

      It’s good you are self aware to know you prefer the exit method or not engaging in “irreversible decisions.”

      Relationships are costly. They take a lot of sacrifice/work/demand and energy that could be devoted elsewhere. That’s true.

      But to be clear, the goal in Atkinson’s “standing up for yourself without making a big deal of it” is to CREATE a pattern of accepting influence. It the opposite of adapting to being in a relationship without accepting influence.

      Does it take work/sacrifice/to do this? Sure. But the process itself can require a growth in maturity to be able to know how to be able to deal kindly and effectively with yourself and others when they are humanly pain in the asses.

      It is very difficult to completely make the choice of figuring out how hard it is going to be in advance. Life is a series of calculated risks.

      1. yea, and maybe it’s because I ascribe to the fact that although I think most things are about growth, I think the desire to have a growth mindset is fixed (if that makes sense?) As well, the desire for influence or not to be influenced is also fixed. So to me, it’s very futile to try and convince someone of this.

        This seems to be a Shechtman theory which I may have read a long time ago and then promptly forgotten…but the quote I showed you yesterday, has this as well in mind…

        “Make sure personal growth is a shared value for you and your partner. As the Shechtmans emphasize throughout their book, good marriages are those in which partners have identical values. One of the most critical shared values is a commitment to growth. If you view yourself as a work in progress, and want to take risks and explore opportunities until you draw your last breath, and your partner wants to work the same job for 40 years and vegetate on the sofa every night, the marriage is probably doomed. Harsh, perhaps, but true. Commit to personal growth yourself, and challenge your partner to do the same.”

        Also, their idea of a high intimacy low maintenance marriage is pretty much what I had in mind as well.

        1. People change for a variety of reasons. Like Matt’s case when his divorce broke him as he described it. People often change after trauma.

          A person who had more of a “fixed” mindset and wouldn’t read the book his wife asked him to has now devoted considerable effort to figure out how to change. And help others to change.

          There can be other ways to change too. People often will change for their children as Terry Real points out.

          And most especially to this topic people change when you have leverage to require change.

          Obviously if you have no leverage change is much less likely. Terry Real talks a lot about leverage and how you must risk the relationship in order to create a healthy one.

          1. I agree. I am speaking in ideals, and maybe what I mean is that I think fixed vs. growth and influence levels aren’t really influence-able by another person. Nor do I freely want to expend the energy to do so. I’m sure people can change, these two things about themselves, but I think they’re self initiated rather than other influenced.. I’ve also changed; it’s more that I think I’ve held the growth mindset and the influence-ability.

            The lingering resentment I haven’t been able to shake off yet and the hardest part for me to grasp is that I feel like leveraging felt like coercion and that is what I had to resort to. It makes this feel kind of icky in a way. Am I happy with the results, sure, but am I happy with the process and path that it took to get there? No, not at all.

          2. This is where Atkinson’s work is very helpful to me. I too didn’t think I should have to be involved in other’s changing. I thought it was his job to figure what he needed to change. Problem is he didn’t agree that he did need to change in the same ways.

            According to Atkinson’s summary of various research including Gottman, people who are successful in relationships don’t have that attitude.

            Those people expect that others will do things that require change. And they expect to be the one to ask for it and set boundaries. They don’t see it as the other person’s job to change unilaterally because people default to unintentional or selfish shittyness and must be called to change. But they do it without judgment that they have to do it. Without making a big deal of it or that they have to do it.

            This is one of the hardest things for me to change in my outlook. But I believe it is critical to change to have a successful relationship. I am still working on it.

          3. Do you think there’s a difference between what you’re asking them to change? I think if the change is like please put the dish in the dishwasher I’m not reluctant.

            But to me, if the change is please grow a growth mindset. Please change the way in which you’d think about influence…I feel like those are really asking a lot and honestly it’s feels almost pretty impossible. I am beyond exhausted.

            To me it’s kind of like taking a person from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence and in a very big and fundamental way. We’re not talking about someone who doesn’t normally take off his shoes and yet I want shoes off…we’re kind of talking about the scale of a lebotomy.

            Does Atkinson say how to do this in a way that feels fair and equitable? I have not to this day figured out how.

          4. It’s the same thing Terry Real says. I don’t say “hey you must be in a growth mindset” or “conscious” or whatever.

            It is the same thing Terry Real says.

            If someone is not willing to deal with you fairly you can have to stand up to that. But do it respectfully not critically.

            Atkinson has a whole process that is very detailed in his book. A

          5. Hit return too soon.

            Atkinson has a whole process detailed in his book. I think it would be worth your time to read it if you are interested.

            But the basic thing is staying in a non judgmental attitude. And then slowly escalating the practical boundaries. You don’t do this to punish or control. It’s only to get their attention so that you can work together to figure out how to deal with it.

            That is how you can change someone to a growth person. You make it uncomfortable to stay a fixed person.

            It is still their choice of course. But you make it CLEAR that staying fixed has a cost. Just as growth has a cost. And they can choose which to pick.

            That is why it’s respectful. You are not being judgemental, just setting boundaries to give a cost to treating you unfairly. If they keep doing it after many steps then that is your turn to consider the costs.

          6. The point of difficulty might be that you think that changing is some big fundamental philosophical job. That is fixed.

            I don’t look at it that way. A lot of it is changing behaviors and attitudes about behaviors. A lot of this stuff stems from habits rather than philosophical perspectives.

            Learning new habits of attitude and behavior. We all have old training from our family of origin and culture. Some of which work well in new situations. Some of which don’t.

            The stuff that doesn’t work is what requires adjustment. I have habits that I have had to learn to change. Habits of being rigid and judgmental. It worked in my life to some degree. But don’t work in my marriage.

            My husband has set boundaries with me on this. It is a two way street in relationships.

          7. This is why I was asking about the “people are doing the best they can” framing.

            Brene Brown talked about the people who resist this kind of framing often have very rigid perfectionist framing for themselves and others.

            They do that because they don’t have the ability to set boundaries to protect themselves. So they protect themselves with judgment. Of themselves and others.

            I relate to that.

            The “people are doing their best” is annoying to me. Because it doesn’t leave room for me to judge whether it is “right” or not. By whatever standard.

            And the judging whether people are right by whatever standard is what will lead to screw up relationships.

            Judging whether someone has a fixed or growth mindset or is consciously unconscious or whatever will lead to a judgmental attitude. Which leads to a shitty relationship.

            The healthy way you expect and keep respectful treatment of yourself is through boundaries not judgement.

            Then you are protected which can allow for more generosity to assume others are doing the best they can. Treating people with that assumption leads to better outcomes. If they don’t change you are still protected through your boundaries.

            Brene Brown says that the people with the healthiest boundaries are the also the most generous.

            I can’t do this stuff well yet but I am starting to get the goals better.

          8. Oh, no- like I said to me it doesn’t matter what people choose how they want to live, it’s not a concern of mine whether or not someone is into personal growth or wants to grow or doesn’t want to grow or doesn’t want to be influenced. I don’t care to judge them either way, because to me, I couldn’t arrive at the accurate conclusion anyway, why anyone acts the way they do, or why they don’t, or why they choose a life. Sure I can have hypotheses, but these can’t really be tested- I have a small sample size. To me, if it’s got that high of a degree of “unknowability”, it’s not worth intense exploration. That’s why I think assuming people are doing their best or not doing their best is really futile. If it’s not a side I can conclusively sit myself on, then why pick a side to begin with?
            With that said, I am selective and intentional with whom I choose to spend my time with. We have constraints that prevent us from spending every moment with every person and becoming attached and bonded to everyone. First, there are the physical constraints of not enough time in a day, second what I find most gratifying about relationships with other human beings are the depth in synergy that we achieve when we converse with one another. These tend to be from those who have demonstrated commitment to personal growth. So, naturally, the people that I want to choose the most amount of time with are those whose values naturally match mine.
            So I guess my question is, is that judgement? To me, those are boundaries. To me, those are specifications of which I’d like to spend my time with, which to me, we have choices on that.
            Actually, maybe it’s this, rather than thinking of someone’s growth vs. fixed mindset and influenceability as judgement, it’s rather something that I don’t want to be involved in influencing one way or another. I have no qualms about people choosing to live that way. In fact, I can even see benefits to it. But that’s not me. I know that that’s not who I am. Does that make them wrong in my eyes? No. Does it make the prospect of a close friendship less likely, I’d venture yes.

            Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by jdugement…I think of most things as not being wrong or right…but I think of it more of do I want to be exposed to that?

          9. Well these are things that clearly I haven’t mastered yet ha ha so I am mostly just puzzling this out with you here. ?

            What do I mean by judgment? How does that differ from boundaries? Or choosing who you want to spend time with? Excellent questions.

            I can I only speak for my own struggle. The way that I used to operate in the world is to figure out who was safe or who I wanted to spend time with by “judging” them.

            Now obviously some criteria has to be placed to determine who you enjoy hanging out with or who is dangerous or whatever but that’s really not what I am talking about.

            It’s about categorizing of people into pass/fail judgement. Does this husband accept influence? Pass Does this husband not accept influence? FAIL

            Growth mindset? Pass Fixed mindset? FAIL

            Dish in the dishwasher? Ah he cares about me Pass. Sink left by the sink? FAIL

            These are just dumb example and I don’t have time right now to flesh it out.

            It’s basically assigning a judgment based on YOUR point of view that is a fixed judgment of their character. Without giving them the benefit of your doubt or thinking about what THEIR judgment is.

            It’s also as I heard someone else describe about having an owner’s manual for how the other person *should* think, behave or whatever.

            When they don’t operate in the way the manual states it seems “wrong” to us. Not just different. That’s the judgment part.

          10. But it’s much more than the practical boundaries.

            It’s getting to understand WHY is this change important to you on an emotional level. And WHY is the spouse doing what they are doing.

            The emotions underneath need to be understood. A lot of what we do is fear driven. Fear of being controlled or not important or whatever. Fear of being inadequate for my partner. Or that I will overwhelmed by their needs. Whatever.

            That emotional stuff is what often drives the fixed mindset. Resists the growth.

            So if the emotions can be soothed people are more willing/able to change.

          11. And really, for me…even if my husband still had a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset, it honestly wouldn’t matter. What matters are the actions. So, let’s say he had a fixed mindset but that his fixed mindset is I was born this way and this way is kind, this way is thoughtful, and this way is respectful and not contemptuous, and following through, and accountable, and not blaming my wife when he loses his own sunglasses…- why would I have a problem if he’s a fixed or a growth person? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t care if he didn’t read books, meditated, watched philosophy of life videos, etc. If anything that would be miraculous.
            What I have not found however is evidence of people who have not understood the importance of self growth, and could live in that way. But again absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so if there’s such a person I’d love to meet that.

          12. Yes the issue is what if he doesn’t agree on what the actions should be?

            What meaning do you give to that?

            That is the issue. What does one think when the other person doesn’t do what we think they should?

        2. I agree if at all possible to seek out a partner with whom you can have a high intimacy low maintenance marriage.

          The problem I have with that concept is that most people have some issues that will prevent that from naturally occurring. That require change. Especially as circumstances change like having kids.

  27. brilliant post. I didn’t see he end coming. Honestly, it’s not just for boyfriends and husbands but everyone can use this ideology to maintain healthy relations. It got me thinking about the things I feel that I know but others don’t take it that way. I mean, this post really helped me to put a bit of strain on my mind into thinking how I act in my relations and how i really should.

  28. I did try this way- the problem is it became tyrannical on her part, she started to use it all the time to get her way and I was starting to jump through unecessary hoops that began to stress me out for no good reason other than she was getting what she wanted, it became a pattern. I understand being sensitive to a woman’s needs but not trying to reason at times leads to slavery not love and respect.

    1. Josh,

      How did you adjust after it was clear that the first approach didn’t work?

      Were you able to find a way to get your relationship to a better place?

      1. No I told her she would lose me if she kept doing the destructive things she was doing. Instead of working on it she ran to another man who was twenty years younger and a drug addict. She said I became more like a father to her than a fiancé. I told her that was the last thing I wanted to be. I was throwing everything into trying to help her out. When I saw that she was heading down a dark path, I told her I was leaving she cried and cried and asked me not to abandon her, so I didn’t. It seams I’m still old fashioned in the way that you don’t abandon someone you have loved and made a life with to my demise. She did everything in her power from then on to hurt me. it was all because she felt scorned. Now the issue I have with the current male and female climate in America is that I keep hearing that “men just are not listening, or boredom, not enough attention. Funny I stayed with a woman who tortured me emotionally, mentally, financially- her reason out of her own mouth “You rejected me!” because I did not want to have sex with her one night after I discovered a bunch of lies. Funny thing is she was a very kind hearted woman to everyone. I just got her wrath because I told her I was not going to put up with her lies and manipulation.. I was miserable but tried every last effort to help her. In my mind here was a woman that I shared a life with, I was not going to give up on her until there was nothing else I could do, call it loyalty or honor, I do believe both these traits are missing in the modern man/woman dynamic. We finally split and after lying about nearly everything in the end she blamed me for being to controlling. I have always been told I’m the least controlling guy on the planet. but it must be my fault I am a male. I Have been so sick of all this male bashing when I know I’m a good man, I even had seeked out a female therapist after this escapade so as to double, triple check I did not do something MALE to her. My female therapists judgement was that I just picked the wrong girl. that I did not do anything wrong. I told her what I would love to do is just have a camera on me at all time and have a female speaking to me in a blue tooth hidden head phone, so at each moment I would be able to know my maleness did not cause any trouble. And maybe just maybe a woman can be to blame….or not. It would be a great experiment.

        1. Josh,

          I am so sad to hear your story. You sound like you tried VERY hard to do to be a good partner. And you were not treated fairly at all.

          It’s really good that you had a therapist validate that you are a loyal and honorable man who was in a bad relationship.

          I agree that male bashing isn’t good or helpful or fair. I can understand why you are wary of being blamed after the bad experience you had.

          I hope you are healing from the trauma of being lied to and blamed unfairly. It really leaves wounds.

          1. You know what. Thank you for the kind words. It means a lot. I am still trying to get my confidence back. What’s funny is I am very confident in meeting women, I just be myself. I’m just afraid of being blind sided by someone and then blamed. I hope men and women everywhere start treating each other as partners. I believed it should have been that way even as a kid. Even when growing up in the seventies and eighties there was still a lot of chauvinism and the compliant wife. I didn’t think it was right then nor do I now. It just seems like everything we try to fix in life there will always be people who take it to far. Hence I think the male bashing has gone to far, both sexes are responsible and I do not believe we should be at odds. I hope beyond hope that social media quits feeding the wrong info to people and we start thinking with love and respect again. Until then my love is more on guard and not given as freely as I would like it to be in a more sane world.

          2. Josh,

            You are right that people who have been hurt will sometimes swing too far in the other direction. And that can result in male bashing. Or in blaming women on the other side.

            I don’t hear you blaming women even after all your hurt. But just longing for people to treat each other with love and respect. You proactively sought out therapy to help you heal. All that shows maturity and a good heart.

            I can completely understand the need to have your guard up a bit but there are many wonderful loving women who would LOVE to find a man like you to share their life with. A man who would treat them with love and respect that she could treat with love and respect.

            You know now what to avoid and what to look for now in a healthy partner. So be a little guarded but protect that flame of hope too. ?

  29. Here is an excerpt from an Atkinson summary.

    <bThe Sequence

    The “Openness and Flexibility” Skills

    1. Focus on Your Own Reactions.

    If you want your partner to be more responsive to your viewpoint or concerns, first make sure you’re interacting with her in ways that have been proven to be effective in eliciting responsiveness from one’s partner, and make sure you’re not reacting in ways that have been proven to be ineffective.

    2. Avoid a Judgmental Attitude.

    Don’t jump to conclusions. Give the benefit of the doubt and with an open mind, ask your partner why she acted as she did, or why she is thinking the way she is. Consider that this situation might not be about right/wrong, but rather about legitimately different wants, needs, opinions, priorities or standards (see pp. 1-4).

    3. Find the Understandable Part.

    Find and acknowledge the part of her reasoning or viewpoint that you can understand or agree with, even if you can’t agree with everything she’s saying (see pp. 4-5).

    4. Identify the Underlying Needs, Values and Worries.

    If her reasons don’t make sense to you, instead of concluding that they are faulty, assume that there are things influencing her that aren’t immediately apparent to you. There may be underlying needs, values or worries that are influencing her viewpoint or action in the present situation in ways that you don’t understand. Ask her, “What do you think I don’t understand?” (Try to explain the needs, values or worries that you have that may be influencing you, too.) (see pp.5-6)

    5. Offer Assurance.

    Assure her that you’re trying to be flexible and keep an open mind, and that you realize that you may have legitimately different opinions, wants, needs, priorities or expectations that come to play in situations like these. Let her know that there’s no reason why your viewpoint or preferences should count more than hers (see pp. 6-7).

    6. Give and Ask for Equal Regard.

    Let your partner know that you’re willing to keep an open mind to the potential merit of her viewpoint. If a decision needs to be made, be willing to be flexible and attempt to find a middle ground. Ask her to do the same (see pp. 7-9).

    (See next comment for part 2)

  30. Here is an excerpt from an Atkinson summary.

    <bThe Sequence part 2

    The “Standing Up” Skills

    7. Ask and Offer.

    Without making a big deal of it, ask her to try to be more open-minded or flexible, while offering assurance that you don’t expect her to agree with you or to just blindly comply with your wishes – you’re just asking her to be open to the possibility that you might have a legitimate viewpoint and to be willing to give and take when decisions need to be made (see pp. 11-13).

    8. Broaden the Scope.

    If she continues to be dismissive or inflexible, rather than assuming that her behavior is due to selfishness, immaturity or some other bad personality trait, consider that she might be uncooperative because she’s mad at you about something else, or because she’s feeling stressed or out of control in another area of her life. Ask her about it, and be willing to discuss it. Then return to your request (see pp. 13-14).

    9. Temporarily Distance Yourself.

    If she continues to criticize or disregard you, let her know that you don’t want to be around her right now (see pp. 14-17).

    10. Don’t Make a Big Deal of It.

    When you’re by yourself, lighten up and let go of anger and resentment. You don’t have to make a big deal of her inflexible behavior or closed minded attitude. It’s not a crime that she acted this way. It’s natural for her to feel strongly about things that are important to her and to be biased toward her own point of view. You just need to be sure that she respects your feelings and opinions, too (see pp. 17-18).

    11. Try Again Later.

    Begin a new conversation without a chip on your shoulder. Don’t try to get your partner to see how “wrong” her inflexible or closed minded attitude was. Don’t demand an apology. Simply return to the issue that didn’t get resolved and try to resolve it again, beginning with the Openness and Flexibility skills (see p. 19).

    12. Refuse to Continue

    “Business as Usual” (only if needed). Communicate open-mindedness, flexibility and willingness to give and take in several rounds of conversation. If your partner still refuses to do the same, make it clear that it doesn’t feel right to you to pretend everything is okay. Inform her of your intention to put some distance between the two of you. Clarify that you’re still willing to try to find common ground, and that you’re only distancing yourself because it doesn’t feel like she cares about you enough to give your opinions and priorities equal regard (see pp. 19-21).

  31. Gottmanfan:
    I think it is the definition of “better at relationships” that is the point of disagreement?

    I guess it is.
    And I can often feel in many ways that it has become that way simply because the things that men are usually (historically) good at (providing, whatever…), for some reason aren’t considered essential in a relationship by the relationship experts, who coincidentially happen to be the women…

    1. Hey FlyingKal,

      Yes I think you are right.

      That’s why the framing of halving human emotions/behaviors into “masculine” and “feminine” is problematic.

      These are HUMAN things we should all be able to do. The styles of doing may differ which is fine.

      Men are disadvantaged when judged by the traditional standards of halving caring and relationships defined only by “feminine” standards.

      Women are also disadvantaged too because the “feminine” stuff doesn’t include critical key things like assertiveness and boundary setting because they are defined as “masculine”.

      1. It why I like Atkinson’s ebook because he doesn’t put emphasis on gender.

        It’s “here is what you need to be in a successful relationship.” Lots of emphasis on accommodating various style differences.

        1. Gender stuff matters in the sense of understanding WHY we may be coming from different approaches.

          We often have to approach it differently from different directions to come toward the healthy middle.

          But there are MANY people who don’t fit into gender averages. So it’s important to hold all that stuff in proper perspective as just one piece of the puzzle.

          And it’s even more important imho to not have a gender role prescription for what MUST be followed to have a good relationship.

          I have seen so many books and “relationship experts” that use that framing because it’s easy or for religious purposes.

          It takes complex thinking to get it right imho. Yes gender matters. Yes it is a factor. But it is not the BIGGEST factor. It *should not be* the biggest factor if people are healthy.

          The healthier you are the less you are different in terms of all the good skills you have available to you. You don’t halve things.

          Style is a different thing. You can be very traditionally masculine/feminine in style or untraditional. That isn’t what determines the success of relationships.

          1. Ha ha. I wouldn’t go so far as androgyny. More about different styles of doing the same thing. Just like an American might approach solving a problem differently than a Japanese person.

            Or a 30 year old approach it differently than a 70 year old.

            Different cultures and experiences give different styles.

            I think of it like studies that show that men tend to play with young children in a different style. More daring and active. Throw them up in the air etc. Plenty of women have that style too of course. And could be more active and encourage more risk if there was less halving going on. But it doesn’t matter what style use as long as there is flexibility in being able to adjust your style to fit the needs of the situation and kid.

            In the same way men could feel comfortable and able to engage with young kids in soft and soothing ways if there was less halving going on there too.

            So the push is towards more similar outcomes even as there retains complementary differences.

            And I don’t mean complementary as in gender. Anytime you get two people together and they can learn from each other it pushes towards both having better skills and towards behaving more similarly.

            If you can’t find a way to work out differences it pushes towards even more extreme differences. That is where a lot of gender stuff often is in my opinion.

            They say men are like x and women are like y and of course that is often true. But if you have good skills you are better able to be x and y and z as needed.

            If all that rambling makes any sense ?

          2. Yea, what you’re describing, I think is psychological androgyny. Having high ability in both feminine and masculine skills. It’s been correlated with higher self-esteem in some studies they’ve done. I don’t know too much about it. I had a chat about it with my life coach the other day, and I’ve forgotten who studied this in the 90s. Susan Berman maybe?

          3. Oh ok I am not familiar with the term
            “psychological androgyny” but I guess I agree with the concept if not the name. ?

  32. Gottman and Astrid – you are clearly well versed and valuable commenters on this site. I don’t dispute the accuracy of most of what you refer to in both personal thoughts and researched related citations. But what really gets to me is how in-depth the comments go in finding ways to change your husbands…i.e. do so respectfully and repeatedly over time and if not happy with results, escalate, etc. So much thought and energy is spent on trying to change husbands. I do not think men regularly try to change their wives, at least nowhere near the frequency and degree to which women try. So the question is, what does this mean? I’ve posted this before but will repeat, why do so many women agree to marriage and immediately start looking for change? I get that degrees of change will (or should) take place over time. But not immediately. So many men feel completely deflated after their seemingly perfect fiances turn in to unaccepting wives. I know you and so many commenters say stuff along the line of, “I know I have faults, but I need to address my husband’s as well.” I believe you are sincere in saying this, but I wonder how truly sincere it is in practice. The dialog here continues along the lines of women being far better at relationships and men needing to do so much extra work, largely due to not being taught properly how to be a spouse. Personally, I don’t understand the idea of trying to change people at a fundamental level. As I’ve said before using the dish analogy, if I truly don’t give a shit about the dish, but end up putting it away to make my wife happy, I haven’t changed. I’ve just taken action to avoid a fight…often at the cost of personally feeling resentment. Trying to change someone else does little more than make the other person feel inferior…then angry…then resentful, and ultimately combative over the smallest things all because the person we love the most, the person who’s opinion of us means the most, is simply not happy with who we are.

    1. Nate,

      Listen for all my efforts to change my husband and my kids MOST of my effort is spent on changing myself. I write a lot about that I think.

      But you are correct in that I write a LOT of comments in response to people who want to make this only about husbands or about how you can’t do anything to help someone else change.

      Why is the focus on change for both me and my husband? It’s pretty simple.

      Because I have co-created a shitty marriage

      If I stay the same, we will either stay in a shitty marriage or divorce. And that is why I am trying to change myself and make it easier for my husband to change.

      If we can figure out how to change we can repair our shitty marriage and co-create a new good marriage

    2. Nate,

      I honestly can’t figure out how my MANY comments can be interpreted as “women are better”

      I have on this post alone written over and over disputing this. I do not think women are better. I disagree strongly that women are better at relationships.

      So either you are not taking sufficient hours to study all my comments with detailed note taking ?

      Or you are misinterpreting what I think I am clearly saying.

      Or I am a lousy communicator. Which is a possibility too.

      So let me say it clearly. I do not think women are better at relationships. I think women have to change to be better at relationships as much as men do. Though often in different ways.

      If you have points of disagreement please just ask me. But I am genuinely confused why you keep saying the same things that I do not state. In fact the opposite of what I write over and over.

    3. Nate,

      You said:

      “But what really gets to me is how in-depth the comments go in finding ways to change your husbands…i.e. do so respectfully and repeatedly over time and if not happy with results, escalate, etc. So much thought and energy is spent on trying to change husbands.”

      The Atkinson stuff is NOT gender specific. The process of escalation is a human relationship skill that people must know how to do with ANYONE you are close relationship with.

      It’s what the research has shown that people in successful relationships do. That’s the whole point.

      This is not about women asking men to change and men not asking women to change.

      I wonder why you insist on framing it like that?

      Why is that so important to you?

      Despite what the research says or that I write the opposite of your assertions.

    4. Nate,

      Let me try one more comment. I appreciate that you participate here and give your point of view.

      It seems to me the root of it is that you have this guiding thought:

      People should not ask spouses to change.

      Is that a fair assessment?

      Because you have this thought it is deeply painful to be on the receiving end of your wife’s requests/demands for change.

      From your other comments she is not approaching it with good skills so it’s even more painful.

      You see comments we write as “wrong” because you have the thought that people should not ask spouses for change.

      And you add in your interpretation that generally only wives ask for change and not husbands.

      So now the thought becomes:

      Wives are wrong to ask their husbands to change

      Wives asking for change is unfair to husbands. And deeply painful.

      And then all these female commenters are wrong in writing all this stuff about how to get your husband to change. Or how to get themselves to change for that matter. Because you change should not be part of the goal.

      Did I get it right? Or am I missing something in your point of view?

      1. I am just trying to understand what the points of differences are.

        I don’t really get what the differences are between what I am saying and what you are saying other than “people shouldn’t ask each other to change” My husband has asked me to change a lot so my experience is different then your anecdotal experience.

        I agree with you that women are not better at relationships. Your disagreement on that topic is with Matt and certain other commenters.

        When you have more time I would appreciate clarification.

  33. Nate, to be honest, I just want the person that showed real evidence of emotional intelligence and complexity to begin with. It’s not changing him that I want. It’s finding the person that at one point demonstrated this to a point that I remarked to my best friend- I think I have found this person. I am not saying that this is what happens in all scenarios, I am stating mine. I find there was a lot of looking and presenting his best, that I honestly did not think was just a facade…which he has admitted to in session that it’s exhausting to do demonstrate what he did- he did it because he knew that’s what would work. I was very clear in what I want, literally my first tagline is “personal growth is my value.” To which in the past after marriage he said, well, people write those things, but they don’t really mean it”-well fuck I do.

    Most men I’ve dated did not care to go the lengths he did because why? I’m not sure, maybe it’s too much work, maybe they didn’t want to..whatever the reason… So in so much as women are asking for men to change…I think women are also searching for the men that showed them these things to begin with. Not to say that’s you, but I think there’s evidence of well meaning subterfuge when these things happen. I am not so delusional as to have never seen evidence of his capacity to do so and asking for it now.

    I’ll give you a brief example:
    When someone can write
    “I am beset with a cognitive dissonance. On one hand, everything I know about your character instills the utmost confidence. On the other, I fear a repeat of my own personal history.” To me, this demonstrates someone capable of emotional expression, this demonstrates someone who can hold grayness in balance. This demonstrates someone who has response-ability, and can process and articulate feelings.

    The person who is perplexed is me. How one can go from this to blaming, and contempt over something as benign as his own lost sunglasses? How does that happen?

    Did I universally and mistakenly think that because someone could articulate how they feel that it means they wouldn’t act egregiously? Why didn’t he at that point choose to call me and just yell at me about his insecurities over his own feelings, or why did he not go to the blame state when this earlier problem occurred?

    I am quite resentful at trying to figure out if that’s what he wanted. My standards for marriage are high, because I want the synergy that comes from two people being united that neither pair could provide alone, (if that exists), but since I don’t really care to have children, single life is also quite fine by me.

    I take zero pleasure honestly in doing this, and at times more than not I find wanting to get out. I had envisioned a marriage where we both had our emotional shit together so that we could have a good high intimacy low maintenance marriage and be both very much into our careers and our charity work.

  34. Yes the issue is what if he doesn’t agree on what the actions should be?

    What meaning do you give to that?

    That is the issue. What does one think when the other person doesn’t do what we think they should?

    Well for the sunglasses example? To me that seems to be pretty black and white. I would say his actions are commensurate of that of how most four year olds would act- maybe younger and since he’s an adult I’d implore him to act commensurate to that age.

    1. Astrid,

      That is just one interpretation? Would you agree with that.

      I might have a different thought like wow he has had a bad day!

      Or YES this is unacceptable that these sung