The Moments When Men Lose Their Wives

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Our relationships work like a weight scale. Like a math equation.

With every person we know, there’s a ledger. There are no accountants. No bookkeeping. No visible scoreboards.

Just the running score we have in our minds and hearts. The math is impure, of course. Subjective. No two people will score their relationship with one another exactly the same. And without super-honest—sometimes uncomfortable—communication, neither person will necessarily know where they stand in the minds and hearts of the other.

We’d all like to believe in unconditional love. I always have. And I’m sure there have been countless examples of people providing it to loved ones who other people would have cut out of their lives under identical circumstances. But we’re only human. Even the strongest among us have weaknesses and breaking points.

Provide enough negative experiences for another person and they won’t want to be around you anymore. Provide enough emotionally painful experiences for another person and they won’t even want to know you. Hurt someone intensely enough, and they won’t even be the same person anymore.

This is how good marriages turn shitty, how faithful spouses turn to affairs, and how people who love one another and share children end up disliking one another so much that they’re willing to uproot their homes and children’s lives just to escape.

It’s been said by me and much smarter people several times already—marriages or long-term romantic relationships rarely end from one, big, obvious, dramatic moment that came out of the blue. Most of the time, relationships end after thousands of tiny little moments that escaped our notice piled up enough that the scale couldn’t hold up anymore. One side gets so weighed down, that the entire thing crashes to the ground, splattering all the sadness, anger, pain, shame and fear on anyone standing close enough.

Misdiagnosing My Divorce

I’m definitely an idiot, but I’m like a smart-ish idiot. I’ve always been fairly analytical, curious, and interested in getting to the WHY behind, well, everything. I always want to how or why something happened, and how or why someone or something behaves as it does.

My mental aptitude is in the top 10%-15% if you place any stock in standardized academic testing.

And even though I’m kind of smart-ish, when I applied all of my brainpower to figuring out the WHY behind my wife wanting to divorce, I settled on a totally incorrect conclusion.

Misdiagnosing things is VERY bad. If you get it wrong after a relationship has ended, and you don’t actually know why, you’re likely doomed to repeat the experience. If you get it wrong DURING your relationship, you’ll spend all of your time and energy on things that won’t make anything better. Which is why people sometimes FEEL like they’re working hard on their relationship, only to continue eating shit sandwiches from their ‘ungrateful’ partners who aren’t responding emotionally the way the Misdiagnoser wants them to.

That was me. A Misdiagnoser.

My wife’s father—my father-in-law, a man I loved and respected intensely—died out of nowhere one autumn day. We’d all had dinner together the night before. Everything was fine. Happy. Fun. The very next night, I learned the tragic news from a phone call, and was suddenly facing the task of telling my wife the most painful news she would ever hear.

The following month was a blur. I tried to play the role of Good Husband and Good Son-in-Law for my wife and extended family.

But that woman wasn’t my wife anymore. She was someone else.

I thought it would get better eventually. It never did.

I lost my wife when her father died.

So you know what I did? I pointed to that tragic life event, and interpreted it as my wife mishandling the situation emotionally. I convinced myself that my “overly emotional” wife was showing her true colors once again—putting her feelings ahead of more important things like our marriage and family.

And here’s the worst part in terms of the modern-day divorce crisis: I’d argue that that story makes sense. It’s easy to believe.

I think there are many thoughtful, intelligent people who would agree with that initial analysis, make a snap judgment about my ex-wife or me, and never put any more energy into digging for more truth.

“Yeah, Matt. That’s terrible. Something similar happened to my other buddy, Trey. She’s being selfish, and putting her sadness ahead of your marriage, and now your family is suffering for it. I’m sorry man. I wish I knew what to say.”

It doesn’t always matter what’s true. It doesn’t always matter what’s real. People will act on their BELIEFS—independent of whether we agree with those beliefs, or even know that person has them.

If you value your relationship with someone, it will be helpful to come to terms with this truth. When we love people, we have to honor THEIR experiences—THEIR reality—in order to connect with them on an emotionally healthy level.

There’s Famous Precedent for This Phenomenon

For 1,500 years, early astronomers used Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the solar system to create astronomical charts. ‘Geocentric’ means that the Earth is the center of the universe, and everything in the night sky is orbiting around it.

Today, we know this isn’t true. Nicolaus Copernicus got suspicious and theorized we were actually the ones moving around the sun. Later, Italian genius Galileo Galilei proved it.

But for 1,500 years prior, every educated person in the world believed the sun revolved around Earth. And it wasn’t because everyone was a bunch of stupid morons. Given the mathematical parameters and limited technology of that time, you can PROVE Ptolemy’s model.

For 1,500 years, the smartest people in the world—every scientist, navigator, educator and thought leader—knew how the sun, moon and stars would move in the sky. They could ‘prove’ it convincingly by accurately predicting what would happen next in the night sky, even though EVERYTHING about their prediction model was based on false information.

People can believe things that can’t be proven—big and small. Don’t get hung up on the countless religious and political examples of this in world history. Just think about the people in your personal life. They might believe something about you or about your relationship that isn’t true, whether or not you realize it.

And if you’re constantly operating outside of THEIR reality, you’re bound to disagree with them, fight with them, confuse them, frustrate them, anger them, and hurt them.

This is the way your marriage ends.


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The Moments—Big and Small—When We Lose Those We Love

We call them small, but shouldn’t. MOST of life is small moments, so it’s the collective pile of these small moments building up in people’s emotional bank accounts that end up being The Big Thing.

It’s the pinpricks—the paper cuts—that end us. We just never see it coming, because each moment seemed too minor to present a serious threat. In isolation, none of them seem to cause enough damage.

Then, one day, one more thing gets thrown on the negative side of the scale, and it comes crashing down.

The Small Moments – Minor Life Setbacks

We’re always trying to make progress. To achieve something. We want to get a new job, or succeed at a project or hobby, or whatever. But life doesn’t always hand us victory. Sometimes we have to take it on the chin a little first until we quit trying, or overcome it.

But the setbacks hurt. The disappointments are hard to swallow. Sometimes that’s because we hold ourselves to super-high standards. But, if you’re anything like me, it’s because these setbacks feel like failures for the people you love as well. Like you’ve let them all down by not earning the job offer, or not winning the competition, or working on a project at home or work that doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped.

So, you’re feeling the shame of failure, but you’re PRETENDING not to. You’re wearing the Tough Guy mask. You’re imagining your wife, kids, friends, parents—whoever—are all talking about what a loser you are (even though most or all of them love you, and are NOT actually thinking or talking about what a loser you are).

You withdraw from your spouse or romantic partner and hide because you’re feeling sorry for yourself, OR you’re leaning heavily on her for support. To nurse you back to health.

No matter which reaction you chose, you forced your wife to invest a bunch of emotional/mental/physical energy into trying to navigate your feelings (often the same feelings you belittle her for demonstrating when they’re about something that matters to her).

If you withdraw, you leave all of the work of home and children, etc. to her.

If you vampire her energy to prop you back up, you leave her short of what she needs to get through the days with her workload.

But here’s the worst part:

When SHE has a minor setback in her life, maybe you don’t see it as being a big deal. Or. Maybe you try to help her solve her problem with all of your superior man-wisdom, when all she really wants is a trusted confidant who is steadily, reliably in her corner.

These are the types of little interactions, where we are taking more from our spouse and marriage than we are giving to them.

And once one end of the scale is weighed down by enough moments, shit breaks.

The Small Moments – Illness

These are broad generalizations. They do not apply to everyone. They simply apply to me and many other people.

When my wife was sick, I certainly went out of my way to bring her meds, food, drinks, blankets, etc. And I thought by doing that, I was being a good husband.

You know what I WASN’T doing—ever?

I wasn’t thoughtfully taking care of things my wife would have taken care of while I was recovering on the couch. If I was sick on the couch, not only would my wife have brought me food, blankets, meds, etc., but she would have also kept the kitchen spotless, kept the laundry going, managed the family calendar, and much more.

My wife—and many wives/mothers—don’t get days off even when they’re sick. Because in their experience, if they’re not taking care of certain life duties, they’ll never get done. They can’t count on anyone else to do them.

This arrangement can work for a few years. It takes a while for things to pile up on the scale.

But eventually? Something as seemingly innocent as a sick husband asking for more Advil from the couch where he’s watching movies while his wife is packing two school lunches and getting two kids ready for bed can make a person snap.

The Small Moments – Parties and Social/Family Gatherings

I was nicer to strangers than I was to my wife.

Not always. Just often.

Someone I didn’t live with or barely knew could say or do something, and get total politeness from me. But if my wife said or did that EXACT SAME THING, maybe I’d find some way to voice my displeasure, or make it clear to everyone in earshot that I didn’t agree with whatever she had just said or done.

Someone I saw a few times a year, or maybe never again, would get my BEST treatment and behavior.

But the person I claimed to love above all things, and promised to honor for the rest of my life got a bunch of subtle or overt dick-headed commentary and treatment.

I’d be kind and charming to strangers. Laugh hysterically with my friends.

But I couldn’t extend that same kindness and charm to my wife? I couldn’t whisper in her ear how amazing she looked, and how grateful I was that out of all the people in the room, I was the one that got to take her home?

I never said or did things like that.

And if you don’t think that matters, you have the same disease I used to have.

The Big Moments – The Wedding

Listen. Weddings are bullshit. I get it.

They don’t HAVE to be. They SHOULDN’T be.

But they often are.

A big, expensive party celebrating the beginning of a living arrangement statistically likely to suck ass 5-10 years later.

We put so much time, effort, and energy—culturally; societally—into weddings, and I’m not the least bit shy about saying how asinine and bullshitty it all seems to me.

But you know what weddings are—independent of all the pomp and circumstance?

They are DAY 1 of what is supposed to be FOREVER.

And the significance of that can’t be overstated.

Weddings seemed like “girl stuff.” Bridal magazines, dresses, cakes, flowers, and a bunch of stuff I didn’t really care about. Weddings were “the bride’s day.” So, I just checked out unless I was asked for my opinion. I barely helped with anything. I was 24 and 25 during the year of my engagement. Thinking about marriage isn’t something that happened. I was too busy not knowing how much it mattered just like the rest of the world.

Our lives already looked how it would look when we were married. Forever Boyfriend and Girlfriend. Easy!

We can’t know what we don’t know, so I couldn’t have known it back then. But I started to lose my wife during our engagement, when I demonstrated total disinterest in something that mattered so dearly to her.

I didn’t participate—actively—in what people often refer to as “the best day of their lives.”

THAT is how I chose to begin our journey to FOREVER, and never once considered the dangers of doing so.

The Big Moments – Having a Baby

I left my crying wife in the hospital about five hours after delivering our only child, right on the heels of her being in labor for 24 hours.

I don’t like talking about it, because it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.

We talk about safety. We talk about trust. And people think they know what that means. But sometimes it takes on different meaning in romantic relationships.

After that day, my wife couldn’t trust me anymore. Not to be there for her when she needed me to be. And because she couldn’t trust me, she couldn’t feel safe. The future felt too unsteady, too uncertain.

The day of my son’s birth was the true beginning of the end. And it was 100-percent within my power to have made a different choice.

I didn’t know how to give more than I took. I chose me, taking for granted that my marriage would always be there.

Through the prism of hindsight, the outcome was predictable.

The Big Moments – Trauma and Grief

“The straw that broke the camel’s back” is a famous idiom which describes the seemingly minor or routine action that causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions.

And it’s truly the way most relationships end.

Someone suffers a major emotional trauma, or are grieving the sudden loss of a close family member or friend. It’s so significant—they break so much on the inside—that they never get to be themselves again. It’s not a concept a person gets to understand until they suffer through it themselves.

When people break on the inside, they feel worse than they’ve ever felt before. It’s emotional and physical rock-bottom.

But something interesting happens in that moment.

When life feels like it can’t get any worse, you stop being afraid of anything. Maybe for the first time in someone’s life, they fear nothing.

People aren’t afraid to leave their spouse when they can’t feel any worse. People aren’t afraid of potential judgment from their family or friends when they can’t feel any worse. People aren’t afraid of the unknown when they can’t feel any worse, because they’re ALREADY in the midst of I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

If your relationship was already in bad shape, a significant traumatic moment, or the grieving that can occur after a tragic loss, can and will cause the scale to collapse.

If your relationship was NOT already a mess, then THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. This is when you write the story of how you show up for your partner in relationships.

How you show up when it’s inconvenient. When it doesn’t feel good. When it’s hard.

This is your chance to show up—not for you—but for them.

Your golden opportunity to put your marriage and the person you claim to love above all things AHEAD of your immediate wants.

This is the moment when you must give more than you take.

Not once.

But over and over and over again, even when there’s no certain date on the calendar when it will stop feeling hard.

When life will feel good again.

This is your opportunity to walk the In Good Times and In Bad; ‘Til Death Do Us Part walk.

And you must. If you want to have a marriage that goes the distance, this is the path. This is the price.

Love without expectation.

Giving with no hands out.

Effort without seeking pats on the back.

Every minute is another Small Moment to invest in her. In your future. In your family.

Every major life event is a rare Big Moment to step up and do everything better and differently than I did.

It’s how we beat this.

It’s where heroes are born.

There probably won’t be statues and parades.

Just your family. Always.

And all around you, every day, people learning to follow your example. Changing the world.

Not just in the big moments. In all of the moments.

That’s where the real fight lives. In the hiding-in-plain-sight everydayness. In the ordinary.

You just didn’t realize it.

But she has.

Just ask her.

287 thoughts on “The Moments When Men Lose Their Wives”

  1. Excellent post Matt!

    A few points to add:

    1. Your reference to the bank analogy of accumulating small negatives is spot on. According to Gottman’s research we need a minimum of 5 positives to offset 1 negative in conflict to maintain a good relationship. Happy couples often have much higher ratios up to 20 to 1 in conflict.

    2. This matters because if you get negative sentiment override everything will now be filtered through how you see your spouse. How you interpret what they do or say. If you have positive sentiment override with a higher ratio you are able to brush things off “oh s/he is just having a bad day and is tired.”

    Higher negative ratios default to interpreting your spouse as a permanent character trait. I cannot count on him/her.

    3. That is why the whole relationship shifts into fighting over who you are.

    4. And I think most people then think they CAN predict what is going to happen. You predict based on your negative interpretation of all those small things as an indication of who your spouse is. They are selfish, or clueless, or nagging or ungrateful or too emotional or too unemotional etc etc.

    5. And you can then predict that because these are characterological your relationship is doomed to repeat the same pattern. Because either you are too different or they won’t change.

    6. So based on that you think you KNOW what the future holds. And then using that framing it is logical to make decisions based on a predictable future. And that’s often why people get divorced.

    They see things as permanent instead of temporary. Fixed instead of changeable. And often we get stuck in patterns that are like quicksand and difficult to change without correct diagnosis and often professional help.

    1. I fixed the numbers. Made me laugh. 🙂

      There’s a more substantive response in order, but it must wait. Appreciate you so much. Thank you.

  2. leslidoares645321177

    Once again you hit the nail on the head. This love bank account goes both ways. Each partner needs to be depositing more in than they take out. It’s about stepping up and doing what you each promised on your wedding day. Of course, most people have no idea what they are promising. But it is about bringing your best to the table. It’s about being loving even when you’re hurt, frustrated or angry.

    I so appreciate the recognition that we see and experience differently from our partners. I believe this is the biggest challenge to marriage. It leads to questioning each other instead of accepting each other. This isn’t the same thing as accepting the behavior that results. It just means not having to defend or justify ourselves.

    One of my favorite quotes is by John Barth–Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up. The kicker is that we need to want to.

  3. Then there are those who expect you to predict.

    After 11 years of telling my wife I cannot do subtle, I need some pretty overt clues and requests, she still believes I should be able to predict.

    Claims I’m not paying attention.

    Hello, hasn’t she noticed I am really bad at predicting, but pretty good at delivering exactly what is requested when a specific request is made?

    Talk about not noticing or observing, LOL.

    I am bad at predicting. I own it. I admit it.

    Maybe one day she’ll believe it.

    1. I’m wondering if you see your inability to predict as something permanent that can’t be changed or improved.

      It’s a skill like any other that can be learned.

      And of course this also applies to your wife’s mindset of thinking she must have things in a certain way too. She can only function well if you are able to predict.

      She could also learn different skills or ways of thinking.

      1. As I’ve said before, we all have different skills.

        I seem better at predicting random traffic than what she’s going to need.

        Recent scenario. Saturday I went for a morning bike ride as I do on the weekends. Lets her sleep in so a win/win. I told her the night before I’d call Mother as we agreed to celebrate her birthday a day early and then go to my 35th H.S. reunion.

        Called mom on the way home from the bike ride and mom is not feeling well, so she wants to postpone.

        Wifey says great, let’s hit up Oktoberfest. Great! I get home and she’s in full blown housecleaning mode.

        How do I predict housecleaning when the last conversation is about Oktoberfest as an alternative? I’m pretty hungry as I just got off the bike, so I shower, expecting her to get cleaned up.

        No, she’s mad because I showered and wasn’t helping.

        Of course this gets into the “I do everything around here…” fight. To which I respond with I mow the lawn, maintain the home and cars, I also clean up, do laundry, and what not, to which she says, “But you enjoy those things, that doesn’t count.”

        I dropped my very first F-bomb in 14 years of knowing her. I said that is F-ed up if something doesn’t count as effort if I enjoy it.

        If you tell me we are going to Oktoberfest and I get ready for Oktoberfest, don’t get mad that I don’t join in on the task. And don’t tell me that cutting the lawn when it’s 100 degrees outside and 90% humidity doesn’t count. Because that’s F’ed up.

        If you want me to help say, hey, before you clean up, will you take on XYZ task in the clean-up?

        Or make a list and we can each take turns picking from the list of things to do.

        That way, if there are things either of us doesn’t mind, we can pick those and of course at the end, there are things that we do mind, but must be done.

        Use your words and then mean them. If you tell me we are going to Oktoberest, but have said ZERO about wanting to clean a bit, don’t be shocked when I take you at your word and get ready for Oktoberfest.

        1. Uniballer,

          From what you have described about your relationship you are both in negative sentiment override. So her being in housecleaning mode seems to you like a violation of an agreement you both made and another example of her unreasonable expectations for changing plans without renegotiation. Maybe that’s the mindreading here?

          And she sees it as another example of how “she has to do everything” and you just rigidly do what you think best without adjusting to her.

          And then you get into the old what “counts” fight over who does what. I’ve been in a LOT of those kind of fights. Sigh

          I am not at all dismissing how hard it is to be on either side.

          Only trying to point out for consideration that the negativity override is causing a particular interpretation of each other’s behavior. Both sides see each other as unreasonable.

          You see it as her being untrustworthy and illogical I am guessing. To protect yourself you have to adhere very rigidly to the letter of the aggreements because otherwise you feel you will be treated very unfairly.

          She has a similar type of thing on the other side of the pattern. That there is little accommodation to what she wants/needs unless it fits in what you deem logical.

          The rigidity COMES from not being able to trust each other. Self protective. But unfortunately what you each do to protect each other exacerbates the whole cycle and reconfirms how unreasonable the other person is.

          Forgive the armchair analysis. Just musing here. Maybe it’s way off. But that’s a typical pattern.

          1. Gottmanfan says:

            “From what you have described about your relationship you are both in negative sentiment override. So her being in housecleaning mode seems to you like a violation of an agreement you both made and another example of her unreasonable expectations for changing plans without renegotiation. Maybe that’s the mindreading here?”

            Well, there was an agreement. Because I know if I just sprung on her, “We are going to take my mother out for lunch today…” that would not go over well. Which is why I asked a few weeks prior, “How would you feel about lunch with my Mother on Saturday before we go to the class reunion.” (Also, I asked if she wanted to go, I didn’t presume she would want to go.

            So agreement was made. Since things were not firmed up, we agreed that I would call Mom on Saturday AM after the bike ride to firm up the details.

            In the 30 minutes from telling her mom wasn’t feeling well and her suggesting Oktoberfest until I got home, she unilaterally changed the plan.

            What gets me is if I had unilaterally changed the plan, I’d catch hell for it. But I’m supposed to get on board when she does. So I’m supposed to be flexible, but she has to be rigid.

            Got it!

            I don’t know, how do I change the dynamic so she is more flexible? (Kidding!)

            Gottmanfan says:

            “And she sees it as another example of how “she has to do everything” and you just rigidly do what you think best without adjusting to her.

            And then you get into the old what “counts” fight over who does what. I’ve been in a LOT of those kind of fights. Sigh

            I am not at all dismissing how hard it is to be on either side.

            Only trying to point out for consideration that the negativity override is causing a particular interpretation of each other’s behavior. Both sides see each other as unreasonable.”

            Actually, the cleaning has to happen. I get it. What doesn’t have to happen is a unilateral change in plans in the 30 minute drive home. This isn’t a kid going to the ER or other such emergency. So do we really need to abandon respectful negotiation and charge forth because one party unilaterally decides it’s time to do something?

            Can the task be reasonable, but the approach be unreasonable? Because that is where I am. Did it make our relationship better to spring this on me or to expect that I just join in because she deemed it crucial?

            Marriages can and do survive if you don’t clean the bathroom. What kills marriages is how you approach the task. Do you work as a team or do you demand that your priorities drive the train?

            Gottmanfan said “You see it as her being untrustworthy and illogical I am guessing. To protect yourself you have to adhere very rigidly to the letter of the aggreements because otherwise you feel you will be treated very unfairly.

            She has a similar type of thing on the other side of the pattern. That there is little accommodation to what she wants/needs unless it fits in what you deem logical.”

            I would agree with the first. Not so sure I agree with the second. I believe I make all sorts of accommodations. She is the one with all sorts of special needs, so they drive the train. I’m pretty easy going. If she has a preference, most of the time, I go with her preference. Rarely do I speak up if I don’t feel strongly.

            I was even okay with not going to Oktoberfest. My life wasn’t going to be infintely better if I had a currywurst and a stein of beer.

            I guess I was disappointed. She picked something I’d like, and then it seems she pulled away the football.

            I probably would have been okay with that too. But the presumption that I should just adopt her to-do list without discussion. That was my final straw. When she said I didn’t F’ing do anything, that she had to do it all… I asked her if she really felt that was going to motivate me? If marginalizing what I do was really going to be an effective strategy, she let me know that if I enjoyed it, it doesn’t count.

            I did something I’d never done in the past 14 years, I told her that was F’ed up. If what I do doesn’t count if I enjoyed it, that’s some perverted calculus.

            Gottmanfan said,

            “The rigidity COMES from not being able to trust each other. Self protective. But unfortunately what you each do to protect each other exacerbates the whole cycle and reconfirms how unreasonable the other person is.

            Forgive the armchair analysis. Just musing here. Maybe it’s way off. But that’s a typical pattern.”

            Probably close enough.

            I just don’t know how to change the cycle when I have no evidence she notices anything or gives credit for anything other than horrible tasks.

            You say only one person can change the dynamic. Are you sure? I’ve been trying to change it, and see no change.

          2. I feel you here Uniballer because my hubby tends to do unilateral changes of plans too.

            Used to drive me crazy! So selfish in my assessment then.

            So I really do understand what a difficult and frustrating position you are in.

            I am not saying at all that you are “wrong”. I would tend to agree that you are “right” if I was arguing the sides on a logical basis of keeping agreements.

            But I Sm Only trying to focus on how you can change it. To eventually a different pattern.

            It helps me sometimes to think that the person who changes things unilaterally is often doubt that to soothe themselves for something that is upsetting them.

            Your wife is not able to self soothe herself enough to be flexible with you. She’s not able to approach you in a way you fight soothing either.

            I assume you would admit you can’t soothe her either in that is effective.

            So that’s what I am saying. The focus needs to be on learning.

            How to soothe yourself when she is treating you unfairly. So you can respond to her in a way that changes the system.

            She can be “wrong” and you can learn how to respond in a way that doesn’t create the same old fight.

            I am in the trenches on this too.

          3. Sometimes I think about it like parenting.

            When your kid is saying unfair things or changing plans ideally you as the adult can separate that behavior from having to respond to it on the same level.

            You see they are immature and not able to respond to upset in a mature way. We can still choose to respond as an adult.

            Same with our spouses. When they are acting immaturely we don’t have to wait for them to treat us fairly before we respond in our healthy adult mode.

            I think a lot of us don’t know what that even looks like. Because we haven’t seen it modeled that often.

            But it’s a skill like any other. That can be learned.

      2. Also, I spent the night before, doing laundry and culling the “fat clothes” from the closet while she was out with HER mother. (Who, to be honest, I like more than my own mother at times.)

        So I had spent an evening on household chores while she was out. So the report that I didn’t do anything was even more troubling, as I did two or three loads of laundry and filled two trashbags with fat clothes that no longer fit and got them down to the Goodwill.

        I’d also worked about 30 hours of overtime that week, so to be honest, a Saturday of housecleaning wasn’t at the top of my list.

    2. Things are always getting lost in translation, but this doesn’t seem like an unfair observation. A husband willing and able to deliver expressed needs WHEN they are communicated in ways he can accurately interpret.

      Would love to hear other thoughts on this.

      1. It was probably phrased too harshly but this is something I have had to work on myself.

        Being in a healthy relationship requires a lot of flexibility.

        Unhealthy relationships often reflect rigidity.

        Some of that rigidity is hanging on to this is just “how I am”.

        In my case one example was about the black and white way I tend to express myself for emphasis. My husband asked me to change this many times.

        I used to say “can’t you just interpret it differently?” This is part of who I am essentially.

        It was part of who I am because I have been doing it that way for a LONG time and it is easy.

        But I learned that is a good way to get divorced.

        My husband has told me many many times that it is hard for him to “hear me” when I frame things in my preferred style.

        That is who he is he said rigidly.

        To be in a healthy relationship, we must loosen up our rigid ideas of who we are and have confidence we can learn new things. Change as needed. Who we are is changeable. Our brain is plastic for just this reason.

        So I am working at learning this new skill. He is learning the skill of translating. It really about learning to have a bigger set of tools to choose from.

        Both sides ideally need to be flexible.

        1. “I used to say “can’t you just interpret it differently?” This is part of who I am essentially.

          It was part of who I am because I have been doing it that way for a LONG time and it is easy.”

          Well…I know you know this, but lots of people (most?), don’t…thinking that your partner should accept you just the way you are (especially all your wounded and adaptive childhood traits and history) is a short path to divorce. 🙂

          As Leslie said above, you (both of us) have to want to grow up/change.

          1. Hi Jack,

            Nice to “see” again! Hope things are going ok with you.

            I agree that people shouldn’t have the mindset that we have to be accepted for “who you are.”

            That’s why I think the concept of “unconditional love” is not healthy.

            Even for children.

            Love should be conditional.

            It’s the notion that we SHOULD be loved and accepted unconditionally that causes a lot of problems.

            Relationships require constant change. Constant flexibility. And secure people expect that.

            That’s the difference between insecurely attached people. They have built up rigid protections that make it hard to change and feel they can be safe or treated fairly.

            They can’t give them up because they don’t know how to do it otherwise. How to set boundaries appropriately without making the other person BAD.

            I know you know all this I’m just on a roll ha ha. Thinking about how rigid I am for these reasons. And how flexible secure people are.

          2. Thanks. It’s good to “see” you here, too! Well, things had been bad during the spring, actually, but then they got worse for quite a while over the summer and into the fall! I think I may have turned a corner, though. I stumbled into a sort of novel boundary application, and it is making a big difference for me. I also finally got started meditating, which is also making a difference, slowly. I’m going to be doing an intensive trauma workshop at the end of October, which may bust a lot more stuff loose. So…we’ll see. It’s an ongoing project.

      2. So in Uniballers example, imho learning to predict or anticipate is a skill that can be learned.

        We often do that at work with clients or our boss.

        But even if we are terrible at it, we can learn to be better with experimenting with what works for you. Apps or taking notes or whatever.

        I think it’s likely that if our lives depended on it or we were going to be paid 10,000,000 all of us could find a way to improve on something we don’t define as who we are or that we suck at.

        Having said that, the other side that expects mindreading also needs to change. To be flexible to tell the other person what you want.

        But this goes back to the discussion in some ways of the mental load.

        It is work to have to tell someone what to do. It is project management. That is why wives often don’t find it helpful for a husband to say “just tell me what to do.” Instead of taking responsibility of dealing with it all. Or negotiating a win/win or whatever.

        1. It has to be a win-win. If I try to predict and either don’t get credit for the efforts and/or get punished when I miss, there will be far less incentive to simply stop trying.

          So while I predicted that she needed laundry and wanted the close cleared of my fat clothes, or I anticipate other things that need be done in the home, none of it seems to count per the exchange above.

          So where is the incentive to keep trying to predict?

          At least with my customers, they say thanks. The effort is appreciated.

          If there is no appreciation, is it reasonable to expect continued efforts?

          If a person is told one thing, Oktoberfest, but the reality is far different, does that foster growth in the area of prediction?

          Just because she wants to do something, do I not have any say in it?

          Maybe we both get our say and both get our needs met if we communicate clearly, instead of expecting one another to predict.

          After all, I could go with a lot more March 14ths (look up Steak and … day) and I see little effort in anticipating those needs from someone who expect that I figure these sorts of things out for her.

          So it must be a two way street.

          She has to be as willing to anticipate or even just ask me what I want or need as she wants me to be.

          1. The problem is imho that if it has to be “worth it” to try than you will be stuck in the pattern forever.

            It has to come imho from understanding WHAT is happening in the cycle you are in. Why she is doing what she is doing, why you respond as you do.

            Ideally she would also do this but it only takes one person to change the system.

            And usually the person writing comments here is the one most able to change. It sucks believe me I know.

            The change has to come from your internal set of knowing what is the thing I can do to change this dynamic? That is what makes it worth it in the cost/benefit analysis no matter what they do.

          2. So what can I do?

            How do I predict Oktoberfest and going to get a meal which I believe I need after the bike ride (Fitbit claimed I burned almost 2000 calories on Saturday AM during the ride, regardless the value, I was pretty hungry) when she’s decided in my 30 minute drive home that we need to clean the house.

            In terms of the topic, anticipating needs, how do I predict that she is going to shelve her suggestion for Oktoberfest and want to clean the house.

            Because I’ve not figured it out.

            Because it seems no matter what my needs are, if I don[‘t put my needs to the back and jump on board her train, I’m doing something wrong. I don’t get the impression I can say, let’s grab a bite to eat and then let’s tackle the bathrooms.

            That doesn’t seem to go over well.

          3. What can you do? Excellent question.

            First of all acknowedge it is very difficult to do this. To change things unilaterally. So expect it to be difficult at first. But you can do hard things when you are determined as you demonstrated with you weight loss.

            So I would reframe it not as mindreading at all.

            It is about being able to adjust and be flexible. To change the system.

            You agreed to go to Oktoberfest and it was all good.

            For whatever reason she decided to clean the house.

            When you got home you see this and it’s a reconfirmation of all the negative things you don’t like and being treated unfairly.

            So you respond to that. Your thought is something like “she shouldn’t have changed the plans damn it. “WTF? Right?

            So of course you get angry at this thought. That’s logical.

            She I guarantee has thoughts oh her side that are making her angry.

            But what if you reframe that thought about she shouldn’t change things.

            I am not arguing that it’s right or wrong for her to do that. It’s all about changing the predictible fight.

            You have to find another thought to substitute that gives you a different result.

            For example, you could think “I am practicing what would happen if I do x?”

            When I do this I think of it like a science experiment. And that keeps me from getting into the same angry pattern.

            It’s also about becoming an expert in your wife. To figure out what can you do that will soothe her? To calm down so she can be more reasonable.

            So in the example. If you came home as treated it like a science experiment you could just say to yourself ok change of plans! Try cleaning with her and see what happens.

            Or you could say “oh I see you’re cleaning. I’d like to jump in the shower and then I will do cleaning.

            The idea is to think about flexibility. Instead of your usual thoughts that co create a fight.

            And then try different things.

            But the mindset needs to shift temporarily away from you and how you are being treated and how you can create a DIFFERENT outcome.

            This has worked for me. It’s hard but it’s really quite fascinating. Since you are analytical you can tap into that for great help in adjusting.

          4. Actually, I didn’t get angry. Well not until she ripped into me for not joining in her clean fest.

            She was mad because I didn’t join her.

            That’s when I got angry. When I got the news that I didn’t do anything.

            I was content to wait. I would have been content to even join her.

            What I wasn’t happy about was that she was irate that I didn’t just jump on her train and ride to clean town.

            It was her expressed anger over me not joining in that got things going.

            Not once have I expressed any discontent about cleaning nor about missing Oktoberfest. My discontent was with the news that I don’t help and that I should just go along with the unstated changed plan.

            If she would have said, “I had to get that out of my system, it was bugging me, let’s go” or even “not go” I would have been fine.

            it was the adoption of the martyr status that really got me.

            So perhaps a better question is how do I predict when she’s going to go full martyr?

            I can handle changing plans. What I don’t do well with is when she plays the victim.

            I thought I married a strong, confident woman. Victim-hood isn’t attractive.

          5. Are you familiar with cognitive therapy? Or just the general idea that what we think causes emotions?

            You can change how you feel based on the thoughts and interpretations of the same set of facts. I am sure you are aware of that.

            So you thought something that caused you to get angry when she was mad because I didn’t join her. Right?

            Something about her breaking the agreement was wrong? Or some other thought that led to anger.

            So I am just saying that can be changed. So you get a different emotion.

            Framing her as a “martyr” and “playing the victim is also a cognitive choice. That choice will lead to the emotions and behavior that keep the same status quo.

            There is hope in that you can change the status quo by choosing a different way of thinking about her and the situation.

            That will then lead to different emotions and make it easier to choose different behaviors in response to her behavior.

            There is imho great power in that. We are not stuck and powerless to change the status quo. She will respond differently if you change. You change the system and the system changes. Now it may or may not be the change you prefer but it will over time change the status quo.

            The other way I do it is if I am so entrenched that my thoughts are RIGHT is to choose to change my behaviors. To change up the status quo.

            I try and figure out how a healthy person would do it and then just mimic that behavior.

            The Atkinson ebook I am always linking is an excellent reference for this. It is very detailed and logical. Healthy people do x when their spouses aren’t treating them fairly.

            I don’t know if you find any of this helpful but this is what has been helpful for me.

          6. Okay, I only got angry after she ripped into me for suggesting I did nothing around the house.

            Now, I could have used her line, “You can choose to feel that way if you want to…” which is true from a CBT perspective.

            I’m familiar with it as we went to CBT with my daughter over her anxiety issues. So I get that we can mitigate the anxiety we experience when the conflicting messages occur.

            But I know better than to tell her what she tells me when I’m feeling something. I know better than to say to her, “Well you can choose to feel that way.”

            Even though it’s true, it’s not a helpful thing in that scenario.

            What you are saying is that if I’m feeling attacked, I should just decide to not feel I’m under attack? Just think that I’m not under atack, I’m not under attack, I’m not under attack and then I’ll no longer feel like I’m under attack?

            I’m not sure it’s that simple…

            I may be right. I may be under attack. Wishing it away doesn’t actually make it go away.

          7. I am saying that you can change it to something other than “you are under attack”

            That thought will predictably lead to defensiveness.

            Pick a bridge thought. One you can believe that is not as negative as “I am under attack.”

            Maybe something like “my wife is really upset, how should I respond to this?”

            That’s just my thought I use sometimes.

            Can you think of something that would work for you to change the he status quo of thinking of it as an attack.

            PS I am not saying it is invalid to view it as an attack. Only that is an interpretation of the way she is behaving. There are other thoughts available that don’t ask you to give up that thought if it’s too hard but redirect your attention to your response.

          8. It is NOT about wishing it away. It is about finding alternative ways of dealing with your thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

            The Atkinson ebook details lots of research based of what is ineffective and ineffective to create a healthy relationship.

            The point is even if your wife IS “attacking” you what is the effective way of responding?

            People in good relationships don’t respond defensively. There are other ways to respond that work better.

          9. I don’t think ANY of the focus should be on telling your spouse “well you can choose to feel that way” That again is trying to get to them to change.

            It is about telling OURSELVES that.

            We can change things. With or without them.

            I have changed things when my hubby wouldn’t change anything.

          10. Uniballer,

            There are many different ways people can change things.

            I am describing what has worked for me. Since you are analytical I thought the CBT and the Atkinson ebook stuff might resonate with you.

            But there are other things that might fit better I don’t know.


        2. I guarantee you can learn prediction. You can learn it young and fast.

          Ask anyone who grew up in an abusive family. Or anyone with an abusive partner.

          1. Oh mercy, you certainly can. I did. But it’s going to be a very highly dysfunctional adaptation that can cripple you in every relationship, including your relationship with yourself. 🙁

      3. I like the proposition that marriage (like most of life) is a cycle of harmony>disharmony>repair.

        The problem is that most of us get stuck, even ENJOY marinating ourselves, in disharmony. We would rather complain and lick our wounds than put down our defenses and be curious. (Raises his own hand…)

        1. Jack,

          I think for many it’s that we don’t know how to give up defenses without being treated “unfairly” by the other person.

          Most people imho don’t enjoy being in shitty relationships. We feel unjustly treated.

          And you can’t figure out how to lower defenses without getting shot in the heart. Because it’s unilateral disarmament.

          Until we get to the point of knowing how to do that and being able to handle the stress of unilaterally changing the system it’s really difficult to drop defenses. We are too vulnerable to be defenseless in the short term.

          That’s my experience anyway.

          1. ‘s truth. Differentiation. Learning to stand independently while relating interdependently. Wicked hard when you had a utterly $h!tty environment and examples growing up. (Or, ha, not growing up, but growing older; there is a difference.)

      4. i didn’t finish reading all the comments but in response to uniballer the mistake here is what has been discussed before but is now being forgotten – Matt you’ve frequently pointed out that women/wives get frustrated when they have to do the “work” of having to state exactly what they want in order to get their husbands to do something – it’s the labor that women do that men think automatically falls to women.

        if women want something from their husbands they have to tell them and if they don’t it’s their fault. all the time. women are not being clear, they are not being specific. they are not being honest. they are not valuing their husbands work.

        if you want me to do laundry tell me. if you want me to wash dishes tell me. if you want a surprise for your birthday tell me. don’t expect me to “read your mind”. that’s a lot of emotional work. to have to know that your husband will NOT do for you UNLESS you ask him, is exactly why women stop trusting men. you no longer have my back if i can’t rely on you unless I tell you when, where, and how exactly you need to be there for me. every. single. time. I venture to say that men do not require these specific, repeated, instructions from their bosses or mothers (unless they are really bad employees or sons).

        it’s not about what uniballer or men do around the house – and yes it infuriates men when women say they “do nothing” when men say WTF I do A LOT. but so do women. what women mean is “you do nothing unless i tell you what needs to be done outside of what you normally do” – women will do what they normally do and then do whatever else needs to be done. they don’t have tunnel vision. they think about the house, money, food, laundry, childcare, and all the permutations of how one deficiency will send the whole balance of the household crashing into chaos – because their isn’t time to do all that then make a list for husbands that require being told what to do – it’s easier to do it themselves – but it isn’t sustainable.

        here’s what may have happened the morning of oktoberfest –

        wife agrees to go to oktoberfest
        wife sees opportunity that not having to go to lunch with her mother in law she has “gained’ time to get housework done
        wife sees cleaning needs to be done and doesn’t want to come home to a dirty house after a nice day
        wife starts to clean
        husband comes home, sees wife cleaning, doesn’t offer to help – not because he doesn’t know better – but really because he doesn’t want to (not his idea of fun as he clearly says)
        husband proceeds to get ready to go out and leaves wife to clean on her own – after he has already had his time that morning to himself
        husband says to himself, i work hard, i help around here lots, i don’t need to help clean, we are going to oktoberfest, it’s time to have some fun! (truthfully husband is probably annoyed stupid wife is cleaning and expects him to help)

        what does she want?
        she wants him to see her working and wants to feel that he loves her enough to put aside what he wants in that moment to help her with something she feels is important to her – so she can enjoy her day too and not be thinking about the housework waiting for her when she gets home. in a way she is also testing you. she already knows that you are not going to help her when you come home and you will be pissed off when you see her cleaning. so she’s already probably annoyed predicting your predictable response. lol.

        out of curiosity, did you take her fat clothes out or were they yours? i’m guessing you did not go through and determine what clothes of hers were “fat clothes” – if they were just yours that’s not a chore that helps her really, that’s something you do for yourself. it helps with overall organization but it’s not something you do for her. so i would say no that doesn’t count.

        i think doing chores you enjoy does count too – that’s like saying you enjoy cooking so you cook all the meals – that’s still work, even if you enjoy it. but you can’t only do the tasks you enjoy either – you have to also take on tasks you don’t enjoy – women don’t “enjoy” cleaning toilets or changing diapers. they do what needs to be done regardless of whether they “enjoy” the task. i would guess that she means you only do the tasks you enjoy or are motivated to do because you feel they are important to you – she wants you to also do what is important to her. when women feel abandoned or neglected they also tend to give you less credit for what you do. the reason being is that they don’t trust that you do those things out of love for them. they see it as self-serving.

        if you came home from your bike ride and said hey honey! let me help you with that (and DONT ask “what do you want me to do?”) and say here you are mopping, let me do that – THEN say i can tackle the bathroom or kitchen or whatever, lets get this done so i can have a great day with you and then we can have a nice relaxing evening in our home which is so clean and tidy now and then i will order us dinner” (it’s corny writing i know) but:

        that would have made you a hero she would’ve told all her girlfriends about for weeks.

        1. So what you are saying is that when I’m doing the laundry, as I do without having to be told, and she can’t be bothered to stop watching TV or reading a book, I should throw a fit and say she never does anything.

          You see, I just want consistent behavior. The thing that would tell me that she wants me to volunteer is to actually do what you said and make me out to be the hero the times I do. Not take the ONE time in dozens of opportunities where I do sit on my backside, as I’d just finished a week of on-call rotation with 30 some odd hours of OT and having done laundry the night before while she was out with her mom.

          I’d buy what you are selling if I actually saw that and saw her put down the remote or show those times I was doing work in front of her while she is in relaxation mode.

          However, I don’t experience what you describe, so I’m not sure I’m going to buy it.

          I sure as heck didn’t experience it when she was off for the summer while school was out. I didn’t see her step up and say, you know what uni, you are still working and I’m off Jun, July and August, so let me take on some of the stuff you do….


      5. leslidoares645321177

        Terry Real has a great take on this: How can I help you give me what I need?

        This makes it a team effort–eliminates mind reading and predicting and puts the responsibility where it belongs.

  4. Oh, Uniballer, I get you cannot predict. But you can ask, rather that expecting to be told. You can open a discussion and participate in options. You can step up and say you are willing to help with (whatever subject matter she has discussed before, bitched about before, asked for before) and ask what you can do to help in that category today. And is there another category you could devote some time to making easier, and in what way. Oh, she doesn’t know/tell you? Examine that category and use your imagination. As in “laundry”. What are the tasks involved in doing laundry? Collect it, sort it, wash it, get it out of the washer right away. Dry it -hanging? In the dryer? Not at all? Fold it. Put each pile back where it belongs, neat and tidy. Straighten up laundry room. Apply the same logical steps to the next category. Dishes? Making/changing the bed? Cleaning each room. Grocery shopping. You can do that, and then you won’t need someone to manage the steps for you, or manage the chores for you, or be disappointed that you did some part, but not all of any single chore. Sorry for the soap box, but I hear a rendition of this a lot. It usually leaves the husband “not knowing” and the wife handling some angle of every single thing. And here comes rage and divorce. You say you are good at delivering if a specific request is made. Take note of this. Delegating is one of the hardest tasks to learn to do effectively in business. So she, by needing to delegate, is doing the hardest of the job, while you, while willing to do what is specifically asked, is punching in the hours. Please try to see this.

    1. Read above exchange and then get back to me.

      Can’t even predict sometimes when being told.

      And oh, I ask.

      I know better than to not ask.

      Where I fall short is when I ask, get an answer, and then the reality is 180 degrees different.

      Or she makes a suggestion, like Oktoberfest, but in reality, she wants to clean the house.

      Feels like bait and switch from this end of the exchange.

      Hence, my reticence with predicting.

      1. Hi. In the interest of helping you think about your ability to predict… If you had stuck to the original plan to celebrate your mother’s birthday, would the house cleaning still have fit into the schedule? Does she always clean house on Saturday? When you came home and found her cleaning did you mention that it surprised you to find her cleaning as you thought she’d be getting ready to go to Oktoberfest, and that you were really hungry and wanted to go soon? Maybe she really did want to go to Oktoberfest and also felt like the house needed to be cleaned. It’s possible it was bait and switch, but I can think of many other possibilities as well. Give her the benefit of the doubt and ask. When you’re not hungry or angry. Good luck! I hope you find a way of being happier together. Being on Matt’s site is a good start.

      2. Here’s my take Uniballer.

        You are in a sucky position. It truly sucks to hear her say that all you do doesn’t “count” because you like it or whatever. That’s her weirdness going on there.

        Now on your side, imho your weirdness is saying that you are going to keep doing it as you’ve been doing until she treats you differently.

        Totally understandable.

        But what if she is not going to change? Because in her mind you need to change first.

        That’s imho the position you are in. That a lot of us are in.

        Three main choices.

        1. Continue status quo. Many people choose this. Keep expecting that she will change or that both of you can change.

        2. Get divorced or separated since it’s too hard to continue with status quo.

        3. Find a way to unilaterally change the system to a different status quo. Without her making the first moves. Because it is extremely unlikely she will make any changes with the current system.

        These are hard choices. It’s a truly unfair thing. But to be coldly logical those are the main choices imho.

    2. You do realize I do most of the laundry, right? I wash most of the dishes, cook about 1/2 the meals.

      I clean up what she leaves when she cooks her breakfast when I’m cleaning up after my breakfast (we leave at different times)

      She doesn’t clean up if I cook her breakfast.

      I’m the one who showed her how vinegar and dryer sheets are great for removing water stains from the glass shower enclosure.

      I also do all the trash, recycleables, cat litter box, feeding and watering.

      I pick up after her 26 year old son still living at home.

      I grocery shop.

      I make sure we never run out of TP ,paper towels, laundry soap or any ther of a host of things one buys buy the traincarload at Sam’s Club or similar.

      If a computer or car doesn’t work, I’m the one fixing it.

      I replaced the faucets, fixed the A/C when it was broken, and of course, I mow the lawn.

      But apparently, I don’t do anything.

      Don’t assume that just because I’m a man, I can’t or won’t do these things. I was 31 years old before I got married the first time, and wasn’t marrying to get a maid. I am quite able to not just exist, but live quite well, albeit without pillow shams or dust ruffles.

      I’d probably make someone a great wife, LOL

      Maybe even a better wife than husband at times. (And yes, I know traditional roles are BS these days. So let’s stop assuming men can’t do these things.)

      The only task I refuse is laundering any of her clothes that require special care. If she has something special that needs to be hand washed, or dried flat, I bought a special red basket for her to place all of her special items so that she can take care of them.

      Just as I take care of my bike shorts that are not to be placed in the dryer, she has her basket for items that have special instructions.

      That’s it.

      I’ve even learned to hang, not dry bras.

      So again, explain to me about this not doing anything?

      Truth be told, I’d claim its the other way around. And she has summers off when school is not in session.

      Perhaps I should ask to have summers off from my household chore list so I can stay focused on the house and lawn.

      1. Uniballer,

        From everything you have said you do not fit into the stereotypical pattern of the husband who doesn’t do stuff of needs to be micromanaged on completing household chores.

        So that is interesting why your wife says “she has to do everything” and dismisses what you do as not counting because you like it etc.

        I can see why you are so frustrated by this unfair accounting that underestimates all of the work you do.

        Why do you think your wife emotionally feels this way? What would she say to explain it?

        I am curious what emotionally is going on to explain it. What is her point of view to explain her behavior and what she says?

      2. Uniballer: “If she would have said, “I had to get that out of my system, it was bugging me, let’s go” or even “not go” I would have been fine. it was the adoption of the martyr status that really got me. …I can handle changing plans. What I don’t do well with is when she plays the victim. I thought I married a strong, confident woman. Victim-hood isn’t attractive.”

        Indeed. It sounds like this is the core of it – her remark about you not doing anything. My crazy hypothesis is going to be that she wanted to go to Oktoberfest, then felt guilty about wanting that. So started cleaning. And projecting her guilt into you: “Hey, it’s HIM who needs to feel guilty, not ME”. As a way to manage her uncomfortable feeling. To put it another way – she doesn’t actually think you do nothing. Quite the opposite, she knows that you are diligent, like her, and so her accusation will strike home with you, as indeed it seems to have.

        You may need to let her win the “who does more housework” contest.

      3. UniBaller asked (in another post”
        “So what can I do?
        How do I predict Oktoberfest and going to get a meal /…/when she’s decided in my 30 minute drive home that we need to clean the house.”

        Pretty easy.
        Don’t expect or anticipate that agreements you’ve made, will materialize without obstacles or interventions like this.

        As someone else said above. If a guy does laundry once, unsolicited, his wife will be up in the air for two weeks and tell all her friends about it. If he does it all the time, everything he do will be neglected and overlooked.
        Familiarity breeds conveniance.

  5. Hello Matt. Thank you for sharing this honest and powerful piece on your marriage. I definitely learned something from this post. I am so so sorry to hear about how your marriage turned out. I am glad that you are owning up to your own faults in the issue. I strongly believe that being accountable like this would prepare you for future relationships. Matt, concerning your marriage, all hope is not lost. There is someone who can help. If he cannot bring your wife back, he would lead you to someone else who is a good fit for you. That person who can help is God. Have you prayed concerning your marriage? Have you spoken to God yet? If you have not, you should. God can help you.

    The bible says in Isaiah 40: 28=31
    “28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

    I do not know whether you have a relationship with God or not. If you already have a good relationship with God, congratulations, you are on the right path. You do not need to read this comment any further. Chances are high that if you have a relationship with God, you probably already know everything that I am about to tell you. I would say this, keep praying, keep obeying him, and keep trusting in him, and he would come through for you. However, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, you are in luck, here are some exciting details about God that you need to know:

    You may have heard that God is the creator of the universe and everything within it. This claim is 100% true. God did create everything in the universe, including us humans. Like a good father loves his children, God loves each and every one of us dearly. He likes to provide for us, to bless us, and to help us. His intention is to provide for us in this life and to also grant us eternal life. Eternal life is the life after this life that we are currently living, you can simply call it the after-life. Eternal life would last forever. Not everybody would gain access into the eternal life. Since that life would last forever and in it people would not die, it would not make sense to allow in violent people, liars, thieves and others. Since these people would not die, there would be no end to the problems that they would cause. Therefore, only the purest people are allowed in. We humans cannot be pure by ourselves. We are prone to envy, lying, cheating others and so much more. We learn to do these bad things from such a young age, by the time we reach adulthood, we are already too far gone in it. For this reason, God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins. So that we can be easily redeemed and saved. The blood of Jesus has made us pure and worthy. After the death of Jesus, all we need to do is to believe in Jesus and obey the Word of God, and those are the core for gaining access into eternal life. Like I mentioned earlier, God loves to bless us, and he desires to give us everything that we need. However, because God exists in the spiritual realm and we exist in the physical realm, we need to learn to understand how God communicates and to build a relationship with him in order to understand him. Over the course of building a relationship with him, you would understand how he works and how to locate the blessings that he has sent to you both in this life and for the next.

    God can help your marriage. I am convinced that he can. If you ask him for help, he would not allow you to go through this alone. I strongly suggest that you pray on the issue. Trust in God and give faith a chance.

    The bible says in Philippians 4:6
    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

    If you wish to build a solid relationship with God, I would include below a lengthy and detailed suggestion on how you can do so. However, I find that many people get scared at the length of the suggestions. I want to say this, it is a step by step process, do not feel the need to execute it all in one day. Go at a pace that works for you and trust the process. Some people also get the impression that I am judging them or trying to tell them how to act or how to be, No! I do not want it to come across that way, because that is not my intention, I am simply giving friendly suggestions. Some people also get the impression that i am trying to say that if they do not do everything on my suggestion list that they would be doomed. I am not trying to say this. Also bear in mind, that although my suggestions seem lengthy, they would quickly become second nature to you. If you struggle with any of the steps, you can ask God for assistance and he would it make it easier for you.

    If you are ready, here are my suggestions:

    1. Confession of faith: you need to find a quiet space. Imagine that Jesus is in front of you. Ask him for forgiveness of your past sins and the sins of your ancestors. Ask him to give you the strength to forgive those who have offended you. Honestly, I suggest that you forgive the people who have offended you, because whatever they did to you is now in the past, and upon a confession of Jesus as your Lord, you become a new creation. In addition, God commands that we need to forgive others, before he can forgive us. You can also get a deliverance before your confession of faith. Deliverance will rid you off any ungodly spirits that have taken residence in your body and mind. A pastor with a deliverance anointing should be able to help with this. There are also videos on YouTube, where pastors with a deliverance anointing pray directly for people through the videos. You just need to search “deliverance prayer” in the search bar to reach these videos. Now, you need to tell Jesus that you want him to come and be your lord and personal savior, and surrender to him. You need to know that Jesus died for you. He died on the cross so that you may have a chance at salvation. The minute you give your life to Jesus, you need to know that you can no longer live as you wish, you shall live according to the stipulations in the bible. Believe in your heart that Jesus was risen up from the dead by God, and confess with your mouth that he is the messiah and your personal savior.

    2. Prayers: ask Jesus to bless you with eternal life. Tell him to make a place for you in his heavenly abode. You need to understand that praying for heaven is the best prayer that you can ever pray. Life on earth is so short, you need to be worried about eternal life, which is so much longer. God knows that you need clothes, food, shelter etc. He is your creator and he knows your every need. The bible tells us to pray for eternal life and God would provide our other needs (i.e. clothes, shelter etc.) according to his riches. If there is something bothering you, tell God in prayer, commit it to him and ask him to do it for you. However, bear in mind that this life is temporary and so are the things in this life. When you are praying, the devil will try to disrupt your prayers by bringing sudden disturbances such as sudden phone calls or loud noises and evil thoughts. An example of an evil thought that the devil tries to use to stop people from praying is by bringing the thought that Jesus is not present and that they are simply wasting their time. Jesus is there with you when you pray. So pray like you mean it. Pray the same way you will if Jesus was right in front of you because he is. You need to understand how prayers work as well. You see, when you pray, God answers prayers. God usually has three answers to prayers Yes, Yes but Wait, and No. God has a reason for every answer that he gives. He loves you and he will make sure that everything works out well for you in the end. When you get a No from God, sometimes it is not because that thing is not good for you at that point in time, but it may be because God is trying to draw your attention to something that you are doing wrong in your life. When you get a No from God, you need to evaluate yourself, what is the motive of your prayer? is it pure? Is it Godly? Is there an area of sin in your life that you need to work on? When you reflect on these things and you find something in yourself lacking, try to fix it. When God says Yes to prayers and sends you his blessings, trust me, there are spiritual forces of the devil in high places that work against people so that their blessings from God would not reach them. You need to pray against these spiritual forces. Rebuke them by the power and the name of Jesus. This way, your blessings would be able to reach you. Lastly, some people pray lazy prayers. For example, someone might pray for a job, without actually applying to any. God does not reward laziness. When you are praying for something, you need to be putting some work in as well. God rewards hard-work and we ought to strive to be hardworking. God’s role is to direct, bless, and make your path clear. However, bear in mind that sometimes God answers even lazy prayers and gives us undeserved blessings, that shows you the power of his love. He would always be with you. You need to make sure that you are close to God in prayer. Do not cease to tell him about what you are struggling with. If you are struggling with sins of the flesh that you believe are hindering your spiritual growth, you need to make sure that you tell God. Make sure that you pray for an increment in faith. Faith is important, you need to have faith in God. When we pray, we need to have faith, God does not like it when we doubt his ability to provide us with what we want, he is mighty and nothing is impossible with him. When you are low in faith, pray to God for an increment in faith. Remember to pray for your family, your city, your country and the world in fact, no prayers are too big for God. Pray that unsaved people would be saved. Pray for your non-Christian family members, pray that they see the light and become saved. When you pray, make sure that you take care of sins. The bible says that we need to forgive others if we want our sins to be forgiven. Make sure you forgive others, ask for forgiveness of your sins first before praying. Sins can block your prayers from getting to God. Try to avoid sin, but pray for forgiveness of sins everyday, because sometimes, we are not aware of the sins that we are committing. When you get answers to your prayers, remember to thank God.

    3. The Bible: You need to make sure that you are reading the bible and that you are obeying it. I suggest you begin with the New Testament because the coming of Jesus changed many of the things that were practised before. However, bear in mind that the old testament is also important. You can find free bible apps on google play. You can also find free bibles online. The New Living Translation is an easy to read bible version. However, the most popular one is the King James Version.

    4. Hearing from God: Trust me, God would speak to you. He would speak to you through dreams. Through people, through situations, through the bible and so much more. You need to practice and perfect the art of hearing God’s voice. Dreams contain a lot of symbolism. When you possess an avid knowledge of what the bible says, you would understand the biblical meaning of all the symbols in your dreams. However, for now, you can search online bible dream dictionaries for the meaning of things you see in your dream. You also need to know that although there are general meanings for some symbols, some interpretations are based on context. Take context into account. God does communicate via dreams. Sometimes, you might be asking God for direction on something. Pay attention to the words all around you during this time i.e, the things people say, words you see when reading the bible etc. Sometimes you might even just turn on your TV and the TV anchor would say something that directly relates to what you are going through. Pay attention to these things. You would know it is God’s voice when whatever is said is not in contradiction to the bible and God’s nature. If it is in contradiction then it might just be something random that popped up. You can also hear God’s voice by meditating on him. You can do this by finding a quiet space, you can play some background Christian music if you want. During this time, close your eyes and focus on God. Do some praise and worship in your heart first, then invite Jesus to come to you. Ask a question and pay attention to any bible verses that are brought to your mind, inner voices that you hear, any general feelings etc. If what is said is in line with the bible, then it is probably God speaking. It might take several weeks before you begin to hear God via meditation. If you keep trying one method and it does not work, try another method, like paying attention to the words around you. As you practise the art of listening and hearing, God might give you the gift of seeing visions or the gift of hearing an inner voice, and take you to deeper depths of hearing.

    5. Fasting: fasting is an effective way to get God’s attention. Fasting is a way to spend time with him. You deprive yourself of food because what you seek for is more than food. There are different types of fasting, and you need to plan what works for you. There is the:

    A. Avoidance fasting: This is a fasting form where you avoid something that you cannot do without i.e. Coffee.

    B. Daniel’s fast: In this sort of fasting, you only eat fruit and vegetables and drink water. You do not eat anything cooked or anything other than fruits and vegetables.

    C. Water fast: In this sort of fasting, you do not eat anything, you only drink water. No food, just water.

    D. Total fast: In this sort of fasting, you do not eat or drink anything. You do not drink even water.

    Make sure that you work out what works for you. You can pray to God for directions on the timing of the fasting to follow. However, as a general time-frame, on fasting days, many Christians fast from 6am to 6pm. Many Christians also use those moments when they feel hungry/ feel cravings as prompts to pray. You need to have increased prayers during fasting periods.

    6. Temptations: When you believe in Jesus. Trust me, the devil sometimes would throw trials and tribulations into your life, the goal of this is to get you to denounce your faith. The goal is to frustrate you. You need to pray and fast when trials and tribulations strike. God would never leave you or forsake you. He would be with you and with God, you will overcome this if it ever happens.

    7. Spreading the gospel: Now that you know the truth, you are chosen. It is now your duty to share the truth in the bible with others. Make sure that you save people from falling prey to Satan’s tactics. You need to join the fight to depopulate the devil’s camp, while populating God’s kingdom. With spreading the gospel, do not feel the need to finish reading the whole bible before you begin. You can teach people the little you know.

    8. Read: There is a lot of material out there. There are ministers of God who have practised for about 40 years. These people have a lot of stories about their ministry. Some of them have the gift to heal others, others see visions, some of them hear God’s voice. Many of these people have written books about how they accomplished what they have accomplished, and how they got their gift. Buy these books and read them. If you do not have money, some of these ministers have shared their stories for free on YouTube, take advantage of that.

    9: Reform yourself: begin to watch Christian movies and listen to Christian music. Make sure that your thoughts, actions, and words are in obedience to the word of God. Make sure that you are not doing anything sinful in your thoughts, actions or words. Refine your world, the space around you, the things you see and hear, make it all about God. You can also join a community of bible believing Christians. However, I need to tell you that there is sectarianism in the religion. Do not pay attention to sectarianism, pay attention to the bible. The bible is your authority. If a church seems to have too much sectarianism issue going on, if they are more focused on promoting their denomination than promoting God and the word in his bible, you need to stop going there. Get a water baptism, and pray so that God would baptise you in the holy spirit.

    (I know I have written this list in the order of 1 to 9. It is crucial that you begin with Step 1. Prayers are something that you need to do constantly, so is bible study, hearing from God and reforming yourself. However, you can start small with fasting and spreading the gospel. You can start by preaching to your family members in the beginning phase of spreading the gospel, but you need to expand on these over time. I know this list seems long and all these seem deep, but trust me, you would blend into it so easily and it would become second nature to you. Pray to God to make all of these easy for you, and he will. The devil would try to trick you into believing that God’s standards are too high and that you would never overcome sin, when in actuality, you can. So therefore, pray to God and believe and he would help you overcome sin).

    If you ever backslide and fall back into sin again while trying to follow God’s word. You need to ask him to forgive you and try to get back on track. You should also ask him to strengthen you, so that you can have more strength in withstanding and blocking off sin. God would hear your prayer and he would send help according to his will.

    If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. If you need to talk, I am here for you. God bless you. Have a blessed day 🙂

    1. I have a question. Back in 2003 when my ex-wife was having an affair, why did the church try to blame me for her behavior? The pastor literally asked, “What did you do to force her to have an affair?”

      When I asked about the process of church discipline spelled out in Matthew 18, as we were both members, he said they don’t do that.

      Years later, after the divorce, I got an e-mail from the couples Sunday School class we attended asking why we haven’t been there. When I told the new teacher the story, about how poorly I, well maybe even we had been treated and then never heard from anyone after the divorce, instead of an apology for how we’d been treated, I just got a “sorry you feel that way.”

      So my question is if God is so concerned about marriages, why doesn’t He actually do something and not send people who are so uncaring and incompetent into the lives of believers who are having marital issues?

      I believe in God. I simply don’t believe that He acts as humans have pictured Him to be. Jesus isn’t the pretty Breck Girl Jesus carrying a lamb that we see in kids Sunday School pictures.

      People are perfectly capable of resisting Jesus. I’ve heard the “Be more like Jesus” argument before. The reality is many, perhaps most are perfectly willing and able to resist Jesus. Being more Christlike is no guarantee of any result.

      1. Dear brother, the people you see in church are just people like you and me. They are not your authority, God is your authority. The word of God is where you need to go for help on these types of issues. That is where you would find God’s true guidance. Do not be discouraged. Talk to God in prayer about what you are experiencing and let him guide you.

      2. @uniballer1965, well-meaning people say stupid stuff all the time. I work with guys who betray their wives and the wives are frequently blamed or shamed for how the husband acts, especially by the church.

        You are not to blame for her choice to go “outside” the marriage. You might have contributed to a negative environment (I did read a lot of your comments) but even if you contribute 99.9% of the problems, there is no excuse for adultery. If your wife didn’t like the relationship enough to cheat on you, she had the option to divorce you first then go to another person.

        The big “C” Church is having serious problems dealing with sexual sin and betrayal. I see it all the time. Willow Creek just had major fallout from not dealing with their problems.

        I am sorry for how you were treated. I think we can agree Jesus isn’t at fault for this, either. It sucks to hear someone say “You caused your own pain”.

        1. Nope, don’t claim Jesus was at fault and yes, those who claim to follow God can say some insanely stupid stuff. Just read the book of Job and how his friends switched from grieving with him to blaming him for what happened.

          But they’ll keep saying stupid stuff. If she leaves, you must have done something to make her. I think of the author Ken Nair, a Christian writer on marriage who essentially says if there is anything the wife is doing wrong, it’s probably in response to what her husband has or is doing. In other words, she has no agency of her own, it’s all her fault.

          There are others who suggest if your marriage ends, you didn’t have enough faith.

          Nope, sometimes people act on their free will in ways counter to what God teaches.

          As I said before, people were able to resist Jesus when he walked the Earth. If people can do that, they can resist a husband or wife who is Christlike without issue.

          Critical reasoning seems to be a rare skill.

  6. Hey everyone – It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted as I wasn’t finding the comments at all therapeutic, as I once had. I still enjoyed Matt’s writing of course. Uniballer – I can’t believe how EXACT our situations are…not similar but truly EXACT. Unfortunately I’ve lost all faith that this website’s comments will at all support or encourage a man’s perspective. Every single response I see relates to how the man needs to either 1. Change his actions/inactions or 2. Find a different way to respond to his perceived “wronging”. Would it have been so hard and inaccurate for even one person to respond to Uniballer with a “you know what, that’s some bullshit right there. Your wife is the one who suggested Oktoberfest not you. There is not a reason in the world to not expect that to be the plan 30 minutes later.” But no, all I read here is how Uniballer should have predicted house cleaning instead. You know what, FUCK THAT! I’m so sick of the rhetoric about men screwing up and being the root of all marriage woes. My sincere apologies to those commenting who seem like fairly pleasant and well intentioned females/wives, but following up a five paragraph missive about how the man should change with a “God knows I need to work on this too” is utterly disingenuous. There is lots of talk about “owning our own shit” but when push comes to shove, what shit do the women posting here actually own? I get that many of the women here read and study marriage/relationship methods. This knowledge is powerful. But do you know what is more powerful, and would have been invaluable in Uniballer’s example? How about just going to Oktoberfest as the wife suggested? How about enjoying a nice day followed by a fun evening at the class reunion? How about realizing that cleaning is not more important than a marriage. So tell me (wives who are trying to correct Uniballer’s actions) how this particular day was improved by the wife’s actions. Option one: go to Oktoberfest as wife suggested and later the class reunion and spend really nice day together. Option 2: suggest a plan to husband then decide within 30 minutes that cleaning was more important and husband not immediately jumping in to help was problematic. Get in a big fight and presumably not go to Oktoberfest. Then, even if they still went to the class reunion I doubt it was at all enjoyable. Now tell me again how this is the husband’s fault?

    1. Nate,

      Did you see my comments above?

      The comment where I said that **I** as the female screwed up and needed to change?

      Did you see the comment where I said that Uniballer is in a sucky situation and it’s his wife’s weird stuff that says chores he does doesn’t count?

      I DO NOT THINK it is always the man who screws up. I do not say that.

      I do think that whoever is writing comments here is usually the one who is trying to figure out how to change things.

      So that is WHY I suggested that man or woman we are the ones who have to make the tough decisions of whether we are willing to make changes to change things or not.

      1. Honestly, I have sometimes felt more or less the way Nate says he does, from time to time. Not from you certainly, but sometimes the current runs strongly in that direction. Mostly it’s just how things are and I can accept that. It got problematic for a while this year. But it might have just been stuff bouncing around inside me while my boundaries were a disaster.

        1. I understand that. I get frustrated by it too. The emphasis imho should be on the patterns and how BOTH people are co-creating it.

          I get frustrated though that Nate often phrases his comments like this as if everyone is saying that men are more to blame.

          And that is not accurate. I write a lot of comments ? so by volume alone it’s not accurate to say.

          Also I since we are talking about frustrations in the comment section, I wonder what men like Nate and Uniballer are seeking. Are they seeking validation of their side? I get that completely.

          But after validation, the next step is WHAT CAN I DO to change marriage. What can I do when my wife isn’t ready or able to change her side (that’s also applies to me and the women here about their spouses, it’s not gender specific).

          I appreciate Jack that you are working hard to figure it out. I am too. I appreciate that Uniballer asked what could he do.

          THAT to me should be the whole point of these comments. To crowdsource answers to what and how to change.

          1. And that also applies to women too.

            What are people seeking after validation?

            We all want the situation to change. We all want our spouses to change.

            The hard part is figuring out what WE have done to co-create it. What we need is to change.

            It’s hard stuff. Many people aren’t willing to do it.

            But imho it should at least be presented as the goal.

            We have to KNOW what healthy is.
            And what we need to do to get there. And if we are willing to do it.

            I don’t think the specific tools and resources that are helpful to me are the only way to do it.

            I share them because they are ONE way to do it that might be a helpful to others. And I have made changes through them to get healthier and improve my marriage.

          2. Lisa,
            I’m glad you piped in.
            I think you’re right that validation is a huge motivation for anyone who is hurt, or feels like they have been shafted in some way.
            And I think it’s very true that when we’re in crappy situations we want validation that it wasn’t our fault. A better validation, as you pointed out, is more along the lines of “I know this is a difficult place to be, it’s painful.” With the next question being what am I going to do to make a different dynamic.

            You make really good sense to me.

            If you have the energy, I am curious what you would say to someone who would respond “why does anyone need to change”, or “why does she want to change me?”

            At the core of it, I believe the thought may be “accepting influence” is about accepting influence to change the other person.

            How I understand it, the only change that is typically aimed towards men is accepting influence, and that simply means considering the other person in the relationship.

            It’s not asking for any other change accept consideration.

          3. Hey PIP,

            Ha ha well you know I love in pipe in!

            I think if we can see it more gender neutrally it removes a lot of blocks.

            Here is the way I see it. Most people have some things that they have learned that are going to co-create a shitty marriage with an average person.

            I, for example, love to debate. This works well in many situations but in discussing relationship differences and difficulties with most people it creates problems.

            So I have had to recognize that my debating style is not good for happy relationships. And I have to learn new skills and behaviors and modify my style to match what healthy people do and what my husband in particular finds helpful.

            So that’s all I think it’s about.

            Imho it’s seeing the goal as figuring out what to change that can be successful towards being a healthier individual in a healthy relationship.

            If I had married someone who had a similar debating style I wouldn’t have to change as much. Because even though it’s not ideally healthy it works well enough in our particular pairing. That’s why sometimes you can see couples who are happy but act in ways that would drive many people crazy.

            I think the resistance to change is often based in defensive fear of not being treated fairly by the other person. And often that is justified.

            That is why it’s so hard to do it unilaterally. It takes great courage to choose to make changes that don’t immediately result in the other person changing to treat us fairly.

            But to me it’s about learning new INTERNAL defenses rather than externally blocking the partner from taking advantage.

            If I know what to do internally to treat myself and then fairly that is so calming. Powerful. We aren’t reliant on them to give us a certain response before we choose to do the right thing.

            I don’t know if any of that rambling answered your question or not. ?

          4. I think in very flow chart simple terms.

            If you have a shitty relationship Step 1 is to validate how painful it is.

            Step 2 is to figure out how you co-created a shitty marriage.

            Step 3 is to figure out how to co-create a new healthy marriage. Is that possible?

            Assuming it is possible, Step 4 is to figure out how much you are willing/able to change

            Step 5 is to figure out how much your spouse is willing able to change

            Step 6 is to reevaluate what you are willing able/to do working with the amount that your spouse is willing to change. Are you willing to change the pattern unilaterally if they are not going to change with you?

            Step 7 is to figure out what and how to change yourself. How to work to overcome your resistance to doing it unilaterally.

            This is the step I get stuck on a lot.

            The rest of the steps are figuring out through trial and error which approaches/resources/support help you to figure out how to change.

            Rinse and repeat and modify as you get feedback.

            This is stupidly simple but that’s what works for my simple brain.

          5. It is the same approach most of us use to getting better at anything.

            Want to learn to play the piano better?

            Figure out what you are doing incorrectly and practice getting skilled at doing things correctly. Get a teacher who is a good piano player to give you feedback.

            Want to learn to be a better parent?

            What to learn to be better at your job?

            Lift weights? Run a marathon? Lose weight? Learn another language? Be a good teacher? Learn to juggle? Be a doctor?

            It’s so strange to me that we tend to think that being good at relationships is somehow immune to having to learn a lot and change.

            It’s just like everything else.

          6. There are people that are better at relationships. Often because they have absorbed good modeling from their family.

            Sometimes it’s a personality or even nervous system advantage. Some people are blessed with the advantage of a easy going, flexible, sunny disposition.

            For the rest of us we have to work a little harder. But that’s the same thing as other areas like athletic coordination or musical ability or whatever.

            That’s why I love the book Talent is Overrated. The theme is that directed hard work is what is needed for skill building.

            Even people with musical abilities have to practice A LOT. Change based on feedback.

            The same is true to get good at relationships. We have to expect to practice A LOT and to change.

            I think most of us don’t expect that of relationships. And that is one of the root causes of the problem.

          7. “If I know what to do internally to treat myself and then fairly that is so calming. Powerful. We aren’t reliant on them to give us a certain response before we choose to do the right thing.”
            Love this. “Self love”- learning to self soothe, caring for your self so you can be ok enough to give what is needed in relationship dynamics, to make a change- is super important, and can really be applied to so many scenarios where we realize we have to learn something new.

            “I don’t know if any of that rambling answered your question or not. ?”..
            Not exactly, but I appreciated it anyway ;).

          8. Yes I meant it more as knowing what skill to apply. What to do. Part of that is self soothing you are right.

            In my experience in shitty relationships it’s just so confusing. We can’t figure out what the hell is happening much less how to effectively respond.

            When you know what is happening and what to do at least theoretically it calms that down.

            It’s like understanding a language that was previously random letters. You can UNDERSTAND now.

            For me at least, that was a huge breakthrough.

            It helps then to not see your spouse as the enemy. You are just stuck in a pattern that causes you both to react defensively and reveal parts of you that are often at your worst.

          9. What would you say to those who would question why they need to change?
            (The argument being- it’s not my fault, it’s her fault- why do I need to be the one to change..)

          10. PIP,

            “What would you say to those who would question why they need to change?
(The argument being- it’s not my fault, it’s her fault- why do I need to be the one to change..”

            Well here is my simplistic answer:

            If you want it to change and the other person isn’t willing/able to do it. The ONLY CHOICE left is for you to change.

            It often isn’t “fair.” That’s why it’s so hard to do.

            The more palatable answer is that if your goal is to figure out how to be a healthier more mature person it is work you have to do anyway.

            If you want to be good at relationships it is work you have to do anyway.

            Doing it unilaterally is just doing it in a more challenging environment.

            It’s like wanting to improve your free shots in basketball. That requires learning and practice. You have to do that to get good.

            Doing it unilaterally in a shitty relationship is like learning and practicing your free shots while someone is yelling at you or trying to block.

            It ups the difficulty. But if you continue you will be even better then if you were doing it alone. Because you will learn to do it in spite of external things that make it hard.

          11. The thing that makes it easier is that if you can change your part of the pattern it gives the spouse an easier opportunity to change their part.

            My goal has been to make it as easy as possible for my husband to give me what I requesting.

            In the past pattern, I made it HARDER for him because of my responses.

            Which really is dumb isn’t it when you think about it logically.

            It doesn’t guarantee that people will be willing to change. It just gives them an opportunity to change. You try and make it easier for them too choose to change.

            So that you are not doing it unilaterally anymore.

          12. Gold there: “My goal has been to make it as easy as possible for my husband to give me what I requesting.” Both Atkinson and Real talk a lot about that.

          13. Yes! that is where I got it from ?. I read all this stuff to try and figure out what my goals should be and how to get there.

            It’s all very practical to me despite all the many criticisms I have gotten on it being merely “intellectualizing.” I only learn what I can use in some way. I am lazy that way ha ha.

          14. I may or may not really be responding when I say this, but I have found I very easily let myself get too wrapped around the axles in my head. I need to think and talk less and do/live more.

            At one point I was seeing my trauma therapist twice a week. I had to cut back to once a week for various reasons, which she had concerns about. But it was a huge step forward. I had been in my head full-time, just churning. Once a week lets me process and apply.

          15. Jack,

            I agree there is an optimal balance between learning and doing. And also in dealing with trauma/pain and giving ourselves some time to not focus on it or to process and apply as you said.

            This is probably not directly related to what you mean but I think some people use learning or cognition as a way to avoid taking action or avoiding dealing with trauma or distancing themselves from emotions.

            That’s not my deal.

            I use learning and cognitive processing to figure out how to take action and how to deal with emotions.

            Anything, including emotions and therapy can be used to avoid. It’s wrong imho for therapists to say that top-down cognitive processing is inferior to bottom-up emotion processing. Or vice versa.
            Or how much action vs talking etc.

            What works depends on the person. I am glad you figured out what worked better for you. ?

          16. Actually, the avoid by thinking rather than doing is a big risk for me. :-\. But at least I know it.

          17. GF: “It’s wrong imho for therapists to say that top-down cognitive processing is inferior to bottom-up emotion processing. Or vice versa.”

            I totally agree. It’s partly that Kahneman thing – both subsystems need to be listened to. Also David Wallin has some good stuff in his book “Attachment in Psychotherapy” on people who need to get in touch with their emotions, versus people who are too caught up in them, and different therapeutic approaches to them. (I expect you need some more book recommendations….)

          18. I love me some Daniel Kahneman!

            I’ve never heard of David Wallin so I will have to check that out.

            Since attachment theory has become dominant in a lot of therapy now I have encountered therapists who insist that the magic *only* comes from bottom up approaches. Sigh Sad times for top down people like me. ?

            I really like attachment theory but that too can be approached from a top down filter if it works best for the client. Explaining the steps in EFT etc.

            Flexibility. Or as David Burns says “tools not schools”.

          19. Also David Burns is a huge inspiration too on this point. His Feeling Good Together book is very helpful to me. Hard to do but helpful as a goal.

          20. I don’t know Burns “feeling good together” book . Sigh. Okay – it’s now in the queue on my kindle. Look – me being influenced!

          21. Mike,

            Ha ha yes!

            It’s his “relationship” book. Basically it teaches you how to step by step give up defensive responses and look for how to agree with something in the criticism leveled at you and the other person’s emotions.

            When you do that, often the conversation dynamic changes dramatically.

            It is *one* way to answer the question “how do I respond to a person I love who is treating me unfairly?”

          22. It might turn out to be a book I can recommend to clients…

            I already own that one that Matt always recommends, but it must be 10 years or more since I read it

          23. I have a copy of the Atkinson ebook …. gathering e-dust in my queue…. So many books, so little time.

          24. Is the book Matt recommends How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It?

            It’s been a few years since I read that one but as I remember it describes the vulnerability cycle and shows the common hetero pattern.

            I seem to remember it had a fair amount of gender stereotyping which I am personally allergic to. But many people find those patterns fit them well.

          25. FWIW, I’ve read both, and I don’t remember getting much out of FGT that wasn’t in the original book. Without taking any digs at Burns, I think it was mostly just repackaging the same content (which is excellent and useful content). If you liked and absorbed the original, you don’t need to stress about reading this one. Or at least that’s my opinion based on memory (two qualifications for the price of one!).

          26. Jack,

            That is SO interesting that you find the books similar. It’s been a while since I read Feeling Good so I will have to take another look.

            The funny thing is I never found Feeling Good that helpful to me at the time. I did get a lot out of his book about social anxiety that I can’t remember the title.

            It might be more about the timing more than the books themselves maybe. Or maybe it’s because I straight CBT of challenging my thoughts work less well for me than a system that’s more conceptually changing my thoughts if that makes sense.

            So that’s why Feeling Good Together works better for me since it’s imho in the latter category.

            Ha ha too much analysis of this. I just find the books quite different so I was surprised that you find them similar. Fascinating how people can view the same object so differently. (And of course I am in no way saying your observations are wrong. Our subjective experiences of the book are different).

          27. Lisa –

            “Fascinating how people can view the same object so differently. ”

            Ha ha. But if that weren’t true, Matt would be SOL. 😀

            “(And of course I am in no way saying your observations are wrong. Our subjective experiences of the book are different).”

            I knew that, of course! :-). Thinking of another comment about the M/F ratio here, it’s not always easy to sit in the facts here or the discussions. But then it isn’t easy to sit in life as it happens, especially married life…so… (:-) (:-|

          28. Jack,

            You said:

            “Thinking of another comment about the M/F ratio here, it’s not always easy to sit in the facts or the discussions.”

            I am trying to understand this better.

            Is it the ratio of more female commenters expressing their frustration with men vs males expressing their frustrations with women?

            Is it that the criticisms expressed don’t seem accurate to your particular situation? Or aren’t accurate because they aren’t balanced as a system?

            Is it the feelings of shame and guilt that may be triggered?

            Does it seem that many of the comments are misandrist?

            Something else completely?

          29. Over time, I would say yes to many of those. This thread is interesting because the, well, rage factor, has been lower (my view – UB may disagree?).

            Sometimes it’s just the facts or behaviors – oh crap, yeah, I do that. Which leads to…

            Sometimes it’s the shame and frustration – crap, yeah, I really do do that.

            Sometimes the comments seem thoughtful but (unsurprisingly) seem to miss each other. I think the presentation on the page makes that really easy…but that could be my own visual processing at work.

            Sometimes it really does just seem like rage. A woman comes here from Google and did, or feels she did, get very badly treated by her husband and is just on the warpath. (And I sometimes want to ask: how did you wind up with this man, and what is it that keeps you in a situation as awful as you describe, and what are you really doing to try to change it?)

            Working with a trauma specialist has really helped me deal with all of this much better. I understand better where stuff comes from and why I do or see or say or think things. I have a developing sense of what’s not my fault and what’s not “about me.” All of that helps as I read here. FWIW… 🙂

          30. Thanks for the insight.

            I think most people that comment here have been emotionally beaten up by shitty relationships and/or family of origin. Some even traumatized.

            I have often wondered why the comments are consistently so gender unbalanced. People sometimes posit it is because Matt presents women with a confirmation it’s all the husband’s fault.

            But I have seen the same gender imbalance in lots of other sites about relationships that do not take that approach.

            I wonder why that is? I have theories. Maybe you have theories?

            I wonder why more men don’t comment even if they do disagree with Matt? Matt often says that many more men email him than comment. And he estimates 1/3 of the readers are men if I am remembering it right.

          31. Not sure. Perhaps it is because Matt speaks a lot of truth, and on the whole women have felt voiceless in our culture in general and in relationships specifically – these are true things (at least I believe them to be true).

            The problem is what Terry Real says – the solution that women seize is often not a relational one.

            It’s no one’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault, in dyadic relationships and in patriarchal society.

            Sigh… 🙂

          32. Jack,

            You said:

            “Sometimes it really does just seem like rage. A woman comes here from Google and did, or feels she did, get very badly treated by her husband and is just on the warpath. (And I sometimes want to ask: how did you wind up with this man, and what is it that keeps you in a situation as awful as you describe, and what are you really doing to try to change it?)”

            I agree with this too. I certainly went through my own rage phase though most of that was before I started commenting here.

            My observation is that many of the rage comments from women are those who are divorced or almost divorced.

            They tried a LOT of things and expended a lot of time and energy and couldn’t get out of the pattern.

            As you know when you are stuck in the typical female pursue/male withdraw pattern the withdraw person does less and less and the typical reaction to that is anger or even rage at the lack of response.

            It certainly seems the other person is selfish, entitled, lazy etc etc and you are the “good one” since you are trying so hard.

            That’s why imho it’s important to see it as a system. To get out of the good/bad thing.

          33. Mike,

            I think EFT can be a good way to see the system. If it is a good fit for the couple. EFT imho takes a highly skilled active therapist to be effective in my experience.

            I certainly don’t think it is the only model that is designed to present a system view with both sides. Other attachment models like Stan Takin’s PACT and Gottman’s model are system oriented.

            As are more differentiated approaches like Terry Real and Ellyn Bader/Pete Pearson’s model etc.

            It is only what information is cherry picked that the system is not seen in those models in the same way that people incorrectly say that EFT doesn’t encourage healthy differentiation but encourages codependency.

          34. “PACT and Gottman’s model … Terry Real and Ellyn Bader/Pete Pearson’s model etc…”

            Sure, I agree. I don’t really know PACT. I am a fan of Terry Real and Ellyn Bader, and of quite a lot of Gottman. (I am actually in the middle of trying to write a seminar on the balance of differentiation and attachment approaches). I mention EFT because it is the one I have way the most training in, and use every day.

          35. PACT is very similar to EFT in terms of the emotional attachment focus. It
            adds a lot of the biological and neurological focus to explain why we get freaked out and how to reverse it to soothe.

            I like his book Wired For Love to explain attachment styles in easily accessible ways. He uses the term island for avoidantly attached and waves for anxiously attached.

            I think his approach is very balanced towards explaining avoidantly attached styles so they are not blamed as “evil”.

          36. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Terry Real or Bader training offered in the UK. And while books and videos are ok, they are no substitute for face to face training.

          37. I am not sure how often or if they offer live training in the UK.

            They both offer trainings via the internet by international therapists.

            Does Sue Johnson do EFT live training in the UK?

            I’m curious if there are other models popular in the UK or other parts of Europe. Is EFT dominant in couples therapy there?

          38. GF: “They both offer trainings via the internet by international therapists. Does Sue Johnson do EFT live training in the UK?”

            Yeah, my finger was recently hovering over the “buy now” button for a Terry Real online internet training. But I really prefer face to face. The EFT training I’ve had in the UK has been by licensed EFT trainers, but not Sue herself. I should add that I have not done the complete training (which rightly involves videoing ones sessions and having them scrutinised).

            “I’m curious if there are other models popular in the UK or other parts of Europe. Is EFT dominant in couples therapy there?”

            EFT is I think the most widely known “brand” couple therapy in the UK. But it’s still not widely known. Most couple therapists are I think not using any very specific method. They would describe themselves as “integrative”, “person centred”, “systemic”, “psychodynamic” or something like that, which is a general philosophy but much looser than the things you are talking about. My own overall “orientation” I’d describe as psychodynamic, which means not much more than I believe in unconscious processes such as projection and projective identification operating within a couple — but it doesn’t say “now do this kind of intervention”.

          39. Jack,

            So I understand, at least partly, the anger (rage?) men like Nate and Frank Johnson, FlyingKal, Okrickety, Mike and Uniballer etc express at their own frustrations that all their efforts are seemingly not appreciated or even “counted.”

            Even in the posts and comments here, when it seems so one sided sometimes.

          40. Just saying that I agree with every bit of what your wrote! It’s not a constructive cycle but I think it is a very common one.

          41. I will also throw out for background on my comments that my wife and are are, in terms of stereotypes, more or less gender-flipped from the usual. I have spent a lot of time as the rager-pursuer. Ha, lots of good that did. (:-[

          42. There are a lot of men who are the pursuers as you know. Lots of avoidant women. I know a lot of them. Sigh

            The stereotypes are just one slice of the pie. In fact too often big chunks of the pie don’t get talked about enough.

            According to what I’ve read attachment styles are equally distributed among both men and women. Just as many avoidant women as men and anxious men and women.

            I could never make sense of that until Terry Real talked about the culture that is layered on top of that. Male culture encourages avoidance, female culture encourages anxious attachment.

            So that why it’s a big mish mash of attachment styles mixed with cultural and family of origin culture. And the patterns aren’t as straightforward as they are presented.

            And as you know one can be avoidant in one relationship (or even topic) and secure or anxious in another. The patterns aren’t fixed even if we tend to prefer one style as a default when triggered.

            I think that is not emphasized enough when people (not you) talk about attachment styles and patterns.

            Matt, for example, sounds like his responses were angry avoidant. Avoidant doesn’t always look cold and distant as people often say. Some of what Matt described sounded like anxiously attached too imho.

          43. Huge topic, good thoughts. I believe that I sometimes flip into opposite behavior/attachment patterns to compensate for my most underlying “normals.” It took me forever to figure out that, as closely as you can make ideas and doctrines fit real people, my wife and I are both baseline avoidants. The huge stress of the last three years has been the result of me trying to shake up and change my self and our interactions. Work in process, I hope…

          44. Jack,

            By the way, I saw on the Lazarus post from 2016 that Mike resurrected that you asked me about the progress in my relationship. I missed the question in 2016 apparently ha ha. It’s hard to catch all the comments on these long threads sometimes.

            The quick answer is the relationship is functioning boing much, much better than at its lowest point. I made a lot of changes unilaterally and that did shift things enough so he made some changes too.

            We still have more to do. As I’ve said before a big block for us is we have not been able to find a couples therapist who we find helpful.

            But I have made a lot of progress by just plugging away and trying different things. As I talk about often, to me it is working hard to learn and change just as I would learning to do anything differently. Failure at getting it right is just part of the process.

            I am trying to be patient with myself and recognize that changing this stuff is ninja level difficulty. Not the external stuff but the deep, deep stuff that needs to change so the external is easier to change.

          45. Lisa, very glad to hear that. Things are never going to be perfect… Ninja and deep are very good words. Add painful. Terry Real likes to ask: if those tears could talk, what would they say? Well, lots. There are lots of them to speak.

            I have begun to actually believe that I’m not perfect but I am good enough, that I don’t deserve to be shut out/shut off the way our relationship has worked, and that though a lot of that is part of our collective system, my wife’s responses are her, not mine. Hard to explain.

            As I’ve started to make some serious progress, after three years to trying to sort things out, I see my wife responding, too. There are some issues that could blow us up still, but I am learning to give up my hopelessly (I wrote that in its colloquial sense, but it’s actually literally accurate) desperate need to try to anticipate and control future outcomes.

            I keep catching myself wishing she would approach things the way I see them and desire to use the tools that I desire to use. (One of those is counseling, which we tried twice and really didn’t work, but I have not given up.)

            Much more importantly, I am beginning to get a real-life grip on a sense of my own worth…and give up my anger. I thought I had given up my anger at my wife, then realized I hadn’t, then realized that I was constantly and intensely angry with myself, and that last realization has unlocked all sorts of stuff for me, like slipping off the leg irons.

            I may have mentioned I have a three-day, all-day trauma workshop coming up at the end of the month. I don’t know what kind of stuff that might shake loose. I think my wife is wondering if I will emerge a completely different person and just take off somewhere. I don’t think so.

            I think there’s a much bigger chance that I’ll have put enough stuff together for myself to start to put some serious pressure on both of us, and I don’t really know how she will feel about that. Whatever else is true, after all these (37 years married) years, it will feel like someone wants to change the rules. One of the things I think I will put a lot of pressure on is finding some effective couples counseling. I, we, are too old to just wander blindly, succeeding occasionally by accident.

            Wow, I asked about you and typed a million words about me. I have some work to do…

          46. Jack,

            I am glad you shared your progress, please don’t feel badly about that in the least!

            I was going to ask about your marriage but didn’t want to pressure for a response since I know things are in flux right now.

            It sounds like there has been quite a lot of change. I am glad to hear that you can see your wife’s response.

            What progress to choose to learn to give up the hopelessness (probably at least partly “learned helplessness”?) and the anger. To deal with the trauma.

            I am so inspired by your courage to really deal with the deep stuff. You ARE good enough and don’t deserve to be shut out/shut off.

            I am hopeful that, with the right help, you and your wife can find a way to a truly intimate relationship.

          47. Ya know…you talk about ninja skills. I think I am slowly getting some. Tolerating flux, at least for a time – hard. There’s a quote in the Piver book I mentioned that I have been thinking about. It’s quite an image, especially for relationships: the bad news is that your are falling without a parachute; the good news is that there is no ground below you. If you think about it the right way, that’s actually very reassuring and even inspiring, at least to me. Ninja skills are uber-hard, as you said…

            Learning to just sit in the stuff without having my control-dependent history forcing me (well, without me giving in to my control-dependent history) to plot out and anticipate every possible outcome, and strategize how to protect myself in each.

            Learning that I don’t have to trim my sails to every change in my wife’s weather. Don’t need to be constantly hyper vigilant, scanning for threats.

            Learning that our life together is not a lowest-common-denominator suicide pact – I don’t have to down-regulate to match her mood.

            Equally, if I’m having a good day, it’s my good day to have. I can be curious and empathetic and helpful but I don’t have to match her mood. And vice versa, I don’t need to drag her into my pity party, when things conspire to put me there. 🙂

            Learning that I don’t have to act like a child, and don’t have to let her act out her instinct to act like a parent for me. I am me…I am ok. I need to learn more skills to be relationally adept and loving, but I am not irremediably broken or defective.

            Learning that my historically-based hysterics, when they crop up, are my problem not hers, and I shouldn’t try to paste them all over her. But, again, it works the other way around. Her history is her history.

            Basically, trying to emerge from chronic, acute codependency (a word I really hate, but it seems to be the trade term for this relational structure).

          48. Jack,

            Something else I think is undertalked about is situations like yours where both people have the same insecure default style.

            Stan Tatkin explains that whoever is least avoidant takes on the “pursuer” position. So it makes sense to me that you spent many years as the anger pursuer.

            I have experienced that in the other direction. I tend towards anxiously attached but have switched to the “withdraw” position in relationships where the other person was more anxiously attached or controlling.

            This stuff is fluid. The point I take from it is that the goal is to learn to be very flexible within a range of securely attached. As opposed to flipping from one rigid extreme to the other.

            That’s what I am working towards by practicing tiny decisions every day. The good thing about relationships is they give you lots of practice. And as a insecurely attached person I get lots of practice being freaked out and triggered?

          49. Also, I get that taking the male/female framing away would allow what is being said less dialectical.
            I just mention what I did because the idea that men accept influence less has really been the only thing that has been specifically cited as something “against” men. Or “men’s fault.”
            And I’m afraid that some readers intepret that as “men need to let women change them.”

            I think you’ve mentioned before, and did above even, that in order to really have a good relationship everyone will need to be more aware of how thier tendencies effect the relationship dynamics and be willing to make changes in those things. (You used the example of your debating style).
            Not because it’s bad, or not fun and useful in some circumstances, but being aware how it effects your relationship, and being willing to take a different approach in that context is important.
            We all eventually need to make changes.
            And it’s not that those traits are negative in and of themselves, it’s how it’s effecting the relationship.

            Anyway- my turn to ramble (slightly less coherently than you – lol!)

          50. Ah yes. You know I love to quote Gottman and accepting influence ha ha

            In general and on average, more men tend to resist accepting influence from their wives. And that is the number 1 predictor of an unhappy marriage.

            That is what Matt is usually describing on his posts.

            As you said, accepting influence is not about control it’s about flexibility. Being willing to make accommodations for your spouse.

            Both people need to do it. But in general and on average men are trained not to do this and women are trained to do this in relationships. Hence the disconnect.

            The other side of the pattern that Gottman talks about is wives must not tolerate being in a relationship where there is not enough flexibility. That is often what wives bring to the pattern.

            They either overaccomodate or protest by being critical and harsh and she becomes rigid too.

            So that is how you co-create the most common patterns of shitty hetero marriages.

            (Of course, there are other patterns where the woman is controlling and the man is overaccomodating).

            The overall point is you have to change something to get out of the pattern.

            For many men they fear being controlled so that prevents flexibility. For many women they don’t know how to set boundaries without either guilt or anger.

          51. And don’t forget about the passive – agressive response that can go hand in hand with the over accommodating spouse.
            I do think that Nate and Unibaler (and many other readers, I’m sure) may believe that accepting influence means then accommodating the passive aggressive/ over-accommodating or the rigid behaviors.
            “Let her have her way.”
            I don’t think that would be beneficial either.

          52. Not sure I understand what you are saying. Do you have another way to say it or an example of which you are writing?

          53. Well, I’m wondering what parts exactly sound like Matt or the commenters here are blaming men.

            How I am reading your comments, as well as Nate’s response it sounds like there is a lot of defense saying “I’m not to blame”.
            From Lisa’s original comments, a few days ago, it read to me like she was sharing tools she has learned, and the response kept being “it’s her fault.”
            That seemed like you were “talking right passed her.”
            Not that Lisa has to be 100% right- as if she has all the answers, but she was sharing with you her similar painful experience she and things she has done, and it was like you didn’t read it. That none of it counted, and just kept stating why your wife was wrong.

            Lisa wasn’t saying you were wrong for feeling what you felt, or even about your reasons for feeling that way. She was empathetically pointing out what may be a few helpful and healthy ways to look at and change the dynamic.

            We used to have a rehab hospital that had a commercial that said “It’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility”…
            I think that is the general understanding of what Lisa was talking about.
            No, it’s not your fault your wife (and every one to some extent) is goofy in one way or another. But it is your relationship, therefore your responsibility to make and have the relationship that you would like.

            I have heard from Nate, though I can’t recall with you in particular, that there is some belief that a lot of the conversation here has been around men needing to change, or that men or at fault for thier shitty marriages.
            I’m thinking that has a lot to do with Gottman research that has demonstrated that only 33% of men accept influence, AND that not accepting influence is a top marker for divorce.
            That has been talked about enough around here that actually remember the 33% value (I think that is correct, at least)…
            I think it’s possible some readers hear that and think it means men need to placate or be submissive to their wives.
            That men need to let women have thier way, then everything will be fine.
            That isn’t what accepting influence is.
            I’d like Lisa to define and give examples if possible because she would likely do a better job than myself.
            I would like there to be clear understanding regarding that in order to make clear what a lot of the past conversations have been about.

            I feel like that would help alleviate the assumption that the main belief here is that men are to blame.
            And I’ll say this again, though I know I’ve said it 40 time so (though maybe not to you) and it really is only an echo of what Matt has said himself.
            He write some from his perspective, as a man, co-creating a shorty relationship. He writes about what he has learned and what he would rather not repeat.
            He can only tell the story as he knows it. He can only account for his part in it.
            Matt is a great guy, but he was a supremely shitty husband.
            Good on him for figuring that out.
            If he were still in denial about it, he’d likely be in the middle of a second shitty marriage or relationship wondering WTF was wrong with women.

            The thing I love about Matt’s writing isn’t that he “blames men”, but that he was wise enough and strong enough to confront where he didn’t do so great.
            He has taken personal responsibility for the lose of something that he really took for granted.
            To me his message is about personal responsibility, and hope for doing things a different way.
            …For each party in the relationship, not just male or female…but you can’t do that, things can’t be different if no one looks at thier contribution to the shitty dynamic.

          54. I think I asked how do I predict she’s going to unilaterally change a plan we jointly made and then berate me for not enthusiastically just jumping on board with her unannounced change. But if that’s it’s her fault to you, not sure I know how to help.

            Accepting influence has to be a two way street. When we are talking about just deciding to change a plan and expecting your spouse to go along really isn’t the same thing. That’s a demand.

            Influence is saying when you take this approach it really helps me feel _______.

            Or When you do. _____, I think/feel _______, so I would like to respectability request ______.

            But if you demand a specific response, that’s not influence, it’s a selfish demand.

            I wonder how much of not accepting influence is really not responding favorably to selfish demands?

          55. Yeah, it can easily get into “I’m not going to do what you want, if you speak to me like THAT!”

          56. Uniballer, I agree that accepting influence is a two way street.
            Nobody likes being disrespected or discounted.
            In the context of your individual relationship I couldn’t possibly know which way is up.
            In the context of the conversation here seeming to be anti-men, per the Gottman research (and I’m citing that because it’s quantified- the information has been gathered systematically and blah,blah,blah…it’s a scientific account of the dynamics in relationships, it’s not the truth for everyone, but it’s a more broad based understanding of what occurs in relationships than our own individual experience.)…the Gottman research states that women most often already do accept influence.

            Perhaps that is not the case in your relationship, but what I wanted to talk about is that I believe the information provided by Gottman about accepting influence may be the issue that many male readers bristle against.

            I don’tean to bring it up again to be divisive. I’m with Lisa that there is more benefit in talking about ways to improve the dynamics than whose to blame for them.
            Relationships are inherently emotion driven, and stressed relationships create negative emotion.
            I can understand if the encouragement to take responsibility for what you can feels like insult to injury, or more shittyness.
            I just wanted to reach an understanding that man blaming isn’t what the common understanding or belief is of Lisa, or myself, nor the majority of commenters here (I would like to believe).
            The common story from women jibes with Matt’s story. It’s not blame casting. It’s “me, too-ing”
            I’m sure you experience things from a different perspective. It would be great if we could all strive to understand the others point of view.

          57. “Well, I’m wondering what parts exactly sound like Matt or the commenters here are blaming men.” I’m sure I remember that Matt has more than once said that a majority of marriages end because men make the same mistakes that he made. Even the title of the current post implies it. When challenged on it, he’s generally replied that it’s because he’s writing for men so he focuses on their mistakes. It does read as if he’s saying the problem is primarily with men — and I know I’m not the only one who has read it that way. There are sometimes comments from women saying yeah, yeah, finally someone gets it, the problem is men.  All I can say is, when I see lesbian couples, they fall into exactly the same patterns. 

            From: Must Be This Tall To Ride To: [email protected] Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 2018, 3:29 Subject: [New comment] The Moments When Men Lose Their Wives #yiv5201420613 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5201420613 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5201420613 |

            personinprocess commented: “Well, I’m wondering what parts exactly sound like Matt or the commenters here are blaming men.How I am reading your comments, as well as Nate’s response it sounds like there is a lot of defense saying “I’m not to blame”.From Lisa’s original comments, a” | |

          58. Mike- the research provided by Gottman indicate that men are the ones who don’t accept influence, and that not accepting influence is a higher market for divorce.
            The patterns of behavior demonstrated with most men in marriage does cause a higher likelihood of divorce.
            And women, who experience the lack of being seen and heard as an equal partner in the marriage DO fucking love it when someone from an unlikely source “gets it”.
            They are finally being heard.

          59. (I woke up this morning to like 40 emails in my inbox from the site…) PIP: “That men need to let women have their way, then everything will be fine. That isn’t what accepting influence is. I’d like Lisa to define and give examples if possible because she would likely do a better job than myself.”

            Yeah, that would be good — what does “accepting influence” really look like? As far as I understand it (and I am not really a Gottman fan) it means remaining calm, and not “locking down”, when criticised. “Influence” is really a polite way of saying criticism. I can’t say that current public and political life provides a lot of good models for people who can respond openly to criticism. 

            From: Must Be This Tall To Ride To: [email protected] Sent: Tuesday, 2 October 2018, 3:29 Subject: [New comment] The Moments When Men Lose Their Wives #yiv5201420613 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5201420613 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5201420613 a.yiv5201420613primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5201420613 |

            personinprocess commented: “Well, I’m wondering what parts exactly sound like Matt or the commenters here are blaming men.How I am reading your comments, as well as Nate’s response it sounds like there is a lot of defense saying “I’m not to blame”.From Lisa’s original comments, a” | |

          60. You can turn off receiving the responses.
            Accepting influence is not about being criticized.
            It is about being counted in the relationship.
            Women are socialized to accept influence in all of thier relationships.
            They consider how thier actions effect and affect everyone in the home, or at work, or at the weekly book club.
            They spend a lot of time considering how what they say, or do, is going to affect “Jane” and what is currently going on in her life.
            We are socialized to be more empathetic with other people. That is part of the accepting influence that does not often happen in many relationships.
            Instead, what happens often is men invalidate requests from their wives saying they are over emotional. THAT is not accepting influence.
            Many men don’t believe their wives when they say X hurts me. That is not accepting influence.
            As far as your statement about lesbian couples, I don’t know the statistics, but there has been some research that indicates this particular dynamic isn’t such a significant issue. It may happen, maybe even half the time, but the dynamic is about 70% likely in a heterosexual marriage.
            But, to be clear- I don’t think it is truly a gender issue.
            Men are not born with a gene that makes them an asshole. Have you ever talked to a brick wall?
            And this brick wall being THE thing you originally counted on to “be there for you”?
            Have you ever cried and beg for this brick wall to stop doing a thing that felt like complete disrespect, or abandonment, or abuse, even?
            That is what it feels like when women are telling thier partners they need something from him and it’s met with complete disregard.
            That sort of behavior is socialized into them, much like women are socialized to be caregivers of everyone else. (Though I realize women do similar things, in a different fashion- sometimes women can be vicious and hateful towards their partners who don’t deserve it. But I’m going to fall back on the quantified research and say that is not behavior that has been a statistically significant cause of divorce.)
            Men are taught to be strong, untouchable, and “withstand all opposition!” (Uh, Hello- The opposition in these cases is coming your partner, not an enemy.)
            In regards to same sex couples, I wouldn’t be surprised if parties of a homosexual couple tended to behave in ways that are considered more masculine or more feminine depending on what the person more often identified with. But I know lesbian couples that reflect all sorts of gender role, or lack there of, combinations.
            Movement in a more balanced direction for both the partners is something that can help in any relationship.

          61. I think someone can do both. The reality is I cannot control what my wife will do. Per the topic, I cannot even predict it. I would like to be able to predict it, and if I take what I read at face value, if one cannot predict, it’s because you are not a diligent student of your spouse.

            I may be wrong, but I don’t recall reading that your spouse may be bat shit crazy. (Not saying my wife is, or at least not always. We all have moments, myself included.)

            The question comes back to how do I predict the scenario from 22 September?

            I don’t know what I should have observed in my car, on the way home that would have given me insight into the unilateral change of plans.

            But the responses have been to examine what I might have done to contribute to the situation.

            But none have said this is what you did, during that 30 minutes it took for you to drive home that contributed to the unilateral change of plans.

            Maybe my hangup is logic and consistency. Treat me the way you want to be treated. If you want me to unilaterally change plans and to throw a fit if you (not you specifically) don’t get on board with the change, then do the very same thing to me.

            Likewise, if you want me to be proactive, then notice it.

            Notice the efforts from the day before. The three loads of laundry and the cleaning of the closet. Not to mention the other stuff done during the week.

            But the influence I will get from unnoticed efforts and dismissed efforts is that those efforts are of little value to you. So why even bother?

            I read all sorts of comments suggesting I should proactively do more housework. Did people assume I didn’t do housework?

            I am all for people owning their stuff. Asking for it to apply to both parties in a relationship isn’t failure to own it.

            I see it as a legitimate condition necessary to have a healthy relationship.

            But I go back to my first or second post on the topic, how does one predict the scenario I described?

          62. Oh, what sounds like blame. When Matt or others suggest women are better at relationships.

            I know I’ve found agreement with gottmanfan and even from Matt that perhaps a better expression is that both men and women bring innate relative strengths and weaknesses into relationships. If both were the same, one would be redundant. The best relationships are complementary, where each trusts the other in their areas of expertise or strength.

            I’m good at the logistics of getting something done. Not so good at picking up the emotional temperature of a situation.

            An example, I put an old tablet up for sale and the buyer was 80 Miles from my home. But I was passing by the buyers place last weekend on a trip. They agreed to a time and place on the return trip. I had about a 185 mile drive to get there and was within 5 minutes of the forecast time, arriving just before the stated 5pm scheduled meet.

            I’m good at that. My wife isn’t. So it makes sense to leave me in charge of those things, it’s a relative strength. Feeling out where she or one of the kids (well, they are adults now) are emotionally, they may as well be speaking Mandarin Chinese. Fifty plus years of life hasn’t improved that skills.

            But I can grab 25g of cheese for my omelette every morning within a gram + or –

            Still use the food scale to validate it, but if the battery was dead, (and you know I already keep spares around) I could grab a portion and stay on my diet.

            But she can find that cheese in the fridge when it’s hiding from me in plain sight.

            She has a closet full of gifts. I have a cabinet full of auto parts like wipers so if someone needs a replacement, I have it ready to o when I’m checking out their car.

            And yes, taking care of things around the homestead is no less important than anything else that comes up in a relationship.

            I don’t expect her to be an expert or even proactive in those areas. Not her strength.

            I’m colorblind, so I’m not your go to guy for how an outfit or a new hair color looks. I seriously see things different than those with so-called normal color vision see them. Those circles that allegedly have numbers in them, I don’t always see a number or even the same number.

            I think that is an apt description of people in relationships. I believe there are things on or the other either cannot see, or they see something completely different.

            It’s not wrong. I see what I see. I think you normal color vision people are delusional for seeing some of the numbers that are clearly not there. I don’t see them. Just because you do doesn’t make it true, does it?

            I kid you above, to a point. I am rally colorblind and no I don’t believe you are delusional.

            However, no amount of training nor work will make those numbers visible in the Ishihara circles.

          63. Yes, good point.

            Passive aggressive is a typical response in a shitty marriage you are right.

            Healthy people will deal with things openly even if it highlights differences that have to be dealt with.

          64. Replying to PIP: “Mike- the research provided by Gottman indicate that men are the ones who don’t accept influence, and that not accepting influence is a higher market for divorce. The patterns of behavior demonstrated with most men in marriage does cause a higher likelihood of divorce.”

            Okay, so I think that answers the question of “what parts sound like Matt or the commenters are blaming men?”. I don’t see how the above observation can be read other than blaming men. It doesn’t mention the woman’s half of the pattern of behaviour.

            A marker for something is different from the cause of it. The way I’d want to see that put is: there is a mutual pattern of behaviour that indicates a higher likelihood of divorce, and the man’s half of it is not accepting influence. When a man starts doing that, it indicates that the couple have fallen into this pattern, and it needs to get fixed soon or they are likely to get divorced. The “resisting influence” is not the cause of the pattern — it’s a symptom of it. It’s what men do once things start going wrong in this way.

            (Sorry I am replying to the wrong comment but I cannot get this reply interface to work properly either in a browser or by email…)

          65. We may differ on the cause/ effect (or disease/symptom) issue.
            From my experience with many men is that the “tough guy” facade is inpart what makes them unwilling to empathize or consider their spouses position. That of course is just my perception.
            (But I’m thinking some of Gottmans research spanned relationships is a variety of stages, even those in thier honeymoon period.)

            What would you say women do to cause a lack of accepting influence, if it were a symptom of an already stressed relationship?
            What are women’s contributions to it?

          66. PIP: “What would you say women do to cause a lack of accepting influence, if it were a symptom of an already stressed relationship? What are women’s contributions to it?”

            As Gottmanfan has mentioned, things like resentful giving-up, often manifesting as passive aggression; and also unclear (to the man) requests. I often have couples where the woman says something like “I need him to be more supportive” and the man has NO IDEA what she means by that. Which often stems from her not being clear even to herself about what her needs are. If I ask her to explain to him, she can’t. Gottmanfan talks about this in terms of “boundaries”, which is another good way of looking at it, and you can’t set boundaries until you’ve become very clear with yourself about what your own needs really are. Women, I suspect, are socialised not to do that thinking.

            And I’d add, a inability to read the man’s emotional state — there was some research — was it Gottman? — that showed when the woman thinks the man is happily ignoring her like a brick wall, he’s actually in deep physiological distress, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, cortisol, etc. So she turns up the volume to try to “get through” the brick wall, which makes it worse; and eventually she gives up. I may be out on a limb here but I think many women are not very good at empathising with men, as well as vice versa.

          67. Yes!

            If I can keep my wits together when being flooded, I will suggest a break.

            I have watched this exchange between her and her son. She is like a dog with a bone, saying the same thing 12 different times, 12 different ways.

            He got it the first or second time, but it keeps coming.

            I’ve watched it as a 3rd party and I’ve been on the receiving end.

            I don’t look forward to exchanges because even acknowledgement and agreement do not stop the onslaught.

            So I just get more tense and after saying I got it, you are right about X, I have to close my eyes and tune out to lessen the stimulation.

            I have said that repeatedly telling me the same thing numerous times in a discussion only makes things worse, not better and doesn’t make me want to open up. Especially when told , “you can choose to feel that way.”

            While I may agree to a point, I would think that someone who cared about me and having a relationship with me would accept this feedback and work with me.

            If there is something she needs that she thinks repeatedly telling me the same thing again and again that isn’t accomplished by my reflecting her concerns back to her, I’m all ears.

            But being emotionally flooded is very real and when your spouse is flooded, fight or flight is likely to kick in. If rational thought and response doesn’t solve the issue, the lizard brain will kick in, even emotionally.

          68. Uniballer,

            You said:

            “I have watched this exchange between her and her son. She is like a dog with a bone, saying the same thing 12 different times, 12 different ways.
            He got it the first or second time, but it keeps coming.”

            Does you wife have a lot of anxiety?

            Her need to repeat the instructions (the “onslaught”) may be coming from an attempt to soothe her anxiety.

            Just a thought.

          69. I can agree with your assessments here.
            The issue with women beating down the brick wall-
            I don’t know if it’s a lack of empathy or women genuinely trying to get through.
            They may not realize the damage they are doing, …all they see is the shut out.

          70. Oh, I think all 3 of those things are usually true: they are trying to get through, they don’t see the emotional effect, and they don’t realise the damage it’s doing. And they don’t see any other way to achieve what they want. It’s one half of the pattern.

          71. PIP: “can you tell me more why you believe that the lack of accepting influence is more of a symptom than a cause”

            Well, talking about causes is always complex… things often don’t have single, linear causes. One problem (as we’ve seen repeatedly) is that if “not accepting influence” is seen as the cause, then it basically devolves into men getting the blame. The one who has to change is the man.

            Now it could well be that the sample of couples I see “in the room” is not a representative sample of troubled couples – they are couples where both parties are willing to attend. So that’s a caveat. But I pretty much never see, in the room, a situation where the man is not willing to accept influence and that’s that. Usually he likes his wife, is keen to have things better, and doesn’t understand why she’s so angry all the time. Yes, he is “like a brick wall” in that she’s not getting through to him, and he’s not doing what she wants. But she has a half of this pattern too: she is not expressing what she wants in terms he can understand (eg she says she wants him to be “kinder” – he has no idea what that means in practice), or she is expressing herself harshly, with a harsh start-up that floods him; or she is determined to occupy a victim position; or she accuses him of being emotionally inexpressive, but if he expresses any emotion, she robustly rejects it or invalidates it. Now it sounds like I’m blaming her, but I’m not. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve each made each other like this. And perhaps have brought patterns from family of origin or previous relationships.

            The man’s problem may be not accepting influence, but the woman’s problem is often not being willing to accept even a little bit of the responsibility. Very often, women ask me whether the solution isn’t really just for the man to go into individual therapy? My rule of thumb is that (unless we are talking about say abuse, addiction, or infidelity) both partners will need to make adjustments.

            These are generalisations, of course. If commenters on here want to say that their relationship is not or was not like that, I’m willing to believe them.

          72. I believe what you’re saying is true about many women’s issues. Especially about the reaction women have when men finally do express some emotion. Again, I believe that is our socialization. Many times women don’t know how to handle it when men show emotion.
            In both genders, that cuts us off from being wholly human.
            In regards to accepting influence:
            You’re right, the men that are “in the room”, or your office, are willing to make things better.
            But also, the couples that are there are often deep into the pattern already, wouldn’t you say?
            So they are both more entrenched in their reactivity. Both people are absolutely contributing to the negative pattern.

            Accepting influence, though, is more than just not being a brink wall- it’s essentially about the willingness to be a part of a couple.

            So, in chemistry two molecules that bind together will literally change shape when they are connected to different molecules.
            Binding together changes the shape of the original molecule.
            It wouldn’t change shape without binding.
            When they bind they make a whole new molecule, but the two original molecules change shape to fit each other.
            That is accepting influence.
            The dynamics that often exist currently in human relationships is that the female molecule will most often change shape in order to accommodate the male molecule (poor boundaries, the female molecule was taught that her job was to care for all the other molecules.)
            While the male molecule most often doesn’t change shape to fit the female molecule because she is over accommodating the create the new molecule (the couple.)
            The male molecule most often has no idea all the stretching and contorting the female molecule is doing. So when the female molecule starts losing electrons and protons and is getting exhausted she says “hey male molecule- I can’t hold this shape anymore, I really need you to bend here. Can you bend?” To which the male molecule replies “well, I’ve always been this way! Why do you want me to change now?…ungrateful female molecule. “
            Until finally the female molecule can’t maintain the shape any longer and the once newly created molecule denatures back into two.

            Actually, now I think I to make an illustrated coffee table book that explains it Just.Like.That.


          73. PIP: “So, in chemistry two molecules that bind together will literally change shape when they are connected to different molecules. Binding together changes the shape of the original molecule.”

            Yes, I like how you put that. Being in a relationship definitely changes your psychic “shape”. I’m not sure that was what Gottman meant about accepting influence, and I suspect it’s not what most people think of when they hear that phrase. They think of simple things like putting the glass in the dishwasher. (Honestly, I had yet another “different ways of doing washing up” story this very morning). What you are thinking about is a more subtle but bigger phenomenon.

            I certainly remember for myself times when I’ve had to “spring back” to my own shape once being out of a relationship. Maybe, for example, in a relationship I was required to be “the untidy one” and once out, I had to remember, “hey, I’m not actually an untidy person at all”. An ability to tolerate and process some (but not too much) of such bending (projection) is a key to being in relationship.

            “the male molecule most often doesn’t change shape to fit the female molecule because she is over accommodating the create the new molecule (the couple.)”

            Not sure I agree with you here – men change psychic shape very considerably once in a relationship – even down to basic things like their testosterone levels falling – unless they are not really “in” the relationship at all. Maybe that’s the case you’re talking about.

            If he’s not in, then things will fall apart badly when children come along.

          74. Hey Mike!
            I think we are vibing today, because I was just outside ruminating about this while mowing the lawn :).
            I was thinking that it is totally possible that men do also change, but perhaps we don’t know how much, much the same way it seems like men don’t know how much we change, and try to accommodate.

            I was also thinking that one way to frame it so it is easier to tolerate, and may possibly make blaming less likely when things are stressed, is to make the couple the priority.
            Not one partner over the other, but the entity of the couple over both.
            (This is ecspecially important when kids are sorting being carried within the framework of the relationship.)
            I’m adding a link that came from the Gottman institute about what is meant my accepting influence.
            Who better to ask than the one who termed it?

          75. Also, I was thinking that when you talk about women asking their husbands to be kinder but not being able to cite examples of how he could be kinder , if that is asking them for empathy.
            I wonder If it isn’t asking for themselves (and their feelings) to be made a priority.
            A lot of times it’s not that the guy is being overtly mean, but he is being neglectful.
            And when women bring it up, would you say the man would likely cite all the ways he has contributed to the household, or done nice things for her?
            Which then feels like he isn’t getting what she is saying, or isn’t listening.
            Perhaps what the woman is asking for when she is asking him to “be more kind”, isn’t a task, but an attitude of empathy and consideration – not for “what she wants”, but more for “who she is.”
            I really stand by that if someone feels known, cared for, and considered a priority the lesser “dish by the sink” stuff has less of an emotional impact.

            Of course, many people don’t know themselves or what they need we’ll enough to articulate it. And that doesn’t help either party with improving their relationship.

            I did also want to mention, in regards to your statement about “snapping back” after a previous relationship.
            I think tidiness is a great example, because something like that is more on a spectrum and so you will be the more tidy or less tidy in various relationships.
            And it’s a matter of how that trait interferes in the relationship that is the reason to make any change one way or another.
            Ideally, one party being more conscientious, and the other party being more flexible would be the ideal answer.

            I wanted to point out that changing for a relationship doesn’t mean becoming another person, or stretching your boundaries so far as to expect to fail.
            If changing your level of tidyness is a negotiable in the relationship (on both sides) then that is something flexible and adjustable.
            If you have a boundary that you will not accept anyone who vaccuums less than once a day, then that is a hard and fast boundary that should be adhered to.
            I think part of boundary setting is really getting familiar with your “non- negotiables”
            So it can be clear what will and won’t work for you.
            (Of course even these may change over time…but I would still hope/think that if there is overall satisfaction with the relationship, there will be more willingness towards flexibility and less rigidity.)

          76. PIP: I agree with pretty much everything you say there.

            “I did also want to mention, in regards to your statement about “snapping back” after a previous relationship. I think tidiness is a great example, because something like that is more on a spectrum and so you will be the more tidy or less tidy in various relationships.”

            Yes but … it can be more than that. If one person has (as part of their view of themselves) that they are “the tidy person” (or calm, or financially prudent, or outgoing, or whatever) they can actually push their partner unconsciously to take the opposite role. It’s a bit like codependency. A relationship can shape a person, over the years, into taking a particular stance, and if it ends, they can find themselves “returning to their natural coasts” as Paul Simon puts it.

            That song (Hearts and Bones) says a lot of it for me: “And tell me why, Why won’t you love me For who I am Where I am? He said ’cause that’s not the way the world is baby”

          77. Mike,
            This makes me sad. But I know its a common reality. Both actions- the presumption of the role as “tidy person” and the subsequent response as your role of “untidy person” may very well both be subconscious.
            I know this dynamic. My mom has to feel in charge, therefore no one else can do anything. When I was a teenager I felt completely inadequate and helpless. I left that, or really that left me, and I discovered I was really quite capable. (Thank God for Small Favors.)
            However, now its her husband that is powerless, and BOTH of them are unhappy.
            Whether subconscious or not, what plays out is really abuse in that one person is using the other for their own benefit, at the expense of the other persons well being. She would use you to prop up her image of tidy person, at the expense of your own belief about yourself. I realize part of abuse is malicious intent, and I dont want to minimize other peoples experiences, but in reality the outcome is still the same…even if we dont realize what we are doing.

            I love Paul Simon! Graceland is my favorite Album, and I am one of those rare people (Ive found) that “get” and love “You can call me AL.” Not to mention “Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.” or “Boy in the Bubble” …all of them, really

            I would like there to be another meaning to the answer to the Heart and Bones Questions…because its us individually who make up the world.
            I would love it if we could look at our own internal “shadow side”, and confront that so we could be better people in our relationships to others and ourselves.

          78. PIP: “Both actions- the presumption of the role as “tidy person” and the subsequent response as your role of “untidy person” may very well both be subconscious. … My mom has to feel in charge, therefore no one else can do anything. When I was a teenager I felt completely inadequate and helpless. I left that, or really that left me, and I discovered I was really quite capable.”


            I wouldn’t call it abuse except in the worst cases. I’d call it collusion or projection or something. And it can even be benign. You both just take up adapted shapes. In my first marriage, my wife was the “social” person who managed our network of friends – mainly her friends and their husbands – and I was supposedly “not good at that”. And it was a good marriage, and lasted a long time.

            And I think in this area, men “accept influence” A LOT, because they grow up with a mother, and certainly in my generation, are often happy to assume that if the wife says the plates go in THIS cupboard and the pans in THAT one, well, she knows best and he’s incompetent. About everything domestic. And, as in Matt’s case, we see how THAT plays out.

          79. I still think the idea of accepting influence is centered more around empathy, and prioritizing thier significant other as the highest priority in thier life. Not necessarily in following directions.

          80. The glass by the sink would have felt a lot less painful if the other was there.
            That was just another demonstration of not being heard, or validated.
            Sort of a physical representation of what was happening on an emotional level.

          81. Most of these topics require holding two opposed ideas in balance like the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that applies to healthy relationships as well.

            “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

            One of the things I like about the concepts of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is that it emphasizes that TWO or more things have to balanced at the same time.

            We have to use both our logic and our emotions for example.

            We have to balance accepting influence and changing for people with healthy boundaries and knowing and asking for what we want or need.

            We have to balance unconditional love and commitment with conditions for what we are willing or able and what makes us feel loved.

            That’s why imho the hallmark of health is flexibility and also wisdom to know how to balance opposites.

            Accepting influence in relationships is being willing and open to changing to accommodate our partners because we are functioning as a team.

            It is not about giving up 100% your needs/wants/preferences. It is not about agreeing to whatever they want.

            So in a healthy relationship we have to balance changing to accommodate our partner with the other side of the dialectical.

            Being clear on what your side is asking for your partner to accept influence from you.

            The boundary part comes into the balance when your partner is not willing to cooperate about YOUR side. The relationship isn’t healthy until

          82. That lyric you quote at the end is so hard. But I believe there is a lot of truth in that, as frankly unattractive as that idea may be. Love is not unconditional, not even love for your children, certainly not love for your spouse. “…that’s not the way the world is…” Chilling, but true. The “who I am where I am” may be very selfish, immature, abusive…one of the things a healthy relationship can do is help us grow ourselves up out of that stuff.

          83. I really like that image. In my mind, I see it as a book, but a picture book for kids, who (as Matt reminds us) *really* need some good information and resources about well-functioning relationships.

          84. To be clear, because that my writing is often not clear…
            Accepting influence is the willingness to change shape in order to form the new “couple” molecule.
            Couplehood is really an entity unto itself.
            I would posit that most individuals in a couple do end up changing their original shape, though I’m conflicted couples the shape isn’t one that strengthens the couple unit, by affirming and growing together. In couples that don’t accept influence I would say the shape changes due to the reactivity and conflict in the couple- with more kinks, and sharp, jagged protrusions that would represent the damage from emotional shrapnel.

          85. Lots of wisdom there, Mike. One of the hardest things to see, understand and ultimately accept is that both parties have to put something into a relationship, and ultimately there are going to be times of discomfort, loneliness,sadness and alienation. If we think that’s the jury’s verdict, we will never move out of our comfort zone to reach out and repair.

            One of the things I’ve struggled with since forever is the belief that things should get to a state of steady comfort and effortless bliss. That belief/expectation kept me bound up in fear and anxiety and pain. I think meditation and a dose of Buddhist philosophy is finally helping me with that.

          86. My comment presented both sides of the pattern that Gottman says produces the most common shitty hetero marriage. It is a “cause” of the pattern.

            His research found that the number one factor in predicting unhappy relationships in newlyweds over time was a husband not accepting influence.

            Do I think there are reasons that men do this? Yes I do. Most are not trying to hurt their wives or their marriages. Terry Real talks quite eloquently how cultural training from around age 3 trains boys to learn things to be “masculine” that will later prevent them from having intimate partnerships.

            Do I think that women are also to “blame” for shitty relationships?

            Yes, yes I do.

            Our cultural training teaches us to resentfully comply or to be “nice” when we should set boundaries or be make clear requests for change. This is a HUGE deficit that creates a lot of problems.

            It is what Gottman’s research shows must ALSO be present to create the shitty marriage.

            Marriages where wives could set healthy boundaries *early* in the relationship to establish mutual accepting influence went on to be happy.

            BOTH sides lack key relationship skills. Both of these things must be there to create the pattern of the average shitty hetero marriage.

            The reason imho that the husband not accepting influence is the critical factor is that so many women don’t know how to set healthy boundaries.

          87. The other choice that women often make is to try and set boundaries but do it too harshly.
            The focus is on defensive “I will not be treated this way, you WILL listen to me, do what I want!”

            I don’t want to give the impression that all women are super compliant and quiet. In my personal experience I alternated between one extreme of trying to keep the peace by adjusting and responding in anger.

            It’s the lack of knowing how to do the Goldilocks middle approach of setting boundaries that co-created my shitty marriage.

          88. Hi,
            If you really wonder what this is about, where Uniballer and Nate are coming from with their comments, please go back and read and the comments to that article (just an example among a multitude).

            There’s a multitude of women speaking up about how their husbands won’t fix his own mistakes, how he always choose his own feelings above hers, and how guys just don’t get it.
            But in that thread, in response to those comments, not a single word about accepting influence or “trying to see it from his side” is uttered.

          89. FlyingKal,

            I agree with you generally that there is not enough balance in the posts or comments (except when I write 198 comments to overwhelm the numbers ?)

            It would imho be better if everyone looked to see the pattern with both people involved. To see how each person co-creates it.

            I don’t understand though how the comments on this post we are commenting on can be understood as blaming men unfairly.

            And that is what has been said at various points by Nate and Uniballer.

            But I’m trying to understand.

          90. Gottmanfan,
            Thank you for your reply 🙂 And sorry for a late answer.

            “I don’t understand though how the comments on this post we are commenting on can be understood as blaming men unfairly. ”

            One thing that stands out to me (when reading the part of the conversation located above to the far right) is that when women’s behaviour is brought into the discussion, it immediately shifts to try and find a cause or a reason, as an excuse to why she behaves the way she does.
            This in contrast to what Matt writes and a lot of women commenting here (not you, mind you) about men’s shitty behaviour that seemingly “just is”.

            Uniballer writes lengths about his contributions and what he’s proactive about in his relationship, yet several women jumps in (again, not you) to make several assumptions about what he doesn’t do and what his partner’s acting should tell him.

            It’s something I’ve said before. As a man reading relationship advice, the impression you most often take away with you is that women always have a reason/excuse for what they do. Be it practical, emotional, from their upbringing, whatever.
            Men on the other hand are just seen as lazy, stupid or mean, or any combination thereof, and just need to snap out of it.

          91. Kal,

            Thank you for that explanation. That makes a lot of sense to me and I think it is an accurate observation of many of the comments. And it is compounded because there are so many more female commenters than male.

            I think most men are not characteristically lazy, stupid or mean. I know my husband isn’t.

            You get into these patterns and people start to act in uncharacteristic ways on both sides.

            PS For what it’s worth I don’t think that PIP’s comments were blaming men. Only pointing out the accepting influence piece and the defensive responses. This imho is not blaming but correct diagnosis. It is always better when presented as a balanced system though imho.

          92. Kal,

            You said:

            “Uniballer writes lengths about his contributions and what he’s proactive about in his relationship, yet several women jumps in (again, not you) to make several assumptions about what he doesn’t do and what his partner’s acting should tell him.”

            I agree this is very frustrating. People tend to default to averages or stereotypes and personal experiences even when it is not applicable based on what is clearly presented.

  7. Nate, I hear your passion behind this.
    I don’t think anyone is trying to assign blame. I think that is the major breakdown here.
    It’s not about whose fault it is.
    It’s about “this is what is happening,” and the follow up- “what can we do in our own individual power to change it?”
    It’s really difficult to look at relationship dynamics this way, without a shit ton of emotion behind it.
    Close relationships are THE place people can be most wounded.

    Its really exhausting to be in a conflictual relationship, and it’s really exhausting to get to a place that’s good again, after things have been stressed for a while.
    I can empathize that it feels more empowering and just,even, to fault the other person.
    Per Brene Brown- Blame is a way to discharge anger and pain.
    It’s very common for people to feel unhappy in their circumstances and say it’s the other persons fault.

    I don’t think blaming is what is being said in Matt’s post or in the comments.
    I think what is being encouraged is taking the ownership of the only thing we can take ownership of, and that is ourselves (our emotions and behaviors).

    What is in my power to do, to have a good relationship?
    Anyone (EVERY) one in a relationship would benefit from asking themselves this question.

    1. This is just a general observation, not a reply and certainly not a reply to PIP or UB. I, too, took a break from reading here for a while, partly because my own journey became almost all-consuming and partly because it often feels like we talk past each other.

      In any case…as a general observation, I know that for a long while I would say, to myself and one of my therapists, that “these things that happen between me and my wife don’t happen with anyone else!” By which I think I meant: these things only happen with her, so it must be her fault.

      I had not yet begun to appreciate how much “stuff” I was carrying around inside and how seriously that affected our relationship – nor that the same thing would in fact happen if I had tried to live in an emotionally committed relationship with any of the people I thought of as counter-examples (the people with whom crappy things did -not- happen, which I thought proved that it was all my wife’s issues, rather than mine).

      1. Replying to myself here…but if anyone’s interested, my story is basically the same as Will Hunting’s. You can see it at about 1:45 in Good Will Hunting.

        1. Jack,
          Telling our stories is really important in healing.
          Sometimes it just starts with one event. One thing that happened that affected you deeply. A friend of mine terms it as “making a vow”- events happen and we make a vow to ourselves, then we tend to view the rest of our lives through the context of those events and the vows we make. Sharing that story with others that you know and trust can really be an emotional relief, and it opens the doors for others to know you on a deeper level.
          There’s neuroscience to back up the effects of this, but I’d likely only get it half right if I tried to explain :).

          1. I know, I’ve read a lot. But sometimes, as you say, a story is worth…well, not more than a thousand words, so, maybe more than a picture? ;-).

            Sometimes I just need to hear Robin Williams’ character saying: “it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” And I think I have a least a few toes on that ground now.

            But until I got there, my wife and I were never going to make much progress as a “we.” There wasn’t enough “me” in the venture.

    2. So, another general observation. I could make this as long as War and Peace but won’t…

      I love the dictum “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” That might be from Bader and Pearson – maybe Lisa knows?

      It took me all of my childhood and adult life (I’m 60) to realize that the “normal” I grew up with was not normal at all. To realize that nearly all of my hypersensitivities and reactivity were literally beaten into me as a child over a period of years.

      Only as I have started to unwind this, very painfully, do I begin to realize where a lot of my stuff (or use another word beginning with the letter S) comes from, and that I can start to let go of it, not let it control me. To realize that I am not defective, or always wrong, or unloveable. And as I get a grip on what IS my stuff, starting also to take on board the understanding that, to use a psychobabble phrase, a lot of stuff that goes on is “not about me.” It’s about my father, or my wife, or another person.

      I feel like I finally have some equilibrium. I’m not being blown around my my wife’s weather, or my co-workers’ weather, or even the weather caused by our elected officials.*

      Until I started to find this balance in myself, I really couldn’t start to deal with the people in my life like a mature individual.

      My point, I guess, is just that it can be really hard and very time-consuming to do this work, and I couldn’t see it for a long time. If I weren’t so stubborn I don’t know if I would have pushed this far…

      *Not feeling like I could use the term “leadership” for most of these people…

      1. Hey Jack,
        I really can appreciate your journey (to use more flowery, near psychobable sort of language :). )
        It does take a long time to figure out our own stuff- to feel (or to tolerate to feel, really ) our own stuff.
        And you’re right on target that there is no way we can tolerate other people’s waves until we’ve learned to ride our own (phasing into surfing analogy now.. 😉
        Really glad you’re getting there.
        I much prefer this sort of personal revelation in the context of these conversations than I do blame shifting and arguing who is right. The answer is nobody is right; and the point is to stretch ourselves to see the other persons view.
        Glad to hear from you, Jack!

        1. …annnnnd three points for reminding us that -> no one has to be “right”<- here! Or in any relationship, at least if you care about the relationship more than you care about being right. Brings to mind a Terry Real dictum: you can be right, or you can be in relationship – which do you want? 😉

          1. I agree with you Jack and I’m so glad to hear you have been able to work through some of your trauma. I feel so sad for the pain you experienced as a boy and young man. I admire your willingness to deal with the hidden areas. I know that can’t be easy. It takes a lot of courage and commitment.

            On the subject of being “right” and choosing the relationship, it imho always needs to be balanced with healthy boundaries. Not tolerating grandiosity is also one of Terry Real’s themes.

            I know you know this. But I think some people don’t.

            I think that some people emphasize putting up with ALL kinds of shit in the name of choosing love or honoring your marriage commitment or incorrect application of religious views of submission, or happy wife, happy life etc.

            I think that is what some men read into Matt’s blog. That what the wife needs/wants matters more than the husband’s.

            So that’s why imho it is dialectical. Both things are true and must be balanced as needed. We need to value the relationship but also know how to not tolerate unhealthy things. But do both in mature ways.

            As Stan Tatkin says in a healthy relationship we take care of ourselves and the other person at the same time.

          2. In other words, sometimes it matters that we are “right” and the other person is wrong.

            And we need to know when we are being treated unfairly and know how to respond appropriately to that. I think that’s where Atkinson’s ebook is helpful to tell us step by step how to do this in a way that is focused on restoring the relationship.

            But there are other times where it’s not a matter of being treated unfairly but a difference that is inconvenient or annoying.

            Those are the times I think it’s a good approach to not focus on being “right.”

          3. So to use Uniballers Oktoberfest example:

            Imho it is an annoying difference that his wife wanted to clean. And it should have been approached that way. To renegotiate the plans. And to request in the future that changes be discussed first.

            But the part where she was telling him his chores don’t count is an example where he is being treated unfairly. And that requires a different response to not allow that to continue.

          4. That’s the problem, isnt’ it?
            How do you approach and renegotiate an (unexpected) “annoying difference” with a person who isn’t willing to negotiate in the first place?

          5. FlyingKal,


            I wish we could all move beyond who is more to blame, men or women so that we could all try and answer those kinds of questions.

          6. OK, so what is the answer. It’s a great question. But unless I missed it, no answer.

            Maybe I need to keep reading….

          7. Well I don’t want to pretend that I have all the answers. I can tell you what has worked for me.

            And I can tell you what different research says is effective. What different experts say to try. But that has to be modified to your particular situation.

            As you have pointed out, you do not fit into the a common pattern of a husband who doesn’t do enough chores. So a lot of the typical advice does not apply exactly to your situation.

            But what does apply is what healthy relationships look like. What do healthy people with full relationship skills do? How do they respond? That is where I always start.

            So to start to answer the question let’s start there. How do healthy people with a full set of relationship skills respond to a person who isn’t treating them fairly?

            (The most straightforward reference to this is detailed in the Atkinson ebook. It really is worth the time.)

            Atkinson says that the research says that people in happy relationships “stand up for themselves without making a big deal of it.”

            Those 2 pieces are key.

            They expect that people are going to be selfish sometimes and they aren’t judgemental about that. They just take steps to get things back on track.

            There is are escalating stages if the spouse doesn’t respond.

            The goal is always to restore the relationship functioning. Not to punish or defend.

            Ok there is the theory. Practically speaking it involves action through words and stoping “business as usual” always with the words and attitude that it is only to restore communication where both people can work together to find a solution.

            Does that sound reasonable?

          8. It sounds reasonable.

            Probably have to get the book and start reading.

            Anyway, I’ve been up since before 3am as I had a last minute service request come up yesterday that had me on the road to the tune of just under 500 miles. Of course, some of that was getting to a hotel closer to home, so at least tomorrows drive will only be 350 miles 🙂

            Which is why my responses have been sporadic. Breakfast, Lunch and now that my service call is done, some quality time with the laptop since Mrs uniB is hosting conferences with parents at school tonight.

            So me, my Mr Spock personality and my lizard brain are all going to call it for a night and hit it very early in the morning for the drive home.

          9. Right/wrong, not sure? Fair/unfair, yes for sure. Atkinson – that book is gold, but I have never been able to read it through. I skip around and like what I read a great deal, but somehow for me something doesn’t work as a book to read through. Gotta overcome that because the message and method are just so great.

          10. Jack,

            It is a dense ebook.

            I think that book is helpful to me because it matches how I naturally think in flow chart kind of ways. It’s very specific behaviorally as you know.

            When x happens, do y. I don’t necessarily do it exactly as he says but the general framework is helpful to me.

            I relate less to the meditation parts. Even though I know it’s important to calm your brain and body. I have found other things more helpful to do that.

            I find the “name it to tame it” calms me more than breathing or meditating. But everyone is different.

          11. Oh, oh, oh! – as they used to say on TV. Meditation. With the caveat that I wouldn’t dare suggest that anyone else should do it, it was what turned the corner for me in my head.

            I have/have had so many voices, mostly my father’s, in my head. The book that finally got me launched was Dan Harris’s book (which I think someone mentioned here?). It finally got me some mental clarity and that has made all the difference for me, and in a surprisingly short time.

          12. Jack,

            Oh I am so happy that meditation has worked so well for you!

            I did read the Dan Harris book and found it interesting.

            I heard Kelly McGonagal say that for a substantial minority (I think it was around 25%) of people meditation produces a *negative* response. I found that so interesting in that it confirmed my personal experience.

            The point I always hang on is to try a bunch of things and keep what works and don’t get hung up on what doesn’t even if it “should” work. I’m focusing on dropping as many shoulds as I can in my thinking. ?

          13. Oh yes. Just another excuse to beat yourself up, if that’s what your habit is (and it has been one of mine…which does NOT make for good relationships, with -anyone-).

          14. I’ve often used the line, I’m not trying to win, I would simply like to stop losing.

            A unilateral plan change isn’t necessarily losing. Being berated for not going along with something I had no say in is the losing part.

            If my wife wanted to clean, I’m willing to let her and not complain about it.

            The problem is the expectation that I just jump in and if she doesn’t see me working, at that moment, then I must be the problem.

          15. Uniballer,

            Yes I understand. I would be frustrated too with changing things after we had discussed a plan. I’m a plan person.

            I agree with you that your wife is treating you unfairly in berating you. (I think I didn’t pick the berating part up earlier)

            The question is how do you respond to a person who you love but who is currently berating you?

            The key imho is to do it without defensiveness or anger. Hard I know.

            Have you had situations where you did respond that way? If so what happened?

            As I said before, it helps me if I think of it like a science experiment. That helps me not be so angry or defensive.

          16. As logical and Mr Spock as I’d like to think I am or am said to be, I too have a lizard brain in there that responds to attacks, be they physical, oral, or emotional.

          17. Uniballer,

            Oh man I relate to that! It is amazing how easily I get flooded and go into fight or flight mode (ok lets be honest mostly fight ?)

            That’s another thing that I have had some success with. I have been practicing noticing when my flooding level is rising and then taking deep breaths to bring it down. Or doing some cognitive reframing helps.

            If it rises beyond a certain level I chose to remove myself since I can’t fight the physiology at that point and a bad interaction is predictable.

            So I have found it helpful to be more aware of my level of flooding and what thoughts trigger the response.

            Later I can analyze those to figure out what I can change when I am calm.

            There are other methods people use like meditating or prayer. Or looking a kids pictures etc.

    3. Just a thought about this.

      “I don’t think anyone is trying to assign blame. I think that is the major breakdown here.
      It’s not about whose fault it is.”

      I don’t know if you may view this as an cultural-, upbringing-, and/or gendered-based thing. But if someone is yelling at me for reasons I’m not really certain about, and a by-stander then asks me “Well, what did you do to make them yell at you, and why didn’t you do X, Y or Z do defuse the situation?”, then it smells rather close to assigning blame, at least to me.

      1. Hi Kal,
        First I want to point out that In the context of these conversations- no one is yelling at anyone.
        But, If someone writes something about a conflict they are having on a public post, one would assume it is to address that conflict (hopefully).
        Lisa (as that is who I am assuming you are saying is asking what the person who is being yelled at did to deserve the yelling) is not asking what Uniballer did to deserve the yelling. She is just addressing what one can do about the conflict. Which at times has to initially be unilateral, AND counter intuitive to what you WANT to do – which is give them the exact same measure of pain as they gave us.
        But, we can easily figure out, that just leads to a lot of emotional slaughter.
        Instead, doing something that allows the other person safety can change the dynamic- when they know the safety is legitimate. That may take some time, but eventually it can happen.
        We have to remember that in a conflicted dynamic there are likely two people who have hurt each other over and over again. And people who have been hurt can have some unruly responses.
        The wife is likely responding to this dynamic negatively, much the same as Uniballer is.
        Bam! They’re both to blame!
        Why? Because as Lisa has tried to explain they are both in a destructive pattern.
        I’m a little blunt, and I apologize if I ruffle feathers here, but it really is in the name of truth seeking-
        I will preface what I’m about to say with this- Uniballer is the one who is commenting, so I only see what he writes, I would likely assess the wife the same way if she said the same things, AND- i concede she may be a blood thirsty hound after human blood. But, I don’t know, because I’ve never seen two words from her.
        But I have read Uniballers words (and Uniballer, if you’re reading this- please go review what I said previously because I explicitly said “your circumstances could be different” or something to that effect.) ..but back to the point,
        It seems like from Uniballers words, he is still participating in the negative pattern by 1) pointing fingers and 2) by asking for validation that he is right (therefore not expected to make any change.) And that is likely a stance (by both parties) that prevents any movement in a positive direction.
        If the person here writing is here, obviously out of dissatisfaction, then was being offered is merely an alternative to what they are currently doing- which, again is obviously not satisfying.

        You can take that and do whatever you want to with it. (If it were paper- ecspecially the soft, squeezable kind, I can imagine the use many would get out of it 🙂 )
        However, overall- I just want to make clear – I have no obligation to prove myself or my intentions to you or anyone else here on the blog. I won’t answer statements that begin with “if you really” ..
        And I don’t have much vested interest in “convincing” anyone who isn’t really open to conversation. I’m not here to argue. If you have a different view point, great- but seeing the information being repeating over and over to what *seems* to be an obvious distortion doesn’t benefit me, or the person making the argument out of distorted information.
        It would be awesome if we could somehow restate what we understood the other person stated before we launch into a defense.
        That way, we could be clear in understanding at what points we disagree and maybe were the understanding breaks down and the information distortion begins.

  8. Aargh. Once the conversation gets too far over to the right, I don’t see “reply” buttons any more … so I tried using the “reply by email” feature, and that seems to have made an almighty mess.

  9. I have a wordpress account! What do I need to do to see the more friendly format? (My problem is comments becoming very very tall and thin, with no “reply” button on them).

    1. Use the reader. The button is in the upper left hand corner of the page.

      I believe conversations is the choice in the reader.

  10. Mike,

    I am going to respond down here since the responses are convoluted.

    First, I think Matt clearly states that he believes women are better at relationships than men. (Although he also says that women do lots of things wrong in marriage etc).

    So I want to validate that it is imho accurate that in that sense Matt puts more of the “blame” on men than women.

    I do not agree with this point of view as I state in my many comments. I think men and women on average are better and worse at different things in relationships. It is the combo of those things that create the problem in hetero relationships.

    (In same sex relationships there are other problematic patterns but accepting influence is generally better according to Gottman’s research.)

    Imho there are heterosexual gendered patterns that result in different sets of relationship skill deficits. Or even different goals.

    But, in general, I think it’s more productive to think about it in less gendered terms as a starting point.

    So much of what we deal with is similar. For example, the human brain defaults to seeing things from OUR point of view. Empathy is challenging. Accuracy in guessing another’s thinking is very low. But we think we are good at it. Understanding we are not good and asking and giving clarification is one helpful step towards a good relationship.

    Relationship skills should not be thought of as gendered. The style may vary and can and should be flexibly applied as appropriate the the culture and situation. But the skill is the skill. It takes certain things to create a healthy relationship. They are knowable. They can be learned.

    That’s my take anyway.

  11. I am always puzzled by why the term “accepting influence” seems to be unclear.

    It is simply being *willing* to make changes based on being in a relationship with another person.

    It doesn’t mean control or criticism.

    Hey Sam would you please put the dish in the dishwasher instead of the leaving it on the counter.?

    Option 1 Sure,no problem.

    Option 2 I like to leave it out to use later. How important is it to you?

    Wife Option 1 oh it’s no big deal that’s fine.

    Option 2. It really bugs me to have dirty dishes out. The clutter makes me crazy.


    Option 1 oh ok if it matters that much to you I’ll put it in the dishwasher.

    Option 2 It really matters to me to have the dish out to make it easy for me to remember to take my vitamins.

    Wife option 1. Oh ok that’s fine if that is your system.

    Option 2 hmm well maybe you could put the dish near the microwave not the sink? I think it’s great you are trying to be healthy. Or maybe you could set a phone alert to remind you to take them?

    The point is to have an interactive conversion. Each person explains their reasoning and wants. They try and find a solution that works for both of them.

    1. Agree with this entirely. Problem is that I rarely see this scenario play out as you describe, both personally and with several close friends.

      Wife: Hey Nate put your glass away.

      Nate: I use that glass all throughout the night. No need to dirty 5 glasses, I’ll put it in the dishwasher before I go to bed.

      Wife: Hey Nate put your glass away.

      Nate: I really am still actively using this glass…just not this exact second…but literally will again in like two minutes

      Wife: FINE

      Nate: (“fuck this” said in my head) I say nothing but get up and put the glass away.

      Now the rest of the evening/night is stressed and sucky. So did I not accept enough influence? Did my wife not set strong enough boundaries? Or is my wife just being unrealistic and unyielding?

      1. I think you are describing anecdotally is what Astrid described about not knowing any husbands who were healthy.

        I am not saying you are wrong by the way. Or that Astrid is.

        Only that patterns are averages. And often once we are in a bad pattern, BOTH sides no longer accept influence from each other or set healthy boundaries if they did previously because it’s zero sum now.

        Ok having said that. I think that you are asking the right questions. Let’s take it out of the gendered stuff.

        How do you respond to a person you love that is not accepting influence?

        That’s the right question. The goal of which should be to restore or create a healthy pattern.

        1. “How do you respond to a person you love that is not accepting influence? … The goal of which should be to restore or create a healthy pattern”

          I think too slowly to keep up with the conversation on here …

          but my general answer to the above is, (1) stop and think, (2) ask yourself what you are really asking for and why you want it, why is it important, what does it mean. In Gottman terms, look for the meaning (for yourself) behind the apparent conflict
          (3) Only then, start asking questions of your partner, like what is going on for them. (4) If things have got too escalated between you to be able to have such a conversation, then you may need to have it in front of a marriage counsellor

          1. Good points.

            In Nate’s example, his wife is not accepting influence. Maybe she has always done this. Maybe if it fits the average pattern it has morphed into a zero sum because each side doesn’t trust each other.

            The answer on how to respond imho depends on if you have the desire and emotional and cognitive resources to change the pattern by YOU responding in the healthy way over and over.

            This does not mean giving in. In fact it would mean choosing to have a “crappy evening”. Because you will have to work hard to regulate yourself and she will most likely not respond ideally for what you want.

            I agree at this stage in a bad pattern it’s very helpful or even necessary to have a good couples therapist to guide you towards a better pattern.

            But i think it’s important at the very least to get an accurate understanding of what is happening and what can he done to change it. That can be done by reading books or blogs or podcasts if you find the right ones.

            A correct diagnosis is critical imho as the first step.

      2. Well, the place where your sample dialogue starts to diverge from GFs is that your “I’ll put it in the dishwasher before I go to bed.” is not followed by “…is that okay?”

        1. Mike

          You said in response to Nate’s example:

          “Well, the place where your sample dialogue starts to diverge from GFs is that your “I’ll put it in the dishwasher before I go to bed.” is not followed by “…is that okay?”

          Very important! I didn’t catch it when I read it the first time.

          That little phrase “is that ok?” is part of the accepting influence.

          Each side has to be flexible and check in with each other to make sure that the proposed solution works for both of them.

          It is the zero sum framing and demands that we need to eliminate to be successful.

          Since I have my dreaded debating style I have tried to get into the habit of saying “is that how you see it? or do you see it another way?”

          Just adding little phrases like that to indicate flexibility and that I am not making demands to agree has made a difference in the responses he gives me.

      3. Nate,

        To answer your question in the glass scenario you describe with your wife.

        She is not accepting influence and you are not setting boundaries.

        You are accepting her not accepting influence by choosing to not say anything and putting the glass away.

        Which shows that men also have trouble setting boundaries.

        How should one respond to this scenario is the right question imho.

        If we could all focus on crowdsourcing answers to the questions based on correct diagnosis in this comment section could be transformative.

        Hopelessness goes away when you know what to do in my experience anyway.

    2. The thing about this type of conversion, in my experience, is that even if you do come to an agreement around the “Ok, I’ll put the glass by the micro, and put it in the dishwasher when I’m done using it before going to bed.”
      the next day, you’re still cast with the ray of “DIDN’T I TELL YOU YESTERDAY to put your glass in the dishwasher?! ¤#& I have to think about everything and do everything around the house you never pick up your stuff…”
      and so on and so forth.

      1. Like I said a moment ago, once it’s become engrained, a good solution may be unreachable without help. If the above happened, “Didnt I tell you yesterday…”, the response would need to be very curious: “hmm, something weird is going on here, I dont understand, yes we had this conversation yesterday, I thought we sorted it out, what on earth is happening to us?”

      2. Flyingkal,

        That describes a shitty pattern.

        In an accepting influence pattern even if the person forgets the conversation repeats with a willingness on both sides to adjust.

        I think most of us here have been in shitty patterns so we don’t have a lot of recent experience with healthy patterns.

    3. I was confused by being lumped into a group accused of not accepting influence. After going into detail about asking my wife how she felt about Saturday and Sunday bike rides, lunch with Mom and the class reunion, which seems to me examples of accepting influence, how I was guilty of not accepting influence.

      I understand accepting influence. What I don’t understand is how anyone can suggest I do not accept influence after such a description.

      Add to that the whole notion of how she drives the train with regard to food due to food allergies and a host of other examples.

      So unless I’m reading poorly, my take away from PiP is that I don’t accept influence and I look to blame, even though I asked what PROACTIVE steps could I have taken to predict the unilateral decision.

      The topic of Matt’s post is predicting needs, right?

      But we’ve once again left that and are blaming men for being bad at relationships or being bad at accepting influence or whatever, even when a guy posts he’s doing that, somehow he’s wrong and trying to blame her.

      Understand why guys give up. We followed the rule and either don’t get credit or are told we didn’t follow them, or it doesn’t apply in this circumstance.

      1. Uniballer,

        I have tried to say over and over that the META common pattern is generally men not accepting influence/women not setting boundaries.

        It may not apply to your situation I don’t know. It is not universally true for all men or women.

        It often doesn’t apply once the pattern is entrenched in negativity. Once you get to that stage BOTH sides are usually not functioning properly.

        I honestly DO NOT GET why you and Nate keep saying I am blaming men when I have consistently presented it as needing both sides to have critical relationship skill deficits. It takes 2 people to create a shitty long term marriage pattern.

        If one person is shitty the person with healthy skills does not stay in the pattern.

        I am not saying what Matt is saying about men being better at relationships.

        I don’t know how to say it any clearly than I am now. But if you have specific concerns or questions with what I am saying that are not clearly enough expressed I am happy to discuss.

        If you want to discuss how you can improve in whatever you can identify I am happy to brainstorm with you since that is what I am doing with myself.

        1. Understand, but PiP suggested, unless I read it wrong, that the pattern applies to me and I asked for clarification as to what she meant or saw that lead her to lump me into that pattern, if that was meant.

          1. Uniballer,

            My apologies I didn’t read your comment throughly enough to realize you were addressing PIP.

            But clearly I needed to write one of my 198 comments here so one less to write now. ?

      2. Uniballer,

        When I have more time I have some random ideas about proactive things.

        Here is something about accepting influence that applies to me that may or may not apply to you.

        I have a limited amount of accepting influence in my tank.

        Since I am a planner and like definite things it can sometimes be hard for me to have several accepting influence conversations and then after it is decided, have it changed again.

        So I have realized that part of the skill I need to work on is to have a more expansive amount of accepting influence. To continue to remain flexible. Instead of getting angry and feeling betrayed (maybe that’s too strong a word but that is the general idea)

        I don’t know if that applies to you but I thought I would throw it out there.

        I can be excellent at accepting influence in lots of circumstances and run out of gas. Or I can be good in some circumstances and bad in another.

        It’s like being able to sprint and run a marathon. And deal with lots of different people’s weirdness well.

        It takes practice to get good in lots of situations.

        That’s my story anyway.

        1. I think there are things that certainly make it easier for me to accept influence. Such as I’m an equal party to the conversation and not a child obeying the mom voice.

          Be factual. If one is trying to influence me by saying I don’t help around the house, that’s probably not going to go over well. If we are going to negotiate an agreement, then we need to establish some grounds. If one party is negotiating from an accounting that says the other person did nothing, well, if they are looking to even up the score. (Not saying it’s a good practice, but this is an accounting topic, so it will happen.)

          So if I’ve done 20 hours of household chores, but am credited with zero during the discussion, then I’m probably not going to accept any influence that codifies that position and docks me, or doesn’t credit me for what I am doing.

          Now to many, that comes across as defensive or not accepting influence.

          I say no, I’m perfectly willing to accept influence. But let’s start with an accurate record.

          I’m not willing to negotiate based on her estimation of what I’m doing.

          Do you (and others) see the difference?

          While it wasn’t my plan to keep score, if that’s the influence she is peddling, then it’s reasonable that I want to have influence on the starting score. I’m not willing to just roll over and say, yes, my score is zero after 20 hours of household chores.

          So can I accept that she wants something, but reject her assertion that I’m doing nothing, or that those things don’t count?

          Because perhaps the confusion is in what constitutes rejection of influence.

          I believe most rational people will accept influence grounded in reason. Likelwise, extreme views, absolutists views will likely be rejected.

          The you never ________. The person who breaks out that statement will likey derail the conversation. The recipient of that will probably argue they did _____ a dozen times this week.

          Instead of you never ________, why not, I need ______?

          1. Uniballer,

            First of all I am laughing because you sound exactly like me. I have had almost exact conversations with therapists and my husband.

            “We need an factual and logical basis to start.”

            It’s not that that is wrong. I agree that it is so much easier if both people are starting from the same fact base. Then it’s at least logical.

            I am not suggesting that you “negotiate” based on very inaccurate data.

            This is where I have had learn to switch into thinking about emotional meaning.

            People often express things in exaggerated terms to express their emotional intensity. “You never…
            “I always …” are examples of this when intellectually (or some people may not be able to access their logic) they know it’s not actually accurate.

            So the trick is to try and hear the emotional meaning underneath the logical inaccuracies.

            I tend to speak in black in white language as a simplified shortcut. Drives my husband crazy as I’ve mentioned before. It is to communicate the essence of the thing. And sometimes the emotion it evokes.

            My very intelligent, logical husband has told me something completely objectively wrong just like your wife.

            I was amazed. Gobsmacked! How could he even remotely think that is accurate much less fair.

            We would have useless fights where I struggled to get him to agree on objective data as a basis of the discussion and/or negotiation.

            But when I started to see it through the lens of emotional intensity it made more sense. And made me curious. Why does he feel such intensity that it clouds objective facts? What’s going on underneath there?

            So if we can kick into the curious part of our brain that helps.

            So that’s one piece of it that has helped me.

    4. What I had to learn is similar to what you are saying. For me it was Lori asking

      “Do you want to be taught by your best friend?”

      Of course I do, but I resisted the process for a long time because I felt like a child sometimes. Guess what, that is OK. Why?

      Because humility is “teachability”, which allows me to learn something new and necessary for my relationship.

      1. Jay,


        I have heard that “child/mom” thing from a lot of men. It explains in part why it’s common to resist your wife’s influence. I think it relates to how boys and men are raised which leads to resistance because it feels emasculating.

        It has to be recognized and reframed in a way that leads to a different way of thinking about it.
        Humility is one way you are right.

        I love how you see it as something we can learn. Most of this stuff is things we just need to adjust and learn.

  12. I remain discouraged…60 new comments since last night with all the research in the world (that I’m sure is legit research) cited and it still comes down to this: men not accepting influence is the #1 indicator and cause of divorce in hetero couples. Read that again. Men not doing something is the biggest cause of divorce. Now, when Mike asked what the woman’s half of the equation was, which others disputed claiming the men’s portion is much high than 50%, the only response was to set better boundaries. Come again?? So a man needs to accept influence better, something that the same cited research says is inherently unnatural to men, something that is an ongoing, daily exercise that requires a lot of work by the man…and what women need to do is set boundaries? Women need to basically be more clear on what is and is not acceptable behavior from their partners? You’re telling me women need to take minimal overt actions to better the relationship? Tell me again how this is not man blaming? In Uniballer’s example, there is no amount of accepting influence, flexibility, etc. that would have brought about a different outcome. Sometimes, one partner is JUST AT FAULT. Sometimes, one person can just act shitty. No amount of accepting influence or setting boundaries would have changed this outcome.

    1. To Nate: “So a man needs to accept influence better, something that the same cited research says is inherently unnatural to men, something that is an ongoing, daily exercise that requires a lot of work by the man…and what women need to do is set boundaries? Women need to basically be more clear on what is and is not acceptable behavior from their partners? You’re telling me women need to take minimal overt actions to better the relationship?”

      Yeah, I can see how this looks: Accepting influence is “a lot of work” and setting boundaries is “minimal”. Actually the reverse is more like the case. Accepting influence is not work. It’s easier than fighting it. It’s like “not fighting the surf” when you’re surfing, going with the flow. And setting boundaries does not mean “giving your partner orders”, it means “being clear”, and to be clear to your partner, you first have to get things clear in your own head, which is really HARD! I try to teach MEN to set boundaries, and it’s not easy to get them to get it.

      “In Uniballer’s example, there is no amount of accepting influence, flexibility, etc. that would have brought about a different outcome. Sometimes, one partner is JUST AT FAULT.”
      Sure. It may be that in his case, his wife is completely unreasonable and totally at fault. And, I posted something to him earlier, the gist of which was, that her problem is, she isn’t clear to herself about what she wants. So she makes him into the villain.

      1. Yes!

        Setting healthy boundaries is hard in general as Mike said. It’s hard for men and women to do it well.

        It is ESPECIALLY hard for women because we have been trained to NOT do it well. We have to overcome all that stuff that men don’t generally get.

        Accepting influence is hard too. It’s hard for men and women. It is ESPECIALLY hard for men because of all the cultural training they get.

        As I said it takes BOTH sides to create these patterns.

        By the way one third of men do accept influence. This is just describing a common pattern. It is not blaming men. It creates a block that needs to be handled maturely. And many women can’t do that. Which is necessary in any relationship.

        It is the critical factor only when combined with a woman who can’t set boundaries. BOTH deficits need to be present.

      2. Mike,
        You said earlier to Uniballer: “You may need to let her win the “who does more housework” contest.”

        How do you picture that this victory – defeat/surrender scenario in the described situation would manifest itself?

        1. Honestly, I don’t know. It depends so much on what is going on with each. It may not be reachable at all. I’m guessing he may need to be a little less perfect with all his laundry-system-devising and shower-cubicle-cleaning.

      3. I disagree that there is nothing Uniballer could have done in the situation with his wife.

        Of course this is all hindsight, but at the very least he could have not participated in an argument with her that his chores don’t count.

        That is part of the process of boundary setting. It takes two people to argue.

        You can say “Hey, I don’t think I am being treated fairly in this discussion right now. I do want to work this out with you so that both of us feel treated fairly.

        I suggest we talk about this tomorrow at 8pm (some specific time) after we have cooled off. Note this is not stonewalling or permanent withdrawal. It is recognizing the disasterous fight that is going to happen and trying to find a better way to approach the topic.

        If that doesn’t work, it is time for a couples therapist to help facilitate. If she won’t go, go yourself to figure out how to respond to the situation differently.

        Of course, all of this is difficult I don’t want to minimize that at all.

        1. And let me make clear that Uniballer’s wife is NOT handling things correctly.

          The question before is us how do we respond when someone we love isn’t treating us fairly?

          So that is the context for the comment above not to pile on Uniballer who is dealing with a difficult situation.

    2. Accepting influence isn’t difficult, we do it all the time from bosses, coaches, and pastors.

      Your resistance to it makes it hard.

      Have you ever tried to hold a beach ball underwater? The harder you push against the ball, you spend more energy trying to keep it under control.

      I had this same problem many times and it came down to this:

      I didn’t trust my wife, even though I was the one lying my ass off.

      I didn’t think she had my best interest in mind and I equated her actions with those of other people who had harmed me in the past.

      To move forward and accept influence you will have to see your spouse as “good hearted” and trust that she wants the best for you. There may be reasons why you can’t do this, so look deeply at those issues. If it is truly your spouse’s actions you do not trust, then you have a clear answer.

      1. Jay,

        I think you are right that one situation where accepting influence is hard is when there is resistance or you don’t trust your spouse.

        Another situation is where the person is asking you to do something you don’t want to do. Or that will cost you something.

        Most couples have basic differences that require that kind of hard accepting influence.

        Maybe one person wants to focus more on work or hobbies and the other wants more couple/family time.

        Or one person wants to have the family visit the in laws for Christmas and you want to stay home. Or wants to live in the city vs the suburbs. Or the East Coast vs the West Coast.

        Or one person wants sex 5 times a week and the other person wants 1 time a month.

        These are things that are hard because they require mutual maturity and figuring out how to maximize win/win. Or how to figure out what sacrifices are appropriate by whom.

        These are bigger things but a lot of things are tiny symptoms of big differences.

      2. Jay,

        Here is another reason I think I can be difficult to accept influence.

        The examples you gave, bosses, coaches, and pastors, are people in authority over you by position.

        We don’t accept influence as much as we accept their authority.

        In most marriages, it is designed as a more mutual partnership. Which is why it’s more complicated to figure it out.

        Most people and men particularly don’t want to be put under the authority of their spouse as they would a boss.

      3. Jay,
        I think the discussion revolves more around issues of whose interests are put at the top of the list.
        Your wife is surely a good hearted person, and not actively seeking to do you harm. She may still most of the time see your best interests as inferior to her own.

        1. Kal,

          I agree. I think it’s human to at least some of the time to default to prioritizing our needs over others.

          Even the must good hearted person has a bad day or a topic that for whatever reason it’s hard to accept influence on.

          That’s why it’s important imho to expect that and just treat it as a normal part of a relationship to know how to deal with it to get things back on track.

          I agree with Jay that for most spouses they aren’t consciously trying to control you as the main goal but mostly trying to soothe their own discomfort by getting you to agree.

          And that we have to resist the urge to see spouses as the enemy to be resisted. But also the unhealthy patterns need to be dealt with not avoided or continually repeated.

          If it is a more advanced thing with an intent to control or a personality disorder or whatever that requires a different approach or professional help imho.

  13. Gottmanfan – I fully understand and agree that you have been saying all along that (to drastically sum it up) “it takes two to tango”. I think you are very level headed about this stuff. My frustration with this conversation (not you singularly) is that it always, always, always revolves back to men not accepting influence as a root issue. Even in Uniballer’s situation you responded that he did have an viable option. I disagree. At the point they found themselves in, I can’t see a request to table said discussion being met with anything other than opposition. They were supposed to have plans and can’t imagine moving forward with an afternoon and evening of (supposedly) enjoyable plans with the impending argument/conversation looming. And quite honestly, it would refreshing to hear a woman here say, “wow, that was a total BS maneuver”. To further exacerbate matters, did Uniballer’s wife later apologize?

    It was also mentioned in my personal cup by the sink scenario that I didn’t effectively set boundaries. I’m curious about this. I think my stating that “I’m still using the cup and will for the rest of the night but will certainly put it away before bed” was clearly articulating a boundary. i acknowledge that the cups does in fact need to be placed in the dishwasher but unlike how my wife felt, it didn’t need to be done that exact second…and not because I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch. Because I was still using it. What more could I have done to set a boundary?

    1. Nate,

      I will respond later to the boundary question when I have more time.

      But I have said several times that Uniballer’s wife is NOT doing things right.

      So to use your terminology “wow, that was a total BS maneuver.” I agree.

      I am focusing on what do you do when your spouse has done a total BS maneuver? How do you respond? What are the options that can move you to a different possible outcome in the future?

      Here is one of my comments just to show I recognize that Uniballer’s wife is not doing things “right”.

      “And let me make clear that Uniballer’s wife is NOT handling things correctly.
      The question before is us how do we respond when someone we love isn’t treating us fairly?
      So that is the context for the comment above not to pile on Uniballer who is dealing with a difficult situation.”

    2. Nate,

      You said:

      “It was also mentioned in my personal cup by the sink scenario that I didn’t effectively set boundaries. I’m curious about this. I think my stating that “I’m still using the cup and will for the rest of the night but will certainly put it away before bed” was clearly articulating a boundary. i acknowledge that the cups does in fact need to be placed in the dishwasher but unlike how my wife felt, it didn’t need to be done that exact second…and not because I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch. Because I was still using it. What more could I have done to set a boundary?”

      Ok let me give it a shot.

      When I say boundary I mean about how the relationship is functioning.

      So when either person is not using good relationship skills some response is necessary.

      Sometimes it’s taking a break to avoid a fight. Sometimes it’s telling the other person you feel that you are not being treated fairly. Sometimes it’s not doing business as usual whatever that is to highlight the seriousness. Sometimes it’s setting up an appointment to talk to a counselor. Sometimes it’s separating.

      The point is that the boundary isn’t about the glass. It’s about the relationship functioning.

      When I suggested to Uniballer that one option might be to take a time out it may or may not “work”. It will probably ruin the fun evening I agree.

      But the goal is more long term. To try and get out of the shitty pattern. And to make sure the seriousness of the situation is understood by both people.

      In some marriages, one person is reasonably comfortable with the status quo. You have to do something that gets the message through that the status quo is not acceptable. When both people are unhappy with the status quo something needs to happen to move it to a new status quo.

      If you keep adjusting to avoid a ruined evening it will not change the status quo. If you keep saying the same requests that don’t change anything it will not change the status quo. If you resentfully comply it will not change the status quo. If you go into zero sum mode and each insist on protecting and defending themselves it will not be a healthy give and take relationship.

      The goal is to change the status quo of how the relationship is functioning towards one with mutual give and take. How that needs to happen depends on the situation and people involved.

      Does that make any sense to your way of thinking?

      1. This is your original glass dialogue

        “Wife: Hey Nate put your glass away.
        Nate: I use that glass all throughout the night. No need to dirty 5 glasses, I’ll put it in the dishwasher before I go to bed.
        Wife: Hey Nate put your glass away.
        Nate: I really am still actively using this glass…just not this exact second…but literally will again in like two minutes
        Wife: FINE
        Nate: (“fuck this” said in my head) I say nothing but get up and put the glass away.
        Now the rest of the evening/night is stressed and sucky. So did I not accept enough influence? Did my wife not set strong enough boundaries? Or is my wife just being unrealistic and unyielding?”

        1. As Mike pointed out if we could edit this dialogue to add “is that ok?” To check is it is a win/win it’s accepting influence.

          And you resentfully complied to avoid a confrontation.

          In this scenario the wife is not accepting influence. She is rigidly repeating demands instead of asking and responding to what you are saying. And then resentfully complying with the “FINE”.

          So yeah on both sides there are things to change. Boundaries about the relationship functioning and accepting influence.

          PS you should see some of my old dialogues ha ha. ?

  14. I’m currently going through a divorce and the beginning of the end for me was when my husband left me in the hospital overnight the day our son was born after almost 72 hrs of labor that ended in a c section. I had to share a room with a total stranger bc we live in NY and my “roommate’s” boyfriend stayed, although they stayed up all night arguing whether the baby was actually his or not?! This further drove home how incredibly selfish my husband is.

  15. Jack,
    I’m writing down here because I lost your comment but wanted to respond back. Hope you get this…
    I don’t want to sound all flowery and bucolic, but I am somewhat more ideological than I am practical with all of this.
    I wanted to respond back to your idea about unconditional love, and the frank observation that there is no such thing.
    I can agree- unconditional love is really one of those idealistic things that I think the child in us craves deeply.
    But I think that isn’t often possible in a reality where we don’t grow that child up a little bit, and deal with ourselves.
    But perhaps there can be a promise that “I’ll keep trying, if you keep trying” and given enough effort- including recongnizing where both parties are trying, and not expecting to always feel loved, and continue to give admiration and curiosity, and understanding and forgiveness to one another, maybe then what looks like unconditional love can show up.
    It can be loving someone through thier growth (including all the murky parts), but it has to be on the way to becoming a wholer/ healthier person.
    That’s my hope at least.

    1. Unconditional love is just a fantasy.

      It’s not sustainable.

      Of course, everybody wants it. No one wants to give it.

      Matt’s wife wouldn’t have left if she loved him unconditionally.

      Romantic love is very much conditional. People don’t have or pledge unconditional love to just anyone. If it were unconditional, there wouldn’t be the idea of “the one” (and I am not going into if that’s realistic or healthy either.)

      Suffice it to say that many want unconditional love. They want to be loved unconditionally. Love me even if I demand you put your glass away. But I won’t love you if you keep leaving your glass on the counter…

      1. I’m curious if you have any thoughts regarding the inner child growing up and dealing with himself?
        Babies and even school aged children are the receivers of all the love and care. I would say most parents do unconditionally love them and don’t expect much from them.
        It’s not their responsibility to love the parent.
        They are takers and the parents are the willing givers.
        But we still desire that sort of love, that sense of security in our relationships, and that is even in our brain chemistry.
        We still want that sort of love, but we are no longer children not really responsible for ourselves. In our romantic relationships, It is our responsibility to love the other back.
        The child still exists, and there’s a reason we desire- but it seems the child has to take more responsibility in giving and receiving to have that satisfied.

        1. “I’m curious if you have any thoughts regarding the inner child growing up and dealing with himself? … we are no longer children not really responsible for ourselves. In our romantic relationships, It is our responsibility to love the other back.The child still exists, and there’s a reason we desire- but it seems the child has to take more responsibility in giving and receiving to have that satisfied.”

          Yeah, this is the critique that David Schnarch makes of attachment oriented couple work (like EFT). We shouldn’t see our marital partner as if they were a parent, and the truth is, we often tend to do so. It has to be two-way. But there are still child-like needs that I think it is legtimate to ask for in an adult relationship: to be safe, to be esteemed, to be a high priority to the other, to be played with, to be *seen* (as you have commented).

        2. I suppose I had to grow up much earlier than many (most?)

          Single mom who worked evening or midnight shifts, so I learned at an early age how to care for myself by feeding, doing laundry, dishes, etc.

          I even recall going to the library and learning how to change the oil in her car when I was about 12. Went down to the parts store and got the right filter, oil, a drain pan and filter wrench and I changed the oil in her 75 Chrysler Cordoba. She had to have it because of Ricardo M. said so in the ads.

          I do/did have to think about it with my kids as my expectations of them were based on my experience. If I could do those things when I was 12 or so, no reason my kids couldn’t do laundry, dishes, clean their rooms, help with cooking, etc.

          But as I ponder it this morning, the unconditional love that children are supposed to receive if I’m understanding is temporary. That relationship changes as the child matures.

          The parent still loves the child, but as the child grows up, they have expectations.

          English is lacking when it comes to love. A language like Greek has many different words for love.

          I think the type of love a parent gives a child is Agape love in Greek. That is as close to unconditional as I can see. It’s also used in the Bible to describe God/Christ’s love for humanity.

          However, there is also the notion of brotherly love, Phileo, romantic love, Eros, as well as others.

          The point being, even if we can Agape our children doesn’t mean that Eros is unconditional. It’s a different kind of love.

          One doesn’t pick their children like they choose a romantic partner. So while we may be looking for and longing for that unconditional love, Eros isn’t the same as Agape. So searching for Agape in an Eros relationship is doomed to failure.

        3. Inner child work can be thorny? At least for me. We did some of that in therapy and my wounded child part was totally unwilling to listen or even pay attention. (Weird???) Totally and fatally unwilling to trust anyone, even me – I trust(ed) no one, not even (especially?) myself. That was consistent with inner self-talk that was really harsh.

          It doesn’t make sense logically, but the point at which that started to turn around was when I realized I was, and had been all my life, angry at everyone, including/especially myself. Just recognizing my deep anger at myself seemed to break things free.

          I have no idea whether that might help anyone reading this. I mention it because it was sort of a surprise to me, even though I’ve read almost endlessly about psychological issues and brain science.

          1. It sounds like that is all you could tolerate at that time. It may change the more he is loved.
            I was really only bringing it up, because I wanted to emphasis both our emotional needs and the maturity that is needed to actually function in a relationship that those emotional needs can be met.

          2. I think you’re right. Unwinding this stuff, these maladaptations, takes…feels like it takes forever.

    2. PIP, I *so* think you would enjoy Susan Piver’s new book, “The Four Noble Truths of Love.” Having described the first truth as (my paraphrase) relationships never stabilize and the second as we create great suffering for ourselves if we expect our relationships to be stable, she says the third truth is that a truly great life partner is someone who says “I will stay by your side, face forward, and ride this roller coaster with you.”

      That feels very close to your “I’ll keep trying if you keep trying.” To methat seems not only the only actually viable alternative, but honestly a thrilling, and I really mean that, thrilling, invigorating, energizing, amazing thing.

  16. Milan and Kay Yerkovich have a very interesting, slightly off-mainstream, discussion of attachment styles, and one of the things they point out is that anxiously attached people can flip over (sometimes VERY hard over) if they reach the point of too much frustration.

      1. Flip over – my term, meaning someone whose attachment style is one way becoming (or at least acting out) a different attachment style. Specifically, a chronically frustrated anxiously attached pursuer can eventually become a firmly walled-off avoidant.

  17. (Lost the first comment so let me try again.)

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the y time and still retain the ability to function.”

    I think like the famous quote about intelligence, healthy relationships also require knowing how to balance two opposing ideas.

    Unconditional love and commitment balanced with necessary conditions and dealbreakers.

    Accepting influence and changing for your partner balanced with asking for change from your partner.

    Balancing emotions and logic to make wise decisions.

    Healthy people have flexibility to hold two opposing ideas and the wisdom to know the appropriate ways to balance them.

    Unhealthy relationships hold or swing rigidly from one extreme to the other or don’t apply the right balance.

    So to apply, I am absolutely convinced I am right in these concepts but also must be willing to learn I might be wrong.

    1. The quote should be:

      The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the *same* time and still retain the ability to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

  18. The problem in many unhealthy relationships is that people want a different balance of the opposing ideas.

    It’s often not even “wrong” but the balances create different default styles to regulate our emotional safety. (as Atkinson describes in the pdf about style differences).

    For example, we need both independence and togetherness in a relationship. My husband emphasizes a balance with more independence. I emphasize more togetherness.

    This is all relative. I would be more independent than other people I might be paired with.

    These differences can be hard to navigate both because

    1. they affect many decisions throughout the day so it’s a constant source of things to navigate from different perspectives. Even if a fight or negative feeling erupts 1/10 of the time that’s a lot of negativity over a year and messes up a relationships threshold for a 5:1 positive ratio in conflict. Dumb stuff like dishes.

    2. Most people in unhappy relationships get stuck at not being able to handle differences with the ability to hold two opposing ideas in balance.

    To accept influence and also insist of having your influence accepted. Many people either control or collapse. Insist they are right or give in to avoid a fight. Neither of these is holding the opposing views in proper balance but is only 1 side.

    That will inevitable lead to a shitty marriage over time.

    3. Because our default ways of balancing these things like how much independence/togetherness are so wired into our sense of safety it can distegulate our limbic system so the only thing that makes sense to us is our spouse is “wrong” to have an opposing view. It then becomes a matter of character. They are selfish or needy or lazy or stupid or fill in the blank based on the topic.

    They are now not trustworthy in our mind. So it gets harder and harder to hold opposing things in our head.

    So love turns into distrust or disgust or contempt. Our partner morphs into an enemy in our unconscious and eventually even in our conscious.

    1. Someone who emphasizes that they want unconditional love is not wrong as long as it is understood that it must be balanced with the other side.

      What you need to emphasize imho depends on what you need to balance in your default tendencies.

      If you are someone who defaults to thinking of conditions (I will divorce him/her if she gets fat or sick) would be wise to focus more on the unconditional/commitment side of the scale to get more wise balance.

      Someone who has a romantic idea that love doesn’t require any change or the partner should meet all their needs should imho focus on the condition/dealbreaker side to get more wise balance.

      1. I would add to your list at the end that if you are someone who thinks your partner should just magically know what to do, or that if they don’t it must not be love has unrealistic expectations.

        That would be my ex-wife. Now, I realize she was in full blown affair mode when she said the following words, “If you loved me, you would know what to do…”

        If that logic applied reflexively, then she would have known that daily oral sex and blood rare steaks would have been a good way for her to show love. But since she didn’t, maybe I should have concluded she didn’t love me, right?

        That all came from the following questions, “What would the romantic relationship you want look like?” And, “Can you give some examples when I was doing a good job of being the romantic partner you want?”

        To which, I got the “If you loved me, you would know….” sort of answer.

        Don’t get me wrong, women are not unique in unrealistic expectations. Men expecting daily porn movie like sex are being just as unrealistic as women who expect everyday to be like a Rom-Com or Harlequin novel.

        I think mass media can set unrealistic expectations for both men and women.

        1. Uniballer,

          I agree that unbalanced romantic notions are common to both men and women.

          And I use that in the sense of romantic vs realism that has to be balanced.

          I think it’s not healthy to expect your partner to be able to read your mind. Or to enjoy exactly what you like sexually or otherwise.

          The balance of that is the realistic expectation that your partner pay attention and observe to learn and ask and listen to your preferences/opinions so that in time they have a good sense of who you are.

          The healthy balance of romance is that someone would be want to and be willing to do that. It takes effort to do that. Especially if you have not been raised to do it naturally.

          So yes I agree that it is not healthy to say “if you loved me, you would know…” in answer to a question seeking to find out what she wants.

          I suspect this is more common with women as you said. Just as it’s more common for men to expect not to change as a romantic idea of what love is. “If you loved me when we got married, why are you asking me to change” etc.

          I don’t hear you saying that by the way. It’s just a general observation.

  19. Uniballer,

    Hearing your story of the amount of resourcefulness and responsibility as a 12 year old shows what an unusual superpower you developed based on your response to your cucumstances.

    Going to the library to figure it out and buying all the stuff to change the oil as a 12 year old is pretty amazing.

    My husband told me something that has stuck with me. We judge others based on our strengths.

    We all have areas where we are strong and expect others to do the same instead of recognizing it as unusual things about us to be harnessed for good. (You may not do this as much as I do, I don’t know) The other person does the same with our relative weaknesses compared to their strengths.

    So we get disappointed and judgmental when we should be harnessing our mutual strengths as a team to minimum weaknesses.

    You clearly have through nature/nurture are very self directed and driven and disciplined and hardworking. Logical and good at solving clear problems. I’m sure a lot more good things. Excellent superpowers!

    1. I’m sure your wife has her own set of superpowers that may be different in certain areas.

      But we often look for things to ve similar to what we value and can be blind to the other’s superpowers or they even seem like weakness to us. We get driven to extreme versions of our superpowers as we try to regain emotional balance.

      Then the other person looks fill in the blank to us. Needy compared to our self directed superpower. Emotionally illogical compared to our Spock logic. Lazy compared to our hardworking. Etc etc. just a few examples from my experience.

      I don’t know if that resonates with you at all but it has helped me to explain why the person seems to change so much from who you thought you married. And to see my own superpowers as unusual. And not expect that from others. But instead to look for areas that they have superpowers that I don’t. To understand how they see me as fill in the blank. To understand the pattern we co-create. As the first step of changing it.

      1. I use that with my kids a lot too. It has helped tremendously.

        I find that more helpful to love deeply and really see them rather than focusing on the idea of unconditional love. But, of course everyone is different.

        I am more successful harnessing my relative strength of cognitive refocus rather than my relative weakness.

        That’s why imho it’s important to have a realistic sense of what your superpowers and relative weaknesses are so you can lead with your strengths as much as possible. And to understand that my way of doing it is just one way of being successful. Other people who have other superpowers lead with those.

        It is another way for me to be able to be better differentiated when people don’t agree with what I think is “obviously” ha ha the best way to do things.

        I have to use this a lot with my husband who has different ways of improving our relationship. I used to get very angry because it looked to me he wasn’t doing “anything” but I am trying to give him the space to lead with his superpowers not mine. Which is HARD but I practice everyday.

        The less pressure we put on people to do things in ways that are our superpowers the more they get less extreme in my experience.

      2. I never claimed she didn’t have superpowers.

        Frankly, I think she’s a pretty incredible woman. Which is why outbursts like I described are so maddening at times.

        She’s a school counselor at an elementary school. I expect her to have this relationship stuff pretty well nailed down since she teaches such skills to K-5th grade students.

        I think that is one reason it’s so out of left field for me. I doubt she would counsel the kids to play victim or go full absolutist.

        Which is one of the reasons I contend it’s difficult to predict. It’s not the sort of behavior she would condone when coming from her students, or even from me.

        1. Uniballer,

          What do you think her superpowers are in terms of relationships? (By the way I didn’t think you didn’t acknowedge she has superpowers if my comments were phrased badly to imply that.)

          As Stan Tatkin says romantic relationships can trigger all kinds of family of origin or other learned fears.

          People who are masters at their jobs can act quite differently at home because the triggers are different. The emotional experience and environment are not the same so it requires a different skill set and much higher regulation abilities.

          The classic case is of therapists who can counsel people effectively but get into the same patterns as everyone else in their own personal lives.

          Or doctors or nurses who can give excellent guidance to patients but then they smoke or overeat or do other unhealthy things themselves in response to stress at home or work. Etc etc etc.

          Unsolicited advice is to find a way to reframe the idea that she is playing victim or similar highly negative ways of framing it. Doing that kind of thing helps me a lot to change things.

          I would assume there is an emotional logic to what she is doing that is responding to the situation as she sees it. Just a guess but maybe what you see as playing victim is her attempt to communicate the pain and hurt to you? I am not saying it is effective only trying to see it as an attempt to do something that is emotionally logical. Something that is an attempt to restore the connection between you. Not sure of course. Just a guess.

        2. I think predicting it is understanding emotionally her side of the pattern.

          Once you do that people are usually pretty logical and predictable based on their underlying motivations and interpretations.

        3. Very interesting comment (to me). I have spent almost 40 years assuming my wife was the relationship guru, that she had all the superpowers in that area. In our case, at least, it turns out that this was not true, and that my assumptions created a very problematic dynamic between us. Very.

          One of the things that I find helpful, but find I have to keep reminding myself of, is statements from “experts” like Terry Real (and others) that yes, he and his wife have good days and also have very bad days. Even the most enlightened among us never get to the point where the train doesn’t go off the rails; they still have to continually engage in repairs.

          1. Jack,

            Oh, for sure that is true. It’s one of the things I like about his open coaching type of approach that he is honest about the normal kinds of relationship things.

            Terry Real talks openly about his continuing conflict and repair with his wife. That stuff is just built into relationships. Even the best marriages have conflict and repairs over and over. Part of dealing with two different humans.

            And he calls out what is not normal. That stuff needs to change.

            And that we each have the opportunity to stop whatever generational dysfunction by working to get healthy and pass that on in our relationships.

          2. “Terry Real talks openly about his continuing conflict and repair with his wife. That stuff is just built into relationships. Even the best marriages have conflict and repairs over and over. Part of dealing with two different humans.”

            It sounds crazy, but I did’t realize this until very recent. And remember, I’m not a kid any more. It’s so fundamental. It shouldn’t be a secret…but expecting that a “successful,” “good” relationship should be smooth and conflict-free. And of course when we have that expectation, and it isn’t fulfilled, we think something’s desperately wrong with the relationship.

          3. As my beloved hubby said he thought marriage would be “just like dating”?

            I don’t think it’s “crazy” to think that.

            I think it’s just an emotional longing for safety in a peaceful, accepting relationship nest. To be able to be secure in knowing you are accepted and loved for who you are.

            Emotional safety means different things to different people so I never expected it to look smooth and conflict free. I wanted it to look a different unrealistic way ?

          4. Jack,

            You said:

            “I have spent almost 40 years assuming my wife was the relationship guru, that she had all the superpowers in that area. In our case, at least, it turns out that this was not true, and that my assumptions created a very problematic dynamic between us. Very.”

            I think that most wives think they ARE relationship gurus and tell their husbands that.

            That is imho a big contributor to bad relationship patterns. Women overestimate their relationship skills.

            They judge their husbands by their own relative superpowers and are blind to their relationship weaknesses. Which creates a lot of problems.

            And in some cases the husband thinks she is a relationship guru instead of seeing the blind spots she can’t see either. That creates an extra layer of problems.

            And many people are quite skillful in certain types of relationships so it can be confusing to see things clearly.

          5. I used to think I was great at relationships. Ha ha ha

            I used to think that partly because I am good at certain relationships in certain conditions. So I kept thinking the problem was the other people or circumstances.

            Now I can see my blind spots.

          6. Well, yes, that’s certainly true. But by definition, it’s hard to become aware of them, right? 😀

          7. For me, it is not hard when you add a guide.

            Recently the side mirror on my drivers side broke. So I spent a harrowing trip driving it to get it fixed because of the blind spots I couldn’t see without the mirror.

            I read all this stuff I do to act like that mirror on my car.

            It takes time to find and absorb the information but it’s not hard once the mirror is there to see the blind spots. That’s only my experience of course.

            I remember the moment when I learned about the pursue withdraw pattern. Anxious and avoidant pairing. Atkinson style differences. The mirror was fixed.

            The hard stuff for me is changing my driving habits even with being able to see my blind spots. ?

          8. I think it’s a truly awful so many people suffer when there is so much information available for free in podcasts and YouTube and libraries.

            So much of what I see is blind spots because people just don’t understand what it going on. I wasted a lot of time in that space.

            They don’t have the basic correct information. Sadly there is also a lot of bad free information too.

    2. “My husband told me something that has stuck with me. We judge others based on our strengths.”

      Fascinating insight. One of those hidden-in-plain-sight insights. Thumbs up.

      1. “My husband told me something that has stuck with me. We judge others based on our strengths.”

        I don’t know?
        I’ve always seen myself as someone who judge others based on their actions vis-a-vis their words, i.e. are they true to their words, or are they more talk and less action.
        But perhaps that’s a “strength” of mine that I was brought up to be true to my word?

  20. The big moments actually matter a lot. Childbirth especially, because it is the one thing women must do alone. Men can offer support, but when a man is chooses to leave or pretend that PPD isnt real, well, that stays with a woman. After a woman delivers a baby, her body is completely depleted. It takes weeks to recover. But she has to nurse and up all hours of the night. The hormones alone nearly knocked me over. I am the main breadwinner and while working full time and dealing with two under the age of three, I developed PPD. I’m lucky to be alive today and my husband’s support was monumental. Maternal wellness is gaining more awareness each day and yes, there’s a #momslivesmatter. The big moments matter, in ways of life and death.

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