I remember thinking and feeling things just like that. In today’s video, I talk about how the sneaky erosion of safety and trust in relationships might be responsible for your spouse or partner appearing to be unhappy with you, no matter how much good you believe you’re doing.
Safety and trust in relationships isn’t just about not being harmed physically, financially, or even emotionally; or being someone who is sexually faithful and tells the truth. Safety can also be about the idea of reliability. Of sustainability. Of consistency.
In my marriage, my wife learned that she couldn’t trust me. Not because I was a liar or a sneak. But because the math result of our interactions amounted to feeling unheard, misunderstood, neglected, abandoned, disrespected, invalidated.
When she felt bad about something and had to think about how she wanted to approach me about it, what she learned after 12 years was that I would always choose what I believed and felt OVER what she believed and felt any time we disagreed.
She realized that the rest of her life would be spent being told that what she thought was wrong, and what she felt was crazy. That her experiences didn’t make sense. That she was too sensitive, or that it was all in her head. The only thing she could trust was that she would continue to hurt more and more the longer she lived with me, because it always seemed as if I mattered so much more to me than she did.
Check out the video to better understand how and why our bids for connection in our relationships might sometimes be rebuffed or rebuked when our partners lack the requisite amount of safety and trust to feel good about their lives, and the pain they feel from our shared lives.
14 thoughts on “Why Your Spouse is Never Happy No Matter What You Do (Video)”
Can we get the transcript so we can read at work?
Sounds familiar. I often joke about interactions with my wife that a dead clock is right twice a day and that’s twice more than me. There’s also the old joke that asks why married men die before their wives?…….Because they WANT to. I couldn’t pay to be right about anything.
“When she felt bad about something and had to think about how she wanted to approach me about it, what she learned after 12 years was that I would always choose what I believed and felt OVER what she believed and felt any time we disagreed.” This was me. And after 32 years, she’d finally had enough. The difference was that I had convinced myself that she just didn’t understand everything I did, and didn’t want to take the time to understand why I felt the way I did.
I look back on it now and realize that some of that was probably true. She wasn’t interested in the minute details that I had already considered. But what she DID want was to be heard and feel that her perspective was at least part of the decisions. In my mind it was…in hers, it wasn’t. The ironic part was that I truly, desperately WANTED her involvement in the decisions, but she lost interest and gave up.
And in the end…that’s all that mattered.
I wish I could somehow upload your posts into my ex-husband’s brain so he will understand. I was perfectly physically and financially safe in our relationship, but I was scraped hollow and left for the crows inside by his inability to empathize with anything I said. Thank you for sharing.
Here’s some truth I wrote after we had separated: https://cinerinamanyhats.medium.com/that-time-i-asked-for-what-i-needed-and-it-became-a-whole-thing-90860a9126d5
I truly hate invalidation! I would tell my husband, “hey, I feel bad about ” xyz….usually it was my inlaws disrespecting me or him telling me that I should not feel how I feel when he would be dismissive….
In the ultimate irony for me: I sent the audio book to my husband with a note asking him to listen to it. (Hopefully instead of his talk radio all day) He scrapped the audio and went and bought the book. Because, you know, everything has to be on HIS own terms. If he would have had a conversation with me before heading to the bookstore, he would have found out I already have the hardcopy. There’s a reason I sent him the audio and didn’t just hand him the hardcopy.
Please know that I love you for buying two copies of my book. And I do mean that. I’d really love for this thing to catch on.
That said, I’m really sorry you’re dealing with someone who is more or less exactly how I was 10 years ago. I can appreciate how maddening and dismissive and disrespectful it is. I hope you find someone you feel safe gifting your bonus copy to. And I hope it can matter to them. Thank you, Peg.
Matthew, I know you are not a specifically religious person (from reading your blog for many years.
But I want you to know that I consider this particular video post at this exact time a god thing. I literally had a huge blowout with my husband this morning that resulted in this same issue, (as it is a rinse/repeat issue for us). Me bottling up my feelings of being ignored, unappreciated and taken for granted and then reaching a boiling point.
My husband doesn’t just disregard and minimize my feelings and tears, but actively projects and turns all of my concerns around on me to show how I’m the real bad guy. This has been an evergreen strategy of his for at least the last 7 years, He makes it as AWFUL as possible for me whenever I express sadness, disappointment or frustration. I believe he thinks it will make me not bring it up again…but it only erodes safety and trust.
I feel hopeless to ever be truly listened too again: if you have any wisdom I would be so appreciative…
@D.J.You articulated something so well; that if he makes it your problem, you won’t bring it up again. My husband and I had the worst argument of our 23-year marriage last weekend. It was the first time I ever cracked and said, “Go to hell.” A low point for me. But I also told him that anytime I have the need to express something that may “implicate” him, I feel like it’s like jumping into a pool of cold water. Why would anyone do that?
So I have downplayed my feelings and often dismissed myself because I didn’t want to be seen as the nagging, nit picky, crazy, wife-mom, who was henpecking my husband’s ego because you know, “all ya gotta do is ask.” But life is real and things build up, and then they bubble over, and then they become what looks like character assassination, so you end up back being the problem. Rinse repeat.
I have followed Matthew intermittently for a couple years so I had his earlier work in the back of my mind. But I never wanted to share it with my husband because it felt like I was saying, “We got a problem and it’s you.” But right after our fight, I got an email about the new blog, book, and this video above, which then led me to search for more podcasts where Matthew was interviewed recently (Congratulations to Matthew). The one that helped me validate my own feelings and truly realize that my perspective mattered was, “Three Questions, Three Drinks with Chris Mikolay Episode #38”.
At the end of the podcast, I felt a wash of relief and forgiveness come over my heart. I also felt mentally strong enough to invite my husband to listen to it, qualifying the request with, “If it falls flat for you, that will inform us too.” It’s almost like I went into a neutral place where this either helps or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, that’s an answer. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter who the problem is, I just don’t want to be with someone who won’t partner with me through it.
I hear both of you. What’s driving me crazy right now is that my husband will not go to physical therapy to rehab his badly fractured, surgically repaired leg. He will not go get a full physical, including the prostate check, when that cancer runs in his family. He will not go to the dentist. These are all huge, hairy deals for me and I have begged him to do them. I even got us a membership at the local Y so he could walk in the pool to rehab himself. He won’t go.
That this makes me feel absolutely ripshit should go without saying, but I’ll add a little more to this. A couple of years ago, right before the pandemic hit, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through treatment. It was hell. I was allergic to my chemo, so ended up hospitalized the first week because I couldn’t stop throwing up, even with anti-nausea meds. And since it was colorectal cancer, radiation was centered on my pelvis. To say it was a nightmarish period, during which I wanted to give up and just die, would just be the plain truth. He was an absolute champ through all of this, and I can’t even imagine how I would have gotten through it without him. So, obviously, he is a GOOD man and sometimes a good husband. I did it because I wanted us to have as many years as possible and to not make him watch me die a slow, agonizing death, the way my mom had to watch my dad die of cancer.
Where he’s falling down is in reciprocity. I did these things to guarantee a longer marriage, with less pain and anguish. We’ve been married 19 years. I’ve always thought we’d make it to 30 or 40 years. I want him to valorize his health so we can continue to guarantee our reaching this goal. I never want to be a widow. I cannot endure seeing loved ones in their caskets, and I have had to go to more viewings than I care to admit, starting as a little girl with my dad’s funeral. And it feels like a punch in my gut that he is not taking care of his health, making sure we can continue to enjoy walks in the woods together with our dogs, and live into our 80s or maybe even 90s, geeking out to Star Trek together. But if he neglects his health, the odds of that happening diminish. And I feel a little less cherished, a little less safe and secure, every time he refuses to take care of himself.
It is driving me crazy and I cannot get through to him how important this really is.
So do you think that your wife contributed to your problems, or do you take respinsibility for it all? I often think about this and wonder why she didn’t ask you to go see a therapist or suggested other things besides walking out and leaving. Or maybe she did but you didn’t get into that in your „Letters…”?
Matt – So much to unpack here, but I’m buying this book for a couple and hoping it brings home some issues so they can lay down a good foundation before it becomes a runaway train. I recommended a book that helped me, but I think yours is exactly what they need.
I’ve got the benefit of having almost 20 year since the day my ex-husband walked out. I was determined to become a person I liked and respected and put myself into therapy and did some hard core self work for 5 grueling years. I was fortunate to meet some lifelong friends on a blog for divorced people trying to fix broken marriages. It did help, and I wound up being friends with my ex with effort on both our parts (and time too). We have a now adult disabled child (who was 4 when her dad left), and I knew I was gonna have to figure out how to successfully co-parent with a guy who I held in contempt and resented.
We’ve been able to talk about stuff now that we’re older and wiser (and it helps that it’s been 19 years). Things he shared long after our marital post-mortem, I’ve had time to digest and consider his POV. He wasn’t wrong about some of the hurtful things he said about me… and I hope you get that same type of consideration at some point. But I have to say you are dead on about sweating the small stuff. I was stuck doing the heavy emotional lifting during our marriage, and I resented being considered “overly emotional and slightly crazy”. I resented being told to get over stuff and move on. My heart hurt and he didn’t give a crap. Or at least I thought so because he wasn’t particularly nice to me (let alone compassionate).
Years later, I’m looking at our life in the rear view mirror and see SO.DAMN.MUCH. How our parents and upbringing and the dysfunction they unknowingly brought to our marriage affected us. How his parents’ alcoholism and inability to talk about feelings unless they were 3 sheets to the wind stunted his emotional IQ. How my parents’ co-dependence and fighting colored my view of what marriage looked like. How we just struggled to keep our sanity together with a typical and a disabled child. How we didn’t get help in coping strategies. How we both needed to be right. How my crazymaking and his passive aggressiveness were directly responsible for sending us to court.
It’s super healthy to find that empathy and compassion and do the self reflection you’ve done. Truly. But one day, maybe you’ll get the balls to list some of the things that she did or said that hurt you too. Even though we’re hurt by indifference and dismissiveness, we are also guilty of things that emasculate our men and make them feel bad about doing things that men were inherently designed to do. My therapist suggested I read “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. I’ll just say it killed me. I bawled like a baby when I finally imagined how he felt. Because honestly, he’d been telling me his truths too; I was just as dismissive and pissed off that he was wounded by things I did and said.
Time really does heal those hurts. We still irritate each other occasionally, but I can truly say we’ve both grown up. We’ve learned to recognize how we come across and admit wrongs a lot easier. I know it seems crazy to others that we’d put this effort into each other, but we were friends before we married, and I really wanted that since our kids were so young. I knew they needed both of us in their lives.
Fast forward a decade. I dropped our oldest daughter off at college, and called him from the airport… sobbing. He had been forced to be the voice of reason while she and I fought, and I was sad about that and wondering if we’d ever have a relationship again. My clueless ex told me that if he had to do it all over again, he’d choose me to be the mother of his kids and that he would never, ever regret that. It’s still the nicest thing he’s ever said to me.
Rooting for you to get another chance with someone who can appreciate the amount of self improvement you’ve done. Some lucky lady will benefit from this some day. I just hope she allows you to speak honestly too. You can’t have intimacy without honesty. So go get ’em.
Yeah. I’m on my second marriage and I get it. Thing is, if you are in a relationship, what the other person thinks matters solely because they are the other person. There’s no “objective” reality that you get and they don’t.
I had the experience of being told that what I wanted didn’t matter because I was crazy, angry, unemployed, unreliable, “mean,” etc. It was a female relative in an inheritance dispute who told me these things to avoid executing a will. None of the labels were true (although I did eventually get mad about it.) It was all reasons why I didn’t matter and thus could be treated badly. It took a while to get through that what I said mattered because I was saying it. Eventually, she couldn’t get around dealing with me and things changed. People do this crap. You don’t have to be fair to someone who doesn’t matter. They aren’t an equal.
So, don’t make up reasons why your wife shouldn’t be taken seriously. Yeah, I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, but I did. I can either try to fix that as soon as possible or shrug and say it’s her problem. Women are typically way, way more flexible at dealing with mens’ stuff than the other way around. It’s not being a doormat to listen. This isn’t an outsider you have to stand up to. It’s your wife. She’s an equal to you.
Comments are closed.