Ran out of trust. Ran out of runway. Same patterns repeating & worsening for 6 years. There’s just a point where even if my husband did suddenly figure this out, and he won’t, it’s just too late. We actually read your book together and his takeaway was “I hate that guy.” I thought, Matthew’s a guy who puts it so plainly, so simply, that my husband will certainly understand and change. Nope. And I’m out of trust. Out of time. Out of runway. I’d have done anything to stay married to him, I did do everything, and I’m out. Out. I love him, I actually feel bad for him, but I’m out. Enough. Thank you for your work.

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I appreciate how you spotlight the everyday occurrences that represent the root of it all: most of us don't learn what healthy relationship skills are before going into marriage or relationships. Thank you for opening the dialogue through your personal examples, insights and reflections.

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Wow. Wow. Wow. I’m in a same sex marriage with another woman and you have described me to a T here. This has been on my mind for awhile and I know I have to change but I feel so lost and don’t know how to change 😥 I need some real help!!

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Jul 21, 2023·edited Jul 21, 2023Author

Can't thank you enough for sharing this. I don't fancy myself a genius (I'm just kinda smart-ish, at best) or any sort of guru. But sometimes the way I say things seems to land with certain people. If you think I can ever be useful to you, I hope you'll reach out and ask.

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As I read this and your most current book; "This Is How Your Marriage Ends" [Free plug!], I am left waiting for the solution. . . How exactly do we "speak and act in a manner designed to relieve the pain for someone else?"

I'm certain that the answer is in there somewhere, encrypted in the constant description your persistent 'assory', however I must be very dense or ineptly blocked from learning what it is. Unable to read between the lines, as it were.

I to have the insane ability to remain standing there, emotionless, wide eyed and disconnected as my wife screams at me. All I am hearing are sounds similar to Charlie Brown's teacher, only in decibels that would put most freight train's horn to shame. I will occasionally wipe my brow to hide a quick eye roll or scratch my upper lip to hide me mouthing "WTF-OVER?!!"

I'm in deep, , , Way over my head Matt. I am not even sure 'it' can be saved. We are already at the point where she's made plans to leave as soon as the kids are 'old enough.' However, here I am, reading the books, the blogs, listening to the podcasts and watching every video, hoping to find the remedy for what is apparently my disease!

Give me something, , ,anything.

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Let me ask you this. If we’re (and I hope you’ll join me) giving your wife the benefit of the doubt--that when she expressed pain in its many forms--that she very legitimately is feeling something you and I would agree is awful to experience if the same internal feeling was happening with us...

If we’re in agreement that your wife, in good faith, is expressing to you that something is wrong, how would you characterize her success rate at walking away from the conversation A. Believing you listened to what was happening to her and that you understood the problem she was/is having, and B. Believing she could trust that it was unlikely to happen again if it was something within your sphere influence?

Put more simply: When your wife tells you something is wrong, does she have reason to trust that you believe her and that you actually care about helping her mitigate the problem or the pain?

Because that’s where I always start in my coaching work.

In relationships, people absolutely need to be able to tell the other that something is wrong, and then have the “bad” thing get better for them. Two people who can’t count on each other to do that will always have problems. And in my experience, most relationships lack that trust.

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I would like to say; "100%." However apparently that hasn't been the case.

Often during these deafening disagreements I am not permitted to speak. I am told to shut up, and listen, belittled, called a 'little man-boy' and/or referred to as the 'third child in the house.' I believe it's called "emasculation." She takes me down memory lane and get to relearn all the ways I have screwed up in the past. She always makes it very clear that she no longer trust me. Matthew you do a great job of describing about every disagreement her and I have been in, however I am not gleaning anything that may help me to show and let her know I hear her, even through my buzzing, bleeding ears.

To be honest, I am not so certain if it's your help I need, or that of Mark Goulston's [Author of "Talking to Crazy."]

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Okay. So three things are probably true:

1. You did things. You were alive and you did things. You didn’t think they were bad, and you were confused when she said they were.

2. Her pain was actual. She didn’t invent it. She isn’t pretending. When she experiences what she might describe as a total lack of consideration/awareness from you followed by defensiveness or otherwise invalidating responses (not suggesting you were TRYING to invalidate -- only that her experience was that regardless), it hurts. On the inside. And it kept happening and happening and happening and nothing she ever said or did resulted in the pain lessening.

3. As her pain increased, she stopped caring about kindness. About decorum. About behaving with love and care because it doesn’t feel like she’s loved and cared for (even if the pain was/is accidental). Hurt on purpose or hurt by accident, a person who is consistently hurt tends to behave as hurt people do. And overtime, she’s resorted to behavior that you and I experience as mean. As cruel. As aggressive.

You hurt her by accident. She hurts you on purpose.

And it doesn’t feel fair to either of you.

I’m really very sorry for you and your family. I promise I understand how difficult and frustrating and confusing it can be.

Relationship repair begins with stopping painful behavior and healing painful events of the past. That long list of things she tells you about when she’s upset? That’s the magic list. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a roadmap. Those incidents need to be healed. And it won’t happen by magic or overnight. It will take patient discomfort. It will require a conscious decision to apologize for, accept responsibility for the past pains, and a consistent effort to protect her from those same pains in the futures.

Only then can trust be restored.

It seems like she won’t let you because she doesn’t trust it. It doesn’t feel safe. The work is learning how to understand how all of those hurtful things that don’t make sense to you DO make sense to her.

If you and I had her genetics, her parents, were from her hometown, had all of her life experiences? We would be drawing the same conclusions she is.

Our spouses can’t trust us if we are unable (or unwilling) to understand how past events (or current events) have hurt, and are hurting them.

If you chalk it up to crazy, there’s no hope.

The girl you married is still in there. She’s hurt and she’s hiding. She’ll come out when it’s safe to.

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That all makes total sense and I understand what you are saying. She's had a very difficult childhood, no real parents to speak of. I could go on, however you undoubtedly can imagine the rest.

Let me be clear, I DO NOT think she's crazy. I only wish I had a firmer grip on de-escalation techniques that are explained in the before-mentioned book. It's, in a word; Trauma. We have done counseling and the biggest 'tool' I was given on 'how to handle anyone with such trauma is; [very carefully.]' I like to say I do my best at being empathetic and 'careful'. I guess it's rooted in my innate longing to fix it. Thanks Matt, I will keep reading, learning and practicing while remaining hopeful she comes out of hiding.

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Jul 21, 2023·edited Jul 21, 2023Author

It's really hard to respond in a kind, patient, awesome way when you feel surprise-attacked for something you have absolutely no context for being "bad" or "painful", or that you weren't even aware of.

I'm still prone to defensiveness on my default setting. But once I get over myself, I've gotten pretty good at apologizing for, and accepting responsibility for things that I don't believe were "wrong" or that I don't believe were my fault in any way.

I don't want to say I'm sorry because I'm guilty of some crime. I wasn't, and I'm not.

I want to say I'm sorry because my spouse/partner should be able to trust me to notice something that is hurting, or might hurt them. After all of the years together, my ex-wife absolutely should have been able to count on me to notice or anticipate situations or my decisions that she would experience negatively.

I want people I love to be able to trust me to try to protect them from injury, whether by me or from something else.

I want people to trust me to not hurt them accidentally, and in the event that I do, that I immediately own it instead of defending myself -- and that I thank them for letting me know. How else am I supposed to figure it out? If I can be grateful for the feedback, even if it's uncomfortable, then the other person should be able to trust me tomorrow, and next week, and next month to not have the same thing happen repeatedly.

It was the very opposite thinking and behavior from me that doomed my marriage.

I'll be rooting for yours. You don't strike me as an idiot at all.

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I really have to say that I was in that same situation before I read Matt’s book and met Matt for a number of sessions. My wife did the same to me and I couldn’t fathom why I was being treated that way, spoken to like I didn’t have the best intent in mind, and like I wasn’t the breadwinner of the family and oh aren’t I so important. My wife’s parents had past by the time she was 18 and had no support mechanisms other than herself. Short answer in my case (and this is way short), I was mediating my wife’s relationship with my family and our friends and her customers trying to be the logical voice between her and everyone else. The worse things got at home, the more I did it. I thought I was understanding, I thought I was the voice of reason. In reality, all I was being was on everyone else’s side but on the side I should be, my wife. I started to inject positivity and trust that my wife was being hurt by how others were treating her. I stopped making excuses for how other people (including my mother) responded to her. I started listening and I kept listening. I let her know how much I care for her and care for our family and then I showed my care in how I act and in my actions.

Reread the part about the monster under the bed and apply similar respect to your wife. I hope it all works out for you. My marriage is saved. It could be better and it could have been sooner that I realized. But, I’m here now and I think she appreciates me for making the change. Don’t ever yell back.

Praying for you brother.

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Hi Matt, I've read your book and it really made me understand what is going on in my relationship with my wife. I think I get it, I really do - and I know I've blown alot of trust with my wife over the past 20+ years. But with knowing this, how can I get myself to stop doing these things that hurt her? I never try to, but it ends up that she sees these things as me doing them on purpose to stress her out and ruin her life, slowly kill her even. I always seem to make everything - every situation - a "trama drama". (I at least finally got diagnosed with severe ADHD and am on a treatment plan now - which has helped alot.) But when I don't see some of the things I do as things to try to hurt her on purpose - how can I stop me doing those things before they happen? I just don't know what to do - I can't seem to make things better. Do I make a list and look at it every day to get in my head to not do things? I've left notes around the house for instance like "Be Mindful", "Let my wife say what she wants to say". How do I fix things that I don't realize I do until they are told to me later?

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Hey Matthew,

Bought your book. So perfectly accurate. Well done. Sent a copy to my therapist .

Validation Triple Threat Question:

Where does the 'narrative takeover' (courtesy Brene Brown) fit in ?

It feels deeply invalidating to me. But he feels it's simply a way to share similar experiences.


Me - " I had the best bike ride today. Rocked it . So pleased with my progress!"

Him - " Yeah, I rode really great yesterday too. My tire pressure was perfect and I nailed all the techy bits. Can't wait to hit that trail again"

This sort of 'sharing' feels like my experience was downgraded to a non event, boring & inconsequential. It's not really one-up- man-ship, just totally invalidating.

She thinks ..."I thought you might be happy for me?!? "

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Jul 22, 2023·edited Jul 22, 2023

Another fantastic and informative newsletter! It hit really close to home for me. It validated my feelings and made me feel not so alone in them. My wife probably feels fight or flight when I bring an issue to her, but this newsletter helped me to understand that I also go through fight or flight too when I think of having a discussion with her over a hurt. My anxiety goes through the roof until I’m on the verge of a panic attack. My wife in an Invalidation Tripple Threat-er. Just this week I’ve been told I take things too personally over something she said, been told my memory of the event the prior night was wrong, and told twice she was ending the discussion (not literally walking out of the room though). The worst is #3 defensiveness. Not only is she immediately defensive, but she also raises her voice, is quick to anger, is verbally aggressive, and dominates the conversation and won’t allow me to speak or share my thoughts and feelings. Any advice, Matt?

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