Yes, that’s a gross but equal opportunity generalization.
I realize that there are exceptions and nuances in every relationship, but, for the purpose of this conversation, I’d appreciate your acceptance as I generalize a bit.
When I was desperately trying to save my marriage, I went to the best resource on earth, Google, and typed in “Save my marriage.”
At the time, one of the top results was divorcebusting.com. I read a few articles and ordered Michele Weiner-Davis’ book. After a few visits, I registered for the online forum where I found a section for my kind, the LBS (left behind spouse).
There are no words that can perfectly describe the bittersweet solace I experienced in discovering so many others reeling from their spouses’ proclamations that they were “done,” “in love with someone else,” “made a mistake getting married,”…the litany of verbal daggers had all had the same effect, rendering me and my ilk barely functional, spinning out, scrambling to pick up pieces of an invisible entity that felt akin to the foundation of a house now dissolved into dust and blowing away with each passing moment.
How do I exist as half of something that is now suddenly nothing? Or worse than nothing, indefinable. I’m still married but it’s ending. What will happen next? Judith Wallerstein says my kids will be fucked, Huffington Post says my boys will be more likely to commit suicide, two lawyers along with the entire internet say I’ m going to be destitute.
My story was no more heartwrenching than the myriad others that filled page after page of this collective digital diary.
The men are more pathetic than the women.
Because they all “never saw it coming”.
These guys were in BAD shape. Like war heroes who had survived a sneak attack in the middle of their sleep.
In the middle of their sleep.
At first these guys garnered my staunchest sympathies. I offered reassurance and support, “if she didn’t appreciate you….” But as time passed and their personalities emerged and the descriptions of their lives became more detailed, it also became more apparent that if they hadn’t been asleep, if they had been paying attention, they wouldn’t have been so surprised when the bomb detonated on their marriages.
In so many ways these men had relentlessly ignored the needs of their wives. They had checked out and weren’t even conscious of their own unhappiness, never-mind their wives’. Now, as they veered down the healthy path of Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief from denial toward anger, and as they began to dissect and discover that their wives were simply loathsome trolls who they couldn’t stand anyway (that was an acute stage that usually alternated with plaintive diatribes about missing them), as this all transpired on the screen in front of me, I realized, not only that the men were indeed oblivious, but to be fair, these women were impossible!
We women are impossible.
We want a hero who will take control but we regard acquiescing as subservience. We want to be taken but not dominated. We want our man to remember the little things but back the fuck off. We want him to listen like a girlfriend but would not likely be attracted to him if he chimed in on “the amazing lactation bra” he discovered. We want him to know what we want because we told him one hundred fucking times already. Problem is we told him one hundred fucking other things at the same time too.
We are impossible because our lives are impossible. Give birth to a baby and experience the most profound rush of attachment inducing hormones that are designed to tether us single-mindedly to our children, but somehow find a way to function in relationship with a man who is physiologically detached from that process. I am by no means saying that all of the trouble between men and women starts with childbirth but it is the icing on the cake … and it’s icing that just doubles upon itself with each child and each passing year.
I liken male and female communication to one person speaking Russian while the other speaks only Chinese. That’s a given. But, when you add family obligations into the mix it’s like the little bit of each other’s language that has been picked up along the way becomes garbled and incoherent.
I imagine for men it’s confounding. Actually, I don’t have to imagine, I’ve witnessed the stunned, “deer in headlights” expression on so many men- in the market, at a dinner party, my dad, my sons, my friends’ husbands, my own husband…they don’t know what the fuck is going on with us.
So here’s the real bitch, (no it’s not me!!), yes we women are impossible, but when asked 6 times to please pick up a roll of toilet paper on the way home, would it fucking kill him to remember to do it?
As I see it we’ve got these demanding verbose creatures on one side and these distracted avoidant creatures on the other.
Back to the men on the divorce busting boards. Eventually, most of them went out and had sex with other women, discovered that it was all their STBX (soon to be ex)-wives’ faults and proceeded with divorce. Which, I suppose is better than them resolving it was all their own faults because that would be really sad.
Still, I wonder, did anyone learn anything?
All I gleaned was that men are oblivious and women are impossible (which I kind of already knew).
I guess there’s a reason every great piece of art, music and literature has relationships as their subjects … because they’re incomprehensible quagmires and we continue to try to make sense of them. So, all of us poor saps, men and women alike have my empathy. Generally, equally.
“We want a hero who will take control but we regard acquiescing as subservience. We want to be taken but not dominated”
This is exactly what was happening with my wife before she decided to give up, but, I wasn’t the deer in the headlights type of man. I knew this was happening and I was talking to her about it without guiding her to a solution. I hoped she would figure out something that worked for her without feeling that she was just doing homework that I had given her.
I know there’s the stereotype of the feckless and weak husband that’s so popular in sitcoms, but I wasn’t that guy. I was taking care of my business. It was work. That’s marriage. She didn’t want to work. She quit the counseling she wanted when she realized the therapist was telling her the same things I had been telling her. She thought she was going to “win” therapy because she’d play the neglected wife card. I told her therapists see every sort of story all day long
As I go through my own process, I’m taking a hard look at myself and asking my friends to be brutal about it. I can be the Six Million Dollar Man—better, stronger, faster, but only with an honest assessment of where I failed the team. Even if I was the “good” half, there has to be things I messed up, didn’t provide, and whatever.
Good luck to you! I’m eager to read about your process. And thanks for commenting here. It means sooooo much to me. Such great insight.