Here’s How They Chop Hot Women in Half

Comments 32
Yep. That’s actor and comedian Bill Hader “sawing a woman in half” at a Playboy photoshoot. A friend challenged me to use today’s headline on one of my blog posts. Then I asked him to hold my beer. (Image/Playboy)

Spoiler alert #1: When magicians perform the Saw-Woman-in-Half trick on stage, he or she is not actually sawing a human being in half, and then magically putting her together again afterward.

But when the illusionists are really good at their craft, it looks to the audience as if that’s exactly what happened. It defies everything our brains know to be true or possible.

No matter how impossible it appears—for any well-executed illusion—there is always an explanation for it. There is always a story behind the illusion that fills in the blanks, and those missing pieces make the impossible, possible.

Before optometrists were able to prove scientifically that some people had various forms of color-blindness that resulted in them literally seeing different colors than another person standing next to them looking at the same thing, it was IMPOSSIBLE that two people could look at the same flower or the same car or the same painting, and describe them differently with BOTH of them being correct. Totally impossible. Madness.

But once people with color-correct vision had an explanation for the different forms of color-blindness, and were shown visual aids that displayed what people with color-blindness see, it suddenly made sense.

New information explained the inexplicable. The new information made the impossible, possible.

The Invisible Things Make the Impossible Possible

This is a classic optical illusion I remember from my childhood. I always default to the young woman looking off into the distance. But once you see the old lady, you can’t unsee her. (Image/Wikimedia Commons)

Spoiler alert #2: I’m going to tell you about what goes on in my coaching work. Because it’s more or less always the same thing—no matter how unique the individuals, no matter the age of the couple, no matter how long they’ve been together, no matter anything.

And I’m going to tell you everything we talk about, so that you never have to hire me to be your relationship coach. Sometimes, I work with both people in the relationship, but mostly it’s just one of them.

And here’s the #1 goal of every coaching relationship: Identify the Invisible Things. Our highest priority is learning how to see what was previously invisible—like using infrared goggles to “see” the heat signatures of people cloaked in darkness or hiding in a building.

There are The Invisible Things That Hurt.

Most commonly, these are the situations that create pain in a wife or girlfriend, that her husband/boyfriend is completely blind to and unaware of. Every day, he and his work buddies make fun of one another about their favorite music. One guy loves Taylor Swift. One guy loves Richard Marx. One guy loves REO Speedwagon. And the last guy loves Heavy D and the Boyz. And all four guys are constantly jockeying to play their favorite music at work, while the rest of them make fun of whatever’s playing, and their friend who likes it.

It’s not hate. No one is trying to make anyone feel bad. It’s a laugh-fest. A bonding ritual. A fun way to laugh at, and laugh with one another, including themselves.

But maybe one of them is married to or dating a someone who was mocked incessantly in school, or whose father or brothers ganged up on her and laughed at her throughout her entire childhood, and now, because of that, even playful chiding feels intensely uncomfortable.

She says “It hurts me when you make fun of me.”

But he says “Don’t be silly, babe. You know I don’t mean it. My buddies and I make fun of one another just like this all of the time, and it’s all in good fun. Everyone knows that we’re friends.”

And she says “And I understand that. But my father and brothers told me they loved me too, but I never felt loved when I would run away crying from the dinner table, only to have all of them laugh at me while I was sobbing in my room. And when you make fun of me—even when you don’t mean to hurt me—it HURTS me just like it hurt when I was crying in my room back then.”

Maybe he gets it and demonstrates enough care and love to make sure he’s not making her feel that way moving forward. At least not blindly. That would be great.

But what USUALLY happens, is that we default to OUR experiences as our guide for what is Right and Wrong, or Good and Bad. And because playful mocking is FUN for him, he thinks his wife is literally wrong for referencing a fun and innocent thing as a marriage problem. Not only is it NOT his responsibility to change his behavior, but he believes it’s HER responsibility to recalibrate her emotions to a more acceptable, reasonable, rational, “correct” setting.

These are the invisible wounds. This is just one possibility. And EVERYONE has them.

Similarly, everyone has things that make them feel good. Loved. A common reference point for that conversation is Dr. Gary Chapman’s
The 5 Love Languages
—a critically important and powerful framework for helping people identify the Invisible.

Some people’s love language is Words of Affirmation. Literally being told “I love you.” That is their love language.

And sometimes—even often—they are married to someone with an entirely different love language. Say, Acts of Service. People whose love language is Acts of Service demonstrate their love by doing things for others, sometimes rather than actually speaking the words “I love you.”

And what happens is two really good people who love each other will be together, and one person will say “I love you” all of the time, but never exert any effort or energy to perform an Act of Service for his or her partner. Maybe he never makes the bed, or folds laundry, or washes dishes, or plans fun weekend activities—things that WOULD make her feel loved.

He says “I love you” every day. But she doesn’t feel loved.

She is constantly doing kind and thoughtful things for him, but she never says “I love you,” and he doesn’t feel loved.

THAT is how you can love someone who doesn’t feel as if you love them.

And when you start combining that with instances of causing invisible wounds, and piling on “You’re just being silly” responses when someone calls attention to them?

Well, that’s exactly how two lovely people married for 30 years can be angry and sad with one another every day until they finally decide to give up, because the pain of living together is worse than the perceived pain of splitting up.

Relationship Coaching 101

I can’t be sure that I’m doing it right. But this is how I do it.

Find the list of Invisible Things that Make Her/Him Feel Bad. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Certain things trigger pain and sadness and fights. What are those things? Make the list.

Next, Find the list of Invisible Things that Make Her/Him Feel Good.

This is how we begin the process of repairing our relationship. Step 1 is eliminating the negatives. It’s becoming aware of the list of Invisible Things that cause damage, and then avoiding those things.

Step 2 is becoming mindful of the Invisible Things that create happiness. Joy. Intimacy. Emotional connection. Maybe it’s a bouquet of flowers. Maybe it’s a handwritten note. Maybe it’s a gift card to the day spa. Maybe it’s taking over all child-care duties for a week so that your partner can do anything she or he wants. Maybe it’s surprising them with a fruit basket, or a kind compliment, or an excessively long hug that communicates I’ve got your back no matter what.

We eliminate negatives.

We introduce positives.

And most importantly, we SEE WHAT WAS PREVIOUSLY INVISIBLE. We are no longer angered and perplexed by our friend’s insistence that the colors they see are so obviously different than the ones we see.

We are no longer blind. We finally get it. We understand one another. We start speaking the same language, possibly for the first time ever.

How does a magician saw a woman in half?

There are a few common ways. This is one of them:

(Image/Arrested Development Wiki)

I’d never cared to know. But one day, I did. A simple Google search told me enough.

What do you want to understand about your relationship or romantic partner?

Could knowing the answer change everything?

Spoiler alert #3: Yes. Yes it could.

32 thoughts on “Here’s How They Chop Hot Women in Half”

  1. I love your coaching approach! Sometimes relationships can seem so frustrating and complex.

    But at a core level it is basic stuff. Figure out the positives and negatives. Do more of the positives and less of the negative. Care that they care.

    1. It’s almost embarrassing how basic it is.

      But since having my eyes opened from divorce, I am constantly reminded—CONSTANTLY—that what most commonly destroys love and relationships are “little things” hiding in plain sight.

      It’s tragic. But in a way, hope-inspiring too. Because there’s a way to change things.

      People just have to want to enough to look for the things they can’t currently see.

      1. When your eyes are open you can see it so easily. Just like the optical illusion.

        Before your eyes are opened it’s a confusing mess. Or you can only see it one “right” way.

        If we can’t see the problem we have no chance of fixing it. So it’s huge progress to get to the first step of recognizing the basics.

        I think that is why many women get exhausted and give up. When you spend all your energy trying to get the basics even recognized as the problem to focus on there isn’t much energy left for adding positives and reducing negatives in your life and relationship.

        They literally feel like they are being sawed in half with tiny paper cuts every day. And the husband insists it’s all an illusion.

        (And there is a male analogy for this too but I’ll stick with the lady in the box for this comment?).

        1. This is exactly right. I felt I’d let my now ex husband know what actions caused me hurt time and again and yet the pattern continued until I gave up. When he finally listened and tried to change, it was too late as I’d lost the will. I’m not saying it was all his fault. I acknowledge that I wasn’t always clear at letting him know when he’d hurt me from the start. I’m now in a new relationship and determined to be a better communicator.

          1. It is a sadly common story.

            You are right that it is not usually 100% the fault of the husband who can’t or won’t see the basics.

            Wives often don’t know how to effectively communicate to their husband who doesn’t respond to her. Or to set boundaries early so it doesn’t go on for years.

            I am so glad to hear you are working hard to be a good communicator in your current relationship. It’s a big strength to be able to acknowledge and learn from our past mistakes.

  2. Brilliant! This. Makes. So. Much. Sense. My wife and I are separated. Everything you explain above and in your article is precisely why she sees life better apart than together right now.

    I finally finally finally get it. Been studying this daily for the last few weeks. Making some fails along the way. I have no clue what we’ll ultimately happen with us but grateful I’m learning and starting to apply this in our lives, regardless.

    Thanks for this. Love that line: The invisible things that hurt. So TRUE.

    1. Jason,

      What do you think prevented you from “getting it” before you were separated?

      Was there a particular way that Matt explained it that made a difference in changing your point of view?

      1. I’m not Jason, but as a man who finally “got it” during separation (but not early enough to save the marriage), there were a number of factors that contributed to me not “getting it” before that:

        1) I did not realize that divorce was even a consideration at the time in my marriage. I hadn’t considered divorce and assumed my then wife hadn’t either. She had and was actively considered/planned to leave, but had never discussed it with me. It wasn’t until the threat was “real” that I understood the stakes.

        2) I was too wrapped up in my own hurts/frustrations in the relationship to view the relationship through her perspective. I had a higher “pain” tolerance for an unfulfilling relationship than she did. I held on to a misguided belief that our relationship would get better as our kids got older and we got more financially secure.

        3) Lack of prior experience and knowledge of relationship dynamics, communication styles, and conflict resolution in romantic relationships.

        A combination of Matt’s analogies and seeing the parallels in his relationship contributed to my “getting it.” I read everything I could get my hands on regarding relationships, went to counseling (some individual, some with my then wife), and a lot of self-reflection. I shared what I had learned on this site with her and I/we tried to re-build the connection and relationship, but it was too late.

        It’s heart-breaking to read the comments from many of the women and men on this blog because I can now see both sides. I don’t know what my reaction would have been if I had read Matt’s writings early enough in my marriage where it could have had an impact on the outcome of the relationship. Sadly, I think I needed the hard life lesson to be ready to receive and understand it fully.

        1. DH,

          Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question.

          You clearly have done a lot of work to understand what you couldn’t see before.

          It is heartbreaking to hear that it was too late to re-build your relationship.

          I would like to understand why you thought that you didn’t realize your wife was actively planning to leave. I know she didn’t discuss it with you overtly.

          It’s something fairly common that I don’t “get” that I am trying to understand. That husbands don’t think it’s “real” until the stakes are divorce.

          Perhaps it has something to do with what you described as having a higher pain tolerance for an unfulfilling relationship?

          I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this and what a wife might do to help a husband get the stakes are real before the stage of planning to separate.

          Many thanks for your insightful thoughts.

          1. I think I didn’t realize she was planning to leave because I didn’t recognize the signs. Everything happened over a long enough period of time, that I attributed it to other things, such as stress of raising kids, etc. It is like weight change. You don’t notice it day-to-day until somebody points it out to you or you notice your clothes don’t fit well. That doesn’t happen overnight and neither did the break in connection and the relationship. I wasn’t tracking the relationship and actively looking, so I didn’t know. It’s kind of like the slow boiling a frog analogy. In hindsight, it’s obvious, but not during the process.

            I think husbands don’t think it’s “real” because on average they aren’t as observant or worried about it. My understanding is that women tend more to be the caretakers of the relationships and are more attuned to where everything stands. Unless the husband and wife are actively checking in and having honest conversations about the relationship, the husbands are operating under “business as usual.” I know that’s how I was. I/we had lost the connection, but I didn’t recognize it because we never talked about it.

            As far as what a wife might do to help a husband understand? That’s a really tough question to answer. I think if the husband is “unperceptive” like I was, he’ll need some leading to broach the subject. I needed clear, unambiguous, discussion about the relationship. It wouldn’t have been enough for me to just hear there were problems with the relationship. I needed to hear that there could be consequences, e.g. separation or divorce. Perhaps ask to go to marriage counseling and state that it’s imperative. Lay down some boundaries. In my case, we didn’t go to marriage counseling before she filed for divorce. She told me she didn’t think I would have been interested in going. I asked for it after my wife filed divorce papers. She did agree, but I believe it was too late and she went just to appease me. She never really invested and I think I always sensed it, but didn’t want to admit it to myself. Her attitude definitely changed and softened towards me throughout, but it never got back to a viable relationship level. At the end, I asked why she agreed to it, she said, “I thought it was the right thing to do.” We went for a little over half a year (while separated). At the end of the day, I’m better prepared for future relationships because of it, but it’s bittersweet at best.

            I read and see stories of wives who very overtly tried to address their marriage issues with their husbands early on and the husbands being unreceptive. This is frustrating to me since my situation seemed much the opposite. I’ll never know what might have been if that had been the approach my wife took with me. She held the belief that if she asked me specifically for what she wanted, then I was only doing it out of obligation. She literally told me it didn’t count if I didn’t figure it out myself without her telling me. I feel I did eventually figure it out, but not soon enough.

          2. DH,

            Thank you again for taking time to give a thoughtful response.

            I think there are general patterns that are common but clearly lots of individual variations.

            Your wife didn’t seem to know how or think it was necessary to be very direct with you. I have read that there are a subset of wives who think it doesn’t “count” if you have to ask for it directly.

            Frankly, imho this is just a lack of understanding how healthy relationships need to work.

            Matt usually focuses on what husbands do wrong in relationships that lead to divorce.

            A wife not knowing she MUST be direct and set boundaries early is an example of what some wives do that lead to divorce.

            As you said many wives are direct but husbands aren’t willing to hear. But even that requires more directness and more clear boundaries and follow through.

          3. “Your wife didn’t seem to know how or think it was necessary to be very direct with you. I have read that there are a subset of wives who think it doesn’t ‘count’ if you have to ask for it directly.
            “Frankly, imho this is just a lack of understanding how healthy relationships need to work.
            “Matt usually focuses on what husbands do wrong in relationships that lead to divorce.
            “A wife not knowing she MUST be direct and set boundaries early is an example of what some wives do that lead to divorce.”
            ^Totally agree with Lisa here.
            I made a note to make that the next blog post topic after reading DH’s comment come through.
            That’s a very dangerous, prideful, and self-defeating position: “I shouldn’t HAVE to say anything, so I’m just not going to!”
            Neat. What if a different decision would have resulted in no divorce, and a very peaceful, cohesive, respectful, long-haul marriage and family?
            Imagine if teachers, coaches, businesses, parents, etc. simply refused to express their stated wants, needs, demands, instructions, etc., because they didn’t feel like they should have to.
            The best and most effective way to get what we want in life is to very clearly and specifically ask for it.
            Seems silly tospend life not getting what we want simply because we are too prideful to ask for it.

          4. Matt,

            Looking forward to reading your post on this topic.

            I think the reason wives don’t ask directly for what they want is multidimensional.

            Some wives as you said can be doing it from a entitled or prideful place. “*You*should do all the work to make my life better.

            Some of it can be overly romantic ideas about soul mates just knowing what we want and need. We should be in sync and if it is too much work than the person isn’t “our person.”

            I think some of it can be that many of us, men and women, think that people *cause* us to feel, think, and do things. So we give the other person the responsibility of being able to act in ways that soothe our anxiety and make us feel loved.

            Mostly I think it is because we are confused of how healthy relationships function. As you say Matt it is usually more confusion and ignorance than intention. Doesn’t excuse it but just explains it.

          5. Yes. You won’t read any judgment in my take. In the context of two adults sharing a life together, wives are often saddled with having to “tell her husband what to do” all the time — taking care of the kids, appointment reminders, etc. And it’s bullshit. Unfair mental and emotional burden.

            But THIS is different. Which you obviously know and understand, undoubtedly much better than I.

            I just read DH’s comment before you wrote back, and instantly saw a good writing topic.

            Life is better when we make it abundantly clear what we want and why. A lot better.

          6. Matt,

            Oh I was just rambling on in agreement with you point ?

            This is, as you know, the thing that Gottman’s research points out that women do that *combines* with a husbands not accepting influence that leads to divorce.

            That is why it is so important to know that you 1. have to do this skill and 2. how to effectively do this skill. Two different points of potential failure.

            Just like husbands have to know they 1. Need to accept influence and 2. Know how to do it effectively (not a doormat, happy wife, happy life)

            We all need to know all that stuff but imho for both nature and nurture reasons women and men often need to improve in different areas.

          7. Matt,

            Also as you said it is important for husbands to understand WHAT A BURDEN it is to have to ask for things all the time.

            The reality is that most wives must shoulder that burden early in the relationship because many men culturally have not been taught modeled

          8. Part 2 got cut off too soon

            Many men have not been taught how to be in the kind of vulnerable intimate relationship that wives often want.

            And men often haven’t been taught or modeled how to do various forms of taking care of a house of kids.

            So both people must recognize this and work to lessen that burden. Share emotional labor etc.

            And yes if there are things that men have to teach their wives that also needs to be learned and shared. I think more cultural progress has been made there than the other way around in many marriages.

          9. However, in a healthy relationship both people mold each other to become more mature and healthier adults.

            If a wife says, “you left the dish out AGAIN, I cant believe what a selfish jerk you are”

            A healthy husband responds with “ I want to hear what you have to say but I need you to rephrase that in a more respectful way.”

            You don’t ignore but you set boundaries that give the other person a mirror of what unhealthy looks like.

            And then when she does asks in a mature way it is your job to respond maturely. And if he doesn’t it is the wife’s job to hold up a mirror to his unhealthy behavior. Over and over. Until we normal defaults are healthy.

            The problem is usually both sides don’t tell the other person what they want in a healthy way and set boundaries in healthy ways.

          10. And boundaries need to be set around *avoidance* too.

            Just going with the status quo which seems not too bad can be deadly in the long term.

          11. Matt,

            Here is another point as I randomly download.

            You said:

            “Life is better when we make it abundantly clear what we want and why. “

            One of the major blocks to this is that many many people cannot tell you what they want and why.

            They may be able to tell you some behavioral things like I would like you to put your dish in the dishwasher or I would like sex more often.

            But they don’t have a deep understanding of why certain things matter to them or able to differentiate which changes might be healthy or unhealthy.

            So many people are not self aware enough to know what they want and why. They just know they want the other person to make things easier for them.

          12. I do think there are a lot of good things that wives can learn from men from their cultural training.

            I have tried to absorb lessons from my husband about not caring what people think as much. Doing more of what I want without feeling so obligated to everyone else’s stuff. Men are often better at that.

          13. Awesome stuff, you two! I definitely recognized the unhealthy pattern that we were both in. Neither of us understood healthy relationship patterns. If even one of us did, it could have changed the outcome. So, I definitely relate to your question, “What if a different decision would have resulted in no divorce, and a very peaceful, cohesive, respectful, long-haul marriage and family?” I struggle with the could have been. I wish we could have grown in understanding together, but it just didn’t happen.

            “Life is better when we make it abundantly clear what we want and why. A lot better.”

            This is a big lesson I learned from my relationship. Honestly, I failed on my side during my marriage with this also. It definitely informs my parenting now. I am constantly reminding and encouraging my kids (6 and 8) to do this. Many of my parenting decisions are based on what I’ve learned through this.

          14. DH,


            These skills are not just for marriage.

            They inform how we can be good parents and other close relationships too. I have changed how I parent as I have learned more about healthy relationships.

            Your kids are lucky to have a dad who can teach and model this stuff to them.

          15. DH,

            On the topic of husbands not being as observant or worried about it, I think it is often that men are happier with the status quo than women are. Not necessarily happy but happier. Or at least not as miserable.

            Or better able to compartmentalize it and focus on work or hobbies that give positivity and just live with what he hopes will get better at home when x happens. (Kids get older, have more money, hormones, move, she changes in some way, etc)

            I think that is largely due to cultural training. Women often want and expect more connection in their relationships. Men connect more often in larger groups with less vulnerability. Pros and cons to these setups. But it leads to different expectations and strengths and weaknesses in marriage.

            So women often feel the lack of emotional connection as more painful since it is something they are used to experiencing more than men. Or maybe some husbands don’t even want the level of vulnerability and intimacy that his wife wants. Or at least don’t know how to provide it when she has her own dysfunctional stuff to bring to the party like thinking it doesn’t count if you have to ask.

            Or asking but doing it critically which is more the pattern I am was in and that Matt describes in his marriage.

          16. I think you’re spot on. I definitely did the focus on work and hobbies, etc. that you described. If I understood the second part then, I maybe could have made a difference.

          17. DH,

            Yes it’s hard to look back at what might have been if we had better understanding then. Or your wife. Or both of you.

            I could have saved a LOT of years of suffering myself.

            But wisdom is often gained the hard way.

            And I applaud you for working hard to learn what you need for a different future.

            I am trying to do that too.

  3. Your message is so inspiring! I have read everything on your blog. I am finally getting it that it takes two people who are willing to look honestly at themselves to make a marriage work. My husband and I have been married for almost 28 years. It is very a very rare occurrence, but every couple of years or so I am faced with a situation where I am verbally attacked and my Husband freezes up and does not support me. A couple of times he has actually ran away. This happened recently when a man was verbally abusive and accused me of something I didn’t do. I feel so vulnerable and am on the verge of divorce. Help!

    1. Cheryl,

      Sorry I missed your comment earlier. That sounds like it is so painful to you to feel abandoned by your husband when you need him most.

      What does he say when you ask him to do things differently?

  4. Yes, relationships can be a tangled mess, and I agree that there are definitely basics, principles, that make any relationship of any kind very simple; universal laws that apply across boundaries. Like I’ve mentioned before (thanks for asking about it in a previous post) the Divorce Cure Challenge explains the science of the 4 laws and 2 forces. Those are the basics of every relationship. It’s like learning a language or any other skill, but as I have come to understand them and apply them, I have seen over and over how these 4 laws and 2 forces make any relationship clear. I’ve used them in relationships with my young children and teens, co-workers, my ex, and my spouse and it has helped immensely.

    When Matt says “Eliminate the negatives and introduce the positives” he is talking about the 2 forces: the repellent force and the attractive force. Getting rid of disrespect (caring about what matters to the other) eliminates the repellent force; but respect doesn’t increase the attractive force or create a bond, it just makes it possible. In order to have an attractive force, you must face a risk (like a challenge or hardship) with them. The greater the risk you face, the greater the bond. This happens all the time in relationships. There is a repellent force that pushes them apart and then an attractive force that pulls them together. In marriage, this creates a bungee. Repellent forces will come, but the more we recognize them and learn what repels the other person, the better chance we have to eliminate it. Sadly, often spouses define what is required for them to be happy in the relationship… This is the marriage box. It results in lots of perceived (and real) disrespect and lots of repellent force and subsequent resentment. This is the problem with defining love languages… It creates a marriage box of what should be, a set of expectations rather than a day to day exchange of respect (or stopping the lack of it) and facing risks together.

    And again, while the 2 forces (eliminating the negatives and introducing the positives) that Matt is talking about here are important, the 4 laws are inextricably connected to the 2 forces. Only with a complete understanding and application of all of them can the relationship tangle be unraveled so the healthy path of the relationship is clear.

  5. Pingback: The Mistake Smart People Make That Causes Divorce and Other Miserable Things | Must Be This Tall To Ride

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Matt Fray

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